Off the Map
These imaginary landscapes from Mario Bava’s HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD, composited in-camera from miniatures, magazine cut-outs, and occasionally some actual life-sized live-action (tiny figures on the cliff on the right of ) may not be REAL, per se, but they have a physical existence beyond that of the digital landscapes of Zemeckis’ BEOWULF, and that seems to matter to me.
I hope I’m not a Luddite — I’ve used C.G.I. with pleasure in my short INSIDE AN UNCLE and the TV show INTERGALACTIC KITCHEN. But there’s a tendency to use it to tackle every problem nowadays, when maybe it’s only the right solution SOME of the time. For instance, did anybody find the computer generated bugs-crawling-under-the-skin in Stephen Sommers’ THE MUMMY half as disturbing as the bulges that traverse the body of the hapless inhabitee in Cronenberg’s SHIVERS? The difference is, one thing is incontestably THERE, in front of the camera, and the other, we know, isn’t.
I don’t think I need SAY anything to connect this post to our Nibelungen Week here at Shadowplay. A picture (or two) tells it better:
Lang’s DIE NIBELUNGEN is a magnesium-tipped arrow fired at the rooftops of epic entertainment, which overshoots and ignites a mausoleum of APOCALYPTIC GRANDEUR.
Bava’s HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD is a piece of cheeky matinee fun, with a slightly off-colour malaise lurking somewhere behind its Technicolor dioramas. Bava’s dark side always provides a subtly bitter aftertaste, while Lang’s is like swallowing one of those booby-trapped Monty Python chocolates where steel bolts shoot out through your cheeks.