Film Directors With Their Shirts Off #6
Benjamin Christensen in HAXAN gives himself the ultimate directorial walk-on, knocking Hitchcock into a cocked hat. (Was this another Paul suggestion? Somebody suggested it. Thanks, somebody!)
Well, I can now say I’ve sort ofseen Benjamin Christensen’s SEVEN FOOTPRINTS TO SATAN, thus taking me one footprint closer to having seen all the films depicted in Denis Gifford’s big green horror movie book. I say “sort of” because the version I watched, seemingly the only one available for love or money, had Italian intertitles, which were so badly cropped that even if I’d paused it and sprinted to Babelfish every time one appeared, I’d have been struggling to make sense of things.
BUT! I’m not sure I want to make sense of things. Essentially a Scooby-Doo fake haunted house movie with more than a little in common with Max Linder and Abel Gance’s AU SECOURS!, Christensen’s 7F2S, as I’m now going to call it as if it were a damned summer blockbuster, is much more interesting for its weird-ass imagery than for the narrative underpinning it. As Creighton Hale and Thelma Todd make their panicky way through a mansion full of grotesques, gargoyles and gorillas, with friend indistinguishable from foe, things take on the ambiance of a David Lynch jaunt through the Black Lodge.
As with Paul Leni’s THE CAT AND THE CANARY, the camera style and production design far outstrip the story in sophistication, which is why I felt I was possibly getting an enhanced experience by not having a clue what it was all about most of the time. The ending was fairly clear, though, and confirmed the essential corniness of the concept.
The music on the disc was perfectly OK, but on a whim I muted it and put on my old vinyl Franz Waxman compilation. As is normal with these makeshift film scores, the tunes sometimes sunk up with the action perfectly, and sometimes were gloriously awry, as with a tender love theme playing along with an ape rampage sequence, but that all helped the discombobulated feeling the film seemed to aspire to. And when Waxman’s BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN suite came on, things really kicked in.
Waxman is the best.