My Theory #2: Kubrick = Hammer

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Part Two of my Big Theory. Part One concerns the influence of Universal horror movies on Orson Welles. Part Two is the influence of Hammer Horror on Stanley Kubrick.

(Welles and Kubrick, two fans of the wide-angle lens, belong together because of Welles’ description of the young SK as “a giant” — later, Welles seems to fall silent on the subject of the Bronx genius, and as an arch-humanist it seems possible he went off Kubes’ work sometime after LOLITA…)

I’m not sure how this will hold up, but let’s assess the evidence. Firstly, casting –

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Kubrick’s first British-shot picture, LOLITA, features only one major player with Hammer associations, Marianne Stone (above), reaching a career high with her interpretation of Vivian Darkbloom (anagram of Vladimir Nabokov). Her involvement with Hammer films was off-and-on, and she also played in many British horror movies from other studios.

Hammer films before LOLITA: SPACEWAYS, THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT, QUATERMASS II,

Non-genre Hammer films before LOLITA: HELL IS A CITY

Non-Hammer horror films: CORRIDORS OF BLOOD, HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM, JACK THE RIPPER, THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE.

Hammer films after LOLITA: PARANOIAC, THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY’S TOMB, HYSTERIA, COUNTESS DRACULA, Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense. Non-Hammer horrors: WITCHCRAFT, DEVILS OF DARKNESS, THE NIGHT CALLER, CARRY ON SCREAMING, BERSERK, TWISTED NERVE, INCENSE FOR THE DAMNED, WHOEVER SLEW AUNTIE ROO?, TOWER OF EVIL, THE CREEPING FLESH, VAULT OF HORROR, CRAZE (one of many contenders for Freddie Francis’s worst film).

That’s not going to convince anybody that Stone’s Hammer work or horror movies was what brought her to Kubrick’s attention.

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But the scene where Humbert Humbert takes his wife and step-daughter to the drive-in to see CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN might make an impression on doubters. This is the only Kubrick film to feature Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.

But DR STRANGELOVE doesn’t feature anybody with major Hammer credentials, except Shane Rimmer, whose Hammer work, major though it was, was all in the future. In 2001, we have William Sylvester, who had been in GORGO, DEVIL DOLL and DEVILS OF DARKNESS, but he’s plainly been cast because he’s an American in England. But Leonard Rossiter was in THE WITCHES.

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It’s with CLOCKWORK ORANGE that Kubrick embraces the trashier side of British culture. Most significantly, we see Alex (Malcolm McDowell) fantasizing about being Count Dracula, with long plastic fangs and red red kroovy dripping from his lips. This second overt Hammer reference clinches the Kubrick fascination for the Studio That Dripped Blood, and check the cast list –

I contend that Patrick Magee wasn’t cast for his Beckett experience, but for DEMENTIA 13, MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, THE SKULL and DIE, MONSTER, DIE! admittedly not Hammer productions but generically bang-on. Also for his unparalleled ability to form himself into  a series of living Messerschmidt Heads, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, THE FIEND, ASYLUM, DEMONS OF THE MIND and — AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS were still to come — followed by BARRY LYNDON.

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Scottish actress Adrienne Corri had a long genre back catalogue, and her future would feature even more entries. To begin with we have DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS, CORRIDORS OF BLOOD (again), THE HELLFIRE CLUB, THE VIKING QUEEN and MOON ZERO TWO (both Hammer). Right after working for Kubrick, she made VAMPIRE CIRCUS, and later MADHOUSE. Despite Renoir’s THE RIVER, horror movies will probably always be what she’s known for (along with being stripped to her socks for Kubrick’s dubious delectation).

Aubrey “PR Deltoid” Morris made BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB the same year as CLOCKWORK ORANGE so we probably can’t count that. Dave Prowse had already done HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN and would soon shoot VAMPIRE CIRCUS and FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL. And some space thing. Steven Berkoff had done THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS, KONGA and SLAVE GIRLS, and would return in BARRY LYNDON.

The girls: Katya Wyeth, from the film’s final shot, came fresh from TWINS OF EVIL and HANDS OF THE RIPPER (in the important role of 1st Pub Whore). Virginia Wetherell had done CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR and DR JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE. Shirley Jaffe was fresh from TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA. Vivienne Maya chalked up LUST FOR A VAMPIRE and TWINS OF EVIL — her best role is as the flashback girlfriend in A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE.

Of course, I admit the difficulty of casting a dolly-bird in 1971 who had NOT been in a Hammer horror or two. But now we come to BARRY LYNDON.

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The casting of Andre Morell strikes me as highly significant — Morell isn’t as tightly bound to Hammer in the public consciousness as Cushing and Lee, or Michael Ripper, but he should be. He was Quatermass on TV (an indirect link) and Watson to Cushing’s Holmes; THE SHADOW OF THE CAT, SHE, PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, THE MUMMY’S SHROUD, VENGEANCE OF SHE, and a number on non-horror Hammers including the terrific CASH ON DEMAND. Plus non-Hammer horrors like BEHEMOTH THE SEA MONSTER.

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Frank Middlemass had come from FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED. Ferdy Mayne will be best remembered as Polanski’s Count Von Krolock, but also chalked up THE VAMPIRE LOVERS.

THE SHINING refers to Hammer only in its genre, but a comparison with THE EXORCIST is revealing, Kubrick having attempted to make a megablockbuster throughout his late career by patterning his films on the biggest box office smashes of history. But each of these films goes through the Kubrick funhouse looking-glass and emerges as something no sane person would expect to rake in the receipts — BARRY LYNDON purloins the child’s death from GONE WITH THE WIND, THE SHINING aims for THE EXORCIST and winds up in MARIENBAD country, and A.I. wants to be E.T. but can’t help its mechanical nature, like little Haley Joel Osment and the late Stankey K. himself.

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FULL METAL JACKET is too American and too young to borrow Hammer actors, and by the time of EYES WIDE SHUT most of them were dead. However, with its quasi-Satanic shagging party, the movie seems to be channeling sixties and seventies horrors, particularly Corman’s MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (and maybe CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR? And if there were a film called STENCH OF THE SCARLET PENCIL I’m sure that would have been an influence too).

Taking My Big Theory to its logical conclusion, we would have to say that Welles follows the path of Whale by telling moral tales in which nevertheless the truest, deepest sympathy is with the monsters; Kubrick follows the Sangster and Fisher route by portraying a world in which the oppressive patriarchy, though corrupt and inhuman, is the nearest thing to a safe side to be on…

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19 Responses to “My Theory #2: Kubrick = Hammer”

  1. Hows about Kubrick and Polanski ?

  2. Polanski seems still to be casting from a talent pool he recalls from his British years. Frank Finlay in The Pianist, Barbara Jefford in The Ninth Gate (he must have seen her in Lust for a Vampire — he got Jon Finch from The Vampire Lovers). Lester favourite Peter Copley turns up in Oliver Twist, in his 90s.

    I asked Lester about this tendency to cast from the past, and he said that the role of casting director is often passed down from mother to daughter, and so you get great continuity of employment and the industry seems to have a long memory.

  3. I thought he might have gotten Jon Finch from THIS

  4. Not BLOODY enough!

  5. Nineteenth century art students, Edmond de Goncourt pointed out in his Manette Salomon, might paint from a studio model who, years before, had been the model for the very work that inspired them to become painters. (Obviously, someone whose nom de comment is La Faustin will seize any opportunity to cite the Goncourts.)

  6. That kind of continuity is a wonderful gift. It could be seen also as the true theme of Mark Cousins’ The Story of Film, where his best ideas often trace the development and adoption of specific creative devices.

  7. There’s another Hammer clip In a Kubrick picture I didn’t see above – although it’s less than two seconds long. In CLOCKWORK ORANGE we see a blip of some rocks falling on some cavemen from ONE MILLION YEARS BC. It’s in one of the montages (duh). Clearly grist for your mill…

  8. Absolutely! Had forgotten that one. Ties the montage into Bowie’s Life on Mars too, whose lyrics at times suggest a misremembered dream of Clockwork Orange.

  9. I knew Marianne Stone (AKA Mary Noble, wife of Peter), slightly, in the 1970s. She and her family lived a couple of blocks away from me, on Abbey Road. I knew Ms Stone’s daughter rather better; we had friends in common and were roughly the same age (I had bought a house on Abbey Road, pooling financial resources with that very ample Time-Warping Transylvanian from Rocky Horror, the fat one with the fright wig, whose name was Fran. I mean the actress’s name was Fran. Not the wig.)

    Where on earth am I going with this?
    Oh, right…

    I reconnected a while ago with Marianne Stone’s daughter who told me – I had mentioned Lolita because it had just screened on TCM -told me that Darkbloom was her mother’s favorite role of the dozens she had played through the decades.

    Smashing little essay, btw. A particularly tasty one, in fact.

  10. Thanks! You’ve known some fascinating people. Fran Fullenwider, wasn’t it? Now that CAN’T have been her real name, right?

  11. Ferdy also played Drac
    In Freddie’s THE VAMPIRE HAP.

  12. Kubrick and Polanski do have a lot in common. The main difference is that Kubrick’s darkness is imagined whereas in Polanski it’s always real. No reasons to explain why.

  13. Yes, Polanski is able to draw from experience in ways Kubrick could only dream of.

  14. And because of this he’s able to transform cinematic experience in unique ways. The Ghostwriter is my favorite partially because of his ability to work under unspeakable duress, partially because of the fact that outside of Tony Blair still being alive everything in the film is true to an almost documentary degree, but most importantly because of his mastery of mise en scene,
    The sleep glass and concrete compound where most of the action takes place is a “New Dark House” every bit as mysterious and forbidding as Whale’s “Old” one — but in remarkably subtle ways. The directional navigator in the car serves as both a memento mori and a way for the murdered man to speak from beyond the grave. Best of all there’s the little hotel next to the ferry landing. it’s brand new and our nameless anti-hero is its only guest. But it’s as haunted as the house in Wise’s The Haunting (a Polanski favorite.)

  15. The killing of Macduff’s family in Macbeth came directly from Polanski’s experience of having German troops searching his home in the Krakow ghetto. He also has a highly developed ability to translate experience into shots — “The cutting is quick here because in this kind of situation you look around rapidly searching for a means of escape.”

  16. I think Polanksi has no equal in the way he presents a first-person narrative without resorting to voice-over or extended subjective Lady in the Lake-type camerawork. Chinatown and The Ghost Writer are both particularly fascinating in the way the viewer is always seeing things from the protagonist’s point of view without necessarily being conscious of it, but I’m sure many of his other films do this – certainly Repulsion and The Tenant.

  17. And The Pianist! I just did my usual Polanski lecture at college and was fascinated to see how what I’d intended to slant towards use of space and design turned into a disquisition on POV. His control of the audience through limited knowledge, use of optical POV but also of other techniques which make us share the characters’ experience is consistently amazing. Even in the weaker films.

  18. Fullenwider was indeed her real name: “I just kinda grew into it.”

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