Archive for the Mythology Category

Dark Continent

Posted in FILM, literature, Mythology with tags , , , , on October 31, 2014 by dcairns

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THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST (1945) sounds like it ought to be terrible, to match its title — it’s a low-budget horror from Republic, it’s devoid of stars, it has Lesley Selander as director, who has little reputation that I’m aware of… But it’s quite diverting. The script is co-written by Leigh Brackett of THE BIG SLEEP and THE LONG GOODBYE fame, and one is tempted to assign most of its interesting qualities to her influence. Though not a horror author, her literary works included pulp noir and sci-fi, so she could turn her hand to a variety of genres.

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The movie is set in a sound stage Africa and authenticity isn’t exactly a priority. Still, it’s probably less racist than most Tarzan type adventures. The worst moment, when a group of white characters complain that the recent spate of vampiric killings have so spooked the natives that they aren’t doing any work, could almost be a critical commentary of the colonial mindset, though perhaps I’m giving the film too much credit here. Still, there are a few black characters who actually ARE characters. A shame to see Theresa Harris (I *think* — she’s uncredited) wordlessly wasted in the opening scene, though she does make a seductive scream queen.

Not many horror movies are narrated by the vampire — this one is! And we begin with a subjective camera bloodsucking, so we’re preconditioned to take his point of view, and when he turns up, played by gaunt, gimlet-eyed John Abbott, he’s easily the most appealing character n the film. Even after he announces his intention to destroy the virtuous hero and heroine, hypnotizing her and plotting some kind of “destruction” for her — seemingly he wants her to REIGN THROUGH ETERNITY AS HIS BRIDE or something — we still kind of like him. Brackett has saddled him with the name Webb Fallon — a heavy burden to carry through the centuries — and made him a survivor from the first Elizabethan age — he carries the soil from his grave in a box gifted to him by the Queen. The noir-corny name and the historic backstory (had any vampire save Dracula boasted such a heritage at this point in the movies?) suggest to me that the writer had in mind a more handsome, Byronic type of vampire — plus he runs a gambling house in Africa so he should be a tough guy — but budgetary considerations evidently prevented Cary Grant from receiving the fateful call. A more on-the-nose casting choice — make him sepulchral, corpse-like — resulted in the bulb-headed Abbott being handed probably his best-ever role, a leading man role of sorts, something

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Like Wesley Snipes, Fallon is a daywalker, though he needs sunglasses in the African glare. This kind of imaginative detail, simple in itself, just wasn’t being seen in Hollywood B-pictures. Even Val Lewton, who made films immeasurably superior to this one, didn’t explore his genre elements in this practical way, because he was more interested in using a mythic pretext to get to a thematic subtext. Good Hawksian that she was, Brackett was interested in what you might get up to as an immortal with superpowers. (But I doubt even she could tell you why there’s a statue of Kali, shorn of half her arms, in an African temple.)

Abbott/Fallon is persistently glum, seeming to take no pleasure in his role of corruptor. This makes the victory of the good guys — achieved through a combination of religious iconography and murderous violence — ring more hollow than usual, especially since Abbott has prophesied that those he has bitten will rise from their graves. The prospect of a sequel with a fanged Theresa H and lusty Adele Mara rampaging across the Gold Coast is positively mouth-watering, but it was not to be.

The Easter Monday Intertitle: A Semple Plan

Posted in FILM, Mythology, Radio, Television with tags , , , on April 21, 2014 by dcairns

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Intertitle from ’70s teleplay The Disappearance of Aimee. I was excited to learn of the existence of a show where Faye Dunaway plays evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, Bette Davis plays her old mum, and James Woods and Severn Darden fill out the cast. And that Anthony Harvey, implacable devotee of aging Hollywood divas, directed. And that it dealt with ASM’s mysterious 1926 disappearance.

Sadly, the piece is a stodgy courtroom drama, probably the dullest (but cheapest) approach to this story, and the mouthwatering cast spend all their time testifying in either a legal or religious sense. One is starved of scenes where actors actually converse, one to the other.

I was looking at the film as part of my latest SCHEME — a week dedicated to period movies from the 1970s New Hollywood. I’ve already had plenty of suggestions via Facebook, but I will readily accept MORE — I am probably excluding westerns, which are their own thing, and am more interested in stuff by the young directors of the period but would consider the likes of Elia Kazan’s THE LAST TYCOON as a possibility. Obviously I have a tendency to swing towards obscurities rather than celebrated jobs like CHINATOWN, but I make no rules up front…

The Easter Sunday Intertitle: God is Dead

Posted in FILM, Mythology, Politics with tags , , , on April 20, 2014 by dcairns

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“Father dies.” An intertitle from Elia Suleiman’s DIVINE INTERVENTION.

Remember, until tomorrow, when He resurrects, God is dead and we can all do what we like.

Meanwhile, over at The Chiseler, I look at Suleiman’s arresting film as part of a blogathon on the theme of Palestine, hosted both at The Chiseler and If Charlie Parker Were a Gunslinger…

Sutpen!

Matsui!

Chomsky!

Finkelstein!

Shapira!

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