Written in Blood

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on April 15, 2014 by dcairns

Final poster for Brussels

Trailer for new horror movie, LET US PREY.

The movie was written by Fiona & I and Rae Brunton (OUTPOST). If you like high intensity situations, creative violence and creative swearing, this movie is for you, We disclaim all responsibility for the title — Fiona & I wrote about a dozen drafts over the years, all of which were called CELL 6. But you can’t win every battle.

We have seen an edit of the movie and, though as writers (especially ones who have directed), we were always going to have quibbles, we can attest that Brian O’Malley has directed the hell out of it, and his cast, including Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones), Pollyanna Mackintosh (THE WOMAN) and Niall Greig Fulton (NATAN) have all done excellent work. It’s scary, intense, funny in places, and looks massive. (It wasn’t.) And the cinematography by Piers McGrail is stunning.

It’s also EXTREMELY violent and so persons of a squeamish disposition are advised not to look at the following trailer AT ALL. I give it a Force Ten Gore Warning. We wrote a sensationally horrific script, then were told to make it approximately three times more horrific, then Rae made it horrificer still, then it was filmed and I think got a bit viler yet again. Niall, after acting in it, said “This might be not just the nastiest thing I’ve been in, but the nastiest thing I’ve SEEN.” And Niall has seen everything.

Also — the trailer contains what could be described as heavy spoilers — you can’t tell what the film’s about, but you’ll see the death scenes of major characters. Since you don’t know any of the characters yet arguably they’re not quite spoilers — they only spoil things if you remember all these images of mayhem when you watch the film, which may not happen for months. Viewer discretion.

OK, if there’ anyone left, proceed. But… well… we warned you!

The movie has its premiere tomorrow at Brussels International Fantasy Film Festival. Mr O’Malley and Mr Cunningham will be in attendance.

The Monday Intertitle: Stroike a Light

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on April 14, 2014 by dcairns

vlcsnap-2014-04-12-16h18m02s142Thanks to Christine of Ann Harding’s Treasures for recommending STELLA MARIS, a Mary Pickford vehicle from her favourite director, Marshall Neilan. This time, Pickford doubles the winsomeness in a dual role, which might cause the more ringlet-averse Shadowplayers out there to fear diabetic complications, but needlessly –

In the titular role, Pickford plays a rich, paralysed girl who dreams of a fairy-tale world beyond the bedroom to which she is confined. Her aunt and uncle, Lord and Lady Blount (ever wonder what the B. in Cecil B. DeMille stands for? No, no one ever does, but it’s Blount) have protected her from the world’s wickedness. Bruno Bettelheim may speak of the Uses of Enchantment, but the fairy tales Stella has been weaned on are devoid of poor people, suffering, jeopardy, and any hint of want. As a result, Stella is a fantastic drag to have around for her first few minutes of screen time, playing like Pickford to the power of infinity, a one-woman apocalypse of goodness and innocence annihilating all in her path.

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BUT — balancing this sickly tsunami of sweetness is little Unity, a cockney “orfant” raising by chubby nuns but handed over to a vicious alcoholic to act as skivvy and whipping girl. Her life is as great a  torment as the limpid Stella’s is bliss (being paralysed doesn’t dampen our Stella’s spirits, not one jot) and Pickford rises to the challenge of transforming herself out of all recognition: it’s as if playing the uber-Pickford in one half of the film absolved her of the burden of prettiness elsewhere. Unity is lipless, shapeless, with one shoulder higher than the other, and her every movement is painstakingly constructed from minute pieces of cringing and cowering. If she had a forelock to tug, she’d tug it till her head came off.Stella will learn something of life and Unity will attain some happiness, but brilliantly the film doesn’t exactly do this. First, Stella gets an operation to restore the use of her legs, which threatens to remove the one interesting cloud in her otherwise tediously sunny existence.

“That’s Gustav Von Seyffertitz,” I say, recognizing the chief surgeon.

“Is she in safe hands?” asks Fiona.

“She’s in Seyffertitz’s hands.”

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The prospect of America’s Canada’s Sweetheart running about on fully functional legs, dispensing sunshine in all directions has me nervous.

Meanwhile, Unity is beaten unconscious by her adoptive mother, then rescued by the woman’s husband who takes her to live with the Blounts. But (1) Stella and Unity barely meet, saving on splitscreen and relieving us of a predictable plot turn and (2) Unity’s life gets WORSE — ignored by the Blounts, pushed around by the servants, and in love with her adoptive father.

I would defy even a modern audience to predict exactly where this one goes.

Meanwhile there’s a gripping subplot involving Teddy the Wonder Dog, who appears courtesy of Mack Sennett. Teddy plays Teddy, Stella’s faithful hound, forever discomfited by the arrival of fresh pets — bunnies, kittens, what have you — at his mistress’s bedside. The final straw is the delivery of a tiny, frou-frou pooch, who Teddy clearly views as a diabolical usurper. One morning, spying the intruder at Stella’s garden table, he leads the canine co-respondent out of the garden and turns it loose in the street. Then he calmly resumes his place at Stella’s ankle.

Later: Stella is sunk in gloom because now that she can walk, she’s discovered that the world isn’t such a pretty place. She’s read a newspaper, met a poor person, and discovered that her beau has a drunken wife. But Teddy doesn’t know this. He presumes her distress is caused by the missing doggie, and Neilan brilliantly lets us know this with an effects shot literally illustrating what’s on Teddy’s mind. As he always does in the Mack Sennett shorts he’s famed for, Teddy the Wonder Dog must Save the Day.

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Fiona is very impressed by this. “That’s exactly what a dog WOULD think. ‘This is something I’ve done.’” Dogs may not recognize themselves in mirrors, as chimpanzees do, or play video games with skill and focus, as pigs do, but they do feel shame and guilt. We taught them that. We’re brilliant.

“That’s the best thing I’ve ever seen,” Fiona concluded. She then suggested I write this review entirely in cockney, but I haven’t, swelp me guv’nor.

Film Directors with their Shirts Off #56749 Cecil Blount DeMille

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2014 by dcairns

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Cecil B. DeMille is such a figure of dignity! Always Dignity! that I despaired of ever finding a shirtless image of the Great Man for my occasional series on cineastes sans chemise. And yet, in Robert S. Birchard’s estimable volume Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood, we find not one but two such images. The first shows the entire unit of FEET OF CLAY (1924) basking in the sun. Cecil wears what is either a one-piece bathing suit or a very tight dark vest and shorts. Probably the former. He still has his pipe in though.

But the above image really does it — FLESH is what the public screams for, and Cecil is not one to disoblige a screaming public. He’s chatting to Herbert Marshall and Claudette Colbert on the set of FOUR FRIGHTENED PEOPLE (1934), effortlessly maintaining his sang-froid and keeping his smoking materials lit at the same time, proving that true dignity can be maintained in any circumstance, even while exposing one’s moobs.

DeMille may be showing solidarity with his leading lady, who goes nude in the film. Bathing under a waterfall, Claudette is filmed in extreme longshot so that we will have to wait for the Blu-ray to get busy with a magnifying glass and see if it really is her bottom. My theory is that DeMille here is disrobing just as Paul Verhoeven did on STARSHIP TROOPERS when some of his young actors were reluctant to strip for a communal shower scene. (While one applauds the Dutchman’s nerve, it isn’t really the same thing — his ass wasn’t going to be put on film and projected at millions of people.)

I guess the DeMilles I should be checking out are MANSLAUGHTER, THE WHISPERING CHORUS and other of his more sophisticated dramas, but somehow I always just want to watch the last half of MADAME SATAN and let my eyeballs rejoice at the costumes of Mitchell Leisen.

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