Archive for Barbarella

Pin-up of the Day: Barbarella Psychedella

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2008 by dcairns

BARBARELLA was, as I recall, the only film my mum refused to let me watch as a kid. I mean, there were lots of films which were on too late, like the second half of the monster movie double bills, which meant that I saw DRACULA at age ten but didn’t see FRANKENSTEIN until years later. But BARBARELLA was banned purely on grounds of content, or imagined content, since I don’t think anybody in my family had seen it.

A while later, the prospect of my watching DRACULA AD 1972 provoked an earnest discussion, with my Dad agreeing to sit up and watch the film with me and my brother to make sure there was nothing too unsuitable. There wasn’t — a wrist-slitting black mass, lots of vampirism, a stake through the heart — but no nipples. So that’s OK.

It seems kind of foolish of Roger Vadim to begin the movie with a striptease which is more fleetingly revealing than anything else in the film, starting it on an erotic high that it can’t quite live up to. Still, it’s an iconic, much-swiped moment, and it’s eventually followed by THIS:

The Excessive Machine, which should really have been called the Orgasmatron, only nobody thought of it. (Woody Allen did, later, in SLEEPER.) Here is my own Orgasmatron:

It’s for scalp massage, which is either a disappointment or a relief depending on how weird you are.

Jane Fonda’s erotic ordeal is a perversly innocent bit of sadism in a film which flirts with the sick (Barb getting nibbled by clockwork dolls in front of an audience of feral children sounds worse than it plays) but doesn’t seem to cross any lines of taste, somehow. Apart from casting Marcel Marceau in a role that requires him to do nothing but talk. That really shows up Vadim’s particular brand of anti-talent.

What holds the fragmented, inept shambles together is the design and casting — Vadim may have not known what to do with the talents on display, but he attracted enough of them so that some entertainment almost inevitably results. And Fonda’s Alice-in-Wonderland line readings — “A lot of dramatic situations begin with screaming!” — are crucial to preserving the air of innocence that stops the thing getting mired in pervy Euro-misogyny. What Robert “will this do?” Rodriguez’s proposed version would be like is anybody’s guess, although I predict lacklustre CGI banality might form approximately 99.9% of the experience, but it seems at least conceivable that Rose McGowan could contribute some Fonda-esque charm. She’s got something, that girl.

Vadim story: Arianne Ulmer-Cipes, daughter of the great Edgar Ulmer, worked as a voice artist in Europe: she was the Italian voice of Elke Sommer, which sounds like a splendid job to have. She once auditioned for Vadim, and ofound him sat upon a magnificent THRONE, weaing a short bathrobe, and splaying, physically. “I just ignored it. I knew it was some kind of test — he wanted to see if I’d be shocked. I mean, he wasn’t fiddling with himself or anything.”

Ten Bad Dates With Roddy McDowall

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2008 by dcairns

“It was all going so well! And then I had to say that thing about the bridge. Stupid! Stupid!”

From CURSE OF THE GOLEM, A.K.A. IT!

You really don’t need to see this film, unless like us at Shadowplay you grew up with a copy of Dennis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies in the house, or regularly borrowed from the library. Other monster movie books might also do the trick, or Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine (I only ever discovered one outlet that carried this publication as a kid. While on holiday. I could only afford two issues, which was a wrenching choice to make as they all looked so tasty. There was no possibility of buying more… There was a big article about BARBARELLA, which my mum wouldn’t let me watch when it came on TV, and an ad in the back for something called EQUINOX.)

If, like me, you were exposed to the right kind of literature in childhood, you probably saw a still of the big stone guy in this movie. You probably marvelled at his massive stone body, mighty stone limbs, big stone skirt and pointy stone head. He doesn’t look like any other monster. And what you demand most of all from your monsters is NOVELTY, so that has to be good. Having seen quite a bit of Dr. Who, you might have suspected that the Golem would be less impressive in motion that he is in a still image. And you’d have been right. But children of the pre-C.G.I. age, we expected our monsters to lumber, didn’t we? If they jerked across the screen in a Harryhausen strobe of animation, so much the better. But we certainly never wanted them to slink around, weightless, in a series of algorithms.

Anyhow, CURSE OF THE GOLEM is written and directed by Herbert J. Leder, auteur of such cinematic goitres as THE FROZEN DEAD and THE CHILD MOLESTOR.  Good luck with that career, Herbert.

One hates to judge a film-maker’s personality by their work (gloomy Bergman was known to his friends for a great deal of jollity, sentimental Frank Capra once punched his wife unconscious), but going by this film I would probably characterise Mr. Leder as a BIG IDIOT. Roddy McDowall, as Arthur Gordon Pym (!) finds he can command an ancient Jewish statue to do his bidding. Since he lives with his mother’s decayed corpse (though this has no real bearing on the story, and no explanation), he’s probably not the best person to be granted this awesome power. He uses it to kill his boss, and in a failed attempt to impress Otto Preminger babe Jill Haworth. It seems golems are good at bludgeoning irksome employers, but utterly useless as an aid to modern dating.

Paul Wegener doing his cute, Susannah Hoffs-style look-to-the-side.

The golem seem to me an underused monster. Paul Wegener portrayed the animate clay statue thrice, in DER GOLEM of 1915, sequel THE GOLEM AND THE DANCING GIRL two years later, and prequel/secret origin THE GOLEM: HOW HE CAME INTO THE WORLD, which is the version that survives.

Although he was certainly some kind of influence on Hollywood’s FRANKENSTEIN, the golem never surfaced in a bona fide Hollywood remake, instead emigrating to France, where he raises his ugly head in Julien Duvivier’s characteristically stylish LE GOLEM of 1936, which incorporates imagery from FRANKENSTEIN while essentially reprising the original Golem legend dramatised by Wegener. Many of the pre-Nouvelle Vague filmmakers deserve to be rediscovered, and I carry a special torch for Duvivier, whose PANIQUE and LA FIN DU JOUR strike me as truly major works, on the verge of being completely forgotten.

1951 gives us an authentic Czech golem at last, in THE EMPEROR’S BAKER AND THE GOLEM, a comic fantasy directed by Martin Fric, which guest-stars a wonderfully monumental golem who can’t actually articulate his limbs, and therefore walks like a chair.

Since then, there doesn’t seem to have been a really truly golem-centred movie, although ceramic heavies have occasionally disported themselves upon the screen in a supporting capacity. I’d welcome a good remake, or else an adaptation of Gustav Meyrink’s fantastic novel The Golem, in which the colossus does not actually appear, but assumes a kind of allegorical omnipresence in the story. My colleague, B. Kite, the Brooklyn Behemoth, himself a stony homunculus enlivened by rabbinical sorcery, once co-authored an atmospheric and highly imaginative screenplay based on this work.

Anyhoo. Some Youtubing genius has helpfully provided this abridged version that allows you to consume the whole thing at a single, ten-minute sitting. Had I realised this I could have saved myself eighty minutes or so.

Here, by way of a palette-cleanser, is the great Jiri Barta’s animated THE GOLEM, a pilot/trailer for a feature Barta hopes to complete. The collapse of communism in Europe (a good thing in itself, don’t get me wrong) has left many brilliant artists like Barta and the incomparable Yuri Norstein stranded in a marketplace they have no experience dealing with. Somebody help!

The more numerate Shadowplayers among you may have noticed that this post contains only one bad date with Roddy MacDowall. I maintain that one bad date with Roddy is worth ten with anyone else, but I’m happy for you to nominate nine more if you feel up to it.

STOP PRESS! What the heck is THIS?

And THIS?

Stardust

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2008 by dcairns

Like THE SILENT STAR, IN THE DUST OF THE STARS is another swinging sci-fi epic from East Germany, this time from 1976.

A Chorus Line

It plays like a sexed-up Star Trek, with decadent orgies and full frontal shower scenes. Location filming in Romania allows this sculpture park to stand in for an alien planet.

Girly

With the wild colours and “debauched” parties, there’s a hint of the Glenn Larson Buck Rogers TV show too, though this is more fun and more interesting.

The Wild Party

Say what you like about the Evil Empire, their vision of the future was at least as campy as that of Hollywood. SOLARIS might be pretty po-faced, but this stuff is delirious and dizzy. Pour yourself some Tang and kick back.

I’d like to feel optimistic about Robert Rodriguez’ proposed BARBARELLA remake, but I don’t think he has the sensibility for it. Plus, I find all his films a shadow of what they could be, assuming there’s even a worthwhile idea at play, which isn’t the case most of the time. He strikes me as the leading exponent of the “will this do?” school of film-making. I got upset — ridiculously so — at some smokestacks in the background of SIN CITY, where the smoke wasn’t moving, just hanging there like a photograph.

The I thought that a still image of smoke might be quite a nice stylisation. Then I thought that this wasn’t a nice stylisation, just cheapness and laziness, and a nice stylisation would have to feature the smoke more, rather than just flashing it by in the hopes we’d miss it.

Compare this to Roger Vadim and the original BARBARELLA — he showers largesseon the screen, in hopes some will stick. He is rightly more interested in the costumes than in the performances and dialogue. He has an army of writers involved, any one of whom could have done a better job than the team. This is how a ’60s sci-fi epic should be made! What Terry Southern (one of the six credited writers) called “a very special combination of non-talents and anti-talents,” plus of course a lot of actual talents, especially in the design department.

Is Robert Rodriguez going to hire Fenella Fielding to dub one of his major characters? No, I don’t think he is! To hell with him then.

The Incredibles

Eyes left!

No way should anybody but a European trash-hound be allowed to make BARBARELLA! Jesus Franco is still basically alive — give him a shot at a budget of millions and a green-screened CGI universe!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 385 other followers