Archive for December 23, 2007

On the Stairway to Heaven…

Posted in FILM on December 23, 2007 by dcairns

Originally uploaded by donpayasos

I got this signed by Michael Powell when he was promoting the first volume of his autobiography. Without any prompting, he wrote “After all — what do you want?” on it. At the time I assumed this must be a line from the film pictured, but upon later examination I found the line doesn’t exist in the movie.

So is this a “comedy caption” made up on the spot by Powell to express what it LOOKS like Marius Goring might be saying to David Niven? Or should I take it as a general question to myself?

I tend to go for the latter option, and at different times in my life the question has meant different things…

Festive Facts in a Film File of Fun #3

Posted in FILM, literature, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2007 by dcairns

 Egg nog Yen.

1] IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE flopped on first release but became a Christmas television favourite, prompting director Frank Capra to attempt to capitalize on its success by producing yuletide versions of several of his other films. Results included IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, SAINT NICK AND OLD LACE, MR. SMITH GOES TO CHRISTMASTOWN, SANTA’S DIRIGIBLE, and the rather surprising THE BITTER EGG NOG OF GENERAL YEN.

2] THE MUPPET’S NATIVITY was to have starred Kermit and Miss Piggy as Joseph and Mary, Little Robin as the Baby Jesus, and The Great Gonzo as Herod, before alarmed TV execs cancelled the project in favour of THE GREAT MUPPETS ESCAPE with Fozzie Bear as Steve McQueen and Professor Bunsen Honeydew as Donald Pleasence.

I can't see a bloody thing.

3] After the success of THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES and DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN, director Robert Fuest and A.I.P. planned a seasonal follow-up, I SAW MOMMY KISSING DR. PHIBES, in which Vincent Price’s mad surgeon would execute the members of the jury who convicted him using methods derived from the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. But the script ran aground over the issue of how to murder somebody using eight maids a-milking.

Terry-Thomas is slain by the two French Hens

4] Apart from the modern-dress SCROOGED with Bill Murray, and the porno SCREWED with Johnson Package, there have been numerous reimaginings of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, including a giant version with Peter Mayhew and Richard Kiel, HUGE SCROOGE, Chantal Akerman’s Belgian translation, BRUGES SCROOGE, and the 1930s canine version from the makers of the Dogville Shorts, CUJO SCROOGE-O.

Quality sledging.

5] Steven Spielberg bought the sled supposedly used in CITIZEN KANE for $20,000. He said at the time, “Rosebud will go over my typewriter to remind me that quality in movies comes first.” But in fact he just uses it for sledging.

The Great Stone Face

Posted in FILM, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2007 by dcairns

And that's how my scalpel got so blunt.

My partner’s brother Roddy is a movie buff too. He has learning difficulties, which partly means he’s even more certain about what he likes than most of us, and what he likes is Hammer Horror. As he’s with us for Christmas, we’re going en famille to the digitally restored DRACULA tomorrow, but this afternoon we ran Terence Fisher’s lesser-known THE GORGON, also with Cushing and Lee.

Don't look in her eyes!

It’s a slow-paced bit of thick-ear, with a Greek gorgon rather oddly transplanted to Germany, and an unusual restraint shown in revealing the monster, perhaps due to the makeup and special effects departments’ inability to muster a convincing headful of serpents for the titular mythological beast-woman. They really needed Ray Harryhausen to pull this one off.

Then there’s a distinctly Scooby Doo shortage of suspects — there is precisely one. Essentially all we have to see us through to the climax is atmosphere (dry ice and lighting, sets, Peter Cushing and what Scorsese calls “the precision of his movements within the frame”, James Bernard’s yowling score) and a few petrifications, though at the end there’s a rather lovely effect as we are startled by the decapitated gorgon Megaera’s transmutation into — the only other woman in the film!


“Is this black and white?”

“Where’s he going?”

“Who’s this?”

“What’s he doing?”

“Where’s he going?”

“I don’t think it’s her.”

“I can’t see a thing.”

“Where’s Christopher Lee going now?”

“Uh oh.”

“That did the trick.”

Harryhausen pulls off a good Medusa

Harryhausen can’t help but make monsters more monstrous than they’re supposed to be! His cyclops has goat legs, his troglodyte has a horn on his head, and Medusa is kitted out with scales and a serpent’s body. Generosity, that’s what I call it.