Archive for January 15, 2008

Quote of the Day: off the cuff remark

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 15, 2008 by dcairns

A quick one off the wrist 

Dr. Wells: “An empty sleeve is revolting to most people.”

What an odd thing to say.

From DOCTOR X. Directed by Michael Curtiz. Screenplay by Robert Tasker & Earl Baldwin, from the play by Howard W. Comstock & Allen C. Miller. Photographed in gorgeous deathlike two-strip Technicolor by Ray Rennahan.

Something needs to be said about Lionel Atwill and the enantiodromic approach…


Melvin and Medusa

Posted in FILM, literature, Mythology, Painting, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2008 by dcairns

Madame Medusa 

One fun thing about this joint — from MY point of view anyhow — is that I can see in my Blog Stats exactly what kind of web searches people use to find the site. Yes, I am looking into your dark hearts as you navigate the murky waters of the web and come into dock in my cyber-harbour.

As a result, I have become aware that two of the personages I’ve mentioned in passing have attracted quite a lot of notice. They are ’60s British character star Murray Melvin, and Greek mythological character Medusa.

the sexorcist

The Woman in Green

So, whopping great whore that I am, I thought I’d prepare a special blog posting about Murray Melvin and Medusa. Oh, and I’ll throw in this random mention of ST TRINIAN’S head girl Gemma Arterton too, since so many of you seem to find her so damn interesting.*

What's she got that's so special?

Medusa was head girl of the Gorgons. She had snakes for hair.

Murray Melvin has hair for hair. He starred in A TASTE OF HONEY and pops up in Ken Russell’s epic film maudit THE DEVILS, and Kubrick’s BARRY LYNDON (the litmus test film that hardcore Kubrickians admire most, and that nobody else likes all that much).

Medusa had a petrifying gaze.

Murray Melvin is a petrifying gay.

Actually, I have no private information about Mr. Melvin’s sexuality at all, so I take that back. He was cast as gay in A TASTE OF HONEY and it kind of stuck. He played highly repressed characters in THE DEVILS and BARRY LYNDON, and is a sort of Poster Boy for British Sexual Ambivalence (B.S.A.). I find it interesting (and definitely regrettable) that British cinema has made so little use of him since the swinging ‘sixties and ‘seventies. My theory is that Melvin’s camp quality is out of fashion in a world that either wishes to ignore homosexuality, or is eager to present images of gay men that don’t fit the camp stereotype. But some gay men ARE camp, if you want to use that word, and Melvin is an excellent actor, so where’s the problem?

It reminds me of the way Hollywood discovered racial sensitivity in the ‘forties and slowly phased out most most of the actors who’d made a living playing “comedy negroes” and servants. Replacing them with…virtually nothing. There’s an argument that flawed representation is better than NO representation.

The possibility also arises that M.M. was acting camp in films because the roles demanded it, and could just as easily play Dead Butch. It would be slightly surprising to me, but it’s still possible. In which case his recent disuse by our national cinema is even sillier.

Don't look at his eyes!

The last time I saw M.M. at the cinema was way back in Scots director Bill Douglas’ COMRADES, which also featured Barbara Windsor and Robert Stephens, who likewise should have been in far more movies.

Walpamur Petrifying Liquid

When Harry Hamlin Perseus lopped off Medusa’s serpentine head, her stare maintained its terrible power after death. Still going strong in his seventies, Murray Melvin likewise maintains his momentous powers of dramaturgical dazzlement.

*”Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” ~ Johnny Rotten.

Euphoria #19

Posted in FILM, literature, Television with tags , , , , , , on January 15, 2008 by dcairns

Regular Shadowplayer and acclaimed Mick Travis impersonator Alex Livingston suggests the scene of Spike Milligan’s arrest from Richard Lester’s THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1973).

“before i think about it too much and sink into a tarpit of indecision, i am going to nominate a scene from richard lester’s the three musketeers. christopher lee and his guards drag raquel welch from her bedroom whilst spike milligan fumbles to reload his flintlock pistol, utterly blind to the possibility that he may not have the upper hand. i think it is basically the muttering that does it for me here”

I’ve thrown in the following sequence because I like the sedan chair gag, and an appearance from Frank “Captain Peacock” of Are You Being Served? is always a bonus.

Raquel Welch phoned Richard Lester up in the middle of the night to complain about the boob jokes in the film.

“This bit where a hand reaches from a heap of melons and grabs my wrist — I don’t think it’s funny.”

“Well I do.”

At which point she called the producers and threatened to quit. Colossal panic — the funding was contingent on her involvement. They sweet-talked her back on-board, but she still pulled stunts like wearing costumes modelled on Lana Turner’s in the ‘forties version, rather than on historical fact like everybody else.

Christopher Lee bored everyone rigid with his endless anecdotage, except producer Pierre Spengler, who found him fascinating. Lee can pick up an anecdote, if interrupted, and continue it MONTHS LATER, if required. But my costume designer friend Ali, who worked with him on GREYFRIAR’S BOBBY, got on very well with the Great Man. As Sidney Greenstreet says, “I’ll tell you right out, I am a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk.”

Spike Milligan stared at the historical recreations in complete awe: “People really lived like this,” he would say, with tears in his eyes. 

we must bustle

The movie has one of the most disparate casts ever assembled. Charlton Heston shares a scene with Milligan, finding him “very funny but not over-the-top”. OF COURSE he’s over-the-top! He’s in a completely different comedy register from everybody else in the film! But Lester excels at uniting different styles of acting / muttering.

Alex adds:

“out of maybe five films that i considered taking my euphoric moment from, three featured faye dunaway. isn’t that funny?”

Not funny, Alex, JUST SENSIBLE.

the revenge of milady

Footnote: any Americans unfamiliar with Milligan’s brand of surreal TV can educate themselves using the University of Youtube. Maybe start HERE.