Archive for February, 2008

“I’m in love with a German film star…”

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags on February 29, 2008 by dcairns

Private Dancer 

Only a few days remain for you to enter our Fritz Lang songwriting contest and win the film of your dreams*! To kind of get you in der mude, I’ve knocked up a jaunty little number entitled “Blue Gardenia Blues,” which goes like this ~

Behind Closed Doors

On Scarlet Street,
There’s a great big heat,
That warms you and me in and out.
There’s a house by the river,
That makes people shiver,
Beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Look of love

It’s called Moonfleet,
And it’s on Scarlet Street,
‘Neath the “M” sits the woman in the window,
With a look of contempt,
She says, “No one’s exempt,”
So you pay her and walk right on into –

Behind the Green Door

The Ministry of Fear,
Where each eye has a tear,
And they number a thousand or more.
Check your cloak and your dagger,
And then you will stagger,
At the secret beyond the door.

Scary Monsters and Super-Creeps

Hangmen also die,
As the thousand eyes spy,
Chuck-a-luck is the game, you’re the loser.
Your fury is spent,
And you can’t pay the rent,
Cause the gambler’s Dr. Mabuse.

Luck be a Lady

Each felicitous room,
Is an Indian tomb,
And you only live once, they say.
While the city sleeps,
And the thousand eyes weep,
And all human desire ebbs away.

The Night Has a Thousand Eyes

*Normal dream conditions apply.

And Soon The Dotrice

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 29, 2008 by dcairns


Robert Fuest’s first film, AND SOON THE DARKNESS, starts with two Brits, Pamela Franklin and Michelle Dotrice (pronounced “dough-treece”) on the world’s most boring holiday, cycling across a totally flat stretch of French countryside. They stop at a roadside bar ~

“Did you get your bum pinched?”

“No, that’s Italy. They’ll do anything in Italy.”

“What’re we doing in France then?”

This slightly smutty, un-PC girltalk gets things off to a good start, striking one as credible and well-observed, and the actresses handle it well. Franklin had played little Flora in Jack Clayton’s THE INNOCENTS, and Dotrice went on to co-star in the hugely successful 70s sitcom SOME MOTHERS DO ‘AVE ‘EM, and both are terrific, naturalistic players, who always feel overheard rather than performative.

The Girl with Green Eyes

Fuest, fresh from designing and directing episodes of TV’s The Avengers, has a passable thriller plot by Brian Clemens and Terry Nation (both from that show — Nation also created the Daleks): Dotrice vanishes and Franklin finds the entire countryside is populated only with red herrings — and one sex-killer.

The central premise sometimes feels like an expansion of the build-up to Hitchcock’s cropduster attack in NORTH BY NORTHWEST — unseen terror in a landscape of limitless,blank horizons. Though in fact the bright flatness does yield to tangled woods, presenting a contrast between total visibility with nothing to see, and dense impenetrability where something may be lurking millimetres away.

Fuest, one of the great director-designers, has handicapped himself with a film where there seems to be nothing to design, but he exercises his eye with strong compositions and a sensitivity to objects, both the shiny kind brought by the tourists, and the rusty local equipment.



He’s also attentive enough, without being lecherous, to his leading ladies. They spend the whole film in tight, huge shorts — this is a film very much focussed on the plump white thighs of young English womanhood, and white panties hung to dry on a tree are a major plot point, but Fuest’s interest is frank rather than salacious. He doesn’t have the slightly seedy intensity of someone like Nicholas Roeg, who is rather too concerned with the passage of Jenny Agutter’s knickers up and down her thighs (Roeg was — maybe IS — a swinger, I’ve been told — parties, car keys, the whole bit — which makes total sense when you put it together with his films). Indeed, Fuest’s DR PHIBES films may be proto-slasher movies, but they’d more concerned with killing esteemed British character actors than busty dolly birds, which makes them rather refreshing in their sadism.


The plot slips into variations on THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE — of course she’s going to cold-cock a suspected killer and run smack into the waiting arms of the real killer, but it has the benefit of that compelling news story subject: something nasty happening to normal young holidaymakers, and despite the title there’s no darkness in sight — Fuest’s credit even appears over sunlight glinting through leaves, and the whole action takes place on a single day under blue skies… though a storm is predicted…

Wet Afternoon

Suggested Fever Dream Double Feature: THE VANISHING (original Dutch version), or make it a Dotrice double with the mind-blowing ~The Crow

The News at Ten

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , on February 28, 2008 by dcairns

Tonight’s headlines:


Dickie nicked

Richard Attenborough arrested on roller-coaster!


Theresa's right

Theresa Russell dons moustache to attend opera!


Amazing Mr X

Cathy O’Donnell finds loudspeaker in chimney!


Walls have Lips

Semi-clad stunt-woman kisses wall!

Believe it or not, non-British Shadowplayers, the ITV News At Ten really does begin like this, with dramatic news and an anchor barking out headlines in between the strokes of Big Ben. The stories might not be quite as enticing as those outlined above, but the effect is similar: everything is at once dramatized and trivialised.

The News at Tentheme is very famous here, which is why it was hilarious to us as kids when we saw a matinee at the late-lamented Odeon Clerk Street of what I think was Eddie Romero’s no-budget Dr Moreau rip-off re-imagining, THE TWILIGHT PEOPLE, and the news theme struck up as background score to a man-versus-monster fight scene. You do run this risk when you score your film with stock music: somebody might come along and make one of those themes famous.

Early Cronenberg films, their music tracks assembled by Ivan Reitman, of all people, seem to have escaped this fate — the music just sounds cheap and drippy. It was so great when Howard Shore and Michael Kamen came along to write proper scores — really good ones.

The best stock score I can think of is probably the stuff by “DeWolfe” for MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, which succeeds in raising the production values whenever it comes on, which is the exact opposite of the effect stock music usually has. For ages I wondered who this great unknown film composer was. Actually, I still don’t know. I’ve stumbled across some DeWolfe company CDs in the past, but never found the HOLY GRAIL score on any of them…

It never seems possible to get stock music to fit as nicely as a well-composed score — the solution would be to select the music in advance and shoot to it and cut to it, like Leone did with Morricone’s score for ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, and Powell did with BLACK NARCISSUS, and musicals directors routinely do. As our piece The Chills #1 hopefully demonstrated, moving the camera in time with a score is a powerful thing…