The Madness of George King

Yes, George King. That guy you never heard of. Him!

And no, me neither. But he had a short, intense career as director that took in Tod Slaughter horrors and Edgar Wallace shockers and modest little thrillers of all kinds. A number of them have been made available on no-frills but quite adequate DVDs from Odeon Entertainment’s Best of British label. What you basically get are nice little films of the kind that should be filling afternoon TV schedules but no longer do. Well worth renting if you feel like something undemanding, perhaps with a few familiar faces.

And once in a while, George lets rip with some actual CINEMA. THE CASE OF THE FRIGHTENED LADY, from Edgar Wallace’s play, is a predictable and hokey mystery with some amusingly colourful retro dialogue (the detective inspector and his idiot sidekick played by King regular Ronald Shiner are very much in the INSPECTOR HORNLEIGH cross-talk comedy vein). It’s kept on its feet by somebody’s smart decision to cut all the scenes into pieces and intercut them like mad, which boosts the pace beyond what you’d expect in a British cheapie of this kind.

And then the flick suddenly gets all atmospheric in a near-giallo way. Now, this is the climax I’m showing you, but in a way I’m doing you a favour because it saves you watching the rest. Trust me, you’d guess whodunnit anyway. (Nevertheless, I sort of recommend the film as mild fun. Rent it if you’re in the UK and you like old British warhorses.)

Spoilers:

The killer has used, as an alibi, the sound of his piano practice from a distant room, but it’s actually a record he’s playing while he’s off doing nefarious things with thuggee scarves (the movie was known stateside as THE SCARF MURDER MYSTERY, which is an even blander title that the one it started life with). So we get a beautiful, contrapuntal score to this sinister scene, plus the elegant shadow-play

And that’s Marius Goring popping up at the end with a look of madness in his eyes.

“I lost my head.”

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18 Responses to “The Madness of George King”

  1. Oh that’s just lovely! Very Lewton-meets-Bava.

  2. Yes, and it kind of comes out of nowhere. The rest of the film is zippy but a bit flat. Goring’s character is interesting, he’s either a Bertie Wooster who doesn’t want to wed for fear of losing his freedom, or a deeply closeted gay man (the more convincing interp, and one Goring seems to have his eye on). Until the end, when he turns out to be a complete loony.

    I think the Edgar Wallace films made in Germany (krimi) are clear influences on the giallo school, and it looks like the British versions cued them. So gialli are a British invention!

    I shd watch the Lugosi version of Dead Eyes of London to confirm this.

  3. I like the way the murderer is classy enough to time his strangling to the moment the music is at maximum tension!

    That is the essence of horror films though – the long build up to an almost unshowable event, which takes place incredibly fast.

  4. There’s some interesting fudging with space and light… like, where’s her shadow the second time we see his? And the cut to his POV towards the end actually feels more like HIS SHADOW’S POV.

  5. Paul Newman is dead.

  6. Sad news indeed. I think seeing Cool Hand Luke on TV, what seemed like every other week when I was a kid, had a big effect on me. I don’t think I’d seen a film with an unhappy ending before.

  7. My favorite is Mr. and Mrs. Bridge.

  8. Ever so slightly off-topic, but not really because we’re talking about le fantastique : Latest FaBlog: Buckaroo Banzai vs. The World Crime League

  9. Beautiful! We laughed our asses off. And it takes a lot to make politics amusing in this day and age.

    Very weird too, as Fiona was just trying to remember the name of “that sci-fi film with Robocop in it that’s not Robocop.”

  10. We Buckaroo Banzai cultists are a small but hardy lot!

  11. It’s a fine, fine failure of a film! More enjoyable than most successes.

    Were there tie-in paperbacks? I heard there was going to be a series, but I never saw any this side of the pond.

    It’d make an ideal double-feature with George Pal’s Doc Savage, Man of Bronze.

  12. There was hope that a a series would develop but nothing ever came of it, alas. Buckaroo was just “too hip for the house.”

    Among other things it’s my favorite Jeff Goldblum performance as he’s given leave to utter what Pauline Kael identified as THE Jeff Goldblum line: “Where are we?”

    I have also spoken to John Lithgow about it and his is immensely proud of his performance as Dr. Emilio Lizardo, especially as it was derived from Rudolph Klein-Robbe’s portrayal of Dr. Mabuse — particularly in The Testament of Dr. Mabuse

  13. I have fond memories of Buckaroo’s description of brain surgery: “Once you get this far in, everything starts to look the same. You pretty much have to play it by ear.” Confidence-inspiring!

    Just watched Borzage’s The River, my heart is spinning.

  14. Last but by no means least re Buckaroo, the eye-poppingly inventive production design is the work of J. Michael Riva . . .

    (wait for it)

    MARLENE DIETRICH’S GRANDSON!!!!!

  15. Wow. And he has a substantial list of credits… up to Iron Man and Spiderman III. Not quite in the same league as Buckaroo, admittedly.

    I was always a little disappointed by Nicholas Von Sternberg’s cinematography… I get the impression either his dad didn’t teach him much, or he’s branched out with his own “style”, perhaps unwisely. At any rate, Dolemite and Gas Pump Girls do not quite have the same elan as The Devil is a Woman.

  16. There were certainly Buckaroo Banzai comics:

    http://www.comics.org/series.lasso?SeriesID=26144

    I can’t speak to the quality of those though, as I never managed to see one a shop.

  17. 2006? He lives on!

  18. […] his moustache. It’s directed by George King, whose half-hearted praises I sang off-key here. King, a spirited B-movie professional, is in slightly muted form here, perhaps just disgusted by […]

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