Archive for December 28, 2008

Intertitle of the Week: Big in Japan

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on December 28, 2008 by dcairns

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I’m excited about watching Ozu’s DRAGNET GIRL because it’s an unusual subject for him, and because it’s influenced by josef Von Sternberg’s crime films of the ’20s. Since Sternberg’s THE DRAGNET is apparently a lost film, looking at Ozu’s response to it may be as close as one can get to recapturing the experience of seeing it.

This intertitle apparently translates as “Joji, why don’t you train again?”

Things Roddy said during Face of the Screaming Werewolf

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on December 28, 2008 by dcairns

Every year at Christmastime, we are visited by a jolly fat man in a red hat:

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Face of the beaming Watson.

Fiona’s brother Roderick. The fun never stops when he’s around. Since he has Williams Syndrome, and since he’s not terribly mobile, he can’t really make his own entertainment — except by talking. So the T.V. comes in very handy, and fortunately Roddy agrees with us about horror movies — even when they’re bad, they’re good.

Like a Benshi film describer, or Tod Slaughter narrating his own death in a melodramatic fashion, Roddy keeps up a running commentary during most movies, considerably more eloquent and informative than any of Tim Burton’s director’s commentaries, and with fewer stretches of numbing silence.

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The movie begins as a comely Mexican lady is sent into hypnotic trance by a special machine.

“What’s that sound? What’s the matter with her?” (Eagerly) “Has she been bitten by the werewolf?”

As the woman sinks into coma, a small boy crawls into the lab and hides under a table. At first I thought he was her hallucination, but he’s not. This is my favouritest thing in the whole film, because it’s never explained. But then, very little is explained. I think the geniuses (genii?) who dubbed the movie decided to cut all the boring plot stuff.

In her trance state, the woman experiences a vision of dusty mesas (mesae?) and pyramids.

“Where’s that? Is that Transylvania?”

Some Indians appear.

“Is this to do with Indians or something?”

(Roddy notices I’m jotting down these notes. I feel guilty.) “What’s that you’re writing?” (Looks at squiggles.) “Mmmm!”

The Indians begin a ceremony deep within their pyramid, which involves a lot of walking about.

“Why are they walking about, David?”

After what seems like twenty minutes of walking about, there is a sacrifice, and we cut to our modern-day hypnotic conquistadores entering the tomb, followed by the small boy, who’s sneaked after them. We still don’t know who anyone is.

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Something shambles about in the darkness.

“I ken what that is — the mummy! Am I right? Is that a woman or a man? I can’t tell.”

A sound.

“Is that a wolf?”

The scientists retrieve a female mummy, and Lon Chaney, who turns out to be a modern man who’s transfused himself with mummy juices in order to bring about “a state of death”. But we never learn why. Scientists put Lon in a big machine, which makes a noise.

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 “What’s that noise?”

“A machine.”

“What kind of machine? Where is he — can’t see the mummy! What’s that funny noise?”

“Another machine.”

“Looks like Frankenstein. Wow, that’s some storm, is it?” (Seems to be a Dundonian habit: saying “is it?” instead of “isn’t it?”) “Cheesy peeps!” (This is an exclamation of awe unique to Roddy.) “What’s happening now? Oh my God!”

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I like how Lon rests his jowls on the window sill, in a rather defeatist manner, just before beginning his wolf-out.

Lon Chaney, his apparatus struck by lightning, comes to life, turns into a werewolf, and gores people. I decide that poor Lon must have taken the mummy transfusion as a cure for his lycanthropy, and now these science guys have guffed it up. But this hypothesis is never confirmed.

“Where’s the werewolf? Hmm-hm!”

Lon changes back to non-hairy. Some more stuff happens.

“Is he going to change into a werewolf, do you think?”

He does.

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“Oh my God, the werewolf’s scary, eh?”

Lon creeps up on a sleeping scientist. Roddy finds this particularly exciting.

“Oh, watch this, watch — he’s asleep still, is he? Watch this, watch! Oh my God, ho-ho! Got himnow! Oh-oh! Something’s happened to him. My God. Look at that mist!”

We return to the subplot of the mummy woman, who abducts a little girl. No idea why.

“How can a mummy be a woman? A mummy is supposed to be a man. Where’s she taking her? What’s that noise? Is she taking her away? What’s happening there?”

Now Roddy gets slightly sidelined from the plot:

“I would like to be in a horror film. I would be a vampire. I’d be pretty scary.”

I dare to express doubt.

“I would if I had real fangs, like Christopher Lee.”

I suggest that Christopher Lee does not, in civilian life, have real fangs.

“What do you mean?”

I elaborate.

“That’s what I was saying.” (Vampire voice.) “I’m Roderick, from Transylvania.’ I’d be a good vampire, I would.”

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Meanwhile, a scientist manages to get Lon Chaney locked in a cage.

“Uh-oh, the wolf’s in trouble, he can’t open the gate. Oh, he’s got it. Nae trouble! Where’s he going now? Is he in the forest? Is that a woman and a man? What’s he doing now? That’s the police. Do you think they’ll catch him?”

The wolfman starts stalking a woman. Roddy gets very tense.

“Uh oh. Ssshh! Watch this. Uh-oh. Uh-oh. Uh-oh. He’s getting closer and closer to that woman. What’s going to happen now? Uh oh. David… I heard something. What? Uh-oh! Uh-oh!”

Having crept into the woman’s home, Lon Chaney is startled by his own reflection in her mirror.

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“Ha ha, he got himself a fleg!” (“Fleg” = Dundonian word for “a fright”.) Ah, she locked him in, good one! That means he can’t get out. Uh-oh!”

He gets out. The woman hits him with a vase.

“Nice one, got him a good one, on his head. ‘At’sa cracker! Give him a punch on the nose, that’ll sort him out. Heh!”

Lon’s nose does look pretty tender. But he overpowers the woman and carries her off.

“God’s sake, woman! What happens if the police catch him, that’ll be it, won’t it?”

My favourite bit of action — Lon climbs a building, while carrying the woman. A white-coated scientist follows him. The image of a lab guy climbing a building is a pleasing one.

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Somehow we get from here to another fight, with chairs being smashed over Lon.

“Nice one! Hey — oh — nice one! Oh, hey, he hit him first! Watch this one — here we go — watch this — oh, that’s a good idea. Oh hey, you idiot, no’ him! It’s the wolf, you idiot.”

Lon is incinerated. The police arrive, too late to do anything, and calmly dismiss all reports of monsters as the overactive imagination of the stupid public.

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“It’s the bobbies, look.”

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STOP PRESS: Here’s Roddy’s capsule review of ALIENS.

“That took a while to sort out.”

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