Pictorial History in the Making (Part 1)

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Shadowplayers Douglas and Brandon have asked exactly which films in Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies remain for me to view, before I have completed my centuries long “See REPTILICUS and die” completist quest. Well, there are a LOT of pictures in that book. A complete list might exhaust all our various patiences, but I’ll start typing and see how far I get before ennui sets in ~

THE VANISHING LADY, on page 19, two stills of Georges Melies transmogrifying a nice lady into a skeleton.

UNDRESSING EXTRAORDINARY, page 20, R.W. Paul movie from 1901 with a skeleton on strings. It’s on the BFI disc so I can see this right now!

THE FAIRY OF THE BLACK ROCKS, same page, a 1910 Pathé skeleton flick. Looks nice, but appears to be a lost film, which means I don’t technically have to see it, but I can dream it.

WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST, page 23, Bert I. Gordon (AKA B.I.G.). The Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment of this is on YouTube, I think. Close enough for me. (NB, It’s not, but Douglas Noble has provided an AVI.)

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War of the colossal man-boobs.

EQUINOX, same page. I’ve seen most of the stop-motion scenes on YouTube, which might actually DO. But it’s easy to get, so I will, sometime.

THE GIGANTIC DEVIL, another Melies. Seen tons of G.M., but somehow almost none of the ones Gifford cites.

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“Not yet Balaoo!”

BALAOO THE DEMON BABOON, 1910, France, on page 26. This is a publicity illustration so I’m not sure it counts — it’s not a still, it’s a drawing. And who knows if the movie even exists anymore? Research online reveals: “At least some footage apparently exists in Ottawa archives and at the Library of Congress.” Hmm, BALAOO is going to be tricky…

THE MERRY FROLICS OF SATAN, Melies, same page. Think I’ve maybe seen this one, or a big extract.

DR RENAULT’S SECRET on page 27. At least this one is pretty easy to get. I think.

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Page 29, THE SNAKE GIRL AND THE SILVER HAIRED WITCH looks real good. Japanese film produce by Daiei, no directorial credit given. Turns out to be the guy who did most of the Gamera movies.

Page 30, still of a giant skull licking Georges Melies’s back. Doesn’t say what it’s from! If I get the Flicker Alley box set one day and just watch everything on it, I’m going to consider him DONE.

This proves to be LA PHRENOLOGIE BURLESQUE, identified with the aid of artist Dave McKean, who based a print on Gifford’s still. The movie is lost, so I have to recreate it so I can watch it.

THE VAMPIRE, a 1913 vamp film with Alice Eis, looks enticing on page 34 in a brief digression on bloodsuckers.

The James Cruze JEKYLL AND HYDE makes an appearance on 38, along with THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE, in which Pearl White meets Dr. J. Which is a surprise. On the next page, Louis Hayward transmutes in SON OF DR JEKYLL, which sounds like a must see. Having played twins in THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK, the wayward Hayward was no stranger to confusion. An IMDb reviewer from Kentucky writes, “There’s way too much talk going on in this film and this here makes it quite boring.”

Page 42, and we get Charles Ogle in FRANKENSTEIN, which I’ve never seen from start to finish. Opposite page: COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK — this one gets some very affectionate reviews.

It looks BEYOND OUTSTANDING! It’s produced by William “News on the March” Alland, which is usually a very bad thing, but Van Cleave’s solo piano score is rocking my world, and I’m both tickled and oddly satisfied that the Colossus is called “Jeremy”.

48, all three versions of THE STUDENT OF PRAGUE, the best of which must surely be the Anton Walbrook one, which is the one I haven’t seen. You can watch Veidt’s version here.

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Page 50 — Julien Duvivier’s LE GOLEM is one I need to have translated by the estimable Mr. Wingrove, but I think we’re doing Duvivier’s Jesus movie first (Jean Gabin as Pilate!). On 51, THE CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN doesn’t sound too inspiring, but it’ll have to be watched.

On 53, THE CAT CREEPS is a clunking early talkie that I’ll happily suffer through if I can get it. I love Helen Twelvetrees just because her name is Helen Twelvetrees. In THE HOUSE IN NIGHTMARE PARK, which is a CAT AND THE CANARY-inspired old-dark-house comedy thriller, camp comic Frankie Howerd plays Foster Twelvetrees, strolling tragedian…

There we go, one quarter of the way through this quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, and you can see the size of the task facing me. But THINK OF THE FUN!

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30 Responses to “Pictorial History in the Making (Part 1)”

  1. Got to see Dr. Renault’s Secret recently, it’s one of the three films contained in the Fox Horror Classics Vol. 2 box set. And you know what? It’s not half-bad! I wasn’t expecting much and was pleasantly surprised. J. Carroll Naish’s performance as the “secret” is good, very sympathetic, and we also have Mike Mazurki as the heavy, whose presence is always welcome. In fact, there was a scene that made me think of you David, where they find the doctor’s scrapbook at the end, which as they read through it has text on the left page, and stills on the right. I’m watching this and thinking, whoever did his photography was no amateur, those stills are top-notch, especially for a scrapbook, and I thought of you because I imagined you doing a treatment on the scrapbook in a post. And the print of the film looks beautiful, very clean. Recommended.

  2. thanks for the tip. This is what I was hoping for, good info on which films are most worth pursuing. Although I still have to see ALL of them.

    I mainly know Naish from very late performances with ill-fitting dentures. I think maybe he and Joseph Cotten went to the same dentist.

  3. david wingrove Says:

    My God, I had totally forgotten that Duvivier even made a Golem movie! We must get back to our translations soon. We have a long list to catch up on.

    Believe it or not, I’ve seen the 30s STUDENT OF PRAGUE with Anton Walbrook. They showed it at the Cinemateca Romana once by mistake; they were supposed to be showing the Conrad Veidt silent.

    I knew nothing about either film, so was perfectly content either way. My ‘other half’ was deeply put out, being a silent cinema purist. But the 30s version is beautifully Baroque and atmospheric, and Walbrook does ‘haunted’ in a way nobody else has ever quite managed.

    I also remember seeing an ad for COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK on TV as a little boy in Canada. A weird, gaunt space alien with a dome-shaped head was zapping people into oblivion with the rays from its eyes!!

    My best friend and I were so utterly traumatised by this ad that we never did watch the film. In fact, I think we hid behind the sofa the whole time it was on. OK, we were 5 years old at the time – but the memory of it still makes me shudder.

  4. Wow! Well, I think he’s a human brain (“Jeremy”) in a robot body, rather than a space alien. Not that that excuses his deplorable behaviour.

    I have a decent French VHS of the Duvivier Golem and am looking forward to running it. Also look forward to seeing you at the Wild Japan movie tonight, sorry I missed the first one.

  5. The original French title for The Merry Frolics of Satan is (wait for it)

    Les 400 Coups du Diable

  6. Beautiful! It should be a DVD extra with the Truffaut movie.

  7. “Les 400 Coups” is a French phrase for raising hell or sowing wild oats. Wild Oats in fact was to be the original International title before some genius decided to release it as “The 400 Blows” which doesn’t make any sense except confuse Porno audiences.

    Speaking of “le diable” does this book have an entry on one of my all-time favourite bizarro horror films – The Devil Doll by Tod Browning(the final masterpiece of a career of unevenly unique weird surrealist poetry).

  8. I just re-visited my all-time favourite Luis Bunuel film, ”The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz” and the scene where Archie drags that mannequin on the floor and then cooks it in a piln at high temperature is one of the scariest moments in film history, burnt into my skull. A real throat-grabbing bloodletting masterpiece.

  9. Yes, plenty on Devil Doll — two stills, and a paragraph or so of text (nobody gets much more than that). I still recall the line “This was once a fully-grown St Bernard!” spoken as the mad scientist cradles a little fluffy toy.

    Bunuel relates to the Hollywood horror film directly via The Beast with Five Fingers.

  10. “Colossus of New York” provided some inspiration for Joan Didion circa her “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” collection.

    “‘I Can’t Get That Monster ot of My Mind’ (a perfect title) has resonated for years, a phrase [Didion] borrowed from s schlocky old movie to capture the malaise of Hollywood and moviemaking” — writes David Blum in The New York Sun about the “Bethlehem” collection. The movie in question is “Colossus,” and the line is spoken by Mala Powers. Or so I’ll claim until corrected.

    I have seen “Colossus,” and remember that it looked terrific — unsurprising, given that Eugene Lourie is the director — even while it lacked much beyond a look and that distinctive piano-only score.

  11. That might be enough… Behemoth was dull, apart from Jack MacGowran and a few minutes of Willis O’Brien, but this one seems like it could have legs. The fact that the monster has a human identity must make it a bit more interesting.

  12. Has anyone seen Gary Youngman’s film “Rush It”?

  13. After Expo 67 closed in Montreal, the city exploited the island site for many years as ‘Man and His World”. Among the participating countries, France continued to operate its gigantic pavillion and, one year, early 70s, they devoted the entire main floor to Mélies. Drawings, maquettes, and several screens continuously showing every film still extant. I kept returning, spending days there, sometimes almost alone in the cavernous building, taking it all in.

    And Duvivier’s Golem, by the way, is distinguished by the participation of the formidable Harry Baur as the Emperor. I’m very curious to hear your opinion of the film.

  14. I always enjoyed watching Frankie Howerd. I found him very funny in his own inimitable way.

  15. One of my favourite vampire films is Bill Mousoulis’ “A Nocturne”.

  16. Here is a link to aforementioned film:
    http://www.innersense.com.au/nocturne/index.html

  17. Thanks! Will watch later, sounds intriguing.

    Haven’t seen “Rush It”.

    That Melies exhibition sounds fantastic! I must somehow obtain that Flicker Alley box set and stage my own mini-show!

    Harry Baur was superb. Along with the child star of Duvivier’s Poil de Carotte, he was killed by the nazis. While the kid, who had become a teenager and joined the resistance, was executed, Baur was basically just murdered, and his furniture stolen to decorate the apartments of prominent nazis.

  18. How bizarre – yesterday, having never much thought about it, I was wowed by the clips above from The Colossus of New York, and today, this pops up in my Google Reader:

    http://www.electricsheepmagazine.co.uk/features/2009/02/15/the-west-london-fantastic-film-society/

    A screening, in a proper screening room, of Colossus and Panic in Year Zero! Granted, it’s already happened and it is nowhere near me (or most other Shadowplayers) but an odd coincidence all the same.

  19. Wow, sounds like a good night out anyhow. I’m defintely going to get a copy of Jeremy of New York.

  20. Hot dogs served by Norman Warren… you don’t get that at the NFT.

  21. I recommend watching Flicker Alley’s Melies set a little bit at a time instead of all at once. I find that too many Melies shorts in a row turns into one long, frenetic montage of people appearing and disappearing, and puts me to sleep (with Very Bad Dreams) after five or six.

    WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST (sequel to THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN) is just awful, if the Mystery Science Theater version is anything to go by. Sometimes that show is criticized by fans of the films for removing scenes to make the movies look worse than they are (Jonathan Rosenbaum considered MST3K’s take on THIS ISLAND EARTH to be unfunny garbage) but I can usually tell which ones would’ve been worth watching on their own, and COLOSSAL BEAST ain’t on that list. Recommended alternatives: Squirm… The Thing That Couldn’t Die… Laserblast… Kitten with a Whip… Gamera vs. Guiron.

  22. Maybe I’ll see the MST3K version if I can find it (there are a few episodes on YouTube). I like Mike and the ‘bots, but it’s true that This Island Earth is a better movie than their treatment suggests. On the other hand, they did some funny jokes with it (I like the “normal view” song).

    Agree that Melies is best taken in small doses (as intended), but he’s incredibly beautiful and stylish. Pretty much all cinema from that period is oddly dreamlike (“the Kingdom of Shadows” indeed) but he must be the greatest artist working in film before 1910.

  23. Wow, this brings back memories.
    I used to adore this book as a kid!
    This was ‘the bible’ for me and my brothers growing up on horror movies.
    God knows how many times I pored through those pages, and I can visualise almost all of the ones you mentioned!
    I must see if I can find this classic book again sometime (And it’s got to be with THAT cover!)
    Keep us posted if you get any further in your quest.

  24. I must scan some pages. I’ll be goping through the whole book and listing all the illustrations I have to see (no way to do all the films covered in the text!). And hopefully I’ll see some more of the films in the next week, also.

  25. Therese Grisham Says:

    Hi David,

    I’m writing to ask if you are still doing the Great Duvivier Giveaway–I would love to have a copy of La fin du jour.

    I recently found you via girish, after I started teaching a Duvivier class at Facets Multimedia in Chicago. (Btw, Facets has 14 Duvivier films on dvd and video and is re-releasing a number of them on DVD–Poil de Carotte just came out this month. They are also getting a few as imports. I don’t know if you have heard of them, but I can tell you more if you are interested.) Anyway, back to the point: you are the only person I have found online who is enthusiastic and knowledgeable about Duvivier.

    I hope to hear from you about my request and also to share information with you.

    Therese

  26. Yes, I’m happy to send a copy your way. The offer is sort of open-ended, although I’m no longer pushing it. If you’re able to supply me with anything I haven’t got, that’d also be great. I’ll email you.

  27. […] Auteurs’ Notebook and see both the latest entry in The Forgotten and my latest progress in my See REPTILICUS and Die mission. As usual, leave your responses over […]

  28. […] but safe in my cyber-cocoon I can imagine you asking any damn thing I want. My quest, codenamed “See Reptilicus and Die,” is going […]

  29. […] some kaijin action and score off another film in my quest to See Reptilicus and Die. As documented here, here, here and here, I’ve been attempting to see all the films illustrated in Denis […]

  30. […] nightmares — my quest, I say, is not far from completion. If you visit the pages where I listed the films I had to track down and see, you’ll observe that most of the entries are now […]

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