Archive for March, 2009

Intertitle of the Week: A Show Called Fred

Posted in FILM with tags , , on March 29, 2009 by dcairns

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I think that says everything.

Oh, it’s from RICH AND STRANGE, the film where Hitchcock rediscovered the joys of intertitling (which had been his first job in movies, after all). “It should have done better,” was his melancholy reaction to the film’s box office failure. On Wednesday I’ll attempt to ascertain if he was right.

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Between starting this post and finishing it, I’ve broken with a long line of critical tradition and watched the film. Hitch was right, and this is one of his masterpieces. Maybe the only one that’s not in any sense a thriller? At any rate, those of you who own copies should dig them out and delight NOW.

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Mental Vampires. REALLY Mental Vampires.

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on March 28, 2009 by dcairns

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How is my (insane) quest to see every film illustrated in Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Moviesgoing, you ask? Well, most likely you don’t ask, 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 swimmingly.

EXTRAORDINARY UNDRESSING (1901) by R.W. Paul is a frabjous trick film in which a theatrically drunk fellow attempts to remove his clothes (strange how many Paul films centre on male denudings, from HIS ONLY PAIR to A WAYFARER COMPELLED TO DISROBE PARTIALLY, which gets my vote for most syntactically contorted title prior to I AM CURIOUS, YELLOW) but is thwarted by a series of jump cuts which see him instantly re-clad in a wide variety of different costumes. Then a cardboard skeleton appears and scares the crap out of him. I’d give it a 5 on my Earlyfilmometer — which means it’s not as good as THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY, but still better than FOR YOUR EYES ONLY.

FIEND WITHOUT A FACE is two-thirds thick-eared sci-fi turgidity, with chipboard actors flailing their shoddly hinged limbs in a script the consistency of porridge, but that last third is a doozy. From the moment a suspiciously-accented “Canadian” (the film is a British production in its entirety) turns up as a drooling loon, having had half his brain sucked out — by “mental vampires” — through the back of his neck (his demented yodelling is both authentically terrifying and very, very funny), things start piling on the oomph.

Stick with it. Amusingly boring at first and then — enter the Famous Eccles!

A crusty scientist (an expert in “sibonetics”) makes a page turn by the power of his mind; an invisible force rips a hole in a screen door; and then killer crawling brains, with wiggling antennae and waggling spinal cord tails are crawling up trees and flying through the air and sucking people’s nervous systems out through the backs of their necks, just as if they owned the place. It’s all down to an experiment in telekinesis that misguidedly leached energy from an atomic reactor being used to power an experimental radar system (WTF?) and if that doesn’t make sense, never mind, because the animated special effects by Ruppel & Nordhoff (who sound like trapeze artists but presumably aren’t) are Lynchian and very gory. Poor Kim Parker, as the busty heroine, who is quite the pluckiest and smartest character, and most alive performer, gets brain leeches on her head TWICE, which is twice more then the average B-movie starlet would merit, but survives the experience and ends the film happily embracing the timber protagonist. Watch out for splinters.

And then I watched the full ten minutes or whatever of the Edison FRANKENSTEIN (viewable here), a lovely experience. Charles Ogle’s monster actually reminds me of both Dave Prowse’s shaggy beast in FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL, and a character from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats. the film is also striking for the way it is rendered redundant by its own intertitles, which fully explain the entire plot, including many plot developments that we haven’t yet seen. But the mirrorplay is excellent, and the creation scene (a puppet burning, shown in reverse) is eerily creative.

Three Women

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2009 by dcairns

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An entire film industry in female form: producer Angela Murray, writer Fiona Watson and director Morag McKinnon.

First came the shoes. Fiona seemed to have quite a lot of shoes, and our floordrobe was cluttered with them. It seemed ironic that we couldn’t walk anywhere in our flat for all the shoes. So Fiona bought a big steel shoe rack, which hooks onto a door, covering one side. But she only hung a couple of belts on it, and the Shoe Problem remained. Then she bought three big plastic boxes (each big enough to swallow an old portable TV like the one I watched ZOLTAN HOUND OF DRACULA on in my bedroom aged 15). But she seemed to be too busy to actually put anything in them.

So on Saturday morning I started putting away shoes and boots, ending with three boxes brimming with boots and an entire door decorated with shoes, so that you could take it off its hinges and use it as a wooden centipede, if you needed one. When Fiona came home and actually saw how many items of footwear she owned she started laughing hysterically. Because what else can you do when you suddenly discover you’re Imelda Marcos?

Imelda and I are currently redrafting CELL 6, a psychological horror thriller, for Edinburgh producer Eddie Dick — in fact, that’s probably what we should be doing right now. A new step outline by the 11th, please.

Off to Glasgow, where producing supremo Angelatook us to a Persian restaurant (hint: if you order the starters, you don’t need a main course) where I ate myself into a state of planetoid girth, complete with volcanic activity. Thence to Angela’s favourite bar, where I think I rather offended Angela by referring to it as “a suburb of hell” (sorry!), to be joined by Morag, who was upbeat about her upcoming film, which Sigma Productions seem to be calling DONKEYS, referred to here earlier under its working title ROUNDING UP DONKEYS (which is what they should call it). I’m really bursting to see this, since Morag and her writer Colin McLaren are among the great hopes of Scottish cinema, and since I’ve heard all kinds of onset reports that make me eager, anxious, excited, nervous, in equal measures.

Unfortunately, I’m sworn to secrecy on most of these stories. Even reproducing Angela’s stories about dealing with directors might be indiscrete, although I’m of the view that it’s a masterclass in diplomacy and would be beneficial to share with prospective producers everywhere. Maybe if we can get Angela in to lecture at the Art College she can pass on some of her wisdom and compassion.