Get Used To It!

moc-70-the-devil-and-daniel-webster

I’m continuing to big up Film Club here, because I’m curious to see what will happen if I make as much noise as possible. This message is for fellows on Facebook, people with Twitter accounts, and those of you who just have many many friends — tell everybody!

It’s not just a shameless attempt to boost my “viewing figures” (a meaningless thing to do anyway, but an oddly pleasing one). In fact, a couple of weeks ago this blog suddenly became 40% more popular, according to my WordPress stats, and I have no idea why. A thousand thanks, whoever is responsible!

I’m just curious to see what will happen if enough of you watch THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER before Monday, and take part in the ensuing discussion. Will we learn lots of new things? Will our appreciation of Mr Dieterle and Mr Huston grow? Will there be a blip in the sales figures of the Masters of Cinema or Criterion DVDs?

I’ll continue Film Club for a couple of weeks afterwards, to give it a chance, see if it takes off. Probably David Ehrenstein’s suggestion of LE MEPRIS will be the second movie, but you might all want to think of ideas for future “Club nights.”

33 Responses to “Get Used To It!”

  1. Arthur S. Says:

    Haven’t seen CONTEMPT in a while, this will be a great chance to revisit it.

    So I second LE MEPRIS for the next week.

  2. Cool. Have I ever watched the whole thing? I’m not sure. So it’ll be worthwhile at my end.

  3. Tony Williams Says:

    Dieterle certainly deserves re-evaluation. His career was affected by the blacklist and at one point in the early 50s negotiated with Jack London’s widow Charmian to make a film version of THE LITTLE LADY OF THE BIG HOUSE (1916), a novel that reveals London’s feelings about how his affluent life style was adversely affecting him. Sadly, nothing happened about this.

    However, the film also contains one of the best performances of Walter Huston as well as a stunning one by Simone Simon complementing her RKO work with Val Lewton.

  4. Wow,Dieterle gets a lot of kudos here…I´ve only seen 2 of his movies:
    Kismet(44) and Portrait of Jennie.
    Kismet is shamelessly trashy so u keep watching but thats about it.
    Portrait is more interesting(although the mystical romanticism does not really work) and it stars Jennifer Jones.
    I am downloading ‘…Webster’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.
    He directed some parts of one of my favs: Duel in the Sun.Does anybody know if he just directed a couple of scenes or did he have a bigger impact?

    tip film club:The Naked Spur

  5. Christopher Says:

    I wish Criterion was as cheap as the Eureka-Masters of Cinema(same stuff diffferen’t country/name) I got the Masters of Cinema of Kwaidan from a hong kong vender for way less than half of what Criterions go for here..

  6. That may be Hong Kong vendors for you — I’m not sure if MoC stack up that much cheaper as a general rule. (The MoC Kwaidan seems to be superior in terms of colour fidelity though.)

    But Criterion’s disc is on sale in Barnes and Noble and I think also at Amazon.com. Half price, or a third off, something like that.

  7. Again, Barnes & Noble has a half off sale going on until August 2 here in the States. Amazon also offers discounts, but they vary from disc to disc (or unit to unit). Dieterle’s career overall merits scrutiny, as actor/director he’s definitely someone worthy of attention. William/Wilhelm was a beefy boy, check him out in WAXWORKS. A pretty good performer in a mainstream sort of way, I need to dig deeper into his accomplishments to more fully assess what it was he had to offer.

  8. Hong Kong discs may be of quality but still they are what they are, bootlegs. I resist purchasing them out of principle (“if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”). Also, having never purchased one, what do they offer in the way of extras?

  9. One last word: I get a kick out of seeing Bobo in your banner.

  10. I bought, in all innocence, some bootleg Criterion discs in South Korea. They had all the extras, plus optional Korean subtitles! But companies like Criterion do such a great service I feel bad about scamming them.

    Dieterle directed a number of intense and satisfying movies, and a few outrageously silly ones. In fact, the good ones fearlessly tread to the edge of silliness, which is what makes them so good.

    Thanks to Sue Osmond for taking the lovely still of Bobo! This is one of my favourite banners so far (along with the noir woodcuts and Sean Connery reading Shadowplay).

  11. Christopher Says:

    I’ve got quite a few Chinese and Korean.knock off discs of Criterion and other films off Ebay for basically the price of shipping alone..I only get the ones where I know there are no extras..or don’t care about some of the extras..but occasionally they DO have the extras and some have differen’t extras added by that country..I don’t see them as bootlegs at all,but that particular country’s version of the DVD..factory discs sealed packaging…I’m a cheapskate above all else.. :op
    When we’d travel overseas when I was a kid ,we always bought our record albums in hong kong…Same thing..just cheeeeeap!

  12. But they are, technically, bootlegs, aren’t they, if they aren’t paying for the rights? It’s just high-level piracy. Ironically, by adopting digital technology, the media have made such high-grade piracy possible.

    The other kind of piracy, where a camcorder is hidden in a cinema to record a new release, is created by the industry’s emphasis on the NEW. I don’t see anybody shelling out to buy a copy of Casablanca recorded in that way.

  13. Andrew Coats Says:

    I’ve just received my copy in the post. when are we watching it? do we all have to watch it on the same night in some type of collective experience?

  14. You can watch it any time between now and Monday. We’re watching it because it’s great! Then on Monday I’ll post a piece about it and we can all weigh in and have a Heated Debate. It’s just like normal blogging, only we’ll all have seen it.

  15. I don’t know if this has been suggested already but have you considered bringing Hitchcock Year and Film Club together in a kind of Shadowplay perfect storm? Maybe for one of your unseen Hitchcocks?

  16. That’s a lovely idea! If I’d thought of it sooner we could have done it for Notorious, I guess. Let’s see how we get on with the first couple and then maybe we can do it for the next really good one — which might be Strangers on a Train.

    Anyhow, we’ll see how Film Club goes. Don’t know how long I can keep telling everybody to watch films without turning into Hitler.

  17. Christopher Says:

    ha..I’m currently watching all the late 40s and 50s Hitchcocks again..so i’m ready for ya!..Strangers on a Train was my #1 fave till Vertigo knocked it out of top spot a few years ago..

  18. kevin mummery Says:

    “Anyhow, we’ll see how Film Club goes. Don’t know how long I can keep telling everybody to watch films without turning into Hitler.”

    You’re not telling anyone to watch, you’re suggesting that the experience will be enriching if we all watch then have the Heated Debate after. More of a Goebbels approach, I think. Unfortunately for me, I won’t be able to participate this time around. Maybe next time, though.

    And to Guy Budziak: I still think Walter Huston looks remarkably like the Vernors Ginger Ale gnome.

  19. Huston also closely resembles and old guy who frequents Edinburgh Filmhouse, forcibly engaging women in conversation in the bar. Only this guys has more of a “lost” expression. Same costume though.

  20. Kevin,
    Funny you should mention that gnome. I was thinking about someone I did some work for a few years back, and he was the living embodiment of the Vernors pitchman. Their factory was only a couple blocks away from where I now live, though sadly it was torn down long ago. I have this memory of walking into their lobby back in the Seventies, and there was this machine that dipensed Boston Cooler popsicles, that’s vanilla ice cream covered with a glaze of frozen Vernors Ginger Ale. What I wouldn’t give to taste one of those again. I’d say you’re right about the Huston/gnome comparison except for one significant difference, Huston’s svelte, whereas the gnome was portly. Otherwise you’re dead on.

  21. Been reading McMilligan’s Lang biography, Goebbels was designated head of overseeing the German film industry in the early Thirties and played a part in banning Lang’s TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE, which was “a threat to law and order”, or something to that effect. Der Fuehrer had high hopes of Lang creating works that would further promote his vision, but Lang packed away the negative of TESTAMENT and hit the road, he could see the writing on the wall.

  22. When France was defeated, Goebbels took charge of the industry there, too, declaring that French films should be “light, frivolous and, if possible, stupid.” He was a born mogul. The fact that Clouzot was able to flourish in such an environment suggests that Goebbels’ dictum was not rigorously enforced. Since Clouzot was working for a German company, he had less supervision, ironically enough.

    Lang took a while to realize the writing was on the wall, many others keft ahead of him. Sirk, I think, took even longer to jump ship, but both men had compelling reasons to stay: their wives were Nazis.

  23. On the Kwaidan the Masters of Cinema release is certainly the one to go for over the Criterion. Partly for the book and partly because it is a slightly longer version of the film (if twenty minutes counts as ‘slightly’), so counts as the definitive version.

    There’s some discussion of it here: http://www.criterionforum.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=195

  24. I love Kobayashi, and it was a shock to discover I like his other films even better. I still have lots of them to see though.

    Criterion are a fabulous company but it’s always pleasing to hear Masters get some praise, since they’ve just given me some work!

  25. Tony Williams Says:

    DC, This in interesting. When the Nazis came to power Goebbels immediately condemned CONGRESS DANCES for its frivolity and decadent Jewish influence. He was responsible for harassing the talented Renate Muller into making an anti-semitic film that led to her suicide. He may have aimed at destroying the French film industry by forcing it to make films revealing the industry’s inferior race. However, there were exceptions – Clouzot, the 1943 version of AU BONHEUR DES DAMES and others,

  26. It does seem like there was a different standard for the French. I wouldn’t call Carne’s work frivolous either, so there were obviously exceptions, and it seems like the French filmmakers were inspired to keep the national spirit alive by doing good work, no matter what the circumstances.

    What Goebbels probably really wanted was an avoidance of politics in French cinema, and he more or less achieved that, but suggestive resonances crept in around the edges.

  27. Contempt is my favourite Godard, along with Eloge de l’amour.

    A very good Japanese film worthy of discussion and available on MoC is Sadao Yamanaka’s Humanity and Paper Balloons.

  28. Tony Williams Says:

    Yes, he aimed to trivialize it but did not totally succeed. Also, he realized the failure of politics in films such as S.A. MANN BRAND and HANS WESTMAR, both films also having melodramatic overtones in the Romeo and Juliet relationship between Aryan hero and Communist heroine that finally fulfilled Kipling’s diktat of “East is East and West is West but never the twain shall meet. However, the final shot of the Stalin-looking German commissar at the end of HANS WESTMAR changing his clenched fist into a Nazi salute would be camp were we not aware of the more serious consequences.

    “Harmless entertainment” was the rule for both cinemas but, according to Jonathan Rosenbaum Douglas Sirk’s SCHLUSSACCORD (1934) represents one of the better films of this era – I think, from memory. It is only available in a French sub-titled version so far.

  29. Masaki Kobayashi movies not to be missed:

    Black River(still amazingly modern)
    Harakiri
    Samurai Rebellion
    Kwaidan
    The Human Condition(3 movies;10 hours;Tatsuya Nakadai gives one of the most astonishing performances ever)

  30. I have a copy of Humanity and Paper Balloons, so far unwatched.

    Must watch out for Schlussaccord. La Habanera seemed fairly in step with Nazi policy.

    I have all the Kobayashi films you list… plus Inn of Evil. I’m just being slow to watch them because they’re fairly draining, and also there aren’t many of them: I want to make them last a few years. Fiona said, halfway through Harakiri, “This is one of my favourite directors.”
    Me: “And this is, what, the second film we’ve seen by him?”
    Fiona: “Yes.”

  31. Tony Williams Says:

    Yes, Zarah Leander as Nordic heroine who makes the mistake of marrying non-Nordic and few Jew Suss Ferdinard Marian. She discovers the spouse and decadent warm climate is no substitute for Northern climatic purity. It can be read that way but less explicit that TITANIC (1943) where heroic German officer Peterson tries in vain to save the passengers who mostly die due to the devious British. Like OHM KRUGER, a reckoning is envisaged in the future but it occurs in a very different manner from what this particular national cinema envisaged!

  32. It’s a very twisted cinema, needless to say. Having just watched Notorious, I’m emboldened to check out the work of bit-part Nazi Reinhold Schunzel, who directed some major movies in Germany before heading to Hollywood to act and direct Ice Follies of 1937, or whenever it was.

  33. Tony Williams Says:

    Yes, it is a twisted cinema. I have to read more in addition to WEIMAR IN EXILE and other works) on this period. Schunzel (was a contemporary of Conrad Veidt. They both acted together in films as well as those they directed. I’ve heard about the Nazi allegations against Schunzel. However, he directed VIKTOR UND VICTORIA (later VICTOR/VICTORIA) with Renate Muller and Anton Walbrook so was part of that naughty Viennese/ gender bending tradition that the Nazis despised.

    Parts of VIKTOR UND VICTORIA (later refilmed with Jessie Matthews) are on youtube. Victor Saville also directed the English version of PRIVAT SEKRETERIAN (sic!) with Muller and Jack Hulbert set also in Vienna – SUNSHINE SUSIE (1931)

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