The Sunday Intertitle: Talking Pictures

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I despaired of ever finding THE MONKEY TALKS, an uber-obscure silent Raoul Walsh caper, but find it I had to do, for it features in a saucy still in Denis Gifford’s transeminal A Pictorial History of Horror Movies, and I am sworn — sworn! — to see every film illustrated therein.

In the movie, the talking chimp is played by a tiny acrobat, and in a startling plot twist that must have shocked 1927 audiences to the core, he turns out to be a tiny acrobat, in cunning disguise. Beat that, M Night Shyamalan. OK, this may not be OBJECTIVE, BURMA! (I find it impossible to be objective about Burma) or THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE but it is Walsh and it is an oddity and so you can be sure I’m interested.

So when a quite unbelievably horrid copy of the film came my way — video-recorded off the screen at some film fest, at a jaunty angle and with accompanying strobe-flicker playing like a jackhammer upon the temporal lobe — I snapped it up, despite my hatred of films recorded thusly. (Incidentally, though I judge it correct that those who video the new releases from their seat with a camcorder clasped twixt clammy thighs should be subject to the strictest Islamic justice — retinal flogging, perhaps — it strikes me as rather unwelcoming for our cinemas to precede each screening with a threat. I’m old enough to recall messages such as ENJOY THE SHOW and COME BACK SOON, rather than vague talk of prison terms and unlimited fines.) Have been behind on my silent film viewing of late, so I simply offer these tawdry frame-grabs as an appetizer, and toast the enterprising criminal who made them possible.

vlcsnap-83573Le Singe Qui Parle: Our Next Attraction.

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10 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Talking Pictures”

  1. Christopher Says:

    that monkey better TALK!

  2. Slight problem: it’s a silent film.

  3. Yesterday morning I walked over to a friend’s to watch THE HAUNTING, and after the film I walked into his book room, a mini-library of books on cinema. And so it was that I finally had a chance to take a glimpse inside this Gifford book that has so consumed one small corner of your life (and Fiona’s). I was surprised at the color pages interspersed, and happened to be looking at one of Vincent Price in THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES just as it was being shown onscreen on TCM. My friend Dave’s pretty generous about letting me borrow them on occasion, I’ll do so so I can get a better sense of what it contains. I was recently reading a magazine interview where Denis Gifford’s name came up, and I’m guessing it’s one and the same. He’s described as “the late British comics historian Denis Gifford”, and it states that “when he died they removed his collection by, unbelievably, three truckloads, and these were sold off in around three separate auctions. His whole house was crammed from floor to ceiling.” He’s described as having been “good at cartooning and funnies but not so hot on the realistic side of things [as an illustrator]”. Although it’s comics not horror films they’re discussing, it isn’t too much of a stretch to think that he’s our guy, since for many a love of the two often go hand in hand.

  4. Yes, that’s Gifford alright. I didn’t realise he had such a collection, but he wrote comic books, including a little book I once owned starring Brit comedians Morecombe and Wise.

  5. Ah yes. Makeup by the wonderfully inventive Jack Pierce, who created the look for Frankenstein’s Monster, Wolfman, and the rest of the Universal monster crowd. Very clever and talented artist.

    I have only seen one picture of the makeup, and just found it online:

    http://www.leckman.com/ca622/images/jack_pierce.pdf

    Always was curious about the film; your description makes it sound even goofier than I imagined.

    The Universal monster hits were shown in HD a few years back, on “MONSTERSHD”, a cable channel dedicated to showing films which, in the main, were NEVER meant to be seen that clearly. DRACULA, recently discussed here and never one of my favorites, was very enjoyably watchable in HD on a 120 inch screen. Lots of detail came through in the performances which I had not before perceived on those several occasions when I snored my way through that one, usually in very muddy prints. The staginess of the whole affair actually almost ceases to be objectionable, when presented big and clear.

    Same goes for THE MUMMY (another Pierce showcase, with two fine makeups on Karloff), which was very creepy indeed when viewed in something approximating its original theatrical presentation. Who knew?

    Apropos HD, I do hope you’ll get to watch NORTH BY NORTHWEST on Blu-Ray when the time comes to review THAT one; its release this week seems fortuitous…

  6. It does… don’t yet have a BluRay player, but it would still be an improvement. BUT in the UK it streets Nov 16th…

    The still printed in Gifford is a different one, I should scan it and get it online, since the AVI file of the movie itself is unlikely to offer anything so clear. Time I scanned a few more Gifford images anyhow.

  7. “MONSTERSHD” is now the channel I most want to have, in the entire world. I also want your 120 inch screen (120 INCHES! how big is your living room?)

  8. Well, it might not have been Randy’s own screen/living room. But I hope it was, and I hope he invites us round.

  9. Hey
    Can I get a copy of The Monkey Talks from you? Or could you tell where you got your copy?

    Thanks

  10. As you can see, the quality is pretty bad (and bits are completely invisible) but I’d be happy to help you out. I’ll email you.

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