The Sleeping Courtroom

Check out my review of COMPULSION, Richard Fleischer’s compelling take on the Leopold-Loeb murder case, over at Electric Sheep magazine, and learn the SHOCKING TRUTH about the Blindness of Justice, or why the court officials and public gallery in the movie listened to Orson Welles’s summing up with their eyes closed…

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38 Responses to “The Sleeping Courtroom”

  1. Great article – but very sorry to hear you don’t like GIRL IN THE RED VELVET SWING, which I think is one of the best films Flesicher ever made. It is also, beyond a doubt, the best film Joan Collins ever made, although I don’t suppose that’s saying much.

    In fact, swings seem to be a recurring motif in the Collins cinematic oeuvre. Check out THE STUD, where she shags Mark Burns on a swing, going back and forth over an orgy in a swimming pool. Great stuff!

  2. David Boxwell Says:

    Tag lines on the American 1/2-sheet poster for COMPULSION:

    “You know why we did it? Because we damn well felt like doing it!”

    Dillman and Stockwell are fun to watch since the homosexuality could only be in the non-verbal behavior and, to a lesser extent, their vocal intonation.

  3. I like The Girl on the Red Velvet Swing too, and Chabrol’s recent remake A Girl Cut in Two.

    As for L &L —

  4. Joan Collins is pretty good in The Land of the Pharoahs which is a super-masterpiece, as important to human consciousness as the Sistine Chapel.

    Claude Chabrol was taken with The Girl on the red velvet swing, he said that his recent masterpiece A Girl Cut in Two was more influenced by Fleischer than the real-life Sandford case. And Scorsese makes a strong case for Farley Granger’s performance in that film.

    For me The Boston Strangler is not really baroque. The fragmented split-screen style only highlights the compartmentalized and bifurcated social and sexual reality of 60s Boston. But the killings are the most sober and least baroque part of the film. It’s fair to say that it’s the greatest film about serial killers in American cinema.

  5. Well Farley is always underrated as an actor. His beauty is simply too dazzling for most people to notice anything else. But he’s amazing in Senso — particularly its climactic scene.

  6. SENSO would not be SENSO without Farley Granger. Neither would the masterpieces with Ray and Hitchcock. Nor would the Fleischer be as good. I also would like to see his short film with Minnelli for that anthology movie MGM did in the 60s, he plays the Tom Hanks role in the first manifestation of Big.

    Even when he played disturbed or violent characters, he did it with a great deal of sensitivity. In Senso for all the humiliation he inflicts on Livia, her siccing the firing squad registers as a monstrous and underserving fate even if Mahler is a no-good scoundrel.

  7. I admire all 4 films in Fleischer’s true crime quartet, GIRL IN THE RED VELVET SWING no less than the others. For me, it’s one of the best portrayals of the mature man/younger woman dynamic in film (Milland, Collins, and Granger each terrific), with great color widescreen mise-en-scene. Interesting that Fleischer never apparently set out to identify himself – or publicize himself – as the Master of True Crime, yet that is what he became.

  8. A minor digression: I’m loving the new eyeball header. It makes me happy every time it opens.

  9. David Boxwell Says:

    Re: ROPE trailer. First minute and a half is all stuff NOT in the movie.

    Muscly lil’ Douglas Dick would go on to rape Miss Loretta Young (so prim ‘n proper!) in Dieterle’s THE ACCUSED the year after ROPE. And then pay for it with his life!

    The music: I wonder what Poulenc thought of the brassy, clashing, horrorshow arrangement of his lovely little piano piece for the trailer.

  10. Well using Poulenc is a “Major Hairpin”

    My favoirte Fleischer is of course Mandingo — the only honest film about racism ever made in America.

  11. David Boxwell Says:

    ROPE trailer: why is “the boy” David Kentley so very anxious to get married so hastily? What unspoken terrors and desires lurk in his victim’s soul?!

    (The trailer intimates his death was ASSISTED autoerotic asphixiation, since Farley just loses it, epically).

    Oh yes, this is Hitchcock’s most endlessly fascinating film for me (even more than VERTIGO or PSYCHO).

  12. Rope is most unusual in that it’s a very precise depiction of New York upper crist society. Hollywood films rarely entered this field, preferring instead a faf more benign framing, eg. The Philadelphia Story.

    The people in Rope know precisely who they are in the world and in relation to one another. What Philip and Brandon think they’ve learned from Rupert is a way out– imagining that he’d approve of their methods. That’s the simple part. Far more complex is the way Janet is passd around among the men like a trophy. David’s kiss in the trailer is structly pro forma. She wouldn’t expect any more after the wedding. After all this is what used to be knwon as a “New York Marriage.”

    Swoon sticks with L & L and leaves their parents out of it. Theyre friends are played by drag queens.

    Complusion depicts the parents as very middle-class — like Martin Milner and Diane Varsi. It’s really hard to believe they even KNEW Stockwell and Dillman at all.

  13. Whew, I go out to see Epstein’s Fall of the House of Usher, and things really take off!

    I’m glad Red Velvet Swing has its defenders, if a really good copy comes my way perhaps I’ll try it again. Fleischer’s complete stylist self-reinvention from film to film in that unofficial quartet is pretty impressive. I’d have thought he’d welcome being considered the master of that form, instead of what he became latterly: the go-to guy if you’d just fired a director mid-shoot. He was a consummate pro and certainly aided a lot of troubled productions, but rather at the price of his artistic identity, impressively mutable though that was.

    Like Anthony Mann, it’s possible to prefer his early noir work: The Narrow Margin is one of the best in its genre (although it does lose something after Marie Windsor exits).

  14. Fleischer’s other great specialty was the macho adventure epic – 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, THE VIKINGS, BARABBAS – with a Mann-like emphasis on physical pain, especially in the latter two.

    I agree with David E. that MANDINGO is probably his finest achievement. (See Andrew Britton’s classic essay on this film.)

  15. I had a talk with Stanley Rubin about NARROW MARGIN. Howard Hughes liked it a lot but perversely held it up for over a year while considering having it re-filmed with bigger stars. This is almost at the same time that Hughes put Rubin’s THE MAN HE FOUND into limbo, eventually reshooting the ending; Rubin was not happy and asked for his name to be removed from the result, THE WHIP HAND. Rubin said Hughes took NARROW MARGIN apart several times and then just said to put it back together the way it was to begin with. What was inadvertently left out is a brief scene where Charles McGraw’s character expresses his debt to the Marie Windsor character and his personal regret .. not a big emotional scene but something more than a gesture. For me that’s all the film is missing — I was initially furious when Windsor’s policewoman was unceremoniously forgotten. And that’s why the film goes blah when she exits, methinks.

  16. You’re right! Without such a scene, there’s nothing to show McGraw’s reaction to discovering her true nature, and a character who’s really impressed us all through the first half is supposed to be forgotten.

    Hughes really was a disastrous producer once he got hands-on: the inability to make up one’s mind is probably the most dangerous failing to have in the film business.

    20,000 Leagues could also fit in with Fleischer’s sf/fantasy strand, which includes Soylent Green, Fantastic Voyage and, um, Amityville 3D, Conan the Destroyer, Red Sonja.

    I haven’t seen Call from Space, his last movie, a half hour piece made in the Showscan process and co-written by disgraced comedian Chris Langham…

  17. You’re right about Fleischer’s sf/fantasy strand which overlaps with some of his other strands, e.g., the unfortunate Conan movies are fantasies that overlap with his macho adventure strand, and I see Soylent Green as a sci-fi/noir with emphasis on the noir.

  18. Fleischer had a fascinatingly diverse career. I’m a big fan. His inadvertant trilogy pieces are among the best films about murder ever made. 10 Rillington Place is one of the few films that really nails the awful ordinaryness of the serial killer.

  19. One of the most bizarre stories in Fleischer’s autobio concern Terence Rattigan’s screenplay of The Boston Strangler, which was never used. Apparently angling to get the sack, Rattigan had his detective characters feed all their clues into a computer and ask it who the Strangler was. The answer came out on ticker-tape: “Darryl Zanuck.”

  20. Oh, and Toni, I like this banner too. It’s taken from Clouzot’s L’Enfer, and I got childishly excited when I put the red lettering over the black and it popped out like 3D!

  21. My God, hasn’t Farley Granger aged beautifully?! I’ll be thrilled if I look that good when I’m 60, never mind 80-odd.

    Interesting to hear that Hitch wanted him in THE BIRDS. I’ve always felt there was a gay dynamic at work in that movie – with Jessica Tandy a castrating mother, Rod Taylor a son with secrets and Suzanne Pleshette (possibly) a closet lesbian. Casting Farley might well have brought out that aspect more clearly

  22. Not to neglect Farley’s sleazoid giallo years:

    – wasted in the classic WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS?

    – just about the only cast-member to stay clothed in the underrated SO SWEET, SO DEAD.

    – brilliant as a horny bastard in the otherwise overrated AMUCK!

  23. Here Rosalba Neri throws him under the bus for being “professional but so distant” on AMUCK! (starts at 1:00)

  24. david wwingrove Says:

    Rosalba too looks commendably well-preserved! AMUCK is utter dross, although it has basically the same plot as THE COMFORT OF STRANGERS, one of my all-time favourite films.

    The sleazy Italian film of his that I’m most curious to see is SOMETHING CRAWLING IN THE DARK, which also stars the utterly sublime Lucia Bose. If you’re gonna slum it, slum it with the best.

  25. I’m no fan of AMUCK! – dross is about right, though it does have a cult following for the silly Bouchet-Neri slow-mo sex scene. Must see THE COMFORT OF STRANGERS again – liked it buckets when I saw it.

    Now, Lucia Bose I am unfamiliar with.

    Here’s Babs Bouchet, the only actress to have done sex scenes with Rosalba and Farley, played Miss Moneypenny and worked with Scorsese:

  26. Barbara Bouchet and Lucia Bose are actually co-stars (along with Marcello Mastroianni, Francoise Fabian and others) in a fabulous Mauro Bolognini film called DOWN THE ANCIENT STAIR. It’s about a plush lunatic asylum in 30s Italy where the staff are crazier than the patients.

    Barbara plays a doctor’s wife who spends her time smoking opium and having sex a trois with Fascist blackshirts. Another character asks: “Why do you degrade yourself in this horrible way?” Her answer? “Because I’m bored.” Meanwhile, poor Lucia goes mad and throws herself out a window.

  27. Thanks for the recommendation – sounds great.

    Looking at Lucia’s IMDB page, I realise that I have seen several films she’s in (for Fellini, Almodovar and Duras no less). However, for now she must automatically go into my bad books for having spawned one of my top-10 most hated singers.

  28. david wingrove Says:

    Poor dear Miguel can’t sing (much less act) to save his proverbial life. He was, however, utterly gorgeous to behold in his young days – and that does cover a multitude of sins.

    Did you know that Visconti seriously considered casting Miguel and Lucia as Tadzio and his mother in DEATH IN VENICE? The idea was nixed by Miguel’s dad, the Spanish bullfighter Dominguin, who didn’t want his son appearing in a film by a known homosexual.

    Poetic justice, then, when Miguel himself came out as gay in the 80s – and became (as far as I know) Spain’s first ‘out’ gay pop star.

  29. @David W – having now seen several great Lucia Bose films, including DOWN THE ANCIENT STAIR, I wanted to let you know that I have forgiven her for Miguel. Thanks for the recommendation!

    Also, poetic justice indeed re DEATH IN VENICE!!

  30. She’s great. Hard to think of many careers that could encompass Antonioni classics and The Legend of Blood Castle (though I guess it’s easier in Italy).

  31. Alida Valli, surely!!!

    Hitchcock, Reed, Franju, Antonioni, Visconti, Pasolini, Bertolucci, Bava, Argento and THE KILLER NUN.

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