Un Moose Andalou

Following Glenn Kenny’s lead, I’ve written before about the strange and abiding influence of Bunuel and Dali’s UN CHIEN ANDALOU on the work of Robert Siodmak. But this is a weird one ~

THE NIGHT BEFORE THE DIVORCE is a very early American Siodmak movie, a marital comedy set in England, odd and not very sympathetic material for the German noirist.

[Of the early American period, my view is that WEST POINT WIDOW is dreary, with Siodmak's every decision closely overseen by an interfering producer: "This picture is not good enough to be called a Siodmak picture," the director finally told him.

FLY-BY-NIGHT is a very amusing spy thriller with Richard Carlson as an atomic scientist. The Hitchcock model is plundered completely, and Hollywood's favourite Goebbels, Martin Kosleck, gets a rare sympathetic part.

MY HEART BELONGS TO DADDY is lightweight but nice -- the snowy settings allow Siodmak to flex his visual muscles, and it has a sweet perf by Richard Carlson as an "atom-smasher" -- a physicist, again. Mabel Paige, in her first movie since 1918, has a small role, and the puckish Cecil Kellaway has a major one as a taxi driver with expertise in everything (he describes himself as agraduate of the University of Edinburgh!). A movie nice enough to make me forget I normally hate screenwriter F Hugh Herbert's every word.

Then comes DIVORCE, then SOMEONE TO REMEMBER, the forgotten masterpiece that gives Mabel Paige her one starring role. Then comes SON OF DRACULA and the better known films, leading to THE KILLERS et al.]

The startling moment in THE NIGHT BEFORE THE DIVORCE comes during a dispute over which of the bickering protags is going to get custody of a moose head called Stinky. As the peevish hero attempts to prise Stinky from the wall, there’s a frightful crash, Mrs Bickering-Protag comes into the room, registers dismay, and we cut to her POV, a slightly tilted, expressionist angle on a pile of debris, including a spilled bottle. Tilt down from the bottle to THIS HORROR –

The spilled wine is making it look as if Stinky is crying, you see?

Since this “gag” isn’t particularly funny, and actually is disturbing and awful, it can only really be interpreted as a hommage to the rotting, honey-dripping burros in the piano in UN CHIEN ANDALOU. Am I right or am I right?

If I AM right, then it’s a startling reference to find in a middling American B-movie rom-com. Hooray for Siodmak. Hooray for Bunuel.

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14 Responses to “Un Moose Andalou”

  1. We were really starved of Jay Ward toons in the UK… Hanna Barbera rubbish was spread across the schedules like manure, but the actual witty stuff seemed to be subject to rationing.

    Recently saw Ward as a child actor in Curtiz’s Goodbye Again… although the IMDb is now suggesting that’s a different person of the same name.

  2. Jenny Eardley Says:

    Do you think the Siodmak might have been an influence on Fawlty Towers in turn? That moose is from Catalonia not Andalucia though.

  3. Christopher Says:

    right!..whos going to gain custody of owld Stinkeeh?
    hes a prize!..hes a treasure!
    He must have money or cocaine stuffed inside his dear old noggin..

  4. Back to Siodmak. Here’s Steve Hayes on The Spiral Staircase:

  5. Christopher Says:

    LOL..Elsa Lanchester and the dog.

  6. Alas, Stinky isn’t stuffed with loot, which might have turned the movie into something like Murder He Says, which I just enjoyed.

  7. “Ahnmuss flyziss income beezis” (He Improvised).

  8. Having recently seen CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY, I think you and Glenn K are onto something – Siodmak must have *loved* UN CHIEN ANDALOU.

    Incidentally, UN CHIEN ANDALOU’s donkey-on-the-piano gag was most likely inspired by the horse-on-piano imagery of a 1929 Laurel & Hardy short, WRONG AGAIN, directed by Leo McCarey.

  9. And the bulk of Un Chien Andalou is an extended hommage to Buster Keaton.

  10. Christopher Says:

  11. The displaced cows of Go West may have played their part also, then.

    But that horse shot does have a Bunuelian architecture about it, especially with Ollie underneath (standing in for the priests, I guess).

    The circle is completed by Siodmak working as “supervisor” on Le Roi de Champs-Elysees, with Keaton himself.

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