Archive for April 1, 2011

Mysteries of New York #2

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2011 by dcairns

From PUTTIN’ ON THE RITZ, “starring” Harry Richman and a peroxide Joan Bennett. James Gleason and Lilyan Tashman add comedic hemoglobin. Director Edward Sloman lives down to his name, but check the crazy designwork of William Cameron Menzies ~

This rendition of the title song predates Astaire by some years — this is 1929. It also anticipates Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle’s spirited rendition in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN — this may be where the idea of coupling the Irving Berlin number’s elegance and grace with some good old-fashioned grotesquerie and strangeness came from.

“I don’t like that wailing,” protested Fiona, happening by. I do! Perhaps it’s the inspiration for Peter Boyle’s howl. In any even, it meshes well with the overall scariness — the Fleischer Bros cartoon buildings looming from the backdrop, the overall grainy DARKNESS of this print (a BBC2 off-air recording from the 80s), and the moody pounding of the piano…

However, this creep factor is but a foretaste of the movie’s climactic production number, a song about Alice in Wonderland, in which Menzies gets to rehearse his subsequent Norman Z McLeod feature. Being a condensed version, this is maybe even more nightmarish, alienating and fizzy-facky than the full-length atrocity. When we cut to the ecstatic audience at the end, it’s amazing to see that they have not, en masse, torn out their kneecaps and stuffed them into their eye sockets just to blot out the terror.