The Sunday Intertitle: The Greatest Shoe on Earth

My Russian is rudimentary — confined to a series of crude coughs and hand gestures — but I think what this is saying is “Roll Up! Roll Up! See the enormous footwear!”

As Randy Quaid so justly says in Alex Winter’s FREAKED, “Now that’s a big shoe.”

This may even be my favourite outsized boot since the flaming Elvis pump that floats downstream in Philip Ridley’s preposterous THE PASSION OF DARKLY NOON. The magnificently insane thing in that movie is not the vision of the Viking funeral boot, but the lost circus entertainers who turn up an hour later to explain its presence, as if anything in that film would benefit from explanation. I mean, if you’ve got Brendan Fraser running about in a barbed wire bra, you really should have the courage to embrace the numinous. Because, you see, whether you like it or not, you have already done so.

Our b&w boot, meanwhile, derives from LA GALERIE DES MONSTRES, a circus revenge story rather in the Tod Browning vein, but directed by Jaque Catelain (don’t know who he is) and produced by Marcel L’Herbier (very much know who he is — L’INHUMAINE, THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW CHAMBER, LA NUIT FANTASTIQUE). The Russian intertitles in no way spoil the fun, since the plot is biblically simple and the roar of a ravenous lion needs no translation. And, as in my all-time favourite film (a circus revenge story) HE WHO GETS SLAPPED, where there’s a roaring lion, a sad/sinister clown cannot be far behind. This one’s a doozy ~

11 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: The Greatest Shoe on Earth”

  1. Jacque Catelain was an actor who frequently appeared in L’Herier films.

  2. La Faustin Says:

    Marcel L’Herbier described Jacques Catelain as the “complice idéal de mes ferveurs” – every director needs one of those. He was also the leading man in most of L’Herbier’s silent films (among lots of other adventures in a career all around the cinema world) and wrote a book on the director. As a lover of Feuillade, you’ll like this little episode with Musidora:

    “One evening, L’Herbier asks me to meet him at this star’s home … A bit intimidated, I ring the bell; the door is opened and my astonished eye discovers, opening directly on the landing, a room hung with purple velvet in the very center of which, facing the front door, is a vast divan covered with black bearskins. Better still, reclining on this divan, completely nude, of a marble whiteness that would bring the blush of envy to Canova’s Pauline Borghese or Manet’s celebrated Olympia, I see our hostess, motionless, eyes closed. By her side there is neither Negress nor bouquet, as in the painter’s canvas, but a sober man seated reading aloud some passages of the theatrical “Miracle” he is currently writing…”

  3. Lovely!

    I’ll delve deeper and report back — Catelain is obviously a fun guy to have around.

  4. “Come in! Come in! You will see miracles of nature!” So your translation was correct, but needed a spoiler alert.

  5. Shadowplay = better than BabelFish. Thanks!

  6. La Faustin Says:

    For your “Is there nothing that man couldn’t do?” file: I just saw a wonderful L’Herbier silent, with Catelain as the juvenile lead, EL DORADO. The heroine is a flamenco dancer at the eponymous dance hall, and her (very striking) costume was designed by Alberto Cavalcanti.

  7. …who also designed the amazing modernist sets for L’Herbier’s L’Inhumaine.

  8. david wingrove Says:

    I’ve long assumed that L’Herbier and Catelain were involved romantically as well as professionally…or is that just my imagination?

  9. La Faustin Says:

    Marcel L’Herbier’s memoirs are discreet, as you’d expect from a gentleman of his vintage, but “compice idéal de mes ferveurs” seems to cover a lot of ground.

  10. La Faustin Says:

    “complice”, damn it.

  11. Marais to L’Herbier’s Cocteau, perhaps. Which does indeed cover a lot of ground.

    I’ve now taken steps to procure El Dorado, so hope to check that out soon. A L’Herbier/Calelain edition of The Forgotten sounds like a fun project.

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