The Sunday Intertitle: Fanck Heaven

A late entry to The Late Show Late Films Blogathon.

One more  MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH limerick, Here.

This appreciation of actor Eric Linden by Dan Callahan over at The Chiseler is so terrific I had to recommend it. I toyed with writing something on this intriguing player, but I only got as far as “Adept at playing virginal, hysterical hicks, a sort of female Zasu Pitts.” Somehow, that seemed inadequate, but Callahan nails it.

An Intertitle. This movie has the shoutiest intertitles I’ve ever seen. The fact that they’re in German probably helps slightly, but it’s not the deciding factor — size, font, explanation marks, and hysterical repetition have more to do with it.

I’m way behind on Fanck. The one I should have watched, THE WHITE HELL OF PITZ PALU (because of Pabst’s contrib) eluded me, and my hand fell upon THE HOLY MOUNTAIN and before I knew it had slotted the thing into the darned Panasonic and I was watching Leni Riefenstahl cavorting away, Isadora fashion, by the pounding surf. But all the while dreaming of mountains! And mountaineers!

The mountain photography is astounding (I have seen the Tay Ganett Americanization of Fanck’s SOS ICEBERG, which is equally impressive in its nature photog) but I’m focussing here on the other visuals, like The Grand Hotel. Fanck may have disdained trick shots for his scenic dioramas — even including an admonition to the audience not to assume any of this is faked up by the camera — but he’s happy to let FX create a more impressive and modern structure than his location scouts could find or his studio contain.

And at the film’s TOUCHING THE VOID climax, a stunning hallucinatory vision of an icy afterworld is largely the product of the special-effects-man’s imagination and skill —

Re Leni: I’m a little agnostic about her “charms.” Admittedly, she has an athletic prowess not many actors could have brought to the role. Maybe it’s because I know her as an old lady and I can see her centenarian face superimposed over her youthful one. Maybe it’s the whole Nazi thing. I’ve yet to find a Nazi leading lady I could really warm to, although it’s possible I’m just not trying hard enough.

Silent German films and their dancing women… I guess because the films were silent, they seem to have eschewed choreography as an unwanted burden on their free spirits. Fritz Lang is particuarly bad at this: poor Brigitte Helm is left to flail about on her own in METROPOLIS, and there’s similar limb-thrusting in SPIONE. Leni acquits herself somewhat better, and I guess the motivating idea is exuberance and GUSTO rather than elegance or grace, but there’s an unfortunate hint of Elizabeth Berkeley in SHOWGIRLS about her cavortions (yes, “cavortions” is a word, now). It spills over into her general performance — her character is apt to bound into a room and stand smack in the centre, arms out-thrust as if inviting crucifixion. No wonder Dr. Fanck was always trying to smother her in avalanches.

Buy Dr Fanck’s mountainfilm!

10 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Fanck Heaven”

  1. Curses, Cairns! Now you’ve got me thinking about Leni Reifenstahl version of Showgirls!

    I trust you know that sequences from The White Hell of Pitz Palu were “sampled” for the original Flash Gordon series with Buster Crabbe.

  2. I did not know that… I knew they swiped from Just Imagine for Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars and Buck Rogers though…

  3. […] The Sunday Intertitle: Fanck Heaven A late entry to The Late Show Late Films Blogathon. One more  MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH limerick, Here. This appreciation of actor Eric Linden by Dan Callahan over at The Chiseler is so terri… Source: […]

  4. David Boxwell Says:

    THE HOLY MOUNTAIN is all about Lovely Leni’s galumphing choreographic skills–as light as a four-course ski resort Gasthof dinner. It is amusing to hit a 2x fast-forward on your DVD player during the seemingly endless Terspichorean interludes.

  5. The slight slow-motion Fanck uses certainly helps her, as it does with the ski-jump scenes. I suspect Leni was taking notes for her Olympiad.

    (Pabst, in Joyless Street, used a little slomo to soften Greta Garbo’s nervous overexuberance.)

  6. Christopher Says:

    what is this?..The Sound Of Music?!

  7. “The hills are alive with the Sound of Hitler.”

  8. Has it already been mentioned anywhere on this blog that Riefenstahl’s nickname (or nickphrase) was “The Frozen Crevice?”
    If so, it couldn’t hurt to repeat this fact.

  9. Hahaha! It certainly couldn’t.

    I went looking on YouTube for clips from The Wonderful Horrible Life, but couldn’t find the bit I wanted. May have to upload it myself.

  10. david wingrove Says:

    I’ve never seen any of the ‘mountain films’ (apart from THE BLUE LIGHT, which is something else again) but Leni’s dancing in her wartime vanity project TIEFLAND is frankly abysmal!

    As for Nazi leading ladies, I must admit to a sneaking fondness for Zarah Leander. Her films are so absurd there’s no way you can take them seriously.

    Even an overt propaganda movie like THE GREAT LOVE manages to (inadvertently) trash its own message by dressing up a platoon of SS officers in drag as chorus girls. Apparently, Zarah was so tall that she towered over real-life chorines, so this was the only option!

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