Archive for May, 2013

All is Lost in a Harem

Posted in FILM with tags , , on May 31, 2013 by dcairns


Episode Seven of THE TRAIL OF THE OCTOPUS —The Dance Of Death continues the Bergmanesque theme established by the episode entitled Face to Face.

Ruth Stanhope is rescued again, then kidnapped again.

Last we saw, Carter Holmes was dangling from a rope off the side of a ship bound for the mystic east, and the rope was being cut. Would he fall in the drink? He would.

But he’s rescued by his own boat, returns to port, and sends a telegram to the captain of the ship. Ruth’s kidnappers turn her free to avoid getting in dutch with the captain, but on arrival in the mystic e., they immediately seize her, bundle her back into her wicker basket, and throw her over the side. The intervals of screen time between Ruth’s kidnaps are getting shorter. By episode fifteen I imagine her moments of freedom will be reduced to single frames.


Director Duke Worne daringly shoots a closeup of Ruth inside the submerged basket. A haunting, worrying image.

The basket is retrieved by the run merchant’s allies, and then things get weird. She’s handed over to a Turkish big shot and stored in his harem. Why did the movie travel all the way to China, only to introduce a Turk? Carter Holmes arrives by the next boat and is tricked into attending an assignation in the same place. He seems to have rather forgotten his rescue mission and is just looking to have some fun in a harem.


Ruth learns of the horny criminologist’s presence, and that he is about to be presented with the titular death-dance, so she takes the masked belly dancer’s place, but is swiftly unmasked. A couple of henchmen bind Carter and place him in the exploding chamber. Basically a room with a bomb in it. And a bed, so he’s comfy. What will happen?


Not as much detection and peril in this episode, but a great work-out for the art department, conjuring and exotic atmosphere in some rather ordinary rooms.


The Merkel Worker

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , on May 30, 2013 by dcairns


The Forgotten returns after Cannes fortnight, with a terrific movie of the pre-code era, suggested by regular Shadowplayer La Faustin — BEAUTY FOR SALE.

Above, Una Merkel strikes a suggestive pose. Which reminded me of something another regular Shadowplayer had mentioned. Mark Medin informed me that Merkel can be seen topless in a stag film of the twenties which is quoted in Kevin Brownlow and David Gill’s majestic and otherwise largely non-pornographic documentary series Hollywood.

Here she is —


Beyond a strong (facial) resemblance and the fact that the nudie cutie star can actually act, we can’t PROVE it’s her, I guess. But it definitely is her. Glad to report that the film is innocuous and inoffensive, and hopefully served as an alternative to the casting couch rather than a development of it.

The Trail of Natan

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on May 29, 2013 by dcairns


Our serial photoplay, THE TRAIL OF THE OCTOPUS, gets pushed back to Friday this week, as I bring you exciting news.

NATAN, the new feature documentary about legendary/infamous/forgotten film producer Bernard Natan, directed by Paul Duane and myself, will screen at Edinburgh International Film Festival on June 23rd and 29th. We’re very excited about this, of course. Paul’s flying over, and we’re hoping at least one of M. Natan’s granddaughters will also be in attendance, along with some of the crew from our Edinburgh shoot.

The supporting short is Daniela Abke’s THE PIONEER, a beautiful documentary about Alice Guy, the first woman film director.

My relationship with the Festival goes back decades — as audience member seeing BLADE RUNNER and ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST there, as student filmmaker, short filmmaker, journalist and print viewer and submissions editor. This is kind of my first time topping the bill!

Another person strongly associated with the Fest was Scott Ward, who programmed animation there for many years. He photographed our Edinburgh studio sequence, and this was his last job before his death early this year from cancer. The screening — and all future screenings — will be dedicated to him.