The Wrong Films

A strange day of interventions by fate — we panted up the road to see THE WINNING OF BARBARA WORTH, a Henry King late silent with Kevin Brownlow intro and Vilma Banky, Ronald Colman and Gary Cooper in the leads — but I got the cinema wrong and when the lights dimmed, Renoir’s TONI appeared on the screen in a new restoration. My only regret was missing the RARER film. I hadn’t seen the Renoir before and of course it’s very fine, though none of the cast seemed able to reach the upper pitches of emotion the script demands. At one point Toni insists his wife stop screaming, when she’s been doing nothing of the kind.

But what an ending!

Then I thought we’d better get coffee so I didn’t pick the wrong cinema again, and when we got back from it, UNDER CAPRICORN was completely packed out. So we went up the road to the Lumiere and saw LA MASCHERA E IL VOLTO, a 1919 Augusto Genina film which turned out to be a splendid Italian comedy anticipating aspects of DIVORCE: ITALIAN STYLE in its jet-black approach to the comic possibilities of uxoricide. A husband who has expressed approval of Othello’s honorable way of resolving marital difficulties is undone when he discovers his wife has strayed. He can’t bring himself to actually strangle her, but he orders her to leave the country so he can tell everyone he DID kill her — so he can be a feared murderer rather than a pathetic cuckold. Things go awry when he hires for his defense lawyer his wife’s lover. A great line: “The ridiculous always seeks out those who are afraid of it.”

Then we split up — Fiona & Nicola going to see a noir double bill of THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE and THE THREAT, but succumbing to heat and sleep deprivation during the second — me going to see the brilliantly restored MEMPHIS BELLE, introduced by director William Wyler’s daughter Catherine, along with THE COLD BLUE, a new documentary made by Erik Nelson from Wyler’s rediscovered rushes, and then having a couple of Aperol Spritzes.

The immediacy gained by MEMPHIS BELLE’s colour photography now that you can actually see the B-17 pilot’s five O’clock shadow in a long shot — it’s that pin-sharp — really makes a difference in a you-are-there kind of way. Everything Peter Jackson promised and failed to deliver with his crappy colorization is authentically provided here.

We all met up for MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, which a mistake in the programme COULD have caused us to miss. As it was we had to bolt our dinner. But it was worth it. “I have never seen reds so red or blacks so black!” Fiona exclaimed. A very new 4K restoration which made this handsome, eccentric, alternately campy and poetic film glow.

“The Fall of the Blouse of Asher,” Nicola christened it. Which nails the campery aspect, but it has this compelling comic-book Bergman side to it too. Corman’s direction, Roeg’s photography, David Lee’s score, and the best ensemble cast Corman ever assembled outside of ST VALENTINE’S DAY MASSACRE. Very nice, very nice indeed.

11 Responses to “The Wrong Films”

  1. Tony Williams Says:

    “The Losing of Barbara Worth”!

  2. ehrenstein47 Says:

    “LA MASCHERA E IL VOLTO” sounds like a precursor of Axelrod and Quine’s delicious “How To Murder Your Wife” (1965)

  3. Seems to have been a popular play, and you can see why. It skirts darkness but ends up a crowd-pleaser.

  4. Joe Dante Says:

    The gorgeous restoration of RED DEATH restores few minutes of material eliminated before release because of Legion of Decency complaints. It now stands as the definitive version…and it only took 55 years.

  5. I’m trying to think of what the eliminated material was… blasphemous dialogue?

  6. Tony Williams Says:

    Was it Hazel Court’s BLACK MASS initiation cut from the UK version but surviving in some others? I can see some US States also cutting that scene out.

  7. I remember reading, a long time ago (maybe in David Pirie’s book?), that Hazel Court’s black mass had indeed been trimmed in the UK. Might also have had something to do with her embonpoint, which in that scene is truly astonishing, and IIRC also gets branded with an upside-down cross. Cleavage + blasphemy + branding = killer combo.

  8. Yes, but I feel I’ve seen all that footage before. If this is never-before-seen material I don’t know what it could be unless it’s dialogue, some of which did sound unfamiliar, though that could just be my decaying memory.

  9. Tony Williams Says:

    From memory of the original UK release, all the Black Mass footage was removed by the censor. I believe Court’s diaphanous nightgown offended sensibilities. Thus when she next appears having performed the final ritual it becomes confusing why Prospero launches his pet falcon on her.

  10. I’m certain I once saw the film without Patrick Magee’s fate being included, which left several plotlines up in the air.

    The black mass was present on a TV broadcast some time ago, and then I think it got longer. Asides from possibly dialogue, maybe this version has a more sustained view of Court’s demise, and maybe her self-branding is more explicit?

    The Cinema Ritrovato programme notes say it was concern over sexual violence that led to the cuts, which is confusing because maybe the black mass and branding and raven attacks are sort of eroticised, but they’re not “sexual violence,” surely?

  11. Tony Williams Says:

    From my memory of seeing the Black Mass scene perhaps on a US version, various demons appear by the side of a prone Court then appear to stab her resulting in a erotic-violent scream not heard on the soundtrack. This could have been regarded by the British censor as “sexual violence.” Perhaps consulting the official records may resolve this matter?

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