Archive for September 23, 2020

Snakes and Funerals

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on September 23, 2020 by dcairns
snakes
and funerals

Not real snakes, of course, not like the bulging eyed fellow Debra Paget dances for in THE INDIAN TOMB (like the dragon in DIE NIBELUNGEN, his eyes are on the front of his head, human-style, an odd Langian trope) and not really a funeral, just a shot of a cemetery.

The subject, of course, is Fritz Lang’s MOONFLEET, enjoyed on a Friday as part of our weekly pleasure cruise through all things George Sanders-related.

“What genre is this?” I was asked. A male Gothic (small boy instead of young lady getting the pants scared off ’em), a land-based pirate movie, and a classic Hollywood throw-out-the-novel-and-have-some-fun swashbuckler. MGM’s much earlier TREASURE ISLAND (Wallace Beery version) might be the key model. The most interesting aspect is the dramatic irony where the young hero (Jon Whitely, the solemn little Scottish boy from THE KIDNAPPERS) doesn’t really understand anything that’s happening in the same way we do. He doesn’t get either that Stewart Granger is a bad man (good casting, there) or that he’s, by narrative inference, his father, or that he’s fatally wounded at the end.

RIP Jon Whitely, who died earlier this year

This should be more touching than it is, but I do find it somewhat moving. I suspect the emotions involved are not ones Lang had a particular interest in. He undersells anything that could be Spielbergian (a good thing too, some will think) and goes all in on the HORROR. He could have done a great TREASURE ISLAND himself.

Third from the right, Skelton Knaggs in his last role

And he finds some splendid uses for the screen ratio he affected to despise. Never take Lang at his word. When he seems most sincere, be suspicious. The serpent is most dangerous when it looks right at you.

MOONFLEET stars Scaramouche; Addison DeWitt; Sibella; Vellamo Toivonen; Harry, Jim’s Grandson; Musidora; High Sheriff of Nottingham; Maj. Kibbee; Alfred the butler; Cassius; Bunny Jones; Charlie Max; Angel Garcia; PTO; Sir Ivor; Finn – the mute; Nathan Radley; and Sir Roderick Femm.