Archive for the Comics Category


Posted in Comics, FILM with tags , , , , on June 21, 2016 by dcairns


A busy few days, which explains light blogging here —

Introduced TINTIN AND THE MYSTERY OF THE GOLDEN FLEECE, which has a remarkable turn by Georges Wilson as Captain Haddock, wearing a beard that seems to be spreading over his entire face. Everybody always remembers Jean-Pierre Talbot’s quiff as being weirdly plastinated, but in fact it’s quite natural — subsequent actors in the role haven’t looked as credible.

Introduced LONE WOLF AND CUB: SWORD OF VENGEANCE, in a stunning 35mm print, whose strange soundtrack necessitated the reconstruction of Filmhouse’s projector between shows. Soldering was going on. And it worked! The perfect Father’s Day treat.

Introduced GOLGO 13, accompanied by my co-curator, the mastermind behind POW!!!, Niall Fulton.

Have finished a chapter on Howard Hawks (about five minutes ago) for a forthcoming book.

Am writing an essay for Criterion.

Am editing a video essay for Masters of Cinema.

And we laid Roddy to rest yesterday in a moving ceremony organized with love and imagination by his little sister, my wonderful wife, Fiona.

Chamber of Dreams

Posted in Comics, FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2016 by dcairns


One after another, the films in out POW!!! retrospective turn out to be far better when seen on the big screen than one would expect — DANGER: DIABOLIK’s somewhat episodic plot seems to flow more smoothly, MODESTY BLAISE’s jarring tonal shifts seem more thought-through, and BARBARELLA —


I used to assume that of the army of writers on this film (including Hammer scribe Tudor Gates, also credited on DIABOLIK), Terry Southern was probably responsible for the funniest lines, but when I got ahold of the Grove Press (!) edition of Jean-Claude Forest’s comic strip, I found they’d been lifted straight from its speech balloons. (“A great many dramatic situations begin with screaming!”) All of them are enhanced, however, by Jane Fonda’s witty and inventive line readings. How many ways of doing wide-eyed innocence ARE there? An infinite number, apparently. Fonda not only makes the film funnier, she defuses offense in the more exploitative scenes, reassuring us that good taste, and the heroine, will not be violated altogether.


Embodying a very up-to-the-minute view of the future, 1968-style (the swishy shipboard computer seems like a riposte to 2001, but surely can’t be), the film is also, by movie standards, comparatively generous towards its source, crediting Forest once for co-co-co-co-co-co-writing, and once for design. Combining his art with the craft of production designer Mario Garbuglia (THE LEOPARD) results in wonderfully Felliniesque settings.

In my intro I said that Roger Vadim’s direction was the weakest link, but after watching the film with an audience I would have to retract that halfway — true, Vadim’s marshalling of his resources into camera coverage sometimes seems a bit random, so that you frown at shapeless footage of clearly magnificent environments and crowds — not as bad as CALIGULA, say, but a milder version of that effect — “I know we’re in an amazing set, but we just can’t see it!” As if, having covered his wife/star, Vadim had no clear plan for how to present anything else, and just let the cameramen roam about as if in a behind-the-scenes documentary. But the pacing of the film is really good. Despite their charms, DIABOLIK and MODESTY BLAISE are both peppered with dead spots in their talking scenes, partly a result of rather thin sound design, partly a result of directors who are either not so comfortable with actors (Bava, I’m afraid) or with comedy timing (Losey, unquestionably). BARBARELLA, in front of an audience, really PLAYS.


Vile Lookin’ Varmints in Vile Lookin’ Garments

Posted in Comics, FILM with tags , , on June 10, 2016 by dcairns


LI’L ABNER (1959) is an odd thing, isn’t it? “My blog will have more to say about this,” as Catherine Coulson almost said.

The movie, which bridges the various gaps between comic strip, Broadway musical and film, is something we viewed as part of my research for POW!!! Live Action Comic Strip Adaptations: Origin Story, an illustrated talk I’ll be giving at the 70th Edinburgh International Film Festival on Thursday 16th June. That’s (ulp!) next week. The talk will attempt to trace the prehistory of our modern movie miracle/malaise, delving into the movies which preceded the first real burst of comic-strip inspired activity in the sixties and seventies. It turns out comics and cinema have been interwoven since the start, and in curious ways…


It would be nice to see some Shadowplayers at the event. You can get to see what I look like and hear what I sound like, or vice versa if you happen to be synesthetes. Either way I can assure you it’s a fairly disappointing experience, but I intend to make up for it by saying interesting stuff and showing clips of comic book adaptations obscure (The Gumps, Hairbreadth Harry) and unobscure (and Kirk Allen begat George Reeves begat Christopher Reeve). This is kind of a big event for me, but thankfully it’s happening in a small cinema, Filmhouse 3.