Archive for the FILM Category

A guy like you

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 29, 2022 by dcairns

A lyric from Disney’s THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME there, but what we’re looking at tonight is the Blu-ray from Masters of Cinema of the Universal/Lon Chaney version. Which comes equipped with Kim Newman and Jonathan Rigby and Stephen Jones extras. Which are great. But it’s the film you’d buy it for.

A century of abuse has applied to this film a patina of scratches and scars, but the video upgrade allows us to see the film beneath them with far greater clarity than in all those public domain DVDs, and that includes being able to see the PERFORMANCES, which is the best reason in this case for restoring the thing. The impressive sets — which employed both Charles D Hall and Charles Gemora — are amazing, but Chaney, Patsy Ruth Miller, and grotesque woodblocks Nigel De Brulier, Brandon Hurst, Ernest Torrence, Raymond Hatton and Tully Marshall, make the human side of it vivid also.

Newman mentions in his bit that Lon Chaney Jr finally got to don a version of his dad’s Quasimodo makeup in an episode of Route 66, also featuring Karloff and Lorre. Here it is — the hunchback’s shamble-on appearance is the first thing we see.

Itchykoo

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on September 28, 2022 by dcairns

WELL — finished (I think — I hope) two of the three video essays I’ve been slaving over. The last one is the most complicated, but the end is in sight. Then I hope to be doing one for new company Radiance Films…

Currently too tired to plunge into BLONDE, which I’m very curious about, so instead we’re watching THE REAL DEAL, Marilyn in THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH. Not my fovourite Wilder or even my favourite Wilder & Monroe (obviously) but I wouldn’t be able to do SOME LIKE IT HOT justice in my depleted condition.

Can’t get around the problem of Tom Ewell looking like Skelton Knaggs’ withered twin, and I’m morally certain Walter Matthau, who Wilder really wanted, and who merely looks like Ben Gazzara’s deflated uncle, would have been funnier… but Ewell, it must be admitted, gets some good laughs, particularly when he staggers off out of the FROM HERE TO ETERNITY pastiche on zombie legs.

The film where you see more of Ewell’s skin than Monroe’s.

The in-jokery — Wilder collaborated with ETERNITY director Fred Zinnemann back in Berlin — is rampant, with an audacious name-check for former George Axelrod collaborator Charlie Lederer early on. Possibly a sign that both Wilder and Axelrod felt the film needed every extra gag it could get, since the censor was taking much of the sex out of it. But what the movie loses in schmutz it gains in schmaltz, or sweetness, as it’s known outside of that cynical old town Hollywood.

Bird Man of Sing Sing

Posted in Fashion, FILM, literature with tags , , , , , on September 27, 2022 by dcairns

I showed STEAMBOAT BILL JR to my class of 1st years today and that seemed to go well. I may have some deeper thoughts later, or maybe not. I guess I was most struck by how it’s at heart quite a moving story about a young man needing to connect with his dad… but the story is told entirely through gags.

Meanwhile, in ALIAS JIMMY VALENTINE the young associate of Jimmy’s decodes his message with a simple stencil… which he hardly needed, to be honest. If that note had fallen into the hands of Det. Doyle, I don’t see him puzzling over it for long.

Meanwhile, there’s a bird man in Alcatraz Sing Sing. I guess this is one of the location shots the opening title card boasts of, but it could be anywhere. This is the lookout from Jimmy’s gang, pinched during the bank job. Will he sing like a birdie in sing sing?

Tourneur pere, like his son, is keen on atmospheric shadows.

It may be necessary to point out once more: they’ve only been making feature films for a year at this point. It feels like the move to a larger scale story has propelled filmmaking into a speedy advance, but then you look at DeMille and think, maybe not. It’s just that Tourneur is really good.

Jimmy, escaping by train with one of his cronies, stops the rat from harassing a female traveller. So we know he has a noble heart, if only he could remember where he left it (San Francisco, perhaps?). Tourneur has the best qualities of French, American, and somehow Swedish filmmaking going on here — as Jimmy delivers a punitive drubbing in the observation car (and is observed doing it) — Tourneur daringly shoots with natural daylight, allowing the train interior and tussling cracksmen to sink into silhouette. Finally, when the cad will not simply take his licks like a man, Jimmy hurls him onto the tracks. One hopes a safety platform was arrayed on the caboose to catch the plummeting thespian, but given Tourneur’s noted ruthlessness this may not have been the case.

(“All directors want to kill actors,” claimed Wallace Beery. At times, possibly.)

IMDb again doesn’t know who the cinematographer is, possibly the same genius who shot LORNA DOONE so splendidly.

The guy rolls on the tracks, face smeared in blood (or it could I suppose be chocolate syrup) and Jimmy legs it. But the accosted lady is not to disappear from the narrative, it seems:

The filmmaking may be ten years ahead of its time (five, anyway), but the fashions are bang-on 1915, alas. Peak frumpery. The poor actor (who would I’m sure have preferred “actress”) is Ruth Shepley, in her screen debut. One film later (supporting Marion Davies in the Hearst super-production WHEN KNIGHTHOOD WAS IN FLOWER), she retired. Then she retired, possibly due to marriage.

I don’t REALLY know the O. Henry story, so I don’t know what her role is to be in the plot– I suspect, though, that Rose is a later interpolation to give the film what is called femme interest.

We shall soon see, for this saga is TO BE CONTINUED