Archive for the Radio Category

Talking, pictures

Posted in FILM, Radio with tags , , on September 26, 2018 by dcairns

The final Y of WONDERLY is thrown across Mary Astor’s face as she exits THE MALTESE FALCON.

And THE SHADOWCAST is coming!

Fiona and I have recorded episode one of our own podcast. Still editing, deciding on a theme tune (exciting!) and figuring out platforms and cost/profit analysis. Something like that. But SOON!

Maybe we’ll do it… monthly? Does that seem enough? Any other suggestions — topics, format, etc? The first episode is one discussion about three related films, I can reveal. Further installments may mix things up more, and we could have GUESTS.

 

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The Sunday Intertitle: Catchpole Burkington

Posted in FILM, Radio, Theatre with tags , , , , on August 26, 2018 by dcairns

We returned to the Pleasence Dome on Friday night to see Jeremy Stockwell as Spike Milligan in A Sockful of Custard, Terry Johnson, author of Ken, had told us that JS was “just as uncanny” in this role as he was as Ken Campbell in Ken. No exaggeration. Somehow, by some subtle constriction of the jaw muscles, he transforms “no particular physical resemblance” into “Oh look, it’s Spike.” And the voice, the laugh, everything.

The play is co-devised by Chris Larner, who co-stars as almost everybody else.

I’m making this a Sunday Intertitle purely in order to get the thing up a little before the show closes, so any Edinburghers reading can catch it in time. The intertitle is from the best bit of THE CASE OF THE MUKKINESE BATTLEHORN, a fairly inept attempt to transpose The Goon Show to the cinema screen. A little while later, THE RUNNING JUMPING STANDING STILL FILM would demonstrate that Milligan humour COULD work visually – but only if it was conceived visually. His scripts for the Goons made such imaginative use of the radio medium that to slap pictures on is to ruin most of the jokes and flatten the eerie, ludic, nonsensical world he created.

That’s why I like this scene, conceived as it is for the movie — when Catchpole Burkington, “famous star of the Silent films,” enters, the soundtrack is overtaken by melodramatic solo piano and everyone else loses the power of speech. They have to match his intertitles with hastily scribbled cards of their own.

When Burkington mistakenly tries to exit via a closet, it feels for a moment like the gag is too general, the kind of thing Clouseau might do, not specific to a silent tragedian — but then he exits the closet dressed in an Edwardian bathing suit and the piano accompaniment plays “Rule Britannia.” The only missed trick is to have normal sound return after he leaves.  That should have been good for a laughlet in itself.

When I first heard the Goons as a kid I found it all slightly disturbing (Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python cut-outs also scared me). The words and sounds conjured images — like a cartoon with the picture turned off — but the images couldn’t quite coalesce. “Climb through this photograph of a hole.” Your brain tripped over itself trying to assemble an illustration.

Some of the jokes would use sound to deliberately wrong-foot you: one character shouts increasingly loud instructions to his companion, painting the picture of increasing distance between them, and then hs friend speaks in a normal tone of voice and you realise he’s still standing right next to him. The shouting was just madness.

But other jokes went further into bizarre abstractions, things you just couldn’t create pictures for. “This is the BBC.” A POP and GLUGGING. “Oh no, the cork’s come out.” “Stop it, before the BBC flows away!”

The Goon Show, like the Hollywood cartoons which influenced it on some level, could seem like nightmares of brutality if unpicked too earnestly. Characters are regularly shot or blown up with dynamite. But they comment on their own deaths, making each episode a kind of playground ritual, a game which the characters enter into wholeheartedly, safe from real harm in their parodic, surreal dream-universe.

Returning to A Sockful of Custard — Jeremy Stockwell’s impersonation of Milligan as a child I found particularly moving, because you sensed the wellspring of all that mad creativity was right in front of you. And Milligan’s GLEE, which he retained an incredible capacity for in adulthood, suddenly made sense when you saw it played out as the explorations of that little boy growing up in India.

 

 

The Sunday Intertitle: Knife!

Posted in FILM, Radio with tags , , on May 13, 2018 by dcairns

I took part in Good Evening, an Alfred Hitchcock Podcast recently, but I forgot to tell you guys. The podcasters Tom Caldwell, Chris Haigh and Brandon-Shea Mutala are doing what I did nine (!) years ago, working their way through all of Alfred Hitchcock’s films, and they kindly invited me to join them in a discussion of both sound and silent versions of BLACKMAIL. I had a lot of fun and hope to take part again if they’ll have me.

You can listen here. My original blog post from Hitchcock Year is here.

Fiona thinks we should podcast together. Any takers?