Archive for Cary Elwes

Vlad Hair Day

Posted in FILM, Interactive with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2018 by dcairns

Yes! It’s time once again to play Watch Bram Stoker’s Dracula with Francis Coppola, from the comfort of your own home.

there’s a lot going on here because of these various killing and awakening of Lucy. So yes, doing a collection of actions simultaneously happening and edited together in parallel with a ritual is reminiscent of the time I did it first in the baptism sequence in THE GODFATHER

The big intercut is probably the closest thing Coppola has to a signature. The ending of COTTON CLUB, where the movie starts suddenly pulling together instead of pulling apart, is another.

Fiona is overjoyed to see Keanu has turned grey after his terrible experience with the naked ladies, because she has been transitioning to grey hair and has just gotten a haircut a lot like his.

“My terrible experience has just been life.”

Here’s Fiona as Jonathan Harker ~

Coppola tells us that he originally shot the wedding in an abstract set with just shadows, but then decided to reshoot in a Russian Orthodox church in LA — abandoning his own idea of using minimalistic sets. He also says that as a result of shooting the scene there, Keanu and Winona were actually married for real. Can this be true? Anyhow, this is the only location shot, it seems. (Apart from the sea, the moon, a few other little things.)

Sadie Frost gets finally killed by a wolf, in bed — kinda looks like she’s cuddling a big friendly dog — and tsunami-gouts of blood splash in from all sides. Curiously, the bed seems to be empty. Well, wet dogs smell pretty awful, and stage blood never dries, so you’d have had a big red wet dog, FOREVER, I guess. I don’t know what Sadie Frost smells like wet, but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

That’s clearly an hommage to Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING

“Yes, and you shouldn’t have done it,” admonishes Fiona. It’s not her favourite bit of THE SHINING anyway. The gory shagging also makes me think of ANGEL HEART, which is a sensation I resent. Alan Parker wrote in the script for that, “They make love, as fluid as a flight of birds,” which deserves some kind of bad sex prize.

As a child I just loved Snow White because she had beautiful black hair like my mother and I never could forget the glass coffin

And of course Snow White is raised from her coffin, as Sadie Frost will be… that’s a good hommage. Of course, in this scenario, Richard E Grant is Doc, Bill Williams is bashful and Cary Elwes is Dopey. Stoker doesn’t give Lucy’s suitors much more characterisation than Disney provided his dwarfs. But I like how Williams enhances his role by trying to stand in the back, out of the light, almost as if he didn’t want to be seen. The above is probably the clearest view we get of him, tucked behind the mantel, and we still can’t see his jet-pack.

Now that Sadie is dead, Eiko Ishioka has finally been able to crowbar her left tit back into her costume, which comes as bit of a relief. It was a bit too much of a scene-stealer, that breast.

I must confess, and this maybe sounds disheartening, but when I look at this and I think of all the work it is to make a movie, any movie, I have to say that unless it’s a theme or subject matter that you have to make, because it says something that has never been said before or just is in your soul and you have to get it out, I can’t see any point to wanting to make a film at all. The way it’s been set up, and the way the whole profession has gone, it’s like, you have to tolerate so much stuff, you have to work on this movie for so long, under such unenlightened directives from the company financing it, and when it’s all said and done, they publish in the newspaper like the sports scores how much money it did, and they show it in a theater that’s like a box with ten other theaters and you have to not only hear the battery of critics that rightly or wrongly say their opinion, but absolutely everybody else

uh oh

it seems to me that the only reason to make a movie is because it’s something that’s never been made before and is really part of your feelings about life and that therefore it should be something that you should finance as well as make, because that’s the only way that you can have the same rights that a painter has when he paints a picture or a poet has when he writes a poem or to a large extent a novelist has when he writes a novel.

Not necessarily disheartening, just true. “No amount of money is enough to pay you to direct a movie,” says Scorsese, meaning there has to be creative satisfaction otherwise it’s just WOES. On the other hand, following Coppola’s ideas means we can only make low-to-no-budget movies, unless we’re fabulously well-to-do like him.

The apotheosis of Sadie Frost. Coppola tells us that the two-year-old she’s carrying was genuinely terrified and it took great effort to calm her enough to even get her on the set, She was scared of the fangs. Yet Coppola shows no inclination to go look her up and give her a present, which he was so keen to do with the baby Gary Dracula brings to his wives.

Fiona says that Sadie’s ferocious vamp act (she’s the one cast member who really paid attention during Uncle Frannie’s trip to the zoo, and the reverse-motion is fantastic, the costume is divoon), “It’s her best scene in anything, ever, the best scene in this movie, and one of the best scenes in any Dracula movie.”

“If Sadie Frost had done all her movies backwards, she would be bigger than Garbo,” I declare.

“No she wouldn’t,” reasons Fiona.

If everybody in this film gets a bit where you sort of cringe in embarrassment for the actor, which I submit is true, then this is Cary Elwes’ bit. He’s just so happy to see Lucy so ALIVE and WELL and HERSELF AGAIN…

   

Sadie opening her eyes and getting up, rendered backwards as Sadie lying down and closing her eyes (with frock wranglers tugging her dress about on invisible wires) is a stunning uncanny moment, almost ruined by the gratuitous EXORCIST knock-off blood puke, and then the cut from her decapitated head (shouldn’t that really be decorporated head?) to the Sunday joint being carved. The first is a bad idea because it’s just meaningless grossness — in THE EXORCIST that was the point: demons seek to remind us of our base physicality. And vampires treasure blood, so why is she barfing it all over Tony Hopkins? The meat shot is beneath contempt. True, trashing Sadie Frost has long been a popular British pastime, but we’re supposed to like her character and feel sad she’s dead.

Winona Ryder was really thrilled with the cast […] In a way it was her idea, she’s the one who gave me the script and I was very attentive to her wishes. But she had a friend, Keanu, just a friend, who she liked very much and thought was a very nice person and I did too, so we cast Keanu in the role.

The dinner ladies at my college are very nice people, if you’re ever casting something, Mr. Coppola.

 

We’re just coming up to Keanu’s best bit. The line “I know where the bastard sleeps,” can be said to justify his whole miscast, ridiculously well-intentioned and serious performance. It’s not good for the film, but it’s a wonderful moment of wrongness. The way he rises a few millimetres in his seat and sort of wiggles on his arse, like his English accent is finally taking over his entire body. A marvel.

Just before that, Winona does a great, complicated, funny, sweet bit, where Keanu has to say that he DID NOT drink the blood of those women, and Winona looks ashamed for him, proud of him, relieved, tender and embarrassed in quick succession. It’s a masterclass in Advanced Winona.

As the surviving cast light their torches and pull up their tights for an excursion to scenic Carfax Abbey, Coppola tells us that he had originally planned to direct MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN also but got to asking himself ~

what am I wasting my time for? I should be reading books or something and of course turned over that project to Kenneth Bra-nag.

He did suggest Bra-nag should cut the first twenty minutes of the movie and get to the creation faster, not a terrible thought in principle. We’re not told if he did actually read some books.

Coppola still insists that when this movie is shown on cable, they cut Tom Waits’ entire performance, something that makes no sense to me. He’s the best-cast actor in it (and we have to give Uncle Francis credit for that).

It’s not because of anything other than to make it fit into their time schedule.

Couldn’t they have cut some of the useless Winona & Sadie blather scenes?

Dracula as green fog slipping into Winona’s bedsheets is an in-camera effect via Roman Coppola, we’re told, which is why it doesn’t feel like CGI. Double exposures and reverse-action. But having him waft out of the covers like a Dayglo queef was probably a bad idea.

If you goof it up and it doesn’t work and you’ve already developed it, you’re sort of dead.

Like Dracula, who outs himself as a walking corpse to his lover. “Winona’s pretty good in this scene,” says Fiona. But, as so often in this movie, the best bits of her perf are right next to the worst, so we get the line “Take me away from all this… DEATH!” which is her version of knowing where the bastard sleeps. The way she curls her lips in distaste on the D word. Promoting the film, Winona listed the exciting elements of the Dracula story and when she got to “erotic” she did a little involuntary lip-curl which was very cute.

Winona later said that doing the press interviews to promote BSD was the greatest acting challenge of her life.

I think if I was going to shoot a big elaborate sexy scene involving so-called sexual activity I would hire a fight co-ordinator to do it

And his reasoning is actually really sound.

Everybody seems to have decided that Winona’s non-Victorian VPL is in no way a problem.

The foam rubber nipple of Gary Oldman! Where is it today, I wonder? Melted down to make Winston Churchill’s jowls, probably. A shame, I’d like to make a Frankensteinian assemblage using Nicole Kidman’s false nose from THE HOURS and Charlotte Gainsbourg’s prosthetic vulva from ANTICHRIST (you can glue the clitoris back on, it’ll be good as new) and so on. The Oldman teat would be a valuable addition.

I think it was Orson Welles who said the two most difficult or convincing things to show in a movie are people praying or people making love.

He probably didn’t say it in quite those words. And I haven’t heard it before. But I’m willing to sort-of trust Uncle Francis here.

“Keanu’s hair suddenly looks like Widow Twanky’s!” Or maybe the farmer’s wife in the painting American Gothic. It’s back to “normal” in the next scene but here it’s all bushy and centre-parted, a literal fright wig. Maybe it’s turning into Vlad’s bum-head hair.

When my Japanese friend Kiyo saw this scene, with Oldman in his batsuit, he said, “But he hasn’t got a pennis.” The slight mispronunciation made it very funny at the time, and we quote the line almost as much as his “But he’s obviously strange.” The two arguments might go together, supporting one another.

I remember this now also… I really blew my top once in rehearsal, because we’re trynna stage this scene and I’m saying, “OK, you’re in the wolf suit but like you’re not in the wolf suit because we don’t have the wolf suit, but you get up on the bed and of course they’re all frightened because you look like a bat, or whatever it is you look like,” and he starts to get very, you know, he’s a very good actor and a very intelligent person, but he started saying to me in this very early stage of rehearsal, “How can I go up on this bed and be this weird creature when I’m not IN the weird creature suit?”

“Just pretend! You’re an actor!” says Fiona.

And I said, “Well just pretend you are!”

“I’m in agreement with Uncle Francis.”

And he started to get really, “How can I do it blah blah blah” and I just lost my cool and kicked the chair across the room

“The cat knows how to get mad.” – Gregory Hines on Francis Ford Coppola, referring to a hole Uncle F once kicked in a door, as high as his head.

and I left and said “Forget it, goodbye,” and left the rehearsal.

My memory — and I can’t remember if I’m correct for sure and if I got this from Coppola’s diary in Projections or some other source — is that the bat costume was devised to ANSWER Oldman’s question, “How can I dominate this group of people who ought to just rush in and beat the shit out of me?” But the answer, really, should be, you’re Dracula. Toshiro Mifune could just stand there and everybody else could look scared to go near him. Christopher Lee or Robert Ryan or Danny DeVito could do it. But those are super-confident screen dominating presences, and kind of tough guys. Oldman has presence, but maybe not the same physical confidence, which may mean he’s miscast… which I’ve been suspecting all along.

Super-hilariously, while the Dread Pirate Roberts has a duelling pistol and the Rocketeer his Bowie knife, Withnail, being a psychiatrist, is brandishing a steaming test tube. I really really want to know what’s supposed to be in it. Richard E Grant is acting like it smells really bad. I would guess garlic, but it’s red and glowing.

This *might* be the scene where Coppola yelled “You whore!” at Winona, to “help” her with her character. Or that might be later. But it definitely happened. The kind of thing a director COULD perhaps get away with, if it were done purely for motivational purposes, but as is apparent from this commentary, Coppola doesn’t really like Winona very much. Which makes me sad. How can you not love Winona, Uncle Francis? She has such cute ears.

“Oh, I’d forgotten about that, that’s GREAT” — Gary just turned into “a man-shaped pile of rats.” It’s not a talent everyone has. It’s such a brilliant coup de cinema — he backs into the shadows so only his eyes are visible, glowing like a WB cartoon character when the lights go out, then the illuminate him, and he’s made of rats, a sort of rat king gestalt figure, which then collapses to the floor as individual constituent rats — I wish he WASN’T a bat because that’s over-egging it. From human to rats is much stronger. There’s TOO MUCH good stuff in this film and of course also too much BAD STUFF. Just TOO MUCH STUFF. But God love ’em.

“Of course, if I were doing it, or Tex Avery were doing it,” says a cartoonist friend, “all the rats would have Gary Oldman’s face.”

The rats flee the room. All of them. To think, if Withnail or the Rocketeer or the Dread Pirate Roberts had managed to stamp on just one of them, Dracula would have ended up reconstituting himself without a knee, or a chin, or something.

Coppola does a really bad Jack Nicholson impression, which is something I never knew about him.

what Gary was telling me was that my attempt to stage this in rehearsal was futile because he wasn’t in his rat suit, and I was saying, “We know it’s going to be something interesting and horrendous, so let’s just work it out for the movement.”

I love how it’s morphing from bat to wolf to rat in Uncle Francis’s lively mind. I mean,Dracula keeps changing, but not as much as Francis’s mind. Sometimes he just says “beast,” and is correct.

TO BE CONCLUDED!

Further Adventures

Posted in FILM, Mythology, Politics, Radio, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2011 by dcairns

INSIDIOUS is from James Wan, who made SAW, but we went to see it anyway. We didn’t mind SAW — haven’t seen the sequels — apart from Cary Elwes not being up to the job, and the “poor man’s process” night driving scenes being hilariously/ embarrassingly unconvincing.

This one certainly delivered lots of shocks, and a fair bit of suspense. The screening got off to a bad start with a couple noisily conversing and making out — we moved seats to get out of earshot, but could still hear the jangle of belt buckles, unfastening of velcro, weirdly loud conversation, so we got them thrown out. They were OUTRAGED.

This unsettled us, which was probably ideal for the film, which, once we could concentrate on it, was pleasingly scare-filled, if daft. The early stuff is a little too eager to get in there and freak us out, but once the slender plot was underway, the anxiety of home invasion by non-living entities from beyond was pretty intense.

Wan and regular screenwriter Leigh Whannell nearly screw things up by bringing in some bickering nerd parapsychologists, out of The Big Bang Theory by way of GHOSTBUSTERS. Of course, psychic investigators are great fun, and who can resist the chance to invent goofy ones, but in a movie that’s trying for domestic realism as an environment for supernatural scares, these guys are fatal. The team in POLTERGEIST, which INSIDIOUS is very heavily derived from, are both less sitcom-quirky and more in keeping with that movie’s big-budget elephantine bombast, so they work.

Lin Shaye, as the medium, however, is another matter — a strikingly convincing portrait of a genuinely good woman, and the only character in the film I could imagine actually meeting. So the near disaster is diverted, although what with the psychic gas mask and other peculiar techniques, and guff about the astral domain known as “The Further”, the movie starts to get much closer to being ridiculous.

There’s also a demon, for no pressing narrative reason, whose favourite tune is Tiptoe Through the Tulips as sung by Tiny Tim. And now things get spooky —

The morning before the cinema trip, I was singing Tim Brooke-Taylor’s I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue rendition of the lyrics of Girlfriend in a Coma to the tune of Tiptoe Through the Tulips. The plot of INSIDIOUS involves a comatose child. How weird is that?

If the film is emotionally a good roller-coaster/ghost train, and plotwise a mere string of creepy incidents, how does it fare thematically? Is there anything INTERESTING to take away afterwards? Well, one thing is that it does seem to be the only American film released lately WITHOUT resonance, conscious or otherwise, pertaining to the war in Iraq, or 9/11. If it resonates with anything, it’s the idea of stranger-danger — the plot focuses on sinister persons who want to get into our children. The Tiny Tim reference makes sense because TT probably fits mainstream America’s idea of what a deviated prevert looks like. The play with baby monitors and burglar alarms, frightening in itself, taps into an anxiety about intrusion and assault, a fear that is all over the news (whose chief purpose is to scare us into buying stuff) but generally neglected in fictional forms of mass media, because without the supernatural dressing up, it doesn’t seem very entertaining. The demon, who is entirely surplus to narrative requirements, ties in with the Satanic abuse meme to goose middle America a little more.

Worth seeing if you like jumps: the red devil lurking just over a character’s shoulder in a breakfast table chat is a fantastic out-of-the-blue shocker.

Insect Asides

Posted in FILM, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2010 by dcairns

THE RETURN OF THE FLY — I thought maybe I’d seen this, but when I stuck it in the Panasonic and was surprised to find it was in b&w, I knew I hadn’t. And since it appears in Denis Gifford’s Pictorial History of Horror Movies, and since I’m sworn to see every film illustrated in that green-tinged tome, I had to see Edward Bernds’s sequel.

We begin at a funeral, and I assume this to be that of the protag from Film 1. “He died as he lived, with a massive insect head on his shoulders…” I imagine a coffin with a massive bulbous bit at one end, and another tiny coffin next to it, for the “help me” fly-guy. But no! This is the funeral of Mrs Fly, who died of grief some years later. Now her adult son has returned to continue dad’s work in teleportation, rather like Eric Stoltz in THE FLY II.

Again the setting is, pointlessly, Montreal (or is there an assumption that if you lived in Montreal you’d HAVE to invent the telepod just to get out?). Again, Vincent Price is on hand as a gloomy best friend, rather a waste of his horror movie talents, but Uncle Winnie is always welcome. Here, he has to explain how Mr Fly Snr wound up with a fly’s head and arm (arm?). I have to admit I’m curious about how this will play out — he can’t just get ANOTHER arthropod in his telepod, and ANOTHER fly head stuck on his neck, can he? And yet, if a fly isn’t involved somehow, it’s rather a cheat on the title, isn’t it?

Whizzkid Brett Halsey has a morbid horror of houseflies, we soon learn, which is reasonable enough considering his family history. Soon he’s disintegrating rats and leaving them whirling about as disembodied molecular streams overnight, but his lab assistant, a shifty Cary Elwes type Englishman, is plotting to con him out of his invention. At this point, I start to hope we’re going to get a human-rat fusion, and when an unwelcome snooper gets disintegrated and then reintegrated, we do!

Horror upon horror!

What director Bernds lacks in vowels, he makes up for in truly fucked-up imagery. I think I’m in love.

Disgusted with his new-born rodent detective, the proto-Elwes disposes of the man-handed rodent by stamping savagely upon its little furry torso (and we actually see it BULGE beneath the pressure!), but the dead detective with the giant joke-shop paws can’t be gotten rid of so easily. Bundling the furry-fisted flic into the trunk of a gigantic finned monstermobile, he arranges the proverbial watery grave for both man and Merc’.

But! What seems like mere seconds later, wunderkind Brett Halsey (a no-name actor who literally HAS no name, just a series of random syllables) is roundly pummeling the bad guy — only to get knocked unconscious and placed in the transportation booth. Adding bio-insult to injury, the villain deliberately picks a fly out of the sugar bowl and casts it into the booth with young Halsey, consigning the pair to a conjoined future. Poor Halsey, hoist by his own telepetard.

The bad guy flees, shooting Uncle Winnie in the nearest spleen, and then the cops arrive and start shooting at Halsey-fly, who runs away into the grounds, catching his vast head on overhanging branches. Perhaps as a side-effect of having a fly’s leg, he runs like a man carrying an Olympic torch clenched between his buttocks. The sight of the fly-headed man clambering over a low fence is inexplicably hilarious (inexplicable that it should be any funnier than him just walking).

Meanwhile, a housefly with the head of Brett Halsey is buzzing about, going “Help me!” Why do man-headed flies always say that? Maybe, like Roald Dahl’s vermicious knids, they only know how to say one thing. More importantly, why have I never seen this film before? It’s like THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE made by a talented director who cares, rather than a fast-fading Roy Del Ruth, staving off extinction by perambulating a muppet through a mock-up everglade. And yet it’s exactly as bad as THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE. Which is amazing! Orson Welles was right — it has no limitations!

The human-head is represented at first by what looks like a real fly wearing a tiny Don Post Studios mask, then by a cheap superimposition, with a translucent Halsey visage shimmering where a set of mandibles ought to be. Either approach is aces with me, as long as he gets more to do than cry “Help me!” in a Mickey Mouse falsetto.

OK, so now fly-head is off on a mad quest for vengeance against people who, as a transplanted insect, he has no possible knowledge of, gamely maneuvering his space-hopper cranium through doorways, clanging it against metallic ceiling lamps, and pincering everyone in his path. Bernds’ script, hitherto a model of Holmesian logic, now falls at the hurdle of imagining “the murderous thoughts of a fly.” Not only is he attacking his body’s enemies, he knows how to open doors, something I never saw a fly do. Fiona suggests maybe flybody and flyhead are each sharing one hemisphere of the scientist’s brain, and this is slightly borne out by the romantic interest the big fellow shows in nubile Danielle de Metz. I never saw a fly do that, either. Yet the good guys still hope to persuade him back into the pod so his various bits can be jumbled back together.

In one way, fly-guy shouldn’t be funny at all — with his outsized head, big hand and misshapen, dragging foot, he has the proportions of John Merrick. But the filmmakers seem somewhat sensible to his comedy potential — time and again his physical awkwardness is highlighted, as when he has to nudge his big clawed foot to get it over a bannister he’s climbing, or when his enormous head gets caught in some net curtains. Throughout his bug-eyed ordeal, he remains neatly dressed in a natty suit, an unbuttoned collar his only concession to comfort (I can imagine Groucho’s response: “A trained scientist, running around open at the neck? With a fly’s head? The idea!”) At times, the effect puts me in mind of the late Frank Sidebottom.

Bernds eschews the multi-faceted fly-eye POV shots which are a principle distinguishing touch in Kurt Neumann’s original, presumably considering such playfulness beneath his dignity. Have another look at that guinea pig and see if you think his concern is justified.

A happy ending! Even for the fly! Next came CURSE OF THE FLY, which I saw ages ago. British-made, it has a really striking opening with a woman smashing through a window and running in slomo through the woods… and then it gets a bit dull. Dependable journeyman Don Sharp directed, Brian “Quatermass” Donlevy plays another member of the ill-starred Delambre family of scientists, and the movie was British-made.

I should investigate the world of ’50s Twentieth Century Fox sci-fi horror — there does seem to be an interesting, crazed camp sensibility going on. Meanwhile, I can’t leave the subject without a nod to MANT! ~

From MANT! directed by the fictitious Laurence Woolsey, from MATINEE, directed by the factual Joe Dante.