Archive for Conrad Veidt

Positively the same maiden

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on June 16, 2022 by dcairns

Already noted here that the iron maiden from THE MAN WHO LAUGHS reappears in ABOVE SUSPICION — in one film, Conrad Veidt is executed in its spiky recess, and in the other he cheerfully lectures on it as a museum piece. In the same blog post I show how Harry Crocker, Chaplin assistant, acquired the prop for his museum, and it was presumably still for hire when MGM made AS in 1943.

But here’s the same prop in 1963 (second from the right), swelling a scene for Roger Corman in his delightful THE RAVEN. Given this 35-year career, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if the contraption were still out there, in some props hire house, gathering dust between occasional gigs.

Flying Monkeys Over Soho

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on November 1, 2021 by dcairns

Fiona joins us with a guest post:

The most frightening thing about Edgar Wright’s sensational cinephile’s wet dream, Last Night In Soho, is Jocasta and her Sheeple. Jocasta may be a monster painted in very broad strokes, but she is all the more terrifying because she is real. Only a woman can understand the true horror of being bullied by other women. And take it from me, female bullies, and their hangers-on, are the worst, because they use complex (and not so complex) psychological tactics.

Played with gleeful relish by Synnove Karlsen, Jocasta is the proverbial ‘nasty piece of work.’ The screenplay hints at her narcissism perhaps being caused by early loss, her mother’s death from cancer, but suffering does not always endow nobility. I found myself, quite unexpectedly, becoming incredibly emotionally invested in Eloise’s story because I WAS Eloise, right down to being a member of The Dead Mums Club. My mother completed suicide when I was twenty-two. My father was already dead.

I’m writing this piece completely blind because I haven’t read anything about this film or been exposed to any interviews with Wright and his co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns. All I can say is that I feel certain she brought the strongest emotional beats to this story and that she probably brought them by experience.

Screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns rejoices in her ability to scare the crap out of you.

Naturally, narcissists like Jocasta have ‘enablers’ or ‘flying monkeys’ who eagerly swallow all the bile she spouts, and naturally, they do a complete three-sixty at the end, praising Eloise for being “so brave.” The most disturbing element of the conclusion is not the reveal, but that Jocasta and her cronies have not changed one bit. Jocasta will go through life belittling other people to shore up her faltering self-esteem and generally getting away with murder (unlike real-life narcissist in the UK news right now, Penny Jackson, who had been getting away with murder for 66 years, until she actually murdered someone), and her enablers will continue to switch allegiances because they have no opinions of their own and no moral backbones.

Jocasta and her Flying Monkeys.

I can speak with some authority about narcissists because I was brought up by two of them. My mother was a covert narcissist whose condition was probably created by trauma (my grandmother also completed suicide) and my father was an overt narcissist caused by parental overindulgence. The fact that there are no consequences for Jocasta is horrifyingly true to life. Most narcissists are untreatable because they fall under the banner of Cluster B Personality Disorders. Jocasta’s flying monkeys are probably completely normal people who are just a bit dim, or they are actually borderline narcissists themselves who enjoy encouraging other people to act out. No consequences for them either.

To be honest, I think this film should come with a warning for survivors of narcissistic abuse (or abuse generally), because I was becoming so caught up with this back story that I wanted Jocasta to die. I’m not proud of that. The moment when Eloise nearly stabs her was both cathartic and frustrating for me. If I was younger I’d probably talk about being “re-traumatised” by the experience, but I’m an old bag so I just sucked it up. My experience of having undiagnosed ADHD AND being a survivor of NA definitely marked me for life and ruined my potential as a screenwriter, but it also gave me early insight into the way people behave, and that can be very valuable for a writer.

Thomasin McKenzie/Eloise goes to a Halloween party made up like Conrad Veidt as Cesare in The Cabinet Of Doctor Caligari (1920), the first psychological horror movie with a twist ending.

I have no idea if Krysty Wilson-Cairns went through anything comparable. After all, everyone has their own story, but I’d be very surprised if she didn’t have some experience of bullying and being seen as ‘different’ in some way. Even if it was just for being a redhead. As for me, I didn’t have any psychic abilty, like Eloise… apart from that time when I was a teenager and could predict wins when watching horseracing on Saturday afternoon tv (true story).

Don’t have nightmares.

Two-dimensional chess

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2021 by dcairns

Raymond Bernard’s original THE CHESS PLAYER beats Jean Dreville’s remake hands-down, even though the remake has Conrad Veidt and is ace. It’s not because, unlike Dreville, Bernard understands the left-to-right rule and can apply it. But many of the bits of the remake that are faithful to the original but don’t quite work, like the intercutting of two climaxes, work like gangbusters in RB’s silent.

Veidt is a great uncanny presence for Dreville, but Bernard has Pierre Blanchar and Pierre Batcheff, a cheekbones-and-chin combo that could kill at a distance. Plus the creepy Charles Dullin, far less ingratiating than Veidt but very effective in his stealth sympathy. And Édith Jéhanne, very lovely and more interesting than in her other big film, Pabst’s THE LOVE OF JEANNE NEY.

As in the later LES MISERABLES, Bernard breaks out the hand-held camera for his battle scenes, a technique that seems to have been part of the French cinematic pallette — see also LA MERVELLEUSE VIE DE JEAN D’ARC — only to be forgotten until Welles reinvented it for CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT.

Almost certainly the best film about automata and Polish independence.