Archive for Conrad Veidt

Dank Satanic Mills #1

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2022 by dcairns

It’s the iron maiden again! Screen right, bottom. The same infernal device Conrad Veidt is consigned to in THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (in his first role, as the hero’s father) and which he later admired from the outside in ABOVE SUSPICION. We saw it again later in Corman’s THE RAVEN, the most recent appearance I’ve spotted by the long-serving instrument of torture. One of the most-used props in films. After a turn in it, you could recover by having a lie-down on Gloria Swanson’s swan-boat-bed.

I would like to discover more appearances.

Anyway, I have to say more about THE STRANGE DOOR because Eureka! granted me a review copyof their ace Karloff MANIACAL MADNESS set. Fun movie — future Star Trek director Joseph Pevney is turned loose in a lot of standing sets (a cucalorus in every room) with Charles Laughton and Boris Karloff. Laughton seems like he needs a couple-three more takes of every scene to get the lines down, but, aware of the tight schedule, I guess, he ploughs on until “cut” (rather than breaking the scene whenever he feels himself drying, as he did with Sternberg in all those I, CLAUDIUS outtakes). There’s a lot of mad invention and lipsmacking craziness, but punctuated by uncertain pauses where he has to slow himself down and then ramp up the energy again when he remembers what’s next.

Karloff, very solid, reunited with his OLD DARK HOUSE co-star, did not get on with him, as reported by Kim Newman and Stephen Jones in their lively commentary. The suggestion that Laughton’s style was becoming old-fashioned is one I’d take issue with — I’d say “Have you seen ADVISE AND CONSENT?” Or, indeed, ISLAND OF LOST SOULS, which always struck me as a very modern bit of camp villainy. If Laughton seems out of date in THE STRANGE DOOR it’s because the whole film is, the dead end of the Universal Gothic cycle (along with THE BLACK CASTLE the following year). And the man isn’t on top form, though he’s certainly ENGAGED.

The climax, with our heroes trapped in a cell whose walls are inexorably closing in (powered by the water-mill I alluded to in our title), is gripping. Walls closing in always makes for a good, suspenseful scenario — I don’t know why they don’t trot the idea out more often, unless it’s that one so seldom encounters it in daily life.

Art Intel

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on October 7, 2022 by dcairns

DALL-E is an artificial intelligence program for creating art of “art.” You type in words and it creates images in response. So I asked it to make something along the lines of Charlie Chaplin phrenologist sausage factory, and I have to say I was impressed by the results. I’d previously failed to get a decent Paulette Goddard from the thing, so had concluded it doesn’t really know movie stars, but it turns out it prefers an indirect approach to celebrity. The above images seem to me to belong to some kind of Chaplin universe / period. They’d also make great album covers. And I love the fumbling attempts at language that make you squint: “churmp” and “chappshges” and so on. If these aren’t images from Chaplin’s world, they’re from next door in the world of Yugoslavian animation.

Any human artist asked for a sausage factory would have drawn strings of sausages spooling from machines and placed a Chaplin at the conveyer belt, but DALL-E prefers the surprising and oblique.

I don’t know what happened to “phrenologist” but I like to think it had some kind of an influence.

Emboldened, I demanded Buster Keaton surrealist woodcut biscuits.

These aren’t quite as obscurely on point as the first set. Fig. (1) is too much like a dynamic comic book hero to have room for a trace of Joseph Keaton Jr. about him. They all look like woodcuts and they all feature biscuits, and the combination of “woodcut biscuits” proves an enticing one. They’re both dry, somehow, so they seem to belong together. Why do biscuit tins feature full-colour paintings so often when they could just go with b&w prints and make us salivate?

I would definitely like to be served biscuits with CINT, WITRID and IWOGT embossed on them. It would make me feel like I was eating a Polish phrase book (more dryness). The final image feels the most Keatonesque, though the third of the gloomy Gus’s staring from the shortcakes is clearly Howard Phillips Lovecraft, and how did HE get in here?

It was time Fiona had a turn. She asked for Conrad Veidt. Then she asked for a dog. I said, “Well, do you want Conrad Veidt AS a dog? She said sure.

Pretty well a 100% succcess, although, again, oblique. Infused with the spirit of Weimar, each image evokes something Veidt-related, and you definitely can’t claim the canine side was neglected. A twenties journalist described CV as “built along greyhound lines” but the pool-playing pooch in the flying gear, and the bloodhound in the leotard, neither one a whippet, clearly stare out at us with eyes that have seen the inside of Caligari’s cabinet.

Have fun here.

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.