Archive for Criterion

Baron Knight

Posted in FILM, Mythology with tags , , , , on January 14, 2023 by dcairns

Got my copies of THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN — a Blu-ray and a 4K — from Criterion. I contributed a video essay, The Astonishing (and really true) History of Baron Munchausen, to this one, with editor Chase Bartel, which covers the development of Munchausen from real-life soldier and raconteur to fictional hero and literary meme, to movie icon. A really interesting job, with the most extensive rostrum and animation work I’ve been involved with to date.

Also, Criterion have put my ARSENIC AND OLD LACE piece online here.

The paperback version of my new novel appears to be here, though Amazon seems reluctant to list it.

Also also, Chapter 5 of THE ADVENTURES OF SIR GALAHAD — Galahad to the Rescue — a title that brings PG Wodehouse to mind — opens with the lamest cliffhanger pay-off on record. Galahad plunges from the rocky outcrop that’s doubling as Camelot’s east wall, hits the ground — and then gets up as if nothing has happened. There’s an appealingly cynical calculation at work here — “We don’t need to come up with anything clever, boys, they’ve already bought their tickets. Just get on with it and have another cliffhanger at the end.” Proof that you can disappoint even the most undemanding audience and keep them coming back for more.

The battles between “Britain” and “Saxony” never involve more than twenty warriors — each nation’s army is the size of a posse. One could hardly expect them to stage ALEXANDER NEVSKY on a micro-budget, but maybe the script should have avoided such putatively large scale conflicts. There aren’t that many huge battles in the various Arthurian legends.

For the second episode in a row, Galahad and Bors steal a cart (the same one, in a dual role, if carts can have dual roles) and Bors gets forced into an embarrassing disguise. Last time it was a drag act, this time it’s just a false moustache.

This time Galahad succeeds in retrieving the stolen Excalibur, which means we need a new McGuffin or inciting incident. And a new cliffhanger, we’re running out of time.

Talk about in the nick of — Merlin announces the sword is a phony, and Sir Kay calls for a summary execution, having Sir G forced to his knees so he can CHOP! our hero’s head off.

Now that, I submit, is a pretty good cliffhanger. Nevertheless, I’m tempted to dispose of the rest of the serial in a couple of posts, because it’s not THAT entertaining to watch, so how much fun can it be to read about? I feel for you, you see.

The Lady Killers

Posted in FILM with tags , , on January 12, 2023 by dcairns

Latest arrival in the snail mail — ARSENIC AND OLD LACE from Criterion with my booklet essay. I also got a Criterion baseball cap and an Agnes Varda tote bag which I will be proud to model around town.

I haven’t missed catching a cold one bit! Thanks to lockdown and masks I haven’t had an infection since 2019, but this one is making up for lost time. Accompanying it is an eye infection that makes everything look like a particularly excessive soft focus effect. Imagine rubbing big dollops of Vaseline on your eyeballs.

So, not much film viewing going on in the Shadowplayhouse, and a limited amount of reading and writing. But the disease seems to be progressing (getting worse) so I hop to be more alert and productive soon…

Rising Vamp

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on October 29, 2022 by dcairns

Over at The Current, I’ve contributed the opening salvo to a series of pieces on the vampire — in what is known as august company, with Geoffrey O’Brien, Phoebe Chen, Angelica Jade Bastién, and Beatrice Loayza. I tackle Lugosi. Quite a challenge.

The pieces are here.

As a taster, here’s a passage I was sorry to cut, but to make the focus on Bela rather than Tod Browning, it had to be done:

“Browning’s best effects are all next-door to incompetence: he has a disconcerting way of undermining our comfortable certainty about how many characters are in a scene, using mirrors, occluding walls, and surprise angle changes, so that, when Dracula’s failure to appear in a mirror is first shown, the effect is familiar: every scene with a cut in it has had the same effect. When the very nervous Helen Chandler begins conversing telepathically with her undead suitor, the conversation has a disjointed quality we’ve already come to know well.”