Archive for David Goodis

Asynchronous

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , on September 30, 2016 by dcairns

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PICKLED HERRING

I remembered that DARK PASSAGE had a lot of bravura subjective camera stuff at the start, and some unlikely coincidences, but time had erased all other details, so I thought I’d watch it again.

Vince Parry (Humphrey Bogart, a few stand-ins, and a photograph of some other guy) escapes from San Quentin, smuggled in a barrel like the Marx Bros. in MONKEY BUSINESS. When the barrel falls off the wagon, we get the first POV shot, rolling downhill, then an artful POV of the barrel-bottom itself as Parry staggers off. Then we’re into the cool stuff, striking subjective shots as our hero climbs over a fence, thumbs a ride, gets in the car, with cleverly hidden cuts: at one point a pan takes us from a real car on a real road to a studio effects shot (it seems to be a matte rather than the usual process shot — I don’t know why this should be).

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Parry, wanted for murdering Mrs. Parry (he’s innocent, of course) gets plastic surgery which makes him look like Humphrey Bogart — the only time in history anyone has done this. An hour in, Bogie takes the bandages off, so the slower audience members finally realise the reason for all that concealment. Rather than deal with the estrangement of the leading actor being subbed halfway through the film — which is always a problem — Daves has withheld his star from our gaze for most of the movie.

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During the in-between bit, we can see Bogart but he’s swathed in Invisible Man bandages. Oddly, they make him look like Eddie Cantor.

I would like a movie where Humphrey and Eddie play brothers, please.

The reason I forgot most of the movie is that the plot stuff isn’t that interesting, once you get past the weird directorial devices, but you have Bogie & Bacall, and Agnes Moorehead, and a good smarmy turn by ex-Our Gang actor Clifton Young as a gloating blackmailer. Very peculiar to have interest in a film decline when Humphrey Bogart comes in. But he does get to say, to Young, “Tell me, or I’ll shoot it out of you!”

From a novel by eccentric noir/pulp specialist David Goodis, a favourite of the French (SHOOT THE PIANIST, MOON IN THE GUTTER), the film delivers plenty of bizarre stylistic touches, apart from yesterday’s trumpet massacre. Bogie keeps meeting people who randomly want to help him and believe him to be innocent. A friendly cabbie leads him to the rather disreputable-looking plastic surgery who messes his face up. This leads to a groovy ’40s-style expressionistic nightmare sequence ~

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The fascinating thing is the way so many of Daves’ techniques separate Bogart’s face from his body. Or other peoples’ faces from their bodies. The location stuff at the start evidently created sound problems — the camera tends to pan off people before we hear their voices. Of course, the gigantic sound kit of the period couldn’t even fit in a car, so the driving scenes had to be done mute. Bogart has a VO to help us through his POV scenes, but when the actor steps onto the screen for real, wrapped up like the mummy, he is unable to speak because of his operation, and the VO doesn’t come back. Daves even shoots part of a conversation over coffee and candlelight through a window during a rainstorm, so Bacall’s dialogue is unheard.

Maybe because our hero loses his birth-face partway through the story, this separation of face and vocals seems appropriate, somehow meaningful…

An odd thing: with his face and name changed, nobody recognizes Parry, despite his having the most recognizable voice in Hollywood…

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Tourneur Classic Movies

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2014 by dcairns

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Two Jacques Tourneur movies came out in 1957, both superb, which is remarkable because he’d had quite an up-and-down career, mostly.

NIGHTFALL, from a David Goodis novel, has some classic noir illogicality, adding to its waking nightmare feel. It also has one of the genuinely sweet heroes, played by raspy-voiced tough guy Aldo Ray — Anne Bancroft also plays a nice person, and the tension between their sweet characters and their respective edges (Ray carries an inherent roughness, Bancroft a brittle and bitter flavour) is magnificent.

Fiona suggested that the above ironic foreshadowing would make a nice tie-in with the snowy footprints (with its case full of money, blackly comic psycho duo, and snowy scenery, the film seems an influence on FARGO) and hence with the earthier prints in Tourneur’s other triumph of ’57.

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Unfortunately, the footprints only register in motion — Tourneur’s camera tracks alongside the invisible demon as it advances implacably, leaving smouldering holes in the forest loam, but said holes are too indistinct to get a good image of. I settle for this ~

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I’m tempted to make a fan edit of NIGHT OF THE DEMON with the big demon removed, but of course I have no specific instructions from the director about how to do this. Tourneur said that the black panther that attacks Dana Andrews should have been edited down to flashes — in the finished film, you can clearly see the thing is a product of taxidermy rather than diabolism — and the demon likewise. Effecting such changes would wreak havoc on Muir Matheson’s scarifying score, and would amount to a fair bit of work which I’m not technically qualified to do. But it could be GREAT —

At present, Andrews’ skeptical scientist is a slightly annoying clod, which is often the case with skeptics in films of fantasy (in THEM!, the use of an irritating skeptic was a cunning choice to deliberately make the audience WANT to see this pompous ass proved wrong). This would be less true if it weren’t for the demon showing up, larger than life and grinning like a muppet, in the opening sequence — we know Andrews is wrong from the start. We NEED a little doubt to make the story play properly. The fact that in spite of the producer’s ham-fisted interference, the film is a classic, is testimony to the skills of Tourneur and his team.

When I spoke to star Peggy Cummins last week, she said “It’s an absolute icon, isn’t it? In England and America. I don’t know how it’s regarded in your country, Scotland…” I assured her that it was a Halloween favourite. Seek it out this season!

I’ve been making a video essay about Tourneur. More on this soon.

Three Erotic Fantasies

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2010 by dcairns

I was looking at THE COTTON CLUB, trying to find a cute shot I remembered of Diane Lane, figuring I could probably find something to say about it when I did. But that led me to look at RUMBLE FISH, another Francis Ford Coppola outing also featuring the transcendentally lovely and apparently ageless Lane. I grabbed the above image, part of a series of erotic daydreams Matt Dillon has about his girlfriend during the course of a day.

Then by chance I found another sexual fantasy image, the same evening, in NUDE FOR SATAN, a barmy 70s Italian sex-horror nonsense case, featuring gratuitous cod-Wellesian angles, mattressfuls of pubic hair, and a fake giant spider seemingly made from black felt and pipe cleaners. In this image a sinister gent undresses the heroine with his eyes — almost literally. I’m surprised and disappointed that director Luigi Batzella didn’t have the guy’s eyes pop out, turn into Residents-style eyeball-men, and rip Rita Calderoni’s knickers off. It would have been quite in keeping with the insane literal-mindedness of his bottoms-up cut a few minutes later on in the film. I shall elucidate ~

Calderoni is handed a glass of wine by a spooky butler. She drinks. As she raises the glass, Batzella zooms in on its base and lets the shot go soft. Jump cut to a big bare arse, also slightly out of focus. Pull into focus, zoom out, and proceed with the unmotivated lesbian softcore.

These things should, for some reason, come in threes, so here’s a bizarre fantasy apparently occurring in the mind of Keith Carradine in Sam Fuller’s STREET OF NO RETURN, an odd adaptation of David Goodis’s The Blonde on the Street Corner, a two-time-loser pulp noir typical of its author.

Valentina Vargas, from THE NAME OF THE ROSE, is gorgeous, and deserved more of a career. She’s still acting, and still beautiful, so maybe it’ll happen.

STREET OF NO RETURN is nearly very good, with an impressive opening riot, and Fuller’s sudden interest in naked girls is tolerable — it could easily become embarrassing, but I give him the benefit of the doubt. What’s a little embarrassing is the obvious European locations (Portugal), as the movie tries to pass itself off as American. If the movie had embraced its setting more, and been a little more carefully edited, it could have marked a return for Fuller.

Links (US):

Rumble Fish (Special Edition)

Nude for Satan

Street of No Return

UK:

Rumble Fish : Special Edition [DVD] [1983]

Nude For Satan [1974] [DVD]