Archive for Deliverance

His Tropi Wife

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2016 by dcairns


“That was, without question, the most fucked-up film I have ever seen in my life,” declared Fiona after watching SKULLDUGGERY (1970).

My human bride had been quite interested to see the pic, as it deals with the missing link, and features favourites like Edward Fox, William Marshall and Wilfred Hyde-White. And Burt Reynolds, practicing his up-the-creek manoeuvres for the forthcoming DELIVERANCE. Reynolds plays a dodgy adventurer in New Guinea who latches onto an anthropological expedition in the hopes of finding profitable phosphorous deposits. Along the way he finds lurve with Susan Clark, the sexy female anthropologist (for once, the sexy scientist seems not too removed from reality, since there have apparently always been anthropologist babes — this isn’t like Denise Richards playing a nuclear physicist in THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH) and they also find a tribe of primeval hairy people they nickname the tropi.

Now, by the time Primitive Man shows his whiskery face, the movie has already reduced itself to rubble around us, with stupid and insulting humour about the African populace, and charmless romcom tosh in which the Reynolds’ character’s blatant villainy does little to endear him. We are encouraged to leer at native girls like a teenage boy grasping his first National Geographic in his sweaty palms. The uncomfortable ethnic stuff is made still weirder by the fact that all the tropis are played by Japanese actors.


Every image I had previously seen from this movie emphasised the female tropis’ busts, thrusting pertly from beneath their orange fur (not quite the orangutan shade, more the tangerine of Japanese people attempting to go blonde). But the movie is squeamish about ape-woman nipple, and indeed seems reluctant to offer a clear look at these crucial characters at all, as if someone, somewhere, were ashamed. Their anxiety might have more productively focussed on the script.

Burt puts the tropis to work mining phosphorus for him, paying them in tinned ham, which they love. Then the backer of the expedition seizes on the idea of the tropis as an invaluable source of slave labour, and Burt is the only one who objects. This seems inconsistent, to say the least. The scientists are apparently all for slavery, though so much of Edward Fox’s performance takes place beyond the edges of the 4:3 pan-and-scan area, it’s hard to say if he ever had more of a character arc about this. The plot now becomes a debate about whether the tropies are human, which then focusses on whether Burt’s best pal has drunkenly fathered an infant by a tropi mom. To force the issue, Burt claims to have murdered the baby, and we end up in court for an in-depth analysis of where mankind ends and the animal kingdom begins. An in-depth analysis as imagined by idiots.

Where this idiocy comes from is hard to guess, since this film is based on a book by “Vercors,” author of the classic French occupation novel La Silence de la Mer, filmed by Melville, and the screenplay is credited to Nelson Gidding who did THE HAUNTING. Neither one seems like a fool. But foolishness prevails. I suspect uncredited other hands may be to blame for the foul tonal inconsistency and brainless fumbling. This is supported by the background info that Orson Welles associate Richard Wilson was tipped from the director’s chair, his still-warm buttock imprint occupied by the sagging rump of THEM! director Gordon Douglas, whose approach to the material is not so much uncertain as absent, as if behind the glass eye of the camera lurked another glass eye, gazing blankly and without feeling.

Skullduggery from David Cairns on Vimeo.

We do have the pleasure of seeing Edward Fox react to an ape-woman flying a helicopter — I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wondered what Sir Edward’s response to such a spectacle would be — but the sheer offensive stupidity of the rest boggles the mind.

Clark attempts to prove to the court that establishing an individual’s species is more complicated than you’d think, by laying out skulls from a baboon, a chimp, a human and an aboriginal. Yes, you read correctly. The movie apparently thinks aboriginals aren’t human, or are at best some sub-species of the main branch. There’s a spirited debate between William Marshall and Wilfred Hyde-White in which Marshall is, of course, dignified and Shakespearian and Hyde-White is doddery and wry, his usual mode — all the more effective when his character turns out to be a white supremacist. The smartest thing in the film is this underplaying of evil, and it may have only come about because WHW just did what he normally did and nobody thought to stop him.


Then the movie spoils its nanosecond of goodwill by bringing in a parodic Black Panther (he’s flown all the way from America, apparently, to make the case that the tropis, being pale skinned, prove that white people are less evolved, or something), part of the usual satirical escape clause — “Black people are prejudiced too!” — in fact, I just realized, SKULLDUGGERY bloody well *is* Bonfire of the Vanities, book and film, only it’s all gone Piltdown.

The most neglected character in all this is Topazia, the tropi wife, played by Pat Suzuki. She gets knocked up by a human (hairless variety), gives birth, loses the child, and then gets hauled into court in a cage. The film has absolutely no interest in her as a character, human or animal, despite the fact that far more happens to her than to any of the bare-faced ham-dispensers making up the upper echelons of the cast list. SKULLDUGGERY unfair to tropis.

At last — a Film of Ideas made by morons.

The Mysterious Mr If, Part the Fifth

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on July 4, 2011 by dcairns

It’s Monday, which means it’s time once again for me to court your baffled silence with another enthralling episode of my inexplicably unproduced screenplay, THE MYSTERIOUS MR IF. This week’s edition features a heavy nod in the direction of Lindsay Anderson’s IF… as we meet a man in a filing cabinet. A friend who read the thing entire asked if perhaps I was breaking one of the unwritten laws of comedy by making the straight characters as silly as the surreal ones. He was probably right, but who wants to write a scene with Zeppo Marx and Bud Abbot? 

For those not in tune with popular movements in modern screenwriting, I have another “poetic” contribution to the Vincentennial over at Limerwrecks. Topic: THE FLY, as fitting a subject for five-line doggerel as any I can think of.


So — last we saw, Edinburgh’s police exhibit/archive The Blue Museum had been vandalized by a master-criminal freshly escaped from the nineteenth century: policeman mannequins dressed in tacky lingerie. Sheena McQueen, cop reject, has stolen a file on this miscreant, and her cat, Edward Woodward, has been savagely blacked up as a result. Sheena has left said cat in the care of Howie, human exhibit at Edinburgh Zoo, and alerted Detective Inspector Turner of the Lothian and Borders Police to these unruly shenanigans. Clear? Now read on…


Sheena peels the lingerie from a Victorian bobby –


Victoria’s Secret Police.

Tring! DI. Turner and PC. Thrower enter. Turner nods briskly to Sheena but doesn’t stop – both men proceed to the back of the museum.

Sheena moves towards the rear of the museum.


Ah, DI. Turner. All is in readiness. Descend with me to the Files Room.


Sheena sidles in just as Netherbow, Turner and the constable disappear below stairs. Sheena creeps to the top of the stairs and crouches to watch.


Howie sits in his cage facing Edward Woodward the cat. Edward Woodward is still in blackface. Howie has a banjo. Edward Woodward has a banjo.

Duelling banjos!

Howie plays the first part of the tune.

Edward Woodward stares at him mutely. For a long time.

Howie plays the third part of the tune.

Edward Woodward stares some more.


There’s no keeping up with you.


Sheena watches from the top of the stairs.


Still no sign of the If File?

Sheena looks guilty.


I’ve turned the place upside out, Detective Inspector. I can’t conceive of what –


The business at hand, then.

Netherbow goes to a filing cabinet and opens a long drawer.

Inside, morgue-style, is Inspector Rathbone Shinty, still dressed in the height of Victorian fashion. He is adorned with cobwebs.

Sheena jolts in astonishment.


Inspector Rathbone Shinty. A hundred and fifty years old. Is it possible he can tell us anything?


He was mesmerized at the instant of death. He ought still to have all his faculties.

Sheena looks dumbfounded.

Turner leans very close to the dusty inspector, clears his throat, and then yells in the cadaver’s ear.



Shinty’s mouth opens and a long-legged spider crawls out.

Then a musty gasp exhales. Shinty stirs slightly. His skin makes a sound like dead leaves.

A voice, distant and desiccated, wafts from the cracked and barely mobile lips.


So If has returned… I knew he would.




Mr. If is attempting to become… unreal. But has only half-succeeded. As a semi-real person, he has… unspeakable power. Should he become completely… unreal, he might… start a chain reaction which would… unravel the universe. Fact and fiction would… blur, and the world might well… come to an end… of some sort. He must be stopped. Stopped.

And with that, Shinty’s face caves in. His suit crumples. His hands twitch and flake.



The strain was too great.

Thrower doffs his cap. Netherbow clasps his tit theatrically.


Break, break, oh heart!

Sheena, transfixed, comes to her senses and finds herself leaning dangerously far forward at the top of the stairs.

Turner, Netherbow and the constable pivot in surprise at a loud CLATTER.

Sheena slides down the last few stairs on her belly, reaches the bottom, and looks up.




A silhouetted Mr. If, in opera cape, surveys the cityscape.


Soon, soon, my pretty world. Nothing was, and nothing will be again.

He reaches out as if to touch a distant street… a car drives up it and If brings his fingers together as if to pinch the apparently tiny vehicle.

He moves his hand to his lips, clutching a tiny car. Muffled screams and honking as he delicately chews the miniature motor.


Mmm, the 1982 Datsun. A very good year.

FREEZE FRAME on his evilness.

Will Sheena get her stripes? Will Howie change his spots? Will Mr. If eat the universe? Tune in next time, or you may suffer baldness and stammering. Good evening.

The Omen

Posted in FILM, Mythology with tags , , , on May 6, 2008 by dcairns

So, I was walking along the first floor of the Ocean Terminal mall (not a huge, DAWN OF THE DEAD type mall, but a British mini-mall, or mall-ette, if you will) which looks like so:

Chopping Mall

You can just see the sort-of-bridge that crosses the central expanse at the back, right? Well, as I walked under that, I looked up and saw three identical boys, about nine, identically dressed, resting their arms on the hand rail. They looked a bit like the banjo-boy in DELIVERANCE who appears on a bridge as a portentous warning of the carnage and anal malfeasance to come. They also looked like the three wise monkeys, just after the picture was taken.


If they had appeared before we went to see FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL we could have taken it as a warning and spent the afternoon doing something else. It’s not a terrible film, but there seems to reason to see it on a screen larger than the smallest person in it.

It’s sort of like having somebody riffle a flickbook of Hawaiian postcards at you while playing nice tunes (Dot Allison!) and telling you a few decent jokes. Enjoyable, but not exactly CINEMA.

Here is a more interesting bit of Edinburgh:


That’s the beauty of this city, you get old and new nestling alongside each other, like ebony and ivory on the keyboard of some colossal stone piano full of drunks. Yet despite all this, the city is desperately under-represented on film.