Archive for Double Indemnity

Meet the Fleagles; or, Luminous Gravy

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2010 by dcairns

Sorry, I forgot who recommended MURDER, HE SAYS — it was a good call, though, this was very enjoyable.

Never had a real handle on George Marshall as a director, his looong career having taken in just about every kind of entertainment, including another spooky house comedy, THE GHOST BREAKERS, which he explicitly, and I mean EXPLICITLY, references in this one (Fred MacMurray: “Did you ever see that movie, The Ghost Breakers?”) But he was clearly a guy with plenty of chops: apart from all the bizarre material crammed into this flick, which would have been entertaining in an eye-popping kind of way no matter who’d been in charge, there’s a farce sequence in a dark cellar with characters near-missing and mistaking each other which is really superb — on the page I bet it looked impossible.

Fred MacMurray (a little over-the-top but still likable — admits to being a sax player, too) is another Marshall, Pete Marshall, a census-taker who hasn’t heard the likely fate of such persons when they meet serial killers… Running into the psychotic redneck Fleagle family (a name I had previously only encountered by way of television’s The Banana Splits)  he becomes involved in a search for buried loot in an environment that seems to anticipate certain aspects of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. There’s also polonium-like poison being splashed about, causing various characters to glow in the dark, resulting in some striking visuals. Thanks to a good script and Marshall’s deft control, a movie that could have been as irksome as SHIT! THE OCTOPUS becomes a minor gem.

But why CAN’T I have a glow-in-the-dark Mabel Paige of my own?

Also worthy of note — Porter Hall, the man who can do anything, playing a weaselly bogus intellectual who has “dabbled in phrenology, psychology and the science of hyper-physical manifestation”;  Mabel Paige as the rootin’ tootin’ grandma (and it’s hard for me to believe that mere months ago I was unaware that there WAS a Mabel Paige — today I am scarcely aware there’s anyone else); Jean Heather (Lola from DOUBLE INDEMNITY) as the sweetly simple Elany (somebody get her a date with Boo Radley); and leading lady Helen Walker, who we always call “The Honorable Betty Cream.” She takes a while to show up, though, causing Fiona to protest, “Oh, when is The Honorable Betty Cream going to appear? It’s like waiting for Groucho!”

Worth it.

“I have a competition in me…”

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on February 18, 2008 by dcairns

I had three thrilling entries for the Shadowplay First Freaky Friday Free Prize Give-away Spectacular.


Question (1): I asked, of Cary Grant’s character name in NORTH BY NORTHWEST, ‘If the “O” in “Roger O Thornhill” didn’t stand for “Nothing,” what would it stand for?’

First to write in was David Ehrenstein, with the topical “Obama”. That sounds pretty nice — Roger Obama Thornhill. It also sounds kind of like an INSTRUCTION. My first thought is that the “O” would STILL stand for nothing.

(BUT — apparently Obama voted in favour of banning cluster-bombs and land mines, while Hilary voted against. It’s only one issue, I know, but when there’s so little useful information and distinction between the candidates…)

Alex Livingston volunteered that the “O” didn’t stand for anything because it’s really a zero. But I think that gag’s already intended by the movie, so I can’t accept it. On the other hand, it suggests that Alex really needs a copy of this film.

Blake Buesnel suggests “Orville”, like the Wright brother, and cites Thornhill’s affinity, if we can call it that, with prop aeroplanes. It’s a good answer, and shows both film knowledge and lateral thinking.

prop, or wings?

Question (2): ‘If you met a stranger on a train, what would you ask him? Say he came from Peoria, Illinois, what then? Suppose he had a magic pencil?’

Now Alex comes into his own:

“if i met a stranger from peoria, illinois on a train, i would probably ask him to use his magic pencil to draw a new set of tracks to divert the train from crashing into the downtown chicago railway station. then i would ask to borrow the pencil to dig out my liver, which i would send to roger thornhill. he could staple the liver to his meaningless “o” and this would give him an acceptable middle name”

Stranger on a Train

A question (2) answer which morphs into a question (1) answer with all the graceful  ease of Robert Patrick. Outstanding, if grisly.

Blake counters with:

“If i met a stranger from Peoria, Illinois on a train, i would ask her (think of a sharp-witted, blond) to tell me a little bit about her hometown of Peoria. After a minute, I’d ask her about that dreadful fire that took the high school library. She’d agree at the unfortunate nature of the accident. I’d agree and add that it was especially unfortunate, because Peoria lost it’s greatest treasure in the most bizarre occurrence the town had seen in years: an imaginary library being swallowed up by a fictitious 3 alarm fire. Having been found out, I’d reassure her I was just being keen, as my job as an insurance investigator allows me to be, and her secret, whatever it is, is safe with me.”

Eva's no saint 

While performing a sex change on the stranger, Blake manages to evoke Eva Maria Saint in NORTH BY NORTHWEST, and also Fred MacMurray’s train-based activities in DOUBLE INDEMNITY.

The judge’s decision is final, but confusing. I say that EVERYBODY has won. The two prizes will be divided among the three of you, in a manner of my choosing. I’ll be in touch to consult with you all on this.


Incidentally, the CORRECT answer to (1) is “Ordinary”, as in Wilfred “Ordinary” Smith from STAGE FRIGHT.

No Ordinary Detective