Archive for Dracula

Thing Roddy Said During Dinner

Posted in FILM with tags , on December 18, 2013 by dcairns


Roddy, my brother-in-law, has learning difficulties. He lives in Dundee. And this year it was decided that he wouldn’t be joining us for Christmas — too many incidents recently involving what I’d better leave described only as behavioral difficulties — so we thought we’d have him visit Edinburgh for a meal on his birthday and let him celebrate Christmas in the sheltered housing where he lives, which he did one previous year when he was ill and enjoyed. He didn’t really enjoy last Christmas because the stress of being away from home was a bit much. So Fiona feels a bit guilty but knows she shouldn’t.

(The loss here is not getting to watch movies with Roddy, which is always entertaining. Recently I read about Williams Syndrome, Roddy’s condition, and it fitted his viewing habits precisely — Williams people watch TV intently, and are fixated upon the people’s faces. They tend to see faces as friendly, unlike autistic people who find them frighteningly unreadable — Williams has been described as the anti-autism. And they tend to find animation uninteresting, as Roddy mainly does — except Scooby Doo — because the people’s expressions are not interesting and detailed enough.)

It was a nice dinner. Roddy has given a set of antlers to wear by the party of girls at the next table, and he entertained us with his impressions.

R: Shall I do Prince Charles? (regal gesture) “Hello, I’m Prince Charles.”

D: That’s just the same as your Dracula impression!

R: No, this is my Dracula impression. (regal gesture) “I am Dracula. Ha ha ha.”

D: But Dracula doesn’t laugh like that.

R: Aye he does.

D: When has Dracula ever laughed? You’re thinking of the Count from Sesame Street.

R. Oh. Right. How should I do Dracula then?

D: Say, “I am Dracula and I bid you welcome.”

R: “I am Dracula and I bid you welcome. To my castle. Ha ha ha.”

Fiona at this point becomes hysterical with laughter. Possibly something to do with the Diazepam.

Roddy’s carer, John: Why’s he laughing? Is it a funny castle?

D: “I am Dracula and I bid you welcome to my bouncy castle.”

My theory, Part 1: Welles = Universal Horror

Posted in Comics, FILM, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 24, 2013 by dcairns

wellesrichardiiiIt was at Norman Lloyd’s house that we saw this Al Hirschfeld cartoon, published in the New York Herald Tribune in 1938, predicting the roles to be taken on the New York stage by the leading players that fall.

Norman is top left — Hirschfeld always drew him this way, though Fiona thought it a dubious likeness.

Orson Welles is dead centre, as Richard III with flat-topped head and lank black wig. In the end he never played the role, something he blames John Houseman for, I believe, in My Lunches with Orson.

But the image suggests to me Boris Karloff, and ties in with my theory that Welles was influenced, probably in childhood, by the Universal school of horror.

Was Karloff’s monster a good model for Richard III? Possibly not — the personalities are quite different. But Welles’ putative performance as the disfigured, limping king might easily have been influenced by the monster, who had so recently returned to the screen in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. And there is at least one image in existence of a teenage Welles playing Richard on stage at the Todd School with a big, built-up head like the one in Hirschfeld’s cartoon.

Then there’s the Mercury Theater radio production of Dracula, which owes nothing much to the Universal movie but certainly displays a keen interest in, and aptitude for, gothic horror.

CITIZEN KANE’s opening has much of the feel of a ’30s horror film — Xanadu is not only dark, looking, shadowy and surrounded by desolation, it is a painting, like Castle Dracula. If few were convinced by Pauline Kael’s suggestion that Welles’ old-age make-up bore the influence of Peter Lorre’s Gogol from MAD LOVE, we can at least agree that part of the movie’s style is at times somewhat Gothic — and this fed into the 1943 JANE EYRE, which Welles influenced greatly (though he disparages the production in My Dinners with Orson.


And Welles’ MACBETH would be the clincher — I’m certain Welles said something, somewhere, about BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN being a visual influence on his papier-mache and dry-ice Scotland, “a violent charcoal sketch of a great play.” Whale occupies exalted ground, since Welles has comparatively few cinematic antecedents — he borrows liberally from Eisenstein in his first two Shakespeare films, and the smooth matching of his theatrical sensibility with Gregg Toland’s cinematic one obviously helped form him as a filmmaker, but apart from that, Whale is just about the only source you can point to. (He learned basic film grammar from running STAGECOACH, and maybe there’s some stylistic influence — but nothing that couldn’t be explained easier by Toland’s help and Welles’ pre-existing fondness for chiaroscuro.)


Part two of my theory tomorrow, and starting soon — a major Shadowplay series on CITIZEN KANE. What else is there to say about that film? Maybe nothing, but I will say it with different punctuation.

Spy Game

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2013 by dcairns


A little in memoriam piece on Jesus Franco at The Forgotten today.

I confess to mixed feelings about Snr Franco. At times, I’ve thought him the worst director in the world. He certainly didn’t do what most directors commonly thought of as good do. But he did do things nobody else would. Who else would begin a movie with shots of fetuses in jars, accompanied by upbeat lounge music? And for no reason?

The movie under discussion today stars Eddie Constantine as secret agent Al Pereira, and by coincidence I just realized that Pereira returns as lead character in Franco’s last film, made just last year, AL PEREIRA VS THE ALLIGATOR LADIES. Like that awful Dr Orloff, Franco’s characters weren’t confined to one film, and his films cannibalized popular culture too: in VAMPYROS LESBOS, Dennis Price plays Dr Seward from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a role played by Paul Muller in Franco’s COUNT DRACULA, but then Price returns as Frankenstein in two later films, which feature Alberto Dalbes as a character named Dr. Seward.

Franco, in other words, was a postmodernist — his films have permeable boundaries, with characters, situations and even footage slip-sliding from one to another, and into and out of other films and media. NIGHT OF THE ASSASSINS claims, in its opening credits, to be based on “The Cat and the Canary by Edgar Allan Poe,” which is remarkable since that play was authored by John Willard, some time after Poe’s death. Franco may not have been personally responsible for that illiterate bit of hucksterism, but in a way it’s apt, suggesting the pop culture melting pot his films simmered in.

This all lends some accuracy to Tim Lucas’s statement that “you can’t see one Franco film until you’ve seen them all.”

In today’s offering, Constantine is shown an array of gadgets by his spymasters and remarks, “You must have seen a lot of James Bond movies.”

“More than you can imagine,” comes the reply.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 568 other followers