Archive for Felix E Feist

Under the Microscope

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , on July 23, 2019 by dcairns

Since Felix E. Feist started his career, kind of, with the spectacular DELUGE, and later made DONOVAN’S BRAIN, which I must say doesn’t capture the brilliance of Curt Siodmak’s source novel (I always thought of Curt as a classic “idiot brother” figure until I read this one), I became curious as to whether he had a third science fiction movie under his belt. “One should always talk about doing trilogies,” as Terry Gilliam once said.

Well, he doesn’t, but if you turn to his TV work, you get several episodes of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, which I immediately discounted as unworthy of my, or indeed his, attention, but you also get a single episode of The Outer Limits.

I’m not a huge OL fan — I’ve never seen an episode that wouldn’t be better with a half-hour runtime. But the combination of Feist and Stefano’s anthology show seemed worth exploring.

In The Probe, a plane crashes in a hurricane, and we immediately get stock shots of model huts being blown away — maybe from Ford’s THE HURRICANE? At any rate, this harkens back cheerily to the miniature apocalypse of DELUGE, making this definite trilogy material.

It’s also crap material. The various human figures presented are just as stock as the disaster movie footage, indeed no attempt whatever to distinguish them is made. I kept expecting more of them to die, so at least they’d be individualised by manner of demise, but the show is oddly tender-hearted towards its worthless populace. Even Peggy Ann Garner, an Oscar-winner for A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN, evinces a difficulty in saying basic English words.

The dialogue is the worst and best thing about the episode. Worst, in that it ruins suspense by having the characters figure stuff out with impossible ease. Trapped in an alien craft, they hear a whine. “Powerful engines?” suggests one. “Atomic?” suggests another.

On the other hand, the dialogue is terrible in a much more entertaining way. The show’s best moment is when the characters, at sea in a life raft, suddenly find they’re indoors. But while the notice that their tiny craft is resting on a metallic floor, they never react to the walls, and don’t seem to notice or consider the implications of being inside an artificial structure until long minutes later. It’s as if visual decisions were made without regard to the script, and nobody considered tweaking the lines to ensure that the characters didn’t come off as mad or blind or simply acting in a different show.

There’s a shit monster. Almost literally.

“Take a step towards that thing,” the square-jawed commander says to his square-jawed subordinate at one point, which somehow fails to elicit the normal response, “Fuck off, YOU take a step towards it.”

Foreground miniature!

Feist blocks the action well, but there’s little of the appeal of his noirs. A really creative adaptation of DONOVAN’S BRAIN, which is a kind of noir or at least crime book, could have exploited his shadowy talents to fine effect. But since Feist is credited as a screenwriter on the resulting brainfest, we have to hold him responsible and admit that he didn’t have a lot of feeling for sci-fi.

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Ruth Roman Road Movie

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on July 11, 2019 by dcairns

The Forgotten goes on the run — I am more and more enthused by Ruth Roman — and Steve Cochran is a real good actor.

Here.

Thumbing Rides

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on July 1, 2019 by dcairns

On the last day of Il Cinema Ritrovato there’s only one show on at a time, and apart from the big outdoors event in the Piazza Maggiore, it’s all films that have previously screened. Gives you a chance to catch up on things you’ve missed during the overstuffed phantasmagoria of the previous week-and-change.

Thanks to Charlie Cockey’s recommendation I slipped into Djibril Diop Mambety’s THE LITTLE GIRL WHO SOLD THE SUN, which was indeed lovely. This Senegalese short feature combines elements of realism with a fable-like simplicity — the technical standards and the performances are touched with a similar naivety but they get the job done: the measured pace of the action really makes you feel the distances the disabled protagonist has to cover, and Moussa Balde in the role has an uncertain way with dialogue but a wonderfully natural and forthright approach to her interactions with other characters. You love her.

Nobody in THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE inspired that kind of affection. Fiona had seen it earlier but didn’t at all mind seeing it again. Lawrence Tierney is scary as hell, a totally convincing psychopath, maybe within touching distance of his real self by most accounts. Though Tarantino’s treatment of him on RESERVOIR DOGS shows who the real bastard was.

The plot has an unexpected “boiling-a-frog” quality, where Tierney doesn’t reveal his badness to the other characters for ages — this does make the hero seem pretty foolish, because the clues are right there, and we’re made wise from the opening shot. But the suspense of waiting for the penny, or the other shoe, or the gallows trapdoor, to drop, is considerable. Lots of wildly enthusiastic supporting players too, including Betty Lawford as a memorable bad girl.

I’ll have to watch more Feist — THE THREAT and TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY also screened but I wasn’t able to see them here. I don’t think he’s a major talent but he’s very efficient and he sometimes pulls off surprises.