Archive for Frank Gorshin


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on October 22, 2015 by dcairns


KKK: The Fight for White Supremacy is a good TV doc by Dan Murdoch, which rather neatly allows the notorious hate organisation to make itself look both ridiculous and abhorrent. That might sound all too easy, but one can readily imagine a doc mocking the Klan and thus making them seem like a more or less harmless anachronism — Louis Theroux’s stuff occasionally comes close to that. And there are some atmospheric, sinister shots of hooded figures and cross-burnings here which run the risk of making these masked morons look threateningly cool, and we know from their eager flirtation with Nazi imagery that these chumps would far rather look evil than dopey. But they are both, and they largely do Murdoch’s work for him.

“People ask me, if I could travel back in time and not be a racist, would I do it? and I say, not in a million dollars.”

“She has helped me more times than I can count on my fingers and toes.”

Interesting to learn that among the grandiose titles, the Grand Wizards and Dragons, there’s a spiritual leader known as the Klud, which sounds like a plumbing problem. Also, the pasty, doughy racists have a guidebook/pamphlet called the Kloran. I guess that’s meant to be amusing, but it seems like a joke that backfires. Everything about these guys backfires. When they turn up “en masse” to protest the removal of the Confederate flag from outside a courthouse, they get their asses handed to them by anti-racist and black power marchers, and their own flag is stolen and ripped to shreds.

One depressing moment among many: a black protester shouting “Black power!” in the face of a pink-faced white supremacist shouting “White power!” back at him, a feedback loop of unproductive rage in which neither side emerges with credit. Black power was a legitimate demand from a disenfranchised, disempowered and persecuted minority. White power was a dumb response from a majority who love to feel persecuted and put-upon and paranoid. Put them together in a shouting match and it’s pretty depressing — a friend cited Frank Gorshin in Star Trek, if that reference means anything to you (season 3, Let That Be Your Last Battlefield). “What we got here is failure to communicate,” as Strother Martin says in COOL HAND LUKE. There is no hope anywhere in this shot. You have to look outside the frame.

Pool Sharks

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 24, 2012 by dcairns

Photographic consultant Haskell Wexler — and so we get some striking and not-yet fashionable long lens shots…

STUDS LONIGAN carries its literary origins somewhat heavily, as if producer/screenwriter Philip Yordan really felt the weight of responsibility of adaptation. But it’s a fascinating artifact — Irving Lerner, a talented pulp B-movie specialist with a flair for two-fisted minimalism akin to Jack Webb’s, does his best to create prohibition Chicago out of a few doorways.

As an indie no-budget studio-bound art film, the movie is nicely suis generis, and has genuine merits. “Jerrald” Goldsmith’s rambunctious score tries hard to tie the fragments together (Yordan has gutted James T Farrell’s trilogy and served up his favourite bits with little regard to flow or structure), and the cast sparks moments of excitement. Christopher Knight tries hard in the lead, and when he’s taking his lead from his co-stars, he’s quite good. When he tries to emote along to his voice-over, trumping up facial contortions to accompany each line, he’s awful. But his gang includes Frank Gorshin (ever-morphing between his Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas and Richard Widmark impressions), Robert Casper (great nasal voice, clapped-in mouth, a real character) and Jack Nicholson, who isn’t uncomfortable and outclassed as he appears in Corman’s THE RAVEN, but utterly in command of every scene and moment. The role of young rake seems to suit him.

A lengthy burlesque show scene has Nicholson baring his teeth and bouncing on his seat as a woman walks about the stage in a shiny dress and opera gloves for minutes on end. Never gets dull. Midway through, Lerner cuts to Studs visiting his sexy, lonely former schoolteacher (Helen Westcott), and keeps the bump and grind music going, then tracks in on the drunk Studs and shows the schoolteacher doing the burlesque act, and doing it well, as the real teacher prattles on about Mozart, sound faded way down, and the squiffled Studs psychs himself up to rape her. With flash-cutting between the real and fantasy, the scene reaches quite a frenzy, before mercifully and unexpectedly defusing itself with tenderness. If the movie had more sustained scenes and less voice-over… well, it still wouldn’t have a cinematic structure.

Lerner holds close-ups for minutes on end, turning the lack of production values into a benefit, and slashes together dutch tilts to trump up tension when the actors can’t quite muster it. His Chicago consists of one little Old New York street set and a few bare interiors. Little wonder Wexler’s ideas must have been helpful: throw everything out of focus except one item/actor. (I recently watched the Outer Limits episode The Man Who Was Never Born, shot by Wexler — he was a genius right from the off.)

Lerner’s collaborator on the acclaimed doc MUSCLE BEACH, Joseph Strick, spent his whole career tackling unfilmable literary classics, with debatable success. This was Lerner’s one real attempt at doing the same, but his tiny, unpretentious and edgy thrillers are probably of greater value. Still, as curate’s eggs go, STUDS LONIGAN is endearing, both for its modest merits and for the way it points to a putative sub-genre of cheap classic adaptations (like Welles’ MACBETH, in a way) that never quite managed to come into existence.