Archive for George Coulouris

Film Directors with their Shirts Off: The Enormity Of It All

Posted in FILM, literature, Radio, Theatre with tags , , , , , on January 16, 2013 by dcairns

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Well, we’ve already seen him with his trousers down. Now as it must to all men, the time comes to see him with his shirt off. John Houseman gives us a swift verbal picture of what we’re missing ~

“He said he had been working all night and when I arrived he was still in his bath — a monstrous, medieval iron cistern which, when it was covered at night with a board and mattress, served them as a marriage bed. Orson was lying there, inert and covered with water, through which his huge, dead-white body appeared swollen to gigantic proportions. When he got up, full of apologies, with a great splashing and cascading of waters, I discovered that his bulk owed nothing to refraction — that he was, in reality, just as enormous outside as inside the tub which, after he had risen from it and had started to dry himself, was seen to hold no more than a few inches of liquid lapping about huge, pale feet.”

From Unfinished Business.

“He looks like Tiny Tears,” says Fiona. “He’s got a body like Tiny Tears.”

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George Orson Welles Tiny Tears.

Coincidentally, we listened to Welles’s radio version of Dracula via YouTube, which goes like a train and is very spooky to boot. Funny how, in eschewing the languorous pace of the Lugosi, it kind of anticipates the bracing abruptness of the Hammer version. It does borrow the curtain call speech from the Universal version. This one is so fast it omits the brides of Dracula and Renfield altogether, but beefs up Mina’s part to make her a proper heroine and give Agnes Moorehead a chance to get her hysteria out again. Welles as Drac sounds like his JOURNEY INTO FEAR heavy played too slow, sonorous and powerful, but as Dr Seward he’s really great, adding a sense of authentic terror to the piece. The neurotic fervor of George Coulouris’s Jonathan Harker redoubles the effect (even with savage pruning, you can’t escape Stoker’s messy multiplying of protagonists!)

Thanks to RWC for the Welles skin.

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The Line He Was Born To Say

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on March 26, 2012 by dcairns

“I’ve always had a suppressed desire to see a grave opened up… especially at night. It’s exciting.”

Peter Lorre in THE VERDICT.

This was Don Siegel’s first film as director, and Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet’s last together. Siegel noted with amazement that Greenstreet was always on time, letter-perfect, knew his lines and everyone else’s, whereas Lorre didn’t even know which studio he was in — and yet they were magnificent together.

Very nice mystery with top smarm from George Coulouris. The look is more Warner house style than Siegel grit, with striations of glossy black shadows and fog fog fog — Hollywood England with a German expressionist tilt. I’d seen it years ago on VHS, so I was keeping half an eye on Fiona, who hadn’t, to see if the twist ending would work. It did. “Oh, I don’t want Peter Lorre to be the killer, he’s too much fun!” Is that a spoiler? Watch it and find out!

Buy: The Verdict (1946)

“What bitch?”

Posted in FILM, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2010 by dcairns

Even though I am and will always be a huge Richard Lester fan, I would have to say that Rita Moreno is the principle reason for watching THE RITZ, directed by Lester in 1976 from Terrence McNally’s play. Not that it’s a bad film at all, it preserves the tight farce structure of the play, apart from a redundant opening-out at the very start, which does at least give us a George Coulouris cameo in which his character’s dying words set the plot in motion — at last George gets a CITIZEN KANE of his own, only his KANE plays in a gay New York bathhouse.

Jack Weston is a Cleveland businessmen (“I’m in garbage.”) on the run from his mobster brother in law (Ben Stiller’s dad Jerry) who hides out in what should be the last place anybody would look for him. The Ritz is a grand, multilevel set by Philip Harrison, projecting an aura of splendour even if the windows are boarded up and the partitions fall down at embarrassing moments. The movie’s action plays on the potentially off-colour idea — a comedy of mistaken identities in a gay sauna — while keeping all actual sexual activity offscreen/stage, with the only kiss being a hetero-on-hetero Italianamerican family bonding moment, given a spicy undercurrent and then swiftly undercut. So there’s a curious innocence about it all, which also comes from the movie’s pre-AIDS environment, where jokes about weekly blood tests and lines like “You’re lucky if that’s all you catch,” are meant to amuse rather than chill. The posters of young, departed movie stars, carry an air of melancholy which the strenuous knockabout does its best to dispel.

I had half an idea worked up about this being an interesting double feature to play with DIE HARD, but I was actually dreaming when I had the notion, so I’m no longer sure how it went. I guess the way Weston talks to himself as he flees from one level of the building to another is part of it. He has an excuse: he’s in a play and he almost knows it. I always choked slightly on Bruce Willis’s first monologue.

There’s also the progressively more disarrayed appearance of both characters, with Willis’s iconic darkening vest paralleled by Weston’s disintegrating disguise (Lester, bald since the age of 19, is always amused by toupees: Weston’s gets ripped in two early on) and steam-shrunken suit. Fiona declared several times that he looked like a cartoon, and he gets more and more cartoonish as the film strips him of his certainties.

I guess both protags are displaced blue-collar guys thrust into an effete multistorey world and imperiled by organized hoods. But there’s no equivalent of F Murray Abraham’s splendid camping, Treat Williams’ falsetto-voiced detective, or of course Rita Moreno’s delusional cabaret singer, Googie Gomez. On the other hand, Lester’s film has fewer explosions.

Gomez was a party piece worked up by Moreno who inspired the whole play/movie. Her total conviction of her own megatalent, and her multiple inadequacies as a performer combine to make her a very likable and funny grotesque. And she’s funny in specifically female ways which should do a lot to eradicate any arguments about “why women aren’t funny,” which still surface occasionally although nowadays generally spewed from the mouths of repulsive contrarian dipshits like Christopher Hitchens. Moreno is hysterical.

The old lady doing the accounts is Bessie Love, silent star (INTOLERANCE, THE MYSTERY OF THE LEAPING FISH.)

Lester, so far as we know a confirmed heterosexual, could have been on shaky ground here, like Donen directing STAIRCASE, but fortunately he lets McNally guide him, and anyhow the play is entirely devoid of self-loathing, self-flagellation and self-abuse. Casting British comedy faces like Peter Butterworth and Leon Greene is potentially dodgy, as they remind us that we’re on a sound stage at Twickenham Studios, but they’re welcome presences anyway. Is the movie is perhaps a little too afraid of letting any actual eroticism into the mix? Perhaps, but then it has a Felliniesque affection for the hopefuls and hopelesses of low-grade entertainment, and their inability to project the kind of sexual charge they aim for (Moreno is  mistaken for a drag queen; “those now you see it, now you don’t, go-go boys” are pale and hairless geeks) is observed with unstated pathos.

THE RITZ  is a nice way to pass an hour and a half, even if it never even tries to transcend its stagebound origins.

The Ritz