Archive for George Melford

Recreeping the Cat

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , on September 8, 2010 by dcairns

So, as previously established, Universal’s first talking horror film, THE CAT CREEPS, is now considered lost. Nevertheless, I have managed to score it off my list of films to see in my sentimental odyssey through all the films depicted in Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies (an odyssey entitled See Reptilicus and Die). How have I done this?

First, by stretching things a little. It’s my contention that a part can, under certain circumstances, stand for the whole. This is how cloning works, after all. THE CAT CREEPS is lost, but not absolutely entirely. A few seconds of footage appears in a Universal comedy short entitled BOO!, where it’s interspersed with clips from NOSFERATU and FRANKENSTEIN and a tiny amount of original material, cobbled together in a supposedly humorous way, with a dreadful nasal voice-over on top, after the school of Pete Smith. Horrible.

So, I’ve seen one minute and forty five seconds of THE CAT CREEPS, minus the soundtrack. Does that count? Yes it does. Here’s why ~

First, ask yourself, have you seen THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS? Or GREED? Possibly you have, but not in the complete form intended by the filmmakers. Nevertheless, you’d still say you had seen those films, right. So, I’ve seen all there apparently is of THE CAT CREEPS. And more — I’ve recreated it.

Below, for the first time anywhere, is all the footage from BOO! cut together in sequence, with the appalling voice-over removed, and all the repeating of shots for pseudo-comic effect deleted. This is, to all intents and purposes and until a full print is discovered in an Estonian insane asylum, Rupert (PHANTOM OF THE OPERA) Julian’s THE CAT CREEPS ~

Enjoy!

Based on all of the above self-serving obfuscation, I can now say I’ve seen THE CAT CREEPS. And so have you!

You can see the strong influence of Paul Leni’s THE CAT AND THE CANARY, of which this is a talkie remake.

Denis Gifford wrote ~

“Hal Mohr photographed, using the great camera crane he had designed for BROADWAY, a 50,000-dollar ‘mechanical marvel’ built by the Llewellyn Iron Works. Camera and man could be swung up, down, laterally or in combination, whilst travelling forward or backward on a motorized truck.” Not all early talkies were static!

This is Lupita Tovar in the Spanish-language version of THE CAT CREEPS (EL GATO SE ARRASTRA? no, they called it LA VOLUNTAD DEL MUERTO, or THE WILL OF THE DEAD MAN), shot at night on the same sets as the Rupert Julian version. George Melford, who also helmed the Spanish CONDE DRACULA, shared directorial duties with Enrique Tovar Avalos. And this version is lost too! As with DRACULA, the Spanish version seems to come with sexier costumes.

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Intertitle of the Week: The White Sheik

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on July 12, 2009 by dcairns

Watching George Melford’s THE SHEIK, which doesn’t seem to really get much love these days. Valentino in a ghutra is an iconic image, but the film itself is not watched. THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE gets a lot more respect, being the work of a recognised auteur, the Irish maverick Rex Ingram, and being a film of genuine seriousness.

THE SHEIK is a frivolous erotic fantasy, if such things can truly be called frivolous, and while the movie-makers are quite aware that the vision of the Middle East they promulgate is a piece of fairy-tale orientalism, the prejudices they espouse are still, I suspect, 100% sincere ~

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Apologies for messed-up image — although my disc plays perfectly, it was weirdly resistant to frame-grabbing.

Still, beautiful titles! You just have time to read the text and then scan the illustration before it’s gone. And the pretty pictures would give illiterate audience members something to enjoy, I guess.

Valentino himself is much more lightweight than I’d expected. He isn’t always blowing smoke out through his nose like in HORSEMEN. (That always makes me think of a scene from Mork and Mindy where Robin Williams reads from a romance novel: “His nostrils flared. Her nostrils flared. Everything flared.”) He’s less iconically camp, more straightforwardly gay-seeming. And he rather lacks the air of danger I expected.

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Indeed, when he smiles, am I alone in thinking… Ray Walston?