Archive for giallo

The Laughing and/or Frightened Woman

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on September 27, 2012 by dcairns

The original title is FEMINA RIDENS which translates as THE LAUGHING WOMAN, but the excellent restored DVD from Shameless Cinema goes with an English title of THE FRIGHTENED WOMAN, a dull phrase which fails to intrigue and has no music to it.

But by whichever name you call it, the movie — an eye-popping bit of gleeful mod cinema sadism — is the subject of this week’s final installment of the Forgotten Giallo series at The Daily Notebook, perhaps stretching a genre definition further than it can go, but what are you going to do? I’d simply suggest you head over there and get your eyes popped.

Festival Fizzle

Posted in FILM, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2009 by dcairns

5106_562076789291_284001094_3678676_314052_n

Edinburgh. Photo by Chris B.

Essentially a limp rag, I contemplate the end of this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival largely from outside. I head that Johanna Waegner, a student from my film department at Edinburgh College of Art, has won the Scottish Short Documentary Award supported by Baillie Gifford, for her film PETER IN RADIOLAND, which is excellent news. The last day of the event is also The Best of the Fest, which translates into “what prints do we still have knocking about that we can show again?” But sometimes these films really ARE among the best, so don’t think I’m knocking any.

I’m feeling a bit silly because I slagged off the science in MOON, and it turns out there really IS something called Helium3 which you use for fusion power, and it’s to be found on the moon in great abundance. We could potentially power civilisation for thousands of years, cleanly, if we could harness it. I do slightly blame the filmmakers for inspiring my disbelief with the line “the energy of the sun, harvested from the dark side of the moon,” which does seem rather counter-intuitive. Helium3 is created by the impact of the sun’s rays on the lunar surface, so the dark side isn’t where I’d go look for it. I suspect that the director, who is the artist formerly known as Zowie Bowie, just wanted to have the phrase “dark side of the moon” in his film.

Weather was outstanding, in a weird way, throughout the fest. Intermittent showers were nuked by brilliant sunshine that had me slapping the old factor 30 0nto my pallid Scottish skin. The heat became so intense even festival director Hannah McGill bared her legs, as beautifully slender and white as noodles. Then a fog descended with a thump, making the city look like a glass that had been breathed on.

Shadowplayer and filmmaker Paul Duane passed through town, very briefly, and we touched base over chili at the Filmhouse. Paul told me an excellent ALIEN story which I must remember to pass on to you.

5106_562076749371_284001094_3678668_6856870_nThe back of my neck gets to meet Roger Corman, who signs my copy of How I Made A Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime, one of the finest movie-making books ever committed to paper. Unfortunately, in an understandable hurry (he’s 83) he signs it “Pen Emm”. Still, it was extremely gracious of him to do that much, and I’ll now treasure my first edition even more.

Corman’s tribute ended with a screening of the explosive BLOODY MAMA. It had been rumoured that the festival heads hadn’t realised Corman had been here before, with the same film, in 1970, but on this occasion a brochure from the 1970 show was produced, along with two tickets, and presented to the Great Man.

5106_562076759351_284001094_3678670_2024588_n

Interviewed Joe Dante the same day, which was an utter pleasure, and will be editing our conversation down this week to produce a consumable literary good out of it. Shadowplayer Chris B was houseguest for the week, and he snapped me and Joe together, smiling blurredly.

Attendance was UP this year.

Went back and saw PONTYPOOL a second time, enjoying Bruce MacDonald’s Q&A, the audience’s extremely vocal enthusiasm, and Fiona’s pleasure at the film, which I’d avoided telling her anything about (except, “It’s not Welsh. It’s Canadian.)

After that, we grabbed a cab with filmmakers Jamie and Talli and Johanna and managed to gain access to the closing party, held in a huge abandoned church. Had time for one drink and some quality mingling before being ushered out onto the street, where a man kept falling over. I’m no expert, but drink may have been involved. It’s generally best if I don’t stay long at these kind of things, since the concept of free drink appeals to two aspects of my Scots makeup, the thrift and the alcoholism. I remember one party in Portobello Funfair which degenerated into a FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS trip-out sequence, ending in myself being adopted by a tribe of fire eaters. At one point I found myself arm-wrestling a man covered in gold paint. It’s quite an experience to arm wrestle someone without actually touching them (we were at opposite ends of a five-foot table), but it made for a vivid memory.

Today the only films really calling to me are CRYING WITH LAUGHTER because I know and like the people involved, and GIALLO, because Argento is Argento, even if he’s not really anymore. But I have quite a bit of life to catch up on so I don’t know if I’ll make it. By the time I post this, today will be yesterday anyway…

What a Shocker!

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2008 by dcairns

Warning: this post contains what the MPAA calls pervasive language.

The mystery film from which the picture-quotes came is pretty obscure: it’s an Edgar Wallace Mystery Theater presentation called CLUE OF THE NEW PIN.

Edgar Wallace was an amazingly popular British thriller author in the twenties and thirties. As prolific as he was successful, he churned out all kinds of “shockers” — at one point it was estimated that a quarter of all books sold in the UK were by Edgar Wallace. Can this be true?

Wallace’s books were popular with the movies immediately — there’s a somewhat well-known film of his DEAD EYES OF LONDON starring Bela Lugosi, and Wallace even directed a couple of adaptations himself. His books are short on characterisation and nuance, long on suspense and action — they play neatly into the B-movie format (though some of the best Bs do have sophisticated characterisation and subtleties of all kinds). Wallace was eventually invited to Hollywood to work on the screenplay of KING KONG, but died soon after arriving. It’s been suggested that he hadn’t written a word of the script at the time of his death, but producer Merian C. Cooper kept his credit on the film because his name was box office.

Wallace adaptations faded from view somewhat in the ’40s and ’50s, then suddenly surged back, with two simultaneous series of films. In West Germany, the popular genre of krimi films most frequently derived from Wallace-penned sources. A clear fore-runner of the Italian giallo, these pulpy crime thrillers, with horror movie elements, were huge in Germany and mostly unseen elsewhere. Fritz Lang’s final film, THE THOUSAND EYES OF DR MABUSE, fits right into this genre — krimi maestro Harald Reinl directed two sequels to it.

At around the same time, British cinemas saw a series of “second features” — ie, B-movies, updated from Wallace novels. Cheaply and quickly made, they used new talent (“New talent works cheap,” — Roger Corman) and relied on Wallace’s name and expert plotting rather than star power. The films were then re-packaged for US TV as The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theater.

The link between CLUE OF THE NEW PIN and our last Clues feature, GIRL IN THE HEADLINES, is the presence of James Villiers, cast once again as a fey television personality. But here he’s actually the hero, and he’s apparently not meant to be gay, though the way he proposes marriage to the leading lady after meeting her twice would ordinarily make me suspicious.

We begin with a creepy bust of Edgar W looming from studio fog to the sound of some superb Bondian music by The Shadows– I don’t know if it’s an original composition but I suggest Hank Marvin should immediately retitle it The Mystery of the Twanging Guitar. It’s the last hint of modernity here, as we promptly plunge into a 1930s universe transplanted wantonly to 1961 via Merton Film Studios.

The story is a classic locked room mystery with a genuinely smart solution which, unfortunately, we learn half an hour before the end. And since the characters are wafer-thin chipboard effigies there’s not much chance of our keen interest surviving the revelation, so the whole thing trundles to an abrupt conclusion. But Villiers is a joy to behold.

As promised, my James Villiers story. I’ve no idea if it’s true, and I don’t want to be done for slander or libel or blogamy, so names will be changed to protect the guilty.

Villiers, according to this overheard anecdote, is appearing in a movie helmed by unacclaimed maestro Michael Victor (not his real name), director of trashy British comedies and trashy American thrillers. James V is waiting to do his scene when Herr Director appears on the set at the start of the day.

“Good morning Michael!” says a young actress, brightly.

“It’s MISTER VICTOR to you,” snaps the director of DEATH HOPE (not its real title), “and I hope your performance in front of the cameras today will be better than your performance in bed last night.”

At which point the heroic Villiers draws himself up to his full height and intones, “MISTER VICTOR, you are a dreadful cunt and I’m not going to work for you anymore.” And walks off.

Panic. Villiers’ part is unfinished. They need him. Worse, somebody remembers that he’s part of the English aristocracy, not short of a few quid, and he really doesn’t care if he gets blacklisted for breaking his contract. A panic meeting is called. Villiers begins by getting on the phone to his agent.

“Hello? Yes, I’m sitting here with that dreadful cunt Michael Victor. I’m walking off his awful film and you must back me.”

Pleading ensues. Apologies are tended. Feelings massaged. Finally, Villiers concedes, “Alright, I’ll finish your awful film, but THAT MAN is not to speak to me again.”

Victor finishes the film by conveying his directions to Villiers through an intermediary: “Mr. Victor asks if you could possibly…” etc, replied to loudly by Villiers, “Yes, you can tell the old cunt that’s alright.”

There aren’t that many stories of actors avenging themselves on nasty film directors — Robert Mitchum vs. Josef Von Sternberg is the best equivalent I know, but I actually feel a bit sorry for Sternberg. That’s not really possible with the director of THE NAUGHTY LADY and THE ROCK KILLER (not their real titles) so we can enjoy it with a clear conscience.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 362 other followers