Archive for J Carroll Naish

Renault Capture

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on September 21, 2015 by dcairns

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DR. RENAULT’S SECRET is a pretty fine 1942 B-movie horror, really — I watched it some time ago as part of my mad, ever-receding quest to see every film illustrated in Dennis Gifford’s Pictorial History of Horror Movies. Finally I got around to showing it to Fiona.

The film deals with a mad scientist (George Zucco) in a French village who has fashioned a man — well, J. Carroll Naish — from an ape, in the best Dr. Moreau style. There’s some boring love interest and inappropriate comedy relief from comedy drunk Jack Norton. The real relief — and surprise — comes when Norton gets offed in the night. Then we get Arthur Shields as a detective, who has a great face for horror movies, and Mike Mazurki, Hollywood’s greatest brute-for-hire.

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Detective Shields

The 4F leading man’s name is Shepperd Strudwick, which cracks me up. He’s credited as John Sheppard, though, so he sounds like a lead, looks like a lead, but can’t attract interest like a lead. And the script sabotages him by having him stand by disapprovingly as poor monkeyman Naish is bullied by the villagers. Why doesn’t he intervene? His character has the same problem as many “heroes” in horror movies, from the worthless bystanders in FRANKENSTEIN (John Boles) to the male leads in the early Cronenberg films — he’s basically irrelevant to the action, and if he were able to intervene effectively, there would be no movie. He’s there so that we can have someone “relatable,” as if audiences were known to prefer impotent bores to sneering mad scientists and shambling ape men.

Naish does quite well — “Noel” the “throwback,” now thrown forward up the evolutionary ladder to the putty-faced level of John Mills in RYAN’S DAUGHTER, is a very sympathetic character, despite his occasional murderings. And though the slightly out-of-shape thesp struggles to convey the athletic prowess of a simian superman, the rather weird, uncanny quality Naish always had — you couldn’t cast him as human beings, really — works well here.

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Zucco’s photo album of his experiments is unfortunately a bit more comical than terrifying.

Every five minutes or so there’s a really striking closeup. Director Harry Lachman, on his last movie, did intermittently beautiful things throughout his career, the most famous being the 1935 DANTE’S INFERNO with its astonishing hellscape (at 51.53).

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Limerickman

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on November 10, 2013 by dcairns

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What with one thing and another and yet another, I haven’t kept you posted on my postings at Limerwrecks, home of the noir and horror limerick. So let’s catch up.

Limerlinks:

CARRY OFF SCREAMING. SWAMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE. Karloff in retreat — the latter is a collaborative piece with Hilary Barta.

WHIP REPLACEMENTTHERE WAS A CROOKED DAN. These are about J. Carroll Naish, who I was sort-of pleased to see getting a shout-out from Orson Welles in My Lunches with Orson. Welles calls Naish a bad actor who was always an absolute delight to see.

THE UNDYING MISTER. This is about Lon Chaney Jnr’s unexplained inability to stay dead. Co-authored with Hilary Barta.

YOU THAW THE HOWL OF THE MOON. Another collab on Lon.

FROSTY THE WOLFMAN. And another.

HUMPED DAY. Horrid one about Naish.

PLOTZ STRUCTURE. Examining the weird shape of HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.

WINED AND CARRADINED. Mocking John Carradine’s drink problem. But it comes from a warm place. THIN WHITE SPOOK. Also pointing out that Carradine is very thin. This may be envy.

KISMET OF DEATH. Karloff never gets scorn or snark.

THE CREATURE WALKS A MONGREL. Karloff’s man-dog transplants sparked a great many rhymes…

But rather than just reading my limericks, go to the site and read everything! Maybe not all in one sitting though. (A better policy is to drop by on a daily basis.)

Things I read off the screen in “The Monster Maker”

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2011 by dcairns

The first “Things I Read” of 2011, and the first 2011 entry in my insane mission to see all the films illustrated in Denis Gifford’s Pictorial History of Horror Movies, the quest known to legend as “See REPTILICUS and Die.”

Not that there’s that much to read off the screen in this movie, but what there is, is choice. The movie is a PRC production (I always think that stands for “Poverty Row Company,” but no) starring Ralph Morgan (the Wizard of Oz’s brother) as a famous pianist, and J. Carroll Naish as a mad scientist obsessed with acromegaly. Obsessed to the point of keeping some in a bottle.

I always think of Naish as a sort of poor man’s Sam Jaffe, which would make him a very poor man indeed, but you have to say this, he gives it his all. He plays this dumb conception of a mad doctor with total conviction. This isn’t anything like as good a movie as DR RENAULT’S SECRET, another movie I discovered via the Gifford book, in which Naish played the experiment. Here, he’s in love with Morgan’s daughter, who resembles his dead wife. She won’t give him a tumble, so he doses Morgan with acromegaly, and then blackmails him for the cure: “You must tell your daughter to be very nice to me.”

Morgan refuses, kills Naish, gets the cure, and returns to his career with no legal consequences. Happy ending!

MAN IS WHAT HIS DUCTLESS GLANDS MAKE HIM — you know, that’s as true today as it was in 1944.

The fun stuff: Naish explaining to the daughter that her father’s career is at end, since not only have his fingers swollen to the size of Cumberland sausages, his appearance is no longer such that concertgoers would be happy looking at him; Morgan’s impersonation of the Elephant Man; and Morgan’s backstory — he’s not the real scientist at all. He took the guy’s place after killing him. This was revenge for the guy stealing his wife. His first reaction to that had been to acromegalize her so that no other man would want her, but she killed herself. Damn.

What’s frustrating, apart from the fact that the film isn’t any damn good, is the way it runs extremely mundane versions of familiar horror movie tropes — the woman with the uncanny resemblance to the dead wife isn’t a reincarnation, it’s just a wild coincidence.

Oh, and there’s a phony gorilla, but when it gets loose, it’s driven back into its cage by a handy German shepherd (a dog, not a Bavarian farmer). I found myself wondering why so many crappy horrors of the 40s feature obviously fake gorillas. Some kind of Gorilla Defamation League might be hypothesized: making great apes look bad. The one time a real gorilla turns up, in John Ford’s MOGAMBO, it is immediately shot (by second unit director Yakima Canutt).

Makeup is by Maurice Seiderman, “the best makeup artist in the world” according to Orson Welles. You can’t, using 1944 technology, successfully turn Ralph Morgan into Rondo Hatton, but he does his best. Director Sam Newfield assists by avoiding closeups for 99% of scenes. How do you think he got to be the most prolific director in Hollywood history? “Gotta get this scene in the bag FAST so I can hit the crap tables, baby! Despite the fact that I’m currently directing something called THE MONSTER MAKER, I feel lucky tonight!”