Archive for James Whale

Unseen Maniac Proves No Hoax

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on November 10, 2019 by dcairns

Good sub-hed from James Whale and RC Sherrif’s THE INVISIBLE MAN.

Pretty damn suave housecoats on display also.

Watched this tonight with our friend Ali, who remarked on the wild tonal shifts, It’s not just that the film contains both slapstick knockabout and stark sadistic horror, but, as Ali remarked, it doesn’t waste time building up to the horror or lingering on its consequences — it’s just straight on with the comedy, and the bodies still warm.

Gloria Stuart is pretty terrible but it doesn’t matter. William Harrigan, hovering over her shoulder, is on first sight a pretty repulsive specimen of the genus actor, but proves to be perfectly cast. Entirely charmless as a screen presence, he is thrust into horrible situations where he ought to invite our warmest sympathy, but fails to. So that the invisible and very hostile man remains Our Hero, despite his complete lack of admirable attributes.

Note how Mr. Invis, setting Harrigan off bound hand and foot in a brakeless auto, describes lovingly how the fall will shatter his arms, then his neck. Which is then fullsomely depicted in a spectacular model shot, with the added detail that he bursts into flames also, just for jolly.

THE INVISIBLE MAN stars Captain Louis Renault; Old Rose; ‘Mac’ McKay; Clarence; Matilda Thrawn; Honesty Nuttall; Sir Karell Borotyn; Nurgomaster; Casper Guttman 1st; Giacomo the jester; Mrs. Hudson; and Renfield.

Femms Fatale

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on June 15, 2018 by dcairns

Got my Blu-Ray of THE OLD DARK HOUSE from Masters of Cinema!

Stephen Horne and I made a great big video essay for this one — 38 mins! I just couldn’t help myself. Adding to my musings are quotes from various interested parties and the J.B. Priestley source novel, Benighted, performed by ace actors Angela Hardie and Steven McNicoll. I think this is a particularly fun one — DVDBeaver and CineOutsider have been kind enough to call it “wonderful” and “enthralling” — and of course the film is a stone-cold masterpiece.

The Old Dark House [Masters of Cinema] Dual Format (Blu-ray & DVD)

Maids and Monsters

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , on April 21, 2018 by dcairns

Ernest Thesiger’s Dr. Pretorius (OS) tempts Boris Karloff’s monster with a bottle of House of Lords Scotch Whisky in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. I mean, why waste good gin? I guess the publicity slogan for that beverage would have to be “Gets you drunk as a lord.” Although I actually like the House of Lords this week because they’re fucking with Brexit. The Brexiteers are outraged, a lot of people belatedly noticing that we have this antiquated branch of government and it isn’t democratic. Well, I guess that’s it’s purpose, to be undemocratic, to stop democracy propelling us off cliffs. I rather doubt it’s the best way of doing this, but the paralysis it produces, as with America’s three-branch system, CAN be a cause for gratitude sometimes.

Other things noticed in BRIDE: the movie is famously disrespectful to its original, recasting Elizabeth from an American blonde to a brunette English teenager, and dropping the stupid old Baron with the unsightly thing on his neck without explanation. Actor Frederick Kerr had died in the interim from causes unconnected with his unsightly neck-thing, and Pretorius congratulates Henry on having inherited the title, but the absence goes otherwise unremarked. One of my students suggested that at the end of the first film, where he’s drinking a toast to the house of Frankenstein, and all the maids are giggling — they’ve poisoned his champagne.

 

All the pretty, giggling maids have disappeared by the sequel too — replaced by screeching harridan Una O’Connor. Looks like Elizabeth has taken over running the household already…

 

But, despite playing fast and loose with what we would call “series continuity,” the sequel has one delicious call-back I hadn’t noticed before: once the monster learns to speak, his first words to his creator are a very emphatic “SIT – DOWN!” with a downward wave of the hands. Well, in FRANKENSTEIN, the first words we hear Henry speak to his creation are “Come in,” but the second are “Sit down,” with the exact same gesture. The monster is very purposely letting Henry know that the giant tar-spreader’s shoe is on the other foot now.

Another big-screen discovery: the monster’s decision to let Henry live at the end comes out of left field, a change of character seemingly unmotivated by anything. But it was not always thus: as Henry runs off into the night with Elizabeth, he can still be seen in the exploding lab, a startling feat of bilocation ~

(Pretorius and the Bride are on the right in white, the monster is scarcely visible between the two electrical towers, but Henry is vividly pressed against a wall screen left, about to be crushed along with everyone else by the falling roof.)

Henry is one lucky fellow — reanimated after a fatal fall in the first film, re-re-animated under slightly different circumstances in the second, and then saved from exploding by a last-minute reshoot. Universal appear to have been convinced their audience wanted Frankenstein to live. I’m not sure they were right (and I’m sure the crowd would have cheered if Karloff had found time to throttle Una O’Connor). Possibly a third film was already anticipated, for which a mad scientist would be required. Sadly, Colin Clive would have passed away by the time that happened, leaving his character to die as his father had done, vanishing between films, through a crack in the continuity.