Archive for Jane Seymour

No Thanks for the Memories

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 22, 2015 by dcairns

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I remember — that word! — TV play Hauser’s Memory coming on TV when I was a kid. I was interested because I had been a fan of David McCallum in The Invisible Man TV show in which he would disappear and somehow the back of his polo-neck would disappear with him. Maybe it was backless. So, here was another science fiction thing with the Greatest Living Scotsman!

(David McCallum has, in a unique honour, been granted the title of Greatest Living Scotsman even after death, an event which we hope is a long way off, since he has basically not aged since 1955.)

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But there wasn’t much for a little kid in this dour drama about loss of personhood, death, castration and political exploitation and personal betrayal. The only thing I committed to memory were the opening credits, which I remembered as the closing credits, which is apt, because the credits sort of loop back from the last scene to create a perfect Moebius strip. If we’d had a video recorder in the seventies I might still be watching it.

Now look — you’ll hear a lot of loose talk around here about Curt Siodmak beng the idiot brother of the talent Robert S, but I have to give the affable old fellow credit here — allowing for the pseudoscience (an injection of RNA taken from the blenderized brain of a dying scientist allows McCallum to experienced the deceased man’s memories), this is an excellent piece of drama. I lost count of the number of simultaneous, interwoven plotlines that are really one big plot. Let me try to enumerate them —

The Americans (led by LESLIE NIELSEN as SLAUGHTER) and the Russians both want the formula the deceased physicist was working on at the time of his demise. The hope is that McCallum will remember it. But he begins to remember much more, and the mystery of his memory-donor’s life starts coming into focus.

But the late Hauser has needs of his own — he wants to make his peace with his loved ones (including widow Lilli Palmer) and avenge himself upon a Nazi persecutor.

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Seeking to achieve closure in his life, Hauser begins to take over McCallum’s brain, so it becomes a horrifying drama of loss of personality, the sense of no longer being who you are supposed to be. Weirdly enough, we can relate to this. It’s this aspect of the story that allows McCallum to turn in a moving performance that really should have won him awards. He has to play a Jewish biochemist and a German physicist and sometimes both at once or one pretending to be the other (the late Hauser proves to be a shrewd manipulator to further his own agenda).

Boris Sagal (THE OMEGA MAN, another candidate for 70s SF Week) directs, sometimes badly, but the psychedelic editing is quite good — it really would take a Resnais or Roeg to do justice to this idea, but the flash-cutting and fisheye POV shots are pretty effective. Susan Strasberg has a slightly thankless role as Mrs McCallum, Robert Webber gives it the crowning TV movie touch and says “baby” a lot.

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McCallum has memory trouble again in the Christopher Isherwood/Don Bachardy-scripted Frankenstein: The True Story. Fiona and I both saw this as kids. From Invisible Man to sub-Donovan’s Brain guy to a subsidiary monster-maker in this, David McCallum had quite a psychotronic decade (and there was still Sapphire & Steel to come). Slightly de-gayed by TVexecs, the two-parter is still provocative. The film still makes much of the attraction between creator and creature, understandable since Leonard Whiting is Frankenstein and Michael Sarrazin is his handiwork, and taking its cue from James Whale’s monster duology, the film contrasts the appeal of a respectable marriage with the frisson of playing in God’s domain with a male friend.

Like Branagh’s rather anemic movie version, this comes to lusty life in the scenes involving Frankenstein’s lost, then reincarnated love, here played by Jane Seymour. Appearing in Edinburgh recently for the Film Festival (with the movie BEREAVE, which Fiona discovered in her role as submissions editor), Seymour remembered James Mason reading The Times out loud while she was trying to learn her lines, getting to choose her nude body double from a line-up, and accidentally sitting in Ralph Richardson’s chair. “He didn’t say anything, he just circled me, like a dog.

Unlike the Branagh, this has sufficient run-time to explore the story in depth, and invents the new notion of a handsome creation who only gradually deteriorates into scabby monstrosity pockmarked with syphilitic gumma — his rejection by his father thus becomes a bit like an aging lover getting the heave-ho when his youthful bloom fades.

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Whale’s version transposed the first names of Victor Frankenstein  and the stolid Henri Clerval, who became slightly caddish Victor Moritz. This movie transposes the characters, so that Clerval (McCallum) is much more passionate about creating life than Frankenstein is, at first. Rude, sodden, sporting an anachronistic moptop and saying things like “yeah”, McCallum’s Clerval is a hell of a lot more fun than Whiting’s pallid Daniel Radcliffe act. When he dies, it’s a loss to the film, but his brain gets transplanted into the monster so that occasionally his voice echoes out of Sarrazin’s fleshy lips — he even gets the last line (and laugh).

Isherwood and Bacardy have cheekily plundered the Universal classics while claiming to honour Mary Shelley’s original, so we get the blind man, and James Mason as a fruity Dr. Polidori, very much inspired by Ernest Thesiger’s immortal Pretorius, but with crippled hands, a touch pilfered from Hammer’s Peter Cushing vehicles.

In terms of story logic, the script is free and easy, bending the rules whenever doing so will allow a cool scene or idea. When a severed arm Frankenstein has helped amputate grabs him by the wrist, McCallum cries in delight, “It knows you!” (My vote for most fervid line reading of 1973.) A new definition of muscle memory, perhaps. Yet, when McCallum’s brain is reborn in the monster, he suffers total amnesia. A touch inconsistent. Frankenstein teaches the monster to talk, but Mason, using hypnosis, contacts McCallum’s memory, still cradled somewhere within that jagged, scabby brow. A reminder that the myth of hypnosis as memory aid was very much in the air — see also The UFO Incident…

O.D.

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2015 by dcairns

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Too many movies — my memories of Edinburgh International Film Festival have becomes a swirling series of overlays, like the visionary multi-exposure fugues of Paul Clipson, whose MADE OF AIR screened in the Black Box strand. Saturday was the day the movies came out to get me.

On Saturday I saw an old drama, a new documentary, an experimental/performance piece and an In Person event with Jane Seymour. (On Frankenstein: The True Story — “That was the first time I had to look at a line-up of naked women and pick one as my stand-in, saying, ‘That one looks the most like me naked.'”). I had a ticket for a fifth film but I gave it back — my brain was full.

In Person With Jane Seymour featured the actress and powerhouse recounting her near-death experience, and explaining why John Gielgud never stopped working: “I’ve never missed a day on set so if I see my name in a call sheet I know I’ll be alive tomorrow.”

At the climax of IMAGINE WAKING UP TOMORROW AND ALL MUSIC HAS DISAPPEARED, musician and artist Bill Drummond gathers the cinema audience itself into one of his situational sound experiments, making us participants in the film and hence legally entitled to add our names to the credits at the doc’s website.

During TYBURNIA, the Dead Rat Orchestra left the stage during the film and tiptoed up the steeply-raked bleachers of Traverse 1 to freak us out with strange music from behind.

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The inadequate air-conditioning turned THE BRAVE DON’T CRY, a 1952 Grierson-produced drama about a mining cave-in, into a fully interactive experience, as we gasped in asthmatic sympathy with the entombed workers onscreen.

This was all getting too real, so THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT, from the producer of INSIDIOUS, began to seem like a BAD RISK.

Will continue to report on some of my more memorable cinematic encounters over the next week, but will also resume abnormal service with a random smattering of other observations and experiences. Meanwhile, here’s my top ten American films, chosen with a few spare neurons for Scout Tafoya. They are basically movies I can rewatch endlessly — my students will recognize several.

The Adams Family

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2015 by dcairns

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“I feel like I’ve joined a family!” burbled Fiona, who is now a submissions editor at Edinburgh International Film Festival.

“The Adams Family,” suggested Diane Henderson. Mark Adams being the new creative director, you see.

Anyhow, one film Fiona spotted in her viewings was BEREAVE, which got programmed and now she’s hugely looking forward to meeting the filmmakers, Evangelos and George Giovanis, and their stars Malcolm McDowell and Jane Seymour, who are all coming. The latter two are doing an In Person event each. Also In Person: Ewan McGregor, Johnnie To, and Seamus McGarvey interviewing Haskell Wexler, which is unmissable.

Also of interest to me: FUTURE SHOCK! a documentary on 2000AD, the comic book that warped my young mind; seasons on Walter Hill, American TV movies of the seventies (Michael Mann, Steven Spielberg, Tobe Hooper, Sam Peckinpah), and Mexican cinema, featuring a few revivals of classic cine dorado offerings MACARIO and MARIA CANDELARIA.

Fiona and I are equally excited about Neil Innes, whose The Rutles is showing.

I’ve written four reviews for the program this year, on MISERY LOVES COMEDY, IT’S ALREADY TOMORROW IN HONG KONG, THE CHAMBERMAID LYNN and, um, something else. Maybe more on that later.

The long-awaited new Peter Bogdanovich, SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY appears! Which I think used to be listed on the IMDb under the title SQUIRRELS TO THE NUTS, a CLUNY BROWN reference which indicates his heart is in the right place. The cast is a VERY exciting medley of P-Bog favourites, including Tatum O’Neil, Cybill Shepherd, Colleen Camp. Austin Pendleton, Joanna Lumley, with leads Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson and Imogen Poots. I’m going to give it a shot.

COP CAR stars Kevin Bacon but second lead is Shea Whigham, and that’s enough to get me seriously stoked. Whoh!

They’re showing ROAR! That’s the one WTF decision. Otherwise, you get revivals of THE THIRD MAN, WATERLOO, THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123, DREDD (3D), THE BRAVE DON’T CRY and the newly-restored, de-Weinsteined director’s cut of 54. I saw the original release version, about the popular disco for heterosexuals. I’m assuming the new cut will be about 89% less heterosexual otherwise I’m still not going to be satisfied.

Animation: Barry Purves, possibly the best stop-motion artist in the world, is attending with his oeuvre. And from the sublime to Ralph Bakshi: three of his seventies features are screening. Plus Pixar;s INSIDE OUT and three shows of shorts (not enough, in my view).

I always pick a random smattering of the Black Box screenings, which is the experimental strand. I never know what I’m going to get, because it’s not really my area, but I’ve learned to trust the programmers there.

Most exciting, for us: though this is the first time in two years we don’t have a film in the fest, our great friend Colin McLaren, who wrote DONKEYS, does, and it’s the opening film. Robert Carlyle stars and directs with an unrecognizable Emma Thompson in THE LEGEND OF BARNEY THOMSON (see top). More soon…