Archive for John Carradine

Things Roddy said during House of Dracula

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on May 3, 2016 by dcairns

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Haven’t done one of these for a while. Fiona’s brother Roddy, who has the chromosomal disorder Williams Syndrome, hasn’t been to visit for ages, because he’s no longer really able to travel without disastrous consequences. There’s really very little information about the effect of aging on Williams people, but as Roddy enters his fifties he’s clearly less self-sufficient, more nervous, and his behaviour is more unpredictable and problematic, necessitating more care and less excitement. He still likes the horror movies he grew up with, though, so we took one round to his place in Dundee to view as he was just released from hospital after having a minor collapse.

As usual, Roddy kept up an attentive non-director’s commentary on Erle Kenton’s HOUSE OF DRACULA, apart from when he briefly fell asleep. Fiona and I also interjected.

The movie begins with John Carradine flapping up to the home of Dr. Edlemann (Carradine is, initially, a bat, which makes his self-introduction as “Baron LaForce” seem questionable).

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Roddy: “What’s he doing ? Is he coming downstairs?”

Fiona: “Has Baron Laugh-horse or whatever his name is put the hypnotic vibes on him?”

We asked Roddy how he would react to John Carradine’s Dracula in real life. He takes a hard line on Romanian immigrants ~

Roddy: “I would say, ‘Get back to your grave where you came from!'”

When Dracula announces he wants to be cured of his vampirism, I took a poll as to whether he should be trusted:

Fiona: “I’d trust him, the way Carradine plays him.” Roddy: “I wouldn’t.”

Roddy: “Two nurses, hmm! There were lots of nurses where I’ve been.” Roddy likes nurses.

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Larry Talbot: “Do you believe that a man can be transformed into an animal?” Roddy: “I do!”

Larry Talbot: “Do you think he can cure me?” Roddy: “Of course he can, Mr. Werewolf Man! He’ll give you a cure for your werewolf impression.”

Dr. Edlemann: “Siegfried! Siegfried!” Fiona: “Chickpea? I’m hearing everyone’s name wrong!”

Roddy: “But where’s the monster? Hiding somewhere?”

Fiona: “So how come he hasn’t become a skeleton?” Roddy: “Don’t ask me, I’m not a doctor!”

Roddy: “Where’s he going?”

Fiona: “He didn’t want to be cured of vampirism, you were right!” Roddy: “YES.”

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Fiona: “He’s transfusing himself with vampire blood? Surely that means he’s going to turn into a vampire?” Me: “Precisely. The one flaw in his plan.”

Me: “And that’s the end if Dracula. HE won’t be back in the next film of the series. We can be quite sure of that.”

Fiona: “Oh, we’re having a weird… thing!”

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Roddy: “What are they doing now?”

Dr. Edlemann’s cat, sensing his new vampiric nature, hisses at him. The doc throws a shoe at it. Roddy: “Missed!”

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Fiona: “Mrs. Overall!”

Roddy: “Was that Frankenstein did something there?”

 

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Hitler

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on December 24, 2015 by dcairns

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…or indeed Heydrich, in HITLER’S MADMAN, an uneven but fascinating propaganda flick from the great Douglas Sirk. This week’s Forgotten concludes our Sirk season to accompany the Lincoln Centre’s magnificent New York retrospective.

Falling Stahr

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 1, 2015 by dcairns

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Reading Elia Kazan’s memoirs, which include his diary of making THE LAST TYCOON, his last film, it’s easy to see why the film came out oddly. Kazan’s mother was dying, and he experienced an unsettling outpouring of hate and bitterness from her as she went — he could not entirely convince himself that this was merely the result of her illness. So he was more than a little distracted. I rather hate Kazan for political reasons, but I couldn’t help but pity him here — and he wasn’t asking me to.

He complained that screenwriter Harold Pinter had shortchanged him on the love story, and that Pinter had failed to provide a usable ending. Indeed, though Pinter’s usual approach is to leave big gaps for us to read between the lines, this script is so spacious it feels less complete than F. Scott Fitzgerald’s unfinished source novel. (This is one of the great late films — it’s director’s final movie, based on a posthumous and incomplete book, featuring a host of aging Hollywood talent including Tony Curtis, Ray Milland, Robert Mitchum and Dana Andrews. The hero even has an unfinished house.) Pinter, not much of a romantic, ALWAYS seems to scrimp on the love stories, and DeNiro can be a limp, ungenerous lead in love scenes. As for the finale, no doubt Fitzgerald’s brace of assassination schemes was judged too melodramatic, but what Pinter substitutes is curiously UNdramatic. Kazan shot his star/Stahr Robert DeNiro (the movie is an “interesting” blend of new talent and old) repeating a speech from earlier, shuffled into a suggestive montage, and lets his leading man wander into a darkened sound stage for his fadeout. It has the SENSE of an ending without being an ending.

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If the movie doesn’t end, it doesn’t seem to begin or middle either — it just drifts. Actors turn up — Jack Nicholson makes an amazingly late appearance, and livens things up a bit — or disappear. It’s very enjoyable to hear Mitchum and Curtis speak Pinter — you still get a sense of the playwright’s weird rhythms. Vincent Canby, praising the film, remarked that Ingrid Boulting, DeNiro’s love interest, alternates between an eerie certainty and a clueless inability to say a line. That’s about right — I’m assuming poor Kazan wasn’t much help to her, given his state of mind. A Spiegel discovery — neither Kazan nor Pinter wanted her — she could have carried it off with more guidance — her good moments are evidence enough of this. She was rather good in THE WITCHES ten years earlier — here, she’s being “introduced,” which is usually the kiss of death to a career.

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Fitzgerald had written a striking entrance for his love interest, floating on a disembodied prop statue head through a flooded studio. By the time Kazan got around to filming it, it must have seemed like second-hand Fellini. I actually wonder if the scene in the book could have inspired FELLINI CASANOVA the same year. But I doubt FF ever read the book. It is kind of nice that the head is carrying Angelica Huston, daughter of John, and Ingrid Boulting, step-daughter of Roy. The film, if it is a film, is a decided clash between old generation and new.

Pinter’s sense of period Hollywood is shaky — early on, John Carradine, sepulchral studio tour guide, brags that he’s worked for the studio since “way back in the silent days.” Way back when you were a young man of sixty-five, John? Jeanne Moreau makes an implausible thirties star, and places impossible stresses on the wrong words: “What’s wrong with my frigging hair?” (My normal hair is fine, but the hair I have specifically for frigging with, that’s all out of whack.) Having invented fictitious movie stars, the film starts referring to real ones halfway through, which is suddenly distracting. Maurice Jarre’s music is weak. Kazan’s blocking and cutting is sometimes choppy and chaotic. As with Jack Clayton’s THE GREAT GATSBY, the adaptation leaves you rather wondering what the book was about. And yet… it’s all rather watchable, flowing by in a distracted manner. Nice clothes, nice-looking people (Theresa Russell squints and grins attractively), nice locations. And Tony Curtis as an aging matinee idol speaking in Pinteresque non-sequiturs — that tickles me.

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“I love her. She’s my wife.”

“I know.”

THE LATE SHOW — The Late Films Blogathon will be running all week.

 

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