Archive for Kenneth Anger

It rolls

Posted in Comics, FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2022 by dcairns

Remarkable that I’d never seen THE BLOB since (a) I’ve seen the remake (b) I’ve seen a comic strip detailing the production of the made-for-TV sequel (c) I’ve read The Talking Blob, the Cracked magazine pardy (d) I’ve heard the theme tune and (e) I’m an Olin Howland completist.

Howland is great value in his brief appearance before he gets ingested by the titular jelly. Wish they’d written him more lines. And spelled his name right. Other notes —

Burt Bacharach, the most distinguished contributor not counting “Steven McQueen” and Howland, receives no credit. His song, written with Mack David, ascribes powers of creeping, leaping and flying to the title character, yet all we ever see it do is sluggishly roll.

Director Irvin S. Seaworth Yeaworth Jr has real trouble framing conversations so you can see the principles, and is content to do quite long scenes without visible faces. And not in a good way.

The gorgeous, lifelike colour by Deluxe is SUPERB. It’s not as if the film is beautifully photographed, but it’s BRIGHT, and that’s enough for the colour to really get in amongst things, seep into everybody and everything, and then glow out of them with radioactive effulgence. Colour graders take note, this is what ’50s Deluxe is supposed to look like.

McQueen is a bit uncontrolled, but charismatic and interesting, at one point interrupting himself, since no one else will, doing that selfoverlapping dialogue thing pioneered by Jerry Lewis.

The movie is as sluggish as its monster, with McQueen boldly trying to inject some energy into the barely-proceedings, and his leading lady, Aneta Corsaut, hungrily leaching it out with every moment of screen time. The other supposedly ebullient teenagers are dull, including the one named “Mooch,” who ought, with that name, be some kind of comedic Shaggy type. But the film is sympathetic to them, it’s a rather sweet piece of pro-teen propaganda wrapped up in a rampaging extraterrestrial protoplasm thriller.

Hats off to visual effects artist Bart Sloane, a veteran of religious films (which must need a lot of effects, when you think about it, and for not a lot of money). I like to think he worked on the Jesus film that got mailed to Kenneth Anger accidentally and wound up featuring in SCORPIO RISING. Sloane pulls off every crazy thing the script calls for, including having the blob ingest a diner, then get electrocuted, set fire to and frozen. True, he pulls that off mainly by doing a painting of it, and by having actors react and say things like “It’s on fire now.” But that is adequate to the film’s flimsy purpose. Pushing jelly through photographs of sets and locations is a MARVELOUS technique, and I want to try it myself. For maximum effect, I would do it in a film where none of the characters are aware there’s a constant blob seeping into the room with them. Maybe a Terence Rattigan adaptation.

A mystery wrapped in another religious film: apart from THE 4D MAN and DINOSAURUS (rhymes with rhinoceros), director Seaworth made very little, but in 2004, the year of his death, he came out of what seems to have been 47 years of total inactivity, perhaps frozen at the North pole, to make a short film, THE JORDAN EXPERIENCE, under the name “Shortless Yeaworth.” Starring Pope John Paul II.

Just had a look on YouTube, you know, in case. The film isn’t there, but all the rushes are, dated 2000.

But why was he Shortless? I know it’s warm in Jordan, but you have the Pope’s feelings to consider.

Fact-Checking Hollywood Babylon II

Posted in FILM, literature, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2019 by dcairns

I picked up a second-hand copy of Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon II for 50p. Now I have the set.

Kevin Brownlow quoted to me Anger’s answer to the question, “How do you do your research?” “Mainly by mental telepathy.” And so it has become sadly fashionable to debunk Anger’s investigations speculations lies, as in the commendable You Must Remember This podcast. Well, I never saw a bandwagon I didn’t want to jump on, even at the risk of upsetting the applecart, so I thought I’d have a go at fact-checking Anger using his own methods. Tuning my mental aerial to UHF, I leafed through the sordid pages of the discounted scandal sheet, and attempted to pick up Corrections from Beyond. This is what I come up with:

Page 96: “Meanwhile, back on d’Este Drive, left with a lonely libido in his spacious hacienda, along with his python-mistress, Elsie, a half dozen bed-trained dobermans, a talking macaw named Copulate, zoo-keeper Lionel [Atwill] maintained a rigidly disciplined schedule as a cog in the factory-studio wheel during the week.”

THE TRUTH: Yeah, none of that happened.

Page 127: “During production of Rebel without a Cause, James Dean was host to a thriving colony of crabs.”

THE TRUTH: There is no such film as REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. The sentence should probably read, “During production of A THRIVING COLONY OF CRABS, Dean Jones was host to a raven without a caw.” Or maybe “During production of THE HOST, crabby Jim Dale was cause of a rebel colony, or craved a threnody.” Or maybe it shouldn’t be there at all.

Page 185: “After a three-year absence, [Bobby Driscoll] returned to the screen in 1958, in a B-programmer–Bernard Girard’s The Party Crashers. By a curious coincidence, his co-star was the lobotomized Frances Farmer, making her benumbed comeback after sixteen years away from the movies.

THE TRUTH: it’s hardly a “curious coincidence” that two actors happen to appear in the same film. Is it a curious coincidence that WHITE HOUSE DOWN co-stars Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx? In fact, my telepathy tells me that’s probably the film Anger was thinking of. Anyway, Frances Farmer never had a lobotomy, and by a curious coincidence, THE PARTY CRASHERS also stars Doris Dowling, Denver Pile and Onslow Stevens. Uncanny, isn’t it?

Page 235: “Shapely blond Carole Landis rose to stardom in Hal Roach’s One Million B.C. in which she played a primitive cavewoman. her 1948 Fourth-of-July suicide, provoked by unrequited love for Rex Harrison, caused a hullaballoo and a half for Mr. and Mrs. Moviegoer.”

THE TRUTH: Carole was a blonde, not a blond, and the cavewoman she portrayed for Roach, far from being primitive, was really a quite sophisticated troglodyte by the standards of the time (1940). Rex Harrison did not appear in the picture. Nor do George Moviegoer and his wife Ethel (nee Theatregoer). Landis’ tragic suicide cannot properly be called a “Fourth-of-July” affair since I doubt any festive tie-in was intended and anyway it occurred the following day.

Anger tastefully has a whole chapter on suicides. On the page opposite Landis, we get the following:

“A large quantity of sleeping pills had cured [Dorothy Dandridge] of her amnesia.”

THE TRUTH: Dorothy Dandridge did not suffer from amnesia, which cannot be treated with sleeping pills anyhow. I think the word Anger is groping for is “insomnia.” I think possibly it’s Anger who’s suffering from amnesia, or maybe aphasia.

Page 312: “[…] Claudette Colbert who was said to be among the first to advise the President to invade Grenada–she was far from delighted at the prospect of an island full of Reds so near to her palatial Barbados estate.

THE TRUTH: No such person as Claudette Cobert ever existed. Anger is evidently thinking of British actor Claude Hulbert (pictured). Though Hulbert never actually invaded Grenada, he was famous for his fussiness about being filmed from the correct side. Whole sets had to be rebuilt to avoid catching him from an unflattering angle. The most famous instance of this was on HEAVEN’S GATE (1980), where an entire western town had to be razed to the ground because it was facing the wrong way. This was all the more remarkable because Hulbert was not cast in the film, but perfectionist director Michael Cimino was taking no chance of offending the powerful star, who died in 1964.

The Sunday Intertitle: Fifty Shades Dorker

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on September 9, 2018 by dcairns

More Borzage… THE CIRCLE is a drawing-room comedy, I guess, set in Hollywood England. A very young Joan Crawford appears briefly (Borzage would go on to have a fling with her, but didn’t everyone?). Eleanor Boardman is top-billed but Creighton Hale is the true lead — without his usual glasses, but with a monocle, which doesn’t have quite the same Harold Lloydian effect. Hale (SEVEN FOOTPRINTS TO SATAN) is the man Kenneth Anger accused of having sex with a goat on screen, but he definitely wasn’t talking about this film. It’s about fidelity and marriage and asserting one’s manhood by fending off one’s wife’s suitors, which isn’t the kind of “romance” that really suits Borzage, so far as I can see.

It takes Hale the whole movie to stand up to his competitor, and about half the movie to even emerge as the protagonist.

Borzage is distinctive because he was able to pursue a very particular vision and tone, defying reality like Baron Munchausen in pursuit of a dream of love. He had a particular gift for the gestures and expressions of flirtation and first attraction. This delirious romanticism inspires most of his best films, though any strong emotion could serve him well. Looking at love in decay, at the stuff that traditionally happens AFTER the happy ending, is not his bag at all. Which means that the two adulterous couples in the film, who AREN’T supposed to win our good wishes, are somehow more compelling that the leading man’s plight.

Visually, the film is consistently gorgeous, with every exterior a magic hour extravaganza of hazy backlight.


THE CIRCLE, Warner Archive edition, was a gift from a reader but I’m afraid I forget who! Thank you anyway, I got around to watching it eventually!