Archive for Laurel & Hardy

Dirty States

Posted in FILM, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 2, 2020 by dcairns

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In ALTERED STATES, written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Ken Russell, Dr. Edward Jessup (a name suggesting both Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde) enters a tank of water, doped up on weird Peruvian broth, and emerges as an ape.

In DIRTY WORK, directed by lemme see Lloyd French whoever he might be, Professor Noodle (a name suggesting that which he he is off) fills a tank with weird broth,  possibly Peruvian for all I know, and tries to entice his butler to bathe in them. But before this can happen, Oliver Hardy (for this is a Laurel & Hardy short) falls in and emerges as an ape.

The name of Professor Noodle’s butler is… JESSUP.

The Jessup connection strikes me as significant, given the fact that ALTERED STATES in so many respects is a remake of DIRTY WORK, only with less chimney sweep slapstick. Chayefsky undoubtedly would have seen the L&H film, so he had that in his brain and the whole premise of his script is that nothing is ever lost, all that information is still inside us.

Jessup is frequently pictured STANDING ON THE THRESHOLD.

I’m not aware that Ken Russell was a particular fan of the boys but that’s OK because what’s exciting about the film is what was so displeasing to Chayefsky — Russell’s audio-visual attack comes from a very different direction from Chayefsky’s philosophical science fiction story. Russell’s influences are, in the main, Fritz Lang silents, Busby Berkeley musicals, and bits of Welles and Fellini.

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Here, he’s also merrily sourcing stock footage from Oxford Scientific Films and Fox’s DANTE’S INFERNO and I’m not sure what-all else. Anyone know what the massed ranks of crucifixions are from? I checked SPARTACUS but nope. A shot of twin chargers at a gallop suggested the hallucination from the ’40s JEKYLL where the horses turn into Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner, but it’s not from there — but maybe the shot was SUGGESTED by that sequence, whose surrealism and sonic assault do suggest Russell’s visions and John Corrigliano’s brilliant, bruising score.

Intelligent design by Richard MacDonald: the squawk box Jessup communicates through when he’s in the tank is shaped sorta like the tank. And has a funny face!

Fiona: “I would KILL to see this on the big screen!”

Me: “It’s one of the tragedies of this life that if you kill someone, you are in fact LESS likely to get to see ALTERED STATES on the big screen.”

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“I have nothing to say!”

The Sunday Intertitle: Raw

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on April 14, 2019 by dcairns

Seeing WITH LOVE AND HISSES at Hippfest with an audience and live accompaniment by Jane Gardner was great — it’s nobody’s idea of prime Stan and Ollie, but it’s a perfectly successful laugh-generator on the big screen. The boys are practically a trio in this, with James Finlayson granted a lot of screen time.

Fiona was convinced that Ollie is swearing in the above scene — “You bastard!” she read his lips. The DVD is definitely not sufficiently hi-res to allow me to confirm this.

But I felt sure Ollie mouths the words “Oh shit!” here, when he and his troop, having lost their clothes in a freak bathing and lit match accident, encounter a couple of dames out horse riding. H.M. Walker’s intertitle supplies more palatable dialogue —

(Lots of discretely framed nudity in this one, allowing us to observe how surprisingly buff Stan is in the buff. Ollie plays his sergeant character as very ruddy-faced, but it may just be his natural golfer’s tan, suggests Stephen C. Horne.)

None of which is as striking as the moment in PERFECT DAY, an early L&H talkie, when Edgar Kennedy actually says “Oh shit!” live, on camera, in the miracle of synchronized sound, and apparently nobody noticed in the general hubbub and chaos that is a Hal Roach production.

 

A Letter from Stan, 1 & 2

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC, Theatre with tags , , , , on March 22, 2019 by dcairns

We recorded a couple of minisodes (ugh! that WORD!) for The Shadowcast, relating to our recent Stan & Ollie megasode (deLIGHTful word), United We Fall.

Fiona discovered The Text featured, but to bring it to life we needed a Principle Boy, preferably one with an accent that might pass as similar to that of the young Arthur Stanley Jefferson. Since Stan moved about the UK a lot as a kid, and his eventual adult speech is a bit of a hybrid, we had a fairly loose remit, but opted to search around the area of his birthplace, Ulverston. Here, Naomi Bewsher of Stagecoach Performing Arts Schools, Carlisle and Cockermouth, was our benefactor. She eventually got five lads to record renditions of The Text, and we were supposed to choose one.

Well, we failed — Fiona was enamoured of Joe Campbell-Hillsley’s passionate rendition, whereas I leant towards Evan Low’s more measured delivery. So we compromised, and you get two minisodes for the price of none.

Music by Matt Wand and Marvin Hatley.

Here’s Joe:

And here’s Evan:

And here’s the original full-length megasode:

In strict fairness, I should admit to editing The Text slightly, including combining two drafts (both preserved for posterity by Stan’s dad). But all the words are by young Stan, and all the funny lines are authentic.