Archive for Lawrence Huntington

Spring Forward, Fall Back

Posted in FILM with tags , on April 6, 2012 by dcairns

For some reason today’s post is showing as having been published two days ago — we’ve entered a time warp. Which means you need to scroll down to see the thing. Or follow this link.

This Strangler Fellow

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2012 by dcairns

In THE VULTURE, Akim Tamiroff plays a man who can mutate at will into a giant scavenger bird. It all takes place in Cornwall, you see. I remember being disappointed by this film, which might strike you as odd, considering the subject. But nothing could be more desultory than a film about Akim Tamiroff as a Cornish man-bird, made with so little enthusiasm and flair — those involved apparently don’t realize that such a film ought to be fun. And it’s 1967 — cinema is being reinvented! OK, not in Cornwall, but the influences are abroad in the air. To give you an idea of how sad and insipid the film is, the last scene is devoted entirely to hero Robert Hutton (a man who carries a shroud of tedium about him like a medieval miasma) to whoever the leading lady is, just how Tamiroff managed to pull off a phone prank earlier in the film which gave him a false alibi. Something we the audience already know, and which can hardly be of supreme interest in a movie about a GIANT TURKISH VULTURE. The writer-director was Lawrence Huntington. So naturally I sought out more of his work. (To be fair to Huntington, he died the year after making THE VULTURE. But not until November, so no excuse really.)

WANTED FOR MURDER may be the most generic title ever, but it’s there for a reason — to conceal the film’s true individuality, a necessary task given the gay subtext crawling all over it like Toby Maguire. The year is 1946, and the British film industry is experiencing an artistic boom — by its peak, in 1948, creative confidence was even trickling down to lesser talents — it was almost impossible for anybody to make an uninteresting film. Despite a lot of banal detective stuff, WANTED FOR MURDER is pretty fascinating. It stars Eric Portman, fresh from his Glue Man duties in A CANTERBURY TALE, and was written by, well, everyone there was — but the initial adaptation of the source play seems to be the work of Emeric Pressburger. Now, Portman was happily gay, and Powell claims that Pressburger was a bit of a homophobe, despite all the gay actors in the Archers’ films, and the flamboyant and even campy tone of some of them… at any rate, somehow WANTED FOR MURDER has evolved from being a tale of a serial killer, obsessed with his late father who was the public hangman in Victoria’s day, to being an allegory about closeted homosexuality. Portman stalks the streets by night, engaging in brief romances with people he meets under a pseudonym. His doting mother knows nothing, but fears the worst. She urges him to bring a girl home to meet her some time, to settle down. He thinks she’s right, and pursues Dulcie Gray, a nice girl who works in a record store (he has an obsessive passion for classical music).

It’s all kind of right out there, and the detectives hot on Portman’s trail (who really do refer to him as “this strangler fellow”) are a more effective beard for Portman’s “lustmorden that dare not speak its name” than poor sweet Dulcie could ever be. Huntington actually directs with some command of pacing and moments of flair. His career went back to the early thirties and he was obviously a pro, and alert to the interesting stuff going on around him. There’s also the nostalgic feeling of British fairgrounds, the Underground and London coppers, concerts in Hyde Park and all of that. And a weird preponderance of Scottish characters — an Underground employee, a copper, and this poor murderee, Jenny Laird —

The American serviceman is our old friend, spanner-faced Bonar Colleano, another reason to be cheerful.

PS — a Langian Limerick.

Der Sonntag Zwischen-Titel

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on July 18, 2010 by dcairns

“I destroyed a genuine one!” or something…

I was recently telling someone that maybe Italian intertitles are the prettiest, which I’d stand by, but there’s no doubting that the Germans knew what they were up to with cine-typography. This is from HOMUNCULUS, or one episode of it, an influential expressionist serial which survives only in fragments. Typically, the Italians go for beauty at any price, and the Germans go for brute functionality. But both express an underlying IDEA.

Bought this in a fit of madness from a bootleg DVD salesman in Union Square. He did warn me that it was untranslated, and my brain warned me that I don’t speak German, but it was too cheap not to buy.

Olaf Fønss – he’s homuncular and avuncular!

It was all worthwhile since I also got from the same source a copy of a super-rarity illustrated in Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies — Lawrence Huntington’s THE VULTURE, with Oscar Homolka mutating into the titular scavenger. So that’s well worthwhile. Gifford has the film down as a William Castle movie, which seems to be one of his rare-ish factual errors, but I’m psyched to see anything somebody would mistake for a Castle flick. Might be better than a real Castle flick!