Archive for Le Golem

Reflect on Me

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , on February 2, 2017 by dcairns


Shambolically late with the latest Forgotten, which should by rights have appeared last week, but I’ve been busy with another piece for MUBI which you’ll be able to read soon, and with video work for Criterion and Masters of Cinema and teaching and whatnot.

The year I was born some guy I never heard of made a film of a book I would become very keen on years later… LE GOLEM, here.


Pictorial History in the Making (Part 1)

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2009 by dcairns


Shadowplayers Douglas and Brandon have asked exactly which films in Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies remain for me to view, before I have completed my centuries long “See REPTILICUS and die” completist quest. Well, there are a LOT of pictures in that book. A complete list might exhaust all our various patiences, but I’ll start typing and see how far I get before ennui sets in ~

THE VANISHING LADY, on page 19, two stills of Georges Melies transmogrifying a nice lady into a skeleton.

UNDRESSING EXTRAORDINARY, page 20, R.W. Paul movie from 1901 with a skeleton on strings. It’s on the BFI disc so I can see this right now!

THE FAIRY OF THE BLACK ROCKS, same page, a 1910 Pathé skeleton flick. Looks nice, but appears to be a lost film, which means I don’t technically have to see it, but I can dream it.

WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST, page 23, Bert I. Gordon (AKA B.I.G.). The Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment of this is on YouTube, I think. Close enough for me. (NB, It’s not, but Douglas Noble has provided an AVI.)


War of the colossal man-boobs.

EQUINOX, same page. I’ve seen most of the stop-motion scenes on YouTube, which might actually DO. But it’s easy to get, so I will, sometime.

THE GIGANTIC DEVIL, another Melies. Seen tons of G.M., but somehow almost none of the ones Gifford cites.


“Not yet Balaoo!”

BALAOO THE DEMON BABOON, 1910, France, on page 26. This is a publicity illustration so I’m not sure it counts — it’s not a still, it’s a drawing. And who knows if the movie even exists anymore? Research online reveals: “At least some footage apparently exists in Ottawa archives and at the Library of Congress.” Hmm, BALAOO is going to be tricky…

THE MERRY FROLICS OF SATAN, Melies, same page. Think I’ve maybe seen this one, or a big extract.

DR RENAULT’S SECRET on page 27. At least this one is pretty easy to get. I think.


Page 29, THE SNAKE GIRL AND THE SILVER HAIRED WITCH looks real good. Japanese film produce by Daiei, no directorial credit given. Turns out to be the guy who did most of the Gamera movies.

Page 30, still of a giant skull licking Georges Melies’s back. Doesn’t say what it’s from! If I get the Flicker Alley box set one day and just watch everything on it, I’m going to consider him DONE.

This proves to be LA PHRENOLOGIE BURLESQUE, identified with the aid of artist Dave McKean, who based a print on Gifford’s still. The movie is lost, so I have to recreate it so I can watch it.

THE VAMPIRE, a 1913 vamp film with Alice Eis, looks enticing on page 34 in a brief digression on bloodsuckers.

The James Cruze JEKYLL AND HYDE makes an appearance on 38, along with THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE, in which Pearl White meets Dr. J. Which is a surprise. On the next page, Louis Hayward transmutes in SON OF DR JEKYLL, which sounds like a must see. Having played twins in THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK, the wayward Hayward was no stranger to confusion. An IMDb reviewer from Kentucky writes, “There’s way too much talk going on in this film and this here makes it quite boring.”

Page 42, and we get Charles Ogle in FRANKENSTEIN, which I’ve never seen from start to finish. Opposite page: COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK — this one gets some very affectionate reviews.

It looks BEYOND OUTSTANDING! It’s produced by William “News on the March” Alland, which is usually a very bad thing, but Van Cleave’s solo piano score is rocking my world, and I’m both tickled and oddly satisfied that the Colossus is called “Jeremy”.

48, all three versions of THE STUDENT OF PRAGUE, the best of which must surely be the Anton Walbrook one, which is the one I haven’t seen. You can watch Veidt’s version here.


Page 50 — Julien Duvivier’s LE GOLEM is one I need to have translated by the estimable Mr. Wingrove, but I think we’re doing Duvivier’s Jesus movie first (Jean Gabin as Pilate!). On 51, THE CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN doesn’t sound too inspiring, but it’ll have to be watched.

On 53, THE CAT CREEPS is a clunking early talkie that I’ll happily suffer through if I can get it. I love Helen Twelvetrees just because her name is Helen Twelvetrees. In THE HOUSE IN NIGHTMARE PARK, which is a CAT AND THE CANARY-inspired old-dark-house comedy thriller, camp comic Frankie Howerd plays Foster Twelvetrees, strolling tragedian…

There we go, one quarter of the way through this quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, and you can see the size of the task facing me. But THINK OF THE FUN!

Ten Bad Dates With Roddy McDowall

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2008 by dcairns

“It was all going so well! And then I had to say that thing about the bridge. Stupid! Stupid!”


You really don’t need to see this film, unless like us at Shadowplay you grew up with a copy of Dennis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies in the house, or regularly borrowed from the library. Other monster movie books might also do the trick, or Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine (I only ever discovered one outlet that carried this publication as a kid. While on holiday. I could only afford two issues, which was a wrenching choice to make as they all looked so tasty. There was no possibility of buying more… There was a big article about BARBARELLA, which my mum wouldn’t let me watch when it came on TV, and an ad in the back for something called EQUINOX.)

If, like me, you were exposed to the right kind of literature in childhood, you probably saw a still of the big stone guy in this movie. You probably marvelled at his massive stone body, mighty stone limbs, big stone skirt and pointy stone head. He doesn’t look like any other monster. And what you demand most of all from your monsters is NOVELTY, so that has to be good. Having seen quite a bit of Dr. Who, you might have suspected that the Golem would be less impressive in motion that he is in a still image. And you’d have been right. But children of the pre-C.G.I. age, we expected our monsters to lumber, didn’t we? If they jerked across the screen in a Harryhausen strobe of animation, so much the better. But we certainly never wanted them to slink around, weightless, in a series of algorithms.

Anyhow, CURSE OF THE GOLEM is written and directed by Herbert J. Leder, auteur of such cinematic goitres as THE FROZEN DEAD and THE CHILD MOLESTOR.  Good luck with that career, Herbert.

One hates to judge a film-maker’s personality by their work (gloomy Bergman was known to his friends for a great deal of jollity, sentimental Frank Capra once punched his wife unconscious), but going by this film I would probably characterise Mr. Leder as a BIG IDIOT. Roddy McDowall, as Arthur Gordon Pym (!) finds he can command an ancient Jewish statue to do his bidding. Since he lives with his mother’s decayed corpse (though this has no real bearing on the story, and no explanation), he’s probably not the best person to be granted this awesome power. He uses it to kill his boss, and in a failed attempt to impress Otto Preminger babe Jill Haworth. It seems golems are good at bludgeoning irksome employers, but utterly useless as an aid to modern dating.

Paul Wegener doing his cute, Susannah Hoffs-style look-to-the-side.

The golem seem to me an underused monster. Paul Wegener portrayed the animate clay statue thrice, in DER GOLEM of 1915, sequel THE GOLEM AND THE DANCING GIRL two years later, and prequel/secret origin THE GOLEM: HOW HE CAME INTO THE WORLD, which is the version that survives.

Although he was certainly some kind of influence on Hollywood’s FRANKENSTEIN, the golem never surfaced in a bona fide Hollywood remake, instead emigrating to France, where he raises his ugly head in Julien Duvivier’s characteristically stylish LE GOLEM of 1936, which incorporates imagery from FRANKENSTEIN while essentially reprising the original Golem legend dramatised by Wegener. Many of the pre-Nouvelle Vague filmmakers deserve to be rediscovered, and I carry a special torch for Duvivier, whose PANIQUE and LA FIN DU JOUR strike me as truly major works, on the verge of being completely forgotten.

1951 gives us an authentic Czech golem at last, in THE EMPEROR’S BAKER AND THE GOLEM, a comic fantasy directed by Martin Fric, which guest-stars a wonderfully monumental golem who can’t actually articulate his limbs, and therefore walks like a chair.

Since then, there doesn’t seem to have been a really truly golem-centred movie, although ceramic heavies have occasionally disported themselves upon the screen in a supporting capacity. I’d welcome a good remake, or else an adaptation of Gustav Meyrink’s fantastic novel The Golem, in which the colossus does not actually appear, but assumes a kind of allegorical omnipresence in the story. My colleague, B. Kite, the Brooklyn Behemoth, himself a stony homunculus enlivened by rabbinical sorcery, once co-authored an atmospheric and highly imaginative screenplay based on this work.

Anyhoo. Some Youtubing genius has helpfully provided this abridged version that allows you to consume the whole thing at a single, ten-minute sitting. Had I realised this I could have saved myself eighty minutes or so.

Here, by way of a palette-cleanser, is the great Jiri Barta’s animated THE GOLEM, a pilot/trailer for a feature Barta hopes to complete. The collapse of communism in Europe (a good thing in itself, don’t get me wrong) has left many brilliant artists like Barta and the incomparable Yuri Norstein stranded in a marketplace they have no experience dealing with. Somebody help!

The more numerate Shadowplayers among you may have noticed that this post contains only one bad date with Roddy MacDowall. I maintain that one bad date with Roddy is worth ten with anyone else, but I’m happy for you to nominate nine more if you feel up to it.

STOP PRESS! What the heck is THIS?