Archive for Les Diaboliques

Bette Davis, eyed

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on October 6, 2018 by dcairns

HUSH, HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE is a lot of nonsense, and a lot of LES DIABOLIQUES repackaged as southern gothic, but it does keep throwing out stunning images.

Agnes Moorehead was nominated for “Most Performance in a supporting Role.”

Bette Davis goes full Bette Davis.

Aldrich’s decision not to show the young Charlotte’s face was a very smart one. It others and monsters her from the start, and saves him having to find a young Bette lookalike. And he didn’t repeat the mistake of casting her daughter in hopes that heredity would see him through.

It’s a film full of LOOKING.

Starring Margot Channing, Melanie Hamilton, Jed Leland, Fanny Minafer, Horace (a leprechaun), Edwin Flagg, Princess Centimillia, Freeman Lowell, Major Max Armbruster, Sweetface and Grandma Walton.

Advertisements

Drear Window

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on December 29, 2015 by dcairns

vlcsnap-2015-12-29-10h27m49s140

NIGHT WATCH (1973) with Liz Taylor — there’s no way to discuss the more interesting aspects of this one — and it has a couple — without spoilers, so I’m just going to wade in and give everything away.

The piece, adapted from a play, inverts the premise of LES DIABOLIQUES, so that our assumption of a conspiracy to gaslight Liz Taylor into madness, pointed to with heavy clues, turns out to be erroneous — Liz is actually setting up her own insanity defence, prior to murdering her unfaithful spouse (Laurence Harvey) and his mistress (Billie Whitelaw). By continually reporting corpses staring at her from the deserted house next door, Liz ensures that her final call will never be investigated — and now there ARE a couple of corpses sitting in the front room. The play with plot elements from Clouzot’s ground-breaking twist ending shocker continues with a coda in which Liz is caught bang to rights by a nosy neighbour — but instead of shopping her to the authorities, he lets her go in exchange for a generous consideration.

vlcsnap-2015-12-29-10h24m10s19

This is clever enough as far as it goes, but it means one watches most of the film with impatience, convinced one has it all figured out. And indeed, as far as the extra-marital affair is concerned, one has. What keeps the attention, if anything, is the wacky dream sequence flashbacks, which feature the always-welcome Linda Hayden (Hayden and her hubbie Robin Askwith were the Burtons of bare-ass British exploitation cinema in the seventies, so it’s fitting she should be here). Oh, and the awful dialogue and bizarre performances, where a simple inquiry like “Why can’t you sleep?” is spoken by Harvey with completely inexplicable aggression. Just imagine what he can do with a line like “I can handle a dead body, but your dead husband Carl is too much!” (MODESTY BLAISE scribe Evan Jones is credited with additional dialogue, but God knows…)

vlcsnap-2015-12-29-10h30m00s154

The visualisation of the scary empty house is extremely atmospheric (photography by Ken Russell collaborator Billy Williams), and at the climax, all of the film’s strong suits come together — the house, the nightmare imagery, and Linda Hayden, and the plot jumps the rails from Clouzot’s Boileau-Narcejac model, and it basically becomes a Brit giallo. Liz Taylor makes a fiendish stabber, as you’d expect. Short but vicious.

 

“You’ll be lovelier each day, with fabulous pink Camay.”

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , on December 9, 2011 by dcairns

Fiona my partner’s one piece of film criticism to date is a profile of Henri-Georges Clouzot for the Great Directors series at Senses of Cinema, here. A traveling retrospective of his work prompted me to trespass on the same territory, so I’ve contributed a different-but-related overview to Moving Image Source. Think of them as an endearingly odd couple…

The BBC once ran a series of five minute interstitial shows called Close Up, in which celebrities picked favourite film scenes — George Romero picked the opening of TAKES OF HOFFMANN (Robert Helpmann weaving between three chairs), Marcel Ophuls picked the masked dancer from his father Max’s LE PLAISIR, and British Labour politician Dennis Healey picked the climax of LES DIABOLIQUES, and did a remarkable impersonation of undead Paul Meurisse, without the end of ping-pong ball contact lenses. I wish I had a copy.