Archive for Lesley Selander

The Sunday Intertitle: Lumberjack Transfusion

Posted in FILM, Science with tags , , , , , , on January 7, 2018 by dcairns

WOLFBLOOD (1925), is the sole directorial credit of actor George Chesebro (pictured), in collaboration with the prolific Bruce Mitchell. I didn’t know anything about either man, but the movie sounded goofy enough to be interesting.

We’re up in the wilds of Canada, where men are men and they talk like this ~

They’re also constantly shooting each other. There are two rival logging firms, and one is playing dirty — they try to avoid outright murder, but they figure by shooting to wound they can put the opposition’s lumberjacks out of action long enough to get a distinct market advantage. Our hero, played by George Chesebro under the name George Chesbro (a cunning pseudonym), gets badly hurt and needs a life-saving transfusion. But with no human donors volunteering, the doc is forced to syphon haemoglobin from a wolf into the stricken sawmill manager.

This and the astounding THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE are the only movies I can think of about animal-human blood transfusion but I’m probably forgetting lots.

Anyway, the doc looks like Count Arthur Strong, maybe IS Count Arthur Strong in his silent movie days. Or else a stray Chuckle Brother, though the credits name one Ray Handford.

Soon Chesebro/Chesbro is on the slippery slope from woodsman to wolfman, as reports of nocturnal attacks convince him he’s being taken over by the canine plasma coursing through his veins. Sadly, the promising lycanthrope angle which has taken most of the runtime to get to, fizzles out in a welter of what Fred from Scooby (Dooby) Doo might call perfectly simple explanations. That leaves the scenery and a few unusual photo-illustrated intertitles to carry the day.

Movie was shot by Lesley Selander, the only familiar name in the credits: he became a very prolific B-movie director before moving into TV.

Stray thought: could this movie have inspired the strange sartorial quirk of werewolves in the movies frequently wearing checked lumberjack shirts?

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Dark Continent

Posted in FILM, literature, Mythology with tags , , , , on October 31, 2014 by dcairns

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THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST (1945) sounds like it ought to be terrible, to match its title — it’s a low-budget horror from Republic, it’s devoid of stars, it has Lesley Selander as director, who has little reputation that I’m aware of… But it’s quite diverting. The script is co-written by Leigh Brackett of THE BIG SLEEP and THE LONG GOODBYE fame, and one is tempted to assign most of its interesting qualities to her influence. Though not a horror author, her literary works included pulp noir and sci-fi, so she could turn her hand to a variety of genres.

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The movie is set in a sound stage Africa and authenticity isn’t exactly a priority. Still, it’s probably less racist than most Tarzan type adventures. The worst moment, when a group of white characters complain that the recent spate of vampiric killings have so spooked the natives that they aren’t doing any work, could almost be a critical commentary of the colonial mindset, though perhaps I’m giving the film too much credit here. Still, there are a few black characters who actually ARE characters. A shame to see Theresa Harris (I *think* — she’s uncredited) wordlessly wasted in the opening scene, though she does make a seductive scream queen.

Not many horror movies are narrated by the vampire — this one is! And we begin with a subjective camera bloodsucking, so we’re preconditioned to take his point of view, and when he turns up, played by gaunt, gimlet-eyed John Abbott, he’s easily the most appealing character n the film. Even after he announces his intention to destroy the virtuous hero and heroine, hypnotizing her and plotting some kind of “destruction” for her — seemingly he wants her to REIGN THROUGH ETERNITY AS HIS BRIDE or something — we still kind of like him. Brackett has saddled him with the name Webb Fallon — a heavy burden to carry through the centuries — and made him a survivor from the first Elizabethan age — he carries the soil from his grave in a box gifted to him by the Queen. The noir-corny name and the historic backstory (had any vampire save Dracula boasted such a heritage at this point in the movies?) suggest to me that the writer had in mind a more handsome, Byronic type of vampire — plus he runs a gambling house in Africa so he should be a tough guy — but budgetary considerations evidently prevented Cary Grant from receiving the fateful call. A more on-the-nose casting choice — make him sepulchral, corpse-like — resulted in the bulb-headed Abbott being handed probably his best-ever role, a leading man role of sorts, something

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Like Wesley Snipes, Fallon is a daywalker, though he needs sunglasses in the African glare. This kind of imaginative detail, simple in itself, just wasn’t being seen in Hollywood B-pictures. Even Val Lewton, who made films immeasurably superior to this one, didn’t explore his genre elements in this practical way, because he was more interested in using a mythic pretext to get to a thematic subtext. Good Hawksian that she was, Brackett was interested in what you might get up to as an immortal with superpowers. (But I doubt even she could tell you why there’s a statue of Kali, shorn of half her arms, in an African temple.)

Abbott/Fallon is persistently glum, seeming to take no pleasure in his role of corruptor. This makes the victory of the good guys — achieved through a combination of religious iconography and murderous violence — ring more hollow than usual, especially since Abbott has prophesied that those he has bitten will rise from their graves. The prospect of a sequel with a fanged Theresa H and lusty Adele Mara rampaging across the Gold Coast is positively mouth-watering, but it was not to be.