Archive for Martin Kosleck

Lady Cab Driver

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on June 14, 2010 by dcairns

Janet Shaw (the waitress from SHADOW OF A DOUBT) in HOUSE OF HORRORS, a better-than-expected Rondo Hatton monsterpiece viewed as part of my ongoing pursuit of those movies with illos in Denis Gifford’s Pictorial History of Horror Movies. The lovely Janet, who appears but briefly, and whose beauty is commented upon approvingly by both the hero and heroine, seems like the kind of meaningless bit part included in studio movies so that executives, directors or stars (Errol Flynn, I’m looking at you) could nail some grateful tail. Shaw’s career arc, which took her from Beatrice, Nebraska, to Hollywood, California, and back to Beatrice, Nebraska, is suggestive of at least mild disillusion…

Also featured is Sweet Sue herself, Joan Shawlee, in an outfit which could only have gotten past the censors if they’d completely forgotten what a woman’s body looks like naked (hint: it looks exactly like Joan Shawlee in her outfit in this film). These are the normal characters, also including a manly commercial artist, his wise-cracking art critic girlfriend, and a smart-talking detective… all reasonably well written but yawn

What matters is the devilish double act of Rondo and Martin Kosleck, the demented and poverty-stricken sculptor who rescues Rondo’s Creeper from the drink and soon has him posing for a modern art masterpiece (Rondo’s skull reinvents cubism), as well as lumbering forth on nocturnal missions to snap the spines of Kosleck’s critics (a good double feature with THEATRE OF BLOOD is suggested– everybody loves to see critics murdered).

What a teaming this is! Apart from the pleasing physical contrast (Kosleck, the Gollum-like shrimp, Hatton, who looks like he’s wearing American football padding and helmet under his skin), there’s a contrast in acting styles which is never less than bracing. Kosleck seizes his moment, in one of his larger roles, and worries it to shreds, monologuing at the cat and evoking a keen audience sympathy which rapidly gets twisted into awe at his wickedness. By contrast to this total commitment approach, Hatton is minimalist, paradoxical in such a big guy. His sullen, low-affect delivery is somehow completely riveting, and effectively suggests the Creeper’s psychopathic personality.

Of course, Rondo doesn’t need to act to be interesting, and it’s questionable whether anyone expected him to pull out any stops whatsoever. But he works.

(His performance does make me wonder if he really wanted to be in movies at all. Most reviews of his career are pretty critical of Universal for exploiting the poor man’s deformity in horror movies, but what makes the sleaziness worse is the suspicion that Hatton may not have had any enthusiasm for the work, and perhaps only acted to survive, resenting the exposure of his increasing deformity and disability.)

Rondo Hatton as The Whistler!

Contrasting the crazy avant-garde artist with the manly commercial painter of Gil Elvgren type girlie art, the movie has a very conservative outlook, with the experimental seen as both foreign and sinister… but it’s in the world of Kosleck’s impoverished dreaming, ripe for corruption as soon as he’s achieved power via his hulking housemate, that the film lives, breathes and wriggles.


Send in the Sex Nazis!

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , on May 19, 2009 by dcairns


Homoerotic torture porn from BERLIN CORRESPONDENT. Martin Kosleck, the guy playing the Goebbels lookalike (a sort of goebbelganger, if you will) is very good. Dana Andrews is the hero, looking oddly sleazy in unsuitable face-fuzz and brilliantine. Virginia Gilmore as the heroine is a dead ringer for a blonde Jane Greer.

An acceptable time-waster, the film loses out through having no real connection to Germany and the evils of Nazism except through comic-book imagery like the above. I’d probably have accepted that as par for the course in Hollywood filmmaking (frinstance the bad guys in THE GREAT DICTATOR seem like gangster-stooge cut-outs) if I hadn’t seen films like THIS LAND IS OURS MINE and THE MORTAL STORM, which show that Hollywood filmmakers were at times quite capable of depicting the human face of evil in a way that convinces, even if they didn’t yet have access to the information about just how appalling things in the Third Reich had become.

In the light of our recent burning question — “Is Tintin gay?” (see comments section, here) — it might be instructive to ponder the above image and ask, Just how homoerotic did the makers intend it to be, and to what end? Before you reach a firm conclusion, I direct you to the fact that, even in strict accordance with regulations, it is not actually necessary for both guard/torturers to keep their caps on.