Archive for Max Schreck

The Sunday Intertitle: “Eeeeeeeee–oooo”

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on November 25, 2018 by dcairns

Eeeeeeeeeee–oooooooo! ‘Tis the cry of the abominable arcti Paul Wegener in THE STRANGE CASE OF CAPTAIN RAMPER (RAMPER – DER TIERMENSCH aka RAMPER – THE BEASTMAN), and where has this movie been all my life? Daredevil pilot Ramper (Wegener) kisses his dear mother goodbye and promptly crashes his plane in the arctic wastes. Lost in the snows for years, he informs his expiring co-pilot of his intention to KILL HIS BRAIN to prevent himself suffering from loneliness. He becomes a beast — a shaggy, yodeling yeti. Finally captured by the crew of an ice-bound ship (who include Max Schreck among their number, violating the nautical rule about it being unlucky to sail on a ship that has Max fucking Schreck on it), he is brought back to civilisation as a sideshow exhibit, billed as “Teddy, the man-ape”. It could happen to you!

The version of the film I saw is in ragged shape, apparently telecined handheld, with jaunty English-language intertitles and scenes missing. But director Max Reichmann, who was new to me, does wonders with suspense and atmosphere, and Wegener is pretty effective as the hirsute hero. “Teddy” hasn’t actually transmogrified, apart from growing lots of facial hair, and nobody thinks to take off his fur coat, so the world is convinced he’s a “missing link,” or “found link” I suppose we would have to call him.

Another odd thing: between performances, Teddy is kept in a crate, lying prone, vampire-fashion, his fur and whiskers expanding to fill the whole box like styrofoam packing. It’s an odd manner of storage for a sideshow exhibit, although I guess Cesar the somnambulist never complained, but he wouldn’t, would he? There’s no particular historical justification for keeping apes in crates, but interestingly yetis sometimes are: one thinks of that episode of CREEPSHOW…

But can even a world-famous specialist in mental diseases cure a very hairy Paul Wegener who has deliberately KILLED HIS OWN BRAIN? Can you perform artificial resuscitation on a brain? Or maybe you can defibrillate it? Isn’t that what ECT is? Yes, I’m almost positive that’s right. In fact, we meet Professor Barbarzin, clad in all-over rubber insulated gimp gear, pulling the world’s biggest knife switch – Henry Frankenstein would plotz – and performing some strange electromagnetic healing ritual on a slabbed loon.

 

Teddy’s keeper is reluctant to allow treatment: if Teddy is cured, he goes from being a highly profitable beastman to some worthless schlub in a fur coat, a spectacle unlikely to pull a crowd, whatever Flanagan and Allen can prove to the contrary. Still, like all Central European empresarios trafficking in human misery, he has a heart of gold really, and consents readily after being threatened with a slavery charge.

Electrogalvanic brain therapy follows, and reason is restored, but maybe only halfway? Soon, Teddy/Ramper is breaking free from the Barbarzin Institute with the aid of a table leg and standing outside his mother’s door, pleading for admission, unable to understand that fifteen years have passed since he flew off into oblivion and I guess the old lady’s dead. Pretty strong pathos from Paul: he’s not just a golem, he can play other kinds of lumbering halfwits too. I fear I’m not conveying how moving this scene is.

Shown around town by a couple of drunken swells, the more Ramper sees of modern life, the more nostalgia he feels for his desolate glacier. Tragically, the copy in my possession cuts out in advance of the conclusion described in Mordaunt Hall’s contemporary review: somebody seems to have felt that truncating the movie so that it ends with Ramper being discovered in the drunk tank the next morning would serve as a sufficiently happy ending. Which says something about that anonymous somebody.

I would heartily recommend this film to lovers of polar ice, man-beasts, circuses, big Germans, mad science and yetis. Which ought to cover everybody.

Mordaunt Hall, something of a glacial imbecile himself, wrote: “Mr. Wagener’s acting is probably good, but much of the time one can only see his eyes. Mary Johnson supplies the childish beauty, but that’s about all. This picture was directed by Max Reichmann from a story by Curt J. Braun. The stage features include the Sixteen Roxyettes, dancers, and “Peer Gynt Suite.” The Movietone gives part of President Coolidge’s Gettysburg address.”

 

 

 

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The Sunday Intertitle: Another Fine Pyckle

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 3, 2017 by dcairns

What’s with the mania for replacing the title cards on silent films? The YouTube version above of this early Stan Laurel parody seems authentic, but the version I initially got off the Internet Archive has different, cruder titles and the credits are simplified down to nothing. It was interesting to learn from the more complete version that Tay Garnett wrote the titles, a fact the future director of THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE fails to mention in his (terrific) autobiography.

This version might be more complete as regards credits, but all versions end EXTREMELY abruptly, in a way I doubt was intended. I mean, anything’s possible, and the film is a little shambolic, but I suspect there was originally more to it.

I used to look down on these efforts. Partly because you might occasionally get fobbed off with a Stan film when what you wanted was a Stan & Ollie. accept no substitutes — but the agreeably silly parodies Stan starred in (MUD AND SAND with Rhubarb Vaselino) have appeal. The lampooning of John Barrymore here is very accurate — Stan’s essaying of the transformation is excellent (the knees are the first bits to go evil) and his first appearance is actually really disturbing, owing to the way his wig distorts his features. Stan also throws in some sideways reaching, a hieroglyphic-type pose that seems to owe more to Charles Ogle or Max Schreck than to the mannerisms of the Great Profile. I suspect that pose perhaps dates back further in theatrical history, and was an accepted method of portraying supernatural menace.

(When I was a kid, the accepted mode of impersonating the Frankenstein monster was 1) stiff-kneed gait, yes, fine accurate, and 2) arms stretched out in front like a sleepwalker, something the monster doesn’t do –– except briefly I guess when in that one where he goes blind.)

There’s one very impressive set, but it has a French sign on it so it must’ve been constructed for another, more important film — ah, but are people still watching that film today? (Anyone know what it’s from?)

Producer Joe Rock also made Michael Powell’s first important film, THE EDGE OF THE WORLD. Powell remarked that all his big breaks came from either Americans or Hungarians.

 

Shadowshow

Posted in FILM, Mythology with tags , , , on October 31, 2016 by dcairns

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Over at The Chiseler — a Halloweeny treat!