Archive for Mulholland Dr.

Sunday without Intertitles: A Scotsman and an Australian walk into a detective agency, a mansion, a train…

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on October 4, 2015 by dcairns

Found this in a random search of YouTube. Comedy short starring Australia’s Billy Bevan and Scotland’s Andy Clyde, apparently packaged for TV at some point in the past under the title Comedy Capers. The short itself claims to be called THE CRYSTAL BALL.

No such film exists on the IMDb, but a search turned up WHISPERING WHISKERS, which matches the cast list and plot synopsis exactly, so the mystery would seem to be solved (but read on…)

Del Lord apparently directed, with many cartoonish gags — the best, for my money, being the sudden stop-start of the train at the end.


Billy Bevan and friends

Clyde, from Blairgowrie in Perthshire, went on to play Hopalong Cassidy’s sidekick, California Carlson. Billy Bevan, from New South Wales, played a lot of cockneys in talking films (there weren’t enough Australian roles, and who in Hollywood could tell the difference?) — you may have seen him in BRINGING UP BABY or CLUNY BROWN. Here, they play nondescript clowns — the fact that their characters change from cleaners to detectives to hobos, with little apparent motivation, can’t have helped them build consistent characters in the space of the film’s twelve-minute runtime.

But IS it a film? Silent shorts can be pretty eccentric, often rebooting their narratives halfway through when the initial set-up runs out of steam (look at any of Keaton’s early films for Arbuckle). But this one breaks cleanly in two, with its opening situation never resolved, and its central character recast in life and transplanted to a fresh locale at the halfway mark, apparently by supernatural means.

The movie starts off screwy, with an unexplained mission to a Spanish-deco mansion which then turns into a kind of séance. But all this at least seems to be causally connected — I presume the weirdly baffling narrative was fairly clear until somebody cut out all the intertitles for kids’ TV (because kids don’t like to read, and never understand anything anyway). But when the crystal ball transforms Bevan and Clyde into a knockabout Vladimir and Estragon and teleports them to a railway track, something tells me that what we are looking at is two separate shorts spliced together. Maybe this happened in 1926, when Mack Sennett was dissatisfied with the ending of the detectives/fortune-teller flick and the train/tramps flick was running short, or maybe it happened later, in television land. Or else this is the slapstick ancestor of MULLHOLLAND DR.

Silencio! There, I’ve said it.

Spread the Love

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2012 by dcairns

A Valentine’s Day Miscellany for you —

Over at Limerwrecks, THEATRE OF BLOOD proves to be the gift that keeps on giving — here’s my latest, co-authored with host Surly Hack. At the same site, you can read more rhymes about Robert Morley being force-fed his poodles than you would think possible.

My great good friend B. Kite delves into MULHOLLAND DRIVE in his first piece for Sight and Sound. I was kind of around for the birth of this article, though my duties stopped far short of actual midwifery, were more along the lines of muttering wan encouragement from a safe distance, like a rubbish dad. The resulting piece bears no disfiguring forceps marks and is in fact vigorous, alert and a healthy size. It also offers an alternative way of looking at a Lynch film that’s almost become a closed, fully-resolved narrative (all those clues!) — this piece reclaims the mystery, or at least opens a side-door into it.

In case you’ve been trapped under something heavy for the past month or so, you ought to know about the upcoming For the Love of Film blogathon, hosted here and here. I plan on writing something on that renowned English filmmaker, that master of suspense… Graham Cutts.

The Film Preservation Blogathon Intertitle

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2011 by dcairns

I was puzzling over how to locate an intertitle which would connect closely enough with the week’s themes, the Film Preservation Blogathon and film noir… (donate here). I was going to look at the movie theatre at the start of THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE to see if there was any sign of an intertitle in that. I considered looking at silent versions of movies remade as noirs, or even early thirties versions which sometimes had intertitles — maybe the previous versions of THE MALTESE FALCON or THE GLASS KEY would have something suitable?

And then I remembered what should have been obvious — the film noir that’s all about silent cinema, SUNSET BLVD. Which contains extracts from QUEEN KELLY, including an intertitle which may well be the most influential since William S. Hart’s “When you say that — smile!”

It’s clear that SUNSET BLVD is a favorite of David Lynch — MULHOLLAND DR. references it in its title and in its plotline, and it seems to cast a shadow into INLAND EMPIRE also. Well, that intertitle feels very Lynchian — it invokes a mystical feeling, an attempt to exorcise a dream, a dream which has possessed someone (not something dreams are routinely described as doing). It seems to encapsulate the whole Laura Palmer storyline from TWIN PEAKS. Partly it does so because it’s so evocatively isolated from its surrounding movie — in choosing this scene, Billy Wilder created an ecstatic snapshot of silent cinema, which one might imagine to be full of grand statements like “…cast out this wicked dream which has seized my heart…”

Maybe the reason I still haven’t watched QUEEN KELLY is that I don’t want to know the solid and narrative-based facts that lead Swanson’s character to make that statement. Like Lynch, I love a mystery.


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