Archive for Nurse Edith Cavell

The Squid Stays in the Picture

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on September 7, 2011 by dcairns

After a conversation with ace animator and effects artist Randy Cook, I got intrigued about the CITIZEN KANE octopus. You see, I hadn’t even realized it was fake, which makes its inclusion in a newsreel hilarious –

Wait, what? OK, let’s backtrack. In the CITIZEN KANE News on the March fake newsreel sequence, as William Alland narrates “the FISH of the SEA, the FOWL of the AIR” in that booming manner of his, we briefly cut to a rubber cephalopod mollusc bouncing towards us on concealed wires. And I got intrigued.

I first started looking into the stock music in KANE after being startled to hear the News on the March theme played in NURSE EDITH CAVELL, but then I discovered that enterprising researchers had traced all the music used in that sequence. But I’m not aware of anybody having traced the stock footage (I could well be wrong, though). The octopus, who I’m going to call Steve, seemed a particularly interesting example, since he’s clearly not from a piece of news footage. Somewhere out there, I knew, must be a movie in which Steve gave his original performance.

My research wasn’t insanely extensive, but I did look at the list of RKO movies made between the late 1930s and 1941. A few titles looked promising, but as the films were often unavailable, I couldn’t be sure. THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON (1940), which Welles provided opening narration for, sounded like the sort of thing which, in Hollywood’s hands, might be persuaded to incorporate a rapacious sea beast, but when I eventually got a copy of the long-unavailable flick (I suspect Disney suppressed it to make room for their later Hayley John Mills version), there wasn’t a sucker in sight, unless you count Freddie Bartholomew.

It was sheer chance that I came upon the Republic serial DRUMS OF FU MANCHU (1940), reading a review which praised the octopus-fight as a highlight. The date was promising, and a movie that definitely contained a wriggling sea creature had to be at least as likely as SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON which didn’t have any at all, so I acquired a copy and was delighted to see Steve in all his eight-limbed glory, gamely wrestling with one of the nefarious oriental doctor’s enemies.

“Thrash around, make it look like he’s killin’ ya.”

Alas, I’ve been unable to trace Steve’s movements after KANE. Presumably he hung out in the RKO scene dock with the other fake sealife. Was he abducted and used by Ed Wood in BRIDE OF THE MONSTER? I can’t be sure. I know that roles were few and far between. Effectively typecast as a cephalopod, Steve received no offers from the new generation of American filmmakers: Scorsese, Coppola and Bogdanovich had no use for his talents. And his moral scruples prevented him from accepting work in Japanese pornography. I fear that when his longterm contract finally ended, Steve probably wound up all washed up, drinking like a fish, on squid row.


In case anybody’s confused, bad jokes aside, there IS a fake octopus in the News on the March sequence of KANE, and it does come from DRUMS OF FU MANCHU, and nobody else seems to have traced this. I call dibs.

Citizen Kane (Amazon Exclusive 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition + The Magnificent Ambersons on DVD) [Blu-ray]

Kane Caught in Love Nest with “Octopus”

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , on January 25, 2011 by dcairns

The IMDb credits for makeup wiz Maurice Seiderman are full of intrigue, even if they seem like they’re probably only a representative smattering of his career as a whole. Anybody who goes from CITIZEN KANE to BRIDE OF THE MONSTER definitely incites my curiosity.

I discussed this matter with regular Shadowplayer/renaissance man Randy Cook, and while we agreed that probably Seiderman’s contribution to Ed Wood’s spastic classic was the design of Tor Johnson’s “Lobo” makeup (“Too bad Pauline Kael didn’t see that, she could’ve claimed it inspired the old age makeup for KANE”), Randy did throw out the amusing suggestion that maybe the common denominator is the octopus.

You remember the octopus, right?

(1) As featured in Burton’s ED WOOD (“Just thrash around, make it look like it’s killin’ ya,”), the plastic cephalopod mollusc plays a climactic part in BRIDE.

(2) And in KANE, there’s a prosthetic beastie puppeteered towards the camera during the News on the March newsreel sequence.

Me: “Was that a fake octopus?”

Randy (laughing): “Oh yeah.”

He’s right. The shot flashes by so quickly I’d never honestly registered it as bogus, although it did seem like the octo was moving rather oddly. Which is because it’s on wires, duh.

Fiona: “Why does Kane have an octopus anyway? Where does he keep it?”

Me: “Special apartment. The Wet Room. A love nest!”

After all, you can’t have a Pleasure Dome without octopi, can you?

I would be ashamed of my lousy faking of the newspaper shot at the top os this post, were it not for this image in CITIZEN KANE itself, which deploys 1940s PhotoShop technology (ie scissors and glue) to populate the grounds of Xanadu. Apparently this is a pastiche of yellow press “composographs”, the faked pictures which Boss Geddes complains about to Kane. Does anyone recognise Charlie and Susie’s fellow lollers?

The News on the March sequence, which we’re told was cut by RKO’s own newsreel department, because, as Welles said, “They have their own crazy way of doing things,” uses lots of stock footage and stock music, mingled with select shots of specially-contrived fakery, using undercranking and scratches on the film to blend them in. The IMDb has a helpful guide to music sources here. I was surprised to spot the News on the March main theme in NURSE EDITH CAVELL, as I wrote here. But it’d be nice to get a listing for the stock shots — I’m curious to know the provenance of that octopus: obviously a pre-1941 RKO movie. SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON? ISLE OF DESTINY?

Anyhow —

[a] Seiderman almost certainly applied the joke-shop scars to the Swedish wrestler (Tor didn’t really NEED makeup to play a monster) and

[b] Probably did NOT invent the soft contact lens, as he apparently claimed, but did have something to do with developing part of the process, maybe. He seems to have been something of a mythomaniac (no wonder Welles liked him), and this claim found its way into his obituaries and eventually into Shadowplay. The lies men tell live on after them. Seiderman’s unreliable narrator status is going to make it even harder to arrive at a definitive list of his credits… any info will be gratefully received. Any entertaining lies… likewise.


Support Shadowplay! Buy stuff —

UK:  Citizen Kane [DVD] [1942]

The Making of “Citizen Kane”

Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane: A Casebook (Casebooks in Criticism)

US: The Making of Citizen Kane, Revised edition

Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane: A Casebook (Casebooks in Criticism)

“…an area the size of Belgium…”

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on December 30, 2008 by dcairns

From NURSE EDITH CAVELL. Dull film — director Herbert Wilcox shows little of the panache of his sado-psycho-romance THE SEVENTH VEIL, except during a few scenes of peril late in the proceedings, and prefers to shoot the action from as far away as possible — but notable for being the RKO release (from 1939) which supplied CITIZEN KANE with the theme for its fictional “News on the March” newsreel. I always assumed that was a spoof score by KANE’s composer, Bernard Herrmann, but it turns out to be another example of the cost-cutting that led to footage from SON OF KONG being recycled in the Welles masterpiece (I have since disproved this).

“No, not Binche! And they were just going to get a public library…”

In NURSE E, the theme basically stands as the Belgian national anthem, and maybe it is. I must ask my Belgian friend to hum the national a. of her country. Who knows, maybe generations of Belgians have been laughing at CITIZEN KANE (or saluting it?) behind our backs.