Archive for Peeping Tom

Romneyscient

Posted in FILM, Painting, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2014 by dcairns

edana

I realized just now that I’m so close to being the ultimate web resource for all things Edana Romney (the talent behind CORRIDOR OF MIRRORS, a film I first addressed here)  that I might as well go the whole hog and make sure of it.

Top Shadowplayer La Faustin informed me via Facebook of this curiosity, in which “actress, journalist and advisor on personal problems” Edana Romney oversees the conversion of her Kentish cottage. I don’t know how to interpret that third job description — a sort of agony aunt, a paid confidante to the stars, a therapist? La Faustin has fun imagining an “Ask Myfanwy Conway” column. We also learn that ER is pals with Zachary Scott. La Faustin observes, ” In the movies, at least, ‘pals with Zachary Scott’ means tears before bedtime.” At any rate, the former Mrs Woolf here appears to be single, with a poodle called Kewpie (?) for company.

Eastofpicpos

See here.

Then I discover that the Romney Archive is held by the University of Southern California (Romney died in that fair state.) We learn that the archive contains extensive research and screenplay drafts for a film on the life of Sir Richard Burton, explorer. (Later, part of the Great Man’s life did make it to the screen in THE MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON, directed by Bob Rafelson.)

The next oddity is a cutting from the Singaporean Free Press, in which we learn that Robert Newton sued Romney in 1950 over a movie offer that never materialised. Newton had been offered the role of Dr Veron, but the article doesn’t say what the film was, what Romney’s involvement in it might be (I’m assuming writer but also producer) or what the whole story is really about. Romney’s sparse screen credits make it clear that the film never materialised.

rachel-blue-dress-burgundy-top-and-sash-744x1024

Then, luckily, we find this, a portfolio of costume designs for some kind of project about Rachel Eliza Felix, 19th century French tragedienne. The holder of the portfolio, John George Campbell, has worked out that much, and researched the drawings sufficiently to determine that the artist responsible is Owen Hyde Clarke, who also designed dresses for CORRIDOR OF MIRRORS. And among the drawings we find a sketch of Dr. Veron, looking like a camper version of Robert Newton, and so we are able to connect the Singaporean news story with the costume sketch portfolio.

veron-grey-suit-blue-tie-stove-pipe-737x1024

Thus, Romney’s sparse CV gains two more films, unmade alas.

John Campbell informs me that the RACHEL project was actually planned *before* CORRIDOR OF MIRRORS. The 1951 news story still makes sense considering the grindingly slow nature of the legal system.

Meanwhile, her married name got me thinking, and sure enough a deeper probe into the IMDb revealed that her husband was producer John Woolf, who in 1948 resigned as joint managing director of Rank to set up Romulus Films with his brother James. This allows us to see why Romney, a bit-part actress, was suddenly given a leading role in her own delirious vanity project. It also suggests why there was no successor to CORRIDOR OF MIRRORS — possibly Woolf no longer had the clout to get such peculiar projects off the ground. By 1955 the couple were divorced.

(When Woolf left Rank his place was taken by John Davis, “the man who destroyed the British film industry.” He’s parodied as “Don Jarvis” in PEEPING TOM, made by Michael Powell, one of his many enemies. Interestingly, Woolf’s brother James was equally prone to amour fou, boosting actor Laurence Harvey’s career because he was desperately in love with him.)

One more acting credit, for a 1957 episode of Masterpiece Theatre entitled The Last Flight, intrigues me. Further down the cast lurks Stratford Johns who, like Romney, was born in South Africa. In the early nineties I produced a student film starring Mr Johns, or Alan to his friends. So all this time I was one handshake away from her, but back then I didn’t know who she was and was thus unable to ask her co-star for info. As a fellow countryman, I’m sure he would have made her acquaintance and would have had an opinion of her, probably strong and acidic.

I am feeling sleepy…

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2012 by dcairns

THE HYPNOTIC EYE — directed by George Blair, a B-movie hack on the slide into TV, and written by the husband and wife team of William Read Woodfield (also from TV) and Gitta Woodfield (her only screen credit). I think the writing team accounts for the weird pushme-pullyou of the movie’s sexual politics.

(Yes, I am reinvigorating my quest to see every film in A Pictorial History of Horror Movies by Denis Gifford! See REPTILICUS and die!)

Somebody is hypnotizing beautiful women into mutilating their faces, and the police are baffled. Hmm, could it be the stage hypnotist they all saw hours before their disfigurement? The cops ain’t too bright in this movie.

Here’s what I mean about the sex angle — on one level, the movie is sadeian, could easily double-bill or double-date with HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM or PEEPING TOM. On the other hand, the movie seems to like its plucky heroine, resulting in a bit of actual queasy tension when she’s imperiled — the flick is just ruthless enough to carve her kisser up, one feels. The psychology lags way behind that of Powell’s scopophilic monsterpiece (spoiler alert) — the evil hypnotist is himself in thrall to his glamorous assistant, Justine (geddit?), who turns out to be wearing one of those surprisingly convincing rubber masks movie people can apparently buy in the shops to hide those hideously scarred visages that they all have.

Justine is sternly played by Allison Hayes, who played the title role in ATTACK OF THE FIFTY FOOT WOMAN (that is, she played the woman, not the attack).

Movie ends with an apparently quite sincere warning against the dangers of stage hypnotism, which probably didn’t have any redeeming social effect since the act in the movie looks like good fun, and the subsequent horrorshow isn’t too convincing. Probably worth noting that screenwriter Woodfield, asides from decades of generic TV credits (The Fall Guy, jeezus, you mean somebody wrote that show?) was himself a magician, and also snapped famous nude shots of Marilyn Monroe on the set of SOMETHING’S GOT TO GIVE. One thing this movie might be taken to prove is that an infusion of violence, perversity and sleaze can actually make by-the-numbers policier dross quite watchable.

Movie also features the father of curiously sepulchral/pervy Inside the Actor’s Studio host James Lipton, playing “the King of the Beatniks” — I didn’t know they actually were a monarchical subculture. Anyhow, his performance is much as you might expect…

Wash-out

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on April 17, 2012 by dcairns

ELECTRIC MONSTER is a 1958 Anglo-Amalgamated scifi thriller from the reliably terrible Montgomery Tully. It has a laughable alternative title, ESCAPEMENT — although I think it’s a toss-up which is a worse one-word, that or INCEPTION. There’s no electric monster, or any other kind of monster, in it.

But, it’s from the soon-to-be producers of PEEPING TOM, and might be paired with that film thematically even more aptly than CIRCUS OF HORRORS and HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM, sometimes descibred as forming a kind of “Sadeian Trilogy” with Powell’s superior shocker.

Tully’s plodding crapola makes a laughable pretence at being set in New York and the Riviera, but it’s visibly the Home Counties + stock footage all the way. Poor old Rod Cameron’s impersonation of a leading man is no more convincing, his youthful wiriness has vanished under a heap of dough,and his somnambular style is unfortunate in a film about brainwashing.

For YES — an ex-Nazi in the South of France is experimenting with a fake therapy technique, targeting celebrities and brainwashing them into becoming hypnotised cult drones. And this becomes pretty interesting, because Scientology was only a few years old at this time. Not that I’m suggesting that scientology is more like brainwashing than any other organized religion.

This is apparently based on a pretty smart novel, in which the will-sapping technology is in the hands of a movie mogul who’s lobotomising America with mindless entertainment piped directly into the brain. Although the mental pablum theme has been stripmined away in the “adaptation” process, it creeps back in via the “visions” created by the process, which are basically light entertainment dance numbers filmed in a TV studio. It’s all leotards and mildly suggestive moves, with the odd sinister prop like a giant spider web with a spinal column hanging from it. It’s Death by Scopitone.

For death is occurring as an unwanted side-effect of the therapeutic process — victims are found to have suffered “electrolysis of the brain,” which sounds pretty silly but for all I know is a perfectly real thing. Will Rod Cameron bring down the monster cult, or will he end up with a bald, scrubbed-clean cerebellum? It’s absolutely impossible to care one way or the other, although pretty much ever duff B-movie of the fifties and sixties would have been improved by a downbeat ending. In many, many ways, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is just a duff B-movie with a great downbeat ending…

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 357 other followers