Archive for Reggie Nalder

A. Hall

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2009 by dcairns

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“8 DEC. A HALL. RM.”

Not the Albert Hall who plays the Chief in APOCALYPSE NOW, whose name always makes me chuckle inwardly (but a round of a applause for Albert’s exit-line: “A spear.”) The building.

Is this a reference to the cryptic note in THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH? Like Frank Vosper as Ramon the assassin, Rory McBride, the offscreen but much-discussed love machine in Richard Lester’s THE KNACK… AND HOW TO GET IT, has an assignation arranged in the Hall, although he’s entertaining his girlfriends rather than perforating a foreign dignitary.

While we’re on the subject, I always wondered if the scenes of white-clad women queueing outside that edifice were an influence on John Lennon’s lyrics for A Day in the Life. After all, the lines “I saw a film today,” and “The English army had just won the war,” were inspired by Lennon’s experience acting in Lester’s HOW I WON THE WAR. “Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall,” could conceivably have been sparked by THE KNACK, which Lester made between his two Beatles assignments. And the obnoxious rude joke, referring to woman as holes, seems quite Lennonesque.

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My late friend Lawrie filmed in the Albert Hall once, helping out as a third AD on David Lean’s THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS. “It was hard work because, you see, the Albert Hall has no interior stairs, so any time you had to get a message from the camera up above to the extras down below, you had to leave the building, go in another door, and all the way down and then back up again for the next message.” This was in the days before walkie-talkies, of course.

THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS, which only recently became available on DVD, is a very good Lean, closing out his British period and inaugurating the international one, with some modest location filming in Switzerland. Hmm, Switzerland to the Albert Hall, I wonder if Lean was under the influence of THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH as well?

The Lean-Lester connection is quite interesting. Lean, a former editor, was blown away by Lester’s “image-mixing” in PETULIA and sent him a wildly congratulatory telegram, which he treasures to this day. Lester subsequently visited Lean, a tax exile in Rome, and thereby hangs another weird conjunction. Lester was struck by how the millionaire lived, accepting unnecessary discomfort with a rather Calvinist resignation — Lean lived in a hotel overlooking Rome’s zoo, and would be awoken at the crack of dawn by the roars of big cats getting their meaty breakfast. Which brings to mind the plot twist in Dario Argento’s THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, where a phone call is traced via the sound of an exotic bird overheard in the background, meaning that the call came from a hotel near the zoo… at last, with Argento we find a filmmaker we KNOW was influenced by Hitchcock, even down to his casting of Reggie Nalder from the 1956 MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH.

Jekyll Week

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2008 by dcairns

“He gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation.”

Yes, September is REGGIE NALDER MONTH here at Shadowplay, as we celebrate the career, life, and charitable work of the Salem’s Lot star who —

No, wait, wait, that’s a TERRIBLE IDEA.

But it is in fact JEKYLL WEEK. Five days of schizoid ramblings.

Fiona and I have been running a range of different Jekyll & Hyde adaptations, from her favourite version (and one of her very favourite movies) the 1931 Rouben Mamoulian piece produced by Paramount, to the often-dismissed late Renoir curio, LE TESTAMENT DE DR. CORDELIER. It’s been fun!

“My devil had long been caged; he came out roaring.”

A general observation, which will hopefully be developed over the week: different versions of the story have often built upon their predecessors, whether they had the legal right to or not. Stephenson’s story has supplied the central idea, but the narrative structure of most versions owes more to the Barrymore film, which in turns appears to derive from a stage version. In a way, the novella has been treated like a myth, with successive accounts developing the story and adding new characters and elements to suit the mood of the times or the requirements of the media.

A trivial example: in Alan Moore’s comic book The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (great fun, recommended), Moore ignores Stephenson’s description of Hyde as being significantly smaller than Jekyll, and follows the archetypal path laid down by The Incredible Hulk, making Edward Hyde a gigantic musclebound brute with inhuman strength. This suits the action-packed requirements of a comic book adventures, while also strengthening the connections between Stephenson’s story and the comic book tradition of the superhero/villain with a secret identity.

“My reason wavered, but it did not fail me utterly.”

Sean Connery’s somewhat regrettable swansong as star, very loosely based on Moore’s comic, preserves this notion and has Jason Flemying as a wiry Jekyll, transformed by a bulging special-effects muscle-suit into a he-man Hyde. Or maybe “it-man” would be more apt. LXG, as its dumb-ass producers wanted us all to call it, gets just about everything else wrong, and by bending Moore’s simple and effective comic out of shape, found itself on the sharp end of a lawsuit from filmmaker Larry Cohen (LXG ended up by using characters Cohen had already enlisted for a proposed project called Cast of Characters — a terrible title, incidentally). But the dumbed-down idea of a gigantic Hyde was a natural for an action movie blockbuster. Pitiable noise-fest VAN HELSING, which gave Fiona a migraine for the first time in her life, appropriates the same idea.

“It wasn’t like a man; it was like some damned Juggernaut.”

So I’ll be trying to trace and examine the Jekyll-Hyde meme as it evolves through some sample films, and also just mucking about with whatever ideas get thrown up by the voyage.

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