Archive for Roger Corman

Great Directors Made Little: The Little Fellow

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2014 by dcairns

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Part of an occasional series of baby photographs of the great auteurs. Because.

Chaplin’s background of grinding poverty made family portraiture unlikely, but thankfully the nice people at his primary school in Kennington, in between beating him for being left-handed, took a memorial snap of the year’s waif intake.

Charlie is the one with a circle round his head and a cunning plan to get out of this.

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Images from Paul Merton’s fine study Silent Comedy, about which my only complaints are (1) no Raymond Griffith and (2) insufficient Charley Chase. Merton hasn’t been able to see Griffith projected, and eschews tatty video copies, which is fair enough, and he’s not a Chase fan, which is something of a liability in the business of appreciating silent comedy. What he says about Chase is fair enough, there just isn’t enough of it — needs about twenty pages more.

Mind you, Walter Kerr, the greatest critic of silent comedy, doesn’t rate Chase that highly either, but his account of WHY is sharp and beautiful ~

“…and Charley Chase could be counted on to fill a release schedule with a steady supply of more that acceptable two-reelers. But there was no pushing Chase beyond a sprightly domestic base, or toward features: his trim face and manner had no fairy-tale excess in them, no line to invite a caricaturist’s ballooning, no mystery to be wrestled with. He would always be at his best as a faintly fussed Mr. Normal,  condemned–in his best comedy, Movie Night–to hustling his children to the bathroom across the resisting knees of patrons trying to watch the screen. At his less than best he would manufacture gags too transparent for surprise: having padded his thighs with sponge because he is going to play Romeo in tights, he carelessly–and really inexplicably–walks across a lawn covered with revolving sprinklers; as we expect, and as he ought to have expected, the sponge inflates wildly, providing him with the legs of an overfed frog. Chase was a craftsman, and would often be of help, behind the camera, to others on the lot, Laurel and Hardy included; but he was trapped between the arbitrary gagging of his Sennett origins and the sheer, not unattractive, ordinariness of his appearance.”

Maybe… BUT (1) only in the world of silent comedy could Chase’s bizarre elongitude be classed as ordinary, and (2) I am already laughing at the image of Chase with overinflated legs — and I haven’t seen that film. (One of Kerr’s skills is evoking visual gags for us).

This all leads, somehow, to Roger Corman’s monster-maker, Paul Blaisdel ~

“…Corman retained Blaisdell to make a mutated human horror for the film THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED.  Working from a pair of long underwear and carefully cutting, gluing, and painting pieces of foam rubber and carpet padding, Blaisdell produced the three-eyed, crab-shouldered “Marty the Mutant.” [ ...]  It was also in this film that Blaisdell had his first brush with death as a stuntman — during a rainstorm sequence, the foam rubber began to soak up water, causing him to collapse under its weight and nearly drown in the absorbed water.”

Via www.bloodsprayer.com

My Chaplin piece.

Click thru to explore the possibility of buying Merton’s fine volume: Silent Comedy

Falling for the House of Usher

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on October 15, 2013 by dcairns

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By clicking here

Fall of the House of Usher [Blu-ray]

you can buy a fine Blu-ray of Roger Corman’s THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER featuring, among many marvelous extras, a little video essay I put together with the mighty Timo Langer. My ambition is to become a Great Video Essayist. I’m not there yet, one has to start somewhere.

Nothing else lined up to see print just now, though I just got a review copy of a disc for Electric Sheep — and I think I know what my next film will be.

All this jet-setting (Telluride-Pordenone-Lyon!) BTW, is made possible by the fact that a feature script Fiona and I wrote ages ago finally went in front of the cameras and we got paid a chunk of our fee (some of it we had when in what is known as development, some is deferred). More on that later…

Burning Down the House

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , on August 21, 2013 by dcairns

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I have contributed a video essay to Arrow’s dazzling new Blu-ray of THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER — sharing space with Jonathan Rigby, Joe Dante and Tim Lucas, which is pretty fine company to be in. If you enjoyed PIECES OF PETULIA then you’ll… perhaps also enjoy FRAGMENTS OF THE HOUSE OF USHER. What next? CHUNKS OF CHARIOTS OF FIRE? GOBBETS OF GODZILLA? Only time will tell.

As with the PETULIA essay, editor Timo Langer deserves mucho credit for his editing skills, and thanks are also due to Francesco Simeoni at Arrow for commissioning the thing and offering helpful feedback throughout.

The essay is ten minutes long — my only regret was that I’m a little critical of Richard Matheson’s screenplay, not expecting him to die just before the thing came out. And anyway, one never knows if screenplays are flawed due to the writer or due to rewriting by other hands or what. I seem to recall an interview where Matheson said he wasn’t too pleased with the end product and considered putting his pseudonym on it, Logan Swanson, “who has really written some awful junk.”

In fact, the script is mainly quite nifty and allows Vincent Price plenty of opportunity for eyebrow arching.

You can buy the little beauty here:

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