Archive for Roger Corman

Arrows of Desire

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on February 9, 2015 by dcairns

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Finally got copies of THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER and THE COMEDY OF TERRORS, from Arrow Video. Both feature video essays written by me and edited by Timo Langer and are available from all good UK outlets, plus Amazon.

Fall of the House of Usher [Blu-ray]

The Comedy of Terrors [Dual Format Blu-ray + DVD]

COMEDY OF TERRORS is dual-format. To spare you the usual sight of our chipped floorboards, I performed a Cocteauesque trick and taped the movies to the living room wall for the above photo. So now you can enjoy our filthy, greasy wall.

USHER was an interesting one — my first video essay, Through the Pale Door. Since so much of the film is prowling around empty corridors, we created a totally uninhabited version of the movie, and also joined together all the matte paintings to tell the story in exteriors alone. And also cut together all the shots of paintings of Usher’s depraved ancestors. I like these little experiments and hope to do more like that when I can find a suitable project.

COMEDY OF TERRORS has more faces and talk, so for Whispering in Distant Chambers we did a lot of cutting in lines of dialogue to point up or undercut what the voice-over is saying. And I got Fiona to narrate this one as she has a better voice. It’s also a whistle-stop tour of Jacques Tourneur’s entire life and career, in parallel with his dad’s. Sadly, my plan to rope in Tourneur experts Chris Fujiwara, Christine Leteux and Geoffrey O’Brien came to naught, due to time constraints, but the film yielded some surprisingly cool stuff, despite its well-documented weaknesses, and Tourneur is always great to explore. Arrow allowed me to include clips from his earlier work via “fair use” so buyers can catch a glimpse of his first, super-rare movie, TOTO (from Pathe-Natan) and follow his style from CAT PEOPLE to WARLORDS OF THE DEEP.

Van Cleef & Arkoff

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2014 by dcairns

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I’d always wanted to see IT CONQUERED THE WORLD, ever since seeing images of the monster, who seemed to resemble a prize marrow with a face and pincers, and ever since reading Roger Corman’s magnificent memoir How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime (one of the truly wise books about cinema) which recounts how star Beverly Garland appraised her extraterrestrial co-star coolly, uttered the words “So you’ve come to conquer the world, have you?” and then felled the short-arsed visitant with a single kick to the forehead.

“Lesson one,” writes Corman, “Always make your monster bigger than your leading lady.”

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Lee Van Cleef plays a rogue scientist who befriends a Venusian who wants to invade Earth. Van Cleef thinks this is a swell idea and makes all the arrangements, communicating via a kind of ham radio, though the monster speaks only in a serious of musical parps and whines. Van Cleef understands every word, prompting Fiona to compare this with Charlie Brown’s conversations with his teacher in the animated show.

Fiona is fascinated by Van C’s tiny forehead. Kudos to Corman for avoiding typecasting the scientist role.

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The movie is centred on two couples, Van Cleef & Garland, who have a lovely dysfunctional relationship (“I’m going into town and when I come back I pray you’ll be sane,” she says) and the Peter Graveses, who keep dropping by. It’s sort of a WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? with a space alien in the role of the little bugger.

The Venusian “It,” known to fans as “Beulah,” is vaguely conical (and more than vaguely comical). “He” has floor-length skin ending in a trimming of tentacular tassels. When he is angry or aroused, space-bats come flying from under his fleshy skirts. He lives in a cave with a hot spring because it reminds him of Venus.

The title, like the title of Roger’s book, is a lie — IT doesn’t at any point conquer the Earth, but it does cut off all electricity. So IT CAUSED A POWER OUTAGE would be a more accurate title. Somehow it also stops everybody’s watch from working, which seems unlikely and has no effect on the plot. When hero Peter Graves jumps on a bicycle, I half-expected the wheels to refuse to turn. “The swine!” Graves would cry, shaking his fist. But no.

The space-bats stick implants into the back of people’s necks to control them, like in INVADERS FROM MARS. I guess Venusians have been studying the Martians’ techniques.

There’s a good bit Fiona spotted of townspeople fleeing for the hills (we never see them again): one of them is clutching a saxophone. So at least they’ll have music, wherever they go.

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Note also the woman left-of-centre smiling at the camera. She may be fleeing for her life, but she isn’t going to let a little thing like that spoil her day. Shades of REPTILICUS, whose terrified refugees had a kind of carnival atmosphere to them.

There’s more recognizably deliberate comedy from Dick Miller and Jonathan Haze as bumbling soldiers. Miller is always welcome, but Haze’s lame-brained Mexican act is appalling.

Strange dialogue, from Samuel Z. Arkoff’s brother-in-law and/or an uncredited Charles B. Griffith: “Your hands are human but your mind is enemy,” Graves tells Van Cleef. Ye-es.

 

DVD, TV & FILM

Posted in FILM, Science with tags , , , , , on May 7, 2014 by dcairns

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A suitably Cronenbergian site greeted me at Edinburgh Airport, en route to Toronto for the screening of NATAN at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival.

Actually, it was Roger Corman’s GAS-S-S-S that first put forward the idea of movies in capsule form — obviously inspired by Corman’s experience dropping acid as research for THE TRIP, in which he had a vision of a future in which movies were transmitted through the earth and you experienced them simply by making contact with the ground. (“I still think this is potentially a good idea. It would eliminate all sorts of distribution problems.”) In his 1970 film, scripted by George Armitage, a character suggests movies as pills.

“Are you saying that some drug dealers will go into filmmaking?”

“I’m saying that some of our major motion picture studios will become drug dealers!”

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