Archive for RW Paul

The Sunday Intertitle: Cherry Read

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , on March 24, 2013 by dcairns


This drunkard and his family are so poor they can only afford a painting of plates (top left). And a painting of a street outside the window. But at least the plates are painted anamorphically so you can look at them from an angle and feel prosperous.

The Film Explainer Returns was an event at last week’s Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema. Storyteller Andy Cannon harks back to the early days of movies by accompanying movies with a live voice-over, narrating, commenting on and supplying historical background to a wide selection of super-obscure short features, from a turn-of-the-century religious flick to a hilarious amateur dramatics version of Rob Roy made by the Bearsden Film Club. The titular Highland rogue wears dress kilt and plimsolls, and can be enjoyed here, at the  Scottish Screen Archive. A highly recommended site for historic trawling.

Jean L Gray’s Edinburgh travelogue, NORTHERN CAPITAL (viewable here) offers scenic views of the city in the 30s. Gray won an amateur movie prize in a contest judged by none other than Alfred Hitchcock.

Mr Cannon was accompanied by musicians Stewart Hardy and Frank McLaughlin (who was nice enough to give me a lift home), and the whole event was funny, beautiful and informative — a fresh way to enjoy old movies.

RW Paul’s temperance film, with the inexplicable yet poetic title BUY YOUR OWN CHERRIES, was a special treat. Interested parties can check out Mr Paul’s enthusiastic, sometimes amateurish, but always engaging work on this BFI disc —

R. W. Paul – The Collected Films 1895-1908 [DVD]


Mental Vampires. REALLY Mental Vampires.

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on March 28, 2009 by dcairns


How is my (insane) quest to see every film illustrated in Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Moviesgoing, you ask? Well, most likely you don’t ask, but safe in my cyber-cocoon I can imagine you asking any damn thing I want. My quest, codenamed “See Reptilicus and Die,” is going swimmingly.

EXTRAORDINARY UNDRESSING (1901) by R.W. Paul is a frabjous trick film in which a theatrically drunk fellow attempts to remove his clothes (strange how many Paul films centre on male denudings, from HIS ONLY PAIR to A WAYFARER COMPELLED TO DISROBE PARTIALLY, which gets my vote for most syntactically contorted title prior to I AM CURIOUS, YELLOW) but is thwarted by a series of jump cuts which see him instantly re-clad in a wide variety of different costumes. Then a cardboard skeleton appears and scares the crap out of him. I’d give it a 5 on my Earlyfilmometer — which means it’s not as good as THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY, but still better than FOR YOUR EYES ONLY.

FIEND WITHOUT A FACE is two-thirds thick-eared sci-fi turgidity, with chipboard actors flailing their shoddly hinged limbs in a script the consistency of porridge, but that last third is a doozy. From the moment a suspiciously-accented “Canadian” (the film is a British production in its entirety) turns up as a drooling loon, having had half his brain sucked out — by “mental vampires” — through the back of his neck (his demented yodelling is both authentically terrifying and very, very funny), things start piling on the oomph.

Stick with it. Amusingly boring at first and then — enter the Famous Eccles!

A crusty scientist (an expert in “sibonetics”) makes a page turn by the power of his mind; an invisible force rips a hole in a screen door; and then killer crawling brains, with wiggling antennae and waggling spinal cord tails are crawling up trees and flying through the air and sucking people’s nervous systems out through the backs of their necks, just as if they owned the place. It’s all down to an experiment in telekinesis that misguidedly leached energy from an atomic reactor being used to power an experimental radar system (WTF?) and if that doesn’t make sense, never mind, because the animated special effects by Ruppel & Nordhoff (who sound like trapeze artists but presumably aren’t) are Lynchian and very gory. Poor Kim Parker, as the busty heroine, who is quite the pluckiest and smartest character, and most alive performer, gets brain leeches on her head TWICE, which is twice more then the average B-movie starlet would merit, but survives the experience and ends the film happily embracing the timber protagonist. Watch out for splinters.

And then I watched the full ten minutes or whatever of the Edison FRANKENSTEIN (viewable here), a lovely experience. Charles Ogle’s monster actually reminds me of both Dave Prowse’s shaggy beast in FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL, and a character from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats. the film is also striking for the way it is rendered redundant by its own intertitles, which fully explain the entire plot, including many plot developments that we haven’t yet seen. But the mirrorplay is excellent, and the creation scene (a puppet burning, shown in reverse) is eerily creative.

Forgotten Silver

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on March 12, 2009 by dcairns

The latest edition of my column, THE FORGOTTEN, is up at The Auteurs’ Notebook. This particular one may be my favourite of all the articles I’ve written. But then, as has been well established by now, I do have peculiar taste.


The subject is R.W. Paul, so this is amongst the earliest of early cinema I’ve written about. But I just acquired the collected works of Segundo de Chomon, so you can probably expect more fin-de-siecle ramblings soon.