Archive for Shemp Howard

I’m Looking Through You

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on July 24, 2010 by dcairns

THE INVISIBLE WOMAN (1940), was a lot more fun than we were expecting! Fiona was particularly taken with the film’s female empowerment stance, which has zesty Goldwyn Girl Virginia Bruce avenging herself on a nasty boss (above) and defeating a whole mob of gangsters single-handed before the hero even arrives on the scene. The gang includes Shemp Howard and is led by Oscar Homolka, a mob boss afflicted with crying jags sixty years before Tony Soprano…

“That’s a lot of money for a dame without a head.”

The fact that VB achieves all this empowerment by taking her clothes off gives the whole rigmarole a modern, post-feminist (ie, mixed up and self-contradictory) feeling, as well as a sexy one. Chris Schneider informs me that an invisible shower scene was considered too racy at the time (Ginnie’s outline picked out by the water spray, presumably) but the film still ends with the hero embracing a naked lady, using the art of mime. (Actually it finally ends in epilogue form with the couple’s adorable baby vanishing while the mad prof declares, “Hereditary!”) The have-your-empowerment-and-eat-it message is so contemporary that a modern remake actually seems like a passable idea.

The mad prof is John Barrymore, whom one should feel sorry for, except he seems to be having the time of his life: he’s over the top even by the standards of the hokum surrounding him.

WAY down the cast list is a speechless Maria Montez, the inaudible in pursuit of the invisible, and the guy being kicked up the arse is Charles Lane. Regular Shadowplayer Chris Schneider suggests I turn to David Ehrenstein for elucidation on the subject of that esteemed performer…

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The Strange Case

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 31, 2010 by dcairns

THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. RX, with its strange title, might never have crossed my path had I not been inspired to track it down as part of my lunatic quest to see all the films illustrated in Denis Gifford’s Pictorial History of Horror Movies, a compendium of horror movie lore that served as a combination of holy writ and porn-stash when I was about ten years old (monsters are the equivalent of porn for ten-year-olds, right?). This mission of madness, known as “See Reptilicus and Die” has caused me to peruse some screwy movies in the last couple of years, and if RX doesn’t take the cake, it at least might be said to hoover up the crumbs.

Really this is a comedy thriller, high on jinks and low on both scares and production values. Patric Knowles and Anne Gwynne are bickering investigators, he a private eye and she a crime writer whose research has a history of getting her into scrapes. It feels like this duo were intended to run into a whole series, and to try and get things off on a good footing screenwriter Clarence Upson Young equips them with enough backstory for twenty films (some of which sound more fun than this one). CUY wrote the similarly lightweight THE GHOST THAT WALKS ALONE and NIGHT MONSTER, but his most exciting credit is LOVE, HONOR AND OH BABY! — a title which made me laugh for about a minute, though I have no particular interest in ever seeing the picture, which does not appear in A Pictorial History of Horror Movies.

Our intrepid couple are investigating a killer who apparently strangles criminals who have escaped justice thanks to the machinations of a slick defense lawyer. All the bodies are marked with a calling card, signed “Dr. RX” — meanwhile Lionel Atwill is at large, as Dr. Fish, looking very suspicious in pebble glasses and leer. Walking racial insult Mantan Moreland is also on hand as Knowles’s man, and at the movie’s climax has to help the hero face not only the mad doctor, but also Nbongo the gorilla, inevitably played by Ray “Crash” Corrigan, who in his long career in furs also played great apes named Naba, Bonga, Nabonga, Pongo and Willie. You can see why he wasn’t called Ray “Versatility” Corrigan.

The film is chiefly interesting for its sheer silliness, which sometimes disrupts the narrative to a disturbing degree (when you find time for a bit for Shemp Howard of the Three Stooges, that’s likely to be the result) — the end shot, of Mantan Moreland, his hair turned prematurely white, laughing insanely, is sufficiently upsetting to have probably guaranteed that Private Detective Jerry Church and his sparky wife never returned for another adventure.

Like a negative image of Rodney Dangerfield.