Archive for Sidney Salkow

Red Herrings

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , on April 27, 2020 by dcairns

Dalton Trumbo is the main writer on THE LONE WOLF STRIKES, and you can tell. At the start of the tale, Michael Lanyard, AKA the Lone Wolf, as inhabited by Warren the starving lion William, having previously given up a life of crime for a life of adventure, has given up a life of adventure for a life aquatic, breeding fish in his Manhattan apartment. It makes a nice image, the stacks of fish tanks filling half the view, the picture window opening onto distant skyscrapers — all glassy grids, you see.

We remember of course that Laurence Olivier has a whole speech about oysters in SPARTACUS, Trumbo’s most famous screen credit, so obviously the man was a keen piscatorian and liked to get his hobby up there on the big screen. He liked to write in the bath, also, like a fish, or Waldo Lydecker or Jean-Paul Marat. The plot of this one is about stolen pearls, so the oceanic note is continued neatly.

Eric Blore gets to say: “I couldn’t help myself, sir. Miss Jordan’s a regular VAMpire, sir, she fairly WORMED it out of me!”

Also: “I LOATHE fish!!!” and “OOOH! I’ve spilled the beans!

It’s not so ridiculous, having a detective story where the shamus is more concerned with scallops than sleuthing. CHINATOWN features a discursion on fish at the Abalone Club, Detective Kinderman in EXORCIST III delivers a monologue on carp held over from the original movie on account of its extreme length and irrelevance, and Raymond Chandler began but did not finish a novel, The Big Swim Bladder, in which Philip Marlowe is distracted from a vicious blackmail-and-homicide case by the undulations of a particularly appetising halibut.

The film tries to winkle comedy out of WW being harried by his client, a slightly spoiled heiress, but as she’s the bereaved daughter of a recent murderee, it’s hard to take her being the butt of a joke.

Interesting that guys like Trumbo, Waldo Salt, and various of the Hollywood Ten mainly made a living with this kind of cheery pablum, but racked up reps for high seriousness during their years of unemployment. Still, the dialogue has a zing, and certainly plays to the stars’ well-established personae. “Why Mr. Lanyard, you’re simply…” “Terrific? Of course I am.”

Sidney Salkow, the Tarkovsky of the flat two-shot, once more directs with his customary… attendance? None of his shots match, is what I’m saying.

THE LONE WOLF STRIKES stars Julius Caesar; Mr. Toad; Phyllis Fowler; Mr. Fenty; Lois Clarke; Professor Schmutz; Bob Wayne / ‘Copperhead’; Walt Spoon; Morony; Crowd Member; and Man in Talking Pictures Demonstration (uncredited).

“It’s only when you’re immersed in your fish that you disappoint ME, sir.”

Noir Lite

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on April 23, 2020 by dcairns

“He’s dead! Laminated!”

“This is a job for Michael Lanyard!”

I was hoping to amuse Fiona with the above ribtickling remark, but she just stared, so I put on my best Oliver Hardy voice and said, “You know what a lanyard is, don’t you,” and she laughed loudly, not at me and my wit, but at the memory of Oliver Hardy.

THE LONE WOLF MEETS A LADY is a standard-issue Columbia B pic, efficiently directed by Sidney Salkow with his customary anonymity (I doubt even Harry Cohn could pick him out of a line-up) but it has Warren William, the starving lion, and Eric Blore and whatnot. Something about stolen diamonds.

These things generally start out dull (“I’ve just met these people and already I’m not interested!” I declared, paraphrasing Adam Belinsky) then perk up when the leads appear (WW and EB are a delightful team, you can take Boston Blackie and stick him), then run out of steam midway, revived only by interesting bit players, here Shemp Howard as a burglar with echolalia and Luis Alberni as a Greek laundryman (well within his range).

Blore in full dither.

By the end, having been sleeping irregularly, Fiona was drifting off, and managed to hallucinate a new ending, based on the Lone Wolf’s enthusiasm for winter sports, which is a minor plot point in this one (skis and snowshoes in back of car: the quest refused).

“Oh… what was… oh, was that his crampons?”

Not that crampons are really a winter sports thing, anyway. But I’ve always liked Guy Grand’s conceit in The Magic Christian, of splicing upsetting new shots into classic films to startle the unwary. Fiona has a Guy Grand of the unconscious.

The Sidney Salkow signature shot: a buncha guys standing around in the dark.

THE LONE WOLF MEETS A LADY stars Perry Mason; Sir Alfred MacGlennon Keith; Helena – in love with Demetrius; Oberon – King of the Fairies; Mandrake the Magician; Mr. Bel-Goodie; Bloodgood; Mrs. Truesmith; Florenz Ziegfeld; Bert Pierce; Louis Louis of the Hotel Louis; Walt Spoon; and Shempeth.

Your Stars, Today, 08.06.09

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on June 8, 2009 by dcairns

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Chalk another one up in my quest to see every film illustrated in Denis Gifford’s Pictorial History of Horror Movies.

From THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, a surprisingly faithful Italian-shot version of Richard Matheson’s classic novel of modern vampirism, I Am Legend. In terms of story and ideas, this would be the version the fans of the book want, except that Sidney Salkow directs with the dynamism of a dehydrated aspidistra, and Vincent Price is the universe’s least physical actor. The shots of him gangling about in the distance are pathetic in all the wrong senses of the word, and the montages of him staking vampires could be used in training films showing how not to swing a mallet. The survivalist protag needs to be played by someone able to suggest swagger and extremism: Shatner would’ve been a godsend.

Nevertheless, some interest is generated by the shambling nocturnal figures, so clearly a big influence on George Romero. He likes to claim it’s the novel that influenced him…