Archive for Stan Laurel

Jiggety-Jig

Posted in FILM, Sport with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2016 by dcairns

Laughter_Hell_1933_1@2xLAUGHTER IN HELL: Pat O’Brien, Clarence Muse, Noel Madison

Home from Bologna, caught up on at least some of my missed sleep, and buzzing (in a bleary way) to write up in more details some of the wonders witnessed. 32 screenings in all, many of them containing more than one (short) film. 26 of them marvelous, and the others merely delightful.

By the way, Fiona came too. She didn’t want me to announce it on social media because she’s seen THE BLING RING and didn’t want Hermione from HARRY POTTER magicking her way into our vacant property and stealing all our bling crap.

Here’s the rundown of our last day’s viewing, a fairly light one —

entdeckung-mars-landung

9.00 a.m. I had been enjoying Mariann Lewinsky’s curation of the Krazy Serial, and wanted to see how it turned out. Bologna always has a 100-year-old serial, and this year the centenary of Dada was celebrated with an eccentric collection of episodes from incomplete serials, standalone shorts and scratch-assemblies of found footage. The last show memorialized WWI, with DIE ENTDECKUNG DEUTSCHLANDS DIE MARSBEWOHNER, a German sci-fi film in which Martians visit Munich (they are greatly impressed by the lid action on beer steiners); CAMP OF GOUDA, a newsreel study of a Belgian refugee camp in Holland (lacework and brush-making, the start of occupational therapy); NAPOLEON AND SALLY, in which the war is reenacted by two chimpanzees in fancy dress with ghastly, wraithlike shaved faces.

I congratulated Mariann on the serial’s climax: “It all came together beautifully.”

10.15. LIFE’S HARMONY, a very early Borzage. A sweet, naively ridiculous plot about rival church organists in a small town. Manages to pack amnesia and an evil twin into its denouement. Some beautiful shots in darkened rooms lit by source light including a fireplace. Borzage is already spreading his wings.

11.30. LAUGHTER IN HELL, a Universal pre-code which is everything everyone has already said it is, since it’s New York screening.

14.30. (long lunch to recover from previous) THE PALEFACE (Fiona was knocked unconscious by the heat and missed most of this); MAIDS AND MUSLIN, a wearisome Monte Banks comedy with some interest raised by Oliver “Babe” Hardy as villain, and some animated explosions and impacts scratched into the living celluloid; MONSIEUR DON’T CARE, a seven-minute fragment of one of Stan Laurel’s hilarious Valentino parodies. Stan plays Rhubarb Vaselino, fleeing the court of Louis IV in a world which features yellow cabs and giant safety razors. Also Stan in drag. Produced by Joe Rock, who later gave us EDGE OF THE WORLD. Even in fractured, flickering and fragmentary form, this laid them in the aisles, and made up for Fiona’s lapse into unconsciousness. A Keaton film like THE PALEFACE unfolds with measured logic in a way that can lull the sleepy viewer, but Mr. Laurel’s loopy spoofs (or perhaps spooves?) keep everyone caffeinated.

And then I was going to see FAT CITY in the Piazza Maggiore, a film I love, but it was late, I was drunk, the film was delayed, the pubs were roaring with football, and I drifted home.

But there was more to follow, on the very day of our leaving…

The Sunday Intertitle: Curses!

Posted in Comics, FILM with tags , , , , , , on May 8, 2016 by dcairns

vlcsnap-2016-05-07-21h19m57s204

Thanks to Donald Benson for the heads-up re Hairbreadth Harry‘s movie adaptations. I managed to locate one, DANGER AHEAD.

Don B. nailed it — the thing isn’t exactly hilarious but it’s sort of zesty and unusual. Director Scott Pembroke specialised in broad parody, helming some of Stan Laurel’s early adventures, such as DR. PICKLE AND MR. PRYDE, whose title tells you all you really need to know about both the subject and the level of wit involved.

vlcsnap-2016-05-07-21h51m38s39

Interesting that the tied-to-the-railway-tracks trope and moustache-twirling villain, long associated in the popular imagination with early silents, were never more than pastiche elements spoofing stage melodrama. TEDDY AT THE THROTTLE also makes this clear.

Twenty-year-old Earl McCarthy makes an ideal Harry, throwing himself into genuinely dangerous business with locomotives and moveable bridges, as do the rest of the cast. It wasn’t the stunts that got Earl — he died of a heart attack at twenty-six.

Still, DANGER AHEAD lacks the lunatic invention of its strip cartoon source material, which is a shame. Since the early days, comic adaptations have tended to leave out the crazier elements which make their inspiration memorable, while usually failing to provide the greater depth of character which live actors can provide.

DANGER AHEAD’s intertitles keep up the parodic pace, with nearly every one of them a mockery of heroic hokum and laden with puns and nonsense. But nothing has the slangy wit of Relentless Rudolph’s dialogue in the newspaper strip, where he tosses off caddish remarks such as “I must throw the glooms into this shindig!” and the incorrigible Phil Lander declares “Ah sweetums! Effulgent as the roseate morn! Those eyes! Those nose! Them lips!”

 

Crooked

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on June 7, 2014 by dcairns

wax6

Production design sketches from WAXWORKS (1924) by Paul Leni. Scanned from the same book I got the ALGOL ones from. I have forgotten the name of the book but it had the worl “Architecture” in the title. I guess “Panoptikum” is a German variation on “Panopticon” — meaning a room designed to offer a clear total view from every position. Panoptica were popular as theatres and prisons in the Victorian era — Glasgow has a Panopticon, the theatre where Stan Laurel made his stage debut.

wax4

Gaslight! From the Jack the Ripper episode. Here the Ripper, played by Werner “Caligari” Krauss in the film with spooky, soundless tread. I know it’s a silent film and everybody has a soundless tread, but Krauss’s is more soundless than the rest, calling to mind Victorian theories that Jack wore those new-fangled rubber-soled shoes to silently stalk his prey. Perhaps it’s because he’s a transparent double exposure. But here he looks like a muppet.

wax20003

More of the same. Gas lamps seem ideally suited to the acute scissoring angles of expressionist design.

wax30003

I kind of wish the movie were livelier — you can tell Leni was a production designer first, because he’s not so interested in narrative momentum, except as a pretext for moving on to the next set when he’s finished glorying in the present one. But the designs are so wondrous — particularly the Haroun Al-Raschid section with Emil Jannings — that one forgets about plot and just floats into the trippy environments, feeling rather like a double exposure oneself.

wax10003