Archive for The Devil and Daniel Webster


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on August 2, 2009 by dcairns


So, I’m scritching and scratching away at my first Film Club piece (have you got one of the new quill pads for your computer? It’s a real boon!), which airs tomorrow. Hope you’ll join me here. But I still have to write an Intertitle of the Week for today, so watch this space. Regular Shadowplayers might surmise that Chaplin’s SUNNYSIDE might form the basis for such a piece, and they would be not wrong.

In my viewing of this week’s Film Club offering, I forgot to watch for long-shots where you can apparently see Thomas Mitchell as Daniel Webster instead of Edward Arnold. So if anybody spots him and provides a timing for his appearance/s, I’ll offer a free William Dieterle movie as prize.


The First Rule of Film Club…

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on August 1, 2009 by dcairns


…is we must all talk about Film Club.

Above, we see Derek Malcolm, one of Britain’s finest film critics, who presented the first series of The Film Club on BBC2 on Saturday nights in bygone days. My friend Colin McLaren calls him the Walking Talking Stephen Hawking, for reasons which I guess are slightly apparent. I once insinuated my way into a conversation between Malcolm and Bertrand Tavernier at the Edinburgh Film Festival. I say “into,” but mainly I just listened. Couldn’t keep up. Those guys are hardcore cinephiles.

Sadly, the next year, when Malcolm phoned up to make arrangements for his annual visit, he said “This is Derek Malcolm,” and the festival person taking the call said “Who?” — not being rude, I think they just wanted the name repeated so they could write it down, but of course the inference was there that they hadn’t heard of him — and Malcolm hung up and never came to Edinburgh again. Or so I’m told.

Despite all this shameless badmouthing, I’m fond of DM and  The Film Club was a great thing, double features every week of great cinema. In series two we had celebrity guest presenters, a different one every week. Linda Myles presented an Ophuls double bill, Richard Lester introduced LES RIPOUX and TOUCH OF EVIL (“I had nothing to do with choosing this double bill, so I feel happy to say that I think it is, in the words of that other great entertainer of our time, General Oliver North, ‘a really neat idea'”) and Alex Cox introduced something or other so well they gave him a permanent gig of his own, Moviedrome.

Our own Film Club is a more modest affair. On Monday I’ll blog about THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER. Hopefully a fairly long, in-depth piece, but not anything special. The special bit is YOU — hopefully lots of you have seen the film now, or will have seen in by then, so on Monday and the following days we can really tear into the thing and have a jolly good discussion about it, even better than usual (and I am never less than delighted and impressed all to hell with the level of discussion here).

I think this might be a good thing to invite my students in on when term time starts up (a few of them do visit anyway) and the thing will hopefully be educational and fun for all of us. I’ll be delighted if this brings a few lurkers out of the woodwork, causes some occasional Shadowplayers to turn up again, and generally leads to some stimulating debate.

Smoke and Fire

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , on July 30, 2009 by dcairns


We watched THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER last night, with a tasty jug of Medford rum, in preparation for Film Club on Monday, and it certainly looks as if there’ll be plenty to say about it. One thing of interest was that this version (on the Masters of Cinema DVD) was about twenty minutes longer than the cut I’ve seen aired on Channel 4. So it was a first time for me, in a sense. Don’t know if the shorter version was the British release (it’s not a censorship job though), a re-release truncation for B-movie duty, or a relic from Leslie Halliwell’s tenure at Channel 4 — films were sometimes shortened for specific slots in those days, and Halliwell did not stint from butchering even his favourites (his praise of this movie may be what turned me on to it).

Anyway, one bit of good news is that the version on YouTube is the complete one.

I still want people to buy the DVD though, rather than watching it here. You can have one chapter, OK? Then you have to buy it. Actually, one advantage the short version has is it opens on Edward Arnold (8.58 into the chapter above!), and brings in Walter Huston almost immediately. And the film is alive in a special way when Huston’s around…

To reiterate for latecomers — on Monday we all meet up here and discuss the movie. Just like being down the pub.