Archive for The Exploits of Elaine

The Sunday Intertitle: Hazard Lights

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 14, 2020 by dcairns

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Youtube. I was looking for one thing and found another. You know how it is.

Having enjoyed a stimulating Warren William Weekened double feature with the Starving Lion as Philo Vance in THE DRAGON MURDER CASE and THE GRACIE ALLEN MURDER CASE (no, really) I was searching for glimpses of either of WW’s silent movie appearances, in which he played as Warren Krech, an impossible name for a leading man, you would have thought.

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It turned out that the second of these, PLUNDER (1923) was Pearl White’s last adventure serial. I did manage to track down an extract, but White was such an independent heroine that long stretches are Krechless.

That led me on to my longstanding search for THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE, which appears in Dennis Gifford’s Pictorial History of Horror Movies and therefore must be viewed. I found a few clips but not what I was looking for. But then ~

At 6.30 we can see something often described as a myth: a serious melodrama featuring a woman tied up on a railway track. Since the earlier myth was that silent films were full of such contrived scenarios, it was a relief to be able to say that the only actual example was Gloria Swanson and the Sennett team spoofing the practice in TEDDY AT THE THROTTLE.

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But then, what were they spoofing? It didn’t seem an obvious activity to have presented on the stage. You could tie someone to some fake tracks, but the impossibility of a locomotive actual trundling onstage to kill the captive would surely diminish the suspense.

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Helen Holmes, railway adventure-girl, in THE HAZARDS OF HELEN, seems to provide the spark, though it’s notable that she’s tied up on the tracks rather than tied TO the tracks as later cliché would have it, and she rescues herself. The world’s collective faulty memory portrays the serial heroines as in constant need of salvation by brawny he-man types, and so we get the Penelope Pittstop of cartoon infamy, but in fact the followers of Pearl White were as self-sufficient as any Flash Rogers or Buck Gordon.

As for my original Starving Lion hunt, the only image I turned up of a silent WW is a poster for THE TOWN THAT FORGOT GOD, a William Fox production in which the young Krech can be seen on the upper left, a ghastly apparition, with his hair mussed in a way which vividly recalls his appearance in, of all things, THE GRACIE ALLEN MURDER CASE (Gracie has just thrown a handbag at his head).

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Please Switch Off Your Mobile Devices

Posted in FILM, Science with tags , , , , , , on July 7, 2016 by dcairns

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After an unremarked-on but presumably traumatic absence, The Forgotten returns to haunt your monitors with a striking artifact from 1916, the Kraziest serial you will ever see, Jacques Feyder’s THE CLUTCHING FOOT.

Over at The Notebook.

Commingling

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2016 by dcairns

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Already, after just one FULL day of viewing in Bologna, things are getting blurry. BATMAN: THE MOVIE was one of the last things I saw in Edinburgh, and here comes Cesar Romero, the Joker himself, as a stage-door Johnny in William Wyler’s Sturges-scripted THE GOOD FAIRY (“A lot of early Sturges scripts have only a few recognizably Sturgesian lines, but this one is all Sturges all the time,” is how I pitched it to a fellow patron) and here comes Alfred the butler in MARNIE, screening in an archival Technicolor print. Everything is intermingling.

Also viewed — Mariann Lewinsky introduced her Krazy Serial programme of serial installments from a hundred years ago, saying that she had been urged to commemorate the Futurist manifesto, published right here in Bologna in 1916, but “it’s a terrible document. And the futurists, who took a great deal from cinema, gave nothing back. Whereas the Dadaists, who took nothing from anywhere, gave a great deal back.” So by creating a collage of incomplete serials, she pays homage to Dada and to Krazy Kat, who is also celebrating his centenary.

Jacques Feyder’s LE PIED QUI ÉTREINT (THE CLUTCHING FOOT) is a parody of serials, and specifically THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE (I know this only because I saw a couple of episodes in Bologna two years ago), with that show’s Clutching Hand replaced by “the man in the green scarf”, a masked figure in an outsize baby carriage, limbs spasming in horrible spasticity, bare feet grasping at convenient props such as the old-fashioned car horn affixed to his perambulator. He’s my new role model.

More on this later, hopefully — it’s the greatest set of nonsense ever assembled.

These disconnected fragments of narrative have been assembled alongside one another to throw up precisely the kind of random connections that make film festivals so confusing — the final stage of this syndrome is when characters from the films seem to appear on the streets, or characters from the streets in the films. I’m not quite there yet, but it’s still early days.