Archive for The Last Man on Earth

The Sunday Intertitle: Moral Turpin-tude

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2011 by dcairns

The wind was a torrent of darkness upon the gusty trees, 
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas, 
The road was a ribbon of moonlight looping the purple moor, 
And the highwayman came riding– 
Riding–riding– 
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn door. 

Tom Mix as Dick Turpin? Some instinctive urge for variety must have goaded William Fox (the lifesblood of El Brendel not yet coursing through his arteries) — Mix was a great cowboy star, but could he not play other roles? As long as there was a supporting role for  Tony the Wonder Horse.

With its cartoon character names — Lord Churlston and Squire Crabtree are churlish and crabby as you might expect — this movie really shows how childish Hollywood was prepared to be. Perhaps only nostalgia makes it appealing, because I’d have no time for a modern movie as stupid as this. Turpin is rewritten as a Robin Hood figure (he even has Alan Hale, longterm Little John to various Robins, as sidekick), which outdoes the romanticism of his popular fiction appearances to date: the real guy was a murderer and thief with no redemptive charitable impulses: they hanged him in York.

As is so often the case with Fox productions, the sets are impressive (and the film impossible to see in a good condition print), and the crowd scenes reputedly feature Gary Cooper and Carole Lombard boosting the numbers, but good luck spotting either of them. At least Bull Montana is clearly visible as a prize fighter.

“That sounds like something out of Blackadder!” observed Fiona.

Director John G. Blystone finished his days directing Laurel & Hardy — probably regarded as a step down from this in industry terms, but I can think of worse fates. At least his immortality is assured. Outside of the highwayman genre, comedy was very much his bag, and he was Buster Keaton’s collaborator on OUR HOSPITALITY. The film of his I most want to see is THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1924), no relation to the Vincent Price version of I Am Legend — this is that rare bird, an apocalyptic hillbilly comedy.

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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…

Nine Lives, Seven Curses, and a Triphibian Monster

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2009 by dcairns

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Part three of my jumbo list of all the films illustrated in A Pictorial History of Horror Movies by Denis Gifford which I still have to see.

Have decided to mark the films out in red as I see them. People will be able to look back at these posts in a thousand years and they will appear SOAKED IN BLOOD.

110. THE LAST MAN ON EARTH — this might be the next Gifford-illustrated film I watch, since I have a disc of it lying around somewhere. Sounds promising enough — Vincent Price is that man.

113. I admit it, I’ve never seen WEREWOLF IN A GIRLS’ DORMITORY, originally known (in Germany) as LYCANTHROPUS, a rather classy title somebody should re-use.

118-119. With the heading “Women’s Lib hits Transylvania,” Gifford provides images of lady vampires. I find I can’t be sure I’ve seen RETURN OF COUNT YORGA, but I’m almost sure I have. The original COUNT Y ceases to be interesting the second George MacReady’s narration ends, apart from a cool end shot of happily vampirised townsfolks, if I’m recalling it correctly. Bert Gordon’s SAINT GEORGE AND THE SEVEN CURSES must be worth a few chuckles, but it’s not one that I’ve ever come across.

128. PHAROAH’S CURSE (1956) seems like it’s practically bound to stink, but the make-up in this still is fairly impressive.

138. Never seen GAPPA, THE TRIPHIBIAN MONSTER. Loved giant monster movies as a kid, but Gappa and Gamera never seemed to turn up. I would see Godzilla and pals in kids’ matinees at my local Odeon. My appetite for giant Japanese monsters has waned a bit since then.

144. THE MAN IN HALF MOON STREET is the original of THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH, so is probably a snooze.

146. THE BRUTE MAN. Rondo Hatton fascinates me. Possibly something to do with his appearance, but I can’t put my finger on it.

150-1. Boris Karloff in a string beard, for THE MAN WITH NINE LIVES. I’ll happily watch Boris in any old crap, including string beards. I don’t know if I ever saw all of THE WALKING DEAD, but I downloaded it so now I can. I love Michael Curtiz’s other horrors, so this has to be of some value. DEAD MEN WALK has two George Zuccos for the price of one. The cheap, cheap price.

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152. Rondo again! HOUSE OF HORRORS will have to be seen, as will THE MONSTER MAKER, in which Ralph Morgan pretends to have acromegaly, the disease that afflicted R.H. for real, giving him his distinctive manly appeal.

154. THE DEVIL BAT is widely available but I somehow missed it so far. I think it’s meant to be a fairly enjoyable Poverty Row Lugosi effort.

156-7. THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA gets a colour still this time, and then there’s a monochrome one from BLACK DRAGONS, with Lugosi. Was just offered a copy of this one.

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158-9. The motherlode! Never seen DR RENAULT’S SECRET, THE MAD MONSTER, RETURN OF THE APE MAN, THE APE MAN or CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN. An entire two-page spread which I’m a stranger to. That must mean something. Maybe I’m supposed to watch all of these in a marathon session. From what I’ve heard of the two APE movies, that might nery well prove fatal. Actor Steven McNicoll observed of Lugosi’s performance in THE APE MAN, that the tragedy was “you can see he’s thought about it.”

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160. THE STRANGE CASE OF DR RX. Weird title, weird film. No doctor of those initials appears in the story, but “Pinky” Atwill plays Dr. Fish, apparently. In a way, that’s even better.

162-163. Monogram’s VOODOO MAN somehow rates two stills. Well, it does combine Lugosi, Zucco and John Carradine.