Archive for The Man Who Changed His Mind

Brainswapping

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2021 by dcairns
Bryan Powley relaxes between takes

THE MAN WHO CHANGED HIS MIND turns out to be really good — thanks to Joe Dante for bigging it up at Trailers From Hell. He points out that this little (61 minute) British sci-fi shocker is the role model for all of Boris Karloff’s later Columbia mad scientist flicks, and better than all of them (and I like those films, as I suspect does Joe).

Director is Robert Stevenson, far from his Disney doldrums — his late British films are huge fun, those I’ve seen — NON-STOP NEW YORK and KING SOLOMON’S MINES. Does this mean I have to watch his Jack Hulbert comedies? I suppose it does.

Karloff essays one of his usual turn-on-a-dime plunges into insanity from kindliness, but he’s never THAT kindly — the seeds are sewn in the first act. Anna Lee is smiley again, perhaps a little TOO smiley, and John Loder is a fast-talking newspaperman. But the film’s real treat comes from Donald Calthrop as the disabled assistant/co-conspirator, and the great Frank Cellier, the newspaper tycoon who funds Boris’ experiments in mind transference.

Karloff’s Dr. Laurience has found a way to extract the information — memories and personality — from one brain and transfer them to another. He’s proven this with a placid and an irate chimp, played, I think, by the same ape — the IMDb lists one Bryan Powley as “undetermined role (uncredited)” so I’m going to call the chimp Brian Powley from here on in. Cellier at first backs Karloff, but withdraws support after Karloff, a genius as a brain scientist but a lousy salesman, gives an unsuccessful presentation to the media. So Karloff transplants Calthrop’s mind into Cellier’s body, so his underling can keep the funds flowing in Cellier’s guise.

And, it turns out, Cellier can do a terrific impression of Calthrop’s wheedling delivery. While it’s weird that Karloff doesn’t get to transplant his own mind at this point, our reward is more Cellier and more Karloff. We get less Calthrop but we get enough of him.

It’s also weird that no human character changes bodies with Bryan Powley the chimp of a thousand faces, since he appears in the movie’s most famous still. I’m sure HE could have put on a very convincing and accurate Donald Calthrop act as well.

Boris DOES get to try his invention on himself in the third act, and John Loder, who one never particularly admires, pulls off a striking (and cruel) imitation of Karloff’s stance, which is an assumed old-man gait at this point, but uncannily like the bow-legged hobble Karloff will acquire for real by the 1960s, so I’m assuming he was already suffering it a bit here.

The clever script is by John L. Balderston, a regular writer on Universal’s horror cycle (DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN, THE MUMMY, BRIDE OF) and Sidney Gilliat, a regular writer on just about every entertaining British film of the period, and one L. Du Garde Peach, who certainly has a good name.

There are very few British horror films from the thirties — THE GHOUL and MOTHER RILEY MEETS THE VAMPIRE — they’re all of interest. This one is perhaps trying to have plausible deniability since the BBFC really didn’t like the “H” Certificate films… so it’s funny and fantastical too. Worth your time.

Costumes by Molyneux

THE MAN WHO CHANGED HIS MIND stars ????; Ianto; Bronwyn; Bob Cratchit; Wright; Mr. Todhunter; Dr. Grimesby Rylott; Herbert Ponting F.R.P.S.; Joshua Trimble; and Dr. Gribble.

PS The fact that Bryan Powley’s other IMDb roles include Dr. Gribble, Cmmdr Mannering, Capt. Hardy, single gentleman, Col. Burgoyne of the French Secret Service and Sir Isaac Newton may be thought to argue strongly against his being a chimpanzee. But by careful study of his features I’m convinced he is one, albeit a particularly versatile one.

Monkey, Karloff, or Bust?

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on May 6, 2015 by dcairns

vlcsnap-2014-05-23-01h22m55s189From THE MAN WHO CHANGED HIS MIND.

But I have nothing to say about that film. Instead I’m going to talk about our Boris Karloff/John Farrow/Crane Wilbur double feature.

Wilbur scripted and Farrow directed THE INVISIBLE MENACE in 1938 — a murder mystery set on an island military base, in which Karloff’s casting at first seems like an absurdity — how can you have a whodunnit with Boris lurking about? But in fact it’s a moderately clever story, and Boris is agreeably used against type. All the characters are jerks, which is sort of interesting.

z220px-Poster_of_the_movie_The_Invisible_Menace

“There was no invisible menace!” Fiona complained at the end.

“Maybe there was,” I suggested. “It just chose not to declare itself.”

This leads me to my new theory, which is that every movie contains an invisible menace, it’s just that usually they are content not to do anything. Eventually, this theory will supplant that one about the auteurs.

Was hoping for some of John Farrow’s trademark tracking shots, and there was some decent work, but most of it was as unobtrusive as the titular menace.

west-of-shanghai-1

WEST OF SHANGHAI is more problematic, given the casting of Karloff and Vladimir Sokoloff as Chinese generals. But Hollywood really had no choice but to indulge in such creative casting — the one thing everybody knows about the Chinese, of course, is that there just aren’t enough of them. If they were as numerous as, say, the Irish, movies could fill their Chinese general roles with real Chinese, maybe even with real Chinese generals. Instead, we have one Russian and one Anglo-Indian with a Russian name. Also Ricardo Cortez, an American of Austrian Jewish origins with a Spanish name, if that helps.

Most places are west of Shanghai, come to think of it, aren’t they? A film with such a title could easily be set in Lewisham.

Karloff is required to speak pidgin English, which he does with impeccable diction (albeit a thlight lithp), which doesn’t work at all. The character is meant to be a thug, something Boris could only manage in his younger days. Dignity, always dignity — knowing that the film is bunkum and he’s ludicrously miscast, he just does his own thing, playing a loutish warlord waging revolution like a bemused vicar wondering why the crusts haven’t been cut off his cucumber sandwiches.