Archive for The Man Who Laughs

Oldies and Goodies

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on February 10, 2023 by dcairns

More information about my Hippfest talk — “The online live streams will be available to view for 48 hours. Once you book your ticket you’ll be sent a viewing link on the day.” — so whatever timezone you infest, you can catch up with the chat about visible difference in cinema, which takes its cue from THE MAN WHO LAUGHS and its title — All Faces are Masks — from a quote by Conrad Veidt.

Over at The Chiseler, my ham-hymn to Laird Cregar is republished — I also recommend Tom Sutpen’s magisterial playlist Zis Boom Ba to accompany your reading, and the pieces by Jim Knipfel, Imogen Sara Smith and Dan Callahan. It’s ALL good, actually.

Silent Talk

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on February 8, 2023 by dcairns

Here’s the program for this year’s Hippfest (Hippodrome Silent Film Festival in Bo’ness. Eagle-eyed observers will notice me listed — I’m doing a talk, All Faces are Masks, alongside Chris Heppell from the organisation Changing Faces. This accompanies the screening of THE MAN WHO LAUGHS and deals with the treatment of disfigurement and difference in silent cinema and movies generally.

I’m really excited (and nervous) about making this contribution to one of my favourite events in the film calendar! The event is also streaming, so if you’re unable to make it to Bo’ness you can still scope me out.

Dank Satanic Mills #1

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2022 by dcairns

It’s the iron maiden again! Screen right, bottom. The same infernal device Conrad Veidt is consigned to in THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (in his first role, as the hero’s father) and which he later admired from the outside in ABOVE SUSPICION. We saw it again later in Corman’s THE RAVEN, the most recent appearance I’ve spotted by the long-serving instrument of torture. One of the most-used props in films. After a turn in it, you could recover by having a lie-down on Gloria Swanson’s swan-boat-bed.

I would like to discover more appearances.

Anyway, I have to say more about THE STRANGE DOOR because Eureka! granted me a review copyof their ace Karloff MANIACAL MADNESS set. Fun movie — future Star Trek director Joseph Pevney is turned loose in a lot of standing sets (a cucalorus in every room) with Charles Laughton and Boris Karloff. Laughton seems like he needs a couple-three more takes of every scene to get the lines down, but, aware of the tight schedule, I guess, he ploughs on until “cut” (rather than breaking the scene whenever he feels himself drying, as he did with Sternberg in all those I, CLAUDIUS outtakes). There’s a lot of mad invention and lipsmacking craziness, but punctuated by uncertain pauses where he has to slow himself down and then ramp up the energy again when he remembers what’s next.

Karloff, very solid, reunited with his OLD DARK HOUSE co-star, did not get on with him, as reported by Kim Newman and Stephen Jones in their lively commentary. The suggestion that Laughton’s style was becoming old-fashioned is one I’d take issue with — I’d say “Have you seen ADVISE AND CONSENT?” Or, indeed, ISLAND OF LOST SOULS, which always struck me as a very modern bit of camp villainy. If Laughton seems out of date in THE STRANGE DOOR it’s because the whole film is, the dead end of the Universal Gothic cycle (along with THE BLACK CASTLE the following year). And the man isn’t on top form, though he’s certainly ENGAGED.

The climax, with our heroes trapped in a cell whose walls are inexorably closing in (powered by the water-mill I alluded to in our title), is gripping. Walls closing in always makes for a good, suspenseful scenario — I don’t know why they don’t trot the idea out more often, unless it’s that one so seldom encounters it in daily life.