Archive for The Maze

Your Halloween Costume

Posted in Fashion, FILM with tags , , , , , on October 31, 2017 by dcairns

Some guy in THE MAZE. While I would be the last person to attempt to dissuade you from attending your Halloween soirée as Lord Roger McTeam the giant Scottish frog from William Cameron Menzies’ THE MAZE (pictured) — the classics really are best —  I thought I might offer some more subtle suggestions. After all, as with sexiness, horribleness can be more effective if understated.

I forget what movie this guy’s in, maybe someone can tell me. I think it’s a Lugosi. But he’d make a great Halloween costume. All you need is a shirt, a bad haircut and his massive face.

Lon Chaney Jr. in CALLING DR. DEATH has a great look. The dark glasses and bathrobe effect — simple, disturbing, and yet elegant.

Or you could just go as this mildly constipated man.

Amaze your friends! Bemuse your enemies! This outfit modelled in THE DEVIL COMMANDS is really attractive, but perhaps impractical, especially if your host expects you to bob for apples.

If you have a small child, why not dress them as Paul Kelly, attaching a prosthetic head and upper body to bring them up to the correct height. Come on! You can’t tell me that wouldn’t be scary — actual manslaughterer Kelly, tottering and swaying towards you, his waxy, immobile face rocking from side to side?

From Don Post Studios.

The INNER SANCTUM guy would make a great costume. You’ll need a goldfish bowl and a table with a hole in it.

Stylish yet deadly. The handgun is very much part of the ensemble, so be sure you’re in an open carry state.

These two awful-looking men from VALLEY OF THE ZOMBIES wouldn’t make a great costume individually, I admit, but collectively — think of it, one side of you is the guy on the right, and the other is the guy on the left. People will think you’ve had a stroke. Terrifying!

Also from THE DEVIL COMMANDS. Because evening dress and electrodes is always a good look.

“You know me, anything in a pith helmet.” This one is maybe TOO terrifying? Fortunately I’ve forgotten what it’s from.

 

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William Cameron Menzies is out of his mind

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on April 30, 2010 by dcairns

…in a nice way, of course.

It’s easy to see why, in the face of all the evidence, people always assumed INVADERS FROM MARS was shot in 3D. Menzies’ particular way with deep focus and forced-perspective sets, coupled with extreme angles and discombobulating editing, make his films seem like 3D extravaganzas even when they’re not. Or rather, like 3D extravaganzas viewed under the influence of certain psychoactive  mushrooms.

(WCM did make a proper 3D film, the Scottish-set monsterpiece THE MAZE, whose plot synopsis, were I to attempt writing one, would surely melt your minds and cause them to flow down the backs of your necks. So I won’t do it, OK?)

ADDRESS UNKNOWN is a striking bit of wartime agit-prop, with an epistolary narrative that seems designed to defeat dramatization. But Menzies, unperturbed, just spews deep, off-kilter compositions all over the screen and makes us like it. Every minute or so there’s another “WOW” moment, and sometimes they follow directly on top of each other until you feel like tiny bombs are detonating in your frontal lobes.

It’s PVE!

Against all this, Paul Lukas and Peter Van Eyck both do pretty well at holding the eye where it belongs, when our natural response is often to go skittering off around the edges of the frame, looking for rational angles. Lukas, a really terrific actor, is especially fine, humanizing a monstrous character without asking for sympathy. His is a bad guy activated by weakness rather than malice, but weakness is next door to wickedness in the dyslexic dictionary of vice.

A real 3D moment, as Nazis come bursting through the screen at us!

I’m thinking that I’ve overestimated Sam Wood as director, because his terrific IVY, produced and designed by Menzies, bears all the visual hallmarks of this film, and none of Wood’s other work (apart from those Menzies designed). Still, Wood did have good taste in scripts, and maybe more interest in performance than WCM.

This piece might have been longer, but as I was taking my time with it, David Bordwell posted an awesome essay/history/appreciation of The Great Man. I’m thrilled to be a footnote in it, referencing my review of IVY. I’d urge you all to read it, and of course bookmark DB’s astounding blog if you somehow haven’t already.

The Dimensional Fallacy

Posted in FILM, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2009 by dcairns

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In this scene, both celebrated and reviled, in FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN (Paul Morrissey/Antonio Margheriti), a character falls disemboweled upon a grating and his liver-and-lights spill gaily forth to dangle loosely inches before the audience’s delighted faces.

Which reminds me of a conversation I overheard between Edinburgh Film Festival director Jim Hickey and Martin Scorsese (it was easy to overhear them: they had microphones and I had a ticket) in which Scorsese was talking about the mad number of set-ups he had to shoot in one afternoon for the barroom brawl in MEAN STREETS —

“Which reminds me of Edgar Ulmer, who held the record for that — until that other guy you were telling me about, Raul Ruiz, who did what? Sixty in a day? Yeah, and one of those was from inside somebody’s mouth.* Which reminds me, the best inside-a-mouth shot I saw recently was in JAWS 3, a shark eating its victim filmed from inside the shark’s mouth — in 3D! A new low in taste!”

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Which makes me ponder what the wildest abuse of 3D could be? I think the maddest thing I’ve seen that way is in THE MAZE, directed by William Cameron Menzies. Menzies is an odd chap — a genius as a production designer and a producer of some terrific films, but something seems to happen to him when he directs. I mean, I like INVADERS FROM MARS, but it has a curious naivety.

There’s a quote by Cocteau where he speculates that the story of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST was probably based on fact, “some deformed figure in a Scottish castle who took a wife…” and Menzies’ THE MAZE almost takes him at his word. A group of characters gather in a Scottish castle, where one member of the McTeam family, Sir Roger, is kept shut upstairs, suffering some terrible affliction. The first nice bit of 3D occurs right at the start when a minor character enters and starts talking to camera, slowly walking closer and closer to us, coming out of the screen, all the while fixing us with a haunted stare… “Get away from me!” I screamed. Well, I didn’t scream. I maybe thought.

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At the end, we learn the nature of the unfortunate swain’s problem. You see, the fetus in the womb goes through a process of evolution, passing through all the previous stages of mankind’s development from the lower species (ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny) — a popular idea in the 50s, though not a particularly true one. Poor Sir Roger’s problem is that he’s suffered a particularly intense form of retardation**, and has become stuck in the amphibian phase of evolution. He is a giant frog (and yet somehow he earned himself a knighthood? Impressive).

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So, at the climax of the film, Sir Roger the frog, in despair at his hopeless condition, hurls himself from the highest turret in the castle, falling directly into the lens. Wow.

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*Not till years later did I learn that the Ulmer film was THE AMAZING TRANSPARENT MAN (a snooze to sit through compared to its more ambitious sister-film, BEYOND THE TIME BARRIER) and the Ruiz was CITY OF PIRATES.

**And here’s why we don’t like the word retarded. Its origin is the discredited belief that people with learning difficulties are “retarded” back to an earlier phase of human evolution, immediately prior to the crowning glory that is the white person. So people with Downs syndrome were theorized to have been retarded at an oriental phase (hence that other archaic and unwelcome expression, “Mongoloid”) and other forms of learning difficulty were associated with other “inferior races.” Here endeth the lesson: don’t let me catch you using that word.