Archive for The Neanderthal Man

Sage of the Sagebrush

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 2, 2014 by dcairns

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THE SCARF opens excitingly, with a fugitive on the run through the desert, the name ALCANTA emblazed across his back, marking him as a fugitive from a secure psychiatric hospital as clearly as the M on Peter Lorre’s shoulder marked him as murderer. The film is a late work by emigre E.A. Dupont, who had limited success in America after the triumphs of his German period and English excursion, VARIETE, MOULI ROUGE, ATLANTIK. He would be dead in five years, and his last projects, including the perverse THE NEANDERTHAL MAN, resound with the heavy tread of the somnambulist.

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Even for a German filmmaker, Dupont was always a very German filmmaker — I first encountered him in childhood, being mocked for the pregnant pauses of his Titanic movie (“The ship has less than ONE HOUR TO LIVE!”). Still, the portentous plod approach has a certain grandeur if you can suppress your giggles, and what we have here is a unique noir with amnesia, psychopathia sexualis, philosophy on a turkey ranch, and a crazy cast featuring John Ireland (he of the perfumed bullets), Mercedes McCambridge and Emlyn Williams, whose status as nutjob du jour is clinched immediately upon arrival by his habit of playing idly with a feather during every scene. A great scene-stealing idea I’m surprised I haven’t seen used elsewhere.

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The truly best stuff is early on, when grizzled recluse James Barton (equally grizzled and reclusive in YELLOW SKY) finds the fleeing asylum inmate Ireland and must decide whether to hand him over to the proper authorities. The same dilemma is faced later by singing waitress McCambridge (whose speaking voice, in those pre-EXORCIST days, smacks of Mickey Mouse, but turns out to carry a torch song rather effectively), and this leads to a moment of pure expressionism, as the neon sign of the sheriff’s office dissoves into $ signs. McCambridge first turns up as a windswept hitchhiker straight out of DETOUR, and like Tom Neal before him, the not very bright Ireland picks her up despite the fact that he’s on the lam and should really be keeping a low profile. But what man could resist that gurning face?

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It has shadowy photography by Franz Planer, whole shelves of dollar-book Freud (I yearned for a closeup of Emlyn Williams’ fruit-loop book-case), a pounding score by Herschel Burke Gilbert, and a script by Dupont that makes everybody a philosopher, from the turkey farming “sage of the sagebrush” to the lowliest bar-room brawler. I loved it. I thought it was swell.

The Monday Intertitle: All Change

Posted in FILM, Painting with tags , , , , on September 9, 2013 by dcairns

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I see the influence of Gustave Dore’s print of Newgate Prison — which also influenced a shot in CLOCKWORK ORANGE.

Well, it seems that just by being so excited by being in America that I forgot what day of the week it is, the Sunday Intertitle is now the Monday Intertitle on a full-time basis. And why not?

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Very excited to get my hands on a copy of VARIETE, the seminal example of “the unchained camera” from Germany — nice to see E.A> Dupont at his best, too, a fiery fresh talent raging to explode the constraints of cinema, rather a tired old man than going through his paces on dreck like THE NEANDERTHAL MAN.

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But I haven’t watched it yet — still getting caught up with Greenwich Mean Time and getting used to the sudden breezy weather this side of the pond. Soon… the glimpse I have had indicates swirling camera moves, bold graphic compositions, low-life wallowing worthy of Sternberg, and a disgraceful picture quality which needs to be corrected with at least a DVD release. One for Masters of Cinema or Criterion? Am I jumping the gun, demanding such treatment for a movie I haven’t even watched yet? Maybe, but I don’t think so…

Things I Read Off the Screen in Son of Dr. Jekyll

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2010 by dcairns

Part of my See Reptilicus and Die mission to see every movie shown in A Pictorial History of Horror Movies by Denis Gifford. SON OF DR JEKYLL is a mostly-respectable B-movie with Louis Hayward in, unusually, a triple or maybe quadruple role, as Edward Jekyll, son of Jekyll-Hyde, as the transformed monstrous version, and as both his fathers (although they’re so fleetingly glimpsed it’s hard to be sure if we see both of them…)

Although set mostly in 1890, the movie features anachronistic newspapers with paparazzi-style photographs. This press persecution drives poor Jekyll towards nervous collapse (a somewhat uncomfortable echo of Hayward’s real mental state) as he tries to recreate his illustrious father’s experiments. A minor character here is named Rathbone, and Basil R in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN is clearly a big influence here.

Mustn’t… black… out!

Disappointingly, Jekyll transforms only momentarily, and sleeps through the whole experience. A shame, since otherwise the plot produces some intrigue, but the marked lack of rampaging subhuman fiends rather lets the wind out of it. The script is by turns respectful of Stevenson’s original (although RLS doesn’t merit a screen credit, alas) and flippantly unfaithful: apart from giving Hyde a wife and child, the movie continues the adventures of Jekyll’s friends Utterson and Lanyon, but makes Lanyon into a villain, rather cheekily. Alexander Knox, dependably stolid, plays this role. National pride requires me to remark that Knox moved to Longniddry, just outside Edinburgh, late in his life.

Hayward goes wayward! A variation on the coloured makeup/coloured filters technique used in Mamoulian’s 1932 film allows the transformation to occur while the actor is in motion, although he loses consciousness midway. Mr Hyde sleeps through his own movie.

Screenwriter Jack Pollexfen wrote or co-wrote several mad scientist films, most of them worse than this — THE NEANDERTHAL MAN is astonishingly poor. But Edgar Ulmer’s THE MAN FROM PLANET X and DAUGHTER OF DR JEKYLL have their charm.

We watched this because Fiona was tired. It was this or HOUSE OF HORRORS, also featured in the Gifford. “I think I’m too weary to cope with Rondo Hatton’s face,” Fiona said. “Well, Louis Hayward’s face might be even more tiring,” I said thoughtfully, “It’s always moving about. Not like Rondo’s. Which is always just where you need it.”

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