Archive for The Omen

The Sunday Intertitle: A Not-So-Modern Prometheus

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on October 25, 2015 by dcairns

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The once-lost German serial HOMUNCULUS (1916) is slowly becoming less lost — an authentic full restoration may never be possible, but we’re promised we’re going to be able to see the whole story in approximately the right order, one day.

I’ve been looking at the surviving fragments. Otto Rippert directed — I never saw anything else from his prolific silent career. But the writer is Robert Reinert, later director of the hysterical, psychotronic OPIUM and NERVEN, so that cued me to expect drama at a fairly high pitch, and I was not disappointed.

Hanns Heinz Ewers had already published his perverse novel of artificial life, Alraune (later filmed thrice) at this point, and of course there was Frankenstein as a role model. I was immediately struck, though, by an odd, and most certainly coincidental connection with THE OMEN.

The truncated episode one begins with two births, one natural and one unnatural. Scientists place a glass sphere inside a special curvy cabinet, and after an undetermined period of gestation, pull out a wriggling baby. That’s the unnatural birth. I presume I don’t have to explain the processes involved in kickstarting the natural one.

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Death! Dead the baby of love, while the science one lives. My Italian is excellent. Self-taught.

There’s a fuddy-duddy scientist who gesticulates a lot — since this section of the film is available only with Italian intertitles, this seems kind of appropriate. This guy strongly disapproves of artificial babies. But then the child born to his household dies in its cot, and he abandons his scruples, switching the corpslet with the thriving-but-unnatural kid from down the block. The stage is set for tragedy — and for Gregory Peck to do something similar in Rome, sixty years later. Obviously, this isn’t going to end well. Or soon. (the full serial is six hours.)

The creation of life is notably undramatic compared to similar operations in METROPOLIS and FRANKENSTEIN (even the Edison version of 1910), but the weird equipment is impressive, and since it has no moving parts and no recognized scientific principle seems to be involved, it hasn’t dated at all. I believe it.

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Carl Hoffmann’s cinematography is astounding. We’re still in tableaux mode, largely, but the lighting! Hoffmann’s later career includes major collaborations with Murnau and Lang, but he’s clearly a great artist already.

Happy Birthday!

Posted in FILM, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , on December 25, 2014 by dcairns

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RAIN OF FIRE (1977) is an unspeakable OMEN rip-off from the able exploitation maestro Alberto De Martino. Oddly, one of its death scenes, in which Anthony Quayle is guillotined in half by a sliding door, was itself ripped off for the first OMEN sequel the following year, or so it would seem.

The movie isn’t worth watching, really, excapt perhaps as part of a drunken triple-bill with SATURN 3 and THE FURY, both of which likewise star Kirk Douglas’s sagging bare butt. RAIN OF FIRE aka HOLOCAUST 2000 actually trumps its peers with a dream sequence in which Kirk finally goes full-on cock-and-balls frontal. I’m posting the scene here today because it’s truly festive, and will make egg nog (or something) come out of your nose.

Happy Holocaust! from David Cairns on Vimeo.

Happy Holocaust!

Uneasy Lies the Head

Posted in FILM with tags , on October 5, 2012 by dcairns

Via Richard Harland Smith on FaceBook, I learn that David Warner’s severed head has recently changed hands at auction. Don’t know how much it fetched.

The head was manufactured for THE OMEN, in which a stray sheet of glass separates the part of Warner that memorizes its lines from the part that does an impressive gorilla walk in MORGAN: A SUITABLE CASE FOR TREATMENT. From my own limited experience of prosthetics, I’d say it’s amazing how you can make a life cast of somebody and it can still not look entirely convincing, if caught from the wrong angle or seen for too long.

From this angle, he looks exactly like a peat bog Tintin. I guess they didn’t bother with ears because Warner’s mop of hair makes them invisible and unnecessary, on a prop head at least.

I absolutely love it that they’ve carefully labeled the head “DAVID WARNER,” in case, presumably, somebody didn’t recognize him among all the other severed heads they have lying around. That would seem possible if it weren’t that Warner is the only actor who gets decapitated in THE OMEN. But maybe they made fake heads for Gregory Peck and Billie Whitelaw and everybody else, too, just in case. Might come in handy in the event of an unfortunate accident. “One for Lloyds,” as we say in the Brit film industry.

If I could own an actor’s severed head (in prosthetic form), I suppose I might go for Arthur Lowe’s, since his truncation in THEATRE OF BLOOD gave me waking nightmares as a kid. I literally couldn’t enter a room without quickly scanning all the surfaces in case Arthur’s cranium was gazing at me from atop a milk bottle. Having him around now might finally exorcise that fear.

There must be a great many fake heads out there — I recall images of Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Alfred Hitchcock posing with prop head likenesses of themselves, and when you add up the number of loppings in movies since graphic dismemberment became an accepted and indeed required ingredient of family entertainment, it’s unlikely that there are any successful stars out there who haven’t shed at least one noggin during their careers. It might be nice if we could have a convention where all the heads could be brought together to, I don’t know, stare at each other. I admit, I haven’t really thought it through.