Archive for The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Things I Read Off the Screen in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

Posted in FILM, literature, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2017 by dcairns

Are we all excited about the new series? We re-watched the last episode of season 2 and the movie, to get us in the mood. Lynch has said the movie is the best way to prepare ourselves for what he has in store. I went LOOKING FOR CLUES.

Fourth shot after the credits sequence ~

UNLAWFUL TO PASS WHEN RED LIGHTS FLASH

Fiona read this one out, which started me thinking it was time for another installment of “Things I Read Off the Screen” — I imagine this is just something that real school buses have, but it feels occult and significant and mysterious here, maybe because school buses aren’t really a thing in the UK. And, given James’ last scene (below), it definitely feels like we’re meant to notice it, and it’ll end up tying the film together.

SHERIFF DEER MEADOW

Nice odd phrase. I’ve been enjoying a terrific podcast called Diane which has studied the original series and the movie and the tie-in books and the film, and is now preparing to appreciate and analyse the new shows. You should give it listen. They point out that Deer Meadow, scene of the first BOB murder, is like the anti-Twin Peaks, a town that’s dead, horrible and utterly lacking in positive magic. And the coffee is horrible. So we’re about to meet the anti-Lucy, a sniggering slut, the anti-Andy, a bragging bully, and the anti-Truman, a hulking brute, Sheriff Cable.

In one of the best of the deleted scenes, Chris Isaak beats the hell out of this guy.

Isaak and his buddy Keifer Sutherland (at times evoking Stan Laurel) discover a clue — the letter T under the corpse’s fingernail, which they RIP OFF. Laura Palmer, in the series, will be discovered with an R under her fingernail. In the extra scenes shot for the European release of the original pilot, we are told that the letters were eventually going to spell ROBERT, but this isn’t really canonical. And nobody ever calls BOB “Robert.” It doesn’t suit him, somehow. Still, I like the idea that the name was going to be spelled backwards (TREBOR), since Bob comes from a world where people speak backwards-forwards at the same time.

Based on this movie, I think maybe the word was going to be DIRT backwards. Leland, Laura’s father, who is BOB on some level, during one of his particularly nasty moments tells her there’s a “piece of DIRT” under her nail. This is clearly a reference to her future fate, but the letter R is literally “a piece of DIRT” so that’s why I think that.

HAP’S. With its weeping clown neon and faulty electrics and anti-Peggy Lipton proprietor, Hap’s is the anti-Double R Diner. Unlawful to pass when red light flashes.

SAY HELLO GOODBYE TO JACK.

FAT TROUT TRAILER PARK MANAGER

9 AM …… EVER

ROD MY TRAILER HAS A LEAK FIX IT BY TOMORROW

The Fat Trout is a classic liminal space, so it makes sense that the denizens of the Black Lodge have been all over this place, apparently scooting in and out by the telegraph wires. The old lady and her grandson (Lynch’s kid, Sean) used to have a trailer here, and will later appear in Twin Peaks on Laura’s meals-on-wheels route. Eerie enough when they keep to their own red room space, they become uncanny in a whole new way when they trespass in our world or show signs of their presence.

Harry Dean Stanton plays Carl Rodd, who will be back in the new series. I like that one of his… tenants?… thinks his name is “Rod.” So they think they’re calling him by his first name when they’re really calling him by his last name. They’re on different planes of familiarity without realising it. I think I’d be the same way if I met Harry Dean Stanton, because I would want to love and admire him and he would think I am an asshole.

kcoR s’teL

Let’s Rock

This is something the man from another place says in the series — part of the reason TP:FWWM arguably doesn’t stand up as an independent work away from the series is that these things are very satisfying to note, but you have to look outside the movie for them. There aren’t many clues IN the movie which help you feel you’re making headway with its mysteries. But I’ve given up letting that bother me.

T

Bobby Briggs has a T on his back! He must be involved in the Theresa Banks case! But this does seem like one of the few red herrings. We can’t get excited every time we see a letter T… can we?

X

Xs, however, are always exciting. This is a direct appearance by red lodge characters in our reality, so the universal symbol for the unknown seems wholly appropriate. If I had the Blu-ray maybe I could tell you what that small lettering says. It might be the key to everything.

The BANG BANG BAR

An exterior featured in one of the trailers for the new series, so it’ll feature again. Under new management, I presume. Unlawful to pass when red light flashes.

TREAT HIM RIGHT

This one is just kind of funny. But it comes in a very fraught scene, which includes flashbacks which help establish Leland’s motivation for murder ~

MOTEL

Unlawful to pass when red light flashes. The movie complicates our understanding of Leland’s guilt. In the series, it’s possible to believe that he’s an innocent man invaded by an alien force (BOB, the double-denim demon). In the movie, we clearly see Leland as Leland, plotting and remembering and in full knowledge of his guilt. It puts me in mind of a passage from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (an ur-text for all divided-consciousness horror tales) where Jekyll complains that, deep into his experiment in duality, he was often wholly Hyde but never wholly Jekyll…

Note the presence of those sinister WIRES again.

STOP

What the critics at the time didn’t notice (along with Sheryl Lee’s moving and bizarre and fearless performance) but which the Diane podcast is great at spotting, is that the movie takes familiar recurring images from the show like the ceiling fan at the Palmer residence and this set of overhanging traffic lights, and imbues them with new and more powerful meaning. This turns out to be the setting for Laura and James’ last love scene. James will watch her go, then wait for the light to turn red before revving up and roaring off…

Unlawful to pass when red light flashes.

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Original Syn

Posted in FILM, literature, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2010 by dcairns

What a strange artifact this is: DOCTOR SYN (1937) is a rollicking British melodrama similar in some ways to the bodice-ripping romps of Gainsborough Studios — it even features Margaret Lockwood, THE WICKED LADY herself. But in the star role, as pirate and smuggler Captain Clegg, who has assumed a new identity as village priest Dr. Syn, we have George Arliss. The Iron Duke, as he was affectionately known, is a queer kind of film star, and an even stranger action hero. With a face like a feminine skull, nostrils so flared as to be positively bell-bottomed, and a skeletal frame of sharp angles like an elongated swastika, he resembles the mummified corpse of Kenneth Williams, animated by hidden pneumatic tubes. I guess the closest thing there’s been to him since was Peter Cushing, and indeed Cushing played this role in a Hammer remake in 1962.

The whole tenor of the film is pretty theatrical, in line with British cinema of the time generally, but Arliss himself is at times quite subtle. Describing himself as “a strange man,” he is as divided a performer as Clegg is a character, commingling sensitivity with a crisp kind of barnstorming. He’s no Todd Slaughter, though: his work is quite nuanced, and Katherine Hepburn credited him with teaching her film acting. (Come to think of it, Hepburn could have dragged up as Arliss quite convincingly.)

At the helm of the whole venture is Roy William Neill, a British-born director who’d made his career in Hollywood. Lured back to the UK to make a few movie, he was lined up to make the project which eventually became Hitchcock’s THE LADY VANISHES, but political problems on location shut the production down. The designer of that film, Vetchinsky, creates an atmospherically angular, overhanging village for the shadowy goings on in Dimchurch.

This story has elements in common with every smuggling yarn the cinema has seen — as with MOONFLEET, the smugglers are mistaken for phantoms. (Neill would use a variation on this gimmick in his Sherlock Holmes movie THE SCARLET CLAW.) Rather than using a churchyard as entry to their secret lair, the criminal gang here use the coffin-maker’s house, and there’s a secret entrance behind a tombstone. As with JAMAICA INN, a pillar of the community is secretly a pirate chief. In fact, this premise seems to go back to the true story of Deacon Brodie, a respected town councillor by day and a burglar by night, a man whose dual nature seems to have played a role in suggesting the story of Jekyll and Hyde to Robert Louis Stevenson.

Asides from the Hammer remake and a Disney version starring Patrick McGoohan (possibly the most atmospheric and accomplished interpretation), the film seems to have inspired CARRY ON DICK, in which Sid James as Dick Turpin has a secret identity as a village vicar, a wrinkle not to be found in previous Turpin narratives, so far as I’m aware.

The strangest and most fascinating element of DR. SYN is the character played by Hungarian actor Meinhart Maur (a refugee who had worked for Fritz Lang in Germany). Known only as “the mulatto,” he’s disturbingly presented as a mute, subhuman creature who is used by the customs and excise officials as a kind of sniffer dog. As the story goes on, his unfolding backstory invites more and more sympathy, and the racist overtones recede slightly: we lean that he was mutilated and left to die by Clegg, his ears and tongue severed. He’s still portrayed as a horror movie monster (women scream at his appearance), but he actually has our sympathy. Only at the very end do we learn that Clegg was avenging his wife, whom the mulatto had “attacked” (an obvious code-word for something cinematic mulattos have a long history of attempting), clearing the way for a happy ending where the ethnically and physically handicapped avenger is blown to bits by dynamite.

British cinema can be creepy.

Dr. Straight and Mr. Gay

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on September 7, 2008 by dcairns

More unoriginal thoughts. I can’t remember where I read the theory that Stevenson’s The Strange Case of… could be read as a man’s struggle with his sexuality. It was in a collection of essays on Gothic fiction, I think. It seems to make sense, although it’s not the only interpretation available, by any means. Hyde can stand for any repressed impulse.

The essayist pointed to the lack of female characters in the story, for a start. True, Hyde tramples a little girl, and is then assailed by a mob of sharp-nailed women, and a maidservant is heard weeping for the slain Jekyll at the narrative’s end (inspiration for the book and film of MARY REILLY), but apart from that it’s strictly stag.

There’s more, of course. Hyde and his exploits are described as “queer” on numerous occasions, and apparently this word DID have its current meaning back in 1886. The essayist even toted up the number of times the word appeared. The witness accounts of Hyde — that he had some air of malformation about him, but nothing that could be identified — might connect with the sense of difference that can sometimes be felt in the presence of the gay, as it would be perceived by homophobic Victorians. The notorious “gadar” is an elusive and not 100% reliable instrument, and was even more primitive in Stevenson’s day. The early steam-driven gadar available in the 1880s filled an entire room, and needed four qualified men to operate it. Those wishing to deploy it “in the field” had to hitch it to a team of six pack horses so that it could be drawn through the smoggy streets.

It’s tempting to see J&H as a parable, like The Picture of Dorian Gray, of socially repressed sexual cravings finding a supernatural means of expression, but one should not confine either book to a simple, single reading. It’s interesting that some questions have been asked of Stevenson’s sexuality, and the precise nature of his marriage to mannish American widow Fanny, but any such speculations are impossible to confirm at this historical distance.

Virtually nothing has been done to exploit this idea in film adaptations. As I recall, Alan Moore’s comic book The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 2 has some revelations about Jekyll’s sexuality — he’s said to fancy little girls or little boys or something — and Hyde does commit a sexual atrocity upon the Invisible Man, but it’s absolutely clear here, as it rarely is in fiction dealing with rape, that this is purely an aggressive act, without any tinge of desire.

Unsurprisingly, the movie adaptation, which anyway deals only with Moore’s first volume (and mangles that), omits any speculation about Jekyll and Hyde’s sexual ambivalence, although Dorian Gray is permitted to describe himself as “complicated”.

“It was the curse of mankind that these two incongruous faggots were thus bound together — that in the agonised womb of consciousness these polar twins should be continuously struggling.”