Archive for The Vulture

This Strangler Fellow

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2012 by dcairns

In THE VULTURE, Akim Tamiroff plays a man who can mutate at will into a giant scavenger bird. It all takes place in Cornwall, you see. I remember being disappointed by this film, which might strike you as odd, considering the subject. But nothing could be more desultory than a film about Akim Tamiroff as a Cornish man-bird, made with so little enthusiasm and flair — those involved apparently don’t realize that such a film ought to be fun. And it’s 1967 — cinema is being reinvented! OK, not in Cornwall, but the influences are abroad in the air. To give you an idea of how sad and insipid the film is, the last scene is devoted entirely to hero Robert Hutton (a man who carries a shroud of tedium about him like a medieval miasma) to whoever the leading lady is, just how Tamiroff managed to pull off a phone prank earlier in the film which gave him a false alibi. Something we the audience already know, and which can hardly be of supreme interest in a movie about a GIANT TURKISH VULTURE. The writer-director was Lawrence Huntington. So naturally I sought out more of his work. (To be fair to Huntington, he died the year after making THE VULTURE. But not until November, so no excuse really.)

WANTED FOR MURDER may be the most generic title ever, but it’s there for a reason — to conceal the film’s true individuality, a necessary task given the gay subtext crawling all over it like Toby Maguire. The year is 1946, and the British film industry is experiencing an artistic boom — by its peak, in 1948, creative confidence was even trickling down to lesser talents — it was almost impossible for anybody to make an uninteresting film. Despite a lot of banal detective stuff, WANTED FOR MURDER is pretty fascinating. It stars Eric Portman, fresh from his Glue Man duties in A CANTERBURY TALE, and was written by, well, everyone there was — but the initial adaptation of the source play seems to be the work of Emeric Pressburger. Now, Portman was happily gay, and Powell claims that Pressburger was a bit of a homophobe, despite all the gay actors in the Archers’ films, and the flamboyant and even campy tone of some of them… at any rate, somehow WANTED FOR MURDER has evolved from being a tale of a serial killer, obsessed with his late father who was the public hangman in Victoria’s day, to being an allegory about closeted homosexuality. Portman stalks the streets by night, engaging in brief romances with people he meets under a pseudonym. His doting mother knows nothing, but fears the worst. She urges him to bring a girl home to meet her some time, to settle down. He thinks she’s right, and pursues Dulcie Gray, a nice girl who works in a record store (he has an obsessive passion for classical music).

It’s all kind of right out there, and the detectives hot on Portman’s trail (who really do refer to him as “this strangler fellow”) are a more effective beard for Portman’s “lustmorden that dare not speak its name” than poor sweet Dulcie could ever be. Huntington actually directs with some command of pacing and moments of flair. His career went back to the early thirties and he was obviously a pro, and alert to the interesting stuff going on around him. There’s also the nostalgic feeling of British fairgrounds, the Underground and London coppers, concerts in Hyde Park and all of that. And a weird preponderance of Scottish characters — an Underground employee, a copper, and this poor murderee, Jenny Laird —

The American serviceman is our old friend, spanner-faced Bonar Colleano, another reason to be cheerful.

PS — a Langian Limerick.


Der Sonntag Zwischen-Titel

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on July 18, 2010 by dcairns

“I destroyed a genuine one!” or something…

I was recently telling someone that maybe Italian intertitles are the prettiest, which I’d stand by, but there’s no doubting that the Germans knew what they were up to with cine-typography. This is from HOMUNCULUS, or one episode of it, an influential expressionist serial which survives only in fragments. Typically, the Italians go for beauty at any price, and the Germans go for brute functionality. But both express an underlying IDEA.

Bought this in a fit of madness from a bootleg DVD salesman in Union Square. He did warn me that it was untranslated, and my brain warned me that I don’t speak German, but it was too cheap not to buy.

Olaf Fønss – he’s homuncular and avuncular!

It was all worthwhile since I also got from the same source a copy of a super-rarity illustrated in Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies — Lawrence Huntington’s THE VULTURE, with Oscar Homolka mutating into the titular scavenger. So that’s well worthwhile. Gifford has the film down as a William Castle movie, which seems to be one of his rare-ish factual errors, but I’m psyched to see anything somebody would mistake for a Castle flick. Might be better than a real Castle flick!

Fall of the Curse of the Horrors of the Coughing Man Without a Body from Beyond Space (With Sledgehammers)

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2009 by dcairns

So, my “See REPTILICUS and Die” quest to watch all the films depicted in Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies goes on — here is the fourth and final list of entries I haven’t told you about. This was completed on the laptop of our young ward, Louis. As I see the movies, I will change the titles here to RED. A few earlier entries have already changed hue.

Page 162. I think I tried to watch KING OF THE ZOMBIES online once, but the combination of bad, low-res image and sound, and bad, low-res film-making was too much for me. If I can get a decent copy I suppose I’ll have to try again.

Page 163. VOODOO MAN is a quickie from Poverty Row kings Monogram, which brings George Zucco and Bela Lugosi together and attempts to keep them sober.

Beautiful zombies at the mercy of a madman! I like the idea of the screenwriter hero — poverty row goes pomo!

164-165. THE NEANDERTHAL MAN has a fun make-up, but I don’t know anything else about it. CRY OF THE WEREWOLF stars Nina Foch, which is good news, but is this one of those’40s monster movies without an actual monster? THE HYPNOTIC EYE is such a good title, I would be satisfied if the movie itself were just a lingering close-up of a dripping eyeball. That would be pretty hypnotic. In fact, it’s possibly the only film shot in Hypno-Magic, “the thrill you see and feel”. I wonder if, after the word “feel”, in very very small microdot writing, is the word “cheated”. It seems possible.

167. VENGEANCE, with Anne Heywood is an Anglo-German brain movie, which strongly suggests to me that it must be at least as good as Ozu’s LATE SPRING. But I could be wrong there.

171. I’ve kind of seen FIEND WITHOUT A FACE, but “kind of” doesn’t cut it here, and I’m actually intrigued to experience it properly. Director Arthur Crabtree’s career starts with erotic Freudian Gainsborough melodrama MADONNA OF THE SEVEN MOONS and ends with sadeian thick-ear HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM, making him a genuine God of Trash. Crazy trash, the kind that Douglas Sirk reckons can sometimes approach art.

172-3. It’s actually quite hard to recall which Universal ’50s giant animal films I’ve seen, but I think it’s, like, all of them. But from Japan comes SPACE AMOEBA, GAMERA VERSUS JIGER, and DESTROY ALL MONSTERS. The last-named was probably the film my seven-year-old self was ulcerating to see above all others.

175. IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE, is a precursor to ALIEN in many ways. I’ve seen the last half-hour and actually found it tense, which is practically unheard-of for these things. Even though it’s by the generally rather useless Edward L Cahn, I’m psyched to see the whole show. PHANTOM FROM SPACE looks like one of the big-heads from Metaluna has been working out at Muscle Beach. Has to be worth a chuckle at least.

180. Here we have REPTILICUS, the only Danish dinosaur movie I can think of. An IMDb reviewer writes, “This is the movie that we Danes can be proud of!! It is the worst movie ever made but it is so funny that I am about to die.” So I’m right to hold off on watching this until the instant of my death. I shall complete my meaningless Gifford-based quest by choking on my own brains as I watch Copenhagen flattened by a prehistoric glove puppet. Incidentally, REPTILICUS is directed by Poul Bang and Sidney Pink, so when I do blog about it, from the afterlife, I can joke about it being a Pink/Bang movie. Something for us all to look forward to.

184. FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD is an endearingly stupid idea, a Japanese giant monster movie (kaiju) in which the giant monster is the Frankenstein monster, somehow grown to 100ft in height, battling a big squid.

187. 1957’s THE VAMPIRE again, for some reason. Was Gifford just randomly throwing publicity snaps together?

190. INVISIBLE INVADERS is not only directed by Edward L Cahn (THE FOUR SKULLS OF JONATHAN DRAKE), but almost as if that weren’t enough, it stars John Agar. The mark of greatness. The still shows a bunch of zombie-type guys advancing through scrubland, and I can so easily imagine them singing the lyrics of Frank Zappa’s The Radio is Broken: “They need to reproduce! With John Agar… They need to reproduce! With Sonny Tufts… They need to reproduce! With Jackie Coogan…”

191. WILLARD. Rats. Lots of rats. Is this the one with the Michael Jackson song?

194. A couple of serious rarities: posters for a 1902 version of MARIA MARTEN, OR THE MURDER IN THE RED BARN (I’ve seen the later Tod Slaughter version) and FIGHT WITH SLEDGEHAMMERS, billed as “The most thrilling film ever taken.” I can totally believe it. It’s certainly the most thrilling title ever written, and why it hasn’t been used for every film made since, I can’t imagine. I suppose that would eventually cause confusion.

196. THE MAN WITHOUT A BODY deals with a reanimated head of Nostradamus. Rather than getting an actor to stick his head up through a hole in a table, the producers appear to have assembled an unconvincing puppet head, and fastened that to a table. Either that, or it’s an actor cunningly disguised to resemble a puppet head. THE CURSE OF THE LIVING CORPSE shows a rather attractive severed head on a plate. She may actually be the sexiest severed head I’ve ever seen. Who is she? I don’t know, but this movie does feature Candace Hilligoss from CARNIVAL OF SOULS, in what’s basically her only other role, so I have to see it. And it stars a nubile Roy Scheider! It’s directed by Del Tenney, who seems to have specialised in utter shit, but I’ll give this one a go.

197 features a bit of our personal history — a spooky image of a little girl at a window, her hands pressed against the glass. Fiona did a painting of this at art school. Gifford mislabels the still CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED (a nice movie, underrated) but it’s actually from Mario Bava’s brilliant OPERAZIONE PAURA / KILL BABY KILL! Fiona was thrilled to finally see the movie and recognise the image.

198. Oscar Homolka Akim Tamiroff as THE VULTURE? Count me in! Basically a stout, elderly Russian in a feather boa, not the most obviously terrifying image in the world, but I believe I could get into the spirit of the thing. TROG is the movie that inspired John Landis’s entire career — he saw it, and was convinced he could do better. Freddie Francis, the greatly embarrassed director of TROG, is therefore indirectly responsible for BEVERLY HILLS COP III and THE STUPIDS.

200. A movie from 1924 which I suspect may be hard to track down: THE COUGHING HORROR. Adapted from a Sax Rohmer potboiler, it’s a silent movie, which means that it absolutely MUST feature intertitles that read “Cough. Cough. Cough.” If I can find this beauty, I promise to feature it in Intertitle of the Week.

202. THE PHANTOM OF SOHO looks neat-o, being a German adaptation from a Bryan Edgar Wallace story.

203. THE MURDER CLINIC is an Alfredo Leone production, which means I extend the hand of friendship to it without a second thought. CASTLE SINISTER is a British movie from 1948 that I’ve never come across. That’s going to be a tough one to find.

206. THE BLACK CAT. An IMDB reviewer says  — “This version of “The Black Cat” was filmed in Texas in the mid-60’s and is probably one of the few Poe adaptations to have go-go dancers and rock and roll.” He also points out that the image used in Gifford, a girl with an axe embedded in her skull, was used as an album cover by a band rejoicing in the name The Angry Samoans. SEDDOK is another memorable title, but the movie (true title SEDDOK, L’EREDE DI SATANA) is a knock-off of EYES WITHOUT A FACE.

207. THE SPECTRE is the follow-up to THE HORRIBLE DR HITCHCOCK. Haven’t seen either of them. I bought a tape of the last-named in Camden Town a few years ago, but it crapped out shortly after the titles (featuring a credit for somebody called “Frank Smokecocks”). These are Riccardo Freda films, and therefore definite must-sees. Freda is a cinematic Sultan of Wrongness. I keep missing THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR, only catching bits, but maybe it’ll be worth seeing if a decent transfer turns up — I seem to recall it’s one of those Tigon productions that always seems impenetrably dark when aired on TV. MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND is another Philippino favourite, and another graphic image I tried to protect my little friend from in childhood.

208. 1949 British version of FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER sounds very intriguing — Britain really wasn’t known for horror in those days. This is a tatty “quota quickie” that sounds kind of appealing.

216. Last page of the index, and Gifford manages one more still (although he forgets to list it IN the index): the 1923 WARNING SHADOWS, which I have and which I intend to watch very soon.