Archive for The Whip and the Body

Ghostlight

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on December 16, 2019 by dcairns

Theatrical lighting change from THE DEMON OF MOUNT OE (1960).

One thing Fiona and I don’t have time to get into in our forthcoming video essay on KWAIDAN (1964) is the extent to which some of the film’s stylised effects were somewhat longstanding tropes in the kaidan genre. Here, director Tozuko Tanaka is fading up a light to change the aspect of a character and show that something spooky is afoot and to present a transformation.

While I have no trouble believing Masaki Kobayashi had seen this movie or ones like it before embarking on his own ghost story compendium, what I haven’t figured out is whether Mario Bava was aware of this school of filmmaking when he started doing similarly theatrical colour changes in BLACK SABBATH and THE WHIP AND THE BODY. Easy to imagine the Italian maestro catching a look at KWAIDAN and loving what he saw, but his effects were staged before Kobayashi’s… but after Tanaka’s. But it doesn’t seem very likely that DEMON OF MT. OE was screened much anywhere in the west.

Is there a missing link in this chain?

Bava had emulated Mamoulian and Karl Struss’s lighting changes in DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1931) when he created a transformation scene in Riccardo Freda’s I VAMPIRI (1957). But that’s slightly different: you’re not aware of the lighting change, since it’s a change only of colour in a b&w movie: what it does is reveals coloured makeup on an actor, resulting in a transformation before your very eyes in a single shot. That could very well have given Bava the idea of doing something in colour where the shifting gel effects are undisguised, which would make it one of those weird cases of parallel development you get sometimes…

Operazione Paura

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on November 13, 2019 by dcairns

It occurs to me that Boris Johnson would be good casting for HG Wells’ invisible man, with his unpigmented hair and psychopathic personality and thirst for power, but there he is, on television, horribly visible.

Mario Bava’s KILL, BABY… KILL! was released in Italy as OPERAZIONE PAURA, which loosely translates as PROJECT FEAR, so I should really have written about it in our Project Fear blogathon, and maybe I can catch up with it on Friday 13th December when the general election results come in. Instead, we watched THE WHIP AND THE BODY and HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON (really more of a cleaver) but I didn’t get around to saying anything about them.

Bava notoriously made KBK from a script of, I think it was, twenty-five pages. Surely WHIP’s source document must have been ever shorter, given the amount of atmospheric prowling around gloomy corridors the director perpetrates to make up the time. Olivier’s HAMLET has nothing on this. The sadomasochistic relationship at the centre of the story is quite compellingly drawn, though, the photography is luminous, and Chris Lee looks good in that fringe he seemed to acquire for European movies around this time (his No. 2 hairpiece). Too bad he never recorded his own line readings: Lee with someone else’s voice is only half the pleasure.

This is another movie that screwed itself by being too much too soon, like WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? Arguably audiences weren’t ready for such naked sadism in 1963, and censors certainly weren’t, either banning it outright or cutting it until it no longer made even marginal sense.

HATCHET is basically AMERICAN PSYCHO, with similar games played with reality and perception. Stephen Forsyth shows us what that movie would be like with a genuine blank at its centre — a lot less fun to watch. He’s absolutely appropriate but not very entertaining. Bava shot this one himself, but it has neither the Gothic trappings nor the pop-art pizzazz of his finest work.

Interesting, though, for what Bava steals from others — the Hitchcock-Freud recovered memory plot — and from himself — a clip from his own BLACK SABBATH plays on a television.

Project Fear

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on September 21, 2019 by dcairns
An Italian actress in a Franco-German horror movie with a Polish director, set in England.

It seems irresistible:

Fact 1: Britain is supposedly exiting, or Brexiting the EU on 31st October, Halloween.

Fact 2: Brexiteers accuse remainers of organizing “Project Fear” to make us all scared of leaving.

Fact 3: I always feel I should do more for Halloween on Shadowplay.

A former Miss Israel is menaced by offscreen Englishman in an Italian horror movie.

Thus, Project Fear: a week-long wallow in European horror cinema, running from Sunday 27th October to Saturday 2nd November. A way of showing solidarity with our mainland cousins, and celebrating Samhain like good Scots. Achieving nothing, of course. Helplessness is a big part of feeling afraid. And if the medicine can’t get into the country, we are personally affected in quite a significant way.

A German actor emotes in another Italian horror film set in Bavaria.

I would like help! If you have an article on European horror cinema lining your bottom drawer, or would like to start a fresh one, I offer you a safe outlet. I may try approaching a few of you about it, but don’t be shy — propose something. I will say oui, si, tak, po, sim, igen, tha, ano, ie, taip, da, ja, jo, jah, joo, yo, evet, iva, diakh, nai and YES.

An Italian, a Frenchwoman and a Frenchman in an Italian horror movie set in England.