Archive for Tom Jones

A Face in the Crowd

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , on October 12, 2011 by dcairns

RIP Diane Cilento.

A friend was re-reading her autobiography (excellent) and discovered the part where she says that in TOM JONES she had herself made up to be unrecognizable and infiltrated the crowd scene at the end. He wondered if he could spot her in the throng.


Pretty bold, putting her up front and centre like that, not just because people might recognize one of the stars of the film they’re currently watching, but because they might be startled out of the movie by the amount of slap she’s wearing. Or by her capacious decolletage.

TOM JONES, love it or not, is nothing if not bold.


Six Degrees of Murder

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 9, 2008 by dcairns

This weirded me out a bit, in a number of ways. I have this flaking paperback called The Secret Life of a Satanist, The authorised biography of Anton Lavey, by Blanche Barton. It is by no means terrific. But it’s an interesting thing to have.

First, this creepy photograph.

Bob and Anton

Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, enjoys a drink with Robert Fuest, director of his favourite film, THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES. You will notice that despite styling himself like a Hollywood baddie, with the full “upside-down head” look, old Anton is much less frightening than Fuest, who looks a bit like Hugh Griffith in TOM JONES, i.e. a ruddy-faced maniac. Recent pics of Fuest are much easier on the mind — that kind of appearance is less alarming in an older gent.

The Abominable Mr Fuest

Fuest’s films consitute a unique and remarkable body of work — unlike practically every other British horror film director, Fuest utilised the conventions of the genre to create exercises in pure style, like Bava or Argento in Italy. Never very interested in making points, or even in narrative, Fuest’s films are strings of glorious set-pieces, beautifully designed and stuffed to the gills with scintillating walk-ons.

Back to this book: a page or two later, I was startled by this image:


Well, not the image, as such. They’re called breasts, and all ladies have them. No, it was the text beneath that flipped what’s left of my lid. I’ve read and heard quite a bit about the Manson murders, but never knew that much about the various “family members”. I had heard the story that LaVey was a technical advisor on ROSEMARY’S BABY and played the role of devil in it. So I was be-goggled to find this other connection between LaVey and Polanski. But of course, as Wikipedia tells me, LaVey was notinvolved in ROSEMARY’S BABY at all, so the story that he was probably came out of media speculation/invention from the time of the Manson trial. LaVey was happy to hype himself up at all times, but appears never to have claimed any role in the production.


The Manson killings do have a weird network of movie connections, though. Victim Sharon Tate was a movie star and wife of Polanski, of course, and appeared in J. Lee Thompson’s EYE OF THE DEVIL, a somewhat jinxed production, as well as Polanski’s THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS. The first victim of the Mansonites was the Polanski family dog, Dr. Sapperstein, named after Ralph Bellamy’s character in ROSEMARY’S BABY, a satanic gynecologist.

One of Atkins’ fellow killers, Bobby Beausoleil, had appeared in a Kenneth Anger film (Anger was chums with LaVey) and subsequently provided a score for Anger’s LUCIFER RISING — the only movie soundtrack ever recorded inside prison. The soundtrack followed an unsuccessful attempt by Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page to provide Anger with a satisfactory score. Intriguingly, an earlier version of the film which STARRED Beausoleil was abandoned after Anger quarrelled with the future killer (always a risky thing to do) and much of the footage was supposedly taken by Beasoleil and buried at one of the Manson’s H.Q.s. One of those hideaways was in fact a ranch containing an old movie backlot complete with fake western town. The ranch was once owned by cowboy star William S. Hart.

Combine all this with LaVey’s connection to Jayne Mansfield, rumours tying Manson to the Monkees, Dennis Wilson, and his obsession with Beatles lyrics, and the Manson affair seems like one of the most filmic murder cases ever. And Manson did show some cinematic acumen by knowing exactly who should play him in the movie of his life:


Dennis Hopper.


Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2008 by dcairns

 boom bang a bang

Things that filmmakers think will speed up their films, but in fact often slow them down:

1) Lots of narrative strands. Yes, you can move back and forth between them, ensuring a rapid turnover of scenes and a variety of settings and characters. But the effect may be that each story tends to develop VERY SLOWLY, since it only has a short episode of screen time in which to progress. This will become obvious over time. See: HEROES. Unless it becomes obvious AT ONCE. See: ST TRINIANS.

2) Snazzy wipes and other fancy transitions. I used to say that wipes are a sure sign of a film in trouble. Come to think of it, I still do. They are. Admittedly, THE SEVEN SAMURAI and RASHOMON are masterpieces, and Kurosawa in those days used wipes quite a lot. And they don’t hurt those films by any means. But I bet everybody heaved a sigh of relief when he grew out of them.

Instead of wipes, I recommend the use of Intertitles, reading “The makers regret that they were unable to achieve a lively and interesting effect when they shot the film, so here is a diversionary tactic we hope will satisfy.”

Even when the film is “nae bad”, as we say here, wipes generally betray a loss of confidence in the cutting room. Tony Richardson was convinced TOM JONES was a stinker, so he panicked and speckled the film with slightly annoying optical wipes, freeze-frames and flip-flops. To the dessicated shade of Mr. Richardson I wag a finger and say what I say to students when they dangle a script and ask, ‘How do I make it interesting?’ ‘Let’s assume,’ I respond, ‘that it’s ALREADY interesting (because if not, you are stuffed), and instead ask, “How do I bring out its interesting qualities?”‘ Again, Richardson doesn’t ruin TOM JONES, but the techniques he brought to the otiginal filming were much more effective than the optical house malarkey inflicted after the fact.

Fast and Furious

3) Snappy montages. The Hollywood hack’s chance to show off what songs he can afford. But montages slacken dramatic tension, so though you can whiz through plot developments or show our happy and affluent couple getting to know each other without having to bother with any tiresome WRITING, you allow the audience to drift off into their own little reveries (or to the concession stand) and it will Take Time to get them back.

(A Very Honourable Exception: the turning pages of the scrapbook in THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP, which achieve devastating emotional impact with sublime economy of means.)

Brokeback Mountain

This isn’t intended as a list of Thou Shalt Nots. All of the above devices are legitimate. It’s just that they have often been often used to produce an effect of speed and zip which is by no means intrinsic to their nature.