Archive for Walter Plunkett

Isherwood or Bust

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2018 by dcairns

Christopher Isherwood’s name on the credits of DIANE, a 1956 period potboiler of unusual size and duration, might lead one to expect a classy affair before viewing, or to judge harshly the novelist’s skills as a screen dramatist after viewing. This may be unfair, as who knows what contributions co-writer John Erskine is guilty of? (This was his first screen credit in twenty years, mysteriously.) And we can certainly detect the contribution of the Breen Office in this bowdlerization of a famous courtesan’s love life. Diane de Poitiers was mistress to King Francis I AND his son Henri, which makes her a fine role for Lana — remember the familial mix-ups rumoured in the Stompanato affair? — but you wouldn’t really know any of this from the story told here. The movie also stars James Bond 007, Pancho Villa, Sakura the Sorcerer and Corporal Emil Klinger. Best main performance is Marisa Pavan as Lana’s rival — costume designer Walter Plunkett has huge fun draping his divas. Roger Moore proves himself, at this point in his career, an even more hopeless actor than Lana. Percy Helton appears briefly as a court jester and insinuates himself into our nightmares forever. Taina Elg has nothing to do including no dancing: a ballerina hired to stand still in long dresses. Henry Daniell squares off against Sir Cedric Hardwicke: eye-bags at down. The only two men in christendom whose eye-baggage flows down half their faces and brims over their cheekbones, like pie-crusts.Isherwood’s hand can best be seen in a sequence dealing with Sir Cedric as Pavan’s court astrologer. He works with the aid of some kind of clairvoyant catamite (Marc Cavell), who does his actual crystal-gazing for him in a sweaty trance as Sir C. anoints his brow (anointy-nointy) with mystic unction. It’s the only scene that builds up any kind of melodramatic frenzy. Even when Sir Roger de Moore gets a lance through his head, the film barely rouses itself from torpor. This is the “heavy flow” variety of period movie.With Lana leading the charge, it ought at least to provide camp hilarity, but David Miller, who extracted some fine teeth-gnashing from La Crawford in SUDDEN FEAR but seems paralysed by respectability in this one. And Cinemascope, which he allows to prevent him getting close to anything that happens. Three years after NIAGARA, he hasn’t heard of the Marilyn Monroe Doctrine, which basically goes, “You CAN shoot me in tight close-up, we already established in the previous shot that I have a top to my head.”Walter Plunkett does a marvelous job with the costumes, but it would be just as much fun to watch them on mannequins.

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Feet by Thousands, Gowns by Plunkett and Greer

Posted in Fashion, FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on March 3, 2018 by dcairns

Kate Hepburn vorkapiches out of control ~ spoilers ahead.

We weren’t really all that taken by CHRISTOPHER STRONG (1933), I’m sorry to say. Of course Katherine Hepburn’s costumes are striking and there’s plenty of pre-code content and it’s interesting to see Colin Clive in as close to a straight leading man role as he ever got. And he doesn’t seem nervous — very, very dreadfully nervous — as he usually does (and which usually suits what he’s playing). But, as Fiona protested, “This is a soap opera!” And as it came at the end of a double-feature with THE PETRIFIED FOREST, the whole romantic suicide things was getting old. And almost any Paramount film is likely to seem unendurably languid after almost any Warner film from the period.

Fiona loudly wished that Kate didn’t have to crash her plane. I reasoned that, working backwards as Conan Doyle advises, the sole reason for Hepburn being an aviatrix in the first place is so she can crash her plan at the end.

Other pluses — we get to see a household consisting of Henry Frankenstein from FRANKENSTEIN, Mina Murray from DRACULA, and the Good Witch of the East from THE WIZARD OF OZ (that thing gets everywhere). Plus a gratuitous Jack La Rue in lounge lizard mode, and “Transitions by Slavko Vorkapich.”

But, I asked Fiona, have we ever really loved a Dorothy Arzner film? We’ve WANTED to. Fiona suggested DANCE, GIRL, DANCE. I argued that it’s a pretty poor film with one absolutely incredible scene, with Maureen O’Hara berating the audience (us). Fiona argued that that one scene is SO good it makes the film a masterpiece, and I couldn’t really argue with that. Are there any other films elevated from trash to classic by a single sequence? And are there any prime Arzners we should have seen?

We have seen and enjoyed, but not massively, the following —

GET YOUR MAN, NANA, THE WILD PARTY, MERRILY WE GO TO HELL. CRAIG’S WIFE and THE BRIDE WORE RED (a favourite of Mr. Wingrove) seem the obvious missing links. But what else?