Archive for William Golding

Pg. 17, #13

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2020 by dcairns

His room was high-ceilinged and ornately furnished. He noticed a television set built into the wall in such a way that it could be viewed from the bed and he smiled tiredly on seeing it — he would have to watch it sometime, to see how their reception compared to that on Anthea. And it would be amusing to see some of the shows again. He had always liked the Westerns, even though the quiz programmes and the Sunday ‘educational’ shows had provided his staff at home with most of the information that he had memorized. He had not seen a television show in . . . how long had the trip taken? . . . four months. And he had been on earth two months, getting money, studying the disease germs, studying the food and water, perfecting his accent, reading the newspapers, preparing himself for the critical interview with Farnsworth.

*

‘Jesus,’ Don said, rattling the paper. ‘At the Tropical Drive-in they’re showing five John Wayne movies! Who in hell could sit through five John Waynes, for Christ sake?’

*

If I have, I’ve turned it off. Not out of bitterness. I do that with any picture I’ve ever worked on. When they’re over, they’re done. I’m not interested in them any longer.

*

‘Time to be getting back to the studio,’ Chatsworth announced, rising and stretching himself. ‘Dr. Bergmann’s coming along with us, Sandy, Have that Rosemary Lee picture run for him, will you? What the hell’s it called?”

*

‘Even if I described it to you, I doubt if you’d understand what it is.’

*

“We can’t go on calling the child number seven behind his back. It’s most improper and injurious.”

*

After the Three Stooges the curtains came to, but then when they put the next picture on they stuck halfway. We all cheered and then The Bull got this long pole and pulled back the curtains with it. Not that it mattered much because this that they put on now was a travel thing about Paris or something, and this kid in front of me started flicking little silver paper pellets into the light to make it sparkle. The Bull saw him and clonked him on the nut with this long curtain pole and gave him his first warning. Good job for us The Bull was after these seats and Chinese Charlie was up at the front else we’d’ve been out three week since.

*

You know the drill. Seven bits of seven page seventeens.

The Man Who Fell to Earth, by Walter Tevis; The Shark Infested Custard, by Charles Willeford; Backstory 4, edited by Patrick McGilligan; interview with Robert Benton by Christian Keithley; Prater Violet, by Christopher Isherwood; A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole; Darkness Visible by William Golding; The Tuppenny Rush, by Norman Smithson, from the collection Best Movie Stories, edited by Guy Slater

The Nod

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , on July 15, 2020 by dcairns

I decided to read, after discovering to my surprise that it’s available online, the screenplay for ROMANCE OF THE PINK PANTHER, the Inspector Clouseau films scripted by Peter Sellers and one Jim Moloney, to be directed by Clive Donner, Sellers having successfully elbowed out Blake Edwards.

Since Sellers had reportedly been bored of playing Clouseau by the second time he did it (which was the first film in which the bumbling inspector was lead character), his eagerness to revisit the role can only have been an attempt to prove to the world, and Edwards, and himself, that he, Sellers, had always been the principal genius behind the most successful comedy franchise in screen history. I had a feeling the script, left unfilmed after the star’s death, wasn’t going to do that — after all, the same pair of “writers” were to blame for THE FIENDISH PLOT OF DR. FU MANCHU, an absolute steaming load of cack which became Sellers’ last film, rather marring the beautiful valediction that is BEING THERE.

Sure enough, ROMANCE is dreadful. Scene one, in which Professor Auguste Balls, master of disguise-making, sells Clouseau a Louis XIV chair disguise, did make me laugh out loud, actually. Well, FIENDISH PLOT had one good bit — the “elephants on the knees” routine, in which somebody looks through a microscope and sees archive film of elephants. It’s very much Goon Show humour, which is Sellers’ default mode, borrowed wholesale from his chum Spike Milligan, and you can hear him dropping Milliganesque catchphrases into the Clouseau films and elsewhere (“It must be hell in there,”) from the very beginning.

It wouldn’t have really worked onscreen, because a Louis XIV isn’t something a man of woman born can hide in. So you’d have an unavoidable surrealism that has nothing to do with the PINK PANTHER series’ style. But it was amusing to read, and to think of Sellers maybe being somehow influenced by Edogawa Rampo.

The rest of the thing is dross, though you can imagine Sellers, if he was on good form, getting some laughs out of the deeply inane, underplotted material. He’d done it in the past. What really interested me was this ~

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The writing, you will note, is clunky and childish. Moloney was an actor, like Sellers, and clearly the junior party, lucky to be in on the thing. One pictures Sellers pacing while Moloney types. What seemed odd to me, given that there were two men present for the writing, was that an obvious idiosyncrasy, the idea of people nodding to indicate “NO” rather than shaking their heads, like humans, had survived the collaborative process.

But OK, it’s a one-off, I thought.

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Argh. There it is again. So I think we can project ourselves into the writing room now…

SELLERS: …and she nods ‘no’ almost imperceptibly.

MOLONEY: Nods ‘no’?

SELLERS: What was that?

MOLONEY: You said, “Nods ‘no.'”

SELLERS: I know that.

MOLONEY: Don’t you mean…?

SELLERS: I know what I mean!

Moloney shrugs, types “…and she nods ‘no’ almost imperceptibly.”

OK, maybe I’m making too much of this.

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I’m definitely not making too much of this. I know this looks almost like the same passage but it’s not, it’s another, nearly identical passage from much later on.

SELLERS: Clouseau nods ‘no’ almost imperceptibly.

MOLONEY: Peter…

SELLERS (a note of warning): Yes?

MOLONEY: Nothing.

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A theory can be formed. Perhaps some of Sellers’ craziness, his temper tantrums and paranoia and resentment, is that he really did think people nodded no. Being a Hollywood star, he would be surrounded by yes men, but sometimes, as is the way of those things, those yes men would have varied things up a bit and nodded instead of saying yes. And Sellers, the poor deluded fool, would have thought they were refusing him, defying him. Some of those instances would have been really disturbing, as they would seem to be changing their minds capriciously in mid-sentence. It would be enough to destabilize the sanest man. The effects on a raving maniac can barely be calculated.Footnote 1: the neanderthals in William Golding’s wonderful novel The Inheritors shake their heads in agreement.

Footnote 2: experts in micro-body language say that a “barely perceptible nod” when saying “no” indicates a lie. Like the truth is trying to blast out of you even as you fib, like Gepetto yelling from inside Monstro the whale.

Footnote 3: I once knew a chap who shook his head yes and nodded no. There seemed no reason behind it. He clearly wasn’t lying about whether he’d had breakfast. He missed his vocation as personal assistant to Peter Sellers.

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