Archive for William Peter Blatty

Joseph Losey really likes mirrors

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 1, 2022 by dcairns

Reflections of all kinds, in fact. Here are some from TIME WITHOUT PITY:

They become so pervasive that ordinary shots of people in doorways start to seem like full-length mirrors, in which the characters are startled to see not their own faces, but those of perturbed strangers.

But BLIND DATE aka CHANCE MEETING is maybe even mirrorier.

The late Hardy Kruger is fascinated by his own face, as well he might be. There’s an oval mirror that looks forward to THE SERVANT’s famous convex job.

Oddly, we’d just watched Elio Petri’s L’ASSASSINO, which is practically the same movie. It even has the same female star, Micheline Presle, as its murder victim (or is she?). The preening hero in that one is Marcello Mastroianni, and he’s likewise harried by a persistent detective determined to establish his guilt in a murder case. BLIND DATE and TIME WITHOUT PITY have a lot in common too, both hinging on innocent men wrongly accused, murdered mistresses, with a background of weird art and loud records, but they’re not as strikingly alike as BD and L’A. Petri MUST have seen the Losey.

Losey and Petri do relate in a lot of ways — both made pop art comicbook thrillers in the sixties (MODESTY BLAISE and THE TENTH VICTIM) — but more significantly, both are addicted to sinuous camera movements in artfully designed spaces. And mirrors!

L’ASSASSINO is also fascinating because it has soft-spoken raincoated proto-Columbo Salvo Randone instead of Stanley Baker’s belligerent bull. The slow, gentle persecution of the smug creep plays exactly like a Columbo except there’s a different narrative structure — flashbacks, and a crime kept ambiguous until the end — as in BLIND DATE. I guess this cat-and-mouse jazz all dates back to Crime and Punishment. Clouzot gave us TWO proto-Columbos in QUAIS DES ORFEVRES and LES DIABOLIQUES. The same year Columbo made its first TV appearance, William Peter Blatty wrote a gently bumbling inspector with a mind like a steel trap in The Exorcist, and had to change him a bit for the film so he wouldn’t seem like a Peter Falk knock-off. But this proto-Columbo has a particularly good name.

His name is Palumbo.

‘There are stories of coincidence and chance, of intersections and strange things told, and which is which and who only knows? And we generally say, “Well, if that was in a movie, I wouldn’t believe it.”‘ ~ Ricky Jay, MAGNOLIA.

Pg. 17 #10

Posted in FILM, literature, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2020 by dcairns

 

Barber came to the controversy thanks to a girlie magazine. In the summer of 1979 Gallery offered its readers, amongst the nudes, a record of the section of the police Dictabelt that includes the noises said to be gunshots. He played it again and again, and detected something the experts had missed. What had been thought to be unintelligible “Cross-talk” — conversation coming in from another radio channel — Barber’s ear identified as the voice of Sheriff Bill Decker, in the lead car of the motorcade. The sheriff’s voice occurs on the recording at the same point as the impulses that the Committee’s experts said were gunshots. What he is saying is, “Move all men available out of my department back into the railroad yards there… to try to determine just what and where it happened down there. And hold everything secure until the homicide  and other investigators can get there.” Clearly Decker did not issue his orders till after the shooting.

*

It was Reverend Pettigrew who complained about Floyd Gummer carrying them in his drugstore. Of course I went right down and seized them. Floyd was a good old boy and I knew he wouldn’t go complaining to any American Civil Liberties Union or any of those Illuminatus-controlled eastern troublemakers. I just told him about the complaint and he handed them over gentle as a lamb. He didn’t want to be on the bad side of the Reverend any more than I did. You sure can learn more diplomacy in a small town than you can at the Paris peace talks.

*

All interesting, indeed. And yet all these findings taken together did not slimmest reed of evidence. The case for demonic possession had finally to rest on what was plentifully lacking at Loudun: the reliably witnessed and reported occurrence of so-called paranormal phenomena. Levitating mattresses are very out front.

*

I never took it as seriously as some people because of my insatiable curiosity about everything. This is why the moment I finished making a picture, I left California as quickly as I knew how, on a train in those days, and used that time in bed all the way across the continent for reading, because I didn’t have time to do it back there. I would see all the plays in New York, see all my friends and then maybe stay here or go abroad.

*

South Avenue northeast of the Village acquired a reputation not long after the Civil War as a competitor to the Bowery. Legend has it that the area was christened by the notoriously corrupt Police Captain Alexander “Clubber” Williams, when, upon being transferred in 1876 from the Oak Street Station in the drably commercial far downtown to West Thirtieth Street, he said, “I’ve been living on chuck steak for a long time, and now I’m going to get a little of the tenderloin.”

*

Zukor not only gave Goldstein the money — which was an uncharacteristic gesture for someone as cautious as Zukor — but he visite the arcade and within a short time convinced Kohn they should set up one of their own on Fourteenth Street, which at that time was New York’s tenderloin, crammed with dance halls, saloons, and arcades and teeming with immigrants looking for inexpensive thrills. As he later recounted his inspiration to Michael Korda, “I looked around and said, ‘A Jew could make a lot of money at this.'”

*

“Aaron Wassertrum, for instance! He’s a millionaire. Owns a third of the Ghetto. Didn’t you know that, Herr Pernath?”

*

Seven extracts from seven page seventeens in seven books, plucked fairly randomly — but I, too, believe in the reality of accidents — from my bookshelves. The books were ~

Not in Your Lifetime, by Anthony Summers; Right Where You Are Sitting Now, by Robert Anton Wilson; William Peter Blatty on The Exorcist, From Novel to Film, by William Peter Blatty; People Will Talk, by John Kobal, interview with Gloria Swanson; Lowlife, by Luc Sante; An Empire of their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood, by Neal Gabler; The Golem, by Gustav Meyrink.

Semi-random illustration: the Kino-Babylon cinema, Berlin, designed by architect Hans Poelzig, also set designer of DER GOLEM.

Heroic Surrender

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on October 4, 2019 by dcairns

Descriptions of WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE WAR DADDY? obviously didn’t do it justice because I was really surprised at how good it was. If I’d ignored descriptions and simply visualised a widescreen wartime farce by Blake Edwards — shunting the turgid GREAT RACE from my mind and sticking with THE PINK PANTHER — I might have approached it with more enthusiasm and seen it years ago — but it would also have been necesary for me to picture it at the top end of Edwards’ output. It’s REALLY accom-plished and very funny and in foul bad taste. If turning war into entertainment is a disreputable activity, turning it into a bedroom farce, with battles replaced by harmless punch-ups, ought to earn you a spot in movie Hell’s hottest cauldron.

War’s peace.

We also have a fatal poisoning, two attempted rapes (male-on-female and male-on-male), a burial alive, and the comedy of mental illness. Edwards attributed his slightly vicious sense of slapstick (think of Herbert Lom’s thumb) to his chronic back pain, which drove him to make light of physical suffering. I’m not sure when he first had his trouble with agitated depression (documented in fictional form in THAT’S LIFE) but the persistent strain of madness in his comedies (Herbert Lom again, S.O.B., and others) must surely have some autobio origin.

War’s piece.

For all that, this is a sunny, breezy romp. Written by William Peter Blatty, who I guess had the military experience (black ops!) to give it as much verisimilitude as you can have in a story where Italians and Americans, then Americans and Germans, then men and women, trade uniforms for comic effect.

Dick Shawn in drag: a habitue of the realm of nightmare.

The three leads have no business gelling in this movie, but James Coburn (astonishingly cool — too relaxed for the character as written, but overpowering the writing with sheer charisma), Dick Shawn and Sergio Fantoni somehow work. I only knew Shawn from THE PRODUCERS, where he’s my — and maybe everybody’s? — least favourite element (his character is deleted entirely from the musical), but he’s very skilled here — lots of fine detail work. Even if I don’t quite warm to him as a presence, I am moved to admire the talent. Fantoni is both skilled and likeable, a really funny guy. Turns out I’d seen him in lots of things, from SENSO to ATOM AGE VAMPIRE, but never in a comedy. Some additional storehouse of charm is unlocked.

The same is true of Giovanna Ralli, who can do things here that wouldn’t have suited the gialli I’ve seen her in.

Edwards applies the same genius for anamorphic long takes to the more-or-less serious invasion of a small Sicilian town (odd to think that A WALK IN THE SUN is happening a few miles away in a different genre) as he does to bedroom farce and drunken escapades. If you can overlook the question of “Should he be doing this?” — and the film works really hard to make sure we do — it’s a really dazzling piece of cinema. Edwards can do large-scale slapstick with moving parts — like a tank falling through the earth — which traditionally don’t like to obey the rules of comedy timing. And make it look easy and natural, so that someone like Spielberg might be fooled into thinking he can do it too.

A demented monologue from Harry Morgan rounds the thing off in almost Shakespearean fashion, somehow clarifying the poetic intent and maybe almost justifying the whole thing — the events portrayed, and the film itself, are a kind of All Fool’s Day festival, a suspension of the laws of reason, allowing us to have a holiday, albeit a very suspenseful one, along with the characters, from the conditions imposed by Reason — a prevailing state of Total War.

WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE WAR, DADDY? stars Derek Flint; Lorenzo Saint Dubois; Teocrito; Asst. DA Vittoria Stori; Johnny Nobody; Col. Potter; Archie Bunker; General Burkhalter; Xandros the Greek slave; Nazorine; Karl Matuschka; Mademoiselle Fifi; and Horst.