Archive for Zigomar

The Sunday Intertitle: Spies in Leotards

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on July 12, 2020 by dcairns

The intertitles are the least interesting thing about PROTEA (1913), directed by Victorine-Hippolyte Jasset, who also gave the world ZIGOMAR. This one is another Feuilladesque spies-in-leotards romp, structured on the one-damn-thing-after-another plan.

Mistress of disguise Protea and her equally versatile accomplice the Eel are sent by one mythical kingdom to steal a secret peace treaty arranged by two others. One false identity follows another at a rapid and far from cost-effective pace. By inventing characterisation they could have saved a lot on sets and costumes.

I enjoyed this dumbshow tremendously! It’s not even clear if we’re meant to be on Protea’s side or else view her as villainess. With FANTOMAS or FILIBUS or ZIGOMAR, the baddies were usually more interesting and you rooted for them even though you knew it was naughty. Here, it’s just spy vs. spy, without even the labels of recognisable nationalities, which is about the only thing that makes James Bond a hero.

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You can decide if Protea and the Eel are the protagonists when the (sadly incomplete) film is over and you find out who won.

The Sunday Intertitle: Zed Cards

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on July 5, 2020 by dcairns

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I really like Zigomar. Oh, I know he’s a bad guy, and a Fantomas knock-off, but being number two he has to try harder. He opens ZIGOMAR CONTRE NICK CARTER by delivering special explosive wood to his nemesis Inspector Paulin. One explosion (well, one red filter) later, the poor detective is bedbound and has to entrust his crime-smashing activities to celebrated pulp hero Carter. But Zigomar isn’t just going to sit back and let that happen, so he despatches his “Z Gang” to throw Carter down a stairwell and drop a piano on him. Yes, you read that right. Maybe the silent serial informs the cartoon more than silent comedy does?

The rapid-fire plot-counterplot narrative certainly resembles the blackout sketch structure of a typical Loony Tune.

This is the period when each room gets one camera angle and one only. Which makes it all the more obvious that the landing where Carter grans hold of the banister is exactly the same set as the landing above, i.e. they only built one landing. So when they cut back and forth between floors, it’s just the actors switching in a series of jump cuts, just as the earlier “explosion” was just a jump cut to a red-filtered shot.

And, a few scenes later, we discover Zigomar’s electric gambling den, where the flick of a switch makes all the playing cards shuffle out of sight and the furniture rearranges itself to create the impression of an innocent concert hall — and the trick is played by stop-motion, so that the serial has transmogrified into an almost literal cartoon.

I like the Dutch intertitles — the Cinema Eclair logo gives them the feel of magical playing cards.

Further evidence: the sixteen-ton rock slab.

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It’s Cecil Parker’s Film Festival, We Just Live In It

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2019 by dcairns

A very young, very fat Cecil Parker was a highlight in BECKY SHARP, he injects life into UNDER CAPRICORN (which we missed) and accompanies Ingrid Bergman again in Stanley Donen’s INDISCREET, where he gets most of the laughs during the long first half of setting-up. Then there’s some business with a fellow named Cary Grant — and then David Kossoff, of all people, got a spontaneous round of applause from the Bologna audience — TWICE. For entering and exiting.

That was today, when I had a lie in. Yesterday I saw:

IN OLD CHICAGO (Henry King) and WAY OF A GAUCHO (Jacques Tourneur) in the morning, two films in which cows cause death. In the Tourneur, a startling matte effect enables a horse and rider to disappear under a stampeded of cattle. The King is like a bovine version of THE BIRDS, with Mrs. O’Leary’s cow incinerating the windy city single-hooved, and a herd busting out from the stockyards to trample a major character.

The Tourneur, which looks great but was not a major hit with the public here, did feature the festival’s most quoted line: “He’s a fool, but he’s very gaucho.”

My own favourite exchange was from MOULIN ROUGE. Zsa Zsa: “Others find love and happiness, I find only disenchantment.” “Jose: “But you find it so often.”

I walked out of THE SEA WOLF — not the Curtiz classic, but an earlier Fox version by the worthless Alfred Santell. I would have stuck it out but my foot needed ointment so I stuck that out instead. Then I interviewed a very special person — haven’t been able to check the audio yet so we’ll have to see about that…

Fiona stayed in the Cinema Jolly, whose air-con has shown the most distinguished service this fest, until today when it let us all down rather badly during THE BRAVADOS, and she saw Felix E. Feist’s TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY. I’m going to have to catch up with the Feists I missed after the fest. He seems feisty.

The Piazetta Pier Paolo Pasolini is where showings are held with the carbon arc projector in the open air, so at 10.15 pm we ingested an Aperol Spritz (me) and a peach juice (Fiona) and washed them down with a one-reel fragment of Rupert Julian’s CREAKING STAIRS — the stairs weren’t all that creaked — a tinted Fleischer OUT OF THE INKWELL cartoon, a couple of travelogue-type things, and best of all, three episodes of ZIGOMAR PEAU D’ANGUILLE, a proto-FANTOMAS serial with a chunky master-criminal, a slinky female sidekick in a catsuit, and various capers including a robbery using an elephant accomplice (“La Rosaria” whispering detail directions into the pachyderm’s massive ear — intertitle ZIGOMAR AND LA ROSARIA WAIT IN THE GUTTER FOR THE ELEPHANT) and dive-bombing on Lake Como.

I’d been wanting to properly see some ZIGOMAR since I saw my first clip of the hooded desperado, possibly in the BBC series The Last Machine. He did not disappoint me, though most of his heists seemed to leave him out of pocket.