Phantasmagoria and Haunted Screens: Gothic Films (and more) - Eight

Això és la continuació del tema Gothic Films - episode seven.

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Phantasmagoria and Haunted Screens: Gothic Films (and more) - Eight

1housefulofpaper
des. 13, 2020, 7:11pm

Such a long wait, and that's the lame title I came up with...I can only apologise.

What have I been watching?

Universal's 1941 The Black Cat was disappointing, but I suppose I should have expected it to be obscure for a reason. It's a rather lame horror comedy of the Old Dark House variety (actually, it's pretty much The Cat and the Canary despite the pretence of being based on Poe's story) . Basil Rathbone and (especially) Bela Lugosi are underused. Broderick Crawford is the hero, taking what I suppose you'd have to describe as the Bob Hope role. Well, there was a war on.

One thing in the films favour is the design. It's more sumptuous and Gothic, better at engaging the eye on a purely visual level, the the "proper" Universal horrors of the period. The print and/or restoration was also excellent. I have a R2 DVD but I gather the film is also on the series of multi-disc Universal films that Scream Factory are putting out in the US.

A Thin Ghost and others. Robert Lloyd Parry has been performing M. R. James stories, dressed as James, in suitably atmospheric locations, by the light of one candle, for several years now. I saw four of his shows, over four nights, at the Leper Chapel in Cambridge in 2013. That's him on the Mark Gatiss Documentary about James from a few years back. This DVD contains a performance of The "Residence at Whitminster" filmed at Hemmingford Grey Manor, and as a supplement the other four stories from the book in rehearsed readings "as himself". He's been unable to tour for much of this year of course, and has put a variety of material (readings of weird fiction etc.) on YouTube.

Suspiria (2018) - Luca Guadagnino's reworking or reimagining of The Dario Argento original. It's tempting to go along with the reviews I looked at after watching it: it's too long, it's not as viscerally affecting as the original (despite some nasty body-horror - body-injury, specifically) scenes. My initial thoughts were along those lines too. I think what the original has going for it is summed up in a quote I remember (but I don't recall who said it) - "it's like how you imagined an X certificate film would be like before you ever actually got to see an X certificate film" (remember under the old UK Certification "X" was an adults-only film, it wasn't specifically "X for sex"). It's headlong and lurid and relentless (even the one long outdoors, daylight scene, which I have seen criticised as a misstep, only swaps the claustrophobic atmosphere of the Dance Academy for The Parallax View-style agoraphobic paranoia). There's also the mythology of the Three Mothers, which is pretty vague but has proved to be intriguing enough to generate two sequels and this sort-of remake. At bottom there is just a primal, folkloric fear of witches.

Guadagnino isn't going for such a simple opposition. Just simply listing some of the changes in the film from the original, makes it clear that he wants to "say something" about male power, female power, actual recent European history, etc. So, The dance company (no longer a school) is relocated to Berlin, 1977. It's Hard by the Berlin Wall, and the Red Army Faction in the news, bombs are going off in the streets. The American protagonist is no longer a "blank slate" heroine but comes from a Mennonite background and has flashbacks to her mother's deathbed. The missing member of the company had been mixed up in revoultionary politics and seeing a elderly psychiatrist who lost his wife in the War. The company's signature piece, "Volk", dates from "the dark days" of the War. And so on.

It felt like a film which is more fun to mull over with a friend after the event, than to sit through - to viscerally experience - with your heart in your mouth, which was how I watched the original. Maybe I need to see Guadagnino's version again in a couple of months' time and see how it strikes me then.

2alaudacorax
des. 14, 2020, 8:16am

I love the title. I'd love to attend re-enactments of the phantasmagoria. Screen is wonderful but there is a special magic in theatre that just isn't there on screen except for a few oddities (I was quite blown away a few nights ago by Salome's Last Dance---bit of a tangent, sorry). How much more magical (supernatural? terrifying?) must these have been when film didn't yet exist? The magic of the stage combined with terrifying new technology (not to mention the overlap with the seance). They would be the earliest ancestors of today's latest horror film, but I wonder if horror film makers have ever really re-captured that thrill (even with those old 3D glasses)?

3LolaWalser
Editat: gen. 3, 3:28pm

I saw two of my French "fantastique" haul, La Poupée sanglante from 1976 and La Main enchantée from 1974... I'll leave the touchstones going to the base texts, by Gaston Leroux and Gérard de Nerval, respectively.

"The bleeding doll" (unfortunate translation, but The bloody doll is hardly better...) is a serial of six episodes and has everything plus the kitchen sink--serial murder of girls, monsters in love, vampires, vampires who bite at a distance, ghosts, revenants, mysterious Orientals (from India), Hoffmannlike automata--actually, I'd say Leroux's greatest debt is to Hoffmann's medieval/Gothic romantic horror.

ETA: DVD preview: DVD La poupée sanglante - INA EDITIONS

I liked it, but ideally you'd want to see this when twelve years old. Making captures from INA's site unfortunately results in smudgy images so these two are from stills online:

 

That's the same actor, Ludwig Gaum, in both--as the lovelorn, monstrously ugly and suspected murderer Benedict Masson, and, having been executed and secretly soul-transported into the machinery of the automaton, as "Gabriel", lovely Christine's (Yolande Folliot) beloved poupée.

"The enchanted hand", otoh, is a stone-cold masterpiece of an adaptation. It helps that it's film-length and therefore not drawn out, but everything is first class--the script, the design, the acting and costumes... The story relies on another well-known legend, that of the murderous detached hand of a criminal (a precursor to Orlac!)

ETA: DVD preview: DVD La main enchantée - INA EDITIONS

Here it all starts with a young husband's jealousy of his wife's much too adult and sexy soldier nephew. Facing a duel with this formidable opponent, the husband goes to a magician for help. His hand is enchanted to render him invincible, but the charm goes above and beyond need. He ends up killing the nephew, and being controlled by the hand which is ever more murderous. He's caught and hanged but the hand is still alive on the corpse! Finally a soldier severs it, thus creating the "hand of glory" of legend and criminals' heart's desire.

The boisterous nephew ruining the groom's wedding day:

.  

(How much I love that little leather gilet... a lot)

4alaudacorax
Editat: gen. 5, 7:59am

Rest in peace, Ms Shelley ...

... caught the coronavirus after going into hospital for a check-up ...
That's a tragedy at any age.

5housefulofpaper
gen. 7, 7:39pm

>4 alaudacorax:

Yes, that's awful.

6housefulofpaper
gen. 11, 8:05pm




The 1001 Nights has a relationship to the Gothic, as an early sign of a shift away from the strict rationalism of the Enlightenment, as as inspiration for Vathek, if for nothing else.

This version is a 1981 BBC TV movie, or "Play for Television" as it was more likely described, on a Dutch DVD (hence the subtitles). The script, based on Burtons version, is by Victor Pemberton, whose 1968 Doctor Who story I'd just watched on DVD (entirely recreated as animation, the original tapes and telecines having been junked). I'd idly looked on IMDb to see what else he's done, and found this curio.

Is it successful? No, I don't think so, not entirely but I think trying to dramatise the Nights is a doomed enterprise from the start. This version started off in fine form - shot on film, and a good old BBC quarry standing in for the Arabian Desert. Then to interior studio-shot palace scenes on videotape, for the frame narrative with Shahriar, Shahrazad (as IMDb spells the names for this production), telling a story every night (actually ending on a cliffhanger at every dawn - but you know all this).

The problem for me...apart from the (I believe) intractable one of turning a framing device and dozens of separate stories into a satisfying 2-hour drama...is the decision to stylise the stories. The intention is for them to look like Persian miniatures come to life, but the extensive blue screen, actors combined electronically with intentionally 2-D sets, paintings and models just looks cheap. Worse, it looks like something for children's (or worse, school's) television on a shoestring budget, and alienates the viewer (this one, at any rate) from the story. When the stories Shahrazad tells are supposed to be so all-engrossing that they stop Shahriar cutting her head off.

Obviously only a small number of stories can be told in the time permitted. It's five i think, with one being little more than a comedy sketch, and Aladdin getting the lion's share of screen time (after the frame story). To suggest the great number of stories being told, and the nights passing, there's that most '80s of devices, the montage sequence!

When the play comes to its end, and had to return to the frame story and Shahriar's...rehabilitation? or cure?...there's a definite sense of aiming for the ambience of Shakespeare's late Romances. Indeed, the producer, Cedric Messina, had been producer for the BBC Shakespeare just before this was broadcast.

The cast is, like the BBC Shakespeares, full of theatrical big names and familiar TV face of the time. Frank Finlay is a ferocious Shahriar (and plays it absolutely straight). That is indeed Stratford Johns as the Genie.

7alaudacorax
Editat: gen. 12, 6:10am

>6 housefulofpaper:

Sad to read it's not up to much. I remember Messina fondly as being responsible for my favourites in the BBC Shakespeare series—not a widely-held opinion, I know.

ETA - Hah! Just been looking at the Wikipedia page for the Shakespeares and I've realised the above is not saying a lot: there are actually only two of the series that I ever return to—and I own DVDs of quite a number of them.

8housefulofpaper
gen. 12, 7:43pm

>7 alaudacorax:

Well, as to whether the Nights is viable material for any drama (as opposed to being a source for stories), is down to personal opinion. This is by no means the only screen version (of course). It occurred to me that the same sort of criticism could be levelled at Don Quixote (what made me think of that particular work? I think it was the mention of Shakespeare's Late Romances, to the lost Cardenio, to Shakespeare apparently having access to Cervantes' novel and -maybe - not recognising it as a game changer and work of genius, but quarrying it for something "useful" - Cardenio (unless my wits have failed me, writing the wrong side of Midnight again) being based on one of the old-fashioned standalone narratives worked into Don Quixote.

Although I just realised I'm aligning myself with my imagined Shakespeare here, because I started off with the observation that I don't think the Nights as a whole can be turned into a drama, but it can be a source for them - like Shakespeare putting Cardenio on stage but declining to adapt the story of Don Quixote!

Leaving my unconscious' arrogance to one side, it really strikes me as strange that Messina and (director) Michael Hayes went for the artificially of the stories-as-miniatures.

Although they weren't alone: BBC Drama seem to have had a thing for electronic effects in the early '80s - witness The Cleopatras - without realising that it would make their work look, as I said yesterday, like the output of the BBC Children's TV and Drama, and Schools and Colleges, departments over the previous 10 years.

I've got all the BBC Shakespeares on DVD, courtesy of a deep discount in an HMV sale, but I don't suppose I've watched even a quarter of them yet.

9alaudacorax
gen. 13, 4:30am

>8 housefulofpaper: - ... but I don't suppose I've watched even a quarter of them yet.

I don't think you've missed a lot. Most of them have better performances available on disc.

Bit of a tangent: Do you remember me linking 'Overly Sarcastic's entertaining YouTube video on Lovecraft? Well she* has an equally entertaining one on Don Quixote - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2C--8o3MVE.

* 'She' is Red—the male half, Blue, has equally entertaining and quite informative history videos.

10housefulofpaper
gen. 16, 8:46pm

> 9
Hmm. Mixed feelings about that. It might have been a deep discount, but it wasn't a negligible amount. Perhaps that an "ooff", not a "hmm".

I'll follow that link to the Don Quixote video in a moment, but I wanted to show some screenshots from one of my Christmas presents (apologies for the image quality - not only am I pointing my cameraphone at my TV screen to get them - and you can see I can't hold the phone straight-on to save my life! - there's some burned-in blobs on the screen. They're not on the original image).

This is from disc one of Short Sharp Shocks from the British Film Institute. A collection of the short supporting features that were shown alongside feature films up until the early or mid-80s (although showing a music video from The Police alongside David Lynch's Dune suggests it was game over by 1984).

It starts off with the two surviving films of Algernon Blackwood reading his own stories. This is actually an instance of cinema trying to claw back audiences from the TV, as Blackwood was an early star of British TV, reading his stories as he is here (an aside - when he passed away, John Laurie took over the role of "television's ghost story man". I'm sure the bits in Dad's Army where his character tells as spooky story (to be undermined for comic effect at the end) is referencing this episode of his career, two decades later.

"Lock Your Door" (1949)


"The Reformation of St Jules" (1949)


This is a short film, only surviving on a 16mm print, with Stanley Baker as Edgar Allan Poe. Essentially he reads/performs the story, but as Poe - composing the story, telling it and "becoming" the protagonist, all in an expressionistic-looking garret set.

"The Tell-Tale Heart" (1953)




These short films were often made by small outfits, or directors/producers just starting out. Or sometimes just colourful or eccentric figures. The next two films are from (to quote the accompanying booklet) "Theodore Zichy, Hungarian count, Bugatti racer, pilot and playboy"

"Death Was a Passenger" (1958)

A commuter (Terence Alexander) has a chance meeting on a train which takes him back to his wartime experience, as an RAF pilot trying to make his way out of Wartime France. This is the scene where his "No..er, merci" to the offer of something to eat lets everyone in his train carriage know that he is British.


"Portrait of a Matador" (1958)

Probably the weakest story on the disc. The acting is pretty stiff in this one and the story (although closer to the concerns of this group than the previous one) is an unconvincing "explained supernatural". I'd mention the "of its time" representation of hot-blooded Spaniards as a fault, but quite frankly the filmmakers spoof themselves worse as caricature straightlaced and repressed Englishmen. The portrait itself, which drives the proud and jealous (of course he is) Matador over the edge, is surprisingly effective (and in the context of the story, convincing)- perhaps because it wasn't in a style I'd expect from 1958.

11alaudacorax
Editat: gen. 17, 7:59am

>10 housefulofpaper:

Fascinating post!

I have absolutely no memory of those short supports, though I remember I went to the 'pictures' once a week or so through, roughly, second half of the sixties and first half of the seventies. I vaguely remember the average evening being one B-movie, a bunch of Pearl & Dean adverts and then the feature film; but perhaps I'm thinking of my childhood. I'm tempted on several fronts, not least because there's something quaintly '50s-British' and nostalgic about the whole idea; but I'd particularly like to see the Algernon Blackwoods and the Stanley Baker one. Gone to the top of my cinemaparadiso list.

... "television's ghost story man" ...
Really sad to read on Wikipedia that this series, Tales of Mystery, has been entirely lost. I have no memory of seeing it and I would love to see Laurie reading horror stories straight.

Blackwood's face—even when he was a lot younger than that—is an absolute gift to the pencil artist. The same goes for Hugh Laurie, of course. Sadly, Blackwood looks close to the end, there.

I've been vaguely aware of Dune, though never particularly interested; but I don't think it's ever really registered with me that it was a David Lynch film until you mentioned. So that's gone on the list next to Short Sharp Shocks (it's a real struggle to not put a comma in there).

Was there ever a British film made in the fifties and sixties that did not have Terence Alexander?

The one saving grace to the BBC Shakespeares is that most of them used the complete text (I don't think every single one, but I'm not sure about that; though I remember it was the original intention). I don't know how often that happens elsewhere, but in my personal watching it's been rare. So they have that academic interest. I don't know how much of a saving grace it is if the production is so lacklustre you can't keep your concentration through the full play ...
Annoyingly, the series doesn't have its own IMDb page. I was curious to compare the ratings of the individual plays. Probably a week's work without a dedicated IMDb page.

12alaudacorax
Editat: gen. 17, 9:02am

>11 alaudacorax:

Goddammit!!! I quite recently wrote, around here somewhere, about completely forgetting about books I'm reading on my Kindle. Just realised I've done it again with my 'complete' Algernon Blackwood. If I ever get round to putting in new bookcases I'm going to start collecting his collections. You'll know what I mean by that if you look at a Blackwood bibliography—man was so prolific I suspect he scares the crap out of anyone who looks into publishing a complete 'collected' ...

13LolaWalser
gen. 17, 3:17pm

Among interesting horror novelties coming up on Eureka, this caught my eye (sadly no use my getting it):

"Bursting with startling imagery and stunning practical effects courtesy of directors Konstantin Yershov, Georgi Kropachyov, and perhaps most notably, artistic director Aleksandr Ptushko (the legendary special effects artist whose spectacular stop-motion effects and innovative colour cinematography has seen him referred to as the Soviet equivalent of Willis O’Brien, Ray Harryhausen, and even Mario Bava), VIY has influenced generations of directors for more than half a century. The Masters of Cinema series is proud to present VIY in its UK debut on Blu-ray from a HD restoration of the original film elements. The Limited-Edition release (3000 copies only) will feature a Bonus Disc containing A Holy Place (1990, dir. Djordje Kadijevic) and an exclusive O-Card Slipcase, and will be available from 22 March 2021."

https://eurekavideo.co.uk/movie/viy-limited-edition-set-3000-copies/

Those Russian silent film fragments in the extras are especially intriguing...

14LolaWalser
Editat: gen. 17, 3:51pm

A passing touch of paranoia, probably.

15housefulofpaper
gen. 17, 8:37pm

>13 LolaWalser:

I'd seen some pre-publicity for this release but at the time my mind and finances were focused on Christmas presents for other people - well, mostly other people :)

This was a timely reminder, and I've got my order in now.

16housefulofpaper
gen. 17, 9:00pm

>12 alaudacorax:

My limited and unscientific experience of collecting Blackwood is that there's an awful lot of overlap in the short story collections. Collecting first editions would no doubt be a costly business (although in fairness, beaten-up copies of minor works seem to begin at quite reasonable prices on AbeBooks).

It seems that the major current publisher of Blackwood, and they only have a handful of titles in their catalogue, is a print-on-demand company called House of Stratus.

17housefulofpaper
Editat: gen. 17, 9:16pm

>10 housefulofpaper:
There is a disc 2 to Short Sharp Shocks - four short films from between 1969 and 1980. The other side of the swinging 60s and a very different world from the first disc (or worlds, 1980 being very different from '69, of course).

It was more difficult to get screenshots for these but I'll try to put up some pictures and short descriptions, without spoilers.

>11 alaudacorax:
As late as 1983, the Monty Python team arranged it so that The Crimson Permanent Assurance was The Meaning of Life's supporting feature (but really the two films are an integrated whole). Star Wars fans remembered the supporting feature that went out with The Empire Strikes Back and when it was found (it is the fate of these films to be at the mercy of producers, distributors, etc and many are lost) it was shown at festivals, Star Wars conventions and is now on YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5L8pHKP-vv4

18housefulofpaper
gen. 19, 7:06pm

Here are the films on disc 2 of Short Sharp Shocks

"Twenty-Nine" (1969)

The main mover behind this one is Peter Shillingford, who had made a lot of money shooting adverts over the previous half-decade. As he tells it in the accompanying booklet, the film was made to utilise profits that would otherwise have gone to the Exchequer.

It's (intentionally) disorientating in a characteristically late-60's way, although the autobiographical central character may be self indulgent (something that could be argued for a few more late '60s films where the passage of time has revealed the film makers themselves maybe more skewered than the targets they were going after). Not gothic or horrific but related by way of the unease created by the mystery of the opening, which could have taken a fantasy or a Noir-ish direction.





"The Sex Victims" (1973)

I'm not sure who the victims are here. Are the brutish lorry driver an his made being lured to their destruction, if they are is it deserved or not, or is this revenge from beyond the grave? It's confused, maybe because the makers didn't care about the story so much as the opportunities for nudity and having a woman chased through woodland and what looks like a deserted barracks (I guess it's actually stables, given the importance of horse riding to the plot).





"The Lake" (1978)

A simple story. A man a woman, and their dog. And a presence. In the woods (or is that just the prowling camera) or in the lake...



"The Errand" (1980)

As characteristic of the early 80s as "Twenty-Nine" was a glimpse of the very end of the 60s.

It's a fable or a conte cruel following a lone soldier in a near-future militarised England, sent on a secret mission. Or is something else going on?




19alaudacorax
Editat: gen. 30, 5:51pm

Okay, it is NOT me getting increasingly impatient in my old age. They just don't know how to make films like they use used to!

And I'm becoming increasingly disillusioned with Rotten Tomatoes. Twenty-five minutes into Color Out of Space and I'm giving up, quite baffled as to how the RT critics have it at 86%. It didn't help that I needed subtitles to get through Cage's mumbling ...

'Setting the scene' doesn't mean what you think it does, modern-day directors. First five or ten minutes you're supposed to grab the viewers' attention by the scruff and drag it along with you thereafter. Go and have a look at any well-known film not made in the last forty years or so, then go away and make wedding videos or something ...

20alaudacorax
gen. 30, 3:08pm

>19 alaudacorax:

So, I went back sixty years. I've just watched The Snake Woman.

Okay, so this wasn't a great film—two or three wooden and hammy performances and the rest merely adequate at best, a leading man with very little screen presence, and the story fairly rough and ready. But what it did do was to grab my attention from the start and hold it all the way through—a proper, fun, old-fashioned, horror film. And that was because whoever made it knew how to properly put a film together.

So now I can have dinner in a far better frame of mind than would Cage and co. have left me.

21LolaWalser
gen. 30, 3:20pm

>20 alaudacorax:

Don't know there's a point to me voicing any opinions :), but for the nothing it's worth, I liked that one, thought it had great atmosphere and an effective and oddly touching monster. IIRC I read somewhere a lot of non-actorly people were involved, the villagers I presume. They give it an air of authenticity.

I subjected myself to Konga (1961), a very poor knockoff of King Kong even as such things go... It does have a vivid palette and Michael Gough as the scientific baddie:



Also saw the 1976 slasher Alice sweet Alice. More plot holes than a Swiss cheese but, well, not sure that would matter to the fans of the genre.

Curiosity--the very first victim is little Brooke Shields (and on the day of her first Communion, heavens).

22alaudacorax
gen. 30, 6:33pm

>21 LolaWalser:

Oddly enough, I remember seeing Konga in the cinema and I don't think I've seen it since. Can't really remember much about it, except that the ending made me rather sad; perhaps that's what's made it stick in my mind for so long. I couldn't have been much over eleven (they used to let us in to see any rating at my local flicks, as long as they got your money).

23alaudacorax
gen. 30, 7:05pm

Sorry for getting in 'grumpy old man' mode in >19 alaudacorax:.

Though I genuinely do believe that Rotten Tomatoes is going awry, somewhere. Not so many years ago I was finding its Critics Consensus a pretty reliable guide to what I would like. These days it's just not.

24LolaWalser
gen. 30, 7:51pm

>22 alaudacorax:

Your memory makes great sense. After they kill him, Konga shrinks down to the little chimp snatched from the jungle. The scenes were they inject him with the plant(!) hormones are also very distressing.

25alaudacorax
gen. 31, 12:15am

>24 LolaWalser:

Yes! That first image of you cite is exactly what I'm remembering. I must hunt it up, sometime, just for a nostalgia trip ...

26housefulofpaper
feb. 2, 8:17pm

>26 housefulofpaper:
I've entered an off-air recording of Konga on my other account. I'm pretty sure it was off Talking Pictures TV (if not, it would have been the Horror Channel, surely). So it may come around again. The British version of Godzilla, Gorgo, was of the same vintage but made by entirely different people. Nevertheless Steve Ditko (credited as the artist, but really the creator of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange for Marvel Comics in the early '60s) produced comic book versions of both monsters for Charlton Comics (it's wonderful what the internet can find for you if you just commit to hours of aimless scrolling and browsing - oh yes, that's the other reason I'm not getting through all my book reading and DVD viewing...)

27housefulofpaper
feb. 2, 8:25pm

Last Gothic film watched was the Vincent Price/Roger Corman (cinematography by Nicholas Roeg) The Masque of the Red Death. The digitally remastered version has come out in the UK (from a different company to all the other Corman/Price Poe movies, so if they were shelved together it would stick out like a sore thumb).

The edits/censor cuts made for the US released and the different cuts made for the UK, have all been reinstated. It's only a matter of seconds in all, I think, but even so it gives it a just a bit more "bite" - it's that bit less likely that the Horror Channel would schedule this version for a Sunday afternoon.

Colours are vibrant, it really does look very good. Extras are an informative commentary, a piece about the restoration, Roger Corman's talk for the BFI's Gothic season in 2013, a DVD booklet and some postcards - sorry, "art cards".

28alaudacorax
Editat: feb. 3, 4:10pm

>27 housefulofpaper:

That's the StudioCanal Vintage Classics blu-ray, yes? I don't have a copy of that, so I think it must be earmarked for my next spending spree.

It's odd how things often seem to cluster together. I hadn't realised Nicolas Roeg was involved. I like a lot of his stuff, though, and only last night I found myself watching a YouTube video of Jenny Agutter talking about filming Walkabout. That, in turn, reminded me that I still haven't seen Don't Look Now; checked my CinemaParadiso list, found it at 135th or something, and moved it to the top. And that in its turn had me wondering if I still haven't read the story, either. Can't remember doing so. I've got it, so I really should have by now. Perhaps I just couldn't make up my mind which to do first ...

Anyway, I've read the Poe many times and I think I've seen the film at least twice. I'm not sure if I'm remembering the film as that good or if some lustre of the story has rubbed off on it, but I definitely want that blu-ray.

29alaudacorax
feb. 3, 4:32pm

>26 housefulofpaper:

I think I've watched Gorgo a couple of times in the past and enjoyed it. It came in the 'switch-your-brain-off, cheesy goodness' category, if that makes any sense. I saw the first quarter of an hour or so a couple of days ago and—and this is something I've felt previously, but just couldn't get around this time—felt there was something a little off at seeing Bill Travers as a bit of a seedy character. He just seemed intended by nature to be the heroic good guy—Charlton Heston sort of thing. Either miscasting or poor script-writing, I suppose (and, I suppose, a poor reflection on his acting abilities). I seem to remember the character came good in the end, but the film just wasn't working for me this time round.

30housefulofpaper
feb. 3, 5:27pm

>28 alaudacorax:
StudioCanal, that's right. All the others have been issued by Arrow Films.

>29 alaudacorax:
I haven't managed to see Gorgo yet, and I've managed to miss most of Bill Travers' screen career too. I have seen quite a few Herman Cohen films (the producer of Konga). They're a bit too... impolite? Sleazy, even, to be described as "cheesy goodness".

There's a short film I haven't seen yet but I intend to soon - it's on youTube. Picking up the thread of supporting features in UK cinema, an adaptation of Saki's "Shredni Vashtar" went out as support for Omen III: The Final Conflict in 1981.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-RI9WBpPGQ

31alaudacorax
feb. 3, 5:53pm

>30 housefulofpaper:

I had lots of aunts, years ago, and there wasn't a bad 'un among them, so I have no idea why 'Sredni Vashtar' should be one of my all-time favourite short stories, but it is.

I've seen a screen version but I don't think it's that one, the Conradin I remember looked younger. Tales of the Unexpected TV series, perhaps? I'll put that one in my 'Watch later'.

32LolaWalser
feb. 3, 8:05pm

Coincidentally, I posted about a Roeg film just recently, Bad timing. Looks great but I think is seriously marred by the casting of Art Garfunkel (wish he and Keitel had exchanged roles...) Walkabout is a fave although I'm not happy about the Aboriginal boy's fate in it.

Continuing the creature feature theme, I am currently putting together the original Toho Godzilla movies for a Godzilla Moviezilla extravaganza. The library has all but two... (I have the first one myself).

Hmm, Gorgo--no, does not ring a bell. *note*

33alaudacorax
feb. 3, 11:22pm

>32 LolaWalser:

I saw the original Godzilla recently (bought the DVD, in fact) for the first time since my childhood. Can't remember if I wrote about it here. It was surprisingly moving and not really the schlock-horror I'd imagined.

34LolaWalser
feb. 4, 6:02pm

>33 alaudacorax:

Very much my own reaction, I was quite surprised because I had very wrong preconceptions about it. In fact it seems to have been seminal in introducing a certain point of view as well as making the threat of nuclear destruction a popular theme in Japanese media.

35housefulofpaper
feb. 14, 7:14pm

I recorded Tale of a Vampire (1992) off-air sometime in 2007 but only got around to watching it from beginning to end this week.

This film gets a bit of a pasting from Jonathan Rigby in English Gothic but has passionate supporters online. It uses Poe's poem "Annabelle Lee" as an armature but it's really a sympathetic vampire courts reincarnated lost love story. But it's so focused on (it seems) trying to be the ultimate collection of Gothic Romantic Vampire set pieces and over-stylised '80s-style filmmaking (albeit, I think, shot on video) that the storytelling is listless. When I've looked at bits of this over the years it never seems to quite be a real film. Sad to say, after finally watching it all, that's still the impression I was left with. But as I say, it has its fans.

(I hadn't edited the commercial breaks out of this recording. The DVD release of The Mist from Woolworths. Gender-discriminatory car insurance (Sheila's Wheels) - since banned by the EU. An ad for AOL!. 2007 suddenly seems a long time ago).

The next film I watched was another one that could be described as listless but, don't ask me how, this slow and even more opaque film does work better as a piece of cinema than Tale of a Vampire. It's Jess Franco's A Virgin Among the Living Dead. Now, this has gone under many titles and has been released in versions including scenes shot by other directors years later - even the French dub to the version I own must post-date the film since it refers to "the late General (Franco)". This version doesn't include the extra scenes (even though the box art depicts one of them!) but the summary in Stephen Thrower's book Murderous Passions evidently has a couple more scenes, some explanatory dialogue that would have been useful, and some reordering of scenes that are present.

I doubt I've seen even 1% of Franco's output but I've seen enough to recognise common themes, characters or character types, as if (this is not an original observation) Franco's dreaming these films onto the celluloid. In this one, a young woman travels alone a remote location evidently somewhere in the Iberian peninsula (the film was shot in Portugal) - summoned home from a London boarding school because the father she's never met has died. This leaves her an orphan. Her stepmother passes away within minutes of her arrival. The other members of her family are odd (because they are undead) and the girl is in peril from a vague but pervasive vampiric, witchy Otherworld. I have had this DVD for ages, and hadn't watched it until now. I'm glad I waited until I could have a sense of what you're getting when you watch a Jess Franco film - by watching some others (including Count Dracula with Christopher Lee, and the more explicit films he started making with Lina Romay soon after this one (the thematic links can be picked out running through all these films, I think); by reading about Franco; and by comparing and contrasting with Jean Rollin.

36LolaWalser
feb. 27, 8:19pm

>27 housefulofpaper:

I saw this for the first time only recently... Movie looks gorgeous. Excellent production. The voice of the Red Death nagged at me throughout--SO much like Christopher Lee's, and yet wasn't him. Wouldn't THAT have been something! Wished Nigel Green had more to do, but Magee and Skip Martin (the dwarf) were used well.

>35 housefulofpaper:

Another recent surprise (because I don't pay enough attention to directors): turns out Franco made several late German Krimis belonging to that universe of Edward Wallace-based movies--he used the pseud Jess Frank for those. A global director for global people... :)

37housefulofpaper
feb. 27, 9:14pm

>36 LolaWalser:

It was an actor named John Westbrook. He didn't get an on-screen credit even though that was apparently him in the red "death" costume, he wasn't simply dubbing his lines in post production. Curiously enough, he did a lot of dubbing of other actors. I looked at his IMDb entry - I was curious to know what he looked like - but he hasn't done much genre work (he was a stage actor, and a radio actor more than a screen actor I think, - its what I infer from IMDb) so I don't have much of his work on DVD or Blu-ray. He was in an episode of Blake's 7 many years after this film.

If it had been Christopher Lee, it would have been a nice contrast with Dracula, Prince of Darkness the next year, in which he's seen but has no lines!



38LolaWalser
feb. 27, 11:10pm

>37 housefulofpaper:

Yes, I went looking for his identity, even IMDB didn't list him, but Wiki does. Shame that such a superb performance wasn't credited. Dare I say, I don't think Lee used his voice nearly that well, that subtly. It's just that he's distinctive and, well, famous.

I stumbled across another channel with archival Brit TV and am bingeing on something called "Undermind", 1965--a parade of lesser and better known faces, Rosemary Nicols, Michael Gough, Judy Parfitt, Dennis Quilley, Patrick Allen... and that's first 3 eps only... must see everything before it too gets axed!

39housefulofpaper
feb. 28, 12:24pm

>38 LolaWalser:

A channel with hundreds of hours of British TV I thought I'd never see again, vanished one afternoon a coulple of weeks ago. There wasn't so much genre material there but suddenly having children' TV of my own childhood, together with complete runs of Not the Nine O'Clock News and The Innes Book of Records, and early Victoria Wood, was quite a blow.

If this stuff was available on BritBox, I'd sign up like a shot.

I haven't seen Undermind yet and only became aware of it relatively recently. I sort of assume I'll know of all the UK and US small screen science fiction prior to 1980, because there was so little of it that it was all captured in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (in fact the entries run "under the sea", a thematic essay, to Unearthly Stranger (1963), which I think has turned up on Talking Pictures TV in recent months.

Talking of familiar faces in old TV shows, an episode of The Adventures of Sir Lancelot from 1957 (starring a pre-Doctor Who William Russell, and - indicating what a big deal this was - shot on colour film) was on Talking Pictures TV yesterday. Ronald Leigh-Hunt as King Arthur, and a young Robert Hardy as "Sir Rupert" (I think he's the show's equivalent of Sir Mordred) and Edward Judd in a small role as a "jobsworth" sentry. Illustrating the idea that historical dramas reflect the times they are made in, the actor playing Sir Kay wore a RAF Flying Officer's handlebar moustache.