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Archive for October 22nd, 2011

Via an email exchange last weekend, Allan Fish revealed an awesome poster he had created, with 660 images representing a timeline of cinema history. By sheer coincidence, I had recently completed a similar venture: a rapid-fire video tour, albeit limited to 1912 – 1970 and contingent not on a canon but whatever I had on DVD. Nevertheless, similar spirit at work. Fish had fun trying to identify the clips from their brief appearances and later Shubhajit seemed to dig the montage too (after putting this post up, fellow blogger Srikanth Scrivasson said it “plays out like the output of a malfunctioning super-projector in its final minute of operation”, a description I can certainly get down with). So I’ve decided to reproduce it here for the Wonders gang.

Warning: not for the epileptic.

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by Joel Bocko

“Fixing a Hole” is a new series on Wonders in the Dark whose sole purpose is to review films that have not yet been covered on that site. The theme for October is “Universal Horror.” Some spoilers are discussed below.

The Old Dark House (1932/United States/directed by James Whale)

stars Boris Karloff, Ernest Thesiger, Charles Laughton, Melvyn Douglas, Gloria Stuart, Lillian Bond, Raymond Massey, Brember Wills, Elspeth Dudgeon

written by R.C. Sherriff and Benn Levy from J.B. Priestley’s novel • photographed by Arthur Edeson • designed by Charles D. Hall • music by David Broekman • edited by Andrew Cohen

The Story: On a dark and stormy night, a married couple and their bemused third-wheel friend are forced to stay the night at a gloomy old home, inhabited by the very strange Femms, a family full of neuroses and dark secrets.

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See a movie called The Old Dark House and you think you know what to expect. Well, unless you’re psychic, half-mad yourself (you’d have to be to come up with this scenario), or have already seen it, you’d be dead wrong. Sure, there’s an old house on a hill. Okay, a bickering young couple and their friend wind up having to spend the night there. Yeah, the residents of the house are a bunch of freaks, weirdos, and psychopaths. But the devil’s in the details and if the outline sounds familiar, the details are anything but. Every line of dialogue, every gesture, every plot development is unexpected and off-the-wall.

Who could predict the lesbian onslaught of sister Rebecca Femm (Eva Moore), pausing every now and then in her overbearing religiosity to a cop a feel from the heroine? Who would expect the appearance of 102-year-old Sir Roderick Femm, bedridden, cackling, and despite the misleading cast listing (actor’s name supposedly “John Dudgeon”) quite clearly an old lady with a scraggly beard glued to her wrinkly chin? And best of all, who should foresee the climactic revelation of Saul Femm (Brember Wills), outcast brother locked in his room for twenty years, set free to plead sanity – almost convincing us (we’ve certainly seen how nuts his siblings are) before the hero turns his back and Saul’s meek expression dissolves into a mask of fantastically cunning dementia?

(more…)

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