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Archive for November 15th, 2011

by Allan Fish

(Spain 2006 35m) DVD2 (Spain only)

The balm to the wound

p  Cesar Romero  d/w  Victor Erice  ph  Valentin Alvarez, Victor Erice  ed  Juan Pedro Diaz  m  Arvo Pärt  narrated by  Victor Erice

In a film which is so centred upon memory and what it can conjure, it’s perhaps only fair to stop and think what the title La Morte Rouge conjures up to the reader’s subconscious.   Corman’s Poe adaptation perhaps, with Vincent Price faced quite literally with the visage of his own death, or of Chaney, in skeletal red, descending the stairs of the Masque Ball in Paris.  Both would be understandable, but to Victor Erice it meant just one thing; an almost mythical village near French Quebec where the classic Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes chiller The Scarlet Claw was set.  You won’t find it in any atlas, Erice tried looking for it there, and he’s been looking for a long time…

            Erice is shown in a still photograph at the age of five or six, about the time he went to see his first remembered movie, The Scarlet Claw.  To set the scene he opines of the town of San Sebastian where he grew up and the long since gone Gran Kursaal cinema, built in the age of the Belle Époque, by a grand equally derelict casino that fell by the wayside during the Civil War and Franco’s regime.  The film was in Spanish, for they dubbed all of the foreign films, and there’s something altogether strange about hearing the film spoken in Spanish.  But not Holmes himself, for he, the effective hero of the story, is left to silent illustration.  The real interest is in the main who floats between the shadows like a spirit, the unnoticeable postman Potts, played so wonderfully by Gerald Hamer in the film, who is in actual fact the villain of the piece, the murderer going round La Morte Rouge with a huge metal claw and ripping throats asunder.  (more…)

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