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Archive for June 28th, 2013

by Sam Juliano

Robert Florey’s association with acting icon Boris Karloff was finally negotiated after a close call thirty years prior. The French-born director was the initial choice to helm the 1931 horror masterwork Frankenstein, but despite his involvement on the screenplay, he was removed from the project by Universal executives, and instead assigned to direct Murders of the Rue Morgue, another genre work based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe. The replacement James Whale, was far less a visual stylist than the expressionist-attuned Flory, but most film historians ring true when they predicate that Whale was superior with actors, was far less austere, and understood the playful nuances of language and physical movement.

Alas the creepy ghoulishness, disorientation and unremitting gloom that defines Thriller’s second-season episode “The Incredible Doktor Markesan” are gears in Florey’s wheelhouse, and the show is an uncompromising, old-fashioned gothic horror package that features a decaying mansion à la Roger Corman’s The Fall of the House of Usher and death-like visages that envision (and pre-date) Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls. Thriller alumni Benjamin H. Kline, lens man par excellence and art director Howard E. Johnson, both of whom fashioned the fog-laden and cobweb subjugated pictorial design of the work are consummate collaborators for an overseer who during his career was far more predisposed with visual rather than spoken language. The subject matter of “Doktor Markesan” also suited Florey especially well, as his career yielded multiple instances when the motif of bringing the dead back to life was showcased. The complete absence of comic relief, aside from unintended guffaws that will undoubtedly greet some of Dick York’s corny lines (“There’s not a muscle in my carcass that’s not howling bloody murder” or “There’s something horrible going on…something unholy!”) and a powerful nihilist undercurrent that characteristically wallows in utter hopelessness, and suggests a resolution of eternal damnation. It appears deliberate that the tone of the piece is so irrepressibly bleak, that Karloff in his opening narration hammed it up a bit by referring to himself as that “creepy, sinister sort of chap” and the film’s Morton Stevens score concluded with a light, if pensive piano flourish under the closing credits.

(more…)

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cria 2

by Allan Fish

(Spain 1976 110m) DVD1/2

Aka. Cría; Raise Ravens

Porque te vas to the Rains of Castamere

p  Elias Querejeta  d/w  Carlos Saura  ph  Teo Escamilla  ed  Pablo G.del Arno  m  Federico Mompoli  art  Rafael Palmero

Geraldine Chaplin (Maria/Ana as adult), Ana Torrent (Ana), Monica Randall (Paulina), Florinda Chico (Rosa), Conchita Perez (Irene), Josefina Diaz (Abuela, grandmother), Mirta Miller (Amelia Garontes), Hector Alterio (Anselmo),  Maite Sanchez (Maite),

Occasionally, through fate, coincidence or whatever force you may or not believe in, you watch a film at a time when the stars seem to align.  Such was the case with Cría Cuervos.  I’d seen it before, but I had deliberately not gone back to it as soon as the BFI Blu Ray was announced.  I wanted to wait to see it in Hi-Def.  The Blu Ray was then delayed but still I was resolved to hold back.  On first viewing, Carlos Saura’s film, like many of his early works, seemed dominated by political allegory and left me relatively cold.  Finally, I got the Blu Ray, but I didn’t watch it immediately.  I waited a week or so, so that when I put it on a seemingly unrelated event took place; the showing of the already infamous Game of Thrones episode ‘The Rains of Castamere’.  There’s no link there, I can hear you mutter, and you’d be right, but take a look again at the opening scene of Cría, of a series of pictures from a family album.

As Cría was shot, Franco was lying on his deathbed and Geraldine Chaplin had been working with Carlos Saura for nearly a decade, since Peppermint Frappe.  They had no family, but they’d been lovers, and one can see that candidness in the photos in the album.  Yet Geraldine had another family, of a father who went from Fred Karno to knight of the realm and had as big a hand in the popularity of the movies at a time when Francisco Franco was only an unknown soldier in the regulares. (more…)

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