Archive for October 15th, 2018

by Sam Juliano
Mid October is upon us and finally it appears the cool temperatures normal for this time of the year are settling in.  The Caldecott series in underway, though I have been tied up at work as of late to do more than the pair I have posted.  But the pace will increase over the coming week.  Jim Clark’s superlative review on Persona in his ongoing Ingmar Bergman series and J.D. Lafrance’s splendid re-visitation of the horror classic Creepshow posted this past week.  Jamie Uhler’s HorrorFest 2018 continues with a fabulous review on a relatively obscure 1944 gem starring the great Erich Von Stroheim, based on Robert Siodmak source material:
The Lady and the Monster (G. Sherman… 1944) sci-fi/mad scientist
“As the famous saying goes from John Waters in relation to the work of pioneering camp showman William Castle’s reliance on theater and film gimmicks, “Strait-Jacket employed cinema’s greatest gimmick of all, Joan Crawford”. He didn’t mean it derogatorily, the film was a fever dream of lurid trash dementia, and Crawford was the only actress that could play all these twists and turns with such supreme aplomb. I bring it up here as it shows just how much the ultimate genres of the special effect—Horror and Science Fiction—really rely on, when the gallons of red gloop are done and the severed limbs hacked off, actor sto really sell the thing and, if I could borrow John Waters here, B-movie director George Sherman unleashes one of the best diabolical special effect of the outrageous, Erich von Stroheim, to wonder effect here. 
Of course von Stroheim often returned to such lurid plots because he had a real knack for the stuff, but also because his brilliant directorial career had been robbed out from under from him via Studio bosses in something of a dress rehearsal for what they’d later do to the burgeoning career of wunderkind Orson Welles. So, into the late 30’s/early 40’s, much of what we have from von Stroheim is stuff like the performance in The Lady and the Monster, and while after doing Greed or The Wedding March you almost mourn the fact, but realize, that hell, under any cinema tent, supreme low art like this deserves a might big spot too.
He’s asked to man Professor Franz Mueller (I love thinking of our Orange ignoramus’ sweating to the beat of our 21st century Robert Mueller every time I heard the characters name uttered in dialogue) here, a scientist determined to resuscitate and keep alive a brain after its organism has perished, a feat he’s able to accomplish early in the film via a dying small monkey he’s brought with him into the Arizona desert chateau of Dr. Patrick Cory. When a stiff shows up nearby, they race out to help as Doctors, but you know Mueller is secretly hoping it’s dead so he can have a human to try out on, a fact we’re given shortly after. The team of scientists succeed—one of the films strengths is tying everyone in on the potentially unethical but brilliant, work—and soon the brain begins telepathically controlling Cory, a feat seemingly advanced moreso at the prodding of the ever more deranged Mueller. A twist occurs when the corpse is revealed to be not just any stiff, but in fact the (supposedly) rich Mr. Donovan whose will isn’t what many had hoped for. The last reel because nearly a noir, with the widow and her lawyer realizing something’s amiss. Von Stroheim remains affixed as the bad guy even as Cory becomes increasingly controlled by the feedback speaking brain at the films center.
With a lean, often art filled script from a Curt Siodmak source novel, this relative cheapie plays great beyond its cost, as a noir-inspired looks drips menace and shadow throughout.Catching me off guard this is one I really, really enjoyed, and now will push it whenever underrated works of Horrors pre-Psycho era are sought. Highly recommended.”
Lucille and I saw a single film in the theater this week and though very well reviewed was mediocre at best.  It is purportedly Robert Redford’s final film.
The Old Man and the Gun ***       (Saturday night)               Ridgefield Park multiplex



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