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“Shout” (1978)

by Sam Juliano

Autumn weather is trying real hard to make its presence known but summer is driving a hard bargain in these parts.  In any event mid October is usually a fun time of the year.  We Yankee fans were so thrilled when our team took out the Indians in five after an amazing comeback, but we do presently stand in a precarious situation, down two zip to the Houston Astros.  The Bronx Bombers must win tonight if they are to stand any realistic chance.  The prestige movie season is nearly upon us and many are noting what films are on the docket.  Holloween Horror is all the rage and our resident expert Jamie Uhler has penned another fantastic review of a comparatively little seen gem:

The Shout (J. Skolimowski… 1978) psychological/fantasy

Knowing the brilliance of Polish master Jerzy Skolimowski for some time now, I’ve sort of been surprised I’ve never seen a second film of his; Deep End (1970) is one of the towering works of cinema, a scathing, brilliant piece of subversion, it being so great that it stands out in an era where subversive political cinema happened somewhat regularly, a telling fact by itself. But it remained all I’d seen from him, until, last night of course, when I did his abstract piece of Horror, The Shout from 1978 (I should say, my neglect on him isn’t due to pure laziness, I’ve long wanted to see Le depart [1967] and Hands Up! [1967], but have found both to be pretty illusive to quick, or even lengthy, searches). 

 Outlining the plot reveals a little to the abstract nature of the film, while it has concrete notions of plotting—a mysterious man (Crossly; Alan Bates at his most disheveled mysteriousness) invades the otherwise tranquil, English country side life of a young couple (the beautiful Rachel [Susannah York] and avant garde musician Anthony [John Hurt]) who claims to be coming back from a time spent living with Aboriginals where he murdered his family and learned a ‘terror shout’ from a shaman that can kill anyone who hears it without proper ear protection—its abstract style reveals a film illusive and hard to pin down. It’s clearly for the better—the auditory nature of the Horror implies that you need to feel and really ‘hear’ the film as much as you see it, with much of the spoken lines being muffled or whispered somewhat, with Anthony’s time in the studio being a smorgasbord of audio invention; he plucks a sardine can with a violin bow, or he shouts in a glass box around his head, each effect adding to the scary nature of a film where a deep, bellowed scream can kill and maim. Other touches add ever more focus, Anthony’s home studio is adorned with several of the terrifying Francis Bacon paintings of the mid-century for example, images that are later quickly echoed by Rachel if you pay close enough attention. Skolimowski’s deft use of the camera also deserves mention.

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by Sam Juliano

Summer temperatures are back as we approach mid-October, but I can hardly attribute this to any kind of climate change, right?  After all, our ever-insightful Chief Executive has told us as much!  This is the month of horror movies and festivals, as Halloween approaches.  I’d like to share Jamie Uhler’s excellent capsule on the 1938 Dracula’s Daughter to get in the proper spirit here:

The film is a wonderfully concise and poetic bit of classic Universal Horror filmmaking; perhaps for the first time ever I saw beyond the gloomy, death atmospherics and saw the ‘other’ film resting within in. It’s a dark film to be sure, long I’ve been reminded of some of The Seventh Victim’s suicidal yearnings, but here I saw the clear playfulness ode to The Thin Man between Otto Kruger’s Dr. Jeffrey Garth and Marguerite Churchill’s Janet. A particularly tense scene, for example, is undercut by Janet pranking Jeffrey on the telephone midway through, with their mixture of light to heavy ribbing gleefully reminding me of Myrna Low and William Powell’s antics from two years prior. It also adds a dollop of sincerity to the films close, when Jeffrey is quickly willing to trade his life for Janet’s. Another sly bit of subverting of the traditional Dracula template is pitting our usual hero, Professor Von Helsing in Scotland Yard’s custody at the beginning of the film for the murder of Dracula. It’s a fresh way to set the plot in motion; it springs the titular daughter of the slain Dracula, Countess Marya Zaleska (the alluringly gothic Gloria Holden, giving Siouxsie Sioux a template to work off of 40 years later) into action. If you’ve been made a vampire by a vampire that has just died, you can break its hold over you, thus Marya dreams of being a normal, living breathing human, complete with the realities that that brings with it. Essentially, she wants to love again and be desired, making her eventual fall, and the entirety of the film itself, fated to a sad, tender end.
It’s often deemed a flawed film coming near the end of the run of original Universal masterpieces, but for my money it’s right there, and in many ways a perfect bridge from the Universal Monsters to the rapidly approaching, atmospheric, literate masterpieces of Val Lewton and company. For Horror this is obviously tremendously important, and when you add that contemporarily it’s been given a new reading for its homosexual (or perhaps better put, bisexual) subtext, (Marya is draw to young females throughout the film) you see that this is a film that, like Marya herself, deserves a much better fate.  
 
The Caldecott Medal Contender series is underway and will continue into early February.  The Greatest Television Series Countdown Part 2 has been pushed back two months for a number of reasons, one of which is I simply will not be able to write for two projects at the same time.  The launch date for Part 2 will be Wednesday, February 14th.  Obviously this means the second annual Allan Fish Online Film Festival will be later, but it will happen, and just a few days after the end of the television venture.

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Part 2 of our wildly popular Greatest Television Countdown, originally eyed for mid December will now be pushed back until late January.  The reasons are two-fold:  I have received a few e mails from writers who understandably need more time for this marathon venture, and I simply will be unable to write my Caldecott Medal Contender reviews at the same time I pen my massive workload for the television countdown.  The idea to do it the first place was rather ludicrous.

However, Part 2 will now cross over into the general calendar span I had envisioned for our Second Annual Allan Fish On Line Film Festival.  Though we ran it this past year at a juncture around his birthday, I realized too late that his birthday was actually at the very end of May.  In any case, the most important matter is that we do conduct the Allan Fish Festival in 2018 and we will absolutely do so.  It may now be in late June or early July, but it will definitely happen and will tentatively run for two weeks.  Jamie Uhler will once again be chairing the project and will at the right time send the rules out at the site.  The way I am figuring it now there will be a three day break between the television project and the opening day of the Allan Fish venture.  Assuming this site is still viable a few years from now I think the Allan Fish project can happen anytime from May until August, but probably in May.  Only because of the length of the television venture are we jockeying the dates a bit.

I will soon send the official schedule out to our e mail group and will be exact as to the date with our readers.

 

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Reports of the carnage in Las Vegas broke after I had already posted the Monday Morning Diary.  The news was as horrific as it was unconscionable.  Duane Porter tellingly frames this depravity with another call to law makers in a comment he placed at the MMD yesterday.  The site of course is in complete and utter agreement:

Monday morning, appalled by the carnage in Las Vegas. A man is able to fire 1000 rounds out of a hotel window before he can be stopped. All this horror and suffering would not have been possible were it not for the inane free access to high-capacity automatic weapons in this country. Are we never going to wake up?

R.I.P. Tom Petty of Travelling Willburys and Heartbreakers fame.  Another musical icon has left us.  My wife Lucille has always been one of his biggest fans.  I wonder what our resident rock music guru Jamie Uhler thought of his work.  Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney among other icons held him in the highest regard.

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by Sam Juliano

October already?  Hard to believe, but here we are looking at Halloween decoration full front and getting some weather that seems to suggest summer has spent its oppressive resources.  Movie fans can expect the cream of the crop, baseball fans the playoffs, NFL football aficionados the season in full swing.  The opera and classical music seasons have now launched in their famous homes, classes are almost a month old and even Christmas countdowns have started up.

Here at Wonders in the Dark we have just concluded one of the most remarkable ventures in the site’s history, though in reality the other part of this project won’t be commencing again until December 11th or so.  Do to the unprecedented enthusiasm to our Top 80, we have decided to go deeper into the balloting, so deep in fact that in a burst of insanity the site has resolved to countdown from Number 236 to 81.  This means we will be covering or highlighting (in the event full reviews can’t quite be managed on certain days) 155 more shows.  I know.  I know.  This is utter lunacy, and an example of the extent enthusiasm can lead one.  How can this possibly work?  At this point I am really uncertain.  Yes Adam Ferenz, Dennis Polifroni, Brian Wilson, Robert Hornak and myself have volunteered together for an incredible number of essays, but others have also pledged contributions.  All I can say is that we will take it one day at a time.  As if that proposition crosses the line of mental stability, I will still have the latter part of my Caldecott Medal Contender series to complete.  It started this past weekend, and will be continuing through October, November, December and January.  Yes it will for that last section run concurrently with the television countdown, but that kind of thing has never really been a problem.  There will just be more posts, that’s all.

Some of the most spectacular/superlative essays ever published at this site were accomplished for this countdown.  Many thanks to Adam Ferenz, Dennis Polifroni, Brandie Ashe, Brian Wilson, Robert Hornak, John Greco, Jon Warner, Stephen Mullen, Marilyn Ferdinand, Pierre de Plume, Patricia Perry, Lucille Juliano, J.D. Lafrance, Joel Bocko, Maurizio Roca, Samuel Juliano IV, Jillian Juliano and David Schleicher for manning up the writing brigade so brilliantly.  Yes, Yours Truly ended up penning the most essays of all, but I’m much too busy now pondering how I can possibly juggle my even greater workload for Part 2 while doing the Caldecott series at the same time.  I must set up an appointment to visit a psychiatrist soon. (more…)

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seinfeld-628x353.jpg

by Jon Warner

It’s hard to know where to start on an essay about Seinfeld. Doesn’t everyone already know everything there needs to be known on the show? Google greatest Seinfeld episodes and you’ll unearth a blog post or article from every corner of the globe with everyone offering up their personal take on the show about nothing. It clearly holds a place in our popular culture and remains to this day, unequivocally, the most iconic show of the 1990’s, turning “Yada Yada Yada”, “Shrinkage”, “Double Dipping”, and “No soup for you!” into everyday reference points. It was a legend in its own time, building a sizable following with 30-40 million people tuning into its broadcasts in the final few seasons. By then, it had began to lampoon (maybe not so successfully) its own tendencies and idiosyncrasies turning its simple, everyday observations into gargantuan, cartoon-like (“The Blood”, “The Bookstore”) absurdities. I had a conversation with someone the other day about Seinfeld and they feel like the show hasn’t held up very well. True, not every episode in great, and the 1st, 8th, and 9th seasons are not up to the same par as the best period between seasons 2-7. Yet the simple fact remains that when it was at its best, the exploits of Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer were as funny as any show ever made. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The Top 80 Greatest Television Countdown is fast approaching the Top 10, and with it a conclusion to Phase One of this long-running project.  The longer section will commence in mid-December.  The annual Caldecott Medal Contender series will also be launching within one week and will continue at the rate of two to three reviews a week until mid January.  Obviously it will run concurrent with Part 2 of the Television Countdown for about four weeks.  But running both at the same time will pose no problem at all.

The past week has been very difficult.  My father’s older 94 year-old sister passed away late Sunday at a hospice location in North Jersey.  She lingered there for eight days without food and water and Lucille and I were there daily.  She is the mother of my beloved cousins, the late Bobby McCartney and Douglas and Jeffrey McCartney, both of course who were there daily holding vigil.  Douglas lived with my Aunt his entire life.   An extremely close aunt through all our lives, and a time of great sorrow. (more…)

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