Lang's Metropolis (1927)

I recently re-watched this visually ambitious silent work, visually stunning at times (hard to believe it was made in 1927). The story is kind of naive and doesn't go beyond straight forward sci-fi with a touch of socialism. The restored version is pretty decent on the Kino DVD.
This is Dan's brief take on it.

Maurice Jarre's Greatest Film Scores



Heard good things of this filmmaker, Alexander Dovzhenko, but have yet to see huis films. Seems very Russian and agit-proppy.


The Agony And The Ecstasy- Trailer

If one need any further proof that journeyman director Carol Reed could not have produced the Wellesian film classic, The Third Man, one need look no further than this bloated yawnfest, which starts out with a de facto 12 minute long commercial for the then traveling global exhibition of Michelangelo's works.


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On Vincent Price

Vincent Price was, simply put, the best B film actor ever, and the best horror film actor ever. Yes, yes, that may be like saying one was the best swimmer on the Titanic, but still....give a legend his due.

As I said, in my review of War-Gods Of The Deep:
....even were this film not helmed by a true talent like Tourneur, it would have gained a few notches simply by Price’s magisterial presence. He could bring pathos and depth to even the most absurd situations and dialogue, and does so here. He has kidnapped Jill because she looks just like his dead wife from over a century before- an old trope that never seems to lose its usefulness in inspiring B film madmen, especially Price, who made a specialty out of longing for dead spouses on film. Of course, what makes this film work is that Price never concedes, with even a wink nor nod, that he is in a B film. If only he had been allowed to do Shakespeare in an A film, how much richer American cinema would have been, but he was consigned to B films because of his odd physical features, and slightly fey mannerisms.

Yet, even though he suffered a sort of typecasting, the man never let it ruin his career. Check out how he makes lemonade from lemons:

Like many horror films, I went to see the Price films of the 1960s and 1970s while sneaking into theaters, and loved his acting. But, here is an interesting snippet of the man, as the man:

On Christopher Lee

I'd mentioned, in an earlier post, that I was not a big fan of Bela Lugosi. And, as he was the first, and most famous, film version of Dracula, it should come as no surprise that my favorite onscreen Dracula was Frank Langella. Gotcha! No, it was Christopher Lee. The best, of course, was Klaus Kinski's Dracula in Werner Herzog's Nosferatu, Phantom Of The Night (recall, the original Count, in F.W. Murnau's 1922 Nosferatu was named Orlock). But, my favorite was Christopher Lee.

Kinski's take was, dare I say it?, too realistic to be enjoyed in a campy way. But, Lee's take on Dracula, in a long series of films for the Btitish Hammer Studios, was both more violent and sexual than Lugosi's, well, shall I say laconic take?

What is notable about Lee's takes on Dracula is that, unlike Lugosi, Lee did not speak that much. In fact, in some of the films he barely spoke at all. Rumor is that Lee did not like the scripts, so refused to speak them, but did the films because they were what made him a star. But, this fact also had two beneficial side effects: 1) unlike Lugosi, Lee lacked a non-English accent, and therefore his lack of speaking made him more mysterious and feral as a character, whereas Lugosi simply stupefied many into sleep. 2) by not imposing himself so deeply into the role, in any intellectual way, Lee avoided the typecasting that doomed Lugosi's post-Dracula career.

As a boy, my pals and I would sneak into theaters to watch the Hammer films, or the latest from Roger Corman or Ray Harryhausen, and rarely would we not be entertained. We would discuss the 'finer points' of each film vs. the previous one, and anticipate what was to come.

Sadly, that is rarely done now. In an odd way, I think that's because so many 'film franchises' are run as such, the way fast food restaurants are franchises- they are all the same. Yet, looking back at the Hammer films and their varied series, or the Universal films before them, each had its own stamp. Yes, many were silly, corny, or just plain bad, but they tried to vary things up.

Lee's career, as said, did not suffer post-Dracula blues, like Lugosi's, and having starred in over 250 films he's had a varied career, and has starred in two of the most successful film franchises in history: Star Wars and Lord Of The Rings. But, to me, and many other kids born in the mid-20th century, he will forever be Dracula, and the coolest one....if not the best.

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On Bela Lugosi

Of all the major horror actors to grace the screen in Hollywood's Golden Age, my least favorite is Bela Lugosi. Simply put, he had the least range, and its not because of his Hungarian accent, but because the man was simply a limited actor.

Rumor is that Lugosi always resented the other people who got famous in the horror genre, from Lon Chaney to Boris Karloff. And, while these rumors have been denied in some quarters, they do seem plausible, given that Karloff was always top billed over Lugosi during their run of Universal features: The Black Cat, The Raven, The Invisible Ray, Son Of Frankenstein, and Black Friday.

But, even more damning was the fact that the man could never overcome his typecasting as....

This then led the man to his final career home, as leading man for Ed Wood. Check this bit of hamminess from Bride Of The Monster:

Now, don't get me wrong. I love Ed Wood. He was, unintentionally, one of the great comedy film directors of all time. (Ok, I hyperbolize, but damn, that shit was funny!) But, Lugosi never really had the acting ability of a Vincent Price to fall back on. And Price is a useful comparison. Price simply made every bit of banal and shit-laden reel of film he was in something better. Maybe not something great, nor even good, but always interesting to watch. Can anyone really say the same about the above clip? Or this Wood classic?

In a sense, the thing that killed Lugosi's career was Dracula. Not the play. but the film. Had he stuck to a stage career, he, and his made for stage dramatics, may have prospered. But, on the intimacy of the big screen, he was just more laughable than not, which is why, even in Dracula, he's simply not scary. Having said all that, I do have a soft spot for all actors who do their best, especially in B films, and Lugosi is no exception. But, he is one of those film stars whose life would likely have been better off without the medium.

Greta Garbo Documentary (9)

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Roy Clark- Master Guitarist

On my e-list, arguments were flying over the longevity that rock music can sustain, whether or not Bob Dylan or Jim Morrison is the better song lyricist (Morrison is- although I, not Dylan's supporters, made the best case for him), and several other musical queries.

Naturally, things got to guitarists, and after the usual suspects- Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Eddie Van Halen- I posited that Roy Clark might well be. Who's he?, quoth you youngsters.

Take a gander:

Roy Clark - Click here for funny video clips

Ok, that was banjo, but it was Hee Haw, the syndicated show that ran for decades in America, and first brought country music into the mainstream.


Now, here's a clip from his guest starring role on The Odd Couple:

Here he is parodying Johnny Cash:

Roy Clark folsom prison blues1976
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Yes, maybe he was a country boy, but damn it, he was spectacular.

The Kyuzo Effect

Of all the samurai in Akira Kurosawa's great film, Seven Samurai, my favorite is Kyuzo, the master swordsman, played by one of his regular actors, Seiji Miyaguchi. He is the most skilled of the samurai, but also the leastegotistical and seldf-serving. In many ways, with my website, Cosmoetica, I know what it's like to be Kyuzo- overlooked, but the best at what you do, but also not really giving a damn what others think.

In my review, I describe the most telling scene in the film for the character:
Almost as good an acting job as Shimura’s is done by Ko Kimura as Katsushiro. Watch the scene where he confronts the great swordsman Kyuzo (Seiji Miyaguchi)- in yet another bravura performance that shows less is more, after Kyuzo has singlehandedly killed two bandits and returned with a needed gun. Katsushiro says little, save to tell his hero he is ‘great’. Kyuzo restrains a smile of satisfaction. Then, when Kyuzo is later killed by a gunshot, by a craven bandit hiding in a house during the rainstorm, look at the utter devastation on Kimura’s character’s face. Similarly, look at his reaction to killing a bandit- the first man he has ever killed, or even to some of the earlier shots that show him ruminating on the fact that a life as a samurai is not all glamour. Let a Mark Hamill try to act like that!

It's an interesting thing that the best of the samurai is the one who seeks the least glory. He persists for a higher purpose, one even his samurai mates do not understand. But that is part of what greatness is. It is persisting, despite the naysayers, despite even friends and family not truly getting what the reasons are, or why they are right.

This sort of demeanor is exacerbated by the fact that there are many delusional people, with no talent, who boast of their skills in assorted fields, and delude themselves, and often a few others (see Bukowski, Charles), into thinking they are great, merely because they get celebrity, for some reason.

But, often the really great people get the most nasty harassers and foes. This is because there is something in the makeup of the average that fears and hates greatness, for it highlights their own failings, even to themselves. But, like Kyuzo, the truly great do not care, which only enrages their detractors further.

Early in the film, when Kyuzo makes his introduction, he is in a fake swordfight with a bad swordsman. The lesser man declares their fight a draw, while Kyuzo states that if the blades were real, he'd be dead. The loser persists in antagonizing Kyuzo until he is forced to kill him. Similarly, I get hundreds of email threats and harassment every month, and do not reply to any, save for occasional essays that highlight the silliest of them. Again, this only makes the harassers persist.

But, the Kyuzo in me will persist longer. Only the new technology of guns can bring him down, and only the inevitability of death will do me in, but, there, the game is rigged. Excelsior!

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Boris Karloff

Boris Karloff was the pseudonym of William Henry Pratt, and English actor who, by fate and circumstance, ended up as one of Hollywood's Big Three horror film stars of the first two decades of the sound era, including Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney, Jr.

His most famed role was as the square-headed monster of Dr. Frankenstein:

But, he essayed many other roles, until ending his career, like his peers, doing low budget horror films to pay the bills. His last great role was as the narrator in the cartoon version of Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

He also did voiceover work for many other cartoons.

He did films with both Chaney and Lugosi, but got his best kudos for those with Lugosi. It was Lugosi, ironically, who helped launch Karloff's career, by refusing to play the Frankenstein monster.

Lon Chaney (Deux?)

If one is a horror film fan, one cannot avoid the name Lon Chaney, which was borne by both father (Senior) and son (Junior). Senior became a star of the silent film era, known as The Man Of A Thousand Faces, for his ability to slip in and out of makeup, to the point that it was rare for him to be seen, in public, in his lifetime, with his real face.

Aside from Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Charlie Chaplin, the elder Chaney was arguably the biggest star of the silent film era. While he appeared across genres, his two most famous roles were as Quasimodo in The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, and as The Phantom Of The Opera's 'Phantom.'

His son continued in his father's footsteps. He did not begin his career until after his father's death, in 1930, but in the 1940s became a staple of the Universal Studio's horror series, as The Wolf Man, in that film series.

His most famous non-horror role was in the western High Noon. But he did essay the Frankenstein monster as well:

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This was a television show, and Chaney's makeup here would influence later portrayals of the monster away from the flatheaded fiend popularized by Boris Karloff.

Both men had their ups and downs in the business, but both are now immortalized under the same name, and one cannot help but think that, centuries from now, their old 20th Century films will still be entertaining bored people in search of a fright on distant worlds.

On Paul Naschy

In 2009, Paul Naschy died. For those to whom the name means nothing, I can only state that you were not around in the 1970s, when he was, to foreign horror films, what Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Lon Chaney, were to English language horror. I exclude Vincent Price because, well, Price was in a league of his own.

Most of his films were filled with soft core porno, as well as horror, and in this way they parodied the Eurotrash films of haughtier filmmakers like Pier Paolo Pasolini and Luis Bunuel. There was no place for pretension in Naschy's films.

My pals and I would sneak into theaters, and get high watching his films, along with the stuff released by Hammer, Roger Corman, Ray Harryhausen, and the Godzilla film series. Occasionally, we'd even go in for a blaxploitation or martial arts film.

Naschy often scripted his own films, and if there was one flaw to them it was that he never quite succeeded in making them as memorably bad as the films of Ed Wood. Perhaps had he not acted in them he would have acheived this. But, he was a damned fine actor. No, the Oliviers of the world will not have to roll over in their graves, but outside of the aforementioned Vincent Price, few actors in the horror genre were capable of bringing in a gravitas to their roles, no matter how silly.

Naschy did, and his work, while largely forgotten on this side of the Atlantic, did push boundaries and meld genres like few before. And, it's worth noting that he did this before the slasher film genre took off in the late 1970s. That genre, in fact,owes a debt to Naschy, as a pioneer, and one who mixed horror and sex better than any of those genre films did.

It's a little late, but R.I.P. Jacinto Molina Álvarez (aka Paul Naschy).

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