Okay, slight revision to the plan, for sanity’s sake. I’m going to continue updates on Facebook, and continue live tweeting, but the blog and tumblr posts are requiring a little too much for my sleep deprived brain, so I’m setting those aside to write up at a more leisurely pace next week.
It’s a credit to the sincerity of Vincent Price’s performance that the film doesn’t seem to be that weird until you try to explain it to someone. Then you realize that you’re watching a movie about a scientist who has discovered a weird creature called a tingler that lives on everyone’s spine and gets larger and larger as you get afraid and only shrinks back down when you scream. If you’re afraid but can’t scream, the tingler kills you. So of course he has to kill someone to get a tingler to experiment with.
It’s another William Castle film, and the gimmick with this one was vibrating gizmos under the seats to make movie goers scream. Then it gets sort of meta when a tingler gets loose in a movie theater.
Fantastic Lewton produced movie, very much in the noir tradition. Simone Simon plays a Serbian born artist who thinks she’s cursed and Kent Smith is the dim-witted man who falls in love with her. Moody and atmospheric, this film influenced generations of future filmmakers.
The use of life and shadow, brought about by the lack of budget, is genuinely unnerving. The swimming pool sequence is one of the best uses of shadow ever captured on film. And then there’s the Lewton Bus.
This one’s a mini-masterpiece. Produced by Val Lewton and directed by Jacques Tourneur, the film is as smart as the title is stupid. Frances Dee plays a private nurse in Saint Sebastian, taking care of the catatonic wife of a plantation owner. She falls for him and wants so desperately to bring his wife back for him, that she turns to the island’s voodoo practitioners.
It goes where you expect such a story to go, but it does it without ever planting tongue-in-cheek, and the tragic end feels genuinely tragic.
They don’t get much weirder then this Tod Browning flick. Lionel Barrymore breaks out of prison with a mad scientist. The scientist has developed a method to shrink people and animals into tiny little obedient doll-like creatures. The scientist dies, Barrymore starts dressing in drag, and opens a toy business, while he looks for vengeance.
Then we have a tiny little woman in heels playing thief and assassin, some family intrigue, some detectives, and a little guy hanging from a Christmas tree.
Bela Lugosi plays vampire for Tod Browning again, and he seems to have fewer lines then he did in Dracula. It’s a remake of Browning’s London After Midnight, and it’s a fine little picture, with some pretty silly effects, including a slow flying bat that keeps dropping by.
Lionel Barrymore is fine as the Van Helsing stand in, and the final act twists keep the party interesting. Not a classic, but well worth an hour of your time.
Lugosi walks around with an unexplained bullet wound in his head, which is said to tie back to some scenes that were cut from the film because they implied an incestious relationship between Lugosi’s character and his daughter.
Made in 1927, directed by Tod Browning and starring Lon Chaney, London After Midnight is, unfortunately, lost. What’s airing on TCM is a photo reconstruction, comprised of still photographs, text screens, and a musical score. It is rather difficult to watch in this form, and get any kind of fell for what the film was like. You can put together the storyline, but the tone, which is the most important aspect of a horror picture, is lost. Still intriguing from a historical standpoint.