Do You See
“Recently” Al Ewing and Sarah Peploe came into possession of a box set containing “18 uplifting classics” (end quote) from the cinematic oeuvre of Russ Meyer. Heedless of the consequences, they have taken it upon themselves to watch and review each of these in turn on an irregular basis. This is part eight.
DISCLAIMER DEPT: This is definitely NOT SAFE FOR WORK. There is actual porn.
I saw Theatre Of Blood for the first time tonight, at a BFI Screen Epiphanies showing (you will be unsurprised to discover it was a favourite of one of the League Of Gentlemen, Reese Sheersmith). I know this is far too late in life to watch such a delightfully well made black comedy, but I enjoyed it thoroughly with the additional frisson of having the directors family sitting behind me. For those of you who have not had the pleasure, Theatre Of Blood is a wickedly dark horror comedy where Vincent Price plays Edward Lionheart, a classical actor/manager who specialises exclusively in Shakespeare who runs foul of the 1970 London Critic Circle. Thought dead from suicide, he returns to bump each of the critics off in a suitably Shakespearian fashion. Hammy, gory and with a wonderful 70′s Who’s Who cast, it is a treat – with a delightful central premise. In particular it overcomes the biggest problem in black comedies, how to balance sympathy for the central murderer without being voyeuristically complicit. Here all we meed to know is in the opening line with Michael Hordern’s critic, a pompous ass bemoaning that his best crack against an actress had been cut from his review. These are critics, and self-satisfied ones at that, who the audience have no difficulty in agreeing deserve their fates. Price is so delicious as the lead, given an extra dimension by Diana Rigg’s devoted daughter, and the critics are so grotesque, that you worry some may escape. So you get gore, imaginative deaths, and Vincent Price delivering ten of Shakespeare’s finest roles (also a bout of fencing on trampolines!*). By the end of which you appreciate the bitter irony that you still root for Lionheart even though through these performances you know the critics were actually right. He is pretty terrible.
Being of my unoriginal, gadfly, generation, and enjoying the film thoroughly, my first thought on exiting the cinema was of a remake. If you were to do a remake, who would star?
Recently Al Ewing and Sarah Peploe came into possession of a box set containing “18 uplifting classics” (end quote) from the cinematic oeuvre of Russ Meyer. Heedless of the consequences, they have taken it upon themselves to watch and review each of these in turn on a highly irregular basis. This is part seven.
DISCLAIMER DEPT: This is probably NOT SAFE FOR WORK. Also, SPOILERS.
So the first picture of Michael Fassbender as Frank Sidebottom have appeared on the internet, and the internet is all a kerfuffle. It doesn’t look – right – they say. The eyes aren’t round, the eyebrows have been shifted from Sievey’s perma-surprise to a more reflective, even pair of brows. And real-Frank was more dapper than this movie-Frank. The body language is all off too (but this may not be a film take). Just wait til we hear his voice, possible drifting from the Irish-German lilts that are the Scylla and Charybdis of all of Fassbender’s vocal performances.
But hold on a minute. Do we want this Frank to look just like the real Frank? This is not a case of impersonation, Fassbender is playing a role.
(Apologies to Alan from whom some of the ideas here were appropriated.)
Everyone hates Mrs Brown’s Boys – right? Everyone finds it bizarre that this sitcom with a dragged up old Irish Mammy is such a big hit, and such a big hit in a post-watershed BBC1 fashion, with a spin-off celebrity gameshow in the works.
But why does “everyone”, for which read quite clearly not everyone, hate it? When discussing it people often bring up Miranda as well, another seemingly old fashioned sitcom – down to its “You Have Been Watching” tag. Other instant reasons to hate both are their laugh track (or actually live studio audience) and a breaking of the fourth wall where in both sitcoms the lead often telegraphs the laughs straight to the (present) audience.
I have seen some pretty strong invective against both, which reminds me of much of the lower level of critical discussion around pop and rock music, where the opening gambit is to use the word HATE. When people drill down on their kneejerk hate, the reason is not always easy to pinpoint. We may fall back on phrases like something being derivative, lazy or unexciting. If we are really lucky we can try to construct a straw man of offensiveness: potentially it is implicitly racist, anti-working class and there must be something that covers our overall discomfort with drag. Of course we are allowed to say “it isn’t funny” but clearly plenty of people think it is. What should say is “I didn’t find it very funny”, but that isn’t very useful critically.
Online Dating is a minefield. Once you have identified a potential date, or received a message from an interested suitor, how do you contact them? What do you say, how formal should you be? Picking the tone is very difficult, let alone knowing what kind of conversational gambit to employ. Well luckily help is at hand from the forties, and in particular a correspondence relationship between Carole Lombard and Charles Laughton in They Knew What They Wanted. Here is the response from Lombard’s character Amy to the initial message from Laughton’s astonishing Italian caricature*
There has been an increase in debate about the brightness of cinema screens recently, raised by Peter Jackson filming The Hobbit in 48 frames per second. Its an attempt to counter the dramatic light loss you get when for some reason you have to wear dark glasses in the cinema. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to wear plastic glasses in the cinema, but as mentioned elsewhere the 3D world doesn’t work for me so there is no point getting 3D in the cinema. Anyway the reactions to 48 fps have not been altogether favourable, though Peter Jackson suggesting its like when CD’s took over from vinyl certainly isn’t helping (its not). I have an interest in a bright, well projected image, all cinema-goers do. But I bring it up because it obscures the true bright screen menace in the modern cinemas.
Yesterday I went to the BFI to see a couple of films in their January Screwball series. (With two balls in my pocket for every screening obviously). The first was Twentieth Century*, a Hawks comedy where John Barrymore hams it up to an extraordinary level, but the plot never quite matches the tempo of its leads (I also thought Carole Lombard was underused). It was the first time I had seen it, and like many a screwball comedy it requires a degree of concentration to follow the rat-a-tat dialogue. Concentration which was broken by the woman in the seat next to me whipping out her iPhone and taking a photo of the screen. And then doing it again. She then observed my micro-tuts and disapproving posture and put it away. Later in the film, someone in the seat infront of me did the same. ANd then my neighbour did it one more time.
Here at Freaky Trigger we often find it difficult to keep track of all the recurring Character Actors in these epic films with large casts, especially under layers of prosthetics and make up.
Luckily for us then, that last night a group of dedicated FT correspondents stumbled across a handy cast list, written in P Jackson’s Actual Handwriting (see picture). So to save you multiple trips to IMDB to figure out who is playing 3rd Warg On The Left, here is that list in full:
There is a game that is played between critics and films sometimes. Occasionally a film comes along which is kicked to death in the street like some sort of cathartic act of bullying. I can only imagine critics walking out of certain films with some sort of mob mentality dropping on them like a Derren Brown collective piece of mind control. What causes this is the perfect storm often of excess onscreen, excess offscreen (in particular the press notes) and the film itself being no good. There are other things that will help this along. A commercially successful director who has never really produced anything all that brilliant. Use of the word vision: as in “from the visionary director”, or his own “unique vision”. Sometimes I wonder if it is just a matter of critical flexing of their otherwise weedy and Vitamin D deprived muscles. Certainly we saw it earlier this year with John Carter, a perfectly amiable folly which I rather enjoyed. Because that is the thing with these follies, they often aren’t the worst thing in the world, they are often rehabilitated, enjoyed for what they were, or even ironically taken up. As I said above it’s a game, and getting to the end of this list it is a game I am playing for the second time. I already slagged this film of last year, and had a perfectly good time in doing so. And a year on, I am starting to feel a bit bad about it, whilst having committed to playing this game one last time.