“Do you play?”
This post is part of the SEX! (Now that I have your attention) Blogathon hosted by MovieMovieBlogBlog. Click here to read all the other salacious, sultry, and sexy posts of other participants.
What is sexy? A very personal and subjective question. While historical context plays a huge role in what we determine to be sexy, whether it’s gap teeth or doe eyes, etc. Somethings, I think, will always be sexy. Like that of sexual tension. There is something to be said about the buildup that comes with pursuit that is downright sexy. And The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) gives us a prime example of it.
While subvert sexuality in film under the Hay’s Code was on its way out by the time The Thomas Crown Affair hit theaters in June of 1968, we had not reached the complete break away of the 1970’s yet. This plays well into the nature of the film itself. The characters are playing a game. A game that is played not out in the open, but through subtlety.
Everyone who has ever seen The Thomas Crown Affair can recall the chess scene. But I would like to make a case for the film’s sexiness as a whole. This is not to say that the chess scene is not one of the sexiest ever filmed outside of that match between Antonious Block and the Devil, just kidding. It is to say that the film as a whole is a crescendo of subvert sexuality and tension climaxing (pun intended) with that infamous chess match. The film constructs a characterization of the two main characters as almost archetypes of men and women in the modern world. The immature male unwilling to let his guard down for fear his masculinity may be put to the test; and the career centered woman, at war with older societal sensibilities and her need for emotional fulfillment.
Bored millionaire Thomas Crown devises a bank heist. Using an alias and some very bright lights, Tommy contracts multiple men to pull off the heist. Each man not knowing the next, only knowing their particular part in the job. The heist is a success, netting Crown a cool 2 million dollars. He then deposits the money in a series of trips to Switzerland. The police are baffled.
Then comes insurance investigator Vicki Anderson. She for some reason immediately identifies Crown as the mastermind behind the heist. So she begins to follow this lead. Apparently Mr. Crown has made several trips to Switzerland recently. Not an odd thing, I make about five a year. This is suspect in Miss Anderson’s book. And let the game of cat and mouse begin. Not only is the overlying pursuit of Crown as the main suspect, there is also the underlying instant attraction between the two. Which eventually leads to a relationship, complicating matters for both parties. Tommy finally is forced to see how much Vicki actually loves him by telling her his plans for another heist. When his Rolls-Royce arrives at the cemetery for the pick up he is not in it. Tommy has given her an ultimatum, which she tears up. We see him flying away on a jet. Ah the love that could never be.
Modernity is stylistically evident throughout this film. There is nothing more mod than split screen storytelling. A stylistic element that attempts to break away from the narrative, giving the viewer an opportunity to see multiple actions as if they are happening simultaneously. Given the film a faster paced feel. Or in the case of this film, make the viewer believe there is more going on than actually is. Modern style is evident in the two main characters as well. Both dress very stylishly. They keep up with style. They are both jet setters every sense of the word.
Thomas Crown is a millionaire investment banker. He also plays polo, flies gliders, rides in dune buggies, and occasionally plans bank heists. He has grown bored with the everyday life of investment banking, polo matches, and gliding. He longs for excitement. And he gets it when meets Vicki Anderson. He is immature in the sense that all modern men are. Seeking vanity over substance. Attempting to fill a void with objects and experiences rather than depth. This immaturity is linked to his sense of trust. He never lets anyone too close. While this works out well when planning and executing bank robbery, it does not bode well for relationships.
Steve McQueen appears to be mildly out of place in a three piece suit. Not what we as the audience are used to seeing him in as well. In the same sense, Thomas Crown is out of place in the world he occupies. Although he is obviously very good at investment banking, he is searching for something more. Something outside the constraints of the banking world, outside of that three piece suit. This feeling is almost unconsciously sensed through Steve McQueen’s actions.
Vicki Anderson is the modern woman. Career driven, not held down by older societal norms of women. This is the swinging 60’s, remember. Her attire suggests she knows the value of materials. Vicki is being pulled in two directions. On the one hand she is a sophisticated, stylish, manipulative career woman. On the other, she is possibly falling in love, subject to emotional and perhaps biological needs that come with it. She is falling for a suspect that could make her a lot of money. It is this internal fight that drives her character development. Will she act on love or money? The opposed of Tommy, who is struggling with issues of trust and in a sense maturity. In the end it seems she goes for the money route, opting to remain a single career woman. While leaving Tommy Crown to travel the world alone.
Sexual tension mounting on both sides culminates in the chess match. A metaphor for the cat and mouse game the two characters have been playing since the beginning of the film. Tommy boy has had most of the control up until this point, leading Vicki along. It is not until the he invites her to play a game of chess that his guard is finally let down. Vicki’s coy looks, lip pulls, and chess piece fondling do him in.
Through quick cuts we see her sexual innuendos played out. First subversively through eye fluttering and arm rubbing. Becoming more overt, lip tugging and piece stroking. Cuts back to Crown show him at first mindful of the game. Vicki’s play is at first innocent, mimicking Crown’s, pawn and then knight. Becoming more aggressive as her distractions become more visible. He then begins to mimic her hand movements as he becomes further distracted. She touches his leg with hers, he flinches. He puts his hand on the side to rest, she touches it. He has lost the match before it even began. Even the lighting of each character is designed to lead the audience on the route of seduction. Dunaway is lite softly, giving her features a glow. While McQueen is also lite from one side, his lighting is much harsher and realistic. Then growing ever distracted by his competitor, he is easily forces into check. Something he is not used to he stands up “let’s play something else”, pulling her to him.
They come together in a kiss. Cutting from multiple angles the camera still lingers on the two, getting tighter and more frequently with cuts. Until the camera spins out of control around the two characters, melting into a colorful blur of light.
They end up spending a lot of time together. Riding in the dune buggy, going to his beach house deck thing, and having a nice time. But eventually they both must come to terms with their own inner complications and the roles they've established with each other from the very beginning.
Unfortunately for these two, it was not meant to be. We are left with the sense that the modern romance is a matter of choice. That we can’t have both love and money. Trust and freedom. These entities do not co-mingle in the modern romance. Although, we the audience know that this is possible.
Getting back to the topic at hand, what is sexy. Whether you're in a new relationship, just met someone, or married for 40 years. Even in the modern age pursuit is still sexy. So pursue, flirt, be subvert, play chess, and make that other person want to pursue you back. Because like The Thomas Crown Affair shows us, there is nothing sexier than a game of cat and mouse. And maybe a dune buggy ride.
And just in case you haven't seen the chess match here it is for your viewing pleasure.
This post is part of the Beach Party Blogathon hosted by Speakeasy and Silver Screenings. Click here to check out all the bodacious babes, beach parties and gnarly creatures others have been writing about for this blogathon.
...therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” -John Donne
Summer always makes me think of the end of summer. I know that sounds stupid, and rightly so, but hear me out. I love the fall. It’s my favorite time of year. Leaves, pumpkin lattes, and Halloween. I know, this is a post about the summer. I am getting to that. During September and sometimes if you’re lucky October, the cold weather holds off for a bit, giving us an Indian Summer. It’s almost as if summer is holding on tight and isn’t going to let go. Unfortunately as pale white gentleman the summer and I have never truly had a great relationship. However Indian summer and I, we are best friends. And it’s during this unseasonably warm time of the year that the film in which I would like to discuss takes place.
The Raft is the second segment in Creepshow 2 (1987), the follow up installment of the horror anthology series Creepshow (1982) by director George A. Romero and author Stephen King. Originally this story appears in the anthology of short stories by entitled Skeleton Crew by Stephen King (note: when looking for this at the bookstore or library do not ask for Skeleton Key, the person helping you will never find it). The Creepshow 1 and 2 modeled after the great pre-code EC comics such as Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror and Weird Science. This was not the first time the comics of EC have influenced cinema. Amicus Studios produced a two films in the anthology format which were based on stories from EC, Tales from the Crypt (1972) and Vault of Horror (1973). The classic John Hughes film Weird Science (1985) is also based on an EC tale.
The Raft begins on a highway in an unknown location. A Camaro winds its way down the road. Inside are Deke, Randy, Laverne, and Rachel. They are heading toward Cascade Lake, where there is a raft they can swim out to, smoke, bang, and say goodbye to summer. Although it is almost Halloween, Randy or Poncho as he’s called, is certain the raft will still be out on the lake. This is because the owners don’t take it in until “the lake is frozen”. Why Randy is privy to this knowledge is unknown. Deke is wary as this is a long trip out to Cascade Lake. Once they arrive Deke is gladly surprised that the raft is still there and immediately disrobes to head out toward it. Poncho follows suit with the girls lagging behind. The water is cold “45 or 50 degrees” in Randy’s estimate, which could stop your heart. He is pre-med so he should know these things. The girls follow with the previously shy Rachel leading.
As they swim toward the raft Randy notices a duck struggling to fly out of dark mass. The mass is moving towards them. Randy urges the girls to swim faster, even pulling Rachel up onto the raft with some force. Laverne makes it on to the raft as the mass drifts past them. “Looks like it was going for the girls” Randy looks concerned, “No one knows we’re out here. No one at all.” The others are not phased by this. A discussion of whether or not it is an oil slick, who has seen an oil slick over a couple of joints ensues.
Rachel is mesmerized by the blob, sticking her fingers out to touch it. She is almost instantly consumed as the blob runs up her arm eating her flesh and pulling her into the water. “It hurts!” she cries as she is pulled under. Obviously it is now apparent to the group that this is not an oil slick.
Randy is freaking out, Deke has to hold him back, “she’s dead” he tells Randy. And then there were three. Deke decides that he’s going to make a swim for it, perhaps whatever that thing is might be full from eating Rachel. He’s fast swimmer. He has yellow speedos on. He can probably make it. Ah but alas he’s been talking too loud and the creature has overheard his plan. Grabbing Deke from between the cracks of the raft and pulling him down he is helpless to overcome the mass of flesh eating ooze. He drops his lighter and his joint. Party foul bro. With the best swimmer gone, Laverne and Randy are left to balance themselves on the boards of the raft in a Mexican standoff with the creature. Growing tired and cold they decide to huddle through the night for warmth. In the morning Randy wakes up. Laverne is still asleep, so he decides what might be best is to lay her down a little and pull her top up so he can get a fondle in before she and the creature wake up. Little does he know it’s the early creature that catches the humans. Before Laverne is fully awake it grabs her by the face through the crack of the raft. Eating her flesh and pulling her into the lake. Randy decides it's time to make a break for the shore. He dives in, pursued by the creature. He crawls onto the shore just in time. He proclaims “I beat you!”. This is when, like a wave, the creature consumes him. As the creature slips back into the water the camera pans to the right across the Camaro, still playing music, to a sign which reads “No Swimming”.
The Raft begins slowing, with its pace increasing once the characters arrive at the lake. The deaths come swift and fast. As if the creature has been waiting a long time to feed. The viewer is left as befuddled as the characters themselves. There is no back story. There are only hints given during the car ride up. It is not until the very end that we see, not the characters, that there were signs that they shouldn’t be doing what they were doing. Although,“No Swimming” is really just an invitation to swim.
From the very opening scene the hierarchy of characters is apparent. Deke is driving. He is a macho, football player type. The one who takes Randy’s words regarding the raft and puts them into action. Next to him is Laverne, presumably his girl rolling a joint for him. Between them is Randy, or Poncho as he is called by Deke. Randy sits positioned between the two, inching his way into the front seat festivities. Rachel sits quietly in the back, not partaking in the fun. Randy is already poised as the brains of the operation, as he remembered the raft being out on the lake three weeks ago on his geology field trip. This fact will be brought up by Deke later when he is trying to asses the nature of the creature that just consumed Rachel, “You read all the science books...” Visually we see that the group has been paired into couples. Separated by their apparent personality types. Although once they reach the raft, the true nature of some of the characters is revealed.
Although Rachel is quiet and reserved in the car, once at the lake she is the first to jump in the water. Perhaps prompted by Deke’s taunting of Randy. On the raft she strips off her outer layer of clothing, joining Laverne huddled around Deke. Not phased by the mass moving toward the raft. Rachel is the only obtainable woman in the group for Randy, unless his balls don’t turn to ice cubes that is. However it’s clear that she might not be that into him. I mean they went and saved some animals from an oil slick together. They love the environment, what’s not to like about Randy, Rachel? Come on. Unfortunately it is Rachel's nonchalant attitude toward the creature that gets her killed. And we never get to find out if Randy would have made it with her.
Unlike Rachel, Deke’s death possibly more strategic, if not simply unlucky. He is the only one of the group who would be able to swim past the creature. A fact he points out right before it grabs him. Given that he does not read the science books, as he puts it, physicality is the only attribute Deke has to offer the group. Once this is taken out of the picture it is no longer up to the group to out run the creature, but to outsmart it. A feat they do not succeed in doing. I mean maybe it was full, and ate Deke to take that option out of the equation.
Laverne is characteristically different than that of Rachel. She doesn’t go on trips to save animals from oil slicks. Though she does show school spirit. She is an object of men’s desires. She is out of Randy’s league. A fact he will attempt to move past later on, using the old “end of the world” scenario on her. Sort of. As he says when holding her above the raft “I’m not Deke!” He can’t use his strength to save her, something she is not used to. It becomes apparent she has almost nothing to offer the situation by nightfall. She complains, and refuses to watch the creature. Opting to convince Randy to watch it together instead. It is her objectivity that eventually leads to her demise.
Randy’s character posses the most hope from the group and yet ultimately aides in the death of his friend. He is the first to notice something is amiss. The one who states the muck in the water is not an oil slick. Yet this inevitably does him no good. He chooses his baser instincts over intellect, and in the process gets Laverne killed. Up until that point, there is hope for him. At least in the sense that he might make it. Laverne is too stupid, sorry Laverne it’s true, to make it out of this alive. Once the morning comes Randy has in a sense given up. He might as well take advantage of the situation. At least until Laverne wakes up. From a blob eating her face. Sexy. From there on out he is running on impulse. He doesn't use his intellect, gloating on shore about how he beat the creature by arriving to the beach. Failing to ask the question, is this creature an amphibian. Such promise Randy, you were pre-med.
Like Randy points out, it’s no coincidence that the creature shows up once they arrive. It catches a little pre-game duck snack along the way before the main course. It might be speculated that the creature posses the ability to mesmerize its victims. Both Rachel and Randy seem to be in a trance for a time. Maybe it told him to lay Laverne down and pull up her shirt. This also makes me wonder about the owners of the lake. The ones who leave the raft out until the lake freezes, and who post a “No Swimming” sign. Perhaps they have been mesmerized by the creature as well and use the raft as a baiting tool to feed it. Some sort of ritualistic worship. And if we panned the camera further we’d see a pile of cars partially buried ala From Dusk til Dawn (1999) style. Anyway, I am getting a little off topic. While I could wax intellectual about what the creature may possibly represent, either overt or subversively. I’ll leave that up to you for your own interpretation.
The characters in this film are trying to cling onto something, whether its warm weather, a wooden raft or life itself. Everything in this film is fleeting. Except of course for that Camaro’s battery. I mean the radio is on for like 24 hours.
The Raft reminds me of why I don’t like swimming in lakes. All that muck and branches at the bottom. Slimy through your toes. Who knows what’s in there. But it also reminds me of what is so special about summer, its brevity. So whether you're hitting the beach or your local lake this summer, swim safe. Make sure there's a lifeguard on duty, and turn your car off.
"To travel is to take a journey into yourself" -Danny Kaye
This post is part of the My Favorite Classic Movie Blogathon in celebration of National Classic Movie Day (May 16th). Click here to view the schedule listing all the great posts in this blogathon.
I can’t find anything I’m looking for. Whether it is an object or a location. When I was younger, my parents would send me upstairs to fetch something, and I would come back saying that I couldn’t find it. They’d proceed to grab it immediately upon entering the room they’d sent me to. “If it was a snake it would have bitten you!” they’d say. Why do we have a tendency to miss the most obvious things? Can’t find your sunglasses? That’s because they’re on your head. Can’t find your car keys? They’re in your hand. Things right in front of us have a tendency to be overlooked. I mean, why would something we are searching for be so obvious to us?
So far we’ve talked about mundane searches - lost keys and meaningless objects. But that search we all undergo to find meaning in our lives plays out in much the same way. I myself tend to think that what I am doing, not currently, has very little impact on the world around me. Much less the entire human existence. Are you like me, wishing you could do something that would impact the world on a greater scale? Thinking that what you're doing has no influence on others? John L. Sullivan felt the same way.
Sullivan’s Travels (1941) begins with the dramatic ending of a movie. Sullivan and two studio heads are screening a film, which has just been held over for a fifth week at the music hall. But it bombed in Pittsburgh. Sully wants to direct a film that has social meaning, with a little sex. He has his eyes set on an adaptation of a book titled “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” The studio executives inadvertently give him the idea that he needs to suffer in order to understand the mood of the piece. So, Sully decides to leave his mansion with only a dime in his hand. Dressed as a bum, he is going to find trouble. He gets some clothing from wardrobe. He couldn’t look more like a movie hobo if he tried. Before he departs on his journey he gets some advice about the trip from Burrows, his butler.“The poor know all about poverty and only the morbid rich would find the topic glamorous.”
“But I'm doing it for the poor. Don't you understand?”
“I doubt if they would appreciate it, sir. They rather resent the invasion of their privacy. I believe quite properly, sir. Also, such excursions can be extremely dangerous, sir. I worked for a gentleman once, who likewise, with two friends, accoutred themselves, as you have, sir, and then went out for a lark. They have not been heard from since...You see, sir, rich people and theorists, who are usually rich people, think of poverty in the negative, as the lack of riches, as disease might be called the lack of health. But it isn't, sir. Poverty is not the lack of anything, but a positive plague, virulent in itself, contagious as cholera, with filth, criminality, vice and despair as only a few of its symptoms. It is to be stayed away from, even for purposes of study. It is to be shunned.”
A tour bus has been assigned to follow him with a secretary, shower, cook, bar and a radio connected to the studio. As he walks along the side of the road, the yacht creeps slowly behind as if it waiting to attack some prey. After hitching a ride and giving chase, which happens to include all of the cliches Sullivan mentioned earlier during his discussion with the studio heads.. Sully convinces the crew to let him be and that he will meet with them in Las Vegas on the first. This part has one of my favorite lines in the film. The doctor inquires about Las Vegas and the bus driver simply states “
Thus begins the first part of Sully’s education. He has found his way to the home of a widow and her sister. There he is helping with some chores in exchange for room and board. After noticing Sully’s torso, miss Zeffie decides that maybe they go see a picture show. This brings up the problem of covering Sully’s torso. Wearing her deceased husband’s clothing, Sullivan attends what appears to be a very drab picture with the sisters. Kids are chomping away, blowing whistles. A man is hiccuping and chewing at the same time. Enjoyment does not appear to be had by any. Especially Sully, who is having the moves put on him by Zeffie. The camera lingers on the sandwich sign outside for the triple feature. Beyond These Tears, The Valley of the Shadow
The Buzzard of Berlin, also SWINGO. I imagine SWINGO to be a uproariously funny picture that really ends your night in a better place than the three other pictures. Surgess is trying to make a point about the nature of films that have meaning. They don’t serve a purpose to the common man or child.
After the picture show they settle in for the night. Miss Zeffie turns down Sully’s bed for him as it is “woman’s work.” As she is locking the door so that he can’t leave she says to her sister, “Oh, I do hope he’ll stay.” As if he had a choice in the matter. Sullivan tries to make his escape through the bathroom only to be greeted by Zeffie waiting for him eagerly. He finally decides to use the classic sheet rope tied to the bedpost to make his escape, but is caught up on a nail and falls in some water. A theme we will see more than once. He hitches a ride and unwittingly ends up back in Hollywood. This is where he meets the Girl, played by the lovely Veronica Lake. She buys him some ham and eggs. After a conversation about acting and Ernst Lubitsch Sully tells the Girl that he knows a guy who is out of town and he can borrow his car. He’s speaking of himself, of course.
During the car ride they talk about film. Particularly Sullivan’s filmography of which he is not impressed. The Girl is though. She recants a scene from Hey, Hey in the Hayloft. Unfortunately they get pulled over and arrested. Once the butler and the valet arrive to pick up the car they realize it was Sully who had it. The Girl insists that Sully buy her some ham and eggs. He takes her back to his place where she pushes him in the pool. She feels like she’s been played. During breakfast she insists that she come with him. And after another pool incident, what a gag, they head off to the train yard to catch a train. The butler is still warning Sully against this endeavor. They don’t make it too far, as Sullivan has caught a cold. They arrive in Las Vegas to find the lan yacht waiting for them. There Sully must stay in bed for a few days.
The third travel of Sullivan, or what I would deem his third, is set up in a montage sequence. We see Sully and the Girl in a bread line, at a shelter, listening to a revival, working as sign holders, and generally walking around bumming it. Finally they’ve had it and refuse to eat out of a garbage can. So, they head home. The adventure is over. Or as Mr. Jones puts it, “It's all finished. The greatest expedition of modern times. Almost the greatest sacrifice ever made by human man. He's the past-master of poverty. He knows everything.” Which is not actually the case.
Sully is going to had out $1000 in five dollar bills to hobos in gratitude for the lesson they’ve taught him. Funny thing about carrying a huge wad of money on the street and handing it out to people. People take notice. One hobo in particular. He follows Sully for a little while then makes a move to get ahead of him. Once hiding, he waits for Sully to come around the corner and jumps him taking his money and his shoes. Always with the shoes. Sully is left unconscious in a train car headed to who know’s where. Unfortunately for the hobo he is hit by a train, leaving only his shoes and a scatter of money.
Meanwhile at the office everyone waits for the arrival of Sullivan. They are checking the police stations, hospitals and lastly the morgue. Turns out there is a body of a hobo there that was found on the train tracks. There is an identification in the sole of the shoe for Sullivan. He is dead.
A train car pulls into the yard. The yard boy moves closer as a disoriented man leans out. Sully doesn’t know where he or who he is for that matter. The yard boy asked him why he rode into the yard. After being pushed to the ground Sully takes a rock to the yard boy’s head. Cut to a courtroom in a haze as Sully is being prosecuted for the crime of assault. His lawyer pleads guilty for him and he is sentenced to six years hard labor. Once at the labor came Sully is in his right mind and insists on a lawyer. He is beaten by the head of the camp, Mister. The next day or some days later we don’t know, the chain gang is working along a river. When Sully reads the newspaper noting his mysterious death he his put in the hot box. He is slowly learning that he has lost all his rights.
The big event for the chain gang is the picture show on Sunday at a local African American church. This is probably my favorite part of the film. Not only for the way that it is shot, but also for its content. This is where the big revelation happens. Sully and the crew watch a Disney feature with Mickey Mouse, which makes everyone laugh. It is here that Sully comes to terms with the role of the comedy in film.
After this Sully is determined to get out of his six year sentence. How he is he going to do this? Get his picture in the paper. Who gets their picture in the paper? Ballplayers, girls, murderers. Like the Blowtorch Killer. Yes, murderers. Sully begins to yell “I killed John L. Sullivan! I want to confess to the murder of John L. Sullivan!” This gets his picture in the paper. Leading to a fast paced series of calls by all the staff at the studio. They hop on a plane and get Sully released. Turns out his wife remarried while he was presumed dead.
As they are flying back home everyone is excited for the Sully to make Oh Brother, Where Art Thou. Only he announces that he doesn’t want to make Oh Brother, Where Art Thou. Everyone is stunned. He cited that there are many reasons why he doesn’t want to make it. He is too happy, he hasn’t suffered enough, and as he puts it, “There's a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that that's all some people have? It isn't much, but it's better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan.” He imagines, along with the audience, groups of people laughing. The film comes to an end.
I think that there are two main themes to Sullivan’s Travels. First, what you are looking for may be right in front of you. Second, film as escapism serves a purpose that is just as important as films with a message.
Sullivan feels as though what he is doing is not contributing to society. He wants to make a picture that does. So he sets out on a journey, many times in fact, during the course of the film. The purpose of this journey is to “get into trouble.” By doing so, Sully can learn about what it’s like to be poor. Something of which he has no knowledge. Along the way he discovers things about himself. During his first couple adventures Sully ends up back in L.A., as though fate is trying to force him home. He discusses this in a nasally monologue to The Girl; “It's a funny thing how everything keeps shoving me back to Hollywood or Beverly Hills, or this monstrosity we're riding in. Almost like, like gravity as if some force were saying, 'Get back where you belong. You don't belong out here in real life, you phony you.!'...Maybe there's a universal law that says, 'Stay put. As you are, so shall you remain.' Maybe that's why tramps are always in trouble. They don't vote. They don't pay taxes. They violate the law of nature...But nothing is gonna stop me. I'm gonna find out how it feels to be in trouble, without friends, without credit, without checkbook, without name. Alone.” Whether it is fate or some other force that is leading Sully, it is not without a purpose. It is the end of his first adventure that he meets The Girl. “There’s always a girl in the picture. Haven’t you ever been to the movies?” The Girl not only brings the sex appeal of Veronica Lake into the picture, but also acts as Sully’s real world guide. She won’t let him go alone on his adventure. She stays with him through his entire journey, even though she is very hungry. She becomes his love interest by the end of the film as well.
It is not until the last act of the film that Sully has the epiphany that what he’s been doing all along serves a purpose. It is also in the last act that he truly finds trouble. To this point he has always had the opportunity to return to the real world. Just as he stated earlier, he wanted to be alone. And it is not until he is truly alone that he can reach the knowledge he has been searching for the whole film. He must lose it all to gain anything.
This last act is where we see the power of film, specifically comedic film, as serving a purpose. Convicts and African Americans gather in a church to screen a Disney short. Both groups essentially void of rights by the society they live in. In the dark there is a shared sense of community. Together they can escape poverty, racism, and imprisonment. There is power in laughter. Escapism has always been a topic of conversation in film. Lovers of highbrow films, art house pieces, etc. have a tendency to look down upon “popcorn” films. Claiming they have no substance or purpose. Sullivan himself aspires to create something socially meaningful. Throughout the film characters point out the fact that films with a message aren’t as enjoyable. the beginning of the film the executives try and sway him from making Oh Brother, Where Art Thou. “I want this picture to be a commentary on modern conditions, stark realism, the problems that confront the average man.” Sully says with fervor.
“But with a little sex.” states Lebrand. Lebrand knows that message films tend to bore the audience. As we see later when Sully is dragged to that triple feature of drab pictures. The Girl also stresses this to him in the car ride “...There's nothing like a deep-dish movie to drive you out in the open.” Sullivan is so determined to make Oh Brother, Where Art Thou he is unable to see the signs in front of him. What Sully eventually sees is that what he has been doing all along, making people laugh, serves an enormous purpose.
When I was thinking about my favorite classic film for this blogathon I wanted to talk about a film that had a greater meaning to me than just entertainment, good direction or great acting. Sullivan’s Travels speaks to me on multiple levels about finding yourself. About the power of art, especially that of film to help us let go of everything and get lost in a story. I hope that if you haven’t seen this film that you check it out.
I watched this film on the Criterion Collection blu-ray. It contains some great extras, artwork and essays on the film. Check it out here.
The temperature is rising. The snow is melting and basements everywhere becoming indoor wading pools. Daylight savings time has collected its hour from us, and the first day of spring has come. Spring, for me, has always meant the beginning of the field season. A time to get back to working outside. With this also brings allergies, tick bites, poison ivy, mosquitoes, and the occasional bee sting. Among those, the biggest fear I have is the bee sting. This is due to the fact that I am allergic to bee stings. Or as my doctor told me in an all to happy prize winning type of way “Congratulations, you’re now allergic to bees” after I had an altercation with a bee that swelled up my arm.
I think that everyone has some mild type of fear of bees. In the same way that we don’t like snakes, or spiders. These things can hurt us, even kill us. It’s only natural to have some unconscious fear of them. But bees can’t kill you. Or can they?
Some fun facts about bees before we begin. Although bee stings are one of the largest killers of humans within the animal world, this is primarily due to allergic reactions to the venom and not from the number of stings a person is inflicted with. The average person who is not allergic to bee venom can take as many as ten sings per pound of body weight. This means that most human adults can withstand upwards of 1000 bee stings. That being said, I would steer clear of a large swarm of bees if you ever happen upon one.
The story goes that a biologist working with various species of bees decided to cross breed the European and the African honey bee in order to possibly produce more honey and be able withstand the warmer climates of South America. The result was the Africanized honey bee, or “killer” bee, we have come to know them as. In 1957 a bee keeper accidentally let some swarms of these hybrid bees loose. Word spread about deaths related to stings inflicted by these killer bees. Fear grew when it was predicted that swarms of these bees would reach North America by the 1970s. Although Africanized bees did reach the United States, it was not until the mid-1980s. However, national buzz about killer bees was loud enough to catch the ear of filmmakers. And swarms of bee movies ensued.
Creature features were very popular during the 1950s. Films like Them! (1954), Tarantula (1955), and The Black Scorpion (1957) reflected the public’s growing fear of the atomic age. For some reason radiation always increased the size of the animal. From giant ants to Godzilla, this idea that the things we do have a profound effect on the world around us permeated popular culture. From film and television to other media like that of comic books.
As with all nationals fears, this fear of killer bees was reflected or rather exploited in film. From the late 1950s to the late 1970s there were numerous bee related movies to hit the big and small screen. Such gems as Wasp Woman (1959), The Deadly Bees (1967), Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973), Killer Bees (1974), The Bees (1978), and The Swarm (1978). These films used the nation’s collective fear of Africanized killer bees not only to generate cash but also, like all other creature features, speak about issues of the day through subtext. Issues such an environmental threats, sexually transmitted diseases and governmental interference into personal rights. So grab your epi pen and lets take a look at a few of these films. Starting with 1967’s The Deadly Bees, then the Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973), and ending with the star studded The Swarm (1978). Now if you’re looking at the previous list and thinking that Wasp Woman (1959) is not really a killer bee movie you’d be correct. I put it on the list because is a Corman classic and one of the first films that came to mind when I was compiling this list. As will all my posts, be aware SPOILERS AHEAD.
Disregard to multiple threats marks the opening of The Deadly Bees (1967). An unidentified British ministry, no not the Ministry of Silly Walks, gets a letter from a beekeeper threatening to harm people if not taken seriously. Which is exactly what they do not do. I mean a person who claims to have bred a hybrid killer bees must certainly be insane. No one can breed a hybrid killer bee. Or can they?
Vicki Robbins is a pop singer who is shooting a television spot when she collapses from exhaustion. The doctor says she needs to get some rest and relaxation. Her manager is not liking this of course. The doc knows a guy who owns a farm on Seagull Island. So he immediately calls him to confirm that Vicki can stay at that stranger’s house alone on an island named after the most annoying bird ever. At least she wasn’t going to stay on Albatross Island. Once at the farm of Mr. Ralph and Mary Hargrove Vicki settles in enjoyable couple of weeks in the country. Immediately Vicki notices strange happenings going on at the Hargrove farm. Other than the fact that there’s not a lot of farming happening. Mr. Hargrove is a beekeeper, much to the dislike of Mrs. Hargrove. Who seems to only enjoy chain smoking and feeding her dog. At the first introduction of the character I actually thought that Mrs. Hargrove was Ralph’s mother. Ah, the effects of smoking. Vicki meets the Hargrove’s neighbor, Mr. Manfred who is also a beekeeper. Mr. Hargrove is doing some strange things with large needles at night. This activity along with the death of Mrs. Hargrove’s dog from a bee attack leads Vicki to become very suspicious of Ralph Hargrove.
She begins to meet and discuss this with Mr. Manfred. The death of Ralph’s wife only solidifies Vicki’s suspicions. Although the official cause of death is determined to be “death by misadventure”. It is doubtful Vicki shares the ruling of the court. On a side note, I think I’ve found what is going on my tombstone.
She and Manfred devise a plan to prove that Ralph using bees as a murder weapon. In each of these deaths we see the hands of the killer opening a hive and shaking the bees free. Almost reminiscent of the black gloved killer in an Italian Giallo film.
Vicki does some snooping, finding some notes of Hargrove’s. She snaps some pictures of them and takes them to Manfred. Hargrove is aware of this as he has been lurking outside in his bathrobe watching Vicki. The next morning while Vicki is getting ready the swarm of bees attacks her in her room. She only escapes by lighting a towel on fire that has been stuffed in the door of the bathroom. Before dying of smoke inhalation she is pulled from the room by Ralph. Waking up later in her room, she is determined to leave and takes Ralph’s truck. He pursues her and catches up after she has crashed into a tree. Vicki wakes up again in her room still with an immediate desire to leave. Doris grabs her clothing from the bed post offering to wash it. If the audience hasn’t caught on to the deliberate camera movements indicating it was her dress that was attracting the bees, they know now as Doris is attacked while walking home with it.
This also would give you the idea of who the mad beekeeper is. Vicki still doesn’t want to stay so she goes to wait out the rest of her time at Manfred’s house. He goes by the Hargrove farm to pick her things up and to acquire a book he’s told Vicki will help them prove that Hargrove is the killer. Vicki is looking around his house and finds a copy of this book along with some other books written by him. Turns out Manfred is a really good beekeeper. When he returns he decides to reveal that he is the killer and that he must kill her. He brings out a special vile of bee attracting fear juice. But Vicki knocks him over, spilling the stuff on him. With a well placed log Manfred is put out of his bee sting misery as the whole house goes up. Vicki is of course saved by Hargrove. As the movie ends we see a representative from that unknown ministry show up to look into the killer bee threats they’ve received.
The Deadly Bees (1967) was released by Amicus Studios. Directed by Freddy Francis of Hammer fame and with a screenplay by Robert Bloch the film was poised to be something of a hit when in pre-production. However, once it was released it was a critical and box office flop. The film has the aesthetic feel of that of a Hammer or other Amicus films. Even the Hammer regular Michael Ripper. But with a slower pace, the film doesn’t seem to strike the amount of fear it was going for. Maybe this is because Brittan wasn’t expecting killers bees to arrive on their shores so the fear was not as palpable. The idea that someone could use bees as a weapon brings up a lot of questions. Why was he not trying to sell this to the highest bidder? Why did he not become a hit man? Did any of those bees make it out of Manfred’s house? If so what is the impact of this on bee populations throughout Great Britain?
Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973), aka Graveyard Tramps, begins with a death of an unidentified man in a motel room. Before the credits have finished rolling another man bites it. Although the first dead man is registered to the motel as John Doe, it is later determined to be that of Dr. John Grubowsky. A determination that brings special agent Neil Agar in to investigate this mysterious death, given the government’s involvement in Dr. Grubowsky’s research. Special Agent Agar is with the State Department’s Office of Security. As he begins to look into the already increasing body count that has occurred within the first few minutes of the film he meets the laboratory’s librarian Julie Zorn. Julie is played by the vivacious Victoria Vetri, best known from When Dinosaurs Roamed the Earth (1970) . She tells Agar that she was there when Grubowsky died. That they were lovers and that “We balled and we balled and we balled. Then he dropped dead.” A type of death that would only be lamented by the man in the Led Zeppelin song Hey Hey What Can I Do. An autopsy reveals that all of the men have died from coronary thrombosis. This caused from exhaustion, particularly related to sex. The local law enforcement led by Captain Peters is baffled as to the cause of these deaths. But Agar is suspicious of it being related to the Bandt Laboratory and what ever goes on there.
So Captain Peters holds a Town meeting. Probably one of the worst town meetings ever put to film outside actual town meetings. Captain Peters breaks down the list of eight dead men so far, “…Two scientists, a policeman, a cannery worker, a barber, a gas station attendant, a real estate broker, and a grade school teacher.” He reiterates the fact that all of the deaths have been male and that they are not occupationally specific. Peters then refers to Dr. Murger. Dr. Murger advises the locals to abstain from sex as a precaution just in case these deaths are related to a new unknown STD. That “Venereal disease has swelled to epidemic proportions…” This does not bode well with the fun loving free spirited peoples of Peckham, CA. As one local put it “These guys are dead from balling and you don‘t even know what’s causing it.” Later he is given a chance to find out when he happens upon the widow Grubowsky outside the bar. In order to try and keep the people safe a curfew is enacted, which no one adheres to whatsoever.
Agar and his new sidekick Zorn set up a meeting with Dr. Murger at his house. Unfortunately Murger experiences vehicular manslaughter before he can make it. After the police have cleaned up the mess that was Murger, Agar decides it might be time to call his boss. He tells Julie to wait for him by his car where she is almost raped by a group of men, if not for Agar’s return. This assault on Julie is in retaliation for what the men deem as women trying to kill the men of the town. They feel that if they run a train on her, she can’t kill them all. Or as Captain Peters noted earlier “The natives are getting restless.” Murger’s death is not similar to the others, but Agar’s instinct tells him that these are all related somehow. Later as Agar is searching Murger’s office and finds a secret room. Where he also has an encounter with Joe, Murger’s lover. This substantiates Julie’s observation earlier as why Murger was never seen with a woman and why he couldn’t be killed through conventional bee girl means.
Per Agar’s suggestion, a military quarantine in put in place blocking all the residents of Peckham from leaving. The number of employees at Brandt dwindles. This is reflected in the lunch room where Dr. Kline is approached by the normally standoffish Dr. Harris. He asks her to dinner, which she graciously accepts. Dessert, coffee and sex lead to his demise. His body is discovered the next day at the cannery. The body count, well I’ve lost tract of the body count by this point, but it’s high. Dr. Harris calls the recently deceased man’s wife to lure her to her hive. We finally get to see the bee girl transformation in action. This is long process. First the woman is covered entirely in Cinnabon frosting. Then she is put into a chamber where thousands of bees enjoy the icing. When she comes out the frosting has become a thick layer of dried Elmer’s glue, which is peeled off here. She is then subjected to some gelled light. Finally a kiss from the queen and she is a black eyed beauty in search of a mate. This makes all the other bee girls very excited. Her first victim, Captain Peter’s who has come by to inform her that her husband is dead. A fact she doesn’t seem to upset about. The Captain makes it out alive though. Epic fail for her first attempt at mating.
Agar meets with the remaining doctors to discuss his theory of some sort of genetic mutation. Dr. Williams isn’t buying it and leaves. Dr. Ferrara says hell work on something to present to the State Department. He also says that a mutation of that type would leave traces of gamma radiation. It’s always gamma radiation. Julie notes that they can use a detector to determine if the women are giving of gamma rays. Which they do at the funeral of Dr. Grobowsky. When Agar listens to the recording of Dr. Ferrara and hears Dr. Harris on the recording he knows Julie is in trouble. He rushes to the lab to stop then bee girls from transforming Julie. Fortunately they have yet to reach the Cinnabon frosting stage. Shooting the computer releases a smoke that kills all the bee girls. Of course Julie and Neal make it out alive. The film ends with Neal finally getting Julie into bed, the camera zooming out to the flowers outside where bees are pollinating a flower.
Julie Zorn is the film’s “final girl” who is saved from being turned into a man eating she bee. Yet she is actually involved in the first death having balled Dr. Grubowsky until he dropped dead. The film begins and ends with sex in a way. What would have been more fitting end would be if Julie was a bee girl the whole movie and only revealed right at the end. The final shot of the bee on the flower right at the end almost visually hinting that while the score to 2001 plays. The use of this track is probably where all of the film’s budget went.
All of the men in this film except for Agar and Captain Peters sink to there most base instincts and are killed because of it. Not one man can resist the lure of a beautiful woman, even after it’s proven that sex kills. Even a solider guarding the road block is lured away by a random woman into the woods and killed. The death toll is nothing compared to the impact bees have in the next film.
The Swarm (1978) also begins with a death of a man. Well, more than one man, an entire base in fact. The military shows up to an empty base where all the personnel are dead without any rhyme or reason as to what caused their deaths. Out of nowhere Dr. Crane appears, unscathed by whatever it is that killed the other men. He also has no security clearance to be in the base. The team sent in to secure the base noticed his windowless van outside the entrance. He tells them that he saw a swarm of bees coming toward the base and that he followed the swarm. You see, he is an entomologist. This leads to a heated debate about the fact that he gained access to a secure military installation.
After a search of the base, Flame Thrower Team 6, find the medical doctor who as locked herself along with some other men in the medical wing. She confirms that it was in fact bees that attacked the facility. In an attempt to figure out how to help the men who are still alive but severely stung she brings up a paper she recently read. Which just so happens to have been written by the good Dr. Crane. General Slater is not buying any of Dr. Crane’s story even after two of his helicopters go down from a bee attack. Needless to say after some credential checking, the President put the doctor in charge of the whole operation. Although the operation will never be given a cool name like Operation Pollinator or Operation Buzzkillington without the government in charge. The doctor tells the military to bring in a number of scientists to help him. They begin to test how the venom of the sting works on the human body.
Meanwhile in the small town of Marysville. Everyone is getting ready for the annual flower festival. A town full of flowers put up everywhere, how ironic. The young Paul is outside town having a lovely picnic with his parents. He is sent back to the car to get a thermos they forgot. This allows him escape the wrath of the bees which is brought down upon his parents moments after. At least his father didn’t wait to eat his sandwich, so was able to get in one last tasty morsel before becoming a bee pin cushion. Paul manages to drive his parents sweet Mustang back to town. Where he warns the others of their impending doom. Paul just also happens to be the relative of Helena, the medical doctor from the base. So she and Dr. Crane go and see Paul.
Unfortunately for the town of Marysville it’s too late. A large number of residents perish when the swarm comes through. The survivors will later be put on a train to abandon Marysville. This train will be derailed when the bees attack the engineers, killing all but seventeen residents. The bees are heading toward Houston. Something must be done to stop them. So they decide to throw poisonous pellets down, which the bees are supposed consume and then die from. The bees aren’t having any of it. Houston and the surrounding towns are in the process of being evacuated.
When the bees attack a nuclear power plant and subsequently make it blow up, on a small number of people die from this. 36,422 to be exact. Whether its from the explosion or some sort of radiation poison is unknown. Dr. Crane is kicked off the operation. The military has reduced itself to simply torching the bees as they invade Houston. Eventually torching their office, but comes a little later.
For now the doctor has come up with a theory as to why the bees initially attacked the military base. It was because of the sirens that the base uses sounds just like the mating call of the bees. It always has to do with mating. Therefore the bees were drawn to the military base in the first place by the sound of the sirens during a drill. They decide to dump all the oil they can into the Gulf of Mexico. This makes the BP spill look like a drop in the water. Sirens are placed in the water to attract the bees. Then missiles are launched blowing up the bees and anything else living in the Gulf of Mexico. Dr. Crane and Dr. embrace. Credits role thanking the armed forces for their help in the making of this film.
While The Swarm is primarily about the environmental impact that human manipulation of natural processes can cause, it is also has a subtext related to the evasive nature of outsiders. Not to say that this film is overtly racist, it does however elude to some subtle connotations about nationalism and immigration. Perhaps even that of race. The predominately white town is invaded by a foreign species given the name “The Africans”. When the bees swarm Marysville the deputy yells “The Africans are coming! The Africans are coming!” The beginning of the film we see some of the main characters discussing the fact that people come to their little country town for the flower festival but also for the small town, rural aesthetic. Almost as to say that for the rest of the year outsiders don't come to Marysville and shouldn't. There is also a fear that forces outside our control will be the thing that brings us down. Whether it is communism, terrorism or immigration. The first line of defense is the military. But those who wish to infiltrate us might also move to a small town. And what better way to weaken us then to attack our infrastructure like power plants. Both The Deadly Bees and Invasion of the Bee Girls have this similar subtext. Someone who wants to harm you could be your neighbor or a hot woman you know. Threats to our safety come from within our own society. From things we have created.
Just as in The Deadly Bees, it is sound that brings the bees to kill and eventually brings them to there fiery demise. Whereas in Deadly Bees the insects are being subdued by sound, in The Swarm they have been attracted to the sound. It is attraction that kills in all three of these films. Whether you have the smell of fear on you, or you are a horny guy, or just unfortunately make the same sound as a mating call. Once you have attracted the bees you are pretty much dead. In some sense all three films have to do with over population and even perhaps the over sexing of the western world. While Invasion of the Bee Girls comes right out and makes this a clear point, the other two films do this more subtly. The Deadly Bees uses weaponized bees which have been bred intentionally for this purpose. It is mating that first brings the bees in The Swarm to the military base in the first place. Just as Dr. Krim notes to Dr. Crane “The raunchiest thing I ever read. That paper of yours on the mating habits of Bombus Madaros.” “Yeah those queen bees really are something.” Mating has a purpose in all of these films. Those who wish to mate without a purpose, as seen in the horny men of Bee Girls, are punished for it. In the end mating also kills the bees themselves.
In this day and age Genetically Modified Organisms, pesticides, global warming, hydro-fracking and colony collapse are hot button topics within the realm of environmental studies. How we as humans impact the world around us is debated in coffee shops and classrooms around the world. It's nice to take a look back to a time when nature brought a swarm of fear in the hearts of man.
For your viewing pleasure the MST3K best moments for The Deadly Bees
Identity, who you are, is something I think everyone of us has thought about at some point in our lives. Not only in the sense of what is my purpose, etc. But also how others identify us. I think we can all agree that each one of us as different sides to them. No, not multiple personalities. Ok, some of us actually have multiple personalities. I’m not talking about those people, yet. We all have a work self and a home self. A friend self and a stranger self. A first date self and a married for 35 years self. There is a duality to each of us. And sometimes, at least for myself, the sides of this duality are battling each other. How others see us plays a big role in which self we show. Retailers have been taping into this idea forever, telling us that the materials we own make or break how we appeal to those around us. That we must keep up with the Joneses, both Henry and Junior. Archaeologists make inferences about people’s activities, choices, and artistic expression based on materials alone. Things matter in our culture. How much stuff is too much and when do we say no more? As long as there has been consumerism there as been the fight against consumerism’s takeover of our identity.
Now before I get any more philosophical, I’d like to talk about two films that deal with both identity and consumerism. And how, if at all possible, these films relate to each other. The two films are Meet John Doe (1941) and Fight Club (1999). First, a brief synopsis each film. Warning Spoilers
D.B. Norton, a rich oil tycoon buys a newspaper company. He hires Harry Connell as the new editor to thin out the heard employees. One of which is Miss Ann Mitchell, played by the lovely Barbara Stanwick. So what does Miss Michell do upon being let go? She writes a letter about the state of politics and those in power, vowing to jump off the City Hall building in protest. Signed not by herself, but John Doe. The letter has a dramatic influence on the readership of newspaper. This causes the poor Mr. Connell to begin a search for John Doe. He brings back Miss Mitchell, who explains it was all made up. But a rival paper’s claim of forgery forces the two to hatch plan, with the help of a bunch of hobos waiting out in the lobby. They will get a person to pretend to be John Doe. After a montage of interviews they get John Willoughby to play the part in exchange for some cash and a surgery to repair his arm so that he can return to playing baseball. They also get John’s friend, sidekick and in some sense conscience, the Colonel. The Colonel does not like this situation at all and urges John to return to their trek to the Columbia River. Miss Mitchell begins to write a series of weekly columns as John Doe. Now with an actual face to the name, the series takes off. This leads to a radio speech, written by Mitchell and to be read by Doe. During this time we are also introduced to the Colonel’s philosophy of the heelot.
The rival newspaper still thinks the whole thing is a fake and gets a man on the inside to offer John an indecent proposal. $5,000 for him to read an alternate speech on the radio announcing that all of this is a set up. Which, John begins to consider, but after speaking with Mitchell prior to the radio speech he changes his mind. Meanwhile, the Colonel is waiting in the sidelines for his partner to take leave with him. The radio speech goes well. However, John decides to take off with the Colonel.
As they make their way into a roadside diner for a sinker and some coffee, John sees a traveling sign saying “Join the John Doe Club”. He is recognized by the guy behind the counter and both John and the Colonel are rushed off the Town Hall. Crowds gather to see John Doe. Norton, Connell and Mitchell all show up to take John back. John doesn’t’ want to go but is persuaded after a story from the local soda jerk about how his speech affected himself and the people around him. John and Miss Mitchell begin a John Doe Club tour. The culmination of which will be a John Doe convention.
D.B. Norton is no fool. He plans to use the John Doe Clubs to parley a large section of the voting public into backing him as a presidential candidate under a new party. Connell does not like this so he tips John off, who shows up at Norton’s estate looking for answers. After some argument and a triumphant monologue by John, he vows to tell the people about Norton’s real plans. Norton using his vast media powers beats John to the punch by forcing him to reveal to the convention that he is a fake. John is shamed from the building and the clubs are disbanded. Miss Mitchell is in a state of inconsolable disrepair teetering on the brink of insanity as Christmas Eve approaches. No one thinks John will go through with the suicide his fake letter stated. He hasn’t been seen since the convention.
Norton and a group are at city hall just in case. The Colonel and Connell are there waiting for John also. A little after midnight, John slowly makes his way to the edge of the building. He is stopped by Norton who assures him that if he does jump no one will ever know about it. In rushes Mitchell, distraught. She begs John not to jump telling him that she loves him. While this is all happening, a small group of former John Doe Club members have been watching. They tell John they’re going to start the club up again and that they knew he was a good person. Mitchell passes out and John carries her away. The film ends with Connell stating to Norton “There you are Norton! The people! Try and lick that!”
Meet John Doe (1941) is often lumped together with two other films in Director Frank Carpra’s canon, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). This is largely due to the theme all three films have of the little guy against the big guys. The average Joe against the big corporation. It is also can be interpreted as a treatise against growing state of fascism in America at the time.
Fight Club begins with a monologue from the Narrator, played by Edward Norton. We never get his name. The Narrator opens the film with a voice over, due to the fact that there is a gun in his mouth, which is held by Tyler Durden. Much like that of a noir film, the Narrator begins to recall how he came to be in the situation in which he is in currently. The Narrator can’t sleep. Working for an insurance company as a recall specialist involves a lot of travel. Time zones, flight changes, and hotels. A single serving life, which leads to insomnia. Insomnia leads to over consumption of the IKEA catalog. So he goes to the doctor. The doctor no helpful suggestions, but recommends that he attend a support group for men who have testicular cancer in order to gain some perspective. He goes to the meeting and meets Bob, Robert Paulson, played by Meatloaf. The Narrator find solace between Bob’s heaving bosom and cries it out. “Babies don’t sleep this good.” he continues his voice over. He begins to schedule his evening around different support groups. It is at one of these support groups that the Narrator comes into contact with Marla Singer. Like him, Marla is a “tourist” going to multiple support meetings. This disruption at the one place where he can emotionally let go brings his insomnia back. But as Marla says “It’s cheaper than a movie and there’s free coffee.”
On a flight back from one of his many insurance excursions the Narrator meets Tyler Durden. Tyler gives the Narrator his card, which the Narrator has reason to use when he comes home to his apartment literally blown to pieces. He phones up Durden and the two of them meet at a bar. After drinking Tyler agrees to let the Narrator live with him for a while as long as he agrees to hit Tyler as hard as he can. Because “How much can you know yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?” So the two fight. They fight some more and begin to notice that other men are into the idea of fighting. They begin to meet in the basement of a bar. Here is where we are introduced to the concept of fight club, with its eight rules. The first two of which I am technically breaking at this very moment. Members of fight club also do not obey the first two rules and the club gain new members. The Narrator runs into Marla who inquires as to why she hasn’t seem him around the support group circuit. He says that he’s joined a men only group. Marla calls the Narrator later to tell him she’s overdosed on Xanax. This, the Narrator disregards, however Tyler comes along and takes an interest. An interest that leads to Marla hooking up with Tyler.
Tyler and the Narrator make soap, discuss the correlation to soap and explosives, and get matching lye burns on their hands. Tyler and the Narrator prompt a young man to return to veterinary school. Tyler begins to experiment with the production of explosives in the basement of their house. Fight club continues to grow, but Tyler has given the members homework assignments. One of which is to pick a fight with a stranger and lose. The assignments lead to the formation of Project Mayhem. Project Mayhem also includes recruits living in the house the Narrator shares with Tyler. Project Mayhem members begin to perform acts of vandalism. One of which leads to the death of Bob. The Narrator wishes to end Project Mayhem, much to the confusion of the members. He tracts down other locations throughout the country where Tyler has set up “franchise” clubs. It is here that the Narrator is identified by a bartender as Tyler Durden. A fact he confirms with Marla. The Narrator, also known as Tyler Durden, wakes in his hotel after passing out from this revelation. Determined to stop the destruction of multiple financial institutions set in place by Project Mayhem, the Narrator tries to inform the police. Unfortunately for him, the police are in on it as well. Narrowly escaping castration, the Narrator finds himself in one of the building set for demolition. Tyler appears and they fight. Tyler wins and the Narrator is taken to the viewing area to watch the demolition show. Which brings the audience back to the beginning of the film with the Narrator at gunpoint. The Narrator comes to an epiphany, whatever Tyler has, he has. This thought puts the gun once in Tyler’s hand in his. He puts the gun in his mouth and fires ending Tyler’s existence. Somehow the Narrator has survived. Marla has been brought by the Project Mayhem members that arrive, surprised at what they see. The buildings blow and the Narrator and Marla hold hands.
While Fight Club is about male identity in pre-millennial America, it is also an indictment of modern consumerism and it’s connection to identity. As the Narrator notes “I'd flip through catalogs and wonder "what kind of dining set defines me as a person?". The Narrator of Fight Club, was as the Colonel would say “a heelot“, driven by the culture of consumerism. His identity was defined by his materials. In the same sense Meet John Doe is about how consumerism can separate us from others. John is not a “…slave to the IKEA nesting instinct.”, but he does long for life he had. A life within the confines of “normal” society. Each film portrays the ideal that less is more. And that once we have moved beyond those material things that separate us; fences, clothing, cars, jobs etc, we can be free and perhaps become better humans. How do we let go of material culture we hold dear? Through the tiny house movement. No, through a club, of course.
Although the two clubs are very different in how they’re run, what they’re goals are and how they want to achieve those goals. The clubs have some similarities to them. The John Doe Club and Fight Club attempt to break down the barriers that separate us from each other. Primarily the barriers created material things. Initially, Fight Club is about stripping off the layers of the world around and becoming more primal. Even the fights themselves require the participates to strip down almost as a metaphor for what needs to take place, if not for safety purposes. Eventually this stripping off is a removal of all things makes us unequal. John Doe Club is trying to accomplish the same thing by having people move outside the confines of their constructed culture, buildings, fences, and get to know those who share the same space as them. There is an idea that we are all equal if we look past material culture.
The means by which each club accomplishes this is another thing. While Fight Club and its offspring Project Mayhem seek to destroy the cultural constructs of the world, the John Doe Club takes a friendlier approach. “Be a better neighbor” and world becomes smaller. In both clubs the impersonal separation caused by material culture is a gap each member is trying to fill. Either through an open handshake or a closed fist.
Fight Club eventually evolves into a more sinister Project Mayhem resulting in the destruction of major financial institutions and the collapse of western capitalist society. The John Doe Clubs begin to take shape into something more sinister, but is stopped. The result is the disbanding of all clubs. But just as there were multiple attempted to stop Project Mayhem, the destruction of the John Doe Clubs didn’t end the movement. It was imbedded in the people. It couldn’t be stopped. Granted no one tried to castrate D.B. Norton, but you get the point.
Both the Narrator and John Willoughby have two sides to them. John is both the lovable tramp Willoughby and the social commentator Doe. The Narrator is both the unhappy insomniac and the anarchist Tyler Durden. While John’s transformation is chosen and in a way forced, he eventually begins to believe in the ideals of Doe. Perhaps even believing himself to be John Doe. I mean everyone calls him Mr. Doe. Whereas the Narrator’s alter ego is presented not as a transformation, but as a realization. That he is in fact Tyler Durden. Unlike John, the Narrator is very confused when people call him Mr. Durden. John Doe is not John Willoughby’s subconscious creating a way for him to retreat from the norms of society, but is a creation in which he inevitably embodies. Even if that creation is not his own. While the Narrator has created Tyler as a means of escaping society, John Willoughby is using the creation of Doe to return to society.
At the end of both films it is attempted suicide that brings both sides of each protagonist together. Whereas, the Narrator shoots himself, killing Tyler Durden. John Willoughby in a sense dies on the roof of City Hall as John attempts to be a man of Doe’s word. Fulfilling Doe’s statement makes him become John Doe.
Tyler Durden is not only the doppelganger of the Narrator, but also in a way his conscience. He says and does the things the Narrator is unwilling. While in a sense John Doe does the same for John Willoughby, Doe’s words are not Willoughby’s and therefore not his conscience. Willoughby’s subconscious is the Colonel. The Colonel, like Durden, is constantly saying nuggets of wisdom to the protagonist. And anyone else who will listen. Both the Colonel and Tyler Durden are the voice of anti-consumerist philosophy within each film. As the Colonel says “You're walkin' along, not a nickel in your jeans, you're free as the wind. Nobody bothers you…Then you get ahold of some dough and what happens? All those nice, sweet, lovable people become heelots. A lotta heels! They begin creepin' up on ya, tryin' to sell ya something. They get long claws and they get a stranglehold on ya and ya squirm and ya duck and ya holler and ya try to push 'em away, but you haven't got a chance. They've got ya. The first thing you know, you own things - a car, for instance. Now your whole life is messed up with a lot more stuff. You get license fees and number plates and gas and oil and taxes and insurance and identification cards and letters and bills and flat tires and dents and traffic tickets and motorcycle cops and courtrooms and lawyers and fines - and a million and one other things! And what happens? You're not the free and happy guy you used to be. You've gotta have money to pay for all those things. So you go after what the other fella's got. And there you are - you're a heelot yourself.”. Or as Tyler paraphrases it “The things you own end up owning you.”
While the Colonel doesn’t advocate for destruction as a means of social change. Like Tyler, he does longs for a simpler life. A life spent traveling the country with no money, free. Tyler longs for a life void of confinements of money as well “…You’re stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Center. You’ll wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life. You’ll climb wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Tower. And when you look down you’ll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying strips of venison on the empty car pool lane of some abandoned superhighway.” This ideal that to be truly free one must cast aside unneeded objects is laced throughout the speeches of both the Colonel and Durden.
The women in both films play a role in prodding the protagonist forward toward their inevitable creation of alter egos. Whereas Ann Mitchell actually structures the personality of John Doe through her writings, thus creating the persona that Willoughby will embody. Marla Singer aids the Narrator in his creation of Tyler Durden by disrupting his only means of achieving sleep, the support group circuit. This forces him to create another means of escape in Tyler. Some have also argued that Marla and Tyler are both creations of the Narrator’s mind. They dress similarly, cast no reflections, and are not in the room at the same time. This interesting theory aside, Marla’s interaction with the Narrator is one of confusion to say the least. She makes statements which are confusing to the audience at the time. Only after the revelation that Tyler and the Narrator are the same person do they seem to make sense.
Where John Willoughby is head over heals for Mitchell, the Narrator is at first put off by Marla. Only letting his other self, Tyler, enjoy her company. Marla’s confusion is also felt by Mitchell who is initially in love with John Doe, a figment of her own imagination. Doe’s words being not only hers but also the embodiment of her father’s ideals. Daddy issues. It is only at the end of the film that Mitchell realizes she loves John no matter if he’s Willoughby or Doe. Marla gets a better understanding of the man she has grown to love at the end of the film as well. As they hold hands watching the building falls the Narrator says “You met me at a very strange time in my life.” Both women are a constant within each film. A grounding for the protagonist in which his separate personas revolve around.
Meet John Doe and Fight Club do not speak to the powers that be, but to the everyman. As John puts it in his radio speech “He's the man the ads are written for. He's the fella everybody sells things to. He's Joe Doakes, the world's greatest stooge and the world's greatest strength…You'll find us everywhere. We raise the crops, we dig the mines, work the factories, keep the books, fly the planes and drive the buses, and when the cop yells, 'Stand back there you,' he means us, the John Does. We've existed since time began. We built the pyramids. We saw Christ crucified, pulled the oars for Roman emperors, sailed the boats for Columbus, retreated from Moscow with Napoleon, and froze with Washington at Valley Forge. Yes sir, we've been in there dodging left hooks since before history began to walk. In our struggle for freedom, we've hit the canvas many a time, but we always bounced back because we're the people, and we're tough.” This sentiment is also expressed by Durden, “We cook your meals, we haul your trash, we connect your calls, we drive your ambulances.” It is the little guy that truly has the control over himself and over society. “The little punks have always counted because in the long run, the character of a country is the sum total of the character of its little punks.” If he is able to break free from the confines materialistic culture. And no longer have his identity defined by that culture.
So what should you do after reading this post? Get out of your apartment, meet a member of the opposite sex, stop shopping excessively, be a better neighbor, start a fight, don’t be a heelot, and of course, use soap.
The one thing that I love about winter is being inside. While this may seem to be a ridiculous statement, why not just say that I hate winter, but hear me out. It’s not so much being out of the cold that I enjoy, as much as the feeling it invokes. No, not warmth. It’s more of a cloistered, secure feeling that comes from being able to be completely unaffected by what’s happening outside. What could be better than gathering a stack of movies and binge watching them on a cold snowy day. For me it’s akin to curling up by the fire with a book and a hot cup of cocoa.
Ironically, my favorite films to watch when it is snowing are films which take place in bad weather, particularly winter weather. It’s almost as if while I am watching them I am being reassured of my security and warm by participating in their lack there of. So as New England prepared to for the blizzard of 2015, I began to compile a list of films that take place in winter. As the weeks progressed this list became useful as we have had a major storm dropping snow on us at the beginning of almost every week since that blizzard.
I found the films on my list to be predominantly horror. Not just because I enjoy the genre but also because of its relationship with winter. Nothing spells doom like snow, wind chill, ice storms, and cabin fever. Cold itself even denotes some connotation of death. Related to this, one of my first films to make the list was Roman Polanski’s Fearless Vampire Killers or Pardon Me But Your Teeth Are In My Neck (1967). As I began to watch this film I started to think about other gothic or gothic like vampire films that have a similar cold theme to them. I came up with a couple I would like to discuss here. Firstly Hammer’s Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1966), then Mario Bava’s Wudurlak section of Black Sabbath (1963). Warning Spoilers
Released in January of 1966, Hammer’s Dracula Prince of Darkness is the sequel to Horror of Dracula (1958). Although Hammer released other vampire films prior to Prince of Darkness’s release, such as Kiss of the Vampire (1963). They couldn’t bring to the screen what Christopher Lee did. Prince of Darkness picks up where Horror left, actually giving the viewer a “last time on Dracula” type of introduction. We see Van Helsing destroy Dracula. As he turns to dust and blows away. Only his ring remains. Flash forward ten years, a group four travelers are on a grand tour passing through the Carpathians. Charles and Diana Kent, along with Charles’s brother Alan and his wife, the prudish Helen. At a local tavern they meet Father Sandor, who has just been reprimanding the locals on their continued use of garlic to ward off the “boogieman”. The father warns the group not to visit Carlsbad. When Helen insists that they stick to the schedule, the father warns them not to go near the castle.
Along the way they’re kicked out of their carriage when the driver refuses to go any further, even pulling a knife on them to get his point across. So where does that leave them? Stay in a hut or go to the castle. The women decide it would be better to stay in the hut. When along comes a carriage with no driver, what luck!! The four of them hop into the carriage with Charles at the helm. But with great dramatic music the horses will only go one way, to the castle. Our first shot of the castle entrance is dark and cold. Snow covered obelisks tower over the frozen moat. The wind blows swiftly as the men decide whether or not to go inside. Helen doesn’t want to go inside. “Eerie” she says. Perhaps she will be proven right. Charles agrees sarcastically after he has already open the doors. After which, Diana waltzes right in and notices the table is set. Charles figures he needs to check the place out. This is when Helen mildly flips insisting that they leave.
Charles finds their things in one of the rooms, Helen screams, and we are introduced to Klove. Klove fills everyone in on why he is there. Creepy breezes and Helen’s fears fill the hall during the toast to Count Dracula. Before going to bed, Helen warns Alan of the evil of the place. Oh if they only listened to nit picky Helen.
During the night Helen wakes up insisting that Alan has called her name. They hear and noise, which is Klove lugging a chest through the hall. Alan goes to investigate. And so we say goodbye to Alan in what may be the best Dracula resurrection in the Hammer franchise. It's a bloodbath. At least he won’t have to hear Helen say “I told you so”.
So what does Helen do as soon as she finds out her husband is dead? Hook up with a new beau, Dracula. He doesn’t even have to say a word, he is simply mesmerizing.
The next morning, Alan and Helen can‘t be found. So Charles and Diana decide to head into the village to get some help. Charles insists on returning to the castle and leaves Diana alone, where she is picked up by Klove. Alan meanwhile finds a body stuffed in that trunk Klove had the night before but fails to see Dracula sleeping in the open coffin next to it. Diana enters the castle and I quickly locked in by Klove. To Diana’s surprise there’s Helen, but she’s changed. Dracula has unleashed something inside her. Gone are her tight fitting clothes and hair in a bun. She is woman, hear her roar, or bite. Helen and Dracula’s little plan to get a piece goes bad with the aid of a cross. Charles and Diana escape with the help of Father Sandor.
Once at the monastery, the good father fills Charles in on the details about vampires. Wherein Charles decides that he must now kill Dracula in order to avenge his brother’s death. Father Sandor assures Charles that they are safe in the monastery, since vampires have to be welcomed into a place. Enter Ludwig, the poor man’s Renfield, who lets Drac into the place along with the now seductive Helen.
As both Helen and Dracula make their first attempts to capture Diana, Helen is caught. Charles is forced to witness Father Sandor tame Helen’s wild womanly ways with a stake. And with the help of Ludwig, Dracula gets Diana. From then it is a race to save Diana before Dracula can get her back to is castle. In the chilly ending Dracula and Charles are battling on the frozen moat. Charles is only saved the quick thinking of Father Sandor, who breaks the ice by shooting it. Dracula is killed by the icy waters. As Father Sandor noted earlier, running water kills vampires. Which doesn’t make sense, because why then would Dracula have a moat with running water in it? Wouldn’t he be worried that one night in a blood filled stupor he slips on some ice to his doom?
What I like about this film the most is the death of Dracula. Not only for implausibility, but for its inventiveness. I’m not saying that all other Dracula kills are plausible. Just that I don’t buy the Drac popsicle scenario. The film’s gothic atmosphere is a staple of Hammer and is one of the aspects of Hammer films I love. Atmosphere is contrived from set pieces, staging, dialog, camera movements, etc. The aspect of atmosphere that particularly interests me are the materials that make up set pieces. The materials used, or not used tell a part of the story. The intricacy of these can bring out things subliminally to the audience. The cold exterior of Dracula’s castle, with its frozen moat really gives it the added element of cold death. However the interior set design of the castle has something lacking. The blankets are thin and there are no fireplaces in the rooms. The castle is well lit. There is no sense that this castle is drafty. Although it seems obvious that you would want a castle to be warm and cozy, in reality castles are notoriously drafty, damp and cold. I really wanted Dracula’s castle to give me a sense of this and it did not.
Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath or I tre volti della paura (1963) consists of three separate stories, The Telephone, The Wurdalak, and The Drop of Water. For this post I will be concentrating on The Wurdalak segment of the film as much as it pains me not discuss the other stories in this film. Maybe someday I will do a post about Bava films, but I don’t think there is much to say that Tim Lucas hasn’t already expressed. The Wurdalak opens with Vladimire (the personable Mark Damon) riding through the countryside. He comes across a body by the river which has been decapitated. In the chest is an ornate dagger. Talk about overkill. Vladimire removes the dagger from chest of the dead man and puts him on his horse. As night falls and the cold winds pick up Vladimire comes to a house and proceeds to go right in without knocking. As he looks around he notices a definitive space a wall where the dagger he picked up once hung. As if the matching dagger hanging on the wall wasn’t enough to indicated a pair, there is a nice dusty tracing of the missing dagger’s shape. Perhaps these daggers are only reserved for special occasions like decapitation. Vladimire has cause to believe someone from this house killed the man draped over his horse outside.
This is when Giorgio comes down the stairs wondering what this man is doing in his home. Giorgio tells Vladimire that dagger belongs to his father, Gorca, who has been gone for almost five days. This amount of time is significant as we shall see later. As Vladimire goes to show Giorgio the decapitated man outside he realizes the man is gone. This is when we are introduced to Pietro, Giorgio’s brother, who has taken the headless horsed man and is running a sword through his heart just for good measure. If Gorca taught them anything, it’s overkill.
They return inside as Giorgio is trying to explain to Vladimire why his brother is so insistent with the overkill. Apparently the man who was killed was an infamous murderer named Ali Beg. Ali Beg however, was no longer a man but a wurdalak. And Gorca had set out five days earlier to kill the man/wurdalak. Vladimire is introduced to the rest of the family. Giorgio’s wife, Maria, and their son Ivan. As well as the lovely Sdenka, of whom Vladimire falls for immediately upon seeing her. Sdenka posses Diana’s (Dracula Prince of Darkness) innocence with a bit more seductive appearance. She is a single lady after all. Gorca has given instruction that if he should come home after five days that they are to kill him because he will not be himself. It just so happens to be almost midnight of the fifth day.
Gorca’s return is one of haunt anticipation. His entrance is as slow as his walk towards the house with his face revealed in a sudden jarring camera zoom. He is injured from his encounter with Abi Beg. Gorca’s appearance is that of a man under some sort of distress. His face has a slight gray pallor to it. After questioning the family’s curious looks, he asks to be fed. Over which he regales the story of the encounter with Ali Beg. Vladimire tells Gorca that he was the one who discovered the body along the riverbank. Gorca reveals a special treat he has in his bag, the head of Ali Beg. He tells Giorgio to hang head outside so that all may know who it was that killed Ali Beg. There is an awkward tension in the room. It is obvious that Gorca is not himself. After a strange grandfather cuddle moment Ivan is pulled away from Gorca and they all retire to bed.
As they sleep the winds are blowing hard outside. Gorca is lurking around outside and peering in windows. He slowly creeps upstairs taking Ivan from his bed. This is seen by Vladimire who wakes everyone, but it is too late. Giorgio chases after Gorca. We also see Gorca’s first victim, Pietro, dead at the table. Ivan doesn’t make it, but this doesn‘t stop him from missing his mommy. Mainly because Maria refuses to let Giorgio stake and decapitate him. When he comes back looking for his mommy, Giorgio tells Maria its just the wind, which is still wiping outside. Ivan is screaming that he is cold. Giorgio falls under Maria’s knife in his attempt to stop her from opening that door to let the young wurdalak Ivan inside. When she does, surprise, surprise, it’s Gorca at the door and not Ivan.
Meanwhile Vladimire has convinced Sdenka to make their escape. As they find shelter from the cold in a ruined castle, Vladimire tries to persuade Sdenka she’s made the right choice. She is convinced she is cursed, that she can not escape her fate. While they sleep the other family members come to visit Sdenka. Vladimire wakes up alone. He races back to the house to find Sdenka alone in her room. She is bed, her dress is off. She tells him she had to come back and urges him to come closer. Her eyes are dough like, fully dilated. She brings Vladimire close to her, and moves slowly for his neck. Then segment ends. Like that of Helen, we see that Sdenka has shed her coy domineer after being transformed into a wurdalak. She is no as wild as Helen. Her clothing has not changed, it’s simply gone missing. She is alluring, hypnotizing Vladimire.
Bava’s use of light on the exterior of house along with fog give it an eerie depth. The interior scenes are lit with warmth. Completely blocking out the cold. The sound design adds to the feeling of cold, with the wind constantly blowing throughout the entire segment. It is a desolate place to live. During the film the main door of the house opens completely and on occasion is left open. I find myself saying “close the door, you’re letting out the heat”. Again, as in Prince of Darkness, the vampire is associated with that cold. Gorca stalks the house outside while everyone is asleep. The cold temperature outside is associated with almost every wurdalak transformation in the film. Pietro is laying on the table bitten with the candle out from the open door. Ivan is outside screaming “I’m cold, let me in”. Maria recoils in fear from the open door as the cold, and Gorca overtake her. Sdenka is among the ruins when she turned. Only the last turning of Vladimire do we see cold overpowering turn to warm seduction.
The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) begins, after some animation, on a snowy road somewhere in the mountains of what is most likely eastern Europe. Professor Abronsius and his assistant Alfred are traveling by sleigh on a cold night. The narrator is giving the viewer a bit of a back story about the good professor. During this time a group of wolves or dogs come up to the sleigh in an attempt to attack the two men. Only Alfred is aware of this, and the dogs get away with an umbrella. When they arrive at a local inn, the professor is frozen stiff. They make a hurried attempt to revive him by doing among other things, rubbing snow on his ears. Which apparently was at one time thought to prevent frostbite. He finally comes to while soaking his feet in a tub of hot water. Immediately he notes the large amount of garlic throughout the inn. A fact he points out to Alfred in an attempt to reiterate the theory of garlic as a vampire deterrent. The professor inquires about a castle located within the area, which everyone except the village idiot denies exists. They settle in for the night. Alfred is also introduced to the beautiful Sarah, the innkeeper’s daughter, through an accidental bath room encounter.
The next day the two vampire hunters are enjoying some breakfast and the view. When in comes Koukol, the hunchback, looking for some candles. The Professor tells Alfred to follow him. Alfred hitches a ride on his sleigh, only to be dropped after an encounter with those dogs from earlier. Later that night Sarah comes in looking to take a bath because she likes to keep clean. Alfred helps her prepare the bath. Fighting off the urge to peep on her through the keyhole, he finally does only to see her being attacked by Count Von Krolock. The Count has managed to break in through the skylight, in the only room that isn’t covered in garlic. The beautiful Sarah is up to her neck in bubbles when it begins to snow on her. She is almost in awe of it, when she realizes that this is not a good thing. The cold has made its way into the inn. Her father, Shagal, rushes in attempting to climb out the window. He then makes his way out into the night.
In the morning Shagal is found frozen outside the inn. Unlike that of the professor, Shagal can not be revived via snow ear rubbing. After inspection, it is determined by the professor that he has been bitten by a vampire and must be staked. Much like Maria in the Wurdalak, the innkeeper’s wife Rebecca refuses to stake Shagal. This has multiple repercussions. One of these is that he gets loose. The two hunters trail him to a castle. At the castle the hunters finally meet Count Von Krolock, who is gracious enough to let them stay for the night.
The next morning they begin to search the castle for the location of the count’s resting spot. They encounter Koukol guarding the crypt. But with some investigation they find a small window opening. After some climbing of the snow covered castle walls Alfred makes his way into crypt where the Count and his son Herbert are sleeping. Needless to say, he can’t go through with the deed of staking. With the sun setting and the Professor stuck in the window they must call off the vampire hunting for the day. It doesn’t help that Alfred is sidetracked by the singing which turns out to be Sarah. She is taking a bath of course. Apparently there is going to be a ball that evening and she is getting ready. Professor Abronsius and Alfred won’t be attending the ball though. Because the Von Krolock has caught on to there intentions and is saving them for the dinner portion of the evening. The dessert being Sarah. Alfred and the Professor eventually crash the party almost escaping with Sarah unnoticed if not for a mirror. They hop in the sleigh, but are pursued by the Koukol in a coffin repurposed as a sled. The three make is safely out of the grasp of the Count. But end up victims anyway. Just as we saw with Sdenka, Sarah is able to persuade Alfred to let her have a nibble.
This whole movie leaves the audience out in the cold. It is not only a love letter to, but a spoof on Hammer films. The atmosphere of this film is therefore much like that of a Hammer film. But with some colder touches. All of the sets in this film are cold. Snow covers every inch of the exteriors. The cold creeps its way into the interior set pieces as well. The windows are iced up. All of the beds have thick heavy blankets. The characters wear night shirts and stocking caps. In the castle has a fireplace roaring in every room. Yet there is a dampness to the castle that is almost felt. Even the characters have red faces, chapped from the cold air. Just as in the Wurdalak, we see characters who are vampires or turned by vampires associated with the cold. Count Von Krolock comes into the inn through a window, letting in the weather with him. Like that of Gorca, he is seen lurking out in the night air waiting for his opportunity to strike. Shagal is also found in the cold. He also break into the inn through a window. All of the vampires who attend the ball come from a snow covered graveyard.
Much of the tone of these three films is conveyed through the cool atmosphere. Whether it is the bleak unavoidability of fate or the comedic folly of two would be hunters. We see in Prince of Darkness a cold castle juxtaposed by the warmth of the monastery. The tone is serious, even if the ending is rather silly. These four English travelers have been duped by Dracula. But there is hope, provided by the knowledge of Father Sandor. Although as we see in the other two films, knowledge does not always mean success. Both the Wurdalak and Fearless Vampire Killers are bleak. However comedic Fearless Vampire Killers is, it still has a chill to air. The vampire killers, as fearless as they are, will not actually kill any vampires. And that Sdenka can’t run away from her fate. Family is forever. Blood is thicker than even frozen water.
Ah, it warms the heart...
For your viewing pleasure, the trailers for Dracula, Prince of Darkness, Black Sabbath, and Fearless Vampire Killers. You get to see almost the entire scene of Alan biting it I mentioned earlier in the Prince of Darkness trailer.
“All profound distraction opens certain doors. You have to allow yourself to be distracted when you are unable to concentrate.”
- Julio Cortazar
“The more you let yourself be distracted from where you are going, the more you are the person that you are. It’s not so much like getting lost as it is like getting found.”
- William Stafford
Distraction is a word that always has a negative connotation to it. Although the word can have a positive meaning as well. That which amuses, entertains, or diverts. This implies a distraction removes a person either physically or mentally from something possibly stressful or hurtful. In this sense I think that film is a distraction. However my mother could argue against this every time she attempts to pull my father’s attention away from a movie towards a conversation with her. I, like my father, have a tendency to be pulled in by movies, drawn to them like a moth to a flame.
So here it is, a blog about movies, film, cinema, moving pictures or whatever you want to call it. A close friend of mine said to me not so long ago “you should do a blog about movies”, after I regaled her with too much information about some film or another. She even helped me come up with the name. I think, I was watching a movie at the time.
Let me say this before moving forward. I didn’t go to film school. I don’t have a degree in cinema studies. I have a loose grasp of film theory. I am not a film historian. I am just a guy who is very preoccupied with watching movies. I am easily distracted by the narrative storytelling of film. Maybe even just the moving image itself. Most likely I will not be talking about transfers, aspect ratios, or other technical things. Unless I buy something I need to share or there is a great print playing somewhere.
I am interested in all types of film, though I tend to concentrate on gothic horror, gialli, spaghetti westerns, film noir, documentaries, kung-fu, pre-code, samurai, silent, exploitation, and comedy. And the list goes on, in conclusion I am into all film.
Where does this leave me? It leaves me with boxes upon boxes of movies, streaming services and film screenings.
My posts will be about observations I’ve made throughout my time spent being distracted by the moving image. I don’t know where each post will take me, I am just going with it.
So here we go...
The Distracted Blogger
I watch movies. I write about them here. I watch more movies. I get nothing else done.
Sergio Leone And The Infield Fly Rule
Wright On Film
Coffee Coffee and More Coffee
The Nitrate Diva
She Blogged By Night
These Violent Delights
Classic Film and TV Cafe
Shadows And Satin
Girls Do Film
CineMavin's: Essays from the Couch
A Shroud of Thoughts
In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood
Outspoken and Freckled
B Noir Detour
Journeys in Darkness and Light
The Talk Film Society
Daughters of Darkness
The Projection Booth
Blogathons I've done.