Over the Garden Wall: Songs of the Dark Lantern

Wha’ Happen’?:

Looking for shelter in the middle of a storm, our heroes arrive at a creepy tavern full of people dressed in American colonial era garb and who apparently have no names, only job descriptions. The Tavern Keeper insists that Beatrice wait outside as birds bring bad luck. When Beatrice tries to explain that blue birds bring good luck the Tavern Keeper snaps “good luck, bad luck, I don’t need any of it!” and hits her with a broom.

Fuming, Beatrice waits outside in the stable with a weird horse that seems to be wearing lipstick. She hears the sound of someone chopping wood in the dark forest, and a deep voice singing…

In the tavern, the Tavern Keeper demands to know what Wirt and Greg’s deal is but Wirt doesn’t know what to tell them. After listening to the Highway Man’s song, Wirt asks the way to Adelaide’s House. This leads the tavern patrons to decide that he’s The Young Lover and throw him up onstage to sing his love song.

Outside, frustrated that Wirt’s not making any progress, Beatrice flies off into the dark forest in the direction of the singing and chopping, hoping to ask for directions.

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Over the Garden Wall: Schooltown Follies

Wha’ Happen’?:

After leaving Pottsfield, Wirt, Greg and Beatrice are now trying to reach the house of Adelaide, the Wise Woman of the Woods. In order to get Greg to stop singing, Beatrice tries to crush his indefatigable optimism. She tells him that the world is a miserable place and that he should be more like Wirt, a beaten down husk of a pushover who just quietly does whatever he’s told. Well, Wirt may be a triangle nosed goober cosplaying as David the Gnome’s secret abandoned lovechild, but even he has his pride. So when the trio stumble across a small school in the middle of the forest where a young woman named Miss Langtree is trying to teach a class of blank eyed animals to read, he joins the class just to spite Beatrice. Greg, who isn’t that big on book learnin’ (I know, stunned gasps all round) instead hangs around outside the school with a bunch of truant racoons, deer and possums.

As Miss Langtree explains in a wistful monologue, the school’s in real trouble. Her father, the owner of the school, is threatening to shut it down, her fiancée Jimmy Brown has done R.U.N.N.O.F.T. and there is the little matter of a mad gorilla on the loose.

Top 30 Schooltown Follies GIFs | Find the best GIF on Gfycat

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Over the Garden Wall: Hard Times at the Huskin’ Bee

Wha’ Happen’?:

Still following the Woodsman’s directions, Wirt and Greg come across the Beatrice the talking bluebird again. She’s trapped in a thornbush and offers to do the boys a good turn after Greg frees her. She tells them that she can take them to Adelaide the Magical Woman of the Woods, who could send them home, but Wirt really isn’t up for a magical Wizard of Oz esque quest and they continue looking for a town with a reluctant Beatrice in tow.

They come to a town called Pottsfield where the locals are celebrating the harvest in pumpkin costumes and dancing to music that’s ever so cheery and it’s not creepy at all…

Watch Over The Garden Wall | Pumpkin Stare GIF by reikert on Gfycat. Discover more over the garden wall GIFs on Gfycat.

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Over the Garden Wall: The Old Grist Mill

Over the Garden Wall is the creation of Adventure Time alumnus Patrick McHale which first premiered on Cartoon Network in 2014. Consisting of 10 ten-minute episodes, the series is a gorgeously animated brew of 17th, 18th and 19th century Americana, children’s literature and deep cut references to the Golden Age of animation. Which, as you can probably guess from that description, means that if it was any more my jam I’m be spreading it on my crumpets. Throughout October I’ll be doing short reviews of each episode so let’s crack on. Episode 1. The Old Grist Mill.

Wha’ Happen’?:

After the opening song a montage introducing many of the characters we’ll meet over the course of the series we meet two young boys, Wirt and Greg (and a frog) making their way through a dark, spooky forest. Wirt realises that he has no idea how they arrived there and begins to panic because this place is creepy as hell and everything just seems slightly off. Greg, who’s very much “the Mabel” in this Dipper/Mabel dyad, offers to leave a trail of candy behind them but that’s of little use since they’re already deep in the spooky, scary forest.

“You can’t make squirrels wearing bow ties creepy!” they jeered, mockingly. Patrick McHale simply smiled coldly.

They come across an elderly woodsman carrying a lantern and chopping down trees that are filled with a strange, black ooze. Wirt’s too afraid to approach the woodsman but then the boys are approached by Beatrice, a talking bluebird who offers to help them escape the forest. She flies off when the Woodsman overhears them talking and demands to know what they’re doing.

The Woodsman tells them that they’re in a place called “The Unknown” and that they need to am-scray because “The Beast walks these woods”.

The Woodsman takes them back to his mill and offers to let them stay the night. Wirt is getting serious stranger-danger from the Woodsman and asks him what he’s doing out in the forest. The Woodsman tells them that he has to grind the wood of the Edwelweiss trees into oil to keep his lantern lit. Wirt nervously suggests to Greg that they might need to knock the Woodsman out and make a run for it, before immediately dismissing that as a really bad plan. Seeing that Wirt’s nervous, he tells the kids that they’re free to go whenever they want but that if they’re still at the mill after he’s finished with his work, he’ll try to help them fin their way home.

Unsure of what to do, Wirt stays by the fire while Greg goes looking for his frog.  Outside the mill he gets attacked by a terrifying beast who, as Greg notes, has beautiful eyes.

Over the Garden Wall / Nightmare Fuel - TV Tropes

 Greg runs back into the house, chased by the beast. The Woodsman tries to defend the children but gets knocked unconscious by Greg, who didn’t get the memo that they weren’t going with that plan.

Over The Garden Wall — cartoon: The best of Greg from Over the Garden...

The boys are chased by the beast into the mill where it ends up getting caught in the gears. This causing the whole mill to break apart but also dislodges one of Greg’s candies from the beast’s throat, which causes it to change back into a perfectly ordinary dog. (EDIT: Thanks to Alice Shattuck for pointing out that it’s not actually the candy that caused the dog to transform but the turtle that the candy was stuck to because it turns out that the black turtles have a mysterious connection to the Edelweiss trees and the Beast itself because dang but the lore is deep in this despite the whole thing clocking in at 100 minutes). The Woodsman regains consciousness and is furious to discover that the mill is gone and most of his oil has been lost. Wirt says that, hey, at least they got the Beast and the Woodsman yells that the dog was not the Beast. A beast, sure. But not The Beast. Wirt gets angry at Greg but the Woodsman tells him that as the elder brother, Greg’s dumb-fuckery is his responsibility and as an older brother myself that I find that sentiment to be rank Only Child Privilege. Anyway, the Woodsman wearily sends them on their way, calling after them “Beware the Unknown! Fear the Beast! And flee these woods if you can!”

How was it?: The Old Grist Mill is simultaneously an excellent cartoon and probably the worst OGW episode. Not a criticism, it just shows how insanely high this series sets the bar. It’s great, but the night-time setting means we don’t get the gorgeous autumnal colours of the later episodes. Beatrice (the blue-bird) only gets an early-bird cameo (see what I did there?) and while Lloyd is fantastic as the Woodsman, he’s no Auntie Whispers or Quincy Endicott. My point is, knowing all the fanastic stuff that’s coming down the line makes this first episode seem a little drab in comparison.

Holy Crap, that sounds like…: Wirt is played by Frodo Baggins himself, Elijah Wood. The Woodsman is played by a magnificently husky Christopher Llloyd.

Can I see some references?: This episode draws heavily on classic fairy tales. The two children lost in the woods, the candy trail and the Woodsman are all echoes of Hansel and Gretel. Greg’s terrified “You have beautiful eyes…” to the dog is a clear reference to Little Red Riding Hood. As for animation references, the creepy forest with its macabre, scowling trees is pure Snow White.  And the whole concept of a huge, gooey monster becoming small and harmless after a single corrupting influence is expelled reminded me very much of Hayao Miyazaki.

This frog’s name is: After the Woodsman tells Greg to give the frog a proper name, Greg spends the rest of the series trying to do just that. This episode, the frog is called Kitty and Wirt (to avoid confusion, Greg renames Wirt “Kitty”)

Disney(ish) reviews with the Unscrupulous Mouse: Artemis Fowl

“So I said to him: “Sir, if your attempts at neo-realism were any more bourgeois, they would have political rights in the Ancien Regime!””

 

NPG x133037; Martin Amis - Portrait - National Portrait Gallery

“Very droll.”

 

Zadie Smith - Interview Magazine

“Yes. Quite.”

 

“Sick burn, Salman.”

 

“So Mouse, before we invite you to join our exclusive club for novelists, what were you doing before you took up the quill?”

 

“Oh, you know. One blogs a little. Film reviews. Cultural critiques. All very serious and highbrow. No talking maps.”

 

“Talking…well, very good. Very good. I’m delighted to welcome you..”

Breaking Down The Wall on Make a GIF

“MWA HA HA HA! Nobody move!”

 

“Dude, not cool! I’m with people who matter!”

 

“Mouse! Who is this rakish, uncouth rodent?!”

 

“Sigh. This is my evil twin brother the Unscrupulous Mouse. He’s a supervillain”

 

“I think you should leave.”


“Yeah, no shit, Salman. Okay, asshole what are you doing here?”


“What the hell is wrong with you?! Disney release a movie set in Ireland and it’s the worst thing ever and you don’t review it?! That’s three of your wheelhouses right there!”


“I reviewed Darby O’Gill, it was fine!”


“Not that one, fool! Artemis Fowl! The new Cromwell!”


“Look, I don’t have time to drop everything every time Disney goes plop plop. I’m a busy writer now, and quite frankly too good for that sort of thing.”


“FINE! I’LL DO IT MYSELF!”

I loved the Artemis Fowl books. Growing up as an evil mouse in Ireland I didn’t have many role models. Sure, there were a few villains I aspired to. The cartoon villains that were beaten by the heroes every Saturday morning or the Irish politicians using their power for personal gain. But there wasn’t a kid villain that I could root for! I wanted someone that outsmarted the good guys! Someone who’s plans weren’t foiled every week. Then Artemis Fowl entered my life. Not only was he a smart villain, he was Irish too! Then after a few books into the series, I heard the news! They were making an Artemis Fowl movie! Holy crap! young me squeaked! I’ll finally see my hero villain on the big screen!

Originally intended to be launched as a franchise by Miramax way back in 2001, the film languished in development hell until Disney acquired the rights in 2013. And I hate them for what they have done.

“Excellent. I feed on your hate.”

Okay, let’s get this over with.

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Bat versus Bolts: The 2010s

Question: is the Dark Universe dead?

You remember the Dark Universe, surely? Universal’s attempt to create a shared cinematic universe with rebooted versions of their classic monsters? Is that still a thing? Because it seemed to be DOA with the failure of The Mummy. But then The Invisible Man came out this year and did really well and apparently is supposed to be part of the Dark Universe except the director says it isn’t and Universal are apparently refusing to admit its dead despite the fact that all of its upcoming movies appear to be either cancelled or delayed indefinitely and now the whole project seems (appropriately enough) neither alive nor dead.

And that kinda sucks. Not because I was particularly psyched for any of these proposed films but it’s gotta be galling for Universal to keep getting portrayed as failed Marvel wannabes considering they invented the whole concept of a shared cinematic universe all the way back in 1943. I mean obviously they wouldn’t be doing this if the MCU hadn’t made enough money to air condition Hell, but I personally feel that if any movie studio has a right to rip off Marvel, it’s Universal.

Turnabout, after all, is fair play.

In fact, I think you’d be hard pressed to find two non-comics characters who’ve had a bigger influence on comics as a whole than the Universal versions of Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster. For starters, as public domain characters, both DC and Marvel have incorporated their own versions of these characters into their respective universes. Marvel, in particular, made fantastic use of Dracula in their series Tomb of Dracula, which lasted a whopping 70 issues. And that’s not even counting the dozens (hundreds?) of characters in both of the Big Two publishers that take influence both subtle and overt from these two monsters. You can see Dracula’s lineage in Batman, Doctor Doom, Morbius and Count Nefaria whereas pretty much every hulking, misunderstood monster has a bit of Adam in him, whether we’re talking about the Thing, Bizarro, Solomon Grundy or the Incredible Hulk. So if Universal want to start turning their properties into ersatz superheroes to compete with Marvel, I say it’s less a case of stealing from your competitors than breaking into your neighbour’s house in the dead of night to take back the lawnmower that he “borrowed” from you eighty years ago and never bothered returning. And, like in that analogy, while it may be satisfying and even morally justified, it’s probably not a good idea.

I’ve spent this entire intro talking about Universal, but truth be told only one of today’s movies, 2014’s Dracula Untold, is from that studio. I would have preferred to pit two modern Universal monster movies against each other but according to the Dark Universe wiki (which is a thing that exists) the Dark Universe Frankenstein is just putting the finishing touches on.

Suuuuuuuuure it is.

so today Team Bolts is represented by I Frankenstein, a 2014 movie from Lionsgate that’s also trying to do the “shove a public domain monster into a superhero cape and see if he flies” thing. And guys, I swear to God, I’m not setting Team Bolts up to fail deliberately. After the last installment, I really didn’t want to see another curb stomp. But there’s no getting around it, I, Frankenstein is a staggeringly bad film, and leagues worse than Dracula Untold. Cunning and savvy reader that you are, you will notice that is not the same thing as saying that Dracula Untold is good.

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Bats Versus Bolts: The Silent Era

Okay, paws in the air, I kinda goofed with this one.

My whole concept (nay, vision!) for Bats versus Bolts is taking a Frankenstein movie and a Dracula movie that are contemporaneous and comparing them side to side to see whatever random insights on movie-making or film history or social trends or whatever crap shakes loose basically. The point is, they’re supposed to be films from the same era. Frankenstein and Dracula  were both released in 1931. Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula were a year apart. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein followed two years after Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Conversely, while the better known of today’s movies, Nosferatu, came out in 1922, our representative for Team Bolts was released a full dozen years previously. Frankenstein was released in 1910, and the more I’ve come to work on this post the more I’ve realised that comparing these two movies is kind of farcical. Firstly, while both movies do belong to “the silent era”, that’s a definition so broad as to be almost useless. The silent era lasted over forty years, and went through multiple evolutions and revolutions in style, technology and presentation. Secondly, while all of the other matchups in this series were made in the same country (America, the UK and America again), here we’re comparing a very primitive silent American short from 1910 and one of the greatest examples of German expressionism in all of film from over a decade later. Is that in any way a fair or meaningful comparison to make?

Is it bollocks. But here we are.

Anyway, let’s talk about the amoral scientist and the bloodsucking monster. Let’s talk about Thomas Edison.

Top 11 Things You Didn't Know About Nikola Tesla | Department of Energy

“Ha! Good one!”

“Nikola Tesla? I thought you were dead!”

“Oh you are adorable.”

I have way too many immortal, dark haired, mustachioed men in my life. Far too many.

Anyway, age before beauty, so let’s talk about Frankenstein first. The movie was the product of Edison Studios, who produced and screened the first commercial motion pictures in the United States using the kinetoscope, drooling neanderthal ancestor of the modern movie projector which Edison may even have invented because fuck it, anything’s possible in this crazy world of ours. Now, although Edison’s name is all over this movie he actually had next to nothing to do with its creation (I know, shocking). Being on the ground floor of the new medium, the Edison company could claim many firsts such as the first romance, the first boxing film and the first Western filmed in America The Great Train Robbery (hilariously, the very first Western, Kidnapped by Indians, was filmed in Lancashire four years previously). While they may have done it first, Edison rarely did it best and the studio’s output is not very highly regarded amongst silent era fans, although more recent re-discoveries have helped rehabilitate their reputation somewhat.

Rather charmingly, Frankenstein was a movie that was thought dead and then brought back to life. The film was thought irretrievably lost like around 75% of all silent films made in America, due to being filmed on nitrate which had the durability and flammability of a rummy’s fart. Thankfully, a copy of the film was discovered in the seventies, somewhat the worse for wear but still viewable. And by viewable, I mean “you can watch it right now” as it’s only 12 minutes long and the copyright on it has expired and it’s not like Thomas Edison is going to rise from the grave demanding it be taken down from YouTube.

“…right?”

“Oh no. He’s definitely dead. Heh heh heh.”

“Not gonna ask.”

Anyway, enough talking about the production of Frankenstein because we need to talk about the production of Nosferatu like right now. One of the greatest horror films of all time. Terrifying even to this day. What kind of production company could create such a thing?

If told you that it was a production company created by a mysterious German occultist to produce supernatural themed films which then folded suddenly after creating this one, terrifying masterpiece would you, as I did, punch the air and say “Oh fuck yes“? Because that’s what we’ve got here, people. That’s what happened. Fuck yes.

Now, granted, the reason why occultist Albin Grau’s Prana Films folded does not include mysterious drained corpses showing up every which way, and more’s the pity. It actually had to do with Bram Stoker’s widow suing his Teutonic testes for filming an unauthorised version of her husband’s novel.

Do not come between an Irishwoman and her royalties. She will cut you down.

Anyway, despite the film-makers hunnish perfidy, what they created still stands almost a century later as the greatest vampire film of all time. And yes, it’s also public domain so you can watch that too.

The adaptations

Frankenstein really is a film from a time before anyone knew what the fuck they were doing in terms of pacing and staging.

Scene 1: Frankenstein goes to college and says goodbye to his fiancée and father.

Scene 2: Frankenstein discovers the secret to LIFE ITSELF.

And, from a modern understanding of cinematic language, both of these scenes are treated with equal importance. The story is extremely faithful to Shelley’s novel with a few minor changes like the monster no longer being created from body parts, the monster no longer pursuing Frankenstein across Europe, the monster now being a manifestation of Frankenstein’s dirty thoughts who vanishes once Frankenstein’s love for his bride reaches “full strength and freedom from impurity” like some kind of isotope, the monster apparently being jealously in love (?) with Frankenstein and the story ending with the monster vanishing and Frankenstein happily married. But other than that, y’know. Pretty much a page for page retelling.

Alright, it’s easy to scoff, but remember. This was a time when people couldn’t see a train coming towards them onscreen without running screaming from the theatre. A jig-sawed together shambling corpse man might have led to a fatal epidemic of the vapours.

In Germany in the 1920s, of course, they were made of sterner stuff. Young German lawyer Jonathan Harker Thomas Hutter travels to Transylvania at the behest of his employer Mister Renfield Herr Knock to sell a house to the mysterious Count Dracula Orlock. Upon suspecting that his host is a vampire and a threat to English virtue pure Aryan womanhood*, he escapes the castle and returns home to save his wife Mina Ellen from Draculock with the help of Abraham Van Helsing Professor Bulwer.

“See ALL you motherfuckers in court.”

WINNER: BATS

The Monsters

Edison Studios specifically set out to make a tamer, uncontroversial version of Mary Shelley’s story, which is why, instead of sewing his monster together out of cadavers, this Frankenstein makes his monster like he’s microwaving some popcorn or something. This scene, incidentally, was described by Edison’s own publicity as “the most weird, mystifying and fascinating scene ever shown on a film” which is probably true considering that the medium was so young that people would pay to watch a dude sneezing. But fair is fair, the creation scene where the monsters flesh slowly forms on a dancing skeleton is genuinely creepy. Actually, the silent era may have been a perfect time for horror films. The jerky unreality of the motion, the complete absence of any human voice, it all combines to give the queasy sense of watching a nightmare unfold.

As I mentioned, the monster (played by Charles Stanton Ogle) is not a reanimated assemblage of dead body parts, but a manifestation (I guess) of the evil in Frankenstein’s soul that he has to purge, adding in a bit of Jekyll and Hyde to the story. It’s not a great film, but it’s honestly a pretty great monster.

But. Y’know. Let’s not kid ourselves.

Count Orlok GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

He may not be the most layered Dracula. He may not be the most compelling Dracula. He may not be the most faithful Dracula. He may not, strictly speaking, be a Dracula.

He is by far the most terrifying Dracula.

Nearly a century later, no director, no actor, no special effects maestro has come close to creating the pure, skin-crawling wrongness of Max Schreck’s Orlock. If Lugosi’s Dracula is still the default for this character in the collective consciousness, it’s because Lugosi is safe. Cuddly, goofy, easily imitated. Schreck, I think, never had the permanent residence in all our minds that Lugosi does because we fundamentally do not want him there.

WINNER: BATS

The Scientists

Augustus Phillips’ performance as Victor Frankenstein is…well, it’s a silent movie performance from 1910. Big expressions, big gestures, not exactly bringing forth the subtle and nuanced layers of the character, you feel me? This is definitely the most innocent Frankenstein we’ve seen so far. For all that the film makes his inner evil the source of the monster, we see absolutely nothing of that in his interactions with the other characters. He seems driven a by a pure, childlike urge to discover. He doesn’t even engage in grave robbing! Frankly, I don’t see this Frankenstein fitting in very well with the rest of the gang.

“….”

“He hasn’t said anything in FIVE HOURS!”

“Possibly a mute. A vivisection of his throat might yield the answers we seek.”

“Oh! We could replace his tongue with an eel! And then use amniotic fluid…”

“And who, pray tell, let you out of your box?”

Our Van Helsing analogue, Bulwer, doesn’t really do much besides hanging outside Ellen’s bedroom looking worried so we’re going to give Team Bolts the win here just to prevent this from being a total blow-out.

WINNER: BOLTS

The Dashing Young Men

Okay. Straight face. So.

*giggle*

Sorry, sorry. Serious now. So. Thomas Hutter is played by GUSTAV VON WANGENHEIM.

That was his name and it is perfect.

“Why is this funny, please?”

“Oh nothing, nothing you gorgeous teutonic slab, you.”

Anyway, Nosferatu skillfully avoids the Too Many Dudes problem by just…not having the extra dudes. I mean c’mon. It’s 1922.

“You expect Quincey Morris? In this economy?!”

Hutter is basically German Johnathan Harker, and so is more efficient and hard working and is basically a more traditional hero than most Harkers in that he retains the main narrative focus for most of the film. Like most silent movie stars Wangenheim seems to have got the job for his ability to look VERY HAPPY or VERY SCARED as the scene requires but hey, that was what the medium needed.

Frankenstein doesn’t really have a male lead outside of Frankenstein himself, so Bats gets this by default.

Winner: Bats

The Perpetually Imperilled Ladies

I wish there was more I could say about Mary Fuller’s Elizabeth Frankenstein but…it’s kind hard to judge this performance because a) she’s hardly in it b) the picture quality is terrible and c) every scene she’s in is just terribly, terribly framed.

“What a perfectly staged shot” said someone in 1910.

I went down a bit of a wiki wormhole with Mary Fuller, honestly, and this film really doesn’t do her justice.

Maryfuller-1914-sideview-silentfilmactress.jpg

She was one of the biggest movie stars in the world for a few years in the late teens as well as being a successful screenwriter. But after a few flops she suddenly became persona non grata in Hollywood. She tried to re-start her career in the twenties to no avail and suffered a nervous breakdown after the death of her mother and spent the last 26 years of her life in a mental institution. It’s heartbreaking.

In Nosferatu, Greta Schroder plays Ellen, our Mina who is quite a fascinating character, honestly. On the one hand she is portrayed as a demure, wilting virgin who doesn’t even like to see flowers killed. But by the end, she’s actually one of the more pro-active and heroic Minas. Entirely on her own bat (heh) she researches vampires and then sacrifices her own life to lure Orlock so that he can be destroyed by the dawn’s sunlight (an invention of Murnau, vampires had never been depicted as being harmed by daylight prior to this). Couple that with quite a lot of screentime, and you could argue she’s actually the movie’s principal hero.

No vampire ladies unfortunately because it was the twenties and feeding on the blood of the living was considered unladylike.

Winner: BATS

Are either of these movies actually, y’know, scary?

Frankenstein is a little creepy which is far more than I expected from a 110 year old film.

But Nosferatu…shit. Did you hear that? Sounds like someone’s coming up the stairs…

Winner: BATS

Best Dialogue:

Real close contest here. I do love the line “……………” from Frankenstein but Nosferatu has the absolutely iconic “……………..” (even though it’s been ruined by being quoted so often).

WINNER: TIE

FINAL SCORE: Bats 5,Bolts 1

NEXT UPDATE: September 24th 2020

NEXT TIME: Bats versus Bolts month continues and it’s time for us to jump to the other end of movie history. It’s the 2010s. Which means it’s time for sexy superhero monsters who FUCK.

* Okay, because nothing originating in Weimar Germany can be discussed without bringing the fucking Nazis into it let’s get this out of the way. The movie has been accused of perpetuating anti-Semitic tropes with Orlock and Herr Knock. It’s not entirely invalid reading but honestly I think it’s people reading things into the movie with the benefit of hindsight rather than anything consciously placed there by the film-makers. Murnau emigrated to the States long before the Nazis came to power and as a gay man who worked with many Jewish collaborators, I doubt he was a fan.

Night of the Hunter (1955)

How quickly things change.

Not so long ago my awareness of Night of the Hunter boiled down, essentially, to this:

Creating The Night of the Hunter - The American Society of ...

The preacher with the tattooed fingers. I knew it was an old movie from the fifties, I vaguely knew it was a serial killer drama and that it was considered to be a real good ‘un. But that was about where my knowledge of the film began and ended.

And now? Guys, I am a full on stan. With the insufferable zeal of the newly converted I will talk your ear off about this film. I will bore you to tears describing individual scenes. Every night I shake my fist at the heavens because I now know I live in the world where Charles Laughton only got to direct one film AND IT’S NOT RIGHT IT’S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THIS WAY THIS WORLD IS A SICK JOKE.

Guys, this movie is an absolute work of art. It is beautiful to the point of transcendence. It is an aesthetic and stylistic triumph. It is quite good.

” Gasp!”

“Right?”

The story is one of the great Hard Luck tales in Hollywood’s long, glorious history of giving talented people the shaft. Legendary English actor Charles Laughton made his directorial debut with The Night of the Hunter, now regarded as one of the greatest first films ever made. Critics panned it, audiences stayed away in droves and Laughton tearfully shelved all plans to be a director and returned to the gentle bosom of the theatre where talent is always justly rewarded (pause for hollow, bitter laugh). Actually, I’m not entirely sure that first parts totally true. The few contemporaneous reviews from the time I’ve seen are by no means pans. In fact, they’re often quite effusive in their praise of the film and its director. They’re more just…confused. Like they don’t quite know what to make of this thing. And honestly, that’s fair. It certainly doesn’t fit into any tidy little box.

It’s a horror film, and an often extremely dark one, but from the perspective of a child and with the bulk of the film being carried by two child actors. It’s also a fairy tale, dreamlike and quite surreal in its tone. And lastly it’s an intensely Christian movie which nonetheless acts as an ascerbic and harsh critique of American Christianity. So it’s not exactly like you can do a “If you liked X, you’ll love The Night of the Hunter!“. So it’s understandable, if not not forgivable, that audiences slept on this when it first came out. Also, the poster is kind of terrible and makes it look like it’s a Lifetime drama about a man who desperately needs a dictionary.

“I don’t know what words mean!”

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The Grandest Bookshop in the World

Writing a book is like climbing a mountain.

Actually getting a book published is like climbing a mountain after losing all your limbs and having to inch your way up the rock face on your tiny stumps while all the mountain goats tell you that you’ll never make it.

My point is, it’s bloody hard. And seeing a hugely talented writer finally making it to the top of that damned summit is one of life’s great pleasures.

Amelia Goddamned Paper Alchemist Mellor, sometime spider and longtime friend of the blog is getting her book published and it is about frucking time.

Here’s the trailer and blurb for The Grandest Bookshop in the World, a middle grade novel by Amelia Mellor:

“Pearl and Vally Cole live in a bookshop. And not just any bookshop. In 1893, Cole’s Book Arcade in Melbourne is the grandest bookshop in the world, brimming with every curiosity imaginable. Each day brings fresh delights for the siblings: voice-changing sweets, talking parrots, a new story written just for them by their eccentric father.

When Pearl and Vally learn that Pa has risked the Arcade – and himself – in a shocking deal with the mysterious Obscurosmith, the siblings hatch a plan. Soon they are swept into a dangerous game with impossibly high stakes: defeat seven challenges by the stroke of midnight and both the Arcade and their father will be restored. But if they fail Pearl and Vally won’t just lose Pa – they’ll forget that he and the Arcade ever existed.”

I’ve read two of Amelia’s previous manuscripts and I always knew it was only a matter of time before she broke through. The book is now available to pre-order from the Affirm Website, for twenty Australian dollary doos, which is 14 yankee greenbacks or €12 in proper money. I know you’ll all join me in giving Amelia your heartiest congratulations. And be sure to drop by her awesome blog too.

“Brava, Mim.”