What A Character Blogathon 2021: Actresses of a Certain Character

I’m an ordinary person in an ordinary life-Mildred Dunnock

Once again my favorite blogathon has rolled around, giving me the chance to pay tribute to the great character actors who add a certain depth and extra layer to stage, film and television. Just a brief glimpse of them in a story manages to bring something quite special and undeniably memorable. Thank you so much to Aurora of Once Upon A Screen, Kellee of Outspoken and Freckled and Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club for the opportunity to take a deep dive into the span of these two women’s careers. Leave it to the finest classic film bloggers to host one of the BEST blogathons there is!

It is with extreme pleasure that I’ll be giving attention to two extraordinary actresses who have contributed a quiet depth of character to both film and dramatic television, Patricia Collinge and Mildred Dunnock. Both actresses were also prominent leading ladies of the theatre.

And coincidentally The Nun’s Story co-starred Mildred Dunnock and Patricia Collinge. This was Collinge’s last appearance in film.

MILDRED DUNNOCK

NEW YORK CITY – JANUARY 20: Mildred Dunnock sighted on January 10, 1975 at DJ Nite Club in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

A “superb actress who didn’t find nearly the roles she deserved” and “suffered the deprivations more keenly than less sensitive artists would have.” –Elia Kazan

I WANT YOU, Mildred Dunnock, 1951 Courtesy Everett Collection PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY Copyright: xCourtesyxEverettxCollectionx MBDIWAN EC033

With the dignity of a weathered carved tree, Dunnock is spare and angular, a handsome yet fey looking woman with a modest hair style and time worn features. She is an American actress who was prolific in playing spinsters and middle class mothers. Her weighty performances earned her two Oscar nominations and praise for her performance in Tennessee William’s Sweet Bird of Youth. But the role that would garner the most praise, both stage and screen versions, is Linda Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.

Dunnock was born in Baltimore, Maryland and acted throughout her college years with the Vagabond Players and the John Hopkins University troupe in Baltimore. She later taught at the Friends School in New York and acted with the Morningside players in their show Life Begins which led her to Broadway, working with the Selwyn Theater in 1932.

Dunnock’s career spanned over four decades, and she was one of the few actresses to have created important roles in the theater by some of the leading playwrights of the twentieth century, Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. Her theatrical career debuting on The Great White Way at the age of thirty, lasted over 45 years including 23 shows on Broadway. Though she only appeared in 25 feature films, the quality of her work is to be celebrated.

Dunnock’s breakthrough role came eight years later, as Miss Ronberry in the original production of Emlyn Williams’ hit play The Corn is Green 1940-42.

Mildred Dunnock was cast in the supporting role to Ethel Barrymore who by that time, had a long and successful stage presence. Barrymore inhabited the role of Miss Moffat the spinster schoolteacher who is passionate about transforming the life of uneducated, proud young Welsh Miners and giving them a chance to lift themselves out of the darkness and reach toward a better life.

Dunnock plays the prissy spinster Miss Ronberry, a reluctant assistant teacher who becomes devoted to Moffat’s endeavor. Her performance attracted the attention of Hollywood. Ironically it was Dunnock, and not Barrymore, who was asked to reprise her role on film when Warner Bros bought the rights and insisted their star Bette Davis be cast for the lead in 1945.

When we first meet Miss Ronberry she is eager to become acquainted with the new tenant whom she thinks is a rugged Colonel. She studies his sizable collection of books and includes his ‘virile’ wastepaper basket as one of the illuminating artifacts she infers as deliciously masculine. But Miss Ronberry is stunned when the “L.C.” who wrote the letter she receives turns out to be the feisty Lilly Christabel (“L.C.”) Moffat (Bette Davis).

Dunnock also created the role on stage of Lavinia Hubbard in Lillian Hellman’s Another Part of the Forest with Patricia Neal as Regina. The play was the prequel to Hellman’s The Little Foxes, which was a story that reflected the assorted lives of a cunning, bourgeois Southern family in the wake of the Civil War. Bette Davis would bring to life the treacherous Regina in the 1941 film The Little Foxes directed by William Wyler. And Patricia Collinge would be cast in the role of Birdie Hubbard, giving one of the most poignant performances of her career. Dunnock’s role playing Lavinia went to Florence Eldridge in the film version of Another Part of the Forest in 1948.

Dunnock appeared with Margaret Rutherford in the stage production of Farewell, Farewell Eugene, and co-starred with Hermione Baddley in Tennessee William’s play The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore at the Morosco Theatre. Shown below are the two actresses with playwright Tennessee Williams.

Mildred Dunnock starred in the dramatic television series, The Ford Theater Hour presentation of Night Must Fall in 1948 co-starring Fay Bainter and Cloris Leachman. Based on the play by Emlyn Williams, and adapted to the big screen in 1937 starring Rosalind Russell, Dame May Whitty and Robert Montgomery.

She continued to turn in stellar performances on stage. In 1945 she had the supporting role to Tallulah Bankhead on Broadway in the comedy by Phillip Barry called Foolish Nation. Also on Broadway, she starred in Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt 1951 where she played John Garfield’s mother Tase. Then she appeared in Lee Strasberg’s short lived production of Jane Bowles in The Summer House 1953-54. A ‘surreal and operatic’ and ‘darkly funny’ (Axel Nissen) work, starring Judith Anderson and Dunnock as manipulative, domineering mothers.

In February of 1949, at the Morosco Theatre on Broadway, Mildred Dunnock premiered in the role that will forever be remembered as her most iconic performance. That of Linda Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, co-starring Lee J. Cobb as Willy Loman. In 1951, Dunnock went on to star in the film version directed by Laszlo Benedek, with Fredrick March stepping into the role of Willy Loman.

Mildred Dunnock from the film ‘Death Of A Salesman’, 1951. (Photo by Columbia Pictures/Getty Images)

New York Times’ snarky film critic Bosley Crowther wrote of Dunnock’s performance that she was, “simply superb, as she was on the stage … For her portrayal of a woman who bears the agony of seeing her sons and husband turn out failure, supports the one pretension of this drama to genuine tragedy.”

Mildred Dunnock was nominated for her first Academy Award in 1951 for Death of a Salesman, but lost to Kim Hunter for Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire. Though Dunnock did not win the Oscar her performance in Salesman began a fruitful decade in both film and theater.

After her 1956 performance in The Wings of a Dove (the stage adaptation of Henry James’ novel Child of Fortune), Dunnock disappeared from Broadway for almost four years.

In 1957 Dunnock appeared in the dramatic television series Climax! episode ‘Don’t Touch Me’ co-starring Shelley Winters, three episodes of Kraft Theatre 1950-1957 and four episodes of Studio One 1951-1957. One of my favorite television appearances was as Mother Alcott, the spectacle-wearing kleptomaniac whose son and daughter-in-law are planning to kill her off for her money in Boris Karloff’s anthology series-Thriller in the episode The Cheaters 1960. She appeared in Roald Dahl’s warped television series Way Out episode – William and Mary 1961. Below is Dunnock blowing smoke into the tank holding the brain of her cantankerous husband, Henry Jones.

Mildred Dunnock in the episode ‘William & Mary’ from the television show ‘Way Out’, March 27, 1967. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
L.A. – APRIL 4: Mildred Dunnock as Aunt Ida and Shelley Winters as Carol in the CLIMAX! episode, “Don’t Touch Me.” Image dated April 4, 1957. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

It was during these years she delivered some of her best and most beloved screen roles in films like Baby Doll 1956, Peyton Place 1957, The Nun’s Story 1959, Butterifeld 8 1960 and in Jack Garfein’s Something Wild 1961. Dunnock co-stars as Carroll Baker’s judgmental mother, who goes through an emotional journey to reconnect with her traumatized daughter.

Peyton Place earned Dunnock a Golden Globe nomination, for her sensitive portrayal of the devoted school teacher, Miss Elsie Thornton who is undeservedly passed over as principal. Miss Elsie shares strong felt wisdom,“Allison a person doesn’t always get what she deserves. Remember it.”“Allison, if there is anything in life you want, go and get it. Don’t wait for anyone to give it to you.”

In The Nuns Story (Audrey Hepburn is a strong-willed nurse who struggles with her place in the church and whether taking her vows was the best direction for her humanitarian work ) Dunnock plays Sister Margarita “Mistress of Postulates” or The Living Rule, (which means a ideal example to the novices and other nuns), where she gives a quiet yet powerful performance as the very serious acolyte to the church. Other sisters include our featured actress Patricia Collinge, the great Peggy Ashcroft and Dame Edith Evans.

Mildred Dunnock had a creative presence on television in the 1950s and though her film appearances were relatively sparse, they were no doubt memorable. Her keen acting style earned her two Oscar nominations, not just for Death of a Salesman but for Elia Kazan’s Baby Doll 1956. Kazan’s 1956 version of his play was the one dramatization, Tennessee Williams adapted for the screen himself. In 1957, while Dunnock was nominated for an Oscar a second time, It went to Dorothy Malone for Written on the Wind.

Baby Doll, is the uncomfortably, subtly amusing, sensually charged, deviant story set in the South about an abusive blustering slob Karl Malden, anxious with explosive sexual frustration, awaiting his virginal bride (Carroll Baker) to reach the age he can consummate his marriage. (Baker should have won an Oscar for her arresting performance in Something Wild).

Dunnock’s part as Aunt Rose Comfort, a jacobson hat wearing, ditzy spinster who shuffles around the house like a lost mouse, suffering from far-reaching timidity is a spark of vulnerability. Malden spends the entire film using Rose as a verbal punching bag bullying her, threatening to throw her in a home. She may have occupied a tangential piece of the story, nevertheless, her contribution is distinctive.

Tennessee Williams considered Big Mamma to be one of Dunnock’s most poignant performances in his play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof 1955-56, which won the Pulitzer Prize. When the story was adapted to the screen, she lost the role to Judith Anderson. While I think Anderson is a force to be reckoned with, I believe she wasn’t the right choice to play Big Momma, the Southern vacuous wife of Big Daddy Pollitt. Dunnock should have been the natural choice. Margaret “Maggie” Pollitt – He says bull when he’s disgusted. Ida “Big Momma” Pollitt – Yes, that’s right. I say bull too, like Big Daddy.

1959 Press Photo Mildred Dunnock in The Confessions of Saint Augustine

Dunnock took on a rare loathsome role as Gig Young’s emasculating mother. In the classic courtroom drama, The Story on Page One 1960 written and directed by Clifford Odets. This puts Dunnock in our view as an oppressive presence and a middle class dragon in aloof clothing. Mrs. Ellis is a departure from her usual roles and gave her a
shot at playing a “monstrous mom”, a devouring mother.

Gig Young’s defense attorney (Anthony Franciosa), sums up Mrs. Ellis as an- ‘unmitigated monster” a film critic referred to her as- “a cruel and voracious she-wolf in deceptively virtuous sheep’s clothing.”

He is on trial with his lover Rita Hayworth (who gives a fantastic performance) both accused of murdering her drunk and abusive husband played by Alfred Ryder, when Young shoots him in self defense. Dunnock turns in a chilling performance with her taut strokes of hypocritical correctness, sanctimonious rhetoric and unfailing selfishness that is an unnerving example of suffocating motherhood, as we watch her compressing the life out of her son.

Dressed in decorous tailored suits, hat and gloves, Mrs Ellis spouts banalities, “it’s one of the great lessons of life: There’s no substitute for breeding.”

Dunnocks’ role in BUtterfield 8 1960 is closer to her typified mothers as she weighs in on her daughter’s (Elizabeth Taylor) life as a high paid escort. Taylor won Best Actress for her performance.

Other films Dunnock  made in the 1960s include Sweet Bird of Youth 1962, the adaptation of Tennessee William’s play from 1959. The film stars Geraldine Page as the aging screen diva Alexandra del Lago. Dunnock worked with Page once again in the psychological thriller (underscored by Gerald Fried’s menacing soundtrack) What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? 1969. In Sweet Bird of Youth, Dunnock plays Aunt Nonnie the sister-in-law to Boss Finley (Ed Begley) and aunt to Heavenly Finley (Shirley Knight). Dunnock brought to the film her signature “quiet authority and timorous tenderness.” (Axel Nissen)

Directed by John Ford, 7 Women (1966) features a dynamic cast, Anne Bancroft, Margaret Leighton, and Betty Field. Mildred Dunnock, along with Flora Robson, play older missionaries who are seized by ruthless Mongolian bandits. The standout performance in the film is Anne Bancroft as a wildly ‘progressive’ doctor.

CIRCA 1966: Actress Anne Bancroft and Mildred Dunnock on set of the movie “7 Women”, circa 196. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Dunnock and Lee J Cobb revised their exceptional roles in a television version of Death of a Salesman, for which she was nominated for an Emmy.

LOS ANGELES – MAY 8: DEATH OF A SALESMAN The television adaptation of the 1949 play by Arthur Miller. Mildred Dunnock as Linda Loman, Lee J Cobb as Willy Loman. Air date, May 8, 1966. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
1949: Lee J Cobb and Mildred Dunnock in a US production of Arthur Miller’s ‘Death Of A Salesman’. (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)

After What Alice Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? in 1969, she appeared in television series and made for tv movies, like Murder or Mercy 1974 with Melvyn Douglas and The Patricia Neal Story in 1981. The Pick Up Artist 1987 was her last appearance on the big screen.

Unspecified – 1974: (L-R) Mildred Dunnock, Melvyn Douglas appearing in the ABC tv movie ‘Murder or Mercy’. (Photo by Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

She also appeared as Mrs. Rule in the television series, Circle of Fear 1972 once again co-starring with Melvyn Douglas in the episode ‘House of Evil’. Her final show on Broadway, was in Marguerite Duras’ play, Days in the Trees in 1976.

Mildred Dunnock remained active in theater through the 1980s, participating in numerous stage productions at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven where she starred in Long Day’s Journey Into Night. She also played Amanda Wingfield as part of her collaboration with Tennessee Williams from his story The Glass Menagerie. Dunnock went on to teach at Yale Drama School. She passed away on July 5, 1991 at the age of 90.

FEATURED CLIPS:

Miss Ronberry The Corn is Green 1945

Miss Rizzo Kiss of Death 1947

Mrs Linda Loman Death of a Salesman 1951

Celanese Theatre ‘On Borrowed Time’ 1952

Mrs Wiggs The Trouble With Harry 1955

Aunt Rose Comfort Baby Doll 1956

Miss Elsie Thornton Peyton Place 1957

Mrs. Ellis The Story on Page On 1959 

Way Out 1961 ‘William and Mary’

Minnie Briggs Alfred Hitchcock Hour ‘Beyond the Sea of Death’ 1964

Miriam Olcott Thriller The Cheaters 1960

Mrs Wandrous BUtterfield 8 1960

Mrs Gates Something Wild 1961

Aunt Nonnie Sweet Bird of Youth 1962

Miss Tinsley What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice 1969

Photograph by Diane Arbus: 1961

PATRICIA COLLINGE

Over the years, in my journey through classic film and television, I discovered character actress Patricia Collinge, an endearingly beautiful woman, winsome, kind eyes that glimmer when she speaks. Through her broad sweet-tempered smile, emerges her voice, with a quality that strikes me as distinct, giving the impression of spaces between her words. Like the spaces of amber honeycomb, that are drizzled with her authentically regal and splendid kindness. You will recognize her most often playing sympathetic widows, whimsical mothers, aunts or vulnerable older women. Collinge was primarily a celebrated stage actress from 1908-1952. I can only imagine what her stage presence would be like, knowing the depth of her acting integrity.

Born in London, Collinge emigrated to America in 1907 and began her acting career on Broadway in 1908 with her first New York stage appearance when she was 16 years old, as a flower girl in The Queen of the Moulin Rouge at the Circle Theatre on Broadway. Look at those beautifully expressive eyes.

She became an acclaimed actress of the theatre in many classic stage productions, penned by such playwrights as George Bernard Shaw, Henrik Ibsen and J.M. Barrie. Some notable stage appearances — She was the first actress to play the lead role of Pollyanna, which was popularized by Hayley Mills in the 1960 ‘filmitization’ which was also rendered by Mary Pickford in 1920. Collinge received rave reviews for the four act stage adaptation of Catherine Chisholm Cushing’s novel which opened in 1916 at the Hudson Theater on Broadway and ran for 112 shows. She appeared in Hedda Gabler 1926, The Importance of Being Earnest 1926, Venus 1927, She Stoops to Conquer 1928, Becky Sharp 1929, The Lady with the Lamp 1931, The Little Foxes 1939, as Abby Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace 1941, The Heiress 1947 and her last appearance on stage was 1952 in I’ve Got Sixpence.

Patricia Collinge in the theatrical production of Tillie 1916.

From 1947-48 she starred as Lavinia Penniman in The Heiress at the Biltmore Theatre where she gave 410 performances.

Collinge originated the role of Birdie Hubbard in Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes on Broadway in 1939, probably her most notable performance as well as her film debut is that of the forlorn and fragile, beguiling and heartbreaking interpretation of Aunt Birdie Hubbard in the screen version of Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes 1941, which was a recreation of her role in the original Broadway production in 1939, which she co-starred with Tallulah Bankhead. While Bankhead was considered to reprise her role as Regina Giddens in the film adaptation, Bette Davis was cast instead. Collinge’s psychologically tortured, neglected and alcoholic Aunt Birdie is perhaps the most startling performance of the picture.

Collinge’s touching performance won her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, and in my opinion should have delivered her the honor. She lost to Mary Astor for The Big Lie.

Another memorable role is Collinge’s Emmie Newton in Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological thriller, Shadow of a Doubt 1943 where she plays Teresa’s Wright’s humble, proud and chatty housewife who dotes over her baby brother Charlie, The Merry Widow Killer. Collinge also rewrote the scene with Macdonald Carey confessing his love for her in the garage. The cast were reportedly dissatisfied with the dialogue and she was asked to rewrite the script, which pleased Hitchcock.

Aside from being an actress, Collinge was a playwright, author, and columnist. In 1938, her comedy, “Dame Nature”, an adaptation of a French drama by André Birabeau was published. Several of Collinge’s short stories were published in the New Yorker and she was also a contributor to the New York Times Book Review. Collinge is also uncredited for writing some of the other dialogue for Shadow of a Doubt, and having been one of several writers on Hitchcock’s Lifeboat 1944 in which she did not appear as an actress.

Collinge and Wright would appear together in two other features, The Little Foxes 1941 and as Mrs. Drury once again playing Wright’s mother in Casanova Brown 1944. The film is a seldom-credited romantic comedy about Gary Cooper and Wright who get divorced only to discover that she has given birth to their child. Collinge is a quirky eccentric who judges her daughter’s marriage by interpreting the astrological signs to decide whether Cooper is the right man for her daughter.

She later appeared in Hitchcock’s anthology mystery series, in 1955-1961. Starring in four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and in 1962 two episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Collinge’s participation in Hitchcock’s outstanding mystery series are startling examples of her acting, and should be considered some of her best work. See film clips below:

Aside from The Little Foxes and Shadow of a Doubt, major motion pictures and television credits include Tender Comrade 1943 co-starring Ginger Rogers, Ruth Hussey, and Kim Hunter as women who have moved in together while their husbands are fighting in WWII.

In Teresa 1951, after a six-year absence from film, Fred Zinnemann cast Collinge as Clara Cast, GI John Ericson’s controlling, possessive mother who refuses to let go of her son when he brings home an Italian bride (Pier Angeli) after the war. Her performance is quite a shift from her familiarly likable characters. She appeared briefly as Sister William in The Nun’s Story 1959, Collinge also gave dramatic performances in such television series The Web 1953 “Midnight Guest” Celanese Theatre 1952 “Mornings at Seven”, Goodyear Playhouse “The Rumor” 1953, Omnibus “Lord Byron’s Love Letter”, and Studio Ones “Crime at Blossom’s”, The River Garden” and “The Hero”. She also appeared in Armstrong Circile Theater 1955-56 and East Side/West Side 1963 “Creeps Live Here”, and United Steel Hour 1962 “Scene of the Crime”.

Patricia Collinge passed away in New York City at the age of 81 on April 10, 1974.

Patricia Collinge co-stars with Ginger Rogers, Kim Hunter, and Ruth Hussey in Tender Comrade 1943

9 FEATURED CLIPS:

*As Birdie Hubbard in The Little Foxes 1941

*The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in Bonfire as Naomi Freshwater with psychopathic Peter Falk

*Emmie in Shadow of a Doubt 1943

*East Side /West Side 1963 ‘Creeps Live Here’ as Miss Harriet Allen

*Alfred Hitchcock Presents 3 episodes

Across the Threshold S5 Ep 22 1960, The Rose Garden Season 2 1956, and The Cheney Vase 1955

*Casanova Brown as Mrs Drury 1944

*As Clara Cass in Teresa 1951

This is your EverLovin’ Joey showing a little appreciation to two actresses of a certain character!

31 Flavors of Noir on the Fringe to Lure You In! Part 1

“A man could spend the rest of his life trying to remember what he shouldn’t have said.”- Force of Evil

“All that Cain did to Abel was murder him.” –Force of Evil

“He pushed me too far!… So I pushed him just far enough.” –The Lineup

“You’re like a rat in a box without any holes” – I Wake Up Screaming

“From now on, no one cuts me so deep that I can’t close the wound.” – I Wake Up Screaming

“I’m gonna give you a break. I’m gonna fix it so you don’t hear the bullets!”- The Big Combo

“I was born on a Monday, I might as well go out on a Monday. Like dirty laundry.”- Man in the Dark 

Heads up… this feature includes spoilers…💣

1-I Wake Up Screaming 1941

I Wake Up Screaming is the first official noir produced by Fox, directed by H. Bruce Humberstone (he worked on Charlie Chan programmers and B-movies) who was not considered a noir director. With a screenplay by Dwight Taylor based on the novel by Steve Fisher. Eddie Muller said it personified film noir, and calls the 1941 film – Proto-noir, as it was the first of it’s kind.

Darryl F. Zanuck wanted the film’s location changed to New York City, so it wouldn’t reflect badly on L.A. There are a number of sleazy characters involved and he wanted to shift the story from Hollywood to Broadway.

The film was remade as Vicki in 1953 (with Jeanne Crane and Jean Peters, though it lacked the highly stylized artistry) Photographed by Edward Cronjager (Seven Keys to Baldpate 1929, Hell’s Highway 1932, The Monkey’s Paw 1933, Island in the Sky 1938, The Gorilla 1939, Heaven Can Wait 1943, Desert Fury 1947, Relentless 1948, House by the River 1950, The Girl in Lovers Lane 1960) pours out murky noir shadows, darkened streets, unusual camera angles, low key lighting and the high contrast, onepoint lighting that illuminates the ink black threatening spaces. The film is stark yet dynamic.

With music by Cyril J. Mockridge, you’ll hear the familiar often used noir leitmotif, the melody Street Scene by Alfred Newman. I Wake Up Screaming stars Betty Grable as Jill Lynn, Victor Mature as Frankie Christopher, Carole Landis as Vicki Lynn, Laird Cregar as Ed Cornell. The film also co-stars Alan Mowbray as Robin Ray and Allyn Joslyn as Larry Evans. Quirky character actor Elisha Cook Jr. plays Harry Williams the desk clerk in Vicki’s apartment building who’s a real weirdo. William Gargan plays Detective Jerry ‘Mac’ MacDonald.

Cook is great at playing quirky oddballs (Cliff the crazed drummer in Phantom Lady 1944, George Peatty in The Killing 1956, anxious trench coat wearing Wilmer in The Maltese Falcon 1941, Watson Pritchard in House on Haunted Hill 1959).

I Wake up Screaming bares a resemblance to a whodunit, as the killer is chased down with the story playing a bit of a shell game with us. There are common noir themes of obsession, perverse lust, corruption and homicidal jealousy. The film is also has a preoccupation with images and artifice, tossing up flashbacks like a circus juggler.

Right before model Vicki Lynn heads to Hollywood to reach for her rising star, she is brutally murdered. Delicious Betty Grable in her first non-music role, plays Jill Lynn, Vicki’s sister, who is drawn to the man (Victor Mature) who is presumably her sister’s murderer.

Vicki functions as an essential part of the narrative early on in the film and is resurrected by way of flashbacks. Frankie knows that while there are images that still exist of Vicki she is no longer present. In fact Vicki is a myth and a manufactured deception in some ways. Jill on the other hand is genuine, unpretentious and warmhearted.

Carol Landis who died at 28 from an overdose, plays murder victim Vicki Lynn. I Wake up Screaming back flips into the weeks leading up to her death. The film is also somewhat of a noir variation on Pygmalion, as Victor Mature who plays Frankie Christopher, sports and show business promoter, discovers a beautiful girl waiting tables and gets the hot idea of turning Vicki into a celebrity and society girl. Vicki’s appeal, is the sphere of influence that drives the plot. Mature always makes the screen sweat with his sexy brawny build, swarthy good looks, strong jaw line and the aura of his glistening obsidian hair.

The film opens with a sensational news headline ‘MODEL MURDERED’ right from the top Frankie is being grilled by the cops in the interrogation room. Burning white hot lights are up close in his face. He says to the shadow of Cornell (Cregar) who’s a bulky shadow shot with single source lighting) to his opaque figure, “You’re a pretty tough guy with a crowd around.”

The flashbacks begin. Frankie goes back to the first time he meets Vicki at the lunch room on 8th Avenue while eating with Larry Evans (Alan Joslyn) and Robin Ray (Alan Mowbray). Vicki asks “Is that all?” Lary Evans says “No, but the rest of it isn’t on the menu.” She handles his come on, “You couldn’t afford it if it was.” Frankie pours on the charm. He gets the notion to take Vicki and mold her into a celebrity. “You know I bet in 6 months I could take that girl and put her on top of the ladder.” Mature and Landis worked together in One Million Years B.C.

Has-been actor Robin Ray (Mowbray) and ruthless gossip columnist Larry Evans (Joslyn) decide to get involved in developing Vicki Lynn’s mystique and cultivate her glamour on the road to fame. Of course both men wind up having a yen for her. A cynical Ray (Mowbray) complains that all women are alike. Evans (Joslyn) tells him,“For Pete’s sake, what difference does that make? You’ve got to have them. They’re standard equipment.”

Frankie takes Vicki Lynn out into New York cafe society – All three schemers, the columnist, the washed up actor and Frankie, bring her to the cafe and make a big noise, grabbing the attention of Lady Handel (May Beatty) who invites them over to her table. In order give the impression that Vicki will now be a new sensation, Larry Evans brags in front of the table, that he’ll plug her In his column. They also think that it’ll help Vicki to get noticed if she’s seen on Robin Ray’s arm. The outing is a success. When they bring her home to her apartment building they meet the squirrly desk clerk Harry Williams (Elisha Cook), who takes his sweet time, getting up for Vicki. Frankie gives him a hard time after being so disrespectful. Williams sneers, “She ain’t nobody.”

Back to the present and Frankie’s still in the sweat box. They’re questioning Jill too. She’s telling the cops about Vicki’s plans. She’s got, “Grand ideas about becoming a celebrity.” They ask about Frankie’s involvement. Another flashback – the sisters are talking about Vicki’s new venture. Vicki tells Jill, “They’re gonna glamorize me.” Jill tells Vicki that she doesn’t trust Frankie’s promises, and apologizes for sounding stuffy. She warns Vicki about having unrealistic aspirations. Flashback even further. Frankie shows up at the cafeteria. Vicki keeps dishing out the wise cracks. He shows her the newspaper article about her making a splash at the El Chico Club.

“Why all the cracks you don’t even know me?” “I don’t know anything about art, but I know what I like.” Back at the present day, at the police station. Jill continues to tell the cops how successful Vicki’s climb was. Backwards once again-

Jill Lynn I don’t want to tell you your business, but don’t you think you’re making a fool of yourself?
Vicki Lynn What do you mean?
Jill Oh, this Frankie Christopher. People like that, what have they got to do with people like us?
Vicki Jill, they’re going to help me!
Jill In what way?
Vicki They’re gonna’ glamorize me. They may have started this thing as a gag, but, after taking one look at those million-dollar debutantes tonight, I realized I can give them cards in spades and still come out on top.
Jill Vicky, you’ll never come out on top by any shortcuts. One week your picture’s on the cover of a magazine, the next it’s in the ash can.

Frankie arrives at the girls apartment, and Vicki breaks the news to Frankie that she’s going away to Hollywood. She’d done a screen test and signed a long term contract. He’s angry. She went behind Frankie’s back after everything he did for her. She defends herself “Some people think I’m a pretty attractive girl. I’m no Frankenstein you know!” Frankie comments, “I wonder.”

Jill tells the cops she was pounding a typewriter breaking her finger nails, and Vicki did get the Hollywood contract, so she might have been right about taking the risk with an acting career and becoming a star.

Another flashback The three men are sitting around the bar..

Robin Ray [indignant] Can you imagine her walking out on me, after all that I’ve done for her? Me!

Larry Evans [slightly incredulous] “You’ve” done for her? What have *you* done for her?

Robin Well, I took her out to all the bright spots, I let her be seen with me everywhere… It made her feel important.

Larry Why, you parboiled old ham! You don’t think anybody thought there was anything between *you* two, do you? If it hadn’t been for my plugging in the column, people would’ve thought she was your trained nurse.

Robin Why, you ink-stinking word slinger! I was famous when they were changing your pants 20 times a day!

Jumping to the present again, Jill is still being questioned by the cops. They want to know if Vicki had anyone in her life. Jill remembers a peculiar thing that happened. She tells them she was sitting at the table in the cafeteria waiting for Vicki to get off work. The peeping prowling, Ed Cornell’s giant shape stares at Vicki through the window. He has a queer look on his face. Jill maintains her stare, holding her coffee cup, she is unable to put it down as she studies him, uncomfortably. Once he notices Jill catching him ogling Vicki, he skulks away. Mockeridge’s score undergoes a sinister change, emphasis on the rhythmic accents of a classic horror picture.

Jill tells her sister, “You seem to have an admirer there’s some guy looking through the window like the wolf looking for the 3 little pigs.” The girls are walking on the street, Cornell is leaning against a wall, Jill points out to Vicki that he’s the one. “He gives me the creeps” Vicki says, “You’ll have to get used to that, they’ve got more wolves in New York than they have in Siberia” She tells the cops she saw him several times after in odd places. He never said anything but watched Vicki, it frightened Jill. There was something strange about him, the way he looked at Vicki. Always turning up in strange places. The cops look skeptical about her “mysterious stranger.”

The cops think Jill is trying to protect Frankie “I just don’t believe he did it, that’s all” They ask if she’s involved with him, and accuse her of being in love with him and wanting Vicki out of the way. Jill demands to see someone in authority, so they tell Mac to get Cornell. Who walks in? The creep who watched Vicki through the plate glass!

Enter rabid, self-righteous homicide Detective Ed Cornell (Cregar). Once he sets his sights on Frankie he begins to mercilessly hound him to the ends of hell if necessary, going after him with a flaming vengeance, trying to pin the murder on him. Cornell knows that Frankie is innocent but he is determined to persecute him. Cregar made an all too short career out playing imposing characters. He died at 28 in 1944 due to complications from a crash diet, always struggling with his weight, striving to obtain leading man status.

Jill is startled, the room is smoky and this massive shape looms over her with his girth “That’s him, that’s the man!” They think she’s crazy. First it’s a mysterious stranger peeking through windows and now it’s Ed Cornell. “Thats my job to look at people.” Leaving the dark corner of the sweat box into the smoke factory with Frankie, things become more visible as Cornell emerges as a menacing force. She insists, “I did see you.” “Alright Alright I’m a peeping tom.”

Jill Relates what happened on the car ride with Frankie, the night he learned Vicki was leaving, and she tells him he’ll be glad to get rid of her, because Jill is in love with him. That Jill is just covering up her feelings. Frankie says Jill being in love with him, never entered his mind. Vicki is sure, “I know it’s much deeper than that. That’s why its so dangerous. Anything might happen.”

Cornell writes down everything in his pad. Jill says that Vicki didn’t mean the line about being glad to get rid of her, but he corrects her, “What she meant doesn’t count. It’s what she said.”

The night Jill found Vicki, as soon as she came out of the elevator she got a feeling something was wrong. There was  music blasting from the radio. Frankie was there already – ”Jill you don’t think I did it, do you?” Jill is in shock.

Cornell goes back into the interrogation room with Frankie and tells him he knows about Vicki’s ‘get rid of me’ statement. The obessed Cornell comes up with a scenario. Frankie’s mind got more and more inflamed with jealousy and hurt pride. Went up there and killed her in cold blood. Cornell loses his cool and lunges at Frankie, ”I’ve got a mind to kill you right now.”When Cornell gets rough, the other cops have to break it up. They all like Frankie and ask if he’s got any tickets to the fights. They ask Cornell “What’s the idea of riding him, so hard?” “I have years of experience in this racket. If that isn’t the look of a guilty man, I’ll take the rap myself.” The District Attorney winds up getting his back up with Cornell when he focuses so much on Frankie’s guilt.

The District Attorney (Morris Ankrum) apologizes to Frankie. Jill is in the office too, and tells him they think they know the identity of the killer. It’s the switchboard operator at the sisters’ apartment building. They think it’s Harry Williams. Jill leaves the police station and Frankie asks why they think it’s Williams. The D.A. tells him, William’s been missing since 5pm last night, probably hiding out scared and shaky.

Frankie is released and later that night, Mature wakes up to find the huge, menacing Cregar sitting beside his bed, “Well that’s the first time, I had a bad dream with my eyes open.” “Someday you’re going to talk in your sleep, and when that days comes I want to be around.” The scene hints at Cornell’s repressed homosexual passion.

Cornell tells him he’ll get all the evidence he needs and tie him up like a pig in a slaughter house. Frankie unrattled, tells him, ”You’re the bright boy” and reminds him that they think Williams murdered Vicki. Victor Mature is so smooth, so mellow when he’s playing at being sarcastic, He says, “You’re like something out of a museum you ought to have a magnifying glass and one of those trick hats with the ear flaps” Frankie throws Cornell out after he calls him cocky, and has had it his way too long. First with Vicki, then Jill. Cornell’s resentment is showing.

Jill finds Harry Williams who’s returned to the apartment building. She’s moving out, but he has already packed up her bags and taken them down to the lobby. Williams is a suspiciously hollow little insect who Jill finds strange. Frankie meets up with Robin at the police station. The cops show a reel of Vicki singing at a night club. Cornell watches her longingly which gives Frankie a window into Cornell’s longing for the dead girl. Cornell looks at Frankie with contempt.

The film of Vicki appears in the dark room filled with cigar smoke that makes wispy clouds float, and the rays of light from the projection booth. The light cast on Frankie’s eyes are like an illuminated mask, it accentuates his epiphany — that Cornell is obsessed with Vicki. He catches something in his stare. The light on Cornell’s face as HE stares back at Frankie, unmasks only half of his face, revealing the duplicity Cornell projects throughout the picture. It’s a brilliantly framed shot by Cronjager.

The film reel resurrects Vicki from the dead, like a ghost haunting the room. Robin Ray squirms in his chair and runs to get out. The door is locked. His behavior hints at his guilt. They put the lights on and bring him into the D.A.’s office. Ray tells them how he felt about her. She laughed at him. Called him “a has-been and didn’t want to hitch her wagon to a falling star.” He’s the one that arranged the screen test but she went down there alone. He is obsolete, they decided they didn’t need him. While he talks about her, Cornell looks out the window. Daylight casts patterns from the venetian blinds that cut across his face. Odd angle profiles tilt the two-shot of Cornell and Mac off kilter. Ray has an alibi. He was at a sanitarium. Cornell checked it out already and is gleeful that it rules out yet another suspect. He wants Frankie to fry for it. Cornell would have Frankie in the death house by now. “That won’t prevent you from going to the hot chair.” 

As Frankie is leaving the police station Cornell asks him for a lift uptown “Sure, always happy to oblige a goon”

Ed Cornell [bumming a ride in Frankie’s car] “I’m sorry to have to ask you to do this, but I’m a little short on cash lately. You see, I’ve spent so much of my own dough, trying to build up this case against you.”

Frankie Christopher (Victor Mature) Well, if there’s anything you need, just let me know.”

Ed Cornell Oh, I imagine they’ll make it right with me when I bring in the material for your trial. They usually do in these cases. I nick a guy on my own time and send him up to the chair, then I get back pay.”

Frankie Christopher “Must be a great life – like a garbage man, only with people!”

Ed Cornell “I got practically all the evidence I need now. I could arrest you today for that matter, but you might get some smart mouthpiece and get off with life instead of the chair. I won’t be satisfied until I’m *sure* it’s the chair.”

Frankie Christopher “You’re a gay dog, Cornell. You make me feel as if I’m driving a hearse!”

Ed Cornell Oh, I know your type. I’ve seen hundreds of them. I don’t scare you enough to make you commit suicide, but I worry you just the same. And when the day comes they all act different. Some scream, a few faint, some light a cigarette and try a wisecrack. But it sticks in their throats – especially when they’re hung.”

Cornell shows up at Jill’s new apartment to intimidate her. Jill “What’s the good of living without hope?” Ed Cornell signals his own personal torture- “It can be done.” He advises her to just play along, insisting that she’s not even sure Frankie’s innocent. Once he’s left, Jill pulls out a note from behind a framed painting on the wall. It’s from Frankie to Vicki, “After what you did last night, the sooner you’re out of the way the better it will be.”

Frankie takes Jill to the fights and then out on the town. She asks if he ever brought Vicki to the fights, and tells him it’s the first New York night club she’s ever been to. The El Chico club, he first took Vicki to. She sees how nice he is without all the flashy bluster and pretense. He’s actually very real. Cornell follows them. Frankie asks her why she suddenly called him, “The trouble with you is that you pretend you don’t care about things but you do. You were very upset about Vicki’s death weren’t You? He tells her he’d like to find the guy, “Save the State on it’s electric bill. She was a good kid” Jill doesn’t want him to be guilty. “Did you love her? “No, do you think if I’d loved her I would have tried to exploit her the way I did?… Vicki was pretty, gay and amusing She had lots to offer and I wanted to put her in the right place on the map. After all that’s my business But when a man really loves a woman, he doesn’t want to plaster her face all over papers and magazines. He wants to keep her to himself.”

Looking into her eyes, he tells her he’s in love with her. Larry Evans sees them together and calls in the story “Stepping out… Dancing on the grave.”

Frankie takes Jill to his favorite swimming spot. It’s a lovely scene, that brings some lightness to the external space in the story. She shows him the note he wrote to Vickie and he asks why she didn’t turn it into the police. Jill tells him she knew he was innocent and what the note meant, at the moment they were dancing at the nightclub. When they are back at the apartment, Cornell walks in and takes the note. They cuff Frankie. Cornell who is obviously framing him is just waiting for the chance to catch him. Frankie tells him anyone could have written a note like that. He was burned up when Vicki dropped the bomb that she was leaving. He finds out that Cornell has planted a set of brass knuckles in his apartment. Vicki was hit hard behind the ear with a heavy object. The depraved Cornell punches Frankie in the guts. “You’re like a rat in a hole.”

As Cornell is about to take him downtown, Frankie on the ground after Cornell’s hostile assault, Jill hits Cornell from behind, and helps Frankie escape. Big fat head bullying him, she says.

Frankie proposes, “Mind marrying a hunted man?” She tells him, “Most married men have a hunted look anyway.” He tells her his real name – Botticelli, the son of Italian immigrants. Then he shows her how to hide in the city. They duck into in an adult movie house, watching the same picture over and over. Then they decide to split up for the time being and she goes to the public library. The cops find her, and Frankie sees them taking her away. The newspaper headline says “Christopher eludes police dragnet.” Cornell stalks the streets. Frankie sneaks up on him. “Let Jill go”, and he’ll turn himself in. Ed Cornell (Laird Cregar) “I’ll follow you into your grave. I’ll write my name on your tombstone.” “You’re not a cop you’re crazy trying to frame an innocent man.” Frankie throws a tootsie roll at him and takes off. Cornell assures him, he’ll eventually get him. Always smirking like the devil.

Cornell tells the D.A. a parable about the African Butterfly and how to trap the male is to let the female free. He wants him to let Jill out of her box to lure Frankie. She goes home, sneaks out through the window, and surprises Frankie at the adult movie house. At the apartment she has found little cards from flowers that were sent to Vicki, and at the funeral. She shows them to Frankie. The message on the cards say, “Because I promised.”

They go to Rosedale Cemetery and when he meets the caretaker, Frankie pretends to be reporter and ask if anybody lately has been around Vicki’s grave. There were many flowers at the funeral, and the caretaker tells him that the grave’s been getting flowers each day since she died. Frankie learns where they were sent from, and goes to Keating Florist. It turns out the Larry sent them. Frankie confronts Larry who admits he was with Vicki the day she died. He had promised to send her flowers every day when she left for Hollywood, and he wanted to keep his word. Larry winds up giving Frankie a clue about the killer, and he goes to the old apartment and gets Mac to give him a half hour. He has a strong hunch.

The next scene is ripe with atmosphere when Frankie leans against the wall in Vicki’s old apartment. The lattice shadows fence Frankie in. Harry Williams is sleeping at the front desk. Vicki rings the desk and speaks in Vicki’s voice “Hello Harry, this is Vicki” He’s visibly shaken. Frankie watches his reaction. His eyes open wider as the buzzing mocks him, “Harry this is Vicki. Why did you do it Harry? Didn’t you love me?” Frankie confronts Williams. “You let yourself in with your pass key and waited for her. You loved her. She panicked and screamed.” William’s admits,  “I told the cop that when he chased me to Brooklyn. Cornell knew all along it was Williams. The dirty Cornell told him to just come back and keep his mouth shut. Mac hears the confession. Frankie tells him, he wants 5 minutes alone with Cornell.

He goes to his apartment finds a perverse and macabre shrine to Vicki. Her image is like a talisman in his sufficating little apartment. He discovers the prominent photograph of Vicki in an elaborate frame. Cornell unaware that Frankie is there, comes in and places fresh flowers underneath the photograph, as an offering. Frankie watches then emerges, “You knew. Why’d you want to fry me?”He tells Frankie, “I lost Vicki long before Williams killed her. You were the one who took her away from me” Cornell wanted to marry her. Had this furnished apartment set up. Bought her perfume. “Til he came along and put ideas in her head. She thought she was too good for me. He could had killed him then.” Frankie puts it to him, “Why didn’t ya?” “Cause I had the hook in your mouth and I wanted to see you suffer.”

Cornell resented Frankie’s closeness to Vicki, and inhabits a world that excludes him. In contrast to the suave Frankie Christopher, he is a lumbering and awkward outsider. To Cornell, Vicki will always be as unattainable as the first time he gazed upon her through the window. He was struck by her beauty, but she was completely and forever out of his reach. Cornell is like a lurking monster straight out of a classic horror movie. His uneasy presence lends to a surreal and menacing mood.

A Trailer a day keeps the Boogeyman away! I Wake Up Screaming (1941)

Continue reading “31 Flavors of Noir on the Fringe to Lure You In! Part 1”

Groovy Opening Credits for Halloween – Blacula 1972 & The Dunwich Horror 1971

A cross between Saul Bass and Lotte Reiniger with two groovy scores by Gene Page and Les Baxter!

This is your EverLovin’ Joey saying don’t binge too much on that discounted Halloween candy and see ya soon with Brides of Horror: Scream Queens of the 1960s

Happy Halloween from The Last Drive In! 🎃

I planned to offer a huge feature here on October 31st – in keeping with my tribute to those Scream Queens of Horror and Sci-Fi, as I have in the past, 1930s, 1940s and 1950s… but I’ve been experiencing technical issues with WordPress which I am trying to iron-maiden out. 

I hope you all have a very satisfying, scary and safe All Hallow’s Eve and take a stake throught the heart, I’ll be publishing BRIDES OF HORROR: SCREAM QUEENS OF THE 1960S this week. Better late than netherworld, as they say! Do they say that? No that’s just me!💀

Heroines & Scream Queens of Classic Horror: the 1940s! A very special Drive In Hall🎃ween treat!

So don’t run away, just yet…

This is Your EverLovin’ Joey sayin’ No tricks, All treats here at The Last Drive In! And say… Maybe when Aunt Ida and Aunt Hattie are done carving up those pumpkins, they’ll bake us some killer pies! 

A Trailer a Day Keeps the Boogeyman Away! Robert Quarry-“I’m hard to scare”

For this upcoming Halloween, I thought I’d pay the Boogeyman off with a few fearful trailers! I put together a little theme here at The Last Drive In – and I thought to myself… how ’bout offering up several off-beat & groovy horror flicks from the 1970s featuring that smooth & sinister villain – cult horror star!-Robert Quarry, the enigmatic dark anti-hero of horror, suave yet not overtly theatrical. He’s got a sublime sex appeal with the underlying trance like magnetism of a viper – mysterious, charistmatic and dangerous. He even attained his villainous status to go head to head with Vincent Price as Darrus Biederbeck, his nemisis in Dr. Phibes Rises Again 1972 and in Sugar Hill 1974 he plays another predatory bastard – Morgan who needs to get his arrogant ass whooped by the entrancing Marki Bey as Diana ‘Sugar’ Hill.

It’s his aesthetic that works so perfectly in the cult horror genre. And I believe that the sophistication and malignant evil of his Count Yorga is perhaps one of THE most exquisitely predatory vampires in the history of terror on screen! Quarry’s vision of his style of vampirism, was to move away from the conception of what we experienced watching Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee’s Dracula. Not to downplay the significance of those two great performances. He wanted to give Yorga ‘a kind of reality and play him straight.’ (Robert Quarry in an interview)

Narrator: (George Macready) A vampire, in ancient belief, was a malignant spirit who when the earth lost its sunlight rose nightly from its dark grave to suck blood from the throats of the living. Its powers were many. It could see in the dark, which was no small ability in a world half-veiled from light. Its hypnotic skills baffled the domain of science. It was of a cunning more than mortal, for its cunning was a growth of ages, since it could not die by the mere passing of time. It had to have been by a wooden stake driven deep into its heart, or exposure to the rays of the sun, which would instantly decompose its body into a miasma of putrid decay. The believers of this superstition referred to vampires as the living dead. I seem to be making use of the past tense. Perhaps the present would be more precise, for it stands to reason that if one is superstitious, even on a small, seemingly insignificant level, one must be vulnerable to all superstitions, conceivably even those of vampires. Superstition? (laughs maniacally)

COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE 1970

Dashing, Dark and Deadly-MISTRESSES of the DEATHMASTER – sharing his hunger for human flesh, his thirst for human blood, his evil lusts that even Hell cannot fulfill!

“… the special appeal of Count Yorga, Vampire may well be its Los Angeles locale… Count Yorga’s ambience is pure Hollywood and the seamy elegance of Robert Quarry’s performance… exactly compliments {sic} that ambience. Bob Kelljan’s direction, often resourceful, does especially well by Quarry’s disdainful civility… “ – Roger Greenspun, New York Times, November 12, 1970.

Count Yorga, Vampire is a moody 70s dive into terror, amidst a sense of mounting dread, squalor, claustrophobic panic and Robert Quarry’s conjuration of arrogance and menace, with an opening seasoned with campy irony and provocative narration by character actor George Macready! At the time of it’s release, because Yorga is a departure from Victorian or 1930’s settings, the film can be considered a move forward, bringing the vampire lore into modern times, that started a new trend. Though not showcasing modernity with the wheels of progress spinning as with films like The Hunger 1983 or The Lost Boys 1987, Count Yorga possesses a somewhat reformist aura and the hints of Gothic fairytale meeting up with a contemporary feel that makes for a very  inventive atmosphere. Though Quarry’s vampire still wears a cape, his Machiavellian hostility oozes from underneath his blood red velvet smoking jacket. It is this remnant of actors sinking their teeth into the role of Dracula or in this case another descendant of European vampiric royalty transported to contemporary California – that gives Quarry’s attempted tribute a bit of a twist, yet deliciously cliché.

I was so lucky to have seen Count Yorga, Vampire during it’s theatrical release in 1970. I hadn’t experienced anything like it before having grown up being transfixed by Bela’s swarthy, sensual, old world vampire, and Christopher Lee’s terror inspiring, blood red eyed Count. With Yorga, he evokes a level of disquiet in me from watching a slew of campy yet shockingly gruesome scenes in the film. There’s a languidness, an eerie dread, a modern Gothic sensibility that washes over films like Yorga, overcast with a hazy lens of 70s colors and an uncanny pacing that is indicative of many of the decade’s horror films. Consider Let’s Scare Jessica to Death 1971 – and any attempt at contemporary homage to that grand decade of experimental horror, will always lack that organic moody vibe that is persistent in 70s classic cult horror. To me it all seems to appear – a forgery.

Directed by Bob Kelljan  Yorga co-stars Roger Perry, Michael Murphy, Michael Mcready (George’s son), Donna Anders as Donna, Judy Lang as Erica, Edward Walsh as the brutish Brudah, Marsha Jordan as Donna’s mother (reigning queen of softcore cinema in the 1960s), Julie Conners, Paul Hansen as Peter and Sybil Scotford as Judy.

The film takes place in contemporary Los Angeles where vintage hipsters assemble a groovy séance in order to contact Donna’s (Donna Anders) mother, who has recently passed away. The medium who has been chosen to lead the ceremony is the enigmatic Count Yorga, who claims to have been her mother’s lover. Oddly, Yorga talked Donna out of cremation. He is in fact a modern day vampire who also has the power of telepathy and hypnosis. After the séance, Erica (Judy Lang) and Paul (Michael Murphy) take Yorga back to his creepy isolated mansion, and must camp out in the surrounding woods when their van gets stuck in a convenient mound of mud. After the couple indulge in some 70s VW van nookie, Yorga lurks, then attacks to the backdrop of cricket’s eerie night song and a lake of murky dark. He beats Paul unconscious and bites Donna, putting her under his control.

The next day, Paul notices the strange puncture wounds on Erica’s neck and takes her to see his friend, a blood specialist, Dr. Hayes (Roger Perry), who discovers that the pale as chalk Erica has been drained of blood and is now suffering from pernicious anemia. After they find Erica drinking the blood from her WARNING: – kitten- Paul is skeptical about the existence of a modern day blood sucker, but Hayes suspects that she is the victim of a vampire attack. That evening, Yorga summons Erica and offers her eternal life, taking her back to his secluded castle where his other brides await. She is transformed into a lustful creature, ghostly, predatory, under Yorga’s masterful spell and hungry for blood.

Paul, Donna, her boyfriend Michael and Dr. Hayes show up at the castle looking for Erica. Her boyfriend Paul who had arrived earlier and has been killed by his servant Brudeh.

There begins a restless game of cat and mouse as Dr. Hayes insinuates himself in Yorga’s castle, and tries to talk Yorga into dawn, working his way up to the question, does he believe in vampires? Vampires are real and more superior than humans, he smugly informs Hayes. Onto Haye’s game, Yorga manages to evade the daylight, so he and Michael plan on coming back the next night kill him. Donna, under Yorga’s hypnotic domination, exercising his influence on others, is summoned to the castle. Hayes and Pete (Paul Hansen) must somehow fight off the grotesque servant, Brudah, Yorga’s thirsty brides (Donna’s mother being one of them), who dwell in the castle like deathly Hammer nymphs, and must somehow save Donna and ultimately destroy Yorga.

Quarry would go on to reprise his role in 1971 with The Return of Count Yorga.

THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA 1971

The overlord of the damned… The last of the vampires walks again among us… and Evil will have its bloodiest hour! 

American International Pictures brought back Yorga using the original crew, a script by Yvonne Wilder, directed by Kelljan and a bigger budget. The film also stars Mariette Hartley as the heroine, Cynthia Nelson, who will become the object of Yorga’s desire. There’s a looming sense of expressionist disharmony. It opens with a sequence in a graveyard, in almost Jean Rollin fashion, where buried vampire brides break through the ground while young Phillip Frame (as creepy Tommy from the neighboring Orphanage), plays with his ball, and winds up coming face to face with Count Yorga. Once again Yorga uses his powers of hypnosis to get his victims to do his bidding, and the film does suggest that Tommy has himself become a fiend.

The undead vamps slaughter a family at a fancy dress party in suburbia. Yorga, wipes the memory of the surviving members who were attacked. Tommy has an evil little ghostly angel face, and he lies about what happened to the family who were murdered, as well as helps Yorga ensnare his victims and he too commits murder, when he stabs Jennifer to death. Jennifer (Yvonne Wilder) is mute and somehow resistant to Yorga’s influence. She’s the only one who knows what happened the night of the attack, but no one believes her.

Once again, Count Yorga waves his powers of hypnosis over Cynthia, who also survives the attack, and eventually pieces from that night start coming back to her. The overlord of the damned decides that he is in love with Cynthia and wants her to share an eternity with him, though he wants her to come willingly. She comes to stay with him at Gateway Mansion, where David (Roger Perry) fights for her eternal soul.

Perry is back once again as a doctor, this time Dr. David Baldwin, her fiancé, and George Macready makes an actual appearance as Professor Rightstat. The Return of Count Yorga also co-stars Michael Pataki and Walter Brooke.

Incidentally, George Macready is the producers father, which explains the actors involvement in both films, though Macready is not a stranger to being cast in eerie narratives. He gave a feverish performance in Boris Karloff’s anthology series, Thriller episode The Weird Tailor, (written by Robert Bloch) where he will stop at nothing, even black magic, to bring his son back to life.

THE DEATHMASTER 1972

Eyes Like Hot Coals…Fangs Like Razors! Khorda the Deathmaster Has Left His Tomb!

Directed by Ray Danton (actor I’ll Cry Tomorrow 1955, The Longest Day 1962-directed the very freaky Psychic Killer 1975) Screenplay by R L Grove, music by Bill Marx who also worked on Scream Blacula Scream 1973. The Deathmaster resurrects Robert Quarry’s synergy of sophistication and menace, this time as Korda, a long haired vampire who washes up on a Southern California beach in his coffin, and is met by a flute playing spaced out hippie, that serenades his arrival, then proceeds to drag his master along the sand on his back. Only after he has strangled a surfer who has made the mistake of looking inside the coffin. The opening feels like an exploration into the bohemian netherworld, somehow inverted into a modern dance of the macabre. Marx’s opening score, using bell trees, clarinets and harpiscord are truly a moody piece of work.

Korda proceeds to play a Guru surrounded by hippies, sans cape this time, instead trading in his smoking jacket for a Nehru or ruffled poet shirt and beads and a talisman around his neck and leather sandals and sardonic goatee. The Deathmaster is a trippy low-budget dive into the craze for spiritual growth and metaphysical discourse, with Korda spouting philosphical meanderings that Quarry in fact improvised. After fusing together a Manson type cult, they all become lambs to the slaughter. Korda radiates his connection to immortality which gives him a godlike aura he uses to mesmerize this 1970s generation that are renegade seekers of truth and transcendence, and free will and free love. The only one who rebels against the master, is Pico who sees him as a false prophet. Pico’s girlfriend, Rona becomes Korda’s object of desire.

Deathmaster also features John Fiedler as poncho wearing Pop, Bill Ewing as Pico and and Brenda Dixon as Rona-who appeared in 165 episodes of the popular soap opera- The Young and The Restless.

FUN FACT:

A production still reveals that the picture was filmed in December 1970 under the shooting title “Guru Vampire.”

The critic Robert Ebert claims that the Santa Monica beach used at the start of the movie is the exact same location used by Corman’s “Attack of the Crab Monsters”.

Quarry wears the same set of prop vampire fangs in this as he did in both Count Yorga movies. They were specially made and fitted by his dentist.

This is your EverLovin’ Joey sayin’ keep your homemade stakes wittled out of broom handles, ready in case Robert Quarry’s lurking round your VW van… don’t you wish you had one! I do…

🚀 Keep Watching the Skies! Science Fiction Cinema of the 1950s: The Year is 1956 — Part Two

CapturFiles_7

TO SEE 1956 PART ONE – HERE!


A MASTERPIECE OF SCIENCE FICTION OPERA, FREUD’S id AND SHAKESPEARE’S THE TEMPEST – IN SPACE.

Forbidden Planet

Earthmen on a fabulous, peril-journey into outer space!

🚀

A month after Invasion of the Body Snatchers was released, 12 years before the studio wowed audiences with it’s mesmerizing, complex production of 2001: A Space Odyssey, MGM released their spectacular, colorful, big budget science fiction space Opera – Forbidden Planet. Replacing the threat of an alien intruder seeking to take over our minds, the enemy WAS our mind and it’s potential to manifest a subconscious monster- a cartoon animated monster from the id. Perhaps a variation of Stevenson’s horror of duality, Jekyll and Hyde set in a futuristic milieu – on another planet.

Recognizing this theme, Walter Pidgeon’s character Morbius emphasizes the duality that exists within his nature. Behind the facade of the rational mind prowls the primitive instincts and desires, now incarnate right from it’s source – Freud’s id. Morbius is in denial that he has in fact manifested the monster himself. It’s an allegory of insatiable ego, internal agony and torment and perhaps incestuous jealousy. A collection of his suppressed rage hidden behind the outwardly rational scientific mind.

Shakespeare informs Prospero  – “this thing of darkness I acknowledge mine.”  Morbius is the true villain in Forbidden Planet, embodied by a power, intensified a thousand percent from the ancient science of the exinct Krell, who brought into existence their nightmares, ultimately proving to be the end of them.

Forbidden Planet has been the benchmark of the science fiction genre for years by it’s sheer scope of its production values. MGM was the studio that had painted for us, an unforgettable daydream – The Wizard of Oz in 1939. Director John Landis referred to the studio as making pictures with ‘gloss’ and Forbidden Planet was their feature science fiction film trading in Singing in the Rain for robots and ray guns. John Carpenter says that in terms of traditional science fiction ‘formulas’ this film ‘broke it’ Carpenter also attributes Forbidden Planet to his wanting to become a director.

And John Dykstra who did the FX on Star Wars comments – “It was a serious attempt to represent a completely unique world… it’s gotta be a world that nobody knows and at the same time everyone recognizes as being alien.”

Forbiden Planet is an allegory of technological power and mortal arrogance.

After years from its initial release Forbidden Planet finally reached its cult following, and is considered the Star Wars of the 1950s with its flamboyant color scheme, Wide Screen presentation, indelible visual effects and endearingly kitsch touches. Only one other dazzling post-war science fiction space Opera of the 1950s comes to mind -Joseph M. Newman and an uncredited Jack Arnold’s This Island Earth 1955  nears Forbidden Planet’s exhilarating yet a bit tacky tone.

Historian Carlos Clarens has remarked that Forbidden Planet is “a rare flight of fancy by the earthbound MGM – it resuscitates the classical elements of the horror movie, with ultra modern decor.”

Seth Lerer from his article Forbidden Planet and the Terrors of Philology -called it Esteemed science fiction film, a blend of high cultural allusion and high camp effects.”

Forbidden Planet has the feel of a fantastical pulp tale straight out of Amazing Stories, Astounding or Fantastic Adventures Magazine. The film showcases all the great elements of a classic science fiction story. Advanced technology, space travel, furturistic tidbits like forcefields, lightning inspired laser beams, brain boosting machines, transport beams, subtarranean worlds,  – rayguns, the vast planetary energy wells, likeable robots and a terror inspiring monster that lurks and tears it’s victims limb from limb. It’s interesting to note, we see Earthmen traveling in a typified flying saucer of 1950s alien flicks instead the traditional phallic shaped rocket.

Aside from ‘The sensuousness of the color’ (Carlos Clarens An Illustrated History of the Horror Film and Science Fiction)–or the sensorial experience brought about by the lush colors, my heart used to pump and pound (and still does), when as a kid I’d await the scene where the fiery id materializes. It emerges menacing, startling, causing a delighful jolt of fear and I was thrilled to see It’s sparking outline ambushed in the force field. This iconic scene is one of the contributing joys that gave me an appetite for classical science fiction, fantasy and horror in my childhood.

Forbidden Planet was directed by Fred McLeod Wilcox with a screenplay by Cyril Hume who adapted his script from an original story by Allen Adler & Irving Block. So much has been written on how they presumably modeled the film after the fatalistic comic allegory – William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. (uncredited).

Continue reading “🚀 Keep Watching the Skies! Science Fiction Cinema of the 1950s: The Year is 1956 — Part Two”

Happy October 2021! 🎃

So drag yourself back to The Last Drive In for!

Coming up… BRIDES OF HORROR 1960s!!!

 

Ladies in Retirement (1941) Though this be madness

I am so thrilled to be joining CMBA’s Hidden Classics Blogathon! There are many great contributions this year–  so many unsung gems for the offering! Thank you CMBA for allowing me to share this little obscure suspense yarn with all of you!

The Great Broadway Melodrama Comes to Flaming Life on the Screen!

Ladies in Retirement, with its play-bound vibe and all it’s macabre thought-processes, is directed by Charles Vidor  who did not shy away from films that manifested a gutsy imagination. Vidor is known for films that bordered on the edge of their genres, such as the 1930s horror classic The Mask of Fu Manchu 1932, the sinister obscurity Double Door 1934, and the symbol of unforgettable film noirs like the tension filled Blind Alley 1939 and the seductively arousing  Gilda 1946.

While it’s been referred to as film noir, I believe it meets the criteria of the 1940s suspense genre with a trace of — I don’t know — ‘Gothic melodrama noir’ for it’s use of light and shadow and familiar noir tropes like the focus on class, scandal (Fiske was a courtesan, Albert -thief and blackmailer, Ellen -murderess, Emily-dangerously unstable), and of course by the end fate steps in. In addition, there’s use of noir iconography, with its visual interest in staircases.

It’s also an old-fashioned horror story– not vampires or ghouls– but the haunting feeling you’d get from fog filled marshes off the Thames River, the tinny sound of a not quite tuned piano, a body behind the wall, or the disorder of insanity vs a murder of desperation and opportunity. Where as with all of Val Lewton’s startling contributions, the “unspoken and the unseen were the true sources of dread.” (Judith Crist)

The lighting particularly accents the player’s expressions as they emerge from the dark edges around their form, with merely an aureole on their face or eyes– like a lit mask. This is truly effective in bringing out the intense concentration of Ida Lupino’s beautiful eyes and Ellen’s inner turmoil. The angles in the set up of the interior are odd and sharp, once again the source of light, Lupino’s face lit from underneath used to provoke the contrast between black and a deathly pale white.

Columbia Pictures studio purchased the rights to Denham and Percy’s story with Rosiland Russell in mind for the starring role as Ellen Creed. Russell was featured as the lead Olivia Grayne in another psychological thriller Night Must Fall in 1937. But, Ida Lupino, as always, was worthy of the role and had a remarkably innate grasp of a woman torn by her strong sense of preservation. She was also married to Louis Hayward at the time of filming.

Lux Radio Theater broadcast a 60-minute radio adaptation of the movie on September 27, 1943 with Ida Lupino reprising her film role. According to contemporary articles in The Hollywood Reporter, Lillian GIsh Judith Anderson, Pauline Lord, Laurette Taylor and Helen Chandler were all considered for roles as one of the demented Creed sisters. 

Though the film is stage-bound, it preserves the feel of the original play, and has a visual moodiness thanks to distinguished and skillful cinematographer George Barnes (Footlight Parade 1933, Marked Woman 1937, Rebecca 1940, Meet John Doe, Jane Eyre 1943, Spellbound 1945, Force of Evil 1948,The File on Thelma Jordan 1949, The War of the Worlds 1953). Barnes started as a still photographer which explains the aesthetic of framing scenes like an arrangement of still lifes. He was nominated 7 times, one for his work on Ladies in Retirement, with over 200 films to his credit, he was a hard working cinematographer from 1935- 1949. 

Responsible for the art direction and interior design that won him an Academy Award is Lionel Banks (The Awful Truth 1937, Holiday 1938, Golden Boy 1939, His Gal Friday 1940, The Boogie Man Will Get You 1942, The Soul of a Monster 1944, Cry of the Werewolf 1944. He designed the South American set for Only Angels Have Wings 1939, and conjured up the turn of the century for the fantasy Here Comes Mr. Jordan 1941 and again for Charles Vidor’s lavish A Song to Remember 1945. Banks added to the stage play atmosphere of the film with it’s collection of sparce surreal, gnarled trees that look fake, fog shrouded heaths, and a heaviness to the interior as a suffocatingly enclosed space. The entire exterior scenes have a look of unreality, the outside appears like a murky dream-scape with painted clouds floating in a painted sky, where there is no departure.

Filmed mostly as a set piece in the parlor of a slowly waning old house on the marshes of the Thames Estuary some ten miles to the east of Gravesend, in 1885. The shots are set up with odd angles and the shadows create a sense of confined spaces with unseen rooms and staircases that go nowhere. Barnes and Banks even made a low stone wall of the cottage, seem to constrain the borderline of the house. 

The actors are positioned as the primary focus on the screen back dropped by the scenery that hints only at the suggestion of dank marshes, melancholy trees and craggy rocks surrounding the house. Much of the set pieces remind me strongly of an episode of Boris Karloff’s anthology series THRILLER, titled ‘THE LAST OF THE SOMMERVILLES’ released in 1961. Elements that are similar are the exterior shots that seem unreal, depicting an  obscuring fog with fake trees and pale grays, with the interiors also as closed in spaces of an antiquated house owned by an equally flitty old dowager (Martita Hunt) like Leonora, who preens and is prone to theatrics. She is taken care of by her dutiful companion played by Phyllis Thaxter who plans to murder the old gal. This perfectly macabre installment of the series happened to be directed by Ida Lupino! Perhaps she drew her inspiration from Ladies in Retirement. The art direction for that episode is done by Howard E Johnson, set by Julia Heron and John McCarthy Jr.

Martita Hunt and Phyllis Thaxter in The Last of the Summervilles 1961

Ladies in Retirement flourishes from it’s tense and stodgy narrative more than the dark humor that Denham could have chosen. Unlike the brisk screwball comedy of Arsenic and Old Lace 1943, by director Frank Capra and screenwriter Julius Epstein which was also based on a play by Joseph Kesserling. That play inspired Denham and Percy to write their own story about a pair of eccentric older women.

The stage play in 1939 went on to receive rave reviews with 151 performances at the Henry Miller’s Theatre. The story was written by Reginald Denham who spent the main part of his career directing Broadway theater, and Edward Percy. The play starred Flora Robson in the role as Ellen. Director Bernard Girard’s psycho-sexual and often grotesque The Mad Room 1969 is a modern re-working of Denham and Percy’s play. The film stars Shelley Winters, Stella Stevens with Michael Burns and Barbara Sammeth replacing the mentally ill Creed sisters. Denham also wrote the screenplay for the 1969 movie. He penned 2 episodes of Lux Video Theatre, ‘Help Wanted’ episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents 1956, 4 episodes of Suspense 1949-1950-‘Help Wanted’, ‘The Suicide Club’, ‘Murder Through the Looking Glass’, and ‘Dead Ernest.’ Denham also directed films from 1934-1940.

Continue reading “Ladies in Retirement (1941) Though this be madness”

🚀 Keep Watching the Skies! Science Fiction Cinema of the 1950s: The Year is 1956 — Part One

CapturFiles_7

BODY SNATCHERS, MAN BEASTS AND MOLE MEN

1984

1984 (1956)

Will Ecstasy Be a Crime… In the Terrifying World of the Future?

Directed by Michael Anderson, the film is based on the novel by George Orwell that tells of a totalitarian future society in which a man whose daily work is rewriting history, rebels by doing the unthinkable– he falls in love. 1984 stars Edmund O’Brien as clerk Winston Smith of The Ministry of Truth for the Outer Party who refuses to accept the totalitarian state of 1984, where all the citizens are under surveillance at all times. When Winston meets Julia they bask in their physical pleasures outside of the watchful eyes of Big Brother but are betrayed by a member of the Inner Party, O’Connor (Redgrave). Each state functionary must adhere to their designated positions and Redgrave gives a superb performance as a proud drone who possesses a drive as he demonstrates his responsibilities to the state.

The underrated Jan Sterling plays Julia of the Outer Party, David Kossoff is cast as Charrington the junk shop owner. Co-starring in the film are Melvyn Johns as Jones, Donald Pleasence as R. Parsons, Carol Wolfridge as Selina Parsons, Ernest Clark as Outer Party Announcer, Patrick Allen as Inner Party Official, British character actor Michael Ripper as Outer Party Orator and Kenneth Griffith as the prisoner.

It was in 1954 that Nigel Kneale (writer creator of the Quatermass trilogy, The Quatermass Xperiment 1955, First Men in the Moon 1964, The Witches 1966, Quatermass and the Pit 1967, The Woman in Black 1989 first adapted George Orwell’s dystopian ordeal for BBC television starring Peter Cushing as Winston Smith.

Director Michael Anderson (who would later take on another futuristic cautionary tale, Logan’s Run 1976) unveils Orwell’s bleak vision, it’s passage of vigilance, yet it has been criticized for lacking the deeper essence of his novel and the gravity of its contributions – a premonition of things to come. The ferocious inclinations of man that creates- Big Brother. A destiny intent on tyranny, depersonalization, the all watchful eye of the totalitarian state and the loss of free will.

There were two endings made. The British release that presents Winston Smith (O’Brien) defying Big Brother and dying for his principals. The American version has lovers O’Brien and Sterling brainwashed, reconditioned and ultimately abandoning their relationship.

“Thus, in place of Orwell’s savage satire on the rise of the authoritarian state ( and specifically Stalinism), producer Rathvon and Anderson mount a vapid romance in which beefy O’Brien and mousey Sterling are clearly intended to represent the undying spirit of rebellion. Even the drabness of life in Oceania that Orwell creates so convincingly, is lost in the film which, like so many literary adaptations, centers on the slim storyline of the novel.” -Phil Hardy

 

Continue reading “🚀 Keep Watching the Skies! Science Fiction Cinema of the 1950s: The Year is 1956 — Part One”

Secret Beyond the Door (1947) Freud, Lang, the Dream State, and Repressed Poison

SECRET BEYOND THE DOOR (1947)

“Most people are asleep.”

“Wind was there and space and sun and storm… everything’s beyond the door.”

Fritz Lang’s psychological film noir, Secret Beyond the Door (1947) is suggestive of a dream state, from which the characters never quite emerge. The film draws blurry lines between what is latent and obvious desire. The doors are symbolic of the compartmental anxieties within the dark recesses of the mind. Secret Beyond the Door is steeped in metaphor, sunless and surreal, and an evocative score by Miklós Rózsa. Cinematography is by Stanley Cortez, who is responsible for another dream like milieu in Night of the Hunter (1955). It was Joan Bennett, who insisted on using Cortez as cinematographer.

The film co-stars marvelous character actor  Anne Revere  as Mark’s sister Caroline, Barbara O’Neil, Natalie Schafer, and Paul Cavanagh.

Bosley Crowther, “… Lang is still a director who knows how to turn the obvious, such as locked doors and silent chambers and roving spotlights, into strangely tingling stuff… For all its psycho-nonsense, this film is mildly creepy.”

The screenplay by Sylvia Richardson is based on Rufus King’s novel Museum Piece No. Thirteen, and also appeared in the December 1945 issue of Red Book.

Long ago I read a book that told the meaning of dreams. It said that if a girl dreams of a boat or a ship she will reach a safe harbor, but if she dreams of daffodils she is in great danger. But this is no time for me to think of danger. This is my wedding day. –Celia Lamphere

The film opens with a voice-over by Joan Bennett. Celia Lamphere, (Bennett) journeys through her surreal and sleepy addiction to her new husband, architect Mark Lamphere (Michael Redgrave). Celia’s obsessed with the suspicion that Mark is hiding hideous secrets, she plans to succumb to his murderous compulsions. But Mark is not the only one with creeping psychosis. Celia herself is driven by a troubled, neurotic psyche that initially drew her to his enigmatic nature.

Celia wanders through a corridor literally and metaphorically, first in a reverie and then a shadowy nightmare. She first meets Mark on a trip to Mexico when she is mesmerized by the power of passion which can drive two men to fight each other to the death for a woman (Donna Martell). “How proud that woman must be to cause death in the streets.” She realizes that Mark is watching her excitement in this, his eyes like fingers. At that moment, Celia has a taste for danger. Like Mark, the thrill of death represents a strong aphrodisiac for her.

Celia: Suddenly I felt that someone was watching me. There was a tingling at the nape of my neck as though the air had turned cool. I felt eyes touching me like fingers. There was a current flowing between us… warm and sweet… and frightening, too, because he saw behind my make-up what no-one had ever seen. Something I didn’t know was there.

Throughout the film Celia strays from reality and finds herself adrift within a conscious flowing daydream. Her voice-over shows she is controlled by the intense beating of her heart. She relates the feeling to drowning “When you are drowning, your whole life flashes before your eyes.”

British actor Michael Redgrave made his U.S. film debut as Mark. Initially Lang wanted James Mason in the lead role. Mark turns dark and brooding soon after he marries his new bride. He has been married before and his first wife has died under curious circumstances. Also part of the plot is his serious young son David — who blames him for his mother’s death.

There is also, his strangely loyal secretary Miss Robey (Barbara O’Neil) who wears a scarf over one side of her face having been disfigured In a fire. One thinks of Rebecca later on. The film co-stars character actor Anne Revere as Mark’s sister Caroline.

Celia: I heard his voice and then I didn’t hear it anymore, because the beating of my blood was louder. This was what I’d hunted those foolish years in New York. I knew before I knew his name or touched his hand and for an endless moment, I seemed to float like a feather blown to a place where time had stopped.

Mark: You were living that fight. You soaked it all in – love, hate, the passion. You’ve been starved for feelings – any real feelings. I thought: 20th Century Sleeping Beauty. Wealthy American girl who has lived her life wrapped in cotton wool but she wants to wake up. Maybe she can. 
Celia: Is it as hard as all that? 
Mark: Most people are asleep. 

Mark shows all the telltales signs that he is delusional, having a preoccupation with several murder rooms and one locked door #7 in his estate. He’s filled with macabre declarations, “I have a hobby collecting ‘felicitous’ rooms”, (Celia mistaking the word for happy, not ‘apt’ for murder) “the way a place is built determines what happens in it”, “certain rooms cause violence even murders.”

Mark Lamphere takes his guests on a tour of his murder rooms.

“As an architect Mark Lamphere gives particular credence to the influence of space and human lives. He repeatedly uses the word “felicitous” to describe his theory that elements of particular space make certain human actions possible. And therefor ‘apt’ for that locale.” — The Dark Mirror Psychiatry and Film Noir by Marlisa Santos

Redgrave understands how to walk that fine line between innate intensity and male hysteria — one just needs to see his performance as Maxwell Frere in Dead of Night’s (1945) segment The Ventriloquist’s Dummy, where he wrestles with his ‘dummy partner’ Hugo.

Mark is fascinated by the connection between the action of murder and the significance of his locked rooms as psychological theatre. The film utilizes production design by Max Parker (Chandu, the Magician 1932, Arsenic and Old Lace 1944) who creates a dreamworld of disruptive psychosis. It’s within this fairytale steeped in misogyny that Redgrave wants to act out his fantasist murderous impulses. Secret Beyond the Door is a retelling of Bluebeard, the archetype of the serial killer who desires to annihilate women who dominate him. We see a hint of Mark’s roiling demons when he takes a group of party guests on a tour of his rooms as curios — original replicas of historic murders. One of his guests, a psychology major, associates the murder of a wife or lover to “unconscious hatred for the mother.”

Celia confronts Mark, “It was the way you immersed yourself in those stories you were almost happy about their deaths.”

“Probably the most overt Freudian depiction of noir psychosis is found in Secret Beyond the Door, a film that features various re-castings of fairy tale patterns bound up with the psychoanalytic interpretations of childhood trauma and sexual relationships. From the start, the film makes no artistic attempt to submerge its psychoanalysis frame […] all of Celia’s fears and desires are open for scrutiny from the time that she first encounters Mark.” — The Dark Mirror Psychiatry and Film Noir by Marlisa Santos

She takes a subconscious journey both surreal and substantive as she navigates her new relationship with Mark and her awakened death wish.

During their honeymoon Celia unleashes Mark’s sinister urges when she locks the door to their room. This catalyst brings his childhood trauma to the surface. As a young boy he perceived a painful transgression by his mother. His recollection of this seemingly insignificant incident turned into hatred of all women, that has carried throughout his life. These machinations bring him to homicidal delusion. His memories are locked away just as his morbid rooms are show pieces.

Celia embraces her husband’s impulses, setting herself up within the replica frozen in time of the death room #7 meant for her. But she desires to unlock Mark’s subconscious as well as his locked room.

Celia- “This is my room, waiting for me”

She waits with lilacs, waiting to trespass on the madness that has led him to this dark place. The link between love and death becomes interwoven as Celia prepares to sacrifice herself to Mark if she cannot save him from his tortured sickness. Kelly Oliver and Benigno Trigo cover Freud’s fascination with Eros/Thanatos in in their analysis of Secret Beyond the Door, drawing this connection between love and death. Which “according to the film’s logic, death is love’s uncanny double.” 

“Inasmuch as closed space can be interpreted as ‘cave’, ‘the grave’, a house, woman… entry into it is interpreted on various levels as ‘death’, ‘conception’ ‘return home’ and so on: moreover all these acts are thought of as mutually identical”.-Teresa de Lauretis

Mark’s voice-overs wrestle with the urge to strangle Celia if left alone with her. He imagines what he will say when asked if the murder was premeditated. Redgrave is framed within the scene by the prominent energy of his twisting a scarf as if he is preparing to strangle Celia. Holding the scarf, the murder weapon from Don Ignacio’s room, his voice-over gives us the sense of the film’s prowling subconsciousness.The darker counterpart to Celia’s dream-like twists and turns.

Mark: There’s something in your face that I saw once before in South Dakota. Wheat country. Cyclone weather. Just before the cyclone, the air has a stillness. A flat, gold, shimmering stillness. You have it in your face – the same hush before the storm and when you smile it’s like the first breath of wind bending down the wheat. I know that behind that smile is a turbulence that… 

Mark’s Freudian Oedipal struggle with hatred for his mother and all women with latent murderous desire is never quite explored as deeply as it could be in the film. In flashback we understand that he has been shut out of his mother’s affection in one scene. Though here, murder seems to be an expression of male exasperation, one wonders if this was consequential in creating such a conflicted and disturbed monster?

“The symbolism of shutting Freud’s psychological door is present yet after all the Freudian iconography, the basic motivation lies still in the darkness, with one door closed, leaving us outside the ‘Interior turmoil.’” (Marlisa Santos)

*From Women in Film Noir Edited by E. Ann Kaplan

“In the threatening family mansions of the gothic, or in The Haunting’s evil old Hill House, a door, a staircase, a mirror, a portrait are never simply what they appear to be, as an image from Fritz Lang’s paranoid woman’s film’ Secret Beyond the Door. The title sums up the enigma of many of these films in which the question about the husband’s motives becomes an investigation of the house (and of the secret of a woman who previously inhabited it.) 

Freud believed dreams were masks that disguised wish fulfillment. They are metaphorical inroads that point to our subconscious desires. And dreams— like folklore and images in art— are used as symbolism manifesting these unconscious emotional conflicts. Director Fritz Lang very often infused his films with an appetite for expressionist symbolism. With recurring iconography of doors and corridors, Secret Beyond the Door is perhaps one of his most pronounced visions of Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams cloaked in the cinematic vogue of film noir.

Some Men Destroy What They Love Most!

This is your EverLovin’ Joey saying, there are no secrets between us, here at The Last Drive In! See ya soon!