Part II in the series. See also Part 1: Ripper vs Stripper…
Yolanda splayed out on the stage, ‘the penis rope’ stroking her naked legs, she is captivating and captive!
The character of Joann Gypsy Masters refers to Yolanda as her “my new cupcake,” and proclaims her to be “the greatest thing in the history of nightclub entertainment.“
Gypsy Rose Lee..the exotic ecdysiast (Come see what we mean!) ECDYSIAST-noun: Humorous Origin 1940 coined by U.S. journalist and social critic, H.L Mencken -A striptease performer. ECDYSIS-noun: Zoology-The process of shedding the old skin or the outer cuticle.
Yolanda’s erotic act is presented in a stark black silhouette, her curvacious body supine and defenseless against a backdrop of primal shadow. She begins to pose, her body rhapsodizing and rapturous, in white shredded tatters, her wrists shackled by handcuffs, a slave in bondage to the beat of Red Norvo’s orchestrations. A beautiful captive moving to the rhythm, clinging to a rope, a dangling phallus begging to be gripped by her manacled hands. On the first night of her debut, she catches the eye of ‘night beat’ reporter, the tall and imposing Bill Sweeney who covers the social sewer “everything from who’s playing footsie with who this week, on up to who’s murdering who.”
After Bill introduces himself to Yolanda in her dressing room, Yolanda is attacked once again by a mysterious maniac who slashes her across the belly, in much the same way as an earlier murder committed by the city’s ‘Ripper’ murderer who killed another dancing blonde, Lola Lake.
Devil, Yolanda’s fiercely devoted Great Dane by her side, wards off the attacker, but not before she is injured and sent to the hospital.
In the muffle of voices in the crowd of onlookers at the crime scene, one news reporter says ‘A great dame and a Great Dane!’
Bill is savvy and has great instinct, although he is drawn to Yolanda physically, he senses that not only is her name phony but there’s too much of a coincidence that she owns the same small statue identical to the one found by the first victim Lola Lane. Of course, the statue is that of the ‘Screaming Mimi‘, a ‘weird-looking dame‘ or ‘the frightened girl’
Even Mac, Bill’s editor tells Bill “You’re getting hot pants for a real story aren’t you junior?” But Bill is on a mission to protect and bed Yolanda and solve the ‘Ripper’ murders. Mac tells him ‘Wear some protection around your gut, at least after dark.’ The scene frames a headline ‘Police Seek Gorilla Man Slayer‘ perhaps this sideline suggests that it is neither strange nor unfamiliar for bizarre crimes to occur in this town.
The film penned for the screen by Robert Blees is as grisly as it is provocative for 1958 theatergoers. Predating Psycho 1960 by two years, the idea of having your belly ripped open or slashed is quite horrific for a decade of films that were supposed to epitomize the American Dream and social moral codes that were stark in contrast to the characters in this story.
Much like Constance Towers’ character of Kelly in Sam Fuller’s Naked Kiss 1964, Kelly tries to run from her past, and relocate to a freshly scrubbed community, only to find that its dark secrets brewing below the surface, just waiting to scorch her for her efforts. Yolanda…in trying to escape her brutal attack and mental breakdown, winds up right in the midst of a very dangerous landscape herself.
Aside from the presence of Red Norvo’s live musical arrangements, the full-of-shade fluidity and dynamic scoring by Mischa Bakaleinikoff ( The Big Heat 1953 Earth vs The Flying Saucer 1956) adds much to the layers of schadenfreude. With additional contributions of stock music by composers, Leonard Bernstein, George Duning, and several others.
You can see traces of the genius of Gerd Oswald’s direction over the camera work in the iconic television sci-fi/philosophical series The Outer Limits. 1963-1965. Aided by the cinematography of Burnett Guffey-
(From Here To Eternity 1953, Birdman of Alcatraz 1962, Bonnie and Clyde 1967) The dark and disturbing Film Noir frames under his direction create an environment where no one seems wholesome, faces are either skewed anonymous or ominous, lecherous, dispirited, melancholy, despairing, pining, or perverted.
A resounding tremor from a gong cymbal and we’re thrust into the black screen for a brief moment. Suddenly a sea of faces, it’s the audience gazing back at us. Then applause. The lights come up.
Gypsy tells everyone to get up on their feet. “This’ll give us a good chance to empty the ashtrays.” She’s cocky and jovial, sassy and all lit up with sequins and a cheap sort of polished aloofness.
“Sweetie!, the press” She walks over and puts her silver gloved hands behind a brill cream head. Happy she remarks, “Freeload, and they don’t spell our names right, but we love em anyway”
Bill responds, ” I love you two Joanie…nice to see you haven’t been raided yet.”
” Yeah,” she crosses her fingers in warding off the very thought then tells Paul the bartender, never give this guy a check….never!
Gypsy goes on to ask Bill, “Dropped in to catch my new cupcake ay? I tell you, Bill, she is the greatest thing in the history of nightclub entertainment”
Suddenly, like a Hawk zeroing in on a predator first, warns him “Uh Uh, don’t touch the candy junior.”
Bill asks where did this chick come from, and Gypsy tells him ‘out of left field.”She walked in here absolutely cold…would you like to meet her?” Bill smiles agreeably “Yeah…I gotta go to work sooner or later.”
There are many instances where we see the image of Virginia/Yolanda in a mirror. Is this preparing us for a revelation that she has two very distinct parts of her psyche?
Virginia Wilson gazes at Yolanda Lange in the mirror.
Yolanda is sitting with her legs up on a table, staring at her image in the mirror. Her bare legs are like two strong legs of a stallion. She looks like a goddess awaiting her maidens. A cigarette hangs freely from her right hand. There is a curious gaze she holds, as she handles her hair brushing it slightly away from her face. Her image is static in the mirror framed by brick on either side. Such a soft visage enclosed within a wall with two small lights to light her dressing table. She’s about to sip her drink, when ‘Gypsy’ knocks on the door and calls out her name “Yolanda” “Yes” “I want you to meet a friend of mine…Bill Sweeney…he does a nightclub column for the Times.” Yolanda says how do you do. Looking pleasantly at the tall man in the doorway.
Bill tells her, “That’s quite an act you have,” She tells him to thank you. Gypsy interrupts, “Boy I thought tonight was the best ever.”She moves around toward Yolanda who is still sitting at her dressing table.
Bill goes to pet the top of Devil, the Great Dane’s head, now present in mid-screen. We hear his low growls. Yolanda tells him, “He doesn’t like to be patted,” She says softly, “Lye down Devil” This dog is slightly more imposing than her first dog Rusty the little terrier.
I think there is not only the relevance of the size of the dog being a sexual compendium fetish, a hint of bestiality but more as symbolic of the change as Yolanda’s inner fears lay open to future jeopardy emerging, materializing as a giant canine id.
She is guarding herself with ‘bigger dogs‘ since the first attack. Also reflecting how her Id has become more mistrustful and aggressive.
“Well, maybe we can have that drink tonight after the show if you’re not too tired,” Joann ‘Gypsy’ hints that she’d like her to say yes. But Yolanda looks on from behind her changing screen…guarded. She says alright, with exhaustion and disdain as if it’s too much effort even to say those few words.
‘Gypsy ‘now turns to Bill and tells him “You could always mention me in that column of yours if there’s any room left over…(she laughs a little) at least El Madhouse.” Both are grinning, flashing their mutual abiding smiles of hobnobbing, a faint drift of pleasure and amusement. All the niceties that come with the territory. Bill says “That’s a promise Joannie.”
‘Gypsy’ leaves the dressing room, closing the door. As Bill walks around the room, he asks the question. “Yolanda Lange?”
She answers him softly by repeating her name, but with her accent it sounds like a faint admonishment for questioning such a thing. He asks “Who made up a name like that?” She tells him, “Does it matter?” Still smiling he tells her “Not to me…even if your name was Suzy Swartzkapf I’d uh…I’d like to take you out and see what trouble we could find…pure research you understand.”
Yolanda looks over at him, divinely stoic, her beautiful lips and dreamy eyes studying him, tilts her head and says, “Of course.” She is still framed by the camera, Bill asks her, “How tall are you, Yolanda?”
She snaps back ” With heels?” A smile crosses her mouth. She will not give an inch yet. But Bill comes back sharper. “With anybody…me for instance.”With heels, I’m 5’10” without, I”m 5′ 7.”
“And you’re Norwegian?” She looks downward, and her guard softens a bit, but she doesn’t answer him. He then points his cigarette at her…”Swedish” he smiles. She answers him “Originally.” He puts his cigarette out and tells her that nobody could accuse her of talking too much.
She tells him, “I’ve never found it necessary” All the while a subtle violin is courting their little exchange until Bill reaches down to put his cigarette out in the ashtray and finds a statue of the Screaming Mimi in a box. The distant caution of horns tells us something has shifted with this discovery. Devil the dog begins to growl and bark as Bill removes the statue from the tissue-papered box and holds it out in the middle of the screen. It looks like a goddess being struck down by an unseen force. Clutching at her chest. As Bill studies the piece, Devil becomes increasingly agitated.
Devil acts as the primal gatekeeper of Yolanda’s rage and desires to lash out or destroy that which reached out and has destroyed her innocence. Devil seems like a destructive force. He is an extension of Yolanda’s aggressive nature now, and her primal rage. An id with fangs, much like Morbius‘ monster in Forbidden Planet 1956.
Yolanda now tells him to be careful. Bill asks, “Sure…What is it?” She answers, “It’s just a figure” She brushes off the question. He sets it back in its box. “Weird looking dame isn’t she” Yolanda looks distant, Bill continues to probe…”Ah, you’ve never worked around here have you?”
She starts to lighten again, “Well ah, just a little bit around.” As she starts to finish her sentence, Dr. Greenwood comes into the dressing room, calling on her, but sees Bill in the room.
Yolanda looking disturbed at his presence, moves into the room, the shadow of Greenwood behind her is very telling. He is her shadow.
Yolanda introduces him. “This is my manager…Mr. Green.” All smiles, Bill strikes like a match, “I’m Bill Sweeney, Mr. Green.” Green looks curiously at him. “You’re the newspaperman.” Bill’s grin widens, flashes of white teeth, “I’d like to think I am…I cover the night beat, ride the police cars, write about the mess people get into…”
Notice the reflective image in the mirror, Yolanda has no face, but we see the presence of Green like a ghostly appendage.
Suddenly the frame closes in on Green’s face looking strained and thrown by Yolanda’s visitor.
We hear Bill continuing his job description…” Everything from who’s playing footsie with who this week…on up to who’s murdering who.” Bill’s grin widens still. Philip Carey bares a certain resemblance to Charlton Heston, in terms of size and facial expressions. The broad grin, and strong features. Perhaps a bit of the cockiness as well…
Now Yolanda’s tense face is framed. And then back to Green who goes from amused to a sharpened stare as he tells Bill Sweeney that Miss Lange doesn’t give interviews. Then he tells her to change her clothes now. “Yolanda must change now.” Dismissing Bill like a bug at a picnic. Acting more like a father than a manager, Yolanda looks disgusted with him.
Harry Townes, is another great character actor whose versatility and multifarious facial expressions I find deeply satisfying to watch.
Bill tells Green…”Everybody in this business wants publicity Mr. Green.”
“Surely it wouldn’t do any harm to talk to him.”Yolanda gently tugs at Green with her faded plea.
He shoots her a look as if he could strike her for even thinking such a thing. Green looks like a threatened fox who has been cornered then swiftly switches back to the antiseptic expression of the keeper. Gamekeeper. Yolanda’s keeper.
“Miss Lang doesn’t need publicity Mr. Sweeney, good night.”
Yolanda looks at Bill helplessly, she faintly leans in as if to grab him and ask to be rescued, but she stops herself, as Green has taken control over her once again.
Bill smirks and replies,”Suit yourself” and starts to walk out of the dressing room. Then he stands taller than Green looking down on him and leaves him with a thought.
“Maybe the Garbo routine can work again.” His remark is meant as a dig. Green seems so small in stature now, a little man looking up at a Roman gladiator. An unspoken scuffle of masculinity takes place.
The intellectual and the warrior. The strong man and the man of emotional/mental prowess. One is the corporeal man, and the other is the brain with a penis. The first cock fight over Yolanda.
Bill follows up with his verbal knife to Green’s jugular, “But I wouldn’t bet my life on it.”
It is here that he is letting Green know that his control over Yolanda will backfire. That he shouldn’t be too sure, that keeping her away from the public or other men, will work out for him. That she needs a ‘real man’ in order to thrive…this is the unspoken attack. The words he hasn’t said.
Bill turns to her and tells her, “It’s still a heck of an act Yolanda”…he turns back to Green and says “Even without publicity.”
Green closes the door and walks over to her, “What did you tell him?” She is upset, shaken a little, she answers him ” I told him nothing.”
As Yolanda rises up from her dressing table, she starts to ask why she can’t talk to Bill Sweeney, but she is quickly met with a forceful hand on her shoulder pushing her down. Green grinds his teeth and insists, “You must do what I say” He is a puppet master, and she is the doll he is manipulating. This charade of dancer/manager incognito, is no longer part of her therapy, and he is not interested in protecting her, he is controlling her out of his own obsession.
She is his prisoner. As she sits back down, he puts both hands on her shoulders, and with a little softer tone tells her “Please don’t talk to people like that” Yolanda looks so beaten down and trapped. She is in mid-frame, but we feel Green’s presence as his body looms over her in focus., his hands looking like claws. She looks defeated.
She closes her eyes. His hands become more agents of comfort than restraint. He tells her now ” You were better tonight…you remembered almost everything.”
Suddenly the figurine of the Screaming Mimi in the box is in view. Green sees it and erupts.
“Where did you get this?” He begins to get riled again, his agitation making the vein in his forehead bulge.
” I told you weeks ago to get rid of it, I don’t want you to have it…you see yourself in it…it disturbs you…you brood over it…it brings back everything I want you to forget, I don’t know why you insist on keeping it!”He sounds like a father scolding a child.
“I’m not going to take it away from you…I want you to be strong enough to destroy it yourself.”
He finishes his tirade, but Yolanda has remained silent throughout. Now in frame Green looks downward, closer toward us, Yolanda remains in the background, with her back to us. She has been diminished by this frame. She has been destroyed, by these last few moments. The frame tells us that she is feeling insignificant as well as boxed in, appearing cinematically smaller, made smaller by this man.
He turns around, toward her, and softens a little once again, “I’m sorry, I don’t like to talk to you like that” We see her body move slightly, but her back is still toward us. She has no face for us to gaze at, She has no identity. She is not Virginia, She is not Yolanda, She is no one now…..
“You must let me decide certain things” We still don’t see her face. She has been rendered faceless.
Now we see her face. She’s been crying, silently.
He tells her, “You must let me handle strangers” She whimpers, “I know…I know” Still framed as if he is watching over her, they are not equal in the scene. He still appears the dominant head.
“In a little while we’ll have enough money to go to Europe to live.” He seems a little less harsh and more determined to come across as genuinely protective, and less combative.
He too though strident and forceful in tone, has been weakened by his obsession with Virginia/Yolanda. He explodes because he has no real power over her. She does not love him. He slowly reminds her, “We won’t have to hide anymore…I can become Dr.Greenwood again” But subtly ( again, Harry Townes is such an effective actor) his affect starts to glaze over into an inner monologue turned outward, and we hear the uglier truth about why they need to hide….”There’ll be no more men staring at you…just the two of us with nothing to worry about.”
She turns toward him, but her face still has drifted away from his gaze. She tells him, “I hope so” but she doesn’t seem as invested in being with him, not in the way he wants, craves, and needs her.
She walks to her dressing table. Green is framed in by the reflection of himself in her full-length mirror. Now HIS image has been projected from another angle. He suddenly looks small.
He’s gazing at her. And the truth is revealed. He is a small man, who longs to be wanted by her genuinely, but rather has to grasp at controlling her in this secretive, manipulative, and diabolically calculating way… He seems small for the first time within the scene. That is because Yolanda is in reality BIGGER than life, bigger than his desire. She cannot be controlled for long…
He tells her, “I’m going by that little French restaurant and get some supper, I don’t drink enough to obscure the taste of Joann’s cuisine.”
Here again, is an inside condemnation of Joann ‘Gypsy” being a Lesbian. It’s obvious that ‘Gyspy’ has a ‘taste’ for women. The reference to her ‘cuisine’ is code for her lesbian desires, her preference.
He tells her that she should be ready to go back to the apartment in an hour. He looks at his watch. She has no face again. Obscured by the blonde mane of hers. He is back in control…until….
“Joanna asked me to have a drink with her… afterward.” Green looks up from his watch.
He pauses for a second…”I’ll pick you up around 12.” He leaves, and Yolanda stands still for a moment reflecting.
The scene cross-fades into a street with row houses, the pavement wet from an earlier rain. We hear people off-screen the chatter is indiscernible. The camera slowly pans along the sidewalk of houses. The crowd is stirring with people buzzing. A slight drift of a comment here and there.
I love the way this scene is framed in stark contrast of dark shadow and bright gray realism. To the right of screen, they look like shadow people, here the balance of urban anonymity and a certain degree of social engagement by various ‘bystanders’
“What happened?”…” I’ve never seen anything like it” Yet no one has moved in to try and help Yolanda.
The wounded Yolanda, and the emerging beast within and without!
Now we see even more people gathering around the stone stairway. Down the steps, Yolanda is lying curled up on the ground, clutching her stomach. Devil the dog, is barking at the crowd of people, as they remain staring, fluttering, and chattering above them. Profiles of anonymous onlookers, we hear the police siren coming closer.
Someone shouts, “Who called the cops,” A brawny mustached guy says…
“Me!… I was looking out my window, this blonde with the dog comes waltzing by…all of a sudden the dog starts growling at something…there’s some guy in the shadows, and he pulls her down there.”
Framed quite still, the people are posed ‘deliberately’ on either side of this man recounting the events he has seen out his window, no one turns around, or engages at all. It’s as if, he’s talking only to the US…the participating voyeurs. He is a lone actor on a stage, and the crowd around him becomes a bit muted, except for one lone older woman looking up at him in the spotlight. Mid-screen he continues to stare forward at us, recounting his story. Yet we do not see the person or persons he is relating the events to, we are not supposed to see them, because he is talking to us.
The crowd, ‘They’, anonymous, seemingly uncaring, are the ‘voyeurs’, who watch Yolanda yet they remain unmoved. We never see who asks the question, about calling the cops, because this is not an intimate moment. This is central to the idea that people…’ we’, are voyeurs, The Collective Voyeurs, and we too are participating now in watching. It doesn’t matter who tells the story, or who asks the questions.
Yolanda is truly alone in her pain, in her world. She is perpetually being assailed, controlled, and ultimately attacked for being desirable.
The man continues his account. ” The dog goes for him, and he takes out like a bat, the next thing I know, the blonde folds up like an accordion.” The man takes his place back amidst the other voyeurs. He’s done his job calling Yolanda “The Blonde” Again she is depersonalized.
The storyteller goes back to being a quiet observer, a bystander. His face is in profile with the rest of the crowd. He recedes back into the crowd of unknown, uninvolved faces.
The police squad car pulls up, sirens blaring, 3 officers get out, and Bill Sweeney is accompanying them. He says ” Thanks for the ride Mac” And the cop tells him, “Be my guest anytime” They move in closer to the scene. Bill doesn’t know it’s Yolanda yet. In a huddle, the cops talk.
Mac says “Hi Chuck…401?” Chuck remarks, “Looks like it” and then he notices Sweeney.
“Sweeney, if this is the most excitement you can find tonight, you’re in trouble…it’s only a drunk.” Sweeney says “That’s life” then walks away. Then one of the other cops tells Chuck that somebody called.
The cops walk over to the staircase where Yolanda has been attacked, they ask “What’s the trouble?”
An older woman on the stairs points the way to the officers. Now the crowd, the cops, and Bill Sweeney are looking down upon Yolanda. He shines his flashlight on her. Still, no one is moving in to help her. They cannot because Devil is guarding her like Cerberus, from Greek mythology, who was the 3 headed hound who guards Hades…not an accident that his name is…DEVIL
Hercules captured Cerberus, the 3 headed hound of hell…
Yolanda is still down on the ground, clutching the stone wall, in a daze. Devil is barking up at the crowd again. Sweeney looks unmoved, arms to his side. Looking like a judge. A voice in the throng mutters ” Ah, she’s drunk.”
Until Yolanda leans back to expose that she’s been stabbed in the stomach. Her white dress was stained with blood. Her hands gripped the wall as if yet another dance move.
Devil is growling, the same older woman now screams….A male voice shouts, “Look she’s been stabbed” Scottie shines his flashlight down the staircase at Yolanda, talking as if through pebbles and gravel the way cops often do in film noir, his aside goes like this….” Knifed…just like that other dame”
Mac warns Bill who still looks like he’s sleepwalking, hands to his side. “Bill a dog like that can be a devil on wheels in a fight,” Mac tells another cop to ” Call the wagon…Homicide.” Bill tells Mac who is about to aim to shoot and kill Devil, “Don’t shoot him, Mac, he’s not mad,” He calls down to Yolanda, but still no one has moved in to help her yet…again Devil is guarding Yolanda with a ferocity of Cerberus!
This creates an even stronger field of alienation. She lies there struggling, alone, against the wall, bloodied, attacked once again by yet another madman. Bill calls to her again, “Yolanda…”
Devil barks at him. Bill talks in a whisper, “Easy Devil…easy boy” Devil starts to growl more quietly, slower…Bill whispers once again “Yolanda” Mac talks out of the side of his mouth so as not to disturb Devil, “Keep talking, he likes the sound of your voice.”
Again, we have a frame set up with a ‘collective voyeurism’. And at this point, when Mac mentions that Devil likes the sound of Bill’s voice, I feel certain that Devil isn’t truly representative of Yolanda’s Id. The rage within her, the beast capable of manifesting the palpable anger she feels toward being objectified, targeted, and controlled for being a desirable woman. Devil is her rage turned outward. Devil is the face of her rage, and SHE obviously did like the sound of Bill’s voice. From their very first encounter, she seemed to measure herself differently from other people.
The film is a minefield of double entendre’s like this one and ‘Joanne’s cuisine” It elevates the film for me a bit more than merely a sensationalist grade B psycho sexual -Noir crime drama. Not that, that’s such a bad thing either, considering it’s one of my favorite sub-genres. I just feel like Screaming Mimi has a level of layers, much like They Live By Night 1949 or The Naked Kiss 1964, that makes for an intensely darker and thoughtful experience, than cinematic pulp fiction.
I think the film is a feminist rant about setting female rage against male desire and objectification of the female body. But I have to be clear, I have not read Fredrick Brown’s novel, so I might be subverting his intention completely. I need to read the novel and check back in with the film afterward to see if my suspicions are founded in any truth.
Mac turns to another cop named Scottie and says “Scottie see if you can try and inch/edge around behind him…protect yourself, we met to get out of this without too much trouble.” Mac tells Bill once again ” Keep talking.’ ”
Bill Sweeney starts reciting The Gettysburg Address softly. Scottie takes his officer’s cap off slowly. Devil starts to wag his tail, as Bill recites the speech like a manly lullaby, as he merges the Declaration of Independence and the weather report into his calming wavelength of words.
Yolanda is in frame now, still struggling to get up. Fingers gripping the stone grouting of the wall. Bill shifts his melodious tone to, “It’s raining, it’s raining…there’s pepper in the box, all the little ladies are putting on their frocks” Devil is growling, and Yolanda is holding the wall, her face in a grimace of pain.
Mac cues Scottie….”Now Scottie…now!”
As Devil grapples with the police, Bill goes to Yolanda who collapses. Bill and an officer carry her up the stairs, the sirens are blaring, as Mac orders someone to get a blanket. Devil is growling, the crowd is mumbling, the sirens still blaring…”Here comes the wagon” Scottie helping Bill escort Yolanda up from the nightmare and into the wagon, utters
“The dog must have scared off whoever it was before he finished.” Scottie and two white coats help Yolanda into the back of the ambulance, all the while Mac and another cop are still battling Devil. As the back door of the wagon slams shut, Scottie asks Bill if he wants to be dropped off by the paper. In a slow and somber voice, Bill says “Yeah, thanks.”
Scottie tips his hat, “What’d you say her name was?”
Throughout Screaming Mimi, in the periphery, you can see evidence of the ‘collective voyeur’, as Scottie is asking Bill about Yolanda, notice left of the screen yet another anonymous BYSTANDER is emerging into focus who is NON-REACTIVE, for no other relevant purpose but to add (to the film a detached or neutrally peopled context that is anonymous yet layers an atmosphere of the empirical onlooker/observer.
It is only until Devil disrupts the montage that the bystander takes notice, and as the scene fades, there is the trace of a man’s brimmed hat and overcoat left of screen, watching the wagon as it rolls down the rainy night pavement.
Bill answers Scottie, “Yolanda…Yolanda Lange,” said softly as he watches the ambulance pull away. As Bill says Lange, Devil having broken away from Mac, begins chasing and barking after the wagon with his mistress in tow.
The entire episode is a moody and chilling scene that was taken as an antiseptic view of a contemporary society that doesn’t care about human suffering or life’s various casualties. The ‘onlookers/observers’ often seem more like phantom walk-ons than concerned citizens or thoughtful participants in the narrative.
Scene crossfades into:
We see the facade bearing a plaque that reads The Daily TImes Est. 1908
A collection of tables, men in shirts typing away like drones in the bee hive finishing their copy. The typing had a steading rhythm, amidst the wrinkled shirts, sweat, and cigarette smoke.
The frame gives us a close-up on the headline. SLASHER ATTACKS AGAIN DANCER SAVED BY DOG
Second Victim of Attack Lives…Police Maintain Guard in Hospital.
A voice off-screen asks, ” Let’s see the file on Lola Lake, the last ripper case.” The headlong reads, Body of Dancer Slain Found in Alley. Then the camera zooms in, we see a broken statuette of The Screaming Mimi beside the dead girl’s body.
A grainy photo from a newsprint of the last victim, Lola Lake.
“Exactly one month ago…” “Crawley brought a good story didn’t he?” Bills hums “Hhm Hhm… attacked practically the same way…same cut across the belly.
As the Mac the editor looks at a photo of Lola Lake, the camera again zooms in on her bloody lifeless hand next to the broken statue. Bill tells him “I’ve seen that statue before…” He takes a drag on his cigarette, eyes weighed down in thought.
As Bill Sweeney goes over the photos and files on Lola Lake, a smaller man in a suit, tie clip, and top hat, looking like a well dress leprechaun walks into the room lined with large bound books and metal filing cabinets. He calls out, ” Hey Sweeney!” Walking toward him with a grin emerging from a face looking as if molded out of clay. Sweeney turns to see who it is, realizing it’s someone he has disdain for, and replies, “You’re in the wrong morgue aren’t you?” As he turns back to look at the photograph of the dead girl.
“Mac you know Captain Bline” Mac continues to busy himself with a large binder filled with old copies, he greets Bline, “Bline…James Irvin homicide” Mac closes up the large binder and turns his back to Bline. Bline responds, ” You’ve got the right Mac.” Mac starts looking at the newspaper headline. ” I got quite the file on you captain.”
Bline asks, ” Why you so interested in Lola Sweeney…She’s last month’s news?”
“Any resemblance to the attack on Yolanda Lang seems more than purely coincidental”
I know how’d you love to trade in that honorary police badge for a nice shiny one like mine….but what would you do without all the excitement, glamor and frivolity of your upholstered sewers.”
Bill turns to him unscathed, “I” ll take the crime beat any day…even if it means running into you, Bline”
Bline, who has no air of concern, looking at his nails so casually, so dismissively replies ” Well, I wish you luck” Bill swiftly and still unruffled tells him ” Thanks…I”ll need it.”
Yolanda is lying in bed. The sheets are starched a clean hospital white. She is dressed put to the neck in virginal white as well. Her blonde hair fell to the side like a wave of golden curls.
Bill is in the room, he is looming over her, a wounded kitten. ” Yolanda, what actually did happen that night?” ” I was walking…Devil growled at something and pulled me down the stairs…I saw a shadow coming at me…Devil jumped…but the man got away.”
Bill moves closer to her bedside. ” Yolanda, where did you know Lola Lake?” ” I don’t know her…” Bill pulls the photo of Lola out and shows it to her, ” That’s Lola…the ripper did a better job on her” He’s probing, and suspicious but tethering his questions.
Yolanda takes the photo from him and says, “She’s pretty…isn’t she” Bill looks solemnly at toward the photo, ” She was then”
Yolanda tries to get up, but winces in pain, falling back onto the pillow. She looks up at him, “I’m afraid” He takes the photo back, “You’ve got a right to be…he’ll try it again” He looks more earnest now than ever, taking the photo back. She (weakly asks him) ” You don’t mean that…you will help me won’t you?”
He looks upon her for a moment, then sits down beside her. A few strings break into the silence. The film’s theme music faintly back dropping the two’s quiet conversation.
” Maybe I can help you now, Yolanda…who sent you that statue?” She looks into his eyes. Her soft dark eyes have warmth and vulnerability. Bill’s voice is like warm sand in the sun, when the daylight is beginning the wane. His words seem to glisten, the softness of his voice, so sincere. He is falling in love with her.
She seems confused looking away, searching for any trace of an idea, “Statue?” He reminds her, ” The one in your dressing room, the naked figure…the frightened girl” But she insists…”I haven’t got a statue in my dressing room.”
He begins to insist. ” The one on the shelf…you told me to be careful with it.” She looks more baffled, “Sometimes…I don’t know how to tell you this…but sometimes I can’t remember things…many things”
The strings play sympathetic swirls hovering in the air as Bill looks at her, and she stares straight ahead. The camera frames her profile, and as he listens, we share his gaze.
Now Bill gets up, and leans into her, ” Yolanda, listen to me…I’m trying to help you…” She looks up at him…” Yes, you are…aren’t you…I think you really are.” She says this as if for the first time, she is acknowledging that someone cares about her, unlike Green who merely possesses her, and controls her, not out of caring, but out of an obsessive need to take ownership of her. We see her have an awareness that she has been an object of Greens, and this is something new for her.
Now Bill pushes a little deeper…again in that soft sandy voice of his, “I can’t If I don’t find out a few things” She delicately begs him ” Please don’t try….” He insists, ” Why shouldn’t I?” But she continues to plead, ” Because….because I don’t want you to get hurt too.” Pushing farther, ” By who…Green?” Just as she tells him “No, you’re wrong”
The doctor enters the room and breaks the momentum of the moment. Although Yolanda has moments of awareness, she is still protecting Green, like all Stockholm Syndrome victims would react to being pushed. To resist the idea of their own captivity, or to betray the person who has brainwashed them into thinking that they need to be encompassed by their captor’s control. Yolanda has been emotionally and psychically beaten down and worked over by Green.
He looks on a little staunchly as if he is annoyed that Bill is disturbing his patient. He enters the room and closes the door. “I gave you strict orders that the patient wasn’t to be disturbed at all.” He grabs her chart, ” Did Miss McDonald say that you could come up here?” ” Yeah, that’s right” ” Well she really got her name in the papers…alright, then you must be through.”
“Just one little question doc?” He puts his fingers together in a gesture to show how small. He turns to Yolanda, “Are you married, Miss Lange?”
“I’m not married.” He smiles, “Thanks…hope you feel better” Bill leaves the room, and the scene crossfades.
The news headline reads BODY OF DANCER SLAIN, FOUND IN ALLEY Mac remarks to Bill in passing, “You’re getting hot pants for a real story aren’t you junior?” As Mac walks away in his white shirt and suspenders.
Close up on Bill’s face who is deadly serious “Maybe” he spits out. “But I know there’s gotta be a story when two sexy blondes are knifed the same way…and both have the same taste in statues.”
Promises…no questions….not even her real name….!
As danger looms, Yolanda and Bill fall in love….
Notice the bar of blackness that separates Bill and Yolanda, from Devil who is sleeping.
Bill-“What’s this Indian sign Green has over her?” Joann ‘Gypsy’- ” You’re asking me?…for all I know, the way he looks after her, you’d think a bosom was something unique!”
Detective-“If somebody wanted to take a crack at her, like, umm throwing a knife maybe…when would be his best chance?”Joann ‘Gyspy’- “At the end of the number she lays there, all curled up, the lights are dim, she’s not moving…MAKES A MIGHTY PRETTY TARGET!”
“NOW A SHIVER OF ANTICIPATION RUNS THROUGH YOU…NOW A QUIVER OF FEAR….
OVER 5 MILLION HAVE READ THE NOVEL ABOUT THE STRIP TEASE MURDERS…NOW SEE IT COME STABBINGLY ALIVE ON THE SCREEN!”
If you can get a copy of the newly released DVD from Columbia, the print is gorgeous. And while the film may not answer all your questions about what happens in this taut story of unspoken taboos and desire, it’s a vintage walk thru a great period of time in filmmaker, the 50s, that oftentimes pushed the boundaries more than you’d expect. With coded gay characters, and women who refuse to be ‘objectified’, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen nor the divine Miss Ekberg
I’ll be doing a post about Anita Ekberg and Carroll Baker surrounding their contributions to the Euro-style Goddess/Horror Thriller genres that they both seem to surrender to and inhabited back in the 60s and 70s. Watch for ‘Bad Girl…the sultry sinful cinema of love goddess’ Carroll Baker and Anita Ekberg...Coming soon!
Hope you enjoyed Screaming Mimi…thanks for being a fan, and see you soon at the Drive In, next up The Iron Maiden Ida Lupino in 2 fabulous women’s prison movies.
See you around the snack bar-MonsterGirl (Joey)