MonsterGirl’s Halloween 🎃 2015 special feature! the Heroines, Scream Queens & Sirens of 30s Horror Cinema!

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Horror cinema was at it’s spooky peak in the 1930s~ the era gave birth to some of the most iconic figures of the genre as well as highlighted some of the most beautiful & beloved heroines to ever light up the scream, oops I mean screen!!!!

We all love the corrupted, diabolical, fiendish and menacing men of the 30s who dominated the horror screen- the spectres of evil, the anti-heroes who put those heroines in harms way, women in peril, –Boris, & Bela, Chaney and March… From Frankenstein, to Dracula, from The Black Cat (1934), or wicked Wax Museums to that fella who kept changing his mind…Jekyll or was it Hyde? From the Mummy to that guy you could see right through, thank you Mr. Rains!

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Gloria Stuart The Invisible Man

Last year I featured Scream Queens of 40s Classic Horror! This Halloween 🎃 – I felt like paying homage to the lovely ladies of 30s Classic Horror, who squealed up a storm on those stormy dreadful nights, shadowed by sinister figures, besieged by beasts, and taunted with terror in those fabulous frisson filled fright flicks… but lest not forget that after the screaming stops, those gals show some grand gumption! And… In an era when censorship & conservative framework tried to set the stage for these dark tales, quite often what smoldered underneath the finely veiled surface was a boiling pot of sensuality and provocative suggestion that I find more appealing than most contemporary forays into Modern horror- the lost art of the classical horror genre will always remain Queen… !

Let’s drink a toast to that notion!

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The Scream Queens, Sirens & Heroines of 1930s Classic Horror are here for you to runs your eyes over! Let’s give ’em a really big hand, just not a hairy one okay! From A-Z

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Phantom in the Rue Morgue 1954

ELIZABETH ALLAN

Elizabeth Allan

A British beauty with red hair who according to Gregory Mank in his Women in Horror Films, 1930s, left England for Hollywood and an MGM contract. She is the consummate gutsy heroine, the anti-damsel Irena Borotyn In Tod Browning’s campy Mark of the Vampire (1935) co-starring with Bela Lugosi as Count Mora (His birthday is coming up on October 20th!) Lionel Atwill and the always cheeky Lionel Barrymore… Later in 1958 she would co-star with Boris Karloff in the ever-atmospheric The Haunted Strangler.

Mark of the Vampire is a moody graveyard chiller scripted by Bernard Schubert & Guy Endore (The Raven, Mad Love (1935) & The Devil Doll (1936) and the terrific noir thriller Tomorrow is Another Day (1951) with sexy Steve Cochran & one of my favs Ruth Roman!)

The film is a Tod Browning’s re-take of his silent Lon Chaney Sr. classic London After Midnight (1927).

The story goes like this: Sir Karell Borotin (Holmes Herbert) is murdered, left drained of his blood, Professor Zelin (Lionel Barrymore) believes it’s the work of vampires. Lionel Atwill once again plays well as the inquiring but skeptical police Inspector Neumann.

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Irena (Elizabeth Allan) and Professor Zelen (Lionel Barrymore) hatch an intricate plot to trap the murderers!

Once Sir Karell’s daughter Irena ( our heroine Elizabeth Allan) is assailed, left with strange bite marks on her neck, the case becomes active again. Neumann consults Professor Zelin the leading expert on Vampires. This horror whodunit, includes frightened locals who believe that Count Mora (Bela in iconic cape and saturnine mannerism) and his creepy daughter Luna  (Carroll Borland) who trails after him through crypt and foggy woods, are behind the strange going’s on. But is all what it seems?

Mark of the Vampire (1935)

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Elizabeth Allan (below center) and Carroll Borland as Luna in Tod Browning’s Mark of the Vampire (1935)
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Elizabeth Allan and Carroll Borland Mark of the Vampire (1935)

The Phantom Fiend (1932)

Directed by the ever interesting director Maurice Elvey (Mr. Wu 1919, The Sign of Four, 1923, The Clairvoyant 1935, The Man in the Mirror 1936, The Obsessed 1952) Elizabeth Allan stars as Daisy Bunting the beautiful but mesmerized by the strange yet sensual and seemingly tragic brooding figure- boarder Ivor Novello as Michel Angeloff in The Phantom Fiend! A remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s first film about Jack the Ripper… The Lodger (1927) starring Novello once again.

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Ivor Novello is the strange & disturbing Michel Angeloff. Elizabeth Allan is the daughter of the landlords who rent a room to this mysterious fellow who might just be a serial killer. Daisy Bunyon falls captivated by this tormented and intense young man…
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A.W. Baskcomb plays Daisy’s (Elizabeth Allan)father George Bunting and Jack Hawkins is Joe Martin the regular guy in love with Daisy
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Michel Angeloff (Ivor Novello) to Daisy Bunting (Elizabeth Allan) “Stay away from me… don’t ever be alone with me…{…} -You trust me, no matter whatever I’ve done?”

The Mystery of Mr. X (1934)

There is a murderer loose in London who writes the police before he strikes with a sword cane, he signs his name X. It happens that his latest crime occurs on the same night that the Drayton Diamond is stolen. Robert Montgomery as charming as ever, is Nick Revel the jewel thief responsible for the diamond heist, but he’s not a crazed murderer. The co-incidence of the two crimes have put him in a fix as he’s now unable to unload the gem until the police solve the murders.

Elizabeth Allan is the lovely Jane Frensham, Sir Christopher Marche’s (Ralph Forbes) fiancé and Police Commissioner Sir Herbert Frensham’s daughter. Sir Christopher is arrested for the X murders, and Nick and Jane band together, fall madly in love and try to figure out a way to help the police find the real killer!

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HEATHER ANGEL

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Heather Angel is a British actress who started out on stage at the Old Vic theatre but left for Hollywood and became known for the Bulldog Drummond series. While not appearing in lead roles, she did land parts in successful films such as Kitty Foyle, Pride and Prejudice (1940), Cry ‘Havoc’ (1943) and Lifeboat (1944). IMDb notes -Angel tested for the part of Melanie in Gone with the Wind (1939), the role was given to Olivia de Havilland.

Heather Angel possessed a sublime beauty and truly deserved to be leading lady rather than relegated to supporting roles and guilty but pleasurable B movie status.

The L.A times noted about her death in 1986 at age 77 “Fox and Universal ignored her classic training and used her in such low- budget features as “Charlie Chans Greatest Case and “Springtime for Henry.”

Her performances in Berkeley Square and The Mystery of Edwin Drood were critically acclaimed… More gruesome than the story-lines involving her roles in Edwin Drood, Hound of the Baskervillles or Lifeboat put together is the fact that she witnessed her husband, stage and film directer Robert B. Sinclair’s vicious stabbing murder by an intruder in their California home in 1970.

Heather Grace Angel was born in Oxford, England, on February 9, 1909.
Heather Angel in Berkeley Square (1933) Image courtesy Dr Macro

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1932)

Heather Angel is Beryl Stapleton in this lost (found negatives and soundtracks were found and donated to the British Film Institute archives) adaptation of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holme’s thriller Originally serialised in The Strand magazine between 1901 and 1902.

In this first filmed talkie of Doyle’s more horror oriented story it calls for the great detective to investigating the death of Sir Charles Baskerville and solve the strange killing that takes place on the moors, feared that there is a supernatural force, a monstrous dog like fiend that is menacing the Baskerville family ripping the throats from it’s victims. The remaining heir Sir Henry is now threatened by the curse.

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Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935)

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Douglass Montgomery as Neville Landless and Heather Angel as Rosa Bud in the intensely superior rare gem The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935)

Mystery of Edwin Drood (played by David Manners) is a dark and nightmarish Gothic tale of mad obsession, drug addiction and heartless murder! Heather Angel plays the beautiful and kindly young student at a Victorian finishing school, Rosa Bud engaged to John Jasper’s nephew Edwin Drood. The opium chasing, choir master John Jasper (Claude Rains) becomes driven to mad fixation over Rosa, who is quite aware of his intense gaze, she becomes frightened and repulsed by him.

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The brooding & malevolent Rains frequents a bizarre opium den run by a menacing crone (Zeffie Tilbury), a creepy & outre moody whisper in the melody of this Gothic horror/suspense tale!

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Valerie Hobson plays twin sister Helena Landless, the hapless Neville’s sister. (We’ll get to one of my favorites, the exquisite Valerie Hobson in just a bit…) When Neville and Helena arrive at the school, both Edwin and he vie for Rosa’s affections. When Edwin vanishes, naturally Neville is the one suspected in his mysterious disappearance.

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Olga Baclanova

Though I’ll always be distracted by Baclanova’s icy performance as the vicious Cleopatra in Tod Browning’s masterpiece Freaks which blew the doors off social morays and became a cultural profane cult film, Baclanova started out as a singer with the Moscow Art Theater. Appearing in several silent films, she eventually co-starred as Duchess Josiana with Conrad Veidt as the tragic Gwynplaine, in another off-beat artistic masterpiece based on the Victor Hugo story The Man Who Laughs (1928)

Freaks (1932)

Tod Browning produced & directed this eternally disturbing & joyful portrait of behind the scenes melodrama and at times the Gothic violence of carnival life… based on the story ‘Spurs’ by Tod Robbins. It’s also been known as Nature’s Mistress and The Monster Show.

It was essential for Browning to attain realism. He hired actual circus freaks to bring to life this quirky Grand Guignol, beautifully grotesque & macabre tale of greed, betrayal and loyalty.

Cleopatra (Baclanova) and Hercules (Henry Victor) plan to swindle the owner of the circus Hans, (Harry Earles starring with wife Frieda as Daisy) out of his ‘small’ fortune by poisoning him on their wedding night. The close family of side show performers exact a poetic yet monstrous revenge! The film also features many memorable circus folk. Siamese conjoined twins Daisy & Violet Hilton, also saluted in American Horror Story (Sarah Paulson another incredible actress, doing a dual role) Schlitze the pinhead and more!

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Anyone riveted to the television screen to watch Jessica Lange’s mind blowing performance as Elsa Mars in American Horror Story’s: Freak Show (2014) will not only recognize her superb nod to Marlene Dietrich, but much reverence paid toward the Tod Browning’s classic and Baclanova’s cunning coldness.

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( BTW as much as I adore Frances McDormand, Lange should have walked away with the Emmy this year! I’ve rarely seen a performance that balances like a tight rope walker, the subtle choreography between gut wrenching pathos & ruthless sinister vitriol. Her rendition of Bowie’s song Life on Mars…will be a Film Score Freak feature this Halloween season! No I can’t wait… here’s a peak! it fits the mood of this post…)

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Baclanova and Earles

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“You Freaks!!!!”
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Gooba Gabba… I guess she isn’t one of us after all!

here she is as the evil Countess/duchess luring poor Gwynplain into her clutches The Man Who Laughs (1928)

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Continue reading “MonsterGirl’s Halloween 🎃 2015 special feature! the Heroines, Scream Queens & Sirens of 30s Horror Cinema!”

Film Noir ♥ Transgression Into the Cultural Cinematic Gutter: From Shadowland to Psychotronic Playground

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”
Sigmund Freud

“Ladies and gentlemen- welcome to violence; the word and the act. While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favorite mantle still remains sex.” — Narrator from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)

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Tura Satana, Haji, and Lori Williams in Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! 1965
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Françoise Dorléac and Donald Pleasence in Roman Polanski’s Cul-de-sac 1966
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Constance Towers kicks the crap out of her pimp for shaving off her hair in Sam Fuller’s provocative The Naked Kiss 1964
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Peter Breck plays a journalist hungry for a story and gets more than a jolt of reality when he goes undercover in a Mental Institution in Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor 1963
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Bobby Darin is a psychotic racist in Hubert Cornfield and Stanley Kramer’s explosive Pressure Point 1962 starring Sidney Poitier and Peter Falk.

THE DARK PAGES NEWSLETTER  a condensed article was featured in The Dark Pages: You can click on the link for all back issues or to sign up for upcoming issues to this wonderful newsletter for all your noir needs!

Constance Towers as Kelly from The Naked Kiss (1964): “I saw a broken down piece of machinery. Nothing but the buck, the bed and the bottle for the rest of my life. That’s what I saw.”

Griff (Anthony Eisley) The Naked Kiss (1964): “Your body is your only passport!”

Catherine Deneuve as Carole Ledoux in Repulsion (1965): “I must get this crack mended.”

Monty Clift Dr. Cukrowicz Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) : “Nature is not made in the image of man’s compassion.”

Patricia Morán as Rita Ugalde: The Exterminating Angel 1962:“I believe the common people, the lower class people, are less sensitive to pain. Haven’t you ever seen a wounded bull? Not a trace of pain.”

Ann Baxter as Teresina Vidaverri Walk on the Wild Side 1962“When People are Kind to each other why do they have to find a dirty word for it.”

The Naked Venus 1959“I repeat she is a gold digger! Europe’s full of them, they’re tramps… they’ll do anything to get a man. They even pose in the NUDE!!!!”

Darren McGavin as Louie–The Man With the Golden Arm (1955): “The monkey is never dead, Dealer. The monkey never dies. When you kick him off, he just hides in a corner, waiting his turn.”

Baby Boy Franky Buono-Blast of Silence (1961) “The targets names is Troiano, you know the type, second string syndicate boss with too much ambition and a mustache to hide the facts he’s got lips like a woman… the kind of face you hate!”

Lorna (1964)- “Thy form is fair to look upon, but thy heart is filled with carcasses and dead man’s bones”

Peter Fonda as Stephen Evshevsky in Lilith (1964): “How wonderful I feel when I’m happy. Do you think that insanity could be so simple a thing as unhappiness?”

Glen or Glenda (1953)“Give this man satin undies, a dress, a sweater and a skirt, or even a lounging outfit and he’s the happiest individual in the world.”

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Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda 1953

Johnny Cash as Johnny Cabot in Five Minutes to Live (1961):“I like a messy bed.”

Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton) Island of Lost Souls: “Do you know what it means to feel like God?”

The Curious Dr. Humpp (1969): “Sex dominates the world! And now, I dominate sex!”

The Snake Pit (1948): Jacqueline deWit as Celia Sommerville “And we’re so crowded already. I just don’t know where it’s all gonna end!” Olivia de Havilland as Virginia Stuart Cunningham “I’ll tell you where it’s gonna end, Miss Somerville… When there are more sick ones than well ones, the sick ones will lock the well ones up.”

Delphine Seyrig as Countess Bathory in Daughters of Darkness (1971)“Aren’t those crimes horrifying. And yet -so fascinating!”

Julien Gulomar as Bishop Daisy to the Barber (Michel Serrault) King of Hearts (1966)“I was so young. I already knew that to love the world you have to get away from it.”

The Killing of Sister George (1968) -Suzanna York as Alice ‘CHILDIE’: “Not all women are raving bloody lesbians, you know” Beryl Reid as George: “That is a misfortune I am perfectly well aware of!”

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Susannah York (right) with Beryl Reid in The Killing of Sister George Susannah York and Beryl Reid in Robert Aldrich’s The Killing of Sister George 1960

The Lickerish Quartet (1970)“You can’t get blood out of an illusion.”

THE SWEET SOUND OF DEATH (1965)Dominique-“I’m attracted” Pablo-” To Bullfights?” Dominique-” No, I meant to death. I’ve always thought it… The state of perfection for all men.”

Peter O’Toole as Sir Charles Ferguson Brotherly Love (1970): “Remember the nice things. Reared in exile by a card-cheating, scandal ruined daddy. A mummy who gave us gin for milk. Ours was such a beautifully disgusting childhood.”

Maximillian Schell as Stanislaus Pilgrin in Return From The Ashes 1965: “If there is no God, no devil, no heaven, no hell, and no immortality, then anything is permissible.”

Euripides 425 B.C.“Whom God wishes to destroy… he first makes mad.”

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Bette Davis and Joan Crawford bring to life two of the most outrageously memorable characters in Robert Aldrich’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962

WHAT DOES PSYCHOTRONIC MEAN?

psychotronic |ˌsīkəˈtränik| adjective denoting or relating to a genre of movies, typically with a science fiction, horror, or fantasy theme, that were made on a low budget or poorly received by critics. [1980s: coined in this sense by Michael Weldon, who edited a weekly New York guide to the best and worst films on local television.] Source: Wikipedia

In the scope of these transitioning often radical films, where once, men and women aspired for the moon and the stars and the whole ball of wax. in the newer scheme of things they aspired for you know… “kicks” yes that word comes up in every film from the 50s and 60s… I’d like to have a buck for every time a character opines that collective craving… from juvenile delinquent to smarmy jet setter!

FILM NOIR HAD AN INEVITABLE TRAJECTORY…

THE ECCENTRIC & OFTEN GUTSY STYLE OF FILM NOIR HAD NO WHERE ELSE TO GO… BUT TO REACH FOR EVEN MORE OFF-BEAT, DEVIANT– ENDLESSLY RISKY & TABOO ORIENTED SET OF NARRATIVES FOUND IN THE SUBVERSIVE AND EXPLOITATIVE CULT FILMS OF THE MID TO LATE 50s through the 60s and into the early 70s!

I just got myself this collection of goodies from Something Weird!

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There’s even this dvd that points to the connection between the two genres – Here it’s labeled WEIRD. I like transgressive… They all sort of have a whiff of noir.
Grayson Hall Satan in High Heels
Grayson Hall -Satan in High Heels 1962
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Gerd Oswald adapts Fredrick Brown’s titillating novel — bringing to the screen the gorgeous Anita Ekberg, Phillip Carey and Gypsy Rose Lee and Harry Townes in the sensational, obscure and psycho-sexual thriller Screaming Mimi 1958
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Victor Buono is a deranged mama’s boy in Burt Topper’s fabulous The Strangler 1964
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Catherine Deneuve is extraordinary as the unhinged nymph in Roman Polanski’s psycho-sexual tale of growing madness in Repulsion 1965

Just like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, Noir took a journey through an even darker lens… Out of the shadows of 40s Noir cinema, European New Wave, fringe directors, and Hollywood auteurs, brought more violent, sexual, transgressive, and socially transformative narratives into the cold light of day with a creeping sense of verité. While Film Noir pushed the boundaries of taboo subject matter and familiar Hollywood archetypes it wasn’t until later that we are able to visualize the advancement of transgressive topics.

Continue reading “Film Noir ♥ Transgression Into the Cultural Cinematic Gutter: From Shadowland to Psychotronic Playground”

Quote of the Day! Belita in Suspense (1946)

SUSPENSE (1946)

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Like Boxing=Noir which blends the aggressive masculinity of pugilism with the dark shadowy narratives of Film Noir… Director Frank Tuttle’s superbly structured gem Suspense 1946 integrates the art of ice-skating featuring the unusual beauty and poise of Belita. Woven into the story of the love triangle amidst the almost carninvalesque milieu of figure skating, revenge, murder, a mysterious drifter Barry Sullivan as Joe Morgan who is hiding his dark past… Joe insinuates himself into the life of married couple, skating/dancing sensation Roberta Leonard (Belita) and husband Frank Leonard (The always interesting Albert Dekker  Dr.Cyclops 1940, The Killers 1946)

Sullivan and Belita conjure a very believable chemistry…. She is classy and conflicted, he is smooth and seriously dark and dangerous.

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Joe wants to consume everything around him until he controls the show and the object of his desire… the graceful and seductive Roberta.

The skating scenes are sensational. Belita seems to move on ice and off with an effortless grace, the way snow moves through the air with a natural current that finds it’s mark with a precise beauty of motion. Absolutely stunning to watch, and never detracts from the taut and well framed noir landscape. Eugene Palette is marvelous as assistant to the boss, Harry Wheeler. His gravel voice and the gentle presence of his obvious girth make him an added pleasure to the coiling tension of the film! Editor Otho Lovering (Stagecoach 1939, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 1962) weaves a seamless stream of suspense!

Frank Paul Sylos’ (Caught 1949, Suddenly 1954), art direction and George James Hopkins’ ( Casablanca 1942, A Streetcar Named Desire 1951) set design is surreal and haunting.

 Belita, Sullivan and Palette-The Knife Wheel

Barry Sullivan as Joe Morgan“You’ve got plenty of nerve.. for a girl…”

Belita as Roberta Leonard “You’ve got plenty of nerve… period!”

Suspensefully Yours… Your EverLovin’ MonsterGirl!!!!

Sunday Nite Surreal-The Premonition (1976) Carnival Clowns & Deathly Dreams

THE PREMONITION 1976

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Directed by Robert Allen Schnitzer and written by Anthony Mahon, Schnitzer and Louis Pastore? Okay… While I’ve never seen anything else by Schnitzer, this moody, surreal, haunting and often frenetically disturbing reverie has remained with me all these years. Some people think it’s a weak film, not even a horror movie. I’m not saying it’s a masterpiece, but I think it’s a genre gem!

What’s really strange about this hidden terror film is cinematographer/director Victor Milt ( Run Stinky Run, Sex Wish) has done some weird really obscure stuff after working on The Premonition and director- writer Schnitzer hasn’t done anything I can talk about here either. So how did this remarkably creepy film become what it is??? I wish I knew the answer, but there have been memorable films created by one time feature film directors like Herk Harvey’s who usually did shorts or documentaries who envisions the gorgeous dreamlike Carnival of Souls 1962. At least writer-actor Richard Blackburn did Eating Raoul 1982 after his unbelievable Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural 1973. (Coming to the Last Drive In soon!)

Great character actor Jeff Corey plays the investigating Police Det. Lt. Mark Denver. There’s even a gypsy woman, played by Wilmuth Cooper. 

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Jeff Corey plays the investigating Police Det. Lt. Mark Denver.

I saw The Premonition when it first arrived in theaters in 1976. It frightened the bejesus out of me then, with it’s nightmarish segments in particular Jude’s (Richard Lynch) and Andrea’s (Ellen Barber) uncontrollable fits of rage. Their joint psychosis was a very powerful elixir as part of the carnival set piece. Their relationship alone could have made for an interesting story of madness, obsession and self-destruction.

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This film was my introduction to the interesting actor that is, Richard Lynch. The film has stayed with me. I’ve read other people’s reviews who think the script is ridiculous, muddled and the pacing is choppy. Still it has a haunting quality to it, especially Lynch and Ellen Barber’s performances. The music by Henry Mollicone is fantastical for the vibe of the film and fascinates me, now I have to see his musical performance in the fascinating documentary The Face on the Barroom Floor 2013.

The lens has a ghostly haze over it. with a low drab subdued tonality. The music brings you in like a soft waling of an otherworldly siren. An eerie Glossolalia , the fluid vocalizing of the tormented Andrea. Reminding me of the amazing Lisa Gerrard from Dead Can Dance.

The institutional green bus pulls over and Andrea grips herself looking toward something. The clear pale blue sky hovering over Andrea feels chilly. She is beautiful yet strange, walking slowly toward the carnival grounds. A flutter of birds let out into the air, the vocalizing continues and Ferris Wheel comes into focus with another stomach turning carnival ride. These daydreaming machines add the color to the midway landscape. It is desolate here.

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It somewhat creates a colorful version of Carnival of Souls the haunting set pieces of desolation, and otherness that play on our deepest thoughts. The impressions effervesce in fair grounds and we construct fantasies.

Dulcimer and glistening piano bring forth Jude, a cigarette hanging out of his oddly angular face and lion like blonde mane, he’s almost sexy ugly. The film still lensed in cold aqua greens and pale blue. He steps out of his trailer, we see he’s wearing white ballet slippers like a mime. The piano rolls magnificently. Henry Mollicone is a virtuoso. With electronic music by Pril Smiley.

Jude steps out onto the pavement, wearing suspenders he begins a series of theatrical movements. Moving dramatically with his scarf.

Jude expresses with his body more fervently as if he hears the grand piano playing. He reaches up to the blue sky so vivid so crystalline blue. As Jude it is a lonely dance for a sad solitary clown. As he bends downward he sees Andrea standing there. It a portent, life is about to be turned truly upside down.

The story is a simple and unreserved one, gripping and nightmarish for all the players and we who witness a small girl being hunted psychically by her dangerously unstable biological mother who is traveling with a carnival.

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The scene cuts to them sitting in his trailer she’s looking at photographs through a spy glass. He says “Look at those eyes, Andrea, and the mouth… see that. I saw her yesterday when I took the photograph. This time I’m positive I know it’s her” “You sure her name is Janie” “Yeah I’m sure, here look” He flips the photo over and the name and age is on the back.
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“Janie Bennett the age is right… it all figures… it’s gotta be her” Andrea asks, “Where does she live?” Jude tells her, ” Dover about 5 miles from here.”

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Jude begins to put on his heavy white grease paint. Andrea goes to the board and touches the photo of Janie…
She turns to him… ” I thought you’d forgotten about me Jude” ” I told you I’d call you as soon as I found something didn’t I?” “Jude what if its not her, what if it’s like all the other times… what if we come out with nothing what then?” Then we wait and we keep on waiting until we find her”

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When Andrea shows up at Janie’s school, the music becomes a flutter of wings with flute as the children run free from their inside captivity. Andrea fingers the metal holes in the fence moving slowly, waiting for her little girl to appear. Finally Janie is standing before her she calls to her, then Janie runs to her adoptive mother Sherrie who is waiting in the car.

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Back in Jude’s trailer-Jude says, “We were lucky it couldn’t of taken years to find her” “It did take years… five stinkin’ years in that rotten pit” Jude answers,”Oh it wasn’t all that bad, I mean we wouldn’t have met otherwise.” 

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Andrea’s horrible beer drinking tv junkie landlady in curlers

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The use of ‘red’ in this movie is distinct. It is the characteristic color that symbolizes Andrea’s passion, madness and self destruction. Red is Andrea’s COLOR… down to her lipstick

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The window impresses me as a Mark Rothko painting. The color red is very impressionistic and so vital to the film’s narrative.

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The use of ‘red’ in this movie is distinct. It is the characteristic color that symbolizes Andrea’s passion, madness and self destruction.

Jude tells Andrea that he has found a house. A small house in the woods, a nice place to settle down with the kid.

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Andrea glows a weird smile emerges at first “Settling down!” Then clenching her teeth as she drags the comb through wet raven tresses. “What are you talking about settling down for… what are you talking about. Sometimes I just don’t understand you Jude. Settling down for what…?this comes first! “

But Jude explains that they can hide out in that house til things blow over. She walks away towel drying her hair.

He remains on the topic “nobodies lived there for years. they’ll never find us”

Jude lays on the bed smoking a cigarette while Andrea in red bathrobe, plays a beautiful piece of music on the piano.

The scene switches to Miles talking to Dr Kingsly his associate about parapsychology as she instructs a small class-

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“The Clairvoyant reality is totally rejected by science and finds expression only in our art, music religion”

“The Clairvoyant reality is totally rejected by science and finds expression only in our art, music religion”

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At the same time the film is juxtaposing images of Andrea having a primordial psychic meltdown. Not even maternal scream, just a core anaphylactic roar from deep within.

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Sherri begins to see visions of a volatile confrontation between Jude and Andrea. On the spectral plane it comes across in distorted yowls and negative film images. It’s quite a frightening effect. I remember being terrified by these scenes in the darkness of the theater. Like little shock treatments to a burgeoning MonsterGirl mind…

For people who think there isn’t enough explanation to the narrative Sherri’s friend hints at the idea when spending the night telling Sherri that she had heard of two minors who had been trapped for several days, they began sharing the same hallucinations. In this way, her question about Sherries disturbing visions somehow being linked to Janie’s bad dreams is true.

A psychic storm is brewing from the rage and unrequited desires from both Jude and Andrea. Janie and Sherrie naturally begin to form a single wave length that tunes into this frequency. At least this is the premise of the film. The one link is Janie the child… and who will be the conquering mother?

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While Miles is not working late with the attractive professor Kingsly, he’s eating cotton candy and riding the merry go round with her.. hhm… at the carnival-definitely research related… as she suddenly looks down at Mile’s wedding band her happy expression fades away.

Meanwhile Andrea and Jude pull up in that fabulous green pick up. The crickets and chorus frigs are singing their night song. Jude shuts the motor off. In her red dress, nails and oz slippers like the witch of the west Andrea creeps or slithers into the house to take Janie.

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the frame appears to give an almost fun house effect with the striped wall paper that disorients us
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Andrea’s presence on the stairs casts a dark menacing shadow along the wall, reminiscent of Nosferatu

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The use of electronic sounds is excellent.

Andrea’s casting a darkness, shadowing the wall is reminiscent of Nosferatu. Andrea is almost as icy as a dead thing herself… wanting to lure the child back, it looks and feels vampiric. Yet this is Janie’s biological mother, which creates some ambivalence for me as she deserves to have at least guided contact with her daughter, otherwise why let her out of the mental hospital?

It creates the effect of psychic static the use of sound used whenever the camera focuses on Andrea’s movements.

And the framing of Andrea looking back into the den while Sherri sleeps utilizes the striped walls as they also become as distorted as fun house room. Very disorienting.

The last remnant of shadow left from andrea creeping up the steps is eerire as Sherri sleeps as if under a spell. Once again… a notion of Nosferatu. Andrea even has a dark complexion that could even be considered eastern European gypsy, like Bela Lugosi.

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The use of electronic static, noise represents Andrea’s state of mind at the moment. The use of low lighting and color is well placed and create a surreal atmosphere of worlds colliding.

The electronic noises that represnet Andrea’s madness and presence are like a metalic insect. As if she hisses and slithers into Janie’s room. Everything is back lit. Andrea’s color is hot reds, and Janie is cool blue.

Sherri wakes up to the sound of the rocking chair in Janie’s room.

No body can tell me that this film isn’t an eerie, haunting little story, that stays with you… If it doesn’t deliver on the kinds of gruesome gory chills you’d expect from a 70s horror story then you’re watching the wrong film. But this film is highly underrated and often shot down by critics who feel it falls short. Oh well… The rest of us who know it’s strength will continue to advocate for it…Back to the film….-MonsterGirl 

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Andrea runs down the stairs taking one of Janie’s dolls  after fighting with Sherrie who is clinging to Janie on the bed. Andrea screams up to Sherrie… “She is Mine… she will always be mine-!!!!!!” Her voice is strained, powerful, almost magnetic.

Back at Jude’s little house in the woods, Andrea is holding Janie’s doll as if it were her.

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“You are such a pretty baby” Andrea says to the doll. Jude staring out the bleak window of the little house looks on with a worried stare. He rips the head off the doll as it squeaks Andrea screams and cries. Jude has become more unhinged himself. It has been brewing in him since the beginning. But it is not working out the way he had envisioned. He can’t control Andrea, and she obviously doesn’t care for him the same way. Two mentally ill people fighting over their own neurosis.

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“What’d you do to my baby?”
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“Your baby, your baby is back in the goddam house with its mother”

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“What’s it to you? You’re not her father!! You are nobodies father. And you’re never gonna be anyone’s father… You aren’t even a goddam MAN!!!!

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Andrea destroys Jude’s manhood as if she took a knife and thrust it in.

Jude looses it… we hear screams.

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At the same time…Sherrie gets cold in the bathroom, the mirror freezes over. She cannot see herself. It’s a supernatural event that begins to connect the events surrounding the players involved.

Jeff Corey the investigating cop shows up at Janie’s biological father’s house to ask some questions about Andrea.

I’ve noticed the narrative uses a lot of frames where people are either looking out windows or doors or standing in the doorframe looking in. It’s that tout to parapsychologies’ introspective plane of existence…the within powers that surround all of us on a personal level. The character look inward, we’re watching them look inward and we wind up looking inward with them…

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Danielle Brisebois makes her debut playing Janie Bennett the wee one who is being visited by her psychic/psychotic mother through horrifying visions like a vampiric wraith filtering through the ether reaching outward to contact her little girl who was given away to foster parents while she was in the mental ward. But Janie is terrified and wants to remain with her foster parents Prof. Miles and Sherri Bennett played by Sharon Farrell  (Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive 1974) and Edward Bell. Farrell is always good at playing adorable cheap, neurotic and a little over the edge. Brisebois was still really cute at this stage before she became Archie Bunker’s annoying niece, until she grew up into a sexy rock singer.

I have to admit that seeing this film in the theater when I was an impressionable teenager really freaked me out a bit. The images were quite startling, and in retrospect anything Carnival related is wonderfully creepy and wonderfully eerie, as it attains it’s own self contained world. The vision of the crazy Andrea Fletcher are quite stunning as well, so as far as the pacing being muddled or uninteresting, I suppose those people who hated this film were looking for more 70s bloody, axes, psycho-sexual mind games, animals attacking or devil children. This story is a bit of a childlike nightmare amidst, Folie à deux insanity, loss, possession, motherhood and longing. The narrative slips between a mordent sense of all these themes, as it expands beyond the literal world and works on our unconscious participation in moral ideals of motherhood, rights of and the boundaries that separate us all by a psychic thread.

Andrea (Ellen Barber  who plays Mickey Roarke’s secretary in Nine 1/2 Weeks (1986) comes to Janie’s school to try and grab her, but Janie’s new mommy Sherri has a premonition and manages to arrive just in time to save Janie. Andrea lives with her wildly menacing boyfriend, a clown named Jude. Yikes, as if Lynch wasn’t frightening on a good day, wearing white face paint and painted on tears… it still gives me the heebie-jeebies.

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Andrea is obsessed with getting Janie back, and Jude will do anything for his nutty girlfriend. The pair manage to kidnap Janie leaving the Bennetts in a panic who then seek out the help of a parapsychologist Dr. Jeena Kingsly (Chitra Neogy) a colleague of Miles. They hope that she can decipher Sherries terrifying visions, as she also has a psychic link to Janie she must try and track her down before the unstable Andrea loses it completely and harms her daughter.

The story makes it hard for us to sympathize with Andrea as a protagonist longing to be reunited with her daughter, because she herself is such a threatening figure. She’s been recently released from an institution and is still emotionally volatile. She met Jude while she was hospitalized. Jude keeps a watchful eye out for Janie, working for the carnival he’s in the position to see a lot of children pass through. One day he spots Andrea’s daughter with Sherri.

He tells Andrea that he’s seen Janie which is the catalyst for a wave of psychic visions that beset Sherri. Dr Kingsly tries to guide Sherri to use her powers of ESP to find Janie and connect with her to track her down and bring her back.

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Jeff Corey is on the scene talking to the landlady helping to locate the kidnapped Janie

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Filmed in Mississippi the look has a haunting rustic and starkly Gothic feel to it. There’s an untouchable sense of dreamery, a trance like aura that surrounds the frames. It disconnects us from all things being easily explained, but dreams are like that and the atmosphere of the eerie and urgent narrative compensates for the lack of cohesive and sensible plot design.

In the 70s not all things were explained coherently. Sometimes the figures floated upon landscapes that were nightmarish and made no sense. As in Let’s Scare Jessica to Death 1971, and yet it was this ambiguity that created the mystique, the mystery and the mood.

What makes a story a thing that is haunting are visions not clearly defined, nor affirmations said aloud. The outstanding theme that jolts you into a sense of agony is the pull between two mothers, one who is emotionally destructive yearning for her child, and the other, desperately trying to protect the child she believes is hers now.

Caught in between is Janie who can only feel the thrust of possession surrounding her, the vivid nightmares and fears of innocence and unknown. Also tangled in the web of possession is Jude who is merely being used as a means to procure Janie for Andrea. His frustration turns outward like the rage of a tornado. Lynch’s face reveals his turbulence well. Andrea taunts him until he is so wounded that he keeps the child even when he doesn’t have to. If I say more I will give away part of the story…

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There are some truly shocking moments-The painting crying blood when Dr Kingsly tells Sherri just to let it flow when trying to teach her to hone in on her psychic insights. -Andrea wearing  a ruby red evening gown soaked in blood appears in Janie’s bedroom with rocking chair (turtle lovers look away) it is extremely eerie and somber. Her hands seem like talons, once again The Monstrous Feminine arrives on cue.

There are a few visions or apparitions of Andrea drenched in blood and the recurring forming of ice on those iconographic mirrors. Mirrors, the pathway to see ourselves is clouded by ice in order to obscure Sherri’s view into the psychic world.

The climax is a mesmerizing sequence, one that will either have you laughing and dismissing this film completely as others have done, or it will stay with you as it has with me, a beautiful little nightmare.

The Unknown (1927) Lon Chaney- “Men! The beasts! God would show wisdom if he took the hands from all of them!”

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“Ancient traditions, when tested by the severe processes if modern investigation, commonly enough fade away into mere dream; but it is singular how often the dream turns out to have been a half-waking one, presaging a reality.”
-T.H.Huxley; The Book of Beast

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“Men! The beasts! God would show wisdom if he took the hands from all of them!” Nanon Zanzi

or… Mad Love Among the Limbless!

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The Unknown (1927 USA 49mins)
Lon Chaney Sr as Alonso the Armless

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Directed by Tod Browning

Screenplay by Waldemar Young, (Island of Lost Souls 1932). Story by Tod Browning, based on a novel by Mary Roberts Rindhart. (The Bat 1959). Cinematography byMerritt B. Gerstad  (Watch on the Rhine 1943). Edited by Harry Reynolds, & Errol Taggart. Art Direction by Cedric Gibbons & Richard Day (On the Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire) and Lucia Coulter, wardrobe.

Cast: Lon Chaney immortalizes the role of Alonzo the Armless, Joan Crawford plays Nanon Zanzi Norman Kerry plays the strongman Malabar, John George is Alonzo’s side-kick Cojo, Frank Lanning as Costra. Nick De Ruiz as circus owner and Nanon’s ruthless father, Zanzi.

The Unknown is a beautifully disturbing film that gains a savage momentum the more you peer into the face of it’s ugly story. As writer/historian David J. Skal states of the stage contraption at the film’s climax “the Unknown itself is a perfectly constructed torture machine and arguably Browning’s most accomplished film.”

I’d like to use the term “gothic embodiment” from Lena Wånggren‘s May 22, 2013 article Gothic Embodiment: Lon Chaney and Affective amputation because of her astute insight of the overreaching theme of The Unknown which taps into the fear of castration and the horrific aspect to this bizarrely sensational L’amour Fou, that which is both grim and grotesque.

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Chaney and Crawford
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Alonzo and Cojo enter the operating room. The sterile environment envelopes the two men.

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Alonzo blackmails the surgeon for the mob into amputating both his arms. Showing him his signature double thumbs.

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For me it was an unnerving, disquieting piece of the puzzle when I first watched Alonzo enter the stark surgical room to blackmail the surgeon into amputating both his arms, and thereby cutting off his ability to embrace Nanon, his arms an extension of his entire male body. The castration anxiety fulfilled.

Wånggren asks what is a Gothic body? Here she cites a few examples-

“Various scholars have theorized Gothic embodiment and physical difference in Gothic works, such as Judith Halberstam’s Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (1995) Recently, the collection Demons of the Body and Mind: Essays on Disability in Gothic Literature (2010), edited by Ruth Bienstock Anolik, fruitfully employs the framework of disability studies to study monstrosity in the Gothic. The collected essays focus on the ways in which Gothic texts respond to ‘human beings who are figured as inhuman because they do not align with the physical or mental standards of their society’.

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The beautiful Joan Crawford all of eighteen and Lon Chaney Sr in Tod Browning’s striking disturbing The Unknown 1927

Lon Chaney has inhabited so many memorable roles with the use of theatrically exaggerated Gothic embodiment or characters who are ‘other’ on screen. What quickly comes to mind of course is Erik in Phantom of the Opera or Quasimodo in 1925 as The Hunchback of Notre Dame and of course the cruel yet redemptive Phrozo in The Penalty.

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Lon Chaney as Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Chaney possessed the ability to express his inner most desires not only through an intuitively emotional expressiveness, along side his elaborate make-up, he also possessed the commanding physicality his roles put on his body.

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Alonzo the Armless showing his arms

Chaney was heavily inspired by clowns as a young man, being fascinated by the duality of their personae. Alonzo is a particularly complex character as Chaney offers us with most of his performances, a man who can be simultaneously loathed and yet often wears a strata of sympathetic layers as we see into his intricate psyche, a sympathetic yet hateful man. Alonzo is a violent misanthrope yet he finds a tenderness in his love for Nanon ironically a woman who repels any love from men. The duality of the character exists in this… Chaney deftly balances his ill spirited belligerence toward the world and his internal emotionalism for the object of his love, the elusive and troubled Nanon.

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Side-Kick Cojo is the only one privy to Alonzo’s secret identity hiding out in the gypsy circus and the fact that he does in fact have two good arms

Chaney is drawn to these roles like moths to the flame of men who suffer their difference at the hands of societal norms, exacting a sort of rule of vengeance, while completely cruel he still manages to convey a deep and abiding pathos.

In one of my other favorite performances of his, he brings to life the complex Blizzard in The Penalty 1920. Both legs having been amputated as a child by a inept surgeon. This sets his character’s trajectory off into a cruel space, one of abuse and a life of crime due to the hardship he endured by being an amputee.

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a scene from the hat factory Chaney as the cruel Blizzard in The Penalty

He is referred to by his foes as ‘the cripple from hell’. Blizzard’s pursuit is to exact revenge on the man who left him a cripple, and the absolute objectification of evil. Blizzard’s body has been left imperfect, filling him with a taste for vengeance for those ‘mangled years’ of his childhood. Years of being forced to live with his ‘physical difference.’

It is this desire for retribution that drives the narrative so strongly. In this narrative of Gothic difference through the embodiment of amputation, Blizzard conceives of a grotesque way of punishing this doctor by having the doctor amputate the legs of the daughter’s fiance, then attaching them to his own body.

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Ethel Grey Terry and Lon Chaney in The Penalty 1920-Chaney wearing fitted leather stumps that were painful in order to hide his legs

While Chaney’s performance as Blizzard the criminal mastermind does create a compelling set of nuances with his character as the criminally insane boy grown out of years of resentment and lust for revenge, it is his performance as Alonzo that truly hits the mark for me.

The Unknown, creates a bizarre romantic notion that Alonzo the Armless can choose to have his arms removed for the object of his desire Nanon which elevates this Gothic Embodiment into the realm of what our contemporary critics and film makers like David Cronenberg would call ‘body horror.’

Alonzo is also maliciously encouraged by his minion Cojo who acts like a devil imp, egging Alonzo down a more dangerous path of self destruction. As many classical horror films make use of the expressly contemptuous ‘little’ evil side-kick as nefarious as the monster themselves.

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Cojo is the personification of the characteristic little evil side kick
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Cojo reminds Alonzo that he doesn’t have to use his feet in private to do all the things he can do with his two good hands

The idea that Nanon (Joan Crawford) suffers from a carnal phobia of having anyone touch her is a vastly more complex and grotesquely misshapen love story than that of The Penalty. The circus performer named Alonzo the Armless, goes to the extremes of amputation so that Joan Crawford’s character Nanon won’t feel threatened by his touch.

Ironically he is rejected in the end of this queasy and quite grim story of unrequited love that turns in on itself.

The Unknown can be considered an allegory of sexual repression and traumatized masculinity. Going all Freudian on the film one could relate the act of Alonzo’s amputation to be that which is symbolic of Freud’s castration anxiety.

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Professor & Author Rick Worland refers to the The Unknown and the idea of Alonzo’s amputation both faked and eventually actualized as fantastic work of psycho-sexual grotesquerie’ it’s amputation plot presenting a ‘fever dream of phallic symbolism, castration anxiety and sexual terror.”

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Alonzo has rendered himself virtually impotent in a sexual way in order to satisfy Nanon’s need to be untouched.

Essentially the idea of Gothic Embodiment and the fetishistic use of amputation in a psycho-sexual context can not over look the idea of the act of simple ‘touch.’ The idea of Gothic Embodiment or ‘difference’ is inextricably linked to the act of touching and therefor an indirect link to frustrated intimacy. The human hands best embody this dual nature of touching and the sense of ‘feeling’ Both explore that which we touch and act as the tool in which to explore or express one’s emotions in kind with another human. What I’d like to call,body dialogue.’

The Unknown released by MGM in 1927 and directed by Tod Browning in the horror genre’s popularly known for (Dracula 1931, & Freaks 1932) takes place at Antonio Zanzi’s ‘gypsy circus’ in old Madrid. The story involves a bizarre love triangle between circus folk Alonzo the Armless (Lon Chaney) Nanon Zanzi (Joan Crawford) and Strongman Malabar the Mighty (Norman Kerry) Alonzo uses his feet to fire guns and throw knives at Nanon.

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The circus act itself a destructive spectacle of masochism as Nanon Zanzi assists Alonzo in his death defying act. Nanon is daughter to the circus owner Antonio Zanzi. Alonzo secretly desires Nanon. As part of their dangerously erotic act that resembles contact, furthermore penetration, but only in it’s flare for tease and excitement, the moving target Nanon is strapped to a board that spins. With each shot of the gun, the bullets remove one more article of Nanon’s clothes. Next with his feet Alonzo throws the penetrating knives that outline Nanon’s bikini clad body perfectly.

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Alonzo the Armless – the devil to his left side

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Alonzo the Armless can use shotguns to fire bullets that disrobe the beautiful Nanon

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Alonzo is described by the circus owner as ‘the sensation of sensations!’,and as the ‘wonder of wonders!’

Chaney collaborated with real life armless double Paul Dismute whose dexterity in the remarkable scenes where he uses his feet to handle objects such as strumming guitars, pouring wine, throwing knives or lighting cigarettes. Within the shot frame Tod Browning and cinematographer Merritt Gerstad (who also worked on Freaks) would use Chaney’s upper body and face. It was a brilliant use of body choreography and timing to give the illusion that Chaney was manipulating these objects by himself, while Dismute remained off camera handling the objects.

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Here are some selected critiques of the film cited in Dark Carnival the secret world of Tod Browning David J. Skal & Elias Savada Chapter- “Murderous Midgets, crippled thieves…”

“Reflecting the growing public alarm over the moral tone of films in the late twenties The Unknown was the first film to be frankly and aggressively attacked in the press for it’s melodramatic  morbidity.” The New York Sun assured readers that “the suspicion that the picture might have been written by Nero, directed by Lucretia Borgia, constructed by the shade of Edgar Allan Poe and lighted by a well-known vivisectionist was absolutely groundless…. The Sun admitted that The Unknown “may be just what the public wants. If it is- well, the good old days of the Roman Empire are upon us” The New York Daily Mirror suggested that “if you like to tear butterflies apart and see sausage made you may like the climax to The Unknown. … typical Chaney fare spiced with cannibalism and flavored with the Spanish Inquisition.”

The New York Evening Post observed that “Mr Chaney has been twisting joints and lacing himself into strait-jackets for a long time- so long, in fact that there is almost nothing left for him now but the Headless Horseman. The Evening Post called The Unknown ‘a remarkably unpleasant picture.{…} a visit to the dissecting room in a hospital would be quite as pleasant and at the same time more instructive.”

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Flesh and Blood- Lon Chaney

Richard Watts Jr of The New York Herald Tribune said of the film, “The case of Mr. Tod Browning is rapidly approaching the pathological. After a series of minor horrors that featured such comparatively respectable creations as murderous midgets, crippled thieves and poisonous reptiles, all sinister and deadly in a murky atmosphere of blackness and unholy doom… the director presents us now with a melodrama that might have been made from a scenario dashed off by the Messrs. Leopold and Loeb in a quiet moment”

Watts conceded that given cinema otherwise so completely devoted to red blooded values and ‘general aggressive cleanliness’ films of the sort Browning championed might provide a ‘valuable counteracting influence” Obviously he felt repulsed by The Unknown.

The conservative Harrison’s Reports wrote “One can imagine a moral pervert of the present day, or professional torturers of the times of the Spanish Inquisition that gloated over the miseries of their victims on the rack and over their roasting on hot iron bars enjoying screen details of the kind set forth in The Unknown. but it is difficult to fancy average men and women of a modern audience in this enlightened age being entertained by such a thoroughly fiendish mingling of bloodlust, cruelty and horrors. … Of Mr. Chaney’s acting it is enough to say it is excellent of it’s kind. Similar praise might well be given the work of a skilled surgeon in ripping open the abdomen of a patient. But who wants to see him do it?”

There does seem to be a Sadomasochistic tone pervading Browning/Chaney collaborations that begs the question about their private machinations that collaboratively generated such cruel public spectacles.

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Joan Crawford eighteen at the time recalled Chaney’s ordeal with wearing the leather harness as agonizing a self punishing behavior. Mr Browning would say to him “Lon, don’t you want me to untie your arms?” ‘No, the pain I am in enduring now will help with the scene. Let’s go!” That’s how he was able to “convey such realism” and emotional agony that made it shocking and fascinating.“Chaney projected the image of physical suffering as both the definition and price of his stardom; exactly why he chose to is not so clear and since he left no revealing journals or correspondence on the matter, may forever remain obscure” Crawford said about Chaney,When he acted, it was if God were working, he had such profound concentration. It was then I became aware for the first time of the difference between standing in front of a camera, and acting.”

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on the set of The Unknown

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‘Armless Wonders’ were among the most spectacular and well-paid performers in turn-of-the-century American freak shows who would perform tasks and feats (no pun intended) to entertain the onlookers.

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Violetta the limbless beauty
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Frances Belle O’Conner featured in Freaks

While Freud had his pseudoscience fix for every mental ailment boasted, but discontents but Tod Browning favored themes of a visceral sexually charged plot surrounding resentment and revenge. He screened overt manipulation of disturbing sexual symbolism in order to shock his audience into consciousness. The threat of castration is a particularly violent notion and repressed emotional impulse. Freud’s Uncanny (which I seem to love films that echo this work), the idea of disembodied limbs, severed heads, hands cut off at the wrists all have something particularly uncanny about them. Especially when they are show as capable of independent movement. It all springs from the castration complex. Browning’s fascination with sexually motivated mutilation, like that of Cleopatra being turned into a chicken or ‘duck’ lady in Freaks annihilating her beauty, that quality which she used to lure Hans.

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Olga Baclanova as Cleopatra the trapeze beauty turned into the Chicken Lady by the avenging Freaks

In Freaks was Francis the armless woman, and actually there were two armless girls- Martha Morris and Francis O’Conner. Richard Watts Jr film critic for the New York Herald Tribune said of Browning- “Browning is the combination of Edgar Allan Poe and Sax Rohmer of the cinema. Where every director save Stroheim, breathes wholesomeness. out-of-door freshness and the healthiness of the clean limbed, Tod revels in murkiness… His cinematic mind is a creeping torture chamber, a place of darkness, deviousness and death”

After Freaks, “In Browning’s next project, Freudian theory would be bizarrely literalized into a weird and spectacular circus attraction Based on an original story by Browning. Alonzo the Armless was a vehicle for Lon Chaney that would prove to be one of the darkest carnivals of the entire Browning canon.”

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Boxing Helena is a 1993 modern day grotesquely romantic melodrama that debuted director Jennifer Chambers Lynch, (daughter of David Lynch) Utilizing the mechanism of amputation as what I’ll call ‘seductive symbology’. The film stars Julian Sands and Sherilyn Fenn as the object of his desire a surgeon who will keep his love closest to him by any means.

David Lynch’s daughter did an incredible job of blindsiding my expectations of horror while utilizing an outre grotesque bit of violent eroticism with Surveillance (2008) coming along ways off from Boxing Helena which initially I thought was a woman’s pugilist film, much to my surprise and stomach turning angst. The scene in Surveillance where the little girl in pajamas is wandering the desert I believe is more than a coincidental great nod to the scene in THEM (1954). Lynch’s work has some truly dynamic horror moments… I can’t say more about the film without giving away some of the ingenious plot twists and mechanisms. Another modern classic that is reminiscent in it’s use of the eroticism conflated with amputation is Alejandro Jodorwosky’s masterpiece Santa Sangre 1989. The Gothic Embodiment again take place in a traveling circus showcases the sexualization of Concha’s violent amputation of both her arms by her volatile sword throwing philandering neanderthal husband played by Guy Stockwell. Where the crossover imagining of mythos and psycho-sexual stimulation of violence and armless saints blend into a nightmarish wander-land for the son Fenix.

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Guy Stockwell in Alejandro Jodorwosky’s Santa Sangre
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the illusory masterpiece that is Santa Sangre

The Unknown, is a profoundly bizarre love triangle with the sense and symbolism of touch tethering the players together in an immortal context of specific reliance the importance of contact. Using Nanon’s abject horror of being touched and her repulsion of the male physique. Hands and arms are the active normative use of the physical expression of intimacy at odds with the difference of Gothic embodiment. To the extent that Alonzo is willing to ‘castrate’ himself in order to possess Nanon fully.


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This is how the opening title goes. We are placed down into an altered world of reality and the fantastical lifestyle of circus life.circus

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The circus features an armless entertainer named Alonzo. He is a knife thrower who could split the hairs on two flies dancing in unison. His claim to fame is that he handles both bullets and blades with his bare feet. At the film’s opening scene Alonzo performs showing the confidence of his perfect aim by flinging phallic knives at his beautiful assistant Nanon who is at the receiving end of his knife throwing while seated on a rotating platform. With each delivery he picks off one more article of Nanon’s clothing that dangle there boasting of his sexual competence. Through this performance Alonzo can sublimate his own feverish sexual urges for Nanon.

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The secret lies in the fact that Alonzo actually does have two strong capable arms, a fact that only his dwarf assistant Cojo (John George) is privy to. Each day Cojo laces Alonzo into a punishing leather corset. Alonzo dons this apparatus to create the appearance of amputation. A disguise he perpetuates because he is on the run from the law, and it also brings him closer to the object of his fixation the beautiful but sexually constrained Nanon. Nanon is consumed with a phobia surrounding the male anatomy, in particular their hands. She is repulsed by men’s upper extremities, “Men! The beasts! God would show wisdom if he took the hands from all of them!”

Although Alonzo possess arms, he does exhibit a freakish anomaly as he possesses a double thumb on one hand. In the original story Browning and screenwriter Waldemar Young had envisioned a claw as his deformity. But the phallic charge of the double thumb is more in keeping with the influence Freud’s The Uncanny had made on cinema.  According to writer/historians Skal & Savada ‘doubling’ is viewed by Freud as an imaginative defense against the feared loss of the self, or a part of the self.

Alonzo suffers in silence over his immortal love for Nanon, keeping their relationship strictly platonic, he still attracts negative attention from Nanon’s father the circus owner. On a dark and rainy night, Alonzo strangles the man, as Nanon peers outside her window yet does not see the killer’s face. The one thing that she does notice is the unmistakable double thumbs as it grips her father’s throat.

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While Alonzo quietly broods over his unrequited love, the strong man Malabar (Norman Kerry) pursues her with all the traditional male prowess of a proud peacock. Of course this sends Alonzo into fits of irrational jealousy. He blackmails a surgeon into actually removing his arms, so that Nanon would assuredly run to him being the safe male.

Malabar’s sexual advances only push Nanon closer toward Alonzo’s friendship. But Alonzo’s side kick Cojo ( John George whom Browning used several times throughout his career) warns his friend that he shouldn’t let Nanon get so close as to be able to feel that he truly does have arms that are strapped down.

But when he returns to the circus after the surgery he discovers that Nanon has miraculously overcome her fear of manly chests, bulging muscles and arms with which to hold her in ecstatic embrace. And the two are also engaged.

There is a sad ironic scene when Nanon asks Alonzo if he is thinner, before she tells him of her love for Malabar. The moment is filled with a typical Tod Browning sense of timely perversity misdirection and emotional pain.

She declares to her old friend that she even LOVES Malabar’s hands: ‘Remember how I used to be afraid of his hands? … I am not any more. I love them now.’

I’ll leave the climax to those who haven’t seen this violently intoxicating film yet.

The film is filled with cruelty, irony and obsession. While the story is more like a wickedly grotesque fairytale it observes the journey of a it’s own nightmarish reasoning but intricate as it is repulsive.

What is Nanon’s strange and horrible fixation on men’s hands. She is terrified by the thought of their hands on her!

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‘Alonzo, all my life men have tried to put their beastly hands on me… to paw over me.’

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Malabar approaches Nanon

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She has ‘grown so that [she] shrink[s] with fear when any man touches [her]‘ with their ‘beastly hands’. Nanon’s fear becomes apparent when she is courted by the circus weight-lifter or strongman Malabar.

When Malabar boasts to Nanon of incredible strength, flexing his arm muscles and grabbing at her hands and her wrists, while telling her of how his ‘hands that long to caress you’, Nanon struggles to get away experiencing shear terror.

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What frightens her more is the ‘ideal’ of Malabar’s physique. To Nanon, the object of Gothic horror seems to be  the normative body, and strangely enough not the body emphasized as different. Malabar’s body encompasses an extreme forceful ideal of the masculine body.

Nanon is traumatized by Malabar’s aggressive touch and grasping hands. She finds him abhorrent ‘Hands! Men’s hands! How I hate them!’, and indeed wishes that ‘God would … [take] the hands from all of them’.

She finds comfort in Alonzo who poses no threat to her as he has no arms or hands that can either challenge her desire or harm her.

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the surgeon has no choice but to do Alonzo’s gruesome bidding

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Nanon tells Alonzo that he feels thinner

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Norman Kerry and Joan Crawford in Tod Browning’s The Unknown Nanon finally embraces Malabar’s hands

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The Unknown (1927)-The Armless Wonder.

By MORDAUNT HALL.
Published: June 13, 1927

“Although it has strength and undoubtedly sustains the interest, “The Unknown,” the latest screen contribution from Tod Browning and Lon Chaney, is anything but a pleasant story. It is gruesome and at times shocking, and the principal character deteriorates from a more or less sympathetic individual to an arch-fiend. The narrative is a sort of mixture of Balzac and Guy de Maupassant with a faint suggestion of O. Henry plus Mr. Browning’s colorful side-show background.{…}

“The rôle of Alonzo, who poses as the Armless Wonder with a Spanish circus, is one that ought to have satisfied Mr. Chaney’s penchant for freakish characterizations, for here he not only has to go about for hours with his arms strapped to his body…{…}

“This tale is prefaced as if it were a circus legend, and soon one realizes that Alonzo is not only expert in the use of his feet when serving himself, but he is also supposed to be a crack shot and an unerring knife thrower. The girl who risks her life daily before Alonzo’s bullets and knives is Estrellita, impersonated by Joan Crawford. She becomes interested in Alonzo because most men in the circus without provocation invariably want to caress her.”

Postcards From Shadowland No.13

Act of Violence
Act of Violence 1948 directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Van Heflin, Robert Ryan and Janet Leigh
Chaney Hunchback
Lon Chaney in Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923
Baby Jane
What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? 1962 Directed by Robert Aldrich and starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford
bedlam-1946-001-boris-karloff
Bedlam 1946 directed by Mark Robson Produced by Val Lewton and starring Boris Karloff and Anna Lee
Bette Davis in Dead-Ringer
Bette Davis and Bette Davis in Dead Ringer (1964) directed by Paul Henreid and co-starring Karl Malden and Peter Lawford
Blondell and Tyrone Nightmare Alley
Joan Blondell and Tyrone Power in Nightmare Alley 1947 written by Jules Furthman for the screen and directed by Edmund Goulding
CabinInTheSky
Cabin in the Sky 1943 directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Lena Horne and Ethel Waters
crossfire postcards
Crossfire 1947 directed by Edward Dmytryk starring the Roberts- Robert Young, Robert Mitchum and Robert Ryan
Day the Earth Stood Still
The Day the Earth Stood Still 1951 directed by Robert Wise and starring Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal and Hugh Marlowe
Devil Commands
The Devil Commands 1941 directed by Edward Dmytryk and starring Boris Karloff and Anne Revere written for the screen by Robert Hardy Andrews
Title: OLD DARK HOUSE, THE (1932) • Pers: STUART, GLORIA • Year: 1932 • Dir: WHALE, JAMES • Ref: OLD005AA • Credit: [ UNIVERSAL / THE KOBAL COLLECTION ]
THE OLD DARK HOUSE, THE (1932) GLORIA STUART and BORIS KARLOFF Dir: JAMES WHALE
dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde
Dr JEKYLL AND MR HYDE 1931starring Frederick March & Miriam Hopkins and directed by Rouben Mamoulian
Farley andThey Live By Night
They Live By Night starring Farley Granger and Cathy O’Donnell. Directed by Nicholas Ray
Fontaine and Anderson Rebecca
Joan Fontaine and Judith Anderson in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca 1940
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Phantom of the Opera 1925 starring Lon Chaney and Mary Philbin
freaks
Tod Brownings Freaks 1932
Gloria Odds Against Tomorrow
Gloria Grahame Odds Against Tomorrow 1959 directed by Robert Wise
Josette Day Beauty
Josette Day in Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast 1946
Judith Anderson Rebecca
Judith Anderson in Rebecca 1940
Leigh and Thaxter Act of Violence
Janet Leigh and Phyllis Thaxter in Act of Violence 1948
Louis Calhern Marlon Brando Julius Caesar 1953
Joseph L. Mankiewitz directs Louis Calhern & Marlon Brando in  Julius Caesar 1953
Ls metropolis
Fritz Langs’ Metropolis 1927
M castle's sardonicus
William Castle’s Mr Sardonicus 1961 Starring Guy Rolfe and Audrey Dalton
Maclean the children's hou
William Wyler directs Shirley McClaine in Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour 1961co-starring Audrey Hepburn and James Garner
Mary Astor and Van Heflin Act of Violence
Mary Astor and Van Heflin Act of Violence 1948
Odds Against Tomorrow Shelley Winters and Robert Ryan
Odds Against Tomorrow Shelley Winters and Robert Ryan 1959
Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird
Gregory Peck in Robert Mulligan’s To Kill a Mockingbird 1962 written by Harper Lee with a screenplay by Horton Foote
Robert Ryan The Set-Up
Robert Ryan in Robert Wise’s The Set-Up 1949
Sam Fuller's The Naked Kiss, Constance Towers
Sam Fuller’s The Naked Kiss 1964 starring Constance Towers
Samson and Delilah-Hedy Lamarr
Cecil B DeMille’s Samson and Delilah 1949 -starring Hedy Lamarr and Victor Mature
Taylor and Jane Eyre
Robert Stevenson directed Bronte’s Jane Eyre 1943 starring a young Elizabeth Taylor and Peggy Ann Garner
The Children's Hour
The Children’s Hour Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine
The Haunting
Julie Harris and Claire Bloom in Robert Wise’s The Haunting 1963
the night_of_the_living_dead_3
George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead 1968
Walk on the Wild Side barbara Stanwyck
Barbara Stanwyk as Jo in Walk on the Wild Side 1962 directed by Edward Dmytryk
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane Bette
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962 Bette Davis and Victor Buono

HAPPY FRIDAY THE 13th- Hope you have a truly lucky day-MonsterGirl

MonsterGirl Asks Frank Henenlotter: ❤ A Valentine Homage To An Un-Conjoined Aberration, the Little Impish Wicker Man, ‘Belial’

MONSTERGIRL ASKS: FRANK HENENLOTTER

The Great Frank Henenlotter

The Writer/Director who brought us the body as ‘Other.’

Belial
Conjoined brother Duane Bradley’s other half, Belial, somewhat like the mythic Blemmyae portrayed in Medieval paintings and etchings. He’s cute, he’s cuddly and fits really well in a wicker picnic basket for those special occasions.
A Blemmyae and other mythic oddities
A Blemmyae and other mythic oddities- To the left a Headless creature, face in their chest yet fixed with arms and legs who inhabit the earth.
Book: Marco Polo, The Travels of Marco Polo: With 25 Illustrations from a Fourteenth-century Manuscript in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (New York: The Orion Press, 1958)Written and illuminated in Paris, ca. 1410–12
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 2810, fols. 29v, 194v, 195v

Blemmyae

MONSTERGIRL’S QUESTION-

Frank, this is a simple question that I’ve been very curious about for a long time, what is truly at the root of your choosing the name Belial for your most iconic monstrous personification of body horror in your classic film Basket Case from 1982. What tripped the wires in your head to name Duane Bradley’s brother in a wicker basket – Belial ?

Is it founded in the Hebrew proverb adam beli-yaal meaning ‘a worthless man’, because Belial was discarded by the doctors and his father as a non entity with no legitimatized form, also the name is based in Jewish and Christian texts referring to a demon?

Though Belial was more a product of physiological anomaly, rather than spawn from hell nor mutant. You can’t blame a guy for trying to get a little nookie…

He’s almost analogous to the mythic Blemmyae who’s heads were in their chests.

Or were you inspired by John Milton’s Paradise Lost…? Was he, yet a metaphor for the insatiable vice of desire?

John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book I
BELIAL came last, than whom a Spirit more lewd
Fell not from Heaven, or more gross to love
Vice for it self: To him no Temple stood
Or Altar smoak’d; yet who more oft then hee
In Temples and at Altars, when the Priest
Turns Atheist, as did ELY’S Sons, who fill’d
With lust and violence the house of God.
In Courts and Palaces he also Reigns
And in luxurious Cities, where the noyse
Of riot ascends above their loftiest Towers,
And injury and outrage: And when Night
Darkens the Streets, then wander forth the Sons
Of BELIAL, flown with insolence and wine.
Witness the Streets of SODOM, and that night
In GIBEAH, when hospitable Dores
Yielded their Matrons to prevent worse rape.

FRANK HENENLOTTER’S ANSWER-

That’s an easy one. The father, appalled by the creature and full of hatred after his wife died giving birth, named him after the devil. Or one of Satan’s demons. I’ve heard Belial used as a synonym for Satan, and also as one of the many fallen angels. Either or, doesn’t matter to me. And I didn’t want something too obvious. I mean, calling him Beelzebub would’ve just been silly. Also, way back when, I looked up Belial in some reference book and it said the name translated as “ungodly.” Which certainly fit the look of the creature. More than that, however, I like the SOUND of the name. If you didn’t know the Biblical reference, the name sounds rather friendly: “Hi, Mr. Bradley! Can Belial come out and play today?” And though grotesque, I’ve always thought Belial looked friendly. At least when his mouth is closed.

Frank wearing a Basket Case Tee

Writer/ Director/ Historian/ Film Preservationist Frank Henenlotter is a New Yorker like me. He spent his youth absorbing the low-budget exploitation gems that were offered for those of us who wanted something beyond the mainstream. He frequented the soiled seated grindhouse theaters on 42nd Street, now over run with the dis-associative glitz of Disney. 42nd Street used to showcase the wonderful underbelly of cinema, the cheap and psychotronic films that created a whole new landscape to wander around, while the artistic self is just beginning to emerge and the hormones are raging. So Frank Henenlotter grabbed some 8mm film and went off to find himself.

The good old days 42nd Street

In 1972 his 16mm B&W short called Slash of the Knife played at the same 42nd Street midnight show with John Water’s Pink Flamingos 1972.

Henenlotter had a brief sojourn in advertising as a graphic designer and commercial artist before he immersed himself in his fantastical film career, known for his outrageously unconventional, outré quirky,darkly humorous, seamy atmospheres, and literally bloody good fun with his off center story lines.

It’s what make his films so unique. I discovered him in 1982 when I went to my local video store looking for something different to watch and stumbled upon a peculiar and intriguing VHS cover called Basket Case. So I rented it and went home ready to invest myself in the emergence of the 80s horror genre. Of course I purchase my own copy and still have the original VHS treasure.

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VHS Basket Case Cover

Belial in his basket

I had been weened on Universal classic horrors, Creature Features, Fright Night on WOR Channel 9, campy sci-fi gems of the 50s with giant bugs and shrinking men, mad scientists, Boris and Bela, and then the 70s came and the cinematic sky darkened, the atmosphere closed inward with a collection of starkly creepy low budget films that left my imagination and my tender psyche altered.

But here it was the early 80s and I wanted to embrace the new horrors. So when I sat quietly in my room and witnessed something so creative, so brutally funny and honest in it’s inventiveness, that I fell in love. Call it sleazy, call it gory, splatter, scuzzy, violent, tasteless, grotesque, excessively tacky, twisted in it’s vision, genres are so inter- textually linked that labeling them at this point is futile. Ultimately Henenlotter’s work has a splendidly unsettling lacquer and spirit.

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Photo from Kindertrauma.com

What I experienced was a modern day fairytale about two outsiders. Conjoined Siamese Twin brothers Duane (Kevin Van Hentenryck) and Belial Bradley who take up residence in room number 7 at a seedy 42nd Street Hotel in NYC. Like the pathos evoked from Frankenstein’s monster and his ‘otherness’ The Siamese Twins, whose at times tumultuous brotherly bond set them off on a mission to punish the hack doctors who surgically annihilated their physical bond. The film made me laugh, shiver, empathize and adore that little guy in the wicker basket named Belial. Who wasn’t a demon or devil or mutant, just a little guy with authentic separation anxiety.

The film co-starred Terri Susan Smith as Sharon, Beverly Bonner as Casey, Robert Vogel as the Hotel Manager and Diane Browne, Lloyd Pace and Bill Freeman as Doctors-Judith Kutter, Harold Needleman and Julius Lifflander. Ruth Neuman plays the boys’ aunt. Richard Pierce plays their father, their mother having died in child birth.

Duane and Belial

The low key cinematography was done by Bruce Torbet, who also worked on Brain Damage. Frank Henenlotter was responsible for the film editing himself. Editing is key. And the very special Makeup department staff was John Caglione Jr, Kevin Haney, and Ugis Nigals as special makeup effects artists, Ken Clark did hair and make up.

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Brain Damage VHS cover. I still have this copy as well. image from
VHS WASTELAND

Quote from Basket Case (1982)

Aunt: [Reading to young Duane and Belial] “Art thou afraid? No monster, not I. Be not afraid, for the isle is full of sights, sounds, and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not. Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will humm about mine ears. And sometimes voices, that if I then had waked after long sleep would let me sleep again. And then in dreaming, the clouds we thought would open and show riches ready to drop upon me, that when I waked, I cried to dream again…”

Aunt reading to Belial

It’s no wonder the film has attained such cult status. I wound up renting Brain Damage which was released in 1988. Again the premise was so unique and freaky that it made me a fan of Frank Henenlotter for life. Brain Damage I think is the more queasy, darker and provocatively satirical film with it’s skid row orientation, but I’ll always love best, the gory fable that is Basket Case.

Brain Damage, again working almost as a modern fairytale is an allegory about addiction. With it’s young protagonist who becomes the host to an arcane and shiftily phallic parasite that feeds on human brains.

Frank went on to release Frankenhooker in 1990 ‘A terrifying tale of sluts and bolts’, and a two sequels to Basket Case, the last being 1992’s Basket Case 3: The Progeny. This last film revolves around Belial’s romance with female freak Eve, and the Bradley boys taking a trip to Georgia in the company of other freaks and freaks rights activist Granny Ruth (jazz nightclub singer Annie Ross) to seek the help of kindly doctor Uncle Hal (Dan Biggers) who assists with Eve’s pregnancy.

Basket Case 3

In addition to his writing and directing, Henenlotter’s been a fierce advocate and film preservationist, the force behind the rescuing and re-issuing of obscure vintage 60s and 70s horror, softcore and exploitation film relics from VHS and DVD through the fabulously valuable Something Weird Video. He also has added his witty commentary to several of the releases for the company. Henenlotter was featured in the documentary film Herschell Gordon Lewis – The Godfather of Gore and narrated the film on the 2010 FanTasia. In issue #304 of Fangoria Magazine Frank and comic artist Joshua Emerick started a Basket Case comic strip which offers a three panel piece in each issue.

Fangoria's BasketCase comic strip

Frank

Personal Quote:
[on being labeled a horror film director] –

“I never felt that I made “horror films.” I always felt that I made exploitation films. Exploitation films have an attitude more than anything else — an attitude that you don’t find with mainstream Hollywood productions. They’re a little ruder, a little raunchier, they deal with material people don’t usually touch on, whether it’s sex or drugs or rock and roll.” – Frank Henenlotter

“I think eccentrically and I’m a strange little person.”Frank Henenlotter

From VideoHounds Cult Flicks and Trash Picks -edited by Carol Schwartz on Page 234 The Hound Salutes Frank Henenlotter-

“Since then, Frank Henenlotter has come to be know mainly as a film historian and curator of sorts- but as you may expect, he’s done it in a rather odd fashion. Henenlotter was an expert on cult flicks and trash pick long before books were being written about them. He was rightfully chosen as the premiere interview presented in the landmark volume Incredibly Strange Films, despite the fact that he’d only made one official feature at the time, base solely on the depth of his knowledge. During the 1990s he began helping Mike Vraney of Something Weird Video unearth and release dozens of mind -bending exploitation films-many of them thought long lost-for a series that became known as “Frank Henenlotter’s Sexy Shockers from the Vault” Thanks to preservationists Frank and Mike generations to come will be able to enjoy vintage sleaze like Monster of Camp Sunshine, Bloody Pit of Horror, The Curious Dr. Hump and Olga’s House of Shame. In addition, Henenlotter has brought  some interesting new films by young directors to the label”. – Brian Thomas

Frank Henenlotter

Frank Henenlotter is beloved by his fans, gracious, accessible, funny, engaged, playful and thought provokingly outrageous. And thanks to his preservation of these lost cult films, I’ve gotten to see Aroused 1966, and Rent A Girl, Satan in High Heels (1962) and so much more!

I still wish he should commission Think Geek to make a Belial plushy. If they don’t I’m just going have to run myself over to Michael’s craft store and design my own friggin puppet already… I think Belial is cute as hell. So many people agree it would be a great iconic novelty.

In closing, special thanks to you Frank. You’re a lovely, eccentrically personable guy-It’s been so wonderful to hear your thoughts on Belial’s inception. I’m with you. I never thought he looked like a monster, even with his mouth open. That’s the point right… the way we ‘otherize’ those who are different. Grotesque is in the eye of the beholder. Look how pin heads are all the rage again since American Horror Story Asylum so successfully paid it’s endearing and intensely nuanced homage to Schlitze from Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932)

Schlitze from Browning's Freaks Pinhead

A Special Happy Valentine’s Day To Frank Henenlotter, to Belial, to brother & sisterhood and to all of you genre fans, freaks and all of us ‘others’- Love Joey (Your MonsterGirl)

Basket Case

Saturday Nite Sublime: House of The Damned (1963) or The Sideshow in the Basement or It Aint Over Til The Fat Lady Says So!

This post contains spoilers! I do reveal the end of the film, as it was the interesting conclusion, that inspired me to write about the film…

House of The Damned (1963):

Behind These Doors… The Unbearable Otherness

But, I that am not shap’d for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass
I, that am rudely stamp’d and want love’s majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deform’d unfinish’d sent before my time
Into this breathing world scarce half made up,
and that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them-

-Shakespeare, King Richard III, I.I.14-23

Merry Anders plays the attractive and likable Nancy Campbell married to Scott Campbell (Ron Foster) an architect who is hired by their mutual friend Joseph Schiller( Richard Crane), to survey a castle up in the Hollywood hills. It’s more like a Hollywood Spanish fortress set in the middle of nowhere, for the reclusive Rochester’s who had it built for privacy.

Upon driving up to the Rochester Castle up on the isolated hill, it brought to mind the long opening driving sequence in House on Haunted Hill (1959), with it’s similar eccentric mansion, opulent… a monstrosity… Same with Eleanor Lance driving up to Hugh Crane’s twisted damned architectural fiend that was Hill House.

Continue reading “Saturday Nite Sublime: House of The Damned (1963) or The Sideshow in the Basement or It Aint Over Til The Fat Lady Says So!”