Released by Universal in 1943 Flesh and Fantasy is by brilliant director Julien Duvivier, and co-produced by Charles Boyer, and still remains an obscure forgotten horror gem.
Fatalistic, philosophical, Impressionistic, and hauntingly romantic, it dabbles in destiny and the dynamism of fate’s meddling hand in our lives. Are we all free souls, or is life predetermined for us? Part social commentary with an edge of ironic charm, utilizing elements of the supernatural to drive the narrative.
Turning out a collection of eerie stories told by Gentlemen at their club. The stories are framed by Robert Benchley as Doakes and David Hoffman as Davis.
The first stars Betty Field as Henrietta a dowdy woman who comes upon a mysterious mask during Mardis Gras and then goes to a party festooned with regalia, turbulence, and a romantic game of cat-and-mouse with the handsome Michael (Robert Cummings) A beautifully tragic tale of loneliness and the essence of what beauty is. The use of masks creates a nightmarish landscape of human disconnection.
The second vignette is an adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s, Lord Arthur Saville’s Crime, which stars Edward G. Robinson as Marshall Tyler, a lawyer who is told by a Fortune Teller Septimus Podgers (Thomas Mitchell) that he is going to kill someone. Also at the affair is Dame May Whitty as Lady Pamela Hardwick and C. Aubrey Smith as the Dean of Norwalk.
Playing out the obsessive victim, Tyler devolves ever increasingly into a world of malefic paranoia in that way that Robinson is so good at. He spirals into madness as he is surrounded by reflections and warning shadows, and an impending dread, that creates a sense of the film being a Horror/Noir hybrid. The use of shadow does invoke a bit of Jacques Tourneur’s style as well.
In the third installment, Charles Boyer plays an acrobat in the circus named Paul Gaspar, who has a premonition of fatal consequences surrounding his high-wire act. Gaspar has a dream one night before his performance that he falls to his death, and so he decides to take a cruise, where he meets the woman from his dream, Joan Stanley played by Barbara Stanwyck, who was the one person he could still hear screaming as he plunges to his death! This episode concludes the film with a dreamy and grim set of atmospherics.
Flesh and Fantasy predate by two years another wonderfully suspenseful ensemble of ghostly stories, Dead of Night 1945 starring Michael Redgrave in the iconic short tale of the ventriloquist and his frightening dummy sidekick!
There are thousands of wonderful obscurities in my collection, this is just one of them!
See it for yourself-MonsterGirl