🚀 Keep Watching the Skies! Science Fiction Cinema of the 1950s: The Year is 1956 – Part Three! Invasion of the Body Snatchers: I didn’t know the real meaning of fear until… until I had kissed Becky

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Don Siegel’s Science-Fiction Shocker– The original nightmare that Threatened the World!

… there was nothing to hold onto – except each other.– They come from another world!

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invasionofthebodysnatchers-

”I’ve been afraid a lot of times in my life-but I didn’t know the real meaning of fear until-until I’d kissed Becky.”

“The dark secret behind human nature used to be the upsurge of the animal… The threat to man, his availability to dehumanization, lay in his own animality. Now the danger is understood as residing in man’s ability to be turned into a machine.” – Susan Sontag

Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1956 took an ambiguous turn for many who still endeavor to analyze the film directed by Don Siegel, which was inspired by a well-known series in Collier’s magazine printed in three parts in 1954 from Jack Finney’s novel released in 1955. Siegel’s iconic film included a screenplay by Daniel Mainwaring.

Producer Walter Wanger so impressed with Finney’s story, bought the film rights before the third part had been published. Wanger discovered Don Siegel through his 1954 prison noir Riot in Cell Block 11.

The director also considered Invasion of the Body Snatchers as the favorite among his notable films. Body Snatchers has attained its status as one of the most influential alien invasion films and a signature science fiction narrative of the 1950s, that tapped into the cultural and historical zeitgeist of that decade. And although Siegel’s film can be seen as an intellectual film, ”it derives its strength from a nightmare situation – the sort of nightmare which a child tearfully explains as ‘It was like you, only you were horrible!” (Raymond Durgnat -The Subconscious: From Pleasure Castle to Libido Motel 1958)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers features a great ensemble of actors including Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Carolyn Jones, King Donovan Larry Gates, Jean Willes, Virginia Christine, Ralph Dumke, Tom Fadden, Everett Glass, and Dabs Greer.

Sam Peckinpah acted as dialogue coach and Carmen Dragon’s evocative film score has influenced both filmmakers and television directors alike. You can hear Dragon’s ethereal piano in such television shows as The X-Files and Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.

Ultimately in 1994, Invasion of the Body Snatchers was among the 25 ‘culturally, historically or aesthetically significant films’ that are annually anointed as part of the US National Film Registry at the Library of Congress under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act of 1988.

The film plants the seed for the theme of paranoia, fear of ‘the other’, and invisible invaders who can swiftly replace individualism and individuals and transport them into a hive mind, a collective of unemotional, hollow pod people. The essence of this truly resonated with the sweeping anxieties of 1950s American culture.

On the set of Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1956.

Siegel’s protean ‘Invasion’ film sparked a range of political and social analyses of the alien ‘infiltration’ sub-genre of Science Fiction films, one that emphasizes the ‘take over’ where ‘we’ would no longer have a soul or any spark of humanity. It triggers for us… the fear of the death of ‘self.’ and the death of the ‘soul.’

Other classic Science Fiction with alien ‘infiltration’ themes of being ‘taken over’ is the most notably Invaders from Mars (1953), It Came from Outer Space (1953), I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958) and The Day Mars Invaded Earth (1963).

“Made in 1956 in the middle of the decade, peopled by men in gray flannel suits, the silent generation, the status seekers, Senator McCarthy, and the lonely crowd, Siegel’s science fiction thriller was a cry of frustrated warning against the conformity and uniformity of a society that was blissfully living in the best of all possible worlds.” (Vivian Sobchack cites Charles Gregory)

Don Siegel managed to complete the shooting of the film within a tight schedule of just 19 days. To enhance authenticity, all the exterior scenes were filmed in natural locations around Los Angeles, specifically selected to resemble the small Northern California suburban town of Santa Mira. The city square featured in the film was located in Sierra Madre, east of Pasadena, while the chase sequence up the hill and staircase took place in a section of Hollywood known as Beachwood.

The 1950s witnessed a significant surge in mass migration to newly developed suburban areas, which in turn only strengthened the process of conformity, unrestrained with a vampirism of the soul creating an atmosphere that ‘bred apathy. (Kier-La Janisse) What writer Bernice M. Murphy called  ‘Suburban Gothic.’

Invasion of the Body Snatchers thrives on its ability to skew what is ordinary about American life in the 1950s and impregnate the screen with an unsettling narrative of paranoia and fear.

Paranoia was symptomatic of the late 40s and 50s postwar American science fiction ‘invasion’ films. We saw the perceptible tropes of the internal invasion of our human bodies that were transformed into imperceptibly altered bodies in a world plagued with suspicion, distrust, and paranoia.

“The imperceptibility of the altered body is a staple of the paranoiac world. Daniel Paul Schreber’s Memoirs of My Nervous Illness 1903 became the most famous paranoiac text, due to Freud’s analysis of it in his 1911 essay “Psychoanalytical notes Upon an Autobiographical Account of a Case of Paranoia (Dementia Paranoides) Within Schreber’s paranoiac system he perceives himself surrounded by replicant humans he terms ‘fleeting improvised men.’ Creatures resembling ordinary humans but who, in his view, are souls put down temporarily on earth by divine miracle.’’ (From Cindy Hendershot’s article From the Invaded Body: Paranoia and Radiation Anxiety in Invaders From Mars, It Came From Outer Space and Invasion of the Body Snatchers)

Siegel manages to make the tedious, hint at the terrifying, which reverberates in a seemingly normal scene; for instance when Miles and Becky go to visit her cousin Wilma played by Virginia Christine. “Memories or not, he isn’t my Uncle Ira.” Uncle Ira is missing ”a special look in his eye.”

Becky is haunted by the sense that her Uncle Ira (Tom Fadden) is not really her Uncle anymore. It is all very unremarkable as he affects the role of a suburban everyman mowing the lawn, mouth straddling his pipe as he leisurely remarks about the weather.

 “But Miles, there’s no emotion—none. Just the pretense of it. The words, gestures, the tone of voice, everything else is the same but not the feeling.” 

Continue reading “🚀 Keep Watching the Skies! Science Fiction Cinema of the 1950s: The Year is 1956 – Part Three! Invasion of the Body Snatchers: I didn’t know the real meaning of fear until… until I had kissed Becky”

Chapter 4 – Queers and Dykes in the Dark: Classic, Noir & Horror Cinema’s Coded Gay Characters:

CODED CLASSIC HORROR THEORY “The Uncanny & The Other”

“Scenes of excessive brutality and gruesomeness must be cut to an absolute minimum…”

“As a cultural index, the pre-Code horror film gave a freer rein to psychic turmoil and social disorientation because it possessed a unique freedom from censorship… the Hays Office admits that under the Code it is powerless to take a stand on the subject of ‘gruesomeness.‘(Thomas Doherty)

Horror films in particular have made for a fascinating case study in the evolving perceptions of queer presence; queer-horror filmmakers and actors were often forced to lean into the trope of the “predatory queer” or the “monstrous queer” to claim some sense of power through visibility and blatant expressions of sexuality.- Essential Queer Horror Films by Jordan Crucciola-2018

Though Hollywood execs refused to show explicit queerness, they were willing to pay for scripts that dealt with characters that were social outcasts and sexually non-normative. The horror genre is perhaps the most iconic coded queer playground, which seems to have an affinity with homosexuality because of its apparatus of ‘otherizing’ and the inherent representation of difference. The horror genre crosses over boundaries that include transgressions between heterosexuality and queerness. The villain, fiend, or monster plays around with a variety of elements that while usually separate, might merge male and female gender traits.

The horror film, in particular, found its place asserting a queer presence on screen. The narratives often embraced tropes of the ‘predatory queer’ or the ‘monstrous queer’ in order to declare themselves visible while cinematic queers were elbowed out of the way. Filmmakers had to maneuver their vision in imaginative ways to subvert the structure laid out for them by the Code.

As Harry M. Benshoff explains in his book Monsters in the Closet: Homosexuality in the Horror Film, “Immediately before and during the years of World War II, Universal Studio’s horror films began to employ a more humanistic depiction of their monsters,” and the films of Val Lewton, like Cat People, reflected “a growing awareness of homosexuality, homosexual communities, and the dynamics of homosexual oppression as it was played out in society and the military.” So even though Hollywood execs refused to show explicit queerness, during the first true horror boom in American cinema, they were willing to pay for stories about social outcasts and sexually nonnormative figures. Horror fans thus found themselves awash in some of the genre’s most iconic queer-coded characters of all time.

On a Greek Island, Boris Karloff plays Gen. Nikolas Pherides in Val Lewton/Mark Robsin’s Isle of the Dead 1945. Driven insane by the belief that Thea (Ellen Drew) who suffers from catalepsy is the embodiment of an evil vampiric force, is a demon called a vorvolaka. Lewton drew on collective fears, and all his work had an undercurrent of queer panic and a decipherable sign of homophobia.

The Vorvolaka has beset the island with plague. Thea- “Laws can be wrong, and laws can be cruel, and the people who live only by the law are both wrong and cruel.”

The Pre-Code era was exploding with American horror films, that reflected the angst, social unrest, and emotional distress that audiences were feeling. Personified in films that used graphic metaphors to act as catharsis, the images were often filled with rage, as Thomas Doherty calls it ‘the quality of gruesomeness, cruelty and vengefulness’. Think of the angry mobs with their flaming torches who hunt down Frankenstein’s monster, eventually crucifying him like a sacrificial embodiment of their fury. James Whale’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein 1931 was a smash hit for Universal. Other studios were trying to ride the wave of the awakening genre of the horror picture. Paramount released director Rouben Mamoulian’s adaption of the novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, published in 1886. The film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1931 stars Fredric March and Miriam Hopkins. During the period of Pre-Code, many horror films proposed grisly subject matter that would shock and mesmerize the audience. For example, actor/director Irving Pichel’s The Most Dangerous Game (1932) starring Joel McCrea, Leslie Banks, and Fay Wray.

In 1932 Michael Curtiz directed Doctor X starring Lionel Atwill who would become one of the leading mad scientists of the genre.

Michael Curtiz’s macabre horror/fantasy experiment of homosocial ‘men doing science’, crossing over into profane territories and embracing dreadful taboos!

All scenes below from Dr. X (1932)

Fay Wray is Atwill’s daughter who is the only woman surrounded by a group of scientific nonconformists.

The adaptation of Bram Stoker’s story of the Eastern European incubus was interpreted by Tod Browning in Dracula 1931, immortalized by Hungarian stage actor Bela Lugosi with his iconic cape and mesmerizing stare. While his nightly visitations were blood driven and cinematically sexual in nature, there is a very homoerotic element to his influence over Renfield (Dwight Frye) and his gaze of gorgeous David Manners as John Harker.

Bela Lugosi looks down upon David Manners in a scene from the film ‘Dracula’, 1931. (Photo by Universal/Getty Images)

Robert Florey directed the macabre Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe. And a film that has no connection to Poe’s story but in the name is one of the most transgressive, disturbing horror films rampant with vile taboos, such as necrophilia, incest, sadism, satanism, and flaying a man alive, is the unorthodox The Black Cat (1934). The film stars Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, one of four pictures they would do together. A pair of enemies who have a score to settle, ghosts of a past war, and stolen love all take place with the backdrop of a stylish Bauhaus set design and high-contrast lighting.

Paramount released Murders in the Zoo (1933) with Lionel Atwill a sadistic owner of a zoo, who uses wild animals to ravage and kill off any of his wife’s (Kathleen Burke) suitors. Kathleen Burke is well known as the panther girl in Erle C. Kenton’s horrifically disturbing Island of Lost Souls 1932, an adaptation of master fantasy writer H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau. Incidentally, Welles, Laughton, and wife Elsa Lanchester had been good friends earlier on, before the filming of Lost Souls. The film stars Charles Laughton as the unorthodox, depraved scientist who meddles with genetics and nature. He creates gruesome human/animals, torturing them with vivisection in his ‘house of pain.’ The film also stars Richard Arlen, Leila Hyams, and Bela Lugosi as The Sayer of the Law.

And in 1933 King Kong shows a giant ape grasping the half-naked object of his affection with unmentionable connotations of bestiality between the ape and Fay Wray. With scenes of Wray writhing in his gigantic paws, he lusts after her, until his desire kills him. It’s almost like fantasy noir, the object of your desire, will ultimately kill you!

The 1930s and 1940s — Fear the Queer Monsters

Re-assessing the Hitchcock Touch; by Wieland Schwanebeck -As Rhona Berenstein asserts, the horror genre “provides a primary arena for sexualities and practices that fall outside the purview of patriarchal culture, and the subgeneric tropes of the unseen, the host and the haunted house.”

By the same token, Kendra Bean concludes that Mrs. Danvers is portrayed as “a wraith; a sexual predator who is out to make Mrs. de Winter her next victim.”

Queer characters in horror films during the early period, reveal similarities between Mrs. Danvers and the staging of earlier sapphic characters, such as Gloria Holdens’s well-known portrayal of Countess Marya Zaleska in Dracula’s Daughter 1936. Yet, similar to the self-discipline of Mrs. Danvers, Dracula’s Daughter remains a figure of primacy and pity Ellis Hanson argues Dracula’s Daughter presents “the possibilities of a queer Gothic” early on in Hollywood history, “rich in all the paradox and sexual indeterminacy the word queer and the word Gothic imply.

There was a revival of the horror craze during the period of WWII. The Hollywood studios, both major and ‘Poverty Row” like Monogram and Republic realized that horror movies were a lucrative business. The studios began to revisit the genre looking for, not only fresh formulas, but they resurrected, the classic monsters, dropping them into new plots. They also envisioned uniting the gangster film with horror films, and this homogenizing led to a ‘queering’ of the two styles, that demonstrated phallocentric ( guns, scientific penetration) and homoerotic themes and images into a sub-genre.

Public awareness of homosexuality reached a new height during these years, primarily due to the new set of social conditions wrought by war. Slowly , the love that dare not speak its name was being spoken, albeit in ways almost always obscurantist, punitive and homophobic. The linkage of homosexuality with violence and disease remained strong. Monsters in the Closet -Harry Benshoff

Rhona Berenstein in her insightful book Attack of the Leading Ladies points out that films featuring the mad scientist trope operate with the homosocial principle which speaks of the homo eroticism of males working together in consort subverting science together, as a group of men who hide behind their objectification -the female object of their gaze, are in fact, figures of objectification themselves. They are simultaneously homosocial, homoerotic, and homophobic in aspect; … potentially possessing an extra-normative commitment between the two men.

Mad Doctor movies are homosocial in nature. The mad doctor movie is a subgenre that below the surface glorifies intimate male camaraderie and male homosexuality, and by the close of the picture, society, the prevailing culture must in turn annihilate, that which is repressed. But it is not exclusively a vehicle to express homosexuality through homosocial interactions. There is a component not only of male bonding, a world without women, the thrust is a synthesis of misogyny and patriarchal tyranny and oppression of women. Homosocial relationships between men in these science horrors show the man’s desire for connection to other men, even one created by his own hand.

According to (Twitchell) in his Dreadful Pleasures, and Attack of the Leading Ladies (Rona Berenstein) Colin Clive as Dr. Frankenstein in all three Universal pictures, was at least performing bisexuality. Whale’s 1933 Frankenstein might give way to the homosocial realm of the mad scientist trope, of ‘homoerotic indulgence’ as these men exclude women from the pursuit of their fulfillment. Twitchell views the scientist’s fluid sexuality in order to examine the concept of a man controlling women’s primacy of giving birth. This might explain Dr. Frankenstein’s venture into unnatural reproduction. A process he wants to divert to himself without women’s exclusive right to motherhood. In the scene where he is as close to giving birth to a full-grown man, he seems to display a sexual arousal, when his creation comes to life. Henry Frankenstein provokes nature and defies his heterosexuality. As Whale was an openly gay director in Hollywood, it can be pondered whether he knew exactly what he was suggesting. Thesiger’s sexually ambiguous, or okay, not so ambiguous Dr. Pretorius, the mad scientist who pressures Henry Frankenstein to revitalize his experiments and create a mate for the monster. Pretorius is the scientist who insists Henry continue his creative efforts in Bride of Frankenstein. Vitto Russo called Thesiger, a “man who played the effete sissy… with much verve and wit.”

George Zucco like Lionel Atwill often portrayed the unorthodox scientist who flirted with taboos. He plays mad scientist Dr. Alfred Morris in The Mad Ghoul (1943) As a university chemistry professor, he exploits medical student Ted Allison (David Bruce) with his experimental gas that transforms Ted into a malleable, yielding macabre ghoul, whom Morris directs to kill and remove the victim’s hearts using the serum to temporarily bring Ted back from his trance like death state. David Bruce’s character is represented as a ‘queer’ sort of young man. Not quite masculine and is unable to get his girlfriend Evelyn Ankers to fall in love with him. As the Mad Ghoul, he becomes a monstrous queer.

In 1932, director Tod Browning’s Dracula based on Bram Stoker’s story of a fiendish vampire who in a sexually implicit way, violates his victims by penetrating them with his fangs. The story pushed the boundaries of storytelling, and there was an inherent subtext of ‘queer’ ravishment when he sucks the blood of Dwight Frye to make him his loyal servant.

In Jonathan Harker’s Journal, the protagonist recounts his impressions of his interaction with the vampire, Dracula “As the Count leaned over me and his hands touched me I could not repress a shudder. It may have been that his breath was rank, but a horrible feeling of nausea came over me, which do what I would, I could not conceal.” For (Noël Carroll) the entry in his diary conveys revulsion by the Count’s closeness and offensive presence, which causes him to become sickened.

But it also could be read that Harker’s ‘shudder’ is not about his revulsion, but rather, an uncontrolled sexual response to the vampire’s looming over him which could be interpreted not just as hunger for his ‘blood’ but an expression of repressed sexual desire and the fear it causes.

Horror movies have always pushed the boundaries of normalcy, by virtue of the fact that these films are inhabited by ‘monsters’, something ‘queerly’ different. And it is natural to observe two diverging responses to the impact of the horror genre and often, its persecution of what is ‘different’ and the source of what causes our anxiety.

Dracula may appear as the image of a man, but the count is far from human. While monsters in classical horror films are based on systems of maleness, they are split from being actual men. Although there are physical interactions and suggestive contact with the heroine, there isn’t the foundation of heterosexuality, but something quite deviant, within their aggressively erotic encounters and/or assaults. The understanding of sexuality and the most narrow identifications that are assigned to varying orientations in a large sense is not translatable for the deeper layers of the monster and their relationship to their victims. In Hollywood, horror films can be seen as heterosexuality being invaded by an abhorrent outside force, inherent in the underlying message could be racism, classism, sexism, and gay panic. Though it can be interpreted as a landscape of heterosexuality that is in the full power of its universal presence, horror films are perfect platforms that can illustrate the collapse of heterosexuality and the subversion of sexuality.

The horror genre is a breeding ground for portrayals of the shattering of heterosexual power. This can be seen in Lambert Hillyer’s Dracula’s Daughter (1936) starring Gloria Holden as the sapphic vampire who lives in a New Village-type artist’s den, it signals her outsider status from domesticity and normalcy.

In White Zombie (1932) Bela Lugosi plays the eerily menacing Legendre. He turns men into lifeless workers who run the sugar mill. Legendre also begins to turn the plantation owner, Charles Beaumont (Robert Frazer) into one of his zombies. His motivation for his control over people is ambiguous, though there seems to be sexual reasoning for both the beautiful Madeline (Madge Bellamy) and Beaumont. In the scene where Beaumont is nearly paralyzed, Legendre’s control over his male victim parallels the sexual entrapment of the movie’s heroine.

MAD LOVE (1935) I have conquered science! Why can’t I conquer love?

Karl Freund’s Grand Guignol Mad Love (1935) shifts from gazing at the female to gazing at the male. Here the focus is on Peter Lorre in his American screen debut as Dr. Gogol, who has an obsession with Frances Drake as Yvonne Orlac an actress who works at Grand Guignol Theatre. To Gogol, she is the typified defenseless heroine whom he tries to lure away from her husband Stephen (Colin Clive) using his knowledge of scientific alchemy.

Though Gogol tries to become Yvonne’s master, his Galatea, there are critics who read the struggle between the two men, as not just a rivalry for Yvonne’s love, but Gogol’s desire for Stephen as well. Gogol is responsible for grafting new hands onto Stephen’s mangled body after a train crash. Mad Love could fit the criteria for the subgenre of science/horror films where the male gaze is diverted from the female object toward other men, in this case, what connected the two was the preservation of Stephen’s hands. Why then is it not possible that the focus could shift from Gogol’s attraction to Yvonne to the homosocial dynamics between Gogol as a doctor and his subject Stephen?

Mad Love possesses some of the horror genre’s most tenacious performances of gender play. (Carol Clover) asks us to take a closer look at Freund’s film, it is less about the “suffering experienced by women, but at a deeper, more sustained level, it is dedicated to the unspeakable terrors endured by men.”

In a similar fashion to Waldo Lydecker’s (Laura) and Hardy Cathcart’s (The Dark Corner) pathology of objectifying Laura and Mari, Gogol worships Yvonne – his Galatea, with a measure of scopophilia that lies within his gaze upon the perfection of female beauty. To control and possess it. The pleasure is aroused by the mere indulgence of looking at her.

Gogol pays 75 francs to purchase the wax statue of Galatea. The seller remarks “There’s queer people on the streets of Montmartre tonight.”

Gogol’s maid Francoise talks to the statue, “Whatever made him bring you here. There’s never been any woman in this house except maybe me… “I prefer live ones to dead ones.”

A Time Magazine review of Mad Love in 1933 notes this queer appeal directly, even comparing Lorre’s acting skills to those of another homosexual coded actor: I find the comment about their faces rude and insulting to both Lorre and Laughton, both of whom I am a tremendous fan.

Mad Love’s insane doctor is feminized throughout the film… In fact, the same reporter who noted Gogol’s sadism argues for his feminine demeanor: “Lorre, perfectly cast, uses the technique popularized by Charles Laughton of suggesting the most unspeakable obsessions by the roll of a protuberant eyeball, an almost feminine mildness of tone, an occasional quiver of thick lips set flat in his cretinous ellipsoidal face. This reviewer came closer than any other to articulate the subtext of mad doctor movies. He seems on the verge of noting that Lorre, Like Laughton is an effeminate madman obsessed by unspeakable homosocial desire. Attack of the Leading Ladies: Gender Sexuality and Spectatorship in Classic Horror Cinema by Rhona Berenstein

Frances Drake’s heroine masquerades as a wife who deludes herself into believing that her husband is more masculine than he really is. Gogol has a curious empathy with Stephen, whom he touches frequently and prolonged. Although Gogol pursues the heroine, Yvonne, at the theater, forcing a kiss on her, his focus is primarily manipulating Stephen’s body, rejoining his hands and massaging them to stimulate life back into them. When he realizes that Stephen’s hands cannot be grafted back successfully to his wrists, he turns to another man, the hands of a knife thrower who was executed as a notorious murderer. Once Stephen recovers from the surgery, he can no longer continue as a concert pianist but does develop the desire to throw sharp knives.

On the surface the plot of Mad Love appears to be a heterosexual obsession, the most unspoken context is the connection between Gogol and Stephen. As is true of Frankenstein’s labor of love in Whale’s first film, Gogol sews men’s body parts together and the result is a monster of sorts. (Berenstein)

In the film’s climax, Yvonne hides in Gogol’s bedroom and pretends to be the wax statue of Galatea. When Gogol touches the statue, she lets out a scream. In a euphoric daze (as in the original story) he believes that he has the power to bring the statue of Galatea to life. Yvonne begs him to let her go as he tries to strangle her.

Stephen then rushes to his wife and holds her in his arms. With his eyes fixed on the offscreen space in which Gogol’s body lies, he croons: “My darling.” The homosocial desire is destroyed when Stephen murders Gogol who intones “Each man kills the thing he loves”— echoing on the soundtrack.

In the film’s closing moments, the secret desire is finally spoken out loud…Has Stephen killed the man he loves? Given that the phrase that Gogol mutters was written originally by Oscar Wilde, whose homosexuality scandalized the British social and legal system in 1895, reading the homosocial desire into Mad Love within the very last moments we are left to decipher the suspended cues. We are left with Stephen’s gazing at Gogol’s face and his knifed body as he lay dying, he speaks the words, ‘My darling” while the camera frames the two men sharing that moment in the closing scene.

The mad doctor narrative is particularly predisposed to homosocial impulses. “intense male homosocial desire as at once the most compulsory and the most prohibited of social bonds” – Epistemology of the Closet (Sedgwick)

Sedgwick investigated early fantasy/horror novels, Shelley’s Frankenstein 1818, Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1886, and Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau 1895. At the beginning of the 1930s, these stories centered around mad doctors who delved into unorthodox, profane explorations and were all adapted to the screen. All of these nefarious or scientific, inquisitive men, cultivated secret experiments, challenging the laws of nature. What Sedgwick found was that the Gothic literary representations of men performing homosocial collaborations were ‘not socially sanctioned and shunned.’

It was considered a necessary narrative element as well as a monstrous possibility that threatened to subvert the status quo. The combination of these two attitudes is expressed in homosocial narratives- male bonding is both horrifying and guaranteed, entailing the simultaneous introjection and expulsion of femininity. (Sedgwick)

“My darling”…

James Whale was a gay auteur who often imbued his work intentionally or with the ‘intentional fallacy’ of a ‘queer’ sense of dark humor. This comical, campy absurdity, was always on the edge of his vision of horror and subtle profanity. His picture The Invisible Man (1933) adapted from H.G. Wells’s story and starring Claude Rains, was classified as a horror film by the Code.

Dr. Jack Griffin (Rains) the antihero, is a frenzied scientist, addicted to his formula as he seeks the ability to make himself invisible. His sanity begins to ‘vanish’ as his hunger for power, delusions of grandeur, and bursts of megalomania grow out of control. He plans on assassinating government officials, and he becomes more belligerent the longer he turns invisible. The idea that he displays radical ideas and runs around in the nude didn’t seem to arouse the censors, In 1933, a letter from James Wingate to Hays states, “highly fantastic and exotic [sic] vein, and presents no particular censorship difficulties.”

What’s interesting about the presentation of the story, is that the coded gay leitmotifs were paraded out, right under the Code’s noses, and didn’t stir any indignation for its ‘queer’ humor.

Gloria Stuart and Claude Rains in James Whale’s The Invisible Man 1933

The Invisible Man perpetrates campy assaults on all the ‘normal’ people in his way. With intervals of sardonic cackles and golden wit, and at the same time, a menacing reflection of light and shadow. Claude Rains is a concealed jester who makes folly of his victims.

“An invisible man can rule the world. Nobody will see him come, nobody will see him go. He can hear every secret. He can rob, and wreck, and kill.” –Dr. Jack Griffin (The Invisible Man)

Claude Rains plays Dr. Jack Griffin an outsider (a favorite of James Whale’s characters) who discovers the secret of invisibility which changes him from a mild yet arrogant scientist into a maniacal killer. The film bares much of Whale’s campy sense of humor, with Griffin’s comic shenanigans abound until things turn dark and he becomes uncontrollably violent. “We’ll begin with a reign of terror, a few murders here and there, Murders of great men, Murders of little men, just to show we make no distinction. I might even wreck a train or two… just these fingers around a signalman’s throat, that’s all.”

According to Gary Morris (Bright Lights Film Journal), ‘The film demands crypto-faggot reading in poignant scenes such as the one where he reassures his ex-girlfriend, who begs him to hide from the authorities: “the whole worlds my hiding place. I can stand out there amongst them in the day or night and laugh at them.”

Though Griffin’s (Claude Rains) character is unseen at times, there are potent moments, when he is animated as he skips to the tune, “Here we go gathering nuts in May” flitting around like a fairy. It is suggested that The Invisible Man is a metaphor for the way homosexuals are seen/not seen by society – as “effeminate, dangerous when naked, seeking a male partner in “crime”, tending to idolize his fiance rather than love her, and becoming ‘visible’ only when shot by the police…monitored by doctors, and heard regretting his sin against God (i.e., made into a statistic by the three primary forces oppressing queers: the law, the medical establishment, and religious orthodoxy” (Sedgwick)

The Invisble Man [undressing] “They’ve asked for it, the country bumpkins. This will give them a bit of a shock, something to write home about. A nice bedtime story for the kids, too, if they want it”

Continue reading “Chapter 4 – Queers and Dykes in the Dark: Classic, Noir & Horror Cinema’s Coded Gay Characters:”

Happy Birthday to Bradford Dillman April 14

Bradford Dillman in a scene from the film ‘Circle Of Deception’, 1960. (Photo by 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images)

Untroubled good looks, faraway poise & self-control, with a satyric smile and brushed-aside sophistication  – that’s Bradford Dillman

Bradford Dillman is one of those ubiquitous & versatile actors who you find popping up just about everywhere, and whenever I either see him in the credits or think about some of his performances, I am immediately happified by his presence in my mind and on screen.  It’s this familiarity that signposts for me that whatever upcoming diversion I’m in store for will be something memorable indeed.

He’s been cast as a saint, a psychopath, an elite ivy league intellectual with an edge, an unconventional scientist, a military figure, a droll, and prickly individualist, a clueless bureaucrat, or drunken malcontents and he’s got a sort of cool that is wholly appealing.

Bradford Dillman was omnipresent starting out on the stage, and in major motion pictures at the end of the 50s, and by the 1960s he began his foray into popular episodic television series and appeared in a slew of unique made-for-television movies throughout the 1970s and 80s, with the addition of major motion picture releases through to the 90s. His work intersects many different genres from melodramas, historical dramas, thrillers, science fiction, and horror.

There are a few actors of the 1960s & 70s decades that cause that same sense of blissed-out flutters in my heart — that is of course if you’re as nostalgic about those days of classic cinema and television as I am. I get that feeling when I see actors like Stuart Whitman, Dean Stockwell, Roy Thinnes, Scott Marlow, Warren Oates, James Coburn, Lee Grant David Janssen, Michael Parks, Barbara Parkins, Joanna Pettet, Joan Hackett, Sheree North,  Diana Sands, Piper Laurie, Susan Oliver, and Diane Baker.  I have a fanciful worship for the actors who were busy working in those decades, who weren’t Hollywood starlets or male heartthrobs yet they possessed a realness, likability, a certain individual knack, and raw sex appeal.

Bradford Dillman was born in San Francisco in 1930 to a prominent local family. During the war, he was sent to The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut. At Hotchkiss, his senior year he played Hamlet. At Yale, he studied English Literature and performed in amateur theatrical productions, and worked at the Playhouse in Connecticut. Dillman served in the US Marines in Korea (1951-1953) and made a pact that he’d give himself five years to succeed as an actor before he called it quits. Lucky for us, he didn’t wind up in finance the way his father wanted him to.

Actor Bradford Dillman (Photo by  John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Dillman enrolled and studied at the Actors Studio, he spent several seasons apprenticing with the Sharon Connecticut Playhouse before making his professional acting debut in an adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarecrow” in 1953 with fellow Studio students Eli Wallach and James Dean. Dillman referred to Dean as ‘a wacky kid’ but ‘very gifted’.

He only appeared in two shows in October 1962 The Fun Couple in 1957 with Dyan Cannon and Jane Fonda before the play closed in New York only after two days.

We lost Bradford Dillman last year in January 2018. I was so saddened to hear the news. And I missed the chance to tribute to his work then, but now that his birthday is here, I feel like celebrating his life rather than mourning his death, so it’s just as well.

Bradford Dillman wrote an autobiography called Are You, Anybody? An Actor’s Life, published in 1997 with a (foreword by Suzy Parker) in which he downplays the prolific contribution he made to film and television and acting in general. Though Dillman didn’t always hold a high opinion of some of the work he was involved in, appearing in such a vast assortment of projects, he always came across as upbeat and invested in the role.

“Bradford Dillman sounded like a distinguished, phony, theatrical name, so I kept it.”

[about his career] “I’m not bitter, though. I’ve had a wonderful life. I married the most beautiful woman in the world. Together we raised six children, each remarkable in his or her own way and every one a responsible citizen. I was fortunate to work in a profession where I looked forward to going to work every day. I was rewarded with modest success. The work sent me to places all over the world I’d never been able to afford visiting otherwise. I keep busy and I’m happy. And there are a few good films out there that I might be remembered for.”

Continue reading “Happy Birthday to Bradford Dillman April 14”

Postcards from Shadowland no. 17 🌀 The Twilight Zone edition

“Five Characters in Search of an Exit” Season 3 Episode 14-Stars William Windom, Susan Harrison, Murray Matheson, Kelton Garwood aired December 22, 1961 Teleplay by Rod Serling.
“The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine” Season 1 episode 4 aired October 23rd 1959-stars Ida Lupino and Martin Balsam, Jerome Cowan, Ted de Corsia and Alice Frost as Sally. Written by Rod Serling
“Black Leather Jackets” Season 5 Episode 18 aired January 31st 1964-stars Lee Kinsolving, Shelley Fabares, Michael Forest, Denver Pyle, Tom Gilleran, Michael Conrad and Irene Hervey.
“Elegy” Season 1 Episode 20 aired on February 19th, 1960 directed by Douglas Heyes and written by Charles Beaumont. Stars Cecil Kellaway, Jeff Morrow, Don Dubbins and Kevin Hagen
“Eye of the Beholder” Season 2 Episode 6 aired on November 11th, 1960 directed by Douglas Heyes and written by Rod Serling. Stars Maxine Stuart, William D. Gordon, Jennifer Howard, George Keymas, Joanna Heyes, and Donna Douglas -revealed
NOVEMBER 11: Twilight Zone episode ‘Eye of the Beholder’, written by Rod Serling. makeup by William Tuttle. Originally broadcast on November 11, 1960. Season 2, episode 6. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
“Nothing in the Darkness” Season 3, Episode 16 aired January 5th, 1962. Stars Gladys Cooper Robert Redford and R.G. Armstrong
“Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” Season 5 Episode 3 aired October 11th, 1963 directed by Richard Donner written by Richard Matheson, Starring William Shatner, and Christine White

“The Howling Man” Season 2 Episode 5 aired November 4, 1960 directed by Douglas Heyes written by Charles Beaumont and Rod Serling. Stars John Carradine, H.M. Wynant, and Robin Hughes

“It’s a Good Life” Season 3 Episode 8 aired aired November 3rd, 1961. teleplay by Rod Serling based on a short story by Jerome Bixby. Stars John Larch, Cloris Leachman, Don Keefer, Bill Mumy as Anthony, Alice Frost as Aunt Amy, Max Showalter, Jeanne Bates, Lenore Kingston and Tom Hatcher.

“A Most Unusual Camera” Season 2 Episode 10 aired December 16, 1960. Starring Jean Carson, Fred Clark and Adam Williams written by Rod Serling
“Little Girl Lost” Season 3 Episode 26 aired March 16, 1962 directed by Paul Stewart and written by Richard Matheson. Stars Sarah Marshall, Robert Sampson and Charles Aidman
“Living Doll’ Season 5 Episode 6 aired November 1, 1963 written by Charles Beaumont and Rod Serling. Stars Telly Savalas, Mary LaRoche and Tracy Stratford

“The Midnight Sun” Season 3 Episode 10 aired November 17, 1961 Written by Rod Serling. Stars Lois Nettleton, and Betty Garde
“Mirror Image” Season 1 Episode 21 directed by John Brahm written by Rod Serling. Stars Vera Miles, Martin Milner, Joseph Hamilton and Naomi Stevens
“Mr. Garrity and the Graves” Season 5 Episode 32. Aired May 8th, 1964 directed by Ted Post, with a teleplay by Rod Serling. Stars John Dehner, Stanley Adams, J. Pat O’Malley, Norman Leavitt, Percy Helton and John Mitchum
“Mr. Denton on Doomsday” Season 1 Episode 3 aired October 16th 1959 written by Rod Serling Stars Dan Duryea, Martin Landau, Jeanne Cooper, Malcolm Atterbury, Ken Lynch, Arthur Batanides, Robert Burton and Doug McClure
“A Stop at Willoughby” Season 1 Episode 30 aired May 6, 1960 directed by Robert Parrish written by Rod Serling. Stars James Daly, Howard Smith and Patricia Donahue, Jason Wingreen, and Mavis Neal Palmer.
“Nick of Time” Season 2 Episode 3 aired November 18, 1960 Written by Richard Matheson and Rod Serling Stars William Shatner and Patricia Breslin
“Night Call’ Season 5 Episode 19 aired February 7, 1964 Directed by Jacques Tourneur written by Richard Matheson and Rod Serling. Stars the great Gladys Cooper, Nora Marlowe and Martine Bartlett.
“Nightmare as a Child” Season 1 Episode 29 aired April 29, 1960 written by Rod Serling. Stars Janice Rule, Sheppard Strudwick and Terry Burnham as Markie
“Twenty Two” Season 2 Episode 17 aired February 10, 1961 Directed by Jack Smight written by Rod Serling from Famous Ghost Stories- Stars Barbara Nichols, Jonathon Harris, and Fredd Wayne
“One for the Angels” Season 1 Episode 2 aired October 9, 1959 Written by Rod Serling. Stars Ed Wynn, Murray Hamilton as death, Dana Dillaway as Maggie
“A Penny for your Thoughts” Season 2 Episode 16 aired February 3, 1961 Written by George Clayton Johnson and Rod Serling. Stars Dick York, June Dayton, Dan Tobin, Cyril Delevanti, and Hayden Rorke
“People are Alike All Over” Season 1 Episode 25 aired March 25, 1960 Stars Roddy McDowall, Susan Oliver and Paul Comi
“Long Live Walter Jameson” Season 1 Episode 24 aired March 18, 1960 Written by Charles Beaumont. Stars Kevin McCarthy, Edgar Stehli, Estelle Winwood and Dodie Heath
“Queen of the Nile” Season 5 Episode 23 aired March 6, 1964 directed by John Brahm written by Charles Beaumont and Rod Serling. Starring Ann Blyth, Lee Phillips, and Celia Lovsky

“Spur of the Moment” Season 5 Episode 21 aired February 21, 1964 directed by Eliot Silverstein written by Richard Matheson. Stars Diana Hyland, Marsha Hunt, Philip Ober and Roger Davis.
“The After Hours” Season 1 Episode 34 aired June 10, 1960 directed by Douglas Heyes written by Rod Serling. Stars Anne Francis and Elizabeth Allen
“The Dummy” Season 3 Episode 33 aired May 4, 1962 directed by Abner Biberman teleplay by Rod Serling. Stars Cliff Robertson, Frank Sutton, George Murdock, John Harmon and Sandra Warner.
“The Fear” Season 5 Episode 35 aired May 29, 1964 directed by Ted Post written by Rod Serling. Stars Hazel Court and Peter Mark Richman
“The Grave” Season 3 Episode 7 aired October 27, 1961 Written and Directed by Montgomery Pittman Stars Lee Marvin, James Best, and Strother Martin, Elen Willard and Lee Van Cleef
“The Hitch-Hiker” Season 1 Episode 16 aired January 22, 1960 Teleplay by Rod Serling based on a radio play by Lucille Fletcher. Stars Inger Stevens, Adam Williams, Lew Gallo and Leonard Strong as The Hitch-Hiker
“The Invaders” Season 2 Episode 15 aired January 27, 1961 Directed by Douglas Heyes written by Richard Matheson. Stars Agnes Moorehead in a completely dialogue-less performance.
“The Lonely” Season 1 Episode 7 aired November 13, 1959 Directed by Jack Smight written by Rod Serling. Stars Jack Warden, John Dehner, Jean Marsh and Ted Knight
“The Man in the Bottle” Season 2 Episode 2 aired October 7, 1960 directed by Don Medford written by Rod Serling. Stars Luther Adler, Vivi Janiss, and Joseph Ruskin
“The Masks” Season 5 Episode 25 aired March 20, 1964 Directed by Ida Lupino written by Rod Serling. Stars Robert Keith, Milton Seltzer, Virginia Gregg, Brooke Hayward and Willis Bouchey
“The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” Season 1 Episode 22 aired March 4, 1960. Written by Rod Serling. Stars Claude Akins, Barry Atwater, Jack Weston, Jan Handzlik, Amzie Strickland, Burt Metcalfe, Mary Gregory, Anne Barton
“The New Exhibit” Season 4 Episode 14 aired April 4 1963 Directed by John Brahm written by Charles Beaumont and Rod Serling. Stars Martin Balsam, Will Kuluva, Margaret Field William Mims
“The Shelter” Season 3 Episode 3 aired September 29, 1961 directed by Lamont Johnson written by Rod Serling. Stars Larry Gates, Joseph Bernard, Jack Albertson, Peggy Stewart, Sandy Kenyon, Michael Burns, Jo Helton, Moria Turner, and Mary Gregory
“Time Enough At Last” Season 1 Episode 8 aired November 20, 1959 Directed by John Brahm and teleplay by Rod Serling based on a short story by Lynn Venable. Stars Burgess Meredith as Henry Bemis
“To Serve Man” Season 3 Episode 24 aired March 2, 1962 Teleplay by Rod Serling based on a short story by Damon Knight. Stars Lloyd Bochner, Susan Cummings and Richard Kiel
“A Passage for Trumpet” Season 1 Episode 32 aired May 20, 1960 Directed by Don Medford written by Rod Serling. Stars Jack Klugman and John Anderson
“Walking Distance” Season 1 Episode 5 aired October 30th, 1959 directed by Robert Stevens and written by Rod Serling. Stars Gig Young, Frank Overton and Irene Tedrow and a young Ronny Howard
“Two” Season 3 Episode 1 aired September 15, 1961 directed by Montgomery Pittman written by Montgomery Pittman and Rod Serling. Stars Elizabeth Montgomery and Charles Bronson
“Third from the Sun” Season 1 Episode 14 aired January 8, 1960 Teleplay by Rod Serling based on a story by Richard Matheson. Stars Fritz Weaver, Edward Andrews, Joe Maross, Denise Alexander and Lori March
“What You Need” Season 1 Episode 12 aired Deccember 25, 1959 Stars Steve Cochran, Ernest Truex, Read Morgan and Alrene Martel
Season 1 Episode 1 aired October 2nd 1959. Written by Rod Serling. Stars Earl Holliman, James Gregory, and Paul Langton,
“Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” Season 2 Episode 28 aired May 26, 1961. Directed by Montgomery Pittman written by Rod Serling. Stars John Hoyt, Jean Willes, Jack Elam, Barney Phillips, John Archer, William Kendis, Morgan Jones, Gertrude Flynn, Bill Irwin, Jill Ellis and Ron Kipling

Your EverLovin’ Joey saying The Last Drive In is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge!