THE BEACH PARTY BLOGATHON- CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) & Night Tide (1961) : Gills-A LOVE STORY!!!

THE BEACH PARTY BLOGATHON hosted by the fabulous Speakeasy & Silver Screenings

CapturFiles 2

CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) directed by Jack Arnold

the_creature_from_the_black_lagoon_wallpaper_jxhy

There have been sympathetic monsters that elicit our understanding, who cause you to care about them and their ordeal whether they’re the focus of a rampaging mob of villagers with flaming torches and pick axes or scientists armed with spear guns at the ready as surrogate penises –okay maybe I didn’t think about that surrogate penis thing when I was 9, but I see it so clearly now!!!!

Back in the day of the musty cool matinee theatre’s air smelling of buttered popcorn and old leather shoes, you could slink down in your good ‘n plenty and Milk Dud encrusted red velvet seat and wish that the monster would not only get away… but that just maybe he’d get the girl– instead of the self righteous hyper-science macho hero who objectifies everything! After all, the creature is not the one invading their territory, he’s prevailed in that environment for ions, before these macho nerds came along!

As a little monstergirl I used to think, and still do… just leave the ‘Gill Man’ alone!

We can sympathize with monsters, like Victor Frankenstein’s creation, & The Gill Man from Creature From the Black Lagoon. We can find our involvement (at least I can), as one viewed with empathy toward the monster’s predicament. embedded in the narrative is a simultaneous pathos, that permits these monsters to express human desires, and then make sure that those desires are thwarted, frustrated and ultimately destroyed.

photo 4

CapturFiles_9
Richard Carlson Julie Adams Richard Denning and Whit Bissell as Dr. Edward Thompson study the fossil of an amphibian man found near the Amazon.
photo 3
The crew catches something in their net… and whatever it was… has ripped a giant Gill Man size hole in it leaving behind a claw!

“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. Is not life a hundred times too short for us to bore ourselves?” Friedrich Nietzsche

CapturFiles

CapturFiles_9

CapturFiles_8

CapturFiles_12
Mr. ‘It’s mine all mine” and Kay and Mr. “But think of the contribution to science!” looking at the poor trapped Gill Man-a lonely prisoner of scientific hubris and egocentric men.
CapturFiles_7
The creature trapped in a bamboo cage… floats, quietly thinking deep thoughts–while the three look on pondering what to do with him..

‘The Outsider Narrative” can be seen so clearly in Jack Arnold’s horror/sci-fi hybrid Creature From The Black Lagoon. Film monsters like The Gill Man form vivid memories for us, as they become icons laying the groundwork for the classic experience of good horror, sci-fi and fantasy with memorable story telling and anti-heroes that we ‘outliers’ grew to identify with and feel a fondness for.

As David Skal points out in The Monster Show, he poses that films like Creature From the Black Lagoon …are the “most vivid formative memories of a large section of the {American} population…{…} and that for so many of these narratives they seem to function as “mass cultural rituals.”

creature-from-the-black-lagoon

Creature From The Black Lagoon is quite a perfect film, as it works on so many different levels of examining human nature and nature as human.

CapturFiles_17

When belligerent scientists and their relentless pursuit of expanding control over the natural world invade a unique creature’s habitat, forcing their domination of him- naturally he’s compelled to fight back.

In the midst of this evolves a sort of a skewed Romeo and Juliet. The Gill Man never intends to threaten Julie Adam’s character Kay Lawrence, he seemingly wants to make her his love object and maybe just maybe (idealizing of course while I imbue the ‘creature’ with a higher consciousness) the Gill Man seeks to free Kay from the dangerous men she is surrounded by. An amphibious knight in scaly armor, a rugged green scaly Adonis with limpid eyes and full lips.

The arrival of the expedition creates chaos and swampy mayhem due to the intrusion of the two opportunistic men who tote phallic harpoons around and fight with each other over questions of ethics, how to conduct scientific research and naturally who will conquer Kay– acting like spoiled children-the both. Only the Gill Man sees her beauty from a place of primal hunger and desires her above all else, perhaps with a innate sense of possessing her, but without all the cocky male posturing.

creature-from-the-black_lagoon_2

Creature-Black-Lagoon-Adams-Gill-Man
THE LOVABLE HUGGABLE GILL MAN!! 
“I promise to keep my claws trimmed and never come to bed with cold clammy feet!”

“Yes, yes,” said the Beast, “my heart is good, but still I am a monster.” –Among mankind,” says Beauty, “there are many that deserve that name more than you, and I prefer you, just as you are, to those, who, under a human form, hide a treacherous, corrupt, and ungrateful heart.”
Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont

CapturFiles_14

CapturFiles_15

CapturFiles_8

CapturFiles_16

“What freedom men and women could have, were they not constantly tricked and trapped and enslaved and tortured by their sexuality! The only drawback in that freedom is that without it one would not be a human. One would be a monster.”
John Steinbeck, East of Eden

“When is a monster not a monster? Oh, when you love it.”
Caitlyn Siehl, Literary Sexts: A Collection of Short & Sexy Love Poems

In trying to capture the amphibian man he is driven out of his home in the mysterious upper Amazon by these otherizing anthropologists. And so the Gill Man–being shot at by spears and besieged by sweaty men in bourgeois khakis and unfashionable swim trunks blech! –must defend his realm.

He who is just lazing around, dreaming through the sun’s rays which sparkle upon the surface of the water amongst the little fishes and coral… bothering no one. Suddenly surrounded by intruders with weapons and nets, poison and cages.

But wait, one of them is leggy and soft and looks divine in her one piece bathing suit designed by Rosemary Odell... (Brute Force 1947, It Came from Outer Space 1953, This Island Earth 1955, To Kill a Mockingbird 1962) and what a pair of eyes!

CapturFiles_10
The Gill Man goes on a mission to get the girl and so endures his attackers because he has fallen for the simple beauty of Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams.)

Though his world has become disordered, the presence of the beautiful Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams) it has awakened his sexual desire.

The film stars Richard Carlson as David Reed and Richard Denning as Mark Williams. The two men who invade The Gill Man’s quiet life and argue about what should be done with the subject of their research findings, to exploit, or study, or bring back to the states to gain notoriety and get paid lots of clams!, without an ethical thought in their curly scientific brains, forcing themselves on the creature and making him an object of entrapment & exhibition.

CapturFiles_6
“I think I love you so what am I so afraid of? I’m afraid that I’m not sure of a love there is no cure for I think I love you isn’t that what life is made of? Though it worries me to say that I’ve never felt this way”— Insert music from The Partridge Family –
CapturFiles_7
“There’s just something about an Aqua Velva Gill Man!”

The Gill Man watches from below the surface, as Kay Lawrence casually smokes a cigarette, taking long sensual puffs and throwing the butts upon the lagoon like trinkets for him to worship. He feels compelled to reach out for her but decides to be a voyeur for a bit longer.

Later the Gill Man sees Kay on the beach, the camera catches a notable deep sigh when he lays those deep green eyes on her. He moves closer. She lets out the obligatory monster movie scream queen shriek, that siren squeal, you know the kind, with the carefully place hands cupping the face in shock.

One of the men from the expedition takes a machete and tries to attack the creature, and he gets killed for his efforts. Dave and Mark hear Kay scream and approach just in time for the knock out powder they’ve placed in the lagoon to finally take effect and subdue the creature who is now out cold. He falls flat on his green gilled face down in the sand.

CapturFiles_18

CapturFiles_19

CapturFiles_17

CapturFiles_21

CapturFiles_20
Kay passes out. the Gill Man places her down gently on the sand...
CapturFiles_11
Mark (Richard Denning) can’t wait to beat the fish guts out of the creature!

CapturFiles_12

CapturFiles_13
David (Carslon) has to intervene before Mark (Denning) bashes the creatures head in “Stop you’ll kill him!…”

CapturFiles_16

Once Williams (Denning) sees that the Gill Man has fallen down, he says “Got him!” then begins brutally smashing at him with his rifle, until David (Carlson) tells him to stop before he kills him. They throw a net over the unconscious creature. The scene shows the level of ferocity that man is capable of, and with this violent over-kill we on the other side of the evolutionary scale become monsters as well. It is a not so subtle contrast with the main character who is considered the ‘creature.’

Ricou Browning portrayed the creature in the under water scenes, and Ben Chapman played the creature on land. There’s wonderfully engaging cinematography by William E. Snyder. (Flying Leathernecks 1951, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt 1956)

The Gill Man has dwelt in the warm existential depths of the water… the lagoon his endless cycle of existence, thriving until he is invaded by scientific hubris. While in the lagoon he is connected to the creator of his world, remaining bound to a body of water that is symbolic of the eternal maternal womb. He is then forced out of his quiet habitual life where he then becomes ‘otherized’. With an ‘Outsider’ narrative the familiar then becomes monstrous.

Our perceptions are focused on how this ‘creature’ shatters the mold of normalcy. He transforms the ordinary world into something provocative and forces the outside world to define him, once again as with Frankenstein’s monster, he is perceived as a thing… a creature.

creature-from-the-black-lagoon

A film like Creature from the Black Lagoon can suggest to us the recognition of our notions of conventional sexuality and gender as well. The Gill Man is similar to a frog yet has walks upright and has the stance of a man and possesses that archetypal ogling that shows he has sexual designs on our heroine Kay.

creature3
Kay Lawrence: “And I thought the Mississippi was something.”

While he is placed in a role that sees Kay as the ‘object’ of his affection, he’s sort of an androgynous amphibian, and yet he suggests that  “alternatives can exist which may be more desirable”-Mark Jancovich Rational Fears American Horror in the 1950s. Jancovich goes on to say that the film is “unremittingly sexual” The film has sexual symbolism throughout, as the outside world intrudes on an ambiguous sexual being living in the womb of the water, now unleashed as a sexual peril to women. The water scenes between the water ballet swimming Kay unaware that the creature is also swimming very near to her–are absolutely visual foreplay.

CapturFiles_10

Sweaty men baring their chests, wielding shot guns and Phallic harpoons as much as possible.

CapturFiles_5
Need I say more???

The most significant scene of the film is when The Gill Man swims a slight distance away from Kay, under the murky lagoon while Kay unaware, simultaneously moves through the water embracing it’s import with pleasure and liberation. She whirls above him, barely hinting at an erotic intimacy between the two.

Under the water the creature is not a threat to Kay, he’s almost shy, as he barely touches her leg, he swims away as if he’s conflicted with uncertainty about this new experience. William E Snyder is responsible for the striking underwater footage, that creates an erotic spacial world of shimmering light.

It’s almost a type of Eden, that those pesky aggressive scientific males spoil…

200-25

200-27

We know that the creature shows a fascination toward Kay, but she sort of shares a kind of bond with him, as both are threatened by the domination of the two male scientists Mark and David. She tells the men to leave the creature alone, that it won’t bother them. Mark wants to capture the creature as proof of his discovery, rather than just study him in his own habitat. Mark also wants to possess Kay, both of them are treated as ‘objects’. There are several scenes where Kay and the creature stare at each other as if they see something in common within themselves. Harry Essex wrote the screenplay, hated the script at first so he added the Beauty and the Beast theme, to give the creature more of a sense of humanity.

photo 2

CapturFiles_1

CapturFiles_4

CapturFiles_1

CapturFiles_2

CapturFiles_5

CapturFiles_3

CapturFiles_4

The Creature from the Black Lagoon is relentlessly sexual. Inhabited by mostly male characters, scientists who have traveled to the deep Amazon in search of undiscovered animal life. What they find instead of more fossils is the Gill Man who refuses to give up his freedom. And why shouldn’t the creature react violently to their intrusion into his quiet domain. What’s more interesting is how he quickly becomes attracted to the gorgeous Julie Adams and her gutsy character Kay, the only female on the expedition who once again looks smashing in a one piece white bathing suit and swims like she’s in the water follies. Jancovich quotes Biskind from his Seeing is Believing – claiming that the creature is “driven into a frenzy by the proximity of Julie Adams in a one piece bathing suit.” Sounds about right to me!

The Gill Man evokes our sympathy who has become an ‘object’ to be controlled, dominated and assaulted by the outside world. It’s the ‘men doing science’ who become the ‘aliens’ the bad guys, the human monsters and the creature another existential anti-hero who we identify with. It’s just a different slant on the theme of unrequited love in the the lagoon…

Creature-From-The-Black-Lagoon-1

Continue reading “THE BEACH PARTY BLOGATHON- CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) & Night Tide (1961) : Gills-A LOVE STORY!!!”

Altman’s That Cold Day In The Park: 1960’s Repressed Psychosexual Spinster at 30+? and the Young Colt Playing Mute

“How far will a woman go to possess a 19 year old boy?”

That Cold Day In The Park (1969) Robert Altman-iconic American director (Mash, Nashville) best known for his very naturalistic approach to plot development in his films. He has a very stylized viewpoint, which creates an atmosphere of actors dialogues overlapping each other. He allows his actors to improvise their lines which was a very unorthodox method of film making. He’d often refer to a screenplay as a “blueprint” for the action, and cared more about character motivation than the relevant components of the plot. In Cold Day, he uses a more somber monotone dialogue, still informal and intimate, yet not as cluttered with the chatter he uses in his later works. Here the film works as a mood piece of modern Gothic horror that eventually devolves into Grande Guignol style. Another aspect of this more subtler psychological horror film is how it makes the protagonist particularly ambiguous as we are not sure where our sympathies lie. Considering the boy’s entrapment which he become complicit in since he has several opportunities to stay away once he realizes that Frances is not emotionally stable, yet he’s complacent in luring Frances into his game. While Frances is both predator and victim, the moral ambiguities lay open.

Altman often presents Frances in that iconographic mirror in order to represent her duality. The reflections of the repressed woman and the voyeur who seeks to fulfill her sexual desires. While, ‘the boy’ walks around the apartment naked he becomes and ‘object’ of desire for Francis’ fragile self control. She is a pathetic deranged time bomb who will eventually lose all hold on reality.

Again, I will not give away the climactic ending. It’s too powerful through the camera’s framing, the storytelling and of course Dennis and Burns extraordinary performances.

At first I set out to do this review with a mind towards coupling it with another psycho-sexual film experiment Secret Ceremony 1968 starring Liz Taylor and Mia Farrow, by the great director Joseph Losey, but once I started thinking and writing about Cold Day, I realized I had a lot to say, so I’ll save that other psychologically startling feature for another time, although it makes for a good companion piece.

Johnny Mandell’s music works well as the very minimalist piano score that creates the atmosphere of loneliness. It’s a beautifully evocative piece of film scoring. Laszlo Kovacs’s cinematography creates a stark and sterile landscape who’s monochromatic colors seem to implode around the characters.

Starring Sandy Dennis (Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf?’66, The Fox, The Out of Towners ’70) as Frances Austen and Michael Burns (loads of television appearances and he plays yet another  strange boy in Grand Guignol’s The Mad Room 1969) as “The Boy” That film directed by Bernard Girard. 

The film is premised on Dennis’ character being a psychotic sexually repressed woman who’s loneliness has driven her to a spiraling madness. She is portrayed as the figure of an archaic high born spinster devoid of emotional or physical connection to her own body nor any other individual, male or female. A sexless drone living outside the world in her own isolated imprisonment/apartment in Vancouver left to her by her wealthy deceased mother. Frances carries on the ritual of entertaining her mother’s older friends out of an empty obligation filled with no joy or passion for life.

Now, I often wonder about womens’ roles in film, ones who in years past played the spinster. The woman passed her prime and so sexually repressed and relentlessly dour that she’s ready for the glue factory and unable to have a meaningful relationship because she’s obsolete as far as the script goes. Then come to find out that she’s only in her mid thirties. It fascinates me how things have changed, and while women in film still aren’t getting the sexy roles at 50 or 60 even though they’re younger looking and more in the midst of  a ripe youthful mindfulness well passed 40 into their 50s. Over and over I watch films that portray woman who either perceive themselves as gone to seed or the plot sets them up as being viewed as ready for the old hags home. But I digress as I’m apt to do.

I’ve not read Richard Miles book, but I think that this story most likely had the characters’ motivations more fleshed out, it might have even made for a compelling stage piece.

Sandy Dennis, plays a wealthy spinster starved for human contact who while entertaining truly older folk in her apartment, situated in some nondescript Urban setting, spies a young man sitting on the park bench outside her apartment. At first Frances wearing a forbidding black dress had ignored the boy sitting on the bench. While Sandy Dennis was quite a young actress of 31, her tightly upturned hairstyle and mannerisms indicate that she is taking on the role her mother once had, presenting herself as an ‘older’ woman.

She seems to be more recluse than hostess. She is repulsed by the old doctor friend (Edward Greenhaigh) who keeps trying to get her alone. It revolts her that he wears support bands to hold up his socks and smells like an old man. And she doesn’t seem to want to engage in conversation with any of her guests. One wonders if these gatherings are just Pavlovian ritual of the idle rich, a circumstance she has been conditioned to since birth, or is she shielding herself from any real contemporary human contact by hanging around a collection of fossilized bores?

Altman doesn’t give us a lot of information, he usually makes the audience infer from the actors what their motivations are. My guess is that it’s a little of both.

[And I mean no disrespect for the elderly, I hold a very high reverence for people who have claimed the right to life experience, but here in this situation, these particular guests seem to be used as a conveyance of sour, cynical and hardened natural snobbery.]

But the film uses artifacts of growing older to symbolize Frances’ revulsion of time honored traditions and older people. Though she surrounds herself with remnants of a past way of life handed down by her mother, her growing antagonism and loneliness sparks her madness.

Frances lives in her own world and for no reason that we are privy to, has been terribly damaged by her loneliness and self imposed isolation handed down by the matriarch. One day, one cold and rainy day during a very strained social dinner party at her place, she notices Michael Burns (The Boy) sitting on the park bench outside her apartment window. He is conspicuously perched on the bench with no apparent purpose. Only later do we learn that he had been waiting for his sister Nina (Susanne Benton) who fails to show up that day. Most likely in bed with her rough around the edges, Vietnam vet, drug using, oversexed boyfriend, played by John Garfield Jr.

A lone passerby drops off a newspaper in the trash can by the bench and Burns uses it as a blanket to shield himself from getting wet. This action creates an aura of a poignant soul at the mercy of the elements– an influence that draws the boy closer to Frances’ gaze. A praying mantis who has stumbled onto her mate/prey sanctuary.

She studies him with fascination. Perhaps, she glimpses a kindred spirit in his solitariness. We see how she sets herself apart from her guests. We sense a certain hostility, an obvious antagonism toward her gathering, rather than empathy. Even her trusty servants, who dote on her like a mother hens evoke a level of disdain in Francis. Her housekeeper Mrs. Parnell played by (Rae Brown) sheds a disapproving air about Francis once she’s let the boy into the apartment. Everyone involved in the periphery of Francis’ life assumes her loneliness as unhealthy. Yet Francis continues to shield herself from any genuine human contact until she discovers the boy. The boy being the catalyst for her latent sexual desire.

She sends her guests away early and runs outside standing behind the chain link fence of the apartment complex, an almost prison like effect is constructed. She calls to the boy from her fortress. He comes to the fencing and Francis invites him in to her apartment to dry off. She then runs him a bath and begins to dote on him, feeding him, playing him records of various varieties of music. She hovers over him as if he were a stray puppy or as the New York Times reviewer(Howard Thompson) referred to him as a young colt, she has found.

In Peter Shelley’s Grande Dame Guignol Cinema he makes an interesting observation about the way Kovacs lenses Frances in shadow as if she is a ‘female monster’ when she asks ‘the boy’ to stay. Also suggesting that Altman presents Frances personae likened to ‘vampirism’ as she wears her hair down at night.

He feigns being mute. This is something his sister lets us know he does from time to time. Again we do not know why he would shut off from communicating, but he uses it as a way to watch Francis from a distance. He tells his sister the first time he sneaks out the bedroom window back to his real home that he’s never met anyone who talked as much as Francis, and that she is sexually weird. Perhaps we are supposed to decipher something  significance about a boy who chooses not to talk, and a woman who chooses only to talk. Francis’ chatter is so trivial at times, yet it uncovers no layers to her pathology.

Early on we sense that his being mute is a ruse, we also see glimpses of Francis knowing all too well, that he is only playing mute. But she is suddenly drawn to him and now their game has commenced which plays out very tediously, yet compelling all the same.

Michael Burns has an impish face. He’s a highly underrated actor of the 70’s. In Cold Day, his range is truly utilized in Neo-Gothic urban fashion. His role in The Mad Room (1969) released that same year, starring Shelley Winters and Stella Stevens, didn’t really give him the environment to expand his acting prowess. He’s got boyish good looks. Almost Cherubim. We see his naked bum a lot, prancing around the apartment with only a bath towel and his silent body language. Doing a little Chaplinesque pantomime to convey “himself”, his spirit, as he is acting mute for Francis. He exudes a hint of dangerous quality yet manifests a gentleness. Perhaps in his mind he at first romanticizes in dreamy fashion that he is an Oliver Twist who has stumbled onto something good. A street urchin who has been taken in by a seemingly kind yet odd woman. And so he’s playing along with the game, all the time realizing that Sandy Dennis’ character is not quite right. She talks incessantly about things that aren’t relevant. He humors her, in an odd sort of sympathetic way.

Of course there is another element of his motive for allowing himself to be taken in. His opportunism, as he is tolerating her advances and the exploitation of her quirkiness, and the foisting of gifts and comforts upon him. We later come to learn, that he is from a very dysfunctional home life. When he runs home to his sister Nina who’s smoking hash and carrying on with her boyfriend, he tells her how grateful he is to finally have his own room and bed.

Nina is a hyper sexual sister, who has more than incestuous overtones for her little brother. The Boy also has a strain of sexual dysfunction in him as well. There are no boundaries as his sister has sex with her boyfriend while her brother watches on the fire escape outside her window. Later on, she shows up uninvited to Francis’ apartment and takes a bath, she plunges him into the tub with her and then while lying on the bed naked tells him that he excites her and she excites him. If not for her breaking the tense and perverse moment with laughter, we might have seen the boy move onto the bed to have sexual relations with her. These are streetwise and blamelessly ruthless children. Apparently the mother is non involved and these siblings are out to fend for themselves. There is no familiar foundation from which they spring from, and so they seem to wander aimlessly, pleasuring themselves with what ever comes their way.

After the first night of Francis’ treacly verbal stroking of her new pet, she tucks him into bed like a child, and then she locks the door. He is able to sneak away through the window to retreat back to his origin. To meet up with his sister. To relate the strange situation he has stumbled into. But we get the first sign that this diversion, this subterfuge will not end well.

From that very first night there is a sort of tedium that drones on as Dennis’s character starts to care take him, which begins with the locking of the door to his room. Though striking the boy as bizarre, he seems untroubled by this maneuver, and so slips out at night through the window, planning to return later on, unnoticed by Francis.

Later on in the film, entering his room, she discovers he’s out again at night after having poured her heart out with more than the usual meaningless diatribes she spurts, she realizes that it’s really a lump of dolls he’s stuffed under the blanket made to look like him sleeping. She had been telling him that it’s okay if he wants to make love to her, and that she wants him to make love to her. Once she discovers that he’s not even in the bed, it ignites outrage,she screams, and now we see her wrath starting to leak out a bit, betrayed that he has left her alone.

So,no more slipping out for the boy. She nails down every window and locks all the doors and keeps him prisoner. When he returns after the revelation that he’s been slipping out,he now finds that he is a virtual prisoner, he tells her that he can leave any time he wants. he looks for knives in the kitchen and grabs a meat cleaver to try and wrench the nails from the window sills. The tension is building as he realizes that this is not a game anymore, that she is truly mentally deranged and he is now her captive.

She tells him that she understands that he’s young and needs sex and that she’ll bring him someone.

She then proceeds to go to a seedy bar trying to procure a prostitute as surrogate for her sexual repression.The first bar Francis goes to, she sits and watches a girl, beehived Mary Quant black eyeliner and attitude, almost a flash forward to singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse. Francis approaches her in the bathroom and asks if she’ll come home with her because she has a boy there who needs sex. The girl asks how much, then rebuffs Francis and calls her a pervert.Assuming that the sexual procurement was for herslef, a woman and not someone else. But overhearing the incident, Michael Murphy as The Rounder.

Taking on the task of recruiting a prostitute for Francis, the smarmy character that Murphy plays, brings Francis to what looks like an all night dive diner/lesbian hang out, where all the players in the room are further used to set off an ambiguous puzzle as to whether the prostitute is for her or not. Francis’ sexuality is truly ambiguous in this film.

A scene at the gynecologist, (a male doctor) must be part of the narrative that tells us how clinically she is disconnected from the sex act. How her body is something she is not attached to, but finding this boy, as a keepsake, a play thing, brings her madness to the level of psycho sexual and psychopathic breakdown.

Ultimately while we’ve been dancing back and forth between both characters who have been humoring each others’ motives and whims, the fracturing of reality has begun for Francis, and ultimately for the boy to see that he has entered into a very savage trap. The tension stems from more of a growing inertia that suddenly combusts.

Luana Anders, (early 60’s cult actress from Roger Corman’s wonderfully macabre adaptation of Poe’s Pit and The Pendulum and Curtis Harrington’s very obscure but nigthmarish and dreamy Night Tide also starring in Dementia 13 ) plays Sylvie the prostitute, in one of the more emotionally connected scenes that gives us some frame of reference of reality to the real world,a more engaging character who comes into the framing of the story. The whole thing culminates in a very disturbing moment, that abruptly grabs at your psychic jugular vein and leaves you speechless. A tragic poignancy, bleak and dismal, perhaps while more subtle than recent films of the genre, still a psychologically grotesque film for some people to watch.

It’s a compelling interaction of misguided souls triggering a psychotic combustion of parts. Leaving you more than a little uncomfortable. While I found the film an interesting experiment in the sub genre of psycho sexual disturbances and 70s Grande Dame Guignol, I’m not sure anyone else would be able to sustain viewing it long enough for the climactic end.

Sandy Dennis has done her share of films where she gets to stretch her range. Usually, coming across like a wounded bird. (The Fox, Who’s Afraid of Virgina Wolff?) she can be like a languid train wreck in our view who’s articulations while off putting, can draw you in as well.

Without giving away the swiftly shocking ending, I’d say that this film might annoy most film goers, yet I found it oddly satisfying. Perhaps in it’s initial theatrical release, audiences found it disturbing and unsavory, today it satisfies my taste for eclectic cinema and character acting with a slow burn pace and an undeniable gestalt laden, thought provoking climax that permeates the brain cells and lasts on the tongue like a big clove of garlic, the film disturbs the mind for hours. While That Cold Day In The Park obviously reviled film critics and movie goers during it’s theatrical release in 1969, I think it’s one of Altman’s most underrated pieces of work.


Movie Review New York Times Published June 9,1969 by Howard Thompson

That Cold Day in the Park (1969)

“The kindest thing to say of this misguided drama, about a wealthy, thirtyish spinster, who installs, then imprisons a coltish youth in her apartment, is that it caused a healthy flurry of filming activity in Vancouver, British Columbia, by an enterprising American production unit.”

“The climax is a gory business with a bread knife.”

The Cast
THAT COLD DAY IN THE PARK, screen play by Gillian Freeman, from the novel by Richard Miles; directed by Robert Altman; produced by Donald Factor and Leon Mirell;  Running time: 112 minutes.
Frances Austen . . . . . Sandy Dennis
The Boy . . . . . Michael Burns
His Sister . . . . . Susanne Benton
Nick . . . . . John Garfield Jr.
The Prostitute . . . . . Luana Anders