Friday, October 29, 2010

It's eerie, dearie...

When the ghosts and goblins hover
and there's monsters on the scene,
you know what day is coming -
that's right! It's Claraween!

Have a scary good holiday, folks!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Man Who Laughs (1928)

He's such a joker.*

I had the great fortune to catch this on the big screen, with the wonderful Ben Model accompanying on the Mighty Miditzer.  Before I even get into the film I have to give Ben accolades - he never fails to give his all and treat us to a masterful performance.  Well done!

Now, onto the picture...

Conrad Veidt is Gwynplaine, the son of a disgraced nobleman disfigured by decree of King James II in retribution.  After his father's death, Gwynplaine is abandoned, doomed to wander the snowbound countryside...until he finds an infant nestled in her dead mother's arms.  Gwynplaine takes the child and eventually finds the home of Ursus, who takes both of them in and discovers the infant is blind.

Years pass and both Gwynplaine and Dea (the blind infant, now played by Mary Philbin) are now part of a traveling showm run by Ursus, centering around Gwynplaine's horrific visage.  This upsets him afresh every night, because he is in love with the beautiful and kind Dea, but will not marry her, refusing to burden her with his horror.    One day they play at a fair near the Royal Court, and the Queen's jester discovers that The Man Who Laughs is actually the son of a nobleman.  Only problem is, his rightful inheritance is now owned by Duchess Josiana (an almost unrecognizable Olga Baclanova).  Queen Anne decides Gwynplaine must marry the Duchess in order to restore things to propriety.

Does Gwynplaine actually marry the Duchess, a highly sensual woman simultaneously aroused and digusted by his face?  Does he stay with the angelic Dea, who loves him regardless of his appearance?  Or does something else happen entirely?  You'll have to watch the film and see. 

Veidt is heartbreaking as The Man Who Laughs, managing to move the audience with a variety of emotions - all while his face is contorted into a perpetual smile.  His anguish is palpable and at times it is difficult to look into his eyes (shades of Chaney, who was unable to star due to contractual obligations).  Philbin has one or two instances where she does a fine job, particularly when in pain over Gwynplaine, but otherwise spends most of the role looking lovely (and rather like Mary Pickford, in my opinion).  The picture itself was stretched a little long in spots - I felt that most of the action at court could've been condensed without affecting the story or it's outcome.  Otherwise, a very good film.  And three cheers for Homo the Wolf! 

I give this one: 

*"The Man Who Laughs" was indeed noted as one of the inspirations for The Joker.  You can read an interesting blog entry about it here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

On a Side Street

"I was not Mr Mary Pickford,"

he said, head slightly down,
fingers tracing the moisture on
the whiskey glass.

It was his third.

"I came here with Matt and Tom and Joe
to find a better life,
and I made a name for myself.

My own good name, too;
not some phony moving picture name
like Gladys had."

He paused, eyes clouded over with memory.

"Joe, God rest his soul."

He slapped a few bills on the counter and
slid off the stool,
walking out into oblivion,
the nitrate dust of almost three hundred films
beneath his heels.

Katherine would be waiting.

Owen Moore

Monday, October 4, 2010

False Starts and Funnymen

Wake up, Buster!  Today's your birthday! 

I had intended to do a review of Jack's Make Way for a Sailor, but I got about three minutes into it and had to switch it off.  I remain valiant, however, and will try again, have no fear!