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Rancid Popcorn » 2009 » April

So Long At The Fair

So Long At The Fair (Co-Directed by Terence Fisher and Antony Darnborough, 1950)

I see this is airing on TCM April 17th at 10:00 EST. Consider this post a TIVO warning. This is worth seeing, and I don’t think it gets aired much of anywhere and the only DVD I’ve found is an R2 Spanish one:

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Contrary to my usual methods, I’m not going to overspoil this one too much with screencaps.

The story is a missing person search. A British brother and sister (David Tomlinson, some years away from stuffy dad-dome in Mary Poppins, and Jean Simmons) have been making the grand processional around Europe. They’re more or less heading home, but are going to put in along with a few hundred thousand close friends at Paris for the 1889 Paris Exhibition. They arrive, check in to their hotel and adjourn for the night to their separate rooms, ready to go a-fairing the next day. However, when Jean comes to collect her brother, not only can’t she find him, she can’t even find his room – in fact the spot where it was is now a blank wall!

So I expect you can at least partly see where this is headed – struggles to find anyone who can even confirm she had a brother to lose (the hotel staff all deny seeing such a person), visits to the police, the British consulate, etc… Some perhaps inadvertent social commentary as well, as being the girl means she doesn’t have access to money and suffers a more condescending version of assistance than her brother would likely get if the situation would be reversed.

Dirk Bogarde is the handsome young Brit artist who believes her and embarks on helping her out. If you’re catching a whiff of The Lady Vanishes in this, well sure. While that one was as much comedy as thriller, this one plays it quite straight.

This sort of story seems like a double-edged sword. It’s the kind of mystery that makes audience engagement rather easy, but payoff is risky – you risk offering up something that makes the whole thing seem like a shaggy dog story. In this film, we see enough of Tomlinson up front, interacting with enough people that the possibility that Simmons’ character is a nutter chasing a ghost is not too feasible. This pleases me, because the “ah it was all in her head the whole time” sort of resolution gets my blood up. Tangible resolution is indeed offered, but whether it’s worth all the fuss is entirely up to you. I thought it passed, but only just. The journey is more the pleasure with So Long at the Fair, and its an interesting collection of people to journey with – Jean Simmons, closing in on Hollywood, Dirk Bogarde just beginning to break out into stardom, between this and The Blue Lamp. Terence Fisher getting his directing wings, some years from chaining himself to the Hammer Horror desk. Honor Blackman has a featured role as well, an awfully long ways away from The Avengers or Pussy Galore.

Bogarde is probably the most startling, as appealing as I’ve ever seen him. Usually he strikes me as a bit constipated, a bit too laconic. Here he’s not just the charmer as required but engaged and energetic as well. For you Brits/geeks out there, he reminds me of David Tennant, which is meant as a compliment.

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An Easter Greeting From The Crimson Executioner

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Easter was always the holiest of holidays in the Crimson Executioner’s household.  Growing up in the 16th century, we didn’t have chocolate bunnies or colored eggs, and we certainly didn’t have Peeps.  What we did have was the Eucharist.  Man, Holy Communion never tasted so good as on Easter Sunday!  Perhaps that’s where I got my taste for blood.

At any rate, celebrate the day however you might, be it with Easter Bunnies, church services, or just a secular day of rest.  I wish you all a day of peace.  Personally, I plan on relaxing with some Al Jarreau records while I perform some routine maintenance on the ol’ iron maiden.  Come monday morning, I expect to hit the ground running, flaying flesh and bathing in blood.  Vengeance will be mine once more!  Happy Easter!

Iron Chef Television #3

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           CORPORAL LEBEAU               Versus                         MR. FRENCH

In Battle: Fois Gras!!

Just Five Shots #3

Fallen Angel (Otto Preminger, 1945)

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Krimi Korral #3

Zimmer 13, aka Room 13 (Harald Reinl, 1964)

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Zimmer 13 is a rather strongish entry in the Rialto/Edgar Wallace series. It’s shot in a pleasing widescreen black and white by Harald Reinl. Reinl more or less split directing chores with Alfred Vohrer on most of the series (Vohrer, for instance, helmed the last one I featured, Der Hexer). One of the things that most always comes with Reinl is certainty over who the lead actress will be – his wife, Karin Dor, a onetime Bond bad girl from You Only Live Twice.

In Zimmer 13, she plays Denise, daughter of a wealthy man with a secret – a past association with a crime boss named Joe Legge. Joe’s out of prison, planning a massive heist, and he’s blackmailing Denise’s dad into helping him hide the loot afterwards. Joe’s criminal headquarters is inside London’s HighLow Club, a tattered but somehow quaint strip club that manages to attract clientele who dress and behave as if they might have been intending to go to the opera. I guess it draws some sort of inspiration from the Windmill Club, but that’s purely a guess. To be even more specific, Joe’s headquarters are upstairs, in a secret safe room hidden within Room 13.

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The pre-credits opening contains this startling image. If this doesn’t anticipate the Italian giallo, I don’t know what does. Amid all the folderol over the gang’s heist plans, a serial killer is zeroing in on women around their club, wielding the straightedge razor as weapon of choice.
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In exploring these films, I’ve found one of the thoroughgoing joys to be Peter Thomas’ crunchy, jazzy themes.
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Joachim Fuchsberger’s back in business! This time he’s playing tough London private eye Johnny Gray. He’s on the case, but, already cribbing from Bond films, that requires prying him away from a nameless belle de jour.
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The gang goes over their heist day plans, reviewing the part about getting the money to its stash point. Someone in this group should get extra credit because that’s a lovely topographical study they’ve made – no simple drawing for them! This person has a future outside of crime, perhaps as an Art Director for films. Or at least a props guy.
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Meanwhile, downstairs in the club, the floorshow proceeds apace.
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Denise and her chaperone/protector Johnny take it all in, like the modern sophisticates they are.
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The dancer gives ’em what they came for, collects her applause, and slips backstage, where this happens:
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Now that’s a bloodspurt!
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Scotland Yard arrives in force. On the right is Siegfried Schurenberg, playing Sir John of the Yard, a part he trotted out a good dozen times. Sir John is a pretty stereotypical blustery, obtuse British authority figure, always managing to stay at least one step behind the villain. In the middle, investigating the lacy underthings, we have Eddi Arent (yay!) as Higgins, the police forensics expert. As a CSI, Higgins is less Gil Grissom, more Jerry Lewis.
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Eddi Arent really is a pretty funny guy, and his various characters more often than not were fond of bowler hats. I think it’s amusing that at more or less the same time that Patrick Macnee was defining the bowler as a real piece of Carnaby Street cool through John Steed and The Avengers, Eddi was busy across the channel using it as clown gear.
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Back at Eddi’s police lab, where experiments happen, things blow up, and through it all he’s ably assisted by his beloved, beloved blonde…er…assistant.

It would appear to be a fetish on his part.

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Throats continue to get slashed in the club.
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The dummy keeps getting treated like she’s a third person in these scenes – a lab assistant, just a very quiet one.
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The very success of these films in Germany is fascinating to me. Yes the source material (Edgar Wallace) is British, but I don’t see why they couldn’t be rewritten as plots taking place in Germany. It must have simply been more appealing for them to be “foreign”. And so, this slavish fealty to recreating Britain with German actors. Even leaving background signage in English. I can’t really think of any series or group of films like it in American cinema. It’s not quite alone from a euro perspective – Spaghetti westerns come to mind. But Americans are not such huge fans of celebrating other nations. Sherlock Holmes stuff is an example, but that’s still using a culture that shares a common language. Maybe Inspector Clouseau and Paris fits, but even then, those films do their background signage in English when it really counts don’t they?
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There’s not enough eyepatched villains today. Who’s with me on that?
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Eddi Arent, undercover as a waiter, wanders into his dummy-obsessed idea of heaven.
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In one the strangest criminal/copper encounters I can recall, villainous Joe Legge wakes up Sir John in the middle of the night and insists he come down to the station to meet him. All Joe wants to do when they meet is point out the time (three in the morning), and that he’s with Sir John. This is because Joe’s gang is simultaneously robbing a payroll train, and now he has an unimpeachable witness to say he wasn’t at the scene of the crime. This would be oh so clever if it wasn’t oh so dumb, as it means he has pretty well confessed that it’s his gang’s crime – Sir John just has to go after Joe’s associates.
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The coppers surround the mansion.
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Lots of closeups of eyes in this film, especially Karin Dors’.
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A nice mix of old fashioned (very old fashioned! Old hat before the thirties were over!) crime film with a hefty dose of where the european style of the genre was headed – violence by blade, madness, and a suspicious attitude to sex.

 

 

Records We Don’t Own #3

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More on the Serge Gainsbourg tip. Serge’s songs for the French TV musical Anna from 1967, starring Anna Karina, Jean-Claude Brialy, Marianne Faithfull, and Serge his own damn self.

Friday Poster Freakout!

Consider the motorcycle:

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Just Five Shots #2

The Woman Chaser (Robinson Devor, 1999)

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LouiseBrooks theme byThemocracy