Monday, July 21, 2008

Objects of Chaos

231. It's common practice to group Son of Frankenstein (1939, directed by Rowland V. Lee) with the first two films in the Frankenstein series as a kind of trilogy. That's understandable, I guess, given both the presence of Karloff as The Monster and the steep drop-off in quality in subsequent films. But having watched Ghost of Frankenstein recently, I'm coming around to the notion that Son of Frankenstein is really the first film of a trilogy (Frankenstein Meets the Wolf-Man would be the third in the sequence). The last time I watched Son, I didn't have the frame of reference in mind to notices the deep similarities between the two films. Not only is the tone more or less the same as in Ghost, but it even provides Ghost with its best line: "His mother was the lighting." None of the subsequent films are as good, unfortunately, in part because they got cheaper and cheaper, but also because of the steady drain of interesting cast members. This film, on the other hand, is loaded. It looks expensive and it has terrific faces. The film arguably belongs to Bela Lugosi, but he's given a run for his money by Basil Rathbone and Lionel Atwill ("One does not easily forget, Herr Baron, an arm torn out by the roots"). It's a fun movie.

232. I don't think I've seen all of Hellraiser (1987, directed by Clive Barker) since it was in theaters. I may have seen snippets of it here and there, but the whole movie? No. In the interim, there are a number of things I had forgotten about it. One is the sheer nastiness of its violence (alleviated somewhat by unconvincing make-up effects). The other is the sheer stupidity of its ending. It's two thirds of a good movie, I think, but, Jesus, do the wheels fly off in the last act. I don't think I ever noticed the fact that the first two thirds of the movie are a deconstruction of the gothic novel with the sexual hang-ups brought to the forefront. The sexual hang-ups of the gothic novel are sadomasochistic, which gives the movie its kick and its kink. The whole thing builds quite a head of steam, but Barker has shown time and again that longer narratives are not his forte. So it is here. The images are strong, but the narrative is a muddle. Still and all, the puzzle box is one of the few movie props that I wouldn't mind owning. So that's something, I guess.

233. The Dark Knight (2008, directed by Christopher Nolan) is a crackerjack crime thriller with disturbing political subtexts. I wish I could like it more, because the performances--particularly Aaron Eckhart's--are superb and the whole is really well made. But I have grave misgivings about it. I've posted a long review of the film here:

1 comment:

Renee said...

Ah, so we agree in toto about Hellraiser. Good to know.

Yes, I had to look up "in toto" just to make sure it was "in" and not "en".