The Movie Experience at the Film Forum, Febrary 7th, 2006
So often, my backlog of interests guides my actions, such as wanting to see all the films of James Whale and Val Lewton, and I’ve at least heard of the director, Edgar Ulmer. A film of each comprised the triple feature at Film Forum last Tuesday during the Karloff festival. One present day development comes to mind, my preference for stories told in an hour and fifteen minutes. I suppose the more gruesome the subject matter, the shorter the better. It’s amazing how eventful the time can be. Ultimately, though, I did spend four and a half hours at the movies, basking in the reflected glory of 35mm prints, one, The Old Dark House, from the archives of our own Library of Congress!
I intended to miss “The Black Cat” and when I arrived there, that was the one starting.
When I bought a ticket at 2:40 they warned me that the theatre was almost full. When I left at 7 a crowd of people waited to get in and the line for standby tickets extended half the block.
The art deco home of an architect portrayed by Karloff, built atop the remains of a fort that 10,000 people defended to the death, made use of overhead fluorescent light, giving the actors from the 1930’s a shadowless pallor, as if they were in a bland office of today.
Boris’s reward for his nasty behavior toward his guests and colleagues was to be stripped to the waist and flayed by Bela Lugosi.
In a parlor with a bay window overlooking the Alps, this film, “The Black Cat,” staged a chess match for the lives of the young couple, so “The Seventh Seal” of Ingmar Bergman comes to mind.
I want everything to be pleasant and harmonious, yet it remains my intention to make a horror film, so I found these films to be worthwhile. I justify fantasizing by adding conflict to the fantasy. I deny myself what I want for purpose of exploration and growth, yet I’m too frightened to actually live conflict. I’m simply considering an invented reality, such as a novel or a movie, or an audio recording.
In the Maxfield Parish Elysium I put a snake in the grass just to keep it real. Dave Chapelle shared, in a 2004 rerun last night, what happens when keeping it real goes really wrong.
The fly in the ointment.
In Storm Cloud I pretended I was famous through an alter ego, Kevin Vargas, but chose to explore giving him everything I wanted by adding a fear of exposure to the fame, yes, in the ugliest way possible. Sure the casualty is supposed to be a misunderstanding, but someone in his film Dies and the unpleasantess, the reality of the fantasy goes well beyond my capabilities.
The Robert Wise adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Body Snatchers was gruesome. Take me back to Disneyland! The Satanism of the Black Cat is consistent. Guess what, facilitating destruction upon others brings it ten-fold upon oneself. That’s easy. I’m not entirely convinced Karloff didn’t want to be flayed by Lugosi.
I actually want peace and harmony, which I see existing in nature. The mere finding of a cause worth dying for is enough to call the confrontation upon oneself.
There is a crossover into beauty one finds in a horror film that may be worth exploring, but what are the emotions that support it? Has the director crossed over into an embrace of nastiness? I haven’t seen “Carrie” for many years but I recall how utterly hilarious I found the hand reaching from the rubble matching the hand from (Amy Irving’s) mother, and the music pounding away. In retrospect I’ll call the Carrie finale a reasonable victim backlash. It’s a warning of victim victorious, with the caveat that the expedient way to put destruction to rest is to put all its participants to rest.