Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Why Do Complicated Things Happen to Simple People?

Why does fate unite a handsome, brilliant, selfless Doctor with a beautiful, self-sacrificing, gentle hearted nurse only to have her fall prey to the same congenital heart condition that brought them together when it killed her mother and have her get in a train wreck and appear to be dead long enough so that he marries his childhood sweetheart who blinds him with acid when they get in an argument? To these eternal questions life has not yet provided answers but 1968's Saathi dares to pose them again with charismatic stars, enjoyable songs, and really weird, sloppy editing.

In my favourite bit of weird editing, the couple are on their honeymoon and the scene transitions from dialogue to song with a really quick shot of a random tree, the camera zooming out really quickly on it from an extreme closeup on one branch. I heard in my head a sped up tape of John Cleese saying, "The larch" (I don't actually know if it is a larch so I've learned nothing). But the movie is filled with odd little beats of people in the middle of starting to say something or abrupt beginnings other shots that get instantly cut off.

In case you haven't figured it out, this is a melodrama. It's about a brilliant surgeon named Ravi (Rajendra Kumar) who meets a gorgeous nurse beloved by staff and patients named Shanti (Vyjayanthimala), an angel who puts the needs of others always before her own. Then her mother suffers from a heart problem and Ravi operates only to lose the patient. So Shanti is left alone in the world and Ravi, like any gentleman in a patriarchal society, marries her. But it turns out they really love each other.

Rajendra Kumar is fine as Ravi but mostly Vyjayanthimala makes the film work, being so adorable that her picture perfect, patriarchy-wank cliché character isn't annoying. The songs are good, too, the centrepiece being "Mera Pyar Bhi Tu Hai".

The song is reprised later after Ravi is blinded and for various ridiculous reasons Shanti attends him as his nurse pretending to be someone else, allowing him to continue thinking his beloved Shanti is dead.

At two and a half hours, this is short for a Bollywood movie, but would probably be more enjoyable watched in multiple sittings.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

"I Chew Pitch Gum"

Catherine Coulson, who died yesterday, in her best known role as the Log Lady from Twin Peaks, discussing the meaning of dreams and an in between state. And she's talking about a quality of mystery that is essential to art and which many people who aren't artists can't understand. In the class I'm taking now on John Milton, I've been surprised to see how many of the students adamantly refuse to believe there was anything about Paradise Lost which Milton did not intend despite the fact Milton's piety has been too well established by now to think he'd willingly create what came to be known as the Satanic Hero. Some things will always be hidden and finding the right balance between control and asking the magic to "do as you will", as a character in The Last Unicorn put it, is the essence of creating art. Above all, it means letting go of prejudices.

Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained; and the restrainer or reason usurps its place & governs the unwilling.
And being restraind, it by degrees becomes passive, till it is only the shadow of desire.
The history of this is written in Paradise Lost, & the Governor or Reason is call'd Messiah.
And the original Archangel, or possessor of the command of the heavenly host, is calld the Devil or Satan, and his children are call'd Sin & Death .
For in the Book of Job, Milton's Messiah is call'd Satan. >> note
For this history has been adopted by both parties.
It indeed appear'd to Reason as if Desire was cast out; but the Devil's account is, that the Messiah fell, & formed a heaven of what he stole from the Abyss.* * *

Note. The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil's party without knowing it.
-- William Blake from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

There were two versions of a new Sirenia Digest released to-day because Caitlin accidentally featured a story, "The Drowned Geologist", that she'd already featured in the Digest before. She originally wrote it for a Sherlock Holmes/Lovecraft Mythos crossover anthology and in her Prolegomenon she discusses how she likes the story better now than she originally did, saying that her previous discontent with it was due to it not being the story she had intended it to be. It'd been years since I'd read the story, but I still admire the sense of mysterious dread in it, a touch more melancholy than Lovecraft's similar sense of unknowable menace tended to be.

Twitter Sonnet #795

A blue bird interposed before my meal.
A new array of pegs must first be posed.
Newborn serpents implore a fresher seal.
Ether ignites where Rip Van Winkle dozed.
September drummed torpedoes underground.
Aforementioned lax waterfalls are dry.
But no, the falls 'came not subject of sound.
A fish was formed for socks up in the sky.
A bowl of blood was last Henry Morgan's.
In clover combs of earth are spider shrouds.
A dusty space has filled with jade organs.
Topiltzin's late return plays tricks in clouds.
Machine God velvet turns clockwise the switch.
The light is put out and put out to pitch.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Big Objects

I wouldn't have made it far outside on Saturday if I'd been a mosquito or housefly. A large web had been constructed and apparently abandoned overnight in front of my door. Thin strands extended all the way down but the concentration of spirals at the top makes that part the most visible.

It's flattering, at least one spider wants me to stay. Maybe she was just ambitious and thought to have stocked her larder for several generations. At least it didn't have "Some pig" written on it. I'm not even a cop.

I did take some pictures of the moon last night but they all look like I put a flashlight behind a black cloth.

I'm not sure how much of this blur is due to my unsteady hand or my inferior camera. It seems okay for taking pictures of birds during the day. There always seems to be a bird perched on this sign whenever I walk past:

Sunday, September 27, 2015

An Alien Alignment

What is precious and horribly elusive to you may be attained or destroyed in the blink of an eye, hundreds of times a day, by someone else. The two of you aren't necessarily enemies but may see each other as alien, your conceptions of need borne of vastly different experiences of fulfilment and disappointment. Two such people meet in Michelangelo Antonioni's 1962 film L'Eclisse which taps an existential horror of nuclear war for a beautiful film about the limitations of love.

Vittoria (Monica Vitti) has left her fiance after finding herself dissatisfied with her feelings. After staying up all night with him discussing the breakup, she confirms to herself that she'd only been going through the motions and no longer loves him.

For the first portion of the film she wanders aimlessly, meeting her mother and her friends. At her friend's apartment she ponders pictures from an African vacation, images of values and customs remote to her, she can only guess at the level of significance they have for the people. Goofing off with her friends, she dances in black face, the activity superficially having no serious implications for them, but afterwards we see her watching other people, trying on modes of behaviour as though trying to study the ways in which feelings manifest. After a bad day at the stock market, she follows a man who lost millions. He doesn't seem to notice her, she watches him doodle some flowers on a napkin at a restaurant.

She becomes a rather profound avatar for the film's audience as we're compelled to think for a moment why we look for movies like this, what we're looking for.

At the stock market is a broker named Piero (Alain Delon), a handsome, constantly fast moving man, buying and selling all day. When Vittoria asks him if he hires call girls, he says, "Who has time for call girls? I'm the call girl." One senses he's not being quite honest--we see him flirting with other girls, he may not engage prostitutes but he's certainly not chaste as it seems he takes her question as wanting to ascertain. There is an element of truth in his response, though. He is constantly moving and he's constantly moving the valuable possessions of others, portions of companies for which he has no concrete idea of size and meaning. His car is stolen at one point and turns up in the lake with a dead man inside and all he can talk about is how difficult or easy it might be to clean and sell the car.

He can't understand why Vittoria is so slow to accept his advances. He persists so he probably really wants her but like everything else Vittoria now wants to study the process, she interrogates or quietly watches his every flirtation, as though trying to divine the secret of indescribable human chemistry. When they finally kiss, in a rather potent symbol for them both, it's with a glass between them.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Lessons of Missy and Davros

So I guess sunglasses are the Twelfth Doctor's fez. I really liked what they did with them in this new episode but with the hoodies, the sunglasses, the electric guitar . . . which I did like and that Capaldi looked like he was actually playing it (he was in a band with Craig Ferguson) and I want to stress Twelve is still my favourite of the new Doctors . . . he's kind of coming off as the "mid life crisis Doctor". The bow tie on Eleven started off ironic and became genuine, just because there's a sense that that's the only way the modern audience can take even a hint of weirdness, I think. Can you imagine a new Doctor wearing a ruffled shirt or a cricket outfit? Even the bow tie, of course, was originally worn by Two and the tartan trousers I love so much were worn by One, Two, and Seven. I wish there was more courage to genuinely rock the boat.

That said, it was a good episode, Capaldi and Gomez were great, Coleman was fine but she had kind of a reduced role. Missy felt more like the Companion, actually she kind of reminded me of Turlough although I think Gomez is successfully channelling a bit of Anthony Ainley.

Spoilers after the screenshot

And Clara's back in a Dalek. No-one even says anything. The Doctor could have said, "Seriously, how does this keep happening to you?" but, oh, well. The Dalek shell translating "I love you" into "Exterminate" and other nasty things was one of my favourite ideas in the episode.

I also love Davros' diabolical double blind, if you will.

I loved how much the sewers resembled the caves from the original Dalek serial, I love how accurately the corridors were recreated and, of course, I loved the return of the original design.

I'm looking forward to next week's episode. I'm hoping it'll be less about the Doctor--a lot of people have said it, I've said it before, the show needs to get off the subject of the Doctor a little more often.

Twitter Sonnet #794

A blue background ink cloud gave dust to bins.
The afterlife sleeve harbours rough coinage.
If whomever drops all the pipettes wins
There's nothing thin that's sucked for wet salvage.
Lev'raged polka pant hose understudies
Have climbed the successful question to-day.
If nutrition intrudes on all puddies
A boneless mandible bites through the bay.
A fame resounds off canyons shrunk to squeaks.
Of note a bird's canvas replenished sight.
Behind one mask one Ginger Rogers speaks
Ice soon in vodka melted in the night.
When bishops drank the blood in Christ's real dolls
Emerged then tastes for nylon wafer balls.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Roundhead Chestburster

It was 100 Fahrenheit at my apartment to-day which is usually ten degrees cooler than most places in San Diego. So I've exiled myself from that plane to-day and met my mother for lunch and am now at Barnes and Noble. Expelled from--I don't know whether to call it heaven or hell. But it's a relatively good segue into discussing John Milton about whom there's some news to-day, sort of:

That's Ridley Scott being adamant that his upcoming sequel to Prometheus is going to be called Alien: Paradise Lost and confirming the title indeed comes from the great Milton poem. A blogger at Live Journal named Cavalorn, who wrote a detailed and interesting analysis of Prometheus when it came out, has posted some extensive speculation on how the Prometheus sequel might be influenced by Milton's work. He focuses on the war in heaven portions of Paradise Lost which would indeed seem the most immediately applicable plot for the Prometheus/Alien series. He talks also about the Xenomorphs as being the angels who exact God's vengeance on the Egyptians, something that does not factor into Paradise Lost though it would be fascinating if the next movie also worked out to be a sequel to Scott's Exodus. Alien versus Pharaoh?

2015 has been the year of Milton for me. Before this year, I'd only read Paradise Lost. This year, I've read all of Milton's poetry and his major pamphlets and his History of Britain and now I'm taking a university class on Milton and am rereading things I read earlier this year. My Professor, Herman, who says he's drawing on the analyses written by a man named Stanley Fish, has given some interesting lectures largely focusing on contradictions woven throughout Milton's writings. I particularly appreciated his examination of a masque Milton wrote commonly referred to as Comus, observing the work contains a criticism of untested virtue which would be explored at greater length in prose in Milton's famous pamphlet on the topic of free publishing, Areopagitica.

I cannot praise a fugitive and cloister'd vertue, unexercis'd & unbreath'd, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race, where that immortall garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat.

This provoked a debate in class over the usefulness of trigger warnings and the professor was justly delighted that Milton's work was suddenly of quite obvious relevance to the students. But he observed some contradictions even in what might otherwise seem to be a straight forward prose argument like Areopagitica in which Milton simultaneously argues that Parliament ought to have the right to repress certain books because books have incredible power and, drawing from Paul's epistle to the Thessalonians, "To the pure, all things are pure." That the power of books cannot change the kind of person the reader is.

Although I hadn't consciously spotted the contradictions in Milton's earlier poetry and I saw the argument in Areopagitica not so much as a contradiction as alternate conditions based on context--that Milton felt compelled to maintain some support for censorship to not be branded as too radical for his argument to be heeded but felt ready to be more forthright when quoting scripture--the overall impression I received from the massive, rush dose of Milton I took this year was of a deeply conflicted man. Of a man especially conflicted for his steadfast belief in the purity of his own vision. I really don't think, for most of his life at least, Milton understood the fascinating and troubling weirdness of his best poetry came from a thorn in his psyche. It's remarkable that he understood well enough not to repress his weirdness but despite a contemporary belief in the inherent beauty of virtue he refers to the story of Osiris in Areopagitica;

virgin Truth, hewd her lovely form into a thousand peeces, and scatter'd them to the four winds. From that time ever since, the sad friends of Truth, such as durst appear, imitating the carefull search that Isis made for the mangl'd body of Osiris, went up and down gathering up limb by limb still as they could find them. We have not yet found them all, Lords and Commons, nor ever shall doe, till her Masters second comming; he shall bring together every joynt and member, and shall mould them into an immortall feature of lovelines and perfection. Suffer not these licencing prohibitions to stand at every place of opportunity forbidding and disturbing them that continue seeking, that continue to do our obsequies to the torn body of our martyr'd Saint. We boast our light; but if we look not wisely on the Sun it self, it smites us into darknes. Who can discern those planets that are oft Combust, and those stars of brightest magnitude that rise and set with the Sun, untill the opposite motion of their orbs bring them to such a place in the firmament, where they may be seen evning or morning. The light which we have gain'd, was giv'n us, not to be ever staring on, but by it to discover onward things more remote from our knowledge

An image not unlike the Engineer in the opening of Prometheus allowing his body to crumble to fertilise a lifeless world.

I think that by the time Milton wrote his final great work, though, Samson Agonistes, he was beginning to feel a greater horror about himself and the universe. Did he consciously identify with Satan in Paradise Lost? That's the big question. It seems abundantly obvious he identified with Samson, the blinded hero brought low in the land of his enemies, just as Milton, blind in his old age, found himself in Restoration England where Charles I was reversing the course of the country under Cromwell's Commonwealth that Milton was such a vocal supporter of and also prominent participant in. I wonder if, like in the David Bowie song, Milton might have been asking himself, "Is there life on Mars?" He must have felt quite the alien himself.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Win the Fight for Victory when Defeat Threatens to Vanquish Triumph

A rampaging, self styled shogun in Harlem; a music producer pushing a talentless woman who sings about dirty books--these are the perils of the modern world only "Bruce Leroy" can surmount. For he is The Last Dragon in the 1985 martial arts film of that name. Goofy but simple hearted and charming, it's mostly a cast of characters and actors who fall short that still add up to a simply constructed, amusing whole.

The opening theme, a song which Wikipedia tells me won Worst Original Song at the Razzies, gives you all of the plot and the already not exactly subtle themes right away as we watch Leroy (Taimak) practising his earnest Bruce Lee impression.

It's time to leave my nest where you were born
This journey you must make alone.
(Spread your wings and fly)
There's a power deep inside you, an inner strength
You'll find in time of need.
(The Glow)

-Dwight David

The Glow referred to is a power that allows the film to get a little Dragon Ball Z-ish towards the end with animated effects, which is just as well since no-one in the movie can fight half as well as Bruce Lee. Not Taimak, certainly not the Shogun of Harlem, played by Julius J. Carry III.

Though he gives the best performance in the film, not counting a walk-on role by a pre-fame William H. Macy. The Shogun's strutting about with his gang singing his praises are the right mixture of silly and threatening.

For no reason whatsoever, since the shogun refuses to take money, he teams up with Eddie Arkadian (Chris Murney) to put an end to Leroy. Arkadian is after Laura Charles played by a woman whose name is Vanity. How many times a day I wonder did she hear, "Woman, thy name is Vanity." Her character runs a sort of American Bandstand and is supposed to be a singer herself but, despite being a singer in real life, is so lifeless in her delivery it's hard to see how she's in any place to judge Angela Viracco (Faith Prince), whose "Dirty Books" song is what Arkadian wants Laura to play on her show. There is a certain separate art to making a song that's supposed to be bad. "Dirty Books" has a sort of intriguing one dimensionality that, perhaps unfortunately, sets it well above the film's theme song.

Leroy meets Laura, and gets on Arkadian's shit list, when he saves her from a bunch of Arkadian's thugs in a very cheaply pitched scene. But, hell, there's still that tiny caveman in my brain who likes seeing the hero rescue the damsel, and kind of overlooks how shallow it is their whole relationship is afterwards based on this.

Well, it's also based on a vaguely maternal urge Laura has to instruct and help the sexually and socially inexperienced Leroy. Another one of those things that wouldn't work in a movie heavier than fluff, but fortunately compared to this movie fluff is a bowling ball.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Fire Beyond Legislation

Fire burns in the wild eyes of a dangerous criminal mastermind, locked alone in a heavily guarded prison in an uncompromising film by Jonathan Demme. It's 1974's Caged Heat--later he made some movie called Silence of the Lambs that I guess had one or two points in common. Unlike cinema's introduction of Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, Caged Heat is an exploitation film of the Women in Prison genre, and really not the best of that genre. It's filled with lousy performances and mostly shapeless humour. But it does have some interesting ideas from Demme in composition and editing and, of course, gratuitous shots of beautiful naked women.

For those who wonder how I choose the films I watch, I use a variety of methods, mostly films just seem to pile up from my idle wonderings. Often I choose films because they're made by someone or star someone whom I liked in another film. In this case, Caged Heat was produced by Haunted Palace director Roger Cormen, it features Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith from Lemora in a supporting role (pictured at left above), and it has Barbara Steele whom I saw recently in The Curse of the Crimson Altar. Which film led me to Caged Heat? I don't remember.

Steele easily gives the best performance in the film as the fastidious prison warden McQueen. Mostly she lectures the inmates but she has a dream where she gives a burlesque performance for them instead, one of the bits of humour that doesn't connect at all, but I guess it was mainly to get some cheesecake mileage out of Steele who spends most of the movie in a wheelchair in conservative dress.

The movie centres on the new prisoner, Jackie Wilson, played by Erica Gavin who, aside from her large, beautiful breasts, doesn't seem to have any assets, certainly not in acting ability. Rainbeaux is a little better, though slightly somnambulant. A scene where she's locked in solitary for something she didn't do turns out to be one of the rare effective bits of humour as she kicks the door and jumps up and down because she's hurt her toe.

Of course, there's nothing about this movie to suggest a realistic prison situation. Only random prisoners wear uniforms and most of the time the cells are open and everyone's casually smoking, playing cards or dice, or doing each others' hair, like some kind of big, mildly BDSM slumber party. At one point Jackie and another prisoner successfully make a break for it, one of two chase scenes Demme sets up rather well. They hide out at a friend's place of business:

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, the soundtrack is by John Cale of all people. It's pretty good.

Twitter Sonnet 793

Andean dermatologists work yet.
Tomato talcum powder came to Spain.
In boats are late bequeathed a chessy bet.
And Jim says all the children are insane.
Discordant lieutenant Trump hairs made spuds.
A little potato took up pursuit.
Withered pink lips spat watermelon duds.
A Donald less than Duck out strains his suit.
Redressed a mummy late intones the fall.
Insatiable the suns swallowed the rain.
A trigger warning's a brick in the wall.
Re-cut internment cancelled all the pain.
Upward the flower rain repaints the roof.
A hippie's hamster paints a horse's hoof.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Lady of Blood

Who is queen of heaven? Astarte? Mary? Hera? Toci? Or would the queen by any name be that selfsame queen? 2000's The Other Conquest (La Otra Conquista) uses a blending of the Aztec Mother Goddess, Toci, with the Catholic Virgin Mary as a way into discussing missionary work under Hernan Cortes in the 1520s. A rather personal feeling film for the scope of its religious and historical subjects, it effectively captures the sense of confused Mexican identity in the early days of Spanish colonialism.

Mostly the story follows an Aztec scribe named Topiltzin (Damian Delgado) whom we meet painting a codex portraying the slaughter of his people, the aftermath of which we see before him.

He later joins a small group of survivors who decide to sacrifice a princess to the gods. They paint her body blue and a priest tears out her heart.

Towards the end of the ceremony, they're found by a captain serving under Cortes named Cristobal (Honorato Magaloni) and a friar named Diego (Jose Carlos Rodriguez). After a battle, they take the few surviving Aztecs captive and a stone idol to the Mother Goddess is replaced by a peculiarly lifelike idol of the Virgin Mary.

This was in the very early years of the Reformation and we can see here the worship of Mary the Protestants so objected to was in full swing. She has a baby in her arms, presumably Jesus, but no-one seems to pay much attention. The similarities between the Mother Goddess and the Virgin Mary are obviously apparent to Topiltzen but he finds Mary's signal somewhat muddier when he's whipped while being forced to look upon her compassionate face.

From Diego's point of view, the statue sheds a tear, revealing, I think, the filmmakers' beliefs. But the conflict is never resolved. Topiltzin seems to come to adore Mary but then at one point he spontaneously screams at the sky that Mary will always have his body but never his spirit. He's caught within some strange grey zone between paying lip service and genuine reverence, not unlike the self contradictory nature of a group who came to slaughter a populace before preaching a philosophy of love and compassion.

There is one really good performance in the film by Elpidia Carrillo as Cortes' Aztec mistress, and half sister of Topiltzin, Tecuichpo but otherwise the performances are fair and the camera work isn't particularly interesting. But the use of the goddess as a metaphor for conversation is intriguing and seems to touch on a deeper issue of men's disconnect from and worship of women.

Monday, September 21, 2015

It's a Sensation

For centuries, a wide variety of mental conditions exhibited by women were diagnosed as "hysteria". In the notoriously sexually repressive Victorian era, women diagnosed with hysteria were treated with "genital massages" to induce "paroxysms"--orgasms--by physicians. What a perfect subject for a romantic comedy, or so evidently thought director Tanya Wexler when she decided to make her 2011 film Hysteria. It is a charming, lightweight film with entertaining performances spoiled only when one now and then contemplates how different the reality must have been.

The film achieves its light tone by doggedly sticking to a very narrow focus and comes across more as a celebration of female sexuality and liberation by modern women in costume than it does a depiction of this long standing misconception in human history.

Hugh Dancy plays a young doctor named Mortimer who's fired from every hospital in London for insisting on the existence of germs and therefore on taking proper precautions against them when treating patients. He's finally accepted to a position at the practice of Dr. Dalrymple, played by Jonathan Pryce, who portrays this suggestively named specialist in treating hysteria completely straight with the naivete that can only come with complete confidence in his knowledge of the ways of the world.

His waiting room is always packed with women of all ages eager for orgasm so it's a good thing Mortimer's there to lighten the workload. Maggie Gyllenhall plays Dalrymple's rebellious daughter, Charlotte, who miraculously seems not to bear any single misconception of her time and loudly denounces the phoney theory of hysteria and stomps off to care for the poor. Of course, Mortimer's flatmate, the Rupert Everett-ish Lord Edmund St. John-Smythe played by Rupert Everett, immediately takes a shine to her.

What happened to Rupert Everett's face? He used to have sharp, chiselled cheekbones but he's gone all puffy. Has he had a face transplant? Anyway, this is his triumphant return to the best friend role that made his name in a variety of romantic comedies, though he's usually the best friend of the female lead.

Although Charlotte disapproves of medical talent being wasted on "bored housewives" when the doctors could be helping the sick and injured among the poor she cares for she nonetheless calls the treatments a "bargain" considering the pleasure they give to the patients. Considering her feistiness and her familiarity with the nature of the treatment, one would think an obvious question would be whether or not her father has ever treated her. The movie totally avoids this question. Thinking of it, though, as I can't imagine anyone watching the movie could avoid, leads us down a path of other questions the movie avoids. Like, if hysteria is a diagnosis for an absurdly wide variety of mental conditions, and women are under the control of there husbands, there must therefore be women suffering from conditions like anxiety and bipolar disorder unrelated to unfulfilled sexual needs who are being forced by their husbands to visit physicians who molest them. I'm not a doctor but I can imagine this doing a lot more harm than good.

Even for the women who are visiting to fulfil sexual needs, it surely must provoke something of a crisis for a devoted Victorian housewife to learn, as the movie can't help from revealing to them at the end, they're engaging in activities that aren't really different from their husbands visiting prostitutes. But the film never addresses this. Its attitude, in this respect, seems rather flippant and at least as naive as Dr. Dalrymple. But like Dalrymple, it does have real charm, so long as one doesn't think too deeply.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Blue Witch, You Saw Me Chanting Alone

It's nice for a Frankenstein's monster to know he has a younger Frankenstein's monster to care for him in old age. Christopher Lee and Boris Karloff appeared together in 1968's Curse of the Crimson Altar, one of Karloff's final films and you can tell he's in a wheelchair not just because the story calls for it. There's an unexpected playful quality to this film which of course doesn't centre on either Karloff or Lee but a cocky, almost James Bondish antiques dealer who comes to town looking for his missing brother.

Robert (Mark Eden), while flirting with his beautiful secretary and pretending to stab her with a collapsible blade dagger, learns of the town his brother disappeared to, a place which has a peculiar tradition of celebrating a particular witch who was burnt there centuries ago. Barbara Steele, painted blue, appears as this witch in a few acid hallucination BDSM scenes.

Robert makes his way to Craxted Lodge where he finds the master of the house, Morley (Lee), has a beautiful niece named Eve (Virginia Wetherell) who's throwing a party where half naked women joust each other on men's shoulders using paint brushes for lances.

Karloff plays Professor Marshe, a local expert in witchcraft who turns his nose up at Robert for not appreciating his favourite brandy.

The movie also features Michael Gough playing a butler decades before he played Alfred in Tim Burton's Batman. He brings a lot of the menace to the film, his half mute character desperately trying to choke out words of warning to Robert.

This is an endlessly fun film, every scene seeming to pull something new and weird out of its hat. Supposedly it's based on H.P. Lovecraft's "The Dreams in the Witch House"--it's not as good as that story but it also bears absolutely no resemblance to it.

Twitter Sonnet #792

Tectonic plate Teutonic knights shake mail.
Soph'more sophistry shows them learning lies.
Collegiate coagulates pass fail.
Doppelganger Doppler radars twin cries.
Appendage met aspersions malign limbs.
Albacore faced apple cores frame Mulwray.
Unbalanced our sun's ballast daylight dims.
Elect were strings electric said Link Wray.
Acrobatic acrimony hates nets.
Tolerable tallyable chalk waits.
Ariminian Armani suits hedge bets.
Chauvinistic Chevron stations close gates.
Ensorcelled bait embargoes ban rubber.
Marathon spooned marmalade spies shudder.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

More Pudding than Anyone Can Eat

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? If you're thinking, "Yay, the rice pudding speech!" you are. In this première episode, "The Magician's Apprentice", of Peter Capaldi's second season as the Doctor we see a great many references to Who of the past, among them clips of past Doctors, among those clips one of the Seventh Doctor's finest moments, The Rice Pudding Speech.

Mostly the scene referred back to one of my least favourite Fourth Doctor stories, though, but it featured a clip from one of the best scenes in it.

Spoilers after the screenshot

Davros turns up in so many of the audio plays I've listened to recently that his appearance lost a bit of the excitement it otherwise might have had, though I've never especially been a fan of Davros. Though, on the other hand, he's been featured in some very good stories--The Eighth Doctor audio Terra Firma, the Seventh Doctor serial Remembrance of the Daleks (from whence comes the Pudding). His one previous appearance on the revived series so far, the Tenth Doctor episode "Journey's End", felt like a rush on in a big pile of cameos so maybe it is time he had a proper story.

Of course, the episode also has the Doctor's other arch enemy, Missy. Michelle Gomez is so good in the role, her every subtle facial expression working wonderfully, I hope she continues in the role for a long time.

Capaldi, of course, is at least as good. Notice how he says WITH HIS FACE, "Hey, yes, come down here and join me in the arena," and Gomez says WITH HER FACE, "Really? Me? Ha ha, okay."

The episode really felt like two episodes, the first part starring Clara and we see she's become even more assertive and taken a more pivotal role. I get the feeling Moffat is working hard to respond to people who want to see a more feminist flavour to the show but you know he's going to be called a misogynist anyway. Clara is called by the elite UN military force UNIT, which is headed by Kate Stewart, whose subordinates and tech people all also appear to be women, to deal with a plot by Missy, who refers to knowing the Doctor "since he was a little girl", and meanwhile the Doctor is hiding out under the protection of a powerful alien, all female, witches coven. Oh, that misogynist Moffat.

Maybe the throwback that pleased me the most, though, was the fact that the episode ended in a cliffhanger. With all the two parters this season, I think we can expect more and I couldn't be happier.