Category Archives: Black and White

#239 – Hell is for the Heartless

(1930, US, 100 min) Dir Hank Hogart. Cast Buddy Kelly, Nelson Carroll, Julie Clayton.

Hard boiled pre-Code proto-noir gangster flick from first time director and future forgotten legend Hank Hogart. Stout, also forgotten leading man Buddy Kelly is ‘Mac’ McCauseland, the grinning gangster with a twinkle in his eye and blood on his hands. The perpetually nervous Nelson Carroll is ‘Hap’ Holburn, his rival for control of all the booze flowing into Detroit, the fantastically and evocatively industrial setting for the film. Not only is turf being fought for but an incandescent Julie Clayton’s Pip is the dancing woman they both love too – furious of foot on the stage and slinky seductress in the boudoir. All roads lead to a violent showdown which marks the halfway point and sees Mac tommy gun Hap’s legs off below the knees. Is this the end of Hap’s indignities? Is it toffee – when Mac sees how much more of Pip’s affections the now crippled Hap commands in his stumped legged state he is thrown into a blind rage and Hap is thrown out of the hospital window. For the law this is the last straw and Mac is gunned down himself outside his mother’s house after she – now frightened of her maniac son – shops him in to the cops herself. Mad, dark, manic stuff, it’s full of the kind of promise that Hogart sporadically fulfilled.

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#238 – Moshi Moshi

(1951, Jap, 125 min, b/w) Dir Haruko Miyaguchi. Cast Setsuko Hara, Kuniko Miyake, Rentarō Mikuni.

Setsuko Hara, lovely as always, is Michiyo, a switchboard operator for a company in Tokyo. One day she receives a call from one of the new young executives, Ken Okamoto (Mikuni), and after a brief conversation she falls in love with him, sight unseen. Before long however her heart is broken when she finds herself juggling calls from both his wife and his mistress. Turning the situation to her advantage she elects to blackmail him with her knowledge so that he will take her out on a date. Once she has laid eyes on him she realises how foolish she had been and promptly leaves. Unfortunately for her the brief meeting was all it took for young Ken to fall head over heels in love with her and before she knows it she is fending off his advances from one side and defending herself against his aggrieved mistress on the other. A typical black comedy from Miyaguchi, often called the ‘Japanese Billy Wilder’, though Moshi Moshi was in fact a rare flop for him upon it’s release, some say due to the fact that the normally pure hearted Hara was cast so far against type.

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#234 – Flesh of the Air, The

(1923, GB, 32 min, b/w) Dir B. Richard Crisp. Cast Ivy Bean MacTashman, B. Richard Crisp.

Another of B Richard Crisp’s lost ‘Meat Films’. It’s a short one too, with a simple story – a wandering lady (Ivy Bean MacTashman) grown hungry on the moors pulls from her skirts a shotgun and with it plucks a passing duck from the air. Plucked and gutted it is soon cooked on a rough fire and eaten with gusto. Then, from the gloom about from the setting sun, steps the self proclaimed Keeper of the Flesh of the Air (Crisp himself, in another of his homemade and apparently foul smelling suits fashioned from real meat). After that your guess is as good as mine – as mentioned the film itself is lost and indeed there appears to be no record of it ever having been screened either, the scant particulars of the film having been provided by the director during what appears to have been his sole interview recorded mere days before his death. An intriguing mystery of a film as much of his oeuvre is with even his devotion to the subject of meat being a grey area – some reckon it to have been a fetish for him but others see each his films to be anti-meat propaganda. The only thing we can be certain of is that we’ll never really know for sure.

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#225 – Meat Palace

(1921, GB, 41 min, b/w) Dir B. Richard Crisp. Cast Conrad Hoot, Phillidia Fitzhibbert, Ivy Bean MacTashman, B. Richard Crisp.

A delicious Scots oddity, the fever dream of the unnamed, destitute and moor-stranded lead (a bearded, shambling Hoot) who is led by moonlight to the titular edifice (constructed, as suggested, of food flesh) by a beautiful pair of diaphanously gowned and supernaturally glowing women (Fitzhibbert and Bean MacTashman). Therein our anonymous bum hero finds himself at the service of The High Lord Meat and Creamy (the director Crisp himself, encased in what was apparently a self-made and fantastically pungent ‘Beef Suit’) whose whims begin at the curious and before long descend into the downright wrong. All this is gleaned from the script – of which a half-dozen scribbled pages remain – a roll of mostly fogged-out photographs from the set and the recollections of esteemed film critic Maxim Puccini who was, at the time, a fourteen year gaffer’s hand. The recollection of the set’s “thick creamy stench” apparently put him off dairy for the rest of his life. The result is a grab-bag of suggestion and little in the way of fact – the ‘downright wrong’ of Lord Meat’s whimsy, for example, is frustratingly unknown. It seems to have found little favour with audiences of the time and it’s last recorded exhibition seems to have been in 1926, when it was screened to a visibly discomfited Lord Evelyn French-Parstley, the keeper of the King’s Exceptionals, at the Royal Estate of Bip, West Scotland. Now presumed lost and much sought after by aficionados of Crisp and his ‘Meat Films’.

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#222 – Man-Ant, The

(1947, US, 73 min, b/w) Dir Ray McCarey. Cast George Brent, Boris Karloff, Anna Lee.

Due to be Val Lewton’s next film for RKO following Beldlam with pre-production completed by him and his regular collaborator Mark Robson, it was picked up by B director McCarey (with this his last picture before his death the following year) following Lewton’s dismissal from the studio. While not up to the standard of Lewton’s other RKO productions such as Cat People or I Walked With a Zombie it’s still a fun addition to the studio’s repetoir of the fantastic. Brent plays one Professor Radley Hammond whose courtship of Dolores Pearson (Lee) brings the ire of her father, the well-regarded but undeniably mad scientist Dr Lawrence Pearson (Karloff). Dr Pearson reacts to the news of their engagement in the manner one would expect of an unhinged man of science – he slips the prospective groom one of his experimental formulas in his celebratory drink which shrinks the unfortunate man down to the size of, you guessed it, an ant. Cue lots of fantastically huge props and a great chase scene involving the fleeing miniature man and an enraged household cat. Good fun, like I say, though one can’t help but wonder what the finished product would have been like had Lewton and Robson been able to complete it themselves – surely a great more vim would have been instilled into proceedings, especially in a baggy first half.

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#216 – Action Dreaming

(1910, GB, 14 min, b/w) Dir James Gilroy Munce. Cast Unknown.

Possibly the craziest, most ahead of its time and influential fourteen minutes of early cinema as film pioneer James Gilroy Munce corrals every optical trick available to him and invents a few more for this mostly narrativeless explosion of invention. Now little seen (and only now available for viewing in the Munce museum in Colorado) it spent a good twenty years following its production travelling with Munce or one of his trusted associates to every corner of the United States with his other films, enrapturing audiences wherever it went. No doubt some of the future titans of SFX saw it on this run and, inspired by shots such as the lead character – usually referred to as The Dreamer – leaping to the moon, went on to replicate them in their own features in later life. Cooper and Schoedsack, it is said, were inspired by the Dreamer’s wrestling with a sea colossus (having first swollen to match it in size) to realise King Kong themselves in 1933. To any student of film history, afficianado of the medium’s early years or even the mere fan a pilgrimage to Colorado’s to view this relic of enterprise and inspiration is an absolute must.

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#205 – Seven Deaths in a Broken Lens (Sette Morti in un Obiettivo Rotto)

(2013, It, 98 min, b/w) Dir Bruno Cattet. Cast Claudio Gioè, Laetitia Casta, Elio Germano.

A curious giallo homage/mash-up of Italian cinema history. The year is 1963 and the fact that this is the same year that Fellini’s was released is no coincidence. Claudio Gioè is blocked film director Nino Milo (done up as Mastroianni in, yes, ) following up the international sensation that was his last film, Ama LaVita with his dream project – a simple slice of life drama set in Rome. The problem? Well, for a start it’s a slice of life drama set in Ancient Rome, not it’s modern day counterpart and on top of that Milo hasn’t a story beyond that, the setting. As we join him on the set in the third month of shooting amidst the vast historical set he is so bereft of ideas that he is seriously considering the inclusion of a character from another planet. “Possibly Mars,” he says, “Or Venus. We would need to research.” Oh yes – there are also a slew of grisly murders happening in and around the film studio at night with the police – more interested in the catering than investigating – clueless. As we follow the killer at night we’re given glimpses into the myriad genre of Italian cinema, all beautifully recreated – the sword and sandal epic, the science fiction, the spaghetti western are all given their time in the sun. Soon enough Milo’s lead, the international film sensation and lust object Tutti Ripieno (Casta) has fallen to the beast and the world’s media are thick like flies on the proceedings to disturb Milo’s delicate muse. A fun affair made no less entertaining by the obviousness of it’s ending – if you haven’t figured it out already then shame on you!

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