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16 reviews in total 
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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Not as some say, 14 November 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Inevitable spoilers.

I understand from another site that Christina's voice was dubbed by Jane Hands because her Austrian accent was too strong. If so, the dubbing is well done.

The trailers, the tagline and the video box say 'A Beautiful Woman With the Soul of the Devil'. Yes?! Like many films this is a tale of private revenge, after the justice system has failed. In the many hundreds of films where a man exacts vengeance, he is not described as 'the soul of the devil'.

The biggest annoyance are Christina's knee-length dresses - in the mid 19th century?! Worse, bit not actually in the film, the video box has two photographs of Christina in 1960's underwear.

OK, Frankenstein fixes her scar and limp - he is after all a doctor - but why does he bleach her hair?

At Hans' trial, as a witness, Frankenstein insists that he is a Doctor of Law as well as of Medicine. As a lawyer, standing passively by while his employee is wrongly convicted of murder, he is a total failure.

Most summaries of the plot say that Frankenstein puts the soul of Hans into Christina's body. Frankenstein himself says that is what he has done. But Christine never protests that she is in fact Hans. Indeed she opens his grave and starts carrying his head around with her, and responds to his demands as if he is a different person. Nor does she ever act like a man in woman's body. She does not show any curiosity about her new body, although she does know how to use it to get the three upper-class hooligans to follow her to their deaths. PopcornQ Movies says "The poor guy can't handle the prospect of a penis-free existence and runs around stabbing people. The film has its effective moments, though, in representing the rage of nonconsensual embodiment." This is a delightful misreading of the film, but really the film does not support it. Her killings of the three upper-class twits is conceivable as a female revenge killing film that might have been made in later decade. As she is carrying and listening to Hans' dead head, it would be better to read her as a Trilby to its Svengali.

Why her second suicide at the end. Unimaginative closure? Largely so I think. Perhaps she mainly thinks of herself as a return from the dead, and now her task is over.

4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
a regurgitation of grossness and cliches, 21 April 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Some almost spoilers, but I rewrote this to avoid stating who is the killer.

This film played as the closing event at the 2003 Ottawa Chilean Film Festival under the English Title of "Dark Angel". It is an unimaginative regurgitation (a carefully chosen word given the director's extended shots of toilets and vomiting) of cliche's taken from the worst kind of US horror flic. Even the fact that the survivor is a woman - the cliche of the final girl - was a standard item in the 1970s. It was old when it was used in Alien I. But, unlike even many trash horror films, she doesn't earn her survival, she is rescued by the policeman. The killings by knifing are gratuitous, and could have been left out of the frame. On the other hand if you go to this kind of film to see bodies cut open, you will feel teased. The music is overdramatic, the motivation is unexplained, and there is no subtext to compensate. The horror could be taken as a type of the "the monstrous feminine", but it is of an unthinking male heterosexuality that was more appropriate to the middle twentieth century. It does not have the self-reflexivity of a Wes Craven, or the sly self-subversion of a Hitchcock.

If you want an imaginative horror film from world cinema, there is of course the incredible 'Ringu'. If you specifically want Chilean horror, go see 'The Others' or even 'Tetis' by Alejandro Amenábar. The latter is only a weak film, but it is better than 'Dark Angel'. What is this nonsense about this film being the first Chilean horror film - by location and financing maybe. Not by director.

Why does the killer kill the bank security guard with such ferocity? The guard is an innocent bystander. Given the crudity of the costume, how could the killer get into the suite of the politician's son by claiming to be his girlfriend?

I had figured out the killer by the killing of the politician's son. Look at the person's stride.

What is the purpose of the extended shot from above as the survivor vomits into the toilet bowl? How does it advance the story, and wouldn't a quick suggestive shot in fact have been more effective?

3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Compulsory heterosexuality and the anxiety from influence, 4 February 2003

R.L. Stevenson's Dr Jekyll is a bachelor in his 50s with no need of a life companion. Yet almost all the films give him either a wife or a girlfriend. H.P. Lovecraft's Charles Ward is a teenager with a passion for knowledge who grows to his mid-20s by the end of the book. He has no time for girlfriends or any other other option. The Charles Ward imagined by Roger Corman, Charles Beaumont and Francis Ford Coppola is an anti-intellectual concerned only that the 'palace' that he has inherited may be worth something, and who brings along his trophy wife who is a full generation younger. This is a gratuitous heterosexualization that ruins the story. Unlike Stevenson's, Lovecraft's life and work have not opened up to queer readings, but heterosexuality is something alien to their asexuality.

'The case of Charles Dexter Ward' is first and foremost a tale of an obsessive intellectual quest. This gives it its power and its charm. As the film jetisons this completely, there is no way that the film can work. It is also the secondary quest of Dr Willet who attempts to follow young Ward's path. Who, having read the novel, could forget the lone journey of Dr Willet in the tunnels he finds under the farmhouse (not palace), and what he finds before and after losing his light, and the intervention of the literal deus ex machina. What is in the film is a pale shadow.

There are many good ideas in the novel. Corman, Beaumont and Coppola seem to be afraid to use them. Their influence is the horror-movie cliches of the '60s, and they are afraid to deviate from them.

charming and technically excellent, 3 February 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***


A charming film about a feisty blind kid who tries hard to do whatever sighted kids do, filmed in a very pretty part of Iran. And also a dark drama about a father who is sorry for himself that he is a widower left with the burden of a blind child, who tries to get rid of the burden by apprenticing the boy to a blind carpenter, so that he can take a new wife. To us in the west it is very odd that the father never speaks to his intended wife, but only visits with her family. He lives in a small village. Surely they know that he has a blind son. Why does he not discuss the boy - we see him discussing his daughters on one of the visits. Also his intention to apprentice his son to the carpenter would surely have gone better if he had prepared the boy for it by talking to him. However this is part of the portrait of the father's character.

A good editing decision is that all through the film, sounds of nature, animals, plants, water etc, are louder than usual, as is appropriate in a film about a blind person.

The climax in the storm, develops this further, and I was thinking that the boy on the horse led by his father must be quite frightened by the noises that he cannot see. As they started over the footbridge, I knew from the sound edit that the bridge was going to collapse. The edit of the next few minutes, the frightened horse, the boy in the water, the horse in the water, and the slow motion sequence as the trauma hits the father, before the father starts to run down the river bank. The slow motion captures the trauma, but it also dramatizes the father's ambivalence about his burden-son. Of course he does the proper thing and runs, then swims after his son. But the moment of hesitancy intensifies the emotion of the ending. This is an excellent edit suitable for analysis in a film-techniques course.

15 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
an interesting failure, 21 January 2003

Despite over 300 comments, some people are still posting saying that it was beyond them and what do the rest of us see in it. Those naysayers should actually read the posted comments.

I watched the film twice, read Marc Behm's book and then watched it again. I would like to see the original film version, 'Mortelle randonnée'(1983) (it has a really good soundtrack album by Carla Bley), but so far have not found a video-rental shop that has a copy. Like the director, Stephan Elliott's major film, 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert', 'Eye of the Beholder' is a road movie about eccentrics, one of whom is into wigs and changing her appearance. Like Marc Behm's script for 'Charade'(1963) it is about a spook who is looking after a young woman who doesn't really know what is going on. I can't think of any parallels with Marc Behm's Beatles film 'Help!'(1965). Actually Behm has 13 IMDB credits, and most of them are difficult to find. As are his other novels.

The major improvement over the book is the addition of the hi-tech snooping equipment. The book's Eye is an old-fashioned gumshoe who simply looks though bedroom windows and the like. Also the making the lost daughter's ghost more solid is an interesting effect. We don't have to know that the girl is dead to think of the image of her as a ghost. I didn't notice that she is played by two actors. The problem is that Ewan McGregor is too young for the role. At the end of the book he dies of old age. I think that the book captures his slipping into obsession better, and part of the picture is that Joanna Eris is about the age that his daughter would have been. A side-effect of his computer tools etc, is that it becomes more unlikely that he would not be able to find his ex-wife and daughter. But as the film makes him a Brit in the States, they would be back in Britain.

Obviously the script had to drop a lot of the incidents in the book. In the film it is extremely implausible that he is able to get a room next to Joanna in the New York hotel. In the book he tails her for several months through a few murders, which would give him a chance to take a sublet in the building.

The rich blind man is called 'Forbes' in the book. Given the real-life family of that name, it was probably best to change it.

In the book the scene where Joanne is identified in the restaurant where she is working, takes place in New Jersey. In the film it is said to be Alaska, although we know that it is somewhere in Quebec. Why didn't the film say that it was Quebec. Then the crew would not have to work so hard hiding all the French signs. I presume that in 'Mortelle randonnée' all the places were changed to places in France (where apparently Marc Behm lives).

An ironic detail. The book has several cross-dressing incidents: the Eye does nanny-drag to continue his surveillance; Joanna and a woman friend not in the book do male drag to rob banks and filling-stations, and the Jason Priestley character, Gary, is a cross-dressing fetishist. I suppose that the director of Priscilla feels that he has done the topic.

I would have liked the film to have kept the incidents where Joanna almost recognizes the Eye, including the time when she hires a detective to capture him.

The film has a lot more in it than most thrillers. It avoids the cliches, challenges the viewer, but doesn't really gel. There are too many nagging questions afterwards.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
is this really the end?, 21 January 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***


As it says in the plot summary, Maria, a stage magician, married but a month, is on the way to a gig where Hector, her husband, is waiting. Her minibus breaks down, and in the rain and dark she hitches a ride in a passing bus. The bus drops her at a locked mental hospital, and the passenger list is destroyed in the rain. She never gets to make the phone call that she expected to do, and the staff assume that she is an inmate and won't let her out. Hector assumes that she has gone back to her previous boyfriend, and when she gets to a phone by breaking into the administration wing he refuses to talk to her. He doesn't report her or the minibus to the police as missing for over a month. Finally when the hospital staff track him down, he accepts their perspective that she is crazy, visits her only once and leaves her there!!! To call him a bastard or an idiot is quite insufficient: he is a failure as a human being.

This film is quite disturbing, a film of psychological horror.

By the way, the gringo version is 35 minutes shorter than the Mexican original. Is this just a tighter edit, or is something cut?

5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
the varieties of gender construction, 21 January 2003

Actually as a documentary of the Wodaabe, this television film leaves much to be desired. There is a brief discussion of the enlarging Sahara and the problem of lack of rain. However this is undercut by actually filming just after one of the rare periods when it did rain. There is also a brief segment on the shanty town next to the uranium mines. Then these are dropped. The major interest is the male beauty competition. The faces of the contestants are scanned as an introduction, and most of the second half of the film is about the competition. This aspect is certainly interesting, and the young men's makeup and clothing is in dramatic contrast to construction of masculinity in the dominant global culture. We think of such makeup and restrictive clothing as feminine. Their appearance is somewhat like drag in Europe/North America, but then yet again is quite different. When the selected young woman walks past the finalists, she does not look them in the face - she appears to be looking mainly at the ground. This aspect of Wodaabe femininity should be explained and contrasted to other male-female interactions.

Do they use mirrors to apply their makeup. None are seen, but some of the young men are holding their hands as if they have a mirror, but this is not confirmed by the camera.

Amazingly, there are no tourists at the festival. Only the German camera crew. We are not shown how the Wodaabe relate to being filmed by these foreigners.

As this film was made for French television, and the opening titles and commentary and the closing credits are in French, should not the French title be the prime one?

17 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
Of historical importance, but ..., 13 May 2002

This film came out 12 years years ago, and was a revelation even for people who knew something of the drag scene in New York. The textbooks on drag performance say nothing of these vogueing houses. Anthony Slide's 'Great Pretenders' says nothing. Julian Fleisher's "The Drag Queens of New York: An Illustrated Field Guide" with its flow chart of influence that pulls together Julian Eltinge, Minette, the Warhol queens, and the 90s club scene - and postdates the film - ignores the houses completely. Even Laurence Senelick's "The Changing Room" - the closest thing that we have to a definitive book on drag performance rushes quickly past the film and does not give the background information that one would have expected from it.

I understand from the film itself,and various articles I found on the web that this house system goes back decades. The major film performance by a house member prior to 1990 seems to be Chrystal La Beija in "The Queen", 1968. The historical context is the biggest missing part of "Paris is Burning".

The film is valuable because it focuses on a scene otherwise being ignored. It is a valuable snapshot of life in 1989. The unfortunate fact that Venus Xtravaganza was murdered during filming provides a very dramatic ending, but this is not the only film about transsexuals to include a real-life murder. As we now know, Dorian Corey had a mummified corpse in her literal closet, but this did not come out until three years later.

Of historical importance, but we still need someone to do either a book or a documentary film that provides more context.

less than the sum of the parts, 13 May 2002

I saw this film as part of the Ottawa Latin American Film Festival. Half-way through I thought that it was the best film in the festival, but at the end I just felt annoyed. There are some good ideas: the events of the past seen only through the SUV's rear-view mirror; the slow realization that those events and the old car are in fact 15 years ago; the diagetic video record shows the same event as the memory flashback but with the grandma instead; the photographer leaving his own body and the grandma having to hold him bodily to keep him together. But some things that would appear to be important do not seem to be answered. Possibly they were lost in the subtitles. Why is the truckdriver killed at the beginning? Why does the grandma put a spell on this photographer? Why do the police never investigate any of the killings?

And on a different level: The woman who plays the grandma looks quite a bit like Joan Plowright, but is presumably a different person.

Note to the creators of subtitles: In a film such as this where the subtitles translate two different languages, Spanish and an aboriginal language, could it be indicated in some way, e.g. by colour, which language is being spoken. And also please get a native English speaker to proof read the subtitles.

Love, capital transfers, war and radio, 6 February 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Spoiler warning.

Most of us, who are not Latvian, do not know much about how Latvia was crushed between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. This film is therefore a different World War II story. It follows the days up to the Soviet invasion in June 1940, and seem to assume a Latvian knowledge as the dates are announced one-by-one in a countdown. It does seem very strange to us that (some) people gladly fled to Nazi Germany which was already at war with most of Europe. The Latvian Foreign Minister has German nationality and also an aristocratic Russian wife on good terms with the Soviets.

The plot concerns an attempt by Wilhelms Munters, the Latvian Foreign Minister, to steal the entire Latvian national wealth deposited abroad. Is this historically true? The central character is a humble radio announcer, Roberts, who pursues an affair with Izolde, a Germano-Latvian with establishment connections, and thereby frustrates Munters' schemes, in that Izolde lingers in Riga and does not deliver Munters' papers to Germany. It is somewhat surprising that he needs to get papers into Germany so that he can claim deposits with a bank in London.

The triumph of Roberts-Izolde over Munters is a classic Hollywood device, but the casual death of Roberts to a Soviet machine gun would not be found in a modern Hollywood film. The period details of radio broadcasting are fun. Certainly a film worth catching if you get the opportunity. The fact that the woman is called Izolde (Isold) is not allegorical - Roberts is no Tristan.

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