Just another "lost" film... no IMDb user or external reviews, no Plot, key words, etc. Six votes, all from non-US users (who saw it when it came out?). Gozzi's last film in a short career.
Just another "lost" film... no IMDb user or external reviews, no Plot, key words, etc. Six votes, all from non-US users (who saw it when it came out?). Gozzi's last film in a short career.
The film combines several hoary and not particularly profound narrative contrivances. Here's a man attempting to seduce his wife, pretending to be another person--this was old when THE GUARDSMAN first went on stage and has been done countless times. Then there's the classic mad scientist, presented with very little nuance, delving into Things that Man Was Not Meant to Know. Related to this is that the story is only able to exist by grossly underestimating man's ability to adapt to the unknown. (An example is the 1952 science fiction story "Mother" by Alfred Coppel in which astronauts all return insane when confronted with the vastness of space.) These primitive tropes are shamelessly built on a simple narrative situation that is completely unable to carry them: a man with a disfigured face getting facial reconstruction. This happens all the time, so what's to "not meant to know"? If all this isn't enough, Teshigahara tacks on an unrelated, completely separate set of characters in their own undeveloped narrative that even Quandt thinks doesn't work. The dialogue by author/screenwriter Kobo Abe is risible, sounding like something out of a grade-B forties horror film.
To disguise the paucity of the film's narrative, Teshigahara has tricked it up with what Quandt admiringly calls "its arsenal of visual innovation: freeze-frames, defamiliarizing close-ups, wild zooms, wash-away wipes, X-rayed imagery, stuttered editing, surrealist tropes, swish pans, jump cuts, rear projection, montaged stills, edge framing, and canted, fragmented, and otherwise stylized compositions." These arty-farty gimmicks (and more) are, of course, hardly "innovations." They were endemic in the early sixties. Their extensive use seems a vain attempt to disguise the film's shallow content. Quandt also sees great significance in the many repetitions in the film: I see only repetition.
But even that is not the film's worst problem. Teshigahara often seems like a still photographer lost in a form that requires narrative structure. His inability to develop a sustained narrative makes the film seem far longer than its already-long two hours plus. Things happen, but the film doesn't really progress. The end result is little more than a compendium of tricks and narrative scraps borrowed from others.
Consider this: SIDE SHOW features a traveling carny show called Col. Gowdy's Big City Shows. The barker (Donald Cook) is going with a girl in the show (Winnie Lightner) who he promises to marry but never does. Lightner is putting her younger sister (Evalyn Knapp) through school, and one day Knapp shows up unexpectedly at the show. Lightner tells Cook that while Knapp is around, they have to pretend that they don't have a relationship. She tells the innocent young Knapp that she can not stay with the show, even though Knapp points out that it's summer and there is no school. Lightner is called away for a moment, and while she's gone Knapp asks Col. Gowdy if she can stay, and he says it's OK with him, and when Lightner returns this endorsement from the Colonel is enough for her to relent. Cook starts to fool around with Knapp in a cynical way but then falls in love for real. Later, Knapp is doing a hoochie coochie dance while Cook shills for the show, when a local boy gets fresh with her. Cook starts a fight with the local, all the carny folks yell, "Hey, Rube!" and there's a royal free-for-all involving the whole carny. When the affair between Cook and Knapp is discovered, Lightner makes a big stink, and the two lovers leave the show. Wow. You'll find all these details, some slightly recast, in THE BARKER (and in the close remake HOOP-LA), even the name of the show. This isn't quite a remake of THE BARKER, and the very perfunctory and tacked-on ending here isn't similar to the original film (or the later HOOP-LA alternate), but there are an amazing number of similarities. The explanation is that THE BARKER was made by Warners and so they were free to cannibalize it. The name of the show may have been reused so that existing footage or props showing the name could be reused.
But this film isn't primarily a romantic drama, but more an excuse as a vehicle for three stars, only one of which is part of the love triangle. There's Charles Butterworth, who is given a lot of amusing business, and also has a number of lines that he can only have written himself. Some examples (said more-or-less apropos of nothing): "I know all about love. I learned about love from the state highway commissioner." "Well, Colonel, take it or leave it, I'm going for a bus ride." And "I believe I'd like to have a nice bag of stuffed figs." At one point he reads a long self-composed love poem to Lightner, which gets sidetracked into describing a sandwich.
Then, of course, there's Winnie Lightner, the supposed star of the film, who does some rather raw routines not related to the plot. She sings a long song in a hula outfit. (Hawaiian music is used as background music throughout the film to fairly good effect, another carryover from THE BARKER.) The song is about a girl whose smile says "Take a look at this," with Lightner (filmed from the navel up) raising her grass skirt at this repeated line. In another scene she impersonates a high diver and so as not to reveal her (supposedly) feminine voice, she talks in deaf-and-dumb hand signals. These are performed very fast, but one can catch a glimpse of not only "the finger" but the classic symbol of the forefinger of one hand poked through the circled thumb and forefinger of the other. Another scene has her playing a geek in black-face, making amusing geek noises.
Kibbee, the third star player, is Colonel Gowdy, and though he has no vaudeville routines as the others do, the character is built up to give him the sort of scenes that he does best; drunk scenes, and a heart-to-heart with Lightner, who is like a daughter to him.
Then there's Vince Barnett (a journeyman doofus I always enjoy) in a small part as The Great Santini. Yup, The Great Santini. One has to ask, was Pat Conroy, the author of the novel on which the film of that name was based, thinking of this film when he used the name, or was that name used in various early films and/or plays as a generic character name. Finally, the film has a nice carnival atmosphere, crowds on the midway, etc. There's a great shot taken from the Ferris wheel as it swings down and reveals the actors on the side-show stage. Visually, there is no stinting.
This is one of those early-Thirties programmers where an anemic plot is used as a background for a few musical numbers, some comedy routines and anything else that comes to mind, all jammed into 65 minutes. In this case, the combination is very agreeable.
One exception is a straightforward interview with Father George Coyne, a Vatican scientist, who describes the "fundamentalist approach to religious belief (as) kind of a plague." It's a plague worth fighting, one that many people of faith would join, and it's really the target of much of the film even though Maher says he is taking on all belief.
There are certainly some interesting and fun moments here, the highlight being the interview with impish Vatican Latin scholar Father Reginald Foster. Another is the interview with "ex-gay" minister John Wescott, who holds his own against Maher while maintaining strong rapport and good cheer, a really interesting character. The scenes in the Truckers Chapel are especially good. Maher doesn't mock these believers but treats them seriously and with respect. The rapport that Maher seems to have developed with these men suggests that their discussion may have been much longer than what wound up in the film. At the end of the scene, Maher accepts their prayers for him in a generous spirit and says, "Thank you for being Christ-like and not just Christian." This sequence, coming at the beginning, gave me high hopes for the film, hopes largely not met.
What I found reprehensible--and it happens several times--is the phony editing, where, after Maher makes his point there's a cut to the other person apparently chagrined or speechless. These isolated cuts obviously come from some other point in the conversation--really dishonest and cheap manipulation of film. All the interviews show evidence of being heavily edited, sometimes, one suspects, to somewhat change actual content. Maher has also been rightly taken to task in other IMDb comments for making some casual absolute statements of fact that are either incorrect or deserve more nuanced comment. One is the statement that there's a "gay gene," which is still under discussion in the scientific community (see "No, Scientists Have Not Found the 'Gay Gene'," dated October 10, 2015 on The Atlantic magazine website).
At the end of the day, the problem isn't really religion, it's people. Religion can serve as a vessel for codes of moral and ethical behavior and empathy with one's fellow man. But, human nature being what it is, religion is also a vessel for all sorts of intolerant and evil behavior. Things can be just as bad, or even worse, without religious belief. I think Maher copped out when he said that, well, Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia, they were religions of a sort.
As usual for Borzage, this is full of sentiment, and the details of the plot are deadly. Never was the development of misunderstandings between two inarticulate people more aggressively, one might say more ruthlessly, pursued. When they're not playing "Gift of the Magi" (he giving up the dream of his own radio store for the big apartment he thinks she wants), they're busy each thinking that the other doesn't really want the baby. And how could Borzage resist milking the maternity ward scene, with its inevitable ethnic cross-section, older woman, and troubled mother. And here's another version of that typical pre-Code era film pair, the beautiful girl and the unhandsome blow-hard boob.
All that said, this is still a very good film in spite of itself, certainly deserving of its Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. Borzage constantly redeems himself at the worst moments. A prime example: the evening before the baby's due Jimmy goes out to fight four rounds of preliminaries at $10 a round to pay the doctor. Sally is lying at home, convinced that he's with his drunken friends, or worse, and no longer loves her. Dunn's opponent is a mean-looking, cynical, paunchy guy who's about to knock him out in the second round. Oh, the ironic cross-cutting: he's getting the crap beat out of him, while she lies in bed, anxious and bitter. But, in a clinch, Jimmy begs the pug not to knock him out because his wife's going to have a baby. Why didn't you say so, says the obliging pug, I've got two of my own. In an amusing moment they chat away while pretending to lambaste each other. This takes the curse off the sentimental plot maneuvering.
And there are a lot of other fine sequences, too. The film starts with Eilers in a fancy wedding gown, being attended to by a dresser. She's so nervous, she tells best-friend Gombell, who's dressed as a bridesmaid. As they do the formal bride's walk through the phalanx of bridesmaids, in the corner of the screen one sees part of a tray of dirty dishes being carried by a waiter. Gradually the camera pulls back to show that they're modeling the gowns for a bunch of lecherous buyers. Then they go to Luna Park (nice shots of the park). Throughout these early scenes there are plenty of sharp pre-Code wisecracks about how men only have one thing on their minds. Funny, breezy stuff. They meet Dunn on the ferry on the way home, the first guy that doesn't make a pass. The scene shifts to the couple sitting at the foot of her rooming-house stairwell. As they talk, an old hen-pecked lush comes down the stairs, and an older woman uses the hall phone to tell her sister that their mother has just died. That may be pouring the milieu on a bit thick, Borzage style, but this scene is beautifully played by Eilers and by the older woman and is quite affecting. Later, when Eilers stays in Dunn's room (no hanky-panky, it seems) and he asks her to marry him, her brother kicks her out of the house, and Gombell, the brother's gal, walks too. (Single-mom Gombell's little boy is a terror. In the morning he won't scram: "I want to see Dotty get out of bed.") Sally is sure that Jimmy will desert her at the alter, and that's the beginning of all the tear-jerking plot elements.
But the film goes beyond those elements with a richness of detail, a generous painting of daily life in the city during the Depression. And, when all's said and done, what really makes the film, and where Borzage ultimately redeems himself, is in the performances. Eilers, who somehow never got the recognition she deserved, is beautiful and gives a strong, sensitive, emotional performance--for my money a more appealing one than most of Janet Gaynor's work for Borzage. Gombell, another undervalued thirties player, is really fine as the tough but good-natured pal, who doesn't let Dunn's dislike of her color her opinion of him as a good husband for Eilers. Her performance goes beyond the requirements of the script in very subtle ways. And Dunn, well, he plays the typical early-thirties boob of a husband, but even he has a bravura scene when he breaks down while having to beg the expensive doctor to handle his wife's childbirth. Borzage films are always full of sentiment, but not always honest sentiment. This scene with the doctor is full of sentiment, but it's honestly handled, and one can say the same for the whole film.
Malle makes Wilson far more sadistic than Poe's character. In the opening school sequence, Poe's Wilson is, to be sure, a leader of the other students: "the ardor, the enthusiasm, and the imperiousness of my disposition, soon rendered me a marked character among my schoolmates, and by slow, but natural gradations, gave me an ascendancy over all not greatly older than myself." Any sadism is, at most, implied: "If there is on earth a supreme and unqualified despotism, it is the despotism of a master mind in boyhood over the less energetic spirits of its companions." In Poe, Wilson does not try to strangle his doppelganger, nor is he expelled from the school. He approaches the other's bed at night, apparently sees his own face on the sleeping boy and "passed silently from the chamber, and left at once, the halls of that old academy, never to enter them again."
In Malle's film, Wilson is torturing another student as a snowball fight rages in the background. The doppelganger makes his first appearance by hitting Wilson with a snowball. The snow fight, the torture, the significant hit by a snowball, the expulsion from school are not in Poe's tale.
But all these elements ARE in Jean Cocteau's novel LES ENFANTS TERRIBLES. The snowball fight not only is featured in Jean-Pierre Melville's film of the novel, but Cocteau filmed the scene earlier in his own BLOOD OF A POET. The torture is briefly in Melville's film, but described more fully in the novel: "By the spasmodic flaring of the gas lamp he could be seen to be a small boy with his back against the wall, hemmed in by his captives...One of these...was squatting between his legs and twisting his ears...Weeping, he sought to close his eyes, to avert his head. But every time he struggled, his torturer seized a fistful of gray snow and scrubbed his ears with it." As the snow fight continues, Cocteau's iconic character Dargelos throws a snowball that hits another student and puts in motion the events of the novel/film.
Dargelos is the same sort of malignant leader of his schoolmates as Malle's young Wilson. The headmaster calls his influence on his classmates unhealthy, and after an outrageous act he is expelled from the school. Even more to the point, Dargelos has a doppelganger in the form of the character Agathe. In Melville's film Dargelos and Agathe are played by same person, and their mysterious resemblance is important to the story.
All of these added Cocteau elements are so strong that one assumes that Malle intended viewers to recognize the reference.
Aka SPOOKS or THE GHOSTS or ANXIETY.
One is caught up in and involved in the characters from the start. Toomey is released from prison, his wife Bow waiting for him. He finds it hard to get a job, but he is determined and is helped out financially by a fellow crook who is happy to see him go straight. The detective who sent him up doesn't believe anyone can go straight and keeps an eye on him. Finally he gets a good job and after three years a substantial promotion. But then his pal, the thief, pulls a jewelry heist--from the district attorney's house!--and is seriously wounded. There are many twists to the plot, all of them believable, completely character driven and tautly presented. The performances are superb: Fenton as Bow's coke-fiend brother, Crisp as the Police Chief, tough but fair even though he's in a tight spot with the DA, and Hurst as the bad detective, thoroughly despicable and totally unlikable but still a human character, not a stock villain. Not to mention Toomey, who gives surprising force to the lead character, a man with inner strength even though he knows he's been dealt a position of weakness, and Bow, equally steadfast against the odds. Especially good is Wynne Gibson as the thief's girl. Her love for him is deep and her grief when he dies is ultimately is what brings about the denouement. In fact, one of the great things about the film is that, though the odds are against them, both couples derive great strength from their love. The story moves fast, and although it's tightly plotted, there's nothing that happens that's expected. Just top notch construction. On a second viewing, I found that the story still moved so swiftly and inevitably that I was again completely wrapped up in the characters and events. This is indeed a top-notch thirties film! Very realistic, well structured, well written script, great acting, great pace. Now that it has been restored, it should be made available on DVD as soon as possible!
The detection and the crime are quite realistic, and the bit players--including two tattoo experts and various luncheonette owners--seem as though they were pulled off the street. The excellent pacing matches a good script and performances appropriate to the story. The dialogue is sharp: pointing the body out to morgue attendants arriving just after the shootout, "He's over here, just the way you like him." And the young clean-cut cop has a nice sense of what a cop can get away with. In one of those greasy luncheonettes he tells a customer who seems interested in his conversation, "Joe, your ice cream's melting." With its real sense of the seedy atmosphere of the city, its agreeable pacing and crisp dialogue, THE TATTOOED STRANGER is a top notch film in its genre, able to hold its own in comparison to bigger-budgeted films.
One doesn't necessarily expect a strong plot from a series film like this, but in this case the author based the screenplay on his own tightly plotted, excellent story. But instead of following the story, he restructured it so there are plot flaws and loose ends. Ah, well.
The best thing about the film, and the biggest surprise, is that Richard Dix is perfect as the sleazy, not-so-smart, PI; who would have thought it? It's nice to see Charles Lane on screen for more than 30 seconds, quite a rarity. And Castle doesn't do such a bad job with the script that he's given; the film is reasonably atmospheric and the pace is good. If you like series programmers this film should satisfy.
Steve Joyce at silentsf.com says that the 1923 version is a "lost" film. Janiss Garza at allmovie.com describes that version as though she may have seen it, though she was probably drawing on contemporary descriptions. The great William K. Everson, who had seen just about every movie ever made, said in 1960 of the 1923 version, "how we'd like to see that one!" The occasion of this remark was his showing, at the Theodore Huff Society, a one-reel condensation of the 1929 version that had been made by Robert Youngson for theatrical release. Hal Ericson at All Movie Guide (picked up on many sites) says that this one-reeler is titled AN ADVENTURE TO REMEMBER, a film listed on IMDb as released in 1953, but with no details as to subject.
Both Paul Killiam, who produced the material for "Silents Please," and Youngson were in the same business of repackaging silent films for general audiences of a later era. It's reasonable to assume that the two, each making abbreviated versions of ISLE OF LOST SHIPS at the same general time, were drawing from the same source, namely the 1929 film.
The IMDb site indicates that MoMA has a print, and the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research (wisconsinhistory.org) lists a 16mm print of the 1929 version in their holdings, but neither indicates whether their print is sound or silent. Most references indicate that the 1929 film was made in both sound and silent versions. Everson in his 1960 notes states that it "was one of the early sound-on-disc films for which the discs have been apparently lost," without indicating that there was a silent version. The TV Guide reviewer (tvguide.com) actually seems to have seen the film ("The direction is often atmospheric, though it struggles a bit with plausibility") and, by stating that it was "a remake of a 1923 silent," suggests that a sound version was seen. The contemporary TIME review (11/11/29) seems to suggest that this may have been essentially a silent film with dialogue scenes added: "Occasionally effective camera work fails to make up for stolid sequences of dialog explaining the locale."
But even if some sequences are weak, I remember the scenes shown on "Silents Please" as being so dramatic, atmospheric and mysterious, that I wish this could be released on DVD.
Like other commenters here, I remembered the show first without Kovaks and then with Kovaks. According to THE COMPLETE DIRECTORY TO PRIME TIME NETWORK TV SHOWS by Brooks and Marsh, "Silents Please" ran from August to October 1960, with no on-screen host. It was then replaced by the Kovaks' show "Take a Good Look," which ran until March 1961, at which time "Silents Please" again took over the slot and ran through October 1961, this time with Kovaks as host.
Apparently Butterworth was an off-screen drinking buddy of such literary wits as Robert Benchley and Corey Ford. Note that Benchley wrote "additional dialogue" for BLIND ADVENTURE, presumably for Young's Butterworth-like character.
When a street battle goes badly, the lead characters all seek escape on a small steamer going up-river, and when a faster patrol boat catches up to them, they take off in the jungle on foot. At this point they quickly become lost. The pace perceptibly slows, and it becomes a film of another sort entirely. Finally, in a Bunuelian ironic ending, death comes to this strange garden. The kicker of the ending (which must have seemed much stronger in 1956) must have been in the original novel and is probably what attracted Bunuel to the story. The final scenes put one in mind of Herzog's later AGUIRRE; in fact, the whole second half of this film follows a path similar to AGUIRRE.
I am amazed that I can find no reference or commentary on this film in print, other than in checklists of Bunuel's work. I can only assume the film is caught in the classic Catch 22 of being unavailable because it is unknown and unknown because it is unavailable. It should be considered a major film in Bunuel's oeuvre! The comments of aw-komon-2, dbdumontiel, and UndeadMaster on this site are all right on the mark. This is definitely a film that cries for rerelease and reevaluation.