Thirty Hertz Rumble

A bl-g about movies, music and nostalgia by James David Patrick

Tag: #31daysofhorror (Page 1 of 8)

the raven 1935

The Raven: 31 Days of Horror

the raven 31 days of horror

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature Shame:
Long overdue for a rewatch Shame.

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1930’s
Pre-1970’s

 


 

#9. The Raven (1935)

the raven 1935 posterYou could transcribe, pretty much verbatim, the introduction to my prior #31DaysofHorror review about The Black Cat (1934) and place it right here for The Raven (1935).

Let’s go on a tangent instead. Tangents are often more interesting anyway.

I always meant to make a triple feature of this, Roger Corman’s The Raven (1963) and James McTeigue’s The Raven (2012) starring John Cusack. So wildly different in tone and form and yet all equally disinterested in adaptation. Instead of considering how they treat the material, you could study the ways in which they just don’t bother.

I’ve been guilty of judging films based on their adaptive muscle, but in many ways this falls back on lazy criticism. It’s a worthwhile exercise to throw shade on poor adaptation — but not adaptations that want nothing to do with adaptations to begin with.

Turning Poe’s poem into a full-length cinematic property approaches the definition of insanity. Marketing shorthand dictates that Poe has been a successful cinematic commodity, and therefore more Poe must be produced to make the dollars — but only a small segment of the population legitimately cares whether the film uses the original text. There’s a reason that three “adaptations” of The Raven exist and none of them approach the material earnestly.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
            Only this and nothing more.”

 

the raven 1935

The Story

David Boehm’s screenplay merges bits of Poe’s “The Raven” with “The Pit and the Pendulum” to spin a story about an eccentric millionaire surgeon Richard Vollin (Bela Lugosi) whose obsession with Edgar Allan Poe has turned him into a deranged torture-happy psychopath. I should clarify. The story contains a taxidermed raven and features a pendulum. Director Lew Landers populates his screen with familiar Poe imagery, but never actually attempts anything beyond face value association.

the raven bela lugosi

After Vollin saves a girl who had been injured in a car accident, he falls madly in love with her. When she rebukes his advances (she is engaged to be married after all), he makes associations with Poe’s “Lenore” and slips further into his Poe mania. He invites the girl, her father and her fiancé to his humble abode with the nefarious intentions of murdering them with his collection of torture devices.

I considered Karloff’s performance in The Black Cat to be one of the best of his career. In that film he plays a villain of quiet and calculating cruelty, yet the performance never lacked eccentricity. While I admire his work as Frankenstein’s monster and the Mummy, the prosthetics handicapped his performance. Watch The Black Cat or the Val Lewton-produced Body Snatchers (1945) and you can see Karloff’s full arsenal of talents and subtlety.

the raven 1935

Lugosi, on the other hand, lacked, shall we say, similar nuance. He never learned to mask his thick accent and therefore always found himself reduced to a narrow collection of put-upons and Balkan misfits. Dracula stands as the monument of his career. Restraint benefitted his characters. When a director managed to corral his enthusiasm for showy performance, Lugosi gave gold. And in this instance, Landers starved Lugosi until it was high time to commence scenery chewing.

In The Raven Karloff again finds himself hidden behind grotesque prosthetics (the fake eyeball is especially unnerving), and Lugosi benefits by slipping into the trousers of the brilliant but sociopathic doctor. Here he’s allowed to underplay Villon’s madness until it all comes pouring out during the film’s wild and eccentric ending. In a bit of a role reversal, Karloff becomes the put-upon assistant and Lugosi the proper, regal villain.

the raven boris karloff

The makeup effects on Karloff after the mad Doctor Lugosi has his way with him.

Landers competently handles the material he’s given, but contemporary reviews proved unkind.

From the New York Times on July 5th, 1935: “If The Raven is the best that Universal can do with one of the greatest horror story writers of all time, then it had better toss away the other two books in its library and stick to the pulpies for plot material.”

And this was not an isolated criticism. Most everyone it seemed still believed that studios should attempt to adapt Edgar Allan Poe. As has been proven time and time again, adapting Poe’s stories — which almost wholly belong to the realm of psychological terror — proves problematic. How does one convey internal terror in a commercially-viable film?

Let me answer that. One doesn’t. One borrows bits and bites and plays fan service. A black cat wandering. The shadow of a raven. Haunting echoes. Reciting a poignant line hither and thither. The palette holds only so many shades of black and grey.

Final Thoughts:

The Raven entertains by virtue of Lugosi’s potent performance. Landers presents the mad doctor’s torture devices statically and perhaps in the vein of a low-budget adventure serial, but his grasp of light and shadow make up for a lack of inventiveness with the camera. Despite a prolific career, Landers never emerged from B-film purgatory.

It’s always entertainment when Karloff and Lugosi get to share the screen as equals. The Raven works, not because it has any inclination towards adapting Poe, but because it doesn’t bother and lets Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff fill in the gaps.

30Hz Movie Rating:

 


Availability:  

the bela lugost collection universal

The Raven (1935) is available on the Universal Bela Lugosi Franchise Collection. The set also features Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Black Cat, The Invisible Ray, and Black Friday.


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2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon

#1. Caltiki The Immortal Monster (1959) / #2. The Devil Doll (1936) / #3. The Velvet Vampire (1971) / #4. Mill of the Stone Women (1960) / #5. The Initiation (1984) / #6. Poltergeist (1982) / #7. Night of the Lepus (1972) / #8. The Black Cat (1934) / #9. The Raven (1935)

 

31 Days of Horror 2017

31 Days of Horror: 2017

Halloween brings out the best and the worst of us as obsessive moviewatchers. I can only speak for myself, but I imagine my experience mirrors many of yours. When October rolls around (now mid-September because the 31 horror movies in 31 days doesn’t jive with adult schedules), horror movies dominate all channels. The wife shrugs her shoulders. Hide the more explicit DVD cases from the kids. You start arguing about sequels and franchises and Argento vs. Bava vs. Fulci.

My wife joins in when I can find a nice, palatable mid-grade horror film. In recent years, she’s joined me for films like Tremors and The Fog and comedies like The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. (Though, she still tells me she’s nervously scanning the mist for ghost pirates whenever a nice fog rolls through the Pittsburgh hills.)

Each year for the past four years, I’ve embarked upon the journey to watch at least 31 horror movies by the end of October. Last year I joined @ElCinemonster’s Hoop-Tober challenge on Letterboxd.com. Each year he lays down a few challenges to help guide the viewing of his monstrous minions. This year I’m again combining my Cinema Shame Horror Shame-a-thon with the Hoop-Tober Challenge 4.0 to perpetuate the most unwieldy title in the history of movie blogging and watching.

Welcome to the @CinemaShame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile/Shame-a-thon 31 Days of Horror 2017

31 Days of Horror 2017

Let’s lay down some rules for any lunatics that might want to play the home version of the 31 Days of Horror 2017.

Pick 31 never-before-seen (or unwatched DVD purchases) horror movies — “horror” is broadly defined as anything containing elements of the horror genre. So, for example, I’ve count the Abbott & Costello monster films in the past because of the classic movie monsters. Watch as many as you can stomach during your “month” of October.

I’m air-quoting “month” because, as I mentioned earlier, I’m borrowing @ElCinemonster’s notion that we’re busy goddamn people and 31 days is just not a reasonable duration for busy people to watch 31 horror movies. He’s beginning his “month” on September 15th. I plan to do the same. I hit 33 last year(!) and while I don’t expect to top that total I aim to match.

I’m going to pluck as many movies as possible from my Watch Pile (any film I already own that hasn’t been watched). I’ve been making a more concerted effort to watch more movies than I buy. The worthy remain. The ones I don’t see myself watching again hit eBay. I’ll note the outcome of each disc in my blurb.

And speaking of blurbs… after each movie, I’ll toss up a mini-review and a 30Hz rating that will correspond to my review on Letterboxd.com. The review may or may not contain any actual insight. The reviews are the part of this project that will leave you a quivering pile of bloody goo. And now for the more specific Hoop-Tober demonic hurdles, courtesy of @ElCinemonster.

6 sequels (mix-and-match. 6 total)
6 countries
6 decades
6 films from before 1970
6 films from the following: Carpenter, Raimi, Whale, Browning, Craven, Tom Holland (mix-and-match, or all one)
3 people eating people (non-zombie)
1 Hammer Film
1 Romero film
1 terrible oversight aka OVERT SHAME! (use this link, filter out the films you’ve seen and picked the highest rated film from the list that you can get ahold of)

And 2 Tobe Hooper Films (There must ALWAYS be a Hooper film)

-review them all.(eek)

Clearly one film can satisfy multiple criteria. Viewing and reviewing will begin at 12:01am CST on Sept 15th.

I plan to call some audibles when spur-of-the-moment cravings strike, but here’s my blueprint for the 2017 31 Days Of Horror CinemaShame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-Thon.

31 days of horror 2017

Past #31DaysOfHorror Shame-a-thons: 2013 | 2014 | 2015 Part 1 | 2015 Part 22016 

*rewatch

  1. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
  2. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child
  3. Brain Damage
  4. Caltiki: The Immortal Monster
  5. Cannibal! The Musical
  6. Christine
  7. Death Walks in High Heels
  8. Eating Raoul
  9. Friday the 13th
  10. Friday the 13th Part II
  11. House*
  12. House 2*
  13. House 3
  14. House 4
  15. Fox with the Velvet Tail
  16. Invaders from Mars
  17. Mill of the Stone Women
  18. Posession
  19. Prince of Darkness
  20. Shocker
  21. Spontaneous Combustion
  22. Suddenly in the Dark
  23. The Devil Doll
  24. The Dismembered
  25. The Green Butchers
  26. The Hound of the Baskervilles*
  27. The Wife Killer
  28. Spider (Zirneklis)
  29. The Velvet Vampire
  30. What Have You Done to Solange?
  31. Two Evil Eyes
  32. The Initiation
  33. The Fan (Der Fan)
  34. The Invisible Man (familiar comfort horror)*

the invisible man 31 days of horror 2017

What’s your list? What’s your plan for horror movie watching this year? If you’re keeping a list or participating in the Hoop-Tober challenge, I’ll link you in the header for my posts. Just leave a note with a link in the comments. Together we shall overcome… or we’ll be the loser pumped off in the first act to establish indomitable menace. It’s more comforting to know you’re not doing this alone.

31 Days of Horror: The Ghost and Mr. Chicken

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken - 31 Days of Horror

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature of Ghost and Mr. Chicken Shame:
Unseen Comedy Classic

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1960’s
Before 1970’s



 

#31. The Ghost and Mr. Chicken

 

the ghost and mr. chicken 1966 poster

 

 

The Horrific days of October have bled into the Thanksgiving holiday. I’m pecking away at this post while my daughters watch the rather dismal Hotel Transylvania 2, a rather potent distraction from composing competent thoughts let alone complete sentences regarding a movie I watched nearly a month ago. I lament the trend to compose bl-g-length posts rather than three or so sentences; I hope I remember this 11 months from now when I again embark on 31 Days of Horror.

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken appeared on the 31 Days of Horror schedule as part of the wife-friendly horror marathon, and though the film lacks certain frightful elements… or really any at all… Don Knotts has brought to light an intrinsic link between horror and comedy. Many of our most classic horror films trade in absurdity, yet transcend that absurdity through horrific imagery. How distant is, say, John Carpenter’s Halloween from a parody of John Carpenter’s Halloween? Change to score from haunting synth to a Mickey Moused screwball riff. Swap out scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis for weak-kneed Don Knotts. What do you have? The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.

 

Don Knotts - The Ghost and Mr. Chicken

 

Comedy and horror make excellent bedfellows. How potent is a quick laugh in the face of quaking terror? What makes Evil Dead 2 such a successful film? The preposterous coupling of laughter and the innate terror of demons from another dimension coming to get you through the floor. Laughter breaks the tension, allows the viewer to more fully embrace the emotional strain of pure terror. Unrelenting horror often falls short of classic status. The broader audience cannot embrace something as dour and hopeless as Dead and Buried, just to name one recent example from my own 31 Days of Horror experience. And even though that film had a few laughs, it fell short of accomodating a lesser constitution.

The mirror image of Evil Dead 2 looks something like The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. Horror elements swapped for screwball. The comedic excesses swapped for creepy old mansions and inexplicable goings on. There’s really not much difference between the personalities of Bruce Campbell and Don Knotts anyway.

 

Bruce Campbell - Evil Dead 2

 

(This prattle makes perfect sense as I’m typing away, but I’m sure I’m shortchanging a dozen necessary components of this argument — the pint of 750ml Ommegang Three Philosophers I just downed likely has something to do with it. What can I say? It’s the holidays.)

Don Knotts plays Luther Beggs, a typesetter at the local paper with aspirations to be a fully-accredited news reporter. He believes to have seen a murder outside a local “haunted” mansion, but while he details the incident to his boss, the “victim” walks into the room. Luther’s a local joke, a man-child prone to histrionics. So when the opportunity presents itself, Luther volunteers to sleep one night in the haunted mansion. He’ll write about it and sell many papers with his tales of terror.

Don Knotts - The Ghost and Mr. Chicken

During his night in the house, Luther encounters secret staircases, creepy passages, self-playing organs and many things that go bump in the night. After writing about them all, Luther becomes a local hero, championed by all. (Apparently Kansas is short of heroes.) That is, until he’s accused of libel by the owner of the mansion and discredited by his old schoolteacher who claimed Luther was always “keyed up” as a boy.

Since this is a feel-good 1960’s comedy the outcome of The Ghost and Mr. Chicken is never really in doubt. Romanticizing small town America, the championing of the average Joe, punishment of greed. Comfort food for the 1960’s loving soul. The difference between The Ghost and Mr. Chicken and a true horror movie feels like a canyon — and yet, how far does it actually stray from a haunted house film of the same generation? Compare The Ghost and Mr. Chicken with The Haunting (1963) or The Legend of Hell House (1973), two films that bookend Mr. Chicken by a few years on each side.

Better lighting in the haunted mansion. A slight shift in focus from the source of the spooks to the libel suit and the eventual Scooby Doo unmasking. Dial back the Don Knotts, of course. Consider the ways that The Ghost and Mr. Chicken builds and relieves tension through a Don Knotts pratfall. The real difference is just the repeated efforts to relieve the tension before it festers into something greater.

 

Final Thoughts:

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken remains a frivolous lark of comedy/horror film. Easygoing and legitimately funny (if you care for Don Knotts’ schtick — which I do), despite the soulcrushing weight of civic-sanctioned bullying. It’s a film that at once celebrates the oddball yet fails to condemn small-town America’s gossipmongering. Yet we forgive and enjoy, because 1960’s.

 

30Hz Movie Rating:

30hzrating31-2

 


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Earlier 2016 31 Days of Horror entries:

#1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella / #4. Delirium (1972) / #5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin / #6. She-Wolf of London / #7. Son of Frankenstein / #8. Killerfish / #9. The Bride of Re-Animator / #10. A Bay of Blood / #11. The Seventh Victim / #12. The Fly (1958) / #13. The Fly (1986) / #14. Deep Red / #15. Dracula’s Daughter / #16. Day of the Animals / #17. The Unknown / #18. Kuroneko / #19. Komodo / #20. Tremors / #21. Tremors 2 / #22. A Nightmare on Elm Street / #23. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge / #24. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors / #25. Tenebrae / #26. Salem’s Lot / #27. Veerana / #28. House of Wax / #29. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage / #30. Dead and Buried

31 Days of Horror: Dead and Buried

31 Days of Horror: Dead and Buried

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature of Dead & Buried Shame:
Unseen (and two-years borrowed) Blu-ray

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1980’s
Because Cinemonster told me to



 

#30. Dead and Buried (1981)

 

Dead & Buried UK Quad poster

Original Cinema Quad Poster – Movie Film Posters

 

 

I didn’t know anything about Dead and Buried when I borrowed it from a buddy of mine two years ago. He just told me I should watch it. Then when Cinemonster added it to the Bonus Requirements for Hooptober 2016, I expressed a measure of enthusiasm because I still had Dead and Buried up on the shelf. Dusty, maybe, but there. And I still didn’t know anything about it.

I still had no desire to pop it in for a watch.

As the CinemaShame/Hooptober 31 Days of Horror Challenge 2016 wound down, I had two movies left on the schedule — Dead and Buried and This Old Dark House. The first because I just didn’t watch it. The second because This Old Dark House remained the only film on my list I didn’t own or didn’t otherwise have in my possession. FINE! I’LL WATCH THE MOVIE. Dead and Buried had almost reached Titanic levels of stubborn refusal. (To be fair, NOTHING will ever reach Titanic levels of stubborn refusal. I still haven’t seen Titanic and I’m quite convinced I’m the last person on earth. Solidarity?)

Thankfully, Dead and Buried didn’t Trojan horse me Titanic; it was actually striking example of atmospheric horror with a side of stomach-churning gore. That syringe in the eyeball, though! At times Gary Sherman’s film recalled The Fog — lots of haze and small town xenophobia and paranoia. The horrors of Dead and Buried take on a far less supernatural form, at least at the outset. As the film progresses, the horrors of Potter’s Bluff remain grounded in the corporeal — humans doing despicable things — despite the threat originating from humans of an undead variety. It’s no small feat maintaining this grounded slice of terror. I attribute the film’s success directly to its pacing and atmosphere.

jack albertson dead and buried

 

As grisly murders slowly encircle our small town sheriff, Dan (the Sheriff) learns that the murdered subjects eventually return to Potter’s Bluff as walking, talking, “living” townspeople. The whole town’s caught a case of the dead-ish — including Dan’s wife and now he’s got to find out what to do about it. It’s a tricky thing, convincing the remaining “living” members of a town that the walking dead are systematically eliminating them — especially when it’s the mortician behind it all. Who suspects the mortician? He’s already a creepy dude. And what a spectacularly creepy dude he is — played by the great Jack Albertson (Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory).

 

The languid (though uneven) pacing coddles the terror, slowly building until you find yourself on the edge of your couch with a steadily growing sense of unease that becomes full-on paranoia. The unease broken only by cringeworthy fits when the undead brutally attack with boulders and sex tapes and eye-piercing syringes and gasoline and matches. They’ve got a healthy bag of tricks, all of which leave you squirmy.

 

Dead and Buried 1981

 

Final Thoughts:

But still… there’s that “but.” Dead and Buried sells such a perversely unrepetant tale that it’s hard to love it. Admire? Absolutely. Love? I’m not jumping at the bit to toss this one in again. I would like to revisit, if only to consider whether a second watch dulls the feelings of bridge-jumping hopelessness. Also, this merely reaffirms my notion that small town America will crush your soul and suck out your eyeballs.

 

30Hz Movie Rating:

30hzrating31-2

 


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Earlier 2016 31 Days of Horror entries:

#1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella / #4. Delirium (1972) / #5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin / #6. She-Wolf of London / #7. Son of Frankenstein / #8. Killerfish / #9. The Bride of Re-Animator / #10. A Bay of Blood / #11. The Seventh Victim / #12. The Fly (1958) / #13. The Fly (1986) / #14. Deep Red / #15. Dracula’s Daughter / #16. Day of the Animals / #17. The Unknown / #18. Kuroneko / #19. Komodo / #20. Tremors / #21. Tremors 2 / #22. A Nightmare on Elm Street / #23. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge / #24. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors / #25. Tenebrae / #26. Salem’s Lot / #27. Veerana / #28. House of Wax / #29. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage

31 Days of Horror: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature of Bird with the Crystal Plumage Shame:
Unseen (and two-years borrowed) Blu-ray

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1970’s
Master Classers – Argento



 

#29. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)

 

bird with the crystal plumage Italian poster

 

Guess what? YUP. This is still going on. My steadfast pursuit of an end goal that nobody even cares about impresses you, doesn’t it? No? Screw off, man. I’m working for the common good. Here I am, mid-late November still plugging words into bl-g posts about horror movies. Once the election happened, this all slipped into the background when I fell into a 24/7 news cycle of disbelief, conspiracy theories and #facepalm. Movies remain a sanctuary. Things make sense again. I didn’t get my bachelor’s degree in film theory for n0thing. NO COMMENTS FROM YOU, READER. Reader, dear reader. I’m sorry. Continue reading, maybe?

I believe in the powers of proximate viewing, especially when it comes to viewing multiple entries from the same director. Having viewed Deep Red (for the first time!) and Tenebrae (for the first time in ages!), my reading of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage shifted drastically. Elements from Bird reappear in both Deep Red and Tenebrae. And I’m not just talking about the giallo genre tropes either. Let’s focus on one element from each and contemplate how Argento evolves from Bird to the latter film in his filmography.

 

thebirdwiththecrystalplumage-3

 

 

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Deep Red & Perception

Bird opens with a man (Tony Musante) witnessing the murder of a woman inside a glass-walled art gallery. Right from the get, Argento foregrounds one of his favorite broad themes — perception vs. reality. But not only that. As we’ve seen in Deep Red, Argento also loves to explore art and interpretation. Art is at once a basic reality and the myth that you, the viewer, interpret based on your individual frame of reference. By setting the catalytic murder sequence within a modern art gallery, Argento is again directing your interpretation from the outset of the film.

Deep Red devoted lengthy bits of dialogue to the nature of perception vs. reality. There is not one reality; but rather millions of realities based on individual perception. What is real? Argento turns Deep Red into a meditation on art. He evokes Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks with a nifty bit of set design and lingers on classical architecture and sculpture. Impressionist paintings play a major role in the narrative.

In his earlier film, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Argento cares less about “Art” as a recurring motif and more about interpretation. Like Deep Red, his protagonist in Bird makes assumptions that direct his investigation of the witnessed murder. What has he seen? What does it mean? But Musante’s Sam doesn’t meditate on this interpretation; instead, Argento uses Sam’s perspective (and consequently our perspective) as a red herring. We, like Sam, witness the murder while trapped between two panes of glass at the art gallery. Face value vs. reality. Art vs. interpretation.

It’s not until Sam recognizes that he’s misled himself through his own assumptions that we, too, understand that our reading of the film has been improperly directed by cinematic tropes and expectations. Argento’s dastardly twist relies on the fact that we, the audience, understand the predictable language of the horror film. That we will also fall back on easy expectation and interpretation.

 

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)

 

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Tenebrae & the ‘Misogyny’ Argument

I regret that I’m reducing term papers into paragraphs, but thinking’s good for you and maybe if I don’t pummel you with thousands of words, you’ll revisit these films and form your own deep thoughts.

I glossed over some stuff at the tail end of the prior paragraph because spoiler reasons. The part I yada yada‘d concerns how we see horror films and specifically the giallo genre. Black gloved murderer kills beautiful young women. We try to figure how which woman-hating male has perpetrated the crimes.

Tenebrae acts as Argento’s response to the argument that giallo films hate women. He opens the discussion with a writer being interviewed by a particularly aggressive female journalist. She questions author Peter Neal about how his novels hate women since they’re regular victims, prey, chattel. Neal responds with an incredulous laugh. “You know me,” he says, suggesting of course that it’s absurd to consider him a misogynist. The reporter responds, more aggressively this time. But your books are — explain yourself.

Films in the giallo genre succeed when they undermine viewer expectation. What separates giallo from your average slasher is that the giallo is equally concerned with discovering the identity of the murderer as the murders themselves. The giallo is part procedural investigation and part slasher. Argento’s finest gialli follow the boilerplate but innovate and usurp expectations. One of his favorite ways to undermine expectations is to invert the sex of the murderer. In Tenebrae, Argento not only inverts the sex of the murderer, but he also examines misogyny from multiple angles.

Again I’ll stop short of fully explaining Tenebrae‘s ending, but the multiple twists force the audience to similarly examine these questions of misogyny from multiple angles. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (and to a lesser extend Deep Red) use our expectations as misdirection. Tenebrae, of course, also cares about misdirection, but the questions left when the credits roll intentionally inspire further reflection rather than gee whiz admiration for a keen narrative twist.

 

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage

 

Final Thoughts:

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is a terrific example of an early giallo that shaped the giallo genre. Like Bava with Bay of Blood, Argento’s first film has confidently elevated the form with a stylish and clever slice of intelligent exploitation. As a direct precursor to both Deep Red and Tenebrae, Argento provides much fodder for analysis and direct comparison. Together the three films provide a generous give and take of interpretation and narrative understanding. View them in close proximity and in order of release and prepare to have your giallo-loving mind expanded.

 

30Hz Movie Rating:

30hzrating4

 


The Bird with the Crystal Plumage Blu-ray

 

Availability:  

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Earlier 2016 31 Days of Horror entries:

#1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella / #4. Delirium (1972) / #5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin / #6. She-Wolf of London / #7. Son of Frankenstein / #8. Killerfish / #9. The Bride of Re-Animator / #10. A Bay of Blood / #11. The Seventh Victim / #12. The Fly (1958) / #13. The Fly (1986) / #14. Deep Red / #15. Dracula’s Daughter / #16. Day of the Animals / #17. The Unknown / #18. Kuroneko / #19. Komodo / #20. Tremors / #21. Tremors 2 / #22. A Nightmare on Elm Street / #23. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge / #24. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors / #25. Tenebrae / #26. Salem’s Lot / #27. Veerana / #28. House of Wax

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