Nothing excites me more than flowers dying, leaves falling, and crispiness gracing the air. I love dark skies, dark days, and the overall nature of black and white. Perhaps this is part of the appeal of 1930s, 1940s, and 1960s filmography? Everything was, for the most part, done in black and white. The word of technicolour is like horror to me, and rare examples exist where I appreciate a film which is done in colour. Colour to me is horror. When there is colour, there is imbalance. My personality is very black and white, too.
The subject of today’s blog article is horror film. Black and white horror film. During the month of October, I viewed a collection of these horror films which I shall discuss herein.
Eyes Without A Face (1960)
Criterion describes it as,
At his secluded chateau in the French countryside, a brilliant, obsessive doctor (Pierre Brasseur) attempts a radical plastic surgery to restore the beauty of his daughter’s disfigured countenance—at a horrifying price. Eyes Without a Face, directed by the supremely talented Georges Franju, is rare in horror cinema for its odd mixture of the ghastly and the lyrical, and it has been a major influence on the genre in the decades since its release. There are images here—of terror, of gore, of inexplicable beauty—that once seen are never forgotten.
I appreciate this film because physical beauty is the goal. But in the end, an ugly soul was the demise of human life, not an ugly face. The ending scene features dogs and doves. It is poetic.
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
I first viewed this film a long time ago, maybe in high school, well before my love affair with classic filmography began. Starring the late great Joan Crawford and the (choose your own adjective) Bette Davis, I remember that my young impression was that it was a scary movie about two old sisters who hated each other. Fast forward about 10 years, and I found Joan Crawford to be my golden age of Hollywood spirit animal. I watched everything that young Joan Crawford created; and I was horrified to see that she had “gotten old” in this film. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? therefore existed on my banned films list because I only wanted to see Ms. Crawford as young and beautiful. Fast forward about another 10 years to present day, and imagine my surprise to give this film another chance, only realising, “Oh my God, Joan Crawford isn’t really THAT old in this film!” Ha ha! Perhaps it is because I am now closer to her age in this film than ever before, or maybe it is because I APPRECIATE her success in ageing gracefully and beautifully… she maintained her teeth, her skin, her boldness, and her skinniness like a goddess. And Bette Davis, on the other hand, turned into a total frump. WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE, INDEED, LOL. I shan’t offer any spoilers except that I disagree with the TCM commentators on what happened in the end. They claim that Ms. Crawford’s character died on the beach. I, on the other hand, think that she survived and that Davis’s character was institutionalised.
Just as I did with What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?, I ignored Strait-Jacket because I assumed it would disappoint me. Joan Crawford is now aged two years older than in the prior film, and I just could surrender not my idea of a beautiful young Ms. Crawford to an old hag. But seeing that I am now pleased with the aforementioned film, I decided to give Strait-Jacket a go. And OH MY GOODNESS. It is mind-blowing. Sure there are some cheesy freaky moments like when she uses an axe to kill her husband and his lover… and Ms. Crawford did an amazing job. BUT IT IS THE ROLE OF THE DAUGHTER which freaks out my mind and made me say, “WHAT IN THE HELL IS HAPPENING?!” My jaw is dropped as I type this.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)
I so much love the 1931 rendition of this film starring Fredric March that I hesitated on viewing this Spencer Tracy version. But because I absolutely adore Spencer Tracy, I gave it a go. And it was EXCELLENT. His performance is incredible. With his desire to minimalise makeup as he changed into the monster, he humanised the monster in a way that was never done before. My only criticism is that I cannot stand Lana Turner. Her later poor work in Imitation of Life (1959) sticks in my brain as does her busty body. Just not my cup of tea. Also, if you are an animal rights super activist like my bestie, watch this not because it features testing on animals. Oh! And the delightful surprise was Ingrid Bergman’s character. She plays the whore which is completely unlike her usual roles. Divine acting. * As written before, the 1934 version of Imitation of Life starring Claudette Colbert is one of the greatest films known to man! Thank you to friend and reader Josie for trusting my opinion on this!
Mad Love (1935)
The Toronto Film Society describes it as,
Grand Guignol actress Yvonne Orlac (Frances Drake) is married to concert pianist Stephen (Colin Clive), and plans to take a break from acting to tour with him. However, Dr. Gogol (Peter Lorre), her biggest fan, won’t let her go so easily. When Stephen’s hands are destroyed in a railway accident, Dr. Gogol’s obsession with Yvonne leads him to replace his hands with those of Rollo, a recently executed knife thrower and murderer; but Stephen cannot play the piano with his new hands and instead uses them to throw knives.
Even though he is mad, I harvest a grand soft spot in my heart for this scientist, especially when he pronounces, “I can conquer science but not love.” Perhaps I am empathetic because I, too, have never been in a mutually loving relationship with a human partner.
Although I adore Hitchcock (The British years), I have never enjoyed his American films (North by Northwest – The Birds). So I ignored Psycho until this year. AND IT IS BRILLIANT. Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates. Wow wow wow. The shower scene was, as intended, HORRIFYING. And I am simply blown away by the psychiatrist’s analysis of Normans multiple personalities. As a great defender of Thomas Szasz’s The Myth of Mental Illness, I have always questioned multiple personality “disorder.” I wonder on what the great Dr. Szasz thought of Norman Bates?
Thank you so much for enjoying my little book report on classic horror filmography!
And, as for my personal horror, I dressed not for Halloween. But my little Claudette Barrette did! She looks more and more like Gwendolyn every single day! Actually, in alignment with the horror theme of this posting, Claudette recently met J.R. who is the customer service gentleman at a local dog shop. We had not seen J.R. in several years. HE LOVED GWENDOLYN and vice versa. So when he met Claudette, he exclaimed, “Oh my God, did you find a Dr. Frankenstein or something?” Ha ha ha! My answer is, “What do you think?”
The light in me recognises the light in you.