Gun Fury is a 1953 Western with Rock Hudson, Phil Carey, Donna Reed, and Leo Gordon in it. If you don’t know who any of those people are, then shame on you for even reading a scifi blog. Scifi is at its heart descended from the frontier genre and pulp westerns are the granddaddy of all adventure/mil/exploration/colonization/fightin’ injuns aliens scifi stories. SO THERE.
Pros: Directed by Raoul Walsh, so, good pacing, good filming (I just really love the look of Technicolor. It’s awesome.), a competent plot, and excellent performances. Phil Carey as (spoiler!) the bad guy carries (ahaha) the show: handsome, assured, dignified, and calmly malevolent. Leo Gordon (Riot in Cell Block 11, Black Patch, Night of the Grizzly), gets a fairly heroic role and does extremely well in it, which must have been a change. Rock Hudson merely has to look square-jawed and handsome, but this probably came easily to him. Ditto for Donna Reed, but she had kind of a lackluster role anyway (see below).
The one thing that I think sets good movies apart from bad is economy: economy of dialogue, of characterization, of philosophy. This movie has it. It takes one throwaway line to set up an entire character (the Indian Guy) who doesn’t show up for another twenty minutes. But when he gets there, we know who he is, why he’s there, and what he’ll do without having it explained. It takes one action (politely offering water to the captive lady and politely leaving her in peace when turned down) to set up that that outlaw is a decent guy who will do right by her–and when he helps her make a break for it, we are not surprised, and when he (spoiler!) gets trampled to death for his pains, we are saddened.
Economy of philosophy is observed, as well. First of all, there has to be a moral philosophy; second, it has to be coherent; third, it should be based in intelligent and reasoned actions by consistent characters. The moral commentary underpinning the story is set up quickly, competently, and early, when Ben and Slader discuss their business plans; it is expanded on through the actions of various characters–of Ben trying and failing to recruit help; of Slader’s lawlessness versus Jess’ soldierly honor–and, finally, it is summed up with a single line and that’s it, we get back to the shooting and galloping. Come to think of it, showing, not telling, is another thing good movies do.
On the downthumb: a Damsel in Distress being the central motivator means that the Damsel stays firmly in Distress the whole time. I prefer heroines with a little more grit and hopefully more motivation. Another problem: the climax hinges on a really, really improbable prisoner exchange that just doesn’t make sense given the circumstances.
So, plot: we open on a stagecoach with the usual complement: a young woman (Donna Reed as Jennifer) travelling to join her fiance; a nervous businessman; a confident ex-Southern Genn’leman in a suit, with a gun, (Phil Carey as Slader); and a guy who is automatically suspicious because he’s hiding under his hat trying to sleep. Our suspicions are promptly confirmed, because when he removes his hat, he is Leo Gordon as Jess, in cahoots with Slader’s Southern Gentleman, but, strangely enough, a decent fellow. We are soon also introduced to the Fiance, Ben (Rock Hudson), whose war-wearied philosophy of minding his own business and no-one else’s, clashes with Slader’s The South Shall Rise (But Mostly I’m In It For Me) ethos. Jess, meanwhile, tries to warn Jennifer and Fiance Ben from continuing on the stage….to no avail.
So there is a robbery, a wrecked stage, and Fiance Ben is left for dead, while Fiancee Jennifer is taken by the outlaws. Only Jess has an appropriately pragmatic–and gentlemanly–attitude about this, for all the good it does him: he gets tied to a post and left behind for the vultures. Meanwhile, Ben wakes up and wanders over to make himself useful. Jess is still alive, and a bargain is struck….
But Ben’s appeal for help–to bystanding sheepherders and to the nearby Sheriff — are met with blank denials by men who have no personal stakes in the game and no business but their own to mind. (Spot the irony. If you look hard enough, it’s there, and not at all outlined and underscored heavily by the movie). Nevertheless, the odds even out a little, as Ben and Jess are joined by a vengeful Indian, and then by Slader’s even more vengeful Mexican ex-girlfriend. Mind you, she’s way more of a hinderance than a help to the heroes, but she does try.
So the plot progresses to the point where Slader is down to three men and willing to deal rather than fight: he’ll take Jess in return for Jennifer, and while Ben is riding back to discuss this with Jess, I’m over here hoping Leo Gordon’s going to survive to the end of the movie….and then Slader grins and checks his pistol and we know he ain’t.
This rank treachery, after a good-faith exchange on Jess and Ben’s part, is what finally drives Ben to deliver the moral straight out: a good man who minds his own business and doesn’t start trouble is still at the mercy of a bad man who causes trouble–and will not stop. Ignoring an evil or avoiding it does not make it go away….it must be stopped, by whatever means is necessary.
Rated: Four incompetent damsels out of five. This movie does not rise to greatness, but it’s still pretty good.
– There are a lot of very tall people in this movie! Leo Gordon was 6’2, Rock Hudson was 6’5, and Phil Carey was 6’4. Sure, normally the camera would smooth this all out and fake them being “heroically statured,” but they all tower over Donna Reed (5’3) so much that I was actually motivated to look up their statistics.
– Neville Brand! Lee van Cleef! They don’t do very much, but they’re there in the background going “Sure, Boss,” and in Lee’s case, grinning a lot and menacing the damsels.
– Giving orders clearly is a large part of making sure they’re obeyed. “Waitaminute, I wanna make sure I get you. You want me to shoot the horse, shoot her, or what?”
– Horses score: A! It’s made very clear that one horse can’t carry two big men very far, very fast, or for very long; and the heroes make at least one stop purely to rest the horses.
– “You’ll like this one, Mom. Even the Indian guy gets to avenge his sister. It’s very progressive.”
“See, a brown horse. You wouldn’t be able to tell in black and white that he was riding a brown horse. It’d just be a black horse. Or a white horse.”
“What’s she always looking at?”
” ‘Windah.’ ”
“He’s pushing his luck. He is!”
“He’s doing it on purpose.”
“Yes, but he is pushing it! Look at him!”
” ‘Excuse us. Give us a minute please.’ ‘Beat it?’ ”
“The kid deserved it.”
“Could still be polite.”
“See, look, he actually knows how how to ride.”
“What’s she doing?…checking him out?”
“Bet you someone saw her.”
“Yep, see, the other girl. Ungrateful!”
“Uh oh, ambush. Ambush!”
“No, it’s the girl waiting for him….oh, it’s the other girl. Huh.”
“Noooo, you can get down without his help.”
“They always do.”
“Tell me what happens when I get back. […] What did he do to the schoolteacher girl?”
“They’ll turn against him. Look, she turned against him already.”
“Yeah, but he knows it.”
“That lady didn’t want that girl to come back, look.”
“He does it on purpose. He pushes people. He likes it.”
“And they turn against him.”
“Yeah, but when people try to fight back he kills them.”
“What. Did that. Prove.”
“He just told you everything you needed to know, now go back.”
“Uh oh, uh oh did he really send that young man?”
“He didn’t but he’s been egging him on the whole time.”
“He a big man, he got a gun, huh.”
“He might survive!”
[very nearly simultaneously:]
“Turn around…he’s going to turn around…”
“Uh oh I can’t look, when you can’t see people’s backs, they’re gonna see something–”
[he sees something and it’s genuinely shocking] “Uhhhohhhhhhhh!” “Oh my gosh!”
[“One of us will explain later.”]
“All that is sass. The marshal said get, now.”
“What! Why did the bell get him!”
“The preacher beat him–mostly by being shot–”
“The preacher stopped them, they were about to lynch the marshal. And the marshal was their only hope. So the preacher beat him, and there was enough of them to ring the bell. Or something.”
“I didn’t know he was faster!”
“Of course he’s faster, he’s the good guy.”
So this is a 1959 Western starring Fred MacMurray and Not-Rhonda Fleming (She has red hair.) Also it has a young but extremely toothy James Coburn as “that young punk who sneers a lot.”
This one was really great, mostly because the plot is very simple. A happens, and therefore B. However, C. And therefore, D. And so on, very logically leading on to (depending on the genre): the farmboy becoming king, the Death Star blowing up, or finding the sword of Martin the Warrior.
In this case: MacMurray is a genial bank robber en route to trial and jail, but actually just about to escape. However, overenthusiastic help from his kid brother ends with two people dead–the brother, and the escorting deputy. Therefore, with murder on the rap sheet, MacMurray has no choice other than to run. However, getting out of town is delayed: all strangers are being detained at the pass until the wanted posters with the fugitive’s picture arrive. And therefore, MacMurray….well, watch the movie. Most of the subsequent “and therefores” are a direct result of MacMurray’s character just being that much of a swell, decent guy. He’s the kind of hero that small children and horses trust on sight. He’s the kind of man who can tuck a little girl into bed, or go toe-to-toe with the toughest guy in town; can talk some sense into a proud young feller’s head, or save the day in a gunfight.
In fact, MacMurray’s hero is so competent, the final fight has to put him at a significant handicap to maintain any sort of tension. This was something that felt like a total gimick at first, but on thought was really quite brilliant. Without the injury, the audience–trusting the guy they’ve seen outthink, outmaneuver, and outfight all parties so far–is going to simply impatiently wait for him to clear up this stupid little fight, and then get back to something that does provide a problem. With it, MacMurray is pinned and the gunfight becomes the center of attention. Kudos to the writer.
The one downside of the movie is that its ending (post-gunfight) is almost cruelly abrupt. Give it another minute and give the man a line or two to explain himself, at least! Well, nobody’s perfect.
There’s also a really amusing (well, to me, at least) scene where MacMurray’s character is doing the decent thing and cutting James Coburn out of the barbed wire he’s tangled in. At least, until Coburn’s crazy boss and the rest of the riders come storming up, at which point MacMurray books it.
The Golden Hawk (1952) – Ok, this is more like it. Oh yeah, a lot more like it. Now THIS is what a pirate movie should be.
(It occurs to me that the only reason Pirates of the Caribbean was as good as it was, was where and when it copied off of older, better, more colorful movies.)
Yeah, there’s a lot of kissy-facing that would be much more convincing if it starred Errol Flynn instead of Sterling Hayden, but there’s also plenty of swashing buckles, proffering pistols, capeswishing, rapier swishing, rum, yo-ho-ho-ing, and stuff blowing up. Actually, on second thought: Hayden is well-cast. The role calls for someone handsome and charming, just not quiiiiiite as handsome or as charming as thinks he is. Hayden delivers.
So! Hayden is Kit Gerardo, French privateer and captain of the Sea Flower. Yeah, it’s a sissy name for a ship. Just roll with it. There’s Rhonda Fleming as the beautiful and red-headed lady captain, Captain Rouge. Her ship is the Witch, which is slightly more badass but also rather underused. Ah well, budgets must have been tight, that’s understandable. There’s another lovely and also headstrong damsel, Helena Carter as Senorita Bianca–the destined bride of Kit’s hated enemy, Captain Del Toro (John Sutton), who is also Governor of Cartagena.
Why hated? Because Del Toro killed Kit’s mother. Dun DUN DUNNNN!
So things happen, rapiers are flourished, headscarves and frilly shirts are worn, cannons are fired, ships are boarded, escapes are made, ransoms are demanded, nubile native dances are danced, you-saved-my-life-debts are repaid, and with one thing and another, Kit ends up in command of the French fleet attacking Cartagena. The attack is preceded by a series of quick stops off at Jamaica to destroy the English supply lines there and prevent the English from aiding the Spaniards. (Huh?…oh well, never mind, we’s on a roll.)
But in the midst of this pillaging, Kit discovers that the plantation he has just torched belongs to none other than Rouge (Jane) herself! She swears revenge! DUN DUN DUNNNN!
Anyhow, Kit’s master plan for taking Cartagena involves e) getting to the powder magazine and f) blowing it up. What about part a-d)? Well, those are: a) getting to Madame Bianca Del Toro, b) seducing her, c) getting the plans of the fortress via, d) promising marriage. Bianca, not being a complete idiot, immediately turns him over to her outraged and jealous husband. Who…sticks him in the dungeon to await a fair trial, instead of, as she demands, hanging him immediately.
Why? Well, because Kit is actually Del Toro’s son! (DUN DUN DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNN). Oh, this movie is just awesome.
Will Rouge get revenge? Will Del Toro be forced to kill our hero? Will Kit fulfil his mission and be handsomely rewarded by the French government? The answers are to be found within about ten minutes, so there’s really no point in pondering them all too deeply. Just know that it all gets wrapped up and tied with a flourish and a tip of the hat to the ladies, too.
Do I have to discuss how this movie has strong female characters? It has some really interesting strong–and extremely feminine–female characters. They fall in love–they fight back–they defend their honor and maintain their dignity with words if they can and pistols if they must, suss out motivations and psych out the opposition. No, they don’t engage in any sword fighting themselves (if it had been Maureen O’Hara, on the other hand….)–but they hardly need to. These women are dangerous enough without having to raise their hand in anger. And that’s about all that needs to be said. Oh, they also look really, really pretty in Technicolor.
My favorite part: womanizing Kit has a bit where, if a lady is dubious, he offers her a pistol and promises to let her shoot him if he makes a single improper advance. We see him do this to two wenches early on in the film–and then he tries it on Jane. Several minutes later (as Kit’s men are scraping him off the deck): “I knew he’d pull that pistol trick once too often!” Snerk.
Whirlpool (1950) – starring Gene Tierney, Charles Bickford, Richard Conte (the poor man’s Gary Merill), and Jose Ferrer. It was directed by Otto Preminger, who also directed a bunch of other famous noirs you may have heard of and I have watched.
This is a melodrama, not a noir, and this is made evident by the climactic gunfight and desperate chase through alleyways of shifting shadows and muy chiaroscuro completely not happening.
Basically, Gene Tierney is the loving–but deeply troubled–wife of a doctor who has gained prominence and fame as a psychoanalyst. He’s kind of a jackass, though, because although she comes from money, he’s insisted that she take up with him from scratch as a poor doctor’s wife (….what a doofus) and this has combined with her previous money/daddy/control issues. Her form of lashing out is kleptomania, but the side effects are anxiety and severe insomnia. And unfortunately an attempted theft brings her into the orbit of hypnotist and conman “Dr” Korvo.
Tierney is persuaded that Korvo can cure her insomnia via hypnotism. Naturally, he has additional plans: to whit, framing her for murder–and her efforts to make their meetings platonic and public end up backfiring….especially to her husband. Korvo, meanwhile, has what looks like an air-tight alibi: while the murder occurred at eight o’clock, he was having his gall bladder removed at six. Everyone also proceeds to not ask obvious questions such as, “what about accomplices?” “could a physically unimpressive woman have strangled another woman without any signs of struggle whatsoever?” or, “If there’s a police doctor who is also a psychologist, why doesn’t Ann just talk to him? Or even her lawyer?”
Nevertheless, the movie’s great strength is Gene Tierney. Someone who struggled with mental illness and personal tragedies, she’s incredible watchable and sympathetic as someone struggling with mental illness and the resultant incredible difficulty that having to doubt everything your brain tells you causes. Also she’s incredibly beautiful and intensely charismatic. Watching her, you’re in it for the character and her troubles, instead of the (honestly pretty thin) plot.
The rest of the cast fades in comparison, but is still pretty darned good when considered alone. Jose Ferrer is controlled and eternally-smug, even while bleeding out. Conte is far less sympathetic than he could be, but that’s rather the point of his character. Bickford, playing the homicide detective and faced with the over-the-top emotional shenanigans, is wry rather than ascerbic and fair when he could be harsh.
Still, honestly, the lack of fistfights, gunfights, car chases, or at the very least some intense interplay of light and shadow while walking down the street to an old-school orchestra while bad guys are lurking at the other end–or something–really does add up.
The Tattered Dress is a 1957 noir-slash-courtroom drama. And it’s an excellent little movie.
The opening scenes show a smiling woman in a torn-up dress waltzing home, not particularly concerned about this, but, in a nicely framed sequence (the camera remains outside the house, looking in through the opulent glass doors, without sound), the wind gets taken abruptly out of her sails when her husband grabs a gun. They ride back into town, and her husband coldly shoots down the man who ripped her dress.
Enter Jim Blane, a hotshot trial lawyer from New York (the setting is small-town Nevada). He’s damn good and he knows it. When the Restons (the couple from the opening scenes) wanted the best damn sleazeball criminal lawyer they could get, they went out and got him. But Jim, for better or worse, is isn’t merely a total heel, only mostly one. The next twenty-odd minutes are Blane setting up for the trial, making the acquaintance of the avuncular-but-way-smarter-than-he-looks Sheriff, Nick Hoak, making the much closer acquaintance of Mrs. Reston, and dodging the verbal jabs of his old friend/nemesis, a reporter who Has A Conscience and doesn’t mind tweaking Jim’s a little. (pwahaha, sometimes these old movies are adorable.)
Jim, an attack dog on the stand, interrogates Sheriff Hoak mercilessly, and manages to create enough of a doubt about Hoak’s credibility and the deceased’s character. He gets the Restons off, and wow, he’s worth every penny they paid him, because that was textbook first degree murder.
Nevertheless, this is when the trouble really starts. See, Nick Hoak wasn’t pleased to be made a fool of on the witness stand. He’s especially not happy to have it done by an out-of-towner whom he made friendly overtures to earlier in the picture. He’s probably also not happy that the murderer of his friend got off scot-free, but mostly, it’s just the dent to his own prestige and power that smarts. A grand jury has subpoenaed Jim for bribing a juror–and with Hoak on the team doing the investigating, it seems incredibly unlikely to turn up any exculpatory evidence. Jim, to put it bluntly, is screwed unless he can (spot the irony) find a really good lawyer to defend him.
Spoiler: You know that old saying about a lawyer who defends himself has a fool for a client? Yep. Jim’s closing statement (after his aggressive tactics blow up in his face…twice) boils down to a naked plea to the jury: “Yes, I am a slimy criminal defense lawyer. I know it. I’m not proud of it. (Anymore). Also, I’m not guilty of the crime I am accused of, and you guys know it; please don’t put me in jail just because I deserve it on account of my other actions.” Another reviewer pointed out that he probably got off only because everyone in town knew how crooked the Sheriff was already. Nevertheless.
This is a movie driven by its performances: Jim, a mostly-heel who gets the wind knocked out of him and is forced to confront who and what he is, is well-portrayed by the chiseled Jeff Chandler (also see: Sign of the Pagan, Flame of Araby, Female on the Beach, although come to think of it, he’s a heel in all of those. I believe Chandler was somewhat more heroic in his Westerner roles). He’s someone who has enormous gifts, who has worked for them, and takes their rewards for granted–until they get him into trouble and there is no sign of them getting him out.
Nick Hoak (Jack Carson), the genial and corrupt ex-football player Sheriff is really good.–he’s exactly the mix of good-ol’-boy playing dumb, geniality, and concealed nastiness to make it clear from the outset that he’s way smarter, way tougher, and way more dangerous than he seems.
The third outstanding performance in this movie is by Jeanne Crain, as Diane Blane, Jim’s estranged, long-suffering wife. She won’t stand for her husband sleeping around on her, but she will stand with him to protect his future and their children’s. She’s really an excellent example of what Caroline Furlong designated a Type 3 heroine (click through for discussion on types 1-2 also): one whose power is in her emotional strength, and whose influence on the plot comes indirectly through her influence, rather than directly, through her actions (or action scenes.) Diane keeps Jim’s ego in check, encourages him, and gives him hope and strength when he needs it.–and does it all without sacrificing a shred of her self-respect, or once raising her voice or her hand. (At one point, Jim, hoping he’s going to get lucky, reminds her that they are still legally married. Diane matches his bedroom eyes and murmurs calmly back: “Did that stop you with Charleen Reston?” Burn unit, stat.) And, if that still sounds like faint praise, let me add that the proof might be in the viewing. I ended the movie with a resounding admiration for Diane Blane, because she is one strong, classy lady in a way you don’t often see.
Also playing her part quite well (but with only a few scenes to do it in) is Gail Russell (also see: Wake of the Red Witch), who mostly has to look frightened, and then also to look (spoiler!) murderous. Also of interest: the trampy Mrs. Reston was played by Elaine Stewart, who played Audie Murphy’s good-girl love interest in Night Passage. Okay, maybe not that interesting, but interesting that’s a good little movie, too. It also has Dan Duryea and Jimmy Stewart. Man, we used to have actors, didn’t we…
So I have been a fan of Peter Cushing for a long time, and who hasn’t? He’s been the Grand Moff Tarkin, Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Blyss (aka, Dr. Syn, the Scarecrow of Romney Marsh), Van Helsing….and….Victor Frankenstein. (Also, apparently, Mr. Darcy in a TV Pride and Prejudice miniseries? Hah. I’d pay money to see that. Can you even begin to imagine the snideness?) Christopher Lee–not that you would recognize him, or want to–also got his start in this movie, because, I guess, if you’re 6’5 and really good at shambling and glaring, you’ve got it made. And then there’s also Robert Urquhart as Paul Kempe and a couple of miscellaneous 60s-era Hammer Horror babes as the love interests. Obviously, though, the show belongs to Cushing and Lee.
Basically, I don’t have a lot to say extra about this movie. It’s perfectly cast, it’s fast-moving, it’s scary (or at least horrifying, or at least it is to me), it’s got thrills and kills and, if you have about 90 minutes of your life and nothing else worthwhile to do, it’s a pretty good way to fill that time.
So the movie begins with a minister paying a visit to the imprisoned Baron Frankenstein, who, even knowing he is within a few hours of the gallows, is more intent on insisting to the impassive padre that he listen to his side of the tale. This leads us directly into flashback-land. Turns out, Victor was an arrogant–and highly intelligent–twerp from puberty on up, with a keen interest in biology and a keener sense of his own importance.
He, together with his once-tutor and later co-discoverer, Paul, bring a drowned puppy to life. Exactly why this involves things as many bubbling and/or gently steaming beakers in as many colors as it does is kind of a mystery, but science! I suppose. Paul is jubilant at the thought of the practical medical and scientific knowledge they can share….Victor, on the other hand, is all for keeping their newfound powers, er, I mean, scientific discoveries, to himself. Ourselves, I mean. Until they’ve perfected it! Until they create the perfect man! The man with the hands of the artist and the mature brain of a genius!
Now….just to be clear, Paul takes some convincing. Just….not a lot. And you’d think that outright gibbet-robbing would take more than a single “we are like unto gods” monologue, but it’s with barely more than a dubious expression he helps Victor collect a body. And then we get a brilliant line: “What are you going to do with that?” “Take the head off. It’s no use to me, anyway.”
The giant, open-topped vat of acid in the back room, however, could potentially be exceedingly important, er, I mean useful.
Victor, struck by a sudden flight of scientific inspiration, dips out. I will take a moment to say that no one other than Peter Cushing could play this role this way: someone completely devoted to their vision of science! (and also personal gratification therein,) utterly lacking in morals, but also deeply steeped in polite behavior and gentlemanly manners and as such, completely at ease within the standards of admittable behavior in society. Also, he looks really good in a cravat (why did those things go out of style in the first place?)
This is perhaps why he has not one but two love interests: the housemaid Justine, with whom he is already having an affair; and Elizabeth, his cousin, with whom he has an arranged marriage upcoming. Elizabeth arrives somewhat early, and there’s what would be, in less competent hands, a wonderfully awkward four-way, eight-sided discussion when she, Justine, Paul, and then Victor all meet up in the doorway.
Then Victor dips straight out again, because he’s, well, got to go put his new stolen hands into a bubbling beaker before they start to go bad or something.
Paul tries to impress on him that it’s about time to stop. Why, you might ask? Is it because going cross-country to steal a dead artist’s hands off his body is the action of a crazy person? Nope. Is it because it’s illegal? Nope. Is it because by meddling with Things Man Was Not Meant To Know is intrinsically harmful to sanity and humanity? Nope. Is it because that vat of acid definitely doesn’t meet OSHA standards? Of course not.
It’s because a) the hot girl who just walked in would be pretty disturbed to find that her fiance is trying to resurrect the dead, you are interested in hot girls, Victor, right? Right? Victor, are you listening to me? Victor? Oh, and also, b)I’m interested in hot girls and also my sanity.
So Paul attempts to persuade Elizabeth to leave. Unfortunately, she’s attached to the idea of marrying Victor.
Anyhow, Paul sidles up to the laboratory (did you pronounce that with five syllables?). Victor attempts to gloat to him a bit, but is put back on the defensive by his erstwhile tutor’s insistence that what he’s doing is evil and reckless. Once again, not that he really recognizes it as defense, he’s mostly just hurt and puzzled that his brilliant ideas aren’t being recognized and lauded the way they should be. Well, yes, true, the Creature is hideous. And yes, he’s been robbing graves (“What doctor or scientist doesn’t?”–the man has a point), but as far as the actual mind, he’s planning on implanting only the best! in his Creature. The brain of a genius. Of superior intellect. Of a lifetime of knowledge!
Also, he’s just invited the illustrious, elderly Professor Bernstein for a visit.
So naturally, about thirty seconds later, Victor is down in the vault prying the lid off the coffin. He’s just gotten the brain into a glass jar when Paul wanders in. Y’know, got to wonder about Paul: he absolutely knows what’s going on is beyond wrong–for reasons apart from the approval or disapproval of hot girls–not to mention illegal; but he really isn’t doing anything about it. He attempts to apprise Victor of the wrongness of this path, but he never actually uses any persuasive tack that Victor would actually recognize, such as: society will never recognize your genius; or, you will get in trouble for this and your work will be destroyed and ignored. Not to mention, the only time he raises an actual finger to stop Victor is now…and he half-asses it utterly, too.
Paul succeeds in smashing the glass jar against the wall–causing Victor to show the first actual emotional distress in the entire movie–and then follows up by….leaving the room. He then goes to Elizabeth and tries to convince her to leave, too. But, note, without using any words to the effect of, “Victor is doing immoral and illegal acts up in his laboratory (FIVE SYLLABLES), he’s not gonna stop, we need to get out of here before everything blows up in his face and ours.” In fact! When Elizabeth asks what is up in that laboratory (FIVE SYLLABLES!) he specifically denies that it’s “Wicked or insane.”–merely that Victor is blind to the consequences of his actions.
DUDE, YOUR PROBLEM. IT’S RIGHT THERE. IT IS WICKED AND INSANE BY DICTIONARY DEFINITION AND ALSO CRIMINALLY ILLEGAL, HELLO.
Elizabeth, as any woman would who is hearing bad things about the man a man she is dependent on and also desperately wants to be in love with, throws him out.
(Victor is fishing glass shards out of the Professor’s brain and apparently doesn’t like the odds on snagging another genius brain, because he’s started procedures going in the Tank of Bubbles.) Needless to say, there’s also a thunderstorm going on. Having started the flywheel at full speed ahead and all supplementary flasks at Maximum Bubble, Victor goes off to ask Paul for help….only for a direct lightning strike to supercharge the generators while they’re still downstairs arguing.
(Victor has the most amazing fraction-of-a-second almost-smile before the Creature reveals his face and then tries to strangle him, but I can’t freeze-frame quickly enough to get a screenshot of it.)
And then by the next morning, it’s escaped into the woods, where an old blind man and a cute young boy are gathering wood by the side of a river, and, interestingly, the Creature is wearing clothes now. It–he?–also seems at least as much discombobulated by the terrified blind man as he is of him….at first, anyway.
Anyway, the safari catches up with the Creature pretty soon, and then Paul shoots it in the face with a shotgun, which can’t be good for what’s left of it’s (his??) brain, either. And now he’s dead and they bury it.
Man, these guys. These guys! AS THEY ARE BURYING THE BODY OF A STITCHED-TOGETHER CORPSE MADE OF PARTS THEY HAVE ACTIVELY ROBBED FROM GRAVES, Paul is still going on about how Victor has done “monstrous acts”, “monstrous,” I tell you! Done with that shovel yet? No? Tamp down that end of the mound a little bit more, ‘kay? And Victor, for his part, is going “I’ll never forgive you for this. Evah! Wait, where are you storming off to? COME BAAAACK!” YOU GUYS ARE MORONS.
Naturally, the next scene is Victor in his laboratory (five syllables), and Paul walking in to bid his farewell. He’s no longer needed there, after all, of course. NOT THAT HE DID A DAMN THING WHILE HE WAS THERE, MIND YOU, but whatever. His work is done. You know, after having helped raise and educate this man, and stood beside him while he started his work, and then stood back while he continued it, done. Whatever lets you sleep at night, man.
So, no matter what else you can say about this movie, it’s got multiple things going for it: the actors, their performances, the tight scripting and fast pace…and by golly, it’s got the very freakiest of freaky designs for The Creature. Apparently Christopher Lee had to eat his lunches alone, because no one else on set wanted to sit anywhere near him. Dude.
Victor is a fairly simple creature, really. All he wants to do is be left alone (with the occasional other person to come by now and again and tell him how brilliant he is) to work on his projects, and also screw over conduct household affairs in peace. Whyyyy?! this can’t just happen is something of a mystery to him. And to him only. The former (Paul) source of gratification has gone, and the latter is about to blow up in his face, as Justine reveals that she’s pregnant, jealous, and desperate.
Thing is, despite his single-mindedness and arrogance, Victor isn’t actually stupid, and he’s a fairly adept manipulator when he wants to be and when he actually can understand what people want and are motivated by. Unlike Paul, who has always been wishy-washy, Justine doesn’t make any bones of the fact that she wants Victor to marry her or else she’ll turn him over the authorities.
Now, here’s another thing to say about this movie: it moves fast. There really isn’t any wasted time: things happen. For instance: we skip directly from ahead ahead to the wedding rehearsal. Or at least, to some guy rehearsing his wedding toasts before his wife drags him off.
Contrast this with Victor’s brush-off of Elizabeth as he heads straight back to the laboratory. (FIVE SYLLABLES!) Paul arrives, gormless as ever, and heads up to the laboratory (FIVE SYLLABLES!), where oh my gosh, Victor is preparing some food for the Creature?! OH MY GOSH. THIS MOVIE.
OKAY, I’m not sure whether it’s my lunch sitting queasily or it’s really just this movie hitting home the way it does, but this is genuinely disturbing to me. Like, seeing the Creature tied up, and then it hides its face, it’s creeping me the hell out.
Victor has to have a gloat, naturally, and then has to display his mastery over the Creature for Paul’s benefit. Oh ye gods. Credits to Christopher Lee, it’s really genuinely disturbing to watch it flail around to obey while he orders it up and down like a dog. (Although I also think that curry mix was expired.) And, naturally, Paul isn’t impressed with this–especially when Victor points out that the damage to the superior brain was his fault to begin with.
But! The final straw! Is when Victor admits that, well, try and try again. And again. And again! if need be. With superior brains each time, naturally. Paul storms out to notify the law for real this time….WALKING DIRECTLY PAST ELIZABETH AND OUT THE DOOR AT WHICH POINT VICTOR ALSO RUSHES PAST HER AND OUT THE DOOR ALSO.
Did we mention that the laboratory (FIVE SYLLLABLES) is unlocked and standing open right now?
ARGH. Also, B-T-DUBS, there is a grand total of five minutes left in this movie. Wow.
Anyhow, all parties (except Paul, who has buggered off again, NATURALLY), end up on the roof, Elizabeth gets shot, the Creature gets set on fire and did we mention that giant vat of acid? Yeah.
We cut back to the jail cell, where Victor is trying to persuade the preacher and then Paul turns up to…be completely passive-aggressive and refuse to utter a word about this whole business, leaving Victor–you know, the man he TAUGHT FROM A, yes, indeed, snotty and obnoxious and arrogant, KID–there to scream incoherently and die with everyone believing he’s an insane criminal murderer.
Well, I mean, yeah, it’s true, but it’s true for the wrong reasons, and Paul’s still a little bitch.
AND IT TURNS OUT ELIZABETH IS STILL ALIVE OKAY WHAT?!
And then Baron Frankenstein is led to the guillotine, THE END.
“He’s in uniform, where’s his regiment?”
“He was disbanded….sent home.”
“Why can’t he put on civilian clothes? Or any clothes?”
“Is he the gambler?”
“No, he’s the gambler’s son.”
“He should have known that was coming. Shouldn’t grab someone and push him.”
“What, did he hit first?…he didn’t turn the other cheek.”
“He looks like Burt Lancaster right there.”
“That is not Burt Lancaster.”
“Yes, but he looks like Burt Lancaster.”
“He don’t look like Burt Lancaster.”
“Unless she’s married to him.”
“And then she said, I’ll wait.”
[“K, that jacket’s real smart-looking, put it on. Let’s see it!” “It’s not ironed yet.”]
“Ohhh, women rivalry now. The sophisticated and then the boat girl.”
“Who is this girl?”
“Madame Somebody Sophisticated.”
“Is her umbrella going up or down? ’cause I can’t tell.”
“I dunno who did her lipstick, it looks terrible.”
“That upside down umbrella ain’t gonna do her a lick of good.”
“Remember that, a lady does not allow the situation to get beyond her control. Good wisdom!”
“They going ‘oh,’ she going ‘ah,’ I dunno what they’re talking about.”
“What’s the name of this movie? The night of the who?”
“He’s gonna get infected, he’s crawling through the swamp with a knife wound!”
[“Never trust anything you buy in the Philippines! Look at this!” “Are you still ironing that jacket?” “I may have to send it to the cleaners.”]
“He’s not gonna be like Tarzan, take a reed and go underwater?”
“He didn’t even give him a chance. ‘Hello.’ Wham!”
“Good night, this man is more than heavy set. Good night. He’s huge.”
“Oh look at her green eye makeup….and she just dove into the water and got out. Got her makeup done already!”
“The other one scorning him because his father was a gambler, she’s in love with him because he’s a gambler….oh the irony.”
“Oh, she’s got false eyelashes…green eyeshadow…red lips…bare shoulders…her skirt got a split in the middle….all she needs is a shimmy.”
“Oh no they DO NOT have a naked person in a statue in the middle of town.”
“They have a statue of a naked person in the middle of town. ’cause they French.”
[“Are you still ironing that jacket after thirty minutes?! K. Put it down. Put it down, now! You know if that had been your husband’s shirt it’d have been on the floor long ago. You’re obsessed with that shirt! How much did it cost, 3 dollars?’ “SIX!”]
“What’s he going to do, gamble them out of their money?”
[“I should say, I paid, ‘three thousand pesos’ for that thing.” “Which is what, six dollars?” “Which is a lot of money!” “What is one million pesos, one hundred dollars?”]
” ‘My father was only a customer, you have no friends.’ What does that mean?”
“Means he would sell him out if he was paid, and he was paid, and he did sell him out.”
“Oh lord, don’t tell me they gon’ come kill this man!”
“They’re looking at her like she’s a skank.”
“Never known a woman who what?”
“Looked good in the morning.”
“Now, she is gonna be a fool if she doesn’t know her brother any better than that.”
(Gasp!) “They murdered him! And they’re gonna say he did it! Because he’s right down the hall.”
“How are they getting him in there?!”
“Through the balcony. And then they’re gonna put the knife on him, so they can say he did it. It’s so easy to figure out.”
“Now, he gave the knife to the sister, knowing she was going to give the knife to him, and that they took the man and were probably going to kill him. He ought to know they’re going to set him up!”
“….that’s the one you said was going to fall off the building, Riders?”
“Hee, saying I don’ want no kissy kiss on my forehead.”
“Where did dueling come from, the French or the British?”
“What’d she say?”
“She said, I’m gonna marry you pretty soon, you just wait.”
“She staked her claim!”
“Pale and skinny.”
“Teehee. She pale and skinny. That’s a good one.”
“She bit her?!”
“That is foolish, you know. To gamble away a boat! Foolish!”
“Who let her out of the pen?”
“Course, when he wins, someone is going to stand up and try to shoot the other person. Bam. You can tell what’s going to happen.”
“So whoever wins gets both? The boat and the farm? Why would he do that!?”
“Now he’s gonna pull out the gun.”
“There he goes….oh, he got a sword.”
“He’s lost everything, now he’s going to lose his life.”
“He’s trying to go out in honor….which is dishonor in his case.”
“Now, the women are just watching….including us.”
“It sounds like pots in the kitchen. Bang bang bang!”
“Now give that woman back her farm! Her plantation! Because she doesn’t have nothing. He’s got to marry her off or something.”
“Put her mouth on him and he been kissing on that other woman?! I’d be slapping his face and handing him a bar of soap!”
[A/N: there was one Jamaican, one Trinidadian, and one Brooklynite in the audience. Distribute accents as you see fit.]
“Do people talk in this movie?”
“I’m gonna need my notebook, aren’t I?”
“She takes down what people say during movies.”
“It’s for her blog.”
“It gets her clicks!”
“What’s the storyline? Can you fastforward it?”
“She’s easily bored.”
“You don’t say.”
“I like diversity in my movies! Are there any black persons in this movie?”
“What is this, were they fighting and now they are friends?”
“It’s how it used to work in the west.”
“Is this a scifi western?”
“Then why does he keep getting shot and not dying?”
“Doctor takin’ care of him and he making a fuss?”
“Men are the worst…patients. The worst patients.”
“….S, you are married!”
“I’m just sayin’!”
“Why he have on a choir robe now?”
“That looks like a ‘joyful, joyful!’ choir robe, man!”
“It’s a Judge’s robe! Don’t you watch Judge Judy?”
“She have clothes on under her robes, man!”
“Oh I see what you mean, he has nothing on under the robe! Where’s his shirt?”
“See? And him in court, man!”
“He just came out of the doctor.”
“He had time to drink and smoke but he have no time to put on a shirt?”
“He was smoking the whole time, he just had time for one drink.”
“This is the wholesome show? With drinking and smoking and shoot outs?”
“But there’s no language!”
“So I could drink and smoke and it be O.K., so long as I don’t swear?”
“He has too much of a high-pitched voice for a cowboy.”
“He’s not a cowboy, he’s the judge’s assistant.”
“….it’s too highpitched.”
“So the town had no sheriff before him? How can a town function like that?”
“It’s how stuff happened back then.”
“Over here in America it is how stuff happened back then.”
“It’s how everything was back then everywhere!”
“All the towns are tough!…stop writing everything I say.”
“Are they on a houseboat?”
“How they cooking on a houseboat? Propane?”
“They had propane back in those days?”
“Look at the egg!”
“That’s not good hangover food!—he’s going to vomit.”
“You watched it before?”
“No! I have been in this situation before and I know how you handle it? You see him? He is a pro! Him, he is a rookie!”
“I don’t know much about movies….you gonna write that?”
“No, it’s not funny enough.”
“[shriek of laughter]”
“A little harlot there.”
“What did you call her?”
“She said she was a Harley?”
“She said she was a little harlot!”
“Well, she is!”
“She is dressed like one, look.”
“It’s a nice dress…”
(“What is a blog?”)
“Did you hear that? They ask him about ‘passage money,’ and he says, ‘do not bother me with trifles!’ I am going to start using that line in real life now.”
[Trini]: “Black person!”
[Jamaica]: “He is really black.”
[Trini]: “And what are you?”
[Jamaica]: “I’m black.”
[Trini]: “Yes! You are black!”
[Jamaica]: “He is really black, though.”
[Trini]: “But what are you?!”
“Pancakes! Pancakes existed then?”
“I like his dress. He is very neat. I hate a sloppy male.”
“Is this a love story? They fall in love?”
“Look at the man’s suit. Why the males don’t dress like this? They so sloppy now!”
“They’re gonna claim the child!”
“Oh, that woman is pushing it! She’s pushing it! She knows he is fake!”
“She also knows he’s good with a gun.”
[Trini] “Riders, how you gonna translate Trinidadian on your blog? I don’t want to be Americanized here. You got to make me be authentic.”
“Why do they always want to break the bank in these old times?”
“Cause that’s where the money was!”
“They have real money back then?”
“They had gold!”
“He’s not very good looking.”
“I don’t like him.”
“He looks plastic.”
“Yeah! He look like a puppet.”
“You know why he walkin’ backwards facing them?”
“That’s so he’ll be able to pull his gun!”
“I do not like that man, he’s got a puppet face!”
“Everybody going back? Why?”
“They want to hit the bank.”
“Without proper preparation?”
“They all goin’ die.”
“Did they adopt him?”
“The Judge sent him over.”
“Why? To spy on them?”
“No, because he is supposed to be with them because they’ll give him a better home.”
“He come with his gun and suitcase!”
“Ohhh, her little ovaries tingling, you know! Her ovaries tingling, you know…Riders, you are taking my best things, I will not be able to say any of these things in real life now. Copyright everything [Trini Girl]!”
“Aha, in his choir robe he is shooting them!…oh no, this time he is dressed!”
“That horse walked backwards!”
“They are capable of doing that.”
“See, I like this person. She likes my movies.”
“I am enjoying this movie, too. Ish.”
“Wait, what happened at the shootout at the bank?”
“They all died. Ish.”
“[Redacted redacted redacted, redacted. Redacted!] Do not write that! Do not write that!”
“Are you coming to watch the movie, Auntie?”
“Please let the movie continue.”
“Oh, so, do you guys know Lord of the Rings? Do you know how long Lord of the Rings is? Do you know she once stood there and watched the entire movie standing there?”
“I am better now. I am going to sit down. Continue!”
(“Lord of the Rings is like seventeen hundred hours long, no?” “What is Lord of the Rings? That is the one where they are like, traveling in the mountains or something?” “It is the thing with the Ring, and the ‘my precious’ and the Dobby person…no, not Dobby…” “Shhhhhhhhhhhhh.” “Oh, shh, okay. Yes. Sh.”)
“Oh! A sheriff!”
“Is that him talking about himself?”
“Can he hear?”
“Yup! That’s an ‘I heard’ face!”
[Auntie who walked in late]: “Who is he! That wicked man?”
“He is the good guy actually? He is a Judge.”
“Is he a good guy?”
“OK, so, the Sheriff guy is actually an outlaw who is pretending to be the Sheriff because the real Sheriff fell off a cliff…accidentally…and he went into town and has been being Sheriff, and doing a real good job protecting the town—“
“—because he’s protecting his bank! See him talking, like it’s “his” bank! When he just want to rob it!”
“Yeah, and there’s this other guy and a girl, but they’re not important right now.”
“Is that a baby horse for him, that is adorable. DO NOT WRITE THAT DOWN.”
[Brooklyn-but-lives-in-the-country-and-knows-the-difference]: “It’s not a foal!”
“It’s a pony.”
“It is a pony?”
“It’s a big pony!”
“Technically, a pony is any horse below a certain height.”
“So that’s a horse.”
“They know him?”
“That’s the guy!”
“Who guy, the puppet face?”
“His face doesn’t move when he talks!”
“That’s what I said, he’s a puppet!”
“They could just shoot him in his back, but—“
“Don’t turn your back!—“
“—But there’s other cowboys and men around, so he’s ok.”
“Oh, he is ok.”
“OH NO! He’s dead!”
“No, no, no, they save him, they save him!….this is an emotional turmoil!”
“You see children, they get you in trouble!”
“What happened to him?”
“He got mash-up!”
“Who is she?”
“She’s his fake wife!”
“She’s his…fake wife?”
“She’s there for the bank, too.”
“Uh oh! What now!?”
“That music! That music make me know something going’ happen!”
“She is not into you!”
“He better be in that bed, or they have to buss’ his little head up!”
“What a beautiful dress!”
“That is another outfit!”
“She want the Judge to stay there so the Judge can see him there!”
“Women, they just manipulate the situation.”
“So where the little boy?”
“He sleeping. As a child should.”
“So isn’t that the place where no decent woman should be?”
“Well she’s there with her husband and the Judge…”
“He’s a common man! What kind of Judge is that?”
“She like this new life she living in. Doesn’t she? Doesn’t she?—“
“She is a schemer!”
“She likes this life, but she is torn. Riders, confirm this for me.”
“No, confirm it for me for real. Is she not doing this to keep him in sight of the Judge so the Judge cannot blame him for this when the bank is blown up?”
“No, the Judge is going to to blame him anyway.”
“Because they could have had accomplices.”
“This movie is getting worse and worse and worser!”
“NOOOOO!….Riders, make sure you put lots of O’s in my NO.”
“That is a loyal child!”
“Is he there? He hiding between the cows!”
“The bad guy?”
“Why do not just shoot him and kill him!”
“If they shoot, the cows will get nervous.”
“Are they going to shoot him? And kill him?”
“He is a decent guy!”
“They are all decent people! Everyone can change!”
“That is what I am also saying!”
(“Are you putting that she is saying this in a Trinidadian accent?”)
“It was a wholesome movie….minus the whole common law shacking up before they are married thing!”
“They got married in the end!”
“You must shun the appearance of evil! And they were living together!”
“Yes, but he was sleeping in a bathtub.”
“That is true.”
“That was a nice movie Riders, who would have thought!”