Goings On: Whale, Romero, and More

On Film / The Daily — Oct 27, 2017


New York. Hank and Jim, running at Film Forum from today through November 16, is a companion series to Scott Eyman’s new book, Hank and Jim: The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart. Today “offers back-to-back Hitchcock movies,” notes Ben Kenigsberg in the New York Times. “In Rope, Mr. Stewart serves as the voice of moral reason while foiling a pair of Leopold-Loeb-like killers’ pre-dinner-party murder; in The Wrong Man, Mr. Fonda plays a jazz musician who through a series of cosmically cruel coincidences is mistaken for a holdup man. Saturday provides a dual lesson in civic responsibility: Mr. Stewart is a credit to the Senate in Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Mr. Fonda shows the virtues of being an open-minded juror in Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men.

The BAMcinématek series Holy Blood: Mexican Horror Cinema opens today and runs through Thursday. Alan Scherstuhl in the Village Voice: “The ten-film series boasts a couple of canonized works (Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Santa Sangre [1989], Felipe Cazals’s Canoa: A Shameful Memory [1976]); a pair of warm but still scarifying psychological slow-burners (Guillermo del Toro’s Cronos [1993], Carlos Enrique Taboada’s Poison for the Fairies [1984]); one flesh-rending Seventies softcore spree (Juan López Moctezuma’s Alucarda [1977]); a clutch of dead-serious black-and-white beauties that create a state of gothic delirium (Fernando Méndez’s El Vampiro [1957], Chano Urueta’s The Witch’s Mirror [1962], Rafael Baledón’s The Curse of the Crying Women [1963]); and one skull-puncturing, centuries-defiling goof (Urueta’s El Barón del Terror [1962]), made all the more gloriously funny and fascinating by the fact that it, too, is often dead serious, even as its furry rubber-masked Ferengi of a warlock sucks brains out of heads via a forked proboscis-like tongue.”

Also in the Village Voice, Kristen Yoonsoo Kim urges New Yorkers to give George A. Romero’s “lesser loved but deserving” Day of the Dead (1985), screening this weekend at the Nitehawk, “a chance. After all, Romero himself said that this gut-spilling nightmare was his personal favorite from his own filmography.”

Photographing a Ghost is a program curated by Caroline Golum for Light Industry that explores “the overlap between the early days of cinema and the Spiritualism craze of the late-19th and early-20th centuries.” Starts at 8pm on Tuesday.

Actress Zita Johann “studied spiritualism and the occult; in the 1920s, by some reports, she levitated.” Kit Duckworth for Screen Slate: “Despite melodramatic trappings, The Sin of Nora Moran (1933) weaves a logic as supernatural as any resurrection—and features Johann’s finest film performance.” It screens tonight as part of MoMA’s series Strange Illusions: Poverty Row Classics Preserved by UCLA.

Los Angeles. On Wednesday, the New Beverly presents Stuart Heisler’s Tokyo Joe (1949). “While it may not seem like much at first, its invocation of postwar existential isolation is present in the character of Joe Barrett (Humphrey Bogart),” writes Ariel Schudson. “This film questions the necessity of war, nationalist sentiment and deeply examines who really suffers in a landscape where violence and patriotism are the going currency.”

Chicago. Tonight “at Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago Film Studies Center presents Tod Browning’s silent shocker The Unknown (1927), with live accompaniment by local musicians Kent Lambert and Sam Wagster,” notes the Reader’s J. R. Jones, “and on Halloween night at Northeastern Illinois University Auditorium, Chicago Film Society screens The Seventh Victim (1943), the most unnerving of the legendary B movies produced by Val Lewton at RKO Pictures. A new 4K restoration of the late George A. Romero’s epochal Night of the Living Dead (1968) opens Friday at Music Box, and Gene Siskel Film Center has a new restoration of James Whale’s overlooked gem The Old Dark House (1932). None of these relics will let you down, but The Unknown and The Old Dark House are of particular interest because they showcase the talents of Browning and Whale, two pillars of the American horror movie.”

When The Old Dark House screened as part of the New York Film Festival’s Revivals program and then at the Quad, Michael Sragow wrote for Film Comment: “Mysterious people locked away in upstairs rooms had been a staple of Gothic fiction since before Jane Eyre, and silent hits like The Bat and The Cat and the Canary had combined laughs and shocks in mysterious mansions. Whale upped the ante on all of them when he made this movie. It’s a jet-black comedy about rural reactionaries shocking metropolitans out of complacency, flippancy, and existential paralysis. Thoroughly and blessedly unpretentious, utterly rooted in its time and place, it nonetheless takes on the patina of a fable.”

“Released for Halloween 1932, this film adaptation of J.B. Priestley’s novel was the witty forerunner to less elegant vehicles for the Bowery Boys and Bob Hope; TV sitcoms like The Addams Family and The Munsters; and, most notably, The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” wrote J. Hoberman in the New York Times. The Old Dark House “opens on a dark and stormy night with a bickering young couple, Margaret Waverton (Gloria Stuart) and her husband, Philip (Raymond Massey), and their insouciantly wisecracking friend, Roger Penderel (Melvyn Douglas), motoring through rural Wales. After the weather forces them to abandon their car, they seek shelter at an ominous-looking house. The hulking creature that opens the door (an unrecognizable Boris Karloff) would scare anyone back into the monsoon.”

Ryan Kane for Screen Slate: “Like Hitchcock's Rebecca, this haunted house contains no ghosts but rather the remnants of a collective psychological trauma from the family—often taking a spectral form in fractured reflections and animate shadows upon a terrorized Gloria Stuart. Eighty-six years later, this film remains refreshingly idiosyncratic and marvelously skates between an eerie mood piece and a self-referential parody, a black comedy that would pave way to future generations of disturbed families and their unwelcome guests, from Spider Baby to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

It “is to being trapped in a scary house what Frankenstein is to deranged scientists playing God,” writes the Village Voice’s Alan Scherstuhl. “It’s the movies’ pure headwaters of the very idea.”

Even as Janus Films is sending that new restoration of Night of the Living Dead out on a tour of North America, on Wednesday, Romero got his posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. As Jonathan Barkan reports at Dread Central, Edgar Wright and special effects make-up artist Greg Nicotero were on hand for the ceremony—and he’s got video.

“In 1972, I spoke with Romero in Pittsburgh for Filmmakers Newsletter Magazine,” writes Alex Ben Block, and Variety’s posted the full interview.

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