The Collector (1965) William Wyler

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    Freddie Clegg (Terrance Stamp) is an awkward, unsociable butterfly collector. After winning the national lottery, Clegg quits his job as a clerk at a bank and buys a large English estate in the countryside. Oh yes, on the property is a bastion like cellar. Clegg has been stalking the beautiful Miranda Grey (Samantha Eggar), a young art student, who he has developed a fixation on, eventually kidnaps and holds prisoner in the cellar. Clegg is not a rapist nor does he want a ransom. He is a rather prudish young man, the, opposite of the mod swingin’ 60’s generation we would expect to see in England at that time. He desires is for Miranda to fall in love with him. As his “guest”, he serves her food, brings her books, paper to draw on and is always dressed in a proper suit. At times, he seems more like a servant than a captor. After various attempts to escape, Miranda tries to bargain her way to a release by agreeing to be a good “guest” and  not try to escape, however, things do not go well. When Freddie shows Miranda his butterfly collection she asks him “How many did you kill…..think of all the living beauty you ended.”   When she sees her reflection in a glass-encased draw, exhibiting an assortment of butterflies Miranda realizes that she has become part of his collection, just like the butterflies. 

 

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    Freddie’s financial win fall left him unprepared on what to do with his life. He quits his job so he could indulge in his obsession with the beautiful Miranda. Emotionally and educationally underdeveloped he views the world as consisting of two types of people, the haves and the have-nots. Winning the lottery gives him the power to be one of the “haves” therefore he can take what he wants and he took Miranda.

    Unfortunately, Miranda fits Freddie’s warped view of the world. The daughter of a doctor, educated, an art student with a social life, friends and lovers far removed from Freddie’s isolated world. She also is a bit of a snob looking down on her intellectual inferiors and this ends up working to her detriment when it reveals itself in a discussion with Freddie on “The Catcher in the Rye”, and later a Picasso painting. Freddie fails to find Holden Caufield of any interest as a character, nor does he see any significance in the book as Miranda does calling it rubbish.. When discussing a painting by Picasso, Miranda’s try to explain Picasso’s style however, her responses begin to take on a superiority that infuriates and frustrates Freddie, justifying his belief that she lives in an elitist world in which she would never notice him. Thus kidnapping was the only solution to get her to know him.
 collector-eggar1-1  Terrance Stamp is creepy, all knotted up and hunched over.  A magnificent performance though strangely enough, I found there were times that he seemed to be channeling a deranged off kilter version of Stan Laurel. You see it in his clothes, his physical movement and in his speech. This is not negative criticism; I think he gave a wonderful performance as the timid yet disturbed Freddie Clegg, a character who should have a higher ranking in the “celluloid crazies” Hall of Fame. Samantha Eggar gives an amazing performance, scared, bewildered, indignant, terrified and in the end emotionally and physically helpless. Eggar would go on to film other thrillers and horror films of varying quality, from the good (The Brood), to the bad (A Name for Evil). She would become notable for being the last female to co-star with Cary Grant in his final film, the light comedy “Walk, Don’t Run.” Other films Eggar made include the laborious “Dr. Dolittle”, “Return from the Ashes” and “The Molly Macguires.” Eggar would additionally have the dubious distinction of being in the 1973 made of TV movie remake of “Double Indemnity” in which she makes nobody forget how great Barbara Stanwyck was in the role.  

    Film critic Andrew Sarris once wrote that “The Collector”, was the most erotic film to ever to come out past the production code.”  How true. This was 1965 and Samantha Eggar had two nude scenes. Now they are mild scenes considering what is allowed now however, these scenes were provocative for their time. Yet it was not only the nudity that makes the film erotic. Clegg is sexually obsessed with Miranda. He wants her, desires her, yet is so repressed that the only time he can force himself to touch her is when she is lying in his bed unconscious. This scene fades out to black as he begins to caress her body. In the following scene, he tells her that he did not take advantage of her, that he was respectful, while she was in an unconscious state.

   collector21 Sarris also wrote that Wyler’s direction was “horribly impersonal.” Here I believe he was wrong mistaking his “impersonal” style for what is really an unimposing style. Wyler does not let the camera get in the way of the story. His strength is in his visual story telling abilities, the editing, pacing, camera movement and in the believability of his male-female relationships. David Cairns points out in his Sense of Cinema article on Wyler that while the male-female relationships could not be more different in films like “Wuthering Heights”, “Detective Story” and “The Collector”, “they are all perfectly credible and consistent with Wyler’s compassionate but unflinching observation of everything human.”  Wyler was in the final stages of his career at this time making only three more films, the innocuous “How to Steal a Million”, the over blown “Funny Girl” and the uneven but worth seeing “The Liberation of L.B. Jones.”

    “The Collector” is based on English author John Fowles first and best selling 1963 novel of the same name. Both a thriller and a look at class distinction the book was purchased for filming before it was even published. Wyler soon signed on to direct. The screenplay was written by Stanley Mann and John Kohn. According to IMDB, Terry Southern was an uncredited contributor. The film was shot both in Hollywood and in England. Submitted to the Cannes Film Festival in 1965 where it was awarded both best actor and best actress awards.collector-lc

     The filming was not easy for either member of the cast. Terrace Stamp, recently had his first success with “Billy Budd” and according a 1965 TIME Magazine article “put Wyler to the test the  first few days by walking through a retake.” Wyler’s icy stare straighten Stamp out quickly.  Samantha Eggar had it much more difficult. With little professional experience at the time, she was almost fired. There was talk of Natalie Wood as a possible replacement however, both Wyler and Eggar did not give up. Wyler made it obligatory for her to stay on the set during the 43 days of production in Hollywood. Even during lunch, she was not allowed to leave. On weekends, she was forced to rehearse both days, all day long. Actress Kathleen Freeman was brought in to help the inexperienced Eggar. This went on for more than a month. As time went on, Eggar became somewhat rattled and isolated which actually helped her with her characterization whose situation was similar though certainly more dire. There were two scenes requiring nudity. Though mild by today’s standards, since the production code was still in force, Wyler had her do those scenes totally naked, which probably contributed to the overwrought look of her character.  If the film has a fault, it is Maurice Jarre’s music, which is rather off-kilter with the film itself. It makes one wonder what Bernard Hermann could have done with this film.     

    “The Collector” and Freddie Clegg never caught on to the public’s imagination, like Norman Bates and “Psycho.” This may be due to Wyler’s more detached style as opposed to Hitchcock’s. Freddie Clegg and Norman Bates do have some similarities. They both shared awkward social skills; both are loners with little or no contact with the outside world. Freddie collects butterflies while Norman collects stuffed birds. Both men are obsessed with women, Freddie with Miranda and Norman with mother. Like Norman, Freddie is a precursor to the modern serial killers of later films.  The plot device, an individual kidnapping an object of desire, has been used in many films and TV shows since, “Misery” and “Kiss the Girls” being two prime examples. The opening episode of the second season of “Criminal Minds” called “The Fisher King Part 2” uses John Fowles book  “The Collector” as a key piece of evidence in the show. For me, “The Collector” is William Wyler’s last great film. I recommend it highly.

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Bogie

They don’t make them like Bogart anymore. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Humphrey Bogart the greatest American male movie star. A cultural icon who has been immortalized in movies (Breathless, Play it Again, Sam, The Man with Bogart’s Face and the TV movie Bogie), in at least two cartoons, music (Don’t Bogart That Joint, Key Largo), in comic books and even on a U.S. postal stamp . Starting in the 1960’s Bogart became a symbol of rebellion for the emerging counter-culture who embraced the contradictory characteristics of his anti-hero roles in films like Casablanca, In a Lonely Place, High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon. Bogart film festivals on college campus’ and at repertory theaters were common well into the 1970’s.

The Bogart cult began in New York and Boston soon spreading to the rest of the country. The New Yorker Theater in New York City ran a double feature of To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep that broke the house attendance records. That same year, in Cambridge the first Bogart Film Festival was held to large crowds of students.

    Bogart’s acting career began in the theater. This was after serving a hitch in the Navy. He did not have any formal training as an actor, but was a hard worker and appeared in at least seventeen Broadway plays, mostly juvenile and romantic second leads wearing white pants and carrying a tennis racquet. Many credited Bogart with being the first actor to say “Tennis, anyone” on stage.  According to IMDB and the Humphrey Bogart web site, Bogart made his screen debut with a bit part in a 1920 film called Life of which little seems to be known. He apparently made two more short subjects in the late 1920’s before making his feature film debut in Up the River. Not only was this Bogart’s feature film debut, it was also Spencer Tracy’s who had the lead role in this early John Ford film. For the next few years, Bogart alternated between Broadway and some minor screen roles, the most notable of which is Three on a Match. In 1935, Bogart’s last stage performance became his gateway to stardom, though it would still take a while to reach the top. He was signed to play the tired cold-blooded killer Duke Mantee in Robert E. Sherwood’s The Petrified Forest. The play’s star was Englishman Leslie Howard. Howard owned the production rights and when Warner Brothers purchased the screen rights, Howard insisted, Bogart recreates his role as Duke Mantee. Warner’s wanted the more popular and established Edward G. Robinson. Howard told Warner’s, no Bogart, no movie. Bogart was in. He received rave reviews from the critics for his performance. However, for the next six or seven years Bogart would remain a supporting player.  With his next film, Bullets or Ballots, Bogart continued playing the second “banana” to many of Warner’s top stars. Mostly gangsters or shady characters in films like San Quentin, Kid Galahad, Dead End, Racket Busters, Angels With Dirty Faces, The Roaring Twenties, and You Can’t Get Away With Murder. In many of these films, Bogart was shot and killed by either Edward G. Robinson or James Cagney. There were some early roles where he was on the right side of the law. Bogart was impressive as the District Attorney in Marked Woman, and in Black Legion, where he played a good character who gets mixed up with a racist organization. There was also a nice role in an offbeat film called Stand In. There were two westerns during this period also, The Oklahoma Kid, with Cagney and Virginia City with Errol Flynn.  The Oklahoma Kid is the better of the two films. Virginia City is an odd duck containing one the strangest Bogart roles, that of a Mexican-American outlaw!

    In the 1940’s, full fledge stardom and the films that would be responsible for the Bogart cult were coming up. 1941 saw two classic Bogie’s, High Sierra directed by Raoul Walsh from a screenplay by John Huston based on a novel by W.R. Burnett   started things off. This was also the first collaboration between Bogart and John Huston who would be responsible for many of Bogart’s classic films. Bogart and Huston were friends having a lot in common, drinking buddies, rebels, and adventurers. George Raft, who co-starred with Bogart in the 1940 film, They Drive by Night, declined the role of “Mad Dog” Roy Earle, as did Paul Muni, opening up the door for Bogart to get the lead in this “A” production.  The film co-starred Ida Lupino, Arthur Kennedy and Joan Leslie. Bogart gives a major performance as the Dillinger like “Mad Dog.”  

    Bogart and Huston reunited that same year for The Maltese Falcon, a film some consider one of the earliest noir flavored films. Huston wrote the screenplay, based on Dashiell  Hammett’s classic pulp novel. With this film, Huston made his film directing debut. If anyone actor, beside Leslie Howard, was responsible for Bogart’s becoming a star, it was George Raft, who was offered the role of Sam Spade and like he did with High Sierra turned it down! Bogart again was the recipient of Raft’s poor judgment. This 1941 film was the third version of The Maltese Falcon. Originally filmed in 1931, aka Dangerous Female, starring Ricardo Cortez as Sam Spade and Bebe Daniels as Ruth Wonderly, Una Merkel as Effie, Spade’s secretary and comedian Thelma Todd as Miles Archer’s wife. Being a pre-code film, this original version contains scenes that would not be permitted in the latter two versions. The film does not hide the homosexual overtones of the Joel Cairo character as well as being more blatant about Spade’s sexual habits with various women. Like the 1941, version it sticks close to the book even using much of the novel’s dialogue. The 1936 version,  Satan Meets a Lady  was tame by comparison and different in tone. A comedy mystery with all the characters names changed. The film starred Bette Davis and Warren Williams.  The Bogart/Huston version turned out to be a classic,  giving Bogart the opportunity to a play a complex character, greedy, cynical yet with a personal code of honor.  The film was not all Bogart and Huston, cinematographer Arthur Edeson work was an important part of the mood and atmosphere. Low-key lighting, and off beat camera angles contribute immensely. Memorable is the final scene with Mary Astor as the bars of the cage like elevator close on her signifying the prison bars she will soon be behind.  The film was nominated for three Academy Awards, Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor.

    In 1942, Bogart played his next to last gangster role in a little known film called The Big Shot. He would not play another hood until his next to last film The Desperate Hours in 1955. That same year, came Across the Pacific, another collaboration with friend John Huston, which also reunited him with Sydney Greenstreet and Mary Astor. During that same year, he made the film that remains his most beloved, and is generally considered one of the best films of all time (ranked # 2 on the AFI Best American Films list) and certainly one of the most romantic. If anyone character and film, symbolize the Bogart mystique, it is Rick Blaine in Casablanca.  At the time, no one thought they were making a “classic.” The story was based on a failed Broadway play called Everybody Comes to Rick’s. The budget was small and they needed to film it fast. True, they had some big stars in the film, Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henried as well as Peter Lorre, Claude Rains and Dooley Wilson, but no one was expecting too much.. The greatness of the film was in the stars. Everything was in alignment, art and commerce. It is this role more than any other than personifies the Bogart mystique. The wounded sensitive individual, the loner, the anti-hero with a code that says’ “I stick my neck out for nobody.” The film is loaded with classic lines, “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine” ,  “Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects”, “Here’s looking at you kid.” The list or rather the dialogue goes on.

Action in the North Atlantic is a rather routine World War II action film,  followed by  Sahara and Passage to Marseille, which reunited Bogart with director Michael Curtiz from Casablanca, as well as Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet Peter Lorre and the beautiful French actress Michelle Morgan. 

    In 1944, Howard Hawks gave a screen test to a young 19 year old model that he ended up casting opposite Bogart in To Have and Have Not. The young model was of course, Lauren Bacall and at nineteen, she was an equal match for the forty-four year Bogart. The back story of their love affair is just as interesting as the on screen romance. Hawks discovery of Bacall was due to his wife pointing her out in a magazine photo. Bogart and Bacall were attracted to each other almost immediately, to the discontent of Howard Hawks, a ladies man, who had eyes for Bacall himself.  The film is loaded with great writing and Bacall’s dialogue includes her career making lines “you know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and……blow.” Pure sexual heat!!!

    Conflict, Bogart’s next role is a decent enough crime drama of a man who killed his wife in a “perfect crime” only to see it unravel as the film progresses. Alexis Smith co-stars as the wife’s younger sister, who Bogart is in love with and Sydney Greenstreet is also on board. His next film, The Big Sleep reteamed Bogart and Bacall with Howard Hawks directing this classic private eye story based on Raymond Chandler’s novel. As Philip Marlowe, Bogart is hired by a rich family in a convoluted case that even the screenwriters and Chandler himself was unsure who the murderer was, at least that is the legend that is told. There are two versions of  The Big Sleep. The so-called pre release version and the official 1946 release. Both versions are available on DVD. In the pre-release version, Bacall’s part is much smaller however, it was decided that everyone wanted to cash in on the Bogart-Bacall relationship and they enlarged her role, which included the now famous sexually charged race horse dialogue. Getting the shaft was Martha Vickers whose  role as the younger sister Carmen was decreased. The film is loaded with great dialogue and even though the plot is convoluted and hard to follow it is just great.  Bogart’s next two films, Dead Reckoning and The Two Mrs. Carroll’s I have not seen in a long time. From what I remember, both films are decent though not in the stratosphere of greatness. For me the inclusion of Barbara Stanwyck in “The Two Mrs. Carroll’s makes this something I want to see again. Dark Passage followed. This is the third film pairing Bogart and Bacall and while good, it is the least effective of the four films they made together. Based on a pulp novel by David Goodis. Bogart is Vincent Barry, an escaped prisoner from San Quentin who gets plastic surgery so the police won’t recognize him and he can hunt for the real killer of the crime he was convicted of. He is sheltered by  Irene (Bacall) an artist who has followed the case and tries to help prove his innocence. The most unique aspect of the film the us subjective use of the camera. We do not see Bogart for almost an hour into the film. Surprisingly, this was the second film  in the same year (1947) to use this technique. Robert Montgomery in Lady in the Lake, which he both directed and starred in, used the same subjective camera style. Continuing the Bogart connection here of course in that Montgomery played Phillip Marlowe in this  screen adaptation of a Raymond Chandler novel.    

    Bogart and John Huston reunited in 1948 to make another great classic, The Treasure of Sierra Madre.   Based on a novel by the mysterious B. Traven, Bogart is Fred C. Dobbs, one of two down on their luck Americans, Tim Holt, as Bob Curtin is the other, who team up with old time prospector only known as Howard, played by the director’s father, Walter Huston to search for gold in Mexico. Bogart gives a terrific performance as the greed stricken Dobbs who after they strike gold starts to lose his mind along with his trust of his fellow prospectors.  The film is noted for the famous if often misquoted line of dialogue “Badges, we don’t need no stinking badges.” The correct dialogue is “Badges? We ain’t got no badges! We don’t need no badges!  I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!”

    The same year (1948), Bogart and Huston made“Key Largo which would also be the fourth and final film Bogie and Bacall would make together. Also starring Edward G. Robinson, Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor. Bogart is very effective as Frank McCloud, a former officer who comes to Key Largo to visit the family of a G.I. killed in the war. The hotel had been commandeered by Johnny Rocco (Robinson) and his gang who eventually plan to escape to Cuba. At first, McCloud is reluctant to get involved (shades of Rick from Casablanca), but after Rocco and his men murder some locals and force McCloud  to command the yacht that will take them to Cuba he manages to kill them all including Rocco. Bogart is laid back and stoic as  McCloud waiting for the right chance to get the slimy Rocco.  In earlier days, Bogart always portrayed the hood, the bad guy, here the roles are reversed with Robinson as the gangster and Bogie the hero.     

    In 1948, Bogart started his own production company, Santana Productions, and the first film under the new company was Nick Ray’s Knock on Any Door released in 1949. This film received mixed reviews when originally released. Bogart play’s Andrew Morton a lawyer who is defending a young murderer, Nick Romano (John Derek). Morton, like Romano grew up in the slums and his defense in the courtroom is that Romano is more a victim of society’s failings forcing people in slums, like Nick, to lead a life of crime. Part of Morton’s own guilt in taking the case was that years earlier he defended Nick’s innocent father and lost the case.  Though Morton loses the case with the young Romano, he gives a powerful argument as he pleads to the jury to spare Nick’s life and  to prevent future Nick’s from following the same path. The film’s most famous piece of dialogue is when Nick says “Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse.”    

    Bogart’s next films were Tokyo Joe, Chain Lightening, and the best of the Santana productions In a Lonely Place again directed by Nick Ray. An excellent film noir, In a Lonely Place tells the story of screenwriter Dixon Steele (Bogart) who has a history of violence and becomes a suspected in a murder. During this time, Dix becomes involved with neighbor and luckless actress Laurel Gary (Gloria Grahame). Laurel provides Dix with the alibi he needs and for the short time, their relationship goes well. However, Dix’s demons and heavy drinking soon come out and Laurel who has fallen in love with Dix begins to wonder if he really is a murderer and fears for her life. Though less known than Bogart classics such as The Maltese Falcon and The Treasure of Sierra Madre, In a Lonely Place is a brilliant film. Superbly acted by Bogart in one of his best performances. Gloria Grahame is also just perfect! Not only a good murder mystery but a harsh dark look at the underside of Hollywood.    

    Bogart only made one film with Katherine Hepburn. “The African Queen” is a kind of “Odd Couple.” Instead of Felix and Oscar, we get coarse uncouth Charlie Allnut and prim teetotaler, missionary Rose Sayer, set against a background of tensions between rival British and German colonial interests. “The African Queen” is also a mature love story of two adults from two different worlds who under strained circumstances find courage, humanity and love. Both Bogart and Hepburn give tour-due force performances. Bogart won the Best Actor Award beating out Marlon Brando for “A Streetcar Named Desire.”  Hepburn wan nominated, as was John Huston for Director and for Screenplay (along with James Agee).

    The sixth and final collaboration between Bogart and Huston was the offbeat 1953 film Beat the Devil. Arguably, one of the first cult films Beat the Devil died at the box office when it first premiered, probably because few may have known what to make of it. The film is an oddity, satirical, a heist film, adventure film and so on. Co-starring Gina Lollobrigida, Jennifer Jones and Robert Morley. Co-written by John Huston and Truman Capote

    By 1954, Bogart was probably beginning to show the signs of the cancer that would kill him in a few years however, 1954 was a great year for him, cinematically speaking. The Caine Mutiny, Sabrina and The Barefoot Contessa, provided Bogie with three diverse roles as his career was coming toward the end. “The Caine Mutinybased on Herman Wolk’s massive bestselling Pulitzer prize winning novel had a cast that included Fred Mac Murray, Van Johnson, Jose Ferrer and E.G. Marshall. In small roles were Lee Marvin, Steve Brodie and Claude Akins. But it is Bogart who steals the show as the crazed Captain Queeg, a character that has become imbedded in our cultural heritage. The film received seven Academy Award nominations including Bogart for Best Actor and Best Picture. Sabrina is unique among Bogie’s films, a romantic comedy, directed by the great Billy Wilder. It was the only time they worked together and apparently, it was not a happy set. Bogart got along with no one, not Wilder, nor his younger co-stars William Holden and Audrey Hepburn.  Daniel Kimmel, in his new book, I’ll Have What She’s Having, provides a great back-story on what went on before and during the time the cameras rolled. Nevertheless, the end product is a great romantic comedy, one of Billy Wilder’s more gentile films with Bogart proving himself again as a love interest.  

  In 1955, Bogart made what would turn out to be the last of the few comedies he made, We’re No Angels is a fun film about three prisoners who escaped from Devil’s Island and end up helping a storeowner they originally planned to rob. It’s a pleasant film with a cast that includes Aldo Ray, Peter Ustinov, Joan Bennett, Basil Rathbone and Leo G. Carroll. The film reunited Bogie with long time Warner Brothers director Michael Curtiz.

The best of the films Bogart made in 1955 was William Wyler’s The Desperate Hours co-starring Fredric March and Arthur Kennedy. Bogie is Glen Griffin, the leader of a gang of three who hold March’s family hostage in their own house. Based on a hit Broadway play and novel by Joseph Hayes, this was Bogie’s final role as a criminal and he does not disappoint. Arguably, he is too old for the role (a young Paul Newman portrayed Griffin in the Broadway production), though that is a small price to pay to see Bogart back as a hood (Bogart was not the only one too old for his role. Gig Young was forty-two at the time  playing the boyfriend of March’s 19 year old daughter. One final comment on this film or rather the 1990 remake directed by Michael Cimino, with Mickey Rourke in the Griffin role. Stay away from it. 

Budd Shulberg’s novel The Harder They Fall was Humphrey Bogart’s final film, a hard-hitting story about corruption in the boxing world. Bogart plays a down on his luck sportswriter who get involved with a crooked fight promoter (Rod Steiger) who uses a naïve glassed jawed boxer to fix fights. Both Bogart and Steiger are terrific in their roles and while the ending is a bit of a cop out this is a really good film and a tough look at the boxing industry. The Harder They Fall was released in May of 1956. Humphrey Bogart died eight months later in January of 1957. He was only fifty-eight years old.     

Kim Novak

    With Turner Classic Movies recent Kim Novak day as part of their Summer under the Stars Month, there have recently been a lot of articles reevaluating or just discussing her career. So having been a fan of Novak’s for years I’m throwing my two-cent in.

    Underrated, surprisingly good.  You hear these terms a lot when critics discuss Kim Novak. She has always been underrated. Kim was surprisingly good in “Middle of the Night.” The question becomes if she is always considered underrated and is always surprisingly good how many films does it take before the surprise wears off.  The woman just never received the respect she deserves. What I want to know is when is the AFI going to do a tribute to her? With this year’s tribute to Warren Beatty and last year’s to Al Pacino, they seemed to have already moved on the next generation passing her by. She was a major star in her day working with many great directors and has appeared in quite a few films that most would consider classic.

 

It is no secret that she was originally signed by Columbia Pictures as a Marilyn Monroe substitute. All the studios were looking for their own Marilyn. There was Jayne Mansfield, Sheree North and Mamie Van Doren, none achieved the level of success, nor did they have the magnetism of Marilyn. Kim was successful and had the star quality, without the cheapness of the Marilyn wannabes, and unlike Marilyn, Kim came across as a real woman. She was sensual, all you had to do was just look at her eyes and listen to her voice. She was certainly more attractive than the others were. Monroe never came across as authentic, someone that you could actually meet in the street whereas Kim was genuine. She was no fantasy figure. Kim was sexual without being obvious about it. Just watch her in “Pushover”, or “Strangers When We Meet.”

    For someone who was suppose to be of limited talent she certainly attracted  some of the great directors of her time and she handled herself well under the guidance of Hitchcock in “Vertigo”, Preminger in “The Man with the Golden Arm” and Delbert Mann in “Middle of the Night.” With Richard Quine, she seemed to be exceptionally responsive. Just look at her performances in “Bell, Book and Candle” or “Strangers When We Meet.”  I have also enjoyed her performances in films like “Kiss Me Stupid”, “Boy’s Night Out” and “The Notorious Landlady.”

TCM’s recent all day Novak festival was a joy. While I have most of the films they showed, I finally got to record and will soon watch for the first time “Five Against the House.” I was also pleased to record “The Notorious Landlady” a particular favorite of mine being both a Novak and Jack Lemmon fan and not available on DVD, this was a must.

   Novak retired from the movies in the early 1990’s and she hardly ever looked back. Making only rare appearances like the Larry King Show in 2004, where she still looked very good, otherwise Kim lives on her ranch with her husband and their many animals

 

 

 

William Castle

Only as a producer did William Castle ever make a truly great horror movie.  That was because he had the fortunate luck or the insight to have a great horror novel as the foundation and a master of the macabre as the screenwriter and director.  The film, of course, was “Rosemary’s Baby,” directed by Roman Polanski from Ira Levin’s best selling book.  If “Psycho” ushered in the era of the modern day horror films, “Rosemary’s Baby” gave the genre a more sophisticated acceptance than previously existed, at least for a few short years.

    Now, I am not here to damn William Castle but to praise him.  Yes, his works are mired with dull direction; bad acting and certainly some of the scripts could have or should have been better. But, surprisingly, films like “Macabre,” “The Night Walker,” “The Tingler”, House on Haunted Hill”, “13 Ghosts”, “Strait-Jacket”,  and “Homicidal” hold up today better than expected.  The “Night Walker”, with a script by Robert Bloch, and an excellent cast headed by Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor is certainly still a terrific thriller, as is “Strait Jacket,” again scripted by the talented Robert Bloch. This film starred Joan Crawford and Diane Baker.  Certainly, the casting of these excellent actors was an advantage, which enhanced both of these films. In Matthew Kennedy’s new biography Joan Blondell: A Life Between Acts” Kennedy tells the story that Blondell was all set to play the role eventually portrayed by Crawford until either Crawford assumed the role was hers after talking with Castle at a social gathering or Blondell bowed out due to illness depending on which story is to be believed. Either way it sounds pretty enticing the thought of Joan B. in the role of the psychotic mother. Then there is “The Tingler” and “Homicidal” both still strange and scary enough to send shivers down your spine. The test of time has made William Castle’s work more appreciable.  Known best for his publicity  gimmicks, such as “Illusion O”, where in “13 Ghosts,”  filmgoers were given special glasses upon admission, giving them the choice of whether view the ghosts by wearing the glasses, or not.  With “The Tingler” the gimmick was called “Percepto” which was nothing more than electric buzzers attached to selected seats in the movie house designed send a few shock waves giving the person sitting in the seat a slight tingle.  Can you imagine doing a stunt like this today? Lawsuits would be filed quicker than a 95 mile an hour fastball! Then there was “Macabre” where Castle sold policies, insuring the filmgoer against dying of fright!  As an aside, all this is lovingly portrayed in Joe Dante’s affectionate look at schlock movie making in “Matinee.” (1993)  John Goodman stars, playing a character obviously inspired by William Castle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

              In most cases, Castle’s films have been dumped upon by critics, yet teenage audiences and quiet a few adults of the late fifties and early sixties loved these films. It would probably be politically incorrect to make some of these films today. “Macabre” with its story of a young child being buried alive would be too frighteningly real today.  Like all films, they are a product of their times. 

    Many of Castle’s films are more fun and thrilling to watch than the majority of the blood and gore stuff that is released as horror today. Unfortunately, only a few of  Castle’s films have been made available for home video, “Strait-Jacket”, House on Haunted Hill,” “13 Ghosts” and “The Tingler” with its original color sequence in tact. “The Night Walker” was released years ago in VHS but sadly has yet to see a DVD release. If you are resourceful enough you can find some of the others through private collectors willing to trade barter or sell. In 2007, a documentary on William Castle was released called “Spine Tingler: The William Castle Story.” The film had a limited release and as of now, there is no scheduled DVD release. Also worth seeking out are the trailers,   you know those “Coming Attractions,” of William Castle’s movies, some of the most entertaining ever done, this side of Hitchcock.  Also worth seeking out is his autobiography “Step Right Up! I’m Going to Scare the Pants Off America.”