Thursday, 10 January 2013



'..a visual attribute of things that result from the light they emit or transmit or reflect.'


Love in the Afternoon (1957) 
Dir. Billy Wilder
Audrey Hepburn as Ariane Chavasse



 Marilyn Monroe
Tobey Beach Shoot by Andre de Dienes (1949)



Jane Fonda Shoot by Allan Grant (LIFE Magazine)



Sunday, 30 December 2012


mack sennett’s bathing beauties

The Diving Girl (1911) / The Water Nymph (1912) / Fatty and the Bathing Beauties (1913) / A Bathhouse Beauty (1914) / Why Beaches are Popular 

Mack Sennett, a stately thunderdome of comedic entertainment did build, and used as it’s binding mortar an army of tumblers, travelling Vaudevillians  and  vivacious bathing beauties. Charlie Chaplin may have famously quipped, ‘All I need to make a comedy are a park, a policeman and a pretty girl’ , but Mack’s Keystone was never so economical with the beauty quota.. Why have one beauty on screen, when you can have a dozen? Cops came by the pack, so why not flappers in swimwear? It would be tempting to envision Sennett’s collection of beauties as a private Howard Hughes style harem, but one must remember that Keystone was a creative double act, with Mack under the watchful eye of the original ‘Water Nymph’, Miss. Mabel Normand

Allegedly these gloriously oddball photographs came from Mack’s own camera, but the records are a little hazy on the facts, along with most everything else in regards to Keystone and it’s madcap workings. It’s generally held that the sexuality that went into their creation, has since waned and melted away into whimsy and frothy gaiety, but personally I find the opposite to be true. There is certainly a gulf of change separating these images from our own more explicitly sexual age.. but, like the pre-code cinema that they represent, a darker edge lays just behind the smiles. A haunting quality, that horror films such as Kubrick’s ‘The Shining‘, and Scorsese’s ‘Shutter Island‘ have woven into their nightmare dream-scapes. Not to say that in themselves these images are scary, but rather that they have a quality and a depth to them that the passage of time has layered and fertilised. Time capsules, that grow in fascination with each year that passes since their creation.

‘A new record in scanty costumes has been set at Mack Sennett Studios. During the filming of a bathing comedy , as yet untitled, Carole Lombard and some of the other girls appeared in such abbreviated costumes that they had to be glued on to insure their staying in place!’

Calgary Herald (4th Oct, 1927)


Friday, 14 December 2012

GUN CRAZY (1950)

GUN CRAZY (deadly is the female)

Peggy Cummins / John Dall / Berry Kroeger / Morris Carnovsky / Anabel Shaw / Harry Lewis / Nedrick Young / Mickey Little / Russ Tamblyn / Screenplay Millard Kaufman (Dalton Tumblo) & McKinlay Kantor  / Production Design Gordon Wiles / Original Music Victor Young  /Cinematography Russell Harlan  / Stunts Dale Van Sickel  / Production Frank King & Maurice King  / Director Joseph H. Lewis

Notorious LAURIE STARR! Nothing deadlier is known to man..


Never has the gun been so reverentially mythologised as in the hallowed light and shadow play of Film Noir, and none so erotically centre stage as in Dalton Tumblo’s short story turned motion picture, ‘Gun Crazy’, aka. Deadly is the Female. The female in question is the hypnotic Peggy Cummins, playing Laurie Starr, a carnival gunslinger extraordinaire who en-flames the desires and passions of small town gun obsessive, Barton Tare (John Dall),  blazing a trail of drive-by robberies, and shootings from State to State, that can have but one self-destructive outcome. Arthur Penn’s 1967 movie of the Bonnie and Clyde story borrowed extensively from it’s gun-totting predecessor, taking special notice of it’s loose naturalistic cinematography style, and most clearly of all, the sexuality of the relationship on-the-run.In both stories, this sexuality oscillates from the couple (for Bonnie a frustration that is achingly one sided), to the erotic thrill of the danger ride, which in this case specifically surrounds ‘the gun’, as instrument of power and freedom. Initially, Barton struggles as a youth with his desire to possess and fire guns, trapped in a confusingly fractured  adolescence that seeks something fundamental to being, without knowing quite what it is that is desired. ‘Girls!’, the audience cries.. ‘He just needs to meet a nice girl!’ Almost right, he needs to meet a ‘Bad-girl’. When encountering the almost preternatural beauty Laurie Starr, time seems to slow to a silent pause when their eyes first meet.. something hangs in the air.. and the explosion of a pistol direct to camera marks the union  (albeit a blank). In one instant, both Barton and we ourselves, are hopelessly smitten. His rationale of this joining places the two of them into two clear aspects of the gun: weapon and bullet – “We go together, Annie. I don’t know why.. maybe like guns and ammunition go together.”

‘And now, our great Star-Act. Ladies and gentlemen, as owner and manager of Packett’s Carnival, 
it is I, myself, who present to you.. The Famous. The Dangerous. The Beautiful.. Miss. Annie Laurie Starr..’

Personally, I’m thinking it makes more sense to consider Laurie as the gun and powder complete. What our protagonist has sought all his life is the Noir Fatale. Stealing a pistol as a boy, entering the army (surrounded by guns of every description), collecting antique pistols.. did not cure his thirst for the ‘fire of the hand’. The gun’s cold precision and aim alone was not enough, he needed the elemental wild fire in the explosion. The Femme-Fatale in her pure, unadulterated form, as incandescent raw sexuality, wrapped up in excitement and death. Very Catholic. okay, chalk up another victory for Mr.Freud.. it’s all desire and symbolic ejaculations! What? I hear you cry? Woman cast once more in the role of wicked Lulu, a siren torment to hapless man? Dancing unconcerned in a blaze of glory, whilst all around her burn? Peripheral female characters just spinsters or exhausted mothers tied to the stove?  Yup. Don’t be too harsh though (he urges his readers), six decades have passed, and it is, after all, just a movie. Did I really just utter that much disliked phrase? (I’ll stop with the over-accumulation of question marks now). Besides, it’s all character exaggeration, violent symbolism, and lurid sexual exploration (nee, exploitation), y’know.. Film Noir.

‘ from London, England and the capitals of the Continent, before whose remarkable marksmanship
 the greatest pistol and rifle-shots in America have gone down to defeat. Sooo.. here she is, ladies and 
gentlemen. Sooo appealing. Sooo dangerous. Sooo looovely to look at. The darling of London, England.. 

..Miss. Annie Laurie Starr!’

‘I saw the two of you, the way you were looking at each other tonight..
.. like a couple of wild animals. Almost scared me.’

‘These violent delights have violent ends 
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which, as they kiss, consume. The sweetest honey 
Is loathsome in it’s own deliciousness 
And in the taste confounds the appetite. 
Therefore love moderately: long love doth so; 
Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow.’

Romeo and Juliet | Act II, Scene VI




‘..she ain’t the type that makes a happy home.’



PEGGY CUMMINS (b. 18th Dec. 1925 – Denbighshire, Wales)

Dr. O'Dowd (1940) / Welcome, Mr. Washington (1944) / The Late George Apley (1947) / Escape (1948) / 
Green Grass of Wyoming (1948) / Gun Crazy (1950) / My Daughter Joy (1950) / Who Goes There! (1952) / 
Street Corner (1953) / Meet Mr. Lucifer (1953) / The Love Lottery (1954) / To Dorothy a Son (1954) / 
The March Hare (1956) /Carry on Admiral (1957) / Hell Drivers (1957) / Night of the Demon (1957) / 
The Captain's Table (1959) / Your Money or Your Wife (1960) / Dentist in the Chair (1960)

Her Violent Loves! Her Vicious Crimes! Her Wild Escapes!’


Saturday, 17 November 2012



snow white and the huntsman

Kristen Stewart / Charlize Theron / Chris Hemsworth / Sam Spruell / Sam Claflin / Ian McShane / 
Bob Hoskins / Ray Winstone / Nick Frost / Eddie Marsan / Toby Jones / Lily Cole  /  Screenplay by
  Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock & Hossein Amini  /  Art Direction by  Andrew Ackland Snow, 
Alastair Bullock, John Frankish  /  Production Design by  Dominic Watkins  /  Soundtrack by  James Newton Howard
    Cinematog. by  Grieg Fraser  /  Editing by  Conrad Buff IV & Neil Smith  /  Produced by  Laurie Boccaccio & G. S. Borders  
  Directed by  Rupert Sanders


Lips red as blood, hair black as night..

..bring me your heart, my dear, dear Snow White


Universal certainly have given us a decidedly dark take on the Snow White fairy-tale, with some wonderfully evocative set pieces, and a fresh injection of realism.. albeit with a liberal helping of shiny prism lens flare. Gone is the saccharine Max-Factor Snow White, and in her place stands (or sort of slumps in angsty teenage fashion) Kristen Stewart, the reigning spirit of Emo-cool, shabby-chic.. complete with dirty fingernails and unkempt hair. Sam Spruell, plucked from a plethora of British TV mini-dramas, does the whole Prince Charming bit with aplomb, but shouldn’t really bother, since we all know that Kristen Stewart prefers a ‘bit of rough’ from the wild woodlands. Said ‘bit of rough’, with a mock Scottish accent you need crane an ear to follow, is Chris Hemsworth, an Australian actor better known these days as the Mighty Thor (decidedly the worst of last year’s Avengers franchise movies).. For evil foes, we have the splendidly nordic looking Charlize Theron as wicked Queen Ravenna, stealing the youth from young maidens to maintain her eternal beauty.. and her vile brother ‘Finn’, so drained of all independence and goodness by his cloying sister, that he almost seems sucked of colour to the point of becoming an albino.. played with wonderful relish by the superb Sam Spruell, with an exceedingly amusing haircut. You’ll need to wait it out till the 2nd half for the, er.. eight dwarfs to turn up, but they’re more than worth their weight in gold, lining up such quality heavyweights as Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Toby Jones.. and the superb Bob Hoskins, for whom this role marks his retirement after 40 years of outstanding performances.

The real magic of the film is in the exceptional quality of the sets, costumes and effects, all of which have been so lovingly constructed that they are nothing short of breathtaking. Nordic trolls; intricate explosions into clouds of doves and ravens; hallucinatory tumbles through writhing woodlands.. all more impressive than the last. Acting-wise the quality is not so constant. Some of the accents are a little heavy handed, and the dialogue overly simplistic at times. Charlize Theron, looks magnificent and regal throughout (even curiously during her aging sequences), but while she acts wonderfully with her expressions and gestures, she's ultimately let down a little by her habit of strange pauses in dialogue, while over concentrating on her English pronunciation. There’s is something interesting about her English tone, but perhaps she should have kept her American accent.. or reached a compromise. Stewart’s less formal English accent is the more believable, but has it’s own occasional mishaps. By far the most moving moments in the film occur around the dwarfs, who give a little masterclass (no pun intended) in a peculiarly British resonance of performance, and jocular humour. Hoskins stands out as a sort of blind, Homeric seer, whose class manages to add a particular depth to what is otherwise fairly simple dialogue.

If there is a criticism to made of the dwarf characters themselves, it’s that they do blatantly follow the Hollywood construct of a Merry Olde England, peopled by an odd hotch-potch of Scottish, Northern & Irish stereotypes to the point of cultural insult. Though nowhere near as shocking as the peculiarly cartoon like Irish characters of Ridley Scott’s ‘Legend’, or the farcical cabinet of cultural curiosities in Ron Howard’s ‘Far and Away’. Although Snow White is a fairy-tale, and as such meant to be a colourful exaggeration by nature, this version nevertheless is attempting to tell the tale with a sharper clarity of realism.. and as such dances a difficult line between the two states. On the whole it does this with a reasonable level of success, which offers a respectful nod to the Disney cartoon forerunner, but at the same time manages to keep a polite distance. Some scenes are very much reminiscent of ‘Lord of the Rings’, with a rain-soaked trek across gorgeous, dramatic mountainscapes (in Scotland this time, as opposed to New Zealand), only occasionally dabbling with the CGI magic box, which films like ‘The Chronicles of Nania’ trip and fall headfirst into. The film clocks in at ten minutes shy of three hours, and rides along at an entertaining pace, without dragging unduly. The ending is fairly satisfying, but some sort of a prologue to complete the love aspect of the tale, and to tie up loose ends would have been nice. Especially considering the time taken to establish the characters and plots.

One rather glaring inconsistency is with the nature of Snow White herself, who throughout the majority of the film is portrayed as the girl who is eternally beautiful of heart, as opposed to the transient, physical beauty of the wicked Queen. When the Huntsman takes a moment to attempt teaching Snow White a few basic defensive moves and thrusts with her dagger, we are in no uncertain terms informed that Snow White would never take a life, and as the personification of pure good, this is quite understandable. Except, when we come to the battle scenes of the final push against the Queen's wicked regime, we are confronted with a sword wielding Snow White in a nice shiny suit of armour. I suppose this goes to the very heart of the problem.. while attempting to combine fairy tale simplicity with the raw qualities of realism, a conflict between the two approaches naturally occurs, and the necessary compromises jar one way or the other. With the evil Queen we have a nice little back-story to explain her behavior and sour perspective upon men and the world. This helps to fuel the three dimensional qualities of the story, and make us question the pure nature of good and evil. All very well, except that when we are shown the fairy world that Snow White is at harmony with, we are presented with a flat, brightly coloured cartoon-like universe, that disappoints and confounds the hard won reality of the rest of the film. Quite clearly the producers were adamant that they wanted nice publicity shots of Kristin in a lovely, shiny suit of armour, since it worked so well for Milla Jovovich as Joan of Arc (okay, the film itself bombed, but we all remember that image of Milla in gleaming silver, don't we?), and to honest, who can blame them?

If I were to hand out prizes, then Kristen Stewart would get a clanging pat on the back for best best looking girl in a suit of armour.. Charlize Theron for most ridiculously beautiful evil-type person in a motion picture.. a vigorous shake of the hand to whoever made the Evil Queen’s fabulous throne.. and above all.. Bob Hoskins for sheer class and gravitas. Cheers Bob!







-Interview Magazine- (2012) Snow White Promotional Shoot
Kristen Stewart & Charlize Theron by Mikael Jansson