Twelve Shorts for the Shortest Month #2: Lure (2010)

US / 23 minutes / color / Aegis, Brothers Young Dir & Scr: Byron Conrad Erwin Cine: Tom Pritchard Cast: Jared Young, Josh Ford, Travis Young, Peter Kown, Brent Brooks, Brenda Norbeck, Jason Grant Davis, Carlette Jennings, Maura Perrin, Karli G. Brooks, Julia Butler, Mary Jac Beavers, Bob Young, Diana Young, Matthew Young, Ian George

A young man, Paul (Jared Young) is chronically depressed because, he thinks, of accumulated guilt over the fact that, every time he sees an attractive young woman, he harbors lustfully explicit thoughts about her. While this latter might seem a pretty normal state of affairs for most young (and, hm, even not so young) men, for Paul it’s an offense against his deeply held Christian principles.

Although shrink Eric Neil (Ford), equally Christian, pushes him away from such ideas, Paul fantasizes about suicide, which he sees as the only way out of his dilemma. However, Continue reading

Fly-by-Night (1942)

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On the run for a murder he didn’t commit!
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vt Dangerous Holiday
US / 72 minutes / bw / Paramount Dir: Robert Siodmak Pr: Sol C. Siegel Scr: Jay Dratler, F. Hugh Herbert Story: Ben Roberts, Sidney Sheldon Cine: John Seitz Cast: Richard Carlson, Nancy Kelly, Albert Basserman, Miles Mander, Walter Kingsford, Martin Kosleck, Marion Martin, Oscar O’Shea, Mary Gordon, Edward Gargan, Clem Bevans, Arthur Loft, Michael Morris, Cy Kendall, Nestor Paiva, John Butler.

An escapade conceived very much in the style of Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps (1935), with which movie it shares a number of plot points. Again we have a hero who has to go on the run because suspected of murdering a man who has sought his aid, and again our hero ropes in an unwilling woman as accomplice (with romance as inevitable, further down the line, as in a Hallmark Christmas movie), and again there’s an espionage conspiracy to be foiled.

To say that Siodmak, whose second Hollywood movie this was, was no Hitchcock is the obvious trite comment, and a foolish one—as foolish as saying, equally truthfully, that Hitchcock was no Siodmak. The two directors each had his own strengths, and this one plays to Siodmak’s. The comedy and tension are very well integrated—that I laughed aloud several times didn’t mean I wasn’t on the edge of my seat at others—but what stood out most for me, in terms of the direction, was Continue reading

The Spiral Staircase (2000 TVM)

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Not so much a remake, more a sorry porridge!
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Canada, US / 88 minutes / color / Shavick, Saban International Dir: James Head Pr: Shawn Williamson Scr: Matt Dorff Story: Some Must Watch (1933) by Ethel Lina White and (uncredited) The Circular Staircase (1908) by Mary Roberts Rinehart, plus screenplay by Mel Dinelli, Helen Hayes and Robert Siodmak for The SPIRAL STAIRCASE (1945) Cine: Gordon Verheul Cast: Nicollette Sheridan, Judd Nelson, Alex McArthur, Debbe Dunning, Christina Jastrzembska, Dolores Drake, David Storch, William McDonald, Holland Taylor, John Innes, Brenda Campbell, Candice McClure (i.e., Kandyse McClure), Dallas Thompson, Charles Payne, Kristina Matisic.

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Although this movie claims in its opening credits to be a remake of Robert Siodmak’s classic period noir The SPIRAL STAIRCASE (1945), just about everything that distinguished the original movie from a run-of-the-mill murder mystery has been excised.

the-spiral-staircase-2000-xx-despite-all-the-plot-changes-this-remake-is-ready-to-offer-the-occasional-visual-quote-from-siodmaks-original

Despite all the plot-changes, this remake is ready to offer the occasional visual quote from Siodmak’s original.

Perhaps most importantly, the killer’s motivation has been altered. In the original, the killer has a psychotic detestation of disabilities in women; this puts our heroine, who’s a traumatic mute, in severe danger of being his next victim. Here the motive’s just the humdrum one of financial gain—there’s an inheritance up for grabs—and, when this motive is suddenly produced in the final minutes, it makes no sense, because we’ve been told the killer has been murdering and assaulting pretty young women at random for some while. Furthermore, the muteness of the central character has no real impact on the plot—in fact (and this is actually quite cleverly done), we’re a good few minutes into the movie before we realize she’s mute at all.

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Helen (Nicollette Sheridan) hears a strange noise outside her bedroom.

Here’s the plot in short:

There’s a prologue in which a young girl (not properly identified in the credits) is walking home at night in Westport, Washington State, when she encounters Continue reading

Flirting with Fate (1916)

US / 57 minutes / bw silent / Triangle Dir: W. Christy Cabanne Story: Robert M. Baker Cine: William E. Fildew Cast: Douglas Fairbanks, Jewel Carmen, Howard Gaye, W.E. Laurence (i.e., W.E. Lawrence), George Beranger, Dorothy Haydel, Lillian Langdon, Wilbur Higby, J.P. McCarty.

While writing the Encyclopedia, I assumed that the first movie to deploy the “depressed man commissions a hitman to kill him, then things start going right and he changes his mind, but how can he stop the hitman?” trope was the early (and excellent) Robert Siodmak outing Der Mann, Der Seinen Mörder Sucht (1931; vt The Man who Searched for his Own Murderer; vt Jim, der Mann mit der Narbe; vt Jim, the Man with the Scar). Luckily I didn’t actually say so, because this Hollywood silent precedes it by fifteen years or so.

Penniless August “Augy” Holliday (Fairbanks), “the hero of this story, an artist by profession, is long on temperament and short on funds. He can draw everything except a salary.” The rent collector (Higby) is after him; perhaps yet more dangerously, the other day, while dodging said rent collector by sketching in the local park, Augy saw “the most beautiful woman in the world”: Gladys (Carmen). The portrait that he has painted of her is, he believes, his best work ever. But how can an impecunious artist woo a society babe like Gladys?

Flirting with Fate 1916 - Augy's first sight of Gladys

Augy’s (Douglas Fairbanks) first sight of the beautiful Gladys (Jewel Carmen).

Luckily Augy has a pal in the rich Harry Hansum (Laurence). Harry gets him some fine clothes, promises him money, and arranges an introduction at Gladys’s home. Augy’s attempts at wooing lack couth, unsettling Gladys; her Auntie (Langdon) has anyway lined her up for suave Roland Dabney (Gaye). Luckily Continue reading