From the January 1, 1988. — J.R.
Despite the title, this film has virtually nothing to do with Thomas De Quincey’s book. But it happens to be one of the most bizarre, beautiful, and poetic Z-films ever made, and probably the only directorial effort of Albert Zugsmith that is almost good enough to be placed alongside his best films as a producer (e.g., Touch of Evil, The Tarnished Angels, Written on the Wind). Vincent Price stars as the black-clad 19th-century adventurer, involved in a San Francisco tong war and with runaway oriental slave girls; Linda Ho, Richard Loo, and June Kim also figure in the cast, and Robert Hill is responsible for the singularly pulpy script. A claustrophobic fever dream with strange slow-motion interludes and memorable characters, this is the kind of film that you remember afterward like a hallucination; not to be missed. Also known under the titles Souls for Sale and Evils of Chinatown (1962). (JR)
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From The Velvet Light Trap, spring 1996 (and reprinted in my 1997 collection Movies as Politics). Given all the screenings of Out 1 that have more recently taken place on both sides of the Atlantic, with (almost) concurrent Blu-Ray and DVD releases in France, the U.K., and the U.S., this seems like a good time to repost this article. My still lengthier reflections can be found on the Carlotta digital releases in France and the U.S. — J.R.
On the Issue of Nonreception
What connections can be found between two French serials made almost half a century apart? Aside from the fact that both of them appear on my most recent “top ten” list (1), I’m equally concerned with the issue of why such pleasurable, evocative, enduring, multifaceted, and incontestably beautiful works should remain so resolutely marginal — unseen, unavailable, and virtually written out of most film histories except for occasional guest appearances as the vaguest of reference points. The problem isn’t simply an American or an academic one; although no print of either serial exists in the United States, it can’t be said that either film has received much attention in France either — or elsewhere, for that matter.… Read more »
This article was originally published in Stop Smiling no. 27 (“Ode to the Midwest”) in 2006. It’s also reprinted in my collection Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia. — J.R.
Kim Novak as Midwestern Independent
It’s possible that the star we know as Kim Novak was partially the invention of Columbia Pictures —- conceived, as the Canadian critic Richard Lippe puts it, both as a rival/spinoff of Marilyn Monroe and as a replacement for the reigning but at that point aging Rita Hayworth. At least this was the favored cover story of Columbia studio head Harry Cohn, whom Time magazine famously quoted in 1957 as saying, “If you wanna bring me your wife and your aunt, we’ll do the same for them.” It was also the treasured conceit of the American press at the time, which was all too eager to heap scorn on Novak for presuming to act — just as they were already gleefully deriding Monroe for presuming to think. But Monroe, as we know today, was considerably smarter than most or all of the columnists who wrote about her. And Kim Novak — a major star if not a major actress — had something to offer that was a far cry from updated Hayworth or imitation Monroe (even if the latter was precisely what Columbia attempted to do with her in one of her first screen appearances, in the 1954 Judy Holliday vehicle Phffft!… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (August 1, 1997). — J.R.
Though light-years away from anything resembling political correctness, this 1932 horror thriller is often magnificent, imaginative stuff — bombastic pulp at its purple best. Boris Karloff stars as the archvillain of the Sax Rohmer novels, a Chinese madman menacing an expedition to the tomb of Genghis Khan. Charles Brabin directed; with Lewis Stone, Karen Morley, Jean Hersholt, and Myrna Loy (as Karloff’s daughter). 72 min. On the same program, chapter seven of the 1938 serial Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars. LaSalle Theatre, LaSalle Bank, 4901 W. Irving Park, Saturday, February 16, 8:00, 312-904-9442.
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