Movie Diary 10/31/2021

Son of Dracula (Robert Siodmak, 1943). “Isn’t eternity together better than a few years of ordinary life?” The appeal of the vampire film, not so much coming from stately Lon Chaney Jr., but from the various seductive lighting schemes and swamp gas and elegant camerawork. Bob Siodmak (brother Curt co-wrote the screenplay) stamps his passport to higher budgets and better chances with a dozen splendid moments, notably a shot that begins with a party inside a mansion and backs out into the night to align itself with Count Alucard, standing there exuding his hypnotic buzz. Note, too, that a shot of Alucard gliding above the Louisiana bog as though hovercrafting along anticipates a similar bit in Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast by a half-dozen years (to say nothing of Spike Lee’s appropriation of the technique). Poky in its storytelling, admittedly, with some awfully bland normals in the cast, alas.

X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (Roger Corman, 1963). Dr. Ray Milland, inventing super-vision and experimenting on himself. The film makes the movie look better than it is: Floyd Crosby’s photography lays on the vivid color, and the various scenes in Milland’s psychedelic vision are trippy enough to suggest that Corman had been seeing a few experimental-movie nights. The storytelling, on the other hand, is slipshod enough to be generally uncompelling, and to make you wonder why this thing is a horror movie at all. Despite that, as with so much Corman, there are weird little moments that suggest larger things, and a shrewd view of a messed-up world (the “Spectarama” views of Las Vegas are like an X-ray of an American idea of fun, as though this movie found the truth-revealing glasses from They Live long before that movie stumbled across them – Corman being ahead of his time, again).

The Changeling (Peter Medak, 1980). The only movie I’m in, but you’d have to know where I am to see me sitting in George C. Scott’s piano lecture. My review here. Reading that review, I hadn’t remembered I was so positive about the film – but even with its frequent silly sequences, it holds up decently after 40 years, which is more than you can say for me. (I kid, sort of.) I recall now, thanks to the review, that it was a genuine relief to see a traditional kind of horror picture in the wake of so many dismal slasher movies that had just come out (a rancid collection now prized as some kind of “moment” in horror-movie history – but I’m not having it).