RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Spoiler Alert

The Tempest Revealed

Cast photo taken after our dress rehearsal on Caroga Lake

You see, I was thinking that not everybody is like me.  I like to go see a play or movie tabula rasa, as it were, a blank slate (I learned that phrase in high school).  That is, not really knowing anything about it.  Sometimes that renders my decision of whether to watch something or not difficult, but that’s my problem.  It occurred to me that especially with something like Shakespeare, some people might prefer a little hint as to what is going on.  Since I enjoy so much writing about my old movies, I decided to attempt something of that nature for the latest play I am in.

Spoiler Alert!  I am going to recount the entire plot of The Tempest by William Shakespeare, as far as I know it.

Full disclosure:  I’ve only read the play all the way through once, and I don’t pay a great deal of attention to the scenes I’m not in.  In my defense, during rehearsals I am usually rehearsing my scenes with other cast members or studying my lines.  But I think I can give you the gist of things.  If you are still confused, go read the script yourself.  It is readily available in your local library or even online.

The Tempest opens on the deck of a ship which has run into the titular storm.  We have a great thunder sound maker as well as a bass drum, and we all do the Star Trek thing of swaying back and forth to indicate the rocking of the ship.  A couple of sailors run around trying to bail out the water.  It might have been nice to have stage hands sloshing real water onto the stage by the bucketful, or that may have been a little too much realism.  Squirt guns and water balloons were suggested but rejected, which I suppose is just as well, especially since our costumes are not of fast-drying material.

The ship is carrying the king and some nobles, and it is about to sink.  I’m sure the audience will gather that much through our costumes and movements, which is another good thing, because we have a hard time making ourselves heard over the sound effects.  I hope we solve that problem, though, because some of us have some pretty good lines insulting the Boatswain.

Scene two takes place on an island (not alas, the Island of Dr. Moreau) (see previous blog post).  We meet Prospera, the rightful Duchess of Milan, and her daughter Miranda. We learn that years ago, when Miranda was a tot, Prospera’s evil sister Antonia (alas, not an evil twin.  I do love an evil twin, don’t you?) stole the Dukedom and set Prospera and Miranda adrift in a skiff or some such.  Luckily for them, Prospera’s friend Gonzalo (that’s me, by the way) made sure they had supplies, as well as Prospera’s books.  These books have allowed Prospera to perfect her magic powers.  In fact, it was Prospera’s magic that caused the tempest, and Miranda should not worry about anybody being drowned.

Later on in the scene, Miranda takes a nap and we meet Ariel, a magic sprite or something that Prospera rescued and now owns (slavery was a thing in those days, remember). Ariel is promised her freedom, when Prospera is good and ready to give it to her. After Miranda wakes up, we meet Caliban, a son of a witch (really), who is another slave to Prospera.  He’s pretty much a bad hat, repaying kindness with curses among other things.  He thinks the island should be his, as it was his mother’s.  I guess she was quite the evil witch, and there is something in heredity.

Eventually Caliban leaves and Ariel returns with Ferdinand, the son of the King of Naples (who, incidentally, was last seen puking his guts out on the soon-to-sink ship).  Naturally, Ferdinand and Miranda fall in love.  Like I said, I have not paid too much attention to the scenes I’m not in, but it does not take a Shakespearean scholar to guess that was going to happen.

So that’s a long scene, but I finally get to come back on stage, wandering around the island with the King; Antonia, the wrongful Duchess of Milan; Sebastian, the king’s brother (at least, it might be his sister, because a girl plays the part, but I’m being an old man, so it could go either way); and Francisco, who incidentally is played by the same fellow who plays the Boatswain. I hope the audience does not get confused (although I sometimes do, but that’s all right, I’m an old man).  I spend much of this scene trying to cheer up the King, but he is inconsolable because he believes his son is drowned.  We also talk about his daughter Claribel (I always flash on Claribel the Cow when I hear or say the name), because we were returning from her wedding to the King of Tunis.  Antonia and Sebastian spend a lot of the scene making fun of me.

The King, Francisco and I fall asleep, lullabied by Ariel, who is invisible to us.  Antonia and Sebastian stay awake and take the opportunity to plot to murder the King, to take his throne, and me, probably just because I’m annoying.  Ariel returns in time to wake us and foil the plot.

The next scene concerns Caliban, Trinculo and Stephano.  The latter two are servants to the king, but Caliban takes them for gods and and immediately quits working for Prospera to become their slave.  Incidentally, Stephano knows where the wine landed, so they all get drunk, lucky bums.

Then it’s back to Prospera’s cell, where she is making Ferdinand work, much to Miranda’s dismay.  That’s a short scene, then it’s back to the drunken three.  Ariel shows up, invisible (yeah, that’s kind of an oxymoron) (I’m more of a regular moron myself), and makes trouble.  Caliban wants to get Stephano and Trinculo to murder Prospera, and then Stephano can be king of the island.

At last I get to come back on stage, with the other nobles, and we’re all bone tired.  First some weird islanders come on, dance around, and leave us food.  Before we get to eat it, a huge thunderclap renders Francisco and I frozen.  Ariel come in, as a terrifying harpy, and tells off the other three for supplanting Prospera as they did.  They are upset.

Back in Prospera’s cell, Prospera has taken Ferdinand into her good graces and gives him permission to marry Miranda, although she sternly warns him against fooling around before the wedding.  A few of us come out with Ariel and dance for the young lovers.  I get to be one of the dancers, wearing a mask.  After the dance I hurry off stage and switch that mask for a wolf’s mask.  When the others leave the stage, the other wolves and I set up a clothesline with rich garments on it.  Enter Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo.  Caliban has brought them to murder Prospera, but they are distracted by the garments.  Once they have loaded them on Caliban for easy transport, we wolves chase them all offstage.

We’re in the homestretch now.  Prospera does a spell, and the nobles (that’s me, the King, Antonia, Sebastian and Francisco, in case you forgot) are led in by Ariel, under an enchantment.  At last the enchantment is lifted, and Prospera reveals herself.   Wow!  Are we ever surprised!  Of course they give her back her dukedom, no questions asked.  She forgives her rotten sister, largely because it’s the end of the play.  Eventually the King and his son are reunited, the Boatswain shows up to tell us the boat is just fine, and the drunkards Stephano and Trinculo return.

Then we all bow, hopefully to applause, and I get to take off my costume, which, although I think it looks good, is pretty damn warm for a summer play.

 

Advertisements

Blog Post of Lost Souls

Spoiler Alert!  I am going to pretty much recount the entire plot of The Island of Lost Souls (1932).  I did not realize the year till I looked it up just now.  I guess most readers have had ample opportunity to catch this flick.

I have not written about an old horror movie in a long time.  I have a bunch of them on my DVR, and on a recent Sunday, I felt the urge to relax, crochet, and watch.  I thought, Charles Laughton, Bela Lugosi, what’s not to like?  So Island of Lost Souls it was.

The movie opens with a ship rescuing a wild-eyed guy from a derelict, and I thought, “Oh, swell, the whole thing’s going to be a flashback.  This guy just escaped from the bad island and he’s going to tell us all about it.”  It is a hoary device much used in the cinema and elsewhere.  It’s not a horrible device, but I have to ask, “Why?”  Only I did not have to ask it this time, because it wasn’t what happened.  The ship was on its way to the mysterious island.  One cliche successfully avoided!

Wild-eyed guy, who recovers from his wild-eyed-ness pretty quickly and is named Parker, is on his way to meet his fiance, who is waiting for him where this ship just happens to be going.  He is able to send her a wireless, so that’s a relief for both of them, as well as an important plot point later (I did include a Spoiler Alert, remember?).

Now we come to what I think is a pretty good piece of plotting.  Plotting 101, I’ve learned:  cause and effect.  Because this, then this.  The ship is carrying enough wild animals to stock a zoo.  The obnoxious, belligerent captain finds this so disturbing he drinks.  A lot.  Because of his drinking (and because he is an obnoxious, belligerent sort — see, character causes action as well), he has a confrontation with Parker in which Parker decks him (ooh, unintended pun:  they’re on a SHIP and Parker DECKS him!).  Because of this, the captain, who is also vindictive, throws Parker overboard into Dr. Moreau’s boat when Dr. M is taking delivery on the animals.

Dr. Moreau is at first put out by the intrusion, but he is soon reconciled as he conceives of a sinister use for Parker. At least, Dr. M does not see his purpose as sinister.  He sees it as a golden opportunity to further his scientific research.

I did not understand his scientific research one bit, and I’m thinking that H.G. Wells (who wrote the original story) just made it up as he went along.  Years ago I read a book about how to write science fiction, and the folks that wrote it seemed to think that the reader maybe ought to believe that what you wrote was at least kind of sort of maybe perhaps remotely possible.  Obviously, H.G. Wells never read that book.   I daresay it was written after his time.  No matter, on with the blog.

So Parker, although he is not supposed to be snooping (what a surprise) (and what a surprise that he does), soon finds out that Dr. M and his colleague (the doctor who was on the boat and partially responsible for rescuing Parker.  I forgot to mention him) are doing some sort of heinous experiments that involve a lot of screaming. In fact, the lab is known as the House of Pain.  I flashed back to army basic training every time I heard “House of Pain,”  but never mind my little psychological glitches.

The nefarious purpose Dr. Moreau has for Parker is to introduce him to this beautiful but mysteriously ignorant young woman.  Dr. M tells Parker she is a Polynesian or some such, and although Parker is fooled, we are not.  We know she is one of the doctor’s experiments.

It turns out — and this is where I just can’t picture what sort of science was used — that Dr. Moreau has made all these men out of animals.  And isn’t that typical Hollywood — and theatre in general — all those men and only one woman!  Well let’s don’t get me started on the dearth of good female roles anywhere in theatre.  This blog post is getting long enough as it is.

Apropos female roles, however, the part of the fiance is not negligible, as such parts often are.  Because she has received the wireless from Parker (see, cause and effect!), she is waiting for him when the ship docks.  Belligerent Captain tries to blow her off, but she enlists the help of the American Consul to get the whole story out of him.  Soon she is off to the rescue.  I suppose someone will carp that she needs the help of men to save the day, namely the consul and the boat guy, but I feel this is mere quibbling. We all get by with a little help from our friends.  I guess the consul and boat guy could have been women, but this was 1932, after all.  Let’s not ask for miracles.

Full disclosure:  I stopped paying a lot of attention after Fiance sets off to save the day.  I did look up and watch the dramatic conclusion.  It was climactic and not unearned.  On the whole, I feel Island of Lost Souls is not the usual cheesy fare I delight in writing about.  I enjoyed it and do not rule out watching it again sometime.

 

Murder Movie Monday?

Spoiler Alert!  I’m going to completely give away the plot, solution, big reveal and dramatic conclusion of 10 Little Indians also known as And Then There Were None.

I was in the play version of this Agatha Christie classic, having formerly read the book and the play. Steven and I own a DVD of And Then There Were None (1945).  When they did Agatha Christie Day on TCM, I DVR’d 10 Little Indians  (1966) and finally got around to watching it sometime later (full disclosure:  it was not the first time I’ve seen it).  I wrote about it even later than than, then discovered it in my notebook, and we watched our DVD yesterday with the idea that I could write about both movies today.

The original story is set on an island, the classic isolated place to murder people.  The 1966 version changes things up by bringing the characters up a treacherous snow-covered mountain in  a cable car.  The characters are different, too.  The judgmental spinster is replaced by a glamorous actress.  Fabian plays the spoiled, arrogant young man.  In the original, this character is a rich ne’er-do-well.  In the movies he is a singer hired to entertain the guests.

Both movies make use of this handy character, who sits down at the piano and sings the ditty about the 10 Little Indians.  Both movies also have one character murmur to another to hang in there (or words to that effect), he’s almost out of Indians.

Incidentally, I had never heard of this macabre poem before reading the book.  The 10 Little Indians I know goes, “One little, two little, three little Indians…”  Nobody gets killed; we just count.  That is the kind of sheltered childhood I led.

A little epergne (I’ve never used that word before; I hope it’s right) in the middle of the table depicts the ten unfortunate Indians.  A mysterious hand breaks one off every time a character is picked off.

Of course the characters behave in the time-honored fashion of movie characters confronted with a mad killer.  They lose their cool, they go off alone, they trust or mistrust each other for the flimsiest of reasons.  This is not a 70s slasher flick, so nobody has sex just before meeting a gruesome end.

In fact, none of the ends are particularly gruesome, which to me is another advantage of old movies.  I find a couple of deaths horrifying by reason of empathy.  For example, how would I feel if I was scaling down a mountain and looked up to see a hand chopping away at the rope holding me.  Yikes!

It’s not all chills and thrills, unfortunately.  Things move too slowly for my tastes.   But perhaps I ask too much.

I guess I did not need the spoiler alert after all, because I feel distinctly disinclined to actually give away the ending.  I will say that I like the movie ending better than the play ending.  And I like the very end of the 1966 flick better than the 1945 version.  Anybody who has seen both versions (or either version), feel free to offer your opinion in the comments.  Don’t worry if you give away the big reveal; we’re still covered by the Spoiler Alert.

 

Severed Head Sunday

Spoiler Alert!  I’m going to be talking about several movies and I’m not going to worry if I give anything away.  Jaws, Strait-Jacket, Sleepy Hollow, The Brain that Wouldn’t Die.

We’re watching Jaws, because it is a good summer flick.  This is what I call relaxing movie viewing: something we’ve seen before that we can just enjoy.  Until the moment when Robert Shaw scrapes his fingernails along the chalkboard to get everybody’s attention during the big village meeting.  I cringed.

“My most UN-favorite moment of the movie,” I said.  “I don’t even mind the severed head.”

In fact, the first time I saw the severed head (you know, when Richard Dreyfus is underwater looking at the recently sunken boat), I jumped and said, “EEWW!”  But it’s a great moment in a scary movie.  Thinking about it, I came up with the title of today’s blog post.  I hope you like it as much as I do.

Last night we watched Strait-Jacket with the incomparable Joan Crawford.  This movie featured several severed heads.  It is one of my favorites.  I loved it even before I knew it was produced and directed by that master of such movies, William Castle.

Naturally I started thinking about other movies we could watch that featured severed heads.  My first thought was Sleepy Hollow, or as I like to call it, The Headless Everybody.  I told Steven we should watch some more severed head films and he said, “Like The Brain that Wouldn’t Die.”

“You’re a genius,” I said.

Ooh, as I typed all this in, the movie progressed and they are ALMOST to the moment of the severed head.  I must stop typing and watch.  As I look back on this post, I do not believe the Spoiler Alert was truly necessary.  No matter.  A couple of bold-faced words is always a good start for a blog post.  I hope you are all enjoying your Sunday as much as I am.

 

An Unusual Voodoo/Witchcraft Kind of Guy

I’ve become suspicious of zombie movies, because the word “zombie” seems to cover such a wide fictional territory. Are they undead or just hypnotized? Flesh-eating or hate salt? Fast or slow? Body parts rotting or intact? There are many kinds of zombies.

Doubts aside, I DVR’d Plague of the Zombies (1966) from TCM in October. I ended up being glad I did. For one thing, it is a Hammer Film. I’m kind of a latecomer to the Hammer party, but I am a fan.

Spoiler Alert! I’m going to give away what seems to me important stuff, not just which kind of zombies these are. You might like to see the movie before reading this, if like me you like to be surprised.

The movie opens on some kind of voodoo ceremony. I don’t think the writers of horror movies research these things very well. I think they just put some half-naked Africans beating on drums and throw in whatever creepy stuff occurs to them at the time. In this case, it is a guy in a mask with a little doll (presumably a voodoo doll) and a vial of blood.

The voodoo doll is obviously female. Flash to a lovely woman sleeping restlessly. When mask guy starts chanting something weird, so does she. We see that her wrist is bandaged (and remember it later, of course). Suddenly she sits bolt upright and screams. End of prologue.

Next we meet a distinguished white-haired doctor and his beautiful blond daughter. They are going to Cornwall or the moors or someplace to help another doctor, who married an old schoolfriend of the daughter, investigate some mysterious deaths.

As the carriage rolls across the countryside, they see a fox, who is shortly followed by five guys in red coats on horses. What, no dogs? I don’t know much about fox hunting, but I thought there were always dogs. Anyways, the young bloods (I know that’s what they are, because that is how they are listed in the end credits) ask if anybody has seen a fox. Beautiful Daughter sweetly misdirects them.

Then it is on to the village, where a funeral is in progress. As Father and Daughter discreetly wait for the cortege to pass, the Young Bloods come thundering back and knock the coffin over a bridge. This makes for a nice creepy shot of the dead body.

The Young Bloods are mad at Daughter for misdirecting them. The brother of the dead guy is mad at both of them. I guess he blames them for the Young Bloods’ intrusion, which I personally thought a little unreasonable. Oh well, he is grief stricken.

It seems that twelve people have died. The families in this backward area will not allow autopsies, giving Distinguished Dad Doctor and Young Doctor a chance for some grave digging (“Could be worse; could be raining”) (oh wait, wrong movie).

We don’t have to wait too awful long to see the zombies, and they are scary. I was particularly fascinated by the motivations of the head bad guy, the leader of the voodoo/witchcraft kind of cult. He uses evil means to kill people and make them zombies, then utilizes them for a sound economic reason. He is also interested in beautiful young women for blood sacrifice purposes (less unusual in these pictures).

I kind of wish they had made more of the economic side of things, because that struck me as something different for a voodoo/witchcraft kind of bad guy. Any number of movie bad guys want to hypnotize beautiful young women for blood sacrifice purposes. However, zombie-izing young men to staff a haunted tin mine is a bit of entrepreneurialism that commands my respect.

Then again, I am a recently converted horror movie aficionado. Economics could play a time-honored role in zombie movies and I just haven’t seen enough of them. Obviously I have more movie watching to do.

In any case, I found Plague of the Zombies a delight. The dramatic conclusion is very satisfying, and Andre Morell as Distinguished Doctor Dad is an excellent hero. In post-movie commentary, Ben Mankiewicz mentioned that Morell is Watson to Peter Cushing’s Sherlock Holmes in Hound of the Baskervilles. That would be a good movie to see again. Love that Peter Cushing.

If You Like Voodoo Curses

When I started to watch The Devil’s Own (1966), another movie I DVR’d in October, I was delighted to find that it was from Hammer Studios. I love Hammer movies!

Unfortunately, this one did not entertain me as much as, for example. Frankenstein Created Woman. I think I like monsters better than voodoo curses and devil worshipers. But that’s just me.

Spoiler Alert! This is another write-up where I’m pretty much going to recount the plot. What can I say? These are fun for me to write.

The movie starts out scarily enough with Joan Fontaine frantically packing to leave an African village before… something happens. The natives helping her sensibly flee in terror. She turns around and sees a scary voodoo doll. OK, I cracked up a little at the doll.

Then the door bursts open and a giant mask comes through. You can’t even tell if there’s really a person behind it, so I can see where that would be a little disconcerting. Fontaine screams and collapses.

I thought at first she was about to get killed and that I had been mistaken in thinking it was Joan Fontaine. However, the next scene finds her, some time later, in England interviewing to be a headmistress at a school. With a nervous smile, she glosses over her “health problems,” by which we surmise she had some sort of nervous breakdown in Africa. Or something. Of course she gets the job; we knew that from the description on digital cable.

And then the movie slows right down. Oh, stuff happens. But it’s your basic human interaction kind of plot. This weird girl is being romanced by a boy, to the distress of her grandmother. Other villagers seem concerned as well, so there’s a bit of creepy foreshadowing.

About the time the boy falls victim to a voodoo curse (which we, the audience immediately recognize) (some characters are slower on the uptake, despite the headless Ken doll found on a tree branch), I made the note that I prefer monsters. After that, things get a little more exciting. Spoiler alert notwithstanding, I don’t want to give everything away.

It really was not a bad movie. When things got a little slow for my tastes, I amused myself by studying Joan Fontaine’s face, looking for a family resemblance with Olivia de Havilland. I think it’s there, especially in certain expressions, but I’ll have to watch Hush… Hush… Sweet Charlotte again to be sure.

The climactic scenes are scary or comical, depending on how you feel about devil worshipers writhing in a dance of… something or other. It gets suspenseful, although anybody paying any attention (even my desultory kind), knows how Fontaine can ultimately triumph. Oh dear, did I just give something else away? Sorry.

I enjoyed the movie. And I got a bit of crocheting done, which is important to me this time of year. But for my next Hammer film, I’m hoping for a monster.

Vampires and a Big Reveal

BIG Spoiler Alert! Seriously, if you’re going to watch Mark of the Vampire (1935), PLEASE do it before reading my silly write-up.

I will, in fact, try to write about this movie without giving away the big reveal, but I don’t know how successful I will be. In fact, already I’ve said too much.

In pre-movie commentary, Robert Osborne says Mark of the Vampire is a murder mystery as well as a vampire movie. I think that gives away a lot right there, and he didn’t even give a spoiler alert. Anyways, I think it is mostly a vampire movie.

The movie begins, as these things often do, with travelers being warned to go nowhere after dark. This is all we see of the travelers, so I guess those actors did not have very good agents. The vampire(s) (I don’t think people know at this point how many there are), it seems, is (are) after folks that have lived in the area for some time.

I’m sorry, but I don’t think that’s very good scripting. Of course we don’t want characters reiterating to each other stuff they darn well already know. That would be like me saying to Steven, “As you know, we’re married and have a cute little dog.” However, I think there are better ways to set up background than sticking in extraneous characters we are never going to see again, just so they can get warned.

Perhaps I am too demanding. Anyways, that was an easy way to fill up a paragraph without giving away any major plot points (except to let you know you aren’t going to see those travelers again).

Bela Lugosi is the main vampire, and I wished he would have gotten more screen time. He is very mysterious and scary when he shows up, though, so that’s good. There is another, younger, girl vampire. She is spooky, but the actress does not have Lugosi’s gifts. She doesn’t act so much as walk around slowly with a completely blank look on her face. I suppose that is what the part called for and what the director told her to do, but I didn’t think she had the presence to carry if off properly. Oh well, she was young. I daresay she improved if she went on (didn’t make a note of the actress’ name).

Lionel Barrymore is a vampire expert. I just adore Lionel Barrymore. I don’t care if he puts the beautiful girl in danger to catch the vampires. That’s what a movie vampire expert is supposed to do.

Osborne warns us that nothing is as it seems, and that is pretty much the case. It is one of those movies where, after you find out the big secret, you kind of want to watch it again, to see if they were really playing fair. I’m actually pretty sure they did not play fair (I know some of you are saying, “Whatever that means”), because in post-movie commentary, Osborne tells us the actors did not know the big reveal till they actually filmed those scenes.

Since this is a personal blog, I feel free to interject here that I would be majorly ticked off at a director that played that kind of a game with me. If it is something my character knows, I certainly want to know it. If it is something my character doesn’t know, I would still prefer to know it and ACT. But that’s just me; I’m not all method like some people.

I enjoyed Mark of the Vampire. I may watch it again (perhaps when TCM shows it next October) and write another blog post from the point of view of somebody who already knows the big reveal. If I remember it.