CineSavant Column

Saturday April 20, 2019


The Noir City festival is landing in Austin Texas next month, from May 17 to 19; then it moves on to Boston, Chicago and Detroit … what is this, a new kind of organized crime syndicate?  I heartily recommend the opening night ‘premiere restoration’ of Richard Fleischer’s Trapped, with Lloyd Bridges and Barbara Payton — it was a big hit at this month’s Hollywood installment of Noir City. It may be the only movie where the intrepid undercover agent who takes the risks and cracks the case… is played by that masculine hunk, John Hoyt!

Noir City also offers a good chance to meet Eddie Muller and Alan Rode, on this the festival’s 20th or 21st year (I lost count). Full information is said to be at the Alamo Drafthouse website.

And we’ve finally been told — Jean-Luc Godard’s 1965 science fiction / spy epic Alphaville now has a hard release date on Blu-ray from Kino, July 9. It’s the one Godard film that’s really grown on me, for obvious reasons — and also because it was my entry into the mystery of European Art Films. The Captain in charge of the Norton Air Force Base movie club I got involved with in high school had the book of the screenplay and loaned it to me — and a week later I drove to Riverside to see Alphaville at an annex ‘art’ theater atop the Fox theater, down the street from the Mission Inn. I didn’t follow the story very well, but boy I was hooked. I look forward to seeing a presentation that’s an improvement over Criterion’s old DVD.

“Frankenstein out-Frankensteined!”

And intrepid CineSavant investigator Gary Teetzel checked from the field to report on an interesting find. Gary’s message just arrived from CineSavant’s decoding room:

“While noodling around the Media History Digital Library, I can across a multi-page graphic spread devoted to Gaumont-British productions. Many were familiar, like The 39 Steps and Transatlantic Tunnel. But then there was this:”

“At first I thought that Dr. Nikola might be an early title for one of Boris Karloff’s British films, but, nope, that wasn’t it. A little research revealed that this show was to be based on a character that appeared in a series of five novels by author Guy Boothby. Quite popular in their day, the series revolved around Dr. Nikola, a master criminal with knowledge of the occult who sought immortality, resurrection of the dead and world domination. The books inspired two silent films and a play. It would appear that Nikola was a key figure in developing the pop culture notion of the super-villain. His first appearance came two years after Professor Moriarity made his debut in the Sherlock Holmes stories, and he is believed to have helped inspire both Fu Manchu and Bulldog Drummond’s arch-nemesis Carl Peterson. There may also be a connection between the cat depicted in the artwork (a feature in the books) and Ian Fleming’s Blofeld (a connection helpfully pointed out by Darren Gross). Blofeld didn’t have a cat in the novels, but it’s certainly possible Fleming was familiar with the Nikola books.”

“The nefarious Dr. Nikola seems largely forgotten today, but it looks as though his legacy lives on — Gary.”

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson