CineSavant Column

Tuesday October 30, 2018


We got in Charlie Largent’s slick William Castle Review last Saturday and Criterion saved the day by providing Sisters just in time, so Halloween worked out after all. The top picture above was taken at the Day of the Dead all-day Fiesta-celebration at Hollywood Forever mortuary last Saturday; my better half helps out with an altar for a beloved fellow language instructor who passed away two years ago. The Mexican Día de los muertos customs are interesting, and some of the altars were hosted by very gracious and informative people.

The picture up top is sort of a joke about the too-long holiday season. Kids could pose with ‘Dead Santa.’ I particularly like Santa’s coloration — red, green and white. The link is to the Roberto Gavaldón film Macario, which I recommend all horror aficionados track down if they can — originally written by B. Traven of Treasure of the Sierra Madre, it’s a folksy elaboration of Fritz Lang’s Destiny, suffused with ‘Day of the Dead’ imagery and mysticism.

Gary Teetzel’s links to interesting pages in old issues of American Cinematographer prompted me to find one of my own, an article about a kooky minimal-animation cartoon series from the dank depths of childhood, Clutch Cargo. Those creepy images of live-action lips talking in the middle of cartoon faces freaked me out. The article explains how (and why) the weird shows were produced — the makers considered Clutch Cargo a moving comic strip, not an animated cartoon series. The scans of this and many other older magazines are produced by an entity called The Media History Project.

David Pierce is one of the founders of the Media History Digital Library. He asked me to print this acknowledgement link — the MHP is always looking to expand public awareness and raise funds. I found out that David was also an old associate of the late and greatly missed Robert S. Birchard, and we exchanged some of our memories.

I did receive more information about the pricey German Blu-ray of The Horrible Dr. Hichcock. ‘Ulli from Basel’ has the disc and loves it, but confirmed some potential deal-breakers for viewers thinking of buying for import. Ulli doesn’t say if it’s Region B locked, but he tells us that it looks and sounds great:

“The colours are amazing and I guess there is no better home theatre version out there. It is lovingly presented, although the (very good) extras — an audio commentary, a featurette — are only in German. There is, of course, the great soundtrack on CD and also a nice image gallery and Italian and French trailers. They put a lot of work in a new German retro-synchronization, that tries and mostly succeeds, to sound like it was done in the sixties. It does feature the original Italian soundtrack, but for legal reasons the German subtitles unfortunately cannot be removed. It is the complete uncut version and limited to 1000 copies, so it could probably go out of print soon.
What a truly amazing movie. Now I hope that Riccardo Freda’s other gothic masterpiece with Barbara Steele,
Lo Spettro, will get a comparable Blu-ray release. I hope I was of help with this info. Thank you by the way for your highly enjoyable reviews. They are really one of the highlights of current movie criticism. Keep up the good work. Greetings from Basel, Ulli.”

Well, I can’t argue with that (or the praise). Is $40 too much for a much-desired CD soundtrack of the Roman Vlad music score? That’s the exact amount that I paid for a B&W 16mm print of the movie in 1975 — from, of all people, the aforementioned Robert S. Birchard. Any more coincidences like this and it’ll be time to try a seance.

I’ll need to mull this over some more. I’m not sure that I want to see the show in a modern German re-dub. I know the enforced subs can be removed if they’re not burned in, but doing so is not part of my skill set. I still remember the generous collector friend Robert Seletsky, who enabled me to see a good DVD of Hichcock with excellent English fan subs. He convinced me that the original Italo track was the way to go — the movie comes off as more intelligent in every respect.

Also seen while exiting the cemetery last Saturday… it’s walking distance from CineSavant headquarters (or, home). Most of the headstones have unfamiliar names but Hollywood Forever is the final resting place for hundreds of industry professionals and stars. Last year I took a picture of Mel Blanc’s tombstone, but his is right on a main walkway, and is hard to miss. This name caught my eye as I went by, enough to motivate me to take a picture — I doubt that I’d be able to find it again without a map.

Sure enough, I was right. The familiar-sounding Abem Finkel turned out to be a noted screenwriter, who worked on pictures like Sergeant York and Jezebel. The Day of the Dead celebration is fun, what with the costumes and music, but I paused for minute over this stone and thought, “Seventy years have come and gone. How long has it been since a fan dropped by? I’m going to look you up as soon as I get home, Mr. Finkel.”

What do I watch every Halloween? Depending on my mood, it’s The Horrible Dr. Hichcock, Macario, Dementia/Daughter of Horror, Vampyr, or The Fearless Vampire Killers. It also depends upon who I can entice into Dr. CineSavant’s Screening Room of Doom, Moo-ahh hah-hah!

Happy Halloween! — Glenn Erickson