Struggling this week with what to write about. The problem isn’t a lack of ideas but way too many. Especially when it comes to acknowledging my dearest Voodoo King and his love of films. About 90 percent of the time we agreed on everything. However! At a certain point, Scott stopped absorbing new films. They had to be pretty darn special for him to admit anything after 1970 was any good. Most anything after 1945 was really just an emotional attachment to films he saw in his childhood not that they were any good – over all the greatest films came from 1925 to about 1940.
For a guy who worked so closely with the start of some pretty hard hitters in the independent movie industry and making a few of his own, he had no deep appreciation for them as finished or ‘real’ films. and ..we would argue! I loved the new wave cinema and all the inspired indie films of the 70s, and especially the 80s women’s movement….. and we would argue. You might wonder how a Voodoo King would dare to argue with a Filmmaven (I K R ?), haha, but he did ..and very well! That was the zip that pulled us together, his knowledge and conversation about film ..well…such a brain – I’ve not met before or since.
That 90 percent agreement, however, covered a lot of ground; 1939 was the best year of good films, there is no way to pick between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, King Kong (1933) is one of the best films ever made and no one beats Ray Harryhausen when it came to creating excitement, depth and mood in stop-motion animation.
With all this agreement I’m torn on how to cover what would have been Scott’s 52nd birthday (the Voodoo King passed away in 2012) by discussing a few of his favorite items — so like so oft in our conversations ..lets skip around just a bit …
Gunga Din –– (1939 –Directed by George Stevens, from a Rudyard Kipling poem) — One of several films that Scott could watch twice a year with awe and laughter, as if it were only the 20th time he’d seen it. Really a small treasure of a film. Almost too many little subplots but still a delightful romp with some serious undertones starring Sam Jaffe, Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks, jr. and a new actress named Joan Fontaine. Watch for the scene giving the elephant his medicine, one of the best of the film.
Son of Frankenstein — (1939 – Directed by Rowland V. Lee — third of the Frankenstein series) An avid Frankenstein fan as well as an admirer of Basil Rathbone, Scott loved even the most schlocky versions of the story. While this is not as good as the James Whale, Frankenstein (1931) and The Bride (1935) this film is still really good. Basil Rathbone (Wolf), Bela Lugosi (Ygor) and Boris Karloff (the Monster) are at the height of their abilities. Utilizing both the full experiences as actors and the youthful energy needed to create a film that just eases off them. While it stretches them by being physically and creatively demanding the story telling appears comfortable.
Tower of London — (1939– Directed by Rowland V. Lee) — if you know some of the real history of Richard III or know nothing about him or the times this film is still enjoyable. Some what soap opera (how can it not be, right?) and occasionally absurd, its mostly fun, shocking and emotionally riveting. You just know all the bad stuff that will probably happen and can’t imagine a happy ending for anyone. Starring Basil Rathbone (Richard), Boris Karloff (The executioner) and Vincent Price (Duke) …right? Price is terrific, you can see good things for him based on this role.
For Scott, who loved Ray Harryhausen:
Mighty Joe Young (1949– Directed by Erenst B. Schoedsack) — Not on my personal list of favorite films but I have to concede its fascinating to watch for the effects alone. Nice to have a strong female lead and terrific cinematography by J. Roy Hunt. This is the film that catapulted Harryhausen’s Stop motion animation into the imagination of a country fresh from War and seeking new entertainment quality. Fantasy films was about to make a nice alternative to splashy rom coms.
Jason and the Argonauts– (1963, Directed by Don Chaffey) Simplistic and cheesy, a real pleasure to watch! Todd Armstrong as Jason is strong and funny and please take note of Honor Blackman as Hera. When considering the technology of the day this film is even more impressive. Considered Ray Harryhausen’s master work this film is non stop incredible – a cinematic treasure. I would highly recommend watching all the other Harryhausen films and save this one for last; you’ll want to see it at least a few times.
Happy Birthday My Love – I know you are hanging out with Ray and King Kirby – enjoy!