Matrimony, Madness and Murder: HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON (1970)

hhpModern weddings often bring out the worst in people. The attempt to meet family and social expectations while exchanging vows that occasionally read like a prison sentence can be a dangerous cocktail made worse by a deep focus on money matters. Instead of enjoying their “special day” couples and their accommodating families often end up obsessing over the high cost of gourmet cakes and designer dresses. And as the manufactured pressure mounts, the passion and purpose that brought two people together can get lost in the frantic shuffle down the aisle. Thankfully matrimony rarely leads to madness and murder unless your name happens to be John Harrington and you run one of the most fashionable bridal salons in Paris. Harrington is the main protagonist in Mario Bava’s incredibly stylish thriller HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON aka IL ROSSO SEGNO DELLA FOLLIA (1970), which airs on TCM underground this coming Saturday (11PM PST/2AM EST). The grisly title tends to conjure up all kinds of terrible images in the mind’s eye but the film, which details Harrington’s murderous exploits, is surprisingly free of gore. Corpses do pile up in HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON but they’re drenched in more bridal lace than blood. The film’s dreamlike atmosphere and Hitchcockian plot twists leave a lot to the imagination and viewers who tune in to TCM Underground on Saturday night should appreciate Bava’s bold color palette, inventive directing choices as well as his bleak sense of humor and willingness to scrutinize the myth of marital bliss as well as the fickle world of fashion with a critical eye.

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Cinematic Cat-egories

Postcard of Luna Park

I was going to write about The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), because it’s screening tomorrow on TCM and, also, because the latest Coen brothers film, Inside Llewyn Davis (2013), opens theatrically this coming Friday. Instead, I got stuck on the Inside Llewyn Davis poster. There is something about its composition that I find very striking. To notice it, you’ll have to ignore the top and bottom, which are lame in the ways that most movie posters are routinely lame: emphasizing celebrity names up top, and then all the normal credits at bottom. The middle section, however, is inspired. I can’t stop looking at the cat. There are several reasons for this, and the first is due to the sight-lines, which immediately reminded me of the Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (1818) painting by famous German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich. It’s a classic example of a visual construction where all the lines lead to the center. Except in Friedrich’s case the lines of the natural landscape converge on man, whereas with the Inside Llewyn Davis poster, the sight-lines provided by the New York City streetscape converge on the cat. I think this is great because, in my humble opinion, any movie poster is immediately improved with the addition of a feline presence. Since our furry little friends are said to have nine lives, in this post I’ll be looking at how cats have been depicted throughout cinema in nine different categories. [...MORE]

Snapshots of the Fall: Part II

In my last post I provided a look behind the curtain for the first five weeks of film programming for my fall film calendar. This week we look at the remaining 24 titles that round out the schedule. It features everything from classics such as Vertigo to the state premiere of the latest uncompromising and visually arresting film by Bruno Dumont, Outside Satan (a scene of which is pictured above). [...MORE]

Snapshots of the Fall

The art house film calendar that I program goes to press in two days and, although I’m still waiting for some confirmations, I’m sharing the rough-draft with TCM readers, along with some brief thoughts regarding the choices made.

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FEMINA RIDENS

While watching a bunch of Italian Giallo-themed trailers there was one that stuck out as particularly promising. It had interesting compositions and impressive set designs, including a deliriously macabre and surrealistic scene of a skeleton collapsing between the teeth of a large and theatrically constructed vagina dentata that leaves the skull bouncing out between the thighs. That, I thought to myself, is a film I must see. [...MORE]

Learning Lattuada: The Overcoat (1952) and Come Have Coffee With Us (1970)

On December 6th, RaroVideo released two films from director Alberto Lattuada on DVD. Relatively unknown in the U.S., he was an eclectic talent who came up under the sway of neorealism, and who later made an uncategorizable series of literary adaptations and bitterly satirical farces. I have asked a Ph.D candidate in Italian Studies at NYU, Alberto Zambenedetti, to help me discuss his work. Mr. Zambenedetti will write about The Overcoat (1952), widely considered his masterpiece, and I will look at Come Have Coffee With Us (1970), one of his late sex comedies.

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The Importance of Being Godzilla (Part 3)

For those of you who missed last week’s post, a quick recap:  I recorded audio commentaries to both the Japanese and American cuts of Ishiro Honda’s GODZILLA for Criterion, but some of the material was cut from the tracks as the discs were sent to the factory.  I am using this forum as a venue by which to publish some of the deleted material.

The most controversial sections addressed the European distribution of the original Godzilla.  Last week we saw what happened in Germany–this week we explore the nuttiness of COZZILLA!

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Keaton International

In this week’s post we will meet Buster Keaton the gangster, Buster Keaton the communist, and Buster Keaton the Nazi.  I’ve got a treasure trove of rare clips you won’t see anywhere else—all you have to do is click that “more” button to expand this.  C’mon, you know you want to.  It’ll make your day…

Buster Keaton

 

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Woody Strode’s Italian Connection

In the late ’60s many aging American actors were finding it hard to get good roles in Hollywood. The old studio system was collapsing and younger audiences wanted to see films featuring new faces and fresh blood. During this transitional period the Italian film industry was thriving and European directors expressed interest in working with Hollywood performers that they had admired from afar. This led actors like Woody Strode to start accepting roles in Italian genre films such as spaghetti westerns as well as giallo (thrillers) and poliziottesco (crime) movies where they often received top billing and were treated like stars. As an African American actor Woody Strode had other strikes against him in Hollywood where race relations were still extremely complicated and by 1968 he had grown increasingly frustrated by the racism he was experiencing in the US. At the time Europe was much more progressive in the way that it was handling race relations and many black performers found that very liberating.

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These movies brought to you by the number 11.

Books

Ever wonder if the universe might be sending you a secret message? I’m not one to read tea-leaves or Tarot cards, but sometimes think numerology can be fun. So today I woke up wondering if there could be any significance to it being the first day of the eleventh month of the year. Taking a cue from the popular internet meme that asks people to turn to a specific page in the book nearest them to share an excerpt, I decided to see what films the cosmos might be suggesting I add to my Netflix account by pulling down from my bookshelf all the film books I had that I figured would have plenty of poster art. Then I counted the stack. I’m not making this up: there were exactly eleven books! I was off to a good start. How to proceed? Since it’s the first day of the eleventh month of the year I went to page 11, and from there let my finger fall on the very first film image that followed. With that in mind, I now dedicate the following eleven films to the month of November: [...MORE]

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