Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
The news that Brittany Murphy has died at the age of 32 sent me with curiosity back to her filmography, and thence to the surprising realisation that I have seen far more of her films than I realised. Most I would never dream of watching again - but however little I remember of some of them, in every case I remember her contribution, and I remember being impressed by her every time. A talented, sparky, unusual, likeable soul.
And one that I certainly will watch again, at least once every couple of years until they take me out the door feet first, is Cherry Falls (2000) one of my favourites of the post-Scream, postmodern slasher wave, (which I discuss here). She is, and looks, great in this film, investing a pretty straightforward slasher heroine character with unwritten dimensions all her own, adding immeasurably to the off-kilter flavour of the film itself.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Carfax Abbey has been holidaying in Cornwall, and so naturally decided to drop in on its very good friend Doctor Blood, who keeps a coffin there.
Actually, he doesn't, but it's just one of the many delightful surprises of Doctor Blood's Coffin (1960) that it is the second part of the title that's hyperbole: he doesn't have a coffin, but the main character is called Dr Blood - Dr Peter Blood, to be precise.
Like The Ghoul, it is one of my all-time favourite British horror films, and like The Ghoul no critic in the universe has anything but the most scornful things to say about it. However, unlike The Ghoul, the low critical standing of which is a complete and enduring mystery to me, I am prepared to accept that in this case my ratio of objective/defensible reasons for liking it to subjective/indefensible reasons for liking it is probably somewhere in the region of 70-30 in subjectivity's favour.
But the objective reasons are not to be sniffed at, for all that. In the first place we have the considerable novelty of a Frankenstein movie set in present-day (that is to say sixties) England, rather than a hundred years ago in a mountain village in Switzerland. Then there's the even greater novelty - perhaps even innovation - that its hunky love interest and human vivisection-crazed villain are one and the same, the erstwhile Dr B (Kieron Moore).
And a right rotten sod he is too, descending on his father's Cornish practice, kidnapping innocent Cornish yokels, paralysing them and then taking out their hearts so as to stuff them into corpses and bring them back to life. And all in the bottom of a tin mine.
Therefore the film has no hero, only a heroine, in the form of Hazel Court, the woman they had in mind when they invented Eastmancolor. Hazel is the senior Dr Blood's widowed nurse, but when she balks at Blood Jr's attempted justification for his murders - the victims spent most of their time in the pub - he interprets this as her spurning him in favour of the memory of her late husband. So he digs him up, gives him a new heart (and that's all there is to it, by the way) and then takes her to see him stumbling about with green mould all over his face.
Hazel is of course the other great reason for enjoying the film. Though she became the first female face of Hammer horror in The Curse of Frankenstein (to say nothing of the first Hammer actress to appear nude, in mockingly lost footage from the export version of 1959's Man Who Could Cheat Death), the majority of her horror appearances were in Roger Corman's Poe movies, and Doctor Blood's remains her only other British horror (unless you count pre-Hammer weirdie Devil Girl From Mars) that features her in modern dress and settings. She spends the greater part of the film in a nurse's outfit, complete with high heels and one of those adorable little hats, photographed relentlessly from behind and frequently bending over.
At the time the film was criticised for its excessive gruesomeness, but there is little here that Hammer had not been doing for a year or two; the difference was in the fact that it was not set in some reassuringly distant place and time, and the mad scientist wore polo shirts and sports jackets rather than top hats and frock coats.
My own affection for the film is due at least in part to its familiar - to me - Cornish backgrounds (though the original script had in fact been set in Arizona). So over the past week or so, we've been tracking them down...
Dr Blood's Village
What is referred to in the film as Porthcarron is in fact the village of Zennor. Here's the first post-credits shot of a car driving into the location, followed by the same road as it looks today.
.Doctor Blood's Local
The sign above right is for The Tinner's Arms, the village pub, which, unusually, is also the building used for the location of the pub in the film. The stone work has been rusticated since the film was made; personally I prefer the 1960 whitewash.
.Doctor Blood's Cottage
Ironically, one of the few buildings used in the film to have changed significantly is the main one: the terraced cottage which doubles as Blood and Son's surgery and living accommodation. Over the past half-century it has lost its garden wall, most of its flower beds and its porch.
.The following shot of the cottage (on the right) and the white building next to the pub is still easy to locate, even though the latter has lost the blue painted window-frames and doors.
Here we see the scene in which Hazel bends down to pick up the morning milk (bending correctly at the knees) being restaged by Angela Levin (who bends at the spine, proving she's no nurse).
.Next, Hazel and Angela walk past the white building next to the pub...
.And here's the view back towards the village, shot from the same spot.
.And finally, at no extra cost, a delightfully-named nearby hostelry not featured in the film, but in which the Doc would no doubt have felt very much at home...