Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Existence of Robert Walden

Hey but I know you remember last year's Halloween Film Festival when a movie called THE VAMPIRE nearly destroyed us. It wasn't even about a legit vampire. It was about a guy who took pills made of bats! And it wasn't very good. And it was called THE VAMPIRE. So WHERE WAS THE VAMPIRE? It took the wind out of our sails. We didn't think we could go on! Why am I forcing myself to relive this? Well, this year's Halloween Film Festival, by contrast, has been going pretty great! BUT. Then there was this thing we watched called AUDREY ROSE. I guess it started out okay, with an eerily dreamy car crash. But then in the middle it turned into MIRACLE ON 34th STREET. Remember that? That's the movie where there's a trial that hinges on proving that Santa Claus exists. That's not a horror movie! And in the middle of AUDREY ROSE it suddenly turns into a courtroom drama about the existence of the immortal soul! HUH? And how it travels from body to body. And therefore you can't really be convicted of kidnapping somebody if she happens to have your dead kid's soul living inside her. WHAT! And everybody in the courtroom sits around nodding gravely like, "Hmm, makes a lot of sense when you think about it, I guess we should let this guy kidnap whoever he wants." MIRACLE ON 34th STREET handles this kind of implausible legal whimsy quietly and even believably. Here your jaw just drops. And you also realize that now you are watching a flimsy courtroom drama with a million holes in it instead of a horror movie. The defense lawyer arguing in favor of the human soul (!) is played by Robert Walden, the existence of whom the "blog" has proven before. And saintly soft-spoken spiritual weirdo kidnapper Anthony Hopkins sits there having long documentary-style flashbacks (I think) to religious rituals in India, where, throughout the movie, he has been sort of humbly yet obnoxiously bragging about living for a while and it made him so great and quietly humble and everything (it was at this point that Dr. Theresa realized we had been suckered into watching some kind of proselytizing religious movie for our Halloween Film Festival), and the movie suddenly cuts from the stock footage of India to the star of our movie, a little girl, inexplicably marching in a circle with some other little girls around a giant snowman in a schoolyard in New York or wherever the hell they are.
I mean a GIANT snowman! I'm not sure I can get across how big this snowman is, I mean, this is a towering snowman. (This "blog" "post" I found on the "internet" - "click" here - rightly compares it to THE WICKER MAN, which went through my mind too. [I should also include a "link" to this more appreciative though still skeptical analysis of the film.]) Then they put a crown on the giant snowman and set it on fire. Here you can see the girl being hypnotized by the flames because of her crazy soul and all. It made me think of the "burning the witch" segment in Fellini's AMARCORD (pictured), which I believe (if I recall correctly)
symbolizes the same thing the snowman seems to symbolize in AUDREY ROSE: the end of winter's tyranny. And then that made me think of the awesome beginning of Fellini's CASANOVA (below).
Which probably has something to do with fecundity, and so might be related to the coming of spring, I have no idea what I'm talking about, isn't that what's going on in THE WICKER MAN too, somebody help me, I just want to take my mind off of AUDREY ROSE. Then Fellini's CASANOVA made me think of THE LAST TYCOON, the movie version of THE LOVE OF THE LAST TYCOON, which kind of nicely captures the scene from the novel of the intoxicating vision of the girls floating on the big head through the backlot after an earthquake. That's an intoxicating vision it would be almost impossible to ruin.
But THE LAST TYCOON misses so much about the novel. Would you like me to tell you what? OKAY! For example, in the movie, whiz-kid studio exec Robert De Niro explains to a huffy "literary writer" exactly what a movie story is, and that's fine, but De Niro squirms and darts around and leaps about and gesticulates so much while he does it! Really laying it on thick. Whereas in the book, his character (Monroe Stahr) makes the exact same speech, but oh so still and simply... it's better. It's spellbinding! In the novel. A real centerpiece. And there's another big problem with THE LAST TYCOON, which I generally like. But let's not get into that. I do remember reading in Tony Curtis's autobiography about how handsome and fit he was in THE LAST TYCOON and it made Ray Milland and Robert Mitchum so jealous because Tony Curtis was walking around being such a fine hot specimen of manhood, according to Tony Curtis. I find it hard to imagine Mitchum giving a crap. BUT I'M GETTING OFF TRACK. Maybe I'm just avoiding AUDREY ROSE. A long time ago the "blog" used to tally up all the guys we saw in movies with cigarette holders, I can't remember why. Anyway we stopped that nonsense. But the prosecuting attorney in AUDREY ROSE, who hates reincarnation, is played by the stalwart John Hillerman (pictured), and he sits in judge's chambers puffing away on a cigarette through a cigarette holder. The man was born to use a cigarette holder.
I'll say that for him. The movie has a chance to redeem itself (maybe) at the end, when Anthony Hopkins tosses a chair through a two-way mirror (don't ask), a kind of neat effect that perfectly sets up (for reasons we shan't go into) a cathartic solution to all the troubled kid's terrible problems. (Robert Wise, who directed AUDREY ROSE, also co-directed CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE, a much superior horror movie that's not quite a horror movie about parents who don't understand what their child is going through. But he didn't luck out twice with the child actors, I'll tell you that! Though I hate to cast aspersions upon a child actor. So we won't get into that.) BUT! And here is a BIG SPOILER. Instead of fulfilling the perfectly set-up catharsis that was right there in the filmmakers' hands, the kid just flat-out lies down and dies. The kid dies! Boom. She's dead. They killed the kid. No more kid. The kid's just lying there dead. No catharsis for you! And then there's a long solemn epistolary voice-over from her mother (!) about how that all worked out pretty well because her kid's ashes were sent to India (with her creepily beatific stalker Anthony Hopkins!) so maybe the whole reincarnation thing will go better next time. That's looking on the old bright side, I guess.