Yet again, it's beginning to get repetitive around here once more

No hatchets in foreheads, buzzsaws lopping torsos in half, or bloody teeth removed with Vise-grips but rather than be regulated to the sidelines for a month while you two drone on about horror films (yet again), I'm offering up a double-bill of trippy '70s flicks that creeped me out back when your parents were still feeling each other up in the back of the AMC Pinto.

First up – The Mephisto Waltz starring Alan Alda from 1971. I've never been able to forget this spooky little Rosemary's Baby derivative and can't quite explain why. An dying concert pianist does a fancy Satanic two-step and transfers his being to a young Alan Alda (a la Faust, forget it.... it's a reading thing). Alda's young wife notices a sudden improvement in the bedroom area as the elder spirit enjoys the fruits of his soul-transference-Viagra labour and her formerly hapless husband becomes a much-more-aggressive lover and a better peni.... sorry, pianist.

Although critically lambasted on it's original release, this film has everything a Halloween movie ought to: kooky dream sequences replete with odd camera angles and Vaseline lens dollops, a healthy helping of Satanic ritual and incantation, creepy acid-classical music, bizarro murders and body exchanges managed with a small dab of blue oil on the noggin'. There's lots of lurid and illicit sexual encounters with just enough exposed flesh to keep it off late-night TV. This one is buried on a double bill with something called The House on Skull Mountain in the FBW's extensive and unnecessary horror collection.

The bottom half of the bill is a terrific and nearly unknown film by Robert Altman called Images from 1972 (considered a “lost film” as the studio destroyed the negatives after a dismal showing to confused audiences on its original theatrical release. It played to mixed reviews at both Cannes and The New York Film Festival). A print obviously survived and was briefly released on DVD (sadly, I never noticed) but we've got a good quality copy in The Black Vault.

Images is really Susannah York's movie. She wrote the book that it is based on and stars in the lead role (best actress at Cannes, so the film didn't go entirely unnoticed). It is also one of the most beautifully shot films I've ever seen and may play better today than it did on its original release. The plot has a schizophrenic writer seeing apparitions that may or may not be real. There is a sexual guilt/infidelity angle that is most definitely a product of the era and the film's histrionics need to be forgiven in this regard but this is a terrifying descent into madness, hallucination and sexual oblivion. In a way, this one is a bit of a precursor to Kubrick's The Shining with enough thematic overlap to assume something in the film inspired Stanley.

Both of these films are less horror than haunting, more unsettling rather than jarring but it is this quality that makes them effective and scary. They are the kind of films that don't particularly make you jump but instead seep into your head and drip little angst-nuggets into your subconscious for days afterward.

Just like talking to Jules.

Von Sporgenstein.


the coelacanth said...

see, it's fun to get in on the action isn't it? sorry, i forgot to "invite" you...

mephisto waltz, i agree, is wonderfully creepy, and as you say, the perfect halloween film. thanks for the reminder, i had forgotten all about this one. i really do love witchcraft/satanism films. house on skull mountain, on the other hand, isn't bad, but is definitely the weaker of the two and not sure why it was paired with m.w. in fact, most of the midnite movies collection holds something of value, and good on mgm for putting out some long forgotten gems...

re: images - i agree with everything you say about this one as well, and there a few things which you bring up that i hadn't thought about but that make perfect sense now. reminds me a bit of let's scare jessica to death (which i was going to write about later in the month, if i get around to rewatching it), but images is certainly the superior film.

btw, the FBE is hip enough to your "old horror" (and possibly great cinema) to have picked up a legit copy of images during the brief window when it was available last year. so, you know, we're not total losers...just sayin'.

and why do you have to hate on horror? let's make a deal - nov. 1 i'll change the blog banner to a still from detour and you can have the whole month to ramble on about how great some obscure noir is that is only available via original negative transfers to black vault copy that no one but you and mike brown will ever see....."noir november", sounds perfect, n'est pas?

La Sporgenza said...

I don't hate horror, I'm just tired of it after two unrelenting months of posts about it. "No" to Noir November, it's too dark and rainy that month.

La Sporgenza said...

No, I've rethought my earlier response and need to revise it. I do indeed have a hate on for horror and every month is Noir month here at Segredos.