gwalla: (lon chaney)
So last night I saw a couple of movies at the Symphony: the silent "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" with John Barrymore and Buster Keaton's short "The Haunted House", with live accompaniment on pipe organ, percussion, and effects. The crowd was a mix: some just dressed up, some dressed "period" for the silent films, and a bunch just dressed in silly Halloween costumes. The organist was a total ham who came on stage in a cape and vampire mask, and started things rolling with Bach's Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor, which he credited with getting him interested in playing the organ (and called "a curse on organists everywhere"). He also announced the score: 4-0 Giants.

First up was the Keaton short, which was hilarious. Keaton plays a hapless bank clerk who, after a series of mishaps, finds himself framed by a crooked superior who is also head of a group of counterfeiters, and when on the run from the police takes refuge in a house that happens to be the counterfeiters' hideout, which they've rigged up to be "haunted" to scare people off. Meanwhile an incompetent opera company botches a performance of "Faust" and is chased off by the irate audience, only to take up residence, in costume, in the same house. In particular, the trick stairs running gag and the extended glue gag had me rolling. The wordplay in the title cards is fun too: "Wall Street: The palatial parking place of the Bear and the Bull--mostly the Bull."

After that, the feature film. When introducing the movie, the organist noted that Barrymore had played the role(s) live on Broadway, where his performances were such a big hit that they got the attention of the major film studios, and the film is essentially just the stage play with more and bigger sets. Since it was meant to be played live, Barrymore couldn't depend on special effects or elaborate makeup, and had to portray the transformation entirely through acting. He shows the whites of his eyes, looks down his nose, flares his nostrils, hunches his back, tenses his hands into claws, and assumes a lopsided sneer, and even without the long crusty fingernails and lumpy back of the head they give him in some scenes he looks like a completely different person. The only effects are a few fairly rudimentary dissolves. The camera also helps: as Jekyll, Barrymore is filmed mostly with his head turned fully to the side (his nickname was "The Profile" for a reason), while as Hyde he is shot mostly head-on.

There was an intermission in the middle of the film. I considered getting a shot at the lobby bar and then clutching my chest as in Jekyll's first transformation, but the line was too long to get a drink before they rang the bell. Before starting the second half, the organist announced that it was still 4-0, with two outs to go. Right before starting, they were interrupted by someone offstage, and the effects guy (who was using Buchla Lightning "wands" to trigger his sounds) relayed that the game was over and the Giants had won.

The film does not really follow the same structure as the original story. Since "Jekyll and Hyde" is such a well known trope now, it's easy to forget that in Stevenson's novella the connection between the two is a mystery that is revealed late as a shocking twist, and mostly follows the point of view of Jekyll's friend and lawyer Mr. Utterson. The film, on the other hand, mostly follows Jekyll, with Sir George's worldly temptations prompting Jekyll to find a way to separate out man's (and in particular his) evil impulses, and Hyde graduating from general douchebaggery (using and discarding the music hall dancer Gina), to callously injuring a child, to outright murder; Utterson is reduced to a minor character. Despite being melodramatic in a way not really seen anymore, the movie holds up very well.

Apparently back home there were a whole lot more trick-or-treaters than there had been in recent years. It was a great night for it, too: very clear and not too cold.

Altogether, a great Halloween.
gwalla: (Default)
I'm pretty proud of how they turned out this year. The one on the left is my dad's, and the one on the right is mine. Dad was working around several bite marks made by (we think) squirrels, while the mouth of mine started with a gouge I made accidentally when I was gutting it. Mine was going to be a triclops, but the middle eye wasn't centered enough and I decided I liked the lopsided face more.

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There were a lot more trick-or-treaters coming by this year than there have been in recent years, which was nice.

I finished off the night watching the MST3k of the classic crapfest Robot Monster, a movie so cheap that they couldn't afford a robot costume, so they used a borrowed gorilla suit with a helmet instead. Season One of MST3k was...odd. Not a big fan of Josh Weinstein. Larry, the second mad scientist, wasn't that funny (replacing him with TV's Frank was a good move, because the boss/lackey dynamic had more comedic potential) and I prefer Kevin Murphy's sarcastic, slightly fabulous version of Tom Servo to Weinstein's deadpan one. They were still definitely working out the kinks: they wasted pretty much the entire opening credits sequence to the Commando Cody episodes that preceded the film proper with unfunny variations on "not another one" and "wow, this is bad", and in general there weren't really enough quips. The show really hit its stride in Season Two; two of my all-time favorites are from that season (First Spaceship on Venus "Secretly, we've replaced their planet with Folger's Crystals" and Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster "Kabob, and Ka-Steve!").
gwalla: (halloween)

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Garth

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