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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dead of Night

Although this blog normally saves non-political reviews for the weekend, I am breaking that rule. Such a slap you should give me!

Last night I re-viewed that classic British ghost story collection from 1945, Dead of Night. Many of you know this film well -- and if you don't, you should. It's a compendium movie in which the framing story forms an infinite loop, although some theorists say that the final loop begins at the very end. Either way, you gotta love the epistemological conundrums.

My favorite episode is the Christmas story, set in an idealized English manor house and starring a 15 year-old Sally Ann Howes. When I first saw this movie, I was of a similar age and (as was my wont at that time) formulated a instant crush on young Sally. She was pretty, charming, well-groomed, cultured, polite yet perky -- and utterly unlike the drugged-out, uncivilized, infuriatingly inarticulate female pseudo-humanoids slouching through California's high schools back in the 1970s. Whatever happened to girls like that? I wondered as I watched Sally. Where did they go? I loved her in that old-style Christmas dress -- and those fingerless fishnet gloves must have launched a thousand fetishists down a mildly pervy path.

I did not know until recently that Sally Ann Howes' ghost story is the only one in the movie based on an actual murder. People still argue about it!

Most viewers prefer the celebrated final episode involving the ventriloquist and his dummy. Even though this yarn has inspired roughly half-a-googol imitations in the years since 1945, the original still conveys a suitable aura of creepiness.

I can't help wondering: Has any stage performer ever worked up an act like this in real life?

What I'm envisioning is kind of a Penn Gillette/Andy Kaufman approach to ventriloquism, in which the voice-tosser does everything he can to convince the audience that he has become genuinely afraid of his own dummy. Although I doubt that even the best actor could convince people that the puppet had become malefic, it might be possible to make members of the audience wonder whether the ventriloquist had become truly unhinged.

Has anyone every tried that approach? It seems like a natural, what with "edginess" being so popular these days.
Portmanteau, I believe to be the word.

The BBC are doing an adaptation of the Tractate Middoth for Christmas. Nice to see.

wth, Stephen? What word are you talking about?

I sorry to say that Sally Ann Howe ends in and 's' Sally Ann Howes. At least that's how it's spelled in the credits.
I will correct. Thanks. I will never forgive myself...

(Earlier today, I misspelled "Joseph." Not a good day.)
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