In the Kingdom of G

In the film world of the 20th century, there were not too many animators who made the transition to live action feature film directing. Certainly Frank Tashlin was one of the most famous, going from Porky Pig and Daffy Duck cartoon shorts to manic pop culture comedies like The Girl Can’t Help It (1956) and Hollywood or Bust (1956). Another rare exception was George Pal, who became famous for his Puppetoon shorts for Paramount before establishing himself as a director of fantasy features such as Tom Thumb (1958) and The Time Machine (1960). It is far easier to name more contemporary filmmakers like Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton and Brad Bird,  all of whom graduated from cartoons to live-action features successfully. The above are all artists who worked in the commercial cinema but, if you are talking about art cinema, the list is much smaller and Polish animator Walerian Borowczyk should be in the top slot. Goto, Island of Love (1969, Polish title: Goto, I’ile d’amour), his feature film debut, is a fascinating achievement that successfully brings the avant-garde sensibilities of his animated shorts to a live action feature.

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Identity Disintegration

A wealthy chemist who was disfigured in an explosion undergoes plastic surgery in the 1966 Japanese film, The Face of Another.

What would happen if you lost the face you recognize as your own and had to replace it with a new one? Would you have an identity crisis or simply become a different person? Japanese director Hiroshi Teshigahara ponders this unusual dilemma in The Face of Another (1966, Japanese title: Tanin no kao). Continue reading

Two Heads Are Not Better Than One

The title creature and star of The Manster (1959), a Japanese-American co-production made in Japan and co-directed by George P. Breakston and Kenneth G. Crane.

What we have here is a different type of mutant monster. It’s part man, part monster. In other words, a manster. The unlucky title creature of this 1959 horror thriller is Larry Stanford (Peter Dyneley), a brash American reporter who hopes to land a front-page story about some startling new developments in the field of medical experimentation. Well, he gets his front-page story all right. You could say he IS the story.  

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Stare If You Dare!

Jacques Bergerac is Desmond the Great, a famous hypnotist who is linked to a series of female self-mutilations in The Hypnotic Eye (1960), directed by George Blair.

Everybody has probably been haunted or permanently tramatized by some movie they saw as a kid that burned images into their brain they couldn’t process or handle. For me it was a sick little B-movie that popped up on the late show called The Hypnotic Eye (1960) which I saw at the age of nine.       

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Vampire Machine

First, let me get this out of the way. The Bloodstained Lawn (Italian title: Il Prato macchiato di Rosso, 1973) is a haphazard mash-up of a genre film, but an entertaining one for Eurotrash completists. The English language title suggests it might be a giallo or a horror film or even a poliziotteschi (crime drama). Actually, it has some elements of those with some sci-fi flavoring added. The central premise involves a form of vampirism which is a complete departure from the old school mythology of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and much closer to the metaphorical horrors of Alain Jessua’s Shock Treatment (French title: Traitement de Choc, 1973) and Rod Hardy’s Thirst (1979). Oddly enough, director Riccardo Ghione seems much less interested in playing up the horrific aspects of the story than depicting bourgeois decadence and the exploitation of the disenfranchised as a quasi-political fantasy. Continue reading