Monthly Archives: August 2014
Toms Six’s sequel to his self-penned 2009 original is very different in tone and look to its predecessor. This isn’t a director attempting to milk a franchise and Six deserves credit for patching together a work which is clearly distinguishable in style and substance.
Whilst the original film used the mad-scientist approach, here the focus is on retarded and lonely man-child Martin (Laurence Harvey) who is obsessed with the first film – watching it almost on loop from his desk in an under-ground parking garage. Martin then gleefully sets about to recreate his own human centipede.
In The Human Centipede (2009), the film is primarily shot from the point of view of the victims – it is essentially a movie about a group of people trapped in a house of horrors and little more. In this film, it is the reverse. Everything is from the perspective of Martin – he is the film’s protagonist and lead.
The questions posed by Six are directed at critics of the original; what indeed if people who watch horror movies do copy them>? what if they are incited to act out their own carnal perversions? Six doesn’t really do much else than answer these questions in the only way he can – by utilising the ideas as a basis for his sequel.
The choice of black and white photography over the medicinal dyes of the first movie conjures the seedy London look particularly well. It also means that the gore shots are less visceral than one might expect. In fact, Six’s real achievement is making the audience appalled not by the grisly surgery on-screen but by the implied sexual gratification on Laurence Harvey’s piggy face. The lack of dialogue adds to the pseudo-documentary feel, but oddly it’s a film which just doesn’t really require a script.
For me, this was a better movie than I anticipated, and certainly an improvement on the somewhat turgid original. Not for everyone but certainly not devoid of merit, Harvey may be destined to be a minor cult star with his performance.
hotdog rating: 6.5/10
Stage Fright is one of the quietest films in Hitchcock’s cannon, but deserves a lot more attention. It’s criminally neglected in the tranche of the director’s essential viewing – the likes of Psycho (1960) , Vertigo (1958) and Rear Window (1954) for example – and I have never understood why.
It has the usual set-up but is less frantic in pace than many of his similar “man-on-the-run” films. Jane Wyman is charming as the good-natured Eve with Alistair Sim and Sybil Thorndike adding colour and humour in supporting roles. Marlene Dietrich’s cold and dispassionate performance is perfect in the context of the movie’s late plot-twist. To complete the set, Richard Todd plays Hitchcock’s “man-on-the-run” although he is not the subject of the director’s gaze for most of the picture, when he is, his tortured and melodramatic looks are as worthy as those from any leading man.
But the cast isn’t why I like this film so much. What I love about Stage Fright is the B&W cinematography and orchestrated set-pieces. The picture has a great mood right from the start, and Hitchcock’s lighting techniques on this one are right up with there with the tragic shadows in Psycho (1960).
The Garden Party sequence is one of Hitchcock’s best, and I cannot fathom why it is been forgotten by critics. It has everything – black humour at the shooting gallery, startling imagery of blood on a doll’s dress and stylish shots which seem to foretell the director’s future use of the “dolly zoom” in Vertigo (1958).
The final frames take place in a prop-carriage backstage as Wyman and Todd hide from the police. It’s expertly done, with Todd pouring his heart out and revealing his inner madness as Hitchcock’s lens clocks their emotion-filled eyes in the gloomy light.
Hitchcock gleefully plays with the plot throughout, presenting actors as people who are incapable of removing the mask of performance when they leave the stage, as individuals whose off-screen lives are just as rehearsed as their on-screen counterparts. It’s an appealing idea which underlines the whole of his film, adding depth to repeated viewings. Wyman’s cat-and-mouse game impersonating Dietrich’s maid is the most blatant example but by the end both Todd and Dietrich’s characters are shown to be retrospectively acting in order to hide their true nature.
Stage Fright concludes as it opens, with a curtain call on the stage. At the finale, the curtain is the literal guillotine for our hapless murderer. As Wyman is led away, through an elongated corridor, the end credits roll. An unsung masterpiece.
NB: The film is notable for breaking the cinematic convention that a flashback never lies. In Stage Fright, it certainly does.
Hotdog rating: 9/10