Category Archives: 1950s

The Killer Shrews (1959)

*. The Killer Shrews is a one of the best-known independently-produced, Grade-Z horror films of the 1950s, largely because of its eponymous pack of killer critters. I mean, they even sound funny. Killer shrews?
*. That these shrews are fanged beasts with poison saliva should make them more threatening, but the fact that they’re just a bunch of coon hounds wearing long-haired coats and toothy masks sort of undercuts the scare factor. Now to be fair, I do get a kick out of their appearance. At least I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything else like them. But they’re not scary.
*. A terrible movie? Sure. But it definitely falls into the so-bad-it’s-good category. Of course the plot is silly and the shrews ridiculous, but there are all sorts of enjoyable moments along the way. A quick list: Captain Sherman (James Best) being offered a martini upon his arrival at the island; Sherman using the barrel of his pistol to tighten a tourniquet around Mario’s leg; Ann looking like she’s trying not to break out laughing when Mario dies; Sherman getting ready to toss Jerry’s unconscious body to the shrews before having second thoughts; the escape plan that has the survivors duck-walking to the boat under a bunch of inverted metal tanks; and finally Sherman’s final line to Ann’s father as he takes Ann in his arms and claims her with a lustful smooch: “I’m not going to worry about overpopulation just yet.”
*. Any movie with so many smile points in just 69 minutes can’t be all bad. And in fact The Killer Shrews is a lot of fun. Some people complain about there being so much talk in the first half of the picture, but I didn’t think the arrival of the shrews (all four or five of them) made that big a difference. It’s never a terribly suspenseful or thrilling movie. But it deserves its reputation as one of the best of the worst of its time.

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The Mole People (1956)

*. Things begin with Dr. Frank C. Baxter telling us about “strange” historical theories about what’s inside the Earth. But Dr. Baxter is an English professor. What is he doing pontificating on such matters?
*. Actually, Dr. Baxter, who does have expressive hands, was his real name, and he really was an English professor. He went on to play Dr. Research on the Bell Systems Science Series: television specials that started in 1956 discussing various science topics. That said, I’m not sure what he was thinking in taking this particular project on.
*. I think The Mole People is remembered, if at all, more for its title and a few meme-like moments than anything else. Most of it plays out like one of the more forgettable episodes on the original Star Trek series, right down to the bad matte paintings and vapid slave girls in minidresses.
*. John Agar is Captain Kirk, leading an away team of archeologists into a subterranean world where Sumerian albinos rule over the titular mole people. Even the symbol of the Sumerians looks like a Star Fleet insignia turned on its side. There’s the usual social allegory, and the surface dwellers lucking out with a bit of useful tech in their flashlight with remarkably long-lasting batteries.
*. Isn’t it a bit odd that Adad dies at the end? She doesn’t burn to a crisp like the naked sacrfices, I guess because she’s all wrapped up, but then a pillar goes and falls on her. I thought poor Dr. Bentley was going to get something out of this expedition.
*. I’m not sure what the point was in losing Adad. In both the movie adaptations of The Time Machine (a novel that must have been in mind while making this movie) the Time Traveler stays with his Weena. I guess that couldn’t happen here.
*. Leonard Malton judged this “probably the worst of Universal-International’s ’50s sci-fi movies.” I don’t find much interesting about it, but it moves quickly and has its moments. The underground world has a kind of silly charm, what with those Whack-A-Mole pits the mole people pop in and out of and the mushroom-everything diet. Unfortunately the story is flimsy, the direction only rudimentary, and the characters props. Not that you should be expecting anything more.

The Night of the Hunter (1955)

*. The Night of the Hunter is a movie that a lot has been written about, and a lot that has been written is very good. There’s no need to go over all of it again here. For example, I think everyone knows the story of how it was Charles Laughton’s only turn as a director, with the response being so disappointing he never directed again.
*. There was plenty of blame to go around for its not being understood at the time. Just look at the theatrical release posters and you can see the studio didn’t have the faintest idea what the movie was about or how to promote it. I wonder, however, if there was any chance of it ever being a hit.
*. The thing is, it’s a great movie but it’s not addressed to a mass movie audience (of the kind that existed then or exists now). The look is self-consciously stagey and lyrical, anti-naturalistic and artificial in its effects. This is something I think everyone can appreciate, but is it the sort of experience many people are looking for in a movie? I suspect not.

*. “It was the public that was wrong,” David Thomson concludes, “and no condition is more alarming.” That’s a judgment worth dwelling on, but I won’t. I’ll just say that it may not be a question of being right or wrong but only be a matter of taste.
*. It should have always appealed to critics though, as it’s a veritable anthology of different styles, bringing in a silent film aesthetic, noir, expressionism, and other forms of theatricality. Just look at the way those blossoms are arranged around the children as they are introduced. That’s not a yard, it’s a stage.
*. And it’s not just the film’s visual language but how well that language is being spoken. It’s a movie filled with fantastic visual elements but most of them are nearly static, thus making it a mine of memorable stills. I think this goes with how Laughton was inspired by silent film and its overly dramatic gestures and isolation of dramatic moments. The way Mitchum’s Preacher holds the knife up in the weird chapel of a bedroom, and keeps holding it as though turning into a statue. For audiences in 1955, and even more so audiences today, I think that comes across as weird.

*. Then there is the matter of tone. Is it a horror movie with “peculiar overtones of humor” (Pauline Kael), or a comic fairy tale with jarring notes of horror? It probably doesn’t make a difference as they’re all in the mix. I don’t think it upsets any kind of thematic unity because fairy tales are scary and funny and fanciful all at the same time. Still, you can understand the confusion people felt. There have been other screen villains who have performed comic bits, but the Harry Powell is slapstick most of the way through. Even at his most menacing there’s something phony about him, like he’s only playing a bad guy.

*. It’s a movie of favourite moments, most of them characterized by their staging and the dramatic photography of Stanley Cortez. Willa as Ophelia underwater. The Preacher silhouetted on horseback. The duet between the Preacher sitting outside and Lilian Gish inside with her shotgun. But I think my favourite is the look Shelley Winters gives Mitchum when she comes in to the house after hearing him threatening Pearl. What she does with her eyes there is remarkable.
*. That’s a model of Winters in the underwater shot, by the way. But damn does it look convincing. I always thought it was really her holding her breath.
*. Willa is also the most interesting psychological study in the film. She actually makes a good match with Icey Spoon (Evelyn Varden) in the way they are both taken in by Powell. Only where Willa surrenders herself to her fate, becoming whatever he wants her to be, Icey represents the furious backlash, standing at the front of the mob screaming for Mitchum’s blood at the end. Such people are always swinging from one extreme to the other. Poor Ruby, looking for love in all the wrong places, is the one true believer left carrying a torch (and not a pitchfork).

*. I mentioned the photography by Stanley Cortez and I will again. Of course light and shadow are two of the key ingredients to the art of photography, but you have to wonder if they’ve ever been as well employed as they are here. The shadows and blacks have an almost tactile silkiness to them, while light has a corresponding glow and texture. And it’s not just for show. The light and shadow have a real purpose.
*. In fact I think it’s a great movie in almost every department. Something in the editing seems hit-and-miss to me though, as the timing is badly off in several scenes, mainly in terms of what appear to be awkwardly delayed reactions. I also think the river journey with the foregrounded animals is presented in too crude a manner. I find this part of the film alienating.
*. Still, it’s managed to last. You’d think that melodrama wouldn’t, being so fixed in contemporary sentiment, but there’s something about such stories that abides and endures.

His Kind of Woman (1951)

*. A lot of movies have complicated back stories. Some are as interesting as the films themselves. But while of interest to film historians and other odd sorts, the story behind the making of a particular movie isn’t always that significant when relating it to the movie itself. Does it matter who directed The Thing from Another World? Or Gone with the Wind?
*. His Kind of Woman is a movie with just such a muddled biography, and I think its origins are relevant to any discussion of it. The credited director is John Farrow (Mia’s father) but Richard Fleischer was called in to shoot a lot of new material, including the entire final third of the picture. The reason this is important is because it’s clear from a first viewing that His Kind of Woman is two movies. Or really, as Vivian Sobchack puts it on the DVD commentary, it’s a “very strange blend of a number of things.”
*. It was a strange mix not just because of the two directors, but also because of the assistance/meddling of producer Howard Hughes. Hughes was the one calling the shots on the reshoot, and rewriting parts of the script. He also called for the recasting of the Nick Ferraro character, replacing Lee Van Cleef with Raymond Burr even after Fleischer had finished filming.
*. As you might expect given such a production the script comes apart at the seams. There’s some great dialogue — snappy lines and sultry double entendres — but it’s a hopeless mess of a story. At two hours it’s a very long noir, and it is so because it’s got a lot of stuff thrown in that’s kind of pointless. Sobchack mentions the plane landing in the storm as not advancing the plot and being “a somewhat extraneous” element. But Hughes liked planes, so.
*. There are also too many characters introduced, not all of them important. Jim Backus is always fun to watch, but Winton isn’t connected to anything here. Nor are the newlyweds, though they all get together in a fun card game where Milner plays the hero.
*. Perhaps chief among these superfluous, however, is Jane Russell’s Lenore. What is she doing here? She isn’t a femme fatale (Sobchack only refers to her as “a femme fatale, but hardly”). She has no relation to the Ferrrao plot. I wasn’t even entirely sure what she was doing at the lodge in the first place. Seducing the married Cardigan seems like a long shot, and when she gets to the lodge she doesn’t seem interested in him at all (or he in her). It’s shameful the way she’s tossed in a closet for the entire final act of the picture (“This is man’s work! Women are for weeping!”), but even worse is the fact that I didn’t miss her.
*. As for Russell herself, it’s hard not to seem reductive. David Thomson thought her “no actress . . . but dryly skeptical and physically glorious.” By dryly skeptical he may be referring to the fact that she rarely smiles, preferring to curl her lip back in what looks like a sneer, even at the most inappropriate moments (look at her after her first kiss with Mitchum, or upon discovering Lusk’s body). As for “physically glorious,” that can only refer to her décolleté. I guess ever since The Outlaw, which is to say the beginning, this is what she was known for. And it’s certainly what gets put on display here.

*. When Vincent Price shoves Russell in the closet you know he’s taken over the film. Is that a bad thing? He’s a lot of fun and gets to do the sort of Shakespearean camp that he’d still be reciting over twenty years later in Theater of Blood. He also relives the Ernest Hemingway story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” while quoting from it. He’s a literate ham.
*. The difficulty with all the Price stuff is that it’s slapstick farce, and farce is an odd combination, especially when it’s directly intercut, with brutal violence. A very strange blend indeed, and I can’t say it works that well. The stuff with Mitchum being beaten and threatened with the needle is dragged out to a ridiculous length just to give Price more gags to play with, like the sinking of his boat (an expensive folly that Hughes insisted on).
*. According to Sobchack one of the scenes that Hughes took a personal interest in rewriting was the business with the doctor and his needle. I wonder why, since none of it struck me as being very scientific. In fact, I’m not sure how the identity switch was supposed to work. It sounds almost as though what is being proposed is a sort of face transplant, not just plastic surgery to make Burr look more like Mitchum. Why else keep Mitchum alive? But since the whole idea is nuts to begin with — wouldn’t it be easier just to set Ferraro up with some fake ID? — there may be no point in pursuing this.
*. With a little bit of everything and not too much of anything this is a movie that’s easy to like but hard to rate critically. Leonard Maltin saw it as a precursor to Beat the Devil for its send-up of masculinity, but that seems to me to only be part of it. Perhaps the biggest difference is that John Huston seems to have thought of his film as a joke right from the start and His Kind of Woman didn’t at least start out that way. Beat the Devil was deliberate chaos. His Kind of Woman is more of an accident. Or a train wreck. Either way it’s fun to rubberneck.

The Mummy (1959)

*. The Mummy introduced the third of Universal’s initial triumvirate of monsters, and was the third to be adapted by Hammer in their profitable exercise in movie graverobbing. But after the success of their Dracula remake (Horror of Dracula) they had entered into an agreement with Universal-International so at least they had a permit this time.
*. It’s been said that this is less an adaptation of The Mummy than it is a reworking of later films in the series like The Mummy’s Hand and The Mummy’s Tomb. I guess they borrowed the names (the Mummy is Kharis not Imhotep, and his lost love is Ananka), but aside from that there’s little connection at all. At the end of The Mummy’s Ghost the Mummy sinks into a bog, which is what also happens here, but in that earlier movie he took Ananka with him. It’s also the case that the priests are again worshippers of Karnak and not Arkam and there’s none of the stupid business involving tana leaves. So really it’s a very different movie.
*. They got rid of the tana leaves but were still stuck with the awkward business of having to relate a lot of information through flashbacks. And as much fun as it looks like everyone is having with the costumes and the sets, the historical material stops the film dead in its tracks. Then there is another flashback later in the film to show us stuff that happened at the beginning. All of this should have been tightened up.
*. The Mummy isn’t much of a role for an actor, but Christopher Lee is really good just working with his eyes. You feel sympathy for Kharis’s lonely fate. Lee also makes the most of his towering physical presence, which apparently led to him taking a beating during filming. All-in-all he may be my favourite movie mummy, or at least near the top of the list.

*. In the original Universal films southern California stood in for Egypt, which I don’t think fooled anyone. (I’m not sure, but 1981’s Dawn of the Mummy may be the only mummy picture actually made in Egypt.) In this film we’re even further removed from anything that feels like a real location, as it’s an almost totally studio-bound production. The archaeological dig might as well be Gilligan’s island, and even the bog was a giant tank on a set. It all looks artificial as can be, but I didn’t mind. There’s a consistency in the film’s look that’s maintained throughout, which is the important thing. Once you get over that first jungle set you’ll even buy into the tidy and well-lit tombs.
*. It was going to be a more shocking movie, as the scene where Kharis has his tongue cut out had to itself be cut out. Too bad. But they did keep the scene where Banning (Peter Cushing) spears Kharis and Kharis does a back-breaker move on his priestly handler Mehemet Bey. I was getting tired of the same old strangulation routine.
*. As you know from my notes on them, I don’t care much for the Universal Mummy series. I did, however, like this picture, so it may be one of the few cases where I actually prefer the Hammer version to the original. Sure there isn’t much chance for interplay between Cushing and Lee, seeing as the Mummy can’t speak, but then Lee’s Dracula had hardly any lines in Horror of Dracula either. I think they both do a great job with what they have to work with, and the design of the film is very nice. There’s even one somewhat scary scene when the elder Banning is killed in his padded cell (conveniently forgetting for a moment that he’d just been told to ring the bell in case of emergency).
*. In short, it’s classic Hammer horror in the house style of the house that dripped blood. It’s not all that lively (Terence Fisher just didn’t have that gear), but compared to other work in the genre both before and after I think it holds up pretty well.

The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy (1958)

*. Please. A movie that clocks in at just a few minutes over an hour spends the first twenty-five minutes recapping the previous two Aztec Mummy films (The Aztec Mummy and Curse of the Aztec Mummy). That doesn’t leave a lot of time for original material!
*. Nor is the original material all that original. You will not be surprised to know that the evil genius Dr. Krupp escaped from the rattlesnake pit he was tossed into at the end of the last film (“and, strangely, I don’t think he’d been bitten”). What’s more, he’s still after that Aztec gold! Luckily (for him) Flor remains under his hypnotic control so she can lead him to the cemetery where Popoca (that’s the mummy) is now at rest. And this time he actually has a plan for getting the golden breastplate and bracelet, the possession of which will then be used to fund the creation of a robot army.
*. Aside from all the time spent on recapping, another disappointment is that the character of The Angel, the masked wrestler from Curse of the Aztec Mummy, has disappeared. Indeed, it’s like he never existed. I guess since his secret identity had been revealed at the end of the previous movie there was no point in keeping Pinacate in his costume any longer, but it was always fun seeing him getting beaten up. And while his presence here would have been awkward there are plenty of other things in this serial that make even less sense.
*. Really the only attraction here is the “human robot” of the title. And by attraction I mean something so silly that it’s good for a laugh. On the outside it’s just the usual cardboard box with arms and legs but on the inside it’s apparently some kind of animated corpse, making it a mechanical Frankenstein’s monster.
*. Actually, the Universal source for the story here is far more Frankenstein than The Mummy, especially during the scene in the lab where the robot is brought to life. This is in fact the only part of the movie with any energy at all, as it gives Dr. Krupp a chance to chew the scenery with some hammy lines. “No one can possibly imagine how hard I worked. When I dug in the mud with these hands and entered tombs! I tortured many animals — with pleasure! — to find the answers, the answers to man’s existence!” That sort of thing.
*. Despite having a special radium power that is supposed to be capable of disintegrating anything, the robot turns out to be no match for Popoca, who swiftly dismantles it before being sent shuffling back to the graves of his ancestors with his treasure intact.
*. Well, it’s not nearly as much fun as the title would lead you to believe. If you’re in a rush I’d recommend just watching the last ten or fifteen minutes. Or even if you’re not in a rush. The rest of it is a waste of time.

Curse of the Aztec Mummy (1957)

*. Curse of the Aztec Mummy is the second of three Mexican films all shot at the same time and released as a mini-serial. The first film was The Aztec Mummy and the next The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy. Just for the sake of completeness, The Aztec Mummy was recut with additional footage with an American cast included for U.S. release and retitled Attack of the Mayan Mummy (1963). A fourth instalment, Wrestling Women vs. The Aztec Mummy (1964) isn’t related to these films at all.
*. In any trilogy — and the same holds true for novels as it does for films — the middle work is usually the weakest, being just a way of marking time after the first instalment and the conclusion. Curse of the Aztec Mummy very much fits into this scheme, though it’s not without some redeeming features.
*. The story picks up where The Aztec Mummy left off. Criminal mastermind Dr. Krupp (a.k.a., The Bat) is in police custody but his gang soon bust him loose. Then he kidnaps Dr. Almada’s girlfriend Flor and hypnotizes her again into leading him to the mummy’s tomb. There the mummy (his name is Popoca) is let loose and foils the gang’s plans.
*. It’s a hopelessly cheap, ineptly made film that only has entertainment value for laughs today. I did say it had some redeeming features though, so here goes.
*. In the first place, it correctly realizes that the mummy himself isn’t a very interesting figure. He rarely is in a mummy movie. So they’ve built a story around him here involving a whole lot of other nonsense, including a long-range radio wristwatch and a death room whose floor withdraws to reveal a pit of snakes beneath. In fact, Popoca doesn’t even put in an appearance here until the last ten minutes of the film.
*. The ludicrously stiff dialogue is another source of fun. When the evil Dr. Krupp is slapping the nobel Dr. Almada, who is tied to a chair, around he forcefully rebuts the accusation of cowardice. “I don’t doubt for a second that you’re plenty of man. I’d be glad to try you out, I have a pair of fists that could break your head. But right now I want to get something that’s more important. After it’s mine I promise that you and I . . . I want to fight you, doctor. Alone!”
*. Probably the best (meaning the most wonderful and ridiculous) element added is The Angel: a crimefighting figure decked out like a professional wrestler, complete with a mask and cape. It’s a costume that’s both silly and impractical, as it keeps getting in his way when he’s trying to throw punches. In one fight scene it even gets pulled all the way around so that he’s forced to wear it like a bib.
*. I’m not sure why this figure has been so popular in Mexican pop culture. El Santo is the seminal figure but I think his first movie actually came out a year after this one. Nevertheless, he was already a famous personality on the wrestling circuit so the Luchador enmascarado (masked pro wrestler) as hero wasn’t that big a breakthrough.
*. The Aztec Mummy trilogy have since gone on to achieve a kind of cult status, which they probably deserve. They really are odd. But despite being only an hour long with quite a bit of plot to get through I found Curse of the Aztec Mummy to really drag in places. We get some stuff borrowed from the first movie explaining who Popoca is and then some dull passages relating to Flor’s hypnosis and Dr. Almada’s translation work. Meanwhile, The Angel gets beaten up and captured so many times it’s almost humorous in how repetitive it becomes.
*. An oddity then, and not without some laughs, but not a good movie. Only conoisseurs of trash will want to seek it out.

Pharaoh’s Curse (1957)

*. Pharaoh’s Curse is a B-picture that was shot in six days. A team of archaeologists dig up a tomb in Egypt, setting free an ancient evil. It’s a mummy movie where the mummy comes to life by possessing the body of one of the team’s native grunts and turning him into a blood-sucking creature that ages at an advanced rate. He looks like an old man wandering around, apparently lost, in his night clothes.
*. That’s it in a nutshell. There were, however, a couple of things I found interesting that might be worth teasing out.
*. In the first place, the love interest, Sylvia (Diane Brewster), is a married woman who has grown tired of her archaeologist husband and is more than ready to step into the strong arms of Captain Storm (the kind of military stud whose uniform stays clean and neatly pressed even after crossing Death Valley). I thought that rather progressive for 1957.
*. What struck me the most however was the resemblance to The Thing from Another World and Carpenter’s The Thing. I’ll admit it’s not a close resemblance, but still the group of (male) scientists digging up a monster that proceeds to possess and then kill them off one by one does register as echo. Or maybe it was just the image of the team standing around the empty sarcophagus like it’s the giant block of ice that’s brought back to the base camp. Was The Thing really a mummy movie then?
*. Bad enough that the doctor is given a name like Faraday, but he also has to deliver some truly groan-worthy lines. “As a doctor, as a man of science, my knowledge is limited to things physiological. I’m afraid superstition is out of my field.” “You can fight known things. But I don’t know how to fight the unknown.”
*. I’m not sure I ever understood the plot that well. Simira (Ziva Rodann) is a cat goddess in human form, so does that mean Numar was never her brother? Does her brother become the new guardian of the tomb? Does he die at the end or just go back to sleep?
*. Questions like this may not be fair given how slapdash and cheap a production it is. There have been movies that cost a lot more that made a even less sense. There also isn’t much of a climax, and what we do get comes with another seven minutes of film left to run (which is a lot given the conventions of the time and the fact that it’s only just over an hour long). Still, the story manages to get Sylvia’s husband out of the way so we can at least feel better about who she’s going home with.

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)

*. This was basically the end of the road for Abbott and Costello: their last picture for Universal and second last overall. In Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein they were on their way up, at the top of their game. Not even ten years later they seem utterly played out. Even the classic comic disjunction between the tall thin guy and the short fat one is upset because Bud looks almost as stout as Lou. Dressed in the same costumes they are almost indistinguishable.
*. One way to tell they’re played out is the reliance on so much physical humour. The opening dance sequence sets the tone, with lots of prat falls and people being knocked down. That’s the way the rest of the movie is going to be. There’s little verbal dexterity and what there is seems laboured (for example, the punning on “mummy” and “pick”). The gags are all familiar and you can see them coming a long way in advance. Bud and Lou always had the same shtick and stuck to it, but now even they seem tired of the routine.
*. It’s a sign of just how tired and slapdash a production it is that their characters’ names are only revealed in the end credits (Pete Patterson and Freddie Franklin). Until then, they call each other by their real names. It’s like nobody cared. And perhaps nobody did.
*. Joe Dante, in his Trailers from Hell appreciation, admits it’s not the duo’s best work but says he’ll always have fond memories of having snuck in to see it as part of a double bill. He winds up his commentary by saying it likely still appeals to nine-year-olds. I think maybe it does, but that really is the level they’re aiming at. Not that a lot of today’s comedy aims much higher.
*. Well, it’s a bit of fun, tired as a lot of it may be. It’s not a movie to get angry at. Just one to feel nostalgic over. Abbot and Costello’s time, like the time of Universal’s run of classic monsters, was past.

The Tell-Tale Heart (1953)

*. Before the advent of CGI you never heard a lot of talk about a “realistic” style of animation. That wasn’t the point. A cartoon or animated film wasn’t supposed to look real, but either be fantasy (as with much of Disney’s production), comedy (with anthropomorphic talking animals), or done in some other exaggerated artistic style. Computer animation, on the other hand, is supposed to look real. It’s highest praise is to have audiences not be able to tell the difference.
*. The stories of Edgar Allan Poe are a good fit for animation, not just because they’re short (“The Tell-Tale Heart” only runs to five pages in the edition I have sitting beside me), or because they deal with fantastic subject matter, but because they have the crazy or expressionistic quality of subjective points of view. “The Tell-Tale Heart” is a tale told by a madman, whatever his protestations to the contrary, and so its world is distorted when we see it through his eyes.
*. The clearest indication in this film that this is the killer’s view of the world is that we never see his face, and the events mainly appear from his own perspective. As the intro titles tell us: “This story is told through the eyes of a madman.” I think perspective is behind the scruffy and obscure style of animation as well, which doesn’t flow in imitation of a normal film but rather consists of quick pans up and down or across what are static images. Another example is the way the screen goes completely dark for 45 seconds (in an 8-minute short) while the narrator stands in the darkness of the old man’s bedroom. We are not a witness to the event, but in the young man’s shoes.
*. James Mason is a counterintuitive bit of casting that works. He’s not the kind of voice I’d normally associate with the hyper, nervous acuity of the story’s narrator but he captures the sense of earnest and thoughful confusion well. Plus, who needs an excuse to listen to James Mason? This is a rich film visually, but I’d enjoy it almost as much hearing it on the radio.