Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Something's Got To Give (George Cukor, 1962)

Officially back from vacay and steamrolling into my month with Marilyn.

    It's not hard to see what sort of a film Something's Got To Give would have turned out to be. Judging from the 30-something minutes of incomplete footage, this would have been a nice and worthy addition to Marilyn's catalogue. Now infamous for being Marilyn's last (albeit uncompleted) film and for the many behind-the-scene troubles incurred during its production, Something's Got To Give carries with it a strange aura and combination of sadness and charming nonchalance that cannot solely be attributed to modern nostalgia in light of Marilyn's untimely death shortly before filming was complete. No, the story is itself a sad one, but the performances by the actors, the soundtrack and the cinematography fill the screen with plenty of charm and cuteness.

   Marilyn plays Ellen Arden, a wife and mother who returns home after being shipwrecked on an island for five years. However, her husband Nick Arden (Dean Martin) has had her declared legally dead so that he could marry Bianca (Cyd Charisse) -- the man had taste. After returning home from their honeymoon --apparently, Nick was unable to rise to the occasion if you catch my drift-- the happy couple find Nick's two children in the company of a new self-hired nanny. Guess who? That's right, Marilyn, who the kids don't even remember. Tragic. How could you forget a face like that? Marilyn as Ellen passes herself off as a Polish nanny and is officially hired. Marilyn begins a campaign to seduce Nick, where she does catch a drift during a nude swim in the pool. Nick is on to her and realizes that it is indeed his wife come back from the dead. He is happy to have her back until he realizes that Marilyn may not have been alone on the island after all...

   I think the performers are perfect for their parts. Dean Martin does a decent job portraying a man having to choose between two beautiful women. Though he is not given much to do but look conflicted, he is able to imbue his performance with a sort of Cary Grant-esque charm (think David from Bringing Up Baby but less comical and less Cary Grant). The biggest surprise though for me was Cyd Charisse. I'd only seen her in Singin' In The Rain up till that point, so I only knew her as the silent femme fatale who played Gene Kelly like a boss. But in this film, I think her part rises above Dean's (though that's obviously not the intention) and it seems like she's the one playing second fiddle to Marilyn. Her characters' over-exaggerations and airs are downright hilarious. Bianca's supposed to be the antagonist but, through Charisse's performance, she is made a sympathetic figure. Charisse steals her scenes with Dean, but she is still no match for Marilyn.

    The film does not open up with Marilyn. Rather, it opens up to a quite funny scene in the courtroom where Dean is trying to declare his wife legally dead. And then near the 10-minute mark, boom! Marilyn! But it's not the explosive screen presence of Marilyn that we are presented to. This is an unexpectedly subdued and luminous Marilyn Monroe, appearing in what I consider to be no doubt one of the best "silent" performances of all time. She arrives home and looks around at what she's been missing for five years, not saying a word, just letting her eyes do all the talking. And gosh, I wish everybody who said Marilyn could not act would just watch those five intense minutes where she's exploring her home and then her eyes lock on her children. That scene was moving. A wave of emotions wash over that face of hers. She seems like an angel come to say goodbye one last time. Over the course of her career, Marilyn's played psychotic, cunning, ingenue, charming, sexy, and sad; but she's never looked or played more radiant(ly). She truly shines.

    The lush cinematography of the film does help in making Marilyn appear even more other-worldly. The colors truly pop. Marilyn's wardrobe has never looked so sophisticated and her hair so purely white. She is literally radiant in every single scene. In a brief scene between just her and Cyd, she outshines the latter not only in the looks department (her wardrobe is far better than Cyd's) but also due to the ingenuity in her acting. This film was tailored for Monroe; the colors, the costumes, everything seems to revolve around her. She has her own orbit. Not even George Cukor's douche-baggery manages to affect her performance and all the things that come together to infuse it. No seriously, Cukor was a dick. Read this fantastic post by Meredith Grau to read on some of the set troubles for Somethings' Got To Give and the many reasons behind them.

    I know Marilyn wasn't the easiest actress to get along with and I rarely justify --although I do defend-- her lateness. But I have to put my foot down for Something's Got To Give because at this point in her life she was trying to change and to be better. Marilyn was trying. Nonetheless, she was still castigated for some of the faux-pas of her own studio and other factors far out of her control. So what does the studio do to "correct" their star? Ignore doctors' orders that she should rest and dope her up on drugs so she could perform. Just at a time in her life when she was trying to wean herself off barbiturates and the other drugs she'd become a slave to. Smart thinking, studio assholes. And Cukor just seemed to have it out for her. The behind-the-scene footage reveal just how nasty Cukor was towards Marilyn, having her repeat scenes after scenes even when her performance is top notch. His antagonistic behavior even extended to other people onset, such as the two young actors playing Marilyn's children. Projection much? The video below shows Marilyn muttering under her breath that she should not be here because of her chronic sickness, but Cukor appears to again simply mock her.


  It's also obvious that Cukor does not know what direction to go with the film. Just what you need from your director. The script already suffered from several cliches and dry jokes (the studio fired Marilyn's chosen screenwriter), so to have a man with a lack of a vision makes for a film that ultimately falls flat. No wonder he got fired when Marilyn (who actually had a vision for the film and her career at that point) was re-hired to start shooting.

    Were it not for the caliber of its talents Something's Got To Give would have been a disaster. As it stands, they managed to get a crop of great and competent actors that saved the film. Marilyn makes the film. I think this film would have helped her transition into the more mature roles that she craved. This was, I believe, her first time playing a mother. Those scenes of her playing with the kids are especially poignant because everybody knows how badly Marilyn desired children. Something's Got To Give appears to be her most self-reflexive work, not in regards to her public image but to who she really was behind the facade of the Hollywood sexy goddess. I wished this film could have been completed not only because of the opportunities it would have afforded Marilyn, but also because it would have turned out to be a nice and pleasantly entertaining film.

Ludovico Rating

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

On Vacation

Le me crossing a river on a fallen tree trunk. I had to do it twice because I turned back around the first time...halfway through. Shit was scary.
 I went on an impromptu vacay! Camping and mountain hiking in North Carolina with my school's Outdoors Program. I currently have no Internet access and am using one of the staff's computer (this is what puppy eyes'll get ya). I should be back by Sunday so to make it up to Marilyn, I officially declare July 1-August 5 "My Month With Marilyn". Something's Got To Give review should be up by Monday. Apologies for the delay.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

My Week With Marilyn

   On what would have been the mythical Marilyn Monroe's 87th birthday month, I've decided to honor the goddess of cinema with a week filled with various trivia about her life, her career, and her movies. Tomorrow, I review her final and uncompleted movie Something's Got To Give. Stay tuned for Marilyn week!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)


  What can I say about 2001: A Space Odyssey that hasn't already been said? How stunning its visuals? How modern its special effects? How powerful its soundtrack? How big its ideas? The film is one of Kubrick's most dissected works. I don't believe I have anything insightful to say about the piece itself; but I can at least give an insight into my own thoughts and feelings about it. 2001 is a film I love mostly because of how it operated on my mind and the ensuing awareness of something much bigger than myself. I'm not a mega film analyzer (although I can pretend to be). I either feel something from a movie or I don't. I can only speak for myself personally and say that this is the most important film that I've ever seen.

   What do I think the film is about? How tools are what have come to shape how humanity defines itself. Every succeeding era brings with it a plethora of new technological gadgets. However innovative, these gadgets will soon come to possess and destroy us. It also deals with alien life, but not in the shape or form commonly depicted in movies. If my theory is correct, the one question I have left is this: have the film's aliens themselves succumbed to the machines/tools that they've created since the monoliths are far more ominous and play a much bigger part than they? Or have they reached an evolutionary ceiling where they cease to find the need or necessity to create new tools and are instead trying to help weaker civilizations reach their level, from behind the scenes? I like both conclusions to my theories. I probably shouldn't be thinking so hard about the film's grand themes and schemes. The effect 2001 has on me is hypnotic and I'm afraid to break the spell.

   Concluding thoughts. Mette over at Lime Reviews And Strawberry Confessions mentioned in her Star Wars review that she had no idea how Kubrick created his effects for 2001. And I have to side with her and say I have no clue. I tried reading up on it but got quickly confused by all the technical jargon. Suffice to say that the effects are extremely modern; they hold up to this very day. Heck, if released today 2001 could win the Oscar for best visual effects...again. 'Nuff said. The soundtrack is instantly recognizable. I've heard most of it in other films and never realized that their epicness originated from 2001.

   Concluding thoughts extended. My friend hated the Dawn Of Man sequence and the scenes near the ending. The scenes I'm referring to are the hallucinogenic scenes. It did feel like one huge acid trip what with all those shifting colors and terrains. And it did last a fairly long time. But I loved every second of it. Not gonna lie though, my eyelids were getting heavy during those scenes and when Dave reached his destination I had to rewind just to see if I missed anything. So I got to experience the trip twice! My favorite portion of the film is any scene during the Jupiter mission. Or aboard one of the spacecrafts. Kubrick's films are always so stylishly stunning. Even the furniture has character. Hal's a bitch. I was on to him from the get go, or that might have something to do with AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains list.

Some stunning images that say just how much I love this film and why you should too.

Ludovico Rating

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Possession (Andrzej Zulawski, 1981)

   Mark (Sam Neill) returns home after a job assignment only to be welcomed by a demand for divorce from his wife Anna (Isabelle Adjani). He asks her why, but she is distant and refuses to answer, assuring him that it's not because she's found someone else. Lies! As Mark finds out, Anna is having an affair with a man named Heinrich (an amazingly and hilariously colorful character). Enraged, Mark decides to leave both Anna and their son Bob (Michael Hogben). He shuts himself off inside his apartment for more than a week, all the while obsessing over Anna and losing his sense of time. During a moment of lucidity he decides to swing by the couple's apartment, where he finds Bob alone, dirty and neglected. Anna arrives. Mark tells her that he will not leave them alone because he does not think she is fit to take care of Bob. He also states that he won't give up on their marriage.

   Their relationship continues to fall apart as Anna resorts to hysterics and self-mutilation. Anna begins a pattern of disappearing randomly and then reappearing days later as if nothing happened. When Mark tries to confront Heinrich, he is informed that Heinrich hasn't seen Anna in a long time. Where is Anna disappearing off to? When Mark investigates, he discovers that his wife's mental instability may be related to supernatural forces that have got a hold on her far beyond his control or hers. But what's got a hold on Mark when he himself begins to exhibit strange behavior, stranger than his past angst-ridden husband routine? What follows is one of the best horror films of all time.

    This film is batshit crazy. The mad things that happen are not explained. They happen. This culminates in one of the best and most cryptic finales I've ever seen a film have the courage and ability to get away with. Everything that happens, however off-the-wall, seems to have an understated purpose. Possession does not care about spoon-feeding its audience. It seems to be having fun to get away with as many horrifying and disgusting things as it possibly can, and it does succeed. It's like a whole bunch of balloons dancing around in different directions but remaining grounded by a single string. I do think there is common theme behind everything that happens. I've read many of the theories online; each one sounds better than the last so I've come to conclude that this is a film that has many voices. Several demons possess it, and we each get a glimpse at one.

    In general, the acting is nothing to write home about, save for the two leads. Sam Neill, while widely derided for doing a mediocre job in this film, is actually pretty spooky as the husband. He may not be as hysterical as his wife, but when he does lose his temper then those spooky undercurrents certainly do not get lost on the audience. But the film does rest mostly on Isabelle Adjani's stellar performance, which I now deem to be one of the best ever committed to film. Remove all of the horror portions in the film's second half and you still have a brilliant performance of a woman losing her very identity. A woman on the verge of insanity. Still, I have to give her props for perfectly handling the physical demands of the role in a key horror scene where she appears to be miscarrying whatever spawn of Satan is growing inside of her. Seriously, watch the scene below. If anything, the brilliance of this scene should convince you to give this film a chance.

Starting out as a well-handled look into the disintegration of a marriage and then seamlessly delving into horror territory, Possession is a film worth watching. I received a recommendation of it from Tyler over at Southern Vision last year. And I'm kicking myself for just now getting around to seeing it because this film embodies all that I love about cinema: the ability to transform into something other, the ability to take risks, the ability to veer into previously unexplored territory, the ability to scare us and frighten us even if the main source of the horror remains encrypted beneath scenes of pure repulsion. This is a film that you won't forget, whether you love it or hate it. It's a possession on your mind in and of itself. There's no escape.

Ludovico Rating

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Man Of Steel (Zack Snyder, 2013)


    I expected much more from this film. Much more fun. Much more entertainment. Of course, I wasn't expecting something like The Avengers, but still. Man Of Steel simply does not have many fun moments. It's a serious picture with some really touching moments that reveal Clark Kent's inner anguish/backstory --up until the midway point-- and a whole bunch of fighting towards the end. The other reviews in the blogosphere are now especially poignant; now I can see why almost every reviewer was inclined to like one half of the film more than the other. The film is divided into two halves that bear distinctive tones. Thankfully, the tones do align perfectly well, even if not subtly so.

  The plot is kind of reminiscent of The Dark Knight in one respect. Zod comes back looking for Superman on Earth. He sends a message saying that if Superman (Henry Cavill) is not delivered to him within a 24-hour period, he's gonna go apeshit on the planet. That is basically the main plot of the film. Everything else that occurs within the two-hour-plus running time serves as a backstory to show how Clark has coped with feeling out of place in the very place he calls home and how he got home in the first place. His childhood feats and failures are shown, as his adoptive parents (both masterfully played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) try to help him fit in/hone his powers in a way that won't detract people from seeing his human qualities. Those scenes with Lane and Costner are beautiful and touching. Of note is a scene involving Costner that is beyond devastating. The length a man will go to love and protect his son is astounding. It also doesn't help that I saw the film on Father's Day. I cried.

   The problem with those scenes are that they seem to be building up to something greater; something that will conclude in an epic finale. It is what follows after that hour of exposition that is mishandled. The fighting sequences lasted far beyond their welcome. The film could have been over at three different points; and the second point would have made for an epic ending. However, it seems that Snyder was more interested in matching the megawatt legend of Superman with some worthy action sequences. In truth, they are at times amazing. But not only do they drag on, they seem more like the handiwork of a kid who's having fun smashing things around until there is nothing left. It's kind of grating. Snyder lacked self-control in that aspect.

   The other problem I encountered with the film is the lack of fleshed-out characters. This would not be a complaint of mine in a superhero film if Diane Lane and Kevin Costner's characters weren't so well fleshed out, making the rest of the cast somewhat/for the most part pale in comparison.  Lane and Costner were actually able to give life to their characters. They're e very talented duo. Unfortunately, let's be real, there is just no way that Clark's parents would ever be involved in an epic fighting scene with the bad guys. Instead, we are treated to characters I gave two shits about fighting/fighting to live. For example, Laurence Fishburne has a minor subplot where he has to save one of his employees from the rubble. The scene plays out all dramatically-like until at the very last minute...well, you see where this is going. I wouldn't have given a damn if any of those characters perished. I didn't care for them. They were not part of Clark's main narrative. They didn't receive the proper attention prior to their problems being revealed. I cared much more about the buildings and streets being destroyed, and felt sadder for the city workers who'd have to clean that shit up in the next few months (or years).

   Henry Cavill does a commendable job as Superman. He not only looks the part but he embodies everything I've personally come to associate with the character. The vulnerability, the sheer will, the steeliness hiding a sense of not belonging. Superman is a lost soul, a God above men. He bottles everything in, but what lies beneath the surface should feel palpable. Cavill accomplishes just that. I hope his character gets to be more fleshed out in the sequels because there is a lot of promise there. Amy Adams is great as Lois Lane, but there really wasn't that much chemistry between her and Cavill. Not only that but there doesn't seem to be as much to do with Lane's character in this film. She is shoved down our throats. When Superman boards Zod's spaceship, the Kryptonians also ask that Lois boards as well. But I ask why? They did not need her. Her relationship with Clark wasn't evolved yet for them to even know to/consider to use her as a safety net. Amy Adams is in the movie only to serve as a way for Cavill to do Superman stuff and save a damsel in distress.

I just wanna punch him in the face. Thank you, Superman
   Michael Shannon sucked. Yeah, I said it. I think his acting here was too OTT yet stagnant for my tastes, and not in a fun The Joker way. His Zod is always angry. It was far too clear that Shannon didn't believe half of the crap his character spewed out. His was not a difficult role (all he had to do was furrow those brows and shout), and he didn't do much more to make the character complex. I would not have had a problem with that but when a character is constantly mean-mugging on the theater screen and shouting, then I have no reason not to tell them to take their shit elsewhere. It got old super fast. Even then, his character is not given much to do further than being a roadblock. Whereas The Joker served as a magnificent foil to Batman, Zod is nothing more than an annoying critter on Superman's back.

Should have been the main villain
   Still, Man Of Steel  is overall a good film, though not one I will revisit often. Despite its flaws, it stands in contrast to other action/superhero films that would never be able to reach the level of excellence in its exposition during the first half. The cinematography is also a tour-de-force. The CGI is not jarring and actually helps inject more power into the action scenes. Krypton is also rendered unrecognizable from its past portrayals on film. If the action scenes had been toned down, if the two leads had more spark, if thus-far-useless characters didn't pop in and out, and if the villain was more explicitly recognized as going against everything that Clark internally stood for, then Man Of Steel would have no doubt being a 5 star movie. As it stands, I may not be in love with this film but I now do have high hopes for the sequels.

Ludovico Rating

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Lolita (Stanley Kubrick, 1962)

      Simply put Lolita is not a story I care for. We all know what it's about. A man, Humbert Humbert, goes to great lengths to be with a pre-teen, the titular Lolita, including marrying said pre-teen's mother. Unfortunately, his forcible nature, his possessiveness and sheer obsession lead to a path of despair, death and murder. Eh, not that good of a story. That being said, I don't think Kubrick did Vladimir Nabokov's novel justice. It's hard to take a story that I don't even like and make me pity what it's become at the hands of another creator.

    A lot of Kubrick's shortcomings with Lolita can be attributed to the strict production codes of the time. Much, if not all, of the novel's eroticism is washed away in favor of black comedy, which wouldn't be so bad if at times the film did not take itself so seriously. I couldn't really get a sense of what the film was trying to be. Too much of the plot is only implied at, resulting in an overload of fade-to-blacks. They got really annoying after a while to say the least. If somebody did not read Nabokov's novel prior to watching this film, the image they would take away of Lolita would differ jarringly from the source novel. People would probably think the novel is just as tame as the film! Although a friend of mine loved the film for these reasons, saying that she did not have to endure the repulsive sexuality of the plot and could just pick up on the undertones. To that I told her to go live in the 1960s.

   Kubrick also eliminated a lot of the novel's plot elements that could have helped flesh out the dull story here. For example, he discards all of Humbert Humbert's back story, excluding out the explanation for his fixation on young girls. I'm not saying I wanted to sympathize with Humbert (trust me, I don't); but it would have helped flesh out his character if some of his back story was given. Besides, his vileness is also tamed down in the film so I don't see why they didn't portray his background to drive home the point that we're supposed to sympathize with Humbert. In the film, Humbert Humbert is more of a poor love-struck sap than the manipulating and possessive monster he truly is. The man is like Gatsby on crack. He could have been handled in such a way to make him one of the darkest anti anti-heros of cinema. Instead of a making the film into a black comedy due to the production codes, Kubrick should have made Lolita into a film noir since Humbert would get his in the end anyways as befitting all noir bad guys. Humbert Humbert is only made sympathetic because the characters around him are just so damn annoying. The best of the worst.

   Yet, my main gripe with the film is Peter Sellers. Oh my God, I hated him! This is my first Sellers film and I'm not sold on the man. Sellers' performance as Clarence Quilty feels so out of place. The film opens up with a murder, setting a precise tone for the film. Yet, nothing that follows onscreen matches that foundation. What's worse is that Sellers' character is involved in the murder; but throughout the film, Sellers does Sellers things and assumes different comical guises to deceive Humbert. His performance is too buffoonish even for a black comedy. Everytime he appeared onscreen I wanted to say
because his character is not even that prominent in the novel in the first place. Sellers' appearance here is only a gimmick so he can goof off and waste my precious fucking time. And it veers the film in the wrong direction. This film is not a farce! Quit it, Quilty. James Mason does a formidable job as Humbert Humbert, though not as the version I had in mind. He does the best he can do with the limited script. Admittedly, the Humbert in the film I did somewhat feel bad for. If that's what Kubrick was going for, well he succeeded. Still, I have a problem with the character becoming so vanilla when he's supposed to be so mint chocolate chip, or maybe butter pecan. Definitely not rum raisin though.

    Sue Lyon as the titular Lolita does a decent job. I never got the feel that we got to really know her character though. In the novel, we only see Lolita through Humbert's eyes. However, we are still able to get glimpses into Lolita's personal misery. In the film, since the point of view is switched from Humbert to a general one, I expected for Lolita to become demystified. The Lolita in the film though is just another teenager who likes playing games, and not a girl stuck in a bad situation unable to harness her new-found sexuality. It was evident to me how basic Lyon's performance was in Lolita's final appearance in the film. Her final meeting with Humbert is very disappointing to say the least. None of the blame can be placed on Mason who still retains his desperate act. Lyon just does not really emote very well. She can play seductive very well, but when she is required to bring forth her character's inner woes, well that just ain't happening.

Lol nope
   The only performer on par with Mason is Miss Shelley Winters herself. She's the best performer actually. After she leaves, the story gets duller and the curtains could have just about closed at that point. As Charlotte Haze, Winters is sumptuously loud, overbearing, clueless and annoying. Since Charlotte is supposed to be that off-putting, I did not find it shocking that I felt bad more for Winters herself than her character. Shelly just can't catch a break. In all her films (at least those that I've seen so far), all her lovers are out to get her. A Place In The Sun, The Night of the Hunter, and Lolita. This film is especially a parallel to The Night of the Hunter where both of her characters are widows who get re-married to an unfortunate man fixated on her children. And they both get bumped off. But whereas her character in Night was boring, her character in Lolita is lively and vivacious and oh-so-stupid. I loved it. Her performance was the best balance for what the film was trying to achieve, drama and comedy.

   Lolita is my least favorite Kubrick. The Kubrick marathon just took a major dip. Lolita just does not have the Kubrick touch! Do you know how many Kubrick stares disturbed Humbert Humbert could have given out? Ugh. But it is still a decent film with two great performances, a good look to it, and a title song to die for (seriously, check it out here). Even if I had not read the source novel, I still would not think much of this film. Too many omissions and implications. Too unable to define itself/its genre. Too blatant a failure at trying to be a stand-alone work of art, apart from its source material.The only thing I still wish is that Kubrick would have gone the film noir route with this one. It would have been superb.

Ludovico Rating

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Unknown (Tod Browning, 1927)


  Alonzo The Armless is a circus freak who throws knives using only his legs. His partner for the show is Nanon, the circus owner's beautiful daughter. Alonzo is in love with Nanon, willing to do anything to get her. However, Nanon has feelings for Malabar, another member of the circus,, who is renowned for his strength. Malabar reciprocates Nanon's feelings. There is only one problem and --wait for it, it's perfectly cheesy, you guys-- Nanon has a phobia of hands! See what they did there? All her life, she says, men have been groping at her. Unfortunately, Malabar does not know that and just can't keep his hands off Nanon, played by noneother than wily Joan Crawford. Who can blame him really?

Joan Crawford  publicity shot for The Unknown
     If Hollywood legends are to be believed, Joan Crawford was the one who had trouble keeping her hands off people. But you see, not in this film. In The Unknown, Joan is a beautiful but sullen girl who yearns for love but cannot get over the hangup of being touched. She is guileless and has no ulterior motive. That's not the Joan we know! Read: she was boring in this film. But guess who can't (and as such can) touch her though? Yep, Alonzo The "Armless".

   The wedding bells would be ringing by now except for the fact that Joan really has no feelings for Alonzo and Alonzo is not who he appears to be. Get this, Alonzo is a criminal on the run. His hands are easily identified because he has two thumbs on one hand. So to hide, he pretended to be armless and landed a job at the circus. This plot keeps getting better and better. Alonzo is hellbent on making Joanie/Nanon his wife. When his midget assistant remarks that on their wedding night Nanon will realize that Alonzo has other ~functioning members~, Alonzo is determined to not let this problem stop him. Nothing will stand in his way of making Nanon his wife, not even his hidden arms. Not his past, not his subterfuge, and certainly not Malabar.

Malabar, you in danger gurl
   This film is an enjoyable watch from start to finish. My expectation for the plot was that Lon Chaney as Alonzo would be the hero or at the very least an anti-hero. Yet, this film refuses to be a complete cliche. Alonzo is the bad guy, plain and simple. He's also the main character. In fact, he is the only character we are allowed to identify with because all of the other players in the film are so vanilla. Joan as Nanon is allowed to sulk around and look damn gorgeous doing it, but she really doesn't have much else to do. I was also annoyed that her character could not just explain to Malabar her phobia of hands so that they could work on it together. Instead, when she is touched (eek!), her eyes widen, her body stiffens and she backs away like Vampira from Plan 9 From Outer Space, only backwards. If Nanon won't tell Malabar, then you betcha Alonzo (who has been told her deep, dark secret) will use that to his advantage. In that respect, some puzzles in the plot fit together too conveniently

    Thankfully, a great performance by Chaney saves and makes the film. We watch Alonzo scheme and plot, all in order to get what he wants. He has no scruples. As played by Lon Chaney, Alonzo becomes one of the most chilling villains I've ever come across. Chaney is beyond amazing in this role. There is a scene later in the film where he receives some not-so-pleasant news. He goes from laughing maniacally to crying hysterically to being visibly upset/looking physically ill and then to slump down defeated. And the scene only lasts for less than five minutes. It was one of the best five minutes of my life.

    Lasting only 50 minutes, The Unknown makes for a short and satisfying watch bearing a wonderful performance from Chaney and a slightly cheesy albeit fascinating plot. While I didn't like some of the elements of the plot individually, as a whole all the cheesiness creates a great mood and atmosphere for the film. The Unknown does not take itself too seriously. It's neither the story of two star-crossed lovers or a look inside the mind of a madman. It's just good old, unadulterated fun. It is definitely a film worth checking out.

A Star Was Born

Ludovico Rating