Sunday, March 27, 2011

This Woman Is Delerious

I hate it when celebrities, who so often are out of touch with reality, insult their own product.

Fables of the Reconstruction is easily my favorite R.E.M. album, and I was stunned to read a Rolling Stone interview where Mike Mills dismissed it by saying "Fables sucked."

KISS routinely puts down their own Music from the Elder album even though it's one of the most popular with their fans.

And William Shatner, whose oeuvre is filled with some of the most dreadful stinkbombs in cinema and television, has publicly dissed The Devil's Rain, a classic B-movie cult film, which is very highly regarded around the T-Gent offices. It would seem that a lot of stars are just too dense to understand the greatness of their own output.

Another case in point: I think Joan Crawford's 1952 film-noir This Woman is Dangerous is freakin' great. It's low on gunfire action, but heavy on sitting around in cozy bars, plotting and pitting men against each other; skulking around in shadowy corners, scheming and stalking; secret furtive meetings in saloons, hotels, and bus stations; driving around trying to sort out the scam and figuring out all the angles. It's got gangsters, nurses, and private detectives; what more do you want?

Then again, for me film noir is all about texture, not plot. While some of you literalists out there are overanalyzing plot structure, character motivations, and story arc, I'm ogling the set design and the lighting and the gas stations and the pictures on the wall and the clothes and the furniture and the legs. With a lot of these films, you could leave out a reel so that the story made no sense whatsoever and I still wouldn't squawk. But that is the way of things when one is sailiing through the murky waters of the crap of the ages.

Like many a good noir, the film was shunned by highbrow stuffed-shirt critics. Bosley Crowther in the New York Times called the movie "junk", but what the heck did he know? Crowther was a scholarly blowhard who demanded that films should be weighty with "social commentary". He panned Kurosawa's Throne of Blood, called Hitchcock's Psycho "a blot on an otherwise honorable career", and said Bonnie & Clyde was "as pointless as it is lacking in taste, since it makes no valid commentary". To paraphrase Bunny Breckinridge in Tim Burton's Ed Wood, "Screwwww you, Miss Crowther."

According to Wikipedia, in 1973, during the "Legendary Ladies" show at Town Hall, someone in the audience asked, "Which one of your films do you regret making?" Joan Crawford replied that she considered This Woman Is Dangerous to be her worst film ever.

Really, Joan?? Your worst?

Maybe she forgot about Trog, wherein she plays second banana to what is supposed to be a caveman discovered to be still living in England (seriously!), but actually looks like just another guy in a bad ape suit. Or how about William Castle's low-budget Strait-Jacket, another of her "psycho-biddy" flicks in which life and art merge by casting Crawford, an insane old woman, as, well, an insane old woman. Or When Ladies Meet, a meandering romance in which Robert Taylor actually manages to be more interesting than Joan Crawford.

Of course, I like all those movies too. Clearly I have no taste.

- - JSH


Explosivo said...

Was Shatnter in Devil's Rain? I was thinking it was more like Ernest Borgnine and a young John Travolta (ex of Danville's Pioneer Playhouse, by the way). It's hard to beat the Shatmaster in "Incubus" with its crazy, "esperanto" dialogue. Now, THAT one I could see him dissing.

Transylvania Gentlemen said...

Devil's Rain has Shatner and Borgnine and Travolta, plus Eddie Albert and Ida Lupino. That right there just spells classic automatically.

All this and Anton LaVey too.

- - JSH