Monday, October 18, 2010

Muses in my midst V

(James Whale and friend.)

For the multitudes wondering who would decorate my pantheon for Halloween, the answer may not be pure, but it is simple: English-imported James Whale. Few directors dispensed as many tricks and treats - for example, his magnificent camera spin around the great Paul Robeson as he claims immortality singing "Ol' Man River" in the 1936 film version of "Show Boat." For tricks, we have Whale's uncanny ability to turn what are supposedly horror movies into the ultimate, subversive '30s romps. His undisputed masterpieces are "Frankenstein," "Bride of Frankenstein," "The Invisible Man" and "The Old Dark House." In all four cases, it's as if Oscar Wilde had teamed with Rod Serling and Bram Stoker to create a newfangled brand of tongue-in-cheek terror. Not until 1960, when Tony Perkins met Janet Leigh in "Psycho," would horror and humor make for such sublimely decadent bedfellows.

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