Saturday, August 12, 2006

Dubs Come Unexpectedly!

He took a bite out of Carroll Baker in BABY DOLL.
But could Karl Malden have also been...
THE MONSTERS DEMOLISHER?

I come to you in the breathless state of a reporter with a scoop.

As a lifelong devotee of the somewhat sneaky craft of movie dubbing, I've always paid close attention to the voices I hear on the soundtracks of foreign movies dubbed into English. Over the years, I've been able to put names to some of the more familiar voices heard on the English dubbed tracks of Italian and other imported genre films, and done my part to make actors like Carolyn De Fonseca, Bernard Grant, Brett Morrison, Dan Sturkie, and Tony Russel better known to film fans who, like myself, know their voices and think of them as old friends.

I just finished watching the second film in what might be called the "Nostradamus Quartet," THE MONSTERS DEMOLISHER. (Ridiculous title, I know, but what are you going to do?) According to Phil Hardy's THE OVERLOOK FILM ENCYCLOPEDIA: HORROR, this series of four Mexican films -- THE CURSE OF NOSTRADAMUS, THE MONSTERS DEMOLISHER, THE GENIE OF DARKNESS, and THE BLOOD OF NOSTRADAMUS -- were filmed in 1959 as twelve 25-minute serials, and later re-edited into these four continuous features for export. The English versions were dubbed in Coral Gables, Florida and released under the auspices of kiddie-matinee entrepreneur, K. Gordon Murray.

While watching THE MONSTERS DEMOLISHER, I was especially looking forward to the performance of the actor credited as "Grek Martin," who later relocated to Spain, where he became better known as Jack Taylor, the co-star of many Paul Naschy and Jess Franco films. Taylor turns up in the film's third act, looking very much like himself, but the voice he was given by the Coral Gables dubbers was disorienting. Not only was it completely unlike Jack Taylor's own voice (which graces many a dubbed Spanish horror movie), but it was also familiar... damned familiar. And not because it was one of the voices usually heard on the dub tracks of Murray's matinee fodder, like those of Paul Nagel (interviewed in VW #2) and Manny San Fernando.

Jack Taylor as "Igor," THE MONSTERS DEMOLISHER.

Every time Taylor speaks in THE MONSTERS DEMOLISHER, he sounds like the one and only Karl Malden! ON THE WATERFRONT. BABY DOLL. POLLYANNA. HOW THE WEST WAS WON. THE CAT O' NINE TAILS. THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO. "Don't leave home without it." It's not just the voice, but the enunciation -- everything.

As soon as the movie was over, I got online and went to the IMDb to see what Karl Malden might have been doing in 1962, when this film was dubbed for American release. As it happens, this was a time when Malden was one of the busiest actors around, getting second leads and even top billing in some cases... but, in his very busy year of 1962, one of the many films he made was John Frankenheimer's ALL FALL DOWN... which happened to be shot on location in Key West, Florida!

He could have spent one of his days off in Coral Gables. And I think he did.

Incidentally, Jack Taylor's character also appears in the third Nostradamus film, THE GENIE OF DARKNESS, and the voice heard there is the same. So that's two highly suspect Karl Malden dubbing credits!

In my past years as a Dubbing Detective (a sideline to my work as a Video Watchdog), I've had a couple of other interesting eurekas along these lines. When I saw Sergio Corbucci's MINNESOTA CLAY (1965) for the first time, a couple of years ago, on a Japanese import DVD, I noticed that whoever dubbed Fernando Sancho's villainous performance sounded a lot like Anthony Quinn. I later found out that Quinn was indeed working in Rome around the same time, starring in a picture called MARCO THE MAGNIFICENT. I'm convinced that it's Quinn's voice, but I have no proof. It makes sense to me that Quinn might have agreed to do the job for many reasons -- for the experience, for the bread, for a friend. And it makes me wonder, as does this Malden ID, how many big stars might be lurking on celluloid unseen but heard.

There's also the case of Roger Corman's THE YOUNG RACERS. The first and only time I saw this 1963 movie, shot without live sound in various European locales, I realized that Mark Damon's entire performance had been dubbed by William Shatner -- from his vocal mannerisms as much as his voice. From the moment I made that realization, the movie became hysterically funny for me... and I wrote about this in VIDEO WATCHDOG. I just checked the IMDb and someone posted the information there under "Trivia." Of course, in 1963 Shatner had just finished starring in Corman's THE INTRUDER -- thus establishing the connection and the timeline.

I always get THE YOUNG RACERS confused with another AIP flick, Daniel Haller's THE WILD RACERS, which stars Fabian and Mimsy Farmer. In that one, Dick Miller dubs one of the lead performances and turns up in a cameo role. Thanks to you-know-who for setting me straight.

And Richard Harland Smith tells me that he's been able to identify Hal Linden (pre-BARNEY MILLER) as the voice of "Baby Lucas" in Radley Metzger's CARMEN BABY, as well as the voices of Pier Paolo Capponi (Police Superintendent Spini) in THE CAT O'NINE TAILS and Romano Puppo (Dino) in COMMANDOS. "Capponi and Puppo have scenes together in COMMANDOS and I keep expecting Linden's voice to come out of both of them!" says RHS.

We all know that the voices of actors like Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford can be heard, anonymous but recognizable, on television commercials. Same thing here... in fact, better thing here, because Malden, Quinn, and Shatner were using their talent to act. It's too late for Anthony Quinn to come forward, but I think it's high time that the great stars of yesteryear stood up and admitted that they dubbed films, and which films they dubbed, while they're still among us.

It's nothing to be ashamed of. It's actually kind of wonderful.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

HOLLYWOOD BLVD Directors Remember Candice Rialson

Various film-related message boards and blogs have been lit up today with the surprising, belated news of the untimely death of 1970s cult actress Candice Rialson. The flaxen-haired Queen of New World Pictures, Rialson evidently passed away of as-yet-undisclosed causes last March, at the age of 54. The news was broken two days ago on the Code Red DVD blog.

Considering that all the available online discussion is coming from fans, rather than from friends and colleagues who knew Candice, I extended an invitation to Joe Dante and Allan Arkush, the directors of her cult classic HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, to use this space to reminisce about her.

"So sad to hear about Candice, the first movie star I ever worked with. She was really witty & sweet & flirtatious and fun to be around. I will forever love those funny sounds she made when she did that fight scene at the drive-in. She played a great drunk, & the afternoon we spent walking around Hollywood Blvd, looking at the "Stars names written in concrete" & singing along to the just-released LP of Bruce Springsteen's BORN TO RUN (which was blasting out of every stereo from every store) will always stay with me. I think, when that night of the last scene on the rooftop of New World was shot, she looked beautiful and embodied all the glamour a New World Picture could muster. I'm missing you, Candice... but I'm sure Paul Bartel is calling you & all actors 'cattle' in Movie Heaven." -- Allan Arkush

"Candice was also the first movie star I ever worked with, since Allan and I shared directing duties on what was our first picture after a year or so of cutting trailers for pictures starring... Candice Rialson! Though out of the public zeitgeist for over two decades, it should be remembered that Candice was a very hot personality in the drive-in movie world. We were thrilled when she consented to play the lead in HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD -- it was the exploitation movie equivalent of getting Julie Christie! Although she was the pro and we were the amateurs, there was no attitude, no airs, just enthusiasm for getting the job done. She made it fun to get up early! Although her reign was brief, she set many an ozoner heart aflutter and is warmly remembered by not only those of us lucky enough to work with her, but by what Norma Desmond called 'those wonderful people out there in the dark.'" -- Joe Dante

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

BLOOD CASTLE: Gold from the Silver Age

Erna Schürer in the obligatory candelabra scene of BLOOD CASTLE.

Last night I happened to pull down from the attic Wizard Video's BLOOD CASTLE, their surprisingly full-length 1986 release of the Spanish-Italian co-production originally released here in America as SCREAM OF THE DEMON LOVER. The film's original running time of 98 minutes (97m 23s, to be exact) was cut down to a reported 75 minutes by its US distributor, New World Pictures, to facilitate its double-billing with Stephanie Rothman's THE VELVET VAMPIRE in 1971. Given this history, the film's uncut arrival on video was a surprise -- not least of all because it had been retitled, making it impossible to guess what picture it might really be (some buyers/renters were doubtless hoping it was the uncut version of Jorge Grau's LEGEND OF BLOOD CASTLE), and also because the box listed an incorrect running time of only 87 minutes.

Known in Italy as IL CASTELLO DALLE PORTE DI FUOCO ("The Castle with the Door of Fire"), this José Luís Merino film was released in Spain as IVANNA, the name of its heroine, played by the attractive Erna Schürer. In this 19th century tale, Schürer plays Ivanna Rakowsky, a medical school graduate who is contracted to assist the experiments of Baron Janos Dalmar at his castle in the Balkans. When she arrives, she learns that the Baron is hated by the villagers, who hold him responsible for the sex-murders of various local virgins, though they have no proof. The Baron (Carlos Quiney, flanked by menacing hounds that give him a Zaroffian aspect and pay a nod to BLACK SUNDAY) takes one look at Ivanna and orders his housekeeper Christiana (Christiana Galloni) to dismiss her with three months' pay -- women are too curious by nature, and he doesn't want her snooping into his personal secrets. But Ivanna holds the Baron to his contract and soon impresses him with her intellect, her disregard of local gossip, and the way she warms to his monstrous dogs. Ivanna learns that the Baron is preserving the body of his late brother, Igor, who was burned to death in a terrible fire, and looking for a means by which to return him to life. She begins to suffer vivid nightmares of being stretched nude on a rack in a torture chamber by the Baron, which he explains as a side-effect of the fumes in the laboratory... but it turns out there is another explanation. At first, Ivanna suspects that the Baron may be a lycanthrope, a man who assumes bestial form in the light of the full moon to give violent vent to his desires, but the truth has more to do with the wing of the castle no one is permitted to visit. There, in a dungeon chamber presumed to be inescapable, the Baron's disfigured brother still lives -- escaping at the height of each maddening full moon to ravage the women denied him by his disfigurement. Noticeable among the cast members is Antonio Jiménez Escribano, "Dr. Zimmer" in Jess Franco's THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z (1965), as the Baron's butler.

Baron Dalmar (Carlos Quiney, left) confronts his disfigured brother.

The so-called "Golden Age of Italian fantasy" is generally bookended with the years 1957-66, beginning with I VAMPIRI and ending with the never-exported and rarely-seen LA VENDETTA DI LADY MORGAN. BLOOD CASTLE is clearly a film of mixed parentage; though it looks more Spanish than Italian, it was filmed in Italy and tells a period story so closely related to the Gothic romances upon which this "Golden Age" was founded that one may be tempted to extend its date of closure to 1970. Though it technically dates from the beginning of Italian horror's "Silver Age," which probably commenced with Mario Bava's HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON in 1969, BLOOD CASTLE -- with its period setting, hidden subhuman family members, obligatory candelabra scene, and discoveries behind red pleated curtains -- is a throwback to the earlier era, despite instances of female nudity provided by Schürer and co-star Agostina Belli. Its only serious shortcoming is the lack of a full-blooded score; it's the last score the IMDb lists for Luigi Malatesta, and it's extremely spare -- basically violin, keyboard, and percussion.

The film has never been regarded as particularly worthy of note, but it was a great favorite of my late friend Alan Upchurch, and it was his large box Wizard pre-record that I watched last night. It's been years since I've seen the shorter version, but despite its near 100-minute length, I enjoyed BLOOD CASTLE and never felt it was overstaying its welcome. I had completely forgotten the werewolf angle of the story; however misleading it may ultimately be, it's nevertheless pronounced enough that it should be included in werewolf movie references. The story may be a bit hackneyed -- and we never do find out what the Baron was really keeping submerged in those black, bubbling chemicals of his laboratory vat! -- but the characters and their relationships are reasonably convincing, and it's refreshing to find a heroine with such pluck and unconventionality in this otherwise old-fashioned scenario. (Surprisingly, when Ivanna suspects the Baron of drugging her to stage those S&M "nightmares," she seems willing to indulge his kink, if that's what it will take to win him.) The dialogue between Schürer and Quiney is frequently jousting and well-played in the English dub, which features Richard Johnson in a few roles (including the brothers Dalmar) and a couple of other British voices that sounded very familiar, but which I couldn't finally identify.

A Wizard Video promo at the end of the tape dates the release as March 1986 (when the company also released Franco's THE SCREAMING DEAD, THE POSSESSOR, and the made-for-video BREEDERS). Wizard's presentation is cropped, evidently from a 1.85:1 original framing; nevertheless, I was able to zoombox the picture on my widescreen set without hurting the compositions much, or at all. Only one brief "split-diopter"-type shot of Christiana eavesdropping on the Baron and Ivanna evidenced any extreme use of the frame. There is some speckling here and there, but the color is pretty good and so is the audio quality.

As these things usually transpire, I came online today and found out that Retromedia had issued BLOOD CASTLE on DVD in a letterboxed presentation, back in 2003. This release somehow completely got past my radar and is now officially out-of-print, but I was able to order a sealed copy from an Amazon Marketplace dealer. So, if you have any interest in this title, you'd better move on it now. The reviews at Amazon.com aren't particularly kind to the look of the disc, but I'm curious to see how the letterboxing enhances the experience -- and who knows if this film will ever see a better DVD treatment? (Of course, with Paul Naschy's VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES and NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF coming on HD DVD from Brentwood next month, anything's possible!)

The SCREAM OF THE DEMON LOVER variant, released around the same time as the Wizard release on the Charter Entertainment label, seems to be available on disc too, for those of you with a mind to locate and itemize the cuts New World inflicted. At least one such release double-bills the film with the aforementioned HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON.

Monday, August 07, 2006

FREUD: "A Place As Black As Hell Itself"

Montgomery Clift and Larry Parks pursue the moment
of a patient's trauma in John Huston's FREUD.

A couple of days ago, Donna and I commemorated John Huston's 100th birthday with a day's end screening of FREUD (1962), one of his more difficult films to see. This Universal release has never been available on video and, to the best of my knowledge, it's never appeared on any of the premium cable networks -- but, thanks to a friend with access to hidden reserves, I was able to see it for the first time in many years... for so long, in fact, that seeing it again was, appropriately, like exhuming a buried memory from childhood.

FREUD isn't widely regarded as one of Huston's better films; it didn't last in theaters for very long, and it made few critics' Ten Best lists in 1962. But as its proto-Star Child ending faded to black, I couldn't help but exclaim aloud, "What an astounding movie!" Rather like an Eric Rohmer film, it consists of one conversation after another, occasionally interrupted by an academic lecture, which is probably why it disenchanted mainstream audiences and critics; nevertheless, it had me by the throat from beginning to end, deriving suspense and excitement from its articulation of ideas and tentative probings of inner space. As the film ended, I felt the same elation I feel after seeing a thriller by Clouzot or Hitchcock, something that has put me through the ringer -- and then realized, with amusement, that what I'd seen was something like 140 minutes of talk. Huston himself called FREUD "an intellectual thriller."

I may be missing some other examples, but I believe there were only two major films about psychoanalysis prior to FREUD: Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND (1945) and Nunnally Johnson's THE THREE FACES OF EVE (1957); earlier movies like SHOCK CORRIDOR, THE SNAKE PIT and even THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, which are set in asylums without seriously broaching the subject of psychoanalysis, should be removed from consideration, as should later but still progressive films like DAVID AND LISA and LILITH. FREUD stands apart from all these films because it is about the excitement of discovery, and the singularly great discovery of unexplored wings of the human mind -- places "as black as Hell itself." Because it is the story of the first steps taken toward psychoanalysis, and because its protagonists are academics, it also offers us the rare opportunity to see people conversing on higher and deeper levels of awareness, and dawning awareness, than other films almost never aspire to attain.

I'm familiar with Huston's reputation as a big-time drinker, but I don't know how much experience he had, if any, with psychedelics. He made this film at a time when LSD therapy was legal and quite au courant, and the high-contrast scenes visualizing Freud's attempts to dredge information up from the subconscious and unconscious of his patients have as potent a lysergic edge as anything I've seen this side of ALTERED STATES. The movie encourages the viewer to look below the surface of everything and everyone involved, and manages to reveal a surprising amount of information without ever expressing it on the surface, or "consciously." For example, one senses that the misplaced love felt by the patient Cecily (Susannah York) for Dr. Breuer (Larry Parks) was in fact reciprocated, though this is never admitted, and that this was the true reason why he places Freud in charge of her care. Likewise, it is left to the viewer to recognize the actress playing Freud's wife Martha (Susan Kohner, the daughter of Lupita Tovar and Paul Kohner) as a "reflection" of the actress playing his mother (THE HAUNTING's Rosalie Krutchley), and to leap to the discovery of the "Freudian slip" before Freud himself. Also worthy of mention are an outstanding, disturbing scene showcasing the talents of a young David McCallum and, to move from the sublime to the ridiculous, a single line by one actor that is somewhat glaringly looped by Paul Frees.

FREUD, like SPELLBOUND before it (and Corman's PIT AND THE PENDULUM, come to think of it), helps to establish a narrative of process and revelation that points the way to a specific kind of Italian gialli -- the kind that build toward a cathartic understanding of the killer's moment of trauma. Mario Bava, I think, was the first to import this into the gialli with HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON, and it resonates throughout much of Dario Argento's work -- DEEP RED, TENEBRAE, and TRAUMA, particularly. In this regard, it's worth noting that Huston's film features a flashback to a trauma in the childhood of Susannah York's character, where she is pictured as a girl with long blonde hair and piercing eyes, in a Victorian dress, holding a ball... Could Bava have seen this film and imported the memory into his KILL, BABY... KILL!?

I found this remarkable essay about Huston's FREUD online, which comes to grips with the film biographically and psychologically far better than I could hope to do, and it also offers some fascinating behind-the-scenes information and gossip. (I didn't know, for example, that Jean-Paul Sartre had been involved in scripting it.) It's worth reading, and a film well worth tracking down. In fact, I'd compare it favorably to some of the acknowledged Huston classics, simply on the grounds that there are many other movies like them, and very few others like this. FREUD belongs on a short shelf with ALTERED STATES, THE ELEPHANT MAN, and... well, you tell me.

If anyone from Universal is listening, please let us have FREUD on DVD -- perhaps as part of a "John Huston Double Feature" with the also-missing-in-action THE LIST OF ADRIAN MESSENGER.