Disturbing And Creepy Early Cinema Vintage Clips

Quick announcement: Bill and I are having a holiday at home, so after this post I shall see you in two weeks’ time.

Before the motion picture industry solidified in the 20s, The tens and 1890s were a period of gleeful experimentation, much like the advancement of YouTube from dramatic gophers to defined communities and vloggers.

From the cinéma vérité of the Lumière Brothers, the fantastical whimsy of Georges Méliès, the glamour and fun of Alice Guy-Blaché  and the innovation of the world’s first animators, everyone had something they wanted to test. Vaudeville stars of the Belle Epoque and big events were a natural draw, but sometimes events don’t go according to plan, vaudeville acts seem alien to modern eyes and other things… are just odd.

The Balancing Bluebottle/The Acrobatic Fly (F. Percy Smith, 1910)

I honestly felt sick after watching this. It’s fascinating though and I couldn’t look away. But…yeah I still felt sick.

A fly is glued to a matchstick by the wings, it’s strength tested by placing objects onto it’s flailing legs, one of the objects being a dead fly. Yep, it spins around the corpse of it’s brethren on frantic arthropodic feet. You know that shudder Bart does in the Simpsons…

Fish (Bert Williams, 1916)

This next one isn’t creepy so much as sad. Bert Williams wrote and directed two films, unheard of for a person of colour back then. However this two reeler is very light on humour and audiences had a hard time accepting him, as a 42 year old man, playing a boy. Added to the mix are parents played by white people in black face with incredibly poor comic timing and pathos that leaves the viewer depressed.

Bert was never able to reach his full ambition, stuck as he was in ‘black’ roles often in blackface. Friend and fellow vaudevillian WC Fields said “Bert Williams was the funniest man I ever saw and the saddest man I ever knew.”

On stage and in his other short he was a more subtle comedian. After the disappointment of Fish he returned to live performances.

Death jump from the Eiffel Tower, 1912

On the 4th February, 1912, Franz Reichelt was scheduled to test his homemade parachute by jumping from a great height. Nobody in the watching crowd or French and British media thought to tell him it was a bad idea and off he went, falling from the tower to his unfortunate death.

The Dancing Pig (1907)

The internet is quite familiar with a small section of this vaudeville performance, namely the titular pig gurning grotesquely at the end. The rest is pretty darn odd too, involving public humiliation and torment. All in good fun though.

The Cameraman’s Revenge (Wladislaw Starewicz, 1912)

Perhaps it’s my phobia of dead bugs (live ones I’m fine with though, no idea why) that leads me to find this film so shudder inducing. It’s a shame because this satire by the Polish, Russian and French stop motion animator is really incredible.

The cast of deceased insects perform an operatic melodrama of betrayed love and revenge in a mischievous swipe at popular theatre.

Monkeyshines 1, 2 and 3 (Thomas Edison, 1889 – 1890)

These ghosts from the past were captured during Edison’s first attempts to record image on film.

The Consequences of Feminism (Alice Guy-Blaché, 1906)

Either this film is meant to show the absurdity of men who protested against the suffragette movement or it’s an indictment of what could happen if allowed to continue. Seeing as Alice was a filmmaker herself I’d prefer to believe the former, but we just don’t know.

The Inferno ( Francesco Bertolini, Adolfo Padovan and Giuseppe de Liguoro, 1911)

This ambitious project was one of the first feature length films ever made (the first being The Kelly Gang, 1906). It’s packed with disturbing imagery from cannibalism to tortured souls and remains hauntingly fascinating to this day.

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Merry Halloween! John Waters This Filthy World

It’s here! Later tonight I shall be watching Derren Brown and stuffing my face but until then here is something to amuse all you weirdos out there. It’s like that programme An Evening With, where the star shares charming anecdotes with the audience, except in this context it involves burlesque, horror, trash and cult cinema and fetishes. It’s very funny.

BE WARNED: Much of this is NOT for children. Do not watch if you’re under 18 (or whatever age you think it’s OK). Happy Halloween!!

John Waters This Filthy World (2006)

Surrealist Cinema Documentary Presented by David Lynch (BBC Arena 1987)

Hello my tiny emblems of creative pride!

Next week I shall be the busiest I have been since the last time I was really busy so, to make up for the fact that I may not be able to post, I shall share with you a documentary on Surrealist Cinema that was shown on the BBC in 1987 for a series called Arena. If you haven’t watched the others you should; there’s a great one on silent actress Louise Brooks and another on Japanese writer Yukio Mishima and his bizarre end. I am fascinated by a bizarre end, I can’t help it.

I notice he possibly didn’t have time to include Bunuel or Un Chien Andalou, but you can’t include everything.

So, here it is: David Lynch on Surrealist Cinema:

4 modern films made in a vintage fashion

Everybody loved The Artist, it was sweet and entertaining, but there are a few more films invoking earlier cinematic styles that I’ve enjoyed just as much if not more. Let’s have a peek at these morsels of delight (I don’t know, it’s the meds).

1. The Saddest Music in the World. Guy Maddin tends to give all his films the look of the twenties or thirties, focusing particularly on German Expressionism. This is probably my favourite though because it’s very silly (intentionally) and Isabella Rossellini looks like she’s having a lot of fun.

It’s prohibition in America but Canada doesn’t need to worry about that (Guy Maddin is an enthusiastic Canadian). To advertise her company beer baron Isabella Rossellini decides to hold a contest to see which nation can play the saddest music in the world. An American takes part and proceeds to fill his songs with crass schmaltz and showy dances.

As a friend of mine said, it has all the enchantment of early cinema with modern daft humour, which is probably my favourite mix.

2. La Antena. An Argentinian film by Esteban Sapir, this heavily invokes directors like Fritz Lang and Luis Bunuel. It’s visually beautiful and enjoyable to watch, and is an interesting take on the subject of Fascism. An entire city has lost it’s voice, save for one woman and her son who she tries to keep a secret.

Apologies, couldn’t find a trailer with English subtitles:

3. Careful. Another offering from Guy Maddin, this is a little darker (though still silly of course) and tells the story of an Alpine village who must keep quiet to avoid the murderous and frequent avalanches.

This is two stories in one telling how isolation can lead to odd and incestuous thoughts. In the first it’s a son in love with his mother and the second a daughter with her father, although he appears to favour her sister. There are some very pretty touches, such as the coal miner’s candle helmet.

4. The Forbidden Zone. It’s probably the most out-there of all these offerings and is definitely not for children. There are one or two horrifically offensive things in it which I didn’t feel needed to be in there at all, but I’m not the film maker so what do I know eh?

However, this is essentially a live action Max Fleischer cartoon (of Betty Boop fame) and the songs are quite catchy, and the whole thing is so bizarre and odd and juvenile that you probably just need to let it wash over you. Directed by Richard Elfman, his brother Danny (you might know him) and his band Oingo Boingo did the music and pop up as the devil and his minions singing Minnie the Moocher. I think it’s at least entertainingly weird, and that’s probably all that matters.

The original big screen twists

We’ve all seen them, the movie endings that have been done so many times they’re nothing more than a cliche. But imagine the first time it was seen, it would have been thought of as a stroke of genius.

Here are a few examples of classic films employing the twists we’ve come to know and love.

*warning* contains extreme spoilers.

1. “It was all a dream,” Dead of Night, 1945.

An architect arrives at a genteel British house party where he reveals to the guests he’s seen them all before in a dream. He then begins to predict events that will happen, leading to death.

This film boasts ‘the scariest moment in film,’ which many modern viewers may disagree with but is still rather creepy, especially if you don’t like ventriloquist dummies. Its also the picture that began the portmanteu, or several stories linked by one, format employed by Amicus films.

2. “I was making it all up,” Cabinet of Dr Caligari, 1920.

Two friends competing for the same woman visit a travelling carnival, where Dr Caligari announces that his somnambulist slave Cesare can predict the future. One of the friends asks him to predict his fortune, to which Cesare replies, “You will die before dawn tomorrow.”

Part of the German expressionist movement, this film by Robert Wiene includes trippy set designs and dreamlike performances, and has to be the first film with a twist ending full stop.

3. “I was dead all along,” Carnival of Souls, 1962.

Mary Henry is involved in a car accident but manages to crawl free. She begins a job in a new town as a church organist, but is plagued by strange visions and sounds. She finds herself drawn to an abandoned carnival, where the truth is revealed.

Many, many films are still doing this twist. In my humble opinion Donnie Darko is merely a convoluted version of this film. Despite its obvious low budget, Carnival of Souls is still quite entertaining.

4. “It was me all along,” Stage Fright, 1950

This Hitchcockian crime tale sees Jonathan, a young actor, confide in his friend Eve that the actress he’s been having an affair with, Marlene Dietrich, has committed murder. Eve and Jonathan investigate, leading to one of the now most overused endings of the movies (Switchblade Romance I’m looking at you).

When the film was released some people had a problem with the ‘lying flashback.’ The Jonathan character relays a story to Eve which turns out to be a lie. Nowadays incorrect flashback is acceptable as even CSI uses it to portray theories, but at the time flashback had only been employed to show the gospel truth. This led many viewers to have little sympathy for the Jonathan character.

Well, there we are! They’re the genius endings which became the cliches of the future, watch them and rejoice!

Alt models, weird designers and factory girls: Freaky fashion

Lithium Picnic (photographer)
Audrey Kitching on Jared Gold’s runway
apnea-photograph
Apnea (model)

I watched a rather peculiar documentary today called Party Monster, The Shockumentary. It’s quite a deliberately bad taste film about the Club Kids in late 80s New York – young people who dressed outlandishly and included fashion designer James St. James– and their party organiser Michael Alig who ended up murdering someone and putting the chopped up body in a trunk. Obviously it got me thinking about fashion. And murder I suppose but that’s no change.

I love art from Francis Bacon to Lempicka to photographers of the unusual like Diane Arbus, but I also love fashion. The outfits at the Bizarre Magazine Ball for example are truly bizarre and great, so here I shall include some of the things that make me weep with joy and perhaps you will find something of interest.

Most people complain that catwalks are full of designs people would never wear in the street, but to be honest that’s the thing I enjoy seeing, mainstream or underground. Regular fashion bores me but anything a bit fantastical, gothic, odd or grunge I love.

First off I have to include my favourite online shop, Joe Brown’s, as its something people will actually be able to afford. There’s some regular stuff but look around, you’ll be very pleasantly surprised.

Gothic Lolitas in Tokyo

The fashion pics of artist Man Ray are beautiful – as shown here on author Matthew Revert’s blog. They’re very imaginative of course.

Newish designer Jared Gold’s gothic and historical clothes are great, they have a similar Alice in Wonderland feel to Bill Gibb.

Tokyo is known for its ‘avant garde’ fashion and I’d love to go there. I particularly like the punk and Gothic Lolita styles.

Keeping in the fantastical realm I definitely recommend looking out for alternative models/designers out there such as Ophelia Overdose and Audrey Kitching. Also have a look at Bizarre magazine’s alternative model website Ultra Vixens for more ladies of the odd and artistic variety, or become one of them if you like. Plus Spitalfields market in London is host to the annual Alternative Fashion Week (presented by Alternative Arts), 16-21st April. Exciting! Colourful! Imaginative!

The model known as Scar

I have a book I love containing alt glamour/pin up pictures (piercings, tattoos etc) taken by Octavio Winkytiki and Lithium Picnic  (my favourite). They’re pretty and unusual, but be warned, some of the content on their sites is not for children’s eyes.

My good friend Emma Bailey is a photographer in Brighton and has done a number of burlesque shoots. Burlesque is fun, the women often have normal sized bodies and I love vintage glamour. Fancy Chance is very funny to watch live and Banbury Cross is lovely too.

I like how bananas high fashion can be, including the designs of Alexander Mcqueen and the photos of Tim Walker. Feast your face!

I’m not hugely a fan of Andy Warhol but I love some of the Factory types like the Velvet Underground, and there was something very interesting about his model Edie Sedgwick.

Lithium Picnic (photographer)

She had a fascinating life, one well worth reading more about.

Allison Harvard

I’m also drawn to the pictures of a model known as Scar, they’re creative and apparently she makes headresses too, which is nice. Another artistic model is Allison Harvard, who reminds me of a Tim Burton character, and gothic model Apnea is jolly too.

Warhol’s model Edie Sedgwick

Finally, I know it’s such a cliche that a person who likes Neil Gaiman and alternative models such as the Suicide Girls would also like the outfits in Tim Burton films but I do, so there. I’m not a goth but Alice in Wonderland and the White Queen had me searching for my dark lipstick, as did Lilly Cole in Terry Gilliam’s Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

Here’s a video of a creepy mechanical doll themed photo shoot by Tim Walker for Vogue Italia 2011

Here’s a video of a Jared Gold fashion show in 2008:

Below is a short ‘documentary’ of Edie Sedgwick: