sovay: (Cho Hakkai: intelligence)
sovay ([personal profile] sovay) wrote 2015-11-08 08:27 am (UTC)

I'm flat-out delighted that you got to watch the Browning "Dracula."

I am delighted to have seen it. It's worth everything for Dwight Frye.

The one big decision Browning made that I think is a net plus, is having Renfield be in Jonathan's position at the beginning of the story.

We wondered where that had come from! It was one of the script choices that made me curious about the intended audience, because it works best if you know the original story—if you're expecting Jonathan Harker. It's not in the intermediary play?

Yanno, I think you could make a case for Renfield as protagonist of a tragedy.

I buy it. He's the character for whom I had the most sympathy, although Mina acquires more interest once she enters a similar state. You write about him very well.

It's very M.R. James/Lovecraft/E. Nesbit horror story, where Nerd Does An Innocuous Thing And Then Suffers For It.

Robert Aickman, too. The only way to avoid the horror is not to encounter it in the first place, but how could you have done that? Not left the house that morning? Had a different career? It's too late now, but it was always too late.

--the action shifts to England and gets blah

I always find it both interesting and instructive to see what actors can do with roles, or sometimes can't. From seeing The Last Flight and Crooner, I know David Manners can act. I also know that one of his talents is for comedy, for which the role of Jonathan John Harker does not allow much scope, except inadvertently, since the character has the brains of a snap pea. He's an earnest romantic hero and there's nothing else to him. You need either an actor who can supply enough sincerity to make up the missing two dimensions or you resign yourself to cardboard. Mina doesn't even have much of a character until she comes under Dracula's spell, at which point she develops motives and interiority and Helen Chandler actually gets to display a personality rather than sit around decoratively wanting "someone a little more normal." As far as physical casting goes, it's a nice touch that she looks like a frail flapper wraith even before the vampire gets to her, but I have seen her hold conversations with a bathtub full of turtles: I know she can do weirder.

It's hard to make Renfield boring, even with lesser actors, and Dwight Frye may be hammy but he's never dull.

I'm not even sure he's hammy. I really mean that he's acting in at least three registers that I could track, which combined with the character's volatile emotional state means you never can predict what he's going to do next, even if it's just speak softly and look terribly lost. I can't even say it's unrealistic. I mean, I've never met anyone conflictedly enthralled by a vampire before. It could present like that.

Maybe I'll have to watch "The Monster That Challenged The World."

I think there is a non-zero chance you will enjoy it.

And I need to have watched "Aliens" like yesterday.

I really adore Aliens. I had been badly frightened by a life-size model of Giger's Alien as a child—it was part of an exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science, rearing up like the worst hybrid of tar-pit skeleton and spider wasp over a mannequin in a space suit that I suspect was standing in for Ripley, with the result that it gave me nightmares and I avoided the movie for decades. Then, my second summer of grad school, my life hit a weird patch where it seemed like every time I turned on the television the last forty-five minutes of Aliens were playing, so I finally caved and rented it from one of the video stores that were still in the earth in those days and watched it with my brother during a blackout and it was great. It took me until the winter to see its predecessor, which is a different species altogether and also great, although I do not consider it a comfort movie. It is worth seeing both, especially for the—believable and unusual for a female character, then or now—development of Ripley as a character. I really would stop there. My mother likes the fourth movie, but it requires accepting as canonical the events of the third, which, no, thanks.

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