All posts for the day October 31st, 2012

Richard Harrow: Boardwalk Empire’s unlikely monster

Published October 31, 2012 by vfdpixie


One of my non-horror t.v. faves is Boardwalk Empire.  While not a blatant horror series, it has it’s fair share of old-timey murderers and psychopaths.  One of the show’s quiet heroes, war veteran Richard Harrow, has caught my attention and to me, has joined the ranks of infamous “monsters” such as the Elephant Man and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  He suffered a terrible injury during the war and due to the disfigurement of the left side of his face, wears a tin mask, a caricature of a once handsome man.

Richard is given a place in the gangster world by a key player, Jimmy Darmody.  Jimmy  befriends him before a psychiatric evaluation that they both wait on, but ultimately never go through with.  This might be a stretch, but I see a connection with Frankenstein’s monster.  In one episode, Al Capone callously refers to Harrow as Frankenstein. His intention is to hurt and ridicule, but Capone unconsciously picks up on his outcast status.  Richard is a product of his environment-made by the war he sacrificed himself for and shunned despite this.  His frontline actions results in his now fringe existence. He is a visible misfit and his deformity instills mistrust and fear from those who do not know him.    When he reveals that he is veteran, attitudes towards him shift from fear to pity.

In the gangster world, most of the characters are dangerous and twisted; their true intentions masked by a normal looking face and demeanour.  We learn that Richard is just as lethal with his marksman skills, but he wears his monster mask on the outside. When his sharpshooting skills come into play, reflex and confidence take centre stage.  We quickly learn that under the quiet, shy persona, he is not to be crossed.  What we also see is that he can reveal the ugly in those around him by just being present, perhaps because he is an unwitting mirror; held up to show people their true strength and integrity as they react to Harrow.

Actor Jack Huston is just plain brilliant.  His portrayal of Harrow’s understated power makes me root for the character, even during his most brutal moments.  His physicality shows his awkwardness in daily life as he tries to go unnoticed due to his deformity.  His face is like a cruel before and after; the after side showing physical and emotional scarring that Huston, as handsome as he is in real life, grasps with great sensitivity.  And there is also the fact that his uncle is Danny Huston who stole my heart when he played one of the scariest vampires I have ever seen in 30 Days of Night.  That, my friends, is a whole other 2 day love letter which I will tackle at another time.

We all want what we don’t have, and Richard yearns for a perfect life. In one touching scene, he refers to himself as the Tin Woodsman to make children more comfortable with his appearance.  This is so fitting: like the Tin Man who wants a heart, Richard keeps a scrapbook of an idyllic life complete with wife, child and white picket fence.  He is a regular man who became a reluctant Boogeyman with a gentle, broken and bruised heart.  I am intrigued with the character and can’t wait to see if he finds love and acceptance, or if he will be chased out of town by the locals.

Happy Halloween!! Let’s get Repulsed!

Published October 31, 2012 by vfdpixie

repulsion  omegaman  lastmanonearth

Today I spent my Halloween at home, looking for gainful employment and enjoying The Classic Movie Channel as they played vintage horror films all day.  As I scrolled through jobs on the internet, I was tickled pink by the line-up I managed to catch:  House of Dark Shadows (which I will review seperately next week), Repulsion, Dementia 13, and The Last Man on Earth.   I own a copy of Omega Man because of Charlton Heston and his over-the-top performance as well as his female counter part, the gorgeous Rosalind Cash, but my favorite adaptation of Richard Matheson I Am Legend is The Last Man on Earth.  Vincent Price does such an amazing job conveying a tortured man’s survival in a postapocalyptic world.

I was also fascinated with vintage footage of a visit to the studio of William Tuttle, head of the MGM makeup department at that time (I think the clip was from 1968).  It was so interesting to see how techniques haven’t really changed, although I’m sure materials have improved over the years.  What sticks in my mind is the wall of actor face casts Tuttle showcased that ranged from Doris Day (LOVE!!), Fred Astaire, and Clark Gable.   Where are those casts now?  They were so eerie, but I’m sure whoever has them is sitting on a goldmine.

Anyway, I’ve decided to do a Halloween review and commentary on Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965 1 hr 45 mins) because I’m feeling a little cooped up, but not in a crazy, sexually repressed/vacant stare kind of way. Just so you know…

Before I write any further, I know Roman Polanski has had a pretty dramatic life, surviving the Nazis and enduring the murder of his wife.  I also know he has committed a crime.  I am not a judge or jury, nor do I sympathize.  I don’t know the man.  Just stating that I know both truths.  Another truth is that I love his films.  His contribution to film has shaped the visions of directors to this day, and will continue to do so.  That’s all.

Catherine Deneuve plays awkward, sensitive and shy Carol.  Carol floats through her day in a daydream state, going between work and her apartment shared with her more sophisticated sister Helen.  She has a handsome young suitor named Colin who is completely smitten.  She has to listen to her sister’s nightly trysts with her somewhat obnoxious boyfriend Michael.    We learn that for some reason, Carol thinks sex is bad.  She thinks men are bad.  At the same time, she wants both.  It’s assumed that past experiences, be it from a childhood trauma, or something more current, has nurtured this push-pull conflict that will ultimately take her mind.

Seeing how her sister and work friend are treated by their boyfriends, it at first looks like Carol just wants to avoid conflict and a broken heart with the opposite sex.  Not so.  She is fueled by a deep-seated paranoia and retreats further and further into her head.  When her sister leaves for a holiday with her married boyfriend, Carol stops going to work and spirals into mental turmoil that leads to insanity.

She has horrible nightmarish fantasies about a phantom rapist, sees the walls around her start to crack and crumble, and is grabbed by disembodied hands bursting from the same crumbling walls.  I really love the transformation of household items into harbingers of dread and destruction.  Untouched potatoes sit on a cutting board, shriveling and sprouting roots day by day.  They are grotesque time keepers as Carol descends into madness.  A candlestick holder dispatches her handsome Colin as well as being an impromptu hammer to barricade herself in the apartment.  All of this, along with the effective claustrophobic camera angles show the instability of Carol’s mind.

Sadly, at some points, her instincts are right.  The creepy landlord comes to collect rent and Carol’s fantasy and fear are realized when he mistakenly see a vulnerable young woman to take advantage of.  She is also right to mistrust her sister’s boyfriend, who seems more than willing to make use of Carol as well as her sister and his wife.

I must say that Catherine Deneuve is just stunning in her youth and still maintains her beauty today.  Her almost too small nose and slightly dimpled chin are mismatched with her huge eyes and high cheekbones.  Somehow, the combination creates a face that you have to look at.  Those huge eyes draw you into the madness and they leave you with an unforgettable experience of the darkness of a lost mind.

Most Memorable Line:  “Go and put your best bib and tucker on, I feel like a spree.”

Favorite Scene:  Carol’s friend’s attempt at cheering her up just sends her into some hysterical laughing that ends abruptly in an odd, intense stare.  Can you say “crazy”?

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