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”?