Tag Archives: Michael Rennie

You Say Hund & I Say Hound

Movie night!

I guess it’s hubris…or karma…or just a mess of “what goes around…”

I’ve written before about my delight in the imaginary languages one finds in the movies. Tarzan’s “Kreegah!” and Michael Rennie’s “Klaatu narada dikto,” don’t terrify me, they thrill me.

Well…

…this has been my week to be challenged by unknown-to-me real languages in movies without the aid of either subtitles or English dubbing.

I used to be inordinately proud to be able to rattle off the first lines of José Marti’s Guantanamera, but to truly be “un hombre sincero,” I should confess that’s about the sum of my mastery of Spanish.

Yet I found myself caught in in the sluggish whirlwind of Jesus Franco’s lesser known masterpiece; Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein. Sluggish, because any film featuring Howard Vernon as your action-driving monster has a lot of inertia to overcome as soon as the opening credits have run. Whirlwind, because you can always add an ineffectual fistfight with a non-titular werewolf at the end of the flick to liven things up a bit, and director Franco, consummate artist of the box office, knows this and complies.

Still, it might have been helpful to understand what few words were left in the script between the grunts, growls, and howls of the monstrous troika propelling this miscarriage.

And then there’s German?

Sigh.

I can mumble a few syllables of Stille Nacht at a noisy Christmas party and I can spin a few wine terms like “trockenbeerenauslese,” but other than that, I’m schnitzel.

But I have been eagerly anticipating viewing the 1937 German film; Der Hund von Baskerville since it arrived in my latest box of goodies from Sinister Cinema. Imagine my initial dismay when it sported no dubbing, no subtitles.

But ya know…it didn’t matter.

I am an amateur Sherlockian. I have read and watched Sherlock Holmes stories for almost 60 years. I have seen so many film versions of The Hound of the Baskervilles, so many times… The best film version was written by a friend of mine. Hell, Janie and I even vacationed in a small cabin on the only moors in the US.

I know this tale.

The actors could bark their lines as quickly as they pleased and I corrected them even more quickly. I knew intimately what Sherlock’s rooms, and Baskerville Hall should be like. I knew the paths and the mists and the perilous bogs. This was terra familiar.

I delighted seeing Mrs. Hudson fussing over Watson’s experiments with tobacco ash. I despaired watching a ridiculous “hound” that might have been the inspiration for The Killer Shrews. I needed no explanation for Sir Henry’s imperious pique over his missing shoe.

I don’t know the German for “cognoscenti,” but I know it was me.

And I loved it.

Ach!

Standing Still for Michael Rennie

Movie Night!

But first, a Geezer Moment.

In the early 60’s there were three – count’em – three TV channels from which to choose. They were each affiliated with a national network; ABC, NBC, or CBS. One Saturday night, one of those national networks scheduled a program entitled “Saturday Night at the Movies”. The content that first Saturday night was a full-length motion picture from 1951; The Day the Earth Stood Still. The film unexpectedly drew a big audience and within a couple of years, we had “Monday Night at the Movies”, “Tuesday Night at the Movies”, “Wednesday Night at the Movies”, et al.

Hey! It was better by far than all the current reality shows. Gort and Klaatu were certainly more appealing than Honey Boo-Boo and “Love After Lockup.”

The Day the Earth Stood Still was great.

  • Any cast that included Aunt Bee (Francis Bavier), Gunga Din (Sam Jaffe), and a giant robot had to be worth watching.
  • When spaceships start landing at the shortstop position of the Lincoln Monument’s local baseball field, you know attention must be paid.
  • When the military doctor says of the alien visitor; “He makes me feel like a witch doctor” and then proceeds to light up a Marlboro, you know you’re in deep waters.

70 year old dialogue exchanges that sound like they could be uttered today;

Military Bigwig; “Your impatience is quite understandable.”

Alien Guy; “I am impatient with stupidity. My people have learned to live without it.”

Military Bigwig; “I’m afraid my people haven’t. I’m very sorry…I wish it were otherwise.”

I’m guessin’ the Alien Guy didn’t have much patience with talk radio either.

Or this exchange at the Arlington Cemetery;

Little Bobby; “Is it different where you’ve been? Don’t they have places like this?”

Alien Guy; “Well, they have cemeteries, but not like this one. You see, they don’t have any wars.

Little Bobby; “Gee, that’s a good idea.”

Gee…….ya think?

I love this flick.

Klaatu barada nikto, y’all.

Speaking in Tongues

After a month of mummy flicks, I thought my fez-and-bandage Egyptian was getting pretty good.

“Ya prem a-sharif yaru-ha ab-variyah makhutasa a dó an takh valahyi ivanté dah-yi alla contallay…”

I laboriously translated that to mean; “My rags need changing and I’m getting’ a little gamy.”
It doesn’t.

I finally realized that once again, I had been played for a sucker by a fantasy language from books, films, music, and movies. It has happened repeatedly since I became a media-sponge about the age of eight.

Tarzan brought me to full alert with his ape-language cry of “Kreegah! Bundolo!!” (Beware! Kill!!).

Michael Rennie opened the heavens for me; “Klaatu narada dikto” (intergalactic for “Can you hail me a cab?”

Then there were the unending elvish chants of Tolkien extolling the amorous escapades of Beren and Tinuviél (who aren’t even in the story).

The gleeful jazz exhortations of Cab Calloway; “Heigh-dee heigh-dee heigh-dee ho!” Which I translate as “Waiter! A round of jalapeno poppers for everyone, please.”

And of course the rock-n-roll voodoo Witch Doctor’s advice; “Ooh-eeh ooh-ah-ah, ting tang walla-walla bing bang.” Which means; “Dinner and a movie is your best chance, Bubba.”

Janie takes classes in Spanish at the library.
I watch movies and read sub-titles on movies and operas.
Her chosen path is the sensible and useful one.
Mine?

“Vos tokh vi yah-ta mahallah ah varitah yi-ah.”

That’s Egyptian for “Go forth and prosper……and thanks for the fish.”

Well…
…no, it’s probably not…
…sigh…