Because an abominable virus cries for an abominable snowman to lift our spirits.
Shriek of the Mutilated is tonight’s delicacy. It’s so very bad and so very strange. In the extensive catalog of “Yeti” movies, has any film been good? This critter seriously needs a better agent.
The best thing about this film is the title.
Which sets me to thinkin’.
I can think of about a dozen or more movies that totally waste intriguing titles on totally less-than-intriguing flicks. Here are a few of my favorites;
They Saved Hitler’s Brain immediately comes to mind (ouch!). This beauty actually had two titles, the other being; Madmen of Mandragoras……I jes’ don’t know. Frankly, they coulda given it twenty titles and it wouldn’t have improved things a jot. Especially charming are the two spies who look like the Blues Brothers and do most of their high-powered stalking from a phone booth (remember those?).
Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things. This is a Night of the Living Dead wanna-be. Unfortunately, it’s not near as interesting as NOTLD, though it does have the advantage of being shot in Miami instead of Pittsburgh.
The Iguana With a Tongue of Fire is a brutal giallo that actually is kinda interesting and features a brief, fascinating performance by Valentina Cortese.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space. Clowns, aliens, circus tent rocket ships, demonic ice cream trucks…what’s not to like……or……what’s to like?
Mind you, I’m not suggesting you rush out to see these films, but you can certainly savor the titles? Besides, you don’t have to watch ‘em. I already have.
I watched one of my favorite films, Day for Night, with a small group of folks who are devoted to cinema. I have a special fondness for films about films. Cinema Paradiso, The Stuntman, Sunset Boulevard, Singing in the Rain, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and their ilk always bring my remote to a delighted halt when I happen upon them.
Day for Night holds other charms for me as well. The film crew portrayed in the movie is a tight-knit one. They’ve worked together before and are familiar with and tolerant of their teammates’ peccadilloes. Their chosen location for shooting is a sunny and warm one (even when they make it snow). The film has a summer camp feel about it. I’m from the Spin & Marty generation – summer camp usually works for me unless there’s a slasher wandering about.
The film features a tour de force performance by Valentina Cortese and a “tour de WOW” appearance by Jacqueline Bisset.
When the film concluded for tonight’s viewing, one of the group commented; “I can see why people love this film, but it’s not a great work of art.”
After we mopped up the blood and I pleaded justifiable homicide and made bail, I got to thinkin’…
He’s right. It’s not a “great” work of art, but if you generally cherish the films of Francois Truffault (and I do) it is a “great” work of Truffault. Now…what does that mean? This is one of our most-revered directors! How can his films not be great?
“Greatness” is not the story Truffault cares to tell.
For me, the charm and the wonder of Truffault resides in the tight slice of humanity in which he chooses to tell his stories. His are not the stories of saints or demons. His characters do wicked things and heartbreakingly kind things to each other and are not predictable in their choice between the two. They do good things, but not great, and they do them when it’s convenient, and or when it happens to occur to them. Ditto for the not-so-good things they do. Truffault’s characters tell the truth when they know what the truth is or when it’s not inconvenient to do so.
Truffault’s stories tell us about cats that can’t follow instructions, persistent human creativity in the face of American insurance companies, fidelity unless Jacqueline Bisset or Delphine Seyrig or Catherine Deneuve or Jeanne Moreau is involved…and of course, when fidelity is convenient. He tells us of dalliances that turn into life-destroying obsessions or deserted island fantasies or small-scale, but convoluted revenge/murder schemes (that may or may not work) – no great tragedies, merely intriguing human ones.
Political junkie that I usually am, I could lock-in on this week’s political convention (red shirts, plastic cowboy hats, interminable plagiarism discussion loops, and conventioneers I suspect have spent a bit more time at the hotel bar than is advisable before strutting before cameras announcing numbers to millions of viewers – whoop!), or I could skip along the cultural high road with director Riccardo Freda’s giallo classic, The Iguana With the Tongue of Fire.
Pass up a title like that? I think not.
I can think of two movies with “iguana” in their titles. What are those odds? The other film is Night of the Iguana based on a story by Tennessee Williams. You may be asking (as I did); “What’s so special about iguanas?” That led me to recall a story by British speculative fiction writer J. G. Ballard. Mr. Ballard is best known for his novel; EMPIRE OF THE SUN, upon which the award-winning film was based. But in his novel; THE DROWNED WORLD, the Earth’s protective ionosphere has been decimated by solar flares and the planet has devolved into a ubiquitous, dank, fetid, swamp. The planet’s cities have decayed. Many buildings now harbor amphibian creatures living in the darkness of the buildings’ long missing windows and doors. For Ballard, these creatures are clearly representative of atavistic impulses and desires that lurk within us all waiting to be triggered and released by drastic changes in the conditions that restrain them. I think that may also true for both of our “iguana” flicks.
There is, of course, a chasm of difference in performance quality between Night of the Iguana (Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, and Deborah Kerr) and The Iguana With the Tongue of Fire (Luigi Pistilli, Dagmar Lassander, and Anton Diffring), but not in one performance.
I have not seen many performances by Valentina Cortese, but I’m impressed by what I’ve seen. Her Oscar-nominated performance in Francois Truffault’s Day for Night is a thing of wonder. In The Iguana With the Tongue of Fire (made two years before), Ms. Cortese has a heart-wrenching scene that transcends the tawdriness of the film.
She says of her husband;
“His Excellency has returned to Switzerland and I am alone…as always. How do you expect me to say it? It’s the truth. Behind this façade you are looking at there is the most terrible…unbelievable…emptiness…between me and my children, between me and my………husband.”
The camera never leaves her face. It would be criminal to do so. Score one for director Freda.
Oh yes, this was a much better choice than those ersatz cowboy hats. Whoop indeed!