I’m listening to Howling Wolf right now, as sometimes, you just need the toughest electric blues possible.
The other day, I saw a tepid movie version of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1941). Unlike the Fredric March version, (1931), this version had nothing. The 1931 version had a terrific transformation scene, as well as Miriam Hopkins as a street walker who got hooked up with Hyde. Her performance, filled with disgust, terror, and hopelessness is still a sight to behold. The 1941 version does everything wrong. The makeup is downright silly. You can still tell that it’s Dr. Jekyll under there, unlike the 1931 version where Hyde looks downright simian and inhuman. Spencer Tracy is an actor I love when he’s in the right role, but who the heck thought an actor who people saw as an American everyman could do a good job as an upper-class British doctor? What, was Ronald Colman busy or something? Lana Turner is ill-used as the good girl that Jekyll loves. She’s pretty as a picture, but she just looks confused most of the time.
If I can’t have the 1931 version of the film, I’d prefer to watch the TV show version from the Golden Age of Television (the 1950s). Yes, the sound isn’t always that great, but it’s a slightly crudely made but still compelling version of the tale. Here’s the link:
Or, if I can’t have either of those, I’ll just watch Hammer Studios’ Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, just because it’s kind of way out and it’s a joy to see Martine Beswick being evil and seductive at the same time.
I suppose I should talk a little about horror on television. I seek out old horror TV shows when I can. Oh, yes, I like The Night Stalker, and I was a Buffy fan once, but I’m talking about the old, old shows.
For instance, I saw the saddest, creepiest version of William Hope Hodgson’s “A Voice in the Night” on an old television show called Suspicion. The episode in question had the involvement of Alfred Hitchcock (some say he may have directed the episode). It’s a heartbreaking tale of a man, a woman, and… fungus. To tell you more would be to spoil it all. I was surprised that it got passed the censors. Oh, it isn’t violent or sexy or anything like that, but it’s just so… disturbing.
Speaking of disturbing, the old British television show Journey to the Unknown did not one, but two very disturbing episodes written by the late, great Charles Beaumont.
The first one, “The New People,” sucks you into a tale of moving into an area that seems too good to be true, with neighbors that seem fine at first…
I was a little shocked at the ending, frankly.
The second one, “Miss Belle,” is about child abuse. It’s difficult to watch, even with a happy enough ending. You have been warned.
One of my favorite television horrors is actually a show for kids called Escape Into Night, based on the book Marianne Dreams (a favorite of mine). A girl has to stay home from school. At night, her dreams seem appallingly real. There’s a bit with moving stones that I especially like.
Kids’ shows on the BBC could be quite frightening, which I would have loved as a kid. The ruler and still champion of scary kids’ shows has got to be Children of the Stones. A father and son move to a small town, only to run into time displacements and folk horror. This is truly original stuff, but who on earth thought it was suitable for children?
Much more suitable for children is the sweet but fascinating The Children of Green Knowe, based on a children’s book series (where the heck were these books when I was a kid?). A young boy visits his grandmother only to encounter new friends that are not what they seem. It’s quite a loveable little outing, with just enough of the supernatural in it to make things interesting. The show reminds me just a little of A.M. Burrage’s classic ghost story, “Playmates.”
I could go on and on, but blog posts should be short, so I’ll add one more then I’m done for the day. I am obsessed with the novella The Turn of the Screw. I have seen a ton of adaptions, most of which are pretty boring. Yes, I like the film The Innocents, but Deborah Kerr’s performance sometimes gets on my nerves. In the novella, the governess is quite young, while Kerr, who is a great actress, is a mature woman. There’s not anything wrong with that, obviously. But it makes her acting choices limited. She can either choose to be strong like she was in Black Narcissus and The Chalk Garden, or she can play the role as a neurotic spinster. She chose the latter, which drives me crazy, sometimes. I like the kids who play Miles and Flora, and I love the direction of the film, but Kerr… man, I just don’t know.
So, my favorite version of Turn of the Screw is a television version with Ingrid Bergman, who is also a mature woman, but one who starts off pretty together, then starts to slowly lose it as she sees the ghosts and starts wondering… who are they after, exactly? Directed by John Frankenheimer, who did the original version of The Manchurian Candidate, the work always keeps me interested. Bergman steals the show, although the kids are great, too.