Friday, October 28, 2011

Where Disney stole his stuff

I saw a documentary on TV years ago that talked about European influences on Walt Disney's animation. To make a long story short, he stole everything. These ghostly riders are from Murnau's 1926 masterpiece, Faust. Compare and contrast to Night on Bald Mountain from Fantasia: except that these guys are a lot scarier. How did they do this, I wonder? Special effects were all manual then, but surprisingly creepy. Those horses, Jesus! (It took me years and years to track this clip down. I still can't find the documentary anywhere. I think it was originally in French.)

Just in time for Halloween!

Dem bones, dem bones! This clip is from the surreal British TV musical/psychological drama/crime series, The Singing Detective. I watched it on PBS in 1988 and taped it, then sent the tapes to my girl friend with a note: Watch these, then send them back. I've never seen anything quite like it. I'm watching it again on DVD, a six-part drama that runs about an hour and six minutes per episode. Only the British could get away with such tomfoolery (unless they ran in a 2-hour time slot and the rest was ads? No, that would be here.)

It's hard to describe this series. It's about a man whose skin is literally rotting off his body, incarcerated in an open hospital ward where people complain about cold tea and die in front of his eyes. To take his mind off the insanity, he invents an elaborate crime story starring Phillip Marlowe, a character he created for a series of novels. Entwined with these surreal scenes (which are punctuated by musical numbers straight out of a fever dream) are heartbreaking boyhood memories of his mother's suicide by drowning.

Sounds like a million laughs, eh? But actually, yes, it is funny in places. When it gets too silly, which it does from time to time, Michael Gambon's superb performance pulls it back. You want to feel sorry for this man, except that he's thoroughly nasty and looks worse than Jabba the Hut.

Anyway, this macabre scene seemed appropriate for the season.