Thursday, July 17, 2008

Chaney, Melodrama and Missing Limbs

I love Lon Chaney. I love The Penalty, The Unknown, He Who Gets Slapped, The Unholy Three. And I'm jealous that I wasn't in San Fransisco for a screening of The Unknown intro'd by Guy Maddin. There's a transcript of Maddin's remarks at The Evening Class, a blog I just discovered (can't wait to read the interview with Doug Jones, once I'm finished scrolling through all the Chaney stuff). Maddin's remarks are interesting -- not only does he wonderfully compare melodrama to dreams -- "it's true life uninhibited, just like our dreams" -- but because I never thought of Chaney movies as melodrama, always as horror. But these two things can intersect, can't they? And that pure, unrestrained impulse, the dark shadows, the fear and the id, all these all cross-pollinate, don't they? "Little repressed fears and anxieties grow into monstrous terrors in our dreams," says Mr. Maddin, "and our true selves become so uninhibited."

The Evening Class offers an interesting summary of the film, pointing out how the the fear of amputation was very real in a post-WWI era, and offers up for speculation the idea that Joan Crawford's characters fear of hands is due to some sexual abuse (very primordial Freudian dream symbolism there). This summation draws upon an analysis from an essay by Mario DeGiglio-Bellemare, " 'Even a Man Who is Pure in Heart': Filmic Horror, Popular Religion and the Spectral Underside of History" which is apparently "a must-read for anyone trying to understand the horror genre, especially within the context of the 1920s."

Hello, that's me!


Anonymous said...

As a boy in the 50s and 60s I begged my mom to buy me every new issue of Famous Monsters Magazine as soon as they hit the racks at the supermarket. Then I would beg her to buy me mortician's wax, liquid latex, nose putty, spirit gum and collodion so I could recreate the makeup effects used in the movies.

I even had a job briefly as a makeup artist, as an adult--but the opportunity to make a career out of it had long passed. I shouldn't blame others for my failures, but my parents had a way of dismissing my aspirations as being frivolous and silly--they wanted me to become an architect, or an engineer, things in which I had no interest, but neither did they push me, or even show that much interest in what or how I was doing . . . wait, am I saying all this out loud?

Andrea Janes said...

What did you end up doing for a living? That's what I want to know.

If it makes you feel any better, I have a bottle of fake blood at home that I love pouring all over myself whenever the opportunity arises. I usually have to wait for Halloween.

Anonymous said...

A little of this, a little of that; the one job I stayed at longest was here:

I inherited a rather large amount of money, and while I would consider working again if a real peach of an offer were made, I feel I serve my fellow man better by staying out of the labor pool.

Anonymous said...