Favorite Horror Films of the 1940s: Cat People

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

In 1942, producer Val Lewton and director Jacques Torneur, advanced the making of horror films by expanding the possible topics and boundaries. This extraordinary film is not one that relies on a standard “monster”; instead, Torneur employs psychological suspense and subtle development of terror.

This film offers a sophisticated and understated treatment of sexuality and its impact on people. The main character, Irena, a fashion designer, born in Serbia, and played by Simone Simon combines the modern world of high fashion in New York City with the old world beliefs that she is descended from people who are shape-shifters and who turn into big cats when sexually enticed and aroused. Torneur builds a new variation on the established theme of lycanthropy, in which a male changes into a wolf. Additionally, the film demonstrates the tension between science and superstition, the modern era versus the medieval times, and religion versus secularism.

While to a contemporary audience, this movie might seem dated and subdued, I believe it still carries great impact in its study of horror that is felt rather than seen, slowly created rather than visceral, and suggestive rather overt.

Cat People did very well at the box office, but it received a mixed range of reviews at the time. Since the 1940s, it has come to be seen as one of the more important horror films of the 20th Century.  If you have the opportunity, I recommend watching Cat People.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

 

What Is One Of Your Favorite Movies?

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I have posted before about favorite books.  I will come back to that idea again in the not too distant future, but I was thinking about movies, because I am going to teach a hybrid online/traditional in-class course on Literature and Film at Muhlenberg College for The Wescoe School (the adult program) this summer. This will be an early question I will ask my students, so it is only fair that I think about it.

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(https://pixabay.com)

My answer would be the same as if this question were for books: The Lord of the Rings by director Peter Jackson (all 3 movies considered to be one–the same as with the books.) I think this adaptation is one of the best adaptations of a book to movie that has ever been accomplished. I love the depth of the story, the issues raised of political power and corruption, war and peace, good and evil, life and death, love and hatred, industrialization and the decimation of the natural world, heroes, both large and small, and the connection of all people. I recommend this filmic adaptation to all.   Please also read the books!

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(https://pixabay.com)

So, I ask everyone: what is one of your favorite films?

Favorite Horror Films of the 1920s Continued: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

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https://en.wikiquote.org

In this post, I will continue my series on favorite horror films, specifically of the 1920s.

Another  brilliant horror movie of the 1920s is Robert Weine’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari — The German title is Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari — (1920). The plot of the film centers on a mad scientist, Dr. Caligari, a hypnotist, played by Werner Krauss, who exploits a sleepwalker, Cesare, played by Conrad Veidt, to commit murder. It is one of the earliest horror movies and ushers in a decade of greatness in film-making, especially in German cinema.

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(http://cinewiki.wikispaces.com)

The true power of the film is in its cinematic style, that of German Expressionism, which is based on the artistic movement of the same name. German Expressionism uses sharp angles, deep shadows, heavy use of darks and lights, and distorted forms to explore the psychological impact of visual images. In this art, the world is often not as it seems to be, and the artists explore distortions that lurk under the surface of apparent normalcy. What is perceived is often deeply disturbing and challenging.

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“The Prophet” Woodcut by Emil Nolde: 1912

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

Weine employs these revolutionary cinematic techniques to disorient, frighten, and interrogate the audience. Cesare is a common man, forced by an arrogant authority to become a murderer, which is clearly a commentary on the dark forces at play in Europe in the early parts of the 20th Century, some suggested by contemporary writers. As Weine suggests, the mass of people in Europe would, in the coming decades, be manipulated into creating the horror of Nazism and the Holocaust. I am not claiming that Weine somehow could see into the future, but that he perceived the traumas occurring in Europe, and those distortions appear in his film. Like Weine, other writers, such as Franz Kafka, also saw such coming disturbances.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

While only some of Franz Kafka’s brilliant and disturbing literary works had been published at this point–“Metamorphosis” (1915)– is the best example, Kafka’s treatment of the darkness and alienation in society could be an influence on this movie. While it is not certain, I believe it is the case. Regardless of if this is true or not, Weine creates a deeply disturbing movie, one that maintains its power to this day, one that I recommend for all lovers of film.

 

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

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Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

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Garrett’s Bones by K.D. Dowdall–a review

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Garrett’s Bones by K. D. Dowdall is a book that will satisfy readers from the young to the, may I say, more experienced and older. Dowdall combines suspense, intrigue, excellent character development, themes of the forest and spirits, along with a well-paced and well-developed plot into a book that resonates with power and beauty.

This novel is both a coming-of-age Bildungsroman and an exploration of themes of good against evil. The main characters, Garrett and Anna, are young and have a complex relationship throughout the book. It is one of the strengths of the novel that Dowdall creates multi-dimensional characters whose hopes and dreams, fears and anxieties, strengths and weaknesses permeate the tale.

Additionally, this book speaks of the supernatural as well as history, love as well as hatred, and life as well as death. I was moved when I read it, and I consider it to be an extraordinary novel. I give it a 5 star, full-hearted, unreserved recommendation! This is a book to be put on everyone’s to-read list!

Garrett’s Bones by K.D. Dowdall will engage your imagination!

Please visit Karen’s site! https://karendowdall.com/author/kddowdall/

Rest In Peace Muhammad Ali

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

Rest In Peace to the Greatest, Muhammad Ali (1942-2016). He was not only the greatest heavyweight boxing champion of all time, but also Muhammad Ali stood for his convictions, opposed the Vietnam War at a time when such actions were highly controversial, and eventually after his boxing career ended, became an ambassador for peace and humanity.

Much will be said and written about him now, so I leave with a simple message of thanks for his courage, his athletic ability, but must of all for his honor and sense of justice.

 

R.I.P. Umberto Eco and Harper Lee

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https://tr.wikipedia.or

The world lost two of its most important writers today, Friday February 19, 2016: Harper Lee and Umberto Eco.  I offer this small post in remembrance of their brilliance.

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https://en.wikipedia.org

Umberto Eco was a renowned professor of semiotics, the study of language and signs, as well as a best-selling novelist, and he died at the age of 84. He is probably best known outside of the academic world for his novel The Name of the Rose and the successful Hollywood film based on it, which  starred Sean Connery.  The book was, on the surface, a medieval murder mystery that was heavily influenced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his great detective Sherlock Holmes. It was also a multi-layered exploration of the medieval as well as the contemporary world. Eco incorporated a difficult series of puzzles and codes within the text by utilizing his knowledge of semiotics, and his labyrinthine library was based on the writing of Jorge Luis Borges.   The Name Of The Rose established Eco’s career as a novelist, which he followed up with books like Foucault’s Pendulum.   His writing entertains on  the surface and then challenges the reader to delve deeply into intellectual exploration of the world.

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https://ru.wikipedia.org

Harper Lee,  the novelist whose seminal work on racism and justice in America To Kill A Mockingbird, also died today.  She was 89 years old. Her book focused attention on racism and the lack of justice in southern small-town America as well as the attempt by her hero Atticus Finch to fight for the life of a black man accused of raping a young white woman. This book, and the enormously successful film based on her novel by the same name and starring Gregory Peck, a powerful adaptation, are both beloved and masterpieces of literature and film. In 2015, Lee released a book that can be seen as a sequel, prequel, or adaptation of To Kill a MockingbirdGo Set A Watchman.

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http://thereadersreview.org

As a reader, I have loved their writings.  I have also used To Kill A Mockingbird and The Name Of The Rose in my college classes.  Both books presented challenges to my students as well as great rewards for the studying of them.

The world has lost two powerful and deeply important writers.

Rest in Peace: Harper Lee and Umberto Eco.

 

Samuel Sadlowski—Hidden Grief

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(https://pixabay.com)

In Maledicus Investigative Paranormal Society Book I, my horror novel, the protagonist Roosevelt Franklin, along with two very close friends formed a ghost hunting group. In a previous post, I gave some background information on Roosevelt, and I will give more in the future, but I want to turn my attention in this and future posts to his friends.

In today’s post, I will speak about Samuel Sadlowski, a retired homicide detective. Sam, as he prefers to be called, is a short, stout, balding man. In his youth, he kept in excellent physical shape, but in his older years, he has let his physical well-being deteriorate. He eats as much junk food as he can, and loves to drink beer. His seeming self-destructive physical choices are, in some ways, a reflection of his inner turmoil.

Like the other two men in the ghost-hunting group, he has had someone very close to him die, and it has had huge impact on his life. Sam’s son, Josh committed suicide when he was 16, and Sam never found a reason why the boy did it. Despite being an experienced homicide detective, Sam never discovered anything, any kind of clue, which pointed to a rational for this terrible action.

Of course, like others who had been friends or family of a suicide, Sam blames himself for his son’s death. He thinks that there must have been some indicator of a problem that he should have seen. So, Sam carries this grief and blame deep in his soul, and it drives him to try to find answers to the question: is there life after death?

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(https://pixabay.com)

Roosevelt’s and Sam’s friendship originated in the cauldron of the Vietnam War, when Roosevelt served as a 2nd Lieutenant and Sam was a Sergeant in his unit. The central experience of the war for them was the Tet Offensive, a massive attack launched by the North Vietnamese on the South, in an attempt to take the country. The two men fought together and saved each others’ lives several times.

Even though they came from vastly different backgrounds, Roosevelt from old upper-class and Sam from the working-class, their friendship was bonded in an unbreakable forge of life’s greatest perils. And they maintained that friendship over the course of many decades.

In another post about Sam, I will write about his hidden love of art.

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(https://commons.wikimedia.org)

(Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh 1889)