Favorite Horror Films of the 1940s: Cat People

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Cat_People_poster

(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.

Jaguar

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

 

Dining With Authors: A Bit Of A Mystery

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https://pixabay.com

I am currently teaching a course Medieval Literature at The Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College, and I am having a great time exploring these texts. Among the texts we are studying are Beowulf, Sir Gawain And The Green Knight, and Le Morte D’Arthur. Many themes and historical circumstances connect these works, but for the purposes of this post, I am concerned with the mysterious nature of their authors.

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Unknown Author Beowulf, British Library Cotton Vitellius A.XV

Beowulf is an old English poem, probably written during the 800s or 900s A.D. and is arguably the oldest piece of English literature.  That is a scholarly debate and interesting, but it is not my main point here. The works deals with a warrior hero and is set in ancient Scandinavia.  The poet is usually called “the Beowulf poet.”  We have neither a clear idea nor evidence to indicate who he might have been.  That he was educated is clear, but was he a member of the clergy or nobility or someone else? We don’t know.

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 Howard Pyle from The Story of King Arthur and His Knights (1903)

We also do not know the identity or background of the person who was the poet of Sir Gawain And The Green Knight. An argument can be made about the approximate area of Britain from which he originated, but even that is scholarly supposition.  We simply do not know who this writer was.

King_Arthur_and_the_Knights_of_the_Round_Table

https://en.wikipedia.org

On first glance, a different situation might seem to be the case with Le Morte D’Arthur, since an author’s name is attached to the work: Sir Thomas Malory. There is, however, a problem because there were at least seven people who claimed that name at that time, and we cannot be certain which one, if any, wrote the work.  Ah the interest of the literary mystery!

Given that uncertainty surrounding the identities of these three writers, I thought I would issue an invitation to these three unknown authors to dine at a pub with me and see who arrives.  Who do you think might be there? Who might choose to sit and dine with me and discuss their writings?

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https://pixabay.com

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.

The_Name_of_the_Rose

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.