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April 2018

IMDb metadata is runtime 1 hour and 47 minutes of Dali time, rated 3.7 by 1231 cinemitizens. Released its native Italy on 19 August 1960.

Seddok card.jpg

Verdict: Beau, beast, and Beauty with radium.

Jilted by her impossibly handsome boyfriend, a woman driver goes off a cliff and is disfigured. While she is disconsolate the loss of Beau and beauty, Igora offers her the chance to regain the latter at the hands of an Emeritus Prof Mad Scientist. Igora is his loyal assistant. Her brother Igor is otherwise engaged.

Beauty undergoes the treatment which is experimental and at some point the dialogue refers to radium and Derma 28 (Dermas 1 to 27 were losers). After far too long, it works. The horse-faced beauty no longer has a chocolate sundae melted onto the left side of her face. She can ditch the Veronica Lake peek-a-boo look.

Mirror.jpg Belle pining for Beau.

But the affliction recurs, and the only solution is for the Mad Scientist….to murder young women to get their…gland bags. Prof is besotted by Beauty and he throttles even the loyal Igora for her…glands. The gland injections seem to only last a scene, and he is out there murdering ever more young women who conveniently stand around in secluded spots waiting for his attacks.

His cereal, serial, or is that surreal, killing is eased because he turns himself into a wereprof to do it. (If only.) Since there is no plot explanation for this capacity, the fraternity brothers concluded that a visiting Lon Chaney left a wolf suit behind. Following so far?

When he returns to the lab he transforms wereprof back into menacing Mad Scientist by stepping into a man-sized clear bell jar which fills with dry ice fog and out comes one lightly smoked mad scientist. So much for Clark Kent.

At times it seems his lust for Beauty turns him into Lon Chaney without the pathos, and other times it takes a shot of radium (under a full moon). But he has done for her what no other man has or can do. He has recovered her looks, killed for her, and turned himself into a monster to so. It is trifecta! He has also scuttled his career as a serious actor by playing this role.

He goes on murdering. Beauty is restive and pines for her impossibly handsome boyfriend and keeps Mad Scientist at bay. After an hour she notices Igora is no longer around. Not too wealthy with the smarts is this one.

As the body count rises, plod finally stirs and, of course, seeks advice from Mad Scientist. Handsome tags along with Plod though why he jilted her in the first place is never revealed nor what has kindled his interest in any of this. Beauty could run to Handsome, says the Mad Scientist, but then the treatments would stop and the chocolate sundae would return and Handsome would then again reject her anyway. Is this a Faustian bargain or what? Or is it an impossible mish-mash of exploitation films. Decide!

In the end, Handsome slugs it out with Mad Scientist and wins, and it turns out the last involuntary gland transplant cured her, and she no longer worries about the victims who sustained her so she can live happily ever after. A moral tale for our times.

George Zucco was made for just roles but he usually had better material. Admittedly this mad and bad emeritus professor is pretty creepy, the more so when he is trying to be suave and considerate.

The Italian title translates as ‘Seddok, the heir of Satan.’ OK, but no one called Seddok is listed in the credits. The English dubbing and dialogue were overlaid on the Italian original for the Yankee market and the title changed to capitalise on the topical interest in all things atomic. Hence the extraneous references to radium in the dubbed dialogue. Any relationship of the original Italian title to the story has been lost in translation.

IMDb meta-data is 1 hour and 9 minutes of run time, rated 6.9 by 7686 cinemitizens.

Verdict: Generally credited as the first zombie film. Certainly credited with cementing Bela Lugosi’e eyebrows into cinema history.

W Zombie card.jpg

Beau and Belle have a shipboard romance on the way to, of all places, Haiti. Also interested in Belle is the travelling Planter who offers them the hospitality of his stage-set mansion for their nuptials, all the while trying to woo Belle away from Beau.

Indeed even as a surrogate father leading her down the aisle to Beau at the altar, he is whispering endearments, blandishments, and offers into her ear with the subtlety of the Twit in Chief. Fearing his charms to be insufficient, he had earlier taken the precaution of visiting Bela who agrees to render her a zombie if only Planter will prick her figure with a needle he supplies.

Bela eyes.jpg Those eyes!

Rejected, Planter presents her with a rose, disguising the needle as thorn. Ouch. She dies on the altar. She is buried and resurrected for his use later. The veil is drawn.

However, she is a dead soul, a role this actor was born to play.

Belle dead eyed.jpg

The look is as creepy as a Republican congressman from Alabama.

Frustrated Planter wants Bela to return her to normal, even if it means losing her to Beau, who is drowning his sorrows. Too late. Bela likes the Newtown dead soul look and wants her for himself.

Planter and Beau join forces to subdue Bela (‘As if,’ snickered the fraternity brothers) and by the miracle of scriptwriting they do. Planter croaks. Belle snaps out of it. Beau gets what he wants. The End.

There is much zombie lore. One early graphic scene in Bela’s sugar mill staffed by the zombies is a vision of labour that McKinsey managers call ideal. It is a powerful image worthy of Dante. Sorry to say I could not find any still photographs on the web that show it well. But the whole film is on You Tube. Go for it!

A self-indulgent memoir of time spent in Barcelona by the man with shag carpet for a typewriter, the rich, soft, deep pile of his prose remains but in this instance it is largely devoid of substance. Well, unless a reader must know where Hughes drank sangria in 1983. For that information, this is the book.

Hughes.jpg

Ostensibly a guide to the city, it a scrap book to selective memory mainly confined to his personal experiences. However, to his credit, and unlike some, he does note in passing the deep and murderous divisions among Spaniards. Their many failed attempts to find a modus vivendi and Hughes labours under no illusions about the future.

But all in all, it is a very short and lazy book that seems to have been spoken into a recorder and then typed. Even the final chapters on Antoni Gaudi’s architecture, though showing signs of research done long ago, seem trip with neither destination nor arrival.

roberthughes.jpg Robert Hughes

To sum up, it reads like the Fatigue of the Exhausted.

I chose it prior to a trip to Spain and to Barcelona but found it offered little of interest. He also has another, larger, book called ‘Barcelona’ (1993) to confuse readers.

Meta-data from GoodReads is 3.13/5 from 114 litizens.

Verdict: First in a series and last for me.

In these pages our heroine

Port sapphire.jpg

- Learns conversational Portuguese in ten days
- Has hormone attacks at the appearance of any man with hair and teeth
- Starts with USD 2000 and all expenses paid and yet is broke on every page thereafter
- Trusts known criminals 
- Is too naive to have made it to 29 years of age
- Flies from SFO to Lisbon in 3 hours
- Repeats the same dialogue far too often
- Cracks a long established Lisbon crime syndicate in one afternoon
- Out muscles experienced villains
- Whose legendary knowledge of gemmology is never revealed or relevant
- Who talks her way past alert criminals
- Leaves her handbag in the villains lair and has to go back for it
- Passes off an offsider as blind on a guided tour
- Does IKEA in each room
- Does Vogue with the dress of each woman and GQ for most men
- Almost none of the detail that plumps out the pages adds to plot or character
- Characters who are emphasised disappear like the police sergeant who did not collect

And so on.

Rom-krimi or Krimi-Rom is this genre bender. One in a series of many titles. First and last for me.

I came across it looking for novels set in Portugal before travelling there. No more for this reader. Though it is claimed to be a best seller in a heavily qualified attribution, among self published mysteries on Tuesday.

The prose is fluent and confident but absent either plot or character. There is some travelogue in Portugal but it is obscured by the features listed above.

In this case the reference is to the stage play by Frank Gauntlett performed at the NIDA playhouse in Kensington, NSW. It is a one-man show with Mark Lee, directed by Gareth Boylan. The season is 11 April to 2 May 2018.

In short, we liked it.

The adaptation of H. G. Wells’s novel is coherent and well written. The set design stimulates the imagination but is understated. Much is accomplished with lighting and sound. Though most of all there is the performance that carries the day.

Our traveller starts out a smug, erudite, confident Victorian know-it-all and ends a broken man. In between he knows wonder, fear, love, remorse, terror, and regret.

The Year 802,791 A.D. shows the devolution of human kind with the layabout fruit-eating Eloi and the dark meat-eating Molochs. In Wells’s heavy hands this situation is the division between capital and labor carried to its logical conclusion.

Though quite how cannibalism fits into that equation is never made clear, nor how it is that the Eloi benefit from the labor of the Molochs.

That Eden might rest on slave labour is a recurrent theme in literature. There is a striking passage about this symbiotic relationship in Thomas Mann’s ‘The Magic Mountain’ (1924) where the mutual dependence is made very clear without the didacticism of Wells.

It takes just over one hour, and was worth the bus ride virtually door-to-door on the 370.

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