Cool movie by Unsubtle Paul, opening with a spider on a crucifix. Writer Jeroen Krabbé (in a couple Soderberghs before going hollywood) is an absolute mess and an asshole to everybody. He’s haunted by his imagination, scenes tripping in and out of fantasies. He meets Spetters star Renée Soutendijk at a speaking engagement, and things get obsessive and weird. She brings home hunky new fella Thom Hoffman (who starred in Paul’s Black Book a couple decades later) and Jeroen suspects they’re both trapped in a murderous plot.

The writer is a religious nut hooking up with a killer widow, this is the Paul Career Template Film, following standard procedure of making you go “wowowowow” every ten minutes. Shot by Jan “Speed” de Bont. I am amused to realize that this week I also watched The 4th Man’s rhyming film The Northman. A letterboxd reviewer notes this “doesn’t work as a sequel to The Third Man.”

Part 1: The Golden Sea

I watched this in college on bootleg VHS for an ill-fated report on Lang’s cinema, and remembered pretty much nothing. A story in two parts, initially set in America with rival adventurers Kay Hoog and Lio Sha. These are meant to be American names? Kay is rich as hell, going after Peruvian gold despite Lio’s gang The Spiders warning him away. Even this early, Lang was into surveillance tech – Lio has an electric mirror showing a view of the next room: a webcam 100 years ahead of its time.

Kay in foreground, Lio being molested at the tables, Georgia flag in Mexican cantina:

Our teams travel to Mexico, hop a balloon over Chile, Kay parachutes out and immediately rescues the Princess of the Sun from a snake. Lio is safely captured, is to be sacrificed, while the Princess swoons for Hoog in her secret waterfall cavern. I love that the drama is less that a girl is gonna get sacrificed and her nemesis is launching a reluctant rescue mission, it’s that the Princess performing the sacrifice doesn’t wanna but her dad says she has to. A chaotic rescue, they find and steal the gold on their way out, then the spiders start killing each other in a frenzy over the gold, and also light the “holy candle” which is a bomb fuse, flooding the cave. The movie opened with a message in a bottle, and nearly ends with Hoog and rescued/kidnapped Princess adrift in a basket. It actually ends back at the Hoog Mansion when he runs out for an errand, returns to find his princess dead with a toy spider on her.

Princess Dagover in over her head:

The servants get into the wine:


Part 2: The Diamond Ship

Lio seeks a stone for a Chinese client. The opening robbery is filmed at an angle that just doesn’t work, not high enough, very un-Lang. Kay aims to stop the Spiders, still miffed that they killed his princess. With a single edit, Kay jumps off a plane onto a rooftop, hmmm. He hangs out in an opium den to scout for clues, spots Lio and takes her hostage, but they drop him through a trap door into a flooding pit from which he improbably manages to escape. I would’ve been happy watching Kay Hoog continue to escape from implausible scenarios, but the movie feels compelled to set up a big score for us, team Spider swimming in their full black bodysuits (with shoes and masks) to a diamond-laden boat. Somehow this leads to a final fight in a poison cave in the Falkland islands, a four-fingered villain and another kidnapped daughter, but it’s hard to pay attention whenever Kay isn’t falling through trap doors. Ultimately the plastic spiders and the Kay Hoog t-shirts weren’t selling, so the series was cancelled before they made a third episode.

Nemeses:

Kay was Carl de Vogt, who worked long enough to appear in a 1960’s Mabuse. His arch-nemesis Lio Sha’s real name was the just-as-unlikely Ressel Orla. A Jew in Berlin, she escaped the holocaust by dying of illness in the early 1930’s. Lil Dagover (of Lang’s Harakiri the same year) played the Princess of the Sun, and part two’s Diamond King (with the kidnapped daughter) was Rudolf Lettinger (in Cabinet of Dr. Caligari the same year).

Conference Call:

Caligari Man with Kidnapped Daughter:

Ben Model’s music seems fine, but after five minutes I realized I could be playing Zorn’s Nostradamus: The Death of Satan instead, so I did… then The Ninth Circle… so, the Simulacrum crew of Hollenberg / Medeski / Grohowski, and adding Marsella in the second half of The Golden Lake. For part two I played Harriet Tubman’s The Terror End of Beauty. If you keep falling asleep, resuming the movie where you left off the next night but starting the album over, Harriet Tubman is like the miracle of the oil lasting eight nights. But ultimately the movie is too long, so I moved on to their previous LP Araminta feat. Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet.

Dave Kehr says it best, as usual:

Fascinating … though it no longer plays particularly well. Already at this primitive stage in his development Lang was conjuring vast international conspiracies and drawing his hapless heroes into intractable webs of fate. The form is here, the meaning would come later. The visuals too are stamped with Lang’s personality; no one carved up screen space with his precision and expressiveness.

There is in fact a spider, also a cat and a couple dogs, and MVP: an owl in a tree. Mainly it’s a breakup movie, Lisa moving out of Mara’s place into her own new place, family and friends and neighbors turning out to help, and Mara lurking and sulking. Doesn’t exactly have a strong narrative drive – it does have that surprising sense of discovery in the camera angles and scene structure that I loved in The Strange Little Cat. For the first half I was thinking “ehh there’s not much here,” and in the second half: “I’m German now and everyone in this movie is my friend.” Speaking of German, while listening to the words I learned that Hans Zimmer’s last name is Room, and Carolee Schneemann’s is Snowman.

Blake in ‘Scope:

Character motivation and cause-and-effect logic is either nonexistent or gets buried beneath myriad layers of movement and spoken phrases that may or may not make any sense to us. We can only get caught up and washed along in the film’s beautiful display of things resuming, moving along, never being the same again … A cut in a Zürcher film, especially this one, is almost always a revealing, never a suture. It exposes the mark that we heard being etched; the angle that reconfigures our understanding of the spatial dynamics of the setting or environment; the beholder that we and/or the character couldn’t sense was present watching what we were watching — the subject we never knew our gaze belonged to. There’s an acknowledgment, shot to shot, cut to cut, that there is more to the world than what we can presently see or say that we know … And at the present moment, I can think of few worthier undertakings for a narrative cinema practice than one that challenges and is curious about the ways that humans perceive themselves, others, and the perceptions of others.

We hadn’t even seen a preview for this. A late-2018 animated Spider-man reboot movie sounded like the most skippable thing in the world, but it came out the same week as all the year-end lists, which kept awarding it the Best Animated Feature. Admittedly Ralph Breaks The Internet and Incredibles 2 both suffered from sequelitis, and The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl was too quirky to win awards, but I still didn’t expect some comic-book Spider-man re-reboot to show up and trounce the competition, so we went to see what the fuss was about.

The fuss: this movie is faithful to the comics to the point of emulating their printing quirks: the shading dots, the color layers slightly out of registration, making me feel like I’m supposed to be wearing 3D glasses whenever I pay too much attention to the edges. It’s a Peter Parker Spider-Man back-story re-boot but also extremely self-referential about being this, and contains multiple Parkers and reboots. No wonder it’s from one of the Lego Movie guys, but much wonder that it was allowed to be created on an obviously high budget and released in theaters during Peak Marvel Universe. We (highly) approve.

I watched this near the beginning of the First Videodrome Era and thought I remembered only a couple things about it, but I think I was getting it mixed-up with Tenebrae and actually remember nothing about it. So here again, for the first time, The Beyond:

Louisiana 1927 (at least it’s not Maryland), two rowboats full of Southern white men bearing torches – this won’t be good. They accuse a dude of being a warlock, whup him with a chain, nail him to a wall then throw shovelfuls of boiling grits in his face.

54 years later, Liza (Catriona MacColl, screamer star of City of the Living Dead and House by the Cemetery) just bought the building where the grits murder took place, is having people fix it up when a painter falls to his near-death after spotting a dead-eyed woman. Liza is fond of the dreamy attending doctor David Warbeck (Fulci’s Black Cat), and unaware of the gate to hell in her new building’s basement. Joe The Plumber (who looks just like Chris Meloni in Wet Hot American Summer) is the first to dig around down there and get his face clawed off, then his whole family goes to the hospital to identify the body and is murdered by the undead.

Martha The Maid:

I thought Martha The Maid (baddie of Inferno) was acting suspicious and would turn out to be the hotel’s demonic caretaker, but nope, Undead Joe shoves her head into a large nail (Fulci’s signature eyeball trauma). There is however a psychic blind girl (Cinzia Monreale of Beyond the Darkness: “We blind see things more clearly”) who knows the history of the place, but she might be a ghost. A dude investigating at the library gets his face chewed off by tarantulas, a doctor is killed by very much broken glass, and eventually dreamy Dr. Warbeck is defending the survivors against hospital zombies by shooting them all in the shirt pocket. Movie ends in an inexplicable surrealist hellscape, and would’ve ended a half hour sooner if all the characters didn’t keep repeating everything they say. Cool movie though – one of the better Italian horrors I’ve seen.

Another film with a dense, confused audience-surrogate character: pilot Rex (Leon Greene, a Holmes in The Seven Percent Solution), who meets his old buddy Christopher Lee (same year as Dracula Has Risen From The Grave), then goes searching for their missing friend Simon. They find that he has joined a posh group of satanists (Britain was too polite for all this – the satanists reel in horror when their leader kills a goat), and try to rescue him through frequent use of crosses. Rex falls for satanist Tanith (Nike Arrighi: Day for Night, The Perfume of the Lady in Black) so they attempt to rescue her too, pursued by the Victor Garber-looking cult leader Mocata (Charles Gray, another Holmes in The Seven Percent Solution). Satanic possession and kidnapping follow, then evil is defeated in a very Christian ending.

Lee uses the interrotron on Simon:

Giant spider terrifies little girl: