Monday, January 16, 2006

London After Midnight

When is a vampire movie not a vampire movie?
Ask Denis Gifford in (A Pictorial History of Horror Movies, The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited, New York, !973) pages 68 - 71:
British sensitivity changed the title of the new Chaney and Browning venture: London After Midnight (1927) became The Hypnotist in England. It was the first true American vampire movie despite the twist in its tail. Authentic vampire trappings abounded: twin punctures in the jugular, an hickory stick staked through the heart, pallid and dark-eyed lovelies at the window. Before the Browning version, Hollywood vampires had been pallid and dark-eyed lovelies of the Theda Bara breed: sucking their men dry but not of blood. Chaney had his expected unmasking scene, but in reverse. . . . [t]he hideous vampire . . . revealed as upright Inspector Burke of Scotland Yard, hornrims and all! Outside the requisites of plot payoff, the make-up took a little longer: sharpened dentures made it painful for Chaney to speak, and wire hoops in his eye-sockets were tightened before takes to bulge his eyes. The denouement was not, it appears, a copout. Claimed Browning:
"Mystery stories are tricky, for if they are too gruesome or horrible, if they exceed the average imagination by too much, the audience will laugh. London After Midnight is an example of how to get people to accept ghosts and other supernatural spirits by letting them turn out to be the machinations of a detective. Thereby the audience is not asked to believe the horrible impossible, but the horrible possible, and plausibility increased, rather than lessened, the thrills and chills."
Somebody forgot to tell James Whale when he made Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, and The Invisible Man!
Not to mention Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King that!
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