Oh, obsessions. I have again neglected my triple fixations for far too long. There's just too many things to devour in OCD brain loops -- those circular thoughts that stop me from writing and just swirl around my grey matter with... gut feelings. With that (and with another deadline looming) here are... three obsessions:
1. Rage in Heaven (W.S. Van Dyke) 1941
I saw this for the first time last year and excitedly wrote about this underseen curiosty. I watched it again last night while taking a break from my piece on The Master (procrastination) and it was even more interesting the second time around -- thank you Robert Montgomery. I’ve always admired Montgomery, particularly for his merits as an actor/director with Ride the Pink Horse and The Lady in the Lake, and I think he’s taken for granted as an intriguing screen presence. I became slightly obsessed with him in 2011, reveling in so many performances in which he played someone charming and light, deceptively sweet or… slightly… off. He’s so easygoing and natural on screen -- his lines never feel forced and though a smart-alec, he’s rarely smug -- he always wins me over with a laugh or an unexpected moment. Like in, Forsaking All Others, swiping his finger on Joan Crawford’s face mask and licking it off like frosting (back when you could do that to Joan). He’s naturally funny. And naturally strange. And he can really play a whacked out nutjob quite convincingly. There’s his famous psychopath in Night Must Fall, of course, but then there’s his weirded out, distracted performance in the problematic production, Rage in Heaven, a movie that, to me, works, regardless of any on-set issues. Reportedly, Montgomery didn’t want to make the movie, he wanted a break or vacation from his MGM contract but was forced into the role. In retaliation he delivered his lines as flat as possible within this super melodramatic milieu.
Well, his angry decision worked, and he’s just so strange that we utterly believe this millionaire is a suicidal madman, one step away from the loony bin he left at the beginning of the movie. We certainly understand why he falls for Ingrid Bergman, who marries him, in spite of the growing triangle involving his best friend (the normal one here -- George Sanders, when George Sanders was allowed to be the normal one). And we certainly understand his jealousy; even if his neurosis becomes so insane he sets up poor Sanders, Leave Her To Heaven style. There’s a lot going on here, and a lot of it might seem a mess to viewers, but it’s a fascinating clash -- and Montgomery gives good crazy, even when he’s phoning it in, which then makes him appear even crazier. He might be a genius.
2. I Saw What You Did! (1965) William Castle
One of my favorite William Castle movies (and I love a lot of them- see: "Jacket, Straight"), this one takes the perfect concept of grounded teenage girls babysitting a little sister, their innocent though, dirty-flirty prank phone calls, a murderous John Ireland, a vengeful Joan Crawford and a hilarious night time car ride to meet a sexy mysterious stranger. Well, this is before Facebook and Twitter and Instant Messaging and all that business, so the jailbait girls can only think Ireland (no slouch in the looks department, mind you, but a bit old for them) is the hottest thing since Elvis. These girls are just dying for some thrills and jump into their parent's car (kid sis in tow) so the more daring of the two can meet up with this manly man for a little action. And who can blame her? Never mind hunky voiced Ireland really thinks they "saw what you did" and "know who you are" -- the menacing setup makes it all the more subversively sexy. And then it gets really frightening. A jealous Joan Crawford spies the teens, reaches into their car and steals the girl's parent's car insurance -- perhaps the scariest moment in the entire movie. Being busted by Joan fucking Crawford when you're grounded? Jesus Christ. That would make any teenager wake up in a cold, virginal sweat.
3. Devo Live in 1977. Gut Feeling/Slap Your Mammy Down
This is one of the greatest YouTube finds of my week of one of Devo's greatest songs. I sometimes listen to just the instrumental "Gut Feeling" portion of this tune over and over and over again, waiting for it to make my heart explode -- or brain -- or something. I'm not sure. It's so mysterious and beautiful. The build! My God. Here it is live in 1977, shot on what looks like some kind of super magical Tyco toy video camera. They're reportedly performing at Max's Kansas City but they appear to have been transmitted from a low-fi dream with a hi-fi soundtrack. Slap your Mammy down indeed spuds.