Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Night of the Eagle; some other stuff

A week ago I said I was going to see a film called Night of the Eagle (1961) by one Sidney Hayers. It was shown this week. It's a marvellous film, quite little known horror gem. As I wrote before, it was written by two American experts of the genre, Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont, from a novel by Fritz Leiber (Conjure Wife, 1944; must read that one, I have it somewhere). The British crime novelist George Baxt was also one of the writers.

I didn't get a chance to see the credits, so I don't know who got the top billing, but it was easy to see that this was a writer's film. The director, Sidney Hayers, was a hack who produced competent films and TV series throughout his long career (he died only recently), but didn't make any other well-known film (with the possible exception of Circus of Horrors, which I haven't seen). This one is a certified classic and its virtues most certainly come from a good screenplay. (Well, my friend Roope with whom I walked home after the film said that it was also a photographer's and editor's film. They were also good, very inventive at times.)

It was also easy to see why Richard Matheson was attracted by Leiber's book. Matheson's own horror novels are very similar with their portrait of easy everyday life - here a sociology professor enjoying his life with a new job and lovely wife - that just as easily steps into the world of horror. Matheson is also known for avoiding splatter and overt violence. Night of the Eagle has one of the most horrifying scenes I've seen for a long time - creepy and chilly, with nothing actually shown. The happenings in the film could also be said to be wholly psychological. You don't ask for a supernatural explanation, even though the premise is supernatural. Neatly done, boys!

It's just that some idiot has clearly demanded that the monster be shown. Hence we get someone dressed as a giant eagle running down the corridor of a school. Everyone laughed at that one, even though the film had relatively few moments of unintentional humor. Same thing happens with Jacqueus Tourneur's superb Night of the Demon. That time the idiot was the producer.

Today I saw Marcel Carné's Daybreak/Le Jour se lève from 1939, very grim pre-noir film from just before the war. One of the most pessimistic films I've ever seen. (Earlier today I read from Theodore Kaczynski's aka Unabomber's writings that the Left is always interested in pessimism and nihilism, which shows how rotten the Left actually is. Well, so be it.)

I was arguing about the mentioned book with an editor for whom I tried to offer a review of the recent translation of Unabomber's manifesto. She wasn't interested for reasons that weren't exactly clear. Well, that's her power, to turn down offers of free lance writers.

I'll start soon reading Susanne Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I promised to do a review for Turun Sanomat. I need some cash, so I also picked Joseph Finder's Paranoia,* a thriller about the corporate world. I've heard some interesting things about it. The books are just so fucking long! Cut down the words, will you, now!

I also dabbled with PageMaker. I'll write about this later on, but suffice it to say that I have another publication coming out very soon.

* Check out the link. Raymond Chandler once said that you should never be forced to see the writer. How true, how true. Is he trying to sell me some wheat protein or what?

1 comment:

Todd Mason said...

NIGHT OF THE EAGLE, which for no compelling reason was retitled for US distribution with A. Merritt's novel-title BURN, WITCH, BURN!, is a fairly faithful adaptation of the Leiber novel, much moreso than the previous film version, WEIRD WOMAN. The Teri Garr comedy WITCH'S BREW also traces its inspiration from the book, which is pretty brilliant, particularly when one considers it's Leiber's first novel (the climax is unsurprisingly more powerful in the book than in any of the films...I was reading so quickly the first time I read the novel that I slipped right by the Big Realization, then a page or two into the next chapter, thought--What did I just read?). Norman Saylor the character reappears in the short story "Rump-Titty-Titty-TAH-Tee" and perhaps elsewhere in the Leiber canon.