Tod Brownings Dracula - new book.

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Mike O'Regan
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Re: Tod Brownings Dracula - new book.

Postby Mike O'Regan » Sat Jan 03, 2015 1:53 pm

I shall carry on this discussion with myself...:-)

Anyway, I re-watched both films yesterday. Truth is neither one is superior or inferior to the other. The best version lies somewhere between the two in my opinion.
I remain unconvinced, though, that Browning is in any way a particularly gifted director. I've never seen anything special in his work and I'm afraid that Rhodes' obvious desperation to prove him as any kind of auteur has only cemented my opinion.

I would, though, be genuinely interested in anyone else's opinion of this book.

Richard M Roberts
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Re: Tod Brownings Dracula - new book.

Postby Richard M Roberts » Sat Jan 03, 2015 2:36 pm

I've always felt much the same way as you do about both of the Universal DRACULA's, I think that the Browning is underrated about as much as the Melford Spanish version is overrated.

Browning's version is always slammed as being creaky, but I think that creakiness is exactly part of its eeriness, and it's an eeriness that is not improved upon either by adding Phillip Glass's awful noise or scrubbing the soundtrack into stone silence. Browning knew what he was doing in that sense, a good-portion of what is now dismissed as early-talkie ponderance is deliberate pacing in establishing a mood of quietly-progressing evil, and between that and Lugosi's never-beat performance in the role, it works pretty damn well to those whose attention-spans have not been destroyed by splatter-flick editing or the deadening of horror-senses by the violence of same. That old crackly soundtrack, and definitely the air-space underneath it, even help this mood, especially in a big, dark movie theater where the film was meant to be seen.

Melford's version definitely has some better tricks, but it also has Carlos Villarias, who does his best but always comes off to me looking and acting like Carl Reiner in a Lugosi wig from a YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS sketch (though think how great Howard Morris would have been as Renfield). However, the Spanish DRACULA also has Lupita Tovar, who kicks the crap out of Helen Chandler in the hotness department, yet if she was magically inserted into the Browning Version, I think she would throw the whole film off-kilter. Helen Chandler's seemingly not-acting spaciness seems more in tune with Browning's more austere approach.

If one is buying into the "Auteur" bullshit, I think the case can probably be made for Browning as much as anyone, but being an "Auteur" is truthfully no actual sign of quality or talent (remember folks, Andy Milligan fits into the "Auteur" category too, just because you are unique and in control does not mean you are either useful or entertaining). I'm not a particular worshiper at Tod Browning’s shrine (sounds of Eric Grayson's teeth gnashing), I find his silent films to be sloppily and lazily written and put together, most start off well with some genuinely odd and interesting moments, then begin to degrade into triteness, with frequently the same denouement of all the main characters trapped in one room trying to come to terms with each other, and a ridiculous deus ex’ machina (I call it “releasing the Gorilla in the closet syndrome”) to get Browning out of whatever hole he’s written himself into.

That said, I must also admit to finding Browning’s important talkie work (we’re not talking about THE IRON MAN or FAST WORKERS here) much better than his silents, from THE THIRTEENTH CHAIR to DRACULA to FREAKS to MARK OF THE VAMPIRE to THE DEVIL DOLL to even MIRACLES FOR SALE, I find these all more effective, spooky and entertainingly well-made works than anything he did with Lon Chaney. These are the films he can stake his reputation on, and I truly believe that if that damned LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT ever turns up, everyone but the truly-delusional will find it compares pale with its 1935 remake.

So there O’Regan, you’re not discussing this with yourself, and you’re just going to have to keep an eye out on ebay for old FILMS IN REVIEW issues if you want to read that Browning article, but the early issues came out in much smaller quantity than the later ones.


RICHARD M ROBERTS

Gary Johnson
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Re: Tod Brownings Dracula - new book.

Postby Gary Johnson » Sat Jan 03, 2015 3:39 pm

That same eerie dread that pervades the soundtrack of Browning's DRACULA (31) can also be found in Dreyer's VAMPYR (32), even though there is an ever-so-slightly orchestration playing quietly in the background. Sometimes it is so quiet it can barely be heard. And whenever anyone speaks (not that often) the music is podded down entirely.

Mike O'Regan
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Re: Tod Brownings Dracula - new book.

Postby Mike O'Regan » Sat Jan 03, 2015 3:43 pm

Well....ya see... I can see no difference, from a viewpoint of directorial merit, between Browning and Melford in the versions of the film in question. Regarding Browning's approach - austere (implying intent) or simply pedestrian?

I'm not as well versed in his other work as you are but I think that Mark of the Vampire is deliciously atmospheric and nothing more. This, of course, is largely due to the work of James Wong Howe and Cedric Gibbons.

Richard M Roberts
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Re: Tod Brownings Dracula - new book.

Postby Richard M Roberts » Sat Jan 03, 2015 6:01 pm

Mike O'Regan wrote:Well....ya see... I can see no difference, from a viewpoint of directorial merit, between Browning and Melford in the versions of the film in question. Regarding Browning's approach - austere (implying intent) or simply pedestrian?

I'm not as well versed in his other work as you are but I think that Mark of the Vampire is deliciously atmospheric and nothing more. This, of course, is largely due to the work of James Wong Howe and Cedric Gibbons.


Horsepuckey, great talents at what they did were Howe and Gibbons, but Browning was the one who told them what was wanted and needed, and as Browning's films like MARK OF THE VAMPIRE do not resemble much of what would constitute "standard MGM product" of the time, common sense says that much of it must have come from him. You think "deliciously atmospheric" is so easy to achieve, try it sometime.

And damn straight I think that austerity was Brownings intent, because you have it in every other Browning talkie, how much mood music do you have in MARK OF THE VAMPIRE? Moreso wonderful sound effects, and that same quiet in the truly creepy scenes. Whistle me a tune from the soundtrack of FREAKS, or THE DEVIL DOLL. It is that same austere matter-of-factness that makes some of Browning's most effective moments, which make up for some pretty silly dialogue.

Perhaps you should become more versed in Browning's works before passing judgement on it.


RICHARD M ROBERTS

Mike O'Regan
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Re: Tod Brownings Dracula - new book.

Postby Mike O'Regan » Sat Jan 03, 2015 6:10 pm

Richard M Roberts wrote:
Perhaps you should become more versed in Browning's works before passing judgement on it.


RICHARD M ROBERTS


Perhaps. Although I hardly passed judgement now, did I?

I'll desist, for now.

However, I've seen his DRACULA and it ain't any better in any shape or form than Melford's DRACULA, in my opinion.

Out of interest, why do you think that "deliciously atmospheric" is not so easy to achieve?

Anyhoo, listen....go read this book and tell me what you think. This is what I came in here for.

Richard M Roberts
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Re: Tod Brownings Dracula - new book.

Postby Richard M Roberts » Sat Jan 03, 2015 7:52 pm

Mike O'Regan wrote:
Perhaps. Although I hardly passed judgement now, did I?



I'd say calling someones filmmaking approach or style "pedestrian" applies.

But again,I will agree with you that I have no actual preference for one version of DRACULA over the other, I like them both, whatever their individual pluses and minuses, they are both films I will revisit from time to time and enjoy.



However, I've seen his DRACULA and it ain't any better in any shape or form than Melford's DRACULA, in my opinion.

Out of interest, why do you think that "deliciously atmospheric" is not so easy to achieve?




Because of the very large number of films ground out of Hollywood and elsewhere that have little or none at all, or some Directors who lay it on with a trowel because the story they are telling has no substance. To succeed is to combine strong storytelling and performance with the visual imagery to make the story work within the confines of it's own logic and that is a rarer happening than not. Browning's films may have wonky storylines a lot of the time, but most of them have moments of genuine chilly creepiness, MARK OF THE VAMPIRE has quite a few, and DRACULA certainly has its fair share, and I feel it has been unfairly criticized or technically messed with by folk who really didn't understand what they were looking at. So in my book, they succeed as films in what they set out to do far,far more than they fail, I still don't think Browning was an "Auteuristic Genius", but he made a number of films I find interesting, whether they are classics or not, they are worth seeing.


Anyhoo, listen....go read this book and tell me what you think. This is what I came in here for.



Unless you're mailing me that copy as a late Christmas gift, you may be in wait awhile, lots of film books out there, and I'm never in a hurry to grab one less I'm convinced it's really something I want to read or has new info I need to know. Frankly, I'm still not convinced this book hits either of these targets.

RICHARD M ROBERTS

Mike O'Regan
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Re: Tod Brownings Dracula - new book.

Postby Mike O'Regan » Sun Jan 04, 2015 1:47 pm

I'd say calling someones filmmaking approach or style "pedestrian" applies.


Oh, but I merely suggested it, my friend.

I still don't think Browning was an "Auteuristic Genius", but he made a number of films I find interesting, whether they are classics or not, they are worth seeing.


I'll drink to that.

christopher connelly
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Re: Tod Brownings Dracula - new book.

Postby christopher connelly » Wed Jan 07, 2015 3:33 pm

Mike O'Regan wrote:Would anyone happen to have an idea where I might be able to read George Geltzer's essay on Browning, which was published in Films in Review, Oct 1953?

I've searched but cannot find.


It appears to be part of the Proquest periodicals package. You may wish to contact the university libraries near you.

A brief search suggests the following institutions in Ireland and the UK may have it:

DUN LAOGHAIRE INST OF ART, DESIGN & TECH
UNIV COL DUBLIN
EDINBURGH UNIV LIBR
LONDON METROP UNIV
SAINT ANDREWS UNIV LIBR
UNIV OF WALES SAINT DAVID
UNIV OF WALES TRINITY SAINT DAVID
YORK SAINT JOHN ENTERPRISES LTD
YORK ST JOHN ENTERPRISES LTD GRP BL

Mike O'Regan
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Re: Tod Brownings Dracula - new book.

Postby Mike O'Regan » Wed Jan 07, 2015 5:39 pm

The London Met might be a good lead. Thanks for taking the time.


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