Sunday, May 21, 2017

Flesh and Fantasy (1943)

Director: Julien Duvivier

Writers: Ellis St. Joseph, Oscar Wilde, Laszlo Vadnay, Ernest Pascal, Samuel Hoffenstein, Ellis St. Joseph

Composer: Alexander Tansman

Starring: Edward G. Robinson, Charles Boyer, Barbara Stanwyck, Betty Field, Robert Cummings, Thomas Mitchell, Charles Winniger, Anna Lee, Dame May Whitty, C. Aubrey Smith, Robert Benchley, Edgar Barrier, David Hoffman

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The motion picture above all!

Plot: Two men discuss the occult, introducing three weird tales: 1) Plain, bitter Henrietta secretly loves law student Michael. Then on Mardi Gras night, a mysterious stranger gives her a mask of beauty that she must return at midnight. 2) At a party, palmist Podgers makes uncannily accurate predictions, later telling skeptic Marshal Tyler that he will murder someone. The notion obsesses Tyler, with ironic consequences. 3) High wire artist Gaspar dreams of falling, then loses his nerve. He recognizes Joan from his dreams, and falls for her. Will any of his dreams, involving Joan and disaster, come true?

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Astounding.  This is what you get when Universal releases a picture that's produced and made by Europeans.  It's a star-studded Hollywood cast but in a much more sensitive, stylish and dark picture than what American audiences were getting.  This is very much akin to THE TWILIGHT ZONE before that became a thing at the end of the 50s.  The first story about an unattractive woman wearing a Mardi Gras mask for the evening to find happiness is a dark romance.  It's beautifully filmed. The lighting and makeup on Henrietta (Field) is very well done.  When she gets close to finding what she wants there's a moment of sadness that had me welling up a little.  I was surprised at how much punch this little story has.  The second story is the best by far and it's very, very dark.  This is the horror story of the lot and it's a real peach.  Robinson kills in this role.  He's so friggin' good.  What he does after a palm reader tells him he's going to murder someone is amazing.  I didn't see where this was going but then I was along for the ride and what a journey this one is!  The special effects with Marshall (Robinson) talking to himself are outstanding.  It's most impressive and it adds another level of strange horror to the already grim story.  The ending is great and it takes us right into the final tale without the need for the two men telling stories that are the reason these stories are here. 

This one is probably the least fantastical and exciting.  I suspect it's the last story because it stars Boyer who also produced the picture.  It's still a good thriller with an unexpected ending which I liked.  The ONE thing that hurt this film was the score for the first segment and partway into the second one.  It's wildly upbeat and cheerful which completely goes against the events on the screen.  It's so bad that it feels like it was lifted from another movie by someone as a joke who wanted to ruin it.  Everything else about the visuals and story is dark and it required nothing more than simple music to help set the tone.  He finally got it right in the second and third stories but that first one is a real head scratcher for why he chose to go that fluffy.  This is a top notch fantasy/horror anthology with a great cast and it's one that shouldn't be missed.

No comments:

Post a Comment