Friday, October 09, 2009


Holy Mackerel! The complete version of James Whale's "Old Dark House" is on YouTube! Fragments of this are put up from time to time but are always taken down soon after. This will probably disappear as well, but we have it for a short time, so let's make what we can of it.

I want to focus on the extraordinary acting in two sequences. The first is the one (above and below) where Elspeth Dudgeon (thanks to Jenny for the name correction) plays an old, bed-ridden man who warns the young couple of the danger of staying overnight in the house. Dudgeon's's performance is done in what I imagine is an old, 19th Century acting style, one which is grounded in live theater and an appreciation of classic literature, and not in acting classes. Compare her style to the more modern elocution style of Raymond Massey in the same scene.

The first part of the video is filmed in a static, old-fashioned manner. I recommend fast forwarding past that and starting at the 3:45 mark. Start there and play it to the end. The Dudgeon scene continues on the video below.

Dudgeon's performance ends about two minutes in (above), but watch the whole of this second video, because the action sets up the stunning appearance of Saul in the third video below.

I don't know the name of the actor who plays Saul (above), but he also seems to be grounded in the 19th Century acting style, and what a killer style that is! I love the elocution style of acting that you see in 30s films...I don't mean to criticize it...but for me this earlier style is a pearl of even greater price.

I call it "eccentric acting" because it attempts to build on an actor's unique gifts and vision of the world, and doesn't try to fit him into a cookie cutter mold the way later acting theories do.

I also like the way eccentric actors were informed by literature. Their devotion to the printed page gives them an oratorical style, as much akin to oral interpretation as to acting. Compare Olivier's reading of the St. Crispin's Day speech to Branaugh's. Both are good, but Olivier plays with the words...filters them through his love for the music of the English language and of subtext, and his own complex personality. In this sense, Olivier is what I would call an eccentric actor. Shakespeare wrote for the eccentric acting style and so did Dickens.

Well, there it is. Watch the excerpts as soon as possible because they could be taken down any time...maybe even later today.

Monday, October 05, 2009




COMMANDER (V.O.): "Crew, I'd like you to meet our new recruit, Lt. Buzz Buzzly."

CAPTAIN SAVAGE: "Have a seat, Buzz! You're just in time for an urgent video transmission from the planet "Effluvia!"

EFFLUVIANS (VIDEO TRANSMISSION): "Earthlings! Your ambassador has contracted a rare Effluvian disease that's turned him into a giant."

EFFLUVIANS (CONT) (V.O.): "At first it was okay. He just sat around reading the newspaper."

EFFLUVIANS (CONT) (V.O.): "But then he got bored, and started ripping up houses. Whole towns have been wiped out!"

EFFLUVIAN: "The Counsel has ordered us to shoot him, but if you can get here fast with the antidote, we can cure him instead of killing him. The antidote is chocolate. You can't get that here, so we need you to bring!"

BUZZ: "Captain! I have all the chocolate you could ever want in my briefcase! I took it with me just in case the ship's food sucks. Er...No offense!"

CAPTAIN SAVAGE: "Good for you, Buzz! Then we'd better be taking off! Um, know how to fly a spaceship, don't you?"

BUZZ: "Fly a spaceship? Me?"

BUZZ: "Haw! Do I know how to fly the spaceship!? Oh, that's a good one! Do I...Oh, you sure know how to tell a joke, Captain!"

BUZZ: "Hmmmmm."

DOCTOR PATRICIA: "Accute G force trauma. The Commander will live, but he's paralyzed below the waist."

CREWMAN: "Look! There's Effluvia, up ahead! Good thing you didn't leave that briefcase Back in your apartment!"

BUZZ: "Yeah, good thing!"

BUZZ: "Huh? Apartment!?"

BUZZ: "Ooooooh, I did a bad thing..."

COMMANDER: "What? me you didn't forget your......"

BUZZ: "Don't worry, Commander Sir! I'll go back and get that doggone briefcase and we'll be up again in five minutes, wait and see!"

BUZZ (HOURS LATER): "#@&%X futuristic cities! I can't find my apartment!"

BUZZ: "There we go, five minutes like I said."

DOCTOR PATRICIA: "G force trauma again. The Commander will survive but he'll be reduced to begging for the rest of his life, in a suit of filthy rags."

CAPTAIN SAVAGE: "Buzz, perhaps you'd like to introduce us to the lovely guest you invited on board."

BUZZ (V.O.): "Oh, that's Sally. I brought her along to guard the chocolate."

BUZZ: "She has disdain for anything fattening, so I figured the chocolates would be safe with her."

SFX -- (LOUD EATING) Crunch! Munch! CRuuuunch! MNCH! Muuunch! Crunch!

SALLY: ", sorry. I couldn't help myself. The candy looked so good."

BUZZ: "Don't worry Commander, Sir! I have more chocolates in my desk drawer on Earth! I'll grab a box and we'll be in the air again in five minutes, just you wait and see!"


BUZZ: "Five minutes, like I said."

DOCTOR PATRICIA: "More G force trauma. The Commander will survive but he'll need to drink and speak through a pin-sized straw for the rest of his wretched life."

EFFLUVIANS (ON THE SHIP'S VIEW SCREEN): "Earthlings! We're very sorry, but we had to shoot your ambassador. He was eating us out of house and home!"

BUZZ: "Gulp! Does this mean no lunch?"