Sunday, 13 April 2008

JOHN BRAHM BOX SET

I recently received, via Amazon, (the retailer not the river) a box containing the three horror films that John Braham directed at 20th Century Fox during the 1940s. Two of these films THE LODGER(1944) and HANGOVER SQUARE (1944) star Laird Cregar and might be called the heavyweights of the trio while the third, a werewolf tale, THE UNDYING MONSTER is a low-calorie snack. All three titles have been wonderfully restored for the DVD release with THE UNDYING MONSTER looking particularly crisp. Lightweight it maybe but THE UNDYING MONSTER has always been a favourite of mine – fast moving (little more than an hour), beautifully shot and atmospherically directed by Brahm. The thing that struck me about the film when I first saw it on television was that it could easily be remade as a Sherlock Holmes film and I was pleased that this was pointed out by one of the historians in the extras. The two Cregar films – THE LODGER especially – are outstandingly good, both benefiting from powerful and intelligent performances from Cregar, great photography by Lucien Ballard and, of course, great direction from Brahm. Although the set contains lots of interesting extras, including intelligent commentaries it is this very aspect of the DVD release that has prompted me to write this piece. On the UNDYING MONSTER disc there is a documentary about the films of director John Brahm. Roped in are witnesses such as Kim Newman, Steve Jones and Chris Wicking (forgive me for picking these three from many but I know Newman slightly, once worked for Jones and have met Wicking) – all of whom know what they are talking about. After a brief mention of Brahm’s early films the experts settle down for a discussion of the three movies in the set. Unfortunately there is no mention whatsoever of Brahm’s other films that repay viewing : GUEST IN THE HOUSE, THE BRASHER DOUBLOON and THE LOCKET. Even if these films are not even given a passing mention I find it difficult to believe that nobody even thought to make reference to Brahm’s other horror film THE MAD MAGICIAN made at Columbia in 3D in 1954, a film that actually recreates one of the most successful scenes from HANGOVER SQUARE. From the title THE FILMS OF JOHN BRAHM one might reasonably expect it to give an overview of Brahms career, or at best his horror films.This grumble aside, it’s an outstanding release….perhaps Columbia can treat us to a3D dvd of THE MAD MAGICIAN. Oh, yes, I seem to remember a very atmospheric short film directed by Brahm on the doppelganger theme, based on the Joseph Conrad story THE SECRET SHARER and starring James Mason. It was originally included as half of the compendium film FACE TO FACE in 1952.

2 comments:

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Weaverman said...

Sorry, no go.