Feel like getting a jump (possibly quite literally) on the upcoming season of scares? Herewith a little bit of Hollywood Hallowe'en, courtesy of the endlessly inventive Mr. Ed Cachianes.
In his latest cinécollage, Cachianes puts the great ladies of Grande Dame Guignol through their paces, reminding us that even in vehicles that were miles away from those of their heydays, the likes of Davis, Stanwyck, Crawford, de Havilland, and Co. had plenty of opportunities - and took full advantage of them - to deploy familiar tools. Staircase scenes (although with a general tendency to include a dramatic push and/or roll), great doubting pauses (ramped up a notch or ten), all the tricks of the cinema goddess trade, now put to new use and supplemented with new tropes - maniacal laughter, screams of terror, a certain facility with axe, knife, or gun, and even (for dear Olivia), the use of a stunt double for a dramatic fall.
I sense in the way that the clips are manipulated, the ladies made literally to hop to the incongruously antic tune, a certain sympathy with how the actresses themselves were put through a kind of performative humiliation, giving perhaps a sense of the sometimes sneering glee with which these pictures were received at the time. Look at her, doing that - whether it was Lana Turner, still trying to peddle Golden Age glamour, encountering acid and the counterculture, or Tallulah, utterly deglamorized, banging away with a pistol (how many moviegoers sitting through Die! Die! My Darling! would have remembered that Tallu had a pistol scene in a much earlier outing, The Cheat, all the way back in '31?).
They went at it gamely, one and all, and in more than a few cases made, if not quite silk purses, then at least quite creditable vehicles, out of what were generally pretty sow's-ear productions. Die! Die! is nobody's idea of a good movie, but some would say that Davis was never better than in Baby Jane, and however the pictures were perceived at the time, it's rare (Trog aside, as it should be, always) that the ladies truly embarrass themselves.
And now we have them gathered, courtesy of Hag Mash, into one seasonally appropriate moment - the termagents and the harridans, the tormentors and the victims. My grandmother (herself a voracious filmgoer, though I'm not sure whether she would admit to have seen Lady in a Cage) always said that getting old doesn't make you better or worse, only more so - and I think her argument could use this macabre little treasure as Exhibit A.
Happy Haunting Holidays, and many thanks, Mr. Cachianes!