Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nuits rouges (1974)

After watching Judex, which is also directed by Georges Franju, Nuits rouges seems uninteresting. The basic plot is very good, I think, for the topic is popular for the last few years: the search for Knight Templar's treasure. There are also some strange characters: the criminal who wear red mask, a lunatic doctor, sect members, and a man who wear one-black-and-one- transparent glasses.

Jacques Champreux, grandson of director Louis Feuillade, plays the main role (he also wrote the script): the man without a face. He is a master of disguise - like Fantômas and Dr Mabuse. He even can disguise as an old woman. Mostly he covers his face with a red mask. He is ruthless and without mercy.

The story starts with Maxime de Borrego's butler goes to see 'the man without a face' to tell him that his master know about The Knight Templar's treasure. The criminal visits Maxime de Borrego and kills him after failing to dig the secret. Maxime's nephew, Paul, helps the police to investigate the murder. The police is not very smart here. A witness is murdered inside their headquarters, and when they lay traps, they always fail. Luckily, the late Maxime de Borrego was a member of a sect (modern Knight Templar), that is eager to revenge their brother.

Gayle Hunnicutt plays the man without a face's right hand lady. Her scene on the roof is copied from the roof scene in Judex, but longer. Jacques Champreux mentioned in the DVD commentary that he deliberately wrote the scene to please Georges Franju, who thought the roof scene in Judex was excellent but too short. The mannequin scene in the museum reminds me of episode 1 in the new Doctor Who, but of course Nuits rouges made this first.

I would have liked this film more if the police were smarter and the roof scene was shorter.

Friendship Bracelet Maker

My sister sent this Friendship Bracelet Maker from Michigan. At first I thought this was for me, but no, it's not. It's for our niece. Before I forward this toy to her, I had an opportunity to try it out. Fortunately, I have many DMC floss, so I could start my trial rightaway. [There are floss in the box, but I save them for my niece.] I found the direction in the box was not very clear, so I went to FBM website for further information. My first trial was not successful (the floss were not long enough), but I got a clearer idea how the machine worked.

Even after the bracelets are done, I still don't know how to wear one on my wrist. Just by simply making a knot?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (1933)

The Testament of Dr. Mabuse is a sequel to Dr Mabuse: The Gambler (1922). Both are directed by the same director: Fritz Lang. In the end of Dr Mabuse: The Gambler, Dr Mabuse lost his mind and has been sent to a mental hospital. In this sequel, the original Dr Mabuse is still played by the same actor, Rudolf Klein-Rogge. Dr Mabuse is treated by Dr Baum, who thinks the patient is not a mad criminal, but a genius. After years of treatment, Dr Mabuse can write again, although his mind is elsewhere. Dr Baum reads his notes and finds that they are details for clever crimes. It is clear that Dr Baum is obssessed with his patient and executes what are in the notes. He hires thugs to do the crimes for him, while the thugs never see him because he hides behind a screen. They know him by the name of Mabuse; and this causes confusion with the police who check the facts.

As his nemesis, we have Commissaire Lohmann. Hearing his name only will make the criminals tremble.

For a sequel, I think the story is very well written. The original Dr Mabuse was a hit, a classic; so I am glad they didn't change direction for this sequel. The doctor stays mad and another person follows his path by taking his legacy. Same like Dr Mabuse, Dr Baum do his crimes to terrorize the world. He likes to spread fear, he doesn't want money. It's scary, really, when we cannot negotiate with the bad guy because he doesn't want anything but our fear.

Dr Baum doesn't really hide behind the screen. When one of his thugs - Kent- rebels, he finds that behind the screen there is only a microphone/radio, a desk, and a carton silhouette. I think somewhere in the movie, a thug dies for trying to find out who is behind the screen, so why Kent gets lucky?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Dream House (2011)

In Dream House, we are taken by the lead character, Will Atenton (Daniel Craig), in a journey where he lives his dream, in a perfect house with a perfect family: his beautiful wife Libby (Rachel Weisz) and their two little daughters, Trish and Dee Dee. Will Atenton just left his job in the city so he can spend more time with his family in their country home. When he arrives in that little town, the agent who has sold him the house gives him a ride and almost takes him to a wrong house, which belongs to the neighbours' who live opposite. This little mistake gives us an explanation about what is about to happen in the movie.

After a while, Atenton learns that in his house there were triple murders. The townspeople believe that the father of the house, Peter Ward, shot his wife and their 2 daughters. Peter Ward himself was shot back by his wife. There was not enough proof against him, so after 5 years in a mental hospital he was released. This is the same time when Atenton arrives in the country. His peaceful life is disturbed when the Atentons sees someone is spying on their house. Is it Peter Ward? Is he returning to his old house?

The plot is original for me, so I enjoyed watching this very much.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Judex (1963)

I was afraid at first that this movie was an art film and perhaps the story was boring. I read reviews that described this movie as 'dreamy like', 'mesmerizing', 'poetic'... but now that I've seen it, I'm glad I've seen it. I didn't even have to worry about the plot because it is very good. I know this is a remake of Louis Feuillade's work. Surely the original must be enjoyable to watch - as I have seen Louis Feuillade's other work: Fantômas, which is highly entertaining. Only then I read that 1963 version of Judex was a bit different from the original, that was why the reviews described it that way.

The beginning of the story reminds me of The Count of Monte Cristo. The character Favraux reminds me of Villefort. Like Villefort has a kind-hearted daughter Valentine, Favraux also has Jacqueline. The movie starts with Favraux, a banker, receives a threatening note from a mysterious man who called himself "Judex" (a latin word for 'judge'), who demands him to pay back the people he has swindled. Favraux's refusal results in his death by midnight during a masked ball when they are celebrating his daughter's engagement. Actually, he is only drugged by Judex, and then his 'body' is kidnapped from the cemetery. His life is spared after Jacqueline refuses the inheritance. Meanwhile, his mistress, Diana, who after his 'death' is left with nothing, plans to steal valuable papers from his house, with the help of her boyfriend. They feel Jacqueline is an obstacle and plan to get rid of her.

I think I prefer Judex as an merciless avenger. There is no explanation in the movie why he wants to punish Favraux, but I think he wants to revenge his father. My feeling turns to be right when in the DVD bonus, fragments from the original film by Feuillade are shown. The banker was Judex's father's partner who drove him to bankruptcy and committed suicide. Favraux also made odious advances to Judex's mother, who made young Judex and his brother to swear revenge. Judex's costumes, a cape and a broad-brimmed hat, are hardly a disguise. They only make him more handsome :-)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler - Ein Bild der Zeit (1922)

This is a 4-hour silence movie directed by Fritz Lang, divided into 2 parts: Der grosse spieler and Inferno. Dr Mabuse is a master criminal and very dangerous because he is also a telepathic hypnosis. In the beginning of the movie, he makes so much money by manipulating the stock market. He is also a money counterfeiter. Therefore, he is a scary character because he doesn't do crimes for money, but to make harm. In the first part, he destroys the life of a young man named Edgar Hull. In the second part, he destroys Russian Count Told's life because he wants Countess Told. Dr Mabuse also has his nemesis: state prosecutor Wenk. Wenk encounters Dr Mabuse several times, but as Dr Mabuse is a master of disguise, it's difficult to recognize him.

The movie is called Dr Mabuse The Gambler. Beside gambling with the stock market, that is how he destroys the life of Edgar Hull and Count Told. He hypnotized them so they gamble a whole night long. He also hypnotizes his opponents, so they think they lost the game - when actually they are holding the winning cards. In the 2 pictures below, he hypnotizes Inspector Wenk, who in his investigation disguised as a gambler, so that Wenk only see the words Tsi Nan Fu - and not what's on his cards.

In my opinion, compared to Louis Feuillade's Fantômas, Dr Mabuse is better structured; perhaps because Dr Mabuse was made in later date. At least the DVD of Dr Mabuse is much better, because Fantômas has more missing and destroyed frames. Fantômas has more followers in the criminal world, yet I think Dr Mabuse is more dangerous. Fantômas is actually caught by his nemesis, Inspector Juve, at least once; while it's so hard for Wenk to catch Dr Mabuse. Wenk doesn't even know whom he is looking until the end and when he finally jails Dr Mabuse's accomplice, they are too afraid to or won't speak. Near the end, Wenk is hypnotized again by Dr Mabuse who tells him to commit suicide!

The ending is very good: Dr Mabuse lost his mind. I think if Wenk sends him to jail, he can easily hypnotize the guards to let him go.