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Old 05-12-2005   #1
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Tod Browning

I've just seen "The Devil-Doll" a 1936 movie with Lionel Barrymore, and it made me realise that Tod Browning is Ligottian at times. In this film, the use of puppets, or more precisely other things that are not really puppets, for vengeance leads obviously to Ligotti. And also the fact that the victims are not killed by those puppet-like instruments of vengeance, but only paralyzed, condemned to be "perfect brains imprisoned in a paralyzed body for the rest of their lives" is truly chilly, and much more effective on the scale of horror than a "simple" murder...

Also, and I still don't see why, but the name of the old lady that Barrymore disguise himself into, Mrs Mandelip, makes me think of Ligotti as well...

"Freaks" is also a quite obvious influence, with its sideshow setting, I've seen other films by Browning (Dracula of course! and a few with Lon Chaney), but no other comes to my mind as Ligottian, but I'd have to think about it more to get back some memories...

"How he made them laugh... sometimes"
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Old 05-14-2005   #2
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Re: Tod Browning

I liked Todd Browning's FREAKS and DRACULA, but THE DEVIL DOLL didn't really do anything for me. Besides the bizarre sideshow setting of FREAKS, that is reminiscent of some of TL's work (although I think FREAKS is pretty much as unique a film today as it was then) the movie also reminds me of some passages from IHASPFTW, in the depiction of how the horrors of reality can wreak havoc on people making them freakish or noticeably odd - if not in body, then in mind.

Poem VIII

The children always followed him
When they saw him hopping by

and the lines from Poem XII

When a brain is filled only with damaged thoughts
When a damaged body is filled only with pain

The setting of FREAKS reminds me of another great movie called NIGHTMARE ALLEY. This 1947 movie stars Tyrone Power and Joan Blondell. It has one of the great endings in film history, in my opinion. The novel NIGHTMARE ALLEY by William Lindsay Gresham is a classic, albeit a neglected one, of American cynicism. It grew out of the bogus spiritualism that was prevalent in the early 20th century. It shows the depths that some people are willing to go for money. This often involved conjuring up the spirits of the dead so that they could communicate with desperate loved ones - an emotionally exploitive and despicable thing to do. These charlatans so infuriated Houdini, who had just lost his mother, that he would dress up in disguises and go out and debunk them.

THE ELEPHANT MAN by David Lynch is another great movie that uses a carnival setting, at least initially.
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Old 05-29-2007   #3
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Re: Tod Browning

I enjoyed those three films, including Devil-Doll because of its bizarre qualities. Unfortunately, I only saw it in colorized form on TCM and I can't find a copy locally.

When I think of that film, I'm reminded of Night of the Hunter and Strange Cargo, and only because both were shown on cable together with it.
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Old 11-23-2007   #4
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Re: Tod Browning

I found out about this film only recently:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0906005/
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