Revenge of the Zombies
A Nazi scientist (John Carradine) in the West Indies undertakes to raise an army of the living dead.
An investigation gets the film in motion, his rich and beautiful wife (Veda Ann Borg) has died, the cause is disputed. His beautiful but “not very competent” secretary (Gale Storm) nearly gets dragged back to the Fatherland before the menace is undone.
The great cast includes Bob Steele and Mantan Moreland. Sekely lays out the structure on his two beauties, the details are like beads on a string, with an excellent twist.
Ken Russell, who says in the Times that Sekely’s film is “delightfully preposterous”, remembers the wife’s revivification in his “Nessun Dorma” for Aria.
An overture represents the summoning of the zombies. Wiederhorn’s Shock Waves follows in due course.
Lady in the Death House
A work of stark forbidding complexity, tempered by Sekely’s habitual good humor and the fantastic resources of compression available at PRC.
The construed joke is on l’amour et la mort, the tenderness of women and the doggedness of men.
Lionel Atwill dapperly administers the narrative to a passel of crime reporters, Jean Parker is the lady, Douglas Fowley the doctor she wouldn’t marry because of his specialization, he’s the State executioner, cf. William Castle’s The Tingler.
The tale of a Nazi spy ring in San Francisco before the war. J. Carrol Naish is the top West Coast man, an oculist. John Carradine travels three thousand miles with coded orders from the Reich, but the code book has been stolen.
Some members of the ring were forced into it by the Gestapo method of threatening their relatives in Germany. The robbery is an attempt to break free.
The complications only begin there in a typically fast, tightly inwoven, very droll and ultimately satisfying film.
The unforgettable centerpoint is the sanctum sanctorum of psychoanalysis, and you are there. People talk without knowing what they say, but you understand.
This sheds a light on the second theme, a casino robbery or gambling debt.
Hollow Triumph has the most uncanny feeling for Los Angeles of any film ever made. Sekely takes a twist that later served Antonioni in Professione: Reporter, and films it with extraordinary ingenuity, every shot is an invention or discovery, the location shooting includes a brief fight on one of the Angels Flight cable cars. The result is a deeply mysterious film noir that is so steeped in itself it reflects or exudes the city on location or on the set, a film that has interpolated some stern memories into the record of Fellini’s La Cittą delle donne and Amarcord, Lewis’ The Nutty Professor, Resnais’ L’Amour ą mort, Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Pollack’s Havana, etc., and a lampoon of psychoanalysis only to be compared with the gentle satire in Johnson’s The Three Faces of Eve. The Scar, as it is also known, in fact gives such an accurate rendition of Los Angeles that one is rather startled to see one of its characteristic parking garages nowadays painted pink and green in a moribund city.
The secret of how Sekely did it is an extremely complicated and, before Havana, unique system of lighting, formed out of Sekely’s observation of the light thrown into a room by a single electric lamp. All the resources available to him, from flat exterior daylight to Hollywood lighting and Rembrandt lighting and plain studio lighting and eye lighting, are mobilized as variants of this elemental fact (“whatever lamps on Earth or Heaven may shine / are portions of one spirit,” says Shelley’s Apollo, “which is mine”). Everything in the film is made up out of these combinations, which can isolate an area, or give a skeletal view of a room, or modulate elements of a shot with astonishing variety, as in the last confrontation of Muller and his brother in Bartok’s office. Through the window you can see daylight on the side of a building, while in front of it Muller’s brother is fully lit, and in the left foreground Muller is in still another tonality.
Compare this to two scenes in the Clover Garage. The first, when Muller applies for the job, has a variegated lighting on the office where the interview takes place, while through the windows you see the skylit garage, the whole shot resembling a Whistler etching. The second, when the two hoods come in for gas, is lit by single overhead lamps, one of which is studied dramatically in an isolated long take at the back of the car, and as Muller moves to the front, the drama of that lamp bounces around with him, though actually there are other lamps hanging from the ceiling. The lighting is more than pictorial and dramatic, it’s structural, and having said this is how Sekely did it, it’s hard to understand how it was arranged in so many setups. Still, and this is the point, the thrilling accuracy of his representation was achieved by art, by an inspiration about the main problem of lighting that turned a light bulb on in his head.