Thomas Bridge is an English graduate who has swapped his books for zombie films. A great fan of John Carpenter and Dario Argento, horror movies remain his thrill of choice. A lifelong quest for the next midnight double-bill still pushes him onward. His writing can also be read at the livewithfilm website.
Boris Barnet’s 1933 film Outskirts remains revolutionary in both form and content, an intriguing artwork with a beating political heart. Constantly surprising as only the earliest exponents of sound films could be, Outskirts uses all its means to express the destructive absurdity of the twentieth century. Giving a moving portrayal of the impact of both the First World War and the Russian Revolution on everyday life, Barnet focuses on the inhabitants of a small village on the Russo-German border. The onset of war forces factory workers to ditch their rebellion and volunteer ‘for the Motherland’. Brothers Nikolai (Nikolai Bogolyubov) and Seneka Kadkin (Nikolai Kryuchkov) march to the trenches, leaving their father Pyotr (Aleksandr Chistyakov) to lament their departure. With aggressive nationalism being provoked across the town, a young girl (Yelena Kuzmina) riles the masses by falling in love with a German prisoner of war.
Ahead lies the road: hurtling down it steams this twitching, scintillating, rambunctious film, full of possibility and brimming with life. Spewed from Kerouac’s text yet in reality an independent piece in an entirely different medium, On the Road cannot be compared to its source. So indicative of a mood and bound within its form, the written journey remains unfilmable. Yet this is not to say Walter Salles’ film does not neatly harness that feeling and form a loving interpretation of it. While a little baggy (a near unforgivable misstep given the tightly wound quality of its source), On the Road burns with a flame even Dean Moriarty could appreciate.
From the studio that dripped blood come the bandages to mop it up. Following the far more Hollywood inflected The Mummy (1959), Hammer’s second foray into Egyptian mythology remains a thrillingly gruesome and enjoyable slasher-romp. Never as diabolically dark as The Devil Rides Out (1968) and relatively restrained in comparison with the head-lopping frenzy of Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), John Gilling’s The Mummy’s Shroud finds its own niche to furrow. With an ensemble cast waiting in the wings for their inevitable bandage fuelled demise, ingenious deaths and splatters of gore remain the order of the day in 1920s Egypt.
With factory chimneys emerging through an oppressive fog, Hell is a City creates an unashamedly grim vision of existence in the metropolis. Through a post-murder man hunt, Manchester, and by extension 1960s urban life as a whole, is shown to be a corrupting influence that brings misery into the home. With the angry young men of the British New Wave casting the camera onto the kitchen sink in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning in the very same year, Val Guest’s film similarly seeks out the banal and ordinary. Yet combined with a dark streak of expressionist noir, Hell is a City remains an intriguing crime flick.
Franz Kafka’s crucial novel on the nightmarish power and impenetrability of the law realises the early twentieth century as a paranoid dystopia, rife with oppression and manipulation. Recreating these deep shadows with his customary panache, Orson Welles takes a fitting leap from the oppressive gloom of Touch of Evil and Citizen Kane to forge a stylised reality in an undeniably expressionist fashion. Forming the text into an artistic feast, the evident authorial stamp imprinted upon The Trial saw it becoming Welles’ favourite film. Visually, it might just well be.