Day two of the horror class consisted of a full-on run through the 40s and 50s. While I talked about a lot of things, I concentrated on showing two films — not something I plan to do everyday, but as I was giving short shrift to the time period anyway, it only seemed fair. For me, this meant Val Lewton and his protégé, Jacques Tourneur.
First up was Cat People, the Lewton-produced/Tourneur-directed classic starring Simone Simon as a Serbian woman haunted by her people’s past. Because we start out with a reading focusing on the psychological development of “the Other” it’s a good one. Well, it’s a good film anyway, with Lewton’s classic eye for light and shadow. At the center of it Simon’s Irena represses her sexuality out of fear that it will unleash a beast in her, foretold by her homeland’s folktales. The students had plenty to say about the subtle workings of Lewton’s film and picked up on the skillful uses of sound particularly in the stalking scenes.
After a lunch break (which I forgot yesterday, no wonder they looked so wan by the end), I talked about the 50s SF horror films for a bit then started up Night of the Demon (AKA Curse of the Demon). Based on M. R. James’ “Casting the Runes” it tells the tale of a Crowley-esque occultist sparring with scientific sceptics via supernatural means.
You may know it as the source of the line, “It’s in the trees! It’s coming!” in Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love”. My students, I fear, will always know it as the dvd that suddenly stopped playing ONE MINUTE before the end of the film. Howls of disappointment. I did find a link to a YouTube video that shows the very end, so I emailed that to them, but —