Here is some behind the scenes footage of Chaplin directing a scene in City Lights. I love seeing him working on a location somewhere in Los Angeles back in 1930. Those were the days. Actually now that I look at it closer I think it’s probably shot on Charlie’s lot, his own personal movie studio at La Brea and Sunset Blvd. The building in the background looks like a painted flat.
Unsung hero of Low Budget Cinema! Beatnik wordsmith riffing like Charlie Parker high on Dexedrine, O Charles B. Griffith we salute you. Roger Corman always gets the credit for these way out films, he deserves some of it, he directed them but they originated in the feverish brain of mastermind C.B. Griffith. Chuck created the characters, Walter Paisley, Seymour Krelboin, Audrey Jr. He even voiced the flesh eating plant, his grandma appeared in both films and C.B. played a hapless burglar in LSOH. He should be lauded, he should be crowned with the laurel wreath and given the Keys to the Kingdom.
Charles B. Griffith about to be eaten by the plant with his voice
A Bucket Of Blood starts off in a coffee house, a poet reciting an Ode to Art, Creativity is King, All Else is nothing! “Where are Joe, Jim Jack, jerk, dead!” he intones as Paul Horn improvises along on his Alto Sax.
So he tries creating some sculpture and in the process accidentally kills his landlady’s cat. He gets results, attention from the hipsters, all he has to do is keep creating but in order to do that he must commit murder. The end justifies the means in Walter’s limited mind, at first he’s forced by circumstance to kill, he even mumbles Seymour Krelboin’s mantra “I didn’t mean it!” and here’s the point I’ve been wandering up to. These two films are almost exactly the same. They both take place in a ” store”, a commercial space where money is made from the public. Art vs. Commerce, the Eternal Conflict. The main characters are nebbishes desperate for attention, success, so they can “get married”. (The goal of almost every silent comedy).
They achieve this through murder. They each have an avaricious boss who becomes aware of his hired hands nefarious antics but because business is good and the coffers are filling decides to turn a blind eye to the shenanigans. Gravis Mushnik meet Leonard DeSantis. Both films have a climactic chase through nighttime crummy L.A. neighborhoods and both end with suicide by becoming part of their Art , Walter hangs himself after turning into a sculpture/Seymour jumps into his plant creation Frankenstein ostensibly to kill it but ultimately becoming one of its blossoms. They both feature a score by the amazing Fred Katz, actually they both feature some of the exact same cues, re-cycled by Corman.
Bucket didn’t perform very well at the box office and Corman had to be convinced to try another comedy but didn’t he know he was making the same film? Maybe the addition of a man-eating plant made the project appear more commercial. Dick Miller star of Bucket was offered the role of Seymour Krelboin in Little Shop but turned it down. I think the failure of BOB was such a disappointment to him, he couldn’t go through it again. Miller believed in Bucket Of Blood, he blamed it’s flopping on the cheap production value and when he heard Corman made a bet he could shoot Little Shop Of Horrors in two days he passed. He did appear in the film as flower eating Burson Fouch. A few other Charles Griffith notes, the wheat germ bagels and odd health food favored by the Beatniks and Seymour ’s mother’s medicinal cuisine. Jack Nicholson skimming through PAIN magazine at the dentist office. Griffith had funny fake magazine in his opus Dr. Heckle and Mr. Hype. So here’s to Charles B. Griffith as Quentin Tarantino dubbed him, The Poet Laureate Of The Drive-In.
Here is the great opening poem accompanied by Paul Horn blowing a cool Alto.
The Beautiful B.B. she looks a little like Ava Gardner
Ava in Contessa
Jean Luc Godard is getting an honorary Academy Award! How great is that, of course he won’t show up for it. Maybe this was on my mind when I started watching Joseph Mankiewicz’s The Barefoot Contessa.
Producer In Screening Room- Contessa
The films are similar, they both have Movie People as characters. There’s a director with integrity, Fritz Lang in Contempt and Humphrey Bogart in Contessa. A beautiful goddess, desired by all, Ava Gardner in Contessa, Bridgit Bardot in Contempt. They are both concerned with personal integrity in the face of a powerful prick,an American film producer that wants to control everyone, have everyone kiss his ass which they do for money.
Producer wants Sex Goddess Wife
Michel Piccoli loses his wife to Jerry the producer when he accepts the job of re-writing the script for Jerry’s production of the Odessy, he says “I’ll be able to pay off our apartment!” This theme of estrangement between a husband and wife comes from Alberto Moravia’s novel, Il disprezzo. The book was published the same year that The Barefoot Contessa was released, maybe they somehow fused in Godard’s brain. The Rich American Movie Producer, The Super Sexy Star, The Director, The Writer, The Yes Man. These are the new Mythic characters for the 20th Century. Like the Greek Gods, they live on Olympus and they have petty squabbles that effect all life on Earth. They test your souls, tempting you, like the Devil on the mountain top offering Jesus all he can see.
There’s even a big sceen in a screening room in both films, in Contempt Jack Palance (Jerry Prokosh) throws a film can at the screen like a Greek discus, expressing his displeasure at the footage screened. In Contessa Edmund O’Brien turns in a horrible over the top performance as Kirk Edwards ass licking yes man. Constantly mopping his face with a giant handkerchief, babbling like a baboon, chewing the scenery in an over the top style. Jerry Prokosh has a beautiful female assisstant that he constantly degrades, getting her to bend over so he can write a check on her back.
Degradation Of Beauty By Producer In Screening Room- Contempt
In Contessa Bogart is the man in peril of losing his integrity, the director of the proposed film. In Contempt Michel Piccoli is the writer, the man in danger of losing all to the American producer, Fritz Lang is the director but he seems above it all, like a God Of Film already up in the Celestial Movie Studio, the eccentricities of the Earth bound barely affect him. Maybe someone should make a new film about the New Gods, The New inhabiters of our Cinematic Olympus, The American Producer! The Sex Symbol, The Director in trouble, like Odysseus trying to get back to Ithica.
New Gods - New Myths replace the Old
Kevin Brownlow, film historian, film restorer and all around super hero of Cinema will get an Academy Award for his life’s work. He will also appear at the Egyptian Theater on Friday November 12 with two of his own films, Winstanley and It happened here. Check it out if you can!