Though they share no screen time, 1934’s Of Human Bondage proved to be a successful project for Frances Dee, who would go on to headline Val Lewton’s classic 1943 offering I Walked With a Zombie, and Bette Davis, whose take on the spiteful Mildred Rogers finally established her as a star of significant reckoning.
Davis, of course, would go on to become one of the queens of gothic horror with appearances in such revered projects as Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte. Here, though, her determination to artistic truth emerged via her insistence that Mildred’s decline not be a pretty one, but a dark and realistic journey. Her perseverance was also tested here as she was, reportedly, not treated well by her co-star Leslie Howard, who felt that a Brit should have been cast in the role in deference to the film’s English setting.
Dee has the nicer, less meaty role here. As the kind and understanding woman who eventually gains Howard’s heart, she does project a luminous quality that would bring her good stead in her most famous role of Betsey Connell, a nurse introduced to the ominous world of voodoo in (the above mentioned) I Walked with a Zombie.
This is truly Davis’ show, though. Compelling even as her repellant actions to Howard’s club footed Philip Carey make one wonder what he could ever see in her, she provides a bravura performance that has lingered in the public consciousness for decades.
Now, be sure to wipe your mouth, wipe your mouth…and until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!
(Hell of a Gal explores the films of the powerful, ever luscious Euro Vixen Helga Liné.)
Jealous looks good on Helga Liné. Of course, it should be noted, that almost everything looks absolutely fabulous on this devilish wonder. But most fans would probably agree that her dual role in the classic Nightmare Castle shows her off best of all.
As Solange, the devoted companion to the crazed Dr. Stephen Arrowsmith (Paul Muller), Liné makes her first appearance in this black and white gothic adventure as a withered crone. But, when we see her next, this gorgeous creature’s true beauty is shining through. (Hmmm…I just had to work a Melanie Griffith title into the proceedings, didn’t I?) It seems that Arrowsmith’s experiments have given the aged Solange the glow of youth…and a bit of possessiveness, as well. Solange is definitely not happy with the arrival of Jenny, played by the irreplaceable Barbara Steele. Jenny is the exact replica of Arrowsmith’s late wife and although she may hold the key to their fortune, Solange would, from all appearances, like her dispatched as quickly as possible.
Of course, all does not go according to plan in the world of villainy and the arrival of Jenny’s handsome and kindly doctor (Marino Mase) and a couple of vengeful ghosts soon spell doom for Arrowsmith and Solange.
But despite the corrosiveness of her character, Steele and director Mario Caiano have nothing but praise for Line’s beauty and talent on the special features of Severin’s beautifully restored copy of the film. Indeed, Liné is, nicely, given more range to play here than is normally required of her and while Ms. Steele, rightfully, has claimed the top spot in my many terror lovers’ hearts, Line’s take on Solange here proves that, in a fair world, she would be right up there with her.
Time moves along, as it likes to do, and sometimes you find your personality twisting from petulant victim to mysterious doomsayer. Such is the case with actress Tiffany Helm – or at least with the characters she portrays.
Beloved among terror hounds, worldwide, for playing Violet, the doomed punk in Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, Helm has recently returned to the acting scene with a spooky appearance in Come True, a new horror film directed by Anthony Scott Burns. Here, though, as the above on set photo indicts, she just might be the harbinger of nasty things to come instead of being the recipient of them.
Fans, of course, are thrilled about this return to celluloid roots and Helm has already booked a follow-up role in another horror project, as of this writing.
Add a dash of Joyce Carol Oates style mystery to the Neo-Futurists’ regular blend of theater games, performance art and personal story telling and you’ve got a good take on their current production, Mike Mother. Not surprisingly, the title’s close parallel to Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer Prize winning play ‘night, Motheris also explored in full measure by writer-performer Jessica Anne who, simultaneously, seems to embrace and mock that popular play as she explores her own relationship with her mother here.
That relationship is surrounded by death and deception and, even though the Neo-Futurists are noted for their truthful accounting, the show’s primary strength lies in the gothic vagaries involved with this particular story. As Jessica Anne admits, with a smirk, she’s “evolved” and one is never quite sure what is fantasy or fact here – a tantalizing proposition that allows the piece to stick in your mind for days afterward.
Granted, the final moments involve a bit more self-indulgent introspection than most Neo-Futurists shows, but Jessica Anne still emerges as one of the most interesting performers in the Chicago theater scene. She is ably backed up by actor Mike Hamilton, the Mike of the title, as they explore her past and invite an audience member or two on the stage to share theirs, as well. Director Josh Matthews and scenic designer Erik Newman also contribute, grandly, with specific focus applied to the production’s centerpiece, a beautiful white bathtub, which is used to splashy effect here.
Mike Mother runs through June 4th at The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland in Chicago. Further information is available at www.neofuturists.org.
Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!