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NIGHTMARE ALLEY tonight on Retroplex 8 p.m. EST DON'T MISS!


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Bronxie so adeptly quipped: "This (NIGHTMARE ALLEY) gets better every time I see it, as I just did tonight."

 

I took the opportunity as well to revisit this dark and horrifying masterpiece late last night and, once again was amply rewarded. Very few noir films deliver the goods in such a startling and surprisingly adult fashion; made that much more bewildering by the fact that the film was made during a time when the Production Code was in full swing and precious little in the arena of provocative entertainment was able to elude the myopic gaze of the censors.

 

I've always been curiously amused by the legendary genesis of this film, from its origins as one of the most bitterly horrifying and profane novels of its day to the con-job that George Jessel did on Darryl Zanuck in order to convince him to purchase the novel and produce the film (Jessel had not even read the book when he approached Zanuck about it, insisting nonetheless that it would make a great movie; Zanuck nearly had a stroke when he finally, after purchasing the rights, read it). The fact that a garrulous cornball vaudevillian like Jessel would become so intrinsically involved with such a doom-laden, god-forsaken project is, in itself, a source of bizarre wonderment. That a story about a totally unredeeming cad, told in the most severe and shocking visual manner could have been made in 1947 is, likewise a source of utter amazement. That it wasn't botched and butchered beyond belief (apart from omitting much of Gresham's unfilmable prose) is nothing short of miraculous.

 

Whether this film is a freak accident or brilliant by design is no longer of importance. What remains, sixty years down the line, is a film of unrelenting power, a ghoulish and garish entertainment with the uncanny ability to infuse the imagination with the insane melding of high cinema and pulp trash. That a huge, audience-friendly studio like 20th Century Fox felt that enough people would buy tickets to this sideshow spectacle (they didn't; the film tanked) is yet another interesting example of the fragile and unpredictable nature of the corporate mentality. Thank god these fools made the wrong decision.

 

Barbara, thanks for providing me with the proper excuse to delve back into the blackness of NIGHTMARE ALLEY.

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Dewey -- LOVED your fascinating background info on NA, and especially your deliciously worded compare/contrast of that old Toastmaster General himself, Georgie Jessel, getting involved in a grim project like this.-- totally incongruous indeed!

 

You raise very valid questions about the source of its power, and the melding of high and low art. What amazes me about it is its utter lack of pretension -- even Roy Roberts final line, with its instant-morality play implications, doesn't detract from the casual sure-footedness of the script, performances, and direction.

 

Thanks so much for revisiting it!

 

Barb

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BRONXGIRL MOTHER ALERT ON NIGHTMARE ALLEY!!

 

I just called her up to ask how she was, and I get this revelation:

 

Mom: "Oh, I saw NIGHTMARE ALLEY the other night when it was on again".

Me: (incredulous): "You SAW it? I thought you said you didn't want to.

 

"

Mom: "Well, I was remembering that it had a lot more of the geek than it did, but it didn't,

so it was easier to watch."

Me; "So you liked it?"

Mom: "Well, it was all right, but I didn't like to see Tyrone Power like that."

Me: "Like what?"

Mom: "Become a geek -- I didn't like that."

Me: Did you like Joan Blondell as Zeena?"

Mom: "Oh, I always like her."

Me: "How did you like Helen Walker?"

Mom: "Who? Who was she?"

Me: "You know, Lillith Ritter, the weird psychologist."

Mom: "Oh, I didn't like her, but she was good."

Me: "So are you glad you saw it?"

Mom: "I could have lived without it."

 

 

 

Doo-doo-doo-do, doo-doo-doo-do...

 

Message was edited by: Bronxgirl48

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Ahhh, Bronxie and her mom. Way too much fun for me.

 

I'm sorry I stood you up on our *Nightmare Alley* date. The flowers have wilted and the chocolate has melted. Well, I'm gonna watch the film tonight just so that I can enjoy in the all this geek fun. I'm feeling left out. Heck, I couldn't read any of the analysis on the film. Now I'm wilty and melty.

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Yes, Mom is in a class all her own....

 

"So -- are those REAL chocolate covered cherries?" Quick - what's that from????

 

Hey! There's a carnival in town; we'll go on a later date.

 

You're in for some "fun" with NIGHTMARE ALLEY!!!

 

Frank, I see a field....you're walking through it....there's a little dog by your side....your mother is waiting for you at the gate....

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FrenchieGirl -- So what did you think of it? Your comments and/or review, s'il vous plait.

 

I have to read up on ALL the Nightmare Alley threads that sprung up like BronxGirl posts here in the noir forum. Professor Dewey still haunts these grounds, so I gotta read what has been said already and then debunk those theories. Okay, I'm kidding about the "debunking" part.

 

I will say that I liked the film a lot. It's in my top 25 for noir but I'm not sure about my top 20 yet.

 

Frank, I see a field....you're walking through it....there's a little dog by your side....your mother is waiting for you at the gate....

 

That's me! What else can you tell me, oh wise one?

 

Okay, so what's the "chocolate-covered cherries" quote from? I decided not to cheat and look it up.

 

By the way, I've got Leave Her to Heaven (it's Gene for me) playing in the background right now and poor Danny just drowned. Ahh, that Ellen, she's always there to lend a helping hand.

 

Here's a Nightmare Alley grab:

 

 

nalley5.jpg

 

 

It's always nice to know that a man's wife is with him all the way.

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Good lord, Frank, you mean there are 24 other noirs you like better than NIGHTMARE ALLEY!? Well, I suppose it's possible.

 

Am I gonna have to stand up in front of the class and name 20 more noirs that I like, Prof? I may be able to do it. Keep in mind, I LOVE noirs like Decoy. I'm a sucker for the male-female relationship noirs. Nightmare Alley does feature this, but the film is about crookedness and greed... and its different faces. Who's worse, a Carny scammer, a religious scammer, a business scammer, a psychology scammer? Hmmm. I wonder.

 

The look and feel of the film are as noir as noir gets. That's what's going to eventually jump the film up my list as time moves on. I'm someone who needs to see a film a few times before I start to settle in on where it ranks for me. After my first viewing, I have Nightmare Alley near my top 20.

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Frank Grimes - Prof. Ken orders you stay after class and write an essay " Why Professor Ken is Correct When He Lists NIGHTMARE ALLEY as the Greatest Noir of ALL TIME.. Failure to follow THE PARTY LINE will require that you be given an " F " for your Noir College Course Grade and Banishment to Crawford, Texas.

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Professor Ken -- Prof. Ken orders you stay after class and write an essay " Why Professor Ken is Correct When He Lists NIGHTMARE ALLEY as the Greatest Noir of ALL TIME.. Failure to follow THE PARTY LINE will require that you be given an " F " for your Noir College Course Grade and Banishment to Crawford, Texas.

 

I figured I'd hear about this from you, since Nightmare Alley is #1 for you. So are you sending me to Noirtanamo for some A Clockwork Orange-like treatments?

 

I think you professors are just drunk on Nightmare Alley and are afraid I'm gonna steal your "code." That's what happens to you vets. You get paranoid and lose your edge. That's NOT going to happen to me. I'm young and full of ideas. You'll see.

 

All this torture is not going to force me to like Nightmare Alley as much as you guys. Haven't you heard of the Geekneva Convention? Okay, I'll bite the head off the chicken soon enough. I'll talk. I'll talk. Give me a day or two to clean up my cage.

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Bronxgirl,

I love your dialogue with your Mom. Thanks for the follow-up on her take on Nightmare Alley? How did her hair come out? Did she also stop by for a visit with Mr. Kong and Ms. Wray? Have you two ever considered a career as tag team film reviewers?

 

Do you think that you inherited your love for classic movies from your mother?

 

Inquiring minds want to know. Thanks in advance for any shared domestic insights you might share with us. You and your Mom are priceless. ;)

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Hi, Moira -- Have you two ever considered a career as tag team film reviewers?

 

I don't think my funny bone could take it. I've never seen Bronxie frustrated on this board, well, with the exception of the computery technology dealies, but I know her frustration levels would probably soar with moms as her sidekick. My imagination is running wild with laughter.

 

How about a Bronxie & Moira Show? What an interesting show that would be. I'd love to hear the Moira horror reviews. Talk about priceless.

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moira, Mom and I are taking our show on the road.

 

I let her view Half Pint and Joe, the Milkman, and she couldn't quite get why it was so disturbing, because her generation wasn't brought up with irony and post-modernism. All she said of it was, "This is what you wanted me to see? A stupid puppet? I have to go now".

 

Egos fall by the wayside when Mom opens her mouth. She could probably deflate Michael Flatley in two seconds (and we all know how big HIS head is) "What, you think YOU created Riverdance?"

 

Her hair came out fine, which is a mystery to me, as she colors it practically every two weeks. Why it hasn't fallen out already is beyond me, but she's got follicles of steel. Mom also has a shall I say extreme obsession with hair. This really does spill over into movies, and I ain't kiddin'. Whenever we watch a movie or t.v. together, she'll comment on a woman's hair. The person could be the victim of a crime, lying on the ground, and Mom will say, "That's really an unflattering style" and I'll be forced to reply, "Mom, where she's going. it won't really matter anymore"

 

We have practically nothing in common (she likes the usual classic films, but can't be bothered with what I love most, which is mainly all the "B" stuff) Her opinion on KING KONG: "How many times can you hear Fay Wray scream?" Me: "But Mom, this is a classic film". Mom: "I don't want to watch a gorilla doing those things". Me: "Doing what things? Being romantic and sacrificing his life for his lady love?" Mom: "What? He's just an animal, he doesn't know what he's doing". Doo doo doo doo....

 

I'm salivating over the first October horror line-up this Friday. I know Mom will just yawn and color her hair again.

 

Message was edited by: Bronxgirl48

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And I almost forgot THIS exchange:

 

Mom: "I was looking up at the clouds the other day, and one looked like Bill Clinton."

Me; "How could you tell?"

Mom: "It had this thick nose."

Me: "Maybe it was W.C. Fields?"

Mom: "No, when I saw it I just knew it was Bill Clinton"

Me: "Ooo-kay...."

 

Message was edited by: Bronxgirl48

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STOP IT! I'm laughing too much.

 

Whenever we watch a movie or t.v. together, she'll comment on a woman's hair. The person could be the victim of a crime, lying on the ground, and Mom will say, "That's really an unflattering style" and I'll be forced to reply, "Mom, where she's going. it won't really matter anymore"

 

Now that's a...

 

 

 

kong1.jpg

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I'm salivating over the first October horror line-up this Friday.

 

Maybe if I sing you a song, you'll stop drooling, BG.

 

zombie1.jpg

 

 

You're right, this Friday's line-up on TCM is LOADED. It's hard to top four Lewton/Tourneur flicks in primetime on a Friday night in October.

 

 

Well, maybe if I saw this, too:

 

peanuts1.jpg

 

 

 

I better get to my Nightmare Alley term paper. I'm also way past due on my Vertigo paper, too. That's what happens when I run into you on the board.

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AH, Sir Lancelot and The Great Pumpkin!!!! LOVE THEM!!!

 

(love those Charlie Brown specials; I watch Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Xmas)

 

Yes, I'm waiting for your NIGHTMARE ALLEY dissertation but that's okay, take your time!

 

Yeah, Mom's a scream.

 

Message was edited by: Bronxgirl48

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