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Dark Comedy Flux


Kay
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Dark comedy is a genre that seems to depend somewhat on perception. There are some films that I consider dark comedies that others might consider nothing short of disturbing psychological dramas, causing me to receive the occasional sideways glance. Apparently I'm a person of questionable moral values because I'm not always moved by subject matter. There are some things that some people simply do not consider humorous, regardless of how it's handled. I am more of the mind set that just about anything can be funny, depending.

 

A film like Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), even though it's about multiple murder, is kind of hard to see as dark at all because of how overtly humorous it is at such a high energy pace. I've always felt that for a comedy to be truly dark it has to make you wince as well as laugh- or achieve this rare reaction something between horse-laughing and screaming in shock. The purest examples of the genre, to me, can turn horror and hilarity into one harmonious force of emotion.

 

Now I feel I must use an example. I've never heard anyone but me describe the The Collector (1965) as a dark comedy, but to consider it as one, I believe, raises it to a greater height of brilliance. While not continuously funny, there are some moments of real comic genius that were clearly intentional. I think the exchanges between kidnapper and kidnapee are generally funny, but their argument about Catcher in the Rye and the Picasso painting strike me as especially humorous. And the scene where a neighbor comes to the door while she is upstairs in the bath escalates quickly into a horribly awkward situation of hilarious chaos. It couldn't have been made funnier if kidnapping had been the subject of a Fawlty Towers episode.

 

So... am I getting any sideways glances? I can do worse.

 

How about you?

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Re: title of ur thread

 

Didja mean "FLIX" ?

 

Nope. I didn't know what to call the thread, so I used the word "flux" to confuse, as well as illustrate my point about the changeable nature of dark comedies; from the barely dark and very funny, to the very dark and... also very funny in a more exclusive way. It's like a sliding scale. Sorry if it's not proper English.

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You know what your post reminds me of, Kay?

 

I used to belong to a Hitchcock fan club on yahoogroups where the founder of the club and I started a conversation where we would try to outdo each other in references to the macabre sense of humour Hitch showed in his movies in regards to "punishing" anyone in the group for not knowing something about a Hitchcock film.

 

He then shared with me a private email from one of the regular members who called both of us psychotic for looking at Hitchcock films that way.

 

It made me wonder -did this women really understand Hitchcock movies at all????????????

 

We were just being clever at being silly, we thought.

 

 

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I like some dark comedies.  WHERE'S POPPA? (1970) has all sorts of gags and all of them I can recall from the film are in bad taste.  The movie opens with a song mentioning Ovaltine if memory serves.    

 

     There was a 1998 dark comedy movie with Christian Slater and Cameron Diaz and I rather enjoyed called VERY BAD THINGS.  I believe the movie was filmed before the hit THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY with Diaz and released after.  Maybe the studio thought it too dark and held it back for 2 years?  I dunno.  But it's certainly an accurate title!  Lots of very bad things happen and some of them are very funny. 

 

       

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I feel that it is very much a matter of perception.

 

I am sorry to say that I can think of no examples from movies at the moment but there is what I believe is wonderful example in television program which I have watched of recent. 

 

It is: "Out of Gas" episode of: Firefly. Series is set on small spacecraft. One of the passengers is: Shepherd Book. He is as a missionary monk who spent many years in an abbey and only recently came out into the world. One of the passengers is: River Tam. She was child prodigy who was subjected to extreme psychological meddling by government. She is by this very innocent, graceful and beautiful young lady with moments of intense psychosis.

 

It is in this episode that engine of the ship is damaged and they are drifting with no hope of rescue. Air purification and other: 'life support' systems can not work when engine is not running.

 

River finds Shepherd Book sitting alone reading his Bible.

 

River: "Don’t be afraid." That’s what it says. "Don’t be afraid."
Shepherd Book: Yes.
River: But you are afraid.
Shepherd Book: Yes.
River: You’re afraid we’re going to run out of air. That we’ll die gasping. But we won’t. That’s not going to happen. We’ll freeze to death first.
 
I find this to be truly and absolutely hilarious! She is being very empathetic because she sees in: Bible only illogic and contradiction but she is understanding of why he turned to it for comfort. She is in her own innocent and very intelligent manner attempting to comfort him further by allaying his greatest fear at that moment. 
 
It is to me a superb: "Yeah, but..." moment. 
 
I say that dark humour may be matter of perception because others might not find that exchange to be as hilarious as I find it.
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I feel that it is very much a matter of perception.

 

I am sorry to say that I can think of no examples from movies at the moment but there is what I believe is wonderful example in television program which I have watched of recent. 

 

It is: "Out of Gas" episode of: Firefly. Series is set on small spacecraft. One of the passengers is: Shepherd Book. He is as a missionary monk who spent many years in an abbey and only recently came out into the world. One of the passengers is: River Tam. She was child prodigy who was subjected to extreme psychological meddling by government. She is by this very innocent, graceful and beautiful young lady with moments of intense psychosis.

 

It is in this episode that engine of the ship is damaged and they are drifting with no hope of rescue. Air purification and other: 'life support' systems can not work when engine is not running.

 

River finds Shepherd Book sitting alone reading his Bible.

 

River: "Don’t be afraid." That’s what it says. "Don’t be afraid."
Shepherd Book: Yes.
River: But you are afraid.
Shepherd Book: Yes.
River: You’re afraid we’re going to run out of air. That we’ll die gasping. But we won’t. That’s not going to happen. We’ll freeze to death first.
 
I find this to be truly and absolutely hilarious! She is being very empathetic because she sees in: Bible only illogic and contradiction but she is understanding of why he turned to it for comfort. She is in her own innocent and very intelligent manner attempting to comfort him further by allaying his greatest fear at that moment. 
 
It is to me a superb: "Yeah, but..." moment. 
 
I say that dark humour may be matter of perception because others might not find that exchange to be as hilarious as I find it.

 

That reminds me of a scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where Sundance refuses to jump first or let Butch jump first either into the rapid river from a step mountain jump.  They are running from the law.

 

Cassidy asks Sundance why and finally he answers: I CAN'T SWIM!

 

Cassidy laughs uproariously: THE FALL WILL PROBABLY KILL YA!

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I love dark comedies.

 

One of my favorites is Heathers.  The synopsis of the film doesn't sound funny: A couple of teenagers decide to plot the murders of their popular classmates and make it look like the classmate committed suicide.  But the film is so over the top with the situations and with the dialogue, that it's more funny than anything else.

 

I'll agree that Arsenic and Old Lace is an excellent example of a dark comedy.  There is nothing funny about two women poisoning men who they deem lonely and feel that they're doing them a favor.  Cary Grant is what makes this film.  If he wasn't so over the top in his facial expressions and gesturing, then this film could easily take a more sinister tone.  Add in the brother who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt and the other brother whose latest plastic surgery makes him resemble Boris Karloff and the hilarious Peter Lorre who seems to be funny in even the darkest of movies, and you've got a hit comedy.

 

There's also a difference between dark films that are intentionally funny and films that intended to be serious but are unintentionally hilarious. 

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I love dark comedies.

 

One of my favorites is Heathers.  The synopsis of the film doesn't sound funny: A couple of teenagers decide to plot the murders of their popular classmates and make it look like the classmate committed suicide.  But the film is so over the top with the situations and with the dialogue, that it's more funny than anything else.

 

I'll agree that Arsenic and Old Lace is an excellent example of a dark comedy.  There is nothing funny about two women poisoning men who they deem lonely and feel that they're doing them a favor.  Cary Grant is what makes this film.  If he wasn't so over the top in his facial expressions and gesturing, then this film could easily take a more sinister tone.  Add in the brother who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt and the other brother whose latest plastic surgery makes him resemble Boris Karloff and the hilarious Peter Lorre who seems to be funny in even the darkest of movies, and you've got a hit comedy.

 

There's also a difference between dark films that are intentionally funny and films that intended to be serious but are unintentionally hilarious. 

 

The most famous example, I think, of what was not only meant to be a serious movie but also a scary film that is unintentionally funny is Ed Wood's Plan Nine From Outer Space. 

 

I've never seen Heathers.

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That reminds me of a scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where Sundance refuses to jump first or let Butch jump first either into the rapid river from a step mountain jump.  They are running from the law.

 

Cassidy asks Sundance why and finally he answers: I CAN'T SWIM!

 

Cassidy laughs uproariously: THE FALL WILL PROBABLY KILL YA!

 

 

That is very much the humour! I love that scene. 

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One of my favorites is Heathers.  The synopsis of the film doesn't sound funny: A couple of teenagers decide to plot the murders of their popular classmates and make it look like the classmate committed suicide.  But the film is so over the top with the situations and with the dialogue, that it's more funny than anything else.

 

 

I love that movie very much! Teen angst with a body count.

 

I love also items which they place in woods by bodies of football players to indicate that it was mutual suicide. I will not provide spoiler for those who have not watched yet the movie but I believe it is perfect for attitudes of such a community.

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I love that movie very much! Teen angst with a body count.

 

I love also items which they place in woods by bodies of football players to indicate that it was mutual suicide. I will not provide spoiler for those who have not watched yet the movie but I believe it is perfect for attitudes of such a community.

 

The scene at almost the end of the film, showing Winona Ryder with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth is one of my favorite scenes in the film and definitely one of the most memorable cinematic scenes (for me) of the 1980s.

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'The Loved One' (1965) and 'Little Murders' (1971) are two standouts in the realm of dark comedies. 'Eating Raoul' (1982) also comes to mind quickly.

 

One of my very favorite dark comedies is the now almost forgotten 'Neighbors' (1981) starring Ackroyd and Belushi. That movie is about a mysterious couple who do a complete and unrelenting mind*** on their boring nobody neighbor after moving in next door.

 

As far as dark comedy goes, there are innumerable horror movie examples, almost to a point where "horror" and "dark comedy" are inseparable genres.

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Ealing was always good at the dark comedies, like "Kind Hearts and Coronets" with the insidious goal of the lead in knocking off everyone in front of him in the inheritance line.

 

Brits seem to have dark comedic tendencies in their blood, which is why I love their movies. Hitchcock as someone has said always had that dark humor. Anyone who would give Tippi Hedren's daughter [Melanie Griffith] as a child a doll of her mother, in a coffin box has a very dark and twisted sense of humor for sure.

 

I've seen "Heathers" and loved it. Also "The Loved One" but the book is much better.

 

 

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Favorites:

 

"Murder, He Says" (1945)--Fred MacMurray runs into a family of murderous hillbillies.

 

"A Foreign Affair" (1948)--Billy Wilder Post WW II comedy--Marlene Dietrich is brilliant.

 

"Ace in the Hole" (1951)--"Kneeling bags my nylons."--Jan Sterlings' character.

 

"The Trouble With Harry" (1955)--Something keeps reappearing.

 

'Lord Love A Duck" (1966)--A comedy of Greed.

 

"Pretty Poison (1968)--Anthony Perkins and Tuesday Weld are near perfect.

 

"Hammersmith Is Out" (1972)--"Trailer trash" version of "Faust".

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Ealing was always good at the dark comedies, like "Kind Hearts and Coronets" with the insidious goal of the lead in knocking off everyone in front of him in the inheritance line.

 

Brits seem to have dark comedic tendencies in their blood, which is why I love their movies. Hitchcock as someone has said always had that dark humor. Anyone who would give Tippi Hedren's daughter [Melanie Griffith] as a child a doll of her mother, in a coffin box has a very dark and twisted sense of humor for sure.

 

I've seen "Heathers" and loved it. Also "The Loved One" but the book is much better.

THE WRONG BOX is another of my favourites, full of British dark humour.

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Another film who's humor seems to escape some people is Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)- perhaps because the dirty realism of it makes it uncomfortable. But then, it's the discomfort that makes it really dark. Also, in this film the humor is made within the context of the film itself- which is to say it is to make the characters in the movie laugh, if not necessarily the viewer. Still, it is a viciously witty domestic argument. They crack me up every time.

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Another film who's humor seems to escape some people is Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)- perhaps because the dirty realism of it makes it uncomfortable. But then, it's the discomfort that makes it really dark. Also, in this film the humor is made within the context of the film itself- which is to say it is to make the characters in the movie laugh, if not necessarily the viewer. Still, it is a viciously witty domestic argument. They crack me up every time.

Yes, I find the movie very uncomfortable in its realism.  This movie is great example of a famous movie I heard about all my life and had been avoiding until I was older to see it (wish I would have done that with Zorba The Greek but sadly I saw it when I was still in my 20s and the widow's fate had me crying for hours). 

 

I finally broke down and watched it after Mike Nichols died and it aired on TCM as part of a tribute to him. 

 

I can see where I might laugh nervously if I had been one of the couple who comes to visit in a way that people in the obedience study everyone who takes psychology learns about where a person in a white gown tells you to keep on increasing the volume of electricity to zap the person who has stopped responding and you think is dead (actually it is rigged, there is no electricity  and the person chosen to be electrocuted is a confederate of the researcher). 

 

I'm not sure I would watch it a second time.  But I did cross it off of my famous movies I should see at least once list.

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Another film who's humor seems to escape some people is Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)- perhaps because the dirty realism of it makes it uncomfortable. But then, it's the discomfort that makes it really dark. Also, in this film the humor is made within the context of the film itself- which is to say it is to make the characters in the movie laugh, if not necessarily the viewer. Still, it is a viciously witty domestic argument. They crack me up every time.

 

I loved this movie.  I would watch it again.  Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton's fight was so over the top and I loved when they went off to the bar and Taylor and George Segal danced the night away.

 

My only real quandary in this film was that I couldn't decide if I found Sandy Dennis annoying or not.

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I loved this movie.  I would watch it again.  Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton's fight was so over the top and I loved when they went off to the bar and Taylor and George Segal danced the night away.

 

My only real quandary in this film was that I couldn't decide if I found Sandy Dennis annoying or not.

 

Trust me here, Speedy. You DID find Sandy Dennis, with her nasality little whiny voice, "annoying" in almost every movie you ever saw her in!

 

(...sorry...I guess I was projecting here, huh) ;)

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