Thursday, 8 November 2012

An Abomination on the Silver Sheet


It's a widely held critical opinion that Tod Browning was unable to adapt to the coming of sound in the 1930s. It seems to me to be a fallacy that has unfortunately become general wisdom, and arose from the desire to denigrate Browning as a director after the scandal of Freaks. I have written in defence of Browning's skills as a sound-era director in the latest Bright Lights Film Journal. To read the article go here

2 comments:

Wes M said...

An absolutely brilliant piece of writing Jon (including the expert shot deconstruction of Freaks) and at last a badly needed defense of Tod Browning's place in this transitional era of Cinema. I totally agree that Dracula has been much maligned over the years - it's become fashionable to take this classic down a peg or two with accusations of staginess and so on. Spanish Dracula while a worthy film has been vastly overrated in my opinion, as you rightly pointed out critics seem to latch on to a few showstopping technical sequences, but the film as a whole has little of that otherworldy flavour of the Browning film. I was especially delighted with your positioning of Browning as the auteur of Freaks, given the notorious delineation of duties at the film factories (where a director was not expected to cut his own work), it's very satisfying to know that Browning was chiefly responsilble for the film's tidal force of power (so much so the film remained officially banned by the Irish censors well into the 90's). I wonder Jon do we dare to dream that a print of London After Midnight might surface one day - one never knows ! And finally, you're looking very professorial in that pic I must say !

Jon T said...

Thanks, Wes. I wanted to throw in my tuppen'th in defense of Browning, as he is a director I have grown to admire greatly while studying him for my book. In terms of rehabilitating Browning's Dracula, there is a superb and exhaustive article to that end by Gary D. Rhodes which includes an in depth comparison between Browning's and the Spanish version, that deflates many of the claims critics are making about the 'superiority' of the latter.

http://www.monstersfromthevault.com/CuriousUndeadLifeDracula.pdf

As for London After Midnight, there's bound to be a print hidden away somewhere in the world, just waiting to be discovered...