Man... What a movie!
Ya know, tonight I was turned into a little bitty kid again.
The first movie star that I knew EVERYTHING about was Lon Chaney Sr. I remember, the first book that I actually remember being handed, and then flipping through the pages of, was a tiny sliver of a book... Blue cover, and it was called THE MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES.
And it’s subject was, of course, Lon Chaney Sr. I remember pouring my eyes over the cryptic symbols alongside the pictures wishing I knew what they meant, because I knew that the pictures were of a single man... Who could seemingly become anyone.
As a small child there were only two cinematic gods in my world. They were Bruce Lee and Lon Chaney Sr. I decided early on that there was no way on this earth I could do the things Bruce Lee could do, so I instead turned my young eyes at the spider. Oops, don’t step on him ya know?
I remember asking my father about the pictures and him telling me that I can’t see those movies. Not because I was too young, but because they didn’t exist anymore. So, it was with great agony that I learned that I would never in my life see LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT... And I remember desperately wanting to see that film. In fact... I still want to see it. And I always shall desire to see that caped sharp toothed madman.
In fact if I could pick any single film, over any other that I wish to see that I still haven’t... it would be LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT.
For years my dream was to be THE NEW LON CHANEY. I mean... seriously... how cool would that be? I mean, becoming anything and everything. All with the help of this little kit... a wooden makeup box filled with magic.
Just remembering this Harry, this version of myself where it was magic... I feel a sense of loss. A bit of regret. You see, it was Lon Chaney that first made me wonder “How’d they do that?” I found out. In fact, since then, I’ve never stopped trying to find out. I dig and dig. An insatiable curiousity, whilst hoping that I was not a feline sub-species.
Flash to about 6 years ago. I was at Forrest Ackerman’s house in Karloffornia and I found myself in a room... A magic room, and there... Right there... was Lon Chaney’s makeup box.
I folded my legs up underneath me, and I scooted right up to it. I’d seen pictures of this... magic box my entire life. Ya know... it’s kinda like watching The Wizard Of Oz and wishing to hold those Ruby Slippers. Or Citizen Kane and being able to hold Rosebud. But more so.
Right there in front of me... I could feel the energy the box gave off. A spark erupted in me as I touched the box. Imagining Lon going to an extras call... Box in hand... reading the desired positions, and becoming the perfect cast member.
I opened the box, and then the smell of putty hit me. Still, after all these years... the box has his makeup. I touched the putty. I held up some of the grease paint sticks. The kinetic electricity... the stored memories of the past... and the meaning of the objects within... shook me to my very core.
When Belloq motioned to the Ark and said.... “THIS ISSSSSS HISTORY” That. That was what I felt. That feeling, that excitement.
All of that being said, I had never seen THE UNKNOWN. I’ve never had the opportunity. The chance to embrace it. And tonight when I went to the Alamo Drafthouse, I expected to be surrounded by my fellow lovers of Chaney...
But... they were nowhere to be seen. What’s wrong? What on earth could keep a real live Film Geek from the embrace of Chaney?
Another film? It’ll still be there next week. The loving arms of you significant other? No excuse. If they are not willing to go see a Lon Chaney movie. Divorce them. Banish them from your sight.
Now there is another chance for you. Tonight (Thursday, June 3rd) you have a chance to see it at both 7pm and 9:45pm. Both times they will be accompanied by THE GYPSIES. A band that plays note perfect music for this film.
What? What is THE UNKNOWN about?
Well, I’ll tell you. It got me thinking about the lengths one would go through for love. How much would I give of myself. What would I put myself through for the one I love. What obsticles would I leap over? What road blocks would I drive through?
You see, in this film... Lon Chaney loves Joan Crawford with every ounce of his being. He’s an armless gypsy circus freak, and he loves her. But... It’s hard for a man with no arms. There are of course complications, but ultimately this is a Beauty and the Beast story and....
Man, this is good. First of all, you will simply marvel at Chaney’s adept use of his feet and legs to be a normal man. When he massages his brow, or toasts a celebration or lights a cigarette. Well... I’m in awe.
You see, I know that what he did... He did. No digital trickery. As a result, it’s kinda like watching someone really walk on water. You can tell the difference. Or at least I perceive a difference.
The film is a bit of a melodrama... but what the heck is wrong with that. Chaney is so effortlessly expressive. I’d bet on his furled brow over Brando’s or James Dean’s any day of the week.
And ya know.... As I watched this film and listened to the fantastic music of THE GYPSIES.... My mind thought... Man... I want to see Tim Burton make movies like Todd Browning did! And lastly.... Go take a look at a picture of Lon Chaney Sr.... and go look at that HELLBOY pre-production image. Don’t ya think Chaney looks a bit like HELLBOY? I do. Scary.
I think I’m going back again tomorrow night. I can’t imagine not seeing this film ever again. It doesn’t come on video (that I know of) and it’s not likely to play theaters again real soon.... Sometimes... ya just have to see movies that are real reel magic.
Just imagine if a Rick Baker or a Stan Winston only did their makeup... on themselves. As it is, they are cool as hell, but man.... That’d be awesome.
Well.... I’m sleepy... It’s 5am, batteries are low... Perhaps I’ll see you tonight at the Alamo Drafthouse. Incredible.