August 17th, 2006

krazy koati

I'm looking through you

Turner Classic Movies recently showed the 1941 comedy The Body Disappears that I imagine you never heard of. I only knew of it because a dozen years ago, exploring the new Cardiff Movie Database (they were changing the name to the Internet Movie Database), I looked up Edward Everett Horton, fracturer of fairy tales for Jay Ward, and this was one of the few movies they had listed.

The Body Disappears features Horton as Professor Reginald X Shotesbury, who invents an invisibility potion in trying to bring the dead to life, and why aren't there more movies about invisible zombies? I remembered the movie because I turned it into a joke for the campus paper. We had a photograph of the room where the student government was meeting, after a few people had set their bags down and gone for drinks or whatnot, so it was a picture of all the signs of a meeting with no meeting. I did some Photoshop work to add a fake film grain and scratches to it. I know these days you can add fake film grain and scratches by hitting flower-8, but back then you had to do some clever tricks to age a picture, and I was proud of my work, which we called a still from this movie none of the readers ever heard of. So I'm delighted to actually see it.

As for whether you should see the movie, eh. It's not a particularly imaginative invisible-man comedy, and while there are talented comic actors in here, it puts Willie Best in as Willie, the cowardly black assistant to Shotesbury. He has good reason to be afraid of his boss, who wants to make him the first human subject of the revitalization potion (Willie reasonably asks, ``Couldn't I be the second?''), but the stereotype adds awkwardness to all his many scenes. The movie's generally amusing, but stalls about three-quarters of the way in. Shotesbury doing parlor tricks (``Suppose in a baseball game the visitors score one run every inning and the home team two; what is the score when the game ends?'' ``How can you drop an egg above a hard table three feet without it breaking?'') to the Trustees is a sign of too few script pages.

It has a past-is-another-world moment, where Shotesbury feigns giving Willie a prescription for his mother, recommending she take licorice. I have vague memories of hearing of licorice given medically, but that's the first time I saw that idea in the wild.

Trivia: In 1741 French King Louis XV appointed Jacques de Vaucanson, who had created a mechanical duck capable of `eating' pellets of food and `excreting' pellets of waste, to be the kingdom's Inspector of Silk Manufacture. Source: Living Dolls, Gaby Wood.

Currently Reading: The Spanish War, GJA O'Toole.