Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|The Devil Daniel Webster - Criterion Collection|
Actors: Edward Arnold, Walter Huston, Jane Darwell, Simone Simon, Gene Lockhart
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
Stephen Vincent Benet's timeless 1937 short story gets the red-carpet treatment on Criterion's feature-packed DVD of The Devil & Daniel Webster. William Dieterle's inspired film remains the classic it always was, proving t... more »
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CREEPY AND EXCELLENT!
Jon | NY | 12/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've just completed viewing this film on TCM for the third time. I'm sorry to say how long it took me to get interested - I had assumed it would be another cute Golden Age Hollywood exercise.
Wow - was I wrong. I have viewed very few films of such magnificient eerieness, this film has such an unwholesome quality about it until Ma Stone or Webster speaks. It permeates almost every frame of the picture, much more so than "Rosemary's Baby" or "The Exorcist" attempted to later.
It is difficult to pinpoint the source of this unwholesome impression - I am pretty hard-boiled where horror films are concerned. To a large degree it is the deep background which, although never particularly realistic in films from this time period due to non-location filming, not only seems especially unreal but also cavernous - as though Jabez is in hell already. Lighting certainly plays a major factor here.
It's unwholesome feel is also directly linked to it's surrealist qualities, qualities that are later mimicked by filmmakers like David Lynch (the crying infant Daniel/the "baby" in "Eraserhead"), even the ghostly faces in the window before Jabez's party seem to be the inspriation for the faces in the ship's screen in the Star Trek episode "The Mark of Gideon". The use of soft focus at differing points of each frame helps here.
Especially noteworthy is the party scene wherein mobs of demonic ghosts grab at party victuals and squeeze them into a grotesque mess, and where Belle dances with the corpse of Miser Stevens.
The least eerie scene in the film is the finale in contrast with the slow corruption Jabez undergoes throughout the rest, a process the viewer finds themselves initimately enduring.
I hardly have to strain to credit the wonderful score by Bernard Herrmann nor then over the top, yet so satanically sincere, portrayal of Mr. Scratch by Walter Huston - these are common knowledge!
I also wonder if Orson Welles had Simone Simon in mind when he cast Romy Schneider in the role of the Advocate's seductive nurse in his version of Franz Kafka's "The Trial". The looks, manners and 'succubi' roles of both are quite similar.
Overall one of the most chilling films I've had the pleasure of viewing and I'm sorry it took as long to get around to it as it did.