Monday, 31 October 2011

Forties Fear Mongering

Based on a short story by Pushkin, The Queen of Spades is an exquisite fable about the consequences of avarice. An impoverished Russian officer buys a book which reveals the occult secret behind an aging Countess' wealth and embarks on a convoluted plan to gain the power for himself and unsurprisingly things don't go smoothly. Lavishly staged, beautifully shot and with a carefully paced script the film's success is sealed by an impressively intense central performance by Anton Walbrook whose portrayal of the character's descent from desperation to obsession and finally into madness give the film it's emotional punch.

The Beast with Five Fingers is not quite as successful as Spades but is still an entertaining slice of vintage horror. A famous pianist, retired in a plush Italian villa, carks it and strange, ghostly antics follow and soon enough his house guests, hanging around for the will to be read, start turning up dead too. When the local policeman rolls up his investigation leads him to conclude the pianist's paw, now missing from the corpse, is the only possible culprit. Though it's a bit creaky on the script front and the cinematography is a workmanlike it does have a brilliantly demented performance by Peter Lorre as an astrology researcher at it's core and it's more than enough to keep things ticking along.

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