Volume 16, Issue 1 / January 2012

Powell & Pressburger (and Art Cinema Horror)

In this issue Offscreen traces unexpected pathways between ‘respectable’ high art cinema (in this case Fellini, Powell and Pressburger) and the ‘lowly’ horror genre. This is a subject I’ve thought about for a long while, especially in the works of Federico Fellini. Non-horror films have borrowed imagery and tropes from the horror genre for a long while, for example, Meet Me in St.Louis (1944) and Bigger than Life, 1956, both have intense scenes that produce levels of frisson that go beyond their respective genre. The opening piece on Fellini attempts something new, a “visual essay” relying mainly on frame grabs from many films. The next three essays shift the focus to the great British director/producer/writer team Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, with the first essay by (first-time writer) Adam Bagatavicius picking up the theme of ‘horror’ in non-horror in Black Narcissus. Up next is David Hanley’s essay on the thematic similarities between Powell & Pressburger’s I Know Where I’m Going and Black Narcissus (the transformative experience of encounters with exotic lands by the female protagonists). Paul Salmon continues his ongoing examination of Criterion’s Powell & Pressburger’s DVD/BD releases with an analysis of A Canterbury Tales. Salmon analyzes both the particulars of the Criterion DVD release but reasons that as a time piece of Britain during the War, it also remains potently relevant to today’s post- 9/11 reality, where technology and human advancements always proceed with a dark shadow formed by a culture of fear. The final piece unites the issues’ dual themes of horror and British cinema, by enthusiastically endorsing the recent revival of Britain’s most famous horror brand name, Hammer Films, with the recent Gothic horror film Woman in Black. I’ll leave you with two images that suggest the interplay between art cinema and horror, from I Know Where I’m Going and Mario Bava’s Mask of Satan. (Donato Totaro, ed.):

Catriona (Pamela Brown) as Joan’s (Wendy Hiller) double and Katia Vajda, Princess Asa Vajda’s double.

Introduction scenes of ‘doubles’ in I Know Where I’m Going, 1945 & Mask of Satan, 1960

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