Tag Archives: Robert Louis Stevenson

The Body Snatcher (1945, Robert Wise)

The Body Snatcher has half an excellent foundation. Nineteenth century medical genius Henry Daniell can’t escape his past associations with a shady cabman (Boris Karloff). These past associations being of the grave robbing variety. There’s also Daniell’s romance with his maid (Edith Atwater), which humanizes the character throughout the first half, since Daniell’s supposed to be a scary smart doctor guy.

Sadly, the film primarily focuses on Russell Wade as one of Daniell’s students. Wade is occasionally all right–and always earnest–but he’s simply not very good. Some of the problems come from Philip MacDonald and Val Lewton’s script. It’s too obvious and expository. And the story of a little girl who can’t walk (Sharyn Moffett) and her fetching mother (Rita Corday) would be annoying even if Moffett wasn’t awful. Of course Wade is taken with Corday, but the script doesn’t give them enough time. Though more time would have just made for worse scenes.

The best scenes are those with Karloff or Daniell–the ones with them together are absolutely amazing. Without Wade, and even with him to some degree, the men are alter egos, which gives Snatcher a whole lot of depth it otherwise would’ve have.

As for Wise’s direction, he often does very well. Robert De Grasse’s photography is great and the pair come up with some great ways to establish the Edinburgh setting while still shooting economically on a lot. Sometimes, however, Wise is far more overt than need be.

Snatcher should be much better.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Robert Wise; screenplay by Philip MacDonald and Val Lewton, based on the story by Robert Louis Stevenson; director of photography, Robert De Grasse; edited by J.R. Whittredge; music by Roy Webb; produced by Lewton; released by RKO Radio Pictures.

Starring Russell Wade (Donald Fettes), Henry Daniell (Dr. MacFarlane), Boris Karloff (Cabman John Gray), Rita Corday (Mrs. Marsh), Edith Atwater (Meg Cameron), Sharyn Moffett (Georgina Marsh), Donna Lee (Street Singer) and Bela Lugosi (Joseph).


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Muppet Treasure Island (1996, Brian Henson)

As a Muppet fan, the thing I miss most about Muppet Treasure Island is the Muppets. Oh, they’re around, but in neither of the film’s principal roles. Instead, it’s Tim Curry and Kevin Bishop–and their performances both have ups and downs.

But neither is wholly responsible–in Bishop’s case, the script changes his character quite a bit without reasonable impetus, and Curry seems to be missing directorial attention. So, while Bishop nonsensically abandons his friends to hang out with Curry, Curry is busy acting awkwardly around the Muppets. Maybe if Curry was really good with Bishop, it’d make up for the script failings or for Curry’s nonperformance with his Muppet costars, but he’s not. He’s better than he is with the Muppets, but he’s still performing like everything is a monologue and he’s got the stage to himself. It hurts Bishop’s performance too, especially near the end.

Some of that fault falls, clearly, on Henson. He’s not ready for a film of this complexity–the constant mix of Muppet and live action (versus Muppet Christmas Carol, which really only had Michael Caine)–not to mention some rather intricate effects shots. The effects come off as ambitious without being successful (John Fenner’s photography might be an accomplice).

It’s too bad because much of Treasure Island is fantastic. The songs are food, the main Muppet performances are great (the one-offs, created just for this film, not so much), the script is funny.

It’s just too human–not enough Muppet.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Brian Henson; screenplay by Jerry Juhl, Kirk R. Thatcher and James V. Hart, based on a novel by Robert Louis Stevenson; director of photography, John Fenner; edited by Michael Jablow; music by Hans Zimmer; production designer, Val Strazovec; produced by Martin G. Baker and Henson; released by Walt Disney Pictures.

Starring Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Jerry Nelson, Kevin Clash, Bill Barretta and Frank Oz as the Muppets.

Starring Tim Curry (Long John Silver), Kevin Bishop (Jim Hawkins), Billy Connolly (Billy Bones), Jennifer Saunders (Mrs. Bluberidge), Danny Blackner (Short Stack Stevens), Harry Jones (Easy Pete) and David Nicholls (Captain Flint).


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