Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Shape of Guillermo del Toro


Guillermo del Toro has made it clear in interviews that The Shape of Water, his offbeat retelling of The Creature from the Black Lagoon, is his "Fuck you" to white Christian Americans.  Imagine that, the Creature from the Black Lagoon Takes a Knee.  But the soggy fish tale does more than promote the hatred of white people.  The film, which depicts a sexual affair between a woman and a scaly green fish man, also serves as an endorsement of bestiality.  Sound like an unfair assessment?  Sound far-fetched?  Read on.


The film is never outright in its endorsements of racial hostility and bestiality, which the director charmingly disguises in fantasy tropes.  We need to peel away the fantasy tropes to find the weirdness and rancor beneath.


The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) is a film that touches upon "Beauty and the Beast" folklore.  But "Beauty and the Beast," itself, borrowed liberally from earlier stories.

An early woman-loves-animal story is the Greek mythology tale of the Minotaur.
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 8 - 11 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.):

Minos aspired to the throne [of Crete], but was rebuffed.  He claimed, however, that he had received the sovereignty from the gods, and to prove it he said that whatever he prayed for would come about.  So while sacrificing to Poseidon, he prayed for a bull to appear from the depths of the sea, and promised to sacrifice it upon its appearance.  And Poseidon did send up to him a splendid bull.  Thus Minos received the rule, but he sent the bull to his herds and sacrificed another. . . Poseidon was angry that the bull was not sacrificed, and turned it wild.  He also devised that Pasiphae [Minos' wife] should develop a lust for it.  In her passion for the bull she took on as her accomplice an architect named Daedalus. . . He built a wooden cow on wheels, . . skinned a real cow, and sewed the contraption into the skin, and then, after placing Pasiphae inside, set it in a meadow where the bull normally grazed. The bull came up and had intercourse with it, as if with a real cow.  Pasiphae gave birth to Asterius, who was called Minotaur.  He had the face of a bull, but was otherwise human. Minos, following certain oracular instructions, kept him confined and under guard in the labyrinth.  This labyrinth, which Daedalus built, was a "cage with convoluted flextions that disorders debouchment."
Let us look at a different sort of mixed coupling in "Cupid and Psyche," which was written by 2nd century Roman author Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis.  A god, Cupid, finds himself smitten by a beautiful mortal woman, Psyche.  Cupid manipulates the wind to sweep Psyche to a secluded valley, where the young woman finds a magnificent palace.  The palace is so beautiful that Psyche feels drawn to enter it.  Cupid remains unseen.   His voice echoes through the halls as the god invites Psyche to take up residence in the palace.  Psyche agrees.

Cupid continues to hide his identity.  Madaurensis wrote:
He came only in the hours of darkness and fled before the dawn of morning, but his accents were full of love, and inspired a like passion in her.  She often begged him to stay and let her behold him, but he would not consent.  On the contrary he charged her to make no attempt to see him, for it was his pleasure, for the best of reasons, to keep concealed.

"Why should you wish to behold me?" he said. "Have you any doubt of my love? Have you any wish ungratified?  If you saw me, perhaps you would fear me, perhaps adore me, but all I ask of you is to love me.  I would rather you would love me as an equal than adore me as a god."
Riley Winters of Ancient Origins wrote, "When allowing her two sisters to visit, they are jealous of her beautiful home and insist that Psyche's husband really is a monster and she owes it to herself to find out."  Psyche gazes upon Cupid as he sleeps.  He is awoken suddenly when wax from her candle drips onto his face.


Psyche must endure a series of trials to win back Cupid.  Fortunately, the story has a happy ending.
[Jupiter] pleaded the cause of the lovers so earnestly with [Cupid's mother] Venus that he won her consent.  On this he sent Mercury to bring Psyche up to the heavenly assembly, and when she arrived, handing her a cup of ambrosia, he said, "Drink this, Psyche, and be immortal; nor shall Cupid ever break away from the knot in which he is tied, but these nuptials shall be perpetual."
We are familiar with Disney's animated and live-action versions of "Beauty and the Beast."  Elizabeth Logan of Glamour Magazine wrote:
[A]s much as the new version of BATB [Beauty and the Beast] rewrites Belle to have personal agency, the original story was very much about young women — girls, really — being married off to old(er) men, who kept them in their castles and dressed them up and made them come down to dinner and. . . well, you know the rest. . . So much about the tale makes sense now, right?  To a girl of, say, 13, a man who has gone through puberty is basically a huge, scary, smelly beast. . . [Maria Tatar, professor of folklore and mythology at Harvard and editor of "Beauty and the Beast: Classic Tales About Animals, Brides, and Grooms From Around The World," explained,] "[T]he monster is a projection of our own anxieties.  We create these monsters, and then make peace with those monsters."
We often see this in horror movies.  An argument can be made that the shark in Jaws was a projection of Sheriff Brody's anxieties about the ocean.

A crisis develops in Beauty and the Beast's relationship.  Jealous sisters are again the source of the problem.  Wikipedia reports:
Her sisters are envious when they hear of her happy life at the castle, and, hearing that she must return to the Beast on a certain day, beg her to stay another day, even putting onion in their eyes to make it appear as though they are weeping.  They hope that the Beast will be angry with Beauty for breaking her promise and eat her alive.  Beauty's heart is moved by her sisters' false show of love, and she agrees to stay.
The Beast is devastated when Beauty abandons him.  Beauty returns to Beast when she learns he has fallen ill due to his broken heart.  Wikipedia reports:
Beauty weeps over the Beast, saying that she loves him. When her tears strike him, the Beast is transformed into the handsome prince from Beauty's dreams.  The Prince informs her that long ago a fairy turned him into a hideous beast after he refused to let her in from the rain and that only by finding true love, despite his ugliness, could the curse be broken.  He and Beauty are married and they live happily ever after together.

Fake tears divided the couple and real tears brought them back together.  The love of beautiful young woman proves in the end to be the beast's salvation.  The strange coupling was tied to a curse meant to deceive, punish and degrade much as had happened (albeit more vulgarly) in the tale of the queen and bull.

Horror films adopted the "beauty and beast" theme with The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and The Phantom of the Opera (1925).  But, unlike "Beauty and the Beast," a beastly man's love of a beautiful young woman does not inspire the love of the woman or lead to a happy ending.


The beauty in The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a gypsy girl, Esmeralda, and the beast is a bell ringer at the Notre Dame Cathedral, Quasimodo.  Wikipedia reports in its notes on the novel:
The deformed Quasimodo is described as "hideous" and a "creation of the devil."  He was born with a severe hunchback, and a giant wart that covers his left eye. . . Quasimodo is never loved by Esmeralda; although she recognizes his kindness toward her, she is nonetheless repulsed by his ugliness and terrified of him.  (In the 1982 television film version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, she kisses him goodbye at the end; something that does not occur in either the book, nor any other film version of the novel.)  He continues to watch over her and protect her regardless. . .
An important message of the book is that a person's true value is to be found in his character.  Wikipedia reports:
In the novel, [Quasimodo] symbolically shows Esmeralda the difference between himself and the shallow, superficial, self-centered, yet handsome Captain Phoebus with whom the girl has become infatuated.  He places two vases in her room: one is a beautiful crystal vase, yet broken and filled with dry, withered flowers; the other a humble pot, yet filled with beautiful, fragrant flowers.  Esmeralda takes the withered flowers from the crystal vase and presses them passionately on her heart.
Quasimodo is so in love with Esmeralda that he dedicates himself to protecting her against a lustful archdeacon and a murderous mob.  In the 1923 film, he is stabbed while saving Esmeralda's life.  Esmeralda does not dispense magical tears that heal Quasimodo's knife wound or cure his hunchback.  Quasimodo dies.


The Phantom of the Opera's hideously deformed madman Erik abducts opera star Christine, imprisons her in his underground lair, and demands that she marry him.  Erik wears a mask in Christine's presence.  He informs Christine that she is free to come and go as she pleases, but that she must never look behind his mask.  He, like Cupid, does not want the young woman to see his face knowing his appearance is likely to shock her.  Cupid is concerned that Psyche might fear him for his divine beauty.  Erik is concerned that Christine might fear him for his ghastly ugliness.

In the novel, Erik is subdued by Christine's tears.  Wikipedia reports:
When Erik is alone with Christine, he lifts his mask to kiss her on her forehead, and is given a kiss back.  Erik reveals that he has never received a kiss (not even from his own mother) nor has been allowed to give one and is overcome with emotion.  He and Christine then cry together and their tears "mingle."  Erik later says that he has never felt so close to another human being.
 

He frees Christine from his lair, but he misses her terribly and dies of heartbreak.  So, the novel does not end well for Erik, who dies as ugly and unwanted as ever.  The original preview cut of the film revealed Erik dying of heartbreak at his organ, but the audience found the ending to be less than rousing.  The studio filmed a new scene in which an angry mob chases Erik, beats him brutally, and drowns him in the River Seine.  A good mob beating is rousing if nothing else.  So, the love of a beautiful woman can leave a man fatally heartbroken, fatally stabbed, or fatally floating face-first down the River Seine. 

 
King Kong (1933) opens with a title card offering an Old Arabian Proverb:
And the Prophet said, "And lo, the beast looked upon the face of beauty.  And it stayed its hand from killing. And from that day, it was as one dead."
No such proverb exists outside the film.  It is, as one commentator stated, "a bit of hokum."

The idea for the film came from the film's director Merian C. Cooper.  Cooper became interested in gorillas as a child when he read a book by Paul Du Chaillu called "Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa."  Wikipedia reports:
Cooper became fascinated with the stories involving the gorilla, in particular Du Chaillu's depiction of a particular gorilla known for its "extraordinary size" that the natives described as "invincible" and the "King of the African Forest."  When Du Chaillu and some natives encountered a gorilla later in the book he described it as a "hellish dream creature" that was "half man, half beast."

The title for the first draft of his giant gorilla script was "The Beast."  Ann Darrow, played by Fay Wray, is the beauty to Kong's beast.  Caroline Madden of Screen Queens wrote:
Ann is captured by the natives and offered up as a delectable sacrifice for Kong, but instead of eating her he is enamored with her beauty.

There is no emotional reciprocity in Kong and Ann’s relationship.  Ann remains a damsel in distress by screaming her head off while being held by Kong like a rag doll, the prize that he has won.  She does not feel anything for him but terror, even as he protects her from T-Rexes and other creepy-crawly creatures. . . When Jack Driscoll shows up and rescues her, she doesn’t bat an eye leaving him.
Some viewers have identified a racist allegory that was never intended by the filmmakers.  Robert Malesky of NPR wrote, "Cooper and Schoedsack rejected any allegorical interpretations, insisting in interviews that the film's story contained no hidden meanings."

Zeba Blay of the Huffington Post wrote, "Critics have drawn connections between the capture of Kong and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. . ."

Cynthia Erb, the author of "Tracking King Kong: A Hollywood Icon in World Culture," wrote, "There is certainly an interpretation of King Kong himself as an extension of the Skull Islanders. . ."  She added, "In my opinion, it always has this other dimension that focuses on King Kong as a victim and on the Carl Denham character as a real intruder, as a certain type who really intrudes and is very clueless about the space he is conquering."

Nathan Rabin wrote in Vanity Fair, "[T]he story of a giant ape from Somewhere Else — a creature worshiped as a god in his own world, who is kidnapped and taken to the United States in shackles to serve as a plaything for a wealthy white elite — has proven especially metaphorically rich."  Rabin believes that it is reasonable to read the film as "an anti-colonialist allegory."    He adds, "No wonder he rebels so righteously."

As much as Kong stirs up discussions of race, it stirs up even more discussion about sex.  Malesky wrote, "King Kong hums with an undercurrent of eroticism.  There is bondage imagery and a very famous disrobing scene, where Kong slowly peels away Darrow's dress, then holds it up to his nose and sniffs."

Erb said, "I've read fans who quote Cooper as saying that moment is supposed to be about peeling petals from a rose.  I think Cooper did not want people to look at the film [in a sexual way].  But. . . I feel that there's a definite eroticism there.  I think he stands for a strange kind of animal love."

Malesky wrote:
The unasked question in the movie is about. . . well. . . sex.  What exactly does Kong intend to do with his captive girl?  It's a question Cooper biographer Mark Cotta Vaz thinks the filmmaker never even contemplated.  He said, "Merian Cooper and Dorothy Jordan were a great couple, and they were worldly people, but they were pretty conservative, and, you know, he was a good Southern gentleman."
In the film, moviemaker and expedition leader Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) says, "If it hadn't been for [Miss Darrow] we couldn't have gotten near Kong.  He followed her back to the village. . . Beauty and the beast.  Kong could have stayed safe where he was, but he couldn't stay away from beauty."  Earlier in the film, Denham made comments that foreshadowed Kong's infatuation for Ann.  He insisted, "I never knew it to fail.  Some big hard-boiled egg gets a look at a pretty face, bang. . . he cracks up, gets sappy."  He talks about his latest script, which is focused on a "tough guy" who could "lick the world."  "But," he said, "when he saw Beauty, she got him.  He went soft.  He forgot his wisdom and the little fellas licked him."  The filmmakers lay out this theme as plainly as possible.


In the end, Kong climbs the Empire State Building with Ann firmly in his paw and is quickly knocked off his perch by a hail of gunfire from biplanes.  As Kong lies dead in the street, a policeman remarks that the planes got him.  Denham tells him, "Oh, no, it wasn't the airplanes.  It was Beauty killed the Beast."

The message is that love can paralyze the beast, cause it to drop its defenses, and allow it to acquiesce to its own destruction.

Then, we have the 1976 remake of Kong, in which the beauty is Jessica Lange.  Rabin wrote, "Lange radiates incandescent sensuality as the unfortunate object of King Kong’s carnal desire — as well as everyone else's."

Inexplicably, scriptwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr. renamed the Ann Darrow character Dwan.  Just Dwan, no other name.  But the young lady's role in the film remained essentially the same.  Rabin wrote:
[Kong's] monomaniacally focused on trying to make sweet jungle love with the tiny little human woman of his dreams.  Dwan’s villager-engineered meet-ominous with King Kong after being drugged by Kong worshipers has the groggy, disorienting quality of a date rape, while her initial interactions with the ape are like a more innocent but still awkward and very 1970s setup — complete with Dwan accusing her suitor of being a "male chauvinist."
Peter Jackson's 2005 remake presented Ann differently.  Madden described the new Ann as "a woman who feels compassion and empathy the giant gorilla once her initial terror subsides."  She continued:
This is not the monster movie villain of the original.  Instead, he is a Quasimodo type and lonely figure who feels affection for the first time. . . What is most unique about this interpretation is that it completely rejects any subtext of sexuality, making an intricate relationship for Ann and Kong.  Kong is still offered Ann as a sacrifice, but it is more for eating.  Kong still desires and protects Ann, but it is because he wants a friend."
Kong is childlike and playful as he watches Ann, a vaudeville entertainer, dance and perform tricks.  Madden wrote, "Ann starts to understand and identify with him in that moment, seeing him as an isolated creature.  Ann stops becoming a victim in that moment and becomes something he empathizes with.  He is curious about her, he wants to protect her because he cares about her and she has touched his soul."

Rabin wrote, "Jackson's King Kong is neither the horndog of 1976 nor the savage brute of 1933: he’s a furry dreamer who pines hopelessly in ways that are all too human for a gorgeous, sad-eyed vaudevillian played by Naomi Watts."

Watts does not shriek in terror as Wray once did.  She is fully accepting of a creature much different than herself.  Mankind was once a tough guy who could lick the world.  Mankind battled the toothy beasts of the earth for primacy.  But now mankind has gone soft, which brings us this soft retelling of the Kong saga.   It is more than acceptance that Ann offers Kong.  Ann now offers him love.  It is not necessary for a magic spell to cause Kong to shed his fur or shrink him to the size and form of a man.

Meghan O'Rourke of Slate wrote, "Darrow, played by Naomi Watts, actually falls for Kong; she's been handled roughly in the past, and something about Kong's protection of her makes her feel that, at last, she's met a guy who can commit."


Madden wrote:
Kong saves and rescues Ann from dinosaurs, as in the original.  After saving her life, they sit by a cliff and see a beautiful jungle sunset.  Ann puts her hand to her heart, showing that sharing this tender moment with him moves her.  Kong offers his hand to Ann, and she lovingly sits in it as they stare at the sunset.

Ann is incredibly upset when Kong is captured and unjustly taken from his home.  Back in New York Kong and Ann share another tender moment after he escapes the theatre by dancing with her on an ice-skating rink.  This isn’t the Kong of the original that snatched Ann from her bedroom.  Kong sought her out, and Ann willingly returned.

The famous finale on top of the Empire State Building shows Ann pleading and heartbroken that Kong is being attacked (similar to the 70s version.) Kong and Ann share an extremely loving final look as Kong holds his final gaze on her.  He gives one last look at not just a beautiful girl, but the one person in the world that he cared about, and who cared about him.
But the beast still has to die.



The Creature from the Black Lagoon is a lovely piece of Americana.  The film, as described by Dave Trumbore of Collider, involves "a prehistoric humanoid. . . [who] rises from his watery abode to terrorize terrestrials."  The story has to do with scientists who discover the prehistoric Gill Man while searching for fossils along the Amazon River.  The scientists subdue the creature with a toxic chemical and lock him in a cage.  The creature breaks free and kidnaps a scientist's fiancée, with whom it has fallen in love.


Producer William Alland got the idea for The Creature from the Black Lagoon during a dinner party chat with Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa.  Figueroa insisted that a half-man and half-fish creature lived in the Amazon River and it rose from the river's depths once a year to claim a maiden.  Based on this conversation, Alland drafted a summary for a film, which he intended to call "The Sea Monster."  The beast was matched with a beauty, which Alland simply called the "blonde."  Tom Weaver discussed the summary at length in his book "The Creature Chronicles: Exploring the Black Lagoon Trilogy."  He wrote:
The scientist of the expedition turns heavy, sends the blonde’s boyfriend off on a wild goose chase, then "overpowers the girl, chloroforms her, ties her, semi-nude, onto a raft, [and] sets a snare-trap around the raft… ."  As he watches, the webbed hand of the monster reaches up and drags the unconscious girl into the water.  From here, Alland suggested two possible story directions: (1) The boyfriend succeeds in rescuing her, and the monster is killed, or (2) the monster is captured and brought to a small South American seaport, but it escapes and terrorizes the area.  "Needless to say," Alland concludes, "the monster's end is brought about by his desire for the blonde-haired girl of the expedition."

The second proposed ending instantly calls to mind King Kong (1933), and in fact makes any worth-his-salt Monster Kid realize that "The Sea Monster"'s whole plot is lifted from Kong. When I asked the always forthright Alland about the similarities, he made no effort to deny it: "Absolutely!  As a matter of fact, [reusing Kong’s basic plot] was the whole idea.  Oh, sure, that was my idea!" he laughed.
Steve Kronenberg, a contributor to "The Creature Chronicles," wrote:
Like Kong, the Creature is not a product of mad science or myth, but a biological aberration and prehistoric holdover. The Creature rules his dark underwater domain in the Amazon the way Kong was master of the misty Skull Island — and neither of them takes kindly to strangers invading their space.  Most of all, the Creature 'apes' Kong’s humanoid characteristics: Both are captivated and victimized by the desire for a beautiful woman, and both die amidst great audience sympathy.
Maurice Zimm wrote a treatment based on Alland's summary.  Zim's beauty was named Kay.  Weaver describes Kay's capture by the sea monster (alternately called the Gill Man and the Pisces Man) and her confinement in his grotto.  The Gill Man's grotto is a refuge that is meant to isolate the beauty and the beast from the rest of the world.  It serves in the same capacity as the Beast's castle, Kong's cave, Quasimodo's bell tower, and the Phantom's subterranean lair.
The Gill Man places Kay on the "floral carpet" and then backs into the shadows, his gaze still fixed on her.  When she wakes and is startled by the sight of the Gill Man, he approaches slowly, making a crooning sound that is almost human, a look of pleading in his eyes.
Later, the Gill Man is imprisoned in a tank.  Weaver wrote:
Kay is drawn to the prison-tank and looks in at the Pisces Man, whose eyes are "so human, so tortured, so pleading. . . Why should they affect her so?  What had come over her that day in the grotto beneath the Black Lagoon?"  Reed ignores her suggestion that they allow the Pisces Man to return to his grotto and the graves of his ancestors.

Crowds swarm on the Leticia docks trying to get a look at the creature; to Kay, it’s all as "tawdry and revolting” as a freak sideshow.  That night, in the airfield hangar where a cargo carrier (with the tank aboard) are stored, she again looks in at the Pisces Man, whose eyes seem to say, “It’s now or never. . . now or never."  Making up her mind, she unbolts the tank door and stands unafraid as the grateful creature gently touches her as he leaves the plane.
. . .

Although violent when provoked, Zimm’s Pisces Man is in his own way civilized and, with Kay, almost courtly.  Zimm mentions his scalloped gills which at a distance “resemble the bobbed hair of a knight of old"; if he’d looked like that in the movie, it might have added to the subliminal impression that this horror hails from the royal family of movie monsters.  In short, Zimm’s descriptions and depiction of the Pisces Man make him seem more human than monster.
Arthur Ross succeeded Zimm as scriptwriter on the project.  Weaver wrote:
Discussing the movie with me, Ross said that Alland wanted to put in more of the woman.  Here comes this big Creature with his cock four feet long, he’s going to fuck her, and she gets away just in time — but she does think about him [laughs]! … I had done as much [Beauty and the Beast] as I thought it was correct to do, because essentially that wasn’t the story.  The fact that the Creature was attracted to the woman was not the reason he fought back. . . But Bill wanted more of the King Kong element in Creature, so [Harry Essex came in].  Really, all he did was add more of the girl.  Underwater shots, the Creature sees her, the Creature gets an erection [laughs]. . . I rather felt that the nature of the Creature’s relationship to the woman in the picture was quite simplistic.

The Gill Man is as much a horndog as the 1976 Kong.  The script was a concern to the MPAA's Joseph Breen, who insisted that the filmmakers "avoid any sexual emphasis that might suggest bestiality."  His demands were not met exactly.  A sexual union between beauty and beast is suggested by, according to Weaver, "[t]he justly famous scene in which the Gill Man swims in parallel below Kay in a kind of synchronized sexual ballet."  But Kay never becomes aware of the Gill Man's presence during her swim.  The dreamy coupling displayed in the scene is nothing more than an illusion.


The Gill Man did not turn out looking as human as Alland wanted.  But there is still an unusual beauty to the monster, which was given a feminine touch by designer Millicent Patrick.  The makeup competition series Face Off has often shown that men and women have a different approach when it comes to designing a monster.  The monsters that women create do not lumber or ooze slime.  While men tend to make their monsters as repulsive and frightening as possible, women tend to work hard to draw out beauty, dignity and grace in their monsters.  That is what happened here.

No one who saw The Time Machine (1960) wanted to see Yvette Mimieux end up with a Morlock.
 
Audiences did not shed a tear when Tabonga The Tree Monster didn't get the girl in From Hell it Came (1957).

 
This fellow from The Mole People (1956) certainly could never muster up enough charm to win over Cynthia Patrick.


But the Gill Man is different.  His beauty is especially evident when the Gill Man is compared with the half-man/half-fish sea creatures in Humanoids from Deep (1980).


Robert Skotakm, an author and visual effects supervisor, told Weaver, "I think Alland was always wanting more of a Cocteau Beauty and the Beast feeling to the film — sad creature, enchanting undersea realm, an unattainable love, etc., but with scares."

Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast (1946)
Director Jack Arnold said, "I set out to make the Creature a very sympathetic character.  He’s violent because he’s provoked into violence.  Inherent in the character is the statement that all of us have violence within, and if provoked, are capable of any bizarre retaliation.  If let alone, and understood, that’s when we overcome the primeval urges that we all are cursed with."


So, yet again, the beast is a projection of the beast that resides in us all.


In The Seven Year Itch (1955), homely Tom Ewell is tormented by beastly urges that make him think about sexually ravaging the beautiful Marilyn Monroe.  At one point, Ewell and Monroe come out of a theater showing The Creature from the Black Lagoon.  Here is their dialogue:
MONROE: Didn’t you just love the picture? I did. But I just felt so sorry for the Creature. At the end.

EWELL: Sorry for the Creature? [shrug] What did you want, him to marry the girl?

MONROE [stopping in her tracks]: He was kind of scary-looking.  But he wasn’t really all bad.  I think he just craved a little affection.  You know?  A sense of being loved and needed and wanted.

EWELL [nods]: That’s a very interesting point of view! [Laughs.]


This is essentially the view of del Toro, who told GQ Magazine, "I fell in love with Julie Adams, I fell in love with the creature equally, and I fell in love with them in love."  But it must be noted that, in the finished film, Kay shows only fleeting sympathy for the Gill Man.  Viewers like del Toro projected a mutual love that wasn't actually depicted on screen.


British screenwriter Nigel Kneale turned out a script for a proposed Creature remake in 1981.  The Gill Man is held captive at a naval base presided over by a sadistic military officer, Captain Paul Shriver.  Shriver sees the Gill Man as an abomination.  He says, "They’re Men of the Wrong Day.  Mankind was created on the Sixth Day.  These must have come too soon, the day of the creatures of the sea, and the great whales. . ."

A remake went into development under Ivan Reitman in 1996.   Reitman hired Timothy Harris and Herschel Weingrod to write the script.  Their script had the Gill Man stalking beautiful women for the specific purpose of reproducing.  Weaver wrote, "A Sports Illustrated swimsuit model named Tanya is impregnated to death on page 43, and Alex discovers the Creature’s 'male sperm' inside her corpse."   A woman named Laura becomes the focus of his amorous attentions.  Weaver wrote:
"[T]he Creature nabs Laura and takes her to the Lagoon to mate.  Laura calms the Creature down by blowing air bubbles into his face and stroking it; it’s all a trick so she can spear him in the heart.

Del Toro was briefly attached to a remake of The Creature from the Black Lagoon in 2002.  Del Toro planned to show the natives of the Amazon jungle worshiping the Gill Man as a god.  But the project never came together.  Two years later, the filmmaker brought an amphibious man to the big screen in Hellboy (2004).

Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) from Hellboy (2004).

Our friends are also our peers, associates with whom we are compelled to maintain an equal standing.  It undoubtedly puts del Toro in a bind being close friends with fellow Mexican filmmakers Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu.  The trio, which has been celebrated in Hollywood, has become known collectively as "The Three Amigos of Cinema."  Cuarón won Best Director Oscars for Birdman (2014) and Revenant (2015).  González won a Best Director Oscar for Gravity (2013).  Del Toro can't be happy to be the one filmmaker in his inner circle who doesn't have a Best Director Oscar. 

Del Toro's career has been in decline in the last few years.  His last unqualified success was Hellboy II: The Golden Army, which came out nine years ago.  His subsequent projects - Pacific Rim (2013) and Crimson Peak (2015) – have not done as well.  Pacific Rim, a homage to the old Godzilla movies, underperformed in the United States (although it did do better in Asia).  Crimson Peak did not fare well critically or financially in the United States or elsewhere.

The critics who liked Crimson Peak liked it because of the beautiful visuals, not because of the story or characters.  Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post wrote, "The film by the stylish fantasist Guillermo del Toro looks marvelous, but has a vein of narrative muck at its core."  Sara Stewart of the New York Post wrote, "Watching the [actors] square off within del Toro’s eye-popping, painterly palette is a feast for the eyes, if not particularly substantial fare for the mind."  Dan Jolin of Empire spoke of the film being "a little overwrought for some tastes" and presenting "borderline camp at points," but the critic found the romantic Victorian atmosphere to be an "uncommon treat."  Tom Huddleston of Time Out London wrote, "All three actors work hard. . . and when the melodrama hits fever pitch, Crimson Peak lurches into life.  But overall this lacks weight and intensity: a Brontë-esque bauble smeared in twenty-first-century slickness."  Peter Debruge of Variety wrote, "Aflame with color and awash in symbolism, this undeniably ravishing yet ultimately disappointing haunted-house meller is all surface and no substance, sinking under the weight of its own self-importance into the sanguine muck below."  Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly wrote, "Crimson Peak is a cobwebs-and-candelabras chamber piece that’s so preoccupied with being visually stunning it forgets to be scary."  This is a director who struggles to win over audiences with style rather than substance.

Del Toro's 2014-2017 television series, The Strain, steadily declined in viewers throughout its 46-episode run.  Only a third of the viewers of the premiere were still around for the series finale.  The series never aroused the enthusiasm of genre fans and often annoyed fans with ill-conceived plot developments and poorly-drawn characters.

From the start, Del Toro's monster films were not the sort of films that win Oscars.  Take, for example, Mimic (1997).  Under normal circumstances, you are not going to get an Oscar for making a movie about a giant cockroach.  The director was once asked, "Is there part of you that feels like, as soon as there's a monster or any fantasy or genre element in a movie, it automatically gets put in a box and isn’t taken seriously?"  He replied, "Oh, for sure.  But that would be important if I cared — but I don't."  Don't believe him.  He cares very much.  The good news is that the matter has a simple fix.  Just say that the cockroach represents an illegal alien and you now stand a chance of winning an Oscar.

So, now comes del Toro with The Shape of Water, which the director describes as "a fairy tale for troubled times."  The film stars Sally Hawkins as a mute cleaning woman who falls in love with a mysterious sea creature held captive at a government research facility.  The inspiration for the film was clearly The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

The success of The Creature from the Black Lagoon had much to do with the shape that Julie Adams displayed in her well-padded bathing suit (Adams: "I had never seen a suit before where the breasts were built into the suit.").  Del Toro, himself, would agree.  He told Vanity Fair:
A seminal moment for me was the moment in Creature from the Black Lagoon where the creature swims under Julie Adams in a white swimming suit.  Three things awakened in me - one, Julie Adams.  At six I was a horny little bastard.  The second [thing] that awakened was a Stendhal syndrome.  There was something unassailable in that movie that I could not express.  And the third thing is, I felt a longing in my heart that I could not name.  I kept thinking I hope they end up together and they didn't.
 

He admits that most six-year-old boys didn't watch the film and hope that Adams and Gill Man ended up as a couple ("No, I'm a weird one," he said).  But this remained a fantasy of his throughout his life and he made The Shape of Water for the explicit purpose of "correcting the cinematic mistake."

Del Toro later decided to make filmgoers believe he has, in fact, designed a film to correct many of the world's mistakes.  We are meant to believe that, as the film is exhibited across the country, it will wash away all of our sins. 

Let us examine how the plot develops.  Hawkins' character, Elisa Esposito, elicits her friends help to free the creature.  Her friends are a gay artist (Richard Jenkins) and a black co-worker (Octavia Spencer).  Del Toro said, "They are invisible people.  Everybody that rescues the creature is invisible to the eyes of the white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant guy.  Everybody."  Michael Shannon, as Esposito's intimidating boss Colonel Strickland, is the white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant guy.  He is a vicious, power-mad sociopath meant to represent every white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant guy.


Don't be quick to buy this malarkey.  This is just, as suggested before, a director's Oscar bid.  Del Toro believes the perfect way to court Academy voters is to claim that his film is an anti-white, anti-Trump diatribe.  Only in Hollywood could a man find success by bashing America and expressing unmitigated hatred of white people.

Two white, square-jawed 1950s good guys, Richard Denning and Richard Carlson
Del Toro set out to turn horror movie mythology on its head.  He called this "a reversal."  He told Kate Erbland of IndieWire that he wanted to "make the image of the creature carrying the girl a beautiful one, as opposed to a horror image."  And he wanted to make "the good guy in the ’50s sci-fi movies, with a nice suit and a square jaw" into "the bad guy."


Strickland, who certainly has a square jaw to flaunt, sees the creature as (according to del Toro) "a dark, slimy thing that came from South America."  His blind prejudice against this dark-skinned (green) creature fits him snugly into the mold of a racist, or speciest, or something.  Strickland is reminiscent of Captain Paul Shriver, the sadistic military officer who presided over a research facility in Kneale's unproduced Creature screenplay.  Del Toro said, "[Strickland] doesn't see [the creature] for the divine and beautiful thing that it is."  The character is condemned by the filmmaker for believing that he, as a man, has a unique connection to God.  He tells the cleaning woman, "You may think that thing looks human.  Stands on two legs, right?  But we're created in the Lord's image.  You don't think that's what the Lord looks like, do you?"  He lives under the pressure of the American work ethic, which demands that he work hard and effectively to accomplish his duties.  This makes him feel like a failure when he finds that the amphibious man has escaped from the facility.  He expresses agony as he stares at himself in the mirror, offers himself desperate encouragement, and calls upon himself to fix the situation.  He bellows, "You deliver, that's what you do, right?"  Of course, del Toro want us to see the devout American work ethic as something insane and diabolical.

The Washington Times published the following headline:
Director Guillermo del Toro: Trump's America like a "tumor"
Del Toro told IndieWire, "I set [The Shape of Water] in 1962 specifically, because when people say, 'Let's Make America Great Again,' they're dreaming of that era.  It’s an era where the cars had jet fins, the kitchens were automatic.  Everything was super-great if you were white, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant, but it you were anything else, you were fucked.   It hasn't changed that much."  He told the Hollywood Reporter, "I've seen, for most people, this [opposition to illegal immigrants] thing started two years ago.  But if you're Mexican, and you crossed the border, they never really went away.  They've been latent all this time."

Del Toro said that his film addressed "[t]he idea of otherness being seen as the enemy."  He insisted that this is something he felt as an immigrant.  He said, "What I feel is an ugly undercurrent not in the past — not in the origins of fascism — but now."  The director made it clear that the creature was meant to represent the Other.  This relates to a theory that imperialistic Europeans saw the people of non-white countries as the Other and felt these people didn't matter in their expansion across the globe.

Del Toro said, "I experienced [racial prejudice] in the 90s for sure, when I was starting to go to Hollywood."  He has talked about this often in his recent interviews.  He said, "For the world, this has been going on politically for a year and a half, but for me as a Mexican it’s been going on for decades.  Each time I would cross customs and immigration for me it’s like Midnight Express. . . As a recently as a year and a half ago I was very thoroughly interrogated crossing the border in Texas."  He said in another interview, "I’ve been stopped for traffic violations by cops and they get much more curious about me than the regular guy.  The moment they hear my accent, things get a little deeper."


Midnight Express, really?  The 1978 drama Midnight Express involves an American tourist being sent to prison in Turkey for drug smuggling.  While in prison, the man is physically brutalized by guards and inmates.  Is that really comparable to del Toro's experience with American police?    

It is important to note the reason that del Toro abandoned Mexico for the United States.  He was frightened away after his father was kidnapped in 1998.  He said, "[N]ot everyone who participated got captured.  Coming back to México would make me vulnerable because I have a routine that is the same every day, an everything I do gets published, those people will know what time and when I’m getting picked up and where I'm going throughout the day.  At the end of the kidnap [his father’s kidnap] we didn’t say goodbye with a kiss.  There were threats from them that stop me from coming back."  But that was not the only kidnapping incident in his family.  He added, "My wife's cousin has been missing for a month.  He just disappeared, there's no information, we don't know anything." 

In this country, del Toro's most terrible experience has been enduring a cop eyeing him curiously during a traffic stop.  Meanwhile, in his home country, his family has had to cope with kidnappings and disappearances.  Why doesn't he make a movie about that?  I have the perfect plot for him.  A Mexican drug cartel kidnaps a lizard man.  But it wouldn't work, would it?  The problems in Mexico are real and to address those problems in such a silly and trivial way would be offensive.  It makes more sense to address the overblown imaginary problems that he says exists in the United States ("they get much more curious about me than a regular guy") with an overblown imaginary story.

Americans do not automatically see people who are different from them as the enemy.  Americans are not ignorant and hateful as del Toro claims.  Americans regard as their enemy those people who disrespect their values, people who disobey their laws and, most of all, people who do them harm.  There's nothing romantic, mysterious or poignant about Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, an illegal immigrant who murdered a young woman.

Reality versus Fantasy.  

Del Toro's Mimic featured a six-foot-tall cockroach that ate dogs and children.  Should we love that mysterious creature rather than fear him?


Del Toro told the Los Angeles Times, "I think the movie says that there are so many more reasons to love than to hate.  I know you sound a lot smarter when you're skeptical and a cynic, but I don’t care."  He said, "I think when we wake up in the morning, we can choose between fear and love.  Every morning. . . It’s important that we choose love over fear, because love is the answer.  Silly as it may sound, it is the fucking answer to everything."

The filmmaker got more poetic on the matter with Vanity Fair.  He said, "It’s falling in love with the other, with the thing you're not supposed to be in love with.  What the movie says is, love knows no shape.  Wherever it lands, you fall in love with.  It doesn't matter if it’s religiously wrong, politically wrong, the gender as you.  It doesn't matter.  Love is love.  And it’s much better than hatred and fear.  I think it's an antidote to what we’re living through today."


Josh Rottenberg of The Los Angeles Times called The Shape of Water "a fable of improbable love in the face of fear and intolerance."  Del Toro speaks a great deal of love in discussing the film, but his references to love are really references to sexual attraction. The cleaning woman does not feel love for the creature as she might feel for her grandmother or a friend.  She has an intense feeling of physical attraction that makes her want the creature to put its fishy penis inside of her.  She befriends the creature by offering him eggs, which comes across as an obvious metaphor under the circumstances.  Doug Jones, who plays the Creature, said, "There was always a romantic side to these characters and relationships [in monster films] that never got actualized all the way.  Guillermo said this time, the monster's going to actually fuck the girl.  A gentler way to say it is that this is the creature from the wet, black lagoon who actually gets the girl this time."


Call it Monster Love.  Call it Beast Love.  It is not Other Love.  Forget about del Toro's speeches about the Other.  That talk was just a way to market the film to open border millennials.  It is difficult to imagine del Toro really likes illegal aliens when the director's previous films are taken into consideration.  In Pacific Rim, alien monsters emerge from an interdimensional portal called the Breach at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.  The heroine of Crimson Peak is plagued by an influx of gruesome ghosts who cross through a mystical veil to our earthly domain.  We need to be careful about who we let into our personal space.


Comments on social media show that the public knows the film is specifically about bestiality.  One person asked, "Is he hung like a whale or a grouper?"  Sam Adams and Dana Stevens debated in their Slate podcast, "Is this Del Toro’s best film since Pan’s Labyrinth?  What should we make of its mysterious ending?  And how hot is that fish-monster sex?"  A bull fornicating with a queen, which was once presented as the repulsive outcome of a wicked curse, is now presented by del Toro as a beautiful and arousing thing.  It is, for the filmmaker, a "reversal."  It is to many others a perversion.  Of course, Del Toro has tried hard to deny the obvious.  He said, "Well, to me, there is no perversion in sex if you're not perverse.  You can do whatever you want and as long as you do it in the most beautiful way, it doesn’t matter."  Pedophiles, rejoice, you are not perverse if you molest children in the most beautiful way. 

It was the main objective in designing the creature to make him a hottie.  Shape does matter in the romance department.  Del Toro said, "We sculpted the shoulder ratio with the butt ratio.  We sculpted the lips.  We wanted it to slowly be seen. . . as a beautiful thing."  Del Toro stressed, "The creation of the creature demanded a lot because we were not creating a monster; we were creating a leading man.  That required a little more sophistication in the execution of the suit, the makeup, and the performance."

The director's marketing strategy has not been universally embraced.  Just take a look at the comments on movie site forums.
FistInMouth: "His movies suck horribly.  Which, I imagine, is why he decided to garner publicity by yapping about our politics.  I wonder how he feels about politics as usual in his homeland.  If Mexicans spent as much time trying to fix their own country as they do complaining about their right to break our laws they might have a decent country.  But they don't."

Biker Guy: "Actually, he's an excellent filmmaker.  Far better than most of what is made in America.  His inflammatory comments aren't helpful though. . ."
This is hostility breeding hostility.  Forget about del Toro's hollow claims that he is spreading a message of love.

Del Toro said, "The first thing is, I thought it was an ideal time to talk about love. . . We’re living in a time where the one percent has created a narrative in which they are not to blame.  Who is to blame is them, quote unquote, the others, Mexicans, the minorities.  What the creation of that other does, it exonerates from responsibility.  It directs hatred in a super streamlined way."

He spoke further on this subject to the Los Angeles Times.  He said, "The thing that is inherent in social control is fear.  The way they control a population is by pointing at somebody else — whether they’re gay, Mexican, Jewish, black — and saying, 'They are different than you.  They're the reason you're in the shape you're in.  You're not responsible.'   And when they exonerate you through vilifying and demonizing someone else, they control you."

Del Toro is able to produce beautiful visuals, but a film is about much more than visuals.  Beautiful visuals can be misused, becoming a way to seduce a viewer into absorbing vile or misguided notions.  One should not be fooled.  The Shape of Water looks to be a mixture of fantasy, love story and monster movie.  But it is, if the director's statements are to be believed, an angry political statement that condemns white Americans for opposing illegal immigration.  Or alternately, if the director's other statements are to be believed, it is a film about bestiality.

Del Toro is part of the "one percent" that he so gleefully condemns.  He always has been.  His father, automotive entrepreneur Federico del Toro, provided well for his son while he was growing up.  He got every plaything he ever asked for.  Yet, del Toro loathes rich people, who he accuses of creating a narrative to blame innocent people for the problems that they themselves have created.  But what of his own narrative?  The Shape of Water is, in its candy-colored influence-peddling, more harmful than the unimaginative speech of a politician.  The film vilifies and demonizes white people.  Its message is that white people are the problem.  This is a staggering example of hypocrisy.  

In the end, Del Toro wants Trump's slogan "Make America Great Again" to be replaced with his own slogan "Love is the Fucking Answer."  It is not surprising that del Toro is unable to speak of love without dispensing his usual vituperation.  Del Toro is not a loving man.  You can tell this from watching his films or reading his interviews.  He is a curmudgeon, often grousing about the American studio executives with whom he has had to work.  He said, "Our curse is that the film industry is 80 per cent run by the half-informed.  You have people who have read Joseph Campbell and Robert McKee, and now they’re talking to you about the hero’s journey, and you want to fucking cut off their dick and stuff it in their mouth."  Feel the love.

Del Toro rejected Catholicism because he found as a boy that the religion was "unforgiving."  It did not allow for imperfection.  He said, "There was no leeway." 

He said to Vanity Fair, "Listen, it's an imperfect world.  The only thing I'm trying to say with the movie is the most desirable thing is imperfection and tolerance.  The ideologists enthrone purity and perfection.  They are values that are unattainable.  If I tell you, you’ve got to be perfect, you can't.  If I tell you, you’ve gotta be imperfect. . . The greatest act of love you can give to anyone is to see them exactly as they are.  That's the greatest act of love, because you wash away imperfections.  What the ideology does, it blinds you to that person.  He's an immigrant.  He's illegal.  He's black.  Gay.  Whatever it is that can allow you to make that person invisible and part of a group or a thing, that’s what it erases the act of seeing.  And what is cinema?  It is the act of seeing."

First, the illegal immigrant is not invisible and people can see the illegal immigrant as a problem.  Second, a country is nothing without an ideology.  The alternative is immorality and anarchy. 

Our bad angels appeal to us through our weaknesses.  They tell us that it's alright to be weak or to be bad.  It is our acts of weakness and acts of vice that religion asks us to rise above.  A person who aspires to standards of perfection cannot reasonably expect to be perfect, but it is sure that this person will turn out to the best person they can be.  It is a person's noble aspirations and striving towards those aspirations that give a person value.  It is repulsive for a person to wallow around defiantly in their imperfections.  It is not helpful for a filmmaker to embolden imperfection.

Although Del Toro speaks more of imperfect values than physical imperfections, he does present a heroine who lacks the physical perfection of Julie Adams in her white swimsuit.  Del Toro said, "The idea was to create, through fantasy and science fiction forms, a new type of 'Beauty and the Beast’ in which the beauty is someone you can relate to — not a perfect princess.  And the beast doesn’t need to transform to find love." 

Del Toro has made it clear in countless interviews that he sees monsters as gods.  He told Vanity Fair, "Monsters are evangelical creatures for me.  When I was a kid, monsters made me feel that I could fit somewhere, even if it was an imaginary place where the grotesque and the abnormal were celebrated and accepted."  He told the Los Angeles Times, "I know that what I saw when I was a kid had redemptive powers.  Some people find Jesus.  I found Frankenstein.  And the reason I’m alive and articulate and semi-sane is monsters.  It’s not an affectation.  It’s completely, spiritually real to me."  He told Q Radio, "There is a sense of fragility and loss with monsters.  There is a sense of acceptance.  They are not aspirational figures.  They are sort of martyr-like figures.  They represent suffering and a sense of being an outcast.  That I can identify with since I was a very young kid.  I was the quiet kid that looked but didn't participate. . .  It was not an easy childhood, but I eventually found companionship with these creatures."

The Gospel of John teaches Christians that God is the light.  A man who walks with God walks in the light.  But what of del Toro and his worship of monsters?  The Frankenstein monster, a composite of body parts grafted together from soulless cadavers, is a dark and empty creature emblematic of the graveyard.  A man who walks with the Frankenstein monster is surely a man who walks outside the light.  Del Toro has openly acknowledged this.  He said, "The love of the dark is for me a vocation." 


It was noted earlier that, as a child, del Toro received every plaything he ever desired.  That may not be entirely true.  One Christmas, when he was five years old, he asked his parents for mandrake root, which he needed to cast a black magic spell.  Del Toro didn't say if he found the mandrake root gift-wrapped under his Christmas tree.  But it doesn't matter if the boy got to cast his spell or not.  A five-year child obsessed with black magic is even weirder than a child who fantasizes about the Gill Man having sex with Julie Adams.


This is del Toro's church.  It is a building that he created to house his macabre collection of paintings, drawings, maquettes, artifacts, and concept film art.  It is his second home.  He comes here to work on scripts.  He calls it Bleak House.  It is bleak indeed.

The Shape of Water advances del Toro's Gospel of the Monster.  The director said, "The creature is something to everyone. . . Giles [Richard Jenkins’ character] is the first one who knows the creature is a god.  This is like [Pier Paolo] Pasolini's Theorum [1968] with a fish."

  
Theorum involves a charismatic, otherworldly man (Terence Stamp) who mysteriously shows up at a bourgeois household and seduces the members of the household one by one.  The household members are so affected by their sexual experience with the man that they become liberated from their oppressive lives and quickly go mad.  During his sexual escapades, the man steals the childish innocence of the young daughter, who subsequently falls into a catatonic state.


Del Toro insisted about The Shape of Water creature, "He's not an animal.  He's an elemental god."  The creature is greater than Kong, who the occasional film critic has identified as a black king. It is, by explicit design, a South American god.  The fact that the creature is a god makes him comparable to Cupid.  (SPOILER ALERT!  The ending of The Shape of Water mirrors the rapturous ending of "Cupid and Psyche.")

In Theorum, Pasolina's camera shots focus at times on the mysterious stranger's divinely potent penis.

 
 
 
 
In The Shape of Water, del Toro is similarly fixated on his creature's retractable penis, which the mute woman describes to her friend with a gleeful pantomime after the first time the couple have sex.

A skillful filmmaker can be persuasive and seductive regardless of his message.  In filmmaking, you can polish a turd.

Germain Lussier of io9 wrote:
In Guillermo del Toro's latest film The Shape of Water, a mute cleaning lady falls in love with a mysterious fishman.  It's a weird premise, to be sure, but nothing about how it’s handled feels weird.  Instead, del Toro’s film is poetic, sumptuous, emotionally complex, and yet almost strikingly simple in its narrative. . . From there, del Toro’s film kind of goes exactly where you’d expect a love story between a mute woman and a fish creature to go.  No, it’s not a typical story, but when viewed through the eyes of those characters, it feels right.  It’s engaging, exciting, and romantic, but rarely shocking.  And along the way, del Toro paces the story briskly and efficiently, because the story isn’t really the point.
Del Toro made a woman fucking a fish man feel right.

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote, "Even as the film plunges into torment and tragedy, the core relationship between these two unlikely lovers holds us in thrall.  Del Toro is a world-class film artist.  There's no sense trying to analyze how he does it."

It's called weaving movie magic, manipulating audiences to believe in the make-believe.

Brian Truitt of USA Today examined the film in an article titled "Guillermo del Toro romanticizes interspecies love in superb Shape of Water."  Yes, that's a real title.  He wrote:
Woman meets cute with a creature from a South American lagoon and sparks fly.  It's a noir fairy tale that touches on the cruelty of man, as well as the heart wanting what (and who) it wants. . . Elisa sneaks in and their eyes lock, creating an instant connection.  She can’t speak, he only makes noises, yet they bond when she shares her hard-boiled eggs.
"Beauty and the Beast" contains metaphors regarding love, maturity and human sexual development.  But it is not, at any point, about bestiality.  It is not a story of race or immigration.  It is not a story about white people being evil.  The Shape of Water is an extremely vulgar bastardization of old fairy tales.  You are better off staying at home and watching The Creature from the Black Lagoon, which is truly a fabulous film.  At least the sci fi films of the 1950s made no effort to tell me that my race, gender, religion and nationality make me a bad person.



Tidbits of December, 2017

Ossi Oswalda in I Don't Want to Be a Man (1918)
Happy holidays, my friends! 

I have a few choice tidbits for the month.

Here is a rare image from Lloyd Hamilton's popular shipwreck comedy Robinson Crusoe Ltd. (1921).


I've heard that work on the new Hamilton DVD is progressing nicely.


Vitagraph comedy team Montgomery and Rock have a laugh with an Idaho exhibitor in a 1919 photo.


I have talked about Ernst Lubitsch's early features in a number of articles.  I have recently obtained new DVD's of these features.  Let me share a few screen captures.

 I Don't Want to Be a Man (1918)

 
 

The Doll (1919)

 
 

The Oyster Princess (1919) 

 

Ossi Oswalda practices how to bathe a baby using a doll in place of a baby.

 

A similar scene later turned up in the I Love Lucy episode "Pregnant Women Are Unpredictable" (1952).


In Ace Ventura 2: When Nature Calls (1995), pet detective Ace Ventura (Jim Carrey) is able to eavesdrop on a suspect by camouflaging himself inside of a fake rhino.

 
 

One hundred years earlier, British brothers Richard and Cherry Kearton obtained unique wildlife photography by camouflaging themselves inside of a fake ox.



In a recent article, I talked about comedy teams that are currently active in other countries.  This year, Australia's Lano and Woodley reunited for a national tour.  The usual tension and awkwardness that is present when a fractured comedy team gets back together is on full display in this morning show interview with the pair.



This is Lano and Woodley's "Deaf Interpreter" routine from 2007.



I once wrote about a "no smoking" routine (Click here).  I found another example of the routine performed by Snub Pollard and Marie Mosquini in a 1921 comedy Blue Sunday




Which is the better monster theme song - the jazzy, hand-clapping song for The Blob (1958) or the swinging, groovy song for The Green Slime (1968)?







The Australian sketch comedy series Thank God You're Here plunged guest stars into absurd scenes without a script.  The other actors in the scene fed scripted lines to the guest star, who had to improvise his responses.  The guest star didn't see the set until he walked through a door and was greeted with the line, "Thank, God, you're here."  Here is Frank Woodley winding his way through a scene from the pilot episode. 



This is Hamish Blake suddenly finding himself in a spoof of The Bachelor.



Blake was a favorite on the series.  Here he participates in a dubious science program for kids.



Every episode ended with a group challenge.



Efforts to recreate the show in the United States and England were unsuccessful.



I no longer find laughs in the crass and forced comedy features produced by the Hollywood studios.  I prefer to keep an eye on foreign comedies.  Currently in release in France is Jalouse, which stars acclaimed actress Karin Viard as divorced teacher who suddenly becomes dissatisfied with her life and lets herself be overcome with jealousy.



Alain Chabat in Santa et Cie (2017)
Santa & Cie is a Christmas comedy that involves the desperate efforts of Santa Claus (Alain Chabat) to find a cure for a mysterious illness that has incapacitated his elves.



I enjoyed a new French Canadian comedy called De père en flic 2 (the English title of which is Father and Guns 2). The plot is original. A police task force infiltrates a couples boot camp to investigate a Mafia lieutenant attending the boot camp with his girlfriend. It turns out that bickering police officers, which include an aging renegade cop, his straitlaced work-obsessed son and the son's neglected girlfriend, are more in need of relationship counseling than the actual patients.

Michel Côté and Louis-José Houde in De père en flic 2 (2017)