Friday, June 13, 2008

Bad Luck

This being a) Friday the 13th; and b) Father's Day Weekend; I'm not particularly in the mood to do too much real "work" on the blog. So I'll start off the weekend with a cheap list post.

Black cats are bad luck, and you could do much worse than to watch the 1934 version of The Black Cat. It's directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, one of the few times he had something resembling a budget to work with, and stars two of the greats of horror movies, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. The thing to watch for in this movie is the sets. Although the movie is set in Hungary, the Hungarian count whose castle is the putative setting for the movie is decked out in ridiculous art deco.

A bigger black cat appears in Val Lewton's Cat People; that's the wonderfully-named Simone Simon getting turned into a cat and menacing not only husband Kent Smith, but the "other woman" in their relationship.

Ladders tend to be more a source of comedy than superstition in the movies. Bad luck happens to people simply because they're on the ladder, not because they've walked under it. Laurel and Hardy have more than enough problems with a ladder in The Music Box, while the entire cast of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World get thrown off a fire engine ladder.

There are also more dramatic ladders, if you will; Orson Welles tries to sabotage a ladder in order to kill wife Loretta Young in The Stranger.

And of course, you'll supposedly get seven years bad luck if you break a mirror. Bette Davis breaks her mirror when she plays Queen Elizabeth in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex; she's peeved over the state of her relationship with Errol Flynn's Essex.

Flynn has a more interesting appearance in a movie with a broken mirror: The Case of the Curious Bride. It's a Perry Mason murder mystery in which the murder victim is killed by a poker that also breaks a mirror while the assailant is swinging at the victim. What's interesting is that it's Flynn himself playing the murder victim, very early on in his career; we only see him acting for a few minutes near the end of the movie when Perry is explaining the murder.

With the exception of The Case of the Curious Bride, all of the movies here are listed at IMDb as being available on DVD. Warner Brothers made six Perry Mason movies in the mid-1930s; they would make a nice box set.

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