Monday, January 10, 2011

"You've a magnificent brain, Moriarty."

The recent passing of Gerry Rafferty has sent me back again to Baker Street, London.  Every time I hear the song, it's summer 1982.  When I returned to the US and would see the video, the street shots were all very familiar, including the comfortable Sherlock Holmes Hotel.  It's been quoted that "when a man is bored with London, he is bored with life."  So is the reverse true?  If a man is bored with life, is he bored with London?  Or going even further: "If a man is bored with his wife, is he bored with Lisbon?  And is she Lizzie Borden?"  Philosophical questions like these keep me up at night.  But I digress.

Legs.  Has it been made apparent that I am a leg man?  Partial to legs, but not to partial legs.  I'm not one of those amputee fetishists.  But I digress, again.  Legs.  They move me.  And those that move with them, as well.  A remaining vision of mine, traveling the Underground from Baker Street station, were the noticeable ads in the tunnels (promoting what I believed to be were safety pins but I guess were stockings), using the power of glistening gams.  You couldn't not notice them during your travels in the tunnels.  London advertising has always been an art form. 

In my business of the film world, discussions on actors are always frequent.  Lately, I have found many friends, acquaintances and clients have asked my opinion of Gary Oldman.  It is known that I am partial to English actors, but in an attempt not to repeat my Michael Caine/Harry Brown moment, I try not to be as excessive in my lack of awe regarding Mr. Oldman's talents.  I quickly try to diffuse the subject by attempting to impress the unfortunate listener into hearing my Gabby Hayes sounding-like, ancient tale that I saw Gary Oldman on the stage in 1982, prior to his film career.  I went to the Lyric Theatre in Shaftesbury to see Glenda Jackson and Georgina Hale in the play Summit Conference.  This little West End truffle put forth the fictitious luncheon between the mistresses of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.  I admired the two actresses tremendously and did not want to miss the opportunity of seeing them in person.  After all, both of them had made early appearances in Ken Russell movies.  My main objective was to meet Georgina Hale whom I had taken a fancy to in The Devils, Mahler and The Boyfriend.  I wanted her to appear in my Space Pirate Video pilot. 

In the production, the third member of the cast and only male actor was an angst-ridden young man who portrayed a Nazi servant to the two ladies.  This was Gary Oldman.  His performance was that of a cipher, always in the background, except for one explosive sequence of philosophical rage.  It was a sort of Marat/Sade theatrical moment.  I had no inkling that this person would become as big of a film star as he did. 

All in all, it was a wonderful day.  I had attended the Wednesday matinee and was invited backstage into Georgina Hale's dressing room.  I was delightfully starstruck.  She wore a colourful dressing gown designed, I believe, by Ken Russell's wife, Shirley.  Very art deco.  She agreed to do my TV show and I scampered off around the corner to the famous Windmill Theatre to continue my explorations.  The Windmill Theatre was the famous strip club and starting ground for Goon Show comedians Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe.  In regards to my other project, the Peter Sellers documentary, the theatre was an archaeological site for me as it had had a plaque with the names of those who had gotten their start on these boards.  Sellers and Secombe (I'm not quite sure about Milligan) were on this plaque, but it had gone missing.  As it turned out, the Windmill Theatre had been bought by the notorious Paul Raymond (the Hugh Hefner of England), whose adult magazines like Men Only had turned into Club magazine in the US.  He was known for creating the Paul Raymond Revue Bars, a place to see beautiful women in various states of undress, and the Windmill Theatre was undergoing a change into the same. It was quite amazing to me--perhaps due to an abundance of confidence and goodwill--that I was given free access to the place while Mr. Raymond and his associates checked the building for renovations.  His assistant manager accompanied me throughout the theatre in a hopeful attempt to find the lost ark: the plaque of the Goons to be. Alas, it was not found by myself, but the attempt was a good one and it was a marvelous experience to be going through such an incredibly historic theatre.  As I left the building, actor Peter Vaughan drove by in his convertible, fresh out of his matinee around the corner.  The air was filled with theatricals.  Such is the magic of Shaftesbury Avenue, the Broadway of London's West End.

I was really pleased at the kind of pastoral way this entry was ending.  Sort of gentle, nostalgic, not manic.  "What do you think, darling?  Good ending?"  "But what about Gary Oldman?"  "Oh."  Well, remember when I said that for every really good Michael Caine film, there were three or more horrible ones?  In retrospect, I think I may have been wrong.  Looking back, there are an awful lot of Michael Caine films I really like.  As much as I hate the Jaws films and the Poseidon Adventure remake and The Bees and all the commercial crap Michael did, there are the films that I am fond of.  And the whole Michael Caine mythos (blond hair, black horn-rimmed glasses), which is similar to the David McCallum mythos.  Images relating to my youth.  But as a body of work, for myself personally, Gary Oldman's odds are much worse than Michael Caine's.  Probably my favourite Oldman performance is as Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK. Except for a few artistic touches, I can't stand his Dracula.  Totally miscast.  I don't know what blood he's been drinking, but it's definitely syphilitic.  His Vlad the Impaler is more Vlad the Inhaler.  Too many of his performances are in the area of coke-fueled lunatic.  It's like somebody has hooked up a battery to his anus.  And he spits on everyone.  Can't actors annunciate words without throwing out tons of spittle?  I'm seriously bored here.  Can anybody take the Book Of Eli seriously?  I couldn't finish Rain Fall.  He strikes the same one note in The Professional as in all of these films.  Shrill.  No subtlety.  I suddenly realise how brilliant George Zucco was.  Villiany should be low-key.  "He may smile and smile and still be a villian."  Like Dick Cheney.  George Zucco.  Moriarty.  And we've come full circle.

Sorry about the loss of the pastoral.