It's always a good idea to lay massive curses upon the rich --haven't they deserved it, since the dawn of time? Haven't they, in a way, already cursed us? In two films made in wildly different but eerily similar decades, 1930s and 2010s, two women laid down some nice curses on them, in cinema: Carole Lombard as Hazel Flagg in 1937's Nothing Sacred and Eva Green in 2012's Dark Shadows remake.
So the big date 12/21/12 came and went with nary a tremor. I was hoping the world would end, leaving us with a chance to start again from scratch, everyone equal who still lived, no more credit card debt. But no, so the greed of the mega-rich is still strangling this country, even if too slowly for it to seem apocalyptic: hypocritical politicians leaving our east coast to suffer in the mud after we aided theirs after similar disasters. Australian moguls training our gun nut brothers through fearmongering Fox doctrine. It goes on unchecked.
The Radium Girls were female factory workers who contracted radiation poisoning from painting watch dials with glow-in-the-dark paint at the United States Radium factory in Orange, New Jersey around 1917. The women, who had been told the paint was harmless, ingested deadly amounts of radium by licking their paintbrushes to sharpen them; some also painted their fingernails and teeth with the glowing substance.But the girls who won America's hearts as they shambled to the stand were hideously deformed (if your stomach be strong, check here) while Lombard comes to the city unmarred and super hot and in robust health. So the German specialists called in at great expense are instantly, ow you say, zuss-PISH-iouss?! Still, if Hazel was sick as a real radium girl she'd be too tragic to parade around New York! The hooplah-spinning Morning Star reporter Frederic March falls in love with Hazel, and half in love with his own words praising her and what he reads into her blank eyes as courage in the face of death. He's mad but thrilled to learn she's just faking for a free trip to NYC. And anyway, her story is life-affirming, just like the apocalypse, my precious, lost apocalypse.
Five of the women challenged their employer in a case that established the right of individual workers who contract occupational diseases to sue their employers. (WIKI)
A similar misuse of a scheming harridan by the elite occurs in the Tim Burton DARK SHADOWS (2012), wherein the haute bourgeois Barnabas (Johnny Depp) sleeps with, and then coldly spurns, the housekeeper's daughter, Angelique (Eva Green), bringing her magical wrath down upon him. A spurn is bad enough, but to spurn a woman who was born into the same house as you around the same time and yet is expected to live a life of servitude while you live it up, that's pretty piggish, Barnabas! For all we know, Barnabas' dad might be Angelique's father, too, like with the Schwarzenegger family. So I couldn't really muster much sympathy for him even when Angelique kills his parents via her witchy spells, confines him to a coffin for 200 years, and reduces his estate to a crumbling relic. Hey, some of my great great great great great great great aunts were New England witches so naturally I'm on her side.
Two hundred years pass and Victoria, the big-eyed waif reincarnation of his old love (also Heathcote) returns as if to sour the situation even more. For a 'true love' she very one dimensional, passive, like a Valium-ed Jane Eyre. No wonder Angelique hates her! Sure Victoria sees ghosts, and plays nanny to a similarly gifted (and labeled as insane) kid, but having spent a decade in an asylum receiving shock treatments, you would think she could develop more of a personality, or at least be able to stand up against Green's wicked and awesome Angelique. No mortal woman can compare when Green's voice gets deep and throaty in a chain-smoker purr (the way she did a little in CASINO ROYALE when fondling Bond's watch on the train). As she noted in an interview:
"Angelique is a woman who has changed with the times. During the 18th century, Angelique was a dark-haired servant girl. As Angie, the CEO of Angel Bay, she’s a successful blonde businesswoman. “Tim wanted her to look like the American dream,” says Green. “Everything about her is perfect. Too perfect. Perfect makeup, red lips, platinum hair. She’s very glamorous yet sophisticated." (Inquirer)Damn right. And Barnabas and Angelique even get in on again in their new incarnations as monsters, trashing her office in a fit of demon craziness set to some 70s hard rock song we all remember. This scheming witch and murderous vamp clearly belong to one another and so it's hard, very hard, to root for Barnabas in his endeavors to drive her from his ancestral town in favor of a doe-eyed doormat, especially when she's initially so thrilled to see him and races to his mansion for a reunion tryst, all grudges forgotten, his debt paid, in her mind.
In better films that's more or less what happens, the beast and the other beast find or settle for each other and eschew the beauties, ala SHREK or KLONDIKE ANNIE. But this is more of a film like KISSING JESSICA STEIN or BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS or even STEPMOM or STEEL MAGNOLIAS as the conventions of pro-dogma Christina conservatism are served on the sly. Man, 200 years of being locked in a coffin is a stiff price to pay just to preserve your social conservative trust fund dickheadedness.
How is Barnabas conservative? He holds a grudge and he takes the moral high ground no matter what sordid things he does on the sly, just like the Repiblicans. Barnabas can't help himself, you see, she cursed him by draining his precious... bodily fluids. Even though she doesn't kill anywhere near the amount of innocent people that he does (those construction workers he killed probably had children!) she's the witch who must be burnt at the stake for this to be a proper happening. The true neo-conservative doesn't care about the dead workers, after all, unless they're in his direct family. Drinking the lifeblood of labor and youth (he also devours a whole band of innocent hippies) while presuming we'll root for him anyway since he has such good family values is sooooo 1% entitlement. This kind of belief system, if left unfucked with, inevitably leads to a people's revolution! Barnabas shouldn't be reading her Erich Segal's Love Story but Zinn's The People's History of the United States!
Me, I'd take the lusty strong, slightly crazy fallen woman, be she fair in looks and enterprising in drive, over some waif who look like a Nina Friday or Jasmine Becket-Griffith painting come to life but has nothing else really to offer. Rejecting a badass babe with the power to destroy him and his loved ones is not only short-sighted, its why, when push comes to shove, this film never quite becomes an enduring classic like GHOSTBUSTERS or THE ADDAMS FAMILY or BEETLEJUICE. At least those films had subversion! DARK SHADOWS seems designed for a different world, one where Mitt Romney won and women are still expected to faint at the sight of blood.
|from top: Bella Heathcote; Jasmine Beckett-Griffith; Lombard|
The ending of NOTHING SACRED though let's you know whose side screenwriter Ben Hecht is on: instead of Hazel bringing the city her funeral she leaves a note saying she's off to die alone, and beats it out of the country with March. Isn't that just what all the doomsday soothsayers are doing right now, myself included? Instead of a raging Eva Green Kali whirlwind solar storm apocalypse of human sacrifice on the altar of populist journalism we face yet another 200 years or more of the same damn bloodsuckers we've always had. Oh Tyler Durden Oh Kurt Oh Erich Von Daniken did you strive for naught?
SHADOWS is still pretty entertaining, fast-moving, and there's slew of beautiful women in hot 70s clothes and pale white skin to ease your suffering over Barnabas' unrepentant tea /douche baggery. The ubiquitous Danny Elfman's score is, for once, inspired (though once more Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower" shows up - see "WATCHMEN Dig my Earth"). But fun as it is to watch, DARK SHADOWS leaves one very dissatisfied. I don't mind rooting for the villain if he knows he's the villain. But here Barnabas is the most entitled, snobby psychopath who thinks he's the good guy since Dustin Hoffman in the original STRAW DOGS. He's like those slimy male scientists who wore lead aprons and goggles while bringing uncovered buckets of radium paint to the girls even while insisting the stuff was completely harmless so no need for them to wear the same, and never questioning their humanity in the process. Compared to this kind of unconscious villainy, even Angelique and Hazel Flagg are bastions of white, blonde decency --at least they know they're evil. The real tragedy is that 200 years of entombment did nothing whatever to wise Barnabas up to other's suffering. The apocalypse may not have happened but at least the revolution is still available onscreen. if you care to blast for it.