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The Lodger released on Blu-ray
with Audio Commentary by Gregory William Mank
Last year I had an opportunity of special personal significance: I wrote and recorded the audio commentary for one of my all-time favorite movies, The Lodger. Released in 1944, The Lodger is perhaps the greatest horror film of the 1940s...and considerably more. Based on the 1913 novel by Marie Belloc-Lowndes about Jack the Ripper, this big budget production came from 20th Century-Fox, then at the peak of its powers. It explored the Ripper’s gruesome exploits with a censor-defying sexuality, virtually unheard-of in the Hollywood of that era, playing as a sensual nightmare. Making the nightmare come true: Laird Cregar, whose spellbinding performance as the Ripper became, in the words of one New York critic, “a case history of a sex maniac.” The gig to provide the commentary for The Lodger curiously came as I was wrapping up my biography of Cregar, now titled Laird Cregar: A Hollywood Tragedy (see below for details). The Lodger has been one of my favorite movies since I was seven-years-old and saw it on TV with my Dad (I know – how many seven-year-olds love a movie about Jack the Ripper?) Preparing the commentary, I was watching the movie over and over, every day and night. The repeated viewings made it very clear: this is a remarkable film. There are brilliantly-staged death scenes in which the female victims are so terrified they can’t scream – although they try damn hard to do so. There are charmingly-recreated dance hall episodes from the 1888 era, showcasing star Merle Oberon, so lovingly photographed by ace cameraman Lucien Ballard that he fell in love with his subject and later married her. There’s an epically droll George Sanders as the Scotland Yard hero. And of course, there’s Laird Cregar, daringly delivering a wildly audacious performance that truly must be seen to be believed. Preparing the commentary was a rare opportunity to indulge myself in a film that, over the years, has given me such enjoyment, and to watch every move of an actor whom I’ve so deeply admired for so very long. If you’re familiar with audio commentaries, you know the commentator talks on a separate track as the film plays on the screen. There was so much to say about this movie, its director John Brahm, the cast, real-life Ripper history, and so much more, that I’m rarely silent during the film’s 84 minutes! Kino-Lorber released the Blu-Ray in December, 2016. Here are a couple of the reviews:
- The Boston Herald, December 7, 2016: “Perhaps the greatest of all the 1940s horror movies...The real bonus in this restored print is horror historian and Cregar authority Gregory William Mank’s marvelous commentary, filled with details on the production, casting and censorship issues.”
- Home Theatre Forum, December 20 2016: “One of the great Gothic thrillers of Hollywood’s Golden Age...the outstanding commentary is by Laird Cregar biographer Gregory William Mank, who not only gives us background on the star, but analyzes the movie’s direction and cinematography, and identifies not only the stars but offers career highlights on even smaller feature players...”
This was the tenth DVD audio commentary I’ve written and recorded, and in several key ways, the most meaningful one for me. Incidentally, on previous DVD gigs, the production company transported me to record the commentaries in a studio, usually in New York City or Los Angeles. With advancing technology, Kino-Lorber sent me all necessary equipment to record the commentary at home. It was beyond my technical grasp, but my son Chris masterfully engineered it, and we recorded the commentary at his house in Baltimore - where Chris expertly deleted the profanities I unleashed whenever I blew a line. The Lodger is available through Kino Lorber (Kino Lorber) and also on Amazon (Amazon).
Laird Cregar: A Hollywood Tragedy
It’s official: McFarland’s publication date for Laird Cregar: A Hollywood Tragedy is June 19, 2017. This was a biography I absolutely needed to write - the opportunity it gave me to make new discoveries about Cregar’s life and career was extremely meaningful to me. And the discoveries were startling and fascinating. Pre-publication ordering information is available on McFarland’s website(McFarland) and at Amazon (Amazon).
I am now working on my next two books, hopefully finishing both for 2017 publication:
One Man Crazy: The Life and Death of Colin Clive, Hollywood’s Frankenstein
He immortalized Henry Frankenstein in Universal’s Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein; his tragic personal life was as horrific as the classic melodramas in which he starred. Deeply researched (with fresh and startling discoveries), richly-illustrated (with many rare photos), this sympathetic but unsparingly revealing biography will be the definitive account of the brilliant, hypersensitive actor who unforgettably cried “It’s alive!”
To be published by Midnight Marquee Press, 2017.
The Very Witching Time of Night, II
The critical and popular success of The Very Witching Time of Night: Dark Alleys of Classic Horror Cinema has inspired a contract for The Very Witching Time of Night, Part II. As with the original book, there will be 13 chapters, all on fascinating areas of Hollywood horror, with full coverage of never-before-covered topics and fresh slants on vintage favorites such as Island of Lost Souls and Tower of London. Exhaustively researched and profusely illustrated with many rare photos.
To be published by McFarland in 2017.
Hope to see you back here soon!