23 January 2019

The Invisible Man (1933)

The Invisible Man (James Whale, 1933) is one of the best films of the early Universal horror series of the 1930s. The script, based on H.G. Wells science fiction classic, is solid and tight, and James Whale's direction is creative and technically excellent. Debutant Claude Rains plays the scientist who has developed a serum which turned himself invisible, and into a raving, mad megalomaniac. Whale laces his special humour throughout the film, and The Invisible Man is full of dark comedic moments.

Claude Rains and William Harrigan in The Invisible Man (1933)
British postcard in the Filmshots series by Film Weekly. Photo: Universal. Publicity still for The Invisible Man (James Whale, 1933) with William Harrigan and Claude Rains.

A megalomaniac bent on conquering mankind and the world


A snow storm is blowing ferociously, a man trundles towards a signpost that reads Iping. When he enters a hostel called The Lions Head, the patrons of the bar fall silent for the man is bound in bandages.

He tells, not asks, the landlady; "I want a room with a fire". This man is Dr. Jack Griffin (Claude Rains), soon to be known as The Invisible Man. Director James Whale starts his classic horror fantasy The Invisible Man (1933) in a gripping style.

Working in Dr. Cranley's (Henry Travers) laboratory, Griffin was always given the latitude to conduct some of his own experiments. His sudden departure has Cranley's daughter Flora (Gloria Stuart) worried about him.

In his room in The Lions Head, Griffin hopes to reverse the experiment that made him invisible. Unfortunately, the drug he used has negative side effects, making him aggressive and dangerous.

Griffin is prepared to do whatever it takes to restore his appearance, and several people will die in the process. Finally the scientist has turned into a raving, mad megalomaniac bent on conquering mankind and the world.

Gloria Stuart and Henry Travers in The Invisible Man (1933)
British postcard in the Filmshots series by Film Weekly. Photo: Universal. Publicity still for The Invisible Man (James Whale, 1933) with Henry Travers and Gloria Stuart.

Gloria Stuart and Claude Rains in The Invisible Man (1933)
British postcard in the Filmshots series by Film Weekly. Photo: Universal. Publicity still for The Invisible Man (James Whale, 1933) with Claude Rains and Gloria Stuart.

Here I am...AREN'T YOU GLAD YOU FOUND ME?!!


The Invisible Man (James Whale, 1933) is filled with witty dialogue, excellent character acting, and a dazzling array of special effects. We get to see a shirt move on it's own, things fly around rooms and the invisible man causing mayhem.

What is most surprising about the film is its rather perverse sense of black humour (typical for Whale's films) and its cruelty. When a woman runs screaming down the lane at night followed by an empty pair of pants skipping along reciting "here we go gathering nuts in May", it is a funny tongue-in-cheek moment.

More darkly is the scene during a massive search for Griffin, after he causes a train disaster. One of the volunteers, slightly apart from the others, is grabbed and thrown down and choked. Griffin says, "Here I am...AREN'T YOU GLAD YOU FOUND ME?!!" It is a chilling moment.

The Invisible Man is not a benign horror monster but rather a frightening, destructive force capable of acts of violence, madness, and viciousness. Inventively, Whale combines script, acting, mood, and setting amidst the background of ground-breaking special effects that are still impressive to this day.

For Claude Rains, it was his first major film role. He spends much of the film either under the cover of bandages or not even in it. At the end of the film, he finally appears for a minute - as a corpse! But it doesn't matter because it's his voice that makes the performance and the role was for Rains his big break. The fiendishness of his voice is compelling and pure evil.

Baron Bl00d at IMDb: "The acting all around is very good with people like Henry Travers, Gloria Stuart, Una O'Connor and William Harrigan especially as a jealous doctor giving all the support they can to a formless Claude Rains. Rains's voice is magnificent and one senses he was made to play the part that would make him famous. Look also for Dwight Frye in a small role. A wonderful film experience!"

Gloria Stuart (and Claude Rains) in The Invisible Man (1933)
British postcard in the Filmshots series by Film Weekly. Photo: Universal. Publicity still for The Invisible Man (James Whale, 1933) with Gloria Stuart (and Claude Rains).


The scene with the invisible man terrorising the village. Source: Movieclips (YouTube)

Sources: Baron Bl00d (IMDb), Wikipedia and IMDb.

22 January 2019

Beatrice Cenci (1941)

Today, we present a set of 10 postcards for the Italian period piece Beatrice Cenci (Guido Brignone, 1941), with German star Carola Höhn as the title character and Giulio Donadio as her brutal father. It is one of several films portraying the tragic story of the sixteenth century Italian noblewoman Beatrice Cenci. The film was produced by Manenti Film and the cards were published by by Casa editrice Albore in Milan. But how truthful was the film?

Beatrice Cenci 1
Italian postcard by Casa editrice Albore, Milano, no. 1. Photo: Vaselli / Manenti Film. Publicity still for Beatrice Cenci (Guido Brignone, 1941), with Carola Höhn as Beatrice Cenci and Giulio Donadio as her father.

Beatrice Cenci 2
Italian postcard by Casa editrice Albore, Milano, no. 2. Photo: Vaselli / Manenti Film. Publicity still for Beatrice Cenci (Guido Brignone, 1941). In the middle Giulio Donadio as Francesco Cenci, right of him Cenci's son Giacomo (Osvaldo Valenti), and kneeling on the foreground his daughter Beatrice (Carola Höhn).

Beatrice Cenci 3
Italian postcard by Casa editrice Albore, Milano, no. 3. Photo: Vaselli / Manenti Film. Publicity still for Beatrice Cenci (Guido Brignone, 1941). Debt-ridden Roman count Francesco Cenci is forced to stay for 7 months in a lonely castle. He forces his family to accompany him.

Innocently executed 


Beatrice Cenci (Guido Brignone, 1941) was the first sound adaptation of the seven films about the historical character Beatrice Cenci. However, there was a 1926 silent version by Baldassarre Negroni, which was sonorised a few years after. In addition to Carola Höhn as Beatrice and Giulio Donadio as her violent father, the cast included Tina Lattanzi (as Cenci's second wife Lucrezia), Osvaldo Valenti (Cenci's son Giacomo), Enzo Fiermonte (Beatrice's lover Olimpio), Elli Parvo (Cenci's mistress Angela), Luigi Pavese, and others.

Beatrice Cenci (Guido Brignone, 1941) was shot at the studios of the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome. The sets were designed by Guido Fiorini, while Gino Sesani took care of the costumes.The film was cinematographed by Jan Stallich, scripted by Tommaso Smith,  and edited by Vincenzo Zampi.

The action of the film takes place at the end of the sixteenth century between Abruzzo and Rome. The Roman Count Francesco Cenci (Giulio Donadio), a dissolute and violent man, is condemned for debts to seven months of exile to spend in a distant fortress of Abruzzo.

A true tyrant, Cenci demands that the members of his family accompany him, which pains especially his daughter Beatrice (Carola Höhn), forced to leave her boyfriend Olimpio (Enzo Fiermonte) behind to follow her father. Subjected to the harshest humiliations by her cruel father, she asks for help from Olimpio, who decides to free her and arrives at the fortress with the intent to kidnap her. The plan fails and the young man remains locked inside the castle.

The following morning, the corpse of Count Cenci is found in a ravine, under the window of his room. Misfortune or crime? The process begins, during which the suspicions now weigh on one, then on the other family member.

Beatrice, the only one who had publicly opposed her father's authority, is the one on whom the main clues seem to fall, clues that assume the importance of proof, and she is therefore condemned to beheaded. When the truth, which proves the innocence of Beatrice, makes its way, the sentence has already been executed.

Beatrice Cenci 4
Italian postcard by Casa editrice Albore, Milano, no. 4. Photo: Vaselli / Manenti Film. Publicity still for Beatrice Cenci (Guido Brignone, 1941). Francesco Cenci is a bonvivant and spendthrift, notorious for his embezzlements.

Beatrice Cenci 5
Italian postcard by Casa editrice Albore, Milano, no. 5. Photo: Vaselli / Manenti Film. Publicity still for Beatrice Cenci (Guido Brignone, 1941). Francesco Cenci (Giulio Donadio) and his mistress Angela (Elli Parvo).

Beatrice Cenci 6
Italian postcard by Casa editrice Albore, Milano, no. 6. Photo: Vaselli / Manenti Film. Publicity still for Beatrice Cenci (Guido Brignone, 1941). Francesco Cenci (Giulio Donadio) whips his daughter Beatrice (Carola Höhn) when he finds out she has communicated about the tyrant to the outside world.

An illegitimate child 


Beatrice Cenci has been the subject of a number of literary works. Percy Bysshe Shelley composed his verse drama The Cenci: A Tragedy in Five Acts at Rome and at Villa Valsovano near Livorno, in 1819. It is well known as a magnificent piece of writing, although the author adopts a purely fictitious version of the story. Nor is Francesco Domenico Guarrazzi’s novel, Beatrice Cenci (1872), more trustworthy. The first attempt to deal with the subject on documentary evidence is A. Bertolotti’s Francesco Cenci e la sua famiglia (1879), containing a number of interesting documents which place the events in their true light.

But how truthful was the film version of 1941, and how innocent was Beatrice?

Beatrice Cenci was a young Roman noblewoman, born in Rome in 1577. She was the daughter of Count Francesco Cenci (1549–1598), the bastard son of a priest, and a man of great wealth but dissolute habits and violent temper. He seems to have been guilty of various offences and to have got off with short terms of imprisonment by bribery; but the monstrous cruelty which popular tradition has attributed to him is purely legendary.

His first wife, Ersilia Santa Croce, bore him twelve children, and nine years after her death he married Lucrezia Petroni, a widow with three daughters, by whom he had no offspring. He was very quarrelsome and lived on the worst possible terms with his children, who, however, were all of them more or less disreputable. He kept various mistresses and was even prosecuted for unnatural vice, but his sons were equally dissolute.

His harsh treatment of his daughter Beatrice was probably due to his discovery that she had had an illegitimate child as the result of an intrigue with one of his stewards, but there is no evidence that he tried to commit incest with her, as has been alleged. The eldest son Giacomo was a riotous, dishonest young scoundrel, who cheated his own father and even attempted to murder him in 1595. Two other sons, Rocco and Cristoforo, both of them notorious rakes, were killed in brawls.

Finally Francesco’s wife Lucrezia and his children Giacomo, Bernardo and Beatrice, assisted by a certain Monsignor Guerra, plotted to murder him. Two bravos were hired (one of them named Olimpio, according to Bertolotti, was probably Beatrice’s lover), and Francesco was assassinated while asleep in his castle of Petrella in the kingdom of Naples in 1598.

Giacomo afterwards had one of the bravos murdered, but the other was arrested by the Neapolitan authorities and confessed everything. Information having been communicated to Rome, the whole of the Cenci family were arrested early in 1599; but the story of the hardships they underwent in prison is greatly exaggerated. Guerra escaped; Lucrezia, Giacomo and Bernardo confessed the crime; and Beatrice, who at first denied everything, even under torture, also ended by confessing.

Great efforts were made to obtain mercy for the accused, but the crime was considered too heinous, and pope Clement VIII refused to grant a pardon. At dawn on 11 September 1599, they were taken to Sant'Angelo Bridge, where the scaffold was usually built.  Giacomo, after having been tortured with red-hot pincers, was killed with a mace, drawn and quartered. First Lucrezia and finally Beatrice were beheaded. The 12-year-old Bernardo’s penalty, on account of his youth, was commuted to perpetual imprisonment, and after a year’s confinement he was pardoned.

The property of the family was confiscated and given to the Pope's family. Beatrice was buried in the church of San Pietro in Montorio. Beatrice has become a symbol to the people of Rome of resistance against the arrogant aristocracy, and a legend arose. It is related that every year on the night before the anniversary of her death, she comes back to the bridge where she was executed, carrying her severed head.

Beatrice Cenci (Guido Brignone, 1941) was followed by two more screen versions in the next decades. The first was Beatrice Cenci (Riccardo Freda, 1956) with Micheline Presle as Beatrice, Gino Cervi as her father, and Fausto Tozzi as Olimpio. In 1969, director Lucio Fulci made a new film version, Beatrice Cenci/The Conspiracy of Torture (1969), starring Tomas Milian, Adrienne Larussa as Beatrice and Georges Wilson as her father. The film follows the historical events of Cenci's life very closely. Fulci said it was one of his favourite films, even though he later became known for excessively gory horror films.

Beatrice Cenci 7
Italian postcard by Casa editrice Albore, Milano, no. 7. Photo: Vaselli / Manenti Film. Publicity still for Beatrice Cenci (Guido Brignone, 1941). Here Beatrice (Carola Höhn) and her lover, Olimpio (Enzo Fiermonte), who helps her killing her brutal father.

Beatrice Cenci 8
Italian postcard by Casa editrice Albore, Milano, no. 8. Photo: Vaselli / Manenti Film. Publicity still for Beatrice Cenci (Guido Brignone, 1941). The blacksmith Il Catalano (Luigi Pavese) has slain Cenci. Beatrice (Carola Höhn) watches her dead father (Giulio Donadio).

Beatrice Cenci 9
Italian postcard by Casa editrice Albore, Milano, no. 9. Photo: Vaselli / Manenti Film. Publicity still for Beatrice Cenci (Guido Brignone, 1941). The trial.

Beatrice Cenci 10
Italian postcard by Casa editrice Albore, Milano, no. 10. Photo: Vaselli / Manenti Film. Publicity still for Beatrice Cenci (Guido Brignone, 1941). The beheading of Beatrice Cenci.

Sources: Roberto Chiti, Enrico Lancia, and Roberto Pop (I film: Tutti i film italiani dal 1930 al 1944 - Italian), Encyclopaedia Britannica, Wikipedia (Italian and English) and IMDb.

21 January 2019

Laya Raki (1927-2018)

Yesterday, Marlene Pilaete infomed us that exotic dancer and film actress Laya Raki has passed away on 21 December 2018. During the 1950s, she was a popular sex symbol in Germany. Raki appeared in revealing outfits in films and on photos, and captured men's attention like no other German showgirl. Later, 'the black-haired volcano' also became an international star with her roles in British films and TV productions. Laya Raki was 91.

Laya Raki
Austrian postcard by HDH-Verlag (Verlag Hubmann), Wien (Vienna). Photo: Joe Niczky, München (Munich) / Ufa.

Laya Raki in Die Dritte von rechts (1950)
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag. Photo: Real Film / Lilo. Publicity still for Die Dritte von rechts/Third from the Right (Géza von Cziffra, 1950).

Laya Raki
German postcard by Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FH 1160. Photo: J. Arthur Rank Organisation. Publicity still for The Seekers (Ken Annakin, 1954).

Laya Raki (1927-2018)
German postcard by UFA, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FK 1697. Photo: Czerwonski / HD-Film / Constantin. Publicity still for Die Frau des Botschafters/The Ambassador's Wife (Hans Deppe, 1955).

Laya Raki (1927-2018)
German postcard by UFA, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FK 1905. Photo: Publikcontact.

Erotic Radiance


Laya Raki was born Brunhilde Marie Alma Herta Jörns in Calvörde near Brunswick, Germany, in 1927. Her parents were acrobat Maria Althoff, and her partner, acrobat and clown Wilhelm Jörns. Her mother left when Brunhilde was five and life was tough in the immediate aftermath of the war in occupied Germany.

As Brunhilde was an admirer of the legendary dancer La Jana and liked to drink raki, she assumed her stage name Laya Raki. The seventeen-year old Laya made ends meet by cashing in on the fad for erotic cabaret by performing striptease, initially at the Monte Carlo club in Berlin. With a solid background in ballet and having followed in her father's footsteps as an acrobat, she found herself perfectly suited to performing all manner of exotic and alluring dances.

She attracted attention for the first time in 1947-1950 as a glamour dancer (in German: Schönheitstänzerin) in Frankfurt and other German cities. When she performed again in Berlin, her star began to rise: her 38-23-36 figure and erotic radiance became the talk of the town. With her new-found fame as Germany's most popular night club performer came engagements in Scandinavia, Switzerland and Italy.

Film company DEFA engaged her for a small role as a rumba dancer in Der Rat der Götter/The Council of the Gods (Kurt Maetzig, 1950), which won two awards. The Berliner Morgenpost reported that she was a great dancer with an expressive face, rich in nuances.

That same year the press department of Realfilm presented her as their new discovery in Die Dritte von rechts/The Third from the Right (Géza von Cziffra, 1950), starring Vera Molnar. It was a rather boring revue film, but the highlight was the scene in which the scantily clad Raki (with only two white stars on her nipples) exposed herself to the lustful gazes of the cinema audiences.

In 1953, she danced in Ehe für eine Nacht/Marriage for One Night (Viktor Tourjansky, 1953), starring Gustav Fröhlich, Hannelore Bollmann and Adrian Hoven, and in Die Rose von Stambul/The Rose of Stamboul (Karl Anton, 1953), Austrian actor Paul Hörbiger wanted to marry her upon seeing her dancing.

Laya Raki
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag G.m.b.H., Minden/Westf., no 1637.

Laya Raki
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag G.m.b.H., Minden/Westf., no 1775.

Laya Raki (1927-2018)
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag, Minden, no. 1941.

Laya Raki in Roter Mohn (1956)
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag, Minden/Westf., no. 2366. Photo: Sascha / Lux / Gloria Film / Miczky. Publicity still for Roter Mohn/Red Poppy (Franz Antel, 1956).

Laya Raki
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag G.m.b.H., Minden/Westf., no 2556. Photo: Sascha-Lux-Gloria-Film / Niczky. Publicity still for Roter Mohn/Red Poppy (Franz Antel, 1956).

Lured by a Swindler


In 1954, Laya Raki was lured to London by a swindler with empty promises of film roles in the United Kingdom and Hollywood. This was bigamist and serial fraudster Arthur Howard Rowson, posing as big-time producer and director 'Major Michael Howard'. Her unemployed situation made headlines in the British newspapers which in turn opened opportunities quickly. Howard is sentenced at London’s Old Bailey to seven years preventive detention

The J. Arthur Rank Film Company, which needed a slightly exotic type for a film in New Zealand, received her with open arms. They gave Raki the role of the seductive wife of a Maori chieftain's in The Seekers (Ken Annakin, 1954) opposite Jack Hawkins and Glynis Johns. She created a worldwide stir by baring her breasts.

Next she played in the comedy Up to His Neck (John Paddy Carstairs, 1954) and in the adventure film Quentin Durward (Richard Thorpe, 1955) starring Robert Taylor. She also appeared in the revue 'Cockles and Champagne', presented and produced by Cecil Landau. In Germany, she acted in film productions like Am Anfang war es Sünde/The Beginning Was Sin (Frantisek Cáp, 1954) with Viktor Staal, and Die Frau des Botschafters/The Ambassador's Wife (Hans Deppe, 1955) with Ingrid Andree.

In the Heimatfilm Roter Mohn/Red Poppy (Franz Antel, 1956) she played the gypsy girl Ilonka and conducted refreshing dialogues with famous Viennese comic Hans Moser. After some acting lessons in Hollywood, she appeared in several British TV productions, including 39 episodes of the series Crane (1962-1965). She played Moroccan dancer and bartender Halima, the partner of smuggler Richard Crane (Patrick Allen).

In the meantime she modeled for postcards, pin-up photos and magazines all over the world. In 1962, she recorded the songs 'Faire l'amour' and the twist song 'Oh Johnny hier nicht parken' (Oh, Johnny don´t park here). The latter was banned by a Nuremberg court who thought her ecstatic moaning was imitating coitus.

She continued to play in German films, including the Krimis Die Nylonschlinge/Nylon Noose (Rudolf Zehetgruber, 1963) with Dietmar Schönherr, and Das Haus auf dem Hügel/The House on the Hill (Werner Klingler, 1964) starring Australian-born actor Ron Randell. She also appeared with him in her last film, Savage Pampas (Hugo Fregonese, 1966) starring Robert Taylor.

In 1957, Laya Raki had married Ron Randell in London. They appeared together on the Sydney stage in 'Come Live with Me'. “He is the best and most beautiful man of the world”, she told the press, and she remained at his side until his death in 2005. Her second husband was Duane O. Wood, a former vice president of Lockheed International. They married in 2009 and lived in Los Angeles. There her busband died earlier in 2018, and Laya passed away on 21 December 2018.

Laya Raki
German postcard by ISV, no. C 10. Photo: Sascha-Lux / Gloria / Grein. Publicity still for Roter Mohn/Red Poppy (Franz Antel, 1956).

Laya Raki in Ehe für eine Nacht (1953)
German postcard by Netter's Star Verlag, Berlin, no. A 741. Photo: NF. Publicity still for Ehe für eine Nacht/Marriage for One Night (Viktor Tourjansky, 1953).

Laya Raki in Kuss mich noch einmal (1956)
German postcard by Ufa/Film-Foto, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. A FK 3120. Photo: Rolf Lantin / Hassia Film / Allianz Film. Publicity still for Kuss mich noch einmal/Kiss me one more time (Helmut Weiss, 1956).

Laya Raki
German postcard by Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FK 3695.

Laya Raki
Vintage postcard.

Laya Raki
German postcard by WS-Druck, Wanne-Eickel, no. 142. Photo: Sascha-Lux-Gloria-Film / Niczky.

Laya Raki
German postcard by ISC, no. C 7. Photo: Sascha / Lux / Gloria / Grein. Publicity still for Roter Mohn/Red Poppy (Franz Antel, 1956).

Sources: I.S. Mowis (IMDb), Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen, Wikipedia, and IMDb.