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Joseph Losey, Hammer Films

Under the title “Icons of Suspense,” Sony offers a third collection of new-to-DVD titles from their Hammer Films holdings — mostly moderately budgeted, black-and-white films from the early 60s that reflect the influence of “Les Diaboliques” (Val Guest’s “Stop Me Before I Kill,” Guy Green’s “The Snorkel”) or “Psycho” (Michael Carreras’s “Maniac”). The highlight is unquestionably Joseph Losey’s “These Are the Damned,” a haunting social protest film that takes just the slightest step over the line into science-fiction and seems to have had a profound influence on Losey’s fellow (though voluntary) ex-pat, Stanley Kubrick. Also, a collection of dryly funny, subversive shorts from the Yugoslavian Black Wave director Karpo Godina, curated by BAMcinematek’s Jacob Perlin and yours free with the purchase of The Believer’s 2010 Film Issue, currently at your local (upscale) newsstand. My New York Times reviews are here

146 comments to Joseph Losey, Hammer Films

  • Junko and Jim: For anyone who might want to read more about Masumura in English, I published a long essay about him, including a dialogue with Shigehiko Hasumi about both Masumura and Howard Hawks, in a 2003 book that I coedited with Adrian Martin, MOVIE MUTATIONS: THE CHANGING FACE OF WORLD CINEPHILIA. Thanks to a lot of help from several other Japanese film scholars, both in the U.S. and in Japan, I managed to see 38 out of Masumura’s 58 features — the best of which, I still believe, is A WIFE CONFESSES. Some of my other favorites (to cite only the English titles) are RED ANGEL (available on DVD in the U.S.), KISSES (available on DVD in the U.K.), and FALSE STUDENT, all in black and white. I think the best one in color may be TATTOO (available on DVD in France), at least from a visual standpoint. (This is another Tanizaki adaptation.) A few others are distributed in the U.S. by Fantoma, including both MANJI and a somewhat Tashlinesque satire about advertising, also in color, GIANTS AND TOYS.

  • jbryant

    In the early aughts, I got to see Val Guest do a Q&A at a double feature screening of HELL IS A CITY and THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE. He was already over 90, but looked, sounded and acted much younger. Very engaging guy. The evening was somewhat marred by a reel swap during HELL, which caused some major confusion for several minutes. It’s probably a tribute to the film that it held up despite this glitch. And I loved FIRE, which I later procured on DVD.

    Perhaps my favorite B&W Hammer film is the above-mentioned PARANOIAC, which is rather amazingly lurid for the time and contains some of the most gob-smacking plot twists since Ulmer’s THE STRANGE WOMAN. Another big fave is Seth Holt’s THE NANNY.

  • Kon Ichikawa is indeed a master of scope. AN ACTOR’S REVENGE is one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen. But my favourite film by him is probably ENJO, aka CONFLAGRATION.

    The Anthony Mann retrospective at Film Forum begins one week after I leave New York. That’s just mean!

    jbryant, good thing you mention THE NANNY. That’s a scary film!

  • it’s just as arguable that EVERY aesthetic is personal: it all depends on where you start drawing your definitional lines

    Why, of course, you can do many things in philosophy and in aesthetics especially. That said, Kant’s argument, which cannot be discussed in full here, is very intricate and, at least for me, manages to capture what people are often doing when discussing works of art, namely expressing subjective opinions on them that they nevertheless would like to be shared by other people of similar learning and good taste, thus aiming for a certain type of objectivity.

  • Barry Putterman

    Yann, I have no doubt that Kant’s thesis is very intricate and could hardly be summarized in a few sentences here. Nevertheless, until you can give us some idea of what an “objective analysis” would look like, I really don’t see what you are trying to single out for criticism with this

  • Rick K.

    Just received my Hammer set in the mail, and have now watched CASH ON DEMAND again after a hiatus of many years, indeed an 80 min. cut of the film … there may have been a scene or two more than I recall from my past screening (which was a 16mm print), adding perhaps a little to the cat-and-mouse between Cushing and Morell, but I doubt if it amounted to more than a few minutes. Referring to MacFarland Publishers’ “Hammer Films: Exhaustive Filmography” by Johnson & Del Vecchio, it indicates a copyright length of 77 min., which would SEEM to be consistent with the 16mm print. The 66 min. length is also mentioned, which appears in other sources such as Gifford’s “British Film Catalogue” and of course IMDb (the TV movie guides seem to ignore the film completely!). Since we’ll assume there will be no further mining of the vaults to clear up these discrepancies (or to issue a double disc special edition of multiple cuts, a’la TOUCH OF EVIL), accepting the 80 min. version as definitive should constitute no compromise whatsoever.

    Revisiting past favorites, in particular those films which once “surprised” via unexpected merits, can sometimes be precarious, but CASH ON DEMAND delivered (for me) the same rewards that I experienced before. It remains a choice item, for admirers of Cushing in particular, but also for its suspense values, derived as much from character tension as the succinctly developed crime angle, for which Hammer’s eye on economy (via restricted sets and streamlined production) proves an ally as well. Nice, too, that it offers a Christmas motif, which will likely encourage seasonal revisits, now that the film rests contentedly on my DVD shelf.

    Junko. Thanks for the info on ghosts and suspense from Japan .. I know there was once a subtitled DVD available of TOKADIO YOTSUYA KAIDAN, but it was an expensive import, so I passed it up. Now I can’t find it anymore, however I will keep looking. How about Yoshitaro Nomura? He has a 1961 scope movie called ZERO FOCUS (U.S. title) available on DVD, and the cover says “Hitchcockian crime thriller” … should I believe the cover?

    I first discovered Yasuzo Masumura via GIANTS & TOYS, which practically knocked me over as an unexpected delight (yes, very Tashlinesque). But I was less enthusiastic about AFRAID TO DIE and MANJI, cutting short my explorations, though perhaps I should have sampled RED ANGEL instead, which I shall endeavor to do.

  • Barry, to cut a long story short:

    “The cat is on the mat.”= objective
    “I like garlic.” = subjective
    “Barry Lyndon is a masterpiece.” = judgement of taste in the Kantian sense (subjective, but striving for the consent of others, thus claiming a certain form of objectivity)

    The whole argument is very intricate, yes (as you would expect from Kant), but what it comes down to is actually a fairly accurate description of how people tend to talk about works of art. That said, “Big Momma’s House 2” is of course the best film ever made…

  • Barry Putterman

    Alright Yann, but I still can’t see what the point is Has anybody ever claimed that film analysis is objective as Kant defines it? What can we objectively say about BARRY LYNDON? It is a movie. It is shot in color. It stars Ryan O’Neal in the title role. Is that analysis? Is that even interesting?

    When we present our subjective film analysis to somebody, we strive for persuasion, we strive for agreement, we strive for consensus. Achievement of those goals would be objective facts. Failure to achieve those goals would also be objective facts. But how would the striving be for objectivity in itself?

  • To Junko, I’ve seen two Kiju Yoshida films recently, ”Eros + Massacre” his most famous film and
    ”Kaigenrei”(”Martial Law” but released internationally as ”Coup d’Etat”). I wrote about the latter at my blog,
    which also has some stills.

    He is one of the most visually powerful film-makers I’ve seen. Comparable in his handling of black-and-white with the likes of Antonioni, Godard, Garrel and Mizoguchi.

    Of the Masumura that I’ve seen, my favourite is RED ANGEL.

  • Johan Andreasson

    Well, this is coming from foggy memories of studying philosophy in the 80s, but I think that Kant doesn’t claim objectivity for the way we appreciate art, but does say that arguing about taste is what forms a culture, and that the culture (in a way) exists objectively. So, seeing it this way, a purely personal aesthetic doesn’t make much sense.

  • skelly

    “How about Yoshitaro Nomura? He has a 1961 scope movie called ZERO FOCUS (U.S. title) available on DVD, and the cover says “Hitchcockian crime thriller” … should I believe the cover?”

    Rick – well the score is certainly “Hitchcockian” but I’d characterize the film more as as a moody mystery melodrama (how’s that for alliteration) than an edge of your seat suspense thriller. The film’s heroine is pretty passive and Hitchcock certainly wouldn’t have stood for such passivity in a protagonist, not even in the second Mrs. De Winter in REBECCA. In any event it’s worth seeing, a meticulously composed movie with some beautiful stark imagery emphasizing the heroine’s emotional and psychological isolation.

    I’d also add my recommendation of RED ANGEL to the list. (It’s a pretty twisted film though).

  • Brian Dauth

    First: this is a quick and vulgar approximation of Kantian thought. But since being quick and vulgar never stopped me before, here goes.

    Kant is important since he begins the modernist discourse on aesthetics. His ideas were modified and adapted over time, most notably by Hegel, Nietzsche, Adorno, and Menke. That said, I think Kant’s belief that an aesthetic approach should be grounded in the properties of the artwork is still valid and useful, and should not be abandoned. In fact, it is only by grounding arguments in these properties that the persuasion and consensus Barry speaks of can be worked toward.

    The most significant aspect of Kant’s thinking that has been rejected is that all people (if they are properly attuned) will respond to a particular formal element in the same way, i.e., they will have the correct aesthetic response which is superior to all others. Hegel argued against this with his dialectic, and subsequent thinkers have gone on from there.

    In the recent discussion of Wellman, his tendency to place characters/action center frame was described as “blunt” by one member and “crude” by another. Although there was disagreement, by grounding the discussion in a specific attribute of the artwork, the conversation could occur. Such a practice is in keeping with a Kantian approach to aesthetics.

  • Brian Dauth

    One more comment (the edit function is acting up on me): Kantian objectivity in the sense that all right thinking people will have the same response should be rejected. But Kant’s insight that one attribute of a great work of art is that engagement with it inspires a person to try to communicate her subjective experience to others by means of objective discourse still holds true for me.

  • Johan Andreasson

    Brian, we are now truly in the Edith Sitwell salon of the Internet. And if we are going to discuss William Wellman with a Kantian approach, let’s by all means keep it quick and vulgar!

    “ … Kant’s insight that one attribute of a great work of art is that engagement with it inspires a person to try to communicate her subjective experience to others by means of objective discourse still holds true for me.”

    Holds true for me as well. Why else are we arguing about films and direcors we love?

  • nicolas saada

    If we discuss further “big Momma’s House 2”, I think we should choose an Hegelian approach. But that’s just a thought. Maybe the Kantian approach is better.
    Unless we choose to discuss “White Chicks” with an Hegelian approach too.

  • Johan Andreasson

    Considering that this is Friday night and, according to Monty Python, “Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
    Who was very rarely stable

    Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
    Who could think you under the table

    David Hume could out consume
    Schopenhauer and Hegel”, we might as well drop the whole subject.

  • Barry Putterman

    Excuse me, drop the whole subject? And let the assertion that BIG MOMMA’S HOUSE 2 is the best film ever made go unchallanged? When we have not yet even considered the possibility of POLICE ACADEMY 5? Or Wellman’s staggering documentary KANT: THE QUICK AND THE VULGAR?

  • Brian Dauth

    And do not forget one of the great lost films: Tashlin’s THE GIRL KANT HELP IT.

  • Apparently the mayor of Manchester wasn’t particularly happy to find out that ‘Hell Is A City’ was going to have that title!

    The Damned was recently released on DVD in the UK too, along with two other unorthodox (as in not horror or sci-fi, but World War Two) Hammer black and white cinemascope (“MegaScope”) rarities directed by Val Guest. Camp On Blood Island is described in the review of the DVD in Sight and Sound as “a termite art version of Bridge on the River Kwai” and was accused at the time of racism in its portrayal of the Japanese. Even better though is the utterly fantastic Yesterday’s Enemy, which stars Stanley Baker (perhaps working for the same studio was what brought him together with Losey?) and seems to take the previous accusations of racism to heart in a film in which both sides perform matching atrocities in the name of the ‘greater good’ and neither can claim a superior position over the other.

  • wilbur king

    To colinr, and anyone else: Are there any more Hammers starring Stanley Baker? What a mesmerizing actor! I got a double dose of Baker last fall when both a Losey series and a mini-version of Film Forum’s Brit Noir played the National Gallery in DC. I saw both HELL DRIVERS and THE CRIMINAL for the first time, totally riveting. Sadly, HELL IS A CITY didn’t travel to DC, I will have to find the dvd.

    Also, I was just reading about Robert Aldrich and found that he made a Hammer film as well, called 10 SECONDS TO HELL, starring Jack Palance and shot in Germany. Has anyone seen it?

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘I think I saw a version of YOTSUYA GHOST STORY in black and white directed by Tai Kato. I like Tai Kato whose films are not easy to find. I saw about fifteen of them in paris 10 years ago. I like RED PEONY a lot and it happens to be one of Chris Marker’s favorite film.’

    Nicolas, yes that is very good version by Kato. he was making very good chambara movie, RED PEONY series is interesting, doing much with low budget. I recommend Kato chambara movies for someone who likes this genre.

    Misumi has made as many bad movie as good movie to me, not all was as good as KEN. Also, it is very popular movie because of Ichikawa Raizo.

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘For anyone who might want to read more about Masumura in English, I published a long essay about him, including a dialogue with Shigehiko Hasumi about both Masumura and Howard Hawks, in a 2003 book that I coedited with Adrian Martin, MOVIE MUTATIONS: THE CHANGING FACE OF WORLD CINEPHILIA. Thanks to a lot of help from several other Japanese film scholars, both in the U.S. and in Japan, I managed to see 38 out of Masumura’s 58 features — the best of which, I still believe, is A WIFE CONFESSES.’

    Jonathan, that is fine essay. I recommend all to read it to understand about Masumura, also to read conversation with Hasumi sensei. TSUMA WA KOKUHAKU SURU (A WIFE CONFESSES) is one of best Masumura movies, but I like some others as much as that movie.

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘How about Yoshitaro Nomura? He has a 1961 scope movie called ZERO FOCUS (U.S. title) available on DVD, and the cover says “Hitchcockian crime thriller” … should I believe the cover?’

    No, do not believe cover. Skelly is right. It is not having style of Hitchcock or story construction like Hitchcock movie. That is how I understand Hitchcockian, similarity of style or way story is made, not only crime or suspense.

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘The film doesn’t look or feel like a period film despite the high degree of versimilitude in its handling of period detail and location.’

    Arthur, writing from your essay you have understood intent of Yoshida’s movie, because that situation existing always in modern Japanese life. I am glad that you have such good appreciation of Yoshida. I hope you are able to see earlier movies he has made, especially AKITSU ONSEN (1962)to how Yoshida has developed. You could write something interesting about it.

  • Stephen Bowie

    Just to add to Jonathan’s survey of Masumura’s (a director I also consider very talented) English-language DVD availability:

    Fantoma released GIANTS & TOYS (1958), AFRAID TO DIE (1960), BLACK TEST CAR (1962), MANJI (1964), RED ANGEL (1966), and BLIND BEAST (1969) on DVD in the US. MANJI seems to be out of print and fetching high prices.

    KISSES (1957) and IREZUMI/TATTOO (1966) are available in the UK, but the transfers are poor NTSC-PAL conversions.

    There’s Hong Kong R3 DVD of A LUSTFUL MAN (1961) that’s non-anamorphic but otherwise looks okay.

    There are fan-subtitled DVDs or bit torrents of a maybe a half-dozen others out there, which I haven’t looked at, except for a good copy of SEISAKU’S WIFE (1965) which I found in an L.A. video store.

  • Alex Hicks

    Very nice telegraphing of some central aspects of Kant on easthetic judgments by Brian Dauth and Yann.

    On objective criticism, Barry, surely we can’t speak very incisively about a film’s aesthetic quality or impact if we confine outselves to “objective analysis in Kant’s sense (Yann’s “cat on a matt”). However, kamtian judgment thrive on some good grounding in objective statements (as might an analysis of VERTIGO pretty objective descriptions of cinematography and tracks and cuts). Also there is no big gap between aesthetic judgement and other judgements (“the particle theory of light is an instructive theory,” “killing is always morally wrong,” “war is wrong morally when it does not meet Aquinas’ conditions for just war”). Statements of what is the case are almost invariably clouded as well as anchored by judgments.

    In my judgment, we’ve missed comment on two of Losey’s best film in this thread, KING & COUNTRY and DON GIOVANNI, triumphs –despite more than a little staginess– of emotionally evocative camera work and acting.e.

    “La Truite,” on the other hand, seems to me much like “Eva,” striking camera work straining after weighty themes but seldom evoking very much emotionally and never sustaining any affecting emotional thread.

  • Barry Putterman

    Alex, to quote from that Wellman documentary I mentioned earlier, that tracks and cuts are used is objective, to what effect they are used is subjective.

  • pat graham

    and that something is or isn’t an “objective judgment” is always a matter of “subjective” opinion, so round & round we go …

    incidentally, YANN chose to excerpt my throwaway comment while ignoring a more telling one: that IF kant’s straw man arguments against “personal aesthetic” are the best he can come up with, then he’s got no argument at all * one might as easily construct an analogous bogey re alleged “objectivity”: that it’s “often” invoked to AVOID the very kinds of arguments BARRY describes, appealing to some supposedly prior “factual” condition that everyone who’s not demented or biased will necessarily accept–i.e., “if you can’t acknowledge x, then it’s all your fault since it’s the plain, unvarnished truth” … an appeal BEYOND individualized awareness to the alleged “objective” nature of the beast, what every right-thinking, clear-sighted individual … etc, etc

    which finally comes down to a matter of CONSENSUS, what one or another community of observers accepts as gospel, beyond all “rational” dissent * hard to fight against that intimidation factor–which claims of “objectivity” ultimately prove to be …

    but i suppose that’s a straw argument as well …

  • Rick K.

    It was certainly a pleasure revisiting THESE ARE THE DAMNED while working my way through the Hammer set, and especially nice to have Dave K’s review of it, providing both background and context for this fascinating and one-of-a-kind film. And while Sony certainly deserves enthusiastic applause (and support) for bringing this gem to DVD, one can almost sense a bit of deja vu in its marketing, referring to how the film was treated back in the 60’s, with its theatrical release long delayed, then relegated to the lower half of double bills. Jump ahead a few decades, and it appears that Columbia has again taken its time dusting off this title for DVD, then deposited it in a six film set with a rather tenuous thematic link and very little fanfare. At least GENGHIS KHAN was not among the companions this time around.

    Admittedly, a film like THESE ARE THE DAMNED can pose a few problems from a promoter’s standpoint, a stubbornly difficult film to categorize or determine a core audience for … it has had, however, almost 50 years of admittedly sporadic support for its reputation, very little of which was tapped by Sony. Last year I picked up a copy of the British DVD release of this film, which likewise was rather hard to find, licensed by Columbia as an exclusive to Movie Mail UK, and therefore not picked up by more visible retailers like Amazon. The region 2/PAL DVD was bare bones, but it DID include a very nice 24 page booklet with program notes by Marcus Hearn, who is something of a Hammer authority, astutely researched and pleasingly illustrated. It was a welcome supplement … perhaps if they had added a decent audio commentary and/or resurrected a long dormant interview with Macdonald Carey, it might have even passed as a Criterion release in the U.S. I mention this only to suggest that Sony had a property of somewhat more potential than they might have realized. It’s always nice when a neglected film resurfaces with appropriate adulation and “trimmings”, which is why most of us are so appreciative of the work over at Criterion. On the other hand, a package of six heretofore unreleased “thrillers” for under $25.00, nicely restored (quality-wise, the U.S. DVD release of THESE ARE THE DAMNED is superior to the U.K. release, sharper and better looking), is something to be extremely thankful for.

    And speaking of Macdonald Carey, it would indeed be very interesting to know just how he ended up as headliner of this very unusual picture. A somewhat incongruous choice, the selection works perhaps best as an example of unexpected casting for a picture which defies expectations in so many ways, but perhaps a more suitable candidate could have been found. Was Carey chosen by Losey by virtue of their previous association, or was this another example of Hammer procuring a once-marketable American actor whose popularity had fallen to economically provide token recognition for U.S. engagements, a tactic which they were quite adept throughout their history.

  • pat graham

    re macdonald carey in THESE ARE THE DAMNED: another tommy noonan might-have-been … and yet film history survives!

  • Rick K., in an aside, states “I mention this only to suggest that Sony had a property of somewhat more potential than they might have realized.” Agreed, in principle. The problem of course is who “they” actually are, and who among them actually has power. Having, over the past 25 years or so, been acquainted with various individuals who’ve worked in varying capacities at what is now the Sony video division, I can assure Rick that there have been any number of people there…and there still ARE any number of people there…who would have liked nothing better than to have crafted a Criterion-like presentation around this prime piece of Losey. As it happens, Sony’s operation is actually too BIG to operate in a Criterion-esque fashion, but that’s only one reason for the current state of affairs. Which is far better than it was ten or fifteen years ago, when the fellow who suggested releasing a Budd Boetticher picture was answered, inevitably, with a dismissal along the lines of “Nobody gives a shit about Budd Boetticher.” Now the situation has improved to the point that the cinephiles and cultists in house do what they can, and what they can manifest itself in sets such as the Hammer collections, the “Bad Girls of Film Noir” packages, the Toho Collection, and so on. All bare-bones presentations…although where it finally really counts, that is in terms of materials and transfers, always top-notch. The only instances where you’re going to get copious extras is when Scorsese and/or The Film Foundation is attaching their names to the package, as in the Boetticher box, the Powell double feature, the Film Noir and Fuller sets. As far as I’m concerned, all this is FAR better than the more-or-less nothing that Sony was putting out, library-wise, up until a few years ago.

  • Rick K.

    Glenn K. I am very much in sympathy with everything you say and, as it stands now, Sony, Criterion and Warner Archive seem to be the primary sources we can look to for release of studio material heretofore unavailable on DVD (the TCM/Universal partnership seems hopeful, though perhaps too early to tell). I guess my primary concern is that the sales for their product DO meet the expectations necessary to continue. When I see a Budd Boetticher box set, I’m indeed ecstatic, and the inclusion of Film Foundation supplements is heart warming as well. My worry is that marketing will serve the product well enough to meet expectations to satisfy the “bottom line”. Perhaps a “Randolph Scott/Budd Boetticher Western Roundup” tag (with a few more wild horses on the cover) might have reached a few more potential customers, without in any way compromising the contents. I mention this after observation of many remaindered copies sitting at Costco, where the Warner stuff (Film Noir sets and the like) seemed to steal much of the limelight in that particular section … my conclusion was that very few people had even HEARD of Budd Boetticher, and didn’t really associate his name with the awesome quality of those westerns. I think Universal had it right when they focused on Jimmy Stewart rather than Anthony Mann in promoting their holdings.

    It would indeed be tragic if Sony goes the way of Fox in discontinuing their line of classics on DVD. I had my heart set on a Walsh/Hawks set from Fox last Christmas which obviously didn’t materialize, though the extravagance of the Murnau/Borzage box from the year before, on the heels of its $300 Ford experiment the year before, was a concern in my view that such ornate indulgence would be continued. So my concern rests with how the studios BEST utilize their holdings to make them available in a manner which of course satisfies the POTENTIAL which the individual properties hold. That in itself can be a complex equation which, as you imply, doesn’t always conform to a huge corporate entity. Perhaps too, THESE ARE THE DAMNED will be discovered unintentionally by someone merely seeking some Hammer thrills, and instead taken aback by Losey’s intellectual sci-fi social protest eccentricity, perhaps igniting a new auteur disciple in the process. At any rate, as you state, what really counts is that material will continue to flow in the high quality transfers which Sony is obviously committed to in their mining their Columbia holdings … any word on when their second Film Noir collection (including Tourneur’s NIGHTFALL and, one of my own favorites, CITY OF FEAR) will be released?

  • Alex Hicks

    I think the intellectual climate since the advent of post-structuralism –or over four decades– has been such that anything involving a hint of the subjective — anything short of logical proof or brute physical fact, if them — has been regarded as simply “subjective.”

  • pat graham

    ALEX–umm, yes … or at least not “objective”

  • Alex Hicks

    pat graham, …maybe…. but what about arithmatic, or “Obama is a liberal?”? Are those “not objective?”

    Is everything that’s somewhat subjective, “not objective” and everything that is (merely) somewhat objective, also “not objective?”

  • pat graham

    ALEX–arithmetic? * your terms define your conclusions: e.g., 2 + 2 = 4 is analytically necessary within a base 10 number system * calling this “objective” seems utterly gratuitous, also informationally empty: nothing’s been added to the initial premise, aside from one’s attitude toward it * which is WHAT exactly? … except i think we know, a form of special pleading, trying to steal a march on what argument’s supposed to do

    as for “obama the liberal,” ask alex cockburn … heck, ask me! * there’s nothing like consensus on this since the relevant definitions aren’t shared, which is essentially what “objectivity”‘s about: statements either anodyne or trivial on which a community of the like-minded can agree * but introduce controversy and every claim to “objectivity” immediately flies out the window …

    quite coincidentally i was reading some chess analysis this morning: “black stands objectively better” * at least till some more sophisticated analysis says otherwise, i remember thinking to myself, since this kind of thing happens in chess all the time * but: what becomes of the initial claim to “objectivity” then?–is it something a person can be, uhh, “wrong” about? * and how do you know it when you are? * sad, sad, that an absolutist standard should so easily succumb to whimsical refutation … makes you wanna not trust it in general, or at least the self-ratifying language

  • Barry Putterman

    Alex, who’s on first?

  • Alex Hicks

    pat graham, I thought you’d said that “anything short of logical proof or brute physical fact” is “at least not ‘objective’,” but I suppose you had thought “logical proof” is also less than objective.

    Serious discussion of mathematical objectivity and of realist versus idealist theories of math abound (e.g, in work by Stewart Shapiro, Hilary Putnam) as do ones of objective social knowledge. And that’s fact enough for me, whatever Michele Bachmann might say about it, or global warming.

    Barry, “Who’s on first,” you darn sophist! A fine example of objective idealism there from Dr. Abbot.

  • wilbur king

    To Rick K, Glenn K: Yeah, I guess I shouldn’t complain, but I picked up my Hammer “box set” and was shocked at how bare bones it was. I’m not talking about the lack of extras, but how the dvd’s had actually been packaged: three stacked onto a single spindle. I’ve never seen anything like that from a major company. Even the previous “Icons of Horror” set was put together more carefully, with each dvd on a separate spindle. This new set could get easily scratched or damaged. I guess the answer is to store the dvd’s in separate cases.

    However, to get 6 films never before on video for under $25, in state of the art transfers, how great a deal is that? Only took a glimpse of MANIAC but so far looks like that will be fun, and indicates that Hammer was riffing on Clouzot almost as much as they were on Hitchock’s PSYCHO.

    Re Macdonald Carey: From my memory of the Losey/Ciment interviews, the only actors not chosen by Losey were Shirley Anne Field and Oliver Reed. Carey was apparently chosen by Losey, but he is certainly one of the weaker links in the film.
    I know from at least the 80’s on, from screenings and writeups, Reed has been considered the “star” of The Damned. Losey was very happy with Reed but unhappy with Field, whose performance seems to improve in the second half.

    There IS a sense of deja vu with this release, once again The Damned is halfway buried among B thrillers(not to knock the other films). There are bucketloads of written praise Sony could have tapped into, but I guess they didn’t have the space. I know that the film was restored a good 10 years ago, but that Sony had no interest in putting it out on home video. It’s only because people like Mike Schlesinger left Sony Rep to work at the DVD division, that the film has come out at all. I wish they could have done a limited theatrical rerelease prior to the DVD; but it’s gratifying that one of my fave films has generated somenew critical buzz, not least of which are the two essays in the New Yorker.

    I’m curious if anyone has read the original Ben Barzmann script for The Damned that Losey threw out. If it’s anything like the script Barzmann wrote for BLIND DATE I can see why Losey got rid of it and took his chances.

  • pat graham

    ALEX–good to know that ad hominem assurances are enough for you … * as for so-called logical “proofs,” all conclusions are implicit in the premises, as a kind of unfolding redundancy … but if that’s what you mean by “objective,” then what can i say?

    ps: i’ve been assured by persons far more mathematically astute than myself that, e.g., chess is mathematically “trivial,” with only a finite number of possible positions that can, at least theoretically, be known * what they say may well be true, though sadly it’s not an aspect of “knowledge” i can claim for myself * but i CAN parrot it …

  • Alex Hicks

    Pat, you’re parroting yourself.

    That the statements of mathematics are tautological and therefore empirically hollow is a commplace statement since at least Wittgenstein, and quite possibly correct. (Ooops, I hope that doesn’t presume that math is objective.)However, the statement does little to address the view that math is empirically instructive in so far as it is a position in a debate with that view and is that it is unlikely, as such, to resolve the debate. What relevance it has to the objectivity of math, I don’t get.

    In an case, math is pretty certainly objective with respect to us and our respective mathematical authorities (even, I think, Mr. Putnam).

  • pat graham

    ALEX–as incredible as it may seem, my arguments don’t stem from wittgenstein (at least not directly, maybe it’s the cultural weather), since logic has been a bete noire for me for the very reasons i’ve indicated: lots of existential agonizing, blah-blah-blah * but of course i’d assume wittgenstein would think that way …

    anyway: i can see you’re insisting, more or less a priori, that “objective” is a notion that attaches to what i think of as “redundant” locutions * to me it’s empty garnish, of a very mischievous sort, essentially a way of pulling argumentative rank and stifling dissent … like the pope’s recent hectoring: “homosexuality is objectively evil”–implying that if you think otherwise you’d best look again (and if you STILL think otherwise, you’re not looking hard enough!) * pace kant and all other inveighers against “personal aesthetic,” but this kind of argumentative thuggery–in the service of, ahem, “objectivity”–is worse than anything our “subjectivist” champions could be taken to task for * so: a pox on BOTH their houses, maybe?

    and even in our case, what’s “objective” for you obviously isn’t for me (as probably nothing can be) … so what kind of “objectivity” is that?

  • Alex Hicks

    pat graham,

    I actually didn’t mean to insist on anything about objectivity except the it has sundry, plausible, unevenly distributed meanings that could be interesting and that you seemed intent on discrediting. (Easy for me to perceive that you argument haven’t been all that compelling when I’ve had no interest in anything more than the plausbilty of mine.)

    I think you’ve had more decided and serious views here than I, though I have, I think, managed to be stubborn.

  • pat graham

    hooray for stubbornness! * cheers …

  • “These Are the Damned” plays like a cross between “Clockwork Orange” and an old “Star Trek” episode. Interesting, but hardly worth plopping down the money for this set.

  • wilbur king

    Just saw the trailer for “Never Let Me Go.” It looks like it could almost be the sequel to These Are The Damned, if it had been made by Merchant Ivory.