Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Living Man!

Some generous person has posted Robert Enrico's 1962 adaptation of Ambrose Bierce's An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge up on Youtube in it's entirety. If you've never seen it, nows the time.
The list of filmmakers it's inspired over the years is long and impressive, and the number of films that owe a direct debt to it are legion (Carnival of Souls, Lost Highway, Jacob's Ladder, The Thin Red Line and Donnie Darko all point like straight lines back towards it's haunting-and profoundly odd-structure.) I've often thought of it as a kind of lost companion piece to the equally renowned (and equally pillaged) La Jette.
The film won best short subject at the 1962 Cannes, but wasn't seen by most North Americans until 1964, when Rod Serling aired it as the final episode of The Twilight Zone.
Serling's series, in it's own right, is a veritable nursery for many of the last 40 years of genre film grammar. While plowing through a lot of the older episodes (on loan from the library) I've been astounded at how wonderful (and scary) many of them have remained.
Lynch especially, more than any other director I can think of, seems to have taken many of his enduring motifs from the series. These two scenes, perfect short films in their own right, are unmistakable nods to a specific episode of the series; the dread filled Perchance to Dream (episode 9, season 1) - as is the repeated image of the headlight-bleached street sign in Mulholland Drive.
It's not hard to imagine a very young Lynch sitting transfixed by Richard Conte's helpless descent into a world of seductive, lethal, and inescapable darkness-a darkness so utterly unlike anything on television at the time-and saying "That's the stuff."