search.noResults

search.searching

saml.title
dataCollection.invalidEmail
note.createNoteMessage

search.noResults

search.searching

orderForm.title

orderForm.productCode
orderForm.description
orderForm.quantity
orderForm.itemPrice
orderForm.price
orderForm.totalPrice
orderForm.deliveryDetails.billingAddress
orderForm.deliveryDetails.deliveryAddress
orderForm.noItems
No Accounting for Taste


“MANY OF US STILL CLING TO MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT ARTS CRITICISM THAT DATE BACK AT LEAST AS FAR AS THE 1940S, AS PROMINENTLY FEATURED IN THE CREAKY 1946 UNIVERSAL THRILLER HOUSE OF HORRORS.”


D


espite everyone’s insistent claims that they “never listen to the critics” these days, bad reviews still have a strange- ly sinister way of getting under the skin of creators and fans alike. Just this past fall, Martin Scorsese offhandedly rebuked Mar- vel Studios’ market dominance and sparked an unbearable few weeks of hand-wringing discourse. Nothing really came of it, except the revelation that many of us still cling to misconceptions about arts criticism that date back at least as far as the 1940s, as prominently featured in the creaky 1946 Universal thriller House of Horrors. This fast- paced programmer, which hits Blu-ray this March as part of the fourth volume in Shout Factory’s Universal Horror Collection series, has some fun dishing out payback to poison the pen-wielding newspaper hacks who also don’t seem to realize that there’s more to being a published critic than choosing which direction to hold your thumb. House of Horrors stars fan favourite Rondo Hatton, whose unfortunate facial distortions – caused by an acromegaly disorder – made him a brief star prior to his untimely death just months before this film’s release. Hat- ton’s paired with Martin Kosleck as Marcel, a destitute sculptor who is furious when dismissive newspaper art critic F. Holmes Harmon (Alan Na- pier) puts a stop to the much-needed sale of his latest work. Walking the waterfront in despair, Marcel happens to save a drowning man (Hatton), who reignites his artistic flame as the inspiration for a new carving. Back at his studio, Marcel soon discovers that he’s befriended “The Creeper” – a police-sought killer known for snapping victim’s spines – and realizes he can get his revenge by sending the mysterious man to pay Harmon a visit. When the police find the critic’s body later, they suspect Steve (Robert Low- ery), a commercial artist of pin-up models, who was also a frequent target of Harmon’s column. After another sneering art critic (Howard Freeman) turns up dead, Steve’s crackerjack reporter gal pal Joan (Virginia Grey) tries to help her boyfriend clear his name.


nsistent r listen


ys, bad trange- skin of


ast fall, d Mar- parked


ringing except


cling to hat date i


tl In a characterization that wouldn’t seem out of place today, the critics


in House of Horrors are depicted as curmudgeonly keyboard jockeys who gleefully deprive hardworking artists of their livelihood. This scornful streak didn’t go unnoticed by The New York Times, which quipped at the time that


R M 44


th h c


n J c f


the film’s moral “appears to be that art critics had better be careful whom they criticize" (film critics, happily, were not mentioned). While it’s not clear whether former poverty row director Jean Yarbrough and his frequent screenwriter collaborator George Bricker were using their film to clap back against past reviews, critics still generally liked this effort. Most agreed that Hatton is a notable screen presence as he stalks the shadowy New York streets, but with an undeniable pathos that stems from his naïve friendship with Marcel. Yet, despite it all, the film clearly implies that the


s t


d critics received only what they so richly deserved.


It’s all reminiscent of the frantic online reaction following news that Scorsese declined to express his admiration for Marvel’s seemingly inex- haustible supply of superhero content. Despite not being an actual film critic, Scorsese went on to explain himself in a New York Times opinion piece that is among the more interesting pieces of criticism from last year. With a nod to his earlier comments that the Marvel films just aren’t for him, Scorsese talked about how, by making movies, directors enter into a conversation not only with other films, but with the idea of filmmaking itself. Properly used, this approach can expand an audiences’ assumptions about what films can and should do, and critics – the good ones, anyway – can help guide our understanding and provide context to enrich our un- derstanding of the film’s ideas and its place among its peers. This is what separates effective, thoughtful criticism from simply tweeting about wheth- er the latest sequel is “good” or “bad,” or even acting as a cheerleader for obscure or underrated films – both of which have their place, but neither are true criticism.


If the cigar-chomping critics in House of Horrors had to watch their backs lest The Creeper sneak up on them, film criticism nowadays is more like tiptoeing around the kid from The Twilight Zone who sends grown-ups to the cornfield for thinking unhappy thoughts. It all feels like an endless battle in the wrong direction – rather than shooting off over-earnest “let people enjoy things” tweets and accusations of ruined Rotten Tomatoes scores, we should spend more time wrestling with our own personal feelings about individual movies. It’s a more productive struggle that puts critics right where they should be – as referees, not opponents.


Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64