By Murray Pomerance
Examines the numerous varieties of cinematic badness during the last 100 years, from Nosferatu to The proficient Mr. Ripley.
Read or Download Bad: Infamy, Darkness, Evil, and Slime on Screen PDF
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Extra resources for Bad: Infamy, Darkness, Evil, and Slime on Screen
Films, the corporation claimed, “depict dramatizations of standard novels, exhibiting many subjects of scientific interest, the properties of matter, the growth of various forms of animal and plant life, and explorations and travel; also events of historical and current interest—the same events which are described in words and by photographs in newspapers, weekly periodicals, magazines and other publications” (McKenna, 1). Films must be recognized, the Mutual lawyers argued, “as graphic expressions of opinion and sentiment, exponents of policies, as teachers of science and history, as useful, interesting, amusing, educational and moral” (3).
His language remains revealing. Although McKenna grants laudable uses of motion pictures, he immediately cautions: “But they [motion pictures] may be used for evil, and against that possibility the [Ohio] statute was enacted” (3). The following quotation, a fragment of which I cited earlier, captures something of the power McKenna sensed in motion pictures that gave them a dangerous aspect: Their power of amusement, and, it may be education, the audiences they assemble, not of women alone nor of men alone, but together, not of adults only, but of children, make them the more insidious in corruption by a pretense of worthy purpose or if they should degenerate from worthy purpose.
The term thus unites the two aspects of optical trickery: the manual skill of juggling and the rapidity of light itself, accenting light’s ability not only to reveal, illuminate, and enlighten, but also to conceal, cast shadows, and create illusions. The history of early cinema’s imbrication with stage magic is well known; stage magicians such as Felicien Trewey, John Stuart Blackton, or Georges Méliès adopted the cinema as the latest conjuring device, another nineteenth-century example of precision machinery replacing the skilled hand (Barnouw).