Sunday, January 26, 2014

Shakespeare The Animated Tales: The Taming Of The Shrew (1994) DVD Review



Shakespeare The Animated Tales: The Taming Of The Shrew (1994) stars Nigel Le Vaillant, Amanda Root, Gerald James,  and John Warner. The screenplay is by Leon Garfield. It was directed by Aida Ziablikova. This delightful version is done with puppets. And though this version is only twenty-six minutes long, it includes the Induction. It does, however, cut several characters, including Tranio and Biondello. It begins with the Hostess’ line “A pair of stocks, you rogue,” which is spoken off screen. The door opens and Sly comes stumbling out. Oddly, it’s daytime. Sly immediately falls asleep. The Lord comes upon him and says, “Grim death, how foul and loathsome is thine image.” He turns to one of his men and whispers to him. They had successfully hunted a boar and are carrying it tied on a large stick. They drop the boar, and continue along with Sly tied in its place. They take him to the Lord’s house, and it’s not long before they convince him he’s a lord, and they do so without the page playing his wife.

Act I

The Taming Of The Shrew begins after a curtain is opened. It begins with Baptista’s line: “Gentlemen, importune me no father,/For how I firmly am resolv’d you know.” When he says “elder,” Katherina pushes her way in to stand between Baptista and Bianca, and in doing so knocks over Gremio and Hortensio. It’s interesting, because it’s like she wishes to be married, though when she gets there, she crosses her arms. Bianca is dressed in pale blue, with blond hair; Katherina is in red, with red hair.

The curtain is drawn, and Petruchio rides in on our side of the curtain. It then opens to reveal Hortensio at a window. After Petruchio says he won’t sleep until he sees Katherina, he rides off, and the wall is raised to reveal the next scene…

Act II

The next scene is a courtyard with a fountain. We hear soft crying and then we see Katherina pulling Bianca in on a rope. Katherina dunks Bianca’s head in the fountain. Baptista breaks it up, and then Petruchio arrives. Gremio and Hortensio are cut from the scene, so there is no bit with the lute. After Petruchio says that it is nothing to get Katherina’s love, a chamber pot is hurled down at him from Katherina’s balcony. He catches it and continues looking up at her as Baptista speaks. It’s a nice touch, and gives a little more humor and meaning to Baptista’s questions, “Shall I send my daughter Kate to you?” Their scene is done as sort of a dance. After Katherina’s “remove you hence,” Petruchio says, “Come, come, you wasp, i’faith you are too angry,” thus cutting the great joke about asses and women being made to bear. Also, the lead-up to the wasp line is cut. When Petruchio says “in his tail,” he gives Katherina a playful slap on the behind. But then the lines about “tongue” are sadly cut. Katherina simply says “And so farewell.” He then goes right to “Nay, come again.” I love his straight, serious delivery of “I swear I’ll cuff you if you strike again.” When Petruchio says “And, kiss me, Kate, we will be married a’Sunday,” she exits without kissing him.

Act III

It then goes straight to the wedding day, beginning with Katherina’s line “I told you, I, he was a frantic fool.” Interestingly, considering it’s animation, Petruchio’s outfit isn’t too over-the-top odd. He wears a big yellow and green feathered hat, and two mismatched boots. Petruchio kisses Katherina after “And seal the title with a lovely kiss.” It then cuts to the feast and so cutting everything that happened at the actual ceremony. Petruchio and Katherina enter. Because Tranio is cut, only Gremio entreats Petruchio to stay before Katherina does, so her entreating isn’t as strong. Two of her lines are combined, cutting out Petruchio’s response. She says: “Let me entreat you. Now if you love me, stay.” So we lose that great bit about him being content. Also, everyone is already at the table, so Katherina saying “Forward to the bridal dinner” doesn’t really make sense. Neither does Petruchio saying “They shall go forward, Kate, at thy command” and “go to the feast.” The stuff about Grumio drawing his weapon is cut. Interestingly, Lucentio is there to say, “Mistress, what’s your opinion of your sister?” Bianca’s response, “That being mad herself, she’s madly mated,” is the last line of the scene.

Act IV

We see Petruchio and Katherina riding in the rain. Katherina falls from the horse, but Grumio is not present, and Petruchio helps her up. They then arrive at Petruchio’s home, and Petruchio begins berating his servants. They enter the bridal chamber, and soon pillows are tossed back out through the doorway. Nathaniel and Peter’s lines are left intact – “He kills her in her own humor.” Petruchio then re-enters, eats some of the meat, then gives just the first and last lines of his big speech.

A short narrator closes the curtain and says, “While Kate was learning one lesson, her sister, the fair Bianca, was learning another.” He then opens the curtain on the next scene, explaining that Lucentio, “cunningly disguised as a schoolmaster,” outwitted his rivals and won Bianca’s heart. Bianca begins the scene with her line, “What, master, read you?” And she and Lucentio kiss, leading the narrator to tell us that Hortensio and Gremio gave up their hopes for Bianca’s love, and that Hortensio decided to marry a widow.

Back at Petruchio’s home, Katherina finally gets to eat. She is seated at a table, but eats with her hands. The Haberdasher is cut, but the Tailor presents both the hat and the gown. When Petruchio says it is seven o’clock, he and Katherina are actually standing in front of a clock on the mantel. Hortensio is there to deliver the last line of the scene: “Why, so this gallant will command the sun.”

The next scene, with the Pedant, is cut.

Petruchio and Katherina travel on horse to Baptista’s house, but Hortensio and the servants are not with them, so Hortensio can’t advise Katherine on what to say. The scene ends after the sun/moon bit, with Katherina’s line “And so it shall be so for Katherine.” Vincentio is cut.

Act V

A curtain is closed, and then opened on the next scene. The narrator explains who married whom. And we go to the banquet. The exchange between the Widow and Katherina is cut. It begins with Baptista’s line “I think thou hast the veriest shrew of all,” which is odd, because the line comes out of nowhere. It leads Petruchio to suggest the bet. While Katherina gives her big speech, we see Sly in bed watching. Katherina’s speech is cut after “Too little payment for so great a debt.” After Petruchio and Katherina kiss, Petruchio says, “’Twas I won the wager/And, being a winner, God give you a good night!” He delivers the line out, as if to us and to Sly. And the actors all bow. The Lord and narrator applaud.

And then, interestingly, we get the closing scene from The Taming Of A Shrew (likely a bad quarto of Shakespeare’s play), with Sly back outside calling for another drink, then waking to see the players are gone. He gets up, saying: “I have had the bravest dream. I know now how to tame a shrew.” And he goes back inside the house he was originally tossed out of. But a moment later the Hostess yells her first line again, “A pair of stocks, you rogue,” and out comes Sly again.

Time: 26 minutes

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Taming Of The Shrew (1976) DVD Review



The Taming Of The Shrew (1976) stars Marc Singer, Fredi Olster, William Paterson, Rick Hamilton, James R. Winker and Stephen St. Paul. It was directed by William Ball and Kirk Browning. This is a filmed stage production by the American Conservatory Theatre of San Francisco. It’s done broadly, in the style of commedia dell’arte, which is totally fun, though at times too silly. And there are many silly sound effects punctuating the jokes throughout the performance, and these are sometimes annoying. The DVD includes an introduction by Hal Holbrook.

Act I

The Induction is completely cut. The production opens with several people in masks and identical pale costumes slowly stepping onto the stage. They begin dancing, and then the entire cast suddenly jumps in, forming a line before the audience. The play then begins, with the masked folks remaining at the sides of the stage.

When Lucentio (Stephen St. Paul) says “fair Padua” in his first line, the masked people cheer (almost like a rock concert audience would when the lead singer mentions their town). They cheer again the second time he mentions Padua (“I have Pisa left/And am to Padua come”). Lucentio joins Tranio on the line “where is no pleasure tane.” There is a lot of silly stage business with Hortensio, Gremio and Katherina, accented by percussion off stage. Katherina (Fredi Olster) kicks out Gremio’s cane three separate times. Baptista (William Paterson) delivers some of his lines in almost a singing manner. When Hortensio (James R. Winker) says “There be good fellows in the world,” he gestures toward the audience with his hat. Silly sound effects accompany Gremio’s line “would thoroughly woo her, wed her, and bed her, and rid the house of her.” Tranio helps Lucentio with the explanation he devises for Biondello. Lucentio pauses after “For,” and Tranio makes the sign of a knife across his throat, leading Lucentio to finish the line, “in a quarrel since I came ashore/I kill’d a man.”

Petruchio (Marc Singer) and Grumio (Ronald Boussom) enter, matching each other’s steps, and when Petruchio says “Padua,” the crowd cheers. He says it with a knowing smile, almost like a television game show host. There’s plenty of physical comedy with the whole “knock” bit between Petruchio and Grumio. And when Hortensio says, “What happy gale/Blows you to Padua,” the crowd cheers. When Petruchio says, “Crowns in my purse I have,” Grumio says “Ha,” and Petruchio elbows him. Petruchio continues, “and goods at home,” leading Grumio again to say “Ha!” So apparently the Petruchio in this version is quite poor (though he still has several servants). Petruchio and Grumio turn away when Hortensio mentions “a shrew ill-favored wife,” but stop when he says, “And yet I’ll promise thee she shall be rich,” and turn back to him when he adds, “And very rich.” Hotensio is very deliberately luring Petruchio, so he’s not much of a true friend in this version. Petruchio, Grumio and Hortensio do a little dance and then all say together, “I come to wive it wealthily in Padua,” an odd choice. They all say, “If wealthily,” but don’t finish the line, another odd choice. Hortensio sings some of his lines about Bianca. There is a joke about Gremio’s breath, which leads to Petruchio’s “Tush, tush.”

Act II

Bianca (Sandra Shotwell) is bound at one end of a long rope, which Katherina holds at the other. When Katherina says “See thou dissemble not,” she uses that end as a whip. Cut is her question about which suitor Bianca likes best, and all the related dialogue. Baptista enters and is caught by the rope between the two sisters. Hortensio’s disguise is a false nose and glasses, not very cunning, nor believable as he has long blond hair which makes him stand out. Petruchio pronounces his name “Petrukkio” in this version. Baptista reads Lucentio’s name on the books presented by the disguised Tranio, thus allowing his line, “Lucentio is your name.” Hortensio enters with his head clear through the lute. His delivery of “And there I stood amazed for a while” is great, hilarious. Petruchio takes off his shirt on “If she deny to wed I’ll crave the day.” There’s a wonderful moment at the end of that speech when Petruchio says, “and now, Petruchio, speak,” and he turns to see her. And both are silent, clearly attracted to one another. The play up until this point has been zipping along, so this quiet moment is made even stronger by comparison. Petruchio gives a long pause after “Good morrow” and before “Kate,” because she laughs at him. “Kate” stops her, angers her. On “of my consolation,” he kisses her hand, and she then knocks his cap off. After Katherina slaps him, she seems as stunned by her action as he. But then after he says, “I swear I’ll cuff you if you strike again,” she does hit him again, much harder, knocking him down. That’s a poor choice, because he really should hit her after that, yet he doesn’t. He covers her mouth with his hand on “But slow of speech.” They do some wrestling moves, which are a bit too silly. But then there are some very impressive physical moves, Petruchio even lifting Katherina above his head, and dancing a step or two. On “Kiss me, Kate,” he kisses her, not giving her a chance to refuse. A drum roll accompanies the kiss. Tranio joins Gremio on the line “Now is the day we long have looked for.”

Act III

The first scene of Act III is done well, with Hortensio and Lucentio wooing Bianca with their lessons. Bianca makes it clear that she prefers Lucentio.

Biondello, upon his entry, does somersaults. His delivery of the description of the horse is fun. Everyone joins Baptista on his line, “that’s all one.” Petruchio swings in on a rope. Tranio, Lucentio and Biondello join Gremio on his line, “Such a mad marriage never was before.” When Katherina says, “Let me entreat you,” the whole crowd steps forward, anxious to hear Petruchio’s response – a very nice touch. Katherina’s line “Father, be quiet” is funny, as Baptista had made no move to speak. There is a lot of physical play before Petruchio carries Katherina off. That scene ends with Baptista’s line, “Nay, let them go, a couple of quiet ones.” The rest of the scene is cut, including Bianca’s wonderful line, “That being mad herself, she is madly mated.”

Act IV

Petruchio’s servants are masked. They line up when Grumio calls them, but then scatter before Petruchio enters. All of the stuff with Curtis is cut. Katherina is clearly tired, leaning on a post, beginning to fall asleep, which wonderfully leads to Petruchio saying “Sit down, Kate” as he lifts her up. There is, of course, more physical comedy during the meal that Katherina never gets to eat. Petruchio picks her up and carries her off stage. He then returns and delivers his big speech directly to the audience. It’s done really well, with no accompanying sound effects. After “He that knows better how to tame a shrew/Now let him speak,” he pauses, waiting for someone from the audience to respond.

Tranio’s opening lines of the next scene are cut. Hortensio oddly does a sort of Porky Pig impression on “all the former favors/That I have fondly flatter’d her withal.” When Tranio says “’Tis death for anyone in Mantua to come to Padua,” the crowd cheers again, but Tranio shushes them. There is some silly, somewhat stupid stage business about getting the Pedant off the stage. He continually hits a pole. And then, apparently delirious, begins some lines from Richard The Third: “Now is the winter of our discontent/Made glorious summer by this son…” A large hook then pulls him off stage.

Katherina enters looking a bit worse for wear, her clothing ripped, her face dirty. The beer and mustard joke is present, but shortened. When Katherina thanks Petruchio for the food, he allows her to eat, putting the plate on the floor. She eats the food with her hands, crouched over the plate, while Petruchio stands over her, talking about the fine array they’ll have when returning to Baptista’s house. I love Katherina’s delivery of “Love me or love me not, I like the cap.” There is another wonderful, honest moment when Petruchio says, “What, is the jay more precious than the lark.” Petruchio does have a whip, which he cracks on “It shall be what o’clock I say it is.” It is Grumio, not Hortensio, who says the final line of the scene: “Why, so this gallant will command the sun.”

The Lucentio/Biondello dialogue is cut.

When Petruchio describes Vincentio as a young girl, he pinches Vincentio’s cheek and kisses his hand. Hortensio is cut from the scene, so his line isn’t there to help add a pause before Katherina’s first line to Vincentio. When she says “sun,” she offers it like a question to Petruchio. The crowd, of course, cheers when Vincentio says, “bound I am to Padua.” We see the love Petruchio has for Katherina when he says “my wife, this gentlewoman.”

Act V

When the Pedant says “his father is come from Padua,” the crowd is silent. So he repeats, “Padua,” and they cheer. And we see the mutual attraction when Petruchio and Katherina kiss at the end of the scene.

When the Widow says, “He that is giddy thinks the world turns round,” Katherina stands up and moves behind Petruchio’s chair. Petruchio is surprised when Katherina responds to his command to come. Katherina clearly relishes her speech, especially delivering the beginning of it to the Widow, who has just been unkind to her. On “Thy husband is thy lord,” she walks to Petruchio, and then stands behind him, with one arm on his shoulder. She then delivers part of her speech to Bianca. After she says her “hand is ready; may it do him ease,” she lies on the floor, placing her right hand under Petruchio’s shoe. He then goes to her and gently kisses that hand. After the kiss, Katherina winks at the audience.

Time: 102 minutes

(The DVD includes A Conversation With William Ball, a twelve-minute interview conducted by Harold Clurman.)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Taming Of The Shrew (1929) DVD Review



The Taming Of The Shrew (1929) stars Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Edwin Maxwell, and Joseph Cawthorn. It was directed by Sam Taylor. This film version has some charm, and there are some wonderful moments. But there are lots of drastic cuts. Entire characters are gone – Lucentio, Tranio, Vincentio, the Widow and others are missing. Instead of the Induction, this film version opens with a puppet show, with the male puppet entreating, “Kiss me, kiss me.” The female puppet responds, “I’ll kiss you,” and then smacks him. The male puppet says, “I’ll tame you,” and hits her with a stick until finally she kisses him. The crowd watching applauds, and the camera slowly pulls back along the street.

Act I

We then go to Baptista’s home, where Bianca (Dorothy Jordon) is being kissed by Hortensio (Geoffrey Wardell). Baptista (Edwin Maxwell) walks in on them, startling them. Gremio (Joseph Cawthorn) enters too. Hortensio makes a plea with Baptista for Bianca’s hand, but Baptista reminds him that he is resolved that his elder daughter must be married first. At the mention of Katherine’s name (Katherine, not Katherina, in this version), there is a scream from one of the servants and the breaking of glass. The servants hide as objects are hurled at them. There is no doubt but that this Katherine is truly a shrew. And then Katherine (Mary Pickford) is revealed, breathing heavily and looking mean.

Hortensio and Gremio have their conversation about finding a husband for Katherine. After Hortensio says “and money enough,” we cut to Petruchio (Douglas Fairbanks) walking along the street toward the camera. Gremio and Hortensio see him, and oddly it is Gremio, not Hortensio, who shouts to him. Petruchio runs up and first embraces Gremio, then Hortensio. Gremio speaks Hortensio’s lines, asking, “What happy gale blows you to Padua here from old Verona?” Petruchio says, “Happily to wed” rather than “Happily to wive.” Hortensio then whispers to Gremio, obviously telling him of the idea to marry Petruchio to Katherine. Again it is Gremio, not Hortensio, who says, “Shall I then wish thee to a shrewd, ill-tempered wife?” (He says “ill-tempered” rather than “ill-favored,” a change that makes sense, as generally “ill-favored” means “ugly,” and no one in the play considers Kate to be ugly.) Gremio promises Petruchio that she’s rich. He adds, “And very rich,” at which point Petruchio turns to him, interested. A nice touch. Petruchio has a whip in this version. When Gremio speaks Katherine’s name, Grumio (Clyde Cook) makes a surprised sound, then tells Petruchio that he wouldn’t marry her for a mine of gold. It is Gremio, not Hortensio, who tells Petruchio Baptista’s name, but then Hortensio speaks his own lines, “For in Baptista’s keep my treasure is/His youngest daughter, beautiful Bianca.” But then it is Gremio who explains that Bianca can’t be wed until Katherine is. Oddly, Gremio is there when Hortensio comes up with the idea of being disguised, and even helps him with the idea. So Gremio is not a suitor in this version. And with Lucentio completely cut, it means Hortensio is Bianca’s only suitor. Weird. Petruchio gives his “Think thou a little din can daunt mine ears” speech. At the end he repeats “A woman’s tongue,” and laughs.

Act II

Act II opens with Katherine shouting to Baptista. Interestingly, she begins with her lines from Act I: “I pray you is it your will/To make a stale of me among these mates?” She then goes right to her lines about the “three-legged stool,” and straight into “What! shall I be appointed hours.” She then goes right into Act II Scene i, starting with her line, “She is your treasure, she must have a husband.” And she points at Bianca, who looks frightened. Katherine is holding a whip. She says, “Talk not to me, I will find revenge,” and stomps up the stairs.  Petruchio then enters, asking Baptista about Katherine. Gremio delivers his own line, “You are too blunt: go to it orderly.” Before Petruchio presents Hortensio in disguise as Litio, Hortensio lifts his fake beard to show Bianca who he really is. After Baptista says “the more my grief,” Petruchio’s response is oddly broken up, the first half given to Gremio, who says, “Oh, I see, then you do not wish to part with her.” Petruchio says, “Or else you like not my company.” Oddly, Gremio also says Petruchio’s line “And when two raging fires meet together/They do consume the thing that feeds their fury.” Hortensio comes tumbling down the stairs, with the lute broken around his head, his head clear through the instrument, which is ridiculous. Petruchio says, “Now, by the world, she is a lusty wench,” before Hortensio’s funny lines about the lute.

Katherine stands at the top of the stairs and cracks her own whip to get Petruchio’s attention. He gets a closer look, then laughs at her, which throws her off. He then begins, “Good morrow, Kate.” She responds, shocked and angry, “Kate,” leading to the rest of Petruchio’s line, “for that’s your name, I hear.” They then approach each other on the stairs. Instead of “bonny Kate,” he says “wild Kate.” She goes to whip him, and he embraces her to stop her, then carries her down the stairs and kisses her. He tells her to sit down. When she refuses, he pushes a chair over to her. It hits the back of her legs, causing her to sit. A lot of the best lines from this scene are cut, including those about asses and women being made to bear. After “If I be waspish best beware my sting,” she slaps him. But all the rest of the lines about the sting are sadly cut. She slaps him again after he calls her “pleasant,” and again after “courteous,” and again after “and sweet as springtime flowers.” Katherine kicks something, shattering it and hurting her foot. That leads to Petruchio’s line “Why does the world report that Kate doth limp?” He pulls her onto his lap. At that moment, Baptista and Gremio peek in, and from their perspective behind Petruchio and Katherine, it looks as if things are going very well. In the reverse shot, we see Petruchio has his hand over Katherine’s mouth so she can’t respond. Then Baptista makes his entrance. While Petruchio tells Baptista how Katherine loves him, she whips him several times, which Petruchio ignores. One of the many terrible cuts is the loss of all the lines whereby Petruchio explains that Katherine continues to appear the shrew in company, but not when they’re alone. You need those lines, particularly in this version where she’s whipping him. Petruchio then kisses Kate. She hits him a couple of times, then gives in to his kiss. Petruchio exits, and Katherine is at a loss for a moment, clearly knocked unbalanced by the kiss. She then gets up and attacks Baptista and Gremio with her whip, which of course is absurd.

Act III

Act III Scene i is cut. Act III begins with wedding bells ringing, and the crowd gathered for the wedding, waiting for Petruchio’s arrival. Baptista’s first line is “What mockery.” Petruchio arrives in a foolish costume, including a boot for a hat. In this version, we see the wedding. Petruchio eats a piece of fruit during the ceremony. So instead of Gremio recounting what happened later, we see Petruchio say “Ay, by goggs woones.” Katherine takes a long time answering if she takes Petruchio as her husband, so Petruchio stamps on her foot. But Petruchio does not knock the priest down, as described in the play. After the wedding, there is a continuity issue, as Katherine’s fur piece is first over one shoulder, then the other, back and forth several times. After Katherine entreats Petruchio to stay and Petruchio says he’s content but still they must go, she suddenly takes out a whip and cracks it, which is the silliest bit with the whips. Seriously, a whip was somewhere within her wedding gown? When Petruchio tells Grumio “Draw forth thy weapon,” he pulls out a dagger. Petruchio then picks Katherine up and carries her away on his horse. Tranio is cut from this version, so Gremio says his line, “Of all mad matches never was the like.” And, oddly, Baptista then speaks Bianca’s line, “That being mad herself she’s madly mated.” Gremio then speaks his own line, “I warrant him, Petruchio is Kated.”

It is raining when Grumio, Petruchio and Katherine arrive at his house. Grumio sneezes as he asks Curtis if the house is trimmed, the cobwebs swept, and so on. The servants quickly set a table, as Grumio continues sneezing. We then see Petruchio and Katherine arriving in the storm. There’s a nice moment after Petruchio changes into warm, dry clothes where he watches Katherine in her wet clothing shivering by the door. Katherine then draws out her whip, so Petruchio gets his and cracks it. When she turns, he scolds his servants, not Katherine. Petruchio begins eating, but shouts at Grumio when Katherine tries to serve herself. He then grabs the fork from her hand to inspect the meat. He then whips his servants, until Katherine stops him. He carries Katherine upstairs. Once in the chamber he takes out a Tarot deck, and seems to be playing some variation of solitaire with the cards – very odd. While Katherine changes into night attire, Petruchio sneaks downstairs to eat. His dog joins him at the table, and it is to his dog that Petruchio delivers his “Thus have I politicly begun my reign” speech. But Katherine stands at the top of the stairs and overhears this, which is a really poor choice. She shouldn’t know his plan, but in this version she does. So she goes to bed, pretending to be asleep when he returns, thus changing the tone greatly from that of the play, for now Katherine is in the position of power. So when he opens a window to let in the cold air, she pretends to like it, and opens a second window. Petruchio is dismayed, unsure.

Act IV

The rest of the film is quite different from the play. The Tailor and Haberdasher are cut. While still in their chamber, Petruchio points out the moon and says, “How bright and goodly shines the sun.” In the play, they are on the road to Baptista’s house, and it is the sun that he describes as being the moon. So here Katherine says, “The sun! The moon. It is not sunlight now.” Because they are not on the road, he can’t threaten to turn back. Instead, Katherine quickly catches onto the game and plays along. Because of the switch from day to night, Katherine has to say, “And the sun changes even as your mind,” which doesn’t really make sense. Instead of being pleased, Petruchio is upset by her sudden agreement and looks for something else to upset her. He discovers a spot on the bedding, and tears it off the bed. Katherine then finds a spot on the mattress, and pulls it off the frame. She then gets on the mattress on the floor, looking cutely at Petruchio. They then fight over a cushion, all of this being a far cry from Shakespeare’s play. She throws a stool, which hits him on the head, knocking him down. She, then worried for him, runs to his side, saying, “Oh, beloved.” He then returns to his speech from Act I, saying, “I that have heard lions roar, the rage of an angry sea.” She helps him to the bed, then realizes he’s exaggerating his pain, and she smiles. She tosses her whip into the fire.

Act V

Act V opens with Katherine standing at one end of the table at Baptista’s house, giving her famous speech, beginning with “Thy husband is thy lord.” There is no bet leading up to this, particularly because Lucentio has been cut, as has the Widow. So it seems she has begun this speech entirely on her own, which is strange. Petruchio is seated, holding his whip. Clearly she is playing here, not really meaning what she’s saying. She even winks at Bianca after “obey” to let her know it’s all an act.

Time: 65 minutes

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Taming Of The Shrew (1908) DVD Review

The Taming Of The Shrew (1908) was directed by D. W. Griffith. This short silent film is one of the earliest versions of The Taming Of The Shrew. It’s rather broad, but enjoyable. Most of the film is spent on the actual taming in Act IV. Of course, it skips the whole Induction.

Act I

The film begins with two men (presumably Gremio and Hortensio) falling for Bianca. Then Katherina enters upstage, and first hits a servant with his own hat. She then frightens away Bianca’s suitors and yells at Bianca.

Act II

Baptista then enters, followed by a man with a lute (a different man, so this can’t be Hortensio, unless one of the previous men was Lucentio). He tries to teach her by placing her hands on the instrument, but she gets upset. Interestingly, she doesn’t smash the instrument over his head. Instead, she drops it and grabs some kind of framed canvas and hits him over the head with that. She really throttles him.

We then get the first title card of the film: “Arrival of Petruchio, intent upon winning Katherina’s love.” Petruchio meets Baptista.

Act III

After Petruchio talks with Baptista, the film then skips right to the day of the wedding. Petruchio’s clothes are a mess, but he is apparently on time.

Act IV

Act IV begins with a title card: “At Petruchio’s home – he determines to curb her temper.” In this version, Petruchio carries a whip, and proceeds to beat his servants with it. Katherina tries to stop him, then cowers on the left side of the screen, even hiding under the table. He is then very gentle with her as he helps her out from under the table.

His servants bring in the food, and before Katherina can dig in, Petruchio takes it from her to inspect it. He then beats the servants with the meat. She sits down and he laughs behind her, waving the whip around playfully.

A title card reads, “The servants tremble before their master.”

The Tailor then arrives (he and the Haberdasher are combined into one character) and is left alone with Katherina, showing her a garment, which she is clearly keen on. He hands her a hat that she admires. Before she can put it on, Petruchio re-enters, takes it from her, inspects it, then throws it to the floor. The Tailor flees, and Petruchio leads Katherina upstairs.

Petruchio then catches Katherina in the kitchen trying to eat some of the food, which of course he takes from her. This leads to more beating of the servants. She, on her knees, tries to get him to stop.

Act V

A title card reads, “The Lion And The Lamb.”

The fifth act is quite different from the play. Rather than Petruchio and Katherina traveling to Baptista’s house, Baptista oddly arrives at Petruchio’s home to rescue his daughter. But then she runs back to Petruchio. Baptista throws up his hands in defeat and leaves.

Then, outside, Petruchio puts flowers in Katherina’s hair. And that’s the last shot of the film.

(It's interesting that this film has no title cards with actual dialogue.)

Time: 11 minutes

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Shakespeare at a Massage School in Boston

My girlfriend took this photo in the lobby of a massage school in Boston. The exact quote is, "Our bodies are gardens, to the which our wills are gardeners," and is a line spoken by Iago in Act I Scene iii of The Tragedy Of Othello.


Friday, January 3, 2014

Dianetics: The Evolution Of A Science – A Cult Classic



L. Ron Hubbard was a busy boy in the 1950s, creating his cult and winning that bet with Robert Heinlein. Dianetics: The Evolution Of A Science is a thin volume in which he describes just how he came up with some of these wild ideas. By the way, if it’s a science, then why does it have tax-exempt status? I suppose that’s a question for the Internal Revenue Service, and one I’d like them to answer.

At the beginning of the book L. says that if the reader gets confused, it’s because there was a word he or she did not understand. It’s an interesting tactic, a pre-emptive strike of sorts. If this book confuses someone, it’s that person’s fault, not that of the writer. Well, I am certainly at fault then. This book has something to do with hypnotism and insanity and memory and pain, but who really knows? It’s mostly stream-of-consciousness, repetitive gibberish, the kind Scientologists spend their lives pretending to decode.

L. writes: “We knew WHAT Man was doing. He was surviving. Somehow, some way, he occasionally became irrational. Where did hypnotism fit into this?” (p. 26). L. is basically going on about his own journey, the quest to create some kind of religion to sell. He writes: “We look for some demons, one way or another. And we found some! This was a discovery almost as mad as some of the patients on hand. But the thing to do was try to measure and classify demons. Strange work for an engineer and mathematician! But it was found that the demons could be classified” (p. 27). Sure.

Then: “The demons, since none of them consented to present themselves for a proper examination as demons, were, it was concluded, installed in the brain in the same way one would install a new circuit in the optimum brain. But as there was just so much brain, it was obvious that these electronic demons were using parts of the optimum brain and that they were no more competent than the optimum brain inherently was. This was more postulating. All one wanted was a good result. If this hadn’t worked, something else would have been tried” (p. 28). It’s difficult to get demons to step in off of Hollywood Blvd. and subject themselves to Scientology testing. But then L. writes, “There are no demons” (p. 28). So that’s why they wouldn’t come in. Makes sense to me. Maybe anyone who does not present themselves for a proper examination doesn’t actually exist.

Anyway, L. then goes into his usual bit about the aberrated people being miserable, and Scientology being the only helpful tool in getting folks back to their basic, good personalities, their “optimum brain.” “Somehow the exterior world gets interior. The individual becomes possessed of some unknowns which set up circuits against his consent, the individual is aberrated and is less able to survive” (p. 35). “How did the exterior world become an interior aberration?” (p. 36). Throughout the book, L. comes up with insane questions, then describes the insane process through which he came to his insane conclusions. It’s actually interesting. That is, it’s interesting to follow the process of someone inventing bullshit. That’s basically what he’s doing – letting us know how he came up with these notions. It’s like he’s testing out ideas, but including all of the testing in a book rather than just the outcome. And this makes sense too, because he has to have a large number of books to sell to the cult members to keep them interested and to keep the money flowing in.

Here is an example of L. working out this bullshit: “Very well, let’s take the mind itself, the optimum mind. Compare it to itself. When did Man become sentient? It’s not absolutely necessary to the problem or these results to know just when or where Man began to think, but let’s compare him to his fellow mammals. What does he have that the other mammals don’t have? What can he do that they can’t do? What does he have that they have?” (p. 46). Then he adds, “All it takes is the right question.” Of course, and if you fill a book with various ridiculous questions, perhaps one of them will be right. Why not? L. then says that after millions of years of evolution, man’s brain should be incapable of making mistakes. And yet some people join Scientology.

L. admits to some pretty screwed up methods. “So I pinched a few patients and made them pretend they had moved back to the moment of the pinch. And it hurt them again. And one young man, who cared a great deal about science and not much about his physical being, volunteered for a nice, heavy knock-out. And I took him back to it and he recalled it” (p. 41). Doesn’t that make you want to join Scientology? He said he was trying to prove that memories of pain would be the strongest memories. It must have been fun to be a part of these early experiments. (Again, L. is calling it science, not religion. IRS folks, are you paying attention? Taxing the fuck out of Scientology would help put California back on its feet.)

L. certainly had his way with his so-called “patients.” He conducted some experiments to see if man still had the same responses to pain that fish have. He writes: “Drug him with ether and hurt him. Then give him a whiff of ether and he gets nervous. Start to put him out and he begins to fight. Other experiments all gave the same conclusion” (p. 68). Did people volunteer for this? Well, either way, they certainly contributed to the greater good of humanity. After all, where would we be without L.’s enlightening work on the reactive mind and engrams and red-tab banks and all that?

Again, I have to wonder just how this pseudo-science was granted tax-exempt status. Seriously. Or are we to suppose all religions conduct experiments on people? L. writes, “Someday somebody may cut off a chunk of brain and cry ‘Eureka, this is the reactive mind!’” (p. 84). Yes, you’re probably thinking it’s best not to volunteer for any more of these religious experiments.

L. writes that our memory banks “contain a complete color-video record of a person’s whole life, no matter the demon circuits” (p. 60), and that “There is no inaccuracy in the banks” (p. 61). He then makes one of his wonderful claims (a claim that is impossible to prove or disprove, simply because everything about it has been invented): “But a ‘memory’ in the red-tab bank, when properly approached by Dianetic technique, will vanish out of that bank entirely” (p. 77). L. continues: “For instance, a man who supposes that the whole world was ugly and sordid is guided through therapy. The aberration which made the world seem ugly and sordid folds up when the engram or engrams to that effect deintensify and refile” (p. 78). Oh yes, “Dianetics can break up habits, simply by relieving the engrams which command them” (p. 80).

Watch out! It turns out that “Engrams are contagious” (p. 91) L. explains: “Papa has an engram. He beats mother into anaten. She now has an engram, word for word, from him. The child was anaten, maybe booted aside and knocked out. The child is part of mother’s perceptics for that engram. Mother dramatizes the engram on the child. The child has the engram. He dramatizes it on another child. When adulthood is attained, the engram is dramatized over and over. Contagion” (p. 91). Makes sense? It seems that L. is really into the idea of knocking people out. In scenario after scenario someone is knocked out. In this scenario, it’s the child who was booted aside. Remember, this was the 1950s, and in those days people were knocked out easily with just one punch. You see it all the time in films and television programs that document the period.

You don’t just have engrams to watch out for. There are also locks. L. writes, “A lock is a situation of mental anguish” (p. 93). “I discovered that any patient I had, had thousands upon thousands of locks – enough to keep me busy forever” (p. 94). And that’s why folks aren’t permitted to leave Scientology. L. writes: “Then began the most persistent search possible to find the earliest engram in any patient. This was mad work. Utterly weird” (p. 95). You don’t say? Well, no argument from me, L. He says you have to find the earliest engram, which apparently is usually twenty-four hours after conception. Utterly weird, indeed, and also completely unbelievable. What is also utterly weird is that there are people out there who believe this stuff. Weird and frightening.

They believe that Scientology helps the aberrees. And who, you might ask, is an aberree? L. asks that question: “Who is an aberree?” (p. 99). And, guess what, he provides an answer: “Anybody who has one or more engrams. And since birth itself is an engramatic experience – every human being born has at least one engram!” (p. 99). Uh-oh! I guess we’d all better join Scientology. After all, no one else is out there to help us remove our engrams.

He writes: “Dianetics is easy to apply to the fairly normal individual and can relieve his occlusions and colds and arthritis and other psychosomatic ills. It can be used as well to prevent aberrations from occurring and can even be applied to determine the reactions of others” (p. 103). Oh, I think I can guess the reactions of others. Wait a moment – arthritis is psychosomatic? L., boy, you continue to surprise me.

At the end of the book, there is a sixty-page glossary, defining such complex terms as “by golly”: “a mild exclamation used to emphasize what is being said or to express surprise, wonder, puzzlement or the like” (p. 136). Interestingly, one of the terms L. includes is “cults of Los Angeles,” which he defines as “a reference to the diversity of devotions, crazes and fanaticisms characteristic of the greater Los Angeles area in the time period of this book, ranging from palm reading to drug use, health fads and bodybuilding” (p. 142). Is this a nod to his audience that he’s having them on? The glossary is also clearly a way of padding the book, as he is obviously doing by including this definition twice – once under “cults of Los Angeles,” and then a second time under “Los Angeles, cults of.” If its inclusion is a bit of a joke, L. wanted to make sure his audience had a couple of chances to get it. How thoughtful.

Check out my reviews of other cult classics:
- Dianetics: The Original Thesis
- Scientology: The Fundamentals Of Thought
- The Way To Happiness