Tuesday, March 14, 2006


On Saturday night I watched a film that could only be described as 'noir lite'. Or possibly 'Lady Noir: A Noir For Women'. It had the requisite hard-baked policemen and beautiful but duplicitous dames of classic noir, but with nice frocks and some truly oestrogen-crazed set design. The film was 1944's 'Laura', or as I prefer to call it, 'Night of the Devil Lamps'.

The film begins innocently enough. Laconic detective Mark MacPherson is investigating the murder of beautiful young up-and-comer Laura Hunt. He starts with Waldo Lydecker, her mentor and the gayest straight man ever to mince his way into a Manhattan penthouse. From there, he encounters Ann Treadwell, an aging socialite, and Shelby Carpenter, a character brought about by the unlikely idea of having Vincent Price play a gigolo. MacPherson has to sort through the sophistries and pretentions of these high-flying low-lifes to get to the truth behind Laura's murder.

But throughout the piece I began to notice a certain unpleasant theme running through the set design: the most hideous faggoty-arsed table lamps ever to house a lightbulb. They're slathered with so much lace, ribbon, ruffles, decorative fringe and pom poms that they can barely be classed as lamps any more. They're just vaguely glowing blobs of bad taste.

Vincent Price, upstaged by a greater evil

Lt. MacPherson suspects Shelby Carpenter as the murderer. I suspect the pleated Devil Lamp with the stupid bow wrapped around it.

Honestly, they've got more decorative frosting on them than a white trash wedding cake.

MacPherson with lamp, drink and 'friend'

Booze - a policeman's only refuge when faced with a ruffled Devil Lamp, useless dust gatherers, and the attentions of a suspiciously camp old guy.

And then I started to notice; it's not just the lamps. The light fixtures drip crystal. The curtains are festooned with tassels. The furniture is encrusted with chintz. The end tables are cluttered with kitschy vases and knick knacks. In short, all of the sets look like someone strapped explosives to Barbara Cartland and set her off in the centre of the room.

sleep - my only escape

Lt. MacPherson, rendered unconscious by chintz overload and a gloating fringed Devil Lamp.

I used to think that the 1940s was one of the better aesthetic decades, bridging the gap between the Art Deco and Moderne looks of the 1930s and the mass-produced modernist restraint of the 1950s. But no; it turns out it was more Liberace meets Grandma.

Still, at least there was one exception...

Finally, a decent lamp!

Spill the beans, sister! What are the lamps planning? When do they attack?

Finally, a lamp with a bit of sense! I knew there was a reason why the police are always the heroes in these things .


Blogger that girl said...

"most hideous faggoty-arsed table lamps ever to house a lightbulb" made me spit cookie onto the screen. thanks!

3:27 AM  
Blogger LindyK said...

I liked "more frosting than a white trash wedding cake"... and sadly knew exactly what you meant... great post!

1:25 PM  

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