Six Damn Fine Degrees #30: Shelley Duvall in The Shining

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

In the inaugural awards ceremony for The Golden Raspberries back in 1980, Shelley Duvall was nominated for her performance as Wendy Torrence in The Shining. This fact is a useful reminder as to how mixed to hostile the critical reception was for the film on its initial release. And that the annual exercise in lazy trying-to-be-cool snobbery that is the Razzies really don’t know what they’re talking about.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #25: Mystique

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness.

It’s only in the last couple of years that Marvel comics have finally acknowledged the truth about one of their oldest coded gay relationships in its superhero universe. In 2019, the characters finally got to share an on-panel kiss and at the beginning of 2020 the first ever direct reference to their exact status made it to a published comic.  Nearly forty years after the supervillains Mystique and Destiny had first appeared in a comic together (and thirty years after the latter’s demise), that they had been a homosexual couple was made unambiguously clear.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #19: Mr Yunioshi

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness.

Watching classic cinema for the first time on the big screen can be a fabulous experience. Firstly, you’re getting to see how the makers intended you to see it. Secondly, the audience in the type of cinemas that play old movies tend to be incredibly well-behaved. No loud phone calls mid-movie or bored kids kicking the back of your chair.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #13: The Lavender Hill Mob

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness.

There’s a moment in 1951’s The Lavender Hill Mob that captures an important truth about the best of the Ealing comedies: our two genial leads, having nearly successfully executed the gold heist of the century, suddenly realise their plans are in trouble. They need to swiftly descend the steps of the Eiffel Tower or evidence of their crime might fall into the wrong hands.

The two men start awkwardly racing down the spiral staircase. As their speed increases, and their need to reach the ground fast overcomes their vertigo they both start laughing. At this tense moment in a heist film, with all their schemes about to awry, two middle-aged men beginlaughing and hollering with giddy abandon.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #7: Cinematic Chernobyl

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness.

The drive from Kyiv to the exclusion zone around Chernobyl is not long. The small coach my friends and I had hired back in 2018 took us there in just over two hours. “You can watch this to pass the time,” the driver said. “Some of it was shot in the exclusion zone so you’ll get an idea as to what to expect.” And so it was that I got to see the 1991 TV movie Chernobyl: The Final Warning.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #3: Curse Of The Cat People

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness.

Following Matt’s dislike for the cat-shaped shenanigans of Garfield, I thought I’d follow up with something far more positive in the world of the feline: Val Lewton’s incredible Curse Of The Cat People.

When it comes to Hollywood, the rationale behind sequels is obvious. We’ve had a success and made money. Let’s make more of the same and make even more money. In 1942, RKO Pictures had a big hit with Cat People, a low-budget horror about a woman who fears she’ll transform into a panther if aroused by passion. So the bigwigs at the studio made the obvious call. The public liked the mix of feminine desire laced with the threat of feline danger so let’s make a sequel. Hence they were to greenlight:

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The Rear-View Mirror: Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

There’s an apocryphal tale told about the very earliest days of cinema. In this anecdote, a film is shown where a large steam train puffs its way towards the camera. The audience, so the story goes, panicked and started to race out the cinema. I’ve heard this story a lot, and its always told with the angle that we should laugh at the naïve early cinema audience. A crowd, as this story implies, were so ignorant of the new technology that they genuinely thought they were about to be run down by a non-existent train. Such illiterate fools!

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The Rear-View Mirror: Archibald Leach (1904)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

On 7 December 1931, a little known stage actor, just signed to a Hollywood studio entered an office and emerged with a brand new name. Everyone in the room agreed that the one he’d been born with wasn’t quite striking and glamourous enough for movie posters and fan magazines. And so, in one short meeting, Archibald Leach became Cary Grant.

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The Rear-View Mirror: The Lucky Dog (1921)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

Four and a half minutes into 1921’s “The Lucky Dog” comedy short, cinematic history is made. The film’s hero – a penniless young man with a surprisingly emo take on eye make-up – is chasing the eponymous lucky dog when he embroils himself in a mugging. As this is the knockabout world of early film comedy, the hold-up does not go according to plan, and the intended victim ends up racing off with more money than when he started, the oversized brute (do brutes come in any other size?) in hot pursuit.

What makes this particular moment historic is the identity of both mugger and muggee. The former is played by Oliver “Babe” Hardy, already a veteran with over a hundred comedy shorts under his belt. His intended victim, a relative newbie to Hollywood but already in leading roles, is Stan Laurel.

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