Long Pants (Frank Capra / U.S., 1927):

Lynch’s Blue Velvet and Demme’s Something Wild are born here, in the year of Sunrise. An attic dweller who reads O’Neill for the romance, the lovelorn dweeb (Harry Langdon) can finally cover his pale calves with the eponymous birthday gift and venture outside. His prayers are answered by the vamp on the lam (Alma Bennett), whose single kiss is not forgotten when time comes for him to marry the virtuous blonde (Priscilla Bonner). With his mind on the underworld beauty, the groom takes the bride out to the woods with a pistol in his pocket. (A brief shot of sunlight piercing through as the tiny figures amble into the immense forest is out of Lang’s Siegfried.) Reality refuses to play ball with the wannabe Bluebeard, who’s bopped by boomeranging horseshoes and slapped by trees until he sits disconsolately with top hat crumpled over staring eyes. "The prize of beauty is to him who seeks..." The dreamer’s lot, certainly a Frank Capra theme, is directly expressed as a weighty crate on Langdon’s shoulders, then envisioned as an alligator snapping repeatedly at his backside. Even life-sized ventriloquist dummies have their part to play in this singular slapstick nightmare of warped adulthood, which pushes beyond the nightclub curtain and into a hail of backstage bullets. His world dangerously dilated, the protagonist blinks accordingly: "Why—I’m surprised—my goodness!" Cronenberg has the resolution in A History of Violence. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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