Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Faulkner's Vampire Screenplay

I bought the Winter 2002 (#42) issue of Oxford American when it had just come out, and as I was packing my book collection to move. Most of my books and papers were soon unpacked in the new house, but the magazines were only gradually sorted over the years.  I bought this issue because it published an extract from a screenplay by William Faulkner entitled "Dreadful Hollow," commissioned in 1945, towards the middle of Faulkner's Hollywood script-writing years.  One Faulkner scholar, Bruce Kawin in his Faulkner and Film, argues that "Dreadful Hollow" is something of a masterpiece.

I've now read the extract, and can't see how anyone could call it a masterpiece.  It is a patchwork of cliches, with a nineteen-year-old girl taking up a position as companion to the elderly Countess Czerner (of eastern European descent), whose housekeeper Sari makes sinister and cryptic remarks (wink wink).  They live outside of town in the Grange, a grim house like a castle that is shunned by all the village folk. The town is some two hundred miles away from London. You can count the cliches adding up, and this is only the first nineteen or so pages out of 159. 

If this screenplay would have been made into a film in 1945, it would have been perfect fodder for the talents of the folks behind Mystery Science Theater 3000 in the 1990s.  But it was never made into a film, and though Oxford American doesn't tell you, it's not an original Faulkner screenplay either, but it's based on a novel of the same title from 1942 bylined "Irina Karlova."  The novel and its pseudonymous author are well dealt with by John Norris in a illustrated post at his Pretty Sinister Books blog, so I'll merely refer the reader to it here

The Oxford American also noted that "Dreadful Hollow will be produced as a motion picture by Lee Caplin's Picture Entertainment Corporation."  Fortunately this came to nought.  Or perhaps unfortunately, as most of what Hollywood produces nowadays is unmitigated crap. Perhaps done today as a retro-picture, or a period piece, filmed in black-and-white, it could be released, and flop, and yet turn up again re-contextualized by the able hands of the folks at Mystery Science Theater 3000. One can hope.   

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