Welcome back to Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon. In this spooky sanctum I’ve poured over all the replay tape to come up with my favorite NFL play of the week. Then it’s straight back to the projector to unspool a film you may have not been aware of…
The lights have dimmed, blood drips from the walls, and my hideous assistant has turned in for the night.
Week 9: Aaron Donald Gobbles Up Cam Newton For Big Time Sack
Week 9 proved to be a pretty glorious one in terms of highlights with a miraculous Lions victory, a great game for the Ravens in Baltimore, and Melvin Gordon starting to look downright freakish in San Diego. The Haunted Dungeon is always looking for a good sack, and while there have been a few good ‘uns in the 2016 season (I’m looking at you Khalil Mack) we finally got that monster QB hit we’ve been waiting for.
Aaron Donald’s second sack of the game came in the fourth quarter of a supremely ineffectual offensive effort for both teams. The big boy in 99 looks almost Suh-like as he pushes forward, pulls a little move, and then leaps out to smother Cam Newton and take him down. It’s a textbook power play that brings the oft-used word “explosive” to mind.
I’m not gonna forget this hit anytime soon. I don’t think Cam is going to either.
Week 9: The Ghost Ship
Director: Mark Robson
In week 1 of the Haunted Dungeon I made a little jab at Val Lewton for making movies in which you never really “see the monster.” In a way it wasn’t a fair thing to say because Lewton’s real genius efforts were sort of in a league of their own that had nothing to do with jump scares or rubber monster suits.
Lewton is primarily known as a producer for RKO, a studio that wasn’t Poverty Row, but wasn’t one of the big players either. He’d take wonderfully lurid titles thought up by company brass and then generally work those pulpy monikers into highly cerebral and atmospheric thrillers and horror films. Today he’s best known for Cat People (1942), but my very favorite Lewton films are the ones without any hint of the supernatural at all.
The Ghost Ship is one of those films. The title evokes all sorts of eerie happenings and ghoulish goings-on, but in reality the film deals with something far more terrifying than ghosts or goblins: human psychosis.
Lewton was the king of atmosphere, and here he builds unbelievable amounts of suspense, dread, and foreboding with noir-ish cinematography and a ship captain (Richard Dix) who is mentally unstable and incompetent to such a degree that the lives of his entire crew are in jeopardy.
The salty world of sailors is a fun one to dabble in and the depths of psychology involved really cut to the quick with a frightening combination of megalomania and cowardice interwoven into the nut-job captain. It’s a level of insight that goes far beyond the film’s b-picture trappings to make it worthy of Hitchcock’s brainier forays like Rebecca (1940) or Marnie (1964).
There’s also a nice device in one of the more visually interesting seamen, Finn the Mute (Skelton Knaggs), narrating the story through interior monologue. The effect comes off as cheesy initially, but grows more powerful and poignant as the picture progresses.
If this is your kind of thing I also highly recommend the Lewton films Isle of the Dead (1945) and especially The Seventh Victim (1943).
I couldn’t find a trailer online but you can cop the whole flick here: