59 0f the SyFy.com Top 100 of all Time
58 Them! (1954)
The score improved it immensely, and somehow the theater of it all didn’t bother me this time. Instead of thinking of the monologues that comprise much of the film as lazy and dull, I looked at them this time as chilling little segments like the similar scene in Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.
But my personal feelings about the film are not the topic of this dissertation. The topic is the rather unusual character of Van Helsing.
A far cry from the oh-so-rugged Hugh Jackman version of the character (Wolverine with a top hat), Van Helsing as played by Edward Van Sloan is a smallish man with a near-incomprehensible Eastern-European accent (much like the Count actually). Observe his dress. The same style tuxedo as Dracula (of note is the fact that the only real difference between the two is that Van Helsing has white hair and Dracula has black hair).
The similarities go far deeper than that.
I do not mean to suggest that Van Helsing idolizes or wants to be Dracula. On the contrary, I believe him to be an awkward, scientist who sees his manhood threatened by a superior man. For, moments after his “seduction” of Mina, Dracula barges in and all her attentions are focused on him. Van Helsing is reduced once again to the background, and once again it is Dracula who replaces him as the center of attention.
Notice the look in Van Helsing’s eyes whenever Dracula is around. It is not fear, nor is it rage ? it?s jealousy. There is a famous moment near the end of that scene in which Van Helsing tricks Dracula into gazing into a mirror. Upon realizing that Dracula is a vampire, his face registers a look not of alarm, but of smug self-satisfaction. He toys with Dracula and Dracula, far more suave than he, toys back. Their conversations inevitably turn into verbal strong-man competitions:
Dracula: You, Miss Mina, you’re looking exceptionally…
Van Helsing: Pardon me, Dr. Seward, but I think Miss Mina should go to her room at once.
Van Helsing: I prefer to remain and protect those whom you would destroy.
Dracula: You are too late. My blood now flows through her veins. She will live through the centuries to come, as I have lived.
Van Helsing: Should you escape us Dracula, we know how to save Miss Mina’s soul, if not her life.
Dracula: If she dies, by day. But I shall see that she dies by night.
Van Helsing: And I will have Carfax Abbey torn down stone by stone, excavated a mile around. I will find your earth box and drive that stake through your heart.
The latter passage is followed by a battle of will, as Dracula tries to draw Van Helsing near for no other reason than to prove that he can. Could this all be imagined? Possibly, but what of Dracula?s death? Let us not forget that Van Helsing ends their arguments drives a three foot phallic symbol into him.
Near as I can tell, it’s the combination of rhythm, texture and sheer energy that makes this film. To explain, step by step:
Aliens is a masterpiece of the under looked art of sound design. It’s is a true symphony of diagetic and non-diagetic sounds, and it is telling that I could listen to the motion trackers or the Power Loaders as easily as I could Mozart. The dialogue is spoken in an alternatively languid and frenetic pace — half screamed, half muttered, that emulates the argument/counter-argument set-up of most classical music. Each actor is an instrument, providing a distinct cadence and pitch that blend together to form an almost musical script.
Furthermore, every scene (nearly every shot) moves — whether it’s the scrolling green text during Ripley’s hearing, the gyroscopes on the Sulaco’s mess hall table, the whirling fan in Newt’s hideout, or even something as simple as perforated ceilings or video static. This film doesn’t amble towards its climax, it bounces to it.