Wednesday, May 29, 2013

THE WIND (1928)

So Baltimore was fun, if also sketchy, but now it's time to resume our jaunt through the haunted 1920s.  If this were any other week, I might begin by mocking the idea of a film about the horrors of wind, but tornadoes of Oklahoma spoil the party, plus THE WIND is actually pretty deft about its presentation of a slyly monstrous nature.

That's talking about the wind, not construction workers or the dickbags at my work who whistle and sing all day long when they are not screeching like blanched cats.  A young woman named Letty travels from Virginia to stay with her (boy) cousin Beverly and meets the improbably-named Wirt Roddy along the way.  He warns her about the wind, then turns her over to Beverly's neighbor, Lige Hightower, who is also accompanied by his comic-relief sidekick, Sourdough.  A movie would have to be mighty fine to succeed in spite of these names!

Thankfully, this is.  Lillian Gish, who has a rep ranging from "best ever" to "atrocious overactress", effects an impressive performance as Letty.  She arrives at Cousin Beverly's and immediately hands out affection like Halloween candy, even to new sisters-in law.

Sis-in-law isn't so pleased about Letty being all fondly with Cousin Beverly, though, and insists that she finds other housing.  Because this is a 1920s movie, we get a very brief love triangle, with neighbor Lige vying against Sourdough for Letty's hand.  

This is what happens:

SOURDOUGH: What's up, girl?
LETTY: Not u, lol!

So it's Lige and Letty forever.  Except not when touching is involved, because Letty completely wigs out whenever life gets romantical and family members aren't involved.  This sounds like a horror movie, don't it?  Don't worry, she also wigs out about the wind, which manifests as a dance-wrecking cyclone as well as constant dirt-carrying drafts.  It's also implicitly supernatural, causing Letty to hallucinate and driving herds of wild horses down from the mountains.  THE WIND is pretty cagey about its plot—it's difficult to tell if there really is a ghost wind with spirit horses superimposed on top, or if Letty's having a Hitchcock-style breakdown, or if the wind is simply an allegory for non-incestuous penetration.  Or all of the above.

Oh, and Wirt also shows up again and we get a more compelling love triangle than the one that had Sourdough as a hypotenuse.  Wirt eventually gives Letty good reason for being so skittish about sexuality.  Because Wirt's a dick.

This is your Gene Siskel moment: this is a cool WIND.  It's not a life-altering experience and it's not rife with groundbreaking visuals like your German expressionist favorites.  But WIND has a cool story and fantastic acting, especially from Gish, who shows such breadth in her performance here that I could probably side with the "best ever" sayers and fight the "terrible actress" people in the street.  

It's not a horror film in the conventional ooga-booga sense, but THE WIND's blend of psychological suspense with supernatural elements, a Western setting, and meteorology make it an easy recommendation for you, reader of blogs.  Here come the rankings!

1.  The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
2.  The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
3.  The Unknown (1927)
4.  Maciste in Hell/Maciste All'Inferno (1925)
5.  The Wind (1928)
6.  A Page of Madness (1926)
7.  The Cat and the Canary (1927)
8.  Genuine: the Tale of a Vampire (1920)
9.  Wolf Blood (1925)

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