Perks of the Trade looks at the varied filmography of Anthony Perkins, the queer performer forever associated with Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest onscreen killer, Norman Bates.
I was 19 years old and Marty was way too old for me, his manly body already going soft around the ages. He also never finished college and worked at a grocery store during a time when I thought being a conservatory trained soap opera actor was the only occupation to aim for. Still, I wanted him much more than I wanted the handsome, curly haired carpenter who ran his own construction business and the muscular, blonde pre-med student who adored me and followed me around the dance floor of Christopher Street, the then Mecca of Chicago gay bars, with an unmitigated devotion. Attraction is mysteriously undefinable, a strange beast.
These unpredictable notions of romance often ran through my head when viewing 1962’s Phaedra, the lushly histrionic soap opera that finds Melina Mercouri’s maturely exotic title character rejecting Raf Vallone’s viral and passionate shipping magnet for his strait-laced son, played by a skinny, nervously intense Anthony Perkins. At the time of its release, the majority of critics rejected this grand operation outright – claiming that Mercouri’s amply charmed lass couldn’t seriously have found a moment’s fascination with Perkin’s anxious playboy. But the actor’s fresh-faced desirability does show through here on occasion, pointedly proving why his lighter contrasts might have appealed to Mercouri’s magnificently aging creature.
Thus, one wonders if director Jules Dassin had directed the seduction scenes with less tragic melodrama and more angular kink that the whole enterprise might have played differently. Perkins’ powers reside in his eccentricity and despite finding the quiet strength within himself to go toe-to-toe with Vallone during some climatic sequences, he truly comes alive here during the hysterical sequence when he drives himself to a madly howling death in a European sports car. Delightfully, this entire sequence is included as a track on the movie’s soundtrack album, with Perkin’s strangulated yowls making for one of the most unusual audio experiences ever committed to vinyl – a blazingly creative achievement in and of itself.
Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!
One of Denver’s shining entertainment lights for decades, the vivacious Lannie Garrett has released several important recordings while simultaneously bringing her vivacious charm to cabaret stages across the country.
Horror fans, though, will know her best from her appearances in 1988’s Destroyer and 1993’s Kiss and Be Killed. Although, it is as Sharon Fox, in the former project, that she radiates with the most aplomb. As the sexy protégée of Anthony Perkins’ sleazy Robert Edwards, Garrett brightens up the screen…and not just while in the deadly sights of Lyle Alzado’s electrically reanimated killer!
Nicely, as detailed in Split Image, author Charles Winecoff’s incisive biography of Perkins, Garrett got along well with her more famous co-star, proof that she truly gives her…(ahem)…body and soul…to every project that she is a part of.
Perks of the Trade will look at the varied filmography of Anthony Perkins, the queer performer forever associated with Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest onscreen psycho, Norman Bates..
While certainly a close cousin to the crazed Norman Bates, the role that immortalized him, Anthony Perkins’ take on Sean McAvoy, a tortured high fashion photographer, in 1975’s gloriously enjoyable Mahogany, is initially full of subtle traces of humor and a true sense of professional calm. Of course, as McAvoy’s obsession with Diana Ross’ upwardly climbing Tracey Chambers reaches its peak, Perkins commits to the character’s wild eyed bouts of frenzy with vigorous aplomb
This dedication to his craft is notable as Perkins, reportedly, was looking forward to playing a much more regulated persona and wanted to avoid any hysterical scare screen tactics when it came to the role. But a changing of the guard behind the scenes – director Tony Richardson was replaced by Motown founder & first time filmmaker Berry Gordy early on in the process – forced him to acquiesce to a more anticipated, Grand Guignol approach to the character. Decades later, fans of cinematic camp have to concede that Gordy’s desire to have the actor indulge in blearily erotic actions, such as wrestling a swarthy Billy Dee Williams for control of a pistol towards the film’s climax, surely enhanced the film’s long term cinematic viability – no matter how it might have hurt Perkins’ further career goals at the time.
Interestingly, for critics compelled to look at the real life personal dynamics involved, McAvoy also seems to represent some of Perkins’ personal struggles. Well known as a practicing (almost hedonistic) homosexual in entertainment circles since his summer stock days. Perkins had recently married and begun a life as a devoted father around the time of the filming of this project. Thus, his seemingly gay celluloid creation’s desire to possess Ross’ high fashion lass seems to have played a fitting, if murderously over-the-top, counterpoint to his own personal life.
Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!
Chocolate syrup on your hot dog, that three-way with the kleptomaniac butcher and the serial killer (whom doubled as a mid-wife for zoo wolves)…these are things that you just don’t want to try a second time.
Well, that is the way horror treasure Anthony Perkins should have felt after his 1958 full length album On a Rainy Afternoon. Me, sing? Never again!!! Unless it’s as a maniacally obsessed preacher under the direction of Ken Russell, that is. (1984’s Crimes of Passion, yo!)
Recorded in 1958, two years before his life was irrevocably linked with Psycho and Norman Bates, On a Rainy Afternoon finds Perkins warbling on such well established tunes like Miss Otis Regrets, I Remember You and Why Was I Born? Unlike many film stars, who choose to back their meek musical stylings with lush, full blown orchestral arrangements, our honorable Anthony wisely places himself in front of a nimble, fully realized jazz sextet here.
Unfortunately, producer Fred Reynolds allows Perkins to strain, often, for notes his pleasant yet weak voice simply cannot reach. Modern listeners, as well, will find it hard to divorce themselves from the fact that this is everyone’s favorite Hitchockian psychopath gamely syncopating on the tunes of Cole Porter, Lorenz Hart and Jerome Kern. Perkins’ tone is that distinctive.
Ah, well. (A voice only a mother could love, I guess.)
Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan
I’m actually pretty leery about a lot of things – for instance, that day old meat-loaf floating around the hallway of my building – or my “friends”, those budding sister-musicians who alternate between their flat and sharp notes with alarming accuracy and… that Carrie re-imagining that is hitting the theaters this October 18th. I am pretty leery of that.
But – if you go with the thought that a blood-shot cinematic adventure with a strong female lead is always good cause for celebration then, in anticipation of this fall’s opening of Kimberly Pierce’s re-imagining, the new BGHF feature “Countdown to Carrie” will focus on strong woman in horror and exploitation films. Let’s begin with the underrated Tuesday Weld!
She was one of the most photogenic lasses of the late 50’s and 60’s and while her life was full of pout worthy conflict and critical acclaim (including a 1978 Oscar nomination for Looking for Mr. Goodbar), the divine Weld never quite made it to the cinematic majors. This may have been due to her own reported reluctance to success or just the fickle nature of Hollywood but – as Sue Ann in 1968’s Pretty Poison, Weld gives a performance that simply shimmers with evil and delightful malice. It’s a masterwork of psychological horror and all the more impressive considering that her co-star is Norman Bates, himself, Mr. Anthony Perkins.
In fact, director Noel Black wisely plays on the assumption that audiences are going to predict that it is Perkins, playing a socially awkward arsonist who develops a fascination with Weld’s small town girl, whom is the primary antagonist here. But midway through the film, viewers realize without a doubt that it is Weld’s pretty Sue Ann whom is the true demon in disguise. Weld’s work is brilliantly go-for-broke and the fact that her Sue Ann is not recognized as one of cinema’s most significant villainesses is a true mystery.