New Zealand Listener

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From the Listener archive: Features

July 17-23 2004 Vol 194 No 3349

Chris Knox


Chris Knox

by Philip Matthews

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Musique concrete? Musique concrete, yeah. Ever since the Beatles’ “Revolution 9” and, about the same time, 1968, I got an album that had a big John Cage piano piece on one side and a bunch of musique concrete on the other. People like Henri Pousseur. I just loved these seemingly formless, unstructured collages of sound. Always wanted to make some myself.

What are you finding as you watch these old horror movies that were inaccessible to you 40 years ago? You find out that they were crap, anyway – the stills were the best things about them. Actually, there are very few Hammer movies that don’t have a great moment. And B horror movie fanaticism is all about great moments. Those wonderful, luminous moments that make up for 80 minutes of stodgy dialogue and bad performances and so forth. I forgive a lot more in horror movies than in any other genre, just for the flashes of brilliance that are like your nightmares come to life.

It’s been really interesting doing The Vault, which started as a bunch of RKO noir movies, but suddenly shifted gear into six Universal horror movies. Very few of them stand up as completely wonderful movies, but the good bits have never been beaten. Nothing, for me, has beaten the original Frankenstein – Karloff’s make-up and performance. There’s something that doesn’t look like make-up about that and there’s a beauty to it that I don’t think has been matched by any another film.

How long does The Vault run after these horrors? There are six Bob Hope films, at least, after the horror season. Then there’s another 12 movies of which we have no knowledge as yet. I’m just amazed that TVNZ is putting reasonably good movies on, in a season, and paying someone to present them. Nobody seems to be complaining. Oh, except for one guy in Tauranga who complained bitterly about the first movie having a link that said something about pour yourself a stiff whisky and soda and settle back …

No, you can’t have drinking in film noir. Drinking, smoking, crime … Hell, no! That’s why the reference was there in the first place – there were so many whisky and sodas in that movie.

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