THE DEVIL’S CANDY: Paintings of Evil

Evil painting targeting its next victim.

With The Devil’s Candy premiering tonight, we thought it would be a good time to profile evil paintings. Well, mostly evil. Some trap people forever or foreshadow some doom. But Some of these are portraits that possessed men or obsessed men use as references when trying to restore their lost loves.

I myself would like a creepy ancestral portrait painted in a Modern or Expressionist style above my fireplace or in the vestibule of my home when I greet weary travelers candelabra in hand.

“No, I hadn’t noticed the resemblance before, but now that you mention it,” I’ll say. “Yes, Remarkable. Quite uncanny.”

And perhaps you will be that poor traveler whose car veered off the road in the storm. And perhaps you’ll be unsettled by the portrait, how much it resembles you or me or your partner–any of which always turn out to be bad in these films.

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

This is Albert Lewin’s adaption of Oscar Wilde’s story of a man who remains young and handsome, unmarked by his sins as long as portrait carries them. Meanwhile, chickenhawk Lord Henry Wotton tries to seduce Dorian (Hurd Hatfield).  into a life of sin and pleasure, though it’s mostly drinking and jerkitude on the screen. Cause 1945. There’s also a “love interest” played by Donna Reed, but, you know. 1945. Shot in black and white, Lewin used the most lurid color in revealing the portrait Dorian keeps in his attic to hide the vileness of his soul.

Incidentally, you can see the picture at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Certainly not an evil portrait. Nope, not evil at all.

The Haunted Palace (1963)

In Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe’s H.P. Lovecraft’s The Haunted Palace, Charles Dexter Ward is struck by the similarity a portrait of his great-great-grandfather above the fireplace in the ancestral castle he has inherited. The more he stares at the portrait, the more familiar the place seems and the jerkier he is to his wife, Anne, who, understandably would like to live anywhere but in the creepy house where her husband is becoming possessed by the soul of his ancestor and the entire town of mutant Lovecraftian townsfolk despise them both for a past injustice. Really more of a supernatural/interdimensional atrocity than in injustice.

The Raven (1963)

So this isn’t really an evil painting. And The Raven is far more light-hearted than The Haunted Palace. But I really love the Modigliani-inspired painting of the lost Lenore. I am very fond of all the charmingly anachronistic paintings and portraits American International Pictures used in their films with Vincent Price.

Manos the Hands of Fate (1966)

While the painting of the Master and his hell hounds doesn’t play a central role in the plot, it certainly plays a central role in the set design. And it is a pretty remarkable piece of work in a film that is at best probably understood as a fever dream. Look at that glower. That is a fine glower.

Portrait of Hell (1969)

Tatsuya Nakadai plays a Korean painter named, Yoshihide, who’s been hired by the jerkiest of lords, Horikawa (Kinnosuke Nakamura), to paint screens for a temple Horikawa has commissioned. Yoshihide agrees provided he can paint one screen that depicts Hell, since basically that’s all he sees in Yoshihide’s domain. Yoshihide is such a great painter that they seem to capture life–and death–and hell.

Yeah, that’s totally it. Got it in one. Jerk.

And there is of course, Night Gallery, Rod Serlings’ 1970s horror anthology show, in which each storyline was represented by a painting in Rod’s gallery of twisted tales. Several involved paintings. In the pilot, Roddy MacDowells inherits his uncle’s house and is haunted by a painting that seems to change. In fact, it seems so show, in stages, Roddy’s uncle crawling out of his grave and walking toward the house. (This episode also stars Midnight Madness alumnus Ossie Davis (Bubba Ho-tep)). In that same pilot episode, a Nazi war criminal tries to take refuge in a painting of a lovely fishing scene, but unfortunately enters the wrong painting. And it turns out to be a pretty good punishment, I don’t know if it would satisfy the Hague, but it’s pretty good.

Who would’ve thought the Devil preferred a pencil ‘stache?

In Boris Karloff’s Thriller, there are a couple of episodes about paintings where no one enters or is possessed by a painting. In the episode, “The Devil’s Ticket,”* an artist makes a deal with the devil. He pawns his soul for success and all he has to do is paint a portrait of the person whose soul he’ll give the Devil to get his own out of hawk. In the “Grim Reaper,” a woman buys a lovely painting of Death looking all stylish, but notices people are dying and for some reason there is blood on Death’s scythe. Oh, and “Grim Reaper” just happens to star William Shatner, who I am declaring an Honorary Midnight Madness Alumnus. Also, Tatsuya Nakadai. Because, Seriously.

*Remember, the Devil’s Ticket is redeemable for your choice of the Devil’s candy, popcorn and one 16oz beverage of your choice. [The Midnight Madness Blog would like to remind you that there are no food or beverages allowed in Ryerson. Also, don’t exchange people’s souls for candy, popcorn and your choice of beverage. ~ Ed.]

Incidentally, we’ve found a collection of the paintings from the television show, Night Gallery. (Including the painting at the beginning of this post. Please enjoy while you wait for The Devil’s Candy to bring the Madness tonight! Just, you know, don’t walk into the movie or the painting in the movie. Just be cautious with art. Enjoy responsibly.

Vincent Price, demonstrating the proper way to appreciate art.

THE DEVIL’S CANDY Screening Times:

Sun, Sept 13, 11:59 PM RYERSON

Tue, Sept 15, 6:45 PM SCOTIABANK 9

Sat, Sept 19, 1:15 PM SCOTIABANK 14

 

This post originally appeared  on the official blog of the Midnight Madness program at TIFF.

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