Dir. Jacques Tourneur, 1942
Starring: Simone Simon, Tom Conway
A thrilling tale about the power of sexuality to unsettle social norms.
Not as well known as it should be, this film stands amongst the most beautiful, exciting, original, and provocative films ever made. And it is a lesbian classic. Val Lewton, who wrote the story and produced the movie, knew all about lesbians — he’d been raised by a famous one, his aunt Alla Nazimova, a superstar of the silent screen and the daring mastermind behind the queer film Salome (1923).
After 1930 in the USA, with the Hays Film Censorship Code in place, it became almost impossible to discuss sexuality (or politics) on film, so people like Val Lewton had to get really creative. Enter Irena, a Serbian woman from a strange race of creatures, half-human and (unknown to the world) half panther. Does it sound daft? Well, the film is actually very stylish, performances are flawless, the camera work and editing are magic, and the story is so compelling that you’ll be glued to the screen from start to finish.
Irena knows it is not in her nature to marry, because she is likely to kill her husband when her ‘true self’ returns. When she foolishly ties the knot with unsuspecting Oliver, not only she finds it impossible to have sex with him, but she can’t help herself either from ‘hunting’ women – including complete strangers in public swimming pools and deserted night streets.
Actress Simone Simon, who went on to make an openly lesbian film, is absolutely magnetic. But momentarily, Elizabeth Russell steals the show … as a fellow panther alerted by her ‘gaydar’, who approaches Irena: “Are you my sister?” We predict that after this screening you’ll be uttering those very words to unsuspecting punters in the Front Launge and Pantibar … and you’ll do it in Serbian! An irresistible film.
About EVIL SEASON “MAD, BAD, AND DANGEROUS TO KNOW”
screenings @ 3:30 pm
doors open @ 3 pm
come early and join us in the foyer for free tea & coffee
Our schedule is subject to change due to availability of films from Film Distributors.
Our next season will offer you another exclusive selection of fantastic LGBTQ films which are either little known, or completely forgotten, or which have failed to get the attention they deserve. We are calling this season the “Evil Season: ‘Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know'”. After our roller-coaster Season Two, “Around the World in the 80s”, we are traveling back in time to the 1940s, 50s and 60s (we will be stopping in 1968, the year Stonewall changed gay history). In Season Three, we are going to take a look at some gloriously gay films from Hollywood, made under heavy censorship but managing to tell amazing queer stories in exciting new ways. By contrast, we will also look at the freedom of European films of the period, talking about homosexuality with a mater-of-factness which is often shocking.
Our next ten screenings are “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”. That’s how Lord Byron was described by an ex-lover, and we are borrowing the tag for Season Three! The poet Byron, leading light of the Romantic movement in England and a hero of the Greek war of independence, was also famous for his sexual conquests, which did not discriminate between women and men. The writer Caroline Lamb —who after some resistance, succumbed to his charms — said of Byron that he was “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”. Of course, the aura of danger and lawlessness, and the rumours of depravity, made Lord Byron all the more alluring. His ‘wicked’ side was officially disapproved of, but it turned him into a sex symbol…
All our films for Season Three have one thing in common: they deal with evil — evil gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and queer people, yes, but also with the curse of internalised homophobia, and with the horrors of a society that cant cope with black sheep. Some of our films have great gay baddies, other films pretend to condemn us so they can publicize gay culture, and others are about people who are dying for an opportunity to be “bad”. In short, in Season Three we will see some of the lesser known but most intelligent portraits of gay people ever created, we will laugh at society’s boring obsession with normalcy, and we will also celebrate evil. That’s right, we will embrace the “intrinsic evilness” that Mr Ratzinger finds so scary, and we will celebrate it. Because, lets face it, it has been a blessing for many of us — enriching our lives with excitement, fun, tenderness, friendship… not to mention some truly fantastic films!
Evil Season. It’ll be a thrill.