Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Black Mass of the Week - Whistling in the Dark (1941)

While not devil-worshipers, per se, the hokum cult of Silver Haven in S. Sylvan Simon's oddball Red Skelton-vehicle (the first of three films featuring him as radio detective, The Fox) certainly leans towards the pagan. In the impressive rite that begins the film, the cult's High Priest -- a naturally sinister Conrad Veidt -- invokes the power of the moon, evergreen conifers, Astarte, the hallowed dead & another theosophist's dozen of superficial occult touchstones, much to the delight of a particularly rickety coven of doddering spinsters. However, there's a vein of honesty lurking just beneath the surface of the Silver Haven rituals, for the common denominator in this hermetic hodge-podge is silver, the only deity that holds any sway at all over Veidt & his robed henchmen. Art Director Cedric Gibbons & Set Designer Edwin B. Willis turn Veidt's mansion into a decadent wonderland, with at least three Egyptian gods & two buddhas looming over sprawling, elegantly-appointed rooms stuffed to the brim with William Haines cast-offs.

Veidt intones (one presumes as the voice of the moon itself, though he seems to switch in & out of character with very little rhyme or reason):

And now, as the quiet spreads about the earth & the world looks at itself in my face as in a mirror, keep us now & forever in the light of the silver waters of tranquility, reflecting the constant symbols of our destiny & in the silence of the vast & enveloping night may the radiant voice we seek be generated. We gather here each full moon & reflecting its perfect silver rays, give this token, this tree, washing away all human darkness. We return now this seed to Anastis & Astarte. Followers of the Silver Path, we have planted here a living symbol of our beloved compatriot, Mary Upshaw, who has passed on to the Silver Tide. Her presence will stand here among the others to beautify this silver grove & remind us of its power. So until the moon calls us together again -- Epsi Corrico Daline!

My dear Mrs. Robinson, Silver Haven is the consciousness of the ever-presence of the radiant light & through this you yourself will find the power to be content within yourself & thus, in your own way, find a path to those you love... 


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