Gish fights elements, man in `The Wind'

FILM

Her performance will blow you away

Film Column

August 09, 2002|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Tomorrow at noon, the Charles Theatre's Saturday revival series will show Victor Sjostrom's silent masterpiece of psychological terror, The Wind, in which a well-bred Virginia girl (Lillian Gish) goes to Texas to live with her cousin, only to be turned out by his jealous wife and hounded by the men and the wind that pound the countryside.

It's a brilliant anti-western: When the heroine picks up a gun, what happens is horrific, not triumphant (despite MGM's attaching a jarring happy ending).

From the opening of the train slicing through the landscape, to the climax of a corpse buried in shifting sands, the film moves like molten lava. Images, such as the cousin's wife gutting a carcass, stay with you for days - and, more to the point, nights.

Gish is superb. Her initial, fleeting pangs of fear register visually, like a fraying hemline, so her emotional unraveling is both shocking and inevitable.

This 1928 performance, near the tail end of Gish's prime decade, compelled Vladimir Dantchenko, co-founder of the Moscow Art Theater, to put Gish "in the small circle of the first tragediennes of the world."

Thomas "Pope" Croke, a projectionist at the Charles from 1994 to 1998, will accompany the film on keyboards. Admission is $5.

FANEX returns

One week from today, Baltimore-based Midnight Marquee Press will kick off FANEX 16, a weekend film conference primarily devoted to the presentation and discussion of sci-fi, horror and fantasy. This year it asks the question "What do Bela Lugosi and Elvis Have in Common?" (Both Lugosi and Presley died on the kick-off date for this year's FANEX, Aug. 16. They also generated their own movie fads.)

The guest list includes Suzanna Leigh, the co-star of the 1966 Presley vehicle, Paradise, Hawaiian Style, and Carol Lynley, who in one year -1959 - appeared with Fabian in Don Siegel's The Hound Dog Man and with Brandon de Wilde in the groundbreaking teen-pregnancy movie, Blue Denim.

Also scheduled: John Saxon, who in a long and varied career starred in at least two genre-defining movies - as the policeman father of the haunted heroine in Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and as the debt-ridden white gambler who joins forces with Jim Kelly and Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon (1973).

Other highlights include a preview of Baltimore actor-director Mark Redfield's new version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and a classic horror screening at the Bengies Drive-In.

FANEX 16 is based at the Days Hotel and Conference Center in Timonium. Admission is $10 per day at the hotel (children under 12 may attend free), with a separate admission for the drive-in. For more information, call 410-665-1198 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., or visit www.midmar.com.

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