Horsham ‘Daffy’ Gilbert – Blackheart was at the peak of his career when he decided to film Anna Karenina after falling in love with Gigantic’s Nordic import Maralinga. Today the film is a cult classic but it also started the decline and fall of Daffy.
Cyrano was temporarily stalled so Irving G wanted a romantic love story. Clearly he did not read the long novel to its tragic conclusion when he green lighted the project.
Daffy did read the novel to its tragic climax and liked it —- especially the tragic climax. Little did he realize how tragically he would relive Alexei
Daffy and Victor King worked out a great deal of the film at King’s ultra modern house on the Heights.
Daffy wrote the script in two massive revisions and also composed the music score.
The highly stylized costumes were the result of moving the novel from the late 1880s to 1912 -1918 to set the doomed romance in the context of Russia’s decline and fall in the horrors of World War 1. Maralinga wanted to wear modern costumes and Daffy thought contrasting the love affair with the approaching war would make it more intense and desperate while making the doomed era more ghostly and tragic.
The firm started as the ‘Romance of the Century’ between Daffy and Maralinga was red hot.
As the film progressed the love affair of Daffy and Maralinga started to mirror the love affair of Alexi and Anna. First white hot.
Then destructive. Finally crashing in to hatred and self destructive rage.
Maralinga the Nordic import the studio dubbed the Snow Queen. Ironically Daffy decided to incorporate the fairy tale of the Snow Queen into the story of Anna, weaving a fairy tale of a boy and girl whose love dies with the story of Alexis and Anna whose love dies. The Snow Queen becomes the metaphor for the death of love.
Both the Snow Queen fairy tale and the Snow Queen metaphor in the movie is based in the image of snow and ice which kills all human passions yet is chillingly beautiful and fatally seductive. The film featured special effects including the first use of two strip color as well a hand tinting to create the fatal allure of the Snow Queen. Sepia tone was used for the flashbacks. Gritty black and white was used for the opening and closing war scenes.
This is symbolized by the movie image of the red rose. Anna and red roses have been intertwined in the movie so when a sudden ice storm freezes a red rose with ice it symbolizes Alexis’ decision to stop the destructive love affair before it destroys everyone.
Is it pragmatic reason? Self preservation? Concern for his career? Selfishness? Disillusionment at Anna’s increasingly recklessness in continuing the affair? Or Alexis’ essentially tormented but cold nature which makes him distrustful of love after being ignored and abandoned by a cold mother too self absorbed into her career as courtier to love her son (played with Freudians overtones by a woman who looks remarkably liked the Snow Queen)?
Career becomes a metaphor for coldness and the death of love in the film as when Alexis’ mother’s exit down the steps of the Hermitage Palace is transformed into the Snow Queen’s procession down the same steps.
Or did a splinter of magical ice from the ice frosted red rose pierce Alexis’ eye? Is Alexis another victim of the Snow Queen?
As Alexis returns to Petersburg he sees a lush red and gold autumn transformed into an icy wonderland of snow —- and pragmatism that turns into disillusionment.
Anna reacts hysterically when he tells her he wants to terminate the affair. Her emotional blackmail keeps them together and propels the affair. But the affair which started in the spring and waxed with the summer now wanes with the winter as the crisis turns destructive.
The Snow Queen’s magical handkerchief transforming the banal world of mere human beings into a magic world of ethereal wonder of icy magic that is enchanting but also chilling. All while Petersburg careens into the crisis of world war for which it is tragically unprepared
All while the Snow Queen transforms Petersburg with icy snow and chilling beauty —– while the love everyone has for Anna freezes into disapproval, scorn, hostility, jealousy, resentment, anger, and loathing.
The Snow Queen collects beautiful boys and beautiful men in her enchanted bastion of snow and ice which appears to be icy Petersburg magically transformed into an icy wonderland. She transforms the warm and vibrant world of passion and love into an icy world of crystal and ice.
Alexei’s lonely heart aching for love
And Anna fills his heart with the promise of love
loves blossoms as red as red roses
but then the ice of distrust and disillusionment threatens that love
the blush of love wilts inside the heart of Alexei
the pain of love is too much for the tormented heart of Alexei to bare
Alexei’s lonely childhood keeps his heart to wounded to risk love so
Alexei locks his heart off from the pain of love which is too intense
the Snow Queen’s kiss freezes his heart to a love which has become
too dangerous and volatile to risk everything if the cost of love is the loss
of everything else
Alexei’s head starts to rule his heart. Alexei sees the hard truth that the affair has become too destructive for everyone. He is not willing to risk all for love. He does not have Anna’s emotional recklessness. His troubled past is different for Anna’s troubled past. Their differing demons propel them in opposite directions. Anna is using her passionate affair to hurt the man she hates : Karenin. Soon she will do the same with Alexei. Love and Hate are intertwined in Anna like the bloody thorns of red roses. But Alexei just feels guilty. Just as his alienated father’s affairs left his mother alone and Alexei rejected and lonely, so now he is playing the bounder with another man’s wife. Alexei simply feels guilty and deeply ashamed.
The Snow Queen casts splinters of ice into the eyes of her male victims so they see only the most cruel of ‘truths’. So loving men become logical, rational ,cynical, bitter, disillusioned, and finally uncaring and cruel with their merely human lovers whose fragile imperfection and feet of clay ultimately alienates and even offends them. As the magical ice splinter of icy reason moves from their disillusioned and too critical eyes into their hearts men become cruel and unforgiving. The Snow Queen locks their hearts with her key of cold reason and cruel pragmatism.
Finally, the Snow Queen’s splinter of icy pragmatism, cynicism, cool reasoning, and disillusioned alienation freezes their hearts.
So the Snow Queen turns her lovers into symbolic werewolves, cruel, cutting, hurtful, selfish, ruthless, unfeeling, incapable of loving anyone else. Mere fragile mundane humanity cannot complete with the icy perfection of the Snow Queen in her shivering glory.
The famous empty stare of Maralinga. The public was fascinated with the new import. And her first role as the selfish, self absorbed, bad woman in ‘The Honor Of The Regiment’ was a perfect showcase.
But in the studio the ‘Snow Queen’ alienated people with her icy detachment and obvious boredom with the grind of filming. Merely human toilers in the Dream Factory started to call her a narcissist. They said Maralinga treated people as either door mats to be walked on, minions, toadys, mirrors expected to reflect her glory, tools expected to promote her fame, her applauding and worshiping audience of adoring worshipers, or else rivals to her ambition who must be destroyed.
Paladine dressing his goddess. But directors and studio minions disliked the Nordic import. Daffy ignored her until they were loaned to another studio to do ‘The Honor Of The Regiment’. To the surprise of everyone Daffy fell in love with his co-star. Well. Actually that was no surprise. Daffy always fell in love with his co-stars. The surprise was the Snow Queen apparently falling in love with Daffy. Or was she exploiting him to build her career at the expense of his?
The Love Affair of the Century was launched. Or not. Was it the love affair of the century? Judge the photograph for yourself.
Laura Normii was not impressed and she did not like Maralinga playing her husband Irving G either.
Maralinga was cruel to the fragile Wisteria Rosemount too. Daffy’s latest love affair was alienating all of his friends.
Victor King disliked the Snow Queen as well and did not like the idea of her playing Anna —- or being forced to direct her. Daffy’s friends started to become worried that Daffy was living the plot of ‘Honor Of The Regiment’ in real life and destroying his career over a bad woman played by Maralinga.
The Pendragons were appalled. They viewed Daffy as their surrogate son. They did not want Maralinga as their surrogate daughter in law.
‘So where is the Bi —-!’ Laurence Pendragon snarled. He was cast as Karenin the husband of Maralinga’s Annia Karenina. Pendragon joked grimly he would not have to act. He already hated the woman. But was he jealous of her? Or perhaps too possessive of Daffy?
Maralinga did not like the casting of Pendragon either. She said he was too old. Pendragon was Fairawayland’s most famous actor. First in the theater. Then in movies. Perhaps she saw him as a threat. Pendragon said she simply did not want anyone to overshadow her. And there was good reason to assume that would happen.
Pendragon created an imposing Karenin of virile masculinity and authority involved with trying to save Russia from world war and contemptuous of his flighty wife when the world hovered on the brink of war and revolution. Pendragon made sure his Karenin was good looking despite his age. He meant to upstage the b—-.’
Pendragon’s ‘what a farce this affair of yours has become!’ scene upstaged Maralinga quite deliberately. Pendragon made sure the audience would side with him. Not her. Pendragon explained that Karenin was not the villain of the novel. Anna was. And that is how he played him.
Pendragon’s Karenin undercut Maralinga’s Anna at every turn so when the ‘child scene’ happened the audience quite rightly agreed with Karenin that no responsible father would hand his only son over to a mentally unstable and self absorbed woman who was slipping into addiction and a nervous breakdown.The film also shows the impact of the breakdown of the marriage, the divorce, and abandonment has on a child. Daffy channeled his own terrible childhood and abandonment into the script. Pendragon had no children but loved Daffy as if his son. He projected those strong feelings into his scenes with his troubled ‘son’ in the movie. The result is unexpectedly strong and genuine. Maralinga’s oddly unnerving scene with the ‘nude’ child is disturbing.
Pendragon created a sympathetic husband and so undercut Maralinga’s spoiled, self absorbed, narcissistic Anna who was too willing to wreak everyone’s lives with her suicidal passion and reckless defiance of social morality. When he gestured why Anna married him, title and money, he yanked the emotional carpet right out from under her protestations of her unhappiness at being married to him.
The film carried the story into the War and Revolution so Karenin’s death at the hands of ruthless Marxists gave Pendragon a spectacular death. And the tragic death of Karenin and Anna’s son, now a angry teenager, in a suicidal charge right into rebel held machine guns cemented the tragedy of a family destroyed by both war and revolution and also absence of love, loved denied, and misplaced love.
Today most critics and audiences agree that Laurence Pendragon stole the film from everyone. A workaholic, Pendragon kept warning Daffy , another workaholic, that he was risking his career for the Snow Queen. This is played out in a movie scene between the workaholic Karenin and sincerely responsible (at least to his job) Alexis as both men warn each other about the impact that the scandalous affair will have on their careers as war approaches. Both men are revealed to be willing to symbolically throw Anna under the train for their careers and duties and responsibilities each sees as more important than her. Anna has become collateral damage as well as expendable.
W S Surrey who played the Grand Duke also warned Daffy that he was potentially wreaking his career for Maralinga. Some of Daffy’s friends started to compare Maralinga to a pranic vampire seducing Daffy to his doom.
approach the vampire with care
the kiss of the vampire is fatally alluring
but the kiss of the vampire is fatal
the vampire’s love is all consuming
Louie B Sneed actually enjoyed the sight of Daffy wreaking his career for the Snow Queen. So he decided to back Maralinga to aid and abet Daffy wreaking his career. Gigantic’s most expenisve film became a battlefield.
The film opens and closes with dramatic battle scenes which makes one third of the film a gritty black and white action film. The angry teenaged lieutenant who plans to lead the suicidal charge into rebel held machine guns is not initially introduced as Anna’s son now grown into a bitter young teenager. The impact of the affair and suicide of his mother has turned the boy into a bitter young man.
Nor does the initial scene introduce the grimy, bearded, and gaunt professional soldier who proves to be Alexis just come from the imploding war front. The two soldiers have a tense confrontation which is not initially explained before the older soldier storms off on his motorcycle. This is followed by a spectacular stunt scene as Alexis eludes Reds before stumbling into the ruins of the tavern where he first met Anna.
Then the black and white movie literally opens up into rich flashbacks tinted with gold and warm colors as Alexis remembers the tragic affair as if acted out before iconic Russian black boxes with highly stylized backdrops and fairytale elements such as only a dying Russian could imagine.
The film ends with Anna’s suicide scene which morphs back into the black and white world of the Russian Revolution. Alexis tries to save Anna’s son. The machine guns devour the cream of Anna’s imperial world including Alexis.
As Alexis dies in the snow magical snow flakes slowly cover his bloody hand as the Snow Queen claims him at last.
Irving G finally read the script and then the last pages of the novel and then the previous chapters to find the suicide scene where Tostroy hid it. Then he finally put two and two together and realized that the film’s end was tragic and the ‘Affair of the Century’ was also becoming tragic as love turned to hated and death. Meanwhile could he keep the expensive film on track before it bankrupted the studio?
Daffy finally nailed his performance as Alexis Voronsky as love died, frozen under the splinter of icy crystal of the Snow Queen’s pragmatic cynicism which is imbedded in the eye of Alexis. He sees Anna for what she is — and what she is not — and realizes that Karenin is not the villain. Anna has made Alexis into the villainous bounder who is seducing a wife of a honorable diplomat as war approaches.
Daffy captures the growing self loathing of Alexis as love dies while the call to war becomes louder and louder. The approach of war compels Alexis to return to Russia to try to salvage his career to join the war for his country. Anna is left to face her doom alone after a cruel scene in a night club as their love unravels before the cruel eyes of Petersburg.
Maralinga’s self absorbed and tightly contained performance of Anna prevented her from tackling the ‘breakdown scene’. She even wanted to rewrite the script to cut off the opening and closing war and revolution scenes and Karenin’s death scene as well as the death scene of her son during the revolution. She demanded an absurd scene of heroic self martyrdom to avoid doing the breakdown scene which would explain Anna’s suicide. She absolutely refused to do the drug scene even though Anna’s descent into morphine and paranoia and madness was in the book. So Daffy and Victor King deliberately goad Maralinga into a virtual nervous breakdown off screen to get her to finally act out Anna’s breakdown on screen. The cruelty of everyone was on full display as the Romance of the Century — both novel and Fairawayland — dies on camera.