Chaplin’s Goliath

The black eyebrows, the bushy beard everyone recognises silent screen villain Eric Campbell. Filmmaker Kevin Macdonald tells Alan Morrison about unearthing the man behind the image.

He was Scotland's first movie star. the archetypal screen villain whose physical bulk and threatening facial hair became as tnuch an icon as Charlie Chaplin‘s battered hat and walking stick. Scratchy black-and-white credits list him as Eric Campbell. but only the most exhaustive film encyclopedias bother to add a smattering of biographical facts to the name. As famous in his day as Tom Cruise or Mel Gibson; now a footnote to cinema's past.

‘Campbell was probably the most recognised figure after Chaplin.‘ says director Kevin Macdonald. whose documentary Chaplin Zr Goliath rescues the silent star from obscurity. ‘When he died. it was on the front pages of the newspapers. But how do you make a film about somebody who has been dead for 80 years. of whom there is no interview footage. when there‘s nobody left alive who remembers him? I tried to use these gaps in a positive way. to




Eric Campbell and Charlie Chaplin: the biggest stars of their time

make it into a scarch.‘

The joumey began. aptly enough. in the offices of the Drambuic Edinburgh Film Festival when its director Mark Cousins stumbled on a reference to Campbell in a book. Last year. a call went out for information on this lost Scottish talent and a small event was staged with sketchy biographical details and a couple of Chaplin shorts. Macdonald decided to take the matter funher. filling his film with intimate touches personal letters read by Campbell’s granddaughter. rare out- takes showing the big man laughing and relaxing with Chaplin.

‘The little glimpses you get of Campbell there are so vital in bringing him alive as a person.‘ says Macdonald. ‘lt‘s important to see him as a man. not just as a screen heavy. His image has never been forgotten. the films are shown constantly and people still enjoy

them. yet nobody knows anything about him as a person. I've come to genuinely believe those films are Chaplin‘s best, and Eric Campbell played a major part in that success.’ There's a lovely symmetry to the film, which early on shows the unveiling ofa Centenary of Cinema plaque dedicated to Campbell in his home town of Dunoon. rain lashing down; at the end. the screen moves to the sun and palm trees of Los Angeles to where another plaque is being placed in the graveyard where his remains are buried. The beginning and end of ajoumey that. in between. is filled with moments ofjoy and tragedy. From a few scraps here and there, Macdonald has built a remarkably thorough portrait of the man behind the make-up. I Chaplin's Goliath: The Search For Eric Campbell Filmhouse. 24 Aug. 4pm. £6 (£4).





carlo Collodl’s fantasy novel is, of course, one of the greatest children's novels ever written - darker, richer stuff than Disney ever dreamed of - yet can it ever really reach the screen in a form that does the original justice? That’s the question you ask yourself before and after this new live-action version, which uses the latest digital technology to bring the little wooden boy (and his lie detector proboscis) to life, but falls flat because it ducks out on its own anbltions.

Though the effects work isn’t always seamlessly integrated into the

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Martin tandau plays the puppetmdrer In The Adventures Of Pinocchio

exteriors, the decorative period backgrounds and attempt at authenticity work in the film’s favour until it hedges its bets by adding a computer-generated cricket with a sense of humour culled from Woody Allen’s cast-off one-liners and dreadful Milli rock ballads courtesy of Brian May.

it looks like director Steve (Ninja Turtles) Barron lost his nerve, severely undercut the high spots - among which must be numbered extravagant viiiainry from lldo filer and Martin landau's attempts to bring some heart to it all as lonely puppeteer Repetto - and did little to correct the fudged pacing or general sense of post-production panic. Too bad. (Trevor Johnston) The Adventures of Pinocchio, canon, 24 Aug, 11am, £6 (£4).

quick hits

I Bastard Out Of Carolina Actress Anjelica Huston doesn‘t shy away from the brutal realities of child abuse in her directorial debut. set amidst a poor white community during the l950s. See feature. Bastard Out OfCamlina. Odean. 24 Aug. [0.30pm. Free. I Breaking The Waves A young woman from a Scottish Calvinist community falls foul ofthe church when devotion to her husband drives her to extremes. Danish director Lars Von Trier's film brims with emotion. See review. Breaking Tire Waves. F ilmhrmse. 23 Aug. 8pm and 25 Aug. 6pm. £6 (£4).

I The Phantom Of The Opera The silent classic, with Lon Chaney setting the scare standards that others could only strive to copy. is given full orchestral treatment under the baton of Carl Davis. The Phantom Of The Opera. Playhouse. 23 Aug. 9.15pm. £6 (£4). .

I llenri Alekan One of the world's greatest cinematographers. whose luminous work has evoked magic in Wings Of Desire and La Belle E! [a Béte. takes us back to I947 to discuss the making of Cocteau’s cinematic fairytale. Henri Ale/ran Scene By Scene on La Belle B! La Béte. F ilmhause. 23 Aug. 6pm. £8 (£4).

I 308! Of The Fest The critical hits. the audience favourites, the ones the programmers reckon you can‘t leave town without seeing put everything else on hold and dedicate a full day to the 50th Drambuic Edinburgh Film Festival in a nutshell.

Best Of The F est. Cameo and

F ilmhouse. 25 Aug. [lam—[0.30pm. £6 (£4) each film.


The List 23 Aug-5 Sept I996 51