In a role that proves she was more than the queen of comedy, Carole Lombard stars in Supernatural, where a quack spiritualist allows a very real phantom to invade her mind.
On the strength of their independent horror film White Zombie, a freak success in 1932, Victor and Edward Halperin landed at Paramount on a one-picture deal. For the only time in their careers the Halperins worked at a major studio with access to first-rate production facilities, competent supporting players and a major star in Carole Lombard. The result is a disturbing programme picture that reprises the dual performance that had just won Fredric March an Academy Award for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) and the exposé of spiritualism that Paramount explored in Darkened Rooms (1929).
Supernatural has been overshadowed by the goofy high school pageant that is White Zombie, lacking its predecessor's fairy tale poetics and bursts of Lugosiana. White Zombie may be maddeningly amateurish with a reach far exceeding its grasp, but it resonated with audiences then and continues to radiate a cultural half-life today. Smarter and better made, Supernatural was not a success and has been largely forgotten.
Carole Lombard is said to have despised being assigned the movie, making the vitality of her essay in demonic possession all the more impressive as she channels the brassy hysteria of Vivienne Osborne's doomed-to-die murderess, seen indelibly in the first reel. Arthur Martinelli's constantly roving camera, punctuated with unexpected lightning set-ups, is complemented by the uncredited music by Karl Hajos and Milan Roder. It is among the first original dramatic scores of the 1930s (and includes a brief but surprising quotation from Bruckner's Symphony No.3).
Preservation funding for Supernatural provided by the Packard Humanities Institute.
Northwest Film Forum (View)
1515 12th Ave
Seattle, WA 98122