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Janine’s Notes (Conjure Wife; Companion 1: Weird Woman)

Hi all!

I’ve been a little inconsistent with maintaining the website, but I have something I MUST make available to you: Janine’s notes on Weird Woman.

Let me explain. We read Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber during our second season. The book frequently receives praise like, “one of the best horror novels of all time!” and “‘Goodreads’?…I think you mean GREAT READ!” (One of those is made up.) Its solid spooky elements, supernatural, psychological, existential, and so on  inspired not 1, not 2, but THREE cinematic adaptations.

To take advantage of this knowledge, I struck out to watch all three movies and discuss them with other indie podcasters I respect and enjoy. These episodes would be called “companion” episodes and would be paired with each third of the book.

The first movie, Weird Woman, was released in 1944. I roped in Courtney from the Cult of Domesticity and Janine from Guess What You’re Gonna Hate? to watch and discuss this thing. I enjoyed the conversation very much, even if the movie itself was a touch lackluster (and took a hard detour from the book at some point). You can hear our conversation here.

Guess What You’re Gonna Hate? is basically a podcast for people who enjoy cultural masochism. Kate presents Janine with two movies she’s never seen before. Janine then has to rectify that situation, and discuss her thoughts with Kate. Janine takes notes on movies she watches real time, like live-tweeting…or regular note-taking. The result is so wonderful, funny, and dang smart for being a stream of consciousness freewrite.

Below, I have copied in her full notes on the movie we watched, Weird Woman. Honestly, they are worth a read even if you don’t watch the movie or listen to our joint episode. Look for her other notes on 2000s movies you’ve actually seen or heard of on her site!

AN INNER SANCTUM MYSTERY……..

Head on the table? No, it’s a crystal ball

The narrator is in the head

“This is the inner sanctum – a strange, fantastic world controlled by a mass of living, pulsating flesh – the mind. It destroys, distorts, creates monsters, commits murder.”

Oooooh. I like that set up.

“Even you, without knowing, can commit murder”

But can I be put in jail for it? DOUBT IT

Imagine proving that in court. “Well, she killed someone, your honor… WITH HER INNER SANCTUM. I mean, mind.”

Stormy, windy night – girl walking down the streets wrapped up in her little coat. I like the wind effects – looks pretty serious and realistic

The music is pretty good, too

She gets home – sees her husband (?) in the study and then walks up the stairs to get to her room quietly

There’s a shrine of sorts dedicated to some photo of a guy she puts stuff in front of

“Man’s struggle upward from his dark past is the struggle of reason against superstition.” – What the guy is writing at his desk. He finishes writing that and then smokes – that’s enough work for one night, right?

“The so-called phenomenon of mystery and sorcery are brought about by fear. Fear, enslaving countless millions, making them believe because they are afraid not to believe. Reason against superstition. Superstition, casting its shadow across even our civilization, holding up strange, supernatural gods to play on man’s imagination.” – he’s not even writing this, just walking around his room and thinking it. YOU GOTTA PUT IT ON PAPER MAN

Nosy woman calls him up to tattle on the woman walking down the street (Paula)

You SNITCH! He doesn’t believe her, though, because Paula is supposed to have been in bed all night

Okay, the fake wind noise is starting to get annoying

Norman messes with her weird shrine – and she says it’s bad luck.

She tries to get him to come to bed but he’s got to write his weird passive aggressive diatribe against superstition, obviously brought on by his wife’s traditions or whatever

Makes much more sense now, this dude is just shooting down his wife’s beliefs

I mean, they ARE stupid beliefs, but it just makes more sense why he’s writing about it now

Norman realizes Paula is lying to him, and now he’s trying to figure out where she went

“Is she still clinging to the weird pagan rituals of the islands where I first met her?” OH WE ABOUT TO HAVE A FLASH BACK FELLAS

Flash back to the island – very much in step with the weird, racist obsession that mid century peoples had with the Pacific Islands

HAHAHAH Paula is like doing awkward dances in the back as she watches this islander traditional dance, that is so funny

Norman just bursts into the traditional dance ritual

Paula explains the ritual – and also scolds him for being so scoffing

Apparently Paula’s dad Professor Clayton taught Norman for a while – she was raised by the high priestess after her father passed away

He keeps trying to cross this path that would make him offer himself as a sacrifice to the gods – and then accidentally steps over it hahaha

Paula and the priestess put him in a circle of immunity after he offended the native gods, cause he fucked up bad

They made a little voodoo doll of sorts of him, and it’s cute how much it looks like him hahaha

Man I can just imagine how much people must have LOVED this when it came out because of their racist obsession with pacific islanders in the midcentury

More flashbacks… Is it just me or do a lot of older movies operate mainly in flashback?

Norman is an uninteresting piece of soggy bread

Ilona – she is this jealous woman at the party, and I think she’s the snitch that was tattling on Paula in the present time

Norman was apparently leading Ilona on – she’s pretty jealous of his new wife

“My humblest apologies. I won’t be childish about this.” – Ilona, right before being childish about this

Ilona is passive aggressive and talking down to Paula about her superstitions

Ilona waits for Norman in his office at the university, discussing a student named Margaret about researching

“Can’t I get it through your head that I’m in love with my wife?” For a guy who speaks in such a boring tone, he has great conviction and some good lines! But damn that actor could really do to learn how to emote better

Margaret is pretty excited to begin working with Norman, but Ilona is weirdly passive about it still

“There’s something so dynamic about him” SOURCE?? HE’S SO BORING!!!!!!

David, Margaret’s boyfriend (?) is pretty sour about her obsession with Norman

“Sometimes a young and pretty girl can be a great inspiration to a mental giant like Professor Reed” – damn Ilona, you’re pretty sour, but also like… true, and I bet he doesn’t even credit the women for inspiring him (or all that research he likely got from his wife)

His book has been published and celebrated – and it’s obvious that Margaret is fawning over him

Ilona is gossiping to Evelyn that Paula is a “witch wife” – she’s so jealous that she’s trying to attribute Norman’s new success to his wife

Has there ever been this music drama or reporting over a sociology chairmanship ever before? Like it was even on the newspaper front page. Who cares that much about it?!

Ilona continues to creep around campus and manipulate people

Dr. Sawtelle, Evelyn’s wife, apparently used a student’s thesis as the basis of his book, and Ilona kind of brings it up to put him against Norman

Paula sneaks out of the house again, and this time Norman follows her

Norman, for apparently being a magnet for ladies, has the same expression this whole movie – of just worry and furrowed brows

Norman destroys the little shrine that Paula had made – and then, at home, he accuses her of going back to the Dark Ages

Ah, so Ilona was right – Paula was using her magic to bolster his success

“I’m a man of reason, or I’m nothing – what of my life’s work if I allow myself or you to be enslaved by superstition?” As a sociology major, shouldn’t he be more sensitive to her traditions? Very strange

He burns all of her things – and then demands the talisman she’s been wearing around her neck

What a jerk!!

They hear a scream outside and Evelyn’s husband has died – she accuses Paula and Norman of murder

“Sounds as though he’d been bewitched, doesn’t it Paula?” ILONA, YOU SAUCY WOMAN

Ah, so Margaret is recording Norman’s words down for him as he paces around the room

Norman is beginning to doubt his own reason and logic

He’s just now realizing that his assistant is fawning over him

“Haven’t I got enough on my mind without listening to this romantic twaddle of yours?” Man Norman you can really be an ass

David spots a crying margaret running out of Norman’s office, so he bursts into his office

Norman straight up throws David out of his office

Paula calls Norman and tells him something terrible has happened – Norman finds her passed out in the office

“The death chant, Norman – I heard it!” Someone is apparently praying them to death – and the phone rings, and there’s the chant on the end of the line

“If you don’t fear it, it means nothing. If you do, it means everything evil!”

When was the last time you really heard a voice over of a character’s thoughts in a movie? It’s been a long time for me. It seems like EVERY 1940s movie loves doing that though.

Ilona lets Norman know the new sociology hire got the chairmanship, and he doesn’t really care

Grace, the dean of women, tells Norman that David was spreading gossip that Norman took advantage of Margaret

Norman goes to the gym and finds David threatening him with a gun! They wrestle over it and the gun goes off – it looks like David died, but apparently he’s just been beaten up by him

Evelyn bursts into Paula’s office and accuses her of killing his husband, because Norman drove him to suicide

She yells at Paula to go back to the jungle – and I think Paula is considering it

Evelyn forces Paula to answer the phone, she hears the death chant and then faints

Grace paid Norman’s bond and drops him back at home

Norman walks into the house and sees Evelyn creeping around – then demands to know where Paula is – seeing her passed out on the floor

“That’s the way I found Millard – only he was dying!” Okay, Evelyn, we get it!

“There’s nothing to be afraid of, honey.” Just another dude in the history of horror/suspense films where a guy continues to dismiss the fears and concerns of his wife DESPITE THE OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE OF SUPERNATURAL PHENOMENA

Evelyn, honey, connect the dots. Ilona warned Millard about the thesis – and claimed Norman would ruin him. But Norman did not even know about the thesis.

“This whole tragic scheme of things points toward no one but Ilona!” Damn, a woman scorned indeed.

“Ilona found out about the death chant from your book. She had some records made so she could frighten Paula into leaving.”

All right… so… maybe the dude is right… BUT YOU STILL SHOULDN’T DISMISS YOUR WIFE’S FEARS LIKE THAT

David has apparently died, and then Paula tells him that the forces of evil are still at work – and he says “It’s forces of evil we understand.”

Evelyn calls Ilona over to the house and shows her a voodoo doll

She then tells Ilona that her husband came into a dream and said to her, “I am dead because a woman lied.”

They’re trying to get a confession from Ilona! How smart

 

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