Alan Price: Four Film Poems

Alan Price lives in London. He is a poet, scriptwriter, short story writer, film critic for and blogger at . His short story collection The Other Side of the Mirror, an alternative take on vampirism, was published by Citron Press in 1999. A TV film A Box of Swan was broadcast on BBC2 In 1990. Alan has scripted five short films. The last one Pack of Pain (2010) won four international film festival awards. His debut collection of poetry Outfoxing Hyenas was published by Indigo Dreams in 2012. A pamphlet of prose poems Angels at the Edge (Tuba Press) appeared in 2016. The poetry
chapbook Mahler’s Hut was published in 2017 by Original Plus Books. The High Window published his collection Wardrobe Blues for a Japanese Lady in 2018. In October 2019 Ebionvale Press published a collection of stories and flash fiction called The Illiterate Ghost. His most recent collection is The Trio Confessions (The High Window, 2020). Alan is currently writing a novel and working on a series of prose poems with the working title The Cinephile Poems.


‘We live in an age of the list. The 100 best films, novels, songs, poems etc. Social media, with its bloggers, has seen a vast expansion of lists. I’ve decided to react against this trend by not adding my own list to the cultural stockpile. My poetry project is a book revealing 40 of my favourite films. I want to convey the epiphany I had seeing these films for the first time and on subsequent viewings. Each film is poetic in its own unique way. And each hopefully can be re-lived as poetry. If my poems make a reader go to the films, and return to re-read and enjoy what I saw in them, then I will have achieved a gratifying double-hit!’ AP



Alan Price: Four Film Poems

SECRET BEYOND THE DOOR (1947) directed by Fritz Lang

secret door

More than enough Freudianisms to have delighted Siggie:
keys, doors, corridors, lilacs, a stone lion spouting water,
wax cut from a candlestick, a duellist’s knife, church bells
and a secretary’s long-held pretence of a scarred face
bristle in the light and shadow of an obsessed husband
who collects and furnishes rooms, aching from murders,
committed by others, then pushes away any suggestion
that he has a Bluebeard complex to one day confront.
Joan Bennet knew something was up, on brushing her hair
two hundred times, as the door handle rattled, then checked
to find Michael Redgrave wasn’t there. I watched them all
on TV that wet afternoon: Lang’s gothic power rupturing
the schedules. The music welled up on the final credits
and an actor’s role was listed as the Intellectual Sub-Deb.
A scene stealer, who questioning the collector on his tour
of the house, should have said “Analysts will come to fall
in love with the movie delirium that I’ve been cast in.”


MARNIE (1964) directed by Alfred Hitchcock


“Pulling her skirt down over her knees
as if they were a national treasure. And then
she robbed me.” Mr. Strutt knew best, Marnie.
He employed a thief, cheat and liar without
ever asking for references. “Oh, that one.
The brunette with the legs.” Caught with Mark
inside his office, during a thunder storm,
by a watched race track, within a boat’s cabin
and floating in a pool as red suffusions flooded
the screen: from ink spilt on a blouse to blood
on that poker from beating the head of a sailor.
“Marnie, you’re achin’ my leg.” Mother taking
her newly blonde daughter to task for desiring men.
“I don’t like him to kiss me. Make him go, Moma!”
A thief collapsing, to speak in a child’s voice,
for all of her desperate Marnies. With money, sex,
attention and Mrs Edgar’s love not far behind:
needs now paraded for the Hitchcockian gaze.
Once in France I watched Marnie dubbed on TV
without sub-titles: undergoing, with my girlfriend,
messed up by her mother, further anxieties.


IT HAPPENED HERE (1964) directed by Kevin Brownlow and
Andrew Mollo

it happened

It happened once again: moving to London in 1980,
seeing 14 Belsize Square, NW3 (Now Garden Flat 16a)
filmed in 1964, to be crushed by an imaginary 1945.
I stood outside the long-gone doctor’s surgery,
remembering the actor inside who’d said that fascism
could only be defeated by the use of fascist methods.
Pauline recoiled: a nurse who’d escaped a massacre
by the partisans; trying to keep active, apolitical:
joined Immediate Action Operations and came to hate
both their salute and solutions – the staff rest-room
with racists talking of the weak and unnecessary
and the sleepy country hospital where she was given
a needle to prick the disease of ‘worn-out’ workers
from the Eastern front. Then captured by partisans
slaughtering German soldiers in a field: asked to help
wounded rebels as the rat-tat-tat-tat-tat of the others
continued. In the city a cosy Englishness still occupied
the heads of citizens: shoes cleaned, buses driven,
trains departing, an army chatting up the London girls,
kids doing a cheeky goose-step, a soldier photographing
his mates outside the Albert Hall: with flaming torches
a Nazi anthem was sung by a gang, so solidly British,
for their murdered comrade: with widow and son
now to be nursed by a comfortable Reich.


WHITE HEAT (1949) directed by Raoul Walsh and acted by
James Cagney

white heat

A gang member scalded by steam from the mail train
then bandaged up and left to die waiting for the doc.
Now if ever I burn myself badly at my kitchen stove
indifference returns in the form of Arthur Cody Jarret
snarling from his pain and lust in mother’s open arms
till his girlfriend enters, spits out her gum and demands
a fur coat, shivering treacherously in their hide-out.
Those ‘tops’ of Jarret’s world kept peaking in madness;
a routine killing whilst gnawing away on a chicken leg,
‘epilepsy’ as a manic protest in a prison dining hall
and firing your gun at the chemical storage tank
exploding with a blast to ape your psychotic torment
and meltdown the riveted audience for an atomic age.
“All I ever had was Ma.” She was the gang’s engineer.
Her son – the ruthless driver despising the rest of them:
plagued by headaches from hell and incurably in love
with Mom, especially when she was shot by Cody’s gal.
All the punk gangsters, that came after Cagney, merely lit
the fuse he’d already planted in our brains.

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