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Sh! The Octopus

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Click here, or on the image above, to see a truly astonishing clip from Sh! The Octopus

One of the oddest and most clearly surreal of all Hollywood feature films, William McGann’s Sh! The Octopus (1937) features Warner Bros. stalwarts Allen Jenkins and Hugh Herbert as two dimwitted detectives investigating mysterious goings-on at a deserted lighthouse. Of course, the lighthouse serves as the clandestine headquarters of a master criminal known only as The Octopus, who keeps a live, giant octopus in an aquarium underneath the lighthouse. That’s just the beginning of this incredibly bizarre film, which seems to do whatever it wants to do whenever it wants to do it, without any regard for logic, narrative, or viewer expectations.

There are numerous websites that discuss this film in detail; a quick Google search will uncover them; suffice it to say that this one-of-a-kind 54 minute film has an air of experimental abandon that reminds one of nothing so much as Luis Buñuel’s L’Age d’Or (1930); the climax of the film is a bizarre mashup of every imaginable genre, from horror to comedy to romance, and all possible stops inbetween. Sh! The Octopus has recently been released as part of a box set of six films on Warner Archive Video; certainly worth an hour of your time.

About the Author

Wheeler Winston Dixon

Wheeler Winston Dixon, Ryan Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is an internationally recognized scholar and writer of film history, theory and criticism. He is the author of thirty books and more than 100 articles on film, and appears regularly in national media outlets discussing film and culture trends. Frame by Frame is a collection of his thoughts on a number of those topics. To contact Prof. Dixon for an interview, reach him at 402.472.6064 or wdixon1@unl.edu. Visit him at his website wheelerwinstondixon.com.

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