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‘The Nose’: Brother Theodore voices this brilliant animated adaptation of surreal Gogol short story
07.14.2015
12:18 pm
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Darkly comic performance artist Brother Theodore’s trademark manic, impassioned delivery made him an obvious choice for cartoon voice work. Although he was one of the more frequent guests on 80s David Letterman shows, I actually first heard him as a kid incessantly watching the 1982 animated feature, The Last Unicorn (he perfectly voiced an evil hunchback). He also made a great Gollum in the really underrated 1980 cartoon of The Hobbit—again, perfect casting. However, Theodore really shined at monologue, which is why this 1966 animated adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s satirical short story “The Nose” is so strong; he does every voice—the narrator, our tragic protagonist (Nathan Naspicker), the cruel and unfeeling police, and even the rogue nose itself.

“A Nose” is obviously slightly reworked for a light cartoon audience. Rather than Gogol’s 1830’s St. Petersburg, director Mordi Gerstein chose to set the story “in the Year of our Lord 1305, on the 25th of March in the city of Pittsburgh.” Poor Nathan Naspicker finds that his nose has abandoned him and started a life of its own. As Naspicker attempts to track down his roving schnozz, he begins to despair. There is no moral, it’s just pure madness, but it has a happy ending (kind of?)! The format of the film is actually quite experimental as well—partially animated, partially live action. It’s a cute cartoon for kids, but it’s definitely pure Brother Theodore in all his mad glory.
 

Posted by Amber Frost
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07.14.2015
12:18 pm
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Rare recording of Kenneth Williams reading Gogol’s ‘Diary of a Madman’, 1963

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Here is a rare and rather wonderful piece of Kenneth Williams’ archive: his brilliant interpretation of Nikolai Gogol’s farcical short story Diary of a Madman .

In 1963, Kenneth Williams agreed to narrate an animated version of Gogol’s Diary of a Madman for film-maker Richard Williams. The pair had previously worked together on the short cartoon Love Me Love Me. According to the splendid biography Born Brilliant: The Life of Kenneth Williams by Christopher Stevens:

Gogol’s story gave lunatic scope to [Kenneth] Williams’s voices. It told of a lonely clerk, who is driven out of his wits by unrequited love until he succumbs to delusions that, as the uncrowned king of Spain, he is spied upon by talking dogs.

In a recording session that stretched for more than six hours without a break, Williams read from the clerk’s diary in a halting voice, like a man on a window-ledge who cannot will himself to suicide. Other personalities pierced the reading - the sadism of the office supervisor, the contempt of the boss’s daughter, the shrill proclamations of King Ferdinand VIII. ‘I was pretty hard on him, and made him read passages again and again to get the right effect. It freaked him out,’ Richard Williams recalled. ‘At one point he walked out of the studio and I had to run after him. It was a block and a half before I caught up and persuaded him to come back.’ Full of repetition and bitter nonsense, the piece is almost nauseating as the clerk slops and flounders towards insanity. While no recordings exist of Williams in his most unsettling stage roles, Diary of a Madman is proof of his merciless gift for sustained, upsetting performance.

Sadly the animation was never completed, but this incredible recording was later re-edited by the BBC and broadcast on Radio 4 in 1991.

Dramatization by James Burke
Music by Peter Shade
Directed by Richard Williams
Produced by Ned Chaillet
Re-mixed for radio by John Whitehall
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Kenneth Williams: Stop Messin’ About


 
Bonus - Kenneth Williams reads a classic ‘Just William’ tale, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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08.08.2011
06:42 pm
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