The writhing on the wall


Dracula (1992).

This is the closest you’ll get to a guest post here even though it’s been done remotely and I’ve changed things around a little. Following my mention yesterday of the Cocteau-derived lantern-arms in Francis Coppola’s Dracula, Jescie sent me an abandoned blog post which collected similar examples of the arms-through-the-walls motif. I’ve done this kind of thing here in the past so it’s good {feuilleton} material. Almost all these examples are fantasy- and horror-related which isn’t too surprising, and I’m sure there’ll be other examples in films I haven’t seen. If anyone has any suggestions just remember that hands grasping through doors and windows don’t count with this, it’s through the wall or not at all.


La Belle et la Bête (1946).

Jean Cocteau sets things off in 1946, a perfect piece of fairytale Surrealism and one of the many memorable aspects of this film.


La Belle et la Bête (1946).


Jack the Giant Killer (1962).

One I almost forgot, a Ray Harryhausen-like adventure which is pretty good as I recall although I’ve not seen it for years. IMDB says there’s a remake on the way.


Repulsion (1965).

Roman Polanski’s classic of mental disturbance in a London flat.


The Thin Wall (1981) by Ultravox: 12″ sleeve.

One I wouldn’t have known about without Jescie’s suggestion. I had the Rage in Eden album from which this single is taken but don’t remember the song at all, probably because I disliked the band by this point; Ultravox and I part company at Vienna. The design for this, as with the band’s other sleeves of this period, was by Peter Saville.


The Thin Wall (1981) by Ultravox: 7″ sleeve.


The Day of the Dead (1985).

I think this was the last George Romero film I watched, it’s certainly one of the last zombie films I watched having lost my patience in recent years with the entire sub-genre of shambling corpses. New monsters, please.


Labyrinth (1986).

The Helping Hands from Jim Henson’s fantasy wherein Mr Bowie sports that wig and that codpiece.


Ave Maria (2007) by Maurizio Cattelan.

The final example isn’t a film at all but a sculpture by an Italian artist who apparently dislikes being taken seriously.

Thanks to Jescie!

Previously on { feuilleton }
Le livre blanc by Jean Cocteau
Cocteau’s sword
Cristalophonics: searching for the Cocteau sound
Cocteau at the Louvre des Antiquaires
La Villa Santo Sospir by Jean Cocteau

11 thoughts on “The writhing on the wall”

  1. Ah! THANK YOU. I see that particular image from Repulsion all over the place and was never able to suss out from where it was clipped. Mystery solved.

  2. Cocteau will never receive all the due credit for this recurring modern artistic fetish. It has actually really picked up in the gaming world recently. The first time I saw it done, in the mentioned medium that is, was in one of the earlier Silent Hill titles, which, if Cocteau were alive today, and ‘if’ he liked games, should have at least flattered him based on their artistic merit. However, I’ve this motif used in some of the popular meat-headed franchises as well.

    I’ve used arms emerging from walls in some of my own half-assed drawing and paintings, and I’ve gotten several comments from people my age in regards to how this reminded them of a scene in a ‘God of War’ game that I’ve actually played as well – admittedly, where the protagonist is dragged down a tunnel by a multitude of arms growing out of the living cavern walls, probably ripped more directly from Labyrinth than from Cocteau. Nevertheless, these idiots always act stubbornly incredulous whenever I tell them that the motif (I never call it that, that just wouldn’t be cool) has actually been around for much longer than them and I have been alive.

  3. Môjû (Blind Beast),directed by Yasuzo Masumura is a 1969 Japanese film exploring the obsessive ‘love’ of a blind sculptor for a young woman which features plenty of inanimate arms emerging from a wall as well as legs, eyes and noses… I could do some screenshots but I’m not sure if this comments section will allow embedded images so here’s a link to a still I found online:

  4. The League of Gentlemen also use this motif in Dr. Pea the black magician (David Warner)’s lair in the ‘King’s Evil’ section of their Apocalypse movie – later, the arms (and bottom) are revealed to belong to bored henchmen sat behind the scenes (specifically, in the form of Simon Pegg and Peter Kay).

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