‘Don’t just stand there, idiot! Call a doctor and help me find my nose!’ or the Absent Nose as Marker of Villainy in Popular Film

Gergely, Gabor (2012) ‘Don’t just stand there, idiot! Call a doctor and help me find my nose!’ or the Absent Nose as Marker of Villainy in Popular Film. In: Sensualising Deformity: Communication and Construction of Monstrous Embodiment, 15-16 June, 2012., Edinburgh University.

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‘Don’t just stand there, idiot! Call a doctor and help me find my nose!’ or the Absent Nose as Marker of Villainy in Popular Film
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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
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Abstract

In The Return of the Pink Panther (Blake Edwards), chief inspector Dreyfus goes mad and tries to shoot the bumbling inspector Clouseau. As he takes aim and pulls the trigger, his gun produces a thin flame. It is a novelty lighter. He scrambles for his real gun. It misfires. Clouseau retreats. Dreyfus picks up his gun and stares down the barrel. He knocks the butt against his desktop to see if something had caused it to jam. Nothing. He raises his arm higher, and on the downswing we cut to Sergeant Chevalier at his desk. There is a loud report and the sergeant starts violently. He bursts through the door, and finds Dreyfus on all fours. The chief inspector barks: ‘don’t just stand there, idiot! Call a doctor and help me find my nose!’. This is an amusing gag, carefully set up by Blake Edwards, a master of slapstick. It is also a mise-en-scène of the corporeal inscription of villainous pathology. His madness is inscribed in Dreyfus’s face in the damage to his nose. From then on, he wears a plaster on the tip of his nose, a constant reminder of his pathology and a marker of his villainy. It is this mark of villainy, the absent nose, that I would like to talk about today.
I begin by locating my discussion in Sander Gilman’s analysis of the cultural significance of the nose. I sketch briefly the history of reconstructive surgery to correct the damage wrought by advanced and hereditary syphilis. I then give account of Gilman’s analysis of the cultural significance of the absent or damaged nose, which informs, to this day, our response to different noses. I will then depart from Gilman and argue, against his reading of the 1943 Phantom of the Opera, that the acid attack, which disfigures Claude Rains’s phantom is not the rationalization of the absent nose, but a filmic mise-en-scène of the corporeal inscription of villainy. Finally, I suggest that the absent nose has – in the largely post-syphilis Western world – become divorced of the concrete threat of syphilis and has become a more abstract marker of danger, insanity and villainy.

Keywords:Cinema, Villainy, Pathology, Nose
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P303 Film studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Film)
ID Code:29923
Deposited On:20 Oct 2018 22:18

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