Bright Lights Film Journal

Great Blog Topic – Monologues


Edward Copeland at The House Next Door has written a great post concerning film monologues. After considering what makes a great film monologue, he describes in detail 5 stellar examples.

Rather than repeat Copeland’s examples, I thought I’d cite some personal favorites. Not surprisingly, they all result from a synthesis of great actors, first-rate screenwriting, and memorable direction.

1. Targets – Boris Karloff directed by Peter Bogdanovich
The action comes to a halt so Karloff (playing an old movie actor very much like Karloff himself) can tell the old story about a man who tried to run away from his Death only to meet that same Death at precisely the time and place he was fated to all along. Bogdanovich films the entire story in a single take, with the camera moving ever closer to Karloff’s face.

2. The Fugitive Kind – Joanne Woodward directed by Sidney Lumet
This is another “single take” monologue, but here the camera does something like a 360 degree pan as it follows Ms. Woodward’s character around the inside of a country bar at night, flirting with the customers as she describes “jukin’,” her word for the kind of partying she prefers. The monologue comes directly from Tennessee Williams’ play Orpheus Descending on which Lumet’s film was based.

3. The Masque of the Red Death/The Pit and the Pendulum – Vincent Price directed by Roger Corman
Corman probably saw The Fugitive Kind. His direction of Vincent Price’s monologue in The Masque of the Red Death employs a similar one-take 360 degree pan – only in this instance the speaker (Price) is a Prince describing the nature of terror to a castle full of doomed followers. As Price’s Prince Prospero walks past his colorfully costumed guests, we also see the clock whose ticking provides the sonic accompaniment to Price’s beautifully spoken speech. The Masque of the Red Death‘s screenwriters, Charles Beaumont and R. Wright Campbell, were probably inspired by a similar speech, written for Price by Richard Matheson in Corman’s earlier Poe adaptation, The Pit and the Pendulum.