Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Adventures of Sarah Grable The Collector #3

For all those costumers who've had this happen to them, we at the Cinemologists know your pain.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Born Today in 1897: Edith Head

One of the great costume designers of the Old Hollywood, Edith Head was a frequent collaborator with Hitchcock, most notably on Vertigo.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Born Today in 1942: Bob Hoskins

Today is the birthday of the always entertaining Bob Hoskins.  Successful in such films as Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Mona Lisa, my favorite performance of his comes from Brazil, where he played the vindictive Central Services repairman, Spoor.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"Gimmie All You've Got, V.I.N.CENT.!" Deleted Footage from The Black Hole (1979)

Let it be known that I am one of the biggest fans of Disney's The Black Hole ever.  I am completely obsessed with the film and I collect anything related to it, from comic books to thermoses.  So I research the film constantly to see if there's anything new concerning behind the scenes info or (hopefully) a Blu-ray release.  I had heard for a while about some deleted footage from the film.

This first scene that was cut was apparently some kind of scene introducing us to the characters of Kate and Dan.  This explains why they both float towards the camera in the final film when we first see them.

The second scene cut is when the survivors of the Palamino are escaping the doomed Cygnus and run through some kind of engineering catwalk.  Charlie almost falls into some smoke and V.I.N.CENT rescues him.  This scene is still present in Alan Dean Foster's novelization.  I'd love to believe that they shot the well known alternate ending, where Kate is in the Sistine Chapel looking at the Creation of Man, I think that ending would have brought something more to the film in terms of scope.  As much as I would love to peruse the Disney vaults, I think that we may have to wait and see if any Blu-ray release will include these scenes.  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Return to Oz (1985)

For the longest time I've been trying to revisit this film from my childhood.  As I recall it was the only movie I remember seeing that actually terrified me.  There were many elements I didn't appreciate at the time, due to my seeing everything in the film as weird.  Now that I've seen it again I can say its a true underrated classic.

Born Today in 1943: Catherine Deneuve

Happy birthday to French film beauty Catherine Deneuve.  Famous for Bunuel's Belle de Jour and (my personal favorite) The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Joel's Most Wanted: Godzilla (Criterion Bluray) Up for Preorder

Last Friday Criterion announced their January lineup of films to be released on DVD and Bluray. There were some interesting releases, including a Bunuel film and some other fun stuff, but as I scrolled down, my eyes caught the most glorious sight...

I can't really describe my reaction to the announcement of this release in any way that can do it justice. But I will say that I screamed... a lot. Godzilla was a big part of my childhood, and I grew on up quite a few of the Showa era movies, like Godzilla vs. Mothra, The Terror of Mechagodzilla, and yes, even Godzilla vs. Megalon. However, the only one to ever actually scare me was the very first film, Gojira (or Godzilla: King of Monsters, the version I saw as a child). I first watched it about a year or two after 9/11, an event that I couldn't grasp fully when it happened due to my age. However it was a memory that stayed with me throughout childhood and even to this day.

The afternoon I popped the film in the player was a beautiful, clear day in the late summer. After sitting glued to the screen for its 90 minute run-time, I remember walking outside and looking out at the neighborhood. I imagined seeing the silhouette of the Monster stalking towards the city in the distance, silently. I began to feel uneasy and went inside. Since then, I've had a place in my heart for the film. Now I can appreciate the black-and-white cinematography, the great score, the wonderful special effects, and the dark and brooding atmosphere, but I will always remember the day I first saw it. A day when the fears of the people in post-WWII Japan reminded me of my own fears in post-9/11 America.

I am (no doubt like many other fans) thrilled that Criterion will be releasing this gem of a movie. I've taken a look at the special features list, and am absolutely blown away by how all-out they went for this edition. Can't wait for January to swing around, and I will most likely be preordering the Bluray, good deal or no.

Born Today in 1927: George C. Scott

Happy Birthday to George C. Scott, remembered for such roles as Patton (1970), Gen. Buck Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove (1962) and one of my personal favorites, as Abraham in John Huston's The Bible: In the Beginning (1966)

The Haunting (1963)

I am by no means a horror film fan.  I don't go out of my way to seek films that are fraught with killings and dismemberments.  In short, I'n not a fan of gore fests.  I am, however, a fan of great atmospheric pieces and exercises in psychological terror.  Robert Wise's The Haunting is one such film.  I recall, many a moon ago I had the opportunity of seeing it late at night, as Joel had DVRd it.  When we finally got to seeing the film, we weren't prepared for how assaultive it was on the nerves.  First off, there are no ghosts,  ghouls or specters of the paranormal.  All the menace of Hill House is achieved through choice lighting and angles on the house's decor as well as an array of unsettling sound effects.  The least of which is not the disturbing score that employs bellicose trumpets to unnerving effect (unfortunately a soundtrack album is out of the question as there exist no masters).

What completes the hysteria of this very classy haunted house movie is the cast.  Julie Harris and Claire Bloom play off each other wonderfully as Eleanor and Theo.  Richard Johnson plays the confident Dr. Markway and Russ Tamblin is the sarcastic Luke, heir to Hill House.  James Bond alumnus Lois Maxwell also appears as the skeptical Mrs. Markway.  Throughout the film we're never given a completely definite answer to the hauntings, they may as well be in Eleanor's mind...or maybe not.

Probably the most memorably creepy scene occurs when Eleanor hears voices from the room next door as she sleeps.  The muffled voices of a man yelling, a child screaming and devious laughter mount upon the vestige of a face in the wall.  I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen, but the conclusion never fails to put the hairs of my back on end.  The film is thoroughly enjoyable and was utterly petrifying when I first saw it.  However, make sure that when you do watch it, you do so in the the dark...

The Black Scorpion (1957): The Cavern Sequence

The Black Scorpion is a 50s era horror film released by Warner Bros, featuring special effects by screen legend Willis O'Brien (The Lost World, King Kong, Mighty Joe Young). Overall, the film is exactly what one would expect: radiation, giant monsters attacking cities, some ridiculous high-tech solution to the problem, and cardboard cutouts for characters. The film's special effects aren't great, and, in some places, fall flat on their collective face. But that said, there is one scene that towers over the rest of the movie and, in my opinion, stands out as a shining moment in horror history...

The cavern sequence.

In this scene, our heroes are lowered via crane through a crack in the volcanic earth and into the world of the scorpions. As they leave the car, they find themselves in an underground ecosystem full of gigantic worms, spiders the size of coffee tables, and, of course, the scorpions.

It's a chilling, creepy scene, and, honestly, despite the fact that I'm usually left unfazed by most horror films (especially of this vintage), it made me squirm. Something about the thought of being trapped in that slimy, hellish world filled with these crawling monsters - the germ of many a phobia - was just disturbing to me. Adding to the otherworldly vibe is the unnatural, ever-jerky stop motion effects (mostly animated by Obie's assistant, Pete Peterson).
I've always been under the impression that this scene was Willis O'Brien's attempt to finally bring his "Lost Spider Pit Sequence" from King Kong to the screen, and some of the stop motion creatures featured here have been alleged to be reused models from that sequence. Regardless, it's a very effective moment that makes an otherwise ho-hum 50s monster movie worth seeing. Check it out!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Jason and the Argonauts (1963): Talos

When I was growing up, my interest in fantasy and adventure was jump started when I saw this 1963 Greek mythology classic. Made famous because of its marvelous stop-motion creature effects by Ray Harryhausen. The monster in this film which frightened me the most wasn't the hydra or the skeleton warriors, it was the bronze behemoth, Talos.
When he's first encountered, Talos is atop a "treasure trove of the gods" but appears only as one of many enormous statues. This scene was incredibly mysterious and awe inspiring and still produces wonder in me today. Bernard Herrmann's music is perfect for the primal, savage land of ancient Greece. Talos himself has a pretty awesome entrance, creaking to life and terrorizing the Argonauts. In fact, I think that Talos is one of the most perfect monsters to be done in stop-motion.
The inherently jerky motions are well suited for a mechanical fiend and the metallic sounds emanating from him complete his menace. I was definitely creeped out as a kid when I saw Talos bleeding that boiling blood of his. The spectacular monster is given a spectacular end as he cracks and falls apart (a precursor to the death of Harryhausen's Kraken in Clash of the Titans (1981)). If only poor Hylas (John Cairney) had gotten out the way of the falling Talos...

Rebecca (1940): Not your average haunted house movie...

Rebecca is a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, based upon the novel by Daphne du Maurier. The plot of the film concerns a decidedly average woman (Joan Fontaine), who falls in love with troubled millionaire and widower Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier). After a fleeting yet wondrous several weeks in Monte Carlo, the two marry. He brings his new bride back to his estate, a place called "Manderley", where she discovers that the last Mrs. de Winter (the Rebecca of the title) never lost her influence on the house, even after death...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966)

With Halloween approaching swiftly I think I should go through some of my favorite scary films.
I remember first seeing this film when I was about 11 or 12, and we had borrowed the VHS from someone. I wasn't expecting much from it, least of all to be scared. My dad had built up a reputation of it frightening him as a child and so I had some image of an evil chicken terrorizing people. (I was under the impression it was The Ghost OF Mr. Chicken) However, the film I did see ended up being laugh out loud funny and it became a family tradition and I've seen it countless times to the point where I can recite any line or sound effect from the film as they come. Although I wasn't expecting it, the organ music which Don Knotts' character, Luther Heggs hears in the haunted Simmons mansion actually did frighten me. It's manic and insane enough to evoke in my head the images of the bloody murders that occurred there.
Don Knotts is superb in this film. The character of Barney Fife translates wonderfully to the big screen, as the setting of this film may as well have been Maybury. He's one of the most perfect candidates to enter a haunted house and its a hoot watching him shakily traverse the dusty corridors. The supporting cast is near perfect. Populated by many of the 60s' favorite character actors, including Dick Sargent. One of the best scenes doesn't involve Luther being scared of anything supernatural, but of something very ordinary: public speaking. As he stutters and shudders over every line, his body and facial gestures go through a nervous dance of the sort only Knotts could produce. What's great about this film is that for the most part the spooky scenes are played fairly straight.
The film would not be complete without Vic Mizzy's delicious score. Its creepy in a fun way with a team of fuzz guitars and a harpsichord assisting the small orchestra for the scenes of spooky hijinks, as well as having a heartwarming theme for Luther to help gain our sympathy for him.
Its a yearly tradition to watch it and I usually see it with a new audience. They always enjoy it as much as I do. All else I can say is:
"Atta boy, Luther!"

The Cygnus Broadcasting Station Episodes 1 & 2: Touch of Evil, Anna Karina, and Film Scores

The Cinemologists discuss everything under the cinematic sun in this new(ish) talk show. Hope you enjoy!
Episode 1: Touch of Evil and Anna Karina
Episode 2: Film Scores!

The Adventures of Sarah Grable The Collector #2

Just recounting here a story told to me by Joel.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hollywood: The Pioneers-Companion Book

As I was just posting about the fantastic documentary series Hollywood, I remembered I had found this gem of a book this summer at a used book store. It is indeed a companion volume to the television series. It contains excerpts from transcripts of all or most of the interviews and including some material which wasn't used. The chapters progress in about the same way the episodes of the show does, with highlights and embellishments. There is a wealth of first hand information here. I had no idea this book existed but its worth it if you can find it. Next best thing to the series itself.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Contractions of a Nation: The Worst Theatre Experience of My Life

So, a funny thing happened the other day. Actually, it was really more tragic than funny. Anyway, last week I had gotten wind of a theatrical showing of D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation (for those who don't know, Birth of a Nation is a monumental, and somewhat controversial silent film, which has become synonymous with that era of Hollywood). Details on this showing were few, save for the time, the place, and the promise of a live orchestra. Well, naturally, a film fan couldn't pass up that offer: an epic silent feature on the big screen... with live music? It'd be just like seeing the film at a picture palace when it was first released, I said to myself.

I must admit there were some puzzling things about this bulletin right from the start though. The event was scheduled to start at 6:00 pm and end at 7:30. Now there had been several different versions of this film (what with different home video releases through the years, the old frame-rate problems that always crop up with releases of silent cinema), so at first I thought it was just a different cut. I had never heard of a 90 minute version of the film before, but, oh well, I thought. I had to see this movie on the big screen. truncated version or no.

So, I made arrangements, invited a friend, called the theatre to double check the times, and then sallied forth to go see this epic film. There was some pretty heavy traffic on the way, and I ended up running late... 15 minutes late. I got to the location, hopped from the car, friend in tow, and ran into the theatre. The production hadn't started yet. After asking around I discovered I had been misinformed. The production started at 6:30. I was 15 minutes early. This was a nice twist. I got to find my seat, relax, wait for the movie to start, catch up with my friend on what he's been up to... and then, the orchestra filed into place; not a large affair. There was a cello, bass, two clarinets, a flute, drums, guitar, euphonium, trumpet, and piano... about what I expected.

So, the conductor walks out in front of everyone.

"Hello, and welcome to tonight's musical presentation." (What?) "Today we are going to be showing some scenes from D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation" (I'm sorry, what?) "with both the original score and new music composed by some of our promising music students." (Wait... WHAT?) "Now we are obviously not going to be showing the complete film tonight. That movie is over three hours long."

At this bit there was some "knowing" laughter from the audience, as if to say "Yeah, who would EVER want to watch a 3 hour silent movie?". So, yeah, there wasn't any Birth of a Nation screening. In fact, the thing was pretty much a music recital. We did get to see three scenes from it though, each about 2 and a half minutes in length. And the guy manning the laptop they were playing the DVD from clearly didn't give a crap either. He left the cursor right in the middle of the screen for most of the presentation.

Anyway, the conductor continued his introduction, talking a little about the movie we weren't going to see, and then went on to talk about the film's original score. Said score, composed by Joseph Carl Breil, was, while perhaps not being the greatest thing ever composed for the screen, really a great soundtrack, and added much to the visuals. So naturally the conductor cracked jokes about how Germanic it sounded, calling it "Strauss-lite".

So, yeah, we sat through through three rescored scenes, politely applauded the unremarkable new music, and drove home in the rain. Thankfully, Netflix had Birth of a Nation on instant watch, so we did get to see it that night, just not in the grandeur we so dearly anticipated.

End of line.

Born today in 1918: Robert Walker

Happy Birthday to actor Robert Walker, who was most remembered as the spoiled yet sinister Bruno in Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film

I was recently given the pleasure of experiencing this superb documentary series produced by Thames Television. It recounts the history of the American film industry from its inception to the arrival of sound. What makes this series so special and different from others of its kind is the interviews with the men and women who actually lived through those formative years of filmmaking. People such as Lillian Gish, Byron Haskin, Gloria Swanson and many others are interviewed and give incredible insight into the often tumultuous days of those silent pictures. Also worth note is the use of clips from silent films which have not been publicly seen since or have deteriorated completely. The series is a true gem. Also worthy of mention is the musical score provided by Carl Davis who did much of the music for the Thames restoration projects on silent films. His sweeping main title theme captures all the wonder and glamor of those early, silver screen years. I get goose bumps every time I hear it. The documentaries have had an unfortunate history on home video. They were released on VHS in 1980 and can fetch prices of around $1000. However one short lived DVD release did occur, but only had a shelf life of a month before it was pulled. The reason for this is the complex rights issues behind all the films showcased in the series. Will this amazing and essential series ever get a proper, high definition release? Who knows, but for now, it appears someone has been uploading them onto youtube, so perhaps that can hold us over for now.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Package Opening: Guns for San Sebastian OST

Just got a really awesome package in the mail from our good old friends, Film Score Monthly, and figured I'd share the joy of unboxing the contents with you. For those who don't know, FSM is a periodical magazine about everything soundtracks, and back in the late 90s they started their own label (which is sadly ending in Spring 2012). This label has been a collector's seal of excellence throughout its run, and they've released many different film scores both famous and obscure in high quality editions with complete original recordings whenever possible, beautiful packaging, and nice liner notes to boot. Naturally, you can understand my excitement about receiving such a package.

And here it is...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Adventures of Sarah Grable The Collector #1

I've decided to begin a series of comics, informing on various aspects of Cinephile culture. Using a character I've had for a while but never had any real use for.

Criterion Collection #431: The Thief of Bagdad (1940)

I'd like to start a little corner for my Criterions. I have a somewhat substantial amount of them and I'll be going through each one, giving a short review and recommendation.

Today I'd like to talk about an old favorite of mine. The Thief of Bagdad was a film I remember seeing on television as a kid. Mostly I remember the Genie and the "all seeing eye". However, I'd somewhat forgotten the film until 2009 when I was just getting into Criterion and I happened to see their 2-disc edition of it in a Borders Books and Music (may that chain R.I.P.). Its quite a nice set, with a copious helping of extras that I was geeking out over.
The film was produced by the great Alexander Korda. Michael Powell was also an one of the three directors working on the film and one can definitely attribute some of his vision to the project. Also worthy of note is William Cameron Menzies, who was an associate producer. He's most remembered as the art director on Gone with the Wind (1939) but I'll always remember him for directing the wonderfully eerie Invaders from Mars (1953).

When I was finally able to relive my childhood with this film, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the film holds up. Though the love story between Ahmed and the Princess (no, she doesn't have a name) may seem antiquated and simplistic, it works in the kind of fairy tale world of the film. Much of the fun comes from Abu (played by the then-sensation Sabu) who is the perfect embodiment of the spirit of the film. That spirit is the sense of childlike wonder, which modern audiences, I dare say, have lost. When Abu makes it to the Land of Legends, the old man tells him that they "were horrified by the evils of men, when they ceased to be children." Rex Ingram as the Genie is a sheer joy to watch. As far as 1940 (and me for that matter) is concerned the effects are top notch. This was also the first film to use the chemical blue screen process. There's even a great featurette on the second disc explaining the technique. Watching the film with a friend, I was delighted to find that he couldn't understand how some of the visual effects were done. I'm glad to see they still hold up today. Helping lift the film into further flights of fancy is the stupendous musical score by Miklos Rosza. He fills the music with leit motifs for each character, ones which are incredibly hummable (especially Abu's theme, 'I Want to be a Sailor'). The film is great fun and deserves to be experienced by a whole new generation, I always end up with a huge grin on my face by the end.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Alexander Nevsky (1939) Battle on the Ice

This deserves to be in the pantheon of greatest battles scenes in film history. A scene from Sergei Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky in which the Russians fight off the invading Teutonic Crusaders. The magnificent, stylized imagery would not be complete without the incredible score by Prokofiev. And those knights on horseback are unforgettable!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Soundtrack Review: The Black Hole Special Edition

Greetings everyone, its a pleasure to be a part of this site. For my first review, I'd like to discuss a film score which has been a holy grail of soundtrack collectors for quite some time.

The Black Hole (1979), whatever you may say of the film itself (a personal favorite of mine), one cannot dispute the atmospheric power of its forebodingly gothic score by master cinema maestro John Barry. Barry, who most remember for solidifying the typical Bond sound by composing most of the music for that franchise, is a much more versatile composer than many people know. The Black Hole was a big chance for Barry to prove himself as he had never done a film like this before. While on the subject of Bond, the score for Moonraker (also composed the same year as Black Hole) is one of the most experimental of the 007 music and the track 'Flight into Space' is highly reminiscent of The Black Hole. Also very experimental at the time was Craig Huxley's "Blaster Beam", an electronic instrument which creates an expansive 'gong' sound when struck. The beam is put to great and memorable use in this but was also used to a greater extent in Jerry Goldsmith's score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), to represent the V'ger entity.

Most of the film's mood comes from the score. The scene where Capt. Dan Holland (Robert Forster) goes off exploring the U.S.S. Cygnus is made all the more eerie by the melancholy underscoring from Barry. The music becomes almost a lament for the doomed crew. I could go on and on about the score, but the best proof is to hear it for yourselves. I will say that the music travels to places and moods which you may not have expected, especially towards the end.

The story of the score's complete release is an arduous tale. For close on 30 years it had been assumed that a complete soundtrack release would never occur. But thanks to a new partnership between Walt Disney and Intrada Records hope sprang anew. Disney had all the original master tapes, there was just one catch: they were digital and could only be transfered using a long outdated piece of equipment, the 3M digital recorder.

The Black Hole was the first digitally recorded soundtrack and this provided a problem for those trying to save it. But after fighting technical error and even floods, the tracks were transfered and the much anticipated score was released upon a highly suspecting film score world. The night it was confirmed that the album was released I immediately bought it as the first pressing quickly ran out of stock. This is one soundtrack I cannot recommend enough, its loads of fun and I'm overjoyed its finally available in its entirety and in such stellar sound quality.

A Brief Introduction

Hello and welcome to the Cinemologists...

We're two guys who love film and everything that goes along with that. We want to share that love with you here on this site in the form of reviews, articles, videos, and other fun stuff. We hope you enjoy your stay, and as always, we'll see you next time!