Archive for film

1910: Frankenstein

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Frankenstein is a 1910 film made by Edison Studios that was written and directed by J. Searle Dowley. It was the first motion picture adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The unbilled cast included Augustus Phillips as Dr. Frankenstein, Charles Ogle as the Monster, and Mary Fuller as the doctor’s fiancée.

Shot in three days, it was filmed at the Edison Studios in the Bronx, New York City. Although some sources credit Thomas Edison as the producer, he in fact played no direct part in the activities of the motion picture company that bore his name.

Dr Frankenstein creates his monster by putting some sort of an elixir into a vat. The monster emerges from said vat and terrifies his creator, who then runs off back home to his fiancée. The monster follows him, and they fight over her on the wedding night. The monster sees himself reflected in a mirror, and then disappears into the mirror.

The grainy out of focus camera work adds character to this movie, but also makes it a bit more difficult to follow the plot. However, the industrial looking sets, costumes, and make-up are more eerie and effective than a lot of what Hollywood churned out.

The very deepest roots of horror can be found in this gem. From the terrified look on Dr Frankenstein’s face when the first monster in US cinema history comes to life, to the last moments of footage, the film leaves one captivated.

Before & After: Mickey Rourke

Posted in Culture, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 28, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Before

After

Mickey Rourke has told the Orlando Sentinel that he is to play Genghis Khan, the Mongol emperor who died in 1227 after conquering Asia from the Pacific to the Caspian Sea.

Directing and writing is John Milius, responsible for the Apocalypse Now screenplay and renowned as a rightwing zealot for films such as Red Dawn, in which middle-American teenagers fight off Soviet invaders.

Mickey Rourke gave his finest performance in Rumblefish. Great score by Stewart Copeland as well.

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Brown Bread: Jean Simmons

Posted in Obituaries with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Jean Simmons, the British film star who played Ophelia to Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet, sang with Marlon Brando in Guys and Dolls and co-starred with Gregory Peck, Paul Newman and Kirk Douglas, has died at the age of 80. Last year, the 60th anniversary of I’m Spartacus! coincided with the release of Shadows in the Sun, which was, apart from Jean Simmons’ performance, a complete turkey.

Here’s Wendy Ide reviewing Jean Simmons’ last film, Shadows in the Sun for the Times last year:

Shadows in the Sun is middlebrow mush wearing a handful of beads in an attempt to appear bohemian. A stilted family story set at the end of the 1960s, the film is unrelentingly bland and staggeringly uneventful. An octogenarian, Hannah (Jean Simmons), lives alone in a crumbling pile on the Norfolk coast. Her friendship with a beefy young loner, Joe (Jamie Dornan), is a comfort to her, as is the cannabis he supplies her to ease her pain. But her uptight son Robert (James Wilby) disapproves. And that’s basically it, barring a freak paddling accident. Its director, David Rocksavage, pads the tale with lots of scenic shots of coastal Norfolk. There’s more drama in a breakfast cereal ad.

R.I.P. Jean Simmons 1929-2010

Guardian obituary
Jean Simmons: Filmography

Brown Bread: Edward Woodward

Posted in Culture, Obituaries with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2009 by Robin Gosnall

Another of my heroes has gone. I suppose when one gets to my age, one must get used to this happening.

Strangely enough, I watched The Wicker Man yesterday.

Now I’ll have to watch Breaker Morant as well.

R.I.P. Edward Albert Arthur Woodward 1930-2009

Here are a few screen grabs from Robin Hardy’s 1973 film The Wicker Man, starring the late Edward Woodward.

Sergeant Howie - West Highland Police.


Are you the landlord here?


The Landlord's Daughter.


Broad beans in their natural state aren't usually turquoise are they?


You are despicable little liars.


Where does your minister live?


Have I made myself quite clear?


I suspect murder.


He brought you up to be a pagan!


I found that in Rowan Morrison's grave.


You're obstructing a police officer.


In the name of God, woman, what kind of mother are you?


Game? What game?


It is I who will live again, not your damned apples.


O God! O Jesus Christ!

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Falling Down

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2009 by Robin Gosnall

The “I want breakfast” scene from Joel Schumacher’s excellent 1993 film is probably the one most people remember, although there are funnier and more powerful scenes (I’m thinking of Michael Douglas’s first encounter with the Hispanic gang members, or his visit to the army surplus store).

I’m sure the reason this particular scene is so famous is that every person in the world who has ever eaten at a restaurant where there are pictures of the food on the menu can identify with it.

What makes it memorable for me is the outrageous scene-stealing performance of Dedee Pfeiffer (Michelle’s younger sister) as Sheila the Whammyburger waitress. I wonder whether she was asked to play the part this way. Anyway, just watch her.

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Citizen Kane

Posted in Culture with tags , , , on October 16, 2009 by Robin Gosnall

Randolph-William-Hearst

If Charles Foster Kane dies alone at the beginning of the film, how can the reporter possibly know that Kane’s dying word is “Rosebud”?

How do we know that what we see depicted as Kane’s death happened that way, and that “Rosebud” was his last word as he dropped the glass snow storm?

Perhaps the nurse could have reported that as his dying word just to get paid for the story, so the whole journalistic narrative could be predicated on a lie. The film-maker may be an unreliable narrator for the purposes of the film. Such uncertainties are one of the elements which go to make this film the thing of wonder that it is.

Would Citizen Kane have been improved by Orson Welles sticking in a scene where a nurse tells the reporter, “Well, I was standing outside the door, and all I heard was Mr Kane whisper …”?

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Film Scores

Posted in Culture, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2009 by Robin Gosnall

Venice-Biennale-Venice-Bi-005

Everybody has their favourite film score music. I first saw El Cid as a young man (some twenty years after its first release, I should add) and remember tears streaming down my face as the dead Charlton Heston rode out of the gates of Valencia into legend, and this film score has been my favourite ever since. Miklós Rózsa was a very fine classical composer in his own right. His Theme, Variations and Finale was performed in the very first concert that Leonard Bernstein conducted at the Carnegie Hall in 1943 with the New York Philharmonic. But it was film score music which became Miklós Rózsa’s genre. Nic Raine and I believe a Czech orchestra have recorded a suite from Miklós Rózsa’s original score. There’s quite a bit of it posted on YouTube. Yes, a bit overblown, but the memories come rolling back. I actually still think that this is the best film score ever composed. The film did star the gloriously beautiful Sophia Loren.

I find many film scores unmemorable, even those which I felt were very good and appropriate while watching the film. This may indicate that they did their job well, i.e. they underlined what was happening but didn’t intrude.

Two which really haunt the memory for me are Satajit Ray’s score for the Merchant-Ivory film Shakespeare Wallah and Giuseppe Rosati’s score for Visconti’s first film Ossessione. I find them going through my head for days after I watch those films.

And who could forget that recurring saxophone and vibraphone tune in Jaques Tati’s Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot? The music by Alain Romans.



Arts

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