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Posts Tagged ‘film

“Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Know what I mean?”*…

 

John Cleese playing an arrogant newsreader being beastly about a French trade union leader on screen. Unrelated Victorian erotica in the background and a booming voice-over self-importantly announcing the name of the show. It’s pure Monty Python — except it isn’t. This surreal scenario, in which the “French” Marty Feldman comes out of the screen to interact with a now surreally masked Cleese, is from the final episode of At Last the 1948 Show. Brits loved this satirical half-hour of sketches that preceded Monty Python’s Flying Circus by a year, and were largely written by the legendary duo — Cleese and his college mate Graham Chapman — who would go on to be one of the principal writing partnerships behind the Pythons.

What’s special about this last-ever episode is that, like the very first, it’s been lost for nearly 40 years…

Read the whole of this happy tale– and see both of the newly-recovered episodes– at “The Early Days of Monty Python.”

* Eric Idle, in the third Monty Python’s Flying Circus episode, “How to Recognise Different Types of Trees From Quite a Long Way Away”

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As we agree that “it’s funny, isn’t it? How your best friend can just blow up like that?”, we might send birthday greetings to two Tommys– Tommy Kirk and Tommy Rettig– whose young lives were spent with dogs; both were born on this date in 1941.

Having appeared as one of the Hardy Boys in a serial that ran on the (original) Mickey Mouse Club, Tommy Kirk got his big break when he was cast in the juvenile lead in Old Yellar.  He went on to star in a number of successful Disney pictures (e,g,, The Shaggy Dog and The Misadventures of Merlin Jones), and then in a number of “beach party” flicks. By the mid-70s, Kirk had developed, then beaten a drug problem, and dropped out of acting.  While he occasionally appears on screen (Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold. 2006), he has primarily been engaged in building and running a carpet-cleaning business in the San Fernando Valley.

Though he had previously appeared in 18 films (including your correspondent’s beloved The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, written by Dr. Seuss), Tommy Rettig is surely best remembered as “Jeff Miller”– Lassie‘s boy.  Rettig too had a brush with drugs, but pulled out of it to become a very successful software engineer/database programmer (he was an early employee of Ashton-Tate).

Tommy Kirk and Yellar

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Tommy Rettig and Lassie

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Written by LW

December 10, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Yes, and imagine a world where there were no hypothetical situations”*…

 

From Les Maîtres du Temps (1982)

If the Universe came to an end every time there was some uncertainty about what had happened in it, it would never have got beyond the first picosecond. And many of course don’t. It’s like a human body, you see. A few cuts and bruises here and there don’t hurt it. Not even major surgery if it’s done properly. Paradoxes are just the scar tissue. Time and space heal themselves up around them and people simply remember a version of events which makes as much sense as they require it to make.
― Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Interstellar has made quite a stir, and occasioned hosannas for its originality.  But as the British Film Institute reminds us, it comes on the heels of a long line of time-travel films…

…from the arthouse masterpieces (La Jetée, 1962), the slacker comedies (Bill &Ted’s Excellent Adventure, 1989), the canny satires (Groundhog Day, 1993), the conundrums (Donnie Darko, 2001), the nostalgic fantasies (Midnight in Paris, 2011), and the high-concept thrillers (Looper, 2012) [to] the comic-book escapades (X-Men: Days of Future Past, 2014)…

Find a more complete (and completely fascinating) history, and a list of worthy, but under-appreciated options at “10 great lesser-known time-travel films.”

* Jasper Fforde, First Among Sequels

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As we check our watches, we might recall that it was on this date in 1884 that Levant M. Richardson was awarded the first U.S.patent for the use of steel ball bearings in roller skate wheels– which reduced friction, creating wheels that allowed skaters to achieve previously unreachable speeds.  Indeed, in 1898 Richardson started the Richardson Ball Bearing and Skate Company, which provided skates to most professional skate racers of the time.

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Written by LW

December 9, 2014 at 1:01 am

“‘Evil Dead 1′ was never supposed to have a sequel”*…

 

The powers that be in Hollywood have been working overtime and turning the crank on the sequel machine for decades. Sometimes it’s hard not to be cynical about a part two when many movie follow-ups are made simply for the money. But what about a sequel that fans actually want? Enter iam8bit’s latest exhibition, Sequel — part tribute to the cult movies we love, part commentary on Hollywood’s obsession with sequels…

The West Coast gallery invited more than 40 artists to imagine movie sequels that never were. If you’ve had your fingers crossed for another Goonies, Blade Runner, or Labyrinth, then this is your happy place…

The show is open in Los Angeles now, and prints of the one-sheets are available.  More at “Exciting Posters for Cult Movie Sequels That Never Happened.”

* Bruce Campbell

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As we meet at the multiplex, we might recall that it was on this date in 1988 that Frank Drebin (first) foiled an attempt to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II: The Naked Gun premiered.  The father of two sequels, the film was itself a sequel– its full title was The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!– a feature-length riff on writer-directors Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker’s earlier– and (too-)short-lived– television series.

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8064/8232986495_6cef8561f8_o.jpg source

Written by LW

December 2, 2014 at 1:01 am

“There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the infinite passion of life”*…

 

From The Great Train Robbery, 1903

In 1888, Thomas Edison wrote that “I am experimenting upon an instrument which does for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear, which is the recording and reproduction of things in motion.” The system was comprised of the Kinetograph, a motion picture camera, and a Kinetoscope, a motion picture viewer, and was mostly created by Edison’s assistant, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson. (The system was likely inspired by the zoopraxiscope created by photographer—and murderer!—Eadweard Muybridge to show off his motion photographs.) Early films from the Edison Manufacturing Co. showed off “actualities”: celebrities, news, disasters, and expositions. But later, the company switched to creating narrative films more in line with what we watch at the movies today…

These earliest films, often a minute or two in length,  could be purchased for $6.60 (about $169 in today’s currency).  But readers can see a selection of Edison’s early essays, streamed for free, at “10 Early Films Made by Edison’s Movie Company.”

* Federico Fellini

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As search for the concession stand, we might recall that it was on this date in 1732 that Louis Timothee (sometimes rendered “Lewis Timothy”) became the first salaried librarian in the American Colonies. A printer and protégé of Benjamin Franklin’s, Timothee served as the part-time librarian for the Library Company of Philadelphia, one of Franklin’s first philanthropic projects, from its founding on July 1, 1731.  As the project took hold, Timothee’s position was elevated to a full-time, paid position.

The Library Company of Phildelphia

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Written by LW

November 14, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Is that a pistol in your pocket or are you happy to see me?”*…

 

Dirty Harry is the 1971 crime film that introduced the character of “Dirty Harry” Callahan to movie audiences. Clint Eastwood stars as SFPD Inspector Callahan, who is assigned to head up the investigation to catch a serial killer who calls himself “Scorpio” and who threatens to kill a citizen of the city each day until his ransom demands are met. Dirty Harry was the first in the film franchise and introduced the now iconic .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson Model 29.

More on Harry’s hardware– and guns in hundreds of other films– at IMFDb, The Internet Movie Firearm Database.

* Mae West

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As we take cover, we might recall that it was on this date in 1969 that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was released.  Written by Wiliam Goldman, directed by George Roy Hill, and starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford as the titular outlaws, the film was a commercial and a critical success: it was the top-grossing film of the year (with a box-office of over $100 million) and was nominated for seven Academy Awards, of which it won four.

The film prominently featured the Colt Single Action Army, the Winchester Model 1873, the Winchester Model 1895, and the Winchester Model 1894.

 

 

“Coming soon!”*…

 

The tag line explains the concept of this 1918 movie, which was an anthology of clips from the films Chaplin made for the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company.

(R)D has explored the history of movie trailers.  Now, from the remarkable Rebecca Onion, a look at their pre-history…

In the silent film era, these colorized lantern slides were the equivalent of previews or trailers, alerting the audience to the theater’s upcoming schedule. Blank spaces in the slide’s design allowed for a small degree of customization by hand.

Films tended to be short by modern standards, so audiences would watch them in batches, rather than seeing one at a time as we do today. Film scholar Lisa Kernan writes that these magic lantern slides were “projected between features, much like today’s slides of local restaurant advertising and movie trivia quizzes.”

The famous feline, who starred in multiple short cartoons between 1919 and the early 1930s, had a reusable slide that could be repurposed when new installments came out.

Even at the time the slides were in common use, Kernan writes, some theaters experimented with showing short bits of film to advertise coming attractions. By the 1920s, a company called National Screen Service was making trailers for major studio films using moving footage; by the 1930s, studios began to make their own, much more sophisticated preview trailers.

These lantern images were collected by W. Ward Marsh, a movie critic for theCleveland Plain Dealer from 1919 until his death in 1971. The Cleveland Public Library holds Marsh’s movie memorabilia and has digitized almost 700 examples of these slides…

A 1919 version of the L.M. Montgomery novel, starring prolific child actress Mary Miles Minter, was the first of many such adaptations for the big and small screens.

Read and see more at “The Lantern Slides That Advertised Coming Attractions in the Silent Film Era.”

* ubiquitous line in movie trailers

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As we take our seats and silence our phones, we might recall that it was on this date in 1967 that “La Bateau,” a 1953 paper cut by Henri Matisse was hung in New York’s Museum of Modern Art…  upside down.  It remained on inverted display for 47 days.  Genevieve Habert, a stockbroker, noticed the mistake (by comparing the hanging to the photo in the catalogue).  As it was a Sunday night and there were no curatorial officials on duty, Habert informed the New York Times, which in turn notified Monroe Wheeler, the Museum’s art director… who had the piece rehung correctly on Monday.

Matisse’s cut-outs are back at MoMA… right-side up, one trusts.

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Written by LW

October 17, 2014 at 1:01 am

“He moves with such naturalness in the room of dreams”*…

 

From Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker

Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986) firmly positioned himself as the finest Soviet director of the post-War period. But his influence extended well beyond the Soviet Union.  The Cahiers du cinéma consistently ranked his films on their top ten annual lists. Ingmar Bergman went so far as to say, “Tarkovsky for me is the greatest [director], the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.” And Akira Kurosawa acknowledged his influence too, adding, “I love all of Tarkovsky’s films. I love his personality and all his works. Every cut from his films is a marvelous image in itself”…

Now one can watch Tarkovsky’s features (and a trio of shorts) online– and for free.  Find the links in this chronological listing or among Open Culture’s collection, 700 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc.

* Ingmar Bergman on Andrei Tarkovsky, in Laterna Magica (The Magic Lantern : An Autobiography).

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As we slip into the dream state, we might send mysterious birthday greetings to Robert Bruce Montgomery; he was born on this date in 1921.  A respected composer of “serious” of vocal and choral music and of film scores under his own name, he is perhaps better remembered by his pen name, Edmund Crispin.  As Crispin (a name he took from Michael Innes’ Hamlet, Revenge), he wrote nine marvelous mystery novels and two collections of short stories, all featuring amateur detective Gervaise Fen, an eccentric Oxford don.  Your correspondent’s favorite is The Moving Toyshop– but they’re all a treat:  a mixture of Innes**, John Dickson Carr, and the Marx Brothers.  After retiring from whodunits, Crispin edited several mystery collections and science-fiction anthologies– with no apologies or excuses for presenting SciFi as a legitimate form of writing– an iconoclastic attitude in the 1950s.

** “Michael Innes” was itself a pseudonym, the pen name of Oxford literary critic and scholar J. I. M. Stewart

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Written by LW

October 2, 2014 at 1:01 am

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