Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Rainbow Thief

Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky and written by Berta Dominguez D., The Rainbow Thief is the story of a crook who befriends the heir to a fortune in the hopes he can score the fortune. The film is a whimsical tale of friendship told in a stylistic manner as it relates to desires of the richest kind that money can and can‘t buy. Starring Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, and Christopher Lee. The Rainbow Thief is an interesting but lackluster film from Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Set in an unnamed European city, the film is about this beggar thief who meets the nephew of an eccentric millionaire as they spend five years living in the sewer awaiting word about the inheritance that this man is to get. It’s a film with a simple plot that explores the idea of survival and expectations of great rewards yet the film’s script by Berta Dominguez D. is very by-the-books in the way it establishes its main characters such as the thief Dima (Omar Sharif), the offbeat heir Meleagre (Peter O’Toole), and the eccentric millionaire Rudolf Van Tannen (Christopher Lee). The last of which is just a plot device where he goes into a five-year coma while relatives bicker over who gets the inheritance while thinking of putting Meleagre into a psychiatric hospital and leave him out of the will. Upon meeting Dima and seek refuge in the sewers, Meleagre decides to live a life without complications yet he treats Dima like a servant. While it’s meant to be a story of friendship, the script often has the two men bickering while Dima goes out and steal to survive while hoping he would get some money from Meleagre’s inheritance.

Alejandro Jodorowsky’s direction is very straightforward which is shocking considering that the filmmaker is known for creating visuals that are confrontational and majestic. With this film, it’s an attempt to maintain some of the whimsical elements he’s known for yet it feels forced and never really does anything to stand out visually. Shot largely on location in Gdansk, Poland where it plays as this European port city, Jodorowsky does take great advantage of the location with its usage of wide and medium shots while he does also create moments in the compositions that are interesting that includes the scenes between Dima and Meleagre. While Jodorowsky tries to maintain some sense of energy and charm into the film, it’s not enough to cover many of the shortcomings of the script as Jodorowsky is just creating something that just feels very ordinary. Overall, Jodorowsky creates a very bland film about a thief and an heir to a fortune trying to await the news of a man’s death for great riches.

Cinematographer Ronnie Taylor does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography as it‘s quite colorful for some of the scenes involving the circus acts as well as some unique interior lighting in the scenes set in the sewers. Editor Mauro Bonnani does nice work with the editing as it‘s largely straightforward to play into some of the whimsical elements in the film. Production designers Didier Naert and Alexandre Trauner, with set decorators Simon Wakefield and Peter Young and art directors Fred Hole and Janusz Sosnowski, do fantastic work with the look of Rudolf‘s home as well as some of the interiors of the sewers and the places around the docks. Costume designers Barbara Kidd and Ewa Krauze do terrific work with the costumes from the lavish clothes of Meleagre as well as the look of the other hobos and people living around the docks. Sound editors Mireille Leroy and Corrine Rozenberg do superb work with the sound as it plays into the sound of the waters flowing through the sewers as well as the whimsy of the circus world. The film’s music by Jean Musy is wonderful for its orchestral-based score as it play to the world of the circus and the sense of hope and whimsy that looms for its key characters.

The casting by Jeremy Zimmerman is pretty good as it features appearances from punk rock legend Ian Dury as a bartender Dima owes money to, screenwriter Berta Dominguez D. as a beggar named Tiger Lily, Joanna Dickens as a woman Dima uses for money in Ambrosia, and Christopher Lee in a fantastic performance as the eccentric Rudolf Von Tannen as this eccentric millionaire who cares more about his dogs and bevy of whores than his family where it’s an appearance that is just too brief where he eventually becomes a plot device. Finally, there’s the excellent performances of Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif in their respective roles as Meleagre and Dima. Despite the shortcomings of the script, the two do give committed performances that allow them to have fun with Sharif being the more physical in his approach to play a thief while O’Toole camps up the eccentricities of his character where he is often accompanied by a dead dog.

Despite the performances of Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif as well as some solid technical work, The Rainbow Thief is a very mediocre film from Alejandro Jodorowsky. It’s a film that wants to be a lot of things only to fall very short due in part to its lackluster script and Jodorowsky being constrained to create something that is very straightforward which is something that Jodorowsky isn’t known for. In the end, The Rainbow Thief is just an uninspired film from Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Alejandro Jodorowsky Films: La Cravate - Teatro sin fin - Fando y Lis - El Topo - The Holy Mountain - Tusk (1980 film) - Santa Sangre - The Dance of Reality - (Endless Poetry)

Related: Jodorowsky's Dune - (The Auteurs #59: Alejandro Jodorowsky)

© thevoid99 2016

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

2016 Blind Spot Series: Come and See

Directed by Elem Klimov and screenplay by Klimov and Ales Adamovich from a story by Adamovich, Come and See is the story of a young boy who witnesses the horror of war in his homeland of Belarus during its occupation by Nazi Germany during World War II. The film is a tale of survival from the eyes of a young boy who gets a harsh glimpse into war as well as see some of the ugliness of humanity. Starring Aleksei Kravchenko and Olga Mironova. Come and See is a horrifying and unflinching film from Elem Klimov.

Set in 1943 in the Belarus region of the then-Soviet Union, the film is a simple tale of a young teenage boy who joins the Belorussian army to fight the Germans in World War II where he encounters the darkest forms of reality on war. All of which is told through not just elements of reality but also aspects of surrealism as it’s really a story of innocence loss in the face of war as well as this young boy trying to survive the horror that he encounters. The film’s screenplay by Elem Klimov and Ales Adamovich doesn’t just follow the protagonist Flyora (Aleksei Kravchenko) from this idealist young boy who dreams of glory and importance into a young man who is ravaged by the most dire atrocities encounter in the face of war. The first act follows Flyora leaving his home village thinking he would return to his mother and twin younger sisters as the former doesn’t want him to leave home.

What happens instead is that he doesn’t become part of the gang of soldiers immediately where he has to do menial work like many other beginners while having to stay behind where more experienced soldiers go into battle. While he would befriend a young girl named Glasha (Olga Mironova) at the camp and fall for her. They would both experience the horror of war first-hand where Flyora would become temporarily deaf as he would return home unaware of what has happened. The second act is about Flyora’s revelation about his homecoming as well as encountering events that would be life-changing where he gets an even closer view into the world of battle from afar. Especially as the third act would have him go into a village and see first-hand the worst kind of atrocities committed by the Germans to the Belorussian.

Klimov’s direction is definitely entrancing not just for the visuals but also in the way he displays horror at its most visceral. Shot entirely on location in Belarus as well as other parts shot in other areas in the then-Soviet Union, the film doesn’t play nice as it comes to the locations where some of the scenery is foggy and also very dirty with mud and swamps. It’s Klimov’s idea of this reality that is just very stark and unforgiving where the camera is always following this young boy as he goes into land that he knows quite well but it has changed to fit an atmosphere that unsettling as well as in a state of chaos. While Klimov would use some unique wide and medium shots to capture the massive landscape of the locations including the forests. He would also create some dazzling compositions that play into Flyora’s state of mind where he would have Flyora in the foreground and events around him in the background to play into his sense of detachment of the horror he’s surrounded by.

Klimov’s usage of the steadicam would be quite prominent for many of the tracking shots which often follows a lot of the action as well as every movement Flyora makes throughout the film. At times, the camera either follows him or acts as another witness of these atrocities that include some of the most terrifying moments in war. Notably as Klimov would use close-ups and high camera angles to play into this air of claustrophobia and fear that surrounds a key scene that is just terrifying to watch. Even in its aftermath that displayed some elements of surrealism that includes a woman wearing a Nazi uniform eating lobster watching these terrifying events happen without a care in the world. Still, it showcases a lot of what Flyora sees including a plane that is often flying above as it play into this idea of fantasy but also the reality that Flyora eventually come to terms with. Overall, Klimov creates an unsettling yet harrowing film about a young boy’s encounter with war.

Cinematographer Aleksei Rodionov does brilliant work with the film‘s stark cinematography with its usage of desolate yet grimy colors to play into the location while emphasizing on natural lighting to play into not just some of the beauty but also the ugliness at its most authentic. Editor Valeriya Belova does excellent work with the editing as it‘s largely straightforward with a few rhythmic cuts and dissolves while maintaining the length in some of the intricate tracking shots that is presented. Production designer Viktor Petrov does fantastic work with the look of the villages and farmhouses that play into the world that Flyora is from and what the Nazis would destroy.

Costume designer Eleonora Semyonova does nice work with the costumes from the ragged look of the partisan soldiers as well as the grimy look of the Nazi uniforms. The sound work of Viktor Mors is amazing for its mixing and sound design to play into the sounds of gunfire, artillery fire, and other array of textures including the sparse sounds when Flyora loses his hearing for a portion of the film. The film’s music by Oleg Yanchenko is phenomenal for its eerie yet entrancing ambient-based score that play into the bleak tone of the film while the music soundtrack also feature some classical pieces from Richard Wagner, Johann Strauss, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The film’s superb cast feature some notable small roles from Juri Lumiste as a Nazi officer, Viktor Lorents as a Nazi commander, Evgeniy Tilicheev as a collaborator for the Nazis, Vladas Bagdonas as a partisan soldier that Flyora would help in the second act, and Liubomiras Laucevicius, with dubbing by Valeriy Kravchenko, as the Belarussian partisan leader Kosach whom Glasha has feelings for. Olga Mironova is remarkable as Glasha as this young woman who is at the army camp helping soldiers out as she befriends Flyora while helping him return home where she gets an extremely close look at the horror of what happened to the people at his village. Finally, there’s Aleksei Kravchenko in an incredible performance as Flyora as this young boy who becomes a soldier in the hope of glory and make his life matter only to be confronted with reality of the most vicious kind as it’s a performance that is just mesmerizing to watch in capturing a young boy ravaged by the horrors of war.

Come and See is a tremendous film from Elem Klimov. Featuring a great cast, eerie visuals, graphic depiction of violence and war, and a chilling story of survival and innocence lost. It’s a war film that is truly unlike any film of that genre as well as something that will definitely challenge the casual viewer into see war for what it really is in the most visceral and horrific way. In the end, Come and See is a magnificent film from Elem Klimov.

Elem Klimov Films: (Welcome, or No Trespassing) - (Adventures of a Dentist) - (Agony) - (Farewell (1983 film))

© thevoid99 2016

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream

Based on the book by Stuart Samuels, Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream is a documentary film that is about the culture of the midnight movies in the 1970s as it played to an audience needing an escape from the turmoil that had emerged in the late 1960s. Directed by Stuart Samuels and written by Samuels and Victor Kushmaniak, the film explore the six films that would define the midnight movie culture in that decade as well as what it did for the film industry before the emergence of home video and the blockbuster period in films. The result is a fascinating and exciting film from Stuart Samuels.

In the 1970s following a tumultuous period that saw political unrest, culture wars, assassinations, and other things that defined the late 1960s. Audiences wanting an escape from that turmoil as well as mainstream culture where screenings of low-budget films that were outside of the mainstream suddenly became cultural phenomenon. Among them were Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo, George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, John Waters’ Pink Flamingos, Perry Henzell’s The Harder They Come, Jim Sharman’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and David Lynch’s Eraserhead. These films that didn’t play by the rules nor were they created or funded by studios, with the exception of Rocky Horror, were films that became successful through midnight screenings in theaters around America based on word of mouth.

With interviews from filmmakers in Alejandro Jodorwsky, John Waters, George A. Romero, David Lynch, and Perry Henzell as well as Rocky Horror creator Richard O’Brien and that film’s producer Lou Adler plus film critics Roger Ebert, J. Hoberman, and Jonathan Rosenbaum. They all talk about the impact of the midnight movie culture where many believe the man responsible for making it happen is Ben Barenholtz who opened the Elgin Cinema in 1968 in New York City and was the one who showed El Topo in 1970 as a midnight movie knowing that it wasn’t some conventional film. For six months at the Elgin Cinema, the film played to sell-out audiences as it started this culture of the midnight movies. The films that were played at Elgin as well as other theatres around the U.S. would play these different kind of films that definitely appealed to an audience that didn’t want to the mainstream films of the times.

Other films such as Tod Browning’s Freaks and Louis J. Gasnier’s Reefer Madness were also part of the midnight movie circuits as they were films from the 1930s that were never well-received as they found new life. Largely because they were films that played to an audience that wanted to see films that weren’t about ordinary people or those that are larger than life. Stuart Samuels’ direction is straightforward as he shoots many of the interviews with the filmmakers and critics talking at the camera with either a film clip or a poster in the background with the aid of cinematographer Richard Fox. With the aid of editors Michael Bembenek, Robert J. Coleman, John Dowding, Lorenzo Massa, and Kevin Rollins as well as the sound work of Euan Hunter, Samuels’ usage of film clips plus newspaper clippings and reports showcase the phenomenon that these films had as well as what it did to the film industry.

Its decline and end definitely doesn’t just attribute to the rise of the home video market but also the blockbuster films such as Jaws and Star Wars where it appealed to a wide audience and were financially profitable. Filmmakers and film critics believe that decline definitely saw audiences interact less and not bother discovering films that don’t play by the rules. Samuels’ direction would play into that decline but also that sense of interest towards those films but also the idea of the midnight movie screening. The film’s music by Eric Cadesky and Nick Dyer is wonderful as it’s mainly low-key in its electronic setting to play into the different type of films that is featured in the documentary.

Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream is a marvelous film from Stuart Samuels. It’s not only a compelling documentary that explores the brief but immense popularity of the midnight films but also a look into the filmmakers and films that definitely gave audiences a fitting alternative from the mainstream as well as something that would become phenomenon in their own way. In the end, Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream is a remarkable film from Stuart Samuels.

Related: Freaks - El Topo - Eraserhead

© thevoid99 2016

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Santa Sangre

Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky and screenplay by Jodorowsky, Claudio Argento, and Roberto Leoni from a story by Jodorowsky, Santa Sangre (Holy Blood) is the story of a man who reflect on his life being raised in the circus as he looks back at his childhood and his life as an adult. The film is an unconventional life story that plays with unconventional narratives of flashback and flash-forwards to tell the story of this man’s life. Starring Cristobal “Axel” Jodorowsky, Adan Jodorowsky, Teo Jodorowsky, Blanca Guerra, and Guy Stockwell. Santa Sangre is a ravishing yet harrowing film from Alejandro Jodorowsky.

The film is a complex tale of a troubled and traumatized man who reflects on his life as a child living in the circus as a performer as he also copes with the demons of his past as an adult upon reuniting with his mother who wants him to kill women she sees as threats to her. The film is an unconventional story where it begins at an insane asylum where the protagonist Fenix (Cristobal “Axel” Jodorowsky) looks back at his life as a child magician (Adan Jodorowsky) where his parents were circus performers while his mother Concha (Blanca Guerra) was also a religious cult leader. Due to the infidelities of his father Orgo (Guy Stockwell), Concha would despise women as she disappeared leaving the young Fenix traumatized and institutionalized until he escapes, in the film’s second act as an adult, upon seeing her where she uses his arms to kill other women since she lost her arms following a fight with Orgo. For Fenix, whatever chances he has to find some normalcy or be with someone would be destroyed where he is consumed with guilt over his actions.

Alejandro Jodorowsky’s direction definitely bears not just style but also a lot of symbolism as it relates to the world that Fenix is in. A world of the whimsical and offbeat as well as the world of spirituality where Fenix is torn between two ideals that are each represented by his parents as both ideals have their flaws. Shot on location in Mexico, the film’s location represents that sense of conflict but also a world that is quite chaotic where Jodorowsky would create some dazzling compositions that play into some of the imagery that is prevalent in the film. The usage of wide and medium shots as well as some tracking shots play into some of the locations as well as the world that is the circus and the theatre where the latter play into the events in the film’s second act where Fenix returns to performing. The world of the whimsy wouldn’t just features a very bizarre scene that involve Fenix and Downs syndrome patients going to a brothel and snorting cocaine but also moments in Fenix’s performance as a magician.

The film’s violence is definitely graphic where Jodorowsky makes no qualms into the intensity of the violence that is in the film. The sequences in the first act that involve Concha and Orgo aren’t just gory but also have this impact where it is quite confrontational as it is really the start of what Fenix would be forced to do under Concha’s prompting. The scenes where Fenix is killing women where he is acting as Concha’s arms definitely add something that is very abstract but once Fenix’s arms would attack. All fucking hell breaks loose while there are also these elements where Jodorowsky also play into the fallacy of faith as it relates to what Concha believes in as well as what she tries to do. Especially in a scene where a Vatican magistrate (Sergio Bustamante) comes to her church to inspect this pool of blood where it showcases some of the fallacy of organized religion and faith. It would come ahead in the film’s climax in the third act as it play into Fenix’s struggle to be himself as well as the torment from his mother that continuously haunts him. Overall, Jodorowsky creates a terrifying yet rapturous film about a man’s struggle for sanity as he is tormented by demons in his life.

Cinematographer Daniele Nannuzzi does brilliant work with the film‘s very colorful and gorgeous cinematography with its usage of lights and moods for many of the daytime/nighttime exterior scenes along with unique lighting for some of the nighttime scenes. Editor Mauro Bonanni does excellent work with the editing as it has a few jump-cuts while maintaining something that is very straightforward and help play up some of the film‘s suspense. Production designer Alejandro Luna and set decorator Enrique Estevez do amazing work with the look of Concha‘s church and the shrine she created for her saint as well as the look of the circus and some of the places the characters go to. Costume designer Tolita Figueroa does fantastic work with the costumes that the characters wear as they‘re very colorful as well as have an air of personality into the characters and where they are in their lives.

Makeup supervisor Lamberto Marini does nice work with the design of the makeup from the look of Fenix‘s love interest Alma as well as the look of Alma‘s mother who is covered up with lots of tattoos. Special effects supervisor Marcelino Pacheco does terrific work with some of the minimal special effects as it relates to some of the magic tricks that Fenix performs as well as some of the intense moments of violence. Sound mixer Robert Camacho does superb work with the sound to play into some of the events in the circus as well as the party atmosphere in the streets. The film’s music by Simon Boswell is wonderful for its mixture of traditional Mexican folk music with some eerie synthesizer textures to play into the drama, comedy, and suspense where it help set a mood for a scene in the film while the soundtrack would feature songs played in a traditional ballad style.

The casting by Pablo Leder is great as it feature some notable small roles from Brontis Jodorowsky as a orderly at the institution, S. Rodriguez as a female wrestler called Santa, Hector Ortega as the institution doctor, Gloria Contreras as a performer that tried to seduce Fenix in Rubi, Jesus Juarez as a midget performance and friend of Fenix in Aladin, Sergio Bustamante as a Vatican official, Ma. De Jesus Aranzabal as a fat prostitute who would sleep with the Downs syndrome patients, and Teo Jodorowsky as the pimp who would give those patients cocaine and be this spark that would bring terror to Fenix. Faviola Elenka Tapia is terrific as the young Alma as this deaf-mute circus performer who would befriend the young Fenix while Sabrina Dennison is fantastic as the adult Alma who would remain deaf-mute where she would try to find Fenix and save him from the torment of his mother. Thelma Tixou is excellent as the tattooed woman who is Alma’s mother as she would seduce Orgo in a lot of ways and bring rage to Concha where she later becomes a prostitute and raise the ire of Fenix.

Guy Stockwell is superb as Fenix’s father as a circus performer who is also a hypnotist that tries to help his son become a man while also being flawed in the fact that he cheats on Concha to be with the tattooed woman. Blanca Guerra is amazing as Concha as Fenix’s mother who lost her arms during a fight with her husband as she becomes this figure of torment who forces her son to kill at urging where she has this very chilling presence that is just intriguing to watch. Adan Jodorowsky is brilliant as the young Fenix as this boy who deals with some of the events in his life as well as trying to be this performer who would lose his innocence in the most drastic ways. Finally, there’s Cristobal “Axel” Jodorowsky in an excellent performance as the adult Fenix as this troubled man that tries to regain some of his old innocence while dealing with the torment of his mother where it’s a very chilling and scary performance that is just fascinating to watch.

Santa Sangre is a phenomenal film from Alejandro Jodorowsky. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, compelling views on faith and torment, and some very intense moments of violence. It’s a film that explores the idea of torment and conflict through the eyes of a man as he reflects on his troubled childhood and already complicated life as an adult. In the end, Santa Sangre is a spectacular film from Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Alejandro Jodorowsky Films: La Cravate - Teatro sin fin - Fando y Lis - El Topo - The Holy Mountain - Tusk (1980 film) - The Rainbow Thief - The Dance of Reality - (Endless Poetry)

Related: Jodorowsky's Dune - (The Auteurs #59: Alejandro Jodorowsky)

© thevoid99 2016

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Speedy (1928 film)

Directed by Ted Wilde and written by John Grey, Lex Neal, Howard Rogers, and Jay Howe, Speedy is the story of a man trying to save the last horse-drawn streetcar for his girlfriend’s grandfather in New York City while trying to get work in the city. The film is a slapstick/silent comedy that doesn’t just explore the frenzy of the modern world but a man trying to salvage of what is left of what near and dear in the old one as the titular character of Harold “Speedy“ Swift is played by Harold Lloyd. Also starring Ann Christy, Bert Woodruff, Brooks Benedict, and Babe Ruth as himself. Speedy is a sensational and witty film from Ted Wilde.

The film is the story of a man trying to find many jobs in New York City as he does whatever he can to help his girlfriend and her grandfather where the latter works and runs the last horse-drawn streetcar in New York City where a businessman wants to shut it down for good. It’s a simple story of a man trying to do whatever he can as his attempts to get and hold jobs are short-lived either through bumbling circumstances or by his own fault. Yet, it plays into someone trying to do whatever he can to be part of this modern world that is so chaotic and demanding. Even as he learns about what this businessman wants to do to stop the horse-drawn streetcar out for good prompting Speedy to do whatever he can to help his girlfriend and her grandfather.

Ted Wilde’s direction is definitely thrilling in terms of capturing life in late 1920s New York City in all of its craziness in the boom that it’s in before the Great Depression as well as that air of escapism. Many of Wilde’s compositions are quite dazzling to capture the craziness of the locations in New York City that include some unique chase scenes for the second and third act where Speedy is driving a cab in the former and the streetcar in the latter. The usage of the wide and medium shots would play into that craziness as well as the beauty of the sequence in Coney Island not just for the rides but also the lights set at night.

There’s a beauty to Wilde’s direction in those moments while his approach to setting up the gags are just as engaging as well as in the comical moments that occur such as a hilarious sequence where Speedy picks up Babe Ruth and drive him to Yankee Stadium for a game. Wilde’s direction also maintains a sense of energy and wit that is always entertaining in the way Speedy does whatever to help his girlfriend’s grandfather. Overall, Wilde creates an exhilarating film about a man helping out another old man through a series of misadventures.

Cinematographer Walter Lundin, with special effects photography by H. Kohler, does excellent work with the film‘s black-and-white photography from the way the lights of Coney Island look at night with such beauty to the daytime exteriors of the city with Kohler providing photography for some of the chase scenes. Editor Carl Himm does brilliant work with the editing as it is largely straightforward to play with the film‘s energy and humor as it includes some rhythmic cuts. Art director L.K. Vedder does superb work with the look of the streetcar that is used as well as the design of some of the shops where many of old men work at. The film’s music by Carl Davis, for its 1992 reissue, is amazing for its mixture of jazz and ragtime music to play into the period of the 1920s as it has an air of fun in the music.

The film’s fantastic cast include a hilarious cameo appearance from baseball legend Babe Ruth as himself as well as Brooks Benedict as the sleazy businessman Steve Carter who tries to buy out Pops Dillon. Bert Woodruff is excellent as Pop Dillon as the driver of a horse-drawn streetcar that is desperate to hold on to his business while he wonders why Speedy keeps losing his job. Ann Christy is wonderful as Speedy’s girlfriend Jane who is worried about her grandfather while pondering about the idea of a future with Speedy. Finally, there’s Harold Lloyd in an incredible performance as the titular character as this determined yet bumbling man who is trying to do what it takes to help Pops while he screw things up along with way as some of it is due to his love for the New York Yankees as it’s an iconic performance from Lloyd.

Speedy is a phenomenal film from Ted Wilde that features a great performance from Harold Lloyd. Featuring some dazzling visuals, hilarious gags, and some amazing sequences that is engaging and adventurous, it’s a film that manages to showcase what the idea of comedy could be and more. In the end, Speedy is a sensational film from Ted Wilde.

© thevoid99 2016

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Steamboat Bill Jr.

Directed by Buster Keaton and Charles Reisner and written by Keaton and Carl Harbaugh, Steamboat Bill Jr. is the story of a young man who reluctantly joins the crew of his father’s steamboat as a way to be a captain like his father. The film is a silent comedy that explore a man trying to help his father save the business as well as deal with what is expected of him as Buster Keaton plays the titular role. Also starring Ernest Torrence, Marion Byron, Tom Lewis, James T. Mack, and Tom McGuire. Steamboat Bill Jr. is a sensational film from Buster Keaton and Charles Reisner.

The film is a simple story about this college graduate who travels from Boston to the Mississippi River to visit his steamboat captain father whom he hadn’t seen since he was a baby. There, he finds himself trying to do what his father does to please him while dealing with his father’s rival whose daughter is someone he’s in love with and went to school with. It’s a film that has this young man trying to find his way to a world that is so foreign to him yet bumbles his way to understand life in a steamboat. The film’s script is more driven by William Canfield Jr. and his attempt to please his father as well as win over Kitty King (Marion Byron). Still, there are complications as William’s father (Ernest Torrence) has a steamboat that is old and falling apart as he is forced to compete with the town’s richest man in John James King (Tom McGuire) who doesn’t approve of William Jr. because of his father.

The film’s direction by Charles Reisner and an un-credited Buster Keaton is quite sprawling for the world they create from the look of the river and town as well as the steamboats where Canfield‘s steamboat looks old and worked up while King is new, rich, and filled with a lot as it play into the personalities of these two men. The direction has these rich compositions with some unique wide and medium shots to capture the landscape with the latter providing some scenery in some of the gags that Keaton would create. Notably as he maintains a simplicity and straightforward approach to the way his character would act in these situations only to screw things up.

One of the film’s greatest moments involves this cyclone with these huge winds and set pieces that are just astronomical. Notably in how Reisner and Keaton would set up the moment and the framing as well as the stunts that Keaton would perform during the whole thing. Even in a scene where the wall of a house would fall while William Jr. is standing at a spot and come out unscathed. It’s among these moments that really showcases what Keaton is willing to do just to create some laughs which he does succeed and more. Overall, Keaton and Reisner create a very whimsical yet spellbinding film about a young man trying to please his father by working at his father’s steamboat.

Cinematographers Bert Haines and Devereaux Jennings do excellent work with the film‘s black-and-white cinematography to play into the sunny look of the daytime exteriors while using some lights for some of the scenes set at night. Editor Sherman Kell does brilliant work with the editing as it‘s largely straightforward with some rhythmic cutting to play into the humor as well as the transition to inter-titles. Music supervisor Gaylord Carter provides a nice music accompaniment that is a mixture of jazz and ragtime to play into the comical energy of the film.

The film’s superb cast include a couple of small roles from James T. Mack as a minister and Tom Lewis as the first mate for Canfield Sr while the performances of Tom McGuire and Ernest Torrence in their respective roles as John James King and William Canfield Sr. are just hilarious as they play the fall guys who don’t like each other and don’t approve of William Jr. and Kitty being together. Marion Byron is fantastic as King’s daughter Kitty as this young woman who is a classmate of William Jr. as she helps him look the part of a steamboat crew member while also having some feelings for him. Finally, there’s Buster Keaton in an incredible performance as the titular character as this college man who isn’t the strongest guy to work inside a steamboat but certainly determined while Keaton manages to use his physicality and wit to create a performance that is just so fun to watch.

Steamboat Bill Jr. is a phenomenal film from Buster Keaton and Charles Reisner. It’s a film that isn’t just one of the finest silent comedies ever made but also displays a sense of ambition of what Keaton was trying to do with the art form and more. In the end, Steamboat Bill Jr. is a tremendous film from Buster Keaton and Charles Reisner.

Buster Keaton Films: (The Rough House) - (One Week (1920 short)) - (Convict 13) - (The Scarecrow (1920 short)) - (Neighbors (1920 short)) - (The Haunted House (1921 short)) - (Hard Luck (1921 short)) - (The High Sign) - (The Goat (1921 short)) - (The Playhouse) - (The Boat) - (The Paleface) - (Cops) - (My Wife’s Relations) - (The Blacksmith) - (The Frozen North) - (The Electric House) - (Day Dreams (1922 short)) - (The Balloonatic) - (The Love Nest) - (Three Ages) - (Our Hospitality) - Sherlock Jr. - The Navigator (1924 film) - Seven Chances - (Go West (1925 film)) - (Battling Butler) - The General (1926 film) - (College (1927 film)) - The Cameraman - (Spite Marriage) - (The Gold Ghost) - (Allez Oop) - (Tars and Stripes) - (Grand Slam Opera) - (One Run Elmer) - (Blue Blazes) - (Mixed Magic) - (Love Nest on Wheels)

© thevoid99 2016

Monday, September 12, 2016

Young Frankenstein

Based on the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Young Frankenstein is about the grandson of Dr. Frankenstein who decides to create the same experiment his grandfather did with some hilarious results. Directed by Mel Brooks and screenplay by Brooks and Gene Wilder, the film is a spoof of sorts of the monster movies where it plays up into the myth and legends of the Frankenstein monster while being filled with a lot of absurd innuendos. Starring Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Teri Garr, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars, Cloris Leachman, Marty Feldman, and Gene Hackman. Young Frankenstein is a stylish and hilarious film from Mel Brooks.

Set in the 20th Century, the film is the simple story of a scientist, who is the grandson of Victor von Frankenstein, as he inherited a house in Transylvania where he ends up recreating the same experiment that his grandfather did many years ago. It’s a film that plays up the story of Frankenstein but in a somewhat modern setting where Dr. Frankenstein’s grandson Frederick (Gene Wilder) is trying to deny his family heritage by having his surname be pronounced as “Fron-ken-steen”. The film’s screenplay doesn’t just spoof Mary Shelley’s novel in some ways but also add some absurdity into the film as it relates to the people Frederick Frankenstein meets such as a descendant of Frankenstein’s assistant Igor whose grandson (Marty Feldman) shares the same name but is pronounced “Eye-gore”. It also has these elements that play into the modern world though the people of Transylvania aren’t happy about Frankenstein’s grandson in their hometown as well as the idea that he might do the same experiment that terrorized the town so many years ago.

The screenplay is also filled with a lot of gags as it relates to Dr. Frankenstein’s old housekeeper Frau Buchler (Cloris Leachman) where horses get antsy whenever her surname is spoken. A lot of the gags in the film doesn’t just play into some of the offbeat humor of the film but also in moments that involve the creature (Peter Boyle) who was supposed to have the brain of a deceased yet revered historian but circumstances led to all sorts of trouble. Even as the creature would do things that are also offbeat in its own way that includes a spoof of sorts about the creature meeting a young girl just like the original 1931 film by James Whale.

Mel Brooks’ direction definitely owes a lot to the early horror films and monster movies of the 1930s while it also bears elements of modern-day filmmaking. Shot in soundstages, the film definitely plays up to that air of classic Hollywood where it isn’t afraid to be artificial but also have fun with it. Many of Brooks’ compositions are quite simple in terms of its framing and the way he creates these lively and often improvised moments in the comedy. Notably in a short but hilarious sequence where the monster meets a blind hermit (Gene Hackman) as it is a whole lot of fun to watch while Brooks uses some wide and medium shots to capture the whole sequence. There are also these moments that is a homage to the 1931 James Whale film such as the machine that is used to create the monster as it’s the actual machine that was used from the original by its original designer Kenneth Strickfaden. Brooks’ approach to some of the intimacy in the film as well as the non-comical moments have him use some close-ups while providing subtle bits of humor without deterring too much from the story. Overall, Brooks creates a very witty and entertaining film about Dr. Frankenstein’s grandson carrying the legacy he tried to run away from.

Cinematographer Gerald Hirschfeld does brilliant work with the film‘s black-and-white photography as it has this very atmospheric look in the photography with Hirschfeld providing some unique lighting and moods for many of the interior/exterior scenes in the film. Editor John C. Howard does excellent work with the film‘s very stylized editing with its usage of transition wipes, iris outs, dissolves, and other stylish cutting techniques to not just play with the humor but also pay tribute to the editing style of the past. Production designer Dale Hennesy and set decorator Robert de Vestel do amazing work with the look of Dr. Frankenstein‘s home as well as the town and the lab that features the original props from the original 1931 film.

Costume designer Dorothy Jeakins does nice work with the costumes as it is a mixture of the period clothes of the past with some of the modern suits that Frankenstein wears. Makeup creator William Tuttle does fantastic work with the look of the creature as well as the look of the blind hermit. Sound editor Don Hall does terrific work with the sound from the way the thunderstorms and lightning sound to the way some of the machines sound like. The film’s music by John Morris is wonderful as its orchestral score play into some of the humor and light-dramatic moments as well as an inspired and hilarious usage of the standard Puttin’ on the Ritz.

The casting by Jane Feinberg and Mike Fenton do incredible work with the casting as it include some notable small roles from Richard Haydn as an executor of Dr. Frankenstein’s estate, Rolfe Sedan in a dual role as a train conductor in America and in Europe, Danny Goldman as a medical student who is interested in Frankenstein’s heritage, and Gene Hackman in a superb cameo as the blind hermit Harold as it’s a very funny brief role from Hackman who does a lot with the few minutes he’s in. Kenneth Mars is fantastic as Inspector Kemp as this one-eyed police inspector with a prosthetic right arm who is suspicious about Frankenstein where he keeps an eye on him while also being very funny. Cloris Leachman is brilliant as Frau Buchler as Dr. Frankenstein’s housekeeper who has a secret about Frankenstein’s grandfather as she would play a role in the monster’s freedom.

Madeline Kahn is excellent as Frankenstein’s fiancĂ©e Elizabeth as this socialite who wants to remain pure as Kahn is just delightful to watch while her scene in meeting the monster is just a riot. Marty Feldman is phenomenal as Igor as Frankenstein’s humpback assistant who is also the grandson of the original Igor as he says some very funny things as well as create a moment that would inspire one of the greatest rock songs ever made. Teri Garr is amazing as Inga as Frankenstein’s assistant who would also have her funny moments but also be someone who can calm Frankenstein where she would eventually become his love interest. Peter Boyle is great as the monster as this large man with an abnormal brain where Boyle doesn’t get to say much but his physical presence and awkward comedic timing makes him a joy to watch as he nearly steals the film from everyone. Finally, there’s Gene Wilder in a sensational performance as Frederick Frankenstein as this man of science who is reluctant to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps where his desire for recognition in the field has him crazed where Wilder is full of energy and bravado in what is one of his defining performances.

Young Frankenstein is a spectacular film from Mel Brooks that features great performances from Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Teri Garr, Marty Feldman, and Madeline Kahn. Along with a superb supporting cast, visual homage to the 1931 James Whale film, gorgeous visuals, and some hilarious moments. It’s a film that isn’t just one of the most inventive comedies ever made but it’s also a film that manages to be entertaining through and through. In the end, Young Frankenstein is a tremendous film from Mel Brooks.

Mel Brooks Films: (The Producers) - (Twelve Chairs) - Blazing Saddles - (Silent Movie) - (High Anxiety) - (History of the World, Part 1) - Spaceballs - (Life Stinks) - (Robin Hood: Men in Tights) - (Dracula: Dead or Loving It)

© thevoid99 2016