WEIRD AND WONDERFUL BRITISH FILMS RESCUED FROM OBSCURITY AND PRESENTED IN HIGH-QUALITY EDITIONS
Issue Six. February 2010 Features 06 / Spotlight Bright Ideas: Evocative colour use on the silver screen
‘The transfers come to Blu-ray in better shape than many recent blockbusters’
14 / Art & Film
Dream Catcher: Stephen Coates and the revival of Dreams That Money Can Buy
24 / Widescreen
Terror Vision: A re-appraisal of 3-D’s latest incarnation
New from the BFI
FLIPSIDE In 1960s London, a beautiful continental au pair finds herself caught up in the affections of three men. But fun and freedom soon turn to shame and despair and she must confess a terrible secret. The world premiere release for this previously unseen sixties gem.
When Suzy arrives in London to visit an old school friend, she is unwittingly plunged into the ruthless world of the ‘groupie’. Soon her exciting new world of sex and drugs leads to tragedy. Includes complete bonus feature, Bread.
Released 25 January bfi.org.uk
Buy on DVD & Blu-ray from
30 cover image gentlemen prefer blondes (courtesy park circus ltd.)
Steve Shorter, the biggest pop star of his day, is loved by millions. But, in reality, he is a puppet whose carefully managed popularity is designed to keep the country’s youth under control. From the controversial director of The War Game.
30 / 1000 Words
Beautiful Creatures: Ray Harryhausen and stop-motion photography
Regulars 04 / Reel World Dr. Starngelove
18 / One Sheet
‘I was partial to tragedy in my youth. That was before experience taught me that life was tragical enough without my having to write about it.’ Ammon
34 / On Location
Monument Valley, Utah
38 / Screengems Medusa’s Head
42 / Parting Shot Invisible Men
44 / Competition Who’s that girl?
46 / Listings
Films coming to a big screen near you
The Big Picture ISSN 1759-0922 © 2010 intellect Ltd. Published by Intellect Ltd. The Mill, Parnall Road. Bristol BS16 3JG / www.intellectbooks.com Editorial office Tel. 0117 9589910 / E: email@example.com Publisher Masoud Yazdani Guest Editor Scott Jordan Harris / Art Direction Gabriel Solomons Contributors Jez Conolly, Nicholas Page, Emma Simmonds, Daniel Steadman, Alanna Donaldson, Helen Tenant, Chris Barraclough, Tony Nourmand, Alison Elangasinghe Special thanks to John Letham, Sara Carlsson and all at Park Circus, Jelena Stanovnik, Michael Pierce at Curzon Cinemas and Gabriel Swartland at City Screen Please send all email enquiries to: firstname.lastname@example.org / www.thebigpicturemagazine.com l The Big Picture magazine is published six times a year
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above slim pickens drops out in dr. strangelove or how i learned to stop worrying and love the bomb
Whoops Apocalyps� Movie moments don’t come any bigger than those that herald the end of the world. Lucky for us it’s just make believe. Words by Gabriel Solomons
Kubrick harnessed the nuclear explosion’s naked cinematic potential to create one of the finest and most apt film endings ever. above The “Baker” explosion, part of Operation Crossroads Photo by united States Department of Defense
As spectacles go, it could be argued that an atomic explosion, with its ensuing iconic mushroom cloud, is the grandest of them all. Putting aside the small matter of mass destruction, post-apocalyptic fallout and the eradication of all known life (save perhaps the odd cockroach or two), the awesomness of these god-awful explosions is undeniable. So much so that movies have often exploited their wide-screen-friendly grandeur to full effect, as multi-megaton kabooms lay waste to large swathes of the world’s population. None have been more effective though than the stock footage of nuclear blasts used in the finale of Stanley Kubrick’s ascerbic parody of war Dr. Strangelove or How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb. The final scene – a surreal medley in which Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again” is played over several shots
of nuclear explosions (an idea suggested by master of the obscure sight gag, Spike Milligan) – incorporated stock footage of 19 nuclear explosions, the ninth of which is nuclear test “Baker” from “Operation Crossroads”, the first post-war nuclear tests on the Bikini atoll (see image). The genius of this scene is in its choreography and the blacker than black humour elicited by such inspired juxstaposition of humanity’s demise alongside a rousing sing-song. With no real option other than to use stock imagery of real explosions (special digital effects were still in their infancy), Kubrick harnessed their naked potential to create one of the finest and most apt film endings ever – an ending that both terrifies us and makes us smile. Go figure. [tbp] email@example.com
The Day After (1983) / Miracle Mile (1988) / Terminator 2 & 3 (1991/2003) february 2010
Images courtesy of Park Circus Limited far left jane russell and marilyn monroe go for broke left pretty spectacular: monroe
back on the big screen
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) Dir.Howard Hawks There’s no spectacle in cinema quite like the sight of Marilyn Monroe. Here, the epitome of twentieth-century sex appeal plays Lorelei Lee, ‘the only girl in the world who can stand on a stage with a spotlight in her eye and still see a diamond in a man’s pocket’.
c ove r fe at u r e
Society of The Spectacle As audiences prepare to welcome Howard Hawks’ classic 50s romp Gentlemen Prefer Blondes back into cinemas, the Big Picture gives you the chance to vote for which of our shortlist of spectacular movies you’d most like to see back on the big screen. Introduction by Scott Jordan Harriss
Voting is easy: simply select your favourite title from the films featured on the following six pages, visit www.thebigpicturemagazine.com and follow the instructions on the ‘Back in Cinemas’ page.
Voting opens on February 14th. The winning film and screening venues will be announced on the website on March 30th.
Hawks’ mastery of his musical material provides for a delightful whirl of golden age glamour and whistle-worthy show-stoppers. Monroe’s fellow siren Jane Russell plays Lee’s fellow showgirl Dorothy Shaw, who’s supposedly chaperoning Lee on an ocean liner carrying multiple millionaires, and the entire US Olympic team, across the Atlantic. Every man onboard bids for a seat at the girls’ table but when Lorelei proves she really does believe ‘diamonds are a girl’s best friend’ she makes a high society spectacle of herself and attracts the resolutely unamorous attentions of lawyers and lawmen. Hawks’ mastery of his musical material ensures she’s extricated from her troubles in a delightful whirl of golden age glamour and whistle-worthy show-stoppers. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is back in UK cinemas from 26th of February. See page 46 for details.
Now go cast your vote for one of the following films you’d like to see Back in Cinemas... february 2010
spotlight Simply Spectacular
movie champion Alanna Donaldson
Calamity Jane (1953) Dir. David Butler vote 01
movie champion emma simmonds
Theatre of Blood (1973) Dir. Douglas Hickox vote 02
Everything about it is larger than life: from its sweeping love story to Day’s flamboyant performance... it is pure reverie, as cinema ought to be... above doris day makes a scene in calamity jane
how to vote
Image Courtesy of Park Circus Limited
This Wild West musical is classical Hollywood cinema at its most joyously spectacular. Doris Day plays Calam’, a gun-toting, thigh-slapping cowgirl who considers herself one of the boys – until, that is, a glamorous showgirl blows into town and the two become rivals in love. The rollicking soundtrack includes the classics ‘Whip-Crack-AWay’, ‘Black Hills of Dakota’ and ‘Windy City’, with delightfully frivolous lyrics such as ‘Men wear sideburns, and they oughta/ Cos a haircut costs a quarter’.
This gem from the golden age deserves to be back on the big screen because everything about it is larger than life: from its sweeping love story to Day’s flamboyant performance. Whimsical and charming, it is pure reverie, as cinema ought to be: as one love-struck character sings, ‘I wouldn’t be at all surprised / If I were only dreamin’ all of this…’ AD
Go the Big Picture website and follow the instructions on the ‘Back in Cinemas’ page
Lionheart’s bloodthirsty schemes, inspired by the work of his beloved Bard, quite simply have to be seen to be believed. above gagging for attention: theatre of blood
when to vote
Friends, Britons, countrymen, fellow moving-picture enthusiasts, I implore you to consider Theatre of Blood. This spine-chilling spectacle features wicked wit and ingenious executions, perpetrated by the maverick – nay, the master – of the macabre, the incomparable Vincent Price. Add a devilish dame (Diana Rigg), catastrophically shoddy coppers and a cast of doomed British icons and it makes for a marvellous medley.
In this cinematic banquet of beastliness, Price plays Edward Lionheart, a Shakespearian ham, presumed dead after a dramatic plunge into the Thames, returning to enact revenge on the critics whose reliably dreadful reviews dogged his career. Lionheart’s bloodthirsty schemes, inspired by the work of his beloved Bard, quite simply have to be seen to be believed: witness death by dog-pie, murderous tramps and a killer coiffure. People of Britain: vote Theatre of Blood! It’s an absolute ruddy riot. ES
Voting opens on February 14th, 2010. The winning film will be announced March 30th february 2010
spotlight Simply Spectacular
Electric Dreams (1984) Dir. Steve Barron
Images Courtesy of Park Circus Limited
Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) Dir. Susan Seidelman
movie champion daniel steadman
A batty, techno-centric concept, a unique love-triangle plot, and a mid-1980s synth-fest soundtrack, pop-promo-guru Barron’s Electric Dreams is Reagan-Thatcher era spectacle at its most glorious. Beginning from the yuppiest of concepts – a San Franciscan property developer buying an enormous home computer – the film spirals deliriously beyond sense, as the plucky PC acquires a personality. At first, this represents an unlikely boon for owner Miles (Lenny Von Dohlen) – Cort, the computer, synchs with his household appliances and
movie champion helen tenant
it’s the spectacle of Madonna at her coolest from which its keenest cinematic pleasures come.
Italian electrodisco maestro Giorgio Moroder’s ‘score’ sets time and tone perfectly for an ecstatic snapshot of an age of misunderstood technical advance... offers romantic assistance when super-hot cellist Madeline (Virginia Madsen) moves in next door. But when Cort develops its own compucrush on Madeline – using Miles’ techno-heavy domestic set-up to sabotage its love rival – Dreams goes all out in dayglo, cultish excess.
above lenny von dohlen in electric dreams
how to vote
Italian electro-disco maestro Giorgio Moroder’s ‘score’ sets time and tone perfectly for an ecstatic snapshot of an age of misunderstood technical advance and dizzyingly unchecked overindulgence that deserves to be re-seen on the big screen. DS
Go the Big Picture website and follow the instructions on the ‘back in cinemas’ page
Roberta (Rosanna Arquette) is married to a bath salesman, lives in suburbia and spends her boring housewife days imagining the stories behind personals in the newspapers. Her obsession with Susan (Madonna), a fascinating freewheeler who communicates with her boyfriend through personal ads, launches her into an inadvertent adventure featuring amnesia, mistaken identity, a chase with the mafia and falling in love.
above girls aloud: rosanna arquette and madonna in desperately seeking susan
when to vote
The film caught the zeitgeist of the New York new wave, but it’s the spectacle of Madonna at her coolest from which its keenest cinematic pleasures come. Madonna established a new paradigm of a pop-star-as-style-icon, with sheer tops, lacy bras, vintage dresses and the most amazing studded boots in cinema. Balmain is doing those studded boots this season: the 1980s are cool again – and Desperately Seeking Susan definitely deserves a rerun on the big screen as a glimpse of when we all wanted to be Madonna. HT
Voting opens on February 14th, 2010. The winning film will be announced March 30th february 2010
spotlight Simply Spectacular
Images Courtesy of Park Circus Limited
movie champion Chris Barraclough
Sexy Beast (2000) Dir. Jonathan Glazer vote 05
Zelig (1983) Dir. Woody Allen vote 06
Even when standing in just his Y-fronts, Kingsley evokes more menace with a single piercing glare than a million Travis Bickles ever could. above ben kingsley sees red in sexy beast
how to vote
movie champion scott jordan harris
From the opening moments, when bronzed bank robber Gal (Ray Winstone) is almost crushed by a runaway boulder, Sexy Beast is obviously far from a typical cockney crime caper. Director Jonathan Glazer is immediately bold enough to plaster the titles over Winstone’s speedo-clad crotch, and drops tender moments right alongside disturbingly surreal images of an Uzi-toting monster rabbit. The result is a tense and hilarious spectacle from start to blood-soaked finale, pushed into sheer freneticism by Ben Kingsley’s mesmerising
performance as the psychotic Don Logan. Here is a character so depraved that even Ray Winstone is afraid of him! Even when standing in just his Y-fronts, Kingsley evokes more menace with a single piercing glare than a million Travis Bickles ever could. A vote for Sexy Beast is a vote for thrilling and provocative cinema. Just don’t take your granny. CB
Go the Big Picture website and follow the instructions on the ‘back in cinemas’ page
Newsreels were a uniquely cinematic medium and so, to be appreciated properly, Zelig must be seen in a cinema. above same again please: zelig
when to vote
The world’s wittiest man is more usually associated with spectacles than spectacle, but his 1983 masterpiece of mockumentary-making is different. Zelig is an astonishing satire on our need to conform that showcases the talents of ‘The Human Chameleon’ Leonard Zelig – a man so keen to fit in he shifts shape, size, personality and profession in order to resemble those around him. While Allen’s physical transformations are sufficiently spectacular to link Zelig to our theme here, it is the film’s ingenious editing
and visual effects – which position Allen alongside famous figures from the film’s 1920s setting in otherwise genuine newsreel footage – that provide the true spectacle. Newsreels were a uniquely cinematic medium and so, to be appreciated properly, Zelig must be seen in a cinema. As Allen argues, conformity isn’t always ideal. But it is here: Do The Chameleon. Vote Zelig. SJH
Voting opens on February 14th, 2010. The winning film will be announced March 30th february 2010
Jez Conolly revisits a classic crossover between art and film, and talks with the musician responsible for its recent revival.
Long before the current crop of artists, headed notably by Steve McQueen (Hunger, 2008) and Sam Taylor Wood (Nowhere Boy, 2009), switched career paths towards filmmaking, a loose collection of artworld creatives were persuaded to commit their ideas to celluloid. The result was Dreams That Money Can Buy (1947): a film that continues to play to full houses on its rare outings, enhanced by a new musical soundtrack. This pre-Lynchian satire of Hollywood (the great dream factory) is a surrealist portmanteau featuring seven pieces linked by the story of Joe, a self-confessed bum, who tries to make a living out of selling dreams. More than half a century after its original release, the BFI commissioned the innovative musician Stephen Coates, founder of the group ‘The Real Tuesday Weld’, to write an alternative score
This pre-Lynchian satire of Hollywood is a surrealist portmanteau featuring seven pieces linked by the story of Joe, a self-confessed bum, who tries to make a living out of selling dreams. above & opposite stills from hans richter’s masterpiece
for the film. Coates was a perfect choice; his self-termed ‘antique beat’ style is an attempt to capture the way he heard music when he was a child – the strange and haunting sounds of old songs floating from radios in the late afternoon. ‘I remember playing and singing along to old 78s on a portable record player even when I was very small,’ he says. ‘And I would be totally transported by songs like White Horses and Somewhere over the Rainbow.’ The new score, blended with Joe’s original rhyming voice-over, lends each section of the film a fresh intrigue and piquancy. Max Ernst’s ‘Desire’ is a fever dream of vivid colour, eroticism, lace, velvet and dry ice. Fernand Léger’s ‘The Girl with the Prefabricated Heart’ features a romance between two mannequins. Man Ray’s visual treat, ‘Ruth, Roses and Revolvers’, is a self-reflective piece
about cinema and cinema audiences. Marcel Duchamp provided ‘Discs’: a poetic dream of spinning ellipses interspersed with shots that recall his earlier painting Nude Descending a Staircase. Alexander Calder, noted mainly for his sculptures, contributes two segments, ‘Ballet’, a dance of floating mobiles of various shapes and sizes, and ‘Circus’, a parade of wire figures, mechanisms, moving parts and springs. Finally Hans Richter, the mastermind behind the whole project, caps the film with Joe’s own dream, ‘Narcissus’, in which our narrator turns blue and experiences alienation. Coates’ involvement with the re-score dates back to 2005. ‘Originally it was conceived as a purely live performance. Stuart Brown at BFI events introduced me to Marek Pytel of Reality Film who has pioneered the production of collaborations between musicians and ➜ february 2010
art&film Dreams That Money Can’t Buy sounds, samples and text from the original.’ Being a relatively early colour feature Dreams That Money Can Buy provided a unique sensory spectacle for Coates and his cohort to respond to. ‘There are a lot of flaws in the film – technical, editing, etc. – probably budget-related, but mainly it looks absolutely gorgeous and of course the new restoration by the BFI brought that out. It really fit with the palette that we have been working with over the years in terms of images and colour, so that was a big thing.’
films with an existing soundtrack. We watched a few potential films, one of which was Dreams That Money Can Buy. I was blown away; I couldn’t believe it was not better known. I loved the look of it, and having a strong interest in dreams and psychology it seemed an inevitable choice. The band felt the same way and we worked out how to do it using narrators – C belle and David Piper – and performed it initially at BFI Southbank and then at Tate Modern for the first ‘Long Weekend’ in the Turbine Hall. It worked so well that the BFI asked us to record the alternative score for the first release of the film on DVD.’
above & opposite performing the score at the bfi southbank
In tune with the nature of the original film, the musicians were able to retain a sense of experimentation: ‘There were no prescriptions at all. Stuart was completely open to what we came up with in the first place and it developed in a series of live improvisations and then recorded sessions based around a set of written themes. We incorporated
‘The response is amazing. We have played it internationally, even in Moscow with Cyrillic subtitles. It’s a wonderful but difficult film, which people are generally amazed by...’
Coates has a clear connectedness with the work of the artists that feature in the film but is less enamoured with the cinematic efforts of contemporary practitioners: ‘I’m not interested personally – I generally prefer HBO series! I am a fan of movies but not particularly art films. Dreams That Money Can Buy was an exception, partly because of the era that it comes from and partly the weight of the content of its contributors. There are so many great filmmakers – I find the artists now generally can’t compete.’ The live performances of the new score accompanying screenings of the film continue to entertain audiences, most recently at the Bath Film Festival, much to Coates’ satisfaction: ‘The response is amazing. We have played it internationally, even in Moscow with Cyrillic subtitles. It’s a wonderful but difficult film, which people are generally amazed by and I think what we do makes it easier in some ways. We aim to make it an enjoyable theatrical event.’ A favourite segment? ‘Max Ernst’s “Desire” is wonderful – but I find the final sequence by Richter himself very moving now. I know the text inside out and it seems like it is the thoughts and images, reflections and dreams of a consciousness at the end of a life.’ [tbp]
[film ] Dadascope (1961) [website ] www.tuesdayweld.com [film ] Hunger (2008) february 2010
deconstructing film posters
Main Attraction When the emergence of television threatened cinema, movies – and movie posters – were stretched to unprecedented extremes. Tony Nourmand, of London’s Reel Poster Gallery, takes a look at four striking examples.
In the space of just three years, between 1948 and 1951, cinema audiences almost halved. This fall was a direct result of the rise of television. People were much happier to sit comfortably at home watching the new ‘novelty box’ than venture out to their dusty local film theatre. The film studios’ response was to focus on productions that were not possible with television’s limited technology. The Big Country, for example, was a big budget western told on an epic scale with an epic cast and an epic story. Such grand spectaculars were only possible on the big screen, and enticed audiences back into cinemas. Legendary designer Saul Bass’ ‘style B’ poster for The Big Country aptly reflects the epic scale of the movie. ➜
The Big Country (1958) Original us / Art by Saul Bass
www.reelposter.com [matinee idol ] William Castle [artist ] Josk Hinchcliff
onesheet Main Attraction
The Fly (1958) Original British / Art by Jock Hinchcliff
Castle scary Schlockmeister William Castle was a master of B-movies. As an independent producer, Castle recognized the necessity of having an edge over his competitors both in the film and television industries. He also noted the growing public interest in shock-horror and sciencefiction movies and capitalized on it by developing various gimmicks to accompany his films: for The Tingler, Castle wired-up certain cinemas so that audiences would be given mild electric shocks through their chairs. This feature was exploited as a major selling point in the US poster campaign.
for The Tingler, William Castle wired-up certain cinemas so that audiences would be given mild electric shocks through their chairs.
The Tingler (1959) Original US
Jock Hinchcliff’s kitsch British poster for The Fly used a gimmick that offered cinemagoers the chance to win money if they could prove its premise was impossible.
Likewise, Jock Hinchcliff’s kitsch British poster for The Fly used a gimmick that offered cinemagoers the chance to win £100 (the equivalent of more than £1500 today) if they could prove its premise was impossible. Aside from the monetary incentive, the ‘prove it can’t happen’ tagline also played on public anxiety about the recent discovery of the structure of DNA, which made a mutant fly a more credible scientific possibility and encouraged the idea that there was a real threat of existing species being altered by scientific experiments or nuclear radiation.
onesheet Main Attraction
AfricAn / nigeriAn AmericAn â€“ Hollywood AmericAn â€“ independent ArAb AustrAlAsiAn directory of britisH cAnAdiAn cHinese eAst europeAn frencH germAn irAniAn indiAn itAliAn JApAnese www . worldcinemadirectory. org russiAn swedisH turkisH spAnisH / portuguese soutH AmericAn / brAziliAn New restq of tHe (including Download the free world volume Directory of World Cimema: Japan isrAel, koreA, denmArk, finlAnd, norwAy And icelAnd,
The Directory of World Cinema aims to bring a new dimension to the academic study of film. The directory is intended to play a part in the
distribution of academic output, by building a forum for the study of film from a disciplined theoretical base.
House of Wax (1953) Original US
Another technique used to lure audiences back to the silver screen was 3D. In 1953, Bwana Devil, the first fulllength colour feature film shot entirely in the 3D process, was released. Audiences were entranced and the film was a sell-out success, grossing over $1.3 million in the first month of general release. This sparked the early-1950s boom in 3D features.
Visit the website where you can:
Proof positive Just a few months later, Warner Brothers released House of Wax and billed it as the first major studio 3D film. The American billboard poster was the perfect size to fully exploit the promotion of this new technology. [tbp]
www.reelposter.com [film ] Bwana Dvil (1953) [film ] Josh Hinchcliff
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opposite the early days of 3d cinema / below feeling the force / right old school scares
looking again: 3-D tchnology
Terror Vision The recent resurgence in 3-D means it’s time to reappraise just what the format adds to the cinematic experience. Emma Simmonds argues that only the horror genre successfully exploits the technology’s potential, by putting it brazenly centre stage. ➜
Like that old pest Jason Voorhees rising inexplicably but predictably from his latest demise, 3-D is back. 2009 brought with it a slew of high profile 3-D releases, amongst them: animated features Up and Coraline; family-friendly spectacle Journey to the Center of the Earth; James Cameron’s long-awaited Avatar and horror flicks The Final Destination and My Bloody Valentine. Whether this is the format of the future or merely another flight of spectacular cinematic whimsy is still very much up for debate. Yet, a more apposite question may be whether it was worth making many of these movies stereoscopic at all. Is the extra layer of artifice – epitomized by its
Whether this is the format of the future or merely another flight of spectacular cinematic whimsy is still very much up for debate.
continued dependence on the gawkish glasses – too high a price to pay for effects that frequently achieve only a limited impact? 3-D as a spectacle demands to be noticed and it’s something of a bore when it’s not. However, for most films, repeatedly drawing attention to the wizardry is contrived and distracting, siphoning attention from the narrative. The horror genre alone has the advantage of being uniquely and unashamedly manipulative, so can play up the trickery as another weapon in its arsenal. Friday 13th Part III (1982) is a landmark example of this. Its consistently inventive, sometimes frightening but often witty use of 3-D is a powerful contrast to its general God-awfulness, with characters conspicuously holding objects up to the screen for our dastardly delectation. It’s an arch approach but one that’s entirely appropriate for a franchise horror movie. In addition, the act of being terrorized – the heightened, rapt immersion associated with being held in nail-nibbling suspense – significantly distracts from the cumbersome eyewear and often imperfect effects. As demonstrated by Friday 13th Part III, it is easy to excuse films of this ilk any manner of other failings provided they succeed in their bare bones remit to create tension and frights; the skilful cultivation of such an intense and diverting experience can temper the detrimental impact of a multitude of inadequacies.
widescreen 3-D technology left pixar does it again: Up below making moves down under: journey to the center of the earth
©disney/pixar all rights reserved
Purely in terms of visceral impact, can the three-dimensional rendering of a house buoyed by hundreds of colourful balloons in Up really compare with the moment when a pickaxe comes haring toward the audience in My Bloody Valentine 3D? Ultimately, the revitalization of 3-D is less a way to further immerse ourselves in animated wonderlands and more an opportunity to inspire shock and awe in seasoned, inured punters...
left in the cut: the final destination
3-D’s ‘in-your-face’ technology has the capacity to enhance – rather than distract from – a horror film’s sinister surprises (usually only fleetingly glimpsed and therefore not subjected to tremendous scrutiny) with effects that appear to smash through the fourth wall. In the guise of a threat, such effects can meaningfully erode the line between the big screen and the audience’s space, ratcheting up the fear factor as audiences are fooled into dodging images that seem to leap off the screen. Purely in terms of visceral impact, can the threedimensional rendering of a house buoyed by hundreds of colourful balloons in Up really compare with the moment when a pickaxe comes haring toward the audience in My Bloody Valentine 3D? What other type of movie can use the extra dimension to prompt a thrilling physical reaction? To paraphrase the advertising campaign for The Last House on the Left, how do we keep telling ourselves it’s only a movie when the skilful utilization of 3-D can conjure such convincing assaults? While all this may be true of the big screen experience, however, the experience for those viewing at home still trails limply behind. The modern polarization technique avoids much of the discolouration and ghosting associated with the earlier versions of 3-D technology, but the familiar headacheinducing anaglyph system, viewed in conjunction with the poxy coloured-lens glasses, is the only technology that our beloved telly-boxes will currently support. So, anyone who found themselves in thrall to the macabre manipulations of, say, My Bloody Valentine 3D will – on purchasing the DVD version – find the impact sadly diminished. But fear not couch potatoes: significant developments in home entertainment are imminent, with Sony planning to start selling 3-D Ready TV ➜
Robot Monster (1953) / House of Wax (1953) / Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) february 2010
widescreen 3-D technology below breaking the 4th wall: avatar bottom an audience watches u2 in 3d
18 TO 28 FEBRUARY 2010
©twentieth century fox all rights reserved
sets in 2010 and Sky launching a 3-D channel the same year. Both will use versions of the polarized system that so successfully terrorizes cinemagoers. For now, though, and until such advances become commonplace and affordable, the disparity between the cinematic and televisual impact of 3-D gives us yet another reason to keep heading to the pictures. Ultimately, the revitalization of 3-D is less a way to further immerse ourselves in animated wonderlands and more an opportunity to inspire shock and awe in seasoned, inured punters after the most depraved depths have been plundered. It’s an undeniably bombastic, knuckle-headed approach, but it’s a bona fide hoot and, for a franchise film like The Final Destination or a remake like My Bloody Valentine, it’s a new lease of life – as these are the perfect, cynical vehicles for such crass, but fun, exploitation. [tbp]
CARY GRANT WWW.GLASGOWFILMFESTIVAL.ORG.UK/CARY
BACK★ in ★ CINEMAS
VOTE FOR THE FILM YOU’D LIKE TO SEE BACK ON THE BIG SCREEN!
The disparity between the cinematic and televisual impact of 3-D gives us yet another reason to keep heading to the pictures. alsosee...
Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein (1973) / T2 3-D: Battle Across Time (1996) / Coraline (2009)
Calamity Jane Desperately Seeking Susan Theatre of Blood Electric Dreams Sexy Beast / Zelig ✔
Find out more information at: www.thebigpicturemagazine.com
★ ★ ★
★ ★ ★
Below The Golden Voyage of Sinbad
m o m e nts that changed film forever
Beautiful Creatures Harryhausen & stop-motion photography Text by Chris Barraclough
Ray Harryhausen was in his early teens when he first saw seminal creature feature King Kong. As he watched the famous ape battle terrifying dinosaurs and ultimately wreak terrible destruction on New York City, he knew for certain that his future lay in cinema. What he didn’t know was how pioneering animator Willis O’Brien had brought a 50-foot gorilla to life. At the time of the film’s release, in 1933, only a handful of people knew O’Brien’s secret: he had used stopmotion photography, in which tiny models are painstakingly moved and shot a frame at a time. It was a technique he had first implemented eight years earlier in The Lost World and, while that film is undoubtedly still impressive, it was simply a warm up
for his work in King Kong, which successfully combined stop-motion effects with footage of real-life actors. The result bewildered even industry experts – with some exclaiming that a 50-foot tall gorilla must have actually existed. The secret of stop-motion was finally revealed to the masses by Look magazine, which featured a memorable photograph of actress Fay Wray shaking hands with an 18-inch high model of the giant gorilla. Harryhausen immediately began constructing his own models in an attempt to replicate the technique, until a chance meeting with O’Brien led to a rather bittersweet outcome. The animator took one look at Harryhausen’s attempt at a stegosaurus, and immediately proclaimed it had ‘legs like sausages’. Regardless, Harryhausen worked hard to perfect his craft and remained in constant contact with O’Brien, eventually becoming his protégé. The pair first worked together on Mighty Joe Young, another film about humans exploiting a giant gorilla that ultimately ends in tragedy. As O’Brien was overworked, Harryhausen was responsible for the majority of the film’s stopmotion animation and his efforts so impressed the Academy that the film was awarded an Oscar for Best Visual Effects in 1949. While O’Brien’s career floundered amid promises of projects that were never realized, Harryhausen took stop-motion as his own. Each film he worked on, from 1954’s The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms to 1981’s Clash of the Titans, pushed the technology further and further to produce evermore startling effects. Beast had a budget of just £200,000 – a pittance by modern standards even after inflation – and yet still delivered a horrific and enormous humanoid dinosaur destroying huge cities and an entire theme park. Harryhausen used his experience to develop a revolutionary method of
splicing creature effects and real-life actors: effectively sandwiching the stop-motion reel between other footage. This integration soon became practically seamless, as shown in 1963’s Jason and the Argonauts, in which the titular hero famously, and convincingly, battles a horde of skeletons in a four-minute sequence that took four months to produce. Harryhausen’s creatures – for we don’t call them monsters – remain amongst the most lifelike and expressive ever conceived, even compared to their modern day computergenerated equivalents. To create such convincing beasts, he invested a lot of time getting beneath their skin. For Mighty Joe Young, he confessed that ‘I even went so far as to eat celery and carrots in my tea break’. Many of his creatures were sympathetic characters, provoked into
Harryhausen used his experience to develop a revolutionary method of splicing creature effects and reallife actors.
their destructive assaults by careless experiments or greedy humans keen to exploit them: the Rhedosaurus that emerged from the ocean in 20,000 Fathoms was awakened by nuclear testing; just as 20 Million Miles to Earth’s Ymir was torn from its habitat at the start of the film and immediately set upon by a dumbfounded nation. Indeed, the Ymir exhibits a wonderful display of emotion when – after killing an enraged elephant – it takes a lingering look at the animal’s corpse, and then guiltily slinks away. Although Harryhausen was a master at invoking feelings from lumps of plasticine, he also created spectacular set pieces that amazed audiences. From the Rhedosaurus’ rampage along North America’s east coast, to Clash of the Titans’ climactic battle against the ferocious Kraken, the action ➜
Below The master at work: the Kraken from Clash of the Titans
Mighty Joe Young (1949) / The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1954) february 2010
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Above special effects ‘stripped to the bone’: jason and the argonauts
scenes in his films are as good as anything in the biggest Hollywood blockbusters. Even more impressive is the way Harryhausen integrated real-life locales into his films. Clearly inspired by King Kong’s New York assault, he went on to devastate major global cities from Washington DC to Rome. The destruction of the Washington Monument in Earth vs. The Flying Saucers was a personal highlight – one that required a full model reconstruction of the mighty structure. Meticulous stop-motion was used to show the collapse of every piece of debris as the alien craft bulldozed the monument, with Harryhausen going so far as to paint each individual wire out of the picture before he took a shot. The great animator finally retired in the 1980s, after working on almost 20 films.
Harryhausen’s creatures – for we don’t call them monsters – remain amongst the most lifelike and expressive ever conceived, even compared to modern day computer-generated standards. ‘In the 1950s, we were the only ones doing fantasy,’ he said in a later interview. ‘Now there are so many companies, everything’s been done. There reaches a point where you can’t see yourself spending another year of your life in a darkened room, twisting little models around. But I still love the work and I miss it sometimes.’ Although he’s no longer making movies, Harryhausen’s influence on the art can still be
seen. Industry giants such as Peter Jackson and Tim Burton may never have even picked up a camera were it not for his work, and his devotion to stop-motion photography has inspired scores of directors to adopt the same techniques. Burton had huge hits with The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride, while Wes Anderson turned to stop-motion for his latest effort, Fantastic Mr Fox. Harryhausen kept the practice alive, and, in the process, gave us the most memorable collection of creatures ever seen on the silver screen. In fact, his menagerie has only ever been upstaged once – by Raquel Welch’s infamous cavewoman costume in One Million Years B.C. [tbp] A remake of Clash of the Titans is due out in cinemas March 26th, 2010
20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) / Earth vs. The Flying Saucers (1956) / Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
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Natural movie locations don’t come more spectacular than America’s Monument Valley, a seemingly endless backdrop that has inspired many a dusty western. Nicholas Page takes a look at some of this famous valley’s appearances on film.
The Searchers (1956) Dir. John Ford USA, 119 minutes Starring John Wayne, Vera Miles, Jeffrey Hunter Often seen as a revisionist take on the western genre, The Searchers core themes include inherent racism and fear of miscegenation. These aspects are dealt with in an obvious, yet somewhat tentative fashion, by John Ford, and are upheld in the views of his flawed protagonist, Ethan Edwards (Wayne). The surly Ethan, fuelled by his hatred for all things Native American, leads a band of searchers across southern America looking for his nieces, who have been captured by Comanche raiders.
Stagecoach (1939) Dir. John Ford USA, 96 minutes Starring John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Andy Devine John Ford’s Stagecoach may have taken up a fairly unassuming position in the archives of the western genre, but its importance as a template for things to come is well documented: as is its position as the movie that launched the career of John Wayne – one of Hollywood’s biggest icons. The film, which sees Wayne playing a fugitive named the ‘Ringo Kid’ as he helps protect a stagecoach against an Apache attack, was not only the first sound western that Ford made but also his first feature to be shot in Monument Valley.
above looking for salvation: the searchers right sweeping statements: stagecoach
onlocation Monument Valley
My Darling Clementine (1946) Dir. John Ford USA, 97 minutes Starring Henry Fonda, Walter Brennan, Linda Darnell
An extremely loose take on the legend of the O.K. Corral shoot-out, John Fordâ€™s My Darling Clementine follows former lawman Wyatt Earp (Henry Fonda) as he comes out of retirement to capture the notorious Clanton clan, simultaneously ridding the small town of Tombstone of its blight and avenging the death of his younger brother, James. In his quest for justice, Wyatt encounters many shady characters, as well as a beautiful young lady named Clementine.
The film, which was nominated for two Academy Awards, is an extraordinary encapsulation of American counterculture in the 1960s. left henry fonda rides high in my darling clementine above chasing the american dream: easy rider
Easy Rider (1969) Dir. Dennis Hopper USA, 95 minutes Starring Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson Contrary to what this article may imply, not all films shot, or set, in Monument Valley are westerns. Dennis Hopperâ€™s Easy Rider, a 1969 road movie that follows two hippie motorcyclists (played by Hopper and Peter Fonda) as they make their way across America to Mardi Gras, features the location somewhat briefly as part of the passing landscape. The film, which was nominated for two Academy Awards, is an extraordinary encapsulation of American counter-culture in the 1960s.
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) / Three Amigos! (1986) / Thelma & Louise (1991) february 2010
• screengem •
Medusa’s Head Continuing our look at memorable objects in film, this issue’s choice was quite simply too much to look at. Words by Chris Barraclough
left Harry Hamlin makes a killing in Clash of the Titans (1981)
Medusa’s most memorable celluloid appearance came courtesy of Ray Harryhausen in his 1981 swansong, Clash of the Titans, when the hero, Perseus, finds himself hunting the grotesque gorgon so he can use her powers to destroy the Kraken. The eventual confrontation in her lair is both tense and terrifying, and made all the more unbearable by the soundtrack that quickly builds from stony silence to crashing cacophony. Perseus finally betters Medusa by decapitating her and his prize is her severed head – a trophy as deadly as it is grisly. Harryhausen always maintained that he never made horror films, but he could certainly conjure up horrifying moments when needed. Once you’ve seen that head, the image remains forever burned in your brain: a mess of snakes for hair and eyes so fierce that they glow green – the same colour as the disgustingly scaly skin. Even worse are the teeth, a set of razor-sharp incisors that could bite through steel cables or even a stale Jaffa Cake. The moment that Perseus victoriously holds the head aloft is undeniably rousing, but it’s a relief when that hideous visage is finally concealed within a cloth bag. Medusa’s head somehow retains its destructive power despite being separated from her body, as if it’s an individual, living entity. While universally recognized as a symbol of potency as well as rage, her appearance in Clash of the Titans has to be her crowning glory. Take one last, lingering look at that face, then turn the page – the next time you’ll see her will be in your nightmares. [tbp]
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partingshot left The invisible man (1933)
i m i tat i o n i s t h e s i n c e r e s t f o r m o f f l at t e ry
Mel Gibson wasn’t film’s first man without a face. Alanna Donaldson explores how, after The Invisible Man, the fully bandaged head became a recurrent image in generations of thrillers.
James Whale’s 1933 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man was one of the great Hollywood horror films of its era and led to numerous sequels, spin-offs and spoofs. The film launched the career of Claude Rains (chosen for his distinctive, ‘intellectual’ voice), despite the fact that his face is only seen in the film’s final shot. Until that point, it is obscured by the tightly wrapped bandages the invisible man wears to give himself the appearance of substance. His completely bandaged face is a strikingly disturbing image that has been echoed in dark psychological thrillers such as Hiroshi Teshigahara’s The Face of Another (1966), Roman Polanski’s The Tenant (1976), and Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s Suture (1993). In the early days of cinema, the development of the close-up (or ‘big head’ as it was called) meant that film could dispense with the exaggerated acting style it had inherited from the theatre, and the face became the expressive surface of cinema. A film character’s face tells us who they are, but for these faceless characters who they are becomes unfathomable. Each of these films deals with the fragility of identity and each character has suffered a traumatic loss of their sense of self: a sinister implication of their bandages is that, as with the invisible man, there is no one left inside. [tbp]
A film character’s face tells us who they are, but for these faceless characters who they are becomes adam sandler and emily morton (punch drunk love) unfathomable. top The face of another (1966) / above suture (1993)
The Face of Another (1966) / Darkman (1990) / Time Crimes (2007)
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Back in Cinemas
So you’ve read about the films, now go watch ‘em!
Putting the movies back where they belong...
Dr. Strangelove (1964) Dirs. Stanley Kubrick
Avatar (2009) Dir. James Cameron
g see page 4/5
g see page 28
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) Dir. Howard Hawks
Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008) Dir. Eric Brevig
This edition of The Big Picture has been produced in partnership with Park Circus, who are committed to bringing classic films back to the big screen.
g see page 6/7
Calamity Jane (1953) Dir. David Butler g see page 8
Theatre of Blood (1973) Dir. Douglas Hickox g see page 9
Electric Dreams (1984) Dir. Steve Barron g see page 10
Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) Dir. Susan Seidelman g see page 11
Sexy Beast (2000) Dir. Jonathan Glazer g see page 12
Zelig (1983) Dir. Woody Allen g see page 13
Dreams That Money Can Buy (1947) Dir. Hans Richter g see page 14/15
My Bloody Valentine (2009) Dir. Patrick Lussier g see page 25
Up (2009) Dirs. Pete Docter / Bob Peterson g see page 26
g see page 27
The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) Dir. Gordon Hessler g see page 30
Clash of the Titans (1981) Dir. Desmond Davis g see page 32/38
Th e Searchers (1956) Dir. John Ford g see page 34
Stagecoach (1939) Dir. John Ford g see page 35
My Darling Clementine (1946) Dir. John Ford g see page 36
Easy Rider (1969) Dir. Dennis Hopper g see page 37
The Invisible Man (1933) Dir. James Whale g see page 42
The Face of Another (1966) Dir. Hiroshi Teshigahara
Have a perfect Valentine’s Day by sharing a romantic movie with your loved one. Classics such as Brief Encounter and Casablanca are back in cinemas around the country and, as a special treat this year celebrating its 20th anniversary, the ultimate rom-com Pretty Woman is screening for one day only, 14 February, at Cineworld Cinemas nationwide. The glamour continues as the magical, musical spectacular Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is being re-released from 26 February at BFI Southbank and selected cinemas.
g see page 43
Suture (1993) Dirs. Scott McGehee / David Siegel g see page 43
the big picture issue 7 available March 15th, 2010
More details of cinema screenings of these and other classic movies from the Park Circus catalogue can be accessed via: www.backincinemas.com
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Published on Jan 29, 2010
The Big Picture is the new visually-focussed free film magazine that goes beyond the borders of the screen to reveal cinema's unique power t...