Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Jul 19th   

(Ita 1913 - released 1914)

In the 3rd century BC, nobleman's daughter Cabiria is presumed dead after the eruption of Mount Etna, but is abducted and taken to the city of Carthage and eventually rescued by two Roman spies.
The cinema's first historical epic; after the first progressive few years of semi-mythical or Biblical stories, the Italian makers pull out all the stops in a lavish spectacular (that originally ran to over 3 hours, then a gargantuan length for a film.) What remains is still outstanding in its design and compellingly made, with enough emotional context in site of the epic narrative (the title character only makes occasional appearances in the story) and, thanks to respectful restorations, well preserved. As an epic it became the blueprint that America and others were soon to adopt.

Written by: Gabriele d'Annuzio, Giovanni Pastrone.
Producer/Director: Giovanni Pastrone.
Starring (in no particular order): Umberto Mozzato, Barolomeo Pagano, Lidia Quaranta (as Cabiria), Carolina Catena (Cabiria as a girl), Gina Marangoni, Italia Almorante-Manzini, Dante Testa, Enrico Gemelli (as Archimedes), Raffaele di Napoli, and others.
Photography: Augusta Battagliotti, Eugenio Bava, Natale Chiusano, Segundo de Chomon, Carlo Franzeri, Giovanni Tonatis.

Music: Manlio Mazza (performed by Jacques Gauthier).

CABIRIA. The spectacular entrance to the Temple of Moloch in Carthage.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Jul 16th
Attack the Block*

(GB/Fra 2011)

South London teenage street gangs confront an alien invasion after one of them has killed the female.
Unpleasant but undeniably stylised and starkly well photographed nightbound street drama sci-fi, with an underlying element of tongue-in-cheek.

Written and Directed by: Joe Cornish.
Producers: Nira Park, James Wilson.
Starring: John Boyega (whose acting career began here), Jodie Whittaker, Nick Frost, Jurmayn Hunter, Alex Esmail, Franz Dremah, Leeon Jones, Simon Howard, Luke Treadaway.
Photography: Tom Townend.
Music: Basement Jaxx, Steven Price.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Jul 14th  
Fantomas: In the Shadow of the Guillotine*
(Fra 1913)  

The stealing of a princess's valuable necklace and the escape from execution at the guillotine are the work of a cunning gentleman thief known as Fantomas.
Drawn-out as a detective thriller narrative with most of the plot twists telegraphed, but given the context for its time a thrilling mystery which proved a big smash in France, and was also the first of a serial.

Written and Directed by: Louis Feuillade, based on stories by Marcel Allain, Pierre Souvestre.
Producer: Romeo Bosetti.
Starring: Rene Navarre, Edmund Brecon, Renee Carl, Georges Melchior.
Photography: Georges Guerin.

Preceded by:
The Musketeers of Pig Alley**
(US 1912. 17m. bw. silent; A musician has his money stolen by gangsters, but they make it up to him when he retrieves the money and bales them out at the end of a gang fight. The first "gangster" film, so called, but more a characteristic Griffith melodrama with his emerging and exciting new dramatic style.; w: D.W. Griffith, Anita Loos; d: D.W. Griffith; s: Lillian Gish, Walter Miller, Elmer Booth, Alfred Paget, Harry Carey.)

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Jul 9th
The Strawberry Blonde** (U)
(National Film Theatre)

(US 1941)

A down-on-his-luck aspiring dentist loses out on the local beauty to his conniving friend and marries a headstrong nurse instead, but comes to realise in time that this wasn't such a bad thing after all.
Simple and charming evocation of turn of the 20th century New York (with the title derived from a hit song of the period), a romantic comedy vehicle for James Cagney - a genre that doesn't sit perfectly for him, but still with some characteristic tough guy flourishes, and generally a pleasing entertainment. Screened at the NFT in celebration of recent centenarian Olivia de Havilland.

Written by: Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, based on the play "One Sunday Afternoon" by James Hagan.
Producers: Hal B. Wallis, William Cagney.
Director: Raoul Walsh.
Starring: James Cagney, Olivia de Havilland, Rita Hayworth, Jack Carson, Alan Hale, George Tobias, Una O'Connor, George Reeves.
Photography: James Wong Hoe.
Music: Heinz Roemheld.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Jul 5th  

(GB 1974)                  

Memories of a Suffolk farmer on the day of his funeral while his grandson considers leaving the village and the old way of life.
Beautifully arable drama documentary with the director deliberately using non-actors to capture the native Suffolk tongue; plodding as drama, but also quite moving in its depiction of a fading era.

Written by: Ronald Blythe, from his novel.
Producers: Rex Pyke, Peter Hall.
Director: Peter Hall.
Starring: Garrow Shand, Peggy Cole, Barbara Tilney, voice of Peter Tuddenham; and others.
Photography: Ivan Strasberg, John Metcalfe, Peter Ormrod.
Music: Michael Tippett.
Art Direction: Ian Whittaker, Roger Christian.

+ Peter Hall on Akenfield

Preceded by:
The Defence of Sevastopol**
(Russia 1911. 38m(original running time 100m). bw. silent; Extracts still remaining from one of the first feature length, and probably the first semi-propaganda documentary epic reconstructing one of the major battles of the Crimean War, with static cameras and staged battles in long shot, but paving the way for the likes of Griffith, Eisenstein and others, with a touching postscript where the veterans of all sides stand before the camera.; w, d: Alexandr Khanzhankov, Vasily Goncharov.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Jun 28th
The Abominable Dr. Phibes**

(GB 1971)

A disfigured magician executes a macabre revenge on the surgeons who failed to save his wife.
Slow and nasty in places but with a commendable abundance of art deco style, in this above average black comedy horror, sparse on dialogue almost to the extent of being a pastiche silent film.

Written by: William Goldstein, James Whitton.
Producers: Ronald S. Dunas, Louis M. Heyward.
Director: Robert Fuest.
Starring: Vincent Price, Joseph Cotten, Virginia North, Peter Jeffrey, Terry-Thomas, Hugh Griffith, Norman Jones, Derek Godfrey, Peter Gilmore, John Laurie, Caroline Munro.
Photography: Norman Warwick.
Music: Basil Kirchin.
Art Direction: Bernard Reeves.

+ sequel: Dr. Phibes Rises Again

THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES. Everything about this film summed up in a single still - beautiful art deco design and macabre horror, with Vincent Price in his element (note the detail of a telephone dial to the right of the Wurlitzer organ).

Preceded by:
(US 1910. Edison. 16m. bw. silent; Fading original trick film version of Shelley's novel, not without poignancy and points of interest.; d: J. Searle Dawley; s: Augustus Phillips, Charles Ogle, Mary Fuller.)

FRANKENSTEIN (1910). Charles Ogle as the creature, in a make-up designed by himself.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Jun 26th
Deadlier Than the Male

(GB 1966)                        

Insurance investigator Hugh Drummond hunts down a criminal mastermind who is using beautiful female assassins to kill rivals.
Absurdly oversexed Bulldog Drummond for the James Bond era, where the central character fights to get himself noticed amid all the high camp. Enjoyable enough as a trashy Swinging Sixties kaleidoscope.

Written by: Jimmy Sangster, David Osborn, Liz Charles Williams.
Producer: Betty E. Box.
Director: Ralph Thomas.
Starring: Richard Johnson, Elke Sommer, Sylva Koscina, Nigel Green, Laurence Naismith, Suzanna Keigh, Zia Mohyeddin, Steve Carlson, Leonard Rossiter, Milton Reid.
Photography: Ernest Steward.
Music: Malcolm Lockyer (title song sung by the Walker Brothers).
Production Design: Alex Vetchinsky.

Preceded by:
Rescued from an Eagle's Nest*
(US 1908. 6m. bw. silent; d: J. Searle Dawley; s: D.W. Griffith, Henry B. Walthall; ph: Edwin S. Porter.)

Midsummer Night's Dream*
(US 1909. 11m. bw. silent; Sparse but charmingly inventine incidental version of some scenes from Shakespeare's play.; d: Charles Kent, J. Stewart Blackton.)

RESCUED FROM AN EAGLE'S NEST (1908). A rare on-screen role for David Wark Griffith, before he soon became much more famous behind the camera.