You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2008.
Warner Bros. continue their exceptional series of gangster box sets with the Warner Bros. Gangsters Collection vol. 4. This release contains 4 Edward G. Robinson titles: The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse, The Little Giant, Larceny, Inc., Kid Galahad, as well as the George Raft vehicle Invisible Stripes. Bogart, as always, features as a welcomed supporting player.
The box features the high standard of extra features we have come to expect: commentaries, documentaries, newsreels and cartoons, as well as an all-new feature-length documentary, Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film.
This really is film history in a box!
The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938)
Dr. Clitterhouse (Edward G. Robinson) is fascinated by the study of the physical and mental states of lawbreakers, so he joins a gang of jewel thieves for a closer look in this often amusing crime drama. Claire Trevor co-stars as a savvy crime queen, and Humphrey Bogart plays Rocks Valentine, whom Dr. C. calls “a magnificent specimen of pure viciousness.” The movie also marks the start of one of film’s most noteworthy collaborations. John Huston, who was to later direct Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The African Queen, co-wrote the screenplay of The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse.
Commentary by Dr. Drew Casper and Richard Jewell
Racket Busters theatrical trailer
WB short: Night Intruder
Cinderella Meets a Fella
Count Me Out
1941 Lady Esther Screen Guild Theater Broadcast (audio only)
1944 Gulf Screen Guild Theater Broadcast (audio only)
The Little Giant (1933)
The era of the bootlegger is past but liquor runner Bugs Ahearn (Edward G. Robinson) has a plan for what he’ll do now that Prohibition is history. He decides to head for California’s posh, polo-playing Santa Barbara to become part of the high society. What he finds there — swindlers, gold diggers, great fun – makes first class entertainment in this pre-Code gem. Edward G. Robinson shows his comedic chops for the first time, paving the way for such subsequent films as A Slight Case of Murder, Brother Orchid, Larceny, Inc. and more persona-skewering frolics.
Commentary by Daniel Bubbeo and John McCarty
WB short: Just Around the Corner
WB cartoon: The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon
Larceny, Inc. (1942)
Edward G. Robinson once more turns his gangster image on its head in a gleeful romp based on the Broadway farce penned by Laura Perelman and S.J. Perelman. Robinson plays Pressure Maxwell, who emerges from Sing Sing planning to run a dog track with cronies Jug (Broderick Crawford) and Weepy (Edward Brophy). But the plan needs funding, so the group (assisted by Jane Wyman) opens a luggage shop as a front while attempting to tunnel into the bank next door. Now add the store’s unexpected success, a gabby traveling valise salesman (Jack Carson) and the arrival of a sour con (Anthony Quinn) who wants in on the action, and the laughs are thick as thieves.
Commentary by Haden Guest and Dana Polan
The Big Shot theatrical trailer
WB short: Winning Your Wings
Porky’s Pastry Pirates
The Wabbit Who Came to Supper
Invisible Stripes (1939)
Parolee Chuck Martin is going straight when he gets out of jail – straight back to a life of crime. In lockup or out in the civilian world, he knows he’ll forever wear a con’s ‘Invisible Stripes.’ As Martin, Humphrey Bogart continues to battle and sneer his way to career stardom in this volatile social-conscience crime saga adapted from a book by warden Lewis E. Lawes. Top-billed George Raft plays Martin’s ex-Sing Sing yard mate Cliff Taylor, who vows to walk away from crime and be a role model for his kid brother (William Holden). But what awaits Taylor are suspicion, public disdain and joblessness. So he turns to a fellow con for help. Then, as now, he finds crime doesn’t pay.
Commentary by Alain Silver and James Ursini
You Can’t Get Away with Murder Theatrical trailer
WB short The Monroe Doctrine and Quiet, Please
Bars and Stripes Forever
Kid Galahad (1937)
This influential ring saga dramatically links professional boxing to criminal gambling. Edward G. Robinson is racketeer/fight promoter Nick Donati and tightly coiled Humphrey Bogart is Turkey Morgan. They’re rival promoters who, like fighters flinging kidney punches, end up swapping close-range bullets. Bette Davis plays the moll who has a soft spot for the bellhop (Wayne Morris) that Nick is grooming for the heavyweight title. And prolific Michael Curtiz directs this first of his six collaborations with Bogart that would include the romantic masterwork Casablanca and the sly comedy We’re No Angels.
Commentary by Art Simon and Robert Sklar
It’s Love I’m After theatrical trailer
WB Shorts: Alibi Mark and Postal Union
Egghead Rides Again
I Wanna Be a Sailor
Porky’s Super Service
Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film — Warner Home Video Documentary
As popular as these films were in their heyday, seminal giants like Little Caesar and Public Enemy as well as post-war gems like Key Largo and White Heat still hold power over their audiences today. Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film will explore the invention and development of the crime genre; the rise of Warner stars like Cagney, Bogart and Robinson; as well as directors like Walsh, Wellman and Curtiz. It will cover the films themselves and the influence they had on filmmakers all over the world; and the artistic merit that these defining classic films still warrant. Finally, the documentary will celebrate the impact that Warner Bros. Studios had in establishing the iconic Hollywood Gangster, often imitated but never equaled.
Four WB Cartoons: I Like Mountain Music, She Was an Acrobat’s Daughter, Racketeer Rabbit and Bugs and Thugs
Following on from last week’s frame which came from Bambi here is one that is perhaps a little harder.
What is the name of the film? Leave a comment and let me know… Good luck!
This Summer I went to see a Buster Keaton film outdoors at The Scoop, a kind of amphitheater alongside the Thames by Tower Bridge.
Anyone passing by could have stopped and watched The General which continued to play during the chilly night. I took these photos of the film which in some ways is quite a surreal sight: a silent playing to the city itself, and to a curious, appreciative and bewildered stream of onlookers.
Movie stars are defined by a combination of what we observe of them on-screen and our perception of them outside of the cinema. This would include photographs, articles, interviews, books, posters and merchandise. Film stars and their star images often become far removed from the films themselves. Here are three examples of movie stars as part of the contemporary city. In this case, Charlie selling a shoemaker’s, Jimmy Stewart selling Stetson hats, and John Wayne’s name selling a six-shooter.
If you have any other examples of how classical movie stars have found their way into your city, please send them to me for posting at email@example.com
All photos by Christian Hayes.
Playing over 3 days (and therefore mimicking the festival itself) The Best of the British Silent Film Festival brings together a hand-picked selection of films screened since the festival began in 1998. The festival was sparked by growing concern over the lacklustre worldwide interest in British silent film.
As an attendant of the festival earlier this year, I can tell you that the films shown were a revelation. Varied in their style and scope, an entirely refreshed perspective on cinema can be gleaned from a festival such as this. It proves that British silent cinema is as vital and fascinating as any other.
I would particularly recommend the enthralling presentation on the Olympic Games, presented by Luke McKernan who also runs the definitive blog on silent film: The Bioscope.
I will certainly be attending The Battle of the Somme, The Lure of Crooning Water and Triumph of the Rat. But I also hope to revisit the crime movies I saw earlier this year which will be re-screened. In fact I hope to take all three days in. See you there!
Today I am starting up a new series. Every week I will post a frame from a film and hopefully this will encourage readers to take a closer look at an image that would usually pass us by without us thinking. Also I would like all you brainy readers to tell me which film the frame came from. Maybe in the future there will be a prize to whoever guesses first, but for now it’s just a case of entering into the spirit of competition and one-upmanship which film lovers know so well.
I will start with an easy one and a dash of colour:
It turns out that another Bogart movie is heading for a Blu-Ray release: Beat the Devil is slated for the High Definition platform. This is particularly interesting since Beat the Devil has always looked terrible on DVD. As an independent production it eventually fell into the public domain. This resulted in poorly produced DVDs from terrible prints. A motley crew of international thieves get together for a complex scheme, and the ramshackle nature of the plot makes the film quite difficult to follow. Featuring such John Huston regulars such as Peter Lorre and Robert Morley, this was one of six collaborations between Huston and Bogart. While the film often struggles to make sense there are some striking close-ups of Bogart’s particularly haggard face and thinning hair.
I’d be surprised if the film has been remastered but if it ever did receive a full restoration, it could indeed turn out to be a revelation?
Warner Brothers has announced a forthcoming edition of Casablanca on Blu-Ray to be released on 2nd December 2008. The ‘Ultimate Collector’s Edition’ will feature a host of extra features but what is most exciting about this release is of course the High Definition print itself. This will not actually be the first time that the film has been released in High Definition. It received spectacular reviews when it was released on the now (suddenly) obsolete HD-DVD format. Let’s hope the Blu-Ray edition at least matches this previous print and if we’re lucky it could possibly surpass it.
It is interesting how legacy title such as Casablanca continue to make money for studios such as Warner Bros. When films were released during the 20s and 30s it was not conceivable that these films could have a life beyond their initial release. At which point did studios suddenly understand that their giant back catalogues could actually continue to work for them? Did this occur during the late 1970s with the dawn of video or was it earlier?
It wouldn’t surprise me if many of you not only have video and DVD copies of the same film, but have even paid to see them in the cinema several times.
The following are the extras slated for the Blu-Ray release:
• Behind the Story
◦ Introduction by Lauren Bacall
◦ Commentary by film critic Roger Ebert
◦ Commentary by film historian/author Rudy Behlmer
◦ 1988 TCM special: Bacall on Bogart [Laurel Bacall's candid and moving reminiscences about her husband's life and career]
◦ You Must Remember This: A Tribute to Casablanca [Bacall hosts this spellbinding backstage tour]
◦ As Time Goes By: The Children Remember [Stephen Bogart and Pia Lindstrom remember their parents, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman]
◦ Production history gallery
• Additional Footage
◦ Deleted scenes
◦ Who Holds Tomorrow? Premiere episode from the 1955 Warner Bros. Presents series, starring Charles McGraw
◦ 1995 WB Cartoon: Carrotblanca
◦ Scoring Stage Sessions
◦ Knock on Wood Alternate Version, Wilson with Piano
◦ As Time Goes By Part One Alternate Take, Wilson with Piano
◦ As Time Goes By Part One Film Version, Wilson with Piano
◦ Rick Sees Ilsa Instrumental Medley
◦ As Time Goes By Part Two Alternate Take, Wilson with Piano
◦ As Time Goes By Part Two Film Version, Wilson with Piano
◦ At La Belle Aurore Instrumental Medley
◦ Dat’s What Noah Done Outtake, Wilson with Piano
◦ April 26,1943 Screen Guild Players Radio Broadcast
◦ Theatrical trailer
◦ 1992 re-release trailer
◦ 1993 documentary: Jack L. Warner: The Last Mogul
On the 21st of July 2007 I was lucky enough to get my hands on a piece of movie memorabilia estimated at £90,000. What it actually signified in terms of cinema history is much harder to quantify. It was part of a pre-auction exhibition at Christie’s in London, and it was the camera on the podium that was the prized piece.
This Bell & Howell 2709 belonged to Charlie Chaplin and was used on films from Shoulder Arms in 1918 and into the 1920s. This camera then would have therefore been involved in such films as The Kid (1921) and The Gold Rush (1925). These very lenses were witness to scenes that have become so embedded into our consciousness (even if you haven’t actually seen them), it’s quite difficult to imagine that these classics ever had to be made at all.
I was lucky enough to look through the very eyepiece Chaplin would have looked through to judge a scene. I also had a chance to crank the handle itself. I would describe it as having a steady, fluid motion about it which was surprisingly compelling.
I recently got rid of a lot of videotapes, weeding out the ones that I either didn’t watch or didn’t much care for. The reason for this was an increasing lack of space. Once the shelves were full, they suddenly overflowed until books, tapes and discs began to overtake the room. It was becoming hard to find somewhere to sit, or indeed to open the door when I returned home. This eventually began to really frustrate me. The tapes were sitting there, untouched, gathering dust and taking up space.
Now I am positive that this is something that all movie lovers have to struggle with: an obsessive desire to collect. Have you ever felt somewhat dazed and out of breath when in a DVD or bookshop? Ever wandered around like a somnambulist, piling up objects in your arms until you somehow find yourself outside the shop in the rain holding two bags of stuff with a really empty wallet? I know I have.
Getting rid of the tapes really put this obsession with collecting in perspective. I felt like a weight had lifted once I handed them into the charity shop. And as time went by I realised even more that I didn’t need those tapes, that they were not essential to my life. Since then I have not been buying very much. Instead I take note of what I already own and what I have yet to watch. Why buy another box set when I have several still to get through?
Why do film lovers in particular have this desire? Partly I think it’s because we feel we have to ‘own’ the film. By having a copy of it, the film belongs to us, is not fade from memory, and is available to be watched 24/7. Except we do not watch 24/7. The likelihood is that DVDs will be watched once and never again. When I was younger I would watch and re-watch and I do my best to revisit my favourites now, but that drive to push on, to keep watching and see more takes over. Certainly some people can get very depressed dwelling on how to fit all these hours of moving pictures into a lifetime. We ultimately devise an instinct as to the types of films we will enjoy over films we feel we do not have time for.
We also collect in other ways. The watching of another film is an extra notch on a kind of mental collection stored in our heads. Asked a movie question we can flick through that collection in an instant, no videos required. A movie collection of course branches out beyond the films themselves, but quickly spirals out to books, merchandise, posters, autographs and even ticket stubs. If you’re a more serious collector you may have 16mm or even 35mm prints of films stored in a temperature-controlled cellar.
It is also about a lack of time, and ultimately time management. If a job takes up your day and you only have time to watch in the evening, how do you manage this? Do you watch a film a night? What about other responsibilities? Of course at the end of the day you may be exhausted and not have the energy to watch for 120 minutes. I sometimes watch films like books, a section at a time before I get through the film. And onto the next one. But then what about reading? Do you find yourself only reading on the way to work? And then when do you find time to write?
My advice would be: work through the titles you already own before ordering yet another box set.
Okay, well, I say this and I promise I was doing so well myself, but I have to admit that I had a serious relapse this weekend. I found myself wandering about London with carrier bags full of videotapes. That’s right, not DVDs, but VHS tapes.
I found myself in a London film shop where they were getting rid of old out-of-print video stock. These were seriously rare titles that in their day would have sold for £20 each. There were many great titles in there but it was the silents I was most interested in. I had not seen them released elsewhere and I thought this may be my only chance to see them for quite some time. I knew in particular that the 10-video set of early Russian cinema was particularly valuable. So I got out my wallet and walked out with a small archive. Now I’ve just got to blow the dust off my old VCR and try and get it hooked up again.
For those interested in which films I felt were that essential, they were the following:
1. Early Russian Cinema, vol. 1: Beginnings
2. Early Russian Cinema, vol. 2: Folklore and Legend
3. Early Russian Cinema, vol. 3: Starewicz’s Fantasies
4. Early Russian Cinema, vol. 4: Provincial Variations
5. Early Russian Cinema, vol. 5: Chardynin’s Pushkin
6. Early Russian Cinema, vol. 6: Class Distinctions
7. Early Russian Cinema, vol. 9: High Society
8. Early Russian Cinema, vol. 19: The End of an Era
[for more info on the Early Russian Cinema series, click here]
9. Chess Fever (USSR, 1925), dir: Vsevolod Pudovkin and Nikolai Shipovsky
10. The Whispering Chorus (USA, 1918), dir: Cecil B. DeMille
11. The Chess Player (France, 1926), dir: Raymond Bernand
12. Windsor McCay: Animation Legend (USA, 1911-1921), dir: Windsor McCay