“…an area the size of Belgium…”

From NURSE EDITH CAVELL. Dull film — director Herbert Wilcox shows little of the panache of his sado-psycho-romance THE SEVENTH VEIL, except during a few scenes of peril late in the proceedings, and prefers to shoot the action from as far away as possible — but notable for being the RKO release (from 1939) which supplied CITIZEN KANE with the theme for its fictional “News on the March” newsreel. I always assumed that was a spoof score by KANE’s composer, Bernard Herrmann, but it turns out to be another example of the cost-cutting that led to footage from SON OF KONG being recycled in the Welles masterpiece (I have since disproved this).

“No, not Binche! And they were just going to get a public library…”

In NURSE E, the theme basically stands as the Belgian national anthem, and maybe it is. I must ask my Belgian friend to hum the national a. of her country. Who knows, maybe generations of Belgians have been laughing at CITIZEN KANE (or saluting it?) behind our backs.

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27 Responses to ““…an area the size of Belgium…””

  1. Combustibillion Says:

    I liked how you started the movie review by calling it dull and then explaining why. Most reviews start off listing the cons and pros then make a decision. No, you cut right to the chase.

    I’m a little confused about the Citizen Kane music and how it’s related to the Belgium theme. Does CK have a messed up version of their anthem in News On the March?

  2. With apologies to Combustibillion, and to you too David, I just want to go off-topic for a minute to share this segment from today’s New York Times. Every Tuesday they have a write-up on newly released DVDs. Under CRITIC’S CHOICE-NEW DVDS: Notable DVDs of 2008, Dave Kehr writes…

    DVDs are the primary force keeping film history alive… It’s now time for Paramount and Universal to step up to the plate. Although both studios have produced isolated efforts of outstanding quality, they haven’t really explored the richness of their holdings. The Universal library in particular (which includes some 700 pre-1949 Paramount films acquired in the late ’50s) remains a maddeningly untapped source.

    Let’s hope someone of influence is reading this. After all, it is the New York Times. And hopefully someone will get off their ass (or asses) and make things happen. Just because the profit margin isn’t as high as say The Dark Knight released in five different editions, this doesn’t mean that those of us who are dying to see films we only get to read about should be ignored.

  3. You don’t understand… those studios love and respect their catalog holdings TOO much to release all their titles on DVD. They’ve spent the last decade painstakingly making beautiful high-definition video transfers of every film in preparation for blu-ray release in 2009 and 2010.

    Of course I’m lying, but I love how Shadowplay’s comments section is a general home for movie news, obituary links and discussion of who’s gay in the film world (Terence Davies, as I just found out). It’s replaced all my fizzled-out film email lists.

  4. Terence Davies? Really??? I am shocked, sir, SHOCKED!

    Right… the Belgium theme in Nurse Edith Cavell is snipped right out and used as the March of Time theme. I don’t know whether it has anything to do with Belgium in reality, but in NEC it seems to represent that beleaguered nation.

    Actually, a more useful and entertaining review of Nurse EC would pick out all the most interesting bits and hold them up to the light, and maybe try to analyse why it overall feels flat and unengaged, but my verdict about whether it’s good or bad is really the least interesting thing I have to offer. On this occasion I just didn’t feel like doing a full critique of it.

    As to DVD release, one has to assume that the studios like Fox who ARE digging great stuff out of their libraries and making it available are not doing so as a purely philanthropic enterprise, so it would surely make sense for others to follow their example.

  5. Who’s gay? Well, I hear that that Harvey Fierstein is a little light in his loafers…

  6. You’re shaking my world to its foundations here!

  7. Link doesn’t work!

  8. Hello. I have to ask: where’s the Son Of Kong clip in Citizen Kane? This is a lovely piece of information.

  9. You know, I’m not 100%, but I assume it’s during the vast picnic with the Kanes in the everglades — there’s an animated bat flies past in the background.

  10. i”d always thought that that was from King Kong itself.

  11. According to the IMDb, you’re right!

  12. Other sources seem to disagree. I don’t have a copy of Son of Kong to check with. The material is used as rear projection footage to play in the background of original action.

  13. Second link doesn’t work!

  14. Dan North Says:

    I’ve now given myself a mission to find the common footage in Son of Kong and Kane. I imagine it can’t be much harder than fast-forwarding through SOK (probably the best way to watch it), but I may be wrong. You’ve piqued my interest, and it’ll give me a welcome distraction from the things I’m really supposed to be doing…

  15. Great! I think they only spend about 5 minutes on Skull Island in SOK. Remember, as the footage was used as rear-projection (I think), you’re not looking for a matching composition, just matching action. Finding the animated bat to compare in CK should be easy (it’s during Susan’s flashback, I guess) and then the relevant stuff in SOK must be after the half hour mark, and the movie’s only an hour…
    Report back — if you’re able to post a frame-grab, do! If not, give exact running time and we’ll see if someone else can get it.

  16. Dan North Says:

    Dammit. I went through both movies, then went back to King Kong for good measure. I found the CK clip no problem. But I’m pretty sure there is no similar shot in SOK. There is plenty of use of big black birds matted in, but mostly on the beach of skull island (i.e. not in the jungle). In the jungle sequences, I can’t find any equivalent shots, certainly none with that big bird (pterodactyl?) that flies across the backdrop in CK. I was going to post frame-grabs, but then my portable drive broke. That’s the 4th DVD drive that’s broken on me in the last two months. Almost tempted to fork out for a Mac.

    On my DVD player, the CK shot happens at 1:37:40 approx.
    You can see examples of the birds in SOK at 0:39:10 and 0:40:15, both beautiful matte painting shots on the beach of skull island.
    The shot I think comes closest to the CK one is at 0:56:25.

    Sorry I can’t come up with a positive ID. Might try again when I get my drive running again. It may be that Kane uses background footage that was made to be projected into only a small portion of a glass shot or matte painting (O’Brien sometimes used more than one rear projection at once, I believe), which could be why that bird looks unfeasibly large. Or it may have been taken from out-take footage, from Kong, Son of Kong or Creation, the aborted RKO production that became Kong. Or it might just be a myth. I hope someone else can help settle this.

  17. Hmm. Now I want to investigate further, but I don’t have SOK. It seems unlikely that film would yield outtake footage — quickly thrown together and very short, with minimal animation, it feels like all the expensive stuff is up on the screen. Kong does have one famous deleted scene, the pit sequence, but that doesn’t seem to match this.

    Also, the scene prominently features big tents, and the animated bats/pteradactyls/storks are flying IN FRONT OF the tents, so the tents are presumably present in the original material. No tents of that kind in Kong. Are there in SOK? Doesn’t seem like there would be.

    It would be tempting to conclude that this was a myth, but why have animated birds then?

  18. Oh, there’s also a little Chinese-style bridge as part of that background. NOT Skull Island, that seems almost certain.

  19. Dan North Says:

    I will solve this one. Thanks for the extra tips. I just need to take another closer look at it, perhaps on a bigger screen than this monitor. And my copy of Kane is quite old. My library has a remastered DVD that might help.

    I have the Region 1 King Kong boxset, which includes SOK and Mighty Joe Young. I think Peter Jackson supervised it, so it’s pretty lavish (though with a few too many references to certain remakes…), and there’s even a reconstruction of the pit sequence, where he got his Weta Digital animators to do hands on stop-motion stuff as a pre-production exercise, using all 1933 equipment. Quite beautifully done, and a lot more compelling than Kong 2005.

  20. Something about the pit reconstruction didn’t look right to me — I don’t believe it’s all 1933 gear. I’m not even sure you can shoot 1:1.33 on 35mm anymore. But it’s a nice idea.

    More on this topic tomorrow.

  21. [...] COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK is produced by William “News — on the March!” Alland and directed by Eugene Lourie, a duo with considerable form in the monster/sci-fi/trash [...]

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