Archive for April 11, 2008


Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2008 by dcairns

Like THE SILENT STAR, IN THE DUST OF THE STARS is another swinging sci-fi epic from East Germany, this time from 1976.

A Chorus Line

It plays like a sexed-up Star Trek, with decadent orgies and full frontal shower scenes. Location filming in Romania allows this sculpture park to stand in for an alien planet.


With the wild colours and “debauched” parties, there’s a hint of the Glenn Larson Buck Rogers TV show too, though this is more fun and more interesting.

The Wild Party

Say what you like about the Evil Empire, their vision of the future was at least as campy as that of Hollywood. SOLARIS might be pretty po-faced, but this stuff is delirious and dizzy. Pour yourself some Tang and kick back.

I’d like to feel optimistic about Robert Rodriguez’ proposed BARBARELLA remake, but I don’t think he has the sensibility for it. Plus, I find all his films a shadow of what they could be, assuming there’s even a worthwhile idea at play, which isn’t the case most of the time. He strikes me as the leading exponent of the “will this do?” school of film-making. I got upset — ridiculously so — at some smokestacks in the background of SIN CITY, where the smoke wasn’t moving, just hanging there like a photograph.

The I thought that a still image of smoke might be quite a nice stylisation. Then I thought that this wasn’t a nice stylisation, just cheapness and laziness, and a nice stylisation would have to feature the smoke more, rather than just flashing it by in the hopes we’d miss it.

Compare this to Roger Vadim and the original BARBARELLA — he showers largesseon the screen, in hopes some will stick. He is rightly more interested in the costumes than in the performances and dialogue. He has an army of writers involved, any one of whom could have done a better job than the team. This is how a ’60s sci-fi epic should be made! What Terry Southern (one of the six credited writers) called “a very special combination of non-talents and anti-talents,” plus of course a lot of actual talents, especially in the design department.

Is Robert Rodriguez going to hire Fenella Fielding to dub one of his major characters? No, I don’t think he is! To hell with him then.

The Incredibles

Eyes left!

No way should anybody but a European trash-hound be allowed to make BARBARELLA! Jesus Franco is still basically alive — give him a shot at a budget of millions and a green-screened CGI universe!

Quote of the Day: the gagometer

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2008 by dcairns


“The better I know the cinema, the more I realize that it is an art which it is dangerous to take too lightly, even if one is working in comedy. Consequently I become more and more serious with each film. For instance, whereas one of my first successes, SON OF PALEFACE, contained 2,857 gags at a conservative estimate, there were only 1,538 in ARTISTS AND MODELS and 743 in THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT. As for WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER?, it will have barely 50. Don’t worry, it will still be the funniest film of the year.”

~ Frank Tashlin, in a letter to Jean-Luc Godard, quoted in Godard on Godard, translated and edited by Tom Milne.

Mother's Milk

Are those figures accurate? Did Tashlin really count the gags in his scripts? Fellow animators in his cartooning days recalled him visiting silent Chaplin shorts with a little notebook to jot down the gags in, something Tashlin hotly denied, but maybe there was an anal-retentive streak in him somewhere that would account for this obsessiveness.

But as for limiting the gags in WSSRH? to “barely fifty” — by my count Tash is halfway there by the end of the credit sequence. It’s certainly one of the few films to begin with a gag before the studio logo is even off the screen (Tony Randall is seen playing all the instruments in the 20th century Fox fanfare.)

Then there’s the tricky question of what exactly is a gag and what is not? Tony Randall dressing in the outsize clothes of hulking hunk Mickey Hargitay is arguably a gag, but his Frankenstein walk once he’s wearing them, which is way funnier, is arguably just performance. Tony Randall constantly blurs this line, getting some of his funniest effects from straight lines and reactions. “Like a comic machine,” Tashlin told Peter Bogdanovitch.

Tash goes on to say ~

“There is a sacrosanct tradition in Hollywood that the producer should always take precedence over director and scriptwriter. Well, I have decided to upset this status quo by reversing the classification. If WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER? is a big success, I shall be proudest of my script, then of my direction, and last of all of having produced it.”

I think Tashlin the producer deserves more credit, as among the best things a producer can do is give freedom to the writer and director while critiquing their work, helping them to identify problems and encouraging them overcome them. I bet Tashlin the producer performed those roles admirably for Tashlin the writer and Tashlin the director.

(Thanks to Brandon for the Tony Randall image!)