Archive for September 22, 2009

Herr Future Director

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on September 22, 2009 by dcairns

Here’s Andre De Toth, in De Toth on De Toth, on the famous paddle-ball scene from HOUSE OF WAX ~

Andre De Toth: That shot gave me the only problem with the herd of second-guessers. They all wanted more of it; I didn’t.

Bernie Foy knew to get off the stage before the applause dies. Jack Warner saw BWANA DEVIL and the lion jumped out of the screen and unloaded in his lap and he left the show with a blinding headache. JL and Brynie understood what I was trying to avoid. Those overstated effects killed 3D. How many times can a lion crap in the poor suckers’ laps before they rebel?

Anthony Slide: But you were very good at integrating these gimmicks into the film. I’m thinking of, for example, the can-can dancers.

ADT: The properly used power of a third-dimensional film can make the audience believe they are not viewers, but are part of the scene. It was natural that they saw and felt the same derrieres of the can-can girls on their noses as the night-club customers. But not for too long. There is a big difference in concept between a ‘3D movie’ and a ‘third-dimensional film.’

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It’s too bad none of the other one-eyed directors — which is not a ‘handicap’ — made third-dimensional movies. John Ford, Fritz Lang, Raoul Walsh. They understood film, the power of lenses; they were perfectionists, demanding the best. For them, too, it would’ve been a challenge to overcome a ‘disability’ which is actually a blessing in disguise, shooting flat or 3D.

There is only one image in the camera — it’s on the negative behind the lens at the moment of exposure, and that’s the image of one eye. The director, and not a sketch artist, has to see that image before the camera is set. Remember, Herr Future Director, there is only one right angle. And be big and don’t care who comes up with it, as long as you, the director, feel it’s right. Say thanks, loud, and do it.

Help Shadowplay by buying from Amazon via our links. UK:

House Of Wax [DVD] [1953]

De Toth on De Toth: Putting the Drama in Front of the Camera (Directors on Directors)

US:

De Toth on De Toth: Putting the Drama in Front of the Camera (Directors on Directors)

TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Horror (House of Wax 1953 / The Haunting 1963 / Freaks / Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1941)

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Brained on the Range

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on September 22, 2009 by dcairns

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Old movies I have seen projected in 3D:

CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON – Jack Arnold

HOUSE OF WAX – Andre De Toth

THE MAZE – William Cameron Menzies

THE STRANGER WORE A GUN – Andre De Toth

Another 3D western (on a double bill with the above). I think it was THE NEBRASKAN.

That double feature was oddly tiresome apart from the 3D novelty. And one odd moment. DeToth’s western features a stock-footage stage-coach chase, in which the original material had been filmed “flat.” Rather than let the movie revert to 2D for the duration, a bunch of boulders and cacti had been shot in 3D and then matted on top of the flat footage. When the camera panned, a boulder would glide through frame. When the camera trucked alongside the speeding coach, 3D sagebrush and cacti whooshed in between.

Since this was all done in the years before either motion control camera or computer compositing, the effects were necessarily approximate, so that the speed of the boulders and vegetation did not always match the rate of camera movement, giving the whole thing a surreal effect above and beyond that of the usual 3D dislocation.

And then in THE NEBRASKAN (if that’s what it was), another stock footage chase appeared (again, the characters suddenly find themselves in a totally different landscape for the chase) and again the filmmakers attempted to turn 2D to 3D with superimposed foreground action — the same foreground action photographed for the De Toth film). But these shots did not match any of the new footage in the new film, so we had boulders panning majestically through the foreground of static shots, cacti scudding past during slow pans, and if my memory does not deceive me, peculiar magical cacti and boulders that would move across the screen like ocean liners across several cuts, somehow maintaining their physical integrity as the universe jumped about around them.

(Ralph Bakshsi’s part-animated COOL WORLD is similarly tainted with strange moments when bits of left-over animation run randomly across the screen, out-of-scale characters who disappear behind invisible obstructions, a truly strange bit of stoned amateurishness. Who is responsible?)

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While THE NEBRASKAN, following hard on the heels of a somewhat stolid Randolph Scott oater (whose neglect in favour of De Toth’s more lurid and dynamic HOUSE OF WAX was entirely understandable), was almost unbearably dull to sit through (the usual Film Forum snorers and chatterers almost a welcome distraction), I would be almost tempted to revisit it for the sake of that psychotronic dream chase.

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HONDO: never seen it, but it would be worth it just to shelter in the shade of the Duke’s mighty brim.

A 3D Couplet

Posted in FILM with tags , , on September 22, 2009 by dcairns

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Robert Stack /

Has a monkey on his back.

(Of course, being as this is from Arch Oboler’s BWANA DEVIL, the first 3D feature, he could at any instant find himself with a lion in his lap also.)