Archive for June 9, 2010

Who Is Harry Keller and Why am I Saying These Terrible Things About Him?

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on June 9, 2010 by dcairns

A couple of axioms of the cinema, snapped off my TV screen.

…especially since I’ve never seen a Harry Keller film?

Well, Keller was a Universal studio director, and he was hired to direct additional scenes for Orson Welles’s TOUCH OF EVIL. These were a couple of scenes which Welles had elected not to bother shooting. The studio for some reason decided they were essential, despite the fact that Welles had been changing the script all through production. There is a class of “creative” person who dislikes surprises…

Anyhow, Keller was asked to go back and cover the “missing” stuff, and also reshoot a car scene Welles had covered on location: the rear-projected footage sticks out like a sore thumb, and it’s still in the restored version because Welles’s material is lost. Now, I don’t know for sure if it’s true, but I read somewhere that Keller was particularly asked to shoot in a “Wellesian style.” If that’s true, the above is his cinematic response to that brief. What’s known in the trade as a “flat two.”

Now, there are flat two-shots in Welles’s material. But they all develop out of, or into, more interesting compositions. Often they develop out of and into more interesting compositions. I’ve never, as I say, seen a Harry Keller film (was he perhaps related to Helen?), but I’ve seen a few frame grabs, and flat twos feature prominently. There’s nothing wrong with a flat two… except it’s about the least interesting and expressive composition known to cinema.

So, my question — has anybody seen an HK movie, and am I doing him an injustice in writing him off as a talentless hack?

Touch Of Evil (50th Anniversary Edition)