Archive for July, 2019


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on July 31, 2019 by dcairns

I picked up John Brosnan’s book on special effects, Movie Magic, which seems to have been staring at me from various shelves for all my life, after finding it in a charity shop. Obviously, a book on VFX written before the advent of digital cinema wasn’t going to be selling at top prices.

It’s a fun, breezy read, though. Not too technical. The best stuff is the interview with jobbing films craftsmen. Brosnan’s prose is more serviceable than immortal (though still superior to that of Mike Evans in The Making of Raging Bull, another recent cheapo purchase, where potentially fascinating material is rendered practically unreadable) but when he hands the page over to doughty practitioners like Les Bowie, things get mordantly amusing:

‘We were working with these two American effects men on that picture [IN SEARCH OF THE CASTAWAYS] and they had […] all sorts of fancy gadgets, including these special mortars that were used to fire clumps of arrows through the air. These, along with their other equipment, had been flown out from Hollywood at great expense. One day one of these men told me to go and practice firing arrows out of this mortar. So I did, I carried one of these gadgets away from where we were based, set it up, put some arrows in it, fired it . . . and the arrows went about ten feet before dropping to the ground. I was rather upset about this because it meant I was going to have to tell the other fellow his gadget wasn’t working any more. In desperation I just grabbed a handful of arrows and flung them in the air . . . and they just flew and flew. After a few more tries I even worked out a way of throwing them so that they separated in mid-air and like a swarm of arrows would if they’d been fired by several bows. Anyway I went back and confessed to this bloke that his mortar wasn’t working, so he came back and checked it out and said it was working perfectly. “But it only propels them about ten feet,” I said, “do you know that you can throw them much further by hand?” And I demonstrated to him how far I could throw them. He was shocked. “For God’s sake,” he said, “don’t do that on the day of filming!” But when the day came an assistant and I were hidden in the woods, throwing the arrows out by hand. All that equipment shipped out at such a high cost and yet no one had tried just throwing the things!’

There’s more about this kind of UK-US rivalry and bickering on Disney locations in props man Eddie Fowlie’s account of making THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON in his memoir David Lean’s Dedicated Maniac: Memoirs of a Film Specialist, though Fowlie inexplicably omits to make any reference to being sent home early after seemingly injuring one of his opponents in a knife fight conducted over the affections of Janet Munro.


She doesn’t go everywhere

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on July 30, 2019 by dcairns

That’s what they say about Helen Walker’s character, the Honourable Betty Cream, in CLUNY BROWN, one of just a few films containing really outstanding Walker characterisations. I wrote a profile/history of this neglected favourite.

At The Chiseler.


Posted in FILM on July 29, 2019 by dcairns
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