Archive for Asteroids

Asteroids from Beyond Time

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2009 by dcairns

This is the sight that greeted British cinemagoers in the ’70s. My childhood big screen experiences were all prefigured by this, an ad for an ad company that was responsible for the ads we were about to see before seeing the film we had come to see. And yet, me and everyone else of my age regards this meta-ad with affection and nostalgia (it IS the most ’70s thing ever). Today we all hate the multitude of delays and irritations we’re subjected to before a film starts. Actually, I don’t think we admired this piece until after it was discontinued in the ’80s.

(THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL remake is catching an unusual amount of flack for its product placement — I guess prominently featuring MacDonalds during a film with a supposed eco-friendly message is crossing some kind of line. What next, pop-up ads at the cinema?)

I only feature the P&D ad, not because the company is now based in Scotland (at SMG, home of Scottish Televsion, where the Ladies’ and Gents’ toilets are labelled Pearl and Dean, an appalling cutesy touch), but because I recently got ahold of Anatole Litvak’s last film.

Back up — explain — Litvak’s THE LADY IN THE  CAR WITH GLASSES AND A GUN is a late ’60s thriller with a hep cast — Samantha Eggar, Oliver Reed — from a novel by Sebastien Japrisot (GREAT name!) who also authored the source novel of A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT and lots of other books that have all been filmed.

I saw this film, or most of it, as a tiny child, possibly on a small b&w TV in a holiday cottage my parents had rented. Picture a dimly smouldering log fire and a crackly picture. There was nothing else to do in the country dark except watch this film on a fuzzy screen, and it was very boring to my young mind. The main thing that caught my interest was the credit sequence, which reminded me forcibly of the Pearl & Dean trailer:

Having recently come across the movie again, I’m pleased at how accurate my correlation of the two sequences was. I’m also warmed by the GRINDHOUSE-like poor quality of the print, which seems to start life as a miasma of BAD AIR passing through the projector at speed, “a foul and pestilential congregation of vapours,” gradually gaining substance as a stream of dust, which then assumes solid form as slivers of shredded celluloid, eventually acquiring the shape of a strip of film with sprocketholes and a magnetic soundtrack, at which point we start to see and hear something.

Something lovely!

Although — the fidgety special effects man keeps throwing new effects at us, some more abstract than others, some cheesier than others, and Michel Legrand keeps segueing from track to track as if his needle was skipping, or as if he was trying to dispense with all his soundtracking duties in one swell foop, which gives the whole thing rather a restless, disturbed quality, at odds with the easy-listening vibe otherwise in evidence. It’s like suffering intermittent blackouts while attending a fondue party. A psychegenic fugue in jazz form.

It’s all very apt, since that Pearl and Dean ad, with its pa-pa pa-pa theme tune which years later turned out be be called ASTEROIDS (!), continued to be run through the projectors of my adolescence long after the print had decayed and turned pink and been scratched to buggery and beyond, since in the ’80s nobody could be bothered updating anything about Britain’s smelly and vacant cinemas — so seeing Litvak’s film in such a decomposed form is like a kind of time travel, only legal.

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