Archive for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Quote of the Day: Upping the ante-rooms

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2008 by dcairns

Legendary production designer Ken Adam discusses designing the Marquess of Queensbury’s reception room for THE TRIALS OF OSCAR WILDE, after the budget had run out:

“Well, it was hard because a) the money had run out and b) I didn’t have time to do research about what Queensbury’s castle in Scotland looked like. So what I decided to do was a complete stylisation using all the classical elements of the St. James’s Theatre and the Café Royal. The only new design element was a very tall, slender French window with a circular top at the end of the set. Then I used Georgian doors from the St James’s and I painted the whole floor like Siena marble. I had a very good painter and it was beautifully done. Then I had the idea of treating the set in two colours only — terracotta for the walls, and everything else in black — because it was after the funeral. I talked the director, Ken Hughes, into dressing all tyhe actors in black. And the whole set was built in a forced perspective. It was the first time that I got recognition for my work from the critics and others: Luchino Visconti was President of the Moscow Film Festival in 1961 and he gave me first prize for best design.”

a) Adam often seems to have done his best work in desperate circumstances. The strongest, strangest set in DR. NO, the first of the many Bond films he designed, is the bare room with the round skylight — Dr. No’s ante-room. It was built for £450 as an afterthought, and it supplies the just note of stylisation that later Bond films built from.

No room

b) Ken Hughes is an underrated filmmaker and I must do more about him. I’m hoping the forthcoming BBC series on British B-movies will show some of his cheapies. I find his bloated extravaganzas like CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG and CROMWELL rather endearing, but I have a feeling his best work might lie in his low-budget crime thriller output. I haven’t even managed to see the bigger-budget extensions of that, JOE MACBETH and THE SMALL WORLD OF SAMMY LEE.

c) My friend Lawrie once loaned a flat to Hughes and got complaints from the landlady about some kind of unspeakable parties… Lawrie called Hughes “the dirtiest man i ever met.” All simply too, too intriguing!

d) The quote up top comes from Ken Adam The Art of Production Design by the esteemed Professor Sir Christopher Frayling. I know that’s the correct way to give him his titles, but I have a sneaking preference for “Sir Christopher Professor Frayling” and I have a feeling that if I ever meet the poor man that’s what I’ll call him, whether I intend to our not.

Ken

Ken Adam.

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Euphoria #4: When Nature Calls

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2007 by dcairns

While I wait for David Ehrenstein’s euphoric nomination to appear on Youtube, I’m jumping ahead to present my partner Fiona Watson’s feelgood film footage. She considered a variety of candidates, many of which Mr. Ehrenstein would approve of, I’m sure: Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor’s rendition of Moses Supposes from SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN; Anne Miller dancing to Too Darn Hot in KISS ME KATE or Prehistoric Man in ON THE TOWN; the Marx Brothers going to war in DUCK SOUP (the scene that cures Woody Allen of depression in HANNAH AND HER SISTERS). It’s interesting how musical numbers tend to dominate the field of Cinema Euphoria. Maybe that’s why, in these troublous times, the musical is making a comeback, albeit frequently in a half-arsed fashion (Fiona: “Watching MOULIN ROUGE is like having your eyes pinned open, like the Ludovico Treatment, while someone throws glitter in them, for two hours”).

Anyhow, I was carefully monitoring Fiona’s joy-levels as she watched the clips, and the clear winner was this one:

You probably all know it, but it’s an interesting one nonetheless. Bear in mind, this isn’t about the best cinema, merely the most bliss-inducing, and that’s clearly not the same thing — but this is still a magnificent sequence. The animation of the apes is impressive, they have real weight and substance and meat on their bones, and real bones too. Unlike Jessica Rabbit they aren’t unstructured plastic excrescences, and unlike the Little Mermaid their features don’t float, unmoored, on their faces, like flotsam.

Then there’s the song. The Sherman Brothers had a few years of being able to do no wrong, with fantastic work in THE JUNGLE BOOK, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG and MARY POPPINS. Go listen if you don’t believe me. “Me Ole Bamboo” from CCBB is the song all of Scotland will be dancing to tonight.

Fiona and I both groove equally to the scat singing and the more coherent, yet still non sequiteur-ish interjections like “Take me home, daddy!” That always cracks me up. And the words “Not yet Balloo!” have an iconic resonance in our household.

What’s also cool is that when Fiona first saw this, as a tiny tot, she didn’t like it, was seriously freaked out by it, in fact. “I don’t like the monkey! Why are his arms so long?” she cried as she was manoevred from the auditorium. It’s one of the nice things about growing up, we can appreciate the appeal of a singing oran-outan without experiencing the primal terror than initially accompanies his every movement.

And if that’s not something to feel euphoric about, I don’t know what is.

(Euphoria #3 should be along sometime early in the new year)