Archive for Jason and the Argonauts

The Sunday Intertitle (for some reason on Saturday): Under the Sea

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , on February 3, 2018 by dcairns

AEGIR, billed as “A Festive Film,” is in fact a German propaganda effort from 1918, though it tries to be festive by taking a fantastical, mythological view of the war. Aegir, our protagonist, is sort of the Norse Neptune, though of lower rank. And the guy playing him here, one Wilhelm Diegelmann, looks a lot like the heavy-set, slo-mo beard guy who’s the most disappointing element of JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS. Curiously, his face is made up a nice dusky shade, but his torso is a gleaming white: nobody thought to powder his moobs.

(Diegelmann would go on to work for Lubitsch several times and appears in THE BLUE ANGEL.)

Aegir is having a great time because the U-boats are sinking lots of ships and sending their supplies to the bottom of the sea where he can enjoy them at his lavish aquatic banquets, served up by mermaids on wires.

Eventually he visits his benefactors, leading to the odd sight of a topless man with a trident standing on the deck of an actual for-realz Unterseeboot. He even sits down to a glass of “fine English whisky” (there’s no such thing) he’s had retrieved from  torpedoed wreck.

The movie resolves into a tour of inspection of the mighty German navy, month or maybe days before its total surrender. Aegir dons a flying jacket and boards a sea plane, his pallid, sinewy legs a pitiful spectacle as he tries to manoeuvre his unwieldy trident into the cockpit. There’s a sentence you don’t see every day.

There’s a visit to Berlin, then to a German destroyer. Everyone is pleased to see the mythical jötunn or demi-god. I expect he makes a nice break in the routine.

Aegir urges Germany, in the form of the movie camera observing him, to buy war bonds, “~ and let a happy peace be the reward for your steadfastness!”

Germany immediately surrenders.

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You don’t know Jack

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Mythology, Television, Theatre with tags , , , , , , on December 27, 2017 by dcairns

This is a magnificently awful thing.

JACK THE GIANT KILLER is a terrible film already, a cynical and actionable rip-off of Ray Harryhausen’s classic THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, with pretty much every set-piece, character and story point duplicated in an inferior way (it even casts the same actors as hero and villain).

But in the seventies, it was decided to turn it into a musical. Not by remaking it, like HAIRSPRAY or HIGH SOCIETY. Not by filming new musical numbers and cutting them into the original, like… no film ever, that I can think of, though I daresay it must have been attempted sometime. Tip-offs on this subject received with interest. No, the geniuses responsible simply wrote songs that could be dubbed onto the film, turning existing dialogue into lyrics and repeating shots in order to turn simple statements (“We have failed, master!”) into choruses.

Yes, this song appears to be called, “We Have Failed, Master,” and a more fitting title could hardly be imagined, unless it were “What Were We Thinking?” or “We Are the Stupid Men.”

We’ve all seen failed musicals where the songs caused the plot to grind to a halt. But we’ve never seen that concept literalized so spectacularly, with shots going magically into Cocteauesque reverse, and recurring on seemingly infinite GROUNDHOG DAY loops, in order to accommodate the musical styling of Mr. Moose Harlap Charlap. Yes, his name is Moose Harlap Charlap. Not actually the world’s worst songwriter, if you caught him on a good day. But with a tendency towards being on the nose. Which, in a medieval fairy tale about giants, could be an even bigger hazard than usual.

My Musical Theater Consultant tells me that Harlap Charlap was responsible for the Peter Pan musical that Mary Martin mad such a splash in, but that it was substantially worked over by greater talents. Harlap’s chief contribution of note was the number “I’m Flying,” which gives you an idea of the way his mind works. A song in which a character flies about and sings about how they’re flying about. As does the above number, which is extraordinary in its redundancy. Two characters sing at each other about what’s going on, but nothing is going on. And they’re not really singing. And the flag is billowing in curiously repetitive motions, time suspended in a listless loop.

But this is the crowning un-glory. Director Nathan Juran rips off the skeleton fight from SEVENTH VOYAGE, a movie he’s credited with directing (with the same hero and villain actors), but which BELONGS to Ray Harryhausen. The sequence also seems to anticipate the skeleton fight in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, released the following year, with deathless warriors grown from teeth, but I am unwilling to give the makers of this ugly film any credit — they must have somehow stolen that from Ray H also, either with industrial espionage or time travel.

What ole Moose does with the music is truly appalling, and he achieves the impossible: by dubbing on a jaunty comedy track, he actually makes this cheap-ass sequence disturbing.

Things Roddy and Fiona said during “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad”

Posted in FILM, literature, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2011 by dcairns

I’d been meaning to revisit Ray Harryhausen’s first and best Sinbad picture for a while, and it occured to me that Fiona’s brother Roderick might also enjoy it. In the event, brother and sister formed an excellent double act, and a good time was had by all.

Fiona: “What’s with her hair? What’s that? It’s horrible!”

We all liked Kathryn Grant, the spunky princess, but her cowlick was an abomination. For a fifties kids movie, the film finds a lot for her to do, especially considering she spends most of the movie miniaturized.

Roddy: “Is their any insects in this one?” Roddy likes bugs and spiders in movies. It might seem that MYSTERIOUS ISLAND or SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER, with their big bees, would suit him better, but 7V is such a superior film to those two, I felt the choice was justified.

F: “Oh, he’s a sweet talker, that Sinbad!”

Ken Kolb’s screenplay provides surprisingly decent dialogue, allowing the romance to convince more than usual. Kerwin Mathews is an appealing hero, more so than John Philip Law or Pat Wayne in the sequels. None of them were exactly major personalities, but at least this time Sinbad has a personality, kind of.

F: “She is cute. Needs to get that hair fixed though.”

The story hits the ground running, with Sinbad transporting his new bride by sea, hopelessly lost in the fog. A mysterious island is discovered and then, in a scene that had seven-year-old me torn between fleeing the television and leaping forward to switch channels in terror, Torin Thatcher comes fleeing from a cave pursued by the Cyclops.

As always with Harryhausen, the mythological animal gets an upgrade, with satyr’s goat-legs and a horn added to the design. The legs are a nice touch: a purely humanoid giant could be played by an actor, but only stop-motion “Dynamation — the new wonder of the screen” could allow a creature’s legs to bend backwards like Cy’s.

F: “That hair’s going to drive me crazy.”

Torin is after a magic lamp, the perfect Arabian Nights MacGuffin, but he loses it escaping the giant. (In one of the original Arabian Nights tales, Sinbad does meet a giant, and although he’s not specified as of the one-eyed variety, the story is clearly plagiarized from Homer’s Odyssey, so Harryhausen is fully justified in making the monster cyclopean.

Bagdad!

F: “Nice outfit. It’s gone: the cowlick.”

Torin is trying to persuade everybody to return to the accursed island to help him get his lamp. Kerwin speaks of the magician’s obsessive desire which consumes him, and Kathryn sweetly turns the subject around to love, saying she pities Torin as she already has her heart’s desire.

But, after a brief turn by a serpent lady with four snaky arms, the princess is miniaturized by the evil Torin Thatcher (how well the words “evil” and “Thatcher” go together) and is discovered tiny upon her pillow, like a talking mint.

A shame the princess’s pillow looks so lumpy here — possibly it’s stuffed with peas.

To cure his pocket-sized fiancee (marriage seems impractical until this is sorted out), Sinbad embarks for the isle of the Cyclops, taking with him a Dirty Dozen crew of convicts, including Danny “One-Round” Green from THE LADYKILLERS, the only Cockney Arab in the Middle East.

F: “And don’t stand on my fruit!”

Mutiny! A slightly unconvincing fight among the crew: well, they only had three weeks to shoot the live action part of it.

R: “Cheez — missed him! Come on, Sinbad! Go for him! Look out! Whoops.”

The island is reached at last, and Sinbad’s crew start building a giant crossbow designed by Torin.

Fiona, to Roddy: “You need to say more interesting things so David’s got something to write about.”

R: “I’ll say something. Right. He is wandering about, looking at rocks.”

R: “It’s a club, that’s what it is. Told you.”

R: “Sh, sh!”

F: “He could at least kill him before he roasts him alive.”

I fail to point out Fiona’s schoolboy error in the above sentence, and merely add: “Or undress him.”

As the Cyclops prepares to feast on human flesh, Roddy belches, loudly.

R: “I’ve got interjestion.”

Sinbad cunningly plots to escape the giant’s cage with the aid of little Princess Kathryn.

R (confused): “Cannae escape. How can he, when she’s here?”

R: “We’ve got a woman like that at Canning Place.”

“That small?” I ask.

R: “No.”

R: “Don’t stand there, push, woman! Give it all your strength! Well done.”

R (to the Cyclops): “Look out!”

R: “Going mental, that monster, is he? Cheesy peeps!”

“Cheesy peeps!” is a strange expression almost unique to Roddy, who doesn’t swear. Being a true Dundonian, he doesn’t use negatives, either, so “Isn’t he?” is pronounced “Is he?” Somehow this is never actually confusing.

F: “You’d be going mental too if you were there, having spears chucked at you.”

R: “I’m not, though. I’m here.”

The logic of this is inarguable, and we all fall into silent contemplation for a bit.

R (apropos of nothing): “I’d like to be a vampire. In a horror movie, I mean. Do you think I’d make a good vampire?”

Fiona and I: “No.”

The Cyclops, blinded, falls off a cliff.

F: “And, as usual, you do feel slightly sorry for him.”

Sinbad’s crew decide to break open a roc’s egg.

F: You can’t get the staff.”

Harryhausen can’t leave the mythic roc alone either, so this one has two heads.

R: “There’s two of them!”

F: “It’s all cute and fluffy. Don’t tell me they kill it and eat it. Oh no.”

R: “What are they playing at?”

Torin raises a skeleton to attack Sinbad. “Kill! Kill!”

F: “They can’t just say “Kill!” once in these films, can they?”

F: “He knocked down his crocodile.”

R: “That was typical, is it?”

The skeleton fight was of course trumped by Harryhausen in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, where there are seven screaming skeletons, a brilliantly choreographed and incredibly elaborate piece of live-action/animation. Wishing he’d set that scene at night, for greater atmosphere, he re-staged it AGAIN in SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER, with three bug-eyed “ghouls” who look like starving Selenites.

R (general advice to the cast): “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!”

R: “That dragon’s no happy, is he?”

F: “Where are all the female cyclopses? How do they reproduce?”

Me: “Sodomy.”

R: “He’s happy, is he?”

R: “He’s still got a – in his -um, what do you call it?”

R: “I wish that was all mine as well. I would save it all up and go on holiday with it. On safari. Or Transylvania.”

UK: Sinbad Collection – Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad/Golden Voyage Of Sinbad/Sinbad And The Eye Of Tiger [DVD] [1958]

USA:The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (50th Anniversary Edition) (1958)

The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (50th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray]