Archive for Paul Merton

The Sunday Intertitle: Pig Alley Revisited

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , on July 22, 2012 by dcairns

Raoul Walsh’s (or R.A. Walsh’s, to go by credits) REGENERATION was brought to my attention by Paul Merton’s show on the origins of cinema last year — it was the least familiar thing excerpted, and looked pretty exciting.

Allowances must be made — it’s 1915, and Walsh is essentially trying to be Griffith, though it’s already clear that his interests lie elsewhere. What gets him excited is the lowlife life, the enthusiastic Donnybrooks, the plug-uglies and the backstreet epic of clotheslines and tenements and violent rivalries.

Unfortunately, much of what transpires in the plot follows the inspirational title, and is sententious and sentimental. Rockliffe Fellowes is distinctly Brandoesque as long as he’s playing a street tough, with his distended lopsided labial sneer, but as soon as he gets religion he falls to barnstorming, and there are no barns to storm. Anna Q. Nilsson is more consistent, but her character’s no more exciting.

The Griffith resemblances go past the civics lesson plot and innocence imperiled climax — Walsh films rooms like a cutaway dollhouse, editing so we can assemble the whole edifice in her minds, from a single camera angle. Griffith did this so consistently, that THIS amazing thing became possible, ninety-nine years later.

REGENERATION may need restoration — Decasian fauna roam its flickering nitrate alleys.

POSITIVELY the same monkey!

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , on December 26, 2009 by dcairns

Josephine the monkey, pictured in Harold Lloyd’s THE KID BROTHER ~

~ is the same little creature featured in Buster Keaton’s THE CAMERAMAN.

I am indebted to Paul Merton’s Silent Comedy, a fine book of comic history (better than his TV film shows), for this valuable information.

UK buyers spend your Christmas gift Amazon vouchers here –

Silent Comedy

Americans here –

Silent Comedy

Candlelight and Shadowplay

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2009 by dcairns

Feel like I’m treading on Shahn’s territory here:

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But all this is just to prove the point that Hitchcock’s NUMBER 17 is a very lovely film. Regular cinematographer John Cox outdoes himself with expressionist jangles of blackness and whiteness, exploiting the surprising shapes of Wilfred Arnold’s impressive set.

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I’d also like to gently scold Paul Merton, whose TV show Paul Merton Looks at Hitchcocksuggested that the film was stagey and uninteresting, apart from the use of model shots for the climax.  A preponderance of interiors does not make a film stagey, and certainly not when it crackles with kinetic energy like this one. Maybe he’s referring to some of the acting (Leon M. Lion, stand up. What’s that? You ARE standing up? Oh, excuse me) but if so he’s muddled the message. Paul Merton Fails to Look at Hitchcock.

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But I’m grateful to that show for bringing on nine-million-year-old British cameraman Gilbert Taylor to talk about working on the film as a clapper loader: how he was almost decapitated by a low bridge when filming atop a moving train, which would have deprived us of the future cinematographer of A HARD DAY’S NIGHT*, REPULSION and STAR WARS (where he displeased George Lucas by routinely referring to Chewbacca as “the dog”); and how members of the camera crew would torment each other by purposefully breaking wind within the sweltering confines of the soundproof camera booth. Whenever you see the camera wobble in an early ’30s film, just think of that, have sympathy, and provide a descriptive sound effect.

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*Taylor was greatly disturbed by the frenzy of Beatlemania and declined to work on the follow-ip film, HELP! Such was the high-pitched screaming of fans that one member of the camera department reportedly lost a tooth. I know, that makes no sense, but there it is.

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