Archive for The Last Days of Pompeii

The Sunday Intertitle: The First of the Red-Hot Lavas

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , on July 30, 2017 by dcairns

The Italians have filmed THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII with such astounding regularity that a film scholar might chart the development of film technique through the in a pretty detailed way, just by watching adaptations of Bulwer-Lytton’s classical disaster novel. This 1908 version, the earliest, still belongs to the painted backdrop school, but the art direction conspires to create a far more vivid sense of depth than is usually found in, say, Melies.

Later versions would showcase colossal sets and elaborate special effects, with camera movement used to explore the architecture. Here, they settle for clever fake perspective and a miniature background volcano that belches smoke and fireworks at the actors. The tableau school of staging means we don’t get the flurry of destruction familiar from later versions, all of which make a point of sporting spectacular effects work. Here, the eruption of Vesuvius is over in about six shots, but to be fair they are quite long shots.

The original titles seem to be lost, so here we get Dutch ones, but the dramatis personae are in French. These particular title cards have people in them. So the must have made a few versions for different territories, but forgot about Holland. And it wouldn’t have been easy to make extra Dutch ones later unless you could get the actors back…

The Sunday Intertitle: Vertigo

Posted in FILM with tags , , on February 10, 2013 by dcairns


Must write about LE VERTIGE (1926), and soon! Marcel L’Herbier’s little-seen, highly flash melodrama is a ripsnorting exultation of crazy sets and flaring nostrils. The intertitles, surprisingly, eschew overt design-fetishism, being plain sans serif affairs, but the movie does kick of with a dynamic logo and an unusual (for the period) superimposed title setting up the initial action in revolutionary Russia, before the film decamps to a deco dream of the Cote D’Azur…

We can see L’Herbier experimenting with camera movement, mainly to show off his elaborate settings (in the Italian manner — L’Herbier would remake THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII in 1950, suggesting an affinity with the Italian historical spectacles of the teens and twenties), and gearing up for the extremes of L’ARGENT…