Classic movie site with rare images, original ads, and behind-the-scenes photos, with informative and insightful commentary. We like to have fun with movies!
Archive and Links
Search Index Here

Monday, September 25, 2023

Supreme Artist of Glamour Photography


Hurrell's Hollywood as Revealed by Mark Vieira

Permit Greenbriar to sing unabashed praise for Mark A. Vieira’s latest book, a reprint, with much new content, the image rich Hurrell’s Hollywood, all of what was great from the 2013 edition plus more the author obtained since and put to his own, and remarkable, process of restoration and enhancement. Technology can do miracles with vintage photography, but only where the user comes equipped with knowledge of fresh resources plus technique applied generations ago by George Hurrell. In less capable hands, effort to “improve” upon classic photography will but distort beauty of subjects captured by Hurrell when glamour was the goal and images were precision designed to achieve ends. Mark Vieira understands these subtleties as result of fifty years he has spent celebrating subjects, their character, personalities, “You’re able to photograph thought” as one star sitter told him. Vieira studied Hurrell and mastered his approach, in addition to establishing his own. He describes the artist’s rise, fall, and rise again while acknowledging Hurrell as often his own worst enemy. The book explores the nether world of collectors who chased both an aging Hurrell and survivor images spread thin over Hollywood memorabilia shops and “lavender-scented” lairs of oft-ruthless sorts who would do anything, just anything, to secure treasures they valued over all else. Mark Vieira explores the psychology of obsession as it applies to classic Hollywood and gods it manufactured. “Get a life,” we might say of single-minded hunter/gatherers, and no one reveals that subculture so vividly as Vieira does here.

Hurrell could be temperamental as stars he shot. Dancing and prancing round the camera to put life into sometime dull subjects, this artist could, like a painter (Hurrell’s early ambition), be frustrated by result had. Silk purse from sow ears was his known specialty, players plain as milk emerging transformed from sessions with Hurrell. Smart ones recognized the magic, courted Hurrell, wanted him and no other to capture them, Norma Shearer in such category, and not alone in her insistence that he photograph her. Then of course there were those Hurrell rubbed wrong ways, Garbo for instance, or Olivia De Havilland. Latter sort of froze before his lens, would not do “sexy” as he liked, and insisted upon, with distaff subjects. Hurrell understood well what “glamour” was really about, film star portraiture in some ways like calendar art with richer patina. Mindful of this, Hurrell let it rip where immortalizing beauty. His way was plainly unique, and bosses saw benefit of keeping him close. Hurrell would not suffer fools nor interference, once telling Louis Mayer to go to hell. So here was classic case of a man too valuable not to tolerate while he’s hot but come dawn upon decline and … here’s your hat, George. Hurrell humbled, though no less cocksure, took work he could find, alas beneath him, rushing about sets for bad 60/70’s movies grabbing “stills” with compact modern cameras. He might have quit but for half a dozen offspring sired over several marriages. There was an 80-90’s comeback, Hurrell trendy all of a sudden and money pouring back in, restless nature having forgot worth of work he’d done in Golden Times, not saving negatives and having precious few prints, so what to do when galleries called for stuff they could hang, George with so little to supply?

Mark Vieira Learning from the Master, George Hurrell

Here was when collectors suddenly mattered. They would be recognized, courted, chased, for suddenly valuable relics they and no one else possessed. Mark Vieira knew these people and watched them scramble for what survived of Hurrell’s art. Vieira tell of how Hurrell legacy rose anew against backdrop of decaying Hollywood and its under-dwelling pack rats is reality check of first order. The author dissects twisted process that placed George Hurrell finally among great photographers of the twentieth century, status enhanced the more by progress Vieira has made toward restoring portraiture that was for years ignored or endangered. Too complex a process for laymen to readily comprehend, I asked the author to describe just how he works magic upon images to make them shine as never before. What follows is Mark Vieira’s own account of how he does it:


If this were a perfect world, I would snap my fingers and instantly have access to 8x10 nitrate camera negatives made in 1934 on the set of Josef von Sternberg’s visual masterpiece, The Scarlet Empress. These are extraordinary images, worthy of fine-art printing. But we live in an imperfect world, and in 1949, Paramount Pictures, the onetime owner of those camera negatives, decided that they were taking up space.

The negatives were thrown out, except for a few dozen that survived to find dubious use in the Universal TV Department. (Universal bought the pre-1948 Paramount film library in 1957 for TV syndication.) At other studios, many negatives survived these purges, only to succumb to Vinegar Syndrome, where latent gases cause negatives to wrinkle and crack. 

Only once were any of the Paramount negatives printed to reveal the full glory of their lighting, composition, and tonalities. This was in 1999, when I secured permission from Universal to make fine-art darkroom prints for an exhibition publicizing my book Sin in Soft Focus. Not long afterward, Universal turned its Paramount negatives over to the Motion Picture Academy for proper nitrate storage.

In the mid-2000s, digital technology spelled the end of film-and-darkroom photography. I’d been working as a photographer since 1969 and was threatened by what was happening. I didn’t like what I’d seen of digital photography. I thought digital printing looked flat and lifeless. I held on to my darkroom work, even as orders dwindled and Hollywood negatives held by collectors were sold to investors who refused to let me print the negatives. 

Flash forward to 2019: I’d learned to scan vintage black-and-white photographs because publishers would no longer accept boxes of photographs for the purpose of illustrating a book; I had to send high-resolution scans. In addition to scanning, I’d learned how to improve the images. This process became my stock in trade. 

The first step is to “clean” the image, removing white dust spots, scratches, and cracks. There are Dust Removal tools in Photoshop, but often this process must be done one spot at a time, using either the Clone Tool or the Spot Healing Tool. 

Once the image is free of ugly “artifacts,” the next step is to adjust brightness and contrast, because few images have ideal printing histories. If there is one area of the image that is too bright, I “burn” it; if it’s too dark, I “dodge” it.

The next step requires subjective judgment, because there comes a point where an image can be brought to life by adjustments in highlight and shadow detail. If done correctly, this gives the photograph a lifelike, three-dimensional look. The newly added Camera Raw Filter allows for much more dimensionality. 

Lastly, I use the Colorize Tool to give the image a slightly warm tone, but only a bit, because too much looks silly, or worse, faded, which is how many of the old pictures look when I start to work on them.

In 2019 there occurred a turning point in my photographic career. Eric Joseph of Freestyle Photographic in Hollywood led me to the Canon Pro Graf Pro 1000 inkjet printer. I had remained skeptical of digital printing, doubting that it could ever match the quality I’d achieved in the darkroom with an 8x10 enlarger. After I bought the Canon printer, I made tests. I scanned vintage negatives. I scanned vintage prints. I scanned darkroom prints I’d made from these vintage negatives. I wanted to see if I could get the Canon printer to produce prints as fine as my darkroom prints. 

The side-by-side comparisons were startling. In most cases, the Canon prints looked as good as the darkroom prints. About twenty percent of them looked better, with a wider tonal scale, improving both shadow and highlight detail. With certain Canson matte papers, I was able to find effects that I could never have found in traditional papers. This was unexpected; I’d hoped to match, not surpass. 

I’m happy, and my clients are happy, because they can purchase large fine-art prints of favorite images—for which it would be impossible to find original negatives. Before digital, the accepted practice was to shoot a copy negative (see the picture of me in 1975). The quality I got from copy negatives varied widely. Even the prints that looked good didn’t look like a print struck from a vintage camera negative. Ironically, I’ve been able to scan and upgrade old copy negatives and copy prints, in most cases so successfully that the Canon prints I make from the new scans look like originals. 

This is the most important element of the digital story—how much improvement is possible with a discerning application of Photoshop. These Before-and-After pictures should give you an idea of what’s possible. What’s rewarding is sharing an image you never thought you’d get, and seeing details you couldn’t see in a small, damaged, faded print. The photographers who made these images were artists, so what I’m doing is art restoration—and I’m teaching art history.

Much further info, and imagery, at Mark Vieira's Starlight Studio site. Visit also his Facebook page for daily updates.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Category Called Comedy #3


CCC: Million Dollar Legs, The Lucky Dog, They Got Me Covered, and Big Jack

MILLION DOLLAR LEGS (1932) --- Really wacky, almost perverse comedy. Million Dollar Legs got latter years boost when Pauline Kael wrote somewhere that it was good, and so of course, others followed suit. How could one tire of mere 64 minutes? Looks like everybody who ever raised a laugh was hired, none so long as to fatigue, Jack Oakie most visible. Shown if at all because W.C. Fields is aboard, Million Dollar Legs has him by-playing with other comics. We wonder how competitive these clowns were, on-set or off. This was Bill’s first time talking for Paramount, them trusting him for support or specialties for the time being, starring work to wait until a public seemed ready. Gags are saucy and travel fast. There’s constant sense of having missed something that might be funny. Laughter arises from the unexpected, at times outrageous. Young Joseph Mankiewicz was among writers. He’d recall later what a mess it all seemed. Paramount refined a sense of the absurd thanks to talent not of norm (Fields, the Marx Bros.), seemed intent on being the lead comedy shop, at least for features. But hold, they were releasing shorts too, from independents, including mighty Mack Sennett in waning days. If the Million Dollar Legs applied to a character, that would have been Susan Fleming, appealing and offbeat presence sold as “Girl With …” the title assets. She stayed with movies until trade-up to marriage with Harpo Marx that endured till he died in 1964. She lived to age 94 and left memoirs lately published, a book I keep meaning to read, as word says it is fine and thoroughly candid. TCM released Million Dollar Legs on their DVD label in 2013, ran it a few times on the network, an old transfer unfortunately, plus there is a Region Two disc as part of a crowded W.C. Fields box. I’ve not so far seen a Blu-Ray offered.

THE LUCKY DOG (1917? 1919? No, 1921) --- The Lucky Dog marked a first time Laurel and Hardy performed on screen together. Not upon many screens however, as this two-reel subject played precious few venues due to fold of the firm producing it, The Lucky Dog interchangeable with others of commonplace content. We care for obvious reason of L&H and not a lot else, the century old obscurity made meaningful from initial “rediscovery” in 1963 when Robert Youngson came across a 16mm print and blew it up to highlight 30 Years of Fun. Found footage was less a thing then, Youngson and crew wrong as to when The Lucky Dog was made (they said 1919, others had floated 1917). Never mind though, as it was unexpected joy to see Laurel and Hardy cavort in something few knew existed till Youngson’s reveal. Truth was The Lucky Dog being around and sold to hobbyists on 16mm since the early 30’s, but how many of these still had their print, or remembered L&H both being involved? What Youngson came across was 1963 equivalent to The Battle of the Century turning up more-less complete in 2015. Lucky Dog would be a basis to benefit 30 Years of Fun. Who would assert, or care enough, that it had never been lost? Emerging Laurel-Hardy fans of nit-pick nature challenged 1919 as production date for The Lucky Dog, one among them noting a license plate barely visible in the film, car confirming date that was actually 1921, not news in a mainstream sense but meaningful to community from which members compiled a Blu-Ray of L&H silents to lately enter the public domain. What impresses me and undoubted others is hunt and gather of more Lucky Dog footage since Robert Youngson shared his four or so minutes in 1963, visual quality hugely improved as expected, this completing a historical record plus giving us not just an artifact put right but an entertaining comedy, in Blackhawk parlance, “substantially” as seen at few theatrical slots The Lucky Dog filled in 1921.

THEY GOT ME COVERED (1943) --- So much war reference as to date grievously, fun had for that reason mainly, us to wonder the while if there were really spy conspiracies to approach what Otto Preminger and crew have in mind here, or for that matter, what German operatives planned in Saboteur and All Through the Night. Bob Hope was his own resistance force apart from what he did in movies, the public well abreast of the comedian's globe canvas on victory behalf and hazards he willingly faced in the doing. Hope as radio spokesman for films he made was guarantor of earning, $3.3 million in worldwide rentals for They Got Me Covered more than anyone else’s comedy could dream of. Bob as hopeless bungler of a war correspondent misses the German invasion of Russia, so must compensate by quelling Axis takedown of US industry. This he does by check-off of then-hot topics meaningless to us now, but again, that’s essence for watching and a history lesson if not the laff riot Covered must have seemed in 1943. Hope did not make movies for the ages anymore than contemporaries Danny Kaye or Abbott-Costello, but these were clowns that prospered best in their day, freshness as then perceived, while immortals we’d propose, Keaton, Laurel-Hardy, even Chaplin, represented humor fashion now past. Hope was quick, relevant, and naughty as a vigilant Code allowed, the comic for whom daily news supplied gags. Watching him was to be hep to headlines almost before they happened, Hope good as any barometer to show how our war was going. They Got Me Covered was untypically for Goldwyn rather than Paramount, so production is elevated, Rudolph Maté for instance behind cameras, this to make Covered desired by collectors in 16mm, him supplier of handsome look for whatever he photographed. They Got Me Covered is playing “free” at present on You Tube. Don’t know how long that will last.

BIG JACK (1949) --- Wallace Beery’s last picture. Why discuss him at all? Maybe for fact that of all MGM stars, his vehicles never lost money, and vehicles they most resolutely were, change or variation things anathema to Wally’s fans as well as employers. Could he have sustained the fifties? Possibly … imagine Beery’s First in Cinemascope! or him being shotgun-toting dad to some of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Beery may have had questionable appeal for ladies, but was catnip to men who’d lay about home with suspenders down and being truculent to wives. Wally was truculent too, not to everybody as some would allege. Jeanette MacDonald in fact liked him, said Beery gave her best advice of all from Hollywood, Squeakiest wheels get the grease, he said, and she from that point on applied the principle to Leo’s front office. A few of kid co-stars liked him OK; it was mainly ones he had to work with repeatedly that got Beery’s goat. Margaret O’Brian famously tells of how he stole her box lunch on Bad Bascomb’s location. Yeah, but can you prove that, Margaret? To my untrained eye, Beery was one of the best performers the business ever had, simply for going totally his own way and hang the dialogue others prepared for him. Players learned to follow his lead and find marks where they could. Would director/producers straighten Wally out? Good luck with that. Beery kept a cabin in the woods, being like Chaney for preferring his own company. Big Jack might as well be called Big Slob for Beery expectations met. In fact, they all could have been titled that. Co-star was Marjorie Main, who wouldn’t seem so inadequate had not Marie Dressler been around in the early thirties to show how such a part should be played.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Swing Shift Deanna Goes All In for Victory


War, Love, Loss, and Deanna Durbin

Constant wartime query was What Are We Fighting For, to which Hollywood supplied answer off respective contract lists. Prominent was Deanna Durbin, watched intently as she grew from girlhood to romantic leads. Age 21 and Hers to Hold was leeway for Durbin to clench and be clenched by partners mostly older, in this case Joseph Cotten, then 38 as undisguised “wolf” endorsed by industry favoring men who fought. Cotten’s credo is “When a girl says no, she means yes,” though like comrades bound for battle, he shuns commitment and stateside expectation that will create. How could he or affianced be assured of his coming back? Stories were then told by slide rule that guided war-set narratives. Impressionable watchers might engage courtship based on how screen couples did theirs, so fantasy figures needed to be on best and most responsible behavior. Truest love should prevail whatever the gamble, especially now that it was life or death. Homefront drama therefore got greater intensity by default, like being spotted points in a sporting match. Urgency bred into wartime relationships permitted star images to mature more rapidly than circumstance might otherwise allow, Durbin’s passion for Cotten a distinct depart from two years earlier Nice Girl? with infatuates Franchot Tone, too mature thus disqualified, and Robert Stack, unthreatening Tiger Beat boy for the 40’s. Similar background of love, war, and parting lent new conviction also to Judy Garland’s romance with Robert Walker in The Clock, audiences gratified to see once-girls become seasoned women in the face of national emergency.

Uncertain opening of Hers to Hold suggests the old Deanna of ingenue ways, her again “Penny Craig” of previous two (as in Three) Smart Girl vehicles, this time a West Coast Deb whom photographers follow to ritual of her donating blood. Did daughters of the rich fascinate simply for being daughters of the rich? And were so-called debutantes as noteworthy in L.A. as they evidently were in New York? The character of Penny struck me as a sort of Oona O’Neill transplanted west, nothing accomplished besides being bred by wealth. Hers to Hold begins as another frivolous Durbin venture, Cotten coming on strong amidst sort-of screwball circumstance, posing as a doctor at the blood bank. He steals a kiss, in fact several, the second when he crashes a party at Deanna’s plush home. Here being 1943 and Cotten lately off Shadow of a Doubt, there is heavy remnant of Uncle Charlie in his “Bill Morley,” a character resorting to deceit in pursuit of Penny. Bill like Charlie is more surface charm than sincerity. Is he stalking Penny for access to money he knows she is heiress to? His maintaining the doctor pose is countered by a knowing Penny who inflicts him with a hypochondriac dowager much like “fat, silly, useless women” Uncle Charlie so detested, and despite Hers to Hold comedic intent, we can’t help being uneased by the Morley character as essayed by an actor just off spurt of wife killing in Hitchcock's film. Could then-audience reaction have been like seeing Anthony Perkins in something after Psycho? Morley/Charlie even blows smoke rings from his cigar, a signature Cotten made a point to repeat in roles, habit I had not noted till reading an article in the Hers to Hold pressbook where the actor described cigars as a must for all his screen work (remember Kane’s Jed Leland asking for them, Pearl Chavez enticed by them in Duel in the Sun?).

Slick Seducer Bill Morley (Joseph Cotten) Wants to Play Doctor with Deanna

There is something calculated in Joseph Cotten’s persona, an aspect that makes his Bill Morley more intriguing than, for instance, Gene Kelly opposite Deanna in Christmas Holiday, a character we know from outset is not to be trusted, Durbin’s dogged loyalty almost an irritant. Penny takes a defense plant job to be near sneaky Morley. We are given to understand that no woman is too good for aircraft assembly lines, thus Penny democratized and among class-unconscious labor force of You Fly ‘Em, We’ll Build ‘Em credo. Bill is there but higher up, him having been with the Flying Tigers and now awaiting U.S. Air Force orders, this why he’ll give Deanna the breeze same as gals who get too serious, their invite home for a thick steak his cue to fade. Were men in or out of uniform so casual in the face of willing consorts? Possibility of not surviving combat would seem to me a greater reason to push for whatever could be got in a meantime, this recalling "don’t do as we do, do as we say" ethos as Hollywood-practiced. Two offscreen incidents for evidence: Durbin and Cotten were hot/heavy in a parked car one beach evening, patrolling police in receipt of a peek and spilling the story to Hedda Hopper spies at the station house. Hopper told it next day in her column and fur flew. Stuff of legend this was till Orson Welles confirmed truth to Henry Jaglom in 2013’s My Lunches with Orson, Welles tattling thus: “He (Cotten) came up to her (Hopper) at a party and said, “Hedda, I just want you to understand, if you say that again, I’m going to kick you in the ass.” She didn’t believe him, kept talking about it, “and he (Cotten) just came and kicked her in the ass.” As to what had gone on between Cotten and Durbin, Welles merely said, “… he was balling Deanna Durbin … In cars, in daylight, where everybody could see!” Bless survivors of old Hollywood living long enough to give away long kept secrets.

War Workers Hangout Where Short Term Relationships Form

Vivid chunks of Hers to Hold took place on location that was the Vega Aircraft Corporation in Burbank, California, Vega a subsidiary of Lockheed. The plant opened during 1940 and by 1943 was in full-time production of military hardware. Hers to Hold showed viewers what many wanted to see, work as ongoing at Vega and maybe glimpse of folk they knew. Vega is presented as a place where labor is concentrated and so is leisure. Close-by diners offer dancing and chance at brief assignations. Cotten’s Bill Morley keeps a willing Evelyn Ankers on the string even as he pursues Penny. Wartime hook-ups are understood to be fleeting and anything but permanent. Arrival of a telegram invariably means bad news, such as when Vega employee Fay Helm receives hers and everyone backs off knowing how it will read. Film stars could not volunteer at Vega or any war plant for myriad and obvious reasons. A most they might contribute was safety and morale boosts like Veronica Lake’s hair twisted in a drill press, 11/9/43 warn to fans who would imitate her styling, then venture close to machinery that could strip them bald. Best for notables to do their bit at the Canteen or join troupes that would travel and entertain. Deanna Durbin made herself available for greet-and-dance, was in readiness also for victory broadcasts like others of her screen stature. Friend who was a prominent historian and writer told me how Deanna would often select a serviceman at the Canteen who particularly appealed to her and take him home, to which I say you go DD, this further basis for my being a fan.

Temporary Lapse of Patriotic Spirit Sees Penny Asking Dad to Save Sweetheart from Active Service

As closeness to Bill increases, Penny will do anything to spare him active service, appealing to her father whose influence could keep Bill out of harm’s way. Judson Craig (Charles Winninger) shames his daughter on learning what she has in mind and Penny is contrite. How many in real life had power sufficient to enable offspring or close friends to stay home and thus duck combat? Slackers were shunned in movies but there were plenty out there, and I wonder how many regretted later (or didn’t) their decision to duck the fray. One thing we seldom got and for good reason was servicemen expressing doubt about worthiness of their mission like cynical John Garfield in Air Force who learns folly of me-first under fire. Penny hires on initially at Vega just to be near Bill but will recognize the greater cause she must serve, this to culminate with Durbin rendering showstopper Say a Prayer for the Boys Over There, a ballad hugely evocative in 1943 but heard less on lookbacks since. Hers to Hold has not so far been seen on DVD or Blu-Ray in the US or streamed/used by broadcasters stateside. Only way to see it apart from bootlegs is Region Two release in the UK from years back, part of a Durbin box and unfortunately a sole one of the lot derived from 16mm elements. We could implore Kino to lease Hers to Hold from Universal, but where is likelihood after reported soft sales of their previous Durbin set, more a pity because of all her grown-up vehicles, Hers to Hold may be a most rewarding.

Monday, September 04, 2023

Stills That Speak #2


STS: The Great Audience, The Wonderful Thing, Attack of the Crab Monsters, and Atragon

THE GREAT AUDIENCE --- Infinitude might be defined as ways an audience can behave badly, carry-on digital doo-dads but latter means by which watchers torment one another. Is this what emptied cinemas? I’ve barely attended since cells became prime menace, not my reason for quitting, though it will do for starter. Is concentrating on any movie a past thing? Television as forum for film was doomed from outset, the more where commercial breaks were rife. Home alone with your show permits full absorption, but what of the “audience experience”? Would you sit content among the jammed lot shown here? OMG, think of the germs. People didn’t used to worry so much about such things, so elders claim. I on the other hand would expect to exit such auditora with whooping cough at least --- and what about the smell? Don’t forget many places did not have air-conditioning until well after the war, seats off Iron Maiden blueprint before “luxury” or rocking-chairs protected rears from insult of hard surface. Remember feet and legs violating sanctity of space? I’ve been kicked like by mules from behind, had wad-up wrappers whizz past or upon me. Movie theatres --- who needs them? Some would appear to, says attendance to Barbie and isolated others. We walked up from “The Dispensary” (drug store converted to a restaurant) for peek into the Liberty, still (and surprisingly) operative. I spoke with the popcorn attendant and he invited us to peep into one of twin screen rooms (the Liberty was bisected in 1975 and you may imagine result). There was scant attendance for Barbie, her largely played out after initial weekend, several frames ago. I knew the glimpse would be bittersweet so should have spared myself. Who’s for going back to stuffed tuna cans? I'll take vanilla that is home viewing, Barbie perhaps the better for wait till gift that is streaming.

THE WONDERFUL THING (1921) --- Still await melodrama gaining respect. Who’s to say The Wonderful Thing is not a wonderful thing? I assumed it lost before reading online that The Wonderful Thing is “abysmal,” so perhaps it is extant. Was problem Norma Talmadge as “the daughter of a hog farmer”? We, at least me, might prefer her some other way, image here enough to sum up what is best about The Wonderful Thing. I’m for Norma in regal pose, ordering out what appears to be a loathed creditor. “You’re paid in full. Go!” says she, as a cowed (presumed) husband avoids either’s sightline. Did the miser in jodhpurs stop enroute to fox hunting? Had he suggested other means by which Norma might square the debt? It could explain her high moral dudgeon. Assuming that's the case, the husband should deck him or at least be at point of doing so, else Norma repair back to the hog farm. I admire acting such as Ms. Talmadge engages here. There should be more such today. Won’t reiterate how her films are shamefully ignored, because then we’re obliged to mention Gloria Swanson, Billie Dove, Corinne Griffith, plenty more who silently emoted and lived to see work not just fade away, but rot so. No one wanted talk-less movies once talk came, save some of slapstick they figured for fun minus caring what anyone on screen said. Melodrama stood for worst excess of the era unless Chaney or maybe Garbo came with it. Lamps shined seasons back when Beyond the Rocks surfaced, more for Valentino than Gloria Swanson. I see old newspaper ads and long for alleged 90% of silents since decomposed. Abysmal or not, surely they merit at least one sit.

--- Ann asked what I watched at the Parkland with my popcorn. “Something with unexpected depth, a surprisingly complex narrative that fully immersed me for 63 minutes,” said I. "Well, what was it?" replied she. Attack of the Crab Monsters … at which point I was invited to vacate her presence. Oh, ye all of such little faith who are yet to know Attack of the Crab Monsters for quality it embodies. My ardor grows with each watch. Startling for you-are-there quality is this color capture of Pamela Duncan fronting a woebegone crab that looks run over by a truck en route to Bronson Caves where this crew has gathered. Note the Hollywood sign in smog-free distance. When did that atmospheric condition become a problem for Los Angeles? Maybe there was smog here and I’m not seeing it. California was a fun place to visit but I'll (again) take vanilla that is NC. Did they construct a single crab and have him/her play all the other crabs? I never saw two in a same frame so am convinced that yes, such was (half) measure taken. Credit Roger Corman as capable director who did better work than anyone else could at his speed. Richard Garland had a shifty and somewhat Ray Danton thing going. Beverly Garland was married to Richard (hence her last name), said one day he just split and she never knew why. How could gals lovely as Beverly or Julie Adams rely on guys like Richard and Ray? On the other hand, there were times I sought to be shifty, though not blessed with Richard/Ray’s cruel good looks, came a cropper. Was it a passerby fan who got this snap of Crab and crew? If so, we owe that onlooker our eternal gratitude.

ATRAGON (1963) --- I doctored this image on Photoshop, removing graphics AIP-imposed. Atragon was Toho-made but had no monsters but for one seen briefly undersea and easily disposed of, reminiscent of Reptilicus which then or now was not necessarily a good thing. Colonel Forehand gave me the pressbook for Atragon and I fell hard for Reynold Brown’s artwork, a super submarine that drills through rock and flies besides. Monsters to boot would be mere window dressing. Atragon had a mid-week date at the Liberty which was somewhat prestigious. I saw it midst heartache of an after school live performance (Hansel and Gretel) which the girl of my fifth-grade dreams chose to attend with a rival. Well, at least I got to see Atragon and they did not, so there. Fact is, a great many others missed Atragon as well, it earning but $222,000 in domestic rentals from 4778 engagements, very poor indeed for a color AIP. I’m guessing a dearth of dinosaurs did it in, or maybe Toho imports were losing their fizz. I enjoyed Atragon and still do, a final third especially good. Lost civilization stuff reminded me of The Mole People at the time, having seen that at the Liberty shortly before Atragon showed up. We can acquire Atragon on DVD, just not the AIP-released version, which I prefer for its being what unspooled before awestruck boyhood eyes. As was case with others Jim and Sam brought across, there were changes, cuts, and perhaps a new score grafted onto Atragon. The Japanese original is fine, but this is one time I’d opt for bastardized AIPillaging seen in ’64.
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • July 2008
  • August 2008
  • September 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • May 2009
  • June 2009
  • July 2009
  • August 2009
  • September 2009
  • October 2009
  • November 2009
  • December 2009
  • January 2010
  • February 2010
  • March 2010
  • April 2010
  • May 2010
  • June 2010
  • July 2010
  • August 2010
  • September 2010
  • October 2010
  • November 2010
  • December 2010
  • January 2011
  • February 2011
  • March 2011
  • April 2011
  • May 2011
  • June 2011
  • July 2011
  • August 2011
  • September 2011
  • October 2011
  • November 2011
  • December 2011
  • January 2012
  • February 2012
  • March 2012
  • April 2012
  • May 2012
  • June 2012
  • July 2012
  • August 2012
  • September 2012
  • October 2012
  • November 2012
  • December 2012
  • January 2013
  • February 2013
  • March 2013
  • April 2013
  • May 2013
  • June 2013
  • July 2013
  • August 2013
  • September 2013
  • October 2013
  • November 2013
  • December 2013
  • January 2014
  • February 2014
  • March 2014
  • April 2014
  • May 2014
  • June 2014
  • July 2014
  • August 2014
  • September 2014
  • October 2014
  • November 2014
  • December 2014
  • January 2015
  • February 2015
  • March 2015
  • April 2015
  • May 2015
  • June 2015
  • July 2015
  • August 2015
  • September 2015
  • October 2015
  • November 2015
  • December 2015
  • January 2016
  • February 2016
  • March 2016
  • April 2016
  • May 2016
  • June 2016
  • July 2016
  • August 2016
  • September 2016
  • October 2016
  • November 2016
  • December 2016
  • January 2017
  • February 2017
  • March 2017
  • April 2017
  • May 2017
  • June 2017
  • July 2017
  • August 2017
  • September 2017
  • October 2017
  • November 2017
  • December 2017
  • January 2018
  • February 2018
  • March 2018
  • April 2018
  • May 2018
  • June 2018
  • July 2018
  • August 2018
  • September 2018
  • October 2018
  • November 2018
  • December 2018
  • January 2019
  • February 2019
  • March 2019
  • April 2019
  • May 2019
  • June 2019
  • July 2019
  • August 2019
  • September 2019
  • October 2019
  • November 2019
  • December 2019
  • January 2020
  • February 2020
  • March 2020
  • April 2020
  • May 2020
  • June 2020
  • July 2020
  • August 2020
  • September 2020
  • October 2020
  • November 2020
  • December 2020
  • January 2021
  • February 2021
  • March 2021
  • April 2021
  • May 2021
  • June 2021
  • July 2021
  • August 2021
  • September 2021
  • October 2021
  • November 2021
  • December 2021
  • January 2022
  • February 2022
  • March 2022
  • April 2022
  • May 2022
  • June 2022
  • July 2022
  • August 2022
  • September 2022
  • October 2022
  • November 2022
  • December 2022
  • January 2023
  • February 2023
  • March 2023
  • April 2023
  • May 2023
  • June 2023
  • July 2023
  • August 2023
  • September 2023
  • October 2023
  • November 2023
  • December 2023
  • January 2024
  • February 2024
  • March 2024
  • April 2024
  • May 2024
  • June 2024
  • July 2024