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July 15 2011

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Conrad Veidt & Lil Dagover in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920, dir. Robert Wiene)

“The scenes in the steep, dark, crooked alleyways belonged to him. Even when he was not in front of the camera, he would prowl around the studio and startle us.”

-Lil Dagover on Veidt (via)

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Elizabeth Taylor in Secret Ceremony (1968, dir. Joseph Losey)

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The lighting of the Olympic torch in Olympia (1938, dir. Leni Riefenstahl)


July 14 2011


An alien spaceship lands in rural England. One of the inhabitants wanders off and in front of a car. Taking his ''funny clothes'' to be fancy dress, the driver (now minus his mistress, one of those nice little touches that grounds the story) take him to the local hospital for treatment.

The staff, led by Dr Mike Vernon (the ever-dependable Edward Judd), soon realise that their patient is not of this earth, beginning with a blood sample that does not look normal and followed by the discovery of a metal disc in the man's head. Meanwhile, two other (female) aliens search for their missing compatriot and soon track him down to the hospital, which is then discovered to be sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible barrier...

The aliens, later designating themselves as Lystrians, all look Oriental, though any racist subtext to this is rendered less likely by the casting of Tsai Chin as one of the hospital nurses and, as such, a fully integrated member of the local and by extension national communities. Moreover, before the alien's true otherness is revealed, her character is also asked if the alien man is Chinese or Japanese, but she does not think he is -- there is something not quite right and she's never seen clothes like his before; all very much contra the racist cliche “They [we] don't all like alike”

Edward Judd, Tsai Chin and the alien

More importantly, the Invasion title itself is actually somewhat misleading, insofar as the aliens are more concerned with their own matters than earthly ones, namely the recapture of an escaped prisoner (or two).

The film's writer, Robert Holmes, had earlier worked on Dr Finlay's casebook and would later become a prominent contributor to Dr Who. It is easy to see Invasion as a combination of the two. The hospital setting equates to the Earth-centred 'base under siege' scenario that were becoming especially common during Patrick Troughton's tenure as the Time Lord. More directly, other aspects of the story prefigure the introduction of Jon Pertwee in the Holmes-scripted Spearhead from Space, as the newly regenerated Doctor is taken to hospital and it gradually becomes apparent that he is not human, although the other aliens there are more predictably malign and actually intent on invasion. Beyond this, there are also UNIT-like military men, an unsympathetic, narrow-minded man from the government, and a competent pre-Liz Shaw female scientist. (The film as a whole has an unusual, if sometimes more obviously pre-feminist, take on gender issues.)

Fans of the Quatermass (E)xperiments or Terence Fisher's Planet triumvirate, especially the slightly later Night of the Big Heat (Island of Terror also starred Judd), will also find much that is comfortably familiar and oh-so-very particularly British. In other words, while the special effects aren't up to much this is somewhat beside the point: Rather, it's about the ideas, the performances, and the generation of an atmosphere of unease.

They don't make them like this anymore, more's the pity...

Emmanuelle in Soho

Young couple Paul and Kate (Julie Lee) and their bisexual flatmate Emanuelle (Angie Quick, billed as Mandy Miller) are short of money. Paul and Emmanuelle try their hand at glamour photography, while Kate gets a job as a stripper at a nude review, Hang About Sebastian. Paul takes his photos to Bill (John M. East), who tells Paul that they are not really what the punters are after and kindly offers to take them off his hands for £50, then sells them for several times this. After Bill has worked this scam several times, Paul realises he is being conned and schemes his revenge. He invites Bill and his secretary cum mistress Sheila to a party, also attended by the cast and artistic crew of Hang About Sebastian. Inevitably, several of the guests pair off, including Bill. Paul secretly films Bill, then blackmails him...

Released to cinemas thirty years ago this month, Emmanuelle in Soho pretty much marked the death of the British sex film as a theatrical form.

The once proud Tigon tiger-lion...

British Cinema: From Blow-Up to this in the span of 15 or so years...

Blackstone and Hooper should be familiar names to students of the genre, with the latter also having some surprise Italian connections...

The film was bankrolled by porn baron David Sullivan as a vehicle for Julie Lee. She was a half-Chinese model who was being groomed as the successor to Mary Millington, who had committed suicide two years earlier and whose legacy it was becoming harder for Sullivan to exploit.

Keep it on!

Lee was originally cast as the Emmanuelle character. This could have suggested more of a connection, however tenuous, to the unofficial Emanuelle cycle from Italy insofar as these had similarly stressed the exotic appeal of 'Black' Emanuelle and 'Yellow' Emanuelle. Any sense of Oriental(ist) fantasy is however immediately dispelled when Lee opens her mouth and reveals her broad Yorkshire accent; had it been an Italian film, shot silent and post-synchronised, this could of course have been avoided.

East and some publicity for other Sullivan product

Lee and Miller swapped roles when it became apparent that she really could not act. Think about that: One model in a sex film being replaced by another because the quality of her performance was not up to scratch!

It is not, however, that the rest of the cast are much better. The actor playing Paul -- I use the term loosely -- performs primarily through raising his eyebrows, while producer and co-writer East reprises his Max Miller comedy routine from the Millington cash-in Queen of the Blues, firing off gag after gag, mostly unfunny.

The direction from first and only timer David Hughes is perfunctory. There is however the odd moment, such as the rack focus from Paul and Emmanuelle in a potentially compromising situation to Kate as she enters the room positioned in the back of the frame, in between them, which suggests someone making an effort.

The version under review ran barely an hour, with much of the running time padded out by the various performance and softcore numbers -- or, depending on your point of view, there is not enough of these and too much of plot stuff.

Signs of the times

Internationally it was also released with a documentary type introduction to Soho and with hardcore inserts. For the present day viewer, meanwhile, its interest is more as a classic piece of trash and for the incidental historical, social and cultural details, ranging from dialogue indicating a pre-AIDS fashionability of bisexuality (though other lines predictably suggest this was exclusively for women); to the giant top-loading VHS machine that was killing off this kind of cinema; to the size of flat the three supposedly impoverished friends have; to Paul's massive bouffant cum mullet.

Lee tragically died less than two years later after crashing her car and suffering massive burns. She was on her way home from a beauty contest in which, as the Monopoly card has it, she won second place...

Lucio Fulci's House by the Cemetery and Zombie announced for Blu-ray!

In some of the best home-video news of the year, Lucio Fulci's unforgettable Zombie is finally going to hit Blu-ray in late October courtesy of Blue Underground. The new two-disc deluxe set (also available on DVD) will feature both new and old extras including:

Disc 1:

•Audio Commentary with Star Ian McCulloch and Diabolik Magazine Editor Jason J. Slater
•Theatrical Trailers
•TV Spots
•Radio Spots
•Poster & Still Gallery
•Guillermo del Toro Intro

Disc 2:

•Zombie Wasteland – Interviews with Stars Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson & Al Cliver, and Actor/Stuntman Ottaviano Dell'Acqua
•Flesh Eaters on Film – Interview with Co-Producer Fabrizio De Angelis
•Deadtime Stories – Interviews with Co-Writers Elisa Briganti and (Uncredited) Dardano Sacchetti
•World of the Dead – Interviews with Cinematographer Sergio Salvati and Production & Costume Designer Walter Patriarca
•Zombi Italiano – Interviews with Special Make-Up Effects Artists Gianetto De Rossi & Maurizio Trani and Special Effects Artist Gino De Rossi
•Notes on a Headstone – Interview with Composer Fabio Frizzi
•All in the Family – Interview with Antonella Fulci
•Zombie Lover – Award-Winning Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro talks about one of his favorite films

Fellow Fulci fanatics will want to hold onto their old Shriek Show double-disc DVDs as it contains extras that still won't be found anywhere else, but I expect that Blue Undergrounds set will be the absolute ultimate edition as far as sound and vision goes.

Also, coming in September, Blue Underground is unleashing Fulci's equally mesmerizing House by the Cemetery on Blu-ray with these exciting extras:

Meet the Boyles - Interviews with Stars Catriona MacColl and Paolo Malco
Children of the Night - Interviews with Stars Giovanni Frezza and Silvia Collatina
Tales of Laura Gittleson - Interview with Star Dagmar Lassander
My Time With Terror - Interview with Star Carlo De Mejo
A Haunted House Story - Interviews with Co-Writers Dardano Sacchetti and Elisa Briganti
To Build a Better Death Trap - Interviews with Cinematographer Sergio Salvati, Special Make-Up Effects Artists Giannetto De Rossi & Maurizio Trani, Special Effects Artist Gino De Rossi, and Actor Giovanni De Nava
Deleted Scene
Theatrical Trailers
TV Spot
Poster & Still Gallery

I am truly excited to hear about these exciting releases
and can't wait to add them to Italian Horror and Fulci shelf!
CONTEST: Of Gods and Men DVD/Blu-ray Giveaway
The New York Times' A.O. Scott praised Of Gods and Men as "supple and suspenseful, appropriately austere without being overly harsh, and without forgoing the customary pleasures of cinema. The performances are strong, the narrative gathers momentum as it progresses, and the camera is alive to the beauty of the Algerian countryside." On behalf of GreenCine and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, you may enter to win the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack of what The Christian Science Monitor's Peter Rainer called "a transcendently uplifting tragedy." More on the film, now on shelves:

Loosely based on the life of the Cistercian monks of Tibhirine in Algeria, from 1993 until their kidnapping in 1996, OF GODS AND MEN tells a story of eight French Christian monks who live in harmony with their Muslim brothers. When a crew of foreign workers is massacred by an Islamic fundamentalist group, fear sweeps through the region. The army offers them protection, but the monks refuse. Should they leave? Despite the growing menace in their mids, they slowly realize that they have no choice but to stay... come what may.

To enter, email and include your name, email address, mailing address, and, if you're a GreenCine member, your username in the email, and "Of Gods and Men" in the subject header. Entries without all this information will not be considered. (You will not be added to a mailing list!). One winner will be selected at random from all valid entries. You must be a US resident to enter. The deadline to enter is July 21. Winner will be notified by e-mail and announced in future editions of the GreenCine Dispatch newsletter.

See the Of Gods and Men trailer below:

Tags: Contests

The Tree of Links: Terrence Malick Studies

Frame grab from The New World (Terrence Malick, 2004)
For me the most powerful films are, and always will be, those of a singular gaze where the human eye can be felt, where it is allowed to go uninhibited, without question and without anyone second guessing its accuracy.

[Filmmaker Brad McGann on Malick's Days of Heaven in ‘Southern Superstition’, Take, Issue 27, Winter 2004/5, p. 19. cited by Duncan Petrie]

Film Studies For Free is off to the beach and won't be posting for a few weeks. But, dry those tears! FSFF always likes to leave its readers with something to remember it by. And this year's pre-vacation posting will hopefully do the trick. 

Below, you will find a sublime, transcendent, rare, totally indulgent, and almost religiously good list of links to online and openly accessible studies of the work of American filmmaker Terrence Malick, together with some reviews of his 2011 Palme D'Or winning opus The Tree of Life which are of scholarly interest. Scroll right down to the end for five of Matt Zoller Seitz's great video essays on Malick's work.

Don't say that FSFF doesn't love you, because, despite its occasional confusion with double-negatives, it does! Ciao!

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