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Category Archives: Celluloid

Savant Knows All

Glenn Erickson of DVD Savant is back with his 2005 Favored Disc Roundup. Not only does he spotlight his favorite reissues of the year, he gives a lot of insight into the often shoddy ways that film studios market their older films on DVD. A similar plea is made in Al Lutz’s open letter to Leonard Maltin imploring Maltin and Disney to better handle the material on the Disney Treasures DVDs.

Swankola Superhome

Recently we rewatched The Incredibles and marveled at the retro-style details used in the settings — especially the Incredible family homestead. The exterior design is inspired by Bob Alexander’s tract homes in Palm Springs. Interiors seemed to come straight off the pages of House and Garden magazine, circa 1960, with textures so lovingly rendered that you feel like you can reach out and touch them. Right then and there, we decided we had to have the charming “school of fish” wall hanging in their living room. If it existed outside a computer mainframe, that is.

When Hollywood Went Black and Tan

Next month, vintage musicals Hallelujah, Green Pastures and Cabin In The Sky will debut on DVD as a Black History Month tie-in. Truthfully, all three suffer in varying degrees from their very dated portrayals of African-American spirituality, so it should be interesting to hear the commentaries on each film. I’ve never seen the early talkie Hallelujah, but that one piques my interest since it dates from the time when Irving Thalberg was greenlighting gutsy, non-traditional projects for MGM. Green Pastures is a bizarre 1936 opus from Warners with cast members speaking in stereotypical Southern dialect. Cabin In The Sky holds up well due to the dynamite starring trio of Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, Ethel Waters and Lena Horne with direction by Vincente Minnelli. All three come out January 10!

Busby Berkeley Dreams

Specs on the forthcoming Busby Berkeley DVD box, due in March from Warner Home Video. In addition to the films 42nd Street, Gold Diggers of 1933 and 1935, Footlight Parade, and Dames, each disc will have new featurettes and vintage shorts. What delights me the most about this set is that they’re including those insufferably cute Merrie Melodies cartoons that Warner Bros. produced to capitalize on the cheery Harry Warren/Al Dubin songs from those films — “Pettin’ In The Park”, “Honeymoon Hotel”, “Shuffle Off To Buffalo” and the like. I haven’t seen those in years. Plus: a bonus disc of 20 Berkeley numbers from various musicals. Joy!!

Silent Sunday

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I used to complain about the lack of revival film showings in the area where I live. Not anymore. Recently, a group of local film lovers decided to do a series of silent movie presentations with live organ accompaniment. The films have been shown at The Orpheum, a beautifully restored 1920s movie palace in downtown Phoenix. Last night they presented the early Technicolor Douglas Fairbanks swashbuckler The Black Pirate. We went with a couple of friends and had lots of fun, even if some of the details weren’t quite as perfect as they could be.

The program began with a couple of early animated shorts – Walt Disney’s Puss In Boots and Felix the Cat in Hollywood. Both had the rudimentary feel of comic books in motion, with thought balloons growing out of characters’ heads and simple, repetitive actions. But they were also quite funny in their own clumsy way. I appreciated the lampoonings of then-current stars like Rudolf Valentino, Gloria Swanson and Ben Turpin, as well as the dated lingo coming from the characters’ mouths. It was an experience very similar to when Bart and Milhouse watched that 1920s Itchy and Scratchy cartoon on The Simpsons

When it came time for The Black Pirate, I was disappointed to find that the only print the theatre had was blurry and dark — and in black and white, not color. Plus, the title cards were set in a goofy looking font called Ad-Lib. Couldn’t they have found a typeface that even sort of looks old? The film unfolded at a somewhat pokey pace, but things pick up once Dashing Doug bombards a ship and tries to avenge his father’s death (all the while courting the lovely Billie Dove as a princess). I was surprised to find several scenes that I already knew – Fairbanks slashing his way down a giant ship sail, Fairbanks’ body being effortlessly lifted by his pirate minions, and a bizarre scene involving dozens of male extras hung by wires (they’re supposed to be swimming). Seeing an older film like this in its proper setting was a blast. I’m going to have to go back again soon.

The Phantom Creeps

Happy Halloween. You know what today means — scary movies! Mindjack just did a Vital Horror feature for anyone who needs ideas. As for us, we’re going to do our usual hiding out in the back room, porch light off, avoiding the trick or treaters. Sorry, but I hate kids and giving out candy. The candy is ours, brats! Lately we’ve been spending this avoidance time watching a horror DVD the computer. This year it’ll be Eyes Without A Face.