Jordan Belson

Written by Joe D on February 17th, 2021

Henry Jacobs and Jordan Belson at the Morrison Planetarium, 1959.

Here is a sample of the mystical filmmaking of Jordan Belson. Many think of him as trhe father of the 60’s psychedelic light shows, he put on a series of Abstract Visual Concerts at the Morrison Planetaium in 1957. Billed as the Vortex series, he collaborated with a sound Artist, Henry Jacobs, who played all kinds of World music, Music Concrete, Karlheinz Stockhausen, etc. I guess these concerts were too wild for the Planetarium and they stopped them. Belson began making films using his experience with the Light Shows as inspiration. I spoke to him on the telephone once many years ago at the behest of Harry Smith, another San Francisco based abstract filmmaker. Harry wanted me to have Belson send hi m some glass negatives of a series of Jazz paintings Harry did. These were Abstract Expressions of particular songs, like Bloomdido by Charlie Parker. Belson never sent the slides so I hope they are preserved somewhere and will be published one day. Anyway check this out and try to see his films projected in a theater. I saw them at the Anthology Film Archive in NYC. Now the Center For Visual Music, CVM is programming shows at museums around the world so keep your eyes open and go see them.

Special added Bonus Harry Smith’s Jazz painting of Dizzy Gillespie’s Manteca.

The Baroness and The Jazz Genius

Written by Joe D on February 10th, 2021

Here is a cool BBC Jazz film made by the grand niece of thr Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, Hannah Rothschild. She did a beautiful job in telling the story of their friendship. Monk suffered from” mental illness”. In West Africa he would have been a shaman, inother cultures what we look at as illness is seen as a special talent to communicate with the Spirit World. Who’s right? You decide. Anyway check out this cool film.

Charlie Parker and the baroness, 1955

Invisible Men in Comics and Film- Frank G. Host, Hugh A. Robertson, John Carter

Written by Joe D on February 8th, 2021

I just read a great book, it’s called Invisible Men, it’s about ground-breaking African American Artists that among other pursuits worked in the Comic Book field. They opened the door for other Black artists to make a living as illustrators, portrait painters, comic book creators. I highly recommend it. Ken Quattro did a great job in telling the stories of these under recognized artists. It also reminded me of when I was first starting out in the Film industry in NYC. I was fortunate to have been mentored by a great film editor named Frank G. Host.

He was one of only a few African American Film Editors at the time. I knew another one, John Carter, I worked on some films at his penthouse cutting room on 54th street and Eight Avenue. Another Black Film Editor , who became a director was Hugh A. Robinson.

I never met him but Frank and he had come up together as assitant editors and negative matchers and I heard a lot about him. So I was inspired by Invisible Men to write something about these breakthrough Black filmmakers. Frank told me he got a break because some leftist film people split from California (due to McCarthy witch hunts), came to NYC and were progressive enough to give a young, talented Black man a chance. Hugh Robertson worked with the great editor and director Carl Lerner.

Lerner made a film called Black Like Me where James Whitmore , a reporter, took an experimental drug that turned his skin dark, so he could write an article on what it was like to be a Black Man in America and experience the racism first hand.

Hugh also worked with DeeDee Allen, I spoke to her at a party one time and when I mentioned Frank she immediately asked if I had any news of Hugh, unfortunately I didn’t.

Frank worked with an Editor named Irv Fajans, a Union founder and veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, Progressive Americans who voulenteered to so to Spain and fight Fascism.

I don’t really know John Carter’s history, I just knew him as a very nice person, who worked on some big Hollywood films until he passed in 2018. But a quick visit to IMDB gives me some more info on his history. First of all he was born in my hometown of Newark, New Jersey.

He was in the Army and trained in the Signal Corps. A lot of film people wound up in the Signal Corps. Making films for the Army. John was hired by CBS in 1956, and he was the first African American  editor for Network Television in NYC. He was also the first African American to join A.C.E. (the American Cinema Editors Society). My pal Frank G. Host was involved with creating Shell’s Wonderful World Of Golf and won a Peabody Award for documentary work. He attended the Film School of the Sorbonne in Paris on the G.I. Bill. There he worked on Pickpocket for the great Robert Bresson. Later he was invited to sit on a Unesco panel on Filmmaking in Africa. If his wife had not died they were planning on moving to Africa to make films there. I’m sure there are other African Americans that played important roles in opening up the industry but these are the three I had personal knowledge of. In any case buy Invisible Men, it is really great, inspirational. I will write soon about another African American group of artists that are getting some great exposurfe these days. Kamoinge, a workshop of great Black photographers, several of whom I was lucky enough to know and call friends.

Orson Welles Voodoo Mac Beth

Written by Joe D on January 19th, 2021

Here is some newsreel footage of the famous version of MacBeth set in Haiti, Orson Welles directed for the Federal Theatert Project, an organization created during the Great Depression to bring live performance to the masses.  It was a smash hit.

And here is a documentary on the making of.

Alex In Wonderland, Donald Sutherland, Federico Fellini, Paul Mazursky

Written by Joe D on December 31st, 2020

After making his big hit film, Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, Paul Mazursky could make anything he wanted, so he made this crazy film. As Mel Brooks once said, “After a hit, you can film the phone book!” or words to that effect. This film is pretty insane but one of the great things about it is Donald Sutherland visiting Cinecita and seeing Fellini in an editing room, working with a woman editor, who is wearing a glove and splicing, at a CineMonta? editing table. Pretty Cool. The Maestro in action. Check it out

Too Much Sun, Robert Downey Sr & Jr.

Written by Joe D on December 28th, 2020

Here’s a clip from a film I edited for Robert Downey Sr. Downey Jr. is in it along with Ralph Macchio,Eric Idle , Andrea Martin, Alan Arbus, Leo Rossi, James Hong, Jennifer Ruben,and a host of others, including Howard Duff, it was his last film. In this clip you will see Laura Ernst harrassing Downey Junior at the begining. She was a great friend and married to Robert Downey Sr. But here are some funny moments. Enjoy.

Hugh A. Robertson,Frank G. Host, Carl Lerner, Pablo Ferro, Midnight Cowboy

Written by Joe D on December 12th, 2020

This is a crazy combination of people but what the heck it breaks down like this: I got into filmmaking by attending a one time Manpower funded program at T.U.I. (the Theater of Universal Images) in downtown Newark,N.J. (my hometown). The editing teacher was a great guy named Frank G. Host. We became friends and he got me my first job at Editor’s Hideaway on 57th and Madison Ave. in NYC. A commercial editing facility. Anyway Frank was always talking about his old friend Hugh Robertson, how they had started out together.  (there were very few Afro-American film editors at that time, John Carter was another.) Frank got his break from some leftist types from California , who fled the Hollywood Anti Communist witch hunts and were willing to give a young talented Black guy a break. Hugh worked for the great editor Carl Lerner, a priogressive person who went on to direct Black Like Me, about a white reporter who takes an experimental drug that turns him Black so he can see what it’s like to live as a Black person.

so these two friends were at the cutting edge of Black Filmmaking in the US. Frank got drafted and was stationed in Paris, luckily missing out on being sent to Korea. Then he attended the Sorbonne Film School on the G.I. bill, meanwhile Hugh A. Robertson continued to work in NYC, eventually landing the editing job on Shaft and  Midnitght Cowboy,then directing some films.  I had never met Hugh or even seen a picture of him until running across this intervbiew on YouTube posted by the ultracool Black Film Network. So I finally got to see him and hear him speak. Here it is.

It also just so happens that my old pal Pablo Ferro worked on Midnite Cowboy as 2nd unit director. Pablo told me he shot a lot of the psychedelic party scene in that film and here it is

Robert Aldritch’s Ulzana’s Raid

Written by Joe D on December 10th, 2020

Here is the trailer for one of my favorite Westerns, Ulzana’s Raid. I got turned on to this amazing movie by none other than Quentin Tarantino, who also loves the film. He gave me a VHS or maybe a Laser Disc to watch, I later saw it at the New Beverly as well. I found a review Quentin wrote and it is a brilliant piece of film criticsim, full of his personal insights into not only this film but film history as well. Here is the link to the review. Check it out.

Interview with Jean Rollin

Written by Joe D on December 3rd, 2020

Here’s an interview with Vampire film maker Jean Rollin. A unique character in The History Of Cinema. Very Cool stories of his influence, especially the serials! Dr. Satan! Check it Out!

Jean Rollin- The Nude Vampire

Written by Joe D on November 26th, 2020

Here’s a scene from Jean Rollin’s Nude Vampire. It is so cinematic, no dialog, just images and music and sound effects. So atmospheric. Let it be a lesson to filmmakers out there. Rollin had a talent for creating creepy atmospheres out of nothing, a unique voice in Cinema. He fell on hard times with the closing of movie theaters in the 80’s and had to make porno films. I’ve never seen any but I bet they are different. I just ordered a box set of his films from France, I’ll report on them soon.

Wu Tang Clan Presents- 18 Jade Claws of Shaolin

Written by Joe D on November 23rd, 2020

RZA has singlehandedly elevated the Cinese Kung Fu Film to an accepted Art Foem. I told him they were going to screen The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter at The Museum Of Modern Art in NYC. He was happy. Anyway Check this one out, I hadn’t ever heard of it so we can thank the Film Lovers of the WuTang for turning us on to this one.

Bob Downey ( A Prince)

Written by Joe D on November 10th, 2020

Here is a great interview with the superfantastic Bob Downey, father of Robert Downey,Jr. I know Bob very well, we worked on a lot of projects together and he really is a Prince. The folks at the ReelBlack Vault in Philadelphia did a great job on this interview, I’ve talked to Bob about his films many, many timess and these guys got him to reveal a lot of incredible information, stuff I knew about but never heard it so clearly expressed. Bob loves Philadelphia, he made several films ther with Max Raab, an old friend, they were planning a documentary when Max died. Anyway enjoy this wonderful interview and maybe check oput some of Bob’s films. I think Greaser’s Palace is on Amazon Prime these days.