Albin Grau- Nosferatu- F.W. Murnau- Fritz Arno Wagner

Written by Joe D on September 11th, 2021

Everyone equates Nosferatu with F.W. Murnau, one of the all time great directors, and they should. He brought the film to life in such a powerful way that it still lives today. 90% of films made back then are either gone or forgotten, probably more. But let’s give credit where it’s due, Albin Grau ,who produced the film through his short lived company Prana Films also thought up the concept and designed the film. Here are some amazing images he created.

 

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F.W.Murnau

 

Pretty Damn Cool! You can see he was a huge part ofthe stylization,imagecreation,atmosphere,everything.Murnau ,being the supreme film artist that he was, created the celluloid realizations of these images, plus he shot on location which gave the film more reality, making it scarier.

Bram Stoker’s widow sued and won a copyright infringement lawsuit, she tried to have every copy of the film destroyed. And she almost succeded! Luckily for us a few prints and a negative escaped destruction. But Prana films was kaput! Albin Grau was forced to declare bankruptcy even though the film was a hit. The curse of Nosferatu continued with the tragic early death of Murnau in a car crash in California on the deadly Pacific Coast Highway. Years later his skull was stolen from his grave, presumably by some Satanists. Berg moved to Switzerland and worked as a graphic artist. Here’s a trailer from the restored version, so you can appreciate the beauty of Fritz Arno Wagner’s cinematography.

Kolchak The Night Stalker

Written by Joe D on September 1st, 2021

I just happened upon this on YouTube last night. One of the best TV Movies ever made! Super influential! X-Files Creator Christopher Carter sites it as a major influence. Written by Genius Richard Mathesson, he wrote the book Psycho was adapted from, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Trilogy of Terror, many TYwilight Zones, The Last Man On Earth, which has been adapted many times. The list goes on and on. A big part of why this movie is so good, Plus a great cast, Darren McGaven, Carole Lynley, Ralph Meeker, Charles McGraw, Simon Oakland, Claude Akins and Elisha Cook Jr. Some icons of Classic Film Noir. And an incredible score, kind of Dirty Harryesque, really cool. And I must say some really terrific stunt work! Makes it all seem belivable.  Many Years ago I took a Cinematography class at the Hollywood Film School, kind of a low budget AFI on Hollywood Blvd. It was taught by Michel Hugo, the guy who shot tyhis masterpiece. A very nice Frenchman and an excellent cameraman. Anyway check it out, a real blast from the past.

GBU IN 4K!

Written by Joe D on May 18th, 2021

They have released a new transfer of Sergio Leone’s Masterpiece  The Good, The Bad and the Ugly in 4K! This film deserves it! One of the greatest films ever made. And Ennio Morricone’s magnificent score accompanying these hi rez visuals is a delight for any lover of Cinema. Be sure to pay close attention to the title sequence as this is the best it has ever looked on something you can watch at home. In all honesty some of the exteriors were a bit bright for my taste but you judge for yourself. I did think the final duel was spot on. Really looked great. So here it is from youtube. Check it out.

Fellini!

Written by Joe D on March 17th, 2021

Here is a couple of cool clips abnout the grande maestro del Cinema, Federico Fellini. The first one is footage of hiim directing Juliet Of The Spirits. I have seen this footage in color and it’s even better. I can’t find the color version bnut one day I will and I’ll post it. The other is a small documentary shot on the set of 8 and a half, Otto e Mezzo, it’s so refreshing to see a great artist at work, the characters, thge amazing faces. The circus of Cinema Fellini crteated. Added Bonus , rare footage of the incomparable camerman Gianni DeVenanzo, shooting Juliet of the Spirits. The supercool thing abouit this clip is how cheap the set looks, you can see the grass is fake, the house is fake, everything is fake. But when you watch the film everything is transformed by Cinema into magical beautiful transporting atmospheric beauty.

The great Gianni DiVenanzo, Maestro of Cinematography

Written by Joe D on September 8th, 2020

Here is a short film about one of my favorite cameramen of all time, Gianni DiVenanzo. I encourage everyone to seek out the films he shot and enjoy them. Such a brilliant filmmaker, a unique talent. He died young, only 45 years old. Vittorio Storaro tells the story. Here’s a link to a great site dedicated to him.

http://www.celtoslavica.de/chiaroscuro/dop/venanzo/venanzo.html

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Silent Hollywood

Written by Joe D on May 16th, 2020

Here is a great BBC produced series about the early days of the Movie Business and how it wound up in Hollywood USA. Great interviews with the real Silent Movie people done back in the late 60’s I’d guess. Narrated by the great James Mason who in real life bought Buster Keaton’s old house and lived there for a while. Anyway it’s a great series chock full of amazing information and fascinating characters. Check it out!

 

The Hustler

Written by Joe D on May 30th, 2019

Here’s the trailer for Robert Rossen’s The Hustler, great script, great directing, great acting, great cinematography by Eugene Schufftan and great editing by Dede Allen. Watch the whole movie and dig it!

 

Seconds-Frankenheimer-James Wong Howe

Written by Joe D on March 18th, 2019

 

Last night I had dinner with an old friend, James Hong, we were talking and I mentioned the great camerman James Wong Howe, James Hong told me he was friends with James Wong Howe and what a struggle it was for him to become a cameraman in Hollywood. I was reminded of Seconds, a crazy film Howe shot for the great John Frankenheimer so here is the trailer. Check out Sweet Smell Of Success to see more of the camerwork of the great James Wong Howe.

And here is a little documentary about James Wong Howe

Day Of The Fight Stanley Kubrick’s First Film

Written by Joe D on January 23rd, 2019

This is Stanley Kubrick’s First film. He said making it was the best film school he could have gone to. He had photographed this boxer for Look magazine and decided to make a film about him. He sold this film to RKO and actually made a profit! Atmospheric and photographically sophisticated, a great first film.

The Tree of Wooden Clogs

Written by Joe D on January 7th, 2019

The Genius Of Cinema-Ermanno Olmi

 

I saw this when it was released in 1978 with my best pal Frank G. Host. We talked about it for a long time. It is a masterpiece! One of the best films ever made! Made by a true genius of Cinema, Ormano Olmi. He wrote, photographed , directed , and edited it. Damn! And all for a very small budget with non actors! Be inspired filmmakers of the future! See the Power of Cinema!

The Making Of The Misfits

Written by Joe D on February 22nd, 2016

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Here’s a wonderful documentary about the making of The Misfits, a classic B&W film. What an amazing collection of talent! Arthur Miller, John Huston, the cast, Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Monty Clift, Eli Wallach, Thelma Ritter, the brilliant crew including the genius cameraman Russell Metty and the spectaculer editor George Tomasini.

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Russell Metty with Orson Welles

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The Great George Tomasini
What a group. Out in the middle of nowhere making an existential Western. Wow, I wish I could have been there. I first saw this film back on the WOR Million Dollar Movie, it fascinated me as a young movie nut. I loved Marilyn and I had never seen Gable in a movie like this. The incredible cinematography blew me away, especially the mustang catching sequence. Metty had shot such masterpieces as Orson Welles Touch Of Evil, Douglas Sirk’s Magnificent Obsession, Kubrick’s Spartacus, to name a few. George Tomasini was best known for his work with Hitchcock, including, Vertigo, Psycho, Rear Window and North by Northwest. One of the greatest editors of all time. Anyway here is Part one of the doc. Check it out.

The Magnificent Ambersons

Written by Joe D on July 8th, 2014

936full-the-magnificent-ambersons-poster.jpgI’ve been thinking about this film lately so I watched a few clips on Youtube, I have a Japanese import dvd somewhere but I haven’t run across it in a while. The shots in the party scene are so amazing, so fluid, so space delicious , I don’t think their baroque splendor was reached until Fellini’s 8 1/2 and this was Welles 2nd film! The interesting sequence of Joseph Cotten trying on different types of clothing, shoes, hats illustrating the evolution of sartorial styles is unique in Cinema. The wonderful opening shot of the house and the horse drawn carriage that comes by and the orchestrated movement in the frame is unequalled in timing, simplicity, complexity. It’s not boring one shot that doesn’t move with a kind of Victorian vignetting, incredible. I read some where that Welles, enfant terrible of radio, recorded the dialog for the big dance scene as a radio play, worked with the actors till the timing was perfect, then played back the dialog on the set as they filmed and the actors had to say their lines in sync with the recording! It seems impossible but the scenes are obviously(to me) dubbed. And these are some intricately choreographed moving shots! With overlapping dialog no less. It really is unbelievable.


The way characters move from light into darkness, become silhouettes, then are illuminated again, so beautiful, tenebrae is the term for this dramatic lighting effect. The wonderful performances, all great.

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The movie does have a kind of a downer tone that was out of sync with it’s time, WWII and all, probably why it tested poorly, but it was ahead of it’s time, it plays better now. Watch Joseph Cotten’s speech about the impact of the automobile on civilization, brilliant .


The idiotic regime that replaced Schaffer at RKO hated Welles, so did a lot of people in Hollywood, they resented this upstart and they didn’t understand him so they tried to destroy him. And they did a pretty good job, even though it was at a high price to themselves! If they had not reclaimed the silver from the original negative of Amersons by melting it down, they would have been able to release the Directors cut in theaters all over the world, on VHS, dvd, Blu Ray. They would have made a fortune from it. As a fortune was made from Citizen Kane over the years. I can think of no other lost film I would rather see than Welles cut of Ambersons. It’s like a dream, the idea of going into a theater and seeing the whole thing. Welles went to Rio to shoot “IT’s All True” before Ambersons was completed. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had persuaded his friend to take on this project to foster good feelings between South America and the USA, keep them from joining the Fascists. I read that Robert Wise sent a work picture and track down to Rio for Welles to watch and comment on. No one seems to know what happened to that print. Could it still be down there in rusty cans, in storage somewhere, in an old warehouse. The heat and humidity might have turned the nitrate film stock into highly explosive goo but maybe there’s a chance it was put in a cellar somewhere, a vault, and it exists. Lying there in the darkness ,the plastic realization of a young man’s genius, like frozen thoughts, Donovan’s Brain in it’s fish tank, waiting.

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Welles on the Ambersons set, Robert Wise the editor 2nd from left. Welles blamed him for the hatchet job

Ambersons was one of the favorite films of Jean Pierre Melville. He speaks of it in a book of interviews I once read. He comments on a scene between Joseph Cotten and Anne Baxter (playing his daughter). How Mellville remembers seeing the “cottony trees” they were walking through even though the scene is in a close 2shot and you don’t get a good view of the surroundings, Welles created this unseen world in the viewers minds by the actors voices, a direct link to Radio.

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I might as well mention Tim Holt. Son of Cowboy star Jack Holt ( a Jack Holt Western is playing at a theater Tim and Anne Baxter walk by in the film)

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Holt never really wanted to be an actor but he was born into it, Hollywood Royalty, a member of the Beverly Hills polo club. This was a big year for Tim, he appeared in Ambersons and The Treasure Of the Sierra Madre, not bad!

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Welles did not appear in Ambersons but he did the voice over, and narrated the credits at the end, one of the first times a film appeared with no letters on the screen (other than the RKO logo and the main title). Once again Radio rears it’s antennaed head.


Future filmmakers beware! Never walk away from your film before it’s finished! Even if FDR and Rockefeller are beseeching you to do so! This action on Welles part not only “ruined his best film” but put a huge dent in his fledgling yet stratospheric career. A pattern that repeated itself throughout his films, he left Touch Of Evil to go down to Mexico to set up a new project, but that film fared much better than Ambersons, they even recut it following a 100 plus page memo Welles left behind. Oh well if only somebody stumbling out of a World Cup match wanders by mistake into an old film vault and kicks over a box and cans marked RKO spill out otherwise we’re left with the image from the end of Citizen Kane but it’s not Rosebud that’s consigned to the flames, it’s the missing negative of The Magnificent Ambersons.

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