Sunday, May 31, 2009

1960's Milestones in Film (clips)

The 1960's saw a lot of change in films (story, content, subject matter) and what viewers were likely to see on the big screen. The first X-rated films occurred in this decade, along with the first overtly gay/lesbian films (most from Britain), the first major African American releases, as well as many other finely directed films from a new wave of young directors. Below are some highlights:

Stanley Kubrick (director) Tribute:
Spartacus (1960)
Lolita (1962)
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
2001, A Space Odyssey (1968)

Billy Wilder (director)
The Seven Year Itch (1955)
Some Like it Hot (1959)
The Apartment (1960)
Avanti! (1972)

African American films:
Sidney Poitier (first African American actor to receive "Best Actor" Academy Award)
Lilies of the Field (1963)
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
To Sir, With Love (1967) (vocals by Brit superstar Lulu!)

The Cool World (1963) (director Shirley Clarke) Retrospective

Black Girl (1966) (No clip)

Gordon Parks (director/photographer) The Learning Tree (1969) media article

Shaft (1970)

Gay/Lesbian Films:

Victim (1961)
The Children's Hour (1961)
Robert Aldrich (director) The Killing of Sister George (1968)
Myra Breckenridge (1970)
Boys in the Band (1970)

Decade of the Musical Mega-Hits!

West Side Story (1961)
A Hard Days Night (1964)
Mary Poppins (1964)
The Sound of Music (1965)
Yellow Submarine (1968)

Great Actresses:

Marilyn Monroe (the screen legend died in 1962 - here's a tribute to her life)
Audrey Hepburn Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
Elizabeth Taylor's epic flop: Cleopatra (1963)

Jayne Mansfield (eat your heart out Paris Hilton!)
Dog Eat Dog (1965)
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957)
The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield (1968)

X-Rated & Controversial New Wave films:

Georgie Girl (1966)
Blow Up (1966) Michelangelo Antonioni (director)
The Graduate (1967)
The Wild Bunch (1969) Sam Peckinpah (director)
Easy Rider (1969)
Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Popular Culture Films (film subjects with staying power)
The following films have spewed various sequels, remakes, and have influenced American popular culture since the 1960's.

James Bond
Dr. No (1960)

Goldfinger (1964)

Other Pop Culture Influencing films:

The Pink Panther (1963)

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Planet of the Apes (1968)

Star Trek (television series) 1966

Thursday, May 28, 2009

1960's film

The 1960's were a turbulent social/political and tough time for filmmakers. Adversity, though, brings new innovation. Research the 1960's and complete the note/handout sheet. Turn in at end of class.

By the way, please turn in your horror/sci-fi (1950's) treatment this is past due.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Narrative Technique in Psycho

One way to appreciate film is by examining its narrative structure. As young writers, this is a great exercise. You can learn a lot about writing by paying attention to narrative.

Narrative can be:
• Omniscient
• Limited (over the shoulder)/Restricted
• Multiple Perspective

Narrative largely depends on how time works in the story.

Chronology: (how time works in a story)
• Chronological/linear time
• Non-chronological/non-linear
• Flashback
• Frame

When we examine time and narrative in film, we should ask:
Who does the camera favor?
This is your clue as to who you need to be concerned with/about.

Hitchcock applies several effective narrative techniques to keep his audience on its toes. The most famous of these is:

The MacGuffin: an object of importance to the characters but of little interest to the director (and consequently to the viewer).

As you watch Psycho, pay attention to:
1. The MacGuffin (what is it for which character?)
2. Set-up
3. 1st Turning point
4. Development
5. Other turning points (there can be several of these)
6. Climax
7. Resolution

Ed Wood & Roger Corman

Ed Wood (Jr.) (10 October 1924 – 10 December 1978) was an American screenwriter, director, producer, actor, author, and editor, who often performed many of these functions simultaneously. In the 1950s, Wood made a run of cheap and poorly produced genre films, now humorously celebrated for their technical errors, unsophisticated special effects, large amounts of ill-fitting stock footage, idiosyncratic dialogue, eccentric casts and outlandish plot elements, although his flair for showmanship gave his projects at least a modicum of critical success.

Wood's popularity waned soon after his biggest 'name' star, Béla Lugosi, died. He was able to salvage a saleable feature from Lugosi's last moments on film, but his career declined thereafter. Toward the end of his life, Wood made pornographic movies and wrote pulp crime, horror, and sex novels. His posthumous fame began two years after his death, when he was awarded a Golden Turkey Award as Worst Director of All Time. The lack of conventional filmmaking ability in his work has earned Wood and his films a considerable cult following.

Glen or Glenda: (1953)

Jail Bait (1954)

Bride of the Monster

Plan Nine from Outer Space (1956) Written and shot in 5 days!

Roger William Corman (born April 5, 1926), sometimes nicknamed "King of the Bs" for his output of B-movies, is a prolific American producer and director of low-budget movies, some of which have an established critical reputation: many of his films derived from the tales of Edgar Allan Poe.

Corman has apprenticed many now-famous directors, stressing the importance of budgeting and resourcefulness; Corman once joked he could make a film about the fall of the Roman Empire with two extras and a sagebush.

It Conquered the World (1956)

The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)

Look up the following, if you'd like: The Raven (1963), The Terror (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Samuel Z. Arkoff & AIP


"By the early 1950's, Samuel Z. Arkoff was a brash lawyer scratching out a living by representing his in-laws and the Hollywood fringe, which included many of now-infamous director/angora-clad transvestite Edward D. Wood Jr.'s social circle. Arkoff was physically imposing and capable of scaring anyone who opposed him. One of his clients was Alex Gordon, a screenwriter who had submitted an unsolicited script to Realart Pictures, an outfit that was profitably re-releasing 20-year old movies, often under new titles conjured up by it's owner, Jack Broder. One such film, Man Made Monster (1941), had just been re-issued as The Atomic Monster, coincidentally the same title of Gordon's screenplay. Zarkoff, smelling blood in the water, paid Mr. Broder a visit and incredibly, obtained a $500 settlement. Broder's sales manager, James H. Nicholson was dumbfounded by Zarkoff's ability to extract a dime out of his tightfisted boss and proposed a partnership. American Releasing Corporation was founded in 1954 and their first release was a low-budget feature by 29-year old producer Roger Corman. Made for less than $50,000, it netted $850,000 and Corman was brought into the fold as a silent partner. By 1955 the company was renamed American International Pictures, or simply AIP within the industry. Initially focusing on westerns on the premise that locations came cheap, and although profitable, Arkoff was unhappy with the returns and solicited theater owners for advice on what types of films filled seats. By the mid-1950's, thanks to television, the audience numbers had dwindled considerably with the key demographic now teenagers and young adults, who craved horror movies and drive-ins. AIP jumped into the horror genre with both feet and made a fortune. Under the aegis of Nicholson and Arkoff, the company survived in a constricting industry by catering to the whims of the teenage trade and adapting to trends.

AIP's long (350-plus) roster of kitsch classics, running the gamut from horror to rock'n'roll, from juvenile delinquency to Italian musclemen, and from Edgar Allan Poe to Annette Funicello, have formed their own unique niche in film history. His company became infamous for clever advertising schemes that were often more entertaining than AIP's movies. Arkoff never tolerated egos and his films were more often than not, profitable, thanks to tight budgets and a sharp understanding of the target market. After Nicholson's 1972 resignation, Arkoff assumed full control of the company and remained in charge until the 1979 merger with Filmways prompted his own departure. He then became the head of Arkoff International Pictures."

Beast with a Million Eyes (1955)

Attack of the Puppet People (1958)

Teenage Caveman (1958)

War of the Colossal Beast (1958)

I was a Teenage Werewolf (1957)

High School Hellcats (1958)

Two of my personal favorite Vincent Price films (which never really were horrifying, but fun, nonetheless):
The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1973)

Partner Nicolson's last picture was:
Legend of Hell House (1973)a particularly entertaining horror film.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Drive In Theaters & 50's Sci-Fi

A little history:

Richard Hollingshead, a young sales manager at his dad's Whiz Auto Products, invented something that combined his two interests: cars and movies.

Richard Hollingshead's vision was an open-air movie theater where moviegoers could watch from their own cars. He experimented in his own driveway in New Jersey. Hollingshead mounted a 1928 Kodak projector on the hood of his car, projected onto a screen he had nailed to trees in his backyard, and used a radio placed behind the screen for sound. Clever!

The inventor subjected his beta drive-in to vigorous testing: for sound quality, for different weather conditions (Hollingshead used a lawn sprinkler to imitate rain) and for figuring out how to park the patrons' cars. He lined up the cars in his driveway, which created a problem with line of sight. By spacing cars at various distances and placing blocks and ramps under the front wheels of cars, Richard Hollingshead created the perfect parking arrangement for the drive-in movie theater experience.

The first patent for the Drive-In Theater (United States Patent# 1,909,537) was issued on May 16, 1933. With an investment of $30,000, Richard opened the first drive-in on June 6, 1933 at a location in Camden, New Jersey. The price of admission was 25 cents for the car and 25 cents per person.

The design did not include the in-car speaker system we know today. The inventor contacted a company by the name of RCA Victor to provide the sound system, called "Directional Sound." Three main speakers were mounted next to the screen that provided sound. The sound quality was not good for cars in the rear of the theater or for the surrounding neighbors.

The largest drive-in theater in patron capacity was the All-Weather Drive-In of Copiague, New York. All-Weather had parking space for 2,500 cars, an indoor 1,200 seat viewing area, kid's playground, a full service restaurant and a shuttle train that took customers from their cars and around the 28-acre theater lot.

Please take a look at these clips. Drive in down memory lane...

Science Fiction (or sci-fi)

The Cold War and the fear of nuclear annihilation by the communists is reflected in the many b-films made in the 1950's. Here's a sampling. Enjoy!

Forbidden Planet (1956) (starring Leslie Neilson, this is based on Shakespeare's The Tempest)

The Blob (1958) (starring Steve McQueen)

Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957)

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) Ed Wood’s terrible film masterpiece!

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)

Attack of the Giant Gila Monster (1959)

Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)

Monday, May 11, 2009

1950's Horror Showcase: William Castle

Competing with a growing television audience, filmmakers in the 1950's had to entice viewers into seeing their films. The worse the film, the greater the need for effective trailers. Of the best promoters of his directing and producing work, William Castle shines over all others. See why below!

William Schloss was born in New York City. Schloss means "castle" in German, and William Castle probably chose to translate his surname into English to avoid the discrimination often encountered by Jewish entertainers of his time. He spent most of his teenage years working on Broadway in a number of jobs. He left for Hollywood at the age of 23, going on to direct his first film when he was 29. He also worked an as assistant to Orson Welles, doing much of the location work for Welles' noir film, The Lady from Shanghai.

Castle was famous for directing low budget B-films with many overly promoted gimmicks. Five of these were scripted by adventure novelist Robb White.

After a long career, William Castle died of a heart attack in Los Angeles in 1977.

His films include:

Macabre (1958): A certificate for a $1,000 life insurance policy from Lloyd's of London was given to each customer in case he/she should die of fright during the film. Showings also had fake nurses stationed in the lobbies and hearses parked outside the theater.

Utube clip:

House on Haunted Hill (1959): Filmed in "Emergo". An inflatable glow in the dark skeleton attached to a wire floated over the audience during the final moments of some showings of the film to parallel the action on the screen when a skeleton arose from a vat of acid and pursued the villainous wife of Vincent Price. The gimmick did not always instill fright; sometimes the skeleton became a target for some audience members who hurled candy boxes, soda cups or any other objects at hand at the skeleton.

The Tingler (1959): Filmed in "Percepto". Some seats in theatres showing the Tingler were equipped with larger versions of the hand-held joy buzzers attached to the underside of the seats. When the Tingler in the film attacked the audience the buzzers were activated as a voice encouraged the real audience to "Scream - scream for your lives."

13 Ghosts (1960): Filmed in "Illusion-O". A hand held ghost viewer/remover with strips of red and blue cellophane was given out to use during certain segments of the film. By looking through either the red or blue cellophane the audience was able to either see or remove the ghosts if they were too frightening.

Homicidal (1961): This film contained a "Fright break" with a 45 second timer overlaid over the film's climax as the heroine approached a house harboring a sadistic killer. A voiceover advised the audience of the time remaining in which they could leave the theatre and receive a full refund if they were too frightened to see the remainder of the film. About 1% demanded refunds, but were subjected to demasculation and called "cowards".

Mr. Sardonicus (1961): The audiences were allowed to vote in a "punishment poll" during the climax of the film - Castle appears on screen to explain to the audience their options. Each member of the audience was given a card with a glow in the dark thumb they could hold either up or down to decide if Mr. Sardonicus would be cured or die during the end of the film. Supposedly, no audience ever offered mercy so the alternate ending was never screened.

(1962): Each patron was given a "Magic" (gold colored plastic) coin which, of course, did absolutely nothing.

Strait-Jacket (1964): Castle had cardboard axes made and handed out to patrons.

I Saw What You Did (1965): Seat belts were installed to keep patrons from being jolted from their chairs in fright.

Other film trailers from William Castle:

The Old Dark House (designed by Charles Addams)
The Night Walker:
Let's Kill Uncle:
Thirteen Frightened Girls:

William Castle acted as producer to Roman Polanski's direction of:
Rosemary's Baby:
The film remains one of the most artistic Castle productions ever made.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hitchcock and the 1950's

Please read and research information about the 1950's using the film site, by decade.

Afterward, please take a look at the link on Alfred Hitchcock. Read the articles "About Hitchcock", "Alfred Hitchcock and the making of a film culture" and any other article on this page. Spend at least 15-20 minutes reading these articles and getting acquainted with one of the most influential and important mystery/suspense/horror directors in film history.

For the remainder of the class, please complete your film noir script as well and turn in.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Marking Period Ends!

The following projects/work is due this week:

1. A unit test on film from 1930's through 1940's (see below)
2. Complete Film Noir script (see below)
3. Your last journal paper is due

Today, after we discuss film writing, please work on completing your film noir script. If you finish early, study for the exam on Thursday or work on your journal paper.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Marking Period Exam - Film

There will be an exam on Thursday covering the major points we examined this marking period. Use the list below to help you.

--Standard script formatting
--1930's film
--Sound and sound invention
--Technicolor and color in film
--1940's film (The Golden Age of Film)
--Camera Angles
--Generating ideas for film (from handout)
--Film Aesthetics
--Deep focus
--Continuity editing
--Diagetic and non-diegetic sound
--Narrative structure
--Restricted/Omniscient narration
--The Music Box (Laurel & Hardy)
--King Kong
--Universal horror: Frankenstein, Dracula, etc.
--Marx Brothers: Duck Soup, A Night at the Opera
--Screwball comedy and techniques
--Film Noir and technique
--Walt Disney and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
--Orson Welles and Citizen Kane
--John Huston and The Maltese Falcon
--The Emergence of Television and its effect on film

The Murky Middle (Even More Advice)

Aristotle wrote that stories should have a beginning, middle, and end. Middles can be difficult. You might have a smashing opening to a stor...