Friday, April 29, 2011

Samuel Z. Arkoff


"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)

I was a Teenage Werewolf (1957)

Attack of the Puppet People (1958)

Teenage Caveman (1958)

War of the Colossal Beast (1958)

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) Here's the trailer.

Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1973) Here's the trailer.

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

1950's Films

Please take a look at some of the following clips/trailers for 1950's films.

Harvey (1950) James Stewart
Blackboard Jungle (1955) Sidney Poitier and another clip here. Blackboard Jungle.
The Bad Seed (1956)
The Wild One (1953) Marlon Brando
Tennessee Williams: A Streetcar Named Desire (Marlon Brando, 1951), Suddenly Last Summer (Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, 1959), Cat On a Hot Tin Roof (1955) (Elizabeth Taylor & Paul Newman)
James Dean: Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
East of Eden (1955)
Giant (1956) with Elizabeth Taylor

Jailhouse Rock (Elvis Presley - (1957)

The Robe (1953)
Ben Hur (1959)

Marilyn Monroe:
All About Eve (1950) Bette Davis
How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
The Seven Year Itch (1955)
Some Like it Hot (1959)

From Here to Eternity (1953) Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr
Tale of Two Cities (1958)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Citizen Kane (part 2)

We will continue watching Citizen Kane today in class. Please watch the film and take notes concerning the repeated motif (snow globe, statues, mirrors, or sleds). As you watch the film take particular note of Welles' use of the deep focus shot and overlapping dialogue.

The narrative structure in the film is multiple perspective.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Kublah Khan

Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

For each group, please watch for the following symbol:

(group one) Snow globe
(group two) Statues
(group three) Mirrors
(group four) Sleds

Citizen Kane

As we view Citizen Kane, there are a series of important elements that can enrich our understanding of this film.

Orson Welles as Auteur:
Welles directed, wrote (partial), and starred in this film (even though he wasn't old enough it was thought to portray Kane). While Welles had direct control over the film and its look, there were other people who contributed artistically. We don't remember them. Just kidding. Of particular importance was Greg Toland (the cinematographer).

Camera Work:
The Deep Focus shot!
Low angle shots revealing ceilings!
Moving shots used as wipes!
Overlapping dialogue! (not original to Welles, but a trend in Screwball Comedies)
Long uninterrupted shots!
Expressionist lighting and photography!

Narrative/Special techniques:
Multiple perspective!

motifs and themes:
The American Dream: For all of Kane's "success", he is not happy. He dies lonely, with only his "possessions" around him. Is all our striving to succeed in America an illusion?

The differing perspectives on Kane's life, especially in the absence of Kane's own point of view, force us to question what was truly important in Kane's life (and by extension what constitutes a life in general.) Judging by Kane's last muttered word: Rosebud, the most important pieces of his life were not the things that made him newsworthy, such as his newspaper successes and political ambitions, nor his friendships and associations. As Thompson interviews different people about Kane, we are given different multiple perspectives on the man (some are unreliable sources). Odd, though, that we do not see Kane from Kane's POV. Does this diminish our enjoyment or understanding of this film? Why do you think we are not given Kane's POV?

Old Age


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Thursday's Class

During first period, if you are taking an AP course this year, please check in and go to the ensemble theater 1st period to fill out essential test-taking forms for your AP exam (first two weeks in May).

All others, please complete your films, watch the 1940's film clips & take notes.

HOMEWORK: None (unless your film is not finished or you haven't turned in your Metropolis paper or you have not watched the clips from the 1930's and 1940's and taken notes on them, or you haven't read the article on Citizen Kane & Snow White).

Laurel & Hardy, The Little Rascals, and 1940's film clips

As you continue to edit and work on your film projects, please watch the following clips and take notes about content, directors/actors and genre of film.

Laurel and Hardy

The Music Box (1932) Winner of the Academy Awards for Best Short Subject
The Flying Deuces (1939) Full Film
Nothing But Trouble (1944)

The Little Rascals (various clips/films):
Spooky Hooky
Let Me Call You Sweetheart
We Want Cake

Whatever Happened to the Little Rascals (information, although a bit grim)

Film Noir
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Casablanca (1942)
And another from Casablanca (1942)
Gaslight (1944) starring Angela Lansbery, Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten
Double Indemnity (1944) Barbara Stanwyck, Fred McMurray, Edward G. Robinson
Mildred Pierce (1945) starring Joan Crawford
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) Lana Turner
The Big Sleep (1946) Humphrey Bogart
The Third Man (1949) Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten

Alfred Hitchcock:
Foreign Correspondent (1940)
Rebecca (1940) Laurence Olivier
Shadow of a Doubt (1943) Joseph Cotten
Life Boat (1944) Talula Bankhead
Notorious (1946) Cary Grant & Ingrid Bergman

Walt Disney:
Fantasia (1940)
Pinocchio (1940)
Dumbo (1941)

The Thief of Bagdad (1940) with Sabu and Conrad Veidt
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) Orson Welles
For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) Gary Cooper & Ingrid Bergman

Abbot & Costello:
Buck Privates (1941)
Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

Elizabeth Taylor (child star) and animal star films:
Lassie Come Home (1943)
National Velvet (1944)

Frank Capra:
Arsenic & Old Lace (1944) Cary Grant
It's a Wonderful Life (1946) James Stewart
Miracle on 34th street (1947) Natalie Wood & Maureen O'Hara

Cat People (1942)
I Walked With a Zombie (1943)
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1942) Boris Karloff & Lon Chaney Jr.
House of Dracula (1945)
House of Frankenstein (1944) Boris Karloff & Lon Chaney Jr.
The Mummy's Tomb (1942) Lon Chaney Jr.
The Uninvited (1944) Ray Miland

Silent Film Project Deadline Thursday

Your silent films should be completed (edited, etc.) by Thursday and turned in. Please use this time in the lab today to complete your work.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Metropolis Paper Due! Continue Editing Silent Film

Your Metropolis paper is due today by the end of class (see previous posts for details). Please continue editing your silent film projects.

Snow White (part 1)
Snow White: Heigh Ho song
Snow White: Someday My Prince Will Come
Snow White: Ending

HOMEWORK: Please read "Snow White" and "Citizen Kane" for Tuesday's class.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Silent Film Project/Metropolis Film Analysis Paper

Please work on your silent film editing. Please work on your Metropolis Film Analysis paper (due Friday).

With time remaining, please read and take notes on the clips for Technicolor and the 1930's stars and films posted below.


Color tends to be a subconscious element in film. It has an emotional appeal which often suggests mood of the film or characters in it. At its most effective, complimentary characters are dressed in complimentary colors--antagonists are dressed in contrasting colors to their protagonists. Characters can match or contrast their settings and a whole host of other useful symbols can be created with color.

The first Technicolor film was THE GULF BETWEEN (U.S., 1917), a five-reeler made by Technicolor Motion Picture Corp. in Florida mainly for trade showings in eastern cities, to create interest in color movies among producers and exhibitors. It did not receive nationwide distribution. A lost film today, only a few frames survive.

The first two strip Technicolor feature made in Hollywood, and the first to receive nationwide distribution, was the costume drama THE TOLL OF THE SEA (1922).
Another silent movie filmed entirely in two strip Technicolor was the swashbuckler THE BLACK PIRATE (U.S., 1926), produced by and starring Douglas Fairbanks.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (Cecil B. DeMille's epic, 1923) THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925) BEN-HUR (1925) and KING OF KINGS (Cecil B. DeMille, 1926) used color as a gimmick or in parts.

The first all-talking Technicolor feature was the Warner Bros. musical ON WITH THE SHOW (1929).

All of the color films up to this point were two-color processes, which could capture only two of the three primary colors of light.

In 1932, Technicolor perfected a three-color motion picture process (also known as three-strip Technicolor, because three negatives were employed in the camera, one for each primary color of light -- red, green, and blue).

It was introduced with the Walt Disney cartoon FLOWERS AND TREES (1932), which won the first Academy Award for Animation. Walt Disney kept a monopoly on 3-color technicolor from 1932-1935.

The first feature-length movie in three-strip Technicolor was the costume comedy-drama BECKY SHARP (U.S., 1935)

Technicolor used a three color system: red, blue, green (these colors therefore are most vivid)

Early color was used as an expression (expressionism) of the director’s or cinematographer’s story, and so early films with color tend to be ones that are formalistic, artificial, or exotic. Color was often not used for “realistic” movies.

Warm colors: red, yellow, orange (brown)
Cool colors: Blue, green, violet (white)

Technicolor fragments.
Phantom of the Opera Masquerade Scene
During the 1930's, technicolor was still expensive. It was still being used as a movie gimmick as seen here. The Women (1939); here's the trailer.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Uploading Your Film: Silent Film editing & Metropolis Paper

Please upload your files to the computer and continue editing your film. By now your titles, intertitles, and end credits should be close to complete. Add new footage and edit.

If you are not editing (remember only 2 people at most from your group need to edit the film), please watch the previous film clips from previous posts covering the 1930's. Take notes where appropriate. You should know who directed and acted in these films.

Finally, spend some time today writing your Metropolis analysis paper. This paper is due Friday at the end of class. Start it, if you haven't done so yet.

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...