Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Exam Review

Exam review

The Movies Learn to Speak (article)
The Jazz Singer (1927) & Don Juan (1926), Al Jolson, Vitaphone, etc.
The Benefits and Problems concerning SOUND IN FILM
1930's Golden Age of Film: (April 13 post)
Hal Roach, Laurel & Hardy, "The Music Box" (1931), The Little Rascals
Universal Horror films and stars (April 15 post)
Screwball comedies & style
Frank Capra films
Genre films: Gangster, War, Westerns, Musicals, Animation, Adventure
Famous actors/personalities in 1930's & 1940's films
RKO, King Kong (1933), Fay Wray--the scream queen, Max Steiner, Ray Harryhausen
The Marx Brothers: A Night At the Opera (1935)
Influence of the Great Depression on film, Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart
Narratology, style of film, narrative techniques, avant garde films (see April 21 post)
Technicolor (April 29 post & Walt Disney article)
Walt Disney, Snow White (1937) (article & blog posts)
How to write a treatment, 3-act structure (May post)
Film Noir (May post & article "Murder, Greed, & Betrayal: The Dark Streets of Film Noir")
The characteristics of Film Noir, how German Expressionism influenced Film Noir, etc.
Citizen Kane (1941) & Orson Welles and his influence on film
Mise-en-scene & deep focus shots, auteur, diegetic & non diegetic sound, styles of film, mise-en-shot, montage, continuity editing, editing, producing, etc. (various posts)
Angles, shot types, 180 degree rule, how to direct, produce, and write a film, etc.
Alfred Hitchcock, Rope (1947), Rear Window (1954), Psycho (1960) (May 26-June 10)
The Emergence of Television
Samuel Goldwyn (MGM), influence of television on the film industry ("The Emergence of Television" article)
HUAC and the Communist Witch Hunt, McCarthy Era, Fatty Arbuckle scandal, Ring Lardner, blacklisting (HUAC article)
Drive-in Theaters (June 1 post)
AIP & Samuel Z. Arkoff (American International Pictures: A Blueprint for Success" article)
Ed Wood & Roger Corman (June 1 post)
William Castle (June post)
1950's Science Fiction films, The Cold War (June 1 post)
MPPA relaxing its restrictions (article)
Jack Valenti, Mike Nichols, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" (1966) ("Relaxing Restrictions: MPAA Ratings System article)
Ratings system: G, M, R, X and what the letter stands for--later G, PG, R, NC17
1960's film trends (June 7 post)
The New Hollywood: America's New Wave (article), (June 8 post)
Dennis Hopper, Easy Rider (American New Wave, blog)
Steven Spielberg & George Lucas; Star Wars (1977): blockbusters & their influence in film
CGI, Toy Story (1995) (article)
Producers, directors, writers, foley artist, grip, cinematographers, and film occupations

Our final exam covers a lot here. Please study and use your notes you took in class (there was a reason you should have taken notes) to study from.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Psycho; American New Wave

Our final exam will be Friday, June 12.

HOMEWORK: Read the articles on the American New Wave Directors: Please watch at least 3 clips from any films by at least one of these directors (search on for example). Titles of some appropriate films are listed in your article and from your reading.
  • Woody Allen
  • Robert Altman
  • Hal Ashby
  • Peter Bogdanovich
  • John Cassavetes
  • Francis Ford Coppola
  • Brian De Palma
  • William Friedkin
  • Dennis Hopper
  • George Lucas
  • Mike Nichols
  • Bob Rafelson
  • Martin Scorsese
  • Steven Spielberg

Sunday, June 7, 2015

1960's: MPAA, & The American New Wave

If you have created a short film of 10 minutes or less, you may submit your work to the Rochester Teen Film Festival sponsored by Nazareth College. Winning awards like this may be your ticket to a scholarship to a college program for film. If you'd like to submit something, please do so by Friday: Submissions are completely FREE and are all done on the following website:

We will conclude Rear Window today and move on to our last screening: Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960).

1960's Film Trends:
With the change in restrictions based on the rating system from the MPAA, content in films gets grittier, more violent, more sexual, and more...well...Hollywood. View a few clips of famous films and film categories developed in the 1960's.

1960's Epic/Costume Drama Films:
Spartacus (1960) Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Charleton Heston, Peter Ustinov
El Cid (1961) Charleton Heston
Cleopatra (1963) Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton
Becket (1964) Richard Burton & Peter O'Toole
The Sound of Music (1965) Julie Andrews & Christopher Plumber
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
The Lion in Winter (1968) Peter O'Toole & Katherine Hepburn

Angry Young Man Films:
Look Back in Anger (1959)
The Loneliness of the Longdistance Runner (1962)
The Caretaker (1963)
The Leather Boys (1963)
If (1968)
Easy Rider (1969)

Beatles' Films
A Hard Day's Night (1964)
Help! (1965)
The Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
Yellow Submarine (1968)

Famous/Influential Directors:

Stanley Kubrick: Lolita (1962), Dr. Strangelove (1964)
John Ford: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
George Pal: The Time Machine (1960), Jason & the Argonauts (1963), One Million Years BC (1966)
John Frankenheimer: The Young Savages (1961), The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Arthur Penn: The Miracle Worker (1962), Bonny & Clyde (1967), Alice's Restaurant (1969)
Alfred Hitchcock: Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963), Marnie (1964), Torn Curtain (1966)
James Bond Films: Dr. No (1962), Goldfinger (1964)

African American Films:
Sidney Poitier: A Raisin in the Sun (1961), Lilies of the Field (1963), To Sir With Love (1967), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)

HOMEWORK: Please complete the graphic organizer on 1960's film trends and complete the articles on the MPAA and The American New Wave.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Samuel Z. Arkoff; William Castle; & More Rear Window

Samuel Z. Arkoff and American International Pictures. The material below will help you understand this period of history as we move into the strange 1950's. Please take notes of key ideas and information.


"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 paid Mr. Broder 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 (see previous post). 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 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."
William Castle: The Wonderful World of William Castle

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

"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: Macabre:

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. 13 Ghosts.

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". Homicidal clip.

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 looked nice, but did absolutely nothing.

Strait-Jacket (1964): Castle had cardboard axes made and handed out to patrons. This film, by the way, starred Oscar winner (not for this film) Joan Crawford - Mommy Dearest herself.

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 illustrator/writer who created "The Addams Family")
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.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Rear Window; Television; Drive-In Movies: Welcome to the 50's!

  • How does 40’s TV compare or contrast with our current television shows?
  • Does television reflect what society looks like? 
  • Compare TV then of TV now.

· Write down some things that were interesting to you from the video.

· What do you think of the commercials and what was most interesting to you?

 The History of Television (particularly important to those of you planning on studying communications, media journalism, and/or broadcasting) is quite interesting. How much do you really know about that flat screen you have hanging on your wall? Read the article and link.

Drive-In TheatresA 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...

Clip A.
Clip B.

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)  

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 film making ability in his work has earned Wood and his films a considerable cult following.
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)

We will begin screening one of Hitchcock's masterpieces, Rear Window (1954) starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly.

From IMDB: Cast

James Stewart...
Grace Kelly...
Wendell Corey...
Thelma Ritter...
Raymond Burr...
Judith Evelyn...
Ross Bagdasarian...
Georgine Darcy...
Sara Berner...
Frank Cady...
Jesslyn Fax...
Rand Harper...
Irene Winston...
Havis Davenport...

HOMEWORK: Please read about Samuel Z. Arkoff & the Blueprint for Success. If you did not read about the emergence of television, please do so! Your test is coming up, next week June 12. 

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...