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Orson Welles at 100 | Six of the Best from The Great Disruptor

Welles at 100

Throughout July and August, BFI Southbank in London will screen a comprehensive season of Orson Welles’ work in both film and TV, including his big classics, Citizen Kane (1941), The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) and The Lady from Shanghai (1948), and less familiar titles like The Trial (1962), The Immortal Story (1968) and F for Fake (1975), kicking off with StudioCanal’s restored print of The Third Man (1949) this coming Friday (26 June).

It will also include his three adaptations of Shakespeare: Macbeth (1948), Othello (1952) and Falstaff Chimes at Midnight (1966), which is widely considered a highpoint of Welles’ remarkable career, and which also gets a 50th Anniversary Restored Edition is released on 29 June on DVD and Blu-ray from Mr Bongo Films.

Also screening are some rarities, including the recently discovered Too Much Johnson (1938) – which is also set for a Blu-ray/DVD release from Mr Bongo Films – and six compilation programmes, featuring shorts, trailers, TV productions, theatrical adaptations, documentaries, and unfinished projects.

Here are the six that I’m most looking forward to…

THE LADY OF SHANGHAI (4k restoration)
The 1948 hall of mirrors noir thriller is charged by the on-screen chemistry between Welles and his ex-wife Rita Hayworth. This definitive restoration from Colorworks at Sony Pictures, scanned at 4K from the original nitrate negative, recently appeared in the Official Selection Cannes Classics lineup, and will be screened during BFI’s Welles centenary celebrations on Friday 17 July and Thursday 23 July.

Lady from Shanghai

THE THIRD MAN (4K restoration)
This 1949 noir classic is a consummate production, from Graham Greene’s witty, disturbing screenplay to Robert Krasker’s evocatively skewed photography and Anton Karas’ unforgettable zither score. But, despite his minimal screen time, Orson Welles’ amoral Harry Lime steals the show – thanks partly to the famous ‘cuckoo clock’ speech penned by Welles himself. Re-released by StudioCanal in a new 4K restoration in cinemas on 26 June and on DVD and Blu-ray on 20 July.

[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9yyDEDGlr0%5D

Touch of EvilTOUCH OF EVIL (1998 version)
The last feature Welles made in Hollywood, 1958’s Touch of Evil is a virtuoso foray into film noir, exhibiting his extraordinary sense of cinematic style, vivid characterisation and an almost Shakespearian flair for tragedy. The 1998 version is a re-edit of the original by Walter Murch based on a 58-page memo Welles wrote to Universal with his suggestions of alterations to the studio’s cut. This 2013 re-master is released in selected cinemas UK-wide on 10 July.

AROUND THE WORLD WITH ORSON WELLES (DVD release)
In 1955, Associated-Rediffusion commissioned Welles to write, direct and host this ground-breaking mini-series filmed in Europe. Part home-movie, part cinematic essay, each of the six episodes takes the viewer on a fascinating journey across Europe. In Paris, we are introduced to famous artists such as Jean Cocteau; in Madrid, we attend a bullfight; and in Vienna, in an episode which was long believed lost, we are taken to the locations of The Third Man. Released on BFI DVD and limited edition Blu-ray on 24 August.

Mr Bongo Orson Welles Releases

FALSTAFF CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT (50th Anniversary Restored Edition by Orson Welles)
One of the most radical and groundbreaking of all Shakespeare adaptations, 1965’s Falstaff: Chimes at Midnight was Welles’ favourite of his films and gets a DVD and Blu-ray release on 29 June 2015 from Mr Bongo Films, along with the legendary director’s first feature, Too Much Johnson (1938) and his second-to-last feature, The Immortal Story, starring Jeanne Moreau.

MAGICIAN: THE ASTONISHING LIFE AND WORK OF ORSON WELLES (2014)
Released to mark Welles’ centenary, awarding-winning filmmaker Chuck Workman’s documentary is an illuminating portrait of one of cinema’s most extraordinary personalities. Expect my big review real soon. Released in selected UK cinemas on 3 July and on DVD on 24 August.

[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeVptmz9Q5o%5D

 

Wojciech J Has | Enter the phantasmagorical world of Poland’s master of the surreal

The Saragossa Manuscript (1964)Thieving gypsies, spectral princesses, sinister cabbalists and bloodthirsty inquisitors all feature in The Saragossa Manuscript, a superb 1965 supernatural adventure from famed Polish director Wojciech Has.

During the Napoleonic wars, an officer fighting in Spain takes refuge in a deserted inn where he finds a book recounting his grandfather’s spooky encounters 60 years ago. When Alfons, a captain in the Walloon guard, wakes up one day beside two corpses at the bottom of some gallows, he finds himself repeating the day over and over again following a series of misadventures involving two Moorish princesses – who may or may not be ghosts.

Based on Count Jan Potocki‘s enigmatic 18th-century Gothic novel – that’s been likened to the Arabian Nights and The Decameron – this black-and-white tale is a real treat for lovers of the supernatural and the bizarre. With its labyrinthine narrative fusing the gothic with the historic, and its masterful score, it’s no wonder this classic of Polish cinema has attracted a legion of famous fans – including the surrealist director Luis Buñuel, The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia and British fantasy author Neil Gaiman.

The Saragossa Manuscript (1964)

Coming across like a 18th-century supernatural take on Groundhog Day, The Saragossa Manuscript is certainly a bewildering experience, and just as labyrinthine as Potocki’s 1814 novel, but stick it out and you’ll be surprised by what you find…

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14p9Wk870QI%5D

The Hourglass Sanitorium (1973)

The Hourglass Sanitorium (1973)Filmed in 1973, director Wojciech J Has’s The Hourglass Sanatorium is a atmospheric, hallucinatory affair adapted from the works of Bruno Schulz, widely regarded as Poland’s answer to Kafka.

In rural Eastern Europe, a young man called Joseph visits his dying grandfather at a crumbling sanatorium where time is relative. Here, guests have the opportunity to journey into the unconscious and reanimate the past for a set period. Wanting to make amends with his estranged father, Joseph’s symbolic journey manifests itself in a series of wild visual theatrics – all staged within the confines of the hospital.

In this dream state, linear narrative is fractured, which frustrates our hero as he awakens old memories. Even Joseph’s guide (a young boy who is probably his younger self) and his elusive, eccentric father seem incapable of providing him the answers that he seeks. But, as in real dreams, the true heart and soul of this metaphysical tale is the journey, not the getting there.

The Hourglass Sanitorium (1973)

If you crave films heaped in symbolism, like the works of Alejandro Jodorowsky or the Brothers Quay, then The Hourglass Sanatorium is a hugely rewarding experience. Granted it’s dense, but its evocative sets, inspiring visuals (that wouldn’t look out of place in a Terry Gilliam film) and Kafkaesque themes will leave you spellbound.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QqwhdNDu9E%5D


Exploring the erotic world of 1970s underground film-maker Peter de Rome

Peter de Rome

As part of the BFI’s remit to archive the films of all British artists comes the DVD collection The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome – probably the most risqué of all of the BFI’s archived film material as it contains some the earliest examples of gay porn.

Peter de Rome

Little known outside underground film circles, Peter de Rome made over 100 male erotica films over a 50-year period, with only around 40 of them actually finished. The Ramsgate-born director ended up settling in the US in the mid-1950s working at Tiffany’s in New York, at the same the time the film adaptation of Truman Capote’s novel Breakfast at Tifany’s was made – he even makes a cameo. Unschooled in film-making, de Rome’s Super 8mm films followed in the tradition of Andy Warhol and Kenneth Anger but were much more risqué – so much so, they ended up being shown in underground cinemas in Europe. De Rome continued with his ‘hobby’ until the 1980s, when the AIDS crisis hit.

In 2012, de Rome was the subject of a 42-minute documentary (which accompanies the release) exploring his completed films (which he keeps in an old storage box) and also the ones he has lost over time, including the only known footage of Greta Garbo at the end of her life. This short by Ethan Reid has now been expanded into a new 97-minute documenary, Peter de Rome: Grandfather of Gay Porn, which explores the pioneering film-maker’s newfound fame following a retrospective of his work at the BFI back in 2012 (watch the Vimeo trailer below).

De Rome’s films (12 are included on the DVD release) might be rough and ready around the edges, but it’s their historical nature that make them so unique – especially the ones of Fire Island, a New York landmark that has since become a gay tourist mecca. De Rome’s cinema is also a window on a pre-AIDS era, a time when the gay liberation movement was just beginning to have its voice heard.

Encounters

One of Peter de Rome’s shorts is also included in the BFI DVD, Encounters, featuring four ground-breaking gay shorts, which artfully show guys hooking up in ways that were unthinkable when they were filmed back in 1965 and 1970.

First up is Dream A40 from 1965. Filmed two years before the Sexual Offences Act ended the criminalisation of homosexuality in the UK, Lloyd Reckord’s gritty drama shows two young men refraining from public demonstrations of affection during a car trip; Andy Milligan’s Vapors from 1965 uses a infamous New York bathhouse as the setting for a wordy two-hander as two strangers meet; while Southend pier is the location for Bill Douglas’ 1970 student short, Come Dancing, in which a pick-up turns dangerously dark. The collection ends with de Rome’s 13-minute short, Encounter, a wordless erotic fantasy set on the streets of New York.

The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome and Encounters are both available on DVD from the BFI.

Peter de Rome: Grandfather of Gay Porn screens at BFI Southbank on December 9 2014 (click here for tickets)

Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder | What lies within the BFI compendium?

 

Sci-Fi Days of Fear and Wonder

Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder is the BFI’s nationwide blockbuster celebration of the world’s most popular genre featuring three months of bold programming covering Tomorrow’s World, a place packed with futuristic ‘what-if’ thrills; Altered States, the sci-fi of inner-space and the strange imaginings of different ways to be human; and Contact, with aliens in outer space and in our midst.

Alongside screenings at the cinema and on TV, DVD and online, the BFI have produced a range of new sci-fi film classic books, as well as this meticulously-researched compendium. Split into the three terrains that featured in the BFI season, the compendium charts cinema’s sci-fi landscape – from its infancy, when Georges Méliès took A Trip to the Moon in 1902 to the epic head-rush that is Christopher Nolan’s newly-released Interstellar – with 28 illuminating, stimulating and informative essays nestling within a soft back book packed with iconic imagery.

Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder Compendium

Among the contributors are SF writer Stephen Baxter (on Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey), astrophysicist-turned-author Alastair Reynolds (on the dangers of space travel on the big screen) and scientist/broadcaster Adam Rutherford (on artificial intelligences); genre specialists Matthew Sweet (on classic British TV sci-fi) and Mark Salisbury (on the history of sci-fi special effects); while a number of in-house BFI curators express their love for the genre with articles ranging from the avant-garde to classic sci-fi on a shoestring. I particularly liked researcher Marketa Uhlirova’s excellent sci-fi costume and fashion essay (which deserves a book on its own) and writer Ashley Clark’s fascinating article on Afrofuturism. A chronology helps bridge the genre’s time span, and there’s a handy film index. This one will be well thumbed by the time you’re finished, so watch out for the soft back.

Sci-Fi Days of Fear and Wonder

Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder is the fourth BFI Compendium, following 39 Steps to the Genius of Hitchcock, Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film and Electric Shadows: A Century of Chinese Cinema, and is available to buy from the BFI Shop at BFI Southbank for £15 (RRP £16.99), or visit: bfi.org.uk/shop

Re-examining the case files of Peter Lorre’s vintage Mr Moto mysteries

Peter Lorre is Mr Moto

When it comes to iconic sleuths of popular fiction, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes rules supreme – witness the success of the BBC’s contemporary take and Guy Ritchie’s buddy movies. It was the same back in the 1930s and 1940s when Basil Rathbone first donned the deerstalker. But there were also some other well-known gumshoes muscling in on Sherlock’s territory at the time, including The Saint and The Falcon, and two oriental detectives, Charlie Chan and Mr Moto.

The character of Mr Moto originally appeared in six novels between 1935 and 1957 created by John P Marquand. Impeccably-dressed, with an penchant for the martial arts, wearing disguises and speaking numerous languages, the diminutive Japanese American Interpol agent was like an Asian James Bond – albeit minus 007’s sex drive. Following the success of the Charlie Chan movies starring Warner Oland, 20th Century Fox brought Mr Moto to life in the shape of Peter Lorre, who had joined the studio in 1936. While the idea of a Hungarian sporting a Viennese accent playing a Japanese character seemed odd at first, Lorre threw himself into the part (with very little make-up – even the teeth are his own) and it worked.

The success of the first film, Think Fast, Mr Moto, ensured the franchise. What wasn’t known at the time, however, was that Lorre was still undergoing drug rehabilitation, so all the scenes in which you see Moto showing off his expert martial art skills were in fact done by stuntman supremo, Harvey Parry (he doubled for Jimmy Cagney, Humphrey Bogart – even Vincent Price). But with Parry’s physical feats and Lorre’s acting skills combined, Mr Moto ran for the next eight films, and only came to an end when Lorre (upset he wasn’t getting any comic gigs at Fox) got released from his studio contract.

Peter Lorre as Mr Moto

The entire Mr Moto series is available on DVD in the UK through Odeon Entertainment in one collection or as stand alone DVDs (click on title below), and two of the films, Think Fast Mr Moto and Mr Moto Takes a Vacation play as part of the BFI Peter Lorre season today in London.

Think Fast, Mr Moto (1937) On a ship bound for Shanghai, Moto befriends the ship owner’s playboy son in order to unmask diamond smugglers. Lorre only accepted the role of Mr Moto because it gave him the chance to play a hero. The film was such a success that the studio ordered five more films in the series, while pledging to keep the production values top knotch. Virginia Field, who’d also appear regularly in the series, later turned up in the British sci-fi The Earth Dies Screaming (1965).

Thank You, Mr Moto (1937) Moto is tasked to stop treasure hunters from uncovering the tomb of Ghengis Khan in China. This story was penned by Moto creator John P Marquand himself and John Carradine turns up as a dealer in antiquities.

Mr Moto’s Gamble (1938). Warner Oland was scheduled to star in Charlie Chan at the Fights. When he fell ill, and later died, the studio turned it into the third Mr Moto film, set in the world of boxing. Chan’s Number One son Keye Luke co-stars. Watch out for Lynn Bari (she starred opposite Vincent Price in Shock) and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance from Lon Chaney Jr as an Irish heavy.

Mr Moto Takes a Chance (1938). Released two months after Gamble, the mystery melodrama finds Moto at the ruins of Cambodia’s Ankor Wat, where he discovers a plot to wipe out every foreigner from all of Asia. Despite the fake sets and questionable antics of an American film crew caught up in the drama, its a hoot.

Peter Lorre as Mr Moto

The Mysterious Mr Moto (1938) After orchestrating a daring escape from Devil’s Island, Moto flees with his cellmate to London in order to infiltrate the League of Assassins and discover who is the person in charge. This story was written by thriller writer Philip MacDonald, who penned the 1927 WWI novel Patrol, later filmed as The Lost Patrol in 1929 and 1934 (with Boris Karloff), was an uncredited writer on 1935’s Bride of Frankenstein, and did the novelisation for 1956’s Forbidden Planet (as  WJ Stuart). He also wrote the Last Warning and Vacation Moto adventures.

Mr Moto’s Last Warning (1939) This is regarded as the best of the Mr Moto stories in which a band of foreign saboteurs hatch a devastating plot to blow up the French fleet in Port Said, Egypt and blame it on the British. This one’s got a cracking cast including George Sanders, Ricardo Cortez and Robert Coote (who’d play a similar ditzy character in 1973’s Theatre of Blood), as well as John Carradine once again.

Mr Moto in Danger Island (1939) Released three months after Mr Moto’s Last Warning, this remake of the 1934 feature Murder in Trinidad finds Mr Moto trapping a killer and diamond smuggler in Puerto Rico. Real-life philanthropist Jean Hersholt, who won two Oscars for humanitarian causes guest stars.

Mr Moto Takes a Vacation (1939) In his last film as the orienta sleuth, guards a priceless crown destined for San Francisco. The villain of the piece is a master of disguises. Could it be Lionel Atwill, best known for his macabre roles in Mystery in the Wax Museum (1933) and Universal’s Frankenstein films in the 1940s?

 

Peter Lorre as Mr Moto

* For more about Peter Lorre, check out this informative blog on the iconic actor: http://peterlorrenews.blogspot.co.uk/

* If you are a fan of the film franchise, check out The Complete Mr Moto Film Phile: A Casebook by Howard M Berlin; and The Case Files of the Oriental Sleuths: Charlie Chan, Mr Moto & Mr Wong by David Rothel.

Here’s the trailer for Mr Moto’s Gamble.
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bz82sPp8V4U%5D

M (1931) | Fritz Lang’s influential masterpiece remains the greatest psychological thriller of all time

Peter Lorre in Fritz Lang's M

For many cinephiles, the name Fritz Lang is synonymous with the futuristic 1927 silent classic Metropolis. For the director himself, however, his finest work can be seen in the 1931 German thriller, M (Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder). Written by Lang and his wife Thea von Harbou (who also wrote Metropolis, the superb Dr Mabuse series, and the sci-fi epic Woman in the Moon), M was a landmark in cinema. Not only was it Lang’s first sound picture (he started back in 1919), it was the sophisticated way he used the camera, the lighting, and the editing that proved film was more than just a new entertainment medium – it was an art form.

Peter Lorre in M

A spate of child killings has the citizens of Berlin terrified. Peter Lorre (long before he became a parody of himself in Roger Corman’s Vincent Price-led Poe vehicles) gives a powerhouse performance as the murderous Hans Beckert, who is chased by the authorities and a vigilante mob before the city’s criminals capture him and put on trial in their own court of law.

Peter Lorre in M

Whilst not the first film to deal with the hunt for a serial killer (Alfred Hitchcock did that in 1927’s The Lodger), Lang’s film is so multi-layered, the result is more than just a thriller. Part horror (Lorre’s Beckert whistling ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King‘ whilst luring an innocent into his web still chills); part procedural crime drama (the police use the new technique of fingerprinting in their investigation); part social drama (the city’s tenement dwellers turn vigilante mob); and part Brechtian (the guild of beggars judge one of their own), M remains one of the greatest psychological thrillers of all time and, 80-plus years on, is still a refreshing sight to behold today.

Peter Lorre in M

The original German version of Lang’s M was released in 2010 in the UK as part of Eureka’s The Masters of Cinema Series in a special dual format release. The bounty of special features are superb, and includes the original 1932 British release, featuring alternate takes and Lorre’s first performance in English. Fritz Lang + Peter Lorre + A masterclass in the art of film = A must-have.

From tomorrow, 5 September 2014, Fritz Lang’s M also gets a limited run at the BFIn Southbank in London as part of the Peter Lorre season.

Click here for more info

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIj3Bk0bhL8%5D

Island of Lost Souls (1932) | Welcome to the House of Pain and one of the most notorious shockers ever made!

Island of Lost Souls (1932)

Alongside Dracula, Bride of Frankenstein and Freaks, 1933’s Island of Lost Souls ranks as one of the best classic horror films. But its controversial story, gruesome (at the time) vivisection scenes, and poor distribution has kept it virtually hidden from horror fans these past 80 years. Until now, that is.

A commercial flop on its release, banned in several countries (including the UK until 1958), and condemned by HG Wells as a travesty of his original novel, The Island of the Dr Moreau, the film is actually a superb exercise in cinematic Grand Guignol.

With his Satanic goatee and crumpled white suit, Charles Laughton is perfect as the whip cracking scientist, Dr Moreau, whose grisly experiments in his ‘House of Pain’ have turned caged animals into a grotesque menagerie of beast-men. Even more disturbing is his desire to mate his panther woman, Lota (played by 19-year-old contest winner Kathleen Burke), to Richard Arlen’s shipwreck victim; and letting loose one of his monstrosities on Arlen’s girlfriend (Leila Hyams), after she arrives on the island looking for her lover.

Hidden behind Wally Westmore’s fantastic make-up is Bela Lugosi, who gives a brief, but touching performance as the Sayer of the Law. His distressed voice chanting ‘What is the law – are we not men!’ is unforgettable and has since become legend.

Island of Lost Souls (1932)

An atmosphere of lurking terror hangs heavy over the studio-bound jungle set (it would next be used for White Woman, and also served as the inspiration for the real-life surrealist garden of art collector Edward James in remote Mexico) – and that’s down to the luminous cinematography and Laughton’s studied performance. But it’s the powerful, shocking ending, in which the beast-men turn on their creator that truly earns the film the iconic status it so richly deserves. Welcome to the House of Pain.

Gorgeously restored in 2012, Island of Lost Souls is available in Dual Format (Blu-ray and DVD) in the UK from as part of Eureka Entertainment’s The Masters of Cinema Series. The release includes restored HD digital transfer officially licensed from Universal Pictures, video interviews with Laughton biographer Simon Callow and film historian Jonathan Rigby, trailer, and hugely informative booklet.

The notorious masterpiece also screens on Friday 31 and Saturday 31 May 2014 at BFI Southbank as double-bill with 1933’s Murders in the Zoo (click here for details).

DID YOU KNOW?
This was the film that coined the phrase ‘The natives are restless tonight’

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOymP3MRxlI%5D

Cinema of Desire | Dadaist, sensualist and master artist Walerian Borowczyk gets a major UK retrospective

12_festiwal_kinoteka

This month, BFI Southbank joins forces with the 12th Kinoteka Polish Film Festival to launch the first major UK retrospective of the controversial artist, Walerian Borowczyk, featuring a season of films, shorts and talks. The ICA in London is also hosting the first exhibition of Borowczyk’s artwork, along with some film shorts, and Arrow Films will release the restored prints of most of his films in a DVD box set: Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection (released 30 June).

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YOUR BOROWCZYK PRIMER
Walerian BorowczykWalerian Borowczyk (1923 – 2006) trained as a painter and sculptor at the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts, before establishing himself first as a poster artist in the 1950s and later as an animator and filmmaker. He relocated to France in 1959, where he lived and worked for the rest of his life, and produced a succession of startling, often comic short films, leading to his first feature films: The Theatre of Mr & Mrs Kabal (1967) and Goto, Island of Love (1968). The latter starred his wife and muse, Ligia Branice as the wife of a bloodthirsty dictator. This film was banned in both Communist Poland and Spain, but, elsewhere, it inspired a generation of artists including Terry Gilliam, The Quay Brothers and Angela Carter.

Courting controversy even further, he followed with the medieval drama about a young, beautiful woman married to a senile baron played by Michel Simon, in Blanche (1971), and then the sexually explicit satire Immoral Tales (1974) which caused a box office sensation in France, but spent most of the 70s embroiled in censorship battles around the world. Borowczyk depicted fantasy, eroticism and sexually voyeuristic stories that became more pronounced with the relaxation of censorship and challenged taboos. The intriguingly titled A Story of Sin (1975) cast a critical eye on the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church, thus adding to the filmmaker’s infamy and reputation as an agent provocateur.

Cinema of Desire | The Films of Walerian Borowczyk

While some of his critics saw Borowczyk as a maker of ‘sex films’, he denied this, and his supporters viewed him as one of the finest filmmakers to emerge from behind the Iron Curtain. Yet his depictions of sex on screen certainly defy conventions. In The Margin (1976), an uptight salesman (Joe Dellasandro) succumbs to the demands of an alluring prostitute (Sylvia Kristel) against a seedy Parisienne backdrop. But when consigned to the underground circles of cinema in the early 80s, he created a masterpiece of surrealist cinema with The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Miss Osbourne (1981).

The BFI Southbank retrospective is presented as part of the 12th Kinoteka Polish Film Festival, and in conjunction with the ICA exhibition Walerian Borowczyk: The Listening Eye (20 May-29 June).

For more details, check out the official website: kinoteka.org.uk

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