The Do’s and Don’ts of Sci-Fi/Horror Movie Making

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White Pongo wreaks Terror wherever he goes! Image: viajesconmitia.com

Good news! If you’re looking to make your own Sci-Fi/Horror film (and who isn’t?), we found the perfect film as your template.

White Pongo (1945) is budget-friendly fare about a white gorilla living near Africa’s Congo River who may be “the missing link between man and monkey.” Obviously there would be a lot of fame and money available to anyone making such a discovery, and a scientific team dispatches itself to trap the elusive gorilla.

The expedition is headed by an esteemed scientist (Gordon Richards), who has brought his daughter (Maris Wrixon) along, just because. There is also an anthropologist, a German translator/guide, several canoe paddlers, and a rifleman (Richard Fraser) who has his own reasons for being on the expedition.

White Pongo (pongo meaning “gorilla”) shows us what is necessary in making a Sci-Fi/Horror film, and what we can get away with. Our film features a gorilla, but many of these principles could apply to any costumed monster.

DO:

  • start the film in the middle of a dire situation, so the audience will be Very Fearful of what will Happen Next.
  • include a female character who appears plucky and adventurous. Make her as liberated as you like – we all know she’ll need saving from the gorilla before this business is finished.
  • have characters introduce each other with adjectives such as “noted”, as in, “Allow me to introduce my friend, the noted anthropologist.”
  • create an eccentric character who is waiting to give valuable information to the scientists. This character must be thoroughly altruistic and have absolutely no interest in cashing in on his own discoveries.
  • ensure the gorilla is always skulking about and is never in a good mood. Growling is essential.
  • give scientists a British accent. They’ll sound smarter.
  • give the bad guy a German accent. (Oops – spoiler! Sorry about that.)

 DON’T:

  • place the gorilla in an ordinary location – the more fictionalized, the better. People will believe anything about a place they’ve never visited.
  • allow characters to perspire. Also, wrinkled clothing – even when trudging through the sticky jungle – is a no-no.
  • worry if the camera flops around. Who says you have to hold the camera steady all the time?
  • get hung up about about focusing the camera on the actor who’s talking. Let it drift aside to another actor, who may or may not be listening to the dialogue.
  • worry about filming in different locations. If you shoot the same scenery from different directions, the audience will never know the difference.

The #1 rule that can never, ever be compromised: DO NOT, under any circumstances, skimp on the gorilla costume. If the costume is the most expensive item in your budget, it is money well spent. Look at the gorilla suit in White Pongo – it looks like it weighs 120 lbs and has an internal temperature of 200º. It probably cost a fortune!

Now, people who have been to film school probably get all bent out of shape about research and technical stuff, but who cares about that? You wanna make a Sci-Fi/Horror flick? Go make it! The producers of White Pongo have shown us how it’s done.

White Pongo: Richard Fraser, Maris Wrixon, Lionel Royce. Directed by Sam Newfield. Written by Raymond L. Schrock. PRC Pictures, Inc., 1945, B&W, 72 mins.

This post is part of the UNINTENTIONALLY HILARIOUS blogathon hosted by the lovely & talented Movies, Silently. Click HERE to see the other fab entries.

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John Ford’s Theatre of Faux Piety

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Charles Winninger won’t talk politics today, gentlemen. *Wink!*  Image: Alt Screen

Guess which of John Ford‘s films was his favourite. Come on, take a wild guess.

The Sun Shines Bright is not a typical John Ford movie. There isn’t a single A-list actor, nor does it appear to have an expensive budget. Despite this (or because of it?) the director labeled it as his favourite.

The Sun Shines Bright is about a small southern town at the turn of the twentieth century. It is based on three short stories written by American humourist Irvin S. Cobb (1876-1944).

The town’s circuit judge, played by Charles Winninger, is facing re-election. Winninger’s character is a down-to-earth man who refers to his drink as “corn squeezin’s”, and scurries about helping his fellow townspeople. However, he is always in election mode and often mockingly protests, “No politics today, gentlemen.” It’s a rather disingenuous campaign strategy when you think about it.

While the campaigning is afoot, an African American teenager (Elzie Emanuel) is arrested for raping a white girl. Winninger works to calm the town’s anger, especially when a lynch mob marches toward the jail where Emanuel is held.

In the midst of all this, a young woman who was adopted as a child (Arleen Whelan) tries to find the truth about her birth family.

There is a lot to admire about The Sun Shines Bright. It’s beautifully filmed, like all of Ford’s movies, with each shot artfully framed. It doesn’t easily slide easily into one genre, so it is more reflective of actual life. It is a drama and a comedy and a philosophical history.

It’s the kind of movie that should make us think Ford-as-storyteller is a fine humanitarian.

But it doesn’t.

It can’t, because we are watching John Ford’s Theatre of Faux Piety. This is where words do not match actions, and the discrepancy between the two is so jarring we can hardly concentrate on the plot.

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Stepin Fetchit as Winninger’s “assistant” (read: Servant). Image: blu-ray.com

The themes of this film are hypocrisy and redemption, as illustrated by these scenarios:

  • a young woman is ostracized by her fellow townsfolk because she was born out of wedlock.
  • when a sick woman with a dubious reputation arrives in town, she shunned by “decent” folk and is forced to take refuge at a brothel.
  • when a white girl is assaulted, police immediately arrest an African American teenager without proof.

These are thought-provoking themes that should be explored in film. Yet it’s strange that in a movie preaching Equality For All, the director presents African Americans as weak, one-dimensional characters who are completely dependent upon white townsfolk. Subtext: everyone deserves to be equal but them.

These characters have neither original thought nor ambition nor bravery. Really? People who survived slavery – and all that went with it – are now simpering fools?

It’s Faux Piety. Because Ford presents African Americans as ludicrous caricatures, the movie becomes hollow. When Emanuel is found innocent of rape charges, the film celebrates Winninger the Hero instead of examining the actions that imprisoned an innocent teenager to begin with.

We are left wondering: Redemption for some, but not all?

The Sun Shines Bright could have been one of the great films of Ford’s career. Instead, it leaves us feeling like a great premise has been squandered.

The Sun Shines Bright: starring Charles Winninger, Arleen Whelan, John Russell. Directed by John Ford. Written by Laurence Stallings. Republic Pictures Corp., 1953, B&W, 100 mins.

This post is part of the JOHN FORD BLOGATHON hosted by Krell Laboratories and Bemused and Nonplussed. Click HERE to see the other posts.

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Memo to MGM: Tread Loudly in Gangster-land

Chester Morris (left) watches for prison guards while ____ searches for smuggled guns.

Chester Morris (left) watches for prison guards while Joseph Calleia searches for smuggled guns.

Crime was big business in the 1930s.

Okay, crime is always big business but during the early 1930s, movie audiences couldn’t get enough of sneering criminals. Perhaps it was an emotional purging – it was the Depression after all.

Warner Bros. were the Kings of the Gangster Pictures, and they certainly knew how it was done. A good gangster picture is more than blasting guns and squealing tires. It’s tense and mean in character and plot.

It’s only natural that other studios would want to make gangster pictures. Even MGM dabbled in the genre – 1935’s Public Hero #1 being one example.

MGM was Hollywood’s premier studio, home of lavish musicals, Andy Hardy movies, and epics about southern belles in green curtain dresses. But gangsters?

Don’t get us wrong. It’s not that MGM shouldn’t – or couldn’t – make a good gangster picture. It’s just there were times that MGM couldn’t help itself from being so…MGM-ish.

Let’s look at Public Hero #1 to show you what we mean.

THE TITLE
The phrase “Public Enemy No. 1″ became popular in the 1930s. It was famously used in reference to Al Capone and John Dillinger, among others. In 1931, Warner Bros. released The Public Enemy, a film about an ambitious Chicago gangster. (The film was criticized for glamorizing crime.) In response, MGM released Public Hero #1 in 1935.

Memo to MGM: The title is almost a parody of itself; it makes us think we’re in for a Preston Sturges treat. A gangster picture must be soaked in Attitude, especially its title.

THE OPENING
Public Hero starts with promise. The main character (Chester Morris) in prison, and he’s always griping about something, e.g. “You ain’t got enough screws in this joint to keep my mouth shut!”

Good stuff, right? Watch as Morris starts a food fight in the prison cafeteria, befriends the kingpin of a vicious gang, and beaks off at the prison warden.

Memo to MGM: The prison warden is Lewis Stone? He’s too soft for this gig. Someone’s likely to plug him when he ain’t looking.

THE LOVE INTEREST
After escaping from prison, Morris meets Jean Arthur, who is funny and smart alec-y like she always is. The scenes of Arthur and Morris falling in love are charming and amusing; you start wishing the movie was about the romance instead.

Memo to MGM: If you’re in the middle of a gritty gangster picture, you can’t suddenly morph into a Capra-esque comedy. We feel like we’re watching two different movies and it’s distracting. Instead of getting a 2-for-1 deal, we feel like we’re watching two half movies.

Wait a minute. Are we in a Frank Capra movie? Image: sdkjf

“Hang on – how’d we end up in a Frank Capra picture?” Image: Tout le Cine

LIONEL BARRYMORE
Barrymore gets top billing, but he’s not in the film as much as he could be. He plays a doctor whose only clients are gang members. His character is almost always drunk, and Barrymore skillfully steers between comedy and pathos. In one telling scene, Barrymore muses about the gang. He tells Morris he’s saved 17 gang members; “all but three are alive.” He wonders about the point of it all.

We wonder if this is why he drinks.

Memo to MGM: Listen, you mugs. This is LIONEL BARRYMORE. Here’s your big chance to show us the not-so-obvious victims of gang warfare, and why we need so-called Public Heroes. Instead, the action sneaks past Barrymore so it can get back to shooting lousy coppers.

However.

Even though we’ve been a bit rough on this movie, we do recommend it. The story is interesting with unexpected twists, and the acting is superb. The most outstanding feature is the cinematography, with really unique and dynamic camerawork.

Memo to Self: If you want a gangster movie with MGM sentimentality, check out Public Enemy #1. For all its flaws, it’s worth it.

Public Hero #1: Lionel Barrymore, Jean Arthur, Chester Morris. Directed by J. Walter Ruben. Written by Wells Root. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1935, B&W, 91 mins.

This post is part of the MGM BLOGATHON hosted by the lovely & talented Silver Scenes. Click HERE to see the other posts.

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The 1967 in Film Blogathon: Day #3

Silver Screenings:

Thanks to The Rosebud Cinema for asking to co-host this amazing blogathon. And thanks to all contributors for your thoughtful and insightful posts. It was a blast!

Originally posted on The Rosebud Cinema:

Thank you to all of you who have participated in The 1967 in Film Blogathon, it’s been a lovely opportunity to read about the films made in what is often considered one of the greatest years in film history.

Today is the third and final day of the blogathon, and from what we’ve seen so far, I highly recommend you all have a look through the assortment of write ups that the wonderful people of the blogosphere have contributed!

Here are today’s posts!

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Guest Post: To Sir, With Love

Note: We are thrilled to have Pamela Fallon Thornley as our Special Guest Blogger. You can follow Pam on Twitter at @fallonthornley.

When I think of the year 1967, the first movie that comes to my mind is To Sir, With Love. It might not be everyone’s first choice, since it did not win Best Picture or any other Oscars, but that does not stop it from being an important movie for its time. It dealt with many issues relevant to the 1960’s, and it also had a very distinctive sixties look. I wasn’t alive in 1967, but this piece of that year, is very near and dear to my heart.

The story, written by E.R. Braithwaite, and adapted for the screen by James Clavell, centers around the character Mark Thackeray, a man who, though educated as an engineer, has decided to accept an appointment as a teacher at a London school. The movie opens on his first day in this position, when he meets his fellow teachers, and more importantly the students that will be in his class. Being new to the teaching profession things, BIG SHOCK, didn’t go swimmingly at first. Like many movies dealing with the trials and tribulations of school life, the adolescents in this film are troubled, with many being just plain rebellious, which makes Mr. Thackeray’s job all that more challenging. Gradually, as he starts to find his own teaching style, and as his students begin to realize that he has their best interest at heart, things begin to improve. The school is full of teachers that have lost or never had the love for the profession. Mark Thackeray is a breath of fresh air in this stale and stagnate institution. Most of the students come from homes that lack discipline and structure, and they are in desperate need of a strong role model. He becomes this for them.

By 1967 there had been countless movies about the relationships, and the interactions between teachers and their students. However, I feel that To Sir, With Love was able to take a fresh and positive spin on the storyline. The thing that made this movie unique, is the approach used to solve and defuse the problems at school. Mr. Thackeray talked to his students. Instead of just spouting off rules, he explained things to them. With this approach, an honest relationship blossoms between the teacher and students. Mark never talks down to them or treated them as if they were children. Instead, he expected them to act as adults, like the ones the world was soon expecting them to be. He taught them life skills,such as tips on cooking and hygiene to get them ready for the outside world. This is important, since the next stage in their lives is to go out into the work force. No topic was forbidden, which helped to get his students to open up, and the teenagers really respected him for it. For many of them having any respect for an adult was a big step just in itself. He did set some ground rules for his class, but only in that he expected them to show him and their fellow class mates due respect, to be clean, and not to use foul language. Students were to address each other as Miss or Mr, and they were to address him as either Mr. Thackeray, or Sir. You can guess which one they preferred.

As I have said, while in Mr. Thackeray’s class the students dealt with and discussed many issues. Mark’s interaction with his students didn’t go without complications and problems. Being new to the teaching profession also didn’t help as sometimes his approach lacked diplomacy. An early example of this occurred when Mark first announced to his class, the rules he expected them to follow. They didn’t understand why they were expected to maintain good hygiene, and keep a nice appearance when one of the teachers, Mr. Weston didn’t. Mr. Thackeray’s response was cut and dry,“Mr. Weston is not your teacher. We won´t discuss him, I´m the one to criticize if I fail to maintain the standards.” When his students argue this being unfair he responds by saying,“I agree, but that´s an example of things you´ll have to put up with as an adult. You´ll just have to take it.” This issue of fairness comes up many times in the movie, and causes much conflict between students and teacher. An even more significant case of this happened after Mr. Thackeray sided with a teacher that the students felt was bulling one of their classmates. One of the boys, Potts tried stand up for his friend by threatening Mr. Bell, and Sir instead of agreeing with his actions told Potts “You owe Mr. Bell an apology”. He tried to explain that he wasn’t siding with Mr. Bell’s actions, but that he didn’t like Potts fighting, “I am not concerned with Mr. Bell´s behavior, but yours.” This didn’t go well with Potts, and the other male students especially Denham the self appointed leader of the class. Denham tried to “teach” Mark a lesson by suggesting they should put boxing gloves on, and have a “friendly”sparing match. In the end it was Denham that learned that violence wasn’t the answer when Mark showed Denham that he was very capable of defending himself, but rather avoid such methods for handling a disagreement. As the students begin to mature under Mr. Thackeray’s tutelage they start to understand that he isn’t trying to be mean, but trying to show them passive ways to deal with their problems, and quarrels. As Sir puts it, “you’re supposed to be learning self discipline.”

As their teacher there were many times Sir, was called on to give advice, and to help his students with personal issues. Some were on a one on one bases like when Mrs. Dare asked him to talk to her daughter, Pam about being out late at night. Pam is very hurt because she feels her behaviour is justified, and she doesn’t understand him talking to her on her mother’s behalf, “Why are you taking her side?”. Her hurt is intensified because she has been one of his biggest supporters, and also because of the very thinly veiled crush she has on Mr. Thackeray. They do manage to work through this bump in their relationship, and come to an understanding where they have mutual respect for each other.

An issue of great significance that was dealt with in Sir’s classroom was racism. Racism is still a big issue today, but back in 1967 during the civil rights movement it was very much a hot topic. This issue is skirted around during most of the movie but is discussed seriously after a boy in the class, Seales, loses his mother. The students wanted to do something for their classmate, and friend because of his mother’s death, but because his family is black the students feel it will look bad if they are seen going to his house. They try to explain that they don’t feel any malice towards him or his family, but as Babs (Miss Pegg) says, “You can´t imagine the things be said.” It is at this time that Mr. Thackeray teaches them not so much in words as much by his own actions that in the case of racism doing nothing when you know it is wrong is the worse way to handle it. They are part of the generation that if they feel something is unjust they need to be the ones to change it. Keeping quiet is no longer acceptable, the way to show people that racism is wrong is through their own actions. In the end, they all take the flowers to Seales’ house. It is a simple gesture, but it is a victory on so many levels, and that the students might not even realize it. It shows changes in a positive direction, and increasing maturity by the students. They are starting to act as responsible adults.

The appropriate way to describe the style of the movie, in simple terms is that it seemed real and authentic which was becoming more common place in the sixties. The movie directed by James Clavell, takes place in the London’s poor East End in the sixties,and was filmed on location in London. The constant use of exterior scenes on real London streets help makes one unquestionably feel like that is exactly where you are.. The school scenes might have been done on a sound stage, but if that is the case, the transition certainly wasn’t noticeable, and they did a very convincing job of replicating a realistic school interior. The building looked dilapidated, and seemed in desperate need of repairs and renovation. The class rooms, gym and teacher’s lounge are all dreary and drab with outdated furnishings and equipment. The wardrobe and hairstyles for the movie captured the look for the late sixties perfectly. Perfectly in that it captured the popular style of 1967, but with the use of natural light, and minimal use of filters in no way did the characters have flawless appearances. The clothes though the proper style were not tailored, the mini skirts and dresses didn’t look new and even gave the appearance that they might have been purchased at a discount store.   This realistic feel also held true with the hairstyles and makeup. The cast was filled with women sporting over teased locks, and men with hair long enough that they could have been mistaken for one of the girls. However, none of it had that Hollywood glitz and glamour look to it. Make up also didn’t look professionally done, and stayed with minimal application of lipstick, blush & eyeliner on the actresses. I’m not saying any of it looked bad, I’m just saying that all the looks shown in the movie could easily be achieved, and gave the characters the feel of being real people. This helps to make the characters more relatable by the viewers.

An aspect of the movie that needs to be singled out is the music. The film isn’t a musical in a classic sense, but music does hold a great importance. It is as though it is a character, and more importantly it is as though it is one of the students. The music changed when the attitude and mood of the students change. It is revealed early in the story that the students are allowed to run a part of the school at lunch time in order to dance and to listen to “their” music. Music at this point shows the barrier between the students and teachers. Later during the field trip to the museum, the title song is played for the first time. The field trip holds great importance because it shows that Mr. Thackeray feels he can trust his students to behave, and it is also a chance for these young people to see places outside their normal life. The song speaks the words of how the students feelings for their teacher. It plays while a montage of the trip is shown. Can hear such lines as

“A friend who taught me right from wrong
And weak from strong”

It isn’t in the scene as much as it is in the air. It speaks of how important Mr. Thackeray is to them, and it shows the change in the teen’s view towards school and towards “Sir” that is happening now in the movie. Later at the conclusion of the movie, during the end of school dance music is played, and everyone dances. Music is now used to bring the students and teachers together. This is a significant difference from the beginning of the movie. The barrier is gone, and the students are letting the teachers, and adults in general, into their lives. During the dance the title song is played again, but this time one of the students, Miss. Peg (aka Lulu) is actually singing the words

“But how do you thank someone
Who has taken you from crayons to perfume?’

Not only do they respect and admire Mr. Thackeray, they want to say it out loud. The song is actually played one more time during the ending credits. At this final part of the movie Mr. Thackeray has a tough decision about which path he should take with his career. The song playing, hints to us that his students helped him to make his decision.

I’ve talked about the movie To Sir, With Love from an analytical point of view, but I haven’t yet explained why it is near and dear to me. Well to start it has the rare distinction of being one of the few times my mother suggested a movie to me. I’m not saying that she ever really hindered my love of movies, but I can’t really say that we bonded over them. We have gotten better over the years, but still I am mainly her go to when she needs a title for her crossword, or in someway needs to use my knowledge of films. This wasn’t the case one Sunday night in 1987. My mother announces that we need to have dinner early because she saw in the listing that a movie that she loves is going to be playing on the movie channel. She says that it is called To Sir, With Love, but at this time the title really didn’t mean anything to me. I didn’t go into it overly excited or with much enthusiasm, but I did agree to sit down to watch. Well, when the ending credits played and the title song plays for the final time this ho hum view had changed. No, it wasn’t because there was a main character named Pamela, though I did like that fact. The best way to explain the change in my reaction is to say “Sidney Poitier!!!!” It also starred Christian Roberts, Judy Geeson, Suzy Kendall, a really young Michael Des Barres, and the singer Lulu in her first movie role, but it was Sidney Poitier that made the movie for me. To say I was blown away by his charismatic performance is an understatement. The power of very good casting. I only wish I was one for keeping a diary, because I would love to read precisely what my first thoughts were of his performance. One thing is for sure, is that, if I had written in a journal, I’m pretty sure one of the first entries about Sidney Poitier would have started with “Oh My God, He is Gorgeous!!!!!” I should clarify that I was also very much impressed with his acting. His looks were just a plus. This movie set me on the path of a “slight” Sidney Poitier obsession where I wanted to learn everything about him, and to watch all of his films. Just so you know, his other films that I was able to find didn’t disappoint either, but To Sir, With Love is still my favourite.

All this talking about To Sir, With Love is making me realize that I haven’t watched it in awhile, at least a few months. Well, I better go fix that right a way. Until I can get to my DVD player I think I will listen to the song To Sir, With Love sung by Lulu. It never fails to put a smile on my face. I hope others will take my lead, and go experience it all as well.

You can follow Pam on Twitter @fallonthornley.

This post is part of the 1967 IN FILM Blogathon hosted by Silver Screenings and The Rosebud Cinema. Click HERE for a list of contributions.

The 1967 in Film Blogathon: Day #2

Silver Screenings:

Day 2 recap courtesy of the lovely & talented Rosebud Cinema. This blogathon is so good, it’s like taking a film history class for free!

Originally posted on The Rosebud Cinema:

We’re now midway through The 1967 in Film Blogathon, and I hereby present today’s posts!

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War, American Style

Lt. Joseph Anderson dkfj asfkj Image: alsdkfj

Lt. Joseph Anderson listens to instructions from his commanding officer. Image: cjonline.com

Sometimes we wonder if modern documentaries have become the film equivalent of the old guy who chases kids away from his lawn.

Not that modern documentaries aren’t beautifully filmed or capable of stirring people to action. They’re all that and a piece of cheese, too.

But we didn’t fully realize how the nature of documentaries had changed until we saw The Anderson Platoon (1967), an understated film about the Vietnam War that won an Oscar.

Vietnam was a hot topic during the 1960s with protests against the war starting in early 1965. Even though there was a protest rally in Washington, D.C. in 1967 – attended by 100,000 people – the U.S. had nearly 500,000 troops on Vietnamese soil by the end of year.

The Anderson Platoon, originally titled La Section Anderson, was made by a French film crew. (The English version was narrated by actor Stuart Whitman.) Interestingly, French filmmakers were scooping up a lot of documentary nominations in the 1960s, at the rate of about one per year.

This gritty documentary examines the 1st platoon of “B” Company, comprised of draftees who had to complete two years’ duty, including one year in Vietnam. Many of the men are what the film calls “minorities from lower-income families”. They are headed by a rare specimen: an African-American West Point graduate, Lieutenant Joseph Anderson. Lt. Anderson is all of 24 years old.

According to the film, the U.S. military strategy is to seek and destroy, using small ground units like Anderson’s to find the enemy. Firepower is then flown in to destroy the sector.

The Anderson Platoon doesn’t shield viewers from the experience of war. An early scene shows a priest conducting mass for the men; when he gives communion, you can hear gunfire popping in the background. There is footage of the men combing the jungle, huddling in the rain during a meal, and giving medicine to children.

There is also footage of the men lifting the dead and wounded onto a helicopter, and finding a village where nearly everyone has been killed. Perhaps the most poignant scene is one where a soldier tenderly bandages his comrade, then sinks to the ground from grief or exhaustion, or both.

The Anderson Platoon does not politicize. There are no comments designed to infuriate you. It neither defends nor deplores the war. This is what the war in Vietnam looks like, is the message. Take from it what you will.

There is no tangible story arc, no indignant narrator ranting at the audience. The soldiers themselves never address the camera; we don’t feel like we know these men, even after observing them in such extreme circumstances. This makes us disoriented, like we can never really get our bearings, as though we don’t know who to trust or what might happen next. This disorientation feels intentional, however, and we are left wondering if this is like war itself.

Anderson received two Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars and 11 other medals for his tour in Vietnam. He eventually resigned his commission and became a successful businessman.

As for The Anderson Platoon, we recommend it – not just for its historical importance, but because it’s a film that seems as timely now as it was in 1967.

The Anderson Platoon: Narrated by Stuart Whitman. Written & directed by Pierre Schoendoerffer. French Broadcasting System, 1967, B&W, 55 mins.

Hey! This post is part of the 1967 IN FILM Blogathon hosted by yours truly and The Rosebud Cinema. Click HERE for a list of all the far-out contributions.

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The 1967 in Film Blogathon: Day #1

Silver Screenings:

Recap of today’s posts from my partner in crime, The Rosebud Cinema.

Originally posted on The Rosebud Cinema:

We’re off to a great start with The 1967 in Film Blogathon, with a groovy variation of films, ranging from the debut of one of the greatest directors the industry has seen, to a famously kitschy classic, and everything in between!

Here are today’s posts! Just so you know, there are a few blogs yet to publish their posts, so for now I’ve just linked to their blogs, but as soon as they put their posts up I’ll change the links!

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Update: 1967 in Film Blogathon

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Ms. Dunaway has a fab wardrobe for someone on the lam. Image: giphy.com

  Outta sight! The groovy 1967 IN FILM Blogathon starts Friday, and runs through to Sunday. We and The Rosebud Cinema will be providing a recap of each day’s entries starting Friday evening. There’s still time to join in, if you’re interested. For a list of films released in 1967, click HERE – and be sure to take a banner from the gallery at the bottom to post on your site. Here’s the list of participants. Please let us know if we’ve forgotten anyone or if we have an incorrect movie. We are SO JAZZED, man!

BLOG NAME MOVIE/THEME DATE
The Rosebud Cinema Belle de Jour 6/20/2014
Speakeasy Point Blank 6/20/2014
Twenty Four Frames Martin Scorsese’s Debut: Who’s that Knocking at my Door 6/20/2014
Outspoken & Freckled Casino Royale 6/20/2014
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear Bedazzled 6/20/2014
Critica Retro Doctor Dolittle 6/20/2014
Shadows & Satin Wait Until Dark 6/20/2014
Destroy All Fanboys The War Wagon 6/20/2014
Portraits by Jenni In Like Flint 6/20/2014
Krell Laboratories Branded to Kill 6/20/2014
Journeys in Classic Film Valley of the Dolls 6/20/2014
Once Upon a Screen Barefoot in the Park 6/20/2014
Girls Do Film Bonnie & Clyde 6/20/2014
Frisco Kid at the Movies In the Heat of the Night 6/20/2014
Movie Fanfare The President’s Analyst 6/20/2014
All Things Kevyn Favourite Films from 1967 6/20/2014
NuRay Pictures Don’t Look Back 6/20/2014
Silver Screenings The Anderson Platoon 6/21/2014
Part Time Monster The Gnome-Mobile 6/21/2014
Barry Bradford In Cold Blood 6/21/2014
We Have the Stars Thoroughly Modern Millie 6/21/2014
Cary Grant Won’t Eat You Cool Hand Luke 6/21/2014
Krell Laboratories Dragon Inn 6/21/2014
Mike’s Take on the Movies The Dirty Dozen 6/21/2014
Vintage Cameo Tony Rome 6/21/2014
Phantom Empires Kitosch, the Man Who Came from the North 6/21/2014
Stardust: My Classic Film Fantasies Bonnie & Clyde 6/21/2014
Micro Brewed Reviews The College Girl Murders 6/21/2014
Ramblings of a Cinephile Le Samourai (The Samurai) 6/21/2014
Silver Scenes The Happiest Millionaire 6/21/2014
The Motion Pictures David Holzman’s Diary 6/21/2014
Stacks and Ranges Far from the Madding Crowd 6/21/2014
Mentor’s Camper Samurai Rebellion 6/21/2014
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Caftan Woman Who’s Minding the Mint? 6/22/2014
I See a Dark Theatre Divorce, American Style 6/22/2014
Margaret Perry The Taming of the Shrew 6/22/2014
Pam (Guest Blogger) To Sir With Love 6/22/2014
The Counterfeit Writer Fitzwilly 6/22/2014
Silver Screen Modes Le Grand Meulnes (a.k.a. The Wanderer) – France 6/22/2014
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I Love Terrible Movies A Taste of Blood 6/22/2014
Destroy All Fanboys The Graduate 6/22/2014
Film Grimoire I Am Curious (Yellow) – Sweden 6/22/2014
1001 A Film Odyssey  Bonnie & Clyde  6/22/2014
Bemused and Nonplussed Quatermass and the Pit (Hammer Studios) 6/22/2014
Scopophilia The White Bus 6/22/2014
Random Pictures Playtime 6/22/2014
Bananas About Movies Fathom 6/22/2014
24 Frames Per Second Viy 6/22/2014

Questions? Comments? Wanna rap? Leave a comment below or email 925screenings [at] gmail [dot] com or therosebudcinema [at] gmail [dot] com.

Song of the Little Road

Tiel lskdfj Image: lsdkfj

Life is never easy for Karuna Banerji. Image: The Film Sufi

We thought you might be jonesing for something a little different today.

Maybe WAY different.

So here’s a 1955 Bengalese film that impressed the folks at Cannes so much they nominated it for the Palme d’Or.

Pather Panchali (“Song of the Little Road”) is based on a 1929 novel by Bengalese writer, Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, and is an example of neorealist filmmaking. It’s the first instalment of a trilogy that examines the life of a Bengalese family wrestling with poverty and never-ending injustices.

This film has unexpected moments of joy that feel like a cool breeze: children racing to watch a train rumble across the landscape; a girl admiring a pretty necklace; a father smiling when he sees his children having fun.

But because we’re in neorealistic territory, the film has moments of intense sorrow. Do not come near this movie without a tissue handy.

Director Satyajit Ray did not use professional actors in this film. In fact, this was Ray’s first film, which he shot over a period of three years while he worked full time for an advertising agency. Despite – or maybe because – the actors are not professionals, their performances are mesmerizing. You forget you’re watching a movie; you almost feel as though you are living with this family.

There is much to discuss and admire in Pather Panchali, but we’re going to concentrate on the mother, Sarbajaya, played by Karuna Banerji. She is, in our opinion, the most compelling character in this remarkable film.

From a global perspective, Banerji’s character is one of the most vulnerable people in the world. She is a poor, rural woman in a third-world country who is often abandoned by her restless husband to care for their children alone. But Banerji’s character is smart and engaging and unafraid to say what she thinks.

In one scene, Banerji’s big-talking husband tells her about his meeting with a distinguished-looking man who has offered a job. The husband has refused because he doesn’t want to seem desperate. Banerji reminds her husband that they are desperate. The husband says neighbours might disapprove if they knew the man’s caste. When Banerji asks how people might discover this, he replies, “Maybe [from] you. I know how women are.” Banerji responds as one would a child: “I’m busy enough without running around telling your business.”

Banerji is one of those actresses who doesn’t need to speak to convey her thoughts. In another scene, she watches the family’s contentious but aged Auntie return to their property. She’s come to die, Auntie announces, as she shuffles toward the house with her thin bedroll and cloth bundle – her only possessions. Banerji, wordlessly sipping from a mug, studies this sharp-tongued, elderly woman without sentimentality: This is how life ends for a woman.

It’s a surprising film in many ways. We did not expect the female characters to be featured more prominently than the men. We did not expect to see scenes of incredible beauty filmed in stark black and white. Most of all, we did not expect to be so emotionally connected to this family.

Pather Panchali is one of those quiet films that steals your heart without your noticing. We urge you to drop everything if you ever have the chance to see this incredibly moving film.

Pather Panchali: Song of the Little Road starring Kanu Banerji, Karuna Banerji, Subir Benerji. Written & directed by Satyajit Ray. Janus Films, 1955, B&W, 135 mins.