Monday, June 28, 2010

The Amazing Mr. X (1948) - Black, White, and Beautiful

Hiya Kiddies! Y'know, it's a story that's been told many, many times over the years. A grieving widow is approached by someone who claims to be able to help them reach their lost love on "the other side". Of course, most of the time, the "spiritualist" or "medium" turns out to be a phony, but sometimes, as in the popular '90's movie Ghost, well, there is more to the story.

I'm not going to give away here where The Amazing Mr. X falls on the "is he a fake or not" scale, because honestly there's quite a few twists and turns along that road in this film and I don't want to give them away. Instead, I want to take just a minute to talk about the, if you'll forgive the use of the word, amazing black and white cinematography of this film.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Serial - The Poll and Contest Continue

Ok, Kiddies, it's like this. Since there were only two votes in the poll last week, and no entries in the contest, I've decided to extend both for another week.

Basically, the idea is simple - I'm trying to determine which serial should be the next one featured here on Sundays, and at the same time give away a free DVD.

All you have to do to vote is click on your choice in the poll found on the right hand side of the page. Details on the different serials can be found in this post.

To enter the contest, simply leave a note in the comments section either of the post linked above or this one telling which serial you voted for and, if you want to, why. The closing deadline for both the poll and the contest is now midnight, Saturday July 3. Any comments after that time will not be entered into the contest.

Important note: just voting in the poll will not enter you in the contest. You must comment to enter.

One commenter will be randomly selected to win a DVD copy of the serial of the their choice.

There ya go. It's that easy. Vote. Comment. Win.

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Saturday TV - The Adventures of Robin Hood

This one is for all those who, like me, simply were not interested in the grubby-looking "prequel" Robin Hood movie that was recently in theaters. Personally, Kiddies, yer old Professor is kind of tired of "heroes" who really aren't that heroic and films that are more about spectacle than telling a story or engaging us with characters. Is there any reason that a Robin Hood film made today seemingly has to be a mud-covered slog? In my opinion that's one reason why that particular film fell so flat whereas something like the first Iron Man movie was surprisingly well received. Not only was it well acted, but it's hero was someone who, though initially flawed, was, in the end, actually trying to be a hero. And yes, you had all the technological gee-gaws that draw the kids in, but at the same time, the producers weren't afraid to put that big shiny metal suit up there on the screen and let it shine instead of making the hero look like he constantly needed a bath (or, in Iron Man's case, perhaps a run through the car wash).

Thursday, June 24, 2010

King of the Zombies (1941) - Undead Race Relations

In 1968, George Romero changed the zombie film forever. In Night of the Living Dead and its sequels, the zombie became viral, a disease that spread like wildfire throughout the population, an onrushing tide of shambling flesh-eaters from which there was seemingly, ultimately, no escape. He also is hailed for, whether intentionally or not, turning the zombie film into something of an allegory or commentary on the times with his (admittedly bold) choice of Duane Jones as the lead in his film.

Prior to Romero's film, however, cinematic zombies were completely different creatures. Rather than being the result of some kind of scientific or military experiment gone wrong (the usual explanation for their creation in more recent films, only hinted at in Night, but made more explicit in films such as 28 Days Later), they were usually tied in with voodoo rites, some type of mind-altering drug, or even mere hypnotism. Nor were these zombies generally the type to rip apart bodies and eat their flesh or to spread their infection through a bite. Instead, usually there were only a few of them and they were used as slaves for some nefarious purpose.

These are the type of zombie that we find in today's flick, King of the Zombies.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday Serial - An Update, a Poll, and a Contest

So, longtime readers may be wondering what's going on with the Flash Gordon Serial that I'd been posting chapters of each Sunday. Well, long story short, it turns out that my source for the serial was mistaken, and it was actually still under copyright. Therefore, no more chapters will be posted, and all previous chapters have been removed.

Of course, that leaves the obvious question of "what now"? Well, that's where you come in, kiddies! Over on the right hand side of the page, I've set up a poll with the top five candidates, and the one that gets the most votes by midnight on Friday 6/25 (yep, that's this Friday) will be the next Sunday Serial.

For those of you who may not be familiar with some (or all) of these serials, I've listed them all below, along with some basic information and a link to the IMDB page for each one.(Just click the titles to go to IMDB.)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday TV - Boston Blackie

"I wish I had a pencil-thin mustache - the Boston Blackie kind."

If you've ever wondered just what or who Jimmy Buffett was talking about, then today's show is for you.

Boston Blackie began life as a safecracker and jewel thief in a series of novels by Jack Boyle. A character created in the "lovable rogue" mode, he was quickly transitioned to film where he became a private detective, then to radio and eventually television. His tagline, as you will hear, declared him to be "an enemy to those who make him an enemy, friend to those who have no friend."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Fighting Lady (1944) - World War II Propaganda

Today we shift focus to a different, though no less fascinating, type of feature: the propaganda film. Governments, and especially the military have used various forms of propaganda probably ever since Kulano of the Shell Tribe called the inland tribe they were fighting "squirrelly little tree climbers who are afraid of the water" and said therefore that they would be easy to defeat.

So what exactly is "propaganda"? Well, in his book Film Propaganda and American Politics, author James Combs describes propaganda as material produced by governments or political groups designed to “sway relevant groups of people in order to accommodate their [the government's] agendas”. In other words, propaganda, and specifically for our discussion propaganda films, are movies, either documentary or fictional, which are designed not only to present a particular point of view, but to persuade the viewer of the rightness of tht point of view or outlook. For a current example, one could point, say, to the films of Michael Moore or Morgan Spurlock or Al Gore as propaganda. No, they are not produced by the government, but they definitely have a particular point of view, and though the use of select footage and interviews, are designed to persuade the viewer that that point of view is the only "correct" or "intelligent" one.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Royal Wedding (1951)

"How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I've Been A Liar All My Life?" Believe it or not, kiddies, that song title is one of the least memorable things about this Fred Astaire dance vehicle.

By 1951, when this film was released, Astaire had already been in more than twenty films, including the perennially popular Holiday Inn in which he teamed with crooner Bing Crosby and songwriter Irving Berlin for a film that gave us the song "White Christmas", and Easter Parade which, of course, included not only the famous title song, but paired Astaire with both Ann Miller and Judy Garland. He had also made ten films with legendary partner Ginger Rogers. Astaire had also, by this time shared the screen with famed tap dancer Eleanor Powell, Latina bombshell Rita Hayworth, and friend and friendly rival Gene Kelly.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

News: 75 Lost American Silent Films Found in New Zealand

I don't usually do film news here, but this story seemed like it would be of particular interest to my public domain film loving people.

The National Film Preservation Foundation, along with the New Zealand Film Archive has just announced a partnership to preserve and restore 75 films thought to be forever lost. According to the Foundation's website, probably fewer than 20% of the films created during the first four decades of motion pictures still exist in the U.S., so this archive find represents a great historical treasure.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Attack of the Monsters aka Gamera vs Guiron (1969)

Mysterious signals have been received from outer space. The eyes of the world have turned to the stars as scientists debate the possibility of life on another planet, eventually coming to the conclusion that since it would take an Apollo rocket "a million years" to reach the closest star able to support life, the only possibility for us to actually contact an alien life form would be for them to come visit us. Unfortunately, when that actually happens and a spaceship lands in a deserted wooded area in Japan, those same scientists with all of their satellites and scopes and radar somehow miss it. Fortunately, however, two preteen boys, Akio and his American friend Tom (along with Akio's little sister) are looking through their home telescope and spot the ship as it lands.

Upon investigating the next day, the boys find themselves suddenly trapped inside the ship as it takes off on a return course to its home planet. When the ship is threatened by an oncoming meteor and all seems lost, the boys are rescued by the giant, space-faring, fire-breathing, flying turtle known as Gamera. Upon seeing the boys inside, Gamera decides to accompany the boys and keep them safe, racing alongside the speeding spaceship at a speed that one of the boys estimates at upwards of "mach 33".

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Shriek in the Night (1933)

Y'know, kiddies, one can't help but get the impression from watching the movies of the time that being a "big city reporter" during the 1930's was a much more exciting job than it is today. We've already seen examples of reporters being held at gunpoint by supposed mass murderers trying to prove their innocence in The Front Page and His Girl Friday. The Payoff even gave us a crusading reporter who had to turn the tables on his own publisher before the boss had him killed to keep him from printing his story. And, of course, each of these intrepid reporters were able to not only expose the bad guys but do it with an aplomb and sparkling wit that showed why they were considered top wordsmiths. Well, today you can add two more reporters to that list as we meet Pat Morgan (Ginger Rogers) and Ted Kord (Lyle Talbot) who find themselves in deadly danger as the seek out the truth behind a series of murders in A Shriek in the Night.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Silent Film Fest Day 5 - 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916)

Sorry about the delay in getting this last part of the silent film fest posted, folks. Its been a tumultuous couple of weeks here, but all that's now passed and we should be getting back to regular postings.

Way back in the day, when yours truly was but a young perfessor, one of my favorite movies was the 1954 Disney-produced version of Jules Verne's classic tale 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Sure, from today's historical and literary perspective it was horribly miscast, and much of the subtleties of Verne's original characterizations is missing, but for a young lad there was nothing that could spark the imagination like the undersea adventures of the Nautilus and her crew. James Mason cast an imposing regality as the imperious Captain Nemo, and when Kirk Douglas risked his life battling that giant octopus, well, to my young mind there was no match for his cleft-chinned heroics.

Imagine my delight, then, in discovering while researching the silent films to include in this mini-festival that there was a much earlier silent version of the tale that I could include here. Of course, almost as soon as I saw the opportunity, the questions also began to arise. Was there any way that such an early version could pull off the effects necessary to tell the story? At this point, filmmakers were only just exploring land based photography, how would they possibly pull off the underwater effects? And was there any way that it could bring the excitement and joy that the Disney version had to my young boy's heart? And would it, being an adaptation much closer in time to the source material also be closer in details?

Unless otherwise noted, all movies discussed on this blog and all associated materials are believed to be in the Public Domain. If you are a copyright holder for any of these materials, please email me. Unless otherwise noted, all material created for this blog by Professor Damian is licensed under a Creative Commons license as described below. Creative Commons License
Professor Damian's Public Domain Treasure Chest by Professor Damian is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Powered by Blogger Blogger Templates create by Deluxe Templates. WP by Masterplan