Lone Wolf Sullivan is a writer, songwriter, and studio musician.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Song Remains the Same (1976) * * ¾

THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME is a musical documentary of the hard rock band Led Zeppelin filmed over three nights at New York City's Madison Square Garden in July 1973, but not released theatrically until 1976. Born from the ashes of the Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin combined loud blues with other music such as rock, folk and reggae, and drew upon mysticism and mythology for its material. Considered founders of the genre known as "heavy metal", Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham mesmerize with classic live performances of many of their great songs.

Captured during their tour to promote the "Houses of the Holy" album, they give many fine performances, and the film detours into the lives of the band members. There are clips of the band back stage, as well as interesting "dream sequences" that show the band members in either their real lives or in alternate fantasy worlds. Mostly it's garish and silly, but there are some nice elements, especially insights into John Bonham's life. It's amazing to see Robert Plant atop a galloping black stallion with his luxuriously long blond hair whipping in the breeze.

A cult classic of midnight movies and laser shows from the 1970s, the cinematography does not stick to straightforward images. Concert angles go from straight shots of the whole band, to Robert Plant singing from an under the stage perspective, to a close-up of Jimmy Page making magic. Arguably the best rock band in the world throughout their 12-year reign, they remain one of the most influential and innovative groups in music history. With over 200 million albums sold worldwide, their catalogue is one of the most enduring bodies of musical composition to come out of the 20th century. Led Zeppelin is one of only three artists/groups to have four releases go Diamond, or over 10 million records sold. Their debut album, recorded in less than 30 hours, hit the top ten and every other album since reached number one. The actually untitled "Led Zeppelin IV" is one of the biggest selling recordings of all time, with over 16 and a half million sales to date. Their total sales number over 80 million, second only to the Beatles.

Despite the group's road weariness after a long tour, their final three-night stand at Madison Square Garden in 1973 was full of energy and power. The band admitted to being tired, said that it wasn't nearly their best performance, and they didn't want to release this concert footage as part of the film, but were contractually obligated to. The songs performed are nonetheless terrific, but unfortunately we don't get an unbroken performance here. Viewers have to wade through a mishmash of documentary insight into the band members' lives.

The concert was shot as a psychedelic experience. Cameras shifted, spun, and turned. Virtually every visual effect possible during the age was used to further create a surreal experience. Lighting was usually colored, often multi-colored, as you might expect from a rock concert. Perhaps the best use of lighting was the golden halo given to singer Robert Plant during "Stairway to Heaven". Jimmy Page uses a violin bow with his guitar during a 23-minute-long version of "Dazed and Confused". John Bonham has a drum solo in "Moby Dick" where he uses his bare hands and fingertips for part of it, one of the most unusual and intricate drum solos ever recorded.

Fantasy sequences, shots in outdoor locations, and scenes of home and family were shot later. Interspersed with the concert footage, the home scenes are a bit distracting. Each band member, along with their manager Peter Grant, were given a fantasy sequence. They run the gambit from a confusing mob rub-out to a knight rescuing a damsel in distress, lots of horseback riding in beautiful locales, to pure psychedelic chaos. The first is of Peter Grant, dressed in a 1930s black gangster suit, who drives a black 1928 Pierce-Arrow to a house and blasts everyone with a machine gun. Behind the scenes dramatizations of events were also shot later, and included the fact that nearly a quarter million dollars in cash was stolen from the hotel safe the last night of the tour.

Since late 1969, Led Zeppelin had been planning to film one of their live performances for a projected movie documentary of the band. The group's manager, Peter Grant, believed that they would be better served by the big screen than by television, because he regarded the sound quality of the latter as unsatisfactory. The first attempt was the filming Led Zeppelin's Royal Albert Hall performance on 9 January 1970 by Peter Whitehead and Stanley Dorfman. But the lighting was judged to be mediocre, and the film was shelved. This footage was later remastered and featured on the 2003 release Led Zeppelin DVD.

On the morning of 20 July 1973, during the band's concert tour of the United States, Peter Grant made a contact with Joe Massot, who had previously directed George Harrison's WONDERWALL (1968). Massot was already known to Grant as he and his wife had moved into a house in Berkshire in 1970, where they made friends with their neighbors, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and his girlfriend Charlotte Martin. Grant had previously turned down offers by Massot to make a film of the band, but with the huge success of the band's current tour, Grant changed his mind and offered him the job of director. Grant recalled: "It all started in the Sheraton Hotel, Boston. We'd talked about a film for years and Jimmy had known Joe Massot was interested--so we called them and over they came. It was all very quickly arranged."

Joe Massot quickly assembled a crew in time for Led Zeppelin's last leg of the tour starting on 23 July 1973, in Baltimore. He subsequently filmed the group's three concert performances at Madison Square Garden on the nights of 27, 28, and 29 of July 1973. The film was entirely financed by the band and shot on 35mm with a 24-track quadraphonic sound recording. The live footage in the US alone cost $85,000. Plans to film the shows at Madison Square Garden were threatened when the local trades union tried to block the British film crew from working. The band's attorneys negotiated with the union and the crew was eventually allowed to film the concerts.

The footage of the band arriving at the airport in their private jet airliner, The Starship, and traveling in the motor cavalcade to the concert was filmed in Pittsburgh, before their show at Three Rivers Stadium on 24 July 1973. For their three NYC performances, the band members wore exactly the same clothes to facilitate seamless editing of the film, except for John Paul Jones who wore three different sets of attire on each of these nights, which created continuity problems. In an interview in 1997 Jones said that the reason he didn't wear the same stage clothes was that he asked the crew if they would be filming on those nights and was told no. He said, "I'd think not to worry, I'll save the shirt I wore the previous night for the next filming. Then what would happen is that I'd get onstage and see the cameras ready to roll."

Peter Grant was notorious for being protective of his band and their finances. THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME captures an exchange between him and a concert promoter. In the scene, Grant uses the words "f**k" and "c**t" eighteen times. When Warner Bros. approved the film they insisted that these words be 'bleeped' out. The words were inaudible on the submitted film and it was given an appropriate rating. However, on every other print the words were retained and were fully audible

In the scene where Peter Grant is driven to the police station to be questioned about the theft from the safe deposit box at the Drake Hotel, he has his arm outside the police car. According to an interview conducted in 1989, he explained the reason he wasn't handcuffed was that the policeman driving the car used to be a drummer in a semi-professional band which had supported The Yardbirds on one of its US college tours in the late 1960s. Grant was the manager of The Yardbirds at that time. The money stolen from the safe deposit box at the Drake Hotel was never recovered and no one has ever been charged.

The scenes of police chasing a half-naked intruder and of Grant berating the promoter for receiving kickbacks were both shot at the Baltimore Civic Center on 23 July 1973. Grant purportedly recommended the "Dazed and Confused" sequence where the camera zooms into Jimmy Page's eyes and cuts to the fantasy scene.

Unhappy with the progress of the film, Grant had Joe Massot removed from the project and Australian director Peter Clifton was hired in his place in early 1974. Massot was offered a few thousand pounds in compensation. Peter Grant later sent someone to Massot's house to collect the film. However, Massot had hidden the film elsewhere and so instead an expensive editing machine owned by Massot was taken as collateral. Massot served a writ, leading to a period of stalemate which was finally broken when Grant and Led Zeppelin's lawyer Steve Weiss agreed to pay Massot the money he was owed, after which he delivered the film to the band. Massot was not invited to attend the premiere of the film at New York but he attended anyway, buying a ticket from a scalper outside the theater.

Peter Clifton, in recognizing that there were crucial holes in the concert footage, suggested that the entire show be recreated at Shepperton Studios in August 1974, on a mock-up of the Madison Square Garden stage. Close-ups and distance footage of the band members could then be slipped into the live sequences, which made up the bulk of the concert footage seen in the film. The other reason for re-shooting some of the "live" concert was to improve the performances. Led Zeppelin was a great live band, but better in the studio. Robert Plant could only hit his high notes in a studio. Neither the performances nor the music in this film can be considered authentic, because everything has definitely been improved in the studio. When it was agreed that the band would meet at Shepperton Studios for filming, Jones had recently had his hair cut short, so he had to wear a wig. Robert Plant's teeth had also been fixed between the 1973 and 1974 filmings.

In the May 2008 issue of Uncut Magazine, Page recalled the events surrounding the shooting of additional footage at Shepperton Studios: "I'm sort of miming at Shepperton to what I'd played at Madison Square Garden, but of course, although I've got a rough approximation of what I was playing from night to night, it's not exact. So the film that came out in the '70s is a bit warts-and-all."

For both the film and accompanying soundtrack album, the songs were heavily edited, and until both the film and album were re-released in 2007, in some cases versions of a song appearing in the film were different from the one heard on the album. A comprehensive study of how the audio sources for each song were edited is available at The Garden Tapes. Songs performed by the group at the three Madison Square Garden concerts but not included in the original film include "Celebration Day", "The Ocean", "Misty Mountain Hop", "Over the Hills and Far Away" and "Thank You". Some of these songs were included on the soundtrack album of the film and, later, on the Led Zeppelin DVD.

Following the film's completion, the band experienced a major falling out with Peter Clifton. Suspecting that he had stolen negatives of the film, Peter Grant ordered that his house be searched. They did find some footage, but this turned out to be a collection of the best "home movie" footage which Clifton had intended to give to the band members as a gift. Clifton was also annoyed at the decision to remove from the film's credits the names of all the people who had worked on editing, make up and effects. Unlike Massot, however, Clifton was invited to both the New York and London premieres of the film.

In 1976 a midnight screening of the film was organized by Atlantic Records prior to its release, at which label president Ahmet Ertegün reportedly fell asleep. The film was finally completed by early 1976, 18 months behind schedule and over-budget. Peter Grant quipped, "It was the most expensive home movie ever made."

The film premiered on 20 October 1976, at Cinema I in New York and at Warner West End Cinema in London two weeks later. Reviews were lukewarm. Promotional materials stated that the film was "the band's special way of giving their millions of friends what they had been clamouring for--a personal and private tour of Led Zeppelin. For the first time the world has a front row seat on Led Zeppelin." The film was accompanied by the release of a soundtrack album of the same name.

The film performed well at the box office, grossing $200,000 in its first week, and an estimated $10 million by 1977. Despite this, the film received poor reviews from critics for its perceived amateurish production and self-indulgent content, with the fantasy sequences in particular coming in for some of the harshest criticism. The film was particularly unsuccessful in the UK, where the band had not performed live for over two years as a result of being in tax exile. The band were thus unable to promote themselves at home, leaving them out of the public spotlight. However, among fans the film has retained its popularity, largely because until the release of the Led Zeppelin DVD in 2003, THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME was the only official live visual document that followers of the band were able to access. It became a cult favorite at late-night movie houses, and its subsequent release on video and then DVD has ensured a growing base of fans.

Fantasy Sequences:

* Peter Grant and Richard Cole were filmed as hitmen driving towards Hammerwood Park estate in Sussex in a 1928 Pierce-Arrow car. Roy Harper makes an uncredited guest appearance as one of the greedy millionaires portrayed at a business meeting of multi-national corporations. Massot envisioned Grant and Cole in the hitman roles, as it symbolized the tough business decisions they made on behalf of the band. The female passenger wearing a scarf with Peter Grant driving on a country road is his wife, Gloria. Massot had originally shot Grant walking a cameraman around a collection of antique cars, but this footage was quickly abandoned.

* John Paul Jones was filmed first at home with his wife Mo, and reading "Jack and the Beanstalk" to his two daughters, Tamara and Jacinda, before receiving a call to join the band on their American concert. For his fantasy sequence, Jones initially wished to use footage from the DOCTOR SYN (1963) film, but was prevented from doing so as this film was owned by Disney. Instead, his fantasy sequence involved a reinterpretation of the film. Jones portrays a masked gentleman known as "The Scarecrow", who travels at night on horseback with three others and returns home to Sussex, an ordinary family man. The three other horsemen with him are a reference to the other band members. Jimmy Page's girlfriend, Charlotte Martin, and baby daughter Scarlet Page can be briefly seen during the closing moments of this sequence, which was filmed in October 1973. The fantasy accompanies the song "No Quarter".

* Robert Plant was captured relaxing on his Welsh country farm with his wife Maureen, and children Karac and Carmen. His fantasy sequence involves him being a knight rescuing a fair maiden, played by Virginia Parker, who is a symbolic representation for his vision of the ideal--his personal search for the Holy Grail. Scenes from the sword fight were filmed at Raglan Castle in Wales while the sailing, horseback riding and beach scenes were shot at Aberdovey then Merionethshire and now Gwynedd, in October 1973. The fantasy accompanies "The Song Remains the Same" and "The Rain Song".

* Jimmy Page is filmed sitting by a lake next to his 18th century manor at Plumpton, East Sussex, playing a hurdy gurdy. The tune played is called "Autumn Lake" and the scene was filmed in October 1973. Page's fantasy role involved climbing up the face of a snow capped mountain near Boleskine House, Loch Ness during the nights of a full moon on December 10 and 11, 1973.The act was meant to show Page on a quest of self enlightenment, and deep understanding, by seeking out the Hermit, a character featured in the Tarot deck. The mythological Hermit is seen on the summit of the mountain; Staff of wisdom in one hand, and in the other, the Lantern of Knowledge held out abreast over the world below. Being a Threshold Guardian, he represents an obstacle the seeker must overcome to achieve true enlightenment. At the final culmination of Page's quest, he reaches out to touch The Hermit only to discover paradoxically, that he himself is the Hermit.The Hermit features on the artwork or the untitled fourth album. The fantasy accompanies the song "Dazed and Confused".

* John Bonham was shot with his wife Pat and son Jason Bonham on their country estate, Old Hyde Farm in Worcestershire. It is interesting to note that part of his fantasy includes him spending time at home with his family. Bonham was known for falling into deep depressions while on tour away from his family. His heavy drinking, which ultimately resulted in his death, is partly attributed to his homesickness. The game of snooker was shot at The Old Hyde Hotel and the Harley-Davidson riding near Blackpool. His fantasy sequence is the most straightforward of all the members, with Bonham drag racing an AA Fueler at 260mph at Santa Pod Raceway, Wellingborough, Northants, UK, in October 1973. The fantasy accompanies "Moby Dick".

The cast includes: John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Peter Grant, Richard Cole, Derek Skilton, Colin Rigdon, Jason Bonham, Patricia Bonham, Roy Harper, Carmen Plant, Karac Plant, and Maureen Plant. Peter Clifton and Joe Massot directed.

Page stated: "THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME is not a great film, but there's no point in making excuses. It's just a reasonably honest statement of where we were at that particular time. It's very difficult for me to watch it now, but I'd like to see it in a year's time just to see how it stands up."

Page made good on his promise. When reviewing material for the Led Zeppelin DVD in 2003, he decided to include footage from this same series of concerts. However, other members of the band were less charitable, with Jones later admitting that the film was "a massive compromise" and Plant denouncing it as "a load of bollocks." For all of its technical faults, many today view the film as an interesting historical document that captured the band at a particular point in time when its popularity was about to peak, and, on a more general level, as an accurate representation of the excesses of the music and show-business industries in the 1970s.

The DVD of the film was released on December 31, 1999. It contains an anamorphic widescreen transfer with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. There is little dirt or nicks to mar the original film stock, and little pixelization or artifacts. Colors are bright and flesh tones are fine when the colored lighting hasn't turned them blue or red. Shadows are a bit of a problem. Seeing dark objects against a light background tend to be swallowed into one silhouette looking muddy mess. Otherwise black levels are deep and inky. Imaging ran the gambit from sharp and focused to soft and muddy, though overall was more than adequate.

Although it comes with several audio tracks, including Dolby Digital 2.0, 2.0 analog, PCM, and analog 6.0, reviews are very mixed. None of them gave the type of head-banging thunder you'd want to have watching a Zeppelin concert. I had high hopes for the 6.0 track, which I had to scrounge more cables to hear, but it was muddier than the 2.0 channels, with little use of surrounds. The best two were the PCM and Digital 2.0 tracks, which gave an adequate soundstage across the front, again with little for the surrounds. The subwoofer was utilized throughout but didn't have the punch I wanted. Even the mob rubout scene where machine guns are being fired was underwhelming. It took quite a bit of volume to give Bonham's drums the kick I wanted. There are also one or two dropouts of volume early in the concert footage. Extras are lacking. The disc actually lists the band members, without biography, as a special feature. The only other content is a British theatrical trailer. There are 26 chapter stops at least, which will get you close to whatever you want to see. Jimmy Page has stated that DVD is the format to use for unearthing their archives, and lets hope that better sounding recordings and concert footage will be forthcoming.

On November 20, 2007 Warner Home Video released a new DVD edition of THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME for the first time with all fifteen songs from the original Madison Square Garden concerts. This coincided with the reissue of the accompanying soundtrack to the film, available on CD. The DVD features newly remixed and remastered sound, 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound, and includes more than 40 minutes of added bonus material, including never-before-released performance footage of "Over the Hills and Far Away" and "Celebration Day", plus performances of "Misty Mountain Hop" and "The Ocean", a rare 1976 BBC interview with Robert Plant and Peter Grant, vintage TV footage from the Drake Hotel robbery during the New York concert stand, and a Cameron Crowe radio show. This version was released on standard DVDs as well as Blu-Ray and HD DVD.

A Collector's Edition box set including a T-shirt with the original album cover, placards from the New York shows, and several glossy photographs was released as well. Due to legal complications, the band decided not to change the video portion of the original movie for the re-release. Instead, sound engineer Kevin Shirley created an entirely new mix of the three 1973 Madison Square Garden concerts so that the audio portion of the film would better match the on-screen visuals. The audio on the new CD release is nearly identical to the soundtrack of the new DVD release. One difference is that the songs included on the CDs that were not featured in the original movie are included as bonus tracks on the DVD. The T-Shirt is what holds the DVDs and the extras in the box, which is very thin cardboard. Take the T-Shirt out and you have a large space in the box where the DVDs rattle around.

DISC 1 (Full Feature Concert Performances)

* "Bron-Yr-Aur"
* "Rock and Roll"
* "Black Dog"
* "Since I’ve Been Loving You"
* "No Quarter"
* "The Song Remains the Same"
* "The Rain Song"
* "Dazed and Confused"
* "Stairway to Heaven"
* "Moby Dick"
* "Heartbreaker"
* "Whole Lotta Love"


* Tampa News Report (Airplane Footage of the arrival of the band from the PULSE in Tampa Florida)
* "Over The Hills and Far Away" (never-before-released)
* Boating Down The Thames - Interview with Robert Plant & Peter Grant – BBC vintage footage
* "Celebration Day" (Cutting Copy; never-before-released)
* The Robbery (interview with Peter Grant- vintage footage)
* "Misty Mountain Hop"
* Original Film Trailer
* "The Ocean"
* Radio Profile Spotlight by Cameron Crowe (1976)

DVD Scene Listing:

1) Mob Rubout
2) Mob Town Credits
3) Country Life ("Autumn Lake")
4) "Bron-Yr-Aur"
5) "Rock and Roll"
6) "Black Dog"
7) "Since I've Been Loving You"
8) "No Quarter"
9) Who's Responsible?
10) "The Song Remains the Same"
11) "The Rain Song"
12) Fire and Sword
13) Capturing the Castle
14) Not Quite Backstage Pass
15) "Dazed and Confused"
16) Strung Out
17) Magic in the Night
18) Gate Crasher
19) No Comment
20) "Stairway to Heaven"
21) "Moby Dick"
22) Country Squire Bonham
23) "Heartbreaker"
24) Grand Theft
25) "Whole Lotta Love"
26) End Credits ("Stairway to Heaven")

Thursday, July 30, 2009

GIMME SHELTER (1970) * * ¾

This musical documentary concerns the Rolling Stones and their tragic free concert at Altamont Speedway in the hills west of San Francisco on December 6, 1969. Over 300,000 people attended. The event known as "Woodstock West" was all but destroyed by violence that marked the end of the peace and love euphoria of the 1960s. Altamont degenerated into mayhem when drunken Hells Angels, hired to keep order in front of the stage for $500 of beer, beat concertgoers over their heads with leaded pool cues. The violence was capped by the murder of an 18 year old black man, Meredith Hunter. Captured on film, Hunter's murder cemented the festival's reputation as the official end of the 1960s counterculture. Three others also died that day. GIMME SHELTER showed that the counterculture was not going to redeem or change anything, especially human violence.

Hell's Angel: They told me, if I could sit on the stage so nobody climbed over me, I could drink beer till the show was over.

Brothers Albert and David Maysles with co-director Charlotte Zwerin constructed GIMME SHELTER to lead to the murder. They give away the ending at the beginning of the film, and don't adhere precisely to the chronology of events. The Flying Burrito Brothers played after the Jefferson Airplane. But in order to show the mounting tension and violence at the festival, the film puts the Jefferson Airplane's set before the Flying Burrito Brothers. Jefferson Airplane singer Marty Balin was knocked out by a Hells Angel when he jumped into the crowd to stop a fight. The film makes it appear that the Stones opened their set with "Sympathy for the Devil," which they did not. It also appears that the show concluded after Hunter's stabbing at the end of "Under My Thumb," which it did not. The New York Times, Variety, and Rolling Stone magazine criticized the Stones and the Maysles Brothers for exploiting the murder to their economic advantage. These accusations are as responsible for Altamont's notoriety as the murder itself.

The documentary begins with The Stones doing a bit of dressup spoofery, then cuts to Madison Square Garden for an energetic rendition of "Jumpin Jack Flash", which segues into Charlotte Zwerin's editing suite in London. A bemused Mick Jagger is watching himself on an editing screen. Next Charlie Watts is listening to Sonny Barger make excuses for the Hell's Angels: "I ain't no cop," he snarls, "They were messing with our bikes." Now jump to Jagger, looking very nervous as Barger says Jagger may be fingering the Hells Angels as the perpetrators, but that's not the way he sees it.

GIMME SHELTER depicts some of the Stones' Madison Square Garden concert, later featured on the live album "Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! The Rolling Stones in Concert", as well as the photography session for the cover, featuring Charlie Watts and a donkey. It also shows the Stones at work in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, recording "Brown Sugar" and "Wild Horses". The film also includes footage of Ike and Tina Turner opening for the Stones at their Madison Square Garden concert, with Jagger commenting, "It's nice to have a chick occasionally."

The action then turns to the concert itself at the Altamont Speedway, with security provided by the Hells Angels armed with pool cues. From the moment the Stones arrive at Altamont, we know things are going to turn ugly. In fact, Jagger can't even get from the helicopter to his trailer before he is smacked in the mouth. As the day progresses, with drug-taking and drinking by the Hells Angels and members of the audience, the mood turns very bad. Fights break out during performances by The Flying Burrito Brothers and Jefferson Airplane. Grace Slick pleads with the crowd to settle down. At one point Jefferson Airplane lead singer Marty Balin is knocked out by a Hells Angel. Paul Kantner attempts to confront "the people who hit my lead singer" in response. Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh arrive, but The Grateful Dead opt not to play after learning of the incident with Balin. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young also performed at the concert but are not shown in the movie.

There is a brief exchange between a few members of the Grateful Dead. Jerry Garcia is offstage talking with another person about the violence transpiring in front of the stage. Weir rushes over with a brief report. Garcia's response is a druggie cliche: "Oh, bummer." To which Weir adds that Hells Angel's beating up musicians "doesn't seem right." In many ways, this movie created the myth of Altamont, just as the music and movie shaped the myth of Woodstock. Even before the violence starts mounting, the film depicts kids who are far from all right.

The night began smoothly with the Flying Burrito Brothers opening for the Rolling Stones and performing the truck-driving classic "Six Days on the Road" and Tina Turner giving a sensually charged performance. But on this particular evening, the Stones made the disastrous decision to hire the Oakland chapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang as bodyguards and bouncers. Halfway through the Stones' act, the Hells Angels stabbed to death one black spectator, and injured several others who were present, including Jefferson Airplane's lead singer Marty Balin.

By the time The Stones hit the stage, it is evening, and the crowd is especially restless. The Stones open with "Jumpin' Jack Flash". They are also shown performing "Sympathy for the Devil" as tension continues to build. It is during the next song, "Under My Thumb", that a member of the audience, 18 year old Meredith Hunter, pulls out a revolver in the course of a melee near the stage, and is stabbed to death by Alan Passaro, a member of the Hells Angels. Mick Jagger is reduced to standing on stage like a frightened child with his finger in his mouth in wake of the violence.

Mick Jagger: Who's fighting and what for?

Baird Bryant, one of the many cameramen at Altamont, caught Meredith Hunter's stabbing on film. The film sequence clearly shows the silhouette of a handgun in Hunter's hand as a member of the Hells Angels enters from the right, grabs and raises the gun hand, turning Hunter around and stabbing him at least twice in the back before pushing the victim off camera. We actually get to see Meredith Hunter being stabbed, zoomed right up close and in slow motion, and unlike the visually degraded Zapruder film, this is shot in glorious 16mm color by a professional cameraman. And it's real. The Maysles used 22 cameramen and 14 Nagra-toting soundmen. Among the camera operators for the Altamont concert was a young George Lucas, who went on to become a successful film director. At the concert his camera jammed after shooting about 100 feet of film, and none of his footage was used in the final cut.

First planned for Golden Gate Park, the free concert was moved to the Sears Point Raceway after its permit was withdrawn. The stage was all but ready at Sears Point when that venue fell through. The deal to perform at Altamont was struck at the last minute, with negotiations that the Maysles reveal to the film audience. In these scenes, the air of desperation to do something that no one can stop is palpable. The final shots of scattering silhouettes are among the most desolate ever put on a movie screen. The dream is over. This picture ends on a despairing note, with the Stones repeatedly watching a film of the murder. Celebrated documentary filmmakers Albert and David Maysles directed and Haskell Wexler shot the film, with heightened instinct and control. As a result, this film is considered one of the greatest rock documentaries ever made.

The film is named after "Gimme Shelter", the lead track from The Rolling Stones' 1969 album "Let It Bleed". It was screened at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival, but wasn't entered into the main competition. This documentary is associated with the Direct Cinema movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The Maysles Brothers, who directed it, are strong figures of the era. Direct Cinema revolves around the philosophy of being a "reactive" filmmaker. Rather than investigating a subject matter through such documentary techniques as interviews, reconstruction and voiceover, Direct Cinema simply records events as they unfold naturally and spontaneously--like a fly on the wall.

Much of the film chronicles the behind-the-scenes dealmaking that took place to make the free Altamont concert happen, including much footage of well-known attorney Melvin Belli negotiating by telephone with the management of the Altamont Speedway. The movie also includes a playback of Hells Angels motorcycle gang leader Ralph "Sonny" Barger's famous call-in to radio station KSAN-FM's "day after" program about the concert.

The Songs Performed:

The Rolling Stones

* "Jumpin' Jack Flash"
* "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"
* "You Gotta Move"
* "Wild Horses" (in studio at Muscle Shoals)
* "Brown Sugar"
* "Love in Vain"
* "Honky Tonk Women"
* "Street Fighting Man"
* "Sympathy for the Devil"
* "Under My Thumb"
* "Gimme Shelter" (live version, over closing credits)

Ike and Tina Turner: "I've Been Loving You Too Long" (at Madison Square Garden)

Jefferson Airplane: "The Other Side of This Life" (at Altamont)

Flying Burrito Brothers: "Six Days on the Road" (at Altamont)

Unlike C**KSUCKER BLUES (1972), the notorious film of the Stones' 1972 North American tour, GIMME SHELTER reeks of professional technique, clever ideas, and lots of cash. Director/Film Editor Charlotte Zwerin has to be given credit for the film's fascinating structure. She asked members of The Stones to drop round her editing suite and check out the raw footage. They agreed, and cameras were set up to catch their reactions. Suddenly the film changes from a documentary into something doubly voyeuristic. This double removal from the action means the film takes on a timeless feeling, as The Present in the film is forever locked to those moments when The Stones watch the rough cuts and watch The Stones watching the rough cuts. This reveals the story in a normal timeframe, but fragmented into flashbacks. This startling new structure means GIMME SHELTER is not a true documentary, but not really fiction. It's a powerful new combination of reality and fiction, told through action and reaction. This "time bounce" structure also takes advantage of the lack of filmed material Zwerin had to work with. GIMME SHELTER examines the Stones and Altamont with such a cold eye, it seems somehow to be examining itself.

Showing the Stones watching the footage enabled them to deflect charges that they were responsible for the Altamont disaster. "That's bulls**t," Jagger remarks to the onscreen Jagger, who has tried to be charming with a female reporter. Mick has nothing to say as he watches himself tell the media about the free concert, a concert that will show the world a large group of people can get together and behave like idealized hippies.

The cast includes: Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, Mick Taylor, Bill Wyman, Marty Balin, Sonny Barger, Melvin Belli, Dick Carter, Jack Casady, Mike Clarke, Sam Cutler, Spencer Dryden, Chris Hillman, John Jaymes, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, Pete Kleinow, Bernie Leadon, Gram Parsons, Ronald Schneider, Rock Scully, Grace Slick, Frank Terry, Ike Turner, Tina Turner, Jerry Garcia, Meredith Hunter, Michael Lang, Phil Lesh, Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Alan Passaro, Michael Shrieve, Ian Stewart, and Bob Weir. Directed by Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin.

There is a lot of music and performing in GIMME SHELTER, but it is not a concert film like WOODSTOCK (1970) which took place four months earlier. GIMME SHELTER was a part of the event it recorded, in fact a commissioned movie. The proceeds were meant to help the Stones pay the costs of the free concert, although they grossed a reported $1.5 million from the other non-free concerts on their tour. Mick Jagger did not attend the London School of Economics for no reason. Cynicism is the pervading force in this 1970 documentary.

The Criterion DVD is overpriced, but you do receive a fair number of extras on this single-sided, double-layered disc. Audio commentary by Albert Maysles (his brother David died in 1987), editor Zwerin, and production collaborator Stanley Goldstein has a wealth of information. For example, Goldstein gives a clear explanation as to how the Hells Angels ended up as the security team, and he debunks myths about why the band went on late. Maysles communicates how he views film composition and the images he and his team managed to capture here. Zwerin offers perhaps the most emotional and insightful dialogue about GIMME SHELTER as she explains how she painstakingly put the film together. All three also offer a great deal of detailed technical information. A brief restoration demonstration offers before-and-after examples of the image, color, and sound restoration used to create this beautiful high-definition release.

There is a full recording of the December 7, 1969 post-Altamont KSAN Radio program with a new introduction by former DJ Stefan Ponek, and an "Altamont Stills Gallery" with photos by Bill Owens and Beth Sunflower. Also there is never before seen footage of the Madison Square Garden show that includes Stones covers of "Little Queenie" and "Prodigal Son," along with backstage outtakes. Tina Turner and Jagger try to talk while Ike seems to be purposely playing his guitar so loud that they can barely hear each other. The original and re-release trailers are included as well as a 44-page booklet with essays by Jagger's former assistant Georgia Bergman, music writers Michael Lydon and Stanley Booth, ex-Oakland Hell's Angels Chapter Head Sonny Barger, and film critics Amy Taubin and Godfrey Cheshire. This film is presented in the original full-frame 1.33:1 and the audio restoration is so good that, in the Dolby Digital 5.1 remix, it sounds like it was recorded yesterday and not on equipment from decades ago.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Kids Are Alright (1979) * * ¾

This musical documentary literally begins with a bang at The Who's only US variety show appearance. On September 15, 1967 the band appeared on THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS COMEDY HOUR on CBS in LA following the end of their first US tour. They lip-synched the songs "I Can See For Miles" and "My Generation" and flustered host Tommy Smothers by refusing to follow the script as he tried to converse with them. Moon made the biggest impact when the destructive nature of his on-stage persona reached its highest level. After The Who's performance of "My Generation", they began smashing their instruments. Moon packed an explosive charge in his bass drum which set Townshend's hair on fire and made him temporarily deaf for 20 minutes, while cymbal shrapnel left a gash in Moon's arm. Townshend then took the acoustic guitar Smothers was holding and smashed it to bits on the ground. Smothers was completely frustrated, but the audience thought the whole performance was staged. Clips of a 1973 interview from London Weekend Television's RUSSEL HARTY PLUS appear six times throughout the film. While Harty delves into the background of the members' lives, Moon again steals the show as he rips off Townshend's shirt sleeve and then strips down to his underwear.

Tom Smothers: And you must be Roger.
Roger Daltrey: Well I must be.
Tom Smothers: Are you?
Roger Daltrey: Yes.
Tom Smothers: And where are you from?
Roger Daltrey: Oz.
Tom Smothers: Roger from Oz?
Roger Daltrey: Yes!

One of the TV interviews included in the film features Ken Russell, the director of the film TOMMY (1975), who makes his mark with his exaggeratedly passionate plea: "I think that Townshend, The Who, Roger Daltrey, Entwistle, Moon could rise this country out of its decadent ambient state better than Wilson or all of those crappy people could ever hope to achieve!"

An early performance from ABC television's SHINDIG! and one of only two surviving tapes from the group's many appearances on the British program READY STEADY GO!, both recorded in 1965, are included along with numerous interview clips from BBC Radio and Radio Bremen of Hamburg. Segments filmed in each of the band member's homes include several conversations between Moon and fellow drummer Ringo Starr.

Ringo Starr: (regarding Keith Moon) Well, I'm sure most of his friends have been on here, cos I'm only one of several, and they've told you about all the mad things he's done in life. Such as, breaking up rooms... driving his car into swimming pools... and driving his car into foyers. Well, I'm not gonna tell you about any of that. I'm just here to tell you about the Keith I know and love.

Keith Moon: (asked about previous jobs) I was a rust repairer. I was a rust repairer and full-time survivor. I survived all the major earthquakes, and the Titanic, and several air crashes. My friends call me Keith, but you can call me John.

Performances from three of the band's largest concert appearances bear witness to the band's progression from the British mod scene to global superstardom. They reluctantly performed at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair on 17 August 1969. It was not an artistic success in the eyes of the band, but it helped "Tommy" become a critical and financial success. The four clips that appear in the film, besides being a completely new cut of the Woodstock performance, without the "split-screen", include three tracks from "Tommy" and "My Generation", topped off by Townshend throwing his guitar into the crowd.

Pete Townshend: When I'm on the stage--let me try to explain--when I'm on the stage, I'm not in control of myself at all. I even don't know who I am. I'm not this rational person that can sit here and talk to you. If you walked on the stage in the middle of a concert for an interview, I'd probably come close to killing you--I have come close to killing people that walked on the stage. Abbie Hofmann walked on the stage at Woodstock and I nearly killed him with me guitar. A cameraman walked... a, a, a policeman came on when the bloody building of the Fillmore in New York was burning down--and I kicked him in the balls and sent him off. It's not like being possessed, you know, it's just--I do my job, and I know that I have to get into a certain state of mind to do it. What first made us want to go to America and..."conquer" it, was being English! It wasn't that we cared a monkey's about the American Dream, or the American drug situation, or the dollars or any of that. It's because we were English kids! And we wanted to go to America and be English!

John Entwistle: We became rich later than I expected. Now I'm too old to enjoy my money.

The Who's 1975 US tour reached its peak before a crowd of 75,962 at the Pontiac Silverdome on 6 December 6, 1975. The images in the film were broadcast to large screens in the stadium so those in the far reaches could actually see the band members on stage.

Pete Townshend: If you steer clear of quality, you're alright.
Interviewer: But wouldn't you say a group like The Beatles have a certain musical quality?
Pete Townshend: Oooh, that's a tough question. Alright, actually, this afternoon, John and I were listening to a stereo LP of The Beatles, in which the voices come out of the one side and the backing track came out of the other. And when you actually hear the backing tracks of The Beatles without their voices, they're flippin' lousy.

Near the end of the film, the band's appearance at the Monterey International Pop Festival on June 18, 1967 brought about their first big media exposure in the United States. In the film, The Who's Monterey Pop appearance cuts away to footage from past concerts depicting the band destroying their equipment before returning to the destructive end of "My Generation".

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT is a documentary film about the English rock band The Who, including live performances, promotional films and interviews from 1964 to 1978. It chronicles the development of the Who from young British mods in their early R & B period to worldwide arena rock icons. The film begins with the band's American TV debut and continues through into the 1970s with QUADROPHENIA. Twenty-two classic Who tunes are featured, including a special version of the title track, "My Generation", "Magic Bus", "Happy Jack", and "Long Live Rock". Director Jeff Stein, who was just 21 at the time, was given unlimited access to archives of the Who, occasionally butting heads with strong-willed guitarist and songwriter Pete Townsend over the direction of the film. Stein had produced a book of photographs from the band's 1970 tour when he was just 17.

In 1975 he approached Pete Townshend and attempted to convince him of his feature length movie idea. Townshend initially rejected the idea, but was persuaded by the group's manager, Bill Curbishley, to give their cooperation. Then Stein showed the band the 17-minute reel of The Who television appearances he had cobbled together. The band laughed hysterically at the footage, and Stein said, "Townshend was on the floor, banging his head. He and Moon were hysterical. Daltrey's wife was laughing so hard she knocked over the coffee table in the screening room. Their reaction was unbelievable. They loved it. That's when they were really convinced that the movie was worth doing."

Pete Towshend: A definitive end? What do you want me to do? Go out there and fall asleep on stage? Maybe I should go out there and die during my last solo? Or maybe I should hit that motherf**ker who's been yelling for "Magic Bus" over the head with me guitar?" (response to Jeff Stein's request for an encore of "Won't Get Fooled Again")
Jeff Stein: Yeah, that'd be fine.

Stein attempted to create not a linear, chronological documentary, but "a celluloid rock 'n' roll revival meeting" and "a hair-raising rollercoaster ride" that was worthy of the band's reputation. The performances which comprise the body of the film are organized around a number of encounters by the band members with various variety and talk show hosts, Pete Townshend's playful relationship with his fans, admirers and critics, and the endless antics of Keith Moon. Manic drummer Moon, who provides numerous laughs in the film, died a year before the film was released. Singer Roger Daltry said, "Most rock films are pretentious. They're made for the sole purpose of making Robert Plant's dick look big. This is totally the opposite. Within the first half hour we're made to look like complete idiots."

The film was released to theaters in October 1979. When the film was originally released on video, two musical segments were cut, paring it down from 106 minutes to 99 minutes. The 2003 video release restores the film. The performances of "Baba O' Reilly" and "Won't Get Fooled Again" were Keith Moon's last with the band before his death on September 7, 1978. So the film became a sort of "time capsule" for the band, after Keith Moon died only one week after he'd seen the rough cut of the film with Roger Daltrey. After Moon's death, the rough cut didn't suffer a single change, since neither Jeff Stein nor the rest of the band wanted to turn the movie into an homage to remember Moon's passing, but to celebrate his life and career with The Who. They were determined not to change anything.

Sound editing was supervised by bassist John Entwistle and, with the exception of a 1965 performance of "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" where Entwistle had to replace a missing bass track, most of the music is authentic. Entwistle and Townshend overdubed their backing vocals on the Woodstock footage because Entwistle considered the original backup vocals "dire."

The film is raw, edgy and explosive but always professional and focused. It is aggressively loud and consistently unapologetic, and thoroughly committed to its audience, a document of a rock band embracing its successes without ever pandering to its critics or its culture. The film offers no voice-over or neat chronology. And while Pete Townshend is at times visibly tortured by self doubts about the contradictions of pop music, art, money, and authenticity, his band mates were fearless about The Who's mission. Nothing substantial from The Who's career as a live act has been omitted, and even the most obscure performances and most subtle moments contain revelations.

The cast includes: Roger Daltrey (Himself, singer), John Entwistle (Himself, bass), Keith Moon Himself, drummer), Pete Townshend (Himself, guitar and songwriter), Tom Smothers (Himself), Jimmy O'Neill (Himself), Russell Harty (Himself), Melvyn Bragg (Himself), Ringo Starr (Himself), Mary Ann Zabresky (Herself), Michael Leckebusch (Himself), Barry Fantoni (Himself), Jeremy Paxman (Himself), Bob Pridden (Himself), Keith Richards (Himself), Garry McDonald (Norman Gunston), Steve Martin (Himself), Rick Danko (Himself), and Ken Russell (Himself). Incidental music was composed by John Entwistle and Keith Moon. Jeff Stein wrote the script and directed.

The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on 13 May 1979. The Who promoted the release of the film with some live performances with their new drummer Kenney Jones. THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT premiered in the US on 15 June 1979 in the middle of the disaster film era that featured films like EARTHQUAKE (1974), THE POSEIDEN ADVENTURE (1972), and THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974). In this environment, the original press kit for THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT drew on the band's destructive reputation and called it "the world's first rock 'n' roll disaster movie."

Critics generally liked the documentary. Michael Azerrad in Rolling Stone wrote, "Mind-boggling live footage and TV clips offer smashups, trenchant insights and hilarious pratfalls along with some of the most staggeringly powerful rock music you will ever see..." Simo wrote in Variety, "Best by far are the onstage sequences, and the older the footage, the more intriguing..." Mike Clark on USA Today said, "A storehouse of great clips, starting with the rock group's literally explosive performance on The Smothers Brothers Show..." And Janet Maslin of the New York Times wrote, "Wonderfully obscure and diverse footage of the group..."

An album was released as a soundtrack in June 1979 that included some songs and musical performances from the movie. The album reached # 26 in the UK, and fared better in the US where it peaked at # 8 on the Billboard album charts and went Platinum.

For many years the film was released on VHS in an edited 90-minute form. Several scenes were removed and the audio had several pitch problems and dropouts. In 2003, a DVD edition of the film was released. The strange thing about the DVD presentation is that it comes in two distinct and confusing packages that make you choose between a wealth of bonuses in the "Special Edition" or a standard, straightforward no-frills experience in the "Deluxe Edition". A pristine 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer melds many divergent elements (television, video, film, newsreels, and kinescopes) into a panoramic overview of the band's image and history.

The film had been transferred from the restored 35mm interpositive and the audio was extensively restored. In addition to the original film, with English subtitles, on-screen liner notes, commentary with Jeff Stein and DVD producer John Albarian, there is a 27-page booklet. This DVD was released by Pioneer Home Entertainment. Special features are extensive: 100 or so minutes of multiple-angle footage, an insightful interview with Roger Daltrey, a featurette about the film's restoration, and a mesmerizing, isolated John Entwistle audio track. The digitally-restored version of the film was premiered at the New York Film Festival in October 2003 with Daltrey, Lewis, Stein and Alberian in attendance. The DVD contains a bonus disc with over three hours of additional materials:

* "See My Way": Q & A with director Jeff Stein
* "Behind Blue Eyes": Q & A with Roger Daltrey
* "Miracle Cure": Documentary on the restoration of THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
* "Getting In Tune": Audio comparison of old vs. new)
* "Trick of the Light": Video comparison of old vs. new
* "The Who's London": A tour of Who locations in London
* "The Ox": Isolated tracks of John Entwistle for "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again"
* "Anytime You Want Me": Multi-angle feature for "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again"
* "Pure and Easy": Trivia game. The prize: A rare recording of Ringo Starr promoting "The Kids Are Alright"
* "It's Hard": Trivia game. The prize: A slide show to the "Who Are You" 5.1 studio mix

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Edward Scissorhands (1990) * * *

(first lines)
Grandmother Kim: Snuggle in, sweetie. It's cold out there.

The movie opens with a snowy winter scene, as an elderly woman tells a story to her granddaughter (Gina Gallagher) about snow, and why it snows. There was a man with scissors for hands named Edward (Johnny Depp), the creation of an inventor (Vincent Price). The gentle inventor was inspired to make an artificial man due to the anthropomorphic appearance of his other inventions. He raised Edward as his son and tutored him in various subjects, but died while in the act of offering a pair of hands to Edward. He is left with only scissors for hands, an unfinished creation who now lives in a ruined Gothic mansion at the top of a hill, above a suburban town.

Many years later, local Avon saleswoman Peggy Boggs (Dianne West), after failing to make profits in her suburban neighborhood, visits the mansion on the hill. She finds Edward there and convinces him to move in with her family, then brings him to the town below. Her intentions are good, but she lacks wisdom in her actions. Edward's scissors initially are obstacles when it comes to eating at a table and sleeping in a waterbed. He befriends Peg's young son Kevin (Robert Oliveri), and after an initial misstep, her teenage daughter Kim (Winona Ryder). Covered with white make-up and with only a few words of dialogue, Edward is painfully shy and delicate.

Peggy: Why are you hiding back there? You don't have to hide from me. I'm Peg Boggs, your local Avon representative and I'm as harmless as cherry pie... (sees Edward come toward her) Oh--I can see that I've disturbed you. I'll just be going now...
Edward: Don't go.
Peg Boggs: (sees his scissor hands) Oh, my. What happened to you?
Edward: I'm not finished.

Peggy: The light concealing cream goes on first. Then you blend, and blend, and blend. Blending is the secret.

The neighborhood soon accepts Edward in a perverse way, as the people see him as a curiosity. His scissorhands are an obstacle which prevent him from being fully accepted as a member of society. But he soon becomes popular for his masterful gift of cutting hedges into pieces of beautiful topiary art and arousing the dormant passions of women with his skillful haircutting. However, two of the townspeople, a religious fanatic named Esmeralda (O-Lan Jones) and Kim's jock boyfriend Jim (Anthony Michael Hall), dislike him immediately. Joyce (Kathy Baker), a "lonely housewife", suggests that Edward open a haircutting salon with her. While examining a proposed site, she attempts to seduce him, confusing Edward, who escapes the room in a state of panic. Edward attempts to bring up the subject of her actions while the family is having dinner, but no one reacts to the news. At dinner Peggy's husband Bill (Alan Arkin) reminds Edward that in society money is all that matters. If one cannot earn money, then one is not acceptable, and Edward is taken to a bank for a loan, but they will not give him one without the proper official papers that go with being a member of the society.

Bill: So Edward, did you have a productive day?
Edward: Mrs Monroe showed me where the salon's going to be. (turns to Peg) You could have a cosmetics counter.
Peggy: Oh, wouldn't that be great!
Bill: Great.
Edward: And then she showed me the back room where she took all of her clothes off.

Esmerelda: He has been sent first to tempt you. But it's not too late. You must push him from you, expel him! Trample down the perversion of nature! It's not heaven he's from! It's straight from the stinking flames of hell! The power of Satan is in him, I can feel it. Can't you? Have you poor sheep strayed so far from the path?
Edward: We're not sheep.
Esmerelda: Don't come near me!

He secretly falls for Kim, but she is turned off by his ungainliness. She makes fun of Edward and soon uses him unwillingly to break into her obnoxious boyfriend Jim's house. Wanting money for a van, Jim fools the guileless Edward into helping burgle his parents' house. The burglar alarm sounds and all but Edward escape, despite Kim's angry insistence that they return for him. The police arrive, Edward is arrested, but released when a psychological examination reveals that his isolation allowed him to live without a traditional sense of ethics. The arresting officer, Allen (Dick Anthony Williams), befriends the timid Edward, sensing his intrinsic goodness. The neighbors start to question their opinions about Edward's personality. Meanwhile, infuriated by Edward's rejection, Joyce gets revenge on Edward by claiming that he tried to rape her. Many of the neighbors begin to gossip and slowly turn against Edward. Suddenly the people in the neighborhood begin to see Edward as an outcast and a freak. During Christmas, Edward is hated and feared by almost everyone around him except the Boggs family. His initial naivety changes to feelings of frustration, rejection and revolt at people's ways. Edward also comes to realize that he can be dangerous to others, that he is unable to touch others without harming them because of the sharpness of the blades he has instead of hands.

Kim: Hold me.
Edward: I can't.
Kim: You're here... They didn't hurt you, did they? (Edward shakes his head) Were you scared? I tried to make Jim go back, but, you can't make Jim do anything. Thank you for not telling them that we...
Edward: You're welcome.
Kim: It must have been awful when they told you whose house it was.
Edward: I knew it was Jim's house.
Kim: You... you did?
Edward: Yes.
Kim: ...Well, then why'd you do it?
Edward: Because you asked me to.

Officer Allen: Will he be OK, Doc?
Psychologist: The years spent in isolation have not equipped him with the tools necessary to judge right from wrong. He's had no context. He's been completely without guidance. Furthermore, his work--the garden sculptures, hairstyles and so forth--indicate that he's a highly imaginative... uh... character. It seems clear that his awareness of what we call reality is radically underdeveloped.
Officer Allen: But will he be all right out there?
Psychologist: Oh yeah, he'll be fine.

While the family is setting up Christmas decorations, Edward carves an ice sculpture from a block of ice. The ice shavings create the effect of falling snow, under which Kim dances. Jim catches Kim's attention, whereupon Edward accidentally cuts Kim's hand. Jim assumes that Edward deliberately harmed her, and uses this as a pretext to attack Edward in a jealous rage. The situation worsens when Kevin is almost run over by Jim's drunken friend. Edward pushes Kevin out of the way, accidentally cutting his face in the process. The neighbors misunderstand the situation, thinking Edward attacked Kevin. Edward flees back to his hill-top mansion. The neighbors form an angry mob and pursue him. Officer Allen unsuccessfully attempts to turn back the mob by giving them the impression that Edward is dead. He fires his gun a few times and tries to tell them that it's all over. They continue to the mansion, presumably to kill Edward themselves to verify Officer Allen's claims that Edward is dead.

Kim heads to the mansion before the mob can get there and reunites with Edward. Jim follows them and battles Edward, and is eventually killed by him. Kim professes her love for Edward and convinces the mob that Edward and Jim killed each other in the fight. All the neighbors return to their homes, while Joyce is seen guilty and ashamed for making up the rumor about Edward.

The elderly woman from the beginning reappears, as she finishes telling her granddaughter the story. It is revealed that Edward is still alive and "creating snow" from his ice sculptures, which fall upon the valley below. The elderly woman reveals to her granddaughter that she is Kim. She refuses to visit Edward because she wants Edward to remember her the way she was in her youth.

(last lines)
Kim: You see, before he came down here, it never snowed. And afterwards, it did. If he weren't up there now... I don't think it would be snowing. Sometimes you can still catch me dancing in it.

EDWARD SCISSORHANDS is a 1990 comedy-drama fantasy film directed by Tim Burton. The film is filled with humorous scenes, yet within the humour there are always darker overtones. It captures the delicate flavor of a fable or fairy tale in a live-action movie. Most of Burton's movies are visual spectacles with elements of fantasy, but EDWARD SCISSORHANDS is more tender and personal than the others. Johnny Depp, making his first successful leap from TV to film, captures Edward's childlike vulnerability even while his physical posture evokes horror icons like the vampire in NOSFERATU (1922) and the sleepwalker in THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1919). Classic horror films feel a deep sympathy for the monsters they portray.

Burton conceived the idea for EDWARD SCISSORHANDS from his childhood upbringing in suburban Burbank, California. He said that he was often alone, and had trouble retaining friendships: "I get the feeling people just got this urge to want to leave me alone for some reason, I don’t know exactly why". During pre-production of BEETLEJUICE (1988), Caroline Thompson was hired to adapt Burton's story into a screenplay, and the film began development at 20th Century Fox, after Warner Bros. passed on the project. At the time, the budget was projected to be around 8 to 9 million dollars. EDWARD SCISSORHANDS was then fast tracked after Burton's enormous success with BATMAN (1989). He was now an A-list director.

The film is also the fourth feature collaboration between Burton and film score composer Danny Elfman. The movie sounds like a Tim Burton producton, very much like PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE (1985). There are many choirs, very reminiscent of the music score for Roman Polanski's THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (1967). Burton should get a new music composer, because Elfman's music makes Burton's movies sound all the same. Elfman's style is at times moving, soft, wild, silly, weird and crazy. He has worked on many musical soundtracks since, but this one is possibly the most beautiful he ever created. The orchestra consisted of 79 musicians. Elfman cites EDWARD SCISSORHANDS as epitomizing his most personal and favorite work. In addition to Elfman's music, three Tom Jones songs are also heard: "It's Not Unusual", "Delilah" and "With These Hands".

It's a wonderful tale about love and kindness, but also about rejection and estrangement. It shows the limits of people's tolerance for what is different and how those who stray from the norm, commonly named misfits, awake mockery or fear from a society which will use them and then reject them, thus breaking their innocence and goodness. Though a harsh satire of deceit, gossip, jealousy, hypocrisy, as well as a tragic witness to the pain of not being accepted by others, the tone is still one of constant sweetness, gentleness and innocence.

Johnyy Depp's performance as Edward is truly touching and full of gentleness. Winona Ryder is subdued and unconvincingly blonde as the love interest, but Alan Arkin and Dianne Weist both give perfectly deadpan performances. Vincent Price in his last screen appearance plays The Inventor with genteel charm. Their good-nature shows humanity at its best while some other characters show its least pleasant aspects. Photography is quite beautiful and is thematically based on a strong contrast between Edward's universe, the dark noiseless castle, with the town filled with bright colors and voices. The gloomy castle is in fact a shelter from the seemingly happy outside world, which is in fact much darker and sinister underneath its bright colors. Of all Burton’s films this is the one that feels the most honest and heartfelt.

The cast also includes: Conchata Ferrell (Helen), Caroline Aaron (Marge), Susan Blommaert (Tinka), Linda Perri (Cissy), John Davidson (TV host), Biff Yeager (George), Marti Greenberg (Suzanne), Bryan Larkin (Max), John McMahon (Denny), Victoria Price (TV Newswoman), Stuart Lancaster (Retired Man), Aaron Lustig (Psychologist), Alan Fudge (Loan Officer), Steven Brill (Dishwasher Man), Peter Palmer (Editor), Marc Macaulay (Reporter), Carmen J. Alexander (Reporter), Brett Rice (Reporter), Andrew B. Clark (Beefy Man), Kelli Crofton (Pink Girl), Linda Jean Hess (Older Woman / TV), Rosalyn Thomson (Young Woman / TV), Lee Ralls (Red-Haired Woman / TV), Eileen Meurer (Teenage Girl / TV), Bea Albano (Rich Widow / TV), Donna Pieroni (Blonde / TV), Ken DeVaul (Policeman), Michael Gaughan (Policeman), Tricia Lloyd (Teenage Girl), Kathy Dombo (Other Teen), Rex Fox (Police Sergeant), Sherry Ferguson (Max's Mother), Tabetha Thomas (Little Girl on Bike), Tammy Boalo, Jackie Carson, Carol Crumrine, Suzanne Chrosniak, Ellin Dennis, Kathy Fleming, Jalaine Gallion, Miriam Goodspeed, Dianne L. Green, Mary Jane Heath, Carol D. Klasek, Laura Nader, Doyle Anderson, Harvey Bellman, Michael Brown, Gary Clark, Roland Douville, Russell E. Green, Cecil Hawkins, Jack W. Kapfhamer, Bill Klein, Phil Olson, Joe Sheldon, James Spicer, Nick Carter, Tim Rerucha (Van Friend), and L.A. Rothman (Girl in Diner). Danny Elfman composed the music. Caroline Thompson wrote the screenplay from a story by her and Tim Burton, who also directed.

The production design work is quite stunning--from the beautifully gaping bare castle walls and antiquarian gardens to the amusingly color-toned suburbia where products are known by generic brand names, and most imaginatively the flashback tour of Vincent Price’s robot egg and cake beater inventions, all designed in a sort of L. Frank Baum steampunk. The houses were painted in faded pastel colors to represent the generic nature of American suburbia with which Edward finds himself at odds. Burton explained that his depiction of suburbia is "not a bad place. It's a weird place. I tried to walk the fine line of making it funny and strange without it being judgmental. It's a place where there's a lot of integrity."

Burton said, "Dianne, in particular, was wonderful. She was the first actress to read the script, supported it completely and, because she is so respected, once she had given in her stamp of approval, others soon got interested." When it came to cast the lead role of Edward, Fox was persistent to have Burton meet with Tom Cruise. "He certainly wasn't my ideal, but I talked to him," Burton remembered. "He was interesting, but I think it worked out for the best. A lot of questions came up." Cruise wanted the ending to be "happier". Michael Jackson then lobbied hard for the part, but was unsuccessful. Tom Hanks turned it down in favor of THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES (1990). William Hurt and Robert Downey, Jr. both expressed interest, and were considered. The Inventor was written specifically for Vincent Price.

Lutz, Florida and the Southgate Shopping Center of Lakeland were chosen for a three month shooting schedule. The production crew found, in the words of the production designer Bo Welch, "a kind of generic, plain-wrap suburb, which we made even more characterless by painting all the houses in faded pastels, and reducing the window sizes to make it look a little more paranoid." Rick Heinrichs worked as one of the art directors. The key element to unify the look of the neighborhood was Welch's decision to repaint each of the houses in one of four colors. He described them as "sea-foam green, dirty flesh, butter and dirty blue".

The facade of the Gothic mansion was built just outside of Dade City. Filming EDWARD SCISSORHANDS in the Tampa Bay Area created hundreds of temporary jobs and injected over $4 million into the local economy. Production then moved to a Fox Studios sound stage in Century City, California, where interiors of the mansion were filmed. To create Edward's scissor hands, Burton employed Stan Winston, who would later design Penguin's prosthetic makeup in BATMAN RETURNS (1992). Depp's wardrobe and prosthetic makeup took one hour and 45 minutes to apply.

EDWARD SCISSORHANDS was released with positive feedback from critics, and was a financial success. The movie had its limited release in the United States on December 7, 1990. The wide release came on December 14, and the film earned $6,325,249 in its opening weekend in 1,372 theaters. It eventually grossed $56,362,352 in North America, and $29,661,653 internationally, coming to a worldwide total of $86.02 million. With a budget of $20 million, the film was declared to be a box office success.

The film received numerous nominations at the Academy Awards, British Academy Film Awards, Saturn Awards, as well as winning the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. Both Burton and Elfman consider Edward Scissorhands their most personal and favorite work. The New York Times wrote "The chemistry between Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder, who are both engaged in real life, gave the film teen idol potential, drawing younger audiences. In the case of Edward Scissorhands, it is a tale of misunderstood gentleness and stifled creativity, of civilization's power to corrupt innocence, of a heedless beauty and a kindhearted beast. The film, if scratched with something much less sharp than Edward's fingers, reveals proudly adolescent lessons for us all." Roger Ebert gave the film a negative review. He felt that "Burton has not yet found the storytelling and character-building strength to go along with his pictorial flair. The ending is so lame it's disheartening. Surely anyone clever enough to dream up Edward Scissorhands should be swift enough to think of a payoff that involves our imagination."

The DVD includes audio commentary by Burton and Elfman. Neither talk all the way through the film, and you may wonder when they will speak again. Burton probably speaks 12 to 15 times through most of the movie, but it sounds more like he's having little afterthoughts. Elfman's audio plays after certain music segments are done, and his background music plays over the dialogue so we hear outright how it sounds. Tim Burton's concept art is shown, about 7 pieces of art (5 concepts of Edward, 1 of The Inventor, and 1 of Edward's place in the mansion's attic). The featurette talking about the film is a letdown, as there is nothing notable. The only decent feature is the interactive menu, made like a pop-up book of the mansion Edward is found in. It's a great movie on this DVD, but the extra features leave much to be desired. In October 2008, the Hallmark Channel purchased the television rights.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Meet the Applegates (1990) * * ¾

The Applegates look like a typical suburban Ohio family. Richard "Dick" P. Applegate (Ed Begley, Jr.) and Jane (Stockard Channing) have two kids and a dog named Spot. Like most families, they also have secrets: Dick has an affair with his secretary while Jane has an affair with credit cards, their son Johnny (Robert Jayne) has a drug problem, and their daughter Sally (Camille Cooper) is pregnant. The Applegates, however, are hiding a much bigger secret: They are actually advanced Amazonian insects who are masters of disguise with the ability to mimic the appearance of other species. They may seem as American as apple pie, but these Brazilian bugs have a taste for human flesh and are on a mission: They plan to blow up the nuclear power station where Dick works in protest of the industrialization of their homeland, which threatens their existence.

The movie starts in a forest with a family being attacked by a family of huge Brazilian Cocorada bugs. The insects find a "Dick and Jane" book dropped by fleeing teachers. Not long after, the group of Cocoradas camouflage themselves as an ordinary human family and set up house in the well-off suburban neighborhood of Median, Ohio. They take on human form and meet every "normality" standard from the magazine Family Bazaar. Their neighbor is an exterminator as well as a bigot, and he frightens them. Dick gets a job at a nuclear power plant. He works there to one day cause an explosion as a warning against destruction of the Brazilian rain forest, and to rid the world of humans and let bugs rule. Like cockroaches, these bugs can survive anything, including radiation.

But after a while the family drifts from its normalities. The temptations of Western civilization prove to be too much for them, and the American way begins to make converts of them. Johnny, a drug free student, begins listening to Heavy metal music and becomes a bratty junkie. The husband and wife drift away from each other, and Sally becomes a cold pregnant militant lesbian feminist after being raped by a jock from the high school. They each show their true bug form at least once in the film. Johnny does while smoking marijuana with his metalhead buddies, and Sally while being raped by Vince Sampson (Adam Biesk). Her experience seems an appropriate punishment as the cute blonde morphs into a giant insect during the sex act. When one of the Applegates gets teed off, he can revert to his original insect self and stun the offending party into unconsciousness, trapping him in a giant cocoon. Soon, the house is filling up with mummified victims. Sexually frustrated Dick disappears into the washroom with a spread of insect photos in Scientific American and drools over bug pictures the way another man might look at Playboy. When her family congratulates her on the tastiness of their supper, Jane says, "I happened to find some rancid trash in a dumpster behind the 7-Eleven."

As they drift away from normality, and nearly are discovered by the neighbors, their Aunt Bea (Dabney Coleman) is sent to help. She becomes a nuisance and they decide she should be taken care of. Dick decides to not blow up the nuclear power plant, due to his growing fondness of life, and kills Aunt Bea. At the end of the movie they return to their lives in Brazil, and are visited by the townspeople who grew to love them. Although the plant did not blow up, enough radiation was released to remove the hair from much of the population of the town.

MEET THE APPLEGATES is a 1991 black comedy film directed by Michael Lehmann. It was filmed in 1989, but not released until 1991. The movie takes a dark, satirical look at the end of the world, nuclear holocausts, alienism and terrorism. This was Lehmann's followup to HEATHERS (1989). While not nearly as popular or memorable, THE APPLEGATES is still quite an entertaining film, and its current "Out of Print in any format, anywhere in the world" status is baffling. A surreal ecological and suburban satire, laden with weird, silly and wonderful gags, this film parodies suburban family life much as HEATHERS focused on the darker side of high school.

The movie is clever, funny, intelligent, poignant, and surprisingly shocking. It represents an old style of cinema and engulfs our social problems, idiosyncratic ways, and our hidden flaws with a flair that cannot be found in today's films. THE APPLEGATES has a good cast, a powerful blend of humor with satire, and lots of fun. It is considered a cult classic for three reasons: a strong cast, a powerful story, and moments you will always remember. The human elements that invade these bugs' lives are over-developed for this film, but they work very well. The Applegates prove to humans that even if they come to us, we will still destroy their sense of what is right or wrong.

THE APPLEGATES uses a powerful technique for keeping this film easy on the eyes. It uses the K.I.S.S. method so it can withstand repeated viewings. The "Keep It Simple Stupid" formula was applied to this film by merely saying that these bugs were going to nuke a small town in the United States. There wasn't a fear of technology, over-analyzing, or future consequences--and with a film like this, we didn't need it. It's a simple story with a clear message: There are problems in the US we cannot blame on outside influences. We have issues with underage pregnancies, drug use, over-spending, and adultery. Metaphors abound, and we feel sad for these Applegates as they begin to falter in their mission because we are causing the failure. Our lifestyles are killing these bugs, and this satire of American manners is a send up of the ineffectual environmentalists the Applegates represent. The film was released during a time when there was a fear of the destruction of the Amazon forests, while we battle today with the issue of Global Warming. In other words, it's a save the rain forests ecology movie presented as a comical horror and fantasy film.

The cast also includes: Glenn Shadix (Greg Samson), Susan Barnes (Opal Withers), Savannah Smith Bouchér (Dottie), Roger Aaron Brown (Sheriff Heidegger), Lee Garlington (Nita Samson), Philip Arthur Ross (Kevin), Steven Robert Ross (Kenny), Mark Bringleson (Rich Block, Family Bazaar Magazine), Chuck Lafont (Clem Shepherd), Allan David Fox (Peace Corps Volunteer), Sherrie Wills (Peace Corps Volunteer), Jerry Craig (Amazon Native), Joe VanStrike (Russell Withers), Mindy Bell (Coach Himler), Meg Weldon (Courtney), Chelsea Lee (Ingrid), Jessica Schwartz (Monica), Mike Rieden (Vince's Friend), Bob Fox (Junior Cartwright), Kathryn Garrison (Drone with Aunt Bea), Margaret Mazon (Drone with Aunt Bea), Gustavd Mellando (Drone with Aunt Bea), Sherry Narens (Relative), Michael Raysses (Durpre), Les Podewell (Mr. Goodpastor), Bradley Mott (Pastor Cooter), Patrick Donahue (Bed Bug), Barbara Lehmann (Cocktail Waitress), Lisa Sutton (Pregnant Woman), Kiki Huygelen (Gail the Dyke), Adrian Tafoya (Motorboat Captain), John Escobar (Jorge), Tony Cecere (Banana Boat Helmsman), Rick Snyder (Bank Officer), Joe Liss (Customs Official), Ivan H. Migel (Cashier), Dan Bradley (Power Plant Worker), Richard Barker (Power Plant Worker), Lisa Comshaw (Pregnant Woman), Mark Roberts (Screaming Guard in Plant), and Joe Van Slyke (Russell Withers). David Newman composed the original music. The screenplay was written by Redbeard Simmons and Michael Lehmann, who also directed.

The screenplay written by Redbeard Simmons and the director is sharp, witty, intelligent, and hysterical. Special makeup effects designed by Kevin Yagher were used to make the Applegates appear as bugs. The special effects are all done with plastic molding and firecracker explosions. MEET MEET THE APPLEGATES was filmed in Oshkosh and Neenah, Wisconsin. It has been rated R, has vulgar language and partial nudity. Why is it unavailable? One viewer commented: "There's a reason why this film has been forgotten. It is horrible. But it's compellingly horrible! I could not stop watching it. I felt like it should be revered as a bizarro cult-classic, because it's so bad in such an enjoyable way. It is so extraordinarily bad, and the characters are so unapologetically one-dimensional, and the dialogue is so ridiculously over-the-top, you may find yourself, like me, unable to stop watching." The VHS title is simply THE APPLEGATES, and hopefully this comedy will be released on DVD soon.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) * * *

Sir Oliver S. Lindenbrook (James Mason), a geology professor at the University of Edinburgh, is given a piece of volcanic rock by his admiring student Alexander "Alec" McEwen (Pat Boone). Deciding that the rock is unusually heavy and therefore must contain Icelandic peridotite, Lindenbrook, mostly thanks to the carelessness of his lab assistant Mr. Paisley (Ben Wright), discovers a plumb bob inside bearing a cryptic inscription. Lindenbrook and Alec conclude that it was left by an explorer by the name of Arne Saknussem, who had 300 years earlier found a passage to the center of the Earth. Lindenbrook transcribes the text on the plumb-bob and learns that it reveals the entrance to the world below, so he immediately sets off with Alec as his assistant to follow the example of the Icelandic pioneer.

The first obstacle of the journey is Professor Göteborg of Stockholm, because the University in Stockholm writes to let Lindenbrook know that Göteborg has disappeared. Lindenbrook estimates the date of Göteborg's disappearance as being approximately when the first letter would have arrived. It's a lot of set-up, but it goes by quickly and it's made enjoyable by Mason's suaveness and the boyish charm of Pat Boone.

Act One is fun, but Act Two is better when Lindenbrook and Alec rush off to Iceland to try to beat Göteborg to Saknussem's secret entrance. Once they are in Iceland, Göteborg with the help of his goon, manages to kidnap both of them and trap them in an underground cellar, from where they are freed by young athletic farmer Hans Belker (Peter Ronson). He and his duck Gertrude join their expedition, but he doesn't speak English. That necessitates including a translator in their party, so they also bring along Carla Göteborg (Arlene Dahl). They next go to the inn where Göteborg is staying and sneak in his room, where they find him dead. Lindenbrook, with the astuteness of a forensic scientist, combs the goatee of Göteborg and retrieves some potassium cyanide crystals. They conclude that he has been killed by some rival scientist.

Carla Göteborg: Whom were you taking besides this young man?
Sir Oliver Lindenbrook: The big Icelander.
Carla Göteborg: Then I'll be very useful. He doesn't understand a word of English.

Alec McKuen: (after discovering Professor Göteborg dead in his hotel room) Why didn't they tell us at the desk?
Oliver Lindenbrook: Hotels rarely advertise the fact that there are corpses lying around.
Carla Göteborg: Sir Oliver, you are not going to listen to a murderer?
Oliver Lindenbrook: Never interrupt a murderer, madam.
Carla Göteborg: Someone is walking up there. I heard footsteps, human footsteps.
Oliver Lindenbrook: Since the beginning of time all women have heard footsteps up there.

Finding him dead before his expedition even began, Lindenbrook and Alec are suddenly supplied with all the materials they need for their project. Göteborg's widow Carla, who at first vowed to destroy all her husband's supplies, agrees to lend them his valuable supplies, including the much sought after Ruhmkorff lamps, if they include her in their trip. Lindenbrook grudgingly agrees to take her along, and so four explorers and a duck are soon journeying to the center of the Earth. Along with Lindenbrook and Alec, the group includes Hans Belker, Gertrude, and Mrs. Göteborg.

Strange terrain, a deranged rival scientist named Count Arne Saknussem (Thayer David), breathtaking scenery and giant reptiles embellish the rest of their journey. Count Saknussem is the descendant of Saknussem, the famed scientist who tried to travel to the center of the earth 300 years ago and left many guiding marks along the path for the posterity. Count Saknussem thinks that the center of the earth is his territory and only he has a right to visit there, as it was his forefather who went there first. He trails the group secretly with a servant. During his independent travels, as he becomes separated from the rest of his group, Alec almost trips over Saknussem's dead servant. When Alec refuses to become his new servant, Saknussem shoots Alec in the arm. Lindenbrook is able to locate Saknussem from the reverberations of the sound of the guns' echo, and in a strange court hearing, sentences him to death. However no one has the nerve to kill him, and they grudgingly take him along.

Count Saknussem: I don't sleep. I hate those little slices of death.

They eventually encounter a subterranean ocean, and make a raft from the stems of giant mushrooms to cross it. Somewhere in the middle of the ocean, they pass through the center of the earth and their raft begins circling in a mid-ocean whirlpool. The professor deduces they must be at the center of the earth, because the magnetic forces from north and south meeting there are strong enough to snatch away even gold in the form of wedding rings and tooth fillings. They manage to cross the ocean, and reach the shore on the other side completely exhausted.

Hans Belker: (in Icelandic) There is a tunnel on this side.
Carla Göteborg: He says there's a tunnel on the other side.
Hans Belker: (in Icelandic) And they slant downhill, and we can walk them.
Carla Göteborg: Slanting downhill, but walkable.
Hans Belker: (in Icelandic) O, madam, will you all come down here where the boy fell. It is so wonderfully beautiful down there.
Sir Oliver Lindenbrook: What's happened now? What's he saying?
Carla Göteborg: He said we should go back to where Alec fell.
Hans Belker: (in Icelandic) He is guilty. Excuse me, madam, can you tell me, where do we go now, what do we do now?
Carla Göteborg: (in Icelandic) Hans, let him go.
Hans Belker: (in Icelandic) Madam, the tunnel lies straight upwards, but there is a big rock in the way and sadly we can't move it. Only a landslide could move it. (to his duck) My Gotrun, have you been lonely?

Despite the dangers of their journey, no one has died. That, however, soon changes. Gertrude, the duck, loses her life. But ironically it is not the difficult terrain that kills her, but Saknussem, who can't control his hunger and eats her. Nature delivers its justice immediately when soon after a mild earthquake occurs, and Saknussem is buried under a shower of heavy stones. Right behind the collapse, the group comes upon the sunken city of Atlantis. They are now faced with one question: How will they return to the surface?

Not far from the ruins of Atlantis, they see the remains of the scientist who went centuries before them with the hand of his skeleton pointing toward a passage to the surface. They decide that they have to create an artificial explosion to get out to the surface. They use the gunpowder in one of the sacks of their ancestor to create an explosion that awakens a giant lizard which tries to eat them--but is soon consumed by the lava that torrents down after the explosion. The same lava lifts them up out of the depths of the earth in a large sacrificial altar bowl. They are thrown out to the sea, emerging to the surface via a volcanic shaft. Three are retrieved from the sea by seafarers while the fourth, Alec, is thrown out of the altar bowl as it flies through the air and ends up naked in a tree in a nunnery orchard.

When the group returns to Edinburgh, the four travelers are greeted as national heroes. Alec has married Lindenbrook's niece Jenny Lindenbrook (Diane Baker), Hans announces his return to Iceland, and the result of previous tensions between Lindenbrook and Carla is two headstrong people in love. The film ends with Lindenbrook and Karla kissing each other and the crowd cheering them and joyously singing in chorus.

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH is an adventure film adapted by Charles Brackett from the novel by Jules Verne. The film is also known as TRIP TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH. Excitement comes from its sense of mystery and the drama between characters more than it does from giant monster attacks. It features solid character development, and the actors take their roles seriously, bringing them to vivid life. This is a long film at 132 minutes for a general release, family oriented project.

The film is notable for its special effects, which are excellent. Matte painting artists of the old Hollywood studio system could truly be called artists, and this film is a prime example of this art. However, the special effects on the dinosaurs look phony. Putting fake back-sails on live reptiles and calling them dimetrodons is cheesy. But the rest of the film is great and the movie requires dinosaurs. Bernard Hermann's atmospheric score is one of the stars of the picture. His music supports the film, like a character all its own. It complements the story rather than overpowering it, combining woodwinds, brass, a huge percussion section, and five organs for the film's original surround mix. The payoff is sublime, as Herrmann's music dips into subterranean registers, while a harp captures the travelers' wonder.

The cast also includes: Robert Adler (Groom), Alan Napier (Dean), Gertrude the Duck (Gertrude), Mary Brady (Kirsty), Alan Caillou (Rector), John Epper (Groom), Edith Evanson (Innkeeper), Alex Finlayson (Professor Bayle), Mollie Glessing (News Vendor), Frederick Halliday (Chancellor), Kendrick Huxham (Scots Newsman), Owen McGiveney (Shopkeeper), Molly Roden (Housekeeper), Ivan Triesault (Professor Peter Göteborg of Stockholm), Red West (Bearded Man at Newspaper Stand / University Student), and Peter Wright (Laird of Glendarick). Bernard Herrmann composed the music. Walter Reisch and Charles Brackett wrote the screenplay from Jules Verne's novel "Voyage au centre de la Terre". Henry Levin directed.

Derived from Jules Verne's 1864 novel, the movie "sexed up" the story compared to the original. In the book there is just a little romance between Axel and the professor's goddaughter, but Arlene Dahl's character (Professor Göteborg's widow), Arne Saknussemm's descendant and even Gertrude were additions made by the screenwriters. For the movie it definitely makes sense to add a romantic subplot as well as the intrigue with Saknussemm's descendant. The novel does not start in Edinburgh, but in Hamburg, the Professor's name is Otto Lidenbrock, Axel is his nephew, and Axel's sweetheart, Lidenbrock's goddaughter from the Vierlande is only known as Grauben. Lidenbrock, professor of geology and mineralogy at the Johanneum, is also a rather different character from Lindenbrook, perhaps an early example of the mad scientist and to some extent a caricature of a German academic as seen by a Frenchman who was heavily influenced by reading the strange tales of E.T.A. Hoffmann. James Mason's character is worldly and suave compared to the dry and irascible Lidenbrock of the novel. In the first chapter it is mentioned that his lectures are well-visited because people hope to witness his famous fits. In the novel, as in many of Jules Verne's Extraordinary Voyages, it's mainly about the journey and teaching young readers about as many geographic and scientific facts as possible. Famous and wealthy in his lifetime, Jules Verne predicted the future use of submarines, space-travel, and crustaceous exploration. Over 80 motion picture and TV productions around the world have heralded his work.

Location shots were filmed at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and wild sets were designed to show off the scope ratio as the Lindenbrook Expedition reaches the Earth's surprisingly solid center. Fox's anamorphic transfer was made from a restored print, and those who grew up watching the film in a faded TV version will be delighted to see the production's attractive lensing. Like some of Verne's more exotic ideas, the underground territories share a lot of fanciful ideas, and that's part of the film's charm. Even the giant dinosaurs are well intercut between the terrified explorers, and much like the film's sets and locations, the creatures make good use of the scope frame.

The DVD presents the film in its original CinemaScope aspect ratio. This brand new anamorphic (2.35:1) DVD is an excellent transfer. Fox found the original 1959 camera negative worn and faded. A search for viable film elements led to a black-and-white silver print. From this came a 35mm interpositive. Finally came digital restoration and video enhancement. The original 4-track MagOptical soundtrack is offered in Dolby Digital 4.0 surround. DVD extras include 40 chapter stops, 8 trailers, and a conclusive restoration documentary.

Jules Verne's novel has been adapted several times for the big screen: Juan Piquer Simon's 1976 Spanish version starring Kenneth More; a 1989 Cannon version glued together for a cheap video release; a 1993 TV film featuring Carel Struycken, Tim Russ and Jeffrey Nordling; a 1999 mini-series starring Treat Williams and Bryan Brown; a 2008 TV film featuring Rick Schroeder; and a 2008 direct-to-DVD film produced by The Asylum.

In 2008 JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH starring Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, and Anita Briem was released. It's also called JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH 3D or JOURNEY 3D. Probably it should be considered a 21st Century sequel to the 19th Century of Jules Verne's novel of the same name.

Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser) is a Bostonian volcanologist whose 13-year-old nephew, Sean (Josh Hutcherson), is supposed to spend ten days with him. Trevor has forgotten that Sean is coming until he receives several messages from Sean's mother.

When Sean's mother drops him off, she leaves Trevor with a box of items that belonged to Max, Trevor's brother and Sean's father, who disappeared 10 years before. Sean suddenly takes interest in what Trevor has to say after he tells him about his father, whom he never really had a chance to know. Inside the box Trevor discovers Max's old baseball glove, a yo-yo, and the novel "Journey to the Center of the Earth" by Jules Verne. Inside the book Trevor finds notes written by his late brother. Trevor goes to his laboratory to find out more about the notes and realizes that he must go to Iceland to investigate for himself. He intends to have Sean flown back to Canada but relents at Sean's protest and brings him along for the adventure.

They start by looking for another volcanologist named Sigurbjörn Ásgeirsson and instead find his daughter Hannah (Anita Briem). The scientist died years earlier. It turns out that he and Trevor's brother Max were Vernians, a small group who believe the works of Jules Verne to be fact. Hannah offers to help them climb up to the Stag Mountain which has suddenly started sending data again.

While hiking the mountain, a lightning storm forces the three into a cave that collapses, leaving them trapped. The group then explores the cave looking for an exit, and they find it is an abandoned mine which was closed after an accident that killed 81 people. They venture deep into the mine until they reach the end of the tunnels and enter to the bottom of a volcanic tube which is full of precious gems. As they are admiring the gems they realize the floor they're standing on is actually muscovite, a very thin rock formation. Due to their weight, the muscovite breaks and the group falls thousands of miles through the volcanic tube to the center of the earth, surviving only because the volcanic tube eventually turns into something like a water slide which drops them into a lake. It is there that they find that the center of the Earth is actually another world contained within the Earth, "a world within our world", and they set out to explore the place.

Along the way they find evidence that someone was there 100 years previous. Trevor remarks that the instruments found are Lindenbrook's, hinting that his views of the events of the book being real are changing. They find some of Max's (Trevor's brother and Sean's father) things as well. While Trevor and Sean are going through what they've found, Hannah wanders off and unfortunately discovers Max's body. They bury him on the beach of the underground ocean and Trevor reads a letter to Sean found in Max's journal. They then say their goodbyes and embrace. Trevor then realizes that his brother died due to dehydration.

Trevor figures that they must find a geyser that can send them to the surface, which is located on the other side of the underground ocean, or otherwise the temperature will rise up to 200 degrees, making it impossible to survive. They must reach the geyser in 48 hours or all of the water to create the geyser will have evaporated. They also figure that they must get out before the temperature rises past 135 degrees, which is the limit that the human body can withstand. They begin by crossing the underground ocean, and then the two adults become separated from Sean. Sean's guide is now a little bird who has been present since the trio entered the center, and it takes him towards the river. After he goes through a path of floating magnetic rocks, he encounters a Giganotosaurus and Trevor--who has desperately been searching for him--finds him. The beast pursues them until they discovers that the ground beneath them is muscovite, the same type as earlier. The monster falls through the muscovite, creates a massive hole and dies in the process. When they arrive at the geyser, it is all dried up. But they find water on the other side of a wall.

Trevor uses a flare to ignite the magnesium in the wall and causes a geyser to shoot them through Mount Vesuvius in Italy. When they destroy the vineyard of an Italian man, Sean gives him a diamond which he found earlier. Trevor sees that he has many more in his backpack, and he uses them to fund his brother's laboratory. Throughout the adventure, Hannah and Trevor gradually become close and even share a kiss. The film ends on the final day of Sean's visit with Trevor and Hannah. As he is leaving their new home, which was purchased with some of the diamonds, Trevor hands Sean a copy of the book "Atlantis: The Antediluvian World" by Ignatius L. Donnelly, suggesting they might hang out during Sean's Christmas break, which suggests a possible sequel.

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH grossed $21,018,141 in 2,811 theaters with an average of $7,477.57 percent of the opening gross was taken from theaters which showed the film in 3-D. It has since made just over $100 million domestically. As of May, 2009, the film has grossed $101,704,370 in the US and $139,157,146 foreign sales, with a total of $240,861,516 worldwide. Warner Bros. marketed the film like a theme park attraction. However, the studio had to change the ad campaign, including dropping "3D" from the title, when it became clear that the film would be shown in 3-D in far fewer theaters than anticipated.

The film has enjoyed strong DVD sales. It was released on Blu-ray and DVD on October 28, 2008 in standard 2-D format as well as a magenta/green anaglyph. Four pairs of 3-D glasses are available along with the two-disc edition of the movie.

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