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Saturday, November 29, 2003

Review: The Trollenberg Terror
directed by Quentin Lawrence
starring Forrest Tucker, Janet Munro, Laurence Payne, Jennifer Jayne, Warren Mitchell, Andrew Faulds

Retitled The Crawling Eye for release in the US, The Trollenberg Terror (1958) is considered by many to be just another bad 50s sci-fi movie (it was even featured on Mystery Science Theatre 3000). In actuality, it is far superior to the standard MST3K fare. Like Destination Moon, the significance of the film can be overshadowed by the low budget and sometimes questionable acting, but both films pushed the science fiction genre in new directions. Destination Moon is obviously the more significant film — effectively ushering in the so-called golden age of science fiction film, but The Trollenberg Terror certainly merits a viewing for anyone interested in the genre.

Perhaps most notable about The Trollenberg Terror is the degree to which it blends the science fiction and horror genres. In the opening scene of the film the lead female character, played by Janet Munro, becomes entranced when she sees the Trollenberg mountain. Soon after, we learn that she is telepathic — part of a mind-reading act with her sister. She is the most innocent of all the characters in the film, but to the monsters/aliens on the mountain, she is the most dangerous.

Other elements of horror abound in the film including bloodless zombies and, for the time, graphic violence — with a memorable but brief shot of a severed head in a backpack. It's by no means on the level of 50s science fiction classics like The Day The Earth Stood Still and Invaders From Mars, but it is far better than its reputation suggests.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 11/29/2003

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Harryhausen Speaks
DVDFILE interviews the great Ray Harryhausen:
I know it is probably impossible to choose among your children, but is there any creation of yours that you are most proud of?

I think Jason (and the Argonauts) is the most complete. I got tired of destroying cities. We started with the Beast destroying Coney Island. We destroyed the Golden Gate Bridge with a giant octopus. And we also destroyed Washington DC. I knocked over the Washington Monument long before Mars Attacks. (laughs) It got rather repetitious. So I was looking for a new avenue, and I thought the legends of Sinbad would be ideal for fantasy and stop motion. And then the next step was Greek Mythology (with Titans).
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 11/27/2003

Sunday, November 23, 2003

NY Times on Bad DVDs of Good Films
Here's a good though somewhat dismaying article by Fred Kaplan in The New York Times: When Bad DVDs Happen to Great Films (link requires registration).
Bernardo Bertolucci's "Last Emperor" is a gorgeous film. It won nine Oscars, including the 1987 Academy Awards for best picture, best director and best cinematography. And the DVD, from Artisan Home Entertainment, is one of the most dreadful ever made. Colors are faded, images blurry; if a shot is filled with lines (say, the slats of a roof), they shimmer like hula hoops. It is tragically, agonizingly unwatchable.

Francis Ford Coppola's "Godfather" and "Godfather, Part II," which take up three DVD's in a five-disc boxed set, don't look quite that bad, but — given that they're among the greatest, most beautifully photographed films of all time — the results are dismaying. Images are faded in some scenes, way too dark in others and often speckled with weird distortions. For instance, in the opening shot of "Part II," the close-up of Al Pacino against a dark backdrop, it looks as if mosquitoes are swarming down his face. The movie looks better when it's televised on HBO.

Paramount is making new digital masters of the "Godfather" films for reissue, as single-film discs, late next year. Steve Beeks, Artisan's president, says a new version of "The Last Emperor," mastered from Bertolucci's personal print, will come out next year as well. Neither re-do is likely to carry a banner boasting vast improvement. That would be tantamount to admitting that something was wrong with the lavishly promoted originals.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 11/23/2003

About This Blog
I love movies. This blog is an attempt to collect my thoughts on film and, frankly, improve my film criticism skills. In addition to reviews, I'll be posting news about upcoming films I'm interested in and, of course, lots of links to film reviews and articles on other sites. Enjoy!
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 11/23/2003

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