Monday, October 26, 2015

Movie magic - the story of special effects in the cinema

John Brosnan 1974

This is less a review of a book and more a remembrance of my youth. I recently had an overpowering desire to read this book again. My original was lost in a flood eons ago and I thought I had forgotten about it...but I found myself frantically searching Amazon and buying the hard cover without a second thought.

I have absolutely no regrets. It is rare when something so influential from your youth not only holds up, but surpasses your expectations coloured by decades of fond memories. In many ways this book cemented my desire to work in visual effects for movies. I, like many kids was fascinated by monsters and spaceships, but unlike many kids I wanted to know how they were made and do it myself. This book is still inspiring despite or possibly because of the now out of date descriptions of how special effects were done back in the days before Star Wars and digital techniques changed forever how films were made.

Written well before the digital age, the histories and interviews seem much more authentic than something written today. After all, the people who invented film magic were still around to talk about the early days of the art and scale models, puppets and hand done matte paintings were still state of the art when this was published. Brosnan does more than just explain techniques but gives the context and personal stories around how all the classic and not so classic miracles of the silver screen came to be.

Reading this book has inspired and encouraged me all over again to keep pushing my craft and reminding me that while some things may be easier, sometimes the old ways were best or at the very least, retain their charm and power to this day in a way modern effects are somewhat less able to accomplish.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Music of Erich Zann

Music of Erich Zann (final) from Vincent-louis Apruzzese on Vimeo.

My new animated project. A long haul to get it done by myself but overall I think it works. Now to the next one...

Sunday, September 13, 2015

When Magazines Were Everything

Before the internet, nonstop cable TV and even before television itself, magazines were the only place to get information on movies. Growing up I had limited access from the connivence store but after me and several friends started to branch out into corner stores all over the place we suddenly found a wealth of zines that suited our tastes. 

Seems, to me anyway, the 70s were a great time to be a film buff- especially a genre one like me and my pals. Not only were there monthlies to get, but occasionally a film would merit a special one time only issue...there was a King Kong (the original King Kong) retrospective that was double the pages (and price) which went over the film's history, effects, and influence and included tons of behind the scenes and production photos. We were always on the alert for this sort of thing as most places would get only one copy. That started to change and soon we were finding a small library of material being released every month. 

Preview Magazine
This publication seemed to have Sybil Danning on almost every cover and occasionally Caroline Monroe. To be honest, it was as close to a girlie magazine we could get away with as the articles were often secondary to the sexy photoshoots.

The legendary sci-fi media magazine.I had every issue for several years. We take for granted the never ending stream of information, media and speculation genre films produce now, but at the time starlog started, it was pretty much a lone voice in the wilderness for sci-fi fans. Every issue is available online! 

A spin off of Starlog, this was the most inspiring thing ever for aspiring film makers and effects artists, it told you in step by step detail how to produce your own effects for your super 8 productions! Also available online! 

Information on horror films but also « how to » sections on how to do make-up effects... again for your super 8 masterpieces. This magazine was still being published until very recently and outlasted the other Starlog press properties.

Film Comment
One of the greats (and still is from what I hear) intellectual film magazines. It chose not to take the stock publicity images but pick shots from the films themselves really stood out for cover images. They had in depth articles on foreign and little seen films while publishing at the excruciatingly slow rate at only one issue a year a several points. Site

In a way, the Film Comment of special effects magazines. Great covers, in depth interviews and in a great square format. Also like film comment, Ii had a very very slow release schedule but continues on today in digital form where you can access every single issue on your mobile devices. Site

A little less highbrow but very entertaining magazine with lots of photos and talk about what was being released. They had a very fun podcast until recently. It seems to be out of production… but there a website still but that seemed a little out of date whenI looked. 

This list is a personal one but it doesn't even touch on the fanzines... which are another discussion entirely. 

How did film magazines enhance your film going experiences? 


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

La Chute de la maison Usher (1928)

Jean Epsteins’s 1928 silent film of Edgar Allen poe’s short story was co-written by Luis Buñuel who had worked with him on another tim 2 years previously. 

The story, like every Poe adaptation, takes plenty of liberties, one of the biggest is making Roderick Usher’s twin sister into his wife… which adds a level of creepiness since if you ever read the story (and who hasn’t) it all seems fairly incestuous. Roderick still suffers from hyperesthesia and the actor playing him (Jean Debucourt) has seriously crazy eyes.

The thing that makes this movie worth watching is the visual style… Germany wasn’t the only place doing surrealist off the wall cinematography. Some of the imagery is really amazing. In this version of the tale, Roderick is painting a portrait of his wife and the more he works on it, the more life is sapped from the real woman. At one point his brush grazes the canvas and there is a cut to her stroking her face in the same spot…and it seems painful. Th emanating itself is total creep out. If I am right, it seems they put a frame with a glass or vellum interior in a black room and had the actress playing the wife sit far enough away to look like a very 3D image but not so obvious (she NEVER moves an inch) that you are ever really sure if that it’s just not a really good piece of artwork. When the wife dies, and put in the coffin her husband screams that nails are not to put in the lid and he is convinced she is not really dead. So they lay her in it with her wedding dress… the train dragging what seems like a ½ mile through the house and into the tomb. her return to the world of the living, wandering back to the house in her white dress is classic, or what would become classic gothic horror stuff. 

No surprise, the house falls to pieces but unlike most other versions, it all ends pretty well. With all the craziness that came before, tending is a disappointment but it doesn’t ruin the overall effect of what should be known as a silent classic but seems to have been forgotten in recent times. 

See the entire film below!