CineSavant Column

Saturday May 20, 2023


Hello!

Once again Gary Teetzel finds a good one … a typically erudite BBC literary piece. The video program “John Wyndham Interview 1960” covers a number of his books, with little readings. Wyndham is a fascinating writer — I’ve re-read his The Day of the Triffids many times. The 1981 BBC MiniSeries is a very good visualization, but the story needs a definitive epic remake.

The interview show may have been prompted by the release of the first film adaptation of a Wyndham novel, 1960’s Village of the Damned, from his The Midwich Cuckoos. The film clips that BBC interpolated have been edited out here for rights considerations.

BBC ‘culture’ interviews from this period are sometimes lampooned as pompous, but they’ve left us with a good record of some special personalities. At one point Wyndham differentiates between British and American Sci-fi readers — he says that the Brits don’t want space ships but Americans love them.

 


 

Item two is something we stumbled into that I can’t resist. We Mario Bava fans know the European entertainers The Kessler Twins Alice and Ellen mainly from their roles in the colorful Viking thriller Erik the Conqueror; we were disappointed that most of their contribution seemed to be cut out of Robert Aldrich’s Biblical epic  Sodom and Gomorrah.

A lo-ong time ago Tim Lucas delighted us with a YouTube link to the Kesslers’ “Scopitone” for the Italian pop song ’Cuando Cuando Cuando’, filmed around the time of their two feature appearances. It’s an elaborate music video with multiple costume changes for the glamorous duo. The twins are German by origin, so it’s cute when they switch languages from Italiano to Deutsch for one stanza of the song.

I have to say I think Alice and Ellen are pretty classy in all respects — the retro ‘showgirl gala’ piece is enhanced by a better transfer than we saw 20 years ago, which is why I was tempted to post it now.

 


Photo credit The Malkalmes Collection.
 

Film format expert and rumor-debunking technical-historical film authority Jack Theakston saw CineSavant’s Tuesday disc review of The Big Trail, the 1930 western epic filmed in experimental 70mm, and responded with some important information and a rare image.  We assumed (as irresponsible reviewers do) that Fox had sourced old 65 or 70mm film elements to restore a screenable version of the Raoul Walsh movie.  Jack says otherwise:

Glenn, In addendum to your well-done review of The Big Trail — the current source material (unless something has changed lately) is a 35mm reduction anamorphic fine grain made by Karl Malkames in the 1970s for The Museum of Modern Art. The original large-format negative was disposed of, presumably because it was succumbing to nitrate decomposition.   Before it was destroyed, Karl managed to snag a few frames for his own collection, like the one above. Best, Jack.

We’re still knocked out by The Big Trail. We love the way Raoul Walsh and his cameramen embraced the big format as an opportunity to compose painterly images on such a huge canvas. Hollywood filmmakers wanted to be artists, and the most impressive ‘epic’ shots in Trail weren’t bettered until the 65mm Road Show attractions of the 1950s. We admire all that modern widescreen real estate, and then note the old-fashioned rounded corners on the 70mm frame. It’s as if it had been filmed in 1868, with a camera sent back in a Time Machine.

Meanwhile, Jack Theakston and his associates are working on what he says will be the 3-D Film Archive’s best-looking 3D release to date: the Dean Martin – Jerry Lewis comedy Money from Home. Paramount is presently scanning the three-strip camera negs for both eyes in 4K: six strips in all (!). The 3-D Archive’s current video about the project is Here. Jack will try to get us some frames of restoration work as it happens.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson