CineSavant Column

Tuesday September 25, 2018


I feel like I learn something whenever director-raconteur extraordinaire Brian Trenchard-Smith talks about movies… he should be hosting on TCM, or become the new Alastair Cooke for PBS. Trenchard-Smith’s latest great Trailers from Hell commentary singles out what looks like a really good historical epic, Alejandro Amenábar’s 2009 Agora. Starring Rachel Weisz, it’s set in ancient Alexandria, and it completely escaped me. I’ll have to go snoop for it online — to see if a Spanish-language Blu-ray is available.

Correspondent Jonathan Gluckman has forwarded a really good encoding of Weltram Schiff 1 Startet… Eine Technische Fantasie, uploaded by the National Archives and Records Administration. I believe it may have been among the high-tech Nazi contraband confiscated by the U.S. at the war’s finish, along with the science fiction film Gold. I’ve written about this 23-minute science fiction milestone in the past, with its giant spaceship that launches on a roller-coaster like track, a gambit seen just before in Kosmitcheskiy reys: Fantasticheskaya novella , and later in When Worlds Collide and Satellite in the Sky. The webpage dates the film as 1928, but every place I’ve seen it listed gives 1937 as the year of production. Invite your best Deutsche friend over, because even this good transfer has no English subs. The title translates as ‘Spaceship 1 Launches — a Technical Fantasy.’ Did Germans call sci-fi stories ‘technical fantasies?’  We don’t get to see the Weltraum Schiff land, but the takeoff montage that starts at 13 minutes in is sensational.

Say it ain’t so, Mister Bishop!  Everybody’s reporting that Mel Gibson will direct a remake of the 1969 western game-changer The Wild Bunch, directed by Sam Peckinpah. I’m reminded of Mrs. Hudson’s lament in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes: “Oh, there’s a cryin’ need for that!”  Gee, I hear that Jim Carrey is available. And can Martin Short play a Mexican maybe?  Where will Gibson slip in some strange religious theme — crucifixion via bullet holes, perhaps?  Actually, news like this makes me wonder if the studio mentality is capable of promoting original work. If one wants to do a remake, why not skip the classics, and instead try a do-over on a great movie story that wasn’t perfect the first time around?

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson