Tuesday, July 20, 2010

One of my favorite costumes of all time

I love this dress (Bette Davis, Jezebel 1938, Warner Bros).

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Be careful what you wish for, it may just come true.

I am a big believer in the restoration of movies. Not replacing any original material or what not, but I am a believer in using modern technology to make films from so long go look and sound more attractive…

I think it makes it so much easier for the viewer to watch and  I find restored movies are not as distracting as a unrestored copy of the movie may have been. The reason I am blubbering about this is because I recently bought The Picture of Dorian Gray, which was first released in the year of 1945.

  Perhaps you have heard about the story, it’s a fairly renowned one. Or perhaps you were one of the few people who saw the newly made adaptation of the story that released only a year ago starring Colin Firth.  I have to admit that though I began to read the classic tale written by Oscar Wilde, I did not finish it all. So I had no real ideawhat I was really getting into when I first inserted my dvd into my PS2... Little did I know that I was going to enter a world very strange and different to my own; but at the same time seemingly real and very hypnotic.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, is one of the oddest and finest films I have ever seen. I think it was perfectly executed and I think that George Sanders and Angela Lansbury in particular shine the most in the film. But I will get to the actors, story and all that later. Let me fist fan girl annoyingly over the sheer quality of the copy I purchased.


I swear when it first began, I began to drool, because seriously it was picture perfect. Every little detail could clearly be seen, the lighting was all the more effective, there was no annoying crackle that some older movies have due to deterioration or anything. Everything about it from the first moment it began was flawless. The sound was pitch perfect and I don’t even have a HD tv or dvd player or anything like that. So I’m double excited.

I just find it so totally awesome that this little movie I bought for like six bucks, was so brilliantly restored. Then I realized that it had been re-distrubted by the Warner Brothers Company, and I smiled.  Warner Brother’s truly seems to be  doing its best to give us the best quality of old films (I have copies of Gone With The Wind and All About Eve, that were BEAUTIFULLY restored and redistrubted by the Warners Bro. company). I guess it’s because they’re the only ‘old film studio’ that is still very successful… I think they still want everyone to know about the films and time that made them such a major studio, by re-releasing the old movies.

And probably why they’re redistributing major films of MGM and RKO, I dunno…. Hmmm, I shall have to look into that.

 But anyway I’m off on  a tangent again, I apologise. You will soon find that sometimes I will write and blabber on. Don’t worry you will get used to it ;)

Anyway where was I?

Oh yeah, the movie.

So needless to say the quality was freakin fantastic. I mean seriously, I had to go back to the beginning because I was fangirling so much over the sheer quality that I missed the opening sequence… I am glad I did go back to the start or else I would have missed some of the best moments of the film.

  Dorian Gray

Now that I have undoubtedly bored you all to tears with my over long fangirling, let me delve into the movie itself.

The movie is primarily filmed in black and white. I say primarily because there are four sequences in the film that are filmed in beautiful technicolor. I was so surprised to read that that was how it was actually filmed, I thought that many years later some clever little restorers re-colored certain scenes, but no, that’s how it was actually filmed and viewed in 1945. To me that is simply astounding, I am not sure why it is, but it is.  It certainly gave a wonderful effect.

Dorian Gray is a young, easily led astray, handsome gentleman who permits Basil Hallward to do a portrait of him… Lord Henry Wotten is, in short, a wicked man. Well perhaps not wicked, but he certainly is the one who sets Dorian on to his path of doom, he is very idealistic, very bitter, very dark, sometimes unfeeling and always expresses his opinion even when not asked. It is while visiting Basil, his friend and meeting Dorian the first time, that  Henry does just that.

He praises the work of his friend Basil, who had now finished the portrait of Dorian in almost exact detail, taking time to loudly observe how handsome Dorian Gray is and what a pity it would be when Dorian grew old and gray and lost his youth. He cautions Dorian to enjoy his youth now because soon he will be old and regretful.

Thus plants the mad seed within Dorian’s head, the seed of thought and obsession over age and aging… Dorian wishes foolishly out loud that the beautiful portrait of himself, and not he, would age and bear the signs of experiences, while he, Dorian himself remained unchanged, looking like  a youth of twenty-two, forever…  He even says that he’d be willing to sell his soul or trade his soul for such a thing to happen.

You know what they say, right? Be careful what you wish for…

The movie shows the effects of having such a wish granted, the life Dorian ultimately has because of his obsessions and mad thoughts. It also shows how easily led astray he is by the manipulative Henry. As time goes on and unfortunate and dark things began to happen to and be caused by Dorian Gray, the portrait begins to change,  while Dorian remains seemingly ageless, the painting starts to reflect the change of  the person it was based on… As Dorian becomes more self absorbed, mean and cruel, the painting changes accordingly to show just how disgusting he has now become. And the end result is not a pretty one.

Though the story in an overview sounds very simplistic it is anything but. The movie is a fascinating insight to human nature, the struggles in which all of man kind deal with, how easy it is to be easily lead astray and how easy it is to let your life and the world around you become dark and darker.

The movie is quite simply, very intense. Even in today’s standards it still shocks people. I have to say that each time the canvas of the painting was shown in technicolor, I gasped. Because the image was still very gruesome and indeed, I am not ashamed to admit this, frightening.

The wonderful use of lighting, music, stage craft and camera angles really helped build the suspense.  It is, ladies and gentlemen, black and white film at it’s best.  The switch to color when we view the portrait to see how demented and strange the painting has become, really made it all the more clear how dark and disturbed Dorian had become and also I think it was a clever way of showing the ‘true colors of his soul’.

The costumes were beautiful, the make up… Oh my god the make up. And I don’t just mean the beautiful and glamorous make up of Angela Lansbury and Donna Reed, no I mean the make up at the end of Dorian Gray (or perhaps it was a dummy… either way it does not matter) was extremely haunting.  It was very witty and funny and I think above all, intelligent. No doubt this is because it was adapted from Oscar Wilde, still it’s nice to see intelligent ‘horror’ every now and then.

The movie is not without it’s flaws though, it is sometimes very long and very dialogue orientated, which I suppose cannot be helped, given it’s source.  But still it was very much worth sitting through the dull moments, to get to the good bits.

Some of the cast;

George Sanders is the stand out for me. I have only ever seen him in All About Eve, in which he made a great impression on me then too.  Now I know without doubt that he was one of the best actors of his generation- his voice can literally make you feel placated in one instance and horrified the next moment.  He was surprisingly very subtle in terms of technique something that was rarely seen in the 1930s-1940s particularly.

Angela Lansbury also deserves recognition for her performance, it is unlike any that I have seen her in. Poor dear, she was so naïve in this film.  And so beautiful.  She plays Dorian’s first ‘love’ and her ultimate death, spins Dorian into a life of selfishness and darkness. I think that it was a brave role for her, considering the other roles she had taken during that time (The Harvey Girls, for instance).  I like that she took a risk and that it very much paid off.  She is very memorable.

For some reason I love Peter Lawford. I know he was usually only on screen in any film for small periods of time, but there’s something about him that I very much like, so I enjoyed seeing him in this movie, in the small but nonetheless important role  of David Stone.

Donna Reed looked very beautiful in this film, but I found her bland. She stars as Dorian’s second love, his true love. She was very sweet and lovely, but as I said far too bland for my liking in this film, this is my personal opinion.

And last but not least Hurd Hatfield, who played the title character. He was very good, at times for whatever reason he reminded me psychically of Laurence Olivier, but they looked nothing alike! Oh well.  He delivered a very well rounded performance of a tortured soul and sometimes you felt  pity for him but most of the time you just wated to hit him over the head with a bread stick or something.  He was good, but he wasn’t as good as George or Angela.

This movie though made so many years ago, still holds up even to modern days audiences. The images in the film that were so horrifying to people back then, are still just as horrifying now. Which is not always the case.

I liked it a lot.  And if you like ‘horror’ you should too. 

The end result of a life of cruelty and unkindness...

All images belong to Warner Bros, MGM and the actors/actresses themselves. All links to where I got the images are provided for, if anyone has a problem with me using said images, let me know. I am in no way related to any of the actors, movie studios or whatnot. I am however very tired, it is 4.16 AM. The joys of studying, eh? >.<

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dreams really do come true...

Just  a quick post-

 Ilene Wood May 5 1929- July1 2010 

Every one knows Cinderella.

   Every one has heard or seen it before, and usually, actually more probably, it is the Walt Disney version that is seen and is most identifiable by the public at large.  It has become more then a classic for the Disney company, it’s become an icon. As easily identifiable  as that of the Mickey mouse ears or the iconic castle that appears on the screen before a movie begins…
I actually only watched Cinderella the other day for the first time in  ages- sort of ironic, considering the news I heard only this morning. I know what you’re probably thinking, why the hell am I blogging about Cinderella, a kids movie for??

Well, technically it IS apart of what I define as anyway, The Golden era of Hollywood released in 1950.  I know some people do not consider animated films to be ‘really’ apart of this era, but for me I see no distinction, other then that one is live action and the other is not. A good movie, no matter how it is captured, is worthy of any praise and attention it garners.

I love Disney, I always have and I daresay I always will. The great thing about Disney is, particularly when you look at it’s traditional 2D animated films is that they hold all the morals and messages from times long ago…But because the movies are usually animated, they sort of transcend time. They are timeless pieces and they can never seem dated.

Cinderella is just as magical now as it was then and it’s morals and messages are just as beautiful now as it was before. And even it’s theatrical conventions that it uses, the use of dramatic music and general pace of storytelling still work, whereas live action movies that have used similar conventions can appear ‘outdated’ and ‘lame’ to today’s general audience. I grew up watching Cinderella, it was a staple in my usual viewing as a child as I daresay it was for a great many of people...
The reason I bring Cinderella up, is that I have heard that the woman who voiced Cinderella, Ilene Woods has recently passed away. Though she did not do any other movies or anything like that other then Cinderella, I still think she deserves to be remembered. After all, she voiced one of the best Disney princesses to exist.  And her singing voice was truly beautiful, it is a shame we did not get to see more of this beautiful lady. 

Through Cinderella I learnt that dreams really come true- and though my own dreams wish to accomplish something with my life other then just marrying my prince Charming and settling down, I have never forgotten that with some determination and optimistic thinking, you can get anywhere you want in life. And like Cinderella move from the lowest of places (such as her being a scullery maid) to the highest you can  possibly reach (for her this happened to be a princess, for me and for us though, the possibilities are endless!)

So thank you Ilene Woods for voicing one of the most identifiable characters Disney, and I daresay the movie industry itself, has ever known.

Cinderella (1950) belongs to the Walt Disney Company.  All images were taken from google.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Red Shoes

One of the greatest tragedies, for me personally I think, was that I never got to watch the film The Red Shoes as a child. I think though I would have perhaps been a little frightened, I would have been transfixed. And maybe it would have been even more magical for me (if that is even possible).

As it is however, I did NOT see the movie as a child, indeed I did not have the pleasure of seeing it until last week.  I have always loved dancing. Though of course I am not blessed with a dancing ability my self, I still enjoy watching it. The Nutcracker is one of my favourite stories of all time because of this.

The Red Shoes…

What can I say about it?


No, it’s better then good. It’s amazing.

No, Magical.

No, Brilliant…

It’s all those things combined and more!

It’s like a moving piece of art, a wonderful canvas. Beautiful in all it’s splendor.

Though unfortunately my copy  of the movie is in dire need of restoration, so I feel as though I have somehow been cheated in enjoying the movie for all it’s worth. If I ever see it in it’s restored glory, I shall buy it and probably come on here and gush about it all the more! So, beware! XD

The story, when you strip all the layers and other things that are added in the movie, is a fairly simple one. It is a  “modern” adaptation of the Hans Christianson tale The Red Shoes
 A girl wishes nothing more than to dance. She gets her wish, when a manipulative yet charismatic  ballet impressario Boris Lermontov (played by Anton Walbrook)  allows her in his company. He is a hard person who expects nothing less then utter and complete devotion to the chosen field each  of his protégées has chosen. Under his guidance Vicki, the girl played by Moira Shearer, is seemingly destined for stardom and the composer a young Julian Craster (played by Marius Goring) is destined for the same.  Vicki lands the lead role in the new ballet production  entitled ‘The Red Shoes’, which instantly makes her a hit.

However when Vicki and Julian fall in love, much to the scorn of Boris Lermontov, Vicki must decide what she must choose- her greatest love or her greatest passion? Or perhaps, they are in fact the same thing? 

Without giving too much away, this movie is the perfect blend of fantasy, romance and tragedy. It is also a wonderful look and insight in to human nature as each of the main characters, Boris, Vicki and Julian, all struggle internally with their demons.

Moira Shearer and Anton Walbrook are the stand out’s for this film for me.  Anton in particular handles his emotional scenes with outstanding craft and technique. And Moira? She is simply breathtaking in some scenes, especially when she dances. The passion, talent and struggle all shows with her movements… She is indeed one of the most wonderful women of her profession to ever be filmed. How lucky we are to have her immortalized in such a way.

The best quote of the movie;

Boris: Why do you want to dance?

Vicki;  Why do you want to live?

Boris; Well I don't know exactly why, er, but I must.

Vicki; That's my answer too.

For some reason while I watched this movie  I kept thinking of Moulin Rouge, but I think that might just be because of the red hair and the ‘forbidden love’ aspect both films. However it is probable that Baz Luhrmann drew at least SOME inspiration from this movie, not that I mean this in an accusing or mean way, it’s just a fun thing to point out/know. :P

It’s a beautiful story, well told.  Though made in 1948 it has this certain timeless way about it, it still holds up very well in today’s standards and would no doubt still entertain numerous people from all walks of life. I don’t think I am or ever could do enough justice to it. So I beseech you all see the movie.  You won’t regret it. (And if you do for whatever unfathomable reason regret it, don’t yell at me! XDD)

The Red Shoes (1948)  and all it’s images  belongs to ‘General Film Distributors’ UK.