More Coming Attractions

I already seem to be falling behind on posting reviews, but here’s what I’ve been watching and will hopefully catch up with over the next week (mind, there’s still The Crimson Kimono and Ride the High Country already waiting..).

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Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom  and Star Trek: TMP are the 4K UHD editions finally caught up with, and Dreamscape… well, seeing Kate Capshaw in Temple of Doom reminded me I’d never seen that one- and really, I wish I still hadn’t seen it; horrible. Mind, its similarities to Inception not withstanding (could Christopher Nolan actually be a fan?) it did remind me of just how good Brainstorm is, for all its faults. I know, I know, going into other peoples dreams and a machine that records experiences aren’t the same thing but both films were made pretty close to each other and… well, one of them was pretty good. Why anyone want to buy, let alone own, a copy of Dreamscape for repeat viewing is quite beyond me, but I guess every film has its fans. Somewhere.  I just keep looking at that Dreamscape poster thinking, ‘that’s just not the same movie I just saw’.

Hollywood can sell ANYTHING.

The Protégé

ProtegeThe Protégé, 2021, 109 mins, Amazon Prime

Enlivened only by the winning performances of both Maggie Q and Michael Keaton, The Protégé is a typically nonsensical action flick that becomes increasingly preposterous as it goes on. It really makes me wonder where action movies go from here on, as they all seem to be becoming increasingly daft – The HItman’s Bodyguard films seem to be self-aware enough to be mocking their own silliness, but films like The Protégé, which seem earnestly serious, are in a celluloid dead-end now. For how long can we expect to see spies and killers and hitmen and thugs managing superhuman feats more suited to DC and Marvel heroes, and for how long can we suspend our disbelief watching wafer-thin beauties beating the shit out of gigantic assassins?

These action films seem to have become caught for several years now in an endless cycle of bigger and ever-more sophisticated stunts and feats of astonishing skills and its really in the arena of the superhuman now: indeed they have, I think, been infected and ruined by the comicbook capers dominating the box-office. Which is perfectly fine if you have a DC or Marvel logo at the head of the film, because at least then you know what you’re going to see is hyperbolic nonsense, but otherwise… well maybe a reset is in order.

I should at this point describe the plot of The Protégé, but its so unrelentingly stupid and even generic that it feels pointless. A young child, Anna, is saved and raised by an expert killer and naturally becomes a deadly assassin herself, as devastating with her fists, feet etc as she is beautiful… (broken bones and bullets don’t seem to stop her- maybe the bad guys should have tried kryptonite). When the killer that raised and trained her, played by no less than Samuel L Jackson – yes the casting is THAT generic- is murdered, Anna sets off on a mission of revenge and meets a male operative that seems her equal and one that she can respect, but is working for the other side. Dramatic, ain’t it? Okay that’s it, that’s enough of the plot, such as it is, albeit I didn’t mention the clunker of a twist that is possibly one of the biggest wtf moments that I will possibly be forced to stomach all year.

We really deserve better folks.

Shockproof

Shockproof, 1949, 80 mins, Blu-ray

sam7The clue is in the credits: Written by…. with Helen Deutsch’s name above that of Samuel Fuller. Which I didn’t really question when first watching the film, but in retrospect, considering how greatly the film is derailed by its lousy ending (which I mentioned in an earlier post) I should have smelled a rat. Turns out the script was entirely written by Samuel Fuller but the studio got nervous about its original conclusion so hired Helen Deutsch to give them a happy ending, which spoils the film terribly, and then to add further ignominy to it all, credited Deutsch above Fuller (ensured by Deutsch nabbing a co-producer credit too, further reward for arguably ruining the picture – that’s Hollywood folks).

But it is a terrible shame, because Shockproof is a great dramatic noir and has such a lot going for it, not least of which is Patricia Knight, whose performance here is particularly nuanced and arresting, and actually astonishing when one realises she had no formal acting training, according to what I’ve read about her since. She plays ex-con Jenny Marsh, whose parole officer Griff Marat (Cornel Wilde (Leave Her to Heaven)) is instantly attracted to her and whose attempts to ensure she goes straight may not be entirely professional or decent. Jenny served five years for murdering a man while defending her shady gambler lover, Harry Wesson (John Baragrey) and remains romantically involved with Harry, who stayed in contact with her during her incarceration. Griff threatens Jenny that she’ll break her parole if she continues seeing Harry, but while that seems reasonable, it also fits in with his own attraction to her and his attempt to be with her himself- to the extent of finding her a job within his own home, something against regulations. Griff further compromises himself by intending to secretly marry her, again against regulations, which is something which Harry and his criminal associates see as a way of ruining Griff’s prospects for political office, from where he could be trouble for them.

The brilliance of Shockproof, and of Knights’ performance, is that there is subterfuge and lies from the start. It is no mistake that prior to her first parole meeting with Griff, the brunette Jenny is seen shopping on Hollywood Boulevard for new clothes and visits a salon to have her hair dyed platinum blonde. She’s obviously using her sex and beauty as a possible distraction against Griff, assuming a role of wounded beauty, manipulating him to give her special treatment. This is tested immediately, as soon after her first meeting with Griff she is arrested with Harry in a police raid on a bookie joint, contrary to Griff’s instructions to stay away from her old lover and the criminal fraternity. Returned to Griff’s office and a likely immediate return to prison, Griff instead sends her to a doctor on the pretence of checking out her twisted ankle. Rather than just the physical examination it pretends to be, this is actually a psychological test of Jenny’s character which she passes, saying all the right things to the doctor, but unknown to Griff, Jenny has sussed it was a test and her responses are all an act to ensure he gives her another chance. She has no intention of breaking up with Harry and knows Griff’s fascination/attraction to her leaves him open to manipulation.

So far, so very noir and typical femme fatale. But there’s all sorts of things going on here. Griff’s attraction towards Jenny increasingly forces him to break the rules, and when she can’t get a job because of her criminal record, he gives her a job at his house which enables him to keep her close and romance her, which makes one wonder who is manipulating who? His controlling influence of who she can see, where she can go, becomes something possibly dark and questionable. Dependant on him for a job and a roof over her head, and living with his family, it could be argued that Griff’s seduction finally works when Jenny starts to have feelings for him too.

sam8Or does she? Because she’s also still in contact with Harry, who knows that Griff is breaking all the rules of his profession and therefore encourages Jenny to go along with it and lead Griff to ruin.

Shockproof is a brilliant tale of subversion and possible perversion. What makes it all work is Knight’s excellent performance- very often the viewer just can’t be sure if what she’s doing and saying is real or just part of an act. Are her growing feelings for Griff real? Just when you think her loyalties lie with Harry, who is clearly no good for her and likely manipulating her himself, one starts to wonder if her loyalties are really with Griff and her love for him genuine. And of course in the background one has to wonder if Griff’s feelings for her are natural or from some dark obsession of his own, manipulating a woman he knows is dependant upon him keeping her out of prison?

The chemistry between Wilde and Knight is inevitably genuine because they were actually a married couple when the film was made. There is an added tension to it which may stem from the fact that Knight later claimed that Wilde was a controlling and dominating figure in their marriage, and increasingly jealous- they were divorced soon after, in 1951. So does this inform the elements of Shockproof that suggest Griff’s controlling attentions towards Jenny and how he uses his professional authority over her are unhealthy and obsessive? It certainly seems to suggest an added darkness to it all.

sam9Incredibly, Knight only appeared in five films and one television episode, her acting career curtailed upon divorcing Wilde, which to me seems such a loss, because I really think she’s terrific in Shockproof. I can understand the impact she made upon Griff because she made such an impact upon me too. She’s beautiful and dangerous but there’s a fragility there. Possibly her limitations as a non-trained actress would have been found out in other roles, maybe its just that this one particularly suited her, but I think she was really impressive here, a femme fatale with some depth.

Which yes, brings us to the ridiculous ending. If you haven’t seen the film and wish to remain unspoiled, stop reading this post here and maybe come back later. In the film Jenny becomes increasingly desperate, caught between and manipulated by the two men in her life, and she eventually turns upon Harry after he threatens to ruin Griff, shooting him dead in a bizarre repeat/twist of her original crime years before. There is at least a suggestion that Jenny actually wanted to flee from both men, knowing its all destined to end badly, but instead she and Griff go on the run together. In Fuller’s original script, which was titled The Lovers, an increasingly desperate Griff and Jenny get into a shootout with cops and come to an ill end. In this reading, Griff’s love for Jenny is genuine and, as director Douglas Sirk observed, “something had changed… something had started blooming in (Griff’s) soul!”, something forbidden by his profession and society.

Instead, we get a ridiculous revelation that Harry isn’t actually dead, and he has a sudden change of heart/pang of conscience and takes the blame for the shooting himself in order to allow the lovers a wildly sudden and inappropriate happy ending: as bad a ‘love conquers all’ ending as any. Its so jarring that it is like it has suddenly become entirely another movie in its last five minutes. It doesn’t work at all, unless you subscribe to the inherent darkness of Griff’s own obsession and his own schemes winning out, which is digging out a noir ending not intended at all, but hey, that’s perhaps me just trying to save what is, other than the ending, a pretty great film.

Field of Dreams Expanded OST

FODexpFirst week of January, and they drag me back in. La La land Records have released one of my favourite scores, James Horner’s Field of Dreams, in a remastered/expanded edition- I’ve been waiting for this for years, but good lord, the shipping costs…

Well, who needs to eat? Guess I can miss putting fuel in the tank and maybe walk more. Yeah, its Field of Dreams. Been waiting for someone to expand this for almost as long as I’ve been waiting for Varese Sarabande to do right by Horner’s Brainstorm. Sure, its only expanded by about ten – twenty minutes depending upon how you look at it (ten minutes additional score and ten minutes of alternates) but… its Field of Dreams, one of my very favourite Horner scores, and indeed probably the one I’ve listened to the most, over the years- tender, emotional, intimate, its all the things Horner was best at.

I don’t buy many soundtracks anymore. With shipping costs from America that are damned near equal the cost of the actual discs, I’m glad most everything I could want has been expanded already, bought back when buying discs wasn’t so financially irresponsible- hell, they’ve never been exactly cheap, but these days… It takes a special soundtrack release to sway me now. What a sucker punch, though, landed by La La Land so early in the year- a possible omen for 2022? I dunno, there can’t be much left, unless Varese decides to finally blow my socks off, as Cliff Robertson once said in THAT movie…

Just a thought: noir happy endings

shock1Watching Shockproof (review coming soon-ish) I was struck by how a few noir just aren’t allowed to stay true to their narrative and intent, instead hijacked by presumably nervous studio execs and saddled with audience-friendly happy endings. In the case of Shockproof, I’ll get into it in more detail within the review, but suffice to say for about 75 minutes its a great noir about a parole officer gone bad because of his love for a beautiful woman who killed someone, and then in its last five minutes, maybe less, it becomes a different film entirely with a stupid ending that practically ruins the film. I mean, literally I was loving it, the cast, the story and the locations (they even filmed at the Bradbury Building!) and then boom, Game Over.

Its an ending that comes out of nowhere and I can’t see how anyone ‘buys’ it. A pretty much identical thing happens in The Brothers Rico, a edgy noir directed by Phil Karson (The Killers, The Dark Mirror) about an ex-Mafia book keeper who thinks going straight means he has left the mob behind. Its a very dark thriller that is totally undone by a happy ending so blatantly tacked on it almost undermines everything that has occurred before (which reminds me, I really need to rewatch that film and post a review).

One of the most beautiful and intoxicating things about film noir, about great film noir, are the grim, ‘downer’ endings that sometimes frustrate and sometimes disturb but yet always feel fitting and right, like  the ending of Criss Cross, which continues to haunt and disturb me, months after having seen it. Real-life is less like traditional Hollywood films and more like film noir; things don’t always go right, things sometimes get out of control and when push comes to shove, we are all far less in control of our fates than we like to think we are. Very often things go bad, very bad: there is a Truth in that. Noir films often get away with grim endings because they are about bad guys or good guys gone bad or good guys who do the wrong thing for the wrong woman- and the Production Code always stated that films should show that crime doesn’t pay, so hey, they get away with grim endings that ordinary flicks couldn’t. But sometimes the studio execs just can’t let it go.

Which allows me the excuse to mention Blade Runner again (oh yes, yet again) as everyone will recall its own abortive 1982 release version and its own tacked-on happy ending in which Deckard and Rachel are literally driving off, escaping to a happy future into the sunset. I just never appreciated at the time that the film had been shockproofed.

There. ‘Shockproofed’ is a thing now.

Power of the Press

Power of the Press – 1943, 64 mins, Blu-ray

My third review of a film included within Indicator’s tremendous Fuller at Columbia boxset. This boxset is now sadly OOP, but thankfully the four individual discs are now available separately, albeit minus booklets. 

sam6With Power of the Press, I think we hear Sam Fuller’s own voice rather more clearly than the previous two films in this set (It Happened in Hollywood and Adventure in Sahara), if only because it is inevitably informed to at least some degree by Fuller’s own experiences working in journalism, first as a copyboy at the age of just twelve and later becoming a crime reporter at just seventeen- this would later resurface in a novel, The Dark Page which would itself inspire a film, Scandal Sheet, a viewing of which is what brought me here to this Indicator boxset, but more of that later.

I can fully understand Power of the Press being ridiculed because of its relentlessly patriotic preaching, as it certainly isn’t subtle and the film was evidently a ‘message’ film extolling the virtues of America entering the Second World War, but it also contains passionate arguments regards ‘the truth’, and the ability of the press to manipulate that truth or to represent falsehoods as truth for either political gain or to the  advantage unscrupulous powerbrokers. “Freedom of the press means freedom to tell the truth. It doesn’t mean freedom to twist the truth“, a character states. The film doesn’t raise the term ‘fake news’ but its surely something never far away from viewer’s minds today, and its horrifying, really, that this film’s messages are as valid and timely today as they possibly were back in 1943.

The film is set shortly after America has entered the war, when John Cleveland Carter (Minor Watson) the publisher of the isolationist New York Gazette, realises that his newspaper is betraying its readers and the American public by distorting stories in order to sell newspapers and foster a growing discourse against the war effort. When Carter is about to change the paper’s policy and support the US war effort he is murdered. In his final moments Carter makes a last will and testament to enlist an old colleague, Ulysses Bradford (Guy Kibbee) a small town patriotic editor to take charge of the Gazette. Bradford reluctantly takes on the challenge but soon realises he is outmatched by devious co-publisher Howard Rankin (Otto Kruger (711 Ocean Drive)) who is responsible for the Gazette’s editorial direction (and indeed Carter’s murder). Rankin will stop at nothing to twist the truth and further the Gazette’s isolationist, anti-war stance, including resorting to further murders using his criminal stooge Oscar Trent (Victor Jory).

I really did enjoy this film- with its elements of warm patriotism it has the feel almost of a Frank Capra film, but there’s a darkness underneath perhaps hidden by its overly too simplistic arguments regards fifth columnists. This was deliberately alarmist but typical at the time, something familiar to sentiments of other espionage thrillers I’ve seen that were made during the war (and the character Rankin might as well indeed be a fully paid-up member of the Nazi party). Its not subtle at all, and this really does harm the film but it remains absorbing- perhaps its just a case that the films sentiments are so admirable that its difficult to resist. Of course in todays world of social media and the blurring of truth or indeed outright lies being delivered as truth, and the various instances over the last few decades of deplorable elements of the UK press running monstrously amok resulting in all sorts of shocking scandals…

Its terrible to admit it, but the subject of this film should have been something consigned to distant history, but instead remains perhaps more timely than it ever was- its just a pity the film isn’t as sophisticated as it needs to be for it to truly work.  Its a case of a minor jingoistic film that might have been a classic under better circumstances.

That all being said, I’ve gone all through this review without mentioning Gloria Dickson who practically steals the show with powerful female protagonist Edwina Stephens – here’s the prototype for Sam Fuller’s future heroines, and perhaps the one thing that dates the film is how it somehow sidelines her in favour of the male characters, when really its her that’s instrumental in saving the day. Dickson is very good, and I’m horrified to read in that she died in a house fire two years after this film was released, at the age of just 27. Yet again reading about old films proves to be distressing and I’m left reeling from real-life being more harrowing than any noir.

Adventure in Sahara

Adventure in Sahara – 1938, 57 mins, Blu-ray

My second review of a film included within Indicator’s tremendous Fuller at Columbia boxset, which was my Christmas-present highlight. This boxset is now sadly OOP, but thankfully the four individual discs are now available separately, albeit minus booklets. 

sam4Sadly, Adventure in Sahara is one of those films where the story behind it is better than anything in the film itself. The story goes, recounted in this set’s booklet, that Sam Fuller was approached by producer Sam Briskin if he had any ideas for a film- initially caught off-guard and at a loss, Fuller assured him that he did, buying time by lighting up a cigar before finally coming up with an idea- “William Bligh meets Victor Hugo!” he announced, much to Briskin’s bemusement. William Bligh, of course, was a reference to Mutiny on the Bounty, which had been a big hit starring Charles Laughton a few years prior, and Victor Hugo a reference to the novel Ninety-Three, another story of revolt which Fuller had read. Fuller was pitching a Mutiny on the Bounty set in the French Foreign Legion, and that’s pretty much summing up Adventure in Sahara entirely. The screenplay by Maxwell Shane based upon Fuller’s story lacks many details of Fuller’s idea, notably (albeit not surprisingly) a more downbeat ending inspired by the Victor Hugo novel, in which the nominal hero of the film and leader of the mutiny is, following an awarded act of gallantry in battle, is nonetheless sentenced to execution because of his part in the mutiny. Try selling THAT to audiences back in 1938; or 2022 for that matter. The final film would end with something much more traditional and consequently far less interesting.

sam5Adventure in Sahara is a fairly limp, pedestrian adventure yarn with several troubling aspects, only one of which is its treatment of a black character (which considering current sensitivities would likely earn this film a warning prior to any network airing) and another its horribly irritating musical score which intrudes upon everything. The chief problem, with all deference towards Fuller, is its predictable and quite preposterous story, although I guess he could point an accusing finger at Shane’s screenplay. It begins with American pilot Jim Wilson (Paul Kelly) learning of his younger brother’s death in the French Foreign Legion, upon which he immediately volunteers for the service albeit on the proviso he is sent to the command of Commandant Savatt (C Henry Gordon) where his brother was based. Savatt is the William Bligh of the film, a sadistic and twisted military commander whose punishment of the men under his command is brutal and ultimately leads his desperate men to mutiny, led by Wilson who is seeking revenge for his brother’s death at Savatt’s punishment. Its almost remarkable how the films romantic interest is thrown into the film- Carla (Lorna Gray), an Amelia Earhart-like pilot who literally crashes into the desert near to the Fort where Wilson is based. It takes some nerve being as blatantly ridiculous as your film’s love-interest literally falling out of the sky mid-movie.

Perhaps the films biggest asset is its brevity- at 57 minutes it doesn’t linger too long; its clearly a b-movie supporting feature and nothing more than that.  C Henry Gordon as the dastardly villain is great value, but Paul Kelly is pretty bland- and Lorna Gray even worse than that- although to be fair to them the screenplay leaves them little to work with, and the shoot was likely very quick and very cheap: there’s no aspirations for greatness here, that’s for certain. Adventure in Sahara is far inferior to the first film in this set, but thankfully things improve greatly with the next film…

It Happened in Hollywood

It Happened in Hollywood -1937, 68 mins, Blu-ray

My first review of a film included within Indicator’s tremendous Fuller at Columbia boxset, which was my Christmas-present highlight. This boxset is now sadly OOP, but thankfully the four individual discs are now available separately, albeit minus booklets. 

sam3It Happened in Hollywood is a film based upon a treatment by Sam Fuller, which Fuller claimed was his first Hollywood credit, hence its inclusion in this set even though the final film likely bore little resemblance to the Fuller original. It Happened in Hollywood is a disarmingly delightful tale of silver-screen whimsy, which I actually thoroughly enjoyed – indeed anyone who loves Frank Capra’s films will find much to enjoy here.

Immediately throwing us back to much simpler times, its 1928, and silent-Western star Tim Bart (Richard Dix) is visiting a group of his youngest fans in a home for orphaned children, screening his latest picture for them and recruiting them to his fan-club . Bart is a star with a heart and a sense of responsibility to his young audience who simply adore him and his screen adventures. There is a sense of art and reality burring with regards Bart- he walks around wearing a cowboy costume at all times, so there’s always a suggestion that its not just the children confused with what’s real and what isn’t. This sense of the persistent dream-reality of Hollywood continues through the film, culminating in a bizarre party Bart holds for one of the children in which all the guests are the real-life doubles, stand-ins and imitators of Hollywood’s biggest stars- a dining table attended by in-costume Bart, Hollywood ‘stars’ Charlie Chaplin, W.C. Fields, Harold Lloyd, Clark Gable, Mae West and Bill Crosby as well as many others. It’s oddly both magical and disturbing, an Alice in Wonderland tea-party twisted into something strangely Lynchian, somehow turning my mind to Mulholland Drive and its own examination of Hollywood fantasy. A very welcome featurette on this disc replays this section of the film with on-screen text highlighting both who the Hollywood star is being depicted (I could identify some, but others slipped me by as they have become quite obscure so many decades later) and also the double/imitator playing them, which is doubly nice if only for posterity’s sake as they are not actually credited in the film at all.

The plot of It Happened in Hollywood is pretty simple- talking pictures are suddenly the new rage of Hollywood, and all the silent movie stars of old are being screen-tested to see if they can fit in with the new world of talkies. A screentest for Tim and his regular Western co-star, Gloria Gay (Fay Way) goes well for Gloria but not for Tim, who comes across as awkward and stilted, uncomfortable with reciting dialogue. Gloria is offered a part in a Talking Picture, but Tim is let go.

Its pretty clear that Gloria is in love with Tim, and Tim in love with Gloria, but their feelings remain unspoken. Tim acts relaxed regards his career implosion and encourages Gloria to move on without him. Little seems to faze Tim- he loses the ranch he was buying and struggles to find any work at all, while his colleagues from his Westerns move on to bit-parts and working in real-world positions as chauffeurs or cooks to get by, but Tim’s calm never wavers. He’s a genuinely nice guy, his Western-persona of all-American hero not an act at all, or at least one that has so totally bled into his real-life that its one and the same (imagine what Lynch could do with that). Time passes: broke and wandering around in his cowboy outfit, Tim is convinced into playing a gangster in one of Gloria’s films, but when he balks at shooting a scene which requires him to shoot a police officer because of how that would look to his young fanbase, he walks off the shoot and his chance of rekindling his career is over.

I’m not at all familiar with Richard Dix, who worked on stage and in Hollywood from the days of silent movies through to the late ‘forties until his death at just 56 years of age in 1949, so I’m unaware if It Happened in Hollywood simply reflects his usual screen persona. If it doesn’t, then this is a remarkable performance from Dix, as his warm, affable good-guy here is wholly convincing and natural. Its a surprisingly difficult role to pull off without seeming unintentionally ridiculous or cornball, or even creepy or deranged (I mean the guy walks around in his cowboy outfit all the time, its either endearing or unnerving). Tim Bart is the kind of role that would have suited someone like Tom Hanks or Jimmy Stewart; one of the ‘good guys’ with an inherent sense of nobility, and its a testament to Dix being so good here that it certainly places him in such noble Hollywood company.

Fay Wray of course needs little introduction, the scream queen of the original (and best) King Kong from 1933. To my mind she’s probably better here than in that more famous film- notwithstanding her ability to convince when playing against a giant gorilla/stop-motion puppet, here she is able to demonstrate a quiet and natural warmth that suggests she was much better actress than I gave her credit for and likely deserved better roles than she actually got. Perhaps I shall have to make a point of looking up some more of her films in 2022.

sam2I absolutely adored It Happened in Hollywood; its a decidedly old-fashioned picture that I found truly endearing in the same way Frank Capra’s Its a Wonderful Life is. It slots so much narrative within its mere 68 mins that it never drags, proving to be something of a lesson in concise film-making, and the cast is very fine indeed- the two leads excellent. A few twists and turns stretch credibility, particularly towards the end when Tim is so desperate that he is on the brink of committing a crime, only instead finding himself foiling a bank raid which leads to his redemption and the happy ending we’re hoping for. This kind of film is more a fable than a realistic drama, in just the same way as Capra’s classic, and as that it works very well indeed.  It may lack the true mark of Samuel Fuller, but its inclusion within this boxset is very welcome as I would never have encountered it otherwise- a very pleasant surprise.

Just a thought: Raiders 4K

Well, first of all; Happy New Year everyone. I’m one of those who believed 2021 was even worse than 2020, confounding all hopes and expectations, so 2022… its GOT to be better, hasn’t it? Well, the old saying ‘approach with extreme caution’ springs to mind, somehow I get the feeling we’re slipping back into the 1970s: Inflation, high energy prices, clowns in Parliament…

raiders artSo anyway, just a thought: last night on New Years Eve I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark on 4K UHD. The film looks absolutely terrific in 4K, highly detailed with lovely grain and a really fine colour balance. Its never looked better, that’s for sure- something one often resorts to when describing films on 4K, but its so true in cases such as this. Films in 4K, at their best, can look very filmic, losing that video ‘shine’ that other home video formats had, instead looking very close to how a film would when projected in a cinema.

But while watching it, it occurred to me that Harrison Ford made Raiders (released 1981) and then went and made Blade Runner (released 1982), and the difference between the two vouches for just how great cinema can be/used to be. One was a rip-roaring, witty and exciting adventure flick, the other a dark, dystopian (some would suggest turgid) thriller. What struck me though, is that the two seem decades apart in style and sensibility. And when one considers that The Empire Strikes Back was released the year prior to Raiders… Ford’s filmography at the time; wow, he seemed the coolest guy on Earth- at least until no-one turned up to watch Blade Runner, but then again, decades later who cares about box-office, the films stand far removed from all that now.

Raiders is something special though. Spielberg was at the height of his game, every shot is imaginative, the way the camera moves, catches actors face’s reactions which often speak more than the scripts dialogue (and wasn’t that casting great?), John Williams’ score propels everything magnificently, another vivid example of what films today have lost in how music is used in them now. Frankly the film is a masterclass. And its forty years old. Yeah, that last bit… .