Archive for October, 2012

Skyfall – 007 Daniel Craig as James Bond

This isn’t really a film of the fifties as this site is titled BUT James Bond first appeared in the early 50s and many of his adventures – certainly in the books – takes place in that period.

He has since then come up-to-date so to speak, and his new film Skyfall is one of if not THE best Bond film ever.

 He even gets to used the famous DB5  Aston Martin car – Above.

Isn’t it funny that with the wonderful array of modern cars around today that a 50 year old one should turn heads – and look just SO GOOD !!

Skyfall has action taking place mainly in England but it is none the less exciting for that.  London features strongly and this film will be a major tourist boost for the city I think.

 Many action shots take place in the capital.

Glittering Premiere at the Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall – Above The Film Premiere

James  Bond is back.     Skyfall is a magnificent return to form for Bond and in what is considered to be one of the best Bond movies ever.

Skyfall is brilliantly acted, well paced, with  touches of  humour and some great references to Bond movies past.       Visually  the movie is stunning with some beautiful locations  from Shanghai and Macau to the Scottish Highlands and we start off in Istanbul.

 Above – Shanghai – Friends of mine visited there in the summer – a place their son has been working – and they loved the place.

Sam Mendes has made his name through excellent  movies. An accomplished theatre director.   He is a director who rarely does a bad movie and he certainly delivers the goods with this one.

Daniel Craig lays claim to be  the best Bond ever and the best actor to have played  Bond. He is an experienced little rough around the edges and dangerous Bond who is entirely believable.    Judi Dench has a much larger role in this film and her  performance must surely gain recognition.   

Javier Bardem also  impresses in a ‘scenery chewing’ performance here as the villain.

Now I am going to make a comparison here that I doubt anyone else will – here goes:-

I thought that Javier Bardem’s part was played  by him almost in the same style as  Robert Newton’s famous portrayal years ago of Long John Silver in Treasure Island.   Javier dominates the screen and is ‘larger than life’ in the scenes he has and in a way it is a calculated – slightly over the top performance with the tiniest hint of pantomime – that enables him to become  a real scene stealer.  I reckon the Director gave him carte blanche to ‘let rip’ when he was on screen – and this he did to great effect.    Byron Haskin did the same with Robert Newton in a now classic film role by which all future actors in the part would be compared  – this might happen again with Havier in this film – and the villain in future Bond films just might have to up his game after this.   A low key performance would now be difficult to take.

Naomi Harris and Bernice Marlohe are gorgeous as the  two Bond girls and I think we will see more of Naomi in future films – those who have seen the film will know why.   The cast was completed with a very effective role for Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw as the new Q gives us a new angle on the role and he appears very confident in his playing of the part.    Albert Finney appears too  in the gripping finale set in the Scottish Highlands.

Also Rory Kinnear appears as a close ally of M and he too is top class – I didn’t know a lot about him except for his famous father but he is a very capable Shakespearean actor and it showed here.

I think he ‘under played’ his role quite skilfully and effectively too.

All in all a Must See Film !!!

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Skyfall – James Bond – Up dated with more pictures

I might be stretching things a bit here to include this film on a Blog aimed at the Films of the Fifties – but we have a link.    Ian Fleming began writing the books in the fifties in fact Casino Royale appeared in 1953 – and something I didn’t know until very recently was that Bob Holness an actor who later became famous on TV for Blockbusters, was one of the first ever James Bonds in a radio drama version  of The Moonraker in 1956.

Skyfall – James Bond an early taste of action in the film below

 

 

Above – Bond heads for the final showdown in Skyfall

 This new film is senstational – I saw it last evening – and what a film it is.  Action packed with a cast including Judi Dench, Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney – sound like a Whos Who of Shakespearean actors and the superb ‘baddie’ who I didnt know called Javier Bardem – but he is really good. Judi Dench has the largest part yet in a Bond film. None of us knew anything at all about the storyline so we were in for surprises all the way with action in Shanghai and Macao but most of it on English soil, athough the final minutes are played out in a breathtaking climax in the Scottish Highlands. This is one to see on the big screen. I was just thinking that after the Queens Jubilee and the Olympics both in 2012 this film is another major British event that will be seen the world over.

Duntrune Castle  above (the oldest intact and inhabited castle in Scotland) on the north side of Loch Crinan was to be a central point in the films ending although the actual house itself used in the film was in fact built as a set many miles away  in Surrey – where a great deal of action takes place.

James Bond Returns Home.

The House in Skyfall – above

In the run up to last Christmas the tiny West Scotland village of Crinan was swamped by film crews capturing the blistering finale for Skyfall the new Bond Film.

It is great to have such a big occasion at the cinema – such as a new Bond film – and this one will not disappoint and probably go down as one of the best ever - although it is always difficult to know how the future changes public perception of films in particular.   However this one seizes the moment.

Below a few more action shots from the film.

Above: A Laugh during this action packed scene.

Another view above as Bond forces his way into a moving train.

A unique way of getting a lift  from Skyfall.

Javier Bardem – A really great ‘baddie’ in this film – Above.

                                                                                  

Naomie Harris – Terrific action shot – Above.

And the Aston Martin DB5 makes a stunning return above.

And again – in Scotland on location.

Skyfall World Premiere London October 2012

Daniel Craig and Naomie Harris

Some comments from Daniel Craig and Judi Dench about filming in the Scottish Highlands.

The new James Bond movie Skyfall was partly filmed in Scotland and Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench  filmed scenes in the Highlands.

Craig said: “We got the chance to go up to Scotland and it’s a great backdrop. I mean it’s so beautiful, it’s amazing up there.    

“It’s still one of my favourite places.”

Bond author Ian Fleming loved the area and wrote that the spy’s father Andrew hailed from Glencoe.

Dame Judi Dench said: “It was glorious as always and happened to be the most wonderful day in Glencoe – a beautiful clear day.

“With just that kind of band of mist under the hills – it was perfect.”

They certainly liked it – who wouldn’t ?

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The Titfield Thunderbolt

Wonderful Ealing Technicolor film set in a dreamy part of the English countryside of a nostalgic age – a real treat from start to finish and if anyone reading this post has not seen the film then please go out and get it.

It was the first Ealing comedy shot in Technicolor  and one of the first colour comedies made in the UK.

The film was directed by Charles Crichton and starred Stanley Holloway, George Relph and John Gregson among many others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 I do think that the above TWO pictures are a terrific example of Technicolor at its best.   The colour in them is perfect

The film was released in 1953  – Made in 1952 by the famous Ealing Studios, the film tells the story of how the Titfield villagers fight the closure of their local branch line by British Railways. The film was made on location on the Camerton branch line –  an ex GWR railway which ran through the beautiful Cam Valley just south of Bath.

The idea for the Titfield Thunderbolt came from a visit that T.B.E. Clarke made to Wales in 1951. He was researching some ideas for a new film and also visiting an old friend who took him to see something which he thought Clarke might find interesting, a  narrow gauge railway line  – the Talyllyn Railway which a  had passenger service as far as the village of  Abergynoln in North Wales.

Here, and out of the blue, he  had come across a completely unique operation.   The BBC at that time also seemed to take an interest in the Talyllyn Railway and it was often featured on Childrens TV.     The railway is still operating today and is one of the best of the now numerous preserved railway lines which exist throughout Britain.

Clarke was intrigued by the whole idea of a line run mainly by volunteers and he decided to base a film around the idea and that was the start of idea for The Titfield Thunderbolt.

He wrote about the English love for old trains but probably didn’t anticipate  the future  growth of the movement towards saving  these lines but the fact is that the Titfield Thunderbolt marks the beginning of a railway preservation  movement which  remains peculiarly English - much like the Ealing Comedies.

Nearly all of the location work for the Titfield Thunderbolt was shot in the picturesque “Cam Valley” a couple of miles South of Bath.     The feature which made this particular valley suitable for the film was the presence of a disused railway set amidst very attractive countryside, both essential features for the screenplay that T.E.B. Clarke had written for Ealing –  and something which would look so good in  Technicolor.

Hunters Rest Inn overlooking the Cam Valley – below

The Cam Valley – below.

 The railway in question was the Limpley Stoke to Camerton branch of the Great Western Railway, which had closed in 1951 as a result of the closure of Camerton Colliery in 1950.    Titfield station was in fact the old station at Monkton Combe, and the film-makers made various alterations to the building, including extending the canopy at one end, the addition of an external ticket window and other things too.

George Relph and Geoffrey Tearle – above.

The Story of the Film

The residents of the  rural village of Titfield rely on the railway to commute to work and transport their produce to market. So they are shocked when the government announces that the line is to be closed. Particularly hard hit is the local vicar, railway enthusiast Rev. Sam Weech  he comes up with the idea to run it locally. He and the local squire, Gordon Chesterford (John Gregson) , persuade wealthy Walter Valentine (Stanley Holloway ) to provide the financial backing by telling him they can legally operate a bar while the train is running – he will not have to wait all morning for the local pub to open.

There are many many twists and turns in the plot as we all join the villagers and will them on to success.

Will they achieve it ?   Wait and see the film – You will love it !!!

 Naunton Wayne – 1901 to 1970

He was a British character actor  born in South Wales.On stage from 1920, Welsh actor Naunton Wayne made his film bow in 1931. Wayne was catapulted to worldwide fame in 1937, when he and Basil Radford were teamed as cricket-happy British tourists Charters and Caldicott (Wayne was Caldicott) in Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes roles they repeated in three further films.  The two would go on to appear in other films together  often playing similar characters.

                                                                              Naunton Wayne                                                                                                                          Naunton Wayne    

They appeared together in the classic chiller Dead of Night in 1946 and quite a few more films too.

DEAD OF NIGHT 1945 Basil Radford Naunton Wayne STILL #12-A

Dead of Night – above the most light hearted of the stories with Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne.

 

 

 

 

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Universal Studios and Republic in Hollywood

Just two of the ‘Dream Factories’ in the hey day of Cinema – they helped transport us to worlds that we could only  imagine – into a fantasy land – at least for a short time – where we could live out the dramas and romances that we saw on the huge silver screen. As young kids we would sit  there watching - wide eyed at the sights we saw.  That may sound a little ‘over the top’ but  I don’t think  it was because this era  preceded the days of far off travel – so any films on, say, the old west or a tarzan film for example in the jungle,  we would see these foreign lands that we had only seen before in photographs.  Even if you  had a TV set in those days it was so small and what we could watch, although very good – was limited.  Here in the cinema however  we could see things that were  larger than life.  When TV did get a hold the cinemas hit back with Wide Screen, Technicolor epics that were way beyond the capability of television – and still are to this day.

I have come across these two terrific photographs taken in 1947 of UNIVERSAL STUDIOS

 

and REPUBLIC PICTURES Studios – below

Above and Below – Pictures of Republic Studios, Hollywood.

Above – Republic Studios in 1957

Republic Pictures was a film production and distribution company, but it also  had studio facilities.  It was active from 1935 until 1959  specialising in B movies, serials, westerns and jungle adventures such as the Bomba The Jungle Boy series done by Monogram Pictures which made up one of the component parts of Republic.

The studio helped with the financing and distribution  of several of the films of John Fords during the 1940s and early 1950s.

They also had a hand in the development of the early careers of  cowboy stars John Wayne, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=uU_59vEqnAc

Mongram Pictures

In the 40s Monogram made such great features with stars like Charlie Chan and the Bowery Boys – both of which became very popular in a series of films – mainly supporting films though.

They didn’t turn their back on westerns either because they had cowboy stars such as Tim McCoy and Tex Ritter and later on  they signed Johnny Mack Brown  when the other major studios decided to move away from westerns and this allowed  Mongram to maintain a  production level of between 30 to 40 films per year in the 40s which in present terms would  really be some going.

Prior to  the fifties era the studio signed Boris Karloff to do six films and also Bela Lugosi who by that time had probably seen the best of his interesting career.

There were also – later – camp horror classics such as “House on Haunted Hill” with Vincent Price – filmed in Emergo – something I actually saw for myself when a skeleton appeared to come out of the screen – it was actually done by the local cinema manager who was operating a sort of pulley arrangement which had the skeleton coming out into the audience on overhead wires. The emerging skeleton then with luck linked in with the screen action.

Here is a Link to see Emergo in action at a cinema in Detroit apparently – see what you think -

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=nBNtbQXEtCg

Among much bigger productions John Ford shot “Hurricane” there in 1937. Other notable films included  “Kidnapped! ” (1949 with Roddy McDowell.)

Jon Hall in The Hurricane

The Hurricane was a really big film in terms of a spectacular climax – and one that was at the time very well done.

 Roddy McDowell in Kidnapped

I don’t think I have ever seen the above version of Kidnapped out of the many there have been.  Later we had the Disney version with Peter Finch which was a good one,  and well after this Michael Caine played that same role although my own view is that he was mis-cast.   One thing about it though was that the scenery in the Scottish Highlands looked superb in Technicolor on the big screen.

I realise that in the case of Republic Studios then they were probably seen as being at their best throughout the 40s but neverthles they did go through until the end of the 50s – so we can quite justifiably include this item.

 

                                                                                                                  

 

 

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Tarzans Greatest Adventure 1959

 

This film was shown on BBC2 last weekend.  It turned out to be one of the best of the many Tarzan movies ever made – maybe Gordon Scott was not the best Tarzan – but the film stands up really well with a great villain in the shape of Anthony Quayle. It was filmed in Africa in colour – I don’t remember any of the previous ones being Technicolor but this was.

It is very fitting that this post is published  because Tarzan is offically 100 years old this month – first launched in comic form all those years ago

 

 Gordon Scott above as Tarzan

 

Anthony Quayle gets a great part here and gives Tarzan – and others – a very rough time !!!

Anthony Quayle.

I do remember that he was married to Dorothy Hyson who played opposite George Formby in Spare a Copper.  He was a classical actor and very good too although he tended to play straight roles more often than not - probably because he had a serious face. I certainly don’t ever remember him doing comedy. Can’t quite imagine that somehow. He was a Shakespearean actor of some note.

Sean Connery comes to a sticky end in a film made just before  he made his debut as James Bond in Dr.No

Sean Connery was apparently  paid 5600 dollars  for this role and  is surprisingly good as the wicked O’Bannion  which turns out to be quite a  sizeable role.   He was evidently impressive enough in the part for Sy Weintraub to ask him back to play a different role in the next Tarzan movie – however  Sean said that ‘Two fellows took an option on me for some spy picture and are exercising it. But I’ll be in your next,’ he promised.    The film was of course Dr.No and the rest is history.

Filmed on location in Africa, this Tarzan epic is  considered by many critics to be the best with Gordon Scott playing the character in keeping with author Edgar Rice-Burroughs creation.

We didn’t have a Jane in this story however Sara Shane played an adventurous heroine named Angie whose plane crashes into the jungle where she luckily immediately joins up with Tarzan – rather than the crocodile waiting – Tarzan of course wrestled with the croc  in the water.

Sara Shane

Elaine Hollingsworth – her real name –  became a model at age 14 and later secured a film contract with  MGM. She was featured in a few musicals using her real name  then in 1953  began using the name Sara Shane.

Sara Shane looking very good in this Tarzan film – in fact her very last film.

She then acquired a seven year contract with Universal International pictures but that didn’t go the distance for whatever reason. In  1955 she appeared with  in the Clark Gable Film The King and Four Queens – interestingly the one and only film produced by Clark Gable – which was a western but it can’t have done much good at the Box Office. I had never heard of this one.

Above Clark Gable with Sara Shane

Her last film in fact was this Tarzan picture and it is considered to be her most memorable performance. She continued in television to  1964.      Elaine married William Hollingsworth in 1949 but  they were divorced in 1957.

Sara left the Hollywood and retired from TV and films in her late 30s. She turned to writing and began to devote herself to the study of pharmaceuticals. She wrote two books-  the first one a work of fiction and the second a book promoting healthy living.  She eventually moved to Australia to avoid the Los Angeles pollution and  still lives happily – and healthily – on her 5 acres of land. She is now in her eighties.

Gordon Scott

 The man who played Tarzan in 1950s movies died at the age of 80 in 2007

He made 24 movies including “Tarzan and the Lost Safari” (1957), “Tarzan’s Fight for Life” (1958), “Tarzan and the Trappers” (1958), “Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure” (1959) and “Tarzan the Magnificent” (1960).

Scott was a lifeguard at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas when he was discovered by Hollywood producer Sol Lesser and he was signed to a seven-year-contract after he outperformed his rivals at the audition.

During the 1955 production of his first film, “Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle,” he fell in love with co-star Vera Miles. The couple married that year but divorced a few years later. Vera Miles was married three times – the second of which was to Gordon Scott – but all three marriages ended in divorce – however, sadly and coincidentally, all three of her ex husbands died with a few months of each other.

Vera did have a very long and full career in films which we will definitely return to because a year after this one she appeared in one of the greatest westerns of the decade and of all time – The Searchers.

 Above – Gordon Scott with Vera Miles and Cheetah

After the Tarzan movies Gordon Scott appeared in Westerns and gladiator films.

 

 

 

 

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Cinema in South Australia – Lobethal

In recent travels to see my daughter and her family, we have been lucky enough to stumble across this very fifties style cinema in the Adelaide Hills, Australia.   Films are shown about every two weeks – usually up to date releases but it is the cinema itself and it’s style that influences me to post this item.

Upstairs is the seating area – as the picture below -  and it is very reminiscent of the old style cinema experience – very quaint and very good.    They also have a  wide screen if needed so the older Cinemascope films could easily be viewed here.

Patrons are seated on comfortable seats ( some double seats)  in an art décor hall with the novelty of an interval in the middle of the movie. A canteen is available. Patrons will find a quaint ticket box from where to purchase their tickets.

The art deco Lobethal Centennial Hall foundation stone was laid on 8 August in 1936 on the centenary of the proclamation of the state of South Australia. It took another 60 years before the hall was finished with store room, two large change rooms with heating, two showers and extra toilets in 2002. The terrazzo floor at the front of the hall was the first of its kind in South Australia.

Initially, local people assisted in the furnishing by buying double seats for ₤1 with a name plate on the seat acknowledging their contribution. You can still find the name plates on the seats. The Onkaparinga Woollen Mill donated the money to the Centennial Hall committee to help build the toilets inside the hall, and renovate the original seating. The seat upholstery was replaced with lush fabric by a local upholsterer and the backs of the seats were revarnished.

Black and white silent movies were first shown in the Hall from 1919 and in 1932 the Talkies came to town.     There is still evidence of shops that were once in the front of Centennial Hall until 1993.

There was a lull in movie showing in the early 1990s but now the cinema is functioning well and regularly.    I saw up-to-date films such as Johnny English and Red Dog over there although I am not aware that they have any ‘nostalgia nights’ showing,  for example, some of the fifties films. There is usually a full cinema programme with very intersting local advertisements and trailers to forthcoming attractions. All in all a good evening’s entertainment and highly recommended.

Awaiting the film.

The film will start shortly - below.

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Richard Todd as Guy Gibson – The Dambusters 1954

What can I say about Richard Todd who epitomises the fifties era and who starred  in so many well remembered films throughout that decade.  More than any other British actor his career  dominated the British cinema at that time.

He is probably best known – in England at least – for this role as Guy Gibson in the very famous The Dambusters although I for one think of him more for The Story of Robin Hood – that brilliantly ‘Made in England’  Walt Disney film of 1952.

 Above: Richard Todd as Robin Hood in the Walt Disney 1952 Technicolor film

It is difficult to imagine any other actor playing Guy Gibson – in fact he has become so well known for this part that I do think that if most people were shown a picture of both Guy Gibson and Richard Todd and be asked which one they thought was Guy Gibson  - most would point to Richard Todd.    Some of this film (certainly the shot above) was filmed in Lincolnshire, and over twenty years later Richard and his family came to live in the county eventually settling for many years in Little Ponton,  Nr Grantham.  This is not far away from the magnificent Lincoln Cathedral which featured in a wonderful aerial shot in The Dambusters.

 Lincoln Cathedral – Absolutely Magnificent !!!

The Dambusters had much of the filming done around Scampton and Kirton Lindsey in Lincolnshire – which of course is where they flew the mission from.

The Dambusters is a true story in which the men of 617 Squadron are sent to bomb three key dams in the Ruhr Valley with the famous bouncing bomb.   The film shows the young bomber crews training and eventually the mission itself but prior to this we see Barnes Wallis trying to perfect the bouncing bomb and persuade the political and military personnel that it will do the job, we see the practise runs by the bombers  and eventually the final frightening raids on the dams.   As war films go this one is on a par with the very best.

The performances by Richard Todd as Guy Gibson and Michael Redgrave as Barnes Wallis are superb and this is a classic film.

Richard Todd.

I am sure we will come back to this man again and again on this site.   He had a really incredible life – he was born in Ireland in 1919 but came to school in England where he became seriously ill with a heart complaint. He recovered and much against his parents wishes he developed an interest in Theatre –  initially in writing plays which he never did.  However he must have shown a talent for acting and had  started in that career when war broke out.   He was one of the very first to parachute into Northern France when the invasion started, fighting to take control of Pegasus Bridge.   After the war he had decided on a change of career but was persuaded to go back to Dundee Rep where he had been a founding member. Here he met his wife  and then in a short time got a film test and got the part as the star of the film.   Whilst there he was spotted by someone which led to his taking the key role in The Hasty Heart playing alongide Patricia Neal and Ronald Reagan – who became a lifelong friend of his and from then on his film career just took off and he was signed up by Walt Disney for three very good period films prior to The Dam Busters.   His career on a world scale from 1949 was meteoric largely because The Hasty Heart had been so popular in the USA.   It even got him a One Film a Year contract with 20th Century Fox. So the fifties saw Richard Todd – in film terms – at the very height of his long career.

There is much much more to this astonishing life story which we will come to,  I hope,  in a later post.

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John and Julie 1955

What a lovely lovely film this is.  It takes us all back to a much simpler age – now gone – and enables us to enjoy a wonderful,  colourful 90 minutes or so – punctuated throughout by a haunting theme played on the Golden Trumpet by Eddie Calvert – it is a theme that I think fits the film perfectly.

This charming and timeless film follows  the adventures of two small children who run off from home to watch the coronation in London in1953 and along the way meet up with many characters who are played by a lot of British stars of the period and later come to that.  The film is fascinating for anyone who likes recent British history and it gives a snapshot of the fun and excitement of the coronation in a county that only 8 years earlier had seen the end of the Second World War

John and Julie is that rare thing, a self-contained trip into a very different time and place.

Such actors as Megs Jenkins, Peter Sellers, Andrew Cruikshank ( later to be famous as Dr.Cameron on TV ) Moira Lister, Wilfrid Hyde White, Sid James and that wonderful character actor Colin Gordon all appear to add to the fun.

Neither Colin Gibson nor Lesley Dudley the child stars of this film, continues in the acting profession as far as I can see – and yet they were both so good and convincing in their respective title roles.

I really love this film and watched it years ago with my daughters and we still look at it from time to time - nowadays though with our grandaughters.

The Man with the Golden Trumpet” as he was called,  Eddie Calvert  came up through the Brass bands of Northern England to top the bill at Variety theatres throughout the U.K and overseas.  He had major  hits such as  “Oh mein Papa”,”Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” and this one “John and Julie” as well as “Zambezi” “Mandy” and another film theme from “The Man with the Golden Arm”

 

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The Maze 1953 and in 3D

I don’t know why I have just plucked this one out of my memory – certainly not a favourite or even very well known BUT it is quite interesting and keeps you guessing until the final ‘ludicrous’ frames.

A Scotsman named Gerald MacTeam played by Richard Carlson  abruptly breaks off his engagement to  Kitty when he learns that his uncle has died and he has inherited a castle in the Scottish highlands.

He moves there to live with the castle servants but his girl friend Kitty refuses to accept the broken engagement and travels with her aunt see him at the castle.

Gerald seems to have aged in this short time and somehow seems changed and odd.

Kitty and her aunt venture into The Maze – above.

There follows a series of strange events in around the castle and the castle maze. One night, Kitty and her aunt steal a key to their bedroom door (which is always locked from the outside) and sneak out into the mysterious maze.

There they discover Gerald and the servants out in the maze with …………..

Above – The Maze

Above characters look shocked

Well.   I had better not spoil the plot as the film moves towards its terrifying – not to say ludicrous – climax !!

 

I do think that this one could be remade today with a bigger budget and the benefit of today’s techniques -  it would be good. It is quite an unusual story and the fact that it is set in a Scottish Castle seems to give it an added eerie feel. It is very much a film where, on first seeing it, you are asking yourself just what is this all about – and I think that few would guess !!!

I hadn’t realised this but maybe should have known – this film was made in Hollywood.

I did rather like this comment about the film from someone who had seen it and had written this below :-

For most of its running time, “The Maze” is a nicely made chiller. Its well directed by William Cameron Menzies (who also made the cult classic “Invaders From Mars” and worked on “The Thief of Baghdad”), who creates a brooding and chilling Gothic atmosphere. There’s no shortage of horror stories set in old castles and while this film doesn’t add anything new to the setting,  it manages to use the familiar location quite well.   The screenplay is often very sombre, and the performance by Richard Carlson in the lead is quite accomplished.  Veronica Hurst is captivating and genteel in the role and still in love with Richard Carlson.   I won’t ruin it for you, but simply put the climax is one of the most  ludicrous things ever put on film.   The film was quite involving and then it completely spins around and gives us this bizarre ending.  The writers obviously put some thought into it, and it had  great potential to be a tragic conclusion.

The 3D story of a man  hiding a family secret in his forbidding castle -there are even bats in the belfry! It moves leisurely until the final extraordinary conclusion in The Maze.

 “The Maze” is  a decent enough movie.

Veronica Hurst

She was in Angels One Five, Laughter in Paradies and quite a bit later in the very scary ‘Peeping Tom’

The  old Regal Cinema at Wymondham in Norfolk  shows old films from time to time and in 2010  Angels One Five was the film and the star guest who appeared was Veronica Hurst.

Richard Carlson

He had previously appeard in King Solomons Mines 1950 with Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr and later was to star in another Hollywood horror classic The Creature from the Black Lagoon – also in 3D.   I will always remember watching this late one night on TV and my daughter Karen, who was a little girl at the time,  woke up and came through to watch it with me.      It frightened her so much that she recalls it to this day.

He also was in It came from Outer Space again 1953 – almost a hat trick of horror films at this time in the fifties. He made a lot of films in his career.

He died in 1977 at the age of 65

Above – Richard Carlson looks for The Creature from the Black Lagoon 1954 – also in 3D

We will certainly come back to this film !!!

One person who wrote abount this film had been at a Hollywwod 3D event and described the film as being  so much fun to watch  with an audience, the print was excellent and the 3-D perfect.

The performances were described as being over the top which all  added to the fun, the surprise ending (that we aren’t supposed to share with fellow movie goers at least according to the movie trailer and poster) had people ………. - Well,  I had better not say or I might give away the ending

This is a classic old type horror film with the added dimension of 3-D (complete with cobwebs and bats coming out of the screen) 

It was descibed as ‘an entertaining romp into 50′s horror.’  Maybe that sums it up perfectly !!!

 

 

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Peter Ellenshaw – Matte Artist Genius

The art of Matte Painting in films really fascinates me.

Imagine a location which had open fields and a hill with horse riders going up the hill. The story calls for a castle on the hill BUT there is none – so a castle is painted on to a glass in front of the camera and exactly and painstakingly matched up to the action below. The result on screen is that we see the riders heading up hill toward the castle which we see as a wonderful shot when half of the picture or more is painted.

Above: Matte Shots by Peter Ellenshaw on ‘Darby O’Gill’ – a film with astonishing special effects set in Ireland – Filmed in Hollywood.

Being able to marry painted backgrounds on glass to real action foregrounds opened up a new world to film makers.  To get it right this is a very complex operatioin requiring  hours of painstaking labour with many retakes to obtain perfection.

Peter Ellenshaw was the Matte genius that Walt Disney signed up on a lifetime contract to work on his films starting with Treasure Island in 1950. He made a career out of mixing fantasy with reality to make make-believe worlds come to life

Walt Disney began to make period feature movies in England – from funds which were effectively ‘locked in’ to this country after the war.   He used English actors in his films  Treasure Island, The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, The Sword and the Rose, and Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue.  Peter Ellenshaw joined Disney at this time and  worked on all four. He began as a matte artist and special effects artist, and later in his career became a production designer. It was the start of a long association with Walt Disney.  Over the next four decades, Ellenshaw worked on the largest and most-challenging projects the Disney studios made—and won two Academy Awards for his work.

He was born in England  in 1913.   A neighbour Walter Percy Day a famous matte artist of his time, discovered Ellenshaw’s talent and took him on as an assistant. Mattes are realistic paintings done on glass and then matched to live action shots – the result can be breathtaking – see below The Black Narcissus which was done by Percy Day

 

 

Above – The incredible matte painting on Black Narcissus done by Percy Day.

During his amazing film career, Ellenshaw has been nominated for four Academy Awards.

Ellenshaw regarded Walt Disney as a source of inspiration and a wonderful friend.         “Walt had the ability to communicate with artists.” Recalls Ellenshaw. “He’d talk to you on your level – artist to artist. He used to say, ‘I can’t draw, Peter.  ‘ But he had the soul of an artist, and he had a wonderful way on transferring his enthusiasm to you.”

In 1964Peter  Ellenshaw won the Best Special Visual Effects Academy Award  for his astounding matte work in Walt Disney’s beloved line-action musical-fantasy Mary Poppins  and in this he created some beautiful vistas of Victorian London which gave a wonderful style to the film.

On Mary Poppins above – the top picture shows the small segment of the picture  that had  David Tomlinson walking on a wet studio floor BUT the lower one shows how we saw the film on screen – he is walking through a London Park – Thanks to a matte painting and we never knew !!!

 

In 1993, Ellenshaw was officially designated a “Disney Legend” by The Walt Disney Company.

Black Narcissus    -   The above shots just shows how good this process was – The top picture shows how the film was shot in the studio and below – the matte painting around the action then takes us to a Himalayan Convent with the wind whistling around us -  Astonishing but so real.

Percy Day.

Maybe I should have the title to this post  Percy Day – Matte Artist Genius because he certainly was and taught Peter Ellenshaw  all he knew. Percy Day had worked on silent films and found some fame here.    Much later he worked for Michael Powell and Emric Pressburger on such films as  ‘I know Where I’m Going’ (1945) which contains a sequence in which the hero and heroine’s boat gets sucked into the Corryvreckan whirlapool.   In his autobiography Powell recalled that Day created the whirlpool out of plastic material resembling gelatine, mounted on an eccentric arm which could be whirled around at varying speeds in a tank of water filmed with a high-speed camera running in reverse.

Incredibly Black Narcissus ( 1947) was shot entirely on the Pinewood Studios backlot with matte of the Himalayan mountain range painted by Percy Day and his assistants and illustarted above.

Black Narcissus was voted in a 2005 poll organised by The Times newspaper as the best British film of all time.

 Another matte above – Anyone like me with a fear of heights would go dizzy on viewing this on the large cinema screen.

These films were enhanced by this wonderfully thought out process.

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