April 30, 2010

ULTRAMAN (1966) - perfect for Godzilla addicts


ULTRAMAN
(1966, Japan, TV)

Godzilla meets Thunderbirds...

A giant superhero who fights a different giant monster every week is the basis for this slightly futuristic live-action Japanese series made in 1966. It gave birth to an entire genre of Japanese TV.

Special effects supervisor Eiji Tsuburaya wanted to translate the success of Toho's sci-fi spectaculars, headed by the
Godzilla films, into a TV series. Ultra Q was the result, a team of paranormal investigators who often meet giant monsters. The format was improved on in Ultraman, by having a giant hero better able to fight the gigantic problems.



They also introduced the Science Patrol, a better equipped squad than the Ultra Q team. They've a huge base, special cars, the latest weapons and a VTOL aircraft. One of the patrol members secretly has the ability to transform into visiting alien, Ultraman.
Despite the rigid format - Ultraman must fight a monster every episode - the stories are very varied, as are the locations. The continuing draw of these two dozen series, for me, is the wide variety of monsters.



Yes, it's two men in suits throwing each other around, but for anyone who's run out of Godzilla movies to watch, Ultraman is the next best thing. Modified Godzilla suits even appear in the series, with added frills and paint jobs.
The colourful, often fanciful, monster designs naturally lent themselves to extensive ranges of toys and merchandise. The most popular monsters re-appear in later series, a few becoming familiar icons in Japanese pop culture.

The first series of Ultraman is aimed at children, with hammy crew member Ide as a childish comedy relief, and a young boy in the regular cast. Ultraman sometimes even plays around with the monsters during fights, like riding on their backs (which just looks wrong to my fertile mind).

Like early Doctor Who, which influenced the series, there are a few quite frightening monsters (glowing eyes in the dark always work for me) and many incidental characters even die. Ultraman also disfigures, blinds or tears limbs off his monster opponents before killing them! These occasionally bloody displays seem at odds with the otherwise childish tone. The creatures sometimes die slowly, twitching in their death throes before finding peace. Later series would be far kinder to monsters (except the really bad ones), even relocating them back home, and very few human characters died.



Ultraman has beautiful miniature sets for the monsters to roam around in, but the aircraft models are far less intricate than Thunderbirds, shot in the UK the same year. I guess that having to keep the aircraft in scale with Ultraman meant that the model couldn't be as large as the Thunderbird models.

The budgets are quite large compared to many later series, with lots of extras running around, varied locations
, and widescale action scenes.

A huge success, it lead to many more Ultraman TV series, which are still being produced, and some span off into movies, like Ultraman Next. It also inspired a boom in similar superhero shows from other studios, like Spectreman. Toei Studios' biggest hit scaled down the monster fights to human-size, pitching a roster of alien creatures against the beetleman biker hero, Kamen Rider.


Ultraman was dubbed into English and transmitted in the US. So the region 1 DVD set offers the English dub as well as an option for Japanese with subtitles. The picture looks extremely good, digitally remastered and restored, not looking its age at all. The set of 40 episodes was first released on six DVDs as two boxsets, but has already been re-released at a lower price on four DVDs.


It's a rare example of Ultraman on US DVD (Ultraman Tiga is the only other). I'd love to see the early follow-up, Ultraseven, with its tougher tone.


We never saw any Ultraman in the UK. So I first started watching it after discovering dozens of episodes on VCDs in Chinatown. While the earlier series have their charms, I prefer the revitalisation of the format that began with Ultraman Tiga, with it's better special FX and sleeker designs for the greatly expanded Earth defence fleet. With a variety of bases and launch procedures, the influence of Thunderbirds is still very evident.


Since Tiga, there's been a regular Ultraman series almost yearly, with year-round episodes. Last year there was another movie spin-off that brought back every previous incarnation of Ultraman for a Mega Monster Battle! It's just been released on DVD and Blu-Ray in Japan and Hong Kong.



April 23, 2010

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977) - Spielberg matches STAR WARS


Just as Steven Spielberg made me think I was seeing living dinosaurs for the first time in Jurassic Park, his Close Encounters of the Third Kind made me feel I'd seen UFOs.

Close Encounters also succeeded in matching, if not eclipsing the phenomenal success of the recently released Star Wars. Spielberg's follow-up to his blockbuster Jaws had raced against Star Wars to be the first movie spectacular into cinemas to showcase the new generation of special effects technology.

Before the dawn of the era of Industrial Light and Magic, futuristic sci-fi meant that the only screen thrills you were going to get was the usual seventies action – stunts with cars and bikes and a utopia that looked like a shopping mall. Hence
Death Race 2000, The Omega Man, Rollerball, Soylent Green, Logan’s Run... and a story usually set on Earth. Dark Star and Silent Running were offbeat exceptions that escaped mainstream attention, but they pointed to where movie special effects were headed (unfortunately not where sci-fi scripts were aiming).


As
Star Wars took us into hyperspace, Close Encounters (or CE3K as it called itself) brought a similar wish-fulfilment fantasy to Earth. It was like 2001 - A Space Odyssey in reverse. We don't travel into space to meet the aliens, they come to us. Unlike the typical attacking Martian movies of the 1950s, these aliens aren't necessarily hostile space invaders. Though the initial sightings in the story generate sufficient suspense as to what they actually want and whether or not they're friendly. On top of all this, there's a government conspiracy to cover it all up.


The story attempts to include all the key elements of actual UFO reports, exploiting the interest in the many 'flying saucer' books and early alien abduction stories, also incorporating some of the Bermuda Triangle mysteries (perhaps the missing ships and planes were taken by aliens!) also to be found on the 'paranormal' shelves in bookstores.


The story centres on average family breadwinner Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) whose whole life is changed in the middle of the night. After a diverse series of close encounters of the first and second kind, around the world, the story slows down for Roy Neary to struggles with messages inside his head and making others believe what he actually saw. His obsession leads him to other contactees, setting him on the road to further spectacular discoveries...

This middle section now feels a little slow, maybe because I now know the outcome, but at the time it was full of anticipation. But the eventual story pay-offs were staggering, showing us more and more alien spaceships. Instead of blurry little home movies and photos that could be practically anything, we were treated to huge colourful dynamic UFOs on the big screen. The climax is a superbly orchestrated series of set pieces.


Star Wars was hugely entertaining, but Close Encounters was also an emotional experience, almost religious. I left the cinema wanting to believe, looking at the sky! So now, I'm curious to know what a new audience makes of the very unscientific climax, as communication with aliens is attempted... with colours and music! Most of the running time is classic Spielberg, but the climax seemed to make more sense the first time around. As a younger man, it seemed he was staying open-minded on every unsolved world mystery, conveying his sense of wonder as if it were all true.

All this was spectacularly supported by the latest special effects, truly a staggering job by everyone in the huge special effects crew - the closest thing to seeing UFOs. No more wobbly plates plastic kits on wires - these spacecraft seemed to be made out of coloured light! It was also the first time I noticed multi-track surround stereo in a cinema. The howling winds of the desert in the opening scene, sounded like they were blowing all around us.

Close Encounters didn’t get a sequel, though E.T. - The Extra-terrestrial felt like the next logical step in the story - a secret second contact, with a longer interaction with the inhabitants of Earth. After all, they came all that way and all they get is a smile, a wave, and a jam session.


The film was such a massive hit that a re-release with extra scenes returned to cinemas in 1980. Spielberg was able to film new scenes he'd not had time to include (like the battleship). In return, he was required to show the inside of an alien spaceship. He took the opportunity to re-edit and slim down the middle act, toning down the emotional break-up of Neary's marriage.

This re-release was an early example of a 'Special Edition'. It then became the only version of the film in circulation - for nearly twenty years. The only way to see the original 1977 version was the expensive Criterion laserdisc boxset. For a long time, I thought I'd never again see the film I fell in love with. After many different home-video incarnations, the original cut is now in the Blu-Ray Ultimate Edition set.



When it was released, CE3K didn't have the same product possibilities as those built into Star Wars. There were of course the usual 1970s merchandise - books, records, posters, caps, t-shirts, badges (buttons), baseball cards... but the UFOs and aliens were pretty impossible to turn into toys. (Be nice if someone tried though).


The official book and magazine were quite shy of showing photos of the spaceships and their special effects. Instead there was a production diary paperback by Bob Balaban, who played translator to Francois Truffaut's character (this was recently reprinted under the title, 'Spielberg, Truffaut and Me'). Yes, the famous French new wave director had a major role.


The amazing visual effects were thankfully revealed in a double issue of Cinefantastique magazine. Douglas Trumbull again used a giant front-projection system (as he had for 2001 - A Space Odyssey), Greg Jein (and many others) made some gigantic and hugely complex internally-lit models, not to mention the mysterious directional clouds (a similar effect re-appeared at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark). Cinefex magazine later covered the making of the Special Edition.

For a grittier view behind the scenes, co-producer Julia Phillips spent several chapters of her scandalous expose of 70s Hollywood, 'You'll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again' documenting the scale of the production and its problems. Julia and Michael Phillips were also the husband and wife production team behind Taxi Driver and The Sting. The title refers to Julia becoming a Hollywood outcast once the book was published. She's not only honest about her alcohol and drug abuse during the making of these high-profile movies, but also dared to mention the illegal habits of many other famous players in the industry.

Close Encounters was an early example of a 'best-case' first contact scenario, and for a few years movie aliens were friendly. There was even a weekly TV series Project UFO to dramatise many actual sightings.

Things turned nastier with Whitley Strieber's book
Communion (adapted as a movie in 1989), along with The X-Files and Fire in the Sky (1993) to tell us about the scary side of alien abduction. Though these were all pre-dated by a TV movie, before even Close Encounters. The UFO Incident (1975) starred James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons, recounting a classic alien abduction experienced by Betty and Barney Hill and uncovered under hypnosis. Whatever the truth is behind their experiences, I've yet to hear of such a detailed incident that predates the 1953 movie Invaders From Mars (where aliens kidnap humans and implant a small control device in the back of their necks). Similarly, a glut of UFO sightings and abduction scenarios must have been inspired by Close Encounters. Admittedly, I also found it inspirational.

April 16, 2010

THE STUDENTS OF PRAGUE - two silent horrors


Two early horror films with two early horror stars

Once again, I've been chasing movies that I saw tasty photographs of in Denis Gifford's Pictorial History of Horror Movies (see the earlier article below).

During the silent era, Germany was a powerhouse of macabre movies, rivalling the early horror output of the US. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920), Nosferatu (1922) and The Golem (1920), not forgetting the gothic sections of Metropolis, have remained influential. First on the 1930s Universal Studio horrors, more recently on Tim Burton's two Batmans.

These two versions of The Student of Prague are less well known supernatural films, made by many of the same production crew behind other horror classics. They're both available on Alpha Video in the US, though I suspect the 1913 version is incomplete, running at only 41 minutes. The 1926 version runs at 90 minutes. Both have pretty poor picture quality, apparently sourced from analogue tape, but are quite watchable. Maybe not listenable though, I prefered to listen to my own choice of music while watching them. But I'm now sufficiently impressed with both films to want more carefully mastered versions.

The respective stars are Paul Wegener and Conrad Veidt, two actors who headlined horror movies before Karloff, Lugosi or even Lon Chaney.


THE STUDENT OF PRAGUE
(1913, Germany, Der Student von Prag)

I think I'm right in saying this is an early example of a feature-length film - it predates even Birth of a Nation! It's also an early starring role for Paul Wegener, before he made his three Golem movies, or The Magician, Alraune or Svengali. He's now best known for The Golem - the 1920 version was a huge influence on Universal's first Frankenstein. The 1915 version and its sequel, The Golem and the Dancer are now lost films. Coincidentally, the story of The Golem was also set in Prague.

The Student of Prague is a twist on the legend of Faust (also filmed in Germany in 1926), taking the theme of doppelgangers from Edgar Allen Poe's story, 'William Wilson', and set in the 19th century. Balduin, a poor student, falls for a wealthy heiress. But he has no hope of marrying her without making a name for himself. He's enticed by a mysterious sorcerer to make a bargain with Satan. He becomes very wealthy, but of course there's a catch...

While Balduin
is supposed to be the best swordsman in Prague, we never see any duels - a drawback for this version, possibly because of missing footage. Plotwise, I was puzzled why the best swordsman was unable to turn his skill into monetary gain.


Wegener's performance is very natural, modern enough to still be watchable today, not at all how silent movie acting is popularly remembered. He plays a mannered, believable character that helps you forget just how long ago this was made.

The trickster magician, Scapinelli, is creepily played by a spidery hunched John Gottowt (who later appeared in the legendary Nosferatu).

Wegener's co-director Stellan Rye was working prolifically at the time, but his career was cut short when he died fighting in the first World War. This is impressively made for such an early film, one of the most expensive in Germany at that time.

This version of the story has basic but effectively staged split-screen effects, showing the student literally haunting himself. The production also benefits from using actual locations in the 'old town' district of Prague.



THE STUDENT OF PRAGUE
(1926, Germany, Der Student von Prag)

Conrad Veidt took the lead role for the 1926 remake of The Student of Prague. Although Wegener starred in The Golem remake, I guess it was too much for him to play the student again - he'd only just passed as a student in the 1913 version, when he was 39!

Veidt is probably better known for playing Nazi spies in British (The Spy In Black) and American (Casablanca) wartime films, as well as the Grand Vizier in The Thief of Baghdad remake. Though he was cast as Nazis, the fact that he worked in Britain was because he was anti-Nazi. Before he fled Germany, he was associated with many of the earliest macabre roles, famously as Cesare the sleep-walker in The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, The Two-Faced Man (Der Januskopf - a Jekyll and Hyde riff also with Bela Lugosi), The Hands of Orlac, The Man Who Laughs (both later remade) and a version of Rasputin.

This version of Student of Prague reunites Veidt with Werner Krauss, the original Dr Caligari! Krauss' unique approach to the fiendish Scapinelli has him literally bending over backwards to appear perversely 'different'. But his make-up is a little too thick for such a sophisticated film. His performance alone is creepy enough, without the need for the thickly painted eyebrows and beard. Personally, Scapinelli is just as good in the 1913 version, even though he appears less and usually in long-shot. The scene where money pours from his sleeve is, for instance, is more cleverly done in the earlier version, in a single long take.

The story is much the same, though there's the exciting addition of a formal sabre duel, with Veidt impressively doing much of his own swordplay. Also, Scapinelli leaves less to chance in this version, shaping several 'coincidences' (like redirecting an entire foxhunt) to keep the poor student on his downward spiral. A surprising example being his huge shadow reaching up a giant wall to tip the balance of fate.


Although the interiors are realistically styled, the streets of Prague are expressionistic, in keeping with previous German films of the fantastic.

Director Henrik Galeen worked with Wegener on Alraune and also the first Golem (1915), as well as writing the 'adaption' of Dracula for Murnau's Nosferatu, famously without the permission of Bram Stoker's estate. But his experience doesn't explain the poor continuity in some key scenes, like when Scapinelli first meets Balduin. It's shot from several angles circled around the two men, but the close-ups repeatedly betray the absence of the other actor in an overly fast-cutting scene.

While the 1913 version seems ahead of its time, this one seems a little behind. But it's worth seeing the fuller, more intricate take on the story, and especially to see Krauss and Veidt reunited after The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.



Here's a trailer made to promote the DVD release of The Student of Prague (1913) on YouTube...



These Alpha Video DVDs from the US are a reasonable way to assess these films, and they're the only way to see them! I was sorry to discover that no other DVD versions are available, not even in Germany. I hope that because of their historical credentials that this will change and both films will get remastered like many other German silent horrors. Note that the cover art on the Wegener version uses a photo of the actor much older than his character appears in the film.

The Student of Prague was remade with sound in 1935, again in Germany, starring Anton Walbrook (Viktor/Victoria, Gaslight, The Red Shoes). But I can't find it anywhere...

There's more, interesting reference information about
The Student of Prague (1913) at FilmReference.com. The German Films archive site lists the film as running 57 minutes.

Another review of the Alpha Video 1926 version is here at SilentEra.com, as well as a great list of silent movies out on home video.

My article on the Golem movies made after Paul Wegener is here.

April 13, 2010

THE BRIDE FROM HELL (1972) - Hong Kong horror before Tsui Hark


THE BRIDE FROM HELL
(1972, Hong Kong, Gui xin niang)

Useful tips to dissolve a dead marriage...

Had to buy this on the strength of the title alone. Wasn't expecting much and therefore wasn't disappointed. It's a spooky tale of revenge by a ghost with a grudge. No martial art swordplay, not many special effects, but a creepy tale treated seriously for the most part, like the older traditional Chinese ghost films (like Enchanting Shadow), and not the slapstick kung-fu that Hong Kong horrors soon developed into.

Our travelling hero, Yun Peng (Yang Fan) finds a house in the forest and wants to plead with the beautiful owner, Feng Anu (Margaret Hsing Hui), to let him rest for the night. Catching her by surprise lying naked on her bed (a shot missing from this Thai version) he does the chivalrous thing and offers to marry her, to protect her honour. But marriage means he's now trapped by a vengeful spirit. As those around her begin to suspect, she reveals a variety of powers to match those of the demon-catchers sent to exorcise her, while she targets her victims...

It's out of step with contemporary Hammer horrors, and decades behind Tsui Hark's revitalised supernatural stories that began in 1979 with The Butterfly Murders. But I enjoyed the serious approach and the many and various ways the Taoist master has up his sleeve to combat ghosts and demons. Though running around ringing a bell isn't quite as thrilling as seeing a vampire hunter wielding a stake.


The film opens with a solitary greenlit coffin in a swamp from which emerges a shrouded female ghost. All very Ringy, so I was disappointed that the battle to vanquish her didn't return to this spooky spot. But it resembled the 1960s Japanese ghost stories, without the elegant special effects and is useful to compare this with them.

It's seriously let down by the tiny modelwork and heavy reliance on jump cuts, without the camera even being locked off. The only successful visual effects are some very large-scale props. But the acting, the widescreen colour photography and production values make it very watchable.

I could only find a VCD of this when shopping in Malaysia - it's non-anamorphic and has the Chinese, Thai and English subtitles all in view throughout. But there's also a DVD edition
available from YesAsia, thankfully with a 2.35 anamorphic image.

This article on YesAsia has been a great help as a guide to other genre movies from the Shaw Brothers production team.

April 09, 2010

My first horror movie books - early looks at the genre

There are now books, magazines and websites about every aspect of horror movies. But when I was first getting into horror movies in the early 1970s, there were only a handful of books on the subject. These were also among the earliest to take the genre seriously. With limited pocket money, I had to wait to own these hardback reference books when Christmas or a birthday rolled around. I could save up for the paperbacks.

While I re-read them all, I'd often look at the photographs. They helped put most of these films on my 'must see' list. I fixated on them, trying to imagine what the films were going to be like. This sometimes lead to disappointment, the same way that lobby cards and posters outside the cinema often hyped up elements that weren't actually in the film. I'm obviously very fond of these few volumes for giving me my horror education, but they hold their value - many of their photos haven't reappeared in other publications, making them still worth a look. Remember that much publicity material for colour movies were only ever in black and white. The lack of colour photos for colour films reflects this. From their publishing dates, it looks like the mid-1970s saw a steady trickle of new books, as well as reprints of the few existing titles on the subject.

At the time, I ignored some of the weightier books which were only available in (expensive) hardbacks, aimed at academic use. With the accent on text and analysis and far fewer photos, I passed on The Haunted Screen (silent horror in Germany) and An Illustrated History of the Horror Film (1967, Carlos Clarens). Though I know many horror fans started off with those groundbreaking works. For me, it was the following editions that started me off...



A Pictorial History of Horror Movies
by Denis Gifford

My very first guide to horror films was this large-format hardback first published in 1973. A well-researched history starting with the earliest silent short films of Melies, ending just before The Exorcist. The ilustrations were as important as the text - I think I've memorised all the captions. It includes rare photos from Hollywood, British and even Japanese horror films - this was my first glimpse of Horror of Malformed Men. There are a few full page glossy colour pages with a fantastic shot of Dr Phibes sitting at his organ, a Bela Lugosi poster for The Mystery of the Marie Celeste. and poster art of Claude Rains (before the mask) from Phantom of the Opera.


Horror Movies
by Alan Frank
Concentrating on the (then) modern decades of the 1960s and 1970s, Horror Movies was another large hardback that offered more photos and more colour. The striking cover photograph is from Dr Terror's House of Horrors. Like many overviews of the genre, it's mainly a stream of themed plot synopses and reviews, rather than analysis. Also, these British books pay as much, if not more attention to horror from the UK. The photos are what's important, including two more great full-page colour Dr Terror publicity shots inside.

Horror in the Cinema by Ivan Butler
An affordable pocket-sized 1970 reprint of this early 1967 guide, has a more international view of the genre. It includes a choice checklist of must-see horrors, whetting my appetite for Onibaba and Kwaidan. It includes chapters on the Roger corman Poe cycle, and Roman Polanski's early films, championing the importance of Repulsion to psychological horror.



The House of Horror
A medium-sized paperback dedicated to Hammer Films, with more photos than text. Little more than synopses for all of Hammer's horror films up till then (indeed the studio stopped production soon after). Great photos, including a fair amount of female nudity and some spectacular glossy colour reprints of some explicit posters (including Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde) several of which never even got filmed.


Classics of the Horror Film by William K. Everson
A large weighty 1974 hardback, dedicated mainly to vintage American horror. Everson makes personal, authoritative choices, dedicating a chapter to each of his favourites. Again this is illustrated with rare black and white stills, special attention given to silent movies like Faust. His addition of a chapter on newer movies like The Exorcist looks like a grudging afterthought. He highlights some very weak entries like Dr Cyclops and Murder By The Clock - they may have their moments but I doubt they're in anyone else's top tens. He also nominates London After Midnight without having seen it (it was already lost by then).


Everson followed up with 'More Classics of the Horror Film' in 1986, including a look at recently rediscovered classics, informing many of us of the alternate Spanish version of Dracula (1931) and the colour prints of Doctor X and Mystery of the Wax Museum.


Horror & Fantasy in the Cinema by Tom Hutchinson
By now I was getting new books just for the photos. This one at least included more sci-fi movies (which were also getting more specialist coverage). Some of the colour pages include a beautiful full-page hand-coloured publicity photo of Fredric March as both Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. There's a also brutal b/w shot of Peter Cushing cutting up a topless victim from the 'continental version' of Corruption, a version I'm still waiting to see.


Monsters and Vampires
by Alan Frank
Obviously Alan Frank's Horror Movies sold well, and lead to this 1976 photo-heavy volume. With a spectacular still from Dracula Has Risen From the Grave on the cover and a gruesome portrait from Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell on the back, of the monster with dirty rags stuffed into his empty eye sockets! Like Horror Movies, this has great-looking stills, but many are from very poor movies like The Frozen Dead, Doctor Blood's Coffin and The Mutations. Compensated for by some rare glossy colour shots of a green Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein.


Movie Monsters
by Denis Gifford
Lastly, three books I found in the local library. This one divided all the existing Movie Monsters into categories. It was an expensive small-format hardback (1969), before being reprinted in paperback (1974). The whole volume is printed on heavy, glossy paper adding extra quality to all the black and white stills, again biased towards classic Hollywood. Gifford also compiled a similar volume called Science Fiction Film.


A Heritage of Horror
by David Pirie
This book focused my admiration for British horror movies, with intelligent analysis and categorisations. The links Pirie makes between Night of the Demon and Night of the Eagle, the 'Sadian trilogy' of Peeping Tom, Horrors of the Black Museum and Circus of Horrors, are hard to forget or deny. He includes a chapter on Amicus films and centres his predictions on the future of British horror on the work of Michael Reeves (which indeed happened for a while) including a lovely still of Reeves on location with Vincent Price. The dramatic black and white photographs are carefully chosen, with an unforgettable shot of a zombie pushing its way out of a grave (from Plague of the Zombies). The exhaustive appendix, listing his choice of British horror films, gave me something else to aim for. There are hardback and paperback editions (from 1973) with the above cover art. A Heritage of Horror was widely admired for many decades, though very hard to acquire. I think it would have been far more influential had it been republished more often. When it was finally reprinted in 2007, Pirie took his chance to update it. But I think his key observations were considerably diluted by the new material. I'd recommend you try and hunt down the original.


Movie Magic by John Brosnan
Special effects are a key ingredient for horror, sci-fi and disaster movies. The late John Brosnan left no genre unturned as he enthusiastically produced this overview of the key special effects techniques in use before Star Wars. This is a fascinating and entertaining overview on early (non-digital) visual effects. I loved this book. After Movie Magic (the hardback edition is pictured), behind-the-scenes articles in Cinefantastique magazine thankfully became more technically interested in visual and make-up effects (before Fangoria and Cinefex took over in 1979). 




Before any of the above, one of the only sources was American Cinematographer, which of course only covered Hollywood films. The magazine began its spectacular run all the way back in 1920! The 1970s saw a revolution in the horror genre, where realism replaced gothic, chain saws replaced poisoned teacups, and the boy next door was a more likely threat than a Romanian count. By the end of the decade, the success of new horror and slasher movies had given rise to internationally sucessful and available horror movie magazines. The drought was over. But when I've dug them all out, I'll take a similar look at my earliest horror movie magazines. Unlike the USA, in mid-1970's London, Famous Monsters of Filmland was hard to find...

April 02, 2010

BARBARELLA (1968) the Ultimate Guide - Part 4: Missing and Alternate Scenes!

Over the years, I've seen references to different versions of Barbarella. But while there is little hard evidence, some of these photos provide tasty clues to the Barbarella you don't see in the final film...



ALTERNATE TITLE SEQUENCE

The only existing alternate scene that I know of is the other title sequence. Over the same shots of Barbarella's zero-gravity striptease, there were differently animated titles that covered up more of Jane Fonda's nakedness. Originally the US version had less nudity, but the current DVD master uses the more revealing version.



ALPHA 7 SPACE-DOCK

This lobby card presents a puzzle. Barbarella is in the costume she wears at the start of the story, for leaving Earth's orbit and travelling to Planet 16. But through the main window, above her piloting controls, is someone standing outside! This looks like an unknown character, in costume in a specially-built set. This looks too complex to be just a publicity photograph.


An oxygen atmosphere outside the spaceship infers that Alpha 7 is docked. Certainly the film begins rather abruptly, with no idea of where Barbarella has just come from, or why she needs to enter her spaceship left drifting in space. I'm guessing this isn't on Earth.


The only other character in this part of the story is a voice on the radio that clears her to leave the solar system. A voice from the 'Base'. My best guess is that Barbarella docks into a space base (to refuel?) before departing. Perhaps the budget wouldn't stretch to the required modelwork. Perhaps the docking was too rude!





THE OTHER DILDANO



A very funny scene with Dildano, played by a young David Hemmings (below), is memorable for the hand-to-hand sex scene and his secret hideaway full of broken gadgets. But who is this character from the same scene (above)?


Here are more photos from the same scene, when it was first shot with a different actor. The scene originally had an Italian actor in an entirely different costume. The other notable difference is that Fonda is naked for the hand-to-hand sex scene.



Here's Dildano presenting Barbarella with the secret key.

Looks like Dildano got more amorous in this version.

A pair of publicity photographs taken during this alternate scene.





SHARING A BED WITH THE GREAT TYRANT

A scene rumoured to have been left in the international version, but too saucy for America, was a love scene with the Black Queen (Anita Pallenberg). The following photos hint at how the scene looked. Despite being used in various lobby cards, I've not confirmed that this ever reached any finished version of the film.




These shots, show the protective bubble has formed around the bed, placing it in the story after the Mathmos has engulfed them. In the film, you can briefly see Barbarella pushing the Queen away from her, on Durand Durand's viewscreen.





PUBLICITY SHOTS?


Publicity shots and press photos could be posed on any available set. Often looking nothing like what was actually filmed. But they can also taken while a scene is in progress. All we can do is make an educated guess.


Pygar in the Queen's bed inside the Mathmos?


Barbarella saluting. When she salutes the Earth President in the film, Barbarella is naked and facing the President on the viewscreen of the statue, here behind her.
So who is she saluting? Is this just a rehearsal?


Pygar kissing the Queen - this doesn't happen in the film, and you'll also notice that she is wearing his wings! Presumably an example of using props to stage a publicity shot. Lastly, a publicity photo that gives us a rare look at Barbarella in the sunlight.
There are no exterior shots in the film.


Elsewhere in The Ultimate Guide to Barbarella...