Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Mummy's Curse (1944)

Recently screened the French blu-ray of The Mummy's Curse with Lon Chaney Jr. I'm glad I got it, but it isn't quite up to the standards of the other titles in the Elephant Films Universal Horror series. The problem isn't the video transfer... that is top notch. The problem is the film element. Image quality is all over the place.

Most of the film looks fine, but a good number of scenes have a snowstorm of negative dirt. Interestingly enough, the dirt seems to not continue through the intercutting. It's isolated to particular camera angles. That tends to make me think it might be a problem the film had on original release... perhaps some of the negative was mishandled during editing. It doesn't ruin my enjoyment of the film, but it is something to note.

That isn't the only problem... whenever there is an optical effect like a cross fade, the image gets a bit fuzzy. The stock footage reused from the original Mummy film as a flashback looks really bad. But the inserts of the stand in for Karloff and the narrator dissolved in over the top look fine, so again I think it is just sloppy editing.

The film itself is more like a low budget serial than an elaborate gothic horror film. The acting (aside from Chaney's pantomime performance) is abysmal and setting the action in a swamp in the deep South is pretty absurd. Add to that a cringe worthy performance by a black worker who calls people "Massuh" and the most unconvincing gypsies ever put on film, and you have a recipe for something destined to sit on the shelf unwatched.

If you love Universal horrors the way I do, you should probably pick this up for completeness's sake. But I seriously doubt this will ever be fully restored for release in the US. The blu-ray is region free and the French subtitles are removable using your remote control.

Ripper Street

Just finished the third season of Ripper Street on blu-ray.  (I hear it is on BBC America and Amazon Prime too.) Fantastic blu-ray of a fantastic program... sort of like Sherlock turned upside down. Instead of a modern retelling of a Victorian story, this is a modern police procedural set in the years immediately following the Jack the Ripper murders. Terrific direction, acting, editing and art direction. Gives me hope for the future of television.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Art Journal 1876

Just Added to the Animation Resources Library: Art Journal 1876

If they sound interesting by the title, sometimes I blind buy books on eBay. If they are under-described or not photographed well, I can get some real bargains. This is one of them... A bound volume of Art Journal magazine from 1876. The quality of the steel engravings is superb. These are of pretty girls, but there are incredible images of children, animal drawings, architecture, interior design, pottery and mythological subjects too. If you are interested, I'll photograph some more plates and share them. I've added a link to a larger size image on each picture because Blogger doesn't do these justice.

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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Helen Kane Autograph

A new one for my autograph collection... Helen Kane the inspiration for Betty Boop.

By the way, this photo refers to an old saying,
"You can catch a bird by pouring salt on its tail."

Friday, April 8, 2016

That's Sexploitation! Review

I got this in the mail yesterday and screened it last night. This is a VERY important documentary. It tells the story of a totally ephemeral branch of film making, the exploitation film. The documentary is very entertaining and well organized to show the ups and downs of the business, with hundreds of incredible clips, each one identified, so you can dig deeper and seek out a copy of the entire film if you are interested. Something Weird Video founder, Mike Vraney produces, Frank Henenlotter hosts and he interviews David Friedman, one of the "Forty Thieves" that were behind most of the exploitation films and their distribution. His comments are amazing, putting the whole thing into context in a way that only someone who had been there could. Lots and lots of great jump blues and swinging music in the soundtrack. Henenlotter really knows how to have fun with this stuff.

This blu-ray is only marginally HD. The new interview footage is 1080i but it appears that all the clips might be upscales from 480i. It really doesn't matter though, because these films weren't exactly shot like 2001, and the prints that remain are in a range of conditions from beat up to pretty clean. Henenlotter does a great job of editing out the very best from each film, so the condition of the elements is never really an issue. The film itself takes up almost 30 gigs of the BD50 disk. Well into the range of overkill, but it's a long film so the more the merrier I guess.

I haven't had the chance to check it out yet, but the supplements consist of over 3 hours (20 gigs!) of classic exploitation shorts dating from the 1920s up to the 1970s in 480i. Fans of Henenlotter's Something Weird Video label will recognize a lot of them, but it's great to have them all organized on one disk. That's Sexploitation was released in a three DVD version, and if you have that, there probably isn't any reason to upgrade to the blu-ray, except perhaps if you really care about the bitrate. The blu-ray has twice the file size as the DVD.

Folks who want to show off their systems won't find much in this disk. The image quality is essentially DVD quality, and the sound is variable, depending on the source. But HOLY COW! what a great party disk! Just pop on the supplements in the background and rack up some hot music and you could be living the life of a swinging bachelor in the golden age of sleaze.

This is just one of a group of blu-rays that pack in ephemeral shorts like this... 42nd Street Forever, Kung Fu Trailers of Fury, Trailer War... All of these exploit the large capacity of the blu-ray format to deliver super long running times and shovel in a crapload of ultra rare trailers and shorts you could never see anywhere else. That's Sexploitation is like an encyclopedia of sleaze... better than any book on the subject because instead of talking about films, it shows them to you. Frank Henenlotter is a hero.

Monday, April 4, 2016

04-03-16 An Afternoon Atop Mt Wilson

JoJo and I decided to take a ride up Angeles Crest to Mt Wilson this weekend. We had a lot of fun and I got a couple of good pictures.