Archive for the Film Category

Making Bela – A Tribute to Martin Landau

Posted in Film with tags , , on July 18, 2017 by telescoper

I was saddened yesterday to read of the death, at the age of 89, of the fine actor Martin Landau. His was a familiar face from my youth, from Mission Impossible and Space 1999 but I’ll remember Martin Landau best in Ed Wood  an affectionate biopic of the man often described as the worst film director in the history of Cinema, in which he played Bela Lugosi a performance that won him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1995. The New York Film Critic’ Circle report noted “The Oscar goes to Martin Landau, its shadow goes to Bela Lugosi.”

I wrote about Bela Lugosi here – blimey, was that really five years ago? – and am a firm admirer of him as an actor. Unfortunately his heavy Hungarian accent made it very difficult to land roles in which he could demonstrate his true talent. That, together with an opiate addiction, led his career into a downward spiral. He was firmly on the skids when he linked up with Ed Wood to make some execrable low budget horror movies.

In Ed Wood, Martin Landau’s performance is remarkable not least because he didn’t look at all like Bela Lugosi. He nevertheless managed to achieve something better than a mere impersonation, largely through his uncannily accurate interpretation of Lugosi’s speaking voice and body language. He somehow captured the essence of the character without merely mimicking him. The make-up helped, but wasn’t the main reason why Martin Landau was so wonderful as Lugosi. It was just great acting.

By way of a tribute to him, here’s a short but fascinating documentary called Making Bela:

R.I.P. Martin Landau (1928-2017)

Rondo alla Trad

Posted in Film, Jazz with tags , , , , on July 17, 2017 by telescoper

I think this will probably alienate serious jazz fans and serious classical music fans in equal measure, but I stumbled across this while searching for something else and couldn’t resit posting it here. It’s from the 1963 film Live it Up and it features Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen playing their arrangement of the famous Rondo alla Turca from the third movement Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11 (K331). It’s not as far fetched as you might think to perform this with a band led by a trumpet player because Mozart’s composition deliberately imitated the music of the Janissary marching bands which were much in vogue in Austria in the latter part of the 18th Century.

Anyway, when I clicked on this I thought I was going to hate it, but you know what? I rather like it!

The Einstein Theory of Relativity

Posted in Film, The Universe and Stuff with tags , on April 21, 2017 by telescoper

I thought you might find this film interesting. I think it’s rather wonderful, actually, though it’s silent and definitely pre-CGI. It’s also a bit dodgy on the science in a few places.

However, made way back in 1923 by Max FleischerThe Einstein Theory of Relativity  has to be one of the first science films ever made. Who can think of an earlier one?

P.S. Bonus points if you can name the soundtrack music!

 

Semper Cavete Quod Idibus Martiis

Posted in Film, History with tags , , on March 15, 2017 by telescoper

Today is the Ides of March so I thought I’d keep up the little tradition I’ve established of posting this  priceless bit of British cultural history relevant to such a fateful day.

This is from the First Folio Edition of Carry On Cleo, and stars the sublime Kenneth Williams as Julius Caesar delivering one of the funniest lines in the whole Carry On series. The joke may be nearly as old as me, but it’s still a cracker…

P.S. On a less frivolous note, today the good folks of the Netherlands are going to the polls. I hope that they use their votes wisely, but am more than a little nervous about the outcome.

 

R.I.P John Hurt (1940-2017)

Posted in Film, Television with tags , , on January 28, 2017 by telescoper

I just heard today of the death (on Wednesday 25th January, aged 77) of the great British actor John Hurt. 

John Hurt was an extremely versatile actor who starred in many different roles, from Elephant Man to Alien, but I shall always remember him best as Quentin Crisp (above) in the 1975 television drama adapted from Crisp’s book The Naked Civil  Servant which I saw on TV when it was first broadcast.

Rest in peace, John Hurt (1940-2017).

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Posted in Biographical, Film, LGBT, Television with tags , , , , on January 22, 2017 by telescoper

I realized this afternoon that I was going to have to come into my office at Cardiff University as there is something I was supposed to finish by midnight today and I had forgotten to bring some stuff I needed to complete it. Setting aside the absurdity of an employer who sets deadlines at 24.00 on a Sunday evening, I was planning to have a quiet night doing the Azed crossword. As I got ready to leave the house I heard myself muttering “Sunday Bloody Sunday” under my breath, and walking through town to get here I was thinking about John Schlesinger’s 1971 film of that title, starring Glenda Jackson, Peter Finch and Murray Head. This film was shown on TV – rather late at night – when I was a teenager in the late 1970s and I’ll never forget the impact this particular scene had on me then. Here’s a clip of Murray Head talking about the scene, which caused quite a stir at the time in some quarters, in which he describes it as a “giant step forward”. Let’s hope we’re not all about to take giant steps backward.

The Land of Might-Have-Been

Posted in Film, Music with tags , , , , , on January 3, 2017 by telescoper

Over the Christmas break Composer of the Week on BBC Radio 3 featured Ivor Novello. Ivor Novello was considered old-fashioned even in his own lifetime, but I have no shame in admitting that I love his music, which I think is beautifully crafted. Ivor Novello was born David Ivor Davies, in Cardiff. In fact the house in which he was born is very close to mine:

ivor-novello-s-house-on-cowbridge-road-east-cardiff-616323421

Anyway, the Radio programme about Ivor Novello encouraged me to put on a DVD of the fine film Gosford Park, the script for which, written by Julian Fellowes, won an Oscar. In the movie, Ivor Novello is played by Jeremy Northam who sings a number of songs with his brother Christopher accompanying him at the piano, including this one. With music by Ivor Novello and lyrics by Edward Moore, it conveys that sense of longing for a better world that many of us are feeling right now.

Somewhere there’s another land
different from this world below,
far more mercifully planned
than the cruel place we know.
Innocence and peace are there–
all is good that is desired.
Faces there are always fair;
love grows never old nor tired.

We shall never find that lovely
land of might-have-been.
I can never be your king nor
you can be my queen.
Days may pass and years may pass
and seas may lie between–
We shall never find that lovely
land of might-have-been.

Sometimes on the rarest nights
comes the vision calm and clear,
gleaming with unearthly lights
on our path of doubt and fear.
Winds from that far land are blown,
whispering with secret breath–
hope that plays a tune alone,
love that conquers pain and death.

Shall we ever find that lovely
land of might-have-been?
Will I ever be your king or you
at last my queen?
Days may pass and years may pass
and seas may lie between–
Shall we ever find that lovely
land of might-have-been?