•  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  
We're campaigning for a Special DVD edition of "The Night of the Hunter": Join the cause!
•  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Eating chesnuts, drinking muscat

Here we don't celebrate Halloween as in other countries: we mostly drink muscat, eat chesnuts and panellets , clean the graves at cemeteries and swap scary stories. Still, for those of you keen on Halloween (anglo-saxon style) I will give you this link towards which fellow Laughtonian Edward Johnson kindly directed me to, which contains the cool screensaver which I'm reproducing above, and hopefuly some of you will like to use it on your computers during these days. Oh, and if you want pumpkinshere's something for you, too

Well, on with some bits of news, fellers and felleresses ;p

The Devil and the Deep, finally on DVD!
Many of you have probably grown weary about the film majors' constant blabbering about respect of the copyright of the items owned by them, and endless whining about piracy.

Most unfortunately (as I see it) all this talk has not, so far, been accompanied by, well, the release of this precious material they own, and which is mostly kept in the vaults far away from the prying eyes of the public, a public which so far couldn't enjoy a lot of classic films unless it was in a bootlegged copy, which usually meant they couldn't be viewed unless in a defective version, with a poor (if not distressingly gawdawful) image and sound quality, and of course, without the extras, subtitles and assorted goodies that many a film lover appreciates in a really swell DVD release.

However, there could be winds of change a-blowing in this matter. In my previous post here I mentioned that The Bribe would be finally available in a special "on-demand" release within Warner Bros Archive Collection (Zone 1). Apparently, this type of initiative has begun to get a following, as Turner Classic Movies, along with Universal, are also going to release old films in their stock, which hopefuly means that many an old Paramount film owned by Universal, so far inexplicably locked up and kept away, will be finally available, at least in Zone 1 (even some old Paramount pictures have already been released in Zone 2).

As you can read in the link above, in the earliest batch there is The Devil and the Deep. This early film work by Charles is not without interest: Apart from being a predecessor of the prolific genre of Submarine Films, it was Charles first "official" work in Hollywood (his actual debut was actually in James Whale's The Old Dark House). While his acting there may have still have the imprint of the stage, it is a performance worth re-evaluating, and he is well accompanied by a competent Gary Cooper, a sublime Tallulah Bankhead and a very young Cary Grant.

A whispering aside on DVD zones
You have probably noticed that whenever I talk about a new DVD release I mention the DVD zone to which they belong. I know that many film buffs, knowing that a DVD release they might be interested in may not fall in their "assigned" zone, have already a multizone DVD player. For those who don't, or are considering the purchase of such a contraption, I should mention that it would be worth asking the electronics store clerk about it.

Still, it might be interesting for you to know that, certainly for a good number of brands manufacturing DVD players, the zone setting can be changed/reset with the remote control. It seems that many a DVD player is originally manufactured to play in all zones, and then "set" to play only in one. Julien, a kind visitor of this blog, just sent me an e-mail giving me details about it, and told me that, for instance, you can find webplaces like this one, which tell you of the codes you need to reset your one-zone hardware. Since some of you may be considering the purchase of a Blu-Ray player, I might as well give you this other link(again, thanks to Julien for that), a site which reviews hardware and may be give good references to consider a possible purchase of DVD/Blu Ray players

Still, as I said, be sure to ask the store clerk when you purchase a model (and I hope that you go to a good and proper store, the type which cares about their customers and employs competent personnel)

This having been said, I have always wondered why on earth DVDs don't come in the all-compatible Zone 0, which can be enjoyed regardless of the corner of this planet where you live. This problem never existed for Compact Disks (which can be played on any corner of the world) so I wonder why DVDs should have such questionable frontiers, harumph!

Ben Harper talks about Night of the Hunter
Well, as you can imagine, not Ben Harper, but the actor who played the role, Peter "Mission Impossible" Graves. You can read an interview with him starting here in which Graves talks about his career, from Night of the Hunter to Airplane and beyond.

Peter Graves had already mentioned that he enjoyed working under Laughton's orders (specially if compared with his experience with John Ford as a director, in a film in which he was working at the same time he was acting in Night of the Hunter), and here he again praises Charles' work as a director. It is interesting to note his opinion on the reasons that made The Night of the Hunter to be Laughton's only film behind the camera: according to him, a directing career would have required a greater energy than Laughton's age would have permitted. This may contradict the image of the remarkable energetic Laughton we could still enjoy (three years after NotH) in Witness for the Prossecution, but Graves point is worth taking into consideration, specially if we bear in mind the chronicles of The Night of the Hunter's shooting, which reveal a very eager, involved, nearly 24-hour commited, film director... Basically, the Pep Guardiola way which, of course, can be quite wearying in the long run.

Paul Baker passes away
One of my usual complaints about how Charles is chronicled is that in some quarters he is regarded solely just as a "film actor". While today his screen work the one that counts -mostly because it is the one still surviving for evaluation-, there are items of his stage career which tend to be overlooked. There's in fact a stage experience which is absent from any biography written so far, and it is about his collaboration with Paul Baker.

Baker (whose obituary you can read here)) was known for his innovative teaching of drama in Baylor University and other places. It shouldn't be surprising that Charles Laughton (which was keen on teaching and had a similarly unorthodox approach to theatre) would eventually collaborate with him.

In his biography "So Far, So Good" Burgess Meredith recalled a very avant-garde staging of Hamlet by Baker, "in which Hamlet was surrounded by three oher Hanlets, playing different aspects of the melancholy Dane!". I wonder if, back then, Baker, Laughton and Meredith would have been given such free rein had they played in Stratford-upon-Avon.

You can read yet another obituary of Baker, with a picture of the aforementioned Hamlet version.

No comments: