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Chris_Coombs

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Everything posted by Chris_Coombs

  1. 1. Now that you have seen multiple openings to Hitchcock's British films, how does this opening both fit a pattern you have seen previously as well as deviate from other opening scenes? It is similar to 'The Pleasure Garden', 'The Lodger', and 'The Man Who Knew Too Much' in that it has humor in it. It differs in that there is much more humor than the other films, and it's funny: "Who was the last heavyweight champion of the world?" "Henry the eighth" "My old lady" ' There is the slow pan across the letters 'Music Hall'. Hitch uses the same camera movement in The Pleasure Garden' (the audience) and 'The Man Who Knew Too Much' (the spectators). Hitch uses the camera in interesting ways in his films. He uses a canted angle or 'Dutch' angle as Hannay buys the ticket, just as the scream opening 'The Lodger' is canted. There are invisible directors, whose style is that you don't see a style, and there are directors who embrace techniques visible to the audience - camera moves, editing choices, framing and camera angles, and so on. Hitch is the latter. 'The 39 Steps' starts with an audience watching a show. 'The Man Who Knew Too Much' starts with an spectators watching Skiers. 'The Lodger' starts with a group watching a murder scene. 'Pleasure Garden' also starts with an audience. The idea of 'watchers' or 'observers' is a kind of joke, because of course WE are an audience watching his films. We are observers as well. It is similar to 'The Man Who Knew Too Much' in how it uses dialogue and visuals to quickly establish key elements of a character's personality. The way Peter Lorre laughs and shrugs off being hit and knocked over quickly shows he is a cool customer, not easily flustered. Hannay shown asking his question a couple times before being noticed, and smiling as a boy behind him IS noticed when he is not shows Hanny is easy going, likeable, and most importantly an ordinary man. It is different in the way it introduces Hannay. which is the subject of question #2. 2. Do you agree or disagree with Rothman's assessment that Hitchcock in this film is focused on introducing a more innocent character than in previous opening sequences of his films? Yes. Hannay is introduced in a different way than the other films we've seen. He is shown from the back, from the waist down, without a face - Hannay is ordinary, and invisible member of the crowd. He is a nobody, in essence. He asks Mr. Memory a question and isn't heard at first. He doesn't stand out. We see him smile even though he's ignored as a boy behind him is addressed. He is good natured, genial, pleasant. All these things make him appear insignificant, and therefore innocent. He is someone you would pass by and not notice. Innocent - not one to be involved in something important. We find out he is from Canada, and is therefor an outsider - someone who may not belong. It is only when Mr Memory addresses Hannay, that he is seen in a way that stands out from the crowd. Two shots of the crowd from the front are shown, and he can't really be seen. He may not even be IN those shots. But when Mr Memory addresses him, the shot of the audience shows Hannay clearly, standing out from the group. He appears taller than the rest, and in the center, and is CLEARLY seen. Hannay doesn't exist UNTIL Mr Memory talks to him, and their connection begins. A quick pan from 'What causes pip in poultry' to Hannay emphasizes his 'birth' into the plot of the film. This connection is established visually and audibly: Mr. Memory is shown in profile. When Hannay first speaks he is also shown in profile, facing the other way. They are facing each other. These two characters will become linked together in the plot. Hannay, when adressed, asks his question twice to Mr Memory at that moment. Mr Memory acknowledges him as a man from Montreal, and welcomes him. This is the audible connection. How does these on-screen elements play into the Hitchcock touch as described by Gene Phillips? “Ordinary people who are drawn by circumstances into extraordinary situations.” As I established above, Hannay is ordinary, almost invisible. The Music Hall sequence helps establish that quality. “…The settings of Hitchcock films are quite ordinary on the surface, thereby suggesting that evil can lurk in places that at first glance seem normal and unthreatening.” This is a music hall performance probably for the general to lower class people. It seems ordinary on the surface. We find out later it is the method through which the secrets are smuggled. This dark secret lurks under the surface. “[Hitchcock’s] villains commit their mayhem in amusement parks and respectable restaurants, places where the viewer might often find themselves—not in locations that we tend to avoid in order to escape potential harm, such as dark alleys and dives…” This music hall is such a place. The Irony is that moments later a shot is fired and the crowd flees in a panic.
  2. 1. what do you anticipate is going to be more important in this film--the characters or the plot? Hitchcock is more concerned with characters. He introduces the characters - Bob, his daughter Betty, and Abbot - and the plot, though interesting, is not the main focus. The main focus is how the characters comport themselves. How do Bob and his wife Jill deal with the kidnapping of their daughter? How does the victim, Betty, deal with it? How do the villains (Abbot and his crew) behave while trying to pull off their plans? These are the important aspects of the film. Hitchcock focused more on the characters than the plot throughout his career. The machinations of the plot - the McGuffins - are of no concern to Hitchcock. They exist only to give the characters something to worry about. There is little in the short clip to signal this recurrent tendency in Hitchcock's career, except that from the beginning we see only the characters and no real mention of plot is mentioned. However, only 4 minutes into a film this in itself is not unusual. 2. What do you learn about Abbott (Peter Lorre) in his brief scene? How might this introduction affect your view of the character Abbott later in the film? Right off the bat we learn Abbot is a cool customer. After being hit by the skier and knocked to the ground, he merely shrugs it off with a laugh and a joke. From this we learn Abbot is not one who ruffles easily. It also establishes that his character is likeable. A charming, likeable villain is something found in many Hitchcock films. One thinks of Bruno Antony in Strangers on a Train, Cary Grant in Suspicion, Brandon in Rope, and Ray Milland in Dial M for Murder, just to name a few. 3. We saw two opening scenes from Hitchcock's silent films in the Daily Doses last week (The Pleasure Garden and The Lodger). How is this opening both similar and different from those two films' opening scenes. There are some small similarities in the films. There is a quick pan across the people watching the ski jumper similar to the long pan across the audience in The Pleasure Garden. Similar to The lodger, which begins with a scream and a murder, this film starts with a ski accident. There is also some comedy (with Lorre), just as there was comedy in The pleasure Garden (no smoking sign) and The Lodger (man mocking the Avenger). The most obvious difference is that The Man Who Knew Too Much is a sound film, and there is a lot of dialogue establishing the characters.
  3. 1. In this sequence, describe how Hitchcock uses sound design to put you into the subjective "mind of Alice"? The woman starts talking about the murder, and tends to dwell on the fact that a knife was used. As Alice sits at the table, starting at the bread knife - similar to the one she stabbed the man with - the word 'knife' triggers her focus on it. Hitch gradually lowerd/muffles the conversation leaving only the word 'knife' audible, as in her mind, that is what she is focusing on - the knife.This sound technique creates a subjective aspect - we enter her mind as she obsesses over the knife. There is also the shot where she enters the phone booth, debating on whether or not to call the police and turn herself in. When she enters the booth, all sound - the conversation - is cut off. While being realistic, it also makes us focus on Alice and helps us to think what she's thinking as we stare at her face in close up. 2. Describe the different ways that the sound design of this scene operates in counterpoint to the visual track. For example, how does Hitchcock set up the shot where the knife flies out of Alice's hand so that it registers a shock in his audience? Pay attention to both what is happening visually and aurally. The great part about the conversation at the breakfast table is how it starts normal, but gradually all the words become inaudible, all except the word 'knife' as we gradually begin to enter Alice's mind. The word 'knife' becomes more frequent as Alice slowly reaches for the knife. At the moment she grabs it, the word is seemingly screamed, causing her to flinch and drop the knife. The slow rising to prominence of the word 'knife', and it's frequency act in counterpoint to her slowly reaching for the knife itself. 3. Why do you think this particular use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema? It is rare, to be sure. More common are 'inner monologues', where what the person is thinking is spoken in his/her own voice. For example in Gettysburg, Lawrence Chamberlain is ordered to hold his position to the last. As he contemplates the upcoming battle, a voice over says "Hold to the last. To the last what? Exercise in rhetoric. Last shell? Last man? Last foot of ground? Last Reb?" We subjectively hear what he's thinking. This type of sound technique is more common. The closest thing I can think of similar to Blackmail is the last scene of 'Gone With the Wind'. As Scarlett contemplates her life without Rhett, she begins to hear voices of her love ones, in what they had spoken to her in the past. This is the dialogue she hears: "You mean to tell me Katy Scarlett O'Hara that land doesn't mean anything to you? Why Land is the only thing that matters. It's the only thing that lasts." :"Something you love better than me, though you may not know it: Tara." "...it's this from which you get your strength, the red earth of Tara" "...why land's the only thing that matters. It's the only thing that lasts." "...something you love better than me, though you may not know it: Tara." "...this from which you get your strength, the red earth of Tara" "...land's the only thing that matters..." "...something you love better than me..." "...the red earth of Tara..." "...Tara." "...Tara." "...Tara!" "...TARA!" As she slowly begins to realize her next course of action is to return home, to Tara, the word 'Tara' comes to prominence in the voice overs. She achieves her focus at the moment the word 'Tara' is repeated again and again. We are seeing subjectively into Scarlett's mind, and we follow her thought process as she slowly realizes she must return to Tara. It is similar to the scene in blackmail, where a single word - representing an object the person is focusing on - is highlighted to subjectively show what's in their mind.
  4. 1. In your own words, please describe the effect of watching the POV dolly shots / POV tracking shots in this scene? The point of view shot puts us in the perspective of the character. We start to empathize with them. As they slowly approach the headmaster, we are feeling the nervousness of what they are feeling, as we see it through their eyes. 2. Why do you think Hitchcock uses the technique of a POV tracking shot? What does it add to his visual storytelling? I believe Hitch uses the POV to achieve the empathy with the character. We start feeling what they are. As the boys slowly approach the headmaster, we feel the nervousness and suspense. As Mable approaches the boys to accuse them, we feel the suspense of what her decision/statement will be. The POV creates in the audience a connection to the action on screen - a participation to the action on screen. We become more involved and less detached. 3. What connections (visual techniques, images, motifs, themes) do you notice between films that came before this The montage at the end is very similar to the montage in The Ring where it becomes an internal POV - we see what the character is thinking. In Jack's case, we saw in his mind his wife sitting on the other man's lap and their kiss. In the same way we see into the Waitress' mind in this clip. The montage of superimposed images is what she is thinking. The extreme close up of the waitress is similar to the one that begins The Lodger clip - that of the woman's scream. We see her whole face. The extreme close up, used sparingly, creates emphasis in those key moments.
  5. 1. How does Hitchcock use montage or expressive editing to add vitality and rhythm to this scene? The cutting during the dance scene between different angles of the two dancers, and the people watching, adds vitality. As the party continues the shots become shorter and shorter in length - the dancers, the piano player, the crowd, the instruments, the record, - this increases the pitch of the party scene and intensifies the wild feeling of the party. At this point we get a dissolve back to Jack. The wildness of the party with it's editing dissolving to the static scene of Jack adds to the contrast in his mood and that of the party goers. 2. Please note the various techniques Hitchcock uses to create that feeling of subjectivity. There are two types of subjectivity in this scene. External and Internal. The external subjectivity is in the mirror shots as Jack sees Mabel sitting on the champ's lap, and Mabel sees Jack in the other room. This is done in the standard way by showing observer then cutting to what is observed. Then there is the internal subjectivity - what Jack sees in his mind - which is accomplished with superimposition of images. Jack's mind dwells on Mabel sitting on the other man's lap, as they get closer and more intimate, til eventually they kiss. This happens as his trainers are talking to him. Jack sees the image of Mabel and the other man over his view of the trainers, but they eventually fade away and only the image of Mabel and the champ remain as his thoughts intensify. The party scene now becomes distorted - it's a nightmare to him, what's going on with his wife in there. These distorted images reflect his thoughts. 3. How does Hitchcock stage the action, use set design, and editing techniques to increase the stakes in the rivalry between the two gentlemen? The most obvious staging is the fact that Jack and Mabel/Champ are separated physically in different rooms. This physical separation reflects the emotional separation that is going on.The action also reflects the mood of the characters. The wild party where Mabel is - Mabel who seems happy and without a care - is contrasted with the somber room where Jack is - Jack is unhappy. The flashiness of the party room contrasted with the simple room Jack is in. In the Party room, much of the action is played out in front of a huge window in which we see the city at night, the lights in the buildings, the flashing neon signs...this is the night life. Jack's room has no windows. Flash vs drab, open vs closed, large vs small, revelry vs serious talk - the two areas contrast. A side note. If there is a piano player, and people on instruments, then why is a record player playing? Are they playing to the record? Just sayin'
  6. 1. Compare the opening of The Lodger to the opening of The Pleasure Garden Whereas The Pleasure Garden took time establishing the scenario, The Lodger begins in medias res - with a scream to a murder already committed. There is no set up or establishing of situation. There was no montage in The Pleasure Garden, but In The Lodger Hitch uses montage to create irony - the Marquee sign announcing 'Tonight Only: Golden Curls' cut with shots of a dead fair-haired woman. This is fairly dark humor, which is a common element in Hitch's film career. The Pleasure Garden's scene is more casual in the way it tells the story. There is no sense of urgency. In The Lodger, the whole sequence has the feeling of a crescendo - as the news spreads, from word of mouth, over the phone, through teletype, in the newspaper, and to the multiple news vans delivering that paper to the masses, there is a constant building of tension. Similarities between the two films are in the use of POV shots, and the use of humor. The smoking man in front of the 'no smoking sign' compared with the man covering his face in a mocking nature as the woman describes the murderer. 2. Identify elements of the "Hitchcock style" in this sequence Already we see how Hitch builds tension, as the news spreads quickly like a wild fire. The story telling is visual - the scream, the body, the woman describing the horrible murder, the crowd gathered around the site - all these elements visually tell the story of the murder. But Hitch also uses organic text - the teletype and news marquee - instead of intertitles to inform the viewer. Black humor is a trait of Hitch, and the 'Golden Curls' being matched with a dead woman is an example of this, as is the man mocking the murderer by covering his face as if it were funny. Hitch already cutting together small elements to represent the whole - a scream, a body, a woman in terror describing, a policeman notating, crowd leering. the pinned note - are all cut together to represent the murder site, rather than using a master shot. 3. What do you notice in how Hitchcock frames that particular shot that makes it work in a silent film First off the scream is shot at a Dutch Angle - slightly askew. It is slightly disorientating, and adds to the disturbing nature, making the scream more effective, even though it lacks sound. In addition by starting the film with this shot it creates a sense of shock which further enhances the scream. Lastly, though it is barely in the clip, the credits of this film have the influence of German Expressionism, with a shadowy figure framed with angular shapes. The intertitle 'Murder' with it's flashing back and forth block lettering is not a normal, simple text intertitle, and is sensational and dramatic.
  7. 1. Do you see the beginnings of the "Hitchcock touch" in this sequence? Yes. First, there is the use of camera/film techniques that visually (and sometimes humorously) aid in the storytelling. Such as the shot of the man using binoculars to stare more closely at the girls' legs. The out of focus shot which changes to a close up is an effect to illustrate this, but it is also a point-of-view shot, which is a Hitch trademark. The moving camera - the use of a camera to tell the story through visual means, which is necessary in silent films but is carried on throughout Hitch's career. His use of humor is a signature touch.. the man smoking in front of a no smoking sign is humor, but it also is storytelling, as it demonstrates that this is a man in power, who is above the rules of everyone else. The humor of the girl handing the man a clump of her hair when he compliments it is Hitchcock humor. Very black. 2. Do you agree or disagree with Strauss, Yacowar, and Spoto assessments that this sequence contains elements, themes, or approaches that we will see throughout Hitchcock's 50-year career? Yes! Right off the bat we get the first Hitchcock blonde. She is the first girl in close up, and the gentleman's obsession with her parallels Hitch's own 'obsession' with blonds, though I am told he downplayed this in interviews. I also find it amusing the segment about her curls, when i think of Hitch's first great film 'The Lodger' which had the slogan 'Golden Curls' and the killer who targeted blondes. Also we get the cinematic approach Hitch uses most throughout his career: Showing an observer, followed by a point-of-view of what the observer sees. The gentlemen shown watching the chorus line, then their view of the girls - the gentleman shown using binoculars, then the view of the girl as he sees her; this cinematic approach Hitch uses right through to his final film. 3. Since this is a silent film, do you feel there were any limitations on these opening scenes due to the lack of synchronous spoken dialogue? Yes, and no. From silent film Hitch learned and mastered the technique he would so often use of telling a story visually. Yet at the same time, people need to remember Hitch used sound to great effect. Even in an early film (Blackmail 1929) a woman is focusing on a knife before her. The conversation to which she is not really paying attention slowly drowns out, except for whenever the word 'knife' is spoken, which becomes louder and more frequent. So I am sure there could have been sound techniques used in 'The Pleasure Garden' which may have further enhanced the scene.
  8. I see Anchorman as more of a satire than a spoof or parody. Allen's Bananas was a conceptual parody with it taking elements of a genre and putting them into different settings (like taking a supply raid and setting it in a sandwich shop). Young Frankenstein was a loving parody of the classic Universal monster movies. ZAZ was a zany parody of spy thrillers with it's visual puns and verbal gags. Anchorman however, isn't really a parody or spoof because there is no real genre of TV reporter movies. There are many reporter films, like His Girl Friday, Deadline U.S.A., and Five Star Final, but Anchorman isn't spoofing those. It isn't making references to archetypal scenes or concepts from a genre. Rather, it seems to be a satire on self-absorption, ambition, and sexual discrimination of the 70s, with its modern applicability. There are of course references to 70's fashion, but it is mostly a satire. A parody or spoof of the Investigative Genre would be closer to parts of Hudsucker Proxy, and the 1978 Superman movie, with their exaggerated depiction of archetypal elements from the Reporter Genre. The Cameos elevate the scene into an event. It becomes larger than life. This plays into the gag when it suddenly cuts back to Ron in an office saying 'Boy, did that escalate quickly' as if he were telling a story, and you aren't quite sure if it really happened. When I watched anchorman all i could think of was John C Reilly from Boogy Nights, which was set in the same time period. I wonder if it had any influence on Farrell. Of course Only Farrell knows what influenced him. Someone on this board mentioned Chevy Chase, and I can see that comparison as well.
  9. Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein was made at the end of Universal Studios run of monster movies. It was as if there was nowhere else to go but comedy. In that way it is different from Young Frankenstein, because the latter could look back with nostalgia at the classic films, and parody it. Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein was just that - a meeting of two current genres: An Abbot & Costello film and a Universal Monster movie. I have only seen parts of Anchorman, but it seems to be more of a satire of certain attitudes of that era of the 70's (such as sexual discrimination, self-absorption, and ambition), It doesn't seem to spoof a genre.
  10. The Naked Gun (and Police Squad, the show it is based on) take traditional elements of the Police Drama format and turn them on their head: The cop quickly pulling into the parking spot - in this case he always hits something, like the garbage can The cop getting results from forensics - in this case the gag with the microscope, walking around the set wall, etc. The cop voice over - in this case relating calm information as the chaos of the car gags are in the background. The cop getting a new device - in this case the swiss army shoe and cuff link darts. The series, and the films, take every convention of the classic Police TV format and make ridiculous jokes out of them. ZAZ's approach to spoof is similar to Brooks in that they each take iconic elements and make jokes about them. In Young Frankenstein Brooks spoofs the mad scientists laboratory, the inevitable secret passage, the Inspector's wooden arm, the Monster carrying away the bride, the angry mob - all archetypal things. Similarly in Naked Gun ZAZ spoofs the archetypal elements of the police show. ZAZ however tends to differ from Brooks in that the jokes are often visual puns, and visual word jokes. In a Police Squad Drebin says 'Sergant take her away and book her.' only for us to see he is introducing Sergeant Takeraway and Sergeant Booker. In Top secret a chase in an opera house ends in the prop room, only it's propeller props not stage props. In Airplane the air traffic controller wants 'every light poured out onto that field!', only to show a dump truck dumping lamps onto the field. In another episode of Police Squad they go out into the Japanese garden, only to see Japanese people in large flowerpots. These are all visual puns. ZAZ will often use an iconic element in an absurd way. The standard 'tape marking the position of the dead body', yet it's floating in the water because the person drowned. The standard shoot out between cop and criminal, yet the camera pulls back to see they are only 5 feet away from each other. Brooks does these sometimes too, but not usually as often or extreme. The night deposit slot for brains at the brain depository is a good example of something I would expect out of a ZAZ movie. I never thought of it til now but there is a similarity between Clouseau and Drebin. Both are bumblers who succeed despite their bumbling. The difference is Nielson plays Drebin more straight, whereas Sellers plays Clouseau as a more comical character.
  11. Bananas was the only Woody Allen film I have seen other than Manhattan. Of course in Manhattan the comedy (and drama) was more emotional (and cerebral) so it was a experience seeing this earlier, wilder film. But I could see elements of the latter in parts of Bananas, like during the early scenes of Allen and the girl together. Young Frankenstein is a film you can't say enough about. It is an almost perfect film, and I would say it is definitely one of the top five comedies ever made. It's up there with Strangelove. The Three Musketeers (and The Four Musketeers) are wonderful films and blend slapstick, adventure, romance and drama so magnificently. What is unusual about the slapstick in the film is it makes it more realistic, in my opinion, which is the opposite of what you would expect slapstick to do in a film. In most swashbucklers, the fighting and action is choreographed, and meant to be as suave, daring, and as graceful as possible. Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone go at each other as master fencers, and though the action is may at times seem frenetic, it always comes off as if no one could have done it better. But the fights and the action in the Musketeers movies is often clumsy, awkward, and messy. People trip on things, slip and fall, bump into things, swing and miss, and tire. The effect is to make the fighting realistic, while at the same time funny. The fight at the laundry is a good example. Slipping on the wet surfaces, hitting people with wet sheets... this is unlike the graceful action you would normally see in a swashbuckling film.
  12. Young Frankenstein parodies the classic Universal Monster movies very well. This clip is a parody of scenes we see in many films, where the scientist is first seen demonstrating his expertise: performing an operation, or an experiment, or lecturing a class. Think of Dr Waldman's lecture at the college in Frankenstein. He discusses with his students the difference between a normal and abnormal brain. It is often the case that the scientist in such horror films are introduced in this manner, and that is how Froderick Frankenstein is introduced to us. The film moves between broad slapstick (the knee to the nuts, the scalpel in the thigh) and the subtle bits of comedy (giving Mr Hilltop a treat as if he were a performing animal) Throughout the film there is both wild slapstick (the 'Sedagive' choking, the girl flying from the seesaw to her bed, the Inspector's wooden arm) and more subtle comedy (Froderick trying to say goodbye to his wife without touching her hair or taffeta dress, 'pardon me boy, is this the Transylvania Station?). This film HAD to be shot in Black and White, to give us the feel of the old Universal horror films, which were all in Black and White. It was part of the mood of those films, which needs to be recreated here for the jokes to work. For example, the mob slowly moving through the foggy forest, and one of them bumps into a tree which he cant see because of the fog. The mood of that scene has to work so the joke can break the mood. Brooks even went so far as to shoot in the same lenses, and used Kenneth Strickfadden's electrical props.
  13. The scene is a parody of a couple things: First, it is a parody of a war film which often has a scene where a group goes on a raid. In this case rather than a covert attempt to raid a warehouse or steal supplies from a town, he goes to the sandwich shop. Secondly, it is a parody of an ordinary sandwich shop scene, which we see in hundreds of movies. But in this instance he he placing an order for 1000 men. The humor of the joke is first in the specifics of the order ("One of those is on a roll") and secondly in the casual way the shop owner takes the order, as if it is nothing unusual. Visual slapstick is in the wheelbarrows of cole slaw, and the hundreds of bagged lunches. Also, in the shot of guerrillas at gunpoint watching over a lunch delivery. The Great Race played it's comedy within the reality of its genre. It took genre events - pie fights, races, bar brawls, etc. and did them in comical ways. In the Bananas scene, It took an idea (raiding for food) and conceptualized it as another event - ordering lunch. Had Bananas used the style of the great race, we would have stayed within the genre (war film) but made the raid comical.
  14. I believe the time of the film was 1908. So that is around the time women were fighting for the right to vote, which they got in 1920. In the Great Race Maggie and Mrs. Goodbody were suffragettes, which is a movement of the silent era which also paralleled the sixties women's rights movement. So the film reflects the ideas when it was made while also echoing back to the times of the silent era. It does not really predate the era of silent film, rather it is set at the beginning of that era. We saw the first silent film in our studies was 1896 and Keystone Studio was founded in 1912, and Chaplin started with them in 1914, but D.W. Griffith started making films in 1908. To me the film seems a bit later, despite the time stated, because of the style of the cars. I cant imagine cars in 1908 as sophisticated as the Leslie Special. I could be wrong. But it would seem to be closer to mid to late teens in that sense. I wonder if they were trying to put it BEFORE World War I, because you couldn't have a race across France during that time period, so you couldn't set it from 1914-1918 for that reason.
  15. The Great Race is not only an homage to classic slapstick, it is set in the time period of the beginning of slapstick, taking place around the time of Keystone and Chaplin, between 1910s and 1920's. It harkens to the days of early cinema even in the credits with the hissing and booing of the bad guy, and the cheering of the good guy, and the time period music played on the piano, just as a piano would accompany silent cinema. It feels like a live action cartoon, I would say clearly more Road Runner than Bullwinkle. We see Fate continuously trying to thwart Leslie with devices and contraptions that could have ACME written on them - crossbows, guided missiles, mini dirigibles, and mini submarines. The whole beginning segment plays out almost like a Road Runner cartoon. The cartoonishness of the bush moving, the hand cranked crossbow missile, and the balloon falling on Fate and Max is right out of Road Runner. It is an homage to earlier slapstick in its clear delineation of good guys and bad guys. You could watch that clip with no sound - as a silent film - and still get the gags. Edwards depicts the Great Leslie all in white, dashing, handsome, charming, daring, brave, and loved by women. The comical bit of the glinting of his teeth is great. Even his name is 'Great'. Professor Fate is the iconic early villain. He is all in black, with twirling mustache, cape, and is angry and spiteful. Even his name 'Fate' conjures up something foreboding. These types of characters are iconic in early cinema (the time setting of the film). Think of 1914's The Perils of Pauline, for example.
  16. The Great Race was an homage to the old slapstick films. It presented a clear good guy (all in white) and clear bad guy (all in black, with the mustache twisting). Running with that was a modern element - the equality of women - which was big in the 1960's but also echoed back to the 20's with the suffragette movement. Even the credits, with hissing and cheering, seemed to recall the old days. The pie fight (and the bar room brawl) are iconic slapstick things which it payed tribute to, and tried to out do. The running gag of Leslie remaining immaculate throughout the fight is one of the things that makes it different. The very colorful pies was another thing that made it fresh. The pie fight could still be used even 10 years later (Blazing Saddles) in still fresh ways. Hedly, fleeing from the good guys, walks in on a huge pie fight. He quickly ducks back behind the door, and comes out again with pie on his face as a disguise! A very funny gag. So you can see how comics keep coming up with new twists on old gags.
  17. OMG Where to begin. A Shot in the Dark is IMO the best of the Pink Panther Movies. This clip is loaded with funny bits from beginning to end. I will start at the beginning. Clouseau is in love with Maria Gambrelli (suspected of murder) so he is uptight when questioning Monsieur Ballon, Maria's lover. The fumbling of words (rit of fealous jage) is not just funny as a Spoonerism, but because we know Clouseau is terribly jealous himself. He wrings the pool cue and is visibly agitated as he speaks. This is contrasted with the suave, calm George Sanders as Ballon. What's also funny about his agitation is that he doesn't realize how he is behaving. The next gag (pool cue) is funny if you see it in context. He has already made a few shots with it, to great comic effect, either missing the ball completely or sending it flying in the air. So THIS time he gives a side look before shooting as if to say 'NOW I know how to make a shot) and turns the cue over, giving a subtle take with the eyes before shooting to say 'NOW watch me hit the ball' The side look and the eye take are brilliant comic acting. Then, his reaction upon ripping the table is great. He is wonderfully nervous and uses the word 'grazed' which is underestimating the damage. [NOTE: I saw some posters suggest Clouseau warped the cue himself when he wrung it, but the cue was warped when Ballon gave it to him. Ballon gave him the warped cue as a joke on Clouseau (and as a commentary of his own opinion of Clouseaua] Third gag is the pool cue stand. This is great because Sellers Brilliantly prolongs his discombobulation with all the cues and drags it out, keeping it funny the whole time. Another funny element is that Clouseau is indignant, some how suggesting it is the pool rack's fault and not his own clumsiness. This leads to the final gag, where he exits into the wall. Sellers plays this beautifully, and sells the gag as completely believable and natural. Again he is indignant, and blames the architect (?!) rather than acknowledge his own tremendous clumsiness. The crescendo of events up to walking into the wall is what makes him so flustered that he could do anything so absurd. A great clip, and funny from beginning to end. The key characteristics of Clouseau are that he is bumbling, inept, and clumsy, yet he doesn't see himself that way. He thinks he is effective - he thinks his is a great detective. Whenever he does a scheme, like going undercover, he is completely ridiculous, fooling no one, yet he never realizes his own failings. The running gag throughout all the films is that in the end he succeeds DESPITE his clumsy, inept nature. He avoids multiple assassination attempts by sheer miraculous luck. he manages to catch the crooks the same way. Clouseau has a different take on the cop. In the Keystone Cop films and other silent films of the era, all the cops are of the same nature. In the Pink Panther films, ONLY Clouseau is a bumbling idiot. Dreyfuss, though eventually driven crazy, is very competent. Other police realize Clouseau is a clutz, but have to deal with him. The funny part is Clouseau ultimately succeeds in his cases despite his own ineptness, so he is given all these cases. Also, the 'Keystone Cop' in silent films was a 2 dimensional character - a simple bad guy or gag man. Clouseau is a 3 dimensional character, that we relate to, laugh at, but ultimately care about.
  18. Color adds to the comedy in many ways. Subtly, the light of the candle drew my attention to it, showing the wax dripping off at a slant which is a funny bit. In n the end Lucy falling into the mud is made funnier by contrasting her pink pajamas with the brown of the mud. The film is shot cinematically, which contrasts with TV. We start with a shot of Lucy, which pulls back, and moves to frame on a two shot. Though subtle, it is a more complex shot than one would see in early TV. We also have reverse angle cutting common to film, whereas TV at the time was shot more frontally, without the back and forth over-the-shoulders. I Love Lucy was shot with three cameras for a live audience. In the film, the reverse shot's foreground is a bit out of focus (side view of Lucy, and back of Ricky) whereas in TV both would be in focus because it was shot differently. The cinematography is also much better than in TV. We have a night scene, with candle light, and it looks beautiful. We see the cuts between outside (the Jack) and inside (the bedroom). TV sitcoms stayed within the room or set. Also, the settings of film comedy were larger than you would find in a sitcom. 98% of a sitcom takes place on their set - usually a set of a few rooms - whereas a film can be on the road, going from one location to another. Lucy contributed a great deal to comedy, and especially slapstick comedy. Who can ever forget the candy factory scene, which is now iconic. Minelly could use her physicality in the clip, trying to stay upright in a slanted cabin, falling out of the bed, and eventually falling backward into a pool of mud.
  19. It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was an epic comedy, and the cameos in that film were great. I disagree that a cameo is a person playing themselves. While the Jack Benny may have been, most of the other cameos weren't. Rather, they were cameos where the actor played a typical type associated with themselves: Don Knotts as the nervous guy, Three Stooges as firemen (the Three Stooges comedies often featured them in various trades, like plumbers etc.), and Jerry Lewis as the crazy driver. They weren't playing themselves as much as they were playing a type of character they would usually play. Also there are often other elements besides the actors themselves which are associated with cameos. In the Three Stooges cameo we saw in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, we heard musically a three note riff which is from their theme song, three blind mice. in E.T. when we see a trick-or-treater as Yoda, we hear a bit of the Star Wars music. Also, an item can make a cameo. In Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, Indy and the girl are in an underground passage. She sees a drawing and Indy explains it is the Ark, which is clearly a cameo calling back to the first film. Again we have a musical riff. Perhaps even a setting or concept can be a cameo. In The Spy Who Loved Me, when they are traveling across the dunes in the desert, the music for Lawrence of Arabia plays boldly. At that moment we laugh, and think 'Lawrence of Arabia'. Yet when the moment is gone we see there is nothing else to connect it with that movie, and it effects the plot in no way. It is not really a spoof. So is that a type of cameo? I would suggest that is a type of cameo. A familiar thing from another film to make us laugh or show recognition. Sometimes cameos are obvious, as in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and sometimes they are like easter eggs - something hidden and to be discovered. Most of Hitchcock's cameos are the latter - it might be a quick walk by (Vertigo), a picture in a Newspaper someone is reading (Lifeboat), his famous silhouette in neon (Rope), or a man standing in a crowd (Frenzy).
  20. I have never seen a Jaques Tati film, so i really can only guess his character from this short clip alone. To me, he seems to be a kind, gentle, friendly and patient man. We see him giving a gift to the girl who obviously wanted a tomato, we see him interacting pleasantly with the neighbors. As he walks up the labyrinth of steps and hallways to his apartment, he does so with a calm, patient manner. The adjustment of the window is funny because it is only after a bit that we realize he is trying to give the bird below some sunlight. At first we have no idea why he is fussing with the window. He kindly takes the sticky candy from the girl and acts pleasant about it to her, though he obviously doesn't really want it. So i would say he is kind, patient, gentle, and mild mannered. The style of the house - the labyrinth of stairs and walkways - is of course absurd and comical. The design is clever because the windows and spaces allow us to see his progress on the inside from the outside, all in one master shot. We see him almost the entire way, and when he disappears he pops back up somewhere else in a comical way. It reminded me of a Rube Goldberg device, in that you progress through seemingly useless complexity simply to get from one point to another.
  21. Abbot & Costello's verbal style differed from the Marx Brothers in the fact that Bud was a straight man, but also was a power figure over Lou. He was gruff, criticizing, disapproving - he was always giving Lou a hard time. Lou was always bumbling and getting into situations. That dynamic between the two was consistent throughout their careers. That meant Bud would often set up the joke and Lou would give the punchline as in: "That's the bunk!" (Bud scolding) "That;s what I'm trying to tell you. That's his bunk!" (Lou's punchline) This also meant that the content of the verbal slapstick was often in the form of an strong figure questioning, commenting, criticizing and a bumbling figure explaining and excusing himself. Groucho and Chico (and Harpo) were more on an even playing field, and none of them played the straight man, they were all three funny men. So they would be quipping back and forth between themselves. I would disagree with Wes Ghering's comment that today's comedians lack 'taste [and] timing". As for taste, remember that slapstick itself was considered crude and unsophisticated - pies in the face, pratfalls, falling into rain barrels, pants falling down, etc. I think most bloggers here would consider Blazing Saddles a comic masterpiece, but there are jokes in it that are quite crude (consider the whole farting sequence). Mel Brooks once responded to this in an interview: What do you say to your critics who say your movies are in bad taste? Brooks: Up yours! One of the characteristics of comedy is that it pushes the envelope, and often faces things we find uncomfortable. As for timing, I think that still exists today. In the 70's you have Monty Python. Their routines have Impeccable timing. Go to the 80's and we have Murray, Aykroyd, and Ramis in Ghostbusters. Fantastic timing. Or how about Clue (1985), or The Big Lebowski (1998). I think the comic timing in these films is great. The sitcom has become the place for comic routines nowadays, and these are often played to studio audiences. It's true we see less of it today in the movies. But even today, I'm watching Ash Vs. The Evil Dead (2015) and the quips in there still rely on timing. [after dramatically shoving crosses in the ground at some graves] You knew they were Jewish, right? I-I did not... Wish you could have said something before I made those dumb crosses, but... Perhaps most of the comic routines that require timing have moved to TV, but I think it's still alive. Abbot & Costello's biggest contribution to visual and verbal slapstick is their now famous dynamic of the gruff and the bumbling. It is similar to Laurel and Hardy but much stronger. It became so you could put that dynamic in any situation and let it play out.
  22. Lloyd again shows his style to be a more normal person, and we can relate to him being enamored of a celebrity. He takes what we would do in the situation - probably constantly looking at the rear view mirror - and exaggerates it by actually turning around. The projection screen stuff matches up pretty well, selling the gag. And Babe Ruth comes of genuinely flustered. Brown fishing through the puddle is great. What can you say about Leslie Nielson? That gag keeps going on and on too. I think the next one he starts yelling 'STEEEE-RIKE!!' before the ball even goes over the plate. The TV show on which it was based, Police Squad, is fantastic. Some of their routines are on par with 'who's on first': [Captain and Drebin are interviewing a witness to a stick up] Sally: Well, when I first heard the shot, and as I turned, Jim fell. Captain: He's the teller, Frank. Drebin: Jim Fell's the teller? Sally: No, Jim Johnson. Drebin: Who's Jim Fell? Captain: He's the auditor, Frank. Sally: He had the flu, so Jim filled in. Drebin: Phil who? Captain: Phil Din. He's the night watchman. Sally [crying] If only Phil had been here! Drebin: Wait a minute, let me get this straight: Twice came in and shot the teller and Jim Fell. Sally: No, he only shot the teller, Jim Johnson. Fell is ill. Drebin: Okay, then after he shot the teller, you shot Twice. Sally: No, I only shot once. Captain: Twice is the hold up man. Sally: Then I guess I did shoot Twice. Drebin: Oh, so now you're changing your story. Sally: No, I shot Twice after Jim fell. Drebin: You shot twice and Jim Fell? Sally: No, Jim fell first and then I shot Twice once. Drebin: Well, who fired twice? Sally: Once! Captain: He's the owner of the tire company, Frank.
  23. I found the comedy in the Charlie Chase more situational. There wasn't a verbal sparring or clever dialogue skit. He talked out of the side of his mouth from the situation, and talked funny to the Pip when she comes up behind him, but there was no verbal routine or play on words. The Marx Brothers seem to have a lot of sparring between people. Sometimes between Groucho and Chico, sometimes between a Marx Brother and a straight man. But the comedy comes from the back and fourth - the way one responds to the other. W.C. Fields the comedy is all on him and what he says, much of which is an aside to himself (and the audience). He is often commenting on the world around him. Some of the things Alan Dale used to describe visual slapstick are here with Fields: - the sarcastic aside (sounds like a bubble in a bathtub), - orotundity (his manner of speaking), - one-liners (You'll have to Vaseline this place),
  24. The Marx Brothers scene does fit the definition of verbal slapstick: -the comeback that turns the first speaker's words around, insipid verbosity that turns the speaker's own words against himself (all this talk of first party second party etc). -one-liners (that's why I didn't say anything) -puns (you should have been at the first party) -outrageous metaphors (long arms = baboon) -malapropisms (sanity clause / Santa Claus) -foreign accents (Chico's exaggerated Italian accent). there are some subtle characteristic gags, such as the double take, which Groucho uses. The double take is a common visual gag which adds an extra zing to the line it follows. The exaggeration comes from the idea that 'legalese' is always verbose, overly complicated, and often incomprehensible. I wouldn't say it is physical at all - not enough to be 'slapstick' It is ritualistic in the common idea that contract reading is confusing for everyone. Because it is not physical or violent, there is no need for 'make believe' to assure the audience no one was really hurt.
  25. First time seeing Charley Chase The comedy does match the criteria for slapstick, but it is not as extreme as we saw in the silents. We see exaggeration in the reactions to the squirting water, and in the body language when the Pip comes up to Chase. This exaggeration also includes exaggeration of sound, in the Pip's highly flighty talk and Chase saying 'Amy McPhoison'. We also see the exaggeration in the beginning as Chase tries to talk sideways so as not to show her his breath. It's physical - the squirting water, the shaving scene - but still not as extreme as we might see in a Chaplin short. We would expect a bigger reaction to the water squirt from Chaplin. The water gag is repetitive, shaving is ritualistic - taking something we do every day but putting it into a weird situation. Make believe is the water that always seems to hit his eye, not his mouth, until he tries to get it in his eye knowing it will then hit his mouth. This is almost breaking the 4th wall. Chase is telling us he knows it's a gag, but he can outwit it. As for violence, the squirting water is the closest we get. I think chase does have an element of exasperation. The whole scene is in a larger sense. 'How can i clean myself up?' Sound is used comically in a few ways. The 'squirt' sound of the water, the funny way of talking and saying 'McPhoison' instead of 'McPherson'. Music had little to do. It was just there in the background.
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