Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (J. Lee Thompson, 1972)

"Tonight, we have seen the birth of the Planet of the Apes!"


By this stage, in the fourth Planet of the Apes film, it seems that the producers knew where they were going. They knew how the 'circle' was due to wrap up the story of the apes. But, a sequel without a single character from the previous installments (except Senor Armando) was always going to be difficult. Considering the previous two films ended with very little hope, it is clear by this point that 'hope' and 'optimism' is not a theme of these films. Indeed, every lead protaganist generally dies at end of the film they lead - except Taylor who 'tops' this by destroying the earth entire. In terms of connecting this film with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, at the very least, we now meet the original 'Ceasar' - Cornelius and Zira's child. Played by Roddy McDowell, he is now one of the few actors alongside Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future Part II, who has portrayed both the Father and Son of a character - in this case both Cornelius and Ceasar.

Writing on the Wall? Does the Timeline fit?

The opening credits shows how the world has changed. It is 1991, almost 20 years since the end of the previous film. During those twenty-years, due to 'something' from space which the apes brought with them, all the dogs and cats were wiped out - and so humans began to keep apes as pets, before realising how well they adapted and learned, consequently turning the animals into slaves. As mentioned in the analysis for Escape from The Planet of the Apes, the slavery-theme becomes to come to the fore in this film.

Ceasar, child of Cornelius and Zira, has been raised by a circus-trainer - the only returning 'character' from a previous film. Again, though this is the same story as Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but set within a different timeline, so there are slight differences. The set-up is in accordance to the previous films, but ultimately Ceasar leads the apes and leads the rise of the apes to ensure their survival for the future.

Silence is Golden

In addition to progressing the story further, we also revisit themes which were previously established. Again, like Taylor in Planet of the Apes and Cornelius and Zira in Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Ceasar has already established the neccessity of his silence. Still, apes do not speak, so his talking will only resurrect the fears humans had with Cornelius and Zira.

The abuse and treatment of the apes is horrific - they are beaten and forced to act as slaves to their master: humans. As the only animal to speak, Ceasar can verbalise the frustration and anger the apes hold. A voice to speak out against the attrocities is what people need - as clearly, silence and standing-by, is letting the abuse continue. Again, remember that this is a film in 70's and, a sympathetic character is MacDonald (Hari Rhodes) who is African-American. Personally, I think the parrallel is clear enough without a specific confrontation between Ceasar and MacDonald, whereby this parrallel is clearly acknowledged:

MacDonald: Caesar... Caesar! This is not how it was meant to be.
Caesar: In your view or mine?
MacDonald: Violence prolongs hate, hate prolongs violence. By what right are you spilling blood?
Caesar: By the slave's right to punish his persecutor.
MacDonald: I, a decedent of slaves am asking you to show humanity.
Caesar: But, I was not born human.
MacDonald: I know. The child of the evolved apes.
Caesar: Whose children shall rule the earth.
MacDonald: For better or for worse?
Caesar: Do you think it could be worse?

The Future, 1991

In terms of future, they didn't go too far in showing flying-cars and hoverboards. It seems that according to the production team, minimalism is what we hope for - and, in fairness, ipods and smartphones are all about small, compact devices. But, unfortunately, TV's in circular-glass screens - though possible - haven't really taken off, whilst spinning-walls for minimalist decor hasn't really set the world on fire. I'm always interested in what people 'think' the future will be like and they don't go too far in this film and therefore, it doesn't become too much of a distraction.

Second Speech

To conclude the film, there is clearly a different ending attached on for the sake of censors. Before even researching the issue, it is clear that old footage is used and shots from a perspective that doesn't show mouth-movement is re-used to create a second speech.

As we know from the sacred scrolls, the first word uttered by an ape is 'No' and, this is what separates the two speeches. Originally, the film was due to end as villain Breck (Don Murray) and all the humans are beaten to death by the apes and the film abruptly ends as Ceasar looks on. Instead, Chimp 'Lisa' (not Aldo, as dictated by the scrolls) utters the word 'No', and Ceasar - strangely - changes his view:

"But now... now we will put away out hatred. Now we will put down our weapons..."
Blah, blah. Apes and humans might get on in the future. Semi-optimistic ending - not in-keeping with the incredibly pessimistic depiction of humans and negative-ending all the films have shown so far.

The problem with this film is the scale. It is the apes taking-over the Ape management building, when it should be the apes dominating the earth! This restricted the scale and kept the story quite small - the fate of the planet did not seem to be at stake. Where was the army? Or any further support. No discussion of simply nuking the area? Considering the nuclear theme so far. It is limited further by most scenes taking place at night, in car parks and clearly within small spaces spaces. It is 'of-its-time' I guess and, when you watch Rise of the Planet of the Apes you see what they would've shown if they had the budget and scale neccessary. Roddy McDowell clearly shows an unhinged character, losing his grip on trusting humanity and the inconsistent ending is a real shame which, again, is not the case in Rise of the Planet of the Apes - as Ceasar faces-off against a huge army of enemies alongside a virus, which we see in the post-credits sequence, affects the rest of the earth.

Like all the films, great profound points and interesting subtext is littered throughout, but the small-scale and limited-production - with an alternative 'postive' ending - knocks the film down a few pegs. But, the Taylor-Timeline of the Planet of the Apes saga isn't over yet - the final Battle for the Planet of the Apes awaits us ...

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Weekly Review: 27/05/2012

A weekly round-up of what I have been watching, listening to and discussing. Inspired by Ryan's 'Days of the Week' posts, this is a bit more all-encompassing as I think my interest in cinema and art crosses over and between a variety of sources...

A very busy week, marking all the GCSE art work. Then in the later stages, finishing off Spiderman films, beginning the Men In Black films (for The Prepared Podcasts) and I have finished huge tasks: Completed my viewing of the 15-hour documentary of The Story of Film and finished reading the epic Christopher Finch classic: The Art of Walt Disney. Good times

Highlight of the Week:

The Art of Walt Disney: From Mickey Mouse to the Magic Kingdoms and Beyond - by Christopher Finch - I started reading this book months ago but because of how heavy and the size of the book, I could only read it at home. I couldn't read it on a train, thats for sure. Finally though, I have completed the epic book. The last couple of chapters are the toughest as the chronological history changes. Initially, the book covers animation from the Mickey and Silly Symphonies and straight up to Tangled. Then a chapter on Pixar exclusively. Then on the live-action films - including Mary Poppins, Song of the South and the Pirates of the Carribbean films before finishing with a chapter on the theme parks. I have never visited a theme park and, if I'm perfectly honest, it is the animation I love about Disney so these final chapters were a little dull. But the book as a whole is incredibly comprehensive - the only flaw may be how it seems, by the end, as a big advertisement with a little bit lacking in the critical-side. The choice to turn to sequels to make money - and sequelising the original classics - is not even mentioned. But, as an official book it has unprecedented access to the archives with stunning photographs, animation cells and artist background-drawings.


Spider-Man 2 - Yes, the moody shadows make this better than the first. Doc Ock too is a much more interesting villain than Dafoe's Goblin.

Spider-Man 3 - Yes, it is fundamentally flawed because its dealing with a [fascinating] dark subject matter [in a very literal-sense] and trying to balance it with the playful tone of the previous two films.

Men In Black - One of those films I could quote endlessly: "Give me more sugar ... in water ... ... more ... more"

Men In Black II - Sequel Excess. More bad-guys, more SFX and more gadgets. And a convuluted plot.


The BeeGees - Monday started off trragically as Robin Gibb passed away. I listened to a bunch of their tracks and they are brilliant: Night Fever and Stayin' Alive are the go-to classics but I really love the eighties tracks like Islands in the Stream, You Win Again and Alone. A great loss.

SlashFilm Podcast - Interestingly Adam Quigley watched Redline. It comes as no suprise that he 'loved it'. His mental taste in film continues to amaze me - as interesting as the film is, its completely incoherant (as you can see from my review). He recommended it to Dave Chen, so I'd be very interested in his opinion...

Also, discussion on Community seemed a bit bland as all the hosts ignored how unprepared and problematic Dan Harmon was during Season 3. As a producer, who is funding the programme, what else would you do?

TV/Theatre/Art Galleries/Books/Misc

Walt Disney Book - See Above

Community - The end of the first season is so strong, I have already purchased the second season on itunes. an episode sending up Goodfellas and The Godfather, whilst the infamous 'paintballing episode' had me giving a big belly laugh as soon as Troy acknowledges Jeff Winger's prescence: "Jeff Winger - you son-of-a-bitch" 

The Story of Film - I have realised that, the period when you have been alive and udnerstand clearly the context of the films release, you can engage much better with the documentary. David Lynch, Spike Lee, Jane Campion, Gus Van Sant amongst many others have all been added to my to-watch list. And I should watch Russian Ark too I guess.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Escape From The Planet Of The Apes (Don Taylor, 1971)

"By the time the plague was contained, man was without pets. Of course, for man this was intolerable. I mean, he might kill his brother, but he could not kill his dog!"


The world has been destroyed. How on earth can a franchise continue? In the third installment, of course, three apes managed to escape the blast. Any evidence to support this? Any mention of how this was possible? Not really, but at least we continue the story about apes Cornelius (Roddy McDowell reprising his role) and Zira (Kim Hunter). These were the Apes which protected Taylor and Brent - but did not feature in the climax of Beneath the Planet of the Apes ... because they were fixing and setting off in Taylors old spaceship. If I was in their position, when another English-speaking human appeared, I would've mentioned it to him because he could've helped out fixing the ship. At any rate, it flips the story round, and now we have the Apes as the alien, and the earth the enemy...

Presidential Comittee

Set in 1973, two years after the year of release, the apes land and initially appear as astronaut - until they take their helmets off. They remain silent because humans may see them as a threat. Outspoken Zira cannot ignore her feelings and its not long before the role-reversal starting point of the film takes a left turn and the apes and humans communicate happily in English - the language that 'everyone' speaks. Indeed, the apes know no other language.

Zira and Cornelius are questioned by the presidential committee and, initially reluctant, the Apes manage to talk happily about their experiences - but hold back vital information which may incriminate them. Vitally, their knowledge of Taylor and Brent - and the destruction of the Earth. The apes know they are from the future and the knowledge that earth will be destroyed is not something you want to discuss when you first arrive on earth. Instead, following the committee, Zira and Cornelius become celebrities. They change their clothes, begin to enjoy 'grape-juice' and our world begins to influence who they are. Except one man doesn't trust them - namely Dr. Otto Hasslein (Eric Braeden).

The True Rise of the Apes

If, like me, you are watching these films post-viewing of Rise of The Planet of the Apes, then you could argue that the story becomes inconsistent. The sacred-scrolls are what dictated the history of the apes and we see that they are now attempting to loop the time-warp element, as if the child of Zira and Cornelius became the first ape, raised on earth, to begin the dominance of the planet by apes. Cornelius expains how the first word uttered was 'No', whilst apes also began to understand the "concept of slavery". Unlike the first two films, whereby it seemed to be subtext regarding religion and blind-faith, this film begins to set-up a subtext regarding racism, and specifically associating this with slavery and thus, racism against people of either African or Carribbean descent. This is much more overt in the fourth film, but it is set-up here.

This is further explored as we see a fear amongst others of something they do not understand. Akin to David Lynch's The Elephant Man, the apes become treated like circus attractions - whereby parties are held in their hotel room and others joke and, to some extent, mock them. We are even introduced to the use of the term 'monkeys' - and how this is offensive. Most importantly, we can see the distrust Zira begins to hold towards all human - through the actions of the few. That fear and distrust works both ways - and it is understanding and honesty which ensures change.

The rise of the apes, in terms of the 'original' rise, was only turned into a film last year and these first five-films all show the consequences of Taylor's time-warp and visit to the Planet of the Apes. Zira and Cornelius are starting a different time-period by arriving on earth in 1973, which we see more-of in the next film. The 'Scared Scrolls' are semi-accurate documents about the beginning and, much like th New Testament, there are discrepencies which, in and of themselves, prove certain truths. In fairness, all of the information Cornelius recalls is in accordance to what is eventually shown in Wyatt's Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Destructive Humans

The crux of this film is established later in the film. Initially we are simply keen ot see where the apes visit will lead - and how it will affect earth. And, simply through his sinister looks, we know we cannot trust Dr Hasslein. But his actions are much more confusing, as he realises that the earth will be destroyed in 2000 years - and (a) wholly believes it without question and (b) decides to 'protect' the earth from the destruction ... in 2000 years. The only solution is to kill the unborn child Zira is carrying (advertised on the poster as Milo ... but is named Ceasar in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes). Hasslein, again, represents the destructive nature of the human-race - whilst a fleeting visit to a circus (a clear connection to the 'circus-nature' of the Apes visit to earth) and Senor Armando, show the humanity in the human-race. I have a hard time truly believing in Hasslein's cause - as I simply don't believe in the apparent neccessity to protect a future 2000 years ahead. Who says a different future cannot be established? This is indeed covered in Battle for the Planet of the Apes, but at this point, Dr Hasslein actively, as a lone-gunman, hunts down the Ape-stronauts, to stop a future he will never witness.

In closing, as usual with these films, we need to end on an incredibly pessimistic note: Zira, Cornelius and the baby she holds are all shot and killed by Hasslein - before he himself is shot. A crane - or is helicopter? - shows the massacre. But these themes and attitudes are what place these films higher in credability than your average B-Movie Sci-Fi film. The stories present the deepest, darkest elements of mankind and how, using the Apes, our treatment of others needs to improve dramatically. But we do have a great progression to the story now as Senor Armando has a young speaking-Ape which he will raise himself. Naming the ape Ceasar.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Bambi (Various Directors, 1942)

"What happened, Mother? Why did we all run?"


I watched a documentary recently whereby an animator explained how it was fascinating what Walt Disney achieved in those early days. Compare the standard of animation and skill in Steamboat Willie to Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and it is fascinating the change. In only ten years, animation moved from black-and-white line drawings and into full-feature, fully-coloured and realised characters that could be believed in. In the same way, compare the woodland creatures in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves to the animals in Bambi. Again, such a huge improvement - and only within five-years. This is what I love about Disney, and specifically what I love about the animation.

Story to Film

By this stage, the established Disney animators were on board. Bambi ensured the talents of directors James Algar (animator on Fantasia, who went on to direct Disney True-Life Adventures including The African Lion and Jungle Cat), Samuel Armstrong (director on Dumbo and a background-artist on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves), David Hand (Old school animator on Silly Symphonies, Mickey-animations and director on Snow White) amongst many others.

The story was a natural progression as, like Fantasia, it was virtually dialogue-less. It was a story, over four seasons, showing a deer in the forest set to emotive and unforgettable music. Akin to The Lion King, the story begins as we see animals flock to the birth of royalty: the "Prince". A wise character oversees the ceremony - an Owl in Bambi, opposed to Rafiki in The Lion King. And, to draw parallels further, both films portray the death of a parent and the maturity the child gains from this loss.

Real Animation

Unlike the cartoonish Dumbo, the animation in Bambi was naturalistic. Artists spent hours observing animals directly, imitating their postures, movement and look. The characters had to be relatable and likeable - but they had to also look accurate and natural. Indeed, the Disney lot had deer on set and the art classes, led by Rico Lebrun, would instruct animators on "the finer points of drawing animals".

Animators would even compare baby-expressions with the animations they had created from observing deer. If an animator was unsure what a deer showing shock would look like, they looked at the baby-expression of shock and applied it to the deer. It is this combination of observation, caricature and a clear understanding of character that ensures the film portrays animals in a relatable, but real, way.

The Future is Bleak

As the story progresses we see multiple sequences showing the forest in different states of emotion - one of which portrays a chase whereby silhouettes are distorted and the animation loses itself in imaginative colour and composition. The forest itself is a character. Like a forest, the Disney studio had grown and had these films within the roots and foundations. But times had changed - indeed the world was changing as the US joined World War II and the unions had gained a stronghold in Hollywood.

The Disney studio, in the previous 10 years, had grown tremendously. In the literal sense, of course the studio had grown. Though the studio was losing staff to the armed forces, and the unions had ceased the difficult, but passionate, working conditions established in the thirties - the animators now knew a broad range of art-styles which they could apply to the films in the futures. These animators were loyal to Disney and were keen to ensure the brand lived up to the expectations Walt had set out. But Disney had a difficult time ahead and, as Christopher Finch writes, "the initial momentum was spent". What a momentum it was - and these five films, and their re-releases, would be the bread-and-butter for Disney during the war-years, as Disney would release sub-par films just to keep the company moving. Animations continued - on comission from the US and Canadian governments - to increase public support for the war effort, but the hey-day of Disney had passed... for the moment.
Large Association of Movie Blogs

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Weekly Review: 20/05/2012

A weekly round-up of what I have been watching, listening to and discussing. Inspired by Ryan's 'Days of the Week' posts, this is a bit more all-encompassing as I think my interest in cinema and art crosses over and between a variety of sources...

This week has been busy as I have prepared and displayed an exhibition featuring all the completed Art work from my Year 11 students. It was a great success and I'm sure the pupils are proud. But, since this time last Sunday, I have managed to sneak in a few films and one cinema visit yesterday afternoon...

Highlight of the Week:

Mark Cousins' The Story of Film - Seriously, anyone who is passionate about film needs to watch this. 15 hours which covers the entire history of cinema - beginning wth the Lumière brothers and Georges Méliès and through Chaplin and Hitchcock and beyond. Most importantly - and this is what I love - it shows how every mainstream film, and indeed every Hollywood film, has its roots further afield. That's not to say that America doesn't have it share of innovators - but deep-focus was in Japan with Mizoguchi before it reached Orson Welles Citizen Kane and film-noir in the late 40's and early fifties began with the neo-realism of Vittorio De Sica in The Bicycle Thieves. This is everything I love about cinema ... and I am only two thirds in - I have another 4-hours to go!


The Raid (Finchley Rd VUE Cinema) - My only cinema-screening and it is worth the hype (and would be worth watching over The Dictator). The story is pretty bland but the action is flawless. Non-stop gun-play and sword-play and, obviously, one villain who prefers hand-to-hand combat.

Spiderman - In preparation for the reboot and it is suprising how-much Willem Dafoe comes across as incredibly camp and wouldn't be out of place in a 60's Batman episode.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes - Still as good as it was in the cinema, but miles away from the small-scale the original 5-films established. A great film.

Snatch - Only caught a little of this, but it brought happy memories back: "It's behind you Tyrone. Whenever you reverse, things come from behind you."

Point Break - Never saw this before. It's good fun and shows why Keanu Reeves was picked to lead Speed. And I love the iconic Ex-Presidents bank-robbers. Subtext there ... ?

Jackie Brown - Hugely underrated with a standout performance from Samuel L.Jackson. Check out my Top 5 Tarantino films ...


Radiohead - Listening to all their tracks on random from across all their albums. Best AlbumI have decided is ... In Rainbows.

TV/Theatre/Art Galleries/Books/Misc

The Story of Film - See Above

The Apprentice - How on earth did Stephen survive? Madness. Poor Jenny - she was stamped all over by the others and she was nowhere near as weak as Stephen I-think-I'm-important-but-clearly-I'm-not.

Community - Managed to only watch the one episode this week at the gym. Coming towards the end of season 1 now and, happy days, the second season seems to be available on itunes. Kerrching. Purchase due on Wednesday.

The Simpsons - Only watched one episode from mid-season 7. Possibly a contender for Best Episode of the Season as Bart shoplifts a videogame.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Saturday, 19 May 2012

The Red Shoes (Michael Powell; Emeric Pressburger, 1948)

"Don't forget, a great impression of simplicity can only be achieved by great agony of body and spirit"


I originally watched this film to 'inform' me of the Powell and Pressburger influence on Shutter Island. The influence is clear - specific shots of Teddy Daniels running down the stairs are shot-for-shot copies of a similar sequence in The Red Shoes. The regular argument amongst film-writers and bloggers about the necessity of appreciating older-films, I believe is here. Truly, how can you fully appreciate the technical skill and intelligence behind a film-maker like Scorsese without considering his influences. That's not to say you can't enjoy his films, but I would argue that you enjoy it more when you realise how diverse and experienced he is within the medium of Cinema - especially when a film from the forties is used fleetingly to influence a film in 2010.

A Relationship doomed to Tragedy

The film charts the life of dancer Vicky Page (Moira Shearer) and composer Julian Craster (Marious Goring) joining the Lermontov Ballet under the leader Boris Lermontov, played impeccably by Anton Walbrook. An obvious love-triangle becomes apparent through a tension resting between Lermontov himself and Vicky Page - an 'unspeakable' love. A love that is more out of a mutual desire to perfect the art of ballet rather than a sexual and physical attraction towards each other. Indeed, Lermontov does not lust after Page sexually, but lusts after her natural grace and he is desperate to exploit this - whatever the cost. The fascinating balance between madness and genius has been explored many times in films, much recently in Darren Aronovsky's Black Swan.

The Surrealism of The Red Shoes

The dance of The Red Shoes is a story by Hans Christen Anderson: A dancer wears a pair of red shoes and begins dancing and ... cannot stop. Even when tired, she cannot stop - dancing forever. This is the ballet Vicky Page finds herself destined to perform. The obvious parallel to the story surrounding this performance becomes more intriguing. Vicky finds herself falling deeper and deeper into this ballet and, as she does so, she is taken away from her loved ones. Lermontov is relentless and Vicky wants to satisfy his demands.

We are privileged to see a surrealist sequence when The Red Shoes ballet is performed - masterfully executed in an expressionistic manner. The waves crashing on the side of the stage replaces the audience. The dreamlike quality as Vicky dances as she has never danced before - we  are emotionally, physically and mentally shook to the core as we see what Vicky has created, whilst she herself becomes a victim to the art-form. This sequence alone became iconic, inspiring many other directors at the time - specifically, An American in Paris depicts Gene Kelly performing a ballet that clearly owes itself to The Red Shoes.

The Final Act

As the film draws to a close, Lermontov finds out that Vicky Page and Julian Craster are in love and this distorts his perspective: Can she dance as well if she shares her love for ballet, with her love for another? Or does Lermontov love her himself - much more than he admits?

Many ballet sequences in the film remind me of the tension between Charles Foster Kane (Welles) and Susan Alexander (Dorothy Comingore) in Citizen Kane. The difference is between the awful opera-singing that Kane supported, opposed to Lermontovs obsession for perfection regarding Page's dancing. Vicky Page is an incredible dancer; Susan Alexander couldn't sing. But both women are failing to reach the expectations of their male-supporters. Clearly a parallel with sexist attitudes of the time and the pressures men placed on their partners.

The tragic ending as Vicky jumps (to her death? to destroy her legs?) is purposefully similar to the story the ballet is based upon. In the Christian Andersen's story, her feet are "hacked" off to stop her from dancing, whilst here the tragedy lies in her desperation to break-free from the constraints others have placed onto her - or is it the shoes? With Snow White and the Hunstman and Mirror Mirror released, it is worth noting how darkly sinister these fairy-tales are - Hans Cristian Andersen wrote many of the best: Thumbelina, The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling and The Snow Queen. Though moral tales, like the Brothers Grimm (writers of Snow White), these are deeply sinister stories with horrific and tragic endings. Though we know the Disney 'for-kids' version better, it is altered dramatically from the original story. The Red Shoes manages to use the story to inspire a modern-day reinterpretation, whilst staying true to the tragedy and depth or the original source material. Combine that with the fascinating, cinematic experiences of the ballet depicted on-screen and you realise that what you are watching is a masterpiece.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Beneath The Planet Of The Apes (Ted Post, 1970)

"Mr. Taylor, Mr. Brent, we are a peaceful people. We don't kill our enemies. We get our enemies to kill each other."


The end of Planet of the Apes may give the impression of a further story. But, if you think about it, there is not much to explore. Taylor (Charlton Heston) has realised that earth is destroyed, and he is the only speaking human on the planet. He has Nova (Linda Harrison) and, originally, an ending was toyed with whereby Nova and Taylor had a child, but this was scrapped for the Statue of Liberty finale. It was 1970 and, in terms of sequels, they only had a few around to be inspired by. Paul Dehn was hired to write the screenplay, a writer who co-wrote Goldfinger, a sequel that completely re-invented the James Bond franchise. Though, like the James Bond films, Dehn seems to think that the best way to continue to Planet of the Apes story, is by imitating the basic set-up of the previous film. In terms of 007 influencing the Apes, I think a tunnel-sequence does seem to recall a little bit of Dr No. But Dehn does seem to go a different direction in the final few acts - with an ending you won't see coming.

The Ape-World Has Been Disrupted

This time, the ship is on a rescue mission to save the astronaunts in the first film. Brent (James Franciscus) is the only survivor. Unsure what to do, he comes across Nova who is wearing Taylors dogtags. Through a series of flashbacks, we realise that Nova and Taylor continued to travel through The Forbidden Zone after realising they were on planet Earth. Taylor and Nova witness the ground breaking up, and fire emerges, until suddenly Taylor disappears - leaving Nova alone. Brent and Nova travel to the Ape City and the council are in session. The Gorilla's are keen to explore The Forbidden Zone and destroy all human life as, because of Taylors actions, the Apes do not trust humans anymore and know that they present a threat.

So far, it is very much the same. Nova and Brent soon find Cornelius (The only film in the original franchise to not include Roddy McDowell, instead casting David Watson) and Zira (Kim Hunter), who again, trust the humans. But unlike the first film, the Apes are not as fearful about exploration. The Gorillas are keen to explore for the sake of dominance and power. We see similar sequences as Gorillas chase the humans, but this time Zira assists them in escaping too. Almost by accident, as Brent hides, he realises the planet is Earth himself and he explores underground to find a hidden human race who worship the A-Bomb. This is where the film becomes very strange and, changes direction completely to the first film. Humans exist and they are powerful, using their minds to control others...

Arrogance of Peaceful People

Planet of the Apes attacked people who blindly followed a faith - the idea that true exploration and discovery is hindered by those of a particular doctrine. The dwellers who exist underground are humans who have been irreversibly scarred. Though the people 'beneath' the planet are 'Peaceful People', they have the power to control other peoples minds and will comfortably let others kill each other rather than commit murder themselves. Opposed to the society established by the Apes, ignorant to the reality outside of their own borders, these dwellers are arrogant and pray to a bomb. An A-Bomb.

This is where the full strangeness of the film kicks-in. We witness a prayer ceremony, very-much modelled on Catholic Mass. The repetition of traditonal prayer mixed with uncomfortable, bomb-related notions.

"Glory be to the Bomb, and to the Holy Fallout. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. World without end. Amen"

"May the Blessings of the Bomb Almighty, and the Fellowship of the Holy Fallout, descend upon us all. This day and forever more."

This is where, originally an attack on religious-dogma and blind-faith, appears to be more specific in attacking Catholicism and the corrupted "history" attached to the faith. Words have been switched from "Glory be to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit", so that slight changes are highlighted. Over time, it seems, words and meaning have changed. How can we still stick to a Bible, a document thousands and thousands of years old, when clearly its true meaning and intent could have been changed?

Akin to fundamentalistm and terrorism, these religious characters are dangerous and, though they do not believe it, they are a threat to the society they represent. Their humanity has been replaced by a deeply-rooted sense of purpose - the bomb. They can force the Apes to see visions which are untrue as if to highlight how faith is beyond what you can see in front of you, and what is around you. It is this same attitude to faith that ensures Dr Zaius (Maurice Evans) and General Ursus (James Gregory) push through the vision and manage to break past. These apes have seen too much - and no image will satisfy their deep-desire for dominance of the planet. Both faiths are in opposition and we see the age-old argument as two conflicting dogma's compete for control of a civilisation.

The Definitive End

So often, to mock the 'don't spoil it' attitude of others, I will use a nuclear bomb as an example of what the film includes ("Don't tell me what happens at the end of The Deer Hunter!"/"Of course I won't, as long as nobody has told you about the nuclear-bomb explosion, you should be fine!" *applause*). Word to the wise, don't mention that finale for this film because that does indeed happen. Before the bomb even goes off, the vast majority of the cast are killed off, and Taylor, struggling to stand manages to limp to the bomb and set it off. Boom. Credits.

The fear of the unknown has stopped true peace. Again, man destroys itself in it's efforts for dominance. Charlton Heston returned for his role under the assumption that this would be the end of the Planet of the Apes saga - indeed, he never returns until Tim Burtons Planet of the Apes in 2001. But, the producers had other plans. The final act shows the fight between Brent and Taylor amongst the deformed-humans and Gorilla Apes, with Dr Zaius alongside them - until the bomb hits, killing them all off. Cornelius and Zira were not amongst the fighters though, and for good reason ...

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Sunday, 13 May 2012

Top 5 Quentin Tarantino Films

For a number of reasons, over the last few years, I have managed to rewatch all of Quentin Tarantinos films. Pulp Fiction, Grindhouse, Inglourious Basterds and the Kill Bill films I purchased on Blu-ray, so this factored into the rewatching. Indeed, all his films are stunning in hi-def.

It has truly highlighted how good a filmmaker Tarantino is. I wrote a post on Flickering Myth about defining his career in two chapters - the first three films as one chapter whilst the final three projects (I don't think you can really separate Kill Bill because, though it was separated into two, it was conceived as one project, filmed back-to-back) as the most recent chapter. Due to this, I am only choosing the top 5 films from a total of 6. Which one is left out? Grindhouse. Or Deathproof if you really want to separate it. And I really like the film - and prefer it to Planet Terror - but it simply doesn't have the depth of the other films. So, lets shoot through this Top 5...

5. Reservoir Dogs - Simply ground-breaking. We are in the Top 5 and we are splitting hairs amongst all of these. The film would have a solid 8.5 out of 10 - with the next 4 films slightly higher. The first watch, I think, is almost as if you are joining the gang in a conversation - you want to hear what they have to say. It doesn't matter whether it is about Madonna or tipping, because the conversation is "important" to the participants. When we get into the heist you are thrust into asking "Who is the rat?" and, from then, the story has you hooked. Unlike Tarantino's other films, it is short - and, as fast-paced, its a great film to rewatch, and show others. You see how his genius shines through in every facet of the film - from his own conversational manner, the film references and the obsession with pop-culture.

4. Kill Bill Vol 1/Kill Bill Vol 2 - Both these films seem to be more and more ignored since their release. I personally remember, on a first-watch, that Kill Bill Vol.1 was non-stop action, samurai-sword-fighting and hand-to-hand combat whilst Kill Bill Vol.2 was slow and plodding. There is parallels and contrasts between Eastern and Western filmmaking, themes and philosophies - but there is so much more to the films. I re-watched the films recently and both films stand-up. Kill Bill Vol.2 moreso, as suddenly the depth of the film shines through. It many ways, as much fun as Kill Bill Vol.1 is - and it is so much fun - Kill Bill Vol.2 takes itself seriously. It is important where Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman) comes from - and it is important where she is going. And Bill (David Carradine) is a part of both. How do you deal with something that you hate, but is inextricably linked to you - like a family you dislike or a past you don't want to face.

3. Jackie Brown - The most recent watch, it stands so incredibly strong. The film is held by Samuel L. Jackson's Ordell Robbie. Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) herself is central as it is about her escape from a criminal lifestyle, but it is Ordell who is what we watch. His murderous, criminal and deeply-rooted selfishness is what drives the film - as we know he is capable of anything to achieve his own ends. Having said that, he is likable and approachable - and people trust him. It really is crazy to compare this stunning performance to his comic-book characters which, in comparison, seem so bland. Then there is Robert Forster, Michael Keaton and Robert DeNiro - subtle performances that reverberate throughout the film. You know, behind those Jack-Nicholson-eyes of Keaton is a character who is attracted to Jackie, who is desperate to be a good cop and who is young and naive. A brilliant film which is vastly underrated.

2. Inglourious Basterds - Think is Tarantino's epic film. The scale of this film feels bigger than any of its predecessors. Kill Bill is big in scale, but the story is personal. This is dealing with World War II - and it rewrites the story. An exploitation film that exploits the deep-desires many of us feel for the horrors of the War. But, amongst the cliche-Tarantino 'exploitism', is also incredible sequences - such as the opening scene with the French farmer or Christoph Waltz and Brad Pitt 'making a deal' in the final act. These are sequences which are exquisitely shot and incredibly well-written. In term of sequences, I think many of these sequences are the best in Tarantino's entire filmography.

1. Pulp Fiction - Out of respect, you cannot ignore how perfect-a-film this is. Fluidly cutting between stories, out-of-sequence, but subtlety paying-off sequences with a clear connection to another sequence. The set-ups are cliche gangster-stories - the bosses-wife, the ducking-boxer and the hold-up - yet all end in the most unexpected way. You have no idea where these stories will go - and when the twist hits, mid-story, not only is it unexpected, but generally it involves a character form a different story. Tim Roth and Samuel L. Jackson or Bruce Willis tied-up alongside Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames). Each character has such well-rounded characteristics - the pop-belly, the 'square' Uma Thurman highlights or the 'Royale with Cheese'. Instantly unforgettable and iconic moments in cinema history.

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Thursday, 10 May 2012

Planet Of The Apes (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1968)

"Beware the beast Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone among God's primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed"


Prior to watching the original Planet of the Apes, I had seen Tim Burton's 'reimagining' from 2001 and the latest Rupert-Wyatt-directed Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Like the majority of audiences, the word-of-mouth behind ROTPOTA is what pulled me to the cinema and now, very late in the day, I have 'caught up' on the original films, released between 1968 and 1973. Based upon the 1963 novel La Planète des singes by Pierre Boulle, Planet of the Apes explores a world whereby earth is inhabited by Apes. The novel, a French-property (whereby astronaut Ulysses sends a bottle into space, specifying his exploits on an Ape-plant, after he returns to Paris to find that Apes have taken over society) was converted into an American Story, whereby New York is the centre-piece. But, as we all know, our protagonist Taylor (Charlton Heston), and the audience, only find this out at the very end.


Communication, especially in the Internet-age, is taken for granted. Consider the relentless, irrelevant information we communicate to each other via social networking sites. The spaceship Taylor travels on crash-lands on an 'alien' planet, only to realise that the human 'creatures' are mute. They are primitive in their manner and are used for hunting by the dominant species: Apes. To twist the story further, Taylor loses his ability to speak as his throat is injured, and we see the world from his 'primitive-animal' perspective. You can feel his frustration as the apes mock him when they say "Look! He's trying to speak!"

We see the day-to-day running of the Ape Village. Clearly defined roles are highlighted in the Orangutan's political prowess, whilst the Gorilla's represent the militaristic side to society. Our lead Chimpanzee characters - Cornelius and Zira - are liberal, free-thinkers. They hold jobs that reveal a desire to seek knowledge - Zira conducts experiments on humans, whilst Cornelius is a historian. Of the three 'ape'-species, the Chimpanzee's hold the least power. Subtext regarding social-class is clear from the outset - and, through the high-standard of make-up, we believe in the world created as we can see parallels in our own world.

Schaffner's way of shooting though is a long-way off from our world. The camera flips upside-down, it will spin 360 degrees. It is rough-and-ready and combined with Goldsmith's score - equally sporadic and alien - it is uncomfortable. To imagine watching the film, for the first time, you don't know what is around the corner and, in the first instance, the threat is the primitive humans ... it is when we see the Gorilla's hunt that we see the true fear. But again, looks can be deceiving, as the Gorilla's are only one part of the apes culture.

Blind Faith

Though social-class is highlighted, the film does not seem to be overtly critical of the world the apes have established. What it is critical of, is faith - and the blind faith the apes hold.  Strange laws that are dictated by the 'sacred scrolls' dictate that they do not visit the 'Forbidden Land' and that humans are 'the devil's pawn'. The challenge Taylor has is not as much against apes, as it is against their belief system. His existence, akin to the comfortableness of atheism, challenges their faith.

Dr Zaius, a self-interested philosopher, could be seen as a character 'protecting' the apes from the dangers humanity holds. Or, if we side with Taylor, we see him as the enemy - the man, amongst others, who stops the apes from furthering their understanding of the history that preceded their existence. "Greed, lust, death" are all attributed to man, and we know that this is true of mankind, but this is true of many societies. This is such a strong stance, that I'm sure anyone who has strong convictions will find the film more than your-average low-budget Sci-Fi - the film is tackling the foundations of what defines faith and belief. And how it could be completely wrong. Blindly following scripture is the polar opposite to earnestly exploring and seeking the answers, to the biggest unanswered questions.

The Future of Sci-Fi

Planet of the Apes, originally considered as a stand-alone film, spawned multiple sequels, tv-series and comic-book series. This was a time before 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars were released. 2001: A Space Odyssey uses apes to show us how we seeked answers, and how we seeked understanding to our existence. These huge-questions, were tackled within months of each other in the late sixties due to both Planet of the Apes and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

And, as far as dusty-planets go, you only need to consider the farm Luke Skywalker lived upon in Star Wars, to see how desert landscapes, so alien to most people, is ideal for another 'world' to be based upon. As the astronauts wandered the desert terrain in the first act of the film, I could imagine R2D2 and C3PO wandering past in the background as they search for Obi-Wan. Even the apes houses are circular in their form, a structure Lucas would replicate on Tatooine. I have a feeling Planet of the Apes is more influential than many people realise.

Man Dominates

When the ship crashes down, amongst the crew is one female astronaunt and she is revealed to have died in hypersleep. This beginning sets a very masculine tone to the film - Taylor and his fellow astronaunts discuss humanity, death and the pursuit of knowledge as they walk across the desert. It exclusively portrays different male-perspectives on these issues and this is purposeful - Taylor, representing humanity is a man so before he even meets apes, he only represents a very limited outlook.

With this in mind, it is questionable how 'good' Taylor even is. As the film progresses, Taylor becomes more dominant and powerful, eventually overpowering the apes. He orders the apes for his own protection and, with a hint of lust, kisses Zira before setting off. He believes he is a hero.

Until the final moments, whereby the power and dominance of man is what ensured its own destruction. The final acts sets-up Taylor 'winning' the battle for his freedom, but consequently undercuts this by showing how his attitude is what destroyed mankind. Atom-bombs and nuclear war was still a conversational topic at the time, and to tap into those fears was a brave move - and ensured Planet of the Apes stayed in the public-consciousness for years to come.

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You May Have Missed This ...

Just a quick update on the articles written for Flickering Myth, as they are no re-published here.

They are all Avengers-based and yes, at this point, I am a little sick of The Avengers ... just a little bit too much of it methinks.

Box-office comparisons between The Amazing Spiderman, The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers may be a little out of date now, but you may be interested in one of the most popular posts I have written for the site.

Sam L. Jackson, I believe, played a very well-placed card by criticising film critic A.O. Scott on his Twitter account and Edgar Wright has hinted at his direction over the new Ant-Man Marvel film...

Finally, Men In Black 4 was 'apparently' placed into pre-production. I think it is a load of rubbish and you can see why by clicking here.

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Monday, 7 May 2012

The Prepared Podcast #1: The Avengers

Titled 'The Prepared Podcast', this short series of podcasts are covering film releases that require 'preparation' before viewing. Because, let's be honest, I doubt you are going to watch The Avengers without watching Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America. And if you have only just watched all the films, this is a great way to get a discussion with film-geeks who have prepared in the same way...

It has been many months since I have created, hosted or edited a podcast so I thought with all these Summer films released, now would be the time to put something out! Titled 'The Prepared Podcast', it is a very lo-fi release whereby I am finding a fellow blogger who is passionate about the film released and, like me, has obsessively watched all the prior films in preparation for the new release.

In this podcast, we discuss The Avengers, and manage to analyse each of the films predecessors: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger

I managed to nab Luke Owen briefly from Flickering Myth and we discussed the whole franchise so far. Luke Owen has written many posts on each of The Avengers films, even managing to watch the latest film at a press-screening. A comic-book reader, he has some great insight in this particular franchise and well worth hearing on this podcast.

It was alot of fun to record and I hope you enjoy listening too! If you want to subscribe to the podcast via itunes I haven't added the podcast to the itunes library just yet, so go to the top bar of your itunes player and select ADVANCED, then SUBSCRIBE TO PODCAST and enter the following RSS feed:

You can obviously just listen to the embedded player below too ...

All the soundtracks are from the appropriate film-release - with multiple tracks from Alan Silvestri's score for The Avengers.

For links to Luke Owens posts on The Avengers on Flickering Myth, simply select from the following links!
Iron Man 2

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Monsieur Verdoux (Charlie Chaplin, 1947)

"What follows is History..."


As a Chaplin film, it is interesting to note that within the first minute of Monsieur Verdoux the screen tells you that the film is "based on an idea by Orson Welles". Who would have thought!Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles together! It seems fleeting at best, because it is very-much a Chaplin-film with some technicial 'hints' of Welles. Like The Great Dictator and Modern Times, this film is socially-aware and politically-challenging. Which might be why it got such mixed reviews on its initial release. But then again, so did Citizen Kane. Another 'idea' from Orson Welles.

The Depression As An Excuse

Monsieur Verdoux (Charles Chaplin) worked within a bank as a teller for 30 years before he was made redundant during the depression. He decides to go into the 'business' of becoming a 'bluebeard' - whereby he marries wealthy women and takes all their money. Due to the censors, any scenes which implied characters were sharing any beds or involved in prostitution were taken out, whilst the clear motives for murder and, indeed, setting up the murder was kept in. Sex is bad. Murder is okay! We almost sympathise with the character as he justifies how his small business-motive of murder may be deserving of the death penalty but, hypocritically, senior politicians send soldiers to their death and are not held accountable.

In a similar manner to The Silence of the Lambs, whereby the murderer was based upon Ed Gein, Monsiur Verdoux is influenced on an actual serial killer in France, Henri Désiré Landru. Both Monsieur Verdoux and Landru killed multiple women - 14 for Verdoux, 11 for Landru - and both were sentenced to the guillotine after conviction.

But this is not a film which is rooted in horror or thriller characteristics. Instead, Chaplin manages to portray Verdoux as a character who is likeable. Often, we feel the same desire to kill - desperately waiting for Verdoux to kill off the annoying wives he has 'collected'. The lottery-winner Annabella Bonheur (Martha Raye) whose shrill voice and whiney attitude is set-up to be despised by the audience. Lydia Floray (Margaret Hoffman), the dull and depressed wife who moans about her lonely existence. The social-surroundings of the depression and, towards the final act, World War II, ensures an engaging context. Monsieur Verdoux plays on the women's fear of the depression as an excuse to worry and panic - and trust Verdoux. It brings to mind the recent recession the UK has fallen into again ... and how this inevitably will bring in its own share of cuts and increases: "Well, we are in a recession, so we need the money" says David Cameron. Like the women Verdoux marries, we feel there is no choice - and we must put up with the 'cost' of the political climate.

Hitchcock, Welles and Alec Guinness

As a film, it brings together the strong skills of Hitchcock, Welles and, to some extent, Powell and Pressberger. The story regarding Verdoux and the balance between comedy and thriller feels as if it is from the stories directed by Hitchcock. Consider Suspicion, in 1941, whereby Cary Grant is set-up throughout the film as attempting to kill his own wife, only in the final act to appear as innocent (Not Hitchcock's original intention but the studios claimed that Cary Grant can never portray a murderer!). In a similar manner to Suspicion, there is an ambiguity for a considerable amount of the film whereby you question whether he is murdering these women. Compare the evening meal Monsieur Verdoux has with 'The Girl' (Marilyn Nash), as he contemplates trying to kill her with a poisoned challice of wine  -and Cary Grant, walking up the stairs with a glass of milk in Suspicion. In comparison, I think I would prefer Chaplin's Verdoux offering me red-wine to Cary Grants 'Johnnie' offering me a glass of milk.

Kind Hearts and Coronets, two years after Monsieur Verdoux, cast Alec Guinness in multiple roles of an affluent family. In the opening credits, Chaplin is due to "play"four characters - and I hoped it would be Chaplin in different characters - but alas, he is the same character, going under a different name. The film highlights the 'multiple' characters of Verdoux, and this intrigues the viewer - could Robert Hamer have thought the same thing and took it one step further? Casting Alec Guinness in physically different roles, portraying different characters?

Of course, Orson Welles' connection to the film is not exclusively linked to the story. I would argue the nature of the opening shot of Monsieur Verdoux, whereby we see his grave whilst he narrates on the soundtrack how he 'became a bluebeard' seems to raise lots of questions regarding the film from the very-first shot - who killed him? how did he die? etc. Now consider the opening of Citizen Kane, and the first shot opens: No Trespassing. Again, from the very first shot, we are asking questions. Effectively, by starting the film with his grave, the narrative is also non-linear - much like Citizen Kane happily darting from one perspective to another throughout. And finally, both Kane and Verdoux feature in films that use their name in the title as they are both charismatic and carry a certain conflict with regard to their morals - Verdoux a murderer who justifies his acts in comparison to the Government, Kane as a capitalist, political figurehead who builds up and destroys his empire ... only to desperately seek his childhood. 

You Can't Escape Your Past

At no point are you expected to agree with Verdoux. I think with Kane, we could all poetntially relate to how he slowly lost his grip on humanity as he became more powerful, isolating himself from the world in the final act. Verdoux is likeable and never isolated. He constantly speaks to others - even from beyond the grave, he tells us his story.

In fact, this type of commentary is nothing new: The Immigrant is critical, and so is Modern Times. Monsieur Verdoux is very critical of the government and consequently forced the US to comment further on Chaplins communist sympathies. American critics specifially looked at Chalpin in a new way - commenting on his citizenship and his tax-affairs. The bigger picture is not commended this time and, as noted in the documentary Chaplin Today: Monsieur Verdoux, this was the "start of a very unhappy period" leading to some heavy criticism of Chaplin himself. But one crucial factor highlights his Verdouxs true character: as the film ends, he has the option to escape with 'The Girl', but chooses not to. Instead, he gives himself up and accepts his fate. Only five-years later, the US decided to refuse Chaplins return to the US. In both cases, the punishment doesn't feel like it fits the crime.

This was completely a 'talkie' (opposed to The Great Dictator and Modern Times - which used sound to complement the silent-comedy style); Chaplin comments on society and shortly after, he is silenced. The final shots even hint at the idea that Monsieur Verdoux walks to the guillotine in the same way as The Tramp wanders off at the end of his films. Maybe the happiness that The Tramp achieved in Modern Times was short-lived, wiped out by the depression and war, before The Tramp re-emerged as a bluebeard - assuming the name of  Monsieur Verdoux and foolishly deeming the murder of wives as a 'legitimate business'; taking his inspiration from the 'business' of politics and government. The joke may be here - in the contradictions and hypocrisies of authority.
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