Friday, October 30, 2009

Sci-Fi Classics! "Destination Moon", "La Decima Vittima" and "Fahrenheit 451"

Here is a blog post I contributed to Ultra Swank, an essential location for your retro adventures.

So check out Ultra Swank for more retro-inspired fun.

Destination Moon (1950)

– The next rocket we build is going to the moon.
– Let’s go to lunch.
– I’m serious, Jim.

– No, you can’t be. It’s too fantastic! The moon?? Hmph! Impossible!

It is a fun jolt to see a film in which this dialogue is spoken without the slightest hint of sarcasm. “Destination Moon” was pure science fiction when it was released, and the first of its genre to be produced in the United States. Now it’s practically pre-historic, and certainly not as much about fiction. But that is what makes it so charming and a kitschy to watch. Pull out your old space suit and get ready for a trip! Anyhow, these gentlemen set about trying to get investors on board to build their outlandish and unheard of rocket ship to the moon. Their instructional film, within the film (a cartoon starring Woody Woodpecker, of all things!) is nothing short of awesome. It teaches in simplified terms how a rocket can indeed get to the moon with far less effort than perceived – for all the skeptics.

This film was released in 1950 and man’s first steps on the moon’s surface were taken in 1969 and that is why “Destination Moon” is a film that instantly reminds us of the science-fiction genre’s ability in, and reputation for, foreseeing the future. If it is a bright look, such as the idea of going to the moon, it is a welcome trait. (Disaster films that cloud the science fiction genre are deplorable, but that’s another topic.) Our imaginations can create our future and it’s important to realize the strength of our storytelling. “Destination Moon” also gives one a feeling of nostalgia for a time when science was all about the possibility of what is to come… as opposed to now, with our having to look rather far back in our history to find those peak moments of scientific achievement and excitement. If you’re in the mood for a little space travel, “Destination Moon” is definitely the retro sci-fi pick for you.

The Tenth Victim (La Decima Vittima) (1965)

Who doesn’t love watching a stylized, madcap, bachelor-pad-beat–filled sci-fi flick… in Italian? In the society depicted in “La Decima Vittima”, or “The Tenth Victim”, those with a violent nature have the chance to quench their tendencies by way of legalized murder. It’s a dangerous game - one is the hunter and the other the hunted, there are murderers and murderesses running amok with licenses to kill one another. Oh, but it’s all very organized and acceptable. Practically civilized. There are location scouts for where the big hunt’s finale will take place, contracts to consider, and so on… The public, similarly, can be entertained by this indulgent arrangement by way of broadcasts, as they anticipate and bet on who will win. Sound a little familiar? Its subject is far ahead of its time. You essentially have a look at what reality programs are today, but this was four decades in advance. Rather impressive!

Without “La Decima Vittima”, there would not have been a “Running Man” or any number of other films of this variety. (There is even a primo scene with Ursula Andress that inspired the Austin Powers bullet-bra wielding ladies.) This film is essential 1960’s viewing, as are the mod wardrobes. And, of course, there are the film’s leads - Marcello Mastroianni, Ursula Andress and Elsa Martinelli. All of whom are easy on the eyes. The Tenth Victim is a funny, stylish and exciting sci-fi romp… Italian style.

Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

Farhenheit 451”, directed by Francois Truffaut and based on Ray Bradbury’s classic tale, is a slightly odd one to watch in that it takes the viewer through several dismal emotions, such as alienation and loneliness. In this sci-fi thriller, firemen do not put out fires, but create them. Their main objective is to burn books, since books are perceived to be dangerous. The government has determined to ban each and every work of literature because they can separate people and make them ‘unhappy’.
People are told it’s best for their well being to be uniform in their thinking. The story’s protagonist is Guy Montag, a dutiful fireman moving up in the ranks. Consequently, the situation is seen from the perspective of enforcer rather those who are the subjects of this rigid discipline. Montag’s wife, Linda, is also abiding in her endeavors, as she takes her calming pills and watches her TV ‘family’ or ‘cousins’ on their wall screen at home. Early on, Montag befriends a woman who opens his eyes to how he and his colleagues are perceived, and she is a major catalyst in his personal conflict. Montag is motivated to do well at his job, but begins to question his duties and starts to secretively and obsessively read the banned books he was meant to destroy. He finally tires of watching as his wife is brainwashed day after day with her pills and television, while he destroys all that really connects people to humanity and to their past.
“Fahrenheit 451” is a sad and forlorn portrait of what the world could be without books, and it makes you glad to have the option to read (though of course not many even do!) Ray Bradbury has said he was inspired by numerous book burnings and even the turn of the century witch-hunts to write this sci-fi classic. Truffaut’s stark film version stars Julie Christie and Oskar Werner. This is one of those films that’s perfect to watch a cold and rainy afternoon - and you’ll want to pick up a good book right after!

If The Love Fits Wear It, Baby

Another video I made recently... featuring the great Astaire dancing with three of his ladies, some swans, love, fun - and lots of pink:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Must Be the Season of (Bewitched)

Here is a video I made for Donovan's "Season of the Witch", starring two episodes of Bewitched. Another one for Halloween. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Werewolves of London

Here's a Halloween montage for werewolf aficionados, set to Warren Zevon's 'Werewolves of London' –– and, for the most part, the excellent John Landis film 'An American Werewolf in London'.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

History of Claudine Longet: Demure Entrance, All Too Dramatic Exit

Gentle Claudine, who sings in a lilting whisper. (She did what?!)
I first learned about the incident from someone when discussing "The Party" back in 2001. He said, "You know the songbird in it, Sellers' love interest, killed someone in real life?" I couldn't believe it. After that, I gathered whatever info I could about Claudine Longet. It occurred to me this could be a fascinating biopic to write, after investigating it a bit. And to think what today's tabloids would have done with her back then. Being a fan of "The Party" and quickly becoming a fan of her recordings –– and out of respect for her 'victim'/then-boyfriend, the skier Spider Sabich –– I couldn't bring myself to want to do it. I'd want it to be a first-hand account, if anything. Not some skewed perspective from what little information there is about it. 
What I know is this: Claudine Longet started out as a showgirl and became a rather demure chanteuse and actress who married Andy Williams, had kids with him and sang lullaby cover versions of pop songs in the 1960's. She later broke off their marriage to live in Aspen with celebrated Olympic skier Sabich. This was the 1970's, and drugs were definitely involved. One day, she 'accidentally' shot him. Tragically, he died. The trial must have been rough but she was exonerated for the most part. People have and always will suspect her of a drug-infused measure of foul play although she claims that the gun went off by mistake. Ever since, she's disappeared and still living on in Aspen -- not alone, but with the man who was her defense attorney for the trial... which amounts to a bit of good fortune for her, I would think, since she was considered a social leper after the incident and still today. A dramatic story, indeed.
Personally, I have been satisfied to leave it alone and listen to her sweet songs. I'm already considering taking down this post. Does anyone need to know about this really? I actually like Claudine Longet and her music a great deal, so I wanted to write about her -- and this is what happened. Maybe I'll do another post focusing on her albums.

One of my favorite cinematic moments, from Blake Edwards' "The Party" -- here's Claudine singing Mancini's "Nothing To Lose", while Sellers' Hrundi Bakshi desperately waits to relieve himself...! :-)
My friend Rebecca shared this next wonderful video with me. Fits with this, as well as one of my earlier posts, Please Don't Stop The Moog Or The Modness.