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by Michael Barrett

16 Dec 2015


In 1924, English climbers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine perished, disappearing into cloud cover while attempting to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Nobody knows if they made it to the top, but audiences saw the expedition footage shot by Captain John Noel, which he assembled in the documentary feature The Epic of Everest. It contains the longest telescopic shot to date, at two miles distance, providing the world’s last glimpse of the specks that were Mallory and Irvine against a snowy expanse. (This isn’t, however, the same final glimpse recorded by climber Noel Odell, who was closer.) Mallory’s body was found in 1999.

The British Film Institute has performed its own amazing feat in digitally restoring this film frame by frame, using more than one source print, and applying the original tints and tones audiences saw in 1924. The resulting clarity is almost miraculous, and the effect is enhanced by Simon Fisher Turner’s newly commissioned score, which combines modern synthesized tones with instrumental melodies. There are several examples of ambient sounds and effects, especially in the footage of Tibetan villages and people.

by Michael Barrett

15 Dec 2015


Gene Kelly pioneered dancing with cartoon characters when he teamed with Jerry the Mouse in Anchors Aweigh (1945). Years later, when directing Invitation to the Dance (1952, released 1956), Kelly put himself into an entire animated segment. Both examples were handled seamlessly by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera of MGM’s animation department.

In 1967, Kelly worked with them again when he produced, directed, and starred in the one-hour TV special Jack and the Beanstalk. It won an Emmy for Best Children’s Program, beating out ABC’s Discovery  series and two Peanuts specials. Now that it’s available on demand from Warner Archive, we can perceive that this is the least impressive of Kelly’s three animated experiments, and there’s no way it should have trumped It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

by Michael Barrett

15 Dec 2015


Savage Weekend (1981)

Scorpion Releasing has unearthed two low-budget shockers about psycho killers, which lots of viewers caught on TV at some time or another since the ‘80s, and reissued them on Blu-ray, complete with interviews.

Savage Weekend was shot in upstate New York in 1976 under the title The Killer Behind the Mask and languished for years before getting a release. Muddy censored prints have floated in the public domain, but this Blu-ray edition “in HD from the original vault elements” is the full dose, with more nudity than you might expect. It looks as good as it probably can, which still has its limits.

by Michael Barrett

9 Dec 2015


Going back a few decades into Japanese delirium, Stray Cat Rock contains all five films in Nikkatsu’s series, an off-the-cuff cocktail of the fermenting youth scene stirred with various genre tropes and shaken with violence. Tightly packed into fewer than 90 minutes, each movie’s ramshackle action is interspersed with musical numbers set in nightclubs. All the films were made in 1970, with the final installment coming out in January 1971, so watching them all together feels like a concentrated if distorted funhouse-dispatch from the era’s social unrest.

With no continuing characters or plotlines, the films are unrelated except by style, themes, and stars: mainly Meiko Kaji forming the tough-girl image she’d perfect in Lady Snowblood and Female Convict Scorpion. Stray Cat Rock  \is less essential than those but has the same appeal.

by Michael Barrett

9 Dec 2015


This simple, pleasant, anodyne, predictable family movie about a collie comes across like episodes of TV’s Lassie strung together. In fact, its origins pre-date Lassie, thanks to Albert Payson Terhune, a popular writer who bred collies at his New Jersey estate of Sunnybank. His sentimental and melodramatic stories were collected into the 1919 Lad: A Dog, a huge bestseller 20 years before Eric Knight’s Lassie Come-Home, but the popularity of the Lassie  show clearly encouraged Warner Brothers to make this movie.

//Mixed media
//Blogs

Hope and Despair in Video Games

// Moving Pixels

"There are moments in games that capture the feud waged in ourselves between hope and despair.

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