Those Talkative Silents – One Very Odd 1917 Patent Idea To Add “Sound” To Film

silent-movieOne reason that a lot of people seem not to like (or to think that they won’t like and therefore not even give them a chance) silent movies is because of the inter-title cards that appear during the films to dispense relevant information about the on-screen action or to relate important dialogue. It’s the same refrain one often hears in objection to foreign films that have subtitles instead of being dubbed. “I don’t want to have to read when I watch a movie”.

Of course, there are also those who don’t want to have to think when they go to a movie, which is why Hollywood can make so much money off of really bad, really rather stupid movies, but that’s a completely different thing.

Anyway, for a long time the fledgeling film industry continued to try to come up with innovative ways to simulate sound or to add dialogue to movies that was less intrusive-seeming than the inter-title cards, which, admittedly, could at times break up the flow of action or the pacing of a scene when used by a less-skilled film maker, but could just as often be used to enhance the movie going experience when they were used well.

One of the most novel ideas, as related in this article, came in the form of a US Patent gained in 1917 by one Charles F. Pidgin. As Pidgin himself explains in his patent application,

The invention relates to improvements in motion pictures and methods of producing the same.

6a00d83542d51e69e201a5115dcc88970c-500wiIn order to convey to the spectators of a photo-play or analogous motion picture productions, the full meaning of the picture shown, it often becomes necessary to add to the pictures themselves certain features, words,’letters and so forth, which are shown on a separate screen. This separation of speech and action must necessarily be ineflective to a, great degree and the primary object of the present invention is to show in the pictures themselves such salient speeches or expressions as will be, necessary to explain visibly the dramatic situation depicted on the film.

As you can see in the illustration which accompanies the patent, the idea was to include actual “word balloons” – somewhat similar to those used in comic strips and books – in the frames of the film which would unfurl from the speaking character’s mouth and have the dialogue written on them. in this way, the “flow” of the pictures onscreen would not have to be interrupted by distracting cutaways.

Yeah, somehow i can see this as being a lot less distracting, especially during a heavily dramatic or emotional scene.

Nonetheless, one does have to give Pidgin credit for at least thinking, as we would say today “outside the box”, and for trying to come up with something innovative.

Kind of silly, actually, but innovative.

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The West Is Full Of Strange Things – Here’s The First Trailer For From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series

From_dusk_till_dawn_posterThe original From Dusk Till Dawn was a strange beast of a movie. Directed by Robert Rodriguez, written by and starring Quentin Tarantino along with George Clooney and Harvey Keitel, it was part western gangster movie, part… well, something completely different. (I’m not going to say any more, because the “twist” is quite significant.) It’s one of those movies that really didn’t do that well upon its initial release, but whose stature in cult circles has grown over the years, along with, of course, the rising popularity of its creators.

And, yes, I’m happy to admit that it’s pretty high on my “guilty pleasures” list.

All of which makes me quite curious as to just how Rodriguez plans to take that movie and make a series out of it. There are, quite obviously, a number of routes that could be taken here, but the question remains whether any of them can really sustain the impact that is packed into the feature film. Especially since it’s apparently being done without any input from QT, whose unique voice (both in the writing and his acting “style” – hey, he takes a lot of criticism for inserting himself into his movies, but this is one case where I think his awkwardness in front of the camera fits the character he’s playing perfectly)  is a large part of the appeal of the movie.

Anyway, we now have a full trailer for the series which appears to be headed for a March debut.

So what do you think? Is there any way this can bring the thrills of the original? Or is it just an attempt to cash in on the name and cache of the movie in order to garner attention for Rodriguez’s fledgling El Rey Network? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see. I want to think with Rodriguez behind it, it will work, but…

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Old Time Radio Thursdays – #028: The Adventures of Superman (1940-1951) Part Three: Superman Gets A Superfriend

The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. Old Time Radio Thursdays is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.

This is the third part of my look back at the Adventures of Superman radio show. Part one can be found here, and part two here.

WorldsBestSupermanbatmanSo next year we’re supposed to get a new Supermaan/Batman movie. If you’re anything like me, your feelings about this are probably somewhat mixed, because although I completely hated last year’s Man of Steel and the way that the character was portrayed in it, I’m still willing to give the next one a chance. And I’m actually curious about the choice of Ben Affleck as Batman. I’m not that excited about Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, as she strikes me as too frail-seeming to convincingly portray the Amazonian warrior, but again, I’ll certainly be happy to be proven wrong about her, since it seems Warners has actually signed her for a three-picture deal.

Of course, one of the things that has comics and superhero fans alike both curious and salivating is the expected fight between the two main heroes that will surely take place. After all, isn’t that how these things always work? The two characters cross paths and for some reason have to have a knock-down brawl before realizing they’re both fighting a common enemy and them they team up to fight the foe that neither one of them could take on alone? Or at least there’s usually some variation on that., and it’s going to be interesting to see what kind of manipulations the movie takes to make what should really be a flick-of-the-finger win for Supes into something that lasts longer than that.

Anyway, long time comics fans will know that the relationship between Superman and Batman has taken a number of turns throughout the history of the two characters, depending on the varied times and the interpretations of the two characters. They have been best buddies, rivals, enemies, partners, just about any combination that two guys could be. (Well, except for lovers, at least in the official canon, though there is, of course, no end of slash fiction out there speculating on that pairing also, and even the comics pages have seen it in analogues of the two.)

burnley_jackBut the question for today is, when did the two first team up to solve a mystery? Well, since the question is being asked here, the answer is kind of obvious, but may also be rather surprising. That’s right, the first time that Superman and Batman came together as a team was on the radio. While the pair had appeared together on a number of symbolic comic book covers and in a brief cameo in a 1941 issue of All Star Comics, it was on the September 10, 1945 broadcast of the Adventures of Superman radio show that the duo actually met each other and had their first true team-up.

The story actually began five days earlier, on September 5th, with Superman coming to the rescue of an unconscious boy adrift in a rowboat. Quickly noting that the boy was wearing a red vest with the letter “R” under his street clothes. “Great Scott! If this boy is who I think it is,” Superman said to himself, “this is serious business!” And sure enough, the boy turned out to be… well, why not give a listen to the episodes as they played out over the next few days? Again, I’ve created a playlist which should allow you to listen to the episodes one after the other.

After this initial meeting, Batman would go on over the years to appear in some thirteen different radio serials, during which they would become fast friends, even substituting at times for one another or helping one another keep or conceal their secret identities, much as the duo would come to be portrayed in the comics. Just for fun, here’s another of the serials featuring the duo, entitled “Batman’s Greatest Mystery”. (I do have to be honest here, though, and admit that the real mystery in this one is why Batman ever thought it was a good idea to trust Clark Kent with his secret identity, since it seems like he is constantly blabbing about it to everyone who will listen. Of course, Alfred is no better than Clark in that department here, so… nonetheless, it’s still a fun listen:

One last, quick note: I find it interesting that although Superman enjoyed a very long run during the golden age of radio, Batman never did have a successful show of his own. There was one pilot program made, though, under the title Batman’s Mystery Club, and actually, if you give it a listen, well, perhaps we should all be thankful that this version at least, was never picked up.

Next time: The final part (for now at least) of our look back at the Adventures of Superman radio show, and at least one more probably surprising first appearance that occurred on the show before it hit comic pages.

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Something Fishy’s Going On Here – Richard Linklater Set To Remake The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964)

the-incredible-mr-limpet-movie-poster-1964-1020170548I’m really not sure how I feel about this. According to this article from Screen Daily, Richard Linklater is slated to direct a remake of 1964’s The Incredible Mr. Limpet, which starred Don Knotts in the title role. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen the original, but I do have fond memories of it from my childhood. For those who don’t know the movie, (and I dare say that there’s a huge portion of my readers out there who have probably never even heard of it), in it Knotts plays his usual shaky nervous milquetoast character who becomes the navy’s secret weapon against Nazi submarines during World War II when he is somehow magically transformed into a(n animated) fish.

Here’s a trailer for the original, complete with a record-selling introduction by Arthur Godfrey:

According to the article Zach Galifianakis will be taking the Don Knotts role in the remake. Not much else seems to be known yet about it, except that Linklater will be teaming with Femke Wolting and Tommy Pallotta for it. Still, I can definitely see this at least being a very interesting project, should it ever come to fruition, especially when one takes into account the advances made since the original as far as the integration of live-action and animation. My only real concern is that the film makers or the studio will feel somehow that they have to “darken” the movie in order to keep it from being what it should be: a simple bit of fluffy fun fit for the whole family.

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Tom Hiddleston As An Emo Vampire? – Here’s The Brand New UK Trailer For Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)

The UK is getting Only Lovers Left Alive in February. We here in the US have to wait until April. Why?

Yeah, I know.  Jim Jarmusch directing, Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton in the leads. It’ll be worth the wait, but still…

Whine. Want. Now.

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We Can Has A Trailer? – Here’s The Brand New Trailer For Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem (2014)

Well, we’ve got a trailer for Terry Gilliam‘s The Zero Theorem. Now all we have to do is wait and see if the movie actually hits theaters

I’m really hoping this turns out well, because it does look like a real expression of the type of visionary experience we know that Gilliam can deliver. Unfortunately, other than the supposed 2014 release date, I’ve seen no official word to pin it down more than that.

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Saturday Double Feature: I, Frankenstein (2014) and…

Saturday on the blog means Saturday Double Feature, right? Remember, the basic idea here is to take a movie that is out in theaters now, and pair it up with another movie from the 1980s or before. Sometimes the connection will be obvious, and sometimes it’ll be a little less so, but that’s part of the fun.

I, Frankenstein. Yeah, that’s out there in theaters this week. Gee, looks like it might almost be as good as 2004’s Van Helsing.

Really? That’s what you do with the name and legacy of Dr. Frankenstein’s creation? Apparently all it takes to be Frankenstein’s monster nowadays is a  few scars. Oh, and of course, perfect abs.

Ah, well, that’s okay. I’ll meet your I, Frankenstein and team it up with 1957’s I Was a Teenage Frankenstein. How about that?

Anyway, what do you think? Do you have any other ideas for pairing films with I, Frankenstein? if so, let me know below. And also let me know of any other upcoming movies you’d like to see “double featured”. Consider it, if you will, your chance to challenge me to come up with an interesting pair.

Until next time, Happy Viewing!

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