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Traci Lords’ new Women in Prison-cum-Sharksploitation flick: ‘Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre’
06:02 am

They hate us for our freedom



Former underage porn actress, Traci Lords, stars in the new Jim Wynorski blockbuster, Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre. Wynorski is responsible for the best ‘80s murderous shopping-mall robot movie, Chopping Mall, 1988’s Not of This Earth (also starring Lords), Pirañaconda, and more than 40 other “quality” titles. Judging solely by the trailer, Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre promises to deliver the same standard of excellence we’ve come to expect from the prolific director. The film also stars Dominique Swain (Fall Down Dead, Nazis at the Center of the Earth).

This is the synopsis we have:

When a fracking mishap accidentally rips apart the earth’s crust, the resulting hole opens up a gaping underground waterway to a vast and mysterious ocean somewhere deep below. Instantly, giant prehistoric sharks begin wending their way upward toward a murky bog in the heart of the Arkansas Bayou. Unfortunately for a group of female prisoners on a work detail in the swamp, the deadly sharks attack without warning – pinning a hapless group of intended victims in a small deserted cabin in the heart of the wetlands. Death may be the only means of escape!

These sharks don’t just swim through the bayous—they also burrow through the ground Bugs Bunny style! Landsharks with a craving for female convict blood! The back-end for CGI sharks must be really cheap these days, as the Sharksploitation genre is in its golden age with titles such as Sharknado, Sharktopus, Ghost Shark, Snow Shark, Psycho Shark, Sand Sharks, and Raiders Of The Lost Shark. Sure, we’ve seen sharks in the swamp before in 2011’s Swamp Shark, but Wynorski had the vision to add female prisoners and Traci Lords!


Just put the words “Traci Lords,” “women in prison,” “fracking mishap,” and “landsharks” together and I’m instantly asking “where do I send my money?” I asked Jim Wynorski himself and he is remaining tight-lipped for the time being, stating only that the film will be “ready for release in mid-May.” It seems the film is still looking for a home. Wynorski wouldn’t comment on a DVD release, but indicated that SyFy would be taking a look at the picture upon completion.

Here’s the trailer for what promises to be the most important film of 2015:


Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
The Terminal Bar: ‘New York’s most notorious watering hole’
02:00 pm

Pop Culture


The notoriously scuzzball Terminal Bar, as seen in Martin Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver.’

Though I may yearn for the rents of the 1970s, the “grit” of “old New York” can be heavily over-romanticized. Yes, it was cheaper, and the arts were more vibrant and the population more varied. There was shitloads of violent crimes, parts of the city were really dirty and dilapidated, and other parts just looked like some one had dropped a bomb on them.

Nonetheless, historical records of the all-too-recent period of NYC brutality are in high demand. Terminal Bar was most certainly an “old New York” institution. The infamously sleazy Port Authority-adjacent saloon opened in 1972, catering first to working class Irish-American toughs, then more for pimps, pushers, prostitutes, down-and-out drunks and drug addicts, finally attracting a primarily gay, black and male clientele before closing in 1982. During its ten-year run, bartender Sheldon “Shelly” Nadelman (the son-in-law of the bar’s owner Murray Goldman) documented his patrons and the area around the bar with a keen eye, and his collection, Terminal Bar: A Photographic Record of New York’s Most Notorious Watering Hole continues to engross those of us with a taste for the louche.

Calling himself a “half-assed artist,” Nadelman mainly worked in portraiture of his regulars—beautiful black and whites of usually overlooked and often avoided faces. In 2002 his son Stefan made a small documentary, Terminal Bar, that took the 2003 Sundance Jury Prize for short film—you can now watch it in its entirety (and in HD!) below.

In a combination of interview, narration and slideshow, you get a taste of just how wild—and how alive—one little bar could be. The Renzo Piano-designed New York Times building now stands where the Shelly Nadelman once took his customers’ portraits.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
‘Roar’: Cast and crew risked life and limb in the most dangerous movie ever made, 1981
05:36 am



Roar poster
Roar (1981) has been called “the most dangerous movie ever made.” How did it earn such a dubious distinction, you ask? Well, the cast and crew of the film worked with more than 130 wild animals—including panthers, tigers, lions, and elephants—that were allowed to roam free while the cameras rolled. The actors often appear to be genuinely terrified as these animals pursue them, knowing they could strike at any moment (and they often did). 70 people were injured during the making of the film.

Roar was the brainchild of Noel Marshall, one of the executive producers of The Exorcist, and his wife, actress Tippi Hedren, most famous for her lead role in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Over a period that lasted more than a decade, Marshall and Hedren, along with Noel’s sons John and Jerry and Tippi’s daughter Melanie Griffith, lived with these animals, while simultaneously shooting Roar. The entire family starred in the film, which Noel wrote and directed.
Family photo
Roar has also been called the most expensive home movie ever made, costing $17 million. It tanked upon release, grossing just $2 million. Marshall, who died in 2010, would never direct another motion picture.
Noel and friend
Roar defies categorization. On the surface, it’s an action/adventure film, but there are also elements seemingly taken from horror movies, documentaries, and slapstick comedies. At times it feels like you’re watching a bizarro-world live-action Disney film! This movie is totally captivating, comical, suspenseful, and terrifying. In short, Roar is nuts.
Roar publicity photo
Alamo Drafthouse CEO/founder Tim League is a big fan of the film. In fact, he’s so passionate about Roar that he became an expert on its history and secured the rights to re-release it. A limited theatrical run in select cities begins April 17th, with Blu-ray/DVD/On Demand availability coming this summer.

I emailed Tim League a number of questions about this one-of-a-kind motion picture.

It took eleven years to make Roar—what took so long?:

Tim League: I like to think of Roar as a sort of Boyhood where the family expands beyond the mom, dad and children to include an adopted family of more than 130 lions, tigers, leopards, panthers and jaguars. Tippi Hedren and Noel Marshall first had the idea to shoot Roar back in 1971 when they were on safari and saw an abandoned house overrun with lions; they thought the concept of a family living in a house with lions would make an excellent premise for a film. Daktari had been wildly popular a few years prior, and they figured Roar would be a similar hit while upping the stakes. So, they immediately sought out world-renowned big cat experts to find out if such a thing could be done. These experts responded unanimously with words to the effect of, “You must be brainsick. Do NOT do this.” Undeterred, Marshall and Hedren set about the ten-year process of bringing big cats into their Hollywood home in small batches, one after another, to acclimate the animals to the family. The theory was that if they lived together with the lions from the time they were cubs, they would then escape injury when on set with these “familiars.” The other factors that caused delays with the production were two floods that wiped out the entire set, one raging forest fire, and times when the entire crew would quit after a particularly harrowing day. They also lost their financing halfway through the production and stopped to gather personal funds to get the film across the finish line. Most experts consider Roar to be the most disaster-plagued film in the history of Hollywood.
Forest fire
More with Tim League, plus an exclusive clip from ‘Roar,’ after the jump…

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
Hitchcock 101: Alfred Hitchcock on how to make movies
08:58 am



Alfred Hitchcock thought the invention of “talkies” was unfortunate as movies assumed a theatrical form overnight. Films, he told Francois Truffaut, stopped being cinematic and became “photographs of people talking.”

When we tell a story in cinema, we should resort to dialogue only when it’s impossible to do otherwise. I always try to tell a story in a cinematic way, through a succession of shots and bits of film in between.

In writing a screenplay, it is essential to separate clearly the dialogue from the visual elements and, whenever possible, to rely more on the visual than on the dialogue. Whichever way you choose to stage the action, your main concern is to hold the audience’s fullest attention.

Summing it up, one might say that the screen rectangle must be charged with emotion.

Hitchcock developed this theme in an interview with director Bryan Forbes at London’s National Film Theatre in 1969, where he explained how work on a movie “starts” for him:

Well, for me, it all starts with the basic material first. Now, the question of when you have the basic material… you may have a novel, a play, an original idea, a couple of sentences and from that the film begins. I work very closely with the writer and begin to construct the film on paper, from the very beginning. We roughly sketch in the whole shape of the film and then begin from the beginning. You end up with around 100 pages, or perhaps even more, of narrative, which is very bad reading for a litterateur. There are no descriptions of any kind—no ‘he wondered’, because you can’t photograph ‘he wondered.’

No ‘camera pans right’, for example

Not at that stage, no. It’s as though you were looking at the film on the screen and the sound was turned off. And therefore, to me, this is the first stage. The reason for it is this—it is to urge one to, to drive one, to make one work purely in the visual and not rely upon words at all. I am still a purist and I do believe that film is a series of images projected on a screen. This succession of images create ideas, which in turn create emotion, just as much as in literature words put together form sentences.

This is is what Hitchcock called “pure film”

The point is that pure film is montage, which is the assembly of pieces of film, which in their turn must create an emotion in the audience. That is the whole art of the cinema—the montage of the pieces. It is merely a matter of design, subject matter and so forth. You can’t generalise about it. You can only hope to produce ideas, expressed in montage terms that create an emotion in an audience.

Hitchcock was a cinematic purist—which ultimately made him a control freak. Everything was planned and worked out long before the actors rehearsed their lines or the first shot was taken. “Actors,” Hitchcock once said in his famously quoted line, “should be treated like cattle.” They were there to collaborate and serve his vision. That’s why he preferred working with actors like James Stewart or Cary Grant rather than “method” actors like Montgomery Clift or Paul Newman. Indeed, during the making of Torn Curtain, Hitchcock became so fed up with Newman continually asking about his motivation that he eventually told him, “Your motivation is your salary.”

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Insanely adorable amigurumi of Divine and John Waters
11:43 am

Pop Culture


Pope of Trash John Waters and Divine (“the filthiest person alive”) couldn’t look anymore adorable as amigurumi by knitting maven Captain Howdee. I just want to squish the hell out of these dolls ‘cause they’re so damned cute.

These were posted on Captain Howdee’s Flicker page back in 2007. I not sure if they’re for sale, but oh my gawd do I wish they were! I’d like to see an Edith Massey amigurumi. Imagine what that would look like! Why not a David Lochary doll, too?

via Divine on Facebook

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Ted Flicker: ‘Barney Miller’ creator, improv theater innovator, blacklisted by J. Edgar Hoover
12:08 pm

Pop Culture


This is a guest post from Doug Jones

Twelve years ago I found myself at Cinefile Video in West Los Angeles when I happened to notice a movie poster on the wall for the 1967 film, The President’s Analyst. The duotone pink and green poster depicted James Coburn wearing a `60s mod wig and sunglasses holding two gong mallets in his hand with the tagline, “Is your football helmet crushing the flowers in your hair?” What the hell kind of movie is this? I had recently developed a fascination with James Coburn after discovering the sixties spy-spoof films Our Man Flint, and the sequel, In Like Flint. Perhaps it was due to exposure to late `90s pop culture references like the Beastie Boys album Hello Nasty or the movie Austin Powers (both of which named dropped the character Derek Flint) that Coburn had been embedded into my subconscious at that time.

I went home that night and watched The President’s Analyst. It was absolutely fantastic in the way it ridiculed virtually every important `60s institution—establishment and anti-establishment alike. But unlike most 1960s-era political satires and comedies, it was surprisingly fresh, relevant, and still laugh-out-loud funny in the present age. A man I had never heard of named Theodore J. Flicker was credited as the film’s writer and director. After repeated viewings I began to wonder: who is Theodore J. Flicker? How come nobody’s ever heard of him? How is it possible for someone to make a film this good and then vanish completely from sight? The lack of information available on the internet only fueled my interest, but I eventually learned that Mr. Flicker had been blacklisted from Hollywood. But why, how could that happen? I would end up going to great lengths to answer these questions, including a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico to find Flicker, who spent the last twenty years of his life as a sculptor.

Ted Flicker in Santa Fe, Sept 2013. Photo by Doug Jones

After failing to open a theater of his own in New York City, Theodore J. Flicker headed to Chicago in 1954 to check out the improvisational Compass Theatre by recommendation of his college friend Severn Darden. According to Flicker, the Compass was in terrible shape when he entered: the players were unprofessional, wore street clothes, had a lack of respect amongst their fellow performers, and were basically “all over the place.” However, Flicker saw potential in the company and in 1957 he launched his own wing of The Compass Players at the Crystal Palace in St. Louis. Mike Nichols and Elaine May arrived in St. Louis, and Flicker auditioned Del Close who had come highly recommended by Darden despite the fact that he had no previous improv experience. Ted hired Del on the spot after seeing him perform a fire-breathing act from the work of Flaminio Scala. They all felt that the “meandering” Chicago style of improv did not sustain the audience’s attention for an entire show. Realizing that new techniques were needed if improvisation were to transform from an acting exercise into an art form, Flicker began developing a new technique which he referred to as “louder, faster, funnier”… the audiences responded. His goal was to re-create the Chicago Compass without any of the people involved and without the experience of Viola Spolin’s teachings, Flicker wanted to invent his own way. Every morning after a show, he would sit down with Elaine May and examine what went wrong the previous night and then determine how it could be corrected. Through these sessions “The Rules” for publicly-performed improv were formulated, including the importance of the Who? Where? and What? of each scene needing to be expressed, avoiding transaction scenes, arguments, and conflict as they usually lead to dead ends, and playing at the top of one’s intelligence. “We came up with a teachable formula for performing improvisation in public in two weeks,” Flicker said. These new rules differed greatly from the rules of Viola Spolin, who wasn’t a performer and explored improv only as an acting exercise. This was a new era of improvisation.

Following the collapse of The Compass Players, Paul Sills launched the successor troupe “The Second City” in 1959. Nichols and May went on to become a smash hit on Broadway. Del Close moved back to Chicago and spent the rest of his life developing, refining, and experimenting with Ted’s rules. Del became an improvisational guru for three decades with a student roster that included Dan Aykroyd, John and James Belushi, John Candy, Bill Murray, Chris Farley, Andy Dick, Harold Ramis, Mike Myers, Bob Odenkirk, Stephen Colbert, Amy Sedaris, Andy Richter, Tina Fey, and all three founding members of the Upright Citizens Brigade (Matt Walsh, Matt Besser, and Amy Poehler.) Unquestionably some of the biggest and most influential names in the comedy world, and it all circles back to Flicker. “I never could have done it without the sheer force of Ted’s will and discipline,” Close said.

But what was next for Theodore J. Flicker? In the sixties he wed Barbara Joyce Perkins, television actress and star of dozens if not hundreds of commercials, and the two set their sights on Hollywood. Theodore’s first feature film The Troublemaker, which he co-wrote with Buck Henry, described as an “improvised adventure” and was a moderate success, and the next thing he knew the phone started ringing. He was offered to write a feature film to launch the careers of Sonny and Cher; however, when the project fell through Flicker instead penned a screenplay for Elvis Presley, the 1966 “racecar musical comedy” Spinout.

It was Paramount Pictures that gave Flicker a chance to write and direct a major motion picture studio film in 1967, the first movie Robert Evans greenlit as a studio executive. The President’s Analyst was a fantastic, on-target satire. James Coburn plays Dr. Sidney Schaefer, who is awarded the job of the President’s top secret psychoanalyst. When Dr. Schaefer’s paranoia sinks in and he realizes he “knows too much,” he decides to run away and the film becomes a fast-paced action adventure romp involving spies, assassins, the FBI, CIA, a suburban family station wagon, flower power hippies, and even a British pop group. An unusual sci-fi plot twist reveals the movie’s most surprising villain: The Telephone Company (referred to in the film as “TPC”).

Problems began when the FBI got ahold of the screenplay. Robert Evans claims he was visited by FBI Special Agents who didn’t appreciate their unflattering and incompetent portrayal in the film. When Evans denied their request to cease production, they began conducting surveillance on the film’s set. Evans refused their demands, but increasing pressure led to extensive overdubs during the film’s post-production phase: the FBI became the FBR, and the CIA became the CEA. Even the Telephone Company got wind of their negative portrayal in the film, and Evans believed that his telephone had begun to be monitored by either the Bureau or the phone company. Evans’ paranoia would ironically mirror that of James Coburn’s character in the film’s storyline.

The President’s Analyst hit theaters on December 21st, 1967, the same day as Mike Nichols’ The Graduate. Both films were instant hits and received critical and box office praise. Roger Ebert called The President’s Analyst one of the “funniest movies of the year.” However, two weeks later Flicker received an unsettling phone call from his agent who told him, “You’ll never work in this town again.” Apparently FBI head J. Edgar Hoover had seen the film and was outraged by 4’7” actor Walter Burke whose character name Lux (like Hoover, a popular brand of vacuum cleaner) as the head of the “FBR” was blatantly poking fun at him. J. Edgar called the White House who called Charles Bluhdorn at Paramount, who called Flicker’s agent to inform him they were pulling the movie from theaters immediately. “What the hell are you trying to do to me?” Bluhdorn said on a phone, “But we have a hit!” “What the hell do I care about your hit, I have 27 companies that do business in Washington?” A millionaire at age 30, Charlie Bluhdorn didn’t just own Paramount; he owned Gulf and Western, Madison Square Garden, and Simon & Schuster publishing. As Flicker delicately put it, “The shit hit the fan.” Overnight he was officially no longer part of Hollywood’s A-list. He and Barbara had to foreclose their home and his agent stopped returning his phone calls.

More on the life and times of Ted Flicker after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Stanley Kubrick’s brief career as a union propagandist
07:56 am



Stanley Kubrick’s career took a winding path to him becoming one of the great auteurs of cinema history. Before he became a filmmaker, his street photography for LOOK magazine (a job he got at 17 years of age) captured striking, insular moments—the kind that usually go unnoticed in public; his pictures of the NYC subway system are particularly engaging (very Edward Hopper). He made his way to film after discovering how much companies would pay for a short newsreels, and how much profit he could make by doing all the rentals and purchasing himself.

His first film was Day of the Fight, a 15-minute-long documentary about middleweight boxer Walter Cartier. Although he sold it to RKO-Pathé, he ended up $100 in the red, all said and done. Undeterred, he made a second short for RKO-Pathé, Flying Padre, a puff piece about a priest who used a plane to visit his parishioners—again, not a money-maker. His third film however, is the most obscure of his career, and the one that allowed him to raise the money for his first feature, Fear and Desire.

The Seafarers is a 30-minute, 1953 promotional film for the Seafarers International Union—a labor union amalgam representing mariners, fishermen and boatmen. The short is pure workerist propaganda (my favorite kind), and it’s very well made, for what it is. As per the genre, Kubrick films impressive ships, office bustle, cafeteria meals and even a union meeting, but looking closely, you can still see his fingerprints. In the canteen for example, you see an early incarnation of a Kubrick signature shot, as a slow dolly glides across the busy room of hungry men. Kubrick never mentioned The Seafarers in interviews, and it wasn’t even “rediscovered” until 1973 when a film scholar submitted it to the Library of Congress, but the short most certainly reveals the gestating eye of the great filmmaker.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Peter Lorre promotes ‘Smell-O-Vision’ on ‘What’s My Line?’
06:43 am



Peter Lorre almost succeeded in disguising himself when he appeared on panel show What’s My Line? in 1960. As his voice was always instantly recognizable, Lorre answered his inquisitors’ questions by a simple “hm-hm” or “uh-huh” sounds. However, one question about a new movie proved his undoing and Lorre was unmasked as “a sad-eyed, innocent villain.”

Lorre was promoting his latest movie Scent of Mystery, which starred Denholm Elliott, Beverly Bentley, Diana Dors and Paul Lukas. The film was the first “Smell-O-Vision” feature (“First they moved (1895)! Then they talked (1927)! Now they smell!”) that offered audiences the thrill of scratching ‘n’ sniffing various aromas off the back of a card at key moments during the movie’s screening.
Some of the smells available for sniffing were roses, apples, wood shavings, lemon, tobacco, perfume and garlic. Apparently there was no stench of fart or glue—that would come later with John Waters’ “Odorama” feature Polyester in 1981.
‘Scent of Mystery’ soundtrack CD booklet with Smell-O-Vision scratch card.
Lorre seemed quite pleased with the finished result, saying he did not normally promote movies but this was something rather special. Scent of Mystery was written by cult writer Gerald Kersh, who rarely wrote anything dull. The film was eventually re-released without “Smell-O-Vision” as the mundanely titled Holiday in Spain, which some reviewers thought only made the movie rather surreal:

... the film acquired a baffling, almost surreal quality, since there was no reason why, for example, a loaf of bread should be lifted from the oven and thrust into the camera for what seemed to be an unconscionably long time…

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Jobriath A.D.’: Fantastic documentary on glam rock’s greatest casualty comes to DVD
10:22 am



Jobriath A.D.
On April 21st, Jobriath A.D., Kieran Turner’s incredible 2012 documentary on the life of glam rock casualty and gay icon Jobriath, will be released on DVD, paired with an LP’s worth of previously unreleased recordings. One of the cool bonuses on the DVD is a short film of a 1971 Jobriath studio session with a bunch of celebrities—before they were famous—and Dangerous Minds has scored an excerpt for your viewing pleasure. But first, some background for the uninitiated.

Jobriath Boone is a fascinating and tragic figure. His story is one that seems torn from the pages of a Hollywood screenplay. Jobriath’s 1973 debut LP (released by Elektra Records) was a showcase for an intriguing talent—one that mixed classical, pop, Broadway musicals, and good ol’ rock-n-roll—but it went virtually unheard. Jobriath was preceded by incredible hype, with much of the publicity focused on his homosexuality. Jobriath was actually the first rock performer to out himself (David Bowie and Lou Reed merely danced around the issue), but there was a backlash to the hard sell of this “true fairy,” with critics and the public soundly rejecting him. After a second record, 1974’s Creatures Of The Street, also bombed, Jobriath was dropped by Elektra and promptly vanished from the music scene. A few years later, he re-invented himself as the classy lounge singer Cole Berlin, performing in New York City piano bars; he took requests, but refused to play his old songs. Just as this new persona was gaining momentum, Jobriath was diagnosed HIV positive. He died of AIDS in 1983 at age 36, his body found in the pyramid-shaped apartment he resided in atop the Chelsea Hotel.

So, this is a sad saga, yes, a cautionary tale on the perils of fame and what can happen to those that break ground before the world is ready. But it’s also an account of a talented artist lost through the cracks of time that has been waiting to be told for decades. Kieran Turner does an incredible job of finally telling his story and does so in a definitive manner. Interviews with fans and many of the people who populated Jobriath’s personal and professional universe are interspersed with photos, footage, and even a few nicely done animated sequences, resulting in a compelling and well-rounded documentary that does his legend proud. And Jobriath is a legend—you may not know it yet, but you will after watching Jobriath A.D..

The demos and rehearsal tapes for his musical Popstar make up the contents of the previously unreleased LP. Though some elements of the musical were lost, it’s a gift to be able to hear any previously unreleased Jobriath tunes, and these recordings are the most intimate to emerge to date. It’s obvious that Popstar was based on his own brush with fame, and the re-writing of the facts was likely a form of therapy for Jobriath. Unfortunately, Popstar, like his later show, Sunday Brunch, wasn’t produced.
Jobriath in the studio
The 1971 session for a Jobriath song called “As The River Flows” took place the evening of August 24th at Electric Lady Studios in New York (with producer/engineer extraordinaire Eddie Kramer behind the board). In the film of the session, Jobriath can be seen directing a chorus of singers through the paces of the track. This chorus was largely comprised of Jobriath’s friends and cast mates in the musicals Jesus Christ Superstar and Hair, including future disco queen Vicki Sue Robinson (“Turn The Beat Around”) and everyone’s soon-to-be favorite bartender, Issac, a/k/a Ted Lange from The Love Boat. But the biggest star on the horizon there that night was Richard Gere, who was brought along by Robinson. “As The River Flows” was placed on Jobriath’s 1972 demo tape, but the song remained unavailable to the general public until last year, when it was included as the title track of a compilation of Jobriath outtakes. Jobriath looks positively ecstatic in the film of the session, which, aside from a few brief segments in the documentary, hasn’t been seen since. Our preview of this charming short can be seen below.
Jobriath live
Check out the Jobriath A.D. trailer and pre-order the DVD/LP set here, or get it on Amazon.

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
Behind the scenes of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’
07:02 am



“We’ve become a nation of peeping toms,” says Thelma Ritter to James Stewart in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954). It’s an ironic comment in light of the events that follow—as well as offering a critique of the voyeuristic nature of cinema. Stewart plays L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies a photographer laid-up with a broken leg in his Greenwich Village apartment. He is attended to by his nurse (Ritter) and then his girlfriend Lisa Carol Fremont (Grace Kelly). Stewart spends his time spying on his neighbors watching their lives unfold. He becomes obsessed with one neighbor, Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr), who he soon suspects of being a murderer.

Based on the short story “It Had to Be Murder” by Cornell Woolrich, Rear Window is considered by some critics as Hitchcock’s “greatest film”—“possibly his most clever, his most ingeniously organized and poetically suggestive,” as John Fawell described it in his book Hitchcock’s Rear Window:

Rear Window offers an example of Hitchcock’s art at its best, when the batteries were really charged, when form and ideas, entertainment and art, all synchronized in a particularly harmonious whole.

Hitchcock considered Rear Window (along with Psycho) to be one of his most successful experiments in “pure cinema.”  The “possibility of doing a purely cinematic film,” was part of the reason Hitchcock had been attracted to Woolrich’s story, as he told French New Wave director François Truffaut:

You have an immobilised man looking out. That’s one part of the film. The second part shows how he reacts. This is actually the purest expression of a cinematic idea.

[Soviet film director Vsevolod] Pudovkin dealt with this, as you know. In one of his books on the art of montage, he describes an experiment by his teacher, [Lev] Kuleshov. You see a close-up of the Russian actor Ivan Mosjoukine. This is immediately followed by a shot of a dead baby. Back to Mosjoukine again and you read compassion on his face. Then you take away the dead baby and you show a plate of soup, and now, when you go back to Mosjoukine, he looks hungry. Yet, in both cases, they used the same shot of the actor; his face was exactly the same.

In the same way, let’s take a close-up of Stewart looking out of the window at a little dog that’s being lowered in a basket. Back to Stewart, who has a kindly smile. But if in place of the little dog you show a half-naked girl exercising in front of an open window, and you go back to a smiling Stewart again, this time he’s seen as a dirty old man!

Indeed Woolrich’s story suggested many of the set-pieces contained in Hitchcock’s movie—from being focussed on the central character’s point of view, to his observations of the neighbors across the way. Woolrich’s biographer, Francis M. Nevins, considered the film as “simply a translation of the story’s material in visual terms.” He also described Woolrich and Hitchcock as “soul brothers” (though author and director never met) claiming both were haunted by their Catholic upbringing and shared a sense (as Nevins puts it) of “humans as creatures trapped in the habits of their existence.”

Rear Window was shot entirely at Paramount Studios, where the set of an enormous apartment block for Stewart’s neighbors was built that (as Truffaut described it) offered “intentionally or not… an image of the world.”  Hitchcock agreed:

It shows every kind of human behaviour—a real index of individual behaviour. The picture would have been very dull if we hadn’t done that. What we see across the way is a group of little stories that, as you say, mirror a small universe.

This fine selection of photographs shows Hitchcock on set directing James Stewart and Grace Kelly in one of cinema’s greatest voyeuristic thrillers Rear Window.
More behind-the-scenes photos from ‘Rear Window,’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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