Artist Kristan Horton knows Dr. Strangelove well. I mean really well, much, much better than you do: he’s watched it hundreds of times, the natural outcome of a situation that arose when a VHS cassette of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece was the only content he could play on his TV set over a period lasting more than two years.
Horton, who is from Canada, says that this created a relationship to the movie he had to respond to, somewhat like when “Star Wars fans ... log hundreds of viewings and go on to make Storm Trooper outfits for themselves in their living rooms.”
Several years ago Horton decided to make an art project by re-creating hundreds of stills from the movie using ordinary objects you might find in your home. The project is called Dr. Strangelove Dr. Strangelove and was shown at Jessica Bradley Art + Projects and Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery.
Horton had wanted to re-create the movie via animation, but eventually realized that the stills from Dr. Strangelovehad a special power and allowed for sober comparison of the original and the imitation:
The project began with an intention to animate [by creating] an animated film. But it was the still that attracted me. The comparison was the exciting part. We can take as much time as we like in making the comparison. Time is on our side, not whizzing by at 24 frames per second.
The project has roughly 200 images, of which we show a small sample here. You can buy the book of Dr. Strangelove Dr. Strangelove and study all of the images at your leisure.
(Click on each image to see a larger view—these are gorgeous, and you’re going to want a closer look.)
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.
Ken Russell was among the many directors originally touted to direct A Clockwork Orange before Stanley Kubrick. Russell was considered stylistically sympathetic to bring Anthony Burgess’s source novel to cinematic life—he had documented youth gangs as a photographer in the 1950s and made a series of highly influential drama-documentaries and films that had inspired not only Stanley Kubrick but also Lindsay Anderson, Tony Richardson and later Derek Jarman. I wonder what Russell’s version of A Clockwork Orange would have been like? Perhaps more flamboyant, more seedy, more of the end-of the-pier, more human than Kubrick’s aesthetically pleasing but cold and sterile vision. And though the great and the good lobbied to have Mick Jagger play Alex, I wonder if Russell would have opted for his favorite actor Oliver Reed? Oh, what japes they’d have had. Instead Kubrick chose Malcolm McDowell because of his unforgettable and iconic performance as Mick Travis in Lindsay Anderson’s If…
Casting at first sight: director Lindsay Anderson was understandably smitten by McDowell’s beauty, talented and attitude when he cast him as Mick Travis in ‘If…’ The performance that led to his role as Alex in Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange.’.
McDowell had the blue-eyed, blonde beauty of a fallen angel—he would have been the perfect choice to play Lucifer for Kenneth Anger. McDowell was born in 1943 into a lower middle class family in Leeds, he was never the working class lout as some tabloids like to pretend but a privately educated son to a family who ran a small guest house. He was clever, smart, idealistic, and decided he wanted to be an actor. After school, he found found work as a stage manager on the Isle of Wight before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company. McDowell embraced the cultural rebellion of the 1960s and hated the dominance of the established theatrical institutions, as he once explained to writer Michael Bracewell:
‘The RSC? Horrendous. Middle-class theatre crap…actorly acting with lots of shouting—after [Laurence] Olivier—and soul-searching performances…I mean I saw some great performances—Ian Richardson and Paul Scofield—but it was like being ordered around and told what to do by a bunch of little shitheads. I auditioned for the RSC by reading the Prologue from Henry VIII, for the very good reason that nobody knew it. It begins, “I come no more to make you laugh”, which was ironic, because humour has always been a great mainstay of my arsenal. I mean, A Clockwork Orange was essentially a comic performance. I used to loot my style from Eric Morecambe.’
Eric Morecambe (with umbrella and bowler) and Ernie Wise.
Eric Morecambe was the comic half to the much-beloved double-act Morecambe and Wise, who dominated British television screens in the 1960s and 1970s, which brings a different interpretation to his performance as Alex—one that would have been ideal for Ken Russell.
‘I’ve always had to live down A Clockwork Orange wherever I go, because ever since then, with the exception of O, Lucky Man!, which I made with Lindsay [Anderson] immediately afterwards, I’ve always been cast as the heavy. It used to irritate the shit out of me, and then I just got bored with it, you know? I just wanted to get on, maybe make a few comedies or do something else, but there was Alex…I know that I’ve said some mean things about Kubrick in the past, but thinking back to the actual shooting of that film and trying to forget all the baggage of what happened afterwards, it was an incredibly stimulating experience, even though I got to the point where I hated the film because of the reaction.’
This runs contra to McDowell’s enthusiasm as expounded in this interview about A Clockwork Orange he gave with author Anthony Burgess in 1972, but this was still early days and McDowell had not been hamstrung by his move to Hollywood, where he ended-up making movies for the lowest common denominator. McDowell is an exceptionally talented actor and no matter how dire the film he always gives a powerfully memorable performance.
The book and its Beethoven-loving author, Anthony Burgess.
Anthony Burgess came to hate Kubrick’s film too, which was ironic as the movie made Burgess a bigger star than his writing up to that point had achieved. Burgess is a writer’s writer, a polymath who claimed he would rather be known for his musical compositions than his books. Burgess wrote A Clockwork Orange in 1962, after being mistakenly told he had not long to live. To ensure he left money for his wife, Burgess wrote a series of novels in quick succession, one of which was A Clockwork Orange. It was moderately successful on publication, a cult book, that became a bestseller after Kubrick’s movie. Burgess claimed he took the title from an old East London saying, “As queer as a clockwork orange,” which may or may not be true, as there appears to be no known record of this phrase. Whatever its derivation, it perfectly captured the book’s theme of a hideous artificial will imposed on natural behavior.
McDowell and Kubrick on set during filming.
After Kubrick’s film version of A Clockwork Orange was released in Britain in 1971, it was ironically linked to a series of violent crimes. The first was the murder of a tramp by a 16-year-old youth; the second involved another 16-year-old who, while dressed in the film’s distinctive gang uniform, stabbed a younger boy; the third was the brutal and horrific gang rape of a Dutch girl by a group of youths from Lancashire, as they sang “Singing in the Rain”.
Sentencing the 16-year-old for assaulting a child, a judge described the attack part of a “horrible trend” prompted by “this wretched film”. Following death threats and warnings from the police over revenge attacks, Kubrick asked Warner Brothers to pull the film from its UK release. For a very long time, through the 1980s and 1990s, the nearest place Brits could see A Clockwork Orange was Paris. It was only after Kubrick’s death in 1999 was his ban lifted and the film re-released in the UK.
In the June 25, 1972 issue of the Chicago Tribune there appears a profile of Peter Sellers written by the paper’s film critic Gene Siskel. The article focuses on some serious health problems Sellers had recently undergone, specifically “eight heart attacks in one day.” Sellers seemed to be recovering well, in part due to a newfound interest in yoga.
The article does not mention what triggered those “eight heart attacks in one day.” According to Wikipedia, on the night of April 5, 1964, prior to having sex with his wife Britt Ekland, Sellers took amyl nitrites as a sexual stimulant in his search for “the ultimate orgasm” and suffered a series of eight heart attacks over the course of three hours as a result. This unfortunate medical outcome forced Sellers to withdraw from the filming of Billy Wilder’s Kiss Me, Stupid; he was replaced by Ray Walston.
Knowing that Sellers was likely the world’s most famous actorly collaborator of Stanley Kubrick’s, having appeared to spectacular effect in Dr. Strangelove and Lolita, Siskel naturally inquired as to Sellers’ opinion of A Clockwork Orange, which had been out for a few months and had sparked intense discussion over the role of violence in the movies.
Much to Siskel’s surprise, it turns out that Sellers’ opinion of the movie was unequivocal: he hated it.
Sellers: I hated ‘A Clockwork Orange.’ I thought it was the biggest load of crap I’ve ever seen for years. Amoral. I think because of the violence around today it’s lamentable that a director of Stanley Kubrick’s distinction and ability should lend himself to such a subject. I’m not saying that you can’t pick up that book [the Anthony Burgess novel upon which the film is based], read it, and put it down. But to make it as a film, with all the violence we have in the world today – to add to it, to put it on show – I just don’t understand where Stanley is at.
Siskel: Are you saying that it will influence people to commit violence that they would otherwise not commit?
Sellers: I think it adds to it.
Most fascinating (and in a way, hilarious) is a passage later in the profile, which comes when Siskel is trying to get Sellers to admit that it’s okay for movies to handle violence as a subject. Sellers interrupts: “I must tell you first of all that I’m a yogi. I am against violence completely. Hare ommm. So you now know why. So there’s really no point in asking any more questions about it.”
In the summer of 1945, Stanley Kubrick, many years before he was the acclaimed director of Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and A Clockwork Orange, had a series of photographs published in LOOK magazine, a competitor to LIFE. He was just 16 years old. Thus would begin a relationship with the magazine that would last several years, until he began making movies in earnest around the age of 23, in the early 1950s.
Kubrick took this self-portrait in 1949 with his Leica III while working as a staff photographer for LOOK Magazine
A pretty impressive homage to Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 masterpiece A Clockwork Orange hosted by Grand Theft Auto Online on YouTube. It took more than a dozen people to recreate some of the most iconic scenes from the movie using Grand Theft Auto V. Now I’ve played GTA a few times myself—this was years ago, btw—and I can’t figure out for the life of me just how they were able to recreate a few of these scenes. Incredible work!
It wasn’t just the nuclear fallout in the milk that concerned most people during the late 1950s and early 1960s, there was a genuine fear that the world was on the verge of an all-out nuclear war between Russia and America that would end life on the planet or make it rather awful for the few survivors. These anxieties were heightened by the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 and were reflected in a series of novels, films, and TV dramas that predicted humanity’s seemingly inevitable nuclear annihilation at the push of a button.
When Stanley Kubrick optioned Peter George’s book Red Alert (aka Two Hours to Doom), he intended to make a faithful film adaptation of the George’s chilling tale of near nuclear armageddon. But as he researched the subject and began work on a script with the author, Kubrick found the proposition of nuclear war utterly absurd and decided to make not a thriller but “a nightmare comedy” that satirized the insanity of two countries arming themselves with such horrific weapons of mass destruction.
Kubrick considered telling the story of Earth’s nuclear demise from the point of view of visiting extraterrestrials, but didn’t think this approach had the right amount of “inspired lunacy.” He then decided to bring in author Terry Southern to write a story using George’s novel as a loose framework to play up the comedy rather than the thrills. The result was Doctor Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb—“the most perfectly written comedic screenplay of post-war cinema,” as critic Alexander Walker described it. Dr. Strangelove was also the film that brought Kubrick’s unique visionary talents as a director to the fore.
Kubrick discusses a shot with camera operator Kelvin Pike and the director’s wife Christiane Kubrick.
Kubrick instructs cast members during filming of the siege of the airbase.
Operating the camera prior to filming a scene with George C. Scott as General Buck Turgidson and Tracy Reed as Miss Scott.
Many more pics from the filming of the Cold War classic after the jump…..
One of the best things about being Stanley Kubrick would be that people like Scatman Crothers, who played Dick Hallorann in The Shining, would just spontaneously write songs about you and sing them to you. I feel like if that ever happened to you, your life would be complete. And no, you can’t just substitute Kanye in for Scatman or something like that. Biz Markie, maybe.
Anyway, in a 1980 interview conducted by Mick Garris, Crothers discusses Kubrick’s excessive perfectionism (as represented by the unwieldy number of takes) and then essays a rendition of a little song he composed about Kubrick during a down moment on the set of The Shining—it sounds like there were plenty of down moments to choose from.
Even more fabulously, Scatman, true to his name, actually does do some scat-singing in the song. Here are the lyrics to “Stanley (Does It All)”—Scatman was very insistent about the parentheses there.
There’s a man
Livin’ in London Town
He’s a world renown
Yes, he’s really got the fame
Stanley Kubrick is his name
He does it all
He does it all
I’m tellin’ y’all
Stanley does it all
He’s a writer, he directs
He produces his projects
He’s the man behind the lens
And Stanley always wins
He’s a man who looks ahead
Can make you think he raised the dead
It’s and cuts all his flicks
He’s a genius with his tricks
He does it all
He does it all
In his 1972 book The Lost Worlds of 2001, Arthur C. Clarke says that he met Stanley Kubrick in a Trader Vic’s on April 22, 1964. The two formed a fast partnership. In May of that year, Clarke and Kubrick began hammering out the basic ideas that would eventually become 2001: A Space Odyssey. They would use Clarke’s short story, “The Sentinel” as a jumping off point and, in order to generate a rich background for the film, they took the somewhat unusual approach of attempting to collaborate on the creation of a new novel “with an eye on the screen” before writing the screenplay (although, in reality, the process became much more blurred).
Right around the same time, Clarke appeared on the BBC series Horizon in September of 1964 where he discussed some of his predictions for the year 2000 and beyond. You can watch the fascinating appearance in the two clips below. Horizon, now its 50th year, had just aired its first episode on Buckminster Fuller in May of 1964. Clarke’s appearance was part of the 6th episode of the series entitled The Knowledge Explosion and it provides us with some interesting insight into his vision of the future and some of the concepts that he and Kubrick were likely contemplating.
Clarke was keeping a detailed log of his work with Kubrick during this time period. To give the Horizon clips some context, here are a few of Clarke’s journal entries from 1964 as he and Kubrick went back and forth about their ideas for the novel and film. From The Lost Worlds of 2001:
May 31. One hilarious idea we won’t use. Seventeen aliens – featureless black pyramids – riding in open cars down Fifth Avenue, surrounded by Irish cops.
June 20. Finished the opening chapter, “View from the Year 2000,” and started on the robot sequence.
August 6. Stanley suggests that we make the computer female and call her Athena.
August 19. Writing all day. Two thousand words exploring Jupiter’s satellites. Dull work.
September 7. Stanley quite happy: “We’re in fantastic shape.” He has made up a 100-word questionnaire about our astronauts, e.g. do they sleep in their pajamas, what do they eat for breakfast, etc.
September 8. Upset stomach last night. Dreamed I was a robot, being rebuilt. In a great burst of energy managed to redo two chapters. Took them to Stanley, who was very pleased and cooked me a fine steak, remarking “Joe Levine doesn’t do this for his writers.”
September 29. Dreamed that shooting had started. Lots of actors standing around, but I still didn’t know the story line.
On Horizon, Clarke accurately predicts instantaneous communication via satellite between people across the globe and talks about putting space travelers in suspended animation to traverse long distances over huge periods of time just as the astronauts do in 2001. He also throws out some bizarre concepts like replacing human servants with bioengineered apes and dolphins, but as he says early in the first clip “If what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I’ll have failed completely.”
Only the most observant of Kubrick-aholics will even remember the Howard Johnson’s reference in his landmark 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it’s right there, around the 30th minute. Dr. Heywood Floyd, played with purposeful blandness by William Sylvester, finds himself in a veritable barrage of product placement following the legendary Johann Strauss “Blue Danube” slam cut from the apes’ bone to the graceful, silent spacecraft. Dr. Floyd is flying in a Pan Am vehicle, we’re told, and over the next few minutes, at the space station, he walks through a Hilton hotel lobby, places a call to his wife and daughter using a Ma Bell videophone, and yes, walks by a “Howard Johnson’s Earthlight Room.”
As the beneficiary of a truly special promotional opportunity, Howard Johnson’s did their part, releasing a combined comic book/children’s menu depicting a visit to the premiere of the movie by two youngsters—well, the title actually tells it pretty well: “Debbie and Robin Go to a Movie Premiere with Their Parents.” Neat-O! Given that in the movie (SPOILER ALERT) a computer bloodlessly kills off several members of the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery One and that the movie ends in a psychedelic and well-nigh incomprehensible farrago of colorful effects that Mad Magazine insisted was a result of David Bowman (Keir Dullea) crashing into “the brand new 105-story Jupiter Museum of Op Art,” it’s understandable that the comic focuses on the gee-whiz feeling conveyed in the middle chunk of the movie, and glosses over the ending—the two comic panels in which the family emerges from the theater discussing “the way the mystery was solved!” are, given the downbeat goings-on in the movie, perfectly apposite and false in the only way it can be. The synopsis ignores one of the movie’s most noteworthy aspects outright, by which I mean the apes of the opening sequence. But note that the comic’s discussion of the movie—hilariously—does not gloss over Hal’s murders, as evidenced by the above panel.
What we see here is the old Hollywood promotional methods associated with Mary Poppins, perhaps, or Cleopatra attempting to deal with the totally new, technologically sophisticated, and thematically bleak mode of filmmaking. Would you be able to create credibly cute kiddie characters who gush about “The Dawn of Man” and what lies “Beyond the Infinite”? I sure can’t.
More great cartoon panels and a video clip, all after the jump…..
Well, that’s the proposition of William Kare’s documentary (mockumentary?) Dark Side of the Moon, which originally aired on French TV channel Arte in 2002 as Opération Lune.
According to Karel’s (fictional?) film, Kubrick was hired to fake the Apollo 11 mission by the U.S. government. The evidence? Well, secret documents alluding to Kubrick’s involvement in the “fraud” were discovered among the director’s papers after his death in March 1999.
Moreover, Kubrick apparently left clues to his involvement into the scam: firstly, his being loaned lenses by NASA to recreate the candle-lit scenes in his film Barry Lyndon—how else could have got hold of these unless NASA owed him a BIG favor?; secondly, Kubrick allegedly made a confession of his involvement in the conspiracy that is contained in his film version of Stephen King’s The Shining.
Adding substance to these alleged facts, Karel wheels out a highly convincing array of contributors: Henry Kissinger, Buzz Aldrin, Jan Harlan, Richard Helms, Vernon Walters (who is claimed to have mysteriously died after filming) and Christiane Kubrick.
It’s a great romp, and for those who are tempted to believe, watch the bloopers reel at the end.
These various tales of Kubrick from The Stanley and Us Project were originally included as part of a documentary by directors Mauro di Flaviano, Federico Greco, Stefano Landini on Stanley Kubrick.
In 1997 during the course of making the original Stanley and Us documentary, the trio recorded over seven-and-half hours’ worth of interviews, but only used a small percentage of this in the finished film. After Stanley and Us was released in 1999, they packaged the interviews in to 30-minute shows for Italian television’s RAI channel.
Over the past two years as part of the on-going Stanley and Us Project interviews have been appearing on YouTube and include such gems as waspish critic, the late Alexander Walker explaining why Kubrick was in awe of Peter Sellers, and why Sellers was mad; daughter Katharina Kubrick talking about the “crazy time” after the release of A Clockwork Orange; designer Ken Adam on Kubrick verses Bond; the legendary actor Murray Melvin discussing 57 takes on Barry Lyndon; editor Gordon Stainforth on why Kubrick was always right; Darth Vader actor David Prowse on “one-take Kubrick”; actor Michael Tarn on why the script was the book; executive producer Jan Harlan on Kubrick’s use of time; and Kubrick’s wife Christiane on Stanley’s acceptance speech video for Directors Guild of America D.W. Griffith Award and why he didn’t do interviews; and Walker again, this time on Kubrick’s funeral.
More tales of Kubrick from ‘Stanley and Us,’ after the jump…
Kubrick at 21, then a visionary photographer for Look magazine
Stanley Kubrick was a man of wildly variant yet intensely focused interests. He was never prolific—his obsessive devotion to perfection and research wouldn’t allow it. With that kind of artistic dedication, you’d at least hope all his projects were completed. Unfortunately for us, he had quite a few awesome-sounding films that got shelved—some of which he spent years on. This little mini-doc gives a neat little run-down of Kubrick’s unrealized visions.
Kubrick developed A.I. for years, which was later passed on to Steven Spielberg. A simple side-by-side viewing of E.T. and 2001: A Space Odyssey tells you everything you need to know about a Spielberg sci-fi versus a Kubrick sci-fi. Honestly, I don’t mind a little bit of that old schmaltzy Spielbergian glow, but I can’t help but think that Kubrick would have done something a million times more interesting with a movie on artificial intelligence. The man developed HAL 9000, for chrissake!
That’s not the only time Spielberg played a role in Kubrick’s career. Schindler’s List undercut Kubrick’s push for his own film on the Holocaust after the director had already starting casting and scouting locations. Perhaps the most ambitious of his “dreams deferred ” was a Napoleon biopic. Kubrick researched every day of Napoleon’s life and kept a meticulous log. He even had dirt from a Napoleonic battleground, so that he might match the soil color for accuracy in the film!
Someone on imgur has uploaded a whole lot of fantastic images depicting the filming of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. There are 100 of them, and boy, do they provide a lot of fascinating detail about one of the most ambitious movie sets ever constructed—especially in terms of the available technology. It’s great to see how much of this is analog—I mean we know it had to be analog, but the contrast with today’s CGI way is stark. I especially love the stills where you can see the grandeur of the massive stage sets, how they solved the problem of filming, for example, a set in which the inside of a massive wheel is a continuous flat surface in a zero-gravity space vessel.
I feel like I run into the opinion fairly often that 2001 is boring, dated. I couldn’t disagree more. My dad first took me to see 2001 in Vienna in 1982; I was 12. It really did blow my mind; I didn’t understand a thing. I watch 2001 every five years or so and I have never watched it and not been tremendously impressed and enthralled.
(Even so, I can admire the wit behind Mad Magazine’s snippet of dialogue in their satire 201 (Min. of) A Space Idiocy, poking fun at the movie’s ending: “What did you expect…!? You just crashed through the brand-new 105-story Jupiter Museum of Op Art!”)
These pictures appear to be a heterogenous collection from a variety of sources; it’s more a feat of collection and curation than anything else. The pictures are cleverly arranged in the approximate order of the movie’s unfolding, so it feels a little bit like watching the movie itself. Really, hats off.
Remember, there’s a lot more where this came from, so be sure and look at the rest.
Here’s the official trailer, which is quite a piece of work in its own right:
European filmmakers, including George Sluizer (director of Spoorloos, aka The Vanishing. and Utz), Peter Delpeut (Felice..Felice..) and Harry Kümel (Daughters of Darkness, Malpertuis) discuss the films and famously obsessive work practices of Stanley Kubrick.
Kubrick thought Sluizer’s The Vanishing the most terrifying film he had seen—even more frightening than The Shining, and it led to Kubrick ‘phoning the Dutch filmmaker to discuss editing.
There is also an interview with Johanna ter Steege, who was set to star in Kubrick’s so-called “lost Holocaust” movie The Aryan Papers, which was dropped after Steven Spielberg made Schindler’s List.
“He [Kubrick] was convinced that he had found an actress whose performance would catapult a new star to the forefront of international stardom and give this dark and serious film the needed ‘gloss’,” Kubrick’s brother-in-law and producer Jan Harlan has said of Ter Steege. He believes that it was “devastating” for her that the film wasn’t made. “It’s like a young musician getting his first Carnegie Hall [concert] and then being told you can’t do it. It must be terrible, after you’ve prepared yourself for months and months.”
It ends with (who else?) Malcolm McDowell in performance, recounting a tale of working with Kubrick.