Archive for April 28th, 2012

April 28, 2012

Titanic / In Nacht Und Eis (1940 / 1912 – Cinema)

“An eternal condemnation of England’s quest for profit”

The story behind the 1940 German version of ‘Titanic’ turned out to better than the film itself. The film was supposed to be a propaganda piece showing the arrogance and greed of us Brits, supposed traits that lead to the sinking of the unsinkable. However the Nazi true believer Walter Zerlett-Olfenius who wrote ‘Titanic’s screenplay denounced his friend and director Herbert Selpin after he’d openly made some remarks about how Hitler was mishandling the war. The director was quickly replaced, imprisoned and was soon found dead in his cell from an obviously faked suicide at the hands of Propaganda Minister Goebbels. When the film was finally released the scenes of chaos and death were far too close to the nightly destruction that the population of Germany were facing from Allied bombing raids, so Goebbels had the film shelved and banned all further performances.

I imagined viewing the film now as part of the BFI’s ‘S.O.S Titanic’ season would be very interesting from a historical perspective, but the movie isn’t actually all that offensive on the propaganda side. An imaginary German central character cast as the lone voice of reason against an array of selfish British and American capitalists is about as strong as it gets. From a purely artistic perspective the movie pales in comparison to the British masterpiece ‘A Night To Remember’ but seems a clear influence on that film (‘A Night To Remember’ actually used some uncredited footage from ‘Titanic’).  It looks handsome enough but suffers from the same sort of deviations from the facts that weakened James Cameron’s 1997 ‘Titanic’.

To accompany the screening, the earliest surviving film about the disaster was shown beforehand. ‘In Nacht Und Eis’ is a short silent film released immediately after the real event in late 1212. This was accompanied by a wonderful live piano performance and the vibrantly colour-tinted print was pin-sharp (Remarkable for a film a century old) but sadly the acting wasn’t.  The wild gestures used by the characters (The first Officer in particular) as they gaze terrified at the sight of a small lump of polystyrene floating in a pond (Meant to represent the towering iceberg) elicited howls of laughter from the audience!

You can view the whole of ‘Titanic’ on YouTube here:

You can also view a poor quality and badly cropped ‘In Nacht Und Eis’ on YouTube here:

April 28, 2012

Lady & The Tramp (1955 – Blu-Ray)

“A human heart has only so much room for love and affection. When a baby moves in, the dog moves out”

Yay, another Walt Disney Blu-Ray to watch with the usual peerless perfection they bring to the format.  1955’s ‘Lady & The Tramp’ looks totally stunning and probably didn’t actually look this good back in the day, with every handcrafted detail of the animation up there in glorious detail, even the microscopic feint shadows between animation transparencies are occasional visible.  The plot follows ‘Lady’, a dog belonging to a well-to-do couple as she finds herself neglected when a baby arrives, resulting in her meeting carefree homeless dog ‘The Tramp’.

Like the African-American black crows from 1941’s ‘Dumbo’ this film is populated with dog characters based on mostly fairly harmless racial stereotypes.  Like a Scottish Highland Terrier, a Mexican Chihuahua and a cockney Bulldog all helping the central couple. However the song sequence featuring two evil Siamese cats with buck teeth and slanted eyes singing “We are Siameeeese, if you pleeeease” is jaw droppingly misjudged viewed half a century later.  This scene aside the movie is a charming romantic story with the silent sequences giving the animators full reign to tell the story through their artistry alone.  So much so, that it feels slightly disappointing that dialogue was used at all, since I’m sure the team behind this were clever enough to work without it.