Friday, June 24, 2011
For years Laurel & Hardy's 1930 short comedy "Brats" has been a source of utter fascination and wonderment to me. This four character film is enacted by two actors only--Stan and Ollie, natch--playing themselves and their sons. Without the aid of trick photography (which didn't exist yet), the film devises ingenious ways to show the boys and their little boys together and seperately in a variety of scenes, all of which take place in a house (presumably Ollie's though I don't know why I presume this) one night while the wives are presumably out for the evening. (Again, I don't know why I presume this--perhaps L&H's wives both deserted them and the children, leaving the boys to be early single-parent householders).
Clearly the film required two sets: one of the house in which the adult scenes take place, and a reproduction of parts of
that house suitably overscaled so that Stan and Ollie can appear to be a third of their actual size. The cunning and ingenuity
with which this is accomplished is formidable; every time I see the movie I realize that every shot needed to be pre-planned and that nothing could mis-match without disastrous consequences for both the continuity and the comedy. Here is a rare still of the bathroom set (which the young L&H of course flood)--taken with Hal Roach starlet Thelma Todd posing on the tub.
The film is seamlessly made and utterly convincing--so much so that as many times as I've seen it and intend on watching it for the trick photography, I always forget and get caught up in the artful and timeless comedy of L&H. The hell with CG. "Brats" proves that special effects were within the grasp of the most creative minds without anything but sets and a little clever planning.
To my intense annoyance, after finishing this post I've discovered that "Brats" is no longer posted on youtube due to "copyright restrictions." Copyright? Copyright? It's 2011--who the hell cares about copyrights anymore? Anyway dig it up. You'll be glad that you did.
Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 10:38 AM
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Herewith the second half hour or so of "Emergency Ward", a 1962 Dupont Show Of the Week. Dig the final shot of the film. Dig the crazy doctor/nurse cocktail party. Dig Dr. Mulnar saving a life. I know the networks are currently all competing to reproduce the success of "Mad Men" with 60's era shows--"Pan Am" and "Playboy Club" are the ones that got picked up. (Neither pilot is very good, by the way--"Pan Am" is beautifully shot but the characters uninteresting and "Playboy" just plain crappy). Why not do an "E.R." in period? This film could serve as a template for such a show. Unfortunately the above mentioned shows will almost certainly fail leaving the networks with zero interest whatsoever in ever doing a period show again.
Until somebody else does and it's a success...
Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 2:06 PM
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Welcome to a hot summer's evening in New York City in 1962. The setting: Bellevue Hosptial. It don't get more glamorous. We are in the "EMERGENCY WARD"--which is the name of the documentary film that my father, Frank De Felitta, shot during that sweltering summer of '62 and which is posted, in part, below.
The film is a fascinating look at a single intern and a typical night in his life. Of course it wasn't shot in a single night but over a course of weeks. The reason, according to my father, is that the mandate from NBC--the network who commissioned the show--was to show an intern losing one patient and saving another. This didn't happen every night. It barely happened that summer. But after weeks of arduous shooting and waiting and becoming a serious annoyance to the staff, my father and his crew delivered. Dr. Martin Mulnar--the young, blonde Tab Hunter-ish intern who they chose to follow--first lost and then finally saved a patients life. The film wrapped, NBC had their one hour movie, and Dr. Mulnar presumbaly went on to a career in medicine.( I can't find anything about him on the internet, which is why I say presumably). He was twenty-six in 1962 which means he was born in 1936 which means he'd be seventy-four years old which means the odds are good he's alive. I hope he's forgiven my father and his crew for making that summer immeasurably more complicated for him than it needed to be. Still, he got on TV--something that doctors (back then) rarely did.
"Emergency Ward" was actually a one hour segment of a larger anthology show called "The DuPont Show Of the Week". The show ran for three seasons--1961-64--and the episode list makes many of the shows sound quite tempting. I dig my fathers film for reasons that go beyond the family connection. It's a genuine cinema verite noir--a look at "Naked City" New York complete with period characters--doctors who smoke, beat-up drunks from the Bowery etc.--and is shot in a wonderful, unobtrusive style that was influenced by D.A. Pennebaker and Albert Maysles...except that it was made while they had barely begun their documentary careers. The narrator of the film is Dana Andrews who speaks his lines as if he hadn't bothered to watch the film. (He was probably in a hospital himself when they recorded him...) Strangely enough--as in most of Andrews screen work--this somehow works to his advantage.
I think you'll find the first two parts of this time capsule urban drama quite seriously compelling. As usual if you just want to watch the whole thing in one gulp, go to Movies Til Dawn's Youtube channel where the whole thing is posted.
Calling Dr. Mulnar, Dr. Mulnar...
Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 4:56 PM