On the Beach

It seems like Eastman House has been working on their restoration of Paul Fejos’s magnificent “Lonesome” forever, but now the effort has paid off in a stunningly beautiful disc from the Criterion Collection. Based on a print from the Cinematheque Francaise, the new edition presents excellent grain and contrast (certainly in the Blu-ray version), much cleaner sound for the talking sequences, and a vivid rendition of the hand-colored Coney Island night scenes. The disc includes the best reconstruction of the blighted 1929 “Broadway” to date, marrying a complete English soundtrack to a Hungarian print of the silent version (complete with the last reel in two-strip Technicolor), as well as the relatively minor “The Last Peformance,” with Conrad Veidt as a standard-issue mad magician.

If you already know Fejos, this disc is a must-have. If you don’t, it’s even more so. A review here, in the New York Times.

57 comments to On the Beach

  • When Raquel Welch got the Golden Globe award for THE THREE MUSKETEERS, she said “I’ve been waiting for this award since One Million Years B.C.!”

    The rest of us have been waiting nearly as long to see Fejos.
    At last, he is here!

  • Alex Hicks

    Sounds like LONESOME adds another day/night out with the girl on the town/amusement park/beach to the repertoire of such great scenes in silent masterpieces of cinematic realism — the Beach/ammusement park excursion in GREED, the Coney Island sequence in THE CROWD, day on the town in SUNRISE.

  • You’re right Alex because in a way, Lonesome is a compilation of what made the greatness of silent art.
    Fejos adds a sentimental and realistic tune of his own but doesn’t strike you as a creator of the range of Murnau or Vidor. He seems to me more a clever filmmaker.
    His following “Gardez le sourire!” shows an obvious taste for plagiarism with a whole retake of the wedding scene in Sunrise.

  • You’re right Alex because in a way, Lonesome is a compilation of what made the greatness of silent art.
    Fejos adds a sentimental and realistic tune of his own but doesn’t strike you as a creator of the range of Murnau or Vidor. He seems to me more a clever filmmaker.
    His following “Gardez le sourire!” shows an obvious taste for plagiarism with a whole retake of the wedding scene in Sunrise.

  • jbryant

    It’s probably been mentioned here, but LONESOME star Barbara Kent died just this past October at age 103.

  • Christophe

    104 actually (close to 105)
    would be great if she were interviewed in the DVD

  • D. K. Holm

    Raquel Welch winning a GG reminds me of that strain of bad actors who mysteriously thrive under good directors, in this case Richard Lester. Ann-Margret in Carnal Knowledge comes to mind, and possibly Stallone in Copland under Mangold, though there the bar was raised considerably by the power-packed cast.

  • Barry Lane

    Broadway was remade in 1942 with George Raft effectively playing George Raft as oppsed to dancer Roy Lane. While trite is surely the right word the piece clearly has somethng. A soul perhaps. When William Seiter, Raft, Janet Blair, Broderick Crawford and best of all, Marjorie Rambeau completed their work, they had a product worth looking at. Not quite art perhaps, but an interesting curiosity.

  • Alex Hicks

    Christophe

    Your comemnt is very interesting. However, I meant less to see Fejos as retread than to characterize the big city “day out” as a common response of the the cinematic realists — and modernist realists in the style of Dos Passos and perhaps Murnau and Fejos– to their urban subject matter.

  • jbryant

    Christophe, FWIW, both imdb and Wikipedia say Kent was 103 at the time of her death in October 2011 and would’ve turned 104 in December.

  • Exceptionally I got to read Dave’s great piece already on Sunday as it was also published in The International Herald Tribune’s European weekend edition. It’s an interesting observation about LONESOME as a valuable link leading to Neorealism. It seems to have been an international vogue with fine movies such as PEOPLE ON SUNDAY (influenced by Neue Sachlichkeit), BED AND SOFA, and ROTAIE appearing in different countries. THE CROWD may have been the most influential, as acknowledged by Rossellini and De Sica.

  • Alex, add Harold Lloyd’s SPEEDY (and perhaps the Mary Pickford MY BEST GIRL) to the list of films with sequences of getaways to amusement parks.

    And Lloyd co-starred with Barbara Kent in his first two talkies! I understand that Kent refused all efforts to get her to discuss her film career. Too bad!

  • Rick K.

    LONESOME surely deserves consideration as the outstanding dvd/blu-ray release of the year, and among the most worthy purchases for movie buffs supporting Criterion for making rarities such as this available via state-of-the-art restorations. And, as Dave points out, its more of a package deal with THREE rarities for the price of one!

    Fejos has probably been the most overlooked director of Andrew Sarris’ subjects for further research, due primarily to general non-accessibility of these three films. Also pointing out that seeing LONESOME on a venue like You Tube is NOT really seeing the film … to utilize a common axiom, Fejos used film like a painter’s brush, and those splotchy images that appear on You Tube in NO way adequately represent the work in question … even this authentic restoration is a compromise of sorts, since the only known materials are in less-than-perfect shape, but the beauty and invention of the film certainly receives the best possible treatment in this restored version.

    THE LAST PERFORMANCE suffers the most quality-wise, since the one extant print from Denmark was in pretty weak condition, but seeing this restoration of BROADWAY is an absolutely vital piece of Hollywood history, and Criterion also provides a nifty audio clip of cameraman Hal Mohr discussing the incredible crane work which became that film’s key innovation.

  • Barry Putterman

    I first saw both LONESOME and BROADWAY in MoMA’s Universal series (which was at least 30 years ago) and finally got to see them again in this summer’s Film Forum Universal series. Seeing them at such different points of my filmgoing experience made for an interesting adventure, both in terms of memory and appreciation.

    What really struck me this time was a rather peculiar sense of contrast in both films. Sarris remarked that he found the sound sequences heartbreakingly awkward in LONESOME, but for me they were more than that. It isn’t just that they could almost be from a different movie, they could almost be from a different planet. The incredible fluidity and sense of experienced location stops dead in the sound sequences. Unlike many other early sound projects, Fejos doesn’t even attempt to move the camera in these scenes. He seems rather to be hoping that the awkward sincerity of the characters would come through in the duration at which the camera stares at them. Further, the scene of Tryon and Kent supposedly reclining on the beach and admiting their true selves to each other seems to almost emphasize that it is taking place on a bare, pitch dark soundstage and almost become eerie in its dislocation from the rest of the film.

    In many ways BROADWAY is the same thing, only VERY different. The fluidity of the crane recording the on stage performances had made such an impression on me that I had pictured the whole film being shot that way in my memory. On second viewing it becomes clear that the on stage sequences are a rather small part of the overall film. And, just as in LONESOME, Fejos chooses not to even attempt much camera movement in filming the backstage story, but rather films it in well composed but basically static shots.

    Unlike Dave, I find the backstage story to be rather compelling, although it is somewhat let down by a less than stellar cast. (The part of Roy Lane was originated on stage by Lee Tracy and he was understudied by the performer on whom the character was actually based, Roy Lloyd). But again, we seem to be on two different planets. The on stage space becomes some sort of Expressionist wet dream of a cabaret, while the backstage world is the kind of cramped, seedy low rent joint that the stage play envisioned.

    I was also struck by Universal’s rather peculiar notion of how music could work to their advantage on a movie soundtrack during this period. Ever since WHAT PRICE GLORY? hit pay dirt with the love theme “Charmaine,” Fox was looking to spin off melodies which they could cash in on as song hits from the movies; “Diane” in SEVENTH HEAVEN, “My Angelina in STREET ANGEL, “Ramona” in, well, RAMONA.

    LONESOME gives Universal the perfect opportunity to come up with some such song of their own, but they chose to use the well known and pre-existing Irving Berlin song “Always” as the love theme. Artistically, it was an inspired choice. LONESOME is almost a complete illustration of the direct intensity of Berlin’s song. But you don’t even get to hear the lyrics sung all the way through in the film. And the only one who was going to profit from a revived interest in the song was Berlin himself.

    By the opposite token, a number of not quite Berlin level songs such as the immortal “Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg” were added to BROADWAY to expand what was essentially a straight play into the Fejos version of a musical.

    It all seems a bit ass backward to me. But then again, Universal was the studio which, in the same year that it turned BROADWAY into a musical, released a version of SHOW BOAT that omitted all of its songs.

  • Off topic: If anyone is coming to Toronto for TIFF I want to highlight that J.Hoberman will be signing his new book “Film After Film” on Sunday September 9th at 7PM at the shop (I will be selling the books). Hoberman discuses 21st century cinema in terms of its digital turn and reflecting a post-9/11 America – and the chapter ‘Notes Towards A Syllabus’ provides reviews of these exemplary films. Where in other published works, Hoberman has tackled the 50′s and 70s, in “Film After Film” where the subject is the 21st century, there is a freshness and troublesome quality to what is being discussed.

  • Alex

    “…released a version of SHOW BOAT that omitted all of its songs.”

    I take it this silent version of HOW BOAT doesn’t quite do for Kern and Hammerstein what Lubitsch’s LADY WINDERMERE’S FAN does for Wilde.

  • jbryant

    Christophe: Interesting. I don’t suppose there’s any way to know which source is correct. Every obit I’ve seen (NY Times, Guardian, Telegraph, etc.) goes with 1907 as Kent’s birth year and 103 as her age at death, as do the aforementioned imdb and Wikipedia (U.S.). Of course, it only takes one erroneous source to muddy the waters. If anyone has a definitive answer on this, perhaps they’ll weigh in.

  • Oliver_C

    Was Sam Warner born in 1885 or 1887? Wong Kar-wai, 1956 or 1958? Did the Lathams’ footage of The Griffo-Barnett Fight (1895) run for four minutes or eight, and was the Lumieres’ L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat first screened in 1895 or 1896? Even for such simple essentials, easily verifiable one would think, there’s disagreement.

  • Barry, I like your extended comment on the music in LONESOME. If you listen all the way to the end of the Criterion version of the film, there’s some exit music that isn’t “Always” over the reconstructed “end” title and credits. It’s a woman’s voice singing a song with the word “Lonesome” in it. It cuts off after a minute in mid-phrase; I assume that’s all the good folk at Criterion could find of the original track. I’m asking about this in particular as a friend of mine heard a longer version of this exit music (as she recalls) at a New York screening of the film in 1962. She tells me she’s been waiting to re-hear this (in her memory) lovely song ever since; Universal evidently didnt put it out as sheet music as she’d over the intervening fifty years consulted some of the expert sheet music collectors in the country to try and find it. I had the task of telling her the other day that yes, the vocal she’s wanted to hear again for a half-century does exist on the disc, but on the other hand….

    I happen to be reading Laurence Bergreen’s Irving Berlin biography “As Thousands Cheer” (1990). “Always” was a new song in 1929, written for the Broadway play “The Cocoanuts” but rejected by George S. Kaufman. Kaufman thought Berlin’s line “I’ll be loving you always” was too much and suggested a more realistic “I’ll be loving you Thursday.” (249) The sincerity of Berlin’s song is of course perfect for Fejos’ film.

  • Brett Gold

    Dave’s NYT review comments on the Coney Island sequence of Lonesome. As Richard Koszarski’s commentary to the movie states (I assume accurately), the entire production was filmed in California, and rides in those sequences were filmed at the Venice and Long Beach amusement parks (Koszarski says that the Jack Rabbit racer was at Long Beach). While I agree that Lonesome does, to some extent, look forward to neorealism, at least w/respect to the work sequences (although the use of optical printing in those sequences is an impressionistic touch), the amusement park sequences seem clearly to have a heightened reality aspect to them, and are highly choreographed.

    I first saw Lonesome more than 35 years ago at the George Eastman House while a student at the University of Rochester, and it has been one of my most treasured memories over the years. What a gift to have this movie finally available to a wider audience, and thank you Dave for highlighting it in the NYT.

  • Barry Putterman

    Gregg, I’m glad that you liked my comments about the music. However, if Laurence Bergreen wrote that “Always” was a new song in 1929, I will not be one of the thousands cheeering him.

    In the first place, LONESOME was released in 1928. So it would be a pretty neat trick for the song in it to be released in 1929. Second, the film version of THE COCOANUTS was released in 1929, but the stage version appeared in 1925, which is the year that “Always” was published. Berlin wrote as a wedding present for his new bride and, yes, it was cut from the stage musical “The Cocoanuts” (as Groucho Marx never stopped retelling in personal appearences) but went on to become a major hit in that year nonetheless.

    That said, I must add that I found the plight of your friend regarding the “Lonesome” song to be truly heartbreaking. I can only hope that it will later be discovered that a record of it exists in the same building that houses records of “Always.”

  • “Gregg, I’m glad that you liked my comments about the music. However, if Laurence Bergreen wrote that ‘Always’ was a new song in 1929, I will not be one of the thousands cheeering him.”

    Barry, I guess it wasn’t clear from my post that the story Bergreen relates about Kaufman’s objections to Berlin’s “Always” date to the production of the PLAY of “The Cocoanuts,” which, indeed, is 1925. Kaufman, disinterested in music, did allow the rest of Berlin’s score to stand, but it’s good that “Always” became a hit separately from the Marx Brothers show, or else the lovers in “Lonesome” would be gazing forlornly at a disc of “The Monkey Doodle Doo.” Barry, I’ll be loving you Tuesday.

  • Barry Putterman

    Gregg, indeed LONESOME is not quite the same movie if the lovers are gazing forlornly at a disc of “The Monkey Doodle Doo.” But how much better would BROADWAY be if if that song had replaced “Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg”?

    It also makes one wonder whether Kaufman had an unseen hand in either the play or film version of I LOVED YOU WEDNESDAY.

  • Hmm, the correction I tried to add to my last post didn’t take. By “Always” being a new song in 1929, I meant new enough to be a hit record lying around in the boy’s apartment. I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hit record today.

    Let’s get back to the year Sam Warner was born; I’m curious as to how that one is going to turn out.

  • Barry Putterman

    Gregg, we could also move on to the beginning of the Sennett centennial series on TCM tonight. I don’t know what they are going to have in terms of quality, but there certainly seems to be a great deal of quantity in the programming.

  • I’m very much looking forward to the Sennett series; the Chaplin/Sennett set of a couple of years ago was a great revelation, and I’m also familiar with the Sennett/Arbuckles. The Chaplin-Arbuckle THE ROUNDERS constitutes one masterpiece at least; MABEL’S DRAMATIC CAREER another. Some wonderful titles: THE GREAT TOE MYSTERY, HASH HOUSE MASHERS, THE NOISE OF BOMBS, SHOT IN THE EXCITEMENT and my favorite, “CURSES!” THEY REMARKED (listed in the TCM catalogue as CURSES! THEY REMAKED, which is what I say when I see Hollywood has remade and ruined another older film).

  • Gregg,

    There was definitely sheet music issued for the “Lonesome” song, which was composed by Joseph Cherniovsky, Universal’s music director (who, according to Koszarski, was *not* responsible for the music and effects track in LONESOME). I’ve seen the sheet music–a friend managed to pluck it from a sheet music stack at a bookstore in Syracuse two years ago for four bucks. Had I arrived five minutes sooner …

    (For future reference, the sheet music features Kent and Tryon on an orange cover. I didn’t get a good enough glance to note the publisher, and haven’t managed to find another copy.)

    For what it’s worth, the song was also issued as a 78 rpm record: http://honkingduck.com/mc/discography_details/156764
    I’ve never heard it and I strongly suspect that it’s a different recording than the one in the film.

    The French/American nitrate print at GEH (from which all 35mm material on LONESOME derives) ends abruptly mid-song over black. The GEH restoration recreates the end credits that were likely on original American prints. Unfortunately, there is no other surviving recording of the version of the song heard over the fade-out.

  • Kyle, thank you so much. I will pass this on to my friend.

    I hope “Curses!” was your remark when your friend beat you out to the sheet music.

  • >As Richard Koszarski’s commentary to the movie states (I assume accurately), the entire production was filmed in California

    I totally believe a CA park was used as a stand-in (that would explain why there aren’t any reverse shots of the mainland seen from the beach), but that’s definitely Coney Island’s old Luna Park in the establishing shots and a lot of the superimposed images.

  • A factoid on Fejos: he was thanked in anthropologist Hortense Powdermaker’s scientific study, HOLLYWOOD: THE DREAM FACTORY (1950). This book studies Hollywood the same way an anthropologist would look at an isolated tribe in New Guinea.
    Would love to see those anthropological Fejos films Dave Kehr mentions. Do they survive? Are they good?

    My favorite films from such remote groups: THE TRIBAL EYE (1975), which looks at art from seven different traditional peoples. This is a great British documentary TV series. Also THE LONG SEARCH (1978), a similar series of documentaries about world religions.

  • A favorite 1910′s film is CONEY ISLAND (1917) by Fatty Arbuckle. This is one of the funniest silent comedy slapstick films. It is also inventively staged, all over various amusements.

    Watched some of the Mack Sennett films Thursday on TCM. BARNEY OLDFIELD’S RACE FOR A LIFE (1913) is really inventive. Is this a parody of a real-life stage melodrama? The mustache the villain wears is worth the price of admission alone!

    Even though Sennett was already burlesquing villains-with-mustaches in 1913, they remained a convention for decades. Young stars taking on villain roles (boo! hiss!) got stuck with them. Rudolph Valentino wore one as the cad in THE MARRIED VIRGIN (Joseph Maxwell, 1918). Now there’s a title :)
    And young James Drury wore one as the heel in the RAWHIDE episode INCIDENT OF THE NIGHT ON THE TOWN (1961).
    Even with mustaches, these guys steal the show.

  • Mike, there’s a thesis to be written on the semiology of the mustache; usually consigned to villains but also representing a suave sophistication for actors like Menjou and Colman (as well as completely forgotten stars like Lew Cody, “the Butterfly Man”). Doug Fairbanks carried his off as a hero. A good start would be Bunuel’s essay on Menjou’s mustache, like all of his 1920s film criticism an obscure object that’s on fire.

    Fairgrounds are common locales for slapstick comedies of the teens and early 1920s, at that point indicating their rootedness in a rowdy carnival tradition — as with Arbuckle’s CONEY ISLAND. By the late 20s, in that precious cluster of films under review, they’re an escape from the tiresome workaday world, even for slapstick icons like Harold Lloyd. A big change pointing up how genteel things had become by 1928. There is a very substantial body of literary criticism on the carnival, applied occasionally to film.

  • Barry Putterman

    Indeed, “Magic Moments in Mustaches” is out there for the taking. The “suave sophistication” bit could cut both ways; as Gregg describes it (what, no John Gilbert?) but also as evidence of continental amoralism in conflict with straightforward American virtue. Witness the career of William Powell as silent villain and talkie hero.

    Within the clean-cut American vein, the mustache was usually a dead giveaway of villainy. Robert Taylor without a mustache = hero. Robert Taylor with a mustache = villain. The exception that proves the rule; young Clark Gale without a mustache = villain. Mature Clark Gable with a mustache = hero.

  • D. K. Holm

    A good source for essays about the cultural meaning of such things as mustaches, red hair, cigars, and so forth is Richard D. Altick’s The Presence of the Present.

  • Alex

    Fine NYC beach scene –Coney Island as i recall- in Sam Wood’s fine “The Devil and Miss Jones.”

    Good Coney Island scences in the “The Fugitive” and “The Warriors.”

    Great (frantic) night-on-the-town getaway scenes in “Ikiru.”

  • Alex, that scene in DEVIL is a highlight, and is a good example of our culture’s divided take on the carnival, as a site of pleasurable escape and also of danger. Thus, it’s a delight at first for our four protagonists, but then Coburn becomes separated from his friends, and it becomes a nightmare that winds up in a police station. The oscillation is from freedom to order via terror. There are similar scenes (pleasant outings turning nightmarish with the loss of an old man, as here, or of a child, or the separation of lovers) in LONESOME, THE CLOCK, FATHER’S LITTLE DIVIDEND, and that mediocre movie for which Jeff Bridges won an Oscar.

    Also worth noting are the many films in which carnivals are the site of murders, as in STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, or many horror films.

  • Mike Grost (September 9, 2012 at 2:40 pm): I saw Paul Fejos’s SKÖNHETSSALONG I MADAGASKAR [Beauty Parlor in Madagascar] on Swedish television 30 years ago and I remember it as a charming documentary.

    Carnivals in the cinema: a source of inspiration may have been THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, a definite influence for Alfred Hitchcock, and Kracauer’s analysis of it is still exciting.

  • Antti,

    Thank you very much for the information on Fejos’ Madagascar film.
    Madagascar is a giant island the size of Texas, off the coast of Africa. It has unique animals and plants, and is a fascinating place.

    Canadian television, the CBC, has an extraordinary science documentary series THE NATURE OF THINGS with Dr. David Suzuki. It has been on since 1960! A favorite episode is MADAGASCAR: ISLAND OF THE MOON (Nancy Archibald, 1981). This looks at the animals, especially the lemurs, who are wonderful primates unique to Madagascar.

    This show was a favorite of my family’s. My mother especially liked the Indris: giant lemurs depicted. When my mother couldn’t think of anything else to say, she went around the house making Indri calls, which she learned from this show :) I come from a family of animal lovers.

    See:
    http://www.wildfilmhistory.org/film/385/Island+of+the+moon.html

    This episode won an award for Best Soundtrack.

  • Mike: we have just screened AVENTURE MALGACHE in our Alfred Hitchcock retrospective. The story of the radio station of the French resistance in Madagascar was very hard to see for half a century. It is not a good film, but there are aspects in it that remind me of TO BE OR NOT TO BE. No wonder the French resistance was not impressed and the film was not released at the time.

  • Alex

    Not sure I’d compare Coney Island — a beach and grand amusement park that was seemingly for the ages– with a “carnival,” A PLACE likely to bring in mysterious outsiders as dangerously rootless as the proverbial gypsy, or Circus people.

    Ditto for the Playlands, east (Rye, NY) and West (Vancouver, etc.).

  • Alex, interesting distinction — the rooted amusement park versus the travelling carnival. I don’t know that this makes a difference in terms of my analysis of the carnival/park as a space outside of workaday society, and how that space can be liberating, terrifying, or both at once.

    ROOTED: CONEY ISLAND, LONESOME, SPEEDY, THE DEVIL AND MISS JONES
    TRAVELLING: CALIGARI, RAIN OR SHINE (Capra), THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (DeMille), CARNIVALE (HBO tv series)
    NOT SURE: STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, THE FUNHOUSE (Hooper)

  • Barry Putterman

    Leave us not forget SOME CAME RUNNING. Or STATE FAIR. And what about Mardi Gras (THE TARNISHED ANGELS). The iceberg has hardly been strafed. Sounds like a huge subject for investigation. Maybe even as big as mustaches.

  • Robert Garrick

    A great poster is supposed to create “demand” to see a film. So when Dave Kehr ran this promotional gem–

    http://www.davekehr.com/?p=1124

    –a while back, I made a note of the title, “Man in the Dark” (1953), directed by Lew Landers. TCM showed it on Monday.

    The IMDB says that this was the first 3-D film produced by a “major American studio.” That’s probably true as long as you ignore the many 3-D short subjects that had been made previously, and as long as you agree that Columbia Pictures (circa 1953) was a “major American studio.” “Man in the Dark” was released just two days ahead of Warner Brothers’ much more ambitious “House of Wax,” which was not only 3-D, but also an “A” production, in Warnercolor and with stereophonic sound.

    Pictorially, “Man in the Dark” isn’t particularly black, but thematically it’s a noir, with the (by 1953) tired theme of a protagonist who suffers from memory loss and is unable to reconstruct his corrupt past. The first half hour features mise-en-scene that would be unremarkable even for one of the TV shows that Landers would soon be directing, but things perk up in the second half and Landers shows some flair. There is a stylish scene in an old house that is nicely photographed by Floyd Crosby (who had worked with Murnau and who would later shoot the color Poe films for Roger Corman).

    And–here’s my justification for discussing this film just now–there’s a big, splashy finale at a cheesy amusement park on a pier. To anyone who grew up in Los Angeles prior to about 1970, it’s immediately recognizable as Pacific Ocean Park. Landers does some things with pacing and editing here that elevate the film above the “B” norm, though it’s no “Lady From Shanghai” (1947), a film that nobody has mentioned yet. And in the “traveling carnival” department, I give you “Freaks” (1932), and about a half-dozen other Todd Browning films. Not to mention “Nightmare Alley” (1947).

  • Alex

    “Strangers on a Train” and “Lady From Shanghai” indeed provide example of menacing (if “rooted”) amusement parks. But Welles’ Mike both hits bottom and find rebirth at Pacific Ocean Park.

    And let’s not forget “Greed” and “The Crowd.”

    The beach scene (Coney Island?) in “Angel Heart” is strikingly Limbo-like, one of mant great sequences in in what is perhaps the most striking of Alan Parker’s several gorgeous, evocative near-great. less than meets the eye — films.

    (Actually, “The Commitments” fully works for me –and “Mississippi Burning,” “Mdnight Express,” and “Shoot the Moon” all works for some, though all get a bit to overwrought for me except at engaging faulures.)

  • D. K. Holm

    Of recent films Adventureland and Virginia have amusement park locations that contribute to the growth of a character. And of course in his book on Rabelais, Bakhtin develops the notion of the “carnivalesque” in literature, a location for the loosening of the dominant culture’s mores.

  • Robert Garrick

    Dave’s Chicago Reader reviews in the late ’70s got me started going to every Walter Hill film, and when I went to see “Extreme Prejudice” (1987) at the Embassy Theatre in Washington, D.C., the second feature was “Angel Heart” (1987).

    So I can thank Dave for getting me into a theatre to see it. The Walter Hill film was fine, but it’s “Angel Heart” that really stuck with me. The film had gotten a lot of publicity for the Lisa Bonet/chicken blood sequence, and I never would have bothered to see it but for the accident of the double-billing. I thought it worked as a detective film, as a noir, and certainly as a horror film. Parker is not the most restrained director, but his garish style worked here, and he used the big band material to exceedingly creepy effect.

    Regarding “Adventureland” (2009)–it’s my favorite small film from the past five years, though it was a commercial flop. It was shot at Kennywood, an old-fashioned amusement park in Pittsburgh. Greg Mottola (who wrote and directed it) has mostly been a TV director–currently he’s directing many of the “Newsroom” episodes (which I haven’t seen). He has talent.

  • Robert Garrick

    The “Crazy House” scenes in “Lady From Shanghai” (1947) were filmed at the Fun House, Playland At The Beach, Great Highway, Outer Richmond, near San Francisco.

    I should add that Pacific Ocean Park (in Santa Monica, used in many films and TV shows, including famously the final two episodes of “The Fugitive”) didn’t have that name until 1958. When it was used in “Man in the Dark,” it was still the Ocean Park Pier. P.O.P. closed in 1967, and burned to the ground several years later.

    It is amusing to read Bosley Crowther’s 1953 review of “Man in the Dark.” You’d think he might have been at least slightly dazzled by the 3-D process, and you’d think he might have had a comment or two on 3-D’s potential for future films. But no; he was way above all that:

    “The story is a drably written thing, unimaginative, unintelligent and undistinguished by visual stunts. And the direction is wholly pedestrian.”

  • “Pacific Ocean Park (in Santa Monica, used in many films and TV shows, including famously the final two episodes of “The Fugitive”) didn’t have that name until 1958. When it was used in “Man in the Dark,” it was still the Ocean Park Pier. P.O.P. closed in 1967, and burned to the ground several years later.”

    The Lick Pier was re-named the Ocean Park Pier when POP opened in 1958. Before that it was a merely a fishing pier with a Ferris wheel roller coaster and the Aragon Ballroom.

    In my day the Aragon was doing business as the Cheetah where L.A. bands like the Doors, the Seeds and the Strawberry Alarm Clock performed. The Los Angeles Free Press held an annual celebration of Lenny Bruce’s birthday called Brucemass at the Ocean Park Pier with a free concert on the pier, and at night the show continued inside the Cheetah.

    The Pike in Long Beach also served as a location for several movies, including the 3-D “Gorilla at Large.”

  • Alex

    Robert Garrick,

    Thanks for “Playland At The Beach, Great Highway, Outer Richmond, near San Francisco”!

    I had free access to Playland at Rye Beach over 1954-1957 so this like mythopoetic (or at least supercalofragelistic) information.

    Are the spells cast on Tom Hanks in Penny Marshall’s for the fine BIO caste by a fortune-machine devil at the Rye Playland or some pacific parallel at like Ocean Park Pier?