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Otto in Autumn

Olive Films continues to mine the neglected Paramount library with a pair of late, difficult films by Otto Preminger: the 1967 “Hurry Sundown,” the last and least successful of Preminger’s series of elegantly distanced renditions of overheated, overlong bestsellers, and the provocatively unpleasant uncomedy “Such Good Friends” from 1972, with its pseudonymous script by Elaine May and some of the most hideous interior decoration imaginable. The missing link between these two flawed but fascinating films is Preminger’s 1968 excursion into psychedelia, “Skidoo,” which Olive will be releasing in a new widescreen transfer later this spring). Reviews here in the New York Times.

Lots of good linkage to report, beginning with the new on-line issue of “Movie” , which features the first part of a dossier on Fritz Lang and a tribute to Robin Wood that includes his 1962 close reading of Preminger’s “Advise and Consent.” The highlight, though, may be Mark Rappaport’s insightful comparison of Vincente Minnelli’s “Madame Bovary” with the vaguely related novel of the same name by one Gustave Flaubert.

David Pierce of the Media History Digital Alliance has added some 20,000 more pages of “Film Daily” to his already overflowing site at the Internet Archive. Individual volumes are available as downloadable PDF files, and they make for compelling browsing.

And while you’re perusing those PDFs you’ll want some period-appropriate musical accompaniment from the Library of Congress’s just-launched, and quite amazing, “National Jukebox” site. Included are over 10,000 recordings from the Victor label (now owned by Sony Music) from 1901 to 1925, all carefully cross-indexed and accessible at no charge (at least until the Republicans hear about it).

154 comments to Otto in Autumn

  • Johan Andreasson

    Hannu, I know I’ve read a discussion of DR STRANGELOVE versus FAIL-SAFE either here or on some other movie blog, and it’s a complicated case. Here’s Wikipedia’s version:

    “During the filming of Dr. Strangelove, Stanley Kubrick learned that Fail-Safe, a film with a similar theme, was being produced. Although Fail-Safe was to be an ultra-realistic thriller, Kubrick feared that its plot resemblance would damage his film’s box office potential, especially if it were released first. Indeed, the novel Fail-Safe (on which the film of the same name is based) is so similar to Red Alert that Peter George sued on charges of plagiarism and settled out of court. What worried Kubrick most was that Fail-Safe boasted acclaimed director Sidney Lumet and first-rate dramatic actors Henry Fonda as the American President and Walter Matthau as the advisor to the Pentagon, Professor Groeteschele. Kubrick decided to throw a legal wrench into Fail-Safe’s production gears. Lumet recalled in the documentary, Inside the Making of Dr. Strangelove: “We started casting. Fonda was already set… which of course meant a big commitment in terms of money. I was set, Walter [Bernstein, the screenwriter] was set… And suddenly, this lawsuit arrived, filed by Stanley Kubrick and Columbia Pictures.”
    Kubrick argued that Fail Safe’s own 1960 source novel of the same name had been plagiarized from Peter George’s Red Alert, to which Kubrick owned creative rights, and pointed out unmistakable similarities in intentions between the characters Groeteschele and Strangelove. The plan worked, and Fail-Safe opened eight months behind Dr. Strangelove, to critical acclaim but mediocre ticket sales.”

    The odd thing about this account is that FAIL-SAFE is also a Columbia picture, so did Columbia sue themselves?

  • Alex

    “FAIL SAFE and STRANGELOVE came out the same year, so perhaps there was just something in the air at that time”

    STRANGELOVE came out about 15 months after the Cuban Missile crisis, FAIL SAFE a little over 2 years after that traumatic episode.

    On the interesting discussion of “cinephiles vs.academics,” one basic distinction between the two groups that Bordwell loosely intensifies would seem to be the one that Dave K. brought up when he raises about the same issue a couple of years ago viewing vs. reading. The “cinephiles” see more movies and the “academics” read more film books. Indeed, I’d say from personal experience that it’s easy for an academic films scholar to beg off on not having seen bunches of movies on no less grounds than he’s too busy, but imperative that an academic colleague know the relevant literate on particular topic.

  • Griff

    It’s a complicated matter, but at the time of Kubrick’s legal action, FAIL-SAFE was an indie production backed by United Artists; at some point afterwards it was acquired by Columbia. Sidney Lumet discusses this to an extent on the FAIL-SAFE DVD commentary.

  • Thank you very much for clearing this FAIL SAFE/STRANGELOVE thing… It struck me too, that one of the Lumet’s film’s characters was also disabled (walked with crutches) “like” the Seller’s character (which was only more so).