Vincent Collins’ Celebration of America at 200 (Hits of Acid)

WFMU’s Beware of the Blog has posted two very fine streams of ’70s-era animation by one Vincent Collins, a very talented animator that I regret to say I was not previously aware of. Well now I’m much the wiser, and you should be, too.

Of particular wonderment is his fantastic three minute film 200 (1975), Collins’ tribute to the US Bicentennial that was actually financed and distributed by none other than the US Information Agency, which was basically the “white” (open) propaganda fount during the Cold War. Among other things, it is proof positive that times have REALLY changed.

Below is the complete 200 via YouTube thanks to the mighty A/V Geeks. (Props to Michael Bester for his [standards-compliant!] Kimili Flash Plugin for WordPress.)

(Broken video link corrected 1/14/2007)

Backyard Movie Party IV: Voyages (May 25, 2007)

This past Friday — Memorial Day weekend — was our first backyard movie party of the season, we being the usual suspects of Brian, Gary, and myself. The location, once again, was Brian and Gary’s duplex in Ballard, which I’ve come to start calling The Ballard CineYard — tho KinoHortus also crossed the mind. (“Kino” from kinoscope and “hortus” being the Latin for garden or park.) Attendance was a little sparse, probably owing to the double whammy of it being a holiday weekend and a Friday, but everyone seemed to have a good time all the same.

This was the first event we did under the moniker of The Sprocket Society, an idea me and Brian have been toying with which may or may not turn into something more. I was also able to use my new Elmo 16-CL, which meant matching projectors and no need to borrow the second one. Both were equipped with 38mm lenses, which meant an image about 50 percent larger than the standard 50mm lens — very nice.

Anyway, here’s the film list. As always, everything was shown from 16mm prints from my collection.

A still from 'Betty in Blunderland' (1934)Betty in Blunderland (1934, USA, cartoon, b/w)
Directed by Dave Fleischer. Animated by Roland Crandall and Thomas Johnson.

Betty Boop falls asleep while working on a jigsaw puzzle of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” characters. The White Rabbit in the puzzle comes to life, and Betty follows him through a mirror into Blunderland, which is just like Wonderland, except that it has subway stations and a beverage called Shrink-Ola. Songs and wackiness ensue until the Jaberwock runs off with Betty. (Watch the film at Archive.org. Read an essay about this film by Paul Verhoeven.)

Take One (1970, USA, b/w & color)
An anthology of mostly obscure late-’60s period cartoons and short films by various artists, including student filmmakers.

  • Ashes of Doom (1970, CA, live action, color) — Directed by Grant Munro & Don Arioli; Munro also appears as a vampire. A comedic anti-smoking PSA produced for the National Film Board of Canada.
  • Pollution (1969, USA, animated, color) — Directed by James Conrad and other students of the Univ. of Southern California’s Animation Workshop Project. An animated treatment of the song (live version) by the great Tom Lehrer, which was also once shown on The Carol Burnett Show. (This is a different film from the 1966/1967 versions produced by Astrafilms for the US Communicable Disease Center.)
  • Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB (1967, USA, live action, color) — Directed and written by George Lucas. An impressionistic depiction Still from 'Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB' (1967) by George Lucas of a dystopian future in a surveillance state, and a man escaping from an underground city. Lucas’ famous but rarely-shown student film that helped launch his career and would later be the basis for his feature film, THX-1138. Showing this was only appropriate, since this night was the 30th anniversary of the release of Star Wars. (Watch the film via Google Video.)
  • Eat to the Beat (n.d, animated, b/w) — A film by Ernie Schmidt. A parody of game shows and consumer culture.
  • Lullaby (n.d., live action, b/w) — A bored married couple in bed, and the wife’s fantasy. Sorry, but I don’t have filmmaker info logged.
  • Bananas (n.d., stop-motion animated, color) — Some fruit get it on. Sorry, again I’ve not logged the filmmaker credit.

A famous still from Georges Melies' 'A Trip to the Moon' (1902)A Trip to the Moon (orig. Le Voyage dans la Lune) (1902, FR)
Directed by Georges Méliès.
Shown with “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” by Pink Floyd, from Live at Pompeii.

The original science fiction epic (costing an astonishing 10,000 francs), borrowing liberally from Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, and thus a fitting prelude to the evening’s feature. This print includes the extremely rare concluding scene in which, after the travelers’ return to Earth, the citizens of the port town fete the heroes with medals and marching band, and a captured Selenite is paraded for public view. (Watch the film at Archive.org.)

The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (1961, USA dubbed theatrical version)
Originally: Vynález zkázy (1958, Czechoslovakia)
Aka A Deadly Invention (Britain) and Les Aventures Fantastiques (France)
Direction and Production Design by Karel Zeman. Screenplay by Frantisek Hrubín. Set Decoration by Zdenek Rozkopal.

“A magical world of baroque submarines and sailing ships, killer octopus and undersea bicycles dazzles audiences as human actors, puppetry, animation and fanciful scenic design interact to create a cinematic experience that is unique by any standards. Mixing slapstick comedy, action adventure pacing and Méliès style film magic, this little known Czechoslovakian gem transcends the juvenile literature at its source to create cinematic art of the highest order.” (Quoted from RottenTomatoes.com)

Based on the Jules Verne short story The Deadly Invention with additional elements from the novels Face the Flag, The Mysterious Island, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Master of the World.

The story concerns the machinations of evil millionaire Artigas, who plans to use a super-explosive device to conquer the world. Artigas operates from a pirate submarine, wherein he has imprisoned the explosive’s inventor, Professor Roche, Roche’s assistant Simon Hart, and Roche’s daughter Jana. All are spirited away to Artigas’ secret base inside a huge island volcano, where the professor — foolishly believing that Artigas is a humanitarian — designs and builds the enormous, fantastic machines required to make the super-explosive. The uncooperative Hart sees the truth of the situation and tries to stop Artigas’ mad plan. In the end, Hart and Jana escape in an observation balloon as Professor Roche, now stripped of his illusions about Artigas, detonates the explosive himself and destroys the entire island in a mammoth atomic explosion.

The real star of the show is Karel Zeman’s gorgeous production design, which makes everything on screen look like an 19th century engraving come to life. Indeed, Zeman drew extensively (sometimes verbatim) on the original illustrations created by Alphonse de Neuville and others for the French editions of Verne’s novels. Zeman’s effects work is spectacular, using nearly every trick available at the time: miniatures, forced perspective, stop-motion and flat animation, marvelously detailed sets, matte work, and more. The American distributer dubbed the approach “Mysti-Mation,” though Zeman himself never gave his techniques such an overarching name. If you can find it, the Wade Williams DVD of this film includes a bonus “making of” short showing Zeman and his crew creating the effects for this and other Zeman films. (Scarecrow in Seattle has it for rent.)

Some related links:

US poster for 'The Fabulous World of Jules Verne' (1961)

Outdoor Movie Season in Seattle

Here’s info about just some of the outdoor movie events coming up in the Seattle area. And don’t forget the drive-ins.

Freemont Outdoor Movies
15th season. Saturdays, June 23 – September 15

Cinema on the Lawn – South Lake Union, Seattle
June 29 – August 10, behind the SLU Discovery Center at Denny & Westlake

Sidewalk Cinema – West Seattle
July 21 – August 25

Movies at the Mural – Seattle Center
August 3 – 25, at the Mural Amphitheater

NW Film Forum’s 2nd Annual Bike-In – Capital Hill
August 25, at Cal Anderson Park

Outside Seattle

First Tech Movies at Marymoor Park – Redmond, WA
July 11 – August 29

Summer Sounds & Outdoor Cinema – Tacoma, WA
July 28 – September 1, at various parks (see web site)
Preceded by live music and (beware!) the “Tacoma Idol” contest. Ouch.

Zoo Cinemas – Tacoma, WA
August 3 – 24, at the Port Defiance Zoo

Outdoor Summer Sounds and Cinema – Auburn, WA
July 27 – August 24
Preceded by live music and again with the “American Idol” knock-off (shudder).

Fairhaven Outdoor Cinema – Bellingham, WA
June 30 – Sept. 1, at the Fairhaven Village Green
Preceded by live music

Outdoor Cinema Series – Lacey, WA
July 7 – Aug. 4, at Huntamer Park in Woodland Square

Sedro-Woolley Outdoor Movies – Sedro-Woolley, WA
Fridays from July 6 – July 27, at the Masonic Center

Washington Drive-Ins

Yes, Washington state still has a number of operating drive-ins, an endangered species to be sure. Drive-ins are also the last bastion of the double feature! Most have dispensed with the good ol’ fashioned window speaker in favor of microbroadcast radio. (Now MobMovs are a subject for another day.)

Valley 6 Drive-In – Auburn, WA
5 screens – AM radio
24 hour telephone: (253) 854-1250

Puget Park Drive-In – Everett, WA
One screen – FM stereo
(425) 338-5957

Blue Fox Drive-In – Oak Harbor, WA
One screen – AM & FM
Plus…go-karts! And some kinda train ride thing.
(360) 675-5667
Visit site to subscribe to email list.

Rodeo Triplex Drive-In – Port Orchard, WA
3 screens – FM w/ Dolby Digital & DTS Surround stereo (dang)
Family operated
(360) 698-6030

Skyline Drive-In – Shelton, WA
One screen – in-car speakers / AM
(360) 426-4707

Vue Dale Drive-In – Wenatchee, WA
2 screens – radio (FM?)
(509) 662-7740

Backyard Movie Party 2005

Whilst picking nits in old posts, I discovered I never posted a film list from the 2005 backyard movie party. So here it is for the sake of the archives.

It was held Labor Day Sunday (Sept. 4), 2005, and was the first of the series held at Brian and Gary’s duplex in Ballard.

In this case, we had to scramble and relocate into the basement of Brian’s half due to rain. Unfortunately, the rain also meant a bunch of folks didn’t show up as they didn’t realize we had the basement option. On the other hand, it was already kinda cozy down there just with the folks who did show up, so maybe it was just as well.

The observant may note that some of the films shown were repeated for later backyard movie parties. This was largely because attendance for this one was sparse (plus they’re awfully good films). Now, however, effort is made not to have repeats…which is also easier now that my collection is larger. Then again, all rules were made to be broken, n’est ce pas?

Wabbit Twouble (1941, Warner Bros., USA)
Color, Sound.
Directed by Robert Clampett. Animation by Sid Sutheland, w/ Rod Scribner & Robert McKimson (uncredited).

Elmer seeks some west and wewaxation by going camping at Jellostone National Park. Unfortunately for him, he sets up atop Bugs’ rabbit hole. The first Bugs cartoon directed by Clampett, and the first of only four appearances of the “fat Elmer” character design (based on the real-life appearance of Arthur Q. Bryan, who provided his voice). The credits are written in Fudd-ese: “Diwected by Wobert Cwampett” and so on.

Betty Boop’s Ups and Downs (1932, USA)
B/W, Sound. An NTA television print ca. late 1950s or early ’60s.
Animated by Willard G. Bowsky and Ugo D’Orsi.
Directed by Dave Fleischer. Produced by Max Fleischer.

Earth goes bankrupt and is auctioned off. Saturn buys it and removes the magnet at the center, taking away gravity. Hilarity ensues. Includes some funny live action shots. One of the best Boop cartoons. (Repeated for Backyard Movie Party 2006, Part II – The Sequel.)

The Red Spectre (1907, Pathé Frères, FR)
(aka El Espectro Rojo and Satan de Divierte; orig. Le Spectre Rouge)
Tinting and stencil color, Added sound
Directed by Segundo de Chomón. Produced by Ferdinand Zecca.

A demonic magician attempts to perform his act in a strange grotto, but is confronted by a Good Spirit who opposes him. A delightful trick film that is only further enhanced by the added soundtrack of unidentified electronic and electro-acoustic music (portions of which were also used on my Blackhawk print of Nosferatu). Although the color has faded somewhat, it is still a lovely example of the Pathé Color stencil process.

The Merry Frolics of Satan(1905, Star Films, FR)
(orig. Les Quatre Cents Farces du Diable)
B/W with multi-colored tinting. Silent. Music: “Hal on Earth” and “Calling All Mothers” by the Hal Russell NRG Ensemble from Hal on Earth (Abduction CD, 1989)
Produced and directed by Georges Méliés.

A pair of British dolts visit an old wizard to obtain magic “pills” (more like “bombs” really) that explode and create whatever the thrower wants. Naturally, the wizard is actually Satan himself, who pursues and, well, bedevils the hedonistic fools with an army of acrobatic imps. The more the dolts use the magic bombs, the worse things go. In the end, a demonic carriage carries them into Hell, where they are roasted on a spit. One of Melies’ very best and most riotous films. (Repeated for Backyard Movie Party 2006, Part II – The Sequel.

A Chairy Tale (1957, Nat’l Film Board of Canada, CA)
(aka Il était une chaise)
B/W, Sound
Norman McLaren, with music by Ravi Shankar

The amusing, surrealistic fable of a young man (Claude Jutra) who struggles to sit on a chair (animated by Evelyn Lambart) that refuses to cooperate. The film used McLaren’s pixilation technique of stop-motion animating people and objects. A superb film that was nominated for an Academy Award and won a Canadian Film Award and a BAFTA Special Award.

Night on Bald Mountain (1933, FR)
(orig. Une nuit sur le Mont Chauve)
Alexandre Alexeïeff and Clare Parker

An animated interpretation of the orchestral “musical picture” by Mussorgsky with additional inspiration from a short story by Gogol based on a Slavic fairy tale. It was the first film to use Alexeieff and Parker’s creation, the pinscreen — an obliquely-lit board with thousands of movable pins which create varying shades of white-to-black depending on how far they extend out from the surface of the board. The result is a gorgeous mezzotint-like effect. Alexeieff was also an illustrator and engraver whose works graced a number of books and anthologies.

Third Dimensional Murder (1941, MGM, USA)
(aka Murder in Three Dimensions)
A Pete Smith Novelty. Directed by George Sidney.
B/W 3D (red/blue anaglyphic), Sound
An early 3D release made to show off the effect. Seven minutes of non-stop throwing of shit at you! And the Frankenstein monster!! (Repeated for Backyard Movie Party 2006.)

Frankenstein (1931, USA)
B/W, Sound
Directed by James Whale. Art Director: Charles D. Hall. Set design: Herman Rosse.
With Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, and Dwight Frye.

The original horror masterpiece, with legendary sets and stunning expressionistic photography. This print includes the famous “Well…we warned you!” prologue, but does not have the complete scene of the monster with the little girl, cutting away just before he throws her into the water. That scene was censored after the initial release and was not restored to the film until after 16mm prints were no longer being made of the film. Still, a fantastic film that still holds up 75 years later.

It Came From Outer Space [digest] (1953, USA)
B/W 3D (red/blue anaglyphic), Sound
Directed by Jack Arnold

A well-made 18 min. digest that preserves the narrative of the classic sci-fi feature. The print has turned a little red with age but still has effective 3D. (Repeated for Backyard Movie Party 2006.)

Frankenstein and his monster.

Bruce Bickford Film Event at Fantagraphics Bookstore This Saturday

Poster: The Idiosyncratic Cincema of Bruce Bickford. Click for larger copy.

Mugu Brainpan is a huge fan of animator Bruce Bickford, and you should be, too.

This Saturday, Seattle-ites will be treated to a rare, uh, treat when the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery down in Georgetown hosts a special screening of four recent short films by Mr. Bickford, including “the public debut of a recently completed untitled line animation.” If you’ve checked out the extras on the Monster Road DVD (Scarecrow has it for rent), then you know that Bruce’s line animation is even more mind-blowing than his clay stop motion…and that’s really saying something. It’s one of the only times I gave my TV a standing ovation.

As an added bonus, Seattle cartoonist Jim Woodring will host the evening, and the reclusive Mr. Bickford himself will be in attendance.

By way of teasers, here’s the current YouTube offerings of Bruce Bickford’s work.

Following is the full press release from the Fantagraphics blog. (Sorry the reference link takes so bloody long to load. For some reason you can’t link to an individual post but only the whole bloody month.)

Fantagraphics Bookstore Presents “The Idiosyncratic Cincema of Bruce Bickford” on Saturday, May 12

Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery is pleased to host a screening of animated shorts by Seattle-based artist Bruce Bickford on Saturday, May 12 from 6:00 to 8:00 PM. This event, hosted by Bickford’s associate Jim Woodring, gives the public a rare opportunity to view new and recent works by the highly acclaimed, yet reclusive, filmmaker. Fantagraphics Bookstore is located at 1201 S. Vale St. at Airport Way S. in Seattle’s Georgetown arts community. The screening is free to the public of all ages.

Bruce Bickford’s obsessive clay and line animations are at once seductive and grotesque. The son of a Boeing engineer, Bickford began working in film as an adolescent, drawing on childhood insecurities and dreams to create a stunning body of work of singular vision. His work gained international prominence when featured in Frank Zappa’s 1979 concert documentary Baby Snakes. Bickford’s contribution served as a dynamic visualization of Zappa’s approach to composition-as-metamorphosis. Bickford is the subject of the award-winning feature length 2005 documentary Monster Road, which will be available on DVD at the event. He continues to create subversive films in seclusion in his south Seattle studio.

The program on May 12 will feature four short films, including the public debut of a recently completed untitled line animation, in addition to other recent works. Seattle cartoonist Jim Woodring will serve as host. Woodring’s art, currently on view at Fantagraphics Bookstore, shares Bickford’s meticulous and visionary approach to the creative process. The screening will be followed by comments from Bickford and a question and answer period with the audience…

Listing Information:

The Idiosyncratic Cinema of Bruce Bickford
Saturday, May 12, 6:00 – 8:00 PM
Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery
1201 S. Vale St. (at Airport Way S.) Seattle
Admission Free. All Ages.
206.658.0110 www.fantagraphics.com
Hours: Daily 11:30 – 8:00 PM (Sundays until 5:00 PM)

Production still from a Bruce Bickford clay-animation film.

Rare Books About 3D Film & Stereoscopy Available for Free Download

While trolling about for things 3D, I came upon Stereoscopic.org, the official web site of the Stereoscopic Displays and Applications Conference (SD&A), which is tied to The Society for Imaging Science and Technology (IS&T) and The International Society for Optical Engineering (still known by its olde acronym, SPIE).

While not much in the beauty department, the SD&A site includes archived conference proceedings dating all the way back to 1996. Among the site’s other offerings is a small but wonderful virtual library that offers free downloads of licensed PDF scans of three rare and notable books about 3D film and stereoscopic photography.

Following are relevant details (quoted from the library link above), with links to the download pages. The two books still in copyright are licensed for one-time download solely for personal use. This is why you have to register for each download, but I can attest that they don’t spam you for it.

Foundations of the Stereoscopic Cinema
by Lenny Lipton (1982)

Provides a wide ranging [technical] analysis of many stereoscopic topics. The book’s primary focus is the stereoscopic cinema, however the book’s many background sections are equally relevant to the many different types of stereoscopic display devices available today. This book provides a wealth of information for both the novice and also those already active in the field of stereoscopic imaging. Also included with the download is a 5 page errata list.

The World of 3-D Movies
by Eddie Sammons (1992)

Primarily a filmography of 3-D movies however it also provides an extensive history of 3-D Movies. Titles of chapters in the book include: 3-D in the Beginning and Now, 3-D or Not 3-D, The Formats, The Movies – A Chronology, The Movies – The Filmography, Who Directed What, At Home With 3-D. An errata list is provided at the end of the book.

Three-Dimensional Photography: Principles of Stereoscopy
by Herbert C. McKay (1953 ed., orig. 1948)

The main topic is stereoscopic photographic technique. Titles of chapters include: Elementary Stereography, Stereoscopic Cameras, Stereographic Technique, Flash in Stereo, Color in Stereo, Pictorial Stereography, Applied Stereoscopy, Polarized Light Applied to Stereoscopy, Close-up Stereography, Trick Work and Hyperstereo. The book also provides a review of a wide range of stereoscopic film cameras, viewers and projectors available at the time [ca. 1953]. The book touches on a few areas of stereoscopic theory but intentionally does not go into too much detail in these areas. The book contains a glossary of stereoscopic terms and is amply illustrated.

Antique Phonograph and Gramophone Thai Society (APGTS)

Thai children and a gramophone, date unknown.Courtesy of Climax Golden Twins’ blog, I learned of the Antique Phonograph & Gramophone Thai Society (APGTS) and the first phonograph and gramophone museum in Thailand.

The site is mostly in Thai with a little English sprinkled about, but it’s chockablock with photographs, downloadable MP3s you have to hunt for (unless you can read Thai I presume), and illustrated articles such as the one about the Phonautograph, an 1857 invention by one Leon Scott that has “a pulley and when the weight falls, a lamp-blacked glass, under a stiff pig’s bristle, has a translation motion and a stiff pig’s bristle draw a line if no sound.”

Make sure to stop by the photographic tour of the museum. If you happen to be passing through Thailand and wish to visit, you are asked to please first call 02-9399920 or 02-9399553, or email them ahead of time. (I presume it’s in Bangkok but, um, I can’t tell for sure.)

Here’s direct links to some of the MP3s I managed to scrounge up at the site — and apologies if I’ve mangled the titles.

The First Images of the Sun in 3D

STEREO image of the sun (red on left)

As reported here back in October 2006, NASA launched two imaging satellites with the intention of producing 3D images of the Sun. Six months later, on April 23 this year, NASA unveiled the first images from the Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO).

The 3D images like the one above require Red-and-Cyan (light blue) glasses, with red on left (inexplicably contrary to tradition). The NASA site provides info on sources for 3D glasses, as well as instructions on how to make your own.

STEREO is sponsored by NASA Headquarters’ Science Mission Directorate, Washington, DC. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Solar Terrestrial Probes Program Office, in Greenbelt, MD, manages the mission, instruments and science center. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), in Laurel, MD, designed and built the spacecraft and will operate the twin observatories for NASA during the mission.

A number of museums in the US and abroad will be displaying high-resolution STEREO images and movies, though apparently none in Seattle (yet?). Dammit.

Here are links to various NASA web sites and online galleries devoted to the STEREO Mission.

The Gilder Lehrman Collection

I stumbled across the nifty online archive of the Gilder Lehrman Collection at the New York Historical Society. The holdings — some 60,000 searchable documents — include “manuscript letters, diaries, maps, photographs, printed books and pamphlets ranging from 1493 through modern times…[and] is particularly rich with materials in the Revolutionary, Antebellum, Civil War and Reconstruction periods.”

This amazing Collection includes marvels like “the first draft of the Constitution; thousands of unpublished Civil War soldiers’ letters; letters written by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass; and the writings of such notable women as Lucy Knox, Mercy Otis Warren and Catherine Macaulay.” And…ever, always…more.

They have a handy Document of the Week page, which also links to archives, various virtual exhibits, and all suches.

Thank you, Gilder Lehrman Collection!