Thanatopsis (Ed Emshwiller, 1962)

Thanatopsis (1962)

Becky Arnold and Mac Emshwiller
in a film by Ed Emshwiller

Sound design by Ed Emshwiller?

A powerful film that must be almost overwhelming when shown nice and big with a good sound system. And dig how early it is; anticipating industrial music and film/video by about 30-35 years.

More Ed Emshwiller

Screening Room with Ed Emshwiller (1975)  77 min.
Directed by Robert Gardner
Link offers video downloads for sale or rent

Ed Emshwiller appeared on [the weekly Boston TV program] Screening Room in July 1975 to screen and discuss the films Chrysalis, George Dumpson’s Place, Carol Emshwiller, Thanatopsis, Film With Three Dancers, Scape Mates, and Crossings and Meetings.

…Ed Emshwiller started out as an abstract expressionist painter and an award-winning science fiction illustrator before becoming a major figure in avant-garde cinema and the experimental film movement of the 1960s and ’70s. Eventually a highly respected video artist and dean at the School of Film/Video at the California Institute of the Arts, Emshwiller was always looking for ways to push the boundaries of film and video. He was a pioneer of computer-generated video and combining technology with art. Many of his films, including Relativity, Totem, Film with Three Dancers, and Thanatopsis received screenings and awards at New York, Cannes and other major film festivals worldwide.

…Screening Room was a 1970s Boston television series that for almost ten years offered independent filmmakers a chance to show and discuss their work on a commercial (ABC-TV) affiliate station. The series was developed and hosted by filmmaker Robert Gardner…who was Chairman of the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies and Director of the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts at Harvard for many years.

This unique program dealt even-handedly with animation, documentary, and experimental film, welcoming such artists as Jan Lenica, John and Faith Hubley, Emile DeAntonio, Jean Rouch, Ricky Leacock, Jonas Mekas, Bruce Baillie, Yvonne Rainer and Michael Snow. Frequently, guests such as Octavio Paz, Stanley Cavell, and Rudolph Arnheim appeared as well.

Nearly 100 programs were produced during the years Screening Room was broadcast. Recently, The Museum of TV and Radio in New York City offered to copy the two-inch master tapes that had been given to the Film Study Center.

A still from 'Screening Room with Ed Emshwiller' (1975)

Secret Sunday Matinees — only 3 weeks left

The Sunday Secret Matinee - every week at Noon at the NW Film Forum thru Nov. 23, 2008

There’s only 3 shows left in the Secret Sunday Matinee series presented by The Sprocket Society and the Northwest Film Forum.

Each Sunday at noon is a two hour, old-fashioned matinee, with a cartoon and/or a short film (usually old weird stuff), an episode of the classic 1940 weekly movie serial Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, and a special Secret Feature — a classic or “classic” matinee movie from the ’30-’60s. Since we’re showing Flash Gordon, the emphasis is on sci-fi, fantasy, adventure and horror. Nothing but good stuff, often rarely screened. All on 16mm (no video), shown with NW Film Forum’s theatrical-grade projector.

The Secret Matinee series has been running since September, and it ends the last Sunday of November. There’s only 3 shows left! And yes, it’s fine to come in your PJs.

The 12th and last episode of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe will be shown in 2 weeks. But we’re booked for 13 weeks, so the series finale will be The “13th Episode” Show on Nov. 23, with extra-special cartoons and short films that require funny glasses.

Here’s what’s coming up, with some clues about the Secret Features… Original movie poster for 'Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe' (1940, 12 chapter serial)

This Sun. November 9:

Cartoons and shorts: Betty Boop’s Ups and Downs (1932) — a surreal Depression-era classic from the Fleischer brothers; and an excellent but untitled 1906 (?) French special effects short by Segundo de Chomon, a tinted 16mm print. Silent, shown with music by Sun Ra.

The Secret Feature: A rarely-shown Japanese giant monster movie from the mid-’60s, but not with Godzilla or the other usual suspects. American actor Nick Adams makes his kaiju movie debut in this negelected Toho classic directed by Ishiro Honda. In color.

AND! The penultimate episode of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe! It all comes to a head in chapter 11: “Stark Treachery”! Ming takes over Prof. Zarkov’s mind and turns him against his friend Flash!

Sun. November 16:

Cartoons and shorts: Little Red Riding Hood (1949) — one of the last and best of the series of fairy tale stop-motion animation films made independently by a young Ray Harryhausen. A rare original 16mm Kodachrome color print.

Secret Feature: One of the all-time classics! Featuring the artistry of Harryhausen and Willis (King Kong) O’Brien. In B&W.

AND! The thrilling conclusion of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe! Chapter 12: “Doom of the Dictator”! Sucks to be Ming!

Sun. November 23 – series finale:

Twisted cartoons & shorts
3D Short Films — an anaglyphic rarity from 1941, Third Dimensional Murder, plus digest versions of ’50s classics

And of course, A SECRET FEATURE — possibly a condensed feature-length version of one of the other Flash Gordon serials…or possibly something much different… You’ll have to come back next week to find out…

The Secret Sunday Matinee - every week at Noon at the NW Film Forum thru Nov. 23, 2008

Sunday Secret Matinees — through November at the Northwest Film Forum

Flash Gordon and Professor Zarkov operate a space-age radio console

Every Sunday at noon through November at the Northwest Film Forum, the Sprocket Society presents the Sunday Secret Matinee, featuring the ongoing cliffhanger adventures of Flash Gordon, plus a Secret Matinee Feature, rare and unusual short films, and — of course — cartoons.

All 12 episodes of the classic movie serial Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe are being shown, in order, once a week — just like it was originally in 1940.

Each week’s Secret Matinee Feature guarantees thrills and chills with classic (and “classic”) science fiction, horror, giant monsters and pirate extravaganzas.

The cartoons and short films being shown each week include a mixture of sound and silent stuff:  Winsor McCay, the Fleischer brothers, Chuck Jones, Emil Cohl, Georges Melies, Norman McLaren, Thomas Edison, Willis O’Brien, Len Lye, Alexandre Alexeiff, and many others.

It’s a weekend matinee just like in the old days.
Series passes and advance tickets are available online.  Box office opens at 11:30 AM.   Full ticket info is available at the Sprocket Society web site.

Every Sunday at noon, through November 23, 2008
at the Northwest Film Forum
1515 12th Avenue
(on Capitol Hill between Pike and Pine)

More info at

RIP Bruce Conner

'Bombhead' by Bruce Conner (1989)

The ground-breaking and highly influential avant-garde filmmaker, sculptor, painter, photographer, and collagist Bruce Conner died at his home in San Francisco on July 7, 2008, after a prolonged illness. He was 74, and is survived by Jean Conner, his wife of more than 50 years, and his son, Robert.

One of the last of the genuine Beat artists, Conner was born in 1933 in McPherson, Kansas, relocating to Wichita with his family when he was four. At the age of 8 he had an out-of-body experience, which led to a life-long interest in mysticism. As he matured, Conner became a painter and assemblage artist, hanging around with other local artists like Michael McClure (another Beat figure), who became a lifelong friend. By 1956, Conner’s work was being exhibited in New York City; in 1957 he moved to San Francisco, where he would live for the rest of his life.

While a lauded and highly influential sculptor and visual artist, Conner is probably most widely known for his equally esteemed experimental films, most of which were compiled from “found footage” — taken from educational films, B-movies, government documentaries, ephemeral films such as newsreels and old commercials, and even in some instances soft-core porn. Conner’s films were made on 16mm until the mid-’90s, when video became more viable for independent artists.

Bruce Conner in 1965 (photo by Larry Keenan)Conner’s first film, A Movie (1958), was chosen by the Library of Congress in 1996 for preservation in the National Film Registry, reserved by law for works that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” That and many of his other films are regarded as classics of avant garde cinema: Cosmic Ray (1962), Ten Second Film (1965), Report (1967), Crossroads (1976), Mongoloid (1978), Mea Culpa (1981), America is Waiting (1982), and Television Assassination (1995) among them.

In his landmark history of experimental film, Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde 1943-1978, scholar P. Adams Sitney wrote:

…Conner is not naive in his vision of doom. Everything he shows us has the primary actuality of the newsreel or the secondary reality of the images of violence we encounter in popular entertainment. …Conner deliberately and carefully orchestrated the twists and changes of pace within his film[s]. He is a master of the ambivalent attitude; it is the strength of his art and the style of his life. …Conner’s films aspire to an apocalyptic vision by engendering in the viewer a state of extreme ambivalence.

(Side note: Canyon Cinema, the major avant-garde film distributer, used to offer a number of Conner’s 16mm films for rent. But judging by a visit to their web site just now, these have been pulled from circulation. Hopefully this is only a temporary situation, perhaps pending estate probate and/or further preservation efforts.)

Bruce Conner in 1995Conner was always into adventurous music. He was instrumental in creating the legendary light shows for San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom during the psychedelic era, and a decade later he became a regularly-contributing photographer for Search & Destroy, the seminal punk magazine. (It’s said that he wore knee pads to help protect himself from knocks and bruises while shooting during shows.)

It is not surprising then that Conner was among the first experimental filmmakers to use the music of contemporary artists — Terry Riley, Devo, David Byrne, and Brian Eno among them. Mea Culpa and America is Waiting were set to music created by David Byrne and Brian Eno for their 1981 album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Both the album and Conner’s films were extremely influential in the ’80s — the LP inspired a whole generation of audio collage and sample-based music, and the films were an undeniable aesthetic source for the MTV music video. Ironically, Conner didn’t make another film for 13 years.

Writing in 2006 about their collaboration, David Byrne reflected:

In the course of recording this album Brian and I crossed paths with artist and filmmaker Bruce Connor, who lives in San Francisco. Bruce’s’ legendary “experimental” films are well known for their pioneering use of found footage, so it was natural that we approach him regarding the possibility of working together — which was more like suggesting he use some of the Bush of Ghosts tracks in a film or two, due to the similarities of our working methods. …His work was sampling before that word existed, as was this record. The films gain an additional level of depth due to the fact that you can often guess what the footage was originally used for, and so you see it as an artifact and as something entirely new, both at the same time.

In 1999, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis assembled a major exhibition, 2000 BC: The Bruce Conner Story Part II, which gathered 150 of Conner’s works in all media spanning 40 years. The exhibition toured to four cities in the United States through 2001. A hardbound catalog was also published.

At this writing, Bruce Conner: Mabuhay Gardens, a collection of 53 of his photographs of the late-’70s and early-’80s punk scene, is on view at the Berkeley Art Museum through August 3, 2008. Meanwhile, several of Conners’ watercolors are being shown at the Nordic Watercolor Museum (Nordiska Akvarellmuseet) in Skärhamn, Sweden as part of the Pacific Light: California Watercolor Refracted 1907-2007 exhibition, through September 7, 2008.

Conner’s film work has been important and influential to me personally, and I am saddened to learn of his passing. My heartfelt condolences and very best wishes go out to his family, friends, and colleagues.

Bruce Conner in 2000

Bruce Conner Filmography

  • A Movie (1958)
  • Cosmic Ray (1962)
  • Vivian (1963)
  • Ten Second Film (1965)
  • A Class Picture of the CCAC Film Class of ’65 Actually Taught by Bruce Conner in the Tradition of Lumière (1965)
  • Easter Island Raga (1966)
  • Breakaway (1966)
  • Report (1967)
  • The White Rose (1967)
  • Looking for Mushrooms (1967)
  • Antonia Christina Basilotta (1968)
  • Permian Strata (1969)
  • Marilyn Times Five (1973)
  • Crossroads (1976)
  • Valse Triste (1977)
  • Take the 5:10 to Dreamland (1977)
  • Mongoloid (1978)
  • Mea Culpa (1981)
  • America Is Waiting (1982)
  • Television Assassination (1995)
  • Looking for Mushrooms (long version, 1996)
  • LUKE (1967-2006)
  • EVE-RAY-FOREVER (three screen DVD projection) (2006)
  • His Eye Is On the Sparrow (2007)
  • Easter Morning (2008)

Related Links

'Psychedelicatessen Owner' (collage, 1990) by Bruce Conner

Long-Lost Metropolis Footage Found

A still from the recently recovered Argentinian 16mm 'director's cut' print of Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis'.

Silent and sci-fi film nerds the world over are all atwitter with the astonishing and happy news that a 16mm print of Fritz Lang’s original edit of Metropolis (1927) has been found in Argentina, containing all but one scene lost to date — about 25 minutes of “new” footage in all.

In 2002, an exhaustive restoration of the classic film was released theatrically and, later, to DVD. But even that version was still missing shots and entire scenes. Such missing segments were denoted by black footage with titles describing what was missing, based on research that included the original script, period censorship papers, and other documents. At the time it was universally believed that this was as good as it would ever get, and those of us privileged enough to catch a theatrical screening (as I did at The Varsity in Seattle) rejoiced.  A more fully-restored version is something no one thought possible.

According to late-breaking reports, a version of the film including this newly-recovered footage will be released by Kino Video on DVD and Blu-Ray in 2009, although it is not yet resolutely confirmed at this very early date whether the recovered footage will be fully integrated into the film as opposed to offered as extras.

Related Update:  As noted recently on The Bioscope blog, an Ecuadoran newspaper has reported that another print of Metropolis with possibly previously-lost footage was found in the film archives of the University of Chile.  The bad news is it’s a 9.5mm print, a short-lived format used in the 1920s and early ’30s for home and educational markets.  Some features were distributed on 9.5mm film, but usually in a shortened form.  The El Telégrafo story quotes a Nov. 7, 2008 article in the Santiago daily, La Tercera as saying Cinemateca director Luis Horta confirmed to them that the print had been identified in 2006, after having been misfiled for decades.  Horta confessed they did not have the ability to project the obsolete format, but after the surprise 16mm find in Argentina the archive decided to send the print to Murnau-Stiftung, in Germany, for analysis.  The film had been in the collection for some time.  The bloody 1973 coup that brought Augusto Pinochet to power was followed by a violent cultural purge.  Pedro Chaskel, the director of the university’s Cinemateca at the time, changed the labels of some films to prevent them from being destroyed by the military before he himself was purged. Apparently this copy of Metropolis was one of these films, though why it in particular would be endagered was not explained in the reports.  Chaskel became the director of the University of Chile in 2005, following the death of Pinochet.

To keep up with late-breaking developments and discussion by the world’s preeminent film scholars, I recommend keeping an eye on the email list of AMIA (the Association of Moving Image Archivists). The discussion already available includes first-hand accounts from the archivist who made the discovery.

Following below are a couple relevant posts to that list, and the entire text of the July 2, 2008 article from Die Zeit, the German newspaper that broke the news.

From AMIA-L:

Date: Thu, 3 Jul 2008 07:11:11 +0200
Sender: Association of Moving Image Archivists
From: Martin Koerber
Subject: Re: [AMIA-L] Is this news about METROPOLIS real or a hoax?

Dear all,

I was just about to put this link into a message, when Tom beat me to it.

Paula Felix-Didier of the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires indeed came to Berlin last week to show us what she found, and it is the real thing, no hoax this time. The material is terribly banged up, being a 16 mm dupe negative made from a no longer extant nitrate print, which was duplicated some decades ago after many years of heavy use. Nevertheless one can now see the director’s cut of Metropolis, 80 years after we all believed the original version was destroyed. Contrary to our thinking, obviously at least one print of the original cut made it into distribution, albeit in Argentina.

Only one of the missing scenes (the monk in the cathedral) remains missing, because it happened to be at a reel end that got badly torn. The rest is there.

The images you will find at the links Tom gave will show you some scenes, and also expose the amount of damage. They look indeed a little worse than the real thing, as they are frame grabs from a DVD transfer of the dupe.

About 10 pages of information and frame enlargements from many more missing sequences are in the printed edition of DIE ZEIT, which is coming out today. I guess you can find this at the news stands in most countries in Europe, don’t know about the international edition overseas. Flip through it before you buy it, the articles about Metropolis are in the somewhat glossy “Zeit Magazin Leben” which comes with the paper. It will surely become a collector’s item.

Kudos to Paula Felix-Didiér and her initiative to unearth the material and share the information.

A lot of thinking is now necessary to find ways to incorporate this material into the existing restoration, released on DVD by Transit Film and Kino International, among others. It has titles and black leader where the missing parts once were so in principle one could just insert whatever is new at those inserts. The good news is that Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung intends to do just that once access to the material has been granted.

The critical edition of Metropolis on DVD, which Enno Patalas derived from the 2001 restoration in order to create a “full” version of Metropolis has even more information about the missing scenes, and has the option to fill the missing scenes with not only black leader, but information from the script and other sources. When ran in synch with the material found in Buenos Aires, it is amazing to see how everything falls into place now.

The critical edition can be found here:

Date: Fri, 4 Jul 2008 08:03:33 -0300
Sender: Association of Moving Image Archivists
From: Paula Felix-Didier
Subject: METROPOLIS, the Buenos Aires affair.

Hello everybody this is just a follow up on the Metropolis find. Most of what you probably want to know is already in Martin’s post. I can tell you a little bit more about how I suspected that the print I had was more than the usual American version.

I’m the Director of the Museo del Cine de Buenos Aires, and I’m also a film historian, and a graduate from the NYU moving image preservation program. It was indeed a great moment when we pulled out the print we held in the archive and we could see a few images we’ve never seen before. This 16mm dupe neg was sitting in the Museum vault since 1992. When I was appointed director of the museum this past January, I immediately went to check the reels because I had -ticking in my mind- a story that Fernando Pena, (historian, film collector, curator and more, who also happens to be my ex-husband) told me a few years ago: a projectionist told him that he would never forget the stupid Metropolis print that made him hold it with his finger throughout the 2 hour screening. Of course, the 2 hour thing tipped him off. So we really couldn’t wait to get hold of that print and make sure. It was only a matter of finding the cans and pulling out the reels and watch them against the light to realize that at least some of the missing scenes were there. I immediately made a transfer to dvcam and we screened it one morning to finally confirm that it was all there (I know, Martin, I know… the priest reading the Bible is still missing, but we can’t really complain, can we?)

Understandably, at first nobody believed me. This had happened before. People thinking they had what it turned out to be yet another butchered version. So only after I showed it to Martin Koerber, Enno Patalas, Reiner Rotha and the Murnau Stiftung people, and they were able to see it with their own eyes, the news could be confirmed.

There is more to this story but I won’t bore you with the details.. I also want to make very clear that I haven’t shown the complete film to anybody but the aformentioned people and I’m not planning on doing so since the Murnau Stiftung holds the rights for the film. The press got only a few seconds and some frame captures.

Saludos cordiales
Paula Felix-Didier
Museo del Cine “Pablo D. Hicken”
Buenos Aires – Argentina

From Die Zeit:

Key scenes rediscovered
Key scenes from Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” have been rediscovered
July 2, 2008

Last Tuesday Paula Félix-Didier travelled on a secret mission to Berlin in order to meet with three film experts and editors from ZEITmagazin. The museum director from Buenos Aires had something special in her luggage: a copy of a long version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, including scenes believed lost for almost 80 years. After examining the film the three experts are certain: The find from Buenos Aires is a real treasure, a worldwide sensation. Metropolis, the most important silent film in German history, can from this day on be considered to have been rediscovered.

Fritz Lang presented the original version of Metropolis in Berlin in January 1927. The film is set in the futuristic city of Metropolis, ruled by Joh Fredersen, whose workers live underground. His son falls in love with a young woman from the worker’s underworld – the conflict takes its course. At the time it was the most expensive German film ever made. It was intended to be a major offensive against Hollywood. However the film flopped with critics and audiences alike. Representatives of the American firm Paramount considerably shortened and re-edited the film. They oversimplified the plot, even cutting key scenes. The original version could only be seen in Berlin until May 1927 — from then on it was considered to have been lost forever. Those recently viewing a restored version of the film first read the following insert: “More than a quarter of the film is believed to be lost forever.”

ZEITmagazin has now reconstructed the story of how the film nevertheless managed to survive. Adolfo Z. Wilson, a man from Buenos Aires and head of the Terra film distribution company, arranged for a copy of the long version of “Metropolis” to be sent to Argentina in 1928 to show it in cinemas there. Shortly afterwards a film critic called Manuel Peña Rodríguez came into possession of the reels and added them to his private collection. In the 1960s Peña Rodríguez sold the film reels to Argentina’s National Art Fund — clearly nobody had yet realised the value of the reels. A copy of these reels passed into the collection of the Museo del Cine (Cinema Museum) in Buenos Aires in 1992, the curatorship of which was taken over by Paula Félix-Didier in January this year. Her ex-husband, director of the film department of the Museum of Latin American Art, first entertained the decisive suspicion: He had heard from the manager of a cinema club, who years before had been surprised by how long a screening of this film had taken. Together, Paula Félix-Didier and her ex-husband took a look at the film in her archive — and discovered the missing scenes.

Paula Félix-Didier remembered having dinner with the German journalist Karen Naundorf and confided the secret to her. Félix-Didier wanted the news to be announced in Germany where Fritz Lang had worked — and she hoped that it would attract a greater level of attention in Germany than in Argentina. The author Karen Naundorf has worked for DIE ZEIT for five years — and let the editorial office of ZEITmagazin in on her knowledge.

Among the footage that has now been discovered, according to the unanimous opinion of the three experts that ZEITmagazin asked to appraise the pictures, there are several scenes which are essential in order to understand the film: The role played by the actor Fritz Rasp in the film for instance, can finally be understood. Other scenes, such as for instance the saving of the children from the worker’s underworld, are considerably more dramatic. In brief: “Metropolis, Fritz Lang’s most famous film, can be seen through new eyes.”, as stated by Rainer Rother, Director of the Deutsche Kinemathek Museum and head of the series of retrospectives at the Berlinale.

Helmut Possmann, director of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau Foundation, the holder of the rights to “Metropolis”, said to ZEITmagazin: “The material believed to be lost leads to a new understanding of the Fritz Lang masterpiece.” The Murnau Foundation now sees itself as “responsible, along with the archive in Buenos Aires and our partners for making the material available to the public.”

The rediscovered material is in need of restoration after 80 years; the pictures are scratched, but clearly recognizable. Martin Koerber, the restorer of the hitherto longest known version of “Metropolis”, who also examined the footage, said to ZEITmagazin: “No matter how bad the condition of the material may be, the original intention of the film, including all of its minor characters and subplots, is now once again tangible for the normal viewer. The rhythm of the film has been restored.”

And perhaps the scratches, which will probably remain even after restoration, will have an added advantage: The cinemagoer will be reminded of what an exciting history this great film has had.

Here are some additional stills from the Argentine footage, as posted to Ain’t It Cool News:

Dennis Nyback’s Music Film Hootenanny All This Week at the Grand Illusion

Film collector extraordinaire and Washington expat Dennis Nyback is back in town with a mind-boggling series of programs devoted to music films, playing for the next week at the Grand Illusion Cinema (at the corner of 50th and University Way).

Many of the programs are one-show-only, so pay attention and carpe diem. Here’s the details courtesy of the Grand Illusion’s mailing list (which you should subscribe to via the web site, all the way at the bottom of the homepage):

On Friday, June 6th is ZERO TO MTV is a series of three minute musical shorts from 1914-1984 Contrary to popular belief, the three minute film short was not invented by MTV. Conversely, the very first sound films made were three minute music shorts. This program starts with an Edison test film made in 1914. It continues through the twenties with test films made by Lee DeForest, Fox-Case and Movietone. The thirties portion features Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, and others. The forties feature shorts made by the Soundies company. In the fifties there are Snader Telescriptions. In the sixties Scopitones appeared. The program will end with 35mm shorts featuring Kiss, Motley Crue, Deep People and others. Friday June 6th at 7pm & 9pm

On Saturday, June 7th is THE HIGH LONESOME SOUND, a program of musical films by John Cohen, who traveled to the backwoods and hinterlands of America filming musicians. This program features his films THE HIGH LONESOME SOUND and MUSICAL HOLDOUTS. Musicians include Roscoe Holcomb, Bill Monroe and many others. See notes at Saturday June 7th at 7pm ONLY

Also on Saturday, June 7th is CHARLIE IS MY DARLING. This is a great and one of kind look at the Rolling Stones filmed during their tour of Ireland in 1965. It never had a wide release. The last time it was shown in Seattle was at the Pike Street Cinema in 1993. The short with it will be a production film on the making of the Beatles’ YELLOW SUBMARINE. Saturday June 7th at 9pm ONLY

On Sunday, June 8th is HILLBILLIES IN HOLLYWOOD. A fabulous bunch of Hillbilly, Cowboy, Hawaiian, Rockabilly, and other acts. Expect to have a foot stomping, Wa-Hooing great time! Sunday June 8th at 7pm ONLY

Also on Sunday June 8th is BOOGIE WOOGIE BOOGIE WOOGIE BOGGIE WOOGIE. There was a big Boogie Woogie craze in the 1940s. This program is made up filmed performers and cartoons. The performers include Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson in the great BOOGIE WOOGIE DREAM. It also features Lena Horne and Teddy Wilson. Maurice Rocco does Rumboogie. Ray Bradley with Freddy Slack does Boardwalk Boogie. Sunday June 8th at 9pm ONLY

On Monday, June 9th is JAZZ IN THE 1920′s. This program features two awesome films made by the enigmatic Dudley Murphy in 1929. You should look him up. They are BLACK AND TAN with Duke Ellington and ST. LOUIS BLUES with Bessie Smith. Also: Eddie Peabody and His College Chums (1928) with Hal Kemp’s band, Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet. Monday June 9th at 7pm ONLY

Also on Monday, June 9th is HARLEM IN THE THIRTIES. Several of these films are suppressed due to racial content. This a very rare chance to see the greatness in them. Included performers will be Cab Calloway , Duke Ellington, Ethel Waters (in the film BUBBLING OVER), The Mills Blue Rhythm Band, and others. Monday June 9th at 9pm ONLY

Tuesday, June 10th features RADIO DAYS 1929-1944. All shorts featuring radio stations and people at home listening to radios. Included will be THE BLACK NETWORK (Nicholas Brothers), CAP’N HENRY’S SHOWBOAT (Annette Hanshaw), Cab Calloway (HI DE HO), RADIO SALUTES (Ruth Etting), Rudy Vallee, Kate Smith, and others. Tuesday June 10th at 7pm ONLY

Tuesday, June 10th also features VAUDEVILLE DELUXE. This program is highly recommended by Travis Stewart who wrote “NO APPLAUSE, JUST THROW MONEY”. I screened it for him in NY. It features vaudeville performers, both black and white, from 1928 (Gus Visser, the Man With the Duck) to 1937. You get to see W.C. Fields juggle, Roy Smeck play the uke, rope skippers, singers, Chaz Chase eating everything, and finally, Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers with Slim Gaillard and Slam Stewart. Tuesday June 10th at 9pm ONLY

Wednesday, June 11th is THE SOUND OF JAZZ (plus some Bebop). In 1957 CBS brought together the greatest assemblage of jazz talent ever brought together for a one hour live broadcast. The kinescope of it provided much of the footage in A GREAT DAY IN HARLEM. Here it is seen in full, including original commercials. Thelonious Monk, Billie Holliday, Coleman Hawkins, Count Basie, many more. Also on the program will be JAZZ DANCE (1954), Booker Little with Max Roach (1962) and more. Wednesday June 11th at 7pm ONLY

Wednesday, June 11th also has SOUNDIE PANORAMA. A lot of greatness and also some musical atrocities. Soundie films were shown in jukebox-like devices called a Mills Pan-O-Ram. Wednesday June 11th at 9pm ONLY

And finally, Thursday, June 12th is the infamous SCOPITONE A GO-GO. A hit in New York at the Cinema Village. The show that started the Scopitone buying craze. Eddie Vedder came to the Scopitone shows at the Pike Street Cinema and bought his own Scopitone machine. Thursday June 12th at 7pm & 9pm

Program Notes for Georges Melies: Impossible Voyager

Last night’s Sprocket Society show at the Northwest Film ForumGeorges Méliès: Impossible Voyager — went really well, and we packed the house. Thanks to everyone who came (especially the young ‘uns). I hope you had as much fun as I did.

Unfortunately it was so well attended, we ran out of program booklets (sorry again, folks). So for those of who missed out, or are just interested passers-by, you can download a PDF of the full program notes (1.9mb – link updated) here or at the Sprocket Society site.

Thanks again to Climax Golden Twins for contributing their excellent live mix of 78s, to Dave Shepard at Film Preservation Associates for permission to read his translation of Méliès’ original narration for The Impossible Voyage, and to Mike Whybark for the loan of his vintage tux and tails.

Oh, one note of clarification in case anyone was wondering. One of the local papers said we were to play a recording of Méliès himself reading the narration. While this would have been wonderful, it was not the case and I’m not quite sure how the misunderstanding came about since it was not in the press release. I guess I wasn’t quite emphatic enough about the live performance aspect. Ah well.

To the best of my knowledge, there are no recordings of Méliès reading or performing any of his many narrations for his films. In the case of The Impossible Voyage in particular, Dave Shepard worked with a number of scholars from around the world to assemble and translate the narration from surviving texts. (I made a few minor edits of my own to smooth some phrasings.) When I spoke (briefly) with Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films about this general topic while at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival last summer, he made no mention of any such recordings of Méliès but did say that the Cinémathèque Française had apparently published some as a book or booklet some years past.

Much more than this I don’t know. So I reckon I should poke around and see what I can learn about it, wot?

Special Georges Melies Film Program on May 15, 2008 at Northwest Film Forum

Poster for 'Georges Melies: Impossible Voyager' - May 15, 2008 at the Northwest Film Forum

Announcing a very special event co-presented by The Sprocket Society and the Northwest Film Forum

Special effects epics from 1901-1912

Thursday, May 15, 2008 at 8:00 PMOne show only!

At the Northwest Film Forum — 1515 12th Avenue (on Capital Hill at Pike)
(206) 329-2629

$8.50 general admission / $5 NWFF members / $6 kids under 12 & seniors
Advance tickets available online via

A special celebration of the mad filmic genius of Georges Méliès, the father of special effects, featuring rare 16mm film prints of his greatest sci-fi, fantasy and adventure epics…all presented with unusual musical accompaniment!


A rare presentation of The Impossible Voyage (1904) with a live performance of the original narration penned by Méliès himself plus music provided by Climax Golden Twins playing 78 rpm records on actual Victrolas, right there in the theater!


Six more great films, all presented with non-traditional musical recordings including free jazz by the Hal Russell NRG Ensemble, the Master Musicians of Jajouka, The Residents (in a special remix by Scott Colburn), demented Dada scat-jazz by Fred Lane, and more! Featuring…

  • A Trip to the Moon (1901) — rare extended version!
  • The Kingdom of the Fairies (1903) — rare “complete” version!
  • The Palace of Arabian Nights (1905) — stunning acrobatic sets!
  • Paris to Monte Carlo (1905) — with hand-colored scenes!
  • The Merry Frolics of Satan (1906) — beautifully tinted!
  • Conquest of the Pole (1912) — his last masterpiece in a (kinda) rare French version!

Learn more and see a bunch of photos, including rare behind-the-scenes shots and production drawings, at the Sprocket Society web site. You can also download the official press release (PDF, 112kb).

Hope to see you there… A splendid time is guaranteed for all!

(Poster design by Brian Alter.)

(This program is not affiliated with Flicker Alley, though I encourage you to check out their new Méliès DVD box set!)

Keep Warm, Burn Britain! Movies, Performance and Music on April 13 at The Rendezvous

Event poster, design by Brian Alter.This coming Sunday at the Rendezvous, the Sprocket Society presents a special event featuring original works by Los Angeles filmmaker and noted restorationist ROSS LIPMAN, plus live music by Seattle’s own RUBY THICKET and THE PHILISTINE LIBERATION ORCHESTRA.

Sunday, April 13, 2008 at 7:00 PM
The JewelBox Theater at the Rendezvous
2322 2nd Avenue, Seattle (in Belltown)
$5 suggested donation

More info at the Sprocket Society web site.

KEEP WARM, BURN BRITAIN! is Ross Lipman’s personal memoir of the London anarchist squatters movement during the 1980s. A work-in-progress, Ross will present it as a Magic Lantern slide show with live narration plus recorded music by legendary street performer Thoth (who was the subject of a 2002 Oscar-winning documentary short).

Lipman is internationally known for his film/video and performance work, as well his writings and restorations of independent cinema. His 16mm and 35mm experimental films have screened throughout the world at venues such as London International Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives (NYC), the Los Angeles Film Forum, the San Francisco Cinematheque, Sixpackfilm/Top-Kino (Vienna), AMIA (Austin, Minneapolis), Chinese Taipei Film Archive (Taiwan), and many others. This is his Seattle debut.

Lipman is also one of the world’s leading figures in the restoration of independent cinema. Working at the UCLA Film and Television Archive, he has restored films by John Cassavetes, Kenneth Anger, John Sayles, Emile de Antonio, and others. In 2007, the National Society of Film Critics gave Lipman their Film Heritage Award “for the restoration of Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep and other independent films.”

Also on the program are several of Ross’ earlier experimental shorts and and documentaries:

10-17-88 (1989, 16mm)
An optically printed collage of found and archival footage, with audio collage by John (Ruby Thicket) Shaw.

A requiem for Grandma Prisbrey’s famous cathedral of light, built entirely of glass bottles, pencils, and industrial detritus. With a score improvised on a broken piano by Jodie Baltazar (aka Monotrona).

A screen test for a film that was never made, a feature-length narrative about the unbridgeable gap and connection between a father and son.


Live music by RUBY THICKET
Featuring John Shaw (vocals, guitar, bass, harmonica), Mac McClure (bowed saw and vocals), Bob Barraza (drums, shakuhachi flute, ukulele, and vocals), Jillian Graham (vocals and rhythm guitar), and Jim Graham (bass). Download sample MP3s from their CD You Never Know What You’ll See.

Lounge and show standards crooned (or c-ruined?) over free improvised accompaniment. Featuring the velvet pipes of John Shaw backed by composer Bill Potter on guitar-synth, the lovely and talented David Milford on fiddle, members of Ruby Thicket, and other surprise guests. The set list includes songs associated with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Kate Smith, Robert Goulet, Man of La Mancha, and Woody Guthrie.

Hope to see you there!

PS — Ross Lipman will be presenting at the Pop Conference at EMP this Friday, April 11. He will give his lecture “Mingus, Cassavetes, and the Politics of Improv”, using film clips, texts, and still photographs to examine the complex and explosive collaboration of John Cassavetes and Charles Mingus for the film Shadows (1959) at a pivotal moment in the history of independent cinema, jazz, and race relations. More info is online at the Pop Conference web site.