Archive for January, 2010

by Allan Fish

(Germany 1925 151m) DVD2 (Germany only)

Aka. Die Freudlose Gasse

Down Melchior Alley

p  Hirschel Sofar  d  Georg W.Pabst  w  Willy Haas  novel  Hugo Bettauer  ph  Guido Seeber, Curt Oertel, Robert Lach  ed  Georg W.Pabst  art  Hans Sohlne, Otto Erdmann

Asta Nielsen (Maria Lechner), Greta Garbo (Grete Rumfort), Valeska Gert (Frau Greifer), Agnes Esterhazy (Regina Rosenow), Einar Hanson (Lt.Davy), Jaro Furth (Hofrat Rumfort), Henry Stuart (Egon Stirner), Werner Krauss (Geiringer, the butcher), Ronald Garrison (Don Alfonso Canez), Tamara Geva (Lia Leid), Loni Nest (Mariandl), Herthe van Walther (Else), Ilke Grüning (Frau Rosenow), Karl Etlinger (Max Rosenow), Max Kohlhase (Herr Lechner), Mario Cusmich (Col.Irving), M.Raskatoff (Trebitsch),

As I watched the opening credits roll on FilmMuseum’s glorious DVD restoration of Pabst’s silent classic, I noticed the name of Ilka Grüning in the cast, as you will above, and remembered her as one of the refugees in Casablanca.  And in anticipation of watching Pabst’s film, knowing the plot well from several viewings of inferior, butchered versions (ranging from a meagre 100m to a barbaric 60), I couldn’t help recall the opening of Curtiz’s Hollywood classic, and the sequence where two British tourists are hoodwinked by a pickpocket, who mutters, hypocritically, “vultures, vultures everywhere.”

            For Casablanca c.1942 substitute Vienna just over twenty years earlier, and where there everyone came to Rick’s, here everyone comes to Melchior Alley, a slum thoroughfare where poverty dwells in every doorway, cellar, attic and mouse hole.  The two central protagonists are both young women; the first, Grete, works in the office of a lecherous skirt chaser, but can hardly keep herself awake after spending all night queuing for meat from a local butcher, Geiringer (one of the meanest sons of bitches who ever got evicted from under a rock).  Her father, desperate for money, cashes in his voluntary redundancy package to make money on the stock markets, has one day of success, but then goes bankrupt, and Grete is left to carry the can and do whatever needs must to survive.  Then there’s Maria, daughter to somewhat rougher parents, living in a cellar but in love with Egon, a shady character who wants to marry another for her money.  (more…)


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by Allan Fish

(USA 1922 140m) DVD1

Hell’s Paradise

p  Irving G.Thalberg  d  Erich Von Stroheim  w  Erich Von Stroheim, Marian Ainsley, Walter Anthony  ph  Ben Reynolds, William H.Daniels  ed  Arthur Ripley  art  Richard Day, Elmer Sheele, Erich Von Stroheim

Erich Von Stroheim (Count Wladyslaw Sergius Karamzin), Mae Busch (Princess Vera Petchnikoff), Maude George (Princess Olga Petchnikoff), Rudolph Christians (Andrew J.Hughes), Cesare Gravina (Cesare Ventucci), Dale Fuller (Maruschka), Patty DuPont (Helen Hughes), Al Edmundsen (Pavel Pavlich), Malvine Polo (Marietta Ventucci), C.J.Allen (Prince Albert I of Monaco), Robert Edeson, Nigel de Brulier, Mary Philbin,

When watching either of Von Stroheim’s great films – the same is also true of later classics Greed, Queen Kelly and The Wedding March – one cannot help but think of what might have been.  With Foolish Wives one could argue that it suffered most; originally it was shown in Latin America and parts of Europe at over six hours in length.  For a long time only 108m prints survived until a seventies restoration restored some half hour or so’s footage and used judicial tinting to heighten the drama.  (more…)

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by Dee Dee

Wonders in the Dark readers, Sam Juliano, Allan Fish…were awarded two Kreativ awards.

I know you may be wondering what is a kreativ award? From reading and listening to other bloggers explanation of the kreativ award, I noticed that their description was too vague so I decided to do a little research and this is what I discovered…

…It is an award giving to fellow bloggers, because their fellow bloggers, think that their blogs are “unique”  and that the blogger is “creative.” Now here goes a few unanswered questions about the Kreativ awards…

First, Where did this award originate?…Go here…Careann  In addition, what do the name mean or what is the meaning of the name?…

…Well; here is an explanation of the name that I overheard (from a fellow blogger) while out there in the blogosphere. …Univarn said,”As I was told Kreativ is German for the word Creative so there is that. As for who made, or was the origin of it, I’m not sure anyone knows, mostly myths.

(See Careann blogsite for the origin of  the Kreativ award)

Nice to see these passed along though, I do not think you can ever pass up the opportunity to congratulate, and show your appreciation, for fellow bloggers…”

[Note; Kreativ is an adjective in the German vocabulary…Hence, the missing “e.”]

Moreover, along with this award goes rules you must follow The Rules Which Must Be Followed is (Well, Sam Juliano, being the nicest man in the blogosphere and very diplomatic man that he is…created a couple of new wonderful rules.) Here goes the rules…

 1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award. That would be Greg from over there at Cinema Styles and Troy Olsen from over there at Elusive As Robert Denby.

2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog. Kreativ Award

3. Link to the person (people) who nominated you for this award.


Elusive As Robert Denby

4. Name 7 things about yourself (Sam Juliano) that people might find interesting…

1.My favorite game is chess.

2.My favorite rock group is The Beatles

3.My favorite composers are Bach, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Wagner and Beethoven.

4.I’am married and my wife’s name is Lucille, and we have five children, the oldest is 13, the youngest is 6. (Melanie, Sammy, Danny, Jillian and Jeremy).

5. My favorite novel is Les Miserables.

6. I am a trustee on my town’s (Fairview, N.J.) local library board.

7. I served four year’s on Fairview’s Board of Education, while in my early 20’s before taking a teaching position in the borough.

5. Nominate seven Kreativ Bloggers. [Note; See Question No# 7…]

6. Post links to the seven blogs you nominate… Ha! What a Herculean task that would be to link to every blogger on WitD blog roll. [Note; See Question No# 7…methinks that this would take all day and night.]

 7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated for a kreativ award. [Note; See Question No# 6…]

Sam Juliano, had a very difficult time just selecting seven creative blogger from his blog roll…Therefore, Sam, nominated each blogger on his blog roll… No worries, all of you, do not have to follow the seven steps that are required after you receive the Kreativ award.

Since each of you are so Kreativ (creative) maybe you can name seven films that you think are unique and tell “the” Sam Juliano, Allan Fish, the WitD readers and your fellow bloggers why you think your seven choices are creative.

 In other words, what makes these seven films memorable? On the other hand, you can tell Sam Juliano and Allan Fish, seven reasons why you like to visit Wonders in the Dark.  (If you prefer not to list seven films)

(Oh no, you are not obligated to participate only if you want to participate.) Well, I hope that all the readers, here at Wonders in the Dark  have a nice weekend.

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by Sam Juliano  

Miklos Rozsa’s Pagentry-laden score for 1959’s ‘Ben-Hur’ may be most moving in history
Bernard Herrmann’s gorgeous music for Ray’s ‘On Dangerous Ground’ ranks among the best ever

Chaplin wrote his own score for Modern Times and it is one of the best ever written.

Classical genius Sergei Prokofiev’s symphonic masterpiece for ‘Alexander Nevsky’ is one of the greatest of scores

Ennio Morricone’s elegiac score for ‘Once Upon A Time in America’ sets new marks for screen lyricism
Alfred Newman’s lushly romantic and emotional score for 1939’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ is one of the best of its kind
Anton Karas’ zither score for ‘The Third Man’ is one of the most justly famous in history
Maurice Leroux’s exhilarating music for Lamorisee’s enchanting ‘The Red Balloon’ (1956) is one of the most joyful collaborations in the cinema.


Ravi Shanker’s rich music for Ray’s staggering masterpiece, ‘Pather Panchali’ is the perfect fusion of image and music.
Elmer Bernstein’s greatest score came late in his career for Todd Haynes’ Sirksian drama ‘Far From Heaven’


Clint Mansell’s New Age score to ‘The Fountain’ is exceedingly beautiful and is it’s films most stupendous component.
Patrick Doyle’s score to Branagh’s ‘Henry V’ combines patriotism and valour with sublimity and heartbreak
Bernard Herrmann’s score for Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ is one of the cinema’s irrefutable masterpieces
Alfred Newman’s sentimental score for John Ford’s ‘How Green Was My Valley’ shoots an arrow through the heart


Paul Giovanni’s score to ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973) is a masterpiece of sound
Franz Waxman’s score to Hitchcock’s ‘rebecca’ is the great composer’s finest, a perfect wedding of lyricism and atmosphere
Phillip Glass’ minimalist score for Geoffrey Regio’s ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ is a singular achievement
Leonard Rosenman’s score for Kazan’s ‘East of Eden’ reaches the emotional essence of the material
Nino Rota’s score to Zeffirelli’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ (1968) is lush and melodic, helping to bring forth the vision of youth by Zeffirelli
Vic Mitzy’s New Age score for Tarr’s ‘Werckmeister Harmonies’ defines a mood all its own
Georges Delerue’s score for Truffaut’s ‘Jules et Jim’ is alternately playful and deeply-moving
Morricone’s score for Giuseppe Tornatore’s ‘Cinema Paradiso’ in unabashedly sentimental, but it’s tear-inducing and gorgeously-written


'Gattaca' features a New Age score by Michael Nyman that's piercingly-beautiful


Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s rollicking, swashbuckling score to Michael Curtiz’ ‘The Adentures of Robin Hood’ is the best of it’s kind
One of the greatest of all composers, Max Steiner, had a diverse career, yet hi smost exceedingly beautiful score was for a war drama from David O. Selznick, ‘Since You Went Away’
Wojech Kilar’s stunning atmospheric score to ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ signalled the emergence of a major talent
Z. Preisner’s brilliant score for Kieslowski’s ‘Blue’ set the bar in more ways than one
George Auric’s magical score for Jean Cocteau’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was a ravishing underpinning
Dari Marianelli’s beautiful score to Joe Wright’s ‘Atonement’ set the anchor for the film’s emotional essence
Michael Giacchino’s score for Pixar’s ‘Up’ was a crowning achievement in a career of some great motion picture scores



So many other scores might be considered for any kind of a definitive list, but I went with the above 25, knowing that on any day of the week, one would b etempted to add the likes of Maurice Jarre’s Lawrence of Arabia, Aaaron Copland’s The Red Pony, Goblin’s Suspiria, Max Steiner’s Gone With the Wind, The Searchers and The Informer, John Williams’s E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, Dimitri Tiomkin’s High Noon, Rozsa’s King of Kings, Leonard Bernstein’s On the Waterfront, Elmer Bernstein’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho, Jason and the Argonauts, The Devil and Daniel Webster, Citizen Kane, Taxi Driver and Three Worlds of Gulliver, Alfred Newman’s The Prisoner of Zenda, Morricone’s Malena, Legend of 1900 and Once Upon A Time in the West, John Corigliano’s The Red Violin, John Barry’s Walkabout, Waxman’s Sunset Boulevard, Schifrin’s 1138, Korngold’s King’s Row, Chaplin’s City Lights, Prokofiev’s Ivan the Terrible I and II, and a bevy of others.

    Music often serves as far more than the aural underpinning of a motion picture and in the best possible scenario is the component that fuels and inspires the emotional reaction.

    Readers are asked to submit their own ‘Top 25’ scores of all time right on this thread.  Musicals do not count, only films where the music is mainly symphonic.  I chose 30 here, and the order isn’t particularly important.




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by Allan Fish

(USA 1916 28m) DVD1/2

Early bath, or rather a late one

p  Charles Chaplin  d/w  Charles Chaplin  ph  William C.Morris, Rollie Totheroh

Charles Chaplin (the drunk), Albert Austin (taxi driver),

Is there a more typical or revealing piece of classic Chaplin than One a.m., in which he exists in virtuoso isolation for fifteen minutes, executing every variation on the drunk-coming-home theme? It’s a like a dancer at the bar confronting himself in the mirror…”  David Thomson may not have been a Chaplin fan to much degree, but he rarely wrote a more telling observation.  It has been documented that it was upon seeing him do a comedy drunk act in the Fred Karno theatre while on a trip to London that Mack Sennett sent a telegram to Chaplin offering him a contract with him in California.  By the time he made this ultimate preservation of this act for posterity, he’d left Sennett for Mutual, but one can still imagine old Mack laughing his head off, just as millions of others did. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Germany 1926 116m) DVD2 (DVD1 export version only)

Aka. Faust: Eine Deutsche Volkssage

Go to a cross road and call upon him three times

Erich Pommer  d  Friedrich W.Murnau  w  Hans Kyser  books  Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe  ph  Carl Hoffman  ed  Friedrich W.Murnau  Werner R.Heymann, Erno Rapee (Timothy Brock 1997/2006 restoration)  art  Robert Herith, Walter Röhrig  cos  Georges Annekov

Gösta Ekman (Faust), Emil Jannings (Mephistopheles), Camilla Horn (Gretchen), Yvette Guilbert (Marthe Schwertdlein), William Dieterle (Valentin, Gretchen’s brother), Frida Richard (Gretchen’s mother), Eric Barclay (Duke of Parma), Hanna Ralph (Duchess of Parma), Werner Fuetterer (Archangel),

At the time I write in 2006, we have become accustomed to, and somewhat take for granted, the sterling efforts of film restorers to bring the masterpieces of yore back to gleaming cinematic life, making them look arguably better than they did even on release.  In 2006, however, a further step was taken that is unlikely to be repeated; up until that time the only version of Murnau’s silent masterpiece seen was commonly referred to as the ‘export version’, which was made up of takes which Murnau discarded from his perfectionist German print.  Even in that almost second-hand form it was a near masterpiece, but the release in 2006 of that original, long thought lost German version, was more than a subject for rejoicing, it was almost a cinematic epiphany.

            Murnau’s vision borrows heavily from various previous interpretations by Goethe, Marlowe and Gounod, and shows the fight between the forces of darkness, and those of light personified by an unnamed archangel.  The Devil, Mephistopheles, wagers the archangel that, if he can turn the almost saintly old professor and theologian Faust to the dark side, as it were, the forces of light must surrender the Earth to the forces of darkness.  Mephisto spreads a pestilent plague on Faust’s home town from which few are spared and, in his desperation to save his townsfolk, Faust makes a fateful decision. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1928 21m) DVD1/2

Everybody follow them sailors!

p  Hal Roach  d  James Parrott  w  Leo McCarey, H.M.Walker  ph  George Stevens  art  Richard Currier

Stan Laurel (Ensign Laurel), Oliver Hardy (Ensign Hardy), Edgar Kennedy (family motorist), Charley Rogers (man with damaged fender), Thelma Hill (brunette), Ruby Blaine (blonde), Charlie Hall (cop),

Undoubtedly one of the masterpieces of short silent comedy, for a long time this – and fellow masterpiece Big Business – was overlooked in favour of the team’s more readily available talkie counterparts.  Yet in these late silent gems, there was a sense of wilful destruction that the talkies lacked.  Yes, The Music Box, Towed in a Hole, et al, did have destruction, that comes with the territory with Stan and Ollie, but it wasn’t deliberate.  Both Business and Tars are orchestrated and choreographed master-classes of wilful abuse, vandalism and childish petulance.  In Business, an example of a war between door to door Christmas Tree Salesmen and an irritable would-be customer.  In Tars, the chaos has a ring of modern truth, echoing as it does a factor of modern day life – ROAD RAGE! (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1915 187m) DVD1/2

Monument of shame

p  D.W.Griffith, Harry E.Aitken  d  D.W.Griffith  w  D.W.Griffith, Frank E.Woods  novel  “The Klansman” by Thomas Dixon Jnr  ph  Billy Bitzer  ed  James E.Smith  m  Joseph Carl Breil

Henry B.Walthall (Benjamin Cameron), Mae Marsh (Flora Cameron), Miriam Cooper (Margaret Cameron), Lillian Gish (Elsie Stoneman), Robert Harron (Ted Stoneman), Wallace Reid (Jeff), Donald Crisp (U.S.Grant), Elmer Clifton (Phil Stoneman), Joseph Henaberry (Abraham Lincoln), Raoul Walsh (John Wilkes Booth), Josephine Crowell (Mrs Cameron), Violet Wilkey (Flora Cameron as a child), Eugène Pallette (union soldier), Walter Long (Gus), Sam de Grasse (Charles Sumner), George Siegmann (Silas Lynch), Bessie Love (Piedmont girl), Erich Von Stroheim (man falling from roof),

Paragon or pariah?  Masterpiece or monstrosity?  Superlative or shameful?  In truth, probably all six.  D.W.Griffith’s epic adaptation of Dixon’s openly racist novel is everything people say it is and more, worthy of the moral outcry at the time when it was labelled “a flagrant incitement to racial antagonism”.  In its way, as offensive to modern sensibilities as Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, it remains the most controversial American film of them all, but the one without which American cinema would not have been the same.  Released on the 50th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, the best part of a century on it still has the power to both move and offend.  (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Despite some lingering discomfort from a tooth extraction, I can say I felt so much better in general this past week, and was able to immerse myself in two theatrical productions and two films in theatres.  I want to thank all those last week for their wonderful words of concern and support.  Jets fans received a wake-up call this afternoon in Indianapolis, where they were eliminated from the football playoffs in the AFC title game.  At the time of this writing the Vikings hold a 14-7 lead over New Orleans in the first quarter of the NFL championship game.  (OK, the Saints have won in OT, so sorry Dan.) The Screen Actors Guild Awards – last night – went to Jeff Bridges, Sandra Bullock, Monique, Christoph Waltz and the cast of Inglourious Basterds. At Wonders in the Dark, Allan’s fabulous countdown is now well into the 60’s, and after it reaches the half-way point the quality-control will no doubt bring on soem glorious discourse.  Dave Hicks’s noir countdown is well underway at Goodfellas, and of course Tony d’Ambra is busy with his promised bevy of noir reviews at FimsNoir.net.

 On Thursday evening, Lucille, Broadway Bob and I treked over to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) to see the widely-praised new entry in Sam Mendes’ “The Bridge Project”, Shakespeare’s As You Like It with Juliet Rylance and Christian Carmargo in fantastic form as Rosalind and Orando, and composer Mark Burnett a force of nature here with an unforgettable score.  Beautiful scenery and lighting and a joyous final scene, varied sets and contemporary garb all bring this comedic masterpiece to life with a performance that won’t soon be forgotten.  I can’t wait for the same company’s The Tempest back here at the Harvey Theatre in April.

On Friday, Brooklyn was again our destination, for an alternate part of a two play cycle running at a rather seedy little location on Metropolitan Avenue in the Greenpoint section called The Brick Theatre.  A Brief History of Murder, written by Richard Lovejoy, is divided into two plays, “Victims” and “Detectives.”  Lucille, Bob and I managed the former, which was a rather bizarre confection, a theatrical approximation of David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks”  “Detectives” follows an intrpid private investigator and her colleagues as they try to track down the killer.  The play reveals of the town of Sentinel, Oklahoma – where a series of grisly killings have occured – as its colorful inhabitants become tangles in horrific events beyond their control.  This is occasionally lively, but quite an uneven and sometimes stomach-turning experience.  As an experiment, it is often striking.

I saw two films theatrically this past week:

Fish Tank  ****  (Saturday night, Montclair Claridge Cinemas)
The Book of Eli   ***  (Monday night; Edgewater multiplex
FISH TANK is a bucolic, angry woman’s kitchen drama recalling British cinema in the 60’s, but its social realism does recall, if it’s not outright derivative of Ken Loach, the British director who launched this kind of work, and who crafted one sure masterpiece and several others that push close to that designation.  FISH TANK also has some striking similarities to the work of the Dardennes, with the use of a magnifying glass to examine what is in this instance coming of age in a rather raw and hostile environment.  The non-professional young star, Katie Jarvis extraordinary evokes love, anger, resilience, perspective and spunk in this winning formula, engineered by Andrea Arnold, a major force today in british cinema.
THE BOOK OF ELI, from the Hughes Brothers is a reasonably entertaining apocalyptic action drama, that embraces the Western shoot-em up, seek em out formula, and the results aren’t exactly arresting, but it’s a bit better than the generally-hostile reaction the film seems to have attracted, perhaps as a result of the film going in a direction too many others have done before.  Some decent plot turns, and a nice deceit, not known until the end, as implausible as it may be.  Impressively-shot.
A comprehensive survey of the blogosphere is offered:

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1928 101m) not on DVD

Judge and jury

p  Jesse L.Lasky, Adolph Zukor  d  William A.Wellman  w  Benjamin Glazer,  Jim Tully  novel  “Apache Rising” by Julian Johnson  ph  Henry Gerrard  ed  Alyson Schafter  m  Karl Hajos

Richard Arlen (Jim), Wallace Beery (Oklahoma Red), Louise Brooks (Nancy), Edgar Blue Washington (Black Mose), Roscoe Karns (Lame Hoppy), Robert Perry (The Arkansas Snake), Guinn Williams (driver),

Remember those epiphanal moments on screen, the moments where you see someone for the first time, or at least notice them for the first time, and a glow permeates the screen; the moment when you just find yourself murmuring inwardly “who is that?”  Audiences must have felt it since the early days, but as we’re dealing with an actress here, let’s take in the female examples; Ingrid Bergman in the Swedish Intermezzo say, or Simone Simon in Lac aux Dames, Silvana Mangano in Riso Amaro, Brigitte Bardot in The Light Across the Street or Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not.  Or among the child/adolescent moppets you know have that ‘it’ factor in spades, whether talent, looks, or just plain camera love; like when you saw Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver, Natalie Portman in Leon, or Scarlett Johansson in The Horse Whisperer.  They leap out at you, and thus it seems unfathomable why one such moment wasn’t seen, or at least noticed.  (more…)

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