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Archive for May 17th, 2015

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by Sam Juliano

For the first time ever, the much admired and successful Film Preservation Blogathon -the brainchild of Ferdy-on-Film’s Marilyn Ferdinand- has set up camp here at Wonders in the Dark, a few months after this astounding honor was set in place after a series of e mail exchanges with my dear friend from the Windy City, Ms. Ferdinand.  Our site replaces the previous third position occupied by the venerated Farren Smith Nehme, “the Self-Styled Siren,” a New York Post film critic, who has written numerous essays for Criterion’s DVD booklets, and has delighted the film community with her lovely personality and incomparable erudition.  Those are shoes impossible to fill, but the very idea that we at this six-year-old cinematic outpost have been selected to serve as host for the final day provides us with one of the greatest honors we’ve ever been graced with.  The previous four days of the renowned venture were staged at Ferdy and at This Island Rod (with the redoubtable Roderick Heath as host)  for two days each.  Many banner science-fiction film reviews were linked up on the home posts at both sites, and here at Wonders in the Dark we are really hoping to maintain the torrid pace.  Please remember to link up the donation icon (to be found on the sidebar here) at the end of your reviews.

Marilyn Ferdinand beautifully offers these specs:  “Our film is Cupid in Quarantine (1918), a one-reel Strand Comedy that tells the story of a young couple conspiring to stay together by staging a smallpox outbreak. The amount we’re shooting for is $10,000 to go to the National Film Preservation Foundation to cover laboratory costs for the film’s preservation as well as a new score for the film’s web premiere. The streaming film will be available free of charge to everyone online at the NFPF website. (more…)

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(1) ANH: Obi-Wan vs. Vader (2) ESB: Luke vs. Vader (3) ROTJ: Palpatine (4) TPM: Obi-Wan vs. Maul

By Bob Clark

“Have you ever encountered a Jedi Knight before, sir?”—this question is asked very early on in The Phantom Menace, as a pair of the seasoned warriors, “guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy”, begin to fight their way through a Trade Federation battleship blockading the planet Naboo. It’s an apt question for any audience of the film, especially when it was first released in 1999, twenty-two years after the release of the first Star Wars episode, and sixteen years since the last installment of the original trilogy. Even though the movies had enjoyed blockbuster success at the box-office and achieved near instant status as modern classics, ubiquitous in pop-culture, VHS and worldwide theatrical rereleases, enough time had gone by since for TPM to be the first exposure to the landmark space-opera series for an entire generation of young moviegoers. And even for everyone else, old fans who’d grown up with the original films (but wouldn’t necessarily prove fans of the new ones) and old critics alike, there was something new to experience in the way that Lucas portrayed the Jedi Knights as far more agile and powerful than anything seen in episodes prior (or rather yet-to-come, thanks to the flashback nature of the Prequel Trilogy narrative). With frenetic fencing designed by stunt coordinator Nick Gillard and crisp, polished cinematography from David Tattersall, Lucas’ work on the Jedi fighting of TPM not only sits among the strongest material from the Star Wars movies but ranks high in the canon of action-cinema in general, culminating in a contender for the greatest filmed swordfight of all time with the climactic “Duel of the Fates”. At the same time, however, it stands squarely on the shoulders of such scenes from the first three films, even those outside the centerpiece duels themselves.

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By Bob Clark

In Milan Kundera’s 1984 novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the respected surgeon Tomas finds himself unable to find work after returning to Soviet-occupied Prague, thanks to his refusal to recant an article he’d written prior to the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. The matter of his article makes for one of the most persuasive readings of Greek mythology—a political interpretation of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. According to Tomas, the Communists of his country who claimed to be unaware of the Soviet Union’s atrocities were just as guilty as Oedipus, the Theban king who brought plagues upon his kingdom by unwittingly marrying his mother. “As a result of your ‘not knowing,’ this country has lost its freedom…” writes Kundera. “And you shout that you feel no guilt? How can you stand the sight of what you’ve done? How is it you aren’t horrified? Have you no eyes to see?”

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2001-1 (1)

 © 2015 by James Clark

      Although this film benefits handsomely from the various high-definition enhancements of recent years, which sustain an imprecise aura of fertile vitality in actions tending to be, when not lame, deadly, we must carefully acknowledge those first two minutes when the screen is blank and then gradually allows to come into their own the sounds of a primeval territory. This first aural statement is musical not zoological—marking out a primacy of human music as compared with animal noise. An organ glide rings quietly, then more intently. Brasses sound, the impact a bit blurred. Then the organ is back, now tremulous. An ensemble produces a faintly quavering and warbling sense. Then we witness the final stage of an eclipse of the sun—first a sharp golden inverted crescent peeking out from the dark grey mass of the moon, as a range of shadowy Earth drifts downward, out of the frame. As the sun fully pulls away from the moon the elegant and dazzling opening bars of Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra ring out the last word in adventurous fanfares. Then the harsh beauties of a parched land come into view; and then its inhabitants, a small tribe of apes being accompanied by a herd of herbivores, tapirs, in fact. Grazing on a minimum of palatable food goes on soundlessly, even when one of the pig-like ponies annoys one of the apes by trying to pull from him a dried twig. From a height a leopard attacks and kills one of the apes. The cries of pain are remarkably brief and restrained. Soon we hear caterwauling and see frenzied gestures when the resident tribe is challenged for its water hole. The locals are driven off. This miasma is largely upstaged by the eyes of a leopard surveying the zebra he has just killed and surveying the battlefield about to become much more complex and deadly. Those eyes burn with an unearthly, blue flame that affords access to the heavens we saw during the eclipse. (more…)

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ik 1

by Allan Fish

(Czechoslovakia 1963 81m) DVD1/2

Aka. Voyage to the End of the Universe

Earth is gone

p  Rudolf Wolf  d  Jindrich Polák  w  Jindrich Polák, Pavel Jurácek  novel  “The Magellanic Cloud” by Stanislaw Lem  ph  Sasa Rasilov, Jan Kalis  ed  Josef Dobrichovsky  m  Zdenek Liska  art  Karel Lukas, Jan Zázvorka

Zdenek Stepánek (Capt.Vladimir Abayev), Frantisek Smolik (Anthony Hopkins), Dana Medrická (Nina Kirova), Irina Kacirková (Brigitta), Otto Lackovic (Michael), Radovan Lukavsky (Commander MacDonald), Miroslav Machacek (Marcel Bernard), Marcela Kartinkova (Stephie),

When one considers the cult status it had on its release in the West, it seems surprising that Jindrich Polák’s sci-fi opus is now largely forgotten.  Even more so when one bears in mind that it’s based on a novel by the same author who also provided the inspiration for Solaris.  There are certainly thematic similarities between the two, but also differences, not least in the tone.  Ikarie ends quite optimistically, while Solaris

Naturally the time it was made has much to do with that.  The Cold War was at its most freezing and there was a genuine belief that nuclear apocalypse was unavoidable. It’s set in 2163.  On board the Ikaria, a mission has set out from Earth to explore Earth’s nearest star, Alpha Centauri, to check for signs of life.  Its crew know that while the mission will only take them 28 months that 15 years will have passed back on Earth. (more…)

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