Saturday, March 28, 2009

My first video

I've finally finished the video I described a few weeks ago - thanks to everyone who provided advice! It's a photo montage of the 1932 sci-fi horror film "Doctor X", accompanied by the overture to 'Luisa Miller' by Verdi.

I came across this movie quite by accident, and immediately fell in love with it. Not because of the plot or the writing, which frankly are atrocious, but because of the wild art direction and the crazy cinematography. I felt obliged to follow the storyline in selecting the screengrabs I used, but what I really wanted to do was to capture the most atmospheric moments, and the ones that show off the sets and lighting in the best way.

This movie was filmed using the two-strip Technicolor process, which was an early version of colour film. It doesn't produce truly natural colour - instead one gets a green/orange palette, with the occasional red or even pink coming through. You'll never find a genuine blue in this movie, but for a horror film, particularly such a stylized one, the creepy green and the glowing orange fit pretty well. The sets are fantastic - they out-Frankenstein Frankenstein. I wish I could have included more pictures of the "scientific" paraphernalia, but actually I think the art director overdid it in some scenes. There are laboratory scenes at the beginning where every available surface has some sort of glass tube or bulbous flask boiling and bubbling away, to the point where the clutter overwhelms the whole scene. The actors seem perched in the middle of a glass and chrome forest, always lit with hanging overhead lights - they loved those.

The other thing I Ioved was the use of shadows - they're everywhere, often looming over glowing green walls, and throwing disturbing angular patterns behind the heads of the characters. The angularity continues in the set design - it's too undisciplined to be Art Deco, but not fantastic enough to be Expressionist, so it's some sort of American transitional phase, on the way to the noir films of the '40s. Really original and rather sci-fi in its approach.

I put the actual horror element - the "transformation scene" - right at the beginning, accompanied by sound effects from the film, because 'Luisa Miller' just doesn't lend itself to this kind of theme late in the piece. It's suitably spooky at the beginning, but by the end it's all in a major key and sounds very triumphant, so this part just wouldn't have fit. Anyway, I hope you like it - now that it's finished, I think I might have gone a bit overboard on the transitions, but it was my first time, and I guess I just wanted to play with all the gizmos. At least the movie itself is so over the top that it isn't as out of place as it would be with a more natural film.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fay Ray and Lionel Atwill go together like peanut butter and jelly..."synthetic flesh...heh..."

1:03 pm  

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