Kubrick Postscript: “Killer’s Kiss” – 1955

After putting up my third post on Stanley Kubrick last Thursday, I was still in the mood, so I decided to watch his second feature, Killer’s Kiss. I didn’t plan to write about Kubrick again so soon, but I really liked the film and thought there were some things worth sharing. So here we are again.

Killer’s Kiss isn’t a great film, but it’s very interesting and unusual in a number of ways. Much of what stands out about it is that it was shot on location rather than in studio sets. As film critic Geoffrey O’Brien says, “…shooting on location in New York introduces an element of chance and feeling for actual locations.” He refers to the “…general run-down feeling of all these locations, of these interiors,” and “…the absence of glamour.” He goes on to say “…the presence of New York City in Killer’s Kiss is overwhelming. The city spills into the movie and makes it more than it would otherwise have been.” It’s also important in the development of Kubrick’s career. Killer’s Kiss is a significant advance from his first feature, Fear and Desire (1953), which seems more like a student film now. His next feature, The Killing (1956), is an even greater advance. It’s as though he really knew who he was and what he wanted to do. (My previous post on The Killing can be accessed here.)

The importance of shooting in actual locations can’t be over-estimated. New York location filming was also used to great effect in The Naked City (Jules Dassin – 1948), Side Street (Anthony Mann – 1950), and the opening scenes of Kiss of Death (Henry Hathaway – 1947). O’Brien points out that images of the city are not being used as backdrop; they are the foreground, it’s the story that’s the backdrop.

That story is fairly simple. Davey Gordon (Jamie Smith) is a prize fighter on the way down who becomes involved with Gloria Price (Irene Kane), who lives in his building. Vincent Rapallo (Frank Silvera) is a small-time gangster who runs the Pleasure Land dance hall where Gloria works. He wants to possess her, body and soul. Davey wants to defend her. All three are lonely people. Davey is a typical film noir protagonist; he’s in over his head and his plans to get out are undone by random chance. As Rapallo says near the end, “I didn’t want murder. It’s all gone wrong.” That’s noir in a nutshell.

An interesting detail is that Gloria’s sister, Iris, seen performing an interpretive dance in flashback, was played by Ruth Sobotka, who was Kubrick’s wife at the time. She later was the art director for his next film, The Killing.

Killer’s Kiss is included on the Criterion Collection’s Blu-ray release of The Killing. The high definition transfer is stunning. I was struck by the clarity and razor sharpness of the black & white images. The look of the film in general reminded me of the photos Kubrick took for Look magazine in the late 1940s. Compare the photo below from Look with a scene from Killer’s Kiss below that.

An immense amount of detail crowds the frame in scenes shot on Broadway near Times Square. In the frame above note the signs for Childs restaurant, Pepsi Cola, Admiral Television Appliances, and the theater marquee in the background advertising Tony Curtis in Beachhead. There’s much more. All of this actually existed at the time, and it lends a powerful sense of reality to the film. The scenes in Killer’s Kiss appear to have been shot in natural light, especially the exteriors, without any “Hollywood” lighting. If Kubrick wanted a documentary feel, he got it. In his book Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist’s Maze ,(Indiana University Press, 2000) author Thomas Allen Nelson, in reference to Killer’s Kiss, points out “…its street locations and neorealist flair for random detail (objects and faces in subways, and on the street and in shop windows of Times Square)… used to create a chaotic public backdrop at odds with private worlds.”

The streets we see are grey and dirty, and mostly empty, except for the scenes shot on Broadway, which are teeming with actual life. Davey’s apartment is stark and mostly empty of decor, except for a few snapshots of his Uncle George’s horse ranch near Seattle, and the odd detail of a machete mounted on the wall. Davey and Gloria’s apartments face each other across an air shaft. We watch Davey watching Gloria through her open window. This voyeuristic aspect is continued in a later scene with Davey, watching from Gloria’s apartment as two policemen enter his apartment looking for him after his boxing manager has been found beaten to death. In an earlier scene, on the morning of his important prize fight, we see Davey peering closely at his face in the mirror, much as fighter Walter Cartier did in Kubrick’s short documentary, Day of the Fight (1951). As Thomas Allen Nelson wrote, “The best moments of Killer’s Kiss combine a voyeuristic and narcissistic definition of character.”

As a fighter, Davey has seen better days. The announcer at that night’s fight describes his boxing career as “…one long promise without fulfillment.” You can see the fight in the following clip, which intercuts the match with shots of a gleeful Rapallo and a reluctant Gloria watching the fight on television in his office at the dance hall. I was especially taken with a moment early in the fight when Davey is knocked down to a sitting position against the ropes, looking stunned as he struggles to get back on his feet. This felt different to me from what usually see in boxing movies.

After losing the fight, Davey is back home on his bed and has a nightmare in which we’re rushing down a deserted city street, buildings on either side pressing in. This is seen in negative image, and is very reminiscent of parts of the Star Gate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Davey is startled awake from his dream by Gloria’s screams. Davey rushes to the window to see Gloria struggling with Rapallo.

_______________________________________________________

Davey’s Uncle George has been asking him to visit them in Seattle. Davey has fallen in love with Gloria. They make plans to go to Seattle together. Rapallo means to stop them. Killer’s Kiss is definitely a film noir in style and content. The framing and lighting and the silhouetted figures in the shot below are a prime example.

In this scene, two of Rapallo’s henchmen have cornered Davey’s fight manager, mistaking him for Davey, due to another bit of random chance that Kubrick likes so much.

Another example is the shot below of Gloria climbing the long staircase to the Pleasure Land dance hall. The angle, the light, and her reflection on the walls are just great. Kubrick says the “WATCH YOUR STEP” sign was actually there at the location, a kind of gift, as it were. It’s perfect for a noir narrative.

______________________________________________________

Film noirs frequently use flashbacks. The transitions to the flashbacks, signified by the cliché of a shimmering optical effect, are the one really clumsy thing about Killer’s Kiss. But it was only his second feature, so this can be forgiven.

______________________________________________________

An extended rooftop chase sequence precedes the final showdown. Kubrick filmed it in extreme long shot, with Davey a tiny figure in the distance. Subsequent shots bring him and his pursuers a little closer, but not much. We are almost clinically removed from the characters and the action. There’s no music, only some insistent percussion, and the sounds of fog horns from the harbor, and the early morning light. Was this an aesthetic choice for Kubrick, or the most practical way to shoot the scene given a low budget? Whatever the reason, the result is great.

_________________________________________________________

By far the most startling scene in the film, and the one I remembered from seeing Killer’s Kiss years ago, is described by Thomas Allen Nelson as “The film’s most memorable episode, a fight to the death between Davey and Rapallo in a storeroom filled with mannequins, which illustrates Kubrick’s fondness for mixing realist and surrealistic imagery.” The struggle is messy and clumsy, with the two men grabbing anything loose and throwing or swinging it. It feels like the way an actual fight would be. The bizarre setting adds a nightmarish quality.

_______________________________________________________

Of all the locations used in this film, I think the most distinctive was the original Penn Station. It was torn down in 1963, so most of us never had the chance to actually see it. Killer’s Kiss is framed by scenes shot there. The film begins with Davey waiting with his suitcase in the station. In voice-0ver, he begins to tell the story in a series of flashbacks within flashbacks. We return to Davey and Penn Station for the ending. The shot below, under the main title, gives a sense of what that space was like, which also seems to enlarge the scope of the film.

______________________________________________________

Stanley Kubrick on the set of Killer’s Kiss.

_____________________________________________________

Killer’s Kiss is available for streaming from Amazon, but only in standard definition. I highly recommend the high definition transfer that’s included with The Killing on the Criterion Collection’s DVD and Blu-ray discs.

______________________________________________________

This ends my Stanley Kubrick series, for the time being, anyway. I didn’t intend to do four parts, but it took on a life of its own. Thanks for going on the ride with me. — Ted Hicks

 

Posted in Books, Fiction, Film, Home Video, photography, TV & Cable | 2 Comments

Still More Kubrick!

The subject of Stanley Kubrick is a very deep well. After completing my two previous posts, I still had a lot of material left over and thought of putting together another installment. Since then, I’ve come across even more. There’s really no end to it. For the time being, I have to stop looking and start writing, otherwise I’ll never get it done. Following is a random selection of interviews, clips, photographs,  quotes and reminiscences that I think will help illuminate Stanley Kubrick more fully as an artist and as a person. Or at least give some sense of his thinking, how he saw things, how he worked, and his effect on the people around him.

______________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

Kubrick interviewed by Tim Cahill in Rolling Stone, August 27, 1987.

Q. Well, you don’t make it easy on viewers or critics. You’ve said you want an audience to react emotionally. You create strong feelings but you won’t give us any easy answers.

A. That’s because I don’t have any easy answers.

_________________________________________________________

Michael Herr, author of one of the greatest books on the Vietnam war, Dispatches (1977), was a friend and collaborator of Kubrick’s for twenty years. He was co-writer of Full Metal Jacket (1987). Shortly after Stanley died in 1999, Herr wrote a short book, Kubrick (2000), about their relationship. Here are some quotes from that book.

** Re Stanley in his late teens: ……trying to see every movie ever made. There was definitely such a thing as a bad movie, but there was no movie not worth seeing. (page 25)

** He once told me (Herr) that if he hadn’t become a director he might have liked being a conductor. ” They get to play the whole orchestra, and they get plenty of exercise,” he said, waving his arms a bit, “and most of them live to be really old.” (page 65)

** He’d never talk about his movies while he was making them, and he didn’t like talking about them afterwards very much, even to friends, except maybe to mention the grosses. Most of all he didn’t want to talk about their “meaning,” because he believed so completely in their meaning that to try and talk about it could only spoil it for him. He might tell you how he did it, but never why… Somebody asked him how he ever thought of the ending of 2001. “I don’t know,’ he said, ‘How does anybody ever think of anything?” (page 71)

** Stanley didn’t live in England because he disliked America, God knows; America was all he ever talked about. It was always on his mind and in his blood. …although he hadn’t been there since 1968. In the days before satellite TV, had relatives and friends send him tapes of American television – NFL games, The Johnny Carson Show, news broadcasts and commercials, which he thought were, in their way, the most interesting films being made. He was crazy about The Simpsons and Seinfeld, and he loved Roseanne because it was funny and, he believed, the most authentic view of the country you could get without actually living there. (page 46-47)

** Kubrick thought a particular role for a film he wanted to make would “be perfect for Steve Martin. He’d loved The Jerk.” (page 8)

** Some Americans move to London and in three weeks they’re talking like Denholm Elliott. Stanley picked up the odd English locution, but it didn’t take Henry Higgins to place him as pure, almost stainless Bronx. Stanley’s voice was very fluent, melodious even. In spite of the Bronx nasal-caustic, perhaps the shadow of some adenoidal trauma long ago, it was as close to the condition of music as speech can get and still be speech, like a very well-read jazz musician talking, with a pleasing and graceful Groucho-like rushing and ebbing of inflection for emphasis, suggested quotation marks and even inverted commas to convey amused disdain, over-enunciating phrases that struck him as fabulously banal, with lots of innuendo, and lots of latent sarcasm, and some not so latent, lively tempi, brilliant timing, eloquent silences; and always, masterful, seamless segues, “Lemme change the subject for just a minute,” or, “What were we into before we got into this?” I never heard him try to do other voices, or dialects, even when he was telling Jewish jokes. Stanley quoted other people all the time, people in “the industry” whom he’d spoken to that afternoon (Steven and Mike, Warren and Jack, Tom and Nicole), or people who died a thousand years ago, but it was always Stanley speaking. (page 5)

** Re Full Metal Jacket: There was a break in the shooting of almost five months after Lee Ermey smashed up his car late one night and broke all his ribs on one side. Some of the cast had other jobs lined up and had to juggle… Vincent D’Onofrio had gained forty to fifty pounds to play Leonard, and he had to keep it on through all those idle months. (page 59)

________________________________________________________

Vincent D’Onofrio, who played Leonard “Gomer Pyle” Lawrence in Full Metal Jacket, was interviewed in 2017 about being in the film. This is quite wonderful. D’Onofrio is really expressive. (Note that it starts over at approximately 21 minutes and repeats the first 8 minutes.)

_______________________________________________________

Some behind-the-scenes footage from Full Metal Jacket. It’s interesting to watch Kubrick dealing with the crew.

______________________________________________________

Two videos from the Stanley Kubrick Archive Oral History

_______________________________________________________

Stanley’s cats.

Kubrick loved cats. Of course he did. He had dogs and many cats as pets in England. He would leave 15 pages of instructions for whomever was caring for the cats when he was away. You can read about that here, which includes a short video of his daughter Katharina talking about these instructions.

_____________________________________________________

Stanley’s quest for “just perfect” cardboard boxes.

____________________________________________________

“What They Say About Stanley Kubrick” by Peter Bogdanovich appeared in the New York Times Magazine on July 4, 1999, several months after Kubrick’s death the previous March. It’s a collection of comments by those who’d known and worked with him, including his wife Christiane. I’ve selected some of the comments for this post. Then entire piece can be accessed here.

** Arliss Howard (actor, Full Metal Jacket): I remember his saying, “The hardest thing in making a movie is to to keep in front of your consciousness your original response to the material. Because that’s going to be the thing that will make the movie. And the loss of that will break the movie.”

** Gerald Fried (childhood friend and composer of Kubrick’s short film, The Day of the Fight, and his first four features): By the time we got to Paths of Glory, he was already “Stanley Kubrick” and then it was a struggle – I had to rationalize every note. It was fun and stimulating, but he was already sure he knew it all… As I remember, he also heard every single machine-gun sound effect before it went into the picture.

** Richard Anderson (actor, Paths of Glory): Stanley is very psychological to get what he wants. One time he had done about 40 takes and Jimmy Harris (producer) comes and says, “Stanley, it’s now 1 o’clock and we’re in terrible trouble and we gotta break this up.” That was the only time I saw Stanley go nuts. He shouted, “It isn’t right – and I’m going to keep doing it until it is right!” He shot 84 takes. I think he wanted everybody to hear that – he wanted it to get around.

** Adam Baldwin (actor, Full Metal Jacket): One of the things we did to kill time was play chess, play hearts, smoke cigarettes. We would lay out the board and he would kind of waddle over and wipe you out in 15 moves. One time I actually got him to blunder and I won the game – big deal, 1 out of 50. But I said, “Hah, I got ya. You have to resign now.” And he said to me, “The only reason you won, Adam, is because I have so little respect for your game that I made a blunder. Now get back to work.” He had that little wry grin of his and walked away.

** John Milius (director, screenwriter, phone relationship with Kubrick from early ’80s): Stanley had no regard for time. He’d call you in the middle of the night, whenever he felt like calling. I’d say, “Stanley, it’s the middle of the night.” He’d say, “You’re awake, aren’t you?” He’d never talk for less than an hour.

** Arliss Howard: He could come in a room and say, “We’re two stops off in this light.” They’d say, “No, we just checked the camera.” He’d say, “We’re two stops off,” and they’d be two stops off.

** Keir Dullea (actor, 2001): I was always aware that he knew exactly what he wanted. He would invite Gary Lockwood and myself to have dinner at his beautiful home. And he would invite a lot of other people from all walks of life and different disciplines – art historians, authors and intellectuals. And he was as informed as anybody about their disciplines. He was like an onion – every layer you peeled off there were two new ones to be exposed.

** Ken Adam (production designer, Dr. Strangelove & Barry Lyndon): I don’t think I ever had such a close relationship with a director. There was a certain naiveté and charm about him, but you very quickly found out that there was an enormous brain functioning. I think the most difficult part was his questioning, almost computer-like mind. He knew most of the technicians’ work better than the technicians themselves. The only think he didn’t know was design. So, obviously, he was fascinated by it, but I also found myself having to justify practically every line I drew, which wasn’t always easy… He very often changed his mind. After two days of shooting, for example, he wasn’t happy with Peter Sellers playing the B-52 bomber-captain (in addition to his other roles) and he cast Slim Pickens instead and then decided to have him ride the atomic bomb bronco-fashion into the Russian missile complex.

_____________________________________________________

Ken Adam talks about working with Kubrick in the video below.

_______________________________________________________

** Christiane Kubrick (wife): He thought it was boring away from home. He liked all his stuff around him, all his telephones and televisions and fax machines. Also, we have a zoo. We have a lot of animals and he liked those and he liked the children and later the grandchildren. He liked being at home. But not like a hermit – he had lots of friends – they just weren’t in the film business. He talked to everybody – he just didn’t talk to the press.

** Sydney Pollack (director, phone relationship with Kubrick since early ‘70s, actor in Eyes Wide Shut): I always think of Stanley literally on the edge of a smile. His eyes always had mischief in them. He always had this sense of the devil in him while he was very calmly asking questions. He read everything, and knew absolutely all aspects of the business, including literally what the box-office receipts of every theater in the world were of the past few years.

** Gerald Fried: I hope his last hour was cool. I played on a ball club called the Barracudas, in the Bronx, and I remember Stanley – he was about 18, 19 – he wanted to get into a game and he wasn’t a good athlete and the guys didn’t want him and I said, “Come on, give him a chance.” We let him play, and his face lit up.

** Christiane Kubrick: Even the most ordinary things, he would give them such extra insight that they became interesting. He talked all the time, and so now I never have this rain of words. I’m very sad now but I was personally very lucky that I always felt very loved and many people can’t say that.

_____________________________________________________

Actor Sterling Hayden talking about Kubrick, The Killing (1956) and Dr. Strangelove (1964). Hayden is a little odd, but this is interesting.

________________________________________________________

Director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight trilogy, Intersteller, Dunkirk) talks about Kubrick and 2001.

_____________________________________________________

David Simon (creator of The Wire) talks about Paths of Glory.

_______________________________________________________

______________________________________________________

I’d forgotten about S Is for Stanley, a documentary about Emilio D’Alessandro, Kubrick’s driver since 1971. I saw it in January of last year and quite liked it. Here’s the trailer, which is narrated by the film’s director, Alex Infascelli.

_________________________________________________________

I recently remembered that somewhere in my randomly stored archives I ought to have a souvenir program booklet for 2001: A Space Odyssey. So I went into the hall closet and was amazed to find it in the first box I opened. I must have gotten this when I saw 2001 for the first time at a Cinerama theater in Sacramento in 1968, when the film opened. It’s one of the artifacts I’ve kept through the years. And here it is!

____________________________________________________

Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke on the moon shuttle set for 2001: A Space Odyssey.

_________________________________________________________

A pie fight in the war room was originally supposed to be the climax of Dr. Strangelove. It was filmed, but obviously didn’t make the final cut. Here’s Stanley with one of the pies, followed by a shot of him demonstrating how to throw them. It would be nice to see that footage.

_______________________________________________________

As previously noted, Kubrick was loathe to talk about his films or “explain” them, but I found an exception to that. Space Odyssey, Michael Benson’s excellent book about the making of 2001, references a quote from Kubrick in a column by Abe Weiler for the New York Times in late April, 1968. 2001 had just been released to fairly hostile critical response. He probably felt some pressure to say something specific. Here’s the quote:

“What happens at the end must tap the subconscious for its power. To do this, one must bypass words and move into the world of dreams and mythology. This is why the literal clarity one has become used to is not there. Here is what we used for planning. In Jupiter orbit, Keir Dullea is swept into a Star Gate. Hurled through fragmented regions of time and space, he enters into another dimension where the laws of nature as we know them no longer apply. In the unseen presences of godlike entities – beings of pure energy who have evolved beyond matter – he finds himself in what might be described as a human zoo, created from his own dreams and memories…His entire life passes in what appears to him a matter of moments. He dies and is reborn – transfigured. An enhanced being, a Star Child. The ascent from ape to angel is complete.”

Actually, “from ape to angel” is a pretty succinct description of what the film is about. I love it.

____________________________________________________

One more thing before I wrap this up. Two weeks ago we were on line to see a film at the Walter Reade Theater. I was reading the Michael Benson’s Space Odyssey when a man in front of me asked how I was liking it. He said he used to work for MGM and that he’d known Kubrick at the time. He said they used to talk on the phone a lot. In what I’ve been reading about Kubrick recently, a lot of people mention all the calls they used to get from him at all hours, very long calls. So I got a kick when this guy, whose name was Jim, started talking about phone calls with Stanley. He said that whatever they started off talking about, the calls sooner or later became about gossip. Stanley Kubrick liked to gossip! After reading and writing about Kubrick these past few weeks and having him in my head, I thought it was pretty great that I’d have a chance encounter with someone who’d actually known him.

_____________________________________________________

Kubrick Remembered, a feature documentary narrated in part by his wife, Christiane.

_______________________________________________________

There’s more, but I think it’s time to take a break. Besides, Stanley Kubrick isn’t going anywhere. — Ted Hicks

Posted in Books, Comics, Documentaries, Film, Film posters, Home Video, Music, Streaming, TV & Cable | 2 Comments

More Kubrick!

I’d gathered far more material than would reasonably fit in my previous post on Stanley Kubrick, so I’m including some of it in this follow-up. This is a grab bag of interviews, profiles, photos, clips and quotes to pick and choose from.

_____________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

A profile of Stanley Kubrick by Jeremy Bernstein in New Yorker magazine in 1966 can be accessed here.

Below is an interview with Kubrick conducted by Bernstein. The sound of Kubrick’s voice is very interesting to me. It lends a human dimension to all that’s been written about him and all the published photographs I’ve seen. Kubrick claimed to hate being interviewed, yet he clearly had no problem speaking at length.

Here is Kubrick at the premiere of 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968. This aired on Dutch television after his death in 1998.

_______________________________________________________

Much has been written about Stanley Kubrick over the years, many books and articles. I haven’t come close to reading everything, but books I’ve found useful include The Making of Kubrick’s 2001, edited by Jerome Agel and published in 1970, two years after the film opened. Michel Ciment’s Kubrick: The Definitive Edition (2001) is packed with interviews, photographs, and insightful analysis of all his films. Stanley Kubrick Interviews, edited by Gene Phillips, was published in 2001 by the University Press of Mississippi in their excellent series, Conversations with Filmmakers. Additionally, I’m currently half-way through Micheal Benson’s exceptional Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece (2018), which I mentioned in the previous post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

___________________________________________________

Here is a series of videos examining different aspects of Kubrick’s career.

Here is Ryan O’Neal speaking about Kubrick and Barry Lyndon.

______________________________________________________

** Kubrick’s interest in science fiction predates 2001 by several years. Here’s a passage from Michael Benson’s Space Odyssey concerning Dr. Strangelove. There’s no way to know if this was seriously considered, but probably not. Regardless, it’s pretty funny.

Dr. Strangelove’s script had contained a sci-fi framing device until shortly before filming commenced in 1963. The film’s opening credits were supposed to start with “a weird, hydra-headed, furry creature” snarling at the camera under the opening title “A Macro-Galaxy-Meteor Picture.” After an effects shot in which the camera moved through stars, planets, and moons, a narrator evidently of alien origin was to have explained that the “ancient comedy” the audience was about to see had been “discovered at the bottom of a deep crevice in the Great Northern Desert by members of our Earth probe, Nimbus-II.” At the end, following the film’s crescendo of exploding hydrogen bombs, scrolling titles were to conclude by noting that “this quaint comedy of Galaxy pre-History” was “another in our series, The Dead Worlds of Antiquity.”

** Kubrick on voice-over narration (from Michel Ciment’s Kubrick book in an interview re: Barry Lyndon): “A voice-over spares you the cumbersome business of telling the necessary facts of the story through expositional dialogue scenes which can become very tiresome and frequently unconvincing… Voice-over, on the other hand, is a perfectly legitimate and economical way of conveying story information which does not need dramatic weight and which would otherwise be too bulky to dramatize.”

** I recently re-watched Jan Harlin’s documentary, Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures, which came out in 2001, ironically enough. It’s very good and well worth seeing. I was especially struck by something Jack Nicholson says in it regarding Kubrick: “His movies are completely conscious.”

** Kubrick quoted in Vincent Lobrutto’s Stanley Kubrick: A Biography: “I don’t like to talk about 2001 too much because it’s essentially a non-verbal experience. It attempts to communicate more to the subconscious and to the feelings than it does to the intellect. I think clearly there’s a problem with people who are not paying attention with their eyes. They’re listening. And they don’t get much from listening to this film. Those who won’t believe their eyes won’t be able to appreciate this film.”

I really like “not paying attention with their eyes.”

______________________________________________________

The following radio interview seems to have been done after Barry Lyndon was released in 1975.

_____________________________________________________

Stanley Kubrick filmography and awards.

_____________________________________________________

Kubrick on the set of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), followed by Full Metal Jacket (1987) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

_____________________________________________________

Kubrick’s 1998 acceptance speech receiving DGA D.W. Griffith Award – with opening comments by Jack Nicholson

______________________________________________________

____________________________________________________

Thanks for going on this ride with me and Stanley Kubrick. I hope you had a good time. – Ted Hicks

Posted in Books, Documentaries, Fiction, Film, Home Video, photography, Streaming, TV & Cable | 2 Comments

Stanley K Is in the House!

It feels like Stanley Kubrick has always been with us. He hasn’t gone anywhere. This is especially true of late. Through a Different Lens, an astonishing exhibit of his still photography for Look magazine in the late 1940s, is on display at the Museum of the City of New York. A revealing documentary titled Filmworker, about Leon Vitali’s life as Kubrick’s assistant, recently played here at the Metrograph theater. A new “unrestored” 70mm print of 2001: A Space Odyssey is currently being shown at the Village East Cinema. A new book, Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece by Michael Benson, has just been published. For the true believers among us, this is all a gift.

____________________________________________________

On display at this exhibit are selections of the thousands of photographs Stanley shot for Look magazine from 1946 to 1950. He was still in high school when he made his first sale. He’s 20 or 21 in the shot below, taken in 1949.

Here is a short film produced by the museum to promote the exhibit.

In the photographs, you can see Kubrick developing his eye, his way of seeing the world. You can also see how these photos inform the look of his early features, Killer’s Kiss (1955) and The Killing (1956). Below are some of the ones I shot at the museum earlier this month. Photos of photos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The photo below is especially evocative of the visual style of Killer’s Kiss. Note Robert Wise’s great noir boxing film The Set-Up on the theater marquee in the background.

It wasn’t all black-and-white, though. Stanley shot several covers for Look. The one below is a stunning example of what he could do in color.

_____________________________________________________

Here is an extremely interesting and well-done video about Kubrick’s time at Look and how he worked. It’s part of a series called The Kubrick Files, by a blogger named Cinema Tyler.

Also included in the exhibit is Kubrick’s first film, Day of the Fight, which he made in 1951. He financed it himself, confident he could sell it (which he did). Kubrick produced, directed, photographed, edited, and did sound, as well as being his own grip and setting up lighting. The music was by Gerald Fried, who would score Kubrick’s first four features, Fear and Desire, Killer’s Kiss, The Killing, and Paths of Glory. Two years earlier, Kubrick had shot a photo essay for Look of prize fighter Walter Cartier preparing for a boxing match. He later decided to use Cartier as the subject for a film. A page of the photo essay is below.

Here is Kubrick’s Day of the Fight, narrated by newsman Douglas Edwards.

Something I got a big kick out of was learning that the older photographers at Look watched out for Stanley, and formed a “Bringing Up Stanley” club. They could see the talent.

______________________________________________________

Through a Different Lens will be at the Museum of the City of New York (1220 Fifth Avenue @ 103rd Street) through October 28th of this year. If you’re in New York during that time, this is not to be missed.

_______________________________________________________

Filmworker, Tony Zierra’s study of Leon Vitali and his life with Stanley Kubrick is a fascinating and often moving behind-the-scenes view of Kubrick at work and how it was for Vitali. Leon was an actor in film and television when he was cast as Lord Bullington in Barry Lyndon (1975). The experience of being in that film made Vitali want to work for Kubrick, which he ended up doing for over two decades until Stanley’s death in 1998. And beyond, actually, as he continues to be involved with the business and legacy of Stanley Kubrick.  Filmworker vividly shows how impossible it could be working as Kubrick’s right-hand man, constantly on call, expected to do any and everything. You get the feeling it was an all-consuming calling for Vitali, a kind of fulfillment. We learn nothing of his family beyond a few glimpses of his daughters, but that’s it. Vitali’s life begins and ends with Stanley, and that’s just fine with him (or so he says).

Here’s an interview with Vitali talking about Kubrick. This isn’t from Filmworker; it was done for DP/30’s Oral History of Hollywood series.

_______________________________________________________

Many of Kubrick’s films were poorly received, both critically and commercially, upon their initial release. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Barry Lyndon (1975) are probably the most prominent examples of this. The test of a film’s worth is how well it holds up over time. Once the dust has settled we can see what’s still standing. Both 2001 and Barry Lyndon are now regarded as masterpieces. Along with The Killing and Paths of Glory, they are my favorite Kubrick films. (I wrote previously on The Killing and Paths of Glory, which can be accessed here.) I remember seeing 2001 for the first time in 1968 at a Cinerama theater in Sacramento, California. I’ve seen it many times since then in different formats. Fifty years later 2001 is still being written about, talked about and seen by audiences. I saw it again last week, the new “unrestored” 70mm print. This was initiated and overseen by director Christopher Nolan, a firm believer in shooting and projecting films on celluloid film stock. Images and sounds on film tend to have greater texture and weight than they do in digital formats. As I understand it, the prints were made from new printing elements created from the original camera negative. Per Nolan, there were “no digital tricks, remastered effects, or revisionist edits” in the making of these prints. He wants audiences to have the same experience seeing 2001 they would have had in 1968. Here’s a link to an interview with Nolan in Film Comment that speaks to the importance of this, as he sees it, in some detail. It’s well worth reading.

The opening of 2001 always makes me feel like something momentous is about to happen (and it is). It gets me every time.

_____________________________________________________

I’ve just begun reading Michael Benson’s Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece. You’d think the subject had been exhausted after 50 years of books, articles, and documentaries. I don’t claim to have read everything that’s been written about the film, but this one feels fresh. The book jacket boasts rave blurbs from no less than Martin Scorsese, Tom Hanks, Peter Biskind, and others.

__________________________________________________

There is a vast amount of material available online about Stanley Kubrick and his films. I’ve collected way too much to include in this post, so I’ll be doing a follow-up in a few days with other items I think are interesting. Stay tuned. In the meantime, just a moment… just a moment… – Ted Hicks

Posted in Art, Books, Documentaries, Film, Film posters, Home Video, Music, photography, Streaming, TV & Cable | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Before the Wall Came Down: Polish Poster Variations

Until the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. publicity materials for American films had been banned in Poland. During that time, Polish poster artists responded with clever, inventive interpretations that were often astonishing and even subversive. In some cases, I suspect the artist hadn’t actually seen the film being advertised, but was inspired by the title or some aspect to create something new. The IFC Center here in New York frequently shows a sampling of Polish film posters on screen before the feature, which is where I first started seeing them. Most of the posters in this post are for films from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. They reflect a variety of styles. Other than identifying the films, I’ve tried to let them speak for themselves.

______________________________________________________

The poster at the left is for Un Chien Andalou, made by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali in 1929. Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) is at right. I like the skull motif.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

______________________________________________________

The original Godzilla (1954) at left, and Godzilla vs. Hedora (1971, aka Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster in the U.S.) at right. Both are dynamic and really pop. The Godzilla at left seems quite friendly, while the one at right seems to be doing a little dance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

_____________________________________________________

Here are two from 1963, Cleopatra at left, and Irma la Douce at right. The Irma poster is quite beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

______________________________________________________

Below is an in-your-face poster for Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970).

Below at left, Klute (1971), and at right, Rosemary’s Baby (1968).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below: Cabaret (1972). This one is insane.

Chinatown (1974) at left below, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975 at right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________________

The Day of the Jackal (1973) at left, Last Tango in Paris (1972) at right. Both are very clever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

__________________________________________________

No problem identifying this one, but for the record, it’s Jaws (1975). Below this are two posters for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), one fairly literal and the other definitely surreal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________________

Taxi Driver (1976) at left, Apocalypse Now (1979) at right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

_____________________________________________________

The poster below for Raging Bull (1980) is amazing. Pow!

In a similar vein (so to speak), the poster below for Saving Private Ryan (1998), though done well after the Wall came down, is too viscerally striking not to include.

______________________________________________________

Young Frankenstein (1974) at left, The Shining (1980) at right. Shelley Duvall’s hair reminds me of a nun’s habit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

______________________________________________________

Spartacus (1960) below left, Blue Velvet (1986) below right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

________________________________________________________

Working Girl (1988) below left, Wall Street (1987) below right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

_______________________________________________________

The poster at left for Missing (1982) is very powerful. The one for Christine (1983) is  disturbing for some reason. Maybe I should check with Freud on this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

______________________________________________________

I’ve been gathering these posters for some time now, but I just stumbled across Rebel Without a Cause (1955) earlier today. It really knocked me out. I had to look at it more than once to sort it out.

___________________________________________________

The following stressed out poster is for the little-seen, though quite excellent, Stormy Monday (1988). This poster is uncomfortably compelling. That neck!

______________________________________________________

I’ll close with this quite literal poster for John Woo’s Face/Off from 1997. Like Saving Private Ryan, it was done after the Wall came down, but I think it’s too good not to include here.

_________________________________________________

If you’d like to see more of these Polish film posters, they’re a Google-click away. This is just the tip of the iceberg. — Ted Hicks

Posted in Art, Film, Film posters | 4 Comments

On Set, Off Camera

Recently, while doing Google searches for posters and stills, I began running across shots of actors in off-camera moments during the making of a movie. There’s nothing particularly profound about any of these, but I think they’re fun to see, and occasionally unexpected. These are mostly from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, with a few from earlier and later years.

__________________________________________________

Below are Kirk Douglas and Yul Brynner on the set of Cast a Giant Shadow (1966).

A card game during the filming of The Magnificent Seven (1960). Left to right are Robert Vaughn (back to camera), Yul Brynner, Brad Dexter, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn. Below that is a shot presumably from the same card game, with Robert Vaughn raking it in next to Steve McQueen.

Below are McQueen and Vaughn between shots on The Magnificent Seven.

James Coburn, John Sturges (director), Steve McQueen, and Charles Bronson on the set of The Great Escape (1963), followed by a shot of Sam Peckinpah (director), James Coburn, and Kris Kristofferson on the set of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973).

In the shot below, Muhammad Ali visits the set of The Dirty Dozen (1967) and talks with Lee Marvin and Clint Walker.Below are Lee Marvin and Richard Burton while making The Klansman (1974). I really like this shot. They both appear quite relaxed, despite, or perhaps because of, reportedly consuming gallons of booze on a daily basis during the shoot.Here’s a shot of Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, Richard Brooks (director), and Woody Strode while making The Professionals (1966).

Below, Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune promoting Hell in the Pacific (1968).

Here is a great shot of director Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune during the making of Red Beard (1965). I like the way they’re sitting and the cigarette in Mifune’s hand. This is followed by a photo of Kurosawa being visited by Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas during the production of Kagemusha (1980).

Here’s a shot of Roy Scheider and Steven Spielberg on the beach while filming Jaws (1975).

Below, Christopher Walken, director David Cronenberg, and Herbert Lom on the set of The Dead Zone (1983).

Nancy Allen, director Brian De Palma, and John Travolta killing time while making Blow Out (1981). Below that is an interesting shot of Martin Scorsese and De Palma, followed by a shot of Scorsese, Nick Nolte, and Robert Mitchum during Scorsese’s remake of Cape Fear (1991).

Here are Robert Mitchum and director Charles Laughton discussing Night of the Hunter (1955). Below that is a shot of Mitchum and Charles Bronson on the set of Villa Rides (1968).

Here are Charleton Heston, Stephen Boyd, and director William Wyler on the huge chariot race set for Ben-Hur (1959), followed by a shot of Heston, Wyler, a visiting Kirk Douglas, and Jack Hawkins.Below, Heston talks with Sam Peckinpah while making Major Dundee (1965).

____________________________________________________

Stanley Kubrick (director) and Ryan O’Neal making Barry Lyndon (1975).

Kubrick and Keir Dullea on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

Below, Kirk Douglas and Kubrick while making Paths of Glory (1957).

Woody Strode, Kubrick, and Douglas in the arena for Spartacus (1960), followed by Charles McGraw, Kubrick, and Douglas in the gladiator quarters.

Below, Tony Curtis and Kirk Douglas celebrate the first year of production of Spartacus.

Below, Joe Turkel, Kubrick, and Jack Nicholson in the bar for The Shining (1980).

I love this shot taken on The Shining, with Nicholson out of focus in the foreground and Kubrick in focus reflected in the mirror as he takes the photo.

And this shot of Nicholson and Kubrick, with Jack flashing his trademark killer smile.

Kubrick and Malcolm McDowell preparing a scene in A Clockwork Orange (1971).

Below, George C. Scott plays chess with Kubrick on the set of Dr. Strangelove (1964).

At left, Tony Curtis and Kubrick during Spartacus; at right, Curtis and Marilyn Monroe while shooting Some Like It Hot (1959).

 

 

 

 

_______________________________________________________

Director George Stevens, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor on location for Giant (1956), followed by a great shot of Hudson and Taylor.

_____________________________________________________

Colin Clive, Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester take a break on the set of The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), followed by Karloff being made up by Jack Pierce for Frankenstein (1931).

Karloff in costume, surrounded by fans (one presumes). I’m not sure when this would have been taken, but given the Monster’s appearance, I’d guess it was during The Bride of Frankenstein.

Here’s a great shot of Karloff on a tea break, out of costume, but made up as The Monster. Notice the dainty way he’s holding the cup.

__________________________________________________

I’ll close with this shot of John Wayne, Angie Dickinson (with mile-long legs), and Dean Martin on the set of Rio Bravo (1959). I hope you’ve enjoyed this barrage of photos. — Ted Hicks

Posted in Film, Home Video, photography, TV & Cable | 13 Comments

Best TV & Cable Supplemental: “Better Things,” Interviews & More

Someone asked why I hadn’t included Better Things (FX) with my list of best TV & cable shows of 2017. Simple answer: I forgot! I shouldn’t have, because this is a terrific series. We didn’t start watching until the final episode of the first season, which hooked us for the second season. It’s funny in a very deadpan way, but the emotions are authentic and moving. Pamela Adlon stars as Sam Fox, a single mother raising three daughters in Los Angeles. Better Things was created by Adlon and Louis C.K. The series received a Peabody Award in April 2017, which stated “…the result of this searingly funny and beautiful show is an at-times raw examination of the vicissitudes of working motherhood, crackling with feminist verve and energy, that consistently cuts new ground.” (Since admitting last fall that sexual misconduct allegations against him were true, Louis C.K. is no longer involved with the show. In the meantime, FX has renewed Better Things for a third season.)

__________________________________________________

For those who want to go a little deeper, here is a selection of interviews and articles concerning many of the titles from my Best TV & Cable post for 2017. — Ted Hicks

___________________________________________________

The Americans (FX)

__________________________________________________

Big Little Lies (HBO)

_________________________________________________

Billions (Showtime)

____________________________________________________

Bosch (Amazon Prime)

____________________________________________________

The Crown (Netflix)

____________________________________________________

Homeland (Showtime) The following clip is from the first episode of season 5. I just found it yesterday and was struck by how sharp and focused the show can be. Plus it has my favorite character in the spotlight, Peter Quinn (played by Rupert Friend).

___________________________________________________

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime)

____________________________________________________

Mindhunter (Netflix) Here is an audio interview with David Fincher, followed by a link to an article about the series in Rolling Stone.

The Rolling Stone article can be accessed here.

_____________________________________________________

Silicon Valley (HBO)

____________________________________________________

Twin Peaks: The Return (Showtime)

A Rolling Stone article on Twin Peaks: The Return can be accessed here.

An article concerning David Lynch’s approach to violence can be accessed here.

_____________________________________________________

The Wizard of Lies (HBO)

_____________________________________________________

Posted in Books, Fiction, Film, Home Video, Streaming, TV & Cable | 3 Comments