Tarzan Thursday: Tarzan Triumphs (1943)

One thing that you can more readily see in hindsight is what I’ve been examining most consistently through the course of this series of posts is the shape of a franchise. With Tarzan’s Secret Treasure what RKO seemed to be trying to do was as closely emulate the MGM Tarzan films as they could. What occurred in Tarzan Triumphs is that they were much closer to making it an RKO film. Now, it has been widely reported and agreed upon that RKO, unlike, say MGM and Warners, did not have a signature style in the studio era; so I suppose what I really mean is that they came closer to making it a well-crafted B-Film that had as much if not more fun than MGM packed in and less shimmer.

One shrewd move that RKO made when assuming the mantle of the series was to put off re-introducing a re-cast Jane. Ultimately the new actress playing Jane was put behind the eight ball by the parts written for her. The fact that she was not Maureen O’Hara, or even a reasonable facsimile, also hurt greatly.

So the transition to a more RKO-friendly formulation was as of yet imperfect and would be bettered for the next installment. The quickening pace of production also became even more apparent here as this is one of two releases from 1943. Weissmuller assumed the role from 1932 to 1948 and this was the only year in the whole run when there were two releases in a calendar year.

Tarzan Triumphs (1943, RKO)

So, yes, this is the (in)famous installment when Tarzan does do battle with the Nazis. As silly as that can be, as inconsistent as the German and/or English accents, as vaguely as said Nazis are clad; those aren’t the biggest issues. Some of the biggest troubles are the same as they ever are. 10 minutes in, and what has actually happened? They met a new character but no inciting incident really occurs. An “Iron Bird” makes its ominous appearance but they everything is OK for another minute or two.

To this film’s credit, it does accurately portray Tarzan. He more often than not in the series wants to just live and let live. He doesn’t want outsiders in his land and also doesn’t want to fight just because. “Why Tarzan kill Nazis?” In a propaganda era the temptation to have him forget these ideals may prove too large. However, they stood firm. Tarzan only fights when Boy is taken, “Now Tarzan make war.”

Yet, through that consistency there are some odd changes. Namely the instances in the two-film absence of Jane there are some awkward, uncomfortable sequences where Tarzan must ally himself with a woman from another tribe, which is handled fairly platonically, until for reasons unknown, Boy prods Tarzan to swim or engage in other activity that’s fairly flirtatious, especially during the Code. This being the same Boy who’s been raised believing Jane has been his mother. It’s quite odd to say the least.

Tarzan Triumphs (1943, RKO)

The film ultimately falls into a sequel trap wherein the writing seems to try to shoehorn in things the audiences like and expect. What do we do now? What do they want it, and how do we give them more of it?

While it is good that here Tarzan does start to have friendly interactions with other tribes, and is not always keeping “unruly savages” in check. An odd habit does develop of casting other caucasian actors, not making any attempt to disguise their ethnicity in make-up and simultaneously giving them no backstory, or even making comment as to why they’re in the jungle. Particularly when Tarzan battles Nazis this is a missed opportunity and more than a bit unfortunate. It’s hard to believe that the next film would be RKO’s zenith but sure enough it was, even after all this.

Facebook Actor Game: James Franco

Like many things on Facebook, this game has waxed and waned in popularity over the years, and, for whatever reason; I never participated until just recently. Essentially, it functions kind of like a chain letter. Someone mentions who asked them and if you like the status you’re assigned an actor by the author of said post.

In my first time playing I was assigned James Franco, which is a pretty interesting choice, and not just because he’s already in the running for Entertainer of the Year this year. So I figured I’d share my thoughts in something slightly larger than an Facebook post here. Also, if you’re so inclined you can like The Movie Rat’s Facebook page here.

Movie I Loved: This is the End

This is the End (2013, Sony Pictures)

It’s too early to tell if this film really is a game-changer, however, what can be said is that it’s a fantastically executed concept and uproariously funny. Crass and immature, yes, but funny too.

Movie I liked: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011, 20th Century Fox)

As the above linked-to review supports, I did like the film. I can’t say that I slammed him for this one but it seemed to be one of his disconnected parts though. Those, unfortunately, do come around from time to time.

Movie I hated that I liked: Pineapple Express

Pineapple Express (2008, Columbia)

I interpreted this one as kind of meaning overrated. There’s no so-bad-it’s-good in his works, those are rare. This movie is OK but no big whoop like some made it out to be.

Movie I hated: Spider-Man

Spider-Man (2002, Columbia)

This selection has very little to do with Franco and a lot to do with the effects I never liked, the casting and the story that didn’t get me to engage at all.

Movie(s) I keep meaning to see but haven’t yet: 127 Hours, Howl

127 Hours (2010, Fox Searchlight)

I really wanted to see 127 Hours in the year it was released. Essentially, it would’ve been just to see him. Unfortunately, that never happened. Same story for Howl except that I was anticipating that a bit more as a film.

Movie(s) I can’t wait to see: Spring Breakers, The Little Prince, The Sound and the Fury

Spring Breakers (2013, A24)

Spring Breakers has a lot of hype for his part so I’d like to see it. The last two titles are if they happen, obviously as they are in development and pre-production respectively. If he get to tackle The Sound and the Fury as a director I’d want to see that. However, even more intriguing to me, albeit another animated version, would be a The Little Prince. It’s a book I’ve read in three languages so any new version is something I look forward to.

Conclusion

I was glad to have participated in this game. At times we seem to always be in the present or thinking about the future, therefore it was good to do a little retrospective.

Short Film Saturday: Rediscovered Short Films of the 1900s

If you saw last week’s post, you’ll see I’m running a theme on rediscovery. These will spin-off into a different kind of post when I start to run into features. As for now, while shorts were king, the films will appear here.

The Death of Poor Joe (1901)

Believed to be the first cinematic work based on Dickens.

Katsudō Shashin (1907)

Believed to be the first Japanese animation.

Running only 3 seconds. Discovered in Kyoto in July 31, 2005.

Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900)

From Wikipedia:

Running only 30 seconds, this is the first recorded detective film and the first to feature Sherlock Holmes. A paper copy was identified in 1968 in the Library of Congress Paper Print archive by Michael Pointer, a historian of Sherlock Holmes films. It was transferred to 16 mm film in the Library of Congress collection.

El hotel eletrico (1908)

Directed Segundo de Chomon a Spanish film pioneer.

I Quit: World War Z

As I have proven in the past by watching many more Hellraiser, Friday the 13th and Children of the Corn than I likely would have otherwise; I am at times inclined to watch a series long past its best days being behind it. However, what delineates those examples from, say my treatment of Paranormal Activity, is that in those series there was the impetus of having liked at least one installment. With Paranormal Activity, though I came dangerously close, I’ve not liked one. Yet, I admit to having been a small part of the problem inasmuch as I’ve seen all four at theaters.

It therefore occurred to me, after having been made perfectly aware that I am in a minority opinion on World War Z, that I should publicly decree that I quit the series. Rumors of a sequel I feel may have been a bit premature, even in this day and age, considering the unwieldy production budget, that does not include the promotional blitz, but as it stands fairly strong both here and overseas it seems more likely. I will not contribute to the success of the sequel even out of curiosity. Not during its theatrical release anyway. I know that sequels tend to lower the threshold for financial success, but this is more about principle than any delusion that my ticket makes that much of a difference.

It’s just time to say enough. I could’ve picked another franchise to be the sacrificial lamb, and this seems to be one in the making that I’m fairly sure I’ll never get so I’ve had it. Enough. If you enjoyed it I don’t begrudge you, go and enjoy them all, however many there may be. However, I do encourage you to stand firm regarding another property that you’re patronizing just because, not due to the fact that you really want to see it.

Will I be able to throw down to gauntlet to other behemoths? Maybe not, but it has to start somewhere. I shielded myself as well as I could from outside opinion of World War Z before I saw it. In all honesty, I expected my reaction would be ‘meh’ in the face of many positive reviews. It fell well short of even that unimpressive standard to me and hovers somewhere between atrocious and a travesty in my mind. So I say no more. If you feel as strongly about it or something else I suggest you do the same.

Tarzan Thursday: Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942)

Introduction

Last year the character of Tarzan celebrated his 100th year in print. A serialized version of the story first appeared in 1912. A hardcover collection of Tarzan of the Apes first appeared in 1914. Being in the middle of the Tarzan centennial period it’s an opportune time to (re)visit many of the screen renditions of the character. Previous posts in this and other series can be found here.

Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942)

From reading some on the series, not exhaustively mind you, but I have seen mention that Maureen O’Sullivan was known to be playing Jane for the last time in this film, which is understandable. It’s understandable that an actress of her talent would want to move on to something else – in this case to devote time to her actual family offscreen. For as well as she played Jane, and as well as the writers consistently crafted her part, the need for a change can be tolerated. Similarly, the need to change venue from the escarpment can be accepted. It’s almost like airing out a play when adapting it for film. A play tends to be mostly interiors and focused on having a unity of time and space as much as possible dating back to Ancient Greece. Film by its nature needs more room in time and space.

However, it’s what done in light of these facts that isn’t all that great, along with some ancillary fumbles that take an idea with potential and makes it a sad miss. Most notably the sequences in New York don’t do great with the fish-out-of-water aspect, and introduce maybe more unfortunate racial attitudes than were ever displayed in the jungle. Even if you’re inclined to let that slide understanding it came with the time, it’s further jarring because, at least when O’Sullivan played her, Jane was a very progressive woman for the era, living in the jungle and all she willingly left behind – so being shown other antiquated attitudes stands out more.

Which brings us to one of the few bright spots this film has and it is, oddly enough, the courtroom sequence. Here both Jane and Tarzan get to speak and stake their claim to boy. It gives O’Sullivan the chance to perhaps display more range with her character than she ever did. Seeing as how in protecting Boy’s interests she makes mistakes and reels from them. Tarzan is allowed a few philosophical insights on the stand and is prodded to the point of rage and attacking the prosecutor. It’s most definitely Weissmuller’s best turn as the character. It also marks another progression as Tarzan is now more vocal than ever in part because he has to be but that has developed well throughout.

Tarzan's New York Adventure (MGM, 1942)

However, much of the sequences outside the escarpment do nothing great or exciting. As the series grew longer the running times grew shorter, but the task of crafting a good Tarzan film didn’t get easier because it seems in some installments more filler was added rather than substance, and this film is a prime example of that.

Now, I have been purposely exploring narrative patterns and some other themes that run through the series without annotating each post with a score simply because I wanted more focus on these areas as opposed to the good or bad. Similar thoughts have come to me when I tackled other series’ in the past. The precise number I’d rate it was almost an afterthought because I wanted to discuss certain things regardless of what side of the good/bad paradigm the film fell. So without bringing it up until we get to that film: there will be another good one and this is not it.

The filler, which in this film was a lot of Cheetah alone both on the escarpment and in New York was usually just her. In the plot I only noted one occasion where Cheetah’s involvement was both necessary and helpful. In production she was most helpful as she got the three leads quite a bit of time off while the camera rolled on random monkey crap.

Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942, MGM)

The naïveté and messing up of Boy landing him in trouble rears its head again. This a well that was went back to far too often with his character being too slow on the uptake. Many of the films were very concerned with how white men would try and fool or convince Tarzan who rightly grew more skeptical as the films moved on. Boy sadly got to repeat the exact same tropes too many times over. There are rare flashes of growth in his character later on that are a breath of fresh air. To be fair, he is spirited away in the end but it’s his naïveté that gets him into the situation.

Aside from the courtroom sequence the best aspect of the film is definitely the fact that, despite Tarzan seeming more able to cope with civilization than he should, Jane most definitely take the lead in their search for Boy throughout New York.

Essentially what this film hoped was that a few different setpieces while others were re-fenestrated would be enough to make it feel truly different without the film ever getting there. Essentially it started to feel like MGM was really just churning the series out at this point and it ending there was just fine. The films not only got shorter but got less score. I remember at one point when the score came in thinking “Oh, there’s the music.” Music was far more present in the first three. At this point if the series was to continue, which it did, it turning around to RKO was not necessarily a bad thing.

That Should Be a Thing/Film Activism: Extant/Lost Film Database

OK, I know what you’re thinking: What’s with the slashes? Well, quite frankly, I’m not sure I’ve had a post that’s changed so much from the day I wrote it to the day I was going to post it. Essentially, what I was setting out was the first in a series wherein I would propose a utopian concept that should exist. Namely a database wherein you can type the title of a movie and its status (lost, extant, out-of-print, etc.) would be listed.

Here’s the text I started with:

I will always, and without apologies, support a utopian ideal if I think it will really be of service. For those who love film there is such a thing as film activism and if I should see something pop up that matches that criteria I will post a new edition of that series.

That Should Be a Thing is an idea that spawns more form my daydreaming about an ideal and not thinking or knowing if something like it exists. If it does not it should is what I am getting at here.

I am a strong supporter of film preservation efforts. The goal of preservation is the prevention of loss of films we already have. Sadly, many have already been lost. Finding out about a very cool sounding movie, looking for it; only to discover it is now considered lost is a terrible thing. However, much searching, headache and heartache could be spared the seeker of the arcane if a database existed listing the status of a given film.

Therfore, all one would have to do upon learning about a title would be to input the title and year of a film and be given a status report.

Do any of you know if anything like this exists? I know Movies Silently has been profiling lost films in a series, and it’s always great to feature lost titles but that’s not a searchable database of myriad titles, which would be ideal I’m envisioning. If there is such a thing I’d love to know about it.

Name That Film (EastmanHouse.Org)

So what changed the post? Well, it’s not quite the same thing, but there is an effort to assemble a comprehensive list of lost films, which has been organized by the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen, Berlin, and funded by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation). As per its about section anyone and everyone is encouraged to join:

Its purpose is to make visible the invisible portion of film history by acting as a collaboration platform for internet users to bring together relevant information and surviving documents concerning Lost Films.

The archive of titles currently contains over 3500 films believed or declared to be lost.

A constantly growing network of collaborators has been responsible for building up this archive.

Initial collaborators submitted almost 500 of these titles to a specially set up Wiki during the earliest stages of Lost Films’ development.

Others, meanwhile, have been kind enough to allow Lost Films to reproduce information already published elsewhere.

The archive was specially developed using a new Open Source Software called CollectiveAccess.

Using this software, it is possible to supplement individual titles with detailed textual, photographic, audio and video information – all in a single, virtual space.

As an example, the Deutsche Kinemathek has personally illustrated 37 of the most sought after lost German films, carefully selected through consultation with renowned experts.

The 6 partner institutions together submitted over 1500 surviving primary documents, which were then uploaded to the CollectiveAccess database and linked to the relevant film title(s).

Over 40 different document categories were assigned to the documents so that users would have the option to view the different document types separately.

Document types uploaded include surviving production records, such as scripts and set designs, as well as posters and other distribution materials, press items, censorship documents and music manuscripts. Also uploaded are numerous photographic stills and even in some cases digitised film clips.

An identify section, meanwhile, presents a selection of pictures and video clips of unidentified films for users to help identify.

All visitors to Lost Films are free to view its contents. However, members have the added benefit of being able to amend existing information, as well as to contribute additional information and documents.

Member contributions will assure the frequent and essential supply of the most up-to-date and accurate information.

All visitors to Lost Films are therefore encouraged to become members. Click here to register.

Buttons (1927, MGM)

Sure enough when I searched its database Buttons, (a title I was prompted to search for due to my having read The Keystone Kid) which was recently reported as lost to me via Warner Archive’s Facebook wall, is not in the database. Therefore, while I await the utopian arrival I will join and do what I can (try to get that title added). I hope you will too.

Blu-ray Review: In The Family

Prologue

I’ve written on a few occasions about films earning multiple appearances on this website, namely at the start of a series of posts on Django Unchained. However, even if the film does engender multiple write-ups that doesn’t mean I will hesitate to champion it whenever and whenever I can.

Such is the case of the self-distributed In the Family, which in good old-fashioned barnstorming fashion went around the country city-by-city for more than a year, if not two. Now that its arrived on both Blu-ray and DVD, the great equalizers of the film marketplace, it deserves a proper mention here.

This is a film that I not only reviewed upon having seen it but also won the BAM Award for Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for two others so it’s a home video title I was quite excited to get to view.

If you have yet to see it I recommend you watch the film via rental means. If you feel as strongly about it as I, and many others do, rest assured that the video release could not come more highly recommended.

Introduction

In the Family (2011, In the Family)

Since I viewed the film, and became a fan, I tracked its progress and further triumphs both on its Facebook and Twitter pages. One day on Facebook I saw a pull-quote of a DVD review I could not get out of my head which compared it to a Criterion release. That’s high praise but that comparison echoed through my mind repeatedly as I got willfully immersed in the myriad special features.

What’s great about a film like In the Family is that it is nuanced enough to earn not only the bonuses that are included on the disc, but any others that may come along should Criterion ever pick it up. As I finished reading the varied essays in a booklet that was included, it struck me that quite a few other topics could’ve been explored – that’s how you know you have a nuanced title.

The Features

In the Family (2011, In the Family)

The special features are many and are for the most part all pretty great. I have to admit to not watching too many video essays but the two by outside parties on this disc really exploit the technique brilliantly: one exploring, and further extrapolating visual motifs of the film, expounding upon vague notions I had that really underscore why the film is as effective as it is; another is a great recounting of a Q & A session Wang had in San Francisco. Having been on both sides of the Q & A equation I must tell you it’s fascinating to have this perspective wherein the discussion points and conversations have been digested. Usually you go, listen to, ask or answer the question and it ends, here it reflects back on the kind of impact the film already was having.

Wang narrates two great featurettes one called A Tour of the Cutting Room Floor and another called Sculpting a Scene. In the former, he, more methodically than most, illustrates deleted scenes and shot and discusses why they went unused in the final edit. However, even more valuable than that is Sculpting a Scene. The scene chosen is one of several long takes in the film so rather than discuss editing he discusses through three takes the evolution of the camerawork, lighting and acting and gives examples of the sound edit by switching between production sound and the final audio mix. Whether you’re a filmmaker or enthusiast it’s really great to get that focused and that dramatic an example of the craft of filmmaking.

Lastly, comes the trailer and a behind the scenes video. The trailer was interesting for me to see because I hadn’t seen it ahead of watching the film and not since. It’s a really well done trailer that employs an approach so many other films would do well to learn from. “Cut it like this,” producers and marketers should say. The Behind the Scenes is not so much a making of as a collection of outtakes, however, incorporating music from the film makes that a bit of an artistic achievement also.

As for the written essays they were equally, if not more, compelling than the video essays; and as I mentioned earlier got me thinking that there were other segments, motifs and themes that could’ve been explored also. However, then this bundle might be approaching a bundle with a book the thickness of a BFI Classics book and a disc in tow.

Conclusion

In the Family (2011, In the Family LLC)

I wanted to write about this film again because it’s deserving of more recognition and audience but also thinking that it might be my ode to its coming home to me after its nomadic journey found me and convinced me to go see it. However, maybe there’s one more piece in me about it. Perhaps it would be about dragons and Ingmar Bergman or the the virtues of carefully fractured chronologies. With In The Family now being available to take home I feel it will be a film written about for many years to come.

What is Box Set Summer?

This post is meant as a brief accompaniment/aside to my latest schedule update. It’s meant to just further explain what Box Set Summer is and why, like other themes usually have, it may not generate posts specifically branded with the title.

Essentially most of my theme ideas are linked either to a time of the year and/or a need to whittle down my unwatched DVD pile. Box Set Summer was designed to tackle the box sets in the pile which are some of the most cumbersome in terms of viewing commitment and take up quite a bit of space too. One area you have and will continue to see Box Set Summer’s agenda reflected is in my ongoing Tarzan series. I’ve now viewed all the Wiessmuller titles and have one other box to get to before I’ve seen everything currently in my possession.

I also, in conjunction with a TCM theme, may start preparing for future Truffaut-related posts by watching and reading more of him soon. And there are a few other examples. It may not become a category but my fulfilling this mission will influence myriad posts and hopefully bring more diversity to the content offered on The Movie Rat. Thank you!

The Movie Rat Schedule

I’ve recently rediscovered the joys of posting in themes. So that there is always a handy reference I have decided to post this schedule to tell you all what the main focus of my site will be at any time cinematically.

I will try and add more regular features and/or special features as we move into the new year but for now this is what I have enjoy.

What’s Changed?

9/2/13
-Added the update post to the schedule. Post updates will occur tomorrow.

7/8/13
-Added Series Tracker to schedule
-Added Silent Feature Sunday as a regular post
Changed date of BAM Nomination Announcements to 1/2/14 (to get past the whole New Year crossover craze).
-Shifted dates of BAM Best Picture Profiles
-Added Food for Thought starting January 13th

Schedule-At-A_Glance

    Regular Features

Short Film Saturday

A short film is showcased each weekend.

Silent Feature Sunday

A new silent feature film post weekly.

BAM Award Considerations

Where I track candidates for all categories in my awards. New post monthly.

Mini-Review Round-Up

Short Reviews of non-theatrical but 2013 BAM- Award eligible films. New post monthly.

List of Films Seen

Where I list as accurately as I can what I’ve seen. Updated approximately bi-weekly.

Considerations for Favorite Older Film Seen

A list of the best older vintage film I’ve seen in a year for a separate list. Updated approximately bi-weekly.

Series Tracker

Where you can find links to special series and ongoing series that may post sporadically.

BAM Special Award Considerations

Posts that track candidates for Jury Awards, Lifetime Achievement, Neutron Star and Entertainer of the Year.

Update Posts

A bi-weekly post highlighting what’s been updated.

Special Features

Bela Tarr Retrospective

Starts Tuesday, May 7th

Part of winning the Ingmar Bergman Lifetime Achievement Award will now, officially, include a retrospective the following year. Starting on Tuesdays in May I will re-examine the films of Bela Tarr.

September 1st – October 31st

61 Days of Halloween

A focus on horror-related review and write-ups.

November 1-28

Thankful for World Cinema

A focus on films made both outside the US and/ or not of the English Language.

November 29th- December 31st

Year-End Dash

A head-long sprint to try and get as many titles eligible for the BAM Awards as possible. Capsule reviews of year-end dash to add eligible titles. Updated daily.

BAM Best Picture Retrospective

December 8-19

A look back at the films that have won the Best Picture title at my awards.

December 23rd

BAM Awards Shortlists announced.

January 2

At some point after midnight EST, the nominees for the 2012 BAM Awards will be announced here via LIVE BLOG.

January 7

The Winners of the 2012 BAM Awards will be announced in a series of posts and they will be added to the historical lists.

January 8th to When Complete

Favorite Older Films First Seen in 2013.

January 13th-February 28

Food for Thought

An undetermined number of analytical pieces during a fairly slow time in the film cycle.

BAM Special Jury Awards and 2013 Contenders

Every so often over the years I’ve had occasion to award Special Jury Prizes for certain films for miscellaneous je nes sais quois that can’t always be pigeonholed into one category. While I may be a jury of one I can will expand and give an additional award when I see fit. Not only will this post highlight the occasions where I have added awards but it will also track possibilities for 2013.

2011

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001, Warner Bros.)

This year spawned a post of its own as I awarded two prizes one for the Short Film The Confession and another for The Harry Potter Franchise.

My specific thoughts on both can be found here.

2010

They were listed as TBA in the nominations but I didn’t end up awarding any.

2000

The Exorcist (1973, Warner Bros.)

Not yet called Jury Awards but rather Special Achievement awards I awarded two: one for the re-release of The Exorcist and another to Billy Elliot.

My thoughts on that occasion can be found here.

Contenders in 2013

Sweet Love
The Blue Umbrella
Death of a Shadow
Get a Horse!
Headlong