Vampires

Vampires are said to be humans who once cheated death by drinking the blood of others and must therefore continue to drink the blood of the living in order to remain immortal. Consequently, they are believed to have become creatures with supernatural powers, such as amazing strength and the ability to hypnotize potential victims. In some fictionalized accounts of vampires, these creatures can also fly, sometimes after turning into a bat. There has been no physical evidence that such creatures are real, and indeed most people believe that vampires are figments of the imagination whose characteristics are largely based on the vampire in the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. Some, however, insist that vampires are real creatures, who hunt alone or in bands that roam the streets of large cities looking for lone victims who will not be missed. These creatures, believers say, die when exposed to sunlight, cannot enter churches, and have an aversion to religious symbols such as crosses and to holy water. In addition, they are said to be repelled by garlic. (Some say that these things can kill a vampire, but others believe they only drive away a vampire.)

During the 1970s there were several cases in London of people insisting to police that they had encountered vampires in cemeteries, and one man was so afraid of a vampire attack that he protected himself with a necklace of garlic—and accidentally choked to death when one of the garlic cloves somehow became lodged in his throat. Similar reports are still made today. Vampire lore goes back much further than the late nineteenth century, when Bram Stoker was writing, however. In ancient times, people sometimes reported seeing vampires. For example, the ancient Greeks spoke of there being numerous vampires on the island of Santorini (now Thera). Believers say that such early accounts are particularly credible because they predate vampire novels. Some scholars, however, argue that early stories about vampires—at least those that come from Western cultures—can be attributed to the fact that until modern times, people were sometimes accidentally placed in coffins before they had actually died, which resulted in documented cases of “dead” bodies rising from their coffins.

MOMI

The Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI) is situated within the BFI’s South Bank complex, promoting British film and television culture. Established in 1988, MOMI charts the development of moving images from pre-cinema experiments in photographic projection and optical illusion to today’s industrialized and commercialized film and television production and exhibition systems. The chronological journey through history is supported with an impressive collection of memorabilia, artefacts, videotape clips and interactive working models. The museum also operates as a national centre for media education, with support and marketing services structured around the requirements of national curricula. It is also the location of special exhibitions and screenings in tandem with the neighbouring NFT, and includes a workshop dedicated to the development of animation.

Chuck Jones

Chuck Jones (1912-2002)

Chuck Jones is an American motion-picture animator, writer, director, and producer, known for his work on many classic animated films. Charles Martin Jones was born in Spokane, Washington. He moved to California when he was a child and at the age of 15 enrolled in the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. After graduation, he worked at several animation studios and then, around 1933, went to work for Leon Schlesinger, whose studio produced animated films for Warner Bros. (and was purchased by Warner Bros. in 1944). At the studio he worked with animation directors Bob Clampett and Tex Avery, helping to shape the characters of Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, and Daffy Duck. Promoted to director in 1938, Jones directed his first animated short film, The Night Watchman, that same year. His best-known contributions to Warner Bros. are the series of short films featuring the Road Runner and Coyote (created in 1949) and Pepé Le Pew (created in 1945).

After the Warner Bros. animation unit closed its doors in the early 1960s (it later reopened), Jones worked for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) on the “Tom and Jerry” series and other films, including a made-for-television special based on a Dr. Seuss tale, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” which was first broadcast in 1966. He continued to work on special productions for Warner Bros. from time to time and to produce animation through his own company, Chuck Jones Enterprises.

Jones earned a reputation in Hollywood as a political liberal and an intellectual. In the early 1940s he helped organize a strike at the Walt Disney studio, and in the mid-1940s he began writing analytical articles on the subject of animation. Jones also volunteered his services as director of Hell Bent for Election (1944), a short film created at the United Productions of America (UPA) studio that supported the re-election of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Three of Jones’s animated shorts received Academy Awards: For Scent-imental Reasons (1949), So Much for So Little (1949), and The Dot and the Line (1965). In 1992 his Bugs Bunny short What’s Opera, Doc? (1957) was selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry, an honor accorded to only a small group of American motion pictures. In 1996 Jones received honorary life membership in the Directors Guild of America and an honorary Oscar for “the creation of classic cartoons and cartoon characters whose animated lives have brought joy to our real ones for more than half a century.”

Rock Hudson

Rock Hudson (Schere, Roy, Jr.) (1925-1985) As the independent movie Rock Hudson’s Home Movies (1992) argues, Hudson’s career represents a telling lie embedded within American culture. Tall, handsome Hudson romanced Doris Day in sitcoms writ large, while other romantic roles made him a popular male actor in film and television. At the same time, his secret identity was known to many gays, but was shielded from his general fan audience until his death from AIDS. The split between his public and private personae adds eerie intertexts to his film romances like All that Heaven Allows (1955) and Man’s Favorite Sport (1964).

Sean Connery

One of the few British actors who can sell a film on name alone, Sean Connery was born Thomas Connery in Fountainbridge, a working-class suburb of Edinburgh. Always identified with the role of James Bond, his career began in British B-Movies in the 1950s, and it was not until David Niven refused the role of Bond in Dr No (1962) that Connery, who took the role, became a household name. His work in Hollywood includes Marnie (1964), Robin and Marlon (1976), The Name of the Rose (1986) and The Untouchables (1987), for which he won an Academy Award. Though living in Spain, Connery remains passionate about Scotland, once donating his fee from a Bond film to finance an educational trust in the country.

Avant-garde Cinema

The British avant-garde film movement surfaced in the late 1960s when it was stimulated by the London Film-Makers’ Co-operative (LFMC) and by American influences such as Stan Brakhage, Kenneth Anger and Andy Warhol. Key figures in Britain included Steve Dwoskin, Andy Meyer, David Curtis, Peter Gidal, Malcolm Le Grice and Annabel Nicolson. Instead of using the term ‘avantgarde’, they chose labels such as structural, abstract, experimental, expanded or free. Their broadly structural and formal point of view quickly spread into disparate organizational, artistic and political currents, resulting in the evolution of a diffuse and variegated group.

British popular audiences had been left cold by earlier film movements, such as elitist avant-garde experiments, middle-class realism (Anderson, Richardson, Reisz and so on), critiques of the upperclass (as in Losey-Pinter films), and even the Workshop Declaration. For the most part they were absorbed by Hollywood films, and were often suspicious of political or avant-garde cinema in Europe. Ironically, the British avant-garde’s practical foundations in structuralism and formalism enabled it to assimilate radical changes without engaging revolutionary ideologies. It cut away the visionary anti-Americanism that underlay American structuralists. Concentrating on material aspects of the medium, it forced subjective existential choices and non-hierarchical mental activity on the viewer, as in Malcolm Le Grice’s Little Dog For Roger (1967) and Yes No Maybe Maybe Not (1967), Peter Gidal’s Room (1967), Roger Hammond’s Window Box (1972), Mike Leggett’s Shepherd’s Bush (1971) and Steve Dwoskin’s Moment (1969). Its intention was to challenge cinema’s illusionism and voyeurism with its own formal image making.

This formula encouraged eclectic organization. As the LFMC’s democratic workshop approach developed in a climate of anti-imperialist radicalism, beat poetry and Peoples’ Shows, new film networks rapidly grew up around the British Film Institute (BFI), the Other Cinema and the Independent Film- Makers’ Association. Many film-makers were located in the London art schools, and were supported by the Arts Council of Great Britain’s Film and Video Artist’s Sub-committee set up in 1977. By then the whole movement was saturated with the cultural politics and aesthetics of the late 1960s and 1970s.

The formalist canon was soon infiltrated by underground, anarchic, and gay critiques associated with film-makers such as Derek Jarman, James Mackay, John Maybury, Steve Chivers, Holly Warburton, Michael Kostiff, Cerith Wyn Evans and Isaac Julien. They frequently trans-gressed the film medium in the Super 8 festivals in Europe (1984– 7), and innovatively fused video and film techniques (particularly Jarman and Peter Greenaway). Academic critiques were mostly deconstructive and psychoanalytic, theorized in Screen and Framework. These reflected Gidal’s structural/ materialist focus on freeing the subject from the instrumental and reproductive power of the camera, and Laura Mulvey’s negation of the voyeurism of narrative film. Peter Wollen, whose long-term goal was to synthesize formalism with the political aesthetic of the European avant-garde, combined with Mulvey to produce landmark films: Penthesilea: Queen of the Amazons (1974) mimes the play by Kleist, and interrogates the role and grounding of feminist images; and Riddles of the Sphinx (1977) explores the mother/child relationship in the encounter of Oedipus with the Sphinx, opening with mythic images of women and ending with an Egyptian sphinx with Greta Garbo’s face. Whereas Gidal
and Le Grice were interested in the material aspects of ideology, Mulvey and Wollen were moving towards a critique of ideology itself, and of mythologizing in the film medium. Related works include Steve Dwoskin’s Girl (1974), which films a naked woman who returns to the camera thus disturbing the audience’s voyeuristic position, and Carola Klein’s Mirror Phase (1978), which analyses home movies of her daughter’s mirror recognition of herself. In Telling Tales (1978), Richard Woolley deconstructs British culture by examining film clichés of television soap serials like Crossroads and Coronation Street. William and Marilyn Rabin’s Black and Silver (1981), based on Velasquez’ painting Las Meninas, is an experimental narrative of Oscar Wilde’s The Birthday of the Infanta, reflecting on the medium of film. Peter Watkins’s work aims for reflexive critical practices that will more generally undermine the conventions of the medium.

Questions of narrative technique, subjectivity, documentary, and autobiography are worked consistently by feminist film-makers who broke with the LFMC to set up their own circles in East London. Sally Potter’s Thriller (1979) dissects popular narrative by using Mimi’s return to La Boheme to investigate her own death as a conventional source of sentiment and drama. Potter’s The Gold Diggers (1983) uses the gold rush for surrealist metaphors about the search for knowledge. Lis Rhodes’s Light Reading (1978) investigates the formal aspects of film through autobiographical materials, developing earlier concerns of Le Grice’s films about point of view and narrative space. Most of these films are interested in the medium of film and its narrative codes and conventions. For the British avant-garde, form and content of the medium have always been a central part of the message. While Le Grice is currently involved in computer and electronic image making, others are interested in live reproductions of illusion, and correspondences of image and sound. The focus on film as material has always persisted. The avant-garde has never since its structuralist beginnings reflected violent politics, but it has always been in line with radical groups such as the Leeds Animation Workshop, Black Audio Film Collective and Sankofa Film and Video Collective. Its strong point has been its ability to adapt to and successfully engage in a wide spectrum of audiovisual media, ranging from film and television through to video and animation.

Saint Louis Blues

Saint Louis Blues (1929), a two-reel short written by William C. Handy and Kenneth W. Adams, was one of the first talking films with an all-black cast. It featured several influential actors and musicians of the Harlem Renaissance and contains the only existing footage of the singer Bessie Smith. The plot of the film, which Handy described as “a serious picture of Negro life,” was loosely based on his popular hit song “Saint Louis Blues” (1914). Although the film was chiefly intended to showcase Smith’s dazzling performance of the classic title song, Saint Louis Blues nevertheless represents a significant event in the history of African American cinema.

At Handy’s recommendation, the film’s white director, Dudley Murphy, cast as the female lead Bessie Smith, then thirty-five years old, who was a vaudeville blues singer and a recording star with Columbia. In 1925, she had recorded the definitive version of “Saint Louis Blues” at Columbia’s studios in New York, accompanied by Louis Armstrong on cornet. The cast of the film also featured the dancer Jimmy Mordecai and the actress Isabel Washington. John Rosamond Johnson helped Handy arrange the choral music and conducted the forty-twomember Hall Johnson Choir that accompanied Smith in the picture. The stride pianist James P. Johnson and several former members of the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra performed onscreen in the film’s jazz band.

Saint Louis Blues was produced by RCA Phototone and was shot on a small budget in June 1929 at Gramercy Studio in Astoria, Long Island. The seventeen-minute film was released later that year as a two-reel short to be shown before feature attractions, and it was screened in black theaters until 1932. Variety, in its review of Saint Louis Blues, described the film as “pungent with tenseness and action and replete with Aframerican local and other color.” The sparse plot, set in Memphis, centers on a long-suffering woman named Bessie (played by Smith), whose handsome, crap-shooting lover, Jimmy (Mordecai), physically abuses her and uses her for her money. Although Bessie supports him financially, Jimmy becomes romantically involved with another woman (Washington). A violent confrontation ensues in which Bessie attacks this woman after catching Jimmy and her together in the hotel room Bessie rents.

Jimmy then batters and deserts Bessie despite her tearful pleadings. In the film’s final scene, Bessie drowns her sorrows in bootleg liquor in a smoky saloon on Beale Street, and there, accompanied by the choir and jazz band, moans “Saint Louis Blues” for an appreciative crowd of patrons. Jimmy enters, embraces Bessie, and surreptitiously steals a roll of bills Bessie has tucked in her garter as they dance together. The film concludes with Bessie sinking into a deep depression after Jimmy abandons her permanently. Since its release, Saint Louis Blues has met with mixed reviews by film historians and scholars of blues, although most have praised Smith’s powerful screen presence and her electrifying performance of “Saint Louis Blues.” Thomas Cripps (1977) considered the picture “the finest film of Negro life up to that time,” but Donald Bogle (1973) asserted that the film “was marred by its white director’s overstatement.” Angela Davis (1998) has criticized the film not only because it “incorporates an overabundance of racist and sexist stereotypes,” but also because it “flagrantly disregards the spirit of women’s blues by leaving the victimized woman with no recourse.” Despite such criticisms, Saint Louis Blues remains an important example of African American filmmaking and one that highlights the musical and acting talents of a number of prominent entertainers of the Harlem Renaissance.

Film Music

Though the first cinema films had no sound track, the early picture palaces were not silent. To blot out noise from the projector and the audience and also to create atmosphere, a piano, organ or band, sometimes with many instrumentalists, nearly always provided music. The music was often extemporized or adapted from a stock repertory, but was sometimes composed specially for the film. Increasingly ingenious attempts to replace live players by mechanically reproduced sound led in 1928 to the first talkies. Their sound track carried not only speech but also the film’s musical backing, though the orchestration had at first to make allowances for distortions inherent in early sound systems. By the mid-1980s, film music was developing as an essential part of cinematic art, not just in musicals and other films that more or less naturally called for music but also in productions of every sort from light comedy by way of the Westerns to heavy drama.

The vogue grew also for giving a film a ‘theme tune’, either a song or an instrumental motif that was given great prominence. In 1931–2 an Oscar was awarded for Best Sound Recording, but in 1934 there were Oscars for Best Song and Best Score. In Britain, Arthur Bliss composed the score for Korda’s film of H.G.Wells’ Things to Come; his example was followed by William Walton (The First of the Few, 1942, and Henry V, 1944). Ealing Studio’s Ernest Irving regularly commissioned leading British composers, such as Vaughan Williams (Scott of the Antarctic, 1948). Malcolm Arnold, with eighty film scores to his name, won an Oscar for his music for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). Particularly when not foregrounded but used rather to help create mood, film music offers the composer opportunities for experiment both in musical forms and orchestral coloration. Like nineteenth-century composers who quarried orchestral works out of their incidental music for the theatre (for example, Georges Bizet’s Arlésienne suite (1872)), the earlier writers of film music often made concert arrangements of their scores. Today, CD versions of scores for successful films, such as John Horner’s music for Titanic, sell well. The use of music in radio and television parallels developments of film music, though generally (despite exceptions like Benjamin Britten’s score for a BBC adaptation of T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone in 1939), on a more modest level.

Pinewood Studios

Located twenty miles west of London and named after the pine trees in the grounds, Pinewood has been at the heart of both British and international film production. The property, Heatherden Hall, was bought by Charles Boot in 1934, and he and J. Arthur Rank became partners in the project to build the studios. Pinewood proved groundbreaking in its use of the ‘unit system’ that allowed more than one film to be made at a time, and this enabled Pinewood to achieve the highest output of any studio in the world. The first film to be completed at Pinewood was Talk of the Devil (1939, Reed) while the immediate postwar period (Pinewood had been requisitioned and hosted the Army Film Production Unit during the Second World War) saw six major productions including the acclaimed Oliver Twist (1948, Lean) and The Red Shoes (1948, Powell and Pressburger), a landmark film in British cinematography for its bold and expressive use of colour.

The 1950s saw numerous productions including the Doctor series, medical farces which were the predecessors to the Carry On films; the series commenced with Doctor in the House (1954, Thomas) and led to a further six films. Other notable films of the 1950s era include the Prince and the Showgirl (1957, Olivier) starring Marilyn Monroe, Reach for the Sky (1956, Gilbert), Carve Her Name with Pride (1958, Gilbert), North West Frontier (1959, Thompson) and The Thirty-Nine Steps (1959, Thomas). This latter film was a reworking of John Buchan’s novel, originally filmed by Hitchcock in 1939. Because of its innovation and expertise, American production companies flocked to Pinewood and a major reinvestment was required. During the 1960s, four new stages were built to accommodate every aspect of film and television production. This period also saw the start of the association between Pinewood and the James Bond series, which commenced in 1962 with Dr No (Young). The studios have continued to produce imaginative and technically challenging material, such as Superman (1978, Donner), Superman II (1980, Lester), Superman III (1983, Lester), Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987, Furie), Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988, Gilliam) and Batman (1989, Burton). It has been heavily involved with notable television productions such as The Camomile Lawn, Jeeves and Wooster and the Minder series. Today it boasts the world’s largest silent stage and Europe’s biggest exterior tank, and is carrying on the commitment to modernization.

Film Awards

British awards are conferred by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), British Film Institute Awards, Evening Standard British Film Awards, and London Film Critics Circle Awards. BAFTA awarded twenty of its top thirty awards (Best Film, Best Actress and Best Actor each year) to British talents in the 1990s. Since 1960, Britain has obtained top awards at the three major film festivals, Cannes, Berlin and Venice. Awards at Cannes were Best Director in 1993 to Mike Leigh (Naked), the 1996 Palme D’Or for Leigh’s Secrets and Lies, and in the same year Best Actress to Brenda Blethyn (also for Secrets and Lies). At Berlin, the 1994 Golden Bear went to In the Name of the Father, and the 1996 Golden Bear to Sense and Sensibility. At Venice, the Best Acress award in 1991 went to Tilda Swinton (Edward II). British directors receiving top awards at these festivals include Lindsay Anderson, Terence Davies, Isaac Julien, Neil Jordan, Carol Reed, Richard Lester, Ken Loach, Alan Parker, Tony Richardson, John Schlesinger, Ridley Scott and Peter Watkins.

Britain occupies second place (after the USA) in three of the most prestigious prizes (Oscars, New York Critics Awards and Cannes Festival), taking 25 percent of the awards in New York, 20 percent of the Oscars and 15 percent in Cannes since 1980. At the Oscars (awarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), the British tend to win in supporting roles and in American-made films. Yet, four of the fifteen people who have been most often nominated for Academy Awards are British: Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole, Deborah Kerr and Laurence Olivier. Three members of the Redgrave family have been nominated. During the period 1986–95, Emma Thompson had a record four nominations, seven people from Merchant-Ivory films received nominations, and The Last Emperor (UK/Italy 1987) won all nine Oscars for which it was nominated.