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Posts Tagged ‘The British Film Instutute’

The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961)

Monday, October 20th, 2014

The British Film Institute has just released Val Guest’s The Day Earth Caught Fire on DVD; click here to see the trailer.

The BFI, which has always been way ahead of American archival efforts, has just announced the release in DVD and Blu-ray format of Val Guest’s classic science fiction film The Day The Earth Caught Fire. This was an “A” level science fiction film, in which atomic testing knocks the earth off its axis, and sends it hurtling towards the sun. The film’s ending is unresolved; while scientists scramble to set off yet another atomic blast to correct the tilt, there’s no assurance that it will succeed. Shot in near documentary style, with real newspaper writers and editors in the cast, including one Fleet Street editor in a major speaking role in the film, the Day The Earth Caught Fire is not only effective filmmaking; it’s also a trenchant commentary on how science can lead us astray when we start things, but can’t really know the what the consequences will be.

I was lucky enough to interview Guest at length in 2003, an interview which is collected in my book Film Talk: Directors at Work (Rutgers UP, 2007), and shortly after our interview, to attend a 35mm CinemaScope screening of the film at The Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles, with Guest in attendance. For that screening, the theater used a print which has been out of circulation since the film’s initial release, with a color opening, and ending, with the rest of the film framed as a flashback. Guest was shocked that the print had been found; in his opening remarks, he lamented the fact that this original version had been his intent all along, but that we were about to see yet another straight black and white print. When the opening section came up in red-hued color, the entire theater could hear Guest’s shout of delight – and I’m sure the BFI version will use this cut of the film.

Here’s a detailed look at the making of this excellent film; the BFI has once again performed a real public service with the release of this film.

Hitchcock’s 1925 Directorial Debut Restored

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Click here, or on the image above, to view the BFI’s trailer for the restored version of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Pleasure Garden (1925).

Here’s an interesting item; Alfred Hitchcock’s first feature film, The Pleasure Garden (1925), has just been restored by the British Film Institute. As Moving Image Archive News notes, “Alfred Hitchcock’s directorial debut, The Pleasure Garden, a silent melodrama made in 1925 when he was 25, follows the differing fortunes in love of two dancers at a London nightspot. Played by Universal star Virginia Valli and rarely again filmed Carmelita Geraghty, their fortunes take melodramatic, differing turns: One becomes a major star, while the other stumbles into a marriage with a dangerous womaniser, played by Miles Mander.

The British Film Institute’s restoration of the film, with a new score by Daniel Patrick Cohen, was unveiled at London’s Wilton’s Music Hall this week, and won the praise of the Guardian‘s Henry K. Miller: ‘It’s not just that 20-odd minutes have been added to the extant hour-long version; it’s that what we had didn’t entirely make sense without them. The most widely available version before now was pared down to the narrative bone, often at the expense of what became known as the Hitchcock touch.’

Miller describes what had been cut by the studio, Hitchcockian touches such as ‘comic business of various kinds, and a signature cut from a pot of tea being poured to a glass of champagne being filled.’ In the restoration, he writes, ‘above all, the film has got its rhythm back.’ A honeymoon sequence shot around Lake Como, for example, now ‘plays as Hitchcock inferably intended: longish, slowish, and sad, standing out from the rest. It is also in this section that the restored image comes into its own: almost unrecognisably cleaner, more detailed, pleasingly tinted and toned, and jerk-free.’”

The British Film Institute’s restoration of The Pleasure Garden is indeed astounding; the image is clear, sharp, bright, and absolutely crisp. This is a major accomplishment by the BFI, and makes a key film in Hitchcock’s career available for the first time in a really first-rate edition.

You can read the entire article here; three cheers for the BFI!

About the Author

Wheeler Winston Dixon

Wheeler Winston Dixon, Ryan Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is an internationally recognized scholar and writer of film history, theory and criticism. He is the author of thirty books and more than 100 articles on film, and appears regularly in national media outlets discussing film and culture trends. Frame by Frame is a collection of his thoughts on a number of those topics. To contact Prof. Dixon for an interview, reach him at 402.472.6064 or wdixon1@unl.edu. Visit him at his website wheelerwinstondixon.com.

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