Thursday, May 10, 2012

Golden Age Film Culture


As a teenager in the bankrupt 1980s, I noticed that in the previous decade, there were several film books about the Golden Age of Hollywood, such as the Citadel series "Films of...", which gave a proper filmography of any given movie star from the Golden Age, there were the Charles Gerhardt re-records of Golden Age film music scores, and of course the emergence of scholarly interest in Film Noir, with the rise of Humphrey Bogart as a Counterculture hero, and film schools in California using the works of John Ford and Howard Hawks as study material. The revivals of Golden Age movies in second-run theaters were a Godsend after years of only being run on TV allowed an entire new generation to be exposed to 1920s-1940s films in an actual cinema.

That early and mid-'70s time period is a fascinating and it's hard to imagine something like that happening now, where we have more and more about less and less, despite the influx of ways these films can be seen, they seem to have largely vanished from movie houses and even TV, with the exception of Turner Classic Movies.  In the 1972 movie Play It Again, Sam the lead character is a film critic for a small film weekly and has his apartment slathered with vintage movie posters, especially ones with his cinematic idol, Humphrey Bogart on them.  When I saw the film many years ago, I made the connection that the much-maligned ‘70s were actually a Golden Age of sorts in terms of renewed interest in past cinematic treasures. 

It's interesting to note that despite the abundance of DVDs and streaming video, there's little emphasis on anything but the Summer blockbuster-type stuff and one has to accidentally find out about those non-megahit films, even if it's blockbusters from the past!

I do find the communal aspects of film going lacking. Do films even influence popular culture anymore? It seems like the biggest emphasis is on the opening weekend box office numbers rather than anything that was accomplished creatively. I'm not talking about the business end, where producers and industry people must obviously be concerned with such things, but rather the viewing audience, who discuss the grosses around the water cooler on Monday mornings at work. I've lost track of the clich├ęd critiques of recent extravaganzas which usually consists of "The movie was crap, but the effects were good.”

Perhaps we movie bloggers are the new wave of film aficionados. We don’t gather in theaters, but we do exchange ideas and viewpoints on classic movies, but we do our watching alone.  The communalism is absent because we watch in solitude.  I’d like to have had the experience of being in a theater and knowing that most everyone seated with me is appreciating the sights and sounds of the silver screen.  It’s not the same watching a film alone, hunched over one’s computer screen like some Dell-owning Quasimodo.  I want to watch The Big Heat or Top Hat in a theater with 200 other people who know every line and get misty or mortified over the same scenes in a film we all know and love.  However, outside of your major metropolitan areas, it rarely happens.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Star of Midnight to DVD!


The Warner Archive continues to impress on the Husband and Wife Detective front, as the newest release is 1935's Star of Midnight.  I've already reviewed this film in somewhat nauseating fashion, but my enthusiasm for the Husband and Wife Detective genre glows anew with the announcement of this release.  Unfortunately for our classic film-loving friends living outside the United States, the Warner Archive only ships within the U.S.

From the three-minute video sample the WB site provides, Star of Midnight looks to be another quality release from the "DVD on Demand" series.  Now if they'd just get to releasing the "Fast" series...