Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Posts tagged “Alfred Hitchcock

Tools – Poster Art

01-bigI love these simple designs for series titled ‘Tools’ featuring 4 classic films. Would have all of them on my wall. Check out more from the artist Javier Vera Lainez on his site HERE

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Saul Bass: Famous Title’s from Preminger to Scorsese

Acclaimed titles designer Saul Bass worked with some of Hollywood’s most legendary directors during his 40-plus year career, and on some of their best pictures. His first title credit was on Otto Preminger’s 1954 Carmen Jones. From there, Bass went on to collaborate on over 60 films, many of which have become much deserved cinema classics.

In this hour-long compilation, YouTube user FlaneurSolitaire pieces together scores of Bass’ revered title sequences in chronological order, starting with The Man with the Golden Arm (also directed by Preminger), from 1955. Bass also did the titles for Spartacus (1960), which you can find at the 20:19 mark of the video.

Preminger isn’t the only director to bring Bass aboard more than once. Bass also developed long lasting working relationships with such historic and undeniably influential talents as Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho, Vertigo, and North by Northwest to name but a few) and, later, Martin Scorsese (Goodfellas, Cape Fear, and Casino). In fact, Casino is the last sequence Bass did before he passed away in 1996.

Just look at these designs. Bass’ unique eye and aesthetic helped capture the essence of each film he worked on, often in less than three minutes.


Psycho Shower Scene in LEGO

Any regular visitors to this blog will be aware that I like a bit of LEGO and love Psycho… so you can imagine how good it was to find this clip by Bricktease. you can see more at his YouTube site HERE



Peanut Sculpture – By Steve Casino

Steve-Casino_Creature_Bride-Frankenstein_MunstersCheck out these exquisitely made pieces of art… from peanut shells by artist Steve Casino. I’ve posted some of his horror-themed art here, there is much more at his website HERE

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Psycho – Poster Art by Tomer Hanuka

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Rear Window – German Poster

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Bates Motel – Season 2

bates_motelPsycho prequel series Bates Motel has been renewed for a second season. Check out the A&E press release:

NEW YORK – April 8, 2013 – A&E Network has picked up a second season of the acclaimed drama series, “Bates Motel” starring Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore from executive producers Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin, it was announced today by Bob DeBitetto, President and General Manager of A&E Network and BIO Channel. The premiere of “Bates Motel” garnered 4.5 million total viewers and 2.5 million adults 25-54 and 18-49, based on Live+7 viewership, making it the most-watched original drama debut in the key demos in the network’s history.
“Bates Motel’ has garnered critical acclaim and a loyal audience in its first few weeks,” said DeBitetto. “With superb writing and exceptional acting, led by the critically acclaimed performances of Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore, we’re incredibly excited to see where Carlton and Kerry take Norma and Norman Bates next.”

Season two of “Bates Motel” will begin pre-production later this year on ten new episodes slated to premiere in 2014.

“Bates Motel” also stars Max Thieriot (“Disconnect”), Olivia Cooke (“Blackout”), Nicola Peltz (“The Last Airbender) and Nestor Carbonell (“Lost,” “The Dark Knight Rises”).

In “Bates Motel,” following the tragic death of her husband, Norma Bates buys a motel on the outskirts of the idyllic coastal town of White Pine Bay, seeking a fresh start. As Norma and Norman get ensconced in their new home, they discover this town isn’t quite what it seems, and th
e locals aren’t so quick to let them in on their secrets. But the Bates’ are done being pushed around and will do whatever it takes to survive – and will do whatever it takes to protect their own secrets.

“Bates Motel” is produced by Universal Television for A&E Network. Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin serve as executive producers for Carlton Cuse Productions and Kerry Ehrin Productions respectively.


Becoming Alfred Hitchcock – Toby Jones Transformation

I’ve posted a link to this before, but thought it was worth another viewing. Check it out, time-lapse footage of Toby Jones being transformed into Hitchcock for his film ‘The Girl’ (HBO).


Psycho – Shower Scene Storyboards

Storyboards by Saul Bass for the infamous shower scene from the Alfred Hitchcock classic Psycho.
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Bates Motel – Extended Footage

With a week to go before the Hitchcockian prequel series premieres, A&E is in full promotional mode at the Austin fest. Bates Motel stars Freddie Highmore as Norman Bates and Vera Farmiga as his mother and debuts March 18 at 10 PM.


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The Birds – Poster Art

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Tippi Hedren

Tippi Hedren_movie bannerNathalie Kay “Tippi” Hedren (born January 19, 1930) is an American actress and former fashion model. She is widely known for her roles in the Alfred Hitchcock films The Birds and Marnie (in which she played the title role), and her efforts in animal rescue at Shambala Preserve, an 80-acre (320,000 m2) wildlife habitat which she founded in 1983.

Tippi Hedren_The BirdsFor over 40 years, Hedren’s year of birth was reported to be 1935, although in 2004, she acknowledged that she was actually born in 1930. Hedren was born in New Ulm, Minnesota, the daughter of Bernard Carl and Dorothea Henrietta Hedren. Her father ran a small general store in the small town of Lafayette, Minnesota, and gave her the nickname “Tippi”.

Hedren had a successful modeling career from 1950 to 1961, appearing on covers of national magazines, such as Life magazine. She was discovered by Alfred Hitchcock, who was watching The Today Show when he saw Hedren in a commercial for a diet drink. Hitchcock was looking for his latest blonde lead in the wake of Grace Kelly’s retirement.

The Birds_Hitchcock_Tippi Hedren_btsHitchcock put Hedren through a then-costly $25,000 screen test, doing scenes from his previous films, such as Rebecca, Notorious and To Catch a Thief. He signed her to a multi-year exclusive personal contract, something he had done in the 1950’s with Vera Miles. Hitchcock’s plan to mould Hedren’s public image went so far as to carefully control her style of dressing and grooming. Hitchcock insisted for publicity purposes that her name should be printed only in single quotes, ‘Tippi’. The press mostly ignored this directive from the director, who felt that the single quotes added distinction and mystery to Hedren’s name. In interviews, Hitchcock compared his newcomer not only to her predecessor Grace Kelly but also to what he referred to as such “ladylike”, intelligent, and stylish stars of more glamorous eras as Irene Dunne and Jean Arthur.

The Birds_Tippi HedrenHitchcock directed Hedren in her debut film, The Birds. For the final attack scene in a second-floor bedroom, filmed on a closed set at Universal-International Studios, Hedren had been assured by Hitchcock that mechanical birds would be used. Instead, Hedren endured five solid days of prop men, protected by thick leather gloves, flinging dozens of live gulls, ravens and crows at her (their beaks clamped shut with elastic bands). Cary Grant visited the set and told Hedren, “I think you’re the bravest lady I’ve ever met.” In a state of exhaustion, when one of the birds gouged her cheek and narrowly missed her eye, Hedren sat down on the set and began crying. A physician ordered a week’s rest, which Hedren said at the time was riddled with “nightmares filled with flapping wings”. In 1964, Hedren received a Golden Globe Award for ‘Most Promising Newcomer – Female’.

Tippi Hedren_Hitchcock_MarnieThat same year, she co-starred with Sean Connery in a second Hitchcock film, Marnie (1964), a romantic drama and psychological thriller from the novel by Winston Graham. She recalls it as her favourite of the two for the challenge of playing an emotionally battered young woman who travels from city to city assuming various guises in order to rob her employers. On release, the film was greeted by mixed reviews and indifferent box-office returns. Although Hitchcock continued to have Hedren in mind for several other films after Marnie, the actress declined any further work with him. Other directors who wanted to hire her had to go through Hitchcock, who would inform them she was unavailable. When Hedren tried to get out of her contract, she recalls Hitchcock telling her he’d ruin her career. “And he did: kept me under contract, kept paying me every week for almost two years to do nothing.”

Tippi Hedren_Alfred HitchcockBy the time Hitchcock sold her contract to Universal and she was fired for refusing work on one of its television shows, Hedren’s career had stalled after just two films.

On April 13, 2011, at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, NY, Hedren stated in an interview with Turner Classic Movies’ Ben Mankiewitz that because she refused Hitchcock’s sexual advances, Hitchcock effectively stunted her career. These events are the basis for the BBC/HBO film The Girl, featuring Sienna Miller as Hedren and toby Jones as Hitchcock, and which premiered on HBO Saturday, October 20, 2012. It was shown in the UK on Boxing Day 2012 on BBC2.


Charles Addams

Charles Addams_BannerCharles Samuel “Chas” Addams (January 7, 1912 – September 29, 1988) was an American cartoonist known for his darkly humorous and macabre characters. Some of the recurring characters, who became known as The Addams Family, became the basis for two live-action television series, two animated TV series, three motion pictures and a Broadway musical.

Charles 'Chas' AddamsCharles Samuel Addams was born in Westfield, New Jersey, the son of Grace and Charles Huy Addams. His father encouraged him to draw, and Addams did cartoons for the Westfield High School student literary magazine, Weathervane. He attended Colgate University in 1929 and 1930, and the University of Pennsylvania, where a fine-arts building on campus is named for him, in 1930 and 1931. In front of the building is a sculpture of the silhouettes of Addams Family characters. He then studied at the Grand Central School of Art in New York City in 1931 and 1932.

In 1933 he joined the layout department of True Detective magazine, where he had to retouch photos of corpses that appeared in the magazine’s stories to remove the blood from them. Addams complained that “A lot of those corpses were more interesting the way they were.”

Chas Addams_ArtworkHis first drawing in The New Yorker ran on February 6, 1932 (a sketch of a window washer), and his cartoons ran regularly in the magazine from 1938, when he drew the first instance of what came to be called the Addams Family, until his death. He also created a syndicated comic strip, Out of This World, which ran in 1956. There are many collections of his work, including Drawn and Quartered (1942) and Monster Rally (1950),

During World War II, Addams served at the Signal Corps Photographic Centre in New York, where he made animated training films for the U.S. Army. In late 1942, he met his first wife, Barbara Jean Day, who purportedly resembled the cartoon Morticia Addams. The marriage ended eight years later.

He married his second wife, Barbara Barb (Estelle B. Barb), in 1954. A practicing lawyer, she “combined Morticia-like looks with diabolical legal scheming,” by which she wound up controlling the “Addams Family” television and movie franchises and persuaded her husband to give away other legal rights. They divorced in 1956.

Chas Addams_MorticiaThe Addams Family television series began after David Levy, a television producer, approached Addams with an offer to create it with a little help from the humorist. All Addams had to do was give his characters names and more characteristics for the actors to use in portrayals. The series ran on ABC for two seasons, from 1964 to 1966.

Addams was “sociable and debonair,” and described by a biographer as “A well-dressed, courtly man with silvery back-combed hair and a gentle manner, he bore no resemblance to a fiend.” Figuratively a ladykiller, Addams squired celebrities such as Greta Garbo and Jacqueline Kennedy on social occasions.

Later, he married his third and last wife, Marilyn Matthews Miller, best known as “Tee” (1926–2002), in a pet cemetery. In 1985, the Addamses moved to Sagaponack, New York, where they named their estate “The Swamp.”

Chas Addams_The Addams FamilyAddams drew more than 1,300 cartoons over the course of his life. Those that did not appear in The New Yorker were often in Collier’s and TV Guide. In 1961, Addams received, from the Mystery Writers of America, a Special Edgar Award for his body of work. His cartoons appeared in books, calendars and other merchandising. Dear Dead Days (1959) is not a collection of his cartoons (although it reprints a few from previous collections); it is a scrapbook-like compendium of vintage images (and occasional pieces of text) that appealed to Addams’s sense of the grotesque, including Victorian woodcuts, vintage medicine-show advertisements and a boyhood photograph of Francesco Lentini, who had three legs.

In 1946, Addams met science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury after having drawn an illustration for Mademoiselle magazine’s publication of Bradbury’s short story “Homecoming”, the first in a series of tales chronicling a family of Illinois vampires named the Elliotts. The pair became friends and planned to collaborate on a book of the Elliott Family’s complete history with Bradbury writing and Addams providing the illustrations, but it never materialized. Bradbury’s stories about the “Elliott Family” were anthologized in From the Dust Returned in October 2001, with a connecting narrative and an explanation of his work with Addams, and Addams’ 1946 Mademoiselle illustration used for the book’s cover jacket. Although Addams’ own characters were well-established by the time of their initial encounter, in a 2001 interview Bradbury states that “(Addams) went his way and created the Addams Family and I went my own way and created my family in this book.”

Chas Addams_Halloween MugmatesIn the Alfred Hitchcock classic North by Northwest, Cary Grant references Charles Addams in the auction scene. Discovering Eve with Mr. Vandamm and Leonard, he says, “The three of you together. Now that’s a picture only Charles Addams could draw.” Hitchcock was a friend of Addams’, not surprising considering their shared macabre sense of humor, and owned two pieces of original Addams art.

Addams died September 29, 1988, at St. Clare’s Hospital and Health Centre in New York City, having suffered a heart attack while still in his car after parking it. An ambulance took him from his apartment to the hospital, where he died in the emergency room. As he had requested, a wake was held rather than a funeral; he had wished to be remembered as a “good cartoonist.” He was cremated, and his ashes were buried in the pet cemetery of his estate “The Swamp.”

For more extensive coverage visit the Charles Addams Foundation at www.charlesaddams.com


Bates Motel – First Trailer

Check out the trailer for A&E’s upcoming series Bates Motel, which serves as a prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s horror classic Psycho. This first trailer for the series, which is rolling out in movie theaters nationwide, introduces Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates and young British actor Freddie Highmore as her son, serial killer-to-be Norman Bates. It provides first glimpses at their complex and twisted relationship as they move into the infamous Bates Motel. The trailer includes commentary from the show’s cast and producers, including former Lost co-showrunner Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin (Parenthood, Friday Night Lights), who co-wrote and executive produce the 10-episode series.


Psycho – Mondo Poster Art

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The Hollywood Ten – The First Blacklist

The Hollywood blacklist—as the broader entertainment industry blacklist is generally known—was the mid-20th-century list of screenwriters, actors, directors, musicians, and other U.S. entertainment professionals who were denied employment in the field because of their political beliefs or associations, real or suspected. Artists were barred from work on the basis of their alleged membership in or sympathy toward the American Communist Party, involvement in liberal or humanitarian political causes that enforcers of the blacklist associated with communism, and/or refusal to assist investigations into Communist Party activities; some were blacklisted merely because their names came up at the wrong place and time. Even during the period of its strictest enforcement, the late 1940’s through the late 1950’s, the blacklist was rarely made explicit and verifiable, but it caused direct damage to the careers of scores of American artists, often made betrayal of friendship (not to mention principle) the price for a livelihood, and promoted ideological censorship across the entire industry.

A group of studio executives, acting under the aegis of the Motion Picture Association of America, announced the firing of the artists—the so-called Hollywood Ten – in what has become known as the Waldorf Statement.

The Hollywood blacklist is rooted in events of the 1930’s and the early 1940’s, encompassing the height of the Great Depression and World War II. During this era, long before the horrors of Soviet premier Joseph Stalin’s rule became common knowledge in the West, the American Communist Party attracted a large number of followers, many of them young idealists in the field of arts and entertainment. The party was the primary force in the United States fighting for the rights of poor people, and was centrally involved in campaigns for improvement in welfare, unemployment, and social security benefits. Two major film industry strikes during the 1930’s increased tensions between the Hollywood producers and the unions, particularly the Communist-affiliated Screen Writers Guild.

In 1941, producer Walt Disney took out an ad in Variety, the industry trade magazine, declaring his conviction that “Communist agitation” was behind a cartoonists and animators’ strike. According to historians Larry Ceplair and Steven Englund, “In actuality, the strike had resulted from Disney’s overbearing paternalism, high-handedness, and insensitivity.” Inspired by Disney, California State Senator Jack Tenney, chairman of the state legislature’s Joint Fact-Finding Committee on Un-American Activities, launched an investigation of “Reds in movies”.

The first systematic Hollywood blacklist was instituted on November 25, 1947, the day after ten writers and directors were cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to give testimony to the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

  • Alvah Bessie, screenwriter
  • Herbert Biberman, screenwriter and director
  • Lester Cole, screenwriter
  • Edward Dymtryk, director
  • Ring Lardner Jr., screenwriter
  • John Howard Lawson, screenwriter
  • Albert Maltz, screenwriter
  • Samuel Ornitz, screenwriter
  • Adrian Scott, producer and screenwriter
  • Dalton Trumbo, screenwriter

On June 22, 1950, a pamphlet called Red Channels appeared, focusing on the field of broadcasting. It named 151 entertainment industry professionals in the context of “Red Fascists and their sympathizers”; soon most of those named, along with a host of other artists, were barred from employment in much of the entertainment field.

The blacklist continued through the House Committee of Un-American Activities (HUAC) through until 1957 when blacklisted actor Norman Lloyd was hired by Alfred Hitchcock as an associate producer for his anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, then entering its third season on the network. More re-hirings followed up until the first main break in the Hollywood blacklist on January 20, 1960, when director Otto Preminger publicly announced that Dalton Trumbo, one of the best known members of the Hollywood Ten, was the screenwriter of his forthcoming film Exodus. Six-and-a-half months later, with Exodus still to debut, the New York Times announced that Universal Pictures would give Trumbo screen credit for his role as writer on Spartacus, a decision star Kirk Douglas is now recognized as largely responsible for. On October 6, Spartacus premiered—the first movie to bear Trumbo’s name since he had received story credit on Emergency Wedding in 1950. Since 1947, he had written or co-written approximately seventeen motion pictures without credit. Exodus followed in December, also bearing Trumbo’s name. The blacklist was now clearly coming to an end, but its effects continue to reverberate even until the present. Shameful.


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Hitchcock – Variant poster


Hitchcock – Trailer

Check out this trailer for Hitchcock, from Fox Searchlight. The biopic that stars Anthony Hopkins as the famed director Alfred Hitchcock. It centres on the making of his iconic film Psycho and is being billed as a love story of Hitch and his wife Alma Reville, played by Helen Mirren. The killer cast of the Sacha Gervasi-directed pic also includes Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh and James D’Arcy as Anthony Perkins. Gervasi made a big splash with the release of his loving portrait to the Heavy Metal group Anvil a few years back with the documentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil, it looks like he’s taken a massive step-up with this biopic.

The film opens the AFI Fest on November 1 before its platform release November 23, which puts it squarely in the heart of awards-season. A second best actor Oscar for Hopkins..?


Robert Francis Boyle

Robert Francis Boyle (October 10, 1909 – August 1, 2010) was an American film art director and production designer.

Born in Los Angeles, Boyle trained as an architect, graduating from the University of Southern California (USC). When he lost his job in that field during the Great Depression, Boyle found work in films as an extra. In 1933 he was hired as a draftsman in the Paramount Pictures art department, headed by supervising art director Hans Dreier. Beginning with Cecil B. DeMille’s The Plainsman, Boyle went on to work on a variety of pictures as a sketch artist, draftsman and assistant art director before becoming an art director at Universal Studios in the early 1940s.

Boyle collaborated several times with Alfred Hitchcock, first as an associate art director for Saboteur (1942) and later as a full-fledged production designer for North by Northwest (1959), The Birds (1963), and Marnie (1964). Denied permission to shoot footage on Mount Rushmore, Hitchcock turned to Boyle to create realistic replicas of the stone heads. Boyle abseiled down the monument, photographing its contours in detail, before constructing “just enough to put the actors on so we could get down shots, up shots, side shots, whatever we needed.” Almost two decades earlier, Boyle had delivered the Statue of Liberty reproduction that was used in the climactic scene of Saboteur.

For The Birds, Boyle was put in charge of the title characters. He later recalled, “We needed to find out which birds we could use best, and finally settled on two types: sea gulls, which were very greedy beasts that would always fly toward the camera if there was a piece of meat, and crows, which had a strange sort of intelligence.” Boyle described his relationship with Hitchcock: “It was a meeting of equals: the director who knew exactly what he wanted, and the art director who knew how to get it done.”

When director Norman Jewison failed in his attempts to get the necessary submarine that was at the centre of his The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming storyline, Boyle built a working model from styrofoam and fiberglass.

Boyle’s other credits include It Came from Outer Space, Cape fear , In Cold Blood, Fiddler on the Roof, Winter Kills, W.C. Fields and Me, The Shootist, Private Benjamin and Stayin’ Alive. 

During the course of his career, Boyle was nominated four times for the Academy Award for Best Art Direction but never won. In 1997 he received the Art Directors Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and he was voted an Honorary Academy Award by the Board of Governors, “in recognition of one of cinema’s great careers in art direction,” which he received during the 80th Academy Awards ceremony on February 24, 2008. At the age of 98, Boyle became the oldest winner ever of an Honorary Award in the history of the Academy Awards. Despite being in ill health and arriving to the ceremony in a wheelchair, Boyle insisted on walking onstage, alongside Nicole Kidman, to receive the honour.

Boyle was the subject of the Academy Award-nominated documentary short the Man on Lincoln’s Nose (2000).

Boyle died on August 1, 2010 in Los Angeles from natural causes.


The Birds – Art Department

Check out this incredible matte painting of Bodega Bay from Hitchcock’s The Birds.


‘Psycho’ Prequel ‘Bates Motel’ Straight to Series

News via The Hollywood Reporter: A&E is checking in to the Bates Motel. The cable network has opted to bypass the traditional pilot stage and order its Psycho prequel Bates Motel straight to series aimed at a 2013 premiere.

From Lost‘s Carlton Cuse and Friday Night Lights‘ Kerry Ehrin, the series is inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic Psycho and is described as a contemporary exploration of Norman Bates’ formative years. It will explore his relationship with his mother, Norma, and offer a look at the backstory that helped forge the infamous serial killer. It’s been dubbed as a cross between Twin Peaks and Smallville.

The series, which will begin preproduction and casting immediately, is scheduled for a 2013 premiere on A&E. Cuse and Ehrin will executive produce the Universal Television and Carlton Cuse Productions effort. Anthony Cipriano penned the pilot script.

“We are proud to be partnering with Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin on their thrilling reinvention of one of the most compelling characters in cinematic history,” A&E president and GM Bob DeBitetto and A&E exec vp programming Dave McKillop said in a joint statement announcing the news Monday. “It’s a provocative project from two of the best storytellers in the business, and we’re looking forward to getting started.”

Bates Motel marks former Lost co-showrunner Cuse’s first TV project since his run on the island-set ABC drama.

The A&E effort is not the first time a Psycho spinoff has been attempted; NBC aired a 90-minute TV movie titled Bates Motel in 1987. The A&E series also marks the latest serial-killer prequel story, joining NBC’s Silence of the Lambs prequel series, Hannibal, which hails from Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller.

Serial killer prequels and Hitchcock history are both subjects that are currently being explored at other places too. There’s Hannibal, Bryan Fuller’s Silence of the Lambs prequel TV show that is currently in development, for one. Also shooting are Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, Fox Searchlight’s behind the scenes drama starring Anthony Hopkins, and The Girl, which features Toby Jones as the famed thriller director.


Peter Lorre

Peter Lorre (26 June 1904 – 23 March 1964) was an Austrian-American actor frequently typecast as a sinister foreigner. He caused an international sensation with his portrayal of a serial killer who preys on little girls in the classic Fritz Lang film M (1931). Later he became a popular featured player in Hollywood crime films and mysteries, in particular with Humphrey Bogart and Sydney Greenstreet, and as the star of the successful Mr Moto detective series.

Lorre was born László Löwenstein on 26 June 1904, as the first child of Jewish couple Alajos Löwenstein and Elvira Freischberger, in the Austrian-Hungarian town of Ružomberok in what is now Slovakia, then known by its Hungarian name Rózsahegy. At the outbreak of the Second Balkan War in 1913, Alajos moved the family to Vienna.

Lorre began acting on stage in Vienna at the age of 17, before moving to the then German town of Breslau, and later to Zürich in Switzerland. In the late 1920s, the young and short (165 cm (5 ft 5 in)) actor moved to Berlin, where he worked with German playwright Bertolt Brecht.

The actor became much more widely known after director Fritz Lang cast him as a child killer in the film M (1931).

M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder is a 1931 German drama directed by and also written by Lang and his wife Thea von Harbou and was Lang’s first sound film, although he had directed more than a dozen films previously. Peter Lorre played Hans Beckert, the child killer, it was Lorre’s first major starring role, and it boosted his career, even though he was typecast as a villain for many years after.

M is supposedly based on the real-life case of serial killer Peter Kürten, the “Vampire of Düsseldorf”, whose crimes took place in the 1920s, although Lang denied that he drew from this case. “At the time I decided to use the subject matter of M there were many serial killers terrorizing Germany — Haarmann, Grossmann, Kürten, Denke,” Lang told film historian Gero Gandert in a 1963 interview.

Lorre’s character whistles the tune “In the Hall of the Mountain King” from Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite No. 1. However, Peter Lorre himself could not whistle – it is actually Lang who is heard. The film was one of the first to use a lietmotif, associating “In the Hall of the Mountain King” with the Lorre character. Later in the film, the mere sound of the song lets the audience know that he is nearby, off-screen. This association of a musical theme with a particular character or situation, a technique borrowed from opera, is now a film staple. The film has become a classic which Lang himself considered his finest work.

When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, Lorre took refuge first in Paris and then London, where he was noticed by Ivor Montagu, Alfred Hitchcock’s associate producer for The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934). They first considered him to play the assassin in the film, but wanted to use him in a larger role, despite his limited command of English, which Lorre overcame by learning much of his part phonetically. He also was featured in Hitchcock’s Secret Agent (1936).

Eventually, Lorre went to Hollywood, where he specialized in playing sinister foreigners. He starred in a series of Mr. Moto movies, a parallel to the better known Charlie Chan series. He was awesome in Mad Love (1935), where he played an insane surgeon whose obsession with an actress leads him to replace her wounded pianist’s hands with the hands of a knife murderer which still have the urge to throw knives.

In 1939, he was picked to play the role that would eventually go to Basil Rathbone in Son of Frankenstein; Lorre had to decline the part due to illness. In 1940, Lorre co-starred with fellow horror actors Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff in the movie You’ll Find Out.

Lorre played the role of Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon (1941) and portrayed the character Ugarte in Casablanca (1942). Lorre made nine movies altogether with Sydney Greenstreet counting The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca, most of them variations on the latter film, including Background to Danger (1943); Passage to Marseille (1944); The Mask of Dimitrios (1944); The Conspirators (1944); Hollywood Canteen (1944); Three Strangers (1946), and The Verdict (1946), director Don Siegel’s first movie, with Greenstreet and Lorre finally billed first and second, respectively. Lorre also branched out (without Greenstreet) into comedy with the role of Dr. Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace, filmed by director Frank Capra in 1941, released in 1944.

After World War II, Lorre’s acting career in Hollywood experienced a downturn, whereupon he concentrated on radio and stage work. In Germany he co-wrote, directed and starred in Der Velorene (The Lost One) (1951), a critically acclaimed art film in the film noir style. He then returned to the United States where he appeared as a character actor in television and feature films, often spoofing his ‘creepy;’ image.

In 1954, he was the first actor to play a James Bond villain when he portrayed Le Chiffre in a television adaptation of Casino Royale. Also in 1954, Lorre starred alongside Kirk Douglas and James Mason in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He had minor roles in a few forgettable movies thereafter, his last notable appearance being The Raven (1963), a horror comedy produced and directed by Roger Corman. The film  stars Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Lorre as a trio of rival sorcerers. It is the fifth film in the series of eight Edgar Allan Poe adaptations produced by Corman. He co-starred in another comedy horror with Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone, The Comedy of Terrors (1964).

He died in 1964 of a stroke. Lorre’s body was cremated and his ashes interred at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood. Vincent Price read the eulogy at his funeral.


Saul Bass

Saul Bass (May 8, 1920 – April 25, 1996) was a graphic designer and filmmaker, perhaps best known for his design of film posters and motion picture title sequences.

Saul Bass was born on May 8, 1920, in the Bronx, New York, to Eastern European Jewish immigrant parents. He graduated from James Monroe High School in the Bronx and studied part-time at the Art Students League in Manhattan until attending night classes with György Kepes at Brooklyn College. He began his time in Hollywood during the 1940s doing print work for film ads, until he collaborated with filmmaker Otto Preminger to design the film poster for his 1954 film Carmen Jones. Preminger was so impressed with Bass’s work that he asked him to produce the title sequence as well. This was when Bass first saw the opportunity to create something more than a title sequence, but to create something which would ultimately enhance the experience of the audience and contribute to the mood and the theme of the movie within the opening moments. Bass was one of the first to realize the creative potential of the opening and closing credits of a movie.

Bass became widely known in the film industry after creating the title sequence for Otto Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Arm (1955). The subject of the film was a jazz musician’s struggle to overcome his heroin addiction, a taboo subject in the mid-’50s. Bass decided to create a controversial title sequence to match the film’s controversial subject. He chose the arm as the central image, as the arm is a strong image relating to drug addiction. The titles featured an animated, white on black paper cut-out arm of a heroin addict. As he expected, it caused quite a sensation.

For Alfred Hitchcock, Bass provided effective, memorable title sequences, inventing a new type of kinetic typography, for North by Northwest (1959), Vertigo (1958), working with John Whitney, and Psycho (1960). It was this kind of innovative, revolutionary work that made Bass a revered graphic designer. Before the advent of Bass’s title sequences in the 1950s, titles were generally static, separate from the movie, and it was common for them to be projected onto the cinema curtains, the curtains only being raised right before the first scene of the movie.

Bass once described his main goal for his title sequences as being to ‘’try to reach for a simple, visual phrase that tells you what the picture is all about and evokes the essence of the story”. Another philosophy that Bass described as influencing his title sequences was the goal of getting the audience to see familiar parts of their world in an unfamiliar way.

He designed title sequences for more than 40 years, and employed diverse film making techniques, from cut-out animation for Anatomy of a Murder (1958), to fully animated mini-movies such as the epilogue for Around the World in 80 Days (1956), and live action sequences. His live action opening title sequences often served as prologues to their films and transitioned seamlessly into their opening scenes.

Toward the end of his career, he was rediscovered by Martin Scorsese who had grown up admiring his film work. For Scorsese, Saul Bass (in collaboration with his wife Elaine Bass) created title sequences for Goodfellas (1990), Cape Fear (1991), The Age of Innocence (1993), and Casino (1995), his last title sequence. His later work with Scorsese saw him move away from the optical techniques that he had pioneered and move into the use of computerized effects. Bass’s title sequences featured new and innovative methods of production and startling graphic design.

Saul Bass designed emblematic movie posters that transformed the visuals of film advertising. Before Bass’s seminal poster for The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), movie posters were dominated by depictions of key scenes or characters from the film, often both juxtaposed with each other. Bass’s posters, however, typically developed simplified, symbolic designs that visually communicated key essential elements of the film. For example, his poster for a Man with a Golden Arm, with a jagged arm and off-kilter typography, starkly communicates the protagonist’s struggle with heroin addition. Bass’s iconic Vertigo (1958) poster, with its stylized figures sucked down into the nucleus of a spiral vortex, captures the anxiety and disorientation central to the film. His poster for Anatomy of a Murder (1959), featuring the silhouette of a corpse jarringly dissected into seven pieces, makes both a pun on the film’s title and captures the moral ambiguities within which this court room drama is immersed.

He did great work for Stanley Kubrick, Hitchcock, Otto Preminger and Billy Wilder among other. His last commissioned film poster was created for Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (1993), but it was never distributed. His poster work spanned five decades and inspired numerous other poster and graphic designers. Bass’s film posters are characterized by a distinctive typography and minimalistic style.

In some sense, all modern opening title sequences that introduce the mood or theme of a film can be seen as a legacy of Saul Bass’s innovative work. In particular, though, title sequences for some recent movies and television series, especially those whose setting is during the 1960s, have purposely emulated the graphic style of his animated sequences from that era. Some examples of title sequences that pay homage to Bass’s graphics and animated title sequences are Catch Me If You Can (2002), X-Men: First Class (2011), and the opening to the AMC series Mad Men.

Check out some iconic Saul Bass opening titles HERE


Happy Birthday Universal Pictures

Birthday wishes are in order for Universal Pictures, which as widely noted is celebrating its centennial all year long. Founded by Carl Laemmle, Universal Film Manufacturing Company was incorporated in New York on April 30, 1912. The studio sent out 100 facts about its history, which makes for a good read…. I’ve cut the list down to my favourite 50:

1. Universal Film Manufacturing Company was officially incorporated in New York on April 30, 1912. Company legend says Carl Laemmle was inspired to name his company Universal after seeing “Universal Pipe Fittings” written on a passing delivery wagon.

2. The only physical damage made during the filming of National Lampoon’s Animal House was when John Belushi made a hole in the wall with a guitar. The actual Sigma Nu fraternity house (which subbed for the fictitious Delta House) never repaired it, and instead framed the hole in honor of the film.

3. In the movie All Quiet on the Western Front, the Greek writing on the blackboard in the schoolroom is the beginning of Homer’s Odyssey: “Tell me, oh Muse, of that ingenious hero who traveled far and wide.”

4. The word “dude” in The Big Lebowski is used approximately 161 times in the movie: 160 times spoken and once in text (in the credits for “Gutterballs” the second dream sequence). The F-word or a variation of the F-word is used 292 times. The Dude says “man” 147 times in the movie—that’s nearly 1.5 times a minute.

5. Back to the Future’s DeLorean time machine is actually a licensed, registered vehicle in the state of California. While the vanity license plate used in the film says “OUTATIME,” the DeLorean’s actual license plate reads 3CZV657.

6. American Graffiti’s budget was exactly $777,777.77, and it was delivered on time – and on budget.

7. In the Alfred Hitchcock classic The Birds, Tippi Hedren was actually cut in the face by a bird during the shooting of one sequence.

8. The Munster’s House on Colonial Street was originally built for the 1946 production, So Goes My Love.

9. The title of the movie Do The Right Thing comes from a Malcolm X quote: “You’ve got to do the right thing.”

10. According to reports, during some of the Russian roulette scenes in the movie The Deer Hunter, a live round was put into the gun to heighten the actors’ tension per Robert De Niro’s suggestion. It was checked, however, to make sure the bullet was not in the chamber before the trigger was pulled.

11. In the first scene of the movie Double Indemnity, when Walter first kisses Phyllis, there is a wedding ring on Walter’s hand. Fred MacMurray was married and the ring was not noticed until post-production.

12. When Bela Lugosi, star of the monster classic, Dracula, died in 1956, he was buried wearing a black silk cape similar to the one he wore in the film.

13. At 29,500 sq. ft., Universal Studios’ Stage 12 is the 7th largest soundstage in the world. It was originally built for the 1929 musical Broadway.

14. Carl Laemmle Jr. offered James Whale a list of more than 30 film adaptations he could direct and out of them all, Whale picked Frankenstein. It was his transition from war movies to monster pics.

15. Vans, the company behind the checkerboard shoes worn by Sean Penn (a.k.a. Jeff Spicoli) in the cult movie classic, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, became a national brand after the film’s release in 1982.

16. Actor Charlton Heston “parted” the Red Sea attraction on the Universal Studios Tour at the attraction’s grand opening in 1973.

17. The Universal sound technician, Jack Foley, developed the method of creating and recording many of the natural, everyday sound effects in a film. Today this method is named after him.

18. The legendary thriller and suspense director Alfred Hitchcock did not win any Academy Awards while working with Universal.

19. In the infamous shower scene in Psycho, the sound of the knife-stabbing actress Janet Leigh was made by plunging a knife into a melon.

20. The legendary studio head Irving Thalberg got his start in show business as Carl Laemmle’s personal secretary in 1917.

21. In 1995, Waterworld generated worldwide attention for being the most expensive film made to date. Unable to live up to expectations at the box office, the film eventually turned a profit due to strong home video sales and inspired one of the most popular theme park attractions of all time.

22. About 25% of the film Jaws was shot from water level so audiences could better relate to treading water.

23. In the film The Invisible Man, the director dressed Claude Rains in black velvet and filmed him against a black velvet background to create the effect that he wasn’t there.

24. Some of the props used in the 2005 version of King Kong were original props from the 1933 version. These props came from Peter Jackson’s personal collection and include the Skull Island spears and brightly painted shield, and some of the drums from the sacrifice scene.

25. In Jurassic Park, a guitar string was used to make the water ripple on the dash of the Ford Explorer by attaching it to the underside of the dash beneath the glass.

26. Universal entered the 3-D market with the film, It Came from Outer Space (1953)

27. Universal won its first Best Picture Academy Award for All Quiet on the Western Front in 1930.

28. Steven Spielberg nicknamed the mechanical shark in the movie Jaws, “Bruce.”

29. In the film The Incredible Shrinking Man, when Louise is on the phone asking for the operator, the music playing on the radio is the theme song to Written on the Wind, which was made at Universal the year prior.

30. It took two-and-a-half hours a day to apply Lon Chaney’s makeup in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

31. The first American film to show a toilet flushing on screen was Psycho.

32. In the film, Scarface, an M16 assault rifle with an M203 40mm grenade launcher attached to the barrel is Tony’s “little friend.”

33. Alfred Hitchcock did not choose to conclude the film, The Birds, with the usual “THE END” title because he wanted to leave the audience with the feeling of unending terror and uncertainty.

34. The locusts in the 1999 film, The Mummy, were mostly computer-generated, however, some live grasshoppers were used. Hours before filming they were chilled in a refrigerator to make them more sluggish.

35. The average shot length in the film Vertigo is 6.7 seconds.

36. The permanent set in Stage 28 was created to be a replica of the landmark The Paris Opera House, for the classic film, The Phantom of the Opera.

37. When you hear the sound of the crowd cheering, “Spartacus! Spartacus!” in the movie Spartacus, it was actually a pre-taped recording from a 1959 football game at Michigan State University’s Spartan Stadium.

38. The final speech by Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird was done in one take.

39. The diner in the movie The Sting is the same diner interior used in Back to the Future.

40. The title of the film Streets of Fire starring Michael Paré and Diane Lane, was drawn from a Bruce Springsteen song, from his album Darkness on the Edge of Town. The song, unfortunately, does not appear in the film.

41. 1920’s Shipwrecked Among Cannibals was the first film to gross $1,000,000 for Universal.

42. Prominent Universal Director Edward Laemmle was the nephew of Universal Founder Carl Laemmle. He directed over 60 films (including shorts) for Universal.

43. Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein is only the second time Bela Lugosi would play “Dracula” in a feature film. (He played other vampires in the interim, but not Dracula.)

44. In 1973’s High Plains Drifter starring Clint Eastwood, one of the headstones in the graveyard bears the name Sergio Leone as a tribute.

45. In 1992’s Scent of Woman, Al Pacino repeatedly shouts “Hoo-ah.” “Hoo-ah” comes from the military acronym “HUA” which stands for “Heard, Understood, Acknowledged.”

46. The Blues Brothers “Bluesmobile” is a 1974 Dodge Monaco.

47. 1971’s Play Misty for Me was set in Carmel, CA, where Clint Eastwood later lived and became mayor in 1986.

48. “The Bride” in “The Bride of Frankenstein” is the only one of Universal Studios’ Classic Monsters to have never killed anyone.

49. Throughout its hundred year legacy, Universal brought to audiences the first films of talents such as John Ford, Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, Norman Jewison, Ben Stiller, Robert Zemeckis, John Hughes, Amy Heckerling, Spike Jonze, Zack Snyder and Judd Apatow.

50. More than 100 million people from around the world have taken the Universal Studios “studio tour.” While the tour officially began in 1964, Universal has been welcoming the public to our studio since 1915 and the silent era.