Tag Archive: The Birds


 

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Most people know Daphne du Maurier as a suspense writer, creator of psychological and gothic thrillers like Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, and My Cousin Rachel.  But what often gets overlooked is her great science fiction, exploring the boundaries between the known and familiar, and the disturbing edges of twentieth century scientific progress.  Her classic post-war story “The Birds” was transformed into a Hitchcock horror film that bears only superficial similarity to the isolation, drama, and sheer apocalyptic gloom of the original, in which residents of an English coastal village watch their doom coming ever closer, thanks to terrifying radio news updates, and is well worth a read (perhaps not now… or perhaps particularly now, depending on your predilections!).

Her 1969 novel The House on the Strand explores the psychological effects of time travel, through the lens of unlikeable characters doing uninteresting things.  The time machine in du Maurier’s novel is a drug (or “concoction,” as she calls it), or a series of drugs, whose differing effects are never fully (or even partially) explained.  Dick Young is an out-of-work publisher housesitting for an old college chum for the summer, in an old house on the Cornish coast (setting of so many of du Maurier’s stories).  The old college chum, Magnus, has been experimenting with a time-travel drug, and urges Dick to make his own “trips” into the past.

 

What follows is a dense tapestry of Cornish landscape and history, although the details and characters take some considerable time to sort out, and Dick never interacts with any of the figures he observes.  His instant attachment to the characters of the past is only slightly explained in contrast to his wife (whom he dislikes).  A midpoint plot twist introduces a potential murder plotline, and du Maurier definitely keeps the reader guessing (or perhaps hoping) what might happen next.  None of my expectations were ultimately borne out, to my disappointment, and the main character never grew any more sympathetic.  There is a comeuppance, of a sort, at the very end, satisfying in its own way.  It’s easy to read this as an inspiration or forebear for later time travel stories to come, especially Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book, set in the same time period, or Michael Crichton’s Timeline. 

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Your next exploration of a supernatural school and visit to a town full of secrets is here.

Life is Strange: Welcome to Blackwell Academy is an in-universe book by video game tie-in author Matt Forbeck.  Based on the Life is Strange adventure game franchise from Dontnod Entertainment and Square Enix, it’s a hardcover flip book, taking the form of a student guide to Blackwell Academy from one direction and a welcome guide to the town of Arcadia Bay when viewed from the other side.  The book is presented as Max’s personal used copy, and it’s overlaid with handwritten notes, doodles, and sketches from both Max Caulfield and Chloe Price, the focal characters of Life is Strange and Life is Strange 2.  (The original Life is Strange game is available here at Amazon, a prequel Life is Strange: Before the Storm is available here, and the first episode of Life is Strange 2 was just released and is available now here).

Blackwell Academy is a private senior high school located in Arcadia Bay, Oregon. The school, which has the feel of the Miss Quill’s classroom in BBC’s short-lived series Class, specializes in the Sciences and Arts, but there’s more to the school than meets the eye.  An X-File type of occurrence happened there back in 2013, changing the course of the town forever.  Based in a town that could be Bodega Bay in Hitchcock’s The Birds or Antonio Bay in Carpenter’s The Fog, Arcadia Bay could be this dimension’s parallel timeline version (think The Butterfly Effect and Donnie Darko) of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks or a sister city to Stephen King’s seaside Haven.

   

Coming next Wednesday is the first issue of a Life is Strange four-part comic book series.  Creators Emma Vieceli, Claudia Leonardi, and Andrea Izzo provide an up-close and personal look at the relationship between Max and Chloe, and their friends in Seattle, a year after an event in Arcadia Bay allowed Max to save Chloe.  Both Max and Chloe realize something is wrong.  Can one or both of them be unstuck in time again?  Take a look at our preview of Issue #1 below, courtesy of Titan Comics.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Notorious isn’t just the name of an Alfred Hitchcock film, it describes the reputation of the acclaimed director over the course of his 55-year career.  Over the course of his films he would become famous for not only the blonde actresses in his films, but his misogynistic, voyeuristic, fetishism themes and content.  A precursor in many ways to Quentin Tarentino, Hitchcock nearly 40 years after his death is as popular as ever, with his film Vertigo still on many critics’ lists as the best American film of all time.  Those who view his films are left to wonder how much of the content of his films were the man, and how often was he simply selling what moviegoers were looking for–something new, something surprising, something stylish, and something shocking.  The flip side of Hitchcock viewed as provocateur is the fact that his films always featured a strong lead woman–sometimes from the opening scene and other times by film’s end–and the actress was often the only name marketed above the title, including some of the most fierce and compelling women characters ever filmed.

Scotland author Caroline Young takes a compelling look at the director and his relationship with the leading women in his films in her new book Hitchcock’s Heroines, a photograph-filled hardcover from Insight Editions.  Young, author of Roman Holiday: The Secret Life of Hollywood in Rome, Tartan & Tweed, and Style Tribes, sources interviews with the actors as well as interviews with Hitchcock to gain a better understanding of what motivated his work.  He spent the first half of his career–represented by the first half of the book–developing the style he would come to be known for by the time of his 1954 success Rear Window, culminating in his ideal production team: costume designer Edith Head, production designer Robert Burks, assistant director Herbert Coleman, and editor George Tomasini.  Hitchcock knew that most of his audience were women and believed that in the 1940s-1960s women usually determined what movie a couple was going to attend.  So the appearance of his leading women was as important, if not more important, than any other part of the film.  He also had an eye for using color and wardrobe as part of his storytelling tools, perhaps changing a character’s muted-toned costumes to striking and contrasting by film’s end to represent a character’s change in mood, strength, or growth.

Hitchcock’s Heroines is a superb source of costume sketches, costume designs, and production stills spanning Hitchcock’s directorial career.  Young includes with her discussions of each actress and corresponding character the costumes and costumers, which amounts to a history of Hollywood costume design artists, including Jean Peron, Dolly Tree, Joe Strassner, Marianne, Irene, Edward Stevenson, Vera West, Gilbert Adrian, René Hubert, Howard Greer, Edith Head, Christian Dior, Milo Anderson, Moss Mabry, Helen Rose, Harry Kress, Rita Riggs, Helen Colvig, and Julie Harris, although it was also not beyond Hitchcock to source his own vision from off-the-rack wardrobe from Western Costume Company or Bergdorf Goodman. Hair style and hair color is also a recurring theme Young pursues in the book.

Young references an interview from 1931 where Hitchcock discussed selecting actresses for roles: “The chief point I keep in mind when selecting my heroine is that she must be fashioned to please women rather than men, for the reason that women form three-quarters of the average cinema audience.  Therefore, no actress can be a good commercial proposition as a film heroine unless she pleases her own sex.”  It is noteworthy that Hitchcock was not always responsible for who starred in his films–Young cites instances where studio head David O. Selznick directly cast Hitchcock’s leading actors.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

An exciting new Gothic suspense thriller has arrived in the new Netflix series Requiem.  Like any great mystery–and it seems even more so in this sub-genre–you never can tell what kind of story you’re in until the very end.  Clues are everywhere if you only look at what is right in front of you.  Call it a psychological thriller, call it a ghost story, call it a police procedural, call it another X-Files entry, call it outright horror, Requiem is a British production that, unlike so many past British series, it’s arrived for American audiences as quickly as it premiered in England.  And one of the great things about Netflix is it’s now bridging that gap of time that has so often taken British television series years to arrive in the States.  We don’t know their trick but we love it.  Requiem is as creepy, as atmospheric, and as chilling as anything you’re going to see this year.

Fans of the original The Watcher in the Woods will appreciate Requiem for many reasons, including getting that obligatory British estate nestled in the far-off woods so very right.  Viewers familiar with the Gothic genre will find themselves transfixed, scrabbling to follow clues and guess before the final episode the true nature of the darkness in the story.  The beauty of the script, acting, and setting is that you probably won’t be able to figure it all out.  It’s that good.  Expect a few “I didn’t see that coming” utterances and a satisfying ending.  Is this just another procedural crime drama about a missing child?  Something like The Missing, Thirteen, Broadchurch, Hinterlands, Shetland, or this year’s Netflix release, Collateral Or something with a more supernatural twist like British series Marchlands, Lightfields, The Secret of Crickley Hall, or a litany of creepy ghosts, haunts, and other fears from the big screen across the decades, like Otto Preminger’s Bunny Lake is Missing, Gaslight, The Lady Vanishes, or The Woman in Black, like the film adaptations of the Daphne du Maurier novels My Cousin Rachel, The Birds, and Rebecca, or adaptations of Gothic classics Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Turn of the Screw, or Great Expectations?  Maybe this is a modern horror tale wrapped in Gothic dress, like The Boy, The Ring, The Sixth Sense, The Shining, The Others, The Fog (and other John Carpenter classics), Skeleton Key, the Oscar winner Get Out, this year’s film Winchester, or Guillermo del Toro’s modern creation inspired by the classic Gothic thriller, Crimson Peak Or maybe it only has the atmosphere of the above productions.  

Virtuoso cellist Matilda Grey (Star Trek Beyond, Black Mirror, and Never Let Me Go’s Lydia Wilson) is readying a London premiere with her musical partner Hal (Game of Thrones’ Joel Fry).  But her world falls apart when her mother Janice (Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams and Spaced’s Joanna Scanlan) commits suicide.  At her mother’s home she finds a hidden box of secrets that reveals her own past may not be what it seems, and she and Hal find themselves trying to come to terms with Matilda’s loss in the seemingly unpronounceable Welsh town of Penllynith.  Something wicked this way comes, or does it?  Is everyone just caught up in an old missing persons case from years ago and the quirky lore of an old village?

Continue reading

Last seen in the theater 62 years ago, author Daphne du Maurier’s novel My Cousin Rachel is returning to theaters next week in a new adaptation.  Although the title may sound like a somber, pastoral story you might see from the likes of Jane Austen, get ready for a psychological thriller that could only come from the pen of the author of Rebecca and The Birds.  Film adaptations of both of those films would become thriller classics for director Alfred Hitchcock, with Rebecca as the 1941 Best Picture Academy Award winner.  The original 1952 adaptation of My Cousin Rachel starred multiple Oscar winner Olivia de Havilland, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance as Rachel, a beautiful Englishwoman believed to have murdered a man under her care.  de Havilland’s sister, Oscar winner Joan Fontaine, had been nominated for an Oscar for Rebecca.

This time around Roger Michell (Hyde Park on Hudson, Notting Hill) wrote a new adaptation of du Maurier’s novel and directs the film.  He cleverly cast an Oscar-winning Rachel for the role of Rachel–Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener, The Mummy)–whose performance looks quite convincing in the first trailer released for the film.  Sam Claflin (Pirates of the Caribbean: Stranger Tides, The Huntsman: Winter’s War) plays Rachel’s cousin, the role originally played by Richard Burton.

The overall look and feel from the film’s trailer is similar to other Gothic novels made into movies: dark, creepy, and mysterious, particularly in the romance between the two lead actors, like that found in Rebecca, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and more recently, Crimson Peak.  Check out this trailer for My Cousin Rachel:

Continue reading

princess-bride

The National Film Registry has grown to include 700 films this year with the addition this week of 25 films.  In accordance with the National Film Preservation Act, a film is eligible to be preserved under the registry if it is at least a decade old and recognized in the National Film Preservation Board’s view as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”  The Librarian of Congress makes the final determination, considering public nominations in the analysis.

The new list includes Rob Reiner’s adaptation of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride, possibly the most beloved of all live-action fantasy films.  The Howard Hawks/Billy Wilder classic, Snow White-inspired comedy Ball of Fire, starring Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper also made the cut.  Robert Zemeckis’s live action/animated caper Who Framed Roger Rabbit is on this list, along with the John Hughes coming of age film The Breakfast Club. 

the-birds

Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds increases the famous director’s horror film count on the preservation list along with the likes of Rear Window, North by Northwest, Vertigo, and Psycho.  And Elia Kazan’s adaptation of John Steinbeck’s coming of age story East of Eden, starring James Dean, joins the list.  Now all three of the films Dean is known for are on the list, adding to prior registry films Rebel Without a Cause and Giant.

Below is the full list of films named to the registry for 2016:

Continue reading

Bates Motel

That’s right, Halloween is almost here.  This year we’ve been able to obtain an interview with one of the best horror writers around.  Who will it be?  Check back here on Halloween for a special borg.com interview.

For many, this week means tracking down spooky shows on Netflix, cable, or in the theaters.  Back in 2011 the four borg.com writers posted each of their top favorite Halloween flicks.  Since 2011 new films that fit the genre continue to be made, like The Woman in Black reviewed here last year, but there was also a few to skip, like Johnny Depp in Dark Shadows and John Cusack in The RavenThis year we were impressed by the totally fun and totally watchable Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, and the over-the-top but fun Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.  There are plenty of opportunities to get your fix of dark, spooky, creepy, or just plain scary movies.

ALVH-217 - Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) and his vampire-battling mentor Henry Sturgis (Dominic Cooper) plan their next move during a fateful battle with the undead.

One film available on Netflix we haven’t reviewed yet here at borg.com is 2009’s Orphan, which should appeal to fans of The Others and Skeleton KeyOrphan stars Bates Motel’s Vera Farmiga and Skeleton Key’s Peter Sarsgaard as a couple adopting a third child into their family, played by the brilliant young actress Isabelle Furhman.  It also features Warehouse 13’s CCH Pounder and Genelle Williams–both as nuns.  Orphan is excellently creepy and an all-around good thriller worth checking out.  And speaking of Vera Farmiga, if you haven’t been watching Bates Motel, you should.  It’s a great creepy spin-off of Hitchcock’s Psycho, and Season 1 is available now on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com.

Orphan movie - creepy little girl

Here is the link to our Halloween movie series from 2011 where you can view all of our recommendations.  Some of the staples of Halloween horror did not make our lists, like Friday the 13th, Halloween, Saw, Scream, The Omen, Rosemary’s Baby, Poltergeist, Nightmare on Elm Street, or Amityville Horror.   Jaws got our joint highest ranking, making three of our lists, and The Shining, The Exorcist, The Exorcist 3, Watcher in the Woods, The Ring, and Paranormal Activity seem to rise above the rest, showing up on two lists.  Seaside locales were the favorite location for scares, with Jaws, Rebecca, The Birds, The Ring, The Fog (both the original and remake) all taking place there, and creepy little girls are the favorite subject of–count ‘em–NINE of our haunts (The Ring, The Exorcist, Let Me In, Paranormal Activity 3, Watcher in the Woods, The Sixth Sense, The Shining, Turn of the Screw, and The Others). And we can now add Orphan and The Woman in Black to that creepy assembly.  (We Are What We Are was due out this year–another creepy little girl story, but it’s only been released in the UK so far).  For us the supernatural won out over monsters, saws and axes.  Four movies were by John Carpenter, three by Alfred Hitchcock.  The oldest movie was Rebecca from 1940, the newest came out in 2011, Paranormal Activity 3And look, we’ve got another one of those available now, too.

Happy Halloween watching, and don’t forget to come back to see what we have in store Thursday!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

By C.J. Bunce

(Insert a spoiler alert here as a courtesy to anyone who really thinks a 50 year old film needs one!)

Sometimes you are at the right place at the right time.  Having recently heard about the new Fathom Events series, where the satellite-video entertainment company transmits a one-night only event around to movie theaters across the country, I keep going back to the Fathom website to see what is next.  And I marked my calendar when a Hitchcock film made the list.  Last week we let borg.com readers know about this past Wednesday’s screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, a Turner Classic Movies presentation to celebrate the 100th year of Universal Pictures, on the cusp of the 50th year since The Birds first premiered.

Continue reading

A missed opportunity across the country is the failure to establish a regular, ongoing market for old movies being shown on modern theater screens.  Only recently (OK, the late 1990s so not that recently) mass audiences were able to go back and see the original Star Wars trilogy in the theater and in the past year we were able to see more recent, but still years old, films in the theater well after their initial release, including The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Avengers films, and the Batman franchise.  But for decades now “art house” theaters from time to time get old releases and screen these old films for a few weeks at a time.  Usually the quality is poor, yet it gives new audiences as well as the older crowd that saw the films in their initial release an opportunity to discover or enjoy the films again.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you ever had an inkling to go to film school, if you are going to film school or if you teach film courses, Richard Rickitt’s Special Effects: The History and Technique should be required reading.  Not only is it a comprehensive work about the history and craft of special effects, it is a detailed account of the history and progress of film, and could serve as a college textbook to a master class in film technique.  And it is also a history of science and technology in its own right.

Rickitt’s Special Effects is a well-reviewed work, which is why it was purchased for me as a gift.  It is used as a college text in film schools and for good reason.  It has seen several printings since its first printing in Great Britain in 2006, including a reprint as recently as 2011, and it is as current as a nearly 400-page volume can be, including new effects technologies employed as recently as the Lord of the Rings films and X-Men 3.

Because of its price, Special Effects may not be for the casual movie enthusiast–but only because of price–as it can cost $40 for older editions and up to $230 for the most current edition.  Yet if you are really interested in behind-the-scenes cinema, it is probably worth saving for, and if you’re a college student, just slip it into your current semester’s $800 book purchase (at least that’s what I spent on each of my last few semesters for books and I can’t imagine prices have dropped–plus this book is actually a fun read you’ll hold on to).  It’s breadth is enormous, with both general and detailed coverage of landmark people and technologies from George Melies to Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen to Industrial Light & Magic to Pixar and Weta.  Although it purports to cover merely Special Effects, in truth it covers the beginning of film and every technology that was created since, building upon each discovery and new invention to bring us to the complex CGI technologies of today.

This is far from a quick read, and will likely serve as a reference work or one you pull off the shelf from time to time when you need something exciting to read of the non-fiction variety.  I mentioned college text–Rickitt is a good teacher, clearly explaining in terms anyone can understand not just the “what” but the “why” and “how” of benchmarks in film with visuals and diagrams, including explanations of the role and use of technologies like the zoetrope, the parts and functions of the modern movie camera, the history and types of film recording materials, matte film, blue-screens, film printing, optical and digital compositing, the A to Z of film projection, post-production techniques like image interpolation, the use of mirrors, forced perspective and miniaturization, pyrotechnics, cloud tanks, models, motion-control photography, digital and procedural modelling, texture mapping, special effects animation, rotoscoping, 3D technologies, motion blur, digital skin, performance capture, particle systems, high dynamic range images, match moving, rendering, the A to Z of matte painting, props, make-up, prosthetics, animatronics, sculpting, inner mechanisms, performance systems, digital make-up, atmospheric effects, breakaway effects, sound recording, sound effects mixing, foleying, dialogue replacement, and the future of film technologies.

A diagram from Rickitt’s Special Effects: The History and Technique

The author uses hundreds of photographs and provides real-use examples from movies to explain techniques.  Detailed analysis is used for movie benchmarks Rickitt has identified, including The Abyss (1989), The Birds (1963), Aliens (1986), An American Werewolf in London (1981), Blade Runner (1982), Citizen Kane (1941), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959), Destination Moon (1950), Earthquake (1974), The Exorcist (1973), Fantastic Voyage (1966), Forbidden Planet (1956), Forrest Gump (1994), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), Jurassic Park (1993), King Kong (1933), King Kong (2005), The Last Starfighter (1984), The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003), The Lost World (1925), The Matrix trilogy (1999-2003), Metropolis (1926), Mighty Joe Young (1949), 1941 (1979), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), all six Star Wars films (1977-2005), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), The Thief of Baghdad (1940), Things to Come (1936), Titanic (1997), Toy Story (1995), Tron (1982), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), The War of the Worlds (1953), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Willow (1988), and Young Sherlock Holmes (1985).

You’ll learn about ambient occlusion, beam splitters, cannon cars, color separation, depth of field, diffuse reflection, dissolves, dubbing, edge detection, emulsion, extrusion, fluid dynamics, go-motion, introvision, the Lydecker technique, morphing, NURBs, plates, ray tracing, squibs, time-lapse and time slice photography, wipes, zooms and zoptics.

An early edition of Rickitt’s book–note that earlier versions will not have the most up-to-date coverage of current technologies. The version shown at the top of this review is the most recent edition.

And along with the “what”  and “why” Rickitt profiles a “who’s who” of landmark film creators, including Georges Melies, Mack Sennett, D.W. Griffith, James Whale, Alfred Hitchcock, George Pal, Roger Corman, Irwin Allen, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Robert Zemeckis, Peter Jackson, Dennis Muren, John P. Fulton, Linwood Dunn, Richard Edlund, Dennis and Robert Skotak, Arnold Gillespie, Theodore and Howard Lydecker, Gordon Jennings, John Dykstra, Steve Gawley, Lorne Peterson, Willis O’Brien, Ray Harryhausen, Phil Tippett, John Lasseter, Norman O. Dawn, Albert Whitlock, Peter Ellenshaw, Lon Chaney, Jack Pierce, Stan Winston, Rick Baker, Ken Ralston, Cliff Richardson, Michael Lantieri, Jack Foley, Ben Burtt, Gary Rydstrom, and the Carboulds.

But you don’t need to look at Special Effects: The History and Technique as a dense book of facts.  Pick it up now and then and enjoy reading the book in 4-5 page stints and you’ll become an expert in film in no time, or just be amazed at how the magic of film works.

Special Effects: The History and Technique has a forward by Ray Harryhausen and an appendix, including a glossary of film terms and awards.