APES ON FILM: Grimm Tales of Cinerama

Posted on: Apr 6th, 2022 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

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THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM – 1962
4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Laurence Harvey, Karlheinz Böhm, Claire Bloom, Walter Slezak, Barbara Eden
Director: Henry Levin, George Pal
Rated: G
Studio: Warner Brothers Archive Collection
Region: A
BRD Release Date: March 29, 2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 2.85:1 – Original aspect ratio: 2.59:1
Run Time: 140 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

The Cinerama process was developed in the 1950s as a way to help draw television viewers back to the movies. Utilizing a process whereby three synchronized camera images are projected onto a large, curved screen made of individual vertical strips of standard perforated screen material, Cinerama delivered an amazing viewing experience in which the viewer could be enveloped by the motion picture. My personal experiences at the (now sadly gone) Columbia Theatre in midtown Atlanta include some of my favorite memories of being at the movies.

Producer/director George Pal, ever a showman, turned to Cinerama to make his 1962 production of THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM, an unforgettable experience for moviegoers. Following the success of his production of H.G. WellsTHE TIME MACHINE, Pal wanted to expand his horizons as a filmmaker and deliver the viewing experience of a lifetime. The film was one of only two narrative movies shot in the original Cinerama process (the other being HOW THE WEST WAS WON) before it was replaced by the single strip Super Panavision 70-millimeter process.

Though very little restoration was needed to prepare HOW THE WEST WAS WON for high-definition release, THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM was a totally different story. The original negatives had deteriorated and suffered major damage from a flooding accident in storage, making an analog restoration too costly to even consider. Digital restoration technology finally rose to the level where such an undertaking was possible, and the results are spectacular indeed. The process is detailed on disc two of Warner Archive Collection’s new special edition of the film in the featurette documentary, “Rescuing a Fantasy Classic.” I highly recommend watching this before viewing the film. A comparison video of before and after restoration is available HERE.

Pal’s movie itself is a relic of its time; the wraparound story about the Brothers Grimm themselves is little more than a feel-good bio with little historical accuracy, made to envelop the fairy tale segments based on the duo’s books. These segments are blustery, color-saturated, over-the-top presentations of the stories The Dancing Princess, The Cobbler and the Elves, and The Singing Bone. While the story is pedestrian, the visuals and music create an unforgettable spectacle as Pal intended, and are absolutely worth the time investment for viewing. Pal even takes the director’s reins himself for some stop-motion sequences.

Warner Archive Collection’s presentation includes two viewing options; the letterbox aspect ratio, and the Smilebox® aspect ratio, which more accurately recreates the original Cinerama viewing experience. I chose the Smilebox® option (so named because the ratio actually resembles an enormous, wide mouthed smile) and was glad – by squeezing the mid screen and flaring the edges outward, the film keeps a more realistic view of the action. The letterboxes flat version seems stretched and optically crazed near the edges in certain shots, at least to me.

This release will most certainly get my vote for Best Restoration of the Year, and you should definitely own it. Warner Archive has again proven that someone there at the studio does still care about classic films and restoring them, as well as releasing them on physical media. Thanks, whoever you are!

 

Special Features
•    Rescuing a Fantasy Classic-Documentary (HD) New
•    The Epic Art of The Brothers Grimm (HD) New
•    The Wonderful Career of George Pal (HD) New
•    Trailers and more

Technical Specs
•    New 2022 1080p HD Masters from the 4K restoration of original Cinerama Camera Negatives
•    Two Disc Deluxe Special Edition
•    2-BD50s
•    Disc 1-Restored Cinerama image letterboxed
•    Disc 2-Restored Cinerama image in SMILEBOX® format, to approximate the curved theater screen experience in the home
•    Disc 1-Aspect Ratio 16×9 2.89 Letterbox
•    Disc 2-Aspect Ratio 16×9 2.89Smilebox®
•    140 Minutes-Roadshow presentation with Overture, Intermission, Entr’acte, and Exit Music.

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

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Retro Review: Lost Finnish Art/Vampire Movie THE WHITE REINDEER Gets a Rare Bite on the Big Screen at The Plaza Sat. Jan. 14

Posted on: Jan 11th, 2012 By:

 

Pirita (Mirjami Kuosmanen) takes a bite from the throat of an unsuspecting hunter in THE WHITE REINDEER (1952).

THE WHITE REINDEER (1952); Dir: Erik Blomberg; Starring Mirjami Kuosmanen; Introduced by Professor Morte (Silver Scream Spookshow) including ticket giveaway to Days of the Dead horror convention; a short audience discussion will follow the film by GSU Prof. John Decker; Sat. Jan. 14  7:30 p.m.; $8; Plaza Theatre;  Trailer here.

Art, foreign, horror and classic fantasy film buffs all will get a rare treat when lost award-winning 1952 Finnish movie THE WHITE REINDEER (“Valkoinen Peura”) gets an extremely rare return to the big screen at the Plaza Theatre on Sat. Jan. 14 at 7:30 pm., courtesy of the Scandinavian-American Foundation of Georgia (SAFG) and the Mythic Imagination Institute (MII). The first significant post-World War II Finnish film, THE WHITE REINDEER won a 1953 Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film and the Fairy Tale Award at the Cannes Film Festival from a jury led by Jean Cocteau (LA BELLE ET LA BETE). However, despite its critical acclaim and beautiful cinematography, the movie only had a limited U.S. theatrical release in the late 1950s and since then has been largely forgotten other than a recent appearance on French DVD (it’s not available from Netflix!), perhaps due to its unusual and enigmatic subject matter blending an art film sensibility, the shamanism/folklore of the indigenous, nomadic Lapland (Sami) people and the unlikely themes of shape-shifting and vampirism.

Those supernatural aspects have earned  THE WHITE REINDEER a cult reputation among classic horror movie fans, making it an extra special treat to have an intro by Professor Morte of the Silver Scream Spookshow, and if you need extra incentive, he’ll be handing out a few passes to Days of the Dead, the big horror con in Peachtree City March 9-11. However, as noted, don’t get scared off if you’re more intrigued by art and foreign films or the anthropology and folklore of Sami shamanism. The art and mythic elements will get their due in a short audience discussion after the film led by John Decker, assistant professor of art history at Georgia State University, whose academic interests range from religious and devotional imagery to the zombie apocalypse.  “Tales both of people transforming into deer and of vampirism span many cultures from Europe to Native Americans,” points out Honora Foah, president and creative director of the Mythic Imagination Institute. “Films are the folklore of our times, and we’re hoping this movie will launch an ongoing Mythic Movie series.”

It’s easy to see why Cocteau was drawn to THE WHITE REINDEER. The plot itself is a simple and archetypal tale of love lost and a spell gone tragically wrong.  A lonely and heartbroken Sami woman, Pirita (Mirjami Kuosmanen, who incidentally was the wife of director Erik Blomberg), turns to a shaman for help in reigniting the love of her husband, Aslak, who is more interested in herding reindeer than romancing his wife. But thanks to being born under the curse of the Midnight Sun, the sacrifice she must make to activate the love potion instead transforms her into a vengeful “White Reindeer,” a tantalizing prize for hunters who soon find themselves the prey as she reveals herself as a beautiful vampire.

A haunting reindeer graveyard in THE WHITE REINDEER (1952)

Vivid and vibrant may seem strange terms to describe a black-and-white movie, but Finnish director Erik Blomberg knows his cinematography (he has more credits for that on IMDB than directing). Vistas of the Sami people herding the reindeer in the snow, a sled race and a traditional wedding transport one effortlessly into the world of this Nordic culture which he has also covered as a documentarian. It’s also perhaps worth remembering that the Sami themselves dress colorfully, often in navy blue, trimmed with yellow, green and red.

But it’s Mirjami herself, as Pirita, who steals the screen with her haunting, emotive eyes. Perhaps the performances are a little over-emotional at points, like that of a silent film, and indeed, dialogue is sparse and simple consistent with the stoic Finns. Still, in the context of the fantastic theme and landscape, it’s easy to see those qualities as strength rather than weakness. If you do classify THE WHITE REINDEER as a vampire classic, that silent movie but with minimal sound visual quality is more reminiscent perhaps of Carl Theodor Dreyer‘s VAMPYR (1931), an early talkie which also has very little dialogue,  than of, say, the closer-to-contemporary Universal horror classics, Bela Lugosi’s eyes aside. Incidentally, Dreyer was Danish.

It's easy to forget Bela Lugosi's Eyes when you see Mirjami Kuosamanen in THE WHITE REINDEER (1952).

Finally, if there’s one more good reason to attend: proceeds benefit the two nonprofit sponsors, SAFG and MII, and the Plaza, Atlanta’s oldest continuously operating independent cinema, open since 1939, which is also a nonprofit organization. It runs just 67 minutes, too, so there’s still plenty of time to catch a band, such as the triple-header of The District Attorneys, featuring this week’s Kool Kat Drew Beskin, Tedo Stone and Modern Skirts at The Earl. In fact, you’ll see me at both The Plaza and The Earl, and most likely dining at the Majestic beforehand, too.

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