So I decided to watch some classic scifi this week...

Discussion in 'Fan Productions' started by SITZKRIEG!, Mar 15, 2021.

  1. SITZKRIEG!

    SITZKRIEG! Commander Red Shirt

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    For some reason that I'm not yet personally aware of, I decided to seek out and watch the original (or technically the 1960's compilations of) Flash Gordon series. I'd long heard about how influential this serial was (along with the original Buck Rogers as well) so I figured I'd give it a go to have some first hand experience with it.

    What suprised me the most was that I couldn't shake the feeling that it most reminded me of modern scifi fan films in terms of pacing, script, and acting. I'm referring to the true FAN films as opposed to professional productions emulating the 60's or 90's shows staring veteran actors (both from trek or other IPs). The lack of to incredibly rushed setup for both plot and characters, the stilted infodump dialog, seemingly one take action scenes with no real literal impact, etc remind me of the recent (i.e. last 10 years) of Trek fan films.

    There isn't a way of saying this without it coming off as too negative (and I do truly enjoy fan films for what they are... fans doing their best living out their fantasies communally for others to enjoy) but I really couldn't stop seeing the comparisons. I suppose the limitations (both time and financial) of those old serials were similar to what the most funded true fan films experience today but I figured I'd mention it here and see what others think.

    If you're interested in watching them legally for free, they're on https://www.imdb.com/tv/ under the scifi movies section. I watched the original one where Flash, Dale, and the professor go to Mongo the first time. It's also available likely on most amazon prime streaming apps since Amazon owns IMDB.
     
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  2. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    Interesting observation. Those serials were considered kiddie fodder and I doubt a lot of time was spent writing them...or much time spent on anything at all.

    The 30s were a weird time in movies, because sound equipment made the cameras bigger and unwieldy and the art of cinematography hit a speed bump because of it, so you went from all this beautiful moving camera stuff in the late silent era to these stogy productions where the camera almost never moved and things played out a lot more like a stage play. Given the speed at which serials were churned out, such ham-fistedness is unsurprising.
     
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  3. SITZKRIEG!

    SITZKRIEG! Commander Red Shirt

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    Assuming that the youtube retrospective I also watched was accurate, you'd be both correct and incorrect in equal measure! Specifically, the first Flash Gordon serial (the 1936 first one that starts with the Planet of Peril) was actually a high budget (for its time) production to see if big budget serials could be profitable but was filmed quickly and reused existing props/sets to speed up production and save money. I didn't pay attention to camera movement but I'll try to watch that when I get to the followup ones. Is there a technical reason why the cinematography changed so much? Did the switch to cameras that recorded sound increase the bulk significantly compared with the silent era?

    One other thing that I didn't mention is that I wasn't aware that the original Flash and Buck Rogers (also a serial but from the early 40's) were actually played by the same actor. I have to say I was surprised by his appearance as he looked like a much later 1980's action star in terms of a square jaw and muscular physique compared with what you normally see in leading men from the 30's and 40's.

    To kind of bring it back to
     
  4. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk Cartoon Premium Member

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    Well he was an athlete first. An Olympic swimmer with a gold medal for the 400 meters freestyle.
     
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  5. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    Most silent era cameras were shoebox sized affairs, and most hand-cranked. Very small and lightweight and easy to move around or strap to a moving vehicle or whatever. Sound required a much large camera with (to us primitive) audio recording equipment. The sound of the cameras themselves often got picked up by the mics, so in many cases they buried the cameras inside shells/blimps/barneys to keep the clatter of the film being recorded from wrecking the soundtrack.
     
  6. SITZKRIEG!

    SITZKRIEG! Commander Red Shirt

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    Sorry, I missed that part on mobile but thanks for elaborating. I'm curious if anyone else ends up watching some of the classic serials and comes back with the same opinion. For example, the fight scenes in the recent Avalon fan film reminded me more of what I saw in Flash than it did of the TOS western style fist fights.
     
  7. Kor

    Kor Admiral Admiral

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    Did your post get cut off here?

    Kor
     
  8. SITZKRIEG!

    SITZKRIEG! Commander Red Shirt

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    It did! It was basically what I eventually wrote/asked about in the follow up post.
     
  9. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    <indicates Edit button> :D
     
  10. XCV330

    XCV330 Admiral

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    a couple of examples that come to mind of silent era films that are amazing compared to what came later, are the 1916 20,000 Leagues. In some ways I like it better than that 50's Disney film.

    and of course Wings.
     
  11. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    Wings is astounding because in a lot of shots of the actors in their cockpits they used two-seater airplanes with the actor in one and a proper pilot in the other, and the pilot would duck down out of shot so you see the actors actually up in the air, and I believe some actually flew the planes briefly during their shots, so what you see is largely not cheated with effects...those actors are actually up there.

    Speaking of old school moviemaking, remember how they used to advertise "a cast of thousands?" Well, quite often they weren't kidding. Check out this cast sheet for a day of shooting on Spartacus, which I photographed at the Stanley Kubrick Exhibition a few years back:

    IMG_5242.jpg

    That's 5,765 people and over 250 horses for "atmosphere" for a single day of shooting! No CGI armies there.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2021
  12. XCV330

    XCV330 Admiral

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    I really like the restored version. Beautiful quality, and yes, the air action scenes are amazing knowing those really are WWI pilots doing the flying. And it's a good movie all around. I know some people don't like the special effects added in, but it doesnt bother me either way. There is an unrestored copy on archive.org but it may be missing a reel. Not sure.
     
  13. SITZKRIEG!

    SITZKRIEG! Commander Red Shirt

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    Nah, lazy cut and past finger pecking on a mobile device IIRC.
     
  14. SITZKRIEG!

    SITZKRIEG! Commander Red Shirt

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    I think it would have been easier to just list Sparacus... 5,765. Or was that a different scene? :)
     
  15. SITZKRIEG!

    SITZKRIEG! Commander Red Shirt

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    I'm unfamiliar with that one unless you're referring to the Tony Shalhoub comedy sitcom set on Nantucket island... probably not though. :) I'll have to look that one up but I doubt I'll find much similarity to fan films though unlike my surprise while watched Flash Gordon.
     
  16. XCV330

    XCV330 Admiral

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    it's an epic drama involving the air war in WWI, a love triangle, etc. The action scenes in it are some of the most amazing ever seen in a movie, modern or old. It won the first Oscar for best picture, and was the only silent film to do so.

    the famous kiss scene


    one of the dogfights
    how much the dogfights influenced Lucas, I don't know. The film was lost for some years until the 90's, and the negative is long gone. Paramount restored it a few years ago. BTW, the color you will see for the flames is correct but had to be added back in.
     
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  17. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    I doubt they influenced Lucas much since the film was rarely seen. He was definitely aping The Dam Busters and likely The Battle of Britain. Star Wars really was a pastiche.
     
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  18. SITZKRIEG!

    SITZKRIEG! Commander Red Shirt

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    Those scenes look a lot crisper than I was expecting for the age. I wonder how much the restoration process factors into that compared with films that weren't lost for decades and were just copied over without a restoration.
     
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  19. SITZKRIEG!

    SITZKRIEG! Commander Red Shirt

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    I just watched this video and I definitely wasn't expecting some of the camera movements and placements highlighted here. Impressive! I fully admit my knowledge of B&W cinema is hardly exhaustive beyond watching old Bob Hope and Bing Crosby buddy films but I was expecting very limited cinematography in silent films (mostly static shots).

     
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  20. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    As I was saying, cinematography took at hit with the introduction of sound. There was a lot of sophisticated camera work in the late silent era. Cecil B. Demille's silent epics are REALLY epic, even if ham fisted in the extreme.

    And did you notice the lesbian couple in the big truck in scene over the tables at the Folies Bergère?

    I am a big fan of silent film...some of my favorite comedies are silents. There's a 1926 film called What Happened to Jones starring Reginald Denny with a small but unforgettable part by ZaZu Pitts that is a scream.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2021
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