Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Newest Additions to my Youtube Channel (music videos, live shows, film history, gaming)

I've recently added a few things to my Youtube Channel, which I'd like to link to here.

The first I'll mention is a video version of an article I recently wrote on the earliest science fiction films from 1895-1909.

I also uploaded a couple recordings of live music. One was shot by a friend of mine, Melissa Tarantola, at a Radiohead concert in 2012. The video is of the world premiere of their track "Full Stop".

The second was shot by me at a Clark concert this April in St. Louis, MO. Clark is a British electronic artist signed by Warp Records.

My channel featured an electronic track called "Oxycan" produced by a friend of mine from Columbia, MO who goes by the name of Beat Monk. 

I also made a video compilation showing the evolution of the Star Fox video game franchise.

Finally, I uploaded my unofficial music video for a track by VHS Head.

Please subscribe to my channel if you are so inclined.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Guide to Early Science Fiction Films (1910-1919)

This article is a sequel to a previous post of mine, The Earliest Science Fiction Films (1895-1909). The sci-fi movies of the 1910s will be covered this time.

I've also made a video version of this essay which can be seen here.

Our first notable science fiction flick of the decade comes in 1910, with an approximately 15 minute long adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. This was actually the first of many movie versions of the famed novel.

It was made by Thomas Edison's studio and directed by J. Searle Dawley. Dawley directed dozens of films from 1907 to 1926.

Frankenstein took awhile to shoot compared to most films of the day, due to the heavy special effects work. Various sources state filming took place from either three days or up to almost a week.

Apparently, the film diverged a lot from the source material. According to Wikipedia, "The production was deliberately designed to de-emphasize the horrific aspects of the story and focus '...upon the mystic and psychological problems that are to be found in this weird tale.'"

Furthermore, states, "One of those changes made to the narrative concerns the creation of Frankenstein’s monster. While Shelly’s novel did not go into specifics about the monster’s creation, the creation scene in the film certainly owes more to alchemy than science."

That same site also claims that Frankenstein was not well-received by audiences, saying that people didn't know what to make of the "weird story" because it was one of the earliest horror films. Apparently, some also objected to the "blasphemous" content.

The film was considered lost for decades, starting pretty much immediately after its release. It was rediscovered in the 1970s and publicly screened for the first time since its original release in 1993.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Earliest Science Fiction Films (1895-1909)

Science fiction films have been around almost as long as the medium itself.

The earliest film that could really be considered sci-fi in any way (to the best of my knowledge) is a 50 second short from 1895. It's called the Mechanical Butcher, with the original French title being La Charcuterie mécanique.

The simple premise is that a butcher has a fantastical machine that can convert a pig into sausages. However, upon viewing the film, it seems the butcher is simply a charlatan. So this film's status as science fiction is dubious. According to Wikipedia, it has been cited as the first sci-fi film at least once, by Phil Hardy in The Overlook Film Encyclopedia.

It was made by the highly influential French directors, the Lumière Brothers.

The next contender for the title of first SF film is Gugusse and the Automaton, from 1897. Like the previous short, it was a French work made by a famous director. This time it was Georges Méliès, who was a cinematic pioneer in many ways, including his groundbreaking work with special effects.

 Gugusse is about a robot, and is supposedly the first film to feature one. A book titled  Things to Come: An Illustrated History of the Science Fiction Film said that this "may be the first true SF film."

Sadly, the film is assumed to be lost as of now, as is the case many of that era.

Méliès also directed the next film I'll discuss, which is undoubtedly science fiction and is the one most often described as the first SF movie. I'm talking of course about A Trip to the Moon, or La Voyage dans la Lune in the original French.

As you may imagine it's about astronauts taking a trip to the earth's moon. They encounter fantastical aliens there, and the film is the source of the famous image of the moon with a face getting hit by a spaceship. The plot has been cited as being influenced by the work of Jules Verne.

This is definitely the most well-known film from Méliès (who also starred in the film), as well as one of the most famous silent films in general. At 13 minutes, it was his longest film yet, and probably his most complex, taking three months to film.

A Trip to the Moon is over the top, but intentionally so, and this is a big part of what makes it so entertaining. Everything is very stylized and theatrical (Méliès began his career in the theater). Fitting the theatrical style, each scene is played out in a wide shot with a stationary camera. There are no close ups and no continuity editing.

Méliès wanted to release the film in America, but Thomas Edison's company secretly made pirated copies of it. When it was shown in the United States, all the money went to Edison instead of Méliès. It was a huge hit so it would have probably helped Méliès stave off his eventual bankruptcy.

Despite its popularity, A Trip to the Moon was actually considered lost for awhile. Méliès was somewhat forgotten until a resurgence of interest in his work in the late 1920s. By 1930, there were two extant copies of the film, but they were both incomplete. It was actually not until 1997 that it was completely reconstructed. There was even a hand-colored print found in 2002.

As a film about space travel, it is the first film featuring classic science fiction themes. I would consider it to be the first true sci-fi movie.