Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Regular readers know that I love movies, and I love computers.

That said, I'm getting to the point where I'm not so sure I love the combination.

This morning, I've been watching the 1962 spectacle Taras Bulba and WOW! It really makes me long for the pre CGI days of film.

A cast of thousands, literally. It just has something that the teeming hoards we see in films today seems to lack.

Could it be realism? Or maybe it's that the sheer numbers, while huge, are still believable.

It seems that film makers today feel the need to have a cast of hundreds of thousands. I believe they think they will stagger us with the multitudes they put on the screen rather than with the storytelling and close ups that make a film seem so real.

Just my thoughts.

While I'm on this subject, other films that (for me) illustrate the wonder of pre-CGI include El Cid (1961), Spartacus (the 1960 Kirk Douglas version) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962). These films are truly thrilling in their scope and majesty.

Wow, I just realized these are all 1960s films, maybe the height of spectacle in pre-CGI moviemaking.

But we can go back even further. Have you seen a 1930 film called the Big Trail? If spectacle is your thing, you owe it to yourself to see this movie.

Starring an incredibly young John Wayne, and filmed in eye popping 70mm wide screen by a young Raoul Walsh, this film is a true wonder to behold. A western, it tells two tales, one of revenge and another of a wagon train making the westward journey.

What sets this aside is the fact that, made in 1930, they pretty literally had to actually make the journey west in order to make the film. With locations including the Mississippi River, the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone National Park, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the National Buffalo Range in Montana, the deserts of Arizona, the rivers of Oregon and the forests of California, what can I say?

And when they show pioneers lifting those wagons over those cliffs and bracing them down those mountainsides, people are really doing it. Now that's moviemaking!

If you haven't seen this film, you really should, it's a wonder on many levels.

And while I'm talking about movies, I'll conclude with another pre-CGI film that always amazes me.

That would be Darby O'Gill and the Little People.

Have you ever seen it? While it's loaded with great actors (including the awesome Albert Sharpe and a beautiful, young Sean Connery), it also features a boatload of amazing effects from a time when they had to figure these things out without the use of computers.

Take a look at those shots of the leprechauns when they're in King Brian's Hall, then watch the special on the DVD and be amazed at the lengths they went to for these classic shots.

Add this to a delightful story, beautiful scenery, fine acting, a few thrills, some scares and a ton of charm, and you have a great film. Watch it and I think you'll agree.

They just don't seem to be making them like this anymore.

Or maybe I'm just getting old.

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