Day: September 26, 2010

Re-contextualize yourself.

Here’s end-of-the-month video progress report #4. Fair warning — there’s probably more profanity here than there’s been in any of the other progress report videos thus far, even if most of it comes from a certain little purple guy.

I think it’s the best one yet. While there are still some choppy edits and a lot of it is me talking to the camera, it’s broken up significantly more than before, and in a whole new way. I hit on the idea of inserting bits of old movies in places where they may be relevant (or completely irrelevant, depending on the desired context). This is not exactly a bold new idea, but I think it works better for what I’m doing than it has any right to.

I got the random idea yesterday to take a look at what films have fallen into the public domain (thanks, Wikipedia), and to my surprise one of the first titles I came across was Bride of the Gorilla. From what I’d read, this was some sort of wretched monster movie (the title kind of gives off that impression, no?), but it was also a starring vehicle for Barbara Payton, who had a very brief and tumultuous relationship with Hollywood before her life took a steep dive into intense tragedy — making the movie more interesting to me than it might have been otherwise.

I don’t suggest you do any reading up about her if you’re easily depressed, because the trajectory of her life and career is very sad. I recently picked up a book about her called Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye that’s supposed to be the be-all and end-all of Barbara-related writing, and I’ll get around to digging into it sometime soon. In the meantime, I wondered if this particular movie might be available on the internet, even though it isn’t supposed to be one of the better things she was involved in. Surprise, surprise — the whole thing is up on YouTube, broken up into about six ten-minute sections.

It’s not half as horrible as some people would have you believe. I mean, it’s not something that’s ever going to be confused with a great film, but it’s a fun little B-movie with a few nice bits of dialogue, and Barbara Payton and Raymond Burr aren’t hard on the eyes. The special effects — what there are of them — are amateurish even for the time (this movie was made in 1951), but somehow that almost works in the film’s favour. A lot is implied rather than directly shown, and when we do see the “gorilla” in full costume at the very end of the movie, it’s a little anticlimactic.

The title is misleading, because this isn’t really a monster movie at all. It’s more of a morality tale. Here I was expecting a giant ape to kidnap Barbara and for her to spend most of the movie screaming her head off. Instead the monstrous transformation seems to be happening inside the mind of the Raymond Burr character. We only see the changes he’s experiencing through his eyes until the very last scene, and no one else notices anything out of the ordinary happening to him physically through the whole movie. To everyone else he just seems to be going batshit crazy.

Again, it’s not a work of high art (there’s an amusing review over here, with a hilarious and dead-on description of the character Raymond Burr plays), but it’s fun to watch and short enough not to outstay its welcome. I didn’t regret watching the whole thing when it was over, and that’s saying something. I also lucked out and found a good selection of snippets I was able to take out of context and bend to my purpose.

The great thing about art that’s in the public domain is having the freedom to manipulate it any way you like without worrying about the copyright police coming after you and demanding bags of money for using five seconds of material. I got a serious kick out of picking out fragments of the movie to insert here and there so a character would comment on or respond to something I said, or just putting a bit of music on top of a scene and leaving the dialogue muted. The footage that’s accompanied by “Blue Moon” almost works as a bizarre mini-music video. I think it might become a recurring thing in future videos. There are an awful lot of old movies in the public domain, and I imagine more than a few of them are available in some form online, probably for that very reason.

It’s strange how this works out. I never spend more than a day or two filming bits of things to use for these video progress reports, and sometimes I don’t think I have much to talk about. But each one develops its own personality, and every time things get a little more adventurous in one way or another. It’ll be interesting to see how far things have progressed by the time we get to progress report #10. I predict even more stuffed animals and a recurring guest spot for Elliott. Maybe someday I’ll even invest in some video editing software that’s halfway decent so I can get rid of those choppy moments altogether.

As for the intro — that’s some improvised riffing on an idea that will probably soon be fleshed out into a proper song, and there’s a good chance it’ll end up on the next album somewhere. Every time I pull out that Strat and give it some action I remember how much I like that guitar. I guess one of the benefits of having too many guitars but being a player and not a “collector” is always having an instrument or six to dust off and reacquaint yourself with. It’s a little bit like Christmas every few weeks.