Tag Archive: Silent Cinema


For my own Blogathon, I decided to work on the famous/infamous 60’s piece of satire by Stanley Kubrick, Dr Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), made at the height of the cold war, about an accidental American nuclear mission to blow up the then communist Soviet Union (USSR).
Dr. Strangelove pix 3The plot
Dr Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was made and set at the height of the cold war, a time when there was no actual physical warfare, but political and military tensions arose between the communist countries of the Eastern bloc and the Western powers (NATO headed by the United States); hence known as the Cold War. A crazed general, Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) secretly orders a surprise nuclear attack on Russia (USSR). Everyone, from the President of the United States, President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers) to General Ripper’s aid, RAF exchange officer, Group Captain Mandrake (Peter Sellers again), fruitlessly try to stop the bombing. A bombing which may cause a Doomsday scenario, ridding the entire planet Earth of it’s inhabitants. Which is a fact confirmed by, the very sinister looking, Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers yet again), the President’s advisor. Thus ensues a hilarious battle of the wits.

'The War Room'

‘The War Room’

The Art Décor
The set designs are beyond impressive. Especially the ‘War Room’ at The Pentagon in Washington D.C. (Arlington County, Virginia), USA, where the President and his men discuss how to avert the impending crisis. The room is so well designed, futuristic in style (also remember the movie was made at the height of the Space Age, which brought about an important facet towards the Cold War), it feels like a space station. And supposedly when actor Ronald Regan became the President of the United States in 1981, he had wanted to see the ‘War Room’, which existed in the movie, Dr. Strangelove. Alas!!! was he disappointed to find out that such a thing didn’t exist.
Added to that, the interiors of the flight is very impressive, as is the mirrored bedroom of Miss Scott (Tracy Reed) and the offices at the Air Force Base. Though set in the States, this British-American film was entirely made in England, United Kingdom.
Besides the art décor, the cinematography is an added bonus with beautiful aerial shots of snow capped mountains to the ice bergs on the ocean floor.

PETER SELLERS TRIPLE ROLE Top Left: as President Merkin Muffley Bottom Left: as Dr. Strangelove Right (Top & Bottom): as Captain Lionel Mandrake

PETER SELLERS TRIPLE ROLE
Top Left: as President Merkin Muffley
Bottom Left: as Dr. Strangelove
Right (Top & Bottom): as Captain Lionel Mandrake

Trio of Sellers
Peter Sellers does a triple role of three very varied characters in Dr Strangelove.

(i) Sellers plays President Merkin Muffley, the President of the United States, the only serious character is this dark comedy. Ironic, considering the fact that Sellers is known more as a comedian than a serious actor. Though President Merkin Muffley is a very serious character, with a slight (non-comical) cold, his tongue in cheek name suggests otherwise. The bald president is named  Merkin, and a merkin is actually a pubic wig. Added to that he does have some interesting dialogues, like “Gentleman, you can’t fight in here. This is the War Room”. Peter Sellers improvises a lot of his dialogues with the three characters he plays.

(ii) Sellers plays Captain Lionel Mandrake. This the most recognisable Sellers character, as a Brit, serving the British crown and country. Added to that his appearance, with his famous moustache intact, he feels more Peter Sellers than any of the other characters he plays.

(iii) Last but not the least, Sellers plays Dr. Strangelove, the presidents scientific advisor, an ex-Nazi scientist. Most probably recruited through ‘Operation Paperclip’, through which many a German scientists, technicians et al, from Nazi Germany and other countries, were brought into the United States, post World War – II, for employment beneficial to the United States. Dr. Strangelove is the most intriguing character, as the name suggests. His actual German name happens to be Dr. Merkwürdigliebe, which he apparently changed to it’s literal English meaning, i.e. Strangelove, when he became an American citizen. He is a proper avant-garde sinister character with a disability. We see the menacing Dr. Strangelove to be wheelchair bound, which adds to his sinister character. Sellers modelled this character after the character of ‘Rotwang’ from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), my favourite silent film without sound, and my favourite film from the Roaring 20’s. Adding to the appearance of this disturbing character, Sellers is seen wearing one glove, a black glove that belonged to director Stanley Kubrick. Recognising the connection to Lang’s work, Sellers borrowed one of Kubrick’s black gloves, which he felt naturally menacing. Dr. Strangelove is by far the best interpretation of a evil comical genius by Sellers in the movie. The character has a unique German accent that adds to his threatening appearance. And the character slowly losing the control of his gloved hand, due to ‘diagnostic apraxia’ or ‘alien hand syndrome’, a rare neurological disorder that causes hand movements without a person having control over it’s actions, adds to the hilarity of the situation at hand (Pun intended).

'Dr. Strangelove'

‘Dr. Strangelove’

The rest of the lead Cast & the characters they play
Besides Sellers, George C. Scott is hilarious as the very childish, immature and the heavily bellied, General Buck Turgidson. His surname itself suggests his pompous and pretentious personality. He also has false pride and a fake sense of patriotism, which finds him jubilant at the prospects of bombing down the communist nation.

Sterling Hayden is superb as the eccentric, paranoid, extremist, ultra-nationalist. His charcter genuinely believes in a conspiracy theory by the communists to impurify the “precious bodily fluids” of Americans, through Water fluoridation. Apparently it’s a Russian conspiracy to pacify people so that they would easily trust authority. The name Jack D. Ripper is an obvious synonym to the notorious Jack the Ripper of 19th Century England (London).

Major T. J. “King” Kong, Piloting the Air Force flight, was initially to be played by Peter Sellers himself, but was replaced by Slim Pickens, once Sellers, who had been reluctant at first at the work load anyway, sprained his ankle and could not work in the cramped cockpit set.

Keenan Wynn as a clueless Colonel Bat Guano, with a permanent horrified look on his face, is funny character himself. One interesting scene is, when he has to shoot off a coca cola machine in the bullet riddled Air Force building, he initially refuses stating it’s “private property”.

Also check out a young James Earl Jones in his debut performance as a Lieutenant Lothar Zogg, the B-52 bombardier.

'Miss Scott'

‘Miss Scott’

Sexual Connotations
The movie is filled with some really interesting sexual innuendoes via man made devices portrayed in very suggestive modes. One of the best sexual imagery is right at the beginning, as the credits role in. One plane is shown fuelling another, with very romantic music going on in the background. It literally looks like two flying insects mating up in the air. Could be a metaphor on the two heads of states trying to get on well together, a bit too intimately, during a crisis. Then there is a bomb falling towards it’s orgasmic end, with a man riding on it, waving his cowboy hat. Pretty homoerotic, to see a man riding a phallic shaped object hurling downwards. It’s hilariously intended to look overtly sexual, and apparently Stanley Kubrick confirmed it.
Ironically the bikini clad Tracy Reed (in her introductory role), as General Turgidson’s secretary and mistress, the only female character in the entire male oriented movie, is the least sexual impression in Dr Strangelove, besides her semi-nude centrefold, aptly nicknamed ‘Miss Foreign Affairs’, shown through a Playboy magazine.

Screening Delay
A private screening of the film was scheduled for the 22nd of November, 1963, the same day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The film was just weeks from its scheduled premiere. But due to the assassination the release was ultimately delayed until January 1964.

Award Nominations
The film was nominated for four Oscars. For ‘Best Picture’, ‘Best Director’ to Stanley Kubrick, for Peter Sellers a ‘Best Actor’ nomination, and ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’ for Stanley Kubrick, Peter George and Terry Southern. The movie won none. After all My Fair Lady (1964), well deservedly garnered the top three awards; for ‘Best Picture’, ‘Best Director’ for George Cukor, and a ‘Best Actor’ win for Rex Harrison; that year. And the historical epic Becket (1964), definitely deserved the award for ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’.

None the less, Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) is among the greatest movies ever made. And it’s definitely worth checking out.

My Rating
Excellent !!!!! 10/10.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
60's c

60's dTo my fellow Bloggers,
Do check out my previous post The Essential 60’s Blogathon. There is still time to take part in this blogathon, if you are interested.
Thanking you
Yours sincerely
Nuwan Sen

Shree Pundalik (1912), the very first Indian movie, was released 102 years ago today, on the 18th of May, 1912.

Ram Chandra Gopal Torne (a.k.a. Dadasaheb Torne)
Though Shree Pundalik; a silent film directed by Ram Chandra Gopal Torne (a.k.a. Dadasaheb Torne); happens to be the very first Indian movie made, yet since the film negatives, of about 1,500 feet and about 22 minutes long, was sent to London for processing, most Indians argue that Shree Pundalik does not deserve the honour of being known as the first Indian film ever made. Added to that, the cameraman was an Englishman, named Johnson. Of course this was during India’s Freedom struggle against the British Raj, so it makes sense at the time. But today, it’s absurd to think like that.

Since Shree Pundalik, hasn’t been given it’s due recognition till date, it was only last year, on 3rd May 2013, that India celebrated it’s centenarian of Indian Cinema. 100 years since the icon Dadasaheb Phalke’s silent film, Raja Harishchandra (1913), which was released publicly on 3rd May 1913 (but actually premiered on 21st April 1913, to a selected audience, including famous personalities of Bombay, at the time). Even though there were a few other films released between Shree Pundalik and Raja Harishchandra.

Raja Harishchandra  (1913)

Raja Harishchandra (1913)

Raja Harishchandra, was also the first Marathi film ever, made with inter-titles in Hindi and English. The whole cast and crew were from Maharashtra, and no other Indian states and no Englishman or other foreigners worked on this movie. The movie was completely made in India itself. Thus, the 40 minute long, Raja Harishchandra was considered the very first Indian movie ever released in India.

But today Shree Pundalik (1912), and Dadasaheb Torne, both should be given their long due credit.

Even though I am yet to watch either of these films, no matter which is a better movie, to me Shree Pundalik will be the first Indian movie (Hindi Film) ever made, and Raja Harishchandra, the very first Marathi movie ever made, and the first all Indian movie ever made. I’d love to watch both these movies.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

85 years ago today, on the 16th of May 1929, the 1st Academy Awards ceremony was held, honouring the best films of 1927 and 1928, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, California, USA.
Chaplin Oscar win 1929
Hosted by Douglas Fairbanks, with only 270 people in attendance, the event and the presentation ceremony lasted only 15 minutes, with a private dinner held at the hotel itself. It’s the one and only Academy Awards ceremony which was not broadcast, either on radio or television. With only twelve categories, winners were announced 3 months in advance, before the live event.

Wings (1927), won the Oscar for ‘Best Outstanding Picture’, and is the only silent movie, with no sound, to win the ‘Best Picture Oscar’ till date. It also won the Academy Award for ‘Best Engineering Effects’.

Lewis Milestone, won for ‘Best Director, Comedy Picture’ for Two Arabian Knights (1927); and Frank Borzage for ‘Best Director, Dramatic Picture’ for 7th Heaven (1927).
JG Oscar wins 1929
Emil Jannings bagged the ‘Best Actor’ award, with a tie, for two films; The Way of All Flesh (1927) and The Last Command (1928).

Janet Gaynor won the ‘Best Actress’ award, a tie for three films; 7th Heaven (1927), Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) and Street Angel (1928).

Charlie Chaplin and Warner Brothers, each received a Special ‘Honorary Award’ for their contribution to Cinema. Chaplin would later win yet another ‘Honorary Award’, at the Academy Awards in 1972.

Happy 85th Birth Anniversary to the Oscars.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

My Favourite movie by decade, My Favourite Oscar Winner per decade (Oscar 2014 Special)
RH NS
Back in April 2011, I made a list titled My Favourite movie by decade, and in November 2012, I made a list titled Why I love …., comprising of my TOP-10 all time favourite movies, and critiquing on each one of them, on IMDB.
This evening, prior to watching this years Oscars, which will be shown live tomorrow early morning (i.e. tonight in the United States), I decided to do a post, both about my Favourite movie from each decade and my Favourite Oscar Winner per decade. For my Favourite movie from each decade is not necessarily the Best film of the decade, neither is it necessarily an Oscar Winner for ‘Best Picture’.

Three Centuries, Ten decades (I’ve omitted out the first two decades of the 20th century, for I don’t have a favourite from those two decades so far)

PRE-OSCARS
The 19th Century
1890’s
L’arrivée d’un train à La Ciotat (1895)
French Film (Silent Cinema)
The very first moving picture made, by the two Lumière brothers, Auguste and Louis Lumière. It just showcased a train coming to a platform and stopping. Sadly, like the Birth of a child, which starts with a frightened baby crying his/her lungs out, the Birth of Cinema, was marked with tragedy. People had never seen a moving picture before, and when the audience saw a train approaching towards them, on the Big screen, they started to run. So Lumière Brothers’ L’arrivée d’un train à La Ciotat resulted in a tragic stampede.
I saw this film, most probably somewhere in the 90’s, when I accidentally came across a documentary about cinema, on the telly. I don’t recall the documentary, for it was late one night, and I couldn’t watch the rest of the programme, but at least I got to watch the very first film ever made, and learn about the tragic aftermath. I haven’t seen this movie since, worth checking out for any movie buff.

The 20th Century  
1920’s
Metropolis (1927)
German Film (Silent Cinema)
An excellent German Expressionism, avant-garde, surreal, science fiction, cinematic wonder. I got to watch this classic on the big screen, back in 2007, at the Sydney public library, Sydney, Australia. I fell in love with this movie, set in a futuristic urban dystopia, almost instantly. And in 2008, when I was in Paris, France; I saw the metallic costume worn by actress Brigitte Helm, who played the lead female character, and the female android; when I visited the Cinémathèque Française there.
Metropolis (1927)
POST-OSCARS
The very first Academy Awards was held in May 1929. The winner for the most ‘Outstanding Picture’ Oscar (which was later, after going through many a name changes, from 1944 to 1961, known as the ‘Best Motion Picture’ award, and from 1962 onwards, till date, is known as the ‘Best Picture’ award), went to the silent venture, Wings (1927). Am yet to watch this silent classic, that bagged the very first Best film award. The oldest Best Picture winner I’ve watched is All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), which was excellent. Thus, my favourite Oscar winner from the end of the roaring 20’s, and the best, is All Quiet on the Western Front, which was the first film to win awards for both, ‘Outstanding Production’ (award name for Best Film at the time) and ‘Best Director’.

1930’s
Gone with the Wind (1939), my favourite movie of the 1930’s, my favourite Oscar Winner of that decade, and the Best Film to come out in that decade. My second all time favourite movie.

1940’s
Casablanca (1942), my favourite movie from the 1940’s, my favourite Oscar Winner of that decade, and the Best Film to come out in that decade. My third all time favourite movie.
1950's
1950’s
Roman Holiday (1953) – My Favourite movie from the 1950’s, also happens to be my all time favourite movie. Audrey Hepburn, my all time favourite film star, bagged the ‘Best Actress’ Oscar for Roman Holiday.
Special mention: Ben-Hur (1959), my Favourite Oscar Winner, and the Best Film, to come out of the 1950’s. (Also see my lists 50-50’s, The Foxy Fifties, These are a Few of my Favourites, Hepburn flicks through pictures and many more on IMDB)

1960’s
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) – My Favourite movie from the 1960’s.
My Fair Lady (1964) is my favourite Oscar Winner from the sizzling 60’s.
Special mention: I think François Truffaut’s, French new wave flick, Jules et Jim (1962), is the Best film of that decade, which also happens to be my second favourite film from the 1960’s. (Also see my lists The Essential 60’s (Top 60), The Late 60’s (1966-1970) öö, My Top 5 Musicals from the sizzling 60’s & 70’s and many more on IMDB)
60's
1970’s
A Clockwork Orange (1971) – My Favourite movie from the 1970’s, and the best film of that decade.
The Godfather: Part II (1974), is my favourite Oscar Winner from the suave n’ sophisticated 70’s. A very masculine decade for film, with a blend of classy and thuggery. The Godfather: Part II, also happens to be my second favourite from the 70’s. (Also see my lists My 70’s Top 5 and The Great 70’s Picture Show on IMDB)

1980’s
Rain Man (1988) is my favourite movie of the 1980’s, my favourite Oscar Winner of that decade.
Special mention: Another Oscar winner, which I feel is the Best Film to come out in the 1980’s, is, the epic scale, bio-pic, of a modern day saint, directed by Richard Attenborough. The British film, Gandhi (1982). The 1980’s were a great decade for British, Historical and Heritage, films.
The 1980's
1990’s
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), is my favourite movie from the naughty 90’s.
Forrest Gump (1994), which also happens to be my second favourite from the 90’s, is my favourite Oscar Winner from that decade.
Special mention: Schindler’s List (1993), my third favourite from the 90’s, yet another Oscar winner, I feel, is the Best Film of that decade. (Also see my list The Nineteen Nineties (Top-5) on IMDB)

The 21st Century  
2000’s (2001-2010)
From the first decade of the 21st century, my favourite flick happens to be,  Closer (2004).
A Beautiful Mind (2001), my favourite Oscar winner from the last decade.
Special mention: Brokeback Mountain (2005), is the Best film to come out of the noughties. The Biggest mistake the Oscars made, this century, was not handing the ‘Best Picture’ Oscar to this gay themed epic.

This Decade
From this decade, which is only just over three years old, so far my favourite film, favourite Oscar winner and the Best Film, happens to be, The Artist (2011), a great tribute to early cinema and the roaring 20’s. One of my favourite silent films with sound.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
(Also see nuwansdel_02 , for the menu page, for all my list on IMDB)

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