Thursday, June 17, 2010

Animated Hard-Boiled Noir

From the Curious Pictures profile on Osbert Parker:

Three-time British Academy Award nominated director Osbert Parker is perhaps best-known for his signature style of using cut-out animation mixed with live action to create one-of-a-kind imaginary landscapes within commercials and short films.

For the past three years Parker has been experimenting and crafting two short films that are receiving great acclaim on the international film festival circuit. “Film Noir” was nominated for best short animated film by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in 2006 and also was nominated for the Palm d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival that year. "Yours Truly," which received the best short animated film award at this year’s British Animation Awards, was also nominated for a BAFTA in 2008 and selected for Sundance. Both films have been screened at the Telluride Film Festival.

He is currently creating the third short in his “Noir” trilogy and developing a mixed-media feature.

I go back to these clips from YOURS TRULY and FILM NOIR on a regular basis. I think they are rich in texture and depth, being pregnant with many possibilities for story threads.

As an animator who started out in the 70's animating in stop motion, I have a special fondness for the medium and a deep appreciation of artists who utilize it well, such as Mr. Parker does. I do hope that once his third installment is completed that the trilogy will come available on DVD.

Here are the two clips I've probably worn a hole in youtube from over-watching.



Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Pulp Reader Gets Social

You can now subscribe to The Pulp Reader on Facebook. If it works correctly, you can become a "fan" of the page and you will start getting the latest Pulp Reader articles on your FB wall.

Click here and hit the "LIKE" button to subscribe!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Arsene Lupin: 813

It's Lupin time again folks. So far LeBlanc's seminal character has appeared twice at The Pulp Reader and is returning again today for the grand novel 813.

What garners this current return is the fact that Black Coat Press has just published a rather amazing book called ARSENE LUPIN VS. COUNTESS CAGLIOSTRO. This collects the Cagliostro cycle (the books COUNTESS CAGLIOSTRO and COUNTESS CAGLIOSTRO'S VENGENCE plus the short story The Queen's Necklace). The first book appeared in English in 1925 and has not been reprinted since, while VENGENCE has not previously been translated to English. Both books are new translations, which may be a good thing as the original THE MEMOIRS OF ARSENE LUPIN translated by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos was not completely faithful and even changed Lupin's original name of Raoul to the terribly mundane "Ralph".

What does this have to do with 813? Not much, but I have never read this story and so thought it'd be great to give it the Pulp Reader treatment while reading the Cagliostro books at home.

813 has had a few media treatments, first appearing in the 1920 American silent movie "813" starring Wedgwood Nowell as Lupin. A Japanese version was filmed in 1923, and later Japanese animation company Tatsunoko filmed an animated version in 1979 called "Kaitō Lupin - 813 no Nazo". Then finally in 1980 an acclaimed French mini-series called "Lupin joue et perd".

As a small aside, once again I want to give a nod to the 2004 movie ARSENE LUPIN. I found it to be highly entertaining with a plot that is maybe too complex for general movie-going American audiences and too effects laden and full of explosions for French audiences. This landed it in a no-man's land where it has suffered a lack of distribution in Region 1 DVD countries. Probably the only way to see it in the states is by finding the DVD on ebay or other secondary marketplaces like that.

One of my favorite type of reviews is one with a lot of historical insight into the subject at hand. As such I'd like to point to the able folks at who reviewed the movie several months ago.

Back to 813. As major as this novel is supposed to be, there is not a lot written about it. Therefore I've put up this chronology from Cool French Comics which gives the best rundown of story. It serves as a great hook to get you interested in this story. There are some SPOILERS so you may not want to read beyond the first paragraph if this concerns you.


April-June - The murder of millionaire Rudolf Kesselbach in Paris begins the prodigious affair of "813", Lupin's greatest epic. Kesselbach's secret may lead to the redrawing of the political map of Europe. Lupin's adversary is the mysterious "L.M.", or L de Malreich, a more-than-human, black-clad, merciless killer, whom Lupin refers to as the "Monster" or the "Vampire." L.M. eventually unmasks Lupin who was hiding behind the guise of Lenormand, and arranges for him to be arrested.

July-December - Lupin is thrown in jail, but continues the fight from his cell. He learns that the Kaiser has called upon Sherlock Holmes to solve the mystery of "813", but the great detective fails to solve the riddle. In August, the Kaiser arranges for Lupin to be freed. Lupin eventually finds the solution, but is outwitted again by Malreich. (Fairness forces one to acknowledge that Lupin solves the mystery in circumstances that may have given him an edge over Holmes.)

January-April - The "813" saga continues. Back in France, Lupin finally defeats Marcheich. (Or has he?) Devoured by megalomaniacal ambition, he uses his own daughter, Geneviève, to further his plans, against Victoire's wishes. He hopes to marry her to Pierre Leduc, the heir to the Duchy of Deux-Ponts-Valdenz. But Lupin's scheme eventually collapses: instead, Leduc falls in love with Dolores Kesselbach, whom Lupin also loves. Tragedy ensues, resulting in the deaths of both Dolores and Leduc, and the permanent alienation of Genevieve. A thoroughly depressed Lupin fakes his own death and disappears.
Okay, is your appetite whetted? Mine is!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Himan Brown, Developer of Radio Dramas, Dies at 99

By JOSEPH BERGER for The New York Times Published: June 6, 2010 A version of this article appeared in print on June 7, 2010, on page A21 of the New York edition Times Reader 2.0: Daily delivery of The Times - straight to your computer. Subscribe for just $4.62 a week.

Himan Brown, who long before there was television created immensely popular radio dramas like “The Adventures of the Thin Man” and “Dick Tracy,” employing an arsenal of beguiling sound effects that terrified or tickled the shows’ many listeners, died on Friday at his home in Manhattan. He was 99.

His granddaughter Melina Brown confirmed the death.

Another of Mr. Brown’s creations was the radio drama “Grand Central Station,” but probably his most memorable was “Inner Sanctum Mysteries,” whose ominous opening of a creaking door and menacing farewell of “pleasant dreams” became signatures not just of the show but also of the heyday of radio itself, when listeners sitting on the family sofa or curled under quilts attached their own fanciful images to the sounds coming out of a box that had no screen.

While radio dramas are now celebrated as wistful nostalgia by people in their 70s and 80s, Mr. Brown never stopped believing in the form. In 1974, when radio drama was all but extinct, he began a nightly series called CBS Radio Mystery Theater that ran until 1982 and even revived the creaking door. He continued to produce radio dramas about influential Americans into his 90s for Brooklyn College’s station.

“I am firmly convinced that nothing visual can touch audio,” Mr. Brown said in a 2003 interview, his eyes sparkling. “I don’t need 200 orchestra players doing the ‘Ride of the Valkyries.’ I don’t need car chases. I don’t need mayhem. All I need to do is creak the door open, and visually your head begins to go. The magic word is imagination.”

In his prime, in the 1930s and 1940s, he was a jack-of-all-trades, once estimating that he produced or participated in over 30,000 shows. He wrote and doctored scripts, sold shows to advertisers, and directed actors like Orson Welles, Helen Hayes, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre. As a teenager, he was the voice of the first Jake, Molly Goldberg’s husband, in the earliest version of the show about the Goldbergs, a homespun Jewish family in the Tremont section of the Bronx. But he also played the Italian father in another ethnic soap opera called “Little Italy.”

He became an expert in sounds that could instantly epitomize a character or a city. Foghorns and the clang of Big Ben became London. A belly laugh was a fat man.

“Grand Central Station,” an anthology show, was one of Mr. Brown’s first big hits, with its portentous opening declaring that the terminal was “the crossroads of a million private lives, a gigantic stage on which are played a thousand dramas daily.”

It was characteristic of his self-confidence that when listeners complained that the chugging sounds of a steam engine were not what you ordinarily heard at the terminal, he would reply: “You have your own Grand Central Station.”

Mr. Brown grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn, the son of immigrant tailors from the outskirts of Odessa in Ukraine. Yiddish was the dominant sound in his neighborhood, but also important was a violin, which his parents insisted he learn to play well. He was entranced by the idea of catching the next wave to success, and a shop teacher at Boys High School told him, “There’s a new thing now, radio.” He was told that he could hear WLW in Cincinnati with a copper wire wrapped around a Quaker Oats box.

“What a revelation that was right here in Brooklyn,” Mr. Brown said.

Having done some acting at a local synagogue dramatic club, he persuaded the young NBC station WEAF that he could read a newspaper column in a Yiddish dialect. One of his listeners was Gertrude Berg, the resourceful inventor of the Goldbergs. Within a year, and with his help packaging the show, “The Rise of the Goldbergs” started a run that with its conversion to television would last 30 years. But after six months, Mrs. Berg fired him, buying him out for $200, he said.

Mr. Brown continued to work in radio as an independent producer while attending Brooklyn College. At a time when companies financed shows and attached their names to them, he would try to sell a potential sponsor, like the Goodman’s matzo company, on an idea for a radio play and, if successful, put the show together. One result was “Bronx Marriage Bureau,” about a matchmaker.

The degree Mr. Brown received from Brooklyn Law School aided his ascent: it helped him acquire the rights to fictional characters like Dick Tracy, Flash Gordon, Bulldog Drummond and the Thin Man. “The Thin Man” also had a typical Brown touch: the sound of a pull on a lamp chain as the self-styled detectives Nick and Nora Charles went to bed. “It was as sexy as I could get,” he said.

As he prospered in radio, Mr. Brown became a perceptive art collector. The eight-room Central Park West apartment he shared with his first wife, Mildred Brown, and his second, Shirley Goodman, a force in the growth of the Fashion Institute of Technology, was filled with paintings by Renoir, Degas and Picasso.

Mr. Brown owned a weekend home in Stamford, Conn., where he once rented a studio out to a young writer, J. D. Salinger, who at the time was working on “Catcher in the Rye,” according to his granddaughter.

Both of Mr. Brown’s wives died before him. Besides Melina Brown, he is survived by a son, Barry K. Brown; a daughter, Hilda; another grandchild; and four great-grandchildren.

Mr. Brown did not weather the shift to television. He turned “Inner Sanctum” into a syndicated TV show, but it did not last. Once characters were visible, viewers were no longer enchanted. The creaky door had lost its spell.