American Cinema

The Birds (1963): ‘Risseldy Rosseldy’

A couple of early incidents featuring agitated lone gulls – a swift strike as Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) prepares to dock her motorboat, and another which annihilates itself in the Brenner front door – progress into a fully-fledged attack on Cathy Brenner’s (Veronica Cartwright) birthday party, as the youngster celebrates turning twelve. Later that evening a swarm of sparrows invade the Brenner home through…

August Film: Detour Analysis

The production of Edgar G. Ulmer’s 1945 film noir classic Detour is as fabled as the picture itself: reportedly shot over anything from two days up to four six-day weeks, on a small budget costing somewhere between $20,000 and $100,000. Ulmer himself, in an interview given in 1972, asserted that the film took six days to shoot. Yet it subsequently spent more than six…

August Film: Detour (1945)

  Detour 68 minutes | 30 November 1945 | United States ‘Man is involved in two freakish accidents that make him look like a murderer. Poverty row masterwork that is the most precise elucidation of the noir theme of explicit fatalism.’ – Spencer Selby Director: Edgar G. Ulmer Producer: Leon Fromkess Screenplay: Martin Goldsmith Based On: Martin Goldsmith’s 1939 novel Detour: An Extraordinary Tale Starring: Tom…

The Birds (1963): Storyboarding the Scene at the Schoolhouse

One of the myths to have built up around the career of Alfred Hitchcock maintains that, after planning and storyboarding his films so thoroughly, once on set he never so much as peeked through the camera viewfinder, bearing each scene from start to finish precisely in his head. This sounds barely sensible, an uncharacteristic relinquishing of control and disavowal of prospective…

The Birds (1963) and Its San Francisco Pet Shop Opening

Analyses of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds have typically tended in two directions. There is the film’s at-the-time innovate use of special effects, which were added by Lewis Hampton and Ub Iwerks, but which required much in the way of planning and shooting: careful storyboarding, trained gulls, numerous camera angles, and then plenty of editing to bring together different shots. And there…

Notes on the 20th Anniversary of Clueless

This month Clueless turned twenty. Amy Heckerling’s film, starring a cast led by Alicia Silverstone, was released in American cinemas from 19 July 1995. It would not appear on movie screens in Europe until the autumn: crossing the Atlantic to arrive in the United Kingdom and Ireland on 20 October, it spent the next six months working its way across the…

Food & Drink on Film: A New Leaf’s Malaga Cooler

When Henry Graham and Henrietta Lowell first meet in Elaine May’s 1971 film A New Leaf, it is over a cup of tea: or rather three cups, and quite literally over them for Henrietta has just spilled all three. ‘Incredibly clumsy woman isn’t she – no wonder she’s doesn’t ride’, utters Henry’s friend Bo, who has problems of his own:…

Elaine May’s A New Leaf (1971)

Henry Graham in A New Leaf is an artist in shades of green: his palette is of money, which he spends not judiciously, but with grace and flair and a firm creative hand. Born into great wealth, his spending is an act of pure self-expression. The trouble is that Henry Graham has overspent, and the cheques which he has passed…