Wednesday, April 22, 2009

DESTRUCTIBLE PASSINGS - Jack Cardiff

It is with overwhelming sadness that the The Flying Maciste Brothers report the death of director/cinematographer Jack Cardiff, OBE, B.S.C..

Not only was Cardiff an early pioneer of Technicolor cinematography in the UK --

-- not only was he responsible for the unfathomably ravishing photography on such films as Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's hallucinatory triptych:

A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (1946)
(aka STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN)

BLACK NARCISSUS (1947)

and

THE RED SHOES (1948)

-- Richard Fleischer's striking THE VIKINGS (1958) --

-- Arthur Lubin's other-worldly PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN --

-- and John Huston's very down-to-earth THE AFRICAN QUEEN (both 1951) --

-- not only did he direct such enjoyable and disparate entertainments such as:

MY GEISHA

and

THE LION (both 1962)

and

YOUNG CASSIDY
(taking over directing from John Ford in 1965)

-- the jazzy, fever-dream erotic masterpiece GIRL ON A MOTORCYCLE (1968) --

(aka NAKED UNDER LEATHER)

-- and the quintessential mad botanist sci-fi horror film, THE MUTATIONS (1973) --

(aka THE FREAKMAKER)

-- Jack Cardiff was also a man who was never afraid to kill a dummy.

DESTRUCTIBLE MAN will be paying tribute to Jack Cardiff in the coming days with the in-depth examination of the dummy-deaths in three of his most extraordinary films as director:

DARK OF THE SUN
(aka THE MERCENARIES, 1968)

THE LIQUIDATOR (1966)

THE LONG SHIPS (1963)

R.I.P. Jack Cardiff

18 September 1914 - 22 April 2009

This death was of no dummy.


post © Howard S. Berger & Kevin Marr

8 comments:

Darrell Bratz said...

Oh, I'm especially looking forward to the Long Ships entry!

This is a tough one for me - maybe the last best link to the Powell & Pressburgers I love.

The Flying Maciste Brothers said...

Thanks Darrell -- we Maciste Brothers must confess...we remember dummy-deaths in THE LONG SHIPS...but that doesn't mean there WERE dummy-deaths in THE LONG SHIPS. We are watching it this weekend and will do some clever pot-dated web editing if we find our memories failed us.

I, Howard, personally, know how you feel about the Powell & Pressburger thang. I had the great fortune to have had dinner with Noreen Ackland, Powell's editor on PEEPING TOM and either apprentice or assistant editor on a dozen others, when I was in London screening my documentary on Joe Meek last October. And I fell madly in love with the woman. I proposed, but she wasn't taking me seriously. Wouldn't be so strange. Thelma Schoonmaker married Powell himself with a bit of an age difference and that worked just fine. I'll probably try again one day. She told me some astonishing and hilarious stories about working with the Archers and how she got into the industry during WW2. She had been married to the late Richard Best -- another outstanding editor whose mark was on everything from THE DAM BUSTERS to BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW -- I was immediately jealous that he had gotten to her first and I told her so. Stop me, I'm getting all worked up. Very modest about her considerable accomplishments and place in history, too. I hope I'm able to get back to England soon -- would love to have more time to talk with her. Alas, it seems that era is finally coming to a close...

Phantom of Pulp said...

So sad.

A lovely gentleman.

And the man who brought THE FREAKMAKER to the world.

His Powell contributions were so sublime.

Thanks for noting this fine man's life.

Into the Apostle of Pulp sideshow he goes!

Radiation Cinema! said...

FMB: Nice and effective tribute. As your catalog of movie posters makes clear, one of the greatest cinematographers that ever lived and the undisputed master of Technicolor. I watch Black Narcissus whenever I want a real blast of beauty (at least once a year). Well Done. -- Mykal

The Flying Maciste Brothers said...

Phantom and Radiation -- many thanks for the comments!

Phantom -- we were particularly devastated by the loss of Cardiff because we were in the midst of working on rather elaborate analysis of DARK OF THE SUN and THE LIQUIDATOR and had wanted to supplement our posts with an interview. That will obviously never happen now and what was planned as a tribute will now have to stand as more of a memorial. Sad, indeed.

Mykal -- Agreed! His work as a cinematographer is unparalleled in it's scope and vision and sheer ravishing beauty. He elevated the value of plastic way into the heavens. When we watch Cardiff's contribution to a film, we feel honored!

Again, thanks everyone for popping by and commiserating. Please come by again under cheerier circumstances -- namely the death on someone or something UN-real!

venoms5 said...

Excellent piece on Jack Cardiff. THE LONG SHIPS was on TCM recently and I caught a bit of it. It seemed quite a big production. I really must see DARK OF THE SUN (1968).

The Flying Maciste Brothers said...

Many thanks, Brian!

It is pathetic how Cardiff's directorial efforts are taken for granted today. THE LONG SHIPS really is a wonderful product of its time -- a perfect Saturday matinée adventure that doesn't hold back on violence or lusty romance. It is also a grand example of Cardiff's approach to any film he helmed: take it to the hilt! He never condescended to his material and subsequently created films that could disturb and engage as easily as they could entertain.

DARK OF THE SUN is quite simply a masterwork of storytelling. But, oddly enough, most supporters of the film just see it as a great action film. Though that it is, it certainly is much more than that. The visual breakdown and simplification of the very complex sexual relationships laid out (pun intended) in the screenplay are sublime. It may be, because of Cardiff, the most deceptively SEXUAL action film ever made. Hopefully, filmmakers (and studio execs) will someday learn from his examples and start again producing mainstream cinema that can stimulate in more ways than one -- and can stay with the audience for years beyond the opening weekend. DARK OF THE SUN is an "adult" action movie that grows up with you.

venoms5 said...

That is a nice thought, but it seems most people only care for spectacle and big effects and little else. Even the spectacles of the old days had substance to them. I suppose the allure of creating visual tricks is too great for the filmmakers of today to pass up at the expense of creating a product devoid of a little heart & soul. They just don't make movies, or filmmakers, like they used to.