Thursday, September 26, 2013

Electra (1962)

Electra was released on December 1, 1962 in the USA.  Based on the play by Euripides, Electra is the first installment in Mihalis Kakogiannis' Greek Tragedy Trilogy, followed by The Trojan Women (1971) and Iphigenia (1977).  It was nominated for the 1963 best foreign language film Oscar and also for the Palme d'Or at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival.  At Cannes, Kakogiannis won the award for best cinematic transposition and also a special technical achievement prize.

The film opens with Agamemon returning triumphantly from Troy.  In a beautiful, dialogue-free sequence, Agamemnon greets his children and then is murdered by his queen, Clytemnestra, and her lover.  Prince Orestes manages to escape but Princess Electra is kept locked away until she is of marrying age and then Clytemnestra marries her off to a poor, old farmer.  The people are saddened and outraged.  Their princess should have been married to royalty.

Electra is fortunate to find that her new husband is a loyal and caring man.  He demands nothing from her and she repays him by working with the other women on the farm.  The women take Electra to her father's grave and there, she prays to him and asks the gods to bring her brother, Orestes, home to avenge her father.

Electra's prayers are soon answered.  Orestes returns.  The siblings have been separated so long that they do not recognize one another.  The truth is finally brought out by an old man who once tutored both Agamemnon and Orestes.  Even blind, the man recognizes Orestes.  The siblings rejoice and begin a plot for vengeance.

Orestes kills his mother's lover while he is drunk at a festival in honour of Bacchus.  They lure Clytemnestra from her palace by sending word that Electra has given birth to her own child and kill her as well.  Clytemnestra is given the opportunity to explain herself and she says the root of all this evil is that Agamemnon had her first daughter, Iphigenia, sacrificed before heading to Troy.  Though Electra can sympathize she still wants vengeance for what Clytemnestra has done to her and Orestes.

The film ends with what is really the beginning of the great Orestian tragedy.  Now Orestes must be haunted by the gods and himself for committing matricide.

The film is beautifully photographed by Walter Lassally.  90% of it is shot outdoors in the stark, rocky Greek countryside.  This really gives the film a haunted feeling.  The score by Mikis Theodorakis is very unusual and memorable.

The cast, led by Irene Papas as Electra, is really strong.  Much of the film is without dialogue and the actors do a great job with telling the story visually.  I really love the way Kakogiannis uses the traditional Chorus of Greek drama.  The entire film is a beautiful representation of the great tragedy.

Electra was released on DVD in 2003 and can still be found at fairly reasonable prices on eBay and Amazon.  The DVD contains only the film and a trailer.  I really wish there were some additional features.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Immortals: Web Images

Here are some images from the official website for Tarsem Singh's Immortals.

The Site:


Twitter Skins:

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

RIP Ray Harryhausen

I was deeply saddened to hear today that the legendary Ray Harryhausen has passed away at the age of 92.  Harryhausen's is one of a handful of names I would select as the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century.  His work on classic fantasy epics like Jason and the Argonauts, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger will be well known to fans of the sword and sandal genre.  He was a pioneer in the world of visual effects, designing stop-motion animation techniques that would be used for decades.

If you ask almost any filmmaker who has worked in sci-fi, fantasy and horror who one of their earliest influences is they will say Ray Harryhausen.  As a character and creature designer he was years ahead of his time.  As an animator he understood that each character must have its own personality.  He knew how to bring those personalities to life in service of a story.  Harryhausen directed the film sequences he worked on and was also instrumental in crafting the stories for his films.  Thanks to him, thousands of kids have built model dinosaurs in their basements and spent their summer vacations writing epic tales of fantasy.

Harryhausen has been a personal hero of mine since childhood.  I regret that I never had a chance to meet him.  His amazing body of work will continue to inspire and astound for generations.  If you haven't discovered his films I highly recommend them.  The world is a little less fantastic today.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Rinse The Blood Off My Toga

Beware the Ides of March...

Here's a great spoof of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar from Wayne & Shuster.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Eye Candy: Channing Tatum in The Eagle

6'1" Channing Matthew Tatum was born April 26, 1980 in Alabama.

Tatum's first "big break" was being cast as a dancer in Ricky Martin's "She Bangs" music video.  From there, he went on to work as a model and an actor in commercials.

These images are of Tatum as Marcus Flavius Aquila in The Eagle.  His impressive physique and experience as a dancer make him a perfect choice for sword and sandal films.  I hope he'll be able to do more of them.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Yet More Spartacus Auctions!

VIP Fan Clubs continues to list more and more awesome props and costumes from Spartacus for auction!

Here are two stunning gowns worn by Lucy Lawless as Lucretia and Viva Bianca as Ilythia.

This is a full set of Roman armour worn by Jared Turner as Furius.  There is also a separate auction for some stunt elements of the costume.

Here is a Roman helmet worn by Craig Parker as Glaber.  I love the detail of the spider!

Here is an iconic mask used in Gods of the Arena.

I really like these unique props.  The wax tablet was used by Simon Merrells as Crassus and the vexilla regis (banner) was made for John Wraight as Cossinius.

This is a costume worn by Nick Tarabay as Ashur.

Here is an amazingly detailed costume worn by Daniel Feuerriegel as Agron.  The costumers must have had a lot of fun putting together the various textures and pieces.

Here's another incredibly detailed ensemble worn by Dustin Clare as Gannicus.  The little splashes of colour are terrific.  They really make the costume "pop" on screen.

Finally, here's a great costume worn by Manu Bennett as Crixus.