Thursday, 26 February 2015

The Buster Keaton - MASTERS OF CINEMA #30 - DVD Boxset

Yesterday, I dropped by fopp in Bristol and ended up purchasing the short films of Buster Keaton, as collected together in this Masters of Cinema boxset.

A wise investment, I think.

Keaton is one of the silent comics I have yet to really embrace; I have already worked my way through huge chunks of Chaplin's, Lloyd's and Laurel & Hardy's filmographies, so now it is Keaton's turn.

I also used this opportunity to made my first unboxing video.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Personal Study: What creates our perceptions of the world?

It is our memories and previous experiences, and how these play a role in forming the character of a person, which determine whether a person is more inclined to be pessimistic or optimistic, for example, and these qualities and general character traits will filter through to how one perceives the world.

Our perceptions of reality is clearly something that has always fascinated and continues to fascinate me. This is clear to see when looking at my body of work and especially so in a Personal Study I undertook as part of my A-Level Photography course back in 2008. 

Having recently undertaking The Art of Photography online course and orchestrating my 365 FRAMES 2015 project - a video alternative to my earlier 366 FRAMES 2012 photo a day project - photography has been something that has been weighing very prominently within my mind. As such I have found myself being drawn back to my earlier experiences of photography during my A-level course, an opportunity I really failed to take full advantage of at the time.

A short reflection on my rediscovery of this Personal Study - 365 FRAMES 2015: Day 040

When I came across this Personal Study, I was very surprised to see that it so strongly deals with the issue of human perception and memory - mainly because I had forgotten that these were the themes I dealt with in my second year of studying photography. I had come to believe that this fascination, on an academic level, was only a recent one, as demonstrated in my award-winning theoretical dissertation and practical dissertation projects. 

However, it is now clear to see this is a topic that runs deep with myself and is most probably that something inside - something to do with film - I have been exploring all of this time.

I have presented each section of the original study in this single post. Just bare in mind that this comes from a period when my writing was legibly okay, but not great.



Chapter One 
How do our memories create our perceptions of the world?

Chapter Two
How did David Hockney and Faye Heller influence my work?

Chapter Three
How did I explore my theme in my own photography?




Within this personal study I shall conduct an investigation into the theme that I have been exploring and which is concerned with memory. The study will be split across three chapters and each will deal with an individual facet concerned with my theme. I shall explore the very essence of my theme of memory and use further study to supply it with an academic grounding. I will explore the influences of my own work and will focus upon two specific influences and photographers: David Hockney and Faye Heller. I will take one example of work from each and then deconstruct it to determine what is each photographer’s visual style and philosophy.  Then I shall focus upon my own work and will use two examples of my work to establish how my theme has manifested itself visually. 

Chapter One
How do our memories create our perceptions of the world?

There is a common acceptance among all human beings that each is its own and distinct from one another. Yet what faculty allows a particular person to be known as an individual who is single; separate or original from another? For a person can appear physically similar to another, can have similar habits and inhibitions to others and may even have the same name of another. 

“Man is the sum total of his own thoughts” 

- Charles F. Haanel, (1912)

Therefore, the emblem which supplies a person with their individuality must be found internally to that person. Thus, it is fundamentally and philosophically attributed that is the   background and personal experiences that supply every person with a status of individuality.  Simply then, Haanel Is stating that it is the memory which separates one individual from another.  

“It is above all in memory that duration exhibits itself, for in memory the past survives in the present” 
- Henri Bergson, (1896) 

Memories not only allow the person to have individual status they also allow that individual to perceive, experience and ultimately contemplate the world.  Consider a situation where all conscious life was devoid of memories and lacked the ability to create them. Suddenly then what would exist would be entire universe that lacked meaning because there would be no conscious life to give it meaning for they would be unable to recall the universe they were observing; thus according to Bergson it is memory that allows everything in the universe to be contemplated and, in the process, attain a meaning.

“Mental models are representations that constitute a working model of the real world, although they may be incomplete or simplified. They are derived from perception and from verbal information.” 
- Johnson Laird, (1983)  

Memory informs the perceptions of the individual on an absolute and fundamental basis. It is our memories and previous experiences and how these played a role in forming the character of a person that will determine whether a person is more inclined to be pessimistic or optimistic, for example, and these qualities and general character traits will filter through to how one perceives the world.  While there exist an external world Laird and most other Psychologists argue that every individual forms there own personal version of the world with in the mind. 

“The mental model plays a central and unifying role in representing objects status of affairs, sequences, the way the world is, and the social and psychological actions of daily life.”  

- Johnson Laird, (1983)

According to Laird, it is within this mental model of the world that the conscious and especially the unconscious powers are allows to mould it into whatever fashion and form the previous experiences and character traits incline the individual to perceive the world as being. This is how the individual attributes meaning and function to the external world around them. For parallel to the physical world there is a non physical mental world within the individual’s mind which is continuously gaining a greater meaning as memory affords it with further attributes.  As this mental model is a part of the individual’s mind it is, therefore, apart of the human character. Thus, when a person makes judgments and opinions upon the world they attribute what their character knows onto this model and use their memories and experiences to draw conclusions and opinions onto the world.  

“They enable individuals to make inferences and predictions, to understand phenomena, to decide what actions to take and to control its execution and, above all, to experience events by proxy.” 
- Johnson Laird, (1983)

When this occurs the individual perceives the world as they would like to see it and reject everything they do not want to perceive. The memory and character traits afford the world properties of how a person would like to view the world and from this are born personal opinions. 

Chapter Two
How did David Hockney and Faye Heller influence my work?

During the course of this chapter I will be exploring and analysing the works of David Hockney and Faye Heller. The chapter will deal with specific examples of their work and will ultimately determine what were the influences and driving forces behind both their works. 

David Hockney 

Scrabble, Hollywood -1 January 1983.

“When is the present/ When did the past end and the present occur and when does the future start? Ordinary photography has one way of seeing only, which is fixed, is if there is a kind of an objective reality, which simply cannot be. Picasso… knew that every time you look there’s something different. There is so much there but we’re not seeing it, that’s the problem.”
- David Hockney

David Hockney has a keen impulse to support photography as an important and vital art from. Life according to Hockney is vast and varied and can never be observed in precisely the same fashion from one time to the next. Photography in Hockney’s view, allows the spectator to capture some of these missed moments or details. Hockney states that the photograph is a medium in which much more of the world can be discovered: “every time you look theres something different”. In the photograph above, he has taken an image of reality and fragmented and broadened it. By doing this he is displaying a visual story board that tells a narrative. This idea is very much in keeping with the aesthetics of post modernism and by fragmenting the image Hockney is essentially visually representing how man now seems to be in charge of nature. The idea that an individual can take a slice of time and dissect it and rearrange its facets presents man as controlling his own destiny.   

Hockney and his work influenced my own work very much through this philosophy he followed of focussing on the world from the stand point outside of time. This, therefore supplies his visual style as being somewhat surreal and alternative. Hockney employs this technique in order to show the spectator that they may be missing something of the world and its features. Hockney’s visual style allows the spectator to explore a certain facet of the world and reveal all of its infinite details. 

Initially a painter, Hockney, drew inspiration from poems and used these as guides to his images layout and subject matter, e.g. We two boys together clinging from the poem of the same name by Walt Whitman. His own style within these works is reminiscent of Picasso and Jean Dubuffet. These influences were later carried through into Hockney’s photography.

Faye Heller 

The Waiting Room

"If you had one thing, for example, the image of an architectural space by introducing an image of a person...would be the beginning of a movement." 

- Faye Heller 

Heller’s work is focused upon taking two different elements and molding them together in order to create a third refined and more striking visual presence. Heller is attempting is to take an image of an architecturally intriguing room, which would otherwise appear still and somewhat expressionless,  then by adding these two perspectives of a face has now allowed the image of the room to have an expression and reaction and therefore, to gain a movement.  

By presenting the faces within slits Heller brings to prominence and focuses on a single emotion and expression. Both faces appear to be presenting contempt towards one another and this creates a duality within the image upon which the room either acts as the external space where this dual of the eyes takes place or within the minds of these eyes and the room is an internal state of expression. 

This supplies Heller’s work with ambiguity and her approach is to allow the spectator to question her work and the meaning and intrigue that lay behind these visual presences. Heller’s work appears visually similar and somewhat inspired by film noir, such as the duality in the waiting room demonstrates, and this suggests that Heller’s work is a medium though which the spectator can question her work’s intentions and through this question allow the spectator to question and look within them themselves as in relation to the world. Therefore, a statement about how the external world effects our own inhibitions and actions and how these are ultimately projected onto the world.

This philosophy has strong links to my own work for it concerns itself with internal personal states which I explored through memory, Heller’s work initially influenced my work through how she combines the human face to the physical surroundings. When viewing her images I took this as meaning the faces were projecting their own internal states unto the world. The surroundings, therefore, being projections of their own internal self; this links also to chapter one and the idea of the mental model.  

The subject treatment of Heller’s work is abstracted with a quite distinctive style of film noir. As such Heller’s work can be seen to take on an abstract surrealistic style that takes the normal, human faces and everyday surroundings, and constructs them in a manner that distorts and informs the spectator of an image that presents itself with a stark, sleek and expressionistic approach and fashion. Again, as with Hockney’s work, this can be seen to be a strong aesthetic within postmodernism. 

It can, therefore, be seen that David Hockney and Faye Heller both influenced my own work, Hockney through his philosophy and Heller through the visual presence of her images. 

Chapter Three
How did I explore my theme in my own photography?

The theme I have explored has concerned itself with memory and the functioning and implications that are there concerned. Through the briefs I have conducted and the images I created the message that has been building and which has been communicated is that of how memory is fundamental and integral to the daily existence and meaning of an individual. This idea I mainly drew through the influences of David Hockney and Faye Heller.

Ancient Sight.

Initially, what struck me as intriguing about the process of memory is the ability it has to distort, to change and to mould memories so that the end result which is remembered is different to how it actually appears in reality. I, therefore, used this as my first footing into exploiting the concept of memory. Basically, the above image displays a certain feature of an area I once lived in and here it is presented how I can visually remember it; not how it actually appears. The image, I feel, fairly and effectively represents the scene as I remember it and it is because of this very reason that I am pleased with the end result. The angle, the depth and the tone all perfectly represent the memory I have. 

The image draws its influence from my own fascinations with memory and the power it has to distort our memories. Yet, this idea I find has strong links to the works of David Hockney. This idea of the memory becoming distorted and changed across time supplies the image with a sense of timelessness. Hockney’s work also can be seen to approach its subjects from a non-linear approach outside of time. The idea could be seen not that dissimilar to Faye Heller’s work wherein she uses the image to distort reality to allow the spectator to view things in a different light. My work, here, can thus be seen to tie into postmodernism through the way it distorts reality much in the same way as Hockney and Heller fragment their work’s visual presence. Influences are also drawn from High Art Aesthetics and the idea of how I have used the method of making the image have a sepia effect.   

The image, however, could have been approached differently by using a method I explored in one of my briefs; this being the photographic method of photomontage. For this could have been used to further emphasize and strengthen the idea of memory having the ability to become distorted. For this would allow the image to become truly distorted and abstracted much to the same effect that time has upon memory, i.e. initially a memory is raw and true but over time it moulds with other memories and becomes a vague statement of the reality upon which it is based. 

The Three Matts

This image visually represents the idea of how memory affords the individual continuity and a continual existence. Therefore, the three figures represent the same person’s movements around the room across a period of time. Basically, the idea within the image is to highlight the fundamental power of memory, in that, it affords the individual a coherent existence.

The influences of this image are very strongly drawn from the work of David Hockney. Again, as I have already stated, Hockney’s philosophy of exploring his subject matter from a timeless approach that allows the spectator to see all the hidden details and things that would normally be missed supplied me with the idea of showing what people usually miss about memory. Hence, this is why I highlighted its fundamental quality and present three of the same figure which allows the image to form a perspective outside of time. 

One of the qualities I personally like about the image is its realistic quality, i.e. that it takes place within a realistic setting; together with realistic actions occurring. This supplies the image and the message which it is conveying a closer connection to the spectator because it grounds and brings the image and its message down to earth, for the message literally places itself within the spectator’s kitchen. However, saying this, one of my original intentions for the image was to use a slow exposure to allow the image to visually represent the ghostlike movements of one of the figures into another. This I feel would present the message of the image in a clearer light as the spectator would more immediately and literally latch onto the image showing the passage of time. Though, the image as it is does contain an ambiguity which acts as a further connection and emphasis to all the ambiguous fundamental qualities of life.   

Through these images I have established a sincere fascination with memory and within each image I have been exploring the function and implications of memories and have here expressed their fundamental qualities to the individual. 


Allowing my theme to be flourished and clarified with academic understanding I established that every person forms there own mental model of the world according to their perceptions and memories and it is from this that we establish opinions. Exploring the works of two of my influences I have established that David Hockney influenced me through his philosophy of photography which is to use it as a medium through which a non linear perspective of the world can be seen in which the entire world’s hidden details can be revealed. Faye Heller’s influence, on the other hand, was through the visual presences she created within her images and how they rely very strongly upon the internal state of an individual and also of those of the spectator. Both photographers have adopted very different visual styles and philosophies but through each I found influences for my own work. 

Then, using two examples of my own work I established what my theme was actually communicating. I came to the conclusion that with my theme I was exploring one of the most fundamental qualities of the human being and that is the ability to recall the world; the very ability that supplies an individual with opinions and a life made up of a stream of memories. Therefore, my images essentially present the narrative of life; being made up of different moments and materials and as with post modernism it consists of fragmented moments with infinite details expressed upon both the internal and external worlds. 



Bergson, H. History of Western Philosophy, George Allen Unwin Ltd, pg 718.

Haanel, C.F., 10/01/08.

Hockney, D.,David, 15/01/08

Heller, F., 17/01/08 

Laird, J. Memory in the Real World, Psychology Press Ltd, pg 52.


Hockney D. Scrabble Hollywood,, 15/01/08.

Heller, F. The Waiting Room,, 17/01/08

Monday, 9 February 2015

The German Expressionism Aesthetic: A Research Project

The hard and broken transparency of the sets promotes a crooked and confused and unreal world - one which mirrored an increasingly frustrated Germany at the time. The First World War, by all accounts, had been a wasteful and pointless war putting the world long after into a state of social trauma. Germany especially suffered becoming distraught both through its society and its economy. Caligari can be viewed as a visual representation of the social turmoil that Germany was experiencing. The slanted, sharp and noticeably bleak sets present a once serene Germany, which now festers as deranged and dysfunctional due to the horror underpinning its disposition.

As part of my second year A-Level Film Studies course back in 2008, I had to produce a research portfolio that demonstrated my competence in acquiring a broad range of relevant information and then presenting that information in a compelling argument as a presentation.

German Expressionism was an obvious choice for a research topic, as it was a movement of cinema I had recently discovered and had become greatly enthused by and because it fit nicely into the focus on shocking cinema that we were studying in the second year of Film Studies.

Nosferatu - a HUGE influence.

In this post I have compiled all of the original materials I produced for my research portfolio: my Research project Evaluation, my Research Project Presentation Plan and my Research Project Catalogue (Bibliography, Filmography, etc.), which king all structures itself into a standalone essay. My writing is still very rough around the edges, but legible throughout.

Ultimately, my portfolio was awarded an A and it came with the added advantage of not actually having to present my presentation, which was a prospect that absolutely terrified me at the time. 

Research Project Evaluation

In my research project I have been looking into the German horror films of the pre 1930s period; specifically I have been exploring how these films were influenced by the horrors of the First World War. Firstly, I think it should be said that I am happy with the subject I chose to explore. I never considered an alternative as I have quite a passion for the early horror films and because of this felt that this seasoning would add to the overall flourishing of my outcome. The sources I selected were a mixture of books, documentaries, commentaries and articles all of which I had previously explored and, therefore, could use to my advantage as they could be easily navigated and dissected for the purpose of my presentation. The process of researching this presentation also allowed me to further explore and discover and enrich my own understanding of a subject I take great joy of looking into. 

The actual writing of my presentation I found to be somewhat daunting as there were three options to pick from. However, I picked the script option as I felt it would be easier and more effective for me to lay down exactly what I would say opposed to a compressed version, which I feel would lack clarity or real insight into the subject. I am happy with the outcome of my presentation and while it can not be said that it does not explore its relative themes: World War One, German Expressionism, the German film industry the horror genre and the human condition on a vast scale it does allow, what I consider to be, a brief and insightful glimpse into these areas. I feel that various aesthetic values are touched upon in the three films I explored and in addition to this the influences from The Great War and its aftermath of social trauma and economic decline. 

The presentation is not as open ended or as eye opening as I would have liked it to be and by this I mean, while I did say enough of what I believe, I did not ask enough questions and allow the audience to explore the subject from there own view point of personal beliefs. If I had done this then it would have supplied the presentation, from the viewpoint of the spectator, with a much more vast approach as it would have opened it up for the audience to place their own ideas within it and thus engage the audience to wrestle with the opinions. However, saying this, while I did not directly or clearly address the audience to question with or against me, I think that this process would come naturally to any keen spectator with an interest in the subject I was exploring. For in my presentation many points are touched upon and yet at the end no specific conclusion is provided, therefore, what I have been saying is left open ended and applicable for the spectator to come to their own conclusion. 

The First World War’s influence on the German Horror Film - Research Presentation Plan


In the earliest years of cinema leading up to the First World War Germany provided little contribution to the growing medium. Early German cinema consisted mostly of a shambles of films bought from other countries. Germany, however, would establish a shocking and lasting effect on the whole of cinema in the years immediately following the conclusion of the First World War. (Item 6) In my research project I will ask how the events of World War One influenced the German expressionistic film movement as portrayed in the German horror films of the pre 1930 period. Specific textual reference will be made to Robert Weine’s 1919 classic The Cabinet of Dr Caligari as well as Paul Wergener’s 1920 The Golem: How he came into the world and F.W. Murnau’s 1922 Nosferatu

Video clip:

Scene with Cesare approaching Jane upon the bed (Item 1)


The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, considered by many to be the first horror film and the quintessential German expressionistic presentation, aided in bringing the German cinema to prominence in the years following the Great War. The film is notable for its distorted sets produced in the vein of German expressionism, thus, promoting a very intimate film of expression that plays heavily on the emotions of the spectator. (Item 5)


Screen grabs will show various iconic images from Caligari (item 1)


When viewing Caligari one is immediately taken by an all too apparent feeling of unease. The hard and broken transparency of the sets promotes a crooked and confused and unreal world one which mirrored an increasingly frustrated Germany at the time. The First World War, by all accounts, had been a wasteful and pointless war putting the world long after into a state of social trauma (Item 13). Germany especially suffered becoming distraught both through its society and its economy. Caligari can be viewed as a visual representation of the social turmoil that Germany was experiencing (Item 4). The slanted, sharp and noticeably bleak sets present a once serene Germany which now festers as deranged and dysfunctional due to the horror underpinning its disposition. (Item 11)

Video clip:
Climatic scene with Francis in the insane asylum with all the characters walking distraught about him (item 1)


The expressionistic art aesthetic was an attempt to place man at the centre of the universe and Caligari conveys these psychological ideologies of the War stricken world, albeit in a pessimistic fashion. Philosophical and scientific enquiry in the previous century had established further knowledge into the realms of evolution and religion. The concept of God began to diminish as mankind claimed his own destiny through the advancement of technology and Darwin’s evolutionist belief and theory. The dawn of the Twentieth century promoted only further promise in the human adventure. The Great War, however, put a stark and bleak end to this as the world was suddenly struck by inconceivable technological and human horrors (Item 9). For the first time the world saw rotting corpses riddled with bullets and barbed wire wreaked together with the stench of disease and death. Battles, such as the Somme, presented mankind being destroyed by the very technology they had engineered to better themselves. In Murnau’s Nosferatu the benevolent Count Orlok is a plague carrying figure whom seeks to corrupt and destroy everything his web engulfs. As with the very nature of War and technology he descends upon the rural town of Wisborg and brings with him the initiative for change with the prospect for dominion. (Item 12) Murnau presents the dark psyche of Humanity; something which Freud had only recently bought to light (Item 7). Orlok is the embodiment of progress; Humanities hunger to survive, to grow and to indulge their desires. He is the startling figure and personification of man’s subconscious concerns and worries. He is himself a Vampire, someone who survives only by consuming the lives and resources of others. (Item 8)

Video clip:
Sequence of sailor breaking into Count Orlok’s coffins with rats streaming out; the rising up out of coffin and then causing havoc upon ship. (Item 3)


Like Orlok man has an urgency to consume and in what was becoming an increasing age and world of consumerism Humanity was reliant on this hunger (Item 6). A hunger that would lead humanity into a state of decay as poverty grew and the climate warmed. Orlok’s physical appearance is deliberately reminiscent of a rat; the Count, by his very nature, has become disfigured and gruesome he is the visual ensemble of Humanities nature turned in upon itself and transfigured into something destructive and something ugly (Item 9). Nosferatu, therefore, can be seen as allegorical in its conveyance of a starkly pessimistic view of Germany’s own social toil unto the rest of the world. The world around began to redevelop whereas Germany was left to rot and decay into plague and economic disaster. Count Orlok then is the embodiment of all that is resentful and angered and bleak about German society and which Adolf Hitler would soon enrage further. (Item 12)


All German horror films of this period deal with an impending doom; a horrific disaster that will soon befall the characters of the narrative. In Caligari it is the madness of Francis, In Nosferatu it is Orlok and the plagues he unleashes on Wisborg and in Paul Wergener’s 1920 film of Jewish mysticism it is the Golem. In the third of three films made about the mythological figure the Golem’s origin story is revealed. The stars forebode the warning of a great calamity that will soon befall the Jewish community of the 16th century Prague Ghetto. Therefore, the Rabbi Loew constructs a saviour from clay and once installed with life the Golem is put to work. But as with all tools and forms of technology they can be used for great harm as well as great good. 

Video clip:

Sequence where the Golem is instructed to go and seize Miriam but ends up throwing Miriam’s lover of the roof – sequence should climax with this action (Item 2).


The Golem is technology gone wrong; it was created to protect the Jewish community but in many ways was the catalyst for its destruction. To put it simply the Golem is a self fulfilling prophecy: Humanities urge to better themselves but the process of which always detracts something from the overall outcome (Item 10). As with the First World War this view can be starkly realised and in many ways The Golem can be seen as a reminder and warning to another Jewish community that a new impending doom was coming as a result of the First World War (Item 13).

This impending doom was present in all the early German horror films as it was a reflection, though the art form of German Expressionism, of the anxiety that Germany felt towards the rest of the world, and as result it filtered throughout the films it produced. Dark themes concerned with the mutilation of humanity and the corruption of the soul: the madness inside the cabinet, Orlok’s undying urge and the Golem’s unbounded strength. All themes that fascinated a growing world and all themes brought about because the world could not and would not stop growing. 

Research Project Catalogue


Item 1:

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (Cabinet Des Dr Caligari, Germany, 1919, Dir. Robert Weine). 

This film is considered to be a landmark in film history as it is the film that gave a sudden push for German Expressionism in the movies.  It was also quite unique because of its complex narrative and explorations into the Human psyche.

Item 2:

The Golem: How He Came Into The World (Der Golem, Germany 1920, Dir. Paul Wegener)
Considered to be the best version, of the three that were made around the Golem myth and by Wegener, this film is a perfect example of German Expressionism set design. It also conveys the bleakness of the German Urban landscape in the very stark and gritty design of the Jewish ghetto. 

Item 3:

Nosferatu (Germany 1922, Dir. F. W. Murnau)

A perfect example of cinema at its darkest, Nosferatu is an insight to just how bleak the world was in the 1920s. The film’s narrative offers little hope and contains countless occult references throughout. This film can also been seen as a major landmark as it would greatly inspire many films to come in the following decades. 


Item 4: 

The Rough Guide to Horror Movies (Alan Jones, Rough Guides ltd, Penguin, 2005)

This aided greatly in my research as it presents all there is to know about the horror genre in a nut in the shell fashion. The book provided easy and coherent access to a vast and vibrant genre. 

Item 5:

Horror: The Definitive Guide to the Cinema of Fear (James Marriot & Kim Newman, Andre Deutsch Limited, 2006)

A highly detailed book covering all the decades of horror cinema from its birth right up to the present day.  Providing insightful information on perhaps every horror film ever made as well as articles on issues concerned with the genre, such as the occult, this book inspired my presentation greatly.  Also Provided much insight upon German Expressionism in the movies. 

Item 6: 

Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture (Peter Kobel and the Library of Congress, Hachette Book Group USA, 2007)

In many ways the most definitive book on the silent cinema, produced by the library of congress, it gives an over view of the entire silent filmmaking era. This was especially useful to me as it allowed me to place the genre of horror into the context of its time. The book also allowed insightful information on the growth of the early German filmmaking industry. 

Item 7:

Eyewitness Companions - Film (Ronald Bergin, Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2006) 

A reference book that essentially contains all the need to know information on films and their makers, from the birth of cinema to the present day. This book was useful when I needed to review dates or the career of a film maker, such as F.W. Murnau.


Item 8: 

Universal Horror (Dir. Kevin Brownlow, Universal Home Video, 2004)

An enjoyably easy introduction to the genre of horror in its youth and this informed me simply of the major films and their inspirations in the genre as well as how they would later influence other films. 

Item 9:

Kingdom of Shadows: The Rise of the Horror Film (Dir. Bret Wood, Kino International Corp. 1998)

Providing a highly rich context and historical setting to the films it explores, this documentary allows the aesthetical workings behind the early horror films and the German expressionistic movement to be revealed. Through relevant examples from a whole variety of horror films of the pre-1930s the documentary determines why these films have the power to continually frighten and intrigue. 

Item 10:

The Kingdom of Ghosts: Paul Wergener’s The Golem and the Expressionistic Tradition (Dir. R Dixon Smith, Eureka Video, 2007)

As this documentary was largely focused upon The Golem it allowed its aesthetic qualities to be revealed and established just how the film fits into and was inspired by the Germen expressionistic film movement. 

Audio Commentaries

Item 11:

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (Mike Bird, Eureka Video, 2000)

This audio commentary provided me with much explanation of the film’s narrative and its various links to the psychological studies of Freud and other contemporaries of the time. The commentary also went to great lengths to explain how current events, such as the First World War, would have played an influence on the film. 

Item 12: 

Nosferatu (R. Lokke Sciss, Eureka Video, 2000)

This audio commentary brought much light to the mysteries that shrouded the production of Nosferatu as well as the various occult intricacies that the film contains. The audio commentary also laid out insight to the inspiration for the film aside from the original Dracula novel. 


Item 13: 

Wikipedia article on the First World War (
While largely unused, this source was imperative in establishing that my comments about the First World War were correct. The article also gave some insight to the social trauma the First World War caused around the world after its conclusion.

Unused Material 

CINEMA - Year by Year: 1894 – 2005 (Robyn Karney, DK, 2005)

While this book was insightful the information it held was incredibly repetitive of the previous sources I had researched, therefore, because of this I did not feel that it warranted being referenced as a true source. 

A History of Horror (Eli Roth, Neil Marshall, James Wan and Greg Mclean, Total Film – issue 134, 2007)

While this magazine article included good points, relevant facts and views from the filmmaker Eli Roth I did not feel the information was providing anything new to what I had already collected and included within the presentation.  

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Cinema Theatre Association Membership

I have now become a member of the Cinema Theatre Association which is "dedicated to cinema history – not the films, but the buildings they were and are shown in."

As I have always had a soft spot spot for Cinema buildings and, even in today's digital conversion, I believe the preservation of cinema buildings new and old, whether as working structures or archived curiosities, is hugely important.

I based one of my videos a day around my membership - 365 FRAMES 2015: Day 038 

Membership is only £25 annually - a bargain - and it includes:

  • Six editions of "Bulletin" magazine per year
  • Yearly edition of "Picture House" magazine
  • Access to CTA visits in the UK and Abroad
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I also received my first issue of the Bulletin magazine.

I have been wanting to invest in a membership for a while now and I am am glad that I finally have. I am sure this membership will come in use somewhere down the line; in addition to showing my support to a cause I care very deeply about.

A Legacy of Universal Horror

Lugosi’s Portrayal was a notable change and one which charmed both through image and through evil. Dracula is perhaps the most Handsome of all the famous monsters, yet he is the most evil, as he holds absolutely no sympathy or pathos. 

A Legacy of Universal Horror is the first film analysis essay I wrote as part of my A-Level Film Studies course back in 2007; although, there is an earlier essay I wrote as part of my GCSE English Literature course. 

However, in the Legacy essay I focused on the Universal Horror pictures, as they were a collection of films with which I had become acquainted in my adolescence and of which I subsequently grew very fond. Therefore, as every film student selects film material held in high esteem, the Universal Horror pantheon was my favourite choice for my first marked film essay. 

My writing was not great at this point and there are many grammatical errors throughout, but I was out to impress with this piece of work and ultimately earned an A for my efforts! 

I have updated the essay to include illustrative clips, but the actual essay is still hardly manages to express my appreciation of the Universal Horror pantheon.

A Legacy of Universal Horror

In the early years of cinema, between 1900 – 1930, many countries made what they considered to be horror films, however, only one country really made a formula of horror which was successful in both thrilling and frightening the spectator. This country was Germany and it produced not only some of the greatest film makers but also some of the greatest ground breaking films which still entertain today, these included such classics as: The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920), Nosferatu (1922) and Metropolis (1927). 

Nosferatu - the stuff of nightmares.

The formula of horror which German films used was soon imitated by all who saw it and this was most notable in American Cinema: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), The Phantom of the Opera (1925) and The Man Who Laughs (1928). This would continue into the 1930s, however, these horror films would begin to evolve as both a new generation of filmmakers was introduced as well as the addition of sound into movies, as all films before the thirties had been silent. 

A brief introduction to Universal Horror

This essay will specifically look at the Universal horror films which were made in the pre-1960s era. Two keys films: Dracula (1931) and The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) as well as two key sequences shall be explored. Using these as examples the generic features, the hallmarks and conventions, of both sequences will be explored to determine how the audience finds them continually entertaining and also to illustrate how these films are typical of the current horror genre of the time.

The second of Universal’s talking horror films was the 1931 adaptation of Dracula, directed by Tod Browning. This was the second cinematic adaptation of Dracula to be made as the first had been made as an unauthorized 1922 German adaptation entitled Nosferatu, directed by F.W. Manau. The Universal version, however, even though it was inspired by the same formula and style, would differ in many significant ways. 

A trailer for Dracula.

The first and most notable would be its depiction of the character Count Dracula by the actor Bela Lugosi. Lugosi would play Dracula as a very sincere gentleman figure who, at first glance, did not appear evil just mysterious. The scene in which he is first introduced sets this up as the camera slowly pans into a figure of a elegant stance who is covered in fine black cloths and is newly awoken from the coffin he has just crawled from. The camera zooms into his eyes which hold both mystery and evil and it is this mystery which dares and teases the audience to keep watching. 

Dracula's introduction.

This portrayal was in contrast with both that of the book and of the 1922 adaptation, in which the count appeared grotesque as a kind of hybrid of vampire and rat. Lugosi’s portrayal was a notable change and one which charmed both through image and through evil. Dracula is perhaps the most Handsome of all the famous monsters, yet he is the most evil as he holds absolutely no sympathy or pathos. 

This is a subject which James Whale would later explore in his films, for his philosophy is that beautiful people always have evil thoughts, i.e. Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester) in the opening prologue sequence of The Bride of Frankenstein - “Can you believe that lovely brow conceived of Frankenstein?”. 

"The perfect night for mystery and horror, the air itself is filled with monsters."

This is one of the conventions of the Universal Horror, in that; the films and characters contain very much a Film Noir aspect. This holds pleasure because the audience is fascinated by the dark side of the psyche, as famous horror tales such as Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde demonstrate.

The introduction scene of Dracula and the three subsequent scenes that follow are significant because these contain many key hallmarks of horror films before and horror films that would follow. In these scenes Count Dracula is very much the spider luring the fly into his web: “The spider spinning his web for the unwary fly” is directly referencing the seduction of the character Reinfield, played by Dwight Frye, however, it is also referring to how the film is luring the spectator into the web. For the spectator is just as unaware as Reinfield and will eventually be just as horrified. 

Dracula gets a craving.

Dracula is much more of a manipulative character compared to someone who just scares through killing. This is something which the audience enjoys, they like to let the film carry them or as Reinfield be lured further inside of Dracula’s castle where he will be surrounded by evil. 

The scene in which Dracula shows Reinfield to his room is very much a generic feature which is reminiscent of films before and films after. An old dark house is something which features prominently in nearly all of universal’s horrors: a building with tall windows, winding staircases, billowing curtains and expensive surroundings: for extravagance and terror go hand in hand to culminate in an atmosphere of romantic horror. The idea of a mysterious figure allowing a person shelter in their old dark house and then within that night evil occurrences happen is a narrative which turns up in many horror films of this period: The Cat and the Canary (1927), The Cat Creeps (1930) and The Old Dark House (1932). 

A from The Old Dark House also directed by James Whale's, this clip demonstrates his fascination with the decay of beauty, his preoccupation with death (he would commit suicide in 1957).

The house is the prison in which the wary character is trapped much like a nightmare from which they can not escape. The spectator enjoys these types of narratives because the spectator is the unwary traveler who finds themselves within these different, strange and even fantastically gothic surroundings, for this makes the spectator a part of the film which means they will enjoy and experience it all the more.

Another of Universal’s iconic horror films is 1935’s The Bride of Frankenstein, directed by James Whale. One of the most famous and iconic sequences from the film is the Bride creation and introduction scene. It is very similar and a homage to the creation sequence of the monster in the previous film. 

"She's alive!"

Yet this one is vastly superior through: atmosphere, cinematography, budget and Mise-en-scene. This is also a scene which would become a convention of Frankenstein films as it turns up in every subsequent Frankenstein instalment. It has an apparent popularity with the audience, because they relished and expected it, yet the ones after Bride would never be as effective or superior. The creation sequence is successful and popular with the audience because it contains all the right ingredients; the German expressionistic laboratory made from stone, filled with all kinds of electrical apparatus, surgical tools, knobs and switches which all culminate and combine together with the ravaging lightning storm that creates an atmosphere of pure fascination. 

"He's alive!" The creation sequence from Frankenstein 1931.

The creation sequence is much like a fireworks show, in that, everybody knows what to expect yet each time they watch they are just as fascinated and mesmerised as the first time. Like a fireworks show the ingredients of the Bride creation sequence are iconic and universal throughout the world, for it has become one of those things which resides in the collective consciousness. This scene is very unique, in that, the spectator may not like the film but they will still be fascinated by it; the creation sequence is the Bride’s fireworks show.

The horror films of the pre-1960s era were restrained by the times in which they were made and later in the thirties by the Hays code. Better known today as the production code, it was a system of rules and regulations which set out to enforce censorship and to protect the spectator; it stated what could be put into a motion picture according to what was ethically correct. This meant that the horror films of the first half of the twentieth century were not as graphic, in blood and violence for example, as their modern day counter parts. 

Thus, these early horror films would use such devices as film noir, grotesquery, gothic design and the macabre as tools of horror and fright, yet these would all be kept in check by the Hays code. These regulations and codes seemed to have lead to much more character driven narratives and this is perhaps found in all the horror films of the time and is what makes them typical of the then horror genre. As each horror film contained more characters and more monsters which were all explored: The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Wolf-Man, The Creature and not least Frankenstein’s Monster, played by Boris Karloff, who contains a significant amount of pathos and character development.

The Frankenstein Monster's soft side...

The monsters themselves can also be seen as generic features of this genre as in most cases the monster is a flawed character with whom the spectator can connect and sympathise with. This is a tool which works specifically well with the spectator for in these cases they become a part of the film and no longer have the stance of the spectator. The genre also contains characters who are larger than life, such as Count Dracula or Dr Pretorius, and who tease, fascinate and disgust the spectator by committing actions that both thrill and frighten. 

The Universal Monsters.

The films also contain many famous set pieces and perhaps the most famous and which is immediately identifiable is Frankenstein’s laboratory in which he stitches dead bodies together and then harnesses the power of lighting in an amazing spectacle of noise and light to create iconic monsters. Other set pieces include: Dracula’s castle and the Paris opera set which has featured in three of the four cinematic adaptations of the tale. 

These are all identifiable set pieces which are well known for the characters and events which took place within them from all the horror films in which they appeared and thus have become generic features which, because of their familiarity, create a sense of nostalgia in the audience which makes them enjoy them all the more. These early horror films together with their generic features of: characters, monsters, narratives, set pieces and style all culminate together into a legacy of Universal horror.

I also curate A Legacy of Universal Horror Pinterest board, I bid you welcome, children of the night...