Monday, August 14, 2006

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad-1958

Viewed last night in the great outdoors of Beacon Hill Park, as part of their summer film series. Clear skies and free admission! Free Harryhausen!
Sure the effects looked pretty clunky when viewed in the cold light of 2006 (with the striking exception of the 'shrinking of the Princess' scene, which has a strange and stately beauty that still defies description) but on the whole they've retained something that I don't think most of today's big budget effects movies will ever possess: charm. The excitement of seeing someone's personal creative struggle onscreen. These films were the bare beginnings of what Hollywood is capable of today, and they feel patched together with tape. You can practically hear Harryhausen swearing and muttering under the soundtrack, trying desperately to get his handmade beasts to cooperate with the script's near impossible demands. The results of his efforts may seem clumsy and uneven, but they are undeniably human, and I think something in us (Harryhausen's fellow humans) responds to that.
The gang of stoned hipsters who were sitting to our left would probably disagree with me. Is there anyone left of my generation who can sit through an old film without turning the proceedings into a lame episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000? At this point, taking the piss out of a Hollywood film from the 1950's is about a notch below tying your own shoes in terms of difficulty and imagination, but to listen to this group you'd think no one had ever dared attempt it. Yes, the acting is hokey, the effects are dated, the script is rife with opportunities for us to turn every single line into a smirking sexual innuendo, but we do have a choice. It's a choice that most of my generation seem to have willingly forgotten, swept away by the seemingly rapturous euphoria that results from insinuating that Sinbad is buggering the Genie. How clever of us!
There's nothing wrong with having a laugh at the hokey products of an older culture, but if the thought that we might actually gain something from these old films becomes too ridiculous for us to even contemplate, then I think we are missing out. Big time.