Monday, March 28, 2011

Scenes From Horror Hound, Day 3: Lo Fi

One of the odd things about the Horror Hound Weekend was the absence of a video room. I'm used to sci fi conventions, so maybe the horror people have different expectations, but every other fan-oriented convention I've been to has had a video room with appropriate entertainments running, grindhouse-like, in an endless stream. The closest Horror Hound came to this was two sessions of film clips. The first, celebrating the centennial of Vincent Price's birth, consisted of trailers for Vincent Price movies. The second consisted of Hammer Horror movies, truncated into ten minute versions. These were all projected with a Super 8 movie projector. This was interesting, because my family had a Super 8 camera and projector when I was growing up and I have a lot of fondness for the kinds of films collectors could buy on a budget. As an adult, I had a 16mm film projector of my own and a small collection of films, including a version of The Wolf Man abridged to about 45 minutes. I bought it at auction from a school district, as I recall. In any event, this is an area of film with which I've had some contact, and watching these two programs made me kind of nostalgic for it.

What struck me hardest about the Super 8mm Hammer films was the fact that you could condense most of them to ten minutes without omitting much of the salient plot points. The guy who was running this show wasn't told the theme beforehand, and didn't have enough Hammer films to fill the time slot, but he DID have a selection of other films to intersperse. Watching a condensed, 10 minute version of The Bride of Frankenstein was instructive, because even though the full film is only an hour and ten minutes long, it resists being condensed in a way that the Hammer films don't. The stuff that was omitted from The Bride was totally essential. The abridgement creates an unavoidable sense of loss. That isn't the case with, say, The Plague of The Zombies or The Vampire Lovers, which were both on the program. Hammer was pretty rigid in their running times, and there are more than a few of their movies that are seriously harmed by being forced into their 90 minute running times (I'm looking at you, Curse of the Werewolf!), but this is the first time that I've entertained the idea that their mandated running times also had the opposite effect. Interesting...

I'm also surprised at how much texture the lower resolution of Super 8 film adds to these movies. Again, it hurt The Bride of Frankenstein, but with the Hammer films, it tended to add a grottiness that suited them, while disguising their essential cheapness. Not that I'm suggesting that anyone dirty up their prints of any movie before releasing them, but it's an interesting effect.

None of this stuff mitigates the fact that Frankenstein Conquers the World is crap any way you cut it, but at 10 minutes long, it becomes some kind of weird dream fugue.

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