MMC! keeps our creepy October rolling with Dave Fleischer’s spook-errific animation classic, Snow-White (1933). This Betty Boop masterpiece was animated almost single-handed by Roland Crandall over six months, his reward for loyal service to Fleischer Studios. The short features an array of creepy gags and set-pieces, the highlight of which is the Mystery Cave portion where a rotoscoped Cab Calloway performs “St. James Infirmary Blues” as a ghostly Koko the Clown. I first saw Snow-White in a class on the Disney Company where the very knowledgeable professor cited the rotoscoped appearance of Cab Calloway as an introduction of realism into the film, something I never understood given the very fantastic animation applied to the phantom Koko transforms into and the almost unnatural, counter-intuitive physics of Calloway’s glides and moonwalks. Snow-White has been preserved by the National Film Registry and can be found on Blu-ray in Volume 4 of Olive Films’ Betty Boop: The Essential Collections.
Next up, we offer a short film of short films – the indie-animated anthology Ghost Stories (2013). Containing 11 minimalist shorts, Ghost Stories is the product of various members of the Late Nite Work Club crafting these pieces between projects and classes. MMC! is particularly fond of Charles Huettner’s The Jump, Caleb Wood’s Rat Trap, and Alex Grigg’s Phantom Limb, although Ghost Stories is an impressively satisfying effort throughout. In fact, the omnibus format of Ghost Stories produces a convivial effect, expanding the regard for these shorts by placing them alongside one another and creating a whole greater than its parts.
Saskatoon is slightly warming as the week proceeds. I’m reluctant to say this is directly attributable to the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival but after a surprisingly strong Day 2, I see no other credible explanation for it. Including the What the Hell! – Totally Messed Up Short Films block, Day 2 offered 16 different works for consideration, injecting a heavy dose of bizarro randomness into the Festival and creating a decidedly different tone from the previous day’s atmospheric horror extravaganza.
The last days of autumn are leaving Saskatoon and the sharp, cold grip of winter is in the air. It makes for a slightly uncomfortable walk to and from the Broadway Theatre, but perhaps that’s a fitting atmosphere for the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival’s program of highly honoured films. Those looking for name recognition in its stars or those resistant to reading subtitles are missing out on some of the best genre films of the last year or two. Day 1 of SFFF may prove to have been its strongest, with a brilliant collection of award-winning horror films. Domestic spaces loom prominently in this first block of films, suggesting little safe territory moving forward into the Festival.
I have very fond memories of watching the Ajax Ghost Exterminators on my Fisher Price Movie Viewer. And with its trio of ill-prepared, heavily equipped ghost-hunters and Goofy’s exclamation that “I ain’t a-scared of no ghosts!”, it seems to have a kinship with another all-time MMC! favourite – Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters (1984). For those looking for a little trivia, the ghosts in the “Old McShiver mansion” are reportedly named Jasper, Grubb, Boo, and Moss.
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Forbidden Room.
Overwhelmed with narrative and fearful that their brains might explode under its pressure, Canadian cult filmmaker Guy Maddin and his co-creator Evan Johnson offer the ultimate epic phantasmagoria from the ectoplasmic residue of early cinema’s lost films. Two-Strip Technicolor havoc is created with the assistance of master poet John Ashbery, actor Udo Kier, and a host of French and Québécois stars who filmed on public sets at Paris’ Pompidou Center and Montreal’s Phi Center. The Forbidden Room is a kaleidoscopic viewing experience borne from cinema’s past, present, and future where flapjacking eating submarine crews, forest bandits, skeleton women, and vampire bananas await!
- New 4K digital master, with 5.1 digital DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Audio commentary with Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson
- Interviews and behind-the-scenes footage from the Phi Center shoots
- Endless Ectoloops
- Living posters
- Theatrical trailer
- Seven-episode series on Guy Maddin’s Seances from the Phi Center
- New interview with cinematographer Benjamin Kasulke
- New interview with production designer Galen Johnson on his design of the film’s more than 400 intertitle screens
- La chambre interdite, French version of The Forbidden Room with French intertitle screens
- The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Maddin, Yves Montmayeur’s 65-minute documentary on “the Canadian David Lynch”
- Once a Chicken, a séance with László Moholy-Nagy
- Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton, Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson’s short film on the making of Paul Gross’s Canadian war film, Hyena Road, with introduction by the filmmakers
- Footage from the Toronto Film Critics Association’s awards ceremony naming The Forbidden Room 2015’s Best Canadian Film
- PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by Guy Maddin and film critics Jonathan Rosenbaum and Hillary Weston