The Home of the Creative Mind
Welcome to PooBahSpiel, the online voice and home of the creative mind of Mark Monlux, Illustrator Extraordinaire. Prepare yourself for an endless regaling of art directly from the hand of this stellar artist. And brace yourself against his mighty wind of pontification. Updates are kinda weekly and show daily sketches, current projects, and other really nifty stuff.
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
I find it difficult to describe how much I love The Adventures of Robin Hood. There are so many things that make it great. First, the color. Technicolor is not just one, but multiple layers of film, each layer a different color. The result was not merely color, but deep, rich color perfect for fantastic settings. Years later, this would prove an advantage in film restoration. The designers of the day took advantage of strong colors, installing as many lurid hues as possible. Next would be the thespians. Not only do you have several lead actors, but also a plethora of talented character actors, each one nearly stealing a scene from the next. Then you have the script, with dialog ranging from simple to flowery, depending on the scenes. And there are action sequences with individual fights, grand melees, and lots of arrows. A professional archer was hired to shoot all of those arrows, so stuntmen and regulars alike had real arrows shot into balsawood hidden under their clothing. And then there’s the music, as rousing and flamboyant as could be desired in such a swashbuckler. The Adventures of Robin Hood is a shining example of what could be accomplished under the old studio system, when a cast of hundreds could be summoned overnight. It’s also a stellar example of what Hollywood could do, taking a legendary tale and making it even more magical. As for the tale of Robin Hood himself, most movies made afterwards couldn’t help but borrow from this wonderful, lavish work of art.
Winner of three Academy Awards.
Sunday, July 24, 2016
The Cold War inspired a genre of technology-race movies. Fantastic Voyage was novel in that it was about reduction technology. Then add to that the concept of seeing the human body from the inside on a cellular level—fantastic is the word. Audiences came to see how ingenious Hollywood could be in depicting the human anatomy with all its functions. This movie often played on television when I was growing up. What little kid wouldn’t be excited about seeing a submarine journeying through veins? The Proteus was rather cool-looking for the day. I loved the cool glass dome on the roof and the big fins. I wasn’t concerned about the Cold War aspects of the film. For me it was all about the cool-looking stuff, the giant cells, what they did, and the lasers. There have been a lot of other reduction sci-fi films over the years—some of them pretty good, like Inner Space. But nothing beats Fantastic Voyage as a classic that influenced pop culture. I wanted this strip to reflect my childlike excitement for Fantastic Voyage.
Winner of two Academy Awards.
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
The Great Escape is a rousing action film. Some might argue that it’s nothing more than that. Its portrayal of a real WWII prison camp escape is less than perfect, with several alterations to draw in and entertain American audiences. And appeal to audiences it did. There were a lot of good movies competing at the box office when it was released, and yet The Great Escape managed to be one of the top-grossing films that year. One of the reasons it did so well was its large international cast. There was no single hero, but a collection of highly talented actors doing their best to capture the camaraderie and inventiveness of true prisoners of war. In fact, several members of the cast had been actual prisoners of war. There’s no doubt that Steve McQueen, who was a fast-rising star, did his best to stand out. His role in The Great Escape cemented his position as a superstar. His insistence on a motorcycle chase in the movie proved to have helped build the excitement of the escape. But Steve McQueen was only one of several actors who received great exposure; there were also James Garner, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasense, James Coburn and Richard Attenborough. Many of these actors were already known by audiences; The Great Escape just gave them even more screen time. While The Great Escape was nominated for a number of awards, it didn’t walk away with very many. It did receive a Top Ten Films award from the National Board of Review. It was a small acknowledgement of a film that was well received by the public and which had the legs to continue on to become a movie classic. You just can’t go wrong viewing this movie.
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
The Quiet Man captivates audiences. From the first scene to the last, viewers are engrossed in the characters, the dialog, and the next turn of events. A casual viewing of The Quiet Man will provide entertainment. But you will find that you can’t casually watch this film. Bits of a deeper story are provided at every moment. They catch in your mind like fish in a net. And a smile will creep across your face as you start pulling in the net because you know this is going to be a sweet haul. The studio’s head honchos wanted John Ford to cut its length from 129 minutes to 120 minutes based on their assumption that an audience wouldn’t sit still for longer than two hours. When Ford showed the honchos the film, the screen went white right in the middle of the climactic fight scene. Ford informed the studio brass that they were at the 120-minute mark, and if they were dying to see the rest of the movie, so would the theater-going public. The studio executives let Ford have his nine minutes. Watch The Quiet Man, and you’ll be glad they did.
Monday, June 27, 2016
A lot of truly great films came out in 1976, but Murder by Death wasn’t one of them. Critics kindly referred to it as “breezy.” Another word that popped up was “insubstantial.” Even some of the actors involved in the production were a little concerned about how it would be received. True,Murder by Death did not deliver high drama, nerve-rattling suspense, or any deep moral questions. What it did provide was a light, fluffy, humorous tone while being blatantly rude with political incorrectness. And the audiences loved it. They let their hair down, relaxed, and let loose with guffaws and hoots over simple gags and repeating jokes. The movie allowed them to indulge in guilty pleasures, leaving them gleefully tittering about how naughty they were. Murder by Death might not have been the highest grossing film that year, but thanks to receptive audiences, it did rank within the Top Ten for earnings. Murder by Death might never make it into “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die,” but you might want to consider it for an evening of frivolity. It also passes the Bechdel Test.
Monday, June 20, 2016
George Lucas made a student film that caught the eye of Frances Ford Coppola. The two of them founded the studio American Zoetrope where they took the idea of that student film and expanded it into the full length movie feature THX-1138. It did not do well at the theater and critics of the day had differing opinions. But over the years, THX-1138 developed a cult following with both audiences and other film makers. You can find Easter eggs referring to THX-1138 in films by Lucas and other filmmakers. In fact you can find hidden references to the film in countless television shows, books and software. The setting of THX-1138 is a future in which mankind has been hollowed out into working drones whose purpose is to support the automated society governing it. The population is medicated and brainwashed. History is absent. The populaces are blank people living on a blank slate. Even the android policemen have blank chrome faces that show only a reflection. Consumption has no meaning as the content of the consumption has no meaning. THX-1138 shows what happens when the irregularities of the human condition rise from this imposed stupor. THX-1138 is an elegant science fiction movie that relies less on special effects and more of the underlying message of the conditions in which its characters are placed. If you’re wondering why the title of the film sounds so familiar, you might have seen the letters more than once when the sound system THX is being introduced at the start of a film.
Monday, June 13, 2016
Destry Rides Again is a well-constructed movie. It provides just the right amount of lush details so your suspension of disbelief is firmly established. A few shots of horses barreling down
dangerous mountain roads and a few head of cattle going past a fence and you completely discount the fact that nearly every scene is either inside a studio set or a backlot façade of a boomtown. A string of comedic elements and dialog entertains us so well that its somewhat thin storyline is overlooked. We are all wrapped up in the characters—the town drunk who gets appointed sheriff, the Iron Matron of the dance hall with a secret heart of gold, the easy mannered deputy with a sly mind, and the silent but crafty mayor. All of these roles are filled with well-accomplished actors and character actors. The true charm of Destry Rides Again is that there is nothing wanting. You get song, humor, action, suspense, and a tug on the heartstrings. While Destry Rides Again performed well at the box office, it was not an extravagant success at the time. However, and I think this is because of how well the movie was constructed, Destry Rides Again remains high on the list of memorable westerns. A couple of quick side notes: Destry Rides Again was James Stewart’s first Western. It was also credited with revitalizing Marlene Dietrich’s career.