Frame By Frame – Leviathan (1989)

Year – 1989
Decade – 1980s
CinematographerAlex Thomson (imdb link)
DirectorGeorge P. Cosmatos (imdb link)
Aspect Ratio – 2.39
Distributor – MGM
Genre – Sci-Fi; Horror
Lenses – J-D-C Scope anamorphic lenses
Format – 35mm
Film Stock Agfa XT
Click on any category to see similar frames from other films
POV Shots; Reflections; Shafts of Light; Lens Flares; Unusual Camera Perspectives; Color – Blue; Creatures; Set Design;

The Movie
A team of deep sea silver miners stumbles upon a derelict Russian craft with predictable consequences for anyone who’s seen Alien or The Thing.
Leviathan was one of three underwater-set studio flicks released in the span of six short months in 1989, top-lined by James Cameron’s The Abyss. It’s basically a direct lift of creature feature tropes transplanted from the void of space to the murky expanse of the ocean, but it benefits from an usually generous B-movie budget of $24 million as well as a solid cast (Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, Hector Elizondo, Daniel Stern) and below-the-line pedigree (Oscar nominees in cinematographer Alex Thomson, composer Jerry Goldsmith, and effects guru Stan Winston).
Leviathan’s underwater sequences were shot dry-for-wet at Cinecittà Studios in Rome. The above-water finale was lensed in an infinity pool in Malta, located on the coast so that at the right camera angle the water of the pool lined up with the ocean to create the illusion of a distant horizon.

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Pic of the Day – Tigerland (2000)

(Above) Joel Schumacher and Colin Farrell on the set of Tigerland (2000), my favorite film from the late director.

Set at Fort Polk, Louisiana in 1971, Tigerland follows a group of recruits during their final days of infantry training before shipping out to Vietnam. Shot on 16mm over 28 days in and around Jacksonville, Florida, the $10 million film was released in only a handful of theaters. Yet Farrell’s role as a Cool Hand Luke-esque anti-conformist launched the Irish actor’s career. The movie also marked the feature debut of the great character actor Shea Whigham.

The photo comes from the excellent production stills collection Behind the Clapperboard.

Pic of the Day – The Posters of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958)

A collection of original release art from around the globe for Alfred Hitchcock’s classic tale of obsession, Vertigo (1958). All of these come from the website of Heritage Auctions, which currently has the Belgian beauty at the top of the page up for bid through July 5th.

Vertigo popularized the “dolly/zoom” effect in which, typically, foreground objects retain their size while the background perspective shifts. Here’s Alfred Hitchcock on the technique’s origins, from his 1966 book-length interview with filmmaker Francois Truffaut titled Hitchcock/Truffaut.

“When Joan Fontaine fainted at the inquest in Rebecca, I wanted to show how she felt that everything was moving far away from her before she toppled over. I always remember one night at the Chelsea Arts Ball at Albert Hall in London when I got terribly drunk and I had the sensation that everything was going far away from me. I tried to get that into Rebecca, but they couldn’t do it. The viewpoint must be fixed, you see, while the perspective is changed as it stretches lengthwise. I thought about the problem for fifteen years. By the time we got to Vertigo, we solved it by using the dolly and zoom simultaneously. I asked how much it would cost, and they told me it would cost fifty thousand dollars. When I asked why, they said, “Because to put the camera at the top of the stairs we have to have a big apparatus to lift it, counterweight it, and hold it up in space.” I said, “There are no characters in this scene; it’s simply a viewpoint. Why can’t we make a miniature of the stairway and lay it on its side, then take our shot by pulling away from it? We can use a tracking shot and a zoom flat on the ground.” So that’s the way we did it, and it only cost us nineteen thousand dollars.” Continue Reading ›

Frame by Frame – Bad Boys (1995)

CinematographerHoward Atherton (imdb link)
DirectorMichael Bay
Aspect Ratio1.85
Cameras – Panavision Panaflex
LensesPanavision Primo (spherical)
Format35mm Film
CategoriesColor-Blue; High and Low Angles; Shafts of Light; Close-Ups; Firearms
(Click on any category to see similar frames from other films)

The Movie
A case of mistaken identity forces two Miami narcotics officers – bachelor Will Smith and family man Martin Lawrence – to switch places to protect a murder witness (Téa Leoni). The film transformed sitcom stars Smith and Lawrence into movie leading men and launched the career of 29-year-old music video director Michael Bay.
However, Bad Boys was almost a very, very different film. A Disney-produced version starring Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz – but still directed by Bay – was shut down just weeks before principal photography was set to begin in February of 1993.

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Pic of the Day: Thunder explodes in Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Behind the scenes of Big Trouble in Little China

(Above) The crew from the visual effects company Boss Film prepares the “exploding Thunder” gag on John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China (1986).

Photo from Tara Bennett and Paul Terry’s book The Official Making of Big Trouble in Little China, released to commemorate film’s 30th anniversary.

Steve Johnson on the set of Big Trouble in Little China

Here’s Steve Johnson (pictured above), credited as Special MakeUp Effects on Big Trouble, on pulling off the gag.

“The head had huge bladders in it, plus mechanisms for the brows to work. His eyes were squint shut and it had a little bit of lip articulation. When it started to expand, we replaced that with another head…It started about as far as the first head would go, then we cut away to where the second head would go even further. We did some cartoon stuff like the steam out of his nose and ears. We also made feet and hands that expanded, plus a full body suit.

I also had this guy, Eric Fiedler, who was a great engineer. He created these dump tanks where we used compressors to get as much air in as fast as we could. At the flick of a switch, air would go through these huge hoses and the body parts would instantly inflate. All the muscles were made of separate bladders, so we had lines going to each one. That way, we could get his entire body to inflate. It went really fast on film so it would read on a quick shot.”

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Pic of the Day – Harrison Ford braves the “rapids” in The Call of the Wild

Disney’s new CGI canine version of Jack London’s 1903 novel The Call of the Wild hits Blu-ray and OnDemand today. Here’s non-CGI human star Harrison Ford in a gimbal-perched canoe, with an Alexa 65 rigged to speed rail on the gimbal and another Alexa on a Bolt motion control rig. Looks like there’s a pair of Canon C300s on the right side of frame – not sure of their purpose.

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