Frame by Frame: The Dark Crystal (1982)

Year1982
Decade1980s
Cinematographer  Oswald Morris (IMDB link)
DirectorJim Henson, Frank Oz
Aspect Ratio2.40
DistributorUniversal
GenreFantasy
Cameras – Panaflex
Lenses  Anamorphic
Format  35mm
Schedule – Principal photography began on April 15th, 1981 and wrapped on September 11th, 1981. The film was shot at EMI Elstree Studios near London.

The Movie
A pair of elf-like creatures on the planet Thra embark on a quest to repair the titular gem – and thus end the reign of a species of revolting reptile/bird hybrids called the Skeksis. Jim Henson’s all-puppet extravaganza was a modest hit during the Christmas season of 1982, but was overshadowed by the blockbuster success of E.T. earlier that year. However, the film became a home video favorite for a generation of kids – myself included – who were equal parts terrified and enthralled by The Dark Crystal, which was significantly more frightening than unsuspecting parents anticipated from the creator of The Muppets.
The film was the swan song of three-time Oscar nominated cinematographer Oswald Morris, who shot the movie back-to-back with Henson’s The Great Muppet Caper and then hung up his light meter.

Further Reading
Starlog, April 1983 issue (Download)
American Cinematographer, December (1982) (Download)
Dark Crystal: The Ultimate Visual History
The Making of the Dark Crystal Continue Reading ›

Frame by Frame – Three O’Clock High (1987)

Year1987
Decade1980s
CinematographerBarry Sonnenfeld (imdb link)
DirectorPhil Joanou
Aspect Ratio1.85
DistributorUniversal
GenreComedy
LensesSpherical
Format35mm

Categories
Clink on any link to see similar frames from other films.
Character Introduction
Inserts
High and Low Angles
Rack Focus
Cross Dissolves
Full Shots
Profile
Silhouettes
Unusual Camera Perspectives
Venetian Blinds

The Movie

A “new student” profile piece for the school paper turns into an adolescent nightmare for a timid reporter (Casey Siemaszko) when the story’s subject (Richard Tyson) challenges him to an after school showdown. Siemaszko spends the remander of the day attempting to escape the confines of the school before the final bell tolls. Director Phil Joanou – who was just 24 when production began, making him younger than both his leading men – saw the film as a pubescent nod to Martin Scorsese’s After Hours.

“The original script was called After School and was very much a John Hughes style comedy, very broad with lots of slapstick. When I came on I had really loved Martin Scorsese’s movie AFTER HOURS (1985). If you compare Scorsese’s film with my film, you will see that I was heavily influenced by AFTER HOURS, as in I stole a ton of stuff from it! In the film, Griffin Dunne is trapped down in SoHo and no matter what he does, he can’t escape his fate. It’s very similar to 3 O’CLOCK HIGH in that this kid is trapped in high school and no matter what he does, he can’t escape. The original script was much more about him having to confront the bully, and I added ”Well, what if he tried everything he could think of to get kicked out.” The ticking clock and the trapped hero were what I brought to 3 O’CLOCK HIGH. I also tried to make it much more of a black comedy as opposed to a straight-ahead teen comedy.” – director Phil Joanou, from an interview with Money Into Light

Shot on location in Ogden, Utah over 33 days, Three O’Clock High failed to make back its $6 million budget while in theaters. It’s developed a bit of a cult following over the years – culminating in a Blu-ray release from Shout! Factory – and has been a favorite of mine since childhood. Roger Ebert, however, was not a fan of the stylishly shot movie, awarding Three O’ Clock High one star and condemning it as an extension of Reagan era American machismo.

Hollywood teenage movies have been edging toward fascism for years. There once may have been a time when nice kids got ahead by being nice, but in today’s Hollywood, muscle and brute strength count for everything. – Roger Ebert, from the Chicago Sun-Times

 

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Frame by Frame: The Stepfather (1987)

Year1987
Decade1980s
CinematographerJohn Lindley (imdb link)
DirectorJoseph Ruben (imdb link)
Aspect Ratio1.85
GenreHorror
LensesSpherical
Format35mm

Key Words
Shot-by-Shot Scene Breakdowns                    Camera Moves

Click on any link to view other films featuring frames from that category.

The Movie
A seemingly bland suburban realtor (Terry O’Quinn) marries into a widowed family and reacts violently when the clan doesn’t live up to his ideal of family values.

A link has frequently been drawn between the violence in the horror films of the 1980s – particularly the slasher flicks of the era – and the decade’s shift toward moral conservatism. When characters flaunted the tenants of the religious right that flourished under Reagan, their demise was swift. Have sex and you die. Take drugs and you die. Joseph Ruben’s clever low-budget thriller The Stepfather is one of the few films to intentionally and explicitly make that connection, presenting a portrait of unhinged patriarchy raging against the white middle class male’s dwindling influence that still feels relevant 30 years later.

Check out the movie while it’s streaming on Amazon Prime.
Continue Reading ›

Frame by Frame: Friday the 13th (1980)

Year1980
Decade1980s
CinematographerBarry Abrams (imdb link)
DirectorSean S. Cunningham (imdb link)
Make-Up Effects – Tom Savini (imdb link)
Aspect Ratio
 – 1.85
DistributorParamount
GenreHorror, Slasher
LensesSpherical
Format35mm
Other Key Words
Point of View
Shot-by-Shot Scene Breakdowns

Click on a link to view other films featuring frames from that category. Continue Reading ›

Frame by Frame: Possession (1981)

Year 1981
Decade – 1980s
Director – Andrej Zulawski
Cinematographers – Bruno Nuytten
Aspect Ratio – 1.66
Genre  Horror
Lenses – spherical
Format 35mm
Other Key Words Video Nasties; Close-Ups; Phone Calls; Shot/Reverse Shot Continue Reading ›