Cinema Spirits Accuse the Living!
I ACCUSE THE LIVING!
The Living need to Know!
There have been religious fanatics leaving countries like Australia to join Islamic State. Disturbing? Yes. And we have seen film footage of the son of one of these fanatics holding up the severed head of a victim.
Are these fanatics, these criminals likely to die and the only evidence they ever lived some film footage that once was shown on camera.
We live in an age when seeing ghosts on the screen,whether we are talking movies or old television episodes, isn't very unusual or even worthy of much comment anymore.
When we watch a John Wayne movie we do so with the knowledge that John Wayne is dead and so are, no doubt, many of the other cast members. This is fine since John Wayne and the rest of the cast can live on in a way via the flickering images.
John Wayne lost some credibility his support of the Vietnam War. It became known that John Wayne had never been in real combat. He had always played at soldier or cowboy but had never been prompted toreally lay his life on the line for his country.
When we watch an old episode of Dragnet or The Naked City we are well aware that anyone who is over forty in the episode is probably no longer with us.
Film stars, television stars, character actors and extras live on in flickering images. This we do accept. It is part of our universal understanding that this is not only possible but happening right now and will indeed continue to happen into our collective future. It is something we don't question or even much think about.
There are even ghosts in the books that we read. A long death author can reach out to us, the living, through his or her past work. He or she can even have something vital to say to the living.
In just one instance maybe, just for a moment, we should think on the ghosts that, in some way, make our world a more interesting and even a more exciting place. It couldn't hurt and maybe by doing so we can open up a doorway into another time and another age of cinema.
Now let me take you back to a time when true ghosts on the screen had the most marvelous effect on audiences. Women grew faint, men moaned and tears rolled down cheeks. All this over the fact that many of the men who were in this one particular film which was shot in 1918 were dead by the time of its cinematic release in 1919.
Many of the men who had played dead men who had come back to life were dead men in reality when cinema goers got to see them act.
And they were calling out for peace and an end to war. They were even accusing the living of not doing something about war in time to save their lives.
It was the first time many cinema goers were aware of the fact they were truly looking at the dead perform and it got to them.
J'accuse (I accuse) was made in 1918 and involved 2,000 French soldiers on leave. Upon their return to the front 80 percent of them were killed doing their duty as soldiers of France.
Directed by Abel Gance, this was supposed to be a morale booster of a film. Instead Gance and the people he worked with cheated. The film instead became the best anti-war film to grace the silent era of film making. The battlefields where the filming took place were genuine battlefields.
Just what were the dead men brought back to life in the film accusing the living of? Well there is the accusing of the living of universal stupidly for the war.
It can be said that J'accuse was early cinematic horror at its best. It had a point to make and made it. It did well in France and in the UK. In 1938 Gance made a new version of J'accuse this time with sound.
OTHER FAMOUS ANTI-WAR FILMS
Based on the novel by Erich Maria Remarque that went by the same name, the first film version of All Quiet on the Western Front was released in 1930. It was an unusual film to be made by Americans in that it was about what happened to a German soldier on the Western Front. It is an early sound picture.
Neither the book nor the movie pleased Adolf Hitler. Strangely enough, the film was banned for a time in Australia of all places! Regardless, it was an academy award winner!
The 1979 cinema version of All Quiet on the Western Front, starring Richard Thomas, was not as great a film but it is worth checking out. It is not as well paced as the 1930 version but this is made up for to some extent by the use of color .
The Shape of Things to Come (1933) is a very enjoyable science fiction novel by H. G. Wells.
In 1936 it was made into a film titled Things to Come which starred Raymond Massey. In both the book and the film, war is seen as something totally against civilization and against man's better nature.
In the film Things to Come we see what many decades of war can do to what once was a vibrant society. There are also touching moments. For example, there is a scene in the film where an enemy pilot distributing poison gas is shot down and then gives up his gas mask to save the life of a small child. The hope for the future can be seen in the final moments of this anti-war masterpiece.
Catch-22 is an excellent novel written by Joseph Heller. The 1970 movie version starring Alan Arkin is a bit of a let down. Even so it is still a much respected piece of cinema about the insanities of war.
Based on a novel by Richard Hooker, MASH is not one of my all time favorite anti-war films. Made in 1970 and starring Donald Sutherland it is filmed in such a way that it comes across to me as being rather tiresome to watch. In a sense it takes realism and documentary style shooting a bit too far. In the end the pace is the killer. Johnny Mandel's music helps but not enough.
One thing the film did do was spawn a great and very successful television show called MASH which is set in Korea and, like the novel and the film, is principally about an American Mobile Army Surgical Hospital.
The Trial of Billy Jack is a film starring Tom Laughlin as fictional North American Indian warrior Billy Jack. Released in 1974 it was one anti-war movie aimed at making teenagers and twenty-somethings think about where America was at and on how to build a better, more peaceful future.
Billy Jack seeks the ways of peace but is hampered by violent townsfolk and touched by his memories of the atrocities committed by armed Americans on villagers in Vietnam. It seems that the history of the USA is full of bloodshed and will continue to be so unless someone, unless everyone gives peace a chance. Billy Jack has to fight his own violent nature if he wants to survive. Great music accompanies this very thoughtful and thought provoking movie.
GHOST DANCE by Rod Marsden out now. www.bloodredshadow.com
Also check out the spirits of the dead in DESK JOB by Rod Marsden
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