Reviving the sounds of silents

Reviving the sounds of silents

Musicians breathe new life into mute movies at Toronto Silent Film Festival. The films of the silent era were a varied lot, from slapstick to melodrama, featuring high society folk, cowboys, swashbucklers, vamps, flappers and rascals. Nearly a century later, these films are anything but silent. Plenty of music, both traditional and modern, will be heard during the Toronto Silent Film Festival, which runs March 30 to April 7. The lineup — seven screenings held…

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Monster mask pioneer Verne Langdon dead at 69

Monster mask pioneer Verne Langdon dead at 69

Verne Langdon, writer, producer, composer and sculptor best known to horror fans for the iconic monster masks he created in the 1960s, died on January 1, 2011 of natural causes. He was 69. A monster kid at heart, Langdon’s intricately sculpted masks, bearing the likenesses of many Universal Monsters, were initially offered in the back pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. They would eventually redefine Halloween masks for future generations when they later appeared…

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Project documents Toronto’s evolution in Kodachrome

Project documents Toronto’s evolution in Kodachrome

The format is gone, but one enthusiast is preserving its warm take on Toronto one image at a time. Don Draper said it best: “Nostalgia – it’s delicate, but potent.” Presenting a slide projector to a room full of Eastman Kodak executives, the advertising visionary from AMC’s television series Mad Men clicked through dozens of family photos, generating an emotional response from those in the room. A trip down memory lane is no less powerful…

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Famed Hammer director Roy Ward Baker dead at age 93

Famed Hammer director Roy Ward Baker dead at age 93

Directing films featuring schizophrenic babysitters, epic disasters and busty lesbian vampires. To a horror fan, that’s quite a career. Roy Ward Baker, a prolific British filmmaker who helmed many horror and science fiction classics for Hammer Films, including Quatermass and the Pit, The Vampire Lovers, Scars of Dracula, Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde and The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires, died October 5 at the age of 93. “Baker was always workmanlike, with occasional…

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Hammer screenwriter Jimmy Sangster dead at 63

Hammer screenwriter Jimmy Sangster dead at 63

British screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, who changed the course of the horror genre in the 1950s with his scripts for Hammer’s The Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula and The Mummy, died in London au August 19, at the age of 83. With The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Sangster successfully toyed with horror tradition by making Peter Cushing’s mad doctor the film’s focus, instead of his cadaverous creation, which had long been the norm during Universal…

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Hitchcock’s Films by Robin Wood

Hitchcock’s Films by Robin Wood

Why should we take Hitchcock seriously? Considering all of the books and documentaries about his work, the DVD re-releases and remakes of his films, not to mention his direct influence on several generations of filmmakers, it seems like a downright silly question to ask today. But film critic and scholar Robin Wood (1931-2009) was quite earnest when that very question prefaced his 1965 book Hitchcock’s Films (Tantivy Press), the first serious English-language work on the…

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The day Shakespeare was banned

The day Shakespeare was banned

There was a time in Ontario when film versions of Shakespeare’s greatest plays were too violent or too racy for the public good. In February 1910, one Staff Insp. Kennedy seized a print of Hamlet. The Daily Star quoted this arbiter of public morals about how how he “witnessed a moving picture show of Hamlet, written I think by Shakespeare, this week. . . .That’s all very well to say it’s a famous drama, but…

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Burlesque Festival: Less sleaze, more tease

Burlesque Festival: Less sleaze, more tease

In an era where sexual imagery is everywhere, it’s hard to believe that a woman dressed in an evening gown, teasingly eyeing her audience while slowly removing a silk glove, can still cause a stir. The Toronto Burlesque Festival, running July 21 to 25 at the Gladstone Hotel, aims to prove that less is still more. An amalgam of inventive striptease, variety acts and live music, the festival aims to blend the old and the…

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Festival celebrates lost art of silent films

Festival celebrates lost art of silent films

In the early days of movie-going, when silent films reigned supreme, there were no snack bars, reclining seats, or disclaimers discouraging cellphone use (although friendly title-cards kindly asked ladies to remove their hats); coming attractions were projected on glass slides and hand-painted posters graced sandwich boards placed outside the street-front cinemas. When talkies arrived in Toronto in late 1928, silent films disappeared, replaced by the chatter of jazz-babies and tough-talking heavies as theatres were quickly…

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The man who let The Littlest Hobo run off-leash

The man who let The Littlest Hobo run off-leash

In the mid-1970s, after the federal government enacted new tax-shelter laws, movie production in the city was on the rise. But there was a problem. In 1979, the City of Toronto still had no permitting system in place to handle the influx of film crews. After several run-ins between producers and public works officials, then-mayor John Sewell appointed Naish McHugh, a seasoned industrial manager with a long-standing reputation as a mediator, to be the city’s…

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