DRACULA's piece of cardboard

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DRACULA's piece of cardboard

Joe Karlosi
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Joined: 10 Jul 2004, 05:08

05 Oct 2006, 14:49 #1

Okay, I thought I'd devote a separate thread to see who believes what. There's that infamous "error" in which we see a scraggly piece of cardboard against the lamp in DRACULA. We have two commentary tracks on the new DVD. It seems David Skal thinks the cardboard was an ignorant error and was never meant to be left in the frame. A careless oversight, and a "blooper".

On the other hand, Steven Haberman thinks it was intentionally placed there as part of the scene, where perhaps the doctor wished to shield the light away from the sleeping woman's face (as part of the plot).

I haven't decided how I feel about it just yet, but I will say that Haberman really seems to go to extraordinary lengths to defend the weaknesses in the Browning film. Could this cardboard explanation be one of them? I don't believe there's ANY way for us to "know".----------------------
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TServo4
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Joined: 07 Feb 2006, 09:04

05 Oct 2006, 14:52 #2

In defense of Haberman, why would there be a piece of cardboard attached to a lamp, production-wise?----
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Joe Karlosi
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Joined: 10 Jul 2004, 05:08

05 Oct 2006, 14:55 #3

Maybe to control the amount of lighting for a closeup of the girl 's face on the bed? And if so, perhaps that it was left there mistakenly for the shot with Lugosi entering the room?

And I forget offhand - do we see this cardboard there in any other scenes?----------------------
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GaryP11111
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Joined: 27 May 2003, 09:52

05 Oct 2006, 14:56 #4

Quote:
On the other hand, Steven Haberman thinks it was intentionally placed there as part of the scene, where perhaps the doctor wished to shield the light away from the sleeping woman's face (as part of the plot).

Haberman is correct. Shielding light sources in sick rooms was a common practice in times past. An audience contemporary to DRACULA's release would have instantly recognized the purpose of the light screen without a second thought. There was an interesting thread about this on alt.movies.silent some time ago. GARY L. PRANGE

"Sic gorgiamus allos subjectos nunc."
GARY L. PRANGE
I'm not all bad, just mostly.

"Sic gorgiamus allos subjectos nunc." 
  
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Joe Karlosi
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Joined: 10 Jul 2004, 05:08

05 Oct 2006, 14:57 #5

That sounds good enough for me, Gary.----------------------
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TomWeaver999
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Joined: 22 Nov 2004, 03:38

05 Oct 2006, 15:10 #6

I have to admit, I just didn't like the way it was presented by Steve DRACULA DEAD AND LOVING IT SCREENWRITER Haberman (as you always see his name -- was that stinkbomb really such a life plateau for him?). He's obviously referring to Skal when he says "only someone extraordinarily ignorant" (or whatever the quote was) would think that the cardboard thingie in the shot was a blooper. ?!?!!!? DRACULA's the movie where "president" is misspelled in the credits, South American critters run around a Transylvanian dungeon, etc., from the studio with a stagehand visible on camera in BRIDE OF FRANK, the Monster in the sulfur pit in the first reel of SON OF FRANK, and probably 20 others we could name -- but someone who thinks there could possibly be a blooper in Browning's DRACULA is "ignorant"? Saying something like that is just being nasty and ... well ... ignorant.
Last edited by TomWeaver999 on 04 Oct 2010, 02:46, edited 1 time in total.
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Joe Karlosi
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Joined: 10 Jul 2004, 05:08

05 Oct 2006, 15:23 #7

I never noticed the monster in the pit earlier (I recall reading this in another thread somewhere). I'll have to look for it when I watch the film again later this month. And where is the stagehand in BRIDE? This just goes to show there's ALWAYS something new to discover in these films we've seen a zillion times.

Back to Haberman - didn't he leave DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT to the latter half of his list of self-spoken credentials? I forgot what first mentioned he wrote...
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BijouBob8mm
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Joined: 09 Nov 2005, 00:56

05 Oct 2006, 15:33 #8

There are factors to support either theory. For a long time, I simply accepted that it was placed there to quickly control how much light was used when photographing a shot, and simply not removed. Recently, some doubt has come into my mind about this because of some stills I've seen. (I think at least one of these may appear on the DVD's photo gallery.) In one, we see Dr. Seward and company gathered in the girl's bedroom to discuss her condition, and the cardboard is very visible and does appear to be placed there to keep the light out of the sleeping patient's eyes. The photo is taken from the opposite angle that the camera was at when the cardboard appears in the movie. (Since the photos seem to be of scenes cut from the film prior to release, perhaps that deleted footage would answer the question once and for all. Was it placed there by one of the characters in the film, or one of the camera crew during preduction?) On the other hand, Seward seems to be a well-to-do doctor, so you would think something a bit more classy than cardboard would have been draped over the lamp to diffuse the light. I'm just not so sure, any longer.

I agree with Tom, regarding the use of "ignorant" to describe anyone who feels DRACULA contains bloopers. Universal's classic creature features had their share of them. Hammer had a few, too. It happens. And, Mel Brooks fan that I am, I was very disappointed with DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT. Why Haberman, of all people, for the new commentary...?
Quote:
I never noticed the monster in the pit earlier

If you didn't know to look for it, you might not notice or realize that's what it was. Head and, I think, shoulders sticking out. I've always figured it was a last minute decision to get an insert shot of the sulpher pit, and they had limited footage options. (I think this may have been noticeable on the 8mm reel of highlights, as well, back in those pre-VCR days.) I don't think I've ever noticed the stagehand in BRIDE, either.
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Wolfman Joe
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Joined: 10 Feb 2005, 05:17

05 Oct 2006, 15:44 #9

Quote:
I don't think I've ever noticed the stagehand in BRIDE, either.

Yeah, where is that?
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Joe Karlosi
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Joined: 10 Jul 2004, 05:08

05 Oct 2006, 16:05 #10

I gotta say, even though I love Lugosi as Dracula, the Browning film itself has more than its share of problems. Since we're talking about Haberman here, I did appreciate his sticking up for the 1931 film in some ways - but in some cases he goes too far, IMO. Can anyone successfully excuse the bit where Dracula comes out of his coffin and the camera pans to a window for no reason for just a moment and then back to show Drac now emerged out of his coffin? I agree with the common opinion that it's better not to see the vampire clumsily getting out of the box, but what I think was badly done was merely pointing the camera to a window and then back. Surely there was some better wat to deflect attention off Dracula coming out of the coffin? ----------------------
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TomWeaver999
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Joined: 22 Nov 2004, 03:38

05 Oct 2006, 16:14 #11

Oops -- I hope *I* haven't blooper-ed with the stage hand comment -- but isn't there a shot (in the lab) in BRIDE where you see a guy, maybe even a guy with a light, on one side? Whoever pointed that out here on CHFB originally will pipe up and confirm this -- I hope!

In the meantime, I'll replace that example with "Basil Rathbone's hat" in SON OF FRANK (in one scene, he enters a room and throws his hat toward a chair but misses -- and in subsequent shots, the hat is in multiple different places on the floor).
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HalLane
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Joined: 16 Oct 2005, 05:18

05 Oct 2006, 16:21 #12

Quote:
Surely there was some better way to deflect attention off Dracula coming out of the coffin?
Not if you were trying to stick to the budget there wasn't ;)
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Joe Karlosi
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Joined: 10 Jul 2004, 05:08

05 Oct 2006, 16:36 #13

Well, earlier there were those switch shots of the bugs and animals creeping about! ----------------------
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TomWeaver999
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Joined: 22 Nov 2004, 03:38

05 Oct 2006, 16:38 #14

That's the Transylvanian equivalent of Ed Wood cutting to a shot of a radiator to bridge things in GLEN OR GLENDA.

When we DO see the window, is there light coming through it that gets dimmer, could THAT be the point (to indicate sundown)?
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Joe Karlosi
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Joined: 10 Jul 2004, 05:08

05 Oct 2006, 16:54 #15

If that was the point, it didn't come across!----------------------
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GaryP11111
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Joined: 27 May 2003, 09:52

05 Oct 2006, 16:54 #16

Quote:
Oops -- I hope *I* haven't blooper-ed with the stage hand comment -- but isn't there a shot (in the lab) in BRIDE where you see a guy, maybe even a guy with a light, on one side? Whoever pointed that out here on CHFB originally will pipe up and confirm this -- I hope!

That would be moi. You can see a stage hand who appears to be holding a light up on the stars or the scaffolding. I can't recall when in the film this occurs -- it's been awhile since I posted about that on AOL. I'll take a look perhaps this evening and pinpoint it.GARY L. PRANGE

"Sic gorgiamus allos subjectos nunc."
GARY L. PRANGE
I'm not all bad, just mostly.

"Sic gorgiamus allos subjectos nunc." 
  
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grgstv338
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Joined: 01 Feb 2005, 06:55

05 Oct 2006, 17:09 #17

Bloopers? Continuity errors? How about in FRANKENSTEIN? In the new commentary by Christopher Frayling, he points out a bit of a continuity lapse when Dwight Frye bumps into the hanging display skeleton while stealing one of the brains from Waldman's classroom. In the medium shots, we see the skeleton springing crazily up and down, but in the subsequent wide shot the skeleton is perfectly still.

Re Haberman, it's interesting to have the Skal commentary on one track and the screenwriter's on another, because Haberman (who, since he did his track for this new version had probably already listened to Skal's) almost sounds like he's trying to compete with David. Haberman even starts out his track by saying he intends to dispell and refute notions about Browning's film that have cropped up (an indirect reference to Skal's Hollywood Gothic?).

And, yes, Haberman really goes to excessive lengths to knock anything he can in the Spanish DRACULA. Okay, maybe Haberman just simply dislikes that version - or maybe it's just that he knows that Skal had championed it after its re-discovery.
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TomWeaver999
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Joined: 22 Nov 2004, 03:38

05 Oct 2006, 17:33 #18

The Frayling FRANKENSTEIN commentary I enjoyed ... but, yeah, I got the feeling that Haberman must have derived a good bit of his DRAC info from years of Skal work, which is a bit off-putting right there ... and then was perhaps zinging the guy (and maybe even his opinions) too -- even down to the level of name-calling ("incredibly ignorant," or whatever the quote was).

Somebody with a fuller knowledge of the History of Lampshades may step in and correct me, but I still have a hard time believing that in the old days it was customary to regularly affix a piece of trash (like a ragged piece of cardboard) to a light, even in a fancy home, so that the light was a bit dimmer, or not in your eyes, or whatever -- I think even the Geiko Caveman could have come up with something better than THAT!
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GaryP11111
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Joined: 27 May 2003, 09:52

05 Oct 2006, 17:38 #19

Quote:
I have to admit, I just didn't like the way it was presented by Steve DRACULA DEAD AND LOVING IT SCREENWRITER Haberman (as you always see his name -- was that stinkbomb really such a life plateau for him?). He's obviously referring to Skal when he says "only somehow extraordinarily ignorant" (or whatever the quote was) would think that the cardboard thingie in the shot was a blooper. ?!?!!!?


I haven't listened to Haberman's commentary yet, but if this is the case, I wouldn't care for that sort of thing either. I don't agree with some of David Skal's theories, but they're well thought out, well presented and plausible. They make one think. As a historian his work is top notch and he's made very important contributions to our knowledge of the genre and deserves better treatment than a catty commentary track. If it becomes necessary to pummel someone else to raise one's own stature in the genre community, you've already lost the battle of ideas. GARY L. PRANGE

"Sic gorgiamus allos subjectos nunc."
GARY L. PRANGE
I'm not all bad, just mostly.

"Sic gorgiamus allos subjectos nunc." 
  
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Joe Karlosi
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Joined: 10 Jul 2004, 05:08

05 Oct 2006, 17:38 #20

I think I agree that he's way too hard on the Spanish version, but this is most probably born out of the fact that so many have slammed Browning's version for so many years and praised the Spanish.

My feeling on the Spanish version has been that there are many shots that are impressive and it's often better filmed than the Browning film. But Carlos Villar sinks the show because he's so goofy. Put Lugosi and the rest of the American cast in there and it would have been something to experience. I also find the Spanish version just as "talky" as the Browning film.

Some of the points that Haberman made against the Spanish version and pro the Browning version I'd go along with - I think it was better that Browning put the fog all over; I like the way Lugosi is first seen with that camera coming in toward him; I think the Browning sequence between Dracula meeting Renfield is better with Dracula on the stairs, and Frye down below.

Haberman picks on the Spanish crane shot, saying it was somehow clumsily done (or something). But I liked it. But then again he did make a good point for the American version where we see Dracula just softly coming from out of the shadows, as though he was also one of those insects and armadillos.

I haven't heard his comparisons between the "mirror" sequences.. but I've always preferred the way Lugosi smacks down the mirror, as opposed to the overdone method in the Spanish version. ----------------------
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"Physical Media: Alive and Well, Forever!"





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