Friday, 7 March 2014

Jeff Lieberman on Squirm

Continuing a series recalling little nuggets heard on film maker commentaries... In this instalment Jeff Lieberman remembers seeing an alternative version of his 1976 film Squirm...
One time Channel 11 WPIX in New York showed by mistake Squirm in black & white... I dunno if you can do this on your TV - tweak it, take the color out and watch this whole sequence with no colors and I'm telling you it's 10 times better. I called the station. Far from complaining I said that was the most amazing thing seeing Squirm in black & white... A thing like this in black & white looks great. Maybe we should put that on the (DVD) menu -  a choice to watch Squirm in black & white...
Jeff Lieberman, Squirm (MGM DVD, commentary index point 80:30)


  1. That's interesting, especially as some companies are specializing in colorizing classic B&W films, much to the loss of atmosphere of the original film. My DVD of Carnival of Souls is remastered, with an expensive looking colorisation on the disc. Needless to say, everything that was so haunting about that film is lost in the process.

    Will definitely try out that segment of Squirm in B&W.

  2. What's really interesting John is that Lieberman's commentary, recorded in 2003 predates by a good five years, Frank Darabont's idea to re-vision The Mist as a black & white film, which to echo Lieberman's remark looks 10 times better. When I first saw The Mist, I thought it was okay, but it was only after seeing it in b/w that I really fell in love with the film... The colorization of films is a nasty business though. I think the only one in my collection is My Man Godfrey (the DVD contains the b/w and color version). I can't imagine Carnival of Souls in color - its one of those films, like Eraserhead or Rumble Fish, that is intrinsically monochrome. The process is much better these days I must say, and it's come a long way from the green faced zombies of the color Night of the Living Dead - I caught a few minutes of the colorized Longest Day recently and if you were seeing that film for the first time, you might not cop that it's a b/w movie. My Tartan DVD of La Haine comes with a montage of scenes in color (how the film was originally shot) and it might be interesting to check that out. Black & White doesn't always win out though - I have the Japanese DVD of Kill Bill 1 and the House of Blue Leaves massacre is staged in its entirety in color, and is way better...

  3. Fully agreed on The Mist, the film is SUPERB in black and white (and was pretty good in colour, too), it definitely feels like a different film. We have White Christmas that has been colorized, though I believe the B&W version is also on the disc. I don't mind companies doing this once they include a remastered original version.

    I didn't actually realise La Haine was originally shot in colour, I must check the DVD out. That Night of the Living Dead is legendary at this point, in terms of how not to do it. besides, by having the 'graveyard' zombie green, it fairly ruined the surprise of him being dead.

    Yeah, the full colour version of Kill Bill is the only way to go, though I figure since it was a censorship issue in the first place we can let it pass!

  4. Yeah, true, it does work both ways, color or b/w... It's funny you mention censorship, because one of my early film memories was hearing that Psycho had to be made in b/w cos there was so much blood in it, and when I finally caught up with it, I was y'know, slightly disappointed...

  5. Heh, that story is acceptable if you were a pre-teen. At least your first introduction to Psycho wasn't the remake, or something truly awful. I used to rent/watch films based on reputation for gore, etc, in my teens, these days a well-done murder sequence is just a mere added bonus to the rest of the film.

  6. It's fascinating how this can make you view something in a whole new way. I've yet to see The Mist in black and white, but I remember thinking that it was a great idea.

    Christine over at Fascination with Fear has a regular blog feature in which she removes the colour from various horror film stills. The results are frequently breathtaking -

    Fangoria has also started a new column which 'revisits modern horror films in black and white', discussing how a classically informed viewing experience can give a whole new life to familiar images

  7. Thanks for those links James, that's a very interesting experiment I must say and opens of a whole fascinating discussion about how we view films. Christine's choice of images are very interesting, some work, some don't and I'm not so sure I could have readily identified them if captions weren't provided - like the Company of Wolves still, which I might have guessed was Curse of the Cat People, and Masque of the Red Death drained of Nic Roeg's color photography could pass for Black Sunday...