Thursday, 13 July 2017

A scare at bedtime

A marauding, enraged giant, a child-snatching goblin, a nana-eating wolf and an unstoppable pot of oozing porridge - the stuff that nightmares are made of... My 20-month daughter tends to dictate most of my reading these days – her current faves are Daisy Duck, Little Lamb and the unputdownable Puppy Dog, and it has me reflecting on Ladybird’s Well Loved Tales series which I loved as a child. I haven’t thought about these books in well over 30 years so it was a treat to discover a page containing scans of the various covers. Ladybird have re-issued the series many times over the years but the original artwork courtesy of Eric Winter and Robert Lumley has rarely been bettered. I’ve always cited 2000AD as the origins of my love of Fantasy and Horror, but I wonder was something already stirring in those early years with the help of those Ladybirds ? Even now, looking at the cover for The Magic Porridge Pot, I can feel a little frisson of panic, perhaps an ancient buried memory of fooling around with a sink and gushing taps beyond my control… Check out the Well-Loved Tales series here



As I was putting this post together, I was reminded of Cinema's first adaptation of Jack and the Beanstalk made by Edwin S. Porter in 1902. Over a century later, it looks undeniably stagey and primitive - the camera is locked down and distant, and the special effects, rudimentary, but this 10min film is remarkable in two respects. Firstly, the concept of a narrative cinema can be seen slowly emerging from the film - unlike many silent films from the era which were little more than brief sketches of everyday life, Porter's film has a definite story structure. The film has no intertitles and was most likely made before intertitles were introduced (Porter's own film Uncle Tom's Cabin is said to be one of the earliest uses of intertitles, in 1903) but Porter sticks closely to the folktale so audiences could follow the story. The second important aspect of the film was that it showed how Cinema could transcend theatre. Porter was able to bend space and time with a simple edit, and the film's optical effects, create a kind of magic that could not be replicated on the stage. This charming film can be viewed here



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