The Ten Commandments — what sort of colour?

Hmmm, I may have to retract that part of my interview with Katherine Orrison where I said that the DVD version of the silent version of The Ten Commandments (1923) had a “hand-tinted” version of the Exodus sequence but not a Technicolor version.

I have always known, or at least believed, that the VHS version of the film had the two-strip Technicolor version; whereas the DVD version is black-and-white, except for a bonus feature which, according to the menu, shows the Exodus on its own in a “hand-tinted” version — a claim that I initially took at face value.

But last night, I dug out my VHS copy of the film and paused a few shots and took photos of those shots off of my TV screen, to compare with the equivalent screen captures from the DVD. And it seems to me that there is no difference between the VHS’s colour shots and the DVD bonus feature’s colour shots. I suspect the DVD producers goofed when they called this footage “hand-tinted”.

Below are three examples. Click on any image for a larger version.

Example #1:


Example #2:


Example #3:


Katherine Orrison — the longer interview’s up!

Just a note to say that I’ve posted the longer version of my interview with Katherine Orrison, who provides the commentaries on the new Ten Commandments DVD set. Once I have a moment, I hope to find my VHS copy of the silent version and post some screen captures, from both the VHS and the DVD, comparing the different colour formats used in the Exodus sequence there.

Canadian box-office stats — March 26

Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.

She’s the Man — CDN $2,408,722 — N.AM $20,476,000 — 11.8%
Eight Below — CDN $8,670,783 — N.AM $77,156,000 — 11.2%

The Shaggy Dog — CDN $4,959,194 — N.AM $47,925,000 — 10.3%
V for Vendetta — CDN $4,642,748 — N.AM $46,194,000 — 10.0%
The Pink Panther — CDN $7,994,972 — N.AM $80,744,000 — 9.9%
16 Blocks — CDN $3,227,771 — N.AM $34,059,000 — 9.5%

Failure to Launch — CDN $5,175,973 — N.AM $63,861,000 — 8.1%
Inside Man — CDN $2,333,985 — N.AM $28,969,000 — 8.1%
The Hills Have Eyes — CDN $2,734,218 — N.AM $35,580,000 — 7.7%
Stay Alive — CDN $461,240 — N.AM $11,208,000 — 4.1%

A couple of discrepancies: The Pink Panther was #10 on the Canadian chart (it was #11 in North America as a whole), while Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector was #7 on the North American chart.

Fleischer’s voyage comes to an end

Richard Fleischer has died at the age of 89, reports the Associated Press. He was the son of Max Fleischer, who co-directed those famous wartime Superman cartoons, among others; and he went on to direct many movies of his own, some of which are memorable and others of which are, um, not-so-memorable.

The Fleischer film I know best is probably 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), since I watched it repeatedly when I was a kid; I have not seen it in years, now, though, and I have never written it up. I did, however, post some comments on Fantastic Voyage (1966) at a message board here, when I bought the DVD a few years ago. I have a weakness for movies that take place inside the human body, and this particular movie is one of the more famous examples — plus it has a hint of God-talk that I find interesting.

FWIW, Fleischer’s other films include Barabbas (1962), the original Doctor Dolittle (1967), Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), Soylent Green (1973) and, uh, Conan the Destroyer (1984).

Church takes Nigerian film industry by storm

Mark Steyn mentioned a few months ago that Nigeria “now has the third biggest film industry in the world, after Hollywood and Bollywood.” What he didn’t mention — but I guess it was inevitable — is that the Nigerian film industry now goes by the name “Nollywood”. And now, the Associated Press reports that one church has been taking the industry by storm:

Now playing across Nigeria: The saga of a church that self-produced a few films and became an instant mogul in the country’s giant movie marketplace known as Nollywood.

It’s the latest and perhaps most audacious foray into mass culture by the Redeemed Christian Church of God. In less than a year, the church’s Dove Studios has gone from Nollywood greenhorns to barons.

Dove has several hits under its belt, a pile of scripts from Nollywood’s top filmmakers and the foundations for a nationwide distribution network that eventually could give it make-or-break influence over the entire industry which churns out more than a dozen new films on DVDs and videos each week and is the principal entertainment market in Nigeria.

“We’re looking to make crossover movies,” said Ope Banwo, head of the church’s World Dove Media Plc., which includes a satellite television division, a celebrity-oriented magazine and state-of-the-art studios that produce music videos and other works. “Our idea was to use popular, secular actors so the guy on the street doesn’t know what’s coming at him. … We’re softly getting him to watch evangelism.”

The church stormed into Nollywood with its first four movies last year, including the English-language “The AIDS Patient” about an infected woman cured by the Holy Spirit and “Agan” (or “None Shall be Barren”), a story in the local Yoruba language about a pastor and his wife who finally conceive a baby after deep prayer.

The films fit in well with one of the traditional themes of Nollywood: people overcoming odds and good triumphing over evil.

More than 50,000 copies of the Dove movies have been sold, which is a runaway success by Nollywood standards. Next up: a $460,000 production about the history of the Redeemed Church.

Banwo’s desk has stacks of scripts from established Nollywood directors. The reason, he said, is Dove’s strategy to build Nigeria’s first, large-scale movie distribution infrastructure.

Despite Nollywood’s prolific output, there is no network to send the DVDs and videos around the vast nation of more than 120 million people. In March, Dove began finalizing a deal to sell its films at post offices across Nigeria. Dove also is studying ways to use its thousands of parishes to market the movies.

Dove won’t turn away other studios’ film for distribution. But there’s a catch, said Banwo.

“The movies would have to have Christian resolutions or a moral theme,” he said. “So in that way we could influence Nollywood.”

Click here for another AP story on the church involved here.

UPDATE: Thanks to Ellen Collison for pointing me to this article on Nollywood from a November 2003 issue of the Washington Post:

Simba International Records just can’t keep enough Nigerian movies in stock these days. Teenagers swarm into the Langley Park shop in baggy jeans and T-shirts for the latest comedies. Middle-aged women usually want the romances.

In one of the more popular films, “Who Killed Okomfo Anokye,” a wealthy, born-again Christian shoos away his younger brother, a shanty-dwelling voodoo priest, with a swift wave of the Bible, and a sharp verbal rebuke. “You are no longer my brother,” the older man declares. “He’s evil!”

These English-language Nigerian movies are gaining popularity among the nation’s fast-growing African immigrant population, offering their very Americanized children a glimpse of African life, particularly the clash of modernity and traditionalism and the battle between fundamentalist Christian, Islamic and tribal religions that is sweeping the African continent. . . .

Some film experts remain skeptical that the Nigerian movies will penetrate the broader U.S. market. Jonathan Haynes, a Long Island University professor and author of the book, “Nigerian Video Films,” noted the films’ heavy emphasis on the supernatural and said, “Culturally, they’re from someplace else.” In “Who Killed Okomfo Anokye,” for instance, the voodoo priest lashes a dead man’s body with oils and leaves, then chants in a tribal language. A woman prays in tongues. Seconds later, the man rises. The woman praises the Lord, waving her Bible.

“That can seem weird to Americans, especially if it’s not being cast as part of some traditional African past,” Haynes said. “It’s an acquired taste.” . . .

Given that acclaimed African movies have been based on the lives of Jesus and the Genesis patriarchs, I can only wonder if these Nigerian filmmakers will turn their efforts towards Bible adaptations, too. Or perhaps one of them has already done this…?

Newsbites: Arnold! Penguins! Etc.!

Time for another quick batch of goodies.

1. I haven’t a clue what the political situation is like in California right now, but apparently a number of people are really, really hoping that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger takes time out from politics to make a movie or two. Moviehole reports that he is not only being courted for Terminator 4 and Conan 3, but that screenwriter William Goldman has dusted off the screenplay he once wrote for Crusade, a film that was going to star Arnold and be directed by Paul Verhoeven in the mid-1990s. What, so soon after the disappointment that was Kingdom of Heaven? (I can’t quite call it a “flop”, because while it may have been only #62 at the North American box office last year, it was #18 worldwide.)

2. Reuters reports that Samuel L. Jackson will narrate Bob Saget’s R-rated Farce of the Penguins, essentially parodying Morgan Freeman’s narration of March of the Penguins.

3. IndieWIRE reports that ThinkFilm has acquired the rights to FUCK, a documentary about the famous four-letter word that features interviews with everyone from Pat Boone and Michael Medved to Ron Jeremy and Hunter S. Thompson; the film also looks at how characters as diverse as Bono and Lenny Bruce have generated controversy through their utterance of that word.

Just for the record, I have always had a fascination with profanity and the semi-arbitrary way society says some words are okay while other words are not; and there once was a time when I snapped up reference books and serious works of scholarship like Hugh Rawson’s Wicked Words, Jesse Sheidlower’s The F Word and Geoffrey Hughes’s Swearing: A Social History of Foul Language, Oaths and Profanity in English just for a little light reading. (Click here for some thoughts I typed up a few years ago on the use of profanity in film.) So I am definitely interested in this movie, though I don’t necessarily expect it to be all that good.