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The Prestige

Updated 12 days ago

TV & Film
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A podcast for cinephiles of all stripes. Join Rob & Sam, two life-long friends, one a veteran of the film industry, the other a Cambridge-educated writer on books, movies and graphic novels. Each week they talk about a film and some of the ideas it throws up.

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A podcast for cinephiles of all stripes. Join Rob & Sam, two life-long friends, one a veteran of the film industry, the other a Cambridge-educated writer on books, movies and graphic novels. Each week they talk about a film and some of the ideas it throws up.

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Cover image of The Prestige

The Prestige

Updated 12 days ago

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A podcast for cinephiles of all stripes. Join Rob & Sam, two life-long friends, one a veteran of the film industry, the other a Cambridge-educated writer on books, movies and graphic novels. Each week they talk about a film and some of the ideas it throws up.

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Rank #1: 4.15 - BLACK SABBATH (1963) and Control

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This week’s film is the 1963 anthology film BLACK SABBATH. In the course of our reviews, we talk about the two very different versions of the film (Italian and American), before going on to discuss the idea of cinematographic and soundscape intimacy, and lead up to a focus on some thoughts about male control in the vampire genre.

Next Time
Our next film is the 1973 film GANJA AND HESS.

Recent Media
THE GRIP OF FILM (2017): Richard Ayoade
NYPD RED 3 (2015): James Patterson, Marshall Karp
AMERICAN PIE (1999): Paul Weitz, Chris Weitz, Jason Biggs

Recommendations DR GOLDFOOT AND THE GIRL BOMBS (1966): Mario Bava, Vincent Price, Fabian TERROR TRACT (2000): Lance W. Dreesen, Clint Hutchison, John Ritter THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935): James Whale, Boris Karloff, Elsa Lanchester
LA RAGEZZA CHE SAPEVA TROPPO (THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH) (1963): Mario Bava, John Saxon, Letícia Román

Footnotes Firstly, this book has a lot of information on the American film business — and the relationship with Italy — around this time: [http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=plztfOxO1HoC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbsgesummary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false] . Rob mentions giallo horror at the start of the episode; more on this can be found here. For more on the techniques of locked-off camerawork that we discuss, see here (and this is an excellent piece on a number of effective, iconic cinematographic techniques). There’s more on the nuts-and-bolts of creating a cinematic soundscape here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFOod07iWyE. Finally, this is an interesting thesis (probably don’t read all of it!) on a number of ways in which elements of gender and control play out in cinema: [http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5312&context=etd].

Aug 11 2019
32 mins
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Rank #2: 4.14 - CURSE OF THE UNDEAD (1959) and Genre Fusion

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This week’s film, in an enforced change to our programming, is the 1959 movie CURSE OF THE UNDEAD. After some initial reviews, we talk about the film’s use of some changes in the vampire genre to focus on ideas of ‘good versus evil’, before talking about why this meeting of the vampire genre and the Western actually does work — and implications it might have for the rest of our mini-season.

Next Time
Our next film is the 1963 film BLACK SABBATH.

Recent Media
MUDBOUND (2017): Dee Rees, Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke
CATCH-22 (2019): George Clooney, Christopher Abbott, Kyle Chandler
AVENGERS ASSEMBLE (2012): Joss Whedon, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans

Recommendations RAWHIDE (1959–65): Thomas Carr, Clint Eastwood, Paul Brinegar
NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959): Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint
QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE (1958): Edward Bernds, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Laurie Mitchell
GALLOWWALKERS (2012): Andrew Goth, Wesley Snipes, Kevin Howarth

Footnotes Firstly, in discussing the predictability of certain film genres, we talked about the idea of stereotypes; this is a fun piece about the perpetuation of certain on-screen types (and Cracked is usually a fun read): www.cracked.com/article200826-insane-stereotypes-that-movies-cant-seem-to-get-over.html. We also talked about iconography on film: www.slideshare.net/spingwoodmedia/iconography-in-film-and-television. And here is a piece on successful genre mashups: www.tasteofcinema.com/2015/15-great-genre-mashup-movies-that-are-worth-watching. Finally, here’s a review of Rob’s final ‘recommendation’ — which doesn’t actually sound that terrible: https://film.avclub.com/wesley-snipes-is-a-zombie-cowboy-or-something-in-the-1798241662. It could be worse; it’s not like it features Johnny Depp as a horribly racist Native American caricature, or anything.

Jul 28 2019
25 mins
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Rank #3: 4.13 - RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE (1943) and Disease

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This week’s film is the unofficial sequel to last time’s movie, RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE (1943). After some not-entirely favourable reviews, we talk about the creation of a cinematic trope or stereotype, developments in film technology, and the idea of vampirism as infection — or lycanthropy as mental illness.

Next Time
Our next film takes our vampire genre in a Mexican direction, with EL VAMPIRO (1957).

Recent Media
THE CHEF SHOW (2019): Jon Favreau, Roy Choi, Annie Johnson
JESSICA JONES S3 (2019): Stephen Surjik, Krysten Ritter, Rachael Taylor

Recommendations
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (1940): Robert Z. Leonard, Greer Garson, Laurence Olivier
THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985): Dan O’Bannon, Clu Gulager, James Karen
FANTASIA (1940): Walt Disney, Joe Grant, Samuel Armstrong
DOG SOLDIERS (2002): Neil Marshall, Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd

Footnotes
Here’s the promised information on Hammer horror: www.hammerfilms.com. There’s more on ethics in cinema here: www.books.google.co.uk/books?id=QdPxLImIugC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbsgesummaryr&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false. This is an article on blocking/movement in cinema: www.nyfa.edu/film-school-blog/the-5-stages-of-blocking-a-scene, which came to mind when seeing the Andreas/Bruckner (or Tesla) or scenes. Finally, here’s that article on DOG SOLDIERS: https://www.dreadcentral.com/editorials/290637/gender-bashing-what-it-means-to-be-a-man-in-dog-soldiers/

Jul 15 2019
26 mins
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Rank #4: 4.12 - DRACULA (1931) and Abstraction

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The next film in our vampire sub-season is the first talkie: 1931’s DRACULA. We do some reviewing, some not-always-favourable comparison with NOSFERATU, and then talk about late-Victorian culture, temporal distance, and the fact that there are two very different sorts of vampire film.

Next Time
Our next film is another Bela Lugosi vehicle, from later in his career: THE RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE (1943).

Recent Media
GHOSTS (2019): Tom Kingsley, Lolly Adefope, Matthew Baynton
VERONICA MARS (2004–06): Rob Thomas, Kristin Bell, Percy Daggs III

Recommendations
FREAKS (1932): Tod Browning, Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams
WHITE ZOMBIE (1932): Victor Halperin, Bela Lugosi, Madge Bellamy
THE MUMMY (1932): Karl Freund, Boris Karloff, Zita Johann

Footnotes Firstly, here’s a reminder of the 1897 source material for both this week’s film and last week’s: www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dracula. After our discussion of some of the brilliant camerawork in this film, here’s some more on this: www.tasteofcinema.com/2015/30-movies-with-the-most-brilliant-camera-work and www.slideshare.net/joebsmedia/camerawork-and-cinematography-in-thriller-movies. For more on Jack the Ripper, there’s so much to read out there; this www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofEngland/Jack-the-Ripper and this www.bbc.co.uk/history/historicfigures/ripperjackthe.shtml are good places to start. Finally, this is a pre-Code film; for more on what this means, as we’ve mentioned before, see here: www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-CodeHollywood.

Jul 01 2019
27 mins
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Rank #5: 4.11 - NOSFERATU and Longing

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In our first film in a new 'sub-season', we tackle the 1922 classic that kick-started the vampire film genre (no, it wasn’t absolutely the first, but it was the first ‘mainstream’ vampire movie, and has inspired so many others). We have a special guest this week, who talks to us about German Expressionism, how this film is a reflection of contemporary events, and how to get 17-year-olds interested in a silent film from the 1920s!

Next Time
Our next vampire film is another cornerstone of the genre: DRACULA (1931).

Recent Media
CHERNOBYL (2019): Craig Mazin, Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård
SUMMER OF ROCKETS (2019): Stephen Poliakoff, Keeley Hawes, Linus Roache
GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (2019): Michael Dougherty, Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga
TRIPLE FRONTIER (2019): J.C. Chandor, Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac

Recommendations
THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI (1920): Robert Wiene, Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt
METROPOLIS (1927): Fritz Lang, Alfred Abel, Brigitte Helm
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008): Tomas Alfredson, Kåre Hedebrandt, Lina Leandersson
THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN (1999–2007): Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neill, Bill Oakley
TABU: A STORY OF THE SOUTH SEAS (1931): F.W. Murnau, Matahi, Anne Chevalier
BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935): James Whale, Boris Karloff, Colin Clive

Footnotes
Before we get to this week’s film, the documentary film about Chernobyl that Jennifer mentions, to which the tv mini-series is indebted, is this. Firstly, then, there’s some important grounding in the genre of German Expressionism and in the story on which this film is based. This is a good introduction to the history of the time. This is the cinematographic technique to which Jennifer refers. And here’s more on the movement in medical thought, popular in the 17th century, which led Sam to have questions about the film’s history.

Jun 17 2019
33 mins
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Rank #6: 4.10 - THE RAID (2011) and the Visceral

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In our last episode of this mini-season, we have reached the end of our focus on the Martial Arts genre, with 2011’s THE RAID. After some perhaps surprising reviews, we talk about how who/where we are in life has a huge effect on our reception of the films we watch, as well as some discussions of cinematic violence and consequences.

Next Time Our next mini-season is vampire films, and we kick off with 1922’s seminal NOSFERATU: A SYMPHONY OF HORROR. (It’s not the first vampire film, but it is the earliest ‘mainstream’ hit...and the first we could readily get hold of, for viewing purposes!)

Recent Media
WASHINGTON BLACK (2018): Esi Edugyan
MEGA TIME SQUAD (2018): Tim van Dammen, Morgan Albrecht, Yoson An

Recommendations THE NIGHT COMES FOR US (2018): Timo Tjahjanto, Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim
DREDD (2012): Pete Travis, John Wagner, Karl Urban
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015): J.J. Abrams, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill
OLDBOY (2003): Park Chan-wook, Garon Tsuchiya, Choi Min-sik

Footnotes Firstly, the Marlon James interview with Adam Buxton is here: (Marlon’s thoughts on filmed violence are towards the end, but the whole interview is an excellent listen). Here’s a reminder of that Jackie Chan video referred to in our DRUNKEN MASTER episode, and again today. This is worth reading, thinking about the idea of cinematic claustrophobia — as Rob mentions when talking about the way this film is shot. We also talked about the idea of the underdog — a through-line which you can see from a character like Jirokichi, nearly a hundred years ago, to Rama; you can read a lot more here
Finally, in a good place to end our focus on the Martial Arts genre, here’s a good summary article (including some films we’ve covered, and some we haven’t been able to).

May 27 2019
33 mins
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Rank #7: 4.09 - DISTRICT 13 (2004) and Freedom

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The penultimate film in our Martial Arts season might be seen by some as rather loosely connected to the genre: the 2004 parkour movie DISTRICT 13. We talk a bit about the film more generally, before getting into discussions of space, class, and hierarchy (not for the first — or, I suspect — last time on the Prestige…)

Next Time
Our final Martial Arts film (and one Sam’s absolute favourites) is 2011’s THE RAID: www.amazon.co.uk/Raid-English-Subtitled-Iko-Uwais/dp/B00FZSB57O.

Recent Media AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019): Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, Stan Lee
IRON MAN (2008): Jon Favreau, Stan Lee, Robert Downey Jr.
BROOKLYN NINE-NINE (2013—): Dan Goor, Andy Samberg, Stephanie Beatriz

Recommendations THE HUNGER GAMES (2012): Suzanne Collins, Gary Ross, Jennifer Lawrence
THE FIFTH ELEMENT (1997): Luc Besson, Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman
LA HAINE (1995): Matthieu Kassovitz, Vincent Cassel, Hubert Koundé
RUN LOLA RUN (1998): Tom Tykwer, Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu
CASINO ROYALE (2006): Martin Campbell, Daniel Craig, Eva Green

Footnotes
Looking for connections between THE HUNGER GAMES and DISTRICT 13, I could find very little of note; this reddit thread, while interesting, is a case in point: www.reddit.com/r/FanTheories/comments/1ry6ma/hungergameslocationofdistrict13spoilers. I’ll keep looking. On the innovative use of space in film, this is an interesting book: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=QMvpybzKNAMC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbsgesummaryr&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false. The question of whether or not parkour is a martial art is addressed in numerous places online, including here: www.fightorflightacademy.com/blog/2017/12/3/martial-arts-vs-parkour and here: http:///teamfarang.com/blogs/news/do-martial-arts-and-parkour-go-together. Finally, the IMDB trivia for this film is a good read: /www.imdb.com/title/tt0414852/trivia?ref=tttrvtrv.

May 12 2019
30 mins
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Rank #8: 4.08 - THE LEGEND OF DRUNKEN MASTER (1994) and Comedy Action

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We continue our Martial Arts season with Rob’s favourite decade (not just in terms of Martial Arts films, nor even in terms of films…just ever): the 90s. After some reviewing, we look at Jackie Chan’s use of the world around him, the difference between Chan films and Bruce Lee vehicles, and the pleasingly anarchic quality that this movie has when it comes to other characters’ involvement.

Next Time
Our next film in the Martial Arts season is a potentially genre-defying one: DISTRICT 13 (2004). Find it here

Recent Media
MARY POPPINS RETURNS (2018): Rob Marshall, Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda
KILLING EVE (2018): Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Jodie Comer, Sandra Oh

Recommendations
RUMBLE IN THE BRONX (1995): Stanley Tong, Jackie Chan, Anita Mui
SHANGHAI NOON (2000): Tom Dey, Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson
KUNG FU HUSTLE (2004): Stephen Chow, Danny Chan, Yuen Wah
A BETTER TOMORROW (1986): John Woo, Ti Lung, Leslie Cheung

Footnotes
(Apologies for the short footnotes this week: Easter-related, and it’s a busy time of year. Back on it next time!) The video about Jackie Chan’s action comedy is here. Here’s more on the hero’s journey, a trope which this film happens to avoid in large part. And finally, here’s an article about the extraordinary cultural impact of one of Rob’s recommendations this week.

Apr 23 2019
29 mins
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Rank #9: 4.07 - THE KARATE KID (1984) and Belonging

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We continue our move into the ‘Western’ arena with another modern (ish!) classic of the Martial Arts genre: THE KARATE KID. After contrasting reviews (and a confession from Sam…) we look at the film in terms of its surprising comment on class tensions in the US, the ‘finding a family’ narrative of the film, and the way in which this episode of the podcast is actually about two entirely different movies.

Next Time
(yes, it has taken me 7 episodes to work out that this title needed changing…)
Our Martial Arts odyssey continues with a film that goes by two names: DRUNKEN MASTER II, or LEGEND OF THE DRUNKEN MASTER.

Recent Media (see above comment…)
BIRD BOX (2018): Susanne Bier, Josh Malerman, Sandra Bullock
CHEF’S TABLE (2015—): David Gelb, Brian McGinn, Clay Jeter

Recommendations OCEAN’S 11 (2001): Steven Soderbergh, George Clooney, Brad Pitt
THE WAY, WAY BACK (2013): Nat Faxon, Jim Rash, Toni Collette
THE MIGHTY DUCKS (1992): Steven Herek, Emilio Estevez, Joss Ackland
MYSTERIOUS SKIN (2004): Gregg Araki, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brady Corbet

Footnotes
We start by talking about the existence of this film as something of a pop culture artefact, rather than a conventional film; this article provides an interesting take on the place of film in US pop culture. An unfair comparison, maybe, but Sam would like to make sure everyone’s seen this. Should you too want to spend two and a half minutes finding out about this film (and then hating yourself for doing so), go ahead. Here’s the obligatory link to more on Rob’s favourite dramatist, and his influence in cinema. Finally, here’s a useful video on an idea Rob mentions at the very end of the episode.

Apr 09 2019
30 mins
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Rank #10: 4.06 - ENTER THE DRAGON (1973) and Strength

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This week our focus has shifted from the Japanese and Chinese films laying the groundwork for the Martial Arts genre, as we land in the realm of a classic of ‘Western’ cinema: ENTER THE DRAGON. There’s not a lot to say in terms of reviews — it’s ENTER THE DRAGON! — but we soon get onto discussions of breakout films, Western/Eastern editing, and a canny use of multiple cinematic genres.

Next Week
Next week sees us continue our movement Westwards, with another Martial Arts feature aimed at a Western audience: the 1984 classic (what a great year!) THE KARATE KID.

This Week’s Media
QUEER EYE S3 (2019): David Collins, Antoni Topolski, Tan France
THE LIMITATIONS OF THE MCU (2019): Patrick (H) Willems

Recommendations
THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (1964–68): Sam Rolfe, E. Darrell Hallenbeck, Robert Vaughn
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (1996): Brian de Palma, Tom Cruise, Jon Voight
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984): Wes Craven, John Saxon, Ronee Blakley
MORTAL KOMBAT (1995): Paul W.S. Anderson, Linden Ashby, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa

Footnotes
First of all, the Patrick (H) Willems YT series on the MCU starts here. Onto this week’s episode...the wikipedia entry on Bruce Lee’s life is well worth reading. (I can’t stop reading, for example, about the various feuds and spats he had with people!) These reflections on Bruce Lee’s role in the film, from those involved in its making, are interesting. For more on the use of ADR in films, as mentioned by Rob this week, see here. (And this is a good article, also on the subject.) Finally, for more on the blaxploitation genre, which explains something of the Jim Kelly narrative in ENTER THE DRAGON, see here.

Mar 25 2019
30 mins
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