What's up at Ravens March.

Vintage pens-Handmade books-Silly statements

Technicolor Smile

Posted by Dirck on 16 November, 2011

When I have a free moment, I like to expand my viewing of silly films.  Over the past few days, I’ve made my way through one I recorded about a week before Hallowe’en, which I think gives a sense of how my few and far between my free moments are.  The film in question is questionable indeed– Doctor X, a fine lashing together of Jack the Ripperesque murderer-seeking mystery and mad science.  What moved me to record it in the first place was a review I read a while ago which, while not exactly fulsome with praise for the film, indicated that the good bits were the sort of thing I rather enjoy.

It had been shown on Turner Classic Movies, which is increasingly what I think of as “what’s on TV tonight”.  They do seem to make a serious effort to show oddities of ages past, and in the case of Doctor X they commited a bit of a coup; it was presented in the original two-strip Technicolor version.  The odious comic relief/lead male (yike!) was thus balanced by some delightfully mellow images showing colours of a time we have trouble imagining as non-monochrome.  Alas, the specatcle couldn’t take the sting out of the tacked-on romantic conclusion.  The colours are no more realistic than the later fully-expressed Technicolor would offer in the 1950s, but rather an extra layer of artistic sense is granted to the enterprise of film making.  I certainly appreciate the effort to reproduce this sensation in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow more fully, which has the same flavour of pulp-magazine cover art.

I may be off base, I suppose.  The T in TCM is the evil genius behind colorization, the devilish technology that seemed bent in the 1990s on removing the charm from black and white films.  What I saw could have been an application of an improved modern technology, one that doesn’t make everyone’s eyes the same colour as their cheeks.  If that’s the case, it is at least an indication that colorization is not irredeemably wicked.  However, the very fact of the depth of colour and the unlikely choices leads me to think that it was the real deal.

I did manage to draw a couple of lessons about the early 1930s from the film, too.  While I couldn’t make out any pens sufficiently to identify them (I believe Lionel Atwill had a Wahl metal pen in his lab coat, but I wouldn’t swear to it), but I can say that lab assistants carried a lot of different pens.  The real astonishment, of course, was in the colours of the men’s clothes.  Because of the predominant lack of colour in the media of the period, we are inclined to think that people dressed in a drab manner, even though the clothes themselves are still extant and sometimes even worn.  I was thus very interested to see Doctor Xavier and his colleagues/fellow suspects gadding about in… diverse grey suits.  I guess just because one has colour doesn’t mean one will use it.

Today’s pen: Parker Challenger, a festive celluloid pen in… black and grey
Today’s ink: vintage Quink Washable grey blue


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