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Spook Sport (1940)

It's midnight in a graveyard. The principal characters are spooks, ghosts, bats, bells, and, at the end, the sun. As midnight strikes, 12 spooks appear, then two ghosts. They move to the ... See full summary »

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It's midnight in a graveyard. The principal characters are spooks, ghosts, bats, bells, and, at the end, the sun. As midnight strikes, 12 spooks appear, then two ghosts. They move to the music's rhythm. Against the black night, they are blue and yellow. Bats appear as does a xylophone of bones. Mist rises, spooks swirl. A bell tolls. The sky turns light blue, the ghosts' dance slows. Then black night returns bringing intimations of frenzy. Bones play snare drums; spooks peek out of square graves. Scary faces appear. Frenetic movement takes over. A rooster crows and all return to earth as the sun's light appears. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Plot Keywords:

ghost | midnight | graveyard | See All (3) »





Release Date:

1940 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Danse macabre
Written by Camille Saint-Saëns
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User Reviews

the sad but honourable little ghetto of the US avant-garde
7 March 2016 | by See all my reviews

One of the principal reasons why the European (or for that matter, Japanese) traditions of cinema are extremely different from the US tradition is the painful streak of philistinism in the "anglo-saxon" character that draws back instantly from anything it regards as "arty". Although this is often as true of the British as it is of United Statesians, the British have on occasions been able to privilege their more civilised "European" side. In the US, the anti-art attitude has been a really very disabling element in its cinema at virtually all periods and has also led to a commercial side-lining of anything considered "arthouse" (frequently in practice anything in a foreign language), a piece of sharp practice that has obviously also benefited the US film-industry and allowed it to dominate the so-called "mainstream".

Even those major directors who had attempted to innovate (one thinks of Von Stroheim, of Welles, of Charles Laughton) have in the end been unable to make headway in the US cinema. There have of course been US film-makers willing to experiment and make films of a more innovatory character but the whole structure of the US cinema industry is hugely loaded against them. So when the world was exploding with artistic ideas in the twenties or thirties (naturalism, impressionism, expressionism, dada, surrealism, futurism, social realism), this impinged hardly at all on the "blocked" US industry. Ditto in the forties with neo-verismo, in the sixties with "new wave"......

So it is important to pay tribute to those few courageous souls who have attempted, in spite of all discouragement, to break the mould of the "realistic" action-based cinema ("realistic" of course in a purely formal sense) with no hope of ever becoming an important factor in US cinema as a whole (as naturalism and expressionism did in Germany, as naturalism, impressionism and surrealism did in France, as shimongeki did in Japan, as "verismo" did almost everywhere in the world except in the US, as "new wave" styles did in France, Eastern Europe, Japan and Iran). In the US such film-makers were doomed to stay put in a ghetto marked "EXPERIMENTAL".

Mary Ellen Bute is one of those few. Her speciality was the combination of music and image, how to portray graphically and cinematically what one sees when one listens to music. Essentially she was an "abstract" film-maker, but, again, whereas "abstract" film was widely influential in European film (Ruttmann used his abstract film techniques in advertising, abstraction is often an important element in impressionist film-making in France - in the films of Epstein, for instance - but is equally an element in Lotte Rieniger's superb animated film, Das Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed of 1926), it could have no such place in the sun in the US. So here we have a very charming little fantasy to the music of Saint-Saëns. It is nothing more than that but, equally, it is nothing less than that either. Chapeau bas, say I, to Mme Mary Ellen Bute and confusion to the philistines.

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