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The Emperor (1967)

 -  Documentary | Short
5.9
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Title: The Emperor (1967)

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Smokestack Lightning
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Performed by The Yardbirds
Written by Chester Burnett
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User Reviews

From the guy who made it cool to attend USC film school
17 December 2001 | by (Los Angeles, USA (baby)) – See all my reviews

Here's another student effort from the guy who made it cool to attend film school: Georgie Lucas. Surprisingly audacious cinematically, and almost plotless scriptwise, "The Emperor" is another in the long line of Lucas's student films that showcases the director's skill in establishing tone. This is a jokey documentary on a southern California disc jockey who proclaims himself "The Emperor". (Perhaps if you've seen a later, feature-length Lucas film, the title character might remind you of someone.)

While Lucas's other USC efforts ("Freiheit", "Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town", and "Herbie") are humorless, well-meaning but dull, "The Emperor" is just the opposite. Benefiting from a worthy subject, this opus is funny, fast, and, at times, astonishingly innovative. Crammed with a rock soundtrack of sixties classics, "The Emperor" now feels like a precursor of "American Graffiti" (1973), albeit with a different visual approach; Graffiti was shot in 35mm color Techniscope. "The Emperor", on the other hand, is laced in a Richard Lesterish/French New Wave style: grainy B&W 16mm handheld camerawork and clever use of intertitles. (Note: "The Emperor" has an amazingly long pre-credit sequence; it's only beginning once you think it's over.) "Apocalypse Now" co-writer (and USC alum) John Milius was one of the crew members. Look sharp for a George Lucas cameo at the top of the film.


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