20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916)

It’s Saturday night! Time for a good movie!

Lovers of cinema and Steampunk are sure to enjoy this evening’s post: the second film production of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea! It’s a feature length silent film directed by Stuart Paton and incorporates source material from two of Jules Verne’s novels, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and its sequel, The Mysterious Island. It stars Lois Alexander, Curtis Benton, and Wallace Clarke.

This film broke new ground in underwater cinematography by the brothers George M. Williamson and J. Ernest Williamson using a system of watertight tubes and mirrors that allowed the camera to shoot reflected images of underwater scenes staged in shallow sunlit waters.

So grab some popcorn and kick back for this evening’s feature film!

The Marionette Unit

A new film currently in production flew on to my radar today, and it looked so positively unique that I had to share it with you all right away.

It’s called the Marionette Unit, Directed by Azhur Saleem, produced by James Boyle and written by Paul B. Adams. Executive Producers are Abi Caruthers and Jett Dunlap.  It has an amazing concept sure to excite Steampunks. Here’s the summary of their film, straight from their website:

In a Victorian London where technology has progressed beyond man’s ability to control it, and the population willingly endures brutal surgery to connect themselves to the Marionette Unit, one man battles for their freedom.

Sounds intriguing, yes? Then watch the trailer.

The Marionette Unit it is currently in the very long process of production. According to their blog, the production team is currently working very hard to prepare a feature length script draft to pitch to the film scene in London and LA to find support and backing.

So, at the moment, The Marionette Unit is not certain to come to theaters. To show your support, consider joining their Facebook group or following their blog. I personally really hope this film happens… it sounds and looks so interesting!

Boilerplate the Movie

ComicCon always tends to bring out announcements of Hollywood adaptions of graphic novels, and I’ve already told you about the plans for the Cowboys and Aliens adaption.

There’s another Steampunk quasi-graphic novel adaption on the horizon, this one from markedly better source material (in my opinion) than Cowboys and Aliens.

Boilerplate is a fictional robot created by author Paul Guinan as a pitch for a graphic novel series. The website for the pitch featured many “archival” photos of the robot with many of history’s influential people. The photos were apparently so good that Guinan suspects a third of his website’s visitors thought Boilerplate was real.

Here’s a trailer for the book, which gives you a brief understanding of Boilerplate’s activities:

So now there’s a Boilerplate movie in the works. It’s going to be directed by J.J. Abrams under his Bad Robot label. This is one film I’ll be very interested in as both a Steampunk and a historian.

You can check out Boilerplate’s website by clicking here. You can also purchase the book, Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel, by clicking on the cover below:

And for all you fans of Boilerplate, you’ll be happy to know that Paul Guinan is listed as one of this year’s Participants at SteamCon II. I’m hoping to get my copy of Boilerplate autographed when I meet him there!

News from ComicCon: Cowboys and Aliens

ComicCon has come and gone, but one announcement made there as created quite a bit of excitement for Steampunks, especially those with a strong interest in the Weird West vein.

Cowboys and Aliens, a sci-fi western film directed by John Favreau and starring Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig, was announced at Comic Con. At the panel, there was a lengthy clip of footage from the movie which excited the viewers. In fact, everything I’ve heard from those who attended the panel said they were impressed by what they saw.

Call me a pessimist, but I’m a bit hesitant to get overly excited about another sci-fi Western after the train wreck that was Jonah Hex. Both were inspired by mediocre graphic novels. Both involve weird, supernatural tie-ins to the Western backdrop. Both were only slightly Steampunk. And we all know how badly Hollywood has historically done with portraying Steampunk retro-futurism.

The film film is set to come out next year, but you won’t find me counting down the days to its release. It has a lot prove before I can say I’m willing to see this in theaters.

For a full review of the panel at ComicCon, click here.

Master of the World

This evening, I have for your viewing entertainment, a film hosted by Hulu, Master of the World. It’s a film adaptation of two of Jules Verne’s last novels, Master of the World and Robur The Conqueror.

In 1848, a fanatical inventor seeks to fly around the world and stop war from his flying airship (the "Albatross")...a cross between a zeppelin and a helicopter. (via Hulu)

Made in 1961, this film does have some bad aspects to it, as well as some dated special effects, but it is an interesting look at Jules Verne that predates the concept of Steampunk by a good twenty five years or so. Plus, Vincent Price plays Captain Robur, the airship’s Captain, which certainly is a draw because Vincent Price is awesome (duh).

The film is about Captain Robur’s attempts to enforce peace around the world through his superior technology, claiming that he created the Albatross to wage war against war. He takes prisoners upon his craft so they can witness his efforts to force the nations of the world to lay down their weapons and embrace peace.

So if you are in the mood for a little retro film and can tolerate it’s dated shortcomings, low budget, and timeline inaccuracies, Master of the World is an excellent way to increase your exposure to proto-Steampunk works. Some of the ethics within the film are quite interesting and still have modern application, such as the question of if violence should be used to enforce peace. Its an interesting and complex idea, and Master of the World is just one of many attempts at an answer.

Jonah Hex

There’s a new American West Steampunk-esque film on the horizon, a film adaptation of the Jonah Hex comic book series. For those of you not familiar with the comic book series, you can read a bit about it here. For those of you who are fans of the series, I’m afraid to say that from the trailer the story appears to only loosely follow the source material.

I personally have never read this comic series, but I knew I had heard the name from somewhere. Fortunately, Wikipedia was able to help me out and remind me that Hex had an appearance on the 1990’s Batman: The Animated Series (which is like the best cartoon series ever).

The film adaptation of Jonah Hex’s story is set to be released on June 18th to theaters. Here’s the trailer:

It remains to be seen if Hollywood can pull off a convincing retro-futuristic film, and it severely disappoints me that Megan Fox was cast in this film because her acting is atrocious and her “accent” in the trailer makes me want to punch her. That aside, I’m guarded optimistic about this film. Some of the special effects seem promising, and I can’t imagine they would do anything so stupid as the Wild Wild West mechanical spider concept which made me want to face palm myself in horror.

A person at work asked me if the film was Steampunk, and I told her it was to an aesthetic degree (from what I could surmise from the trailer). Because of this exchange, I feel I need to see Jonah Hex to know how to respond when she sees the film and starts asking me more about Steampunk based on the things she saw in the film. Was it sufficiently Steampunk? What about it is or is not Steampunk? Hard to say when you haven’t seen the film, but the fact that it was produced by Hollywood should be enough to know that this is not a purely Steampunk work (at least, in the DIY cultural sense).

It will be interesting to observe the latest attempts by Hollywood to understand Steampunk.

Slightly Steampunk: Sherlock Holmes

Today is the release day for the new Sherlock Holmes movie! I picked up my copy on my way home from work today. If you are looking for some great weekend entertainment, this is a great film to rent or purchase.

The DVD pictured above is actually not the edition I purchased. There’s a special edition being sold at Target that has a graphic novel and bonus DVD material that I bought. Because I already know I love the film, it was well worth the extra five bucks to me. The cover of it looks very similar to this movie poster:

Click on the picture above to head to the film’s website. I hope you all enjoy the film; just be sure to check your expectations for it to be anything like the source material at the beginning of the movie, and I feel you will at the very least be entertained.

The Island of Dr. Moreau

Occasionally, Hulu hosts full length videos for your viewing pleasure. Yesterday’s post that mentioned The Island of Doctor Moreau reminded me of the fact that Hulu is presently hosting the 1977 version of The Island of Doctor Moreau on their website.

Like most of Hollywood’s interpretations of books, the movie is nothing like the book. It’s the weekend, however, and there’s nothing quite like an old film presentation of a Steampunk classic to round out the weekend.

Because WordPress is picky with what videos they will allow me to embed in my blog, I will have to direct you to Hulu to watch the film. The good news is that you can watch in full screen from there. Be sure to disable your screen saver, though!