Tag Archives: The University of Southern California

Captain Voyeur (1969, John Carpenter)

Captain Voyeur starts better than it finishes, which is too bad since it gets better as it goes along. Writer and director Carpenter opens the short with a long tracking shot of some boring workplace. Excellent black and white photography from Joanne Willens (save two shots later on) makes the opening an observation on professional life.

The tracking shot is to get us to nerdy Jerry Cox, alone at a desk, doing his work and peeking on a female coworker. He’s a perv but a harmless enough one. Cox and Carpenter do well with the setup and the action moves to Cox’s apartment. Where he changes into a full mask, a cape, and his dress shoes. And some boxers. He’s Captain Voyeur. There are opening credits throughout the opening, with the final card just after the reveal. So it’s a comedy too.

It’s a comedy shot like a scary movie, because most of the shots are Cox running around outside peeking in windows. When it seems like Cox is just peeking to be peeking, the short has fun with the kinks he sees. Until after the second one and it seems like he doesn’t like what he’s seeing. The next two are jokes–the first a bad, cheap joke, the second a cheap, bad joke–before the finale, where Cox finally finds the window he wants.

Voyeur loses its narrative inventiveness after that second window. It’s still technically strong–Carpenter loves figuring out new establishing shots of windows at night in black and white–through Trace Johnston’s editing is never on par with the rest of it. And there are a couple times Johnston just makes the wrong cut and screws up a scene’s pacing.

It also goes out on a undercooked joke. Carpenter’s clearly got a sense of humor and he’s got the short’s sense of humor, he just doesn’t have the joke writing chops to pull it off. Unless he’s going for absurdist, in which case Voyeur’s terrible.

But it’s not terrible. It’s incredibly well-made and constantly inventive. Its jokes are just too broad and too cheap. Though the jokes being problematic covers the problem with Cox’s physical performance. He’s running around this apartment complex (or dorm), peeking in windows, but in between he’s supposed to have character development. But he doesn’t in the running shots. Because student filmmaking realities. So I guess the broadness of the humor covers that hole?

It’s disappointing. Especially given the excellent opening shot and the nimble changes in mood and tone. It’s like Carpenter gave up trying to show off in the second half and went for cheap witty. Well, except this one composite but it’s not enough to save the *Captain*.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Written and directed by John Carpenter; director of photography, Joanne Willens; edited by Trace Johnston; produced for the University of Southern California.

Starring Jerry Cox (The Captain).


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Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB (1967, George Lucas)

Okay, why didn’t anyone tell me about Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB?

I mean, I knew of it, but no one ever sat me down and told me it was startlingly brilliant. From the opening second, the film is absolutely astounding.

The entire film is a chase sequence, though the protagonist (played by Dan Natchsheim, who also does a fabulous job editing the short) doesn’t appear for a while. He’s talked about; Lucas has these distorted offscreen voices explaining the film, though it’s difficult to understand them. Electronic Labyrinth takes place in the future and Lucas never spends a moment making his audience comfortable with it—the only mention is a subtitle giving the year.

Once Natchsheim shows up, the film cuts between him and his pursuers and the film takes a transcendent quality.

I knew Lucas was capable of great things, but Electronic Labyrinth surpasses any expectations I had.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

Written and directed by George Lucas; director of photography, F.E. Zip Zimmerman; edited by Dan Natchsheim; released by the University of Southern California.

Starring Dan Natchsheim (1138), Joy Carmichael (7117), David Munson (2222), Marvin Bennett (0480) and Ralph Stell (9021).


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