Via Anne Thompson comes word of the passing of director of photography William A. Fraker. Fraker wasn’t one of the biggest names in cinematography of the later 20th century, but he had a definite knack for atmosphere and direct storytelling, and wasn’t afraid to take on highly diverse and unusual projects. His CV included everything from “Tombstone,” “Vegas Vacation” and “War Games” to such ultra-culty projects as Ralph Bakshi’s “Coonskin,” Theodore Flicker’s spy-satire “The President’s Analyst,” Curtis Harrington’s “Games,” and the underrated musical biopic “American Hot Wax.” Of course, he also worked on a couple of bonafide sixties mega-blockbusters, the ur-action cop movie, “Bullitt,” and the horror masterpiece that still reverberates whether any of us likes it or not, “Rosemary’s Baby.”
Below are some clips which show what a versatile director of photography like Mr. Fraker can do, starting with the obvious, which really shows that Fraker knew his way around shadows.
Okay, so this doesn’t technically come out until April 6th, but seeing as how I’m already planning to cover a much bigger release that week (hint: it shares the same title), it’s probably as good a time as any to discuss the Blu-ray release of Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 film, “The Lord of the Rings.” Although it once held the honor of being the only cinematic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous text (and hence the reason why it still has its share of supporters), Bakshi’s animated version isn’t even remotely deserving of having the word “classic” appear on the cover.
In fact, there are so many things wrong with this movie that it’s hard to believe anyone actually likes it. The biggest problem is with Bakshi’s decision to incorporate rotoscoped live action footage alongside the traditional cel-shaded animation, because while it might have seemed ambitiously artistic at the time, it comes off looking incredibly hokey. It’s also quite distracting, often making the animation look worse than it really is. Then again, I’ve never really been a fan of Bakshi’s work, so his reputation as an artist is completely lost on me.
Of course, even if you can get past the shoddy animation, Bakshi’s version only encompasses the first two books in the trilogy, abruptly ending after Gandalf saves the day at Isengard with no real concern for the fact that there’s still more story left to tell. Fans eventually did get to see the finale to the animated tale in 1983’s equally disappointing “The Return of the King” (albeit without Bakshi’s involvement), but it doesn’t make its absence in “The Lord of the Rings” any less bewildering. Obviously, it’s easy to criticize the film when the only thing you can compare it to is Peter Jackson’s award-winning trilogy, but how can you not? After all, the only reason people put up with Bakshi’s film in the first place is because it was the only one available. And now that Jackson’s movies are being released on Blu-ray as well, you’d probably be better off just forgetting this edition ever existed. Heck, I just watched it a few hours ago and I already have.