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Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

With over a foot of snow on the ground, it is a great day to watch a movie. Might I recommend “The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box”? This is a straight steampunk adventure story based on G.P. Taylor’s Mariah Mundi series.

Without giving too much away, the movie is set in 1885 and follows Mariah Mundi (played by Aneurin Barnard), who sets out to find his brother, Felix (played by Xavier Atkins), who has been taken by a sinister character named Otto Luger (played by Sam Neill). Both Mariah and Felix were given two halves of an amulet required to open a box believed to have belonged to King Midas. Mariah and Felix’s parents, unbeknownst to the brothers, are secret agents, in service to the Crown within the Bureau of Antiquities. The parents, Charles and Catherine (played by Ioan Gruffudd and Keeley Hawes) and are taken hostage and the brothers are left to fend for themselves. Captain Will Charity (played by Michael Sheen) uses various disguises in an effort to protect the boys as well as locate their parents. Otto and Monica (played with obvious glee by Lena Headey) work together to harness the power of gold to not only heal the sick, but achieve their ultimate villainous goal – to use the golden box’s power as a weapon to control the world!

There is a timely reference to the Greek antiquities in the possession of the British Museum at the beginning of the film, which made the news recently with the release of “The Monuments Men.” George Clooney commented at a news conference this week that he thinks the Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles, should be returned to Greece. Steampunk is eternally relevant.

This is a wonderful movie along the lines of Hugo and Going Postal. The costumes are amazing (cameo broaches everywhere!) and the scenery is perfect. St. Michael’s Mount is the location of the fictional Prince Regent’s Hotel, which serves as Luger’s liar.

Looking forward to the sequel!

“Never underestimate the power of buried treasure, my friend.”

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When I selected this image for the beginning of Black History Month, I did so because it depicted a remarkable sculpture about which I knew nothing. The illustration showed well-to-do families interested in the freedman holding the Emancipation Proclamation in his left hand and the remains of broken shackle about his right wrist.  “Which American sculptor did this?” I wondered.

Well, Frank Leslie’s Historical Register of the Centennial Exposition of 1876 (held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) doesn’t tell me.  On page 133 of this massive volume, all I know was that the “Statue of ‘The Freed Slave’ ” was in Memorial Hall.

I learned that the sculptor was an Austro-Italian by the name of Francesco Pezzicar, who created this sculpture for sale, like many works seen at the Exposition  and was part of the Austrian exhibit.The literal translation of the work is “Abolition of Slavery” (l’Abolizione della schiavitù) – which has a subtle, yet importantly different meaning from the listed title “The Freed Slave.” The work is now at the Trieste, Revoltella Museum in Italy.

The work’s display created a lot of negative attention which was not understood by Francesco Pezzicar, because it was well known at the time that Americans spent a lot of money on similar sculptures. For some reason, this one touched too closely onto the sensibilities of white Americans, according to a rough translation of a biography written by the artist’s son, Amerino, in 1911.  The work remained at the artist’s studio until his death.

The most well-known critic of the work, William Dean Howells, an editor of the Atlantic Monthly at the time, wrote several articles about the Centennial Fair for the July 1876 edition.  He was not impressed with the Italian contribution to the Fair, and most particularly found Pezzicar’s bronze statue “offensive”. Not only offensive, but a sculpture of a “most offensively Frenchy negro, who has broken his chain, and spreading his arms and legs abroad, is rioting in a declamation of something (I should say) from Victor Hugo.”

I couldn’t find a photo of the statute which appeared in Philadelphia, but I did find the work upon which the bronze was based, Spartaco di Vela or Spartacus by Vela (Vincenzo Vela). Pezzicar’s using this statute of Spartacus could not have been accidental. While Vela and Pezzicar were contemporaries, the Pezzicar bronze’s meaning goes deeper than its physical similarities to Vela’s work.

Spartacus was a slave and a gladiator. He lead a famous revolt against the Roman Republic in the century before the birth of Christ. His life and famous battles have been depicted in film, books and television.

Black Spartacus was the name Toussaint L’Ouvertour was given by General Etienne Maynard Bizefranc, comte de Lavaux, one of his opponents who became a great admirer.

Toussaint L’Ouvertour was made a general de brigade in the French Army in 1794. That same year, the French author Alexandre Dumas’s father, Thomas-Alexandre Davy de La Pailleterie (who changed his last name to Dumas, after his mother, in 1786), achieved the same rank and served in Flanders. Toussaint was captured by Napoleon’s army in 1802 after he staged a revolt in Santo Domingo, the same year Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo were born.  He died in 1803 as Napoleon’s prisoner in Chateau de Joux, one of several state run prisons (one of which became famous in Dumas’s Count of Monte Cristo, the Chateau d’If).

Fifty-seven years later, on December 2, 1859, a letter Victor Hugo wrote to the London News about John Brown appeared. In the letter, Hugo reflected upon John Brown’ fate as he writes:

“Viewed in a political light, the murder of Brown would be an irreparable fault. It would penetrate the Union with a gaping fissure which would lead in the end to its entire disruption. It is possible that the execution of Brown might establish slavery on a firm basis in Virginia, but it is certain that it would shake to its centre the entire fabric of American democracy.”

He ends his letter with these words:

“As for myself, though I am but a mere atom, yet being, as I am, in common with all other men, inspired with the conscience of humanity, I fall on my knees, weeping before the great starry banner of the New World; and with clasped hands, and with profound and filial respect, I implore the illustrious American Republic, sister of the French Republic, to see to the safety of the universal moral law, to save John Brown, to demolish the threatening scaffold of the 16th of December, and not to suffer that beneath its eyes, and I add, with a shudder, almost by its fault, a crime should be perpetrated surpassing the first fratricide in iniquity.

For — yes, let America know it, and ponder on it well — there is something more terrible than Cain slaying Abel: It is Washington slaying Spartacus!”

A reproduction of Victor Hugo’s work can be seen at the John Brown Museum on the ground floor in Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park. On Sunday, February 5 at 2 pm, Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park will have a Black History Month program.

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Since Steam’s opening in October 2011, I have been asked often about the name: “Why Steam at Harper’s Ferry?” then I explain how important Harper’s Ferry was to the B&O’s expansion west, the awesome steam trains that traveled on rails along both the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, steam-powered canal boats and the water-generated industries whose clamor echoed between the mountains.

For those familiar with steampunk, there’s not much to explain. The indicia surrounds them in the space – an owl here, a raygun there, fleur de lis homages to Jules Verne, and props (keep your fingers crossed! Chris from Steampunk Styles may be coming to Steam with a raygun display in the coming months!) from the Seth Foreman’s video project Steampunk Stacie, some of which was filmed on the premises. But I’ve been at a struggling to bring Civil Rights/War history together with the town’s Victorian and Industrial past and making that connection to a steampunk present (except in my mind, of course!).

On a whim recently, I purchased a promotional photo of James Mason portraying John Brown in a Playhouse 90 production released in 1960 entitled “John Brown’s Raid”.  It was no coincidence that the film’s release was 101 years after John Brown’s October 1859 raid on Harper’s Ferry. A fitting centennial remembrance.

But wait, there’s more!

It was filmed on location in Harper’s Ferry!  This somewhat obscure production was made on the heels of two iconic steampunk films in which James Mason appeared.  “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” (1954) and “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”  (1959)

So it was destiny that this little steampunk gallery in Harper’s Ferry exits today. Thank you James Mason!

Also, not coincidently, these book titles and DVDs are available at Steam at Harper’s Ferry.

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The New York Ledger 1892 Christmas number’s exterior wrapper depicts a contemporary mother and child encircled by a wreath from which cherubs peep.  The illustration is by Warren B. Davis and Stafford Northcote. On the backside of the wrapper are various quarter page advertisements. One quarter is dedicated to Ayer’s Products (Ayer’s Sarsaparilla and Ayer’s Cherry Pectoral), Chocolat Menier beverage (link in French), Waterbury watches of Connecticut and the Crown Perfumery Co.’s Crab Apple Blossoms perfume.

Which of these companies exist today?

Ayer’s products are no longer in production. The Menier chocolate business was bought by Nestle in 1988.  (Watch Anticosti au temps des Menier, a short film depicting the island of Anticosti at the outlet of the St. Lawrence River in Canada which was purchased by Henri Menier for $125,000.)

Crown Perfumery was ultimately purchased by Clive Christian Perfumery company. Apparently the Crab Apple Blossoms fragrance as well as the other famous Crown Perfumery perfumes are no longer being produced.

The Waterbury watch stopped being made in 1898, however, it was reorganized as the New England Watch company, which was in turn bought by Robert Ingersoll who started producing Ingersoll Waterbury watches. The Ingersoll-Waterbury business manufactured “Mickey Mouse” character electric clocks.  You can download a personal use desktop watch here. Norwegian investors bought the company in 1942 and renamed the U.S. Time Corporation which introduced the Timex watch after World War II.

So, believe it or not, the only business advertised in this 1892 edition that remains to this day operating in the same business line as it did in 1892 is the Waterbury company of the United States, today in its current form as Timex.

The relationship to Harper’s Ferry?

In 1897, Mark Twain wrote the travel book “Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World.” In Chapter IV, he talks about his frustrating experience with the ship’s clock and the reliable Waterbury watch which he had received as a prize.

“In a minor tournament I won the prize, which was a Waterbury watch. I put it in my trunk. In Pretoria, South Africa, nine months afterward, my proper watch broke down and I took the Waterbury out, wound it, set it by the great clock on the Parliament House (8.05), then went back to my room and went to bed, tired from a long railway journey. The parliamentary clock had a peculiarity which I was not aware of at the time-a peculiarity which exists in no other clock, and would not exist in that one if it had been made by a sane person; on the half-hour it strikes the succeeding hour, then strikes the hour again, at the proper time. I lay reading and smoking awhile; then, when I could hold my eyes open no longer and was about to put out the light, the great clock began to boom, and I counted ten. I reached for the Waterbury to see how it was getting along. It was marking 9.30. It seemed rather poor speed for a three dollar watch, but I supposed that the climate was affecting it. I shoved it half an hour ahead; and took to my book and waited to see what would happen. At 10 the great clock struck ten again. I looked – the Waterbury was marking half-past 10. This was too much speed for the money, and it troubled me. I pushed the hands back a half hour, and waited once more; I had to, for I was vexed and restless now, and my sleepiness was gone. By and by the great clock struck 11. The Waterbury was marking 10.30. I pushed it ahead half an hour, with some show of temper. By and by the great clock struck 11 again. The Waterbury showed up 11.30, now, and I beat her brains out against the bedstead. I was sorry next day, when I found out.” See http://www.classicbookshelf.com.

Jules Verne wrote the book “Le Tour de Monde en Quatre-Vingt Jours” or “Around the World in Eighty Days” in 1873. Coincidence?

Mark Twain’s book “Pudd’nhead Wilson” was adapted for television and filmed in Harper’s Ferry in 1984. Mark Twain’s lecture manager was James Redpath who met and wrote about John Brown and was one of the few who remained loyal to Brown after his raid on Harper’s Ferry. Legend has it that Mark Twain stayed at Hill Top House in Harper’s Ferry.

Unfortunately, Jules Verne did not stay at Hill Top House, nor did he visit Harper’s Ferry, but he did refer to Edgar Allen Poe and Baltimore in the book “From the Earth to the Moon” which was about the fictional Gun Club established after the War of the Rebellion. Jules Verne wrote:

“Now when an American has an idea, he directly seeks a second American to share it. If there be three, they elect a president and two secretaries. Given four, they name a keeper of records, and the office is ready for work; five, they convene a general meeting, and the club is fully constituted. So things were managed in Baltimore. The inventor of a new cannon associated himself with the caster and the borer. Thus was formed the nucleus of the ‘Gun Club.’ In a single month after its formation it numbered 1,833 effective members and 30,565 corresponding members.”

How’s that for social networking?

This Christmas Number of the New York Ledger is available for purchase at Steam at Harper’s Ferry along with Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens bookmarks and Jules Verne novels .

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In light of the current filming project in Harper’s Ferry, it was great to see a report showing how this activity plays into a larger role of U.S. economy.

The International Intellectual Property Alliance® (IIPA®) released some news yesterday about 2010 economic contributions made by the U.S. copyright industries, which include contributions by 12 industries creating, producing, and distributing theatrical films, TV programming, home video, DVDs, business software, entertainment software, books and journals, music and sound recordings.

According to the report released on November 2, 2011, these industries

 

  • Added over $930 billion in value to the U.S. economy, almost 6.4% of the total GDP;
  • Employed nearly 5.1 million U.S. workers – nearly 5% of the total private employment sector – with jobs paying an average of 27% more than the rest of the workforce; and
  • Accounted for $134 billion in foreign sales and exports, far more than sectors such as aircraft, autos, and agriculture.

 

 

For the full report, click here.

 

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An extras casting assistant sent me an email with additional casting information. Based on the email, it looks like they need people ASAP for these roles.

“I am forwarding this information to you for the roles that need
to be filled for the upcoming filming that will be held in the Harper’sFerry
area.  They can reply to the below address if they are interested in being part of the production.

Individuals can reply with images to periodextras@gmail.com.”

Young Teddy Roosevelet age 24-26  5’9ish preferably with period wardrobe
(holster, has to ride horse)
Emma Goldman
Morgan’s Mother dark hair 30 nice looking
Ida Tarbell
Leon Csolgosz

Period prostitutes – bar ladies

The character links are mine – don’t blame the production crew!

Good luck!

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I just met Sarah Beers who is the costumer designer for the miniseries, “The Builders” which is filming in Harper’s Ferry next month. She’s looking for period costumes, specifically for the years between 1865-1917.  They have a need for men’s clothing – workers, middle and upper class men. Also, riding boots!  There will be soldiers, police officers, etc. in the film.  The contact folks are the same as in the previous post, Further information on Casting Call. Assistance from local theaters, re-enactors and others with access to period costumes, etc. are welcome. Just the messenger!

 

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