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November 11, 1979 - Image 13

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The Michigan Daily, 1979-11-11
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Page 8-Sunday, November 11, 1979-The Michigan Daily
special effects

(Continued from Page 3)
sonal way." Did special effects people
cultivate their own "secret" tricks of
the trade? "I don't think any of us had
any special hold on a certain technology.
I think we all knew what the other was
doing in a general way. We didn't always
see the other's set ups, but every now
and then one of us would come up and do.
something a little better, or maybe'
more sophisticated, and it was adapted
into the existing knowledge and
existing techniques."
Dunn got into the business through
his uncle, who was a stunt man and
later a director of Pathe serials. "I
hadn't established what I was going to
do yet," he recalls. "I had somewhat of
a musical background, and I was
playing in a band up in one of the Cat-
skill resorts. I had a call that the pic-
ture was starting and my uncle said,
'There's an opening for an assistant
cameraman, and there'll be a couple of
people here to get the job if you're not
here on time.' So I had barely time to
come from the Catskills over to Astoria,
Long Island, where the picture was
being mace."
Dunn followed his uncle's company

out to Hollywood, where he worked on
serials until the unit disbanded. He
calls it an "accident" when, following a
few years of freelance camera work, he
landed a job in the special effects -
department of RKO Radio Pictures, a
position he held for 28 years.
At RKO, he created special effects for
over 100 films, including Kane, King
Kong, Flying Down to Rio, Astaire-
Rodgers musicals, and the special ef-
fects Academy Award winner Mighty
Joe Young. During World War II,
Eastman-Kodak and the U.S. gover-
nment commissioned Dunn to design
and supply optical printers to armed
forces photographic units throughout
the world. These became the first op-
tical printers to be commercially
manufactured, and they won Dunn an
Academy Award for technical
achievement in design.
The optical printer is hardly a state-
of-the-art machine in 1979, but it's still
an essential device. At the end of The
Hunchbck of Notre Dame, there's a
marvelous image of Quasimodo
(Charles Laughton) clutching a
gargoyle on one of the cathedral's up-
per levels. The shot starts in fairly close

range then pulls back until Notre Dame
fills the frame and Laughton is only a
small dot at the center. "That shot of
Laughton was a back-projected image
in a screen mounted behind a seven-foot
wide painting of the cathedral," ex-
plains Dunn. The pulling-back motion
was done with the optical printer. "We
had several calls after that from
colleagues saying, 'How did ygu do
Then there's the final sequence from
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,
which Dunn consides his best work. "It
was so vast," he recalls. "(Director)
Stanley Kramer said to me at the
beginning, 'I have a picture here that
has all kinds of stunts in it, each one
topping the other. And when we get to
the ladder sequence at the very end, if
that doesn't top everything else in the
picture, I haven't got a picture.' It was
kind of a worrisome thing to tell me, but
it was a challenge, certainly."
Watching the sequence now, one
would hardly guess that such pain-
staking mechanics went into it. The
stars-a crew of famous
comedians-are caught on the flimsy
ladder of a fire truck, which swings

them back and forth high above the
gathering onlookers. The master shot
was actually a composite of seven
elements, shot at different times-in-
cluding a painted matte of buildings,
crowd footage, traffic footage, and, of
course, the stars themselves. The op-
tical printer blended everything into a
seamlessly realistic whole.
After 50 years in the business,
Dunn is still taking on projects-though
recently he has been devoting more
time to lecturing and lending his exper-
tise to film students. "I'm sill active,"
he declares, "but not as much. I'm
trying to phase out and let others take
over the responsibility." What does he
think about the special effects in
today's movies? "Well, I look at the ef-
fects, and my wife sometimes says,
'Look at those bad shots-does that
bother you?' It doesn't. I have, I think,
quite an imagination, or I wouldn't be in
this field and like it like I do. So I can
look at a picture that has a terrible
special effects shot . . . and tune that
right out.
"What a lot of people never seem to
realize," he adds, "is that it's only a



(Continued from Page 4)
ever," she says. But eventually ar-
cheologists reach a point of diminish-
ing returns, a point at which the artif-
acts dug up reveal nothing new about
the site. "You never know enough about
any site, but excavation is extremely
expensive," Herbert points out.
The Israeli Department of An-
tiquities, set up to restore the country's
abundant buried treasure, has been
organizing increasing numbers of ex-
cavations in the past few years. The
Department dictates that whenever
any potentially valuable historical ar-
tifact is uncovered, even if found unwit-
tingly in the midst of an army encam-
pment or a shopping mall construction
site, the discovery must be reported.
And more than one schoolhouse or
housing project has been interrupted,
sometimes for good, by the discovery of
crumbling pottery shards or remains of
an ancient statue. Last summer, con-
struction workers from a kibbutz near
Tel Anafa unearthed several skeletons
while preparing to erect a schoolhouse
for the community. In accordance with
governmental policy, the kibbutzniks
notified the Department of Antiquities.
Since the University diggers were the

only archaeologists in the area, they
investigated the graveyards.
While the Israelis seem painstakingly
concerned about preserving their past,
they have mixed feelings about ar-
chaeologists. "The kibbutzniks have a
sort of love-hate relationship with all
archaeologists," Herbert continues.
"They're interested in their past. . . but
at the same time they think excavaton
is an unproductive use of the land."
The University's archaeologists have
established in the past two years a
symbolic relationship with the nearby
kibbutzniks and townspeople. The
natives depend on the diggers to un-
cover the Israeli past and add substan-
ce to the nation's struggle to assert its
identity. "They would like to document
the Israeli presence," Herbert says,
and since no native labor is employed at
Tel Anafa, "they appreciate our exper-
tise." The diggers, for their part,
depend completely on the natives for
such necessities as water from the kib-
butz' irrigation canals and the bus that
takes them to work each day.
Israel is particularly tied up in an ar-
chaeological frenzy now, because the
army retreating from the Sinai
Peninusla is threatening to destroy the

wealth of tels in the neighboring Negev
desert. As the camps and air bases are
pushed back into the Negev, the ground
is dug up and trampled indis-
criminately. The Israeli government is
funding a massive excavation effort in
the area to sort of counter the soil
destruction by the armies that are
retreating in compliance with the
Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty signed last
spring. The archaeologists are racing
the great bulldozers with mere trowels
(Continued from Page 7)
ton candy, wax dinosaurs, or
caricatures in only 60 seconds !
Perception research indicates that
the more stimuli people are exposed to,
the less they actually perceive overall,
and the more they open themselves up
to the chances of achieving a mental
state where force-fed information could
slip by one's psychic sentinels. Behind
the case for uniformity in malls, which
appears to be nothing more than the
careful balancing of various attention-
grabbing mechanisms, the general
thrust of the mall's perception-jam-
ming approach seems to bealmost
fascist in nature. Perhaps the best
analogue for the shopping mall is the
ant colony, in which the countless ant-
minions scurry around in programmed
patterns in service of a structure too
complex for them to understand.
But then again, er, so what? In
Religious and Spiritual Groups in
Modern America, Robert Elwood
writes, "Religious founders and leaders
are those who call into conscious ex-
pression the deepest latent spiritual in-

and scholarly knowledge. Both the
diggers and the soliders are chopping
up the terrain, but the purposes and
results of their activities are worlds dif-
ferent. As the archaeologists dig, they
both preserve the unearthed artifacts
and render the land free for future use.
"Excavation involves a certain amount
of destruction," admits Smith. "But if
you've kept a careful record, and if
nothing is left standing, you've only
done your job well."
tuitions of which their hearers are
potentially conscious and can under-
stand ... To invent totally new religious
notions, to fit new pieces into the puzzle,
is usually precisely what is not very
successful. The founder is one who can
reintegrate a cosmos which is shat-
tered, which already holds too many
notional and experiential fragments."
For better or worse, shopping malls
have taken several needs which used to
be filled by things like religion, and tur-
ned the trick that faith in God generally
can't nowadays. Malls provide an en-
vironment perhaps most wonderous for
the fact that it is enclosed and win-
dowless, carefully obliterating the con-
cept of the external world. In its place is
a community of soft conformity-the
demarcation between day and night is
blurred by incessant flourescence;
malls know no seasons. They offer
surreal promises that are never exten-
ded in real life; but real life doesn't
happen in malls. And, as David Byrne
says, "Heaven is a place where nothing
ever happens."


(Continued from Page 6)
But what was obviously intended as
the most fulfilling section of the novel
turns out to be its weakest. Kosinski the
acerbic existentialist defaults to Kosin-
ski the nouveau sentimentalist, and
the result is so blandly conventional,
such dreary soap opera that with a
small-stretch of the imagination you
could believe Georgette Heyer had sud-
denly taken over Passion Play's writing
The entire minidrama serves as a
disquieting footnote to its author's work
to date. Kosinski can still mesmerize
with his prose: He makes the game of
polo a ferocious, impassioned sport,
giving life to its stigma as a sedate
daliance of the overprivileged. When
Fabian races his steeds across the open
Arizona desert, Kosinski guides us into a
phantasmic cpunter-universe:
Here, in this burnirg void, this
landscape of heat and light and
space as pure and luminous as a

cube of metal or a shard of mineral
so crystalline that no pool of rain
water could impose on it a reflec-
tion, Fabian felt that he was
nature's own conscience. Without
him to see it, the natural world
would remain unseen, unknown, a
thing unto itself, radiance in a galaxy
strewn with distant light.
Yet never before has Kosinski's
stilted dialogue, his misfired resonance
ofa foreigner grasping for an American
idiom, been more painfully apparent.
It's if the author's dark excursions into
abnormality, while often infuriating
and repellent, might ultimately prove
to have been the sole reason for his ap-
peal, a terrible but irresistable
Lucifer's glow. As Kosinski belatedly
ripens into detente with a once-hostile
world, his writing just may in turn
ripen into a benign irrelevency. And in
the author's macrocosm of byzantine
ironies, that would be the greatest irony
of all. .

Cun o-r

Owen Gleiberman
Associate editor
Elisa Isaacson

Elizabeth Slowik
Cover photo by
Michael Rosenblum

Supplement to The Michigan Daily

Ann Arbor, Michigan-Sunday, November 11, 1979

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