I really love watching all sorts of movies, again this month I’ve been re-watching my 15 must see film noirs. For all your film enthusiasts out there there’s the possibly to discover a new world of cinema gold you might not knew even existed. I’m also betting some of you will be blown away by the pure awesomeness of these films if you give them a look.
For the purpose of this article we’re going to be looking at the classic “Film Noirs” by definition, starting in the early 40′s spanning to the late 50′s; Slow exposure black and white film cinematography with strong shadows rooted in silent German expressionist films and stories derived mostly from anti-hero crime fiction of the great depression era . Really the term “Film Noir” wasn’t even adopted in America till the 70′s, many of the classics were referred to as Melodramas by US film historians and critics during their initial run. However the term was first used to describe Hollywood films in 1946 by a French critic Nino Frank. Believe it or not, there still is a debate amongst film enthusiasts and scholars alike whether “Film Noir” is an actual distinct genre within itself or not. In all honesty, who really gives a shit?
It’s like arguing who the best captain on Star Trek was, it’s a stupid question that’s never ever going to get you laid. So forget it already and just enjoy the actual films with some sort of companion if possible. Now here are some great unforgettable pictures that everyone who loves the movies should see. If you decide to give any of these a viewing, you’ll find something to fall in love with and will want to turn other humans onto for the rest of your life. You will not be disappointed in any of the following films, all are super duper cinema gold
I’m not going to rate where these stand in my opinion until the top 6, so this will be a general “must see” list for everyone. We’ll start thing off with a John Huston heist classic:
- The Asphalt Jungle (1950) director John Huston- Locked away for seven years criminal mastermind Doc Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe) feels he has conceived the perfect heist. First thing after hitting the streets Doc puts together a team of thieves to help execute the job. With superb acting and cast all around, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen, James Whitmore, John McIntire, even Marilyn Monroe in a small roll; And most important Sterling Hayden is Dix Handley a bad ass low level “Strong-arm” man who gets involved in a robbery that will net a million dollars in jewels. Things go wrong, people get messed up, things go really wrong, more people get messed up. Basically the only two reasons you should need to watch this immediately if you haven’t already seen it is Sterling Hayden and John Huston. Anytime Hayden took on this bad ass hard boiled anti-hero type role he knocked it out of the park and always had you remembering his character, he’ll pop up again in later films on this list most defiantly. Now director John Huston is one of those names that when you see it you should pick up that film a watch the hell out of it. Simply because you will see magic over and over no matter how many time you watch one of the films he’s directed they only get better and better, a true cinema master and artist in the highest regards. My recommendation is get you hands on every film he directed and revel in the brilliance. You can start with this one if you like.
- Out Of The Past (1947) director Jacques Tourneur- The first thing you notice about this beautiful little number is the extremely fast and snappy dialog, it’s text book Noir. The story goes Robert Mitchum/Jeff Bailey is a gas station owner in a small town, a man comes to the gas station who use to know Bailey and wants a meeting with him. Turns out Jeff was a Private Detective that skipped out on a case for a wealthy criminal client and now that client (Kirk Douglas) has found him and wants a chat. This would be the perfect film to show someone who would like to get into classic film noir, a great introduction to the genre. Director Jacques Tourneur shows his brilliant understanding of blocking actors, use of light and shadows, highlighting the superb black and white photography. This one’s a real winner and if you would like to be a winner as well you might like to check this shit out.
- Mildred Pierce (1945) director Michael Curtiz- Joan Crawford in her Oscar winning Best Actress performance, chilling as hell. Starting the picture off at night at a house on the beach. With 6 shots to the heart a man with a funky little mustache falls to the floor uttering his last word “Mildred”, a smoking gun thrown at his side. Seconds later a car rushes away from the house, cutting to the seaside boardwalk. A distraught Joan Crawford/ Mildred Pierce walks towards a railing looking as though she is planing to jump over in an attempt to kill herself. Stop by a cop who convinces her to take a walk instead of a swim, she meets an old friend who owns a bar on the walk and we start the story of a woman who takes control of her life in the 40′s and becomes a success in business only to give everything up for her spoiled daughter. A great study in the roll reversal of male and female part in these films. Everything ruthless and dirty down that a guy normally does in the noir films, Joan Crawford takes that destructive male energy and make it decidedly female and it is scary as hell. Once she turns, she tears though anyone standing in her way to get what she wants. One you might not want to watch with the wife or girlfriend , forbid she gets any ideas from the piece and decides to go all Mildred Pierce on your ass. You’ve been warned.
- The Big Sleep (1946) director Howard Hawks – Bogart as wise cracking detective Philip Marlowe, total brilliance. The first thing that strikes you about this one is the speed and wit at which dialog is delivered through the whole piece. I really started to think about it and it feels like they do twice as many words spoken per minute than most films (10 times as many if you’re talking a Michael Bay movie), and the wittiness of the character banter brings a smile to your face quite often during viewing. The on screen chemistry between Bogart and Bacall is undeniable, they both hold a certain presence that makes you want to keep your eyes on them and the characters they inhabit continually . This would be the second film that the pair appeared in together, the first being Hawks’s 1944 To Have Or To Have Not. This time out director Howard Hawks brings us a more refined performance from Bacall, holding here own again the much more experienced actors. Watching these kind of films it reminds me about how little dialog is delivered now a days without a few quick cuts, close-ups and cut-aways to hide actors and directors mistakes. Here we have a film mostly shot in medium and wide shots, takes run 3-4 minutes on average and with perfect execution technically hitting a load of camera moves and focus marks during these long takes. If done well like here, the viewer hardly even notices the movement of camera opposite the actors moves. In this film we have acting masters and a director that were at the height of their game, it’s definitely one movie I’ve learned a lot from and enjoyed the multiple viewing reveling in if nothing else, Bogart’s command of the screen and camera lens. If you haven’t really seen many Bogart films this would be one to start off a long love affair with one of the silver screen’s great actors. With out question, a must see for everyone.
- Murder My Sweet (1945) director Edward Dmytryk- Tough guys, guns, girls, schemes and one big league blond. Another sweet Philip Marlowe story this time played by Dick Powell, not quite as epic as the Bogart take on the character but still great in its own right. The real jewel for cinephiles on this one is the razor sharp storytelling and direction by Edward Dmytryk., extremely dark for American cinema even film noir. The pools of light and shadow inhabit the sets and become a character all in their own, adding to the dread felt by Marlowe through out the piece. A very great example of the classic blond femme fatale played by Claire Trevor, an actress well into her 34th role after only 10 years of acting, she sets a performance bar that’s hard to match by the other players. Thrown in as well are a peppering of classic great ideas and climaxes in story and action that have been copied many times before. I really don’t want to spoil one moment in particular that has been copied at least 2-3 time as far as I know and I’m thinking of stealing it for a short film idea myself, I love the visual that much. Bottom line, a film with superb visual understanding, dark storytelling and a few iconic moments that sear them selves into the cinephiles brain for life. Another film to fall in love with, at very least an idea stimulator for the storytelling impaired.
- Kiss Me Deadly (1955) director Robert Aldrich- A blonde in a trench coat tries to flag down a car on a dark desert road, passed by the first one she desperately jump in front of the second. Slamming on the brakes barely avoiding her, the driver hard boiled private dick Mike Hammer offers her a ride. As they race down the shadow covered highway the credit role to director’s Robert Aldrich (the Dirty Dozen) film of the Mickey Spillane’s best selling novel. This film is as dark as they come with mostly great acting, brilliant cinematography and one of the best endings from the 50′s noirs. Ralph Meeker inhabits the character of Mike Hammer, a serious bad ass. He seems like he could really beat the shit out of any takers with still maintaining a human side with his love for his friends and women alike. The great mystery object story angle leave us with a brilliant third act and a climax that will have you skipping back to take a look at it a few times. A surprise awaits you if you watch this one, a great twist as to what everyone is fighting for, and as usual guns, girls and mayhem.
- Double Indemnity (1944) director Billy Wilder- The great director Billy Wilder brings us one of the all time great films, with script co-written by pulp master Raymond Chandler. Staring Fred MacMurray as insurance salesman Walter Neff who finds himself wrapped up into the perfect scheme to help murder trophy wife Barbara Stanwyck/Phyllis Dietrichson’s older husband and take the life insurance money for their own. The only one to stand in their way is master claims investigator Barton Keyes played by the legendary Edward G. Robinson. Stylish cinematography, great snappy dialog and performances that you can use as your go to as an actor or actress, this one has it all. If you’ve never seen this film you should find it and watch the dark brilliance unfold in front of your virgin “indemnity” eyes. I wish in a way I was the ones of you who have no idea this film exists, because that way I could have my mind blown again by how dam good classic cinema can be (it happens so rarely these days) . Lucky lucky humans who decide to give this one a watch, Gold, Gold, Gold!
- Night And The City (1950) director Jules Dassin- Put together the greatest understanding of light and shadow, use of practical locations, lighting accents, scene blocking and you have a technically stunning film in Night and the City. The fact that director Jules Dassin made the movie under the pressures of the Hollywood communist black list looming over him is incredible. From Dassin himself in an interview he said that 20th Century Fox studio head Darryl Zanuck handed him the book and said that this would be his last picture with them and he’d better get out of the States, go to London, get a script going quick, shoot all the expensive scenes first and make a great film because it would be his last, most likely of his career. Even though he would go on to make great films in France till 1981, his career almost died because of someone naming him as a communist sympathizer. Amongst all this chaos he still managed to bring us a superb piece of film noir for the ages. A decidedly American view in the portrayal of the “fish out of water, that just can’t win” story and the protagonist Harry Fabian. Played expertly by Richard Widmark, a hustler that can’t ever have a scheme work out, until he meets and hustles the worlds greatest Greco-Roman wrestler of all time and things go down hill fast from there. As these film do most of the time, it doesn’t end well for anybody in the picture. I do really love the use of the real locations in London, brilliant sets and production design that absolutely add atmosphere and great visual metaphors through out . A real gem in the classic cinema catalog, much to be learned from the direction of almost every aspect of this film and production.
- Beat The Devil (1953) director John Huston- Shot on location in Italy, John Huston delivers again with the great Humphrey Bogart at the helm as aging American playboy Billy Dannreuther. Four international crooks are stranded in Italy waiting for the repair of their steamer ship, Billy and Mrs. Dannreuther accompany them on the way to Africa to swindle land with rich uranium deposits. A British couple the Chelms, gets caught up in the groups business and schemes, where fun and folly turn deadly at the drop of a hat. The tone that Huston walks with this film is amazing, great comedic moments that plays on convention of the film noir story and delivery of archetype heroes and villains. Helped along with co writing credit going to Truman Capote, slick and lightning fast dialog is delivered by actors, all at the height of their craft. Brilliant performances all play off each other to give us truly great cinematic characters and moments. All this is wrapped up with gorgeous Italian locations shot by master cinematographer Oswald Morris. Rule number one, anytime you see John Huston on a film it’s always worth a look or two or three. One really interesting fun fact for film geeks I’ve found out while writing this article is that Humphrey Bogart was involved in a serious automobile accident during production, which knocked out several of his teeth and screwed up his ability to speak. Huston hired a young British actor noted for his mimicry skills to rerecord some of Bogart’s spoken lines during post-production looping. Although it is undetectable when viewing the film today, it is Peter Sellers who provides Bogart’s voice during some of the scenes in this movie. Dam cool trivia to me.
- #6-The Maltese Falcon (1941) director John Huston- A first film for any director always holds something special. You usually see a talent emerging not fully formed but striking to the imagination. With John Huston’s first film he was as so few directors are right out of the gate, a force to be reckoned with. Humphrey Bogart as Private detective Samel Spade leads the stellar cast, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet and Elisha Cook Jr. amongst many other players inhabiting one of the greatest films ever made. The dark and twisting plot runs quite fast for a movie from 1941. The dialog delivered as only film noir characters can speak. Suggested subtext in every exchange, quick sarcastic retorts and a super cool “fuck you” attitude to every question or situation makes Bogart into a god through the camera lens. This is the film that cemented him in my head at a super talent and one of the mediums great artist to be rediscovered through many generation of films lovers and artist alike. Add to that the directing talents of a young John Huston and you have an atom bomb of film geek joy exploding to scorch your brain with the plain cinema bliss. This is what film noir and classic film is all about, the stuff dreams are made of.
- #5-Sunset Boulevard (1950) director Billy Wilder- Of so many great movies Billy Wilder directed, Sunset Boulevard stands at the top of the best film ever made about the life of making films. I love movies about Hollywood and the dark and seedy world which Los Angeles becomes in this film is of legend. The story starts with a William Holden voice over and shots of Sunset Boulevard and then a house with a pool. Detectives around the pool are trying to fish out Holden’s screen writer characters dead body. The whole story is told from a voice over from a dead body in a swimming pool, how dam cool is that as a hook in the first few minutes. Pure pure gold. You’ve also got what could be the best casting in film history with silent screen star Gloria Swanson playing the aging “has been” actress Norma Desmond and Eric Von Stroheim as Max Von Mayerling, her sullen butler servant companion. They inhabit the roles smashing the line between playing and being a character, bringing such brilliance to a role you somewhat closely resembling in career and life, must have been a extremely hard to make real with out going a bit crazy for both players. Swanson’s performance is nothing short of breath taking even re-watching it 61 years later, a must study for every actor and/or actress. For the keen film geek you’ll also see guest appearances by Buster Keaton, Anna Q. Nilsson and H B. Warner as the “wax works ” bridge partners to Norma, all major silent screen stars in their day. So much inside stuff about the business of making movies was exposed for the first time in a dark way to the American public and the world, and also garnering some mixed emotions in Hollywood about Wilder’s picture. Some studio head publicly scorned the director for exposing the world to the dark take on the city of angels and the industry that made it a giant in the desert. A must see for every film fan and casual watcher, see how amazing classic film can get with Sunset Boulevard. Come see what all the hype is about, it’s all right here.#4- Touch Of Evil (1956) director Orson Welles- After his first film, so ahead of its time it almost crushed his directing career in 1941, Orson Welles still found work as a actor in Hollywood and Europe though out the 40′s and 50′s. He still went on to direct a hand full of great films even though the studio financiers kept tight rein on the final product put up on the scene. Touch of Evil is one of those film that was talked about how the executives at universal stepped in and re cut the film with out Welles’s approval and released a very compromised version both in content and in score. In response to the treatment of his film Welles wrote very a detailed 58 page memo to Universal outlining the problems with the cuts they had made and the reason why he made the first choices for the film. Pleading with them to please put the film back to his original cut, the studio ignored the memo released their cut of the film. I have seen the original cut on VHS and was confused by obvious cuts in the scenes flow, weird music cues and edits. Thanks to Charlton Heston bringing forth an original copy of the Welles memo in 1998, which has thought to have been lost, Universal re edited the film to all the choices outlined in the memo and giving us a very complete version of Touch Of Evil as Orson Welles intended us to see it. What really is the difference? We’ll with the Welles cut of the film we have better flow of music to atmospheric sound(no more out of place music), all the drug content is back in, better flow in editing and choice of takes and plainly we get the film intended by the director. So ahead of its time, this film plays like a movie from the 70′s shot in black and white, all the actors have great characters to work with, the story is dark as can be for American cinema of the mid 50′s, the lighting and shot choices are inspired genius to say the least and Orson Welles’s Captain Hank Quinlan is one of those amazing characters in cinema who seems so real to me. Another great role he disappears into , never once thinking your watching an actor or performance, this is a true actor and artist at the height of his craft. A shame the film world realized too late what they had in Welles and his Jedi like storytelling abilities. Put this on your list to see asap, greatness is waiting to be discovered here. As every Orson Welles picture or performance holds something great to be discovered in his take on certain material and story, Touch of Evil is at the height of American cinema as one of the top 50 films ever made with out question.
#3-The Killing (1956) director Stanley Kubrick-At 27 years old Stanley Kubrick came to Hollywood to make his third feature film. This was the first time he had a real budget, full crew of experienced technicians and veteran actors that brought something special to the dialog and character that was written on the page. Even at this young age as a director Kubrick ruled the production with a superior studied technical knowledge. My absolute favorite story about the films production is about the first set up on the first day Kubrick told his Oscar winning director of photography Lucien Ballard the set up and shot he wanted with lens choice and position of the camera. After he had gone off to talk to the actors about the scene he had noticed that Lucien had put the camera and dolly track much closer than he had told him, also putting on a wider lens than requested. So, Kubrick went over and asked him what he was doing. The DP told him that it really didn’t matter about the exact position of the camera and he had set the shot up to make it easier for the focus puller and crew to execute the shot with the same effect. On top of that he said that the set up didn’t really change the perspective at all. Kubrick long being an expert photographer knew this was total bullshit and calmly asked Ballard to put the camera and dolly where he had asked for it, put the proper lens on or get off his set. And Kubrick was totally right on the matter. Even at this young age he gave us a brilliant race track robbery film that uses the “same story told from different views and characters” approach (like Kurosawa’s Rashomon before it). The mastery of light is very apparent at this point as well. Great shadows and atmosphere bring the film alive around a great cast of great Hollywood character actors. Lots to love and learn from this picture. Kubrick’s films and life are a true obsession with me and doesn’t look like it’s changing any time soon. Even his early films are something of greatness in themselves and only get better with multiple viewings, always seeing new things. LONG LIVE THE CULT OF KUBRICK.
- #2- The Lady From Shanghai (1947) director Orson Welles- Watching any Orson Welles film always feels like you’re in for a unique experience. One thing Welles had said in interviews in the late 70′s that he realized around and after the production of Lady from Shanghai, “that being so ahead of your time in Hollywood really means, you’re in trouble” . Having almost an hour cut out of any film by a studio obviously changes it completely. The fact that The Lady From Shanghai was a huge bomb, everyone hated it at the time and no one could even look Orson in the eyes when the subject came up amongst his peers , partly prompted him to leave Hollywood for a number of years in favor of work in Europe. The cut of The Lady From Shanghai we have on DVD, is just under an hour and a half and I still think it’s my favorite picture Welles directed. Just imagining the full cut fills me with such awe and wonder because with the film we have today I enjoy every part of so much and never figure it could be any better. I love the way it’s shot, odd angles, deep blacks, slow black and white film and amazing locations. All the weird off beat characters always seem to be playfully sinister and feel “real” in that great movie way. Rita Hayworth plays the perfect gorgeous dark predator/ damsel in distress role, paired with Welles worldly tough guy sailor sucker, the story engages you like very few newer movie can today. This for me has been watched 5-6 time a year minimum since I discovered it about 18 years ago. Just can’t get enough of the Orson Welles classics. My hope is that the Blu-Ray for this is treated with plenty of care by the studio that owns it (which I think is Sony/Columbia). Other wise I’d check it out ASAP if you have never seen this one and love the classics, this is one of the best no question..
- #1-White Heat (1950) director Raul Walsh- When I had first come to viewing White Heat I was in a place where I had seen way too many mediocre classic films. Working at a video store as a teenager I found myself picking whole sections of the store to view from A-Z and watching every single film on the shelf in alphabetical order. While I was in the classic cinema section getting to W was some what of a chore, having to go though a few months of viewing with only finding a handful of particularly great works. Then upon watching White Heat I woke up in a big way, finally realizing why James Cagney is considered one of the best actor ever to grace the screen and where some of my favorite gangster films had ganked a large portion of their DNA from. If the Gangster picture is your thing, this is required viewing and you will thank me for turning you on to this super charged classic noir. Director Raul Walsh takes his cast through one of the tightest fastest running stories in the classic genre, with great shots and an ending that could be the best for any anti-hero in film history, this is what great cinema is all about. I’m really looking forward to the Blu-ray of this title as well, Hoping it gets the attention in restoration it deserves, because I’ll be watching it for many years to come. Made It Ma, Top Of The World!
Till Next Time. Stay Tuned.
I’ve got a bit of an addendum to the last article about the lens used in Stanley Kubrick’s stunning period piece Barry Lyndon. Especially for all my camera department super tech geeks out there, Here’s a translation of an Italian article floating around the net about the history of the Planar F/0.7 50mm lens used in the 1975 film.
Very tech, very cool.
LONG LIVE THE CULT OF KUBRICK.
Homage to an immortal KUBRICK AND THE LEGENDARY PLANAR 50mm f / 0.7
two frames of Barry Lyndon shot with the Zeiss Planar 50mm f / 0,7 former NASA full aperture f / 0.7.
Note the wonderful bo-keh, the detachment plastic and the extreme focus of this perspective, born to shooting
35mm film infinity of space and used here about 6-7 feet from the subject, out of any scheme
logic of the project.
The mystique of the Planar 0,7 / 50, for the NASA militance shining and the masterpiece of Stanley Kubrick,
is much more intriguing considering the ancetres of the optical lens: when it was calculated, in the early ’60s, it was not
drawed from the white paper but dusting off the wartime projects of superfast IR-Objektive used in cathode
nacht-wandler for the Nazi’s weapons, in the Following upgrading you’ll find the drawing of the unprecedented
precursor of this lens and of other similar wartime Zeiss lenses, unknown untill now, and for the first time an high
resolution drawing of the Planar 50mm f / 0,7 with the Kollmorgen converter used in Barry Lyndon, with all quotes;
last but not least, I added a series of snaps form Barry Lyndon’s scenes where this lens was on strike.
The Zeiss Planar 50mm f / 0.7 lens is a very fabled, which had arisen as a dowry by an active life worthy of
a novel, passing from the hands of NASA (he was born for unspecified shooting in critical light conditions
in spaceflight preparation all’allunaggio human) to those of the master filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, who adapted
laboriously this very special lens of a camera taken one of the higher flights of his career, signing
scenes by candlelight in the interiors of “Barry Lyndon”.
If all this were not enough to feed the aura of legend around this objective, equally exceptional and disturbing
is the origin of its optical design techniques, in fact, when the project of Planar 50mm f / 0.7 was started at the beginning of the 60s,
designers did not start from a blank sheet, but were inspired directly to documents relating to objectives superbright
intended for night vision with CRT, made in the time of war for various weapon systems of the Nazi army, information
Technical saved from the chaos and Soviet hands thanks to the men of Operation Paperclip, which recovered the precious
patterns and put them at the disposal of the newly formed Western Zeiss, who by then was re-founding (first in Coburg and then
to Oberkochen), the novel contribution that follows compares the pattern of the Planar 50mm f / 0.7 (deliberate production
in 1966) with that of a UR-Objektive 70mm f / 1,0 realized in 1941 by Zeiss Jena for a vision device
the famous Planar 50mm f / 0,7 used by NASA and by Stanley Kubrick actually comes from
projects objectives superbright RH (Ultrarotstrahlung = infrared) made in the time of war
and constituted the primary objective of systems for infrared night vision (wandler)
applied in various weapon systems Nazis; diagram on the left refers to a 70mm f / 1,0 1941
and you can see how the Planar 50mm f / 0,7 is based on similar concepts: a group Gauss front
with two doublets glued and a rear group with the function of the field lens similar to
Smyth linse made famous in 1874 by the optician-Piazzi Smyth for the Petzval-type lens, in
both objectives the rear lens is almost in contact with the sensitive element (in Planar,
in particular, the space back focal was reduced to about 4mm), and the particular shape of the last
element of the 50mm leaves the door open to the hypothesis that this was originally intended
for use on cathode ray tubes in cascade, maybe used as amplifiers of the existing light, without
projectors IR (unusable space to similar distances)
among the 42 well-Zeiss UR wartime intended for viewers who are IR
managed to take a census (including variants), these three models are the most similar
Optically the future Planar 50mm f / 0.7 designed over 20 years later: a DNA
really unexpected and disturbing …
as already seen in Leitz, Zeiss also home to the superbright viewers military
Infrared wartime derive from objectives achieved in mid-30s
and intended for use in radiology, at the instigation of the national documentation
on thoracic pathologies of the German population defined Programm offenbar;
this scheme is referred to a roentgenobjektiv of brightness with Zeiss f / 0.85, which
in turn already contains in germ all the features of Planar 50mm f / 0.7 final
a minimum of space back focal range (in this case, this objective working
directly in contact with the film and the last lens with a flat surface allowed
perfect register of the focal plane and scraping the emulsion)
START UPGRADING 20/04/2011
The Planar 50mm f / 0,7 was calculated by Erhard Glatzel and his project went through
four prototypes intermediate before reaching the final configuration; Glatzel left
by a Gauss 50mm f / 1,0 (for 30 ° on the film format) manually calculated,
a double Gauss lens 10 to better distribute the forces on different elements and a lens
field almost at the focal plane, and this initial model was the subject of complex calculations,
operated both manually and automatically using an IBM 7090 computer, a tool
that in 1960 it cost 2.9 million U.S. dollars, here is the optical schemes of all versions,
from preliminary prototype final objective.
The particular, the second lens manually split into a doublet collato passing
from the first to the second prototype, constituted the negative contribution to the sum of Seidel I,
but subsequent steps in computerized automatic distributed this contribution
uniformly dispersed in the two surfaces at the sides of the diaphragm, thus making
almost unnecessary complication in the front, the three front lenses present
in the third prototype were therefore simplified manually in a single lens, passing
then for a finishing touch to your computer to permanently optimize the scheme, the same
Glatzel pointed out the similarities with the aforementioned Roentgenobjektiv Carl Zeiss Jena f / 0,85,
arguing, however, that the transition to f / 0.7 represents a significant step forward.
The unpublished works of the MTF Zeiss Planar 50mm f / 0.7, measured at f / 0.7 on spatial frequencies
from 0 to 20 cycles / mm on a 10 ° on semidiagonale (half of the field, with guidance
sagittal and tangential) and at 14 ° on semidiagonale (edges of the format, always with
sagittal and tangential orientation), and of course these values are modest but
perfectly justified by the opening extreme and seniority of the project.
Erhard Glatzel, the father of Planar 50mm f / 0.7
(Picture: courtesy Larry Gubas)
An impressive overview of the IBM 7090, introduced in late
50s by Glatzel and used in optical computing this objective: as mentioned,
this monster cost then 2.9 million dollars or, if you prefer, 63,500 Dollars
monthly rental …
The copy of Planar 50mm f / 0,7 corresponding to the specifications of origin (no device
focus, Electronic Shutter Compur # 3) from the collection of the deceased and
the late Charles Barringer, a leading expert and collector former President of the Zeiss Zeiss
(Picture: Westlicht Photographica Auction – Vienna)
A copy of Planar 50mm f / 0,7 photographed at Oberkochen the dimensioned drawings in the original;
This specimen has a flange bayonet and a helical focusing
calibrated in feet.
The detail shows the scale of focus finely graduated (optics goes focheggiata to estimate
on metric scale) and the adjustable aperture from f / 0.7 to f / 8.
UPGRADING END 20/04/2011
START UPGRADING 28/12/2007
The optical principle on which is based the calculation of Planar 50mm f / 0,7 and exceptional
brightness did not write anything new but was based on the preliminary draft made
in 1928 by Benjamin and Ellan Luboshez in 1937 by Maximilian Herzberger for Kodak;
the original design of Luboshez could be defined roughly a sort of “teleconverter
countdown “: in fact, it is a rear light unit (added in the calculation phase
the primary objective or objectives already set as accessory products) that intercepts
the beam back and it does converge on an image size less than the previous year by
Because the entrance pupil is not altered, the beam is as “concentrated”
(Imagine the classic trick of magnifying glass that focuses the sun’s rays
a bright point), and maintaining pupil aperture angle and field of view
unchanged on a smaller size we have a reduction of the focal length and a change
also for the gradient that defines the maximum brightness, which instead increases behold the
schemes elaborated in the draft Luboshez.
I highlighted in cyan and red primary objective the rear converging group:
maintaining the same entrance pupil (and therefore the same luminous flux and an equal angle of field)
rear projection is “focused” on a size smaller than the original, thus obtaining
a reduction in the effective focal length (same angle of view of the lower diagonal) and a
increase of the maximum brightness, since the luminous flux is “concentrated” on a
bottom surface; Luboshez in the draft was expected to be a simplified system and economic
consists of a single converging meniscus, is a most desirable option to four lenses, and finally a
“Universal” version designed for coupling with various targets already in production, and the destination
original of this project was the reproduction by fluoroscopy X-ray film, a field where
the weak fluorescence of the screen requires high brightness, while the chromatic aberration is not
been considered, since the fluorescence excited by X-rays is substantially monochromatic
A further evolutionary step in this area we owe it to calculations made in 1937 by Maximilian Herzberger
to the Eastman Kodak Company; Herzberger shooting the project and I Luboshez chamfer limits, evolving
the converging rear group in a model made even with the adoption of fluor krown acid glass to
low dispersion, the “defects” of the project consisted in the absence of Luboshez acromatizzazione in
presence of a strong curvature of field (Petzval sum due to the high intrinsic) and in an angle of
useful field rather narrow, the project evolved Herzberger was born with the aim of reducing the amount
Petzval and to obtain a sufficiently wide angle of field with a reduction of astigmatism without
to take over the coma, in turn reducing the coma and spherical aberration without penalizing the curvature of
field, the adoption of two glasses contained in dispersal also allowed a color correction exploitable
with the entire visible spectrum, and this project can be considered the forerunner of the concept at the basis of many
super-bright time of war and of the same Planar 50mm f70, 7; starting with a primary objective to
100mm f / 2,0 (conventional measures of reference), adding the converging group the focal effettica
was reduced to 40.65 mm, with a proportional increase in the maximum brightness of f / 2,0 to f/0.813, of course
on a smaller format.
The draft Herzberger of 1937 combined with the pattern of Planar 50mm f / 0.7
reveals many similarities, including the need for a space back focal really small;
as said, the last lens of the Planar is forged in the manner of the field lens of Piazzi-Smyth,
extensively used on superbright Germans of the last years of the war that
were calculated for coupling a cathode ray tube (for night vision goggles to
infrared), a lens which modified the field curvature of the conjugated back
and adapted to the curvature of the tube: the very limited space back focal
and the presence of this lens I suggests that even the Planar 50mm f / 0.7 may
be designed for NASA in view of a similar use, exploiting a
group in cascade with cathode-ray tube for shooting infrared or system
image intensifier, but this would not explain the presence of the burly
central shutter only necessary for photographic needs …
This diagram shows the operation of a classic rear teleconverter (multipliers
Focal commonly used by photographers) and group converged Luboshez and Herzberger,
then exploited also in Planar 50mm f / 0.7: while the multiplier diverges the beam projection,
distributing the brightness over a larger area than the original (but surpluses are not
exploited) and reducing the relative brightness of the system, the converging group acts in an opposite manner,
centralizing the luminous flux guaranteed by the entrance pupil of an area that is smaller than,
thus concentrating the beam and increasing the relative brightness; since the same angle of
field is guaranteed on a smaller paper size, also the focal length will be reduced by the same step;
of course to keep the original format will be necessary to prepare a primary objective with diameters
and redundant coverage
as regards the logic of the original NASA contract, it must be considered that it was not
a leap of faith: April 1, 1960 was already gone into orbit satellite Tiros I with a camera system
television cameras and infrared for meteorological use, and the need for very bright optics had
manifested when President John F. Kennedy proclaimed the need to accelerate the development of
space missions and a willingness to put a man on the moon before the decade of the 60s, with the budget tripled,
NASA He increased efforts related to the lunar missions and was planned to launch five shuttles Ranger
be put into lunar orbit to perform a photographic mapping range, including the
famous “dark side” always hidden and dimly lit, the first module Ranger was launched January 23, 1961
but only the Ranger IV (launched April 23, 1962) reached the lunar orbit without drawbacks, and these
modules boasted one of the onboard equipment SuperBright a goal to use photography, a
Gauss f / 1,0 designed in March 1953 by Pierre Angenieux in person, probably intended to conditions
critical lighting or the dark side of the satellite …. The Ranger IV impacted on the “dark side” and Angenieux
f / 1,0 rests in those silences still unexplored.
a summary of the original design conceived by Pierre Angenieux in person: it is
a lens f / 1,0 based on a classic Gauss, which also does not use any
floating most advanced available at the time
After this experience in mapping the dark areas of the Moon performed with
the Angenieux f / 1.0, it is possible that NASA engineers have found this
brightness still insufficient, and in anticipation of the famous Apollo project (formerly
presented in July 1960) have commissioned Zeiss optics yet
brighter, that is, the Planar 50mm f / 0,7.
UPGRADING END 28/12/2007
START UPGRADING 19/03/2010
E ‘known to very few insiders that the Zeiss, after the realization of Planar
50mm f / 0.7, put his hand to his project, evolving into a versuch (prototype) that
9 used lenses instead of 8, a 50mm whose brightness was pushed even to
threshold f / 0.63, as confirmed by the late Walter pesonalmente Woeltche, the
substitute for Erhard Glatzel, this amazing versuch Planar 50mm f / 0,63 was not
ever produced and to this day he was completely ignorant of the optical structure, the pattern
that follows illustrates the section of the Planar 50mm f / 0.7 and – for the first time – even that
of its potential successor, the Planar 50mm f / 0,63.
The optical scheme of the prototype Planar 50mm f / 0,63 differs from that
the Planar 50mm f / 0,7 used by NASA and by Kubrick for adding
a meniscus earlier collective and the air spacing of the first doublet
glued, changes that do not have distorted the overall shape of the lens.
UPGRADING END 19/03/2010
a rare official image of the Planar 50mm f / 0,7 in the original configuration, scheduled for
NASA, the goal had a big central shutter Compur Electronic # 3 with times
1 “- 1/200” which was also the diaphragm and weighed 1.85 kg, and for the adaptation of the camera
Kubrick (an old Mitchell reflex, as required by the last lens almost leaning against the
film) the shutter was eliminated because of its bulk and replaced by a spacer of equal
draw, the goal appears to have been produced in 10 copies, of which 6 are provided to NASA, 1
remained at Zeiss and 3 then purchased by Kubrick (one of which is used as 50mm, another modified
with the adoption of an additional 36,5 mm and another – never used in the film – shortened to 24mm with
add a different bill), but in the catalog of manufacture of the Zeiss Oberkochen
is the production of a single copy, in 1966
the optical design of the base of the Planar 50mm f / 0,7 prefixed with the Kollmorgen used on unit
to change the focal length of the lens and convert to 36.5 mm f / 0.7 (as required by the master, who was
the focal length of 50mm a bit ‘tight 18x24mm for certain views on the format of the whole), whereas at the time
, there was no anti-glare multiple believe that the actual T of the complex by 36.5 mm was lower than the F / 0.7
said. The Extra Dimension 150 that reduced the focal length up to 24mm f / 0.7 was not used by Kubrick
due to an excessive distortion detected in the preliminary tests
together with an outline of the general data and the optical group overall was definitely
cumbersome, with a length of almost 40cm and a diameter of the front lens of more than 16cm
back focal free space is exactly 5.27 mm
After these documents unpublished let’s see what he was able to produce the great Kubrick
using this objective, so perilously adapted, during the famous shooting to light of
candle of the movie “Barry Lyndon” and for this purpose I made the snapshots taken from
the highlights of the film in which the Planar 50mm f / 0.7 was used (with inverted push in ISO 100 +1
ISO 200), either alone or with additional Kollmorgen and resulting focal 36.5 mm.
PLANAR 50mm f / 0.7 WITHOUT ADDITIONAL
note chromatic aberration on candles
highlight the unique detachment plastic
PLANAR 50mm f / 0.7 + ADDITIONAL KOLLMORGEN (36.5 mm f / 0.7)
Note the increased softness in the rendering at full aperture with the additional
not foreseen by the original project Zeiss
Note the cometary shape assumed by the flames of the candles out of focus behind O’Neal
compared to those in focus on the table
A truly fascinating and incredible history, an intrigue, a tumult of current and emotions
that the Nazi secret weapons goes to the space and a masterpiece of cinema: everything
This is embodied by Planar f / 0.7, which call myth is frankly an understatement.
Till Next Time. Stay Tuned
LONG LIVE THE CULT OF KUBRICK.