Monday, March 26, 2007

Master cinematographer (and sometime Hammer Films director) Freddie Francis passed away on March 20th.
Some of the films, such as The Evil of Frankenstein (1964), were anything but successful on any level, but Nightmare (1963) and Dr Terror's House of Horrors (1964) saw him more nearly on form, as did The Skull and The Psychopath (both 1965), Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968), Tales from the Crypt (1971 - a big commercial success), The Creeping Flesh (1972, particularly notable for one of Peter Cushing's best performances), and The Ghoul (1975), produced by his son, Kevin. He also occasionally wrote and directed under the pseudonym of Ken Barnett.

Much of his success he (probably rightly) attributed to the fact that "these films are 99% visual ... most of the films that I do, these so-called psychological thrillers, depend on the ability to tell one's stories with the camera." (He considered The Skull was one of his best films visually.) But there were some pretty disastrous productions and he returned full time to his first love, cinematography, when he shot, in stunning black and white, David Lynch's Elephant Man. He re-established his cinematographic reputation with such films as Karel Reisz's The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981), Edward Zwick's Glory (1989), for which he won his second Oscar, Martin Scorsese's Cape Fear (1991), for which he also shot the model work in the US and David Lynch's the Straight Story. He also shot two TV movies, The Executioner's Song (1982) and David Mamet's A Life in the Theatre.

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