Thursday, June 13, 2024

AI Classic Movie Art

Whether you like AI (artificial intelligence) or not, it is the wave of the future and is here to stay. Right now, it is in its burgeoning infancy but even as a mere tot, it impresses me every day. For the past year, I've been enjoying playing with Midjourney AI, a text-to-picture image generator and - almost on a daily basis - I think of "prompts" to send it off on a picture-making journey. It is unlimited to what it can output and it is always exciting to think of new keywords to try. The only downside to this app is that I cannot think of a darn thing to do with all of the pictures it creates! 

Since I "made" a number of images already, I thought it would be fun to share some of the Midjourney creations here on the blog... especially since most of them are classic movie related. Each month I will post a few pictures from a hodge-podge of topics (feel free to suggest some, too) and all of the posts will begin with the heading "Midjourney at the Movies" so you can easily find them - or avoid them, if you'd rather. I will also share some images that others created with a classic movie theme. 

Before I begin however, let's give a brief overview of what Midjourney is capable of doing. I won't go into details on how AI works because I haven't a clue how it does, but I can tell you what it can and cannot do:

The app allows you to use phrases called "prompts" that dictate what you want it to create in the picture it is building. All prompts begin with "Imagine". Here is an example "/imagine a screenshot from a 1937 MGM film starring Clark Gable and Joan Crawford, Clark Gable is wearing a white suit and is standing next to Joan Crawford, they are at a racetrack"

Thirty-seconds later this image pops up:

By default, Midjourney gives you four variations to choose from. You can re-generate your prompt and it will give you four fresh choices, or you can pick one of them and refine it. Let's get four fresh ones instead because none of these fellows look like Clark Gable or an old movie. 

/imagine a DVD screenshot from an old 1937 black-and-white MGM film starring Clark Gable and Joan Crawford, Clark Gable is wearing a white suit and is standing next to Joan Crawford, they are at a racetrack --ar 4:3 

I've added some more description and also changed the output aspect ratio to 4:3. The more details the better the output but if you add too many the machine jumbles things up (e.g. it may give Joan Crawford a Gable-like mustache). 20-seconds later here is what pops up:

Better, but they still don't look like Gable and Crawford. By default, Midjourney does not duplicate faces exactly... although sometimes it can come really close to capturing the features of a particular person. Also, you cannot prompt it to create anything indecent. Keywords like "topless" or "naked" would give you a rejection message. It abides by the Hayes Code, thank goodness. ;-)

But we can help it create faces closer to Gable and Crawford. So I will repeat the same prompt and this time provide it with image urls to Clark Gable and Joan Crawford facial portraits.  

It does a great job of smooshing hundreds of people's faces into one. These actresses all look like Hollywood stars and yet they don't look like any one actress in particular...and certainly not like Joan Crawford (although that woman in the bottom right image does have a hint of a Crawfordesque glance). 

Let's click on the Regenerate button and get four fresh shots:

I like the bottom right photo so I will upscale it (that means select it) and not only does it give you a larger resolution image but there are also more bells and whistles and magic buttons to play with then. My favorite is the Vary Region button. By clicking on this, I can lasso an area that I want to change/regenerate without affecting the rest of the image. Since the AI version of Clark Gable looks pretty good here, I just want to change Joan Crawford. 

And 30-seconds later, here is the result: 

Oops! Now how did that happen? Unfortunately, the machine can often take a turn into the Land of Bizarre on a whim. You just have to put up with its quirks. I wonder what became of the woman who didn't look like Joan Crawford?

Let's try this again. 40-seconds later: 

Oh dear. Perhaps it is past its bedtime. 

That dress with the little hands sticking out of it will never catch on. 

Anyway... you get the idea of how it works. You just have to play with the buttons. As Midjourney's own instructions state "Experiment and have fun!". Which is just what I will be doing. You can check out what I create in future posts but, for now, here are a few (better) creations from other Midjourney users as well as my own:

Here's a lovely 1940s style Kodak publicity photo of the famous redhead Lucille Ball. It did a good job of creating a 1940s-style dress and the image even looks hand-color tinted. 

This one is really neat. A user prompted "Rue McClanahan as a Southern belle" and look what Mr. Midjourney came up with. The texture of the dress and the feathers is quite amazing. 

As tempting as it is to use the generator to get an exact result, it's much more fun to "see what it comes up with". One user prompted a fictional name "Salarda de Cadenet, Hollywood actress, diva extraordinaire" and wow! what a great image. 

Martha Scott as Hera, the Ancient Greek goddess. Midjourney doesn't just make photos, it really excels at doing different textured images. This was prompted with the keywords "1960s magazine pulp art" and look how it captured the colors and the half-tone screen printing of an old magazine. 

Here's a book cover painting of "A 40-year-old John Wayne as a US Navy Seal". Clever prompt. 

A 1980s style painted movie poster with a lead character like Lee Majors. Pretty good. 

And speaking of paintings, this one is amazing: "a 1965 Rolly Crump concept illustration of Dame Judi Dench as Witch Hazel from the movie Pufnstuf". There are loads of possibilities to try with that prompt alone!

Well, I think that is enough to get started on. This "Midjourney at the Movies" series will reappear monthly or just when I feel like sharing some interesting creations... and there are a ton of them so I hope you will check out future posts in this series. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

We have a doozy of a screenshot to share this month. It is obviously a scene of a lab but what kind of lab we will let you figure out... once you get that clue then you might be able to guess what movie this scene is from. ;-)

As always, if you are not familiar with the rules to the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game or the prize, click here!

Saturday, June 8, 2024

From the Archives: The Treasure of Lost Canyon (1952)


Three happy people... Julie Adams is looking lovely, Charles Drake is handsome as usual, and the little smiling boy is Tommy Ivo pictured here in this still from the little-known western The Treasure of Lost Canyon (1952). 

From the Archives is our latest series of posts where we share photos from the Silverbanks Pictures collection. Some of these may have been sold in the past, and others may still be available for purchase at our eBay store:

Friday, May 31, 2024

Mosquito Squadron (1969)

During World War II, Londoners not only had to contend with German bombers destroying the streets and homes of their fair city but with a new kind of ballistic missile as well. It was known as the "V2" and was developed by Wernher von Braun, whom the United States government later recruited for the U.S. Space program during the 1950s and 1960s. 

These V2 rockets were devilishly tricky to destroy since they were unmanned flying bombs that soared at speeds of over 2,000 mph and would land randomly on targets throughout London. Anti-aircraft guns positioned outside the city limits fired at them - if they were lucky enough to be forewarned of their approach - but rarely hit a V2.

In Mosquito Squadron, David McCallum plays Quint Monroe, a flight squadron leader whose mission is to destroy a factory where the new V3 long-range multi-stage rockets are being built. Sounds simple enough... until it is revealed that this "factory" is an underground bunker hidden in a tunnel within the confines of Château de Charlon, a chateau in Northern France. In order to drop bombs within the tunnel, the de Havilland Mosquito fighter-bombers are to be equipped with a newly developed "rolling bomb" (they bounce more than roll). Quint and his group have 10 days to practice aiming these rolling bombs with a makeshift tunnel set-up.

The mission becomes even more difficult when the Nazis drop a film canister at the RAF squadron base showing that the RAF prisoners they had previously captured are being held at Château de Charlon. "Come and bomb us!" they seem to tease, knowing a murderous mission such as that would be unthinkable.

Mosquito Squadron
is a grand WWII action-adventure film that packs in a lot of drama and tension within its 86-minute runtime. It also features a rousing theme by Frank Cordell (Khartoum). The film was made on a budget and so, if you're a WWII film fan, you will recognize some of the aerial footage from 633 Squadron which was released just five years prior by United Artists. 

David McCallum is a quiet leading man and not very expressive but fortunately his wooden features were convincing for this role. Like General Frank Savage in the television series Twelve O'Clock High, his character has seen a lot of this friends shot down and has come to view life impassively. When the plane of his surrogate brother Scotty (David Buck) is shot down before his very eyes, Quint has to break the news of his death to Scotty's wife and parents. Not an easy task. 

Suzanne Neve (Scrooge) portrays Scotty's wife Beth. Quint was once in love with Beth but after Scotty's death he finds it difficult to think of romancing her, even though she is welcoming to his approach. 

Unlike many films of the late 1960s, Mosquito Squadron is devoid of any bedroom scenes and what I like best about it is how colorful the movie is - another feature you don't often find in a film bordering the 1970s era of dark and drabby film-making. There are certainly no dark sequences in this picture and even the interior office shots are brightly lit. 

Quint drives a sporty red 1935 Godsal roadster and the scenes around the Hertfordshire country of England are lovely. Keen fans of The Avengers television series will recognize the old brick bridge where Diana Rigg fought an assailant in "You Have Just Been Murdered".

The remaining cast of military men include a number of familiar faces even though their names would elude most viewers: Charles Gray, Dinsdale Landen, Bryan Marshall, Robert Urquhart, and David Dundas. 

Mosquito Squadron is available via streaming on Tubi and also on DVD. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

British Pathe - Budgerigar Garden (1956)

For this month's British Pathé post, we have a very short film clip of Mrs. Rosemary Upton and her budgerigar garden in Margaretting, Essex. Mrs. Upton bred budgerigars and was courageous enough to add a flap to her aviary to let the little fellows get some free-fly time. 

Seeing her walk around hunting for the stray budgies reminded me of our own dear little budgie "Gigi" who twice escaped from her cage and flew loose in our neighborhood. I sent my dad after her with a butterfly net and was so glad when he managed to catch her in the backyard of a neighbor several houses away from ours. From then on, I always double-checked to make sure the door was closed on her cage before taking her outside with me. 

Budgerigars are an Australian species of parakeet, cute as a button. They became extremely popular pet birds all over Europe, the UK, and in the States. Our local drugstore used to stock them for only $5 a piece, but now they tend to sell at pet stores for $40 each.... still a great price for a wonderful little bird. 

In this British Pathé clip, Mrs. Upton has a fine collection of varied colored budgeriars. I wasn't able to find any follow-up information about this woman and her aviary in Essex but I hope she kept it running for many years. Be sure to check out the links below to see other videos featuring these feathered beauties.

Ready to watch Budgerigar Garden (1956)? Simply click on this link

Similarly themed British Pathe shorts:

Saturday, May 25, 2024

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

The sign reads "QUIET" and quiet means quiet! This librarian certainly wouldn't tolerate any hooliganism in the library during her shift.

As always, if you need to know the rules to the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game or the prize, click here!

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Counter-Attack (1960)

A little-known fact of World War II history is that the German forces occupied the Channel Islands for five long years. We all know that stalwart English citizens such as Professor Emelius Brown and Eglantine Price helped to stave off coastal attacks from German troops, but how many of us know that nearly 20,000 Germans were parked only 80 miles from England's shore?

Whether this is news to you or not, you are sure to enjoy Counter-Attack, a wonderful seven-part children's miniseries that showed how three youths - Terry, Cliff, and Carol - reacted to the Nazi occupation of their homeland in 1940. 

Like most Brits, they instinctively knew to spit in the eyes of the Nazis. However, Terry (14-year-old Jeremy Bulloch) the eldest of the main characters, feels that tripping soldiers and throwing mud in their face isn't quite enough and so he decides to turn the children's club - the Argos - into a counter-attack unit of resistance. 

Hidden away in an old mill and armed with a crude radio set, the children plan out their attacks and then relay messages to British forces on the mainland. The British officers receiving these messages do not realize that the mysterious "Argo" are a group of children and so they tell them to be on the lookout for an agent that they will be sneaking onto the island at midnight. Their task is to hide him from the Nazis and aid him in destroying the German's ammunition dump. How exciting! Things get really hot to handle when Major Wolf (Joseph Furst) of the German army and his junior officer Kurt billets the house where the children are staying.

Counter-Attack was released on television in the U.K. in January of 1960...just twenty years after the occupation of the Channel Islands, so many viewers vividly remembered the experiences and feelings the characters were going through. While the series was aimed at children, it is entertaining for all ages. Cliff and Carol's older sister Jean (Etain O'Dell) has a slight romance with the agent (Oliver Neville) the children are hiding out and there is enough wartime excitement to keep the adults hooked. 

ITV producer Sidney Newman announced in a TV Times interview that "..if [the series] is one tenth as fantastic as the truth about the wartime occupation of the Channel Islands, I will be happy!" Well, he had much to be pleased about with Peter Ling's script even though Ling knew that the teatime adventure series would be "on the cautious side". Mary Field, the programme advisor, drew on her own experiences of growing up on the Channel Islands during the occupation and Ling wove these reminiscences into his script. 

All of the child actors do a good job with their parts, especially Jeremy Bulloch who did a number of children's series in the early 1960s but is probably best known for playing Boba Fett in the Star Wars franchise. Young Cliff (Murray Yeo) could be a handful at times, but that was what created most of the drama for the episodes' cliffhangers. Children aren't always as cautious as their parents would hope. 

Counter-Attack has not yet been released on DVD but is available for viewing online.