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The Sand Pebbles-simply gorgeous


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#1 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 11 September 2008 - 03:17 AM

I've see The Sand Pebbles many times before but I saw it again last night with a sort of new eye and really looked at the cinematography as I am with many films now, while we plan the look of Blood Moon Rising. All I can say is it is gorgeous. One of the things that struck me was the use of muted colors to help convey the sense of I guess hopelessness or maybe more accurately, futility. It almost looks like it was shot on maybe 5229, though of course that stock didn't yet exist at the time. Perhaps it was it was shot on a predecessor of the stock or maybe just good lighting and expert filter use, I don't know. What I do know is it is a beautiful expression of the cinematographer's art. The scenes where the Chinese flags were seen in a deeper red rather than a bright red. The scenes where the gunboat San Pablo is trapped in the harbor during the winter, slowly rusting and decaying as they wait for the water to rise while the storms of insurrection gather and build is visually brilliant.

I also read an article about the making of "the Sand Pebbles" that had some background on the actual events that inspired the book. The San Pablo was purpose built for the film and the shallow rivers in Taiwan and Hong Kong where the film was shot. The Boat drafted only 2 1/2 ft of water. The amazing thing what the way the ship was constructed to enhance the film. It's design was a collection of elements taken from the various gunboats captured in the late 1880s in the Philippians during the Spanish/American war and pressed into US Naval service to patrol Chinese waterways after the Boxer Rebellion and WW1 to protect American lives and assets. The Boat was powered with twin diesel engines. The overly large almost to the point of absurd, smoke funnel was strictly a dramatic device to help illustrate the oppressive nature of the Naval presence on the indigenous population. The engine room and engine seen in the film was built in Hollywood although the engine it's self was an actual period Liberty ship engine the company had acquired for the film. The over all production design on this film was outstanding, a tutorial on how to do it right. It also has some of the finest actors and performances of the era. IF you have never seen The Sand Pebbles, it should be put on your must see list. Any one else have any comments? B)

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 11 September 2008 - 03:20 AM.

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#2 John Holland

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Posted 11 September 2008 - 05:15 AM

It would have been shot on 5251 ECN 1 , a 50asa stock .
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#3 David Rakoczy

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Posted 11 September 2008 - 08:50 AM

Sand Pebbles is one of my favorite Films. It is georgous! Some of the Interiors (esp. the Bar) are amazing. I paid $100 USD for a DVD. They are hard to find. I can watch that Film once a week. What a great way to spend three hours on a rainy afternoon, a bottle of good grapes and Sand Pebbles. Sadly, they sure don't make Films like they used to... The Enemy Below is another amazing Picture. Thanks for bringing Sand Pebbles up... What a great Film to lose yourself in!
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#4 Michel Hafner

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Posted 11 September 2008 - 12:52 PM

Sand Pebbles is one of my favorite Films. It is georgous! Some of the Interiors (esp. the Bar) are amazing. I paid $100 USD for a DVD.

You can have the Blu Ray for much less. It's supposed to be a good transfer.
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#5 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 12 September 2008 - 01:59 AM

Sand Pebbles is one of my favorite Films. It is georgous! Some of the Interiors (esp. the Bar) are amazing. I paid $100 USD for a DVD. They are hard to find. I can watch that Film once a week. What a great way to spend three hours on a rainy afternoon, a bottle of good grapes and Sand Pebbles. Sadly, they sure don't make Films like they used to... The Enemy Below is another amazing Picture. Thanks for bringing Sand Pebbles up... What a great Film to lose yourself in!


I truly have to agree, it may be Steve McQueen's best work. There's something else about this film, in some ways this movie reminds me of Apocalypse Now and not just because they're both about gunboats on rivers in Asia, it's more the intensity and the moral ambiguity the characters face. I really wonder if Coppola was at all influenced in some small way by this film. I'm positive he must have seen it prior to filming Apocalypse. I wonder if it's possible.
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#6 David Rakoczy

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Posted 12 September 2008 - 06:40 AM

I would think Coppola did his homework and watched Sand Pebbles. He probably did.

I have shared this Film with a lot of people. Most aren't really all that impressed. I guess they prefer 'modern' Hollywood with all it's 'Look See Pigeon'. I found it an amazing Film to be immersed in. I was captivated from the first frame. That shot when McQueen's dingy arrives at the dock and there seems to be a couple hundred thousand extras/ animals etc... amazing! The Production Design on the Interiors... first class! The Characters.. truly 'characters'. Simple, elegant, straight forward story telling. Classy!

I have to admit.. I really freaked out when the intermission came.. I thought 'Hey, that is no way to end a Film'! Then I realized I was only half way through.. goody goody! So glad I scored a copy... might watch it today...

You are right.. there is something intangible about the quality of this Film.. either you are drawn to it.. or not. Obviously, we are!

Edited by David Rakoczy, 12 September 2008 - 06:43 AM.

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#7 Christian Appelt

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Posted 12 September 2008 - 08:26 AM

In the original theatrical release of THE SAND PEBBLES, a 70mm blowup version was made by step-printing from the original 35mm anamorphic camera negative. Must have looked great, I just missed the screening of a vintage print at the Schauburg cinema in Karlsruhe, Germany.
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#8 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 01:32 AM

I have shared this Film with a lot of people. Most aren't really all that impressed.


They're probably the same people who think Transformers was the best movie ever made. :D
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