Fri. Mar 24th, 2023

To think there was a time before castles, swords, dragons and magic dominated the biggest movie and TV franchises in the world. When that kind of geekdom was nowhere near a pop culture homage, we had to make the most of our limited options – especially the limited option that was Black angel. The 22-minute short film, made in 1980, preceded it The Empire strikes back‘s theatrical performances in certain countries. The medieval story – steeped in moody, Scottish landscapes and Arthurian inspirations – was soon lost to the world as the original negatives seemingly disappeared. But what a difference a few decades make. The negatives were rediscovered in 2011, just as Tolkien fever had swept the world, and the film was posted to YouTube in its newly remastered form last month.

Now, black angel’The maker of the film has put forward an ambitious plan: to remake the medieval short film as a feature film, complete with actors Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner) and John Rhys-Davies (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lord of the Rings trilogy) on board.

The ambition stems largely from writer and director Roger Christian, the Oscar-winning set designer for Star Wars: A New Hopewho went on to become a beloved art director for films like Alien– believing that a new audience of fans of knights and magic is ready for the kind of “down-and-dirty” period piece he couldn’t have filmed in the early ’80s with the film’s original budget, paid for by George Lucas , from £25,000.

“In every Q&A when the movie was first re-screened, I was always asked, ‘If you could do CGI, what would you do?'” Christian told Ars. “‘No,’ I told them. I was inspired by Kurosawa’s films, and I want to take exactly the same approach – almost like documentaries shot in amazing landscapes.”

In modern fashion, the new film launched an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign this morning, but Christian assured Ars that the campaign’s low asking price of £66,000 wasn’t an unrealistic goal. This film will be made whether or not the internet campaign achieves its goal.

“We’ve already got most of the money in,” Christian said, clarifying that producers in Hungary and Belgium, where the film will largely be shot, are on board with funding. “I’m asking [fans] for little money so that I can have a few more Black angel‘s army of the undead, so I can have a little bit bigger set, a few more costumes… but we’re not getting attached to making the movie here. We can arouse interest.”

Nine people, four actors, two horses

“I grew up with Arthur and Norse legends, Lord of the Rings— that was my world,” Christian said of his childhood with fantasy novels, which was always in the back of his mind as he climbed the ladders of the film industry before finally making a name for himself with his set design work for Star Wars. “When I decided, enough art directing, I had to do what I really wanted to do. I knew I had to write a short film. Stop talking and prove yourself.”

Christian admitted that when Lucas asked the aspiring director to put together a short film, he had already envisioned a longer feature film, but the film industry was not interested in his story. “I just picked a few moments out of it” to cut the 22 minutes short, Christian said. His longer, ideal story was more directly inspired by an ancient wizard of Scottish folklore, Myrddin – a name you might better recognize as the gentler Merlin of Arthurian tales.

“I had to add an introduction to the YouTube video because it was only a fraction of what I was trying to say,” Christian said. “I had a crew of nine people, four actors and two horses. I couldn’t do much with that.”

Christian has already been writing five drafts – and, frankly, he remembers – the story he wanted to tell so long ago, and he says it’s done. He attributes his producers’ interest in the remake to a mix of “a lost and found romance” from the original and pop culture catching up with his own love of medieval storytelling. The original story was presented in Tarkovsky style – “I’ve told enough keys to make a story” – but it contained only a fraction of the “real big story” that Christian has planned.

None of this is to say that the original short can be ignored; it’s definitely worth a quick YouTube stream. The film’s influence only grew over time, as fans thought it would never resurface. When Ars’s own Nathan Mattise broke the news of his rediscovery and re-release, Christian shared stories about movies like Excalibur, dragon slayerand that of Ridley Scott Legend be influenced by Black angel. And 20 years later, Peter Briggs, author of the original Hellboy, would tell Christian that he still couldn’t get the short out of his head. But perhaps the most important for fans of the series Black angel preceded, this work is where Christian Lucas showed step-printing, the technique that eventually made its mark during the iconic lightsaber battle in Rich. From Ars’ feature film in the movie:

Christian was forced to use some emergency techniques because there was not enough basic material for it Black angel to fill the required 25 minute run time. “So we slowed down fight scenes in it to build up time,” said Christian. They did this through a technique called step-printing. Strategic scenes are shot at a slower film speed to speed up the action, then frames are printed at a lower speed on the finished movie. Action becomes very fluid, with individual moments seemingly flowing into the next.

“One-on-One Fighting in Mud and Rain and Dirt”

The two actors announced so far, Hauer and Rhys-Davies (both starred in Christian’s 1994 biodrama film Nostradamus) specifically asked for in the Black angel remake, claims the director. Christian “thumps on the bit” to announce other actors who are all but signed to join the cast. He also insists that the main character will be more age-appropriate this time around: “In an old era, by 25, they were worn-out warriors,” he said.

He is also in talks with Industrial Light and Magic, at least on a consultation basis, if not a full contract contract, to help Black angel‘s most ambitious ideas come to life, especially the wizards and flying demons. Christian wants all the magical elements to “feel absolutely real, that you’d never doubt it,” reiterating his desire to avoid computer wizardry whenever possible: “I don’t want armies of 500,000 CGI soldiers battling it all out. I want a- one-on-one battles in mud and rain and dirt, where you can feel every blow.’

If the film’s fate and schedule are as sealed as Christian says, specifically to match the hype and attention it will enjoy alongside the new Star Wars film – why bother with a crowdfunding campaign? Christian admitted that publicity is a major reason, but he also sees the campaign’s pay levels as an opportunity for lightning to strike twice. “Growing up in Redding, I had no connection with the film industry,” said Christian. “I got so broke trying to get into it, I sold my car and by hitchhiking I got a job. I’m offering the Indiegogo audience a chance to be part of the making of the movie. You know never before anyone is immensely talented; maybe some of this will change their lives.”

It looks like Christian’s life has changed a lot because of this project. Filming will begin in September and Christian is looking forward to starting another film Alien And Star Wars for it, that blurs the line between fantasy and reality.

“This is my passion project – the film I’ve always wanted to make,” said Christian. “The tape being found out of nowhere, the movie being remastered, all of that has created a moment in time where it’s possible to do it. I’ve pulled the sword out of the rock. This is it.”

Frame image by Robert Christian

By akfire1

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