The Mediascape Q&A: Stephen Mamber, Professor, Cinema and Media Studies

The Mediascape Q&A is a series of interviews designed to explore the work of UCLA faculty and graduate students beyond the classroom.

Dr. Stephen Mamber

Matthias Stork: Could you tell us about your academic background? Where did you go to school and what first drew you to studying media, specifically film?

Stephen Mamber: I was an undergraduate at Berkley, where I had a double major in Math and Drama because there wasn’t a film program there yet, but I took a class from Ernest Callenbach, who was the editor of Film Quarterly at the time, and that really affected me greatly. And it occurred to me somewhere in my junior year that film might be something to actually be able to study. I came down here to Los Angeles that summer and took a couple of classes from Howard Suber, and that really struck a chord with me. And from then on I knew I wanted to study film. My timing was good, I guess. This was the late ’60s, early ’70s, and I came down here for my master’s degree and fell in with some interesting people. One of my best friends while I was a graduate student was Paul Schrader, who was a year ahead of me. We went to the American Film Institute Center for Advanced Film Studies. He was in the first-year group of fellows. It was a different kind of place back then. It was at the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills and they took 10 people every year. In the second year, partly through his encouragement, I applied and got in. So I was in the group that included Terry Malick and David Lynch and various other people who turned out to be very talented filmmakers. It was an amazing experience then too because they were bringing in every great filmmaker you could imagine. One week it would be Rossellini and the next week it would be Jack Benny, the week after it’d be Alfred Hitchcock, it was like every major name. So I just thought this was heaven and this was what I wanted to do. Continue reading “The Mediascape Q&A: Stephen Mamber, Professor, Cinema and Media Studies” »

The Crank: ‘The Last Outlaw’ Program Notes (10/25/12 Screening)

The Crank is a graduate student organization that runs weekly screenings of the UCLA Film & Television Archive’s extensive holdings. The Crank shows films that either are not widely available on video or are such spectacular specimens of nitrate and celluloid that merely to see them on a television set would be a crime both to the student of film and to the canon of film history.

On the surface, William Christy Cabanne’s The Last Outlaw is another in a long series of B-Westerns. One need not dig deeply, however, to realize its significance. Cabanne’s film triumphs over B-movie mundanity thanks to a unique combination of its roots in silent films, along with its unique post-Western setting. Harry Carey stars as Dean Payton, a former outlaw who has just been released from prison after 25 years. Once a bank robber, Payton finds himself to be a relic of the Old West. He soon finds, though, that there are others like him—notably his former nemesis, Cal Yates. With Yates now demoted from Sheriff, new scientific methods of crime solving have been put in place. Along with Chuck Wilson (Hoot Gibson), the two cowboys find that their old ways still have some use when it becomes up to them to put a stop to villain Al Goss.

While the setting may have been post-Western, where singing cowboys are heard on the radio and the hero must dodge passing cars, the genre itself had yet to reveal its biggest star, John Wayne, whose first film, Stagecoach, would come out three years later. However, by this point famous Westerns of the silent era had long since passed. But the film’s creators were superstars of that era who had yet to cease working and wouldn’t let the advent of sound diminish their status. In fact, the film itself is a remake of John Ford’s 1919 silent western of the same name. Continue reading “The Crank: ‘The Last Outlaw’ Program Notes (10/25/12 Screening)” »