It’s only just October, but lately my mind has been wandering to next semester and The Cinema of Adventure and Action. This is one of the first classes I taught here at Wesleyan and I return to it every few years without fail. I love action films because they seem so fundamentally cinematic — a genre that no other medium could do better. At their best, they sweep viewers up in a kind of rhythmic perception, where movement becomes emotion — visual and visceral music.
Teaching the class led me to write my most recent book, a study of a small but formative slice of action-film history — the sound-era serial. Among other things, these quick and dirty productions from the 1930s – 1950s refined a cinematic vocabulary for depicting physical combat. Today’s super-hero blockbusters have humble origins indeed. Since it will be months before I get to leap back into action, I thought I’d share a video-lecture on the art of staging and cutting fight scenes. Consider it a down payment on Spring semester: