Here's another reminder of how great movie-going used to be in the era when a hot dog and Coke didn't require a home remortgage loan. In 1967, the Pasadena Theatre was showing a re-issue of John Wayne's "The Alamo" along with another United Artists classic reissue, "The Pink Panther". If that wasn't good enough for you, "In Like Flint" was the next feature! (Kudos to reader Mike Boldt for sharing the photo).
Throughout history there have been men born to see the
future and to do what they can to make it happen.Without exception they are branded lunatics,
fanatics and most often end up on the wrong side of the law. Such a man was abolitionist
John Brown. In 1856, Kansas was about to enter the Union. The question was
whether it would join as a free or a slave state. At a time when the nation
could not make up its mind about slavery, Brown knew instinctively it was evil
and that the future would prove him right. Brown and his seven sons fought to
make Kansas free.
“Seven Angry Men” (1955) presents Raymond Massey’s
third portrayal of John Brown. He first played the role in “Santa Fe Trail”
(1940) and on Broadway in “John Brown’s Body” (1953). Brown’s seven sons are played by Jeffrey
Hunter (Owen), Larry Pennell (Oliver), Dennis Weaver (John, Jr.), John Smith (Frederick),
Guy Williams (Salmon), Tom Irish (Watson) and James Best (Jake).
Directed by Charles Marquis Warren from a script by
Daniel B. Ullman “Seven Angry Men” is an accurate and thoughtful screen
treatment of Brown’s story. It begins by showing the simmering conflict between
the two sides of the slavery issue. Leo Gordon plays Martin White, leader of
the pro-slavery faction in Lawrence. In the first standoff we see the terrible
costs the Brown family paid for the patriarch’s actions, when we witness John
Jr., (Weaver) starting to crumble emotionally. After White burns Lawrence to
the ground to cleanse it of abolitionists, Brown retaliates by killing several
of the perpetrators in a face-to-face fight with guns and knives. The brutality
of the killings causes John Jr. to lose
his mind. Jake quits the fight and rides off to surrender to the army to get
John, Jr. some medical attention. He is soon followed by Frederick. Left with
three sons, Brown continues the battle, saying they have “planted the seeds of
freedom that will flourish with God’s help.”
Jeffrey Hunter as Owen is the brother caught in the
middle between his loyalty to his father and his fear of where the old man’s
fanaticism will lead. Debra Paget is Hunter’s love interest. When she begs him
to get his father to stop what he’s doing, Brown calls his son a weak coward.
Nevertheless Owen stays with him even after Oliver and Salmon desert him. Brown
fights on regardless and the first half of the movie ends with Kansas’ entry
into the Union as a free state, with Brown claiming victory.
The second half follows Brown on a fund raising tour
that leads him to Boston where no lesser personages than Ralph Waldo Emerson
and Henry David Thoreau contribute $1,000 apiece to the cause. Brown invests
the money in rifles and ammo to be sent to Harpers Ferry, W.Va. Brown, now
reunited with three of his sons, and 15 other men seize the arsenal there,
planning to arm the slaves, who Brown believes will march to Harper’s Ferry
once they know he plans to free them. Of course, none of it worked, and one
wonders if Brown wasn’t truly mad to think it would.
He is arrested by Union officers Jeb Stuart and Col.
Robert E. Lee. At his trial for treason, an affidavit is presented claiming
mental illness ran in Brown’s family, but he rejected any attempt to get off on
an insanity plea. He tells the court that he acted on behalf of the poor and
the helpless and if he must give his life “so be it.” He was hanged in Harper’s
Ferry Dec 2, 1859.
Owen, the only son to survive, offers to gather men to
rescue him, saying there are abolitionist leaders all over the country in
support of him. But he refuses, saying he was glad to know there were many in
the nation who did not consider him insane or a murderer. But he believed he
was worth “inconceivably more to hang than any other purpose.”
Overall, “Seven Angry Men” shows us an interesting
slice of history and will probably tell you a few things about Brown and his
mission to free slaves that you didn’t know. It also shows how far a man will go
for what he believes in. In Brown’s case, he went all the way, taking quite a
few people with him. He was a man of passionate beliefs, but strangely the film
itself is very dispassionate. Massey’s portrayal keeps histrionics to a bare
minimum. The entire production, while taking great pains to tell the story in
detail and as accurately as possible, lacks the passion and fire you’d expect. Director
Charles Marquis Warren seemed to deliberately hold the emotional temperature
down with the emphasis more on historical facts. It’s a far cry from the way
today’s filmmakers work. One can easily imagine what Tarantino or Stone would
do with this material.
Warner Brothers Archive Collection presents “Seven
Angry Men” in a no-frills DVD with no extras. The black and white picture is
adequate in widescreen 16x9, and 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Worth viewing for its
cast and as a refresher course on the days leading up to the abolition of
slavery. History buffs will enjoy it the most.
Shaft! Superfly! Supersoul Brother? That’s right, boys and girls. There’s a new hero
in town and his name is Steve. Once a down-on-his-luck, homeless wino, Steve,
thanks to a freaky scientific experiment, has been transformed into an
incredible being who is faster than a…well, he’s actually not faster than much
of anything , but he is more powerful than your local wino and able to bag
chicks who are way out of his league!If
you’re a fan of the funky ‘70s Blaxploitation genre, you can rejoice as a real
rarity has been dug up for your viewing pleasure.
When speaking about Blaxploitation cinema,
most film buffs immediately think of classic action flicks such as Foxy Brown or Three the Hard Way (and rightly so), but there were plenty of other
wonderful genres covered. For instance, horror quickly comes to mind. Blacula and The Zombies of Sugar Hill are not only two solid entries in
Blaxploitation cinema, but in horror cinema as well. And then there’s comedy. Who
can forget Rudy Ray Moore’s uproarious classics like Dolemite or Disco Godfather?
Supersoul Brother sort of fits into
this last category as, like Dolemite,
it’s a spoof of crime/action movies; not to mention comic book superheroes (it
was originally going to be titled The
Black Superman) and the then enormously popular Six Million Dollar Man television show.
Directed by Rene Martinez who also co-wrote
with Laura S. Diaz, Supersoul Brother aka
The Six Thousand Dollar Nigger (I kid
you not) concerns small time hoods Bob (Benny Latimore) and Jim (Lee Cross) who
pay evil Dr. Dippy (Peter Conrad) six thousand dollars to create a super
strength serum that will enable them to easily rob a safe filled with diamonds.
There’s only one small problem: whoever takes the serum dies in six days. Enter
Steve (played by comedian Wildman Steve Gallon), a wino who has hit rock bottom.
The hoods inject the unwary Steve with the serum, convince him to carry out the
robbery (which Steve thinks is just a practical joke) and plan on keeping all
the diamonds for themselves once Steve croaks. However, Super-Steve catches
wind of their nefarious plan, hides the diamonds and, with the help of Nurse
Peggy (the gorgeous Joycelyn Norris), tries to elude the hoods and find an
antidote before it’s too late.
youngest daughter of the great French author, Victor Hugo, was a victim of
schizophrenia. Although she was devastatingly beautiful, history tells us that Adèle
Hugo was seriously disturbed.
the time of America’s Civil War, Adèle became fixated
on a British soldier, one Lieutenant Pinson. She followed him across the
Atlantic to Nova Scotia, where he was stationed, for she was convinced that he
loved her and would marry her. In fact, the couple had experienced a brief
relationship in England (while Victor Hugo was living in Guernsey, in exile
from France), but Pinson ultimately rejected Adèle and wanted no
more to do with her. Even though he was obviously a rakish cad, the girl became
obsessed with the man and went to great lengths to pursue him.
days we would call it stalking.
Truffaut’s The Story of Adèle H. is the true account of a young woman’s
descent into a kind of madness that was sadly misunderstood in the 1800s, for
after the events in the picture took place, the real Adèle spent the rest of her life in an institution.
film is one of the director’s best. Beautifully shot by Nestor Almendros, it garnered
a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for Isabelle Adjani, who in 1975 was
the youngest actress ever to be nominated in that category. For my money, she
should have won (Louise Fletcher snagged the award for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; but, arguably, time has shown that
Adjani went on to a long career of remarkable work, mostly in French films,
whereas Fletcher...?). I remember seeing Adèle H. on its release and falling head over heels
in love with Adjani. Despite playing a woman that all sensible men should run
away from, her physical beauty was indeed intoxicating. Those expressive blue
eyes worked wonders. It is this element of “tragic beauty” that makes
Truffaut’s picture all the more powerful.
lies and cheats and deceives everyone she meets in order to get closer to
Pinson (played by Bruce Robinson). She
creates fantasy scenarios in her head about her relationship with Pinson, and describes
them to anyone who inquires. As he continues to reject her, Adèle attempts to
destroy the soldier’s reputation. She also cruelly leaves
other men in her wake who probably could have cared for her and loved her
deeply—such as the handsome but lame bookseller who dotes on her. Instead, she
ends up breaking his heart. She constantly
lies to her father in correspondence (Hugo is very much a character in the
story, even though he is never seen) and it’s implied that her parents’ worry
and concern for their daughter is the cause of Madame Hugo’s untimely death. By
the end of the picture, the tale has moved to Barbados, where Adèle
has pursued Pinson yet again—and it is here that she finally succumbs to her
the conclusion, we find ourselves almost admiring the poor woman for her
determination and perseverance, even though we know she’s headed for the
madhouse. Her vulnerability and desperation is heartbreaking. The price of
beauty? Perhaps, but Truffaut doesn’t provide an opinion... nevertheless, he
directs the film with a this-is-how-it-was objectivity, utilizing his signature
mise-en-scène of short scenes,
some voice-over narration, and lyrical, sweeping story-telling. The director
was very good with period pieces such as Jules
and Jim, The Wild Child, and Two English Girls. The Story of Adèle H. is another
excellent entry in that category of Truffaut’s body of work, as well as a fascinating
character study and canny look at 19th Century relationships.
Time’s new Blu-ray release looks wonderful, but then Almendros was one of those
great European cinematographers who was particular good at capturing the
splendor of period settings. The limited edition release of 3000 units is short
on extras—there’s an audio commentary by film historians Julie Kirgo and Nick
Redman which is interesting, an isolated score track (the orchestral music by
Maurice Jaubert is fabulous), and the theatrical trailer—but the quality of the
digital transfer is worth the price of admission.
is a film as beautiful as its lead actress—don’t miss The Story of Adèle H.
Actor Hugh O’Brian became an icon of American
television through his long-running series “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp”. O’Brian
also became a popular fixture in feature films as well as stage productions. At
age 90, he’s still going strong. His autobiography “Hugh O’Brian or What’s
Left of Him” has just been published and his Hugh O’Brian Youth leadership
group is continuing to inspire American teenagers to become productive adults. Additionally, O’Brian has been promoting the
SFM Entertainment’s release of “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp: The Complete Series”
We caught up with O’Brian recently for a phone
interview from his home in Los Angeles. O’Brian’s wife Virginia, who co-authored his autobiography, also
contributed some anecdotes. Hugh O’Brian
possesses a marvelous sense of humor and makes self-deprecating jokes at the
drop of hat. However, the main characteristic that comes across is that he is a
true class act.
Cinema Retro: Can you give us some background on how
you became involved in “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp”?
Hugh O’Brian: I really was a fan of Wyatt Earp before I
got the role. I was in the Marine Corps and before my time, he had spent some
time in the San Diego area. Every two or three weeks, he would go over to the
Marine Corps base , which is where I enlisted in 1943 when I was seventeen
CR: You ended up being named the youngest drill
instructor that the Marine Corps ever had…
HO: Yes, they made me a drill instructor at age
seventeen. I don’t know if you’ve ever met any drill instructors, but it would
be very difficult for any of them to believe that. My grandfather was a Marine and my dad was a
Marine. He worked for a company called Armstrong Cork. Cork, at the time, was
the main thing you would use for insulation in homes and so forth. Dad became
the captain in charge of the Marine Corps in the Chicago area and he made a
wonderful recruiting effort there. Every summer from the time that I was four,
I would go with my dad for the two week training period up at Great Lakes,
Wisconsin. I had my own little pup tent and so you could say I was involved
with the Marines since the age of four. Anyway, Wyatt Earp loved the Marine
Corps because of the discipline and what they stood for. There was a guy by the
name of Stuart Lake, who wrote the book on Wyatt (“Wyatt Earp: Frontier
Marshall”- Ed.) I made a point of
meeting him. He became very became very instrumental in my finally getting the
role of Wyatt. He liked the fact that I did all my own stunts, which was a
stupid thing to do! On one film I had
done, I jumped off the roof of a 36
story office building in New York City. These guys with guns were chasing me I broke loose and there was only
one way to go: up. They were following me and I went over to the edge and as
they came towards me, I went over backwards and came through a window
below. There wasn’t any way you could
practice that! I did my own stunts, not because of ego or anything like that,
but because when you look at a film or a TV show, they usually have a stunt man
or a double to do the fight scenes. I insisted from the very beginning that,
while obviously they could lay out action scenes so they could get paid, but I
would do the stunts myself. It helped the filming tremendously because they
didn’t have to cut to a longer shot in which they would have used a double. If
there was something that I thought was much too risky, then, of course, I would
let the stuntman do it. I think appreciated the fact that I tried to do my own
stunts. It was like Wyatt Earp being alive and doing it.
We've often written about the shameful conceit of movie studios that used to cast caucasian actors in leading roles pertaining to ethnic minorities. Sure, it was fine to have actual minority actors playing supporting roles (often for comic effect) but the most important characters were generally always portrayed by white actors or actresses (remember Rex Harrison as The King of Siam???). Sadly, this blatant policy of racial prejudice often extended to films that were sympathetic to the very races they were portraying. Case in point: Geronimo, a 1962 Western that purports to tell the story of the legendary Apache leader who stood virtually alone against the U.S. government, even after most of his tribe was browbeaten into surrendering. The logic at United Artists at the time was that there was no actor more appropriate to play a famous Native American other than Chuck Connors, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed poster boy for the Aryan race. Connors was riding high at the time as the star of the popular TV series The Rifleman, and he certainly possessed an imposing physique as well as more-than-adequate acting abilities. However, even with contact lenses and a black Morticia Addams wig, there is no doubt he was completely miscast as Geronimo. This was also the case with fellow cast members Kamala Devi, a gorgeous flash-in-the-pan actress who worked on several projects with Connors before fading into oblivion and Ross Martin (!), the fine actor primarily known for playing Artemus Gordon in the Wild, Wild West TV series. Not only are all these folks woefully wrong for their roles, the characters talk in modern vernacular that makes you think they must be part of the obscure Apache tribe from Bayonne, New Jersey.
Carl Reiner’s 1970 film Where’s Poppa?, which stars George
Segal, Ruth Gordan, Ron Leibman, Trish Van Devere, Bernard Hughes, Vincent
Gardenia, and Paul Sorvino, celebrates its 45th anniversary this
year. The Royale Laemmle Theater in Los
Angeles will be holding a special one-night-only showing of the 82-minute comedy
on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 at 7:00 pm. Director
Reiner Rush and star Segal are scheduled to both be on hand for the screening. From the press release:
New York attorney Gordon Hocheiser (Segal) meets Louise Callan, the girl of his
dreams, he schemes to eliminate his aging, senile mother (Ruth Gordon), even
though he promised his late father that he'd always take care of her. He fears
that his batty mom's eccentricities will shortly lead to Louise's departure.
The Royale Laemmle is located at 11523
Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, CA 90025. Phone number is (310) 478 – 3836.
With American crime TV series now an almost indistinguishable jumble of action-oriented plots featuring calendar model-type male and female leads, it's nice to revisit an era when the pace was slower, the plots were more intelligent and the stars resembled everyday people. Case in point: the old "Columbo" series starring Peter Falk, a product of the late 1960s that became so phenomenally successful that its lifespan into the early 2000's. The show would appear regularly- and later occasionally- in the format of a 90 minute TV movie when such fare was all the rage on network TV. The show premiered as a "one-shot" production titled "Prescription: Murder" in 1968 but the character of Columbo became so popular that he became a mainstay of the NBC Mystery Movie", a weekly program in the 1970s in which popular actors were seen as sleuths. The format allowed each star (Falk, Rock Hudson, Dennis Weaver and Richard Boone) to be seen on alternating weeks. "Columbo" became Falk's signature role as the frumpy, seemingly idiotic L.A. police detective who used these characteristics to intellectually disarm his adversaries. Every episode allowed the viewer to see precisely who committed a presumably perfect crime. Inevitably, the culprit would be an elitist, well-established snob- predominantly a male, but occasionally female. The principal villain was also generally played by a major star, thus allowing viewers the delight of seeing actors who generally portrayed heroic figures to engage in some mustache-twirling as bad guys. The most delightful aspect of the series, aside from the intricate plot lines, were the sequences in which Columbo slowly closes the noose around his prey. Both detective and suspect know what is going on but they engage in civility toward each other as the culprit goes through the motions of pretending he is helping Columbo solve the crime. Columbo was unlike any of the slick, sophisticated TV detectives audiences had grown accustomed to. He was generally clad in a crumpled trench coat and drove a laughably battered 1959 Peugeot 403 convertible with the only apparent accessory a working police radio. Falk's inimitable New York mannerisms and speech patterns gave him a "fish-out-of-water" quality no matter who he interacted with, including his fellow police officers. Finishing off his unsophisticated appearance was his omnipresent cheap cigar, which he would smoke everywhere, including mansion houses where he was investigating crimes. (Like Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name, we never quite see him with a fresh cigar in his mouth, only a half-stogie that appeared to be as much chewed as smoked.)
Patrick McGoohan as Col. Rumford
Netflix is now presenting the various seasons of "Columbo" that were aired on NBC. (The show's revival in the late 1980s was seen on ABC.) One standout episode in a history of standout episodes is "By Dawn's Early Light", which was originally telecast in October, 1974. (The show can be found in the Season 4 category on Netflix.) Patrick McGoohan is cast as Col. Lyle C. Rumford, a gruff, spit-and-polish career soldier who is in charge of an illustrious military school. When we first see him, he is painstakingly disassembling the shell for a ceremonial canon and modifying it so that it will be an instrument of murder. We soon meet the intended victim: William Haynes (Tom Simcox), the grandson of the school's legendary founder. Haynes has a confrontational meeting with Rumford in the colonel's office. They discuss the fact that enrollment in the school has plummeted dramatically in recent years due to the aversion of boys who want to pursue a military career. (Keep in mind the episode was shot during the period in which the United States still had a presence in Vietnam.) Haynes has developed a plan to ensure the school's economic survival by making it a coed institution. Rumford is appalled by the idea and intends to thwart its implementation by having Haynes killed when he fires the canon at the school's Founder's Day event. He will achieve this by adjusting the explosives inside the shell canister then stuffing a rag into the barrel of the weapon. The ploy works: when Haynes fires the canon, it explodes and kills him in front of hundreds of horrified on-lookers. Rumford thinks he has gotten away with murder and ensured that the school will continue as an all-male institution with him in charge. But, as they say in detective films, the plot thickens when Columbo arrives on scene. To state any more specifics would ruin the enjoyment of the episode, which is one of the best. The sheer pleasure of seeing Falk squaring off on camera with McGoohan is a true delight and the episode was so well received that McGoohan won an Emmy for his performance. Adding to the pleasures are the high production values. The episode was filmed on location at The Citadel military college in Charleston and this allowed the producers a degree of authenticity that would have been difficult to replicate on a back lot. The episode also benefited from the inspired direction of Harvey Hart, who also directed such feature films as "Bus Riley's Back in Town", "The Sweet Ride" and "Fortune and Men's Eyes." If you're going to engage in some binge-watching, you would be hard-pressed to find a better companion than Lt. Columbo.
(Trivia note: keep an eye out for young Bruno Kirby, who plays one of the cadets.)
For an essay about this episode, visit the How Sweet It Was site by clicking here.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER "COLUMBO: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON" FROM AMAZON
In 1965, the great Louis Armstrong was invited to perform behind the Iron Curtain in East Berlin. Armstrong gave a remarkable two-set concert that was filmed for posterity. There will be a rare screening of the event at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens on April 30. Preceding the screening, there will be a reception at which attendees will be served some of Satchmo's favorite food treats including red beans and rice. Click here for tickets and more info.
I mentioned in last month’s review of The Criterion Collection’s new Blu-ray
release of The Palm Beach Story,
Preston Sturges was a rare breed in Hollywood in the early 1940s. After
Chaplin, he was the only working screenwriter/director in that he wrote
original scripts alone and then directed them, and he put an auteur stamp on each picture in terms of
style and themes. Naturally, the bigwigs in Hollywood resented the guy, and
Sturges often had a tough time at Paramount, where his most prolific and productive
five-year-reign took place. He was a flame that burned very brightly for a
short time. This brief career arc of a genius filmmaker is aptly presented in one
of the supplements on this new release—Preston
Sturges: The Rise and Fall of an American Dreamer, which originally
appeared on television’s American Masters
Sturges’ best work, Sullivan’s Travels was
released as a DVD from The Criterion Collection over a decade ago. The company
has seen fit to upgrade the film to Blu-ray with a new high-definition digital
restoration. Naturally, it looks magnificent, and I think by now we can take
for granted that Criterion will do a bang-up job on any digital restorations
has been written about Sullivan’s Travels
and there is no question that it is a remarkable piece of work. It premiered in
late 1941 but wasn’t released to the public until early 1942; nevertheless, it
received no Oscar nominations and at the time wasn’t as popular as Sturges’
previous pictures. Why? Possibly because it made audiences think. Yes, it’s a comedy, but that’s really only the first half.
After that, the picture becomes pretty serious, with a very sympathetic and
almost-sentimental social commentary on poverty and the Great Depression. It’s
true that the writer/director’s signature fast-and-witty dialogue is present
throughout, but the belly laughs are few in this particular title. Maybe
audiences in 1942 were wondering what happened to the Preston Sturges they
knew. Ironically (and Sturges was very big on irony), the film is now
considered a classic and Sturges’ masterpiece.
McCrea plays Sullivan, a popular Hollywood movie director who specializes in
comedies. What he really wants to do, however, is make a serious and
responsible Capra-esque picture about human suffering, entitled O Brother, Where Art Thou? (And, yes,
this is where the Coen Brothers got the title for their movie from 2000.) After
much haggling with the studio bosses, Sullivan dresses as a “tramp” and hits
the road in order to undergo first-hand what the American people have been
experiencing during the Depression. Along the way, he meets beautiful Veronica
Lake, and Sully unwittingly allows her to tag along. The movie is then made up
of the couple’s various misadventures, including a hard left turn in which Sullivan
is sent to a hard labor prison with a mistaken identity. One of the most
striking scenes in the picture is when an African-American church opens its
doors to the prisoners for a field trip to watch movies projected on the wall.
It is there that Sullivan has an epiphany about his work and life—and it’s a
very good lesson for us all.
watched The Mississippi Gambler (1953) DVD from Universal while recovering from
a root canal, hoping a good rousing Tyrone Power flick and three fingers of
Kentucky bourbon, would cure my ills. Boy, was I wrong. Watching this slow,
soap opera-ish movie, with a cast of characters that belong in an old Carol
Burnett Show sketch, was like having a root canal all over again.
the Technicolor was good, and Julia Adams was great (which she always is) but
the script by Seton Miller was a complete turnoff with one of the worst endings
I’ve ever seen. The characters were mostly boring and despicable. The plot was
ham-fisted melodrama served with a mint julep. Direction by Rudolph Mate was
lethargic and unimaginative.
it’s one of those stories about four people all in love with the wrong person.
But Miller added some very weird touches to the familiar story line. Piper Laurie
plays Angelique Dureau, a snooty, neurotic iceberg who is way too close to her
brother Laurent (John Baer) for comfort. She uses him as a shield against intimacy
with any other man, as Tyrone Power, playing the titular gambler Mark Fallon,
explains to her. For no comprehensible reason at all, other than the plot
demands it, Fallon falls madly in love with her. Why, oh, why? She’s a pouty,
petulant, porcelain imitation of a woman.
Laurent is a miserable weasel, a man with no honor – and
thus a perfect foil for the upright and honorable Fallon, who is not only a
good man with a deck of cards, he’s also the son of one of New York’s finest
fencing masters. (Zorro rides again!). The three of them meet on a Mississippi riverboat
named The Sultana. Pardon a digression
while I note that this was the same paddle boat on which Yancy Derringer (Jock
Mahoney), a few years later, would ply his poker skills in the CBS television
goal is to run an honest gambling table and eventually open his own casino. He
teams up with Kansas John Polly (John McIntyre), a seasoned veteran of many a
three card Monty game. In a game of poker, Laurent loses his sister’s diamond
necklace to Fallon. Fallon tries to give it back to her later, but she pretends
she told her brother to wager it. In the next scene she confronts the weasel
and cries, “How could you do it without asking me?” This obviously gets the
“star-crossed” lovers off on the wrong foot.
wins big that night but he and Polly barely escape being killed by a gang of
crooked gamblers and have to jump off the boat when the captain gets near the
river bank. They walk to New Orleans, after losing all their winnings in the
river. But they have a good laugh about it.
about the second act mark, enter Julia Adams as Ann Conant. She’s the member of
another weird brother/sister duo. Her brother, Julian (Dennis Weaver, believe
it or not, with a sort of New York high society accent) sits down to play with
Fallon, saying he heard he played an honest game. He quickly loses every cent
he brought with him, then goes out on deck and shoots himself. The Captain and Fallon discover he has a
sister on board, and Fallon feels responsible and wants to help her. She says
he must have gambled away the money his company gave him to take to New
Orleans. Fallon, noble fellow that he is, lies and says no he gave that money
to the captain for safe keeping. He takes Ann to New Orleans where and sets her
up in a hotel. It complicates his plans to romance Angelique but what’s a story
If you love the Warner Archive's DVD and Blu-ray releases, you won't be able to resist their streaming service, which offers hundreds of retro movies and TV episodes. The Archive is offering one month free for new subscribers. Click on the banner above of Duke Wayne as "Chisum" to visit the site.
The Shout! Factory video company has launched an excellent new streaming site, www.shoutfactorytv.com that features dozens of classic TV episodes and cult movies every month. Best of all, you can view them for free! This month we recommend the 1970 Amicus horror flick "The House That Dripped Blood", a 1970 anthology of terror tales by Robert Bloch, author of "Psycho" and starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Ingrid Pitt and John Pertwee. Click here to view.
By 1963, Vincent Price was generally recognized as the heir apparent to Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi as the undisputed king of the horror film genre. Somewhat lost in discussion's of Price's work is the fact that, until he starred in "House of Wax" in the mid-1950s, he had a long career as a popular and respected supporting actor in mainstream Hollywood productions. If there is a sad aspect to his international success as a horror star, it's that his talents were rarely used henceforth in films of other genres. Nonetheless, Price knew a good thing when he saw it. His collaborations with producer Roger Corman on cinematic versions of classic Edgar Allan Poe stories had proven to be wildly successful. Price wasn't overly selective about working with other producers who sought to capitalize on those films by making blatant imitations of Corman's productions. One such title is "Diary of a Madman", released in 1963 and based on a story by French writer Guy de Maupassant. In some ways, the film is a worthy rival to a Corman/Price collaboration in that it's intelligently scripted, well-cast and has a relatively creative production design that somewhat masks the movie's threadbare budget. As with the Corman flicks, Price is given a meaty role and he makes the most of it. He plays Simon Cordier, a respected French judge in the late 19th century. He has a reputation for fairness and an obsession with studying the criminal mind in the hope of understanding what motivates some men to commit horrendous crimes of violence. The film opens with Cordier receiving a request to meet with a prisoner who he has sentenced to die on the guillotine. The man is a serial killer and Cordier is interested in taking the opportunity to speak to the prisoner, whose behavior has left him baffled. The man was a pillar-of-the-community type with no criminal background a stable profession. Upon meeting the condemned prisoner in his cell, the doomed convict informs Cordier that he welcomes his imminent execution because he has been inexplicably possessed by an invisible being known as the Horla. He relates an incredible story about this creature periodically taking over control of his body and mind and forcing him to commit acts of murder. As the incredulous Cordier tries to absorb this fanciful tale, the man suddenly attacks him. In defending himself, Cordier hurls the prisoner against a wall, killing him instantly.
Back in his chambers, Cordier is haunted by the experience but doesn't think much more of it- until some strange occurrences leave him disturbed. Seems that Cordier's irresponsible behavior had somehow been responsible for the accidental death of his wife and young son years before. Cordier has tried to block the bad memories from his mind by locking away all mementos relating to them, including a large framed photograph that had been stored in his attic. He is shocked to find it hanging prominently on the wall of his study. His loyal butler (Ian Wolfe) denies having placed it there. Other strange occurrences lead Cordier to question his mental stability. A psychiatrist assures him that he is suffering from fatigue and urges him to delve back into his passion for sculpting, which he has ignored for years. Cordier follows his advice and begins to feel more relaxed. Things only get better when he has a chance encounter with a vivacious and flirtatious young woman named Odette (Nancy Kovack), who agrees to be a paid model for him. She begins a campaign to seduce Cordier, never telling him that she is actually married to a financially-strapped artist, Paul (Chris Warfield). When Paul objects to the amount of time that Odette is spending in Cordier's studio, she assures him she is only trying to earn money that they desperately need. In reality, she is a heartless gold digger who is weighing the option of leaving Paul for the older man. Oblivious to all this, Cordier is happy to have found love once again. His mood, however, is rudely disrupted when he realizes the cause of the strange things that have been going on in his house: it seems that the Horla has chosen to possess him in retribution for killing the prisoner whose body it once inhabited. Although Cordier can not see the Horla, he discovers it is a physical presence who can not only speak to him, but can also utilize a number of cruel witticisms that he uses to mock and humiliate the esteemed jurist. From this point on, Cordier's life is a living hell. In rational moments, he tries frantically to figure out how to rid himself of this ghoulish presence, but the Horla retains control of his mind and body at will. This leads to Cordier carrying out a particularly gruesome murder, leaving him desperate to find a way out of his tortured existence. He devises a last-ditch effort to lure the Horla into his study where he hopes to kill him through use of his one vulnerability: fire. The resulting consequences are dramatic but have tragic results even for Cordier.
"Diary of a Madman" is mid-range Price fare from this period. The entire enterprise rides on the actor shoulders, but they prove to be broad enough to carry it off. Price looks dashing and, as always, puts his best efforts into even a modest enterprise such as this. Nancy Kovack also gives a fine performance as a bad girl who, refreshingly, never learns to redeem herself as she cuckolds both of her lovers in turn. The film is not exceptional on any level, but it is consistently entertaining an reasonably engrossing.
The MGM made-on-demand DVD features a very impressive transfer and an original trailer is included in which Price (in character) breaks the "Fourth Wall" and addresses the viewer directly.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the film version of "The Sound of Music" with a screening of a new 70mm print. The event takes place at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens on May 2. The screening will be hosted by Cinema Retro contributor Tom Santopietro, author of the acclaimed new book "The Sound of Music Story" and actress Marni Nixon, who is legendary for having provided the singing voice of actors who appeared in many classic musicals. For more click here.
A film that became a legendary bomb, the 1977 Western The White Buffalo has been re-evaluated by movie fans in recent years and many consider it to be an underrated classic. Count me out of this assessment. The film is certainly unique: an ambitious attempt to blend the Western and horror film genres, but it falls short on most counts.The United Artists production stars Charles Bronson as Wild Bill Hickcok, who- for reasons never adequately explained- is haunted by terrifying nightmares involving him in a life-or-death confrontation with a giant white buffalo. I didn't know that buffalo come in colors, but I'll cede the point. (Given the dreadful styles of the 1970s, it's surprising the film wasn't titled The Plaid Buffalo.) Simultaneously, Chief Crazy Horse (Will Sampson) is having his own white buffalo problems. Seems the actual rampaging beast wreaked havoc on his village and killed his child. In order to restore his pride and stature among the tribe, he must hunt down and slaughter the animal- or be stuck with the monicker of "The Worm" henceforth. (This must be the Indian equivalent of "nerd".)
The two men are on obsessive journeys and are destined to meet up - but both feel they have the singular right to kill the buffalo. Hickcok meanders through some cow towns under an alias and hooks up with a mountain man geezer (Jack Warden channeling the ghost of Gabby Hayes) who decides to accompany him on his quest. When Hickcok and Crazy Horse do meet up, they end up saving each other's life in respective ambushes and declare themselves blood brothers. Despite this, each man is determined to be the one who slays the white buffalo.
The popular John Wayne flick "McLintock!" has had a long, tortured history in terms of its video releases. The film fell out of copyright for a while in the 1980s and 1990s, resulting in any number of cheapo VHS and DVD editions being sold in "dollar stores". Recently Olive Films released a Blu-ray edition of the film, sans any special features. Shortly thereafter, Paramount released a Blu-ray of a previously issued "Authentic Collector's Edition" DVD that is loaded with fascinating extras. The film represented the first time Wayne had been directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, son of his old John Ford stock company buddy Victor McLaglen. Both Wayne and Andrew's careers owed their very existence to Ford and they learned well from the master in terms of how to make comedy/action films that would have broad appeal. "McLintock!" is basically the best John Ford film that Ford never directed. It has all the elements of a traditional Ford production: a battle of the sexes between a strong-willed leading man and an equally strong-willed leading lady; eccentric characters played by eccentric character actors; a snappy musical score and at least one big brawl played out in a humorous manner (in this case, the famous group fight scene in a mud pit).
"McLintock!" reunited Wayne with his favorite leading lady Maureen O'Hara, who had co-starred with him in Ford's "The Quiet Man", "Rio Grande" and "The Wings of Eagles". (They teamed for the final time in 1971 for "Big Jake".) O'Hara was one of the few actresses who could stand up to Wayne in terms of screen presence. Here, they play the familiar roles of an estranged couple. Wayne is George Washington McLintock (known by one and all as "G.W."), a cattle baron so successful that the town he lives in bares his name. He is separated from his fiery-tempered wife Katherine (O'Hara), who returns to town unexpectedly to try to convince McLintock to allow their teenage daughter Becky (Stefanie Powers) to live with her in the big city. That's pretty much the entire plot. Before long, G.W. and Katherine are battling like boxers going the full fifteen rounds. The film is an obvious western-based adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew", which means that although Katherine is allowed to be seen initially as a strong, independent woman, in the end she is pacified by her husband and becomes a compliant Stepford-like wife. In a finale guaranteed to cause Hilary Clinton agitta, G.W. subjects Katherine to the humiliation of being spanked in public in front of a cheering crowd. Anyone who has progressed from a Neanderthal state will find this element of the film a bit cringe-inducing, but if viewed within the context of its era, it is undeniably amusing. In between the shouting and the spanking, G.W. and Katherine alternate between insulting each other like a frontier version of Ralph and Alice Kramden and making goo-goo eyes at each other. There's no doubt that the film will have a storybook ending and the corn quotient is fairly high. Nevertheless, "McLintock!" is such rollicking good fun that its charms are almost impossible to resist. Much of the film's charm comes from its sheer exuberance in portraying amusing people in amusing situations. There is no gravitas on display and the closest we get to some meaningful drama is when G.W.and Katherine stare longingly into each other's eyes after a period of estrangement, indicating that, despite their fiery tempers and constant arguments, these are two people who are not only madly in love but also quite lustful toward each other. Director McLaglen keeps the action flowing in true Fordian style and it's safe to say there isn't a dull moment. A lot of people get punched and some guns get fired, but no one really gets hurt. All of the shenanigans are set to composer Frank De Vol's lively and catchy score. The film was in theaters the same week that President Kennedy was assassinated. Perhaps the presence of John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara in a feel-good movie like this provided some solace to a grieving nation. In any event, "McLintock!" proved to be one of the Duke's biggest boxoffice hits. It also had a long, successful run on television in the pre-cable/home video era. Over the years, it was shown on prime time by all three major networks and enjoyed big ratings each time.
Original trade magazine ad.
The Paramount Blu-ray carries over the extras from the DVD release and is the definitive home video version of the film. Extras include:
Audio commentary that is jam-packed with vintage interviews with the film's producer, Michael Wayne; director Andrew V. McLaglen, film historians Leonard Maltin and Frank Thompson and cast members Michael Pate and Stefanie Powers.
A "making of" documentary is broken down into three sections. One provides some interesting insights into Michael Wayne's decision to devote the years after his father's death to raising money for the cancer foundation that bares the Duke's name. Another featurette spotlights Maureen O'Hara and Stefanie Powers and the third delves into shooting the famous mud pit fight.
Another featurette shows veteran stuntmen Tom Morga and Wayne Bauer demonstrating how to throw punches convincingly.
An odd but entertaining mini-documentary about the corsets women wore back in the 19th century. Today, we would call the procedure for getting into one of these contraptions "torture".
The quality of the transfer is simply terrific. "McLintock!" never looked so good.
“Sandy” Mackendrick had enjoyed a succession of triumphs in England. Working
out of Ealing studios, he directed such memorable comedies as The Man in the
White Suit, Whiskey Galore and the deliciously dark The Ladykillers. As the
Ealing factory system began to dry up, Mackendrick made an arguably unlikely
move to America. It was through a number of mishaps, unfulfilled projects and
(one could argue) a degree of ‘fate’ that Sweet smell of success eventually
fell into the lap of Mackendrick.
there was little doubt of Mackendrick’s immense ability as a director, there
was perhaps an element of doubt whether he could actually undertake a film such
as Sweet Smell of Success. After all, those subtle British films were about as
far removed as one could possibly imagine when compared to the media dynamics
and fuelled corruption of this screenplay. However, Mackendrick had a good eye;
a very good eye in fact. Given time to observe the city he knew how to capture
it at its best. Through the camera lens, Mackendrick presented Manhattan better
than any other contemporary film had done and as a result, undoubtedly
influenced esteemed future directors such as Woody Allen.
film’s ‘master and dog’ relationship between newspaper columnist J.J. Hunsecker
(Burt Lancaster, playing a thinly-disguised Walter Winchell) and the Machiavellian press publicist Sidney Falco (Tony
Curtis) is the only one of importance. Lancaster was never more imposing as
Hunsecker, whilst Curtis displays a slimy charm and a sickening depravity as
Falco. As the relationship unfolds, it becomes a battle of wits and power - Falco
believes himself to be in a symbiotic relationship with J.J. — he provides him with
the stories he needs - but, by the close, the power imbalance is made
depressingly obvious. Feeding off the crumbs left by Hunsecker, Sidney is always
destined to be consumed by J.J.’s domineering dictatorship. Whilst Sweet Smell
of Success remains a stunning piece of work, it is also not without its flaws -
specifically in the romantic relationship between Hunsecker’s sister Susan (Susan
Harrison) and Steve (Martin Milner) an aspiring young a jazz musician. Not that
there is anything wrong with this coiling plot- the story of Susan’s sinisterly
over-protective brother and his scheming through Falco to dishonour Steve’s
reputation provides the film’s central narrative. All of it works perfectly. However,
it is sadly the performances from the inexperienced Harrison and Milner that hamper
the film’s vibrant energy and pace – they are both limp and damp. In contrast,
such powerhouse performances from both Lancaster and Curtis, and the provision
of a razor sharp script by Ernest Lehman and Clifford Odets – still cements Sweet
Smell of Success as one of the greatest films of its kind. Combined with James
Wong Howe’s sumptuous deep-focus cinematography and Elmer Bernstein’s brassy musical
score and you are left with something damn near close to a perfect movie.
newly restored High Definition (1080p) presentation is a 4K digital transfer
from the original 35mm camera negative – and frankly it looks incredible. As Sweet
Smell of Success is such a personal favourite of mine, I have followed its
evolution on home video - through VHS, laserdisc, DVD and now Blu-ray. it’s
been an interesting journey but I feel confident that I have finally arrived at
my destination. The film has never looked so crisp and clean. It is spotless and
always deserved to look this good. There are a couple of location scenes that
look a little ‘too’ real for my liking. I’ve always considered there may be a few
lengths of stock footage involved here, but I can’t be sure. Regardless, these
random shots fall seamlessly in line with the general atmosphere and harsh
realism of the urban setting. Wong Howe’s photography is defined by deep dark
blacks, varying arrays of grey shade and subtle use of intelligent lighting. Pin-
striped suites and intense close ups are all solid and reveal sharply defined
detail. Lancaster’s face and glasses (permanently lit from above) creates a
near ‘skull like’ shadow upon his cold gaze, the results of which look rather
spectacular in this new Blu-ray edition.
continue to supply the audio in an original untampered and uncompressed PCM
mono 1.0, which is clean and free from any distortion. Extras consist of an appreciation
by critic and film historian Philip Kemp, author of Lethal Innocence: The
Cinema of Alexander Mackendrick. Kemp
appears in the top left of screen presenting a detailed analysis of the film
while several scenes are presented. He also provides a selected scene commentary,
taking several key and expanding on detail. It does nevertheless raise the question – why didn’t Kemp provide a full
commentary track? The man is obviously an expert on the movie and his knowledge
would have been very welcome (and valuable) throughout.
bonus highlight for me is Mackendrick: The Man Who Walked Away – Dermot
McQuarrie’s 1986 Scottish Television documentary which features extensive interviews
with Mackendrick, Burt Lancaster, producer James Hill, Gordon Jackson and many
others. It’s a great example of how documentaries of this kind use to be made –
rather than the quick, cross cutting MTV style of documentary making today.
It’s certainly one to take time over and enjoy fully.
film’s original theatrical trailer is also included.
has again spared no expense in terms of packaging. They have provided a
reversible sleeve featuring both an original poster and newly commissioned
artwork by Chris Walker. The collector’s booklet (40 pages) includes new
writing on the film by Michael Brooke and Mackendrick’s own analysis of various
script drafts. It is also illustrated throughout with original stills and
posters. It all makes for a wonderful package and one that should be savoured –
‘I love this dirty town!’
The majestic Loew's Theatre on Journal Square in Jersey City, New Jersey is one of the theaters that had been saved from destruction.
There's few things sadder than witnessing the decline and neglect of a one time movie palace. At least in the New York City area, this trend is finally being reversed thanks to major restoration efforts to save and preserve these landmark cinema showcases. The New York Times has a major piece on these restoration efforts, which are affording movie lovers the opportunity to enjoy classic films and cultural events in these historical settings. Click here to read.
by Michele Brittany (Published by McFarland & Company, $38), 278 Pages,
Softcover, ISBN: 9780786477937
15 years ago, when I was unsuccessfully hawking a manuscript for a proposed
James Bond book around publishers, I was informed categorically in one
rejection letter that "There are already far too many Bond books jostling
for attention in the marketplace". This may or may not have been the case,
but it struck me even then as nonsense and has never, as far as I'm aware, been
a deterrent to any publisher to seize an opportunity to jump on the
Bondwagon. (I'd rather have been told my work simply wasn't any good). In the
intervening years there have been so
many books bearing the James Bond tag that even die-hard aficionados must have
had a job keeping up.
Bond and Popular Culture" (an assembly of "Essays on the Influence of
the Fictional Superspy") will find its keenest audience among those who
simply must read everything related
to their iconic hero. For it is less about Bond himself, rather – as the
subtitle suggests – it’s focus falls upon 007’s cultural influence and those who
followed in his wake. Also, naturally enough, his antecedents. Following a
foreword (which left me eager to locate James
Batman, a 1960s production from the Philippines which merged Bond and
Batman), the collection of essays of varying length are divided into five
categories: Film, TV, Literature, Lifestyle and Reinterpretation. A wide range
of topics are discussed, from Bollywood and the Japanese Nakano films to The Man from
U.N.C.L.E and Doctor Who, with a
fistful of others in between, all appended with an extensive array of footnotes
and bibliographic detail.
you might anticipate from a work such as this, some of the theses it comprises
– though unquestionably well researched and informative – can be a little hard
going. And, also perhaps a tad predictably, one or two are of a nature that
(unintentionally) sap the fun out of a subject which, let's be honest, really
shouldn't be taken too seriously.
the 24th 007 screen adventure SPECTRE looming on the horizon, the
months ahead will be hard on the wallets of serious Bond buffs. Not least of
all in the book department. At a princely $38, this non-illustrated, comparatively
slender offering is unlikely to top the shopping lists of many. But for those
who do choose to invest, it’s be best filed on your bookshelf
alongside similarly highfalutin tomes such as "Bond and Beyond: The
Political Career of a Popular Hero".
Lewis with Beverly D'Angelo and Clint Eastwood in the hit 1978 comedy Every Which Way But Loose.
Acclaimed character actor Geoffrey Lewis, and father of actress Juliette Lewis, has died at age 79 of natural causes. Lewis had a long and impressive list of major films and TV appearances to his credit. He was frequently cast by Clint Eastwood in the iconic actor's productions including High Plains Drifter, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Every Which Way But Loose, Any Which Way You Can, Bronco Billy, Pink Cadillac and their last collaboration, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Although Lewis was often cast as earthy, hillbilly-types, he could also excel at playing sophisticated characters as well. Other major film credits include The Wind and the Lion, Heaven's Gate, The Lawmower Man, Maverick and the TV movie version of Salem's Lot. He primarily worked in television and had amassed a seemingly endless number of appearances on major series over the decades.
Cage is a workhorse and may be one of the busiest actors today. In an era where
big name actors might release a single movie per year, Cage typically comes out
with three, four or even five. At any given time he may have over a half dozen
movies in various stages of production. Cage is a good actor, often a very good
actor, and has made some very entertaining movies that stand up to repeat
viewings. I enjoy much of what he does from the over-the-top supernatural action-horror
movies “Ghost Rider” and “Drive Angry,” to the adventure-mystery “National
Treasure” franchise and his voice work for about a half-dozen animated movies.
His list of credits and genres is vast and, if his movie output is any
indication, he’s a very busy guy. This can be a good thing for Cage fans, but
may result in a mixed bag for movie fans when an actor has too much exposure.
Fortunately for Cage, he’s pretty good in just about everything he does.
“Outcast,” Cage plays Gallain and he’s teamed with Hayden Christensen as Jacob.
Gallain and Jacob are 12th century crusader knights who are becoming
increasingly weary of killing as they travel from the Middle East to the Far
East. We witness the ruthlessness of Jacob through the eyes of his mentor
Gallain as he kills the members of a defeated Moorish army that refuses to
surrender. Even women and children are not spared Jacob’s murderous wrath. When we meet Jacob again three years later, he’s an opium addict searching for
his former mentor as well as redemption for his past sins. He finds this
redemption as the protector of a princess and her younger brother who is the
rightful new king. Both are fleeing the terror of their older brother and
warrior, Prince Shing, played by Andy On, who was passed over in favor of his
younger brother for the throne and murdered his dying father, the king. Shing
is very similar to Jacob in his bloodlust and this is what his father wishes to
avoid in a new king.
relationship between Jacob and the young king is right out of the classic American
western genre playbook. While this movie is no “Shane,” it is an interesting
melding of American and Chinese action adventure and, fortunately, everyone
speaks perfect English. Jacob agrees to safely transport the princess Lian,
played by Chinese model/actress Liu Yifei, and her younger brother Zhao, played
by Bill Su Jiahang. The boy forms the expected bond and the princess falls in
love with their protector as they make their way to safety while fleeing the
older brother who has sent out an order to kill his younger siblings. The young
king begs to learn how to use a bow as expertly as Jacob and they pause for a time.
During this training we see a flashback of a young Jacob undergoing training by
his mentor, Gallain, who we have not seen since the opening scenes. Cage
eventually returns and he turns out to be the near mythical “white ghost” referred
to throughout the first part of the movie.
As with any major film star who dies young, Jean Seberg has become a cult of personality to some film fans, partly due to the fact that she died in Paris from an overdose of barbiturates at age 40 in 1979. Her death was ruled a suicide but conspiracy theories still abound because she was deemed a political radical by the FBI due to her association with far left wing causes and her support of the Black Panther party. On screen, however, Seberg's characters were generally not radical, although her breakthrough film did find her as the female lead in Godard's classic 1960 crime flick Breathless. Still, there were some hints of Seberg's liberated woman persona in her early career. One such film was In the French Style, a largely forgotten 1963 production based on Irwin Shaw's novel. Shaw wrote the screenplay and the film was directed by Robert Parrish, a respected veteran of the movie industry who never enjoyed a career-defining major hit. (The closest he came was directing segments of the bloated 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale.) The movie opens in Paris with Seberg as Christina James, a 19 year old free spirited girl from Chicago who has come to the City of Light to hone her skills as a painter. In the process of trying to acclimate herself to the metropolitan lifestyle, she meets Guy ((Philippe Forquet), a headstrong, sometimes arrogant 21 year-old who is nonetheless charismatic and quite handsome. He woos Christina and before long, they are a couple swept up in a whirlwind romance. However, it isn't long before there are strains due in part to their impoverished lifestyle. Guy, being a typical guy, tries to get Christina into bed, but she says when it happens, it will be on her terms and conditions. When the big moment arises, Guy's romantic evening turns into a disaster because he only has enough money to rent a room at a flophouse hotel without heat. In the course of the strained evening, Guy confesses to Christina that he cannot perform sexually because he is too nervous. He makes a shocking confession: he is actually a 16 year old high school boy and a virgin at that. While this does bring the story into a completely unexpected direction, it's the one element of the film that strains credibility largely due to the fact that Forquet was actually 23 years old at the time and looks it. Nevertheless, this plot device takes us away from what was shaping up as a conventional "boy meets girl" romance and plunges the viewer into unknown waters.
The story then jumps ahead in time and we find Christina now in her early twenties and very much in step with the Parisian lifestyle. She is the toast of her neighborhood's social scene and the belle of the ball in terms of attracting male suitors. In a rather progressive depiction of a single woman for the year 1963, it is made abundantly clear that Christina has her pick of lovers and routinely engages in short-term sexual affairs. Every time she meets the "right man", it turns out that differences in their lifestyles prevent them from enjoying a traditional relationship. Her father (very well played by Addison Powell) visits her from Chicago and, again Shaw's script goes against the conventional depiction of father and daughter relationships generally seen in movies during this era. Instead of being a square old fuddy duddy, Dad is actually amused by his daughter's somewhat hedonistic lifestyle and he asks her how many lovers she has had. "A couple", she replies, but it becomes clear that both of them regard that as a drastic understatement. When her father asks to see the paintings she has been working on for years, he gently informs her that they are below the quality he had expected. He cautions her that her party-filled lifestyle may be compromising her potential. Christina objects and two part company under a strain, but it becomes clear that her father's words have resonated with her and that it might be time to develop plans for a more productive career path.
All of that changes when she has a chance encounter with Walter Beddoes (Stanley Baker), a hard-drinking international newspaper journalist. They enjoy a torrid affair and fall in love but, alas, fate rears its ugly head once again when Walter's requirements to travel extensively takes him away from Christina for months at a time. He confesses to her that, while abroad "I don't live like a monk". Christina says she accepts that he will have other lovers but makes it clear that she will, too. Such behavior from a young couple was rarely depicted so honestly on screen in 1963, an era in which sexually assertive women were generally painted as floozies. By the time Walter returns from a three month stint in Africa, he finds Christina has a new boyfriend, an American doctor from San Francisco (James Leo Herlihy), who she says she intends to marry. She has a civilized lunch with both men, as Walter tries to persuade her to resume her affair with him. She confesses that she has seen her share of former lovers ultimately drop her to marry the girl of her dreams, a status she somehow never attains in their eyes. This climactic sequence left me a bit disappointed because in the end, Christina- that most liberated of young women- decides to throw in the towel to become a doctor's wife and live in San Francisco. However, director Parrish does afford us the nagging possibility that she knows she is selling out by doing so.
In the French Style is a very worthwhile experience. The Parisian locations add immeasurably to its pleasures and the crisp B&W cinematography Michel Kelber is impressive, as is the Joseph Kosma's atmospheric score. Not much happens dramatically in the film. You keep waiting for some earth-shaking development to emerge but it never does. However, that's part of the movie's charm. It recalls an era in which studios routinely backed small films with fine actors (they are all wonderful here) and gave them intelligent dialogue and direction. Sony has released the movie as a burn to order DVD. The transfer is generally very good but the master print could use a bit of cleaning in places. There are no bonus extras, unfortunately.
Eon Productions has confirmed that Daniel Craig has undergone knee surgery for an injury he suffered during a fight sequence on the latest James Bond production, "SPECTRE". Eon said the surgery was "minor" and is not anticipated to affect filming. Craig is anticipated to resume shooting the movie on April 22 at Pinewood Studios, the series' traditional "home" outside of London. The film is shaping up to be the most expensive and ambitious entry in the long-running series. For more click here.
The Huffington Post presents writer Pat Gallagher presents a tribute to her choices as the 12 most memorable sex sirens of yesteryear. From Marilyn Monroe to Raquel Welch and Ursula Andress, click here to check out the article and see if you agree.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
On Friday April 24th
Omaha Film Historian Bruce Crawford will host his 36th tribute to classic films
with a screening of the comedy classic,Some
Like It Hot!
guest will be Kelly Curtis, daughter of star Tony Curtis . Artist
Nicolosi will once again have a commemorative U.S. Postal Envelope honoring the
film, and will be unveiled at the event.
April 24th, 7pm at the Joslyn Art Museum 2200 Dodge. St. Omaha NE.
It Hot was listed the #1 greatest film comedy of all time on the AFI "100
years, 100 Laughs" poll.
are $23 at all Omaha Hy Vee food stores customer service counters and go on
sale beginning April 1st. A benefit
for the Omaha Parks Foundation for more information please call 402-926-8299 andwww.omahafilmevent.com
(1983) is a personal favorite horror film of mine. I own a 35mm print of this film, and I’ve seen
it projected three times in the last 15 years. The image looks very similar to
the VHS Vestron Video release which I first rented nearly 30 years ago: it is
dark, murky and difficult to see all of the important details. Fortunately, all
of this has changed thanks to the fine folks at Synapse Films who have
correctly presented the film in the proper aspect ratio and re-mastered the
image beyond anything that we have seen thus far. Curtains, never released in any other home
video format (except for several DVDs duped from that old VHS release), is now
finally available on DVD and Blu-ray, and the result is spectacular.
Eggar and John Vernon star as actress and director team Samantha Sherwood and
Jonathan Stryker attempting to bring the story of a mental patient, Audra, to
the screen. When Sherwood has herself “committed” to an actual mental hospital
to research the role, Stryker leaves her there with plans to make the film with
a different actress and engineers a casting call at his estate without
Sherwood’s knowledge. Curtains
fails to give more than just a hint as to his motivation for doing this
(sleeping with two of the actresses he auditions seems to be one reason), but
it does set up some truly creepy set pieces, the best and most memorable of
which include a large, sad-eyed doll on a rain-swept road, a masked killer
wielding a sickle on a skating rink, and a (somewhat prolonged) chase through
corridors inside of a theatrical warehouse which calls to mind the backstage
milieu in Michele Soavi’s Stage
Fright (1987). The logistics of the murders make little sense, but
then this is a thriller, so it’s wise not to think too much about it and enjoy
it for what it is.
film’s strengths lie in the casting, the music, and the cinematography. Eggar
and Vernon are terrific, and Lynne Griffin, an actress we see far too little of
these days (she’s the suffocation victim in the original Black Christmas), is hilarious as a comedienne vying for the role.
Linda Thorson is great as Brooke Parsons, an elegant actress who discovers
Lesleh Donaldson’s head in a toilet!
Paul Zaza has created a brilliant score for this film. The “sting” that
punctuates the film’s opening title sequence as the word Curtains is cut across
the screen can also be found in Prom
Night, a film that Zaza scored before Curtains.
I’ve often wondered if this score was originally composed for Prom Night and then
rejected. It’s a score worthy of a soundtrack album and it deserves to get a
release from Intrada, Varese Sarabande, Buysoundtrax.com, or Kritzerland.
a sucker for Canadian horror films that take place in the snow (The Brood (1979) and Ghostkeeper (1981) come
to mind), and Curtains
is my favorite, hands-down. One of the strangest and eeriest movies I’ve seen,
the film has always gotten a bum rap. Far from a perfect film, the production
had a lot of rumored problems from the word go and it seems that at this point
in time the movie is more notorious for what it was originally intended to be
rather than what it in fact is. Filming began in November 1980 and continued
for months afterwards. The original director, Richard Ciupka, hand-picked by
the producer due to his previous and well-regarded last-minute takeover of
1982’s Melanie, had his name removed
from the film due to the fact that much of it was not what he himself had
filmed. The ending was changed, as were several key plot points, and what
results is something of a convoluted narrative that possesses an air of
extras on the Blu-ray are plentiful. In addition to the sterling and brightly
colorful transfer, there is a 35-minute documentary called The Ultimate Nightmare: the Making
of Curtains by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures. Key players
in the film take part in being interviewed as do those who worked behind the
scenes, particularly composer Zaza admitting his embarrassment at having his
name on the credits and wishing that he had been fired during the film’s
production, which is unfortunate given that his music does for Curtains what John
Williams did for Jaws (1975). There
is also a 15-minute documentary made at the time of shooting simply called Ciupka (pronounced
CHOOP-ka) and it features some behind-the-scenes footage on the set of Curtains.
is also a feature-length audio commentary moderated by Edwin Samuelson with
actresses Lesley Donaldson and Lynne Griffin and they are quite amusing to
listen to. Audio interviews with the late producer (courtesy of the Terror
Trap), actress Samantha Eggar (courtesy of yours truly), and the theatrical
trailer round out the extras.
has been written about the scenes that had been shot for Curtains which ended up
on the cutting room floor. Up until August 2009 these scenes existed but,
amazingly, the decision was made at that time to destroy them. Why the footage
sat in a vault for 26 years and was subsequently tossed in the era of DVD and
Blu-rays is an incident that is not only unfathomable to me but it raises the
question of who ordered the footage dumped. It doesn’t matter at this point,
but I am grateful that the original source materials survived so that we all
can see Curtains
the way it was intended. Although I have been a fan of the film for 28 years, I
feel as though I am really seeing it for the first time.
Film noir wasn’t just
relegated to American Hollywood films of the forties and fifties. It was
something of an international movement, albeit an unconscious one, for it
wasn’t until the late fifties that some critics in France looked back at the
past two decades of crime pictures and proclaimed, “Oui! Film noir!”
was doing it, too. Carol Reed’s 1947 IRA-thriller-that-isn’t-an-IRA-thriller Odd Man Out is one of the best examples
of the style. Robert Krasker’s black and white cinematography pulls in all the
essential film noir elements—German
expressionism, high contrasts between dark and light, and tons of shadows. Other
noir trappings are present, such as stormy
weather, night scenes, exterior locations, bars, shabby tenements, a lot of smoking,
and a crime. And, for a movie to be “pure noir,”
there must not be a happy ending. Odd Man
Out fulfills that last requirement with shocking bravura.
Mason stars as Johnny, the leader of “the organization” in an unnamed Northern
Ireland city; it isn’t difficult to connect the dots and assume the
organization is the IRA and the city is probably someplace like Belfast (where
much of the second unit photography was done on the sly; the rest of the film
was shot in studios and locations in England). Johnny escaped from prison a few
months back and has been in hiding, secluded in a house with his girlfriend
Kathleen (the beautiful Kathleen Ryan) for months. He has gathered a small gang
to rob a mill for money to support their cause. The problem is that Johnny has
gone a bit “soft,” and isn’t properly prepared for the job. Nevertheless, the
four men pull off the caper, but of course it goes wrong. Johnny is shot in the
shoulder, he unwittingly kills a man in self defense, and he is separated from
the other gang members. The rest of the film is a D.O.A.-style story of the next twenty-four hours or so as Johnny
eludes capture from the police on the streets, all the while losing blood and
his life. So we know he’s probably not going to make it and we wait for the
inevitable—but what happens until that fateful ending (which manages to
surprise us anyway with an unexpected twist in how it’s done) is incredibly
Odd Man Out is one of the most
engaging and thrilling British films of the 20th Century. Period. It certainly
rivals Reed’s The Third Man, which is
also an excellent model of British noir.
Mason is terrific as he stumbles around the streets, delusional and suffering,
practically bouncing from one obstacle to another with no safe haven in sight.
Other familiar British and Irish faces crop up—Robert Newton, Cyril Cusack, Dan
O’Herlihy, F. J. McCormick—and Kubrick fans might recognize a younger Paul
Farrell (the tramp from A Clockwork
Orange) as a bartender named Sam.
new high-definition digital restoration looks marvelous, naturally. Once again,
the company’s mastering for Blu-ray outdoes the competition. The image is sharp
and without blemishes for the most part, and appears as if the film was made
yesterday. Extras include a new interview with British cinema scholar John Hill
on the picture; “Postwar Poetry,” a new short documentary; a new interview with
music scholar Jeff Smith about composer William Alwyn and his gorgeous score; a
nearly-hour-long 1972 documentary featuring James Mason revisiting his hometown
in Ireland; and a radio adaptation of the film from 1952, starring Mason and
O’Herlihy. The essay in the booklet is by critic Sara Smith.
of these supplements are very good, but the reason to run out and buy this
Blu-ray release is the film itself. Odd
Man Out is a landmark crime picture with wonderfully eccentric Irish
characters, lush atmosphere, and film
noir traits galore. Highly recommended.
It's a little late in the day to extol the virtues of the Papermill Playhouse's production of "Hunchback of Notre Dame" which has its last performance on April 5, but since the show is being groomed for Broadway, it's relevant to point out that the production is simply magnificent. (The play premiered at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego last fall before moving here.) Upon entering the Papermill, we took our seats in front row, center....generally the best in the house. However, there was concern because the entire stage now had a massive new floor temporarily built on top of it. The result of this was the "new" stage not only extending practically into our seats but also having the effect of "elevator shoes"....it was a good foot above where the normal stage rose. My concern was that everyone would have to crane their necks to see what was going on directly in front of them- and indeed some of those attending who were not very tall found it necessary to sit on their coats in an attempt to elevate themselves enough to see the action. Whatever grumbling may have occurred was subdued because of the sight that stood before our eyes: a massive, ingenious example of production design that ranked among the most impressive I had ever seen. Clearly, we knew this would be a memorable theatrical experience- and it was. The reaction became even greater when we first see Quasimodo, who is hanging on a rope attached to a set of descending giant bells. The effect is breathtaking and the reason for the new stage floor would become apparent, as massive edifices as wheeled in and out of scenes throughout the production. The staggering weight would have crushed the existing stage floor.
The new show, under the inspired direction of Scott Schwartz,is a unique production that combines the key elements of Victor Hugo's classic 1831 novel with songs by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz that appeared in Disney's animated film version and, in the process, reworks the original German 1999 production of this musical. (Peter Parnell wrote the book for the new version.) It should be mentioned that, although this production boasts memorable songs from the Disney film, this is not a feel-good experience and kids may well walk away more upset than entertained. (It notably is not recommended for kids under age 12, per a disclaimer on the show's advertising.) That's because Hugo's book presents us with one of the most tragic protagonists in literary history: Quasimodo, the deformed illegitimate son of a Frenchman of good standing and a Gypsy girl, both of whom die shortly after the baby is born. The infant's uncle is Dom Claude Frollo, the top priest at Notre Dame cathedral. He is appalled by the disfigurement of the child that he has taken into his care, but he is also ashamed. He raises the boy within the confines of the bell tower, where young Quasimodo receives an education but has been completely isolated from the bustling city of Paris, which he can only observe from the tower. His sole function is to chime the enormous bells on schedule. One day, Quasimodo slips into the streets to experience the annual "Feast of Fools", a one-day event during which the city's most undesirable elements are allowed to run rampant and indulge themselves in any vices they desire. Quasimodo no sooner enters the crowds than he becomes the object of cruel mockery and torture for the amusement of others. He is rescued by the one person who shows him an act of kindness: the beautiful gypsy girl Esmeralda. She escorts him back to the cathedral where she is initially met with disdain by Frollo, who informs her that gypsies are not welcome in the church. However, he can't help but be smitten by her beauty and changes his tune when he makes a blatant attempt to seduce her. She rebuffs him and the humiliated Frollo plots to have her arrested on charges of witchcraft. Esmeralda goes into hiding and receives protection from Frollo's own Captain of the Guards, Phoebus de Martin, who becomes a wanted man himself because of his desire to save Esmeralda from the clutches of Frollo. In the course of the story, Quasimodo proves himself to be smarter than anyone had anticipated...and a man of great courage, as well. He not so secretly loves Esmeralda but realizes their relationship can only be platonic. Yet, he risks his life to in attempt to save her from the death sentence Frollo has condemned her to suffer.
As you might surmise from the synopsis, "Hunchback" is a morbid affair. Yet, it is a stirring production that doesn't need artificial sentiment to rouse the emotions of the audience. The cast is simply brilliant. Ciara Renee is radiant as Esmeralda and Andrew Samonsky makes for a dashing hero as her protector/lover. However, the two most impressive performances are given by Michael Arden and Patrick Page as Quasimodo and Frollo, respectively. Arden is simply amazing. He walks on stage as a handsome young actor and in front of our eyes turns himself into the afflicted Quasimodo without the benefit of a mask or makeup. He achieves this by contorting his face and maintaining that effect through the entire play (in addition to jumping on bell ropes and performing acts of derring-do"). Page is also highly impressive, playing a man decades older than his actual age and possessed of a voice that is truly a thing of beauty. There are at least thirty other actors and extras, making this the largest cast I've seen in a stage production in many years. If there is a criticism of this ambitious show, it's that there isn't a single standout song. They are all good, but none of them are great. Most are designed to advance the drama as opposed to having audiences hum them while exiting the theater.
The Papermill Playhouse is arguably the most acclaimed regional theater in the nation. This production of "Hunchback" proves why. My bet is that this production will find a home on Broadway. When it does, make sure you catch it.
(For more about the history of this musical, click here)
Rudolph directed two forgotten horror flicks in the early seventies before joining
Robert Altman’s team; he served as Altman’s assistant director and in other
positions for several years. In the interim, Altman produced Rudolph’s third
feature film, Welcome to L.A., which
premiered in 1976 and was released to the general public in the spring of 1977.
best work is obviously inspired by Altman’s method of telling the personal
stories of an ensemble of quirky and neurotic characters over a sprawling
canvas (M*A*S*H, Nashville, A Wedding, Short Cuts, for example). Rudolph’s Welcome to L.A. does just that, only this
writer/director’s style is even more loosey-goosey than Altman’s. Rudolph’s
approach is much more poetic, slower, and dreamier. More serious, too, I might
Carradine plays Carroll, a character much like the guy he played in Nashville—a songwriter who is coolly
arrogant and a cad, but all the women love him anyway. He’s been living in
England when his agent and former lover, Susan (Viveca Lindfors), hooks him up
with singer/musician Eric (Richard Baskin, who wrote all the film’s songs); so
Carroll comes back home to L.A. He doesn’t get along with his millionaire
father (Denver Pyle), but manages to seduce his father’s girlfriend,
photographer (Lauren Hutton). Throw in the realtor of his rented house (Sally
Kellerman), a seriously-disturbed and unhappy housewife (Geraldine Chaplin), and
a wacky housekeeper who vacuums topless (Sissy Spacek), and we’ve got a real
merry-go-round of one-night-stands (in fact, one of the songs beats us over the
head that they’re “living in the city of the one-night-stands”).
are other men, too—Harvey Keitel is quite good as Chaplin’s husband, who
happens to work for Pyle and has his sights set on some co-stars, and John Considine,
who is married to Kellerman—he, too, manages to have dalliances with other
female cast members. The entire movie’s “plot,” as it were, is how all of these
characters will hook up with the others in the space of a few days.
what the movie is really about is
loneliness. These people are middle-to-upper-class Hollywood types and they’re
caught in the malaise that Los Angeles of the mid-seventies had become (and
Rudolph’s filmmaking smacks of the 1970s in look and feel—not that this is a
bad thing). The picture seems to be saying that even if you’re rich and
beautiful/handsome and talented, you still need love and connection—but
unfortunately, the one-night-stand mentality is a dead end, as many of the
characters learn. And Carradine’s character, something of an omniscient
angel/devil, floats through this world caring about nothing but himself, but
therein lies a central truth—this guy is the unhappiest of them all.
film is beautifully shot, and if you can get past the somewhat now-pretentious
and arty device of people looking into mirrors and delivering soliloquies, you
may be impressed with the mise-en-scene.
Some folks, I remember, criticized Baskin’s songs and singing as being
annoying; on the contrary, I’ve always found the movie’s soundtrack to be very
well done. After all, the point of the picture is that it’s a musical journey
through vignettes that dramatize the lonely search for interconnection.
film is available as an MGM burn-to-order title. A card before the movie claims that the transfer was made from the “best
sources possible,” which means they probably used an existing print rather than
negatives to strike the DVD. Colors have faded significantly and the image
looks rather drab, which is unfortunate.
Nevertheless, if you’re a fan of Rudolph, or Altman, and you want to experience
something different that was hitting the art house circuit in the
mid-seventies, take a look. I would place Welcome
to L.A. near the top of Alan Rudolph’s idiosyncratic, but usually quite
and sexy housewife Ellen (Gigi Darlene) likes nothing more than taking out the
trash in her neglige. Unfortunately this turns the janitor into a rapist, who
gets his comeuppance when she kills him in self-defence. Instead of telling her
husband what happened, Ellen goes on the run and finds that the world is a
cruel place to sexy outlaws. Ellen moves from abusive situation to abusive
situation before coming perilously close to being caught by a detective. Is
Ellen a victim, or does her penchant for nudity mean she really is a "Bad
Wishman is a somewhat fascinating character. Almost fifty by the time she
directed her first film, she started out with "nudie cuties"; tame,
often comical films mainly shot in nudist camps. These films, including Nude
on the Moon (1961) and Gentlemen Prefer Nature Girls (1963) feature
the kind of corny plot-lines and creaky acting that would have seemed dated in
1940s B features. However, working outside the studio system and therefore not
worried about the Hollywood Production Code, what Wishman could do was shoot
boobs. Lots of boobs. The nudist camp film had grown in popularity in both the
US and Europe during the late 1950s and no matter how bad these were, they
would always make money. As her films became more violent and exploitative they
became known as "roughies". Women were generally the victims of male
aggression and subjugation, and there was a focus on rape and violence. Bad
Girls Go to Hell (1965) falls into this latter category, and it is often
hailed as one of the sleaziest films ever made. What was perhaps unusual was
the fact that Wishman was a female director working in a very male-dominated
genre. Her films can be seen as more than just sexploitation, and Wishman gives
her female characters a sense of power and freedom. Despite the degradation
they go through, the women in her films often win out over the men. Sadly, in
this particular film, the ending suggests that women will always be victims, and
it could even be their own fault. Doris Wishman was a controversial filmmaker,
and this film is unlikely to win her many feminist admirers. She went on to
achieve permanent infamy with the pair of films Double Agent 73 and Deadly
Weapons (both 1974), featuring the uniquely-endowed Chesty Morgan killing
men with her enormous assets.
DVD of Bad Girls Go to Hell has been put out by Apprehensive Films, and
the print is the same found on Something Weird's earlier release. It is a
surprisingly good picture for such a low budget grindhouse film. It is a real
slice of the greasy underbelly of 1960s American life. The soundtrack is also
fun, featuring some great 1960s instrumental pop. This DVD features an awful
short film which has nothing to do with Doris Wishman, and left this reviewer
confused as to it's inclusion. Also featured are some trailers for other
Apprehensive Films DVDs, mostly of the obscure exploitation variety and again,
not related to this film at all.
eleven-year old Indian girl is sold by her father to a thirty-year-old man for
a cow and a rusty bicycle. Torn from her mother’s arms the child is taken home,
beaten, raped and turned into a slave, all the while being abused and taunted
by the local villagers because she is from a lower caste. She runs away and
tries to go home, but is looked upon as an outcast. In a society where women are considered lower
than cattle, she grows up enduring terrible punishment, including more
beatings, rapes and eventual homelessness. She is kidnapped by bandits falls in love with the bandit leader and becomes
a legend known throughout India as “Bandit Queen,” stealing from the rich and
giving to the poor. She kills the 21 men she accused of gang-raping her, and
surrenders to authorities before a crowd of 10,000 supporters. She serves 11 years
in prison and when freed, runs on her popularity as a champion of the poor, and
is elected to Parliament, only to be assassinated by a member of a higher caste
at age 37.
is the story of Phoolan Devi, played as an adult by Seema Biswas, and although
it sounds like something that happened hundreds of years ago in a dark age of
ignorance and cruelty her story took place in India, between 1963 and 2001. She
was 37 years old when she died. Some of the things that happen in Shekar
Kapur’s biographical film “Bandit Queen” (1994) were disputed by the Indian
government, which sought to have the film banned. Even Devi sued to block the
film’s release, claiming it made her look too much like a “sniveling woman.”
But if only half the incidents portrayed in the movie are true, it is not only an
unflinchingly realistic drama of a woman’s guts and determination to survive
and overcome unbelievable adversity, it is also a searing indictment of a
nation whose laws and culture create an environment where such things can
happen. One can only hope that the situation in the rural areas of India, where
this story occurred, have improved by now.
indictment starts at the top, by attacking the mindset and religious beliefs
that permit a social system that divides people into upper and lower castes.
The film begins with a quote from a sacred Hindu text that states: “Animals,
drunks, illiterates, low castes and woman are worthy of beating.” The
powerlessness of women is shown when the 11-year old girl’s mother can only
watch in sorrow as her daughter is taken away and again when the bridegroom’s
mother can only sit silently outside the room listening to Phoolan’s screams as
her son beats and rapes the child.
film is deliberately infuriating and at times difficult to watch. And if all
Kapur wanted to do was create a diatribe against India’s caste system, and
extol the virtues of its central character, it wouldn’t be much of a film. But
his theme is larger. As he explains in audio commentary provided on the disc,
the central vision that guided him through what he admits was a challenging and
difficult movie to make, can be summed up in two words: oppression and
survival. No matter how difficult Phoolan’s circumstances became, she never submitted
to it willingly. Through everything she maintained an inborn defiance, and a
spirit of rebellion that got her through it all, though at considerable cost.
the middle of the film she falls in love with her bandit gang co-leader, but by
now she cannot stand the touch of a man. At first all she can do to respond to
him is to hit him and let him hit her back. He understands her psychology and
eventually breaks through to her. But by
now her mind is saturated with revenge and blood lust because of all the
hardships she endured and the climax of the story comes when she orders the massacre
of the 21 higher-caste men in a village who raped her. Significantly, in almost
a Sam Peckinpah-ish touch, Kapur has a naked baby standing at a well crying in
the midst of the carnage. It’s a telling image.
Time has released a limited edition BluRay of “Bandit Queen.” The image is for
the most part sharp and clear though some night scenes had too much grain,
which are probably in the original film elements The only special features are
the director’s audio commentary and a separate track containing the score by
composer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. There is also a booklet containing an
informative essay by Julie Kirgo.
film has ever presented such a realistic, disturbing, and uncompromising
portrayal of oppression and survival than “Bandit Queen.”
Just in case you thought the good folks at Vinegar Syndrome only release version of vintage porn flicks, it may come as news that they are also providing another valuable social service: remastering long-forgotten grind house "classics". Case in point: "The Muthers", a 1976 gem that plays out like the ultimate Tarantino fantasy. It's a combination of several genres: Women in Prison ("W.I.P", for the initiated), chop socky, sexploitation and blaxploitation. It doesn't get any better than this if you were weaned on this glorious type of sleaze that played routinely on 42nd Street. Directed by cult "B" movie favorite Cirio Santiago, "The Muthers" is yet another low-budget flick from the era that was filmed in the Philippines. The movie opens with a memorable introduction to the titular characters. They are Kelly (Jeannie Bell) and her equally sexy sidekick Anggie (Rosanne Katon, Playboy's Miss September in 1978), who are female pirates with an all-male crew ("You go, girls!"). We see them aboard their high speed, armed vessel as they raid a tourist boat and grab the booty. (Since these are good pirates, no one gets hurt). We know the pirates go by the name of The Muthers because their vessel is adorned with a big sign that reads "The Muthers", in what must have been the first case of branding for high seas pirates. When they return to their Hole-in-the-Wall-like village, they are informed that Kelly's teenage sister has gone missing. They start trawling the waterfront bars and learn that she has been abducted by a human trafficking ring. Working with a government agent who wants to bring down the head of the ring, a notorious crime kingpin named Monteiro (Tony Carreon), Kelly and Anggie volunteer to be captured. They are brought to Monteiro's jungle prison camp, which is guarded by a virtual army of heavily-armed thugs. Here they find dozens of young women being kept in brutal conditions. They are forced to perform manual labor and are simultaneously being groomed for sale to a procurer of girls for international brothels. Kelly manages to get a fleeting glimpse of her sister before she learns the younger girl has made a desperate attempt to escape into the jungle- a strategy which goes tragically awry.
While in the camp, Kelly and Anggie meet Marcie (Trina Parks), another beauty who is regarded as a long-time veteran prisoner who knows all the ropes. Marcie introduces them to Serena (Jayne Kennedy), who is the privileged mistress of Monteiro (who also sleeps with his male guards). Anggie resents Serena for selling out in return for her soft lifestyle at the camp and derisively refers to her as a "house nigger". But Marcie informs her that Serena often provides what human compassion she can towards the prisoners. Ultimately, Kelly, Angie and Marcie enlist Serena in an audacious plan for them all to escape. They do so but Monteiro and his goons are in hot pursuit. As the women hide in the jungle, they face death from the elements, starvation and dangerous critters. In the film's best scenario, Marcie is bitten in the chest by a deadly snake. As Serena sucks the blood out, Marcie gets the movie's best line of dialogue: "Just like every other snake I've met-- won't leave my tits alone!" Although Parks, Kennedy and Katon frustrate male viewers keeping their clothes mostly intact, Bell delivers the goods with two (not one, but two!) gratuitous topless bathlng sequences. She also saunters around the tropical location clad in a long-sleeve turtleneck shirt, the absurdity of which is overshadowed by the fact that she is conspicuously bra-less. The film climaxes with double crosses, a big shootout between the "good" pirates and Monteiro's forces, with machine gun slinging chicks also going hand-to-hand with the villains. (Yes, everybody is kung-fu fighting.) At one point in the movie, Bell gets to swing vine-to-vine a la Tarzan. As low grade action films go, it doesn't get much lower or better than this- and it's all set to a typically funky '70s disco score.
Jeannie Bell displays why the questionable choice of wearing a long-sleeve turtleneck in the tropics has its good points.
The Vinegar Syndrome release has undergone a 2k restoration from the original 35mm negative, making it yet another one of their titles that probably looks infinitely better today than it did upon its initial release. An appropriately cheesy trailer is also included that doesn't even credit the actresses, though perhaps they consider that to be a positive.
Released in 1962, Boy's Night Out was considered to be a rather racy comedy that touched upon sexual infidelity in the era when June and Ward Cleaver represented the average American household. The story centers on four businessmen- James Garner, Tony Randall, Howard Duff and Howard Morris- who indulge in a weekly night out that consists of nothing more daring than having some drinks and discussing sex. In a moment of deviancy, they decide to chip in and rent a plush Manhattan apartment, with Garner- the only bachelor of the group- acting as the beard and putting the lease in his name. They then intend to hire a hot blonde to service them on different nights of the week. The plan seems to work swimmingly. The apartment is rented and the requisite blonde (Kim Novak) appears ready, willing and able to indulge. What they don't know is that Novak is actually a student working on a thesis about sexual habits of the typical suburban male. She concocts various ways to ensure that each of her paramours never consumates the relationship, yet all the while maintaining the persona of a woman of easy virtue.
The plot becomes as predictable as yesterday's news as each of the men tries to con his friends into thinking he's had sex with Novak, when, in fact, the relationships remain completely chaste. Complications occur when Garner falls head over heels for Novak, but believing she is a prostitute, can't bring himself to become seriously involved with her. Although the men are paper tigers in the lovemaking department, they are deceiving their wives and families about the boy's night out, which leads to feelings of guilt and remorse. What elevates this above standard sitcom fare of the era is the remarkable cast. Aside from the charismatic leads, the supporting players include Jim Backus, Fred Clark, Oscar Homolka, Jessie Royce Landis, William Bendix and Patti Page, whose warbling of the catchy title song became a major hit on the charts at the time. It's a fun romp, despite the cliches, and Howard Morris, in his big screen debut, is most amusing in the role of an everyday guy. Henceforth, he would primarily play complete eccentrics on TV and in film as well as earn a reputation as a top comedy director. Novak is stunningly beautiful, and the fashions she wears accentuates the fact that they don't make leading ladies like this any more.
of the late, great Ingmar Bergman’s skills as a filmmaker was to write and
direct memorable roles for women. He was one of the few directors, such as Ford
or Altman or Allen, who repeatedly relied on a “stock company” of actors
throughout his career. While there were many wonderful male actors who worked
for Bergman (Max von Sydow, Erland Josephson, Gunnar Björnstrand),
we generally remember the women—Liv Ullmann, Harriet Andersson, Ingrid Thulin,
Eva Dahlbeck, Bibi Andersson, among many—for baring their souls on screen in
Bergman’s challenging, difficult works that always elevated the art of film to
Cries and Whispers is an excellent
example of the power of the female actor. It’s essentially a four-woman chamber
piece, taking place in the late 1800s in Sweden, about three sisters and a
servant, their relationships to each other, to their pasts, and to their stance
on mortality. It stars (in alphabetical order) Harriet Andersson, Kari Sylwan,
Ingrid Thulin, and Liv Ullmann, and it is arguably Bergman’s most well-known
picture in the U.S. It premiered in late 1972 but its general release was in 1973,
thus qualifying it for the ’73 Oscars. It’s Bergman’s only film to be nominated
for Best Picture (as opposed to Foreign Language Film), competing against the
likes of The Sting (which won), The Exorcist, American Graffiti, and A
Touch of Class (how did that one
get in there?). Bergman was nominated for Director and his Original Screenplay.
Despite all that, one could argue that the real star of the film is Sven
Nykvist, whose cinematography did win
the Oscar that year, and deservedly so.
one of Bergman’s few films in color, one must recognize the difficulty Nykvist
had in photographing rooms that were entirely red—red walls, red carpeting, red
furniture, red bedspreads—with touches of white in the drapes, clothing, fine
china, and sheets. Contrasting these intense shades with the flesh tones of
human beings and making it all work, especially in the early 70s, is nothing
short of remarkable. Thankfully, The Criterion Collection has seen fit to
upgrade their original DVD release to Blu-ray, and the results are absolutely
gorgeous. The new 2K digital restoration is superb.
the surface, the story seems simple—Agnes (Andersson) is dying of cancer. Her
two sisters, Karin and Maria (Thulin and Ullmann), are holding vigil and
waiting for the inevitable to happen, but it is the servant, Anna (Sylwan, who
made her extraordinary film debut with the picture) who does all the
caretaking. The four performances are gut-wrenching. Ullmann actually plays a
dual role as the sisters’ mother in flashbacks, and there are men on the
periphery as well, including Bergman regulars Erland Josephson and Anders Ek.
the movie’s 91 minutes, Bergman explores these women’s fears, loves,
prejudices, and faiths through flashbacks, dreams, and conflict with each other
and themselves. Never in Bergman’s work was the influence of playwright August
Strindberg more palpable, but there is a great deal of Anton Chekhov at play
here as well. This is serious, complex, soul-searching—and soul-shattering—stuff.
rather grueling, doesn’t it? Well, it is, but that doesn’t make it any less
entertaining. The director’s use of the color red is fascinating—film scholars
have interpreted it to represent the “inside of the womb,” or perhaps the
“color of the soul.” For me it’s the interior of the heart, and it’s a
simultaneously warm and cold one. For, ultimately, what the movie is about is
the pain that we can cause our loved ones, the very people for whom we are
supposed to provide solace.
extras include a wonderful new and revealing interview with Harriet Andersson
conducted by Bergman scholar Peter Cowie. There’s a 2001 introduction to the
film by Bergman. “On Solace,” by the terrific video essayist ::kogonada, dissects
the three acts of the film. There are thirty minutes of behind-the-scenes
footage narrated by Cowie, the theatrical trailer, and the port-over from the
original DVD release, Ingmar Bergman:
Reflections on Life, Death, and Love with Erland Josephson, a fifty-two
minute dialogue between the director and actor. The booklet contains an essay
by film scholar Emma Wilson.
you’re debating whether or not to upgrade from Criterion’s original release,
the answer is a resounding YES. If you’ve never seen Cries and Whispers, then you’re missing an essential piece of
Éléphant ClassiQ: Movies that have marked the history ofcinema In
Montréal from November 19 to22
Montréal, March 18, 2015 — Quebecor and Éléphant: The memory of Québec cinema are pleasedto announceanewevent:ÉléphantClassiQ,theonlyfestivalofitskindinCanada,willscreenclassicfilmsfromaroundtheworldonthebigscreen.Itsthemewillbelesfilmsquiontfaitlecinéma
(movies that have marked the history
This year’s edition will be held as a separate event on November 19, 20, 21 and
22, 2015at threetheatres:theImperialCinema,SalleClaude-JutraattheCinémathèquequébécoiseandSallePierre-Bourgault
at UQAM. It will give film buffs an opportunity to experience great films of
thepast from Québec andelsewhere.
what it means to be human and give us a new take on ourselves. They truly area kaleidoscope of marvels.” Claude
Fournier and Marie-José Raymond are steering the ambitiousevent with the help of a dedicated team
“Quebecorisproudtohelpbringourcinematoawideraudience,”saidPierreDion,PresidentandCEOofQuebecor.“Forus,ÉléphantClassiQisanotherwaytomakerestored,digitizedfilmsbetter knownandmoreaccessible–notonlymoviesfromQuébec’scinematicheritagebutclassicfilms from the worldover.”
2015 edition of the festival will feature movies from the French-speaking
world. Restoredclassic films from
France, Belgium, Switzerland, Africa and Québec will be shown with Englishsubtitles. Éléphant ClassiQ will
also offer master classes and opportunities to meet distinguished filmpeople. Thesuperbfilmsontheprogramwillgiveyoungpeopleachancetodiscoverimportantworksand
thenot-so-youngachancetoreliveindeliblememories.ÉléphantClassiQisbeingpresentedin partnership with Université du Québec à Montréal and in cooperation
with theCinémathèque québécoise.
The memory of Québeccinema
Éléphant:ThememoryofQuébeccinema,launchedbyQuebecoronNovember8,2008,isalarge- scaleprojectdedicatedtorestoringanddigitizinginHDQuébec'sheritageoffeaturefilms,andmaking it available as it is digitized.
To date, nearly 225 films have been restored and digitized. It isa particularsourceofpridetoÉléphantthatthefilmscanbeviewed24hoursaday,7daysaweek.
website at www.elephant.canoe.ca
contains the largest existing databaseand informationbankonQuébeccinema.AlsoproducedundertheaegisofÉléphant,thebookLes imagesquenoussommes,60ansdecinémaquébécoisbyanthropologistSergeBouchard(Éditions de l’Homme) provides an original
and incisive history of 60 years of Québec cinema. It is availableinbookstoresandindigitalformat.Thedigitalversion,availableoniTunes,includes73movieexcerpts.
Éléphant: The memory of
Québec cinema is
fully funded by Quebecor. It is a philanthropicenterprisefromwhichQuebecorderivesnofinancialbenefit.Asidefromasmallamounttocoveraportionof
theplatform’soperatingcosts,allrevenuesfromdistributionofthemoviesonillicogoestothe rights holders andfilmmakers.
Canadian leader in telecommunications, news media, entertainment and culture,
isone of the best-performing
integrated communications companies in the industry. Driven bytheir determinationtodeliverthebestpossiblecustomerexperience,allofQuebecor’ssubsidiariesand brandsaredifferentiatedbytheirhigh-quality,multiplatform,convergentproductsandservices.
Quebecor(TSX:QBR.A,QBR.B)isheadquarteredinQuébec.Itholdsa75.36%interestinQuebecor Media, which
employs nearly 14,000 people inCanada.
A family business
founded in 1950, Quebecor is strongly committed to the community. Every year,it actively supports people working with
more than 400 organizations in the vital fields of culture, health, education,
the environment andentrepreneurship.
The word of mouth on this 1947 Warner Brothers thriller is that it was a disappointment at best and an outright dog at worst. The powerhouse teaming of superstars Humphrey Bogart and Barbara Stanwyck seemed to promise more than audiences and critics felt the film delivered. Consequently, it's generally put near the bottom rung of achievements in both star's careers. In viewing the Warner Archive DVD release, I had few expectations regarding its merits. However, I came away pleasantly surprised. This is a superior, moody and atmospheric film with both Stanwyck and Bogart at their best. Bogart had long played villains, but this is one of the most complex and fascinating characters he has ever brought to life. The movie is based on a hit stage play and its stage origins are quite apparent: it's quite a claustrophobic affair, with only a single sequence shot outside of the WB back lot. However, because most of the story takes place within the confines of a mansion, the lack of wide open spaces only enhances the atmosphere.
Bogart is cast against type as Geoffrey Carroll, a sophisticated and successful painter who has one weakness: he is an incurable womanizer. The film opens with Carroll and his girlfriend Sally (Barbara Stanwyck) enjoying a romantic trip to the mountains of Scotland. While there, she discovers he is actually married and breaks off the relationship. Shortly thereafter, Carroll's wife dies, leaving him in custody of their precocious young daughter Beatrice (a remarkable performance by Ann Carter). Now a widower, Carroll resumes his relationship with Sally, telling her that his wife was an invalid who died from health problems. The couple marry and enjoy a life of privilege in a manor house in the English countryside. Carroll's career is thriving and things seem to be going well- until another woman, Cecily Latham (Alexis Smith) enters their lives. Sally recognizes instantly that her husband has been smitten and correctly suspects the two are having an affair. Jealousy and heartbreak turn to fear when she also begins to suspect that Geoffrey had murdered his former wife and might be planning to do the same with her. Adding to the complexities is a local chemist who is blackmailing Geoffrey on the basis that he may have sold him the lethal mix that resulted in his first wife's death.
The Two Mrs. Carrolls has many similarities to Hitchcock's Suspicion including a key plot device involving a potentially fatal glass of milk served to the wife who may have been designated for murder. The film's primary strength is the genuine chemistry between Bogart and Stanwyck, who are terrific together. The suspense builds gradually to a chilling conclusion. Bogart is especially good in this film, which allows him to break some new ground as an outwardly charming, but narcissistic personality who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Alexis Smith smolders as the bad girl who pretends to be Sally's friend so she can enjoy the company of her husband. There is also a very competent cast of supporting actors including the always reliable Nigel Bruce, playing a bumbling doctor in a role that doesn't veer very far from his portrayal of Doctor Watson in the Sherlock Holmes films. Director Peter Godfrey keeps the action flowing at a brisk pace and the movie is enhanced by a typically impressive score by Franz Waxman.
This writer is one of the few who will defend this film, but my belief is that, while it is certainly not a classic for the ages, it stands up well as consistently good entertainment. By all means, you could do worse than spend a couple of hours with Mr. Bogart and Ms. Stanwyck.
The burn-to-order DVD contains the original trailer.
One of the greatest achievements in John Wayne's career was his late career performance in director Mark Rydell's 1972 film "The Cowboys". The movie was a major hit for Warner Brothers but as acclaimed screenwriter Josh Olson points out in his analysis of the film on Joe Dante's "Trailers From Hell" web site, the flick never got the critical acclaim it deserved. The Vietnam War was still raging and Wayne's unapologetic support of it didn't sit well with the critical establishment.
Pressbook promotion for appearance by John Wayne at the film's opening at Radio City Music Hall.
In my humble opinion, the Duke was robbed of a well-deserved Oscar nomination for his superb performance as an aging cattleman who is so desperate to get his herd to market that he hires a group of schoolboys as drivers. Along the way, the kids and Wayne experience humor, pathos, death and any number of life lessons, including a tragic confrontation with rustlers led by Bruce Dern, who brings to life one of the great villains in screen history. The film also features a gem of a performance by Roscoe Lee Browne as Wayne's companion and cook for the cattle drive. Both Dern and Browne should have also received Oscar nominations but "The Cowboys" had the misfortune of being released in January of 1972- and had all but faded from Academy member's minds by the time the nominations were being considered a full year later. It was also the same year that "The Godfather" dominated most of the major nominations. Nevertheless, as Josh Olson points out, the film's greatness continues to resonate today. (Oh, and there is a magnificent score by John Williams, as well.) Click here to watch the original trailer with or without Josh Olson's commentary track.
In SPECTRE, a cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on
a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M battles political forces to
keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal
the terrible truth behind SPECTRE. Sam Mendes returns to direct SPECTRE,
with Daniel Craig reprising his role as 007 for the fourth time. SPECTRE
is produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, from a script by John
Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade.
SPECTRE follows the release of SKYFALL, the biggest Bond
film of all time, which took in $1.1 billion worldwide. SPECTRE is
set for global release on November 6, 2015.
Cimino with Eastwood on the set of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.
Controversial Oscar-winning director Michael Cimino avoids interviews at all costs and hasn't spoken at length to a main stream publication in over a decade. However, Hollywood Reporter writer Seth Abramovitch convinced Cimino to engage in an extensive discussion of his career. The result is rather mesmerizing, as Cimino waxes about his passion for classic films (particularly those involving John Ford and John Wayne) and his respect for Clint Eastwood, who gave him his first job as director on the 1973 film "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot". In fact, Cimino spends a good part of the interview invoking Eastwood's name and praising him as one of the best filmmakers working today. However, he also goes into detail regarding the political aspects of his 1978 Oscar winner "The Deer Hunter" and laments the fact that he was painted as a right wing fanatic in the wake of the film's release. He also takes satisfaction in the reappraisal his massive 1980 boxoffice bomb "Heaven's Gate" is enjoying with both critics and audiences. At times sarcastic and even cynical, Cimino is nevertheless a fascinating character in his own right. (Oh, and he denies long-standing rumors that he is undergoing a sex change operation!). Click here to read.
his recent review of the Nitehawk Cinema’s splendid and rare 35mm showing of
the James Bond film, “A View to a Kill,” our intrepid correspondent Hank
Reineke was skeptical of a claim made that night that the movie played on its
first-run at Manhattan’s notoriously déclassé (circa 1985) Selwyn Theater on
West 42nd Street. According to a newspaper display ad from May
24, 1985, and held in his own files, Reineke determined that the only midtown
Manhattan theaters showing “A View to a Kill” on its original release were the
Loews Astor Plaza on West 44th, the Loews 84th Street Six, the Loews
New York Twin, the Loews 34th Street Showplace, and the Orpheum on
86th and 3rd Avenue.
Reineke’s metaphorical throwing down of the gauntlet (however accidental!), Joe
Berger, one of the presenters of the Nitehawk’s wonderful film series, “The
Deuce,” was quick to contact Cinema Retro to defend their claim. Berger,
in a friendly but firm manner – provided us with a scan from the Village
Voice newspaper from that same week in 1985. The listing leaves
little doubt the fourteenth James Bond did, in fact, play the Selwyn, as one part of a twin bill with “The House
Where Evil Dwells.” As Berger would go on to explain, the row of
aging theaters comprising “The Deuce,” such as the “Selwyn, Lyric, Harris, and
Liberty, VERY FREQUENTLY premiered A-list films on their regular release dates,
with a second, [and] sometimes third film as part of the cheaper ticket
price.” Berger explained that multi-bill attractions would, naturally,
bring in “a smaller box office gross” since all profits were now “split amongst
two or three titles.” But such campaigns were studio “loss leaders” to
some degree as distributors were aware a new film's presence on the Deuce would
“attract a younger, more 'inner-city' crowd.” The one stipulation for the
bargain, according to Berger, was “that the theatre COULD NOT advertise” their
showing through the usual marketing methods- such as a display in a print
The cinematic equivalent of the "smoking gun" tape that brought down President Richard Nixon: the vintage newspaper listing that proves "A View to a Kill" did indeed play on 42nd Street during its initial run.
for Reineke’s contention that the film played “two blocks north” of the Selwyn
at the Loews Astor, Berger went on to explain that the film’s distributor would
only want the Astor (and similar high-end cinema establishments) to be
prominently advertised as these venues could charge a “larger ticket price” for
“a single feature.” This, naturally, would result in greater
profits for all involved.
all sounds right to us. As a mea culpa, we intended to fire Reineke,
until we realized that he has been donating his services to us on an unpaid
basis. We were then going to sentence him to a terrible fate: 24 hours of
around the clock screenings of “The Man With the Golden Gun”- until we
remembered he likes the damned film. We’ve settled on making him watch Jerry
Lewis in “Which Way to the Front?” three times in succession (unless the
Supreme Court rules this is truly “cruel and unusual punishment.”)- Lee Pfeiffer
Variety reports that Bradley Cooper is in negotiations to direct the latest big screen remake of "A Star is Born". It is not known whether he intends to star, as well. The film was originally made in the 1930s with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. It was successfully remade in the 1950s with Judy Garland and James Mason. In 1976, Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson starred in a modern version of the tale that was largely reviled by critics but proved to be a major boxoffice success. In recent years, Cooper's "American Sniper" director Clint Eastwood announced plans to direct another remake of the film but plans went on hold when his star, Beyonce, dropped out of the project due to pregnancy. It would appear that Eastwood has now moved on from plans to be involved in this latest remake. It's also unknown whether Beyonce will be attached to the production. If it comes to fruition, this would make Cooper's directorial debut.
Those of us of a certain age will recall that, while kooky religious cults have always been part of the American experience, in the mid-to-late 1970s there seemed to go through a boom period. Seemingly every week a new fringe fad movement would emerge, many of which were steeped in inexplicable psycho-babble about helping adherents "find oneself" and enrich their "inner beings". During this period I was approached in a Jersey City bowling alley, of all places, by a card-carrying member of one such cult/religion, the name of which I have happily forgotten. Upon being asked to sign up for the movement, I decided to conduct a bit of an experiment to prove a point to my girlfriend (now wife): that the gullible people associated with these groups are just vulnerable souls who can be easily manipulated by virtually any person possessed with a modicum of self-assurance, charisma and determination. I responded to my would-be savior that I could not join her movement because I was a devoted Hestonite. I made the term up on the spot because the evening before, ABC-TV had shown their annual telecast of "The Ten Commandments". I explained that Charlton Heston was my Lord and Savior because I had seen him perform so many miracles. The baffled young lady logically pointed out that he was simply an actor, but in the course of a five-minute conversation I had somehow to get her to take my position seriously and to discuss in some detail why I believed Charlton Heston was my Lord and Savior. I was thoroughly enjoying the experience and wanted to see if I could go "all the way" with her and make her convert to my new-found religion. However, my girlfriend was getting fidgety and felt I had already proven my point. Besides, I guess there were people waiting for us to bowl with them, which seemed to be the priority at the moment. I still believe to this day that, had I been graced with another fifteen minutes of time, I would have signed up the first member of the Hestonite religious movement.
With each succeeding generation, unquestioning belief in established religions declines. (A recent poll shows that one third of Americans under the age of 30 are not affiliated with any specific religion.) Yet, there is still no shortage of 70's style "self-help" religions, all eager, if not desperate, to attract new adherents. It's easy to ridicule adherents to these causes as naive whack-jobs but in my own experience, those who buy into them tend to be sympathetic souls who are often trying to overcome some kind of personal crisis. They find solace in being accepted among other true believers. Without a doubt, the most controversial non-mainstream religion is Scientology, which is very much in the news of late because of director Alex Gibney's high profile new documentary, "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief", based on the best-selling book by Lawrence Wright. The film premieres on March 29 on HBO and has been the subject of countless news stories. I saw the "Going Clear" several weeks ago at an advance screening at the HBO building in New York. To say it's a powerful, thought-provoking experience would be an understatement.
The film traces the origins of the Scientology movement, which was started by successful science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. The movement was originally known as a self-help program called Dianetics and it caught on in the post-WWII era. The "bible" of this movement was Hubbard's own best-selling book. Hubbard enjoyed the fruits of his success, charging devotees to attend self-help seminars. However, over time, Dianetics, like most such groups, began to fade in popularity. Always one to improvise, Hubbard reinvented the movement under the name Scientology. Instead of concentrating entirely on lost souls, Hubbard implemented a plan to appeal as well to the well-heeled and financially successful - with a very special effort to attract celebrities. Hubbard must have been astounded by his own success. By the 1970s, Scientology had taken off and continued to grow, attracting influential movie and TV stars along the way. Hubbard's books- works of inspiration to some, the ravings of a con man/mad man to others, topped the bestseller lists. But there were still problems. Hubbard, who is alleged to have started the movement as a tax dodge, never remitted payments to the IRS. For years, the agency dogged him to the extent that he literally took off to sea as part of a newly-found division of Scientology known as the Sea Org (which is characterized in "Going Clear" as a virtual slave labor operation.) Presumably, those who chose to sail with him and indulge in manual labor along the way, were primarily on a mission to sail the globe and extol the virtues of Scientology. Gibney's documentary says his goal was a bit less lofty: he put to see because the IRS was after him to pay back up to a billion in back taxes. In an audacious move, Hubbard took on the IRS by having his disciples file thousands of frivolous law suits against the agency. Eventually, they prevailed and the IRS- simply to get out of the legal quagmire- granted Hubbard what he always desired: protection from taxes by declaring Scientology as a genuine religion. With that key controversial ruling, Scientology kicked into high gear. The church invested heavily in properties around the world and its current wealth (largely in real estate) is estimated to be over $3 billion. Hubbard was secretive man who rarely gave interviews. The film presents an extremely rare exception, with a vintage interview Hubbard gave for a British documentary. He comes across as likable, avuncular and perpetually smiling and jolly. However, critics say he was attracting troubled people to his movement and systematically isolating them from the world outside of Scientology. According to "Going Clear", Hubbard became like a real-life Bond villain: living in seclusion amid palatial splendor and enjoying unquestioning loyalty from his followers. When he died in 1986, so great was the Scientology cult of personality, that his successor as leader of the church, David Miscavige, could not bring himself to admit to Scientologists that he was actually dead. In one of many fascinating video clips that Gibney secured, Miscavige spins Hubbard's death as a personal choice, saying that he succeeded in reaching such a higher form of life that he felt compelled to shed his now useless human form. The assembled masses cheer in support of their leader's "transition" to a higher plane.
The Universal Vault series has released the 1964 comedy "The Brass Bottle" as a burn-to-order DVD title. The film was the inspiration for the hit TV series "I Dream of Jeannie" which starred Barbara Eden as the sultry title character. Eden appears as the female lead in the feature film, as well, but in a very down-to-earth role as Sylvia, the fiancee of aspiring-but-unsuccessful architect Harold Ventimore (Tony Randall). The premise of the plot is as old as the pyramids: Harold comes into possession of a large, ancient urn through which he unwittingly frees an ancient genie named Fakrash (Burl Ives), who had been imprisoned in there for 3,000 years after offending a nobleman who had magical powers. Fakrash is so delighted to be free that he uses all his efforts to make improvements in Harold's life starting with magically persuading a top real estate developer to hire the unknown architect to design an entire suburban housing development. Harold is initially delighted but soon discovers that every time Fakrash makes an improvement to his life, there is a corresponding disaster to offset it. This extends to his love life, as well. In an attempt to win over Sylvia's grumpy parents who disapprove of him, Harold plans a dinner party at his house. Thanks to Fakrash, however, when the fuddy-duddy parents and Sylvia arrive, the place has been transformed into a bachelor pad, complete with dancing harem girls and a group of Arabic musicians. Also on hand is a "gift" from Fakrash, a sexually aggressive, beautiful slave girl named Tezra (Kamala Devri). Appalled by the hedonistic atmosphere, Sylvia and her parents storm out. The remainder of the film involves Harold's desperate efforts to undo the "improvements" that Fakrash continues to enact on his behalf. Before long, Fakrash has turned his future father-in-law into a mule and also wreaked havoc on Harold's career.
"The Brass Bottle", directed with workmanlike efficiency by Harry Keller, is a modestly-budgeted affair that was shot primarily on the Universal back lot. The few exterior sequences include some very obvious rear screen projection, thus giving the feature film the look of a standard sitcom from the era. The primary attribute of the production is the inspired cast. Tony Randall, who by this point in his career had carved a niche as one of Hollywood's leading supporting players, gets a rare opportunity to get first billing. Barbara Eden is largely relegated to window dressing as his long-suffering fiancee. The film clearly belongs to Burl Ives, who is genuinely amusing as the genie who tries to accustom himself to life in the 20th century. He begins the film wearing traditional ancient garb and ends up in designer suits. Ives dominates every scene he is in as this marvelous character. The film also features two of the 1960's most popular on-screen grouches, the great Edward Andrews as Harold's would-be father-in-law and Parley Baer as Harold's prospective employer. Another reliable "grouch", Philip Ober appears as Harold's ill-tempered boss. (Harold has nothing but ill-tempered people surrounding him.)
The movie affords some mildly amusing moments and the "risque" elements are downright quaint by today's standards. (When presented with a live-in, gorgeous mistress who will do anything he commands, Harold can only think of how to get rid of her- a premise that is slightly less believable than that of a genie appearing from a brass bottle.) Randall is always a delight to watch and this rare showcase for him as a leading man is the primary reason to watch this otherwise pleasant but nondescript comedy.
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Okay, that's as close as we can get to invoking the memory of one of the most famous TV themes songs of all time, from the long-running crime show "Dragnet". By the mid-1950s, the program was a national sensation. In 1954, the success of the series inspired star and producer Jack Webb to exploit the show's popularity by bringing it to the big screen. TV-to-cinema adaptations would become commonplace in the years to come with shows such as Walt Disney's Davy Crockett and "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." converting episodes into feature films. However, in the case of the 1954 movie version of "Dragnet", Webb oversaw a completely new production shot in full color. In an era in which all TV programming was telecast in B&W, it was a real treat to see "Dragnet" in color on the big screen. Webb, who also directed the film, stuck to the basics and didn't stray far from the formula that had served him so well. The movie features the same trademark, clipped dialogue. Seemingly no one completes an entire sentence and virtually everyone smokes like a chimney. (Aside from Howard Hawks' "Hatari!", I have never seen so much smoking in one film.) Webb retains his bizarre mannerisms that made him a television icon: he speaks with machine gun fire-like rapidity and walks like he has a diving board under his suit jacket. Both his manner of movement and speech seem to emulate a robot, but you can't deny that the gimmick works: you can't take your eyes off him and he dominates every scene he is in (which is virtually all of them).
The movie opens with an effective sequence in which two hoods are walking through an empty field when a third hood comes out of nowhere and murders one of the men with a shotgun in a sequence that must have been considered rather brutal for the time. The murderer and the other man flee the scene and before you know it, Webb's Sgt. Joe Friday is on the scene with his Sancho Panza, Officer Frank Smith (Ben Alexander). They try to pick up leads but, frankly, within minutes I became rather confused about the relationship of three suspects they focus in on. Most of the labored script has Friday and Smith doggedly trying to build a case against the three hoods but the D.A. says the evidence is too circumstantial. They utilize a "hi tech" secret tape recorder in order to eavesdrop on the suspects. The scene is unintentionally amusing because the "micro recorder" is about the size of a lap top computer. They also enlist the assistance of a sexy police woman (Ann Robinson) who goes undercover to imply she'll go under the covers with one of the suspects. This notion of presenting a female police officer as brave, competent and equal to men is the one progressive factor in the dated screenplay. Friday's disdain for the niceties of the law is apparent. He doesn't consider the constitution to be a vital element of our society, but rather a necessary evil. Whenever he doesn't get his way, there is some eye-rolling, sighs and cynical comments. (In his review of the film, New York Times critic Bosley Crowther specifically noted Friday's obvious "distaste for the Fifth Amendment" and concluded he "is not a nice policeman to anticipate as a hero on the screen.") Most of the pedantic action consists of Friday and Smith tailing a suspect and harassing him day and night in a clear case of police brutality. But, hey, this was an era in which Sen. Joe McCarthy was considered a national hero for rooting out all the commies under all those beds, so Friday's tactics fit in well with the spirit of the day. The movie drags to a conclusion so limp and unsatisfying that I thought there was still another fifteen minutes of running time left. Nevertheless, taken as a museum piece, "Dragnet" is fun to watch, thanks to Webb's undeniable screen presence. The supporting cast includes Virginia Gregg as a dame from the other side of the tracks and Richard Boone as Webb's superior officer. (Young Dennis Weaver has a minor role, as well.) There is precious little humor in the film aside from some small talk between Webb and Alexander. Webb would considerably improve on this aspect of "Dragnet" when he brought the series back in 1967 with Harry Morgan well-cast as his humorous co-star.
The film has been released as part of Universal's burn-to-order program. The transfer is very good with exceptionally impressive color qualities. The movie would make a great double-feature with the 1987 comedy version of "Dragnet" featuring Dan Aykroyd's remarkable impersonation of Jack Webb.
Day of Anger is an enjoyable spaghetti western that top-lines a legend of the genre, Lee Van Cleef, as aging
gunfighter Frank Talby. In an attempt to regain his fearsom reputation, Talby shoots
and kills a local Sheriff. He then finds he must contend with his own young protégé, a street cleaner
Scott Mary (Giuliano Gemma), who happened to be the sheriff's close friend. The
climactic showdown finds Talby in a classic face off with his former pupil,
with each man knowing the other's every move and thought.
lively, intelligent western, notable for the chemistry between its charismatic
leads, some memorable action set-pieces (including a rifle duel on horseback
that has to be seen to be believed) and a jazzy Riz Ortolani score, is
presented here in an exclusive high-definition restoration from the original
Techniscope negative. Day of Anger remains a superior and much-loved Italian
western and was directed Sergio Leone’s original assistant, Tonino Valerii.
dual format release comes in both a High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and
Standard Definition DVD presentation. The set also contains two versions of the
film, the original Italian theatrical release and the shortened version that
was screened internationally. Day of Anger boasts visuals that are both impressive and detailed,
especially in close-up shots of Van Cleef’s
chiselled facial features. As you would
expect from this particular genre of film, colours are bright and vivid with
true, tanned skin tones. Director Valerii makes excellent use of the 2.35:1
Techniscope frame, without ever feeling the need to use extreme close ups -
unlike his original influence, Sergio Leone. The film has a minimal amount of
grain. Audio is presented in the
form of a clear, uncompressed mono track, with English or Italian soundtracks
on the longer cut and an English soundtrack on the shorter version. There are
also newly translated English subtitles for Italian audio track. The film
really benefits from the brand new restoration struck from the original 35mm
Techniscope camera negative. It is both clean and free of any major defects.
disc's extras are also enjoyable. They include a deleted scene, which in honesty,
is nothing more than an extension of an existing scene. There is a selection of
trailers (all in varying quality) which serve their purpose well. Then we get
to the really good stuff. There is a brand new interview with screenwriter
Ernesto Gastaldi, who reveals many interesting stories. Gastaldi speaks in his
native tongue (enthusiastically) with his responses presented in the form of
English subtitles. There is a previously unreleased 2008 interview with director
Tonino Valerii – a little less enthusiastic then Gastaldi – but it is
interesting nevertheless. The interview which is arguably the most engrossing
is that of Tonino Valerii’s biographer Roberto Curti – which is conducted in
English. Curti provides a fascinating insight into the director and provides
detailed analysis on films, the genre and Sergio Leone –all of which proves
Arrow’s superb packaging
again includes a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned
artwork by Reinhard Kleist and a detailed booklet featuring new writing on the
film by Howard Hughes (author of Spaghetti Westerns) and illustrated with
original poster designs. Fans of the genre will love it.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM THE ARROW VIDEO WEB SITE (UK-BASED)