I have a confession to make. In the unlikely event I’m put in a time
machine, sent back to the late spring/early summer of 1969 and given a free
pass to only one of two films presently showing at the local twinplex – the
choices being Stanley Kubricks’s 2001: a
Space Odyssey or Kinji Fukasaku’s The
Green Slime… Well, I admit with some degree of shame and embarrassment that
I would choose The Green Slime. I do not doubt for a moment the superiority,
intellectualism or visual majesty of the former over the latter. But I was eight and a half years old in the
summer of 1969 when my parents took me to 2001:
A Space Odyssey and I confess I was pretty much bored to tears. Arthur Clarke’s scenario was too obtuse for
my grade-school comprehension; the pacing of the film was funeral, the opening
bit with the apes and the obelisk bewildering. The outer space stuff, I admit, was pretty cool.
In any case, it was The
Green Slime and not 2001 that was
the talk of the school back in 1969. It
must be said that MGM marketed the film pretty aggressively. The campaign book for The Green Slime suggested theater-owners invest in the ballyhoo package
they had masterfully assembled, an over-the-top promotional “Go-Get ‘em Fright
Kit.” These kits included “1000 Galling Green Bumper Stickers, 2 Eye Catching,
Teeth-Gnashing Stencils, 2000 Greasy, Goggling, High-Camp Pop-Art Buttons in
Basic Gripping Green, and 250 Ghastly, Ghoulish, Gelatinous Green Slimes in Guaranteed to Nauseate
the Nefarious.” MGM also issued a 45rpm
record of the gnarly rock and roll song celebrating The Green Slime, causing all - of a certain age, at least - to
twist the volume knob to high on our AM radios.
If that wasn’t enough to piqué interest (and it was), the
film campaign also featured one of the greatest one-sheet movie posters I had
ever seen – perhaps, still one of the greatest. The closest I got to own a copy was when I skipped down to the local
tobacco and stationary store and picked up the September 1969 issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland. There in the racks was that month’s cover
girl in all of her 1960’s pop-art movie poster glory: a frightened Luciana
Paluzzi in a clear fishbowl space helmet struggling against the tentacle of a
giant, feral one-eyed space monster. True,
the poster would bear no relation to anything that actually would happen in the film, but that’s beside
the point. The fact is if you were a
dedicated, erudite reader of Film Comment
or American Cinematographer then 2001: A Space Odyssey was indisputably
the science-fiction film of the year. If
you were between the ages of 8-21 and a faithful reader of comic books and
monster magazines, The Green Slime
was the bomb… a “bomb” in the good way, of course.
In June of 1969, every American kid was already talking
about outer space. Though shot in 1968
at Toei Studios, Tokyo, Japan, The Green
Slime opened mid-week near my home just across the Hudson River from
Manhattan, on May 21, 1969. In less than
two month’s time, two of the three astronauts on NASA’s Apollo 11 mission would
walk on the surface of the moon for the first time in recorded history. The promotional department at MGM took every
advantage of public interest in the space-craze. Weeks following the film’s initial release - and
a mere month prior to the much anticipated NASA moon walk - the black and white
newspaper slicks for The Green Slime would
feature a new banner draped across the top of the ad copy: “Lunar Contamination Worries Washington: Will future moon landings expose our
astronauts to strange germs that could grow… AND GROW… into THE GREEN SLIME?”
In The Green Slime
actor Robert Horton plays Commander Jack Rankin, a neither particularly warm
nor likable character, but a guy with a reputation for getting things
done. He’s brought out of retirement by
an officer at the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) who pleads for his
cooperation in a time-sensitive demolition job. It seems as though there’s a six million ton asteroid, nickname Flora, hurtling directly in a trajectory
toward planet Earth. At its present rate
of speed, the asteroid will collide with the planet in approximately ten hours
time, so it’s pretty imperative that Commander Rankin get to work
The crusty astronaut is rocketed to the circular and
tubular Gamma 3 space station where
he and a small team will board yet another spacecraft and shuttle over to the
surface of the asteroid. They intend
blow the asteroid from its current trajectory through the use of a few
relatively small explosives. This
mission is accomplished, pretty handily I might add, but the real trouble starts
to brew when a small specimen of the asteroid’s green slime attaches itself to
the pants leg of one astronaut and is inadvertently transported back to C Block
of Gamma 3. The green slime soon begins to reproduce and
morph from the primordial ooze of its original state to a shuffling, green
fire-hydrant shaped creature with deep-recessed red eyes. Their long and groping tentacles electrocute any
hapless victim who happens to stumble across their whereabouts.
There are also some inter-personal fireworks aboard Gamma 3 when we learn that Rankin and the
ship’s Commander Vince Elliott (Richard Jaeckel) don’t particularly care for
one another. For starters, Elliott is
poised to marry the voluptuous Dr. Lisa Benson (Luciana Paluzzi), a beauty who
walks about the starship in a stylish silver lamè suit and was, apparently, a
jilted paramour of Commander Rankin. It’s difficult to determine why Paluzzi would have – now or at any other
time - any romantic interest in Rankin. While husband-to-be Vince Elliott might have his own testosterone-fueled
problems to work through, he comes off as someone you might enjoy having a beer
with. Conversely, and despite his
sun-tanned skin, chiseled profile, and sculptured brush of spray matted hair, Horton’s
Rankin is positively humorless and uncharismatic. He appears in the personage of a terminally
dour game show host.
The Hollywood Reporter states that George Clooney will direct a six-episode television adaptation of Joseph Heller's landmark anti-war book "Catch-22". Although set in WWII, the story resonated with readers during the height of the anti-Vietnam War protests. The movie was originally made into a star-studded feature film in 1970, directed by Mike Nichols. Clooney will also appear in the series playing the role of Col. Cathcart, who was portrayed in the film by Martin Balsam. No network has been attached to the production, which is currently being shopped around to various potential broadcasters. Click here for more.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from the Classicflix.com:
For one night only, fans of classic film noir will be
able to watch a free streaming World Premiere of the recently restored
thriller T-Men (1947) on Friday, November 24, hosted by ClassicFlix.
Anthony Mann's breakout film will be part of the home video label’s “Black and
White Friday,” which will be streaming the film in high definition on
their YouTube channel from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM PT*.
The ground-breaking film recently made its Blu-ray™ debut
after undergoing major restoration. The T-Men Special Edition
Blu-ray is loaded with bonus features and a 24-page booklet. During the
screening ClassicFlix will be hosting a giveaway of T-Men Special Edition via
their Twitter page, in addition to a special low-price
offering for fans who wish to buy the Blu-ray. Instructions on how to
participate in the giveaway will be posted in the YouTube comment section of
the stream that night.
Other recent releases from ClassicFlix include He
Walked by Night Special Edition, Crime of Passion and Fritz
Lang's You Only Live Once, all of which have received critical
acclaim for the quality of the restorations and unearthed bonus material.
*Content will only be available in the U.S.
Praise for T-Men Special Edition
"ClassicFlix’s Special Edition Blu-ray of T-Men is a
Glenn Erickson, CineSavant
“Absolutely recommended! A must-own for Noir
Gary Tooze, DVDBeaver
"Would that all black and white noirs from the 1940s
were blessed with such pristine and spectacular transfers! The grayscale is so
extraordinary that words can’t really do it justice..."
Matt Hough, HomeTheaterForum
"This is another great looking restoration and
transfer from ClassicFlix."
Jeffrey Kauffman, Blu-ray.com
About the Film:
When the trail goes cold on a counterfeit ring in Los
Angeles, Treasury agents Dennis O’Brien (Dennis O’Keefe) and Tony Genaro
(Alfred Ryder) are called upon to infiltrate the shadowy and dangerous
underworld of organized crime. Their only lead takes them to Detroit where they
convince mob kingpin Carlo Vantucci of their criminal pedigree and start piling
up clues to tie the Vantucci mob to the “tough, tight outfit” in L.A.
O’Brien and Genaro finally get a break when they learn a
former Detroit hood – The Schemer (Wallace Ford) – is on the outs with the
syndicate and has been demoted to pushing the fake paper in Los Angeles. Not
wasting a second, O’Brien heads to L.A. and tracks down his cigar-smoking
target, quickly duping the counterfeiter into being introduced to the
“higher-ups”. But the deeper O’Brien penetrates the organization, the more
harrowing the mission becomes for him and fellow T-Man Genaro, with their every
move being scrutinized and carrying the risk of deadly exposure.
A major box office success upon its release, T-Men holds
a special place in film noir canon not only as director Anthony Mann’s breakout
film, but as the initial pairing of the filmmaker and cinematographer John
Alton. Like none before them, their combination of highly stylized camera
set-ups, along with the brilliant uses of light and shadows, created the gritty
realism and visual tension that made their crime thrillers popular with critics
and movie patrons alike.
With a story by Virginia Kellogg (White Heat) and a screenplay
by John C. Higgins (Raw Deal), T-Men also features Charles McGraw,
Jane Randolph and, in a brief but key scene, June Lockhart.
· Audio Commentary by
biographer & producer Alan K. Rode
· Into the Darkness:
Mann, Alton and T-Men - Featurette with cinematographer Richard Crudo,
film critic & author Todd McCarthy, writer and film historian Julie Kirgo,
film historian & director Courtney Joyner and biographer & producer
Alan K. Rode
· A Director’s
Daughter: Nina Mann Remembers - An Interview with Nina Mann
· PLUS: A 24-page
booklet with an essay by author Max Alvarez (Author of The Crime Films of
Anthony Mann) featuring stills, posters and other production material
· The mono soundtrack
has been restored and is uncompressed (Blu-ray only)
Founded as an online retailer in 2007, ClassicFlix
launched its own home video label in early 2017 with a focus on restoring and
releasing long neglected classic films from the 1930s - 1950s on Blu-ray and
For more information about T-Men Special Edition and
other ClassicFlix releases please visit ClassicFlix.com.
Although it picked up significant honors at European film festivals, director Giuseppe Tornatore's 2013 indie drama/mystery "The Best Offer" only received limited release in art houses in North American and UK theaters and thus remains virtually unknown by most movie fans. It's a pity because Tornatore, the director of the much-revered "Cinema Paradiso", has fashioned a brilliant and mesmerizing film that achieves something rare in the modern movie industry: a highly original and offbeat concept. It's a movie packed with plots and subplots, eccentric characters and an increasingly fascinating mystery. In fact, the movie's many surprises also precludes me from providing all but bare bones details because to do otherwise would inevitably spoil some key plot points. Geoffrey Rush plays Virgil Oldman, a revered and highly celebrated figure in the upscale international art auction market. When Virgil presides over a sale of rare paintings, the art community pays special attention. His success has afforded him an opulent lifestyle. He lives in a plush apartment, dines at the best restaurants and seems to have a sizable bank account. However, Virgil is also a miserable, solitary figure who finds that his sense of narcissism has left him alienated and without any significant others in his life. He has only one person who can be regarded as somewhat of a friend: Billy Whistler, (Donald Sutherland), a failed artist but fellow lover of fine art, who conspires with Virgil in an audacious series of schemes. When obscure but potentially very valuable works come up in the auctions that Virgil orchestrates, he downplays their worth and has Billy act as a shill bidder. When the work is acquired for a relatively cheap price, Virgil takes possession and gives Billy a sizable fee for his part in the scheme. The only true joy Virgil derives from life takes place in an opulent hidden room in his spacious apartment (exactly where the film is set remains vague...at some points it appears to be London, at others times it might be Italy). Here, Virgil sits for hours sipping fine wine and silently admires the massive number of paintings he has acquired over the years. These inanimate objects act as his friends, family and lovers.
One day a seemingly routine phone call alters Virgil's in a dramatic way. A young woman, Claire (Sylvia Hoekes), calls him to say that she has recently inherited a house from her deceased parents and that it is filled with various works of art, some of which she suspects might be worth substantial sums. She asks if he will visit the house and evaluate them for potential auction pieces. When Virgil gets to the house, he finds it a shambles. Not only that, but the young woman isn't there to greet him. He recognizes some intriguing pieces among the rubbish but repeated attempts to meet with the woman fail, much to his frustration. The handyman employed at the house informs Virgil that he has worked there for years and has never seen her. She stays in touch with him by phone but eventually explains that he will never see her in the flesh because she suffers from a phobia that precludes her from leaving the solitude of her room if anyone else is in the house. Virgil becomes fascinated by the scenario and continues to make visits to the house, ostensibly to evaluate artwork but in reality, he is also accumulating pieces of a mysterious object that he hopes to have constructed in the expectation it might be quite valuable. He sneaks pieces out as he finds them and brings them to a young man, Robert (Jim Sturgess) who is undertaking the arduous task of trying to match up the odd pieces to make a coherent whole. Meanwhile, Virgil becomes increasingly obsessed by the elusive young woman who continues to avoid meeting with him even when they are both in the house at the same time. When they do ultimately meet, Virgil finds the obscure object of his desire is a beautiful young woman who is suffering from a severe form of agoraphobia. This is when the story kicks into high gear as Virgil becomes a combination father figure and would-be lover- all the while unable to control his obsession with her.
I will not reveal more about this strange, highly complex story line except to say that it consistently veers in directions you never expect, introducing plot elements that are thoroughly engrossing and which are matched only by the central characters, who are richly drawn by by director Tornatore, who also wrote the compelling screenplay. As the film progresses, it builds in suspense and will make you play a guessing game in your mind regarding what everyone's motives may be. The performances are uniformly superb with Geoffrey Rush nothing less than brilliant as the unlikable, yet somewhat sympathetic protagonist. Had the film received wider distribution, he undoubtedly would have received an Oscar nomination. Donald Sutherland in a key supporting role is also marvelous as is the cast of talented young actors. Kudos also to cinematographer Fabio Zamarion and production designer Maurizio Sabatini for their outstanding achievements on this production.
"The Best Offer" leads to a shattering conclusion that you may not see coming. It's a terrific movie and one of the best indie films I've seen in years. The DVD boasts a fine transfer but unfortunately is not a special edition. The only bonus feature is the trailer.
The Warner Archive has released the 1965 comedy "The Rounders" on Blu-ray. The film is primarily notable for the teaming of Glenn Ford and Henry Fonda, two estimable Hollywood stars who could be relied upon to play convincingly in both dark, somber dramas and frolicking comedies. "The Rounders" was directed and written by Burt Kennedy, who adapted a novel from by Max Evans. Kennedy was a veteran of big studio productions who worked his way from screenwriter to director. If he never made any indisputable classics, it can be said that he made a good many films that were top-notch entertainment. Among them: "Support Your Local Sheriff", "The War Wagon", "Hannie Caulder" and "The Train Robbers". While Westerns were Kennedy's specialty, he did have a prestigious achievement with his screenplay for Clint Eastwood's woefully underseen and under-praised 1990 film "White Hunter, Black Heart". It's not an insult to state that most of Kennedy's directorial efforts could be considered lightweight. They were not concerned with social issues and generally had a Hawksian emphasis on heroes who engaged in good-natured bantering ("The War Wagon" is the best example of this.) Those elements are in full display in "The Rounders" but the film never rises above the status of resembling an extended episode of a TV sitcom from the era. That isn't meant as a knock, considering how many good TV sitcoms were on the airwaves in 1965, but there is a rather lazy element to the production and one would be suspects that an old pro like Kennedy probably knocked off the script over a long lunch.
The film, set in contemporary Arizona, finds Ford and Fonda playing Ben Jones and "Howdy" Lewis (his real name is Marion, but he's too ashamed to admit it, which is a nice inside joke aimed at Fonda's old pal John Wayne, whose real name was Marion Morrison.) The two are middle-aged wranglers who make ends meet by "breaking" and taming wild horses. It's a rough-and-tumble profession that inevitably results in them being tossed around like rag dolls as they ride atop bucking broncos. However, Ben and "Howdy" are still the best in their profession, although their meager wages have left them with no tangible assets beyond a beaten-up pickup truck. Local land baron Jim Ed Love (Chill Wills) hires them to spend the winter in a dilapidated cabin in the mountains in order to round up stray horses and keep them safe until spring. The assignment means enduring harsh weather and complete isolation, but the pair need the money so they accept. Since Fonda and Ford are the stars, there's no chance of this evolving into a "Brokeback Mountain" scenario and the two spend time gazing at a poster that depicts a ridiculously sanitized hula girl, a symbol of Ben's long-time dream of moving to a tropical island. Much of the script centers on their trials and tribulations in attempting to break a particularly rebellious roan horse that defies conforming to their commands. It gets personal with Ben, who decides that at the end of winter, he will buy the horse from Love for the simple pleasure of taking him to a soap factory. The two men survive the winter and head off (with roan horse in tow) to the big rodeo, a stop they make every year in order to supplement their income by winning bucking bronco riding contests. Along they way they have a chance encounter with two sisters who happen to be exotic dancers (Sue Ane Langdon and Hope Holiday). They are amiable bubbleheads but after the men have been in the mountains sans female companionship for many months, they can't resist attempting to woo them. The family-friendly screenplay is quite timid when it comes to depicting adult sexual behavior. Ben and "Howdy" are understandably enticed by the vivacious sisters but they seem satiated by inducing them to join them in a moonlight skinny-dipping session, which is interrupted by a police raid. The climax finds the two partners attempting to use the unbreakable roan horse as a gimmick to lure local wranglers and riders to bet money they can best him. There's a bit of a con in their scheme, but as one might suspect, their plans go awry and they don't benefit from any ill-gotten gains. As you might also suspect, the roan horse earns Ben's respect and never makes it to that dreaded soap factory.
That's pretty much the entire plot of "The Rounders", which is lightweight enough to resemble a celluloid wisp of smoke. If it's never boring, it's also never very engaging, as we keep expecting the script to provide some kind of creative or engaging plot device that never arrives. Still, it has its pleasures and Fonda and Ford exude real chemistry that elevates the proceedings substantially. There is also the wonder of the magnificent Arizona locations, a jaunty musical score by Jeff Alexander and a marvelous cast of reliable and familiar character actors that, in addition to the incomparible Chill Wills, includes Edgar Buchanan, Kathleen Freeman, Barton MacLane, Doodles Weaver and Denver Pyle.
When the film was released, even MGM felt the production was rather lacking in commercial appeal. Village Voice critic Andrew Sarris, who gave the film some faint praise, justifiably took issue with the fact that the studio had buried "The Rounders" by placing it at the bottom of a double-feature with a forgettable teeny bopper musical, "Get Yourself a College Girl". He said it must have been depressing for all involved to have a film headlining Glenn Ford and Henry Fonda play second fiddle to a movie that starred Mary Ann Mobley and Nancy Sinatra. He also praised Burt Kennedy, acknowledging that his often estimable contributions to the film business were generally overlooked. Unexpectedly, however, "The Rounders" proved to be a hit in its own right. It drew devoted fans in rural areas and on the drive-in circuit and ended up overshadowing the top-of-the-bill feature. It would even later be made into a television series starring Patrick Wayne, Ron Hayes and Chill Wills, reprising his role from the film.
The Warner Archive Blu-ray does justice to Paul Vogel's impressive cinematography by providing a truly impressive and all-around gorgeous Blu-ray transfer. The release also includes the original trailer.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM THE CINEMA RETRO MOVIE STORE
for Cordoba,” a 1970 film produced by Vincent M. Fennelly for the Mirisch
Corporation, written by Stephen Kandel, directed by Paul Wendkos, and
distributed by United Artists, has been released by Kino Lorber Studio Classics
in an attractive new Blu-ray edition.In
the movie, U.S. Army Captain Rod Douglas (George Peppard) leads a three-man
team across the Mexican Border in 1916.Douglas has been assigned to gather intelligence on a predatory rebel
general, Cordoba (Raf Vallone), who has confiscated American-owned property in
Mexico.Wealthy U.S. ranchers and
politicians are demanding that the Army secure the border with troops (an
outcry for a $70 billion wall would have to wait another hundred years).After Douglas’ team enters Mexico, one of the
trio, Adam, is captured and tortured to death by Cordoba’s troops.Douglas and the third ranger, Jackson (Don
Gordon), escape to warn Gen. Pershing (John Russell) that Cordoba plans a raid
into Texas to steal six cannon that the Army has transported to the
border.Pershing and his advisors
believe they have the guns safely guarded, but Cordoba and his followers
infiltrate the town and steal the artillery.Pershing directs Douglas to capture Cordoba and disable the cannon.
captain recruits Jackson from the earlier mission and brings in two
trouble-prone but dependable subordinates from the brig. Andy (Pete Duel) has long hair, Woodstock-era
sideburns, a friendly smile, and a guitar slung across his back. Peter (Nico Minardos) wears wire-rimmed
glasses and a studious mien. In Mexico,
the Americans join up with two locals who promise to help them carry out their
mission: Antonio, a Mexican cavalry officer (Gabriele Tinti), and his friend
Leonora (Giovanna Ralli). Leonora had
been raped by Cordoba when the rebel murdered her father and confiscated the
family estate. Now she wants retribution
by helping the Americans nab the ruthless general. Douglas has to contend not only with the
challenge of getting into Cordoba’s mountain-top stronghold in the sierras, but
also with internal strife on his team. Jackson holds a grudge against Douglas for having let Adam -- Jackson’s
brother -- suffer an agonizing death during the previous reconnaissance without
trying to save him. Jackson swears that
he’ll kill Douglas when the current mission is completed. The viewer is periodically reminded of his
oath as, throughout the picture, in Sergio Leone fashion, the embittered
soldier flashes back to Adam being burned alive by Cordoba’s men over an open
for Cordoba” passed briefly through theaters in 1970 with a “GP” rating, the
reverse-lettered precursor to PG. I
vaguely remember seeing the poster at the time. Later, I tended to confuse it with another Peppard Western from the
early ‘70s, “One More Train to Rob,” when the two ran occasionally on local
weekend TV in the 1980s. Cinema Retro’s Lee
Pfeiffer reviewed a 2011 manufactured-on-demand DVD edition HERE. Clearly, “Cannon for Cordoba” was designed to
lure audiences who had turned out in numbers for earlier films about Gringo
adventurers on perilous missions south of the Border, such as “The Magnificent
Seven,” “The Professionals,” and “The Wild Bunch.” Film enthusiasts Howard S. Berger and
Nathaniel Thompson make that point early on, in their lively audio commentary
track on the new Kino Lorber BRD. And
Elmer Bernstein’s score strikes familiar chords from his classic “Magnificent
Seven” theme, for any viewers then or now who might be slow on the uptake. UA gave the release minimal publicity, and at
least four other pictures with similar storylines had already opened in 1970. Even the most dedicated fans of six-guns and
sombreros may already have cried “enough” by the time “Cannon for Cordoba”
appeared on marquees. Had it been
green-lighted a year or two later, it would probably have ended up on a slimmer
budget as a made-for-TV “ABC Movie of the Week,” or with nudity and an R rating
for the drive-in market. The DVD and the
new BRD editions are labeled PG-13.
As well as being an
accomplished novelist and historian, Kim Newman has written a regular column in
Empire magazine for almost twenty
years covering the video (then DVD and eventually Blu-ray) releases no one else
wanted to watch. Rather than serve as an encyclopaedia, Kim Newman’s Video Dungeon: The Collected Reviews is organised, in
a somewhat idiosyncratic style, into thematic rather chapters than simply an
alphabetic or chronological presentation. His identification of recurring
genres or styles has allowed for chapters on “Confinements and Dangerous
games,” “Cryptids and Critters,” “Serial Killers and Cops” and “Weird Hippie
Sh*t,” amongst more recognisable genre descriptions such as “Found Footage,”
“Famous Monsters” and “Secret Agent Men (and Women)” and others.
Spanning almost the
entire breadth of film history and encompassing productions from around the
globe, the reader is presented with hundreds of obscure titles alongside the
occasional classic. From silent film to spoofs and pornography, Kim Newman has
sat through over thirty films featuring Frankenstein and a similar amount
featuring Dracula. The trend for sharksploitation films, which still shows no
sign of abating, is particularly noticeable here as Kim Newman patiently
reviews dozens of films such as Sharkenstein
(2016), SharkExorcist (2015) and the infamous Sharknado series (2013-2016 so far). Refusing to fall into the film
historian’s trap of sneering at anything cheap or new, Kim Newman is fair to
each film he reviews, finding positive elements even in some found footage
films, despite having had to sit through so many.
Being a collection of
reviews of home video releases, there is also the occasional vintage gem in
here, such as Curse of Bigfoot (1975),
LasVampiras (1969) and Confessions
of anOpium Eater (1962). Indeed,
most of the films in the “Weird Hippie Sh*t” section, including Drive, He Said (1971), Toomorrow (1970), Wonderwall (1968) and Permissive
(1970) date from the hippie heyday itself.
Kim Newman’s writing
is distinctive and authoritative, with a gleeful sense of humour for the
absurd, which means that even when the films sound terrible, which they
occasionally do, the reviews are still entertaining to read. It is this skill
which has made his Video Dungeon
column in Empire so enjoyable over
the years, with trusted recommendations as to what to seek out, and what to
avoid. Kim Newman’s Video Dungeon: The
Collected Reviews is highly recommended, particularly for those who think
they have seen a lot of weird films over the years. The chances are high that
Kim Newman has seen more.
Paramount Home Media is making retro movie lovers an offer they can't refuse: a special, limited edition deluxe Blu-ray set of the three "Godfather" films complete with some creative extras. "The Godfather Trilogy: Omerta Edition" is limited to only 45,000 sets so make sure you order yours now- or be prepared to sleep with the fishes.
Here is the official description from Paramount:
Celebrating its 45th anniversary, director Francis Ford
Coppola’s THE GODFATHER is widely considered one of the most influential films
in cinematic history. Now the entire epic trilogy will be available on
Blu-ray™ in a spectacular 4-disc Omertà Edition, which includes the
Coppola Restoration of THE GODFATHER and THE GODFATHER, PART II, as well as the
remastered version of THE GODFATHER, PART III.
A stunning gift for any fan, only 45,000 of these limited
edition, numbered sets will be made available beginning November 7, 2017.
THE GODFATHER TRILOGY: OMERTÀ EDITION includes commentary by Coppola on all
three films, a full disc of previously released in-depth special features, as
well as exclusive new collectible Trivia Cards, Magnetic Poetry, an Anatomy of
a Scene fold out and Quote Cards.
On December 1, James Cameron's "Titanic" will be reissued to 87 AMC theaters across America to commemorate the film's twentieth anniversary. The movie has been enhanced by being remastered in the Dolby Vision process. Cameron issued a statement saying “This is beyond 3D, beyond 70mm, it’s beyond anything
you’ve seen before. The image leaps off the screen as bright and
vibrant as life itself. This is the way all movies should be seen and without a
doubt, ‘Titanic’ has NEVER looked better.” For more click here.
After Sean Connery left the role of James Bond in 1967 after "You Only Live Twice", producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman hired an unknown- George Lazenby- to take over the part of 007. Lazenby starred in the 1969 film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and although he acquitted himself well, he shocked the industry by quitting the series after this one film. With the future of the franchise in jeopardy, the producers considered every viable leading man to star in the next Bond film, "Diamonds are Forever". Ultimately, they decided on American actor John Gavin, best known for his role in Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho". Although Gavin agreed to take the part, United Artists head of production, David V. Picker was squeamish about the prospects of an American 007. Overtures had been made to Sean Connery to reprise the role but they all failed, largely because of Connery's well-documented and long-standing disputes with the producers. Picker took a gamble and flew to visit Connery near his home in Spain. The two men discussed the Bond franchise over a game of golf. Picker managed to get Connery to concede to return for "Diamonds are Forever" on the proviso that the one-picture deal would net him the highest salary ever paid to an actor: $1.25 million, which Connery wanted to use to finance the establishment of a charity in Scotland. The deal also called for U.A. to finance two future non-Bond films, but only one- "The Offence"- was actually made. Picker's strategy worked, as Connery's return to the role ensured that "Diamonds are Forever" was a major hit when it opened in 1971. Connery rejected the predictable entreaties to get him to return for "Live and Let Die" and the role went to Roger Moore, who starred in seven highly successful Bond movies.
Fans have often pondered how John Gavin would have fared in the role of 007. An enterprising person has posted this imaginary scenario using clips from a "B" 1968 French spy movie in which Gavin starred, "O.S.S 117: Double Agent", which conveniently also starred future Bond baddie Curt Jurgens. With some clever dubbing of dialogue, this amusing clip compilation is the closest we'll ever to see to an ad campaign that boasted "John Gavin IS James Bond!"
“Make your life be your art and you will
never be forgotten.” (Charlotte Eriksson). I first fell in love with
Marilyn Monroe when I was sixteen, after seeing her on television in the movie “Bus
Stop.” By then she was long gone, but that didn’t matter. To me, she was like
something from outer space, a goddess dressed in black fishnet and gold tassel.
I’ll admit it’s a feeling I never quite got over. Marilyn had that effect on
some men, both those who knew her (Joe DiMaggio, Arthur Miller, for example)
and millions of others like me who were her fans. Among the innumerable
critical brickbats tossed at her both in her lifetime and later was the charge
she was a terrible actress. I have always thought these criticisms somewhat
unfair. While not a great actress, she was nonetheless quite competent in a
number of roles. That is, when she was actually given the chance to act and not
just served up as window dressing. Rewatching “Bus Stop” recently, I was struck
anew at how really funny she could be. Forget all that stuff about her sad
life, the broken marriages, the desperate desire to be taken seriously as a
thespian. All that may be true, but her real talents lay in comedy. Like her
gifted miscast cinematic sisters, Clara Bow, Marion Davies and Jean Harlow,
Marilyn was born to play funny. Often she upstaged the best of them too,
including in “The Prince and the Showgirl,” a film she made with Laurence
Olivier. In it, she makes “the world’s greatest actor” look downright dull. On
the other hand, there was that face, that body. For a generation of men, it
defined rightly or wrongly what feminine sex appeal was all about. All of these
qualities shine forth in The
Essential Marilyn Monroeby
Milton H. Greene: 50 Sessions (ACC Editions), just released last
month. Of the book’s 284 images, 160 have never before been published.
Marilyn seems completely at ease in most of these photos.
You can tell she and the photographer trust and like each other. She is at
turns playful and happy, sad and reflective. None of it to me seems too
contrived. Instead, she is allowing us to see her in a way she would never permit
with any other camera man. She is fully naked (which had nothing to do with
taking her clothes off). Not all the shots
show her at her best. In some she appears, though still alluring, tired and
somewhat shopworn. These are among my favorites in the collection. I like to
think I’m getting a candid peek behind the carefully crafted, bloodless façade
of the manufactured Marilyn. For my money, she was most appealing when she
wasn’t doing anything much at all in front of the lens, just looking -- which
she often is in the Greene sessions. One photo, chosen by Greene’s son, Joshua,
for the cover of this expansive volume, is a prime example of the species. She
Marilyn and Milton
Greene shared a special bond. Not only were they personal friends, she even
lived with his family for a time in the 1950s. I imagine this as a happy period
for her. She felt completely safe with him in a way she rarely did with anyone.
It shows. The great photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson once said that capturing
the right image on film was an act of extraordinary physical and intellectual
joy. As it turns out, that concept works both ways, for the photographer and
the viewer. Greene clearly wanted us to see the woman others seldom glimpsed or
even imagined. He succeeds brilliantly in that ambition. The glorious thing is
it’s all here in this fabulous photo collection, one for the ages. For the
Marilyn fan, it doesn’t get much better.
When it was released in 1971, director Michael Winner's "Lawman" was regarded as just another western. It did well enough, if unremarkably, at the boxoffice thanks to the drawing power of star Burt Lancaster, but in the end, "Lawman" came and went rather quickly in an era in which the genre was starting to wane a bit. The film represented a new direction for Winner, who had gained attention in the mid-1960s with several quirky comedies that captured the mood of London's emerging "mod" scene. In 1969 Winner landed his first production for a major Hollywood studio with the offbeat WWII comedy/adventure "Hannibal Brooks". He was now mainstream and wanted to try his hands at a diverse subject matters. He proved surprisingly adept at directing at a western, as evidenced by his achievement with "Lawman", which has been released as a Twilight Time Blu-ray limited edition (3,000 units). Winner would seem an unlikely choice for the task. He was of the "To the manor born" crowd, an elitist who inherited enormous wealth and who hobnobbed with London's "A" list crowd. Yet, Winner had a reverence for the American west and captured as well as any other director the look, feel and sensibility of the types of characters who inhabited it.
"Lawman" begins with a group of rowdy cowboys in the employ of uber-rich cattle baron Vincent Bronson (Lee J. Cobb), returning from a grueling cattle drive and letting off some steam by raising hell in a small town they are passing through. Drunk and out-of-control, they supplement their horseplay by randomly firing their pistols, causing some damage to local buildings before returning to Bronson's massive cattle ranch empire. Bronson assumes his men did little more than disturb the peace and shoot out some windows. Neither he or his men are aware that in the confusion, a stray bullet mortally wounded an elderly bystander. They learn this with the arrival in town of Marshal Jarod Maddox (Burt Lancaster), a soft-spoken but fearless lawman empowered by the state to find and arrest the culprits and bring them back to stand trial. Bronson is genuinely disturbed to learn his men had inadvertently caused a death and his first inclination is to take responsibility for it. He is a local kingmaker and is used to writing his own code of justice since he virtually owns all the local townspeople and public officials, who he has appointed to office. He instructs his short-tempered business partner Harvey Stenbaugh (Albert Salmi) to meet with Maddox and offer to pay for all physical damages done as well as offer generous compensation to the victim's family. Harvey is also instructed to blatantly bribe Maddox, who refuses the offer and makes clear he intends to arrest four men he has warrants for. Harvey is one of them and he draws on Maddox but dies in the ensuing gunplay. This sets in motion a war of wills between Maddox and Bronson who makes it clear no one will be standing trial for what he considers to be an innocent mistake. Maddox is determined, however, and begins to track down each of the four men, one of whom is Bronson's brother. Along the way, he reunites with Laura Shelby (Sheree North), a former lover who is now living with one of the wanted men, a coward named Hurd Price (J.D. Cannon), who takes flight upon Maddox's arrival. Laura tries unsuccessfully to persuade Maddox to spare Price and even beds him in an attempt to dissuade him, but Maddox fearlessly and relentlessly pursues his prey.
The most striking aspect of "Lawman", which bore a bland title and uninspired advertising campaign, is the intelligent script by Gerald Wilson. He presents fully-fleshed characters who could easily have been made into caricatures of western movie villains. The unique aspect of the script is that there aren't any traditional villains. The men who committed the crimes are honest, hard-working cow hands who are ashamed and appalled that they have killed a man. Even though Maddox assures them they will probably get a light sentence, they can't spare the time to be away from their ranches because it would cause them financial ruin. As for Cobb's Vincent Bronson, he is not the typical mustache-twirling western bad guy. He's a dictator who buys people's allegiance, but he is a benevolent dictator who has provided good wages and ample respect to the locals and people in his employ. Maddox meets the local sheriff, Cotton Ryan (Robert Ryan), a once-esteemed lawman who has fallen into disgrace and now shamefully acts as a flunky for Bronson. He attempts to persuade Maddox that pursuing his goal of arresting men at the risk of his life will be a fool's errand. Even if he succeeds in bringing them to court, Bronson will bribe the judge and jury. Maddox is about to be won over by this cynical view of life when an unexpected development leads to a violent showdown.
"Lawman" boasts an outstanding cast that includes Robert Duvall, John McGiver, Richard Jordan and Ralph Waite, to name but a few. The performances are all outstanding, as is Winner's direction. The three leads- Lancaster, Cobb and Ryan (reunited with Lancaster after "The Professionals") - are superb. Cinematographer Robert Paynter, a longtime collaborator of Winner's, captures the dust and dry prairies with such skill that you'll feel like having a tall, cold drink mid-way through the movie. (One gripe, though: Paynter has an amateurish fixation on playing with the zoom lens.) The movie also has a typically fine score by Jerry Fielding. The Twilight Time Blu-ray is sans any special features except the trailer, an isolated music score track and the usual excellent collector's booklet with informative notes by Julie Kirgo. The transfer is on par with the usual high quality standards associated with Twilight Time.
"Lawman" may not rank with the great westerns of Ford, Hawks and Sturges but it resonates today as an excellent film in all respects. Highly recommended.
Back in the mid-1970s when the U.S. government established the national speed limit at 55 MPH there was predictable outrage among "The Sky is Falling!" crowd who warned that traffic would slow to a crawl and that the rule was an infringement on individual rights. The fact is that since the day the 55 MPH speed limit was established, virtually everyone has ignored it and law enforcement officials seemed to unofficially tack on another 10 MPH before they got serious about ticketing anyone, the exception being small towns that did nitpick about speed limits and saw their coffers filled regularly. The fear among some Americans that they might have to actually slow the pace of their lives in some manner resulted in the birth of the road race movie. Call it "Revenge of the Lead-Foot Crowd". If would-be speeders couldn't fulfill their fantasies on the highways and byways of America, then, by golly, they would do it on the silver screen. Lost in the debate, however, was the original reason for the 55 MPH, which had less to do with safety and everything to do with conserving gasoline following the gas crisis of 1973 when drivers had to wait for hours to get their cars partially filled. President Richard M. Nixon proposed setting the new speed limit at 50 MPH for passenger cars but compromised at 55 MPH. The plan was a flop, saving far less gasoline than Nixon had envisioned- but the law was kept intact for reasons of safety. Hollywood, however, was not interested in nuances and delved straight into exploiting the situation. Suddenly, seemingly every other movie produced had elaborate car chases. A peculiar sub-genre formed that was dedicated to movies that would not even have existed without car chases. The 1976 release "Cannonball" was a sobering take on the premise with participants suffering gruesome deaths in a coast-to-coast high speed auto race. The very same year saw the release of "The Gumball Rally", a lighthearted spin on the exact same premise that caused critic Roger Ebert to note the similarities between the two films thusly: "Both movies have all the standard ingredients, however:
Two laconic leading men, two all-girl teams, one ethnic driver, one dumb law
enforcement officer, several exploding gas tanks, no end of incompetent highway
patrolmen, a helicopter and a car that breaks in half. The movies are so
similar in content, in fact, that the differences between them are instructive:
"The Gumball Rally" is an easily forgettable entertainment, but at
least it has a certain amount of class. "Cannonball" was straight
exploitation." Ebert also noted that two other similarly-themed films were also released that year: Ron Howard's "Eat My Dust" and Roger Corman's "Death Race 2000".
The Warner Archive has released "The Gumball Rally" on Blu-ray. The film is an amiable but completely predictable action comedy that acknowledges in its trailer that it was inspired by the granddaddy (and still the best) of all road race movies, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World". (Even the poster art seems an homage to Jack Davis's iconic ad campaign for "Mad World".) The movie opens in New York City where we see bored rich executive Michael Bannon (Michael Sarrazin) issue the code word "Gum Ball" to an eclectic group of eccentrics who immediately converge on a meeting he is holding to announce it's time to launch "The Gum Ball Rally" (spelled differently than the actual title of the film, "The Gumball Rally"). Turns out that this is annual race from New York to the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. There are no rules for the race except that the winner will be awarded a fully-loaded gumball machine and have the bragging rights. Before long, teams driving an exotic fleet of autos ranging from Corvettes to Jaguars and a Rolls Royce are screeching through Manhattan and New Jersey in a madcap race to the finish line. The film was directed by Chuck Ball, a long-time stuntman and stunt coordinator as well as actor and sometimes director. Thus, it isn't surprising that the bulk of the movie is spent concentrating on spectacular chase scenes and comical crashes, with the characters left largely undeveloped. The most impressive scenes are early in the film in which Ball somehow managed to shoot cars speeding through Times Square during the daytime, amid theaters boasting marquees ranging from "Jaws" to the latest porno flicks. He also got the Lincoln Tunnel closed down for a key scene, as well as the New Jersey Turnpike (try doing that today!). It's all set to a jaunty, sitcom-like 1970s score by Dominic Frontiere.
"The Gumball Rally" was aimed squarely at the drive-in market where it undoubtedly did well. The film's production budget went almost entirely on the expensive chase and crash scenes, some of which feature some creative and amusing aspects amid the cliches. Consequently, there wasn't any money left for star power. Michael Sarrazin, a good and underrated actor who never made it as big as he deserved to, is the most familiar face and young Raul Julia has a flashy role as a perpetually horny racer whose sex drive interferes with his commitment to get to the finish line first. Gary Busey, a couple of years away from his star-making turn in "The Buddy Holly Story", is on board as a goofball and Normann Burton has a good role as the Javert-like policeman who relentlessly pursues the racers every year only to wind up humiliated. Old timers J. Pat O'Malley and Vaughn Taylor are aging sophisticates who are among the contestants. The film is innocent, undemanding fun, even if it's completely predictable. The road race genre continued for a number of years, thanks in large part to Burt Reynolds' massive "Smokey and the Bandit" and "The Cannonball Run", the latter being an exact remake of "The Gumball Rally" which was a remake of "Cannonball". The Warner Archive release has a top-notch transfer and includes the original trailer, which doesn't mention a single cast member by name.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM THE CINEMA RETRO MOVIE STORE
Sidney Sheldon (1917-2007), the playwright, television
mogul, and novelist, reportedly sold well over 300 million books in his
lifetime. This is a pretty impressive number
for a man who only turned to churning out books in his early fifties. If I hedged on the word “writing” when
describing the mogul’s working methods, I’m not being coy and
disrespectful. Perhaps taking a page
from fellow television writer-creator-workaholic Rod Serling’s own playbook, Sheldon
would dictate his stories into a tape recorder and later have secretaries type
out his ramblings. With words committed
to paper, Sheldon would then skillfully revise and edit and buffer the
manuscript until satisfied he had a full-fledged novel on hand. Though a number of literary critics - and resentful
thriller-writing contemporaries - would excoriate the creator/writer of The Patty Duke Show and I Dream of Jeannie for his work method
and hackneyed storylines, readers worldwide made Sheldon one of the most
successful popular-market paperback novelists of all time.
One fan of Sheldon’s books was Roger Moore, also in the
midst of enjoying a great run of wealth and fame as James Bond. The actor would recall in his memoir My Word is My Bond, “Since first reading
Sidney Sheldon’s book The Naked Face
I had felt it would lend itself to a very good film.” Moore was interested in exploring new
projects; he was certain his sixth and most recent outing as Bond, Octopussy (1983), was likely his last. He was, after all, now fifty-seven years old. He could be forgiven for believing his
successful turn as British secret agent 007 had come to its natural end.
Several years prior to the cinema version of “The Naked
Face,” Moore was cast in “Sunday Lovers” (1980), a dismal romantic-comedy of four
vignettes tethered together as a feature-length film. The Franco-Italian production would be
released in the U.S. in the early winter of 1981. Though the film performed poorly at the
box-office on both sides of the Atlantic, critics agreed the movie’s first
tale, a distinctly British farce titled “An Englishman’s Home,” was clearly the
best of an otherwise bad bunch. The screenplay for this segment had been written
by the British playwright and lyricist Leslie Bricusse, and featured a talented
ensemble: Moore, Denholm Elliot, Lynn
Redgrave, and Priscilla Barnes. The
vignette was helmed with modest flourish by Bryan Forbes, a formidable figure
in the British film industry who had only recently stepped down as managing
director of EMI films. Moore enjoyed
working with the director on “Sunday Lovers” as Forbes, a true Renaissance man,
had been an old colleague. The two had been
friends since their earliest training together at the Royal Academy of Dramatic
Around this same time a pair of Israeli nationals,
Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, became primary shareholders of Cannon Films, a floundering
company teetering on bankruptcy and desperate for well-heeled investors. The savvy cousins would quickly reinvigorate
the company’s fortunes in the 1980s with a profitable string of teen-horrors
and testosterone-fueled low-budget action B-films starring Charles Bronson and
Chuck Norris. In the interim of such
box-office successes as “Death Wish II” and the first of the “Missing in Action”
films, the producers actively courted Moore for a possible collaboration. The interests of both parties converged when a
window of opportunity opened following the actor’s wrap of Octopussy. Moore’s suggestion
of Sidney Sheldon’s 1970 best-selling novel “The Naked Face” as a possible
project for Cannon was met with enthusiasm. The deal was sealed when the filmmakers agreed to green-light Moore’s
friend Bryan Forbes as director for the project. Golan and Globus announced production of “The
Naked Face” with customary Cannon ballyhoo at the Cannes International Film
The premise of both the novel and film was classic
Hitchcock. A contemplative Chicago
psychiatrist, Dr. Judd Stevens (Roger Moore), becomes entangled as primary
suspect for a series of murders of which he is innocent and seems to have no
connection. As “The Naked Face” was clearly
targeted as entertainment for a sophisticated adult demographic, the producers
cast an impressive roster of middle-to-late-age talent. These were faces familiar to seasoned moviegoers: Rod Steiger, Anne Archer, Elliott Gould, and
Art Carney among them. The casting,
sadly, was not terribly profound. The
producers would cast veteran actor Rod Steiger as Moore’s foil, the
frothing-at-the-mouth, bulldog detective Lt. McGreavy. Steiger’s performance was certainly memorable. Unfortunately, it is memorable for all of the
wrong reasons. The most obvious problem with the actor’s
performance was, as Moore would later lament, Steiger did little to mitigate
his well-deserved reputation amongst his peers as a “scene chewer.” There’s plenty of that charge in evidence
here. The actor’s one-note portrayal is,
in turn, amusing and wearying. McGreavy comes off as a highly-caffeinated
Sgt. Joe Friday, ready to assign even the sketchiest shred of circumstantial
evidence as proof of Moore’s culpability in the murders. The detective’s dogged single-mindedness to
implicate the doctor is explained away as a result of the psychiatrist’s
testimony on behalf of a mentally unstable man who murdered his former police-partner
some years earlier. Elliott Gould is
cast as Angeli, McGreavy’s calmer and more reasonable contemporary partner. He is, seemingly, the better angel of this
traditional “good cop/bad cop” pairing. But
Gould is surprisingly unremarkable here, turning in a curiously flat and remote
performance. Art Carney plays Morgens, an
elderly, eccentric private investigator and collector of vintage clocks, who
briefly allies with Moore. Incredibly,
we’re expected to believe that the contemplative Dr. Stevens would engage this
low-rent private investigator through a listing in the Chicago Yellow Pages.
Promoted for its psychedelic aspects (as seemingly all youth-driven films of the late 1960s were), the crime thriller "Cop-Out" also bears a completely meaningless title that was designed to bring the mod crowd into theaters. (Please do not confuse this "Cop-Out" with director Kevin Smith horrendous 2010 sleaze fest "Cop Out".) Yet, despite the emphasis on exploitation, the film is actually a tightly-scripted, highly intelligent drama that boasts an especially impressive performance by the generally impressive James Mason. He plays John Sawyer, a once-esteemed lawyer who has fallen on hard times. His vivacious wife has left him because of his sexual inattention to her, as well as his love affair with booze. With her departure, Sawyer putters around a decaying mansion that, like himself, was once quite impressive. Sawyer's house is also a home to his daughter Angela (Geraldine Chaplin), but the two are barely on speaking terms. She resents his disinterest in her well-being and he resents what he believes is her misspent youth. Angela hangs out with a group of upper crust, spoiled rotten modders who spend their time drinking, smoking and screwing with shameless abandon. The odd man out in the group is Jo (Paul Bertoya), a struggling Greek immigrant who is tolerated in the group of snobs primarily because Angela is his girlfriend. The restless modders end up surreptitiously boarding a docked freighter and wreaking havoc before they are caught out by a crew member, Barney Teale (Bobby Darrin), a fast-talking American hipster who befriends the group and sets about manipulating them. He moves into their motley secret hideaway in an abandoned local theater and begins to make use of the premises to indulge in doing drugs and entertaining strippers and prostitutes. He's got a Jekyll and Hyde-like personality: one minute he's charming and funny, the next he's cruel and violent. When Barney suffers injuries due to an accident, Angela allows him to recuperate in her room, safe in the assumption that her disengaged father would never find out about his presence. However, during the night, a gunshot rings out and Barney turns up dead in Angela's bed. The prime suspect is Jo, who is accused of being jealous of Angela's proximity to the sex-crazed Barney. However, Angela insists he's being framed. The question is: by who? She imposes upon her father to return to his profession and take up Jo's defense. He agrees to do so but his appearance before the court is a disaster, leading to Angela to believe that Jo will inevitably be convicted. However, her father rallies, lays off the bottle and begins to play detective. In Agatha Christie fashion, he confronts the man he suspects of being the real murderer at a posh dinner party where the suspect is being honored on his birthday.
"Cop-Out" is rather striking for its blunt depiction of the open sexuality that was inherent in the youth revolution of the Sixties. There are few noble characters among the sleazebags but Sawyer's rise from the ash heap of humanity serves as a precursor for Paul Newman's character in "The Verdict" in that both men regain meaning in the lives by combating what they feel is a social injustice. The film was directed by Pierre Rouve, and it marks his only turn helming a film. (He major credits were as producer, including Antonioni's "Blow-Up".) Rouve is quite impressive, too, and doesn't allow the sexual and violent aspects of the film to overshadow the intelligent screenplay, which is based on the novel "Strangers in the House" by Georges Simenon. There's a very able supporting cast, with young Ian Ogilvy in what turns out to be a key role. The script deftly makes some biting observations about British class structure and delves into other areas such as sexual harassment, impotence and homosexuality (which was still an imprisonable offence at the time in England!). Chaplin performs well, as does the supporting cast, with Bobby Darin somewhat mesmerizing in an off-the-wall performance. The main recommendation for seeing the movie, however, is Mason's outstanding performance as the world-weary, worn-out shadow of a man who still has the ability to slay his social adversaries with his rapier wit. There's also some good location scenery (it was filmed in Southampton) and retro movie lovers will enjoy Mason glimpsing at some skin magazines including one promoting Molly Peters in "Thunderball". As an added treat, there are occasional vocals by Eric Burden and the Animals.
Kino Lorber has rescued yet another obscure gem of a film and given it a fine presentation on Blu-ray. The original trailer is included as are trailers from other KL releases including "Coming Home", "The Crucible" and others.
(This is the second and final part of Ernie Magnotta's exclusive interview with Kenneth Johnson, creator of the classic 1970s TV series "The Incredible Hulk", which debuted 40 years ago today.)
BY ERNIE MAGNOTTA
EM: Nice…I’d like to talk
about Jack Colvin for a sec.
EM: I really loved him as
McGee. I thought he was terrific. Did he enjoy playing the role?
KJ: Yeah, he did. But he was frustrated sometimes
and he would say to me, “How many times can I say that I’m looking for a
hulking, green creature?” So, we tried to really write episodes where he had
meaningful stuff to do.
EM: Yeah, that was
actually my next question because the character changed a bit. He was a little
unlikeable in the first season; like a weasel.
KJ: Yeah, that’s it. I love those yellow rag
journalists. The tabloid type people are just very colorful folks, so I thought
it would be fun. But Jack was so substantive and such a fine actor and a
brilliant acting teacher that we just realized that we had an asset we needed
to develop more and we needed to write more for him. And there are some
episodes, as you know, where he really takes center stage for a good portion of
EM: Yeah, there’s one
that’s just completely about him. I think Bill Bixby only shows up in
KJ: I think you’re right. I think that was near
the time of the death of Bill’s son, although Bill really just wanted to keep on
working through that.
EM: That’s totally
KJ: It was a terrible time and that was Bill’s
way of dealing with it; just getting on the set and doing it. He was terrific
and I still miss him to this day. He was a force of nature. (Laughs) We had
many, many, many knock-down, drag out arguments, but, Ernie, there was never
one that was about bullshit. There was never one that was about nonsense or
“star” stuff. It was always about character and he would come to me and say,
“Dr. David Banner would never say this line!”
EM: That’s so great and
it answers part of my next question which is about how much input he had and
how much he got into the character.
KJ: I would be in bed at night and he would have
finished a day of shooting and gone to the looping stage late at night because
we had added a wild line or two to help clarify something and he would call me
at home, “Dr. David Banner wouldn’t say this line!” And I’d tell him, “Yes, he
would. I wrote it.”
KJ: And we’d go back and forth and our agreement
was whoever was right got to win. And sometimes it would end up with Bill
saying, “All right. I’ll say it, but I don’t think Dr. David Banner would say
it.” (Laughs) But we had a good working relationship and he was a total pro all
EM: I know that, at the
time of the pilot, Lou Ferrigno didn’t have any acting experience, but I
thought he did a fantastic job; especially his final scene with Susan Sullivan.
KJ: Louie grew into the role very quickly and I
gave him time on the set to get there and to find it. I also helped him by
giving him like acting 101, but he picked up on everything very quickly and it
got so we really enjoyed writing those scenes when the Hulk was coming down
from the anger and was a simplistic child in many ways.
EM: Like when he was
confused by something.
VP: Yeah, exactly. I remember Mickey Jones
teaching him how to open a pop top soda can; that kind of thing. Or he’d be
resting under a tree, petting a deer. And Louie really got into those and began
to enjoy it and he did a really fine job. He just progressed so well and so
far. These days, Lou is an inspirational speaker and he’s working for the
Sheriff’s Department as well, so he’s an asset to the community.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the classic TV series "The Incredible Hulk", Cinema Retro's Ernie Magnotta sat down for an extensive discussion with the show's creator Kenneth Johnson.
BY ERNIE MAGNOTTA
Banner—physician, scientist…searching for a way to tap into the hidden strengths that all humans
have. Then, an accidental overdose of gamma radiation alters his body chemistry.
And now, when David Banner grows angry or outraged, a startling metamorphosis
The creature is
driven by rage and is pursued by an investigative reporter. The creature is
wanted for a murder he didn’t commit. David Banner is believed to be dead. And
he must let the world think that he is dead until he can find a way to control
the raging spirit that dwells within him.
Kids who grew up in the 1970s remember that
narration well. Every Friday night at 9pm (until it was later moved to 8pm) we’d
sit in front of our television sets, switch on CBS channel 2 and listen to the
late, great Ted Cassidy (Lurch from The
Addams Family) recite those very words before another exciting, hour-long
episode of The Incredible Hulk TV
series would begin. However, before there was a series, there were two very
successful made-for-TV movies, and before that, a very popular comic book.
The character of the Hulk was created in 1962
by legendary Marvel Comics masterminds Stan Lee (writer) and Jack Kirby
(artist). In the comic book, Dr. Bruce Banner was a nuclear scientist for the
United States Army who, while trying to save a teenager who wandered onto a
test site, was accidently bathed in gamma rays when a bomb he created was
detonated. This forever caused the mild-mannered scientist to change into a
hulking green-skinned creature whenever he became enraged. (The first few
stories had him change whenever the moon was full just like a werewolf. Also,
his skin was originally grey.) Most of the exciting comic book tales revolved
around Army General Thunderbolt Ross’s obsessive need to find and capture the
destructive, but good-hearted Hulk who he felt was a danger to the country he
had sworn to protect.
Flash forward 15 years. After achieving great
success writing and directing episodes of the super-popular cyborg television
series The Six Million Dollar Man as
well as creating and producing its sister show The Bionic Woman, Kenneth Johnson received a call from Universal
Television head Frank Price. Price, who had just acquired the rights to five
Marvel Comics superhero titles, asked Johnson to pick one that he’d like to
develop for TV, but Johnson, who was not a comic book follower, declined.
However, while reading Victor Hugo’s Les
Miserables, Johnson thought about how he could combine the structure of
that book with the characters of Bruce Banner and the Hulk while, at the same
time, going for a more realistic approach than the comic book.
First of all, Johnson knew that he didn’t
want any connection to comic book styles and, so, he immediately eliminated
everything from the comics except for the main character of Banner (which he
renamed David in order to avoid comic book alliteration) and the fact that, due
to radiation poisoning, he metamorphoses into a hulking green creature whenever
he becomes angry or endures great pain. (Johnson originally wanted to change
the Hulk’s skin color to red, but Marvel vetoed the idea due to the already
well-known look of their popular comic book character.) He then eliminated
scientist Banner’s ties to the military and, instead, made him a California
physician who was desperately trying to uncover the secret as to why, while
trying to save another human life, certain people acquired almost superhuman
strength while others did not (like himself when, after a car accident, he
failed to turn over the flaming automobile and save his beloved wife). Also,
Johnson not only eliminated the Hulk’s Tarzan-like
speech and, except for growls, kept the creature mute, but, in order to
maintain as much realism as possible, he made the Hulk less powerful than the
indestructible creature in the comics.
Kenneth Johnson (center) with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno.
Banner (played brilliantly by two-time Emmy
Award nominee Bill Bixby who was Johnson’s first and only choice for the role)
soon discovers that the answer is due to having a low Gamma count, so he
immediately takes a higher dose. Unbeknownst to him, the equipment he used was
calibrated incorrectly and he wound up taking a much higher dose than
originally planned. This causes the change into an incredibly powerful, almost
Cro-Magnon-like, green-skinned creature that, although destructive, retains
Banner’s benevolence and does not kill (although, one day, it could
inadvertently kill someone which is Banner’s biggest fear). Johnson added an
Inspector Javert-like character in the form of tabloid reporter Jack McGee
(played by talented character actor and acting teacher Jack Colvin) who becomes
obsessed with learning about and capturing the Hulk (portrayed by legendary
bodybuilding champion Lou Ferrigno). Due to McGee’s zeal as well as Banner’s
burning desire for a cure, the good doctor’s colleague and unrequited love, Dr.
Elaina Marks (played beautifully by Susan Sullivan), is accidentally killed in
a lab explosion. However, McGee believes that Elaina (and Banner) was murdered
by the creature and, after informing the authorities, a warrant for murder is
put out for the Hulk. David Banner (a character with similarities to Jean
Valjean), now believed to be dead, begins to travel the country in search of a
cure while, at the same time, doing his best to avoid transforming into the
green-skinned goliath; for the transformations bring the intrepid Mr. McGee who
is always just one step behind him.
An intriguing, solid and perfect set-up for a
television series (and one that was used several times before in shows like
Quinn Martin’s classic series The
Fugitive starring David Janssen and The
Immortal starring Christopher George; both of which contain the Les Miserables structure of a benevolent
man on the run being pursued by a relentless authority figure). However, before
going to series, there would be a second TV-Movie of the week titled The Return of the Incredible Hulk (aka Death in the Family) which aired on
November 27th, 1977 (just weeks after the amazing (and just discussed)
original pilot, The Incredible Hulk,
which aired on Friday, November 4th, 1977). This entertaining movie
showed exactly how the future series episodes would play out. Banner, under an
assumed surname always beginning with the letter ‘B’, arrives in town looking
for work while simultaneously searching for a cure. He gets involved with other
people’s dilemmas, honestly tries to help them and, before long, is made to
change into his hulking alter ego who ultimately winds up saving the day (and,
many times, Banner’s life). More often than not, Mr. Magee shows up after the
first transformation (in the hour-long episodes, Banner always transforms
twice, but here (in a two-hour movie) he metamorphoses four times) and Banner
has the added headache of staying out of sight while the reporter is around.
After saying his goodbyes to those he’s helped, a usually penniless Banner
takes off alone, hitchhiking his way to a new town where he will continue to
search of a cure, help those in need and avoid contact with McGee and the
German actress Karin Dor has died at age 79. She had been in a nursing home since suffering the severe aftereffects of a fall last year. Dor was a popular presence in European cinema. She began acting in the 1950s and became a well-known star in the 1960s. She frequently collaborated with her husband, Austrian director Harald Reinl. She appeared in several of the popular German "Winnetou" westerns and well as German crime programs on television. In 1967 she achieved a new level of fame when she was cast as Helga Brandt, the sultry SPECTRE agent who seduces Sean Connery's James Bond before attempting to kill him in the 1967 blockbuster "You Only Live Twice". Dor's character suffered a memorable fate when her employer, SPECTRE chieftain Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasence) ensures she drops into his piranha-filled moat. She later had a leading role in Alfred Hitchcock's 1969 spy thriller "Topaz". Dor continued to act until recently, with her last screen credit in 2015. She was also a frequent presence on European television programs.
In what may have been her last interview, Dor discussed the making of "You Only Live Twice" in-depth with Cinema Retro contributing writers Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury. The interview appears in the latest issue, #39.
In MGM’s 1958 Western “The Law and Jake Wade,” Robert
Taylor rides down from the Sierra Nevada mountains early one morning into a small
town and busts his old partner-in-crime, Clint Hollister (Richard Widmark), out
of the hoosegow. Hollister is a nasty guy. Not satisfied with escaping a
hanging, to Jake’s dismay, he clubs the sheriff and shoots a couple of people
out in the street while he and Jake make their getaway. Jake has to take his
rifle away from him to keep from killing more people.
Back up in the mountains Clint wants to ride on with Jake
but Jake says no. He busted Clint out of jail because he figured he owed him
for doing the same thing for him once. Now they’re even. Clint doesn’t agree.
There’s that matter of the $20,000 they stole on their last job together. He
wants his share. Jake tells him he buried the money and never touched it and
advises Clint to forget about it. “Don’t try to follow me,” he tells him. “I’m
still pretty good with this,” he says, patting his holstered gun. They go their
separate ways and Jake rides down on the other side of the mountain into
another town where he pulls up in front of a marshal’s office. Two men inside
welcome him back. He takes his coat off and surprise! There’s a tin star pinned
to his shirt.
It’s a shocker. He’s a law man, and he just broke a convicted
killer out of jail. It seems while Clint continued his career as an outlaw,
Jake reformed and became a town marshal. He’s an upstanding citizen now and
even has a lovely fiancé named Peggy (Patricia Owens) he’s going to settle down
with. Now you might ask yourself why a guy in Jake’s position would risk
everything to save his old partner from a noose. It would be somewhat
unbelievable if veteran screenwriter William Bowers (The Gunfighter), adapting
a novel by Marvin H. Alpert, didn’t provide some background indicating that Jake
is not only a guy with a conscience, Clint has some psychological hold over him
that he uses to his own advantage.
It helps that “The Law and Jake Wade” is directed by John
Sturges (Gunfight at the OK Corral, The Magnificent Seven). Sturges sets a
steady, understated, no-nonsense tone to the proceedings that makes everything
credible and authentic. His directorial skill is nowhere more evident than in
the way he handles a cast made up in part by some familiar Hollywood bad asses.
After Jake gets home Clint shows up with some mutual friends—members of the old
gang. The first is Rennie, a young psychopath played by Henry Silva (Manchurian
Candidate). Silva affects a weird way of talking and looking like he’s about to
draw on anyone who looks at him crossways. Next up, Robert Middleton as Ortero,
a hulking, cold-blooded gunman with a big belly and a nasty disposition. And
last but not least, a pre-Star Trek DeForest Kelly as Wexler, who would almost
rather kill Jake than try to find the money. (I know it’s hard to think of Dr.
McCoy as a bad ass but actually he played that role in several westerns back in
the fifties). Sturges provides each of the heavies enough screen time and
action to establish their bonafides.
The story heats up when Clint and his Merry Men kidnap
Jake’s fiancé and force him to take them to the hidden loot. Sturges was not
only good at getting great performances from his cast, he was also one of the
best at filming in rugged locations. A lot of “The Law And Jake Wade” was shot
in the Sierra Nevada mountains around Lone Pine and down in Death Valley, an
area of the American landscape so often used in westerns that it has long since
become part of our national dreamscape. Even movie goers who are not
particularly fans of westerns can immediately recognize the mountains and
deserts of this stretch of ruggedly beautiful country. Budd Boetticher was
perhaps the director to make the best use of this scenery in the films he made
with Randolph Scott, but Sturges and his cinematographer Robert Surtees almost
surpass him in this film. The movie not only provides compelling drama, it’s
also gorgeous to look at.
On top of all this, Taylor and Widmark are at the top of
their game. Taylor was 58 at the time he played Marshal Wade, a little long in
the tooth, perhaps, to be paired with the 33-year old Owens, but he was still
in shape, and age had only added a bit of gravitas to his classic good looks.
He spends a lot of time in the film riding along the high passes of the Sierras
with his hands tied behind his back, which must have been difficult. One of the
biggest marvels in the movie is the way his hat stayed on while they rode over
one of those passes where the wind was blowing so hard Widmark and the others
all had to hold on to their lids to keep from losing them. But not Bob Taylor.
When you’re a star, baby, the hat stays on, even if you have to glue it on.
Widmark has one of his best sadistic psycho-killer roles
as Clint Hollister. It’s as though his notorious Tommy Udo from “Kiss of Death”
had donned gun belt and spurs and headed
west. Henry Silva was plenty creepy as Rennie, but one twitch of Widmark’s
snarling upper lip quickly resolved any doubt about who was deadlier or meaner.
The Warner Archive Collection has released “The Law and
Jake Wade” on a decent, if somewhat unspectacular, Blu-ray with no bonus
features other than the original theatrical trailer. The film lacks an original soundtrack score because it was made during a musicians’
union strike. Thus, the music heard in the movie was lifted from previous features.
Despite the lack of special features, this
is a solidly entertaining film and this Blu-Ray disc is highly recommended.
John M. Whalen is the author of "This Ray Gun for Hire...and Other Tales." Click here to order from Amazon.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM THE CINEMA RETRO MOVIE STORE
The late Jerry Lewis made millions of people laugh over the decades- and accumulated millions of dollars in his substantial estate. However, his five children from his first marriage to Patti Palmer, to whom he was wed between the years 1944-1980. were specifically excluded from his will, which was drawn in 2012. Lewis later divorced Patti and married SanDee Pitnick and stayed married to her until his death in August. SanDee, along with their adopted daughter Danielle, inherited his entire estate. There had been strains in Lewis's relationship with his five children with Patti (a sixth son, Joseph, died in 2009 from a drug overdose. Lewis had virtually disowned him and refused to even pay for his funeral.) Whatever the reasons for the severed family ties, they extended to his grandchildren, who were also left out of the will. Early in his career, Lewis extolled the joys of family values, even as he had gained a reputation as a ladies man (which was ironically the title of one of his biggest hits). For more, click here.
NOTE: THE PROMOTERS HAVE ANNOUNCED THIS EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED UNTIL JANUARY 13TH
The historic BAL Theatre in San Leandro, California will celebrate Bond....James Bond this weekend with a double feature of "You Only Live Twice" and "Live and Let Die". Come dressed as your favorite Bond character for martinis, live music and prizes. For details, click here.
“A DASH OF UNUSUAL
BRILLIANCE BEHIND A FACE WITH WHITE GLASSES”
By Raymond Benson
somewhat snobbish critic John Simon has said that the only “great” female film directors are Leni Riefenstahl and Lina
Wertmüller. I’m sure we can all take issue with
such a sexist comment, but he is correct that both women were indeed “great,”
even though the former is known for Nazi propaganda films of the 1930s. Wertmüller,
on the other hand, made different kinds of scandalous pictures—but at least ones
that were, and still are, entertaining. (They also sometimes had whimsically
long titles, such as The End of the World
in Our Usual Bed on a Night Full of Rain.)
the early to mid-1970s, Wertmüller was the face of
a daring new Italian cinema. When her movies were imported to America and the
U.K, she was dubbed the “Female Fellini.” In fact, she was once an assistant
director for the auteur. But Wertmüller’s
work took Fellini’s extravagance and pushed it to an extreme, creating her own
signatory brand of comedy, theatricality, biting satire, political commentary, and
often shocking truths. Four of her films released between 1972-1975, in which
she collaborated with the brilliant actor Giancarlo Giannini, established Wertmüller
as a powerful force of artistic vision. It is no small feat that she was the
first woman to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director.
Lorber has recently restored and released several Wertmüller
titles on Blu-ray and DVD, along with an excellent documentary on the woman
herself. Cinema Retro received an
assortment of them, all of which will be discussed here.
jewel in the crown of all of Kino Lorber’s Wertmüller disks is Seven Beauties (1975; released in the
U.S. and U.K. in 1976). It was the picture for which she received the Oscar
nomination (she lost to John G. Avildsen, for Rocky). It also received nods for Best Foreign Film, Best Actor
(Giannini), and Original Screenplay. Beauties
is a tour-de-force that features Giannini at his best as the swaggering
Pasqualino, a minor hood in Naples during World War II. He takes great pains to
protect the honor of his seven sisters, even though he isn’t so honorable
himself. When he is captured by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp,
Pasqualino audaciously figures he can save himself by “seducing” the female
commandant, a monster of a woman played by Shirley Stoler.
has an uncanny ability to combine the horrors of the Holocaust with the
absurdity of Pasqualino’s Chaplin-esque pathetic bravado. You wince and shudder
at the brutality on display—and then you find yourself laughing. Giannini, who
acts more with his eyes than anyone else I can think of, totally engages the
viewer with pathos and ridiculousness. In the end, Seven Beauties is a powerful statement about what man will do to
survive, and how expendable “honor” really is.
Lorber’s Seven Beauties Blu-ray is a
gorgeous 2K restoration with 2.0 stereo audio, in Italian with optional English
subtitles. Supplements include an interview with filmmaker Amy Heckerling about
the film and Wertmüller, an excerpt from the separately-released
documentary, Behind the White Glasses,
and trailers for other releases by the director. The booklet features essays by
director Allison Anders and film historian Claudia Consolati, PhD. Click here to order from Amazon.
Summer Night (or: Summer Night with Greek Profile, Almond Eyes
and Scent of Basil) (1986) stars Mariangela Melato (who co-starred with Giannini
in three of the 70s pictures) and Michele Placido in an obvious attempt to
recreate the magic that was Wertmüller’s crowd-pleaser,
Swept Away by an Unusual Destiny in the
Blue Sea of August (1974). Summer
Night, like the earlier film, is a bawdy romance between two characters with
fiery dispositions and opposite political stances. While this sexy romp is
somewhat entertaining, and the cinematography of the locales—set around
Sardinia—is breathtaking, the film doesn’t work. Both leads are too unlikable
to fully grasp onto. The Blu-ray, however, is an excellent presentation, also
with a 2K restoration and 2.0 stereo audio. The only supplements are trailers,
and the booklet features an essay by critic John Simon. Click here to order from Amazon
Julie Wardh (Edwige
Fenech) is a woman who needs some time off men: she attempts to escape her
sado-masochistic relationship with Jean (Ivan Rassimov) by marrying Neil Wardh
(Alberto de Mendoza), an ambassador at the Italian embassy in Austria. But
things are not that simple. Julie suffers from erotic nightmares, wherein she
makes love to Jean whilst being showered in broken glass, but continues to
proclaim her hatred for him to anyone that will listen, including jean himself.
At a friend’s party, where women tear paper dresses from each other and wrestle
naked, Julie meets the cool George (George Hilton) a man determined to seduce
Mrs Wardh, regardless of her husband or complicated romantic history. He seems
kind and he rides a motorbike, so it does not take Mrs Wardh long to fall for
Of course, this being
a giallo, in the middle of this menage au quattro there is a psychosexual
killer stalking Vienna, murdering prostitutes and other beautiful women at
random. Could the murderer be the vicious Jean, who seems determined to destroy
Julie’s marriage, if not her life? Or is her sanity in question?
Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh is an interesting blend of Hitchcock’s Frenzy (1972) and Clouzot’s LesDiaboliques
(1955), with more red herrings and plot twists than an M. Night Shyamalan film.
Things become even more confusing if you watch this back to back with All the Colours of the Dark (1972, Sergio
Martino), a film made the following year with Fenech, Hilton and Rassimov whose
plot is similarly constructed, right down to the intense dream sequences with
Ivan Rassimov making violent love to Edwige Fenech. Following the rough
template laid out in Mario Bava’s Blood
and Black Lace (1964), where a faceless black-gloved killer murders his way
through a swath of beautiful young women, this film works hard to keep the
audience guessing as to the identity of the sex maniac. Any sense of logic in
the plot is however secondary to the amount of time spent looking at a naked
Edwige Fenech. When she is not baring all for the various men in her life she
is running around looking scared or confused, seemingly to pad out the running
time, the thin script probably only filling fifteen pages.
This is an
entertaining thriller which continues to enthral and fascinate fans. It’s
importance to Italian cinema was confirmed in 2015 when a three-day academic
conference was held at the Austrian Institute in Rome to celebrate the film,
with director Sergio Martino, screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, composer Nora
Orlandi star George Hilton and this CinemaRetro contributor in attendance.
Although dismissed by serious film critics in the 1970s, the giallo is now seen
as a vital element of Italian film, its influence seen in the slasher films
that Hollywood produced in earnest in the 1980s.
This new Shameless Blu-ray
is an excellent upgrade from their earlier DVD release, and is a great addition
to their burgeoning range of cult Italian film releases. Bonus features
include interviews with both Sergio Martino and Edwige Fenech as well as a fact
track from genre expert Justin Harris.
UK READERS: Click here to order a
copy of The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh
on Blu-ray, and check out their other giallo releases whilst you are there.
From 1963 through 1966 Murray Lerner would make the
yearly trek from New York City to the tony seaside town of Newport, Rhode
Island. Once there, the documentarian seemingly
photographed every major and minor player of the 1960’s folk music craze for his
resulting award-winning film Festival
(1967). Depending on one’s personal taste
in music, the celluloid snippets offered in the film’s final edit – several
capturing folk and blues artists performing in the prime of their careers – are
either frustratingly truncated or mercifully brief in length.
As a lifelong folk music enthusiast, I would find this
film a treasure even if the film’s “star players” (Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Peter,
Paul & Mary) were not featured. Watching snippets of such legends as Son House or Mississippi John Hurt
sing the blues, Tex Logan and the Lilly Bros. sing their brand of high,
lonesome bluegrass or Minneapolis’ Spider John Koerner wail away on a racked
harmonica and 12-string guitar would be enough to make me a fan. It would be too mammoth a task to list the
expansive list of folk and blues and gospel and roots artists caught on film -
no matter how briefly - in Lerner’s omnibus
film Festival, but it’s safe to say
that few important figures of Newport’s most consequential to pop-culture era festivals
are not represented.
Photographed on a set of shoulder-supported 16mm
“Sound-On-Film” Auricons, Lerner – augmented by a three member camera crew - seems
to have made an earnest effort to faithfully capture the essential comradely
spirit of the annual Newport event. This
black and white documentary film offers no narration or even narrative line,
and subsequently – as the New York Times
noted dourly in their review of the film in October of 1967, it is occasionally
“distressing and annoying” that “the more esoteric folk performers […] are not
clearly identified.” This stunningly
beautiful 2K digital Criterion release - featuring the original uncompressed
monorail sound - has thoughtfully remedied this by offering the option of removable
captions. These captions prominently
identify both the artists and the songs being performed as they unspool before
one of two documentaries released in 1967 that prominently (and perhaps)
accidentally captured on film the unlikely but meteoric pop-music ascension of folk-rock
icon Bob Dylan. The rightfully esteemed
- but more diverse in scope - Festival
has always been a bit more obscure than D.A. Pennebaker’s seminal and more celebrated
Don’t Look Back. Some of the thunder of Mr. Lerner’s wonderful
film was likely the result of having been released to theaters a mere month
following Don’t Look Back in the
autumn of 1967.
is a “music” film, aside from Peter, Paul, and Mary’s warbling of “Come and Go
with Me” that plays under the film’s opening credits, I don’t recall any other time
when we’re treated to full performance of a song. The cameras tend to linger democratically on both
the artists and the visitors to the
festival – the latter being almost uniformly young, white, and well-scrubbed. These are kids who have chosen to abandon
their schools and jobs for a long weekend of rebellious camping on the beaches
and fens of Newport. Other sleep-deprived
youngsters splay out uncomfortably on the backs of motorbikes and car hoods.
Not all hit plays and musicals translate into hit films, as evidenced by the 1992 screen adaptation of playwright Michael Frayn's comedy stage hit "Noises Off" which became a sensation on Broadway, the West End and in countless road productions. The premise of the production remains the same in Marty Kaplan's screenplay: a touring production of a British sex farce called "Nothing On" is frantically rehearsing amidst a string of disasters for a pivotal performance in Des Moines on the long road for a hoped-for eventual opening on Broadway. The film version tells the story in flashbacks with the play's director, Lloyd Fellowes (Michael Caine), a basket case of nerves as he paces about the Broadway theater where the premiere performance is underway. This plot gimmick poses a problem from the outset: the premise of the script is that, as the production lurches from disastrous road engagement to disastrous road engagement, it seems virtually impossible that the cast and crew will ever get their act together sufficiently to merit an opening on Broadway...but since the prologue shows us the play has opened on Broadway, it robs the script of any surprise because we know these inept players will indeed overcome the tidal wave of mishaps. This is yet another British property that has been Americanized, with only old pros Caine and Denholm Elliott representing the Brits. The other key roles are filled by talented American actors, among them Carol Burnett, John Ritter, Julie Hagerty, Marilu Henner, Christopher Reeve and Mark Linn-Baker. They all perform very well but why have people who have pretend British accents when you can have British actors to begin with? The answer is" boxoffice. The studio obviously felt that there weren't sufficient big names available in the UK film industry to certify the film would be a hit. They missed the boat completely. "Noises Off" was a big flop, though it has developed something of a cult following in the ensuing years.
The film was directed by Peter Bogdanovich, once Hollywood's golden boy. He hadn't had a hit since "Paper Moon" in 1973 and his association on "Noises Off" as a work-for-hire director seems to signify he was more in search of a paycheck than in presenting a film he had a great passion for. Things start off brightly as we see the rehearsal for "Nothing On" fall apart at the seams as director Fellowes reaches for his Valium. Things don't go well on opening night and, indeed, the situation deteriorates to a disastrous level on the road. Part of the problem is the complexity of the farce, which requires actors to bound all over the stage, entering and exiting with precision timing. Critics and audiences loved the theatrical version of "Noises Off" because of these logistical challenges that inevitably face the cast and director. On film, however, we're all too aware that numerous takes and deliberate editing can salvage a scene in a way that a live production can't benefit from. Bogdanovich does a good job of directing the hectic traffic but he's hampered by the fact that we see the same scenes played out under different circumstances until they get to be predictable and boring. By the time the show's most accident-prone performance is depicted, the entire affair has become monotonous, even if the cast members exert themselves admirably and deliver deft comedic performances. Some of the more amusing aspects of the film revolve around the off-stage shenanigans that find secret affairs, jealous lovers and drunken temper tantrums combining to drive the director to the point of insanity. Caine gives the film's most amusing performance and he's in top form. Because of the many cast members, most don't get adequate opportunity to stand out, though Nicollette Sheriden deserves special credit for being able to suffer through the antics while cast in bra and panties. One continuing joke that does work well is Bogdanovich's clever use of a bottle of booze and a bouquet of flowers that ended up being frantically and accidentally passed around backstage and being cleverly used and misused by those who come into possession of them.
The film's epilogue wraps things up with a too abrupt ending that seems overly cheerful considering the mishaps that we have witnessed.
"Noises Off" isn't a bad film but it never rises to the level of classic farce that many feel the stage production succeeded in doing. If you have any background in theater, you will probably find the movie more enjoyable than the average viewer.
Fassbender plays a Norwegian detective with the high school bully magnet name
of “Harry Hole” on the icy trail of a serial killer who always leaves a snowman
at his crime scenes. Based on the, um,
Hole literary series by Norwegian writer Jo NesbØ, the thriller also stars
Rebecca Ferguson as a damaged policewoman trying to solve the crimes, Oscar-winner
J.K. Simmons as a creepy industrialist and, curiously, Val Kilmer as an
alcoholic detective who first opens up the case. (Kilmer’s rumored bout with cancer has sadly
taken a toll as the actor looks nothing like the blonde Adonis he was in Top Gun and Batman Forever. It also sounded like he was dubbed throughout.) Although the Nordic scenery looks bleakly majestic
due to Dion Beebe’s stunning cinematography and soaring helicopter shots, the
plot twists and turns into a slushy mess.
by Swedish filmmaker Tomas Alfredson (Tinker,
Tailor, Soldier, Spy), The Snowman
careens along several avenues of investigation in an effort to add layers of
complexity… but promising leads fizzle out and a sex trafficking subplot seems
to die on the vine. (There’s also an
intruder scene in the detective’s shabby apartment that makes no sense.) All
that said, The Snowman is not a total
loss as it has some gripping moments and Fassbender is, as always, a powerful screen
presence.For the gore fans, the shadowy
killer employs a unique and gruesome mechanical device to dispatch his victims.Fassbender must have sacrificed half a lung to
play the heavy-smoking Harry Hole (!), but if that character were the Stage 4
lush portrayed on the screen, how could he function so effectively, noticing
subtle clues and putting the pieces together?That also didn’t quite wash. The Snowman is a big budget, well-made
film with an impressive scope and feel, but somehow it left me a bit… cold.
In an article in the Hollywood Reporter about the trend toward female action heroes, James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli confirms that Eon Productions has finalized a deal with IM Global and Paramount to adapt the spy novel "The Rhythm Section" by Mark Burnell for the screen. Blake Lively will star in the espionage adventure which Broccoli tried unsuccessfully to film for the last seven years. However, the sudden interest in action flicks with women in the lead roles finally made the project a reality. Reed Morano, director of "The Handmaid's Tale", will helm the film which will be slotted for a February 2019 release. Broccoli and her stepbrother and fellow producer Michael G. Wilson are simultaneously prepping the next James Bond film for release, also in 2019. It will mark Daniel Craig's final appearance in the role. For more click here. - Lee Pfeiffer
The Warner Archive has released a Blu-ray edition of director Richard Rush's 1974 action comedy "Freebie and the Bean". The movie clearly rode the wave of enthusiasm during this period for maverick cop movies, largely because in those bad old days America was awash in crime. Consequently, Hollywood provided us with tough guy lawmen- Harry Callahan, Popeye Doyle, Lon McQ- to name but a few, who decided to toss away the rule book and bring about their own brand of common sense justice. The fact that, in doing so, these protectors of the peace often endangered far more innocent bystanders than the criminals did, was a common theme of these pro-vigilante cop flicks. "Freebie and the Bean" takes this element of rogue lawmen movies to an extreme, perhaps intentionally as a satirical device, or perhaps just to satiate the whims of the audience who, back in the day, would howl with delight every time a constitutional right was violated in order to mete out justice to a villain. The wafer-thin plot presents us with two San Francisco detectives - Freebie (James Caan) and his partner Bean (Alan Arkin)- as wise-cracking nonconformists who are borderline psychopaths. They routinely beat up suspects, deprive them of civil rights and in one "amusing" scene actually murder someone while he is sitting on a public toilet. In between, they terrorize half the population of the city by engaging in high speed chases that cause enormous damage. The only thing that separates them from the criminals they hunt is the fact that they are sanctioned by wearing badges. Freebie and Bean are assigned to protect an organized crime figure (Jack Kruschen), who the D.A. needs to appear as a witness as a high-profile trial. However, there is a contract out on him and the two cops must keep him safe until the trial begins.
Most of the film consists of endless chases on foot and by car, as the vulgarians in badges exchange insults and Bean is inevitably the victim of Freebie's cruel practical jokes. Arkin does his usual slow-burn shtick while Caan goes for his typical wise-ass approach. About the only cliche left out of this cop/buddy scenario is the "one guy is black and the other guy is white" standard. The script by Robert Kaufman is a crude, patchwork affair that resembles something some drunken college students could have churned out during a dorm party. Arkin and Caan do display a good deal of on-screen chemistry but director Richard Rush, who would go on to make the more estimable "The Stunt Man", places most of the emphasis on staging spectacular car chases. It must be said that the stunt work and action scenes are truly impressive and give the film its most redeeming qualities. However, the characters are all cringe-inducing sleazebags- including the good guys. The impressive supporting cast includes Loretta Swit, Alex Rocco, Mike Kellin and Paul Koslo- but their characters are woefully underdeveloped. Only Valerie Harper injects a note of grace and dignity as Bean's long-suffering wife who he accuses, in howling Ralph Kramden style, of having an affair with a gardner. The scene offers some humanity and poignancy but even that slips into vulgarity with a tasteless caveat about feminine hygiene. The movie has one other opportunity to veer into some genuinely emotional territory when, in the climax , one of the key characters is shot point blank and apparently mortally wounded. For a few brief minutes the film develops a sense of human compassion before plunging into the absurd final act when the severely wounded character inexplicably leaps from a hospital gurney to engage in a wrestling match.
Upon its release, "Freebie and the Bean" was greeted with largely awful reviews. Vincent Canby of the New York Times noted the sheer inhumanity of the characters, writing: "It's as sensitive as a doorknob and as witty as a bumper sticker" and also observed that there were so many automobile chases that he suspected the film was actually directed by a car. Alan Arkin dismissed the film as "absolute garbage"- but audiences loved it. The movie became a surprise hit and went on to develop a cult following that thrives even today. Fans of the film will welcome its Blu-ray release. The transfer is up to Warner Archives standards but the only bonus extra is the theatrical trailer. That's good news for "Bean" freaks but scant compensation for those of us who decry the sheer waste of talent in the film.
was released by American International in 1976, just as the blaxploitation
sub-genre was pretty much tailing off and indeed when A.I.’s most prolific
years lay behind them. It was directed by Arthur Marks, best known to me for his
year earlier blaxploitation entry, Friday
Foster (headlining Pam Grier and Yaphet Kotto), but also notable as
writer/director on early 70s drive-in fodder such as Bonnie’s Kids and The
opens with a fast-paced prologue set in 1942 New Orleans, during which a heated
argument in a meat-processing plant between Betty Jo Walker (Alice Jubert) and
Theotis Bliss (Fred Pinkard) culminates with him slitting her throat. The body
is discovered by her brother, scar-faced black-marketeer J.D. (David McKnight),
who’s mistaken for the killer by her boyfriend, Theotis’ brother Elija (Louis
Gossett), who promptly shoots J.D. dead. (Keeping up? This is the framework for
everything that follows.) We slingshot forward 34 years to present day and meet
Isaac ‘Ike’ Hendrix (Glynn Turman), cab driver by day, law student by night.
Out at a club with his girlfriend Christella (Joan Pringle) and some friends,
Ike gets up on stage to participate in a hypnosis act, but whilst he’s in a
trance his mind is infiltrated by the vengeful spirit of J.D. With increasing
frequency, the unhinged gangster intermittently seizes control of Ike, using
him as a tool to exact revenge upon Elija and Theotis, who’ve now moved up in
the world and – along with the former’s daughter Roberta (Jubert again) – are shamelessly
using a religious set-up as front for their criminal activities.
by Jaison Starks, J.D.’s Revenge is a
gritty serving of schlock with a supernatural slant, serving up a banquet of
graphic bovine slaughter, un-PC dialogue, scathingly sexist attitude and more
than a splash of Dulux-variety bloodshed. Yet although it’s staged competently
enough, it falls shy of joining the ranks of the more thrilling blaxploitationers,
in fact on a couple of occasions it almost crosses the line into parody; it’s
hard not to smirk when Ike takes to strutting around togged up in unflattering,
ill-fitting 1940s regalia, whilst his frenetic cavorting during the climactic
face-off is truly bizarre. The only thing that rescues it from descending into
silliness is the omnipresent streak of nastiness against which the unfolding
events are juxtaposed. Nowhere is this more prevalent than a scene in which Ike
drastically changes his hairstyle; he looks utterly ridiculous and Christella
tells him so, but any urge on the viewer’s part to laugh is swiftly quelled as
Ike brutally strikes her down and rapes her. It’s one of a handful of unforgivably
misogynistic scenes that hamper producer-director Marks’s movie. To play fair, hard
as it may be for a young 21st century audience to comprehend, in
1976 such material was perfectly acceptable and the makers would simply have been
feeding demand; viewed 40 years on, however, there’s no disputing that it’s archaic
and makes for uncomfortable viewing.
root, of course, Sparkes’s script is riffing on the hackneyed – though seldom
less than fun – Jekyll/Hyde formula, and
Turman does an excellent job of vacillating between the two diverse personas of
Ike and J.D. Nuances such as Ike absentmindedly running a finger across his
cheek where J.D. was scarred subtly add veracity to the notion he’s possessed.
Gossett meanwhile brings bags of energy to the table, particularly in the
scenes when he’s vigorously preaching to his flock, and both Pringle and Jubert
deliver admirable work. As an additional note on the cast, J.D.’s Revengefeatures what
was the second (and final) screen appearance of Ruth Kempf, who’d achieved
global recognition in her fleeting but memorable debut as novice pilot Mrs Bell
in Bond film Live and Let Die; it’s
fair to say, however, she’s left in far worse shape having crossed paths with
the possessed Ike than she was in the wake of her comparatively lightweight
encounter with 007!
The FX work,
when it isn’t bluntly quease-inducing, is nicely effective. Particularly striking
is an optical when Ike is stands before a shattered mirror and sees the
glowering visage of J.D. staring back at him.
The world of horror films lost two of its
most important and influential figures recently with the passing of filmmaking
geniuses George Romero and Tobe Hooper. Although the careers of these two great
artists can fill (and have filled) entire books, I’d like to briefly mention
their most important works and pay my respects to them both.
When I was around ten or eleven-years-old, I
had snuck out of bed late one night to watch some old movie on TV; a Tarzan
flick I think it was. In order to avoid waking my parents, I had to keep the
volume on the television set very low, but sit close to the set so that I could
hear. As I sat alone in my parents’ dark living room waiting patiently for the
commercials to end, a bunch of zombies appeared on the screen and quickly
lurched forward with their arms outstretched! I jumped back while
simultaneously screaming which, of course, woke my mom. Needless to say, I
never got to finish the Tarzan movie, but I made up for it by having my first
taste of the cinema of writer/director (and sometimes editor and actor) George
A. Romero; even if it was only a TV spot for his 1979 zombie masterpiece Dawn of the Dead.
Romero’s feature film debut, 1968’s immortal Night of the Living Dead, which was made
independently for the paltry sum of $114, 000, not only began his immensely
popular zombie series (six films which
lasted until 2009), but also singlehandedly created the entire zombie mythology
which is still being used today. As a matter of fact, anyone who has made a
zombie film after 1968 not only owes a debt to Romero, but a royalty check as
well. Night, which deals with the
dead returning to life as flesh-eating ghouls and surrounding an old farmhouse
filled with seven frightened and bickering humans who cannot get along, was
filmed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (where Romero lived for much of his adult
life) and combines scares/graphic violence with social commentary; a formula
the master filmmaker would return to many times. The creepy, atmospheric and
nihilistic film reflects the turbulent time in which it was made and its
graphic tone was mainly inspired by the Vietnam War.
If I had to pick one film in the Romero canon
that I feel is an underrated masterwork, it would have to be his amazing, 1976,
modern-day vampire film Martin. This
enthralling piece of cinema, which Romero himself has said to be his favorite
of all the films he’s directed, concerns a shy and confused young man (excellently
portrayed by John Amplas) who may or may not be a vampire. Romero leaves this
up to the audience to decide. The master filmmaker also touches upon subjects
such as religious beliefs (both too strict and too casual), mental illness
(perhaps caused by a strict, religious upbringing), the healing/saving power of
love and understanding, disbelief in things that have yet to be proven, and how
such disbelief can allow someone/something dangerous to move about freely in
the world, just to name a few.
Although he is known for a plethora of
thoughtful and entertaining films (The
Crazies (1973), Creepshow,
Knightriders, Two Evil Eyes, The Dark Half, Bruiser, etc.), many of which
he made alongside special makeup effects master and longtime friend Tom Savini,
the pioneering Romero will forever be remembered for his series of scary,
gore-filled and thought-provoking zombie films.
If the word zombie has become synonymous with
George Romero, then there’s only one phrase that springs to mind whenever
someone mentions writer/director Tobe Hooper: “chain saw”. A native of Austin
Texas and a former college professor, Hooper’s name was put on the horror map
after the 1974 release of his now legendary, low-budget, living hell of a horror
movie The Texas Chain Saw Massacre; a
film about a crazed family who hunt, kill and eat humans (in this film, it’s a
group of hippie friends) in order to survive after “progress” has made them
obsolete. Chain Saw’s savagery was
inspired by violent Vietnam War news reports which Hooper would view nightly on
television. Few who saw this indie masterwork back in the day have ever
forgotten the absolutely shocking first appearance of the film’s central
villain, Leatherface (the late Gunnar Hansen); a cannibalistic, chain saw-wielding
killer who wore a mask made of human flesh. The terrifying film, which shows very
little onscreen gore, not only became an enormous hit which, to date, has
spawned four sequels, a remake and two prequels, but its influence on horror
cinema is immeasurable. A true artistic work, Chain Saw, which also stars the late Marilyn Burns and features
narration from John Larroquette, now has a permanent place at the Museum of
Modern Art in New York.
José R. Larraz’s 1982 film “Black Candles” -- original title, “Los
Ritos Sexuales del Diablo” -- has been released on Blu-ray by the specialty
label Code Red. Carol (Vanesa Hidalgo)
and her boyfriend Robert (Jeffrey Healey) fly to the U.K., where they accept an
invitation by her widowed sister-in-law Fiona (“Martha Belton,” aka Helga Liné)
to stay at Fiona’s country estate. As
the viewer already knows from a pre-credit sex scene, Fiona and virtually
everyone else on and around the estate are members of a devil-worshipping orgy
cult. But Carol and Robert are clueless,
even after they see satanic lithographs on the wall and Carol experiences bad
dreams. Fiona seduces Robert into the
coven, while the coven’s master, the sinisterly goateed Reverend
Hübner, decides to initiate Carol at the cult’s next satanic ceremony
. . . And that’s probably all anyone
needs or wants to know about the plot, which unabashedly copies “Rosemary’s
Baby” and adds all the nudity and simulated intercourse that Euro-movie fans
would expect from the relaxed censorship of early 1980s, low-budget
sexploitation cinema. Like Larraz’s
marginally more famous “Vampyres” (1974), it’s probably better judged against the
criteria of Joe Bob Briggs, “The Bare Facts Video Guide,” and “Mr. Skin” than
by mainstream critical standards. That
is: How many skin and sex scenes are in
the film? Where do they occur? How long, umm, do they last? And how much skin do they show? By those benchmarks, Larraz delivers the
goods. And for the record, his film at
least is more honest in meeting the viewer’s baser expectations than any of the
terrible sequels and remakes of “Rosemary’s Baby,” not least the now mercifully
forgotten 2014 TV miniseries. The only
actors in the cast likely to be recognized by anyone are Helga Liné, the foxy
leading lady of countless 1960s and ‘70s Eurospy films, spaghetti westerns,
giallo thrillers, and gladiator movies -- yes, she’s frequently nude in “Black
Candles,” and in sleek form at almost 50 -- and Carmen Carrión, a familiar
supporting actress in Jess Franco’s Eurotrash soft-core sex movies.
BCI Eclipse released “Black Candles” on DVD in the U.S. in 2007
as part of a “Welcome to the Grindhouse” double feature. Before that, there was a DVD-R pressing from
Midnight Video under Larraz’s original Spanish title. The Code Red hi-def Blu-ray in anamorphic,
1.78:1 widescreen is far superior to either in sharpness and clarity, and
likely the best home video edition we’ll ever see. The BCI Eclipse DVD lists an 85 minute
running time, and Code Red lists 82 minutes for its Blu-ray. Based on a comparison viewing, however, the
two editions seem to be substantially the same. The opening credits of the Code Red print give the title as “Hot
Fantasies,” once used for late-night cable showings. The only extras are other Code Red
trailers. The Code Red Blu-ray, which
retails for $24.95, is available from Screen Archives Entertainment HERE.
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it to The Criterion Collection to present a jaw-dropping, eye-popping Blu-ray
release of Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 masterpiece that many critics have called one
of the most beautiful films ever made. While the picture received many
accolades upon its initial release, including Oscar nominations for Picture,
Director, Adapted Screenplay—and wins for Cinematography, Production Design,
Costumes, and Adapted Score—it was again one those Kubrick films that was
controversial and misunderstood at first. It was not a financial success in the
U.S., and yet today it’s considered one of the auteur’s greatest works.
such titles as Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and A Clockwork Orange, it may have seemed
to be an odd choice for Kubrick to make a picture such as Barry Lyndon. One must look back to the period between 2001 and Clockwork to understand it. Kubrick had wanted to make an epic
movie about Napoleon and, in fact, spent two years in pre-production on it
before MGM got cold feet and pulled the plug. The director changed studios (to
Warner Brothers) and shot Clockwork cheaply
and quickly to prove that he could make them some money—and he did. So what was
he to do with all the previous research materials he had amassed for the
Napoleon project? He satisfied his desire to study the past by adapting an 18th
Century novel by William Makepeace Thackeray (The Luck of Barry Lyndon) so that he could tell a tale about class
dichotomy, ambition, greed, and hubris.
the beginning, Kubrick wanted to take an audience back to late 1770s England
and Ireland to demonstrate exactly what
it was like to live then. The authenticity he strove to achieve consisted of commissioning
a NASA lens so fast that it was capable of filming by candlelight (as well as utilizing
only natural light throughout the production), employing real clothing from the
period, and shooting at real locations where this past still existed. The
results are breathtakingly gorgeous renditions of English and Irish
countrysides and majestic, elegant manors. All of this surrounds the precise
depiction of the manners of an aristocracy that hasn’t been seen on screen
before or since.
O’Neal, who was at the time of production still a box-office star, was cast as
Barry, at first a naïve Irish boy who allows heartbreak and jealousy to shape
his future endeavors to elevate his social standing. He learns quickly that to
get ahead in society he must be a bit of a rogue, a schemer, a liar, and a cad.
The first half of the little-over-three-hour picture documents Barry’s rise to
prominence. After the intermission, we witness his resounding fall from grace.
story is told with Kubrick’s keen sense of irony—in
fact, no other filmmaker has had such a firm ability to elicit this very
difficult blend of satire, causticness, and paradox. You find it in all of his
pictures, but Barry Lyndon literally exudes it. This is accomplished in no
small part by the detached and slightly amused voice-over narration by Michael
the movie is slowly paced—as it should be. Things moved slower in the 1700s.
There is a stateliness and pageantry to the proceedings that is entirely
appropriate to the setting, but also to the overall message of the film—that
despite the airs one puts on to impress, underneath we’re all still human and
pretty much the same.
aspect of the production is about as perfect as it can get. John Alcott’s
cinematography, Ken Adam’s production design, Milena Canonero and Ulla-Britt Söderlund’s
costumes, and the musical score, adapted by Leonard Rosenman and consisting of
classical pieces and traditional folk material performed by the Chieftains, all
combine to transport the viewer into an age of great beauty and yet cold,
Criterion Blu-ray is a 4K digital restoration that looks magnificent, and this
is accompanied by an uncompressed monaural soundtrack as well as an alternate
5.1 surround soundtrack. The music, as well as every birdsong and musket shot,
sounds clean, clear, and vibrant.
entire second disk contains the plentiful supplements that will take a few
hours to get through. The main attraction is “Making Barry Lyndon,” a new documentary that features audio excerpts from
a 1976 interview with Kubrick about the movie, appearances by executive
producer Jan Harlan, the director’s daughter Katharina Kubrick (who also
appears as an extra in the film), and other members from the cast and crew (no
Ryan O’Neal, though). There are separate featurettes on each of the technical
aspects—cinematography; production design; costumes; editing; music; and the
fine art of the period from which Kubrick and the designers drew inspiration.
An interview with author/critic Michael Ciment focuses on the themes in the
director’s works and how they relate to Lyndon.
There are two theatrical trailers. The thick booklet enclosed in the package contains
an essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien and vintage, illustrated pieces from American Cinematographer.
short, Barry Lyndon is a remarkable
piece of cinema that is unfortunately underrated by the general public. It deserves
a spot alongside Stanley Kubrick’s other acknowledged “masterpieces.” The new
Criterion edition is just the way to see it and perhaps rediscover this
brilliant work of art.
Our friends at Park Circus invited us to a preview
of The Shining, which is returning to
the big screen this Halloween for limited screening in 100 theatres. This is
where the film really should be seen.
I first saw The Shining, under age, in my local cinema where the kindly staff
used to let us watch X Cert films from the stalls which were closed to the
public. At the time The Shining really
didn’t have the impact of Friday The 13th
to my 13 year old self. Certain images did stay with me obviously, this was Kubrick
after all, but the one thing I do remember was that the image from the poster
of Jack Nicholson’s “Here’s Johnny” moment terrified my younger sister and I
used to put the poster up just to scare her. Boys, eh? Over the years I’ve re-watched The Shining several times and each time
it’s become more and more of a favourite. This is an adult film, dealing with
adult themes and it’s a lot different watching the terror of the young boy Doc as
a parent, rather than being closer in age to the character, as I was then. What
I also gleaned from this screening was how important sound is in this film and
this new print really does justice to the look and aural experience Kubrick
strove to achieve.
There were many points that stood out that
I’d missed on TV and DVD viewings, such as the aforementioned use of sound when
one of the protagonists is “Shining” or indeed the use of mirrors throughout
the film; whole scenes where the character’s reflections address the camera, T
shirt logo’s in reverse, which pre- empt the famous use of the words REDRUM
later in the film.
The film was trailered by the short but interesting new documentary Work & Play. This accompanying film
concentrates on the stories of the actual people involved with the production, whereas
other documentaries have concentrated of the enigma of Kubrick and the film
itself, such as Room 247. Here we
have interviews with the film’s iconic twins who are just as fascinating to
look at today and still talk in unison- obviously even off the camera, as well
as those who rightly intone that “95% of films are forgotten but the ones that
fall into that 5% are the great ones, the ones that remain”. So does The
Shining fall into that 5%? As far as horror movies go, yes. Like a great
wine, The Shining gets better with
age, both in look and standing. Although Jack Nicholson’s performance has been pastiched
many times, it still stands up as one of the best examples of a man falling
into madness ever to cross the silver screen. Although Steadycam camera shots
had been used in horror a couple of years earlier (i.e John Carpenter’s Halloween), they have never been utilized
better than the scenes of Danny or “Doc”, the boy who can shine, as he races
through the Overlook Hotel’s corridors. Again, this is another example of the
use of soundscape, as the child’s bike wheels jar from hard floor to carpet in
the same way a heartbeat quickens when you approach something dreadful.
The wonderful touches such as Doc wearing an Apollo
NASA T shirt alluding to the fact that Kubrick was supposed to have been the
director of the “faked” moon landings just add to the fascination of this film.
The documentary shows that the working title was “The Shine” and that is exactly what this film will continue to do.
I’d be interested to see what Stephen King thinks of the movie now after
famously disliking it for so many years. Whatever the case, this is a landmark
work and whatever one thinks of the finished product, it’s clear that King wrote
a timeless source novel and Kubrick developed it into a classic film. This is
the perfect time of year to see for yourself, thanks to Park Circus. Let it
CLICK HERE FOR LIST OF INTERNATIONAL CINEMAS SHOWING THE FILM
Tim Hunter’s “River’s Edge” (1987), high-school student John (Daniel Roebuck)
tells his pals Matt, Layne, Clarissa, and Maggie that he’s killed another
friend, Jamie.The other kids don’t
believe him -- he makes the statement with complete lack of emotion -- until he
takes them down by the river and shows them the body.The revelation stymies the teens.As Hunter observes in his commentary track on
the new Kino Lorber Blu-ray edition of the film, “These are kids who just don’t
have the tools to make the tough choices life has thrown their way. . . . No
one has taught them morals or values.”Their parents are either dead like John’s, absent like Matt’s father, or
helpless like Matt’s divorced, stressed out mother.
(Crispin Glover) argues that there’s nothing they can do for Jamie now, and
they have to be loyal to John. He tries
to cover up the crime by rolling Jamie’s corpse into the river, and advises
John to lay low at the run-down house of their pot dealer, Feck, a crippled
ex-biker (Dennis Hopper), until he can sneak out of town. Maggie (Roxana Zal) and Clarissa (Ione Skye,
billed as Iona Skye Leitch) make a half-hearted attempt to report the murder
before changing their minds. Only Matt
(Keanu Reeves) shows any sustained remorse over Jamie’s death. He goes to the police, setting up a tense
series of events as the cops look for John, Feck and John wander back to the
river, and Layne tries to figure out who snitched. Like the events of two other seminal teen
movies, “American Graffiti” (1973) and “Dazed and Confused” (1993), the action
stretches into nighttime and into the following morning. In the meantime, Matt’s little brother Tim
(Joshua Miller), angry at Matt for hitting him after Tim callously upsets their
younger sister Kim, steals a gun from Feck’s house and determines to use it on
and visually bleak, “River’s Edge” benefits from a strong script by Neal
Jimenez and uniformly fine performances, with Reeves, Glover, and Hopper
notably compelling. Reeves’ pensive,
low-key presence effectively balances Glover’s jumpy, gawky physicality.
“There’s a great method to Crispin’s madness,” Hunter observes in his
commentary track. Glover is particularly
striking in a display of grief near the end of the movie, aligning vocal
reaction and body posture perfectly. To
say more would reveal a spoiler, but you’ll know the scene when you see
it. Skye and Zal have one of the best
moments in the film, providing some subtle macabre humor as Clarissa and Maggie
debate reporting the murder and go to a pay phone:
do I call anyway?”
police, I guess.”
am I supposed to know the number?”
holds the receiver indecisively. “You do
don’t know what to say. Here, I’ll dial,
his commentary track, Hunter compliments Danyi Deats, who plays the murdered
Jamie. Aside from a silent flashback to
the moment of Jamie’s murder, Deats’ scenes call for her to lie still on the
open ground as the dead girl’s corpse, vulnerably and frontally nude. “She had a tough time,” Hunter says
sympathetically, commenting that Deats took the pivotal but static role to get
her SAG card. Jamie’s motionless, waxen
corpse mirrors two other objects in the film: Feck’s inflatable sex doll, which
he calls “Ally,” and little Kim’s doll which Tim vindictively throws off a
bridge into the river in the film’s opening shot. Tim’s action begins the string of events that
lead him to stalk Matt with a gun. It’s
telling that Kim shows more feeling for her lost doll and Feck for his sex toy
than Jamie’s friends display for her.
The 1980s details of
“River’s Edge” look a little quaint today, when the 24/7 media give parents new
reasons to worry about their kids with headlines and top-of-the-hour stories
about teens sexting and swapping explicit selfies by smartphone. Nevertheless, the movie’s story and characters
remain unsettling. The Kino Lorber
Blu-ray’s hi-def, 1920x1080p image is serviceable. Besides the director’s commentary track, the
disc includes a theatrical trailer.
Sometimes we should just let the music do the editorializing. Just sit back and relish the greatness of John Barry's 1969 main theme for "Midnight Cowboy" and ponder why we don't hear music like this in contemporary cinema.
Knott’s suspense play “Wait Until Dark” premiered on Broadway on Feb. 2,
1966. Lee Remick played Susy Hendrix, a
young blind woman who becomes the target of a manipulative scheme orchestrated
by a sinisterly glib psychopath, “Harry Roat Jr. from Scarsdale.” Robert Duvall, in his Broadway debut, had the
pivotal supporting role of Roat. A movie
version opened on Oct. 26, 1967, starring Audrey Hepburn (in an Oscar-nominated
performance) as Susy and Alan Arkin as
Roat, produced by Mel Ferrer (Hepburn’s husband at the time), directed by
Terence Young, and scored by Henry Mancini. A predecessor of today’s popular, trickily plotted suspense movies like
“Gone Girl” (2014) and “The Girl on the Train” (2016), the film was a
commercial and critical success, ranking number sixteen in box-office returns
for the year. Movies
adapted from plays often feel stage-bound, but "Wait Until Dark"
avoids those constraints, thanks in no small part to Young's fine
pacing, sharp eye for detail, and sure grasp of character.
Crowther’s October 27, 1967, film review in the New York Times noted that the
Radio City Music Hall screening of “Wait Until Dark” included a stage show with
a ballet troupe, performing dogs, and the Rockettes. Fifty years later, going out to a movie,
you’re lucky to get a good seat and decently lit projection for the price of
admission. Any live entertainment comes
courtesy of the patrons behind you who can’t put away their smartphones for two
play was confined to one interior set, Susy’s cramped Greenwich Village
apartment, which makes it a perennial favorite for little-theater and
high-school drama productions on limited budgets. The movie adds a new opening scene in which
Susy’s husband Sam (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.), a freelance photographer, meets an
attractive young woman, Lisa, as they board a flight from Montreal. When they land at JFK, Lisa hands Sam a
child’s doll and asks him to hold on to it for her temporarily. She says it’s a present for the child of a
friend, she just learned that the friend and the little girl will be meeting
her at the airport, and she doesn’t want to spoil the surprise; she’ll call and
come by for it later. Unknown to the
obliging Sam, it’s a phony story: Lisa is a drug mule, and narcotics are hidden
inside the doll.
had planned to double-cross her accomplice Roat and split the money from the
drug shipment with Mike (Richard Crenna) and Carlino (Jack Weston), her
partners in past criminal schemes. Roat
murders Lisa and enlists Mike and Carlino to help him find the doll in Susy and
Sam’s apartment. He lures Sam away with
a call promising a big photo assignment. In his absence, Mike poses as an old Army friend of Sam’s, and Carlino
impersonates a detective investigating Lisa’s murder. In a bad guy/good guy ploy, the phony
“Detective Sgt. Carlino” insinuates that he suspects Sam of Lisa’s murder. Mike intervenes, offering his support to Susy
to gain her trust. To further disorient
Susy, Roat poses as two men who appear to lend credence to the con. “Harry Roat Sr.,” an aggressive old man,
barges into the apartment, noisily claiming to be in search of evidence that
Lisa, his daughter-in-law, carried on a clandestine affair with Sam. Later, mild-mannered “Harry Roat Jr.” knocks
on the door and apologizes for his “father’s” outburst. It’s a nice gimmick for Alan Arkin, who gets
to impersonate three characters with different costumes and personalities. For audiences who watched the Broadway
production, it might also have provided an effective “Aha!” moment when they
realized that there was only one Roat, not three. But it’s no surprise for the movie audience,
since close-up camera angles make it clear immediately that the other two are
also Arkin in heavy make-up.
new Blu-ray release of “Wait Until Dark” from Warner Archive Collection
presents the movie in a 1080p print for high-def TV. It’s a definite improvement in richness from
previous TV and home-video prints. The
tailor-made audience is likely to be those older viewers who saw the film on
the big screen in 1967, who may wonder if the movie’s “gotcha” climax still
holds up. Suffice to say without
spoiling the scene for new viewers by going into details, it does. The film’s stage origins are obvious in the dialogue-driven
plot set-up and in the constrained setting of one cramped apartment. The measured exposition may be a hurdle for
younger viewers used to a faster pace and visual shorthand, but the
concentration of character interplay in a closed space isn’t necessarily a
problem, even for Millennials who have been conditioned to expect ADHD editing
and splashy FX in movies. It imposes a
sense of claustrophobia that subtly forces the audience to share Susy’s
mounting fear of being hemmed in and trapped.
“Take a Look in the Dark,” an eight-minute special feature ported over to the
Blu-ray from a 2003 Warner Home Video DVD release, Alan Arkin notes that the
psychotic Roat, with his granny-frame sunglasses and urban-hipster patter, was
a break from the usual sneering, buttoned-down movie and TV villains of the
time. “By and large, the public had not
been exposed to that kind of person,” he recalls. “But they began to have people like that live
next to them, or see them in the newspapers or on TV.” Ironically, if Roat was unsettling to 1967
audiences, he and his flick knife may seem insufficiently scary for younger
viewers today, in the endless wake of movies and TV shows about flamboyantly
demented murderers since “The Silence of the Lambs” (1990) -- not to mention
the perpetrators of real-life mass murders that, numbingly, we seem to see
every night on CNN, network, and local news.
The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra will present two live accompaniment presentations of "An American in Paris" on November 25 at the Performing Arts Center in Newark and on November 26 at the State Theatre in New Brunswick. Here is the official description:
"Fall in love with Paris all over again! Watch this 1951
classic film, starring Gene Kelly as a former American GI who falls for
Parisian Leslie Caron, on the big screen while the NJSO plays the score live.
Memorable songs of George and Ira Gershwin—including “Embraceable You,” “Nice
Work If You Can Get It,” “I Got Rhythm,” “’S Wonderful” and “Our Love is Here
to Stay”—plus captivating dancing from the two charismatic stars will
deliver an unforgettable experience for movie lovers!"
After each performance, conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos will hold a discussion about the art of playing live to a film presentation.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents this rare 1960 eleven minute industry promotional short that was sent to theater managers to explain the innovative ways they could promote Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho". Hitchcock personally oversaw the construction of the unique campaign that intentionally made seeing the film a status symbol. No one was admitted after the movie had started and large lines of ticket holders waited patiently for the next screening. Theater fronts and lobbies were decorated with extravagant advertising materials and Hitchcock himself provided recorded announcements to keep the crowds entertained. When no studio agreed to give "Psycho" the green light, Hitchcock financed the movie himself on a shoestring budget using many of the people who were working with him on his weekly T.V. series. The film became one of the top-grossers of all time and netted Hitchcock a fortune.
They may be dinosaurs but there are still drive-in theaters hanging in there, mostly in rural America. Travel+Leisure has provided a list of the drive-ins that represent the best in the nation. Click here to read.
Curtiss (Robert Blake) aspires to be a champion stock-car racer.Fired from his job as a mechanic and
dirt-track competitor in small-town Bates, Texas, he abandonshis wife Peggy Jo (Charlotte Rampling) and
their two small children, collects his pal Buddy (Chris Connelly) and heads
east in his 1966 Barracuda.His
destination: NASCAR’s Atlanta Motor Speedway, where he hopes to hook up with
the legendary Richard Petty.Corky met
the great Petty once, fleetingly, and he anticipates that the racing champ will
remember him and offer him a chance at the big time.
but interesting and relentlessly downbeat, “Corky” (1972) veers off into
unexpected turns as Blake’s troubled character pursues his chicken-fried
odyssey from Texas to Georgia. Ben
Johnson and Laurence Luckinbill appear prominently in the credits, but they
have hardly more than bit parts as rural racing impresarios whom Corky briefly
meets as he passes through Louisiana. A
scene with Pamela Payton-Wright as a fading and not-too-bright beauty queen,
and one with Paul Stevens as a sympathetic track manager in Atlanta, don’t go quite
as you might expect them to. Four NASCAR
stars (Cale Yarborough, Bobby and Donnie Allison, and Buddy Baker) appear in a
brief scene. Waiting hopefully to meet
Petty in the NASCAR offices at the Atlanta speedway, Corky spies the four
drivers through a soundproof glass wall in an adjacent room. As Corky waves, Yarborough glances at him,
then turns away, and the other three appear not to notice him at all. The racers’ body language suggests that
they’re preoccupied with planning for an upcoming meet, and not intentionally
dismissive, but one wonders whether, today, NASCAR would insist on a
fan-friendlier scene. Back home, Peggy
Jo goes to Corky’s old boss Randy (Patrick O’Neal) to see if her husband is due
any back pay that she desperately needs. Convention suggests that the older man will put the moves on the pretty,
vulnerable girl. Instead, he’s a decent
guy sympathetic to Peggy Jo’s plight. He
gives her a check for her husband’s back wages and additional “severance pay”
without strings. The biggest surprise
among surprises is Rampling, who is believable and appealing in her atypical
role. She even manages a decent Texas
“Corky” was one of the MGM productions in the early ‘70s that suffered at the
hands of imperious studio chief James Aubrey. One suspects that some of the film’s shortcomings, such as uneven pace
and ragged continuity, and maybe the quick disappearances of Johnson and
Luckinbill, were results of Aubrey’s post-production intrusion. Other lapses, like the miscasting of O’Neal
and Connelly, good actors in wrong roles, probably not. Robert Blake’s performance is all over the
place: abrasively pugnacious one moment, infantile and maudlin the next. Like the downward spiral of the story, which
finally drops Corky as low as he can go, without redemption, Blake’s rawness is
a reminder of the bygone cinema of the early ‘70s, where happy endings were
hardly ever the norm and volatile actors were expected and even encouraged to
get in the viewer’s face. Sometimes,
watching today’s sanitized and exhaustingly upbeat products from Hollywood, I
miss the old days.
is a manufactured-on-demand DVD-R from Warner Archive Collection. The letterboxed, 2.35:1 image is
satisfactory. The film’s theatrical
trailer is the only extra. I wasn’t
familiar with “Corky” before putting the disc in the player, but apparently the
movie has a small but appreciative fan base of viewers who remember it from
long-ago drive-in and TV showings. They
should be particularly pleased that Warner Home Video has released the title.
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Warner Archive Collection has released John Landis’ “Innocent Blood” (1992) in
a new, remastered Blu-ray edition. The
Blu-ray incorporates two minutes of footage that appeared in overseas prints
but were not included in previous U.S. releases. The film opens with a montage of the
Pittsburgh skyline after dark, scored with Jackie Wilson’s lush 1960 ballad,
“Night.” French vampire Marie (Anne
Parillaud, in a lengthy nude scene) sits alone in her hotel room, deliberating
on where to find her next sanguinary meal. She opens a newspaper to an article about a local Mafia crew headed by
Sal “The Shark” Macelli and smiles: “I
thought -- what about Italian?” She
allows herself to be picked up by one of Sal’s henchmen, Tony (Chazz
Palminteri), whose CD player is loaded with Sinatra discs. Just as Tony thinks she’s going to have sex
with him, she chomps into his throat and drinks his blood -- no dainty bites
here, she does a job on his neck -- and then, having satisfied her thirst, she
obliterates his head with a shotgun blast. The massive cranial damage prevents Tony from coming back as a vampire
himself. Marie also thinks that the
blast will cover her tracks by leading police to believe that Tony was murdered
by rival mobsters (but the forensics guy who later examines the scene figures
out that the blood splatter from the shotgun is smaller than it should be --
“this guy was five quarts low.”) Marie
chooses Sal (Robert Loggia) as her next victim, but she’s interrupted and
forced to flee after biting him.
dead and taken to the mortuary, the blood-soaked Sal climbs off the gurney and
searches out his gang, turning them into vampires too. “We got the blood. We got the muscle. We’ll crack this town like a lobster,” he
boasts, energized by the super strength he’s developed as one of the
Undead. One of his victims is his sleazy
lawyer Manny, played by Don Rickles. The
stunt casting doesn’t disappoint, particularly if you’re a fan of late insult
comic. The remorseful Marie enlists wary
undercover cop Joe (Anthony LaPaglia) to help her hunt down the gangsters and
do away with them before they can inflict more damage. Joe has a personal stake, so to speak, in
bringing down Sal, Undead or not, whom he’d been close to busting in an earlier
assignment. Moreover, he’s sexually and
romantically attracted to Marie (this is Anne Parillaud, after all). But, knowing she’s a vampire, he’s worried
that he’ll be her next appetizer.
Blood” opened in theaters on September 25, 1992, and earned a relatively paltry
$4.9 million in its brief theatrical run, far outpaced by another release that
debuted on the same day, Michael Mann’s “The Last of the Mohicans.” In the years since, it’s slipped into
obscurity on cable and home video, probably remembered only by compulsive
horror fans and John Landis completists. The new Warner BRD at the correct 1.78:1 aspect ratio presents the film
in peak condition, looking substantially better than it has on any previous
home video edition. In fact, it’s
probably an upgrade over the way it looked in most theaters on first release,
given the slipshod maintenance of projector bulbs in the average suburban
multiplex, then and now. The impeccable
hi-def visuals are particularly impressive in Mac Ahlberg’s on-location
exterior shots in Pittsburgh, with their electrifyingly vivid nighttime neons. Setting the movie in Pittsburgh doesn’t serve
any particular dramatic purpose story-wise, but it gave Landis and the studio a
tax credit from Pennsylvania’s Hollywood-friendly department of revenue, and
locals will get a kick out of seeing the Liberty Tunnel and other area
chiller-thriller from the pen of Brian Clemens, 1971's See No Evil was a
notably lower-key affair for director Richard Fleischer, former helmer on such
celebrated cinematic epics as The Fantastic Voyage, Doctor Doolittle, Tora!
Tora! Tora! and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Which isn't to imply See No Evil is
inferior. Quite the contrary, in fact.
blind after a horse-riding accident, Sarah (Mia Farrow) moves in with her Aunt
and Uncle, Betty and George Rexton (Dorothy Alison and Robin Bailey) and her
cousin Sandy (Diane Grayson) at their opulent riverside home. Familiar with the
geography of the sprawling house, Sarah is able to confidently go about coping with
her disability. Arriving home after spending the day with an old boyfriend, local
horse breeder Steve (Norman Eshley), Sarah believes the family to be out for
the evening and prepares for bed, unaware that in her absence all three have
been brutally murdered. She eventually stumbles upon the bodies and encounters
the mortally wounded gardener (Brian Robinson) whose dying words warn her that
the killer is certain to return to retrieve a damning piece of evidence he carelessly
legendary Brian Clemens is probably best known as producer-writer on classic TV
show The Avengers, but he was also the mind behind a batch of very fine Brit
movie chillers, among them And Soon the Darkness, Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde and
Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, the latter which he also directed. His script
for See No Evil is an efficient little knuckle-whitener, questionable perhaps
only in the motivations of its wrongdoer. Is watching a couple of X-certificate
movies – in the opening scene the killer-to-be, face unseen, leaves a cinema screening
‘The Convent Murders’ and ‘Rapist Cult’ (both fictitious) – and getting one’s gaudy
cowboy boots splashed by a passing car really sufficient impetus for a murder
spree? Of course, no-one expects the bad guy in this type of movie to be sane,
but the heavy-handed message during the opening credits sequence that society’s
glorification of violence is the cause for what follows is pretty tenuous.
any event, See No Evil (which I first saw on late night TV as Blind Terror, its
original UK theatrical release title) is less of a tawdry exploitationer than
it might have been, making up for any perceived deficiency in that regard with
a goodly infusion of nerve-jangling suspense. Indeed, Fleischer and Clemens aim
for burgeoning ill-ease as opposed to gory spectacle and for my money they hit
the target square on. There are occasional moments of nastiness peppered
throughout – the sudden reveal of Sandy’s corpse, a haunting shot of George
immersed in a bathtub of bloody water – but they're fleeting and it’s fair to say
the film works primarily as an exercise in measured pacing and sustained
suspense. Take for example a protracted sequence in which Sarah goes about her daily
routine unaware that she's just feet away from the dead bodies of her family.
Throughout this stretch Fleischer toys mercilessly with the audience and Gerry
Fisher's cinematography really comes into its own as we're treated to a series
of impressive tracking shots, each homing in on a dropped or discarded item,
increasingly telegraphing the sense that something bad has happened, until the
eventual reveal of the Rextons’ corpses. Of course whilst we, the audience,
witness all this – including broken glass on the kitchen floor (which we just know
will be trodden on at some point and, in a wince-inducing moment, it is) –
poor, sightless Sarah sees none of it. Once she finally realises what's
happening the pace quickens and the story mutates into an extended game of cat
and (blind) mouse. There's a beautifully framed instance of tease when our
cowboy-booted killer climbs a flight of stairs; Sarah stands foreground, hidden
from him, and the camera circles so that whilst it remains focused on her it
simultaneously observes the killer's ascent. One can't help but strain to see
the face that remains tantalisingly out of shot! If the suspense loses momentum
a tad when Sarah's plight changes from being pursued by the murderer to an
unexpected ordeal instigated by a latecomer to the party, well, it's only a
UK release poster.
with any murder mystery worth its mettle there's a proliferation of suspects on
hand too – a gypsy encampment just down the lane from the Rexton abode offers
up a whole shoal of red herrings – and it’s not too surprising that one's eye
is frequently drawn to inspect a character’s footwear.
Farrow conveys blindness convincingly and Norman Eshley makes for a suitably
handsome hero, whilst Lila Kaye and a surly Michael Elphick stand out among the
myriad of gypsies. It’s nice to see Paul Nicholas and Christopher Matthews in
small but not insignificant roles. Elmer Bernstein furnishes the proceedings
with a lush score, although rather amusingly he can't help slipping into The
Magnificent Seven territory during a sequence when Sarah and Steve are out
riding on horseback.
Bava’s Gli invasori or The
Invaders (1961) was imported to U.S. theaters in 1963 by American
International Pictures in a dubbed print as Erik
the Conqueror -- not to be confused now with Terry Jones’ 1989 farce, Erik the Viking. It was the sort of genre movie that would
have played on a weekend double-bill at the Kayton, the second-run theater in
my home town. There, it would have been
paired either with another Italian peplum
or sword-and-sandal epic, with a Hammer Films horror show, or with an Audie
Murphy western. The Kayton’s 1960s
double features were eclectic, to say the least. In that buttoned-down Cold War era, the peplums satisfied international box-office demand for movies about brawny
bare-chested heroes, curvaceous scantily-clad women, and exotic settings that
Hollywood productions like Quo Vadis
(1951), Ben-Hur (1959), and Cleopatra (1964) were slow to satisfy
because they were so expensive and time-consuming to produce. The model for Erik the Conqueror was Richard Fleischer’s very popular 1958 epic The Vikings, produced by and starring
Kirk Douglas. The influence must have
been obvious at the time even to undiscriminating audiences who watched the
dubbed import at the Kayton and its counterparts in other small towns. But The
Vikings required an investment of $5 million in 1950s dollars from Douglas’
Bryna Productions and its partners to pay for A-list Hollywood talent and
on-location filming in Norway. Bava
wrapped Erik the Conqueror for a
fraction of that cost using existing studio interiors, exteriors on the Italian
coast, a modest cast, and ingenious camera tricks that obviated the need for
hiring thousands of extras for crowd scenes and constructing new sets.
International’s 1963 movie poster played the film for exploitative value. “He lived only for the flesh and the sword!”
the tag line proclaimed. The British
poster under the title The Invaders
similarly advertised, “He lusted for war and women.” Both ads suggested more sex and skin than the
script, costuming, and actors actually delivered. Like The
Vikings, Erik the Conqueror
centers on two antagonists who don’t realize at the outset that they’re
brothers. Dispatched by English King
Lotar (Franco Ressel) to negotiate peace with the Viking chief Harald, the
treacherous Sir Rutford (Andrea Checchi) instead attacks Harald’s village,
massacres Harald and most of his people, and engineers Lotar’s murder. Harald’s young sons are separated in the
chaos. Eron is rescued and carried to
Norway, while Erik is adopted by the now-widowed English queen, Alice. Twenty years later, colluding with Rutford,
Eron (Cameron Mitchell) leads an invasion of England and sinks an English
warship commanded by Erik, now the Duke of Helford. Kidnapping Queen Alice, Eron installs Rutford
as his regent. In the meantime, Erik
(George Ardisson) is shipwrecked among the Vikings. In a romantic misunderstanding, Erik mistakes
Eron’s bride, the Vestal Virgin Daya (Ellen Kessler), for his own sweetheart,
Daya’s twin sister Rama (Alice Kessler). The Vestal Virgins are an anachronism in the Medieval setting, but the
conceit gave the producers a chance to include dancing girls in diaphanous
gowns to pique the attention of male viewers. Once the misunderstanding with Rama is squared away, Erik rescues the
queen and proceeds to a showdown with Eron and the turncoat Rutford.
Video in the U.K. has released a new, 2K restored print of Erik the Conqueror from the original 35 mm camera negative in a
Blu-ray and DVD combo package. The new
release provides a renewed opportunity to reassess Bava’s movie in a sharp,
letterboxed 2.35:1 Dyaliscope image, with critical context provided by
supplementary materials. Rescued from
the drab, pan-and-scan format to which it was doomed in old TV and VHS
editions, and enhanced even beyond Anchor Bay’s worthy 2007 DVD edition, it
emerges as an acceptable B-movie with respectable costuming and action
scenes. The production values are
notably better than those of most peplums
and easily comparable to those of Hollywood’s second-tier Technicolor epics of
the 1950s, if not to the overall finesse of higher-profile releases like The Vikings and Jack Cardiff’s lively,
underrated Norse epic from 1964, The Long
Ships. Plot, dialogue, and
characterizations are rudimentary, but then, so are those in the joyless,
overstuffed, multi-million-dollar costume epics of recent vintage. At that, some of the sillier lines in Bava’s
movie can be avoided by turning on the Blu-ray’s Italian voice track and
English subtitles instead of the English-language dub with its alternately
wooden and childish voices. The
simple-minded dialogue in Gladiator
(2003), Robin Hood (2010), and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)
is pretty much inescapable short of turning the volume completely off.
year 1987 saw the release of director Steve De Jarnatt’s debut feature, Cherry
2000, an actioner planted in a dystopian future. A strong headlining
performance from Melanie Griffith aside, it’s not a particularly remarkable
film, but I liked it when I first saw it and still do. However, De Jarnatt’s
second offering, which he also wrote, is a different beast altogether: A unique
and intoxicating cinematic nightmare. Where else but in Miracle Mile can you
see a fledgling romance play out against the countdown to the apocalypse?
strolling around a museum in Los Angeles, Harry Washello (Anthony Edwards) and
Julie Peters (Mare Winninghan) cross paths several times. They get talking and
it’s evident there’s a mutual attraction between the two lonely hearts. Having
arranged an after-midnight date with Julie when her waitressing shift at an
all-night diner on L.A.’s Miracle Mile finishes, Harry decides to take a nap.
But his alarm fails to go off and he’s late – almost 4 hours late in fact.
Julie has unsurprisingly given up and gone home. He tries to call her from a
phone booth outside the diner but gets no reply. As he walks away the phone
rings and he returns to answer it. Believing Harry to be someone else, a
distraught man’s voice informs him he’s at a silo in North Dakota from where
nuclear missiles are set to be launched in less than an hour, with reprisals
targeting L.A. expected to follow minutes later...
Mile’s opening scenes introduce its two instantly likeable protagonists and
swiftly lay out enough lightly comic trimmings that anyone going in blind could
easily be primed with expectation for a gentle rom-com. Indeed, we subsequently
follow the couple through a montage of first-date activity and Harry is
introduced to Julie’s beloved grandparents. But hold on, because things are
about to veer off into less comfortable territory. Following the aforementioned
telephone conversation – a couple of minutes during which the film’s tone darkens
quite dramatically – Harry goes into the diner and recounts what he’s just
heard to the motley assembly of patrons. In doing so he plants a seed that
quickly sprouts into a living nightmare. The sense of urgency builds at an
ever-increasing rate as the remainder of the film charts Harry’s race against
time to locate and get Julie to safety, encountering as he goes a succession of
quirky and dubious characters lurking on the night-shrouded streets of L.A.
the escalating tension driven by a hauntingly eloquent Tangerine Dream score, there’s
one burning question that propels the narrative: is what Harry was told during
that phone call for real or was it some sort of twisted hoax? Suffice to say
that as time ticks on and the sun begins to rise all hell breaks loose, with
politesse kicked into the dirt as panic-stricken people behave the way that panic-stricken
people do; cars filled with terrified citizens clog the streets out of the city
and there are glimpses of the animalistic manner in which the less conscionable
choose to spend what they perceive to be their last minutes on Earth. Worse
yet, as potential Armageddon fails to materialise when predicted, Harry begins
to fear that he – rather than any genuine impending threat – may have
inadvertently instigated all the madness, anxiously likening himself to Chicken
Miracle Mile may be touching 30 years old, but for the benefit of those
unfamiliar with the film I shall leave any further discussion about the plot
Edwards and Mare Winningham deliver splendidly endearing performances and
director Steve De Jarnatt invests just enough time establishing the romantic
thread at the outset that, as fate unrelentingly conspires to separate the
pair, the viewer is filled with an overwhelming desire to see them make it out
alive to pastures green. Although almost every other character in the story
appears only briefly, there are memorable turns from Mykelti Williamson as a trader
in knock-off hi-fi gear, John Agar and Lou Hancock as Julie’s grandparents and
Brian Thompson as a fitness freak who just may facilitate Harry and Julie’s salvation.
I wasn’t expecting Citizen
Kane, really I wasn’t. When the
top-billed actor in your already quirky production is the Edward D. Wood
regular the Amazing Criswell, the failed psychic… Well, you know what to expect
on some gut level. The Amazing Criswell,
admittedly an already very minor celebrity psychic in his day, achieved certain
notoriety for his ridiculous and wildly inaccurate predictions. Following his turn in Wood’s seminal cult
classic Plan 9 from Outer Space
(1959) and the (very) belatedly released Night
of The Ghouls (shot in 1959 but only released in 1984), the pale,
blue-eyed, bleached blond Criswell is outfitted in Count Dracula-like garb for Orgy of the Dead (1965). This is, as one might expect, a classic
Criswell performance; it’s both refreshing and strangely comforting to listen
to him put all his dramatic inflection and stresses on the wrong words,
accentuating the coordinating conjunctions rather than the nouns of nearly
In Orgy of the Dead,
directed by A.C. Stephen from a threadbare “script” written by the revered Mr. Wood,
the not always Amazing Criswell portrays the “Emperor of the Night.” The Emperor is holding court at an eerie
cemetery… or as eerie a graveyard as one can set-dress on a shoe-string budget and
an indoor soundstage. The Emperor is soon
joined by his “Empress” (Fawn Silver), a Vampira- meets- Elvira character with
Sapphic tendencies who sports a layer of blue make-up that covers the entirety
of her body. Well, all of her body
except for the deep crease between her two ample breasts. I suppose the production’s make-up artist was
too shy to apply and “go deep.”
If this spooky scenario seems promising in a “so-bad-it’s-good
sort-of-way,” there’s disappointment ahead. Despite its fog-bound horror film trappings, Orgy of the Dead is not remotely a horror film at all. In fact, the only genuine horror to be found on
screen is in the ineptitude demonstrated by this the ensemble of actors,
actresses, and, um, exotic dancers. There is no real narrative here; the film is merely a ninety-minute long
topless peep-show revue with Halloween trimmings. Before the film sputters to a merciful
finale, we’ve been made to witness no fewer than ten interpretative topless
dance routines, all mind-numbing and pretty much non-erotic in their presentation. It’s all freeform and non-stop bumping and
grinding and jiggling in panties and G-strings and bad costumes. Take my word on this; it’s not as good as it
of the Dead is the celluloid equivalent of those 1960’s
nudie magazines that featured buxom, cheesecake cuties on their covers. The sort of “men’s magazines” that were
prudently stashed in the top-tier racks of tobacco shops and stationary stores
as to not offend the readers of Good
Housekeeping or Better Homes and
Gardens. The parade of beauties and
near-beauties tapped to ply their trade before a leering camera are not former
members of the Martha Graham Dance Company. More probably, they took the night off from their regular gig performing
at a local topless gin mill or adult-themed nightclub. Or maybe they were
making some quick afternoon dough by strutting their stuff on this grass mat
and fog shrouded set.
The dancers try their damndest to play to the camera, but
it’s all sort of sad. Almost all of the cast
share one common trait, and not a good one: blank and expressionless eyes. Everyone seems to be looking past the rolling
cameras into some far-off beyond that only they can see, sadly detached from
their own performances-in-progress. I
imagine this type of personal disengagement was honed on stage during their
nightclub exhibitions, perhaps as some sort of protective emotional cocoon.
It’s almost a relief when, some twenty-five minutes or so
into a parade of not-particularly-well-executed interpretative dance routines,
that a muse seeking mystery novelist named Bob (William Bates) and best gal
Shirley (Pat Barrington) are kidnapped by a Mummy and a Wolfman, dragging the bewildered
pair from the bushes. One might expect
things to become a bit livelier with this turn of events but, sadly, it is not
to be. These two masked monsters (referenced
as “The Keepers of the Damned”) simply strap the couple to a pair of stakes in
the cemetery, a punishment for their eavesdropping on the unholy ceremony in
progress. Forcing this bewildered couple
to bear witness to this seemingly endless string of interpretative dance
routines can certainly be considered cruel and unusual punishment. They should have invoked the Geneva
Sync- sound recording is kept to the barest minimum,
confined only to the wince-inducing exchanges of dialogue between Bob and
Shirley and the self-proclaimed Emperor of Empress of the Night. I cannot reasonably include the occasional and
wretched banter between the Wolfman and Mummy as sound synch as both characters
are wearing masks and presumably dubbed throughout.
Even for the most unapologetic Edward. D. Wood devotee,
this endless parade of non-erotic topless dance routines becomes increasingly
tiring, the burlesque showcase more tedious than titillating. Even the Vampira meets Elvira –like “Empress
of the Night” character eventually dismisses the parade of nudie dance routines
as “infinitesimal bits of fluff,” and for once I’m in total agreement. The film starts off promisingly in the
classic Wood Jr. fashion with two bad actors tripping over their tongues as
they attempt to deliver halting sobriquets of Wood’s God-awful dialogue. But it’s all downhill from there.
their characters have become iconic, the now classic fantasy monster films of
Universal Studios have suffered a reputation of creakiness, cheap thrills, poor
characterization and logic gaps. While the images of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula,
Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein monster, and Elsa Lanchester’s Bride of
Frankenstein dominate magazine covers, notebooks, posters, mugs and other
collectibles, the series of movies that introduced these characters seems to
get very little respect from film historians. A step in the right direction to
correct this is the excellent new book The Monster Movies of Universal Studios
by James L. Neibaur, published by Rowman and Littlefield. In this fascinating
new study, the author puts Universal’s horror series into proper historical
context. Unlike other books on the subject, Neibaur has limited his focus to
films that feature one or more of Universal’s line-up of monsters. This book concentrates
on the classic era, with the range of focus highlighting movies from 1931
through 1956. Any movie made by
Universal Studios during this period with Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the
Mummy, the Invisible Man, the Wolf Man and the Creature from the Black Lagoon
is discussed in-depth with a chapter devoted to each feature, twenty nine movies
in all. These include all of the sequels and films that blended fantasy and
comedy elements when Universal paired up their monsters with their house comedy
duo Abbott and Costello. The book is an impressive work of film scholarship and
shines a spotlight on classic Hollywood moviemaking by looking at one of the longest
film series at a major studio.
disappointed that Neibaur didn’t discuss such mystery and horror offerings from
Universal during this period such as The Old Dark House and Murders in the Rue
Morgue (both 1932) shouldn’t be. The focus on the monsters makes the book a one-
of- a- kind study devoted to characters that seem to always be taken for
granted. While Edgar G. Ulmer’s The Black Cat (1934) is celebrated for it’s
daring, unconventional storyline, the films that feature the monsters seem to
get lumped in with low budget movies from a later era. In fact, movies such as
The Invisible Man (1933), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Dracula’s
Daughter (1936) share more in common with The Black Cat than just being made at
the same studio. The author restores these films to their proper place as
valuable works of cinematic art.
isn’t to say that when there are jumps in narrative logic, especially evident
in the later movies, Neibaur doesn’t point them out. However, even these
assembly line B films are given more respect in this book then in previous
studies of the Universal genre catalog. The usual pattern of writers discussing
movies made during the Great Depression and World War II is to highlight the
escapism and lighthearted nature that many of those films exhibit. Examples
that prove this pattern include the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers cycle at RKO, the
Topper films, etc. In this work Neibaur presents a different argument- that the
monster series presented something very real to fight against, a threat that
personified the evils of economic crisis and foreign fascism. Given this
argument, it is somewhat less hard to believe that the horror series at
Universal would decline in popularity after the war ended.
addition to the nation’s and the world’s economy fluctuating during the time of
the Monster films covered in this book, it was also true that there were money
problems at Universal as well. First, Universal founder Carl Laemmle Sr.
borrowed too heavily and lost control of the studio. It was then decided at
that time that the horror series would continue as B films, relegated to a more
factory mode of filmmaking. Whereas Universal’s monster series began with cinematic
artists such as Tod Browning and James Whale helming Dracula and Frankenstein
(both 1931), the series ended with Jean Yarbrough directing She-Wolf of London
(1946) in a decidedly non-flourished way, with cost cutting in mind. The
contrast couldn’t be more evident as She-Wolf is a film with a Scooby-Doo like
ending, a far cry from the earlier films that embraced supernatural elements
such as vampirism, invisibility, lycanthropy or fantastic science that brought
life to the dead through lightning or tana leaves. It’s interesting to note
that when the B movie factory mode of the series finally ran its course, a
happy ending was not in the cards.
it comes to good adventure stories, Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)
will arguably feature among the very best. It is one of those films that
continue to delight audiences both old and new. In terms of elements it seems
to tick all the boxes. At its heart, there is a fine, good natured yet entirely
gripping story. A wondrous subterranean vista provides the viewer with
monsters, vast underground oceans, villains and plenty of cliff-hanger moments
was perhaps a well-timed stroke of luck that some of the stories penned by
Jules Verne were entering a period of public domain status. Two of Verne's
adapted novels were to feature James Mason. Disney's adventure 20,000 Leagues Under
the Sea (1954) starred Kirk Douglas as a 19th-century whaler and Mason as Nemo,
captain of the story’s legendary submarine, the Nautilus. Five years later,
Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) was made by Twentieth Century Fox an
ambitious project which starred Mason as professor Lindenbrook, who sets about
leading an expedition into an Icelandic volcano along with his group to a
magical, underground world.
Lindenbrook discovers a long-hidden message that reveals the existence of a
passage into the centre of the Earth. He leads a team of unlikely adventurers including
singer Pat Boone (who is actually rather good), Arlene Dahl, and a duck named Gertrude.
The group’s daring expedition will see them come up against exploding
volcanoes, rockslides and even flesh-eating reptiles! The film also features a
classic score by the great composer Bernard Hermann and was lavishly filmed in
stunning Cinemascope. A landmark in both science-fiction and adventure
filmmaking, Eureka Classics presents the movie for the first time on Blu-ray in
the UK and from a very impressive 4K restoration.
keen fan of the movie, I’ve followed closely the numerous home video releases
over several decades – from the humble VHS, Laserdisc and DVD era through today.
Whilst each format provided a natural improvement in terms of quality, it was a
film that never looked entirely satisfactory, with issues around dull colours
and an overall grainy presentation. I did have some initial fears about the new
4K restoration, mainly concerning if it would only enhance the grainy look to
the film. Thankfully, my worst fears were immediately put to rest.
new Blu-ray looks nothing short of stunning; there is a genuine freshness to
the picture quality. The colour retains a wonderful, natural feel, vivid but
never too rich, especially in the opening scenes based around the college and
the Edinburgh street locations. The colour is ramped up a degree for the
subterranean scenes, as of course they should. But these scenes are now nicely rendered,
bursting with shimmering colours and crisp detail. I was also pleasantly
surprised by the lack of grain that had previously hampered so many other home
editions. Instead, the 1080p, 4K restoration (provided by Twilight Time) is
beautifully balanced, extremely clean and as close to perfection as we’re ever
likely to see. It’s been a long, patient journey for fans of the movie. Without
a doubt, Journey to the Center of the Earth should always have looked this
good. Leo Tover’s glorious Cinemascope photography has never been showcased so
well, and I very much doubt if it could ever be improved upon. Twentieth
Century Fox’s Cinemascope features have never fallen short in terms of rich
detail, it’s always been there. However, in respect of Journey to the Center of
the Earth, it’s arguably never received the kind of close attention that it’s so
fully deserved. Eureka’s release also provides a couple of audio options
including a stereo PCM track and a rather impressive DTS 5.1 HD master. Both
tracks are clear, clean and dynamic.
the extras is a very enjoyable audio commentary with actress Diane Baker and
film historians Steven C. Smith and Nick Redman. Diane Baker really emerges as
a wonderful commentator with an incredibly detailed memory and she has no
trouble reciting anecdotes from the production. Steven C. Smith (a Bernard
Herrmann historian) also demonstrates a vast knowledge of cinema and engages
effortlessly even when veering away from Herrmann’s incredibly important
contribution to the film. With two such enthusiastic and knowledgeable guests,
Nick Redman’s role as moderator is made very easy, and the entire duration of
the commentary is both an insightful and absorbing experience.
included is an isolated music and effects audio track.
to this release is a video interview with critic and author Kim Newman. As
always, Newman provides many important insights into the production, a look at
the written works of Jules Verne and the subsequent adaptations of his stories to
the screen. Lasting around 15 minutes, it’s a welcome and enjoyable piece.
is also a previously released featurette on the film’s restoration history
which provides split screen examples of various home editions of the movie.
extras are rounded off with the original theatrical trailer which features
James Mason’s perfectly delivered voice over.
Packaging consists of new artwork, which is ok, but I
would much rather see the original poster artwork put to good use. Inside
contains there is a booklet featuring an original review of the film from 1959;
a poster gallery; and a selection of rare archival imagery.
Overall, it’s a terrific package with a stunning
presentation of an important movie. Fans of the genre and the film, should at
last find a great deal of satisfaction in Eureka’s release. It’s been a long
time coming, but entirely worth the wait.
Since my all-time favorite TV series is "The Honeymooners", the legendary sitcom that was originally broadcast in 1950s, one might think I would have been overjoyed at the prospect of seeing the show's new incarnation as a big-budget musical production that just premiered at the prestigious Papermill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey, a venue so revered that it was honored with a special Tony award. In reality, I had considerable trepidation about seeing the show. The characters in the TV series- bus driver Ralph Kramden, his devoted but long-suffering wife Alice and their best friends, sewer worker Ed Norton and his wife Trixie- have been ingrained in the minds of every American baby boomer. In fact, the re-runs have rarely left the New York airwaves even sixty years after their original airings and the four main cast members- Jackie Gleason, Audrey Meadows, Art Carney and Joyce Randolph- are all permanently enshrined as pop culture icons. It's for precisely that reason that I feared the new stage production would be less an homage than a ripoff, created by people who have no real feel for the show. We've certainly seen this occur before, especially in translating classic television series to feature films. Thus, I'm happy to report that the musical stage version of "The Honeymooners" is a success that will almost certainly please even the most die-hard fans of the show. Tickets are selling rapidly due to good reviews and word-of-mouth. Cinema Retro attended the October 8 performance, which coincided with a press night and cast and crew after party.
The plot fits snugly into the type of scenario found in any of the T.V. episodes: the working class Kramden (Michael McGrath) and his best friend Ed Norton (Michael Mastro) engage in one of their generally doomed get-rich-quick schemes, this time submitting a jingle for an advertisement promoting a brand of cheese. Lo and behold they actually win and before long are being wooed to join an advertising agency, with the promise of sky-high salaries. As you might imagine, Ralph starts scouting luxury apartments in midtown Manhattan before he's even earned his first paycheck, much to the chagrin of Alice (Leslie Kritzer). Meanwhile, a subplot follows Trixie Norton (Laura Bell Bundy), who has decided to return to the burlesque circuit in order to pursue her own career- a decision that leads her into the grasp of her lecherous boss, who surprisingly is not named Harvey Weinstein. (Trixie's career in burlesque was mentioned in one episode but never explored beyond that.) Predictably, the good luck that falls upon Ralph and Ed becomes a case of "be careful what you wish for", as they are subjected to seedy Madison Avenue executives, a devious boss (Lewis Cleale) and a grumpy sponsor (Lewis J. Stadlen) who expects a great jingles on the spur of the moment. The new-found success also causes a strain on Ralph and Ed's friendship.
Joyce Randolph and cast members Michael Mastro, Laura Bell Bundy, Michael McGrath and Leslie Kritzer are joined by Brian Carney (right), son of Art Carney at the afterparty. (Photo copyright Cinema Retro. All rights reserved).
The show's book is written by Dusty Kay and Bill Nuss, both of whom are obviously fans of the T.V. series, as evidenced by the peppering of references to classic episodes that left the audience delighted. The script presents plenty of zingers associated with the characters, each of of whom is expertly portrayed by their modern counterparts. McGrath and Mastro do masterly work, evoking all of the character traits of Gleason and Carney and even bearing a substantial resemblance to the comedy legends (though McGrath reportedly wears padding to match Gleason's chubby physique.) Leslie Kritzer is highly impressive, channeling Audrey Meadows even as Laura Bell Bundy creates a new interpretation of Trixie that benefits from the fact that the script emphasizes the character far more than the T.V. series did. (Though purists might growl about Trixie's sultry dance number). All of these are extremely talented young actors and they do yeoman work. (McGrath is Tony winner and Bundy is a Tony nominee.) The supporting cast is also first-rate. The musical score by Stephen Weiner and lyrics by Peter Mills are impressive even if no breakthrough numbers emerge that will have you humming when you leave the theater. The entire enterprise is creatively directed by another Tony winner John Rando, who keeps the pace lively despite the fact that the show is a bit overlong. The choreography by Joshua Bergasse is very creative but there are at least a couple of musical numbers that could be trimmed without causing any negative impact on the show. There are also missed opportunities: the production practically calls out for some reference to the Huckabuck and Mambo dances that feature prominently in two of the best episodes, but which are nowhere to be seen. (A Huckabuck skit was originally included but was cut from the finished production. Time for the producers to rethink that one) and I don't recall hearing the iconic theme from the T.V. series, "Melancholy Serenade", which was composed by Jackie Gleason. I must confess that I'm not a proponent of turning non-musical properties into big, lavish musical stage productions. The writing in "The Honeymooners" is good enough to have carried the show perhaps as a 90 minute comedy sans music and intermission. However, there is no doubt that the audience relished the songs and the reaction was overwhelmingly good. I should also mention that it was a wise decision to keep the story set in the 1950s and the impressive sets evoke a real feel for the show, including the legendary Kramden kitchen where most of the action in the T.V. series took place. There is also a very creative aspect to the final moments of the show with the introduction of a surprise plot device focusing on "Cavalcade of Stars", the program where "The Honeymooners" was introduced as a series of periodic sketches before it became a regular series. It makes for a delightful finale. Most importantly, like the T.V. show, this version of "The Honeymooners" isn't just a litany of one-liners. It has heart and real emotion, as it explores the value of relationships.
(Photo: Evan Zimmerman)
I attended the performance in the company of Joyce Randolph, who is an old friend and the only surviving member of the original "Honeymooners". Joyce, who would have no problem voicing disapproval, gave the show a big thumb's up- and if it's good enough for Trixie Norton, it will surely please the legions of fans who are salivating to see it. Don't panic if you can't get tickets. Like so many of the hit shows that have world premieres at the Papermill Playhouse, there's talk of moving "The Honeymooners" to Broadway, a development that even Ralph Kramden couldn't dream of.
CLICK HERE FOR TICKET INFORMATION FOR THE SHOW, WHICH RUNS THROUGH OCTOBER 29.
(CONTINUE READING FOR MORE PHOTOS FROM THE PRESS NIGHT)
Frank Sinatra made his first appearance in The Sands, the legendary Las Vegas casino, as a young crooner in 1953 when the town was a microcosm of its present self. The Chairman of the Board would become synonymous with the place as the years passed. In 1960, Sinatra and his fellow Rat Packers- Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford- were filming "Oceans Eleven" by day and appearing on-stage at night in their sensationally popular, largely improvised "Summit" act which consisted of music and comedy. Sinatra's efforts on behalf of African-Americans helped integrate the hotels in Vegas and he was the town's major draw. However, Sinatra's mercurial temper also loomed large in outrageous displays of anger. When Howard Hughes took over the Sands in 1967, he cut off Sinatra's credit line (which apparently the crooner never intended to pay for). Sinatra had a hissy fit and went wild in the main casino before quitting the place to lend his talents to Caesar's Palace.
Writing on the Daily Beast site, Allison McNearney recalls the doomed love affair between Sinatra and the Sands. Click here to read.
In Raoul Walsh’s “Gun Fury,” a 1953 Columbia western,
Donna Reed plays genteel southern belle, Jennifer Ballard, who is traveling
west by stage to meet her fiancé, Rock Hudson, who plays a former confederate
soldier by the name of Ben Warren. Warren now owns a ranch in California and
all the two of them want to do is forget the war and settle down near the
ocean. Also on the stage is Phil Carey (you remember him as Asa Buchanan on
“One Life to Live;” and years earlier as Philip Marlowe on an ABC TV series).
Carey plays Frank Slayton, an “unreconstructed” Southerner who’s pretty ticked
off on the way the war turned out. He’s immediately attracted to Donna Reed, though.
She represents the kind of southern woman of good breeding he’d always hoped to
settle down with some day. He tries to ingratiate himself with her but she
gives him the cold shoulder.
Also on the coach is the lantern-jawed Leo Gordon, who has
played bad guys in more westerns than you can shake a stick at. He plays Jess
Burgess, Frank’s partner. The stage stop for the night at a relay station with
a hotel and Ben arrives to claim his bride-to-be, much to Slayton’s chagrin. At
dinner we have some character development in which we learn Ben had enough
social interaction during the war and now just wants to mind his own business
and settle down with Jennifer and ignore the rest of the world. After spending
the night in the hotel (in separate rooms, of course) they climb back on the
stage next morning, only to be attacked by an escort of Union troops, who shoot
the driver and shotgun. Turns out Frank and and Jess are stage coach robbers
and the soldiers are really members of Slate’s gang. They killed the real
soldiers and took their uniforms. There’s some gun fury action and Ben is shot
and left for dead. Slayton and his gang
run off with the gold and the girl.
So far, not a bad set up. The first cliché’d plot twist
comes right after that, however, when we see Old Ben isn’t as dead as Slayton thought
he was. It’s the old “merely a nick on the side of the head” routine. He’s
pretty upset, though, when he finds his fiancé has been kidnapped and he takes
out after them. Meantime Slayton and his gang reach a hideout and Slayton and
Jess get into a fight over the girl. Jess wants her left behind, otherwise she’ll
cause trouble. Slayton wins the argument and Jess ends up left behind and hog-tied
to a fence. Ben shows up a bit later and frees Jess and they make a deal to
ride together. Ben wants his girl and Jess wants revenge and his share of the
fortune he helped steal. It’s an unlikely alliance, but given that neither one
of them have any alternative but to work together, it’s more or less
They ride on and stop to the next town and ask the
sheriff there for help. The lawman says it’s none of his concern; the robbery
happened outside his jurisdiction. Rock’s isolationist philosophy of just
minding his own affairs comes back to bite him in the butt. But he’s determined
to get Jennifer back and Jess still wants his money. So they move on and there’s
a lot of riding and some nice views of the Red Rock country around Sedona,
Arizona, where the movie was filmed. Ben
and Jess are soon joined by an Apache who wants revenge on Slayton and his gang
for killing some of his people. The three of them eventually catch up with the
gang, who have also kidnapped a Mexican girl that gang member Blackie (Lee
Marvin) took a shine to. When Slayton realizes he’s being hunted not only by Ben
Warren, (who he thought he had killed), but also by his old buddy Jess (who
he’d left hog-tied to a fence), and an unknown Indian, well, it shakes him up.
Slayton and his gang are only a few miles from the
Mexican border, he’s got to decide what to do fast. He comes up with the idea
that they’ll trade Jennifer for Jess and everyone will go on his merry way.
Whaaaat?? Make a deal with the guy you left hog-tied to a fence, and then
suddenly give up your yen for the genteel southern belle you’ve always dreamed
you’d settle down with, and gone to so much trouble to get? Just like that? And
what about Jess? Does he really think he can get back in the gang and get his
share of the loot, after Phil was so ticked off at him that he left him for
dead, hog-tied to a fence? It’s obvious Slayton only wants to get Jess out in
the open so he can plug him. How stupid is Jess to think it’s possible to make
a deal like that? What kind of crazy deal is this anyway?
“Gun Fury” was not only directed by the legendary Raoul
Walsh, who made many great films, the screenplay was written by two well-known
pros—Irving Wallace and Roy Huggins. Are you telling me that these three
couldn’t have come up with a more believable finish to this sagebrush
potboiler? Couldn’t they see, when they got to shoot the final scenes, that the
story was going off the rails? Couldn’t one of them have come up a more
believable finish than the laughable prisoner exchange at the end? Hard to
believe. But they totally wrecked what could have been a good action western. Was
cocaine already that big a problem in Hollywood in 1953?