Adapted fairly faithfully from Shaun Hutson's celebrated
novel of the same name, upon its release in 1988 director J.P. Simon’s Slugs slunk
comfortably into the subgenre of "nature gone crazy" frighteners
which over the years had found mankind besieged by worms, spiders, rats, ants,
frogs, bees and, er, rabbits (no, really!). And, just as the best of them had
it, Slugs’ beasties weren't of the common or garden kind, they were of the
supersized, extra squishy variety...with teeth…oh, and a taste for human flesh.
The inhabitants of a small American town – the site of a
former dumping ground for toxic waste – fall victim to a nightmarish contagion
of slugs and it's up to Council Health Inspector Mike Brady (Michael Garfield)
to sort it out. He quickly learns that not only are they deadly but that
they've contaminated the fresh water system. With the mutilated dead bodies of
townsfolk piling up and the authorities dismissing Brady's outlandish theories,
he turns to scientist John Foley (Santiago Alvarez) for help. Foley concocts an
efficacious amalgam of chemicals he believes will destroy them and the two men
set off to locate the slugs' breeding ground in the sewers.
J.P. Simon is better known to connoisseurs of terror cinema
as Spaniard Juan Piquer Simón, whose most notorious celluloid
offering was crazed 1982 slasher Pieces. Slugs sacrifices the
inherent sleaze factor of that film and doesn’t even attempt to match its
infamous ultra-gory effects. But what the two do share in common is
that the performances of the participants are uniformly risible and both films
are hampered by truly wretched dialogue, the mostly stilted delivery of which
only accentuates just how awful it is.
And yet, again as with Pieces, these frailties – if,
when attributed to a film with such a dubious pedigree as Slugs, they can
even be called frailties – add a welcome vein of unintentional humour.
Take, for example, this early dialogue exchange between
Brady and his wife when she draws his attention to some slugs in the flowerbeds
Him: Jesus Christ, those things are big!
Her: I told you they were big.
Him: Big? They're gigantic!!
He reaches down to touch one and recoils.
Him: Damned thing bit me!
Her: What kind of a slug bites someone?
Him: I don't know, but he's living in your garden!!
Slugs’ functionality as a "horror film" is
understandably subjective, being directly proportionate to one's feelings about
the titular gastropods. Let's face it, they aren't scary, or even intimidating
for that matter; never mind run, you could stroll away from them.
However, what most people do probably deem them to be is pretty repulsive. And
on that score Simón employs his cast of thousands to admirably
The Museum of the Moving Image will present tribute screenings to Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. On January 21 there will be a rare big screen showing of Reynolds in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown". On January 22 there will be two screenings of "Postcards from the Edge", based on Fisher's semi-autobiographical bestseller. For details click here.
I want to start this review by saying right out that if
you have a particular interest in the Cinemascope movies of the mid-1950’s, and
if you are a film soundtrack fan, especially the music of composer Bernard
Herrmann, you want the new Blu-Ray of “Garden of Evil” (1954) from Twilight
Time. I can’t remember the last time I had such a good time watching a film and
going through the special features provided on this disc.
It’s not that “Garden of Evil” is such a great flick.
It’s not. It tries to be a profound examination of men’s lust for gold and a
beautiful woman, but ends up at best being a melodramatic potboiler that’s long
on talk and short on action. “If the world were made of gold, I guess men would
die for a handful of dirt,” Gary Cooper says at the end of the film. It’s a
great line. It sounds like something Bogart could have said at the end of
“Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” But the script by Frank Fenton (based on a
story by Fred Frieberger and William Tunberg) lacks the depth of the John
Huston classic. Nevertheless, “Garden of Evil” is still a highly enjoyable
Cooper plays Hooker, an American adventurer stranded in
Puerto Miguel, Mexico when the boat that was taking him to the California gold
fields develops engine trouble. Stranded along with him are fellow passengers Richard
Widmark, who plays Fiske, a card sharp, and Cameron Mitchell as Luke Daly, a
young hot head, who thinks he’s tough and good with a gun. The three Americans are
basically stuck with each other in Puerto Miguel as they try to figure out what
they’re going to do in Mexico while waiting six weeks for the boat’s engine to
That question is quickly answered in a cantina when Fiske
starts to tell Daly’s fortune using a deck of cards and holds up a red queen. Who
should walk in at that particular moment? None other than the red-headed queen
of Fox’s 1950s Cinemascope productions herself—Susan Hayward as Leah Fuller.
She storms into the place (as Hayward was often prone to do), saying she’ll pay
$2,000 in gold to any man who will come with her up into the mountains to
rescue her husband, who is trapped in a gold mine. Only one of the Mexican’s in
the bar, Vicente (Victor Manuel Mendoza) takes her up on her offer. The others are
too afraid of the Apaches up there. But our three intrepid Americanos can’t
resist the $2,000 and the fiery redhead who’s offering it and agree to go along
The journey is long and arduous. Hayward takes them up a
dizzying mountain trail that has a cliff with a drop of a thousand feet, give
or take a mile or two. Art directors Edward Fitzgerald and Lyle Wheeler came up
with some fantastic matte paintings for these scenes. The vistas that spread
out on the vast Cinemascope screen are breathtaking and add a weird touch of
fantasy to the film. I couldn’t help thinking of the scenes from the old Tarzan
movies, when the ape-man and his companions were climbing the Mutia Escarpment.
The use of the matte paintings to enhance the natural scenery of the Guanajuato,
Mexico location, I suspect was deliberate, to establish a demarcation between
the everyday world of Puerto Miguel and the mysterious Garden of Evil, where
the mine is located. The place was given its name by an old priest who, I
presume, knew about things like good and evil.
They arrive at the mine after several days’ journey and
find Leah’s husband, John Fuller (Hugh Marlowe), still alive. They dig him out
and set his broken leg in a splint. You’d think he’d be grateful, but it turns
out he’s a jealous insecure man, suspicious of the guys who came to his aid. He
thinks they want his gold and his wife. He’s partly right about that. Luke Daly
has already made unwanted advances and had to be knocked into submission by
Hooker. And neither Fiske nor Hooker have failed to notice Leah’s stunning
beauty, although they are more gentlemanly about it. Widmark as Fiske plays it
cynical, but in the end, he shows he’s not the cad he pretends to be and makes
a noble gesture on her behalf.
Cooper as Hooker, of course, is the upright man of honor
as always. At age 54 he was in a peak period of his career. He seemed to get
better as he got older. In films of that period such as “Vera Cruz,” “High
Noon,” and “Man of the West,” he gave some of his best performances, showing
that unusual combination of seasoned leather toughness and vulnerability. He
could do more with a squint or a twitch of the mouth than most other actors
could do with a page of dialogue. He dominates scene after scene just with his
mere presence, despite the star power of his co-stars.
Once the characters are finally all together at the mine,
the potboiler plot kicks in and the film gets a bit tedious, until smoke signal
appear on the rim and the Apaches move in. The rest of the story concerns
itself with the escape back through the mountains with Apaches in pursuit. Who
will make it? Who will die? And who ends up with Susan Hayward?
Watching Hayward, Widmark, and Cooper play against each
other is the kind of movie-going experience that cannot be equaled today. Veteran
director Henry Hathaway made good use of the wide Cinemascope lenses, shooting many
long takes with a stationary camera, filming the actors as though it was a stage
production. As film historian Nick Redman says in the Blu-ray’s commentary
track, by this time the studio had started using four-track magnetic tape to
record sound and there are moments that almost seem as if the actors are there
Not the most beloved entry in Alfred Hitchcock's
cinematic oeuvre – by either audiences in general or the director himself –
1939's Jamaica Inn (based on a Daphne du Maurier novel first
published three years earlier) is nevertheless a serviceable enough piece of
drama, which perhaps finds its most ideal place nowadays as an undemanding
rainy Sunday afternoon programmer.
Following the death of her mother, Mary Yellen (Maureen
O'Hara) travels from Ireland to England intending to take up residence with her
relatives at their Cornish hostelry the Jamaica Inn. After an unexpected
detour, which on face value proves beneficial when she makes the acquaintance
of local squire and magistrate Sir Humphrey Pengallan (Charles Laughton), Mary
arrives at her destination to find her browbeaten Aunt Patience (Maria Ney)
living in fear of a tyrannical husband, the brutish Joss Merlyn (Leslie Banks).
It also transpires that the Inn is the refuge of a gang of cutthroats – of
which Merlyn is ringleader – who orchestrate shipwrecks along the
perilous coastline, murdering in cold blood any surviving crew and plundering
the cargo. When the gang set about lynching one of their own, James 'Jem'
Trehearne (Robert Newton), who's been lining his own pockets with the spoils,
Mary saves his life and together they flee into the night, eventually turning
to Pengallan for help. But Mary soon discovers neither Trehearne nor Pengallan
are what they first appear…
Extremist spoilerphobes who've not seen Jamaica Inn needn't
get too riled by the revelation that Pengallan is the film's principal
malefactor, since it's a card Hitchcock lays face up on the table very early in
the proceedings. Some might suggest too early, but the fun derived
from this stratagem is the discomfort that escalates as we the audience,
knowing he's a bad egg, watch our hero and heroine mistake him for a paragon of
virtue, erroneously placing their trust in the very man they’re trying to bring
Its screenplay having been penned by Sidney Gilliat and
co-credited to Hitchcock’s secretary Joan Harrison, author Daphne du Maurier
was reputedly dissatisfied with the changes made to her novel, and indeed the
resulting picture as a whole. And in many respects Jamaica Inn doesn't
really feel like "An Alfred Hitchcock Film" at all, not only because
it was rare for him to tackle period drama but also due to the fact the
performances are so atypically theatrical, certainly more so than in any other
of his pictures that I can think of. The ripest ham of the bunch is
unquestionably Charles Laughton, who also co-produced and so held considerable
sway over the production – for example, he drafted in J.B. Priestley
to finesse his dialogue – and for my money the actor pitched his
performance completely wrong. What the story cries out for but desperately
lacks is a strong arch-villain and, where Pengallan ought to be a festering
pool of corruption and depravity, the conceited air, sly sideways glances,
snide smirking and ludicrously fashioned eyebrows that garnish Laughton's
portrayal, he's more pantomime rascal than anything even remotely threatening.
Which isn't to say there's nothing to enjoy about his performance. He
rapaciously chews on the scenery, shamelessly thieving one's attention every
time he's on screen – even when he's background in a shot – and his lascivious
designs on Mary are queasily unsettling. It's merely that, in the context of
this particular story, I consider the campy approach was misjudged.
Continuing with the subject of villainy, after the
initial, impressively discomfiting scenes in which it looks as if Merlyn is
going to be a despicable force to be reckoned with, the character is revealed
to be Pengallan's puppet and regrettably loses some of his edge; later on there
are even attempts to turn him into a figure of pity. Perhaps the most
interesting of the cutthroats is Emlyn Williams as Harry the Peddler, whose
soft whistling as he goes about his felonious work imbues him with quiet
menace, though he's sadly a tad underused.
On the plus side though, Maureen O'Hara is spirited and
ravishing as the heroine of the piece; one can hardly blame Pengallan for
wanting to truss her up and take her home! And those most familiar with Robert
Newton in his legendary performance as the bewhiskered Long John Silver in
Byron Haskin's 1950 take on Treasure Island may be as taken aback as
I at the youthful and slightly effeminate good looks the actor exhibits here,
however his performance is admirable.
Having stated that Jamaica Inn doesn't feel like
a Hitchcock film, there are still some nice ‘Hitchcockian’ flourishes in
evidence. Notable is a sequence in which Mary wakes beside a sleeping Jem and,
espying a savage blade lodged in the sand within reach of his hand, tries to
slip away without rousing him. All the same, the scenario isn't milked to its
full potential, at least not in the same way similar moments are so
nail-bitingly structured in the director's other works.
King’s 1975 novel Salem’s Lot began
life as an unpublished short story (“Jerusalem’s Lot”) while Mr. King was still
in college. When he decided to expand it
into a novel he posed the question as to what would happen if Count Dracula
were to come back in 20th Century America, and his wife Tabitha
joked that he would probably get run over by a cab in New York City. It was originally titled Second Coming, however it was changed at the urging of Mrs. King because
it sounded like a “bad sex story” (she’s was right, and had a dirty mind to
boot!). The 439-page book was then made
into an effective TV-movie four years later, premiering in two parts on both
November 17 and November 24 on CBS. TV-movies
are a completely different animal than theatrical films as they are often shot
in a much quicker fashion. Salem’s Lot is no exception. The multiple-hour-long film was shot during a
seven-week stretch in July and August of 1979.
film’s construction is elliptical in nature and begins at the end with David
Soul as Ben Mears and Lance Kerwin as Mark Petrie, both obviously dirty, worn
out, and tired, as they collect holy water from a church in Mexico. They have been on the run for a while, but we
don’t know why. The action then switches
back to two years previous when Mears returns to the town of Salem’s Lot in
Maine (in reality the Victorian Village of Ferndale, CA). The small town feel is obvious from the get-go
as townspeople know and greet one another with polite familiarity. Novelist Mears drives into town and eyes the
Marsten House (a false front constructed for the film that was burned down at
the end; Peter Medak did the same thing in his masterful 1980 film The Changeling) and as it turns out he
had quite a scare there when he was a child. His attraction to the huge manse, which is reputed to be haunted, only
intensifies when he learns that two antique dealers, Richard Straker (James
Mason) and Kurt Barlow (Reggie Nalder), have purchased it and are opening up a
new shop in the Salem’s Lot business district. Barlow is reputed to be traveling throughout Europe acquiring new and
fancy merchandise to sell at the new store, however despite Mr. Straker’s
constant insistence that he will arrive shortly, his absence is felt. Mears, meanwhile, moves into a boarding house
temporarily to work on his new novel and finds himself romancing Susan Norton
(Bonnie Bedelia of Die Hard), a local
fan of his. Things in Salem’s Lot seem
to take a turn for the worse when Straker asks a moving company to lower a
crate into his basement; cold air emanates from the wooden enclosure and the
movers run off in fright. Several deaths
occur within the town, most horrifically among them children. When the vampire finally appears in the form
of Reggie Nalder, he is quite a sight to behold. Mark Petrie (Lance Kerwin), a teenage horror
film fan who also is an aficionado of magic, gets caught up in the mayhem and
when his parents are killed he vows revenge against Barlow. Together with Ben, Mark finds himself on the
run from vampires…
film’s signature image of a vampire in the form of one of the young boys with
bloodshot eyes floating outside of a window is still creepy by today’s
standards. Many young children suffered
through sleepless nights 37 years ago when the film aired, mostly due to this
sequence. The film also boasts a spooky
score by Harry Sukman which punctuates the action in a fashion that keeps in
line with similar made-for-TV movies of the period and is every bit as good as
anything concocted by composers Robert Cobert and Dominic Frontiere.
you watch the film you’re struck by just how many of the wonderful character
actors who appear are no longer with us: uncredited Reggie Nalder as Barlow;
Elisha Cook, Jr. and Marie Windsor, who both appeared as a couple in Stanley
Kubrick’s The Killing in 1955; James
Mason as Straker, and Kenneth MacMillian as the constable.
Salem’s Lot, in addition to many syndicated
airings, was released on VHS in the 1980’s by Warner Home Video in the form of
the 112-minute European theatrical cut, which removes 71 minutes (roughly 38%)
of the original television broadcast. While I am grateful that the 183-minute version is the one released on
this new Warner Blu-ray, it would have been nice to have had the 112-minute cut
on here as well just to be able to compare the two. Perhaps the master for that cut has been
misplaced? Director Tobe Hooper, still
riding the wave of the success of The
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1973) but having faltered with Eaten Alive (1976) and then getting fired
from the set of The Dark (1979),
regains his horror footing here before going on to make the little gem The Funhouse (1981) and the spectacular Poltergeist (1982). The sole extra on this otherwise bare-bones
release is a running commentary by Mr. Hooper, but this is sufficient and
should satisfy even the most die-hard fans of the film.
The Warner Archive has released a Blu-ray edition of director Vincente Minnelli's classic 1950 comedy "Father of the Bride". The movie's delights haven't faded a bit with the passing of the years and its premise is as timely as ever- namely, that planning a wedding is a major pain in the butt for everyone involved. In this case Spencer Tracy is the long-suffering dad, Stanley T. Banks, who lives an uppercrust lifestyle complete with live-in maid. Still, he isn't so wealthy that he can spend with wild abandon. When his teenage daughter Kay (Elizabeth Taylor) announces she is engaged to heartthrob Buckley Dunstan (Don Taylor), everyone's lives are turned topsy-turvy. Predictably, Stanley feels Buckley isn't quite worthy of having his daughter as his wife, a common prejudice experienced by about 90% of fathers worldwide who find themselves in the same situation. However, his wife Ellie (Joan Bennett) is enthusiastic about the wedding and goes all-out in assisting her starry-eyed daughter in ensuring that the big day is all she dreams it will be. Before long Stanley finds his leisure time is a thing of the past as a rapidly escalating number of chores (and expenses) relating to the wedding begin to snowball. The witty, Oscar-nominated screenplay, based on the novel by Edward Streeter, allows Stanley to narrate his own tale of woe, wallowing in self-pity all along the way and portraying himself as the ultimate victim: he's pressed to spend a king's ransom on the wedding even while his own opinions are consistently dismissed by those around him. Tracy, also Oscar-nominated, plays the part to the hilt with a slow-burn temper occasionally rising to the level of a full-blown tantrum. Before long the old adage is proven out that if a family can survive planning the wedding then the union may actually succeed. Liz Taylor radiates almost surrealistic beauty as the bride-to-be and the supporting cast is top notch with old pros Billie Burke and Leo G. Carroll joining in the fun. The only weak link is Don Taylor as the groom. The character is so ridiculously polite and wimpy that it defies belief that Stanley would view him as a threat to his daughter in any way. Under the direction of Vincente Minnelli, "Father of the Bride" remains an extremely funny film that doesn't strive for belly laughs but, rather, concentrates on a consistent string of low-key, highly amusing situations that will ring true to all viewers. The film's popularity resulted in a successful sequel, "Father's Little Dividend" and also inspired a very good remake (and sequel) starring Steve Martin in the 1990s.
The Blu-ray edition looks great and includes the original trailer and vintage newsreel footage of Elizabeth Taylor's real-life wedding as well as a visit to the set by President Harry S. Truman.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM THE CINEMA RETRO MOVIE STORE
William Peter Blatty, the novelist and screenwriter whose book "The Exorcist" became a literary phenomenon and a movie sensation, died Thursday at age 89. Blatty's success prior to the publication of the book in 1971 was largely based on comedic novels and screenplays. His greatest claim to fame in his early career was as screenwriter of the Pink Panther comedy "A Shot in the Dark". Blatty was studying at Georgetown University when he heard about a 1949 incident in which the Catholic church issued a rare approval for the exorcism of a young boy who was allegedly possessed by a demon. The story so intrigued Blatty that many years later it formed the basis of "The Exorcist", though he changed the victim to a young girl. The book was an overnight success and director William Friedkin's 1973 film version became one of the highest grossing films of all time. Blatty and Friedkin disagreed about the final cut of the film but did decide to release an alternate version in 2000 that contained scenes deleted from the original cut. Blatty directed and wrote the 1990 sequel "Exorcist III", feeling he could convey story elements that were not included in the first film or its disastrous 1977 sequel. However, "Exorcist III" opened to middling boxoffice and critical disinterest. Over the years Blatty complained that, despite the financial success "The Exorcist" franchise had afforded him, he was frustrated that he could no longer return to writing comedy, which was his first love. He said that studios and publishers always expected him to produce a horror blockbuster. For more click here.
(For an exclusive interview with William Peter Blatty, see Cinema Retro issue #19)
Second Time Around” is a 1960 comedy-western starring the late, great Debbie
Reynolds as a city widow with two children who decides to follow her and her
late husband’s dream of living out West. A friend of her deceased husband tells
her to come with the kids out to Arizona Territory where she can work in his
general store. She goes out alone at first only to find that by the time she
gets there the friend who owned the store has been killed. The sheriff (Ken
Scott) seems more interested in picking Debbie up literally at the train
station and carrying her off to the saloon than catching the killer. He tells
her that the store owner was killed by a man with a tattoo of a dagger on his
arm. Dum de dum dum. Remember that.
tries to find work in town but ends up working out on Thelma Ritter’s ranch.
You remember Thelm-a she was in dozens of films back in the fifties/sixties
playing the role of the good friend/landlady/confidante who always befriends the
female lead. We also meet Steve Forrest as a slick gambler; Andy Griffith, as
the bashful 35 year old son of a lady ranch owner (he’s more like Gomer than
Andy in this one); and Juliet Prowse as Steve Forrest’s girlfriend.
a nice cast and director Vincent Sherman does a pretty good job keeping the lightweight
story based on a Richard Emery Roberts novel moving. (Screenplay is credited to
Oscar Saul and Cecil Dan Hansen—a pseudonym for Clair Huffaker). There are two
main conflicts in the plot. The first is a romantic triangle between Debbie,
Andy, and Steve. Sharpster Steve keeps getting the best of poor Andy all
through the story, but Andy keeps plugging along. At one point Steve salts a
river with gold nuggets and gets Debbie to go out there with him and prospect
for gold. His main intention is to get her to fall in the water so she’ll have
to take all her clothes off to dry. Forced to spend the night wrapped in a
blanket, Debbie sort of melts to Steve’s charm but of course not all the way.
It’s 1961, after all.
an irate Andy rides out there in the morning and socks Steve on the jaw, and
when Debbie finds out that Steve salted the river she slaps both of them in the
face and walks off in a huff. Of course you know what happens next. Steve socks
Andy and he falls in the river. It’s that kind of comedy, folks.
second conflict is between Debbie and crooked sheriff Ken Scott. She starts a
recall petition to force him to run for re-election. She’s convinced he knows
more than he’s saying about her dead husband’s dead friend. Scott calls in
reinforcements to help him stop her, one of whom turns out to be a guy with a
tattoo of a dagger on his arm. Dum-de-dum-dum. And somehow it is very
satisfying to see that this particular baddie is played by none other than the
great Timothy Carey. Carey was an actor whose weird looks and hulking size made
him a villain extraordinaire in such films as “One Eyed Jacks,” “Revolt in the
Big House,” “The Killing,” and dozens more. He’s just as scary in this film. In
cahoots with the sheriff he and two other no goods rob a bank and steal the $200
Debbie just borrowed.
mad (that was basically Debbie’s thing, wasn’t it?) she gets people to sign the
recall petition and runs for sheriff herself. Guess what? This inexperienced,
tenderfoot female, who had never fired a gun before, and could barely lift feed
sacks into a wagon when she first got there, wins the election. You just
couldn’t keep Debbie down back in the sixties.
ridiculous as it sounds this is actually an entertaining 99 minutes. It’s
almost a time capsule of movies from that era—the kind of movie housewives and
mothers would go with their kids to watch at a summer afternoon matinee. You
could learn more about what the Sixties were really like from watching this
movie than you could watching 20 episodes of “Mad Men.”
a 20th Century Fox Cinemascope presentation, and the sound was
recorded using Fox’s then state-of-the-art stereophonic sound system. I don’t
know the technical aspects of how they recorded movie sound back then, but in some
ways it was a much better system than the current, digital high def soundtracks
in vogue today. It almost seems like they only used right, left and center
microphones to pick up all the sound. Hence the soundstage on my Bose Cinemate
II Home Theater was incredibly lifelike—much like watching a play on stage. You
could actually hear the dialog. Even more vibrant, without being intrusive, was
Gerald Fried’s music score.
the movie gets its title from the song that Bing Crosby sung in Fox’s “High
Time” which was released the same year. Henry Mancini did the scoring for “High
Time” but the producers wanted a tune for Bing to croon and hired Sammy Cahn
and James Van Heusen to write it. Nobody sings it this time around—it just
swells up suddenly for the first time in the middle of the movie during a love
scene between Debbie and Steve. I guess Fox wanted its money’s worth from the
DVD from 20th’s burn on demand Cinema Archive division has good
picture quality along with superb sound, but no special bonus features. But that’s
okay, seeing Tim Carey in a comedy was bonus enough.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from Lionsgate:
Relive the imaginative and compelling cult classic, The
Man Who Fell to Earth, when the Limited Collector’s Edition arrives on Blu-ray
Combo Pack (plus Digital HD) January 24 from Lionsgate. International icon
David Bowie stars in his unforgettable debut role as an alien who has
ventured to Earth on a mission to save his planet from a catastrophic drought.
In honor of David Bowie’s legacy, the limited collector’s edition Blu-ray Combo
Pack includes never-before-seen interviews, brand new artwork, a 72-page bound
book, press booklet, four art cards and a mini poster. Hailed as “the most
intellectually provocative genre film of the 1970s” by Time Out, the remastered The
Man Who Fell to Earth Limited Collector’s Edition Blu-ray Combo Pack will
be available for the suggested retail price of $34.99.
Thomas Jerome Newton (David Bowie) is a humanoid
alien who comes to Earth from a distant planet on a mission to take water back
to his home planet.
BLU-RAY/DVD/DIGITAL HD SPECIAL FEATURES
· David Bowie Interview
– French TV 1977
· New Interview
with Costume Designer May Routh Featuring Original Costume Sketches
· New Interview
with Stills Photographer David James Featuring Behind-the-Scenes Stills
· New Interview
with fan Sam Taylor-Johnson
· New Interview
with Producer Michael Deeley
· New “The Lost
Soundtracks” Featurette, Featuring Interviews with Paul Buckmaster and Author
· Interview with
· Interview with
Writer Paul Mayersberg
· Interview with
Cinematographer Tony Richmond
· Interview with
Director Nicolas Roeg
David Bowie Basquiat, Labyrinth, The
in Black, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
Mass. — Dec. 12, 2016 — For Immediate Release — The Film Detective announces
its classic movie app, streaming on Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV. An established
leader in film restoration and distribution, with thousands of hours of
classic film and television restored from original elements, The Film Detective
offers viewers the chance to forgo DVDs or a cable subscription, while still
enjoying great entertainment. For a preview, visit thefilmdetective.tv
app launches with dozens of iconic titles, including rare silent films,
westerns, film noir, musicals and comedies. In addition to such golden age Hollywood
fare as Kansas City Confidential (1952), The Film Detective has
uncovered and restored such kitschy titles as Flash Gordon Conquers the
Universe (1940), The Vampire Bat (1933) and 20 episodes of The
New Howdy Doody Show (1976-77). The app refreshes content monthly for
timely programming around themes, holidays and anniversaries.
Film Detective also creates original, supplemental content, with legendary
broadcast veteran Dana Hersey (longtime star of Boston’s WSBK-TV’s
groundbreaking series, The Movie Loft), offering behind-the-scenes
information and fun-facts about the movies. The Film Detective’s original
content starts with The Outlaw: The Movie That Couldn’t Be Stopped, a
mini-documentary highlighting the film’s controversial journey to success.
addition, the app offers licensed content such as the recently discovered,
HD-restored, lost Ed Wood TV pilot Final Curtain (1957); the
Oscar-winning documentary The Man Who Skied Down Everest (1975); and
such beloved family classics as Sounder (1972). The Film Detective
has also licensed the Independent International Pictures library which includes
over 200 classic exploitation films, including the Al Adamson collection (Satan's
team is excited to bring vintage cinema to life in the digital age through The
Film Detective app. It gives consumers a library of content without purchasing
DVDs, Blu-rays or subscribing to cable. Viewers can now enjoy old favorites and
long-lost gems on demand. This is truly cutting the cord,” commented Phil
Hopkins, Founder of The Film Detective.
Film Detective uses Zype, the video distribution service for OTT, to manage and
publish their premium content and foster relationships with classic movie and
TV fans. “A premium subscription service is the natural progression for The
Film Detective,” said Zype’s CEO, Ed Laczynski. “Zype is thrilled to help The
Film Detective bring content to streaming media devices and to help
cord-cutters re-discover the classic film and television content they grew up
a free trial period with subscriptions starting as low as $3.99 per month or
$34.99 annually. Three films will stream free each month. iOS distribution will
be available in 2017.
The Film Detective:
Philip Elliott Hopkins – who has been a fixture in the entertainment industry
since 1999 – has channeled his life-long
passion for collecting classic films into The Film Detective, a leading
purveyor of restoration and distribution of broadcast-quality,
digitally-remastered programming, including feature films, television, foreign
imports, documentaries, special interest and audio. Since launching in 2014,
the Massachusetts-based company has distributed its extensive library of 3000+
hours on DVD, Blu-ray and through such leading digital and television broadcast
platforms as Turner Classic Movies, American Movie Classics, NBC, Bounce TV,
Hulu, Amazon, EPIX HD, MeTV, PBS and more. In 2016, the Film Detective launched
its OTT classic movies channel streaming on Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Apple TV. Visit
us online at www.TheFilmDetective.com
Turner Classic Movies, in association with Warner Home Entertainment, will present the classic musical "Singin' in the Rain" in select U.S. theaters nationwide on January 15 and 18. The film, directed by Stanley Donen and starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor, will be shown with a special filmed introduction by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz. Click here for more info.
By 1959 Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas were at the peak of the popularity with movie audiences. Genuine superstars, the larger-than-life actors were among the first to exert their independence from the major studios by forming their own production companies and becoming masters of their own destinies. Between them they produced and sometime starred in some excellent films. Among the most underrated of their numerous on-screen team-ups was their joint production of "The Devil's Disciple", based on George Bernard Shaw's scathing satire based in New England during the American Revolution. The film was criticized in some quarters (including the New York Times) for taking some severe liberties with Shaw's original work in order to elaborate the action sequences that audiences would expect to see in a Lancaster/Douglas film. Still, the movie retains the requisite wit that would have to be apparent in any adaptation of a Shaw story. The film had a troubled production history. It was in the works to be made as early as 1939. Over the years, names like Marlon Brando, Rex Harrison, Montgomery Clift and Carroll Baker had been attached to various announcements about production schedules that never materialized.When Lancaster got the film rights to the story it was announced it would go into production in 1955. By the time it all came together, Lancaster had teamed with Kirk Douglas for a joint production with Laurence Olivier now the third lead. The film was originally to be directed by Alexander Mackendrick who had recently worked with Lancaster on "Sweet Smell of Success". Shortly after filming began, Mackendrick was summarily fired. The director claimed it was because of his objection to revisions in the screenplay that emphasized action and sex over the elements that were pure Shaw. Lancaster and Douglas maintained that his release was due to their dissatisfaction with the pace of filming. In any event, Mackendrick's dismissal was good news for Guy Hamilton, the up-and-coming young British director who would go on to make four James Bond movies. As a replacement for Mackendrick, Hamilton's light touch and ability to mingle action with humor and romance made him a suitable director for this particular film.
Among the more significant changes between the play and screenplay is that the character of Rev. Anthony Anderson, played by Lancaster, has been elevated in importance to match that of Richard Dudgeon, played by Douglas. The film opens in New Hampshire village during the final days of the American Revolution. Anderson is a kindly, gentle man with a pretty young wife, Judith (Janette Scott), who tries to remain apolitical despite the momentous events taking place around him. The British under General Burgoyne (Laurence Olivier) have occupied the surrounding areas and taken harsh measures to eliminate rebel resistance. This is achieved by publicly hanging suspected rebels, sometimes on the basis of slim or mistaken evidence. When Burgoyne's men string up the father of notorious rebel Richard Dudgeon, it sets in motion a series of events that make it impossible for Rev. Anderson to remain on the political sidelines. Dudgeon, a wanted man, breaks the law by cutting down his father's body from the public square and bringing the deceased to Rev. Anderson's home. Anderson takes an instant dislike to Dudgeon because of his cynical sense of humor but agrees to bury his father with dignity in his church's graveyard. This results in tumultuous goings-on. Burgoyne orders Anderson arrested for treason but when the troops arrive at his house, Anderson is gone and Dudgeon, who is visiting, adopts his identity and is arrested in his place. This act of gallantry impresses Judith, who is already smitten by Dudgeon, as he represents the kind of dynamic man of action she secretly craves. (The fact that he looks like Kirk Douglas doesn't hurt matters.) Meanwhile, Anderson, has indeed turned into a man of action himself, engaging the British in battle. When he learns of Dudgeon's deception he begins to formulate a strategy that will ensure that Burgoyne is left with no choice but to spare Dudgeon from execution.
We won't make the case that "The Devil's Disciple" is an underrated classic but suffice it to say it has many merits and deserved a better fate from both critics and the public. Burt Lancaster may get top billing but he's saddled with a quiet, understated character throughout most of the film who comes across as a bit of a bore- at least until he takes up arms. Consequently, Kirk Douglas and Laurence Olivier get the lion's share of good dialogue and amusing scenes and both actors make the most of it. Douglas's interpretation of Dudgeon is as a man who scoffs at death and has a cock-sure determination that somehow he'll survive any situation. He also boasts a gallows humor that is more than matched by Olivier, who admires his intended victim and extends him every courtesy even as he prepares the gallows for his hanging. Olivier's bon mots are priceless, whether it's deploring the aristocrats in London who have botched British military operations in the colonies or simply chastising his lunkhead officers (Harry Andrews gets most of the abuse). Olivier's performance is all the more impressive given the fact that in his personal life he was coping with the mental breakdown of his wife, actress Vivien Leigh. He was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Actor.
The film also boasts some creative special effects with toy soldiers used to illustrate the military situation. Helping matters along is a lush score by Richard Rodney Bennett and some impressive B&W cinematography by Jack Hildyard. While "The Devil's Disciple" isn't the best of the Lancaster/Douglas screen collaborations (for that, see "Seven Days in May"), it's a highly enjoyable romp with much to recommend about it.
Kino Lorber has released the film on Blu-ray and it's a crisp, impressive transfer. There is a bonus trailer gallery of other Lancaster and Douglas titles available from the company: "The Train", "The Scalphunters", "Cast a Giant Shadow" and "Run Silent, Run Deep" along with the theatrical trailer for "The Devil's Disciple".
It looks like the big Hollywood musical is back from the cinematic graveyard as "La La Land" swept the Golden Globes with a record number of seven wins including Best Picture (Musical or Comedy), Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay. Click here for more. Click here for complete list of winners and nominees.
Joe Dante's "Trailers From Hell" site presents director/producer Alan Spencer's spot-on analysis of Robert Wise's 1966 epic "The Sand Pebbles" starring Steve McQueen in his only Oscar-nominated performance. For our money, it's one of the great films of its era even if its depressing as hell, as some very bad things happen to some very good characters.
On the evening of Saturday, November 29, 2003, my wife and I had the blessing
of sitting front row at Carnegie Hall’s SRO “Tribute to Harold Leventhal.” On the bill that evening were a host of the
impresario’s clients: Arlo Guthrie, Pete
Seeger, the Weavers, Leon Bibb, Theodore Bikel, Peter, Paul, and Mary, and a
score of others. Sitting near us in Carnegie’s
red plush seats I spied such colleagues and clients of Leventhal’s as Judy
Collins, the actor Alan Arkin, Paul Robeson Jr. and what seemed the entirety of
Woody Guthrie’s east coast extended family. This was going to be a night of true celebration.
For the non-cognoscenti, Harold Leventhal was, at various times in his
eighty-six years, a song-plugger for Irving Berlin, a Broadway and off-Broadway
producer, a concert promoter of domestic and international musical acts, a film
producer, a radical, and the manager and publisher of some of America’s most
noted folk music artists. The tribute
was an amazing, unforgettable evening and near the finale of the two-hour long
program, Nora Guthrie, the daughter of legendary folksinger Woody Guthrie,
brought out a reluctant Leventhal to say a few words.
Leventhal, short and stocky, bespectacled and balding, was brief and
humble in his remarks. In a predictably characteristic
attempt to swing the spotlight away from his own considerable accomplishments,
Leventhal remarked in his Bronx-inflected speaking voice that he most treasured
working alongside the people that “America should be proud of,” those rare
artists of “complete integrity” who represented the best attributes of our
country’s ideals: The Weavers, Pete
Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston and Lead Belly. In the program book given to patrons that
night, there was a beautiful resurrected quote courtesy of Pete Seeger. Having been blacklisted and pilloried by
enemies for more than a half a century, Seeger – with Leventhal’s empathizing
guidance - managed to not only to endure the brickbats but handily outlast all his
detractors. “He has done something extraordinary for The Weavers,” Seeger said
of his old friend. “He risked his own
head and believed in us when nobody else did. You might say he believed in America.”
Woody Guthrie, the famed dust bowl balladeer and composer of America’s
unofficial national anthem, “This Land is Your Land,” was not a client of
Leventhal’s in the manner that Seeger was. Guthrie was not a stage performer in any traditional sense; he was a
writer – and a very prolific one – who would often appear on radio, on stage,
at union rallies, and hootenannies. But he
was just as likely to be found playing his guitar on the street, in derelict
saloons, on New York City’s subway system, or to fellow sailors of the merchant
marine. Guthrie’s first novel, the
occasionally self-mythologizing pre-Beat era autobiography Bound for Glory, was published by E.P. Dutton and Co. in 1943.
That book would inadvertently inspire a new generation of folk music
artists, not the least of whom was a nineteen year old fledgling folksinger
named Bob Dylan. Dylan, by his own
admission, became a “Woody Guthrie jukebox” after reading through a friend’s
copy of the book. He immediately abandoned
the coffeehouses of Minneapolis to visit Guthrie at Greystone Hospital in
Morris Plains, New Jersey, where the dying singer was institutionalized. Dylan’s first major concert engagement
following his signing with Columbia Records in the late autumn of 1961 was at Manhattan’s
Town Hall in April of 1963. That concert
was, of course, fittingly produced by Harold Leventhal.
Harold Leventhal had been familiar with Woody Guthrie’s words and
music since the 1940s; he had seen the displaced Okie singer-guitarist perform
at various left-wing functions and hootenannies during this time. He had also been familiar with Guthrie’s
humorous “Woody Sez” columns that had appeared sporadically in the Communist Daily Worker newspaper. But it was only after agreeing to manage Pete
Seeger’s new quartet The Weavers on the eve of the McCarthy-era in 1950 that
Leventhal would become a personal friend of Guthrie, who was already beginning
to demonstrate signs of Huntington’s disease.
In the early winter of 1956, with Guthrie’s health continuing to deteriorate,
Leventhal helped found The Guthrie Children’s Trust Fund, organized to get
Woody’s anarchic business affairs in some semblance of order. It was their ambition that Guthrie’s children
might benefit from the small stream of publishing and record sale royalties
that were, at long last, beginning to trickle in. It was Leventhal who commissioned Millard
Lampell, a blacklisted writer and colleague of Guthrie’s, to skillfully weave
together a program of Guthrie’s prose and songs into a program titled From California to the New York Island. Many of the spoken-word recitations from this
early stage play had been cribbed from Guthrie’s novel Bound for Glory.
The idea of bringing an adaptation of Guthrie’s Bound for Glory to the stage had long been in the making. In the late autumn of 1961, the folk music
magazine Sing Out! made a passing
mention of Leventhal’s recent acquisition of "the musical drama rights” to
the book. This was exciting news, with
such folk music world luminaries as musicologist Alan Lomax and promoter Israel
G. Young aggressively promoting the casting of Guthrie protégé Ramblin Jack
Elliott in the role of America’s premier ballad-maker. It was not surprising that Leventhal first saw
Bound for Glory as a stage production;
he had already served as producer of several off-Broadway offerings as Will
Geer’s From Mark Twain to Lynn Riggs
(1952-53) and Rabindranath Tagore’s King
of the Dark Chamber.
It’s not entirely clear why a stage production of Bound for Glory was not realized. The folk-pop music craze of 1963-1964 provided a fertile atmosphere in
which such a project could be fulfilled. Woody Guthrie, now mostly out of sight due to the devastating effects of
the incurable neurological disease Huntington’s Chorea was – perhaps for the
first time in his life - no longer simply a singer of the fringe. He was now and incontestably America’s most
iconic folk music hero. Guthrie would
finally succumb to the malady in October 1967.
Ed Robbin, an editor of the west coast Communist newspaper People’s World, first met Woody Guthrie
in Los Angeles in 1938, during the time the folksinger had a fifteen minute a
day radio program on the politically-liberal station KFVD. Guthrie’s program was one of the station’s most
popular: he quickly cultivated an appreciative audience of dispossessed and
homesick Okies and Arkies. These were
Woody’s people, the poor folk who had fled their dirt ravaged homes and farms in
the dust bowl for the promised “Garden of Eden” that was California. It was Robbin’s suggestion that Guthrie
contribute folksy, humorous Will Rogers-style commentaries to the otherwise staid
People’s World. In 1975 when Bound for Glory was to finally commence production as an ambitious
film project for United Artists, Robbin reminisced that Harold Leventhal had
long “been trying to put together a story of Woody's life that would work for a
movie script. Three different scripts were written over a period of seven
Having long been an amateur scholar and collector of all things Woody
Guthrie, seven years ago I was fortunate enough to acquire an antiquarian copy
of one of the two ultimately unproduced Bound
for Glory screenplays. The one
hundred and thirty-six page screenplay I found, Bound for Glory: the Life and Times of Woody Guthrie, had been
written by William Kronick and Oliver Hailey. Kronick was principally known as a writer-director of documentary films,
Hailey a playwright and television scribe who would contribute scripts to such
1970s shows as McMillan & Wife
and Bracken’s World. With only the slightest information to go on,
I tried my best to research exactly when this unproduced screenplay was first
commissioned. Happily, a visit to the
newspaper archive at the New York Public Library was successful.
In the April 23, 1968 issue of the Los Angeles TimesI uncovered the briefest
of mentions, that Hollywood producer "Harold Hecht has signed playwright
Oliver Hailey to write the screenplay for Bound
for Glory, film biography of folk singer- composer Woody
Guthrie." This bit of news was later confirmed by the actor David
Carradine, who would eventually – if only by default - land the role of Woody
Guthrie. In a 1976 interview with the New York Times, the eccentric, self-satisfied
star of television’s Kung Fu series
recalled, “About eight years ago this producer, Harold Hecht, was going to make
Bound for Glory, based on Woody’s
autobiography, and my agent sent me to see him.” Carradine admitted this meeting at Hecht’s
“palatial mansion in Stone Canyon” didn’t go particularly well. There was a clash of personalities with
neither man having much use for the other.
In any event the proposed Hecht/Hailey/Kronick film project was soon abandoned. Robert Getchell (scripter of Martin
Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
(1974), would be the lone screenwriter to eventually deliver a workable
storyline. Robert F. Blumofe, who would
co-produce Bound for Glory with
Leventhal, offered that Getchell was hired because "early scripts, written
by friends of Guthrie, were too broad, too close to the man.” "You
can't tell all of Woody's life," Blumofe told the Los Angeles Times, who suggested the process to bring Bound for Glory to the big screen took
nearly four years. This
remembrance corresponds to Harold Leventhal's own assessment. Leventhal conceded there were serious and
ultimately fatal issues with the pre-Getchell screenplay drafts under
consideration: "Our trouble was that we were trying to cover too much
ground... When we finally decided to center our story on the two or three
key years of Woody's development, around 1938, then the whole thing came
In April of 1975 Arthur Krim of United Artists gave director Hal Ashby
(Shampoo, The Last Detail, Harold and
Maude) the green light to get Bound
for Glory into production. This gesture was a display of great confidence
in Ashby as helmsman, since the role of Woody Guthrie had not yet been cast. The original casting process was an
interesting one, rife with unrealized possibilities. Dustin Hoffman and Jack Nicholson were reportedly
both offered the role. The former balked
due to his inability to play the guitar in even the most rudimentary manner, the
latter choosing instead to star opposite a hero, Marlon Brando, in The Missouri Breaks.
records have four super releases to get 2017 underway. The Rogues (1964) (CDLK
4601) features music composed and conducted by Nelson Riddle. The Rogues, a
rather short-lived TV series (aired on NBC from September 13, 1964, to April
18, 1965), starred David Niven, Gig Young and Charles Boyer as a trio of former
conmen. Whilst it won the 1964 Golden Globe award for Best Television Series,
the show has largely been forgotten. Thankfully, Alfred Perry of Four Star
Television had the vision to approach RCA with the idea of releasing an album
of Riddle’s music from the show. Vocalion’s beautifully mastered CD is a
straight re-issue of that album (LSP 2976). As you would expect from Riddle, a
hugely talented composer who had penned music from the TV series The
Untouchables and Route 66, his music for The Rogues is both rich and lush. It’s
a great example of a period sound with plenty of silky strings and of course
some wonderful swinging brass rhythms. Sound quality is remarkably good thanks
to Michael J. Dutton’s remastering of the original analogue tapes. It is also
nice to see Vocalion reverting back to providing a full and informative set of original
liner notes. Oliver Lomax provides a comprehensive account of Riddle, his
musicians and his unique approach to music. The Rogues is a release that
certainly justifies and fully deserves a fresh re-evaluation as well as some
it Is! (1968) (CDLK 4604) makes its debut appearance on CD and features the
music of composer Patrick Williams. Williams is a composer that rarely receives
the recognition that he arguably deserves. After working primarily as an
arranger in New York, he moved to California in 1968 to pursue a career in film
and television. How Sweet It Is! marked the first film score for Williams. It
was a fairly routine comedy outing (which received an X certificate in the UK)
and starred James Garner, Debbie Reynolds and Terry-Thomas. In his memoirs, Garner
would later reveal that both he and Reynolds hated the film but kept it
together for the sake of their fans. The film’s music, however, is far more
enduring. Williams provides a beautiful score ranging from some high tempo
jazzy numbers to some smooth and very romantic mellow sounds. It’s a score
which shares certain similarities to that of Neal Hefti’s prevalent sixties
sound, often romantic but with a playful underlining trill woven throughout.
The soundtrack also features two vocal tracks that fall into the easy listening
genre and are provided by the Picardy Singers. Vocalion’s CD sounds remarkable
thanks again to Michael J. Dutton’s remastering of the original analogue tapes.
Liner notes on this occasion are just a straight forward reproduction of the
original RCA LP (LSP 4037) sleeve notes. As a straight re-working of the
original album, it is also relatively short at just under 28 minutes, which is
a great shame as it practically cries out for more of the same.
aren’t too many people I know amongst the soundtrack community who don’t enjoy
the recordings of Hugo Montenegro. Whilst he was an accomplished composer in
his own right ((Lady in Cement (1968), The Ambushers (1967) and The Wrecking
Crew (1968)), he is perhaps remembered more for his unique arrangements –
usually of other composers’ music. Vocalion’s new CD treats us to not one, but two
of his great albums. Love Theme from The Godfather (1972)/Music from A Fistful
of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More & The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1968)
(CDLK 4595) provides the listener with arguably his very best work. Back in
1972, RCA released Love Theme from The Godfather as a quadrophonic LP (APDI-0001).
Vocalion have reissued both albums here on CD in the SA-CD format and therefore
retaining its multi-channel format (this CD is also stereo compatible). Love
Theme from The Godfather is an album of varied styles containing a mixture of
both film music and popular tunes of the time. Ranging from Lennon &
McCartney’s Norwegian Wood to Mancini’s Baby Elephant Walk, the content is
diverse and eclectic – but all comes together in a quirky and highly enjoyable
way. Music from A Fistful of Dollars,
For a Few Dollars More & The Good, the Bad and the Ugly has largely
attained widespread recognition over the decades. An extremely popular album, soundtrack
collectors continue to hold their vinyl as cherished possessions. Naturally, a completely remastered version of
that album is also extremely welcome. Michael J. Dutton has done a fabulous job
in providing a crisp freshness to these classic recordings and it appears to be
perfectly justified in releasing this twofer by way of a Hybrid CD. Frankly, they
have never sounded so good. As well as including the massive single chart hit The
Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the album also includes the single cut for Hang ‘Em
high – Clint Eastwood’s first American western made upon his return from Europe
after completing Sergio Leone’s Dollar trilogy. It’s perhaps a little
disappointing that no new liner notes were produced for this release; instead
there is a straight reproduction of the original album notes. Considering the
versatility and calibre of Montenegro’s work, it would have been nice to
include some form of appreciation of his career in music. However, the proof
here is solidly in the music itself, and on that basis, it’s a winner in every
HBO will debut the documentary "Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds" on Saturday, January 7, having moved up its planned March telecast date in light of the deaths of Fisher and Reynolds within 24 hours of each other last month. Click here to read critic Hank Steuver's review of the film in The Washington Post.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from the University Press of Mississippi:
Winnie Lightner (1899–1971) was the first great female
comedian of the talkies. Blessed with a superb singing voice and a gift for
making wisecracks and rubber faces, she rose to stardom in vaudeville and on
Broadway. Then, at the dawn of the sound era, she became the first person in
motion picture history to have her spoken words censored.
In "Winnie Lightner: Tomboy of the Talkies" (University
Press of Mississippi, Hollywood Legends Series), David L. Lightner documents
how Winnie’s hilarious performance in the 1929 musical comedy Gold Diggers of
Broadway made her an overnight sensation. She went on to star in seven other
Warner Bros. features. In the best of them, she was the comic epitome of a
strident feminist, dominating men and gleefully spurning conventional gender
norms and moral values, which earned her the nickname of tomboy of the talkies.
When the Great Depression rendered moviegoers hostile
toward feminism, Warner Bros. crafted a new image of Lightner as glamorous and
sexy and assigned her contradictory roles in which she was empowered in the
workplace but submissive to her male partner at home. Because the new image did
not score at the box office, Lightner’s stardom ended. In four final movies, she
played supporting roles as the loudmouthed roommate and best friend of actress
Loretta Young, Joan Crawford, and Mona Barrie.
Following her retirement in 1934, Lightner faded into
obscurity. Many of her films were mutilated or even lost entirely. David Lightner
has beautifully captured Winnie's early years in vaudeville, her elevation to
revues, and her capturing of the very essence of talking pictures just as they
Tomboy of the Talkies is the first and only biography of
Winnie Lightner and finally gives HER the recognition she deserves as a notable
figure in film history, in women’s history, and in the history of show business.
This book is an evocative and fascinating read that will speak to fans of
DAVID L. LIGHTNER is professor emeritus of history at the University of Alberta.
He is the author of Slavery and the Commerce Power: How the Struggle against
the Interstate Slave Trade Led to the Civil War; Asylum, Prison, and Poorhouse:
The Writings and Reform Work of Dorothea Dix in Illinois; and Labor on the
Illinois Central Railroad, 1852-1900: The Evolution of an Industrial
Environment. He became interested in Winnie Lightner because of their shared
surname but is not related to her.
Friedkin’s To Live and Die in L.A.,
which opened on Friday, November 1, 1985 to lukewarm notices and underwhelming
box office despite being championed by Roger Ebert’s four-star review, is a
highly stylized, dark, and uncompromising crime thriller that boasts a
then-unknown cast with a story and a pace that feels more suited to the
1970’s. It also contains what I consider
to be the greatest car chase ever filmed and edited for a major motion picture,
which took no less than five weeks to plan and shoot. Having seen Mr. Friedkin’s brilliant East
Coast police thriller The French
Connection (1971) on VHS in 1986, I made it a point the following year to
catch up with his West Coast-based story of a Secret Service agent, Richard
Chance (William Petersen), whose best friend and partner Jim Hart (Michael
Greene) has been murdered by artist/currency counterfeiter Rick Masters (Willem
Dafoe). Chance has one goal: put Masters away for life with no regard for how
he has to do it. Truthfully, he would
prefer to kill him. This causes problems
for his new partner John Vukovich (John Pankow) who comes from a family of law
enforcement officers and wants to do things by the book. Vukovich’s patience and unwillingness to go
outside the boundaries of acceptability is tested when: Chance surreptitiously removes
crucial evidence from a crime scene in order to get to Masters; springs a
prisoner friend (John Turturro) of Masters without Vukovich’s knowledge to get
him to testify; and most notably forces Vukovich to go along with a plan to
obtain cash needed to get closer to Masters while nearly dying in what is
arguably the cinema’s most exciting getaway car chase sequence. What makes the chase work so well is that
it’s physical, it’s possible (though highly improbable), and it’s not done in a
Fast and the Furious, over-the-top
sort of way. It also comes as a result
of a plot point and isn’t just there for the sake of having a chase scene. Chance also beds a willing parolee (Darlanne
Fluegel) who gives him information on current convicts in order to provide for
herself and her son Christopher.
the intricate plot and the phenomenal car chase, I initially didn’t like the
film. The mixture of Eighties-style pop
music by Wang Chung (which turned me off, but I now feel fits the movie like a
glove) and disreputable characters were off-putting, but subsequent viewings gave
me a change of heart and I now feel that this is the last truly great film
directed by Mr. Friedkin. Like the
inexorable Popeye Doyle in The French
Connection (he will stop at nothing to put drug dealers and users away),
Chance will stop at nothing to stop and punish Masters. The difference between the two films is that
the former paints Brooklyn and New York City as gritty and almost despairing
cities whereas the latter bathes the frame in a Los Angeles that we have not
seen before. While also gritty, grimy
and dark, this is a Los Angeles that is also highly glossy and beautiful, with
beautiful people who are about as real as the counterfeit bills that Masters
manufactures. This is the overall theme of
To Live and Die in L.A. which is to
say that it’s about fraudulence. People
use each other for their own personal gains. Masters is an artist but hates what he paints and burns his work in
frustration. Since he cannot find joy or
satisfaction in his own originality, he resorts to copying others, in this case
$20, $50, and $100 bills in a procedure that is painstaking and difficult.
The French Connection, To Live and Die in LA is also based on a
novel of the same name, this one written by former Secret Service Agent Gerald
Petievich. What makes the film almost
remarkable is the opening sequence which features a martyr who shouts “Allahu
Akbar” while blowing himself up on the roof a hotel where President Reagan is
giving a speech. This scene made little
sense to me 29 years ago, but is eerily prescient of the world that we
unfortunately live in today.
performances are excellent all around. William Petersen, whose film debut was as a bar bouncer in Michael
Mann’s Thief (1981), is terrific as
Rick Chance and plays him as a daredevil whose cowboy nature makes him a
dangerous person to be around. This is
established in an early sequence wherein Chance bungee jumps off of the Vincent
Thomas Bridge in San Pedro, CA. In
addition to the martyr sequence, this could also be one of the earliest
instances of this now highly popular activity showing up in a major motion
picture. John Pankow is also quite good
as Chance’s conflicted partner. The
stand-out is Willem Dafoe as Masters, whose icy expressions and demeanor can
change on a moment’s notice without warning. Darlanne Fluegel is mysterious as Chance’s muse; I first saw her in Battle Beyond the Stars (1980). Debra Feuer is striking as Masters’
girlfriend and confidante. Dean Stockwell
is great as Masters’ lawyer. You can
almost see him prepping himself for the role of Ben in David Lynch’s masterful Blue Velvet the following year. Steve James is an actor I always liked ever
since I first saw him in the “Night Vigil” episode of T.J. Hooker in 1984. He
started in the industry as a stunt man in films such as The Wiz, The Wanderers, The Warriors, Dressed to Kill, and He Knows
You’re Alone prior to onscreen acting. Here he plays Jeff, one of Masters’ clients and his performance, though
small, shines. He also appeared in the
William Friedkin TV-movie C.A.T. Squad
in 1986, which was also written by Mr. Petievich. His premature death in 1993 from what is
rumored to be the medical treatment that he received after a cancer diagnosis is
a tremendous loss to the entertainment industry.
one facetiously counted the number of films Woody Allen made beginning in 1969
and throughout the 70s, there would be eight that he wrote and directed (seven
of which he also starred in), plus a movie that he only wrote and starred in—Play It Again, Sam, for which I’ll count
as 1/2, making Stardust Memories number
9-1/2. Appropriately, this film seems to intentionally pay homage to Federico
Fellini’s own masterwork, 8-1/2
(1963), which was about a filmmaker who didn’t know what movie he wanted to shoot
next. Stardust Memories, released in
1980 after the huge successes of Annie
Hall and Manhattan (with
critically-acclaimed Interiors in-between),
is also about a filmmaker in search
of the picture he wants to make.
wasn’t well-received at the time. I recall leaving the theater in anger. How
could Woody be so contemptuous of his audience? It was as if his character, the
rather egotistical and unlikable filmmaker Sandy Bates, hates his fans,
especially the ones who clamor for his “earlier, funnier movies”—and of course
we couldn’t help but superimpose Sandy Bates with Woody Allen. And that’s where audiences misinterpreted the picture.
Bates is no more Allen than Marcello Mastroianni is Fellini in 8-1/2. While Allen (and Fellini) may
have infused their “alter-egos” with autobiographical aspects of themselves,
the characters were indeed fictional representations.
no secret that Allen often likes to mimic European filmmakers he admires—his
love of Ingmar Bergman is evident in several pictures. This time, with Memories, Allen does invoke Fellini and
that director’s signature stream-of-consciousness and non-linear storytelling
with flights of fantasy and surrealism. Filming in black and white for the
second time in a row, Allen, like Fellini, throws in outdoor circus scenes,
grotesque and freakish extras, radical editing techniques, and meandering love
affairs. Instead of coming off as mere imitation, though, Allen’s picture
succeeds on its own merits. It’s a challenging, highly intellectual piece of
cinema that must be viewed more than once to fully appreciate. Allen himself
has said that Stardust Memories is
one of his favorite films that he’s made. I’d place it in the upper third of
his by now numerous works.
story follows Sandy as he attempts to please his producers, the studio, the
fans, and himself—all the while haunted by the failed and tragic relationship
he had in the past with Dorrie (luminous Charlotte Rampling). Along the way
there are dalliances with other women (Jessica Harper and Marie-Christine
Barrault). The dream sequence at the opening of the film, in which Sandy is
trapped on a morbid, claustrophobic train from hell, while looking out at another train where inside there’s a
lively party going on (and young Sharon Stone blowing kisses at him through the
window), is one of Allen’s most memorable set pieces. The whimsical middle, in
which Sandy and Harper’s character escape a film festival to watch magic acts
in a field is pure effervescence. The jump cut close-ups of Rampling’s face
during a breakdown toward the film’s end is one of the most powerful sequences
Allen ever shot.
there are the many familiar and unusual cameos that pop up—Tony Roberts,
Laraine Newman, Daniel Stern, Amy Wright, Brent Spiner, and even Allen’s ex-wife
and co-star Louise Lasser... Gordon Willis’ spectacular cinematography... Dick
Hyman’s wonderful adapted score of Cole Porter and other old-school tunes... it
all adds up. There is much to savor
in Stardust Memories.
Time’s limited edition (only 3,000 units) Blu-ray sports a 1080p High
Definition picture that looks wonderful, along with a 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
soundtrack. The only supplements, sadly, are an isolated music score, a booklet with liner notes by Julie Kirgo and the
original theatrical trailer.
Stardust Memories was a divisive movie
for Allen fans, but time has been kind to it. Give it another go—you may be
surprised by how masterful and engaging it really is.
"Jorgensen went abroad and came back a broad!" The joke is indicative of the type of humor, sarcasm and outright condemnation that greeted the world's most legendary individual to have undergone a gender transformation. Jorgensen's name has largely been lost to obscurity in recent years but if you grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, she was a household name. She was born a male, George Jorgensen, in 1926 and had a fairly normal childhood- except for the fact that from a very early age George was haunted by the feeling that he should have been born female. We're not talking about homosexual behavior or tendencies, rather, a deep-seated belief that only becoming an actual female through a surgical procedure could bring him happiness. Jorgensen got his wish when he underwent the procedure in Denmark and returned home as a "she". Predictably the media went into a frenzy and Jorgensen decided that if she couldn't live in obscurity, she would capitalize on her new-found fame. She wrote a best-selling autobiography and transformed her experiences into a campy night club routine before passing away from cancer in 1989.
Jorgensen's book became the basis for The Christine Jorgensen Story, a sincere low-budget film made in 1970 and released by United Artists, which curiously kept its logo confined to the very last roll of the credits as though there was something shameful about a major studio releasing the movie. Jorgensen herself acted as technical adviser on the movie which makes it all the more puzzling as to why there are so many apparent embellishments and lapses from the truth. For one, Jorgensen was not the first person to undergo sex change surgery, as the film implies, although she was certainly the most prominent. The movie also tosses in quite a few plot devices and characters that appear to be wholly created for purposes of artistic license. The movie's melodramatic aspects have become grist for the mill in terms of its reputation as a camp classic. Indeed, there are plenty of unintentional laughs and some over-the-top moments by leading man John Hansen, a blonde haired pretty boy whose career went precisely nowhere after his bold decision to play the title role. Hollywood's glass ceiling on actors affiliated with gay behavior was firmly in place at the time.
Garnett is one of the most respected and celebrated British filmmakers of his
generation having worked extensively in British television and through his work
with critically acclaimed filmmakers such as Ken Loach, whom the pair worked
together on the seminal British dramas Kes (1969) and Cathy Come Home (1966),
both of which Garnett produced. Opting to move away from producing, Garnett set
his sights on writing and directing his own feature films. After directing the
critically acclaimed drama Prostitute (1980), Garnett went on to the write and
direct the film Handgun (1983), a powerful cult rape and revenge thriller.
Eschewing the exploitation motifs as explored in the genre titles such as Death
Wish (1974), Abel Ferrara’s Ms. 45 (1981) and I Spit on Your Grave (1978), favouring
an art-house aesthetic and employing a docudrama stylistic approach, Garnett’s
film is a measured exploration of the nature of injustice and retribution while
a searing indictment of American gun culture and rape.
in Dallas, when young high school teacher Kathleen spurns the advances of
arrogant lawyer Larry, he coerces her to his apartment where he rapes her at
gunpoint, raping her a second time for good measure. Violated not only by
Larry, Kathleen is further violated by the authorities who do little to bring
the sexual predator Larry to justice. Enraged, Kathleen eradicates any form of
femininity by cropping her hair and donning army fatigues, while undergoing
firearm training, before taking the law into her own hands by luring Larry out
in the dead of night to administer her own brand of rough justice (it should be
noted that the ending will leave viewers divided, especially those expecting a
more violent denouement to the film). In this feminist vigilant film, Kathleen
is forced into this path when all around her fail her, while Larry is painted
as a bigoted, misogynistic, and racist bully, who believes his wealth and power
entitles him to anything, and this power can be derived through violence. This
is expertly shown prior to the harrowing rape scene when Garnett cuts to a
scene of Larry indulging in the high life with his equally grotesque pals,
before attending a “Foxy Boxing” match, where the all-female fighters fight
bra-less in an arena while the scummy patrons holler from the side lines and
try to grope the fighters as they walk by. It is an important point in the film
because it comes just prior to the rape sequence as Garnett is critiquing male
machismo and a sexist view of women. In a sense, with the bra-less boxers fighting
in the ring, we see that in Larry’s world sexualized violence is acceptable. In
this sequence Garnett attempts to show how this attitude and perception of women
leads him to violate Kathleen. The rape scene that follows is harrowing, yet
not overtly explicit. While the rape is shocking, especially as we see Kathleen
forced to strip at gunpoint, before being sexually violated, the most sickening
part is the attitude of Larry post-rape, where he administers blame on her for
being frigid. He sees nothing wrong in his actions, which makes it even more
satisfying when the pent up fury of Kathleen explodes as she goes hunting her
prey at the gun club where she has honed her sharpshooting skills.
expecting a film seeped in violence will be disappointed. This is a slow,
methodical and intelligent film shot in long, natural takes that make it seem
like a documentary at times, with standout performances by Karen Young as
Kathleen and Clayton Day as Larry. In October 2016, I was fortunate to interview
Garnett about his memories working on the film [note: spoilers alert].
Edwards:Your cult thriller Handgun is one of the more intelligent films that
emerged in the 70s/80s in the rape and revenge genre. Where did the inspiration
come from to make the film? Were you trying to bring attention to the
“date-rape” crisis that was afflicting American society and the failure to
prosecute the persecutors of the crimes?
Garnett: I was in America trying to understand it. Having been brought up
during the war, my idea of America was of GI’s giving me gum, Hollywood action
movies and glossy TV. My reading of its history and troubled present offered me
a different picture. I was particularly interested to see how Americans tended
to settle arguments by shooting each other. Why? I also saw the relationship
between rape and guns—in my view, rape is about violence more than about sex.
It is about power and control. So I went to Dallas—so resonant in all our minds
with violence, I even began the film with shots of Dealey Plaza, the infamous
West End district of Dallas where J.F Kennedy was assassinated. Research over
many months gradually produced a story. I have always researched and allowed
characters to emerge from it and then they, under interrogation, tell me a
did you set about writing/researching the film and securing finance for the
film? I understand that EMI stepped on board to get the film into production.
budget was small, around $3m, and my agent Harry Ufland set it up at EMI
without difficulty. I had no interference from them, until the rough cut and
then everyone wanted to “improve” the film. The problem was that I had made a
slow, thoughtful, and I hope considered character study, and they were
expecting a commercial hit—an action movie with some sexy rape scenes. I hadn’t
delivered. Some of the distributors were disappointed as they considered the
rape scenes a turn off and not sexy! I had to cut elements from the film that I
now regret. I also regret selling the film to Warner Brothers, instead of
Goldwyn, who were a small art house distributor. They were producing a Clint
Eastwood rape and revenge film. They didn’t want the competition so they bought
mine, sat on it, and opened it in a few theatres before pulling the film. It
was a failure. I was naïve. I wish I had gone with Goldwyn. They would have
been more sympathetic to the film.
did you opt to set the film in Texas? Was it their frontier attitude and
obsession with guns that prompted this?
has a frontier attitude, there are more guns there than people and the attitude
to women tends to be courtly even as they’re commodified. I had to choose
somewhere and could have set it anywhere, in truth. But Dallas seemed right at
how did you approach the visual style of the film? For me, the film is a fine
blend of action mixed with a naturalistic documentary sensibility.
style of the film was approached in exactly the same way my colleagues and I had
been developing for decades while working in small British films, many at the
BBC. I took Charles Stewart as Director of Photography and Bill Shapter as Editor,
who I’d worked with many times as producer and director. I spent many months
doing improvisations with actors, none of them known. I found Karen in New York
and the actors who play her parents in Boston; the rest of the cast I found in
Dallas. Some, like those at the gun club and in the gun shop, were just there
and non-professional actors. We allowed the actors freedom, no marks, the
camera has to follow them; they don’t exist for the camera and the lighting.
Our aim was to never to allow a line if it felt as though a writer has written
it; I wanted to abolish “acting” acting and “directing” directing as I wanted
the technique to be invisible so that all you see is a character in a
circumstance and the audience is eavesdropping on the action.
casting of Karen Young as Kathleen Sullivan was brilliant as she delivers a
highly believable performance of an innocent young girl pushed over the edge
into vengeance. How did you come to cast her in the role and were you pleased
with her performance in the film?
was excellent. A very talented young woman. She never flinched when going through Karen’s
journey especially as she had many arduous emotional scenes during the shooting
Let's hope that we never have another year in which we lose as much artistic talent as we did in 2016. Here is TCM's moving annual retrospective of those lost in film and TV during the year. Doubtless, you will have some unpleasant surprises when you realize that you weren't aware of the extent of how many great talents left us during the last twelve months- and this video was prepared before the passing of both Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. We do take consolation from the fact that, while these artists are no longer with us in the physical sense, their work is eternal.
The Life and
Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby may not immediately come to mind when naming
the most well-known of author Charles Dickens’ novels, but it’s arguably one of
his best. Besides being a cracking good story in print, the Royal Shakespeare
Company famously produced an 8-1/2-hour long Tony Award-winning play (staged in
two parts, with a dinner break) in 1980 that was one of this reviewer’s most
treasured theatrical experiences.
motion picture, released in 2002 to positive critical acclaim but little
enthusiasm from ticket-buyers, is also a delight. Writer/director Douglas
McGrath whittled down Dickens’ massive tome to a mere 132 minutes, and yet one
doesn’t miss the extracted bits. The screenplay is an essential lesson in adaptation. Now a gorgeously
rendered Blu-ray release from Twilight Time, Nickleby can be re-evaluated and appreciated for the superb
achievement it is.
story is typical Dickens—in mid-19th Century England, the death of Mr. Nickleby
leaves Nicholas (winningly played by a young Charlie Hunnam), his sister, and
mother without a penny—so they must go to London and depend on the charity of
Uncle Ralph (Christopher Plummer), who is a characteristically cruel and greedy
Dickens villain. Nicholas is at first sent to a boarding school run by Mr.
Squeers (Jim Broadbent), who is also cruel and greedy and likes to beat the
children. There, Nicholas meets the crippled Smike (Jamie Bell) and the pair
become fast friends. Nicholas succeeds in getting Smike out of the school, but
then they run into the eccentric Vincent Crummles (Nathan Lane) and his wife
(played hilariously by Barry Humphries—yes, a man), who put the young lads in
their traveling theatrical troupe. Misadventures and calamities continue to
befall Nicholas, not withstanding his romance with Madeline (Anne Hathaway),
which Uncle Ralph is determined to quash.
one can see, the cast is amazing. Add to these principles the likes of Alan
Cumming, Timothy Spall, Tom Courtenay, Edward Fox, and several other notable
British actors, and you’ve got an ensemble piece to be reckoned with.
(perhaps best known as Woody Allen’s co-writer and Oscar nominee for Bullets Over Broadway, writer/director
of Emma, and writer of the Broadway
smash Beautiful: The Carole King Musical)
brings intelligence and a colorful visual style to the material. Why the film
wasn’t nominated, at the very least, for Production Design or Costume Design is
1080p High Definition transfer looks wonderful, and the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
also comes with an isolated score track (by Rachel Portman) and a valuable and
informative “how-I-did-it” commentary by McGrath. Other supplements include two
making-of documentaries ported over from the original DVD release, as well as a
“view from the set” multi-angle feature. The original theatrical trailer rounds
out the package.
Nicholas Nickleby most likely slipped
by you back in late 2002 when it played in theaters—here’s your chance to check
it out before the limited edition run of 3,000 copies sells out.
Back in the 1950s, before he became a legend, filmmaker
Sam Peckinpah (“The Wild Bunch,” “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia,” and
“The Killer Elite”) wrote scripts for TV westerns, including “Gunsmoke,” “The
Rifleman,” and “Tombstone Territory.” His reputation grew and in 1957 he wrote his
first screenplay entitled “The Glory Guys” which was based on Hoffman Birney’s
novel, “The Dice of God.” The book was a fictional account of Custer and the
Battle of the Little Big Horn, with all names changed. The script went unproduced for almost eight
years, and in the meantime Sam had moved on, directing features including “The
Deadly Companions” (1960), “Ride the High Country” (1962) and “Major Dundee”
You would think that with that growing resume, Peckinpah
would have been able to direct anything he wanted to, but such was far from the
case. “Bloody Sam,” as he was called, affectionately by his fans, and not so
affectionately by his critics, had a way of getting into fights with the wrong
people. Arguments and disagreements with producers and studio heads were
numerous, and he acquired a reputation as a “madman” after he ran way over
budget and schedule, shooting “Major Dundee” all over locations around Durango,
Mexico. The situation on “Dundee” was so bad star Charlton Heston put up his
own money to finish the film when the suits threatened to pull the plug. And
this, even after Heston one day on set had gotten so furious with Peckinpah he
charged him on horseback with his saber. Luckily the director was on a crane
and moved out of the way.
TV and movie producers Arthur Gardner, Arnold Laven, and
Jules Levy, who had produced “The Rifleman” series, had held on to Sam’s script
for “The Glory Guys,” and by 1964 were ready to make it as a feature film. But since
he had just gotten fired from the “The Cincinnati Kid” after another dispute
over creative disagreements, they didn’t want to take a chance on Sam directing
it. Laven decided to direct it himself. It has been reported on IMDb that
Peckinpah did some work on it, but Peckinpah historians Nick Redman, Paul
Seydor and Garner Simmons, in the audio commentary included on the Twilight
Time Blu-ray, totally dispute those reports. “The Peckinpah Posse,” as they are
by now known after having done quite a few commentaries and written books about
the director, state categorically he would not even have been able physically to
be in Mexico at that time due to other commitments.
The posse members know a thing or two about Peckinpah and
yet I was mystified when they seemed surprised at the similarities between “The
Glory Guys” and “Major Dundee.” It’s pretty obvious that in many ways, “Dundee”
is a polished, more thoughtful rewrite of “The Glory Guys” by a man who by then
had eight years of TV and movie-making experience under his belt. Seydor and
Simmons also seem dismissive of “The Glory Guys,” as nothing more than an
expanded TV show, constantly pointing to clichés in both directing and writing.
It’s a bit annoying to hear these experts spouting their opinions, which seem
more aimed at impressing viewers with their knowledge, than providing any
insight into the film. Only Nick Redman seems to actually like the film, and in
my opinion there’s a lot to like.
There are constant themes and archetypes in all of
Peckinpah’s movies, even here in this early work. The abuse of power by those
in authority, friendship, loyalty, betrayal, the clean honesty of certain men
finally revealed when the chips are down, and the sad poetry of the loser are
ideas that Peckinpah would come back to again and again in his films. As “The
Glory Guys” can be seen as an early, and not completely satisfying, draft of
“Major Dundee,” so can that film be seen as the precursor to “The Wild Bunch,”
which represents the apotheosis of all of his ideas in undoubtedly his greatest
Perhaps one reason the film compares unfavorably to
“Dundee” is the cast. Chisel-jawed Tom Tryon as the lead, Captain Demas Harrod,
is no Charlton Heston. His co-star Harve Presnell was no Richard Harris, his
counterpart in “Dundee.” Senta Berger (who would star with Charlton Heston in “Dundee”)
and James Caan, however, come off rather
well. Andrew Duggan, another overly-familiar TV face, plays General Frederick
McCabe, the vainglorious stand in for George Armstrong Custer.
Peckinpah’s take on the novel and the Little Big Horn is
typically his. Don’t expect a repeat of “They Died with Their Boots On,” with Errol
Flynn fighting to the end with his troops, surrounded by hundreds of Sioux. In
fact, his script does not even include the battle at all. We see only the
aftermath from Captain Harrod’s point of view: a body-strewn battlefield with a
white stallion standing alone in the far distance, the fictional stand in for
Comanche, the only survivor of Big Horn. It’s a powerful statement and one only
an artist like Peckinpah could make. What critics often failed to understand
about him was that even though the films he made were violent and, later on,
bloody, the violence wasn’t the point. What he really wanted to show was the
Aside from the informative, if somewhat frustrating,
commentary track, Twilight Time has included a half-hour interview with Senta
Berger, who made three films with Peckinpah (“The Glory Guys,” “Major Dundee”
and “Cross of Iron” (1977). In Mike Siegel’s documentary “Passion and the
Poetry: Sam and Senta,” the actress reveals that she first met the director at
a studio function in Europe when she was just starting her career. Sam took a
liking to her and put her in the films, adding her scenes to already finished
There are other supplements including "Promoting The Glory Guys", which features international marketing materials, the original theatrical trailer and a short film about
legendary cinematographer James Wong Howe, whose work filming the locations in
Mexico in Panavision provides one of the real pleasures of the movie. While
I thought the interior shots seemed a little on the dark side, when the cameras move outside, the film comes alive. Howe’s compositions, especially in the exterior action scenes, the way
he staged the cavalry formations, the battle scene on the river, are all
masterfully done. The release includes an illustrated booklet with insightful liner notes by Julie Kirgo.
All in all, this is a
superb release, definitely a “must have.” “The Glory Guys” may not be a
masterpiece, but it is entertaining and fascinating as an early glimpse into
the creative mind of a filmmaking genius. Just make sure you watch it before you
listen to the audio commentary to avoid spoilers.
(This is a limited edition release of 3,000 units).
On Tuesday, January 10 Alamo Draft House Theatre in Brooklyn will present a special 35mm screening of the 1980 cult horror flick "The Children". The event will be hosted by our own Cinema Retro scribe David Savage. If you haven't been to an Alamo Draft House yet, you're in for a treat. The venue caters to movie purists so don't even think about chatting or texting once the film begins or you may be tarred and feathered. Plus there is an on-site bar/restaurant that allows you to munch and drink while you watch. Click here for more info. Click here for tickets.
The belief that the year 2016 is the worst one on record in terms of celebrity deaths will only be reinforced with the news that show business legend Debbie Reynolds has passed away at age 84 just one day after her daughter Carrie Fisher died from heart-related problems. Reynolds was grieving the loss of Carrie when she was hospitalized on Wednesday night due to shortness of breath. Click here for more.
CLICK HERE FOR NEW YORK TIMES OVERVIEW OF MS. REYNOLDS' REMARKABLE CAREER.
We’ve seen them at sci-fi or collectibles conventions
shows; some more so in England than the US. They man tables with stacks of
photos, offering autographs or pictures for a fee. In many cases their faces aren’t familiar, as
their characters wore heavy makeup or masks in their appearance in the original
“Star Wars” film. Still, even as you
approach them face-to-face some of these people still don’t ring a bell. Maybe it’s because their scenes were deleted
or they were an extra amongst many. Others, you discover are a familiar masked character and you are happy
to chat for a few moments with them, as that movie, and its two sequels (I
am only referring to the original trilogy starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher), had such a lasting impact on
1976” is a recent documentary that follows ten such actors
who, during the summer of 1976, played various roles while filming at Elstree
Studios in Borehamwood, England and on location in Tunisia. This cast is comprised of: David Prowse
(Darth Vader), Paul Blake (Greedo), John
Chapman (X Wing Pilot- Red 12- Drifter), Anthony Forrest (Fixer &
Sandtrooper), Laurie Goode(Stormtrooper & Cantina Creature), Garrick Hagon
(Biggs Darklighter) , Angus MacInnes (X-Wing Pilot), Derek Lyons (Medal Bearer-
Throne Room ), Pam Rose (Leesub Sirlin-
Cantina Character) and Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) (Note: Bulloch appears late in this movie, as he
joined the “Star Wars” cast during “The Empire Strikes Back” a few years later.)
The first 40 minutes or so of this piece seem rather
sluggish and confusing, as we are introduced to this large group and listen to
fairly detailed life histories. Once we
start to get into the discussion of the actual filming itself, the pace picks
up considerably and it becomes a much more interesting experience. We find out
that this was basically just another job to many of these people who had just
showed up during general casting calls. England
was a busy place for film production in the 70s and 80s and there was a very
relaxed, informal atmosphere at the studios and amongst the performers. Prowse was cast due to his large physical
frame (he was a body builder) and Jeremy Bulloch went on the advice of his half-brother,
co-producer Robert Watts. The production anecdotes are very interesting
and through it all no one had any clue that what they were involved with would
be such a phenomenon that continues to this day and probably will well into the
The after-stories are often the most interesting; many of
the cast members just continued with day work in the movies or went back to
other interests. Angus MacInnes
continued acting and ended up with Harrison Ford again in 1984’s “Witness” as
one of the crooked cops (it would have been nice if this reunion of sorts was
expanded upon); David Prowse began personal appearance tours around release of “The
Empire Strikes Back” and over time found himself on the wrong side of Lucasfilm.
Prowse alleges that whenever he would publicly inquire about unpaid royalties
from “Return of the Jedi”, Lucasfilm would tell him that the movie had yet to
turn a profit. Because of his public
criticisms, Prowse is now banned from ‘official’ “Star Wars” events, such as
Disney “Star Wars” weekends and the yearly celebrations.
When the film addresses the subject of fan conventions,
the actors discuss the caste system … those who receive on screen credit and
those who are ‘extras’. The extras
generally are viewed as opportunists. How far this feeling extends into the fan base
is another story that we really don’t get the answer to.
Although “Elstree 1976”, which was directed by Jon Spira,
has many merits that will please “Star
Wars” fans, I was disappointed that there wasn’t more emphasis on
behind-the-scenes photos and footage of the actual shoot, not recreated scenes
with the interviewees. It’s probable that rights issues prevented this from
occurring. Smatterings of clips from “Star
Wars” are shown but they are all too brief. Additional visual materials would have considerably enhanced this
documentary. Also, with a title like “Elstree
1976”, I would have appreciated more detail about the legendary studio itself
and some discussions of famous films that were shot there and how the studio
has impacted the area of Borehamwood, especially in the wake of other UK-based
studios that are no longer around. There is also a missed opportunity in that
the documentary makers did not capitalize on the fact that Elstree has a
prop/mechanics shop that still houses artifacts from the original film such as
matte paintings, prop light sabers, original droid blueprints, etc. A visit to
this facility would have greatly enhanced the viewing experience.
The video release from FilmRise reviewed for this article is a special
edition Blu-ray. One
of the special features does have a few of these actors returning to the empty
Stage 7 where the Millennium Falcon was built for the hanger scenes. Lacking any compelling visuals, the tour
around an empty set rings somewhat hollow. Other special features include some
comments from the cast that were cut out from the final version of the
documentary, a trailer and a director’s commentary.
It should be noted that this is a grassroots production
funded by a Kickstarter campaign, so viewers should keep in mind that the
director had limited resources. As such, it’s an ambitious undertaking that,
despite the film’s shortcomings, provides an interesting look at aspects of the
“Star Wars” franchise that have never been explored from this particular angle.
By 1965 Sean Connery was already growing weary of the James Bond phenomenon. The money was great but he never sought to be an international idol and sex symbol and never warmed to the experience of having the press and fans follow him about wherever he went. He also feared that he would be typecast as Bond and thus sought roles in films far removed from the image of 007. His first two attempts, "Woman of Straw" and Hitchcock's "Marnie" were critical and boxoffice failures. Connery had high hopes for his next non-Bond film, "The Hill", which marked the first of several movies he would collaborate with director Sidney Lumet on. A grim, brutal but superb movie, "The Hill" was hailed at the Cannes Film Festival and received great notices. Although the movie never clicked with mainstream audiences who eagerly awaited Connery's next Bond film, "Thunderball", the 1965 production has grown in stature over the decades. Not only does it feature Connery's first brilliant cinematic performance but he is matched by an equally brilliant supporting cast: Harry Andrews, Ossie Davis, Ian Hendry, Ian Bannen, Alfred Lynch, Roy Kinnear and Michael Redgrave. This original featurette shows the movie's enthusiastic reception at Cannes and the grueling challenges of filming it in the Spanish desert.
Actress and novelist Carrie Fisher, daughter of Debbie Reynolds and the late singer Eddie Fisher, has died from complications related to a heart attack she suffered on a flight from London to Los Angeles last Tuesday. Fisher had been hospitalized in Los Angelessince and was described as being in "stable condition" as doctors worked feverishly to save her. Fisher is best known for playing the character of Princess Leia in the "Star Wars" film series. She was 60 years old.Fisher had been in London to promote her recently-published memoirs. Click here for more. For Washington Post story click here.
Even at 90 years of age Jerry Lewis can still grab a headline. When the Hollywood Reporter recently visited his home to conduct a video interview, Lewis looked as though he was facing root canal surgery. He rudely answered questions with one or two word answers, insulted the crew throughout in a not very subtle manner and for seven excruciating minutes that have since gone viral, he dissed the interviewer, who never lost his cool or the respect he showed to the comedy legend. In that regard, he showed more class than Lewis himself. This wasn't an ambush-style interview or one loaded with "gotcha" questions. The pity is that if Lewis had played ball with the interviewer, he could have provided some interesting insights from the standpoint of a man his age who is still actively performing on stage and in film. Instead Lewis acted as though he had not consented to the interview and that somehow the crew had engaged in a home invasion. By doing so, he only diminished himself. If he was that ticked off at the prospect of doing the interview, why didn't he just cancel it instead of degrading himself in this manner?
Time Life has released the retro TV comedy series "Hee Haw" as a 14-DVD boxed set. Here is the official press release:
Pickin’ and grinnin’, singin’ and spinnin’ tall tales and
corny jokes, the citizens of Kornfield Kounty landed on television in 1969 with
the arrival of HEE HAW as a summer replacement series for The Smothers Brothers
Comedy Hour. With a cast of
down-to-earth characters including Minnie Pearl, Grandpa Jones and Archie
Campbell, knee-slapping comedic zingers, and jaw-dropping musical performances,
the comedy-variety show, co-hosted by Buck Owens and Roy Clark, captivated the country. In 1971, after two successful years, CBS
dropped the show in an effort to “de-countrify” the network’s programming;
however, it was quickly picked up and aired for the next 21 years, making HEE
HAW the longest-running weekly syndicated original series in television
In a new-to-retail set, HEE HAW: THE COLLECTOR’S EDITION
offers 14 HEE-larious discs featuring some of the best sketches and brightest
stars from the series’ impressive 23-year history, rarely seen since
their original broadcasts. Across 21
vintage hours, viewers can sit back and be entertained by korny klassics such
as “PFFT! You Were Gone,” “Gordie’s General Store,” “Board Fence,” “Cornfield”
and “Moonshiners” -- as well as the
all-time favorites “Rindercella” and “Trigonometry.” And because HEE HAW was a favorite stop for
country music’s biggest stars and legends, THE COLLECTOR’S EDITION also
features hundreds of classic performances from Hall of Famers at the peaks of
their careers including Tammy Wynette ("Stand By Your Man"), George
Jones ("White Lightnin"), Merle Haggard (“Okie From Muskogee"), Waylon
Jennings ("Me and Bobby McGee"), Johnny Cash ("I Walk the Line”),
Jerry Lee Lewis ("Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On"), Tanya Tucker ("Delta
Dawn"), and Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty ("Louisiana Woman,
Mississippi Man") and too many others to name.
Though the last “new” episode aired in 1992, this 14-disc
collector’s edition perfectly captures the reasons why HEE HAW was one of the
longest-running and best loved television variety shows of all time!
New interviews with show regulars including Roy Clark,
Lulu Roman, George Lindsey, Charlie McCoy and Jim and John Hager
Additional bonus programming includes all-time favorite
comedy from the early years in “Hee Haw Laffs,” featuring “Board Fence,”
“Doctor Spot,” “Old Philosopher,” “Haystack,” “Schoolhouse” and other
Regular readers know that every Christmas, Cinema Retro pays homage to Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, the Citizen Kane of all movies relating to Santa Claus battling creatures from other planets. The 1964 $20,000 wonder has been a cinematic legend among bad movie lovers. We're happy to present the entire film for your (guilty) viewing pleasure.
Wishing our readers worldwide a happy and healthy holiday season!
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
(London, UK, December 12th 2016) MI6 Confidential, the
full-colour magazine celebrating the world of James Bond 007, returns with its
Bond girls are forever, but in the last two decades the
007 producers have shaken up the ‘Bond girl’ archetype significantly. Strong,
independent and critical of Bond’s actions and motives are now the norm. But
even this change hasn’t stopped Bond women from being devastatingly beautiful
and the subject of much admiration. This issue is dedicated to finding out what
it takes to be a Bond girl, with features on Bond’s comic book companions, the
surprising origins of the Bond girl label, and the role of Bond women in the
Featured in this issue:
·The Name’s Bond... - Samantha Bond’s stint as the iconicsecretary
·Bond Girls Stripped - A glimpse of Fleming’s characters in
·Bond Girl Etymology - Where did the widely-recognised
·Quick Fire Bond - Lightning Q&A with some of Bond’s
brushes through thedecades
·The Double X Factor - The feminine power of the 21st
·Gaming Girls - A catalogue of digital delights that have
crossed paths with007
Him Crazy - A cut scene from The Living Daylights revisited
·The Bond Connection - The glamorous women and the spy
films of the1960s
Dick Van Dyke, who played Bert the chimney sweep opposite Julie Andrews in the 1964 Disney classic "Mary Poppins", will appear in "Mary Poppins Returns" which stars Emily Blunt as the magical nanny along with an all-star cast that includes Meryl Streep and Angela Lansbury. Van Dyke, 91, won't be reprising the role of Bert, however. Instead he will be playing a new character, the son of a greedy banker. Van Dyke, who has jokingly "apologized" for his much-criticized Cockney accent in the first film, promises to have an even worse accent in the new movie. "I intend to represent a corner of London with my accent that has not yet been invented. I'm going to have the worst accent in the history of British accents-I'm going to sound like I'm from another planet". Julie Andrews will not be part of the new film but has given the project her blessing. The movie, directed by Rob Marshall, is intended for release on Christmas day, 2018. For more click here.
Wagner is a college student trying to end the relationship with his pregnant girlfriend
in “A Kiss Before Dying,” recently released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber. Joanne
Woodward is Dorothy “Dorie” Kingship, the girlfriend who falls in love with
handsome Bud Corliss (Wagner). Bud is a local guy attending college on the GI
Bill while living at home with his doting widowed mother played by Mary Astor. Dorie
is deeply in love with Bud, believing they will get married and live happily
ever after. However, Bud has a more sinister view of the relationship as he is more
interested in Dorie’s inheritance than her love. His greed graduates to a plot
to murder Dorie when he realizes Dorie’s father will disinherit her upon
learning of her pregnancy.
first attempt to murder Dorie by poisoning her with chemicals he steals from
the college chemistry department is a failure. He researches the proper
chemicals in the college library and, like a bank robber, cases the locked room
where the chemicals are stored. He also writes a fake suicide note and tells
Dorie the pills are vitamins for the baby and she must take them that night.
She agrees and says goodnight to Bud, who mails the suicide note. The next day
Bud seats himself at his usual desk in class expecting to hear news about Dorie
when she walks in.
shocked Bud scrambles unsuccessfully to retrieve the suicide note, but immediately
comes up with a new plan. He tells her they are going to get married at city
hall which is everything Dorie wants to hear. Arriving early, they head for the
observation area on the roof where the film’s most dramatic sequence is set in
a foreshadowing of “Psycho” with the relationship between Bud and his mother as
well as the involvement of the intended victim’s sister. Mrs. Corliss is
oblivious to Bud’s true nature and he resents her intrusiveness. Jeffrey Hunter
is Gordon Grant, a college professor who knows Bud and Dorie and takes an
interest in mysterious matters concerning Dorie.He connects with Dorie’s sister
Ellen Kingship (Virginia Leith of “The Brain that Wouldn’t Die” fame), who is
suspicious events that transpire- and Bud in particular. I’ll not reveal the
climax, the movie comes to an entertaining and satisfying conclusion.
by Gerd Oswald and released by United Artists in 1956, the screenplay by
Lawrence Roman is based on the novel by Ira Levin. The movie is beautifully
photographed in Cinemascope by Lucien Ballard (“The Killing” and “The Wild
Bunch”) giving the film a dream-like- look and feel which is aided by the
on-location filming. The movie was made in and around Tucson, Arizona including
a copper mine south of town where the climax takes place.
is terrific as the psychopathic killer because, initially, we want to like him
and hope he will do the right thing. Jeffrey Hunter appears in the movie too
briefly, but is a welcome addition to the cast. Joanne Woodward gives a sincere
performance as the cursed Dorie with Virginia Leith, Mary Astor and George
Macready rounding out the impressive supporting cast. The Kino Lorber Blu-ray
looks beautiful and sounds great with a running time of 94 minutes. The original
trailer is the only extra on the disc. This entertaining thriller is highly
recommended for fans looking for an engaging psychological thriller.
Zsa Zsa Gabor, one of the first entertainers of whom it could be said became a mega-celebrity based on a modicum of actual achievements, has died at age 99. A Hungarian immigrant, Gabor made a splash when she arrived in Hollywood with her exotic good looks and even more exotic accent. Although she gave credible performance sin "Moulin Rouge" and "Touch of Evil", Gabor quickly became enamored of playing one character she loved- herself. In the staid early days of television, she was an oddity and audiences loved her penchant for making quips and telling outrageous stories. She called everyone "Darling" and bedazzled viewers by parading about in expensive dresses and over-the-top displays of jewelry. The first casualty of her persona was her career as a promising actress. When Gabor did appear in movies it was generally in B-level fare such as her most famous cult film, the sci-fi turkey "Queen of Outer Space". Gabor always wanted to become a legitimate princess. She married a succession of rich men before fulfilling her dream by marrying a German prince thirty years her junior in 1986, thus bestowing on her the title of "Princess". Over the decades, Gabor continued to act occasionally, on stage and in the movies where she mostly spoofed her own image in films such as "The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear" and "A Very Brady Sequel". In 1988 Gabor made headlines when she was arrested for slapping a police officer who stopped her for speeding. She was sentenced to 72 hours in jail. Gabor's personal life was the stuff of high drama. She was estranged from her daughter who died at age 67 in 2015. It is doubtful Gabor ever knew about her death because she had been in very frail health since a serious car accident in 2002. In the following years she suffered from a variety of health problems and had a partial amputation of a leg performed. Gabor had two sisters, Eva (who found success emulating Zsa Zsa in the long-running sitcom "Green Acres") and Magda, who was the least known among the public.
The National Film Registry has added 25 more titles to their list of film classics that will ensure they are preserved for generations to come. As usual, it's an appropriately eclectic mix of titles spanning from the silent era to recent years and includes some admirably quirky choices. Among them: Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" and John Boorman's "Point Blank". Click here for more (and the full list.)
NOW AT A REDUCED PRICE! ONLY $61.00 THROUGH AMAZON...ORIGINAL PRICE WAS $149.00- FREE SHIPPING FOR PRIME MEMBERS.
Time to put up your Dukes! (DVDs, that is!)
DVD COLLECTION OF 40 WARNER AND PARMOUNT FILMS IS LARGEST JOHN WAYNE BOX SET EVER
INCLUDES HOURS OF SPECIAL FEATURES AND REMARKABLE MEMORABILIA
AMAZON BUYERS GET EXCLUSIVE WAYNE BELT BUCKLE
Here is the original press release from when the set was originally made available:
commemorate one of America’s most iconic film heroes, Warner Bros. Home
Entertainment will introduce a comprehensive new DVD set -- John
Wayne: The Epic Collection-- on May 20. The spring release, just in
time for Father’s Day gift-giving, will contain 38 discs with 40
Wayne films (full list below), including The
Searchers, once called one of the most influential movies in American
history and the film for which Wayne
won his Best Actor Academy Award®, True Grit (1969). The collection comes packaged in a handsome book with
unique collectibles and hours of special features.
The coffee table book includes a
chronological presentation of Wayne films, enhanced with wonderful photographs;
the hours of special features include commentaries, documentaries, featurettes,
vintage shorts and classic cartoons; and the special John Wayne collectibles include
personal correspondence, script pages/covers, pages with Wayne’s notations and
Wayne’s legacy will also be celebrated at the 4th
annual John Wayne Film Festival in Dallas from April 24th through
the 27th. The four-day festival will feature screenings of some of
Wayne’s classic feature films, Q + A sessions with Wayne family members and
co-stars, and parties celebrating the John Wayne heritage and legacy. All the
proceeds from the festival will benefit the John Wayne Cancer Foundation.
In making the announcement of the new
collection, Jeff Baker, WHV’s Executive VP and General Manager, Theatrical
Catalog said, “Thanks to our recent strategic alliance with Paramount and their
catalog titles, we’re delighted to be able to offer this number of titles representing
such a broad range of Wayne’s work. Wayne was one of the most popular film stars
ever. For more than a quarter century he was one of the tops at the worldwide box-office.
This collection will certainly be a ‘must have’ for loyal John Wayne fans and,
hopefully, will have an equal appeal to younger folks who want to learn more
Born Marion Robert Morrison in
Winterset, Iowa, John Wayne first worked in the film business as a laborer on
the Fox lot during summer vacations from U.S.C., which he attended on a
football scholarship. He met and was befriended by John Ford,
a young director who was beginning to make a name for himself in action films,
comedies and dramas. It was Ford who recommended Wayne for his first leading
For the next nine years, Wayne worked
in a multitude of B-Westerns and serials in between bit parts in larger
features. Wayne’s big break came in 1939, when Ford cast him as the Ringo Kid
in the adventure Stagecoach. Wayne
nearly stole the picture from his more seasoned co-stars, and his career as a
box-office superstar began. During his 50 year film career, Wayne played the
lead in more than 140 movies, an as yet unsurpassed
record, and was nominated for three Academy Awards®, winning the Best
Actor award for his performance in True
Discs In John Wayne: The Epic Collection
Big Stampede/Ride Him Cowboy/Haunted Gold, 1932
Telegraph Trail/Somewhere in Sonora/Man from Monterey, 1933
Author Marcus Hearn is generally regarded as one of the world's foremost authorities on the history of Hammer horror films, those legendary British films often made with a minimum of production money by exceptionally talented actors, directors and technicians. Hearn's historical knowledge of- and passion for- all things Hammer were put to good use in his superb 2011 book "The Hammer Vault", which drew upon hundreds of rare photos and promotional materials, all gloriously bound in hardback by Titan Books. The good news is that Hearn and Titan have just issued a revised and expanded version that incorporates even more jaw-dropping goodies provided by Hammer itself along with a legion of private collectors. The result is short on text in order to do justice to the rich photographic production values. Hearn manages to convey essential information about the famed British studio that, like it's greatest moneymaker, Dracula- seems to have risen from the dead after decades of inactivity, periodically producing new feature films.
Hearn should especially be commended for covering the early days of the studio when it was primarily known for making Poverty Row-style potboilers on miniscule budgets before the company found its niche with an almost all horror production schedule. These early Hammer films were often very well made and quite entertaining and served as a valuable training ground for the people who would help elevate the studio to legendary status in the late 1950s-1970s. It was Hammer that made character actors such as Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee into screen legends. They also did the same with Raquel Welch in "One Million Years B.C." and gave prominent roles to a wealth of older actors who routinely found work in the back-to-back horror films that Hammer cranked out. The movies were certainly not all winners. With Hammer's success came the inevitable imitators, most notably Amicus Films, a British studio that shamelessly aped Hammer's style with great success- and occasionally lured away their two most prominent stars, Cushing and Lee. By the late 1960s the studio was losing its touch. With new screen freedoms in terms of censorship, an ill-advised strategy was implemented to replace intelligent scripts with an emphasis on blood, gore and tits and ass. Still, even the worst of the Hammer fare still qualifies to be included in the "Guilty Pleasure" category.
This book offers a remarkable assemblage of rare memorabilia and photographs many of which will be new to even the most hardcore Hammer collector. There also photos of storyboards, props and interesting curiosities that are all beautifully reproduced. I should take the exceptional step of acknowledging the book's designer, Peter Godbold, for his outstanding work on this volume. Many authors (including this writer) have suffered from having at least one of their books compromised by a designer who did not have a feel or appreciation of the subject matter. Gobold's layouts and choices of material elevate every aspect of the book. "The Hammer Vault" is a book you're likely to sink your teeth into (if you pardon the pun) and revisit on many occasions.
A gaggle of writers for Rolling Stone have come up with their list of the top 50 characters to appear in the "Star Wars" franchise. Such lists are largely meaningless but they do elicit a lot of passion from readers who love to argue that the writers are either geniuses or clueless in terms of their selections and rankings. This article will do the same...C-3PO didn't even crack the top ten but at least we didn't see Jar Jar Binks included. Click here to read.
Corman's work both as a director and a producer has often been characterized as
exploitation, quickly and cheaply produced product that promised some cheap
thrills – be they violence or sex – for the theater-goers' admission. It was
certainly not an accusation he would ever shy away from. But that didn't mean
that he didn't ensure that there wasn't at least a certain level of craft to be
found in his films. And sometimes, even a bit of art sneaks through the process.
is the case with “Boxcar Bertha,” the second feature from filmmaker Martin
Scorsese. Corman was looking for
something that could serve somewhat as a sequel to his recently released
“Bloody Mama” when his wife discovered the fictional account of a woman who
rode the rails of the South during the Depression. The story and resultant film
had more than a few echoes of Arthur Penn's “Bonnie And Clyde” and while Corman
has never admitted that this was the case in this instance, he has been known to
surf the wave of another film's popularity all the way to the shore.
the film's Deep South- during- the- Depression setting is a far cry from
Scorsese's Little Italy New York City upbringing, he certainly works hard to
make the film his own. Although a bit rough around the edges – the first couple
of minutes features a somewhat jarring sound effect miscue when a plane lands
in a grassy field accompanied by the sound of tires screeching on concrete and
the film boasts two different title sequences for some reason – it is easy to
see Scorsese starting to define elements that he will work with throughout his
career. The film's story is somewhat episodic, a feature of his next film,
1973's “Mean Streets.” Examining the psyches and characters of those on the
opposite side of the law is a tendency that was probably engendered in Scorsese
by the Warner Brothers crime films and socially conscious dramas of the 1930s
that he has stated his love for in the past. And the film's climactic
crucifixion certainly had to appeal to the Catholic in him, even if it the
Christ imagery isn't set up in anyway in the preceding eighty-some minutes.
(Incidentally, it was during the “Boxcar Bertha” location shoot in Arkansas
that star Barbara Hershey gave Scorsese a copy of Nikos Kazantzakis' novel “The
Last Temptation of Christ” which he adapted to some controversy in 1988.)
Australian lobby card.
course, there are the requisite exploitation elements. Gun fights break at with
the required regular intervals and a train explosively slams into a car left on
some tracks at one point. And of course there's some nudity. By all accounts,
Scorsese was irritated that some nudity had to be inserted into his first
feature, “Who's That Knocking At My Door?” (1967), in order to get a
distribution deal. Here, when both Hershey and David Carradine as her labor
leader-turned-bank robber lover lose their clothes, it feels somewhat casual,
perhaps an influence of the European cinema Scorsese is also a fan of. It
certainly doesn't live up to the expectations set by the stars who claimed in a
Playboy interview at the time of the film's release that their love making
scenes were real and not simulated.
Time's Blu-ray transfer of “Boxcar Bertha” is a solid looking 1080p
transfer. The disc doesn't come with too much else besides some rather
exuberant liner notes by film historian Julie Kirgo and an isolated score
soundtrack movie music fans should appreciate. Those who complain that modern
trailers give away too much of the film that they are advertising will be
dismayed to see that the practice was alive and well in 1972 with the “Boxcar
Bertha” trailer included here. (This release is limited to only 3,000 units.)
If you're a Beatles fanatic, chances are you already caught up with this book which was released last year to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four's second feature film "Help!". Photographer Emilio Lari gets billing on the front cover but the accompanying text inside was written by Alastair Gordon, who provides insights into the film and the filming. There is also a brief (sadly, very brief) foreword by the movie's director Richard Lester. The bulk of the book is dedicated to photos that Lari took on the set of "Help!" as unit stills photographer on the production. It should be noted that Lari only worked on the UK-based sequences, primarily at Twickenham Studios and on the major sequence shot on the Salisbury Plain where the group plays a concert amid some military war games that are going on. Thus we don't get Lari's perspective on what he would have shot for the Bahamas scenes. Nevertheless, the book provides a gold mine of rare and previously unseen photos all captured with great skill by Lari. There is a playfulness apparent in the photos as this was shot during a time period when the lads from Liverpool were still trying to come to terms with their meteoric success. We see them lounging between takes strumming on guitars, smoking cigarettes, John donning a long woman's wig, posing with soldiers, walking among fans and on-lookers and clowning with Richard Lester, who seems to also be having the time of his life. Given what we know about what was to lie before them (i.e infighting, squabbling, Yoko and the ultimate breakup of the band), it's a pleasure to look back on The Beatles during their short-lived period of innocence and wonder, when they could still just concentrate on having fun and creating musical magic. It always struck me as odd that, with the exception of Ringo Starr, the Beatles never showed any interest in pursuing a career on the big screen. (A notable exception was John Lennon's co-starring role in Lester's "How I Won the War"). Each member of the band was a natural on screen but for whatever reason, Starr was the only band member to find success in the medium of cinema. Perhaps they sensed that film would distract from their creative abilities in the field of music. "Help!" had its pleasures but didn't come close to having the enduring impact of "A Hard Day's Night". Their third feature film, the animated "Yellow Submarine", disinterested them to such a degree that they wouldn't even provide their own voices for their cartoon alter-egos and limited their involvement in the project to a brief cameo appearance. Their final film, "Let It Be", was simply a filmed version of a recording session. We'll never know what could have been had the Beatles pursued more cinematic ventures, but this book does provide some wonderful memories of what they did achieve on film.
new book release just grabbed our attention that in many ways has both
everything and nothing to do with cinema. The book is titled, The World’s Hardest Music Trivia: Rock n
Roll History, Fun Facts and Behind the Scenes Stories About the Groups and
Songs You Thought You Knew (Nautilus)but at 388 well-researched pages there is
nothing trivial about it. The book is a fun read that not only covers rock 'n roll but also delves a bit into the realm of films, as well as providing interesting facts about eras gone by. Perhaps somewhat ironically its author, John
Grantham, spent over 30 years in Hollywood in and around the movie industry as
an actor, stuntman and voice over artist. Cinema Retro's Lee Pfeiffer caught up with him for a Q&A about his book which has a title longer than some nation's entire constitutions.
– It should be noted that this isn’t just a book listing questions &
answers about music. It’s an homage to the generations that lived and loved the
– Thanks for recognizing that. There are plenty of books that simply ask a
question and then provide you with the answer. I wanted to set a tone for the
music and provide a background for the songs and groups mentioned in the book.
– You started your sections that dealt with musical decades with an overview of
what was happening culturally, politically and financially during that period
–It was important to me that the reader experiences the questions in the
context that each generation provided. Music, perhaps more than cinema, has
always held a mirror up to society. The 1960s for example provided folk music,
anti-war music, tune in – drop out music amidst the background of a divisive
war in Vietnam that was fracturing America. There was “Black Power”, Women’s
Lib, the Eco movement and lest we forget, the introduction of terrorist
actions. For someone reading the book that wasn’t alive then or was too young
to remember, it’s helpful to set the scene if you will.
– You also included a lot of movie quotes instead of lyrics. Why is that?
– I feel like music provides the soundtrack of our lives. I tried to include
quotes from movies that highlighted the significance of music. Movies like High Fidelity and School of Rock are obvious choices. My favorite scene is from Barry
Levinson’s 1982 classic, Diner where
Daniel Sterns’ character Shrevie argues with his wife Beth, “The first time I met you? Modell’s sister’s high school graduation
party, right? 1955. And ‘Ain’t That A Shame’ was playing when I walked into the
door! It’s important”.
– You were a Hollywood actor and stuntman. Why then a book about music and not,
say, well the obvious, movies?
- (Laughs) Thank you for dignifying my career. I had more than my share of
stinkers. If my career had started a decade earlier much of my finer work would
have gone straight to the drive-in.
– Such as?
– Let’s see… Baja, Deadly Breed, Death
House… Of course therewas also Double Dragon and Master’s of the Universe… If Double
Dragon had done anything at the box office you could have an action figure of
my character, Torpedo, on your shelf!
– What would you say was your favorite role or movie?
– Hmmm. Harvey Keitel shoots me in the final scene of Get Shorty. I played Hari
Krishna #1. I doubled Peter Deluise in the TV show seaQuest DSV. There was a lot of fire and explosions on that, plus a
gnarly stunt where I had to crash through a plate glass window.
– Sounds like fun.
– Some days were better than others. The movie that was the most gratifying to
be associated with was an independent film I doubt many of your readers ever
saw called Miss Firecracker…
- …With Holly Hunter and Tim Robbins…
– That’s right. It also starred Scott Glenn, Alfrie Woodard, Mary Steenburgen
and the late Trey Wilson. I was the stunt coordinator for that. Scott Glenn came
up to me after the fight scene at the fairground and said it was the most
realistic fight he’d ever seen. It wasn’t of course, but it was kind of him to
– Your love of rock and pop is obvious from the book but what movies inspired
your career choice?
– All of them. I’d put moving pictures right next to the printing press in
terms of how it has shaped and moved society. You can’t understate its
influence. The optimistic messages of
Frank Capra’s films and the documentaries of Leni Riefenstahl, are from the same era. The 70s gave us gritty,
street level dramas like The French
Connection and Shaft . The latter
of which featured, perhaps, the best opening theme song in history.
John Grantham: Hollywood stuntman and author.
–Back to the music then…
– Oh right…My formative years were spent in Naples, Florida. My best friend’s
parents owned the only record store in town. That was our “Diner” if you will;
the place we would hang out and talk about girls and sports and movies to the
backdrop of great music. It never occurred to me that all that time spent
pouring over album covers and liner notes would someday form the foundation of
– With the success of “The World’s
Hardest Music Trivia…” can we expect to see The World’s Hardest Movie Trivia on the shelves soon?
– You’d have to ask my publisher. I’d love to do it. I am a student of
Hollywood. I couldn’t tell you who my Congressman is but I can tell you that Susan
Hart played the ghost in The Ghost in the
Invisible Bikini”, which I saw in 1966 at theYazoo Theater in Yazoo City, Mississippi. I was too young to know what
was causing that tingling sensation in my body as I watched the movie but I
knew I wanted to experience it again; and often.
– Maybe we should leave it at that.
– Probably for the best Lee. Thanks for the shout out. Rock on.
Siodmak’s The Magnetic Monster is one
of the more thoughtful – and thought provoking - science-fiction films of the
era. Produced by Ivan Tors (whom would
share screenplay credit with Siodmak), this intriguing 1953 release from United
Artists is a cerebral, worthy addition to the classic sci-fi canon. Its likely most fondly remembered among devotees
of 1950s sci-fi for whom the presence of a rubber-suited monster is not a prerequisite.
Carlson (It Came From Outer Space, The
Creature from the Black Lagoon) essays the role of Dr. Jeffrey Stewart, a
brilliant graduate of Boston’s M.I.T. now working for the OSI (Office of
Scientific Investigation). Stewart and
his assistant, the bespectacled egghead Dr. Dan Forbes (King Donovan) are
self-described “Detectives with Degrees in Science.” They’re government
“A-Men,” the “A” prefix representative of their pedigree in atomic energy
research. The two are called by an official
from the Office of Power and Light to investigate a complaint regarding strange
occurrences taking place inside a Hardware Store. It seems as though the entire establishment has
become magnetized. The assortment of display
clocks adorning the walls have all stopped working, the doors of such household
appliances as washing machines are snapping open and shut, and steam-irons are
careening across store counters. One frightened
employee is nearly run down inside the shop by a barreling rotary-blade lawn
mower. “I can’t have appliances sailing
around my store!” the distressed shopkeeper sensibly complains to the arriving investigators.
the assistance of a Geiger counter, the two scientists discover that traces of
radiation are present. Through
additional testing, they conclude the epicenter of radioactivity can be traced
to an apartment sitting directly over the shop. There they discover a corpse that has succumbed to radiation
poisoning. After checking with officials
in Washington D.C. that no government-held radioactive elements have recently gone
missing, the trail goes briefly cold. Things
heat up again when they receive reports that the radio and radar communications
systems at a local airfield have suddenly gone haywire. They’re also contacted by an exasperated cabbie
at the airport whose taxi’s engine has gone inexplicably dead - and mysteriously
magnetic. His most recent passenger, we
learn, was a somewhat distraught elderly gentleman desperately clinging to a
man with the suitcase, they soon learn, is also a scientist, Howard Denker
(Leonard Mudie). Denker, as we might
have initially suspected, is neither a foreign spy nor a Soviet saboteur. He was merely an ambitious research scientist
from Southwestern University; his cosmic creation has – much in the manner of
Frankenstein’s monster – quickly turned on him and escaped. He too is slowly dying from the ravages of
radiation poisoning. His monstrous creation
is a super-charged element with an insatiable appetite for energy. Denker cautions that his creation must be
constantly fed an electric charge or else “it will reach out with its magnetic
arms and kill anything within its reach.” The scientists arrange to have a sample of the dangerous element put in
to the Cyclotron at the State University. But the massive particle accelerator is no match for this man-made monster
of magnetism. Dr. Denker’s unstable element
is made stronger following an implosion of the Cyclotron in which two men are
killed and all energies absorbed by the creature that doubles in mass with each
A-Men finally realize what they’re up against. The element continues to aggressively feed and grow and, when starved, compensates
by swallowing all energies existing in “empty spaces.” This energy is then
converted into mass. Carlson recognizes
this chain reaction is, essentially, the same from which the universe was first
created and the planets formed. Unable
to prevent the element from continually doubling in strength and size, the
scientists warn that at such a growth rate this magnetic monster will
eventually knock the earth from its axis. When a government defense administrator suggests the creature might be disposed
of by dropping it into the ocean (ala The
Blob), he’s advised the super-heated element would likely turn the sea bed
into a blanket of steam.
only hope for mankind is, unusually, in the hands of the Canadians. Apparently, the U.S. has learned that its
neighbor to the north has built a secret nuclear energy facility some seventeen
hundred feet down a mineshaft near Nova Scotia. The Americans believe the only way to destroy the magnetic monster is to
not starve it but to overfeed it with
power generated by the facility’s Deltatron. Their plan is to allow the monster to literally
choke itself to death by pumping some 900 million volts of power into it. The Canadians aren’t too enthused with the
idea. The Deltatron’s expensive and expansive subterranean facility, its temperature
naturally regulated by surrounding sea water, has only been tested to emit some
600 million volts. The Canadians argue
that increasing the output to 900 million volts is suicidal; it would put the
infrastructure and the safety of everyone working at the facility at great
risk. More egregiously, if Dr. Stewart
is wrong in his calculation, this so-called “magnetic monster” will become so
powerful that no force on heaven or earth will ever be able to contain it.
The latest issue of Cinema Retro (#37) marks the beginning of our thirteenth year of publishing. The issue is now shipping to subscribers in the UK and Europe. Subscribers in other parts of the world will get their issue in January.
Our thirteenth season starts out with:
Steven J. Rubin's 40th anniversary tribute to "Rocky", a "Film in Focus" article that devotes extensive coverage to the making of this landmark film with exclusive comments from key members of the cast and crew.
Christopher Weedman celebrates the career of British actress Anne Heywood with insights from the lady herself.
Diane Rodgers' homage to the Monkees' only feature film, "Head"- with a screenplay by Jack Nicholson!
Martin Gainsford diagnoses the problems of bringing Doc Savage to the big screen in the ill-fated 1970s production.
Nick Anez extols the virtues of Sidney Lumet's brilliant but little-scene "The Offence" with a powerhouse performance by Sean Connery.
Tim Greaves examines the creepy-but-neglected chiller "The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane" starring young Jodie Foster.
Did Sergio Leone "ghost direct" the cult Italian Western "My Name is Nobody"? Chris Button examines the case for and against this theory.
Raymond Benson works overtime, providing us with his Ten Best Films of 1956 as well as his favorite movie trilogies of all time.
Gareth Owen looks back at the founding of Pinewood Studios
Lee Pfeiffer rocks on with the Dave Clark Five in their feature film "Catch Us If You Can" (AKA "Having a Wild Weekend"),which marked John Boorman's directorial debut.
Plus Darren Allison's latest soundtrack news and reviews and the newest Blu-ray and film book releases.
Where else can you find an eclectic line-up of articles such as these? Please continue to support the world's most unique film magazine in print by subscribing or renewing today for issues #37, 38 and 39- a full year's worth of Retro reading. Remember, a Cinema Retro subscription for that classic movie-lover in your life will go over a lot better than that velvet painting you had in mind of the dogs playing poker.
world-famous Pinewood Studios celebrates 80 years in the film business this
year and Penguin Books have published a luxurious large-format 376-page
hardback book to commemorate the fact. Loaded with interesting stories - from
the studio's beginnings to the latest 'Star Wars' offering under the Disney
banner - it's certainly an interesting ride along the way. All of your
favourites are here: the 'Carry On', James Bond, Superman and Batman series, as
well as photos galore - many I'd not seen before (although a few captions are
incorrect) - make for an easy read without getting too bogged down with
statistics. Nice to see industry insiders being interviewed, and there are
numerous quotes from the likes of Sir Roger Moore, Barbara Broccoli, Sir Ridley
Scott, Martin Campbell, Michael G. Wilson and Michael Grade, to name but a few.
Interestingly, now that Pinewood owns the 'other' famous British studio at
Shepperton, this gets coverage, too.
Author Bob McCabe mentions first visiting
the studio in 1977 (aged 10) and seeing the American cars scattered on the
backlot following the filming of 'Superman'. Well, I was there too, Bob -
although a tad older! For those of you, like me, who have been fortunate to
visit this wonderful 'film factory', then it is worthy of a place in your
library. For those of you who will probably never pass through its portals,
then it's an even a bigger treat. Oh, and Cinema Retro gets a credit in the 'sources
of research' section! 'Pinewood: The Story of an Iconic Studio' has a cover
price of £40.00., but is currently available from Amazon UK for the bargain
price of £26.00. Now that's what I call a great Christmas present.
Released as part of "The Hollywood Collection", an independent label, "Roger Moore: A Matter of Class" is a very illuminating 1995 show that originally aired on the American cable network A&E. Running less than an hour, the show nevertheless packs considerable content into its abbreviated running time.It also benefits greatly from the participants including Sir Roger himself (though years before he earned his knighthood.) Moore provides some very funny and occasionally very moving anecdotes about growing up in WWII London where he was a rather chubby, sickly child who often bore the brunt of other kid's bullying. As a defense mechanism he adopted a philosophy of making self-deprecating jokes on the theory that no one enjoys making fun of someone who makes fun of himself. It's been a tactic that has served him well to this day. Moore also discusses his middle-class upbringing, his overly-protective parents and the trauma of existing as a child in a city that was being bombed virtually every night. Moore was also subject to the mass deportation of British children from the cities to temporary foster homes in the British countryside when the war with Germany was gearing up to full-throttle stage. In the post-war years he did a brief stint in the army before using his skills as a cartoonist to get a job in the film industry. With his almost surrealistic good looks it didn't take long for him to catch the eye of producers and Moore found his real niche in front of the cameras. Moore led a charmed life almost from the day he decided to become an actor. Things just fell into place. Even setbacks such as a short-term contract with MGM that saw him cast in forgettable films ended up luring him back to England where he enjoyed enormous success in the long-running series "The Saint". A decade later his TV series with Tony Curtis "The Persuaders" proved to be a big hit in Europe but a flop in America, leading to the show's cancellation. Here again, Moore benefited from a seemingly negative development. When the show was taken off the air, Moore was a free agent and available to accept the role of James Bond. The rest, as they say, is history.
With Tony Curtis in "The Persuaders".
Aside from providing ample film clips from Moore's films the program also shows him touring hard-hit parts of the world in his role as Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. For Moore this has been more than window dressing. He has worked tirelessly to raise funds for programs to help children in poverty and doubtless would like that to be the legacy he is most remembered for. The show boasts interesting insights from many of Moore's friends, family members and colleagues including his son Christian, Bond producer Michael G. Wilson, David Niven Jr, director Lewis Gilbert, Tony Curtis, Gregory Peck, actresses Maud Adams and Carroll Baker and, most poignantly, Michael Caine, who compares Moore's early years with his own hard scrabble life in East London and provides interesting insights into his friend's psyche. Although the show's technical aspects betray its age (primitive graphics and titles), its a slick and polished production. The DVD includes an extensive photo gallery of Moore's life and career though the images lack any accompanying captions, which might leave those not familiar with the nuances of his films rather frustrated. There is also a photo gallery of the show's producers in the company with many other notable people in show business and some promos for other titles in the "Hollywood Collection".
"Roger Moore: A Matter of Class" very much reflects the man himself: it's easy-going, often very funny and always engaging.
(This DVD is region-free and will play on any international system).
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM THE CINEMA RETRO MOVIE STORE.
The web site "1966: My Favorite Year" unearthed this gem of a find: a children's record album released that year that featured Yogi Bear, the Three Stooges and a James Bond parody. Talk about something for everyone! Best of all, the site links to the entire album in audio format on YouTube. Click here to read and listen.