In the late 1970s producer David V. Picker was persuaded by a friend to see up-and-coming comedian Steve Martin on stage. Picker had never heard of him but was impressed enough by his oddball comic genius that he signed him for a movie deal with the esteemed Carl Reiner directing. The result was "The Jerk", which turned out to be a smash hit upon its release in 1979. Martin seemed set for a meteoric rise in the movie industry but he stumbled badly with his second film, the bizarre, downbeat and ill-advised "Pennies from Heaven". Hoping to recapture his celluloid mojo, Martin soon teamed again with Picker and Reiner for "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid", an inspired film noir spoof that, through the technology of the day, allowed Martin to "star" with cinematic legends of bygone eras. Despite favorable reviews, the film was too unconventional for mainstream audiences and under-performed. Undeterred, Martin, Picker and Reiner teamed for a third time in 1983 on what seemed to be a sure-fire spoof of horror films, "The Man with Two Brains", co-written by Martin, Reiner and George Gipe. The film seemed certain to draw in the audiences that had packed theaters a decade before for Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein"- but alas, "Brains" also laid an egg. Martin would soldier on in films until he finally scored some hits, but the fact of the matter is that some of his best work was done in some of his least-seen films, "The Man with Two Brains" among them.
As the title certainly implies, the film is based on a zany premise. Martin plays Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr (the name itself is the basis of many hilarious gags in the film), a world-respected brain surgeon who has perfected the "screw-off" method of removing the top of a patient's skull. He's a rich egotist but he's also despondent over the recent death of his beloved wife, with whom he enjoyed the kinky habit of eating lunch off her behind. Meanwhile we meet Dolores Benedict (Kathleen Turner), a vivacious man-eater who has just finished abusing her elderly millionaire husband to the point that he has a fatal heart attack- only to learn that he had changed his will so that she won't inherit anything. Fleeing the house in anger, Dolores steps in front of Michael's car and suffers a traumatic brain injury. Instantly obsessed by her beauty, he performs a life-saving operation. Upon awakening, Dolores senses that Michael is a trusting, naive soul who she can instantly manipulate. Before long, the two are married - a plot device that sets in motion a running gag about how the perpetually horny Michael has to keep chaste while he waits for his wife to recover from her medical problems (even though she is sleeping with hunky guys at every opportunity.) Her motive is to ultimately manipulate- and presumably kill- her husband without ever having to consummate the marriage- especially when she learns he has just inherited millions from a deceased relative.
Most of the action is set in Vienna, where Michael is attending a brain surgeons conference. Although it's obvious that the closest anyone in the production got to Austria was a Vienna sausage lunch cart in Hollywood, the change in locale opens the story up to more exotic aspects. Michael meets Dr. Alfred Necessiter (David Warner), a fellow nutty professor who has a Universal Monsters-style laboratory constructed in his urban condo. The two men form a friendship- but it's challenged when Michael falls in love with one of his new friend's experiments, the disembodied brain of a lovely lady who he can communicate with by telepathy. In one of the funniest scenes, he takes his new love out for a spin in a rowboat- and puts a hat on the glass jar to prevent "her" from getting sunburned. Meanwhile, a clever subplot is introduced in which Vienna is being terrorized by the mad "Elevator Killer" who offs his victims by injecting them with window cleaner! (The unmasking of the villain's identity is one of the laugh-out-loud moments in the film.) To continue to explain the story line as though it were logical would be an exercise in futility. Suffice it to say, "The Man with Two Brains" is Steve Martin at his best. The film is packed with many hilarious scenarios and sight gags- and Kathleen Turner adds immeasurably to the fun with a spot-on performance as the evil femme fatale. Carl Reiner proved to be the perfect director for Martin and the films they did together hold up well today.
The Warner Blu-ray release is quite welcome and will hopefully allow the uninitiated to enjoy the many pleasures of this film. The only bonus extra is an original trailer which, bizarrely, doesn't mention or credit Kathleen Turner, who had already achieved major stardom from her appearance in "Body Heat".
Director Michael Ritchie seemed to be on the fast track in becoming one of Hollywood's "A" list young filmmakers. His career started in television and hit a speed bump when he was fired from "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." after arguing with a producer about the content of a script. However, he eventually segued into movies. His first big screen feature was "Downhill Racer", the 1969 drama starring Robert Redford that displayed Ritchie's talents behind the cameras. A few years later, his career went into overdrive. He directed the quirky hit crime film "Prime Cut" followed by the prescient political satire "The Candidate" and then the critically-praised satire "Smile". His genial comedy "The Bad News Bears" proved to be a major boxoffice hit. Ritchie never stopped working but the momentum faded by the late 1970s. He had the occasional modest hit ("Semi-Tough", "Fletch") but all too often he was consigned to mediocre films that played to mediocre results. Whether Ritchie was denied bringing innovative visions to reality by short-sighted studio executives or whether he just ran out of steam is not known. However, by the time he died in 2001 at only 62 years of age, those of us who admired his earlier films couldn't help but think that some great, unfilled projects had died with him. One of Ritchie's "work-for-hire" productions, the 1988 comedy "The Couch Trip" has been released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber. The quirky screwball concept falls short of its potential but there is much to recommend about it.
The movie opens at a psychiatric institution in Illinois where John W. Burns Jr. (Dan Aykroyd) is being held against his will. However, if he is a prisoner, it is in the sense that Bob Crane's Colonel Hogan was prisoner: the inmate is literally running the asylum. Burns has it pretty good for an incarcerated man. He's overflowing with confidence, charisma and superficial charm and wins over everyone in his sphere of influence. There seem to be few pleasures that he is denied at the institution and even finds a way to have sex with the secretary (Victoria Jackson) of the chief psychiatrist, Dr. Lawrence Baird (David Clennon), an uptight, humorless man who doesn't relate to the inmates under his care. The script introduces a separate story line concerning Dr. George Maitlin (Charles Grodin), an esteemed and very popular psychiatrist who dispenses pearls of wisdom to "patients" who call into his popular radio program. When it turns out that Maitlin himself is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, he decides to take a sabbatical and attend a professional conference in London with his bubble-headed wife Vera (Mary Gross). He puts out the word that he wants an obscure psychiatrist to fill in for him by hosting his radio program, on the proviso that the substitute host isn't impressive enough to challenge Maitland's stranglehold on his audience. When word reaches the institute that Dr. Baird has been chosen to interview for the hosting gig, Burns intercepts the message, orchestrates a brilliant escape, steals a car and adopts the identity of Baird, even managing to fly to L.A. on his plane ticket (this was 1988, after all, before today's onerous security measures would render such a feat virtually impossible). Once in Hollywood, Burns is met by his "colleague", Dr. Laura Rollins (Aykroyd's real life wife Donna Dixon), who- in addition to being brainy- is also a sexy, leggy blonde. He also meets Harvey Michaels (Richard Romanus), a smarmy, fast-talking agent who is representing Maitland. The faux Dr. Baird quickly intimidates Michaels by making outrageous demands to host the radio program, all of which are met. Burns hits a speed bump when he has a chance encounter with a seemingly crazed con man named Donald Becker (Walter Matthau), who recognizes him as a wanted man and threatens to expose him if he doesn't make him a partner in his schemes. Left with no choice, Burns has Becker move into his lush hotel suite.
When Burns makes his debut in the guise of substitute host Dr. Baird on the radio program, he radicalizes the format by dispensing brutally honest advice to his troubled call-in audience. At times, he indulges in outrageous behavior and tosses out obscenities that shock Michaels and Dr. Rollins. However, all is forgiven when he becomes an overnight sensation and a ratings smash. Before long, "Dr. Baird" is the toast of Hollywood, leading to him making even more outrageous demands. A fly in the ointment comes when the real Dr. Baird meets Dr. Maitland at a convention in London. The two men realize they're being exploited and hurry back to Hollywood where they attempt to thwart Burns as he accepts an award on Maitland's behalf at a black tie dinner.
"The Couch Trip" starts out as an uninspired comedy but improves considerably as it progresses. The script is most effective in satirizing the (then) new populist trend of having troubled people rely on advice of radio show hosts to make life-altering decisions in their lives. The concept was absurd in the 1980s and has grown exponentially today with people using social media platforms as Dollar Store versions of psychiatrists, taking the advice of total strangers in regard to resolving their most intimate problems. Aykroyd is in top form with his cynical con man schtick. Matthau appears only fleetingly but adds his considerable skills to the merriment- and the supporting cast is also very amusing with Charles Grodin and David Clennon particularly funny. Director Michael Ritchie proves to be as adept with comedy as he was with dramas and thrillers and his "hands off" style allows both Aykroyd and Matthau to shine. The film bombed on its theatrical release but it offers enough gentle pleasures that it can recommended for home viewing. The Kino Lorber Blu-ray provides what appears to be segments from the film's original electronic presskit including some interesting behind the scenes footage and interviews with Aykroyd, Dixon and Ritchie (though grumpy old man Matthau's interviews have a total running time of about 20 seconds). The original trailer is also included.
For lovers of classic cinema as well as classic music, the recent emergence of presenting screenings of films accompanied by live orchestras has proven to be manna from Heaven. This was particularly true last week at Lincoln Center's David Geffen Hall when the New York Philharmonic, under the direction of David Newman, presented a big screen showing of "Star Wars: A New Hope" with the Philharmonic providing live accompaniment of John Williams' legendary score. To call the resulting event thrilling would be an understatement. The atmosphere in the hall was unusual for a Philharmonic event, as concert producer Betsey Tumarkin thought outside the box and allowed the Philharmonic to go funky. The hall clearly embraced and catered to the fan movement, which allowed attendees the opportunity to pose for photos with characters from the film. It was an amusing sight, with uppercrust patrons walking about with Martinis intermingling with families with young children who were thrilled to meeting Darth Vader and some of those evil storm troopers. Additionally, self-described "Star Wars" geeks proudly wore their own costumes to the event, making an interesting contrast to those attired more traditionally for a Lincoln Center concert. The resulting detente between both aspects of the audience was due to their common respect for the music of John Williams. Even conductor Newman, an esteemed film composer in his own right, got into the action following four-- yes, four-encore appearances demanded by the thundering ovations - by wielding a light sabre from the podium. I must shamefully admit that I only saw "Star Wars" once, when it opened theatrically in 1977, though I did revisit portions of it back in the dark days of VHS to fact-check a book I was co-authoring with Michael Lewis, "The Films of Harrison Ford". Thus, when the Cinema Retro was invited to attend and review the opening night of the concert series, this became the ultimate offer I couldn't refuse. Perhaps my distance from the film served me well on this particular night because, while I certainly remembered the most iconic aspects of the movie and those classic lines of dialogue, I was able to enjoy the many wonderful nuances of the story and the performances as if for the first time, including the homage to John Ford's "The Searchers" when Luke finds his home destroyed and his family brutally murdered. It was also delightful to see British acting icons Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing evoking applause from contemporary audiences when they first appeared on the screen.
Attendees got into the spirit of things by warming up to dastardly villains.
The version of the film that was screened was the "Special Edition" from 1997. It was especially created for concert events, as it had the dialogue in sub-titles for those instances in which the overwhelming sound of the orchestra drowned out some of the soundtrack. There was an intermission mid-way through the screening, presumably to give the musicians a break, but also to ensure that there was a race to the souvenir stands where attendees could buy exclusive "Star Wars" concert merchandise. In the program created for the event, John Williams states "These live performances allow audiences to hear these scores in a new way. The performance by a live symphony orchestra enables audiences to hear a lot of music that can go unnoticed in the cinema." As for the challenge such events present to musicians, Williams says ""The orchestra must play pretty relentlessly for two hours or more. It is very intense for the brass, particularly in many of the battle sequences that can be 15 or 20 minutes long." Horn player Leelanee Sterrett is quoted as saying, "The brass parts are very prominent in almost all the famous themes you think of: The Imperial March, Princess Leia's Theme, the Throne Room. We have a really important role to play in the storytelling." Of Williams' score, David Newman says "It was so groundbreaking. It completely changed film music".
Sales of concert merchandise were out of this world.
Perhaps the greatest tribute to visionary mind of George Lucas comes from John Williams himself: "(He) created something that seems to be timeless. You'd have to look back to Walt Disney or even Dickens to find a comparison to the longevity enjoyed by the fabulous characters George has conjured. Darth Vader, Yoda and Luke Skywalker are very much still with us and will continue to be for decades to come. Forty years is now looking like a very short time."
(The New York Philharmonic will next present "The Empire Strikes Back" on September 26, 27 and 28; "Return of the Jedi" on October 4 and 5 and "The Force Awakens" on October 6 and 7. Click here for information and tickets.
Hollywood studios are still licking their wounds over one of the worst years in memory in terms of boxoffice performance, though there are signs of a strong final quarter. Still, the guys and gals in the corner offices can't get out of a rut when it comes to lack of imagination. When they have a good thing, their only strategy seems to be to over-indulge in it. As David Sims writes in the Atlantic, Warner Bros. is planning three- yes, three- simultaneous comic book-related films featuring the Joker. The abundance of superhero films is the latest trend and, as usual, studios are over-indulging in it to the point that the bloom will come off the rose with audiences that are always seeking the next shiny object. Eventually, the quality of the films, which are all similar in content, begins to diminish and all the CGI effects imaginable can't make up for an uninspired script. There's already signs that audience exhaustion with superhero flicks is already setting in, despite the great success of some of the franchises. Universal is in the same dilemma: trying to dust off its classic Universal Monsters franchise for modern audiences despite anemic response to their updated version of "The Mummy" starring Tom Cruise. The recent remake of Stephen King's "It" indicates there is still a big market for horror films....but let's remember, the film is still a remake of a TV production. The lack of imagination and risk-taking among the major studios has left independent productions and art house films to dominate the market for mature audiences who want to see something a bit different than young women being pursued by maniacal killers. Perhaps the success of Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk" might embolden the studios to have more faith in diversity- but I wouldn't be surprised to see a film about the battle of Gettysburg somehow involving Superman and Batman. Click here to read.
Allen’s very first directorial effort (not counting What’s Up, Tiger Lily? from1966, which was, in actuality, a
Japanese spy movie that Allen rewrote, dubbed, and re-edited into a comedy) was
the low budget, no frills Take the Money
and Run, released in the summer of 1969 to an unsuspecting audience. While
Allen was already somewhat familiar to the public via his numerous television
talk show and stand-up appearances, as well as his small roles in three late-60s
motion pictures, no one was quite prepared for the zany, nebbish onscreen
persona that Allen debuted in Take the
Money. It was a cinematic guise he would keep to the present day.
intellectual Jewish nerd that Allen presented (here his character’s name is
Virgil Starkwell) quickly became the guy whom we all thought Woody Allen really
is. Some folks might have said, “Oh, he’s just playing himself.” Perhaps
certain characteristics of the real Woody Allen may have been a part of Virgil
Starkwell, or Fielding Mellish, or even Alvy Singer, but like Groucho Marx and his onscreen persona, we now know that Woody
Allen is not that guy. In truth, he tends to be surprisingly shy, quiet, and
introverted. This revelation makes the performances in his movies that much
Take the Money and
also a milestone because of its “mockumentary” format, a comedy sub-genre that
had been rarely explored up to that point. Something like A Hard Day’s Night might be called a mockumentary, but it wasn’t
until Allen’s landmark unveiling of his first feature that we saw the comedic
possibilities of presenting a story as if it were real news—complete with
documentary-style narration (provided in this case by veteran Jackson Beck).
movie is the tale of a common serial thief, and how his love life and eventual
marriage (to Louise, played by Janet Margolin) affects his “career.” The
hilarious biographical narrative includes wacky robberies, failed attempts to
go straight, and numerous stints in the pen. One cannot easily forget the
classic bank holdup scene in which Allen passes a note to the teller, who can’t
read the handwriting. Before long, the entire staff of the bank is attempting
to decipher whether Starkwell wrote “gub” or “gun.” “Is this a holdup?” one guy
for roughly $1.5 million, the picture looks, well, cheap, and it has that 1960s
shot-on-newsreel-cameras feel, which of course is entirely appropriate. The
direction is competent; Allen has long acknowledged the contribution of editor
Ralph Rosenblum to his early comedies. It’s not unfair to say that Rosenblum
may have taught Allen essential lessons in directing. That said, it’s also no
small feat to act in, direct, and co-write (with Mickey Rose) a movie. Despite
the low rent vibe of the picture, the jokes really do come every few seconds,
and this is worth the price of admission. It is a very funny movie.
Kino Lorber Blu-ray transfer looks fine, although the video quality of the
original picture wasn’t particularly great to begin with. Unfortunately, like
with most Allen Blu-ray releases, there are no supplements other than trailers
for other Kino Lorber releases.
Take the Money and Run is a
worthwhile examination of a genius artist’s baby steps. There’s no question
that Allen’s career began with an impressive laugh riot—and things would only
"Thunderball" co-stars Martine Beswick and Luciana Paluzzi.
Hammer and "Live and Let Die" actress Madeleine Smith.
BY MARK MAWSTON
The London Film Convention, organized by
Thomas Bowington was quite literally a Who’s Who of heroes and villains from
the small and silver screen. The actual Who came in the shape of a Dr. himself
in the guise of Sylvester McCoy, along with Who assistants Katy Manning who played Jo and
Bernard Cribbins from both the Amicus film version and the TV version. There was also a
rare appearance from Garial Woolf. The other key cult British film genres-the Carry On films, James Bond and Hammer horror- were all represented too, with many of the star
guests appearing in all three: from the Carry On Films we had Fenella Fielding,
Anita Harris and Amanda Barrie, from Hammer and Bond we had Maddie Smith,
Valerie Leon, Martine Beswick, Eunice Gayson, John Wyman, Deborah Moore, Jan
Williams, Shane Rimmer, Robert Watts, Golden Girl Shirley Eaton and a rare
appearance from Luciana Paluzzi.
We also had the Star Wars and action films
represented by Vic Armstrong, Wolf Kahler, Jack Klaff, Virginia Hey and many others.
All in all, a fabulous day for the fan and the collector alike with many of the
attendee’s purchasing back copies of Cinema Retro to be signed by the guests! (All photos copyright Mark Mawston. All rights reserved.)
Wolf Kahler- still recovering from looking inside the Lost Ark of the Covenant!
The First Lady of Bond, Eunice Gayson.
Anita Harris & Amanda Barri
Carry On’s Fenella Fielding
Famed Producer & Production Manager from Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Bond Robert Watts with Who assistant Katie Manning.
James Bond's "Golden Girl" Shirley Eaton.
Bernard Cribbins plays ventriloquist to Sylvester McCoy.
They were two of the greatest acting talents of their time. But when Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh discarded their spouses and families to begin a torrid affair, it paved the way for scandal and madness. Olivier found himself seduced by the sexually aggressive Leigh, who worked diligently to help deconstruct his marriage, as well as her own. When the two finally married, the relationship became erratic when Olivier discovered that Leigh had been diagnosed with what would now be known as bipolar disorder. Her range of emotions varied wildly and as time wore on, her mental condition deteriorated to a tragic level. Writer Michael Thornton covers the tempestuous relationship for the Daily Mail and points out that Olivier and Leigh never fell out of love with each other- even after they divorced. Adding to the salacious aspects of the story, Thornton maintains that both Olivier and Leigh were actively bisexual and carried on affairs with members of the same sex. Leigh, however, fell victim to her psychological disease and would have quick sexual interludes with men she would pick up on the street. To read, click here.
CINEMA RETRO HAS RECEIVED THE FOLLOWING PRESS RELEASE:
12, 2017 - New York, NY – At this year’s 15th edition of the New
York City Horror Film Festival, broad-ranged character actor Brad Dourif,
beloved to fright fans as the voice of killer doll Chucky, will receive the event’s
Lifetime Achievement Award on Saturday, Oct. 28. The prestigious trophy honors Mr.
Dourif for his long-ranging contributions to horror cinema, and the actor will
accept in person.
Dourif began his career on the stage where he was eventually noticed by Milos
Forman and cast as Billy Bibbit in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, a role
which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He has
brought his craft to classic genre films including the John Carpenter-scripted EYES
OF LAURA MARS; David Lynch’s DUNE and BLUE VELVET; and William Peter Blatty’s THE
EXORCIST III. Dourif gained further renown for voicing Chucky in the CHILD’S PLAY
franchise, the latest film of which, CULT OF CHUCKY, debuts this fall.
features and 31 short films make up this year’s festival, which opens Thurs Oct.
26, with a range of films including New York premieres of Mitchell Altieri’s THE
NIGHT WATCHMEN; Norbert Keil’s REPLACE starring Barbara Crampton; Benjamin
Arfmann’s DISMISSED starring Dylan Sprouse; Richard Stringham’s CLOSE CALLS;
and Mathieu Turi’s HOSTILE starring Javier (IT) Botet; and the North American
premiere of Michael Mongillo’s ghost story DIANE.
festival runs October 26–29, at Cinépolis Cinemas, 260 West 23rd Street.,
at the corner of 8th Avenue and 23rd Street in the heart
of New York’s Chelsea district, just one block over from the famed Chelsea
Hotel, once home to Sid Vicious, Andy Warhol, Patti Smith, Jim Morrison, Bob
Dylan, and Arthur C. Clarke.
NYC Horror Film Festival was born in 2002 by filmmaker Michael J. Hein as a
venue for newer independent horror filmmaking. After Michael’s passing in 2011,
the festival created the Michael J. Hein Achievement Award to celebrate the
hard work and perseverance of creators in the field. George Romero was the
first recipient of the festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award, followed by other
classic scaremeisters including Rob Zombie, Roger Corman, Frank Henenlotter,
Robert Englund, Stuart Gordon, and the beloved late Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper,
Angus Scrimm, and Herschell Gordon Lewis.
The full schedule for the New York City Horror Film Festival is here:
Cinema Retro issue #39 has now shipped worldwide. For subscribers, this is the final issue of Season 13. Please renew for Season 14 (see below) and keep supporting the world's most unique movie magazine.
Issue #39 devotes a full 32 pages to celebrating the 50th anniversary of the James Bond film "You Only Live Twice", which starred Sean Connery as 007 and introduced Donald Pleasence as the immortal villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Why did we dedicate half of the pages in this issue to the film? Largely because of the outpouring of contributions from talented writers from around the world, not to mention esteemed names like composer David Arnold, actress Karin Dor, who played the villainous femme fatale Helga Brandt, Tsai Chin who played Bond's bedmate in the pre-credits scene, legendary lyricist Leslie Bricusse, assistant director William Cartlidge, future Oscar-winning production designer Peter Lamont and Nancy Sinatra, who recalls the nerve-wracking experience of singing the title song. Plus in-depth looks at composer John Barry, the cars of "You Only Live Twice", the inside story behind the Little Nellie autogyro, "now and then" photos of key locations and a Bondwagon full of rare photos and promotional art, some of which are published here for the first time- plus a look at all the accompanying international 007 collectibles.
Issue #39 also concludes our celebration of the life and career of actress Susan George and examines the kinky little-seen crime thriller "Night Hair Child" (aka "What the Peeper Saw") plus the obscure-but-worthy cult flick "Deadly Strangers" starring Hayley Mills- plus tributes to the late, great Sir Roger Moore.
In reality, you only live once- so don't miss this limited edition issue.
You can still subscribe to Season 13 and get all three issues shipped to you
at once, including issue #37 and #38, which honor "Rocky" and "The Dirty
The Suspicious Death of a Minor
(o.t. Morte sospetta di una minorenne)
(1975) is a bit of a queer fish. It's widely regarded as the last – and
arguably the least – of director Sergio Martino's giallos, though in fact it
only barely qualifies as such, spanning as it does several genres. It's a
curious hybrid wherein the giallo element is fairly low-key, playing second
fiddle to poliziotteschi tropes with an ill-judged sprinkling of comedy.
been rudely propositioned by a guy at a dance, a young girl is chased from the
place by an impeccably dressed, unspeaking assassin. He corners her in a room
at an insalubrious Milan hotel where he savagely slays her. The guy whose unwanted
attentions the girl drew prior to her murder is later revealed to be Inspector
Paolo Germi (Claudio Cassinelli), working undercover to expose a drugs and
underage prostitution racket in which she was embroiled. Every time Germi gets
close to the next link in the chain that person dies, each falling victim to
the silent assassin who's keeping one step ahead of him and eradicating anyone
whose evidence could lead to the identification of the top banana and bust the
trafficking operation wide open.
Sergio Martino was the man behind such excellent giallos as Torso, All the Colours of the Dark and the gloriously titled Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have
the Key, whilst co-scripter Ernesto Gastaldi (as well as collaborating with
Martino on the aforementioned trio) penned such renowned works as The Case of the Bloody Iris and Death Walks on High Heels. And yet,
although purely in terms of its subject matter there's a dark underbelly festering
away in The Suspicious Death of a Minor,
it never quite plumbs the anticipated depths of sleaziness that its title and
credentials might imply. As is standard for Italian films of this period the
female cast is typically gorgeous, notably Patrizia Castaldi (as the story's
first victim), Barbara Magnolfi and Jenny Tamburi. But none of them actually
look like minors, nudity is employed with uncommon restraint for this sort of
movie and, a couple of graphic attacks aside, the production is not nearly as
brutal as it might have been either. None of which is to suggest it's not worth
dipping in to; there's some great stuff going on here.
all odds Claudio Cassinelli is eminently likeable as Germi, the cop who get
suspects to talk at gunpoint, drives like a maniac, recklessly fires off his
weapon in the midst of civilians, sleeps with prostitutes and hooks up with a
petty thief (Gianfranco Barra) as an accomplice. "It was self defence,
right?", Germi’s boss (Mel Ferrer) encouragingly prompts when he’s being
raked across the coals by a superior officer for his aberrant technique;
"No, sir, it was self offence,"
Germi replies bluntly. Indeed, his Dirty Harry-esque modus operandi may be unorthodox but it sure gets results. (As an
aside, Cassinelli was tragically killed in a helicopter crash in 1985 whilst
working on Martino's sci-fi actioner Hands
photographed by Giancarlo Ferrando, highlights include a chase which begins
with a shootout on a fairground Crazy Mouse ride and ends messily on an
underground rail track, and a tense confrontation atop the retractable roof of
a cinema. The first half of the film unfolds reasonably unpredictably – it's
some time before we learn that Germi is actually one of the good guys – but
once our man has established the identity of the first victim it's not too much
of a strain for the viewer to see where the plot is going and who the brains
behind the prostitution ring is likely to be. That said, there are still a few twists
en route to the slightly abrupt
finale, one of them particularly cruel and involving Barra and Tamburi. All
this is offset, as indicated earlier, by some mostly unwelcome humour. There's
a running gag in which Germi is constantly breaking his spectacles that isn’t
too intrusive. But the front door of his beat up jalopy keeps falling off too, adding
a slapstick dimension to the proceedings; during an extended car chase, which is
played purely for chuckles, his passenger leans out and with much amusement pulls
off the back door too, hurling at the pursuing vehicle.
With a terrific
score from Luciano Michelini – which sandwiches traditional 70s cop movie
sounds between between piano-driven melodies evocative of the Confessions films (no, really!) and
Goblin's superlative work on the Argento classics – The Suspicious Death of a Minor will never be cited as one of the
greats, but it's enjoyable enough and unlikely to leave anyone with an
appreciation for the golden period of Italian filmmaking feeling disappointed.
The Suspicious Death of a Minor
hits DVD and Blu-Ray as a dual format Arrow Video release bearing the on-screen
title Too Young to Die. A brand-new
2K restoration from the original camera negative, the transfer is faultless,
with sound options available in English mono and Italian mono (with English
subtitling). Supplements are sparse, at least by Arrow standards; there's a
feature commentary from author Troy Howarth, a generous 43-minute interview
with Martino (in Italian with English subtitling) and a trailer (again in
Italian with English subs). A collector's booklet and the usual Arrow reversible
sleeve are dropped in to round off the deal.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER (This is a Region 2/Pal format release)
Please note, as from Tuesday September
19th, due to extensive travel schedules, the UK office will not be despatching
orders until after Monday October 16th. Orders can still be sent to the UK
office during this period, but they will not be attended to until after the
above date. Thank you. The USA office remains open during this time. If you
have any questions or enquiries for the UK office, please send an E mail to our
USA office at: email@example.com
and we will get back to you. Thank you.
Lisi and Rod Steiger are “The Girl and the General,” available on DVD via the
Warner Archive Collection. The poster art on the DVD cover asks, “What happens
when the roles of man and woman are reversed?” The answer on the cover, “‘The
Girl and the General’ is what happens!”
is an Austrian general captured during WWI by Italian Private Tarasconi
(Umberto Orsini) who is separated from his unit while retreating from the
advancing Austrian Army. Realizing he will receive a reward by his superiors
for capturing and turning in the general, the private attempts to bring the
general to his Italian commanders. He has dreams of using the reward money to
buy a farm and live a quite life in the country. Where do the Italian and
Austrian lines begin and end? Who can be trusted? Outsmarted by the general,
the terrain and the confusing and changing front lines, the private is driven
by his dreams, hunger and safety when he finds an abandoned farm house. There’s
no food, but they have a place to rest for the night. The general escapes and
the private encounters the beautiful Ada (Lisi) who is equally hungry and also
seeking safe haven from the raging battle. Private Tarasconi and Ada agree to
split the reward if she will help him recapture the general and take him to the
Italian army. They find and recapture the general and they continue their trek.
private is drawn as much to Ada’s beauty as he is to the reward, but hunger
becomes the great equalizer for all three. Keeping the general their captive is
no easy task as the trio journey from one problematic location to another,
encountering Austrians and Germans, but no Italians and end up back at the
abandoned farmhouse where they started after traveling in a circle. In spite of
their partnership, Ada is not about to give in to the private’s lust for her, nor
is she about to share a precious egg she has found. The private takes the egg
from a sleeping Ada and returns the empty egg after sucking out the contents.
His hunger partially quenched, he turns to his lust for Ada, but she stops him.
He shares his dream of buying a farm and Ada warms to him with the possibility
continue their journey as the general does everything he can to outsmart them
and escape. Ada outsmarts the private using his attraction and trust of her against
him and locks him in a closet on an Austrian train car. The private soon
returns and they use money found in the farmhouse to buy a donkey and cart so
the private and general can hide in the barrel on the cart as Ada leads them
through enemy occupied territory. In one scene, Ada goes out searching for food
only to pass into an Austrian encampment. She asks for food, which they give to
her, but they have a demand for repayment. Ada endures the humiliation of being
fondled in return for potatoes until the men are ordered to leave when their
superior arrives. Upon returning to the private and the general, she lies and
says there was no food.
each try to one-up each other with their shared needs like food and shelter,
the general’s need to escape and the private’s dream of buying a farm and
marrying Ada. She simply wants to survive and uses the two men for her own ends
as they make their way to the Italian lines, but to get there they must cross a
mine field. All I will say about that is the donkey doesn’t make it and the
movie comes to a satisfying conclusion.
more accurate title for the movie could be “The Private, the Girl and the
General,” but that doesn’t have the same ring or commercial appeal as “The Girl
and the General.” Produced by Carlo Ponti, the movie was directed by Pasquale
Festa Campanile who also contributed as co-writer of the original story and is
credited as a co-screenwriter. He was also co-writer on “The Leopard” in 1963
featuring Burt Lancaster in one of his signature roles. Campanile also directed
“The Girl from Trieste,” in 1982 which featured Ben Gazzara. The movie features
terrific location shooting and a fabulous score by the great Ennio Morricone.
Has he ever delivered a bad score?
Perhaps, but there’s always added value to any movie where Morricone has made a
is not a typical war movie as there is very little in the way of combat. The
soldiers on both sides disappear for most of the movie except when they show up
as road blocks to the trio’s progress. Roles are not reversed so much as
equalized as the trio search for food, safety and shelter in a basic will to
survive. This common struggle trumps everything and brings them together as
danger blocks them at every turn. The movie is also very funny, especially when
Steiger is involved with outsmarting the easily outsmarted private. In an early
scene after being captured, the general convinces the private to take his boots
off and, after setting them aside, the general tosses them over a cliff,
forcing the private to walk in his socks until he finds suitable replacement
in the fall of 1967 by Metro-Goldwyn Mayer in the U.S., the movie is well worth
a viewing. Lisi and Orsini are very good and the incomparable Steiger is very
appealing in his role as the general. The movie looks and sounds terrific and
clocks in at 103 minutes. The DVD is bare bones with no extras.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM THE CINEMA RETRO MOVIE STORE
The stars must have formed a fortuitous
alignment. Somehow, a great wrong has been righted and order has been restored
to the universe. Kino Lorber, under its
KL Classics brand, has just released “Sunset in the West,” the first-ever high
definition Blu-Ray edition of a Roy Rogers Trucolor western. This may not sound
like a big deal to some people, but for the initiated—those who grew up watching
Roy on the big screen at countless Saturday matinees in the 1950s— it is monumental.
Because, until now the only Roy Rogers movies available for home viewing were
dark, faded, and badly edited transfers released first on VHS and later DVD by
Republic Studios. Republic treated Roy’s movies with criminal disrespect. The
studio let the movies fade away with in their vaults, and then sold them to TV
where they were butchered to fit time slots. By the time they got to home video
there were a mess. For Roy’s fans, it seemed a hopeless situation that would
never be corrected. But now, thanks to a first class restoration by Kino
Lorber, you can see what John McClane was talking about in “Die Hard,” when he
told Hans he was kinda partial to Roy Rogers more than John Wayne, because: “I
really like those shirts.”
Color was an essential component of the
Rogers westerns. In addition to the western-style shirts he wore, there was the
bandana around his neck, the silver studs on his holster and gun belt, the hand-tooled
boots with touches of turquoise on them, all of which combined to make Roy
practically a living work of art. Even Trigger, his golden Palomino, billed as
“The Smartest Horse in the Movies” was outfitted with handsomely a burnished
leather saddle festooned with silver doo-dads and a Mexican-style saddle
blanket. But you could hardly see any of that on home video. Part of the
problem was the Trucolor process itself. Republic invented its own cheaper red
and green two-strip color process to save money and still compete with
Technicolor. The absence of the third blue strip resulted in more pastel shades
than Technicolor with the picture emphasizing oranges and blues. The result was
a special look that was immediately identifiable, and put Republic’s, and
especially Roy Rogers, movies sort of in a class by themselves. But the big
drawback was that Trucolor film faded quickly. Kino Lorber has done a
praiseworthy restoration, remastering “Sunset in the West,” from a 4K scan, and
the movie looks just about as good as it must have when it was first released.
It’s a significant event in the history of film restoration.
“Sunset in the West” is a typical Roy Rogers
movie. Certainly not the best he ever made, but a good one.
I would vote for “Bells of San Angelo” as the best, but I suppose it’s all a
matter of opinion. When you’re talking about the King of the Cowboys what can
you say? They’re all great. In this one Roy finds himself involved in a plot
involving gun runners. The script by screenwriting veteran Gerald Geraghty starts
with a train hijacking. (That’s another plus right there. Roy Rogers and
trains! There are several steam locomotives in the story, although it’s likely
there was only one that was used and made over to look different each time.)
The bad guys drive the trains to isolated areas, dump out the freight, and
replace it with guns to be smuggled across the border to a foreign power. The
trains are found later wrecked somewhere along the track. Roy finds out about
it when the train he was expecting to pick up the cattle he had driven to
Bordertown races right on by without even stopping. Not a man to let a thing like
that go by, Roy jumps on Trigger and races after the steaming locomotive. He
overtakes the train, jumps aboard and is immediately punched out by the
engineer and knocked off the speeding locomotive.
And that’s just the first reel of this
action-packed movie. Directed at a frenetic pace by the legendary William Witney
(one of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite directors), “Sunset in the West” packs a
slew of galloping horse chases (Roy takes down two baddies riding double in one
scene), numerous fist fights (including a barroom brawl that must have used
half of Republics fabled team of stunt men), several gun fights, four or five
quick musical numbers, and a finale that takes place along the crashing waves
of a deserted beach. And all packed into a dizzying 67 minutes.
The cast includes Penny Edwards, playing the
niece of Sheriff Tad Osborne (Will Wright), an old timer who’s about to chuck
his 30-year career because he can’t solve the mystery of the highjacked trains.
The plot gets moving when Roy, is deputized and helps find out who’s behind it all.
Also on hand for comedy relief is Gordon Jones as “Splinters” a hiccupping
barber/deputy sheriff. Pierre Watkin appears as Gordon McKnight, a leading
citizen of Bordertown who seems kind of shady, and Estelita Rodrigues, who
plays Carmelita a Mexican gal singer who doubles as a spy for Deputy Splinters.
Foy Willing and the Sons of the Purple Sage are on hand to provide some of the
Kino Lorber presents the movie in a
1920X1080p transfer and in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, slightly wider
than the standard 1.33:1. Bonus features
include audio commentary by Western film historian Toby Roan, who provides
interesting info on the cast, the locations, and, just about anything else
you’d want to know about the movie. There are also previews of other westerns
in the KL catalog. There’s no question. This is one Blu-Ray you have to own. Let’s
hope there are more restorations of these classic films to come. Until then, Happy
Trails, partner, and may the Good Lord take a liking to you.
Bava's celebrated 1966 Gothic chiller Kill,
Baby...Kill! – o.t: Operazione Paura
(Operation Fear) – is something of a
masterpiece in terms of stylish tableaux, yet where engaging narrative is
concerned it somewhat fumbles the ball; the plot underpinning what is without
question a beautiful film to look at is so humdrum that I'd suggest it can
really only be appreciated for its aesthetic qualities. Whether that's
sufficient grist to warrant a visit (or indeed a revisit) is purely subjective.
the death of a woman impaled on railings in a remote East European village,
Inspector Kruger (Piero Lulli) summons an outside coroner, Dr Paul Eswai (Giacomo
Rossi Stuart), to perform an autopsy. It transpires that the woman is the
latest of several villagers to fall prey to the malevolent ghost of a child,
Melissa Graps (Valerio Valeri). Aided by local nurse Monica Schuftan (Erika
Blanc), Eswai is compelled to probe the mystery. But the pair are soon drawn
into a hallucinogenic world where familial secrets lurk in the shadows and, as
those around them begin to perish, their own lives come under threat.
admit that the preceding synopsis reads rather intriguingly. However, even at
85-minutes Kill, Baby…Kill!'s story
feels stretched – to call it a slow-burner would be an understatement – and its
distinctly anticlimactic denouement serves only to sprinkle salt on the wound.
Bava himself worked on the screenplay alongside writers Romano Migliorini (La notte dei diavoli) and Roberto Natale
(L’isola delle svedesi), and one
really might have expected something more interesting to emerge from the
focus on the positives, as already asserted Kill,
Baby...Kill! is brimming with Bava's trademark flourishes and so can at
least be dubbed an artistic triumph. Several genuinely startling moments
involving the ghost of the little girl, the gorgeous mist-shrouded graveyard
set and the vast cobweb-strewn crypt bathed in eerie green and magenta lighting
combine to varnish the production with a surreal dreamlike sheen. In some cases,
it adopts a satisfyingly nightmarish quality, for example the dizzying sequence
in which Monica runs from the child down a vertiginous, seemingly bottomless
spiral staircase. And another when Eswai pursues a fleeing man, only to catch
up and find himself face-to-face with...himself!
footnote, I’ve never been too keen on either the original Operation Fear or Kill, Baby…Kill!
titles under which the film is so often widely identified, both of which – if
one knew absolutely nothing about it – seem to hold more the promise of a
frothy 60s spy romp than the early 1900s-set chiller that it is. Far better is
its less employed UK moniker, Curse of
the Dead, which if nothing else more honestly telegraphs its Gothic horror intent.
has been issued by Arrow Video in the UK as a dual format DVD/Blu-Ray combo.
The movie itself is a restored 2K hi-def transfer with mono English and Italian
soundtracks (English subs being provided for the latter). Bonus goodies
comprise a feature introduction and 11-minute interview with Erika Blanc (both
in Italian with English subs); a commentary from Bava expert Tim Lucas; a video
essay on devil children in Gothic horror by critic Kat Ellinger; a 25-minute
interview with Lamberto Bava (son of Mario and assistant director on this film),
in Italian with English subs; a trailer; an alternative German opening sequence
bearing the on-screen title Die Toten
Augen des Dr Dracula (The Dead Eyes
of Dr Dracula) – and I’d wager there were a few disappointed patrons among
those lured in by that outrageous
retitling! – with the credits running over different footage to that in its Kill, Baby...Kill! incarnation; a stills
gallery comprising German lobby cards and poster art; a 7-minute short entitled
Yellow that pays homage to Bava's distinctive
cinematic style; and finally a collectors booklet plus a reversible sleeve
featuring original and newly commissioned artwork.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER (This is a Region 2/PAL format release)
Lynch is today’s foremost surrealist. In many ways, he has taken up the mantle
begun by those artists of the 1920s who attempted to present in tangible,
visual forms the juxtapositions, bizarre logic, and beauty/horror of dreams.
Salvador Dalí, Luis Buñuel, Man Ray,
Germaine Dulac, René Magritte—to name a few.
people know Lynch from his films, but as this thoughtful and insightful
documentary reveals, he is and has always been primarily a painter. Lynch began
his career in the “art life” studying and practicing fine art… and he sort of
fell into filmmaking along the way. Even today, despite his recent foray back
into television with Twin Peaks—The
Return on Showtime, Lynch spends most of his time in his home studio
drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, and painting.
film is narrated by Lynch himself as he takes the audience through moments of
his early life growing up first in the state of Montana, then Idaho,
Washington, and finally Virginia. After high school, Lynch briefly attended the
School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, but he dropped out because he
wasn’t inspired. His friend Jack Fisk (future production designer on several of
Lynch’s films and future wife of actress Sissy Spacek) got the artist to join
him at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and that’s where
things started to take off.
documentary might be disappointing to Lynch fans in that it covers only his
childhood and twenties…just up to the point where he makes Eraserhead (which took four years in the mid-seventies and was
finally released in 1977). Other documentaries, such as 1997’s Pretty as a Picture, might delve into
Lynch’s more well-known feature work. However, for this unique documentary, Lynch
has provided never-before-seen home movies and photographs of his childhood,
family, and artwork. As these biographical stories are related in chronological
order, we see Lynch at work in his studio… drinking coffee, smoking, and
painting. In fact, we get a very good look at a great deal of his artwork. And
if you think Lynch’s movies are strange, wait until you see his paintings!
Stylistically, they are three-dimensional multimedia pieces. A canvas might
contain found objects, gobs of thick paint, wood and metal, odd figures and
creatures, and lettering. Fascinating stuff.
explains how he got the idea for a “painting that moved,” which resulted in his
first film, Six Men Getting Sick (Six
Times) (1967), and then moved on to make other surrealistic, avant-garde
short films such as The Alphabet and The Grandmother. These efforts led to
his moving his family in 1971 (he had gotten married in ’67 and had a child in
’68) to Los Angeles so that he could study at the AFI Conservatory. It was
there that he began his first feature film, the iconic independent
takeaway from the documentary is that Lynch evolved as an artist whenever there
were obstacles to overcome. He developed a knack for taking a bad situation and
turning it into something productive. We see this occurring repeatedly in his
tales of journeying from childhood to becoming an adult.
Criterion Collection presents the film in the company’s usual top-notch
excellence. The video quality of the Blu-ray High Definition digital master is
gorgeous—you can see every wrinkle of Lynch’s weathered face, as well as the
fine lines of his silver-white hair. Sound—always important in a Lynch film and
just as vital here—is a 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio. The package is short
on supplements, though. Along with the theatrical trailer, an interview with
one of the directors, Jon Nguyen, illustrates the working process the
filmmakers had with Lynch. An essay by critic Dennis Lim appears in the
only 88 minutes, David Lynch—The Art Life
is a short but worthwhile look into the mind—and dreams—of one of today’s
most important visual artists.
Until it goes off the rails, writer/director Taylor Sheridan's "Wind River" shapes up to be a compelling murder mystery. The film's opening scene shows a young woman desperately running through a remote, snowy landscapes, obviously trying to outpace whoever or whatever is pursuing her. Ultimately, we learn her fate when Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), a tracker who is assisting the police in the search for the missing girl, stumbles upon her body. Turns out she had been sexually abused prior to her death, which took place on the barren Wind River reservation for Native Americans in Wyoming. Cory has to deliver the bad news to the girl's father (Gil Birmingham), whose wife is already suffering from a mental disorder. Ironically, the victim, Natalie (Kelsey Asbille), was the best friend of Cory's own daughter, who died under tragic and unsolved circumstances a few years prior. Both men are now forced to cope with staggering grief even as Cory continues to assist police in pursuing whoever killed Natalie. The FBI sends a single agent, Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) to head the investigation. She is given an arms-length reception by the local constable on the reservation (Graham Greene in an excellent performance) because she seems like an ill-equipped city slicker. It will come as no surprise to anyone that she proves to be a quick learner and earns everyone's respect with her courage and brainpower.
"Wind River" is an indie film getting an unusually wide release (it credits twenty-five people as producers/co-producers). It boasts outstanding cinematography by Ben Richardson, who makes the bleakness of the Wyoming winter landscape a truly foreboding place. Taylor Sheridan, who specializes in films about rugged individualism, has considerable skill with his actors, and gets top-notch performances from Renner, Olsen and every actor who appears even in the smallest role (kudos to casting directors Lauren and Jordan Bass.) In terms of acting and atmosphere, the film is commendable on every level. However, Sheridan the screenwriter lets down Sheridan the director with a script that meanders half-way through. Just as I was crediting him for avoiding gun battles and concentrating on character development, it devolves into a shocking act of violence that leads to a flashback sequence that depicts another despicable act of violence that brutally depicts the sexual abuse of a young woman. While the scene is designed to shock, it also becomes somewhat prurient and difficult to view. The script falls off a cliff as Cory gets closer to resolving the murder largely because there is no "Aha!" moment that every good mystery commands. Sheridan provides plenty of red herrings but an expected link to two key elements of the story that never materializes (I can't say more without issuing a "Spoiler Alert!") What's left is an ambitious and impressive effort that falls short of its possibilities. Renner makes a stalwart leading man but Olsen's character seems like needless window dressing; someone tossed into the mix to mitigate the otherwise all-male dominance of the story line. The film has its heart in the right place, demonstrating the shame of having Native Americans still living on remote reservations, but Sheridan can't make up his mind about whether he wants to tell a compelling mystery story or make a social commentary. The result is a mishmash of intelligent dialogue mingled with needlessly exploitive violence.
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM THE CINEMA RETRO ARCHIVE.
“GHOSTS OF MONUMENT
By Raymond Benson
great John Ford made many outstanding westerns, and My Darling Clementine (1946) is certainly one of them. I would
argue that not since Stagecoach (1939)
had there been as good a picture in the genre, and it didn’t even star John
the story of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, the Clanton Gang, and the gunfight at the
O.K. Corral, the film is hogwash as far as the truth is concerned. But as pure
entertainment, it’s right up there with the best of the classic westerns that
have given us stylistic and physical imagery that is today considered cliché.
And in order to become cliché, whatever it
is has to have been great to begin with. It must be a trend setter, a
groundbreaker, an artistic decision that resulted in an iconic piece of
celluloid. Much of what John Ford did accomplished just that. My Darling Clementine has it all—the
dumpy saloon with the honky tonk piano player and free-roaming prostitutes,
“Injuns,” cattle rustlers and thieves, stagecoaches and horses, ornery
villains, and, most of all—the scenery of Monument Valley, Utah.
The landscape of Monument Valley is a
character itself in Ford’s westerns. Even though we’ve seen the same buttes and
rock formations dozens of times, we always buy that we’re somewhere in the
“west,” in that mythical land of Hollywood archetypes. And what better
archetype is there to play our hero, Wyatt Earp (the film was loosely adapted
from Earp’s autobiography), than the inimitable Henry Fonda. Walter Brennan
makes a surprisingly nasty villain as Old Man Clanton. Linda Darnell, as saloon
girl Chihuahua is a stand out. More problematic is the casting of Victor Mature
as Doc Holliday. While the actor displays the requisite angst in the character,
he plays Holliday with no humor whatsoever, and it doesn’t quite work. After a
while he just becomes annoying for being grumpy and moody all the time.
Nevertheless, this is one of the
classics, folks. And, if you study it closely, there is a singular darkness in
the hearts of the characters—even the “good” ones—that suggests these
historical figures are now nothing but ghosts of a tall-tale-past where life is
cheap and death comes unexpectedly. Monument Valley, for all its beauty, is
fairly spooky at night—and much of Clementine
is shot at night. Even the blowing
dust during the climactic gun battle creates an eerie, ghost town effect. Clementine
is one of Ford’s blackest, most cynical films, but it’s cleverly disguised
as mainstream Hollywood entertainment. The picture has great atmosphere and
action, gorgeous black and white cinematography by Joseph MacDonald, and that
infectious song, “Oh My Darling, Clementine,” which I believe I first heard
sung by Huckleberry Hound. And while it
might offend nitpicky historians as to its accuracy... who cares? Legend is
myth and vice versa. Clementine doesn’t
possess the originality of Stagecoach nor
the sucker punch that is The Searchers,
but it definitely stands as one of Ford’s essential pictures.
Criterion’s new 4K digital restoration
of the theatrical release version looks terrific—I must say that I am very
impressed with Criterion’s handling of black and white films made prior to the
sixties. As with the earlier Fox release on DVD, the disk includes the early
“pre-release” version of the film, a work-in-progress as producer and studio boss
Daryl F. Zanuck re-cut Ford’s original submission. Further cutting ensued to
create the theatrical release version, and it is most interesting to explore
the differences in the two cuts. Another
port over from the Fox disc is the excellent comparison of the two versions by
film preservationist Robert Gitt.
New extras include a video essay by
Ford scholar Tag Gallagher; a new interview with western historian Andrew C.
Isenberg about the real Wyatt Earp; Bandit’s
Wager—and early silent short directed by Ford’s brother Francis, and
featuring John as an actor in a supporting role (!); television documentary
excerpts about Monument Valley and Tombstone, Arizona; and a Lux Radio Theatre adaptation from 1947
featuring Fonda and Cathy Downs (who plays Clementine in the film).
“Only one thing counts: either you have money and
you’re someone, or you don’t have any and you’re a doormat.” So states Giulio
Sacchi (Tomas Milian), as he plans to kidnap the beautiful young daughter of a wealthy
business-owner. Together with two small-time hoods, who are more accustomed to
snatching purses than snatching rich girls, Sacchi hopes to take 500 million
lira, enough never to have to work again. Having grown up on the streets with
no parents or opportunity, Sacchi constantly rails against the system. He
believes he is a genius and can commit crime because the world owes him a
living; in reality he is short-tempered, dangerous and cowardly, as he proves
when he guns down a traffic officer whilst acting as getaway driver for a bank
robbery. This hasty murder brings swift police attention and the gang are
nearly caught, leading them to beat Sacchi and reject him from their organised
crime ring. This spurs him on to plan his perfect big score, but his short
temper causes him to leave a string of dead bodies in his wake, which soon
brings tough cop Walter Grandi (Henry Silva) hot on his trail.
Human fits what the Italians called the poliziotteschi, a genre which depicted
corrupt or inept cops and violent criminality. The 1970s was an incredibly
violent period in Italy’s history, often referred to as Anni di piombo, or the Years of Lead, when both left- and
right-wing extremists engaged in acts of terrorism including bombings and
political assassinations. The authorities seemed unable to bring any form of
control to this unstable and terrifying situation and the Italian films of the
period charted this chaos and mistrust through explicit depictions of crime and
horror. Although Milan is now a popular tourist destination for its important
art and architecture, Almost Human
depicts it as a city which looks more like the mean streets of 1970s New York,
filled with crumbling buildings, ugly apartment blocks, abandoned quaysides and
patches of rubbish-strewn wasteland. This comparison is surely no coincidence,
as the poliziotteschi, as well as
addressing issues of contemporary Italy, borrows heavily from the tough
American crime thrillers of the period like The
French Connection (1971) and Dirty
Harry (1971). The film’s original Italian title, Milano odia: la polizia non puo’ sparare, translates as “Milan
hates: the police can’t shoot”, which sounds as if it is criticising the
targeting abilities of the local constabulary. What is actually implied by this
is that the bureaucracy means that the police are powerless to stop the
criminals. Even if they are caught and arrested, as Grandi complains, they are
released again twenty-four hours later to go out and steal and kill again.
Sacchi is so blasé about killing people because he believes no one will notice
another body in Milan.
Human may be derivative of the American cop thriller,
but it is also an exciting and shocking political critique of Italian society,
where women and children can be gunned down in cold blood and the police are
powerless to stop it unless they step outside the law they are sworn to
Director Umberto Lenzi is a legend of Italian
cinema. Like many who worked outside the arthouse or neo-realist traditions of
Visconti or Fellini, Lenzi made films within every popular genre from
sword-and-sandal to giallo, from sex comedies to cannibal horror. Like his
contemporaries he made whatever was popular, whether for the local or
international audiences, so his name can even be found on spy films like 008: Operation Exterminate (1965),
spaghetti westerns such as Pistol for a
Hundred Coffins (1968) and zombie splatterthons like the deliriously
ridiculous Nightmare City (1980). Shameless sat him down for an exclusive
interview for this new Blu-ray, which features an HD restoration from the
original negative. He is a fascinating figure whose career spans over fifty
years and he has plenty of stories to tell about his time in the film industry.
Also included are some archival interviews with Lenzi, co-star Ray Lovelock and
writer Ernesto Gastaldi, himself legendary in the Italy with over 100 film
credits. Tomas Milian, a Cuban-American who had a tremendous career both in
Europe and in the U.S, and who passed away earlier in 2017, is also interviewed
and proved himself to be equally entertaining as he was in his movies.
The Blu-ray comes in the traditional Shameless
yellow case with both original and alternative artwork. With a terrific
heavy-rock score from none other than Ennio Morricone, Almost Human is an exciting film from the golden period of Italian
exploitation cinema and is not to be missed.
“Starring the Plaza” by Patty Farmer (Beaufort Books, Hardback, Illustrated, 130 pages ISBN#: 0825308461)
One of New York’s biggest film stars isn’t even a person…it’s The
Plaza, the legendary hotel on Central Park where numerous classic movies have
been shot. Author Patty Farmer reverently captures the allure of the fabled
place in her new book “Starring the Plaza”, which pays tribute to one of
Gotham’s truly grand dames (she dates back to 1907). Cinematically, some celluloid gems stand out in our
minds: Cary Grant being kidnapped there in North
By Northwest, Streisand and Redford as briefly reunited former lovers outside the
hotel in The Way We Were and Walter
Matthau starring in numerous Neil Simon comedy skits in Plaza Suite. The wonderful anecdotes are accompanied by 180 photos,
making this an irresistible addition to any movie lover’s book collection.
Here is the official press release:
From the day it opened on October 1st 1907, the lavish 19-story
French Renaissance building on the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue and Central
Park South was simply the grandest hotel in the world. It’s no wonder that from that day to this,
The Plaza’s lavish interiors and exteriors have remained sought-after settings
for films, TV shows, commercials and music videos as well as home to the most
significant social events of their day.
In “Starring The Plaza”,
a labor of love conceived and created by pop-cultural historian Patty Farmer,
the hotel shines in a whole new light - a Klieg light, as it were. Page after
page of moments captured from movies, plays, TV shows, parties, premieres, and
press events form a new kind of chronicle of New York’s favorite landmark.
Readers will find all of their favorite Plaza-on-film moments here: Alfred
Hitchcock’s North by Northwest; to
everybody’s favorite tear-jerker, The Way
We Were; to Neil Simon’s uproarious Plaza
Suite and Barefoot in the Park,
the grand lobby in Home Alone 2, plus
a few they might not have been aware of.
There are even some Hollywood recreations of the place
included—Plaza Pretenders—but it’s clear that no amount of movie magic could
ever beat the real thing. It was this combination of The Plaza’s own special
magic stirred with Hollywood’s heady mix that has made the legendary Fifth
Avenue address utterly timeless.
From Shirley MacLaine scaling the Pulitzer Fountain to a
frizz-headed Barbra Streisand handing out political leaflets, The Plaza has
co-starred with the best in the business. And from Liz Taylor to The Beatles to
the showroom of the Persian Room, anyone who is anyone has stayed there, partied there, performed there and
“Starring The Plaza” is the first-ever visual celebration of the Plaza
on stage, screen, and in society, and its author Patty Farmer has scoured the
archives to show it off in all its glory. Legendary movie star Mitzi Gaynor provides the Foreword and discloses a
few of her own adventures at the iconic hotel.
The Hollywood Reporter has published an article detailing the major players who are vying to gain at least some control over rights to the James Bond franchise, which -according to the article- is deemed to be under-utilizing its true potential for profitability. Warner Brothers is said to be the front runner for gaining distribution rights for the next film in the series, set for release in November 2019. Daniel Craig will star in what he has stated will be his last appearance in a Bond film. Among the top bidders in competition with Warners are newly-emerging entertainment powerhouses Amazon and Apple, both of which would like to expand the Bond image into mediums beyond feature films. However, the rights situation regarding the franchise is a complex one. Eon Productions, founded by the series' original producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, owned the franchise outright and had a long term distribution deal with United Artists. The two men had a strained relationship and when Saltzman decided to sell his share of the franchise in the mid-1970s, he snubbed Broccoli by selling his interests directly to United Artists. The partnership between Broccoli and UA was a friendly and fruitful one but by 1989 the old guard at the studio had left and an acrimonious relationship developed between the new top brass and Broccoli, who fumed over what he felt was a bungled marketing campaign for "Licence to Kill" in 1989. Broccoli opted to put the series on hiatus until 1995 when a new regime had taken over under the auspices of MGM, which had taken over United Artists years before. When the series resumed with "GoldenEye", Cubby Broccoli had passed the oversight of the Bond franchise on to his daughter Barbara and her step brother Michael G. Wilson. Cubby, who died in 1996, lived to see "GoldenEye" become a blockbuster and the Bond franchise reinvigorated under his heirs.
Daniel Craig took over the Bond role from Pierce Brosnan's successful run, and Sony has distributed each of the four films in which he has starred. The forthcoming Bond film is up for distribution bids and has attracted major studios. Unusually, the deal is only for one picture. Profits for the studio that distributes Bond films can be relatively slim compared to the sizable budgets they must front. However, the Bond franchise still has a great deal of prestige and a durable following. The last two films grossed almost $2 billion internationally and the video and merchandising rights are also very lucrative. Although the major bidders would like to control all rights to the franchise outright, in order to do so the winning studio would have to convince both MGM and Eon Productions to sell their interests in Bond. To date, there is no indication that either party, let alone both of them, intend to do so. Click here for more.
Robert E. Kent’s production
of Invisible Invaders is merely one
of a long string of modestly budgeted 1950’s science-fiction films. As such it’s almost inevitable that at some
interval during the film the healthful actor John Agar will turn up. In this movie
the always dependable Agar – rocking a serious military buzz-cut - is cast in a
leading man role as Major Bruce Jay of the United States Air Force. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, this sinewy,
lantern-jawed actor would star in a number of bona fide sci-fi classics as Revenge
of the Creature (1955), Tarantula (1955),
and The Mole People (1956). The score of sci-fi and horror movies he
would appear in from 1955 through 1962 weren’t all of such high cinematic or
popular culture caliber to be sure; nonetheless most were enjoyable programmers
if you happened to be a popcorn-munching juvenile or a mostly uncritical adult
with a soft spot for low-budget monster movies. In this latter category you might find apologist fans – and I’m one of
them, truth be told - of Agar’s turns in Daughter
of Dr. Jekyll (1957), The Brain from
Planet Arous (1957) and Attack of the
Puppet People (1958). These films
weren’t bottom-of-barrel offerings, but they could hardly be considered
particularly buoyant either.
I suppose that part of the
reason I love the low-brow end of 1950’s science-fiction is that there’s always
something much worse out there still to be discovered. We already know of the complete calamities,
the cinematic trash that nonetheless never fails to entertain. Maybe the on-screen monster we’re supposed to
fear is little more than a gorilla wearing a deep-sea diving helmet (Robot Monster) or perhaps a rolled-up
carpet with pasted-on eyes (The Creeping
Unknown), or the busty but empty-headed Fire
Maidens of Outer Space. These films,
for all their charms, are simply not good – at least not in any conventional
sense. The true fans, of course, will
generally excuse or explain away a film’s shortcomings and wince-producing missteps. Hey,
the producers did what they could with what they had; the film’s production
schedule was too rushed etc. etc.… This is willful, but empty devotion and I confess that I suffer from it.
If the appearance of John
Agar isn’t enough to sound your preliminary bad-film alarm bell, I suppose the additional
presence of the skeletal Shakespearean actor John Carradine in the cast should alert
one that there might be some cinematic rough-sledding ahead. Of the hundreds of films – and television
shows - Carradine would appear in over a long but sadly only occasionally
distinguished career, only a handful are truly great. Carradine is fifth-billed in the ending
credit roll of Invisible Invaders, and
I guess this placement is fair. The
veteran actor only appears in two scenes of any real consequence (and the first
is so brief that it might be missed in the blinking of an eye). During his too-brief portrayal of military-scientist
Karol Noymann, the lanky Carradine is seemingly incinerated in the film’s
opening montage. But as this is a
borderline horror film, the ill-fated scientist’s fiery demise proves to be
merely temporal. It’s clearly too early in the film to confidently write off the
possibility of a second appearance.
That second coming arrives
soon enough when Carradine – or, at least, something in the personage of
Carradine – comes knocking on the door of his old friend and scientific colleague
Adam Penner (Philip Tonge). Technically,
Penner is not visited by Noymann; instead he’s met by an alien who is temporarily
utilizing the scientist’s corpse as an agent of mobility. The gaunt, expressionless corpse-shell of
Noymann coldly informs Penner (in that peerless Carradine basso tone) that the
earth will be destroyed in twenty-four hours time by a merciless alien
invasion. This has been deemed necessary
since the previously “slow scientific developments” of the earthlings – their
activities having long been monitored by the aliens from their outer space
perch - have recently accelerated… as has their misuse of atomic energy. The aliens are now prepared to invade earth and
set up a “Dictatorship of the Universe.” It seems as though 20,000 years prior – just in case our planet’s
inhabitants started getting too smart for their own good, I suppose – the
aliens proactively established on the moon a conveniently invisible and
“impregnable base for its space ships.” The militarists and scientists on planet earth never picked up on these
moon bases as… well, they’re invisible and we couldn’t see them.
Among devotees of horror and mystery-adventure films,
director Jesús “Jess” Franco remains a divisive character. His earliest, more traditionally constructed
films - say The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962)
and The Diabolical Dr. Z (1966) - are
usually held in some level of regard amongst traditionalists, while more
adventuresome moviegoers wax rhapsodic over his later perplexing, exploitative
and occasionally pornographic art film exercises. Franco’s The
Blood of Fu Manchu (1968) and The
Castle of Fu Manchu (1969) are more conventional exemplars of traditional movie-making,
not as challenging to audiences as some of his more experimental post 1972
work. Both films are now available on a double-feature special edition Blu-ray
from Blue Underground.
The five Fu Manchu films produced by Harry Alan Towers from
1965 through 1970 are occasionally referenced – and perhaps dismissed - as weak
James Bond pastiches, but such description is misleading and unsatisfying. The Fu Manchu films as conceived by Towers and
Co. are akin to cinematic comic strips for adults – the two final strips admittedly
marketed to a more leering segment of mature audiences. Jess Franco was something of a
Johnny-Come-Lately to the series, perhaps a budget-minded choice of director. The first two films (The Face of Fu Manchu (1965) and The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966) were helmed by Australian Don Sharp,
the series’ third entry, The Vengeance of
Fu Manchu (1968) directed by Brit Jeremy Summers. For what would prove to be the final two
entries of the franchise, the producers went to the continent to seek out an
Jess Franco admitted to being surprised at having been
asked to direct the series’ fourth and fifth entries. In many respects the eccentric Spaniard was
worthy of Tower’s consideration as he shared the producer’s lifelong
enchantment with the comic-strip sensibilities of such popular dime store caliber-novelists
as Sax Rohmer and Edgar Wallace. But
while he manages to bring some sense of old world British Empire derring-do to
the screen, his two Fu Manchu films - with their attendant misfires and lurid
nude sequences – stand apart from the first three films in the series and remain
resolutely Franco in construction.
How so? Well, the
bevy of beautiful, half-naked women hanging sorrowfully in bondage chains is a
continually present and reoccurring Jess Franco fantasy. Christopher Lee’s co-star, Tsai Chin, recalls
the distinguished British actor’s discomfort parading in his Fu Manchu wardrobe
past a gaggle of chained, half-naked actresses. The epitome of gentlemanly British behavior, Lee was visibly distressed by
such staging. In Chin’s estimation,
while the cultured and mannered Lee was most determinedly a renaissance man, he
was certainly “not a womanizer.”
Chin, the Chinese-born British actress then best known
internationally for her small role as agent “Ling” in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice, would have had some
insight in this matter. She returns in The Blood of Fu Manchu for her fourth outing
as Lin Tang, the sadistic, malevolent daughter of the mad villain. As in the series’ previous entries, Chin
portrays Tang as completely dispassionate, commanding her minions to torture
and humiliate innocents and enemies alike with merciless Oriental fervor.
In an interview with Tsai Chin years on and included here
as a bonus feature, the informed actress admits to having had to repeatedly
“search her conscience” to justify her participation in the Fu Manchu franchise. She was progressive enough to recognize that
the Sax Rohmer novels were unapologetically racist in their construction. Rohmer’s Fu Manchu series, the first novel having
been published in 1912, were written as blowback in the decade following the long
simmering anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist, anti-Christian, and decidedly anti-British
Boxer Rebellion of 1899-1901. But Chin was also keenly aware of racism in
the modern film industry; there were, simply, few opportunities for “ethnic” actors
to get work of anytime, so she soldiered on with the series despite her
In truth, the actress was sadly given very little
do. Chin believed, very accurately, that
the character of Lin Tang - as written by one “Peter Welbeck” - was completely
one dimensional. The actress was born a
year following MGM’s own esteemed Boris Karloff/Myrna Loy vehicle, The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932). In this pre-code film, the sultry Loy brashly
teased Lin Tang as a seductress and nymphomaniac. It’s extremely baffling why – in the swinging
sixties and with such nudity and bondage envelope-pushers as Franco and Towers steering
the enterprise – Chin’s Lin Tang was so wasted, cast as little more than a
remorseless, cruel bitch.
Christopher Lee wouldn’t suffer any moral quandaries as a
Caucasian playing an Asian villain with exaggerated epicanthic
folds – the responsibility of an actor, after all, is to effectively pretend
and make an audience believe that he or she is someone they are not. Regardless, the lanky Lee would admit
disappointment with the series as a whole. It was his opinion that, as had Hammer’s popular Dracula series, the Fu
Manchu franchise ran out of steam very quickly, that the earliest film had been
the finest and that the enterprise should have wrapped immediately following. It’s there, however, that the similarities
end. Lee’s exasperation with the
producing team at Hammer is well documented, but the actor - very interestingly
- seemed to carry little animus for Harry Alan Towers.
I’m a sucker for car chases. Not the
perfunctory, last-minute “Hey, this movie needs a car chase!” variety, but the
kind that comes as a result of a particular plot point wherein someone or some group has to get away from some other
group. While most new car chases such as TheFast and the Furious sort are usually
accomplished through CGI, I find that this sleight-of-hand fakery virtually
abolishes all tension. The best ones that I have seen all did it for real
through innovative and unprecedented filming techniques and excellent editing: Grand Prix (1966), Vanishing Point (1967), Bullitt
(1968), The Seven-Ups (1973), The Blues Brothers (1980), The Road Warrior (1981), The Terminator (1984), F/X (1986), Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), and The Town (2010) all have action sequences that put the full wonder
of film editing on display.
There are two major car chases in the
late John Frankenheimer’s Ronin, which opened on Friday, September 25, 1998, and
it’s the second and longer one that ranks up there in the pantheon of The Greatest
Car Chases Ever Filmed. The French
Connection (1971) and To Live and Die
in L.A. (1985) are the granddaddies of car chases in my humble opinion and Ronin’s is certainly in the top ten,
with a stupendous wrong-way-driving-against-incoming-traffic sequence through a
tunnel in France to composer Elia
Cmiral’s exciting score.
The title of “Ronin” is originally a
reference to the feudal period of Japan relating to a samurai who has become
masterless following his master’s death as a result of the samurai’s failure to
protect him. To earn a living, the samurai wanders from place to place
attempting to gain work from others. For the uninitiated, title cards prior to
the film’s opening credits inform us of this. This name relates to the film as
several mercenaries meet for the purpose of stealing an important silver case.
Sam (Robert DeNiro), Vincent (Jean Reno), Gregor (Stellan Skarsgard), and Spence
(Sean Bean) and several others are the persons for hire. Deirdre (Natascha
McElhorne) is the one who called them all together but she offers little in the
way of an explanation as to what the contents are. Like in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992), they don’t know
one another and work under the assumption that all involved are trustworthy
which eventually will be their undoing. Now ya see, if they has listened to the
James Poe episode “Blood Bath” on the old time radio show Escape!, none of this would have ever happened! Yeah…
Sam used to work for the CIA, Vincent
is a “fixer”, Spence is a former Special Air Service expert in weaponry, Gregor
is an expert in electronics, and Larry (Skipp
Sudduth) is one of the drivers. Sam is the most inquisitive and probably has
the most to lose. They don’t discuss their past and are eager to get paid. Sam almost
acts like the ringleader, but he has some serious competition after they secure
their objective and are double-crossed. It then becomes a game of who can trust
who (naturally, the answer is no one). There are some really good supporting
performances by Michael Lonsdale (I hadn’t seen him in a theater since Moonraker!) and Jonathan Pryce and the
action always keeps moving forward but unlike today’s films, the action
sequences are well-staged and edited and have depth to them. A terrific
addition to Mr. Frankenheimer’s filmography.
heavyweights Columbia and Universal produced as many serials as Republic
Pictures from 1929-1956, the latter studio is generally best known for its
exciting sound-era chapter-plays.
Universal and the less widely known Mascot Pictures were in the game the
earliest; both studios began releasing their sound serials in 1929. Mascot would only last six years or so.
Universal – choosing to concentrate exclusively on the production of feature
films – effectively got out of the serial business in 1946. Republic and Columbia hung on to the production
of chapter-plays the longest; they released their final serials in 1955 and
wasn’t only a serials factory. The
studio was in the low budget feature filmmaking business as well, busily
churning out a dizzying array of westerns, adventure pictures, and mysteries. They would test the box-office potentials of
the horror film market during the 1940s with limited success. As a second-tier “Poverty Row” studio,
Republic would enjoy a less distinguished track record in the horror film realm
than, say, Monogram Pictures. The latter
studio would occasionally tap the talents of such moonlighting film ghouls as
Bela Lugosi, John Carradine, George Zucco, and Lionel Atwill. Dutifully exploiting the popular culture
trends of the day, Republic would soon move into the production sci-fi serials
beginning with King of the Rocket Men
(1949). In the next five years the
studio would knock out a number of similar themed serials with The Invisible Monster (1950), Flying Disc Man from Mars (1951), Radar Men from the Moon (1952), and Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952).
Sholem’s Tobor The Great (1954), now
out on Blu Ray from Kino-Lorber Studio Classics, was one of Republic’s earliest
non-serial feature films of the “Silver Age” of Sci-Fi. Though more of a timepiece curiosity than a
great film, old-school sci-fi fans – at least those with long memories - will
welcome Tobor The Great as a valuable
addition to their private collection. The year 1954 was, to be sure, a good one for devotees of sci-fi
cinema. Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea managed to garner the studio two
Academy Awards. Universal unleashed The Creature from the Black Lagoon in
glorious 3-D and, not to be outdone, Warner Bros. released a swarm of giant
radioactive ants collectively known as Them!
on the city of Los Angeles. Tobor The Great is not even remotely as
entertaining nor well crafted as the three above mentioned films, but it’s
arguably no better or worse than such other 1954 efforts as Devil Girl from Mars or Roger Corman’s Monster from the Ocean Floor.
obvious that Republic’s target audience for Tobor
The Great was the juvenile market. We’re introduced early on to Brian “Gadge” Roberts (Billy Chapin), a ten
year old whiz kid who is a prodigal student of mathematics and the sciences. We soon learn that young Brian’s proclivities
for the disciplines are at least partly inherited. The boy and his mother Janice (Karen Booth) have
been living comfortably in the home of his maternal grandfather ever since the
boy’s father had been killed while serving in Korea.
grandfather happens to be the kindly Professor Arnold Nordstrom (Taylor
Holmes), a research scientist working for the C.I.F.C., an acronym for the Civil
Interplanetary Flight Commission. The commission’s principal concern is with helping guarantee America’s front-runner
status in space travel, rocketry, and guided missile launches. The professor, an expert in astrophysics and
aerodynamics, studiously labors away in a secreted wine cellar repurposed as a modern
subterranean experimental laboratory.
plot of Dario Argento’s 1985 thriller Phenomena
has long been the subject of ridicule and derision by critics and fans alike
since its initial release. The inevitable complaints about the film range from
the bad dubbing and stiff performances to the ludicrous notion that insects can
be employed as detectives in a homicide investigation (this is true and has
actually been done, providing the inspiration for the film). If the film does
not sound familiar, that could be attributed to the fact that Phenomena was severely cut by 33 minutes
and retitled Creepers when it opened
in the States on Friday, August 30, 1985.
Corvino (Jennifer Connelly) is a fourteen year-old student attending an
all-girls school in Switzerland while her movie star father is away for the
better part of a year shooting a film. Her mother, who left the family when
Jennifer was a child, is merely mentioned but never seen. Unfortunately, her
roommate Sophie (Federica
Mastroianni) has just informed her that the school is
beset by a killer who stalks girls their age and kills them. Well, that’s unfortunate! You would think that
someone would order the school closed and the girls sent away. As you can
imagine, this doesn’t sit too well with Jennifer who suffers from a bad case of
sleepwalking and manages to find herself embroiled in the very murders she was
hoping to avoid. She meets entomologist John McGregor (Donald Pleasence), a
wheelchair-bound Scot who lacks a Scottish accent but possesses an avuncular
disposition that endears Jennifer to him and his chimpanzee Inga who doubles as
his nurse. Fortunately for Jennifer, he is aiding the police in their
investigation into the murder of a Danish tourist (Fiore Argento, the
director’s eldest daughter) and the disappearance of McGregor’s former aid.
Together with the help of McGregor, Inga (yes, the chimp!) and a very large
fly, Jennifer sets off to locate the murderer. When she does, she nearly
Connelly was chosen by Mr. Argento to play the lead as he had seen her in
Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in
America (1984). His decision to set the film in the Swiss Alps is
unorthodox but provides the perfect backdrop to the story as the scenery is
utterly breathtaking. He also makes terrific use of the Steadi-cam and it never
Phenomena has been released on home video more times than I can
count, but the new Blu-ray from Synapse Films is gorgeous and has completely
different extras than the 2011 Arrow Video release which had the more
well-known 110-minute cut and an array of then-newly-produced extras. Phenomena has more detractors than
admirers if you believe what you read, and even staunch proponents of Mr.
Argento’s vision (Maitland McDonagh and Alan Jones) have written off the film
as silly. However, the amount of love and dedication that has been lavished
upon this film restoring it to its former glory on Blu-ray says volumes about
those who cherish it. This set is absolutely beautiful and definitely worth the
price of an upgrade as it sports the following:
set comes with two Blu-rays which consist of three (3) different cuts of the
film, all available in high-definition for the first time ever in one
collector's edition package:
the 83-minute United States Creepers cut in HD
the 110-minute International Phenomena cut in HD
the 116-minute English/Italian hybrid
audio Phenomena cut in HD
In days of old, American movie audiences were often shown a charity promotional short for the Will Rogers Institute, which provided vital research into debilitating medical diseases. At the completion of the film, theater ushers (remember them?) would walk through the audience soliciting contributions for the charity. Many major stars cut promo shorts for the Will Rogers Institute. In this one, shown in the summer of 1969, Clint Eastwood makes the appeal following clips of action scenes from "Two Mules for Sister Sara" and "Coogan's Bluff".
John Wayne's estate has recently launched a line of official liquors based on the Duke's drinking preferences. Wayne Enterprises, which is run by the Duke's son Ethan, produces brandy and bourbon in accordance with the Duke's taste. Wayne was from a generation of hard drinkers but never developed a dependency on liquor. In an article for the Daily Beast, Ethan recalls interesting anecdotes about his father's drinking habits. Contrary to his popular image, Wayne appreciated fine wines and champagnes...but he wasn't so sophisticated that he ever built his own wine cellar. Instead, he kept Dom Perignon and expensive wines stored in his garage! To read the article, click here. To visit the official site of Duke branded liquors, click here.
Criterion has released a true oddity: a French horror film from 1960 by director Georges Franju titled Eyes Without a Face. The B&W film was notable in its day for being a rare excursion into a genre that most New Wave French filmmakers had studiously avoided. The intriguing plot centers on Dr. Genessier (Pierre Brasseur), a notable plastic surgeon who is pioneering breakthrough methods of reconstructing the faces of people who have suffered grievous injuries and disfigurements. On the surface, Genessier follows the norms of traditional medical research: publishing papers and giving lectures relating to his findings. However, the painstaking process of getting formal acceptance and approval of new medical theories is not for him. He has an urgent need to pursue his theories outside of accepted medical practices. His daughter Christiana (Edit Scob) was severely injured in a car crash that he was responsible for. Wracked by guilt, Genessier has been practicing his controversial methods on his young female assistant Louise (Alida Valli), who had also required plastic surgery. The results have been successful and he has transformed her back into the beautiful woman she once was. The only fly in the ointment is that Genessier's methods require the kidnapping of other young, healthy women who he tortures brutally by literally removing their faces while they writhe in agony, awaiting certain death. Meanwhile, Christiana has been declared dead and no one- not even her fiancee who works as Genessier's protege- suspects otherwise. Genessier and Louise cater to Christina, who is kept in total isolation inside Genessier's country home that adjoins his clinic. Here, clad in a disturbing face mask that is devoid of any emotional features, she wanders the rooms and halls in loneliness and frustration, even as her doting father assures her that he will restore her natural beauty. To do so, he prepares for the operation by systematically planning more kidnappings so that he has a fresh supply of human flesh. When things go awry with one of his kidnapped victims, Genessier faces disaster at the very moment of his long-sought triumph.
While Eyes Without a Face wouldn't meet the definition of a contemporary horror film (it is leisurely paced and caters to sophisticated viewers), the film is dripping with atmosphere and director Franju engages the audience from the very first disturbing frames of Genessier and Louise en route to dispose of the body of yet another innocent female victim. As with many memorable movie villains, Genessier is a cultured man who is more misguided than evil. His crimes are committed only because of his overwhelming sense of guilt and they are a symptom of his obsession with righting a terrible wrong. Nevertheless, he gets carried away by his emotions and loses sight of the fact that, as a doctor committed to helping injured people, he is ensuring their demise.
Eyes Without a Face is a genuinely eerie cinematic experience and the fact that it was made in France gives the film an even more unique atmosphere. Still, this artfully crafted film was dumped on U.S. audiences in a dubbed version that was absurdly re-titled The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus, which also suffered severe edits. Criterion had released an impressive DVD version of the original French cut about ten years ago. The Blu-ray, which is up to the company's usual top-notch standards, carries over the original bonus extras and includes some new additions. They are:
Archival interviews with Georges Franju.
A new interview with actress Edith Scob.
A 1985 French documentary about the making of the film
Franju's controversial 1949 documentary Blood of the Beasts which was one of the first cinematic attempts to argue against animal cruelty. The still-powerful film depicts the horrendous conditions inside slaughterhouses and still packs an emotional wallop today.
A gallery of trailers including the American release
An informative illustrated booklet featuring essays by novelist Patrick McGrath and film historian David Kalat.
The movie is a mesmerizing experience with superb performances and direction and the Criterion Blu-ray finally does justice to this long-overlooked masterwork of the European horror genre.
The Warner Archive has released the 1960 comedy hit "Where the Boys Are" as a special edition Blu-ray. The film looks positively quaint today but I enjoyed it in the manner that an anthropologist would if he were examining etchings on cave walls from a distant era. The film reflects the social values of the time and, not surprisingly, there is nary a minority teenager to be seen. The story concerns a group of coeds (to use a truly quaint term)- Dolores Hart, Paula Prentiss, Connie Francis and Yvette Mimieux- who make a first time pilgrimage from their snowbound college to Fort Lauderdale for spring break. Even in 1960, Fort Lauderdale was the "go to" destination for students. However, the film's impact was so significant that it increased the masses of student tourists to Fort Lauderdale exponentially over the years. One must look at the movie in the context of the time period. This was the first generation of females who were able to exert enough independence to make such a trip sans chaperones. The girls are predictably man hungry and in one cringe-inducing sequence, Paula Prentiss' character says her higher education is just a waste of time because she was put on earth to find a guy and have babies!
Still, Where the Boys Are was probably the first beach movie to at least attempt to address sexual desire among the young in a somewhat frank way. While her girlfriends flirt endlessly with hunks like George Hamilton and Jim Hutton, Yvette Mimieux's character lets down her guard and "goes all the way". The resulting sense of guilt and suicidal depression may seem overwrought today but it's genuinely frightening to imagine these were the sensibilities of the time. One doesn't know whether the film is reaffirming the validity of equating virginity with self-worth or whether it is being critical of the philosophy. In any event, the scene adds a poignancy that is lacking from most other movies of this genre. In the beginning of the movie, Dolores Hart's Merritt faces possible expulsion from school for voicing her opinion that premarital sex should not be frowned upon. The next time someone pines away about the good old days, have them watch this cinematic time capsule.
Much was made about the fact that the film was shot on location in Fort Lauderdale. In fact, the on location footage is rather fleeting and judiciously edited among the phony studios shots in order to give the impression that the cast spent much more time in Florida than they actually did. Still, the local color does give the film a leg up over the majority of cheapie beach movies that were to follow in its wake. The main attribute of the movie is the charismatic cast. The female leads are delightful to watch with Paula Prentiss and Connie Francis particularly good. (Francis' crooning of the title song sent it to the top of the charts). Among the males, Hamilton is his usual unruffled, handsome good guy who sports more grease in his hair than Jerry Lewis. Hutton plays a beatnik-type character but the jokes become predictable and weary. Frank Gorshin, in an early screen appearance, is somewhat more amusing as a jazz musician who is blind without his Coke bottle-like eyeglasses.
The Blu-ray extras have been ported over from the previous DVD release from 2002. There is a 2003 featurette with Prentiss and Francis reminiscing about the joys of making the film. The always engaging Prentiss also provides a fun commentary track and there is an original theatrical trailer and brief newsreel footage of the stars arriving in Fort Lauderdale for the world premiere.
Where the Boys Are is by no means cinematic art, but it is a consistently entertaining look at a bygone era.
Writing in The Daily Beast, Ron Capshaw addresses a long-running rumor that Errol Flynn may have been a Nazi spy. The largely debunked theory, which still intrigues Hollywood historians, revolves around Flynn's friendship with a man who was a Nazi espionage agent in the pre-war years. The two traveled together and considered themselves good friends. Letters written by Flynn were revealed to have contained anti-semitic statements and Flynn once insulted studio mogul Jack Warner in front on a film set by telling him that "We don't allow any Jews on the set". In one letter, Flynn even says that he wishes the United States had its own version of Hitler so that Jews could be taught a thing or two. By 1940, however, Flynn was routinely denouncing Naziism and when America entere the war the following year, Flynn even volunteered to work undercover as a U.S. espionage agent, though nothing came of the proposal. He also never saw his Nazi spy pal again after 1940 and began dismissing him as a "screwball". However, the U.S. government was still so concerned by the possibility that Flynn, too, was spying for Nazi Germany that they had him followed and investigated. For more click here.
is 1962. Aggrieved when Algeria is granted independence by President Charles de
Gaulle, the militant underground alliance known as the Organisation Armée Secrète botches an
attempt to assassinate him. Within months many of the conspirators, including
their top man, have been captured and executed. The remaining OAS leaders,
bereft of funds, take refuge in Austria and warily decide to contract an
outside professional to do the job for them. They settle on a British assassin
(Edward Fox), who chooses to be identified as Jackal. The OAS orchestrate
several bank robberies to cover his exorbitant fee of half a million dollars
whilst the mechanics of the plotting are left entirely to Jackal's discretion.
After capturing and interrogating another alliance member, the French authorities
learn of Jackal's existence and, suspecting another attempt on de Gaulle's life
may be imminent, they set their best man – Deputy Commissioner Claude Lebel
(Michel Lonsdale) – on his tail. But Jackal is cunning and, as his carefully
formulated scheme to assassinate de Gaulle approaches fruition, he moves around
Europe seamlessly changing his guise and identity in a bid to stay one step
ahead of Lebel.
from Frederick Forsyth's 1971 bestseller of the same name, director Fred
Zinnemann's suspenseful 1973 film The Day
of the Jackal is, in my opinion, one of the finest political thrillers to
be carried over from page to screen. At its core it's an increasingly taut game
of cat and mouse which subtly persuades its audience to champion both sides; as
much as we want to see Jackal thwarted by Lebel, we can't help but admire the
cucumber cool killer as his meticulous and seemingly fool-proof plan comes
together. This ineluctable sharing of loyalties is in no small part down to the
performances of the two lead actors. Edward Fox in his first major big screen
role – arguably his best – phlegmatically dominates the proceedings. Jackal's mien
is that of an urbane, unflappable English gentleman with a winning smile, but
it can all disappear in the blink of an eye as witnessed in a moment early on
when he deals with someone stupid enough to try to cross him; two swift, savage
barehanded blows later the man is dead. Fox's performance is matched ounce for
ounce by Michel Lonsdale as the savvy, resourceful policeman tasked with
tracking him down. Aside from some unfortunate and slightly distracting
continuity oversights relating to the artificial grey in his hair (which frequently
changes in volume), Lonsdale's Lebel is a compelling screen presence and I for
one would have liked to have seen him carry the role on through a series of
the film also benefits immeasurably from a peppering of British stalwarts –
among them Derek Jacobi, Timothy West, Donald Sinden, Barrie Ingham, Eric
Porter, Tony Britten, Ronald Pickup, Anton Rodgers, Maurice Denham and Edward
Hardwicke – and familiar faces from Euro cinema (Vernon Dobtcheff, Howard
Vernon). In a largely male populated narrative the sparse but nonetheless essential
female contingent appears in the shape of Olga Georges-Picot (The Man Who Haunted Himself) and
Delphine Seyrig (Daughters of Darkness).
off with some expository narration and then thrusting the audience headlong
into the bungled attempt on President de Gaulle's life, director Zinnemann
sustains high tension from the outset. Once the collaborative government forces
ascertain that Jackal intends to target de Gaulle in Paris, a palpable sense of
apprehension builds as we dot back and forth between frustrated government
officials – furrowed brows becoming increasingly sweat-sheened as they puff
nervously on their cigarettes – and Jackal going about his preparations
completely unflustered. The climax is located on the Champs-Élysées in the midst of the Liberation Day parade
and, as Lebel pushes through the hundreds of milling spectators futilely trying
to spot his man – whilst, in a nearby building, Jackal is positioning himself
to dispense the death shot – doubt begins to creep in that this will end
happily. Incidentally, these scenes were filmed during a real parade and more
than a few members of the public can be noted looking directly into camera as
Lonsdale moves among them.
Cinema Retro proudly presents this year's Movie Classics 80-page special issue: "World War II Movies of the Sixties", showcasing films that only Cinema Retro would cover in-depth. Some are true classics, others are simply vastly entertaining- and all are celebrated through rare production photos, international marketing campaigns, then-and-now location photos and little-known facts.
Films covered in this issue:
The Guns of Navarone - Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, David Niven
Battle of the Bulge- Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw, Robert Ryan
Anzio- Robert Mitchum, Peter Falk
The Victors- George Peppard, Eli Wallach, George Hamilton
The Train- Burt Lancaster, Jeanne Moreau
Tobruk-Rock Hudson, George Peppard, Nigel Davenport
Hannibal Brooks- Oliver Reed, Michael J. Pollard
The Devil's Brigade- William Holden, Cliff Robertson, Vince Edwards
Von Ryan's Express- Frank Sinatra, Trevor Howard
Operation Crossbow- George Peppard, Sophia Loren, Richard Johnson
Is Paris Burning?- Orson Welles, Gert Frobe, Alain Delon
Play Dirty- Michael Caine, Nigel Davenport
The Heroes of Telemark- Kirk Douglas, Richard Harris
We realize that there are still plenty of worthy titles deserving of coverage and we plan to get to them in a follow-up WWII issue.
As with all Cinema Retro issues, this one is a limited edition - so order now!
Note: This issue is not part of the subscription plan and must be ordered separately.
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM THE CINEMA RETRO ARCHIVES
By Lee Pfeiffer
Vinegar Syndrome (we love the name) is a DVD label that specializes in preserving and restoring vintage cinematic erotica and other cult films. Their most recent coup is the release of a double feature on Blu-ray consisting of Russ Meyer's 1964 adaptation of Fanny Hill along with Albert Zugsmith's bizarre 1967 Western comedy The Phantom Gunslinger. The dual package generously provides both films on DVD as well as their Blu-ray editions. Russ Meyer was already well-known as both a cheesecake photographer for "men's magazines" as well as a director of soft-cover sex films that generally showcased young women who were super-amply endowed. Ever the opportunist, he teamed with producer Zugsmith in 1964 for Fanny Hill, which was based on a notorious 18th century novel that chronicled the sexual escapades of a promiscuous young woman. Such was the book's controversial impact that when it was reprinted in the early 1960s it was banned in some quarters for obscenity. The publisher and civil libertarians contested the ruling and the subsequent court battle put ol' Fanny right in the midst of the contemporary news cycle. Zugsmith, who was a producer of some repute (The Incredible Shrinking Man, Touch of Evil) had by this point concentrated on low-brow exploitation fare. He reasoned that if the country was up in arms over a two hundred year old book, audiences would go wild over a film adaptation of the story. The plot centers on Fanny (Leticia Roman) as a buxom blonde farm girl who arrives in London, naive and clueless about the ways of the world. She is quickly "adopted" by Mrs. Brown (Miriam Hopkins), a seemingly benevolent older woman who is, in fact, a madame who wants to exploit Fanny's innocence by turning her into a prostitute. What she doesn't count on is just how naive Fanny is. Even when residing with numerous other ladies of the night, she fails to catch on to the fact that the place is a bordello. Mrs. Brown tries on several occasions to financially benefit from renting the young virgin to any number of eager patrons, but fate always intervenes before the act can be consummated. When Fanny falls in love with Charles (Ulli Lommel), a dashing and chivalrous young sailor, Mrs. Brown arranges for him to be kidnapped and taken out of the country. Thinking her lover has abandoned her, Fanny becomes despondent and out of grief agrees to marry a loathsome nobleman. As the ceremony begins, Fanny's betrothed manages to escape and make his way to the wedding where the film climaxes in a crazy, slap-stick filled brawl. Viewers may be puzzled by the almost complete absence of eroticism in the film, along with relatively few lingering shots of semi-dressed young women. The whole enterprise is so chaste it could be shown today on the Disney Channel. This was due to the fact that Zugsmith and Meyer clashed over the content of the film, with Zugsmith insisting that comedy should be emphasized over sexual content. Meyer finished the film but justifiably regarded it as a low-grade entry on his list of cinematic achievements. What emerged is a Jerry Lewis-like farce with zany sequences in which people swing from chandeliers, cross dress and engage in various forms of mayhem. In retrospect, it seems inconceivable that the film was deemed controversial even in 1964. Zugsmith filmed the movie in West Germany using local actors for supporting roles. Although the three leads-Roman, Hopkins and Lommel- perform admirable given the circumstances, the supporting cast is encouraged to play even the most minor moments in absurd, over-the-top manner. The result is that the film's primary legacy is as an interesting relic of a bygone era when "naughty" films could still raise eyebrow without delivering much in the way of genuine eroticism.
The second entry on the DVD "double feature" is even more bizarre and makes Fanny Hill look like Last Tango in Paris in comparison. The Phantom Gunslinger was shot in Mexico as a vehicle for Albert Zugsmith to prove he was a triple threat talent, with the erstwhile fellow producing, co-writing and directing the resulting disaster. It's clear that without someone like Russ Meyer to at least try to restrain Zugsmith's instincts for broad slapstick, the project was doomed from the start. The plot, such as it is, finds a small Western town taken over by a gang of notorious outlaws. They cause some mild mayhem but mostly seem content to gorge themselves on sumptuous feasts in between flirting with the local saloon girls. The local sheriff is terrified and runs away, turning his badge over to Bill (Troy Donahue), a hunky dimwit who sets about trying to wrest control of the town from the raucous outlaws. That's about as deep as the story line goes. Zugsmith pads the film with so much slapstick it makes the average Three Stooges skit look like the work of Noel Coward. The film is certainly one of the most bizarre of its era and its hard to know whether it was ever even released theatrically in America. There is a painful element to watching Troy Donahue at this stage in his career. Only a few years earlier, he was deemed a bankable star by major studios. Whatever desperate measures persuaded him to be involved in this enterprise will probably never be known but perhaps he was inspired by the success of Clint Eastwood's spaghetti westerns. Eastwood went to Spain and collaborated with a genius named Sergio Leone. Donahue went to Mexico and was saddled with Albert Zugsmith. Such are the cruel ironies of fate. The Phantom Gunslinger is so repetitive in its gags that one is reminded that this is the kind of film they invented the fast forward remote control feature for.
Writer Michael Coate of The Digital Bits web site queried a diverse group of James Bond scholars to analyze the impact "The Living Daylights" had on the 007 film series and Bond legacy when it was released thirty years ago. Among those contributing is Cinema Retro's own Editor-in-Chief Lee Pfeiffer. The format is presented in a "round-table" scenario with the various scholars weighing in on their thoughts about the movie, which introduced Timothy Dalton in the role of James Bond. Click here to read.
A new poll finds that the majority of Millennials are shockingly unfamiliar with older, classic movies. The posting on the Cinema Retro Facebook page has set off a spirited discussion among our readers. People who live in major metropolitan areas may take issue with the poll's findings since young people routinely attend screenings of classic movies at revival cinemas. The Alamo Drafthouse chain of cinemas has been especially effective at exposing younger audiences to retro movie classics and cult films. Yes, Netflix and other streaming services make plenty of retro movie classics available to viewers of all ages everywhere. But in major cities, younger people tend to view going to see a classic film from the past as a social activity, often going in groups to theaters with funky themes. It may be, however, that people who live in more rural areas don't have the same opportunities to see older films on the big screen, therefore they are not as familiar with them. Click here to read article.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Close Encounters of
the Third Kind will premiere at the Venice Film Festival in August and
will then screen in cinemas internationally – courtesy of Park Circus – from 15
On its 40th anniversary, audiences will be able to
enjoy Steven Spielberg’s science fiction adventure in a new 4K digital print
for the first time. Made in 1977, following the success of Jaws, this is a
compelling story about a group of people who try and contact alien
Electrical lineman Roy Neary encounters a UFO on a deserted
road whilst investigating a major power cut. He becomes increasingly obsessed
with UFOs and subliminal messaging following his experience, distancing himself
from his wife and children but drawing him closer towards parallel
investigations being conducted by scientists, the military and other survivors
of encounters who are attempting to communicate with the mysterious
Close Encounters of the Third Kind will be showing
at cinemas across the UK and Ireland, including at London's Picturehouse
Central and Vue during September, and some of Europe’s major film institutions
such as the Danish Film Institute, the Swedish Film Institute, Sitges
International Fantastic Film Festival in Spain and Festival Lumière in France.
The film will also be released in several other international markets.
Audiences will also be treated to a short about the
making of the film which includes an all new interview with Steven Spielberg.
In addition, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will be
celebrating the Anniversary this autumn with an all-new 4K Restoration on
2-Disc Remastered Blu-ray™, 4K Ultra HD™ & Limited Edition 4K Ultra HD
“Light and Sound” Gift Set.
With the death of Jerry Lewis at age 91, Hollywood lost one of the few remaining people who deserved to be called iconic. Lewis rose from a humble upbringing in urban New Jersey to become one of the greatest successes in the history of comedy. His ten year partnership with Dean Martin made them both international idols as well as very rich men. When Martin and Lewis broke up amidst great acrimony, many predicted Lewis would fade and be considered as a flash-in-the-pan. After all, it was Martin who had the looks, the elegance and the velvet singing voice. But Lewis proved he could be a red hot solo act. He honed his craft, took control of his films and learned to become a respected and innovative filmmaker. Lewis raised billions for charity and could be personally charming. But he was also a divisive figure about whom few had ambivalent feelings. He was either loved or loathed, He was known to have mood swings and could be friendly one minute and insulting the next. Until his last days he would make controversial and insulting statements about individuals and institutions. When his big screen went into decline, he concentrated on stage productions and stand-up comedy and never lost his core audience. Despite the controversies he seemed to relish inciting, few would disagree that his impact on the world of cinematic comedy will be tough to top. Click here for more.
is considered by many to be Alfred Hitchcock's crowning achievement. Although
I'd suggest there are several other titles that could justifiably vie for that accolade,
there's no disputing that it ranks as a premium couple of hours of suspenseful
drama that still packs a punch 57 years on from its release. I can only begin
to imagine the impact the burgeoning ill-ease and kinky twist reveal had on
unsuspecting audiences back in 1960.
it's practically a given that a box office hit will result in a hastily mounted
sequel, but back then it was almost unheard of, besides which Psycho delivered a self-contained story
with a satisfying conclusion, so there really wasn't any need for augmentation.
(To be fair though, one could say that about fistfuls of superfluous sequels
today.) In any event, as follow-ups go 1983's Psycho II rubs shoulders with the best of them; yes, it's
superfluous, but director Richard Franklin's film wipes out any suspicions of a
cash-raking exercise by delivering a beautifully tailored narrative that
dovetails impeccably with its ancestor. In fact it’s such a well-considered
continuation that one could almost believe it had been planned right from the
start. It isn't just good, it's really
with a slightly pared down replay of that
shower murder from Hitchcock's film, as the camera pans to the window and comes
to rest on the edifice that is the Bates house, the image subtly transitions
from the black & white of the original to colour. And so begins a tale
bristling with devilish twists, one that's almost as thrilling as the first and
that unexpectedly weighs in with a hefty emotional payload.
ago Fairvale motelier Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) was arrested following
several brutal knife murders – including that of larcenous Marion Crane – and
the discovery that as a child he'd poisoned his overbearing Mother. Due to his
state of mind he was declared not guilty of murder and incarcerated in an
institution for the criminally insane. Now, much to the ire of Marion's sister,
Lila (Vera Miles), Norman has been pronounced fit for release. He arrives back
at the family owned motel to find that an oily state-appointed manager, Toomey
(Dennis Franz), has allowed it to devolve into a dive patronised by unsavoury
clientele. Norman sacks Toomey and sets about doing the place up, intending to
relaunch it as a respectable establishment. To make ends meet in the interim he
gets a part-time job at a nearby diner where he meets and takes a shine to down-on-her-luck
waitress Mary (Meg Tilly) and he subsequently offers her lodgings. Although
she's aware of Norman's past – there's not a soul in Fairvale who isn't – she's
desperate and so, with some trepidation, accepts. As Norman's affection for
Mary warms, so the first of a series of notes from his dead Mother appears. Next
come the phone calls. And then people around Norman begin to die, each falling
victim to a shadowy, knife-wielding figure. Has the rehabilitation process not
been the success it first appeared? Are the messages from Mother all in
Norman's head? Or is someone messing with him, trying to retrigger his
insanity? Whatever the case, Norman quickly begins to unravel...
previously directed a couple of efficient chillers in his native Australia –
1978's Patrick and 1981's Roadgames – Richard Franklin's decision
to take on a sequel to one of cinema history's most venerated films for his
American debut was a bold and ambitious one. Fortunately, Psycho II proved a decent critical and box office success. It
boasts a sharp, intelligent script by Tom Holland, who would go on to helm some
fine chillers of his own (among them Fright
Night and Child's Play), and who
appears fleetingly here as a police deputy.
Perkins – slipping back into Norman Bates' loafers with such ease that it's
almost as if he never vacated them – gets the cream of the dialogue, including
some splashes of black humour, for example when Norman, former knife murderer,
nervously falters in his enunciation of the word “cutlery”. The script also rather
daringly turns Norman into a figure of sympathy as he tries to fit back
into civilised society, struggling valiantly to quell the re-emergence of
his former homicidal impulses whilst external forces seem to conspire against
him. There's a wonderful scene which finds Mary comforting Norman and he tells
her that she smells like toasted cheese sandwiches, kindling one of the few
happy memories of his mostly bereft childhood; if it sounds a bit corny on
paper, it's actually remarkably poignant.
The series includes a screening of President Reagan in his last big screen appearance in the 1964 remake of "The Killers", which offered one of his best performances.
The Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, NY will present a screening of the new documentary "The Reagan Show" about the influence of film in President Ronald Reagan's life and career. The screening is part of a series of showings of Reagan movies including some that are rarely seen on the big screen. This includes "Hellcats of the Navy" in which The Gipper starred with his future wife and first lady, Nancy Davis. Some of the key films will have special guests introduce and/or discuss the movies. The festival runs from August 25-30. Click here for more info.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
World Premiere of STAR
WARS FILM CONCERT SERIES
To Feature Iconic
Scores Performed Live to Film
Complete Scores Conducted by David Newman September 15–October 7, 2017
NEW YORK COMIC CON To
Feature RETURN OF THE JEDI and
THE FORCE AWAKENS as
Part of NYCC PRESENTS
“STAR WARS: MUSIC FOR
With Conductor and
Film Score Composer David Newman Moderated by Mark Travis
Part of FREE INSIGHTS
AT THE ATRIUM
September 12, 2017
Presents “Star Wars Film Concert Series Fan Zone” At Each Concert:
Meet-and-Greet with Star Wars Characters, Specialty Drinks,
Booth, Commemorative Merchandise, and More
The New York
Philharmonic will present the World Premiere of Star Wars Film Concert Series, September 15–October 7, 2017,
featuring screenings of four complete films from the saga — A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return
of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens —
with Oscar®-winning composer John Williams’s musical scores performed live to
film. The concerts will be led by acclaimed conductor David Newman.
New York Philharmonic has partnered with New
York Comic Con to feature the Star
Wars Film Concert Series presentation of Return of the Jedi (October 4–5) and The Force Awakens (October 6–7) as part of NYCC Presents — a
series of concerts, live podcasts, comedy acts, and more that brings New York
Comic Con to various venues throughout New York City.
Newman, who is also a film score composer, will discuss John Williams’s
compositional techniques, leitmotifs, and musical philosophy at “Star
Wars: Music for a Galaxy,” a free Insights
at the Atrium event, Tuesday, September 12. Mark Travis — the
New York Philharmonic’s Associate Director, Media Production, and resident Star Wars aficionado — will moderate.
The event takes place at the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center
(Columbus Avenue at 62nd Street).
concert attendees are invited to take part in the Philharmonic’s “Star
Wars Film Concert Series Fan Zone” at David Geffen Hall, before and
after each performance as well as during intermission. Ticket holders will have
the opportunity to meet R2D2, Stormtroopers, and other Star Wars characters from costumed fan groups; in addition, they
can take photos in an event-themed photo booth. A commemorative program and
other merchandise will be available for purchase and a specialty cocktail
called the Cantina Margarita (and its non-alcoholic version) will also be
available. Those planning to attend are encouraged to come in costume and share
their Fan Zone experience on social media using
With a screenplay penned by an
otherwise obscure advertising copywriter named Ceri Jones (adapted from an
original story by director Gary Sherman), the premise of Death Line is rather simple.Late night travelers on London’s famed underground tubes have been
disappearing with alarming regularity from the Russell Square Tube
Station.Two young, unmarried collegians,
Alex Campbell (David Ladd) and Patricia Wilson (Sharon Gurney), unwittingly get
themselves entangled into the mystery when they find an unconscious, well-dressed
fop lying comatose on the lower steps of the station.They alert a wary and hesitant policeman to
investigate, but the slumped body – whose wallet had earlier identified the
body as Sir James Manfred, O.B.E. - is suddenly nowhere to be found.
We soon learn that Manfred (James
Cossins) is merely the latest delicacy in the supper plans of a gruesome character
billed only as “The Man.” Even putting
his cannibalistic appetite aside, “The Man” (Hugh Armstrong) still cuts a
pretty morbid figure. Filthy, ragged,
and with skin tone that’s both beyond the pale and ravaged with festering sores
(think of the iconic and disheveled – but still healthier appearing - figure that
graces the cover of Jethro Tull’s seminal Aqualung
LP), this mostly mute subterranean has – somewhat reluctantly - become the last
surviving offspring of a band of tunnel dwellers.
There’s a back story here,
of course. It seems that during the
construction of the South London tube in 1892, there was an unfortunate cave-in
that entombed a team of construction workers. The company contracted to build that particular section of this nineteenth
century subway went immediately into bankruptcy, coldheartedly making no
attempt to rescue those (apparently) mixed-sex workers trapped in the dank and
rat infested arc-shaped tunnels.
This was unfortunate as some
of those abandoned not only managed to survive, but to reproduce and flourish
(more or less) by eating the flesh of their less fortunate comrades. It’s never adequately explained why in the
eighty years between the tunnel collapse of 1892 and the film’s current date of
1972, the youngest and last surviving of the mining offspring has lost all of
their language skills aside from a grunting, guttural mimic of the rail line’s oft-repeated
conductor’s phrase “Mind the Doors.” Likewise, it’s never explained why – while searching out potential
future meals on the underground platforms - the “trapped” tunnelers simply didn’t
walk up the stairwells and out into the sunshine. Of course, if they had, there
would be no drama. Certainly romancing University
students Campbell and Wilson wouldn’t have been begrudgingly dragged into the
on-going police investigation – much in the manner of Fred and Daphne from the
old Scooby Doo cartoon series. To some degree it hardly matters. They’re
window dressing. British actor Donald
Pleasence is the true star of this vehicle, bringing more than a dollop of
churlish intensity to his blue collar character, Inspector Calhoun. Pleasence is a decidedly old-school policeman,
a cantankerous, prudish sort who continually badgers his secretary for cups of
tea. He also relishes belittling and
sneering at young Campbell and his generation’s immoral lifestyles, live-in
girlfriends, and hippie mindset. He’s
particularly disdainful of privileged middle-class kids dabbling in the
political protest movements of the day.
To be fair, Calhoun shows
little regard for the more well-heeled citizens of Britain either, tossing more
than a few cynical barbs at the newly deceased snob James Manfred, O.B.E. He also possesses an almost pathological
antipathy toward M.I.5. He views the
organization not as an ally but more as a smug, self-important competitor in his
street level fight against crime.
Though horror film icon
Christopher Lee gets a feature billing in Death
Line, his role is relatively small and the single scene he does appear in does
little to move the narrative forward. Producer Paul Maslansky had previously worked with Lee on a number of
films (including the very atmospheric and spooky black and white chiller Castle of the Living Dead). It was through Maslansky that Lee was cast as
Pleasence’s smirking antagonist, the condescending and derby-topped
Stratton-Villiers of M.I.5.
Though the two actors would
only share a single scene together – oddly, the pair would only share the
briefest of moments seen together on the big screen – Maslansky recalled Lee gladly
accepting the small role if only to work with Pleasence, an actor he much
admired. The young American actor, David
Ladd, was also duly impressed by Pleasence, describing him as the consummate
“actor’s actor.” He found working
alongside him somewhat “intimidating.” Ladd is the younger brother of Oscar-winning producer Alan Ladd, Jr.,
and was certainly no leading man in Britain. He had previously worked mostly in the U.S. as a child actor. Though Ladd’s role of Alex Campbell was
originally purposed for a British actor, the producers thought having an
American in the part might make the film an easier sell in the States.
about troubled cops or ex-cops still have a foothold in movies and TV shows --
almost to the point where you wonder why so these emotionally vulnerable men
and women chose a stressful career in law enforcement in the first place. Private eyes, on the other hand, are almost
an extinct species on the screen, after great media popularity in the 1950s and
intermittent periods of audience demand since then. Maybe, as fantasy figures who embody power,
personal integrity, and social conscience, trenchcoated PIs have been displaced
and replaced by superheroes. The hero of
Hal Ashby’s “8 Million Ways to Die”
(1986), Matt Scudder (Jeff Bridges),
begins as a policeman but becomes an unlicensed, free-lance gumshoe in the
course of the story. A detective with
the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, Scudder serves a warrant on a
suspected drug trafficker in the opening scenes of the film. When the suspect attacks another deputy with
a baseball bat, Scudder fatally shoots him in front of his wife and
children. Either out of remorse for
killing the suspect or out of anger for being raked over the coals by Internal
Affairs for using his gun (the movie is a little hazy on this point), Scudder
quits the force and becomes an alcoholic. Deciding to clean up his act after his wife and daughter move out, Scudder
joins Alcoholics Anonymous, where another attendee at a meeting, an attractive
woman, slips him a note with a name and phone number. These developments all take place within the
first few minutes of the picture.
the staging, the audience initially thinks that the woman is flirting with
Scudder and giving him her personal information. (Nowadays, she’d Tweet -- were the 1980s
really that long ago?) But it turns out
that the name and phone number belong to the woman’s friend, Sunny (Alexandra Paul), a prostitute. Sunny offers a job to Scudder as a go-between
with her pimp, Chance (Randy Brooks). Sunny wants out of the life but she’s afraid to approach Chance herself.
Scudder agrees to represent her. Chance tells
him that Sunny is free to go: he doesn’t control her and she can do what she
wants. But then Sunny is abducted off
the street and brutally murdered while Scudder watches helplessly. Scudder goes on a bender, but revenge gives
him a motive for going on the wagon again. He’s convinced that Chance was the murderer, and he wants to bring him
to justice, but as he confronts Chance and gathers other clues, his suspicions
turn to Angel (Andy Garcia), a high-living Colombian cocaine kingpin. Scudder enlists another hooker, Sarah
(Rosanna Arquette) to help him get close to Angel. The previous tragedy of a woman horribly
murdered while under Scudder’s care threatens to repeat itself. Sarah, a shotgun held under her chin, becomes
leverage for Angel as Scudder tries to entrap him by instigating a raid on his
multi-million dollar cache of coke.
story behind “8 Million Ways to Die,” (1986) Ashby’s final, troubled film,
arguably is more interesting than the movie itself. The initial script by Oliver Stone, adapted
from a 1982 novel by Lawrence Block, went through at least two rewrites, one by
an uncredited Robert Towne. As director,
Ashby encouraged the actors to improvise many scenes. Some accounts say that Ashby did so in a
spirit of creative collaboration, others contend that he’d simply lost interest
in the job after ongoing interference by the producers. Many of the scenes stumble around with the
actors improvising dialogue that sounds like what might emerge from
drama-school tryouts where hopefuls are encouraged to “talk about your character’s
feelings.” In a showdown between Scudder
and Angel, Bridges and Garcia set a record for the number of F-bombs shouted in
a given time period. Ashby’s supporters
claim that “8 Million Ways to Die” would have been a good film, rather than an
exasperating but sometimes interesting failure, if he’d been allowed to oversee
post-production, choose the best of multiple takes from certain scenes, and
rearrange the story to better frame it as a journey of redemption as seen
through Scudder’s eyes.
Lorber’s Blu-ray edition of “8 Million Ways to Die” is rich in special
features, including an informative audio commentary by film historians Howard
S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson, and new interviews with Garcia, Paul,
Arquette, and Block. All three actors
are collegial and engaged, but Garcia, especially, reminisces about the movie
eloquently and warmly; it’s unfortunate that most younger viewers, now,
probably know the handsome actor best for his commercials with George Clooney,
hawking Nespresso. Block talks about
meeting with Stone early on, and wryly notes that the producers had concerns
about the logic of retaining the title of the novel. The book had been set in New York City, and
the title had been a play on the tagline for the classic, NYC-based Naked City TV series (“There are eight
million stories . . .”). But the script
relocated the action to Los Angeles, where the population falls short of eight
million people. The producers decided to
keep the title when they calculated that, if you counted the number of
residents in the entire LA metro area, you’d come up with about eight million.
and Thompson note that the film was a commercial flop in initial release (I
remember seeing it in a nearly empty theater, the first week it played), but
gradually picked up an audience from VHS and pay-cable through the late
‘80s. Is it sexist to wonder whether
many of those home-video watchers were guy teens who sneaked the cassette to
fast-forward and freeze-frame to Alexandra Paul’s brief, full-fontal nude
The Kino Lorber
Blu-ray includes a reversible cover sleeve with alternate poster art on both
sides. The main side reproduces the
poster showing Bridges and Arquette against a pastel-neon sunset and a waving
palm tree. The color scheme, I’m
certain, was designed to entice fans of TV’s “Miami Vice,” the hottest ticket
in pop culture at the time.
To the surprise of no one, Daniel Craig has confirmed he will be returning as James Bond. It had previously been announced by Eon Productions that the next Bond film is in pre-production with veteran scribes Neil Purvis and Robert Wade working on the script. The film will not be released until November 2019, giving them plenty of time to fine-tune the story line. Craig, in a jovial mood, appeared last night on Stephen Colbert's show to confirm the news. He did make some more news by confirming that this would indeed be his last performance as Bond and that he looked forward to leaving the series on a high note. He also renounced disparaging comments he made about playing Bond after the release of his most recent 007 film "Spectre", saying that his comments that he would rather "slit my wrists" than play 007 again were "really stupid". Speculation will now go into overdrive in the fan community about whether Christoph Waltz will return as Bond's arch nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld to follow up on the character's appearance in "Spectre". The character of Blofeld had been in limbo for decades due to legal reasons. For more click here.
Kneale, who passed away in 2006 at the age of eighty-four, was responsible for
some of early British television’s seminal moments, and is best remembered by
popular audiences for scaring the population half to death in 1953 with The Quatermass Experiment, followed over
the next few years by Quatermass II (1955)
and Quatermass and the Pit (1958). In
1954 he was responsible for adapting George Orwell’s 1984 into a television play starring Peter Cushing and Donald
Pleasence, a production that was considered so shocking that questions were
asked in Parliament. The repeat performance the following week was only allowed
to go ahead once word came through that the Queen had liked it.
Kneale’s success at the BBC he had a difficult relationship with the
corporation and eventually became an independent writer, spending most of the
next few decades writing television dramas and film scripts, as well adapting
novels for films. Some of this work was relatively pedestrian, but when he
wrote scripts like The Stone Tape (1972),
depicting the scientific exploration of a haunted house, or the dystopian
nightmare The Year of the Sex Olympics
(1968), a world in which television serves up a constant diet of violence and
pornography, his legacy as one of the most important writers of horror and
science fiction was assured.
he hated being associated with science fiction and horror, constantly rejecting
requests to write for shows like Doctor
Who, (1963 – 1989, 2005 –), which he thought was too frightening for
children, and in the 1990s he rudely turned down an invitation to contribute to
The X-Files (1993 – 2002, 2016 –), stating
“This is the worst kind of science fiction,” before going on to denigrate the
main cast. This no doubt disappointed the show’s creator Chris Carter who was a
big fan. His influence on a new generation of filmmakers and TV producers from
the late 1970s onwards meant that Kneale was constantly being offered work,
including from Hollywood, where he worked with John Landis on an unrealised
remake of The Creature From the Black
Lagoon (1954) before scripting Halloween
III: Season of the Witch (1982) for John Carpenter. Upon seeing the
finished film and how, in his opinion, it had veered drastically from his
script, Nigel Kneale was so furious he had his name removed from the credits.
published in 2006, this vastly updated and expanded edition of Andy Murray’s
excellent biography of Kneale is a fascinating insight into one of television’s
most influential, important and occasionally belligerent writers. From his
childhood on the Isle of Man to his final moments, no aspect of his life has
been neglected. The book is built around a series of interviews with the Kneale
and his wife, successful children’s author Judith Kerr, as well as with dozens
of people who have either worked with Kneale or are fans, including John
Carpenter, Russell T. Davies and Mark Gatiss. Andy Murray has also identified
many of the references and homages to Kneale’s work in film and television,
including, ironically, Doctor Who,
the show which Kneale despised so vehemently. Most notably the 1970s stories
featuring Jon Pertwee battling alien invasions of Earth alongside UNIT were
effectively Quatermass stories under a different name.
Into the Unknown: The
Fantastic Life of Nigel Kneale is a thorough and well-researched read
for anyone interested in television history, science fiction, or who might have
spent Saturday nights as a child hiding behind the sofa during Quatermass and the Pit, and is highly
There will be a rare big screen showing of the 1967 spoof version of the James Bond film "Casino Royale" at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The screening is Thursday, August 17 at 1:30 PM. The film features an all-star cast including Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, David Niven, Deborah Kerr, Woody Allen, William Holden to name just a few. The film's legacy as a debacle in terms of a production that went out of control is well documented and was covered in-depth in Cinema Retro issue #6. Producer Charles K. Feldman employed numerous directors who worked on the movie simultaneously, but never together. The movie went over-schedule and over-budget but still did big business at cinemas. Even those who loathe the movie concede it boasts superb production values, a great musical score by Burt Bacharach and at least a few genuinely inspired moments of comedy. "Casino" may be a mess- but it's a grand, glorious mess.- Lee Pfeiffer
Actor and playwright Joseph Bologna has died from cancer at age 82. Bologna and his wife of 52 years, actress/writer Renee Taylor, were nominated for an Oscar for the screenplay they co-wrote (with David Zelag Goodman) for the 1971 comedy "Lovers and Other Strangers". The two collaborated frequently on and off screen. Bologna was noted primarily for his affiliation with comedies. He and Taylor co-wrote 22 plays and also appeared frequently on television but both had successful solo careers as well. His most memorable big screen role was as King Kaiser, the acerbic TV variety show host who was based on Sid Caesar in the hit 1982 comedy "My Favorite Year". Last month, Bologna attended a 35th anniversary screening of the film. His other feature films include "Made for Each Other" (co-written with Taylor), "The Big Bus", "Blame It On Rio", "The Woman in Red" and "Big Daddy". For more click here.
The good folks at the esteemed boutique video label First Run Features are generally known for making available films that relate to important and usually sobering social issues. Every now and then, however, they delve into areas that are considerably more light-hearted in nature. First Run has recently overseen the theatrical release of the acclaimed new documentary "Vince Giordano: There's a Future in the Past" by directors Dave Davidson and Amber Edwards. The film has now been released on DVD. Giordano may not be a household name but he's a living legend among jazz purists who are devoted to the music of the 1920s and 1930s- the kind of upbeat, immortal tunes popularized by Paul Whiteman, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. Giordano plays to packed houses at Manhattan venues where he performs with his band, the Nighhawks, which he formed decades ago. Like many creative types, he is eccentric, to be sure. The film's glimpses into his personal life reveals that he lives modestly in two adjoining houses in a middle class neighborhood of Brooklyn. Giordano bought the house next door many years ago to accommodate his ever-increasing collection of sheet music and memorabilia that has obsessed him since childhood. The collection is meticulously cataloged in so many filing cabinets that his house resembles the Library of Congress. Floor-to-ceiling paperwork pertaining to his musical heroes permeates the place. You won't find any evidence in Giordano's abode that indicates the existence of rock 'n roll or even the glory days of crooners like Sinatra and Crosby. He is completely devoted to the golden era of jazz and works tirelessly to keep up with finding gigs that will help him keep his sizable band employed.
The film opens with the band delighting in audiences at their long-time Manhattan home, the nightclub Sofia's which was located in the historic Edison Hotel off of Times Square (the same venue where Luca Brasi made the ominous walk to his doom in "The Godfather".) For many years the Nighthawks performed here in the cozy venue, filling the room with the joy of the big band sound. I had seen them there several years ago and, despite not being a jazz enthusiast myself, I couldn't help but marvel at the sheer exuberance of the band. The film follows Giordano's travails as the leader of the Nighthawks- including informing the band members on camera that Sofia's is being forced out of business by landlords who have raised the rent to $2 million a year. Ever-resourceful, he finds them a new home at a club called Iguana- but there are countless other frustrations involved in moving so many people to so many gigs far and wide. Many band members have been with Giordano for many years, some for decades. They relate how the sheer challenges of keeping on top of all of his responsibilities has sometimes caused him to break up the band, only to reunite them shortly thereafter. Giordano seems to have no other interests in his life than jazz and the Nighthawks. He is like an Evangelist in terms of spreading the word about the music and artists that he so reveres. His efforts are clearly paying off. We see him attract young people at the Newport Jazz Festival and at New York's famed private club for the arts, The Players, where he is one of the headline acts at the New York Hot Summer Jazz Festival. Giordano is part mother hen and part drill instructor to his band members. He refers to himself as "The King of Schlep" in regard to the fact that at age 65 he still loads and unloads the vast amount of equipment necessary for every show, carrying it all around in a rather weather-beaten van. He's like a modern version of Willie Lohman, feeling his age perhaps, but ever-devoted to his profession. He relies on his right arm, Carol Jean Hughes, to help him keep track of the enormous amount of paperwork and logistical support that goes into running the band. Giordano shows a grumpy side when things go wrong: a misplaced mouthpiece or a miscommunication that sees him setting up the entire band at the Players only to be told to dismantle everything because another band is scheduled to go on before him. But he's clearly in his element and delighting when playing in front of appreciative audiences. The band's prominence hit new heights with their Grammy-winning work on the HBO series "Boardwalk Empire" and the film includes clips from one of the segments in which the Nighthawks appear on camera. There is also extensive footage of David Johansen rehearsing with the band for the series. Giordano also coordinates a triumphant celebration of the 90th anniversary of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" and performs it at the same venue in which it premiered on the exact date of the anniversary in front of a cheering audience. The film also mentions that Giordano has worked with Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen, appearing on camera in musical scenes in their films.
"Vince Giordano: There's a Future in the Past" is a sweet-natured movie that was funded by grants and private donations. Directors Davidson and Edwards wisely allow ample screen time to show the Nighthawks performing- and the interviews with band members are especially interesting, giving a perspective of people who have not gotten rich but clearly enjoy what they do. Vince Giordano comes across as a New York original- the kind of guy you would like to sit down with at a bar for a few hours. However, that seems unlikely since the workaholic musician strikes me as the kind of obsessive who couldn't bring himself to stop studying and playing music long enough to drain down a couple of cold ones. The documentary is terrific on all levels- just like any performance by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks.
The DVD boasts an excellent transfer and a trailer gallery of other First Run features available on DVD, though strangely it does not include the trailer for the Giordano film.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from Eon Productions and MGM:
BOND RETURNS TO
A NEW JAMES
BOND CINEMATIC INSTALLATION, COMING SOON
26 July 2017 - A
unique James Bond cinematic installation will open this winter at the top of
the Gaislachkogl Mountain next to the ICE Q Restaurant, Sölden, Austria. The
iconic location was used in Spectre
as the Hoffler Klinik and formed part of the snow chase sequence in the film.
Cable Car Companies
Sölden is creating a bespoke new building to house the 007 installation,
embedded into the top of the mountain, designed and built by award-winning
architect Johann Obermoser. The innovative, dynamic space is inspired by the
work of visionary James Bond Production Designer Sir Ken Adam.
The concept for the
installation has been designed and developed by Creative Director and James
Bond Art Director Neal Callow (Casino
Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and Spectre)
together with Optimist Inc. Head of Design Tino Schaedler and his team.
Commenting on the
announcement, Jakob Falkner, Shareholder and Managing Director, Cable Car
Companies Sölden said: "We’re delighted to be partnering with EON
Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to bring Bond back to Sölden by creating a
truly unique experience in the heart of the Tyrol region. Together with the
many exciting and varied activities available in the area, this James Bond
installation will strengthen Sölden’s position as a year-round destination for
sports and entertainment.”
The name of the
cinematic installation and further details about the visitor experience will be
released later this year.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
ANGELES COMIC BOOK AND SCIENCE FICTION CONVENTION presents Classic Movie Poster Artist Robert Tanenbaum, Jean Hale (In Like Flint), Sharyn Wynters (The Female
Bunch), and Donna Loren(Bikini Beach) at the AUGUST 20, 2017 Show.
is a Movie Poster Artist with an over 50 year career illustrating every film
genre such as Science Fiction, Horror, Comedy, War, Drama and Martial
has illustrated such Classic Movie Posters as A CHRISTMAS STORY, BATTLE FOR THE
PLANET OF THE APES, CUJO, FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH, BLACK CHRISTMAS, SUPER FLY,
THE COLOR OF MONEY, MY BODYGUARD, DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY, THE IRON CROSS, THE
EAGLE HAS LANDED, RANSOM, CLEOPATRA JONES AND THE CASINO OF GOLD, HOT POTATO,
MEL BROOKS HIGH ANXIETY and SILENT NIGHT, EVIL NIGHT. Robert’s art is
featured on the first announcement that JAWS was being made into a Movie. Robert
also did advertising art such as the JAWS Ride at Universal Studios and
celebrity portraits. Robert will have Prints of his Movie Poster Art available
for purchase for $25.00 which includes an autograph. Robert Tanenbaum
will appear from 10:00 A.M.-5:00 P.M. and he will also be taking art
following Celebrities are appearing for a Henchwomen of the Batman TV Series
HALE starred as Polly, Mad Hatter’s Henchwoman in the 1967 BATMAN TV
Series two part episode, “The Contaminated Cowl,” “The Mad Hatter Runs
credits include The Wild Wild West, My Favorite Martian, Hawaii Five-O,
McHale’s Navy, Bonanza, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Fugitive, Perry Mason,
The Mod Squad and Movies In Like Flint, St. Valentines Day Massacre and The
Oscar. Jean Hale makes her very First Convention Appearance to sign autographs
from 11:00 A.M.-3:00 P.M.
WYNTERS starred as Eenie, the Catwoman’s Henchwoman in a 1966 BATMAN TV Series
two part episode, "The Cat’s Meow,” “The Bat’s Kow Tow.” Sharyn’s other
credits include Longstreet, Mannix, Banacek, The Doris Day Show and
movies Westworld (1973 starring Yul Brynner) and The Female Bunch
(starring Lon Chaney Jr. and Russ Tamblyn). Sharyn
Wynters makes her very First Convention Appearance to sign autographs from
11:00 A.M.-3:00 P.M.
LOREN starred as Susie the Cheerleader, The Joker’s
Henchwoman in a1966 BATMAN TV Series two part episode,
"The Joker Goes to School,” " He Meets His Match, The Grisly
Ghoul.” Donna's TV series credits include The Monkees, Shindig!, Gomer
Pyle, U.S.M.C. and Dr. Kildare. Donna is a Singer and starred in the
famous A.I.P. Beach Movies of the 1960’S which include Muscle Beach Party,
Bikini Beach, Pajama Party (all 1964), Beach Blanket Bingo and Sergeant
Deadhead (both 1965). Donna will have available for purchase her new
book, POP SIXTIES: SHINDG!, DICK
CLARK, BEACH PARTY, AND PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE DONNA LOREN ARCHIVE, a
photographic retrospective of Donna’s career with Behind the Scenes Photos on
the sets of Batman, The Monkees and the A.I.P. Beach Movies and much more!
Donna Loren signs autographs from 11:00 A.M.-3:00 P.M.
KAIRYS starred as Kitty, Catwoman’s Henchwoman in a 1966 BATMAN TV Series
two part episode, “The Sandman Cometh,” “The Catwoman Goeth.” Valerie is billed at
the end credits as Valeri Kairys. Valerie starred in 14 episodes of the
1966-1968 TV Series The Monkees playing various characters and in The Monkees
Theatrical Movie, Head. Valerie’s other credits include Vanishing Point,
Family Products, The Dazzling Darling Sisters, and Tourbillon. Valerie Kairys
signs autographs from 11:00 A.M.-3:00 P.M.
SILO starred as Mousey, The Riddler’s Henchwoman in a 1966 BATMAN TV Series two
part episode, “A Riddle a Day Keeps The Riddler Away,” “When the Rat’s
Away, the Mice Will Play.” Susan starred in many TV Series such as The
Wild, Wild West, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., McHale’s Navy, Gunsmoke,
Bonanza, Sea Hunt, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Love Boat. Susan is also a
Voice Actress and credits include Pryde of the X-Men (Voice of The White
Queen), Darkwing Duck (Neptunia), James Bond Jr. (Phoebe Farragut/Miss
Fortune/Pirate Parrot), InHumanoids (Sandra Shore/Stella Blaze/State of
Liberty), Biker Mice from Mars (Dr. Karbunkle), Richie Rich (Mrs. Rich), The
Tick (Jungle Janet/Jet Valkyrie), W.I.T.C.H. (Miranda Beast), Xiaolin Showdown
(Wuya), Curious George (Netti Pisghetti), The Legend of Korra (Yin), Pac-Man
(Sue), The Smurfs (Petaluma), Lilo and Stitch (Computer) and many others.
Susan is currently starring in the New Animated series The Micronauts
based on the popular Toy Line and Marvel Comic Book from the 1970’s.
Susan Silo signs autographs from 11:00 A.M.-3:00 P.M.
LUND starred as Anna Gram, The Riddler’s Henchwoman in a 1967 BATMAN TV Series
two part episode, “Batman’s Anniversary,” “A Riddling Controversy.” Deanna’s TV series
credits include Irwin Allen’s Land of the Giants (as Valerie Scott in 51
episodes), T.H.E. Cat, Search, The Waltons, The Incredible Hulk and Movies Dr.
Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, Hammerhead, Roots of Evil and Hardly Working.
Deanna Lund signs autographs from 11:00 A.M.-4:00 P.M.
ANGELES COMIC BOOK AND SCIENCE FICTION CONVENTION will take
place SUNDAY, AUGUST 20, 2017 at THE REEF, 1933 South Broadway, in
Los Angeles, a mile north of USC College. Show Hours are 10:00 A.M.-5:00
P.M. Regular Admission is only $13.00, five years and under are free.
Early Admission is $15.00. All celebrities charge for each autograph. Check
website to confirm signing times of all Guests. The Dealers Room features over one
hundred tables full of Old and New
Comic Books,Toys, Action
Figures, Funko Pop, Trading Cards, Trade Paperbacks, Graphic Novels, DVDs,
Movie Memorabilia and many
other collectibles! Check www.comicbookscifi.com and www.facebook.com/comicbookscifi for
a film is as uninspired and as amateurishly made as Lance Lindsay’s Star Crystal (1986) is and ends with the
words “Filmed entirely in SPACE” following the end credits, you know that you’re
going to wish that you had those 93 minutes of your life back. Unfortunately, science
has not gotten us to the point where that is possible just yet. Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) was the
first low-budget Star Wars rip-off
that I saw theatrically and I was astonished at how unexciting it was. However,
it did give us James Cameron, Bill
Paxton, and James Horner so it wasn’t all
bad. Crystal, also a product of Roger
Corman’s low-budget production company, goes much further than Battle did in terms of “borrowing” from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Dark Star (1974), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Alien
(1979), E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982),
The Thing (1982), Xtro (1983), and Lifeforce (1985). Released on VHS in April 1986, Crystal outright steals from these classic films. Crystal lives up to none of the exceptional movie artwork that was
used to promote it, which is a shame as the poster is probably the best thing
about it (though it hawks the action as taking place in 2035, not 2032 – is
there really a difference?), although it does have a fairly decent score by
the future, remember this is 2032 and not
2035!, two men on Mars extricate a rock from the planet’s surface and,
brilliantly, bring it on board the spacecraft. To think that these guys never
saw Ridley Scott’s Alien is a little
too much to believe. They have it analyzed by a scientist who determines that
it’s…a…rock. Yes, it’s a rock that leaks a mysterious white goo (no, I’m not going there…) which a crew member
sticks nearly their entire hand into out of curiosity. Apparently, they didn’t
see Larry Cohen’s The Stuff (1985)
either. It then begins to turn into a pitiful-looking alien. The rock turns
into some sort of crystal, and looks not unlike the titular Dark Crystal from
that superior film. These events cause the crew to die suddenly. Too bad it
didn’t have the same effect on the viewer. All the computers and onboard
spaceship equipment look like they were made by Radio Shack. The action (that’s
being kind) then flashes forward two months later when Colonel William Hamilton
is assigned to find out why the crew died. Maybe they watched the dailies and
committed suicide? An attractive blonde flirts with him in typical 80’s
fashion. Everyone on the ship has big 80’s hair, a true anachronism in 2032. Onboard
the ship (in reality a poorly-disguised shopping mall) is Roger Campbell (C.
Juston Campbell) and his right hand man who cracks unfunny jokes like “I’d
rather eat my shoe” when referring to the ship’s food. The ship begins shaking when
the cinematographer starts shaking it back and forth and crew members run
around frivolously. The shopping mall’s escalators are a hilarious prop.
could go on and on about this film, but I don’t want to ruin the special
awfulness of it for the viewer. I will say that the ending is particularly
silly and comes out of left field that features an anthropomorphized blob that
breathes deeply. The plot is picked out of many sci-fi films and the director
does what he can with the ludicrous material. It makes you wonder, however, if
the movie was originally written to be tongue-in-cheek or meant to be serious. Coca-Cola
appears in a product-placement moment, and the women on the ship are dressed in
outfits that make one half expect them all to break into calisthenics. It’s always
nice to have a blonde running around screaming, “We’re all gonna die!!” at the
first sight of outer space trouble. The gratuitous sex that was a mainstay of
such 80’s fare is completely missing from Star
Crystal and it makes one wonder who was the intended audience. Exactly ten
minutes into the film, a shot from within the mothership reveals a replica of
the Millennium Falcon flanking each side of the entrance. Really? Lucasfilm
signed off on this? May the Farce Be With You.
there is anything this film needs, it’s the Mystery Science Theater 3000
treatment. There is even the dreaded End Credits Song. Why do people think that we want a song at the end of movies like
you’re a fan of this film (no judgment; to each his own), you’ll be happy to
know that Kino Lorber has provided a top-notch transfer of the film on Blu-ray.
This is the one to get!