Image Entertainment is promising (threatening?) to release a 3 DVD special "Imperial Edition" of the notorious 1979 film Caligula,an epic that was to good taste what Liberace was to understatement. The film was bankrolled by Penthouse Magazine mogul Bob Guccione and became infamous for having lured established stars such as Malcolm McDowell, Peter O'Toole, Helen Mirren and John Gielgud onboard to film their scenes - without telling them that hardcore footage would be -er, inserted- after the fact. Some of the cast at least feigned being outraged over this ploy while McDowell and Mirren have obviously had a change of heart - both are contributing to what should be a fascinating audio commentary track for the new edition.
The new DVD also features:
Hours of documentaries
Never before seen footage
Hi def transfer
Even Mussolini didn't have it this good!
This will be the unrated version with hardcore sequences intact. (A watered down version was released as an "R" rated film, but seeing Caligula without the sex is like seeing The Wild Bunch without the guns.) The film was an ambitious attempt to make a hardcore film a virtual epic and have it taken seriously by critics. The scheme didn't work, however. Not only did critics scorn the raw sex play but they also complained about the scenes of lurid torture. Indeed, the film does graphically showcase scenes in which Rome's mad emporer indulges in his penchant for mass slaughter. Hey, everybody's got to have a hobby, right? There were also endless sequences of orgies, sado-masochism, and assorted perversions - you know, the kind of stuff Congressmen ususally get caught up in. The film is never less than fascinating if you can stomach the unpleasantness. It does boast some impressive sets - and yes, we're actually referring to the production design! To label it a porn film is probably unjust because it does have loftier aspirations than a grind house film. Whether it succeeds or not depends on whether the viewer can tolerate the kinky sexual antics of Caligula. They may be more stomach-turning than erotic, but I personally live by the old addage, "The worst sex I ever had was like the worst pizza I ever had - terrific!"
The Caligula special edition will be out in late October - just in time for the holidays, especially if you like getting your stockings stuffed. - Lee Pfeiffer
Lee Pfeiffer looks at the release of a John Wayne rarity:
Don't be deceived by the title: this is actually the Duke's 1970 TV special "Swing Out Sweet Land"
Arriving without fanfare is MPI Home Video's release of John Wayne's 1970 NBC TV special, Swing Out Sweet Land packaged under the title John Wayne's Tribute to America. This is not the first time video companies have retitled shows for commercial reasons. Peter Bogdanovich's wonderful 1971 documentary, The American West of John Ford was repackaged by public domain video companies as The Great American West -duh! In any event, we wouldn't have even known about this release had it not been for Cinema Retro subscriber Jim Kroeper who was kind enough to send us a copy he found in a local store. For Wayne fans, it's pure heaven as this show has been unseen since it's single telecast thirty seven years ago. Although the entertainment special was a ratings blockbuster, it was never re-run or released on video until now.
The special was bascially Duke's gift to The Silent Majority at a time when protests over everything from Vietnam to civil rights and women's lib seemed to be fracturing the very fabric of America. Wayne's show was intentionally steeped in enough corn to make episodes of Ozzie and Harriet look like searing social commentary. Yet, viewing the show after decades, there is a real sense of sentiment that shines through for those of us who grew up in that era. Wayne had amassed a roster of all stars that only serves to remind you of how flimsy our Hollywood "legends" are today. In fact, the very premise of getting some of the biggest names in show business together to honor their country would seem hopelessly naive today. The show is refreshingly devoid of right wing sentiment. Wayne seems to accept the fact that all Americans can take pride in their nation regardless of their political leanings. The entertainment runs from song and dance numbers to comedy sketches that range from genuinely amusing to strained. Yet, the real joy is seeing the line-up of greats all in one show: Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, Dean Martin, Bonanza stars Lorne Greene, Michael Landon and Dan Blocker, Dennis Weaver, Bing Crosby, Ann-Margaret, Rowan and Martin and many others.
The release seems to be a public domain program as neither Wayne's Batjac Productions or NBC is credited. However, MPI has found a very good print (probably from 16mm) that makes for a very impressive transfer and beats the hell out of those barely discernable bootlegs of the show that have circulated among Wayne collectors for many years. The show even begins with the NBC peacock and follows with the original Budweiser Clydesdales! Viewing the show, which was completely sponsored by Budweiser, also makes you realize how much better TV programs were when you only had one sponsor. The ads may have been longer, but they were very enjoyable in their own right. The effect is far more advantageous to both the viewer and the sponsor than the present system of loading so many commercials into a TV episode that you can't even follow the plot.
Extras: MPI has included some interesting extras including original ads from the show featuring Budweiser spokesman Ed McMahon, who shows us why TV never had a better pitchman. Budweiser is my least favorite beer but after watching Ed virtually compare it to Holy Water, I was ready for a mug of the limp lager. The ads also include one in which Wayne, resplendent in his normal cowboy attire, appears in the spot with McMahon as a bartender circa 1876. There is also another terrific extra: Wayne's appearance in 1960 as the surprise guest on What's My Line? He barely fools the panelists for even a minute as the thunderous applause gives away his identity. Wayne goes on to chat with host John Daly about the recent opening of his film The Alamo - which I found interesting since Dave Worrall and I are completing a book about the making of the film. Wayne mentions he has two films in circulation "on Broadway": The Alamo and North to Alaska, but confesses he is more concerned about the fate of The Alamo. He does give a lukewarm endorsement to both pictures, however, by humorously pointing out that he's not ashamed of either - though he can't say the same about many of the films he's made!
This one is a "must" for all serious John Wayne fans.
At long last, MGM will release a special DVD edition of the 1967 James Bond spoof Casino Royale. Release date is November 6. The disc has been produced by Steve Rubin and Steve Mitchell. Rubin is well known Bond expert and author of The James Bond Films and The James Bond Encyclopedia.He's also a documentary film maker who produced and directed a tribute to The Great Escape.The disc will have many special features as outlined below:
The Making Of Casino Royale" featurette
"Bond James Bond" featurette
"A 3 Ring Circus" featurette
"More Directors, More Stars" featurette
"The Big Climax" featurette
"It’s a Wrap!" featurette
See Barbara Bouchet's exclusive interview in Cinema Retro's Casino Royale special issue #6
Rubin and Mitchell tracked down a number of stars who have not been interviewed in many years to tell the story behind this over-budgeted, out-of-control big budget film that was produced by Charles K. Feldman. The film production took over three major studios and starred an eclectic cast of actors including Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, David Niven, Woody Allen, William Holden and Orson Welles. Whether you love or hate the movie, the story behind it is fascinating.
No release date has been set for the U.K. as of yet.
Meanwhile, Sony is planning on releasing a major special edition of the Daniel Craig Casino Royale -this time possibly as a three disc set to contain all the extras. No release date has been set.
For full coverage of the making of Casino Royale, see Cinema Retro issue #6. The issue features exclusive interviews with Barbara Bouchet and Caroline Munro as well as dozens of rare stills and movie poster art.
Sony have released a special double disc DVD edition of 20 Million Miles to Earth, a 1957 low-budget sci-fi "epic" that has only one claim to fame - but it is an impressive one. The film represented one of Ray Harryhausen's early successes in pioneering his distinctive work in stop motion animation. Harryhausen didn't direct the film - Nathan Juran did, but it is Harryhausen who is the real star. As one of the last of true legendary craftsmen from Hollywood's Golden Age, Harryhausen is worthy of all the praise he has been receiving late in his career. The CGI technology that is employed today has robbed films of their wonder. Harryhausen's work - even in an otherwise nondescript B movie such as this- reminds us of what true geniuses were capable of.
Cleaver. Chop. Chop. First the mom and then the pop. Then we'll get the pretty
girl. We'll get her right between the curl...'
gentlemen, because of the controversy already aroused, the producers of this
film wish to re-emphasise what is already stated in the film, that there is no
established scientific connection between Mongolism and psychotic or criminal
added voice-over heralded the start of what would become one of the most talked
about cult films of the 1960’s. Twisted Nerve produced a flurry of protest amidst
disability rights groups, even while the film was in its post production
stages. Hywel Bennett gives a spellbinding, disturbing performance as Georgie/Martin, a disturbed young man from a dysfunctional family. His brother is institutionalized with a mental handicap, his stepfather (Frank Finlay) loathes him and his doting mother (Phyllis Calvert) treats him like a toddler. Martin is a schizophrenic who adopts the charming personality of a six year old when he wants to win favor with those around him. However, he also has a dangerous alter-ego who cannot deal with his unrequited love for Susan Harper (played with considerable charm by Hayley Mills), a young woman whose attempts to assist Martin are misconstrued as a love interest. When he fails to win her over, he enacts a scheme that has devastating consequences. He begins to stalk Susan, then shows up at her mother's home and convinces her to take him in as a lodger. The mother, wonderfully played by Billie Whitelaw, has no idea of the horror her compassion is about to unleash.
Original British quad poster for "Witchfinder General"
Nothing illustrates the growing influence of Cinema Retro among the major studios than the announcement from Fox/MGM that they will be releasing a special DVD edition of the Vincent Price classic Witchfinder General. The classic film has long had a cult following around the world. It was released in the United States under the title The Conqueror Worm in a weak attempt to capitalize on Price's success with Edgar Allan Poe screen adaptations. Many consider this to be the greatest role of Price's career - a far cry from the campy, over the top characters he was often relinquished to playing. The special edition came about after the film's producer Philip Waddilove gave an exclusive interview to Cinema Retro in issue #5, which featured the most extensive coverage ever done on the making of the film. Mr. Waddilove understood that Fox/MGM was thinking about bringing out a "no frills" DVD edition of the film and asked us to Fed Ex copies to their home video department along with a request that the DVD be expanded to a special edition. We are happy to say that not only is Mr. Waddilove now on the DVD, but one of the film's stars, Ian Ogilvy is also included on the commentary track. Thank you, Fox/MGM for listening!
The news gets even better for Vincent Price fans. Witchfinder General is but one of a number of Price films being issued in a major promotion dedicated to the iconic actor. Other titles include special editions of The Fly films, as well as a boxed set that includes Witchfinder, Theatre of Blood, both Dr. Phibes films, Madhouse, Tales of Terror and Twice Told Tales. This boxed set will include biographies of Price and other exciting bonus extras.
Continue reading for the official Fox/MGM press release.
For Dave Worrall's extensive tribute to Witchfinder General including unpublished photos from the archives of Philip Waddilove, see Cinema Retro issue #5.
An exciting collection of major films are making their DVD debuts in November as part of Warner Brothers' Leading Ladies Collection- Vol. 2 This set showcases Candice Bergen, Jacqueline Bisset, Susan Hayward, Sandy Dennis, Diane Keaton and Joanne Woodward. The films making their DVD premieres are:
Rich and Famous
Up the Down Staircase
A Big Hand for the Little Lady
Shoot the Moon
I'll Cry Tomorrow
While each of these films affords the lead actresses great roles, the leading men aren't exactly window dressing, either. They include Albert Finney, Henry Fonda and Jason Robards. Continue reading for full details and official press release.
Warner Brothers has announced a "Signature Collection" boxed set dedicated to the films of Burt Lancaster. The five title set includes The Flame and the Arrow, Jim Thorpe-All American, His Majesty O'Keefe and South Sea Woman. These are all mid-range titles, but most welcome as they are making their DVD debuts - and one cannot have enough of Lancaster in his prime. However, the most interesting aspect of the set is the inclusion of the granddaddy of all JFK conspiracy movies, Executive Action. The 1973 film stirred up minor controversy by theorizing that President John F. Kennedy had been marked for murder by conservative oil barons who loathed his liberal policies and who felt the nation (and their fortunes) were being placed in jeopardy. The film didn't generate nearly as much controversy as Oliver Stone's JFK did two decades later - perhaps because, unlike Stone's indulgence in revisionist history, the makers of Executive Action had the intellectual honesty to admit the screenplay was a work of fiction supported by carefully studied inconsistencies in the Warren Report. Stone's acclaimed and very competently made film masqueraded as a historical record of the events, despite the fact that many of the story elements and characters were entirely fictionalized. Stone, who senses a government conspiracy every time his choice for American Idol is voted off, defended his film by saying that he is a filmmaker, not a historian and thus was allowed to indulge in artistic license -thus sidestepping the central argument that his film did not provide any context for younger or more naive viewers to realize the extent of the "artistic license" he employed.
Executive Action boasts an excellent cast with Lancaster the ringleader of the "patriots" who seek to assassinate a U.S president. Among his co-stars: Robert Ryan and Will Gear. That's right, the avuncular Grandpa Walton schemes to commit the ultimate act of treason. The film is crude by the standards of the production values afforded Stone's movie but is nonetheless engrossing throughout. Look for a review here when the set is released in October.
Warner Brothers has announced that a new major Stanley Kubrick boxed DVD colletion will be released in October. Although the studio released these same titles in a boxed set several years ago, this new release has some major new additions. The titles in the set are:
2201: A Space Odyssey
Full Metal Jacket
A Clockwork Orange
Eyes Wide Shut
The documentary Stanley Kubrick- A Life in Pictures
Kubrick on the set of The Shining
The films will also be available as single titles in both regular and HD and Blu Ray versions.
The major enhancements to this set are:
The films have been remastered and are now in their original theatrical aspect ratios for the first time
Kubrick's final film Eyes Wide Shut will be presented in its theatrical version and its uncensored, unrated version
The inclusion of a new featurette: Lost Kubrick: The Films That Never Were which will almost certainly touch upon his long-planned, but ultimately aborted biography of Napoleon
A Clockwork Orange will have a new featurette about the making of the film titled Great Bolshy Yarblockos!
New featurette on Full Metal Jacket
Three new featurettes on The Shining
Each of these special editions will consist of 2 DVDs. Previously released extra materials from the old box set will be retained, including commentaries from actors, directors and film scholars. Warner Bros. is also rereleasing Barry Lyndon and Lolita but this time as single titles and not part of the box set. Continue reading for the official press release.
A rare shot from the Cinema Retro archive: original New Jersey theater display for the 1968 release of 2001: A Space Odyssey
The three DVD set contains a wealth of collectibles as well
Warner Home Video has announced a major 80th anniversary DVD release of Al Jolson's landmark 1927 classic, The Jazz Singer. The movie revolutionized the motion picture industry by introducing synchronized sound and music to the feature film format. The 3 disc DVD set celebrates every aspect of The Jazz Singer and its impact on the film industry. The set will be released in October and it will include a tremendous number of bonus programs and collectibles. If you think you've seen The Jazz Singer before, well, you ain't seen nothin' yet!
Continue reading for Warners full official press release detailing all aspects of the new edition.
As regular readers of the Cinema Retro site know, Warner Brothers and Paramount have teamed for major Elvis DVD promotions to commemorate the 30th anniversary of The King's passing. The Paramount side of the promotion, a boxed set titled Lights! Cameras! Elvis! showcases 8 feature films, packaged in four clamshell cases containing double features. The movies are from the 1960s with the exception of King Creole from 1958. Other titles in the collection are: Easy Come, Easy Go, Blue Hawaii, Fun in Acapulco, G.I. Blues, Girls! Girls! Girls!, Roustabout and Paradise Hawaiian Style. We received a set in advance of the August 7 release date and we were pleasantly surprised to see the films packaged in a smart, blue velvet (what else?) collector's case. The merits of the films themselves range from being among Elvis' better efforts to being weak even by The King's standards - but even the worst of the lot merit being classified as entertaining, guilty pleasures. One of the great joys of watching Elvis films is the array of gorgeous co-stars and this boxed set is a feast for the eyes, topped by Ursula Andress lighting up the screen in Fun in Acapulco. If there's a complaint about the set, its that once again Paramount has been stingy with extras. It would have been great to have film historians or Elvis experts comment on the individual films, but each title is sans extras except for a few trailers. The films are also available individually, but if you give a hoot about Elvis at all, you shouldn't be able to resist purchasing the entire boxed set, though even the most devout fan will probably have to quit their jobs and put their lives on hold for several months to get through the plethora of titles released in August alone. A good value from Paramount, but we hope to see special editions of these titles in the future.