Remember those glorious old comic books that were based on the latest major movie releases? We sure do. It seems like every week the newstands boasted another exciting comic adaptation of a film we couldn't wait to see. Most were published by either Gold Key or Dell comics. Here's one we remember fondly: the tie-in comic for Disney's film of Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped. James MacArthur, a Disney favorite, starred. Did you know MacArthur is the son of the late legendary actress Helen Hayes?
Lois as Miss Moneypenny in the 1967 Bond film "You Only Live Twice"
A Personal Rememberance by Lee Pfeiffer
Lois Maxwell, the actress who initiated the role of Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond films beginning with Dr. No in 1962, has passed away at the age of 80. She had been battling cancer for the last few years and had moved from England to Australia to be with her son and his family. For millions of Bond fans worldwide, the death of one of the original key cast members came as a terrible blow. For this writer, it also is devastating news on a personal level. Throughout my years of association with the Bond franchise and Eon Productions, I have been honored to know Lois Maxwell and to call her my friend. She was a unique woman in every way: steadfast, humorous, and extremely witty. I first met Lois when I appeared on The Geraldo Rivera Show in the early 1990s to promote a Bond book I had co-authored. She was in rare form and stole the spotlight from an array of other, younger Bond girls. She later agreed to be a guest at a film convention I sponsored in New Jersey in 1993. She regaled the crowd with wonderful anecdotes and signed autographs for hours. Afterward, fellow Bond book authors Dave Worrall and Graham Rye joined me in escorting Lois around New York City where we spent a memorable afternoon showing her the sights and dining at Planet Hollywood.
In 1995, my partners John Cork and Mark Cerullli and I went to visit Lois at her home in Frome, in the British countryside near Bath. We were shooting documentaries for MGM on the making of the Bond films. Her brassy nature and disarming wit were on display throughout and the wonderful anecdotes she related are preserved forever on the DVD special editions of the films. I next saw Lois at the James Bond Jamaica Festival in 1996 where we were invited as guests. This was an extraordinary event that brought many of the prominent alumni from the series to the island where the movies were launched with Dr. No. It remains one of the most enjoyable holidays I've experienced, as I was able to relish the company of Ursula Andress, George Lazenby, Richard Kiel and so many other actors and technicians from the series. At night, Lois led everyone dancing to steel drum bands under a crisp, clear Jamaican sky. The highlight was a private party at Ian Fleming's home, Goldeneye. Here the event took on a special resonance as the actors and crew members were entertained in the home of 007's literary creator. Lois was one of the few who had come to know Fleming and told wonderful tales that seemed all the more moving because of the setting.
When Lois' favorite Bond co-star Roger Moore retired from the series in 1985, producer Cubby Broccoli personally called her to tell her that she would not be returning to star as Moneypenny opposite new Bond actor Timothy Dalton. Lois said it would have looked ridiculous for her to making "goo-goo eyes" at a much younger man but suggested to Cubby that she be allowed to play M. Cubby dismissed the idea, saying audiences wouldn't accept a female head of MI6. Lois got no end of satisfaction when Judi Dench was cast in the role of M years later - she felt her instincts had been proven correct.
I last saw Lois in January, 2002 when Dave Worrall and I were invited by Eon to attend a private party at Pinewood Studios to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Bond film franchise. The room was packed with alumni from the series, from actors to technicians. Cubby's widow Dana Broccoli presided over the festivities along with Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson and Pierce Brosnan, who was about to start filming Die Another Day. It was a truly wonderful affair capped off by the dedication of a plaque to Cubby Broccoli. We had a drink with Lois at the historic Pinewood bar where so many screen legends had socialized. We both realized this event was a bittersweet occasion. Lois lamented the loss of so many of her colleagues from the series and said, "Soon we'll all be gone, Lee". True enough, since that wonderful day a number of other prominent Bond veterans have passed away including Dana Broccoli. Like Lois, she was one of those women you came to believe was immortal. Now Lois is gone, too. For millions of 007 fans, however her work will live on and for those of us who considered her a friend, she'll always be our Number One Bond Girl. Rest in peace, Miss Moneypenny. (For additional details click here)
PERSONAL PHOTOS OF LOIS MAXWELL
In New York for the 1993 Spy-Fi Convention, Lois dines with (l to r): Ron Plesniarski of Spy Guise Inc, Denise Plesniarski, Graham Rye, Dave Worrall, Janet Pfeiffer and Lee Pfeiffer
Lee Pfeiffer and Graham Rye with Lois on the ferry from Weehawken, New Jersey to midtown Manhattan, 1993.
The 2002 Eon celebration at Pinewood. L to r: Caroline Munro, Carole Ashby, Richard Kiel, Shirley Eaton, Michael G. Wilson, Dana Broccoli, Lois Maxwell, Colin Salmon, Sir Ken Adam and Eunice Gayson. (Photo copyright Laurent Perriot)
This news item was reported in the July 10, 1963 edition of Film Daily:
CAPRA GOING BIBLE INSTEAD OF 'CIRCUS'
"Dear and Glorious Physician, the Biblical story of St. Luke, will be given to Frank Capra to direct in place of Circus.since Capra and Samuel Bronston agreed that the version of Circus that Capra wanted to direct was not what the company wanted. Announcement is do on who will direct Circus, although Henry Hathaway is considered first choice."
John Wayne in "Circus World"
In fact, Frank Capra did bow out of the film and Henry Hathaway replaced him. The movie was retitled Circus World and was released in 1964 starring John Wayne, Claudia Cardinale and Rita Hayworth. The big budget epic was not a pleasant experience for all involved. Capra quit the project when Wayne insisted that his favorite screenwriter, James Edward Grant be brought in to rewrite Capra's script. Grant had a simplistic outlook on the story and told Capra that all a Wayne movie needed was "some hoyty-toyty dame with big tits" that Duke could end up spanking at the end. Capra viewed this as a serious production and when Wayne refused to back him up, he quit the project. The Biblical epic never materialized and he never directed another film. Circus World was a rare flop for Wayne, who almost perished during the production when a fire in a circus tent raged out of control. The following year he teamed with Hathaay again for The Sons of Katie Elder which restored his box-office clout.
This trade magazine advertisement for the 1964 reissue of Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window illustrates why the master director wouldn't make it past the studio gates today. Hitch's morbid sense of humor would have seen him sued by mental health professionals and murderers who claim that he was mocking the psychological demons that caused them to commit crimes. Then, Oprah would have devoted an entire hour to the tragic tales of the theater owners who are "threatened" in the ad for not showing the film. On air, theyu would relate that the ad has been so traumatic that they hadn't been able to sleep in weeks!
Here's another entry in the seemingly endless list of major film projects that were announced but never came to fruition.
This announcement was made in the trade magazine Film Daily on May 27, 1964:
Chuck Connors to Film Walter Hagen Story
Chuck Connors' Ranch Productions has bought the rights to the story of golf champ Walter Hagen in association with writer Ben Wahrman. Connors will play Hagen in the film. He and Wahrman are working on the script.
Chuck Connors in his hit TV series "The Rifleman". His big screen golf bio pic never made it out of development hell.
exclusive: First on set report from new Hammer film!
Our mysterious Phantom Reporter brings you details of the first Hammer horror production since 1976.
it was announced that Hammer films (bought by a private group of investors led
by Dutch billionaire John de Mol) was going into production again. This news
has been heard several times over the years, leading fans to become more than a
little skeptical. However, this time it really seemed to be true. Still
slightly incredulous, Cinema Retro visited the set mid-shoot just to make sure…
Beyond the Rave is the title of the new film,
an obvious play on words, and it concerns a young soldier about to be sent to
Iraq who falls into the wrong sort of crowd. Very wrong. Vampires in fact, who
like to hold illegal raves (that’s parties with terrible music to you and me)
and feed off the drugged-up guests. It appears to be a loose updating of Dracula: 1972 AD.
cast is mostly made up of actors who do have links to horror: Sadie Frost (Bram Stoker’s Dracula), Leslie Simpson (Dog Soldiers and The Descent), Nora-Jane Noone (also The Descent), Neil Newbon (er, TV
medical soap Casualty), Lois Winstone
(daughter of the legendary Ray Winstone) and Jake Maskall (Eastenders, which is horrible, if not horror as such). Also cast in
a “small but significant role”, to quote the press release, is Ingrid Pitt who
at least provides a tangible link to the old Hammer. Christopher Lee is
conspicuous by his absence. The director is Matthias Hoene, best known for his
music videos and adverts.
Among the cast members is Lois Winstone, daughter of Ray Winstone who will be appearing in the new Indiana Jones film.
Retro found itself in a disused Victorian warehouse in Plumstead where one of
these illegal raves was taking place. Although the original press release
stated the film was being shot in 35mm they were only using High Definition
cameras which was perhaps to be expected. The music was proved by Pete Tong, a well
known British DJ, and the drugs were fortunately only props. The atmosphere on
set was quite relaxed with most of the leg work being done by the Assistant
Director, Hoene spending most of his time behind monitors or with the principal
complete the party atmosphere a fire breather had been brought in from a local
circus, and Cinema Retro managed to somehow stand right next to him for most
the action. It was hot but quite exciting. Amongst the dancing extras were many
Hammer fans who wanted to be involved in the first Hammer horror film since To The Devil a Daughter in 1976. Sadly
none of them were wearing Hammer t-shirts, which would have been a nice touch.
climax of the evening involved the vampires donning gas masks and poisoning
everyone on the room whilst death metal band Chrome Hoof performed on stage.
Much to everyone’s disappointment the band had gas masks too. On cue all the
extras choked and collapsed slowly to the floor, Cinema Retro included.
Unfortunately two sweaty ravers landed on top of me ruining any chance of a
decent close up.
film is to be released in downloadable sections for mobile phones, iPods and
the internet, hopefully with a DVD release to follow. With a purported
production budget of only £200,000 it is unlikely to find a theatrical release,
but if successful could pave the way for bigger Hammer productions to come.
Maybe even that remake of The Devil Rides
Out Christopher Lee has been desperate to make for the last ten years.
for Cinema Retro another life-long ambition, to be killed by a vampire in a
Hammer film, has been fulfilled. All that remains is to be cast in the remake
of Barbarella. We’ll keep you posted.- The Phantom Reporter
Swedish poster for The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
It's no secret that Richard Burton had been on the short list of actors considered to play James Bond. However, a newly published interview with his great-nephew Guy Masterson reveals a few more insights as to why the Welsh actor did not accept Ian Fleming's personal suggestion that he play the role. The reason is as mundane as it is honest: at the time Bond was not a household name and Burton simply didn't forsee the future of the character or franchise. In retrospect, this was good news for Bond producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman because no matter how successful the first Bond film would have been, Burton was far too much of a free spirit to get tied down with a series for any length of time. Ironically, in 1965, at the height of Bond mania, Burton scored one of his biggest successes with his Oscar-nominated role in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold playing a cynical, worn-out MI6 agent who was the anithesis of 007. (For Robert Sellers' extensive article on the Bond film that never was - the original plans for Thunderball starring Richard Burton- see Cinema Retro issue #8) For more on this story click here
Cherry Red Records continue to impress with
their steady flow of Classic film scores and compilations. Eva (1962)
(CASA3CD) is a welcome release that was previously available on a hard to find
Japanese CD pressing. Michel Legrand’s beautifully constructed jazz score
serves as a perfect compliment to director Joseph Losey’s charismatic images of
the films Venetian setting. Eva was a welcome departure for its lead Stanley
Baker, the Welsh actor who had aligned himself to the more heroic, muscle-bound
roles. Baker plays Tyvian, a Welsh writer living the jet set life from the
proceeds of a screenplay based on his bestseller. In Venice, Tyvian falls in love with a beautiful,
high class prostitute played by Jeanne Moreau, who ultimately destroys both his
career and life in what is a compelling example of a great 60’s drama. It is
Eva’s love of jazz music that is reflected within Legrand’s score. Legrand was made fully aware that he was actually the director’s
second choice for composer. He originally wanted Miles Davis for the project. Legrand did not let this undermine his enthusiasm and remained focused and totally committed to the project. He collaborated tirelessly
with Losey, ensuring that the rhythm of the music and cutting became an
essential part of the Eva experience. It was of course the very element that
suffered the most when the producers insisted on cutting the films running time
from 155 to 103 minutes. Losey was naturally incensed with the decision,
describing it as ‘disastrous,’ but he remained powerless, regardless of his
efforts. Moreau was apparently furious with the butchered version and
the film’s producers Raymond and Robert Hakim. So much in fact, she reportedly
chased one of them with a knife, proclaiming to reporters, ‘He closed the door
just in time; otherwise I would have skinned him.’
With the director's cut apparently now lost,
it’s hard to distinguish just how much was sacrificed in terms of score. However,
this new release is in my opinion, the best available version on the market.
Boasting among its tracks, the 2 songs ‘Willow Weep’ and ‘Loveless love’
sung by the irreplaceable Billie Holiday as well as the previously released
vocal ‘Adam and Eva’ by Tony Middleton. With audio quality and
production that sounds near perfect, it’s one of those European 60’s soundtracks
that simply shouldn’t be missed.
In an exclusive interview with the Washington Post, Clint Eastwood discusses his next film, The Changeling starring Angelina Jolie as a woman in the center of a kidnapping drama. He also theorizes on the prospects of adapting astronaut Neil Armstrong's autobiography for the big screen and discusses his involvement in perpetuating public interest in jazz music. As usual, Hollywood's elder statesman/director is low-key and self-deprecating in his sense of humor. To read the article click here.
Here's a bit of Clint Eastwood trivia: did you know that Frank Sinatra had originally signed to play Dirty Harry? We have a rare original trade advertisement for the Chairman of the Board as the tough cop featured in our Dirty Harry 10 page tribute in Cinema Retro issue #9.
Cinema Retro Editor-in-Chief LEE PFEIFFER takes a look at the new DVD edition of director William Friedkin's most controversial film.
When I was a kid way back in 1969, my friend's mother took her two young sons to the movies in an attempt to see Midnight Cowboy. When the person inside the box-office pointed out the X rating and refused to sell her tickets for her kids, the mom blurted out, "Why not? My boys love westerns!" One can only hope that equally well-meaning but naive moms don't put Warner Home Entertainment's new special DVD edition of director William Friedkin's Cruising in their kid's Christmas stockings because they think it will call to mind episodes of the old Love Boat series. The film caused a firestorm while it was still in production and was no less controversial upon its release in 1980. Unless you literally came to the city on the back of a hay wagon, you're probably aware that Cruising is not a promotional film for the Royal Caribbean line. Rather, it is a grim and often shocking story about a series of gruesome murders that takes place in New York City's infamous gay leather bars. The film is ostensibly a standard crime melodrama. Al Pacino is a young cop who enthusiastically accepts a top secret assignment from his boss (Paul Sorvino) to drop out of society and go undercover in the bar scene in order to solve the murders. Pacino initially views the mission as a way to fast track his way to the rank of detective. However, he soons finds himself haunted by the old axiom, "Be careful what you wish for - you just may get it."
Pacino as police officer Steve Burns: going all the way.
In speaking to William Friedkin recently, I candidly told him that when
I saw the film upon its initial release I found it loathsome. Yet, upon
viewing it again on DVD, I was mesmerized by the subtleties of the
script and the entire style of the movie. Friedkin speculated that
perhaps I had simply matured along with my ability to judge the
complexities of films such as this. That seems a fair guess, but I
would argue that certain films can almost never be appreciated with one
viewing. They are designed to be seen repeatedly because, if properly
made, the viewer can discover new aspects that continue to enrich the
experience. Cruising is one such film. Friedkin told me his main influence for the movie was Antonioni's 1966 film, Blow Up -
for some a pretentious bore and for others (including myself) a
thoroughly unique cinematic experience that improves with every
viewing. Even Friedkin doesn't argue that Cruising succeeds on the same level as Blow Up -
but if you can bare the gut wrenching experience of watching it more
than once, you might find he has succeeded in crafting a fascinating
film that - like the movie that inspired it - leaves the viewer to use
their imagination to answer the many open-ended plot elements that
remain at the story's conclusion. Like any such work, each viewer might
have an entirely different take on what they have seen.
WE CONTINUE OUR SERIES OF REPORTS FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT JOHN EXSHAW'S DIARY FROM THE RECENTLY CONCLUDED VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL.
Started the day by calling in on Giancarlo Santi at his
hotel, having arranged an interview with him last night. He was just finishing
his breakfast, but otherwise seemed quite ready to hit the trail and “git them
dogies rolling”. Politeness required that I kept my generally low opinion of
‘The Grand Duel’ to myself – though to be fair to Santi, I never got the
impression that he himself regards it as an imperishable classic. In any case,
I was much more interested in hearing him talk about his time as assistant
director to Sergio Leone on ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’, ‘Once Upon a Time
in the West’ and ‘Giù la testa’ (‘A Fistful of Dynamite’, ‘Duck, You Sucker’).
Santi speaks pretty good English, but as the interview progressed, he tended to
lapse into Italian with increasing frequency. When he apologized for this, I
suggested that he continue in Italian, saying I could always get the tape
translated at a later date.
The best-known story involving Santi concerns his aborted
direction of ‘Giù la testa’, caused by Rod Steiger’s refusal to work with
anyone other than Leone. After about three days, so the story goes, Steiger
refused to continue under Santi’s direction, responding to Leone’s assurances
that Santi was perfectly capable by saying, okay, I’ll send along my stand-in,
he’s perfectly capable too. And so, reluctantly, Leone demoted Santi and
assumed the directorial burden himself . . .
Santi, however, remembers things rather differently. At the
end of filming ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’, he recalls, Leone turned to him,
removed his viewfinder and placed it around Santi’s neck, telling him, “You
will direct the next film.” Santi, who doesn’t appear to have harboured any
great desire to be a director, thought no more about it. Some two years later,
when Santi was working in Africaas
assistant director on Glauber Rocha’s ‘The Lion Has Seven Heads’, Leone,
unbeknownst to him, took out a full-page ad. in Variety announcing ‘Giù
la testa’, “to be directed by Giancarlo Santi”. Leone was immediately bombarded
with telegrams from both Steiger’s and James Coburn’s agents: their clients had
accepted the film on the understanding that it was to be “Directed by Sergio
Leone”, and they weren’t going to settle for the crown prince in place of the
king. When Santi did join the film as assistant director, it was the first he’d
heard of all this rumpus, and he categorically denies that he shot any
principle scenes, or any scenes which would not fall within the usual remit of the
We continued talking about his work with Leone, but such
stories as emerged will have to wait for another time. Before I left, he
whipped out a digital print of Lee Van Cleef and himself on the set of ‘The
Grand Duel’ and proceeded to inscribe it to me. Remembering Lee and Dave’s
injunction to “spread the good word”, I presented him with a back issue of Cinema
Retro, shook hands and oiled off.
On September 12th,
the great and good descended upon the Odeon Leicester Square Theatre for a red carpet
event. No, not a film premiere but rather a pictorial account of 60 years of
film premieres, with the launch of Harry Myers' book Pictures and Premieres. Celebrating six
decades of being the official photographer of film premieres, Royal Film
Performances and high profile 'Wardour Street' events; Harry has compiled 300 of
his favourite photographs into a dazzling book, with a Foreword by Sir Roger
The book was co-authored by Cinema Retro columnist Gareth Owen and John Willis.
All of the James Bond
premieres feature, as do The Beatles. Scores of industry legends such as Cecil B.
DeMille, Alfred Hitchcock, Louis B Mayer, Dino DeLaurentis punctuate the pages
between film stars - and these were the days when stars were
The launch of the
book was a never-before-seen event at the Odeon. Over 150 people gathered to
view the photographs on display, and to pick up a copy of the book. Amongst the
celebs were: Dave Prowse, Sherrie Hewson, Earl Cameron, Euan Lloyd, Roy Ward
Baker, Caroline Munro, Nina Myskow, Shane Rimmer, Thomas Wheatley, John Moreno,
Jan Williams, Maddy Smith, Valerie Leon and many more.
In 1967, United Artists released director John Sturges quasi-sequel to his classic "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral". The film was titled "Hour of the Gun" and starred James Garner as Wyatt Earp and Jason Robards as Doc Holliday. Did you know the film was originally titled "The Law in Tombstone"? Reader Bill O'Hara points out that the title change came at the last minute because publicity stills from the movie still have the initials of the original title in the code numbers.
Readers enjoyed our recent blurb about the 1966 reissue of the 1940s Batman serials. We heard from Cinema Retro subscriber John McElwee who alerted us to the fact that he has a super cool tribute to the caped crusader's big screen adventures on his own web site, Greenbriar Picture Show. In reviewing the site, we were immediately smitten by the unique subejct matter: the glory days of movie exhibition gimmicks. Thus, the site is packed with rare movie marquee photos, bizarre publicity stunts and publicity stills from a wealth of vintage movies. Warning: the site is damned addictive and we advise you not to visit it until you have a good hour to spare wallowing in these rarities. To visit the site, click here
Our Man Exshaw has returned home from the city of mystery and intrigue, having covered one of the world's most important film festivals. John's columns have attracted the greatest number of readers our site has ever had, so we're happy to continue his diaries reflecting on the events that took place at the Venice International Film Festival's tribute to Italian Westerns. We'll be presenting the remaining segments of John's daily diary of events that took place at the festival. Please note that the diary entries were written contemporaneously with the on-going events.
Monday got off to a similar start to Sunday, with the need
to file copy putting paid to a second and last chance to catch the new Jesse
James movie. Then, at 3:30 p.m., I filed into the press conference hall for a
gabfest entitled “Eastern Western: The Impact of the Spaghetti Western in Asia
and America”. The panel for this event comprised of Marco Giusti, Richard
Corliss (Time), Jim Hoberman (The Village Voice), and Sadao
Yamane (or Yamane Sadao, if you prefer the Japanese surname-first rendering), a
venerable cinema journalist and current Professor of Film Studies at Tokei
University. It was chaired by Peter Cowie, the equally venerable founder of The
International Film Guide and author of definitive studies of The Godfather
films and Apocalypse Now.
Cowie began with a mea culpa on behalf of himself and
his generation of film critics who had dismissed the Spaghetti Western as a
sacrilegious abomination in the 1960s, saying that for those raised on the
classic, formal Hollywood Western, it was simply not possible then to
appreciate the innovation and iconoclastic viewpoint of directors like Leone
and Corbucci. He ended by noting that while “Hollywood won’t back actual
Westerns, [there are] plenty of films that are derived from the Spaghetti
Western template” – a perfectly valid general point, if somewhat undercut by
the recent or forthcoming release of ‘Seraphim Falls’, ‘3:10 to Yuma’, and the
Jesse James opus.
Giusti then talked about growing up with the Italian Western
in the 1960s, and how domestic product filled a gap in the second-run cinema
schedules created by the decline in Hollywood’s output of B-Westerns by the
likes of William Witney and R.G. Springsteen.
Richard Corliss recalled his youth in Philadelphia and how
he and his friends would enjoy the three types of Italian films then on offer:
the auteur film, the “personality” film (in which they could see actors
such as Marcello Mastroianni whom they’d first encountered in auteur
films), and genre films such as pepla and Westerns. He then proposed an
hitherto overlooked contribution by Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood to Western
fashion – the three-day growth of beard, which Leone used to make Eastwood look
older and more hard-bitten and which, as Corliss said, “is still very much with
us.” He also mentioned a story told by Sergio Donati, of how Eastwood began to
modulate his naturally “musical” voice after hearing the slower and more
laconic delivery of Enrico Maria Salerno, the actor who dubbed Eastwood in Italian
We told you we would be making a major announcement about The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and here it is: commencing with the latest issue (#9), Cinema Retro will be covering each of the eight U.N.C.L.E feature
films in depth. The films were derived from two-part episodes of the TV
series and some were supplemented with additional footage used to
sex-up the films or to extend the running time. Initially, we planned
to cover all the films in one feature. However, upon examination, we
discovered that the stories behind these movies were so fascinating
that we've decided to devote a section to every film over the next
three seasons of the magazine. This will be the most in-depth study of these motion pictures
ever undertaken. U.N.C..L..E expert Craig Henderson will be
authoring most of the pieces which are supplemented by rare movie
stills, international advertising posters and rare trade magazine
advertisements. The fact that this series commences with the soon-to-be released DVD collection of
the U.N.C.L.E. series from Time Life is pure coincidence - but a
delightful one. Our magazine has contributed to the forthcoming set by providing certain rare materials. Additionally, Cinema Retro Editor-in-Chief Lee Pfeiffer will discuss the series history and impact on the new bonus documentaries contained in the DVD set. (The DVD set will not be available in retail outlets but you will be able to pre-order it from the Cinema Retro site). Details about the official release date and retail price will be announced shortly.
regular readers of Cinema Retro know, both David McCallum and Robert
Vaughn have been ardent supporters of the magazine. David's interview
column is possibly the most popular feature we've ever showcased in the
magazine. We look forward to getting more insights from both actors
during the promotional period of the DVD set. Meanwhile, the series on
the U.N.C.L.E. feature films commences with the latest issue - #9 with 6 pages of fascinating insights and photos from To Trap a Spy.
The issue is packed with plenty of other great features including a ten
page tribute to Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry, David McCallum's
memories of The Greatest Story Ever Told, James Bond girl Luciana Paluzzi's interview in which she recalls making Thunderball, special effects genius Ray Harryhausen grants an exclusive interview, an interview with In Like Flint beauty Jean Hale, the inside story on the making of Stephen King's Salem's Lot,
Raymond Benson's 10 best films of 1967, and plenty more. In an age in
which most other film magazines have Brad and Angelina on the cover,
there is no other publication that will cover these topics and stars -
except for Cinema Retro. Coming in issue #10- the making of The Spy With My Face, the second U.N.C.L.E. feature film.
Cinema Retro publishers Dave Worrall (left) and Lee Pfeiffer with Robert Vaughn in London. (Photo: Tom Stroud)
Closing Channel D!
Lee and Dave
Note to North American subscribers: this issue is expected to arrive next week and will be sent out to you as soon as it arrives.
Darren Allison reviews the long-awaited original soundtrack release for the third Dirty Harry thriller.
I have to admit I really couldn’t imagine this fabulous Jerry
Fielding score ever seeing the light of day, and yet, Lalo Schifrin’s Aleph
records have seemingly pulled off the impossible. After basking in the glory of
both Schifrin’s Dirty Harry and Magnum Force soundtracks, I was doubtful there
would ever be a release of the score for the third Harry film, The Enforcer
(1976) - because it's the one film in the series Schifrin did not score. When
he was unavailable at the time, Jerry Fielding was brought in to bridge the gap
in the series until Schifrin was free to return and complete the remaining two
scores in the Dirty Harry legacy (Sudden Impact and The Dead Pool). Fielding’s
entry in the series is undoubtedly jazz orientated, a fresh and lightweight style
in comparison to the gritty and hard edged urban feel that dominated the
previous two scores. Not that there’s anything wrong with Fielding’s approach.
The Enforcer (Aleph Records 038) is, after all, an entirely different movie.
The ‘Main Title’ is a great opener, full of energetic big brass horns.
‘Warehouse Heist’ is a good example of Fielding’s familiar tension-building
that we’ve all become accustomed to, opening with subtle percussion while
harsh, randomly plucked strings summon the arrival of the terrorists and their
quest to locate an arsenal of deadly weaponry. ‘Rooftop chase’ (one of only
three previously released tracks) is a long and frantic funky jazz piece
consisting of brass, sax, keyboards and flute, all which work off each other to
I’ve always believed that Eastwood originally intended to
end the series with The Enforcer, long before the franchise became a bartering
tool between him and Warner Brothers. Callahan appears a defeated man, not in
terms of his job, but perhaps on a far deeper and more poignant level. This is
evident in Fielding’s score via some rather moving pieces. ‘Code Blue’ in
particular represents the death of Callahan’s long-standing friend and college
Frank DiGiorgio (John Mitchum) and perhaps more significantly, the solemn and
remorseful ‘Elegy for Inspector Moore’ which centers on the demise of his
partner Inspector Kate Moore (Tyne Daly). As Callahan’s record shows, it’s not
the first partner he’s lost, but the score closes with an almost overwhelming
and concluding sense of both sadness and grief. Was it the end of a developing
personal relationship between Callahan and Moore? Was it that she sacrificed
her own life to save that of Callahan’s? Had Harry finally succumb to his
limitations? Whatever the reasons, Fielding’s score perfectly captures the
essence of Harry and remains both a terrific and vital entry in the 70’s Dirty
Harry saga. The Enforcer is available direct from www.schifrin.com
Director David Cronenberg built a loyal fan base in the 1970s and 1980s with popular, off-beat cult films such as Scanners and Videodrome. Since then, he has gone mainstream - but has he lost the creative touches that originally endeared him to his fans? Cinema Retro's David Savage takes a look at Cronenberg's latest effort.
In Eastern Promises, David
Cronenberg's new crime thriller set in London's East End, Nikolai Luzhin (Viggo
Mortensen) stubs out a cigarette on his tongue just before "operating" on a
recent mob victim to prep him for disposal into the Thames – snipping off the
ends of his fingers with surgical clippers, bloodless and frozen solid after
spending a few days in a meat freezer. It seems to set the requisite
Cronenbergian tone: fixing a cold, unblinking gaze on bodily mutilation and
violence. There are a few more signature Cronenberg moments that punctuate
Eastern Promises, a thoughtfully paced, gloomy tale of honor and betrayal
in a Russian organized crime family, just enough to make the viewer aware that
this otherwise conventional tale is in the hands of Canada's most provocative
director. But the fun stops there. Working from another director's script (Steve
Knight, Academy Award-nomination for Dirty Pretty Things), Cronenberg is merely lending his own
signature treatment to a familiar-feeling genre piece with a Hollywood-style
happy ending, ill-suited to a story set in criminality, betrayal and violence.
I'll be the last person to force a director to be a one-trick pony, but this
film, while well done, engaging and credibly acted, could have been directed by
any of a dozen directors of Cronenberg's stature. It just doesn't seem worthy of
his perverse and brilliant talent.
Eastern Promises examines what happens when an interloper on a moral
crusade steps into a wholly amoral world with its own perverse codes of honor.
Anna Khitrova (Naomi Watts), a midwife at a North London hospital, oversees the
birth of a baby whose mother, a 15-year old heroin addict and Russian immigrant,
dies in labor. The teenager has left a diary, and within its pages Anna
discovers the slavery and forced prostitution to which the young mother had been
subjected at the hands of one of London's most notorious organized crime
families, the Vory V Zakone, headed by Semyon (a dead-eyed and threatening Armin
Mueller-Stahl). His surface charm and grandfatherly warmth as the proprietor of
a private Russian dining club masks a brutal and vindictive core as the
patriarch of his crime family. His new driver, Nikolai (Mortensen) and violent
son (Vincent Cassel) will go to any lengths to protect the family's honor and
privacy. When the diary leads Anna to the restaurant to seek information as to
the girl's family and the baby's rightful inheritors, she unwittingly entangles
herself in a mortal struggle involving several lives, including her own.
Unlike Cronenberg's own films which he wrote
and directed (The Brood, Videodrome, Dead Ringers,
Crash , eXistenZ to name a few), Eastern Promises, like A History ofViolence (2005) and Spider (2002) before it,
is disappointingly bereft of the familiar themes of transgression and "body
horror" on a visceral level his fans have come to expect. Mortensen may be the
director's new muse, as both seem on a mutually fruitful collaboration as they
explore psyche, physicality and identity here and in A History of
Violence. And as in many of Cronenberg's previous films, director of
photography Peter Suschitzky suffuses the film with a highly atmospheric,
elegant gloom, full of wine reds and deep shadows. But is it a worthwhile
Cronenberg outing if it doesn't provoke an argument over dinner, or no one flees
the theater in disgust? I dare say no.
With the exception of Naomi Watts, whose
character evokes the sort of role Jenny Agutter might have played thirty years
ago (and actually made me pine for), the cast is first rate. Mortensen creates a
thoroughly credible Russian thug, due to intensive research before filming,
involving traveling alone to Russia and immersing himself in locales frequented
by the thugs of Russia's crime families; Vincent Cassel, likewise, is wholly
believable as the volatile and conflicted son of Semyon. As Mortensen said in a
press interview and I agree with him, Cassel is able to begin the film as an
appalling thug and end the film by making the viewer care about his abused soul.
MGM has released a boxed set consisting of 8 previously available Roger Corman titles. The films are packaged as four double feature discs with a film on each side. These titles represent a wide array of subject matters and illustrate how prolific the B movie king is as a moviemaker. Mention Corman's name to most movie fans and they'll likely conure up images of his wildly successful screen adapations of Edgar Allan Poe tales that generally starred Vincent Price. However, there is far more diversity to Corman's achievements, as illustrated by this boxed set. In fact, there is nary a single Price/Corman collaborative effort offered here. I confess to not having seen a number of the films offered in this set and most of those I did see were back during their original releases. Thus, I was able to take a fresh and objective approach to evaluating their worth. For the most part, this eclectic collection offers some of Corman's most impressive (and occasionally underrated) efforts.
"Goldfinger" girls Shirley Eaton (left) and Tania Mallet appear for autograph signing session at London's Vintage Magazine Store. (Photo copyright Mark Mawston)
Saturday September 8th at 12 noon was a time and
date highlighted with a gold marker in many a Bond fan’s diary as this was the
time they would have the opportunity to meet the Masterson sisters from Goldfinger,' Shirley Eaton and Tania
Mallet for a double 007 signing.
It’s well documented that Shirley’s gold painted body became
an iconic image of the 60’s, but to have both the Masterson sisters Jill and
Tilly together at Vintage Magazine Store in London’s Soho was an 18 carat
pleasure. Both ladies, accompanied by Gareth Owen of Cinema Retro and www.bondstars.com,
were in fine form, with the interest in Goldfinger
riding high after its very successful re-release at various UK cinemas.
Park Circus recently confirmed that if the fans had the choice of another digital
re-issue then On Her Majesy’s Secret Service
would be the next film to be digitally transferred to the big screen. We’ll
wait and see. The only disappointment on the day was that I didn’t get my Goldfinger quad poster signed by the
official Golden Girls as the fans behind me seemed anxious to get their own
stuff covered in gold pen! – Mark Mawston
The Golden ladies pose in front of an Italian theater poster. (Photo copyright Mark Mawston)
Steve McQueen and Robert Vaughn on location in San Francisco for Bullitt in March, 1968.
The San Franisco Chronicle has just raided its archives and come up with a brief but fun report from March 1968 that involves a reporter's visit to the set of Bullitt and a memorable bike ride with Steve McQueen. Click here to read
Cinema Retro writer Steve Mori presents his own exclusive interview with Steve McQueen, who he met as a teenage on the set of Bullitt. When he was in high school, Mori was assigned to do an interview with anyone of prominence. While most students opted for the local fire chief or dog catcher, Mori boasted he would get an interview with his favorite actor Steve McQueen - despite the fact he had never met him, had no connection to the movie business and that his idoll rarely granted interviews. For Mori's full report and the interview McQueen ended up granting him on the set of The Reivers, see Cinema Retro issue #1.
To celebrate the forthcoming release of the new book The Alamo: A Visual Celebration of John Wayne's Classic Film
from Sundown Entertainment Company, Spy Guise Entertainment has
reissued - by popular demand- musician Mike Boldt's acclaimed 2004 CD, The Alamo: A Musical Tribute to John Wayne's Epic Film.
The CD features Mike's versions of Dimitri Tiomkin's classic score -
plus original songs inspired by the motion picture. The CD also offers:
Alamo experts and scholars reading actual letters from the real Alamo heroes, Davy Crockett and Col. William Travis
Illustrated collectible booklet detailing the making of the film
Ultra rare, original radio spot commericals for the movie not heard since its release in 1960.
With (in order of appearance): Sergio Donati, Sir Christopher Frayling,
Howard Hughes, Sergio Leone, Clint Eastwood, Franco Giraldi, Enzo G.
Castellari, Sergio Martino, Ferdinando Baldi, Manolo Bolognini, Alex Cox, Franco
Nero, Sergio Corbucci, Sergio Sollima, Ennio Morricone, Alessandro
Alessandroni, Damiano Damiani, and Tomás Milian
Docurama/IFC, 2005NTSC/Region 1/56 mins.$26.95
Review by John Exshaw
Once upon a time in a film class, a lecturer was heard to
bemoan the presence in video stores of an abundance of “cheap Spaghetti
Westerns” in a tone which indicated, quite unambiguously, that he was not just
complaining about the prices. Nor, it is safe to assume, was he merely venting
his displeasure at the films’ paucity of production values. No, what was
agitating this sage of celluloid was the complete and utter lack of
authenticity inherent in Spaghetti Westerns; they were, by place of birth,
ethnicity, definition, and any other criteria one might care to apply, most
definitely not the real thing.
Spaghetti Westerns did not show a true picture of the Old
West – unlike, say, the Hopalong Cassidy films or those of Gene Autry. They
were not historically accurate – unlike, say, They Died With Their Boots On
or My Darling Clementine. They were not made by American directors –
unlike, say, Rancho Notorious or High Noon. They did not star
American actors – except when they did. They were not shot on genuine Western
locations – such as the legendary Columbia backlot. And they were cheap,
goddammit, quite unlike the big-budget, super-productions synonymous with
studios such as Republic and Monogram. Yes, folks, down with “cheap” Italian
Westerns, and hooray for Hollywood, the home of authenticity!
In going through the endless Cinema Retro archives, I came across this lobby card from the 1971 Swedish soft core porn film, Dagmar's Hot Pants and it brought back some misty-eyed memories of my youth. When Dagmar opened, I was a sophmore in high school and my friend and I tried to see it. Alas, an eagle-eyed old lady at the box-office (was there ever anyone but eagle-eyed old ladies manning the boxoffices in those days?) would not let us in because we were not 17 years old. (The film was rated a blazing-hot "R"). Disappointed, we ended up rebelling by going to a grind house on 42nd Street where, as long as you didn't ride up to the boxoffice on a tricycle, you were deemed old enough to see the hardcore shows. We ended up watching the latest "loops" from good old John Holmes (aka Long Johnny Wadd, the screen's greatest swordsman since Errol Flynn). Yet, I've always been haunted by the elusive Dagmar and have long pondered why he was so indelibly associated with the short-lived trend of hot pants. Even more fascinating is that it's a sex-based film starring Robert Strauss - yes, that Robert Strauss - the guy who played Animal in Stalag 17 and who sported a gloriously "lived in" mug that made Rondo Hatton look like Paul Newman. Locating the above lobby card only whetted my appetite even more. It appears to feature an Asian midget in a Swedish sex film starring an aging American character actor. If anyone out there in cyberspace has seen Dagmar's Hot Pants, please let us know more about this Swedish contribution to happier living. If nothing else, we're hooked on the tag line for the film that we found on www.imdb.com
"A Satisfied Customer Is Our Most Important Product!"
The Making of the Sound of Music is a volume of very modest production values. Published by Routledge Press, it comes in at a skimpy 112 pages and features a sparse, but interesting selection of black and white photos. However, this is a book that should not be judged by its cover because author Max Wilk is able to shed some new light on the history of the legendary stage production and movie version. Wilk, described on the jacket as "one of America's leading theater historians" brings a unique expertise to the oft-told tale behind the creation of the show so saccarine that it's been referred to as The Sound of Mucus. Wilk was in the employ of the theatrical producer who first had the idea of turning the story of the Von Trapp family into a stage production. To his credit, Wilk candidly admits he was not a fan of the show in its first tryouts and advised his boss not to attempt a Broadway opening. Fortunately for his boss, he ignored the advice and doggedly insisted that this play might be loathed by critics but would be red meat to the general public. To his shock, Wilk confesses he was astounded to witness the fanatical audience response on opening night. He still finds the allure and charm of the story to be elusive, but that's what makes his book so highly enjoyable. Wilk knows his facts and presents us with a compelling, dramatic and often amusing story behind the story. Probably nothing illustrates the gap between critics and audience preferences like The Sound of Music does. For the record, we agree that diabetics should give it wide berth, but we're hopelessly hooked on it ourselves - even though the thought of seeing all those "cutesy " nuns isn't one of our favorite habits...pardon the pun. Add this book to your collection - you can read the entire tome in between the commercial breaks of your favorite TV show - and its well worth the time.- Lee Pfeiffer
The title of The Three Stooges last feature film was "The Outlaws IS Coming!" and was released in 1965. Did you know that it was originally filmed under the title "The Three Stooges Meet the Gunslingers"?
Director John Boorman's 1972 classic Deliverance gets a deluxe release from Warner Brothers, and it's sure to please patient fans who have had to subside on the skimpy standard edition that has been on the market. The film is based on poet James Dickey's first novel, a harrowing tale of four buddies from Atlanta who decide to take a weekend canoe trip down a remote Georgia river that is being diverted and will flood nearby towns into extinction. They're a disparate group: Ed (Jon Voight) is the down-to-earth, practical guy who is everyone's best friend; Lewis (Burt Reynolds) is an egotistical survivalist who constantly thrives on being physically superior to his friends; Drew (Ronny Cox) is a quiet, deep thinker and Bobby (Ned Beatty) is the complete fish-out-of-water - a timid, overweight man trying desperately to be accepted as one of the boys. The "fun" weekend starts off on an ominous note as the men witness the sad sight of entire communities about to be disrupted and physically moved. They also begin to carp among each other as Lewis continues to pick on those he feels are not his equals. The plot takes an unexpected and terrifying turn, however, when Ed and Bobby encounter two red neck mountain men who have sex and murder on their minds. This development leads to consequences that are both physically and mentally devastating to everyone involved.
Gone are the glory days of movie promotion, when roadshow engagements at prestigious theaters would often play for many months - and in some cases over a year. Case in point, the following article we came across in the November 5, 1964 issue of Film Daily. It relates the success of Stanley Kramer's $9 million blockbuster comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and its long-running engagement at the Pacific Cinerama Theatre in Hollywood:
"(The film) celebrates its first anniversary today at the Pacific Cinerama Theatre where it had it's world premiere. Chamagne party, with four stars of the picture, Edie Adams, Milton Berle, Dorothy Provine and Phil Silvers in attendance, will be one of the highlights of the birthday celebration as will a press conference at the theater attended by producer-director Stanley Kramer, representatives of the Los Angeles City Concil, the Chamber of Commerce, William R. Forman, president of Pacific Theatres and others. Film, which will continue its run at the Pacific Cinerama, opens its 50th hard ticket engagement at the Cooper Cinerama in Minneapolis November 20."
The long-running Little Shoppe of Horrors, which is dedicated solely to Hammer horror films, is but one of the periodicals covered on www.moviemags.com
One of our favorite web sites is www.moviemags.com which offers a fascinating look into the world of film-related periodicals. As we enter our fourth years of publication, Cinema Retro is swimming against the tide in publishing a print magazine in the age of the Internet. The graveyard of failed film magazines is amply illustrated by Movie Mags' R.I.P. section that lists some of the most prestigious movie publications of all time that have since ceased publication. However, the site also offers encouragement by listing and reviewing the latest issue of obscure film magazines from around the world. The site provides quite a unique service to fans who still value the ability to hold and read the printed word in magazine format. Generally speaking whenever a movie magazine folds, many people say "Wow, that's too bad - I loved that magazine!" Yet, if you ask if they supported it by
subscribing, most will say "Er, no, I didn't." As we've said many
times, the cost of subscribing to any film magazine for a year is less
than it costs for two people to attend one two-hour movie. Hopefully a
visit to www.moviemags.com will motivate the stragglers to keep the
great tradition of movie magazines alive and thriving. To visit the
site click here
She was one of the sexiest stars to emerge from Hollywood in the 1950s. Her films include such classics as Picnic and Vertigo. Yet, after a relatively short career beset by personal crisis and tragedies, she went into self-imposed exile. Kim Novak has not made a film since 1991 and is apparently living the good life with her husband on an Oregon ranch. Her long-planned autobiography literally went up in smoke years ago when the manuscript was lost in a house fire. Thus, we will not be able to read her personal anecdotes about working with some of the industry's most legendary stars and directors. However, she has not ruled out returning to the silver screen. Variety columnist Army Archerd recently caught up with her. Click here for the story.
As part of Paramount's John Wayne 100th birtday celebration, the studio has released a deluxe collector's edition of his 1963 western comedy McLintock! On the surface, this would seem to be a strange film to get the royal treatment on DVD. It's a modest, unpretentious blockhouse comedy - yet, it remains one of Wayne's most popular films. It was not only a very big box-office hit at the time of its initial release (despite coming out during the week of the JFK assassination) but proved to be a ratings blockbuster that was telecast by the major networks for many years. In the early 1990s, Wayne's production company Batjac made a foolish error by neglecting to file the paperwork extending the copyright. Consequently, the market has been deluged ever since with dime store versions of the film on no-name video labels. Don't be fooled: there is no comparison to these versions and Paramount's gorgeous new transfer. Additionally, the public domain versions usually have soundtrack music substituted because the music retained its proper copyright. If you care about The Duke's films at all, this will remain the McLintock! of record.
Cinema Retro subscriber Bill O'Hara, who has a mega collection of rare movie stills sent this fascinating photo in with this notation:
"Just found your Unseen Scenes with the deleted Great Escape item. Here's another
one of Ashley-Pitt (David McCallum) literally drunk under the table. Too bad Mr. McCallum
couldn't have been shown this as a prompt, I'd like to hear if he remembered
filming it. I understand that both McCallum and James Coburn
suffered the most from editing. I remember a magazine picture of Ashley- Pitt
being questioned by the Gestapo agents who dropped off Bartlett at the camp. It
would re-enforce why he would have been recognized in the train station and
jumped the agent."
David McCallum as Ashley-Pitt and Steve McQueen as Hilts get soused while celebrating the 4th of July with homemade moonshine. The scene was ultimately removed from the final release cut of The Great Escape.
Well, Bill, this photo really surprised us as it wasn't among other stills of cut sequences we had come across. So, Cinema Retro worked it's magic and we did send it on to David McCallum, but -alas- David could shed no light on the background of the scene. He wrote, "I've seen the still before but have no recollections of the scene or the moment.
All I remember are the 'Wows' ..." Hmm..We have to remind ourselves to ask him what "the Wows" refers to - the success of the sequence, or was it real moonshine in the jugs?
Thanks for sharing the photo, Bill. If other collectors have rare stills they'd like to discuss, feel free to send them in.
(For major coverage of the making of The Great Escape, see Cinema Retro issue #1. For David McCallum's exclusive interview about the film, see Cinema Retro issue #8)
Cary Grant as Buffalo Bill??? It was rumored to be in the works back in 1967. However, the iconic star decided to never work before the cameras again so he could spend the maximum time with his newborn daughter Jennifer. Legendary Hollywood columnist Army Archerd has a brief but wonderful rememberance of the great star in his Variety column. Click here to read
A need to write up my reports, combined with a lack of sleep, meant I had to pass on an 11:00 a.m. showing of ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’, a film one sincerely hopes is less clumsy than its title. The former kept me occupied till , when I rode up for the ‘Spaghetti Western Round Table 1’, at which the participants were: Giuliano Gemma, Fabio Testi, Enzo Castellari, Carlo Lizzani, Tinto Brass, Sergio Salvati, Luis eEnriquez Bacalov, and Pasquale Squitieri.
Testi was asked about his 1978 film, ‘China 9, Liberty 37’, directed, depending on which sources one consults, by Monte Hellman and/or Antonio Brandt, and which featured Sam Peckinpah in the cast. Testi recalled that, “Sergio Leone was supposed to do a role, and met Peckinpah on the set . . .” Whenever Testi had any scenes with Bloody Sam, he said, Peckinpah always wanted the dialogue rewritten so that he would have the last word.
Japanese poster for "The Hills Run Red"
Lizzani spoke next, about Italian cinema in general, with occasional references to the first of two Westerns he directed, ‘The Hills Run Red’ (1966, and due to be screened tomorrow). Lizzani has often been quoted as saying he made the film only as a favour to producer Dino De Laurentiis (who told him, “We have the three Cs in common – cuore, cervelloe culo” - heart, mind and ass). In cold print, Lizzani’s comment made it seem as if he, as part of the second wave of neo-realist directors (with all that implies in terms of political engagement and intellectualism), was dismissing the film, but in person he appeared quite happy to have made Westerns and talked about them with affection and wry good humour.
MGM and 20th Century Fox have released a deluxe,
2 DVD collector’s edition of the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It probably isn’t fair to call this
a remake, but rather a complimentary piece to director Don Siegel’s classic
1956 film. In fact, director Philip Kaufman makes it clear in an interview
included on the DVD that he doesn’t view this as a remake. You would have to
have been living in a cave for the last fifty years if you don’t know the
central premise of the story: that tiny organisms from a doomed planet have
come to earth and have unobtrusively imbedded themselves throughout the
population of a small town. When townspeople fall asleep, they are ultimately
replicated by the organisms that metamorphasize from a large pod into human
form. The result is that the new being retains the physical characteristics of
the person but in fact, they are a totally different being, devoid of most
human emotions. There has been much debate over the hidden implications of the
original storyline but director Don Siegel always denied that the script was a
metaphor for Sen. McCarthy’s tactics of stamping our individuality and dissent.
Siegel always maintained that the Cold War meanings attributed to the movie
were coincidental and that he only wanted to fashion an expertly-made chiller.
That he succeeded in doing so was largely born out by the fact that director
Philip Kaufman and screenwriter W.D. Richter felt the original film was as
timely in 1978 as it was upon its initial release.
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor's 1965 story of an illicit love affair, "The Sandpiper" was trashed by critics but loved by the public. Did you know it was originally shot under the title "The Flight of the Sandpiper"?
In May of 1999, I flew to Los Angeles, armed with a tape
recorder and a stack of blank cassettes to do a string of interviews with a
motley assortment of characters that could be pigeonholed in any one of these
unflattering categories: Hollywood's Unjustly Forgotten; The Overlooked Career
Of…; or Aging Horribly and No One Cares. Some worked out and others didn't.
Among them was Forrest J. Ackerman, founder of Famous Monsters Magazine and
godfather to a generation of horror film directors. He welcomed me into his
Hollywood Hills mansion, cackling cinematically through a loudspeaker when I
rang the bell, then later insisted on answering all my questions in Esperanto;
Mr. Blackwell, the acid-tongued fashion critic and one of the original Dead End
Kids in Hollywood in the 1930s; and Pat Ast.
I may have been the last journalist to interview actress Pat
Ast, Warhol Superstar and best known for her role in Paul Morrissey's Heat (1972),
before she died in October of 2001. I had just spoken to her a few months
before she died. I was back home in New York watching TV when to my amazement,
I spotted her jazzing it up in the background of Donna Summer's 1980 video
"Bad Girls," of all things, as one of three backup singers. There was
Pat – all 200-plus pounds of her in a floral mumu with flower behind the ear,
flanked by two black vocalists, punctuating the song with the crucial refrain Ahhh….toot-toot
– yeah -- beep-beep! Without knowing why exactly, I called her up and told
her what I was watching. She sounded like she wasn't sure who it was, but
gamely played along.
German poster for Warhol's "Heat" showed Sylvia Miles and Joe Dallesandro
When I visited her in '99, she was living with her
Australian shepherd Winnie in a small cottage overgrown with bougainvillea and
wisteria vines in deepest Hollywood.
It was one of those bungalows in a garden court hidden from the street,
evocative of the days of blacklisted screenwriters like Dalton Trumbo, or
Nathaniel West smoking and writing Day of the Locust.
To celebrate Barbara Stanwyck's 100th birthday, Sony will release a special DVD edition of the classic 1940 film Golden Boy.Stanwyck went to bat with the studio to insure the title role was played by a young actor named William Holden. Holden never forgot her kindness and on her birthday every year for the rest of his life, he sent her roses. Cinema Retro will review the film in the near future. The release date for the DVD is November 13. Here is Sony's official press release:
Home Entertainment (SPHE) marks the 100th birthday of legendary
four-time Academy Award nominee and honorary Oscar winner Barbara Stanwyck with
the November 13 DVD debut of Golden Boy, the
dynamic story of a promising violinist (Academy Award winner William Holden) who
jeopardizes his career by moonlighting as a prize-fighter. Stanwyck, whose
career spanned over six decades, gives another of her indelible performances
(which include Baby Face,
Stella Dallas, The Lady Eve, Double Indemnity, Sorry, Wrong Number,
TV’s “The Big Valley”) as the woman who tries to convince Holden to give up his
musical ambitions for the glory of the boxing ring.
materials include three vintage short subjects: The Kangaroo Kid, a 1938 color cartoon
spoof of Golden
Boy; the 1940 two-reeler Pleased To Mitt You, one of the “Glove
Slingers” series of comedy shorts with Shemp Howard (of The Three Stooges); and
the August 1, 1930 edition of Screen
Snapshots, which features a 23-year-old Stanwyck being taught to play
golf by fellow actor Ricardo Cortez. The DVD also contains her very first
dramatic TV appearance: the western drama Sudden Silence, a 1956 episode of “Ford
Television Theatre” that has been unseen for 50 years.
Arrived back on the Lido to catch a showing of Alex Cox’s new film, ‘Searchers 2.0’, which is not part of the Spaghetti Western retrospective, but with a title like that, and knowing of Cox’s love of Italian Westerns, I figured it was something a gringo like me should see. On the way, I ran into Enzo Castellari and his son, Andrea, who, like his old man, gives the impression he probably wrestles bears before breakfast just for the hell of it. When I told them where I was going, Enzo said he’d love to see the movie and that he’d hoped to meet Cox at the festival.
At the cinema, I introduced myself to Cox as an admirer of his ‘Moviedrome’ series, which used to run on the BBC in the days when British TV stations treated films as more than disposable time-fillers. Indeed, it was Cox who presented what was, in effect, the British première of ‘Django’, which had been banned outright on its original release, as well as giving many of us our first exposure to the delirium that is Giulio Questi’s ‘Django, Kill!’. Cox and I arranged to talk later, and he and Enzo got on famously.
‘Searchers 2.0’ is a “micro-budget” road movie, shot with a digital camera which Cox made sound little more sophisticated than something you’d buy in a pharmacy, and is executive-produced by Roger Corman, who also has a cameo in the film.
Right after the main title, there appears on screen the legend, “Benito Stefanelli… morto!”, which surprised and amused Enzo, and let me know I’d made the right decision to check this out. (In the unlikely event that there is actually anyone out there who doesn’t know who Benito Stefanelli was, I should perhaps explain that he was Sergio Leone’s head stuntman, and also appeared in most of his films.)
Wednesday – Today’s proceedings started with Sergio
Sollima’s masterly ‘The Big Gundown’, with Lee Van Cleef and Tomás Milian, on
which I had to pass, having made a loose appointment to interview Sergio Donati
at yesterday’s press conference. Donati, who co-wrote ‘The Big Gundown’ with
Sollima, turned up at the screening with every intention of watching it again,
but when I explained that I would have to leave for another interview before
the movie ended, he very kindly agreed to give it a miss too, saying with a
smile, “It’s okay, I know the story.” He did, however, ask to watch the opening
credit sequence before we left. Was this an example of a screenwriter, even
forty-one years after the event, just wanting to make absolutely sure that, no,
he hadn’t been screwed out his screen credit, or just a tribute to the film’s
wonderful titles and Morricone’s great score? Quien sabe, hombre?
Anyway, we spoke for the best part of an hour, and needless
to say, it was fascinating, not least because Donati is highly intelligent,
witty, and doesn’t speak in soundbites. As it would be impossible, as well as
bad manners, to try to summarise his responses in the context of an on-line
interview, we’ll have to leave it there for now. But did you know that Jason
Robards, while working on ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’, heard of the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, he
proceeded to drink the bars of Almería dry, telling anyone who’d listen that he
was sick of living in a country where such things could happen, and that he
wanted out? And that the next day, Robards arrived on the set and personally
apologised to everyone present for his behaviour? Nice story, don’t you think?
Jason Robards in Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West
3:00 p.m.For the Spaghetti Western
posse, the day started with a press conference for the official launch of Spaghetti
Western: The Secret History of Italian Cinema 4, overseen by Festival
chairman, Davide Croff, and the co-curators, Marco Giusti and Manlio Gomarasca.
The guest line-up was comprised of Franco Nero, Sergio Donati, and Tonino
Valerii, with American director Eli Roth, and New York Times film critic
Elvis Mitchell, also on hand. After Manlio had described the Spaghetti Western
as, “the Italian genre which most contributed to change in worldwide cinema,”
Nero spoke with passion about the Western and its continuing importance: “No
male actor in the world doesn’t want to play in Westerns. Westerns were often
A-movies in America, but B-movies in Italy. But these B-movies paid for all the
auteur films. When I travelled to Japan and South America, in the hotel
registers, they would just write “Django” . . . So I say it is a mistake not to
make Westerns today, look at the worldwide sales of DVDs... To make Westerns
in the Seventies’ style is a good idea. Westerns are something mythical,
recalled the great Sergio Corbucci, calling him, “an under-appreciated director
in the true sense of the word, like Tonino Valerii. They really are sound
directors who get the best out of a story.” He then told his anecdote about
Corbucci’s legendary sense of fun, in which, during the filming of the title
scene of Django, Corbucci told Nero to walk past the camera, pulling his
iconic coffin, and to keep going until they had enough footage and Corbucci
shouted “Cut”. Nero duly obliged, trudging on and on through the mud, the
coffin getting heavier and heavier, wondering when on earth Corbucci would be
satisfied. Eventually, having had enough, he stopped and looked back. There was
no one in sight; Corbucci had told the crew to pack up and leave as soon as
Nero was out of earshot. . . . Corbucci, he added, ‘would arrive on the set and
ask, “How many are we going to kill today? Ten? Twenty?” . . . I really miss
after giving a quick account of how he came to make his first film, Taste
for Killing, in 1966, mainly talked about the making of A Reason to
Live, a Reason to Die, and his comments would be best read in conjunction
with the report on that film.
Drive-ins are now the Rodney Dangerfields of movie theaters: they don't get no respect. Those of us who are city slickers really miss them, however, and search them out whenever our travels take us through small town America. They are one of those simple pleasures of life that you took for granted but miss once they're gone. In days of old, little kids used to love them because they would cavort in the playgrounds that were inevitably on the premises. Teenagers loved drive-ins because they would go there to play inside the car. (The mind reels at how many people came of age in the back of an old Chevy - an experience immortalized in Bob Seger's Night Moves) Yet, there was a time when the film industry held drive-ins in high regard as a major source of box-office revenue. Take a look at this trade industry ad we came across in our archives...Drive-ins were actually supplied with 70mm roadshow prints of Lawrence of Arabia! The idea of seeing David Lean's masterpiece on a drive-in theater screen may seem bizarre, but where else could you experience the film while passing around a six-pack and cigars? I also used to love the mismatched double and triple features that rural drive-ins would offer. Once in upstate New York, we went to see Charlton Heston and Laurence Olivier in Khartoum double-billed with Ferlin Husky in Forty Acre Feud. Only in America....- Lee Pfeiffer
(To read ad in it's entirety, use the bar at the bottom of this entry to scroll to the right)
On Tuesday evening, the day before the Festival officially opened, there was a press screening of the newly-restored Italian print of Fistful of Dollars. While normally the best way to watch a foreign film is in the original language with subtitles, that is not the case with Leone’s movies, unless you particularly want to hear Clint Eastwood dubbed into Italian by Enrico Maria Salerno. Contrary to rumours that recently-found additional material had been restored, the print seems much the same as that released in Italy on the Ripley’s Home Video label, only with the original opening credits – which feature as an extra on the currently-available disc – cleaned and restored, so that once again Ennio Morricone is credited as ‘Leo Nichols’, and Leone as ‘Bob Robertson’. Also, the scene in which the Rojos and the Baxters shoot it out at night in the cemetery, which was previously scratched, appears to have been cleaned up. However, what we were watching lacked the clarity of a restored celluloid print, and the suspicion arose that it was the restored DVD – which Ripley's presumably intend to reissue as a Special Edition – being projected on the screen.
At 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, there was a press conference relating to this restored edition. According to the day’s guest list notification for the press, Tonino Valerii, assistant director on Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More, was due to attend, but he didn’t (though he's still expected later for the screening of his A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die). This left a number of people involved in the restoration to talk on in an alarmingly technical way about the Techniscope process, four-sprocket frames, digital re-mastering of soundtrack material, etc., etc., etc. If you’ve ever sat through one of those ‘Restoring the Film’ documentaries included as DVD extras, you’ll know what I mean. The most interesting fact to emerge was that, apparently, the restoration of Per un pugno di dollari cost more than the film itself (which had a budget of about $200,000).
McQueen on the set of The Great Escape: an iconic screen image
The Motorcycle Industry Association has voted Steve McQueen as the top biker of all time - a tribute to his star-making turn in the 1963 film The Great Escape. McQueen did most of his own stunt riding in the film, including doubling as a German soldier who was pursuing him. Ironically, the stunt that everyone remembers - his daring leap over a barbed wire barricade was actually performed by stunt rider Bud Ekins. McQueen probably could have done the stunt, but insurance concerns precluded him from trying. The persons bikers would most want to have as a passenger were Angelina Jolie and Daniel Craig. The least desirable tag-alongs? Victoria Beckham and Prime Minister Gordon Brown...also quite understandable. The only ride more nightmarish would be to imagine the new P.M. giving a lift to Ms. Beckham! (For a deleted scene from The Great Escape, see our Unseen Scenes column) To read the full story click here
Monday night, watched a 1959 movie called Venezia, la luna e tu (‘Venice, the Moon and You’), in which Alberto Sordi played a gondolier who – you’ve guessed it – gets involved with two silly foreign girls. With only Tonino Delli Colli’s colour photography to recommend it, the main surprise of the film was in seeing Sordi, Nino Manfredi, and director Dino Risi – all of whom, a year or so later, became leading figures in the commedia all’italiana movement which cast a critical eye on contemporary mores in a changing Italy – caught up in such an inconsequential piece of fluff.
Tuesday morning: As there was nothing kicking off on the Lido till the evening, I caught a vaporetto over to Dorsoduro and made my way to the church of San Nicolò dei Mendicoli, which Donald Sutherland worked so hard to restore in Don’t Look Now. Obviously, whoever took over from him wasn’t killed by a red-coated, homicidal dwarf because the building looks much better than it did in the movie, the restoration having been completed by the Venice in Peril foundation – whose sign can be seen on a wall in the film – by the end of the Seventies.
San Nicolo dei Mendicoli
And so down to business . . . Last month, the Venice Film Festival announced a 32-film retrospective entitled Spaghetti Western as part of its ongoing series, The Secret History of Italian Cinema. This strand of the Festival began in 2004 with Kings of the Bs, co-curated by Quentin Tarantino, who is also named as “the godfather” (yes, that’s really what they call him in the publicity handouts) of this year’s event.
The 2004 line-up included examples of Westerns, pepla (sword-and-sandal movies), poliziesci (Seventies’ cop movies), horror, and giallo by such stalwarts of Italian popular cinema as Riccardo Freda, Vittorio Cottafavi, Antonio Margheriti, Sergio Sollima, Enzo G. Castellari, Fernando Di Leo, Umberto Lenzi, and Lucio Fulci. Surprisingly, even Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust was allowed to rear its controversial head as well. In 2005, the series was reduced in scope to accommodate a Secret History of Asian Cinema, but managed to find room for two films each, fully restored, by Mario Bava and Massimo Dallamano, as well as four biopics of Casanova. The following year provided even thinner pickings for Spaghetti fans, with only a restored print of For a Few Dollars More featuring in a line-up dominated by centennial celebrations of Rossellini, Visconti, and Mario Soldati, along with The Secret History of Russian Cinema (which must have been a lot of fun).