The polyphonically, unfairly talented and fiendishly busy actress
Karen Black (who’s also my good
friend and upcoming interviewee in the print edition of Cinema Retro) recently premiered her own one-woman show, “How I
Learned to Stop Worrying and Sing the Song” in Washington, DC, to rave reviews.
She received three standing ovations and by her own admission, “I almost
couldn’t stand there and accept that much acknowledgment!” In the show Karen
recounts her life through musical interludes and anecdotes, beginning as a
struggling actress in New York in the early 60s (where she famously said “no
thanks” to Lee Strasberg after he invited her to join The Actors Studio),
through her move to hippie-era Hollywood and her steady rise to fame as one of
the leading actresses of the 70s. Karen treats the audience to absorbing
first-hand accounts of her work on such legendary films as Easy Rider (1969), her Oscar-nominated performance in Five Easy Pieces (1970), The Day of the Locust (1975), Nashville (1975), Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982) and
Karen Black starred in Alfred Hitchcock's last film Final Plot (1976)
If you’re surprised to learn Karen Black is also a singer, don’t be. She
can absolutely floor you with her
voice. If you remember the scene in Nashville, in
which she plays country star Connie White, the song she performs in front of
the Grand Ole Opry she not only composed herself but made it sound like a
viable country hit from that period. Karen grew up in a musical family in
and her grandfather was the esteemed classical musician Arthur Ziegler, who was
the first violinist for the Chicago Symphony. Another film in which she sings
is Henry Jaglom’s quirky comedy Can She
Bake A Cherry Pie? (1983) and the more recent Firecracker (2004) in which she plays a carnival chanteuse and really shows off her
range. Henry Jaglom, Karen’s long-time friend from Actors Studio days back in New York, cast Karen in
his runaway indie hit Hollywood Dreams (2006)
as a vainglorious actress of a certain age who is having a secret tryst with an
A-list “gay” actor with a secret: he’s straight. Between rendez-vous with Karen’s character Luna, he toys with the idea of
“coming out” against the advice of his managers.
She also appears in Jaglom’s upcoming Irene
in Time (2007) and this year’s Suffering
Man’s Charity (2007), directed by Alan Cumming. I’m eager for everyone to
read the interview with Karen in the next issue. Her career is a revelation to
those who pigeonhole her as a fixture of70s disaster or horror flicks, even if she did important work in both of
those genres as well.
One of the most thrilling DVDs to cross my desk this year doesn't have a single action sequence or special effect. It simply features the master composer Maurice Jarre's magnificent tribute to legendary director David Lean. The concert took place in 1992 with Jarre conducting the Royal Philharmonic which played the scores the French composer contributed to Lean's films Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Ryan's Daughter and A Passage to India. The DVD provides all the sad evidence you'll ever need of the sorry state of today's film soundtracks. There is no one who approaches the likes of Jarre and his contemporaries such as Elmer Bernstein and Jerry Goldsmith. Jarre's output in recent years has been far from memorable, reflecting the current status of the movie industry. Gone are the epic films he cut his teeth on, but if he never composed any scores except the ones on this DVD, his place in movie history would be secure. The sheer beauty of these compositions is enhanced considerably by watching Jarre conducting the orchestra with a no-nonsense, passionate style. Clad in a white dinner jacket, he eschews any small talk, save for a brief thank you to the audience at the conclusion. The Royal Philharmonic performs each suite magnificently and the program is enhanced by the inclusion of clips from each of the films, as well as rare photos of Jarre and Lean working together.
David Lean with cast members of Doctor Zhivago: Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin and Omar Sharif.
The DVD features a number of interesting extras including a 35 minute interview in which the composer discusses his friendship and working relationship with David Lean. Even when Lean's efforts fell short, as witih Ryan's Daughter, Jarre's superb scores would provide enough reason to to watch the films again and again. The men obviously shared a close professional relationship as well as friendship and Jarre includes the suite he composed for Lean's wedding. There is also an option to hear Jarre's commentary track over the entire concert and he provides many a fascinating anecdote. The DVD package also includes a full CD of the concert - a wonderful touch that substantially enhances the allure of this release. The set includes a booklet with extensive liner notes - something mainstream DVD releases rarely include nowdays.
If there is one frustraton with the set, it's that it unavoidably denies us the opportunity to hear Jarre's scores from non-David Lean productions performed. How thrilling it would be to see him conducting his compositions from The Train, Grand Prix and especially The Professionals. Nevertheless, this is one of the most welcome DVD releases of the year - and a "must have" for anyone who values the golden age of movie music. Congratulations to Milan Records, which saw fit to release this in such a first-rate manner. - Lee Pfeiffer
The Help! deluxe DVD edition includes two discs loaded with extras, a reproduction of the script, 60 page souvenir booklet, 8 lobby cards and a reproduction of the original British quad poster
After having their second feature film Help! recently restored for DVD release, The Beatles' 1967 TV special Magical Mystery Tour is being given the white glove treatment as well. A team of technicians who worked on the Help! restoration are turning their attention to the show that was poorly received in its day despite having been the video companion to the classic album of the same name. The film's psychedelic content was considered too far out for mainstream audiences at the time and it has only been in the years since that it has benefited from wide exposure. As for the Help! restoration, approximately $1.5 million was spent by Apple to clean up the film elements. The DVD has recently been released in both standard and deluxe editions. The restored version was broadcast in England last evening on BBC 4. Upon seeing the restoration, Ringo Starr said “I really remember Help! with lots of joy. Our attitude was that we’re making our second movie and it’s in colour – wow! The film has been cleaned up and re-graded so the colour looks beautiful.”
John Sturges' Ice Station Zebra starred Rock Hudson, Ernest Borgnine, Patrick McGoohan and Jim Brown
Columnist Nicholas Sheffo of the great DVD review site www.fulvuedrive-in.com has proposed a list of ten largely underrated films that should be released on both HD and Blu-Ray formats. It's hard to argue with most of his choices. See what you think by clicking here to read