CINEMA RETRO COLUMNIST DAVID SAVAGE'S COVERAGE OF THE TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL CONTINUES WITH HIS REVIEW OF THE NEW AUSTRALIAN FILM, NEWCASTLE
Speaking of surf movies (see my fellow Cinema Retro columnist Tom Lisanti's appreciation of Ride
the Wild Wave by clicking here), I have proof that the genre is not a relic of the
past. Newcastle, from indie American director Dan Castle, is an
exhilirating new film making its debut at Tribeca Film Festival that breathes
new life into one of the most formulaic conventions in the movies. Set in the
Australian blue collar beach town of the film's title, up the coast from Sydney,
Newcastle is as anti-idyllic surf movie as you're ever likely to see.
Instead of picturesque sunsets reminiscent of Endless Summer, coal barges
line the ocean horizon of this seaside town. It may be populated by
golden-skinned surf gods and babes, but they are without illusions. Life is hard
and surfing offers the only wave out of this dead-end town.
After placing third in tryouts for the approaching Junior Pro Surf
Championship, a competition that has the power to make or break young surfers'
dreams, Jesse is down but not yet out. He's determined not to end up like his
brother Victor, a promising former surfer who ended his career in injury and now
works on the dry docks with his father, unloading coal. He struggles to cope.
His hormones are raging. His twin brother, Fergus, is likely gay (pale and with
newly purple hair) and the source of constant embarrassment. When the temptation
arises of a weekend away at Stockton Dunes (a remote beach) with his surf
buddies, Jesse leaps at the opportunity, even if it means Fergus has to go
along. Two local girls join them and the weekend holds the promise of nothing
but blissful abandon on the waves and a possible "first time" with one of the
girls. As they move through the weekend trip, Fergus learns to surf and thus
gains acceptance by his mates, but a tragedy unfolds when Victor shows up to
challenge his younger brother on the waves.
Remarkably, the film never hits a false note, even while working squarely
within two classic genres: the surf movie and the teen, coming-of-age film. In
the former category, Castle gives the film a sense of heightened realism by
hiring an ensemble of strong actors as well as seasoned surfers, all of whom
demonstrate an effortless athleticism as they carve and cut out of the waves,
ride crests and "shoot the curl" in take after incredible take. Castle's team of
ocean cameramen are second to none, shooting with fearless energy and great
skill both above and below the waves, using natural light and mostly a handheld
technique so that the viewer feels thrust right out in the action of the
crashing surf. The land-based photography (Richard Michalak, ACS), by contrast,
is dark and claustrophobic, filmed in French New Wave-style handheld and with
little dolly action, underscoring the cramped and volatile nature of Jesse's
Within the confines of the coming-of-age genre, Castle resists the cliché
typecasting of teen ensemble films, and it's to his credit that he makes each
character seem distinct and fully drawn, even when many of these teen boys are
not fully aware of who they are themselves. There is no gross-out humor, sexual
gags or other pranks typical of teen movies, but there is plenty of content
which rings true to anyone who remembers grappling with the anxieties of
sexuality, peer pressure, ambition and sibling violence at that fragile age.
The adult actors, most prominent among them being the award-winning
Australian actor Barry Otto (Oscar and Lucinda), round out a teen cast
who demonstrate a maturity and dedication to their craft that seems refreshing
when compared with the Ken-doll plasticity of their American counterparts found
on shows like "The O.C.," for example.
I spoke with the director and screenwriter Dan Castle at the festival and he
owned up to weaving a lot of his own life into the script, which took him eight
months to write once he got down to business for real after thinking about the
project for a year. Bizarrely, he hails from another Newcastle: New Castle,
Delaware. But it was a visit in 2001 to the Newcastle Down Under that inspired
the idea for the film, even before he had any characters in mind. "As I drove
through the streets during my first visit to Newcastle in October 2001," Castle
said, " I knew I was in a very special place. The town, the beaches, the seaside
pools, the community of surfers and the nearby Stockton Dunes all resonated with
He too is a surfer ("not a good one," he swears) and he too lost his
virginity in a tent alongside his best friend, who was busy losing his. Even as
he surfed with his buddies as a teen, he realized he was gay. From that aspect
of himself the character of Fergus was born; from other aspects of himself, and
no doubt from other members of his group, other characters were created."They were at the peak of their beauty," he remembers, "and yet at the
time don't realize that it's all pretty much downhill from there." The artful
shots of the surfers swimming nude underwater, almost mythical in feel, or the
close ups on golden-downed skin or ocean-blue eyes convey Castle's appreciation,
even reverence, for that fleeting beauty.
Although Dan didn't go to film school (he did go to NYU, but majored in
Business), he started out as an actor and moved to Los Angeles to pursue his
career (he studied at The Actors Studio and with Shelly Winters, whom he met by
chance in a coffee shop on Fairfax). It proved to be too passive, he explained,
as he tired of waiting for someone to tell him "yes." So he instead took a
friend's advice and began concentrating on his writing, which led to directing.
His last film, a short entitled The Visitor (also with Barry Otto),
garnered an Australian Film Institute (AFI) nomination for Best Short Fiction
Film in 2003, and he says he's working on three new projects, one of which is a
comedy entitled Surf Mom. It sounds like Dan might be a new surf movie
auteur with lots of material yet to explore. (Now…where's that
shark.)- David Savage
Julie Ege, the former Miss Norway of 1962 who parlayed her fame into a career as an actress, has died at age 64. She had been battling breast cancer since 2002. Ege appeared as one of the "Blofeld girls" at the Swiss mountaintop headquarters of SPECTRE in the1969 James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service. She received widespread attention as a promiscuous au pair girl opposite Marty Feldman in the hit 1970 British comedy Every Home Should Have One. Ege was being groomed by Hammer to be their next big star, but her debut film for them, Creatures the World Forgot flopped and helped usher in the declining days of the studio's influence. Ege went on to star in other exploitation films such as Up Pompeii and It's Not the Size That Counts. She also posed as a Penthouse pet. For more click here
Cinema Retro London correspondent Spencer Lloyd Peet reports on a major Bruce Lee tribute that took place last weekend in London.
20 2008 marks the 35th anniversary of the death of martial art
superstar, Bruce Lee.In conjunction to
this his widow Linda and daughter Shannon paid a welcome visit to the UK on
Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th April as part of the Seni08 martial arts event at
the ExCel Exhibition in London – Europe’s trade exhibition dedicated to Martial
Arts, Combat Sports and Extreme Fitness with over 200 stands amidst grounds of
the Lee family’s appearance wasn’t overly publicised fans of the legendary film
star arrived in droves, and were treated to a Q & A session between midday
and 1.00pm in room 21 on both days with Linda, Shannon (her young daughter Wren
joined the panel on Sunday), Richard Bustillo and Tim Tackett, both former Jeet
Kune Do students of Bruce Lee.
was a free signing by Linda in the morning of both days at the Bruce Lee
Foundation Booth and Shannon took to meeting elated fans and signing autographs
in the afternoon accompanied by Richard on the Sunday.They were all extremely delightful and
courteous and generally surprised by the hospitality and enthusiasm of the
fans, so much so that Shannon is already considering returning next year.
purpose behind this rare visit was to promote The Bruce Lee Foundation; a
non-profit organization set up to preserve the memory, teachings and legacy of
the dynamic action hero founded by Linda and Shannon.Their aim is to build a permanent Bruce Lee
museum in Seattle,
his place of burial, and to exhibit original artefacts belonging to him.
of Bruce’s personal belongings were on display at the exhibition such as, his
hand-written notes of the famous showdown with Chuck Norris from Way of the
Dragon (US title: Return of the Dragon), notes on the bout between
Bruce and 7-foot basketball star Kareem Abdul Jabbar from the incomplete 1972
film Game of Death, a Screen Actors Guild Residual Payment Cheque from
October 6, 1969 for his appearance as Kato from the Green Hornet and Batman
cross over episode, “Batman Satisfaction” (first aired in 1967) and a brown
3-piece suit worn in a scene from Enter the Dragon.
Tim Tackett, Shannon and Linda Lee and Richard Bustillo. (Photo copyright Danusia Skoczek)
weekend event concluded with an auction comprising of many large prints of
Bruce in various stages of his career signed by Shannon;
each averaged £50 with all proceeds going to the Foundation.
head of the Foundation, Shannon revealed some of the possible projects that
that may develop; A 40 episode TV series of Bruce Lee’s life is being made in
China and will air at the time of the Olympics with a possible DVD release in
the west, a Japanese Anime feature with the idea of reaching a younger
audience, and a feature film incorporating Bruce perhaps through CGI.Shannon’s
dedication and passion for keeping her father’s memory alive is evident and she
is more than qualified to steer the Bruce Lee legacy into a new and exciting
CINEMA RETRO'S JOHN EXSHAW REPORTS ON A MEMORABLE TRIBUTE TO HAMMER FILMS WRITER/DIRECTOR JIMMY SANGSTER
JIMMY SANGSTER AT THE NATIONAL FILM THEATRE, LONDON
By John Exshaw –
The first time I met Jimmy Sangster, I remarked that he must
have endured a lot of leg-pulling over his surname during his days as Hammer’s
top scriptwriter. Jimmy looked up from his lunch, somewhat startled. “No,” he
said. “Why should that have happened?” “Well,” I replied, feeling I was stating
the obvious, “Sang is the French for blood, and you were writing all
these blood-soaked horror movies . . . Surely someone must’ve made a joke of
it?” Jimmy looked at me like I was the third loony from the left in some Hammer
opus before replying with finality: “No, no one’s ever said that before.”
And, sad to report, no one mentioned it either at the
National Film Theatre on London’s South Bank on Tuesday 15 April, when Sangster
was guest of honour at an evening devoted to his long and remarkable career.
Billed as “Taste of Fear + Jimmy Sangster in Coversation”, the well-attended
event was hosted by Marcus Hearn, co-author of ‘The Hammer Story: The
Authorised History of Hammer Films’, and began with a screening of Sangster’s
first film as scriptwriter for Hammer, the 1955 short, ‘A Man on the Beach’,
directed by Joseph Losey and starring Donald Wolfit, Michael Medwin, and (of
course) Michael Ripper.
Jimmy Sangster (left) with interviewer Marcus Hearn at the National Film Theatre in London
Based on a story by Victor Canning, it opens with a rather
Ealingesque casino robbery, in which Medwin does his best Alec Guinness
impersonation as a cross-dressing stick-up artist named Maxie. After deciding
that his partner (Ripper) is now surplus to requirements, Maxie manages to
shove both him and their car over a cliff, though not before sustaining a
gunshot wound himself. Having passed out on the beach, Maxie stumbles across a
gloomy beachcomber’s hut where he encounters a former doctor named Carter
(Wolfit). Self-obsessed and desperate, Maxie determines to kill Carter the next
morning in order to cover his tracks, but finds that the doctor has removed the
bullets from his gun during the night. Soon after, Maxie is apprehended by the
local gendarme on a routine visit. Only then does he learn what he was
too impatient to see before: that Carter is blind and therefore could not have
An interesting curiosity, ‘A Man on the Beach’ set the scene
nicely for one of Sangster’s personal favourites, the 1961 chiller, ‘Taste of
Fear’ (known in the U.S. as ‘Scream of Fear’), directed by Seth Holt and
starring Susan Strasberg, Ronald Lewis, Ann Todd, and, as a suitably
sepulchrous red herring, none other than Christopher Lee. Speaking later on,
Sangster recalled, “I’d written five or six Gothics, and one week I remember I
went to see ‘Psycho’ and ‘Les Diaboliques’ . . . And they scared the shit out
of me, they really did! And I thought, hey, I can do that. So I went off and
wrote ‘Taste of Fear’.”
Sangster, as he is happy to admit, has always preferred his
psychological thrillers (which include such early-Sixties’ titles as ‘Maniac’,
‘Paranoiac’, ‘Nightmare’, and ‘Hysteria’) to the “Gothics” for which he is best
known, although it’s an enthusiasm rarely shared by Hammer aficionados, who
tend to consider the convoluted, twist-in-the-tail plots and black-and-white
photography, however accomplished, to be rather less satisfying than the more
visceral, glorious Technicolor, blood-and-thunder approach which Sangster helped
to pioneer and which became synonymous with the company’s name following the
release of ‘The Curse of Frankenstein’ in 1957.
Among the more experimental entries representing France at Tribeca this year
is video artist and fashion photographer Delphine Kreuter's confident debut
feature 57,000 Kilometers Between Us (57000 km entre nous), a
disturbing and truthful look at how technology is the great atomizer of society.
The characters in this tale, all connected in random ways made possible only on
the internet, mediate their daily lives through the filter of webcams,
multi-character gaming, online chats, blogs and camcorders. They record, stare
and chat, but never connect.
'Nat,' a 14-year-old girl at the center of the story, is struggling to
connect to someone, anyone, given that her mother is caught up in a deeply
dysfunctional new marriage with a man who records every waking second of his
family's life on his camcorder for his blog on marital bliss, but becomes an
uncommunicative zombie once offline. Her real father is a transsexual, who
watches her via remote from her new home, where she is not welcome. Her only two
"friends" consist of a married man online with a baby fetish (he dons diapers
and sucks a baby bottle via webcam) and a teen boy, Adrien, dying of leukemia in
a hospital intensive care ward. It's with this last friend she is able to find
some form of simpatico, as they portray fantasy characters in an
alternate-reality game, acting out thinly veiled games of heroic battle and
rescue. His mother will not visit him even as he lay dying, preferring instead
to hold brief chats with him via webcam. The characters' lives all intersect in
some way that underscores the paradox of connectivity without connection, until
Nat breaks the cycle and decides to act on her feelings for Adrien the only way
she knows how. It's a moving and heartbreaking ending, if enigmatic.
Filmed in a jarring, hand-held style and alternating between digital video
and film, Kreuter creates the look of a distopic future squarely within the
present, which is perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the entire film and
which gives it a quasi-documentary feel. It's that rarity of an experimental
film that manages to tell a story with clarity yet remain true to its form.
While it's doubtful this feature will get picked up by an American theatrical
distributor, if it shows up on Netflix, by all means grab it -- it's well worth
the 82 minutes of intensity.
Fabian (Jody Wallis), Shelley Fabares (Brie Matthews), Tab Hunter (Steamer Lane), Barbara Eden (Augie Poole), Peter Brown (Chase Colton), Anthony Hayes (Frank Decker), Susan Hart (Lily), James Mitchum (Eskimo), Catherine McLeod (Mrs. Kilua), Murray Rose (Swag), Roger Davis (Charlie), Robert Kenneally (Russ), Paul Tremaine (Vic), Alan LeBuse (Phil), John Kennell (TV Commentator), David Cadiente (Ally), Yanqui Chang (Mr. Chin).
Ride the Wild Surf stands head and shoulders above all the sixties beach-party movies. This was an earnest and ambitious attempt by Hollywood to capture the surf culture and what attracted young men to the sport. There are no singing surfers or goofy motorcycle gang members in this film as it opens with a narrator explaining why young men from all over the world come to Hawaii to surf. Then the wave action takes over never letting up making Ride the Wild Surf the best Hollywood surf movie of the sixties. Kudos to a excellent cast, stunning photography by Joseph Biroc, and one of the all-time best pop surf songs “Ride the Wild Surf” sung by Jan and Dean over the closing credits.
Where the boys are: the film's many sequences of hunky guys engaging in male bonding have made the movie a cult favorite in the gay community.
Fabian, Tab Hunter, and Peter Brown play surfers who travel to Hawaii to conquer the big waves at Waimea Bay and in the process take a step to becoming more mature adults. They also find romance with, respectively, Shelley Fabares, Susan Hart, and Barbara Eden. The film makes an honorable effort to portray surfers and the sport of surfing sincerely and to showcase the big waves of the North Shore of Hawaii. Though the story line to drape the incredible surfing action around is thin, the screenplay is peppered with some sharp and hip dialog while all the actors play their roles believably. Peter Brown and Barbara Eden are the most interesting couple as Eden’s perky lovelorn auburn-haired tomboy tries to melt the veneer off of Brown’s uptight college boy. Susan Hart, a local beauty with an overly protective mother, and wannabe pro surfer Tab Hunter make the most handsome duo though a blonde Shelley Fabares as a vacationing coed and the usually shirtless Fabian as a college dropout turned surf bum give them a run for the money. Jim Mitchum, who is the splitting image of his dad Robert Mitchum, makes a quietly menacing heavy. The movie is a smorgasbord of flesh as the boys are all tanned and muscled and the girls are curvaceous and bikini-clad.
Though handsome Fabian, Tab Hunter, and Peter Brown pursue beach babes when not in the water there is also a surprisingly strong “homo-erotic undercurrent” throughout. The scenes of these barechested surfers bonding or comforting each other while tackling the huge waves of Waimea Bay and the gals are nowhere in sight have become gay porn staples.
Ride the Wild Surf really excels showing what it takes to be a top-notch surfer and to challenge the big waves of Hawaii. Joseph Biroc expertly filmed real surfers including Mickey Dora, Greg Noll, and and Butch Van Artsdalen challenging the big waves at Banzai Pipeline, Sunset Beach, and Haleiwa. This footage is spread generously throughout the film climaxing with big wave thrills at the “King of the Mountain” contest at Waimea Bay. It is by far the most exciting and best surfing sequences in any Hollywood surf movie of the sixties. However, some of the scenes of the actors on their boards were filmed in a studio tank where one minute the water is like a sheet of glass and then all of a sudden it cuts to huge swells that come out of nowhere.
The shots around the island of Oahu are stunningly picturesque especially the scenes at Waimea Falls. The movie captures the beauty of the islands spectacularly. Trying to distance itself from the beach-party films there are no musical guest acts only Jan and Dean singing the hit title song over the end credits. Broadcast infrequently, Ride the Wild Surf thankfully is available on DVD.
Robert Vaughn: the Man From U.N.C.L.E. star was the first major actor to publicly speak out against the Vietnam War.
In these times of Hollywood superstars generally making jackasses of themselves by lecturing the unwashed masses on how to vote, it's easy to forget there actually was an era in which politically involved movie stars were not airheads, but real, live intellectuals. Yes, Jane Fonda could never see the difference between opposing the Vietnam War and extolling the virtues of a communist regime - and on the other end of the spectrum, dear old Duke Wayne could barely contain his admiration of Spiro Agnew, even as he dismissed the Watergate scandal as "a panty raid". Yet, no matter how infuriating Fonda and Wayne's positions were to their political opponents, both were extremely intelligent, well-read people who arrived at their points of view after much soul-searching. If only today's Hollywood elite could say the same. Instead, many arrive at their opinions through signing on to one-sided propaganda sites, many of which dispell absurd conspiracy theories. Other nitwits confuse legitimate criticism of their own government with a clarion call to seek out the company of some of the most repressive dictators on earth and act as their enthusiastic propoganda tools. However, in a fascinating article in this week's Variety, the paper reminds us that forty years ago, the situation was much different. Actors began to emerge as activists during the contentious year of 1968, a time that saw such divisive events as the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr and Bobby Kennedy, the announcement by Lyndon Johnson that he would not seek re-election, the Vietnam War escalating by the day, the riots in Chicago that marred the Democratic convention, the Soviet invasion of Czechosolvakia, race riots that engulfed American's cities and the unlikely emergence of Richard Nixon from his political deathbed to become the next president of the United States. Those of us who lived through that year will never forget it.
During this period, actors and actresses began to speak out and take an active role in political campaigns. Among them: Kirk Douglas, Paul Newman, Tony Randall, The Smothers Brothers (who had their show cancelled rather than tone down their political satire) and Robert Vaughn. In fact, the article correctly points out that Vaughn was the trendsetter, boldly opposing the Vietnam War at a time when no other actor would. The Variety article has Vaughn recalling his movitations and determination to lend his name to a cause he fervently believed in. To read, click here. (Cinema Retro issue #12 will feature an exclusive interview with Vaughn.)- Lee Pfeiffer
AT A RECENT SEMINAR, ROBERT BENTON, THE OSCAR-WINNING SCREENWRITER OF BONNIE AND CLYDE AND DIRECTOR OF KRAMER VS. KRAMER DISCUSSED THE INFLUENCES ON HIS LIFE AND CAREER. HE CHATS ABOUT THE FRENCH NEW WAVE CINEMA, THE LOW EXPECTATIONS WARNER BROTHERS HAD FOR BONNIE AND CLYDE AND HIS AMUSING VISION OF THE JAMES BOND MOVIE HE ALWAYS WANTED TO DIRECT. TO READ CLICK HERE
Cinema Retro's David Savage reports from New York's Tribeca Film Festival on a new film from Italy.
Quiet Chaos (Italy)
Contrary to Quentin Tarantino's much publicized recent
pronouncement that 'Italian cinema is dead' -- a sentiment echoed even inside
the Italian film industry by critics who see its heyday in the once-promising
1950s and '60s -- I believe it's in a period of intense social dissection. Like
films of recent years, Caterina va in città (2003), Volevo solo
dormirle addosso (2004), Ricordati di me (2003), and others, Quiet
Caos, a new film starring Nanni Moretti and directed by Antonello Grimaldi,
reflects a crisis the country is facing on all levels: economic, political,
social and spiritual. (See last December's New York Times front-page
essay by Ian Fisher: In a Funk, Italy Sings anAria of
Disappointment at nytimes.com)
Based on the bestselling novel by Sandro Veronesi (Caos
Calmo), Quiet Chaos examines what happens to a successful executive
when he loses his wife to a tragic accident. One day, after saving the life of
two women from drowning in the ocean, he arrives home only to discover his wife
has suddenly died in a fall. Unable to feel the grief from his wife's death, he
takes a leave from his office life to sit outside his 10-year-old daughter's
school every day, from dropping her off in the morning to taking her home after
school. As he waits for the grief over his wife to kick in, he spends his days
sitting in his car, wandering the park and having coffee at a nearby café. His
boss, fellow colleagues and relatives all come to console him but end up
confiding their own pain and difficulties: office politics and backstabbing,
naked ambition, cheating hearts and other ailments. Throughout it all, Pietro
remains calm and becomes something of a guru to those who seek him out for his
strange calm. Gradually, Pietro finds meaning in being a father and realizes
something that seems to echo the national conscience: In this age of
accelerating greed, venality and careerism, spontaneous acts of kindness and
human decency are the most radical acts of all.-David Savage
An irreplacable aspect of motion picture history passed on this week with the death of Ollie Johnston, the last of Walt Disney's great animators. Disney dubbed the team his "Nine Old Men". Collectively the group was responsible for creating the greatest animated films ever made, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Bambi, Cinderella and The Jungle Book. None of today's advanced animation techniques can come close to matching the magic that these illustrators created through their painstaking, hand-drawn efforts. For details on the remarkable life of Ollie Johnston, click here
Soundtrack label Intrada hit the headlines
again this month when the arrival of Jerry Goldsmith’s previously unreleased 1985
soundtrack Baby: Secret of the Lost
Legend sold out within 24 hours. Regular readers may remember that Intrada were
heavily criticised in September 2006 after releasing a 2 CD set of Goldsmith’s Inchon.
Focus fell specifically upon its limited pressing of just 1,500 units which instantly sold out, leaving collectors frustrated and reliant upon profiteers who sold the CDs on Ebay at greatly inflated prices.. Despite doubling the number of pressings to 3000 for
Baby it seems that the demand for the
great composer’s work has again been seriously underestimated. Baby has emerged in many bootleg forms
over the years and remained high on the wanted lists of Goldsmith collectors
the world over. Early indications have shown once again that a great many
fans have lost out and will no doubt have to pay highly inflated prices via Internet sites such as Ebay in order to complete their collections. While soundtrack
consumers have recognised and praised the label’s efforts, there remains anger over the practice of opportunists who continue to buy up large numbers of limited edition CDs in order to exploit genuine collectors. The message is clear: as soon as a limited edition CD is announced, fans should place their orders immediately. -Darren Allison
Batman is among the many classic TV series and movies that have fans clamoring for an official video release.
Most hard-core collectors of classic movies have felt frustrated when those elusive titles they've so desperately sought fail to show up on DVDs from the major studios. In many cases, this is due to the fact that there are legal clearance issues that haven't been resolved, while in other situations, the films in question have simply been deemed too uncommerical to merit priority consideration. Thus, the web has spawned countless homegrown sites that offer these unreleased favorites on bootleg DVDs. Inevitably, the owners of these sites don't view themselves as video pirates - a term generally relegated to large-scale operations designed to mass produce the latest hit movies and flood the market before legitimate video releases can occur. Rather, these folks tend to be well-meaning and generally only seek to make a modest profit to cover the time and effort expended in duplicating films for other collectors on a one-by-one basis. The problem is that the Motion Picture Association of America doesn't get misty-eyed over the concept of movie fans duplictating films for the sheer love of cinema. To the MPAA, it's all piracy, even if the intentions of these small-time operators are pure. In recent months, the MPAA has launched a crackdown that has seen some of the most popular bootleg sites shut down. Thus, you may have a real problem getting completing your collection of every My Mother, the Car episode. To read Home Media Magazine's article about the crackdown, click here
Cinema Retro columnist David Savage reports on preliminary screenings of new films leading up to the Tribeca Film Festival. Here, he takes a look at Mister Lonely, which manages to incorporate Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Michael Jackson, Queen Elizabeth and Abe Lincoln!
What happens when Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, Charlie
Chaplin, the Pope, Madonna, Queen Elizabeth, Little Red Riding Hood, Sammy
Davis, Jr., Abe Lincoln and James Dean all find themselves living together in a
castle commune in the Highlands of Scotland? Unfortunately, not much in the
hands of Harmony Korine, whose new film Mister
Lonely, takes this brilliant premise and squanders it for 113 listless,
melancholy minutes. It’s a crying shame, really, as spontaneous eruptions of brilliant! usually followed when fellow
journalists heard the plot synopsis. Instead, loud, irritable sighs were
erupting around the theater as press attendees realized an hour in that nothing
much was going to pay-off the brilliant set-up.
When a struggling Michael Jackson impersonator, played by
Mexican actor Diego Luna (Y Tu Mama
Tambien), meets a Marilyn Monroe impersonator (Samantha Morton) on the
streets of Paris, he accepts her invitation to join her at a remote castle
compound in the Scottish Highlands where she lives with her husband, “Charlie
Chaplin” and a motley assortment of aforementioned impersonators in communal
isolation, sort of like the Island of Misfit Toys from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. There he can find acceptance, she
promises, and join them as they prepare their “greatest show ever” for their
Meanwhile, in a Catholic mission deep inside the Panamanian
jungle, a group of nuns discover a miracle: One of them has survived a fall
from an airplane flying at several thousand feet and, asking for God’s
protection on her fall back to earth, walks away unscathed. The other nuns
follow suit and become addicted to their new-found, extreme-faith sport. Their
leader is a priest played by Werner Herzog, who appears to be improvising his
lines (The two plot lines never intersect, except for allegorically, but it’s
this latter plot that provides the more interesting of the film’s two stories.)
A goldmine of material, one would think, but Korine gives
his characters little to do and nothing to say. For example, we never hear
anything from the James Dean impersonator, likewise Sammy Davis Jr., nor
Madonna (!) nor the Queen of England. James Fox as The Pope sinks his teeth
into what little script he’s given, and we never learn that he and the Queen
are husband and wife until nearly the end of the film when we see them in bed
together (she lighting a fag and he making small talk). Now there’s a
proposition! But Korine doesn’t explore it, nor does he take much interest in
the fireworks that might result from such a volatile and rich clash of people,
who are themselves imprisoned in personas of their own choosing. I began to
feel sorry for the actors more than the characters, all dressed up and nowhere
The film is not without its merits. Samantha Morton imbues
her Monroe with
the same sense of tragic fragility as the real-life Marilyn, and Korine manages
to convey the governing idea of “the purity of dreams” in both plot lines. The
mysteries of faith and the willful suspension of disbelief as one “becomes”
somebody else might just be two sides of the same coin. – David Savage
A critic once wrote that the only value of Hell Drivers would be to those who wish to study the status of the British trucking industry in the 1950s. Yet, the intense, black-and-white low budget movie has come to define the epitome of what cult movies are. It's built quite a following around the world, primarily due to it's distinguished cast that boasted Stanley Baker, Herbert Lom and cinematic super spies-to-be Sean Connery, Patrick McGoohan and David McCallum. Writer David Cairns takes a sentimental road trip back in time to analyze the pluses and minuses of this testosterone-fueled macho drama - and to also extoll the often overlooked contributions of Stanley Baker to the British film industry. To read click here
Legendary composer Lalo Schifrin recently made a rare concert appearance in London. Mr. Schifrin afforded Cinema Retro extraordinary access to the event. Here is music critic Darren Allison's review along with Cinema Retro photographer Mark Mawston's coverage of a master musician at work. (All photos copyright Mark Mawston. All rights reserved)
It was a long time coming, but at last, U.K
fans were treated to a very rare feast of acoustic delight in the guise of
Argentinean born composer Lalo Schifrin. London
welcomed Schifrin as part of the ‘La
Linea’ Latin music festival held at the prestigious
surroundings of the capital’s Barbican Centre. An overwhelming sense of
excitement and anticipation filled the auditorium as members of the wonderful London
Symphony Orchestra took to the stage, followed soon after by the ensemble of
Schifrin’s remarkable jazz quartet. Australian Trumpeter James Morrison,
Peruvian born percussionist Alex Acuna (looking incredibly sprightly at the age
of 64) and French born Bassist Pierre Boussaguet appeared with a combined intent
of setting the night on fire. At 76 years old, Schifrin appeared to our left
and was greeted by warm and sincere applause. Naturally, a little slower and
cautious these days in his movements, it was nevertheless, the perfect excuse
for us to extend our appreciation of arguably the coolest of film and Latin
Opening with an original composition
‘Chano’, a mellow piece written in honour of Cuban born Latin jazz founder Chano
Pozo, Schifrin’s nimble work at the piano served as a simple and effective
introduction as to what the evening had in store for us. In fact, Schifrin’s
continuous movement from both piano and podium throughout the entire night’s
proceedings, only served as a reminder of how his enthusiasm and love for the music-making
process has never waned, regardless of his role as either conductor or
performer. Although each and every piece selected for the show was obviously
arranged by Schifrin and unmistakably flavoured with ‘A dash of Tequila!’ as
the man gleefully informed us, it was also unselfishly shared with other
composers work of which Schifrin undoubtedly still holds in high regard. Cole
Porter’s ‘Begin the Beguine’ for instance, showed very little sign of its
original arrangement, and was instead thrown into the pot with half a dozen
spices in order to emerge as a fresh and exciting new arrangement.
Schifrin's sheet music for The Dirty Harry Suite
Our first taste of Schifrin’s long and
impressive list of credentials aligned specifically to his film work began with
the coveted ‘Dirty Harry Suite’. Comprising of themes such as ‘Magnum Force’
and ‘Scorpio’s theme’ the gritty, urban feel of Schifrin’s original
arrangements are now enhanced somewhat with a more jazz-orientated and to some
degree, ‘lighter’ feel. However, fused with the wonderful string section of the
LSO, the suite remains both an impressive and essential inclusion that was passionately
rewarded with rapturous applause and cheers.
Adam Becvar, a writer for the web site www.dvdinmypants.com (we're not kidding!) has posted the most comprehensive review of the recently-released Man From U.N.C.L.E. complete DVD collection. Becvar provides analysis of every episode, complete with a screen grab to illustrate every entry. He also analyzes the whopping ten hours of DVD extras. If this doesn't convince you to click on the button in our right hand column to order the collection from Time Life, then nothing will. To read the review click here
Here's a compelling interview with acclaimed German director Werner Herzog, conducted by Oscar-winning documentary maker Errol Morris. Herzog and Morris may seem like an odd couple but they've collaborated on a number of off-beat projects including digging up the grave of a serial murderer's mother! For the interview click here
Legendary British actor Christopher Lee has confirmed to Cinema Retro that he has just signed for one of the most important and prominent roles of his career, co-starring with Colin Farrell in a new film.. Lee never likes to reveal specifics about his forthcoming projects, but said much of the film will be shot in Spain. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the movie is titled Triage and additonal scenes will be shot in Ireland. The film focuses on the real life experiences of a photographer who witnessed the massive genocide that took place in Bosnia in the early-to-mid 1990s. The movie will be directed by Bosnian Danis Tanovic, who won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 2001 for No Man's Land. Filming starts next week, but Lee will be joining the company later as he has just started production on another major film in Scotland. Sources say the film is titled Cowboys for Christ and is said to be a long-awaited reimagining of the classic 1973 movie The Wicker Man. At age 85, Lee told Cinema Retro he is grateful for the fact that he is in demand more than ever. For more on Triageclick here
(For Christopher Lee's column on the making of The Three Musketeers, see Cinema Retro issue #2. Look for exclusive interviews with Christopher Lee about his other prominent films in future issues.)
Film Score Monthly has released a magnificent, definitive soundtrack collection for the four Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve. The boxed set also includes the music from the Superman animated series as well as alternate takes, source music and a 160 page illustrated collector's booklet. Limited to only 3,000 copies.
HERE'S A GREAT WEB SITE FOR LOVERS OF MOVIE SOUNDTRACKS: FILM MUSIC REVIEW IS DEDICATED TO THE GREAT MOVIE COMPOSERS. THEY ARE FEATURING A TRIBUTE TO MAX STEINER AND HIS SUPERB SCORE FOR KING KONG. TO VIEW CLICK HERE
NEW PHOTOS HAVE SURFACED FROM ELVIS PRESLEY'S 1972 CONCERT AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN. THE GARDEN'S OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPHER GEORGE KALINSKY RECENTLY CAME ACROSS 40 SPECTACULAR SHOTS OF THE KING THAT HAVE NEVER BEEN PUBLISHED BEFORE. THEY ARE ON DISPLAY AT GRACELAND AS PART OF AN EXHIBIT OF ELVIS' JUMPSUITS. FOR THE STORY CLICK HERE
Curtis in London: auditioning to be the next Lex Luthor?
Screen legend Tony Curtis made an appearance at Harrods in London last week and his appearance caused a shock on two levels. The famed Hollywood heartthrob, who was in town to promote his paintings, was largely confined to a wheelchair due to an illness in 2006 that has affected his motor skills. Most surprising was his decision to appear sans toupee, making for a startling site. For more on the 82-year-old actor's visit to London, click here
Beginning with this column, Cinema Retro's David Savage will be reporting from the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. In his first review, he critiques a new film about the cult of Che Guevara - and the irony of how a revolutionary who represented a brutal, totalitarian regime has somehow become a symbol of freedom and independence.
TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2008
Strike a Pose: Hasta La Chevolution
No one hates a sourpuss at a party more than me, so I regret to file
my inaugural report from the Tribeca Film Festival (technically a pre-festival
screening) on such a cheerless note and with windless sails. Maybe I chose
poorly from the films on offer before the festival gets underway on April 23rd,
but if what I saw last night, Chevolution, is evidence of what it takes
to get a documentary into one of the most high-profile film festivals in the
world, then all I can say is that the bar has been lowered so far that one need
only step over it.
Piquing my interest was the following synopsis: How did the iconic
image of Che Guevara end up on beer bottles and bikinis? This inquiry into the
ethics and aesthetics of appropriation investigates how the enduring symbol of Cuba's
revolution skyrocketed to fame and was ultimately devoured by its own worst
enemy: capitalism. Great! Sounds provocative and timely. I was all ready to
see a well argued thesis against branding and the banalization of
once-meaningful symbols, and even, I hoped, a useful corrective against the
radical-chic cult of the Marxist assassin and Argentine revolutionary Che
Guevara. No such luck.
What starts out to be a fairly absorbing investigation into the
history one of the most reproduced images in the history of photography -- that
being Cuban photographer Alberto Korda's black and white capture of the young
guerilla warrior at a funeral for the victims of the ship explosion in Havana's
harbor in 1960 -- instead turns into a dreadfully shallow homage to the
guerilla warrior himself, leaving countless stones unturned, a parade of
talking heads unchallenged, and a litany of problematic statements floated over
our heads like methane-filled balloons. Co-director Trisha Ziff even sees fit
to interview herself at one point with this helpful amplification: "He's a
superstar, and a superstar with a message," she explains to her own
camera. What message that is, exactly, she never explains, which serves as a
telling bookend to this entire, pointless film.
On the surface, the directors, Ziff and Luis Lopez, invite our indignation
over how an honest portrait of a communist revolutionary ended up becoming a
global brand at the service of capitalism. Fine. Irony noted. But another layer
of irony left unexplored, like much in this documentary, is how the portrait of
Guevara, Castro's collaborator (and expendable pawn) in creating the most
repressive, blood-soaked, totalitarian regime in the Western Hemisphere came to
be the symbol of freedom and revolt against oppression. Whom did he set free,
exactly? Care to take that up with the Cuban expatriates in Miami? (They don't, except for one. See
Actress Hazel Court, who became a favorite among fans of 1950s and 1960s horror films, died last week from a heart attack at age 82. Tragically, she did not live to see publication of her forthcoming autobiography. Ms. Court's films include the Roger Corman -produced hit The Raven in which she co-starred with legends Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre, and the Hammer horror film classic The Curse of Frankenstein starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. For more click here
Responding to the absurd news that the Parker Brothers board game Monopoly is to be made into a feature film, the folks at Cracked magazine have devised conceptual art for posters relating to thirty movies that should never be made. It's quite hilarious. Click here to view
Disney film expert Wade Sampson has written an exhaustive account of the clever methods used by Walt Disney to bring his 1959 fable Darby O'Gill and the Little People to the screen. The elaborate marketing campaign included a one hour TV special about the movie and a campaign by Walt himself to convince the children of the world that leprechauns really did exist - a deception that still grates on Sampson today! The article covers some well known trivia (his starring role in the film led to Sean Connery landing the part of James Bond) and some more obscure facts (Barry Fitzgerald was to star.) Click here to read this highly entertaining analysis of one of Walt Disney's most underrated films.
Click here to order Darby O'Gill DVD edition from the Cinema Retro Amazon Store
We just discovered a great site run by an unidentified Beatles memorabilia collector who has meticulously cataloged a vast number of interesting items from the days of early Beatlemania. Among the gems are these magazines one of which is a souvenir magazine based on A Hard Day's Night. Unlike most movie programs, this was sold on newstands, not in theaters. The other magazine is dedicated entirely to the craze for Beatle haircuts. Talk about niche marketing! (No truth to the rumor that Moe Howard filed a copyright infringement suit over the concept.)
If you're like us, you consider Robert Wise's 1966 epic The Sand Pebbles one of the great films of that decade. It also represents the only film that saw Steve McQueen nominated for an Oscar. The film was nominated for numerous major awards, but unfortunately the Academy chose to honor that noble snooze-fest A Man for All Seasons. Nevertheless, The Sand Pebbles lives on through legions of loyal fans worldwide. Their prime meeting place is the ultimate tribute site at www.thesandpebbles.com Here, virtually every aspect of the film is celebrated, from rare production stills to fascinating insights and film clips. Among the latter is the full length theatrical trailer that also features brief glimpses of Wise's previous triumphs, West Side Story and The Sound of Music. Curiously, the trailer also features a deleted scene of river bandits firing on the ship. Click here to visit the site - but be prepared to spend a long time there! Click here to view the trailer.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE SPECIAL RESTORED DVD COLLECTOR'S EDITION FROM THE CINEMA RETRO AMAZON MOVIE STORE.
In an interview on the Den of Geek web site, producer Michael Radford gives some interesting insights into the making of his acclaimed film adaptation of George Orwell's 1984 that was released the same year. Initially, Radford approached Sean Connery to play the part of the villain O'Brian, a soft-spoken, seemingly gentle man who subjects free-thinking individuals to horrendous physical and mental tortures. After spending months trying to get Connery to commit, Radford reluctantly went with Richard Burton. He had great concerns about Burton's reputation as a heavy drinker. He was delighted to find that the iconic actor had since gone on the wagon and his only vice was Diet Coke. Burton delivered the last great performance of his career in the film.
DAVID WYLER, SON OF DIRECTOR WILLIAM WYLER WHO WON AN OSCAR FOR HIS 1959 VERSION OF BEN-HUR, HAS ANNOUNCED HE IS PRODUCING A TV MINI SERIES VERSION OF THE LEW WALLACE NOVEL. NO CASTING HAS BEEN DECIDED UPON FOR THE LEADING ROLE THAT WON CHARLTON HESTON HIS ONLY ACADEMY AWARD. WYLER SAYS THE RELIGIOUS ASPECTS OF THE STORY WILL BE MORE SUBDUED IN THIS VERSION. FOR MORE CLICK HERE
He was one of the most successful and influential film directors of the 1980s, helming hits such as Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles and the Brat Pack favorite The Breakfast Club. However, John Hughes has been off the radar screen since 1991 to the degree that we might expect his face to pop up on a milk carton. By all accounts, he has gone into self-imposed exile in Chicago, having foresaken the industry that gave him fame and fortune. His work still resonates with a generation of filmmakers who are greatly influenced by his movies, but if Hughes is flattered by his legacy, he isn't speaking about it. He gives no interviews and never courts the press.
For an update on Hollywood's most famous "missing person", click here.
We've stumbled on a hilarious site called Superdickery that celebrates the dumbest moments in comic book history. If you doubt us, just check out these flapadoodles: Lois Lane being wooed by then-teen idol Pat Boone and Archie meeting The Punisher. What's next in the pipeline: Sad Sack deserts to the Nazis? To visit the Superdickery site click here
Writer Jamie Stuart of the Movie Navigator site takes an in-depth and very poignant look at Stanley Kubrick's controversial final film, Eyes Wide Shut- and like many viewers, finds it too complex to have formed any instant opinions. The film was released in 1999, seemingly an eternity ago when Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman were Hollywood's hottest couple. To read click here
For James Bond fans, Sunday's Goldfinger reunion had the Midas Touch in every regard. Organized by Cinema Retro colmunist Gareth Owen and his partner Andy Boyle of www.bondstars.com, the event gave 120 lucky attendees from around the world the opportunity to celebrate the classic James Bond film in the ultimate fashion. With the exception of Sean Connery, John Barry and Shirley Bassey, virtually every living actor and technician from the film were reunited at London's Pinewood Studios where principal photography had taken place in 1964. Among the attendees: director Guy Hamilton, cast members Shirley Eaton, Tania Mallett, Burt Kwouk, Martin Benson, Margaret Nolan, Caron Gardner, production designer Sir Ken Adam, art director Peter Murton, Peter Lamont (who served as draughtsman on the film), Leslie Bricusse, who co-wrote the lyrics to the smash hit title song, and sound man Norman Wanstall, who won an Oscar for the film. This was literally an all-day event, as the stars arrived at 10:30 AM for autograph sessions that were followed by a tour of the studio led by Cinema Retro co-publisher Dave Worrall. A highlight was the surprise appearance of one of the original Aston Martin DB5's which was on loan for the event from The Louwman Collection in The Netherlands. In the afternoon, everyone gathered at Pinewood's Theatre 7 for a screening of the film in digital format. It was to be an historic occasion: the largest gathering of cast and crew to view the movie since its original premiere. The digital print was simply stunning and it's safe to say that no matter how many times you've seen the film, you haven't truly seen it until you've experienced the flawless digital presentation. At the conclusion of the film, Cinema Retro editor-in-chief Lee Pfeiffer conducted Q&A sessions with Shirley Eaton, Tania Mallett, Burt Kwouk, Leslie Bricusse, Margaret Nolan and Guy Hamilton. At the conclusion of the session, Honor Blackman, who made a surprise appearance at the screening, joined Pfeiffer and Dave Worrall on stage to present Guy Hamilton with the Cinema Retro Lifetime Achivement award in recognition of his remarkable body of work that includes serving as assistant director to Sir Carol Reed on The Third Man and John Huston on The African Queen and his own hit films as director that include Live and Let Die, Diamonds Are Forever, The Man With the Golden Gun, Funeral in Berlin, The Colditz Story and Battle of Britain. A clearly moved Guy Hamilton gave a gracious acceptance speech and relished reliving his memories of Goldfinger with Honor Blackman.
(L to R) Shirley Eaton, Honor Blackman, Tania Mallett and Margaret Nolan with event organizers Andy Boyle and Gareth Owen.
Cinema Retro's Dave Worrall and Lee Pfeiffer (r) with Honor Blackman and Guy Hamilton
Finally, there was a memorable photo session as Cinema Retro photographer Mark Mawston posed many of the cast and crew members around the Aston Martin DB5. The event finally ended at 7:00 PM, with weary but enthusiastic attendees recognizing they had been part of a day they will not soon forget.
(Tickets for this event sold out in 24 hours. For those who were not able to attend, but who would like a souvenir of the day, there are a limited number of the illustrated collector's programs available for sale. To purchase from Bond Stars click here)
(All photos copyright Mark Mawston. All rights reserved.)
Widmark in his most legendary role, as the mad dog killer in Kiss of Death
Journalist Kim Morgan has an excellent tribute to recently-departed screen legend Richard Widmark, complete with clips from his greatest performances. Isn't it a pity that the mainstream media, which has unlimited coverage of "celebrities" most people have never heard of, let Widmark's passing go virtually unnoticed? For the tribute, click here.
She was the ultimate head-turner: Linda Blair in William Friedkin's The Exorcist.
Sorry for the crude headline, but there's no other way of putting it. One of the film industry's greatest genres has been beaten into the ground by armies of talentless hacks. Not only are most original horror films dreadful, these uninspired, no-talents have systematically revisited genuinely scary films and ruined their legacies as well. Writer James Christopher has a very perceptive article in the Times of London explaining why there are precious few genuinely scary films made any more. Filmmakers simply don't understand the difference between suspense and gore. In Psycho, there are only two murders - but the film is still paralyzingly scary. Nicholas Roeg's Don't Look Now is virtually all based on the power of suggestion, not special effects - and it remains one of the most terrifying films ever made. Robert Wise's The Haunting eschewed special effects for a literate script and a great cast: no screaming teenagers trying to avoid a guy with a buzzsaw. I still can't watch the movie with the lights out. Nowdays, there has been an abundance of gore, but few genuine chills. Off the top of my head, I can only think of two really scary films that I have seen in the last decade: The Blair Witch Project and 28 Days Later. Not coincidentally, both had miniscule budgets and had to rely on innovative methods and nuance to provide the scares. Armed with a larger budget, the producers of the sequel to the latter film, 28 Weeks Later fell victim to going overboard and threw in everything but the kitchen sink (though the film is still head and shoulders over the "dead teenage" epics released seemingly every week - and it does have a kick ass final scene.)
James Christopher recalls the impact William Friedkin's The Exorcist had on audiences in 1973 and why it is still arguably the greatest horror film ever made - and he gets comments from other noted filmmakers about the demise of one of the cinema's most time-honored genres. - Lee Pfeiffer
A year before Sean Connery starred as James Bond, he appeared in a Canadian TV production of MacBeth.
Like many aspiring young actors, Sean Connery trained in the classics. However, it's virtually impossible to find any film footage of him in these roles - until now. A three minute excerpt of Connery as MacBeth from a 1961 Canadian telecast has been posted on You Tube. The lean young Scotsman is intense and dynamic opposite Zoe Caldwell as Lady MacBeth. Forget the fact that the sets make an Ed Wood production look like Ben-Hur. For Connery fans, this is a true delight. Click here to view
Columnist Mike White of the Detour website takes a nostalgic look back at one of the most notoriously bad horror films of all time, Night of the Lepus. The 1972 thriller involved the emergence of giant killer rabbits. Although based on a clearly satirical political novel, the film version actually played the events straight and went immediately into the history books as the kind of horror movie only Ed Wood could love. For that reason, it didn't rate high on the resumes of stars Janet Leigh, Stuart Whitman and Rory Calhoun. The Detour article also gives you the opportunity to view the trailer, which has to feature the worst, over-the-top narration in the history of motion picture marketing. To view the "hare-brained" horror story, click here.
This looks like the rehearsal sequence from the famous Gypsy girl fight in From Russia With Love, but in fact its a scene from the 1950 "classic" Prehistoric Women. In the time-honored tradition of all cave chick flicks, these Neanderthal babes sport designer animal skins, meticulously coiffed hair and the benefits of using a primitive version of the Lady Schick razor. We owe it our ancient ancestors for creating the concept of catfights between beautiful women, a cultural value that has brought great happiness to men in the ensuing centuries. Here's to you, cave ladies!
Here's a really enjoyable 10 minute featurette from 1974 showing producer Irwin Allen in preparations for shooting his blockbuster The Towering Inferno. It makes you realize how the pre-CGI era depended upon master craftsmen to bring spectacle and thrills to the movies. It also reminds us how we'll never see the likes of these all-star films again for two reasons: 1. the budgets would be unaffordable. 2. there aren't enough genuine stars to merit being called an all-star production! Can you remember the thrill of seeing Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Richard Chamberlain, Robert Vaughn, Robert Wagner and Jennifer Jones in one movie? To view click here
For my second beach movie
review, I picked what I think is the best of the Frankie and Annette
beach-party musicals, Beach Blanket Bingo:
BEACH BLANKET BINGO (1965)
Frankie Avalon (Frankie),
Annette Funicello (Dee Dee), Deborah
Walley (Bonnie Graham), Harvey
Lembeck (Eric Von Zipper), John
Ashley (Steve Gordon), Jody McCrea (Bonehead), Donna Loren (Donna), Marta Kristen (Lorelei), Linda Evans (Sugar Kane), Timothy Carey (South Dakota Slim), Don Rickles (Big Drop), Paul Lynde (Bullets), Buster Keaton (Himself), Earl Wilson (Himself), Bobbi Shaw (Bobbi), Donna Michelle (Animal), Mike Nader (Butch), Patti Chandler (Patti), Andy Romano, Alan Fife, Jerry
Brutsche, John Macchia, Bob Harvey, Alberta Nelson, Myrna Ross (Rat Pack), Ed Garner, Guy Hemric, Duane
Ament, Ray Atkinson, Brian Wilson, Mickey Dora, Ned Wynn, Frank Alesia, Phil
Henderson, Johnny Fain, Ronnie Dayton (Beach
Boys), Linda Benson, Mary Hughes, Salli Sachse, Linda Merrill, Luree
Holmes, Laura Nicholson, Linda Bent, Chris Cranston, Mary Sturdevant, Judy
Lescher, Pat Bryton, Pam Colbert, Dessica Giles, Stephanie Nader, Jo Ann Zerfas
(Beach Girls).Guest stars: The Hondells.
In the immortal words of Eric
Von Zipper, Beach Blanket Bingo is
“nifty.”It is the best, the zaniest,
the quirkiest, and most fondly remembered of the Frankie and Annette
fun-in-the-sun teenage epics.Admittedly, the story centering on Dee Dee proving to Frankie that girls
can sky dive as well as boys while vying for him with a redheaded tease,
Bonehead falling in love with a mermaid, and a beautiful singer kidnapped by
Von Zipper’s biker gang is far-fetched.But it contains some very funny lines mostly delivered by Don Rickles as
Big Drop and Paul Lynde as an acid-tongued press agent whose verbal sparring
with Avalon is one of the movie’s highlights.Lots of colorful beach scenes are intermingled with stock sky diving
shots.All your AIP favorite stars are
here, the songs are bouncy and light, an array of guest comics provides some of
the series’ funniest moments, and a bevy of beautiful blondes enhance the
Frankie delivers one of his most
amusing performances but poor Annette who proved she could act in Muscle Beach Party really has nothing
much to do, as her character seems resigned to the fact that her boyfriend has
a roving eye.Deborah Walley, usually
cast as the good girl, surprises as a vixen who uses Frankie to make her
boyfriend John Ashley jealous.Jody
McCrea finally gets to stretch his acting muscle as Bonehead and his scenes
with Marta Kristen (Judy Robinson on Lost
in Space) as a mermaid are touching and bittersweet.Linda Evans is darling as the naïve Sugar
Kane and stands out whenever she dons a bikini.It is these two sexy blondes along with Playboy Playmate Donna Michelle
as man-hungry Animal and the rest of the bikini-clad beach girls that make Beach Blanket Bingo a winner with girl
watchers.For boy watchers it is the
same old crew but at least shirtless surfer boys Mike Nader and Johnny Fain get
lots more screen time and even raise an eyebrow or two when Nader inserts a
frankfurter into the eager waiting mouth of Fain while Donna Loren sings about
an unrequited love.Scenes like that
make me want to go hmmmmmmmm.
Another big plus for Beach Blanket Bingo is the music
score.The songs are some of the best
from the series beginning with the title song—the grandest opening number of
all the beach-party movies.The up tempo
tune is sung in such a light and bouncy manner by Frankie and Annette that you
can’t but help want to jump to your feet and dance along.They also do well with their second duet, the
popular “I Think, You Think.”Pretty
Donna Loren expertly belts out the heart wrenching “It Only Hurts When I Cry” and
The Hondells rock out on“The Cycle
Set.”Every beach-party movie has one clunker
and in Beach Blanket Bingo it is
“These Are the Good Times” crooned by Avalon as if it were 1950 rather than
On the down side, as with
most of the beach-party movies, Beach
Blanket Bingo does not do surfers any justice and doesn’t even bother to
insert any stock surfing footage.The
other wrong note in the film is John Ashley.After playing Frankie’s buddy Johnny in Beach Party, Muscle Beach
Party, and BikiniBeach,
his being cast as Avalon’s jealous rival Steve throws off the continuity of the
series.But despite its minor flaws, Beach Blanket Bingo is the apex of the
beach movie genre.However, little did
anyone know at the time that this would be the last beach pairing of Frankie
and Annette (Frankie only makes a cameo appearance in the next film, How to Stuff a Wild Bikini).Thankfully, Beach Blanket Bingo (as well as all the AIP beach movies) is
available on DVD and turn up frequently on Turner Classic Movies.
Lately, it seems that most of the retro action has been taking place in London, so New York Cinema Retro contributors are fighting back with their own prestigious events. Writer Eddy Friedfeld, who co-authored Sid Caesar's autobiography Caesar's Hours, produced and hosted “Stand-Up Comedy of the
’70s” as part of the 92nd Street Y’s “Funny People” series and in
connection with Time Magazine Editor/Writer Richard Zoglin’s new book,
Comedy at the Edge: How
Stand-up in the 1970s Changed America (Bloomsbury).Pictured L to
R:US Senator Arlen Spector (who did not
participate in the program but is quite funny in his own right), Richard Belzer,
Robert Klein, Richard Zoglin, Eddy Friedfeld, and Buddy Teich, the benefactor of
the Y’s “Funny People” series.
(For Eddy Friefeld's article about riding in the original Batmobile, see Cinema Retro issue #7)
Paul Gerrard, who runs
the great web site www.movieposterstudio.com
provides some insights into an unusual Alfred Hitchcock collectible.
Many people think that crazy publicity stunts are a recent
development in the world of movie marketing, but not so, as this promotional
mask from Hitchcock's 1963 chiller The
Birds can testify. The concept behind this particular bird-brained scheme
was to allow members of the public free entry to screenings, as long as they
were wearing the mask, and as long as they could match a number printed on the
back of the mask with a list at the cinema box office. It can only be imagined
that the sight of couples parading along the street to their nearest theatre
adorned with this avian headgear was even more disturbing than the film itself.
Still more sinister when you consider this was an adult-rated film, and not
some form of amusing diversion for the kiddies.
And it didn't end there. Not content with ruffling a few feathers amongst the
twittering classes with their seemingly ungrammatical campaign slogan "The
Birds Is Coming", the Universal publicity team had more 'cheep' tricks in
the wings. Here is a small selection of absolutely genuine stunts from the
original campaign manual, hatched by over-imaginative (m)Ad Men, who were no
doubt eager to launch themselves up the pecking order:-
A specially-commissioned crossword was to be copied and distributed, comprising
such fun-filled clues as 37 Down: "The birds ---- the farmer to
Cinema owners were encouraged to antagonise bird enthusiasts by inviting them
onto radio shows and debating topics such as "Birds Do Not Love People But
Hate Them", and that birds are the "Villains of Nature".
Seagulls could be painted in bright colours to attract attention around town
(although thoughtfully the manual advised to "get instructions about
dyeing seagulls from your local Audubon Society, the ASPCA or other local bird
Talking birds could be enlisted from pet shops and trained to cry out "The
Birds Is Coming" en masse.
Local restaurants were to promote their meals with the slogan "The Birds
Are Here In The Best Dishes You Ever Ate".
Fowl play indeed! We can but hope that the threatened remake of this Hitchcock
classic inspires similar flights of fancy.
(If you want to terrify your own children with this vintage collectibe, Movie Poster Studio
has one for sale. To view, click here)
Charles McGraw, Biography of a Film Noir Tough Guy. (Mcfarland and Co. 2007.)
By Wesley Britton
“I'm all for new
faces. And I'm not sore at the producers. They give a kid good direction and
custom- written parts and sometimes the kids click. But I get my dander up at
the way some of these kindergarten actors put on the dog. They let their hair
grow long if they're a man or cut it off if they're a woman. They start giving
out with their theories on picture-making and the theatre in general, when most
of them haven't been closer to the stage than the one in the high school
auditorium. They get interviewed and they say unusual things—and they make me
sick . . . Trouble with kids today [is that] they don't want to be actors half
as much as they want to be stars. The craftsmanship, the joy of doing something
well hasn't half the exciting appeal as the dollars or the phony glamour.”
While the quote above might seem a perfectly
appropriate jab at moviedom’s current rash of questionably talented box-office
draws, it was actually made in 1955 by longtime character actor, Charles
McGraw. He was fresh off his most recent role in The Bridges at Toko-Ri and spoke from a deep well of experience.
After all, from 1942’s The Dying Monster to
1976’s Twilight’s Last Gleaming—his 68th
feature film--the much respected actor worked with virtually everyone in TinselTown.
He would play the cruel
slave-master Marcellus in Spartacus(1960) and suffer a broken-jaw
when the film’s lead, Kirk Douglas, overdid it in one scene. McGraw played Sebastian
Sholes in The Birds (1963) but would
never work for Alfred Hitchcock again due to an ill-advised fat joke. He was
among the all-star cast of Stanley Kramer’s 1963 It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World and enjoyed a career comeback when he
played the father of the psychopathic killer, Perry Smith (Robert Blake) in
1967’s In Cold Blood. But, as
demonstrated in the title of Alan K. Rode’s Charles McGraw, Biography of a Film
Noir Tough Guy, the “working class” actor would never become a household name. Still,
he left behind an impressive resume of work that stretched over three decades.
Cinema Retro London correspondent Adrian Smith brings us the inside story of the recent reunion of Captain Kronos cast members.
Brian Clemens, Horst Janon, Caroline Munro, Lois Dane and John Cater . (Photo copyright Matt Gemmell)
eighteen months has seen an impressive array of Hammer-related film events here
in the UK,
most organised by filmmaker and cult-film champion Don Fearney. Saturday, 29 March saw perhaps the most intriguing and popular event so far occur at the Cine
Lumiere in London.
Kronos: Vampire Hunter is a long forgotten film which was virtually ignored
at the time of its release, even by Hammer themselves. However it has developed
a strong following since becoming available on home video and DVD, and many see
it as one of the strongest entries in the latter end of the Hammer canon,
falling between weaker efforts such as Twins
of Evil and The Satanic Rites of Dracula.
was created and directed by Brian Clemens, best known for his work on TVs The Avengers, and he had also recently
scripted Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde
for Hammer. He has sadly never been asked to direct a film since which is in no
way a reflection of his abilities!
Horst Janson and John Cater (Photo copyright Matt Gemmell)
reunion Don Fearney managed to gather the surviving principle actors, including
a rare visit from the star Horst Janson, who is kept very busy on German
television. Fans were delighted to meet Janson along with Brian Clemens,
Caroline Munro, John Cater, William Hobbs, Lois Dane and Lisa Collings. The
queues for autographs lasted well over two hours and circled the lobby of the
Cine Lumiere. The film was screened to rapturous applause, along with Vampire Circus, another favourite with
fans, and Fearney’s new documentary on the Hammer vampire films.
event, Cinema Retro was lucky enough to catch up with Janson, who is still
incredibly handsome after all these years! How did he feel about being at the
Lois Dane and Horst Janson (Photo copyright Matt Gemmell)
“Well I haven’t
seen the film for a long time. It was great to see the film again on a big
screen. It is great especially to see Brian Clemens again, because he is not
the youngest any more! I enjoyed it very much to see all these people again and
to remember the work. We had great fun you know!”
a very busy actor for many years now, Janson was unaware of how popular the
film had become. “It was never released in Germany, so the only thing I saw
was when I was dubbing it into German (for the DVD release). I had no idea how
popular it was over here in Britain.
We can only follow these things on the internet. I know how many people are on
my page and mention Captain Kronos!”
(Read writer Willliam Gagliani's tribute to Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter in issue #9 of Cinema Retro)