If you think you know a lot about Steve McQueen, The New York Times has an informative piece tied in to the Porsche he raced in and was later used to film Le Mans. It's a fascinating chronicle of the car and the men who drove it, tied in to the fact that the vehicle is now up for auction. To read click here
Author and film scholar Dr. Peter X. Feng talked with Cinema Retro Editor-in-Chief Lee Pfeiffer about Turner Classic Movies' series of movie presentations, Asian Images in Film which launches on June 3. The film festival explores the way Asians have been portrayed in Hollywood productions from the early days of the industry until the present time. Dr. Feng co-hosts the introduction to each movie with Robert Osborne.
CR: How did the idea for this film festival originate?
PF: Charlie Tabesh, the head of programming for TCM, initiated it. He specifically wanted to do Asian Images in Film. In the process of his research, he came across my work and contacted me.
CR: I recently helped host a film event at Pinewood Studios in London and interviewed Burt Kwouk. We chatted briefly about the fact that Burt was one of the first Asian actors hired to play an Asian part. Until that time, most of the major Asian roles were played by caucasians. Why was this the case?
PF: Not to put too fine a point on it, but I would say it was racism. It's understandable that from a studio standpoint, they'd want to use actors they were already familiar with. It's also understandable that they wouldn't want to invest money in developing actors if they weren't going to develop roles for them. The larger issue is not being interested in Asian themed stories except as a backdrop for American and British characters. Once you're not interested in developing those stories, then there's no incentive to develop an Asian American star. As a principal, I don't have a problem with a white actor playing an Asian character. But until there's equity in the sense that a studio would cast an Asian actor to play a white character, then it's not fair.
CR: It seems to me that it's more permissible to have actors play characters of different races in theater productions, but when you see absurdities like Rex Harrison playing the King of Siam in a film, you have to wonder if there weren't any qualified Asian actors to take that role.
PF: I think you're absolutely right and in theater they have cast people of color in white roles. In theater, there's more playing with illusion. Somebody's hand can be empty but you understand they're supposed to be holding something. You can get away with that in theater. I understand that the film industry is a business and as soon as it becomes profitable to develop actors, they will. Of course, we're starting to see that now.
CR: Who would you say were the first actors and actresses to beat the system by being cast in Asian roles?
PF: Way back in the silent era we have Sessue Hayakawa and then Anna May Wong, of course. Then it wasn't until James Shigeta and Nancy Kwan in the late 1950s and early 1960s, who were the first ones to really be developed and nurtured and given a variety of roles.
CR: Would you say Hayakawa was more a character actor than a leading man?
PF: No, not until later in his career with The Bridge on the River Kwai. He was a matinee idol before Rudolf Valentino. He had a big fan following and women were really interested in him.
CR: What is your opinion of the Charlie Chan films which were so successful, but which featured European actors in the title role?
PF: To me, that's the issue. On the one hand, Charlie Chan is certainly a hero and the lead in the seriesand that was a huge step forward in how Hollywood represented Asians. But I still find Charlie Chan to be a limited characterization. He may be the smartest man in the room, but it's still clear he has to know his place. For me the ironic thing about the casting of caucasian actors as Charlie Chan is that they always cast Asian actors as his kids. Number One Son and Number Two Son are really important in the series, so there's that strange disconnect.
CR: It was the same dilemma black actors faced to a certain degree -being subject to bizarre casting choices. I noticed that you unearthed this rare short film from the Spanish American War in which the Phillipinos are played by black actors. Since this was made in 1899, it shows that if blacks were subjected to prejudices in the industry, then Asians were below them.
PF: Well, they were probably cast simply because they were available. It was shot in New Jersey, which is where the early film industry was based and there weren't that many Asian Americans living on the east coast. The other thing that should be said about casting white actors in Asian roles is that Hollywood was always very interested in romance plots and was always interested in flirting with interracial romance. But the production code at the time forbade them from really developing these plots. The American public was kind of fascinated by it, but uptight about it also. One of the things that casting a white actor in an Asian role allowed you to do was have the characters be of different races but if they're kissing or something, then everyone knows they're really of the same race.
CR: In watching your intros with Robert Osborne, I was intrigued by your opinion that Japanese were placed on a higher level of respect in films than Chinese were. What do you attribute that to?
PF: I attribute it mostly to the political clout of Japan internationally. Japan was a powerful country, a relatively rich country compared to China which is obviously a big country, but was less developed industrially and technologically. It just wasn't a player on the world stage. I think that's the main reason.
CR: The outbreak of WWII set the cause of racial equality in films back for years, obviously. The first major film I recall seeing that was sympathetic to Japanese Americans was John Sturges' Bad Day at Black Rock in which Spencer Tracy plays a government agent who tries to bring to justice the racist killers of a Japanese American farmer. It was ironic, because the Asian character is never seen - he's already dead when the film starts.
PF: I think you're right- that was certainly a high point. We're showing another film, Go for Broke that's about the WWII regimental combat team made up of Japanese Americans that was made before Bad Day at Black Rock but it wasn't as a big a film.
CR: As a child, when you went to the movies, what Asian characterizations used to grind on you the most?
PF: That's a good question, because now I think a lot of them are silly- you know, Katharine Hepburn in Dragon Seed, for example. I would have to say it was the villains, because I wasn't thrilled with those characters anyway - Fu Manchu in particular, you know, Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff.
CR: Have you seen the Hammer films with Christopher Lee as Fu Manchu?
PF: I have. His daughter was played by Tsai Chin, a British actress who is also in The Joy Luck Club. She had also played Suzie Wong on the London stage. But we're talking now about the 1960s and I think there was a little bit of the camp aspect to it. Everyone knew that the idea of a megalomaniacal villain trying to conquer the world was kind of a joke, whereas originally, the character of Fu Manchu expressed a lot of anxiety about what it meant in London that there were so many Chinese there and the popular fear about the opium dens, which of course was unfounded.
CR: How do you feel about Samuel Bronston's 55 Days at Peking about the Boxer Rebellion? It at least attempted to present the Chinese frustration at having the European powers dominate their country in the early 1900s.
PF: I haven't seen it in many years and I agree with your assement. You're right in that it did portray the issues, but it was still a backdrop for the story involving Charlton Heston and Ava Gardner. That film came along in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement. The first time the phrase "Model Minority" was used was in a Time or Newsweek article in reference to the Japanese American community. It said that here was a community that was interned in WWII and they've risen in economic status and they've done it by being a model minority- by keeping their head down, by not complaining. It's clear they were supposed to be a model to other minorities. The message was: blacks are militant are asking for things and demanding things rather than just putting their head down and working hard. I would put 55 Days at Peking in that context. It may be a favorable representation of one group, but it's kind of a message to others that says, "We will help you. We will take care of you. Just stop complaining about whether you get to ride in the front of the bus."
CR: How were the films selected for the TCM festival?
PF: Charlie gave me a big list of all the films that were already in the Turner library. I also made a wish list of other films I hoped we could get the rights to. Of course, Charlie took care of the budgeting aspect and came up with the best way we could get the most bang for our buck. We got almost everything I wanted. There were a handful of films I would have loved to have gotten, but I'm really happy that we covered the topic with other films that were available.
CR: I see they're going against tradition by showing a couple of relatively recent films like Rush Hour II and The Joy Luck Club.
PF: Well, Charlie wanted to bring the stories as close to the present day as possible. I think that's really great. I thought we'd end the series around 1960.
CR: Do you think there has been sufficient progress in how Asians are portrayed on screen today?
PF: We still have a long way to go. There's still not many opportunities for Asian American actors. There's been an influx of actors from Hong Kong like Jet Li and Chow Yun-Fat but they're not Asian American roles. The stories are generally set in Asia or it's the hero comes to the United States to solve a problem and it's clear he's going to leave. So they don't deal with the kind of social issues such as the fact that we live in a multi-racial society. They still engage in this fantasy that Asian Americans are temporarily here.
CR: How do you feel about the emergence of the Asian cinema as a major force in the film industry?
PF: If all we see are action films and horror films, that's still a stereotype. When I was a kid on the playground, everyone called me "Bruce Lee", but people didn't see me in a more rounded way than that. It occurs to me now, with all these horror movies from Korea and Japan, they all seem to feature an Asian kid in a bowl haircut and I worry that people are going to freak out when they see an Asian kid because that's the only thing they ever see him as. (Laughs)
CR: Is there one film in particular you would recommend our readers tune in for during the TCM festival?
PF: Walk Like a Dragon isn't widely seen. It's not available on DVD. It's a film I put very high on my list because I hadn't seen this film, only excerpts. I'm really excited about it. It's set in California in the Old West and Jack Lord from Hawaii 5-0 finds out there's a slave auction of Chinese women and he intervenes and purchases a woman from the auction with the intent of setting her free. But it doesn't occur to him that setting her free isn't enough. Where is she going to go? She doesn't speak English and she's just going to be exploited by somebody else. It's a film about this problem and a character of good intentions who gets in over his head. James Shigeta plays a recently arrived Chinese immigrant who refuses to walk with a bowed head. He walks down the center of Main Street with his head held high and gets beaten up. It's a film that is really complex and rich. The character is not a saint. The answer to these depictions is not to create characters who are morally spotless, but to create real characters - and this is a character who is flawed. It's a really interesting film.
CONTINUE READING FOR THE TCM PRESS RELEASE AND SCHEDULE FOR ASIAN IMAGES IN FILM
Harvey Korman, one of the most acclaimed comic second bananas of the last half-century, has died at age 81. Korman shot to fame in the 1960s on the popular Carol Burnett Show where he he was a weekly regular, often playing in sketches with his friend Tim Conway. One of those sketches, in which Conway was a bumbling dentist operating on Korman, is considered a classic. Conway had the ability to crack Korman up and the audience relished seeing Korman desperately trying to keep a straight face. Korman also excelled in several Mel Brooks films. He was the smarmy frontier bureaucrat Hedley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles who hated being confused with Hedy Lamarr (even though she was born in the following century!). He also offered a hilarious performance in Brooks' High Anxiety playing a corrupt psychiatrist with a penchant for masochistic sex from Cloris Leachman's Nurse Diesel. Up until last December, Korman and Tim Conway were performing their comedy sketch act on stage across America. Conway said, "It's a 45-year friendship. It was a great ride; we
worked together probably 30 years, plus the Burnett show, which was
about as good as it gets."
The Laugh-In cast with guest stars Tiny Tim and John Wayne: where else would you find those two together?
With the recent passing of Dick Martin, writer Danny Miller pays tribute to the influential Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. In addition to pointing out what made the series so influential, there are a number of great clips from the show and even a blooper reel. To view click here
Alexander Courage, whose theme for the original Star Trek, became a legendary part of TV history, died this week at age 88. Courage once said of the theme, “What I based the whole thing on in a way, was an old Hebredean tune
from the outer islands of Scotland.Because I wanted something that had a long, long feel to
it, and I wanted to put it over a fast-moving accompaniment to get the
adventure and the speed and so forth, so there was an old song called
‘Beyond the Blue Horizon,’ and when I was a kid I would hear it on the
radio and they used to play a double time accompaniment to it, while
this thing was singing over the top, so that’s what I really wanted to
do, I wanted to make all of the scales go way out, and I wanted the
intervals to be long, and I wanted to have a kind of exotic feel to it.”
Courage also worked on other TV series such as Judd for the Defense, Lost in Space and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. For more click here
One of the film and television industry's most revered composers, Earl Hagen died this week. Hagen worked under contract as a composer as Fox during his early years, creating scores for feature films such as Kiss of Death and Cry of the City. He received an Oscar nomination for co-writing the musical score for Marilyn Monroe's Let's Make Love. However, it was on television that Hagen truly thrived. He created the legendary theme song for The Andy Griffith Show - and whistled it, too! He also composed the classic jazz theme song and score for I Spy. His acclaimed efforts for that series earned him an Emmy. Other TV themes include The Dukes of Hazard and The Mod Squad. Hagen was 88 years old.
Oscar-winning Best Pictures that once seemed to be cinematic masterpieces for
the ages at the time of their release are now head-scratching “what were they
thinking?” puzzlements, while other contemporary films that got overlooked at
the time have found their critical reputations grow with each passing
year. Take for example, that long-ago year of 1997- shrouded in the mists of
time, it was a simpler, pre-Internet era. People were still doing the Macarena,
gas was a little over a dollar a gallon, and the movie “Titanic” was on its way
to becoming the biggest-grossing film of all time. The film was a cultural
phenomenon that took hold like some religious cult commanding its adherents to
see it again and again while the radio incessantly played that damned Celine
Dion song over and over until all resistance was futile. Needless
to say, it swept the Oscars like that other great white elephant “Ben-Hur” did
nearly four decades earlier when it bested the true masterpiece of that year,
“Some Like it Hot.” (Which didn’t even rate a Best Picture nomination - and
don’t get me started about the omission of “North by Northwest”!) As is
becoming readily apparent in hindsight, “Titanic” is a poorly written, awkwardly
executed concoction that is saved by its two gifted leads who managed to elevate
a mawkish tale of doomed teen-age romance into something credible and touching.
Indeed, the strength of the film relies on two striking scenes with Leonardo DiCaprio and
Kate Winslet - the sunset scene on the bow of the ship and the final shot where the
young lovers are reunited in the afterlife. Without those, you’ve got a pale
imitation of the vastly superior 1953 Barbara Stanwyck-Clifton Webb version
which won an Oscar for its screenplay. (And take out the chariot race from
“Ben-Hur” and you’d have an equally pale imitation of the vastly superior silent
film.) But then, nobody said the Oscars were perfect, if I may paraphrase Joe E.
Brown. (Actually, Iz Diamond wrote that line, but that, as they say, is another
Just as time has caught up with “Some Like it Hot,” last week's A.M.P.A.S. “It’s
Great to Be Nominated” screening of “L.A. Confidential,” makes it readily
apparent that the real Best Picture of 1997 was the Curtis Hanson masterpiece.
The years have been kind to it: the film seems even fresher now than it did upon
its initial release; its convoluted plot no longer seems so mystifying. There also many other praiseworthy aspects:
the strength of Hanson’s direction
the brilliance of the casting
adaptation by Hanson and Brian Helgeland of the daunting James Ellroy novel
film’s evocative look and design
the wonderfully moody score
the remarkable cinematography and
All of these aspects came together to create a film that gets better with the passage of time. The evening at the Academy was a testament
to a collaborative effort by a group of artists who were all at the top of their
those of us who have followed Hanson’s career have seen him start out with H.P. Lovecraft
adaptations starring Sandra Dee, then on to his collaboration with Sam Fuller on
the controversial “Black Dog,” and then come into his own with a series
of tense, psychological thrillers in the 80s and 90s. “L.A. Confidential,” was
confirmation that he is one of the most gifted directors working in the
American film industry. But what really sets Hanson apart is his mastery of the elements of Hitchcockian filmmaking - editing, pacing, composition,
was obvious that Hanson was a director fully in control of his craft, and the
string of fine performances showed him to be an actor’s director as well, one
who was able to elicit terrific performances in film after film. But then this
is the man who gave Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe their first starring roles in
Hollywood, so his eye for talent speaks for itself. But what really sets Hanson
apart from the scores of other Hitchcock wannabes like Chabrol and DePalma is
his attention to the psychological motivations of his characters. Hitchcock
never got the credit he deserved for his keen understanding of human nature, and
that really is what made him the master of suspense. Curtis Hanson understood
this better than any of Hitch’s imitators and used it in films like “Bedroom
Window,” “Bad Influence,” ( a film that echoes “Strangers on a Train” and
anticipates “Fight Club”) and “The River Wild,” which takes a Hitchcock
knock-off like “Cape Fear” (the original, not the misguided Scorsese remake) and
places Meryl Streep in the Gregory Peck role as protector of the family against a raging
it was in “L.A. Confidential” that this son of Los Angeles produced his
masterpiece. With such landmarks as the Frolic Room,
the Crossroads of the World and the Formosa Cafe, the film has the feel of old L.A. to a
degree that no other movie in recent memory captures. And unlike that other great
neo-noir set in Los Angeles, “Chinatown,” the Hanson film pulses with the
vitality of the city itself, while the Polanski picture has a languid, European
flavor to it. As more than one participant at the screening remarked, “Curtis is
‘L.A. Confidential’ and ‘L.A. Confidential’ is Curtis.” Perhaps James Ellroy
paid him the best compliment of the evening when he said, “When I wrote the
novel, the characters were described totally different physically. But when I
read the novel now, I see the actors from the film saying the
was most gracious, paying tribute to the late casting director, Mali Finn, DP
Dante Spinotti, editor Peter Honess, the late great composer Jerry Goldsmith,
and the many actors and crew assembled there on the Academy stage with him.
Production Designer Jeannine Opperwall and Costume Designer Ruth Myers were
especially singled out for their invaluable contributions as was the entire
sound team, many of whom were onstage as well. Actors Guy Pearce and Ron Rifkin
spoke of the physical demands the film made, specifically the beatings by
Russell Crowe, that Pearce’s character endured, as well as the incredible gunfight
sequence at the Victory Motel. Ron Rifkin praised Crowe and Pearce for being
so concerned for his welfare during the scenes where they push his head down the
toilet bowl (“It was remarkably clean!” he marveled) but while throwing him out
the window and dangling him high above the mean streets of downtown Los
always, moderator Randy Haberkamp did a masterful job of giving everyone on
stage a chance to shine, drawing out anecdotes and illuminating the production.
And it seems to have been a remarkable happy set, giving the lie to the adage
that only films born out of conflict are good films. Everyone seems to have been
on the same page during the shoot and the result speaks for itself. If Curtis
Hanson hasn’t made another film to equal it, it’s only because he has admirably
chosen to do different genres of films like the literary character study,
“Wonder Boys” or the musical biopic “8 Mile” or (for lack of a better term) the
chick flick, “In Her Shoes.” Unfortunately, as fine as these pictures are, none
of them has given him the opportunity to display the virtuosity he so
brilliantly displays in “L.A. Confidential.” The material was tailor-made for
his sensibility and played to his strengths as a filmmaker. The result is a film
that only grows better with the passing of each year. But then, I should have
known that. Around the time “L.A. Confidential” came out, I happened to be over
at Billy Wilder’s office and asked him if he’d seen the film. “Yes, it’s quite a
good picture,” Wilder replied. “But in fifty years it will be a great
I didn’t understand what he meant then, I’m starting to get
Cinema Retro correspondent Gareth Owen was invited by Warner Brothers to join a select number of journalists to interview famed film critic and documentary producer/writer/director Richard Schickel for the official Cannes Film Festival press kick-off of his five hour history of Warner Brothers, You Must Remember This: The Warner Brothers Story. The documentary, for which Clint Eastwood is executive producer, will be broadcast this September on TV and a 550 page coffee table companion book will accompany its premiere. The following questions were compiled from those asked by Gareth and other journalists during the interview.
(Photo copyright Damian Fox, Cinema Retro.)
Q: When did you begin work on the documentary?
RS: We did our first interview for it in the fall of ’06. We
started the cutting a year ago next month (June 2007).
Q: Was it a daunting assignment?
RS: Sure it was daunting! But it was also irresistible. I
always wanted to do a studio portrait. I had come close once before but
somebody else got the job. But patience is always rewarded because Warners has
always been my favorite studio and the one that most interested me – the films
they did, the stars they had, the directors they had. That goes back to when I
was a little kid, ten years-old looking at Saturday matinees. Somehow at that
time, I noticed there was something a little different about Warner Brothers
that appealed to me. They were kind of tough and they took up subjects that
somehow interested me as opposed to MGM which was glamour. There was an edge to
them, a toughness about them.
Q: What films influenced you the most?
RS: Back then – the early 1940s? I would say Air Force was one. Casablanca,
certainly. Yankee Doodle Dandy, certainly.
Those were the big movies I remember from that time. I was born in 1933, so it
was mid-War before I was allowed out of my house to go to whatever I wanted to
see. So some of those war-time movies were the ones that kind of hooked me.
Q: What is the status of the Warner Brothers documentary, You Must Remember This?
RS: It’s a five-hour project. Two hours are finished and the
third hour is just about finished. We’re starting on hours four and five now.
Getting it finished on a deadline basis is fairly difficult. People think these
things are easy, but they’re very difficult. Documentaries are one of the more
difficult forms of filmmaking. If you’re making a fictional film, you can go
back and reshoot the scene. I can’t reshoot the scene from Casablanca. It’s there. You have to live with it. It’s
difficult to link the movies to star and director careers and to the studio’s
general history. You know, Harry and Jack Warner fighting with each other all
the time, for example. It’s a question of balancing. There are lots of things
I’ve had to cut out of this film that I would have preferred to have in the
film, but there are time constraints.
Q: Has Warners pressured you to present a rosy picture of
RS: Not in the least. That’s where Clint, as executive
producer, has been very helpful. When we first talked about doing this, I said,
“I want you to be in on this."...
He said, “Yeah, I’d like to do it – but only if it’s not a puff piece.” We
didn’t want to just say “Warner Brothers is a great studio. They never made any
mistakes. Everything was just great. They never did anything stupid”So with that kind of understanding behind
you, they really just left us alone and that’s been very pleasurable. I
interview who I want, play the movies I want. It’s that kind of a deal. In the
course of doing all the films I’ve done, I’ve never really been interfered
with. Only one time, that I can think of, and that was a network I was making a
picture for. A particular person got to be a real pest. But we stumbled through
it and I don’t feel I compromised in any important way. I’ve had a lucky
filmmaking life. I haven’t had a lot of contentiousness with studios.
Q: What were some of the most surprising and most
disappointing things you found on this project?
RS: In terms of surprising, lots of little movies from the
pre-code era like Heroes for Sale, a
Bill Wellman movie about exploited veterans that’s a wonderful picture. I also
found clips from a movie – I forget the title now- but Pat O’Brien is a
telephone repair man and he has to go into people’s houses to fix the plugs and
what have you. And it’s very sexy because he’s intruding on women and there’s a
lot of funny cross-talk there. Then there’s Three
on a Match, which I was aware of but wasn’t as aware of as I became, a
wonderful movie about drug addiction, among other things. I wish I had a lot
more of Warren William, who was wonderful and very amusing playing slimy
characters. He had a picture I really wanted to get in but couldn’t, called Employee’s Entrance. It’s a terrific
little movie but I couldn’t figure out a way to get it in. I would have liked
to have done something about John Garfield. I would have liked to have done
something about Ann Sheridan, who was a special favorite of mine when I was a
kid, as was Garfield
– a very interesting, New York-kind of actor. Joan Crawford surprised me. She’s
pretty good. She’s not an actress I though that highly of at the time. But
there’s something about the intensity of her work in those pictures as a young
woman trying to rise in the world, particularly in Mildred Pierce. The surprises are always kind of nuanced. There’s
another movie and, again I can’t remember the name of it, but it has Kay
Francis in a really sophisticated movie about gambling addiction that was made
around 1935.But these surprises haven’t
made me change my mind about Cagney, Errol Flynn or Bette Davis – people I’ve
always loved. I think the era from the beginning of sound through,
roughly,White Heat (1949) was a great era and Warner Brothers was the
greatest studio. It was very fractious. Everyone was always yelling at each
other and going on suspension. Warners was kind of like a rat’s nest. Everybody
hating Jack Warner and him trying to keep all these people working and doing
what he wanted them to do, and they
didn’t want to do it. But I think that out of that kind of foment came the qualities
of the studio that I admire. Jack Warner was a really cheap guy. He wanted his
pictures to be low-budget, to get done on time, to have the actors he wanted in
them, and if they didn’t want to do it, he’d try to make them even if he
couldn’t. It’s a wonderful story of that kind of activity at the studio. I
think in some ways Warners was better than some of the more smoothly-running
studios. I mean, MGM really was a
factory that turned out that material without a lot of apparent difficulty with
I’m not saying Warners made all terrific movies. They had
their share of turkeys but the average was pretty good. There was an attempt to
go being Warner Brothers in the fifties. They did make a few socially
conscientious movies, but the pictures got bigger, they got slower, they got
longer, and the sprightly energy the studio had in the thirties and forties
started to disappear. They were fighting television, which was a huge challenge
to that system. The studio, I think, revived itself in the seventies. There was
a new management. Steve Ross had bought the studio and he had John Calley as
head of production and they’d just do anything and everything they wanted to
do. So, the studio was re-energized in that decade or decade-and-a-half after Ross
bought it. It again became the most interesting studio in Hollywood during that period. That’s when
Clint came there. That’s when Stanley Kubrick started his relationship with the
studio. They were making All the
President’s Men. They were making The
Exorcist. I mean, these were kind of exciting movies. The studio was
stirred again in that period.
The following press release was sent to Cinema Retro from Warner Brothers:
YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS: THE WARNER BROS.
New Documentary is
Centerpiece of WarnerHome Video’s Year-Long Celebration of Studio’s 85th Anniversary
Directed by Richard Schickel, Narrated by Clint Eastwood and
Produced in Partnership with PBS’ American Masters, Comprehensive Five-part
Work Documents Studio’s Storied History from Rin Tin Tin to Harry Potter
MORE THAN 50 RESTORED
WARNER BROS. CLASSICS TO MAKE DVD
DEBUT THROUGHOUT ANNIVERSARY YEAR
On April 4, 1923, four brothers from Youngstown,
Ohio (Harry, Albert, Sam and Jack
L. Warner) officially incorporated their new motion picture company which to
this day continues to entertain the world with great films.
2008, Warner Home Video (WHV) will celebrate Warner Bros. (WB) Studios’ 85th
anniversary with an initiative that will debut more than 50 new-to-DVD feature
films along with its centerpiece, You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros.
Story, an illuminating new documentary produced, written and directed
by award-winning filmmaker and Time
magazine Senior Film critic Richard Schickel. Clint Eastwood narrates.
As part of
the partnership with American Masters,
Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story will be broadcast nationally as a three-part special in
the creator and executive producer of American
Masters, which is produced by Thirteen/WNET New York, noted "Given our
long co-producing relationship with Warner Bros. -- on such projects as George Cukor, Gene Kelly, Judy Garland
and John Ford/John Wayne - it is
thrilling and appropriate that American
Masters can bring You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros.
Story to PBS."
American Masters is acclaimed for its
exceptional documentaries illuminating our collective past, whether through
individual achievements, or in this case, through the vision of a film studio,”
said John F. Wilson, Sr. Vice President and Chief TV Programming Executive,
PBS. “Exploring this impressive body of Warner Bros. films to more fully understand
unique place in history will be a wonderful and entertaining journey for our
debuts in September. Simultaneously, a 550-page full-color companion book --
written by Schickel and George Perry, with an introduction by Eastwood -- will
be published worldwide. George Perry is the former TheTimes of London film
critic and is the author of many books on film.
documentary, Schickel chronicles the history of Warner Bros. in an
unprecedented way, using excerpts from hundreds of Warner Bros.’ films to
illustrate how many of the studio’s films have served as a mirror of the
values, mores and attitudes of the eras in which they were produced.
documentary is definitely in Richard’s DNA. His fascination with Warner Bros.
goes back to his boyhood in Milwaukee
where the only theatre in town was owned by Warner,” said George Feltenstein, Senior Vice President, Theatrical Catalog
Marketing, and Warner Home Video. “It’s a
groundbreaking work that, rather than dealing with executive intrigue, contract
disputes or casting couch adventures, focuses on the studio’s films as a
microcosm of America’s cultural and social history. It’s a unique cinematic
achievement which has never been attempted on this level ever before - for this
or any studio.”
help celebrate the 85th anniversary year, from the vast WB library
among the industry’s most celebrated movies, more than 50 are being restored
for their DVD release this year including: All
This And Heaven, Too, The Beast With Five Fingers, Black Legion,
Brother Orchid, Deception, Flamingo Road, Gold Diggers Of 1937, Inside Daisy
Clover, Kid Galahad, Lady Killer,
The Mayor Of Hell, Night Nurse, None But The Brave, Pete Kelly’s Blues, San
Antonio, Thank Your Lucky Stars,
Three On A Match, Virginia City and
Watch On The Rhine.
special editions of Warner Bros. Pictures favorites including Bonnie and Clyde,
Cool Hand Luke, Gypsy, Risky
Business, and Splendor in the Grass are
also set for the anniversary year celebration.A number of other new-to-DVD
special editions and thematic box sets drawn from Warner’s classic MGM and RKO
collections will also be part of this anniversary slate.
quarter of 2008 will be marked with the release of several timeless
collections, such as Frank Sinatra, Dirty Harry, Gangsters, Super Heroes,
Musicals, Westerns, Oscars and more.
31, the Hollywood Bowl’s “Big Picture” night will honor the studio’s
magnificent movie music legacy with a special Warner Bros. musical concert to
be held at the famed 18,000 seat amphitheatre. The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra,
led by one of Hollywood’s
foremost composers, David Newman, will perform music to accompany pivotal and
well-known scenes from classic Warner Bros. films.
More about the Schickel Documentary
Eastwood, who has worked with Richard Schickel on a number of projects, will
narrate the documentary. The creative force behind many earlier works about
Warner’s talented stars and directors, Schickel now takes on the task of
telling the studio's entire history, with each sequence underscoring the
crucial roles Warner Bros. and its films have played in portraying our society,
a role the studio still plays today, some 85 years after its incorporation.
use of rare archival interviews, some of which have not been seen for decades,
as well as a great deal of newly photographed material, Schickel celebrates the
colorful legacy of Warner Bros. throughout the decades, featuring cleverly
assembled film clips from literally hundreds of films. Each of the
documentary's hour-long sequences focus on a specific period in the studio's
history, from the silent movie days and the development of sound, the
depression, WWII, the advent of television, the onset of new technologies, and
even the broadening and diversification of media companies in recent years.
engagingly retraces the legendary insights and demystifies the myths of some of
Hollywood’s most magnificent productions such as The Jazz Singer, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Casablanca, Yankee Doodle
Dandy, To Have and Have Not, A
Streetcar Named Desire, Giant, Bonnie and Clyde, The Exorcist, All The
President’s Men and the Batman and Harry Potter films; and talent from the likes of legends such as
Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Humphrey
Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Paul Newman, James Dean, Doris Day, James Cagney,
Joan Crawford, Paul Newman, Warren Beatty, Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford,
Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro, Barbra Streisand and George Clooney. As the
films from Warner Bros. studios have served as a roadmap and mirror of our
social history, You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story is sure to be
viewed as an entertaining and unique roadmap to the colorful history of Hollywood and filmed
The Thunder Child website presents writer Steve Vertlieb's superb tribute to legendary film composer Miklos Rosza, an amazingly talented man who created film scores for Ivanhoe, Ben-Hur, Double Indemnity, Brute Force, El Cid, Time After Time, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, The Naked City, Lust for Life and many more. To read about the remarkable life of a remarkable man click here
This story from the past is news to us. According to Variety columnist Army Archerd, Yul Brynner and Kirk Douglas were both locked in a battle over the screen rights to Spartacus. Archerd's archival column from 1958 reports that Douglas lost an early round to Brynner, but was determined to get the rights even if he had to fight for it. Douglas did emerge victorious, of course, and broke the Hollywood blacklist in doing so by hiring Dalton Trumbo to write the screenplay for the Oscar-winning film. Archerd gives us an update to the story, pointing out that there were no hard feelings between Douglas and Brynner. In fact, Brynner would play a supporting role in Douglas' 1966 film Cast a Giant Shadow. For the story click here
Tributes are coming in from film industry royalty for director/producer/actor Sydney Pollack, who died yesterday of cancer at age 73. The L.A. Times features an extensive recap of his career and video interviews that also accentuate his often overlooked talents as an actor. To view click here
Minutes ago, Cinema Retro learned that Sydney Pollack, the Oscar-winning director of Out of Africa, The Way We Were, Tootsie and Three Days of the Condor died of cancer at his Hollywood home tonight at age 73. Pollack was one of the most prolific directors in the industry and continued to enjoy a successful career producing films such as last year's Oscar-nominated Michael Clayton and the recently released comedy Leatherheads. He was also acclaimed for his acting skills, making him a triple threat talent. Pollack appeared in such films as his own Tootsie (playing Dustin Hoffman's exasperated agent), Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut and the currently in release Made of Honor. He was producing the new movie The Reader with Ralph Finnes and Kate Winslet at the time of his death. Pollack's rich resume extends back to the the 1950s when he appeared as an actor in top level TV series. He made his feature film acting debut with the early Robert Redford starrer War Hunt in 1962. He would go on to work with Redford again over the years, directing such hits as Three Days of the Condor, The Electric Horseman,The Way We Were and Out of Africa, for which he won the Best Director Oscar. Pollack's other major films include The Scalphunters, Castle Keep, The Slender Thread, Jeremiah Johnson, They Shoot Horses Don't They?, The Yakuza and The Firm.
BBC Radio has dramatized Ian Fleming's Dr. No as a 90 minute radio play. Ironically, the role of James Bond is played by Toby Stephens, who played the villain who menaced 007 in Die Another Day.
To listen to the broadcast, click here. (Note: there is some news and promos that last about 2 1/2 minutes preceding the play. Thanks to Cinema Retro London staffer Adrian Smith for the alert regarding this broadcast.)
Teaser advert for the new version of The Saint retains the classic logo.
Although the ballyhoo surrounding the stars and glitz and glamour is to the
fore at Cannes, one must remember that this prestigious event is also a window
to the world for film-makers to both buy and sell their wares. In one of the
main halls I saw Arsenal Pictures' stand promoting their new production of
The Saint, which is to star James Purefoy in the title role. (For my money, Purefoy is the perfect choice.). Purefoy was screen tested for the role of James Bond
in 1995 for Goldeneye, and was rumoured as a possible candidate to
replace Pierce Brosnan as agent 007 in Casino Royale. However, this is not, at
this moment in time, a big-screen production, but a 2-hour pilot for TV. Filming
is to take place in Europe and Australia, and is being produced by Bill
Macdonald (who worked with Purefoy on HBO's Rome) and Geoffrey Moore
(Sir Roger Moore's son). Helming the production is Barry Levinson, who directed
Rain Man and Sleepers. There have been many filmed versions of The Saint dating back to the 1940s and through Val Kilmer's yawn-inspiring big screen version of the 1990s. However, none have clicked with the public except for Roger Moore's long-running 1960s TV series. The time is ripe for bringing this superb
character back to our TV screens, and with Purefoy in the lead, they may just pull it
off this time. I,for one hope so. Here is the synopsis: Simon Templar is part of
a secret organization known as 'Knights of the Templar'. He's responsible for
enforcing the group's code of ethics against the criminal underground of the
world. Those familiar with 'Knights' know Simon Templar by one name: The
Saint. His current assignment has him in Montenegro, rescuing captive
children from being sold on the black market. When the operation is finished,
Templar discovers that one of the children is missing. An orphan once himself, he vows to rescue the lost boy, no matter what the cost. Waiting for him in
Paris is Patricia Holm, an intelligence specialist and Templar's lover. She has
information that a crooked businessman named Carger is responsible for the
children's abductions; however, the Knights learn that Carger is now into much
bigger things. The Saint is ordered to find Carger and steal a treasured relic
that, if made public, could ignite a spectacular holy war. When he discovers
Carger has also been keeping the missing orphan as his own son, Templar must
decide between his own personal convictions and his duties as The Saint.Filming is due to start at the end of May. -Dave Worrall
Huntington Hartford II, the eccentric one-time millionaire and toast of the high society set, has died at age 97. Hartford was a larger-than-life figure who was once considered to be one of the world's richest men. However, by the 1970s, much of his fortune had been squandered or lost in ill-fated business deals. He had inherited a fortune as heir to the A&P chain of American grocery stores, but Hartford had aspirations to move in high society with a glitzier crowd than the people involved in the running of grocery chains. He founded a major museum in New York City in 1964, but it was denounced by one critic as resembling “a die-cut Venetian palazzo on lollipops”. Hartford was the person credited with seeing the potential in developing Paradise Island in the Bahamas (when it was known as Hog Island). Ironically, he ended up losing a fortune in an area where seemingly everyone else made millions. Hartford was a resident of the island and during the filming of the James Bond movie Thunderball in 1965, he donated use of his mansion and land as key locations. Among the scenes shot for the film is the sequence in which James Bond emerges from the surf by a concrete jetty and disguises himself as a SPECTRE frogman. (Although Hartford's estate was demolished to make room for The Atlantis resort, this jetty still remains on the property.) In another sequence, the SPECTRE frogmen dive into a canal from a nearby wall. In reality, the canal led to a lagoon on Hartford's estate. (Hartford was not paid for his contributions, but his wife was given a role as an extra in the film.)
One of the sequences from Thunderball filmed on the Hartford estate.
This concrete jetty, which is now on the Atlantis resort property, is all that remains of the Hartford estate sequences where Thunderball was filmed.
Hartford, a restless spirit who could never stay focused on any particular project, was married four times. He was a self-described "Horatio Alger in reverse" who lost several fortunes on dubious ventures such as his Broadway adapatation of Jane Eyre starring Errol Flynn near the end of his career. A critical and box-office disaster, Hartford continued to subsidize the play at great cost just to spite his critics.
For the New York Times obituary of Hartford, click here
Dick Martin, who made comedy history as half of the Rowan and Martin team, has died from respiratory problems at age 86. Martin had teamed with fellow comic Dan Rowan in 1952 but it wasn't until 1966 when their comedy variety show was a summer replacement for Dean Martin's popular weekly program, that they enjoyed widespread success. They reached the zenith of their careers with the January 1968 debut of their TV series Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In on NBC.The show's rapid fire, hip one-liners and off color sight gags made the series a hit with the counter culture, even if Rowan and Martin were unlikely role models for the flower power generation. (They inevitably wore tuxedos throughout the series). The show spawned many top comedy talents including Goldie Hawn, Judy Carne, Arte Johnson and many others.The show became so popular that it attracted an eclectic number of top talents who appeared in cameos ranging from John Wayne to Leo G. Carroll (who jokingly begged NBC to bring back his series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. which Laugh-In had replaced.). The show also made history with a 1968 cameo appearance by Richard M. Nixon, then running for president in the 1968 election. Nixon, who was not known for his rollicking sense of humor, delivered one of the show's signature lines -"Sock it to me???" - and immediately enjoyed positive press. When the series ended in 1973, Rowan and Martin continued their partnership until 1977 when they amicably split up. The pair had also appeared in the big screen spoof The Maltese Bippy.
Martin went on to become one of the most in-demand directors in television, working on such series as The Bob Newhart Show, In the Heat of the Night and Archie Bunker's Place. His film roles included co-starring in the 1966 Doris Day spy spoof The Glass Bottom Boat.
(Note: contrary to information reported by CNN, Dick Martin was the zany member of Rowan and Martin and Dan Rowan (who died in 1987) was the straight man. CNN information has confused the two).
Cinema Retro columnist Gareth Owen was in the audience last Thursday when Clint Eastwood showed up to introduce a screening of Dirty Harry on the beach in Cannes. The nightly screenings are sponsored by Warner Brothers, which has made available many of their classic films for the event. We had been tipped off by Warner Brothers that Eastwood would make a surprise appearance to introduce the film - and the audience was predictably delighted, sreaming "Cleent!!" Eastwood joked about the passage of time in the 37 years since the movie was released, quipping "If you have trouble recognizing me, I'm the one with the brown hair and lots of it. I feel the same, but my hair doesn't." Eastwood made his remarks brief, noting that the incoming tide might sweep everyone away. Indeed, by the end of the film, the ocean was lapping at the screen!
What ;s worse than having Chewbacca permanently enshrined on your body? How about having him end up looking like a hirsute Curley Joe from The Three Stooges?
What does retired The Price is Right host Bob Barker, martial arts icon Chuck Norris and the severely over-hyped and under-performing Snakes on a Plane have in common? They've all been immortalized on people's bare skin through commemorative tattoos. A new book titled No Regrets: The Best, Worst & Most #$%*ing Ridiculous Tattoos Ever displays the evidence in living color. It's bad enough these saps had the "artwork" seared into their skin in the first place, but they now want to share their human canvases with the rest of the world. The Radar magazine web site has a hilarious article about how the tattoo craze has morped into the mainstream- with tragic results. There's also a photo gallery of the worst-of-the-worst. (Can you imagine trying to pick up a chick by showing your Snakes on a Plane tattoo? What could be worse: Yahoo Serious in Young Einstein?) For the article and photo gallery click here
TO ORDER THE BOOK FROM THE CINEMA RETRO AMAZON STORE CLICK HERE
If the new big screen version of Get Smart turns out to be a turkey, Mel Brooks can't pass the buck. In an interview with the L.A. Times, he says he has been consulted on every major aspect of the movie - unlike the previous ill-fated movie based on the series, The Nude Bomb (1980) which Brooks criticizes for not linking the name of the famous series to the title. For the interview click here
British quad poster for one of the two Sweeney feature films.
During a taping of Jonathan Ross's chat show on UK TV, actor Ray Winstone confirmed news that is sure to delight British movie fans: he will be reviving the legendary TV series The Sweeney as a feature film. The show, which ran in the 1970s, became "much-see TV" in England because it was the first crime drama that presented the London police force in a realistic manner. The heroes were flawed men who tried to cope with violent crime on a day-to-day basis. John Thaw starred as Inspector Jack Regan, the role to be taken on by Winstone. His fellow detective was played by Dennis Waterman. Although the series had not been imported to the USA, its popularity in Great Britain was such that it spawned two successful feature films. For more on the history of the series, click here.
Author Wes Britton, who runs the great spy movie web site www.spywise.net has a revealing interview with Whitey Mitchell, a prominent sit-com writer who worked on some of the best episodes of the Get Smart TV series. Among the "top secrets" revealed is why Don Adams didn't star in the show's take-off on Ice Station Zebra and why Bill Dana had to take over for him. To read the interview click here
The New York Post reports that a musical titled Bruce Lee: Journey to the West is to open on Broadway in 2010. The show will trace the iconic martial arts star's rise to fame and fortune and include Chinese pop and opera music. Lee might seem be an unlikely subject for a big budget musical, but the production has attracted some top talent. Personally, we're holding out for the Charles Bronson stage show which features the spectacular Death Wish singing and dancing production number!
There may not be much class or style left in Hollywood (most of the glamorous movie premieres are relegated to Leicester Square in London), but happily these attributes are alive and well in the home video business. I'm often reminded of this when the daily shipments of review copies of videos from studios arrive. Every now and then, there is a title released that is packaged like a movie lover's dream. Last year, Fox released The Great War Movies video set accompanied by a companion hardcover coffee table book (which I'll humby note was written and designed by Cinema Retro). Now, Warner Brothers can take a bow for releasing some classic movies with the kind of innovative content and packaging that will make movie fans drool. Today I received an advanced set of the Dirty Harry Ultimate Collector's Edition DVD Set. Obviously, I haven't had the opportunity to review the films and features themselves, so consider this a general notice about the collection's release and contents, which is impressive on every level.
Here is a summary of what you'll find inside:
Digitally remastered editions of Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact and The Dead Pool.
Dirty Harry special features including commentary track by noted film critic and Clint Eastwood official biographer Richard Schickel, the featurettes The Long Shadow of Dirty Harry, Dirty Harry: The Original, and Dirty Harry's Way; interview gallery with Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook, John Milius, Ted Post, Andy Robinson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Robert Urich; the TV special Clint Eastwood:The Man From Malpaso; trailer gallery for all five films.
Magnum Force special features including commentary by writer John Milius; the featurettes A Moral Right: The Politics of Dirty Harry and Harry Callahan/Clint Eastwood: Something Special in Films
The Enforcer special features including commentary by director James Fargo; featurette The Business End: Violence in Cinema
Sudden Impact special features including commentary by Richard Schickel and the featurette The Evolution of Dirty Harry
The Dead Pool special features including commentary by producer David Valdes and cinematographer Jack N. Green plus the featurette The Craft of Dirty Harry
(All of the DVDs include the trailer gallery and certain featurettes appear on multiple DVDs because they are also sold individually.)
If that isn't enough, try these juicy bonus extras on for size:
40 page DVD-size hardback book containing rare photos and production memos
A 19"x27" poster detailing the San Francisco locations that Scorpio sends Harry to in his quest to rescue a kidnapped girl
Bonus DVD of the PBS American Masters TV special, Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows
A memo from Eastwood reflecting on his memories of the franchise
A packet of 5x7 postcards featuring posters from each film plus Warner Brothers production memos
A small wallet containing a replica of Harry's police ID card and his shield
The above is enough to make any punk feel lucky.
Warner Brothers has done a superb job in designing the set, but I also want to take the unusual step of also recognizing The Lippin Group, the publicity firm that has also distinguished itself by creating the eye-opening bonus extra that was included in my review set: a full size, Dirty Harry .44 Magnum - in milk chocolate! (Don't send letters to your retailer complaining you didn't get yours- it's not part of the consumer set!) It's a brilliant gimmick- and was even thoughtfully packaged with a freeze pack to prevent it from melting. I only wish it had arrived in time for Valentine's Day. After all, nothing says "I love you" to that special someone in your life like a chocolate version of a gun that "could blow your head clean off!"- Lee Pfeiffer
The yummy chocolate lethal weapon included in the press set: the calories in the faux gun are more deadly than the bullets in the real one.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE DIRTY HARRY ULTIMATE DVD COLLECTION (SAVE $23 AND GET FREE SHIPPING!)
CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE COLLECTION IN BLU-RAY FORMAT (SAVE $39 AND GET FREE SHIPPING!)
The premiere at Cannes, where the film is being shown in competition.
(THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN UPDATED)
CINEMA RETRO COLUMNIST GARETH OWEN WAS INVITED TO COVER THE SCREENING OF CLINT EASTWOOD'S NEW FILM. AMONG THE SURPRISES WAS AN APPARENT TITLE CHANGE. HERE IS HIS REPORT:
Owen, In Cannes
Eastwood's latest film Changeling, is apparently now to be known as The Exchange after
the director took a shine to the French translation to the original title. It
premiered in competition at Cannes,
and is one of the front runners for the coveted Palm d'Or award.
The Exchange restored my faith in Hollywood
film-making. Everything about it is exquisite from the script, to performances,
direction, settings and camerawork to the sound, music and editing. It is
film-making the old fashioned way without silly camera tricks, flash cutting or
shaking hand-held shots.
has crafted the story of a mother who's son is abducted with pace, suspense,
tension, horror, emotion and with it carries a startling insight in to the corrupt
1930s LA police force. Angelina
Jolie, in a career best performance, plays Christine Collins - a hard
working single mother in late 1920s California - who returns home
from work one day to find her son has disappeared. Only after 5
months is there a lead on the case, when her young son Walter is spotted in Illinois. He is reunited
to his mother by police captain J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) in front of a
collection of press photographers, but she immediately says that the boy
is not her son, despite him claiming to be. To save embarrassment, the police
ask her to take the boy home. Days pass, and Collins' claims of the boy not
being her son (confirmed by him being 3 inches shorter than Walter and
also being circumcised when Walter was not) fall on dear ears in the LAPD; they
are now keen to push ahead with a positive press and dismiss anyone questioning
their professionalism. Collins fears that time is being wasted in not
continuing the search for Walter, so she goes public. The police, keen to
silence her, incarcerate her in a mental institution.
community activist (John Malkovich) takes up her case do things start moving,
and Collins is released. Meanwhile in the desert, another police detective -
on a routine illegal child immigrant case - discovers an eerie truth that leads to a dramatic and highly engrossing conclusion.
cements his reputation as being a master of the game with this film. It has
'Oscars' written all over it.
(Cinema Retro has been told by Universal that the title for the U.S. market officially remains Changeling, however it is still undecided whether the new title will be used when the film is released later this year.- Ed.)
CLINT EASTWOOD'S THE CHANGELING HAS SCREENED AT CANNES. THE ANGELINA JOLIE STARRER, SET IN THE 1920S AND BASED ON A REAL LIFE MYSTERY, HAS RECEIVED AN OUTSTANDING REVIEW FROM VARIETY. THE PAPER SAYS, "A thematic companion piece to Mystic River but more complex and far-reaching, Changeling impressively continues Clint Eastwood's
great run of ambitious late-career pictures. Emotionally powerful and
stylistically sure-handed, this true story-inspired drama begins small
with the disappearance of a young boy, only to gradually fan out to
become a comprehensive critique of the entire power structure of Los
Angeles, circa 1928. Graced by a top-notch performance from Angelina Jolie, the Universal release looks poised to do some serious business upon tentatively scheduled opening late in the year." For complete review click here
(Photo copyright Paul Lawton. All rights reserved.)
(Photo copyright Paul Lawton. All rights reserved.)
Hollywood glitz and glamour was on display here on Sunday for the much-anticipated premiere of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The red carpet saw many a star flown in especially for the
occassion, including Christian Slater, Goldie Hawn, Natalie Portman, Billy Zane and Kelly Brook, the ever- beautiful Salma Hayek, Dennis Hopper and Michael Moore. Fans had been queung for hours before the event, and
although we had press access, we were not allowed to take photos of the stars arriving. All cast and crew
were in town, including George Lucas, Steven Spielberg (with wife and Indy almunus Kate Capshaw), Harrison Ford (with Calista Flockhart), John Hurt, Cate Blanchett, Shia La Boeuf and Karen Allen. Fans were handed Indiana Jones-style hats with the logo in French (look for them on Ebay!) From here we went to Cinema de la Plage (Films on the Beach) which is sponsored by Warners, who are celebrating their 80th anniversary and showing, amongs others, Enter the Dragon (which was rained out), Bonnie and Clyde and -on Thursday- Dirty Harry which Clint Eastwood is scheduled to introduce. Eastwood also narrates Richard Schickel's highly anticipated documentary, You Must Remember This:The Warner Brothers Story , a three-part history of the studio that is one of the festival's hot-ticket screenings.- Dave Worrall
Fox has released a special DVD edition of Sidney Lumet's gripping 1957 courtroom drama 12 Angry Men. The story revolves around an all-male jury eager to convict a young Hispanic boy of stabbing his father to death. Eleven of the jurors vote guilty immediately, driven in large part by personal prejudices and a desire to escape the intense heat of the jury room. However, one holdout refuses to budge. Played by Henry Fonda in one of the great, understated screen performances of all time, the juror painstakingly argues against a rush to judgment and uses patience and logic to appeal to the better natures of the other men. The film was Lumet's first theatrical motion picture and he had the challenge of making a visually absorbing story that is in a claustrophobic setting. (Virtually the entire movie stays within the confines of the jury room.) The DVD contains two featurettes: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: Making 12 Angry Men and Inside the Jury Room. The first includes a recent interview with Lumet who reveals he was shocked when Fonda offered him the job. The iconic actor was taking a risk on this film, as he also produced it and helped finance the movie. Studios were unenthused about the project because it had already been presented as a television play several years before. However, United Artists ended up providing a distribution deal and Lumet managed to film the entire movie in just 19 days at a cost of $349,000. The featurette also has interviews with Jack Klugman, the one remaining cast member, who fondly recalls the honor of working with some of the great character actors of the time: Ed Begley, E.G. Marshall, Edward Binns, John Fiedler, Lee J. Cobb and Jack Warden among them. There are also interviews with legal experts and actors Richard Thomas and George Wendt who recently toured in a stage production of the story, that was the brainchild of writer Reginald Rose.
The second featurette examines the film from the viewpoint of prominent lawyers, though the inclusion of Robert Shapiro and Gloria Allred is more of a cliche than a coup: these media hams will appear in your home movies, if asked. Shapiro, who now appears in his own late night, cheesy TV commercials, actually says with a straight face that he tries to avoid approving any potential juror who might have overt prejudices. This from the man who was part of the O.J. Simpson legal team that turned a straight forward murder case into a racially charged circus by playing on the prejudices of the jury. Also ironic is the inclusion of the foreman on the Robert Blake murder case, which most people also consider a miscarriage of justice. Still, all of the participant's comments are relevant to the context of the movie and they come across as sober and informative. It is revealed that a dramatic highlight of the film - when the Fonda character introduces a switchblade that is identical to the murder weapon- is an action that would have seen him bounced from a real jury. Yet, the overall consensus is that the film remains a powerful and highly accurate drama, one that retains its impact over the decades. The DVD also contains an audio commentary track by Drew Casper, who, strangely enough, never introduces himself or identifies his credentials (though he is listed on the sleeve as "film historian".). Although a bit theatrical in his delivery, Casper is extemely well-informed and provides interesting insights into the movie.
Ironically, 12 Angry Men was a box-office flop upon its release in the United States, but Lumet reveals that it did extraordinary business in Europe. In any event, its legacy is that it remains as timely and thought-provoking today as it did in 1957 - and it provides a wonderful opportunity to see acting royalty at the peak of their careers. - Lee Pfeiffer
CLICK HERE TO ORDER THIS DVD DISCOUNTED FROM THE CINEMA RETRO AMAZON STORE
As satisfying as any guilty pleasure, Slogan is
known primarily as the film that brought together Serge Gainsbourg and Jane
Birkin between the sheets, both on and off the screen. Yet it’s also a comic
and bittersweet examination of the darker side of desire. Cinema Retro takes a
look at the Cult Epics DVD release of this overlooked classic.
By Dean Brierly
“There is a trilogy in my life,” Serge Gainsbourg once said.
“An equilateral triangle, shall we say, of Gitanes, alcoholism and girls.”
Of course, Gainsbourg wasn’t the first artist to embrace
such a decadent dolce vita, but few have done so with the style and
commitment of the French singer-songwriter, poet and provocateur. Fewer still
have exploited it to such evocative effect in their art. Gainsbourg wore his
hedonism on his well-tailored sleeve, and liked nothing better than upsetting
mainstream sensibilities through his outrageous lifestyle and his sexually
charged, often-scandalous lyrics. The explicit description of an erotic
encounter in his 1969 song “Je t’aime…moi non plus” even earned him a public
rebuke from the Vatican, doubtless much to his delight. But Gainsbourg’s lyrics
had depth as well as shock value. Shot through with equal parts cynicism and
romanticism, they proclaimed him the 20th century’s Baudelaire.
Gainsbourg also indulged his creativity in visual terms. He
made pioneering music videos, directed several movies, and acted in nearly 50
film and television productions. He first appeared in front of the camera in
low-budget potboilers (including the sword and sandal epic Samson) that
consistently failed to exploit his unique louche persona. In 1969, however, the
phenomenon that was Serge Gainsbourg finally achieved appropriate celluloid
representation in the film Slogan, a fascinating romantic
drama-cum-advertising satire. Gainsbourg called it “the first film where a
director finally had me act as myself, just as I am.”
It could hardly have been otherwise, as the film’s narrative
prophetically mirrored events in the performer’s real life. Gainsbourg plays
Serge Fabergé, a director of hip advertising films who, at 40 years of age, is
in the grip of a midlife crisis. While attending an awards festival in Venice, he begins an adulterous affair with a
free-spirited English girl named Evelyne (played by England’s free-spirited Jane
Birkin) in a vain attempt to recapture his youth. Behind the scenes, Slogan
was the vehicle through which Gainsbourg and Birkin met and embarked upon one
of the most celebrated love affairs of the seventies. Birkin had already
achieved her own measure of notoriety as a sixties wild child: She was one of
the models who cavort naked with David Hemmings in the film Blow-Up, and
was married to James Bond composer John Barry from 1965-68. She would remain
Gainsbourg’s lover, muse and creative partner until leaving him in 1980.
Ironically, the two did not initially strike sparks, and
Birkin was put off by Gainsbourg’s indifference and arrogance. An evening out
in Paris to
break the ice ended with the two in bed, but with Gainsbourg too drunk to
consummate their new union. Nonetheless, the couple soon became inseparable.
Their off-screen passion is almost palpably rendered in Slogan, in which
they make a memorable, if unconventional, screen couple, with Birkin’s naive
yet smoldering sexuality matched against Gainsbourg’s narcissistic, deadpan
cool. Director Pierre Grimblat, who also wrote the screenplay, effectively
captures the physical hunger of the lovers in a series of brief, evocative
vignettes—a naked Evelyne striding seductively towards Fabergé, who lies
expectantly in bed; Fabergé’s hand unzipping Evelyne’s top as she throws her
head back in ecstasy; an amorous embrace in front of a roaring fire.
Yet the characters' smugness and self-absorption make
it hard to empathize with them. Fabergé is entirely indifferent to the effect
his philandering has upon his wife. His excuse—“I hate choosing because I hate
making sacrifices”—sums up the selfishness at the core of his character. He
also boasts a nice line in cruelty. After leaving his wife, he throws a party
for their mutual friends at which he introduces Evelyne as “my little
home-breaker,” taking delight in scandalizing his guests and embarrassing his
inamorata. Evelyne is no saint, either. Fundamentally shallow and manipulative,
she’s not above threatening suicide to exact greater commitment from Fabergé.
She’s entirely a slave to her whims and desires, pursuing her pleasure with
nary a thought for the lovers who trail despondently in her wake.
The film’s only sympathetic character is Fabergé’s
long-suffering wife Françoise, played with brittle strength by Andréa Parisy.
Françoise understands her man all too well: “You look young, but you’re not
young. I remind you of that, so you get another opinion.” Accustomed to Serge’s
infidelities, she patiently waits for him to become bored with his latest
conquest and return to the safe harbor of marriage and family. Only when it’s
apparent that he’s committed to chasing his sexual fantasy to the end of the
licentious night does she reluctantly begin divorce proceedings.
Cinema Retro co-publisher Dave Worrall, contributor Paul Lawton and colmunist Gareth Owen have been invited to cover the Cannes Film Festival. However, because of the frantic pace - and our inability to get them out of cafes and bistros and off the beach - there is a lag time in some of their reports. Here is Dave's diary entry for Thursday, May 15.
Cannes 2008: Thursday Evening May 15th.
Whilst Cinema Retro generally reports on classic and cult films, one does not turn down the opportunity to attend the Cannes Film Festival. As our magazine was granted the near-impossible to get press credentials for this year's event - the 61st to date - we now find ourselves comfortably embedded in the madness that is Cannes. If you are a cinephile, it's a great place to be.
(Photo copyright Paul Lawton. All rights reserved.)
Security is a major issue at the event - as it should be in this day and age - and, quite simply, if you are not a registered professional from within the film industry, there is no point you being here - as you won’t get in! So why am I here? Well, the festival not only premieres films in competition, features areas for filmmakers and
distributors to both buy and sell their new movies, it also pays homage to cinema of the past. This year,under the ‘Cannes Classics’ banner, there is an interesting mix of both European and English titles being
shown, including The Passionate Friends
(David Lean), The Long Day’s Dying (Peter Collinson), Anna Karenina
(de Alexandre Zarkhi), Peppermint Frappe (Carlos Saura) and The Effects
of Gamma Rays on Man-In-the-
Moon Marigolds (Paul Newman).
Although one associates Cannes with art house
titles, the Hollywood marketing machine has jumped on board to use the festival as a window to the world for their more commercial product. This Saturday sees the first showing of Woody Allen’s new film Vicky
Cristina Barcelona, and Sunday has the much-anticipated world premiere of Indiana
Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Both are red carpet events, with Allen,
Penelope Cruz and Scarlett Johansson already in town, and Spielberg, Lucas and the whole cast expected to show, too. Needless to say, tickets go to Hollywood hierarchy only,
although we, the press, do get to see
Another film being given the big sell is Kung
Fu Panda, with Jack Black meeting the press on the promenade yesterday (Wed 14th), and all the frontages of the major hotels on La Croisette displaying hoardings for upcoming commercial popcorn fare such as the new X-Files film and The Mummy 3.
(Photo copyright Paul Lawton. All rights reserved.)
‘royalty’ will be in town, as Clint Eastwood is expected here next week for the opening of his new film Changeling, which is in competition. His leading lady Angelina Jolie has already arrived with husband Brad Pitt in tow, and, as per the norm, the paparazzi are out in force and hounding them down (snore).
Being part of the ‘media crowd’, one does get invited to showings and get bombarded with press packs and goody bags. There’s enough printed material being handed out to save a rain forest. I was happy
to see that the American Pavilion, which I was lucky enough to be a member of, gave out tote bags made from ex coffee bean sacks, and made by an enterprising American company who employ stay at home moms and grandmothers! Called WeBe Bags, they can be found at sales:webebags.com. Not only are they unique, cool, rugged and lightweight, they are eco-friendly too. In the age of disposable packaging, I can see these
catching on big time. Well done, ladies!
Right, I’m off for a late night showing with author, and Retro columnist Gareth Owen. What are we going to see? It’s called Flash Back, and is a new short starring Sara Dee and directed by Martin Pavey,
friends of ours who are in town touting it in the short film corner of the festival. So you see, there’s something for everyone at the Cannes Film Festival regardless of status, style and bank balance!
I may be back before I leave. All depends on the red wine and the weather………
NOTE: THIS ENTRY HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE ORIGINALLY POSTED.
CINEMA RETRO EDITOR-IN-CHIEF LEE PFEIFFER WEIGHS IN WITH A REVIEW OF THE NEW INDIANA JONES FILM.
RETRO RATING: THREE STARS (OUT OF FOUR STARS)
Having just returned from a New York screening of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I had been of the opinion that whoever was in charge of security for Paramount's publicity team should have been hired to write the script for the film. The studio kept the location of the theater secret until days before the screening, and an E mail invitation I received included this admonishment:"Please do NOT pass this info on to anyone else- invites are strictly non-transferable and people will not be admitted if they weren't directly invited." Having arrived at the designated venue, I expected a full body cavity search, but instead was greeted by some amiable Paramount staffers who kindly offered a thoughtful perk: a coupon for a free popcorn and soda. That may not sound like much, but given prices in New York theaters, it amounts to the equivalent of the average monthly mortgage payment. I should say that although Cinema Retro has objectively reported on the mixed buzz about the film, I entered the theater with great expectations and uncompromised optimism. At the film's conclusion , my own views were decidedly mixed. The movie is worse than hoped-for, but better than feared. What follows are random observations about various aspects of the film (I've tried to avoid providing any overt spoilers, but it's impossible to present a thorough review without divulging some key plot points.)
The main problem is David Koepp's weak script, though the fault may not be entirely his. Given the fact that Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas disagreed over various drafts from many writers over the years, Koepp may well have been made to include so many compromises to please all parties that the overall story was drastically impacted. The film starts out promisingly as an homage to 1950s sci-fi movies but at various points becomes a jungle adventure before transforming yet again into a fantasy with spiritual elements. This schizophrenic nature of the script deprives the movie of having an engrossing storyline. The Maguffin is that Indiana Jones has to travel to South America to locate an old colleague who has been kidnapped while searching for a fabled ancient city. However, there are so many plot elements tossed in ranging from F.B.I. investigations to space aliens that the story quickly becomes baffling and therefore unengrossing. At times, the script's "toss-in-the-kitchen sink" aspect is so confusing it makes the screenplay for The Big Sleep look as simplistic as an old Jerry Lewis movie. An hour into the film, I gave up searching for any semblance of what Indy was trying to achieve and just settled back to enjoy individual scenes such as those that call to mind the old Tarzan films and that great killer-ants-in-your pants Charlton Heston adventure The Naked Jungle.
The film has opening credits...remember those? In an era in which studios believe the audience lacks the attention span to sit through this one-time mainstay of movies, it's refreshing to see a major release revert back to tradition.
The much-anticipated first glimpse of Indy is a bit of a downer. Instead of a dramatic introduction, we first see him tossed out from the trunk of a car, a captive of Soviet agents. This matter-of-fact opener is obviously designed to imply that Indy hasn't really been out of our lives for very long, but there is no getting around his 19 year absence from the screen. Thus, hopes that he would be reintroduced in a dramatic or creative fashion are quickly doused.
The first half hour of the film is the best. We're introduced to some intriguing characters, primarily Cate Blanchett, barely recognizable as a Soviet KGB mastermind who kidnaps Indy and forces him to locate a specific crate on a secured U.S. Army base. The box holds a secret with world-changing implications, but this plot device is quickly watered down by the introduction of many other story elements. Blanchett does make a terrific physical impression, thanks to her makeup and costuming design. She looks like a cross between 1950's dominatrix Betty Page and Cloris Leachman's Nurse Diesel. Picture Rosa Klebb without the sense of humor. Sadly, however, Blanchett's role never goes beyond the superficial and she pops in and out of the picture spouting uninventive dialogue that only B movie villain George Zucco could have done justice to.
The movie boasts some impressive work by production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas, the best of which is seen early in the movie and doesn't involve elaborate set pieces. Rather, he manages to capture the flavor of the late 1950s with great detail, and combined with the addition of songs and styles from the era, successfully transfers the audience back in time. There are nice touches such as Elvis singing Hound Dog, drag racing teenagers, an homage to Marlon Brando as The Wild One and references to Eisenhower and McCarthyism. Sadly, most of this vanishes once Indy sets foot in the jungle and the wit that is displayed in the early scenes vaporizes as well.
The introduction of much-touted young actor Shia LaBeouf as Indy's wise-guy fellow adventurer lives up to the hype. He has charisma to spare and acquits himself well. He should have a promising future in the industry, even if his name sounds like a sandwich choice on the menu of the Carnegie Deli. However, the character he plays still seems superfluous to the plot, despite a plot twist that is designed to make him more than a mere sidekick. However, when this device is introduced, it is so bland and predictable that I was angered at myself for not seeing it coming a half hour earlier.
The movie has a fine supporting cast, all of whom labor in parts that are severely underwritten. It's wonderful to see Karen Allen back as Marion Ravenwood, though rumor has it that the concept of reintroducing the heroine of the first film in the series was actually the brainchild of Frank Darabont, whose script was rejected. In any event, she's as sexy and fiesty as ever and rumors that she would be relegated to a cameo are happily untrue. However, despite the fact that she and Indy still have the love/hate relationship that made their first pairing so enjoyable, this time around Marion is quickly relegated to driving speeding vehicles and screaming. You can just see the possiblities evaporate as character development and rich dialogue are shoved aside to make for the next action sequence. Similarly neglected are Ray Winstone, an old friend of Indy's, whose role is so badly written that at the end of the movie, I had no idea what side his allegiance rested with. The great John Hurt is also wasted in the role of an elderly explorer who does nothing but mumble incoherent gibberish about where the secret city is buried. The only supporting actor who registers in a major way is Jim Broadbent as Indy's dean at the university. Their all-too-brief sequences are touching and well-scripted, especially the sequence in which there is a moving tribute to characters from past films played by Denhold Elliott and Sean Connery.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the film is the complete refutation of promises made by Spielberg and Ford that this movie would use CGI effects sparingly and rely on the traditional method of shooting action sequences. (i.e using stuntmen and special effects technicians instead of computer graphics.) Ford must have confused this movie with Working Girl because the film is absolutely loaded with superflulous CGI work. Virtually every action scene is marred by an over-reliance on this technology, which tends to insure that there is no suspense whatsoever. The action sequences keep building in number and frequency to the point where they become wearying. The over-the-top aspect of these scenes reaches absurd levels and they begin to make Road Runner cartoons look like the works of Ingmar Bergman. We all want a bit of fantasy in an Indiana Jones movie, but these sequences defy any credulity. Specifically, there is a seemingly endless car chase through the dense Amazon rain forest in which the vehicles appear to be speeding down The New Jersey Turnpike. I kept waiting for a toll booth and an exit sign for Newark Airport to show up in front of them. While all of this is going on, Shia LaBoeuf and Cate Blanchett stand atop speeding jeeps and engage in a fencing match that is spectacularly phony and decidely un-thrilling.
The villains are all one-dimensional and keep appearing inexplicably out of nowhere to capture Indy and his team. I literally lost track of how many times Indy is taken prisoner by the same bad guys, only to make implausible escapes. At least in the early going, he uses his wits to get out of danger, as evidenced in one of the movie's best scenes in which he utilizes a refrigerator as a method of escaping a nuclear blast. (However, the script is so weak that it does not explain how he can watch the explosion from a short distance away without being terminally infected with radiation!)
With so many shortcomings, the film is carried primarily by Harrison Ford's charisma. Fears that he might be on automatic pilot on this outing are unfounded. Ironically, he gives perhaps his best performance of the franchise in this entry and seems to be having a terrific time. He seems refreshingly ageless and it's a total joy to see a 65 year-old actor paired with a 56 year-old leading lady.
John Williams is credited with the musical score, but he obviously did nothing but mail Spielberg a CD of the Raiders of the Lost Ark soundtrack. If there is new music here, it didn't resonate with me. However the thrill of hearing the familiar theme music adds immeasurably to the film's pleasures.
Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski replaces the late Douglas Slocombe, who shot the first three Indy films, and does an admirable job of keeping in synch with the style of his predecessor. Likewise, editor Michael Kahn refrains from recent trends of cutting action scenes to resemble music videos. The editing style is straight-forward and refreshingly traditional.
In the aggregate, there was probably no way this long-in-development sequel could have lived up to expectations. Still, the nay-sayers who predicted it would be an embarrassment have been proven wrong. The movie has enough fun moments to merit a recommendation but if the response of the audience I saw the film with is any indication (i.e virtually no laughter at the wisecracks and lukewarm applause at the end), this will probably be regarded with the same mixed evaluations as the recent Star Wars movies. If I were to compare it to the James Bond franchise, I would have to equate with Sean Connery's comeback vehicles Diamonds Are Forever and Never Say Never Again - films that fell far short of their potential, but were still entertaining. Reviewing Indiana Jones movies is like lecturing people about the health risks of Dunkin' Donuts: no matter what you say, the public is gonna buy 'em anyway. I enjoyed the film enough to assess it in a charitable manner. I won't call Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull the worst entry in the franchise. Instead, I'll say it's the fourth best. - Lee Pfeiffer
The Cannes premiere
THE FOLLOWING IS CINEMA RETRO CONTRIBUTING WRITER BILL DUELLY'S COMMENTS ON THE FILM:
RETRO RATING: THREE STARS (GOOD)
Well, it was always an on again off again project over the past 18 years.
Lucas, Spielberg and Ford would say it would be fun to do another Indiana
Jones film if the right property came along. Thankfully, that opportunity eventually came to pass and we now have a new film from the legendary franchise. Before I go any further, I need to state that the
anticipation for this film has fortunately not been quite as over-hyped as it had been for
Star Wars- Episode 1 (a weak film whose over-the-top publicity campaign only accentuated the public's disappointment with the end result.) The latest Indy feature is not a similarly weak venture; rather, it is a serious attempt to chronicle another chapter in the series of adventures that chronicle the legendary hero's life. In the pantheon of those adventures, this one falls squarely in the middle in terms of excitement and satisfaction as cinematic entertainment.
Like the recent Rocky Balboa, we look in on Indy close to two
decades since his last screen adventure. He has grayed and slowed down a bit,
but is still able to rise to the challenge when the the world needs his peculiar talents. Just as the five year gap between The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade allowed for a deeper sense of maturity to develop in the character and storyline, this extended passage of time until Kingdom of the Crystal Skull also reaps similar benefits without sacrificing the thrill content.
The film marks the return of some welcome alumni from previous entries, including Karen Allen as Indy's old flame Marion Ravenwood, who provides a return to a strong female role model in an era dominated by anorexic airheads as leading ladies. Other returning veterans include composer John Williams, who turns in a great score peppered with themes from previous films, and editor Michael Kahn, who consistently keeps the action flowing at a rapid pace. Some scenes are hampered by obvious CGI effects, but they don't compromise the overall look of the film. (Remember, that the first three Indy films had their share of a few shoddy special effects.) Among the acting highlights are the performances of Shia LaBeouf, who starts out quite stiff but quickly settles into the spirit of things, and Cate Blanchett who has a wonderful time playing a KGB agent who seeks the skull for nefarious purposes. In the aggregate, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is to be recommended, but see in on a big, wide screen in a movie theater, projected on film, not digitally - and don't wait for the DVD to experience the most welcome return of this great movie hero.
INDY SURVIVES THE WRATH OF CANNES; FILM BOWS TO GOOD RESPONSE. CLICK HERE FOR STORY
Kudos to Huffington Post critic Jack Donaldson who supports what Cinema Retro has been saying for years - that the overload of CGI effects has robbed movies of their heart and wonder. Yes, we'll grant special dispensation for the super hero flicks which look far better than the days when we used to see a string hanging from George Reeves' back. However, as Donaldson points out, there is literally no sense of awe left in the movie-going experience. What could you possibly see onscreen that could match the first glimpse of James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 or breathtaking thrill of seeing the space battles in Star Wars? Sure, some of the effects used in these films look crude by today's standards, but the fact is that fans return to these earlier efforts far more than the do the more recent entries in these series. When CGI was first introduced, it was used practically and sparingly. The first glimpse of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park was thrilling, but by the time the first sequel was released, the effects were already yawn-inducing. It won't be long before stuntmen are as relevant today's film industry as Fatty Arbuckle. You'll just have the star of the movie waving his arms in front of a blue screen. It will look convincing, but it won't be the slightest bit thrilling. To read Jack Donaldson's column click here.
If he had his way, Steven Seagal would have showed us his vision of The Wrath of Khan.
John Wayne didn't make too many mistakes in his career, but when he did, they were howlers. Remember when he played Ghengis Khan in The Conqueror, wooing Susan Hayward with "This tartar woman is for me and my blood says 'Take her' and "Yer Beeootiful in yer wrath!" Well, that performance would have undoubtedly been Oscar material compared to the film that almost happened: Steven Seagal in a 2002 big screen version of old Ghengis' life. That's right, the cigar store Indian of emotion playing the conqueror the world. Seagal is to charisma what Vladimir Putin is to slapstick humor. It's all recounted on the web site of Cracked magazine, along with many other Hollywood near-misses that Divine Providence seems to have spared us from. It's a hilarious article, even if writer Steve Clark indulges in the cliched penchant for peppering every sentence with needless obscenities - though none are quite as offensive as picturing Seagal as Ghengis Khan. To read click here
THE ACADEMY OF MOTION PICTURE ARTS AND SCIENCES WILL HOLD A TRIBUTE TO PRODUCER ROBERT EVANS IN LOS ANGELES ON MAY 22. CINEMA RETRO'S MIKE THOMAS SPOKE TO THE LEGENDARY PRODUCER ABOUT THE EVENT AND MEMORIES OF HIS DISTINGUISHED CAREER.
"The Kid" during the period when he took Hollywood by storm, overseeing production of some of the most controversial and successful films of all time.
BY MIKE THOMAS
In this era of 12 producers per movie and studios run by committee, and
driven by marketing analysts, it is well worth remembering a time, not that long
ago, when studio heads relied on their own instincts and trusted their own taste
in material instead of that of a research firm. There are two producer in town
who can say they saved a studio. One is Richard Zanuck, a prince of Hollywood
royalty, rescuing a nearly bankrupt 20th Century Fox with “The Sound of Music.”
Dick Zanuck is still actively producing, his recent films include a long
association with Tim Burton, including last year’s well-received musical,
The other studio savior is also, as he put in his best-selling
autobiography, still in the picture. By now, Robert Evans has passed into legend
and achieved an iconographic status unlikely to be enjoyed by any producer in
the years to come. He saved Paramount Pictures with “Love Story“ and turned a
company best known for Jerry Lewis vehicles and creaky Hal Wallis Elvis movies
into the most successful and artistically challenging studio in the
Evans also epitomized the glamour that was of a different era, of a
Hollywood in its prime, he enjoyed his success and made no attempt to hide his
good fortune as so many others did during the topsy-turvy days of the
counterculture, (which was also the last great golden age of movies). He still
possesses the larger-than-life Hollywood matinee idol charisma that launched his
career as first, a not very good actor, and then as one of the greatest studio
chiefs in American film history. His rise, his fall, his loves, his lifestyle -
these are the stuff of legend that remain permanently etched into lore of the
Hollywood, thanks in no small part to his absorbing memoir, “The Kid Stays in
the Picture,” and the equally celebrated audiocassette version of the book and
subsequent motion picture, which also garnered impressive notices.
Evans has survived crises that would destroyed lesser mortals, he is a
true Hollywood legend, a throwback to a time when everyone in Hollywood -
actors, directors, producers - all seemed larger than life. But Evans was no
empty glamor boy: his track record when he was running Paramount Pictures from
1966 to 1975, is a astonishing run of brilliance and creativity, including what
many call the greatest American film, “The Godfather.” A few other titles during
his tenure as head of production include a catalogue of some of the most popular
and innovative films of the era including “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Medium Cool,”
“Romeo and Juliet,” “True Grit,” “Love Story,” “Don’t Look Now,” “Harold and
Maude,” and “Chinatown.”
As has been noted, Evans’ own life is the stuff right out of a Hollywood
film. Spotted next to the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel by Norma Shearer, in
an eerily prescient piece of casting, she tapped him to play her late husband,
MGM studio head and “boy genius,” Irving Thalberg in a Universal picture. Evans
would go on to rival Thalberg with his astonishing success at Paramount. In
recognition of Robert Evans’ tremendous accomplishments and contribution to the
American film industry, this coming Thursday, May 22, the Academy of Motion
Pictures will be honoring him with a screening of “Rosemary’s Baby,” and a panel
moderated by Evans’ former associate, Variety editor Peter Bart.
Evans remains busy, he hosts the Sirius Satellite Radio show, “In Bed
with Robert Evans,” a few seasons back he had his own highly-rated cable TV
cartoon show, “Kid Notorious,”(how many movie producers can make that claim?)
and he still has more energy than a dozen wannabees half his age. In that silky,
mellifluous voice of his Bob Evans took a few moments to talk with CINEMA RETRO
about his storied career and upcoming tribute at the Academy. With his
distinctive, silky, 3 o’clock in the morning DJ’s purr; every utterance comes
out as smooth as a single blend malt whiskey, it is a voice that should be
labeled 100 proof.
MT: So, how’s the Academy tribute shaping up?
RE: Well, I hope it all works out, it’s an eclectic group - Peter Bart, Brett
Ratner, Sumner Redstone and (Guns n’ Roses guitarist) Slash. All together again,
for the first time.
MT: What were some of the differences between that era and
RE: Well, it was very different when I did it, I had total freedom. But it
was a smaller business then, there were no ancillary markets like today, with
home video, cable, rentals. The movie opened and if it didn’t open, you were
dead, that was it, except for a TV sale, and that wasn’t much back then. But the
stakes were smaller, the budgets were smaller. Paramount made about 25 pictures
a year and the total budget for all them would be $100 - $200 million. Today,
that’s the price of one picture. It was simpler, smaller and you could take more
chances. We made “The Godfather” for just $6.6 million. Brando only got $50,000.
No one on that picture got paid more than that. Now, it’s so corporate, the
studios are owned by conglomerates. Although Gulf+Western was really the first
conglomerate to own a studio, I could say yes and get a picture made. Now,
there’s so much bureaucracy. It’s not show business any more more, it’s
communications, it’s become legitimate. I liked it when it was smaller and
somewhat illegitimate. We had more fun then.
MT: What was the first picture you greenlit?
I think it was “The Odd Couple,” and then “Rosemary’s Baby,” I also had
something to do with “Alfie” going forward. But as I said, I had complete
freedom to go ahead with what I liked. We had a great team there, Peter Bart and
everyone, our group. Many people now refer to that time as a “second golden age”
of Hollywood. But when I started, Paramount was ninth out of nine studios.
Gulf+Western was ready to shut the studio down, they were going to sell it to
the cemetery behind us - the cemetery business is always good. They were in the
sugar business, they were in the metal business, they were in the coffee
business, they didn’t really want to be in the movie business. But in five
years, we were number #1. “Love Story,” which I bought, saved the studio and
“The Godfather” did more business than “Gone With the Wind” had done in 35
MT: “Rosemary’s Baby” was interesting because up to that point, the
producer William Castle, had been known for low budget horror
RE: He wanted to direct that picture himself. But I wanted Roman, I had seen
his talent in films like “Knife in tthe Water,” “Cul-de-Sac“ and I knew he could
bring something exceptional to the picture if I could talk him into it. He
didn’t want to do it at first, he wanted to do a skiing picture. But I told him
he could write the script and I dealt with him a great deal on the film. He and
Francis (Coppola) are the two great artists I have worked with.
MT: Is it true that Coppola had drastically cut down the running time
of “The Godfather” and you made him put the footage back in?
RE: Well, I don’t want to go into that. As they say, there are three sides to
every story - yours, mine and the truth- and memory serves each differently. But I will say, I totally supported his
casting of Brando. Nobody would hire Marlon at that point, there were no other
stars in that film, Pacino had only made one film, “Panic in Needle Park” and it
had flopped. The brilliance of Coppola, was that he turned it into opera. We had
just done another Mafia picture, “The Brotherhood,” with Kirk Douglas, and that
had flopped. Nobody wanted to do “The Godfather,” a lot of directors turned it
down. But Francis was absolutely the right director for it, he knew the way it
had to look, he knew those kinds of people and their families, he made you smell
MT: You made another picture about the same time that wasn’t a hit
upon its initial release but has had an amazing shelf life, a personal favorite,
“Harold & Maude.”
RE: Ahh, yes, “Harold & Maude. Imagine trying to go to the front office
and pitch that one - “I want to make a movie about a 20 year old boy who’s
always trying to kill himself who falls in love with an 80 year old woman.”
You’re right, it wasn’t a hit at first, but it got great word of mouth, it
became a cult picture and it’s still playing around the world in places like
Minneapolis and in Paris, where one theatre has played it for 5 years straight!
Cameron Crowe has just produced a box set of the original soundtrack on LP; it’s
four records and he did a great job on it. It’s full of memorabilia, film cells
and things. He wrote a wonderful essay. You must pick it up.
MT: It was a remarkably eclectic slate of pictures at Paramount, you
would do something like “Love Story” and then turn around and release Haskell
Wexler’s “Medium Cool.”
RE: The distribution arm didn’t want to make it, they thought it was too
political. There was a lot of resistance from the East Coast office about that
picture. But I fought for it and I won. It was exactly that eclectic range of
films that made the job so rewarding. I felt like the richest man in the
MT: Another great film of your regime was
RE: Ah yes, that was a special picture. It came from three lines that Bob
Towne gave me at Dominick’s restaurant on Beverly Blvd. And I knew Roman would
do a spectacular job with the material. The only difference of opinion we had
was about the score. Music in films is so important, I don’t think enough people
realize that, and the score we had didn’t fit, we took it out to preview, and it
wasn’t working. So we brought in Jerry Goldsmith and he wrote the score in 8
days. It was the first picture that I personally produced, even though I was
still running the studio. As I said, it was a different time then, you could do
something like that.
And what a time it was, a perfect convergence of the man and the times.
Old Hollywood had been shaken in the Sixties and the Seventies, it was a time of
unprecedented social change and upheaval, but that winter of discontent was made
glorious summer by this son of Gulf+Western. Robert Evans made a contribution to
film history, the likes of which we shall not soon see again.
Following his tenure at Paramount, Evans went on to a successful career
as an independent producer with such films as “Black Sunday,” “Urban Cowboy,”
“Popeye,” the ill-fated “Cotton Club,” and his most recent production, “How to
Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” So, as his well-deserved tribute at the Academy next
Thursday approaches, let us toast Bob Evans and be grateful that the kid has not
only stayed in the picture, but with three films in pre-production at Paramount,
that there are still a few pictures left in the kid.
Linda Carter as TV's Wonder Woman: it's a wonder a woman can get a quality role in today's film industry.
Huffington Post columnist Daniel Holloway, writing in response to a recent New York Times article bemoaning the dearth of quality roles for actresses in contemporary Hollywood, makes a compelling case for the return of the ultimate kick-ass female superhero.
"A long time ago, on a movie set far, far away...."
Carrie Fisher has a case of True Confessions concerning her off-screen relationship with Star Wars co-star Harrison Ford. In a frank new interview, Fisher's comments reveal that she came onto the set determined to have an affair during production of the film. She then alludes rather naughtily that Harrison Ford's force might have been with her, though Fisher just stops short of telling all. Gives an all new context as to why her character was named Princess Leia. For more click here
Every time we get full of ourselves and think we're familiar with virtually every "B" movie of the 1960s, our friends at the superb retro site Cinebeats shame us. Now they've scooped us by providing a great essay on a "B" classic we never even heard of: director Ted V. Mikel's ode to the go-go scene of 1968, The Girl in the Gold Boots. The site provides some cool clips and frame-grabs from the movie as well as a link to the director's site where you can get an autographed DVD of the film for only $10.95. To read click here
John Phillip Law with Caroline Munro in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad
Actor John Phillip Law passed away Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 70 years old. No cause of death has yet been announced. Law, who studied acting under Elia Kazan, gained instant fame in 1966 when director Norman Jewison cast him as a sexy but shy Soviet sailor in the Oscar-nominated comedy The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! Law went onto star in cult favorites such as Mario Bava's Danger: Diabolik! and opposite Jane Fonda in Barbarella. Law also starred in the controversial film The Sergeant in which he was the object of Rod Steiger's affections in one of the first films to directly deal with homosexuality in a realistic way. Other major films include The Love Machine, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and The Cassandra Crossing. Law was an avid reader of Cinema Retro and we mourn his passing. Columnist Raymond Benson conducted what is probably the last major interview with the star for Cinema Retro issue #7.
The newly-released boxed set of Indiana Jones DVDs is a good news/bad news scenario. The good news is that the set features 12 new featurettes. The bad news is that these are the same transfers that appeared on the 2003 boxed set (which still look superb) and many of the bonus features from that edition are not included on this release. Are the new features worth investing in the set again? For hard-core Indy fans, it's a moot question as any new content will make this a "must-have". For the less discriminating viewer only interested in having the three films in question - Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - the old set will probably suffice. What's new in this set? It's a hodgepodge of featurettes spread throughout the three discs, now packaged in slimline cases that take up less shelf space. There are storyboards, still galleries, new introductions by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, featurettes on the creation of the melting face from Raiders, a panel discussion with Cate Capshaw, Karen Allen and Alison Doody discussing the contributions of the female characters in the first three films, a tour of worldwide locations where the films were made, a documentary about some of the ickier animals and creatures found in the films, a look at Indy's friends and enemies, and recent interviews with cast and crew of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. There are also trailers and a promotional video for an Indy Lego game. In the aggregate, we feel it's worth the plunge to add this set to your collection - however, be aware that it's only a matter of time before the collection is remarketed yet again for Blu-ray. - Lee Pfeiffer
Click here to order this DVD set discounted from the Cinema Retro Amazon movie store.
Battle for Bond Redux: Robert Sellers’s Thunderball Book Returns
By Wesley Britton
To put my proverbial cards on the table, since 1995, I
didn’t think any book in print matched Andrew Lycett’s Ian Fleming: The Man Behind James Bond for providing authoritative
history, biography, and background into how 007 came to be. Then, in 2007,Robert Sellers gave us TheBattle
for Bond: The Genesis of Cinema’s Greatest Hero. It became the second most
important book in my Bond collection. Drawing from many previously unknown
primary sources, most notably court records held by Sylvan Whittingham Mason, Sellers
shared how the idea of bringing Bond to film began and the unexpected and
complex sequence of events that followed. Not a perfect book by any means, but
one belonging in every film lover’s library.
Perhaps it was appropriate that publishing a book dealing so
much with legal twists and turns ended up mirroring its subject. Because
anything associated with Ian Fleming is closely controlled by various heirs of
the legacy, some publishers wanted nothing to do with Battle for Bond. Then small British publisher
Tomahawk took up the challenge, and Battle
for Bond enjoyed deserved critical praise for telling a story that had been
clouded in myth and speculation for decades. Then the Ian Fleming Will Trust
In an interview for James
Bond Magazine (The Battle for Bond Rages On),
Sellers noted, “Pretty quickly after the
book was published the Ian Fleming Will Trust, through their London lawyers, took great exception to our
publishing, in full, copies of a number of letters by Ian Fleming, to which the
Trust owned copyright. They really were not best pleased, and notified us that
we had infringed their copyright and were liable for damages.”
The letters in question were copies of court documents
involved in the first lawsuits filed by Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham regarding
ownership of Thunderball and the
creation of the cinematic 007. “We, that’s the publisher and I,” Robert told
007 Magazine, “claimed that we had every right to reproduce these documents in
the book without infringing copyright as they were used as part of the
prosecution case in the 1963 Ian Fleming plagiarism trial. We also believed
ourselves to be protected by law, since section 45, subsection 2 of the
Copyright Designs and Patents Act of 1988 states that it is not an infringement
of copyright if the publication of documents occurs within the context of
reporting legal proceedings, which clearly is the case with this book.”
Whatever the legal merits, historians and small-presses
don’t have the resources to defend themselves against such suits, so in March
2008 Sellers and Tomahawk agreed to allow the Fleming Trust to pulp the
remaining 300 copies of the book in England. This didn’t affect the first
edition in the U.S. where copies quickly became something of a new 007
collector’s item. Just as quickly, Sellers announced a new edition would be
coming out without the offending photographs in mid-June 2008.
CINEMA RETRO RECENTLY VIEWED AN ADVANCED SCREENER OF A SUPERB NEW DOCUMENTARY TRIBUTE TO ROBERT MCGINNIS, ONE OF THE GREATEST CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS. WE ASKED THE FILM'S PRODUCER, PAUL JILBERT, TO PROVIDE OUR READERS WITH THE BACKGROUND STORY.
Robert McGinnis: Painting the Last Rose of Summer
A new documentary on the life and work of one of the greatest contemporary artists - and a legend in the field of classic movie poster design.
By Paul Jilbert
As the 1980’s came to a close, I noticed something was missing in the glass movie poster display cases of my favorite movie houses: the illustrated movie poster. Suddenly, the explosive action scenes, handsome leading men and beautiful women were being reduced to drab, colorless photographic headshots. I found myself longing for the images of artists such as Bob Peak, Frank McCarthy, Howard Terpning and my favorite movie poster artist, Robert McGinnis. In the back of my mind I thought that some kind of program or video should be made about these artists. Several years later, I had just completed my first illustrator documentary on the work of James Bama ( In the 1960s Jimmy created those cool Doc Savage : Man Of Bronze paperback cover images).
It was through the encouragement of my friend, illustrator Barry Klugerman and my mentor, Jim Steranko (the brilliant writer-artist of the 1960’s Marvel comics Nick Fury: Agent Of Shield) that I decided to produce a documentary on Robert McGinnis. It was the perfect project for me.
I began collecting James Bond posters in the 1970’s, beginning with Diamonds Are Forever. I spent many summers teaching myself to draw comics and copying the style of McGinnis' famed female figures of the 1960s, who were noted for their bold sexuality. I must have re-drawn Bob’s Diamonds Are Forever poster over a dozen times. Years later, I contacted him and explained I had just completed the James Bama project - and asked if he would participate in a documentary dedicated to the McGinnis legacy. Bob wanted to see the Bama program. He called back to say he was very impressed and gave me the green light for a documentary about him.
Three months later, I arrived in Connecticut and met Bob in his studio. The walls were adorned with several original illustrations from his Carter Brown book covers, as well as his romance paperback paintings. I was, of course, speechless and it took all of my concentration to set up my Betacam and lights. This was a one-man production crew, so everything had to go right the first time - especially as this marked the only occasion that the publicty-shy Bob McGinnis had allowed anyone to film in his studio. The large, cumbersome black Betacam camera can be intimidating as hell, resembling a sort of Darth Vader transformer. I learned from shooting news and directing commercials that one must take on a very casual conversational mode and talk like neighbors on each side of the picket fence. Bob was very patient and very giving of information about his life and work ethic. Our conversations covered a wide variety of aspects pertaining to his career: Ohio landscapes, early technical artwork, story illustrations, editorial work for magazines such as Good Housekeeping, and a personal favorite Guideposts magazine. A good portion of time was spent discussing Bob's now famous Western images. We also discussed his paintings for movie posters and I was surprised to learn that Breakfast At Tiffany’s was Bob’s very first movie assignment. No one was more surprised than Bob when this poster became an icon of American pop culture. “They were just assignments and I never thought they would live on their own, so I wish I had done a better job” he said. Arabesque starring Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren is a McGinnis favorite. He requested from the studio that the tiger stripe dress that Loren wore in the film to be sent to him, as he wanted to have a local model pose in it to get just the right angles he was looking for. “She really was one of the great beauties of the time”, he recalled.
The year 1965 brought the world of James Bond to Bob’s studio. Chief of United Artists publicity Don Smolen commissioned McGinnis and fellow artist Frank McCarthy to create art images for Thunderball. Said Smolen “If you wanted beautiful women in Bond posters, there was only one man- Bob McGinnis.” McCarthy painted the action images and McGinnis painted the women. There is an interesting side story in the documentary about the “revision” that needed to be made by Smolen to McGinnis’s Diamonds Are Forever art long before the lifesaving pre-Photoshop days. Suffice it to say, the last minute revision was a nerve-wracking experience for all concerned.
This artwork of Sean Connery and Claudine Auger was not used in the main ad campaign for Thunderball.
McGinnis was flown to the Thunderball set at Pinewood Studios in England to take reference photos - a respect shown to a well-known artist that is virtually unheard of today. Years later, Don Smolen presented him with the challenge of creating a poster image for Cotton Comes to Harlem, one of the most prominent films of the Blaxploitation era - though this was a class production with top stars. Smolen, who wanted the film to appeal to all audiences across racial lines, said that McGinnis' work was "Bob's best poster art ever." Other iconic movie poster images created by McGinnins include the poster art for Barbarella, The Odd Couple, Sleeper and the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale that boasted the now famous image of the psychadelic girl.
I consider it a rare privilege to have been given the opportunity to create this intimate portrait of Bob McGinnis. A highlight of my documentary is a segment that follows his entire creative process from black-and-white model reference photos to the completed painting. I filmed it over a three day period with my camera rather intrusively situated over Bob's shoulder!
I’d like to thank Bob and his wonderful wife Ferne for allowing me to record this man’s incredible work and artistry. You can view a trailer and reserve a DVD of the documentary at our website: www.theillustratorstv.com.
Forty one years after the Summer of Love, a love-in was held
at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theatre on Friday night, May 9th. A group of contemporary
Disney animators paid tributes to their mentors and heroes in a wonderfully
entertaining and informative evening at the Academy, whose screenings and
seminars have been on a roll as of late. A more love-filled evening would be
hard to imagine.
The film industry is well known for its disregard of the
past, the disposability of anyone it deems less than hip or contemporary and
this built-in career obsolesce has become far more acute in recent years.
However, there is one group that is not only free from this industry bias
against its elder statesmen but actually reveres its pioneers and that is in
the field of animation. The Academy event was proof positive that for
animators, the pioneers are not only revered, but studied and continue to influence
animation in all its forms, whether the standard 2-D pen and ink drawing or the
3-D computer wizardry of the Pixar CGI triumphs. The reverence that today’s top
animators feel for Disney’s “Nine Old Men” (most of whom were in their Thirties
when they were so dubbed), was a joy to behold.
Pictured here at the reception for the event, left to right: panelist Andreas Deja; Academy director of special projects Randy Haberkamp; Alice Davis, widow of the legendary animator for whom the Marc Davis lecture is named; panelist Pete Docter; moderator and animation critic Charles Solomon; panelist Eric Goldberg; Academy Executive Director Bruce Davis; and panelist James Baxter. (Photo: Todd Wawrychuk@A.M.P.A.S.)
The evening began appropriately enough, with a a clip of the
Marc Davis-animated villainess, Cruella deVil from Disney’s 1961 beloved
classic, “101 Dalmatians.” With its graphic, rough sketch look, “Dalmatians”
was last of three mid-period Disney features that rivaled the best of the
studios early period in the Thirties, “Snow White,” “Pinocchio,” and the still
revolutionary “Fantasia.” With the widescreen “Lady and the Tramp,”
followed by the 70mm epic, “Sleeping Beauty,” and then “Dalmatians”
the mid-period Disney animators created a stylized look the took the art of
animation to a different realm than Disney had previously explored. And nowhere
is this radical departure from the past attempts at naturalism more pronounced
than in the character of Cruella deVil.
With Cruella deVil, Marc Davis defied all the previous
Disney rules of naturalism and clean lines. The lines are sketchy and sharp,
they look like rough drafts were inked and colored. Yet the same Disney attention
to characterization is evident in every frame and the scary Ms. deVil remains
one of the transformative animated characters in film history. This was
followed by a light-hearted introduction by Academy Executive Director
Bruce Davis, whose puckish good humor set the celebratory tone for the
evening and whose respect for the art of animation was readily apparent in his
Charles Solomon, the esteemed animation historian and author
of the books, “Enchanted Drawings: the History of Animation,” and "The
Disney That Never Was,” a study of unrealized animated Disney projects,
introduced Polish-born animator, Andreas Deja, one of the star animators of
today, and a member of the group dubbed the “Nine New Men.” He chose a scene
from the 1959 Disney masterpiece, “Sleeping Beauty,” and the beautiful print
revealed the visual splendors of the film, which may well be the very summit of
the Disney animation studios during Walt’s lifetime.
The stylized design is midway between the naturalism of
“Lady and the Tramp” and the graphic exaggeration of “101 Dalmatians;” the
lines are more angular than before, yet have a finished polish to them, unlike
the rough sketch look that made “Dalmatians” so groundbreaking. And the
character of Maleficent still retains the classic Disney virtues of character
revelation through animation. As Mr. Deja pointed out, Maleficent is one of
those characters that is the hardest to animate. She doesn’t move, she just
stands there and talks.” Yet because she does so magnificently (Maleficently?)
another point was brought home - as Jean Kerr once once observed, “The
snake gets all the lines,” - and in Disney films, it is the villains that
seem to get the best animation.
Mr. Deja then showed one of his most famous animated
characters - Jafar from “Aladdin.” (I never noticed before how much Jafar looks
like Torin Thatcher, who was the evil magician practicing black arts in many a
Ray Harryhausen film of the 50s & 60s). With so many of the characters in
“Aladdin” bouncing around so maniacally - Robin Williams’ frenetic Genie, Iago
the Parrot, Abu the Monkey - Deja decided that the evil Jafar should be like
Malificent - stationary and unmoving, grounded in his villainy.
Then Pete Docter, whose business card reads, “world’s
tallest animator,” ambled to the stage to show his influences on “Monsters,
Inc.” When it came time to animate Sulley, the vast grotesque beast that
befriends the tiny little Boo, Docter & fellow Pixarians went back and
referenced “The Jungle Book,” sequence where the Phil Harris-voiced Baloo, a
massive brown bear befriends the slight Mowgli. Docter used that same sense as
a way of contrasting Sulley and Boo and by screening the poignant scene where
Sulley says goodbye to Boo, he managed to outdo his influences in emotional
James Baxter also showed “The Jungle Book,” but chose a
different sequence, the scene where King Louie, voiced by the marvelous Louis
Prima, decided to let Mowgli stay in the jungle. Though Mowgli is the film’s
protagonist, it is King Louie who gets all the attention as he hurls bananas
and bounces all around the central character. Mr. Baxter then illustrated how
he adapted that concept for “The Lion King,” when Simba, is similarly
overwhelmed by the manic baboon shaman, Rafiki.
And to complete the the links between, animator Eric
Goldberg showed the wild title song sequence from “The Three Caballeros”
that was the direct influence on the frenetic musical number, “You Never Had a
Friend Like Me,” from “Aladdin,” which he helped animate. Mr. Goldberg was the
highlight of the evening, a gifted mimic and born stand-up comic, he regaled
the audience with every story and observation. Yet his love and reverence for
the early masters was in evident in the awe in which he discussed the free-form
style of a Ward Kimball sketch or the effortless brilliance of a Fred Moore
drawing during the sequence that ended the evening.
And the evening’s finale, tribute was paid to the pioneers
like Moore and “The Nine Old Men.” And as drawings from each of the pioneers
was shown and examined, it was thrilling to hear these master animators of
today analyze and praise the styles of their mentors. And it became apparent
that in the world of animation, there still retains that sense of fraternity
that seems to have been lost in the rest of the industry. These new giants
still displayed the boyish reverence and enthusiasm for those who inspired them
and taught them coming up. Animation is a craft, but it is art form as well,
and never has received the critical acclaim it so richly deserves. For as these
men so amply demonstrated of themselves and their mentors, they are not simply
talented cartoonists, but understand the whole point is to reach the audience
with their drawings, to create an emotional connection. As one of them said,
discussing what he learned from his teachers, “What do you leave the audience
with?” Precisely. And it is that understanding, far more than any rules of animation, that
set Disney apart from its competitors.
And what these animators, old and new, have left the
audience with, is a lifetime of treasured memories. Like many of my generation,
my love of movies was stimulated by Walt Disney’s films - “Cinderella,” “Lady
and the Tramp, “Sleeping Beauty,” “101 Dalmatians,” and they remain my earliest
memories of a life spent in the movies. Though I have grown to appreciate the
films of Antonioni and Godard, of Kubrick and Bergman, I am glad I can still
look at the Disney animated films and marvel at their brilliance, their innovation,
the pure joy of creation that they display in nearly every frame. I had even
dreamed of becoming an animator myself one day, until I realized I didn’t have
the patience to do the same drawing over and over, but you never forget your
first love. And last Friday at the Academy, the flame was rekindled and
the passion reborn anew. So here’s to Uncle Walt, and Winsor McKay and Pat
Sullivan and Fred Moore and Ub Iwerks and to Frank and Ollie and Ward and
Woolie and Marc Davis and all the rest of the Nine Old Men and to the Nine New
Men who carry the flame and to anyone who has picked up a pencil and given us
the Illusion of Life to illuminate our lives. We are in your debt.
And as I left the theatre I noticed everyone was smiling.
Original Dell comic book tie in for Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo.
Writer Charles Taylor offers an insightful essay from Dissent magazine on the persona of John Wayne and how his work in Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo stands as arguably the best performance of his career. To read click here
Click here to read the review of the Rio Bravo special edition DVD.
Composer Lalo Schifrin's company Aleph Records has released his score for the 1983 Dirty Harry movie Sudden Impact starring Clint Eastwood. Here is the official press release:
FEATURING: Original score by Lalo Schifrin.
Entire original score never been released, only excerpts on LP.
For Lalo Schifrin, a decade had passed since his own last encounter
with Harry Callahan. … Lalo reported for duty in 1983, fully aware that
times—and musical tastes—had changed, and that he had to retain the
spirit of Harry while making him a more modern invention: a product of
a techno-age, where everything in movies seemed, bigger, louder, and
generally larger than life. With BULLITT in 1968, and DIRTY HARRY in
1971, Lalo had defined the sound of San Francisco. The glittering
canyons and raking tarmac hills had pulsated to hip grooves: a jazzy,
snazzy, bass-fueled back beat that was so cool you couldn't believe you
were hearing it, so much as dreaming it, living it, so deep into your
consciousness did it penetrate. … Ten years on, Lalo figured, Harry was
older, maybe wiser, maybe mellower. Maybe he was more studied, took his
time, thought things through. In SUDDEN IMPACT the score doesn't push
or propel, but supports, keeps Harry rooted, anchored, detached from
the madness surrounding him. And additionally, in keeping with the
subject matter, it's a tad gentler, and yes, even romantic at times.
Perhaps this would be Harry's last go-round. Find love with Jennifer
and hang up the big artillery. Sit back, take it easy, have a brew. –
Aleph Records, has also released the scores for the first
three films of the series, DIRTY HARRY, MAGNUM FORCE, and THE ENFORCER.
The complete soundtrack to SUDDEN IMPACT makes its debut for the first
time to CD. With only excerpts released on the first DIRTY HARRY LP,
this is the complete score plus additional bonus tracks that has been
remixed from the original multi-track masters.
Sessions September 1983
At Warner Brothers, Burbank – Scoring Stage 1
Conductor: Lalo Schifrin
1 Main Title 3:20
2 Murder By The Sea 2:32
3 Too Much Sugar 1:36
4 Frisco Night 2:52
5 Target Practice 1:35
6 The Road To San Paolo 1:46
7 Remembering Terror 6:50
8 Cocktails Of Fire 2:20
9 Robbery Suspect 2:15
10 Ginley’s Bar 5:56
11 Another Victim 1:21
12 You’ve Come A Long Way 3:46
13 Darkness 4:12
14 Crazy 1:44
15 Hot Shot Cop 1:23
16 Alby And Lester Boy 2:03
17 The Automag 1:39
18 Unicorn’s Head 3:03
19 A Ray Of Light 1:02
20 Stairway To Hell 1:01
21 San Francisco After Dark
(End Titles) 3:24
Cinema Retro's London photographer attends a rare London appearance by legendary filmmaker Roger Corman.
SEEING IS "B"ELIEVING
By Mark Mawston
500 movie credits to his name, most of us will have seen a Roger Corman film at
some point, perhaps during their original drive-in engagements or as a
perennial on late night TV. However, a much rarer sight is that of the man
himself, who makes very few appearances on “the circuit” even though he is so
revered. It was therefore a rare treat to meet the maestro at a late night
double bill screening of two of his finest films at the start of the English
bank holiday weekend at the Curzon Soho as part of their Midnight Movies season.
Photo copyright Mark Mawston. All rights reserved.
in town to introduce what many (including myself) see as his masterpiece - Masque Of The Red Death, as well as the
seldom-seen but highly regarded The
Intruder, starring a young William Shatner. Corman, speaking before a
packed and appreciative crowd, confirmed that The Intruder was his favourite among his own films and went on to
say that it was the epitome of “Guerrilla film making,” as most scenes were shot when and where they
could, often despite run-ins with hostile locals. The film’s stance against
racial and religious prejudice led to some rather unpleasant moments for the
crew as well as death threats to both its director and star. It became apparent
that the crowd had come to primarily see The
Intruder rather than the oft-screened Poe adaptation that boasts Nicholas
Roeg’s beautiful cinematography. In fact, Roeg’s work on Masque has been hugely influential on other directors’ work, from
David Lynch to Peter Greenway. Corman’s influence on American film is
undisputed and the talent he nurtured has become known as“The Roger Corman School Of Filmmaking”. The
noted alumni includes Francis Ford Coppola, Martin
Scorsese, Ron Howard, Peter
Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme, Donald G.
Jackson, Gale Anne Hurd, Joe Dante,
and Jack Hill, all of whom started their careers with Corman. As an example, Corman
confirmed that in the movie The Terror,
directorial duties were shared by himself, Monte Hellman (Two Lane Blacktop) and Jack Nicholson! Supposedly the film was
broken up into several shoots on free days but overall took less than a week to
film. That’s an epic by Corman standards: The
Little Shop Of Horrors took two days to shoot!
Today's action hero is less the Duke than the dork - Seth Rogen will be playing The Green Hornet.
If you're tired of today's touch-feely action hero who is in touch with his sensitive side, you can count writer Kevin Williamson as a soul mate. The columnist for Canada's London Free Press gripes that he's sick of seeing watered down men of action and pines for the days when macho men were omnipresent forces on theater screens - and yes, he shares Cinema Retro's skepticism that pudgy Seth Rogen is the most qualified actor in the world to play The Green Hornet! To read the article click here
We've intercepted this Top Secret memo that divulges inside information about the recent VIP opening of For Your Eyes Only, the new Ian Fleming exhibition taking place at the Imperial War Museum, London. Read it, then forget you ever saw the memo....
From: Head of R, GCHQ
Subject: Former SMERSH sleeper agent, code-name Deep Sleep Six (Real name: Krassno Granitskiovich. Aliases: Red Grant, Jr., Captain Norwood Nash)
Documentation: E-mail intercept, sent to G, head of SMERSH Veterans’ Association
Greetings Comrade G,
Following instructions, attended opening of special exhibition, ‘For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond’, at Imperial War Museum, London, 16 April, 2008, having neutralised and taken the place of reporter of nostalgic-revisionist organ ‘Cinema Retro’, using silicone mask provided by Otdyel II. Met at museum (dedicated to past glories of British imperialist war-mongers) by the American, Pfeiffer, and the Briton, Worrall, capitalist running-dogs and editors of aforementioned ‘Cinema Retro’. Enemy failed to penetrate disguise.
Photo copyright Mark Mawston. All rights reserved.
Event began with Bollinger champagne reception (not Dom Pérignon, as favoured by British assassin and enemy of the Russian and former Soviet peoples, James Bond). Speech of welcome given by Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squire, GCB, DFC, AFC, DSc, FRAeS, Chairman of the Trustees of the Imperial War Museum. Follow-up speech by the Right Honourable Margaret Hodge, Minister of State for Culture, Media, and Sport. Official opening speech delivered by Miss Honor Blackman, actress responsible for impersonating Pussy Galore, former associate of deceased agent, Auric Goldfinger.
Exhibition dedicated to life of Ian Fleming, fascist hyena and biographer of the killer Bond, on pretext of centenary of birth (see conclusion below). Items of interest include: bourgeois dinner-jacket and bow tie belonging to the author; desk and Remington Remette typewriter from Goldeneye, the author’s colonial-imperialist home in Jamaica; copy of ‘Checklist of Birds of the West Indies’ (1947) by James Bond (a transparent attempt to confuse real-life assassin with local ornithologist); a recipe for scrambled eggs, headed “Scrambled Eggs Never Let You Down” (copy forwarded for deciphering); book entitled ‘Sea Fauna or The Finny Tribe of Golden Eye’, with notes and illustrations by Fleming; and manuscript of propaganda work, ‘Casino Royale’, detailing the regrettable failure of SMERSH operative, Le Chiffre.
Fleming's desk - where James Bond novels came to life. (Photo copyright Mark Mawston. All rights reserved.)
These items followed by various family portraits and mementos, including letters from enemy of the Revolution, Winston Churchill; Christmas stockings large enough to clothe an entire village of peasants; various sporting trophies from Eton, the so-called public school (and breeding ground of reactionary imperialist swine); and various documents pertaining to the class enemy Fleming’s time spent as a “journalist” (a remarkably transparent cover) in Moscow, including a denied request for an interview signed by our late, Great and Glorious Leader, the much-loved Chairman Stalin himself! (Overcome with emotion, I found myself singing the Internationale – until I noticed the American Pfeiffer looking at me suspiciously. Strongly suspect this Pfeiffer may be none other than the Yankee pig-dog Felix Leiter, lackey of the CIA and cohort of Bond.)
The next exhibits are dedicated to the fantasist Fleming’s secret service in the Naval Intelligence Division during the Great Struggle against the forces of National Socialism. These include the coat worn by Fleming during his observation of the Dieppe Raid in 1942, a courier’s passport allowing him passage from Madrid to Gibraltar; various documents pertaining to his work with Rear Admiral Godfrey, the Director of Naval Intelligence, and the clandestine activities of 30 Assault Unit, overseen by Fleming, as well as information on the German V1 and V2 flying bombs, allegedly the forerunners of former Soviet agent Drax’s Moonraker rocket. A manuscript offictional ‘Moonraker’, with original title, ‘Mondays Are Hell’, crossed out and replaced by the words “The Moonraker”, is also displayed.
The post-Struggle section of the exhibition includes a Mercury News map of the world showing the location of various journalists (and spies, as we well know) employed by the Sunday Times newspaper, of which Fleming was the foreign news manager, along with various souvenir items from the author’s effete and luxurious travels for a series of articles (and later book), ‘Thrilling Cities’. This is followed by a most interesting item – a portrait of the killer, Bond, commissioned by Fleming circa 1957, incontestable proof that the assassin known as 007 really exists and was not just a figment of the lap-dog Fleming’s decadent day-dreams (as the British establishment, with inexplicable perversity, would have the masses believe). After all, even a degenerate bourgeois like Fleming would not commission a portrait of a non-existent character! There is also a cup, in the shape of a chamber pot, presented by Fleming to the Old Etonian Golfing Society – a typical example of British public school humour. This is followed by a case containing first editions of Fleming’s glorification of the murderous functionary, Bond, and original art-work for the books by the illustrator, Richard Chopping.
An extensive display of Bond books.(Photo copyright Mark Mawston. All rights reserved.)
(Artwork by Jeff Marshall. Copyright Daleon Enterprises. All rights reserved.)
Sir Roger Moore has confirmed he will be the guest of honor at a Pinewood Studios reunion of cast and crew of his favorite James Bond movie, The Spy Who Loved Me. The event will be organized by Cinema Retro's own Gareth Owen and his partner Andy Boyle, who run www.bondstars.com. Owen and Boyle recently staged the acclaimed Goldfinger reunion at Pinewood at which director Guy Hamilton was presented with The Retro Lifetime Achivement award on behalf of Cinema Retro by actress Honor Blackman. The Spy Who Loved Me event will take place on Sunday, October 19 and will be an all day affair with studio tours, panel discussions, interviews and a dinner honoring Sir Roger.
Please note: because this event is relegated to a relatively small number of attendees, Bondstars.com will be allocating tickets on a lottery basis. In order to be entered in the lottery, you must submit your registration form by June 7.
For the registration form and full details, click here.
Click here for coverage of the Goldfinger reunion event
Click here for exclusive coverage of Sir Roger Moore's surprise birthday party in New York City
The Cinema of Terrence Malick—Poetic Visions of America.(Second Edition) Edited
by Hannah Patterson.(Wallflower Press, 2007.)
The Cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski—Variations on Destiny and Chance.Edited by
Haltof.(Wallflower Press, 2004.)
Wallflower Press publishes several lines of film books.Represented here are two examples of their “Directors’
Cuts”—a series devoted to the works of individual directors.Both are similar in structure and degree of
academic and scholarly study.These are
not picture-books or “Films Of” books.They are intended for the serious student of film theory and
Perhaps no other filmmaker other than Stanley Kubrick has
elicited more mystique than Terrence Malick.He made two critically-acclaimed poetic dramas in the seventies (Badlands and Days of Heaven)and then
“disappeared” for twenty years before re-emerging on the Hollywood scene with The Thin Red Line in the late
nineties.One more film (The New World) appeared in 2005.His work eschews traditional narrative, is visually
beautiful, and emphasizes mood and emotions over character development.Editor Patterson has collected a number of
essays written by film academicians and critics that dissect Malick’s four
films.Dry stuff, but it’s a worthy
companion for anyone wanting more out of the director’s pictures.
Polish director Kieslowski had been working behind the Iron
Curtain for two decades and was relatively unknown in the West until the late
eighties.With such penetrating
examinations of “everyday life” as The
Double Life of Veronique, The
Decalogue, and the superb Three
Colors Trilogy (Blue; White; Red), Kieslowski presented us with dramatic
puzzles about fate and its effect on the human condition.Once again, editor Haltof has gathered a
collection of essays by prominent international critics, authors, and
academicians that attempt to make sense of films that are not instantly
accessible.Of particular interest are
the discussions of the director’s earlier, little-seen works such as The Scar and Blind Chance.Recommended.- Raymond Benson