Cinema Retro has just received an official press release from Fox detailing the contents of the 40th anniversary Planet of the Apes Blu-ray DVD collection which will be released on November 4. This initial press release confines itself to the content of the discs themselves and doesn't address the packaging or other bonus items included in the set. It's safe to say Fox has done an outstanding job of amassing vintage rarities and commissioning much-needed new retrospectives on the series. The highlight is the release of an un-rated version of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes that includes never-before-seen footage. Here are highlights from the Fox official press release:
Humans are even
uglier in High-Defwhen Planet Of The Apes: 40 Year Evolution
Blu-ray Collection takes over the Earth November 4th in
North America and throughout the Fall Internationally from Twentieth Century
Fox Home Entertainment. This spectacular set includes all five hair -
raising Planet Of The Apes films on Blu-ray for the first time,
including Beneath The Planet Of The Apes, Escape From The Planet
Of The Apes, Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes, Battle For The
Planet Of The Apes, and the 1968 original Planet Of The Apes,
which stunned audiences with its now-iconic conclusion and shockingly dystopian
view of humanity’s fate. From an age of film when science fiction served
as allegory in addition to providing thrilling spectacle and edge-of-your-seat
adventure, the Planet Of The Apes franchise set the gold standard
for Sci-Fi films. Now the films that changed the face of science fiction
forever will be available in the ultimate home viewing format. This
year’s Comic Con International 2008 provided fans a first look at some of the
exciting extras to be featured on the Blu-ray discs.
Planet Of The Apes: 40 Year Evolution Blu-ray Collection is
packed with exclusive new High-Def content. As a special treat for Apes
fans, the collection includes an unrated version of Conquest of the Planet
of the Apes. Previously unreleased in the United States, this version
includes eight minutes of unrated footage. Other new special content includes
an “Evolution of the Apes” documentary chronicling the evolution of the Apes
universe from novel to the big screen, an “Impact of the Apes” featurette
exploring the cultural impact of the franchise and a never-before-seen public
service announcement from ANSA about the seminal flight of the “Project
Liberty” crew. Each Planet Of The Apes sequel included in the
beautifully packaged collection will contain brand new High-Def making-of
featurettes and will be available for the suggested retail price of $159.98 U.S.
In addition, the previously released Limited Edition Planet Of The
Apes Ultimate Collection will be available in the uniquely packaged ape
head just in time for the holidays at a more attractive price.
Of The Apes: 40 Year Evolution Blu-ray Collection Blu-ray Disc Special Features:
Each Planet Of The
Apes Blu-ray Disc will be authored in
Java on a double-layer disc presented in widescreen
(2.35:1 aspect ratio) with newly mastered English 5.1 DTS Master Audio,
English, Spanish and French Mono and includes English and Spanish
subtitles. All new special features will be presented in High-Def. Bonus
of the Apes BONUSVIEW - Scientists, anthropologists and sociologists
discuss the facts and fiction of the first film
“Beyond the Forbidden Zone” Adventure Game
Public Service Announcement From ANSA” in HD – A mission report from the agency
regarding their brave astronauts
of the Apes”- HD featurette tracing the apes story from the original novel to
“Impact of the Apes” - HD featurette on how to market a worldwide pop culture
phenomenon. The story behind the marketing and merchandising of one of the
first ever film franchises and the series’ lasting influence on pop culture
through the years
HD Making-of Featurette for Each Sequel:
Planet of the Apes – “From Alpha to Omega: Building a Sequel”
Escape from the
Planet of the Apes – “ The Secret Behind Escape”
Conquest of the
Planet of the Apes – “ Riots and Revolutions: Confronting the Times”
Battle for the
Planet of the Apes – “ End of an Epic: The Final Battle”
NEW Each Apes
sequel will have an isolated score track in 5.1 DTS Master Audio
Commentary by Composer Jerry Goldsmith
Commentary by Actors Roddy McDowall, Natalie Trundy, Kim Hunter and
Makeup Artist John Chambers
Commentary by Eric Greene and Author of “Planet of the Apes as American Myth”
the Planet of the Apes Documentary – Includes all new interactivity and
the Planet of the Apes Promo (1988)
of the Apes Makeup Test with Edward G. Robinson (1966)
McDowall On-set Footage
of the Apes Dailies and Outtakes (No Audio)
of the Apes NATO Presentation (1967)
of the Apes Vintage Featurette (1968)
Behind the Planet of the Apes (1972)
Taylor Directs Escape from the Planet of the Apes
Thompson Directs Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
Sketches by Costume Designer Morton Haack
Planet of the Apes Timeline
Advertising and Lobby Card Galleries
(Note: this is only the first of several official press releases Fox will issuing about the contents of the set. As noted previously on this site, the set will also include a hardcover book by Cinema Retro publishers Lee Pfeiffer and Dave Worrall detailing the history of the franchise. This set is not yet available for pre-order from Amazon. )
Separated at birth? That's Cinema Retro's legal counsel, the esteemed Edward J. ("Just plead guilty-it's hopeless!") Plaza with Prof. Irwin Corey at the Players. Despite the astonishingly similar physical characteristics, the men are not related. (Photo copyright: Lee Pfeiffer/Cinema Retro)
The evening of July 29 was a night to remember at The Players, New York's famed social club for the arts, when members gathered to celebrate the 95th birthday of American comedy legend Prof. Irwin Corey who Lenny Bruce called "one of the most brilliant comedians of all time". The evening also kicked off a reciprocal visitation agreement between members of The Players and The Friars Club. Thus, the stage was populated by hilarious roasts from famed Friars Borscht Belt comedians such as Sgt. Bilko's Mickey Freeman, Stewie Stone and F Troop's Larry Storch, himself 91-years young. There were so many one-liners I became convinced the ghost of Milton Berle was frantically writing the jokes backstage. Most of the humor was at Prof. Corey's expense, of course, as Freeman noted that Corey's pre-nuptual agreement was signed so long ago, it insured he retained possession of the cave. Prof. Corey, who remains a popular fixture on New York's social scene, had his family in attendance and despite the elegant surroundings, was in his usual attire of wrinkled clothing and a baseball cap. His speech was typical of the man himself: a rambling mixture of one-liners ("I went to the doctor to get a transfusion and he told me my blood type is extinct!"), the kind of left wing political barbs that saw him blacklisted during the dark days of McCarthyism ("I'd rather be a son-of-a-bitch than a son-of-a-Bush!") along with his latest obsession, kooky consipracy theories about 9/11. (This had to be the only place in the world where such subjects were logically intermingled.). The world of stand-up comedy is a rough place and not for the faint of heart, as evidenced by a comic (who shall remain unnamed) who MC Mickey Freeman felt was wearing out his welcome on stage. This prompted Freeman to bruskly escort the man offstage by "gently" reminding him his act was going on too long by saying, "Hey, I'm double parked outside". He also cautioned him that he was here to honor a 95 year old man who might not make it through the end of his act. Everyone agreed to gather in the same place 95 years from now to celebrate Prof. Corey's 190th birthday - and no one would be surprised if Corey makes the date. I'll always remember the wonderful and moving words of wisdom about marital bliss that Prof. Corey once told me: "Marriage is like a bank account - you put it in, you take it out, you lose interest!" - Lee Pfeiffer
BACK IN THE SPOTLIGHT: MARILYN MASON RETURNS TO THE SCREEN WITH MODEL RULES
Interview by Tom Lisanti
Actress Marlyn Mason, best remembered as Elvis’ leading lady
in The Trouble with Girls (1969) and James Franciscus’ trusty
assistant/companion on TV’s Longstreet (1971-72), has come out of a
self-imposed 10-year retirement to star in Model Rules (2008) a short
film directed by Ray Robison that she also produced and wrote on location in
Medford, Oregon where she has been residing these past few years. In it
she plays an aging artist's model who envisages being with one of the men
The movie came from an idea Marlyn had after researching
what it took to become a real life artist’s model back in 2004. She
shelved the proposal but when a friend suggested she enter a Fiction Writing
contest, a former writing partner, comedian Vince Valenzuela, reminded her
about becoming an artist’s model and thought that would make a better story.
Warmly received, Model Rules was accepted into The
Rhode Island Int'l Film Festival (Aug. 5 - 10) and the Los Angeles Int'l Short
Festival (Aug. 15 - 21). If you live in any of those cities go see it! Click
here to access the web site
chock full of production stills.
With her big blue-green eyes and button nose, Marlyn Mason
(no connection to rock star Marilyn Manson, thank you) was an unconventional
beauty who had the talent to play comedy and drama to good effect. Being
an extremely versatile performer, she was a much sought after TV actress
playing a variety of roles on all the top series from the Sixties through the
Eighties but made the most impression on spy fans with her guest stints on I
Spy, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible, and Matt
Helm. Mason also proved to be a more than competent singer and dancer
on two TV musical specials with Robert Goulet (Brigadoon and Carousel)
and on Broadway in How Now Dow Jones. Her singing and dancing
prowess was finally put to good use on the big screen when she won her lead
role opposite Elvis. Two years later, a daring Marlyn bared more than her
talent as the older woman who seduces one of her husband’s students (Kristoffer
Tabori) in the youth-oriented comedy, Making It (1971) and then
played the neighbor who falls for Hal Holbrook unaware that he is gay in the
groundbreaking TV movie That Certain Summer (1972). Her last
credit prior to Model Rules was the TV movie Fifteen and Pregnant
How long did it take you to write Model Rules?
When I finished our conversation [with Vince Valenzuela], I
turned on the computer, stared at it and forty-five minutes later had written a
488 word piece that I titled Model Rules. Had it not been for
Vince's reminding me of my idea it would not exist today and I would not
be enjoying a surge in my otherwise slumbering career. Not bad at 68!
So how did it go from short story to short film?
My neighbor Janet Jamieson loved it, which encouraged me to
send it to a local film maker, Ray Robison. He called and said "I
want to do this". "Me, too", I replied. And so began
the life of Model Rules. Ray brought together twenty-one
volunteers to act as artists and crew.
So you never actually worked as an artist’s model while
No, so I found artist Robert M. Paulmenn who suggested
I do a posing session before filming. Afterwards he said,
"I can't teach you anything. You're a
natural"! That was an enormous ego feed for this old
broad! Needing several real artists for visual purposes Robert was delighted to
be cast along with artist Greeley Welles and sculptor Michael Isaacson.
How long did it take to shoot?
It took us two days and one evening to film. The Rogue
Gallery in Medford, Oregon gave us the space and art equipment
to use, which saved us a good amount. Half of the movie is shot in my own
little hut, also in Medford.
Marlyn on the set with Ray Robison
Did the movie turn out as you envisioned?
When I put Model Rules into the hands of Ray Robison
I told him it was his to do with as he wished. I would not
interfere. He welcomed suggestions and mine were less than few. I
became the actress, doing as I was asked, never looking at the monitor.
Weeks later when Ray showed me the rough cut I was stunned. With Director
of Photography, Kenn Christenson, Ray put together exactly what I had pictured
when I created the story. Ray also found exquisite pieces by
composers Kevin MacLeod and Justin R. Durban. It was just good luck that
Ray and I were on the same wave length visually and that Kenn was able to
translate what we wanted, a French art film, of sorts. And wouldn’t
you know, my “natural” talents are now put to good use; on occasion I’m asked
to pose for nude workshops!
Read more about Marlyn Mason’s movie and TV career in my
book Drive-in Dream Girls: A Galaxy of B-Movie Starlets of the Sixties.
Gays are always fashionably late, and I am no exception, as
I pay tribute to that cult classic The
Gay Deceivers long after Gay Pride month as come and gone. Released in
1969, this daring-for-its time comedy starred boyish Kevin Coughlin as Danny a
preppy 22 year-old with a steady girlfriend (Brooke Bundy) and handsome Larry
Casey as Elliot a ladies man and lifeguard who get drafted. To avoid being sent
the friends pretend to be lovers who desperately want to serve their
country.Their ruse works and they are
denied entry but knowing the army officer (Jack Starrett) at the draft board
will be watching, the duo shack up in a one bedroom apartment in a swinging gay
complex and try to convince their landlord Malcolm (Michael Greer), his partner
(Sebastian Brook), and the resident stud (Christopher Riordan) that they are homosexuals
while keeping Danny’s family and Elliot’s paramours in the dark.But things get thorny especially when Elliot,
at the landlord’s costume party, takes a woman to bed not realizing it’s a guy
in drag.A frustrated drunken Elliot then
starts a fight in a gay bar, which is witnessed by Danny and his unsuspecting
girlfriend leading to further complications and a surprise ending.
Viewing the film nowadays, The Gay Deceivers (produced by Joe Solomon and directed by Bruce
Kessler) is a bit dated with stereotypical gay characters and plays like an
elongated episode of Love, American Style.But in its time this was very daring and trail
blazing.Director Bruce Kessler takes a
sincere approach and knows his audience even giving them glimpses of blonde
Larry Casey’s fine naked behind.With
the hubbub today about gay marriage, it is quite surprising that for a movie
made in the late Sixties Greer and Brook‘s relationship is treated respectfully
and not poked fun at.They come off as
the typical wacky married next-door-neighbors found on any TV sitcom at the
time.Even the gay bar scene is toned
down and not played over-the-top.The
actors all do a surprisingly good job but Greer’s flamboyant queen act becomes
tiresome after about five minutes.
Actor Christopher Riordan who plays Duane was a busy dancing
actor throughout the Sixties. A single father, he took job after job to earn a
living to support his son.Extremely
handsome with an All-American look and persona, Riordan appeared in practically
every beach and Elvis movie from 1964 through 1967 while juggling bit roles in
big budget studio productions and TV shows.The widely varied films he worked on during this period include Viva Las Vegas, My Fair Lady, Get Yourself a
College Girl, A Swingin’ Summer, The Girls on the Beach, Von Ryan’s Express,
Ski Party, The Loved One, Tickle Me, The Glory Guys, How to Stuff a Wild
Bikini, Village of the Giants, Made in Paris, The Glass Bottom Boat, Hot Rods
to Hell, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Clambake, and Camelot.His dancing prowess
got him noticed especially when Fred Astaire hand picked him to dance with
Barrie Chase on TV’s The Hollywood Palace.This led Christopher to being also being hired as assistant
choreographer on a number of movies.However, as was the way back then, he rarely received screen credit
though he finally got on-screen recognition for Fireball 500.
By the late Sixties, Riordan had outlasted a number of the dancing
beach boys and directors began casting him in bigger roles due to his talent
and professionalism.The Gay Deceivers in 1969 was the first
followed by Beyond the Valley of the
Dolls and The Curious Female. Christopher
is still working today.Most recently,
he made guest appearances on the TV comedies House of Carters and Ugly
Betty and performs his cabaret act at AIDS benefits in the Los Angeles area.
Simultaneous to their release of their Western Classics Collection, Warner Home Video is releasing Errol Flynn westerns on DVD for the first time. Titles include Montana, Rocky Mountain, San Antonio and Virginia City. The collection debuts August 26.
Click here to order from Amazon and save $15 plus get free shipping!
Warner Home Video debuts six westerns on DVD in August under the banner Western Classics Collection. That's stretching it a bit as none of them are regarded as classics, but all of them will be welcomed by fans of the genre. Robert Taylor stars in three of the movies. The films are:
Escape from Fort Bravo starring Willam Holden
The Law and Jake Wade starring Robert Taylor and Richard Widmark
The 1960 remake of Cimarron starring Glenn Ford
Many Rivers to Cross starring Robert Taylor
Saddle in the Wind starring Robert Taylor
The Stalking Moon starring Gregory Peck in the best film of the lot, a drastically under-rated 1969 suspense drenched movie that finds Peck stalked by an unseen murderous Indian chief.
A restored Asian cult classic proves hell hath no fury
like a woman wronged, especially one who wields a scalpel.
By Dean Brierly
“Dedicated to medicine…and the cold-blooded destruction of
With a tagline like that, you just know you’re onto a
winner. And Madame O (1967), an outlandish, pungent slice of celluloid
kink, doesn’t disappoint. Ostensibly one of the cheap sex movies that flooded
Japanese cinemas in the 1960s (and which eventually morphed into the notorious
“pink” films in the following decade), Madame O transcends its tawdry
provenance, deftly blending the sexploitation, revenge and noir genres into an
oddly contemplative and affecting study of a woman slowly coming apart at the
mental and emotional seams.
The film’s heroine is a beautiful gynecologist in her
mid-30s with a thriving practice and a tragic past. As a 16-year-old girl,
Saeko suffered a gang rape that left her pregnant, infected with syphilis, and
saddled with guilt courtesy of a father who blamed her for provoking the
assault. It’s enough to turn a girl into a retribution-minded man hater.
“Before I realized it, I had grown into a woman who found pleasure only in
revenge—revenge against men for the brutality they had shown me,” Saeko relates
in voiceover. Her payback consists of picking up lonely men in tawdry bars,
taking them into her bed, and cold-bloodedly infecting them with syphilis (a
swift incision and swipe of bacteria-laden cotton) while they snooze in
post-coital bliss. Poetic justice, through a swab darkly.
Saeko’s single-minded quest is untainted by notions of
remorse or guilt at betraying the Hippocratic Oath. Indeed, inflicting rather
than curing disease provokes an exciting and intoxicating dichotomy in her,
another manifestation of her unbalanced psyche. Saeko also strikes back at men
in more oblique fashion, surreptitiously tying her patients’ fallopian tubes so
their husbands will begin to doubt their potency. Some might call that wrong.
Saeko would just call it mixing business with pleasure.
Unfortunately, not all good things last forever. Saeko’s
unabashed pursuit of vindictiveness and vengeance takes an unforeseen turn when
she carelessly becomes pregnant by one of her victims. In one of the film’s
most disturbing sequences, Saeko straps herself onto the operating table and
self-administers an abortion, only to pass out from the pain. Dr. Watanabe, a
recent addition to Saeko’s clinic, discovers her in this compromising position
the next morning and, much to her relief, promises to keep her secret. She is
further impressed by his selflessness and seeming lack of male predatory
impulses. For the first time in her life, Saeko finds herself falling in love,
to the point where she entrusts the good doctor with all the details of her
sordid past. Watanabe remains supportive even after he witnesses a blackmail
attempt by one of her former victims end in murder. Somewhat improbably, he
promptly marries Saeko, who by this time seems convinced that not all men are
devils. But wedded bliss is soon interrupted by a series of events that cast
her white knight in an entirely darker light. The film shifts into noir
territory at this point, with a succession of crosses and double crosses that
culminate in bleak and nihilistic fashion.
Director Seiichi Fukuda, who made a couple dozen such sex
films (almost all of them sadly lost), conjures highly charged widescreen
compositions to evoke Saeko’s twisted odyssey of sexual revenge. His visual
command is particularly effective during her nocturnal hunting forays. At one
point, Fukuda treats the viewer to a provocative close-up of Saeko’s lips as
she caresses them with lipstick, but the eroticism of the image is belied by
her cynical voiceover: “I’m always exhausted after an operation, but cannot
sleep. My nerves are raw. I’m on edge. I get up and go out into the streets and
hunt for easy pickups. I find them. They’re pathetically easy to lure.”
Madame O is filled with such frissons, including the
abortion sequence, which throbs with grindhouse intensity; and an eye-popping
scene in which Saeko dispatches of a blackmailer’s corpse while clad only in
polka dot bra and panties. Despite such suggestive visuals, Fukuda for the most
part maintains a detached, non-judgmental tone. At times, the film has an
almost documentary-like quality that is enhanced by its extensive use of
black-and-white cinematography. However, occasional color sequences, seemingly
inserted without narrative justification, keep the viewer off balance and
subtly mirror the characters’ discordant emotional states.
Michiko Sakyo (also known as Michiko Aoyama) brings a
studied calm and indomitable resolve to her characterization of Saeko, while
hinting at the mental cracks in her façade. She also possesses the requisite
physical characteristics of a sex film star, and seems comfortable letting it
all hang out in the numerous but relatively restrained sex scenes that punctuate
the narrative. Akihiko Kaminara is effectively creepy as her enigmatic husband,
his face a mask of repressed greed and lust; while Yuichi Minato excels as the
sleaze ball who meets a grisly fate when he tries to play extortion games with
the deadly doctor. An added bonus is the presence of Roman Porno legend Naomi
Tani as a voluptuous minx whose treacherous impulses fit right into the moral
cesspool of voyeurism, adultery and murder.
Like the rest of Fukuda’s output, this perverse gem might
also have been consigned to the waste bin of history if not for Radley
Metzger’s Audubon Films, which distributed an English-language version of Madame
O in the late 1960s and had the foresight to preserve what is the only
remaining copy in existence. Exploitation connoisseurs can also thank Synapse
Films for bringing the film to DVD in a pristine widescreen transfer that does
full justice to Fukuda’s delirious vision. Madame O is a fitting
testament to this unsung craftsman, one who infused Japanese genre cinema with
a uniquely compelling blend of moral complexity and unbridled eroticism.
Harkit Records have released John Barry's score for Boom! The late 60s film was a debacle for stars Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor but Barry's score has emerged unscathed from the wreckage. The film was based on an poorly-regarded Tennessee William short story and despite the star power (Noel Coward was also in the movie), the film laid a colossal egg at the box-office. The CD, however, is a welcome addition to any collector's library and features liner notes by our friend Kimberly Lindbergs who runs the great Retro site www.cinebeats.com
(Cinema Retro music critic Darren Allison will have a detailed review of the CD in the next issue of the magazine, #12).
We never know what to expect when Cinema Retro's John Exshaw reports on an event - except that it will be from a unique angle... Here's John's first-hand coverage of Robert Redford's recent visit to Trinity College in Dublin...oh, and if you're among those of us who have committed to memory the dialogue from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, you'll find the coverage even more enjoyable.
A Public Interview with Robert Redford presented by the
School of Drama, Film and Music, Trinity College, Dublin – Thursday, 10 July,
Report by John Exshaw – 18/7/08
Raindrops keep falling on my head as I make my way towards
Trinity College, Dublin, for a showdown with the Sundance Kid. On what passes
for a summer’s day in Ireland, Robert Redford has ridden into town for
tomorrow’s commencement ceremony, at which he will receive an honorary
Doctorate of Letters from the country’s most prestigious seat of learning – alma
mater of such luminaries as Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, and
Samuel Beckett, to name but a few. Before that, however, he has sportingly
agreed to be interrogated by Michael Dwyer, film critic of The Irish Times,
in a public interview to be held in the college’s Edmund Burke theatre.
I arrive in the modernist eyesore that is the TCD’s Arts
Building and stand in the foyer, pools of water forming round my feet. To be
frank, I’m feeling pretty Randolph Scott – saddle-sore and in no mood for small
talk. It’s not just the shitty weather, nor the fact that I should be working
on my Hennessy article for the next issue of Cinema Retro. No,
what’s riling me – the particular burr under my saddle blanket – is the
following line in an e-mail I received about this evening’s gabfest: “Please
note that at the request of Robert Redford’s publicist no recording is
permitted during this event.” Just like that. No apology, no explanation. No
doubt the Duke would approve but, personally, it’s just the sort of bullshit
that’s liable to get me all fired up. And a fired-up Retro writer ain’t
a pretty sight . . .
The Great Waldo Pepper arrives at the Trinity College seminar in Dublin. (Photo copyright: John Exshaw)
This was my first encounter, even at a distance, with that
mythical creature of ill-repute, the Hollywood Publicist, and my first thought,
naturally enough, was what an asshole! Why the hell shouldn’t
journalists be allowed to record what someone says in a public interview in
order to report it accurately? Or, to put it another way, in order to do our
job properly? Is it possible theasshole
in question would prefer his client’s comments to be reported inaccurately?
Or is he (assuming for the moment that the asshole in question is a male
asshole, while not implying that women don’t have every right to be assholes
too) afraid that the interview might fall into the hands of someone who’ll
re-edit it in such a way as to make his client sound, well, like an asshole? If
there are good reasons (at least from a publicist’s point of view) for such a
prohibition, then he should at least have the manners to say what they are. And
if there aren’t, then he should stop being such an asshole.
So, in a fairly ornery mood, I head into the theatre.
There’s no sign of Mr. Redford’s publicist, which is a pity because I’d like to
have given him a piece of my mind. Followed by a Harvey Logan Special in the
nuts. The seats in the theatre are quickly filled by the (mainly female)
audience. Forty minutes after the supposed kick-off, and following an
introduction from Kevin Rockett, head of the School of Drama, Film and Music
and a four-minute compilation of Redford’s Greatest Movie Moments, I’m still
standing in the designated photographers’ area like an unemployed cigar store
Indian, camera in hand, awaiting the star of the show. I remember something
George Roy Hill said in The Making of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
about Redford having to listen to Paul Newman’s lame jokes while Newman had to
endure Redford’s habitual tardiness. That was 39 years ago, and it looks like
nothing’s changed on the latter score. Well, they do say consistency is a
virtue . . .
Finally, the doors open and the Great Man – indeed the Great
Waldo Pepper – makes his entrance, setting off some mild (mainly female)
hysteria in the audience. I grab some pictures and hotfoot it back to my seat.
By the time I’ve put my camera away and got my notebook open, Redford has
nearly finished his thoughts on what Dwyer terms the possible “regime change”
in America in the forthcoming presidential election. Looking back now on my
notes, I see the following: “Yes … inexperienced … good … need for change …
yesterday … age is an issue.” What on earth does it mean? Maybe something like,
“Yes, we need a change. John McCain is inexperienced but was good yesterday.
Barack Obama’s age is an issue.” Or maybe it was the other way round? But as I
can’t play it back on my trusty Dictaphone, you’ll just have to make sense of
it for yourselves, won’t you? (for which you can thank that asshole . . .)
Finally, following some recollections about how, when he was
studying in Paris, Redford was “humiliated” by his own ignorance of American
politics, the talk moves on to movies and I’m able to get my act together and
focus. And so, taking our cue from the title sequence of Butch Cassidy and
the Sundance Kid, you can take it that “Most of what follows is true” . . .
Estelle Getty, who played the acid-tongued mother of Bea Arthur on the 1980s hit sitcom The Golden Girls has passed away at age 84. The Emmy winning actress gained stardom in the role for which she had to be made up to look far older than she actually was at the time. For details click here
Editor-in-Chief Lee Pfeiffer gives his take on the new blockbuster.
Given all the hype leading up to the release of The Dark Knight, one could be forgiven for wondering if the final film could live up to expectations. To be brutally honest, I had also wondered whether the ecstatic praise afforded Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker had been inflated by the tragic circumstances of his death. Thus, I am delighted to report that the The Dark Knight is an instant action film classic. If there is a real life superhero who deserves most of the credit, it is director/writer Christopher Nolan, a true devotee of the Batman saga, as opposed to a hack simply trying to collect a paycheck. (How many potentially good films based on famous franchises have been demolished in just such a scenario?) Under Nolan's inspired direction, Ledger is not just an actor, he's a force of nature. I had been skeptical about his interpretation of The Joker, based on the footage in the trailer. Having been weaned on more traditional concepts of the character, I could not envision a scenario in which this evil mastermind would adopt such coarse methods as picking up machine guns and bazookas. It would be like Prof. Moriarty trying to get the edge on Sherlock Holmes by using hardware instead of intellect to do in his arch rival. Yet, this is The Joker as envisioned for a generation brought up on graphic novels. If you can suspend any memories of Cesar Romero and Jack Nicholson, you're attention will be riveted every second Ledger is on screen. With his ghastly makeup only half-encrusting his face, he initially looks like one of the denizens who perpetually haunt the entrance to London's tony Groucho Club in the hopes of shaking down members for change. However, once the character is established, you see that Nolan has not compromised two aspects of The Joker's legacy: his sheer brilliance and perverse wit. (There's even a Brokeback Mountain reference). The film opens with a bank heist, a scenario that may seem too mundane for a criminal mastermind, but it is stunningly directed and sets the tone for the horror show The Joker is about to unleash on Gotham City (this time "played" by Chicago).
The script presents Batman's hometown as perpetually beset by crime waves that have led the populace to lose site of the fact that the Caped Crusader has been putting his own life at risk for the benefit of the citizenry. Because he's technically a criminal vigilante, he bears the brunt of criticism from a fickle public all too willing to blame him for their city's woes. This leaves Batman's alter ego billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) depressed and disillusioned. He is also nursing a broken heart from the loss of his girlfriend, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who has taken up with hot shot crusading prosecutor Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) whose relentless operations against organized crime has made him flavor of the month at Batman's expense. Wayne is about to retire as a superhero when The Joker's terrorist attacks against the city mandate that he join forces with Eckhart and Lt. Gordon (Gary Oldman), who is the only loyal friend his has on the police department. The intricacy of the plot makes The Dark Knight far more complex than most action films and although there is an abundance of spectacular special effects and explosions, they never come at the expense of the human element of the story. At it's heart, this is a movie about people and their complex relationships. In that regard, the film benefits from a terrific cast, each member of which brings pathos and humor to their roles. Christian Bale is far more impressive here than he was in Batman Begins, bringing credibility to the reluctant hero's personal torment. Maggie Gyllenhaal takes over the role played by Katie Holmes in the previous film and is a vast improvement. Gyllenhaal is a mature, sophisticated presence while the spindley Holmes looked like she was auditioning for the high school play. Aaron Eckhart, who resembles the young Robert Redford, takes what could have been a rather bland role and transforms it into something dynamic - along with a surprising development that ties in with another well known character in the Batman legend. There are also superlative supporting performances by old pros Michael Caine as Alfred and Morgan Freeman as Bruce Wayne's version of James Bond's Q. In fact, Christopher Nolan's well-known high esteem for the 007 films is amply evident in this movie. There is a gadgets scene that is straight out of the Bond/Q catalog; The Joker utilizes a knife in his shoe a la Rosa Klebb and there is a skyhook plane rescue straight out of Thunderball that is even credited to Intelligence services in the 1960s. It is indeed not without irony that the two oldest film franchises have been so successfully and dynamically reinvented simultaneously for a new generation.
The Dark Knight is not without flaws. The action scenes tend to be a bit overwhelming on occasion and, as with the previous film, the fight scenes are edited in the now-standard herky-jerky MTV style that makes everything a virtually indistinguishable blur and diminishes the suspense. Nevertheless, the movie is so well crafted these flaws are relatively minor. Until now, the best superhero flicks I've seen are Superman, Superman II and Tim Burton's revisionist version of Batman that paved the way for this film. However, The Dark Knight is not only better than those outstanding achievements, it's the best superhero movie ever made. - Lee Pfeiffer
Every movie lover has seemingly seen Steve McQueen's legendary Mustang in action during the famous car chase from Bullitt. San Bernadino's The Sun newspaper web site has a look back at the classic sequence and how it was made. To view click here
One of the Colt Walker pistols famously used by Clint Eastwood in the 1976 classic western The Outlaw Josey Wales is among a staggering 1,000 original movie props being put up for auction on the Internet. Among the other highlights:tablets from The Ten Commandments, costumes from Austin Powers, a Star Wars fighter, Spiderman's costume, the actual Holy Grail seen in the Indiana Jones adventure, and many more. For details on the auction click here. The auction takes place on August 1.
It's hard to believe it's been two full decades since the release of Die Hard, the film that put Bruce Willis among the few select actors who successfully made the transition from TV to being a genuine superstar in theatrical films. I've never been as captivated by the movie as most, largely because it falls apart during the absurd ending that initiated the trend of inserting more climaxes than a porn film into action movies. Still, most of it is good fun - and the film has resonated with fans like Michael Coate, who has amassed some interesting trivia and facts on his site. It's sort of "Everything You Wanted to Know About Die Hard But Were Afraid To Ask..." Check it out by clicking here- Lee Pfeiffer
Radaronline.com has an interesting article that is inspired by the release of The Dark Knight - the final film Heath Ledger had completed before his untimely death. The article looks at a number of other interesting scenarios is which prominent cast members and directors passed away before their last film was released. Predictably, however, the article only delves with films of relatively recent vintage and ignores high profile cases as Peter Finch's Oscar-win for Network, which was released after he had died.
first moved to Los Angeles
about a dozen years ago, the one person I wanted to meet was Robert Relyea.
Now, this may seem like an odd choice since his is hardly a household name, but
Bob Relyea’s credit was on just about every one of my favorite movies growing
up. And if you’re reading Cinema Retro, the odds are these films are favorites
of yours as well - “The Alamo,” “The Magnificent Seven,” “West Side Story,”
“The Great Escape,” and “Bullitt,” to name a few of the classic movies he
nominal title on a picture like “The Great Escape” was assistant to the
producer but this hardly begins to describe what he actually contributed to that
film. He scouted locations, he was the production manager, directed all the
night scenes (because John Sturges didn’t like working nights), he even flew
the plane that James Garner piloted in the film and was courageous enough to
take on the hazardous job of stunt pilot when the plane needed to
crash. Oh, and that immortal shot of Steve McQueen jumping the barbed wire
fence on his motorcycle? Yup, Bob Relyea directed that.
it’s best not to meet your heroes, that they will only let you down. Well, as
usual “they” are wrong. I finally got to meet Mr. Relyea and it has been one of
the great pleasures of my life to be able to call him my friend. A finer, more
decent man I have never met and he is also one of the best storytellers I have ever
had the pleasure of knowing. Now, with the publication of his memoirs of a life
in the motion picture industry, “Not So Quiet on the Set,” you, too, have the
opportunity to meet Robert Relyea and I urge you to do yourself a great favor
and read one of the funniest and most moving books about the movie industry I
have ever read. The
style of the book perfectly captures the voice of the man I know - understated,
honest, slightly amazed at the things he has seen and been a part of, and full
of a puckish wit that infuses the incredible goings on. And what a cast of
characters! Grace Kelly, Marlon Brando, Elvis, John Wayne, Richard Widmark,
Frank SInatra, Steve McQueen, Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine, James Garner,
June Allyson, Yul Brynner, Burt Lancaster, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Cliff
Robertson, David McCallum and Peter Sellers, even the Beatles make an
directors he’s worked with are here as well - Vincente Minnelli, William Wyler,
Robert Wise, Blake Edwards, Peter Yates, Mark Rydell and his mentor, the great
John Sturges. In fact, the story about how Sturges happened to make “Bad Day at
Black Rock” is worth the price of admission alone, as they used to say. It’s
hard to pick out a favorite anecdote, they are all so well told, but there are
a couple of stories about the making of “The Alamo” that are priceless,
including one about Relyea having a conversation with John Wayne as a horse
proceeded to bite the Duke on the ass. Wayne
turned around and socked his equine attacker squarely on the snout without
missing a beat in the conversation with Relyea. And this was years before Mongo
in “Blazing Saddles!” “I realized then,” Bob once told me, “He wasn’t
acting. He really WAS John Wayne!”
John Wayne with director John Ford, who visited the set
“The Alamo” provides the book with some of its funniest
moments as well as one of the most dramatic. During the long, arduous shoot,
Relyea developed a bleeding ulcer that came within minutes of killing him.
Thanks to the blood transfusions of the many stuntmen on the film, he survived,
thanks to the massive infusions of stuntmen’s blood, almost all of it laced
with copious amounts of tequila, Jack Daniels and Scotch. In fact, there’s a
funny story that Bob Relyea once told me about that film, that isn’t in the
book so I won’t be giving anything away if I recount it here. “On the first day
of shooting, one of my responsibilities was to watch Duke play the scene,
since they didn’t have video monitors in those days for him to look at after
the shot was completed. Well, I got so pre-occupied with the set-up and and
everything that I didn’t notice until we all saw the dailies that because he
had lived so long with this project, Duke not only knew his lines, but knew
every other actor’s lines in the scene as well. And when we saw the dailies,
there he was, silently mouthing the other actor’s lines as they were delivering
them. I was so focused on everything else, I missed it, and I can assure you
that I caught hell for that one!”
Alexander Mundy: “Let me get this straight…I can catch
complete episodes of the entire first season of It Takes a Thief on
Noah Bain: “Not quite, Al. But how does 14 out of the
first 16 grab you?”
Alexander Mundy: “Terrific!”
Nobody could lay as hip an inflection on the word “terrific”
as Robert Wagner when he starred as Alexander Mundy in the coolest
adventure/espionage series of the late sixties, It Takes a Thief. During
the show’s three-year run from 1968 to 1970, the suave and sophisticated Wagner
was the hottest thing going, even edging James Coburn (temporarily, at least)
in the hippest actor sweepstakes. As anyone among the Cinema Retro generation
knows, Mundy was a world-class thief whose one mistake landed him in San Jobel
Prison. The man who put him there? Noah Bain, head of a shadowy government spy
agency known as the SIA. In the show’s pilot episode, Bain offered Mundy an
expedient if unconventional way out: steal for the government in exchange for a
full pardon. Along with the gig came a cover identity that appealed to every
man’s inner hedonist: Mundy would pose as an international playboy replete with
swank estate and a succession of beautiful SIA operatives to assist him. The
catch was a Big Brother surveillance system inside the mansion and strict
orders to keep hands off the girls. Needless to say, Mundy routinely
circumvented the SIA cameras and subverted whatever scruples the ladies
When he wasn’t macking on Bain’s private reserve, Mundy kept
busy pulling off a string of high wire capers in the world’s hottest jet set
locations—all without breaking a sweat. Unlike the preening poseurs currently
Wagner’s cool was organic and understated. As Alexander Mundy, he projected a
breezy self-assurance untainted by arrogance or condescension, and maintained
his sangfroid in the face of the most dangerous assignments Noah Bain threw his
way, thanks to an unparalleled and seemingly inexhaustible skill set. Mundy
could neutralize any security system, crack any safe, outwit any adversary and,
not least, talk his way into the arms of just about any woman in sight. Little
wonder he was the envy of every kid who came of age during the show’s original
As an actor, Wagner had been building up to this breakout
role throughout the 1960s. The first intimation of his Al Mundy persona can be
glimpsed in The Pink Panther (1963), in which he plays the smooth,
womanizing nephew of jewel thief David Niven. When he discovers his uncle’s cat
burglar kit midway through the film, one can almost sense the actor’s dawning
realization of his future career path. Wagner followed up with strong
performances in Harper (1966), How I Spent My Summer Vacation
(1967) and Banning (1967), each role adding further gloss to his
onscreen charisma. By the time Wagner did the pilot episode (titled Magnificent
Thief), his combination of physical grace and urbane demeanor was smoother
than a shaken-not-stirred vodka martini.
As great as Wagner was, however, It Takes a Thief
wouldn’t have been half as effective without the powerful presence of Malachi
Throne as Noah Bain. Who can forget Noah's immortal line during the
scintillating split-screen credit sequence set to Dave Grusin’s badass theme
tune: “Oh, look, Al, I’m not asking you to spy, just asking you to steal.” The
stage-trained actor with the deep, distinctive voice was all over the cult TV
map during the 1960s and ’70s. With his burly physique and stolid, slab-like
face, Throne excelled at playing gruff authority figures, yet his keen
intelligence and surprisingly wide emotional range added fascinating layers to
his performances. The potent onscreen chemistry he and Wagner displayed gave a
real edge to their characters' adversarial relationship. Bain was a hard ass
with a ruthless streak and frequently threatened to ship Mundy back to prison
if he stepped out line. Yet he also maintained a healthy respect for Mundy’s
criminal talents, as well as a grudging affection for the master crook himself.
And in his own conservative way, Noah Bain was kind of hip too, matching Mundy
in glib repartee and delightedly quashing his amorous aspirations at every
opportunity. In the episode “When Thieves Fall In,” Bain surprises Mundy and a
female SIA operative in a forbidden clinch. “We were just playing chess,” the
flustered agent explains. “You’re lucky I arrived in time,” Bain retorts. “One
more move and he’d have had you mated.”
TV's other dynamic duo of the 1960s: Robert Wagner and Malachi Throne
Throne’s complexity and grit
were sorely missed when he left the series after the first two seasons. Edward
Binns did a competent job as Mundy’s new boss Wally Powers, but he just
couldn't match the Malachi Man. Ironically, it was Throne’s own rebellious
streak that resulted in his leaving the show. “They had this idea of shooting
the whole season in Italy,
but they wanted me to stay behind and give Wagner’s character…orders over the
phone. I told them if I didn’t go I’d quit, and I did. The show didn’t last
another half a season.”
Unlike some programs that take time to dial in their
formula, It Takes a Thief was perfect right out of the box. The show’s
basic premise, fusing the heist and espionage genres, was a stroke of mad
genius. Watching Mundy conduct his felonious pursuit of secret documents,
jewels, missing scientists and whatever else the SIA needed stolen was
fascinating in itself, but the spy tropes worked into the mix made things even
more intriguing, giving the writers greater creative latitude to explore fresh
narrative directions. As a result, Mundy could channel the larcenous vibe of
Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief while simultaneously tapping into the
Cold War dramatics of such contemporaneous shows as I Spy and Mission:
Impossible. But no matter which way the scenarios swung, they were all
invested with the kind of light touch that seems impossible to reproduce today.
All three seasons maintained a nicely judged balance of humor and drama, never
veering into camp (like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. did during its third
season) or becoming overly serious.
Despite its iconic status and the respect it commands from
legions of faithful fans, It Takes a Thief, for reasons known only to
the Home Entertainment Gods, has yet to appear on DVD. When one considers that
seemingly every other television show from that era has made it to DVD
(including the most mindless retro rubbish imaginable), one has to wonder what
license holder Universal Studios is waiting for. Fans looking to get their fill
of Mundy’s adventures have had to make do with videotapes or gray market DVD-Rs
of dubious quality—until now. The good folks at www.hulu.com,
a free video streaming site founded by NBC Universal and News Corp., have
stepped into the breach by making available 14 season one episodes in their
entirety, with limited commercial interruptions.
Many fans consider the first season the best of the three.
The stories were more inventive, the suspense was wound a little tighter, and
the humor shaded a bit darker. (Here’s Mundy’s sardonic take on an East
European security official: “The cat with the ball-bearing eyes is the man
currently starring in the Baltic police department’s theater of cruelty.”) The
Mundy-Bain interplay was also at its most contentious and compelling (although
this aspect became slightly diluted when Mundy became a freelance operative in
the second season). Even the faux European locales, courtesy of Universal’s
back lot, don’t detract from the show’s sophisticated, escapist allure.
Watching episodes like “Turnabout,” “The Radomir Miniature” and “Locked in the
Cradle of the Keep” is to be reminded of a vanished entertainment era that
privileged intelligence, wit and style.
The program’s celebrated guest stars also made memorable
impressions during the 1968 season. In “To Steal a Battleship,” Bill Bixby
plays a rival thief who muscles in on Al’s assignment, mistakenly believing
they’re both after a priceless necklace, when in fact Mundy is interested only
in recovering NATO defense documents. Bixby is excellent as the conniving
competitor, adding some darker colors to his standard nice-guy persona. Season
one also featured two of Susan Saint James’ five guest appearances as Charlene
“Charlie” Brown, another fellow thief and Al’s occasional love interest. In the
aforementioned “When Thieves Fall In,” Mundy must steal a sable coat with a map
of I.C.B.M. missile sites sewn into the lining, and so enlists Charlie’s help
to pull a double switch. St. James and Wagner spark off one another like erotic
electrons in this episode while trading one-liners with the timing of a
seasoned comedy team. Mundy: “What happened?” Charlene Brown: “Chloroform with a
vodka chaser.” Mundy: “You’re not supposed to spray that stuff on yourself!”
Such exchanges are typical of the series’ unbeatable mix of
action, suspense, humor and that elusive and seemingly out of fashion quality
known as style. Short of Robert Wagner once again donning his cat burglar garb
and breaking into Universal’s corporate black tower to liberate the original
copies of It Takes a Thief, Hulu will likely remain the best place to
indulge your fix of this television classic. Here’s hoping that seasons two and
three will soon follow, so that Alexander Mundy fans everywhere will have
further occasion to say, “Terrific!”
Legendary sex symbol Raquel Welch has decided to let it all hang out, at least in the literal sense. The National Enquirer is reporting the 67 year old actress is inking her memoirs titled Secrets of Timeless Appeal that will reveal the steamy details of flings with Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Warren Beatty and many others. For more click here
Writer Steve Vertlieb takes a look at a true icon of the cinema- and discovers there was far more than met the eye.
KARLOFF...the very name strikes terror into the hearts of
most screen audiences, as did the persona of his most famous
theatrical creation, Frankenstein's "Monster." Yet this
gifted, versatile actor was a kind, intelligent, charitable performer respected by
his colleagues, and adored by millions of children around the world. Whether the
gentle giant of Universal's early Frankenstein films, the villainous Captain
Hook of Broadway's "Peter Pan," the distinguished host of NBC's acclaimed
"Thriller" television series,or the renowned motion picture and stage actor who,
through countless remarkable performances, brought dignity and compassion to
the uniquely maligned genre of so-called "Horror Films," Boris
Karloff was an intelligent, sensitive actor who captured the hearts and imaginations of
generations of screen, theatrical, television, and radio audiences.
Rare behind the scenes photo from the AIP film The Comedy of Terrors showing Basil Rathbone, Peter Lorre, Karloff and Vincent Price. (Photo: Steve Vertlieb)
Karloff had a late career highlight playing the villain(ess?) Mother Muffin on a Girl From U.N.C.L.E. episode opposite Stephanie Powers and Robert Vaughn.
My chronicle of the life of this legendary artist is now available at The Thunder
Child science fiction/Fantasyweb magazine, and can be accessed to clicking onto
the celluloid link below.
Ahoy, mateys! Sony has just released a great new DVD collection titled Icons of Adventure that showcases three films top-lining Christopher Lee: Pirates of Blood River (1962) , Devil Ship Pirates (1964)and Terror of the Tongs (1961) all from Hammer Film Studios, which was primarily known for its legendary horror movies. The set also features one movie that Lee doesn't appear in, Stranglers of Bombay (1960), the only black-and-white title in the collection. If you can get past the God-awful packaging that makes the DVD look like one of those public domain releases you find in the dollar stores, this is a very entertaining set. I confess to not having seen a single one of these films before and I was prepared for the possibility that they had not held up well over time. However, each title is very well made and extremely enjoyable in its own way. Most surprising is the outstanding production values of both of the Pirate films. These are among the most expensive looking movies Hammer ever produced (despite the fact they were shot at Bray Studios and in Black Park, England) and, contrary to popular belief, the two movies were not related and had completely independent characters and storylines.
The Pirates of Blood River begins with Kerwin Matthews being sentenced to a penal colony by his religious zealot father for having a romantic relationship with a married woman. In the course of a daring escape, he encounters Christopher Lee and his band of pirates who act as benign saviors, but who ultimately take over and terrorize Matthews' home village. Lee is outstanding in the principal role as the erudite, yet cold-blooded murderer. This is no "shiver-me-timbers" character or performance and he's abetted greatly by a good supporting cast that includes Andrew Keir, Marla Landi, Michael Ripper and young Oliver Reed. There's even a brief appearance by Desmond Llewelyn. The only weak point is the casting of American actors Kerwin Matthews and Glenn Corbett as the main heroes. Both look like they just stepped out of a lunch at Sardis and neither makes the slightest attempt to emulate the accents of the other actors.
The Devil Ship Pirates casts Christopher Lee as a mercenary who is fighting for Spain in the Spanish Armada's ill-fated invasion of England. When the battle ends in disaster, Lee betrays the Spanish and ends up secreting his damaged ship off a rural part of England where he desperately seeks to get necessary repairs done. He concocts an audacious plan to convince local villagers that the English have lost the battle and that he is leading a victorious occupation force. The ruse works -at least at first and Lee uses brute force and public executions to suppress any chance of revolt and to enlist the local men to do repairs on his ship. Lee gives a particularly powerful performance in this film. His character is a man of culture and education, but does not stint on using barbaric tactics to keep innocent people in line. The film also gives Lee, who is an accomplished fencing artist, plenty of opportunity to display his swashbuckling skills in the film's exciting dueling sequences.
The Terror of the Tongs is actually the weakest of the films in the collection with Lee giving a credible performance as a mysterious, Fu Manchu-like Chinese master criminal who traffics in graft and prositution in Hong Kong. Geoffrey Toone is a sea captain who declares war on Lee and his murderous Tong Society after they murder his daughter in their quest to obtain secret information. The film is well-scripted but suffers from meager production values (there are virtually no exterior sequences). The claustrophobic production cries out for more sweep but has all the scope of a live TV production. Yvonne Monlaur is a fetching Chinese girl rescued from forced prostitution by Toone. The leads all give reasonably good performances, but there is the age-old conceit of having the major roles of Asian characters played by Caucasian actors. (The film does feature Burt Kwouk as one of the few genuine Asian actors in the cast).
Though largely unheralded because of its lack of marquee names, The Stranglers of Bombay is arguably the most impressive film in the collection due to a literate script and a fine leading performance by Guy Rolfe as a British army officer assigned to safeguard trade caravans in India during the era of colonial rule. Rolfe is convinced that a secret cult has been responsible for kidnapping the many Indians who have mysteriously vanished. However, his superior ignores his warnings until the truth emerges with disastrous results. The script is based on the true actions of the dreaded Thugee cult that used kidnap victims as human sacrifices. The film is intriguing and exciting on every level and remains one of Hammer's most underrated productions.
Although Christopher Lee's participation is sadly missing, the set does feature informative commentary screen writers Jimmy Sangster and David Z. Goodman as well as Hammer historians Chris Barnes and Marcus Hearn, and art director Don Mingaye. The set also features some nice bonus items in addition to the original trailers for each film. Among them: a wonderful 1930s pirate cartoon titled The Merry Mutineers that features hilarious "starring" roles by the superstars of the day including Fred Astaire, W.C. Fields and The Marx Brothers. There is also a segment of a 1953 serial, The Great Adventures of Captain Kidd that falls into the "so-bad-it's-great" category. There's also a two reel comedy with Andy Clyde as a man who decides to live life to the fullest after being falsely told he's going to die. It's quite amusing, even if it has nothing to do with the theme of the DVD collection. Make sure you add Sony's Icons of Adventure to your treasure chest.- Lee Pfeiffer
To order this DVD for only $19.99 from Amazon click here
Filmmaker Bruce Conner died this week at the age of 74. Even the most ardent movie fan may not have heard of him, but his influence was widespread. Conner carved a niche for himself by compiling scraps of footage from other movies into original works that served as amusing social commentaries. Dennis Hopper said his work directly inspired him to shoot Easy Rider. Conner himself had originally been influenced by a scene in the Marx Brothers movie Duck Soup in which a "Help Wanted" sign is hung outside the war ministry in the hope of getting volunteers to sign up for the army. In the film, a quick cut shows everything from tanks to giraffes answering the call. Conner thought it would be entertaining to try this technique in a full length feature film, so he acquired snippets and scraps from newsreels and documentaries and fashioned them into unique works. The New York Times has a wonderful article about his life and career. To read click here
Evelyn Keyes, whose most famous role was as Scarlett O'Hara's pouting younger sister in Gone With the Wind, has died from cancer at age 91. Keyes had a number of tumultuous relationships with some of Hollywood's legendary leading men and had endured two failed marriages to director John Huston and band leader Artie Shaw. For more click here
Happy birthday to The Blob - the king of sci-fi, Cold War era monsters has just reached the half-century mark and the old boy is more vibrant than ever. As usual, there are commemorative events in Phoenixville, Pa where the movie, which starred Steve McQueen, was shot. Last night there was the traditional recreation of screaming hordes of people running in terror from the Colonial Theater, replicating the scene in the film where teenagers are menaced when the gooey Blob takes over the projection booth. To watch a video of the event, click here
When German director Fritz Lang premiered his futuristic masterpiece Metropolis in Berlin in 1927, it would be the last time the film would be seen in its complete state. Like Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons, Lang's film was cut substantially and the missing footage- considered vital to the storyline- was presumed lost forever. Recently, however, missing reels turned up in a film archive in Argentina - and cinema scholars around the world are now celebrating the fact that one of the screen's greatest achievements will be able to be enjoyed in its original format. For the full story click here
Glory days: the famous first view of Welles as Harry Lime in Carol Reed's The Third Man.
Writer Steve Vertlieb takes a fascinating, in-depth look at the life and career of Orson Welles and finds an almost eerie parallel to that of his most legendary character, Charles Foster Kane. Welles, an indisupted genius, was ultimately brought down by a dealdy combination of short-sighted studio executives who couldn't relate to his artistry and his own personal ego and excesses that often dwarfed anything Kane might have dreamed up. To read click here
Lionsgate has released a 4-film collection of Sophia Loren titles that is as ecclectic as it is entertaining. This collection demonstrates why Loren remains one of the true living legends of the film industry, as the full range of her exceptional talents is on display. The four films are:
Attila- this 1954 sword-and-sandal epic pairs Loren with Anthony Quinn, who portrays the legendary hun. The movie boasts an exceptionally intelligent script, with young Loren cast as a conniving Roman beauty who seeks to betray her crumbling empire by seducing Attila. Presented in Italian language with sub-titles, the movie has outstanding production values and performances, and feature truly epic battles though the last scene is marred by a religious message that goes a bit over-the-top. Nonetheless, the movie is a reminder of why Italy led the world in the post-war European cinema.
CAROSELLO NAPOLETANO presents Loren in one of her first films, a 1953 musical homage to the folk and musical traditions of Naples. The Italian language film is an acquired taste that won't appeal to everyone, but I found it fascinating. To see a big budget musical made in the aftermath of the devastation Italy suffered in WWII, is quite remarkable. (The exterior sequences make no attempt to mask the bombed-out buildings that still abounded everywhere.) Most of the film consists of unrelated short musical numbers built on Neopolitan myths and legends and features exceptionally impressive sets and costumes. Loren, who was only starting her career, is featured in a musical number that is probably the most impressive sequence in the movie.
Young Sophia on her way to international superstardom.
MADAME SANS-GENE- I can recall seeing this movie on its American release in 1962 (under the title Madame) when I was all of six years old. I hadn't seen it since, but I always recalled the memorable sequence of Loren and Robert Hossein making a humorous escape from a windmill in which they have been imprisoned. The Napoleonic era comedy features Loren as a peasant laundress who is elevated to royalty through her tempestuous marriage to a bumbling solider who wins the favor of Napoleon. The French language production is presented with sub-titles and features a remarkably funny performance by Loren, who eschews the snobbery of the royal court to wreak havoc by exposing the society types as the hypocrites and phonies they are. Loren and Hossein have wonderful chemistry and the movie also benefits from extravagant production values and a very witty script. There are also plenty of scenes with Loren's sweat-drenched cleavage on display to insure commercial viability. (Viva le difference!)
I GIRASOLI- This 1970 film, released in English-language territories as Sunflower, reunited Loren with director Vittorio De Sica, whose Two Women had earned Loren her Best Actress Oscar in 1962. The movie is an under-rated gem on every level and pairs Loren with her favorite co-star Marcello Mastroianni with whom she would make ten films. The two give remarkable performances in a lovely film that never stops surprising the viewer. It begins in Italy during WWII with Mastroianni becoming the reluctant bridegroom of Loren simply to buy a few day's leave in able to forestall being sent to combat. He ends up falling madly in love with her, but is ultimately sent to the Russian Front. Up to this point, the movie is a charming and funny romance. However, it soon turns into a riveting drama when Mastroianni is declared missing in action. Loren is haunted by his absence and years after the war, makes a fateful trip to Russia to search for him - only to learn a shocking secret that affects her life forever. Why this film isn't regarded as among De Sica's best works is truly puzzling. The script is consistently engrossing with the two leads giving superb perrformances. De Sica also managed to get extraordinary footage inside the Soviet Union, which was quite an achievement at the height of the Cold War. The love story is set to a lush and romantic score by Henry Mancini that ranks among his best work. The film is presented in Italian language with sub-titles.
The only extra is a well-made featurette that centers on Loren's work, primarily in the four films presented in the collection. The great lady herself is not present, but her two sons are and give some interesting insights into how their mother managed to give them a normal upbringing despite her being an icon of the international cinema. Put this set on your must-have list. - Lee Pfeiffer
CLICK HERE TO ORDER THIS DVD SET DISCOUNTED FROM AMAZON
Encyclopedia Brittanica blogger Gregory McNamee pays tribute to the iconic Hollywood producer Merian C. Cooper with an interesting essay celebrating the 75th anniversary of his greatest film, King Kong. In addition to fascinating insights into Cooper's career, there is also the original trailer for King Kong. Click here to view
In the latest issue of Cinema Retro (#11), writer Tim Greaves exposes the story behind the shocking 1968 British cult film, Baby Love which starred 15 year-old Linda Hayden as an orphaned teenage girl who wreaks emotional havoc on her adoptive family, using her charms and budding sexuality to manipulate and tempt both her surrogate mom and dad. It's the kind of provocative drama that no studio would touch today, and helped launch Hayden's brief, but memorable career as a cinematic sexpot. The New York Times commended the film for its "diabolical brilliance". You can read the inside story of this fascinating movie, complete with rare production stills.
In an interview with MTV.com, Clint Eastwood discusses his involvement with Dirty Harry, confessing he only recently saw the film on the big screen again for the first time in 37 years. He also said he's only seen it one other time - ten years ago when he showed it to his wife on laser disc! He reflects on how he took over the role from Frank Sinatra, who was supposed to star in the film and how the original script had a team of snipers on the trail of the villain Scorpio. To read click here
To order the new Dirty Harry Ultimate Collector's Edition DVD set click here
have with us for a long, long time. Judy Garland’s A Star is Born was a remake, as were Mogambo, Ben-Hur and The Magnificent Seven. But they were all
solid films in their own right; brought something new to the stories they were
retelling, and didn’t besmirch the reputation of the originals.
But Hollywood today is a big
fat lazy worm consuming itself on the altar of corporate profit margins.
Playing it safe has never been more of a truism than it is now. The glut of
remakes that clog the multiplexes is staggering, and we’re in for a hell of a
lot more. In the eternal quest for voraciously chasing the ludicrously
simplistic idea of the built in audience, we are soon to be greeted with
remakes, sorry, reinventions, of The Day
the Earth Stood Still (starring Keanu Reeves in the Michael Rennie role. Like,
Klaatu Barada Nikto, dude), The Incredible Shrinking Man (as a Brett
Ratner directed Eddie Murphy comedy), and soon, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.
of all, the obvious question that springs to mind is, why remake good films?
Why not remake crap ones and make them better? Industry producers will say they
want to instil an echo of the good vibe that surrounded the original, but what
average 16-24 year old will have even heard of Pelham, less alone be drawn to a new version of it? Ah, hoisted by
my own petard you think; if they don’t know the movie then why not bring it to a whole new audience? To
which I reply, why not market your back catalogue properly and pay your scriptwriters to come up with some original stories!
no, still the remakes come, and so we’re in for Tony Scott’s new version,
starring Denzel Washington in the Walter Matthau role and John Travolta filling
Robert Shaw’s’ boots. Now I have nothing in particular against any of those
three individuals, but I do question all of them in pressing ahead with this,
as I assume they don’t need the money and assume that they all like the
original. It’s very simple – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I can guarantee
you this new film will be efficient, competently acted, moderately exciting,
slick...and instantly forgettable.
big action movies are generally hollow experiences devoid of much substance or believability.
The bangs will be big, the quips will be glib, and it will all be terribly
is all the things the original Pelham
was not. Not only is it one of the best urban thrillers of the 70’s (and a
crowded market that was too), but its
also one of the greatest New York
movies too. Right up there with Dog Day
Afternoon, The French Connection,
and Sweet Smell of Success.
palette of characters was so well delineated, scripted and portrayed; it’s
amazing to me the script wasn’t nominated for an Oscar. Aside from Shaw’s
genuinely menacing Mr. Blue, and Mattahu’s wisecracking, and world weary
transit cop Lt. Zachary Garber, the entire cast shone. Tom Pedi as the profane
and doomed Cal
(“who wants to know!”)Dolowitz; Dick O’Neill as the exasperated and politically
incorrect Frank Doyle (Garber: “Frank! Will ya keep it down I’m trying to save
passengers lives here!” Frank: “Fuck
the passengers, what do they expect for their lousy 35 cents – to live forever?”); Jerry Stiller as the bored,
seen-it-all Rico Patrone (Deadpan, to a group of visiting Japanese dignitaries
crowding round his desk) :“Yesterday we had a bomb scare...but it turned out to
be a cantaloupe”; the perfectly cast Kenneth McMillan as the quintessentially
unflappable New York-Irish Borough Commander (Cop: “The Mayors on his way”,
Commander (impassively): “Terrific, tell
him I’ll hold the crowd til he gets here”); and the late great Julius Harris as
Inspector Daniels. Tony Roberts also pitches in with a terrifically acerbic
turn as Warren, the Mayors advisor. The Mayor by the way seems to have
predicted the era of Ed Koch: Mayor:
“What if the hijackers start shooting at me?” Warren: “Will you stop. They have no reason to
shoot at you” Mayor: “Why? D’you think they’re from outta town?” Even the
Mayors wife gets some good lines. When the Mayor can’t decide if it’s a good
idea to pay the $1m ransom and save the lives of the hijacked train passengers,
she offers him some pithy advice: “Just think what you gonna get in return?”
Mayor: “What??” “Eighteen sure votes”.
rest of the hijackers are portrayed by Martin Balsam, surely the only
sympathetic terrorist in film history, Hector Elizondo, who manages to rub
everyone up the wrong way, and Earl Hindman who is possibly the only weak link
in the chain.
strong cast is one of the many reasons this film flies. To have such a good
array of actors in what is essentially a genre piece helps immeasurably.
you can see, the dialogue is sardonic and dryly witty. The early 70s New York milieu is so
brilliantly captured. Nothing is sleek or shiny; it’s grimy, dented, noisy,
drab...and utterly brilliant.
set up is audacious. Four guys, under the leadership of Robert Shaw hi-jack a New York subway train,
and hold the passengers to ransom for the (then) princely sum of a million
dollars. It’s not the “why” that pushes the narrative along, it’s the “how”, as
in how do they possibly think they can get away with this heist? The key thing
here is the characters. It’s a character driven piece all the way. The cadence
of the dialogue is so punchy and poetically profane it could have been written
by David Mamet. Peter Stone, who did
write this, was in my opinion, never better. And from the man who wrote the
screenplay to Charade, Mirage, and Arabesque, that’s saying something. Its one of those scripts that
you just sit back, cross your arms and smile beatifically too.
1974 setting of the movie is crucial to the characters motivations and
reactions too. New York
was on the verge of corporate bankruptcy, and needed a huge cash injection from
the federal government to avoid basically going out of business. In this
context, the tattered nerves of the politicians, the constant short
temperedness of the transit cops and stoic unflappabilty of the New York police is
terms of narrative drive, character interplay, the setup, score, cast, and pared-down
direction (no love interest here!), the film is an absolute textbook case in
how to make the perfect thriller.
Shire’s music deserves special mention, his jazzed up, muscular and highly
original take on the Schoenberg 12-tone method is a vital piece in the alchemy
that makes this movie such a knockout. Its bruising no-nonsense streetwise vibe
powers the film along. I dread to think what a wall-to-wall bombastic piece of
rent-a-score dross the remake will sport.
director Joseph Sargent was never better than here.A competent journeyman director, mainly in TV
series and TV movies, he really knocked one out the park with this one. Not to
take anything away from him, working with such first class ingredients as he
had here, he could barely have put a foot wrong. The odd thing is why he was
never offered anything as good again. However, one instinctively knows even the
maker of Jaws: The Revenge made a better
film here than Tony Scott is going to produce.
pains me to go on making these derisory comparisons, but the makers are
bringing it on themselves when they have the laziness of mind to go back to
classics of this nature and think they can “do it better”. They really are on a
hiding to nothing. In terms of box office, yes I’m sure it’ll make a tidy
return. In terms of cinema, and its legacy, this will be forgotten in a week.
for the original? The Taking of Pelham
One TwoThree is exciting, thrilling,
funny, wonderfully acted, brilliantly scripted, and simply one of the best
movies of the 70s. If you’ve seen it before it’s like revisiting a coarse old
friend. If you’ve never seen it – leave your prudishness by the door – you’re
in for a helluva ride.
Since the T&A quotient on Cinema Retro's site is reaching astronomical proportions, we're throwing a bone to anyone who wants to see a gratuitously sexy photo of a guy. In this case, it's Daniel Craig, looking buff for the new Bond film Quantom Of Solace which is wrapping production for an October 31 release in the UK. (The US opening is November 7) The photo was unveiled by London's Mirror, which is keeping in the tradition of the British tabloids by sensationalizing untrue rumors: in this case, implying that Bond will marry because one scene is shot in a hotel's honeymoon suite. For more click here
Screen legend Ernest Borgnine is in Pennsylvania starring in a new film about a troubled WWII veteran. The 91 year-old actor has a soon-to-be released autobiography, as well. In an interview with the news site Lancaster On Line, Borgnine discusses his latest movie as well as his respect for fellow tough guys John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson. To read click here
(Look for an exclusive interview with Ernest Borgnine in a future issue of Cinema Retro)