Warner Home Video has released How the West Was Won as an ultimate edition 3 DVD set. It's an outstanding achievement in every way. The initial DVD release in 1998 looks inferior in every way, given the new technology that has been employed this time around. The film has always represented a challenge in terms of viewing on the small screen. TV broadcasts over the decades have presented the film, which was shot in the famed three panel Cinerama process, in a pan-and-scan format that left little of the movie's grandeur in place. The latest edition uses technology that manages to eliminate most evidence of the screen seams on the right and left side of the picture (though a separate Blu-ray DVD release gives viewers the option of recreating this true Cinerama experience, including watching it in a curved Smilebox format designed to recreate a Cinerama theater screen.) The remastered picture makes the film look as wonderous as one can imagine, though no small screen format can ever do it true justice. In the early days of Cinerama, the films were relegated to spectacular travelogues. MGM later produced two narrative films in Cinerama format: The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and How the West Was Won. Though both were extremely popular (HTWWW was the top-grossing film of 1962), the three projector format was clunky and complicated both for movie directors and for theaters, which had to make expensive enhancements to allocate the three projector format. Beginning with It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, three panel Cinerama was replaced by a single lens format that many purists feel is a bastardization of the true process. All of this is explained in a bonus feature on the making of the film by Cinerama historian David Strohmaier. The documentary is as valuable as the main feature, as Strohmaier includes interviews with cast members Debbie Reynolds, Carroll Baker, Russ Tamblyn and others who worked behind the scenes on the spectacular production. He also includes a full history of Cinerama and provides extremely rare footage of premieres and audio snippets from the format's creators. However, if you have the 1998 edition, don't discard it as it includes a documentary on the making of the film that is inexplicably missing from this version.
As a film, HTWWW holds up magnificently, even if it does provide a simplified look at American history. (One would assume the West was won entirely by good looking white people). Still, the script does an excellent job of interweaving the broad range of characters into a logical storyline and the action sequences are among the most impressive ever filmed. They include an Indian attack on a wagon train, a deadly ride on a raft through rapids, an actual buffalo stampede and a suspenseful shootout aboard a speeding locomotive. If ever a film provided jaw-dropping scenes, this is it. There is also the pleasure of relishing another Hollywood tradition that is now gone: the true all-star production. Stars such as Debbie Reynolds, James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Richard Widmark and John Wayne all performed in the film for paltry salaries. They simply wanted the honor of appearing in a pro-American movie. Try selling that concept in Hollywood today.The movie has three directors: George Marshall, Henry Hathaway and John Ford. The latter disdained working in the Cinerama process and almost in defiance, made his segment on the Civil War the most personal and intimate of the storylines. Mention should be made of two other major contributors: Spencer Tracy, who provides the narration for the emotionally moving end sequence, and composer Alfred Newman who created what is arguably the greatest score written for a motion picture.
The Ulimate Edition boxed set is packed with exciting extras including mini reproductions of the film's original souvenir program and pressbook, a selection of interesting behind the scenes production photos and very collectible mini lobby cards created for this set. Consumers can also send in for an exact reproduction of the original one sheet theater poster. The DVD also features audio commentaries by David Strohmaier, film historian Rudy Behlmer, music historian Jon Burlingame, Director of Cinerama Inc John Sittig and stuntman Loren James. There is also an original theatrical trailer. My only gripe is that WB continues to make these classic titles available in a confusing manner: this Ultimate Edition has many aspects that don't appear in the Blu-ray edition, while the Blu-ray has a hardcover book about the film that isn't available here. The 2 DVD Blu-ray set also boasts the Smilebox true Cinerama aspect that isn't available here. Adding to the confusion, there is also a standard 2 DVD "no frills" edition. Why not standardize these formats instead of causing resentment among collectors about which version to buy? Although this is the "ultimate edition" compared to those that preceded it, there is still room to enhance future releases of How the West Was Won with some bonus items not available this time around. Among them: a CD of the soundtrack and reprints of the comic book and paperback novel tie-ins. Nevertheless, these are minor quibbles. This is a superb tribute to a superb film and belongs in every classic movie lover's library. - Lee Pfeiffer
Eager to exploit the huge box-office success ($500 million +) of the doomsday thriller I Am Legend, Will Smith is teaming again with the film's director Francis Lawrence to plan a prequel. A sequel isn't possible since Smith's character Robert Neville was killed the first film. The new story, still being finalized, will center on the last days of humanity during a plague that is systematically killing virtually everyone on earth. The pic was made twice previously as The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price and the 1971 Charlton Heston hit The Omega Man. For more click here
Newman in his iconic role as Hud - one of the screen legend's most enduring images.
Farewell Butch Cassidy, Cool Hand Luke, Hud, Fast Eddie Felson and Hombre.It has just been learned that legendary actor Paul Newman has passed away at age 83 from complications stemming from his battle with cancer. No specific details were announced other than the Oscar-winner died on Friday. His death was not unexpected, as Newman appeared gaunt in recent months. He was one of the few remaining Hollywood legends and his remarkable career stretched back half a century. For more click here
For Cinema Retro columnist Steve Saragossi's recent tribute column to Newman click here
Last week saw a 'first' for the promotion of a James Bond film when Sony Pictures invited representatives from thirteen world-wide movie blog sites to a press junket in London to meet actor Daniel Craig, director Marc Forster and producer Barbara Broccoli in conjunction with the upcoming release of Quantum Of Solace. Cinema Retro's Dave Worrall, co-author of the best-selling book The Essential James Bond, was chosen by Sony and Eon Productions to be the resident "007 expert" during part of the activities. Here is his first report...
Press junkets are normally held for both the print and TV media brigade, but with the ever-increasing audiences for web-based movie sites, this was a wise move by Sony and Eon, who obviously realized these sites have the power to reach more fans than the conventional media. Initially, Sony had intended for Craig, Forster and several cast and crew members to attend the San Diego Comic-Con in July, but logistical problems prevented this from happening. Hence the prominent bloggers were flown to London by Richard Branson's Virgin Airlines.
Jim Vejvoda of www.ign.com is shaken and stirred. (Photo: Sony Pictures)
On the eve of the first day's activities, we were all taken to a preview theatre in Soho, the heart of London's movie world, where we were greeted by Bond producer Michael G. Wilson before seeing a 10 minute show reel from Quantum Of Solace. The verdict? All I can say is, "F@!k me! Waiting for the premiere will seem like an eternity, since this could be the best Bond film ever. Here I am at 55 years of age and I'm still like a kid waiting for Santa to arrive on Christmas Eve."
Jenna Busch of www.ugo.com and Steve "Capone" Prokopy of www.aintitcool.com get in the spirit of the festivities. (Photo: Sony Pictures)
After giving the footage a sterling round of applause, the group retired to our very opulent London "home", The Grosvenor House on Park Lane to relax before the hectic schedule resumed the following day. However, the "young at heart" (i.e- me!-) joined the lovely ladies from Sony for a sumptuous meal at a Japanese restaurant. Here I was surrounded by seven gorgeous females who initiated me in the delights of sushi in one of London's most fashionable Japanese restaurants. It was like an episode of Sex and the City - with the sushi substituting for the sex!
A more detailed report of the following day's activities will be posted later. In the meantime, if you would like to read what Daniel Craig, Marc Forster and Barbara Broccoli had to say to the bloggers during a 2-hour interview session, check out their respective web sites above.
Recent screenings at the Motion Picture Academy have proven that one’s
recollection of movies can be as ephemeral and illusionary as a wisp of smoke.
Memories, transformed by time, can play tricks, movies that once seemed
disappointing now appear to be works of inspiration and films that were viewed
as landmarks are now disappointments. Or perhaps it is simply we who change -
the films remain constant but we are older, and our experiences change, our
perceptions alter. Or maybe, the movies themselves mystically change, they are
organically dependent upon the audience, on the condition of the print, or the
Take for example, the recent screening of “Sleeping Beauty,” at the Academy’s
Samuel Goldwyn Theatre.. My childhood memory of that film is that it
was Disney’s masterwork, an epic of story and design. And yet, while there is
much to admire in the film, the recent viewing makes it all too clear that movie
was lacking the essence of the very best of what made the Disney canon so unique
- the input of Uncle Walt himself.
According to Neal Gabler’s masterful new biography, by the mid-50s Walt
was far more interested in developing Disneyland than he was in animation and
his lack of involvement in “Sleeping Beauty” is readily apparent. His genius in
characterization, his attention to detail, his superb sense of story
construction - these are all missing in “Sleeping Beauty.”
The two leads, the Prince and Princess Aurora, are blanks, one
dimensional ciphers, with next to no personality and consequently, lack any
reason fro the audience identification or involvement. The opening crowd scenes
dispense with any attempt at detail, the background figures are painted extras
that are stationary and never moving. And the story is weak - we never learn
why Malificent is so angry at the king or hell bent on destroying Princess
Aurora, and the battle scene with the prince and the dragon, which in childhood
memory seemed like an epic struggle, is tossed away so quickly that if you
blinked you’d miss it. The entire scenario seems half-baked, like a rushed
first-draft and the fact that the entire enterprise cost a then staggering $8
million, makes the superficiality all that more puzzling.
And yet, there is one area where “Sleeping Beauty,” still dazzles. In
its character design of Malificent, Aurora, the Price and his Horse, the Disney
Studio modified its long held naturalistic style of animation in favor of a more
stylized approach, no doubt influenced by recent advances made in styles of
animation by competitors like UPA. Much of this modern style can be credited to
Marc Davis, who drew both Aurora and Malificent and for whom the Animation
Lecture series is named after. This modern style of design can be seen as a kind
of bridge between the old school style of animation represented by the previous
Disney feature “Lady and the Tramp,” and the rough-hewn, sketchy style of “101
Dalmatians,” which was to follow two years later.
It is this triumph of innovative design that makes “Sleeping Beauty” the
landmark it is, and the following panel discussion with Andreas Deja made clear
that its stylistic influence is still being felt in such latter Disney animated
features as “Hercules.” But it is the weakness of the script and the
characterizations - only the fairy godmothers and the two kings have anything
resembling a personality - that prevent the feature from attaining any sort of
Which only goes to show how invaluable Walt Disney was to the studio that
bears his name. Still, what is good about the film is enough to make it a worthwhile investment when the 50th anniversary DVD comes out later in the year.
Two popular sci-fi hits from the 1970s are finally available on DVD in the UK. MGM's Westworld and Logan's Run had previously been available in the American market, much to the frustration of British fans. Westworld is based on the Michael Crichton story about an exotic vacation land where attendees can act out their wildest fantasies with life-like robots - who decide to rebel, with murderous consequences. The 1973 film stars Richard Benjamin, James Brolin and Yul Brynner as a seemingly invincible robot (cleverly clad identically to his character in The Magnificent Seven). In Logan's Run, the story takes place in a futuristic society in which life must end at age 30. Michael York, Jenny Agutter and Peter Ustinov star in the 1976 hit directed by Michael Anderson. Sadly, these are not special editions but they are very welcome nonetheless.
Actor Seth Green, who was one of the stars of the remake of The Italian Job, says he doubts the long-planned sequel, titled The Brazilian Job, will ever go into production. According to Green, despite the box-office success of the first film, there has been no concrete momentum toward getting the sequel made over the last six years. The changing brass at Paramount apparently can't agree on giving the project a green light. Another obstacle (though it might be a benefit) is that Mark Wahlberg, the charisma-challenged star of the first film, will not commit to a sequel until he sees the script. Here's a suggestion: just re-release the 1969 version starring Michael Caine and audiences will discover that a good movie was buried under the debris of the remake. Besides, we thought The Brazilian Job was something women had done before hitting the beach.
Former Sixties starlet and writer Terry Southern’s longtime
companion Gail Gerber a.k.a. Gail Gilmore, whose films include Girl Happy, Beach Ball, Village of the Giants, and Harum Scarum, returns to the silver
screen on Saturday 27, 2008 in Lucky Days
co-directed, written and starring Angelica Page Torn (daughter of Geraldine
Page and Rip Torn) screening at the Coney Island Film Festival in Brooklyn, NY.Click here
for more information.
Gail Gerber in End of hte Road (1970)
Last seen on the big screen playing a pot-smoking high
school student in End of the Road
(1970), Gail has a small role as a dotty old lady who encounters Torn's lonely
woman during the last summer days of Coney Island's
famed amusement park. The impressive cast also includes Frederico Castelluccio,
Luke Zarzecki (pictured with Torn), Will Patton, Anne Jackson, Marilyn Sokol, and
Look for Gail’s memoir Terry
Southern and Me: Uneasy Riders in Hollywood co-written by yours truly next
year.Gail dishes about the her life
with the free spirited writer, what went on behind the scenes of her own movies
and Terry’s including The Loved One, The Cincinnati
Kid, Easy Rider, Casino Royale, The Magic Christian, and Candy,
and what life was like during Terry’s “exile” from Hollywood during the
Seventies and Eighties.For more
information on Gail, visit The Gail Gerber Fan Gallery
"Fill your hands, Dick Nixon and Hubert Humphrey!": John Wayne was being wooed to run with George Wallace on Wallace's independent quest for the White House in 1968.
Forget the controversy about Sarah Palin as prospective Vice President. Back in '68 there was a lot of sentiment to try to get John Wayne to run as George Wallace's VP. Variety columnist Army Archerd recalls Wayne's off-color response to the offer while he was filming True Grit - literally under a horse! To read click here
Hang on to your panties, ladies- that dashing lady's man Liberace will be the subject of a big screen bio pic.
In a daring career decision, macho actor Michael Douglas has agreed to play Liberace in director Steven Soderbergh's forthcoming biopic of the flamboyant showbiz legend. The decision is a gutsy one, guaranteed to either jump start Douglas' rather dormant career or seriously erode it further. As for Soderbergh, he continues to resist cutting his 4 and half hour film bio of Che Guevara - despite poor reviews at the last Cannes Film Festival. IFC will release the pic in a handful of theaters in order to qualify for Oscar award nominations, but it will then go direct to video. Maybe studios aren't entirely lacking in common sense. At one time, having another Soderbergh box-office bomb on their slate would have been considered to be "prestigious". However, the prospects of luring people into theaters with an endless tribute to a Commununist icon is a bit of a stretch even by Hollywood standards. Besides, there are still sore wounds open from Fox's ill-fated 1969 bomb Che! starring Omar Sharif. For more click here
of fantasy films and think of the 1950s, 60s and 70s and one name looms very
large – that of Ray Harryhausen, the legendary stop motion animator. Over a
forty-year career, Harryhausen created such iconic images as :
thrilling battle with seven living, sword-wielding skeletons in JASON AND THE
horde of dinosaurs menacing Raquel Welch in a fur bikini in ONE MILLION YEARS
terrifying encounter with the slithering half-snake Medusa in CLASH OF THE
Harryhausen is now the subject of a major three-volume book published in the United States
by Archive Editions, RAY HARRYHAUSEN - MASTER OF THE MAJICKS, the first volume
of which will be out in September. British author Mike Hankin, a longtime fan
and friend of Harryhausen, has had access to information and visual material
never seen before. As a big Harryhausen fan myself, I was keen to find out more
about this tantalising project and I interviewed Hankin in June, 2008.
understand the book will be in three volumes. Why is that?
Originally it was going to be a normal, single volume but over time we found we
had such a mass of information that it kept getting bigger and bigger. And we
were thinking ‘We’re going to have cut some of this out’. But we didn’t want to
cut anything! There was so much good material that we didn’t want to discard
anything. Volume 2 has ended up being 404 pages alone! So, a decision was made
to break the book up into three volumes. Thus—
Volume 1 will start at the beginning: Ray’s birth, through his early life and
up to around 1947, with a slight overlap into the 1950s, during which time he
started his first professional work on George Pal’s Puppetoons, and also his
own series of 16mm Fairy Tales.
Volume 2 covers the feature films MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, THE BEAST FROM 20,000
FATHOMS, IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA, THE ANIMAL WORLD, 20 MILLION MILES TO
EARTH and Ray’s final American feature film, THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD in 1958.
Volume 3 continues at the point when Ray moved to England for various reasons
and covers THE THREE WORLDS OF GULLIVER, MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, JASON AND THE
ARGONAUTS, FIRST MEN ’IN’ THE MOON, ONE MILLION YEARS BC, THE VALLEY OF GWANGI,
THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD, SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER, and CLASH OF THE
I’ve heard that the first volume to be published will be Volume 2. Isn’t that
going to confuse people?
Several people who read early versions of the manuscript for fact-checking
purposes all said that even though the first chapters are full of all sorts of
fascinating material, they just couldn’t wait to get to “the good stuff” —the
feature films. It’s the feature films that most people are really interested
in. So we’re starting off with a bang with Volume 2 and MIGHTY JOE YOUNG in
1949, the film that won an Oscar® for special effects. Volume 3 will
follow, because again, this will cover the classic films including JASON AND
THE ARGONAUTS and VALLEY
OF GWANGI and the others.
And then finally Volume 1.
When will the follow-up volumes be published?
Volume 3 should be out at the end of this year, and Volume 1 will come out the
early part of next year. The best way to obtain them is through the publisher,
Archive Editions. There is plenty of information about the books on the website
(www.archive-editions.com) and one can sign up
on the mailing list to be kept up-to-date via e-mail announcements.
Before I ask you about the book in more detail, perhaps you could tell us how
you first got interested in Harryhausen’s films.
The first film of Ray’s that I saw was MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, released in England in
1962. Like most kids, I’d always been interested in fantasy films. I saw the
trailers for MYSTERIOUS ISLAND and it looked like a great adventure film full
of monsters, plus it was on a double-bill with a pirate film, PIRATES OF BLOOD
RIVER! When it opened, I went to the first showing. I arrived at the cinema at
one o’clock in the afternoon and didn’t leave the cinema until 11 o’clock that
evening! That got me into trouble with my parents, but I just wanted to see the
film over and over again. Despite the ticking off from my parents, I went again
the following day, and I went every day that week, watching it at least twice
Of course in those days, I had no
idea how all the effects were done. The jungle, the giant crab, the bees —to me
it was all wonderful stuff. And my interest in music started there, too. I had
no idea that it was by Bernard Herrmann, but I knew that I liked it. I was age
13, exactly the same age that Ray was when he first saw KING KONG, which hugely
influenced him. So 13 must be the key age in terms of films having a big effect
Timeless Media is releasing a 16 DVD boxed set consisting of all 32 90 minute color episodes of the classic Western TV series Wagon Train. The set will be released on November 4 and sell for retail price of $119.95. Here is info from the official press release:
This fall, fans of classic television and the
celebrated Western drama will delight in the debut of WAGON TRAIN
as a special edition 16-DVD set.Timeless Media Group
has painstakingly restored and
re-mastered all 32 90-minute episodes of the
season filmed in color,
as well as 16
best-loved episodes from the seasons filmed in
black and white, for this exceptional limited
release.WAGON TRAIN: THE COMPLETE
COLOR SEASON is housed in handsome collector’s packaging, and includes
newly produced interviews with actors Robert Fuller (“Cooper Smith”) and Denny
Scott Miller (“Duke Shannon”).Other
than a handful of sub-quality public domain episodes, “Wagon Train”
has never before been available on DVD.
Inspired by John Ford’s classic 1950
film, Wagon Master, “Wagon Train” debuted on NBC in
1957, running for five seasons before jumping
to ABC for the final three seasons.It was only
during the seventh season that the show
was extended to 90 minutes, and shot in color,
returning to its original format for the eighth and final
season.Consistently popular with viewers, the show
was propelled to the top of the ratings during
the 1961-62 season, beating out “Gunsmoke” for
the number one slot throughout the year.“Wagon Train” differed from the field
awash with other Western-genre series (“Tales
of Wells Fargo,” “Sugarfoot,” etc.) with its significantly higher weekly
production budget, truly quality writing and top-name guest star appeal.The long list of notable visiting
cast members includes Shelly Winters, Lou
Costello, Jane Wyman, Barbara Stanwyck, Ronald Reagan, Peter Falk, Suzanne
Pleshette, Bruce Dern, Rhonda Fleming, Burgess Meredith, Neville Brand, Annette
Funicello and many more.
In addition to the revolving door of bright
Hollywood stars, the recurring “Wagon Train”
cast featured an impressive group of actors and
gave the show stability. In addition to Fuller and Miller, Ward Bond (Major Seth
Adams), Robert Horton (Flint McCullough), Terry Wilson (Bill Hawks), Frank
McGrath (Charlie Wooster), John
McIntire (Christopher Hale) and Michael Burns (Barnaby West) all played
prominent characters throughout the classic
Each of “Wagon Train’s” 284 episodes revolved around characters and
personalities who were journeying to
California’s Pacific shores by
Conestoga wagon from the banks of the
Mississippi in the face of great
cast of characters conducted the train through
perils and adventures associated with the
landscapes and inhabitants of the American West.The recurring c
ast’s interrelationships, problems and camaraderie,
as well as the
enticing star power of guest appearances, kept audiences “on board” the “Wagon
Train” week after week.
As we reported earlier in the year, artist (and Cinema Retro subscriber) Paul Jilbert has created a superb documentary that pays tribute to the masterful artist Robert McGinnis, who painted some of the most legendary movie posters and pop culture paperback covers of the 1960s and 1970s before largely concentrating on his current work relating to the American West. If you haven't seen his limited edition DVD, Robert McGinnis: Painting the Last Rose of Summer, which shows the artist at work, you don't know what you're missing. Here are some of the reviews:
The Robert McGinnis
documentary has received rave reviews from professional artists and fans all
over the world:
From the 007 Magazine www.007magazine.co.uk Editor and publisher Graham Rye writes: “Paul
Jilbert has produced a relaxing 78-minute eye openingcelebration of the work of one of America’s greatest living artists.
Thisis one DVD that no lover of movie poster art or for that matter, art lover should be without. Remarkable work
Walter Pankiw of Canada writes: “Paul, I normally file away my
art DVD’s after one screening, but I have already watched yourmasterpiece four times. Congrats on your
fabulous documentary abouta wonderfully
super talented artist (yes a genius).”
Artist Mike Kupka writes: “I was watching your McGinnis DVD one
afternoon and had to turn it off because I was so inspired to paint. It was
unbelievable! All I wanted to do was get in my studio and work! Great job!”
British author and curator of
the book “Kiss Kiss Kill Kill: The Spy Film in Europe
1964-1969” Richard Rhys Davies writes: “
Paul, I watched your film last night and really enjoyed it. McGinnis is a star
and your insight into his technique was truly illuminating.”
McGinnis collector Gary
Bryant writes: “ Mr. Jilbert I want to
let youknow how much I am enjoying
the McGinnis DVD. Please let Mr. McGinnis know how much his fans appreciate his
work and the chance to get know him better.”
The McGinnis fans will also enjoy the
outstanding retro music written for the film. Composer Steven Greaves wrote the
original music for the “DANGEROUS BEAUTIES” segment (McGinnis femme fatale
detective covers) and wrote the retro music for “THE ART OF HOLLYWOOD” segment
which includes a fantastic musicalhomage to the James Bond films of the 1960’s and of course
McGinnis’sSean Connery Bond poster art.
Check out Greaves website www.myspace.com/thesgsoundto hear his other cool retro music.
Unused poster design for Thunderball
Only 1000 McGinnis
documentary DVD’S were produced and our West Coast distributor has already sold
over 400 copies but you can order the DVD directly from the production company
for only $28.00 just go to www.theillustratorstv.comand relive those glorious days of great
1960’s movie poster art that Cinema Retro fans live for!
Lynley fans rejoice!Warner Bros. is finally
releasing to DVD the long overdue The
Shuttered Room (1967) starring Carol, Gig Young, and Oliver Reed.In this H.P. Lovecraft inspired spine tingler,
Lynley is convincingly scared throughout as the terrorized heroine who returns
to her place of birth with her older citified hubby (Young) to claim an old
millhouse complete with a hideous thing in the attic and a lascivious punk
cousin (Reed) with an eye for blondes who wants to keep it in the family so to
speak.Creepy music, excellent
cinematography including POV shots from the mysterious house guest, and Carol
never lovelier or vulnerable make for a suspenseful time.
The Shuttered Room will have an anamorphic widescreen
transfer and as an added bonus it is being paired as a double feature on DVD
with It! (1966) starring Jill Haworth
as an innocent young girl lusted after by disturbed museum curator Roddy
McDowall who (a la Norman Bates) keeps his mummified mommy around the
house.If that’s not bad enough, he
brings to life a Hebrew statue called the Golem and uses it to do away with his
Carol Lynley and Gig Young in The Shuttered Room
asked about It! for my book Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema, saucy Jill
quipped, “I only did this film because I needed the money. I hated everything
about this movie—particularly what they did to my hair.They gave me an atrocious hairstyle for
it.But I did like Roddy McDowall. He
was very nice to work with.And with
Roddy, what you see is what you got. He even brought me the poster for It! on the opening night of Cabaret [the original Broadway musical
where Jill played Sally Bowles].I
couldn’t believe they were going to release it.He signed it and put an S-h before the It!This film really was a
piece of shit.”
feature DVD will retail for $19.98 and will be available at Best Buy only.
During the 1960’s,
beautiful Chinese actress Irene Tsu played a variety of “native” girls in a
number of popular drive-in films including Sword
of Ali Baba, How to Stuff a Wild
Bikini, and Paradise, Hawaiian Style
with Elvis.Tsu had poise and talent,
which was noticed by producer/writer Arthur C. Pierce who cast her as a space
traveler in Women of the Prehistoric
Planet.It was her first starring
role.She then played a South Vietnamese
spy in The Green Berets, John Wayne’s
homage to our boys in Vietnam
before becoming part of the spy boom.She portrayed a geisha girl in The
Man from U.N.C.L.E. feature The Karate
Killers and a fashion model in the secret agent spoof Caprice starring Doris Day.
Irene Tsu today
But the one role that got
away from her was the part of Maily in The
Sand Pebbles starring Steve McQueen.The heartache of losing the part almost made her quit the business.She was director Robert Wise’s first choice
for Maily in his epic film but studio machinations kept her from getting the
role.Commenting in my book Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema, Irene
Tsu recalled, “I interviewed with Robert Wise a few times and he set up an
expensive screen test for me on a massive set with other actors.I thought I did very well but then weeks went
by with no word.I went to see Wise and
he told me he wanted me for the part but the producers overruled him.They gave the part to Marayat Andriane who was
rumored to be Fox head Darryl Zanuck’s current mistress.When I found out I burst into tears and hoped
never to have to go through something like that again.”
Though Irene was
devastated, she wound up with a contract with 20th Century-Fox because “I had
to sign with them before they allowed the screen test.For a short time I was treated like a star of
the Golden Age.They gave me my own
dressing room that was as big as a house.I even had my own parking space.Unfortunately, after only one film the studio went bankrupt.My contract was dropped along with all other
such commitments Fox had.” Undeterred, Irene kept working vigorously.The 1970’s saw Irene mature into a more than
fine actress as she progressed from exotic parts to playing doctors, lawyers,
and scientists in both film and television.And she is still active today.
For any one who grew up in the 50s and 60s watching a George Pal movie
was one of the pure pleasures of our movie going formative years. From “War of
the Worlds” to “The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao,” Pal’s movies were unalloyed delights,
full of wondrous special effects and always infused with a delight in the sheer
fantastical elements of his craft. Whatever your favorite Pal film, be it “Tom
Thumb” or “Time Machine,” or “Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm,” a George
Pal film brings a smile to the heart and fond memories of one of the medium’s
One of the reasons for such fond memories was the character of the man
himself, according to those who knew him. At the recent Academy tribute to Pal,
held August 27 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills, it was obvious
that the warmth of the films began with the man himself. Associates like Barbara
Eden, Russ Tamblyn and Anne Robinson paid tribute to Pal’s enthusiasm on a panel
moderated by director Joe Dante and all of the verified that Pal’s films
reflected the man’s own sunny disposition.
Tamblyn, who stole the evening with some exuberant storytelling of his
own, recounted how, as a young man of 21, just off an Oscar nominated role in
“Peyton Place” he was cast in “Tom Thumb.” Reading the original tale, he was
surprised at how dark it was, especially with its ending of Thumb’s death. But
when Tamblyn received the script, it was a typically sunny George Pal production
- no darkness, no death, just a wonderful fantasy that is filled with Tamblyn’s
wonderfully exuberant performance. “You know,” Tamblyn shamelessly deadpanned,
“Tom Thumb was a Democrat....he was always looking out for the little guy.” Cue
The event screened two of Pal’s “Puppetoons” which hold of remarkably
well, even in this age of CGI, and then, “War of the Worlds,” which despite some
wooden direction by Byron Haskin, (Pal initially only produced but then assumed
the directing duties for his later film) is still one of the landmarks films of
great sci-fi movies of the 1950s. If the movie’s dialogue and acting seem
stilted and stiff, they are compensated by some unforgettable imagery and some
moments of suspense that not even Spielberg could surpass in his grim remake.
Along with the great Ray Harryhausen, George Pal’s name on a movie poster, was
an entry into a wonderful world of fantasy and make-believe that has the power
to inspire awe in even the most jaded of adults half a century
So, here’s to you, George Pal, and thank you for all the wonderful
childhood memories. You are not forgotten.
Bill Melendez, the legendary animator who brought Charles Schulz's Charlie Brown cartoons to life, has died at age 91. Melendez was one of the most noted animators of all time, having also worked in his early days for both Disney and Warner Brothers. His animation of the 1965 TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas resonated with audiences and made the show into an enduring holiday classic. Other TV specials and Peanuts feature films followed. Additionally, Melendez provided the "voice" of Snoopy while keeping in line with Schulz's insistence that the pooch not actually speak. Melendez developed a series of sounds that nevertheless gave Snoopy a distinctive personality. For more click here
Popular country western singer/actor Jerry Reed has died from emphysema at age 71. Reed had numerous hit records including When You're Hot, You're Hot (And When You're Not, You're Not). Reed was also a talented songwriter who wrote for Dean Martin, Nat King Cole and Tom Jones. Elvis Presley did a cover version of his song Guitar Man. He parlayed his singing fame into a successful acting career, co-starring with his friend Burt Reynolds in the first two Smokey and the Bandit films.He also played The Bandit in the third entry in the series. For more click here
You're aware of his work, even if you don't know his name or face. Don LaFontaine, who had a virtual monopoly on narrating trailers for the major studios, has passed away at age 68. LaFontaine's deep voice, often used in ominous ways, gave gravitas to over 5,000 trailers. Although some complained the use of primarily one man for virtually every trailer made them seem monotonous, LaFontaine made a thriving career of the relatively easy work, recording up to ten different voice over spots a day. He also appeared as himself in recent Geico insurance commercials. For more click here For a funny James Bond-inspired video featuring LaFontaine, click here (Thanks to Bob Collins and Steve Tyler for the head's up)
Clint Eastwood played The Man With No Name in three Sergio Leone western classics: A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Although the character's signature trait was the seemingly ever-present cheap cigar in his mouth, Eastwood actually loathed smoking. He especially disdained these particular cigars that were accurate for the period, but had a deplorable taste.
The Metropolitan Cigar Club is one of our favorite hang-outs. Located in Fairfield, New Jersey, this private club is the setting of many a classic movie debate - and is the best place to find guys who can recite every line of The Godfather. (Who says cigar aficianados aren't scholars?) The atmospheric decor is based on pre-revoution Havana. For info about joining, visit www.metrocigar.com
Lord Attenborough has published his autobiography and in special excerpts recalls how his life was threatened by racist thugs on a trip to South Africa because of his campaign against apartheid. Attenborough says the terrifying experience inspired him to direct the 1987 civil rights drama Cry Freedom starring Kevin Kline and Denzel Washington. The excerpts also include an amusing anecdote about how Attenborough was afraid to turn down a hair-raising motorcycle ride with Steve McQueen on the set of The Great Escape, for fear of being labeled a wimp. Attenborough also recounts his last meeting with the dying McQueen. For more click here
The classic Mercury Cougar driven by Diana Rigg in the opening sequence of the 1969 James Bond classic On Her Majesty's Secret Service is still in action and recently was acquired by The Ian Fleming Foundation, which preserves vehicles from the series and presents them at auto museums and exhibitions. The Cougar arrived in New Jersey recently, en route to the IFF office in Illinois. Cinema Retro reader George Ann Muller got into the spirit of things by donning a costume inspired by Diana Rigg in the film. (Photo copyright: Paul Scrabo)