"The Thing" Snowcone Maker- the least appropriate toy since the "Midnight Cowboy" Colorforms set! (Photo: www.kindertrauma.com)
Mattel's "Thing" figure was a hybrid of leftover pieces of other toys! (Photo: www.kindertrauma.com)
Count me among those who think John Carpenter's 1982 remake of Howard Hawks' The Thing is far superior to the original. Yes, Hawks' film was great for the 1950s, but you can't compare the genuine chills of Carpenter's version to James Arness running about in a shabby costume. Yet, Carpenter's film was a box-office disappointment. Released within weeks of Steven Spielberg's cuddly alien classic, E.T., poor old Thing couldn't get arrested. Even worse, attempts to market toys for the R-rated film seemed doomed from the start and resulted in a hybrid action figure cobbled together by pieces of left over Mattel toys, followed by the infamous Thing Snowcone Maker! We're not making this up folks, as it's all meticulously cataloged on the superb Kindertrauma website, which is dedicated to all the things that terrified you as a child. (Yes, there are plenty of images of clowns on the site). The one question not answered continues to haunt us: was The Thing played by the same Thing who played himself in every episode of The Addams Family? - Lee Pfeiffer
Here's another golden oldie from the days when movie posters were works of art instead of boring, Photoshop creations put together by somebody using a scanner during their lunch hour. In this case, it's for 633 Squadron, the rousing 1964 WWII film starring Cliff Robertson. (Photo courtesy of www.movieposterstudio.com)
Warner Home Video has released Vol. 2 of the Busby Berkeley Collection in a boxed set containing four titles new to DVD. Here are the details from the official press release.
“Buzz” continues when word gets around that Warner Home Video will debut more
musical extravaganzas in the Busby Berkeley Collection Volume2
on September 16. The collection features four more Berkeley classics which are not only new-to-DVD titles, but are making their long-awaited home
video debut. Included in the collection are Gold Diggers of 1937, Gold Diggers
Hollywood Hotel and Varsity Show. Following in the
dancing footsteps of Warner’s successful 2006 collection, this second spectacular volume from one
of the greatest motion picture choreographers of all time also includes
musical shorts, featurettes and classic cartoons. It’s musical entertainment
magic at its toe-tapping, finger-snapping best by the Oscar®nominated
The 4-disc giftset will sell for $39.92
SRP and the single titles will be
available for $19.97 SRP.
William Berkeley Enos was
born in Los Angeles
on November 29, 1895.
He began his career in the U.S. Army conducting and directing parades and then
staging shows for the soldiers. After returning to civilian life, he became a
stage actor and assistant director for smaller acting troupes. He found his
calling in 1925 when he was forced to take the reins of the Broadway musical
“Holka Polka,” and with his talent for staging lavish and complex dance routines
he soon became one of Broadway’s top dance directors. Samuel Goldwyn brought
him to Hollywood
in 1930 to stage the musical numbers for several Eddie Cantor musicals but his
contribution raised little awareness with audiences or the industry.
then head of production at Warner Bros., gave “Buzz” his first huge film break
-- directing the musical numbers of Warner’s then newest project, 42nd
Street. The studio took a huge gamble on both the property and Berkeley; but a snappy script and a story that has become
known as the granddaddy of backstage musicals made the film a massive hit, primarily
as a result of the amazing, kaleidoscopic and fascinating choreography Berkeley created for the
end of the film. It wasn’t long before he was given a seven-year contract at
went on to work on almost every great Warner musical produced in the ‘30s,
receiving three Oscar® nominations for Best Dance Direction.
Using only one camera, he was fearless about getting just the right shot, even
if it meant drilling holes in roofs and floors to achieve his vision. He
dressed his chorus girls in outlandish costumes -- as coins or musical
instruments or in nothing but wisps of gauzy material. There was no limit to
Many studios tried to
style but their efforts were pale imitations. There was only one Busby
Berkeley. Although he made his last contribution to cinema more than 40 years
remains an icon in American culture.
(Continue reading for specific details about each film being released.)
Although Sony's special edition DVD of Richard Brooks' The Professionals has been on the market for quite some time, I only got around to viewing it recently - and many readers may not even know this edition is available, given the fact it received little fanfare. For my money, this 1966 western ranks with the best of Sergio Leone, John Sturges and John Ford as a genuine classic. The film features the kind of macho cast that today's movie audiences can only dream about. Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan and Woody Strode - all at their super coolest - are guns for hire who are employed by desperate tycoon Ralph Bellamy to plan a daring mission into Mexico to rescue his kidnapped young wife, smolderingly sexy Claudia Cardinale, from notorious bandit Jack Palance. The superb script features some of the wittiest dialogue imaginable as well as some surprising plot twists. Mostly, however, the central pleasure is watching a team of seasoned professionals in the acting profession play seasoned professionals in the mercenary trade.
The single disc DVD edition features some enjoyable extras, produced and directed by the ubiquitous Laurent Bouzereau. The extras include informative and fun documentaries that examine the making of the film, a portrait of Burt Lancaster (featuring insightful interviews with his daughter Joanna) and Memories of the Professionals with interviews with Claudia Cardinale, the late cinematographer Conrad Hall and Marie Gomez, who played the sexpot nymphomaniac among the bandito gang. Most of the comments are fairly innocuous and it becomes clear this was a difficult shoot in the physical sense because of the hot terrain, but it was also a highly enjoyable experience. Hall does touch on Brooks' notorious temper and confesses he was almost tempted to quit after being humiliated by the director in a blow-up on the set. Fortunately, he stuck with the film and Hall's glorious widescreen shots are given their due. (Only Maurice Jarre's magnificent title theme and score remain unmentioned by the participants). The featurettes benefit from generous use of rare production stills and fascinating home movies taken on the set. In one of the documentaries, James Bond director Martin Campbell astutely points out that action movies today aren't as good as The Professionals because there is literally no one in the industry today who could be cast in any of the parts with the same satisfying results. Amen to that...- Lee Pfeiffer
One of the latest in the line of welcome Fox Noir DVD releases is the early Elia Kazan film Boomerang, released in 1947. The movie stars Dana Andrews in a true-life crime drama centering on the seemingly senseless murder of an elderly beloved pastor in a small Connecticut town that is right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. The case obviously caused a nationwide sensation, proving that the national news media's obsession with local crime stories is not a recent trend. The film depicts the local politicians as spineless, self-centered rival parties who are obsessed with getting a quick solution to the murder -even if it isn't an accurate one. Andrews is the stalwart district attorney who is just as eager to pressure police chief Lee J. Cobb to find a suspect in the case and arrest him. Under severe pressure, Cobb's men seem to find the guilty party: a drifter (Arthur Kennedy) who is identified in a line-up and who has plenty of circumstantial evidence against him. Andrews agrees to prosecute Kennedy and becomes a local hero for getting the messy case headed toward resolution. However, as the trial begins, he has second thoughts and actually argues for the suspect's innocence. The politicians are predictably outraged by this perceived betrayal and this sets the crux of the story, as Andrews tries to uphold his moral compass in the face of threats to end his career.
The movie is interesting in its own right, not to mention the significance of it being one of Kazan's earliest works. Yet, it is by no means a classic and even its status as noir is certainly debatable, as Fox seems to be liberally applying that status to anything shot in black and white. Although Andrews makes a stalwart lead, the real pleasure is the supporting cast with gems of performances by the likes of Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, Ed Begley and Arthur Kennedy. Most interesting is the casual brutality of the police during interrogations in the pre-Miranda Rights period. Kennedy's character is sleep-deprived, mentally abused and not even allowed to see an attorney - and this is the treatment being meted out by the good guys. What sets the movie apart from most crime melodramas of its era is the decision to not wrap up every loose end in a tidy bundle. Without giving away crucial storyline information, the screenplay dares to provide an ending that is true-to-life, even if it is somewhat frustrating to the audience. The DVD contains interesting audio commentaries by Alain Silver and James Ursini as well as an original trailer and some production stills and poster gallery.- Lee Pfeiffer
Head's up! The special DVD edition of Caligula is still stirring controversy.
British film critic Peter Bradshaw gives his two pence on Bob Guccione's ambitious but misguided 1979 production of Caligula, saying "Some time capsules are best left undisturbed". The film enlisted such top talents as John Gielgud, Malcolm McDowell and Peter O'Toole, most of whom later disavowed the notion that they realized hardcore sex would be added later. We remain positive about McDowell's manic and terrifying performance, but agree the film itself is an effective birth control device. To read Bradshaw's take click here. To read Cinema Retro's review of the deluxe DVD edition click here.
Here's a doozy to debate: did Alfred Hitchcock appear in drag for an extended cameo in North By Northwest? Movie fans are arguing the issue based on this frame grab showing a stout woman with Hitchcockian features who appears on a train in the film. While there is some resemblance, I find the notion ridiculous... though I wouldn't put it past The Master to have cast a female look-alike precisely to initiate this kind of "Paul is dead" debate. - Lee Pfeiffer For more click here
A recent visit to Disney World found a distressing sight: the original tank, two-seater car and a supply truck from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade left to rust away in an area overgrown with vegetation. The vehicles are located at the exit of the Indy Stunt Spectacular and have been sitting unattended and exposed to the elements. Couldn't Disney have at least put a roof over them?- Bill Duelly
(I sympathize with your thoughts, Bill. Some years ago, I was strolling around Universal Studios in Hollywood only to find an area with legendary film props left in a deteriorating state and unprotected. Among the relics: the actual War Wagon from the 1967 John Wayne/Kirk Douglas movie. - Lee Pfeiffer) (All photos copyright Bill Duelly)
This 1967 reissue poster for Never So Few elevated McQueen to co-star billing along Frank Sinatra. In the original poster from 1959, his name was well below the title. (Photo: Roger Harris, Steve McQueen Film Poster Site)
The web site Ask Men provides some interesting trivia regarding the iconic screen legend Steve McQueen. Among the 5 Things You Didn't Know is a story regarding McQueen's first big break in the 1959 Frank Sinatra WWII film Never So Few. Apparently, the role was originally intended for Rat Packer Sammy Davis Jr., but Davis alienated Sinatra with some remarks about being more popular than he was. The thin-skinned Chairman of the Board then replaced Davis with McQueen, thus allowing the young actor to play his most visible role yet in a major studio production. Other facts range from the less obscure (McQueen was paranoid after finding out he had been among Charles Manson's intended victims) to the purely speculative (because McQueen was sensitive about anyone who questioned his masculinity, he therefore must have been bi-sexual.) Draw your own conclusions by clicking here to read.
(Click here to visit the Steve McQueen Film Poster Site)
Runners, Deer Hunters, and Blowing the Bloody Doors Off: My Life in Cult Movies
by Michael Deeley and Matthew Field (Faber and Faber, Hardcover) 288 pages
£18.99 Published 2nd October 2008 ISBN-10: 0571239196
The appropriately winding title links three seemingly unconnected cinema classics: Blade Runner, The Deer Hunter and The Italian Job. The throughline for these pictures is their veteran British producer, Michael Deeley. Deeley progressed from ground up in the film business, editing and then dubbing foreign films in the 1950’s. Producing his first pictures and then joining critically-acclaimed Woodfall Films, he journied onwards to produce pictures for Paramount getting acquainted with studio owner Charlie Bludhorn and that irrepressible kid, studio chief Robert Evans while producing the film, The Italian Job. Deeley then went on to manage British Lion Films which was then taken over by EMI. Deeley got a new perspective: that of heading a studio. He outlines the difficult creative and commercial decisions that come with the job. His involvement in The Deer Hunter which led to him winning the 1978 Academy Award for Best Picture was a filmic heart of darkness with director Michael Cimino becoming the Col. Kurtz of the piece. Despite his Oscar win, Deeley’s own personal creative height was the finding, nuturing and producing Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s dystopian masterpiece which still resonates powerfully with audiences and artistes today. Deeley has remained in touch with the film industry via several advisory, consultant roles.
However, the book is more than just a run through productions. Deeley details life in London at the heart of the Swinging Sixties and laid-back Los Angeles in the 1970’s. He reminisces (sometimes pithily) about working with a galaxy of film-making stars: Peter Sellers, Stanley Baker, Michael Caine, Noel Coward, Peter O’Toole, Christopher Lee, Nic Roeg, Michael Cimino, Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford, Ridley Scott and many others fore and aft of the camera. Deeley is a straight talking, ascerbic story teller who speaks from a position of intimate knowledge of all his productions and knows where the bodies are buried. He also enlightens us on a little explored subject of film-making: the role of producer. The nexus of show and business is entertainingly examined in this terrific tome by the man who came to shoot. The book has a forward by Sir Ridley Scott and sketches by himself and Sir Alan Parker with contributions by Sir Michael Caine and Lord David Puttnam. It also boasts over 30 unpublished black and white and colour pictures: Deeley being presented an Oscar by John Wayne, Michael Caine and Noel Coward at the Savoy, Deeley playfully challenging Peckinpah, Robert De Niro and Michael Cimino off set. Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott. Co-written by Matthew Field (Cinema Retro contributor and author of The Making of The Italian Job and Michael Caine, You’re A Big Man) the book benefits from a wealth of film research and knowledge. This is a must for the Cinema Retro reader.-
Controversial filmmaker Michael Moore has released his latest feature film Slacker Uprising as a free download from the web site www.slackeruprising.com. Moore has decided to bypass theatrical venues in the hopes of having the film seen by as many people as possible leading up to the presidential election. However, a DVD edition of the film has also been released at a modest price ($9.95). Why buy the DVD when the download is free? Primarily because of the abundance of out-takes that you can't get with the downloaded version. Moore's decision to forego theatrical distribution was a costly one. His Farenheit 9/11 remains the highest grossing documentary in history and his latest film Sicko, while not nearly as widely seen, still pulled in impressive numbers at the box-office.
Slacker Uprising chronicles Moore's cross country tour on behalf of John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. His primary goal was to meet with young people and motivate them to vote - a tall order, considering the weak turnout on election day generally seen among this age group. Nevertheless, Moore presides over gigantic rallies and is treated like a rock star, despite his trademark pot belly, sagging jeans, unshaven face and omnipresent baseball cap. Moore, one of the most polarizing people in contemporary America, attracts his share of critics. Amidst the crowds, Moore has Republican protesters who attempt to disrupt the rally by waving banners and shouting. He patiently indulges them and disarms them with some wry barbs. (When a group of pro-war religious fanatics grasp hands and chant The Lord's Prayer continuously, Moore brings down the house by calming asking, "Who would Jesus bomb?") The film also features "Man in the Street" interviews with Moore's critics, but of course, they are carefully chosen to accentuate eccentrics. Some criticize the horrors of Farenheit 9/11 but sheepishly admit they haven't seen a minute of the actual movie.
Moore's movies generally preach to the choir, but even those at odds with his ideology can admire his methods of activism, which are all peaceful, lawful, orderly and highly organized. He visits 62 different cities on his whirlwind tour, concentrating primarily on college campuses where he personally helps sign up new voters. Ordinarily, it's the province of the political far left to shout down speakers with whom they don't agree, but this film shows there's no lack of bad manners and intolerance among conservatives. Threatened by the huge crowds Moore is drawing, some Republicans demand that he be investigated for bribing young people to vote Democratic. The "bribe" Moore is offering them? A pair of clean underwear and a cup of microwaveable noodles! In more chilling instances, far right forces try to literally ban him from certain campuses, and in one case a prominent local businessman attempts to bribe the student council by offering them $100,000 to cancel Moore's appearance. (He says on camera that he doesn't want his family exposed to any thoughts from outside the community in which they live!). To the student's credit, they refuse. In one case, a school succeeds in banning Moore for a 1400 seat auditorium on campus, so he moves to a center down the street where he draws 14,000 people. Even if you despise Moore's politics, you have to admire his moxy.
If you are among the few who can view the film objectively, there are some myths spread by his opponents that are clearly dispelled. Among them:
The U.S. military is lockstep in synch with the Bush administration. In fact, as Moore's movie demonstrates, his rallies are filled with Iraq veterans and their families who give passionate support for his efforts to end the war. In the most moving sequences, family members speak at rallies to lament the loss of their loved ones for what they feel is a futile cost.
Michael Moore hates America. This is easily dispelled by the fact that Moore speaks passionately about his love for the country and his desire to bring it back to what he feels are strong adherence to the Constitution. Moore spends much of the time praising the U.S. military, leading the audience in standing ovations for veterans and praising former Bush administration officials who quit as a matter of conscience over the direction of the war. When Moore mourns the loss of 1400 dead, you have to wince because the film was shot years ago and you realize that four years later, that toll will have risen by several thousand. The perception that Moore hates America is largely due to his own inability or unwillingness to take at least an occasional potshot at some of the world's worst villains. If you think George Bush is a bad guy, it doesn't mean his enemies aren't a lot worse. In Farenheit 9/11, Moore implied pre-war Iraq was a tranquil place where people led a relatively carefree existence. Nary a word about Saddam's genocidal practices or the suppression of human rights that characterized his regime. In Sicko, he goes over the top by visiting Cuba to demonstrate that their health care benefits are more generous than those found in America's crumbling system. Fair enough - but would any sane person want to live in Castro's police state and drive a 1957 Chevy to the clinic? How many people do you hear about sneaking into Cuba? Had Moore offered even the slightest criticism of these regimes, it would have dismissed much of the criticism leveled against him.
Moore is blinded by ideology. He's a true political lefty who wears the badge of "liberal" proudly at a time in which everyone else runs from the term. However, you can't argue with his record of predictions. In his first feature film, Roger and Me, Moore warned that greedy and corrupt business tycoons were killing middle class America by outsourcing jobs, skimming profits and backstabbing workers. Do you think you'd find many people this week who would argue the contrary - and this film was made twenty years ago. In Farenheit 9/11, he spoke out against the Iraq War at a time when most people still supported it. He warned that, contrary to what was being fed to the public, this would be a long, drawn out, seemingly endless conflict that would cost thousands of more lives and billions of dollars more. Even if you support the war, you can't argue with the accuracy of his predictions. In Sicko, Moore predicted that America's dubious status as the only industrialized Western nation that doesn't offer at least minimal free health care to its citizens would see an explosive increase in the uninsured. There are approximately 50 million Americans who have no health care and that will grow by millions in the wake of the current financial crisis. So, love him or hate him, you have to take Moore's positions seriously.
Slacker Uprising is consistently amusing and often moving, as it traces Moore's frantic attempts to prevent a second Bush term. He is highly critical of John Kerry (seen here only in brief news footage) because of his insistence on running for office while fighting a "clean campaign". Thus, Kerry mandates that the Democratic convention be virtually absent of any attacks on President Bush - a strategy that backfires weeks later when the Republican convention employs the opposite theory and turns their event into an assault on Kerry's reputation. Moore is determined to "save Kerry from himself" - and the plan almost works. Although Kerry loses the election by virtue of one state (Ohio) swinging to Bush at the last minute, Moore claims satisfaction from the fact that of the 62 cities he held rallies in, 54 voted for Kerry. He also states that the election saw the largest turnout ever of young voters - and this became the one demographic Kerry carried convincingly. Slacker Uprising includes some celebrity appearances in conjunction with Moore's road trip. Among the performers: Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, actor Viggo Mortensen and the seemingly ageless Joan Baez who coerces Moore to sing an acapella version of America, the Beautiful with her. (It's not as bad as it sounds.) The one unwelcome guest is Roseanne Barr, whose obnoxious voice and whining diatribe actually made me feel some sympathy for America's least funny comedian, Tom Arnold, who suffered through being married to her. Extras on the DVD consist of segments that didn't make it into the final cut. Some are superfluous, such as a time-killer in which Moore sings the Canadian national anthem. Others are more amusing: Moore relating to the crowd that the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is so paranoid about his upcoming documentary Sicko that they send out a confidential memo alerting all employees to call a special emergency hotline if Moore approaches them. Moore, who has secured a copy of the memo, makes sure he gives the hotline number out to the crowd. In another segment, Moore reads from the storybook My Pet Goat and reminds the audience that President Bush continued to read the book to grade school children for a full seven minutes even after his chief of staff whispered in his ear "The nation is under attack." Moore's film doesn't pretend to be balanced in any way, but given the fact that the president's approval ratings are now tied with Richard Nixon's at the height of the Watergate scandal, he might find a more receptive welcome among disgruntled Republicans who are willing to give it a try.- Lee Pfeiffer (To order the DVD edition go to the official web site at www.slackeruprising.com)
The New York Post has a revealing look at Clint Eastwood's work habits behind the camera and the reasons why he is so respected by his cast and crews. The article also delves into personal aspects of his life such as his dry sense of humor and his obsession with living a healthy lifestyle. To read click here
Sitting in the plush Screen 1 at the new
BFI Southbank (formerly the National Film Theatre) in London on Monday evening, I was in retro
heaven. Not only were we going to hear from Sir Roger Moore discussing his
often overlooked TV career, but we were being treated with an episode each of The Saint and The Persuaders. Whilst waiting for the lights to go down they
played such TV themes as The Prisoner,
The Avengers and The Champions, and I couldn’t have wiped the child-like grin off my
face if my life depended on it.
First up was “The Miracle Tea Party”, an
episode of The Saint directed by
Moore himself, featuring such cold-war staples as Soviet spies, nuclear
submarine bases and ingenious assassinations. Oh, and Nanette Newman. It
featured many locations including Waterloo
station, which I had just come through on the way to the event, making the
story seem even more real and exciting. Moore
handled both roles well in what was, as he later revealed, his directorial
debut. He went on to direct several more and also acted as co-producer towards
the end of the shows’ run.
Next we were treated with “The Time and the
Place”, a The Persuaders episode Moore also directed. Not
only featuring himself and Tony Curtis it also had a main role for Ian Hendry
as Lord Croxley, plotting to overthrow the government from within the walls of
The Constitution Club, the most exclusive in London. I am sure I don’t need to tell you
the outcome, but suffice to say Moore and Curtis are heroic when they find
themselves caught up in the dangerous scheme. And there are girls. There is
also a great scene where Curtis pretends to be an Inspector from Scotland Yard
and reprises his cod-English accent from Some
Like It Hot.
It was an enjoyable experience to see these
shows up on a big screen with an appreciative audience. Before Sir Roger
himself made an appearance we were also shown a short clip from Ivanhoe, the popular TV series that
helped cement Moore’s
TV reputation in the late 1950s. Moore himself was incredibly self-deprecating
when he came on stage, describing the series as little more than a lot of
horse-riding and bad acting. Having only seen that clip as an example of Ivanhoe I’m inclined to agree! However
it proved to be very popular in America
and enabled him to get starring roles in such shows as The Alaskans and Maverick.
Sir Roger was joined on stage by Cinema
Retro’s own Gareth Owen and they spent almost two hours discussing his
television career and answering questions from the audience. Owen did a great
job of deflecting such inane questions as “Who would win in a fight – The Saint
or James Bond?” Sir Roger clearly has an excellent memory, although I imagine
his recent visits down memory lane whilst writing his autobiography have
probably helped. There were several people in the audience who have worked with
him during his career, and he occasionally turned to them to hear their
opinions and ask questions. Amongst the guests were the actresses Vera Day and
Sylvia Syms, producer Johhny Goodman and film director John Hough.
Sir Roger also told some hilarious stories
about his experiences and demonstrated his talents as an impressionist, with
spot-on portrayals of both Noel Coward and Lew Grade, amongst others. He
discussed the highs and lows of both his television and stage career, and did
occasionally touch on Bond, naming his favourite leading lady as Maude Adams, and
Grace Jones as his least favourite! If Sir Roger ever decides to retire, which
seems unlikely, he could find a second career as an after-dinner speaker and
Finally I was honoured to be invited to
meet him once the event was over and was able to present him with an early
birthday present (Sir Roger turned 81 the following day): an original copy of
Picturegoer from 1955 featuring an interview with a new up and coming star
making a film in Paris
for MGM. Who was this fresh-faced young British actor? Well according to the
interviewer there were indications he could become a star. And fifty three
years later, he’s one of the biggest.
Happy Birthday Sir Roger Moore, and thanks
for a wonderfully entertaining career!
We've always said that Cinema Retro readers were among the best informed when it comes to classic movies. In our recent poll of the best James Bond movie of all time, readers have resoundingly voted to accord that honor to On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the 1969 film that starred George Lazenby in his one and only appearance as 007. The film command a whopping 27% of the vote. The second place choice was Goldfinger with 19%. Curiously, some unenlightened critics still dismiss Lazenby's film with contempt, though it's doubtful they've seen it since it came out, if at all. If you haven't seen the movie recently, give it another go - it ranks near the top of almost every Bond fan's list of favorites.
Sometimes nice guys do finish first. Such is the case with actor Robert Davi, who has been a fixture in popular movies since his screen debut opposite Frank Sinatra in the 1970's TV movie Contract on Cherry Street. Over the decades, Davi- like any working actor - has enjoyed great successes as well as appearing in artistic misfires. I first met him last November when I interviewed him at his alma mater, Hofstra University, in Long Island. It was part of a James Bond event, and I was interested in meeting Davi because I had long admired his work onscreen and considered his performance as the villain Sanchez in the James Bond film Licence to Kill to be one of the best of the entire series. I was impressed by his complete lack of ego and his genuine respect for his fans. Davi spent a good deal of time mingling with people in the audience, signing countless autographs and talking with students about his days at Hofstra. Davi was at that time putting the finishing touches on The Dukes, a light-hearted, comedic crime movie that he was starring in as well as making his directorial debut with. Several months ago, I got to see the film, which, over the last year, has been making the rounds at international film festivals and picking up widespread critical praise as well as prizes. (Variety gave the film a rare unqualified rave without a single negative word.) Suddenly, the first-time director found his film being shown alongside those of Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Redford and Sydney Lumet.
The Dukes is a moving and often very funny film that eschews car chases, violence and filthy language to concentrate on establishing strong characters. (Remember when most films took pains to do the same?). Davi and his pals are washed-up ex-Doo Wop singers who had a brief stint at the top of the charts in the 1960s but who have now fallen on hard times, working in menial jobs while desperately trying to find another gig on the nightclub circuit. When the financial burdens prove to be overwhelming, Davi and his partners decide to plan a heist that is as amusing as it is suspenseful. I won't make this a formal review of the film, because the version I saw has since been modified. Thus, I'll wait until I see the finished product. However, I do feel I can say that while Davi's performance is a real gem, it's his skill as director that has been responsible for the praise he has been reaping. He's an actor's director and willingly makes himself an ensemble player among an inspired and highly talented cast that includes Peter Bogdanovich, Chazz Palminteri, Frank D'Amico, Miriam Margolyes and even veteran actor Joe Campenella. The performances are all terrific, as is the oldies soundtrack that will have you tapping your feet throughout as you cheer on the loveable losers onscreen. (Davi should make every effort to get a soundtrack CD out on the film.)
Devoid of major marketing dollars, Davi has been launching a "guerilla" campaign relying on visiting neighborhoods and getting the word out among every day people. (Though, to date he has thankfully avoided using the suddenly ubiquitous Joe the Plumber as a pitchman for the movie!) Against all odds, he's secured a major nationwide release for the movie, which opens on November 14 in New York, then rolls out in other areas on November 21. In an age of dumbed-down, CGI-filled movies, it's a joy to see a movie with great heart, great performances and great direction. Davi emerges as a major talent both in front of the camera, and behind it as well. I'm already looking forward to his next film.
To read the Hollywood Reporter interview with Davi click here
Visit The Dukes official web site and view trailer by clicking here
As we've often stated, we try to be down-the-middle when it comes to politics on Cinema Retro's web site, but occasionally the political world affords us some pop culture references we can't ignore. Months ago, we linked to John McCain's amusing James Bond-like ad that compared Barack Obama to Dr. No. Now, in the interest of fair play, we present this hilarious three minute, pro-Obama ad in which director Ron Howard makes a rare return to acting. He dons a striped polo shirt to resurrect his Opie Taylor character from The Andy Griffith Show and even reuinites with Andy to do some fishing in a b&w segment that is extremely amusing. He then bops over to reunite with Henry Winkler's Fonzie to bring Happy Days briefly back to life. Even if you don't share the political message, you'll be greatly entertained. Click here to view
Edie Adams has passed away at age 81. The Tony Award winning actress/singer was the widow of actor Ernie Kovacs and gained fame as a sultry pitchwoman on TV commericals for Muriel Cigars. Her film credits include The Apartment, Call Me Bwana, The Best Man and the comedy classic It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. For more on her life and career, click here
Having just returned from London where I attended the first screening in the world of the eagerly-awaited James Bond film Quantum Of Solace, I'm intrigued by the radically different reactions there have been to the film. The Times feels it is a virtual modern action classic in the same league as Casino Royale. The Daily Mail considers it a crushing bore and one of the worst Bond films ever. I must have been watching a different movie because neither description seems accurate to me. Generally speaking, one has a visceral reaction to a Bond film after viewing it for the first time. The anticipation level among fans is like a child looking forward to Christmas morning. However, after seeing Quantum Of Solace, I truly have a mixed reaction. This much is clear, however: the movie is not in the same league as its brilliant predecessor, Casino Royale (could any sequel achieve that status?) nor is it a major misfire. Believe me, I know what it's like to sit through a Bond misfire, having experienced the opening nights of The Man With the Golden Gun, Moonraker, A View to a Kill and Die Another Day - each of which convinced me the series might have finally run out of steam. I had no such reaction to QOS, feeling it probably ranks somewhere in the middle of the Bond film canon.
As I stood outside London's famed Odeon Theatre in Leicester Square, the excitement was at a fever pitch among those fortunate enough to have been invited to the screening. Security was akin to entering the Pentagon. All mobile phones were confiscated and stored until after the screening. Admission was only through possessing a brick-like, illustrated entry ticket that had obviously been designed specifically to thwart digital duplication. My major fear was being able to stay awake through the entire film, having not slept in over 24 hours and having taken a red eye flight to London, only to accompany Cinema Retro co-publisher Dave Worrall on a press junket for Fox to promote the Bond's on Blu-ray. That event was rather surrealistic in itself, as we were at the famed mansion at Bletchley Park, where British agents scored a major coup in WWII by breaking the German code. Sir Roger Moore was flown in by helicopter and we sat before a phalanx of international TV crews for almost three hours. Then Worrall and I dashed back to London for the Bond preview. I may have been dragging when I got there, but the excitement among the other journalists and celebrities attending the screening was contagious and I was rejuvenated enough to spring for one of those popcorn/soda combos that can feed a small nation. Before long, the head of Sony Pictures came on stage to welcome everyone and inform us we were among the most envied cinema-goers in the world at that moment because we would be the first to see the much-anticipated Bond film. The lights dimmed, the curtains parted and the film began to unspool before an audience so rapt with attention, you could have heard a pin drop.
Perhaps this type of anticipation set expectations so high no film could have fulfilled them. Casino Royale not only redefined the series but gained the kind of international critical praise that the Bond films had never enjoyed even in their salad days of the 1960s. What emerged on screen was a perfectly entertaining, professionally made action thriller - but one that left audience members deeply divided and some outright disappointed that it didn't measure up to its predecessor. First the bad news: the movie has a number of notable flaws. Among them: fears that the abbreviated running time (a half hour less than Casino Royale) would compromise the storyline ring true. The film opens with a high speed, gut-wrenching car chase that picks up the action from where the last film left off. However, it immediately becomes apparent that the editing will compromise the elaborately staged action sequences, rendering them a virtual blur of cuts that never last more than a half-second. This undermines the impact of the scenes and deprives them of any suspense. Yes, every other action movie is edited in the same insane way, but Casino Royale showed restraint in this area and the result was a more traditional way of presenting important scenes that ensured they had maximum emotional impact. The culprits are editors Matt Chesse and Richard Pearson, who seem intent on making the film appeal to people who don't have the attention span to sit through a movie trailer, let alone an entire feature. The other major flaw is the storyline itself which is more confusing than compelling. The action moves so quickly from exotic location to exotic location, and so many characters are introduced, that one becomes completely lost as to who is doing what to who and why they are doing so. The overall scheme by the villain is not very compelling (something about controlling water rights in Bolivia!) and there are major loopholes in the story. In one early scene, a major character appears to have been shot, only to reappear minutes later unharmed- and without any explanation given. It may not be the fault of screenwriters Robert Wade, Neal Purvis and Paul Haggis - after all, this is the same team that turned out the superb script for Casino Royale. I suspect there may have been some key expository sequences that were either left un-filmed or deleted from the final cut. Finally, my hope that the awful title song by Jack White and Alicia Keys would somehow seem better when set against the credits was left unfilled. This makes Madonna's theme from Die Another Day look like Beethoven's 5th Symphony - as the two screech like banshees through some inane lyrics.The ultimate blame for the film's flaws, however, must land squarely at the feet of director Marc Forster, whose resume boasts such acclaimed human interest stories as Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland and The Kite Runner. There were initial fears that Forster would undermine the action in terms of long, talky sequences -but ironically, Forster seems to think he's directing the next Bond video game. There are so many chase sequences shot at such a grueling pace that one wants to cling on to the all-too-brief scenes featuring extensive dialogue because it's the only time the film isn't compromised by the distracting editing.
With the bad news out of the way, there is much to enjoy in QOS, with Daniel Craig's gritty and engaging performance as the glue that holds the film together. He's even more intense in this revenge-based tale than he was the first time around and demonstrates that, in an industry largely devoid of genuine stars, he's the real deal. The film also continues the recent tradition of casting actresses who don't elicit unintentional laughter from the audience every time they open their mouths. In this case, Olga Kurylenko greatly impresses, not only with her haunting beauty, but with ability to hold her own onscreen against Craig, which is no small task. In a supporting role, Gemma Arterton is also highly impressive, though there is shockingly little romantic byplay between Bond and either lady. Judi Dench gets her most screen time ever, and she seems to get better with every performance. Equally impressive is Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter. It may have taken decades, but the filmmakers have finally figured out a way to make this character something other than window dressing. Wright brings a brooding intensity to the role and his appearances onscreen are most welcome. As the main villain, Dominic Greene, Mathieu Amairic (who resembles the young Roman Polanski) fits all the qualifications for a Bond baddy: he's erudite, charming and ruthless. However, the role is underwritten, perhaps due to the abbreviated
running time, and this fine actor never really gets the chance to have
the kind of show-stopping scene his predecessors have enjoyed. As with Casino Royale, the film's best supporting performance comes from old pro Giancarlo Giannini, reprising his role as the mysterious Mathis. His chemistry with Daniel Craig is a joy to behold and their relationship in this film parts on a sequence that is rather shocking in its intensity. I also love the fact that a major criminal organization (Quantum) has been reintroduced to the series. I've always missed the good old SPECTRE era, though I recognize that it's probably not possible to revive that specific organization. (Austin Powers and Dr. Evil have dealt that element of the Bond canon the kind of fatal blow SPECTRE villains never succeeded in doing). Hopefully, we'll be seeing more of Quantum in future films - a possibility reinforced by the reappearance of the villain Mr. White, last seen in the climax of Casino Royale. The locations are among the most varied and exotic of any Bond film and include the Chilean desert, the Baja Desert of Mexico, Panama City, Tuscany,London's Reform Club and an Austrian opera house that provides the most atmospheric sequence in the film. Kudos also go to composer David Arnold who provides his best Bond score to date.
Despite the glaring plot holes and fever-pitch pace, I enjoyed QOS and had the desire to see it again to re-evaluate its flaws and merits. I'll be doing so when I return to London next week for the world premiere and I'll post a follow-up on my reaction to the second viewing. By the way, a word to the wise: in order to understand the storyline, it's virtually essential that you see Casino Royale, or it will be even more confusing to you. Incidentally, the famed gun barrel is back - but is used in an unexpected and very effective way.
(For another view of the film, read the essay by Ajay Chowdhury, editor of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang Magazine. Click here to read)
On Sunday night Sir Roger Moore received a Lifetime Achievement Award
for his services to the television and film industry from Cinema Retro
Moore, who turned 81 last week, was guest of honor at a special gala dinner
at Pinewood Studios, which paid tribute to his
favourite James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. Also in attendance were
fellow cast and crew members from the 1977 film, regarded by many as Moore’s
best outing as Bond, including actor Richard Kiel, who played the
outlandish ‘Jaws’, Oscar-winning Bond production
designers Sir Ken Adam and Peter Lamont, stuntmen Martin Grace and Paul Weston, both of whom have doubled for Moore in the Bond films, actresses Caroline Munro
and Valerie Leon and screenwriter Christopher Wood.
Hosted by Gareth Owen and Andy Boyle of www.bondstars.com, over 150
guests spent the day at the studio meeting the cast and crew, watching a new
digitally-restored print of The Spy Who Loved Me, posing next to the Lotus Esprit from the movie
andclimaxing the day by attending a gala dinner with James Bond himself in the
legendary Pinewood dining room. The event, when announced in May, sold out in
24 hours, proving Moore’s popularity is still as strong as ever. A portion of
the proceeds were donated to UNICEF.
Sir Roger receives a standing ovation. Cinema Retro's Gareth Owen, one of the organizers of the event is on Sir Roger's left, with director John Glen depicted between them. On the right is Cinema Retro's Lee Pfeiffer and Bond girl Valerie Leon behind him.
Sir Roger accepts the Retro award as his wife, Lady Kristina applauds.
Moore, whose eagerly awaited autobiography “My Word is my Bond” was
published last week, has received many awards during his distinguished career,
but mainly for his work as Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, a role he has held since 1991. In presenting the surprise Retro award to Sir Roger, co-publisher Lee Pfeiffer explained that Moore's achievements as an actor have often been overlooked. Pfeiffer compared Sir Roger to Cary Grant by stating that both men made their performances seem so effortless that many critics felt they were simply playing themselves. Pfeiffer contradicted this viewpoint by stating that Sir Roger's performances in films such as The Man Who Haunted Himself, Gold, Shout at the Devil, The Wild Geese and The Sea Wolves were "consummate performances by a consummate artist." The audience responded with an extended standing ovation. " Upon
receiving his award last night, a clearly moved Sir Roger told the audience, “I first came to this
studio in 1947 to audition for The Blue Lagoon and have enjoyed a very happy
relationship with the studio since through The Persuaders and seven Bond
movies. I have been very lucky in my career and am absolutely thrilled to
receive the Retro award at Pinewood tonight. It’s made an old aspiring actor
feel very special!”
Cinema Retro publishers Lee Pfeiffer (L) and Dave Worrall present The Retro award to Sir Roger Moore.
In 1999, Moore
was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in recognition of
his achievements on behalf of UNICEF and was Knighted in 2003. However, whilst
the man himself jokes about his acting ability and “lucky career”, he has, in
fact, entertained millions of people around the world both on TV and in the cinema,
and to this day remains a British icon in the industry.
Gala dinner photographs by Mark Mawston. All rights reserved.
The much-anticipated Broadway production of Spiderman is still in the formative stages, but according to The New York Post, it's already in more trouble than Doctor Octopus could cook up. Director Julie Taymor is alleged to be spending money like the federal government to ensure the show has top-notch production qualities. However, with a budget estimated to be at $35-$40 million, insiders say the production is destined to lose money no matter how popular it is - and that's before taking into consideration the financial meltdown that will surely impact Broadway in a big way. For the report click here
Subscriber Bob Collins is working on a documentary about drive-in movie theaters. During the course of his research, he unearthed some movie ads from 1965 for theaters in the Winston-Salem area. Read them and weep, as it recalls a time when virtually every theater had a film worth getting excited about. We also loved those old triple features shown at drive-ins. Check out this bill: The Three Stooges in Around the World in a Daze, Jack Lemmon in Under the Yum Yum Tree and Richard Boone in Rio Conchos - and how about reserved seats for The Sound of Music for two bucks! We're going back into the lab to continue working on our time machine! (Bob Collins would like to hear from anyone who may have been associated with drive-in theaters or who might be a collector of memorabilia relating to drive-ins. You can reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Despite enormous publicity, Sean Connery's semi-autobiographical tome Being a Scot has been deemed a flop in the publishing world - primarily due to the fact that it is less about the man than his views on his Scottish heritage and Scotland's role in the world today. Connery aborted several other attempts to write a traditional autobiography because he was not eager to share intimate aspects of his life. Instead, he turned Being a Scot into a quasi-autobiography that many reviewers found a bit dry. The lack of gossip resulted in public disinterest and the book has enjoyed shockingly low UK sales totaling only 5,000 copies. Connery did very limited publicity for the book in contrast to Sir Roger Moore, whose recently published autobiography is being heavily promoted by the star.
The famed pistol from the 1974 James Bond film The Man With the Golden Gun was reported stolen by Elstree Props, a company based at the famed Elstree Studios in England. The weapon was valued at $140,000. A spokesman for Elstree Props said the gun was noticed as missing but he had no idea when it disappeared. Getting insurance companies to pay off in such cases is often a murky task because the provenance of many props is difficult to prove if questions should arise. In the case of the Golden Gun, it is known that there were several made by the props department. At one time the late special effects expert John Stears, who worked on the film, had one in his possession. Eon Productions, producers of the Bond films, is said to have another in their archives. This is not to say the stolen prop was not legitimate, but Elstree Props did not discuss how they became convinced it was genuine. Ironically, the company specializes in creating replicas of famous movie props for commercial sale. When notified of the theft, Roger Moore's spokesman advised the police to search Christopher Lee's apartment! For more click here
Lionsgate has released a most-welcome special edition DVD of the granddaddy of all conspiracy theory movies, Capricorn One. There had been other major conspiracy-based thrillers prior to this, of course, John Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days in May among them. However, Capricorn Onewas the first major release to center on a clearly crackpot theory and present it as a plausible thesis. In this case, the notion is that corrupt NASA executives concoct an audacious plot to fake the first landing on Mars. They gain the co-operation of the three astronauts involved using a combination of appeals to their patriotism coupled with implied threats against their families. As crazy as the scenario sounds, Hal Holbrook, as the plot's mastermind, delivers a speech to the men that makes it sound sensible (they have to have a triumph or public apathy for NASA will result in cancelation of the space program). Things quickly go awry when technical glitches make it appear the capsule was destroyed en route back to earth. In order to maintain the facade, Holbrook has to order the assassination of the astronauts, played by James Brolin, Sam Waterston and O.J. Simpson. The men realize they are expendable and make a daring break for freedom across the desert.
Peter Hyams both wrote and directed the thriller that plays far more believably than it may read. In fact, Capricorn One is so well made that it immediately inspired a generation of crackpots to adopt the theory that the moon landing itself was faked, a scenario still popular among conspiracy fanatics.The film boasts an excellent screenplay that deftly interweaves the life-and-death struggle of the astronauts to reach civilization before they can be murdered with the frustrated efforts of disgraced reporter Elliott Gould to expose the outlandish plot to his disbelieving bosses. The film has an abundance of genuine suspense set to Jerry Goldsmith's intense score, one of his best. The performances are all first-rate as well. One remembers that at one time Brolin had real potential as a leading man before a string of poor film choices derailed his career. Similarly, Gould is perfect with his comfortable schlep character managing to outwit those who consistently underestimate him. One wishes his career as a leading man had a longer shelf life. There are also some excellent supporting performances from Brenda Vaccaro, David Huddleston, Karen Black and Telly Savalas in an outrageously hammy but fun cameo turn. Best of all is Hal Holbrook, whose passion for preserving the space program at any cost makes him a sympathetic character even as we loathe the plot he ultimately hatches. It's a superb performance.
The DVD includes a new featurette with Hyams discussing the making of the film and assuring us that he doesn't really buy into conspiracy theories -including those he created himself. The documentary is highly enjoyable and Hyams also provides a commentary track. The original trailer is also included. Capricorn One is somehow a more satisfying experience today than it was in 1978 - and any film that boasts a premise of sending O.J. Simpson on a one-way trip into space can't be all bad. - Lee Pfeiffer
The screening at the Academy on Friday was the start of a Leslie Caron tribute weekend in Los Angeles as events at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre at the Motion Picture Academy and the following nights at the American Cinematheque demonstrated the timeless charm of this beloved actress. Leslie Caron was the original Amelie, a Gallic sprite who enchanted the world when Gene Kelly discovered her at 18 and cast her in “American in Paris.” She went on to prove her skill as a dramatic actress in such fare as “The L-Shaped Room“ and even won an Emmy for a recent stint on “Law and Order” but it was in her 50s musicals, “Gigi,” “Daddy Long Legs, “ “American in Paris,” and “Lili,” that she won the hearts of the world.
A sold-out crowd paid tribute to Ms. Caron as she recounted some very funny stories of her time at MGM, and the making of that night’s screening, “Gigi.” Moderated by critic Stephen Farber, the interview was as light as a souffle and when she flashed her trademark smile she had the audience in the palm of her hand. It was pointed out that “Gigi” was the last great original screen created for the screen. With a score by the great Lerner & Lowe and based on story by Colette, it won 9 Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director for Vincente Minnelli, a man legendary for being more concerned with a film’s mis-en-scene than his actors. While shooting the "I Don't Understand the Parisians" number on the backlot near a constructed stream, Minnelli shot take after take. "I couldn't understand what I was doing wrong,” confessed Caron. “After take 18 he said, 'cut, great, print, the swans were great!'" She also spoke of her joy at working with the two great male dancers of the cinema, Kelly and Astaire and confessed her childhood ambition was to be a ballerina, not an actress. But she admitted her greatest thrill came in 1964 when she co-starred in “Father Goose,” with Cary Grant. “I couldn’t believe it,” she marveled, “Me in a film with Cary Grant!” She talked of the film’s shooting in Jamaica as idyllic time, complete with butler who would scurry up a tree every morning to fetch fresh cocoanuts for her. She also commented about working with directors like James Ivory in an amusing anecdote where Ivory asked her if she knew she came off arrogant in a delivery and she said yes, she was intentionally trying to it that way. “Don’t!,” he snapped and that was that. Discussing her upcoming memoirs she admitted she was worried that somebody she had dissed in the book might be in the audience so she had better behave herself. But there was no need to worry, she had us at ‘”bonjour.”
Acclaimed film and TV composer Neal Hefti has died at age 85. Hefti was regarded as a top name in jazz, but it was his work in film that gained him the most fame. He composed the classic theme for the Batman TV show that perfectly captured the pop culture aspect of the series. Another of Hefti's most enduring themes was for the 1968 hit film version of The Odd Couple. The theme was also used in the 1970s TV series. Hefti's other film scores include Barefoot in the Park, Duel at Diablo and Harlow. For obituary plus music historian Jon Burlingame's interview comments with Hefti, click here
It is not without dramatic irony that Warner Brothers has released a commemorative DVD edition of one Paul Newman's signature films virtually simultaneously with his death. Newman was already a cinematic icon by 1967 when the movie was released, having played such flawed characters as Fast Eddie Felson in The Hustler and the ultimate cad, Hud Bannon. However, the role of Cool Hand Luke more than any other reflected the non-conformism that was sweeping young people in the mid to late 1960s. Luke is the ultimate loser: a distinguished war veteran who doesn't have the drive or motivation to capitalize on his good looks, charming manner and street smarts. He's content with just getting by another day and considers it a victory to put one over on authority figures. He's destined to be a tragic figure, but at least he's doing so on his own terms and with an omnipresent smile on his face.
Cool Hand Luke was one of those famous movies that had eluded me until a few years ago. When I finally caught up with it, I was somewhat disappointed. Perhaps I had heard so much about it, the film couldn't live up to expectations. However, in watching the new DVD edition, I appreciated the many nuances that had escaped me the first time around. The story is simple: Luke is arrested for a petty crime and sentenced to serve time in a horrid prison camp where he is put to work as part of a road gang. His inability to play by the rules makes him a target of the sadistic guards, but an inspiration to his fellow prisoners. Newman is superb throughout, but a very real pleasure is the remarkable cinematography by the great Conrad Hall, who captures cliched scenes in such a poetic manner that each frame becomes a work of art. The film is also very ably directed by Stuart Rosenberg, who never quite got the respect in the industry he deserved. Lalo Schifrin's score is a true winner, though in the accompanying documentary he expresses amusement that a key theme from the film is primarily known to Americans as the opening chords of the daily Eyewitness News broadcasts. A key aspect of the movie is the terrific supporting cast, headed by George Kennedy in his Oscar-winning role as the lovable lunkhead who becomes Luke's Sancho Panza. The cast also boasts Dennis Hopper, Lou Antonio, Joe Don Baker, Harry Dean Stanton, J.D. Cannon, Morgan Woodward, Jo Van Fleet, Clifton James, Anthony Zerbe, Ralph Waite and Wayne Rogers. The best of the lot is the great Strother Martin in his defining role as the brain-dead warden who utters the film's signature line, "What we got here is failure to communicate."
The special edition DVD includes audio commentary track by Newman biographer Eric Lax, who provides some wonderful and knowing anecdotes. There is also a commemorative documentary that includes interviews with the late Stuart Rosenberg, Lalo Schifrin, George Kennedy, Lou Antonio, and George Kennedy. (Sadly, Newman was either unwilling or unable to contribute.) The documentary is packed with wonderful anecdotes, making it clear this film was a labor of love for all concerned. Also appearing is Joy Harmon, who made a brief, but legendary appearance as the buxon cocktease who drives the men on the road gang into a sexual frenzy just by washing her car in a skimpy dress. Harmon recalls she was too naive to know the phallic meanings of the various shots she filmed. A theatrical trailer is also included.This special edition of Cool Hand Luke is bittersweet, coming as it does in the wake of Newman's death - but it's a first class tribute to a first class actor.- Lee Pfeiffer
Cinema Retro has just learned that famed photographer William Claxton has passed away at age 80. He was one of Steve McQueen's best friends and was afforded extraordinary access to his private life. Claxton commemorated these photos in a book, which has just been reissued by Taschen publishers. Here is Dean Brierly's review of the previous editon, which gives insight into the relationship between Claxton and McQueen.
Claxton took this photo of Steve McQueen and his wife Neile in 1962.
WILLIAM CLAXTON: MCQUEEN
What do you get when
you combine a great American actor with a great American photographer? Arguably
the coolest celebrity photo book ever published.Which is only
fitting when the actor happens to be Steve McQueen, the cinematic icon who
redefined the word “cool” during the 1960s, and the photographer is William
Claxton, who photographed many of the hippest record covers in jazz history. The
two men shared a close friendship during the early 1960s, a period in which
Claxton photographed McQueen extensively, both at work on film sets and at play
That kind of access
would be impossible today, when a movie star’s contact with the media is meted
out in small, rigidly controlled portions. The typical celebrity image that
results is notable only for its vacuity. In contrast, Claxton didn’t need to
rely on the whims of some handler to photograph McQueen, who would often phone
Claxton early in the morning to invite him on motorcycle racing excursions in
the desert. The two men also shared a passion for fast cars, and would
frequently tool around Los Angeles in McQueen's Jaguar XK-SS.
such occasions, McQueen let down his guard and revealed to
Claxton’s trusted camera facets of his character less familiar to the general
public than the ultra-cool persona—his warmth and empathy, his emotional
vulnerability, his mischievous sense of humor. These qualities are also evident
in pictures Claxton made on the sets of early McQueen films. The photographer
captures the star joyously embracing a friend from his early hardscrabble years
in New York during the filming of Love with the Proper
Stranger; sharing a tender between-takes moment with his first
wife Neile; and playfully riding a mechanical horse in a five-and-dime store on
location for Baby, the Rain Must Fall in Wharton,
Naturally, Claxton also focused on McQueen’s trademark intensity:
An electric image sequence of the actor participating in a cross-country
motorcycle race in the Mojave Desert recalls McQueen’s breakout performance as
the rebellious, motorcycle-riding prisoner in The Great
Escape. The photographs underscore how much the actor’s
onscreen cool was rooted in his physical being. His lithe, lean frame and
catlike grace translated into the confidence and strength of character his fans
responded to in such signature films as Bullitt and The Thomas Crown
A class act, Claxton
never abused his friendship with McQueen, never exploited it for sensation’s
sake. McQueen trusted Claxton to the extent that he even allowed himself to be
photographed lighting up a joint. It’s impossible to imagine an actor of similar
stature doing so today. (Not that there are any stars of similar stature working
today.) Claxton, of course, refrained from publishing it until it could do no
harm to the late actor’s reputation. Refreshingly—and fittingly, considering
McQueen's down-to-earth personality—Claxton's book isn’t weighed down by
pretentious essays. Instead, the photographer’s witty anecdotal comments are
sprinkled throughout in unobtrusive caption form, supporting the pictures rather
than competing with them. Most of the images are in black-and-white, with a
smattering in color. They range from polished publicity portraits to gritty
candid shots, many of them heretofore unpublished.
Claxton's warm and spontaneous pictures tellingly capture Steve McQueen’s rugged
individualism and unassailable self-assurance during the heady years of the
actor’s nascent stardom. But perhaps more important, they convey the sheer,
unadulterated joy McQueen took in the art of living life to the full, and
there’s nothing cooler than that.
We've been running web reports from the journalists who were brought to London to cover the pre-release promotions for Quantum Of Solace. Cinema Retro publisher and The Essential James Bond co-author Dave Worrall was hired by Sony to act as a guide for the junket's trip to Pinewood Studios. Here is the report of "Capone", one of the top writers for the popular Ain't It Cool News web site. Click here to read.
Scorenotes is a superb web site that will be of great interest to movie music lovers. The site describes itself thusly:
ScoreNotes.com: Your home for Composer Interviews in Audio, Online Suites,
Soundtrack Reviews and more!
In fact, the site boasts a great archive of interviews with music critics and composers as well as the ability to play tracks from both vintage and new soundtrack albums. Check out the site by clicking here
The 1970s were defined by a mind-boggling array of cultural and political phenomena. Some were serious—the energy crisis, no-fault divorce, Margaret Thatcher. Others were silly—crop circles, Charlie’s Angels, disco. And some were simply sublime—the American Basketball Association, SCTV, the proliferation of oral contraceptives. Among the most popular, yet controversial, of the decade’s attention-grabbers was a series of German films that explored the sex life of schoolgirls. (Those easily offended by such movies should perhaps stop reading now.) Based upon a best-selling book by German psychologist Günther Hunold, the films were presented as cautionary tales filmed in a quasi-documentary style in hopes of giving them a veneer of social responsibility. The public service aspect took the form of on-camera interviews with teenage girls answering blunt questions about their sex lives. The series purported to inform the public (i.e., parents) about what their supposedly innocent daughters were getting up to behind closed doors, in public parks, in automobiles, in swimming pools…
What they were, when one came right down to it, were soft-core sex films featuring an ever-changing cast of nubile young German actresses (most of whom ironically appeared to be at least college-aged, if not older). While the films were undeniably erotic, they were written and directed with a light touch and imbued with an earthy, farcical humor (think Benny Hill at his sleaziest). Most of the actresses exhibited an unabashed attitude toward sex that somehow made all the shagging seem like the wonderfully natural act it is rather than something shameful and prurient. The formula evidently worked. The Schoolgirl Report series was an immediate and smash success in Germany, and proved equally popular as a filmic export. The 13 films made over a 10-year period were seen by millions worldwide, including here in the God-fearing yet pre-Moral Majority U.S.A.
Each film presented up to eight vignettes in which German schoolgirls encountered a variety of sexual situations, including first-time sex, interracial sex, promiscuous sex, voyeurism, masturbation, rape, incest, and that old standby, pupil-teacher encounters. The boffing and boinking was by turns erotic, humorous, disturbing and poignant. Each story had at least a modicum of subtext, variously centered on the girls’ search for self-affirmation, the freedom to act as they pleased, and a determination to be treated as adults. Seen in a larger context, the series can be read as a swinging sexual statement of revolt on the part of its youthful protagonists against their parents’ authoritarian, dare one say dictatorial, World War II-era generation. Achtung, baby! As in the previous films, the fourth installment in the series, What Drives Parents to Despair (1972), begins with an unintentionally hilarious on-camera prologue, presumably delivered by Hunold himself. “Well, ladies and gentlemen, here we are again. You’ll remember us if you’re among the 30 million people who saw our first three Schoolgirl Reports in 28 countries and turned them into a global blockbuster,” he intones, assuming an air of seriousness that fails to completely camouflage his inner perve. “Still, no film has ever been attacked as ours. But almost everything you saw came from authentic sources. Life writes the most interesting scripts. Of course, we will not claim that all schoolgirls behave the way they are portrayed in our films. But it would also be foolish to close your eyes to the facts.” Or to the hot teen action about to unfold, he might have added.
The vignettes revolve around an 18-year-old who seduces her math teacher in order to ace her final, then blows him off with a curt auf Wiedersehen; a 16-year-old who talks her boyfriend into posing as a doctor and making a “house call” so they can get it on upstairs while her naive parents watch television downstairs; a group of high school girls and boys who set up a profitable prostitution ring to better partake of Germany’s economic miracle; and a quartet of oversexed young lovelies who get more than they bargain for when they prick-tease an Italian immigrant into proving his virility. In a much harder-hitting tale, an African girl adopted by a German couple is the target of crude racial insults from her Aryan schoolmates—in the locker room shower, naturally. Later, the Deutschland dollies arrange for her sexual violation by their equally racist boyfriends. There’s nothing titillating about this sequence, which comes across as a strong anti-rape statement. Another edgy story depicts a sexually curious teen virgin who harbors incestuous fantasies about her older brother. After spying on him making love to an older woman at a party, she begs him to deflower her, with predictable results. (No surprise considering the girl is played by Swedish exploitation film star Christina Lindberg.) In keeping with the series’ non-judgmental tone, the coupling is presented as a one-time-only adolescent experiment. The filmmakers don’t condemn the siblings as much as the socio-economic conditions that can give rise to such misdirected sexual development. And in the final story, as if to somehow reassure parents that not all schoolgirls are completely depraved, an 18-year-old waits until she is certain that her boyfriend loves her before giving up her V card.
The actual sex scenes truthfully aren’t all that exciting, at least, not by today’s XXX-on-demand standards, yet for their time they obviously fulfilled the needs of audiences from Berlin to Baden-Baden and beyond. And the sincerity of these at times awkward couplings takes viewers back to their own fumbling first attempts at sexual expression. That alone makes these films worth revisiting. Additionally, viewing the Schoolgirl Report films today is like opening a time portal onto a genuinely stylish era, one filled with beautiful young people following their natural instincts against a cultural background of casual drug use, space-age pads, trippy cars and the Hammond-driven sounds of Gert Wilden’s stunning jazz-rock music. For those who aren’t afraid to confront their own secret desires, this is trash cinema at its most diverting.
(Impulse Pictures has released
the first three films in the series with letterbox transfers, original German
language dialogue and English subtitles. For more info go to official web site)
In 1971, 20th
Century-Fox scored a huge commercial and critical hit with The French Connection,
a hard-boiled thriller about the largest heroin bust in New York City’s history. Directed by William
Friedkin and starring Gene Hackman as Det. Eddie “Popeye” Doyle, the picture
presented a gritty, but idealized portrait of the police at work. In 1972,
wanting to capitalize on the picture’s success, Fox decided to produce a
sequel, a continuation of Doyle’s pursuit of Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey), the
French drug lord who eludes capture at the end of Friedkin’s film. The studio decided to have the picture
shot in Marseilles, a port city in the south of France where
heroin production thrived in the early Seventies. Friedkin, however, was
uninterested in working on a sequel and so the chiefs at Fox approached John
Frankenheimer, who had lived in France
and spoke the language fluently. Although Frankenheimer had enjoyed a great
deal of success in the Sixties with pictures like The Manchurian Candidate, Seven
Days in May and Grand Prix,
nearly a decade had passed since he’d scored a box office hit. The opportunity
to work on a high-budget picture of this sort aroused his interest and he
accepted the offer.
The original script for French Connection II was prepared by
Robert Dillon, whose previous credits included, most notably, Roger Corman’s X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes. Once production commenced in the summer of
1974, however, Frankenheimer decided that he needed to have his script
re-worked. For the job, he recruited the novelist Pete Hamill, who’d actually known
Eddie Egan, the New York City
police detective upon whom Hackman’s character Popeye Doyle was based. In 2006,
Hamill recalled his involvement in the project:
[When Frankenheimer] called me from Marseilles, asking me to help, I said I would
try to get there within two days. "Why not one?" he said, and laughed
nervously. I never asked why he called me. Someone hand-delivered a script to
my place in New York
and I read it on the plane.
John, at that
time, had a major problem. He had already shot nine days of the existing script.
He had developed a reputation for going over budget, so had no flexibility. He
couldn't re-shoot what was already in the can.
That gave me a
problem too, since I had to write around the existing pieces, which, as always,
had been shot out of order. It was like working on a jigsaw puzzle. The basic
problem was that Hackman, a great movie actor, had nothing to act. And the
reason for that was that Roy Scheider was not in the sequel, and Hackman had
nobody to bounce his lines off. He would never talk to a French cop the way he
talked to Scheider in the Billy Friedkin original.
first work was on the following day's pages, trying to make the character sound
like Popeye Doyle….Within a day-and-a-half (with naps in between) I had
written enough for them to keep shooting for six or seven days….Hackman was
ecstatic. He had something to act!
French Connection II begins shortly after the first film ends, with Doyle arriving in France on April
Fool’s Day. As the only person who can identify Charnier, Doyle has been sent
by his supervisors to assist the Marseilles
police as they search for the elusive kingpin. Vulgar and loud, Doyle alienates
himself quickly from his counterparts in Marseilles,
a group of “narcs” led by the level-headed Henri Barthelmy (Bernard Fresson).
Annoyed by Barthelmy’s cautious approach to law enforcement, Doyle soon sets
out on his own. In his porkpie hat and Hawaiian shirts, he cuts a clownish
figure on the foreign city’s streets and he is quickly spotted and subsequently
abducted by Charnier’s men. Imprisoning him in a slum hotel for three weeks,
Charnier injects Doyle with heroin, with the hope that this will loosen his
lips. The tactic breaks the detective, transforming him into a helpless addict.
But it doesn’t yield any helpful information and Charnier returns the captive
to the police. As he explains to Doyle, just before he frees him: “We
take you back, Doyle, to your friends. They are looking for you everywhere and
making it difficult for me to operate.”
Renewal invariably follows
demoralization in many of Frankenheimer’s pictures and the same happens here.
Forced by Barthelmy to quit his addiction “cold turkey,” Doyle suffers
horribly, bursting into tears at one point. But he makes it through and sets
out on his own to locate the hotel where he was kept prisoner. Once he finds
it, he sets the building on fire and snags one of Charnier’s men. The goon
provides information which eventually leads Doyle and his French counterparts
to the lab where Charnier’s people process heroin. Charnier rushes off, though,
as the police close in, just as he did in the first movie. But Doyle, weak and
limping, runs after him and a chase commences through the congested city,
ending when the detective spots his adversary sailing out of the harbor on a
yacht. Drawing his gun from the holster he wears on his ankle, Doyle fires two
shots into Charnier’s chest, presumably killing him. But Frankenheimer closes
the movie at this point, denying his viewers a denouement of any sort, leaving
open the possibility that the pursuit may continue in the future.
French Connection II is an
often harrowing examination of the dangers that result when people flout the
law for personal gain. Charnier, of course, may be the most offensive example
of this criminal self-centeredness. A bon vivant, he uses the money he earns
from his drugs business to make his life exceedingly comfortable, spending it
on fine clothes, hunting trips and beautiful women. His success, however, rests
upon a willingness to exploit human weakness, a great sin in itself. Yet, as
Frankenheimer shows us, it also has a terrible, imitative effect, breeding a
culture of addicts and thieves who, like Charnier, seize upon the weak. Such is
the case with an old woman in the hotel, who steals Doyle’s watch. The problem
not only transcends gender, age and nationality, but occupation, too. A sleazy
U.S. Army general (Ed Lauter) is one of Charnier’s collaborators.
Though Doyle has no apparent
interest in financial gain, he is similarly guilty of flouting the law for
private reasons, sidestepping civil liberties and human rights when they
interfere with his pursuit. To some degree, this brutal approach is effective,
leading him and Barthelmy to Charnier’s heroin. But it is also ugly. Early in
the film, for instance, Doyle amuses himself as he explains to a suspect:
I’m going to work on your arms. I’ll
set ’em over a curb. And I’m going to use them for a trampoline. I’m going to
jump up and down on them. Right? Then your kneecaps. One. Two. Kneecaps.
Oatmeal. I’m going to make oatmeal out of your…kneecaps. And when I get done
with you, you are going to put me right in Charnier’s lap.
Yet Doyle, despite
these repellant qualities, is difficult to reject completely. Far from his New York City stomping
grounds, the detective, like the fish on the tables that appear at the
beginning of the film, is out of his element, completely separated from people
who think, act and speak like him. Certainly, he behaves in a ludicrous manner
frequently, translating the word “mayonnaise” into French and ordering “el
scotcho” at a bar. But the character’s basic problem, the alienation felt by
the émigré, is hardly unique or strange; and because of this, in spite of his
many defects, he is recognizable, understandable and sympathetic.
Like the first French Connection,
Frankenheimer’s picture is a “police procedural,” a film that traces the
efforts of law enforcement officials as they conduct an investigation. In the
middle of this movie, however, the director breaks from the genre’s most
important convention by halting the detective hero’s pursuit, confining him
first to the cell-like room of the hotel and then the basement jail of the
Marseille police station. Some critics have maligned this turn in the
narrative. Roger Ebert, in his 1975 review, complained that it brings “the
movie to a standstill. The plot, the pursuit, the quarry, are all forgotten
during Hackman’s one-man show, and it’s a flaw the movie doesn’t overcome.”
These sequences do slow the story’s pace a bit, but they nevertheless
serve an important thematic function. In many of Frankenheimer’s films, extreme
suffering gives rise to important changes in his protagonists’ personalities.
For Doyle, the dialectal torture of addiction and withdrawal restores the drive
and commitment that characterized his pursuit of Charnier in the first film.
During the first third of French Connection II, that is, Doyle is
distracted and ineffectual, spending much of his time drinking, carousing and
picking fights with the people who can help him. But following the experience
with heroin, he returns to the dirty Marseilles
streets single-minded, not only avoiding drink and women, but working closely
with Barthelmy. He may or may not capture Charnier—we aren’t allowed to
know—but he certainly scores his revenge, besting him with the two bullets he
fires into his chest.
Though French Connection II is one of
the bleakest pictures Frankenheimer made, it is also one of the most thrilling,
thanks to spectacular sequences like the burning of the slum hotel and the
final chase, when Doyle runs after Charnier along the Marseilles harbor. The director realized that
the exaggerated quality of these scenes could arouse disbelief and thus he
tried to make them seem as authentic as possible. He explains on the commentary
he recorded for the film’s DVD release:
The key to doing a movie like this is to make every incident,
every moment of the movie as real and believable as you can. Once you, the
audience, feel betrayed by me, once you feel out of the movie, once you
feel,‘Oh these are only actors and this
is fake and this doesn’t look right,’ then the movie’s over for you, then
everything that happens after that doesn’t work. But if I can keep you involved
and keep you believing this looks rights this looks real, then I’m doing my
job. And that goes for the costumes, that goes for the sets, that goes for the
extra that’s way in the back of the room. One little thing that’s not right can
turn you off the whole movie.
To achieve the
verisimilitude he needed to make these scenes work, the director used several
tactics. He and his cameraman Claude Renoir employed shooting techniques
borrowed from cinéma-vérité, filming Marseilles’ buildings, its streets and its
citizens with handheld cameras and hidden cameras. He and production designer
Jacques Saulnier built sets which they modeled after real places, like the
city’s police station, a jail and the bottom-rung hotel. And Charnier’s lab,
incredibly, was built under the guidance of a group of Corsican heroin dealers
who had taken an interest in the film. The director also hired non-actors
whenever he could. The doctors who treat Popeye after his abduction, for
instance, were real doctors.
When French Connection II opened
in the spring of 1975, the reviews it received were generally favorable and its
performance at the box office was strong. The
New York Times’ Vincent Canby, for instance, wrote:
"The concerns of “French Connection II”
are not much different from those of
old Saturday-afternoon movie serials that used to place their supermen in jeopardy and then
figure ways of getting them out. The difference is in the quality of the supermen and in
is a colorful and interesting — though hardly noble — character, and when the Marseilles drug people
kidnap him, forcibly create a heroin habit in him, and then release him, you
have a very special kind of jeopardy that the film and Mr. Hackman exploit most
effectively. The perverse intensity and the anguish in these sequences recall some
of Mr. Frankenheimer's best work in “The Manchurian Candidate”.
Stephen B. Armstrong teaches writing at Dixie State College in St. George, Utah.
He is the author of Pictures About Extremes: The Films of John Frankenheimer
(McFarland, 2008).Click here to order from Amazon.
Michael Moran of The Times of London reports on ten rumored sequels/prequels of varying legitimacy. Some range from the welcome (another sequel to 28 Days Later) to the ill-advised (Blade Runner 2) to the insane (porcine faux movie star Steven Seagal returning to the big screen direct from straight-to-video hell in Under Siege 3). Read it all and weep by clicking here
Original British Quad poster (Courtesy Darren Allison Collection)
Harkit Records has done it again by releasing John Barry's long-sought soundtrack from the madcap Victorian comedy The Wrong Box starring John Mills, Ralph Richardson and Michael Caine. We're proud to say that Cinema Retro's music critic Darren Allison has contributed extensive liner notes for the 20 page collector's booklet included in the CD. The booklet is packed with rare stills. Darren is continuing his collaborative efforts with Harkit and is preparing a special collector's booklet for their forthcoming Lalo Schifrin soundtrack from Return from the River Kwai. There is very limited availability of The Wrong Box. To order click here
American baby boomers will be sad to learn that Lloyd Thaxton has passed away at age 81. Thaxton was a pioneer in bringing rock 'n roll to TV in the 1960s and used his low budget, nationally syndicated program to give a boost to many acts that went on to superstardom. Thaxton would use zany antics to enhance the visual appeal of the program, which centered on teenagers dancing to the latest hits. Thaxton was one of the first TV hosts to mainstream black recording acts. When some sponsors refused to air a segment in which James Brown was the guest, Thaxton didn't cave - he dropped the sponsors instead. Sadly, as writer Ken Levine reports, a "Best of" DVD devoted to Thaxton cannot be released because some of the acts refuse to give legal clearances for use of footage on the show that made them stars. To read click here
Subscriber Bob Collins is worried that with O.J. Simpson in jail due to his involvement with a bizarre break-in to retrieve sports memorabilia, the real killer of Simpson's wife Nicole and Ron Goldman will now be free to terrorize society! We're with you, Bob...the same terrifying thought crossed my mind, too. As we know, for the last thirteen years, society has benefited from O.J.'s relentless pursuit of the real killer. Who knows how many lives may have been saved because O.J. has been breathing down the bad guy's back? Selflessly, O.J. has left no stone unturned in his one-man crusade for justice. Like Roy Thinnes in The Invaders, he found himself battling on alone in a world of non-believers. With the tenacity of a modern day Javert relentlessly pursuing Jean Valjean, O.J. tirelessly pursued the killer to the point of exhaustion. It wasn't easy, to say the least.There wasn't a Florida country club he didn't have to stalk. There wasn't an opulent golf course the real killer could have hidden on with O.J. prowling the links seemingly 24/7. When the sun set and many of us kicked back with a cigar and cold one, O.J. was pounding the beat in the strip clubs and gin mills, bedding nubile women whose I.Q's were somewhat less than their bra sizes - and it was all to pick up leads on the real killer. Now O.J.'s been framed again and the poor guy couldn't even get a media circus. He had the misfortune to have his trial coincide with the biggest financial meltdown since 1929. People are so broke they can't even pay attention. He couldn't stir racial tensions again because he was frustrated by the fact that there's a good chance an African American may be elected president.Even Johnny Cochran let him down. Given the fact that O.J. made the man's career, you'd think the late attorney would be rattling around like Marley's ghost to get his meal ticket off the hook - but 'twas not to be.
O.J. is in jail- and the real killer knows it. Be afraid...be very afraid. - Lee Pfeiffer
Contributing writer Ajay Chowdhury joined Cinema Retro publisher Dave Worrall and photographer Mark Mawston to attend the recent London tribute to Oscar-winning producer Michael Deeley at the National Film Theatre. The event was hosted by Retro writer Matthew Field, who co-authored Deeley's just-published autobiography. Here is exclusive coverage of the event with photos of the after-party.
September 30, 2008. Following a glorious digital screening of Blade Runner: The Final Cut, Screen 1 at the National Film Theatre on London's Southbank played host to “Michael Deeley In Converation”. As the producer of Blade Runner (1982), The Italian Job (1969), The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976), Convoy (1978) and The Deer Hunter (for which he won the 1978 Academy Award for Best Picture), Deeley is a veteran of top flight movie-making on both sides of the Atlantic.
Michael Deeley (L) with James Bond director John Glen and author Matthew Field. (Photo copyright: Mark Mawston)
A wittily-edited montage of Deeley-produced movies counted the audience into the evening and then Matthew Field, interviewer and co-writer of Deeley's new autobiography, Blade Runner, Deer Hunters And Blowing The Bloody Doors Off: My Life In Cult Movies (Faber & Faber) introduced us to the producer. Asked what “producer” meant, Deeley said simply someone who causes a film to be made.
After serving in the British Army in Malaysia in the 1950's, Deeley, who had eschewed university, was looking for something to do. Upon considering how hard it is nowadays to break into the film industry, he sheepishly revealed to this cineaste audience that he just fell into business through a friend, starting in the cutting rooms. Later, with a colleague, he scraped together the money to produce his first picture, The Case Of The Mukkinese Battle-Horn (1956) starring Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan. It was Deeley's attempt to capture the madcap proto-Monty Python radio comedy of The Goon Show to the big screen. The audience was then treated to a clip of this rare film which Deeley had generously donated to the British Film Institute.
(L to R): Ajay Chowdhury, Barry Halper, Mark Mawston and Matthew Field celebrate at the after party. (Photo copyright: Dave Worrall, Cinema Retro)
Deeley started at Woodfall Films, the British film purveyor of Kitchen-Sink dramas headed by playwright John Osborne, director Tony Richardson and producer Harry Saltzman. In his capacity as General Manager, Deeley worked on the Michael Crawford starrer, The Knack…And How To Get It (1965). Deeley did not the think the film has stood the test of time and found it to be too “mechanical” for his taste.
(Photo copyright: Mark Mawston)
Deeley remembered Robbery (1967) starring Stanley Baker, a low budget British crime story which featured a gritty, exciting car chase directed by Peter Yates. Apparently, it was this sequence that convinced Steve McQueen that the British Yates was the guy to helm San Franciscan cop thriller, Bullitt (1968) with that car chase. You never know who's watching! Talk of car chases led to the classic Michael Caine Mini-adventure, The Italian Job (1969). Deeley humorously admitted to staging a real life traffic jam in the middle of Turin by use of strategically parked white vans parked at key junction points in the Italian industrial city. He also recalled keeping the British end up. Forced by British Leyland to purchase Minis at trade price, he was tempted to replace the British motors with Fiats with an offer of unlimited free cars for shooting, a personal Ferrari and $50,000 and the freedom to shoot anywhere in the city. This offer he almost couldn’t refuse was made by Gianni Agnelli, the then-chairperson of the Italian car giant (FIAT is an acronym for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino - Italian Automobile Factory of Turin). Deeley reluctantly refused (sighing at the loss of the free Ferrari), explaining the heart of the film was them and us, symbolised by rampaging Minis: “I guess the The Italian Job was the first Eurosceptic movie.” The cliffhanger ending of the movie was shown after which Deeley explained how it would have been resolved at the beginning of the proposed sequel*. Noel Coward was cast to counter-balance Caine and because Deeley wanted to distinguish the film from a previous, seemingly light-hearted Caine comedy, Alfie (1966).
(Photo copyright: Mark Mawston)
Deeley became a corporate player in the 1970’s. He took over British Lion Films and was responsible for releasing The Wicker Man (1973) and Don't Look Now (1973). The former, a classic pagan horror tale starring Christopher Lee, Edward Woodward and Britt Ekland was the cause of much controversy for Deeley as he had been accused by director Robin Hardy and Christopher Lee of butchering the film for release. Deeley defended himself by stating that the only way the film could have been released was by cutting the running time. All the distributors had rejected the film and refused to show it leaving Deeley with a stark choice. His actions at least brought to the public a movie which otherwise would have gathered dust on a shelf. Deeley fondly explained how making David Bowie the alien figure in Nicholas Roeg’s surreal sci-fi poem, The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976) was perfect casting as the rock star was curiously detached from the norm. The entirely American-set movie was made by an entirely European crew who entered the United States and completed the film on tourist visas – an industry first, thought Deeley, chuckling!
Deeley then went on to discuss having to take over the 1978 trucker movie, Convoy from an increasingly drug-addled Sam Peckinpah (he pronounced it “Peckinpaw”). He felt Sam by this time was a lost soul but also recalled the powerful commercial value of the director’s name. Another problem director was Michael Cimino with whom Deeley worked on The Deer Hunter. He felt Cimino misled the production company by allegedly subcontracting script-writing duties to a third party. Deeley was forthright in his condemnation of Cimino as a responsible film maker and cited a recent Vanity Fair magazine article detailing the eccentricities of this notorious director.
Deeley’s crowning creative achievement was producing Blade Runner. The film, based on Philip K. Dick’s story, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? Had started life as more romantic tale but when Ridley Scott got on board, it developed into something harder and darker. The physicality of the production alienated the director from its star, Harrison Ford, whom Deeley described as a gentleman. He believed the summer release of the movie harmed its box office and would have preferred a more Oscar-friendly staged release nearer Christmas.
Opened up to the audience for questions, Deeley, when asked whether he thought the industry had changed by being ruled by lawyers and accountants stated that it was ever thus: the industry had always been ruled by suits. He shuddered (much to the audience’s amusement) at the suggestion the Blade Runner should be remade and explained how films benefited from national funding based on audience attendance.
It was a fascinating evening. Deeley was particularly unsentimental. He does not own his films on DVD and only watched them while preparing his autobiography. In dealing with Deeley, Field was coolly knowledgeable and the two colleagues displayed confident chemistry. Deeley refreshingly expressed robust opinions with the dry, sly wit and confidence of a man who has lived a full and rewarding life in the picture business and does not need to kow tow to the dictates of an industry dominated by maintaining personal relationships. The audience was treated to a insight of that rare animal: a British producer who stood at the top of his field in the UK and America and who has caused an idiosyncratic list of classic films to be made.
*oh, you wanna know how it ended?! The sequel was to have begun with the sound of roaring helicopters with cables attached to the back of the bus, decanting the British crew and, er, repatriating the gold to the Italian Mafia! -Ajay Chowdhury is the editor of the James Bond magazine Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
It’s always a little
disturbing to hear people getting excited by acts of violence, but with the
announcement of the extended version of the fourth, and darkest, instalment of
the hugely popular Planet of the Apes saga Conquest of the Planet of
the Apes being included on the 40th Anniversary Blue-ray box
set, surely Ape fans, who have waited 36 years to see it in its entirety, can
be forgiven for feeling elated over deleted scenes of brutality.Just to elaborate briefly on the previous
write-up posted on Friday, September 5, 2008 the graphic scenes that were
chopped were deemed too violent by executives at 20th Century Fox
Studio and felt it would alienate their already well-established family
audience – ultimately leading to a loss of money, no doubt.A case in point was when an early screening
in Phoenix lead to a flood of complaints opposing to the cruelty to animals by
the human race.But the
African-Americans who were among the privileged few who saw a preview in Los
Angeles loved it as they could relate to the injustice of ape slavery and the
oppressive behaviour of the white man.
After hearing the difference
of opinions regarding the antagonistic content of the film between the two
audiences director J. Lee Thompson soon found himself caught between a rock and
a hard place; on the one hand he had to appease the younger audience, and on
the other hand he wanted to make a social and political statement that
reflected the riots between the black and the white populace that was making
headlines across America.Consequently,
in order to obtain a PG rating the studio requested several scenes to be
chopped and the climax watered down showing the apes’ leader Caesar, played by
the brilliant Roddy McDowall, as a more compassionate character than what was
initially proposed.Over the years,
everyone has come to accept that this is the only version that was ever
distributed worldwide in 1972.
But according to producer
Arthur P. Jacobs in a newspaper interview from June 1972, there were in fact
three versions of Conquest being shown around the globe.The first was the aforementioned standard
88-minute US edit, which is the one that has been available on home video and
DVD and screened repeatedly on TV.The
second was specifically meant for UK cinema audiences and suffered further
splicing (apparently at least an extra seven scenes) thanks to the censors - an
action Jacobs deemed “ridiculous for a fantasy picture.”The third and most violent of the three was
shown in Japan.“They can’t get enough
violence and blood in their pictures,” commented Jacobs “and demand more of
ours.”It seems likely then that the
newly restored version is the same as the one that was shown in Japan in ’72;
making the Japanese moviegoers the only ones fortunate enough to have seen it
on general release the way Thompson intended it to be seen – in all its vicious
glory.Publicity for the film in Japan
included several people wearing ape masks parading human victims around the
streets by metal leashes whilst some carried rifles.
Interestingly, due to Ape-mania spreading to the Far East, a half-hour television series was produced
in Japan in 1974 by Tsuburaya Productions called Saru no gundan (Army
of the Apes) and lasted 26 episodes (not to be confused with the American
series which aired the same year).It
was then re-edited and dubbed into English as a film ten years later by
“legendary” American producer Sandy Frank and distributed internationally as Time
of the Apes.The result is best
described as an appalling mess and should not serve as a representative of the
original Japanese series nor the original five Apes films released by Fox
between 1968 and 1973.
But for many fans the uncut
version of Conquest is the Holy Grail.At last it can now be seen complete with the missing 9-minutes, and
discussions will inevitably arise as to whether the hierarchy at Fox were right
to give the order to tone down the bloody scenes involving the apes’
revolt.Hail Caesar!Let the debate begin!
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Cinema Retro columnist Tom Lisanti with actress Gail Gerber, who returns to the screen after a long absence in Lucky Days
The independent feature Lucky Days had its New York premiere recently at the Coney Island Film Festival, where it was awarded the coveted Best Feature prize. The auditorium was packed and amongst the audience was many of the film’s stars including Angelica Page Torn, Rip Torn, Luke Zarzecki, Federico Castelluccio, Marilyn Sokol, Tom Wolfe, and Gail Gerber who all came on stage to field questions from the audience afterwards.
The legendary Coney Island boardwalk, setting of the film.
Lucky Days is an entertaining comedy-drama slice of life beautifully filmed on location in Coney Island capturing the essence of the area as we know it now before real estate developers move in soon to change the landscape. Angelica Page Torn, who wrote the screenplay and co-directed with her brother Tony Torn, gives a tour-de-force performance as Virginia a sad thirtysomething woman trapped living with her needy mother (the hysterical Sokol) and drug-addled stripper sister (Tina Benko) with four daughters while hoping to finally receive an engagement ring after 18 years from her Italian boyfriend Vincent (Castelluccio who is excellent as the bullying goomba). But a fortuitous encounter with her childhood sweetheart (the charming Zarzecki), who wants to see his brother (Will Patton) a patient in the psyche ward where Virginia works, opens her eyes to discover the secreted truths about her pathetic family and the abusive two-timing Vincent during the last summer weekend in Coney Island. Also in the cast are Anne Jackson miscast as Vincent’s disapproving mother, Tom Wolfe as one of the many Coney Island denizens who help hide Vincent’s cheating ways from Virginia, Gail Gerber delightful as a crazy patient infatuated with Patton, and Rip Torn in a cameo as Vincent’s put-upon father.
After the successful screening, some of the cast with friends strolled along the misty boardwalk heading to Tatiana Restaurant in Brighton Beach for a Russian dinner and to celebrate the excellent reaction the film received from the audience. (All photos courtesy of Ernie DeLia)
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Signpost from the Pinewood Studios road named after 007 producer Albert R. Broccoli. (Photo copyright Dave Worrall. All rights reserved.)
The popular movie news web site www.ign.com has a new report on the recent Sony/Eon Productions press junket to the legendary Pinewood Studios in conjunction with the forthcoming James Bond flick Quantum Of Solace. Cinema Retro's Dave Worrall served as guide for the event. To read click here
Here's a rare video of John Wayne guesting on The Dean Martin Show in the mid-1960s. The duo appear on horseback and Duke mentions his new western with Kirk Douglas (The War Wagon). Can you name the two westerns that Dean Martin and John Wayne co-starred in? (Answer below) Click here to watch video