Hirschfeld's rendering of Sean Connery and Ursula Andress, used in the film's original publicity campaign. (Image: Greenbriar Picture Show)
John McElwee's wonderful nostalgia movie site, the Greenbriar Picture Show features his personal memories of seeing the first James Bond movie, Dr. No - and how it has held up over the decades. McElwee analyzes the differences between this early characterization of Bond and those found in future entries in the series. To read click here
I loved the story on Castle Films. As kids, my best friend and I would show our
collection of Castle Films in our backyards to the neighborhood kids. We ran
(poorly) synchronized classical music on reel-to-reel tape with each movie. We
even had two projectors so the show would never stop. Just like the real
movie theatres had.
I've attached pictures of some of the Castle
Films I have. I still have every title I ever bought. I started collecting the
Universal Horror movies but branched out into other areas as time went
May I suggest a very good reference book, "Castle Films: A Hobbyists
Scott McGilvery? It lists every Castle Films title ever
Thanks a lot, Bob- it just whets my appetite for those days when seeing even a fraction of a film in B&W without sound would send your heart racing. I still think these ten minute condensations of movies are probably still more complete and dignified than what the networks show! Thanks also for the tip on the Castle Films guide book. We've added it to the Retro Amazon Store. To purchase click here
In a column for the New York Times, writer Brent Staples offers some insightful opinions about how the recent remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still falls flat when compared to Robert Wise's original film. Staples points out that the recent obsession with all things CGI has robbed the sci-fi film genre of the key ingredient of character development. To read click here
CNN.com has a new interview with Clint Eastwood in which the screen legends expresses his views on acting, directing, his latest film projects and his impatience with today's politically correct society. Click here to read
Ann Savage, who memorably played the sultry femme fatale in the 1945 film noir classic Detour, has died at age 87. Although Savage appeared in more than 30 films throughout her career, she is best remembered for this B movie gem which largely benefited from the fact that Martin Scorsese championed it as one of his favorite films of all time. Savage had recently made a late career comeback, gaining good reviews for her performance in the 2007 film My Winnipeg. For more click here
Author and playwright Dale Wasserman has died at age 94. Wasserman is known primarily for writing the book upon which the classic musical Man of La Mancha was based. The play, which opened in 1965, has been a perennial favorite for theater-goers around the world. It tells the story of the whimsical dreamer Don Quixote and features the famous song The Impossible Dream. Wasserman was also credited for bringing attention to writer Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by adapting Kesey's book for the original version on the New York stage in 1963. Although this production, which starred Kirk Douglas, was an initial flop, Kesey gave kudos to Wasserman's adaptation for the play's ultimate success and eventual emergence as an Oscar-winning film in 1975. Wasserman also occasionally dabbled in screenwriting with his most notable success the hit 1958 adventure The Vikings which starred Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis. He had completed a new play shortly before his death. For more click here
Regarding Lee Pfeiffer's piece on Heather Mills from November 22, 2007: Does Mr.
Pfeiffer actually believe the words "the wretched refuse of your teeming shore"
were written by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the designer of the Statue of
Liberty? Bartholdi was a sculptor, not a poet. Those famous words, of course,
come from the poem "The New Colossus" which is inscribed on the tablet at the
base of the statue, and which was penned by Emma Lazarus. A man with Pfeiffer's
credentials really ought to know better -- especially if he's a New Jerseyite!
- Scot Penslar
Retro Replies: Good job, Scott...naturally I knew the information was incorrect all along and was merely hoping to find someone intelligent enough to see through the misinformation....And if you believe that, you probably thought Liberace was well cast as that devilish lady's man in Sincerely Yours! I'm afraid this is just another example of why film scholars make lousy poets. Personally, I'm incapable of understanding any prose that doesn't begin with "Roses are red, violets are blue..." Thanks for setting me straight- and more important, thanks for assuming someone from New Jersey's intelligence can actually be underestimated!- Lee Pfeiffer
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Eartha Kitt, who overcame an impoverished childhood in segregated South Carolina to become a legend of stage and screen, died from cancer on Christmas Day at age 81. Kitt was discovered performing in Paris by Orson Welles in the 1950s and rose to fame and fortune on Broadway and through her chart-topping, soulful recordings. (Her sexy Santa Baby remains a mainstay on radio stations during the holiday season.) Kitt was an activist when it was not fashionable for celebrities to speak out. At a White House luncheon with Lady Bird Johnson in 1966, Kitt stunned the world by publicly chastising the First Lady about Vietnam War policy. This resulted in her being investigated by the FBI. However, during this period, she also thrived through her acting roles - landing an Emmy nomination as Bill Cosby's love interest in a ground-breaking episode of I Spy - at a time when most African American roles on TV were presented in a comedic or condescending manner. She is also remembered by fans for taking over the role of Catwoman from Julie Newmar on the Batman TV series. Kitt remained enormously popular throughout her career and authored three autobiographies. For more click here
Harold Pinter, one of the most acclaimed and innovative playwrights of the 20th century, passed away on Christmas Eve at age 78 after a battle with cancer. Pinter's plays took England by storm in the 1960s and his popularity rapidly expanded around the world. He was credited with bringing intimacy back into theatrical productions. His plays, such as The Caretaker, No Man's Land, The Homecoming and The Birthday Party, were generally claustrophobic affairs that dealt with tensions within dysfunctional families. The British-born Nobel Prize winner was often a lightening rod for controversy due to his radical, left-wing politics. Pinter once refused a knighthood from Prime Minister John Major's government because he so loathed conservative policies. In recent years, he publicly lambasted both the British and American governments over the Iraq War. Pinter was multi-talented and also wrote screenplays for such films as The Go-Between, The French Lieutenant's Woman, The Quiller Memorandum and the recent remake of Sleuth. He also dabbled in acting, appearing in small roles in many major films. For more click here
I'm a huge fan of your magazine. I buy every copy. But is there a reason your website seems to take such malicious glee in bad reviews given to Will Smith and Tom Cruise? It's very unbecoming and lacking in class, in my opinion. Especially since you seem to cherry-pick the worst things said. A grudge perhaps, or just hatred for current stars?
Retro responds: "Et tu, Darin?" You're judging us a bit harshly - our obligation is to report what the general views of the industry and critics are toward certain films. Hundreds of thousands of readers worldwide read our site every month to get this kind of candid reporting. For the record, Tom Cruise's Valkyrie has been a much-troubled production, as has been widely reported over the last year. Will Smith's Seven Pounds has received mediocre reviews and has opened softly at the box-office. Those are facts, not opinions. However, for the record, we're big fans of both Cruise and Smith. I've personally never seen Cruise give a bad performance and his fine work in his early films like Rain Man and The Color of Money was often overshadowed by more flamboyant work from his legendary co-stars. His self-imposed melt-down during the 2005 War of the Worlds publicity tour did not diminish what we felt was his terrific performance in the film. Furthermore, we're really looking forward to seeing Valkyrie. In fact, back when everyone was bashing him for making a WWII film, Cinema Retro was about the only media outlet to defend his decision. (Read the archived article here) We think it's terrific he's reminding people about one of the most dramatic periods in world history- and shining a spotlight on the heroic attempts by German officers to assassinate Hitler. As for Will Smith, we have long said he is perhaps the only true remaining movie star in the world - a person whose name alone generally brings crowds to theaters. Like Cruise, he's never given a bad performance even when some of his films don't live up to expectations.Finally, our love for old movies doesn't mean we're unappreciative of the great films being made today- and there are plenty. There are also many wonderful actors who we enjoy immensely. However, there is probably no dispute that the golden age of Hollywood probably ended in the 1970s - and it's unlikely we'll see the kinds of star power that existed up until then any time soon.
Finally, we can take criticism as well as anyone - but you've crossed a line by implying we are classless! How can you say such a thing when both Dave Worrall and I adorn our living rooms with those classy velvet paintings of dogs playing poker? In fact, I'm going down to my local corner gas station to pick up another right now!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for your support of Cinema Retro.
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Only in New York could a serene loop of fireplace footage cause controversy. However, The New York Times reports on the debates that have inflamed fans of the Yule Log over the decades. What is the Yule Log? Back in 1966, local New York TV station WPIX (Channel 11) made the decision to dedicate several hours of uninterrupted air time to showing a six-minute loop of a burning fireplace. Famous singers were heard crooning classic Christmas carols, adding to the enjoyment of the serene setting. When the station once canceled the tradition, the uproar was so intense that it has been shown ever since. Tomorrow, WPIX will show the Yule Log between 9:00 AM and 1:00 PM, giving frantic New Yorkers a bit of nostalgia and relaxation. However, as the Times reports, there are many faux versions of the log making the rounds on DVD - and, thus, a controversy about the fireplace footage has been ignited. To read click here
WELCOME TO RETRO-ACTIVE: THIS FEATURE ALLOWS NEW READERS TO CATCH UP WITH ARTICLES FROM OUR ARCHIVES THAT THEY MAY HAVE MISSED. THIS PIECE ORIGINALLY RAN IN AUGUST 2007.
Back when the Betamax was qualified to be included in Disney's "World of Tomorrow" exhibit, movie fanatics had few choices when it came to acquiring their favorite films and watching them at their convenience. The hardcore elitists collected bootleg prints on 16mm and 35mm, but those who played by the rules had to suffice with official studio condensations of classic movies on 8mm (and later Super 8mm). Initially, these even lacked sound but as technology progressed, the more upscale projection systems could allow you to watch these gems with their original soundtracks intact. The only problem was that the films were cut down worse than the features shown on the old 90 miinute daily 4:30 Movie in New York City. For example, you could enjoy Ben-Hur in
a convenient, 18 minute edition. (It must have opened with the
Crucifixtion!) The advent of home video in the mid 1970s was the death
knell for the
hobby, though 8mm provides a high quality way to enjoy a film. There
are still hoardes of movie collectors who continue to purchase movies
on actual film, feeling it is the purest way to watch a movie. However,
there numbers are doubtlessly shrinking as a younger generation is
preoccupied by the increasingly sophisticated video projection systems
which often display a picture that approaches the quality of film
These 8mm editions were generally marketed as "highlights" of the feature film. In the 1960s most were distributed by Castle Films and featured gloriously cheesy box art that has become highly collectible. As the hobby matured, so did the marketing and by the 1970s the cover art generally reproduced a still from the film or the original poster art. In England, fans had a more desirable situation: if they could shell out relatively serious money, they were allowed to legally purchase entire 8mm feature films - though, curiously, 16mm prints were all but forbidden in the UK and had to be dealt with through a collector's "underground". The one remaining vibrant source for 8mm and 16mm is Derann
Films which has been servicing collectors worldwide since 1964. Located
in England, the company still makes prints of 8mm and 16mm feature
films available, along with unusual shorts and trailers. (We once
purchased a reel of British cinema advertisements used to get patrons
to the snack stand- only to find young pre-James Bond George Lazenby
slurping an ice cream cone in one of the spots!) To visit Derann's web
site click here
If you have a memory or anecdote you'd like to share about collecting movies on 8mm film, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Major Dundee release was unusual because it was not excerpted from the feature film. Rather, it was the original promotional featurette.
She made cinema history in Frank Capra's Christmas classic It's a Wonderful Life playing Jimmy Stewart's youngest daughter ZuZu. But life has been far from wonderful for Karolyn Grimes, who played the role. Now 68 years old, Karolyn has suffered being orphaned as a teenager, watching two husbands die, a child commit suicide and losing her stepchildren in a court battle. Yet in true Capra-esque style, she maintains a sunny outlook and finds solace from the fact that a half century later, millions of people are still moved and inspired by the film. London's Daily Mirror has an interview with Karolyn. Click here to read.
Brando primarily agreed to star in Mutiny on the Bounty because he was obsessed with sampling the favors of Tahitian women.
Marlon Brando was a genius in terms of his acting ability, but in his personal life, his behavior was wildly erratic. Prone to crazy mood swings, he could be an obnoxious bully one moment and a charming, caring individual the next. Only one woman managed to withstand being with him over the decades: his longtime personal assistant Alice Marchak, who became his friend, advisor, secretary and in his sad final days, only companion. Brando's life was one of soaring triumphs and great wealth, but in the end he had squandered everything he had. Grotesquely overweight and penniless, he fully planned on creating a line of merchandise that he would hawk on the QVC shopping network while dressed in drag. Death prevented him from participating in this final indignity. Marchak's new book Me and Marlon reveals shocking details about the bizarre life of the reluctant Oscar winner - including his self-professed addiction to sex. Click here to read an extended excerpt.
Great review on Gran Torino. I appreciate your good work. I
will make it a point to see the film over the holidays. In an earlier
piece, you mentioned Baz Luhrmann remaking The Great Gatsby. His might actually
be the 'fourth' movie version of that story. It was originally done in the
1920's as a silent film. Only the trailer for that version survives, but it's
very striking. I understand the Alan Ladd version from the 1940's can be found
in some bootleg videos, but a solid fine-grain 35mm print is unavailable. That
leaves the 1970's Robert Redford version as the only available version by
default. Not a bad movie, but kind of a backwards compliment, I suppose. Thanks
again and Merry Christmas,
Retro Responds: Thanks, Bill - you're right - I had forgotten about the "lost" version of Gatsby that starred Warner Baxter. A pity it's been lost to the ages with only a one minute trailer preserved. As for the Alan Ladd version, it's never been released on home video supposedly because of legal issues, though the lack of of a decent master print may also have contributed to this dilemma. However, we both overlooked yet another filmed version of the story that no one seems to remember: this one was shot for the A&E TV network in the year 2000 and starred Toby Stephens and Mira Sorvino. Stephens, of course, would go on to play the Bond villain Gustav Graves in Die Another Day. - Lee Pfeiffer
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The good folks at the Egotastic! web site have done another great humanitarian service by posting some - er, titillating photos of Marisa Tomei in her acclaimed performance as a stripper in The Wrestler. As you know, we at Cinema Retro blush real easy so we'll only publish this teaser shot....but if you're sense of morality is as low as ours, you won't be able to resist clicking here to see an abundance of other shots of the 44 year-old Oscar winner - as well as a slew of revealing photos of other famous actresses.
Director Robert Mulligan, beloved by actors for his low-key style and temperament behind the camera, has passed away at age 83. Mulligan began directing in live TV productions in the 1950s but graduated to feature films with the acclaimed production of Fear Strikes Out. His career highlight was helming the 1962 classic screen adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird for which he was nominated for an Oscar. Under his direction, star Gregory Peck won the Best Actor Academy Award for his immortal performance as Atticus Finch in the film. Mulligan never directed blockbuster hits, but several of his productions proved to be extremely popular with audiences and critics. Among them: Come September, Love With the Proper Stranger, Baby, The Rain Must Fall (the latter two starring Steve McQueen), Up the Down Staircase, Summer of '42 and the bittersweet comedy Same Time, Next Year. However, some of his best work remained under-rated, including such films as The Rat Race, Inside Daisy Clover, and his one foray into the supernatural, his creepy 1972 screen adaptation of author Thomas Tryon's The Other. He and Gregory Peck had also reunited in 1968 for the superb western thriller The Stalking Moon which found Peck's character relentlessly pursued by a murderous but unseen Indian chief. For more on Mulligan click here
years ago today, Sergio Leone’s Once Upon
a Time in the West had its world première in Rome, an event which, it goes
without saying, should not be allowed to pass without notice, even though that
is precisely what seems to have happened throughout this anniversary year.
Whereas 2005 saw the opening of the Once
Upon a Time in Italy...: The Westerns of Sergio Leone exhibition at the
Autry Museum in Los Angeles, followed, in 2006, by commemorative events marking
the fortieth anniversary of The Good, the
Bad and Ugly, and a season of Italian Westerns at the 2007 Venice film
Festival, 2008 has come and (almost) gone with not so much as a screeching
train whistle sounded in celebration of what is often called “the greatest
Western ever made”.
was, of course, a showing of the newly restored version of the film at the
Samuel Goldwyn Theater in L.A. in June, which was billed by the Academy of
Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as marking “the 40th anniversary of
the film’s 1968 release in Italy”, though the fact the restoration had already
been shown at the Rome Film Festival in October, 2007, suggested that this was
more a matter of convenient timing than a committed attempt to celebrate the
Great Event. Even when the restoration played, as part of the London Film Festival,
to a packed house in Leicester Square this October, it was left to Sir
Christopher Frayling to make the point in his introduction that it was in fact the film’s fortieth
anniversary. He could also, had he wished, have drawn attention to the irony of
Paramount Pictures paying what one can safely assume was considerably more than
a fistful of dollars to restore a film which they themselves had butchered in
the first place (giving it, in the memorable words of films & filming’s David Austen, “the appearance of having been
savaged by a rampant lawn-mower”), but was, of course, far too polite to do so.
such screenings may certainly be considered better than a poke in the eye with
a pointed stick, they nonetheless fall far short of what might – and ought – to have been done. Open-air
showings in Monument Valley, for instance, exhibitions in Almería and at
Cinecittà Studios, a special concert to mark both the film’s release and the recent eightieth birthday of
composer Ennio Morricone, the carving of Charles Bronson’s face into Mount
Rushmore – to name only the most obvious.
way, however, this muted (or, to be blunt, virtually non-existent) response
mirrors the film’s initial reception in 1968-1969. In Italy, it made a
respectable box-office showing, though less so than The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. In France, it proved hugely
popular, running in Paris for two years. But in America, the shortened (by some
twenty-odd minutes) version took only one million dollars before being
consigned to cinematic Boot Hill, the words of Time magazine’s verdict carved on its marker: “Tedium in the
Tumbleweed”. Audiences expecting another installment in the Dollars series were disappointed by the film’s deliberate pace and
relative lack of action and humour (to say nothing of the fact that the story,
post-Paramount cuts, didn’t make much sense). And critics, many of whom were
hostile to the very idea of Italian Westerns, unwisely chose to dismiss the
film instead of reserving judgment (as the aforementioned David Austen did)
until a more complete version was made available. Nor were they prepared to
accept what Christopher Frayling terms Leone’s decision to collide “fairy tale
images of the West with the real thing,” which, as John Gillett darkly put it
in the Monthly Film Bulletin,
suggested “that Leone has set out to make a Western for Art.”
of course, Once Upon a Time in the West
has completed a comeback only marginally less improbable than George Foreman’s second
tenure as heavyweight champion of the world, regularly featuring in lists of
the Top Ten Westerns of all time, and finding an echo in films as diverse as
they are generally unworthy (Once Upon a
Time in Mexico, Once Upon a Time in
China, Once Upon a Time in the
Midlands), to say nothing of being championed by such notables as John
Boorman, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, John Carpenter, and Quentin Tarantino.
As Boorman so eloquently put it, “In Once
Upon a Time in the West the Western reaches its apotheosis. Leone’s title
is a declaration of intent and also his gift to America of its lost fairy
stories. This is the kind of masterpiece that can occur outside trends and
fashion. It is both the greatest and the last Western.”
year will see a double-bill of Leone anniversaries – the eightieth of his birth
and the twentieth of his death – and it is to be hoped that fitting
commemorative events will be arranged to mark both occasions (as well as the
release of Once Upon a Time in the West
outside Italy). At present, Sir Christopher Frayling, the man who has done more
for Leone’s reputation than anyone else, is in discussion with the Italian
Cultural Institute in London to arrange a Leone symposium, complete with
exhibition and screenings, for April, the month of Leone’s death. And surely it
would take little effort to persuade Ennio Morricone to arrange a special
concert in honour of his greatest collaborator and friend? And then there’s
Rome, and Almería, and Arizona . . . In the Chinese calendar, 2009 is
designated the Year of the Ox, but among aficionados of Sergio Leone, the
Western, and great cinema, it will be surely be known as the Year of the Lion .
Cinema Retro London correspondent Adrian Smith reports that Disney's just-released limited edition DVD of Walt Disney's 1964 classic The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh has already sold out and is commanding premium prices on the collector's circuit. The DVD contains the three-part series starring Patrick McGoohan as well as a feature film that was edited from the various episodes. We don't know if Disney has any plans to reissue the title anytime soon, though our guess is that they will - this time as a "non-limited edition" title. It's good to see that public interest hasn't waned over the decades for this Disney classic.
I caught up with Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino at Robert DeNiro's Tribeca Screening Room in New York the other night. I have to admit I was optimistic, given the fine reviews the movie has received. While in production, it didn't sound very promising. The title alone is rather vague with its bland reference to a 1972 car, which I learned to drive in (Not very well at the time, which may have explained my skepticism). However, Eastwood is a master at surprising the audience. Million Dollar Baby came out of nowhere with no fanfare and a title that made it sound like an old Busby Berkeley musical. Yet, it received universal critical acclaim and won the major Oscars that year. Gran Torino is a similar experience. Shot in a little over a month with very little publicity, this is the film that lured Eastwood back to acting after stating that Million Dollar Baby would be his last time before the cameras. Good thing he had a change of heart, as this is the performance of his career. Having grown up (literally) on Eastwood's films - and having been an childhood addict of the Leone Dollars films - I have always been an admirer of the iconic star. However, with few exceptions, I would not say any of his performances have been worthy of Oscar consideration. Certainly, he earned his nominations for his superb work in Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby. However, I always felt that -like John Wayne and Cary Grant- he was such a towering screen presence that audiences would never be able to accept him playing an everyday character like the guy next door. In Gran Torino he proves otherwise and delivers a performance of great depth and skill. He should be the front runner for the Best Actor Oscar, but his failure to nab a Golden Globe nomination may not bode well for the honor.
The film finds Eastwood, who refreshingly always plays his true age, as Walt Kowalski, a grumpy recently-widowed man who lives in a suburban Michigan neighborhood that is gradually being overtaken by Hmong immigrants. Kowalski, who worked fifty years on a Ford assembly line, can barely hide his disgust at feeling like a stranger in his own land. He mutters racial insults every time his neighbors set foot on is property and seems content to seal off the world and live out the rest of his days sitting on his front porch drinking cheap Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and smoking cigarettes. When some Hmong gangbangers try to forcibly recruit his teenage neighbor Thao (charismatic Bee Vang), Walt reluctantly intervenes, thus making him a hero to his grateful neighbors. He wants no part of them and shuts out their attempts to show their gratitude. When Thao is forced into making an ill-fated attempt to steal Walt's prized Gran Torino, the family makes the young man redeem his honor by having him work at odd-jobs at Walt's house. A tense relationship ensues, but ultimately Walt sees that the sensitive young man is doomed if he falls under the spell of the gangbangers. He gradually becomes a mentor and father figure to the young man and his older sister (superbly played by Ahney Her) and before long, Walt is a welcome, if awkward presence in his neighbor's house. Eastwood milks the subtle humor of this situation for all it's worth as he tries to open his eyes and accept the value of another culture. He realizes the Hmong are good people with the same values he has, but they are being terrorized by wayward members of their own community. When the threat becomes so implicit that it will destroy the young man he has mentored, Walt decides to take drastic action to resolve the situation in a highly creative manner.
Eastwood the director is at the top of his game here and does not spare Eastwood the actor any semblance of vanity. Almost defiantly proud of his 78 years of age, Eastwood has the camera focus in intense close-ups on his face, making it appear like a weather-beaten sail. The excellent script by novice screenwriter Nick Schenk has many parallels to John Wayne's final film The Shootist - and I'm amazed that no other critic I'm aware of has yet to point them out. The homage is certainly intentional. Consider:
In both films, an aging tough guy forms an unlikely friendship with a young man (Ron Howard in The Shootist) who is being lured into a wayward life style.
There is the presence of a strong female family member who encourages him to act as a mentor. (In the Wayne film, Lauren Bacall played Howard's mother). In Gran Torino, the role is given to Thao's sister.
In both films, the aging hero just wants to be left alone to live out his remaining days in solitude, but he becomes reluctantly drawn into a world of violence in order to protect the people he cares about.
There are also key scenes set in barber shops. In The Shootist, there is a humorous sequence in which Wayne's character humiliates a vulture-like undertaker played by John Carradine. In Gran Torino, the barber (John Carroll Lynch) is a friend of Walt's who helps him "initiate" young Thao into the world of real men by hurling good-natured, filthy ethnic insults at one another.
Finally, in The Shootist, the distressed Wayne character gets some solace and advice from a sympathetic doctor (James Stewart). In Gran Torino, it's a young priest (an excellent Christopher Carley) who manages to finally break through to Walt Kowalski.
The most obvious parallel to The Shootist is that it afforded John Wayne perhaps his greatest performance in the last movie he ever made. Fortunately, Eastwood is in able enough shape to continue directing films, but there is a real chance this might be his last acting role. If not, it will be hard to top. He magnificently manages to convey the image of an every day working stiff - and I knew he had succeeded when it didn't look silly or pretentious to see Clint Eastwood mowing a lawn (with a push mower, yet!). The film succeeds beautifully on all levels and puts to shame the over-produced, over-budgeted hokum coming out of most studios. Working mean and lean with members of his fabled Malpaso Productions, Eastwood manages to get superb performances from his entire cast. The ending is emotionally riveting, even when it takes a surprising turn. To top it off, Eastwood also wrote the haunting title song and croaks out part of it as well. Back in the early 1980s I wrote a book called The Films of Clint Eastwood. I remember my editor being astounded at its success. He said to me, "But you treated him like he was some kind of world-class filmmaker". I'd like to find that editor today and take him to a screening of Gran Torino to see his response. I'm not one for saying "I told you so" but in this case, it would be merited.- Lee Pfeiffer
Van Williams and Bruce Lee in the 1960s TV series version of The Green Hornet.
Just when you thought long-planned big screen version of The Green Hornet couldn't get any weirder, what with Seth Rogen playing the title role, comes news that the director, Stephen Chow (Kung-Fu Hustle) has quit the project over the usual "creative differences" but will stay on as an actor to play the role of Kato! Whatever they put onscreen can't be any stranger than the way the flick is shaping up. For more click here
Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, has died at age 76. Majel was a professional actress and had spent a great deal of time nurturing the Star Trek series both with her husband and after his death. She appeared in several entries in the series and had just completed voice-over work on the forthcoming big screen version of Star Trek.
Bottoms with Francis Ford Coppola several years ago at the Cannes Film Festival for the director's release of Apocalypse Now Redux, the director's cut of the 1979 masterpiece.
Actor Sam Bottoms has died of brain cancer at age 53. Bottoms made his feature film debut opposite his brother Joseph in director Peter Bogdanovich's 1971 hit The Last Picture Show. Bottoms also had a prominent role in Clint Eastwood's hit 1976 western The Outlaw Josey Wales. In 1979, Bottoms made a memorable impression as Lance, the drugged-out, surfing-obesses hippie soldier who finds himself on a bizarre and seemingly suicidal mission in Vietnam and Cambodia in Francis Ford Coppola's masterpiece Apocalypse Now. For more click here
Peter Falk, the 81 year-old star of Columbo and many major feature films, is suffering from Alzheimer's Disease and cannot recognize the people around him. His daughter has applied for the legal right to handle his affairs. For more click here
Britain's Tomahawk Press have released their most ambitious book yet - consisting of a treasure trove of never-before-seen production stills from classic Hammer films. This is a limited edition volume and is absolutely essential for anyone with a love of these great movies. Here is their official press release.
Films - A Life in Pictures
Strictly Limited Edition Hardcover Book
240 pages, colour and B&W
265 x 190mm, hardback
byNigel Arthur -
Curator BFI Stills
year, several boxes of never-seen-before photos of Hammer Films productions was
archived by Hammer expert Wayne Kinsey for the British Film Institute. Kinsey
and the BFI were so impressed by the collection, that it was agreed the best
should be published.
these rare and mostly previously unseen images, Hammer Films – A Life in
Pictures tells the visual story of Hammer’s output. You will be guided
through this wonderful collection of photos by Kinsey himself,the celebrated
author of Hammer Films – the Elstree Studios Years and Hammer Films –
the Bray Studios Years. Hammer Films – A Life in Pictures
explores the wider and fascinating side of one of the British film industry's
greatest success stories, showing once and for all that Hammer was not just a
purveyor of cheap horror pictures.
fact, they made films in a number of different genres such as war thrillers,
gritty dramas, comedies and colourful swashbuckling adventures. Some of these
were among their best films; 1959 is a case in point which included such
classics as Never Take Sweets from a Stranger, Hell is a City and
Yesterday's Enemy, the latter of which earned Hammer BAFTA nominations
for best picture, best actor and best supporting actor. Hammer's films also
benefited from an expert team of actors and technicians, including big names
that on first glance would never have thought to be associated with Hammer
including Robert Aldrich, Ken Adam, Joe Losey, Bette Davis, Tallulah Bankhead,
Donald Sutherland, Joan Fontaine, Richard Widmark, Ursula Andress and Raquel
This is a Limited Edition hardcover book (only 2500 copies worldwide) that is
destined to become a highly sought-after collectors’ item.
Warner Brothers has released the 1951 epic Quo Vadis starring Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr as a 2 DVD special edition. By this time in cinema history, the film had been made four times previously, but this is the first version made in the sound era. The Technicolor production epitomized MGM during its heyday, and of course carried the requisite promise that it would be the most spectacular film you'll ever see. The film never lived up to its hype and Robert Taylor remains that most puzzling of Hollywood success stories, as he was certainly among the dullest leading men of his time. Still, for those who enjoy traditional "tits and toga" epics, this one recalls a long gone era when such films had to be made by legitimate craftsmen instead of a few guys creating special effects at computer consoles. Kudos also to Warners for giving these films such first class presentations. For reviewer Glenn Erickson's take on the TCM web site click here
Unless you've been living in a cave for the last couple of days, you're aware of President Bush's less-than-successful farewell tour through Iraq. While addressing the Iraqi press corps, one irate journalist protested the U.S. invasion by tossing both of his shoes at the President, who managed to duck them with the skill of the Artful Dodger. Although no one can take much pleasure in seeing an American President humiliated on foreign soil, Bush's reaction to the incident was bizarre, to say the least. Among the words he used to describe the shoe-toss melee was "interesting" and said he did not feel offended by the man's actions! Despite the fact that his legacy rests entirely on his Mid East policies, the President also seemed ignorant of the fact that throwing a shoe at someone in that part of the world is the ultimate sign of disgust. Bush said, "So, somebody threw a shoe at me...", oblivious to the fact that the choice of objects to toss wasn't random. The President sounded as though the guy might just as easily have thrown a vintage Abba album at him if it was handy. In any event, it didn't take long before the spoof masters took advantage of the incident to create a memorable video in which the President stars with The Three Stooges. Click here to view.
Japanese release of Shirley Bassey's smash hit title song from Goldfinger
Harry Saltzman was a world-class producer who knew a great deal about how to make financial blockbusters, but when it came to soundtracks to his own films, he had a tin ear. The HMSS Weblog has an interesting story about how Saltzman tried to veto the theme songs from Goldfinger, Live and Let Die and Diamonds Are Forever. The article includes interesting clips from a UK documentary about the Bond soundtracks. Click here to view.
This book has been out for a while, but many Charles Bronson fans may not know of it's existence because of limited distribution. Bronson's Loose! is author Paul Talbot's meticulously researched ode to the Death Wish series starting with the 1974 box-office smash hit and extending through the film's deterioration into cartoon-like entries. Still, it's a fascinating read and one that any Bronson fan would want in their library.
Amazon Product Description
In the summer of 1974 the movie Death Wish stunned audiences with its powerful story of an enraged businessman who hits the streets with a handgun to avenge the brutal violation of his wife and daughter. The film packed theaters with cheering moviegoers, became one of the highest-grossing and most controversial movies of the year, and turned star Charles Bronson into the hottest screen icon in the world. Over the next twenty years, four increasingly-violent sequels delivered thrills to a growing legion of fans and solidified the legend of Charles Bronson. Now, for the first time, Death Wish fanatics, Bronson cultists, and action movie lovers will discover fascinating information about the series. In exclusive comments, director Michael Winner, actor Kevyn Major Howard, novelist Brian Garfield, and many others reveal what it was like to work on the Death Wish movies with one of the most charismatic and elusive stars of all time.
Covering every aspect of all five movies (including unused casting suggestions, deleted scenes and alternate cuts) and loaded with rare advertising artwork, Bronson’s Loose!: The Making of the “Death Wish” Films tells the compelling, untold story behind the most explosive action series in film history.
Aleph Records will be releasing the final Dirty Harry Soundtrack The Dead Pool on January 13th 2008. This was the fifth and final film of the Dirty Harry series. Lalo Schifrin, who composed the soundtracks for Dirty Harry, Magnum Force and Sudden Impact, wrote the original music. Aleph Records has released the soundtracks for the first four films, including The Enforcer, which was composed by Jerry Fielding.
Also released this month from Harkit records is the first ever release of Lalo Schifrin's Return from the River Kwai soundtrack and John Barry's The Dove also makes its debut release on CD. (Full reviews of both will be featured in issue #13 of Cinema Retro)
If you are looking for some great little retro stocking fillers for the holiday season, check out these releases from the Vocalion label, Favourite TV themes and Favourite TV themes Vol. 2 (originally released 1973 and 1975 respectfully) that appear for the first time on one CD, performed by Ray Martin and his orchestra. Containing 28 themes from both the US and UK, it is sure to provide some wonderful trips down Memory Lane. Also from Vocalion are another doubled up set of classic albums from 1959/60, Great Movie Hits Vol.1 and 2 containing some great musical moments from the Golden age of cinema including Three coins in a fountain, Secret Love, Limelight, The Harry Lime theme and a whole lot more. Nicely covered by Cyril Stapleton and His Orchestra, these re-releases of classic retro albums are certainly proving to be very popular with modern audiences.
Finally from Vocalion, a genre that doesn't quite get the exposure it fully deserves: library music. When it comes to library music, they don't really come much better than KPM. The music produced for these collections were pre- recorded and used for radio, film and TV. The sound originated from London's Denmark Street, which was known as 'Tin Pan Alley' due to the high proportion of music publishers and record labels whose offices were situated there.
KPM boasted a large number of fantastic composers including Alan Hawkshaw, John Scott, Keith Mansfield, Chris Gunning and Dave Gold. The music was stylish, dramatic and funky. Imagine a classic scene from 'The Sweeney' in the 70's or maybe a light funky groove from a classic TV drama and you’re immediately transported back in time via a super collection that is well worth checking out. - Darren Allison
Daniel Radcliffe in Equus: won't be letting it all hang out much longer
The recession is taking a heavy toll on Broadway. Major shows are scheduled to close by January 4 including Young Frankenstein, Equus, Boeing-Boeing, Grease and Hairspray. The resurgence of the American dollar has made it expensive for foreigners to visit the US and Broadway relies heavily on this tourist trade. For example, until recent months, the American dollar was trading at $2 against the British pound. Today, it is $1.47 to the pound. This makes it an attractive proposition for Americans to visit Britain, but an expensive endeavor for Brits to visit the USA. Broadway has always been a street of big dreams and small profits. While there are occasional blockbusters, the staggering overhead of putting on live, multi-million dollar productions has made it possible for plays to run for years without showing a net profit. Incredibly, the only shows to show a profit this season were revivals of The Seagull and All My Sons. This is surprising because it is usually musicals and comedies that do well while dramas suffer to break even. One of the main reasons for the downturn is the extravagant ticket prices which skyrocketed during the boom years of the 1990s. Standard orchestra sets now sell for over $100 a ticket to top shows. To combat the downturn, most productions are having fire sale specials on ticket prices. To get E mail discount offers, such as two-for-one specials, sign up for newsletters at sites such as Playbill.com and Broadway.com . For more click here
Our non-American readers may not be up on the latest Chicago political scandal that is dominating the news. Given that Chicago politics are seemingly inspired by the screenplay of Robin and the Seven Hoods, one would need a scroll to list all the politicos ensnared in corruption stings in recent years. Suffice it to say that four of the last eight governors of the state of Illinois have ended up in jail and Gov. Rod Blagojevich looks to carry on that proud tradition. The Gov knew he was under federal investigation for corruption, but that didn't stop him and his Lady MacBeth-like wife from engaging in phone conversations that were so vile and filled with corrupt schemes that it would have tested Martin Scorsese's ability to make it seem believable to the public. Suffice it to say that Blagojevich, a Democrat, has now given the much-oppressed Republican party a breather. Not only is the attention off their recent political scandals, but in terms of sheer stupidity, the Gov makes Sarah Palin look like Stephen Hawking. Why report this on a movie-based web site? Well, it's because we're convinced Blagojevich, who was arrested on corruption charges, should have another major crime lodged against him: impersonating an actor. He seems to have been stuck in a time warp and has emerged thinking he is actor William Devane, circa 1970s, when the thespian sported one of the worst hairdos in Hollywood history: a seemingly unmoveable clump that looked like it couldn't be dislodged by a blast of TNT. Well, let's hope the Gov has some acting ability himself- he can put it to good use when he's organizing those jailhouse entertainment shows like those other loveable crooks from The Producers. - Lee Pfeiffer
Blast from the past: the Gov's hirsute chapeau is his worst crime - but the only one he hasn't been arrested for. We're expecting an "Impersonating an Actor" lawsuit to be filed by William Devane.
One of Hollywood's last living actors associated with the glory days of the film industry has passed away. Van Johnson, one of the industry's glamour boys, was 92 years old. Although he never broke through to superstardom, Johnson was a popular leading man whose career peaked in the 1950s. Generally relegated to playing romantic leads, Johnson's good looks might well have prevented him from getting more interesting roles. By the 1960s, he landed prominent roles in a few "A" list studio pictures like Wives and Lovers and Divorce, American Style but from there it was basically a downhill ride. Throughout the ensuing years, he appeared largely in B movies and little-seen Euro trash productions, though he did have a supporting role in Woody Allen's 1985 film The Purple Rose of Cairo. In a column about Johnson's career, Entertainment Weekly appropriately notes that the high point was his superb performance in the 1954 screen version of The Caine Mutiny in which Johnson finds himself in the awkward position of having to assume command of a U.S. Navy warship when he deems his captain (Humphrey Bogart) as being unfit to steer the vessel through a typhoon. Here, Johnson held his own against such heavyweights as Bogart, Fred MacMurry and Jose Ferrer. For more click here
Van Johnson (left) with Robert Francis and Fred MacMurray in The Caine Mutiny.
Bettie was on the receiving end in this fetish photo, typical of her work in the 1950s.
As we reported earlier in the week, model Bettie Page, who brought S&M and domination-based modeling into the mainstream in the 1950s, had suffered a serious heart attack. Today she passed away in a Los Angeles hospital. Hugh Hefner said of the 85 year-old Page," I think that she was a remarkable lady, an iconic figure in pop culture who influenced sexuality, taste in fashion, someone who had a tremendous impact on our society." For details click here
The latest is the seemingly endless string of irresistible DVD collections comes from the good folks at Timeless Video, who have distinguished themselves with some first-class releases of vintage TV series. The latest is their most impressive yet: the 1950s crime series M Squad which helped groom Lee Marvin from supporting actor to leading man presence. Marvin is the stalwart Lt. Frank Ballinger, a Chicago cop who is so unrelentingly serious that he makes Jack Webb look like Richard Simmons. The series was part of the wave of crime shows that flooded the networks during this era, and M Squad was one of the best. The show ran three seasons and was compromised only by the half-hour time running time which made for some abbreviated storylines. The series is a gem in terms of the kinds of cornball cliches that have become part of our pop culture. I always assumed the Frank Drebin character played by Leslie Nielsen in The Naked Gun films had been inspired by Joe Friday of Dragnet. However, one glimpse at M Squad proves this series was the real inspiration. It's hard not to think of Nielsen when Marvin is rousting the bad guys. I confess to only having sampled the set, because it includes a staggering 117 episodes. The video quality varies but Timeless acknowledges it was a Herculean task to track down original film elements, so we have to be grateful that the show has been made available in its entirety. There is also a cool bonus extra: a full soundtrack CD of Stanley Wilson's great jazz score. M Squad is arresting entertainment (I can't believe I wrote that!) and you should make sure the series has a prominent place in your video library.- Lee Pfeiffer
The series is available exclusively from Timeless Media. Click here to order.
Here is the official press release:
One of the most memorable of the early television police dramas, M Squad debuted in 1957 running for three seasons on NBC.
There were many black and white crime dramas competing for viewers in the late fifties, notably Dragnet, Arrest and Trial, and Checkmate. M Squad stands
apart because of its unique combination of story, production values,
musical score and a great cast portraying crime fighters getting down
and dirty on the mean streets.
Lee Marvin, a decorated WW II
Marine veteran of the South Pacific, where he received the Purple Heart
in the Battle of Saipan, stars as Lt. Frank Ballinger, a no-nonsense
Chicago plainclothes cop in the elite M Squad
Division. The Squad's (M-for Murder) task is to root out organized
crime and corruption in Americas Second City. Marvin's portrayal of a
tough undercover officer, whose perseverance and potential for
violence, but with utter cool, permeates each gritty episode, gave
Marvin name recognition with the public, and did much to make him a
star. He would go on to many starring roles (The Dirty Dozen, Cat Ballou) and to win a coveted Oscar for Best Actor.
Ballinger's boss, Captain Grey, is played by Paul Newlan, a fine actor
who brings weight and substance to the role of running the M-Squad. It
is perhaps his most memorable role.
addition to the regular cast, a who's who of television luminaries and
stars-to-be made guest appearances on the show. Among the guest stars
were Angie Dickinson, Charles Bronson, Janice Rule, Leonard Nimoy, Ed
Nelson, DeForest Kelley, H.M. Wynant and a young Burt Reynolds.
But it wasn't just the crisp, taut story lines and great cast that made M Squad memorable.
it was shot in gritty, film-noire style black and white. The excellent
high contrast cinematography brings Chicago to life, with all of its
easily recognizable landmarks, swanky penthouses on Lake Michigan, and
the seedy darker side of the city. In fact, M Squad did for Chicago what the Naked City did for New York
Second was the musical score.
keeping with the film noir look of the series, the producers enlisted
conductor Stanley Wilson to lead the orchestra in arrangements by
legendary jazz men Benny Carter, and a
young John Williams, (Star Wars). For the second season, the great jazz artist Count Basie wrote the enduring "M Squad Theme".
It was a perfect marriage of image and sound. Lee Marvin, who wrote the liner notes for the RCA Victor release of the 'Music From M Squad 'album in 1959, put it this way:
am…constantly amazed at the manner in which our characterizations and
situations are supported, highlighted and intensified by the fine
musical score…I love the great beat, the exciting solos and the clean,
crisp section work of the trumpets and trombones. As I listen, my
imagination paints thumbnail sketches of the Loop, Bayshore Drive, the
South Side, and the other localities which set Chicago apart from other
cities. It's sort of like an armchair tour of America's second largest
city." Lee Marvin
resulting television series is hard to match for its intensity and its
humanity. Marvin's hard-nosed Frank Ballinger is the archetype of all
the tough guy-big hearted crime fighters, from Raymond Chandler's
Philip Marlowe and Hammett's Sam Spade, to later incarnations portrayed
by Jack Nicholson and Harvey Keitel. In sum, M Squad
is that rare television series that has it all. It is about time long
time fans and newcomers have a chance to experience high quality DVD's
of this great show.
An unproduced James Bond screenplay written by Sean Connery and mystery writer Len Deighton titled Warhead sold last week for $68,000 at a Christies pop culture auction. The script had been the brainchild of Kevin McClory, who served as a producer on the 1965 screen version of Thunderball. McClory had been granted remake rights to the film as the result of an early 1960's legal settlement with Ian Fleming, who he accused of stealing some of his ideas for his novel Thunderball. However, when McClory tried to get the Warhead project off the ground in the mid 1970s, he was kept in a legal stalemate by Eon Productions, the makers of the "genuine" Bond films. As the legal process dragged on, financing for the project dried up, though McClory and producer Jack Schwartzman did manage to eventually get a different script made into a remake of Thunderball in 1983. That film, Never Say Never Again, starred Sean Connery, who had said he had no intention of starring in Warhead. For more click here
Producer Richard D. Zanuck has confirmed to Collider's web site that Tim Burton's next film will indeed be a big screen adaptation of the cult 1960s TV series Dark Shadows. Johnny Depp will play the role of vampire Barnabas Collins, played in the TV show by Jonathan Frid. Filming will begin in London next summer. For a video interview with Zanuck click here
In an interview with New York Post theater critic Michael Riedel, Sir Roger Moore humorously reflects on his short-lived theater career. Although he was trained at RADA in the classics, Moore's stage career is not high on his resume - his debut on Broadway was in a show that was cancelled on opening night! In 1989, he was rehearsing to take the lead in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Aspects of Love, but had the sense to quit when he realized he didn't have the vocal power to sing with a full orchestra. His only regret? Webber didn't utter a word of protest when Sir Roger told him he wanted to quit the show! For more click here
Although his name may not have meant anything to the man on the street, Forrest J. Ackerman was a legend among science fiction and horror fans. Ackerman, who has passed away at age 92, was a lifelong enthusiast of the genres and he founded Famous Monsters of Filmland, the first widely accepted movie magazine to treat horror films with genuine respect. Ackerman had befriended many of the screen's great horror stars and boasted a massive collection of props and movie memorabilia which he displayed in his home. He was also the man credited with coining the term "sci-fi" back in the 1950s as an off-shoot of the newly emerging "hi-fi" technology. Ackerman was a beloved figure among generations of movie fans. He also was a respected literary agent for a time, representing some of the most prominent sci-fi writers including Ray Bradbury, who he discovered when the novice writer was just a teenager. For more click here
Forget that mediocre remake of The Italian Job starring Mark What's-'is-name from a few years back. The 1969 original British version is still the gold standard of gold heist movies. The film's controversial ending still elicits so much debate among movie fans that the Royal Society of Chemistry has sponsored a fan competition to see who can come up with the most creative resolution for how the likable crooks might have gotten out of their dilemma (trapped aboard a gold-laden bus that is dangling precariously over a cliff face). However, the film's star, Sir Michael Caine, reveals how the movie was intended to end in order to make way for an envisioned sequel that never occurred. To read more click here