Leonardo DiCaprio's production company has optioned writer John Orloff's screenplay Fleming about the life of James Bond creator Ian Fleming. There is no word as to whether DiCaprio intends to play the role himself. For more click here
Your magazine is the best of its type and along with FilmFax is one of my favorite reads! Your most recent issue was especially interesting. What caught my eye was the ad for "The Crimson Blade". I have been doing research re: the forgotten films of Sean Flynn, son of Errol Flynn. (I did notice when "the Italian offerings" were mentioned, there was no mention of 1962's "Il Figlio del Capitano Blood"!) The interesting coincidence is that when "The Son of Captain Blood" premiered in the U.K. in 1963, released by Warner-Pathe, in some regions it was shown on a double bill with Hammer's "The Scarlet Blade", which as I am sure your staff knows is the original title of the film released in the U.S.A. as "The Crimson Blade"! Also according to articles I have been reading re: the release of Sean Flynn's first film in England, apparently it was well received; supposedly doing very well at the British box office, if not spectacular. Most of Sean Flynn's films saw theatrical release in the U.K., as opposed to the U.S.A. where only three of his films were released to theaters. (The rest were either sold directly to television or never saw release in the U.S.A.)
I was wondering if you could help me with something I have been searching for. In 1966, a film Sean Flynn made with the director Umberto Lenzi titled, "Sandok,Il Maciste della Jungla" was released in the U.K under the title "Temple of the White Elephant". (In the U.S.A. the film was apparently sold directly to U.S. television by AIP-TV) I have been unable to locate a copy of this film in English. If you can help me locate a copy, as it is the only movie of his I have been unable to see in a version I can understand, it would be a great service to me and would be greatly appreciated. Of course you may ask yourself why, Sean Flynn? As a fan of the films of Errol Flynn, the films of his son are a curiosity. Also they are from a period when many other Americans were trying their luck in European cinema, primarily Italy, and I have found he is no worse or better than some of the other American actors who inhabit these films. You will also find that many of the actors, directors, and technicians he worked with on these movies also worked on some movies that are well known. One example is in the film "Duel at the Rio Grande" (released in the U.K. in 1964 on a double bill with the Haya Harareet starrer, "The Lost Kingdom") one of his co-stars is Walter Barnes of "The Big Gundown" fame. Another co-star of his is the well respected British actress, Ann Todd who plays his mother in "The Son of Captain Blood". Yet another co-star from his debut film is the American actor, John Kitzmiller who many will know better as "Quarrel", who assists Sean Connery in his first outing as James Bond, "Dr. No".
The rest of the issue #13 was also interesting for the other features such as the history of the "Man from U.N.C.L.E." movies which were shown here recently in the U.S.A. on the aforementioned Turner Classics cable network! (Unfortunately I missed most of them!) Thank you for your time!--
Mr. Angel Rivera of New York City, New York
Retro responds: Thanks for the kind words, Angel. Regarding the elusive Sean Flynn title you're looking for, maybe somebody out there among our readers might have a lead. If so, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll pass on the info to Angel and our other readers. According the the IMDB, the film was an American International release in the English-speaking market. One possible source is www.moviehunter.tv, which specializes in finding elusive films. The cost is generally around $40.
Warner Home Video has released a 30th anniversary of director Hal Ashby's Being There, based on the Jerzy Kosinski novel. The film represented Peter Sellers' last cinematic triumph and earned him an Oscar nomination. However, if you're expecting Sellers to engage in Pink Panther -style antics, this isn't your movie. Sellers gives an unusually understated performance that gives credence to the notion that sometimes less is more. The story centers on Chance, a dapper but dim-witted gardener who has been kept in complete isolation for his entire life by his benefactor, an elderly millionaire. Deprived of a social life or formal education, Chance is totally satisfied with his daily routine of presiding over an elaborate garden. His only vice is an obsession with television, which he watches without the slightest regard for a program's content. Like a parrot, he learns to mimic the actors he witnesses on the boob tube and the entire level of his intellectual capabilities is limited to statements about gardening and television. When the old man dies, Chance is evicted from the house - but is too stupid to realize the implications of his dilemma. When he is injured by a limousine belonging to heiress Shirley MacLaine, Chance is brought back to her mansion to recuperate. It turns out she is the daughter of one of America's most influential industrialists and power brokers (Melvin Douglas, in his final triumphant role which won him the Oscar for Supporting Actor.) Through a complex series of events, Douglas and the intellectual yes men in his circle mistake Chance for a great philosopher, feeling that his elementary observations have meaning regarding the economy and political scenarios. Before long, even the President (Jack Warden) is using the hapless man as an adviser. The film hints that Chance has a political future ahead of him -despite the fact that he can't read, write or relate whatsoever to the world around him.
The notion of a total moron being considered presidential timber no longer seems as far-fetched as it did in 1979 (How accurate this notion is, depends upon your own political prejudices.) However, the film is not only hilarious, but prescient in foreseeing the day when a charming personality is all a candidate needs to rise to the top. The brilliant screenplay also takes aim at intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals whose obsession with being considered deep thinkers allows them to read meaning into the most innocuous of statements. The film presents Peter Sellers as he had never been seen before. He rarely utters more than a few words at a time, instead relying on a gentle demeanor and disarming smile to impress those he encounters. In one hilarious scene, MacLaine tries to seduce him and mistakes his statement that "I like to watch" as a reference to a sexual fetish. In fact, he is simply referring to the cartoon playing on the TV in the bedroom. MacLaine then engages in a liberating mastubation session in front of the oblivious Chance, who is mesmerized by the TV program. Sellers' great performance is matched by a superb supporting cast, with Melyvn Douglas having the kind of role that every actor dreams of for a cinematic farewell. There is also yeoman work from Jack Warden and Richard Dysart. The film is a reminder that Hal Ashby was a major talent whose work is not as widely discussed as it should be.
The special edition is somewhat meager on extras but includes a trailer and an interesting featurette in which Melvyn Douglas' grandaughter Ilena discusses her memories of visiting the set as a young girl. She also reminds us of her grandfather's long and distinguished career. It's an informative and bittersweet documentary produced by David Naylor. The Blu-ray edition also contains exclusive extras including an alternate ending and deleted scenes. Click here to order discounted from Amazon. Click here to order Blu-ray edition.
In a rare interview, Dick Van Dyke recalls his memories of making Mary Poppins. He said that Walt Disney didn't hire him because of his singing and dancing skills - but rather because he had read a comment made by Van Dyke decrying the trend away from family entertainment. Van Dyke also good-naturedly jokes about the ribbing he takes from the Brits about his less-than-convincing Cockney accent - and he's also written to First Lady Michelle Obama thanking her for saying that Mary Poppins is her favorite movie. To read click here
There was a time in the grand era of movie palaces where the theater we saw a movie at was as important as the film itself.Names like Marcus Loew and William Fox built
and operated theater palaces that were created to give the common man a feeling
of royalty, even if only for a couple of hours while they were entertained by
the latest fare from Hollywood.Studios,
too, built monuments to showmanship where the movies they made could be seen in
all their splendor.
Many of these theaters still exist; Grauman’s
Chinese in Hollywood, The Loew’s Jersey in Jersey City, the Fox Theatres in
Atlanta and Detroit, among others.Some
are now performing arts centers, but a few still operate the way they were
originally conceived – as movie theaters.
Washington, D.C. does not come to mind as a city
with a great movie palace legacy.It is
too busy being the capital of the free world.But in the 1920s through the 1940s, it could hold its own with any other
large city with great downtown motion picture cathedrals.Two of these theaters still exist; The
Warner, built in 1927 serves as a performing arts and concert venue; and The
Uptown, which still operates as a movie palace, just like it did on October 29th,
1936, the night it opened.
Washingtonians know and cherish the Uptown as the
city’s last surviving movie palace within the city limits.The Uptown was built and originally run by
Warner Brothers.As time went on the
theater was sold to RKO Stanley Warner theatres, then to Circle Theatres, a
local chain, finally ending up as an AMC theatre today.From 1982 to 1985, I was fortunate to
occasionally work at the Uptown as a projectionist.I usually had the honor of substituting for
the regular projectionist on some of his days off.Being part of the experience, actually
running the show at Washington’s best theater is a job I would have done
The Uptown started as an art deco movie theater,
and stayed that way until 1963, when it was decided that the Uptown should be
Washington, D.C.’s Cinerama showplace.The auditorium was completely remodeled to accommodate the wide, curved
screen of Cinerama, which was shown originally using three projectors.The Cinerama screen originally measured 85
feet in width and about 30 feet in height that ran from nearly floor to
ceiling.The screen was curved at 146
degrees to envelope the audience in the Cinerama experience.
Only one three projector Cinerama movie was ever
shown at the Uptown, 1963’s “How The West Was Won.”As most movie fans know, that was also the
last three strip Cinerama movie produced.From that point, Cinerama pictures were made and shown with 70MM film
using a single camera and projector.The
Uptown to this day, is equipped for 70MM projection and over the years,
especially in the 1960s, ran a great number of 70MM Cinerama pictures.During the 1980s, the Uptown ran almost
exclusively 70MM prints. A trip to the
projection booth today will reveal the word “Cinerama” still adorning two the
Century 35/70 projectors.
The Uptown has a long history of hosting the world
premieres of many big pictures.In my
opinion the high water mark came on April 1st, 1968 when “2001: A
Space Odyssey” had its world premiere at the Uptown in 70MM Cinerama.Even today when “2001” plays at the Uptown,
the crowds are huge, often selling out the auditorium that today seats over
800.Other movies that have premiered at
the Uptown include: “The Hunt For Red October”, “Backdraft”, “Mississippi
Burning”, and “Jurassic Park”.Kevin
Costner has used the theatre for the world premieres of three of his pictures,
“Robin Hood”, “Dances With Wolves”, and most recently, “The Guardian”.With “Jurassic Park”, the Uptown made history
as the first theatre to show a movie in the DTS sound process, as “Jurassic
Park” was the first motion picture released in DTS.
The Uptown has also hosted premieres of restored
classics.David Lean appeared at the
theater for the D.C. premiere of his restored “Lawrence Of Arabia”.He was so impressed with The Uptown that he
cut short his time with the press covering the event so he could watch his
movie there.Kim Novak attended the
opening of “Vertigo”, and Jean Simmons and Tony Curtis attended the April 1991
opening of “Spartacus”.All of these premieres
were presented in 70MM on the huge Cinerama screen.
The screen today measures 76 feet in width and even
35MM Cinemascope uses the entire width of the curved screen. You can get a look
at the Uptown today and see moments from its past on YouTube by clicking here
Should you ever get the opportunity to visit our
nation’s capital, be sure to plan a trip up Connecticut Avenue to one of
America’s best remaining movie palaces, The Uptown.
Bob Collins is a former theatre manager,
projectionist, and radio disc jockey who is now a voice talent and video
producer. Visit him on-line at BOBVOX.COM.
Retro responds:Thanks, John. Yes, a number of movie fans more astute than ourselves responded to our plea in issue #13 to help us identify the film that the lovely Ms. Leigh was posing for. A search of the IMDB indicated that it probably was the rather obscure Kid Rodelo, but we weren't able to confirm it before going to press. We're not usually prone to running a cover shot from an unidentified movie, but our weakness for women in garter belts was the over-riding factor! Meanwhile, readers should do themselves a favor and visit John's web site, The Greenbriar Picture Shows - it's an irresistable treasure trove of vintage movie stills and great articles.
(L to R): James L. LaRocca, director of the performance, Eli Wallach, Peter Sabri and playwright Jeff Baron. (Photo copyright Lee Pfeiffer/Cinema Retro. All rights reserved).
By Lee Pfeiffer
It isn't every day you can see a legendary actor perform before an intimate audience, but last night afforded one such opportunity when Eli Wallach took to the stage at The Players, the legendary New York club dedicated to the performing arts. The one night performance was to benefit The Players Foundation for Theater Education, a newly-founded non-profit group that is dedicated to promoting theater history. Wallach was reviving a role he played more than a decade ago in writer Jeff Baron's acclaimed two-character play Visiting Mr. Green. Wallach and Peter Sabri performed a reading of the play in front of a packed house. The plot centers on Ross, a 30 year-old New York executive who has a mishap with his automobile that results in his hitting an 86 year-old widower, Mr. Green. The judge "sentences" Ross to visit Mr. Green one day a week and help him perform errands and odd jobs. When he arrives at Mr. Green's apartment, he finds the elderly Jewish man to be a cynic who seems to have lost his zest for life since the recent death of his wife of many years. Mr. Green is obstinate and abrasive - and makes it clear he does not want Ross's help. Nevertheless, the younger man is persistent and in the course of the play, an unlikely friendship develops between the two men - until it is threatened when a revelation by Ross causes their fragile relationship to be jeopardized.
Visiting Mr. Green is sentimental without being mawkish, as it explores how prejudice and intolerance often preclude relationships with people who would otherwise be fast friends. As the cantankerous Mr. Green, Wallach was in top form, mingling cringe-inducing insults with hilarious witticisms. Seeing Wallach perform was a genuine treat. I was transported back in time by the realization that I was watching the man who played Tuco in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Calvera in The Magnificent Seven, not to mention the last living member of The Misfits. At age 93, Wallach is as fiesty as his on-stage alter-ego, and he charmed the audience after the show by mingling and posing for photos. In terms of acting ability, however, Wallach should be looking over his shoulder because he was matched by Peter Sabri, who brought his complex and tortured character to life through a mesmerizing performance. If there's any justice in the New York theater community, we should be seeing a great deal more of this very talented performer.
In all, a wonderful night of entertainment that was made all the more enjoyable by the presence of Jeff Baron, who joined Wallach and Sabri for a post-show Q&A with the audience. Visiting Mr. Green is a true pleasure, made all the more entertaining when it is combined with visiting Mr. Wallach.
In a dumbed-down world, it's truly gratifying that director Ron Howard managed to convince a major studio (Universal) to back his screen adapation of the stage play Frost/Nixon. The play centered on the bizarre pairing of chat show host David Frost with former President Richard M. Nixon, who had resigned in disgrace over the Watergate scandal in 1974. In the ensuing years, Nixon kept a low profile and took only limited responsibility for the cover-up of the bugging of Democratic campaign headquarters. Nixon presented his main flaw as being too loyal to errant staff members, but never really apologized for his actions or spoke candidly about the fact that he was front-and-center in masterminding the cover-up. Howard's film presents Frost's painstaking efforts to convince Nixon to sit down for a series of in-depth interviews. At the time, Frost was considered a lightweight, amiable talent with no credentials for such a task. His star had begun to erode and he was presently hosting an embarrassing "Believe It-Or-Not"-type program for Australian TV. Ever the optimist, however, Frost was convinced that landing Nixon would be the coup of a lifetime - and he was smart enough to hire aggressive politicos as producers, who kept reminding him of the gravity of his responsibility. If he were to ask lightweight questions or let Nixon control the interviews, his reputation would have been permanently damaged.
Frost managed to basically bribe Nixon into doing the interviews by offering the money-hungry President a (then) whopping $600,000 fee. However, Nixon was more motivated by his opportunity to manipulate Frost into allowing the sessions to present revisionist history that would take the tarnish off his reputation. After landing the deal, Frost found out to his amazement that none of the American TV networks were interested in broadcasting the pieces. Even then, the networks were more concerned about presenting money-making entertainment shows than informing the public. The film presents Frost's panic-stricken attempts to salvage the project by getting independent financing and selling the interviews as syndicated specials. In fact, he shot the interviews before even closing the deal on how to pay for them. In the first three of the four interviews, Frost allowed the media-savvy Nixon to take control. The result was a boring rendition of history from Nixon's viewpoint, as the former President practically did cartwheels to avoid hard questions. Ron Howard's film really comes alive when Frost realizes that he has one opportunity left to nail Nixon to the floor by soliciting an admission of guilt in the cover-up and an apology to the American people. It's amazing how much suspense Howard wrings out of a scenario in which most politically-informed people already know the conclusion. Howard also does yeoman work in transporting the audience back to the 1970s. Everything feels genuine: the wide ties, peasant dresses, floppy hats and ugly furniture and wallpaper.
The centerpiece of the film, of course, are the performances of the leads: Frank Langella as Nixon and Michael Sheen as Frost. Both are simply brilliant. In viewing the trailer, one might think otherwise about Langella. At first glance, he doesn't look too much like Richard Nixon, however, within minutes you realize he wasn't setting out to do a cheap imitiation of the man like a drunk with a lampshade on his head. Langella captures every nuance of the Nixon's gestures, mannerisms and speech. It's an astounding achievement and should earn Langella the Oscar. As for Sheen, he is equally good, but once again, this superb actor is overshadowed by a more attention-getting co-star, as he was with Helen Mirren in The Queen. Yet, he's fascinating every step of the way, transforming Frost from a shallow skirt-chaser to a man who matures literally overnight in the wake of his greatest career crisis. The film also points out that both Nixon and Frost had much to gain or lose from this bold attempt to salvage their reputations. The screenplay does indulge in a bit of anti-Nixon wet dreaming with an epilogue that suggests he basically remained in shame and oblivion until his death in 1994. In fact, the Frost interviews were the first step in his long return to the public forum. Every president who followed him consulted him about foreign policy, even Bill Clinton who extolled Nixon's undeniable achievements in that area when he delivered his eulogy. Nevertheless, Nixon, who was perhaps the most complex political figure of the 20th century, never did escape his crimes and was haunted by his status as the only president to ever resign from office.
The movie's greatest pleasure is the build-up to the climactic interview, which centers on the Watergate crime. Both Nixon and Frost are prepped by their handlers as though this is a heavyweight boxing match. When the two men do finally confront each other over the most important topic, it's like watching Sherlock Holmes pitting himself against Prof. Moriarty. Both men consider the other their enemy, but there is a grudging mutual respect. The film, which is certainly anti-Nixon, never makes the mistake of making him into a cartoon villain. As with Oliver Stone's biopic about him, Nixon emerges as a somewhat sympathetic character - a man whose obsession with showing off the snobs that he could succeed, ultimately led him to prove their predictions of failure to come true.
Frost/Nixon is just one of a crop of refreshingly intelligent films released in 2008. Let's hope the trend continues.
(The film has been nominated for five Oscars: Best Director, Best Actor, Screenplay and Editing)
Writer Steve Vertlieb brought to our attention that he has posted a wonderful, heartfelt tribute to the legendary Forrest J. Ackerman on his web site, The Thunder Child. Steve recalls how he first met the legendary horror movie authority - way back in 1965 when he and his brother Erwin received a coveted invitation to attend the first Famous Monsters of Filmland Convention in New York City. It would lead to a wonderful friendship that would last decades and end only with "Forry"'s recent passing. To read click here
Regarding David Savage's report earlier today on our web site about tomorrow's New York City screening of The Poseidon Adventure hosted by drag queen Hedda Lettuce, comes Retro columnist Tom Lisanti's perspective:
Drag legend Hedda Lettuce hosts a tribute screening to the granddaddy of all disaster movies ThePoseidon Adventure (1972) this Saturday night, January 24, 10 P.M. at Clearview Chelsea Theatres on 23rd Street and 8th Avenue in New York. Forget the atrocious remakes, this is the one to see!
As everyone knows by now it is New Year's Eve on the SS Poseidon when just after the stroke of midnight a huge tidal wave causes the ship to go topsy turvy and a small band of survivors must climb, crawl, swim their way to the bottom now the top of the ship. Hip preacher Gene Hackman leads to safety a ragtag band of stereotypes including tough talking cop Ernest Borgnine and his foul-mouthed ex-prostitute panties-wearing only wife Stella Stevens; an old Jewish couple Shelley Winters and Jack Albertson; helpless hippie singer Carol Lynley; lonely bachelor Red Buttons; injured steward Roddy McDowall; and two kids Pamela Sue Martin and Eric Shea. The fun of course is that most don't make it.
. I saw this movie at the Westbury Drive-in on Long Island for my 12th birthday on May 11, 1973. The movie was such a hit that it was still playing theatres 5 months after it opened in December 1972. I was totally mesmerized by this movie. What stayed with me for days that turned to weeks that turned to years was the scene of the ship turning upside down and the lovely Carol Lynley bedecked in hot pants and go-go boots as Nonnie. For some reason I identified with her most because of all the survivors she couldn't swim (I am a weak swimmer myself) and showed the most fear as I imagined I would in such a situation.
I interviewed Carol Lynley about the movie and it seems her on screen fear was not all acting:
“The only way to describe working on The Poseidon Adventure is hellish. I spent close to four months dripping wet wearing the same dirty clothes. To make matters even worse, I have a tremendous fear of heights. I had it all my life. I usually get very dizzy and throw up. Not attractive. I even went to Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio to try to conquer it. Usually a stunt double is used but in The Poseidon Adventure I had to do all my stunts myself. We would shoot the scenes high up on the catwalks or ladders and when the director would yell ‘cut’ all the other actors would climb down except me. Gene Hackman’s brother was working on the film as a stunt coordinator and he would have to climb up and help me down!”
Are you going to do special features on any of the following films ?
1. Dr Phibes and Dr Phibes Rises Again 2. Theatre of Blood 3. The Wicker Man 4. Straw Dogs
Retro responds: All good suggestions, Bill - but we're ahead of you. Issue #2 features an article by Caroline Munro on the making of the Dr. Phibes films starring Vincent Price. Issue #3 features an 18 page tribute to Sam Peckinpah (though it primarily focused on The Wild Bunch and Major Dundee). However, issue #10 has an insightful article called The Unseen Peckinpah which covers scenes from Straw Dogs that did not end up in the final cut. We hope to get to Theatre of Blood and The Wicker Man in due course. In fact, our columnist John Exshaw recently met with Christopher Lee in London and conducted what is probably the most in-depth interview about his films and career. As Christopher puts The Wicker Man near the top of his personal favorites, it's certain we'll be doing a feature on that film at some point in the future. Thanks for bringing up the film, Bill, as it gives us an excuse to recycle this gratuitous photo of Britt Ekland from the movie.
If the phrase Barbara, please! means something special to you and you live in New York, most likely you’ve attended at least once the weekly Clearview Classics series at Chelsea’s Clearview Cinemas, hosted by New York’s own, reigning “Queen of Green,” drag performer and comic chanteuse Hedda Lettuce. If not, you have no excuse. Mark your calendars now. Screening twice on Thursday nights and once on Saturdays, and attended by a congregation of fanatical members who can recite every word of Mommie Dearest, Torch Song, Airport ’75, Earthquake, or Xanadu at will, Clearview Classics has been the main home of “Lettuce” for eight years now. Every week she packs in a crowd for her hilarious pre-movie show in which she warms up the crowd (not that they need it) with songs (which she sings herself), key scene re-enactments with audience members, special guests and, if you should be so unfortunate, identification of “virgins” – mousy first-timers who have never seen Valley of the Dolls or its ilk and are dragged mercilessly into the spotlight.
Lisa Marks is our favorite British ex-pat freelancing in Hollywood (how many other chicks do you know who would actually send you a Christmas card depicting Steve McQueen's motorcyle jump in The Great Escape?) Lisa has a fascinating new article for London's Guardian newspaper site in which she interviews actress Yeardley Smith, whose main claim to fame is providing the voice of Lisa Simpson in The Simpsons TV series. Although Smith concedes she has the dream job of a lifetime (she's paid $400,000 per episode!), there is a downside. She's one of the most recognizable voices in pop culture, but her face is virtually unknown. Smith and her boyfriend Adam Carl have produced an independent film titled Waiting for Ophelia which Smith has financed herself. Despite her reputation in the film industry, however, she suffers a fate common to most independent filmmakers: she can't get the film screened, let alone distributed. To read Lisa's interview, click here
Harrison Ford's first post-Indy sequel feature film will be based on the novel The Cure. It will mark the debut of the CBS Films production slate. Ford will co-star with Brendan Fraser in the pic to be directed by Tom Vaughan. The fact-based story finds Fraser cast as the desperate father of two children who are suffering from a genetic disorder that is supposedly incurable. As a last resort, he seeks help from Ford, who plays an irascible doctor known for his penchant for unorthodox medical treatments. No title for the film has been unveiled. No other casting has been announced and the film is slated for an April shoot date. The movie represents Ford's inevitable branching out into non-action roles, though some of his earlier efforts in this regard have not been financial successes. The Mosquito Coast, Regarding Henry and the remake of Sabrina were all fine films that afforded him some of his most impressive acting achievements, but audiences wanted to see him as a man of action. For more click here
As the Cinema Retro "empire" continues to expand, readers have requested that we implement a newsletter service. Thus, starting today, we're implementing a new feature for our readers. You can sign up for Cinema Retro's newsletter and receive advance news about forthcoming features and other earth-shaking developments in the Cinema Retro universe. Because we know you are being inundated with plenty of other E mail, we'll promise to only send out notices once or twice a month - and we'll never share your E mail address with any other company - guaranteed. You'll get advanced notifications of the latest news pertaining to the legendary actors and filmmakers who are constantly contributing to our magazine and you'll be periodically informed of any late-breaking events that would be of interest to classic movie fans, such as film festivals, celebrity appearances, etc. Signing up is easy - just use the box in the right column. We don't collect any personal information other than your name and country of residence, so you don't have to worry about us taking possession of your first born. Thanks for your continued support.
A nude photo of Madonna in 1979 is expected to haul in at least $10,000 at a Christies auction on February 12. The photographer paid the struggling 20 year-old dancer a flat fee of $25 to pose for several provocative photographs. Some of them appeared in Playboy in the 1980s when Madonna's star was rising. They show that at the time Madge was no fan of the Brazilian look and favored going au natural. The photo above is a cropped version. To see the whole magilla, click here. By the way, given Madonna's penchant for exhibitionism, wouldn't a fully clothed photo of her be considered rarer? - Lee Pfeiffer
Cinema Retro issue #13 is now shipping to all subscribers. Among the other great features in the latest issue is entertainment journalist Bruce R. Marshall's fascinating story behind Lee Van Cleef's 1960s cult western The Big Gundown. At this point in his career, Van Cleef was relishing the fact that Sergio Leone's two Dollar westerns had rescued him from financial catastrophe when he could not longer find suitable work in Hollywood. Unlike Clint Eastwood, however, Van Cleef was happy to continue on in the Spaghetti Western genre, making films of varyiing degrees of quality, but always maintaining his position as one of Europe's top movie stars. His 1968 western The Big Gundown teamed him with another popular star of the genre, Tomas Milian under the direction of Sergio Sollima. The film stood out as being a cut above the rest of the pack, but what most fans don't realize is that the movie they've seen is probably not the original, far superior version. In his article for Cinema Retro, Bruce R. Marshall takes a comprehensive and fascinating look at a grass roots effort to restore this movie to its original glory. Marshall interviews a fan who goes under the name of Franco Cleef whose interest in the film has lead him to approach Columbia/Sony about investing in an official restoration of crucial scenes that were cut. However, the film's cachet is not commercial enough to interest Hollywood. Thus, Cleef has taken it upon himself to painstakingly piece together the most complete English -language version of the film possible, using disparate sources to find the relevant footage. (An official restored version of the film has been released in Germany by Kochmedia-dvd.com, but it does not have an English soundtrack.) In Marshall's interview with Cleef, every nuance and aspect of the film is discussed, including specific missing scenes which greatly alter the motivations of the characters. The article also features exclusive comments from the film's director Sergio Sollima as well as a sidebar by Retro's German correspondent Mike Siegel on the history of the German restoration. The article also presents an abundance of extremely rare stills, movie posters and soundtracks from the film.
Cinema Retro issue #13 is available at select retail outlets or through a subscription to our current season, which will also include issues #14 and #15. First time subscribers also get a cool exclusive CD featuring rare original radio spot ads for movies of the 1960s and 1970s- -plus free postage in North America and the UK. Click here to subscribe through the Cinema Retro Ebay store or see the "Subscribe" section in the right hand column for other methods.
Producer Brian Grazer will bring a remake of John Steinbeck's classic novel East of Eden the screen. Tom Hooper, riding high from the accolades he won for HBO's John Adams series, will direct. The Steinbeck tale told of a troubled California family and the film version, directed by Elia Kazan, starred James Dean. Grazer has been trying to do the remake since 2004, when Ron Howard was slated to direct. For more click here.
Marshall Terrill's Steve McQueen: Portrait of an American Rebel will be turned into a big screen biopic. The film will trace the legendary star's rise to stardom. It will also address some of the more controversial aspects of his life and career. McQueen's widow Barbara Minty is co-operating on the project. The main problem will be casting: finding a suitable actor to take on the role of a screen legend is always fraught with problems. However, McQueen's story is a compelling one and, if properly made, the film could be a winner. For more click here
Early last year, it appeared the charismatic con men from the BBC One TV series Hustle had scored their last caper when the show was canceled after four years. However, viewers demanded more and in a rare instance of a network actually listening to its audience, BBC One brought back the show for a new season. The program, which stars Robert Vaughn, aired its first new episode the other night and it scored 5.2 million viewers - beating the next-highest rated show by 2.1 million. A big screen feature film version is still in the planning stages. It seems to be a good time of life for Vaughn and his former Man From U.N.C.L.E. co-star David McCallum - the latter's CBS show NCIS is generally in the top ten rated US programs. For more click here
Film journalist Mike Malloy remembers the scrupled actor
McGoohan as Danger Man John Drake in a scene from the feature film Koroshi that was derived from the TV series. (Photo: Mike Malloy collection.)
Most movie-star hopefuls enter the entertainment industry knowing full well they will have to scratch and claw out a career for themselves in ways that compromise their previously held values. This is not to say they’ll necessarily cheat and backstab to make it in The Biz (it often comes to that), but they certainly won’t turn down precious advancement opportunities on moral grounds.
Recently deceased, thoughtful thesp Patrick McGoohan (“The Prisoner,” Ice Station Zebra, Braveheart, “Secret Agent”) found a different route to stardom, one that reflected his very principled beliefs. And because he made choices detrimental to his fame—he could’ve been 007, after all—and yet became an international film and TV star nonetheless, one would like to believe his was an irrepressible talent that shone through despite the actor’s lack of career-mindedness.
The eponymous role in Henrik Ibsen’s play Brand was considered the definitive role of McGoohan’s 1950s career. He played the part both on the London stage and, fortunately for posterity, for a BBC broadcast that has been released as a PAL DVD. It’s little wonder that the character—a priest who took his principles to new heights and extremes (“Unless you give all, you give nothing!”)—fit the actor like a glove; he was soon proving that he too lived according to a distinct personal code. Shortly thereafter, McGoohan declined the role of James Bond, reportedly citing moral objections.
McGoohan’s passing on the 007 part came as the franchise’s first feature—1962’s Dr. No—was being developed, and almost all accounts had him disliking the spy’s brutish use of force and sexual promiscuity. This version of events is certainly reinforced by examining McGoohan’s 1960s television breakthrough of “Danger Man” (which was actually two different British shows of the same name, the latter of which ran as “Secret Agent” stateside). McGoohan’s spy character, John Drake, was a more-brains-than-brawn agent who wasn’t seen to carry a gun or kill a man (although each episode had its requisite fistfight) and wasn’t caught bedding a woman onscreen.
Even if Drake was the sanitized version of Bond, McGoohan cut a suave, intelligent figure—and one with the ability to summon up a tremendously forceful dialogue delivery when needed (the American-born, Irish-raised actor perhaps possessed the small screen’s most intimidating bark of toughguyspeak). It was therefore little surprise that McGoohan was reportedly offered the Bond role again, sometime in the late ‘60s and/or early ‘70s (which certainly fits with the Connery-Lazenby-Connery tumult the film series was undergoing). A second refusal of 007 has even more significance, as McGoohan would have then certainly understood the extent of riches and fame he was forgoing (even if the Bond series was at its shakiest point, being terribly out of step with the era’s counterculture).
Instead of Bond, McGoohan launched another television project in the late ‘60s—this time of his own conception. In the 17-part mini-series “The Prisoner,” he not only starred but also occasionally directed and wrote (usually pseudonymously). Often described as “television’s first masterpiece,” the show boasted a plot—about a spy who tries to resign but who is instead whisked away to a secret island where a bizarre society tries to break his spirit and crack open his head full of espionage secrets—that functioned as a brilliant allegory exposing the dangers of conformity and group culture. Some of the episodes, including the absurd finale, were too nonsensical (it was the hippy-dippy late ‘60s, mind you), but the better ones rank right up with Ayn Rand in their power to promote the idea of individualism. McGoohan had used the Bond-fueled fluffy spy craze to create something of importance.
A bit of negative personal information regarding McGoohan came from the set of the 1979 Clint Eastwood vehicle Escape from Alcatraz, when the joke was born that McGoohan, who was boozing during production, couldn’t be doubled in a hand close-up, because director Don Siegel couldn’t find another actor who had the shakes that bad. It’s been suggested the actor was drinking to protect against the bitter cold, but we fans rationalize that any drinking resulted from the burden of genius of the man who created “The Prisoner.”
“Genius” is not a stretch, but “principled to the point of career injury” is rock-solid certain. Circa 1997, a fan-made Patrick McGoohan webshrine existed, containing reprints of rare interviews with the generally reclusive actor. Although your humble writer was then new to the Internet, he quickly zeroed in on the site and checked back regularly. Then one day in the late ‘90s, the site bore a message that it would cease to operate, as McGoohan himself had contacted the webmaster and requested the removal of all content. This was possibly another instance of McGoohan’s preference for privacy, but it’s not hard to imagine the actor having a disdain for idol worship of pop-cultural figures too.
On a more personal note, your writer got a phone call from McGoohan in 2002, in response to an interview request for an “almost 007” article—in fact, the only returned phone call received in connection with the piece. Sure, it could’ve been the sturdy Irish name of Mike Malloy that prompted McGoohan to phone (he declined to comment about “events that happened 40 years ago” but graciously accepted my nervous, short-of-breath praise of his career), but the actor didn’t have to bother with some journalist writing a spec piece. But he did, and it’s nice to imagine a returned phone call out of courtesy (and general obligation to one’s fellow man) was his standard operating procedure.
Maybe it’s just as well that he shuffled off this mortal coil earlier this week. Today’s world is such that a crass, shallow fame anthem like The Pussycat Dolls’ “When I Grow Up” can instruct tweens to aim at stardom for the spoils of “nice cars and groupies.” There’s little room for understanding a Patrick McGoohan, who acted because he excelled at the craft but who accepted projects with guidance from his personal convictions. And if AMC TV’s remake of “The Prisoner” serves ultimately to dilute the power of the original when it airs later this year, it’s best that Patrick McGoohan departs dearly now.
(NOTE: THIS IS A REVISED POSTING OF THE REVIEW. DUE TO A TECHNICAL PROBLEM, THE ORIGINAL POSTING WAS INCOMPLETE)
JOHN PHILIP LAW: DIABOLIK ANGEL
By Carlos Aguilar & Anita Hass
Foreword by Ray Harryhausen
Review by John Exshaw
Towards the end of John Phillip Law: Diabolik Angel, authors Carlos Aguilar and Anita Haas describe their book as “an unfinished work”, anticipating, as they did, further films in the strange career of an actor best remembered for playing the black-clad super-criminal in Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik (1968), the blind angel, Pygar, in Roger Vadim’s Barbarella (1968), and the turbaned hero of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973). Sadly, as it turned out, Diabolik Angel will stand instead as the last word on Law, who died of cancer at the age of 70 in May of last year, during the final stages of the book’s preparation.
Due, in part, to his association with such iconic, but necessarily two-dimensional, characters as Diabolik and Sinbad, Law himself remained something of a screen enigma, a somewhat remote, otherworldly presence whose own personality was seldom discernable in the roles he played. His best non-fantasy performances – as the naïve Russian submariner in The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! (1965), the haunted protagonist of Death Rides a Horse (1967), the object of Rod Steiger’s affections in The Sergeant (1968), and the deadly but anachronistic knight of the air in Von Richthofen and Brown (1971, a.k.a. The Red Baron) – were sufficiently compelling and varied (though united by a certain innocence) to suggest that Law would become a leading character star of the 1970s. And yet somehow such status eluded him.
Reflecting on this, Law remarked, “A lot of people have told me that I had all the qualities to be a big star, one of the biggest of my generation. Like Robert Redford and Warren Beatty, who are both the same age as me, and both started at the same time. But the point is that I never wanted to be a star, I wanted to be an actor, and that isn’t the same thing. Besides, there was always the problem of my height [6’5”]: I was too tall to play somebody’s son, and too baby-faced to look like someone’s father. That’s why they almost always gave me roles of special characters, like comic book heroes, and historical figures.”
Combined with that, as Aguilar and Haas make clear, Law “came across few projects that suited his peculiarities [and] without a doubt . . . made some bad and irreversible mistakes.” The latter included turning down the Jon Voight part in Midnight Cowboy (on his agent’s advice) and that of Jack Nicholson in Easy Rider (due to a schedule conflict). In addition to rejecting films which he should, in retrospect, have accepted, Law also displayed a spectacular talent for picking those best avoided, such as Otto Preminger’s late-period duds, Hurry Sundown (1967) and Skidoo (1968), the soporific The Hawaiians (1970), the conspicuously flaccid The Love Machine (1971), and that byword for self-indulgence and ill-discipline, Dennis Hopper’s The Last Movie (also 1971), a title that would prove all too prophetic with respect to Law’s standing as a Hollywood star.
In 1969, the year he missed out on both Midnight Cowboy and Easy Rider, Law also suffered the indignity of being replaced in the cast of The Gypsy Moths, following a parachute accident in which he was injured, and a poor relationship with his co-stars: “The atmosphere was terrible. Burt Lancaster was the star... a very egotistical man, who didn’t help anybody while shooting. . . . He couldn’t stand me, I suppose it was because I was taller than him. I can’t think of any other reason. Then there was Gene Hackman, another difficult person who is always trying to steal the show. Good actor, but not a good person. And the director, John Frankenheimer was always drunk before noon. . . .” Aeronautical accidents were to feature again in Law’s career two years later, when, during the shooting of Roger Corman’s Von Richthofen and Brown, several stunt flyers were killed.
Re: your editorial of this morning, my warped sense of humor could not resist my creating this graphic and re-naming CNN on the overkill they continue to broadcast on the US Airways story. With all due respect, of course, to for the pilot and his crew, all of whom are heroes.
(Jilbert is the writer, producer and director of the new docmentary about pop culture artist Robert McGinnis).
CR responds: Perfect! And, yes, this is no reflection on a story of genuine heroism that had a wonderful ending. As I pointed out in my editorial, however, even the most uplifting story can be over-killed, especially if no new relevant information is being released and the same B roll footage of the incident continues to run endlessly. You can even see the anchors getting embarrassed and bored, as they are eager to talk about the vital political issues of the day. We're making progress, though, only about 50% of the air time on Campbell Brown's show was devoted to the airliner, though it appears ol' Larry ("One Note") King is dedicating his entire hour to the airline story for a second consecutive night -though Larry probably still thinks he's covering The Hindenburg disaster- Lee Pfeiffer
Like many news addicts, I keep the cable TV stations on during the day while I go about the more mundane aspects of running the Cinema Retro "empire". Yesterday's miraculous landing in the Hudson River of an airliner that suffered the loss of its engines after striking a flock of geese, was truly a head-turner. The networks, both local New York affiliates and national cable stations, appropriately reported on every second of the breathtaking event. The captain of the stricken craft had managed a truly spectacular water landing in the shadow of where the World Trade Center once loomed and, equally impressive, a Dunkirk-armada of disparate rescue boats managed to get all 150+ passengers evacuated from the plane within 90 seconds. The only thing that would have made it more riveting is if we found out Karen Black had been piloting the plane a la Airport '75. However, as the minutes turned to hours, the networks fell back on their reliably lazy and pandering methods of showing endless loops of the same footage, interviewing and re-interviewing the same passengers and aviation experts even as it became clear no remarkable or new information was forthcoming. As compelling as this story was, it was still mostly relevant to New Yorkers - after 9/11, the prospect of any airliner flying at an abnormally low altitude over the city would be of great concern. However, the incident occurred so quickly that there had been no panic or even speculation about what was happening. If you lived in Des Moines, Iowa and finally wanted to get some international news, you were out of luck. The networks were giving you wall-to-wall coverage of a story they decided was so compelling that the outside world would not exist. This is usually the same treatment afforded cases pertaining to missing sexy, white teenage girls.
Think I'm being too harsh? Well, I like a heart-warming story as much as anyone - and this one not only provided some real heroes but the all-too-infrequent happy ending because all of the passengers escaped without life-threatening injuries. However, at what point does coverage of a feel-good story become excessive and find the networks abdicating their responsibilities to report on what is happening elsewhere in the world? Consider just what else was occurring yesterday:
There was a contentious senate confirmation hearing for Eric Holder, who stands to become the most powerful law enforcement official in the United States.Want to know where he stands on the important issues and how he would run the department differently from the Bush administration? Well, if you didn't see the hearings when they were broadcast live in the morning, you were out of luck as far as cable news networks went.
Both Senators Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden gave their farewell addresses to their colleagues before assuming their new positions as Secretary of State and Vice-President.
The battles in Gaza saw the worst day of violence so far and a UN building was shelled.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Fuggetaboutit! Journalists are risking their lives to cover these conflicts, but they seem to get as much airtime as the battle of Gettysburg.
Finally, President Bush gave his farewell address to the nation, though it was clear the networks only reluctantly afforded him 13 minutes of precious "non-news" coverage of the airliner crash. Depending upon where you stand on the President's performance, the speech was either moving and gracious or delusional and arrogant - but there was little air time afforded to discuss these issues or debate the significance of the speech, though MSNBC did allow its hosts to dwell on it a bit before resuming the "All Airliner, All the Time" coverage.
Late in the evening, and hours after the last relevant news had been released about the incident, I turned to the BBC to find out if there were any other human beings left on the planet who were making news. Alas, it did not appear so. How about Nightline for analysis of the Holder confirmation or Presidential speech? Nope - it was 100% airliner news - and included an entire segment on the bird menace to airliners. There were so many of these stories about feathered fiends that aired last night, I thought Hitchcock had risen from the grave to direct them.
This morning I turned out CNN in the vain hope the airliner story had been placed in proper context, but no such luck. In spot-checking the network, it's been hours and I haven't found a single story that wasn't related to the rescue. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Paddy Chayefsky's Network now seems like a documentary instead of a comedy. I guess the airline rescue story will be omnipresent on the news shows - at least until the next sexy, white teenage girl goes missing.
Vanity Fair writer Bruce Handy has an excellent appreciation of composer John Barry's work and career - plus some exclusive reflections from the multiple Oscar-winner himself. Click here to read. (Thanks to Nick Sheffo for the head's up).
Montalban in one of his greatest roles in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.
Ricardo Montalban, the smooth-talking, handsome Mexican heart throb who starred in numerous feature films and TV series, has died at home at age 88. Montalban had appeared in numerous Mexican films before immigrating to Hollywood in the 1940s where he was put under contract with MGM. He appeared in lightweight comedies and musicals, including some box-office hits with Esther Williams before demonstrating his talents in dramatic films like Border Incident (1949) an early film noir thriller that tackled the topic of illegal immigration into the USA. By the 1960s, Montalban was appearing in many top films including The Singing Nun, Cheyenne Autumn and Sweet Charity. In the 1970s, he appeared as Armando, the kindly circus owner in Escape From the Planet of the Apes and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. In 1973, he starred with John Wayne in The Train Robbers before finding his greatest success in the late 1970s as the star of ABC TVs hit series Fantasy Island. Critics rolled their eyes at the premise of well-known stars appearing as love-struck losers who find their fantasies fulfilled on a tropical island run by a benevolent but mysterious man named Roarke, played by Montalban. However, the show was a major success and ran for years. Few critics pointed out that the character of Roarke was obviously inspired by the character played by Christopher Lee in the James Bond film The Man With the Golden Gun, though Lee's Scaramanga was clearly a villain. Both characters were always clad in white, and both had a charismatic sidekick played by actor Herve Villechaize. Montalban found a new generation of fans with his appearance in the 1982 film Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, reprising a character he appeared as in one episode of the TV series in the 1960s. The film is still regarded as the best of the series and Montalban's performance as the villain rates high with Trek fans. In 1988, he co-starred as another villain in the hit film The Naked Gun. In recent years, he continued to act sporadically and appeared in the Spy Kids movie series. For more click here
Patrick McGoohan, whose TV series The Prisoner became one of the most acclaimed and celebrated series in history, has died at age 80 after a short illness. The press-shy McGoohan gave few interviews and only fleetingly involved himself in the acting profession in recent years. Although Irish by ancestry, McGoohan was actually born in America. His family relocated to Ireland when he was very young. McGoohan made an impression in his first appearances on stage and later transitioned into TV and theatrical films in the 1950s. After a series of bit parts, he gained notice for his performance as the heavy in the 1957 British film Hell Drivers which has become a cult classic over the years. McGoohan acted opposite such future stars as Stanley Baker, Sean Connery and David McCallum. In the 1960s, McGoohan had the starring roles in two Disney TV hits: The Three Lives of Thomasina and the 3-part classic The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh. (The latter has just been released on DVD and was Disney's most-requested title for the home video market.) However, it was his portrayal of intelligence agent John Drake in the British TV series Danger Man that saw McGoohan's star rise. The show, which aired in the early 1960s, was brought to American television under the title Secret Agent to capitalize on the James Bond phenomenon. The series also spawned Johnny Rivers' hit theme song. McGoohan had been on the short list to initially play 007, but was not interested because of the emphasis on sex and violence. He prided himself on the fact that his portrayal of John Drake relied on the character's use of intellect rather than weaponry to get out of death traps.
In 1967, McGoohan was the creative force behind the 17 episode TV series The Prisoner, which was one of the most off-beat and thought-provoking series of all time. In it, McGoohan played an unnamed MI6 agent who resigns in anger for reasons never specified. He is kidnapped and awakens in a mysterious village that combines elements of old-time England with futuristic technology. Throughout the series, the character - assigned the dehumanizing "name" of Number 6- continues to rebel against his captors while he tries to determine whether he his being held by his own bosses or a foreign intelligence agency. The show was Kafkaesque in its attempt to bring social commentary into the storylines. McGoohan said that the series' legendary final episode was so bizarre that it forced him to go into virtual hibernation for an extended period of time to get away from irate fans who wanted a more conventional explanation to tie up the loose ends. Nevertheless, the series quickly became a cult phenomenon with fans and the show has been the subject of countless conventions and university seminars. McGoohan rarely discussed the specific meanings of the series, preferring to let viewers make up their own minds.
McGoohan continued to work in theatrical feature films, including MGM's big budget 1968 spy movie Ice Station Zebra. He was also cast as the villain in the hit comedy adventure Silver Streak. He won two Emmys for appearances on the Columbo TV series opposite Peter Falk. He also starred in the short-lived 1977 TV series Rafferty. McGoohan kept a low-profile and rarely engaged in publicity events, though he he did seem to enjoy the iconic status The Prisoner afforded him. In a famous episode of The Simpsons that spoofed the series, McGoohan provided the voice of Number 6. In more recent years, McGoohan chose to only work sporadically in films and TV. In the mid-1980s, he won praise for his return to the stage with his performance in the Broadway production of the epsionage drama Pack of Lies. He also won great reviews for his portrayal of King Edward I in Mel Gibson's Oscar-winner Braveheart. - Lee Pfeiffer For more click here
Cinema Retro columnist David Savage takes a look at Hollywood's most dubious career achievement.
Elizabeth Berkley in Showgirls: the film that inspired Whoopi Goldberg to say she hadn't seen this many poles abused since WWII.
the run-up to this year’s Razzie nominations, to be announced Wednesday,
January 21st for 2008’s “honorees” for the worst achievements in
moviemaking, the longlist buzz is already getting press. If it’s any
indication, 2008 must have been a stink-bomb banner year for movies as it’s
rare for the press to report on the worst movies of the year just-passed, before the nominations are even
the films emerging as leading contenders for 2008’s gold-plated raspberry
statuette -- always bestowed on the eve of the “other” gold-plated statuette
ceremony -- are: The Love Guru, Mike
Myers’ laughless Bollywood debacle; Speed
Racer, Disaster Movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still (the 2009
“reimagining”), High School Musical 3,
The Hottie & The Nottie (starring
Paris Hilton in a brave, human-like performance) Postal (director Uwe Boll’s “best film to date”), The Happening and Meet Dave, starring Eddie Murphy as Eddie Murphy.
personal favorite for Worst Movie of 2008 is the unbearably PC remake of The Women (which I wrote about last
March), Diane English’s 12-years-in-the-making update to the 1939 ensemble classic.
Think of it as WE network’s answer to the furs-and-cigarettes 1930s. Yoga mats
replace chaise lounges, chai lattes replace gin-and-tonics, and
self-empowerment bromides replace catty ripostes. Comic actresses with genius
timing like Candice Bergen, Cloris Leachman and Debra Messing all went to waste
in this ill-conceived mess.
since the Razzies were created in 1980, the award itself has gained the patina
of respect over the last two decades. Earning a golden raspberry has become its
own singular honor, so delicious is the “bad”publicity created by being part of a B-movie which, if the participants
are lucky enough, will pass from critics’ wrath to (hopefully) ripen over time
to the esteemed “so bad it’s good” Hall of Shame. Witness Showgirls,
Mommie Dearest, Battlefield Earth, Howard the
Duck, et al. Elizabeth Berkley of Showgirls
thought she may have committed career suicide after the 1995 movie opened to
incredulous laughter, but now is firmly enthroned as B-movie royalty, in the
tradition of Valley of the Dolls’
perhaps most importantly, the award winners who show enough self-lampooning humor
to show up at the ceremonies to hold the “fruit of their labors” are usually
rewarded with more affection and respect by the public and press for being so
best example was Halle Berry’s hilarious acceptance speech at 2005’s Razzies
for her performance in Catwoman. (“I
want to thank the writers…thank you for thinking this was a good idea…”)
wonder, though: Has any actor or filmmaker ever won a Razzie on Oscar Eve and
then won an Academy Award the next night for the same film? I asked the founder
of The Razzies, John Wilson.
one's ever won both awards in a
single weekend for the exact same
said Wilson, “but we have had five instances of some overlap:
was BOTH an Oscar and a Razzie nominee for his
performance in Only When I Laugh.
was BOTH an Oscar and a Razzie nominee for her
performance (as Barbra Streisand’s “wife”) in Yentl.
1988, Tom Cruise
starred in both that year’s Worst Picture “winner”
(Cocktail) and that year’s Best Picture
winner (Rain Man).
“won” both a WORST Song Razzie (for a song
Newsies) and a Best Song Oscar (for a
song from Aladdin) in one
Helgeland “won” both a WORST Screenplay Razzie
Kevin Costner’s Postman) and a BEST
Screenplay Oscar (for L.A.
Confidential) in one
all things Razzie, go to www.razzies.com.
Special thanks to John Wilson, head RazzBerry for his contribution to this
Inspired by David Brierly's column about disruptive and rude behavior witnessed in UK movie theaters, writer Steve Vertlieb weighs in with horror stories from the American point-of-view, thus proving the Brits don't have a monopoly on uncouth idiots. To read Steve's previously published essay on his web site Thunder Child,click here - and while on his site, browse through his incredible archive of insightful film-related columns, accessed through his home page.
The latest instance of celebrity child abuse just occurred with actress Lisa Bonet and actor boyfriend Jason Momoa naming their newborn Nakoa-Wolf Manakauapo Namakaeha Momoa. As usual, a celebrity couple has justified this madness with some pseudo intellectual claptrap about each name having an inspiring meaning - presumably in the Klingon language. The only one we'll bet is applauding the move is Moon Unit Zappa, who now can claim to have only the second stupidest name among showbiz offspring. Why do we care? We don't - but it gave us the excuse to run this photo of the incredibly sexy Bonet from her vintage voodoo thriller Angel Heart. For more click here
if hushed, is unmistakable. Like the sound of the captain on the flight tannoy
announcing choppy turbulence ahead or next door’s house alarm going off in the
middle of the night, you know that the shape of your immediate experience is
about to be altered by forces beyond your control. It may come in the form of
giggling, gruff voices or popcorn being spilt. But, rest assured, when the
sound of disruption slips its way into the cinema theatre it is piercingly
It would seem that, nowadays, if you don’t talk during a film at the
cinema, then you are in a minority. For most, the box office is not only the
vendor of a mere flick ticket, but a gateway to passive unrest. Whether they are
parents, couples, professionals or OAPs, a trip to the movies is that apt
opportunity to trade-in the burden of responsibility for the anarchy that boils
over when a teacher leaves the classroom for two minutes. For, the teacher has
abandoned the classroom - the traditional ‘usher’ has become somewhat of an
enigmatic figure in the cinema in recent years. In fact, one could argue he
left the screen almost twenty years ago and never came back. He may be spotted
before the trailers begin, and reappear at the closing credits. But he is
nowhere to be seen for the two hours in between when you need him most. Like a
father who waits in the hall whilst his wife goes into labour, contemporary
ushers are reluctant to get roped into the nitty-gritty of child birth. It is
now a case of ’shut the door and leave ’em to it’. Report any noise and to the
rescue comes a 21st Century Adrian Mole, torch shaking in his hand,
as he apologises to the perpetrators for having to ask them to keep the noise
levels to a minimum. With castigation such as that on the sidelines, who would
dare a put a foot wrong? It is that age old defiance; - ask the public not to
talk, and they will willingly lose themselves to a double bill of Tourettes.
No genre offers any asylum. From the baby sick and flying Farley’s Rusks
of Happy Feet, to the intrusive distraction of somebody explaining every
scene of Casino Royale to the donkey that accompanied them, there exists
no anodyne to the contagious evil of these bullies. You think subtitled drama
would harbor a bit of hush? You’d be wrong. The Diary of Anne Frank tenders no refuge; Schindlers List
will still prove too intense for the Heat-reader on the row behind. Who gives a
hoot about theHolocaust when it looks like Amy Winehouse’s fella might get
bail? Multi-plexes are now a pantheon for these brutes to wave their
single-fingered salute at the mindful minority who still acknowledge the
pillars of respect and self-control, whilst they showboat all the restraint of
a fig leaf. To some extent, it is hardly surprising.To morons such as these, just the impact of a
visual image before them is more than enough to kick start the stimulated urge
to say something. It doesn’t matter what. In fact, anything will do. Preferably
though, utter nonsense tends to do the trick. At times all that is missing is
Roy Walker stood to the right of the screen begging you to say what you see.
Because for the most part, the visual incitement of cinema-going is much like
placing a picture puzzle before a laboratory monkey; where reserved judgment
and primitive excitement collide, there is only ever one winner.
I am sure that this will sound to many like the outburst of your typical
killjoy. But then I can rest equally assured that it is that ‘many’ which this
rant is aimed at. They will scoff at this attack just as they scoff at the idea
of not being heard for an hour or two. What is most worrying is that, in many
ways, this behaviour is a simple snapshot of today’s society, and the selfish,
impatient inconsideration of the everyday Joe. The same one who flashes you to
get out of his way in the fast lane of the motorway, the same one who still
barges in front of you at the supermarket check-out with two-weeks worth of
shopping in his trolley, leaving you to queue behind with your 30 pence
newspaper and exact change.Through the
echelons of time, the “sshhhh!!!!’’ factor of cinema-going is a cliché that has
gathered momentum within the rude thoughtlessness of modern life.
Cinemas may still be theatres. But no longer is their priority to
showcase the latest films. They have become forums, which are
concession-dependent for their profit. Candid in their ability to match your
mortgage payment for a small Asda cola, and shameless in their drive to push
loud, messy and garish three course meals onto the very same John Motsons who
will commentate their way into the screens. Once inside, the film plays a poor
understudy to a gamut of commercials and in-house promotional reels - on
average, a movie will in actuality begin over twenty minutes after the printed
showing time. Showing times - much in the same way as certificates - mean
nothing in today’s climate. Turning up half an hour after the advertised time?
Worry not, you will be free to barge in any way. Never mind the disruption to
those who paid to watch a film uninterrupted from start to finish. ‘Chris and
Claire’ decided to see what was on at the last minute, and that folks means
another £15 in the till. £30 if they’re peckish. Is it any wonder the noise
issues are as they are, if you usher in people who not only arrive forty
minutes late, but still buy food? This is why the theatre managers themselves
are just as much to blame as the gaseous chatterboxes themselves. It is like
buying Bart Simpson a drum kit for Christmas and telling him not to make a
(David Brierly is a UK-based freelance writer. Send comments to him at email@example.com. Visit his profile page.)
“Hi, I’m Plenty,” said Lana Wood to
Sean Connery’s James Bond at the gaming tables of Las Vegas in Diamonds Are Forever (1971).“Plenty O’Toole.”Glancing at her cleavage, Bond wittily
deadpanned, “But of course you are.”With this small exchange audiences were introduced to one of the most
popular Bond girls to ever hit the screen.As Plenty, Lana Wood was finally able to step out of the shadow of her
sister Natalie Wood.On screen for only
a few scenes, she almost steals the movie with her amusing performance and
remains forever remembered for this role.“Isn’t that bizarre,” exclaims Wood with a laugh.“I’m only in the movie for three
Lana Wood was born Svetlana Zacharenko
Gurdin in Santa Monica, California.She
followed her older sister into the acting profession and made her film debut at
eight years old in John Ford’s classic western The Searchers (1956).Wood
received good notices and went on to appear in a few television dramas with
Jack Lemmon and Charlton Heston, among others.But unlike Natalie, Lana didn’t want to act as a child and she waited
until she was eighteen before re-starting her career with an episode of Dr. Kildare.More alluring and voluptuous than Natalie, Lana
found herself typed cast in sexpot roles.After playing a coed in The Girls
on the Beach (1965), Wood was signed to play sexy Eula Harker in the
short-lived soap opera The Long, Hot
Summer (1965-66).When the series
was cancelled midway through its first season, 20th Century-Fox immediately
moved Lana Wood into their hit soap opera Peyton
Place.As Sandy Webber, a slinky
temptress from the wrong side of the tracks, Wood was an immediate hit with the
viewers and played the role for close to two years.
After playing a swinging
bachelorette in For Singles Only
(1968) and a mini-skirted biker babe in Free
Grass (1969), Wood posed semi-nude for Playboy
magazine.Her pictorial appeared in the
April 1971 issue along accompanied by some of her poetry.These photos indirectly helped Wood land her
most famous role of Plenty O’Toole.“I
didn’t have to audition per se for this role,” recalls Lana.“My dear friend [writer] Tom Mankiewicz told
me that Cubby Broccoli was looking for an actress to play this character named
Plenty O’Toole.Tom thought I would be
perfect for it.He asked me if I would
meet with Cubby.I said, ‘Absolutely!’I was en route to do a movie called A Place Called Today in New York.Before leaving for that, I went in to chat
with Cubby who was adorable!I tried to
look as tall as humanly possible because Tom had told me that they were
thinking of Plenty O’Toole as this giant of a woman in every way.For me that wasn’t easy—I’m only five feet,
four inches—but those were the days of hot pants and really high heels. I
didn’t hear anything until I started filming the other picture.I was thrilled to get the part!”
In Diamonds Are Forever (1971), secret agent James Bond (Sean Connery)
is assigned to pose as a diamond smuggler, leading him and jewel thief Tiffany
Case (Jill St. John), from Amsterdam to Las Vegas, in pursuit of fifty thousand
carats of diamonds.Bond meets bar girl
Plenty O’Toole and her cleavage at a crap tables in a Vegas casino.After introducing herself to Bond who has been
winning he takes her up to his room.Their tryst is interrupted as thugs try to kill Bond and toss Plenty out
the fifteen-story window.(“We filmed
this at night.I was topless.The crowd got a nice view of me in nothing
but a pair of pale blue panties.”)Fortunately, Plenty lands in the hotel’s pool.Unfortunately, a short time later she is
discovered murdered and floating face down in Tiffany’s pool.
Lana strikes a cheesecake pose in the 1970s.
Remembering working with Sean
Connery, Lana remarks, “He is very charming and attentive. He was very relaxed and
was very easy to work with.As long as
we did things in a rapid pace so he could get out to golf then he was
fine.But I had no problems working with
Sean at all.Later on we heard that he
was battling with the producers during the shoot.If that was true it wasn’t in front of the
cast or crew.”Lana also admits to
having a brief “interlude” with her sexy leading man.
With the special edition DVD
release, fans got to see a number of Wood’s scenes that were excised from the
final print due to “running time.”One
shows the sexual attraction growing between Bond and Plenty as they dine before
going up to his hotel room and another featured Plenty sneaking back into
Bond’s room only to find him in bed with Tiffany.“I was flabbergasted that they cut all this
out,” exclaims Lana.“I didn’t even
realize it until I had come back from a world tour to promote the film.I went to the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in
Hollywood to watch it with a friend because I was so busy I never had time to
see it.I literally bent over to get
some popcorn as the thugs threw me out the window and by the time I had
straightened up my character was dead.I
thought, ‘Wow, all of a sudden I have this little part.’I actually asked why they cut most of my scenes
and I was told that they didn’t have much relevance to the plot.”Not so.These missing scenes finally explain how and why Plenty O’Toole is found
murdered in Tiffany Case’s swimming pool wearing her wig.The assassins mistook her for Tiffany and killed
It was foolish to cut these scenes
and considering how much better Wood was in the movie than Jill St. John who clad
in an ill-fitting bikini throughout most of the movie gives a shrill
performance (though the overrated redhead incredulously keeps making the Top 10
Bond Girls of all-time polls), the producers probably kicked themselves for
shortening Wood’s screen time.
- Read more about Bond girls and
other spy chicks in Tom Lisanti’s Film
Fatales: Women in Espionage Films and Television, 1962-1973 (co-authored by Louis Paul) available at www.sixtiescinema.com. .
Warner Home Video has a belated holiday gift for Sidney Poitier fans: the
release of a new four DVD boxed set that includes titles never before
available on the DVD format. The films contained in the set are:
Edge of the City- Never before available on home video, this 1957 classic by director Martin Ritt stars
Poitier and John Cassavetes as longshoremen who team to battle
corruption and racism. The film was instrumental in launching Poitier
as a leading man.
Something of Value- In another film released in 1957, Poitier co-stars with Rock Hudson in another racially-charged drama set in Kenya during the Mau Mau uprisings.
A Patch of Blue - This controversial and moving 1965 film cast Poitier as a social worker who has a love affair with a blind white girl - and has to cope with the racist rants of her trailer trash mother. Poitier gets fine support from Elizabeth Hartman and Shelly Winters.
A Warm December - As one of the pioneers in bringing African American actors better roles in Hollywood, Poitier measured his success by the increasing number of films in which race was not a factor in the screenplay. His 1973 romantic comedy A Warm December was just such a film, casting Poitier as a recently widowed doctor who discovers he can find love again.The film was shot in London and affords some great time capsule-like views of the city in the early 1970s.
There are no major extras, but original trailers are included for each film.
It's been frustrating that in recent years, Poitier has virtually retired from acting and directing (most people fail to remember, he helmed a string of box-office hits). However, The Sidney Poitier Collection allows fans to relive seeing this dashing leading man at both the early stage of his career and at the peak of his popularity.
The set will be released January 27. Click here to order
As if it isn't enough that Ed and Sue Poole have given classic movie lovers an amazing gold mine of research information on their web site at www.learnaboutmovieposters.com. Now they have also released an exciting and comprehensive new book that covers every aspect of collecting international movie posters. Ed and Sue answer most of the questions that have hounded serious collectors for decades. Among them:
Why are British combo posters viewed differently from US combo posters?
Why are British 3 sheets called 6 sheets in the pressbooks?
What are trade ads and why are they accepted?
Why are there large amounts of Swedish posters from the 1930s but not 60s and 70s
What are FSK marks?
Why are French Visa de Censure numbers important?
Why are French printers addresses important?
How do you tell the difference between Slovak and Czech posters?
Can Belgian tax stamps help you date the poster?
What is the controversy over Yugoslavian posters?
How do you read Japanese Erin marks?
How is the Indian film system broken down and why is it so large?
How do you tell Mexican reissues?
How do you tell Egyptian reissues?
The book is a mammoth 430 pages with over 500 illustrations of classic international movie posters.
Click here to order - and while you are on their site, settle down for a full day of browsing their incredible archives.
Actor Pat Hingle, who had a long and distinguished career in stage, TV and film, has died at his North Carolina home at age 84 after a battle with blood cancer. Hingle's first feature film was an uncredited bit role in On the Waterfront. However, he soon became one of the most in-demand character actors. Despite looking like the neighbor next door (and bearing a resemblance to Andy Devine), Hingle had a commanding screen presence and very often was cast as a judge or government official. Hingle had landed the title role in Richard Brooks' classic 1960 screen adaptation of Elmer Gantry but he suffered a nearly fatal fall down an elevator shaft. While he was recovering, Burt Lancaster took over the part and won an Oscar for his efforts. Nevertheless, Hingle appeared in many high profile films and worked three times with Clint Eastwood: on Hang 'Em High, The Gauntlet and Sudden Impact. He also played the role of Commissioner Gordon in several of the Batman movies in the 1980s and 1990s. His continued to work up until shortly before his death. For more click here
New York Post theater critic Michael Riedel has a moving salute to some Broadway legends who passed away in the last year. Among them are actors such as Paul Scofield, Suzanne Pleshette and Van Johnson, as well as the famed critic Clive Barnes. Riedel points out that Barnes had a unique ability to encapsulate his thoughts on any given production. For example, his entire review of a 1958 play called The Cupboard read: "Bare". Where is such wit today? To read the column click here
Donald Westlake, one of the most popular and acclaimed contemporary mystery writers, has died at age 75. Many of Westlake's novels inspired films, including Point Blank, The Hot Rock, Cops and Robbers, Bank Shot, The Split, and The Busy Body. Westlake also dabbled in screenwriting and earned an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for the 1990 film The Grifters. According the IMDB, he is also rumored to have made uncredited contributions to the 1997 James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. For more click here
Criterion continues to earn its reputation as the gold standard among DVD distributors with its new release of a special edition of the 1965 classic The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.
The acclaimed film was based on John Le Carre's first novel, which he wrote under a pseudonym because of sensitivities relating to his work for British Intelligence. Le Carre was "outed", however, and the revelation turned out to be a blessing, catapulting him to the top ranks of thriller writers. The film had a tortured history, as outlined in the special edition DVD. Director Martin Ritt had initially considered Burt Lancaster to star, with the story rewritten to make him a disgruntled member of Canadian Intelligence. Fortunately that plan fell through, as the British background to the story is essential to its effectiveness. Ultimately, Richard Burton was cast - though it necessitated that most of the film be shot in Ireland in order to accomodate the limited number of days Burton could work in England without incurring severe tax penalties. Burton resented Ritt from the start, perhaps because the director held firm in his insistence that Burton play down his tendency to be overly theatrical. The two men rarely spoke except on the set, and at one point Le Carre was brought to the set to act as a referee between them. At one crucial point, Burton walked off the set and had to be coaxed out of his dressing room. As sometimes happens during such adversarial situations, a classic film emerged and Burton received an Oscar-nominated performance.
The film is a complex but mesmerizing Cold War thriller with Burton cast as Alec Leamas, a depressed and disgruntled field agent who has become sickened by his chosen profession. Numb to any human feeling, he leads a solitary existence while barely tolerating his superior officer (Cyril Cusack, playing the role with such dispassion it makes for a chilling impression). Leamas' cynicism is thought to be advantageous to MI6, as it might convince the Soviets that he is ready to defect. An elaborate scheme is concocted in which Leamas is allowed to be recruited by the enemy - with the ultimate objective of being brought to East Berlin where he will give disinformation designed to ruin their top spy master (Peter Van Eyck). Along the way, Leamas reluctantly recruits a British left-wing activist (Claire Bloom) as part of the scheme, feigning a romantic interest in her. The plot eventually features more twists and turns than a roller coaster and one must pay close attention or become hopelessly confused. However, the film is a mesmerizing experience - especially the sequences set behind the Iron Curtain in which Leamas finds himself giving testimony at a kangaroo trial orchestrated by his target's main rival in the KGB (a superb Oskar Werner). The finale is as surprising as it is unconventional and has a shattering emotional impact.
The film excels on all levels, from Oswald Morris' outstanding black-and-white cinematography that makes London appear as drab and uninviting as East Berlin; Anthony Harvey's editing, the screenplay by Paul Dehn and Guy Trosper; the supporting performances including Bloom, Sam Wanamaker, Rupert Davies, Bernard Lee ("M" from the 007 films) and Michael Hordern (particularly good as an aging homosexual agent who suffers humiliation at the hands of his superior), and Sol Kaplan's sobering score.
The film was released in 1965 when the cinemas were awash with James Bond films and the endless waves of 007 "wanna-be" movies. Spy stood out from the rest of the pack due to its daring unglamorous look at the world of real life espionage - a point made by Leamas when he states that agents are generally life's losers who have failed to fit in with any normal aspect of society. The script did cause some controversy because it depicts the methods used by both the East and West indistinguishable in their brutality. Although the movie received outstanding reviews, it was only a modest box-office success, though its reputation has increased over the decades.
Criterion's 2-DVD special edition features a terrific transfer as well as some impressive extras. Cinematographer Oswald Morris (who sounds a bit like Alfred Hitchcock) gives fascinating insights into key sequences; there is a new interview with Le Carre in which he speaks candidly about the tensions on the film as well as aspects of it that have always displeased him; a somewhat dry but nevertheless informative BBC documentary from the year 2000 in which Le Carre is interviewed at his country estate and reflects back on his entire career; a 1985 audio interview of Martin Ritt by film historian Patrick Milligan; original set design drawings and the theatrical trailer. There is also a rare 1967 British TV show in which Richard Burton is interviewed by Kenneth Tynan. It's a fascinating time capsule, with both men smoking like chimneys as the dour Burton discusses the hits and misses of his career. In a moment of great candor, he says that his main motivation is to simply get the best tables at restaurants and the other benefits that accompany being a celebrity.It was this emphasis on the shallow rewards of stardom that would ultimately largely derail Burton's career.The set also features an illustrated booklet with extensive liner notes by film critic Michael Sragow.
Bring this Spy in from the cold and make it an essential part of your video library. - Lee Pfeiffer