PHOTOS COPYRIGHT MARK MAWSTON/CINEMA RETRO. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Cinema Retro London photographer Mark Mawston dropped by the Cinema Store in London earlier this week to cover Robert Vaughn's signing session for his autobiography A Fortunate Life. Fans lined up outside the store and patiently waited as they were escorted one-by-one to the signing table. Vaughn is in London to shoot the new season of his smash hit TV series Hustle. The book is a mesmerizing page-turner of his early years in show business through his success on The Man From U.N.C.L.E.and his political activism in the late 1960s.
The Killing of Sister George was the first
“serious” film ever to earn an X rating - though many people erroneously believe that distinction was held by by Midnight Cowboy, which
was released the following year.
little-seen but oft-cited film in the queer canon, Sister George still packs a subversive punch 40 years after its
release, not least for its still-unbested, two-minute lesbian sex scene. (Paradoxically
I find it one of the least sexy “sex scenes” ever captured on film.)
Reid (who won a Tony for the role she originated on Broadway) plays an aging,
gin-soaked actress, June Buckridge who, in turn, plays a kindly country nun on
a popular BBC soap opera, Applehurst
– but not for long. The producers of the show have decided to kill off her
character. Meanwhile, June’s live-in, blond bombshell girlfriend “Childie”
(Susannah York) is getting restless. Enter Mrs. Mercy Croft (Coral Browne), one
of Applehurst’s producers, who finds
her first female attraction with Childie. The love triangle that ensues is
still jaw-dropping 40 years later.
screening on 2/28 will be introduced by former TimeOut New York film critic Melissa Anderson, who had this to say
about Sister George:
Killing of Sister George, which was released in 1968, has always fascinated me
as a depiction of pre-Stonewall lesbian culture. It was the first “serious”
film to receive an X-rating, due to the notorious 119-second love scene between
Coral Browne and Susannah York. Although that scene is completely ludicrous—if
not downright offensive—I find that Robert Aldrich’s portrayal of George
(played by the great Beryl Reid, reprising her role from the stage play) is
quite compassionate. Though she’s certainly prone to atrocious behavior, George
is the only one in the film who has not compromised herself or exploited
others. And Aldrich’s decision to film the club scene at a real lesbian bar—the
Gateways Club on Kings Road in London—using real patrons as extras gives the
movie a certain level of authenticity.”
let’s not leave out Robert Aldrich for praise. This was one versatile director.
Although he’s best known for his endlessly quotable, taut-wire suspense
thrillers such as Whatever Happened to
Baby Jane? (1962) and Hush…Hush,
(1964), this was the same director who gave us Kiss Me Deadly (1955), The
Dirty Dozen (1967) and the survival drama The Flight of the Phoenix (1965). We love versatility here at CinemaRetro,
and we love under-appreciated cult classics coming in for their long-overdue
due. Due due? Sorry. Don’t miss Sister George!
Between the 20th and
25th February, the Barbican Centre in London paid tribute to 'the studio that
dripped blood' - Amicus.
For twenty years
Amicus produced the kind of horror movies that, along with the better known
Hammer studio, characterised Britain's world domination of the genre. Helmed by
producer Max Rosenberg and screenwriter Milton Subotsky, the studio produced 30
films and recruited directors such as Freddie Francis, William Friedkin and Roy
Ward Baker along with in-front-of-camera talent with stars Peter Cushing,
Christopher Lee, Joan Collins, Ralph Richardson and Vincent Price, amongst
The season kicked
off with The House That Dripped Blood with star Ingrid Pitt and director Peter
Duffell on hand to share a few memories. Other films in the season included: Dr
Terror's House of Horrors,The Land That Time Forgot, Scream and Scream Again,
Tales From The Crypt, And Now The Screaming Starts, The Birthday Party,
Madhouse, The Psychopath, Asylum, I Monster and The Beast Must
Though a few
of the prints were scratchy and had seen better days, it rather added to the
nostalgic quality of the season!
If all that has whet your appetites for blood, you can read
more about Amicus in the new book The Shepperton Story by Cinema Retro columnist Gareth Owen, who writes the Pinewood Past section in every issue. The book will be published in March,
by The History Press. There is a chapter devoted to the Amicus films.
Cinema Retro just received this press release regarding an exciting new book that explores the Batman legend.
NEW BOOK EXPLORES BATMAN IN THE 1960s AND 1970s
Is he the campy Caped Crusader? Or
the grim Gotham Guardian?
Both, as The Batcave Companion
On the brink of cancellation in
1963, Batman was rescued by DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz, who, abetted by several talented writers and
artists, gave the hero a much-needed “New Look” which soon catapulted Batman to
In the next decade, when Batman
required another fresh start, Schwartz once again led a team of creators that returned
the hero to his “creature of the night” roots.
Writers Michael Eury (The Krypton
Companion, The Justice League
Companion) and Michael Kronenberg
(Spies, Vixens, and Masters of Kung Fu:
The Art of Paul Gulacy)unearth
the stories behind the stories of both Batman’s “New Look” and Bronze Age
(1970s) comic-book eras through incisive essays, invaluable issue-by-issue
indexes, and insightful commentary from many of the visionaries responsible for
and inspired by Batman’s 1960s and 1970s adventures: Neal Adams, Michael Allred,
Terry Austin, Mike W. Barr, Steve
Englehart, Mike Friedrich, Mike Grell, Carmine Infantino, Joe
Giella, Adam Hughes, Sheldon Moldoff, Will Murray, Dennis O’Neil,
Bob Rozakis, Mark Waid, Len Wein, and
Featuring 240 art- and info-packed
pages, The Batcave Companion is a must-have examination of two of the
most influential periods in Batman’s 70-year history.
The book, published by TwoMorrows Publishing, will available in April. Click here to pre-order
We must be doing something right! Our statistics show that since Cinema Retro's daily web feed has been picked up by WWW.IMDB.COMour web site traffic has skyrocketed. On February 22, the number of hits we received was up 175% over our previous record! A heartfelt thanks to all our loyal readers, as well as the many talented writers who contribute on a regular basis. Thanks also to everyone who supports our magazine. In an age where publications are becoming as extinct as anything seen in One Million Years B.C., you continue to make it possible to pay tribute to the greatest era of filmmaking ever. Remember, you can sign up for our free newsletter (see right hand column). We'll be sending out the first one soon.
I am very proud to own every
copy of Cinema Retro and I look forward to the Where Eagles Dare issue. I
often visit the website at least twice a day and also on my Blackberry 9500 .
I would like you at sometime in the future to do feature on these
The Last Hard Men (1976) This features one of James Coburn's finest
performances ever & has yet to be released on DVD in the US or the
The Stunt Man (1980) This movie was made in 1978 and took two years to
be released. It's a very good movie which never seems to be shown on TV,
thankfully it is available on DVD ..if you were to contact the director Richard
Rush it would be a very memorable experience for you .
I would like to finish by saying that Cinema Retro is the only magazine that i have subscribed to & is worth every
All the very best,
Retro responds: Ian, thanks for the suggestions. These are two worthy films. We're also admirers of The Last Hard Men, which also offered the reunion of Coburn and Charlton Heston, who both starred in Major Dundee a decade before. At the time of its release, the film was lambasted by critics for its bloody content, but it remains a very underrated gem, even though it was saddled with a title that made it sound like porn legend John Holmes' latest endeavor. It's a shame the movie isn't available on DVD- it only exists in bootleg editions. We share your enthusiasm for The Stunt Man, a highly praised but little-seen film. Let's not forget Richard Rush's other great "credit" in his early days: that wonderful James Bond-inspired low budget wonder, A Man Called Dagger. We'll look into your suggestion. Thanks also for the kind words about Cinema Retro magazine- maybe it might help some more "window shoppers" try out an issue. They don't know what they're missing!
I am wiping tears from my eyes from laughing so hard at your
Silver Chalice review. I remember the film as being pretty bad, but that just
sounds atrocious! Thanks! I can't believe how funny you made it all seem. Wish I
could be invited to that screening party for witty one-liners. I will make it a
point to seek that one out. I'm hope Newman is laughing in his grave!
Retro responds: Thanks, Bill...The Silver Chalice is one of those legendary disasters that offers far more entertainment value than many acclaimed comedies. You have to review a lot of films in this crazy business, and the ones that hurt the most are the mediocrities - they're not good enough or bad enough to merit the time spent watching them. However, the old "tits and toga" Biblical films rarely fail to disappoint. I thought DeMille's The Ten Commandments took the cake on unintentional religious hilarity, but it's safe to say it will take a real miracle to wrest the honor from The Silver Chalice.
Hi. Liked your DVD review of The Silver Chalice. Most intrigued to see the movie. Thought you might
like to see this: the half page ad from one of those Picturegoer magazines I
have from 1955. It's on my flickr account:
Retro responds: Thanks Adrian-- Love some of those images on the site, including the 1955 fan magazine piece on a promising newcomer named Roger Moore! The ad for The Silver Chalice demonstrates how movie marketing has deteriorated in recent years. Back then, even a turkey received a spectacular ad campaign while today, movies that cost $200 million have dreary and uninspired posters and ads. (Adrian Smith is one of Cinema Retro's London correspondents).
I have a question for you: I've always loved the sound that guns create in the old Sergio Leone and other spaghetti westerns. Why do they sound so different from the American gun shots and how are they created?
Earl Tanner Jr.
Retro responds: We put the question to Cinema Retro columnist John Exshaw, our resident expert on all westerns relating to spaghetti. His conclusion:
Well, off the top of my head, Leone and his sound guy went to an old quarry and shot off a variety of guns, recording ricochets, etc. I think the idea was that Leone wanted a) the real sound and b) the sounds as heard in natural surroundings. That is, not just stock sound library gunshot FX. They were worked into the soundtrack, amplified, given echo, etc.
I have to disagree with you on the Academy's decision to cut the nominated songs
to 65 seconds each. I'm glad they did.
I've been begging for this for years. The songs in their complete versions gave
viewers (like me) a chance to get another bourbon or hit the bathroom. If I
were producing the program, each song would have one minute, would be taken
right from the movie's soundtrack, and played along with footage from the
movie. They would be presented all at the same time in one five minute movie
song medley.This change alone could shorten the program by 15 minutes. We
only see clips of the movies and performances that are nominated so just a clip
of the song seems fair to me. I believe part of the reason that ratings are
down is the show's running time. Reducing the show's content won't open up
more commercials sales, but may allow the program to end within it's actual
Retro responds: Bob, your letter was written before the Oscar telecast and in retrospect, I have to agree with you. Given the fact that most of the recent nominated songs are bland at best or awful at worst (though this year's crop was a bit better), it does lessen the pain to blend them all into one number and the strategy worked well this year. However, I do hope that if we get better songs (or the Academy stops ignoring the ones that do turn up in films!), they will revert back to full presentations of each number. I'm still living in a fantasy world in which songs like Moon River will reappear- and I think if they do, even you would put the bourbon on hold and cross your legs and grit your teeth until the commercials in order to take a bathroom break.
Send your letters, criticisms, observations and naked, compromising photos to: email@example.com
Slumdog cast and crew join director Danny Boyle on stage. (Photo: Getty Images)
By Lee Pfeiffer
The 81st annual Academy Awards is now history and Slumdog Millionaire was top dog in the winner's circle with 8 Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director for Danny Boyle. Kate Winslet won Best Actress for The Reader. In the Best Actor category there was a clear upset with Sean Penn winning the prize for playing the gay rights activist in Milk, despite the smart money being on sentimental favorite Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler. Best Supporting Actress was Penelope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona. The late Heath Ledger was awarded Supporting Actor for The Dark Knight. In a moving and bittersweet moment, his family accepted on his behalf. Refreshingly, Kate Winslet, one of the most brilliant actresses working today, finally learned to deliver a concise and genuinely moving acceptance speech instead of the rambling nonsense she had mumbled through at previous awards shows. Similarly, Sean Penn was gracious and clearly surprised at his win. He praised America (perhaps just to deprive Fox News from having their talking points tomorrow morning) and confined his social activism to a statement that those who oppose equal rights for gays will someday realize they have shamed themselves and their families.
I'll go against the annual trend of bashing the Oscars and say I thought this was a highly entertaining and briskly-paced show, devoid of long-winded speeches and that God-awful "spontaneous" patter between presenters that generally induces groans all over the world. The show still lacks a strong host, though Hugh Jackman was handsome, versatile and extremely talented in the dancing and singing numbers. What he doesn't possess is the razor-sharp wit exhibited by Steve Martin, who relegated himself to being one of the presenters. (His not-so-veiled smack at Scientology was hilarious, though he'll probably be trailed by men in black for the rest of his life.) In the build-up to the show, much was made over the absence of star power. No Hanks, Ford, Eastwood or Nicholson on the podium. However, the producers did scrounge up some pretty impressive names. Among them: Robert DeNiro, Anthony Hopkins, Eva Marie Saint, Daniel Craig, Alan Arkin, Jack Black, Ben Stiller (whose comedic appearance promised more than it delivered) Ben Kingsley ...er, Sir Ben Kingsley (apparently even his children are required to refer to him as Sir Daddy), Michael Douglas, Goldie Hawn, Shirley MacLaine, and a genuine legend, gorgeous Sophia Loren, still looking like she walked out of time capsule. To the delight of older women everywhere, both Loren and Hawn proved that their bosoms are capable of defying Newton's Law of Gravity. A highlight of the show was the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award given to Jerry Lewis, who was very humbled (that's right, humbled!) by the honor. Lewis was presented with the award by Eddie Murphy, long regarded as one of the most unpleasant men in show business. Thus, by bringing out Murphy's softer side, maybe Lewis is not just a humanitarian, but a miracle worker.
There were some innovative changes this year. It was a great idea to have five previous winners in each acting category appear on stage to honor this year's nominees and to present the awards. I also liked the orchestra's consistent use of famous movie themes throughout the evening, and it was a nice touch to actually hear them play excerpts of this year's nominated scores. The blending of the three Oscar nominated songs into one production number worked far better than I had anticipated, as did a nice, classy production number in hat and tails that honored the great musicals. The well-directed and slickly-produced show had only one annoying segment: the generally moving memorial montage to artists who passed away in the last year. It was shown as Queen Latifah sang a lovely version of I'll Be Seeing You, but the director couldn't figure out where to zoom in and it turned out to be a botched hodgepodge of long shots of Latifah and postage stamp-sized images of the artists being nominated.(Maybe I missed it, but it didn't seem as though Heath Ledger was included in the tribute clips!)
From a fashion standpoint, there were few embarrassments or head-turners. The women looked rather blandly attired, but the men seem to (finally) be trending back toward the traditional black bow tie-with-tux look instead of that straight tie, which always makes the wearer appear under-dressed for such an occasion. There were a couple of major gaffes in fashion statements, however. Tilda Swinden, who has the complexion of Casper the Friendly Ghost, came on stage attired in what could only be charitably described as the slip cover of a living room couch. She probably paid a fortune for it, but the gown reminded me of that home-grown concoction that Carol Burnett's Scarlett O'Hara made up out of a pair of drapes (complete with curtain rod still in it) in her classic variety show sketch based on Gone With the Wind. The male fashion embarrassment of the evening came when the camera panned to nominee Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was attired in black with a doo-rag on his head. In his quest to look funky, he may have thought he was evoking memories of Isaac Hayes, but ended up looking like a white drag version of Aunt Jemima.
What the show still lacks is an opening. Jackman tried hard with a somewhat clever comedic ode to the nominated films, but it wore thin quickly. Similarly, his bizarre notion of going into the audience to greet certain stars reminded me of a struggling night club comedian. I half expected him to shout, "Anybody here from New Jersey?". Still, he was a good sport, looked dashing and kept the action flowing without hamming it up. In all, this may well prove to be the lowest rated Oscars of all due to the abundance of art house films, but the Academy has nothing to be ashamed of regarding the presentation. It was one of the best in quite some time, though don't expect many other critics to say as much. The Oscars are the low-hanging fruit in terms of writing up lively reviews - and the temptation to use those good one liners writers come up with in advance to criticize the ceremony is just too much for many to resist. Oh, and for those of you who were paying attention, I did pretty well in my predictions, having been accurate in fifteen categories and wrong in only five, the most notable being Sean Penn's win over Mickey Rourke.
(With the recent passing of acclaimed writer Richard Matheson, Cinema Retro pays tribute by re-publishing this appreciation of Matheson by Matthew R. Bradley.)
After the hundreds of
pages I have written and edited about Richard Matheson, it’s tough to sum up
his significance to film and television in a few sentences, but here goes.Start with the movies that would never have
been made if he hadn’t written the novels or stories—and in many cases the
scripts—first:the Hugo Award-winning The
Incredible Shrinking Man, the Emmy Award-winning Duel (Steven
Spielberg’s feature-length debut), The Legend of Hell House, Trilogy
of Terror (with Karen Black’s Zuni-doll smackdown), the Oscar-nominated Somewhere
in Time, the Oscar-winning What Dreams May Come, Stir of Echoes,
and a little half-billion-dollar hit called I Am Legend (plus its two
previous incarnations, The Last Man on Earth and The Omega Man).
Now add his adaptations of
works by Edgar Allan Poe (House of Usher, Pit and the Pendulum, Tales
of Terror, The Raven), Jules Verne (Master of the World),
Fritz Leiber (Burn, Witch, Burn), Dennis Wheatley (The Devil Rides
Out), Bram Stoker (the TV version of Dracula with Jack Palance), and
Ray Bradbury (The Martian Chronicles).Then throw in his other television work, such as the Edgar Award-winning
original Night Stalker (the highest-rated TV-movie of its day), The
Morning After (with an Emmy-nominated Dick Van Dyke as an alcoholic), the
Christopher Award-winning Dreamer of Oz (a biopic of L. Frank Baum), and
many of the best-known Twilight Zone entries (including the
Shatner-vs.-gremlin “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”).Not to mention episodes of shows as diverse
as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Amazing Stories (including John
Lithgow’s Emmy-winning role in “The Doll”), Cheyenne, Combat!, The
Girl from U.N.C.L.E., Have Gun—Will Travel, Night Gallery, Star
Trek, Thriller, and Wanted: Dead or Alive.And then…well, you get the picture.Clearly, this is a Cinema Retro kinda
By now, I probably have
you salivating for a book that will tell you everything about this incredible
body of work, right?Well, you’re going
to have to wait a little longer for that one; I’m still adding the finishing
touches to Richard Matheson on Screen before sending it to the
publisher, McFarland.But to tide you
over in the meantime there’s The Twilight and Other Zones: The Dark Worlds
of Richard Matheson (Citadel, 2009), which I edited with Stanley Wiater and
Paul Stuve.It was originally published
by (and is still available from) Gauntlet Press as a handsome limited edition
entitled The Richard Matheson Companion.This new version not only is more affordable, for those counting their
pennies in these economic times, but also has been completely revised and
updated, making it more comprehensive than ever.
So, what is this book, you
ask?Well, it’s several things at
once.It’s an appreciation of Matheson’s
astounding career as an author and screenwriter, with essays examining his work
and wide-ranging influence by Harlan Ellison, Dennis Etchison, Ed Gorman,
George Clayton Johnson, Jack Ketchum, Dean Koontz, Joe R. Lansdale, Brian
Lumley, David Morrell, William F. Nolan, F. Paul Wilson, and Gahan Wilson (many
of them published for the first time).While not a biography per se, it offers an intimate look at his
life through Matheson interviews and correspondence; more than a dozen candid
photos; and contributions from artists, book editors, publishers, and producers
he has worked with, plus his wife and four children, three of whom are also
Last but far from least,
it contains the most comprehensive documentation of Matheson’s oeuvre
ever compiled:published works (fiction
and nonfiction), scripts (produced, unproduced, and published), adaptations
(including novelizations, audiobooks, and graphic novels), profiles, websites,
stage plays, musical compositions, on-camera appearances, audio recordings, soundtracks,
collectibles, awards, and even a section debunking some common Matheson
myths.A special bonus—unique to this
edition—is the previously unpublished guest-of-honor speech he delivered at the
World Fantasy Convention in 1977.
If you have the slightest
interest in Matheson, then you’re probably too busy ordering The Twilight
and Other Zones to read the rest of this (which is fine), but a common
theme should be noted among the two dozen contributors, who include all three
of the book’s editors:that his great
spirit is every bit the equal of his prodigious talent.Having known him for almost twenty years, and
worked with him on various literary projects over more than half of that time,
I have found him to be gracious, generous, and loyal at every turn—qualities
often in short supply in Hollywood.We
hope this book will be an adequate tribute to the man as well as to his work.
(Click here to order from Amazon)(Matthew R. Bradley is a contributing writer to Cinema Retro. Click here for his essay on the Matt Helm novels by Donald Hamilton)
Spy movie enthusiast Jason Whiton has launched a major new web site dedicated to those great espionage movies and TV series of the 1960s. The site is pretty addictive, as the initial offerings include rare interview footage of Patrick McGoohan, reproductions of pages from Man From U.N.C.L.E. comic books, rare 45 rpm photo sleeves from the James Bond movies, a tribute to Michael Caine's Harry Palmer series and a contest in which you can win an entire collection of Get Smart videos. A very welcome addition to the cyber space universe. Click here to indulge.
Well, it's that time of year again when movie critics go out on a limb and demonstrate our ignorance of what will occur at the annual Academy Awards ceremony. My own track record is generally decidedly mixed, but not as bad as some pundits. Incidentally, to those who say that Cinema Retro often underrates new films due to our fixation on movies of the past, I'll state publicly that 2008 was the best year for motion pictures in recent memory. Virtually every film I bothered to see was terrific, which explains why some extraordinary movies that would ordinarily have dominated the nominees were under-represented or completely ignored. (i.e Changling,The Dark Knight, Wall-E, Revolutionary Road, Gran Torino) To recap, here is a summary of my views regarding the five Best Picture nominees, followed by my predictions of who will win in the major categories.
Best Picture Nominees:
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE: Everything you've heard about this innovative and highly entertaining film is true. It's what movie-making should be all about: an original concept superbly executed by director Danny Boyle. The movie is brought to life by an extremely talented cast, none of whom was recognized by the Academy in this year that boasted an abundance of great performances. However, this doesn't diminish their extraordinary work.
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON: An ambitious and consistently interesting film that ultimately fails to connect with the audience on an emotional basis. The parallels to Forrest Gump have been well documented, but they do prove to diminish the movie's many qualities. In summary, an intriguing and well-executed story that falls short of its goals. It's been nominated for an astonishing 13 Oscars, but don't look for it to come home with any of the big prizes.
FROST/NIXON: Ron Howard has somehow transformed what could have been a mundane subject matter (the complex negotiations by David Frost to land former President Richard M. Nixon for a series of revealing TV interviews) into a mesmerizing, humorous and highly suspenseful film. Frank Langella gives the performance of his career and manages to humanize Nixon in the process. Michael Sheen once again gives one of the most under-rated performances of the year. When will Oscar recognize this outstanding actor?
MILK: You don't have to be gay to love Milk, but it probably helps in terms of having the historical aspects of this story resonate to maximum effect. I confess that all I knew about the gay rights activist Milk were shadowy memories of his spectacular murder after achieving his long quest to win the election as San Francisco City Supervisor, thus becoming America's first openly homosexual public official. The film reveals there was far more to this man than most people had known and open minded people, both straight and gay, will be moved by the horrendous prejudices Milk help overcome. These include his landmark election issue battles against Anita Bryant, a former orange juice TV pitchwoman whose lunatic religious beliefs helped set back America's progress on civil rights. Sean Penn gives another brilliant performance and demonstrates why he just may be the best actor of his generation.
THE READER- A compelling, intriguing and highly erotic film that will probably finally allow Kate Winslet to bring home the Oscar gold. Unfortunately, her equally superb performance in Revolutionary Road was released in the same year and Academy rules prohibit an artist from being nominated for two films in the same category.
AND THE WINNERS WILL BE....(But don't bet on it!)
BEST PICTURE: SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
BEST DIRECTOR: DANNY BOYLE, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
BEST ACTRESS: KATE WINSLET, THE READER
BEST ACTOR: MICKEY ROURKE, THE WRESTLER
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: PENELOPE CRUZ, VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA
SUPPORTING ACTOR: HEATH LEDGER, THE DARK KNIGHT
BEST ANIMATED FILM: WALL-E
ART DIRECTION: THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
CINEMATOGRAPHY: SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
COSTUME DESIGN: THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
FILM EDITING: SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: WALTZ WITH BASHIR
MAKEUP: THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
ORIGINAL SCORE: SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
SONG: DOWN TO EARTH FROM WALL-E
SOUND EDITING: SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
SOUND MIXING: SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
VISUAL EFFECTS: THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
the high school hellcats twenty years before them, tossing globes out of
classroom windows and firing on police officers (see High School Confidential), Foxes
(1980), is a portrait of teenage torpor at the dawn of the Eighties. These jaded teens,
led by Jodie Foster, would rather pop a ‘lude and put on a Boston LP.
the loosely woven friendship between four high school girls in the San Fernando
Valley, each with typical problems of her age – and therefore seemingly
insurmountable – Foxes looks at how
each personality type copes with life, sex and parents, all of whom are
divorced and too busy trying to find themselves rather than guide their
children through the rockiest period of their lives.
between two movies that became classics of the L.A.High School genre, Rock ‘n RollHigh School
(1979) and Fast Times at Ridgemont High
(1982), Foxes was more of a teen
drama that dared to bum out its audience with issues of teen pregnancy, drug
addiction and death. With murky cinematography, uneven performances and no
happy ending, it was promptly forgotten after its release and sank like a
stone, not even helped by its Giorgio Moroder music and title track sung by
Donna Summer (“On the Radio” plays over the opening credits.) It didn’t help
that the exploding punk scene that immediately followed gained ground quickly
and influenced the look of scores of more high school movies to come, quickly
dating Foxes’ sun-hazed ambience of
the late ‘70s. It was thus forgotten and became a relic of its time, classed more
with Skatetown U.S.A. than other frank, exploratory teenage dramas of the
same year, like Little Darlings (1980) with Kristy McNichol and
Tatum O’Neal, which is more of a true companion piece.
Foster never mentions it in interviews, nor is it ever mentioned in career
surveys of her films. (Likewise her co-star, Scott Baio.)
when MGM re-issued the film on home video/dvd a few years ago, a younger
generation (born from the late ‘70s to the early ‘80s) discovered it and embraced
it, creating a revival of interest in the film that far exceeded its reception
upon its release. True to the “twenty-year loop” law, hipsters with an
insatiable appetite for the look and sounds of the early ‘80s began referencing
Foxes in a number of ways, from
fashion design to music, graphic design and photography. (Cherie Currie of The
Runaways, who plays ill-fated Annie, came in for special homage. She has a
peroxided, doomed rocker-chick look that was revived by the style icon actress
Chloë Sevigny.) It also started showing up in “best-of” lists by film
columnists and in critical essays in alternative weeklies and film journals
around the world.
from being a great movie, Foxes is an
enjoyable period piece that is notable for its time for not being in hysterics
about being a teenager. It’s still a “message movie” in the same way that High School Confidential was about the
dangers of neglectful parents, except the message here is that the kids will
probably survive in spite of them.
from the principal cast of four or five young stars (Foster and Baio being the
marquee names), Sally Kellerman is excellent as the archetypal divorcee mother
of the ‘70s, complete with Toni perm and low-cut blouse. In one key scene, she
breaks down in front of her daughter (Foster), railing at how she and her
friends “make me hate my hips.”
for cameos by Randy Quaid, Lois Smith, Robert Romanus (Fast Times) and a pre-pubescent Laura Dern in coke-bottle
We've always been enamored of Michele Carey, even though her career as a supporting actress never launched her to stardom. Michele appeared in such TV classics as The Wild, Wild West and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. as well as a number of big screen features including the immortal How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, The Sweet Ride and co-starring with John Wayne and Robert Mitchum in Howard Hawks' El Dorado. The good folks at Starlet Showcase provide some other great photos of sexy Michele. Click here to view.
(Artwork copyright Pete Emslie. All rights reserved)
Cinema Retro reader Pete Emslie, who happens to be a top talent cartoonist, reminds us that today is Lee Marvin's birthday- and his provided this terrific depiction of Marvin in his Oscar-winning role in Cat Ballou. (Visit Pete's site at The Cartoon Cave for more great artwork.) Marvin, who would have been 85 today, died at age 63 in 1987. Cinema Retro will be presenting an exciting feature relating to Marvin in issue #15. Writer Steve Mori, who provided us with his "lost" Steve McQueen interview for issue #1, has just come through with a fascinating feature that is sure to thrill classic movie lovers. In 1974, Steve was a journalist on the set of The Klansman which paired Marvin and Richard Burton as well as Luciana Paluzzi, Cameron Mitchell and a promising newcomer named O.J. Simpson. While on the set, Steve witnessed the destruction of Burton's second marriage to Elizabeth Taylor, was coerced into interviewing shy and insecure Simpson (and lived to tell the tale!) and managed to get one of the most in-depth interviews with Lee Marvin ever conducted. Marvin was notoriously cranky with the press, but Steve managed to get on his good side and the result was a truly insightful interview in which Marvin discussed his memories of his most memorable films. The interview was never published, but will appear in Cinema Retro #15. Consider this just another shameless attempt to seduce you into subscribing.
Journalist Graham Hill attended last weekend's Hollywood Collector's Show, which always prove to be a great time for all classic movie lovers. Graham reports that, among the stars attending this event for autograph signing sessions, were such favorites as Debbie Reynolds and daughter Carrie Fisher, Richard Kiel, Bruce Dern, John Saxon, Geoffrey Lewis, Tony Curtis, and adult film icons Marilyn Chambers and Seka. Time has been kind to most of these stars and Graham reports they were doing a brisk business at their respective tables. The shows are held periodically in Los Angeles and Chicago.
It's dirty work but somebody's got to do it! Graham Hill with ever-sexy adult film legend Seka. (Er, Graham's the one on the right!)
The legendary Debbie Reynolds (that's Bruce Dern behind her)
Frequent Clint Eastwood co-star Geoffrey Lewis
The Ivory Soap box girl gone naughty, Marilyn Chambers.
(All photos copyright Graham Hill. All rights reserved)
Like most superstars, Steve McQueen was associated with a number of film projects that were announced with great fan fare, but never materialized. McQueen had formed his own production company, Solar Productions, to become master of his own destiny. Initially, he enjoyed great success with Bullitt. However, his plans to bypass studio distribution and handle all aspects of the release of his films fell apart, as evidenced by an article from Variety columnist Army Archerd in 1969 that he has republished on his blog. McQueen envisioned making a major action picture called Yucatan that would have budgeted at a (then) astronomical $30 million. The film would have featured a motorcycle chase that would have put to shame the one in The Great Escape. He also announced he would star in a mountain climbing thriller titled The Man on the Nylon String as well as reunite with his Great Escape and Magnificent Seven director, John Sturges for a new action pic titled Yards at Essendorf. Sadly, for reasons not specified, none of these promising projects ever came to fruition. Ironically, the only prospective project that did make it to the screen was McQueen's 1971 racing pic Le Mans, which proved to be one of the most ill-fated movies of his career. Archerd updates his original article with news about the biopics about McQueen that are in the works. Click here to read.
I no longer feel like a voice in the wilderness - another film critic has written about the parallels between Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino and John Wayne's final film The Shootist. The former is certainly inspired by the latter, though both are great movies in their own right. Robbins presents some film clips to illustrate his point, plus also provides a welcome glimpse of young Clint in the Universal monster movie Revenge of the Creature.- Lee Pfeiffer
The original Corgi 007 release was this 1965 gold plated Aston Martin, which began one of the biggest selling toys in history.
The relationship between Corgi Toys and Eon Productions, producers of the James Bond films, extends back to 1965 and was the longest continuous licensing agreement in the history of the toy industry - until last year when it was disrupted and, for the first time, a new Bond film did not have a tie-in vehicle released. Now Corgi has sorted out the agreement and is back licensing Bond. A new car based on Quantum Of Solace will be released along with a range of cars based on other eras. For more click here
Warner Home Video has paid tribute to the late Paul Newman by releasing a batch of his films that are making their debut on DVD. However, the real tribute to the legendary star is that they kept some of these in the vault until he passed away. Still, even mediocre Newman is most welcome and these second-rung titles afford enormous pleasures, though perhaps, not in the way the filmmakers intended. The Warners production notes that accompanied the screener of Newman's 1956 debut film The Silver Chalice are refreshingly candid and acknowledge that the film is so bad, the star famously took out an ad in the trade papers apologizing for his participation in it. That kind of ballsy move, characteristic of the man himself, may have been what prevented him from falling into oblivion (or worse, becoming the next Victor Mature.) Certainly, there isn't the slightest indication that Newman possessed the kind of star power that would see him become one of the giants of the silver screen. Yet, I can scarcely contain my enthusiasm in recommending this release to all lovers of bad movies. If Ed Wood made a Biblical film, it would have been The Silver Chalice - as this is the Ben-Hur of those dumbed-down tits-and-toga "epics" that swept theaters in the 1950s. The movie is best enjoyed in a Mystery Science Theater - like scenario, so invite your most cynical, wittiest friends over, open a few bottles of wine and sit back and enjoy the glories of a film that produces more laughs than anything the Zucker brothers ever dreamed up.
The movie casts Newman as a Greek sculptor (!) named Basil who is adopted by a Roman aristocrat, but sold into slavery after his father dies - the result of some chicanery on the part of a disreputable nobleman who wants to inherit the family fortune. Basil makes the best of his lot and gains a reputation for his sculpting skills. He also attracts an older noblewoman (Virginia Mayo), in what must have been the first MILF instance of the Biblical era. Before long, Basil is approached by those long-suffering Christians with a delicate task - sculpt a silver chalice that will hold the cup Jesus drank from during The Last Supper. In order to do so, Basil has to keep his mission secret, all the while trying to realistically depict the disciples and Christ's likenesses on the precious cup. He gets 'em all, but gosh-darn-it, he can't seem to get the inspiration for depicting The Big Guy's image. (It won't spoil the suspense to tell you that, only after becoming a better Christian, does the image of Christ finally appear before him- complete with the kind of lush studio musical orchestration that must be an omnipresent aspect of heaven.) Much is made of keeping the Jesus cup and accompanying chalice out of the hands of thieves and anarchists, but no one seems to comment on the fact that, for all the risk and subterfuge, the precious silver handiwork resembles a cheap bowling trophy.
Most of the pleasures in The Silver Chalice derive from the famously inept production design. This may be a film about a sculptor but the most prominent chisler was Jack Warner, who seems to have afforded the production less money than he spent on cigars in a week. This is a claustrophobic film with only a few outdoor shots thrown in to alleviate the tedium. The interiors seem confined to a few set pieces including a palace in which the large bricks in the wall are drawn on with what appear to be magic markers. The streets seem to be paved with kitchen linoleum and apparently, the early Romans lived in igloo-like structures! The dialogue is a real hoot with one character extolling the virtues of the city by actually saying "There's no place like Rome." (Surprisingly, he isn't clicking ruby slippers together when he says it.) Gay viewers will be particularly amused by the not-so-subtle homo-erotic content to many scenes. Newman walks around in more mini skirts than you'd find on a London street in 1967. The macho supporting cast is not immune from Village People-like fashions as well. In one scene, Jack Palance and Joseph Wiseman are both clad in over-the-top numbers with plunging necklines that show enough cleavage to have made Jayne Mansfield blush. (Palance is also inexplicably attired in a beehive hat that makes him look like he was channeled from a future Coneheads sketch). Even Lorne Greene is caught up in the bonanza of cliches. The future Ben Cartwright is cast as St. Peter!
It takes a truly awful movie to win a coveted Cinema Retro "must-buy" recommendation, but The Silver Chalice passes the test with flying colors. The film is devoid of any extras, which is a pity, as it would have been fascinating to see the trailer for this disaster. The film does succeed on one count: if it was made in the hope of having religious cynics become more attuned to Christ, I concede I shouted "Oh, God!" after every line of dialogue.
The teaser trailer has been released for Quentin Tarantino's WWII film Inglorious Basterds. It's hard to know what to expect from the finished film. The trailer shows star Brad Pitt addressing his misfit company of men in a strong southern accent and warning them that, for this mission behind enemy lines, each man is committed to bringing him 100 German scalps. (Tarantino obviously isn't counting on Germany as the target audience for the new film.) There are some rapidly-cut action sequences, some of which hint at the brutality the Americans show against German soldiers. The film was loosely inspired by a 1970s Italian war movie. Although the trailer plays the action straight, one has to assume there must be a strong satirical aspect to the film: we see glimpses of Adolf Hitler ranting and raving and the cast includes Mike Myers! One thing we love: the titles on the trailer, which are designed to emulate those of the Sergio Leone westerns. To view click here
Composer Ron Grainer's soundtrack to the 1971 sci-fi movie The Omega Man has been reissued by Film Score Monthly due to popular demand. The CD had been issued by the company years ago as a limited edition and quickly sold out. In the ensuing years, that release has commanded big dollars on the collector's circuit. It has also spawned a number of bootleg editions of the soundtrack. Film Score Monthly says that's one of the reasons that spurred them to remaster the soundtrack and reissue it. The film was an adaptation of Richard Matheson's classic sci-fi novel I Am Legend which had previously been brought to the screen in 1964 as The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price. Charlton Heston starred in The Omega Man and, more recently, the story was the basis for Will Smith's hit film I Am Legend. Ron Grainer's score for The Omega Man is superb on all levels and represents the kind of motion picture soundtrack that is all too rare today. To order click here
UK customers: click here to order from Movie Grooves
Cinema Retro columnist Tom Lisanti advises us today is Carol Lynley's 67th birthday. So, happy birthday, Carol - the lady who sent hot pants sales soaring after The Poseidon Adventure. Tom put us on to this video celebration of Carol's films edited by Nelson Aspen. Click here to enjoy.
It Came From Beneath the Sea was one of many collaborations between Charles Schneer and Ray Harryhausen.
Our old friend, Jimmy Sangster, the legendary Hammer screenwriter, has chastised up for overlooking the recent passing of producer Charles Schneer. Right you are, Jimmy - we completely missed this one. Mr. Schneer was a long-time partner of the great Ray Harryhausen and collaborated with him on such films as Clash of the Titans, It Came From Beneath the Sea, Mysterious Island, Jason and the Argonauts and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. Schneer was 88 years old. His film credits extended beyond the fantasy realm, however and included Hellcats of the Navy which paired future First Couple Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Good Day for a Hanging which afforded an early prominent role to Robert Vaughn, and the musical hit Half a Sixpence. A graduate of New York's Columbia University, Schneer lived most of his life in London. With credits like these, we're reminded of how such talents are now deemed irreplacable.
Phil Carey, the character actor who parlayed a career in feature films into a long-term run on the daytime soap opera One Life to Live, has died at age 83. Carey's remarkable run on the series began in 1980. Prior to that, he appeared on countless major TV series and in feature films such as Mister Roberts, Operation Pacific, Springfield Rifle and more. Click here for details
It's the most unlikely of catfights. Told that tween idol Hillary Duff will be recreating the role of gun moll Bonnie Parker in a new independent film, Faye Dunaway, who shot to to fame in the same role in the 1967 classic Bonnie and Clyde, said she wished they had chosen a "real actress". On the surface, Dunaway's contention seems to be grounded in common sense: would you pay ten bucks to see Hillary Duff as Bonnie Parker? Cinema Retro columnist David Savage thinks the two ladies might be able to channel their feud into a positive experience by re-enacting a scene from one of Ms. Dunaway's more memorable films. Click here and try to image Hillary Duff in the role of the daughter. For more click here
The legendary antagonists made an uneasy alliance to team for the classic Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Film critic John Farr looks at the career highlights of two legendary leading ladies and puts forward the case for each one being considered to be the greatest star. See what you think, based on the evidence presented.
In our continuing look at films nominated for major Oscar awards, Cinema Retro editor-in-chief Lee Pfeiffer weighs in on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Although it's not fashionable to say so, I really loved Forrest Gump. The movie worked for me on every level and, at the risk of sounding like I've been Oprahized, I found it to be very touching and immensely moving. That should really get me kicked out of the Sam Peckinpah Society, but so be it.Thus, I had been entranced with the teaser trailer for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the David Fincher film that boasts a screenplay by Eric Roth, who also wrote the script for Gump. The premise of a story in which the main character ages backwards seemed very intriguing and I tried to overcome my innate prejudice against Brad Pitt's performances in the hopes that this rich, character-driven role would inspire something akin to his early promise. The result is a mixed bag.The story traces the bizarre case of a baby who is born with the physical characteristics of an old man. His mother dies in childbirth and his father abandons the baby to the care of a kindly black woman who runs a nursing home. It is here that Benjamin grows up, trying to cope with the ravages of old age while still technically a toddler. His life takes an equally unexpected turn when it is discovered that he is growing younger. The revelation is welcomed on one level: his health and looks improve over the years, but leads to the inevitable quandry of the people he loves most dying off as he regresses in age.The scenario is a fascinating one and director Fincher unfolds the tale in a lyrical and sensitive way. The movie's extended running time (166 minutes) is also most welcome, as this is a story that introduces many main characters and shows how each impacts Benjamin's life.
Despite those qualities, I had mixed feelings after viewing the movie. It's hard to say where it goes wrong, because most of the main ingredients (the performances, production design, music, etc) are all impressive. Perhaps it's the oft-criticized aspects of the script, which sometimes feels as though this should be titled Forrest Gump Light. Roth's parallels to the earlier film are so prevalent that they become a distraction. The script throws in a abundance of wise-cracking southern belles, including Benjamin's adoptive mother, who, like Forrest's, has a witticism and home spun advice for every occasion. However, unlike the character of Forrest Gump, Benjamin Button never resonates with the audience on an emotional level. He seems to be the catalyst for far more interesting characters to interact around him - an opaque observer of his own life. Part of the problem is the casting of Brad Pitt. As I've often stated, Pitt is a highly competent actor who never gives a bad performance. However, he also rarely connects with viewers in an emotional way. Pitt gets the technical challenges of playing the character down pat (with the help of excellent makeup artists), but the younger he gets, the less interesting his performance becomes. In contrast Cate Blanchett as the woman who loves him despite knowing of the inevitable tragedies that lie ahead, dominates the film with a powerful and touching performance.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has been nominated for an astounding 13 Oscars - but the critics have been split on the film since the day it opened. It's a noble attempt to tell an intelligent story and is well worth seeing - but I predict there won't be any Oscar wins except in technical categories.
We always loved the tradition of having prominent celebrities pop out of a window as Adam West and Burt Ward were scaling the side of a building on Batman. Here's a gem featuring Jerry Lewis. Click here to view
As part of the Film
Society of Lincoln Center’s showcase “Mavericks and Outsiders: Positif Celebrates American Cinema,” at
the Walter Reade Theater, Jan. 30 – Feb. 5, I finally had the good fortune to
see a film I had always heard people speak about in mixed tones of confusion,
offense and admiration: Fingers
(1978), written and directed by James Toback and starring Harvey Keitel. An
added bonus was the appearance of Toback after the screening, who was welcomed
onto the stage for a Q&A with noted French film critic Michel Ciment, the
editor of the film journal Positif
and one of the lone champions of the controversial film when it opened in
theaters 31 years ago. (The twin heavyweights of film criticism at the time,
Janet Maslin and Vincent Canby, both “piled on,” as Toback put it, with
negative reviews that killed its box office word-of-mouth.)
Keitel plays Jimmy “Fingers” Angelelli, a virtuoso
pianist who aspires to a life on the concert stage, rather than his day job of
being a kneecap-breaker for his loan shark father (Michael Gazzo). When the
movie begins he’s practicing a Bach toccata for a make-it-or-break-it audition
with the head of Carnegie Hall. If he makes it, it could be his long-awaited
exit out of a life of shaking down pizzeria owners for ten grand. In between
practice sessions he’s driving a flashy red Cadillac convertible around town,
wearing Botany 500 suits and a rakish scarf, and blaring ‘50s pop from his
portable boombox. This is one dude who is a study in contradictions. Keitel interprets
Jimmy so sympathetically -- the most obvious character tic being his fidgety
hands that cannot be governed, hence his nickname – that you can’t help falling
under his charm within the first few minutes of the movie.
Meanwhile, his father has one client that not only
is refusing to pay up, but is mocking him behind his back: Riccamonza, a
handsome, up-and-coming Mafioso. Jimmy’s father needs Riccamonza to be humbled
– perhaps worse – to regain his respect, and he turns to his son as his only
Adding to his stress load, Jimmy is crazy about an
enigmatic girl (Tisa Farrow) who barely says a word, stares into space a lot
and lives in a loft in Soho. (This was 1978, keep in mind.) It turns out she’s
a prostitute working for a pimp played by Jim Brown – yes, that Jim Brown – the NFL Hall of Famer and ‘70s blaxploitation star.
His role as “Dreems” is only one of a number of flavorful cameos in this
strange, nervous, colorful and frenetic little picture.
The only film to have been financed by Fabergé Brut
(Cary Grant was on their board of directors at the time and steered his fellow
members to believe in Toback), it’s positively redolent with the drugstore after-shave,
and pulses with a unapologetic sexual energy that the period was known for. Jimmy
brazenly approaches women and talks to them in ways that would have him on
NOW’s hit list, and other races come in for a bruising in language that would
never pass the censors today. Still, the film has a moving, messy humanity and
an urgency that makes it clear why it has enjoyed something of a renaissance in
The cinematographer, Michael Chapman, who also
lensed Taxi Driver for Scorsese,
gives Fingers a similar look: dark,
gritty, but splashed with rich, violent color.
A number of gem-like cameos are studded throughout:
Stage actress Marian Seldes as Jimmy’s asylum-dwelling mother; Danny Aiello as
one half of the two-member bodyguard detail surrounding arch-villain
Riccamonza, the other half being Ed Marinaro; Tanya Roberts, in a bikini which slips
off easily, as Riccamonza’s girlfriend; Lenny Montana (The Godfather) as the pizzeria owner (filmed at John’s Pizzeria on
Bleecker Street), and – are you ready for this? – GOP fundraiser heavy
Georgette Mosbacher as Jimmy’s father’s cheap and tawdry girlfriend, Anita.
(Checking it out, it makes sense, she was then married to the producer, George
Toback had many a hilarious anecdote to tell host
Ciment about the making of the film, his first directorial effort, and perhaps
most memorable was concerning the shocking scene in which Dreems (Jim Brown)
knocks together the heads of his two call girls, one of whom was Tisa Farrow.
As Toback remembers, he approached Brown after the first, all-too-real take
that left Farrow with real blood dribbling down her knotted forehead. Toback
told Brown that they wouldn’t be doing another take, it was simply too painful
for the actresses. Brown appeared to not be listening. “He was staring off into
space, not even reacting,” said Toback. Finally Brown, in a voice barely above
a whisper and in language that is unprintable, asked Toback why he hadn’t hired
a more “delicate” actor like Sidney Poiter to do the scene so they could fake
the head-butting. Farrow complained (and in today’s litigious environment who
knows what an actress would have done) and later, as penance, Toback smacked
himself on the head repeatedly with the butt of a pistol during the sound
recording in post-production. He, too, had blood pouring down his face, but he
didn’t want to ask his actors to suffer something he himself wasn’t willing to
endure. “So whenever you’re going through the sound catalogue of heads being
butted together,” Toback told the audience, “that is me hitting my head with
the butt of a pistol.”
Another anecdote involved Francois Truffaut, who,
during the year of its release, named it as one of his favorite from an
American director in years. Shortly afterwards while at The Beverly Hills
Hotel, Toback spotted the famous French auteur
poolside, who was in town during the making of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Instead of approaching him
directly to thank him and risk putting Truffaut on the spot, opted to page him
on a house telephone, as was the fashion of the day. When he picked up the
phone – Toback watching from inside the hotel – he graciously thanked Truffaut
for his support, only to be met with a long silence. Getting flustered, he
suggested that he would love to meet Truffaut for a drink while he was in town.
“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” replied Truffaut. “Why is that?”
asked Toback. “I think we should just continue communicating to each other
through our films.”
Young Beatty at the Cinerama premiere of How the West Was Won. According to Peter Bart, he's "immobilized by his own intellect."
Variety editor-in-chief Peter Bart is known for speaking his mind. As a former studio head, he has worked with some of the legendary actors and directors and knows their strengths and weaknesses. In his latest column, he extols the virtues of Clint Eastwood's work ethic and contrasts his accomplishments to those of his contemporaries, Warren Beatty and Robert Redford. According to Bart, Eastwood can conceive, plan, shoot and release a movie while the the latter two are still holding meetings about the concept. Beatty's indecisiveness is driven by his fear of failure. Better not to try than to fall short. He hasn't made a movie since 2001 and Bart says he's immobilized by his own intellect. Redford, too, has a film release schedule that seems to be on par with the appearance of Halley's Comet. On contrast, Eastwood forsakes caring about what the critics say and surges ahead in the belief that a concept has value. To read the column click here
There's plenty of advantages to being President of the United States, but one of the drawbacks is that you lose virtually all control over how your image is used. There is a popular T shirt making the rounds in inner cities that capitalizes on President Obama's image as "Mr. Cool" by presenting him as James Bond. Not everyone is happy about the fact that the Prez is depicted holding a gun-shaped microphone while First Lady Michele Obama poses seductively like Pussy Galore. Some Obama supporters say the depiction is disrepectful of the first couple. Are they kidding? At least the Obamas are being presented as the epitome of cool. Didn't the critics ever see those "Good Bush/Bad Bush" T shirts that flooded the market during the the tenure of the last president? We doubt this art ever made it onto the White House Christmas card. For more click here
They were legendary collaborators who teamed for some of the greatest films of all time. Alfred Hitchcock and his favorite composer Bernard Hermann joined forces to create the masterpieces Vertigo, North By Northwest, Psycho and others. However, their friendship became strained when Hitchcock approached Hermann to score his 1966 spy thriller Torn Curtain. Hitchcock, whose box-office standings had slumped in recent years, had been bullied by Universal mogul Lew Wasserman to produce a more contemporary style of music that would be in keeping with the spy movies of the era. Hermann largely ignored this demand and produced what he felt was a very suitable score. This resulted in his being fired from the film and replaced by composer John Addison. The strain between the two creative geniuses would never been resolved, though both men would have a creative renaissance: Hitchcock with his last great film, Frenzy, and Hermann through his collaborations with a new generation of filmmakers like Brian DePalma and Martin Scorsese. Writer Steve Vertlieb has an excellent essay that tells of the rise and fall of the Hitchcock/Hermann creative partnership. To read, visit the web site dedicated to Hermann by clicking here
Warner Home Video has recently released a series of Paul Newman titles that have not previously been available on DVD. We'll be taking a look at some of these titles, beginning with the 1964 western The Outrage.
By Lee Pfeiffer
Paul Newman and director Martin Ritt collaborated on six films of varying quality between the years 1958 and 1967, when both men were at the prime of the careers. One of their most notable misfires was The Outrage, an ambitious 1964 remake of Akira Kurosawa's classic Rashomon redefined as a western. Kurasawa's film told of the kidnapping of an innocent couple by a bandit. The woman is raped and the husband is murdered. However, as various people recall the incident, it becomes clear there are radically different versions of what happened and who was responsible for the death. The premise of remaking the story as a Hollywood production starring Newman probably seemed like a winning proposal for MGM, given the film's envelope-pushing content regarding sex. Martin Ritt rounded up an impressive array of talented people ranging from the legendary cinematographer James Wong Howe to composer Alex North and actors Laurence Harvey, Claire Bloom and Edward G. Robinson. However, it was neither a critical or financial success - though it did allow Newman to stretch his acting abilities by playing a notorious Mexican bandito.
German theatrical poster
The film's chief asset is the stunning black and white cinematography and some spirited performances. Newman plays the villain as though he graduated from the Eli Wallach School of Banditry - his charisma and sense of humor masks a sadistic nature. He is actually quite effective in the role, with the guise of the character differing quite a bit depending upon whose version of the incident is being retold. In this case, the flashbacks take place among three men (Edward G. Robinson, William Shatner and Howard Da Silva) who are waiting in an isolated train station. Robinson is a cynical con man who goads the other two men to relate the various versions of the incident, though it becomes apparent that both may be hiding the truth for their own selfish reasons. The first time the rape/murder is played out, the scene is fairly chilling and engrossing. However, as the story unravels, the viewer sees the situation recounted three more times, at least once in a broadly comical vein (not easy to do when the subject is rape and murder). By this point, the proceedings have become tedious and the scenario monotonous. Making matters more frustrating is the fact that certain key storylines aren't satisfactorily concluded and the determination of the principals to make this an "important" film results in it playing rather pretentiously. On the positive side, Claire Bloom is terrific as the wife, playing the difficult part as both helpless victim and sexually promiscuous temptress who initiates her own rape to humiliate her husband. As the latter, Laurence Harvey has little to do but stand bound and gagged to a tree while the storyline plays out, though he and Newman do manage to engage in an exciting and well-staged fight sequence. In supporting roles, William Shatner underplays(yes, underplays) his part and allows Da Silva and Robinson to steal the scenes he shares with them. Robinson is particularly good in an unsympathetic role as the fouled-mouthed patent medicine salesman.
The Outrage is an artistic failure, but as with any collaboration between Newman and Ritt (who would go on to make the far superior Hombre), its not without merit or interest. Warners's DVD of the film is most welcome and the transfer is outstanding, however, at least a few extras would have been appreciated. This one doesn't even boast "scene selections" from the menu which only allows "Play" as an option! - Lee Pfeiffer Click here to order discounted from Amazon.
James Whitmore, whose rugged, weather-beaten looks earned him a reputation as one of Hollywood's most distinguished actors, has died from cancer at age 87. Whitmore was a familiar face who generally appeared in supporting roles, but his filmed stage production of the Harry Truman biography Give 'Em Hell, Harry! earned him a Best Actor Oscar for the 1975 release. (Whitmore remains the only actor to receive a nomination for a film in which he was the only cast member). Whitmore was as diversified as he was talented, as evidenced by a sample of the films in which he appeared: Battleground, The Asphalt Jungle, Tora! Tora! Tora!, The Red Badge of Courage, Kiss Me, Kate, Oklahoma!, Planet of the Apes, Guns of the Magnificent Seven, and The Shawshank Redemption. He occasionally landed the starring roles in films such as The Next Voice You Hear (in which God addresses the people of earth via their radios!), Them (in which the same luckless earthlings are menaced by giant ants) and, his favorite film, Black Like Me. The latter was based on the real life exploits of a writer who dyed his skin black to study prejudice in the segregated American South. Whitmore was also an accomplished stage actor who won acclaim for his portrayal of Will Rogers. A Tony Award winner, Whitmore also appeared in countless classic TV series, earning an Emmy nomination for his 1999 guest starring role in The Practice. Whitmore was active politically and in support of social causes including efforts to support the separation of church and state. He was also an early supporter of Barack Obama's presidential run and actively campaigned for him until stricken by illness several months ago. - Lee Pfeiffer
A couple of weeks ago I wrote an editorial condemning the American TV networks for going overboard in their coverage of the heroic crew of the airliner that ditched in the Hudson River. No doubt about it, this was a great story filled with genuine heroes. However, the media indulged in its tendency to go all out and virtually ignored every single other news story in the world for a period of 24 hours. Well, just when you thought it was safe to go to the remote control again, lo and behold - they've released the cockpit tapes of the incident, which has now given the media reason to go into overdrive again. The worst offender: CBS, which is devoting an entire Early Show to discussing the incident yet again. This in a week in which the political developments are a news junkie's idea of heaven. Stop the madness! Let's give these heroes their due, but for God's sake, let's remember there is a world that exists out there. This Oprahization of television has become nauseating.- Lee Pfeiffer (To read original editorial click here)
Welcome to an exciting new concept for Cinema
Retro: the introduction of special magazines that celebrate specific classic
and cult films. We routinely get bombarded with letters and E mails from
readers around the world who suggest extensive coverage of their favorite
films. The problem is, of course, is that even our Film in Focus sections runs
only 8 pages – which is certainly enough to do justice to the average movie,
but is woefully inadequate to cover all aspects of those films that deserve
even more extensive analysis. Thus, we’ll be periodically introducing special
stand-alone tribute issues that will be limited edition collector’s items. These
editions are titled Cinema Retro Movie Classics. As with
the regular issues of Cinema Retro, we anticipate these will increase in value
significantly.We’ve decided to market
these separately and not make them part of our subscription plan. This is to
ensure that readers who do not have enthusiasm for the specific film in
question won’t have to pay for an entire issue dedicated to that movie. However,
we feel that the movies we cover in the special editions will probably have
broad appeal to the majority of our readership.
We’ve decided that our inaugural special edition
will be dedicated to a film that is among the most requested by readers in terms
of wanting extensive coverage. If you’re a fan of films of the 1960s, you don’t
need to be told that MGM’s Where Eagles
Dare is one of the most enjoyable movies of that glorious era. Starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood, this was
a big budget, slam-bang action adventure – the very first time that novelist
Alistair MacLean had written a thriller directly for the screen. Part spy film,
part war movie, Where Eagles Dare was
just one of a number of outstanding movies that made the year 1969 one of the
best in the history of the industry.
Over twenty writers and film historians have
collaborated to bring you, what we believe, is the most definitive story behind
the making of this blockbuster movie. Apart from the wealth of rare behind the
scenes photographs – many taken by cast and crew during filming on location and
at the studio – we have gathered stories and quotes from people like director
Brian G. Hutton, producer Elliott Kastner, stuntmen Joe Powell, Alf Joint and
Bill Sawyer, second unit director Yakima Canutt and his assistant director
Anthony Waye (now a producer on the James Bond films), art director Peter
Mullins – and many more. Illustrated with film poster artwork from around the
world, call sheets, flyers, merchandise, tickets and story board and script
pages, this is one tribute to a film you will not want to miss!
There are only 5000 limited edition copies
of this issue in print. It runs 80 pages - a full 16 pages more than the standard edition of Cinema Retro - but the cost is still the same.
UK AND EUROPEAN CUSTOMERS
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include postage). Instructions will be posted then regarding remittance
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Many James Bond fans don't realize that 007's creator Ian Fleming also authored two notable non-fiction books: Thrilling Cities, a guide to some of the most exotic and exciting locations the adventurous author had personally visited, and The Diamond Smugglers, Fleming's recounting of actual intelligence operations against smuggers. Of the latter, writer Soheil Rezaee affords an interesting look at the structure of the book. To read click here
Cinema Retro back issue #3 features an 18 page tribute to Sam Peckinpah with extensive coverage of The Getaway.
Here's a gem from Sam Peckinpah and Steve McQueen: the trailer for their classic collaboration on the 1972 film The Getaway. The movie is packed with so many great moments, it's hard to decide what scene is most memorable. However, we have to give the scene stealing trophies to Al Lettieri, playing an animalistic thug who kidnaps the sexy wife (Sally Struthers) of a meek veterinarian (Jack Dodson) and forces them on a perverted road trip in which dumb blonde Struthers gets off on being with an exciting, if abusive, gangster. This leads to some terrific gallows humor as Dodson, best remembered for playing milquetoast Howard Sprague on The Andy Griffith Show is tied to a chair and forced to watch his kidnapper make love to his willing wife. There are also small gems of performances from other terrific supporting actors including Slim Pickens and Ben Johnson. Click hereto watch the trailer. To read our extensive coverage of the making of The Getaway, see Cinema Retro issue #3 in our back issues section or click here to order directly from Ebay.
Director Terry Gilliam has compared attempts to film Cervantes' 1605 novel Don Quixote to theatrical productions of MacBeth - i.e, they have been so plagued by disaster that actors performing in the latter still refuse to mention the title, opting to call it The Scottish Play. Gilliam first attempted to film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote in 1990 with Johnny Depp cast as a modern executive who travels back in time and becomes Don Quixote's legendary sidekick Sancho Panza. It wasn't long before disasters - both natural and financial- struck the production. The film was never completed, though an acclaimed documentary Lost in La Mancha detailed Gilliam's heartbreaking realization that his dream project would not be fulfilled. Now, Gilliam is wading back into dangerous waters, more convinced than ever that he can bring the project to life. It will be with a new cast and a new, improved script that he says, with typical hyperbole, is the greatest ever written. Whether he can succeed this time or he's tilting at a few windmills of his own, remains to be seen.
It's old news that Christian Bale went ballistic on the set of Terminator Salvation when the director of photography, Shane Hurlbut, accidentally walked into his line of vision and distracted him from completing the scene. It caused quite a stir in the industry when witnesses reported that this caused Bale to unleash on Hurlbut with a seemingly endless number of obscenities in front of the cast and crew. The latest news is that someone leaked an audio recording of the tirade to TMZ's web site - and it isn't pretty. Although the producer immediately went into damage control with the predictable story that it was "just a passing moment" and that Bale is always Mr. Nice Guy, this is the height of arrogant star power. Making matters worse is the fact that Bale isn't just abusing the guy who brings the coffee to the set, but the director of photography, who he threatens to do physical damage to if the producer doesn't fire him. As Hurlbut is still listed as the DP, he remained on the production - but you have to wonder just how badly any man needs a job to endure this type of humiliation. Like most bullies, it's doubtful Bale would have had this precise reaction if Hurlbut was a world champion prize fighter. To listen click here
Director Richard Attenborough's Chaplin has been released by Lionsgate as a 15th anniversary special edition. The deluxe treatment can largely be attributed to star Robert Downey Jr.'s recent remarkable comeback after a number of years in which his career appeared to be doomed due to his self-inflicted demons. The film chronicles Charles Chaplin's career from his early days in London, where he grew up in poverty, through his rise in Vaudeville and his mercurial ascension as one of the cinema's earliest superstars. Chaplin was making millions when millions meant a lot of money. The film was a critical and box-office failure, but that doesn't negate its many merits. For one, director Attenborough specializes in making leisurely paced, visually splendid films, and this is no exception. In the age of cinematic bombast, the movie has a lyrical and relaxing quality to it, and the film is enhanced considerably by impressive production design and John Barry's wonderful score. The centerpiece is Downey's superb performance as the great comedian - it's an amazing achievement, as Downey captures the Master's every nuance. Although the film explores Chaplin's weaknesses such as his penchant of becoming involved with the wrong women, the script punts when it comes to his reputation as an ill-tempered ego maniac. Marlon Brando, who worked on Chaplin's last foray into filmmaking -the disastrous A Countess From Hong Kong
- said Chaplin was a bully who specialized in humiliating his own son in front of cast and crew. (Noticeably, this entire career misstep is never mentioned in the movie.). The story is rather unimaginatively bookended by having the elderly Chaplin discuss the events of his life with the editor of his autobiography (Anthony Hopkins). The main value of these scenes is to give Downey the opportunity to play the legend as an old man, which he pulls off very convincingly.Although occasionally pedantic, the movie is always a pleasure to watch. Equally enjoyable are the abundance of extra features. In a new and refreshingly candid documentary, Attenborough frankly discusses the movie's short-comings and attributes them to compromises he had to make in order to get funding. He says its the one film he'd really like the opportunity to remake. He's equally blunt about working with Downey, who was then in the midst of his abberent drug-induced behavior. Attenborough said he had never heard of Downey until he barged into his office and did an impromptu audition that left the director mesmerized. However, Attenborough said Downey's problems made it very challenging to direct him. It also becomes clear why the script skips over Chaplin's more controversial aspects: the Chaplin family was front and center in helping to put together this special edition.There are several mini featurettes along with a never-before-seen home movie of Chaplin cruising near Catalina on his yacht. In all, the film is an achievement that falls short, but like many of Attenborough's near-misses, it stands above the work of most other directors.
For those of you out there in Cinema Retro Land, who
are not familiar with the name Robert E. Relyea –well how about I drop a few
other names… ? The Magnificent Seven, The
Alamo, West Side Story and Bulllitt for
starters – all films on which Mr. Relyea has served as a valued member of the
production.Whether he was in the role
of Assistant Director, Assistant to the Producer, Unit Production Manager or
even Executive Producer, Relyea played an important part in the making of those
great, iconic pictures. At 78, he’s still as sharp as ever and for the first
time , he has decided, at the bequest of son Craig, to document his career in
the recently published autobiography Not
So Quiet on the Set –My Life in
Movies During Hollywood’s Macho Era. As a film historian, I highly recommend
his book, especially if you supplement it with two other volumes that also came
out last year –Escape Artist: The Life
and Films of John Sturges by Glenn
Lovell andI Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History by Walter Mirisch. These
books offer their own unique perspectives, something I hope to capture in this
article. So if everyone’s ready –we’ll call action!-
and go for a take!
It was a beautiful sunny January morning, when I drove
out to Westlake Village northwest of Los Angeles to visit a man I felt I
already knew.Growing up back in London,
England, I kept seeing his name coming up in the credits of so many of my
favorite movies.Now I was driving
through this classy suburb that once used to be where the cattle grazed and
stampeded on TV’s Rawhide.In a magnificent corner home complete with
white picket fence, I was greeted by the 6ft. 3in. retired studio executive
himself.Having spent a few hours on the
phone weeks earlier, we were already on the same page - although he did
surprise me and say that his and his lovely wife Dorothy’s favorite movie genre
was horror films.Of course, if he had
cloned himself, he could have worked on Hitchcock’s Psycho in-between making The
Alamo for John Wayne and The
Magnificent Seven for John Sturges. Those are among the honor roll of
famous names Relyea has worked with – in addition to William Wyler, Robert Wise
and Richard Brooks.The first of these
legends to recognize talent in the young 29 year old Relyea was the Duke.Wayne was looking for a First Assistant
Director for his upcoming lifelong dream epic The Alamo. Relyea’s successful work on that high pressure film saw
his salary instantly doubling, along with a rise in his reputation within the
industry. Upon returning home to LA from Texas on Christmas Day 1959, he got a
present that was far more rewarding than anything under the tree: an offer from
action director John Sturges to work in Mexico on something called The Magnificent Seven..
Our own columnist David Savage sent the link to this irresistable trailer from Damien: Omen II - and as shlock trailers to shlock sequels go, it ain't half-bad. That's primarily because we're reminded that William Holden and Lee Grant could have brought class and style to anything on celluloid, including your vacation movies. To view click here