If class among the Hollywood elite is dead, Julia Roberts is among those who buried it. The woman many say epitomizes glamour was among a star-studded line-up that toasted Tom Hanks at The Film Society of Lincoln Center's annual lifetime award ceremony on Monday. Roberts noted to Hanks, "So everybody fuckin' likes you." This was followed up by the observation that "I'm wearing the same fucking dress tonight as your publicist." Apparently it brought down the house and Hanks good-naturedly joked about Roberts' "potty mouth". I'm far from a prude (as regular readers can readily attest), and there is indeed a place for dirty humor. However, there was a time when it was restricted to roasts at the Friars Club and similar venues. What does it say about Roberts that a vaunted venue like Lincoln Center should act as a recepticle for crass comments? There was a time when society would not applaud such behavior, but boo her from the stage. Then again, we live in a society that extolls the worst type of behavior. In England, an idiot game show contestant recently went from national disgrace to virtual saint when she was diagnosed with a terminal disease - and coverage of her death rivaled that accorded to Churchill - despite the fact that she was prone to vile, racist comments. In America last week, only a sane judge prevented indicted the former Illinois governor from being a contestant on another game show set in the jungles of Costa Rica! (I'm not making this up.) We idolize singers who engage in self-destructive behavior and sports figures who beat up women and charge little kids for their autographs. I suppose it says more about society than it does the miscreants it puts on pedestals. For those who consider Julia Roberts and her ilk to be modern incarnations of old time Hollywood class, I say "Are you kidding?" Can you imagine a similar event decades ago at which Grace Kelly made such remarks in "tribute" to Cary Grant?
Corky Fornof is a name familiar to hardcore James Bond fans. He's the stunt pilot who flew the mini-jet vertically through the airplane hangar in the pre-credits sequence of Octopussy. He also doubled for Timothy Dalton in the scene from Licence to Kill in which Bond is lowered from one plane to another via a very thin wire. Click here for an interview with Fornof about his remarkable work on film.
Images from subscriber Danny Hartley's movie poster web site allow you to recall an era where you could see films like Our Man Flint and Von Ryan's Express on the same bill. (Photo: Danny Hartley collection)
I'm a big fan of your magazine and website and
thought you might be interested in my movie poster collection website since it's
emphasis is on 60s - 70s. I agree with you that newer posters just don't
Retro Responds: Danny, this is one of the best movie poster web sites I have ever seen. I confess that it frightens me to visit it because I won't get any work done for an entire day! I especially enjoy your section on the great movie double feature posters. Thanks for sharing this cinematic time machine with our readers. - Lee Pfeiffer
General Electric has announced a major breakthrough in DVD technology. The new "super disc" that the company is developing is capable of holding up to 500 gigabytes. To put that into perspective, a standard DVD holds 5 gigs and a Blu-ray DVD holds up to 50 gigs. The new technology will not be available commercially for a couple of years, as the company is fine-tuning it. However it is expected to revolutionize the media storage industry. One of the biggest breakthroughs is the ability to store holographic images such as those that provide security measures for credit cards, driver's licenses, etc. An obvious benefit to movie lovers is that it will ultimately lead to "mega movie discs" that can hold the equivalent of 100 feature films. The benefits are immediately apparent - we can look forward to the day when the entire season of My Mother the Car can fit on one disc! For more click here
Warner Home Video has released a widescreen DVD edition of the 1996 adventure film North Star starring James Caan and Christopher Lambert. The film is probably unknown to most audiences, as it was cobbled together by a mind-boggling array of European finance sources and was barely released theatrically in America. However, there is much to recommend in this film and the second chance the DVD release affords it is justified. For all intents and purposes, the story is that of a traditional western - with the caveat that it is set in Nome, Alaska in the late 1800s when gold fever was still a lure for thousands of immigrants. Caan plays a charismatic, but ruthless local power broker who controls all aspects of mining. He's happy to have the immigrants labor to uncover lucrative gold veins, only to pass laws that deprive them of reaping the benefits. If anyone chooses to fight back, they end up dead with Caan mysteriously turning up as the beneficiary of their claim. Caan's tactics please local xenophobes who are happy to send the immigrants packing, but when his greed carries over to trying to snare a local sacred Indian burial site, he comes up against Lambert, who plays a tough-as-nails tribe member who vows to thwart the scheme. Lambert kidnaps Caan's main squeeze (the fetching Catherine McCormack) and a relentless pursuit takes up the majority of the action on screen.
The film boasts any number of cliches, but that adds to the charm as this is a straight-forward and unpretentious adventure movie, competently directed by Nils Gaup, who takes full advantage of the eye-popping, frigid locations. (The movie was shot entirely in Norway). As usual in these kinds of affairs, the hero serves as a rather bland catalyst for the evil doing committed by a larger-than-life villain. Lambert, who apparently underwent a charisma quadruple bypass early in his career, is still in his familiar "grunt-and groan" mode which was typical of action stars who emerged in the 1980s. Although he compensates for this shortcoming by performing some impressive stuntwork, he's overshadowed at every turn by Caan, who clearly relishes the rare opportunity to portray an outright scoundrel. It's a pity he doesn't get more opportunities to do so, as he provides a fascinating portrait of a true monster whose outward charm hides his inner demons. Catherine McCormack is also impressive as the initially gullible girlfriend who comes to see Caan for the villain he is. There's also an enjoyable supporting performance by Burt Young as a henchman to Caan who is so slovenly he makes Srother Martin's character in The Wild Bunch look like Noel Coward.
This is not a particularly memorable film, but is highly enjoyable - so it if it's unpretentious entertainment you want, this is one North Star you can follow.(The only extra on the DVD is a theatrical trailer)
If you're like the Cinema Retro staffers, one of the glorious by-products of your misspent youth was the time spent in grungy movie theaters watching trashy sexploitation films. If you're pining away for those days of old, where you had to keep one eye on the screen and the other on the trenchcoat draped across the lap of the guy sitting next to you, your ship has finally come in. The people at Retro Seduction Cinema offers such great DVD titles as Sleaze in the 70s and Swinging in the 70s. (We knew there was something more to that decade than bell bottoms and leisure suits!) To visit the site click here
Our report on the upcoming remake of Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs has united Cinema Retro readers in opposition to the project. Bob Collins, subscriber and voice-over artist extraordinaire, vents his opinion, which is typical of the reaction we've seen.
One more log on the fire that Hollywood has lost all creativity. Even
if they wanted to set this in England, why remake it at all Of course we know
the answer. No talent hack writers. As a Yankee transplanted in the south,
this does offer some possibilities:
Max Baer stars in the David Warner
role as Jethro Bodean actually becomes the village idiot.
can star as the movie is retitled, "Driving Miss Daisy To Trencher's
There was a time when you couldn't invite Leonard Nimoy and Mr. Spock to the same cocktail party. The iconic actor was fed up with being associated with the legendary role. However, he's had a change of heart at age 78. Bolstered by the great buzz on director J.J. Arbram's new Trek film in which Nimoy makes a cameo, he says he would strongly consider any request to play the character again in any future installments. For more click here
Yet another major name in the entertainment industry has passed away this week. Beatrice Arthur, the superb comic actress who starred in Maude and The Golden Girls has died from cancer. She was 86. Arthur was already a well-known name on stage by the time she was cast as Maude in the 1970s. Arthur had won the supporting actress Tony for her performance in the 1966 production of Mame. The character of the razor-sharp-witted Maude was introduced as a foil for Carroll O'Connor's Archie Bunker in All in the Family before being spun off to her own highly successful series. In the 1980s, Arthur repeated that success as a trio of aging but humorous women living together in The Golden Girls. For more on her life, click here
Susan George in one of the provocative scenes from Sam Peckinpah's original film.
Hoffman and Peckinpah on the set of the 1971 film.
By Lee Pfeiffer
More proof of how devoid Hollywood is when it comes to original ideas. The rumor we reported many months ago is apparently going to become a reality.Not only will Screen Gems remake Sam Peckinpah's 1971 classic Straw Dogs, but the story will be completely Americanized. This is sure to set off more fireworks between England and the USA than that little dust-up between us that took place around 1776. In Peckinpah's original, based on the novel The Siege at Trencher's Farm, Dustin Hoffman and Susan George played a young city couple who resettle to a small cottage in a quaint British village. They soon finds themselves terrorized by clannish locals. The wife is raped and the husband, a mild man by nature, finds himself in a brutal battle to protect his property and his dignity. The film caused a great deal of controversy at the time due to its depiction of violence and sex - and the debatable observation that the Susan George character encourages and enjoys rape. James Marsden will star in the new version, directed by Rod Lurie. The story will find the couple resettling from Hollywood to the American south (yawn), where the mayhem will occur. What made the original so compelling was Peckinpah's ability to make an outwardly charming country village seem like a strange and terrifying place. The British locations were essential in establishing why the Hoffman character, an American ex-pat, feels so completely out of place. Keeping the locations in the remake restricted to American soil undermines the very premise. Filming on the remake begins in August. It's appropriate that Screen Gems will front this project. After all, they gave us those Three Stooges films for years. For more on the remake click here
(For a review of author Jeff Slater's excellent Peckinpah biography, Entered His House Justified, click here)
Ken Annakin directing the beach sequences of The Longest Day.
By Lee Pfeiffer
The film world lost another legend this week with the passing of director/writer Ken Annakin, who died at age 94. For those of us at Cinema Retro, the loss is personal. In addition to directing some of our favorite films, Ken was an avid supporter of the magazine. The seemingly indestructible British filmmaker led a full and active life and was engaged in trying to get new projects off the ground until he fell ill in February.
Annakin began his career as a director in 1946 and found his talents to be constantly in demand. His career took off a decade later when he was hired by Walt Disney to direct The Story of Robin Hood in 1952. He quickly became one of Disney's favorite and most dependable directors. Annakin would do numerous other films for Disney, the most successful being the adventure classic Swiss Family Robinson. Annakin would direct many other high-profile films over the years. He was one of several directors hired for Darryl F. Zanuck's epic D-Day film The Longest Day. Annakin primarily handled the British military sequences, but also contributed to other key scenes. His success on that film led to his involvement with two other epic films of the 1960s: Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines and Battle of the Bulge. Annakin scored an Oscar nomination for his screenplay of the former, but his experience on Bulge was far different. The production ran into funding difficulties that required him to go far beyond his expected duties in order to ensure successful completion of the film. Perhaps the greatest compliment to extend to Annakin is that there was no "typical Ken Annakin picture". He delved into many different genres, including the South African High Noon- like adventure The Hellions, the period war film The Long Duel, the delightful caper comedy The Biggest Bundle of Them All and the sentimental film Paper Tiger for producer Euan Lloyd.
Ken browses through an issue of Cinema Retro in his study. The filmmaker was an enthusiastic supporter of our magazine. (Photo: Dave Worrall/Cinema Retro)
Ken Annakin personified the British gentleman and came of age in an era in which film directors would wear suits and ties on the set. He was a wonderful story-teller with a great sense of humor, attributes I got to enjoy first-hand several years ago when Dave Worrall and I visited him in his Los Angeles home. Ken loved the concept of Cinema Retro and afforded us an entire day in which to interview him for future issues. He shared priceless memories of working with Walt Disney, Darryl F. Zanuck and other giants of the industry. He was hard at work on more film projects, though he wasn't delusional about his chances of success in an industry obsessed with youth. "These will probably never be made, but I can't help myself", he said in relation to finding an outlet for his creative ideas. Dave and I were greatly honored by Ken's enthusiastic reaction to our recent book
The Great War Movies which we authored for 20th Century Fox. Ken sent word that the extensive section on the making of The Longest Day brought back a lot of fond memories.
He authored a well-received autobiography (So You Wanna Be a Director...) which recounted his remarkable career. He even figures as a footnote in the Star Wars saga, as it's said that George Lucas' decision to name the character Anakin Skywalker was a nod of respect to Ken. He is survived by Pauline, his wife of 50 years, and his daughter Deborah, an executive at Paramount.
The only unpleasant aspect of running Cinema Retro is having to report on the loss of so many revered figures in the film industry. This time, the loss is personal, as we're not likely to see another Ken Annakin anytime soon. The man may be gone, but we can take comfort from the fact that generations of future movie goers will still be entertained by his work.
Rare original trade ad for the film extolled its staggering box-office success.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from Park Circus Films, the distributor of classic movie reissues to UK cinemas:
From 24 April, a restored version of FROM RUSSIA
WITH LOVE is returning to cinemas nationwide, in celebration of the
centenary of producer Albert R. ‘Cubby’ Broccoli.
Broccoli formed EON
Productions and Danjaq, with Harry Saltzman, to make DR NO, launching James Bond
onto the big screen in 1962. When Saltzman later sold his shares of the two
companies to United Artists, Broccoli became sole producer of the Bond films.
FROM RUSSIA WITH
LOVE, originally released in 1963, has been digitally restored frame by
frame by Lowry Digital Images, the world’s leader in digital restoration and
image enhancement. The process involves taking moving pictures that show signs
of age and wear, removing the fading, dirt, scratches and other defects that
occur over time, and returning them to their original condition.
FROM RUSSIA WITH
LOVE, directed by Terence Young, and starring Sean Connery, Robert Shaw
and Lotte Lenya, will be opening from 24 April at BFI Southbank (as part of a
comprehensive Broccoli season), followed by special screenings at cinemas
The great retro web site Starlet Showcase is a tribute to the cinema's loveliest sirens. In one section, there are some nice shots of Claudine Auger as she appeared in the 1965 James Bond epic Thunderball, memorably playing the role of Domino. Love that see through outfit she posed in for publicity photos for the film. A pity the costume designer couldn't work out a logical way for her to wear it onscreen. Click here to visit the site
That's Cinema Retro London correspondent Adrian Smith (center) with the crazy lads who comprise The League of Gentlemen.
Ten years ago a
show appeared on British TV that was so strange, so grotesque, so dark, yet so
utterly hilarious that it quickly developed a cult following and a number of
popular catchphrases. It ran to three series and eventually a feature film.
This was the League of Gentlemen, a weird combination of sketch show and sitcom
which clearly took inspiration from old horror movies, detective dramas, sexploitation
comedies, to name but a few. I took the opportunity to pin down the gents in
order to unravel just what their influences were. The conversation immediately
turns to Take an Easy Ride, described
by Mark as almost being a snuff film. This leads to my first question:
snuff films been an influence on you?
Just that one!
Is it available
No, its illegal. You risk prosecution! (Although a quick search later uncovers
copies available on Ebay and YouTube)
It purports to be an information film. It’s really a rape exploitation film. It
starts like ‘Charley Says’ then it
just gets ridiculous! It’s horrible.
You realise you are getting old when you talk about these things. I was doing
some work with We Are Klang (UK comedy outfit) and they started talking about ‘Two girls, 1 cup’ and I genuinely hadn’t
heard of it! Imagine that!
Neither have I! A
couple of years ago most of you did a commentary for Blood on Satan’s Claw. How did they know you were fans?
I think we’d mentioned it in one of our commentaries.
We tried to get the claw in a toybox for Daisy Haggard (in their new TV show Psychoville). Her Dad Piers Haggard directed
Someone sent me a copy of The Frozen Dead.
It only worked once, it was such a bad copy. You know that one with the frozen
Nazis? It virtually doesn’t exist. It was a huge thing. In the horror film
books of the seventies there were these huge colour plates from this film no
one ever saw. It was terrible.
Someone gave me on video a copy of It!,
which was also in those books.
With the golem??
That’s just come
out on DVD now with The Shuttered Room.
I don’t know if you’ve seen that, but it’s terrible. It’s got Oliver Reed in
I always think of Beast in the Cellar.
It’s a similar
thing except it’s in an attic.
Dame Aileen Atkins told me she was in an Exorcist
rip-off I said “I Don’t Want to be Born?”
She said “You’ve seen it’? “ Of course I have!” Joan Collins raped by a dwarf?
Brilliant! She couldn’t believe I’d seen it.
Aileen Atkins. That’s how she got the part in Cranford.
That’s how she got a Dame-hood.
I love that film,
especially where the baby pushes the nanny into the lake.
It’s a horrible thing, that creature.
You had the devil’s child in Crooked
House (recent portmanteau horror film screened on UK TV over Christmas,
written by and starring Mark Gatiss) didn’t you?
Yes, The Devil’s Hand.
You often included
references in your shows to old films, such as the episode Royston Vasey and the Monster from Hell (a reference to Hammer
horror Frankenstein and the Monster From
Hell). Was it to see if people would notice, or to make each other laugh?
We just needed to think of a title.
Do you remember? We actually watched that Frankenstein film, and from that we
thought we should do something with torches. So we said ‘let’s burn the shop
down’. So that storyline came from the film directly.
It’s a good title though isn’t it?
Oh it’s brilliant. It
shouldn’t work but it does! You’ve also worked with people like Freddie Jones
(in the Christmas Special) who of course once played Frankenstein’s monster.
We remembered him more from Children of
And Elephant Man.
We’ve always had that kind of affinity with those films, and getting to work
with various people over the years is sort of like repaying a debt.
David Warner for example. On the film (The
League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse), I couldn’t believe every day there was
David Warner from every film I loved growing up.
One of the strange lessons of that is that he has no affinity with fantasy. You
would think that as a viewer he must love those films. But he just did those
films because that’s what people asked him to do. He’s become a complete genre
There was such a
dearth of filmmaking in the seventies that a lot of actors had to do whatever
they could to get by.
Except the films were better then!
I was talking to someone the other day, who said that one day he’s going to
corner George Baker and talk about a scene in a grim sexploitation film where
he goes through his collection of vibrators. A long way from Wexford! It’s like when you see people
like John Pertwee turning up in Val Guest rude sex comedies.
Like Au Pair Girls.
Those semi-porn films always had amazing casts.
Speaking of which I
noticed you’ve got Christopher Biggins in Psychoville?
We do, yes.
One of my favourite
films of his was Eskimo Nell.
I’ve not seen that one.
That’s one of those mucky films.
It’s a classic!
It’s a really clever film. It’s not just about sex, honest! It’s about a guy
trying to make a film, and it ends up being a porn film by mistake.
Biggins is in it, he’s brilliant!
Was he cast in Psychoville because of I:Claudius?
Porridge? Or chiefly Watch This Space?
We tried to fill it with references to Watch
When is Psychoville
going to be on?
We don’t know. It’s still being edited.
You’re pleased with
We’re just coming to the end of editing episode 5 which is looking very good.
Do you think people
will see it as a sequel to The League of Gentlemen?
I think it’s inevitable. We had a marketing meeting today. They wanted to say
‘From the team who brought you The League
of Gentlemen and we said ‘well not quite’.
Half! But aren’t
people always going to put you all together?
We’re very proud of it!
We owe everything to it. It would be churlish not to.
Inevitably people are going to want to have a peg to hang us on.
Presumably you took
you name from the film ‘The League of Gentlemen’?
A favourite or just
a good name?
I think I’d seen it quite recently and it was just a good name.
It is a great film. Very seedy.
Can I ask you about
Sherlock? (It has recently been announced that Mark Gatiss is currently working
on a new series of Sherlock Holmes TV dramas for the BBC.)
Is this going to be
in competition with Guy Ritchie?
It’s a coincidence. It always happens. There are always three Robin Hood films
coming out at the same time. The character is still here because he’s been the
most filmed character in all of fiction. There’ll be several more by next year!
There’s no fight involved. Unless Harry Hill does it! This Holmes will be in
the style of the 1940s Sherlock films where he fights the Nazis. We’ve tried to
bring Holmes into the present day.
The legendary Jack Cardiff is dead at age 94. He began his career as an actor in silent films, but later established himself as one of the industry's greatest cinematographers, with films such as The Red Shoes and The African Queen to his credit. Cardiff was a man of many talents, and dabbled in directing as well. Among his feature films were The Long Ships, Sons and Lovers, Young Cassidy and The Liquidator. Cardiff also wrote, directed and shot the popular 1960s cult film Girl on a Motorcycle (aka Naked Under Leather) starring Marianne Faithfull as a sexually promiscuous free spirit. Ironically, that film is the cover story of the latest issue of Cinema Retro, now out in England and due to ship in North America in early May. Cardiff was awarded an OBE by Queen Elizabeth in 2000. For more on his life and career click here.
Thanks for the nice write-up on Hammer's version of Phantom of the Opera.With all the hype attributed to previous film versions and the stage
musical, this version often gets lost in the shuffle and it's far superior to
all the others. It knows it's a horror movie. I wish you'd consider
having someone on your staff write up a piece on that film. It was planned for
Cary Grant to actually play the Herbert Lom role, but that casting arrangement
fell apart. I think Grant might have been excellent as the Phantom (he was
always desparate to play a character he could disappear into), but I have a very
hard time seeing him as Professor Petrie, don't you? In any case,
Hammer's Phantom has always been my favorite just for its raft of character
actors alone - Michael Ripper and Miles Malleson as cabbies, Patrick Troughton
as the Rat Catcher and on and on. Thanks again,
Bill Shaffer Topeka,
Kansas Retro responds: Thanks, Bill - and we will surely do a major piece on the film in a future issue of Retro. We've been hounding Herbert Lom for an interview, but every time it looks like it's ready to happen, scheduling problems have interfered. We remain hopeful, however. It's true that Cary Grant was considering the film, but as I understand it, he got cold feet about deviating so far from his established image. I can't picture him in the role, but the experiment would have been fascinating. You're right about those wonderful Hammer character actors. Don't forget, the film also feature such stalwarts as Thorley Walters and Michael Gough, playing one of the most sinister villains ever. The Hammer version is far superior to the storyline of most other films based on this story, because the use of the chandelier is brilliantly and dramatically incorporated into the tragic ending. In the Broadway production, I was dumbfounded when the big chandelier scene came half way through the play and merely consisted of the Phantom riding atop the fixture as it swung out toward the audience - a neat technical trick, to be sure, but devoid of any emotion. Does anyone remember the 1990 TV version starring Burt Lancaster (who incidentally, was not cast as the Phantom)? It always escaped me and I was wondering what it's merits (or demerits) may be. Meanwhile, here's a bonus Australian release poster from the Hammer version. - Lee Pfeiffer
The Warner Brothers Archive has earned the enthusiastic support of classic and cult movie fans, as the new site allows consumers to special order DVDs of films not available through other commercial outlets. The studio has just released a new batch of titles, primarily from the 1930s and 1940s, with plenty more on the way. Best of all, if you reference the code on the above banner during checkout, you'll get a free DVD of your choice if you buy two others. Click on the banner to visit the site.
What films would you like to see Warner Brothers release in the future through the Archive site? Let us know and we'll convey your requests to the studio.
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM THE CINEMA RETRO ARCHIVES
In our never-ending quest to locate obscure/bizarre film mementos, we came across a true rarity. While researching our recent articles on Fox's The Sand Pebbles, we were able to obtain this unusual studio promotional item that was given to members of the cast and crew of the film when they were filming in Taiwan in 1965. This is a gold-plated pencil case with the film logo on it, along with the notation that it was "Filmed in Free China", a smug reference the on-going Cold War tensions with Red China which at that time was not allowing western film productions to film on their soil. By the way, if web site traffic is any indication, it would appear that Fox's forthcoming restored roadshow version of the film will be a major hit. Cinema Retro has logged a tremendous number of hits for our coverage of the Steve McQueen-starrer. Now if only we can locate those gold-plated lemons given to the cast and crew of Ishtar!
The New York Times just criticized Russell Crowe for being among those leading men who have allowed themselves to go to seed in terms of weight-watching. Crowe had intentionally put on a great deal of weight for his role in last year's Body of Lies and had problems slimming down again. However, the first photos from the set of his new Robin Hood movie indicate the actor has indeed shed a good many pounds - though not before replacing Sienna Miller with Cate Blanchett as Maid Marian because he intially doubted his ability to lose weight and feared looking silly in the sack with rail-thin Sienna. The film reunites Crowe (who is producing ) with director Ridley Scott and the cast includes Vanessa Redgrae and William Hurt. The film, originally titled Nottingham, has been re-titled to the bland and unimaginative Robin Hood. For more click here
A virtually unrecognizable Denzel Washington stars in the remake of The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3
In the latter part of their careers, Marlon Brando and Orson Welles took a lot of heat for allowing themselves to bloat to zeppelin-sized proportions. Today, however, either man might have passed for a sex symbol. The New York Times says that current male superstars are more portly than ever - and that audiences seem completely tolerant of their "more to love" physical appearance. Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, John Travolta and Denzel Washington are among those cited as losing the battle with middle-aged girth. Women aren't immune, but in a cruel irony, the industry routinely denies sizable roles to mddle aged actresses, so we rarely get to see if nature wreaks havoc on them. For more click here
You can keep the overblown, over-rated stage production of Phantom of the Opera. Personally speaking, the best sound-era version of the story is the vastly under-rated Hammer production from 1962 starring Herbert Lom in a magnificent and mesmerizing performance in the title role. The film's disappointing box-office take doesn't negate its many merits...and one brief scene at the climax is particularly memorable: the Phantom, hiding behind a curtain, observes his protege (Heather Sears) magnificently performing in front of an appreciative audience. Director Terence Fisher uses a closeup of a single tear escaping from the Phantom's mask. Pure poetry.
Enjoy original Three Stooges shorts for free on YouTube.
Did you know that YouTube offers dozens of feature films and shorts for free viewing? The movies range from art house films to major studio releases like Carrie and Cliffhanger. For a link to the movies page click here
Emanating in radioactive waves of hilarity from its
home at New World Stages on W. 50th
Street in Manhattan
is The Toxic Avenger, The Musical,
the not-exactly-anticipated musicalization of the 1984 cult movie. The show
opened April 6th.
New York-area “Toxie” fans of the 1984 film and its
numerous sequels will not want to miss this well-oiled, high-camp machine of a
show, written by Joe DiPietro (“I Love you, You’re Perfect, Now Change”) with
music and lyrics by Bon Jovi founding member David Bryan.
Expanding upon the plot of the film, the musical
casts it net a bit wider, summoning the operatic, mock-horror of Phantom of the Opera, combined with the
rock-opera structure of Phantom of The
Paradise (1974), all in the spirit of Revenge
of the Nerds.
For non-inductees into the Cult of Toxie (of which
I am one), the story concerns a certain Melvin Ferd III, a Tromaville, New
Jersey nerd, who discovers documents in his local library (while he’s there
trying to flirt with his unrequited love, the blind librarian Sarah) linking
the town’s mayor to a company dumping toxic waste in a city landfill. When the
mayor learns of Melvin’s discovery, she sics her two bullying goons on him, causing
him to fall into a barrel of toxic goo. Emerging with superhero strength, one
eyeball sliding down his cheek, his brain half-exposed and his entire body
dripping with toxic green slime, “Toxie” is nonetheless ready to go after the
bad guys and wreak bloody revenge for his horrible disfigurement. He’s also
determined to win the heart of Sarah while he’s at it, since she thought his
former self a bit too weasly.
According to New Jersey-native composer and
lyricist David Bryan, the show is a fulfillment of a lifelong dream ever since
he saw the 1984 movie in a midnight movie theater in Newark. “From that day on,” according to his
notes on the musical’s website, “he dreamed of writing a musical about the
first mutant superhero from his home state.”
The musical was developed at the George Street
Playhouse in New Brunswick, and positively overflows
with New Jersey
references, given the Garden State-roots of both Bryan and the show’s book
author, Joe DiPietro, who hails from Exit 166. (Bryan grew up off Exit 109). In New Jersey,
if you didn’t know – and you’ll know by the end of this show – you don’t
discuss what town you’re from, it’s what EXIT you’re from!
To its detriment, the show never rises to a comedic
level above the cartoonish, comic book genre. Ecological disaster, global
warming, political corruption, small-town hypocrisy, even rape – all subjects
are given the same, frantically silly treatment. This is no doubt by design, in
keeping with the tone of the movie. However, as a result, it never really
elicits any range of emotion – just a broad, tickled smile from the start, to a
more tired smile at finish, as the facial muscles begin failing.
But I still urge Cinema Retro’s readers to go see
it, as the performances alone are worth the price of admission. There isn’t a
weak one in the bunch – all are top-form, scary-talented Broadway pros.
Jody McCrea, the son of Joel McCrea, passed away earlier this month. He was primarily known for his roles in cult films. In this excerpt from his book, Cinema Retro columnist pays tribute to McCrea's career.
Tall, strapping, square-jawed Jody McCrea who became a favorite of teenage audiences during the Sixties for his amusing performances as “Deadhead” in the series of Beach Party (1963) movies starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello passed away on April 4 of this year. As the dumb surfer in the bunch, Deadhead could be counted on to say something idiotic in his slow drawl. Though McCrea was always assured a laugh based on how the role was written, it is to his credit that Deadhead came off as sweetly naïve rather than a complete moron. Jody McCrea was born on September 6, 1934 in Los Angeles. His father was western star Joel McCrea and his mother was the underrated actress Frances Dee. As a child, Jody along with his brother David worked the 2300 acres of ranch that his father bought in the San Fernando Valley. The boys toiled in the bean fields, and per his interview with TV Guide, it was Jody’s early ambition to become “the greatest bean-hoer in the State of California.” While attending the New Mexico Military Institute, Jody visited his dad on the set of the movie Lone Hand. Though surrounded by show business his whole young life, it was on this set that the acting bug finally bit him. McCrea studied drama at UCLA and began taking acting lessons on the side. He made an uncredited appearance in Lucy Gallant (1955) but his official debut was playing Lt. Baker in the western The First Texan (1956) starring his father, Joel McCrea, as Sam Houston. Jody would go on to work with his dad in other westerns including Trooper Hook (1957) and Gunsight Ridge (1957). McCrea’s first significant part was playing Tim Hitchcock in the William Wellman-directed bio flick, Lafayette Escadrille (1958) starring Tab Hunter as the famous French flying legion of WWI. Television fans discovered Jody McCrea when he teamed up with his dad to star in the western series Wichita Town during the 1959-60 season. Joel McCrea played the town marshal and his son was cast as his deputy. The series unfortunately was saddled with a bad time slot following the weepy This Is Your Life so when the show’s sponsor pulled out the series was cancelled. He returned to the big screen playing supporting roles in low budget comedies and westerns including Young Guns of Texas (1963) featuring second generation actors (such as James Mitchum and Alana Ladd) in leading roles. The WWII adventure Operation Bikini (1963) was Jody McCrea’s first pairing with Frankie Avalon and movie for American International Pictures. He was cast next as Deadhead in Beach Party the same year. When that movie broke box office records for the independent company, McCrea was coaxed back to reprise the role of the dumb surfer supporting Frankie and Annette in Muscle Beach Party (1964) and Bikini Beach (1964). Due to his popularity with the teenage audience McCrea progressed to second lead in Pajama Party (1964) playing Annette Funicello’s boyfriend who prefers volleyball to romance. McCrea was finally able to shine and received good reviews for his performance. Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) also gave McCrea a chance to do some real emoting as his character now renamed Bonehead falls in love with a mermaid played by Marta Kristen of Lost in Space fame. He received positive reviews such as in the Los Angeles Times whose critic remarked, “Jody McCrea…handles the comedy as a kooky beach bum on whom the sun really shines.” Regarding his popularity playing a doltish surfer, McCrea told Newsday, “It took me four pictures to figure it out—the kids liked Deadhead because they felt superior to me, to him.” However, McCrea was getting disillusioned with the beach movies due to the fact he was afraid that he would be typecast. After How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965) wrapped, affable Jody McCrea was determined to shake his Bonehead persona. The western Stagecoach to Nowhere based on Oedipus Rex was supposed to be McCrea’s next movie but it was never produced. Instead, the tall, broad-shouldered actor was perfectly cast as a rambunctious racecar driver in The Girls from Thunder Strip (1966) and a hardened biker in The Glory Stompers (1967) co-starring Dennis Hopper and Chris Noel. The latter was co-produced by McCrea.
Peter Rogers' name probably isn't well known outside of the UK, but within the British film industry, he was a legend. Rogers has passed away at age 95. His body of work was largely defined by the laugh-charged Carry On series of films that pushed the envelope in terms of sexual content in the 1950s and 1960s. The series generally boasted a host of talented British comic actors all involved with bedroom antics featuring well endowed actresses. The series was always innocent fun and attracted mainstream audiences who wouldn't have dreamed of attending a real X rated film. Rogers had a productive working relationship with his wife Betty Box, who passed away in 1999. Betty was one of the industry's first successful female producers, having overseen production of the Doctor series of film farces. Rogers started in the film industry after WWII and worked on numerous B movies including writing and producing the cult thriller Timelock which offered Sean Connery one of his first minor roles. He introduced the Carry On films in the 1950s but the series hit its zenith in the 1960s when relaxed censorship rules allowed him to make the movies a bit more daring. The series' success was so steeped in British humor that it never generated much of an audience outside of the UK. In his native England, however, the films were enormous successes and Rogers became a revered figure. He opened an office at Pinewood Studios in the 1950s and remained active there until his death. He was still trying to launch a return of the Carry On series when he passed away. For more click here
Kudos to Kino: the video company has released a boxed set of the acclaimed AFT feature films.
By Raymond Benson
to go see a Broadway or West End stage play—but at the local cinema?No, it’s not a filmed stage production.It’s a play translated to the film medium,
but with complete faithfulness to the original play script.Not only that, it stars big name actors and
is directed by a top-notch director.To
complete the conceit, you get handed a playbill (program) when you enter the
theater.There might even be an
intermission—or two!And you have only four
showtimes at which you can view the picture before it disappears, and you have
to buy your ticket in advance with a subscription for a whole “season” of these
filmed plays, or staged films, or whatever you want to call them.
was the unique and exciting experiment called the American Film Theatre.
in 1973, producer Ely Landau launched this daring and unprecedented cinema
series that played in the U.S. for two “seasons,” with a total of fourteen
titles (but only thirteen were shown), all renowned works—classic and modern—originally
produced on the stage.Landau and his
wife Edie were not Broadway producers, but they were Theatre People and had
helped launch the “Play of the Week” series on PBS television, produced Sidney
Lumet’s film version of Eugene O’Neill’s Long
Day’s Journey Into Night (1962), and were keen on inventing a way to make
Broadway (or the London stage) accessible to everyone in America—at their local
have always been stage plays adapted for film—A Streetcar Named Desire, for example, or The Miracle Worker, or Hamlet.But plays like these were “re-imagined” for
the film medium—the script was often changed or re-written with added or
deleted scenes, the action was “opened up” to include locations outside of a
single, claustrophobic stage set, and the roles were usually re-cast with
“Hollywood actors” rather than “Broadway actors.”Then there were also the few stage
productions that were filmed as is, i.e., cameras were set up in front of an
actual proscenium stage while an already-rehearsed play was performed and the
cameras simply recorded the production.Waiting for Godot (1961), for example,
was done this way for television.
American Film Theatre concept tried something different.The directive was to take a great stage play,
not change a word, and in most cases,
use the actual play script as the screenplay.The next step was to hire an accomplished film director to interpret the
text for the film medium but stay
faithful to the play.Sometimes the
director was the same person who helmed the original stage production.A further step was to persuade the original
casts from the Broadway or London productions of those plays to star in the
film; or, when that wasn’t possible, to cast big-name Hollywood or British
actors.Thus, the result was indeed a
filmed play—but you as an audience member wouldn’t be watching it from the
middle of the orchestra or from the side or from the first balcony; instead you
were up close and personal in a realistically-presented world (on studio sets
and/or real interior or exterior locations)—just like in “regular” movies.You had the best seat in the house, so to
speak, but there’s no proscenium arch.It’s a movie.But it’s a
didn’t have a lot of money to produce the series.Getting the rights to the plays was the easy
part.In most cases, if the playwright
was still living, he was more than happy to take a modest fee to see his play
translated faithfully to the screen.Edward Albee, for example, had already gone through a Hollywood
experience with Who’s Afraid of Virginia
Woolf?During that production, he
and producer/screenwriter Ernest Lehman often clashed over the script until
Lehman finally gave in and used Albee’s original play text as the film script
almost verbatim (and yet Lehman was credited for the screenplay and received an
Oscar nomination for it!).So, when
Landau approached Albee about doing A
Delicate Balance in the American Film Theatre with promises that the actual
play would be the screenplay, and Albee would have director and cast approval,
the playwright jumped at the chance.Landau
collected the rights to the plays he wanted in this manner and started from
scratch with every production, except for two.Three Sisters, from the Anton
Chekhov play and directed by Laurence Olivier, had already been produced and
released in Britain only in 1970.Philadelphia, Here I Come!, from the
Brian Friel play and directed by John Quested, was an Irish production set to
be released in 1975.Landau bought the
U.S. distribution rights for both films and presented them as two of the
entries in the AFT program.Thus, Three Sisters and Philadelphia, Here I Come! were the only pictures in the entire two
seasons that Landau and his team did not produce.
talent (directors, actors, designers, technicians) was asked to work at a
reduced rate or at scale.No one
refused.It was for a cause they all
thought was worthwhile.Lee Marvin, for
example, joked that he “lost $225,000” by starring in The Iceman Cometh (which meant he did the movie for only
$25,000—his going rate at the time was $250,000).
from American Express and other organizations helped fill out the rest of the
production costs.Finally, audiences
were asked to subscribe in advance to a certain number of films in a particular
season.They could buy tickets for the
entire season or a lesser selection if they desired.Only four performances per film were shown at
selective theaters around the country—simultaneously—and a new film premiered
every month.Just like theatre, only in
a Theatre Person (defined as someone who has studied and worked in the theatre—I
was majoring in Drama at the University of Texas at Austin in the fall of 1973
when the American Film Theatre premiered)—I found the series exhilarating.Most people who appreciated and knew the theatre loved it.They understood and “got” what Landau and his
team were trying to do.Unfortunately,
the rest of the public met the series with a collective shrug.Film critics complained that the films were
“too much like stage plays” (duh!).True, many of the productions were a bit claustrophobic because, like
the original plays, they took place in single settings.In only a few cases were the plays “opened
up” to include scenes outdoors (such as Rhinoceros
and Lost in the Stars).What the critics didn’t understand was that
the series was created to celebrate playwrights,
and so the emphasis was on the plays.With
great acting.And wonderful
of the acting, I assert that the AFT series contained some of the best performances
one can see on the silver screen—ever.It’s a shame that none of the films were
eligible for Academy Award consideration (due to the limited showings and non-traditional
distribution); otherwise we would have seen many of the AFT’s stars up for
Oscars.Only one of the films, The Man in the Glass Booth, was released
in a regular theatrical run in 1975 after the AFT seasons were finished—and
Maximilian Schell was indeed nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his role in
first season consisted of eight films/plays.Beginning in October 1973, one picture played each month through May
1974.The second season consisted of six
features (only five were actually shown) and ran in 1975.
A star is porn: Tokuda wields the tools of his trade.
By Lee Pfeiffer
Attention all middle-aged men! The next time your boss tries to intimidate you by reminding you of how precarious your job is, you can tell him where to go and follow in the steps of Shigeo Tokuda, who - at age 59- made a radical change in his career. No, he didn't run away to join the circus, but his new job sometimes does involve use of a whip and a chair. Tokuda, now 75 years old, is a living legend in Japan, where he is considered a pop culture hero by the nation's rapidly-aging population which finds inspiration in his abilities. At an age where many guys define "getting it up" as meaning the enema bag, Tokuda continues to rise to the occasion, making films with women younger than his daughter. It gives a whole new meaning to "I gave at the office". To read more click here
For the first time since Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 1968, the James Bond producers will be developing a new non-007 film property. Sony will team with Eon producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli to bring the forthcoming thriller Remote Control to the screen. The book by Mark Burnell centers on a British corporate intelligence analyst who uncovers a plot to undermine the Chinese economy. The premise certainly goes against the grain of popular opinion, given China's tendency to manipulate its currency to undermine other nation's currencies. Although Barbara Broccoli personally produced the acclaimed 1990s TV movie Crime of the Century, this marks the first non-Bond project she is teaming on with Wilson since they took control of the 007 franchise from their father Cubby Broccoli in 1994. Eon also has a long-rumored remake of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang planned for the big screen. That 1968 pic was the only non-Bond movie solely produced by Cubby Broccoli in the days following the screen debut of Bond in 1962. Although Cubby was interested in developing other stories for the screen, he cited the enormous logistics behind the Bond franchise as the reason he was not able to do so. The new plans by Eon probably mean a lengthy delay before production begins on the next Bond flick. As we reported last month, Wilson told the audience at the Bradford International Film Festival that absolutely nothing has been done in terms of preparing the next entry in the series. For more click here
Caine in the mid 1960s: riding the wave from Zulu, Alfie and The Ipcress File.
Sir Michael Caine says that his latest role - that of a dying magician in Is Anybody There? - is one of the best of his career - and critics agree. The two-time Oscar winner is reaping praise that equates this role with the best he has ever played. Caine muses about his longevity in a recent interview and says money no longer inspires him - only a good script does. He says if another good script doesn't come along, he's content to retire without fanfare and -like an old soldier - just "fade away". For more click here
Mamma Mia! may be one of the highest grossing musicals of all time, but Bjorn Ulvaes, one of the founding band members of Abba, thinks the proposal for a sequel is one he's willing to take a chance on. Ulvaes thinks the concept of continuing the story wouldn't work from a creative standpoint. Meanwhile, other key creative members of the first film are enthused about the prospect. For more click here
News has just come in that Marilyn Chambers, an iconic presence in adult films of the 1970s and 1980s, has been found dead. She was 56 years old. No cause of death was released, but an autopsy will be performed. Chambers was a fresh young face in the modeling world, having posed as the Ivory Snow Girl prior to her entrance into the world of pornography. Her first starring role in Behind the Green Door gave her the stardom that eluded her in the legit entertainment world. Chambers parlayed this fame and made herself into a virtual one-woman industry. In the 1980s, she top-lined her own series of videos, starring in erotic short stories. Despite her "girl-next-door" good looks, Chambers also starred in some films with an S&M slant and routinely performed in lesbian scenes. She attempted to make a career in mainstream films and did star in David Cronenberg's thriller Rabid. However, her audience didn't follow her into legit ventures and in recent years, Chambers would appear at autograph shows and capitalize on her fame as a porn legend. Chambers is the second famous porn star to die in the last week. Gay movie icon Jack Wrangler passed away just days ago.
To get in a warm weather mood with summer not approaching fast enough, here is a look at Hollywood surf movies from a different and albeit biased perspective. Gay men are always looking for gay subtext in movies and TV, and I am no exception. Am I reading more into these films? Probably—but it was sure a lot of fun doing the research.
The Sixties beach movie craze began with Gidget (1959) starring Sandra Dee and James Darren, a fictionalized look at teenager Kathy Kohner’s surfing escapades in Malibu during the mid-Fifties. It was groundbreaking as the movie contributed to the mass dissention of surfers on the beaches of Malibu and started a series of surf-theme films such as Gidget Goes Hawaiian and Ride the Wild Surf. The surf movie soon morphed into the beach-party film, whose heyday was from 1963 through 1965, where surfing was only used as a backdrop to fanciful teenage beach adventures. Beach Party from AIP starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello launched Muscle Beach Party, Bikini Beach, Pajama Party, Beach Blanket Bingo, How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, and The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini. Soon other studios were releasing their own Beach Party rivals such as Surf Party, The Girls on the Beach, and Beach Ball. Some of these films varied from the formula by shifting the locale to a lake (A Swingin’ Summer) or the ski slopes (Ski Party, Winter a-Go-Go, Wild Wild Winter). These movies for the most part followed a successful simple formula—start with attractive swimsuit clad teenagers twisting on the sand, add a dash of surfing (or ski) footage, mix in romantic misunderstandings, stir in popular musical performers, add aging comedians for comic relief, and whisk in villainous bikers or predatory adults.
Out of the surf and back in the closet: Tab Hunter was one of many male sex symbols who had to hide their sexuality during the beach movie era.
Gay subtext crept into a few of the beach-party movies giving these films camp appeal today. Discounting the obvious fact that these sand-and-surf epics were titillation for homosexual men of the time, as good looking shirtless movie hunks such as Jody McCrea, Fabian, Aron Kincaid, James Stacy, and Peter Brown frolic on the sand bare-chested in swim trunks and on the slopes in tight ski pants. Or that gay actors such as Tab Hunter, Tommy Kirk, and Paul Lynde appeared in these movies, there were other factors that probably were not obvious back in the Sixties. Either a director or screenwriter may have tried to slip in with a wink and a nudge to the homosexual community in an unassuming way that made it past the oblivious producers and censors.
The most obvious example is Muscle Beach Party (1964) featuring a clean-cut group of surfers versus a cult of bodybuilders headed by Don Rickles' Jack Fanny. During the Fifties and Sixties, the public automatically associated bodybuilding with homosexuality because muscle men of the time appeared as objects of desire wearing posing briefs or sometimes nothing at all in physique magazines whose readers were mostly gay men. Writing on the subject, film historian Joan Ormond commented, “Homosexuality in this era was regarded as potentially more damaging to society as the wild antics of surfers.” Hence, the bodybuilders of Muscle Beach Party whom seem to enjoy the company of each other rather than any of the bikini girls on the shore are seen as the bad guys along the lines of Eric Von Zipper’s motorcycle gang of Beach Party as they are out to corrupt the youth of America.
Laurie Broder's classic movie blog has uncovered a YouTube posting of an amazing bit of film: an Aaron Spelling TV pilot from 1965 starring Bette Davis in The Decorator. The show, in glorious b&w with appropriately cheesy backgrounds, stars the great Miss Davis as a financially broke interior designer who fails to understand her precarious position. She sleeps to noon and saunters around her house smoking cigarettes as only Davis could smoke them. The pilot features Mary Wickes as Davis' long-suffering, tough-as-nails assistant and the guest star is Ed Begley. The show is actually pretty funny and it's probably worth looking into why the pilot never aired. Did the networks turn it down or did the notoriously finicky Miss Davis have a change of heart? Any of our readers know? To view click here. There is a sidebar that also allows you to watch the second part of the show.
Mitzi Gaynor with Cinema Retro contributor Eddy Friedfeld in New York.
By Eddy Friedfeld
“I never worked with a stinker- how
great is that?” Mitzi Gaynor said as she recalled working with the likes of
Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Cole Porter, Rogers and Hammerstein. Probably
because the legendary actress, singer, and dancer never worked on any project
that she did not make better.
In New York City celebrating the 50th
anniversary of the release of the film South Pacific on Blu-Ray disc,
Ms. Gaynor was radiant, charismatic, and vibrant, still possessing all the
energy that could “wash that man right out of her hair,” recalling her iconic
character, Nellie Forbush.
Filmed on location on the Hawaiian
island of Kaua’i, the classic and enduring South Pacific is about a
young American nurse from Little Rock (Gaynor) who meets the handsome and
mysterious French planter (Rossano Brazzi) on a South Pacific island during
World War II. They fall in love against the backdrop of the war and a
classic Rodgers & Hammerstein score.
“The film brought in $17,000,000 on its
domestic release,” writes Laurence Maslon in The South Pacific Companion,
“making it the third top grossing film of the 1950s. In England, they
went absolutely mad for the picture. It was the greatest money earner in
the United Kingdom until Goldfinger.”
“The minute we got off the airplane,
off came the girdles and the stockings and on came the Mumus. And then
the next day we suited up for shooting.”
“Nellie Forbush was one of the first
feminist characters and she didn’t know it,” Gaynor said. “She was just a
little girl from Little Rock. A nice girl from a nice family- brought up
right. Nellie was college educated in her twenties, a trained nurse.
She’s never been away from home and winds up on an island in the Pacific,
surrounded by servicemen. She meets a man with an accent she’s never
heard before who offers her a brandy and a plantation. She initially
can’t get over her own prejudices- he was married to a black woman and has
Polynesian children, which to her are black. ‘Before you’re six or seven or
eight, you’re taught to hate everyone your family hates’ were the lyrics.
But Nellie overcomes what she was taught as a child, and when her great love is
killed in action, Nellie commits to raise his children as her own.”
“The best part of making South
Pacific were Rosanno and Lydia Brazzi- two treasures of my life. Rosanno
would walk around so in love with himself- “Mitzi Gahnor- I’m so
gorgeous- could you imagine not having a good time with someone like
“Few people know that if it weren’t for
Frank Sinatra I wouldn’t have gotten the part,” Gaynor recalled fondly. “I was
doing The Joker’s Wild with Frank and he took me to meet director Josh
Logan who shook my hand and said “Hello Nellie.” I met Richard Rodgers
the next day They then wanted me to meet Oscar Hammerstein, but Oscar was only
available on a particular Thursday, which was the day of the big casino scene
in The Joker’s Wild. I asked the director, Charlie Vidor, for a
few hours off. Charlie turned to Frank and said, “it’s your call.”
Frank said, “We’ll shoot around you, honey - go get the job.” Someone else
would have said are you crazy?” Frank never got the credit he deserved for all
the good things he did for people.”
I sang for Oscar Hammerstein. All
he said was “Thank you, Miss Gaynor.” I finished Joker’s Wild and
then started Les Girls with Gene Kelly. It was lunch time, it was
raining, and cold. I was in my dressing room when my phone rang. “How are
you?” Jack (Jack Bean, Gaynor’s beloved late husband and manager of 51 years)
asked. “My fanny hurts, my leg hurts, my ankle hurts, and I’m coming down
with a cold. But other than that I’m fine. “I wonder what the
weather is like in Kawaii in August,” he said. “How in the world would I
know,” I responded. “Because you’re going to be there, you got the
part.” And here we are 50 years later.”
The new DVD features a special “Road
Show Version” of the film, a feature-length documentary “Passion, Prejudice and
South Pacific: Creating an American Masterpiece”, Mitzi Gaynor’s screen test,
and vintage excerpts from the original Broadway stars, and Diane Sawyer
interviewing James Michener, author of Tales of the South Pacific, upon which
South Pacific was based.
Fox's new Blu-ray special edition DVD of South Pacific.
“Dancing is still the hardest
profession. Gene Kelly said dancing is a man’s game. Women have to
do the same thing in heels, and have to sing and smile at the same time.
Professional athletes don’t even have to do that- and they get to wear
sneakers. You break your knees, ankles, and toes. The first lesson
is not to step on your own feet or anyone else’s. Dancers are always falling
down offstage and tripping. Probably because they’re not paying as much
Gaynor alsorecalled running
into Sid Caesar in the vitamin section at Trader Joe’s in Beverly Hills and
immediately lapsing into a German accent and matching banter as Caesar’s
shifted into an equally faux German voice.
On the connection between music and
comedy: “I’m a Hungarian Virgo- I see everything skewed. You cannot see
the forest through the trees- you just see that little hole of what’s missing-
and that’s where the comedy comes from. There’s a big difference between
a Hungarian and a Romanian- both will sell you their mothers, but a Hungarian
is honest- he’ll deliver.”
Cinema Retro Contributor Eddy Friedfeld
is the co-author, with Sid Caesar, of Caesar’s Hours and teaches The
History of Comedy in America at Yale and NYU.
Click here to order the new South Pacific DVD discounted from Amazon. Click here to order the DVD Mitzi Gaynor: Razzle Dazzle, The Special Years. Click here to order The South Pacific Companion book.
Remember the gloriously cheesy 1967 James Bond spoof Operation Kid Brother? It starred Sean Connery's younger brother Neil in anattempt to capitalize on the 007 craze. The bizarre film did boast some first-rate talent including an assortment of alumni from the "real" Bond movies including Daniela Bianchi, Adolfo Celi, Anthony Dawson, Lois Maxwell and Bernard Lee (the latter two blatantly recreating their M/Monepenny relationship). The film is hilarious fun and includes a catchy theme song by Ennio Morricone. Making the situation even stranger is that Neil Connery (who is badly dubbed in the film) is referred to as "Connery"! (For an 8 page report on the making of the film, including an interview with Neil Connery, see Cinema Retro issue #12). To view original trailer, click here
Warner Brothers is backing a remake of Ray Harryhausen's Clash of the Titans and has attracted some first rate talent to the project. Liam Neeson (in his first role since the tragic death of his wife Natasha Richardson) will star as Zeus and Ralph Fiennes will play his enemy, Hades. Two alumni of recent James Bond films will also be in the cast: Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale) and Gemma Arterton (Quantum Of Solace). For more, click here
Cinema Retro recently caught up with Dr. Wesley Britton, author of numerous books about spy movies and TV series, including his latest work, The Encyclopedia of TV Spies.
Britton, who runs the highly entertaining web site www.spywise.net, shared his thoughts on his love of the spy movie genre.
For those who haven’t heard about The
Encyclopedia of TV Spies, what can readers expect to find in it?
Most of this book describes over 200 TV series from the U.K., the U.S, and even
Canada from 1951 to the present. This isn’t an episode guide or a directory of
cast and crew, but rather each alphabetical entry provides basic facts about
the shows along with behind-the-scenes information to hopefully give readers
some flavor of what each show was all about. It covers a wide range of series
from Adam Adamant Lives to They Young Rebels, so the scope is very
inclusive. It includes miniseries like Robert
Ludlum’s Hades Factor, “reality” shows like Spymaster, cartoons, children’s shows, and docu-dramas based on
historical events. There are also appendices discussing soundtracks and tie-in
novels. The book is 520 pages long, if that gives you any idea how detailed it
Why would readers want a book like this when so much information is on the
My first answer to that is, because so many obscure and short-running series
are included, readers will discover tons of shows they wouldn’t have known to
look for. Doomwatch? The Piglet Files? Frederick Forsythe Presents? I think that’s one great pleasure from
the book. I’ve already heard some readers are now seeking out DVDs of series
they never knew existed because the descriptions intrigued them. I’d also say
to be careful about what you find on the net. Interviewing some of the
participants, I picked up a number of errors repeated all over the place. In
addition, I’ve already done that research for you—along with interviews, books,
rare articles, you name it. For many series, all you can really find are
episode titles and lists of cast and crew. I wanted to go beyond that, Again,
trying to provide some flavor of each series thinking those who like certain
types of shows will get interested in seeing programs new to them.
admit that if you’re looking for information about major series like I Spy or The Avengers, there’s no lack of other sources you can explore. In
an encyclopedia, my discussions of these series have to be limited because of
space. But I do have my own spin on things. For example, I include shows like The Adventures of Zorro and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and
explain how they do, believe it or not, connect to the spy genre.
Most porn stars fade into obscurity and their passing rarely makes the mainstream news. However, the death of Jack Wrangler from cancer at age 62 is an exception. For some, Wrangler was perhaps the first iconic star of gay movies of the 1970s. Even us straight guy horny teenagers had heard of him. With his rugged Marlboro Man looks, Wrangler (real name John Stillman) became an immediate sensation in the era in which porn was seen in squalid movie houses. What sets his story apart, however, is his offbeat personal life. Wrangler fell in love with big band singer Margaret Whiting, who was 22 years his senior. The odd couple ended up marrying, despite Wrangler's insistence that he remained gay. It was the ultimate Hollywood "marriage of convenience", with the refreshing caveat that Wrangler wasn't trying to hide his sexuality. In fact, he always insisted that he never felt ashamed of anything he had done onscreen or off and made no apologies for his career in X rated movies. He wrote an autobiography and was the subject of a recent documentary. Through his relationship with Whiting, Wrangler quit the porn business and concentrated on musical productions. He even launched several shows in tribute of songwriter Johnny Mercer. Margaret Whiting survives him. For more on his life click here. To see Wrangler letting it all hang out, continue reading. (We don't want to offend any of our more sensitive readers!)
We got an E mail today from director Joe Dante and it inspired us to remind our new readers of Joe's fantastic web site, Trailers from Hell. The unique aspect of the site is that Dante and other prominent writers and filmmakers run vintage trailers from classic and cult movies with the commentator giving an overview of the film and interesting background facts. Consider it as a capsule special edition DVD. We should warn you, however, that there is no such thing as a brief visit to Trailers from Hell. You'll almost certainly be tempted to spend quite some time searching through and playing trailers and listening to the amusing and informative commentaries. Like Cinema Retro, the films that are covered are wildly eclectic. If you thought Retro was far out for including tributes to Don Knotts and Sam Peckinpah in the same issue, consider that on Trailers from Hell, you can see the original coming attractions for Fred Astaire in The Band Wagon and Fred Williamson in Boss Nigger! Meanwhile, check out director Michael Lehman's insightful analysis of the 1971 Paddy Chayefsky satire The Hospital starring George C. Scott by clicking here. (See Cinema Retro issues #11 and 12)
Pete Emlsie, our favorite "Cartoonist of the Stars" pays tribute to the great Jim Garner on his 81st birthday. (Garner's in good company - it's also the birth date of Francis Ford Coppola and Russell Crowe.) Visit Pete's web site The Cartoon Cave for more on Garner and film clip from one of his best movies, The Americanization of Emily. (Did you know it was shot under the title Emily? The Americanization of....was added at the last minute).
Once upon a time…When Hollywood movies were actually
made in Hollywood, finding a suitable filming location was never a
problem.The movie makers simply went
out to their own backyard and started shooting!
Welcome to the place that got “shot-up” the most, the
mother of all movie ranches – Iverson’s.Return with us now, to those thrilling matinee days of yesteryear.Where the “Duke” boarded a particular Stagecoach (1939) that would go on to
take him to stardom.Where The Lone Ranger (1949) could be found
riding up to that certain rock each week to rear his horse.On screen, Iverson’s could be both the Wild
West and India, too.From hard riding,
two-fisted westerns to death-defying cliff hanging serials, in over 3,000
movies and TV shows, the ranch became one of the industry’s most recognizable
This photo from Jerry England's web site www.cowboyup.com is one of many that provide fascinating "then-and-now" records of the Iverson Ranch. England's photo caption reads: (Above) In the center of this photo is the construction site for the Toll Brothers condominiums. The Middle Iverson Ranch was (#5) the apartments to the right. The Garden of the Gods (#3) were located on the Lower Iverson Ranch. The 118 Freeway (can't be seen in photo) separates the Middle and Lower Iverson Ranch areas. The Iverson western street was located where (#2) the Indian Hills Mobile Home Village sits today. The eastern edge of the Bell Moving Picture Ranch was (#4) and the Chatsworth Reservoir is (#1).
Now before we set foot on the ranch, it’s important
that you understand what the Hollywood Studio Zone is all about and how it
relates to Iverson’s.The Studio Zone is
an area that takes in everything within a 30-mile radius of the Hollywood
studios and basically includes all of
greater Los Angeles.The Zone’s
northwest corner is primarily where, once upon a time, some two dozen movie
ranches were located.It was and still
is the place where you found the wild open spaces, the dusty trails, the rocky
canyons - all within an easy drive of
studio soundstages.It’s one of the
reasons why the movie industry moved here in the first place.Still, the industry producers and the unions
needed to mark out a work zone.From a
location standpoint, everything outside of the zone was considered a “distant
location”, which translated to more expensive hotel stays, per-diem costs and
so on.Locations within the zone were
considered “local”, thus were favored by studios and producers. Location!Location! Location! is the byword
in real estate.However in Hollywood,
it’s more a case of “A tree is a tree. A
rock is a rock. Shoot it in Griffith Park”.At least three Hollywood producers are credited with saying that.A good many more , though, said simply “Let’s shoot it at Iverson’s.”
Located at the very northwestern tip of the zone, where
the famed San Fernando Valley meets the Simi Valley, is the Santa Susana Pass
and that’s where you would have found the Iverson Ranch.In the business it was known as Iverson’s
because there were two Iverson Ranches, the “upper” and the” lower”.The “upper” belonged to Aaron Iverson and the
“lower” to his brother Joe.There was no
dividing physical fence even though the brothers were not the best of friends,
as that would have hindered filming and affected their income.Back in the days of the “real” West, the
Santa Susana Pass was one of the main routes the stagecoach used to travel over
the mountains and into Los Angeles.In
1880, a stagecoach brought a Swedish immigrant named Augusta Wagman to the San
Fernando Valley and the small frontier-like community of Chatsworth.She purchased a 160-acre piece of rocky,
hilly land that was not at all suited to farming.Augusta’s homestead was remote and seemed to
be even hotter in the summer and colder in the winter, than any of her
neighbors.Needing help as well as
company, she went on to marry a Norwegian immigrant Karl Iverson and started a
family.This was many years before the
San Fernando Valley became the cement prairie of tract homes and shopping malls
it is today - long before it ever became known as “The Valley”. This 22
mile-long stretch of flatland, all 177 square-miles of it, was mostly worthless
and dried-up desert.But all that
changed in 1913, when city engineer William Mulholland built a 223 mile-long
aqueduct to bring water to an ever thirsty Los Angeles. Suddenly, when that
mighty faucet was turned-on, the land wasn’t so worthless anymore. Almost
overnight, things began to grow and the “valley” started to turn green.However, for the Iverson family -now with two
sons- things had already started turning green the year before.
In 1912, a movie location scout happened by and
introduced the Iverson’s to a new cash crop called movie ranching. This
peculiar new enterprise involved renting out land not for planting, but for
making movies.The Iverson’s decided to
give movie location-ranching a try and at first, Karl and Augusta supervised
the needs of the visiting movie companies themselves.By the mid-1920’s, their sons Aaron and Joe
also became involved.Upon the death of
Karl Iverson in 1947, his will dictated that the now 500-acre property be
divided between them.Aaron got the “upper” ranch and Joe the
“lower”.Like the brothers themselves,
each ranch had its own characteristics or features that movie companies
sought.The main attraction at Iverson’s
period and the sole location star was on the “lower” ranch –a place nicknamed “The
Garden of The Gods”.This “rock star”
(pardon the pun) has made so many appearances in movies and television shows,
it’s just about the most photographed piece of sandstone on the planet.It’s believed that these two strange and
imposing rocks were named by an early location scout who thought they rather
resembled a similar rock formation in Colorado.Oddly enough years later, they were prominently featured in the Glenn
Ford western The Man from Colorado (1948).In John Ford’s classic Stagecoach (1939), the “Gods” are seen
in the background as the stage pulls into the Apache Wells relay station.Earlier in an area adjacent to the “Gods”, is
where John Wayne first boards the stage - and close to that is the location of
the burned-out ferry scene. John Ford, who always knew the value of a good
location, had previously used the ranch to stand-in for India for the Shirley
Temple picture Wee Willie Winkie (1937).For that film, he had a British colonial fort
set constructed at great cost. Speaking
of colonial India, the Lower Iverson was a star in both Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935) and The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936).Apart from having the most photogenic rocks
and the original Iverson homestead, the lower ranch was also famous for its
canyon trails.In the $2 million
production of They Died with Their Boots
On (1941), star Errol Flynn as General Custer escorts a wagon train through
the Black Hills… only to be ambushed by Indians near “The Garden of The
Gods”.In another Warner Brothers
western Carson City (1952) with
Randolph Scott, viewers will recognize a rock cliff formation with a solitary
tree growing out of the top known as “Nyoka Rock”.Yes –all the great rocks have names, but this
one is named for one of the many literally cliff-hanging Republic serials Perils of Nyoka (1942).However, in numerous westerns including Carson City (1952), the panoramic view
from “Nyoka Rock” is even more enhanced, when a period locomotive is seen on
the Southern Pacific train tracks of the Santa Susana Pass in the distance.Before serial actor Clayton Moore put on a
mask for good, he was wearing it for the usual bad reasons, as when he starred
in Republic’s Adventures of Frank &
Jesse James (1948).When, as kids,
we attended those Saturday matinees at our local theaters, we didn’t pay much
attention to the backgrounds in action-packed movies; if we had we would have
noticed the curious rock formation that Clayton Moore was standing on.On television each week, he would go on to rear
his white horse up by another rock
whilst letting out with the words “Hi –Yo- Silver -Away”.Through one of television’s earliest hits, The Lone Ranger (1949), the aptly named
“Indian Head Rock” would forever become immortalized.
Indian Head Rock became immortalized by The Lone Ranger TV show.
The rock today as photographed by Kevin Closson, whose blog provides a great history of the site along with many contemporary photos and film clips from movies shot at the location. Click here to visit.
The real beauty of independent movie ranches like
Iverson’s and those that the studios owned themselves, is that anything shot
there could be easily intercut with footage from distant locations like Lone
Pine and Monument Valley.A rider could
leave town, usually a set on a studio backlot, ride across the prairie of one
particular movie ranch, get ambushedby
the rocks at Iverson’s and get taken into another town, which is yet another
set on the backlot of yet another studio.It would all be edited seamlessly and you’d assume it was all a
continuous shot.Even “poverty row”
productions filmed this way.Basically,
all the scenery they could ever want was in the Studio Zone.If it wasn’t –well there was always stock footage
that could be cut in to make it all seem even grander than it actually
was.The movies by definition are an
illusion and nobody understood that better than cost conscious Hollywood.Again –“A tree is a tree. A rock is a rock.
Shoot it” in the Studio Zone.That was
the prevailing philosophy up until the late 1960’s.
Last week, I was invited to join the members of the Metropolitan Society for their monthly gala dinner in Fairfield, New Jersey. The Metropolitan Society is the premiere private cigar club in New Jersey, formed to allow free-thinking adults to smoke their stogies without bothering with any "pain in the ass innocent bystanders" (as The Godfather's Clemenza might say). During the festivities I was introduced to Tommy Z, a dyed-in-the-wool Cinema Retro reader who recently started his own web site, PlanetZMan. He gave me a brief tour and I was greatly impressed. In an age of political correctness, Tommy Z is fighting back against the forces of do-gooders who are determined to save us from ourselves. You know, the kind of people who are terrified that somewhere, somehow, somebody might be having a good time. Tommy's web site is an addictive blend of every politically incorrect angle you can think of: from the joys of rolling cigars to an homage to the wonderful world of cleavage. While the site is clearly geared to straight males who think even Sam Peckinpah was a bit too "touchy, feely", it's clear that almost anyone from any walk of life will appreciate Tommy's humorous takes on life. (I particularly love his editorial denouncing political correctness in today's cartoons.) Do yourself a favor and check it out by clicking here
face it. Many Hollywood biographies are cut-and-paste jobs, recycling (if not
actually cribbing) material from other sources – yellowing issues of Variety,
The Hollywood Reporter, vintage tabloids or previously published biographies –
and retelling the same old anecdotes. Happily,
The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre is no such hack job. It is one of
the finest biographies of an actor ever written, on a par with Patricia
Bosworth’s Montgomery Clift andCharles Winecoff’sSplit Image: The Life of Anthony Perkins.
However, the time it took to research and write the Lorre tome may well be
unprecedented. Author Stephen D. Youngkin started working on The Lost One in the early 1970s and the
book was finally published in 2005, so there are many first-hand accounts by
Lorre’s friends and colleagues (most of whom have died over the years).
Lorre’s many wonderful performances and guest appearances on stage, screen,
radio and television… and his growing cultural icon status 45 years after his untimely death, his life was a sad one, and that of his late daughter
Catherine was even sadder. Lorre's melancholia was impossible to hide from the
camera in his final years, partly as a result of a growing awareness as
his health declined that he would leave his daughter in desperate straits,
and that her life would not be an easy one, mainly due to financial
hardship resulting from his almost complete lack of business acumen. (Lorre
entrusted a lifetime’s earnings to a shady money manager who robbed him blind;
and, although steadily employed, the actor was chronically underpaid for his
services; inexplicably, Lorre’s salary was far less than Sydney Greenstreet’s
in the six films in which they co-starred, even though Greenstreet was a
relative newcomer to films). And yet Lorre had many friends and admirers and
even went through a sexy period in the 1940s, attracting the attention of the
stunning (but troubled) starlet Kaaren Verne, who became his second wife in
1945. They were divorced in 1953. Lorre also never quite lost his mordant sense
defines the unique talent and menacingly comic persona of the diminutive,
bug-eyed actor with the purring voice, tracing Lorre’s slowly descending career
arc, from his early stage successes in Weimar Berlin with the trailblazing
dramatist Bertolt Brecht, his starring role as the baby-faced child-killer in
the German thriller M – which catapulted Lorre to international fame (if not
fortune), his escape from Nazi Germany (Lorre was a non-practicing Jew), the
botched gall bladder operation that led to his lifelong pain and addiction to
morphine, and the ongoing typecasting as a sort of comic bogeyman that saw him
end his career in junk like American International Pictures’ Muscle Beach Party
(in a cameo as “Mr. Strangdour”) and in episodes of such TV series as Five
Fingers, 77 Sunset Strip and Route 66. However, Lorre appreciated any work that
came his way.
Lorre in his brilliant, star-making performance as the child murderer in "M"
book also reveals that Lorre tried to reignite his stage career in the early
1950s in A Night at Madame Tussaud’s, a Grand Guignol story in which he
co-starred with the demanding Miriam Hopkins. Unfortunately, the two actors
detested each other on sight and the play (Lorre’s umpteenth attempt to break
out of the mold Hollywood producers had set him in) folded for this silly
of a certain age, I remember Lorre popping up on TV many times during my
childhood. He appeared in several films geared to a juvenile audience and I saw
most of them when they were first released: Walt Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under
the Sea, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Five Weeks in a Balloon, The Comedy
of Terrors and “The Black Cat” segment of Tales of Terror. I have vivid
memories of seeing late-period Lorre in The Raven at the Centre Theatre and The
Patsyat the Capitol Theatre in
Ottawa (both twenties-era movie palaces were torn down years ago). I recall
Lorre being interviewed on a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation TV program
called Tabloid. This would have
beeninthe late fifties. Lorre was quizzed by the show’s handsome,
jock-like host Gil Christie. I can’t remember much except that Lorre
chain-smoked and was very fat. As a child, I found him to be quite ugly and
scary. I am puzzled by the strange and unsettling impact Lorre had on me as a
youngster whenever I saw him on the silver screen or on black & white
television, and how inexplicably sad I felt when I heard that he had died. I
was 12 when Lorre passed away in March 1964. He was only 59 but looked much
portrayal of Le Chiffre in the “Casino Royale”
1954 puts him in the cinematic history books as the very first James
Bond screen villain – a full eight years before Joseph Wiseman achieved
worldwide fame as Dr. Julius No. The late Barry Nelson (the first 007) recalled that Lorre as Le
Chiffre had trouble remembering his lines, and ad-libbed a lot. This propensity
for improvisation became an unshakable habit with Lorre in his later years,
often to the consternation of his fellow performers.
In death, Lorre finally lucks
out with this splendid biography. The
in its third printing) won a Rondo Award for Best Book of 2005. It was also
nominated for CineFest's international Willy Haas-Preis 2007 (which is given
every two years). “This was a real feather in my cap,” Youngkin enthuses. “I
think there were five or six titles nominated, two in English. It's given for a
contribution to German film heritage. Considering that only about 15% of the
bio focused on German film and only Der Verlorene (Lorre’s sole directing
credit) in depth, I was surprised and pleased to garner this recognition.” (Der Verlorene
is the tale of a murderous psychopath in war-torn Germany who is better able to
conceal his crimes in the chaos of battle and aerial bombardment.)
Cinema Retro caught up with
Youngkin at his hacienda in Arizona.
Retro: What was it about Lorre that made him such a unique presence on the
Berlin stage in the 1920s? Did Lorre’s persona influence Bertolt Brecht’s
writing style and the subjects he explored in his plays?
D. Youngkin: Lorre was unique in how he looked and in what he said (and how he
said it), all qualities he translated to the stage (and later, film).
Contemporaries described him as distinctive, off-beat, unforgettable and
magnetic, characteristics that subsumed his rather odd looks. One theatre
impresario even said he looked like a tadpole. Fortunately for Lorre, a new
force in the Berlin theatre was looking for just that: “strange faces, strange
types.”Bertolt Brecht didn’t want
matinee idol good looks; rather he was drawn to faces off the street.
Brecht plays in which Lorre appeared (or was scheduled to appear) were written
before the two men got together. However, after the playwright came to America
in 1941, he tailored as many as eight film stories to the actor’s capabilities,
as he saw them.
is very likely, however, that Lorre’s acting influenced Brecht’s theories on
the subject. When Brecht saw something he liked, he studied it. In other words,
theory followed practice. With Lorre, the clashing of characteristics gave the
playwright the “jumps and interruptions” he felt necessary to hinder normal
meaning and underline other possibilities for human behavior. The Brecht
business gets a bit thick. Suffice to say that the double-sidedness of Lorre’s
performances helped coalesce Brecht’s developing theories about a new style of
What facets of Lorre’s acting talent were forever concealed from the American
viewing public due to his lifelong typecasting?
First, I think you would have seen a much greater show of versatility in both
drama and comedy, aptitudes that Lorre felt Hollywood largely neglected.Also, it’s possible that his “split” style of
acting would have taken different forms, not just the naïve and sophisticated
equation, but more of what audiences saw in the stage play Fruehlings Erwachen
(Spring’s Awakening, 1929), where the actor seemed to be cut off from his own
feelings. This was spectacularly visualized in the scene where a headless Lorre
sits in a cemetery holding his own head under his arm.
Lorre in his unforgettable 1929 stage appearance in Spring Awakening.
Despite his frustrations at being typecast as a smiling villain in Hollywood,
Lorre turned down Brecht’s overtures to return with him to Berlin after the
Second World War to help the controversial playwright set up a theatre company.
Why did Lorre string Brecht along? Was Lorre ashamed of having been seduced by
the Hollywood lifestyle? Was his increasingly poor health a factor in his
decision not to work with Brecht in the late 1940s and 1950s?
Lorre certainly didn’t consciously “string Brecht along.” However much the
playwright’s film stories failed to fit Hollywood norms, Lorre tried to give
them a push. The problem is that the actor had little clout at the front
office.Turning his back on Hollywood
and returning to East Germany was another matter. The short answer to this
question is that Lorre was weak. Brecht was well aware of Lorre’s commitment
issues and cut him far more slack than he would have given anyone else, partly
because of shared history, also because he saw his friend as a great actor and
one that he needed to rebuild his theatre in Germany.
don’t know to what extent Lorre was ashamed of being seduced by Hollywood, but
he was painfully aware of it. And most certainly, the weight of failing Brecht
(and thereby himself) grew heavier with the passing years. Those are the short
answers to hard questions that don’t entirely take into account the many issues
at play here. Lorre left Warner Bros. in 1946 with the idea of taking charge of
his career.Unfortunately, his
self-management enterprise—Lorre, Inc.—was an overwhelming failure. He still
needed to prove to himself that he could rise from the Hollywood morass (what
Brecht described as a swamp). If he couldn’t take that first independent step
in America, then Europe might do.Brecht
had mapped out a plan for Lorre that included using his American movie career
to help subsidize his theater work at the Berliner Ensemble.
Lorre was mulling this over, he went to England to earn some badly needed
money, and then drifted on to Germany, where the idea of Der Verlorene (The
Lost One) fell into his lap. Always the fatalist, he followed up on the idea of
directing, starring in and co-authoring his own film. In a poem, titled “To the
Actor P.L.,” Brecht invited Lorre (poor or rich, sick or healthy) to join him
in East Berlin. Lorre, convinced he was charting his own course, didn’t answer
the call. Some of his friends also suggested that the actor was too addicted to
the Hollywood lifestyle and the easy access to drugs to seriously consider
exchanging whatever was left of his celebrity for the sparseness of the Communist
Soviet block. There is some truth to this.Lorre’s drug use was certainly on the upswing during the making of Der
Verlorene. The accumulative effects of chemical addiction and assorted other
health issues were beginning to catch up with him. By this time, he was not up
to the physical demands of the stage.
when you tally all the negatives, however, Lorre muddies the picture with a
letter to writer Elisabeth Hauptmann in which he, in a veiled way, expresses
his regrets (“I don’t want to be a nobody forever.”) and timidly asks if Brecht
might find a place for him. No doubt this somewhat pathetic attempt to turn the
clock back was conditioned by the failure of Der Verlorene, his drug use and
Here is the restricted version of the trailer for Sacha Baron Cohen's new film Bruno. As in Borat, Cohen has adopted an outrageous alter-ego - in this case, a flamboyantly gay man- and attempts to intermingle with everyday Americans. The trailer has all the ingredients one would expect in terms of being offensive to some segment of the population. It mocks Madonna for her adoptions of African children, visits a swinger's colony and a dominatrix and causes havoc on the catwalks of the fashion industry. Bruno is also seen asking his self defense instructor how one can protect themselves from being attacked with a dildo. How much of all this is real and how much is staged remains to be seen, but Cohen did cause a number of sensational scandals last year when his antics disrupted fashion shows. To view the trailer click here
Actress Betsy Blair has died of cancer in London. She was 85. Blair arrived in Hollywood as the teen-aged wife of up-and-coming Gene Kelly. They remained married until 1957. Blair initially seemed to be on a promising career of her own, scoring a Supporting Actress Oscar nomination opposite Ernest Borgnine in Marty. However, her passion for left-wing political causes put her out of favor in an industry that was dominated by pressure from the likes of Senator McCarthy. Blair soon found her career had come to a standstill in the United States. She relocated to Europe, where things improved for her, but she did make a temporary digression to study speech therapy. She later married the acclaimed director Karel Reisz. Blair acted periodically on TV and in films in recent years, but turned down a major role in the movie The Hours to care for the dying Reisz. For more click here
Britain's Sun tabloid newspaper is harshly critical of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's policies, especially his economic plan, as unveiled at this week's G-20 Summit in London. Regardless of where you stand politically, you have to appreciate the typically sensationalistic way the tabloid catches the eyes of readers. In this case, morphing the PM into the guise of Austin Powers' nemesis Dr. Evil. We doubt Mr. Brown gives too much credence to the paper, which generally concentrates on scandals among game show contestants. However, it could put a crimp in his plan to arm the Royal Navy with ill-tempered sea bass. -Lee Pfeiffer
A red, white and blue line of classic Minis outside the Soho Hotel,
London, March 25, 2009 said one thing: The Self-Preservation Society had
returned! It took forty years to get their skates back on but this reunion was a
promise of more treats in store for fans of the classic comedy crime caper,
The Italian Job. Paramount Pictures presented a pristine digital print of the original
1969 film as a precurser to the launch of the ruby anniversary
edition DVD coming June this year.
The legendary Remy Julienne with the legendary Mini Coopers.
(L to R): David Salamone, Remy Julienne, Matthew Field and Michael Deeley. The project was Matthew Field's labor of love. He produced the original DVD documentary on the film that was released by Paramount several years ago. However, for the new documentary, he managed to get even more talent involved, including Sir Michael Caine.
The screening for press and the
retail trade was a landmark event: for the first time in four decades, producer
Michael Deeley, screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin and veteran French driving
stunt co-ordinator Remy Julienne were back together. The team had also
contributed to the new special features on the DVD, a taster of which was
previewed before the film. The exciting trailer whetted the gathered appetites
of fans of the ultimate Mini adventure by showing glimpses of none other
than the original Charlie Croker himself, Sir Michael Caine, legendary composer
Quincy Jones and maverick Paramount executive, Robert Evans. Tara and Shane
Collinson, the sons of the film's late director, Peter Collinson and David
Salamone, who played Dominic, one of the chinless wonder Mini drivers rounded
out the gathering. Also in attendance was the director-writer of the DVD special
features, Matthew Field, who produced the new documentaries with The Picture Production Company. Field, a regular contributor to Cinema Retro, is author of B T Batsford's best-selling The
Making Of The Italian Job and the recent Faber & Faber book, Deer
Hunters, Blade Runners and Blowing The Bloody Doors Off, Michael Deeley's
Reunited: Remy Julienne and producer Michael Deeley.
As Soho Hotel's Crimson Room whirred
to the sound of Remy Julienne re-creating his famous car stunts on an Italian
Job Scalextrix kit (!), attendees were reminded by Paramount Home Entertainment
UK Marketing Director, Richard Clarkson that the DVD package, one of the most
complete ever produced, will be available on Blu Ray and standard format in the
UK from June 15, 2009.
(Text and Photos by Ajay Chowdhury, editor
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang magazine, www.007.info)
The Nesquik chocolate drink company recently sponsored an amateur short film contest recently held a contest that allowed amateur filmmakers to submit entries that promoted Nesquik in creative ways. Mark Sieve of Florida was immediately inspired to create a James Bond-themed entry titled Quantum Of Nesquik. Considering it's a no-budget production, he managed to squeeze in a pretty impressive car chase, as well as a beautiful heroine and some dasterdly bad guys, all of whom happen to be his co-workers. The film runs a little over 4 minutes, but the credits are as long as the movie itself. Then again, that seemed to be the case with Kubrick's Spartacus. Let's hope Mark at least took his unpaid cast and crew out for some Bond-style bubbly when filming was completed. Click here to view.