It looks like every theater on the planet had the same idea about how to celebrate the new year: hold a James Bond film festival. The Mayfair Theatre in Ottawa, Canada will be showing numerous Bond films in January including Goldfinger, Thunderball, Dr. No, You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. The theater will also be screening two films that are rarely shown on the big screen anymore, even in 007 festivals: The Living Daylights and GoldenEye. Click here for the schedule.
Fox continues to release "quadruple features" in DVD sets at outrageously low prices. The Sean Connery Collection consists of repackaged, previously released titles, but it's hard to resist getting four films for about $15. This collection consists of:
Shalako- Connery's first post-Bond film was this 1968 Western produced by Euan Lloyd in 1968 and co-starring a stellar cast including Brigitte Bardot, Honor Blackman, Stephen Boyd, Woody Strode and Jack Hawkins, among others. Based on a Louis L'Amour adventure novel, the film is fun in a goofy sort of way, beginning with the schlocky title theme song. Bardot looks like she stepped out of a Beverly Hills salon, even when blasting bad guys with a six-shooter. Connery, seemingly miscast in a Western as a guide for an ill-fated hunting party of European aristocrats, acquits himself well, largely by playing it all straight. The action is well handled by director Edward Dmytryk and the film boasts some memorable sequences. (Blackman's rape and torture at the hands of hostile Indians is almost too unbearable to watch). Producer Lloyd has always been a master of giving the audience more than their money's worth, and Shalako does just that.There are no bonus features for this title.
Cuba- Richard Lester's 1979 film was a box-office and critical bomb, but I've never quite understood why. The movie is totally engrossing and presents Connery with a great role as a soldier of fortune who is hired in a vain attempt to prop up the Batista regime as Castro's revolutionaries move on Havana. Connery reunites with former lover Brooke Adams amidst the chaos and undergoes a change of heart to side with the rebels after seeing the abuses of the government. The film balances comedy with lively action sequences and feature stellar turns by an impressive supporting cast that includes Jack Weston, Hector Elizondo, Chris Sarandon and Denholm Elliott. The film's theatrical trailer is included.
Cinema Retro is proud to present the concluding part of writer Kris Gilpin's 1988 interview with director Monte Hellman.
KG: Now to my favorite: Two-Lane
Blacktop.Like author Rudy Wurlitzer,
you’ve used the road-movie or searcher motif in many of your films.From where did you get this affinity?
MH: I don’t know; when I
was a film student the only book I read which had any lasting effect on me was
Kracauer’s Theory of Film, Or the Redemption of Physical Reality.He makes a case for the Road Movie being the only valid form of cinema; any film that
takes place within four walls without any relationship to the street outside is
a play, not a film.So for him La Strada
is the ultimate film.That was an idea
which stuck with me.I didn’t choose Beast from Haunted Cave – there
was a basic idea which existed before I became involved with it – but it’s a
road movie; it’s a trek across the mountains on skis – a band of robbers
escaping from a mine robbery with the loot on a ski trip.So that was a trek; the two Westerns are
treks; the two Philippine pictures are treks; Two-Lane Blacktop is a trek; Cockfighter
is not a trek a circle – they go around [in a circle] from one cockpit to
another.Iguana is not a trek, but it is
also a circle.
KG: After Easy Rider, the
industry was selling Two-Lane as the second coming, what with the screenplay
publication in Esquire and all.Do you
think it was a case of over-hype which caused its initial “failure” at the box
MH: No, it was a case of a
different philosophy.I think Easy Rider
was a film which was not offensive to the status quo because what it put down
was a part of the status quo that everybody
condemned.It wasn’t critical of the way
studio executives live their lives; it was critical of Southern bigots, so
everybody could get behind that.Two-Lane
Blacktop was critical of middle-class morality – for want of a better term – it
was critical of the way the average person lived his life, and the studio
executives were offended by it, and they killed the film.It didn’t die a natural death, it was
KG: By the lack of
publicity, right.I was shocked to read
in Danny Peary’s Cult Movies that Laurie Bird (who played The Girl) had died; I
didn’t know that.When and how did she
MH: She died in, I guess,
’79, of an overdose of Valium.
Hellman's most acclaimed film, the cult movie Two Lane Blacktop
KG: What was Dennis Wilson
(as The Mechanic) like to work with?
MH: Of the whole group, I
think Dennis really was the most instinctive actor.James [Taylor, who played The Driver] was
very serious about the work, as he is with everything in his life, and very
dedicated it and very professional, but Dennis may be, I think, the only actor
I’ve ever worked with who’s totally unaware
of the camera; he was absolutely at home [in front of the camera].
KG: Totally unpretentious?
MH: It wasn’t even
unpretentious; he was just unconscious
of it, unconscious of the fact that he was performing in a way, and he would
get into a scene and he would just start living it.He would get lost in the reality of the
moment and you can see it in his face; you can watch him and the way he’s
watching what’s going on in a scene, and he’s totally transfixed by it.He became
it; it’s just an amazing thing.I’ve
never seen anything like it.
KG: It seems to me that
the majors (Two-Lane was a Universal picture) would rarely make a
character-based film like that today, unless there were cute little, flying
aliens in it or something like that.
MH: The films that they
make today are so full of artificiality and shtick, they don’t bear much
resemblance to any of the kinds of
films that were made in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.
KG: That must also,
obviously, be one of the reasons you take the time to try and find the projects
that interest you.
MH: Well, I have a lot of
things which interest me but most of the things I like don’t interest
distributors and producers.
KG: Two-Lane ends with a
famous optical shot, in which the film slows down, and is then made to look
like it gets caught in the projector before it breaks down and burns.Was there any intent behind that other than
it’s being a neat optical effect?
MH: Well, basically I’m a
very instinctual, emotional kind of director; I’m not an intellectual in most
of what I do.In that instance, I let my
intellect impose a choice that was purely intellectual, that I hoped would be
transformed into an emotional affect on the audience; I didn’t know that it would be and I was very
hesitant about using it because of the way that it evolved.But what I was trying to do was make a
relationship between the speed of cars on the road and the speed of film going
through the gate of a projector; I hoped it would work and I guess it did,
because a lot of people are moved by
it, as I ultimately was, too.
KG: Was that Rudy
Wurlitzer’s idea or yours?
MH: That was my idea.
KG: Why isn’t Two-Lane out
on video again?I still see that
question in video magazines all the time.
MH: Well, for the same
reason a lot of other films aren’t; it’s because of music rights.At that time they didn’t anticipate video, so
they didn’t specifically put video into the contract, so in order to put it on
video all those songs would have to be renegotiated, and it would cost a
fortune.I think it’s very unlikely
it’ll ever come out.
KG:God, that’s a shame.It’s doubly ironic, too, because as I was
first watching the film I got an eerie feeling that something was off-kilter or
missing, and slowly I realized it was because there was no background music, no
mood music in the film, not by Taylor or the Beach Boys or anyone.The only tunes were incidental, playing on a
car radio or jukebox in a scene, and when the scene cut away, so did the
music.I thought that was a brilliant
tough of verisimilitude.
MH: I did the same thing
in Iguana, as a matter of fact, with one exception, which was the opening and
closing credits, in which we used a song [sung by Joni Mitchell] that was not
source music.But in every other place
it was all source music.
KG: How did Corman recut Cockfighter
MH: He added two 20-second
segments of dream sequence; it was something that had nothing to do with the movie-
cop cars getting blown up and naked girls.The reason was, he wanted to have material for a trailer and he didn’t
want to cheat, so he wanted it to be footage that was in the film.It was very offensive, and he cut the
three-minute porch scene.[It caused a
rift between us] at that time.[Eventually] the uncut version came out probably because – although I
don’t know for sure – [L.A. cable channel] the Z Channel insisted on it, which
meant that the video in general became that version, and also the version
that’s played on cable.
KG: Warren Oates was mute
through most of the film; was his character that way in the book, not wanting
to speak until he won the big fight?
MH: Yeah, that’s the
character.Warren pretended like it was
the easiest job he eve had; he said, “Wow, I don’t have any dialogue to
learn?Fantastic!They’re overpaying me.”[Smiles]
KG: How do you think it
stands up today?
MH: Well, it’s no secret,
I guess, that it’s one of my least favorite of my films and the reason is, it’s
the only time I haven’t been able to do the work on the script that I would
like to have done.In every other film
I’ve made I’ve been able to create the script that I wanted; in that case it
was Roger’s baby and he hired me to do it with the production already in place,
with a start date and everything.I told
him I wanted to do some work on the script and he said, “O.K.” and I hired Earl
Mac [Buckaroo Banzai, Wired] Rauch to come in and work on the script.We worked for a week and Roger saw a sample
of what he was doing and he became panicked; he thought we were ruining his
baby, so he said, “O.K.You’ve just got
one more week and that’s it.”I’d
planned to go through the script methodically from beginning to end, and Mac
worked on the first 10 or 15 pages; at that point, when Roger pulled the plug,
I decided to have Mac, in the remaining week, just do the key scenes that I
thought needed the most work.So he
basically did everything relating to Warren’s relationship with his girlfriend
in the film.
KG: What are your thoughts
today on China 9, Liberty 37?
MH: I like it.When you start making analogies between one
film and another, I think that every film is different and that, essentially,
my style changes with the nature of the material.I think China 9’s certainly the most romantic film I’ve made, and I
KG: What was it like
directing Sam Peckinpah in a small part in that film?
MH: He was [laughs] very difficult to work with.He wouldn’t finish a sentence; we would say
three words and then stop.I literally
had to piece his performance together.He was ornery as hell but we were very good friends without really ever
spending a lot of time together;
there was a great affection between us, and he was an amazing man, really
amazing. I think he was one of the great
American directors for sure.
KG: How were you involved
with his Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (also written by Rudy Wurlitzer)?
MH: I was the original
director and I developed the project, and had worked out with Rudy Wurlitzer
the basic idea of the film, which was unique I think in Billy the Kid stories,
in that it dealt with the only period in the history of Billy the Kid that
nobody knew anything about.He literally
disappeared from the time he escaped from jail until the time he was shot and
so, rather than repeat any of the known history of Billy the Kid, Rudy and I
decided to develop a picture that could be completely fictional because it was
about a time [of] which nobody knew the real story.
Zelda Rubenstein, who played the medium in the Poltergeist films, has been hospitalized for the last month and was recently taken off life support. Cinema Retro contributor Kasey Dickerson pays tribute to the actress and her distinguished career on his blog. Click here to read
We don't usually cover celebrity break-ups and romances on Cinema Retro, but we'll use any cheap excuse to recycle this great photo of Susan Sarandon from the 1978 film Pretty Baby. This time, our excuse is that is has been announced
that Sarandon and long-time beau Tim Robbins broke up months ago,
according to their spokespeople. The two have been an item since
co-starring in Bull Durham in 1988. Although they never
married, the couple had two children during their long-time love
affair. They were also very proactive in campaigning for liberal
political causes. No reason was given for the breakup, but if they
reconcile, we'll have another reason to run this photo again. For more click here
VCI Entertainment has released a 2 DVD set celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Buck Rogers serials starring Buster Crabbe. Here are some details from the official press release:
SYNOPSIS: Preserved in a state of suspended animation
for 500 years by the Nirvano gas in the gondola of their dirigible
wrecked in the arctic ice wastes, Buck Rogers (Buster Crabbe) and Buddy
(Jackie Moran) are rescued by scientists in the year 2500 to find the
world under the despotic rule of Killer Kane (Anthony Warde) and his
Using an arsenal of fantastic weapons created in Dr. Huer's (C.
Montague Shaw) clandestine laboratory, the group attempts to seek aid
from the planet Saturn to oust the tyrannical ruler only to find that
his henchmen have already taken over control of the Prince of Saturn.
After several harrowing adventures with the Zugg men, Buck and Buddy
return to Earth only to be shot down, imprisoned and finally rescued to
participate in a spectacular air battle to wrest control of the
Universe from the sinister intergalactic despot.
Digitally restored and remastered from the original 35mm negative.
Original Theatrical Trailer
Liner Notes by author Hank Davis
“The History of Buck Rogers” by Clifford Weimer
Rare 1933 Buck Rogers short
Buster Crabbe The All-American Hero (movie clips and highlights from
Buster’s hollywood career - the only actor who played Tarzan, Flash
Gordon and Buck Rogers -- the top three comic strip heroes of the 1930s)
Buck Rogers - 80th Anniversary Panel Discussion from the 2009 San Diego Comic Con
Meryl Streep plays an older woman who has a fling with ex-hubby Alec Baldwin in the new film It's Complicated.
By Lee Pfeiffer
The film industry is finally catching on that middle aged and older people still like to go to movies - and they don't necessarily want to see mindless action films filled with space aliens getting blasted by hi tech weaponry. Like most audiences, older people want to see stories they can relate to. One of the biggest obstacles in providing that type of entertainment has been Hollywood's legendary refusal to acknowledge that mature actresses can be sexy as well as commercially appealing.That prejudice is quickly being eradicated, thanks in no small part to the enormous success of Mama Mia! Suddenly, actresses like Sigourney Weaver and Meryl Streep are all the rage - and they are not being cast as dowdy grandmother types, but as vibrant, highly sexual women. The major studios are slow to pick up on what has been a trend for years in the porn industry, which helped coin the term MILF (look it up on Google, if you are unaware) to make millions from producing DVDs with older women. TV followed suit with plenty of shows geared toward older female audiences, ranging from reality programs to dramas such as Cougar Town. It looks like the all of those endless Viagara commercials have finally resonated with studio types who have woken up to the fact that there is life - and sex appeal- after the age of 30. For more analysis click here to read The Guardian's take on the trend.
Cinema Retro issue #12, featuring James Bond girl Margaret Nolan on the cover, has now sold out in the USA. A few remaining copies are still available worldwide from our UK office for $30, including free postage. However, if you are ordering outside the UK, please allow extra time for delivery.
Those who frequently complain that today's movie stars don't compare with the legends from Hollywood's golden age, frequently make note of a few exceptions. George Clooney is generally put into the shallow pool of actors who have larger-than-life screen presence. The problem has been that his output of films has been wildly erratic in terms of quality. With writer/director Jason Reitman's Up in the Air, however, Clooney has finally found a film that suits him perfectly - and he may end up with a Best Actor Oscar in the bargain. Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, an ace representative of a company that specializes in firing hapless employees of large corporations when their bosses can't summon the courage to do so personally. It's a premise that fits perfectly into a modern society in which ogres and cowards generally deliver devastating news to folks via voice mails and text messages. Bingham never dwells much on the emotional devastation he causes. He's not without sympathy, but the dream job he has affords him to engage his primary goal in life: to acquire as many air miles and hotel points in the shortest period of time to set a world record. His life is a shallow one. Despite earning mega-bucks for doing the bidding of his soulless boss (Jason Bateman), Clooney lives in self-imposed exile. He dwells in a dingy, sparsely-furnished apartment, has only transient relationships with other chronic travelers and disdains any form of emotional or romantic commitment. Bingham's perfect, but shallow, universe is suddenly threatened by a new employee, Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), who impresses the boss with her cost-cutting methods of removing even the modicum of human dignity that the company's representatives afford employees who are being fired. Natalie devises a video conference system where the soon-to-be-unemployed are given the bad news without any in-person, human contact. The cost-saving measure delights the boss but devastates Bingham, who finds his very existence threatened by the end of his quest to gain airline miles.
As Cinema Retro 'regulars' know, we have occasionally been able to find unpublished or rarely-seen interviews with legendary film personalities and provide them for our readers. In issue #1 of the magazine, Steve Mori provided an unseen interview Steve McQueen from 1968 and in issue #15, Steve did the same with a fascinating 1974 discussion with Lee Marvin. Now contributing writer Kris Gilpin has been kind enough to share with us with a 1988 interview with director Monte Hellman, whose work is revered by some of the great directors of our time. Please keep in mind that the text and events that are discussed in this interview took place in 1988 and have not been amended. (This is part one of a two-part interview.)
INTERVIEW WITH MONTE HELLMAN
By Kris Gilpin
Born July 12th,
1932 in New York City, writer-director Monte Hellman’s work is miles above
typical American drivel; while working in various traditional genres (war,
western, road film, etc.), he has produced a series of very personal character
studies, while still remaining true to the genre within which each film is
set.And his films have a definite
European flavor to them; in fact, he still has a huge following in Europe –
with Monte Hellman film festivals constantly being held there – despite the
fact that his last feature (the western China 9, Liberty 37, starring the late,
great Warren Oates, Jenny [An American Werewolf in London] Agutter and Italian
superstar Fabio Testi) was released a decade ago.
After studying theater at
Stanford University and film at UCLA, Hellman spent three years acting and
directing in summer stock before landing his first gig in film, as the
assistant editor on the Richard Boone TV series, Medic.He quit that job to return to directing plays
for a theatre company he founded, then accepted an offer from B-movie mogul
Roger Corman (who had invested in his theatre company); Hellman’s first film, Beast
from Haunted Cave, was shot back-to-back with Corman’s Ski Troop Attack in North
Dakota, using the same cast, crew and locations.He then helped finish a number of films for
Corman, one of which was the infamous The Terror, starring Boris Karloff, Jack
Nicholson and Dick Miller, a film they all made up as they went along.
Next, Hellman shot two
films back-to-back in the Philippines, Back Door to Hell, a war story with
Nicholson and country singer Jimmie Roders, and Flight to Fury, a film noir
starring, and written by, Jack Nicholson.(Hellman, who always edits his own pictures, was cutting Back Door at
night, while directing Flight during the day.)
His international fame
came in 1967, with a pair of westerns filmed in Utah (once again back-to-back):
the existentialist, purposely vague The Shooting (with Nicholson and Oates) and
equally existential Ride in the Whirlwind (with Cameron Mitchell and Nicholson,
who once again wrote the script).Four
years later I first saw Hellman’s subtle cult masterpiece, Two-Lane Blacktop (which
featured Oates in a superb performance, the late Beach Boy drummer-singer
Dennis Wilson and songwriter James Taylor, in his only starring role), and I’ve
been in love with road movies ever since that day.The film’s screenplay, by Rudy (Candy
Mountain – another road film – and Walker) Wurlitzer and Will Cory, was so
impressive it was published in its entirety before the film’s release in Esquire
magazine.This was followed by Cockfighter
(aka Born to Kill), again starring Warren Oates, this time with Harry Dean
Stanton; the film was recut by producer Roger Corman and not seen its original
form until several years later.
Now Monte Hellman is back
with Iguana, the story of Oberlus, a sailor from the early 19th
Century who is persecuted due to the lizard-like scales, which deform half of
his face and neck (Oberlus is played by Everett [Quest for Fire, Silver Bullet]
McGill).He flees to a desert island,
where he declares war on mankind, capturing castaway sailors and cutting off
the fingers and heads of the “slaves” who disobey him.When Carmen (Maru Valdivielso), a
beautiful/sexy Spanish libertine, comes to the island, the two of them
eventually play out a twisted version of Beauty and the Beast (the film also
features Fabio Testi in a supporting role).
Hellman was kind enough to
give me a friendly, long interview on Saturday October 29th, 1988,
in his Los Angeles home.I met his
pretty daughter, Melissa, and marveled at the framed stills and lobby cards
adorning the walls and bookshelves (early stills of Nicholson, John Ford [with
Hellman], Sam Peckinpah [who acted in
Hellman’s China 9], Martin Landau, Millin [The Shooting, Ride in the Whirlwind]
Perkins, the late Laurie Bird [from Two-Land Blacktop, as the hitchhiker who
unknowingly breaks up the cross-country race between Warren Oates and James
Taylor, and she was also in Cockfighter]; a foreign lobby card for La
Sparatoria [The Shooting], a Japanese lobby card for Two-Lane, etc.And you can still hear the loss in his voice
when Hellman recalls his old friends Oates and Bird).Many thanks to Monte Hellman (who has always
been a favorite filmmaker of mine) for giving me such a complete interview that
Studio executives were grinning ear to ear as Santa delivered the biggest box-office weekend grosses ever. Leading the pack was Avatar, which had staying power beyond what anyone had hoped. Coming in second was Sherlock Holmes. The detective hasn't been big box-office since the days of Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, but director Guy Ritchie seems to have succeeded in reinventing the detective as a modern action hero. The plan is to turn the film into a tentpole series. Also opening well was the adult comedy It's Complicated, but better results were from the far more modestly-budgeted Up in the Air, which was made for only $24 million as opposed to the other film's $80 million budget. The only major disappointment was Rob Marshall's Nine, which may be too avant garde for mainstream audiences. For full analysis click here
As regular Cinema Retro web site readers know, we frequently link to stories on Variety's site. However, Variety has instituted some new requirements as part of a new business plan. Initially, readers will be asked to register with Variety in order to access the articles. This service is free, but of course, it's up to our readers to decide whether they want to opt to provide this information. In the months to come, Variety intends to limit access to their articles to those who are paid subscribers. This is part of what might be a trend among many other newspapers and magazines that are trying to reverse the long-held notion that virtually all web-based articles are provided free-of-charge. The result of that policy has been the demise of many print publications and the financial weakening of those that survive. We will keep readers informed when and if access to Variety articles is restricted to paid subscribers.
Travolta and Williams in Old Dogs - according to Ben Mankiewicz, the title is appropriate.
Critic and TCM host Ben Mankiewicz laments the decline of top talents John Travolta and Robin Williams, as evidenced by their co-starring in the recent comedy Old Dogs. Mankiewicz says the film is so bad it makes you desire to watch Battlefield Earth just to escape the ineptness on screen. The larger point he makes is that the film epitomizes the by-the-numbers techniques that dominate big screen comedies today - and the once proud stars who will appear in anything in return for a paycheck. To read click here
Writer Matt Zoller Seitz writes an informative article in the New York Times extolling the virtues of Bob Fosse's autobiographical 1979 film All That Jazz. The movie was highly acclaimed at the time of its release, 30 years ago this month. However, in recent years, it has fallen under the radar screen and is rarely shown on the art house circuit. Seitz points out the many daring techniques Fosse employed on the film, which starred Roy Scheider in an Oscar-nominated performance. If the film remains under-valued, so does Scheider, who- with the exception of this movie- was pigeon-holed as an action star. Consequently, as he became too old for that genre, the best films and roles dried up and this superb thespian often ended up in little-seen movies that went straight to video. To read click here
Al Pacino is taking matters into his own hands. Faced with a dearth of good screen roles for older leading men, Pacino has personally optioned the rights to Philip Roth's latest novel, The Humbling. Pacino will star as a washed up stage actor who reinvigorates his life through a relationship with a younger woman. Barry Levinson will direct and Buck Henry will write the screenplay. For more click here
Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe have collaborated once again for Robin Hood, the latest in a seemingly endless number of attempts to keep the legendary hero a contemporary favorite. In large part, Robin Hood films have been successful. I've always liked Richard Lester's Robin and Marian as well as Kevin Costner's weird but fun attempt to play the role in the 1990s. Scott's film looks gritty and tough, though I hope he doesn't mar the action sequences, as he did in Gladiator, by employing today's omnipresent herky-jerky hand-held camera techniques. To view the trailer click here
Pinewood Sheperton, the group that runs the two legendary British studios, continues its plans to expand beyond the UK via an agreement with the Malaysian government for a joint venture, permanent film studio envisaged to open in 2013. The facility will employ 3,000 people and will initially concentrate on Asia-Pacific film productions before expanding to the international market. Pinewood, the long-time British home of the James Bond franchise, is also developing a studio in Toronto. For more click here
Despite having put in over six months of work on his planned remake of the James Stewart classic Harvey, Steven Spielberg is pulling the plug on the project because he could not interest either Tom Hanks or Robert Downey Jr. in taking on the role immortalized by Stewart. Click here for more
Ronald Reagan demonstrates that nothing says "Merry Christmas" to your loved ones like receiving a personalized carton of cigarettes in the mail! Be creative and combine it with a gift certificate for a chest X-ray!
Robin Wood, a one-time English teacher who became a prominent film critic, has passed away at age 78. The native born Brit who spent much of his life in Canada, is credited for being one of the first writers to argue the brilliance of Alfred Hitchcock's work during an era in which mainstream critics largely regarded him as simply an entertainer who created fun, but gimmicky thrillers. Wood's 1965 book Hitchcock's Films was long regarded as the first serious analysis of the director's work. He went on to write major works about the films of Arthur Penn, Ingmar Bergman and Howard Hawks. In his personal life, Wood initially lived as a straight man and fathered several children. In the 1970s, he came out of the closet and his work reflected his dedication to gay rights and left-wing political causes. Wood once said that the primary reason for writing about film was as a tool for advancing social justice. For more click here
Writer Brooks Peters has no problem naming his worst Christmas-themed movie of all time:
Lady in the Lake. Huh? The 1947 Philip Marlowe detective film noir starring Robert Montgomery (who also directed)??? Who thinks of this as a Christmas movie - especially when it's based on a Raymond Chandler murder mystery? But that's precisely the point Peters makes - director Montgomery chose to destroy Chandler's source novel to the point that the famed author wanted any reference to his name taken off the film. Montgomery decided to work a Christmas theme throughout the film, for no apparent reason - and even added delightful holiday music to the opening credits! Peters' case is persuasive enough for me to now put this on the "must-watch" list. (Click here to read) As for my own "Worst Christmas Movie Ever", nothing takes the place of Bad Santa, as vile a holiday concoction as can be imagined. What's your choice for the worst Christmas movie?
One of the biggest box-office hits of 1989 was National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo as the lovable, bumbling Griswolds. Click here to check out how the cast members look today (you'll be impressed!) .
Kirk Douglas played Doc Holliday opposite Burt Lancaster's Wyatt Earp in John Sturges' classic western.
The good news for long-suffering Western film fans is that Paramount intends to bring a major film from the genre to the screen titled The Further Adventures of Doc Holliday. The bad news is that it would appear as though the tale will be as historically accurate as Pirates of the Caribbean. The studio envisions the flick as a big action-oriented tale that may have little to do with the real Doc Holliday, the sickly gunfighter who aided the Earp brothers at the notorious shootout at the O.K. Corral. Holliday, a one-time dentist who suffered from alcoholism and tuberculosis, has provided plenty of grist for the Hollywood mill in decades past with numerous actors scoring impressive performances in the role. Among them: Kirk Douglas, Val Kilmer, Victor Mature, Jason Robards, Dennis Quaid and Stacey Keach. For more click here
Somewhere Ed Wood is smiling as the Scientology propaganda/sci fi epic Battlefield Earth carries on the kind of legacy he established.
The Huffington Post has assembled their own list of the worst movies of the decade. Don't worry, Eddie Murphy is well represented and Battlefield Earth has its inevitable place of dishonor. However, there is one low blow- including Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Okay, it may have been like the Beatles reunion that never happened - it could never have lived up to expectations - but one of the worst movies of the decade??? Click here to see if you agree with the Hall of Shame inductees.
Stang provided the voice for many popular cartoon characters.
Arnold Stang, who created the on-screen persona of a mild-mannered nerd in classic comedy routines, has died at age 91. Stang rose to fame playing a wise-cracking stage hand on Milton Berle's show in the 1950s and quickly became a popular character actor in the Golden Age of Comedy. He provided voice-over work for numerous shows and commercials, and did the voice of Top Cat in the popular 1960s animated series. Stang also appeared in feature films such as The Man with the Golden Arm opposite Frank Sinatra. However, for retro movie lovers, he will be forever linked with Stanley Kramer's 1963 epic comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World in which he and Marvin Kaplan play ill-fated garage owners who have the misfortune of encountering both Jonathan Winters and Phil Silvers on the opening day of their business. The resulting scenario leads to Winters' wholesale destruction of their business in what many consider to be the film's most hilarious sequence. For more on Stang, click here
Connie Hines, who co-starred as Alan Young's wife in the classic Mister Ed TV series, has passed away at age 78. Hines played the perky young woman who indulged her husband's obsession with his pet horse Ed - without ever knowing that the animal could not only talk, but act as adviser to her spouse. (For Nick Thomas' interview with Alan Young about the making of the TV series, click here)For more on Connie Hines' life and career click here
Special effects expert Matthew Gratzner will fulfill his dream of directing a big screen version of the 1970s British TV series UFO, which centers on a top secret agency hidden beneath a Hollywood movie studio that battles space aliens who seek to abduct humans to use their body parts. Gerry Anderson produced the original series. Joshua Jackson will top-line as the film's central character Paul Foster. Gratzner promises that the script will be character-driven and not just an excuse to use special effects. For more click here
A.M.P.A.S. is back to toying with the rules governing the nominations in the Best Song category. The fact of the matter is that the Academy has been tone deaf when it comes to honoring appropriate songs in recent years - but then there have been slim pickins in terms of what members had to choose from. Last year, there actually were some good songs - Bruce Springsteen's title theme from The Wrestler and Jamie Cullum and Clint Eastwood's song from Gran Torino - but astonishingly, neither even got nominated. The dearth of good songs from major films renders the Best Song category basically meaningless. Trying to choose the "Best Song" is like trying to decide which member of the Iran Supreme Council is the funniest. Variety's Jon Burlingame reports that this year, the Academy is introducing yet another change in rules that require songs to achieve a certain number of points before being considered for nomination. The result may be a situation in which there may actually be no qualifying nominees. To read click here
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By co-starring with old codger Nigel Bruce, Basil Rathbone never had to contend with rumors about Holmes and Watson's sexuality.
Robert Downey Jr, who plays the title role in the new Sherlock Holmes film, seems to be on a one-man crusade to thwart the studio's attempts to brand the legendary detective as a modern action hero. Downey keeps making jocular remarks in interviews alluding to the fact that Holmes and Watson may be more than friends. He points out that the two characters even share a bed. Such behavior was not seen as overtly gay in Victorian times and the Holmes/Watson relationship has generally avoided being branded as such. However, Downey seems intent on stirring the pot concerning director Guy Ritchie's determination to make Holmes a man of action, as adept with his fists as he is with his mind. Huffington Post writer Rob Shuter speculates that the studio publicity department thinks such inferences can do damage to the film's box-office appeal, which is aimed at young males. The fear is that, if the perception is that this is a Victorian love story between two men, it may diminish the lure for action-oriented audiences. Click here for more.
Screen writer Dan O'Bannon has died at age 63 following a decades long battle with Crohn's Disease. He specialized in science fiction and penned the screenplays for the blockbuster hits Alien and Total Recall. Other credits include Blue Thunder, Heavy Metal and Lifeforce. For more click here
Many retro movie lovers (including us) didn't realize that sultry Italian actress Rosanna Schiaffino had passed away in October at age 69 after a long battle with cancer . Schiaffino provided plenty of sex appeal for both European films and major Hollywood productions before she retired from the industry in the 1970s. Her tempestuous personal life rivaled any of the melodrama and scandal found in Italian films of the period. Her English-language films include Two Weeks in Another Town, El Greco, The Man Called Noon and Arrivederci, Baby! Click here to read more about her life and career.
The Fall of the Roman Empire is one of the films examined in the TCM special.
By Lee Pfeiffer
Premiering on Turner Classic Movies without the usual fanfare, The Gigantic World of Epics is a truly superb one-hour production produced by Dreamworks and filmed by the ubiquitous Laurent Bouzereau. The special manages to condense the genre of Hollywood epics into a coherent, though far from comprehensive, study. Bouzereau wisely concentrates on a select number of films including Birth of a Nation, Gone With the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, Doctor Zhivago, Bridge on the River Kwai among others. There are intelligent commentaries by noted film historians and technicians as well as directors Kenneth Branagh, Steven Spielberg, John Milius, along with actors such as Martin Landau and Omar Sharif and Fraser Heston, son of Charlton Heston (who provides some tantalizing glimpses of the family's home movies on the sets of some of these epics). The show traces the emergence of the epic with D.W. Griffiths The Birth of a Nation -a film that remains mired in controversy. It's impact on the film
industry was beyond dispute, but its blatantly racist script was
divisive even upon its initial release.
All of the participants tell stories about how specific epic films influenced them personally. For Spielberg, it was seeing DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth - the first movie he ever attended. Among the most amusing anecdotes are those told by Omar Sharif, who blatantly contradicts Spielberg's observation that he gave his best performance as Dr. Zhivago. Sharif says he still thinks his performance was "terrible". Such candor is virtually unheard of in the film industry, and Sharif follows it with a very funny anecdote about how he began cockily strolling to the stage to accept the Oscar for his performance in Lawrence of Arabia only to hear Ed Begley's name called out half way to the podium!The show also includes some great insights from William Bronston, son of epic movie producer Samuel Bronston, whose mad obsession with making movies on a grand scale resulted in the financial debacle of The Fall of the Roman Empire - a wonderful film that ironically paralleled Bronston's own decline and fall.The show has one fault - it should have had an epic running time of three hours to do justice to all the films that are not covered. However, this is one you won't want to miss. Click here for press release about the program and check the TCM schedule for future showings.
Actress Brittany Murphy, who appeared in such films as 8 Mile, Girl Interrupted, The Caller and Clueless, was pronounced dead today at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after an ambulance was summoned to her home for a medical emergency. Some reports say that Murphy's mother found her unconscious in the shower. Murphy had been one of the actors who provided her voice to the popular animated series King of the Hill. Tragically, one of her recent films was ironically titled The Dead Girl. Police say they have opened an investigation into her death. Murphy died of cardiac arrest. She was 32 years old and married to screenwriter Simon Monjack. For more click here
Composer John Barry at the 40th anniversary screening of Midnight Cowboy. Will we ever see his like again in the film industry? (Photo: Lee Pfeiffer/Cinema Retro)
By Lee Pfeiffer
No one has to tell Cinema Retro readers about the contributions great composers have made to films. What would Psycho have been without Bernard Hermann's innovative and chilling score? Would The Magnificent Seven have ridden as high in the saddle without Elmer Bernstein's legendary title theme? And would the early James Bond films have been nearly as successful without John Barry's scores? Now, however, composers are losing clout and respect. A generation of cost-cutting film executives, combined with younger filmmakers who have little respect for composer's talents have ensured that most contemporary soundtracks won't be making it into your CD or MP3 player any time soon. Variety music critic Jon Burlingame takes a look at the sad decline of a great profession. Click here to read
Dame Ridsdale with actress Lois Maxwell, who played Moneypenny between 1962-1985.
Dame Victoire "Paddy" Ridsdale, a colleague of James Bond author Ian Fleming in Naval Intelligence during WWII, has died at age 88. Although Fleming never specified which real-life friends were influences on his characters, there is little doubt he drew on the traits of those he knew in writing the Bond novels. Ridsdale was never a paramour of Fleming, but they did enjoy a flirtatious relationship. There were other women in Fleming's life who probably also inspired aspects of the Moneypenny character, who became a staple of the film series. For more click here
The age of the glamorous movie premiere may be dead in Hollywood, but it lives on in England. In fact, nobody does premieres better than the Brits, as anyone who has attended a 007 grand opening can attest. Leicester Square becomes a magical place, with thousands of enthused, but well-behaved fans gathered to cheer the stars and filmmakers as they walk down the red carpet - and the after-parties are even better! The new Sherlock Holmes film just premiered at the Empire Theatre in the Square. Click here for photo coverage.
The New York Times is generally not very effusive in its praise of movies it likes. A look at reviews of films now regarded as classics shows that the Old Gray Lady's film critics almost always are cautious and reserved in doling out the compliments. What makes critic Manohla Dargis' review of James Cameron's Avatar so unique is his unbridled enthusiasm. Dargis virtually swoons over the mega-budgeted sci-fi epic. Click here to read
Acclaimed actress Jennifer Jones has died at age 90. The five-time Oscar nominee sprang to fame in The Song of Bernadette in 1943. She worked sparingly over the years, but several of her films, such as Love is a Many-Splendored Thing and Duel in the Sun were major financial successes. She had at one time been married to the legendary David O. Selznick. After Selznick's death in 1965, she remarried and moved to India where she concentrated on collecting art. She also spent a great deal of time in the struggle to help those afflicted with mental health illness. Jones' last film was the 1974 blockbuster The Towering Inferno. For more click here
Variety pays tribute to Sir Michael Caine, who- at age 76- is still in top form, as evidenced by his acclaimed new British action film Harry Brown. Read critical assessments of his career, along with comments from Sir Michael by clicking here.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from Warner Home Video:
BROS. HOME ENTERTAINMENT ANNOUNCES TWO BLU-RAY(TM) PACKAGING
INNOVATIONS OFFERING CONSUMERS MORE VALUE AND PORTABILITY ON THE MOVIES
THEY WANT TO SEE
Studio To Begin Offering Blu-ray(TM) Combo Packs On All Theatrical New Release Titles;
Blu-ray Disc, Standard Definition DVD, And Digital Copy All-In-One At No Additional Cost
Also Introducing The Industry’s First Line Of Affordably Priced “Blu-ray Double Features;”
Sets Will Include Two Of Warner’s Top Catalog Hits On Blu-ray Disc
Calif. December 16, 2009 - Warner Bros. Home Entertainment today
announced two Blu-ray(TM) packaging initiatives that will give
consumers greater value and portability when shopping for the best
possible way to watch movies at home. Beginning in the first quarter of
2010, Warner Home Video will be releasing its entire Theatrical New
Release slate as Blu-ray combo packs, containing a Blu-ray Disc of the
film with exclusive special features and exciting BD-Live interactivity,
a standard-definition DVD and a Digital Copy of the film. For no
additional cost, Blu-ray combo packs offer consumers significantly more
value by merging the unsurpassed quality of Blu-ray with the
convenience of being able to watch the film in any format, on just
about every playback device.
Home Video is also launching the industry’s first line of Blu-ray
Double Features, priced at $24.98 (SRP). Beginning February 23, the
attractively packaged and entry-level priced Blu-ray Double Features
pack will include a pair of well-matched catalog hits spanning multiple
genres – comedy, action, drama/thriller and horror. The first wave
will include “Dirty Harry” and “Magnum Force” starring Clint Eastwood; “Analyze This” and “Analyze That” starring Billy Crystal and Robert De Niro; “Presumed Innocent” and “Frantic” starring Harrison Ford; “Miss Congeniality” and “Miss Congeniality 2” starring Sandra Bullock; and Grumpy Old Men and Grumpier Old Men starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon.
people experience Blu-ray – they love it, and with Blu-ray combo packs
on all of our top new releases, we are giving consumers the titles they
want without having to sacrifice convenience and portability,” said Ron
Sanders, President, Warner Home Video. “And our new Blu-ray Double
Feature sets make it easier and more affordable than ever for consumers
to build or expand their home movie libraries and discover why Blu-ray
is simply the best way to watch movies at home.”
to third quarter figures compiled by the Digital Entertainment Group
(DEG), Blu-ray is on the rise. In 2009, Blu-ray Disc set-top player
sales grew 112 percent over the same period last year and this holiday
season consumers are seeing Blu-ray player prices starting around $100,
making it that much easier for home audiences to see the films they
love the way they were meant to be seen. Blu-ray devices are at the top
of many consumers’ holiday wish lists this year are projected to be in
15 million U.S. homes by the end of this year.
A major chapter in the Disney family's involvement with the empire built by Walt has come to an end with the death of his nephew Roy at age 79. For Nikki Finke of Deadline Hollywood Daily's analysis of his often tangled relationship with the Disney company, click here
Henry Hill, who was the central character in Martin Scorsese's classic 1990 mobster film Goodfellas, is back in trouble with the law. The elderly one time Mafioso-turned-snitch has been arrested yet again on public intoxication charges stemming from an incident in which he appeared at a Larry Flynt strip club to sign autographs. Hill once feared for his life and was in the Witness Protection Program after testifying against fellow mob members. However, a pattern of lawbreaking led to federal authorities kicking him out of the program. If the mob is still after Hill, they must be The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, as Hill has lived a very public life since the release of Goodfellas and seems to attend even the opening of a refrigerator if it gets him some publicity. Hill admits frustration with his failure to combat his personal demons, but is generally dismissive about his legal woes, citing the fact that they all tend to be misdemeanors. For more click here
Despite being a favorite among Hollywood insiders, Alec Baldwin hasn't been "box-office" in more than a decade when he starred in action films. His big screen comeback role in It's Complicated was expected to make him a shoo-in for a Golden Globe nomination, but he was among the snubbed.
Tom O'Neal, writing in the Los Angeles Times, is among the first to complain about serious omissions in the Golden Globes race. This is an annual ritual with all awards contests, of course, as you can't please all the people all the time. But O'Neal does raise the common complaint of how people nominated for Best Director don't have their films nominated for Best Picture. Click here to read.
What to get for your significant other for the holidays or other special occasion? It's elementary, my dear reader. Amazon is offering huge savings on the acclaimed Sherlock Holmes TV series from Granada TV starring the great Jeremy Brett. The set comes with 12 DVDs and a wealth of extras. The current price is $110 - a savings of $119! Best of all, shipping is free.Click here to order!
Variety critic Todd McCarthy gives a positive review of director Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. as a buff, hip master detective. The review says that the film is certainly geared toward pleasing young male viewers, but is clever and entertaining. The review also gives kudos to Hans Zimmer's atmospheric score. To read click here
Val Avery, a popular character actor of stage and screen, has died at age 85. The New York City resident passed away in his Greenwich Village apartment. Avery was a familiar face to all movie goers in the 60s and 70s. Some of his roles were bit parts, but others were more prominent. He played the corset salesman whose determination to see an Indian get buried with dignity on Boot Hill sets up the first action confrontation in The Magnificent Seven. In the 1971 film The Anderson Tapes,Avery played the dumb but brutal racist thug 'Socks'. For more on his life and career click here
One of the most impressive film books I've received in the last few years is author C. Courtney Joyner's The Westerners: Interviews with Actors, Directors, Writers and Producers. As with most books from McFarland Publishing, its worth doesn't lie in its modest production values, but rather, in the wealth of historical content. Joyner has amassed a large archive of interviews he has conducted over the years with the creators of many memorable Westerns. As many of these folks have since passed away, the volume becomes even more precious as a research tool. Joyner's interviews include:
Andrew V. McLaglen
Harry Carey Jr
Andrew J. Fenady
The fact is that many of these people were quite available to discuss their lives and careers but few journalists sought them out. Joyner shares the same mission as those of us at Cinema Retro: to get these stories on record through first-person interviews. Joyner stays clear of meaningless trivia to concentrate on the making of specific films and specific key sequences. Many of the films discussed are rarely evaluated in detail. For example, screenwriter Andrew J. Fenady provides fascinating insights into the making of John Wayne's excellent 1970 Western Chisum - a movie generally overlooked by the critical establishment. It must have been a wonderful privilege to sit down with the likes of Jack Elam and Warren Oates to hear their anecdotes about the making of classic Westerns. Fortunately, Joyner gives us the next best thing through his remarkable book, which is essential readers for all fans of the Western genre. Click here to order from Amazon