I'll admit to not being very conversant regarding the films of George Romero, aside from Night of the Living Dead. With the remake of his 1973 thriller The Crazies now in theaters, I thought it would be worthwhile checking out Blue Underground's Blu-ray release of the original film. Despite the title, which insinuates this is some kind of campy monster movie, I was quite surprised the film is a highly effective suspense movie played straight-faced and without over-the-top characters or situations. The storyline finds that a top secret government experiment in biological warfare has gone astray, leaving residents of a small Pennsylvania town infected. Suddenly, many locals begin to display signs of madness that eventually culminates in their acting as raving, murderous lunatics. As the townspeople scramble to prevent themselves from being infected, they must also deal with the horrendous problem of fending off attacks from friends and loved ones who are now hunting them down to kill them. This frightening scenario clearly inspired the slicker and more polished British film 28 Days Later and its sequel 28 Weeks Later, but Romero's production is also highly effective in delivering the chills.
Pete Emslie, one of our favorite cartoonists, commemorates the legendary David Niven and perfectly captures the actor's mystique. The acting great would have been 100 years old in 2010. For more of Pete's remarkable work, visit his blog by clicking here
The ill-fated 1977 Western The White Buffalo is now available on DVD. The movie starred Charles Bronson as Wild Bill Hickok and was directed by J. Lee Thompson. The movie only saw limited release at the time and was derided for its shoddy special effects. The script presents a Western version of Moby Dick or Jaws with Hickok obsessed with hunting down a giant, legendary white bison. Over the decades, however, the movie has built a strong cult following. The cast includes such impressive actors as Will Sampson, Stuart Whitman, Slim Pickens, Clint Walker, Jack Warden and Kim Novak. The DVD is available on Amazon's burn-to-order program. Click here to view trailer and to order.
If it's Tuesday, it must be Weld. Here's the young starlet in one of those glorious cheesecake poses you just don't see any more. Tuesday made her film debut in the 1956 B movie Rock, Rock Rock and a decade later scored an Oscar nomination for Looking For Mr. Goodbar. She has been in self-imposed retirement since 2001.
Here's a rare one: James Coburn touting the sale of Christmas Seals from 1968. The hirsute he-man makes a convincing case: he sounds as though he's gonna personally come to your house and whup some butt if you don't donate! Click here to view
This article from the Warner Brothers pressbook for The Cowboys covered Wayne's appearance at Radio City Music Hall.
By Lee Pfeiffer
It was January 1972 when my friend Alan and braved bitterly cold winds to stand on a seemingly endless line at Radio City Music Hall for what felt like an eternity. What would cause two 15 year-old kids to suffer this test of endurance? A chance to see our idol, John Wayne in the flesh. The Duke was making a rare New York personal appearance on stage with director Mark Rydell to promote the opening of The Cowboys. They were to introduce kids who had won a national contest to attend the screening and have lunch with The Duke. The Big Apple was not Wayne Country. While Duke's films cleaned up at box-offices around America, this bastion of east coast liberalism was generally immune from his appeal. Thus, the opportunity to see Wayne in person was too good for local fans to resist. From the looks of the crowd, every Wayne fan in the region must have shown up. When we finally made our way into the cavernous theater, the Duke strode on-stage, dressed nattily in a blue blazer and tie. I remember being amused when he put on eyeglasses to read some introductions. It seemed to be an unintentional replication of the scene from Big Jake where his character did the same thing, much to the amazement of his character's ex-wife, who is a bit shocked to see the imposing man had human frailties.I recall Wayne introducing the young kids who had been fortunate enough to win the contest. Then the film unspooled and I remember thinking this was one of Wayne's finest achievements (an opinion I still hold).
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM CINEMA RETRO'S ARCHIVES
A welcome addition to the library of any fan of spy
movies or 1960s TV is I Spy: A History and Episode Guide to the Groundbreaking Television Series
by Marc Cushman and Linda J. LaRosa (McFarland, $40). This is a meticulously researched and very
entertaining look at the groundbreaking show that aired on NBC between 1965 and 1969. The show provided
the first serious dramatic role for an African American actor and helped vault Bill Cosby (previously
known primarily as a stand-up comic) into fame and fortune as a leading man. The chemistry he shared
with co-star Robert Culp was instrumental in the show's success. The series presented Culp as Kelly
Robinson, a world-famous tennis pro and Bill Cosby as Alexander Scott, his trainer. In reality, the
tennis schtick was merely a cover for their real day jobs as intelligence agencies for the
Fans of mercenary-themed action films like The Wild Geese, Dark of the Sun and The Dogs of War will be happy to know that the 1969 action adventure The Last Grenade has been released by Scorpion on DVD. Best of all, like most titles from this company, it is a Region 0 DVD, meaning it can be played on any system in the world. The film stars Stanley Baker as a tough-as-nails mercenary leader who we first see with a large contingent of his men as they await rescue in Africa after successfully completing a mission. When the rescue helicopter arrives, however, the men are largely mowed down by Baker's partner, played by Alex Cord. The double-cross is the centerpiece of the story, as Baker and his small band of surviving men plot to have their revenge. The opportunity comes when they are summoned by a British General (Richard Attenborough) to Hong Kong. Here, they are informed that Cord has allied himself with Communist terrorists who are trying to undermine British control of the territory. Because they hide on bases in mainland China, the British government can't officially pursue them, thus it's a job for mercenaries.
One of our favorite thrillers of the 1970s is John Schlesinger's film adaptation of William Goldman's best-seller Marathon Man. What a cast: Dustin Hoffman, Laurence Olivier, Roy Scheider, Marthe Keller and William Devane. Olivier's torture of Hoffman set back the profession of dentistry for years. Isn't it time for Paramount to release a special edition DVD of this great film? Click here to view the original trailer.
In years gone by, theaters would often exhibit actual 8x10 stills and 11x14 lobby cards to promote their current attractions. When the theaters went to mostly multi-plex formats in the 1980s and showed numerous films in the same facility, the art of movie marketing took a hit in terms of creativity. Now, you just get the theater poster and some over-sized standees in the lobby. During the glory days of theater marketing, collectors would often complain that not only were the scenes that were chosen to be in the publicity stills often the most boring or unrepresentative shots imaginable, but they would often contain sequences that never even appeared in the final cut. Thus, out of literally thousands of images to choose from, some bozo in marketing would manage to choose one that didn't even appear onscreen. This aggravation has provided grist for the Cinema Retro Library of Completely Useless Information as illustrated by this scene from Woody Allen's Oscar-winning 1977 film Annie Hall (which was shot under the title Anhedonia- meaning an inability to feel pleasure.) In one scene, Allen's character Alvy Singer bemoans his fading love affair with Annie Hall and seeks romantic advice from strangers on the street. In the scene illustrated, Allen approaches an imposing looking bald gentleman - but whatever dialogue occurred is lost to the ages as the scene was snipped from the final cut. We don't know the actor's name but we'll just say the photo satiates our long-standing fantasy about Woody Allen co-starring with Tor Johnson of Plan 9 From Outer Space fame!- Lee Pfeiffer
Studio publicity photo of Raquel Welch posing in catsuit in front of blue screen for Fantastic Voyage (1966)
The Huffington Post provides us with a slideshow tribute to some lovely ladies who have done justice to skin-tight catsuits. (In the interest of fair play, they also include Sacha Baron Cohen as Bruno!) Click here to view
If there were more teachers like Sidney Poitier in To Sir, With Love, we'd be tempted to go back to high school.
CNN has a unique screen clip montage of the greatest movies ever made about inspirational teachers (No, National Lampoon's Animal House isn't included, even though it arguably inspired more students!) Click here to view
Leonardo DiCaprio will star as private eye/treasure hunter Travis McGee in Oliver Stone's film version of The Deep Blue Goodbye. The film will be based on one of John D. MacDonald's series of McGee paperback thrillers that were all the rage in the 1960s. Rod Taylor played McGee in the 1970 film Darker Than Amber. For more click here
Redford, photographed in Ireland by Cinema Retro's John Exshaw.
Don't count Robert Redford among the directors and actors who are enthralled by the plethora of extras on DVD releases. The Oscar winner says that knowing too much about the making of a film robs the audience of the magic of the movies. He tells USA Today, "Films were meant to be a kind of magic that transports you somewhere
else because you can imagine on your own and not have everything spelled
out about this trick and this explosion. I would be just fine with none
of that." Redford is happy about Blu-ray technology and is pleased that the release of The Natural will allow viewers to experience the film through state-of-the-art technology - it's just those extras that fail to win him over.
As writer John Latchem reports, the recent death of actor Robert Culp has spurred DVD companies to commemorate his legacy. Image Entertainment issued a press release touting the fact that Culp's iconic 1960s series I Spy is presently available on DVD. Now Mill Creek will re-release the 1970s series The Greatest American Hero in which Culp co-starred with William Katt. For more click here
In a candid interview, Pierce Brosnan says that he realized he could no longer play James Bond once the Jason Bourne films starring Matt Damon became huge successes. At that point, he knew that the 007 would have to turn to a younger man in order to keep competitive. Brosnan says he and Quentin Tarantino had previously discussed plans to film a gritty version of Casino Royale, but neither man was associated with the blockbuster 2006 screen version that introduced Daniel Craig to the Bond role. For more click here
Rare original trade ad for the 1966 version of Fantastic Voyage.
James Cameron will produce a 3-D remake of the classic 1966 sci-fi movie Fantastic Voyage with Paul Greengrass the favorite to direct. The film concerns a race against time by a team of scientists who are miniaturized and transported into the body of a dying man to prevent his death, as he possesses top secret information. Stephen Boyd and Raquel Welch starred in the original. No casting has been announced for the remake. For more click here
The trailer for the forthcoming all-star action flick The Expendables has been released and it looks pretty good. I was never much of a fan of the "blue collar super heroes" who permeated 1980s cinema, but absence makes the heart grow fonder. The mercenary movie stars Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mickey Rourke - and they even dusted off Dolph Lundgren and Eric Roberts. The film also has cameos from Bruce Willis and The Governator himself, returning to the screen for the first time since serving in political office. We're not expecting The Professionals, but what emerges looks like fun. Click here to view the trailer.
For many, the all-star 1973 version of Dumas' tale is still the best.
We know that Alexandre Dumas' classic adventure story The Three Musketeers is dusted off every couple of decades and made into a movie. However, the three French swordsmen are particularly hot right now with two major 3-D productions in the works. One bit of good news: they probably won't hire Charlie Sheen, who starred in the bizarre 1990s version. Click here for details.
One of the few people around today who had a close relationship with James Bond author Ian Fleming is Peter Janson-Smith, who was not only Fleming's literary agent but personal friend as well. Click here to read Bond author Raymond Benson's interview with Janson-Smith.
Film Score Monthly has released a 2 CD special edition soundtrack of the MGM Cinerama classic The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm with music by Leigh Harline. As a bonus, the set includes the first ever release of Harline's music from the early Steve McQueen comedy The Honeymoon Machine. Click here to order
Writer Patricia Zohn takes a fascinating look at Otto Preminger's little-discussed, but interesting film Bonjour Tristesse, based on a best-seller by 18 year old author Francoise Sagan, who reflected on personal aspects of her life with this tale of a teenage girl (Jean Seberg) forced to compete with many women for the attention of her charismatic father (David Niven). Click here to read
Eon Productions have issued a brief statement indicating that production development on the next James Bond film has been indefinitely suspended due to the uncertain fate of MGM studios, which will distribute the film. The cash-strapped studio has yet to find a buyer. Many fans believed there would not be a new Bond film until 2012, which would commemorate the 50th anniversary of the movie series. Whether even that prospective date becomes a reality depends upon whether MGM can find a financial savior. Daniel Craig is expected to once again play 007 in the next film. For more click here
Kimberly Lindbergs gives a valuable and insightful analysis into the 1970s Western Hannie Caulder in which Raquel Welch plays a woman who becomes a gunslinger in order to track down the men who raped her and killed her husband. The great supporting cast includes Robert Culp, Ernest Borgnine, Jack Elam, Strother Martin and Christopher Lee. Click here to read on TCM's Movie Morlock's web site. The film is available on DVD in the UK, but not North America. Click here to order from Amazon UK
In an amusing column, writer Daniel Askt makes a plausible case for the how Jack Benny's habits as a penny-pincher can be adapted to help everyone rally to solve the international recession. Click here to read
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM CINEMA RETRO'S ARCHIVES
We're always amazed at the number of major films that are announced with fanfare only to fall into development hell and never go into production. Here's one we've never heard before from an industry trade magazine in November, 1964. It concerns James Bond producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman:
"Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli will produce The Pass Beyond Kashmir for Columbia release, Columbia first vice-president M.J. Frankovich announced here at the weekend."
What makes the story rather surprising is not only the fact that the film never went into production but that it was slated to be a Columbia production. Cubby Broccoli had enjoyed a good relationship with the studio in the 1950 when he partnered with Irving Allen to form Warwick Films which produced a number of boxoffice hits. However, by the early 1960s he and Saltzman had formed Eon Productions and was exclusively associated with United Artists henceforth. UA had financed and distributed the James Bond blockbusters and both Broccoli and Saltzman held UA boss Arthur Krim in high regard for having taken a chance on the franchise (Columbia repeatedly passed on Eon's overtures to back the series- much to the studio's regret.)
Broccoli and Saltzman originally intended to make other films outside of the Bond franchise, both independently and as a team. However, as the 007 films grew in size and budget it became difficult to mount any non-Bond related film. In 1963, the pair did manage to bring the Bob Hope comedy Call Me Bwana to the screen. In 1968, Broccoli produced the Ian Fleming story Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as a major musical on his own. Similarly, Saltzman produced three Harry Palmer films starring Michael Caine and the 1969 WWII epic Battle of Britain sans Broccoli. The Broccoli/Saltzman partnership ended after the release of the ninth Bond film The Man With the Golden Gun in 1974. Although Saltzman dabbled in producing in the ensuing years, he never was associated with another hit film. Broccoli continued to run the Bond franchise on his own and reinvigorated the series after the lukewarm reception accorded Golden Gun. The two men had never been close on a personal basis and often had well-publicized differences in their creative and business philosophies. However, they did see each other over the years on rare occasions. Saltzman accepted Cubby's invitation to attend the London premiere of For Your Eyes Only in 1981 and Cubby and his wife Dana did visit Saltzman in his later years when he was in declining health.
UPDATE: Our eagle-eyed contributor Hank Reinke informs us that The Pass Beyond Kashmir was based on a 1960 spy novel by Berkley Mather, who contributed to the screenplay of Dr. No. The plot centered on a private detective based in Bombay who begins embroiled in a dangerous assignment that entails traveling through India and Pakistan.
Happier days: The Beatles enjoying early success. Their lifespan as a group would be amazingly short, especially when one considers the influence they have had.
MSNBC contributor Tom Scalfani poses the question of whether The Beatles split up prematurely 40 years ago this month. Most fans would argue "yes", but there were plenty of extenuating circumstances including in-fighting and the feeling among the lads from Liverpool that that were creatively drained, at least in terms of collaborative projects. Click here to read
Cinematical columnist Jeffrey M. Anderson pays tribute to the 1945 "B" movie Detour, which was made for $30,000 and went on to be one of the most acclaimed low budget films ever made. Click here to find out why
Rex Harrison and Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra: grand entertainment, shoddy history.
In an interesting article in the Huffington Post, writer Aladdin Elaasar discusses Will Smith forthcoming action film The Last Pharoah in the context of how the tale of an ancient rule fits in with the dilemma of Egypt's current political problems. Elassar also covers the legacy of other films relating to ancient Egypt. Click here to read
It's doubtful the producers of the 1965 spy spoof "Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine" were clearing off their mantles to make room for anticipated Oscars. However, the Vincent Price starrer did provide some great publicity photos.Would have loved to see an oil wrestling match between the Girl Bombs and Matt Helm's Slaygirls!Our own Tom Lisanti identifies the ladies thusly:
Sitting left to right: Sue Hamilton, Luree Holmes, Salli Sachse,
Pamela Rodgers, unidentified, Laura Nicholson
Standing left to right: Patti Chandler, unidentified, Deanna Lund,
unidentified, Marianne Gaba, Mary Hughes, China Lee
One of our favorite comedies is Woody Allen's 1984 charmer Broadway Danny Rose in which the Woodman plays the most inept talent agent in New York City. Clients include balloon folding acts and a penguin who ice skates while dressed as a rabbai. He finally lands a major talent: a big, dopey Italian lounge singer named Lou Canova who can belt out shlocky crowd-pleasers like Agita. Lou was played by an unknown real life lounge singer named Nick Apollo Forte who was terrific in the role - though rumor had it he was only playing himself and had not even been familiar with Woody Allen prior to filming. The film made him a pop culture figure for a while, as Woody Allen fans would repeatedly sing Agita - a catchy embarrassment that only Forte could do justice to. However, Broadway Danny Rose would be Forte's one and only film. Whatever happened to him? Well, he's still singing in lounges and even played the Sands in Atantic City. In keeping with any client of the hapless Danny Rose, Forte also moonlights on the side, serving as captain of a deep sea fishing vessel he owns! We're not making this up, folks.
The cheerful Forte's varied activities can be found at his official web site by clicking here. It's enough to tempt us to go fishing - almost, but not quite.
(Thanks to "Corn" Brinkman for the tip on this article.)
Critics are complaining that the new Broadway musical version of The Addams Family lacks the charm and wit of the classic TV show.
Not even Charles Addams could have dreamed up the kind of blood-curdling reviews the Broadway musical version of The Addams Family. Click here to read New York Times critic Ben Brantley's take on the production which he calls "genuinely ghastly".
Since the late 1970s, there have been plans to revive The Man From U.N.C.L.E. as a big screen feature. The closest those plans got to fruition was a reunion movie made for CBS TV in 1983 that starred Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. Now, progress is being made once again with an acclaimed screenwriter formally attached to the project. Click here to read
This rare photo depicts the 1966 premiere of the Dean Martin Matt Helm film The Silencers at the new Fox Plaza Theater in New Dorp Center, Staten Island, New York. The $500,000 theater was touted as being state-of--the-art. It represented the first new theater built in Staten Island since 1936.
Sir Michael Caine is not generally known for wading into political waters, but he caused a stir when he recently made an appearance with David Cameron, the conservative leader who is trying to unseat Gordon Brown as prime minister in the May elections. Caine was lending his support to a Tory program designed to prevent youths from drifting into juvenile delinquency. Caine made the most of the event, even making a quip based on his classic crime caper The Italian Job. For more click here
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
performance is the most astonishing piece
of screen acting since Brando’s Last Tango In Paris’Time
Mr. Bongo Films is delighted to announce the
of Italian cinematic maestro Federico Fellini’s
Casanovastarring screen stalwart Donald
as the legendary lothario.
the memories of Casanova, Fellini offers his version using rare visual
Casanova is one of
Fellini’s most spectacular productions and comes to DVD on 17 May 2010
of Mr Bongo Films.
Robyn Hilton was a 33 year-old nude model when Mel Brooks cast her as his secretary in the 1974 classic "Blazing Saddles". Hilton hoped her spectacular figure and the pedigree of being in a Brooks film would jump-start her career, but it never happened. She gravitated into the porn industry before retiring in 1977 and dropping out of sight. There was some consolation, however. In 1974, she was voted the prestigious "Hottest Body Ever" award from Boobtacular Digest! (We have a complete run of the magazine on a shelf next to The New England Journal of Medicine). Wherever you are, Robyn, thanks for the mammaries!
Although movie fans continue to believe the mistaken myth that Lee Van Cleef played "The Ugly" in "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly", in reality that part was immortalized by Eli Wallach. Van Cleef actually played "The Bad" - a character nicknamed Angel Eyes. Prior to Sergio Leone's masterpiece, he had been inevitably cast as villains. In the wake of the film's success, however, he was generall cast as the heroic leading man. Here, the New Jersey-born western icon does a half-Monty in the spaghetti western "Death Rides a Horse", one of many Leone-inspired horse operas made in the 1960s and 1970s.
In one of the longest periods of gestation between an original film and its sequel in recent years, Rowan Atkinson will reprise his role as Johnny English, the bumbling anti-James Bond. The original film, released in 2001, bombed in the States but was a major hit in the international market. For more click here
Carla Bruni was a well-known model and entertainer who had a penchant for being provocative before becoming the first lady of France.
The incident may not rival the hard feelings between France and America when DeGaulle was president of the republic, but Woody Allen has set off a tempest with his announcement that he has decided not employ Carla Bruni, France's glamorous first lady, in his next film. Allen is shooting a movie about French life and had virtually promised Bruni previously that she would be in the film. He has now decided to go with Oscar winner Marion Cottillard instead. Allen diplomatically said that he was concerned that Bruni's duties as first lady might interfere with filming, but insiders speculate that her reliance on Botox has detracted from her natural beauty. For more click here
The next time you wonder why Nicholas Cage keeps making lousy movies, consider the fact that the one-time acclaimed actor simply has to rake in big bucks just to maintain anything like a movie star lifestyle. In the last year, his financial woes have brought him to the brink of ruin and have resulted in highly publicized and embarrassing news stories. Cage is suing his former business manager, claiming he kept him in the dark about the state of his finances. However, one wonders just how naive Cage could have been: in the last week he lost two homes and properties in California that had a combined amount of almost $26 million in debt. The homes were auctioned off but there were no takers so the bank now has possession of these assets. For more click here
Director Joe Dante's great Trailers from Hell web site presents the original trailer from The Love God? , the hilarious 1969 film starring Don Knotts as the nerdy publisher of a bird watcher's magazine who finds himself inadvertently heading a porno empire. Although the film was up to Knotts' usual level, his core audience thought it was too risque and the movie failed at the boxoffice. Click here to view the trailer
Issue #7 of the dynamic British James Bond magazine MI6 Declassified is now available by mail order. This issue commemorates the history and legacy of the 1969 classic On Her Majesty's Secret Service and features many rare photos. For details click here
Basehart in Fellini's masterpiece La Strada. (Photo: Cinema Retro archives)
Cinema Retro columnist Herbert Shadrak recently spoke to
Stephanie Kellerman, a friend of the Basehart family and webmaster of The Talented Richard Basehart shrine at www.richardbasehart.com
Retro: Was Richard Basehart an actor’s actor? Was his enormous talent only
truly appreciated by other actors?
Kellerman: Several actors commented that he was an actor's actor because they
did appreciate his talent, but you would find an argument from his fans saying
that his talent was only appreciated by other actors. As for me... I
appreciated other actors because I liked the characters they played, but I
really didn't have an interest in the actors themselves. With Richard, I
watched him because I was interested in him and how he seemed to make each role
his own. To me, when others acted, they seemed to play the same character in
all their movies, different variations of themselves. They just had different
names. Richard was one of the few actors who could make the roles he played so
believable and the different characters came to life with their own personalities.
Why was this great actor so unappreciated during his lifetime – and perhaps
even now, 25 years after his death?
I think that happened because of two reasons. One, he moved to Italy for a
decade and was out of the public's eye in the USA. And two, he accepted the
role of Admiral Nelson in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, with which he will
be forever identified. If
he had stayed in the U.S., I believe he would have become a greater star here.
He is considered a much greater star in Europe. Also, I have received several
comments over the years from people who emailed me at my Richard Basehart
tribute site that they had no idea he had such range as an actor because they
only knew him as Admiral Nelson, and were astonished when they went back and
watched some of his old movies, which by now most everyone has forgotten about.
we wouldn't have had Richard as Admiral Nelson if he hadn't needed money to pay
off Valentina Cortese after their divorce. She agreed to one last payoff
and Voyage was his chance to get out of making any more payments to
her. That means if he didn't have that expense, he wouldn't have taken the
role and the roles he would have taken otherwise would probably more closely
reflect what he had done in the past.