My introduction to Ralph Bakshi’s animation came in November 1978 when I turned ten.My father had been a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series and, after having seen Rankin and Bass’ The Hobbit cartoon the year before, I was eager to see the new large-screen treatment of Tolkien’s beloved adventure.Up until this point, all of the cartoons that I had seen theatrically were made by Walt Disney, with the exception of Charlotte’s Web (1973), Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure and The Mouse and His Child, both from 1977.So, along with Watership Down, it was unusual to see a cartoon aimed at adults and rated PG.
To my young eyes, The Lord of the Rings did not disappoint. I loved the music (I still have the 8-track!) and the visual style (including the rotoscoped scenes wherein the animators drew over live-action, which invoked much consternation from others with whom I debated the film’s merits).It was not until some years later that I became more aware of Mr. Bakshi’s previous filmography which included the very-adult-oriented Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic, and Wizards, the latter of which played frequently as a midnight show at the Middlesex Mall cinema in South Plainfield, NJ.
Despite recalling the ads for American Pop, Hey Good Lookin’ and actually seeing Cool World theatrically, one film seemed to get lost in the shuffle.Although it had an August 1983 theatrically release date, Fire and Ice, a sword and sorcery epic that I caught up with on VHS in 1991, completely slipped by me.I would imagine that due to the prevalence of like-minded fare in the early 80’s (think Conan the Barbarian, The Beastmaster, The Sword and the Sorcerer, Krull, Hearts and Armour, etc.), Mr. Bakshi jumped on the bandwagon with this film, collaborating with none other than artist Frank Frazetta, the indisputable king of fantasy art.Fortunately, Blue Underground, William Lustig’s wonderful DVD and Blu Ray company, has released this film in both formats.
News reports indicate that Hollywood legend Tony Curtis has died at age 85. According to the MSNBC news show Morning Joe, the actor's daughter Jamie Lee Curtis has confirmed the rumor. Entertainment Tonight says that Curtis died of a heart attack in his Nevada home. The actor, who was born Bernard Schwartz,was one of the last symbols of Hollywood's golden era. He emerged as a star almost immediately. It was a far cry from his upbringing in the Bronx, where he and his brother Julius were temporarily placed in an orphanage because their parents could not provide adequate care for them. Curtis served in the U.S. Navy during WWII, having enlisted because he was impressed by seeing Cary Grant in Destination Tokyo. After the War, Curtis found stardom in Hollywood through a contract with Universal. He ended up becoming one of the top sex symbols of the 1950s and 60s. His ability to play light comedy as well as intense drama made him a major box-office draw for many years. He earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination for Stanley Kramer's The Defiant Ones, but the Academy didn't recognize his most memorable performance in Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot, wherein he uses a dead-on impersonation of Cary Grant to try to seduce Marilyn Monroe. He also gave a brilliant performance in Sweet Smell of Success opposite Burt Lancaster. As his big screen career waned in the 70s, Curtis moved to television. In 1972, he starred opposite Roger Moore in The Persuaders. Although the show was not a hit in the USA, it was enormously popular internationally and a big screen version is being planned.
Curtis' active love life included six marriages, including one to Janet Leigh. He also married his 17 year-old Taras Bulba co-star Christine Kaufmann. In recent years, Curtis concentrated on writing his autobiography and immersing himself in painting. He had long ago acquired a reputation as an artist of considerable talent. Curtis' volatile personality and shoot-from-the-hip tendency to say whatever crossed his mind resulted in some minor scandals even in his later years, but he lived to see his career re-evaluated by Hollywood historians who had often dismissed his talents. Among his other major films: Trapeze, Spartacus, The Boston Strangler, Operation Petticoat, The Vikings, Sex and the Single Girl and The Great Race. For more click here
John Huston's 1948 screen adaptation of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre has been released by Warner Home Video on Blu-ray. The presentation is stunning and the crisp black-and-white cinematography has never looked so entrancing. The film is regarded as one of the great triumphs of American cinema, but was a box-office flop at the time, despite winning Oscars for Huston and his father, Walter. Apparently, audiences didn't want to see Humphrey Bogart stray so far from his image as a lovable crook or detective. Yet, Bogart gives the greatest performance of his career in this film, though he was criminally denied a Best Actor nomination. The story of three men who virtually sell their souls in the quest to find gold in the mountains of Mexico is the ultimate cautionary tale. When they are impoverished, they would give their lives for one another. However, after striking it rich, greed and jealously lead inevitably to tragedy. The story behind the film is almost as engrossing. Huston insisted on shooting much of the movie on location in the wilds of Mexico, which was quite innovative at the time. The resulting budget increase made the film a costly venture for Warner Brothers. Additionally, Huston's attempts to meet with the book's author, the legendarily mysterious B. Traven, caused endless speculation. The man on the set during production who claimed to represent the elusive Traven may well have been the author himself, and books have been written debating this possibility.