I first saw The Window as a kid in the 1960s when it was shown as part of New York's legendary Million Dollar Movie broadcast. I can't recall seeing it many times since then, so I was all the more astonished at how well I remembered virtually every seen when I viewed the DVD release through Warner Archive. The film must have made a tremendous impression on me to have an impact that has lingered so long. What also strikes me is that the impact has not been diminished at all. The low-bduget RKO release was shot on location in Brooklyn and conveys a real feel for life in the tenemants during one particularly scorching summer. The 1949 movie stars Bobby Driscoll, a Disney discovery, as Tommy, a small boy with a penchant for telling tall tales. His loving, but frustrated parents (Barbara Hale and Arthur Kennedy) are exasperrated by their inability to teach Tommy about the dangers of crying wolf. One night when Tommy seeks to nullify the searing heat by sleeping on the fire escape, he looks through the window of a neighboring apartment- and witnesses the resident husband and wife (Paul Stewart and Ruth Roman) murdering a man in a bungled robbery attempt. Because of his constant fabrications, Tommy finds know one believes him. An ill-advised trip to the police station only results in sullying his reputation even further. When the murderous couple learn that Tommy has witnessed their crime, he realizes it's only a matter of time before they kill him, as well. The opportunity presents itself when an emergency requires that Tommy be left alone in the apartment. This sets the stage for a nail-biting confrontation when the murderers kidnap Tommy and attempt to do away with him.
Anthony Hopkins' horror flick The Rite topped the weekend boxoffice followed by the remake of Charles Bronson's The Mechanic. Both performed unspectacularly, but within studio expectations. The relatively modestly-budgeted movies look to be on a healthy course toward profitability. With the announcement of the Oscar nominations, several films got a boost with The King's Speech and True Grit the main beneficiaries. The latter has grossed $148 million to date and still has plenty more to go. Tell us again, studio execs, how there isn't a market for Westerns...For more click here
John Barry, one of the last of the great film composers who came to prominence in the 1960s, has died at age 77. Barry had been suffering ill health for a number of years and had not scored a movie since 2001. Barry came to fame in the early 1960s with his band The John Barry Seven, which scored a number of hits on the UK charts. However, it was when he turned to composing film scores that his career soared. Barry was hired to arrange composer Monty Norman's score for the first James Bond film Dr. No in 1962. His memorable version of the Bond theme remains one of the most recognizable pieces of music in the world. The success of the Bond theme led to long-standing legal disputes between Barry and Norman about who should be listed as the composer of record on the piece. Norman prevailed, but few doubt it was the Barry touch that made the theme so memorable. Barry was then hired to write the score for the the next Bond film From Russia With Love, leading to a long-term association with the series through The Living Daylights in 1987. Barry's theme songs for the Bond movies, often written with top lyricists and recorded by prominent singers and rock bands, became substantial hits.
Barry expanded beyond the Bond franchise with a stunning number of acclaimed film scores. Among them: Zulu, The Ipcress File, Born Free, Walkabout, The Lion in Winter, Midnight Cowboy, The Deep, Somewhere in Time, Out of Africa and Dances With Wolves. He was awarded five Oscars, though curiously he was never nominated for a Bond film. He had intended to return to the franchise to write the score for GoldenEye in 1995, but negotiations with MGM fell through and Barry chose not to work on the film. Barry is one of the legendary composers of his era, such as Elmer Bernstein and Jerry Goldsmith, who have built loyal followings. Barry's talents were not limited to movies. He also composed scores for stage musicals and albums not relating to motion pictures. For more click here
In an eyebrow-raising ceremony, The Directors Guild of America awarded Tom Hooper the top honor for his film The King's Speech. Even though Hooper won the top award recently from the Producers Guild of America, the heavy money was on David Fincher to nab the award from the DGA for The Social Network. If history holds true, it means that Hooper will almost certainly be striding to the podium to accept the Best Director Oscar on February 27. There have been few occasions when the DGA award didn't mirror the Oscar results. For more click here
Kate Hudson may play the late, legendary porn queen Linda Lovelace in a big screen bio pic of the Deep Throat star. James Franco may play her husband, porn producer Chuck Traynor. Lovelace was made internationally famous in the early 70s by virtue of her one peculiar sexual talent. Despite the fact that the film ended up making hundreds of millions of dollars, the mob took most of the money and Lovelace made little profit despite becoming a pop culture icon. For more click here
David Frye, who soared to fame in the late 1960s with his devastating mimicry of Richard M. Nixon, has died in Las Vegas at age 77. Frye was an omnipresent fixture on TV variety shows especially in the lead-up to the presidential election in 1968 which saw Nixon rise from being a political has-been to being the leader of the free world after his narrow defeat of Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey. Although Frye was an equal opportunity satirist, spoofing both liberals and conservatives, he was so closely associated with Richard Nixon that few remembered his other targets. Arguably, his career declined as some the figures he spoofed ended up with less-than-comical legacies. President Lyndon Johnson refused to run for re-election and emerged from the White House as a battered and embittered man, a victim of his Vietnam policy that overshadowed his often remarkable advances in social programs. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, whose speech patterns Frye amusingly linked to that of Bugs Bunny, was assassinated in 1968. President Nixon resigned in disgrace in 1974 after the Watergate scandal, and although Frye continued to spoof him, the nation was so torn apart by the lingering scandal, there wasn't much room for laughs. Nixon had emerged as a tragic figure, deserted by his most loyal supporters when the wake of his administration's legal transgressions became known. By the time he re-entered public life and regained some respectability as an elder statesman, the bloom was off the rose for Frye's impersonations of him. Lost in the midst of his political impersonations was the fact that Frye also had the ability to mimic legendary actors such as Kirk Douglas and George C. Scott. However, as the celebrities and political figures of our time diminished in stature, so, too, did Frye's popularity. Still, he gamely persevered and continued to with his nightclub act, comedy albums and videos that took on both Bush administrations and President Bill Clinton. Click here for more and to view vintage clips of Frye's act.
Anthony Hopkins has been considering portraying Alfred Hitchcock in a big screen biopic for a number of years. One project fell through in 2007 but it now appears there is a good chance the Oscar winner will play the legendary director. For more click here
Director Michael Winner's 1972 film The Mechanic was certainly not a classic, but it was a damned good thriller. Charles Bronson top-lined as a highly skilled assassin for hire. Jan Michael Vincent was a young up-and-comer who he teaches his murderous methods to. Ultimately, the mentor is threatened by the success of his protege - sort of like All About Eve with car bombs. Now director Simon West has a remake about to hit theater screens. Jason Statham and Ben Foster star but the trailer is less-than-promising despite the presence of old pro Donald Sutherland. The trailer is the usual mess of endless explosions and guys running around with both hands on their pistols. It conveys virtually none of the central plotline that made the original so compelling. Let's hope they at least retain the "sting-in-the-tail" surprise ending. Click here to view the new trailer. Click here to view the trailer for the original. What makes this one so bizarre is that it's for a reissue of the movie under the title Killer of Killers!
He was one of the last of the old school comedians. Rubber-faced Charlie Callas has died at age 83. A favorite of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, Callas was a staple of variety TV in the 60s and 70s, usually incorporating sound effects to great effect into his act. Callas was not without controversy and, despite being a frequent guest on The Tonight Show, once so offended Johnny Carson that he was banned from the show- on broadcast TV! Callas also morphed into making feature films, appearing in Jerry Lewis' The Big Mouth and in several Mel Brooks films. Click here for more
Last Saturday night I attended the L.A. double-feature screening of The French Connection and To Live And Die In L.Ahosted by the man himself, legendary director William Friedkin. Presented by American Cinematheque, it was as you might expect, a sold-out event at the four-hundred-seat Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, California.
This being the fortieth anniversary of the Academy Award-winning The French Connection, it was nice to see it up on the big screen again, with a newly struck pristine print.After the showing, William Friedkin was introduced to the audience, many members of which were not even born when it first came out in 1971. Still, they were just as mesmorized by the film as the older hard-core fans were. Friedkin was introduced… and right from the start, the seventy five year-old director owned the room, as they say in show business.Never one to be accused of being boring, Friedkin was certainly full of energy talking about his movies, whilst offering up humorous, salty anecdotes of how he made them and what he had learned from the classic masters like Alfred Hitchcock and his close personal friend Billy Wilder. Friedkin, who had started out making documentaries, had by 1965 progressed to television and had been chosen to direct one of the last of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents shows at Universal. He proceeded to tell us that, whilst directing the episode, some studio executives and Mr. Hitchcock himself visited the set, all fully attired with dark suits and ties as was the practice of the day. Friedkin recalled he was clad in jeans and a casual shirt, looking completely under-dressed and unworthy in their eyes. Hitchcock, who was always seen in a dark suit years after all the other Hollywood directors stopped dressing so formally, apparently just shook his head. A few years later, Friedkin was to get his revenge, as it were, when he accepted the Best Director Oscar for The French Connection. Adding to Friedkin’s sense of satisfaction was the fact that Hitch was seated in the auditorium to witness his triumph- though Friedkin admits that the legendary director apparently did not recall ever having met him before.
Entertainment Weekly reports that John Travolta is in serious discussions to play legendary Dapper Don John Gotti. The Gotti heirs are all paid consultants on the late Mafia chief's biopic, which may be a mixed blessing. His daughter Victoria still insists she saw no proof that dad was actually a crime lord, which means she either has endless devotion to enhancing his reputation or she is female Inspector Clouseau when it comes to detecting the obviouis. Sort of reminds us of that hilarious old Woody Allen short story in which Hitler's barber is interviewed. He insists that he never knew Hitler was a Nazi and "for years I thought he worked for the phone company." Click here for more
Despite a career-topping performance, Robert Duvall was denied a Best Actor nomination for Get Low.
As usual, there is plenty of debate about this year's Oscar nominations- not only who got the nod, but who was snubbed. Among the more glaring omissions: fan favorite Christopher Nolan, who again was denied a directing nomination despite the success of Inception, and veteran actor Robert Duvall, who arguably gave the best performance of his career in the little-seen Get Low. For more click here
Call it life imitating art. Remember in You Only Live Twice when James Bond and his allies managed to destroy the SPECTRE HQ inside a Japanese volcano? Well, it's now happened in real life. The volcano at Mount Kirishima has erupted, causing authorities to mandate the evacuation of local residents. Police are on the lookout for a distraught, short, bald megalomaniac wearing a Nehru jacket and holding a white cat. For dramatic photos click here
If you've been feeling blue about not having any further adventures set in the world of Pandora, take heart. James Cameron confirmed he is now writing two sequels to Avatar, the highest-grossing film of all time. Cameron anticipates shooting them simultaneously but releasing them a year apart at Christmas 2014 and 2015. For the methodically-paced Cameron, this represents speeding the movies into theaters. For more click here
If you're still drooling over actresses who have played Catwoman in the past, you can give those photos of Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer and Halle Berry a rest. Anne Hathaway will be the latest beauty to suit up in the cat suit for Christopher Nolan's next Batman pic. The title: Dark Knight Rises. (You can make the obvious juvenile sexual joke). For more click here
Cinema Retro proudly introduces a new column dedicated to a pet peeve of classic movie lovers: ridiculously inappropriate video and DVD sleeves. For our inaugural column, check out this doozy from some years ago: MGM's release of A Fistful of Dollars on DVD. Despite having access to countless photos from the film, MGM's designers couldn't help but tinker around with the main image of Clint Eastwood. The result was a bizarre hybrid that seems to be combination of a headshot from the film - but with the inexplicable deletion of Eastwood's hat. It appears to have been painstakingly replaced with the chapeau he wore in Hang 'Em High! At least the graveyard in the background actually appears in the film.
This is the first official still released from the new Holmes film.
Production is underway in England on a re-teaming of Robert Downey Jr. and Jude law as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. The yet-untitled sequel to Sherlock Holmes will also feature the return of villain Prof. Moriarty. We very much enjoyed the first entry in this new series, but here's hoping that this time around there's less fists flying and more deducing evident on the part of the great detective. Click here for more
This year's Oscar nominations have been announced. As expected, The King's Speech (which also dominated the BAFTA nominations) led the field with 12 nods. True Grit, which was entirely snubbed at the Golden Globes, has regained its mojo with 10 nominations. Jeff Bridges was nominated for his performance as Rooster Cogburn, making him the second actor to be nominated for the role. (John Wayne won the Oscar for playing Cogburn in 1969). If Bridges wins, he would have had the coup of winning back-to-back Best Actor awards, having been honored last year for Crazy Heart. For analysis click here. For full list of nominations click here
The great composer Bernard Hermann in a comedic publicity shot with frequent collaborator Alfred Hitchcock
Several film music scholars have collaborated to commemorate the 100th birthday of legendary composer Bernard Hermann. Click here to read their tributes to this musical genius at the American Music Preservation web site.
American baby boomers have lost another pop culture icon: the seemingly ageless Jack La Lanne has died at age 96. La Lanne was the first person to host a fitness show on American TV. His show began to be broadcast nationally in 1959. At the time, it was an innovative idea to encourage people of all ages to exercise and keep fit. La Lanne eschewed fancy equipment in favor of working with the basics. His name became synonymous with exercise and fitness and he opened the door to the countless exercise shows that now appear on international TV stations. He remained in the spotlight and retained his status of being a household name for generations of Americans. For more click here
Johnny Depp has confirmed he intends to play Tonto in the upcoming big screen feature film The Lone Ranger. The last time this was tried in the late 1970s, the pic became a notorious bomb. However, this time around the producers intend to play it as a comedy. Depp, who has Cherokee ancestry, says he hopes to counter the negative image of Indians in older American films. For Entertainment Weekly's report click here
NBC has at least temporarily shelved plans to relaunch a series based on James Garner's 1970s hit show The Rockford Files. Writer David Shore was unable to deliver a satisfactory script due to unexpected challenges concerning his screenwriting for the House TV series. NBC may revive the Rockford concept at some future point. For more click here
Robert Duvall will star with Billy Bob Thornton in a period drama titled Jayne Mansfield's Car. Thornton will also direct - though a description of the plot gives little evidence how the iconic sex symbol Mansfield, who perished in a car crash in 1967, fits into the story. Duvall's career is in high gear, having given what many consider to be a career-topping performance in last year's Get Low. He also recently received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. For more click here
A fan has turned his collection of thousands of Beatles records and novelties into something practical: a museum. The only problem for other fans is that they'll have to travel to Buenos Aires to experience the tribute to all things Beatlemania. Click here to view story and photos. No word on whether the museum has been legally approved. The Beatles' legal team is conspicuous in their efforts to shut down any type of unauthorized tributes. Here's hoping all they'll need is love, not loot, and allow this fan to continue to pay his respects through this modest, but cool looking musuem.
In one of his most in-depth and interesting interviews, Clint Eastwood talks to London's Daily Mail about viewing life at age 80. He admits he thinks more about the frailty of his life nowadays, but it doesn't slow him down. His latest film Hereafter is just opening in the UK and he is about to begin work on a big screen biopic of J. Edgar Hoover. Among his observations:
He was raised as a church-goer, but eventually gave it up, preferring meditation to any established religion.
He jokes about his age, saying that there would be no point in going to a school reunion because there wouldn't be anyone else to show up.
He's somewhat conservative and voted for John McCain, though paradoxically he has nothing against Barack Obama and opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He says people still want him to revive the character of Dirty Harry
He recalls his early days in show business and his friendships with Elvis Presley, James Dean and Steve McQueen.
Eastwood also elaborates on the bizarre offer extended to him to play James Bond (he wisely turned it down):
‘I love London,’ says Eastwood. ‘I guess it’s in my genes. My dad was Scots/English and my mother was Irish. It’s funny, but years ago when Sean Connery left the James Bond pictures the producers contacted me and asked if I would like to be James Bond.
'I’d been doing all those Westerns, so it was flattering to be asked, and they offered quite a bit of money. But I told them I thought they should have a Brit; I was so associated with Americana. I said, “I don’t think that’s good casting.” It would have been fun to do it once but it would have been a very bad move." To read click here
It's ironic that only weeks before her death, Warner Archive released the obscure Girl of the Night which afforded Anne Francis a rare starring role in a theatrical feature. The 1960 modestly-budgeted movie purports to examine the pitfalls of a young woman who becomes a high-priced call girl. Francis plays Robin Williams (not the hairy guy from Mork and Mindy), a charismatic 24 year-old trying to carve a life for herself in New York City. She soon falls in love with Larry Taylor (John Kerr), a charismatic cad who pretends to love her while acting as her pimp. For a while, Robin seems content. She's pulling in enough loot to maintain a high lifestyle for herself and Larry, taking "appointments" from floozy madame Rowena (Kay Medford.) When she learns Larry has been cheating on her, she despairs and seeks advice from psychiatrist Dr. Mitchell (Lloyd Nolan in typically stoic Lloyd Nolan mode.) Much of the story unfolds as Robin relates to Dr. Mitchell how a troubled childhood of abuse and neglect led her to prostitution. Mitchell tries to convince her she is still being used and abused by Larry, who she consistently forgives, against her better judgment.
The BBC has fortunately put many of its features about the James Bond series on their web site. The vintage featurettes extend back to Ian Fleming's chat with Raymond Chandler and includes some other incredible goodies extending from the Sean Connery to Pierce Brosnan era. Click here for Double-0 Heaven. (Thanks to Nick Sheffo for the head's up)
Cinema Retro readers know that columnist Tom Lisanti wrote a piece for issue #17 about the little-seen 1969 thriller Once You Kiss a Stranger that included comments from the film's star Carol Lynley. At the time, the film was unavailable on DVD, but lo and behold, yet another cult movie we've written about has now been released to home video. We're starting to think we have a crystal ball that influences studio executives. In any event, the movie is a minor trifle, but a fun one, that is primarily distinguished by Lynley playing against type as an outwardly charming and seductive young woman who is, in fact, a mentally unstable person with a penchant for violence. Curiously, the movie is a loose remake of Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train, as both films were inspired by Patricia Highsmith's source novel.
Lynley plays Diana, a consistently perky type who hides her emotional turmoils within her. Distraught by the possibility that her aged aunt and psychiatrist might re-commit her to a mental asylum, she concocts a scenario for the perfect crime. She seduces a married, famous golf pro (Paul Burke) and in playful pillow talk, tells him she will kill his main rival on the golf circuit, thus ensuring he will become a champion. In return, Burke is expected to kill the psychiatrist before he can have her committed to the asylum. Burke jokingly plays along, unaware the bedroom chatter is being secretly videotaped. (This is probably one of the earliest uses of a home video camera to figure into a motion picture storyline). When Burke discovers Lynley has actually carried out the murder, he is blackmailed by her. He faces a Hobson's Choice: either kill the psychiatrist or face the gas chamber for his role in the killing of the golfer.
More evidence that Clint Eastwood, at age 80, continues to hone his craft as a director by exploring new directions. He hasn't even started filming his high profile J. Edgar Hoover biopic, but Deadline Hollywood reports he's confirmed he will direct Beyonce in a new musical version of A Star is Born. This will be the fourth screen version of the classic Hollywood tragedy. Janet Gaynor and Frederic March starred in the first back in the 30s. Judy Garland and James Mason starred in the 50s version, widely considered to be the best. Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson top-lined the critically-scorned 1976 edition, though it was a major hit with the public. For more click here
The Intrada record label has released a three CD soundtrack of Elmer Bernstein's magnificent score for The Great Escape. Here is the official announcement:
Together in one package at nice price! 3-CD set includes classic original 1963 United Artists re-recorded album prepared by Elmer Bernstein when film was new, plus two-disc presentation of actual soundtrack. John Sturges directs legendary WWII POW classic with Steve McQueen leading cast, solidifying status as iconic loner character on screen. James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, James Coburn amongst fellow POWs. Motorcycle sequence with McQueen outriding pursuers is an action cinema landmark - Bernstein's music throughout sequence is unparalled display of rhythmic orchestral energy! Intrada presents soundtrack from same 1/4" two-track stereo session elements as earlier Varese Sarabande limited release but newly re-masters them to remove annoying tape print-through that plagued loud sections of earlier version. 1963 UA album mastered from original 1/2" three-channel stereo masters. Informative notes from Nick Redman illuminate impact of McQueen on film & audience plus offer details about real escape incident film is based on. A genuine film and score classic back in print for new generations. Elmer Bernstein conducts both recordings. - Douglass Fake, Intrada Producer
As proof positive that the 3-D format is being dramatically over-used for inappropriate films, director Baz Luhrmann says he is considering shooting his upcoming version of The Great Gatsby in that format. Leonardo DiCaprio. The film was previously made in 1949 with Alan Ladd and in 1974 with Robert Redford in the title role Luhrmann also says we are rapidly reaching the point where all home video will be via a download process and he bemoans the fact that movie fans won't have an actual product to hold in their hands. For more click here
The gang at Slash Film have a fascinating report about Ang Lee's Incredible Hulk film of some years ago. Before deciding to use CGI to recreate the jolly green monster, Lee commissioned a Hulk robot to be used. The Slash Film site has full coverage of the ill-fated fiend...Reader Nick Sheffo, who sent us the link, says the robot looks like Shrek, but we think he's been separated at birth from Arnold Schwarzenegger! Click here to read
The King's Speech landed a staggering 14 BAFTA nominations and Black Swan has been nominated in 12 categories. The Coen Brothers' acclaimed remake of True Grit, which was completely glossed over by the Golden Globes, landed 8 nominations. For full coverage and a complete list of nominees, click here
Bruce Crawford, organizer of the Omaha Film Events, escorts Ms. Reynolds to the screening.
Debbie Reynolds brought a good deal of star power to Omaha when she appeared before a packed auditorium for a screening of Singin' in the Rain. Click here to view four pages of photos from the event and more information about classic movie screenings in Omaha.
Kevin Spacey accepts the Edwin Booth Lifetime Achievement Award from Johnnie Planco, President of The Players. (Photo copyright Ann Vellis/The Players)
Giacomo Selloni reports on a special evening at the legendary Players club in New York City.
For just the ninth time in its illustrious 123 year history, the Players club has awarded its prestigious Edwin Booth Lifetime Achievement Award, on this occasion to Kevin Spacey. In a January 10 benefit dinner held at the famous club on Gramercy Park to support the Players Foundation for Theatre Education, Mr. Spacey joined the ranks of Edward Albee, Angela Lansbury, Jose Ferrer, Helen Hayes, Jack Lemmon, Christopher Plummer, Marian Seldes and Jason Robards, who all received the award for “promoting the arts and its ability to enrich lives.”
Mr. Spacey, who is in midst of his 7th year as artistic director of the Old Vic Theatre Company in London, presented the Booth Award to Jason Robards in 1999.He was presented his award by friend and co-star in the films “The Ref” and “Recount,” Dennis Leary.Also in attendance were Tony Bennett and wife Susan, Phil Ramone (who produced the music for “Beyond The Sea), Richard Thomas, Miss USA 2010 – Rima Fakih and Stephen Baldwin, one of Spacey’s co-stars in his Oscar winning performance in “The Usual Suspects.”
In his remarks to the sold out house, Stephen Baldwin called Kevin Spacey, “Legendary in his effort in keeping it about the work.”He praised him for being “a tremendous example of someone who keeps it about the art.” Mr. Baldwin then gave way to a musical interlude by Player Steve Ross who was followed to the stage by Mr. Leary to present the award.
“That’s when my hatred grew,” said Dennis Leary describing the first week of rehearsals on “The Ref” to the audience as he listed Kevin Spacey’s talents. “Kinda funnier than me…, he can really sing…, but when he started to do his impressions of Jack Lemmon and William Hurt – they were really f’ing funny, that’s when my hatred for Kevin coalesced into a true, legendary hatred.” Rarely have so many statements of hatred been uttered with such love in the voice of the speaker.
With his closing words; “Kevin is someone who has set his mind on the path of bringing the theater back to life with his own, bare, talented hands”, Leary called Spacey to the stage; “Kev, come get another award.”
In his acceptance speech, Kevin Spacey was humble, funny and gracious.“It is always a bit strange to receive an honor for one’s lifetime of work. At this particular point in my life, when I’m not even halfway through, it is both remarkable and incredibly worrying.”He thanked everyone for their kind words; “except, Dennis Leary.”He paid tribute to the Players itself, to educational programs and to the sense of family that acting provides.“I believe that far from being a luxury item, arts and culture are a necessity in our lives.Culture provides the magic of our experiences.Countries may go to war, but culture brings us together.”
January 10th was a night that brought many people together at the Players to pay tribute to a remarkable talent and deserving recipient.
Epics, Spectacles and Blockbusters: A Hollywood History by Sheldon Hall and Steve Neale
Published by Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 2010
Review by Adrian Smith
It is often assumed in popular film history that the craze amongst movie studios for the Hollywood blockbuster began with the success of Jaws in 1975, and was cemented by George Lucas with Star Wars in 1977. Hall and Neale, in this fascinating new book, demonstrate that the blockbuster has actually been around since the days of silent movies. And it is not just the epic spectacle of huge sets and casts of thousands that set these out as blockbusters, but also the way studios handled their directors and stars, production budgets, marketing and release patterns. Some films would become roadshow pictures, meaning they would have an extended run (sometimes for over a year) in a limited number of cinemas before being rolled out across the country. It was treated like a theatrical production, where people booked seats in advance. During the 1960s, inspired in part by the successes of independent companies like AIP with their mass drive-in products, studios began to adopt a showcase strategy, where the film would show in some key cities and first-run theatres whilst simultaneously opening on a regional-saturation basis. The book explains in great detail both the highs and lows that studios and producers went through. They have uncovered a lot of financial information which makes this book an excellent resource for anyone conducting their own research into Hollywood history. It also provides some perceptive insight into the cinema-going habits of filmgoers fifty years ago. Before Alfred Hitchcock insisted that latecomers not be allowed in to screenings of Psycho (1960), it was common practice for movie theatres to not have specific show times. People would just turn up, and if the movie was halfway through, they would just remain in their seats and wait for the film to start again. When All About Eve (1950) was released scheduled performances were attempted, but the idea was abandoned after four days because of poor business and the reluctance of exhibitors to adopt it. It took another ten years before the idea really took hold with Psycho, and thanks to the success of that film (over $9 million domestic rental, more than ten times its production cost), it became more commonplace.
Epics, Spectacle and Blockbusters is primarily an academic book, with rather a plain cover and only a limited number of black and white illustrations, but it does contain a great deal of absorbing information and detail which is simply unavailable elsewhere. It should be compulsory reading for all heads of Hollywood studios today, in the hope that they may learn to avoid making some of the mistakes of their predecessors.
Director Ivan Reitman says that everything that has been posted to date on the web about the status of a new Ghostbusters movie is completely wrong. However, he did confirm that a script has just been completed and he's enthused enough about it to have sent it to Billy Murray for consideration. Click here for more
The smash hit UK crime series Hustle starring our old pal Robert Vaughn is entering it's 500th season, or so it seems. We can't remember when it wasn't on the air. Last season, the cast and crew moved to Birmingham, but the producers engaged in a bit of deception and pretended the story was taking place in London. Seems everyone was so enamored with Birmingham, the home city of one of the series' stars, Adrian Lester, that at least one episode of the show will actually take place there. Click here for the details.
Fox has announced that the complete Star Wars series will be released on Blu-ray in September. There will be several different options for consumers, including buying the films as prequels, original series or as a six-movie complete collection. Click here for more
Click here to pre-order the complete saga on Blu-ray and save $50!
Sonny Rollins' classic score for Alfie is among the gems played on the El Diabolik podcast site.
We were just made aware of El Diabolik's World of Psychotronic Soundtracks. We'll let Duncan, who runs the podcast site, describe what they do:
"We play soundtracks from all over the world, mainly from the 60's through to the 80's. Horror, Italian crime, British Cult, French Crime, Blaxploitation, Beat, Giallo, Bollywood, Sexploitation, Fung Fu, and just plain classic soundtracks. The latest show is a German special. We're far from professionals, we do this for fun and hope others enjoy the music with us. I try and play nearly all the music from the original vinyl pressings where possible." Click here to visit site.
For decades, there has been criticism of the Hollywood Foreign Press and their annual Golden Globe Awards which have been (inaccurately) seen as a predictor of what films would win Oscars. Although the Oscars themselves have been controversial, the films and artists are voted on by seasoned veterans in their respective fields. The Golden Globes are voted on by a group of loose-knit international "journalists" whose credentials have led many to charge they are simply a group of back-slappers who use their clout to benefit personally. A new lawsuit filed on the eve of tonight's Globes ceremonies states that the organization routinely engaged in payoffs in order to grant press access to the ceremonies and to influence member's voting practices. The plantiff, ironically, is a publicist who defended the Hollywood Foreign Press for 17 years against such charges. Click here for more
As a child growing up in the 1970s, I read the TV Guide from cover to cover, diligently marking the shows that I wanted to watch for the week.I have a fairly good memory when it comes to the shows that I viewed, and despite being a fan of Project UFO, I don’t recall its pre-emption for the January 18 and 25, 1979 airings of NBC-TV’s Legends of the Superheroes, two one-hour episodes now available on a single disc from the Warner Archive DVD Collection.They feature Adam West as Batman, Burt Ward as Robin, Garrett Craig as Captain Marvel, Howard Murphy as the Green Lantern, Bill Nuckols as Hawkman, Barbara Joyce as The Huntress, Rod Haase as The Flash, Alfie Wise as The Atom and Danuta Rylko Soderman as the Black Canary.The first episode is called The Challenge, and its title could not be more appropriate: Batman and Robin need to find the Doomsday Device before the villains destroy planet Earth, and the audience is challenged to sit through the 50-minute episode with their eyes wide open.How this show, complete with a forced laugh track, made its way to television remains a mystery, but this is from the network that put Supertrain on the rails. At times I found myself cringing at the (lack of) humor and thinking of ABC-TV’s Star Wars Holiday Special as a rival in camp/kitsch and just plain insanity.It’s truly incredible to watch mature adults running around in ridiculous costumes, attempting to act.Children appear to be the intended audience (or victims) of this show as sophomoric humor abounds, with Frank Gorshin as the Riddler giving a master class in scene-chewing. He interacts with a cavalcade of crazy characters to get the better of the Dynamic Duo, who both stop at Calabasas Automotive which boasts gas for sixty four cents per gallon.
Episode two, The Roast, fares better, with Ed McMahon (!) emceeing a Friars Club-like roast sans low-brow humor, though it should have been hosted by Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog.Ruth Buzzi makes an appearance, and some of the jokes actually work this time around.Howard Morris plays some bald-headed fool who looks like the father of Mr. Six from the Six Flags commercials.
The disc contains some outtakes which, unsurprisingly, are no funnier than the actual show, and a sing-along metronome track to “That’s Entertainment.”
If you’re waiting for Not Legends of the Superheroes XXX with the top adult performers of today, don’t hold your breath; Tori Black won’t be appearing as Black Canary anytime soon, so if you’re a fan of the Batman series from the Sixties, or if you saw these shows in 1979 and want to revisit them for purposes of nostalgia (or want to keep your relatives away), the DVD is worth a look.
All kidding aside, while they are not my cup of tea, I am pleased that Warner Archive has made these obscure shows available.
Acclaimed British actress Susannah York has died from cancer at age 72. York, a RADA graduate, first came to prominence in the early 1960s, scoring a key role in Tunes of Glory. A rebellious spirit in the rebellious 60s, York's career initially thrived with memorable roles in films such as Tom Jones, The 7th Dawn, Sands of the Kalahari, Kaleidoscope, A Man For All Seasons, Battle of Britain and the provocative lesbian drama The Killing of Sister George. In 1970, she received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for They Shoot Horses, Don't They? True to character, she refused to attend the ceremonies. Although the best parts were behind her, York still received star billing in "A" grade productions like X, Y and Zee (aka Zee and Company) with Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Caine, and the 1974 adventure film Gold opposite Roger Moore. She also played the role of Lara in the first two Superman movies. By the 1980s, York's career came off the rails largely because she chose to devote most of her time to raising her children and working on social causes. She hit financial troubles in the late 1980s and had to sell possessions to pay her bills. For more click here
After the publication of his first book Timeline of the Planet of the Apes, author Rich Handley triumphantly follows up on its success with From Aldo To Zira:Lexicon of the Planet of the Apes – a 400-page encyclopaedia listing every character, creature, device, location, weapon and much, much more from the Apes universe which consist of the initial five films, the Tim Burton remake, the Live-Action and animation series, a variety of comic books,and a whole host of other adaptations and spin-offs.With a staggering 3,200 entries, no stone or scroll is left unturned.Even diehard fans will be amazed by some of them; Baboonjas, the psychic ninja cult from Ape City (a 4-issue comic miniseries published by Malibu Comics in 1990), and Deadeye, a rare scared-face, cigar-chomping gorilla bounty hunter resin “garage kit” are two examples.
Fortunately, Handley has managed to reference Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes, the first of a soon-to-be-released series of Apes novels from BLAM! Ventures, which he edited for author Andrew E.C. Gaska. What’s more Lexicon, published by Hasslein Books, contains names and designations from rejected scripts and storylines such as those written by Twilight Zone creator and co-author of the original Planet of the Apes screenplay, Rod Serling, and comic book writer Ty Templeton.Each entry includes a description, an abbreviation, a symbol and suffix which can be easily identified by using a chart situated at the beginning of the book.All the categories have been compiled and indexed alphabetically at the back of the book for easy use.
This comprehensive reference guide is illustrated throughout with black and white photographs and stunning full-page chapter illustrations drawn by gifted artist, Patricio Carbaja (check out the excellent cover showing Dr. Zauis); credit to Paul Giachetti too for the outstanding overall design and layout.It also has a foreword by film and television historian John Kenneth Muir, the award-winning author of more than twenty books.
With the Apes prequel, Caesar: Rise of the Apes due to hit cinema screens in November this year, the timing of the publication of Lexicon is very apt, although, for obvious reasons, no entries from the film are included. Looks like nothing can keep those “damned dirty apes” down.
Burnt out from the extensive work he did compiling Timeline of the Planet of the Apes, Handley has dusted off the ash to produce an equally essential piece of Apes literature.It sure is a mighty piece of work that every Ape fan should have, and makes an excellent companion to the aforementioned book.If the only character name you know from the Apes mythos is Galen, then you too need this book.Handley’s extensive research and tenacious work has paid off big time and makes for compulsive reading.But be warned: once you pick it up, you won’t be able to put it down!
Charlton Heston and Kim Hunter in the original Planet of the Apes.
Long-suffering Planet of the Apes fans who have been going bananas waiting for the Fox reboot of the series, will have to endure more anxiety. The studio has pushed the next entry in the series, Rise of the Apes, back to a November 23 premiere. The film had initially been set to open in June. No explanation was given, but industry insiders say the delay will give the production team more time to fine-tune special effects. It's also thought that the November time frame will be more advantageous for marketing conditions.
British publisher Tomahawk Press has released abiography of screen legend Boris Karloff by Stephen Jacobs that has been endorsed by the Karloff estate. Here is the press release:
This is the new authorised and definitive biography. Boris Karloff - a name synonymous with horror. Drawing on detailed research, previously unpublished letters, and interviews with those who knew him this new biography dispels the often repeated myths associated with the star - many perpetuated by Karloff himself - and reveals a wealth of new information about the private and professional life of Boris Karloff. Although forever associated with his breakthrough role of 'the Monster' in Frankenstein (1931) Boris Karloff had a career that spanned almost 50 years and over 150 movies - from the era of the silent picture through to the days of the 'Swinging Sixties'. His roles in "Bride of Frankenstein", "The Mummy", "The Black Cat", and many others - most now considered classics of the genre - ensured his reputation as 'The King of Horror'. Born William Henry Pratt in Camberwell, South London in 1887 Karloff defied family expectations and rejected a life in Government service. Instead he emigrated to Canada were he finally found work as a professional actor. After years touring Western Canada and the United States he arrived in Hollywood and tried his hand at movie acting. But success did not come overnight and the actor worked in pictures for over a decade before being asked to test for the role of the Monster. As public tastes changed Karloff was willing to adapt to the times and embraced work on the theatre, radio and television. His experience of the movie studios treatment of his colleagues led Karloff to advocate actors' rights and he became instrumental in the creation of the Screen Actors Guild. Few actors ever achieved the iconic status Karloff has been awarded. This is the only book that tells the whole story!
The seemingly ageless Stan Lee, comic book legend extraordinaire, has received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In addition to creating such legendary characters as Spiderman, The Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk, Lee is still breaking new ground with his latest ventures. Click here to watch video of the award ceremony.
Huffington Post film critic Scott Mendelson speculates on which film franchises probably ended in 2010. It might surprise you that some of them were enormously successful at the box-office. Click here to read
Sir Michael Caine does a wicked impersonation of ....Sir Michael Caine. It all took place on British interviewer Michael Parkinson's show, much to the amusement of guest Billy Connolly. Click here to watch
Critic Scott Mendelson predicts that the absolute glut of 3-D films about to be unleashed on the public will result in a backlash. Seems studios are going to opt-out of giving audiences in some areas the ability to choose whether to see the 3-D version or the traditional 2-D. This is nothing more than a blatant attempt to get movie-goers to pony up an additional $5 fee to enjoy the 3-D experience - whether they like it or not. However, Mendelson points out that the industry is playing with fire. With the country in the midst of hard economic conditions, this would seem to be the least appropriate time to force-feed what amounts to a $15- $20 per person ticket price on the long-suffering public. This is especially true with the industry coming off a disappointing year in which box-office figures and attendance declined notably. Add to that the low-cost options of viewing movies on DVD, through downloads or pay-per-view and you have what Mendelson calls a "perfect storm". Then there is the sheer stupidity of burning out the 3-D format by releasing seemingly everything including YouTube videos in the format. It's already not very special to see a film in 3-D and most of those about to be released will only increase audience's ambiguity to the format. Click here to read