Jay Weston, producer of Lady Sings the Blues, makes a candid appraisal about what has gone wrong with the annual Oscar telecast and what changes should be implemented immediately. Among the suggestions: advance the date of the telecast so Oscar doesn't follow all of the second-rung awards shows and try mightily to attract whoever is left in the dwindling Hollywood star system to participate. Weston points out the obvious:many of the people who stand at the podium may be good actors, but they are smaller-than-life in stature. Click here for more
I've become quite an admirer of writer Nicholas Anez, who focuses on the kind of off-beat films and subject matters that have great appeal to any retro movie lover. His latest book for Midnight Marquee Press is Artistic Triumphs...Box-Office Bombs. It provides in-depth analysis of the stories behind a glorious hodgepodge of films that either gained widespread acclaim and acceptance long after their initial failure at the box-office or have yet to be fully appreciated by the public on any meaningful level. The films covered are Pitfall, In a Lonely Place, Try and Get Me! (aka The Sound of Fury), The Egyptian, The Last Hunt, The Singer Not the Song, The Last Sunset, the original version of Cape Fear (hard to believe that a film this good bombed), First Men in the Moon, The Chase and The Quiller Memorandum. Anez provides plenty of interesting anecdotes about the making of each movie as well as assesses why it did not find popular acceptance at the time of its initial release. There are a wealth of photos including some interesting foreign release posters and lobby cards. This is the kind of book that inspires you to rent or purchase some retro gems that may have escaped your attention. Click here to order
Dead & Buried is one of the those oddball horror films that came out when I was twelve; I recall seeing the television trailers and movie poster artwork in the local theater lobby and didn’t catch up with the film until nearly 20 years later on a lackluster import DVD.
Gary A. Sherman, who also directed the excellent and in-dire-need-of-royal-DVD-treatment Death Line (released as Raw Meat in the United States) in 1972, as well as Vice Squad (1982) and Poltergeist III (1988), shot Dead & Buried in Mendocino, CA.The town may look familiar to fans of Daniel Haller’s The Dunwich Horror (1970), Herb Freed’s Haunts (1977), Barbara Peeters’s Humanoids from the Deep (1980). Joe Dante’s The Howling (1981), and Lewis Teague’s Cujo (1983) as they were all filmed there.
James Farentino (Me, Natalie and The Final Countdown) is a town sheriff whose Potter’s Bluff is plagued by a rash of murders by the townspeople.Hoping to get to the bottom of the reasons behind the murders, he enlists the help of the local mortician, Dobbs (Jack Albertson of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory).The sheriff’s wife (Melody Anderson of Flash Gordon) engages in some suspicious behavior, and what may have seemed original and fresh in 1981 is predictable and formulaic today.However, that much aside, this is a good little horror film, with good performances and great location shooting.The incomparable Blue Underground Blu-ray looks wonderful, blowing previous home video versions out of the water.The ample supplements consist of:
• Commentary with director Gary Sherman and David Gregory (Blue Underground)
• Commentary with co-writer/co-producer Ron Shusett and actress Linda Turley
• Commentary with cinematographer Steve Poster
• Stan Winston'sDead & Buried EFX featurette • Robert Englund: An Early Work of Horror featurette • Dan O'Bannon: Crafting Fear featurette • Two Trailers
The subtitles are easy to read and correspond to the action on the screen.If you haven’t seen the film, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up.
Pierce Brosnan will team with recent Oscar winning Danish film director Susanne Bier for the romantic comedy All You Need is Love. The Danish director wrote the movie especially for Brosnan. The film will involve a Danish family, but it's assumed that the script will explain why Brosnan speaks English. The former James Bond is on a hot streak lately, appearing in films back-to-back including the highly acclaimed The Ghost Writer. Click here for more
Father Gary Thomas has a unique distinction in the American Catholic Church: the 57 year-old clergyman is one of the relatively few priests authorized to perform exorcisms. His story and alleged experiences were the basis for the recent film The Rite, with Anthony Hopkins playing his on-screen alter ego. Thomas concedes that most of the seemingly endless parade of people who request exorcisms are simply suffering from emotional troubles. However, he fervently believes that the Devil actually exists and literally inhabits the bodies of specific people. He has plenty of company. Over 40% of Americans believe in literal manifestations of angels and demons. Then again, large numbers of Americans believe the President is a Muslim, illegal immigrant and that the U.S. government has been hiding space creatures in a New Mexico airline hangar for the last sixty years. Nevetheless, Father Thomas' story is compelling, even if you don't give it an ounce of credence. The priest believes that demonic possessions are so commonplace that there should be an exorcist in every parish. Father Thomas is critical of the popular perception of exorcisms that have derived from the 1973 classic The Exorcist. He says he never witnessed spewing vomit or twisted heads. However, he does say that he has personally dealt with possessed people speaking fluently in languages that were unknown to them. I personally believe most disturbances attributed to demonic possession can be explained by proving the person recently ate at an White Castle fast food establishment, but you can form your own opinion by clicking here to read Father Thomas' story.
Part of Charles Bronson's success was his reluctance to go public with his private life. It seems hard to believe in the era of Charlie Sheen that there once was an era in which celebrities valued their privacy and dignity. Bronson overcame a predestined fate to follow his family members in working in the mines of Pennsylvania. Through quiet, but hard-nosed determination, he gained a foothold in Hollywood and became a reliable supporting actor before his unlikely emergence as one of the world's most bankable leading men. Even at the height of his fame and popularity, Bronson's fans knew little about his personal life beyond the prerequisite studio-issued biographies. He rarely attended Hollywood functions, almost never promoted his films and only fleetingly gave interviews. I once asked Michael Winner, the director with whom he had some great successes, if he could say he really knew Bronson and the answer was a resounding "No."
There were reasons for Bronson's reluctance to open up his personal life and some of them revolved around his messy marital problems and affairs. These are painfully recounted in Charlie and Me, a memoir by his first wife Harriett. In the early years of their courtship, she found Bronson to be attentive and thoughtful, even if he harbored a lifelong insecurity about the women in his life that made him obsessively jealous. Harriett Bronson's book is a true page-turner, as it gives a different perspective from what little has been relayed to date about his personality. Harriett Bronson's story is the same as so many Hollywood wives: they stuck with their husband during the lean years and when success finally came, they were unceremoniously dumped for another woman. In this case, the other woman was British actress Jill Ireland, who was married to Bronson's best friend, David McCallum. The two men bonded in Germany on the set of The Great Escape, and these stories provide the basis for some of the book's most intriguing elements. Although Bronson claimed he considered McCallum as "a god" for being so kind to him, he didn't hesitate to initiate an affair with Ireland. While Harriett stewed about the constant delays on the film caused by Steve McQueen's perfectionism, Bronson relished the extra time "on location" with Jill. Though Bronson denied there was anything beyond friendship, Harriett used the services of a private detective to unveil the truth.
Dennis Donnelly directed this film that was made as a result of the success of Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and hoped to cash in on its success.Predating the slasher film cycle that came about following John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), which itself was originally planned as a sequel to Bob Clark’s Black Christmas made four years earlier, The Toolbox Murders (1978) was one of the earliest titles available on home video in the early 1980s.A schematically-paced thriller, The Toolbox Murders takes places in a LosAngeles apartment building wherein a toolbox-carrying killer who dons a ski-mask offs several of the residents, among them then-porn actress Kelly Nichols, who was featured prominently in her birthday suit in the film’s advertising art and is dispatched by a nail gun (puns abound).
Cameron Mitchell gives a very good performance as the creep who keeps a young woman, played by Pamelyn Ferdin, tied up in his bedroom.The rest of the cast is rounded out by the director’s brother, Tony Donnelly, as a detective and Nicholas Beauvy and Wesley Eure (from TV’s Land of the Lost) playing sleuths.
The Blu-ray extras on the Blue Underground release include:
• Audio Commentary by actress Pamela Ferdin, cinematographer Gary Graver, and producer
• I Got Nailed in: THE TOOLBOX MURDERS - interview with actress Marianne Walter, aka Kelly Nichols
• Theatrical Trailer
• TV Spots
• Radio Spots
• Improved audio and video.The audio is available in the standard monaural mix, 7.1 DTS-HD, and 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX.
Missing from the Blu-ray are the poster/stills gallery and Cameron Mitchell biography that was included on the standard DVD in 2003.
The Warner Archive has released the 1959 MGM film Libel, which was shot at the MGM British studios at Borehamwood. The movie is based on a play from the 1930s that was directed by Otto Preminger before he entered the realm of film directing. The story is a gripping one. Dirk Borgarde plays a British baronet, Sir Mark Loddon, who is living a life of privilege and leisure in a British manor house with his American wife Margaret (Olivia De Havilland) and their two children. Loddon does carry some psychological baggage from the war, however. He suffers from partial memory loss relating to his escape with two other men from a German POW camp near Dunkirk. During the escape, one of the men ended up dead, but Loddon can't remember precisely how. He is haunted by recurring mysterious nightmares that he suspects are tied in to the incident. His life is suddenly disrupted by the appearance of Jeff Buckenham (Paul Massie), the other survivor of the prison camp escape. He makes the shocking accustation that Loddon is not who he claims to be. He maintains Loddon is actually the man who allegedly died during the escape, a part-time actor in civilian life named Frank Welney (Bogarde in a dual role). Welney bore such a strong resemblance to Loddon that even fellow prisoners could not tell them apart. He makes the accusation that Welney made good on his occasional jovial threats to kill off Loddon and assume his identity and life.
Bond: no longer the lone defender of cinematic elegance.
To those of us who have missed stylish and classy action heroes in the cinema, our long nightmare apparently is over. The Independent of England has an interesting essay pointing out that the era of the blue collar, grungy cinematic hero is now officially dead. During the years when Stallone and Willis reigned supreme, James Bond was seemingly the only action hero to steadfastly fight a never ending battle for the preservation of elegance and fashion. Yet, even he was compromised. Most of the recent Bond ad campaigns, especially in America, have eradicated the trademark tuxedo from the ad campaigns. Nevertheless, The Independent feels that a plethora of elegantly-dressed men of action points to the fact that the pendululm has swung back and style and sophistication are once again returning to the silver screen. For more click here
Fleming's only children's novel was transformed into the iconic 1968 movie musical.
The estate of the late Ian Fleming has authorized a series of sequels to his famous children's novel Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which has become regarded as a children's classic over the decades. Writer Frank Cottrell Boyce has been commissioned to write the new books, which will all have a present day setting. Click here for more
Paramount Home Video has released Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments in a restored, Blu-ray edition. Painstakingly restored by Ron Smith and his team, the film has been can now be seen in its original magnificence. Cinema Retro Editor-in-Chief Lee Pfeiffer discussed this project and other aspects of Charlton Heston’s career with his son, filmmaker Fraser Heston.
Cinema Retro: The year 2011 is shaping up to be a great time for Charlton Heston fans. There are some very high profile releases of his major films. What do you attribute that to?
Fraser Heston:Much of it is due to my own hard work trying to get some of these titles out. In all seriousness, The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur are both coming out in April. I think it’s a coincidence that the new technology has come around so much that it allows you to go back and restore these films in such a manner as to allow you see these films in ways you haven’t enjoyed them before.For example, Paramount really broke new ground with The Ten Commandments. It looks great.
CR: The credit goes to Ron Smith at Paramount and his team.
FH: Yes, they have done stuff at high resolutions that has never been done before with more lines per frame than anything like it. I saw it projected on a very large screen at the Egyptian Theatre and it looked phenomenal. Obviously, the colors looked great and it was pristine. The grain in each shot was very fine. I’d like to think the restoration looks like the answer print that C.B. first screened for Paramount. Even when you see a first-run movie in a theater, you’re not seeing a print made from the negative.You’re seeing a print made from an inter-negative, which is several generations down the line. So, in essence, the restoration allows you to be virtually sitting next to C.B. looking at his first answer print.
CR: It must give you satisfaction to see your father’s legacy so much in the forefront recently.
FH: It does. You know somebody asked me the other day if I was ever disappointed that he was primarily associated with The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur. The answer is no.Those films became a major part of our family history and we’re very proud of those films and I know dad was, too. They made his career and I think it’s wonderful that we can see these come out again. The same sort of technology can be applied to his other films like Antony and Cleopatra, Mother Lode and Treasure Island and the Bible series that we’re also coming out with next month.
CR: I’m happy to hear that because some of these films like Mother Lode, I haven’t seen in many years.
FH: Neither had I. When I watched Mother Lode and Antony and Cleopatra the other day, I was blown away. We did the frame-by-frame restoration of both of those films from the original negatives and I got take part in that process. I sat there for every single frame. It’s amazing what they can do. I haven’t seen the Blu-ray versions yet, but even the standard DVD version is so much better.
CR: Although your father won the Oscar for Ben-Hur, would you say that The Ten Commandments was the film that was most important because it elevated him to major stardom?
FH:It certainly started him on that path. I was re-reading his journals for a documentary we’re preparing about my dad. So I went back and scanned those journals day-by-day back to 1957. (Note: Heston kept a journal of his experiences on every film set. The journal was published in book form as The Actor’s Life.- Ed.) I went back to his original pages, so there was a lot of stuff I hadn’t read before. He felt The Ten Commandments hadn’t quite put him in that stratosphere yet. That was surprising to me, because it was one of the most successful films of all time. It certainly helped him get the role of Ben-Hur, which he won the Academy Award for. That certainly cemented it, if you will.
One of the most elusive Clint Eastwood films for fans to find on home video is also one of the most bizarre movies he's ever appeared in. MGM has released The Witches, a 1966 Italian movie, as a burn-to-order title. The film was designed as a showcase for actress Silvana Mangano, a would-be Italian superstar whose fame never reached the level of contemporaries like Sophia Loren and Claudia Cardinale. The patchwork movie offers Mangano in an acting tour-de-force, playing vastly different characters in off-beat short stories directed by such legendary names as Visconti and Pasolini. Virtually all of them are spirited, but strangely unaffecting and most end on an unsatisfying note.
Eastwood's episode, A Night Like Any Other, is the best of the lot, perhaps because it was directed by Vittoria De Sica. Eastwood shot the movie when his star was rising in Italy because of the Sergio Leone Westerns. In his native America, however, he was still largely known as a popular, but rather non-descript co-star on the Rawhide TV series. In this film, Eastwood is interestingly cast against type as a demure businessman whose preoccupation with the frustrations of his job leave him perpetually exhausted. Mangano is his sexually frustrated wife, a mousey woman who fantasizes about having an alter-ego as an exhibitionist diva who drives her husband crazy through her torrid sexual activities with legions of other men. In reality, she can't even lure him to stay awake long enough to resond to her attempts to seduce him. It's interesting to see Eastwood in this type of role, and he performs it well, playing a character who is so divorced from having fun that the idea of even taking his wife to a movie bores him. (In one amusing scene, he reads the titles of films playing in local theaters and refers to " A Fistful of Dollars - a Western"). The episode features some impressive set and production designs for the fantasy sequences and this one sequence represents the primary reason why the film will be of interest to anyone. The movie is presented in Italian but viewers have the option of seeing Eastwood's sequence in English language.
The Witches (which, despite the title, has nothing to do with the supernatural) is hardly a classic, but it is a rather fascinating footnote in Eastwood's career.
Cinema Retro subscriber Jay Kincanon has been serving in the U.S. Army for many years and has been stationed in diverse locations around the globe. A dyed-in-the-wool fan of spy movies and TV series, Jay sent us this photo he snapped in the town of Gnjilan, Kosovo, where he spotted the Boutique 007 shop! Something tells us this location didn't go through the official licensing process with Eon Productions, but it's still amazing to see how far and wide the influence of the Bond films has become over the years. By the way, it appears the "gentleman" in the center of the photo had an unfortunate encounter with Oddjob's hat!
The good folks at Silva Screen Records have released composer Roy Budd's magnificent score for the 1978 film The Wild Geese on CD. The film, which starred Richard Burton, Roger Moore, Richard Harris and Hardy Kruger, remains one of the great adventure movies of its era, centering on a mercenary mission into an African nation that results in deceit, double-crosses and some of the best action filmmaking director Andrew V. McGlaglen ever accomplished. Budd's score is integral to the film, and he created the kind of stirring, old-fashioned march music one never gets to hear in major movies today. (One track even includes actor Jack Watson's foul-mouthed insults as he mercilessly trains The Wild Geese for combat.) The CD also includes the wonderful title theme, composed and sung by Joan Armatrading. Silva Screen have outdone themselves with the usual deluxe packaging, in this case a booklet packed to the rafters with fascinating information about the film by Tony Earnshaw, who even gets fresh comments from the movie's producer Euan Lloyd. There are a wealth of rare photos included, as well. They don't make movies like The Wild Geese anymore, and we don't have have many composers the likes of Roy Budd. Kudos to Silva Screen for putting his work back in the spotlight.
This 1965 action film was actually available on DVD for a brief period back in 2001 and hasn't been seen since. If you can locate one of those copies, it will cost you over $100 on Amazon. The film is a rousing adventure starring Charlton Heston and Richard Boone. Click here to view the trailer. Here's hoping it becomes available again soon, as most of Heston's other rarities have been coming to DVD frequently in recent months.
The folks at the satire web site for Cracked magazine have compiled photos of the most unintentionally hilarious bootleg toys based on popular movie series. In certain parts of Asia, it's almost impossible to find legitimately licensed movie toys, and these are the most glaring examples of the industry's determination to ignore the bothersome process of taking out official licenses from the legitimate copyright holders. Even when the packaging boasts that the product is officially licensed, take it with a grain of salt. How else do you explain a Superman toy set that features the Man of Steel on a parachute? Seems the folks at D.C. Comics might actually realize that Superman has the ability to fly- so he doesn't need a frickin' parachute!
Our favorite is the Spiderman knock-off set that combines replicas of the web-spinner with some old doll clothing that must have been left over from other products. Thus, we are treated to Spiderman in his recreational hours, spending time practicing archery and fishing! Oh, and let's not forget about Robertcop! Click here for more
NBC News has just reported that Elizabeth Taylor has passed away at age 79 following hospitalization for heart problems. The legendary actress won two Oscars, for Butterfield 8 and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? She has battled many diverse health problems throughout her long career. Reports say that she died peacefully at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where she was recently admitted with congestive heart troubles. More details to come
Well-heeled 007 fans can rejoice. Octopussy is for sale. That's the good news. The bad news is that the deal doesn't involve Maud Adams. Rather, it's a "superyacht" named after the 1983 James Bond film that starred Roger Moore. The price will also set you back a cool $5,900,000, which means your last name has to be Goldfinger in order to afford it. Click here for more
Clint Eastwood on location in Michigan for Gran Torino.
The state of Michigan has become a major center for film production in recent years, pumping tens of millions of dollars into local economies. The strategy was the brainchild of former Governor Jennifer Granholm (D), who used tax incentives to lure major studios to her state. Her successor, Governor Rick Snyder (R) sees things differently and has taken an axe to the tax credits, claiming he's not impressed with the return on investment - despite the fact that a major accounting firm says the state gets $6 back for every dollar in tax incentives. The result has been a major political battle over the future of film production in Michigan, as a number of major productions are pulling up stakes in order to shoot in other states that they deem more friendly in terms of tax incentives. For more click here
It's no secret that John Travolta has a passion for flying. He's held a pilot's license for decades. However, he isn't winning many friends among Qantas flight crews for recording the on-board safety video which shows him suited up like a real Qantas pilot. The crews feel the video trivializes the issue of airline safety and resent the fact that Travolta is masquerading as a commercial pilot. Click here for and to view the video
Novelist and Cinema Retro columnist Raymond Benson knows a thing or two about action/adventure stories, having penned numerous official James Bond books. His latest venture is a novel introduces the character of a mysterious, legendary female crime-fighter who mesmerized the nation in the 1950s and 1960s before vanishing into thin air. Click here to view a promotional "newscast" about the character and to pre-order copies of The Black Stiletto.
Michael Gough, one of the last links to the glory days of British stage and cinema, has passed away at age 94. Gough was the epitome of the reliable supporting actor, able to appear comfortably in prestigious art house films as well as commercial horror vehicles for Hammer and Amicus studios. Gough earned his reputation through his work in the National Theatre and Old Vic. Among his champions was Lord Laurence Olivier. He toiled in largely forgettable feature films but scored with later characterizations in movies like Dracula (aka Horror of Dracula), the seminal Hammer film, the studio's underrated remake of Phantom of the Opera and the Amicus cult classic Dr. Terror's House of Horrors. Gough alternated between crassly commercial movies and upscale projects such as Women in Love, The Dresser, The Age of Innocence and Out of Africa. He received a late career boost from director Tim Burton, who cast him as the butler Alfred in his Batman movies as well as in Sleepy Hollow. For more click here
Mars may need moms, but Disney needs paying customers.
By Lee Pfeiffer
There was a time when director Robert Zemeckis was one of Hollywood's golden boys. His ground-breaking use of CGI in Forrest Gump was hailed as a milestone achievement in the 1990s and his Polar Express children's film has become a holiday perennial. However, it appears as though Zemeckis is now a victim the technology he helped pioneer. In the past, moviegoers complained there were too few family films in release. Now, it's the opposite problem with studios belching out expensive, CGI-packed animated epics on a weekly basis. They have so many similar characters and elements that audiences are reacting with a major yawn. The latest film that Zemeckis helped produce, Mars Needs Moms, combines live action actors with computer graphics. The New York Times reports that the film is already considered one of the all-time box-office disasters with Disney taking a $100 million write off. Tens of millions more in losses could follow. The Times ranks it along such financial flops as The Adventures of Pluto Nash, Cutthroat Island and the much-troubled remake of The Alamo. (Contrary to popular legend, John Wayne's 1960 epic of the same name made money.) The movie marks Zemeckis' second disappointment for the studio, with his animated A Christmas Carol underperforming. Disney once had a golden touch in marketing family films. In the 1950s and 1960s, the studio produced countless profitable live-action comedies starring the likes of Hayley Mills, Fred MacMurray and Brian Keith. Those modestly-budgeted flicks may not have been blockbusters, but they brought in a good return on investment. In today's upside down movie industry, executives somehow allocated $175 million to make and market Mars Needs Moms.
The Times speculates that the abundance of 3-D movies has already bored audiences. Instead of using the technology sparingly for "event movies", such as in the days of Cinerama, seemingly every other movie is now in 3-D. Audiences are also protesting against the premium prices charged to see 3-D movies at a time when taking your family to see any movie requires a king's ransom. Disney studio execs are not trying to sugar-coat the reception accorded Mars, and acknowledge the film was a total misfire. The first casualty is Zemeckis himself: even before Mars was released, Disney must have had a premonition. The studio pulled the plug on his much-typed remake of The Beatles' Yellow Submarine. For more click here
Kevin Costner at last summer's congressional hearings into the oil spill. In addition to being an actor, Costner has also financed ventures to help protect the environment.
Kevin Costner has confirmed he will portray the adoptive father of Clark Kent in the new Warner Brothers Superman movie, which has yet to be titled. The characters of Jonathan Kent and his wife Martha were portrayed as an elderly couple in the comic books. However, the casting of Costner as Jonathan and Diane Lane as Martha indicate that the filmmakers are skewing toward making the characters appeal to a younger audience. For more click here
Clint Eastwood's Hereafter has been withdrawn from Japanese theaters due to the film's terrifying opening sequence that depicts widespread death and destruction from a tsunami. The sequence would now cut too close to home as Japan grieves for its dead and missing. Warner Brothers and Eastwood announced that a portion of DVD sales revenue, estimated to be at least a million dollars, will be donated to relief work in Japan. Click here for more
Chris Corbould, long-time acclaimed special effects expert on the James Bond films, has been cleared by a British jury in a case involving the tragic death of a cameraman who was accidentally killed while filming The Dark Knight. The Batman blockbuster was shot extensively in England. Corbould convinced the jury that the victim had ignored standard safety procedures and did not have his seat belt fastened when the fatal accident occurred. Click here for more
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
After 13 years of being 'Onatopp' of things, MI6 has had to move home.
The team behind the site remains the same, and is still as committed as ever to covering the latest breaking news as well as regular articles on the James Bond 007 movies, books and videogames. The move was an essential step in our plans to grow and we have a number of exciting projects lined up this year.
If you are judged by the company you keep, there's no wonder special effects master Ray Harryhausen has earned legendary status in the film community. The gentle genius of sci-fi filmmaking is the subject of a forthcoming documentary that features tributes from the likes of Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, James Cameron, John Landis, Joe Dante, Tim Burton and many other of our most prominent film directors, along with cast members from his movies from over the decades. The film, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan is a work in progress, but a new extended trailer has been released. Click here to view
Festival Director Daniel Fitzpatrick (L) with Kevin Brownlow.
By John Exshaw
A mere twelve days after introducing Rex Ingram’s The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse at the National Concert Hall, Kevin Brownlow, silent cinema’s resident saint and scholar, returned to Ireland for the recently concluded third Killruddery Film Festival, held at the eponymous House and Gardens outside Bray in County Wicklow. The event, which proved as popular as its predecessor last year, saw Brownlow, with his customary boyish enthusiasm, present no less than seven films over a three-day period, as well as delivering a highly diverting history of Irish involvement in the development of early Hollywood.
The festival, masterminded once again by director Daniel Fitzpatrick, kicked off on Thursday night with a meet-and-greet, followed by a selection of films made by the Kalem Company in Ireland around 100 years ago, along with an accompanying documentary. On Friday, and with a mixture of both curiosity and foreboding, I pitched up for the first film to be presented by Kevin, Abel Gance’s four-and-a-half hour La Roue (The Wheel, 1922). Famed for its stylistic innovations, in particular the use of rapid cutting, La Roue tells the story of Sisif, a train driver who saves an orphaned child from a wreck and decides to rear her as his own daughter. Complications set in when Sisif (Séverin-Mars) later falls in love with the fifteen-year-old Norma (played by director Ronald Neame’s mother, Ivy Close), who is also loved by his son Elie (Gabriel de Gravone), who of course believes that Norma is his sister. After that, everyone does a great deal of suffering, as the story moves from the train yards to the French Alps, where Sisif has been sent in disgrace after deliberately crashing his train.
Mind-boggling though Gance’s mastery of technique is, the film is definitely something of an endurance test, and at one point, when Elie cries out, “Rails, wheels, smoke! How gloomy it all is!” I found myself nodding in fervent agreement. Afterwards, Kevin asked me what I thought of it. “Well,” I said, “obviously, from a technical point of view, it’s an astonishing achievement. On the other hand, it’s rather like being beaten over the head with a Victor Hugo novel for four-and-a-half hours.”“That could be a good thing,” suggested Kevin, whose idea of fun clearly deviates rather drastically from mine after a certain point. With the festival unfortunately coming at a particularly busy time for me, I felt I had done my duty for the day and duly wheeled off, leaving Kevin and his merry band of enthusiasts to the joys of White Shadows in the South Seas (1928) and Frank Borzage’s Seventh Heaven (1927).
Previous engagements, not least with the Wales vs. Ireland Six Nations match from Cardiff, kept me occupied on Saturday, which began with the annual visit of Sunniva O’Flynn, Curator of the Irish Film Institute, with her can of goodies from the IFI archive, this time containing three children’s films dating from the 1940s and 1950s. These were followed by three “Early Masterpieces of the Avant Garde”, including a 1928 version of The Fall of the House of Usher, presented by Daniel Fitzpatrick. Later on, Kevin presented Lewis Milestone’s The Garden of Eden (1928), starring Corinne Griffith, and the day finished with a screening of Terence Davies’ The Long Day Closes (1992), which really didn’t sound like my kind of thing.
Earlier this week, I figured it was about time to catch up with the Coen Brothers’ version of True Grit before it rode off the big screen and into the DVD sunset. And what with it failing to win any Oscars – not even for Best Beards in a Motion Picture – I reckoned the time was just about right. You see, I never paid much heed to all that “cinema as shared experience” bull. I generally prefer to bide my time until the opening week claim-jumpers and second-week popcorn-guzzlers have moved on to something else, and there’s just me and the janitor’s cat ridin’ that lonesome trail in the dark . . .
Like everybody else, I reckon, my first reaction on hearing that Les Frères Cohen – as I believe they’re known down N’Awleans way – were remaking True Grit was what in the hell for? Which is pretty much what I said when I heard they were gussying up 3:10 to Yuma a few years back. But that, as they say, is a steer of a different brand. . . .Still, I can’t truthfully claim that True Grit ever figured on any wanted list of movies-that-need-remaking that I’ve ever posted, anymore than 3:10 did. What’s more, I always had the idea that pretty much everybody was happy with the job Big John and Henry Hathaway done back there in ʼ69. So what did these boys think they were doing? Just because one of ʼem is named after Joel McCrea and t’other after Ethan Edwards don’t mean they got any business doggin’ the Duke’s tracks. As Randy Scott would’ve said, “Man needs a reason to ride this country. You got a reason?”
Well, turns out, according to Joel in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, that the boys “didn’t read Charles Portis when we were young; we discovered him only as adults. But when I read True Grit to my son, I thought that it would be a fun film to make.” Mighty touching, you might think, mighty touching. Hell, maybe even John Ford would’ve gone for that scene with Pappy Coen reading out loud to his towheaded kid on the porch, but as reasons go I just can’t see it carrying much weight with Randy. To quote Lucky Ned Pepper himself, it’s just “Too thin, Rooster! Too thin!”
Anyhow, then I started in on reading the reviews, which is not something a man should ever do sober, and sure enough, most of them critics were drooling over this new version and jabbering on about how the Coens had gone back to the original 1968 novel by Charles Portis, and wasn’t it just great? Trouble is, of course, the critics always say any new film by the Coen boys is great, much like they used to say every hold-up pulled by the James boys was the most daring and dastardly ever seen - which weren’t hardly the case back then and sure as hell ain’t the case now, not by a long shot.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -
MI6 CONFIDENTIAL – BOND GIRLS SPECIAL
ISSUE #9 OUT NOW
(London, UK, March 14, 2011)
MI6 Confidential, the full-colour magazine celebrating the world of James Bond 007, returns with a special edition for its ninth issue.
From Pussy Galore to Strawberry Fields, MI6 Confidential delves into the rich legacy of the Bond Girls, with over a dozen exclusive interviews, rare photography and a raft of features dedicated to the ladies of the James Bond films.
In addition to all the glamorous girls: author Jeffery Deaver reports for duty in Dubai and lifts the lid on the upcoming 007 novel ‘Carte Blanche’, Jaws’ original steel dentistry is tracked down, and MI6 grills the designers of ‘Blood Stone’. With rarely seen photography and anecdotes from cast and crew, MI6 Confidential #9 is not to be missed!
Featured in this special edition issue:
Strawberry Fields Forever - Gemma Arterton on her role in Quantum of Solace
Under My Skin - Shirley Eaton talks about her gilded days with 007
Eva Green and Caterina Murino discuss playing the odds with a new James Bond
Honor Blackman on her titillating character Pussy Galore
Lynn Holly-Johnson explains why she never got her ice cream
The Knives Are Out - Die Another Day’s leading ladies on crossing swords on screen
Caroline Bliss recalls stepping into Miss Moneypenny's shoes
Author Jeffery Deaver speaks exclusively to MI6 about Carte Blanche
Issue #9 is now shipping around the world. To order online, visit our new, rebranded website at: http://www.mi6-hq.com
Songwriter and composer Hugh Martin has died at age 96. Martin was best known for composing two classic numbers for the 1944 Judy Garland film Meet Me in St. Louis : Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, which became a holiday classic and has been recorded by over 500 artists to date and The Trolley Song, which became one of Garland's signature tunes. For the latter, Martin and co-writer Ralph Blane received an Oscar nomination. Martin only recently published his autobiography. For more click here
Mafia and urban crime movies are a dime a dozen lately, but Kill the Irishman looks like a throwback to the old style films of the genre. Set in the 1970s, it is based on a true story and the cast includes some terrific veteran actors including Paul Sorvino and two former James Bond baddies, Christopher Walken and Robert Davi. The movie is now in limited theatrical release. Click here to view trailer
Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams have collaborated on a new thriller titled Super 8, which apparently revolves around a kid who uses an old Super 8 camera to make an action film. In the process, he becomes embroiled in a mystery with overtones that could affect everyone in America. The trailer is cut from the same mold as Abrams' Cloverfield, which gave tantalizing hints at what the payoff is without divulging any specifics. Based on this trailer, there seems to be plenty of red meat for sci-fi lovers as well as paranoid types who see conspiracies everywhere. It's well-crafted and intriguing, but we'll have to be patient, as the film doesn't open until June. Click here to view trailer
Even by Hollywood standards, this lawsuit is bizarre. Quentin Tarantino is suing his famous neighbor, screenwriter Alan Ball (American Beauty, True Blood) because his pet macaws are screeching so incessently that they are disrupting his ability to concentrate on his writing. Tarantino's lawyer is demanding that Ball build a sound-proof enclosure around the offending feathered fiends. The matter is going to court. Ironically, Tarantino is reportedly considering filming a remake of the Hitchcock classic The Birds. Coincidence? Hmmm.....Click here for more
Director Baz Luhrmann is being cagey with his comments regarding the status of his forthcoming film version of The Great Gatsby. First he let rumors fly that he might not be doing the movie, then he said nothing when the media widely reported it would shoot in Australia in August and would probably be in 3-D. Now Luhrmann is denying any of these reports came officially from him. He still says he intends to make the move, but is engaged in extensive on-going research. He won't say when or where the film will be made or if it will be in 3-D. Any they say women are fickle! Click here for more
Frequent collaborators Hitchcock and Hermann clown for the cameras.
The widow of legendary film composer Bernard Hermann is seeking to auction his original score in hopes of raising $50,000 which will be utilized to release new CDs of his work. She is currently negotiating with the University of Southern California to make the sale, but apparently she is willing to sell to the highest bidder. Attempts to sell the 30 page composition at Bonhams in London last year failed to elicit the minimum bids and the score was removed from the sale. The difficulty in raising the desired sum has surprised some film scholars, given the iconic status of Hermann and the work. For more click here
Spiderman may be in trouble on Broadway but he's doing just fine in comic book land. His first appearance in Marvel Comics' Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962) has just sold for $1.1 million...making it the second most valuable comic in the world next to Action Comics #1 which featured the debut of Superman. The comic was created by Marvel's Editor-in-Chief Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko. It proved to be so popular that the web spinner soon had his own comic. For more click here
Joe Dante's Trailers From Hell site, where filmmakers provide commentary tracks for major and cult movies, is presenting a tribute to Robert Redford this week, with trailers from War Hunt, Little Fauss and Big Halsey and The Hot Rock. Click here to view
Oscar-winning director Steven Soderberg says that he will retire after he makes his next two films. They are Liberace, starring Michael Douglas (who seems to be recovering very well from cancer) and the long-awaited big screen version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. , which reportedly be a retro-based action film set in the 1960s. Soderbergh confirms that George Clooney will star, presumably in the role of Napoleon Solo that was immortalized by Robert Vaughn. Click here for more
A film production company has bought the rights to the popular Tomb Raider films and intends to reinvent the series with a "young" Lara Croft. The media is hyping the fact that this almost certainly means that Angelina Jolie won't be hired for the part, but in fact, as far back as 2004, she said she was through with the role. For more click here
With news that Colin Firth might be considering taking on the Rex Harrison role in a remake of My Fair Lady, film critic John Farr lets loose on studio bosses who can't think of anything to green light beyond remakes of famous films. Click here to read
On the MSNBC news program, New York magazine writer John Heilman referred to the never-ending debacles revolving around the troubled Spiderman Broadway extravaganza as a NASCAR-like event in that many people who attend are secretly hoping to witness a disaster. Already the show's official premiere has been postponed twice and numerous accidents and technical problems have plagued the production. Now the coup de grace: the show's acclaimed director Julie Taymor has abruptly quit. The show has also postponed the premiere again until June. This would be the kiss of death for most productions, but the curious and the morbid have continued to ensure that the show's preview performances draw hefty boxoffice receipts. For more click here
At an age where the workday would seem a distant memory for most Americans, newly-married Hugh Hefner has plunged head first back into the publishing world. Seeking to stem financial losses from his legendary Playboy magazine, Hef and his new business partner have succeeded in taking private ownership of the magazine. The legendary publisher will resume his duties as editor-in-chief and will once again have day-to-day involvement of every issue of Playboy. Click here for an article and video about retro travel aboard Hef's Playboy jet circa 1969.
(For Raymond Benson's exclusive interview with Hugh Hefner about his favorite films of the 1960s, see Cinema Retro issue #5)