reports of certain events which would have appeared earlier, had fate and the
need to earn a buck not intervened.
Irish Film Institute,
24-28 August 2011
at the station for the 3:10 to Tara Street, I was feeling good – deep down
good, the way a man can feel when he’s got a bunch of Westerns to watch and a
passel of press passes in his pocket. Leaving the Iron Horse at Westland Row, I
cut across Grafton Street (no sign of them pesky Rykers) and on down to the
Irish Film Institute, where they were about to let rip with a four-day,
eight-film season called ‘The Western: Meanwhile Back at the Revolution ... The
Western As Political Allegory’. Well, I reckoned they could use all them fancy
five-dollar words and dress it up whatever they damn well liked, long as it
meant seeing some real Westerns on the big screen. As Randy Scott would’ve
said, “There’s some things a man can’t ride around—but Cowboys & Aliens ain’t one of them.” Ride clear of Diablo,
hell, ride clear of dumb CGI special effects movies is more like it . . .
I figured not only was this a chance to see some Westerns the way they were
meant to be seen but also an opportunity to have my say on films which wouldn’t
normally fit into the Cinema Retro
corral, being as they were made before 1960. Not that this is either the time
or the place for what you might call in-depth chin-stroking and
head-scratching—more like a chance to throw out some thoughts and see where they
up, perhaps predictably enough, was High
Noon (1952), described in the programme notes by season curator Declan
Clarke as “a commentary on the McCarthy witch-hunt and the failure of U.S.
intellectuals to stand up to the House Un-American Activities Committee.” This,
of course, has become pretty much the standard interpretation of High Noon but it would be interesting to
know to what extent it was perceived that way on its initial release; the
British critic Robin Wood has recalled that he was completely unaware of any
political subtext when he first saw the film, and it seems rather doubtful that
many citizens of Main Street, U.S.A., came out of their local cinemas saying,
“Gee, honey, that sure was one in the eye for Joe McCarthy!”
generally speaking, I prefer to see something of the West in my Westerns (even
if it’s Almería, west of Rome), High Noon
remains one of the best “town Westerns” ever made, notable as much for its
characterisation as for its celebrated manipulation of real time to build
suspense. In particular, one is struck by the refreshingly adult depiction of
Helen Ramírez (Katy Jurado), a “woman with a past” who is required neither to
apologise for that past nor to expiate her supposed sins by catching one of
those stray “moral” bullets which usually account for such characters (e.g.,
Linda Darnell’s Chihuahua in Ford’s My
Darling Clementine, 1946). Other details I’d forgotten include the church
scene in which Thomas Mitchell appears to be lending his support to Marshal Kane
only to end up giving him the shaft, Howland Chamberlin’s nasty-minded hotel
clerk, and Harry Morgan urging his wife to tell Kane that he’s not in, that
he’s gone to church.
It's the ultimate fantasy for fans of Star Trek and Star Wars: the on-going debate over which series is best started with a shot across the bow by William Shatner, which, in turn, prompted Carrie Fisher to fire back and George Takei to plead for peace between the two sci-fi icons. Now CNN reports coverage of the spreading debate between fans of both series. Click here to read.
One of the DeLorean cars used in the 1985 boxoffice smash Back to the Future has sold for over $500,000. Part of the proceeds will be donated to a foundation to help cure Parkinson's Disease run by the film's star, Michael J. Fox. The DeLorean is making a bit a of a comeback lately among classic car collectors. The auto's lifespan was short-lived. It was designed by the late, disgraced financier John DeLorean whose legal problems aborted his attempt to become a major player in the American car industry. For more click here
Gone are the days: Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop, when his name above the title meant boxoffice gold.
Forbes has compiled a list of the most over-paid movie stars. Topping the list are names like Drew Barrymore, Eddie Murphy (the list was compiled before the release of Tower Heist, which under-performed), Will Ferrell and Denzel Washington. The criteria is the number of dollars returned to the studio in relation to the salary paid to the star. For more click here
quintessential and politically incorrect New York movie The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) has arrived on
Blu-ray from MGM.Adapted from John Godey’s novel
of the same name and brilliantly directed by Joseph Sargent with loads of
smile-inducing and laugh-out-loud humor, The
Taking of Pelham One Two Three concerns four heavily armed men, all sporting
moustaches and machine guns, and named after colors to mask their identities
(this idea was lifted by Quentin Tarantino and used to great effect in his 1992
film Reservoir Dogs), who commandeer
a train from the New York City subway system and hold eighteen passengers
hostage.They demand one million dollars
in cash for their release – a mere pittance in today’s money.Robert Shaw shines as the lead baddy and heads
the superb cast which also features Martin Balsam as a confederate, Walter
Matthau as the police lieutenant who negotiates with Shaw, Hector Elizondo who is
virtually unrecognizable as the monkey-in-the-wrench who causes problems for Shaw
with his own sense of bravado; and Kenneth MacMillian as the Borough Commander.Among the film’s highlights are Matthau’s off-handed
and embarrassing treatment of the representatives of the Tokyo Metropolitan
Subway System who are visiting; Tom Pedi’s role as Caz Dalowicz whose no-B.S.
approach to the hijackers results in a shootout in the tunnel; Lieutenant Rico
Patrone (Jerry Stiller) who reads the newspaper and is bothered that he is
being “interrupted” by the Japanese reps touring the facility; Lee Wallace’s
turn as the Mayor (he’s a near dead ringer for Mayor Ed Koch who became the New
York Mayor four years after the film’s release) and his inefficacy in dealing
with the situation at hand, including his deputy mayor, played well played by
Tony Roberts; Robert Weil as a transit worker (he’s a character actor who
appeared in dozens of great New York films) and the film’s priceless ending.Film composer David Shire, who wrote
excellent music for Francis Ford Coppola’s The
Conversation (1974) and Martin Ritt’s Norma
Rae (1979), provides a spectacular score that one cannot help humming long after the film is over.
The Taking of
Pelham One Two Three is
a terrific balancing act of high suspense and tension and outright hilarity,
something that few films are ever able to achieve. (One notable exception is
Bob Clark’s 1974 thriller Black Christmas,
which manages the same feat). What the
film captures perfectly is the sense the people working in New York City have
about themselves and their jobs, a veritable “another day at the office” mentality
as they go about their routines no matter how outrageous the circumstances.The film couldn't have come to Blu-ray at a
better time.With politicians using the
safety and well-being of Americans as a bargaining chip for political gain
(i.e. health care), the sentiments of the film are timeless and ring true in a
city where corruption and racism run behind-the-scenes and are perfectly sized-up
by Doris Roberts’s turn as the mayor’s wife when she tells him what he’ll get
in return for paying out the ransom: eighteen sure votes.
is no mention on the Blu-ray packaging of a remastered image and sound, so the
transfer appears to be derived from the same master that was used on the
standard definition DVD released in February 2000.The image is sharper this time with just a
few instances of dirt and some scratches that are barely noticeable.The Blu-ray also adds subtitles in English, Spanish
and French and retains the film's original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.The disc also includes the film's theatrical trailer.I originally hoped that with the release of Tony
Scott's 2009 remake, itself a well-made version with less emphasis on humor and
more on action, there would be a reissue of the original with commentaries and
a documentary on the making of the film, but no such luck.Still, despite the lack of the usual bells
and whistles that generally accompany far less entertaining films, the upgrade
to Blu-ray is worth it as this is one of the best films made during the
American cinema's most riveting decade.Lensed
also in 1998 for television by Felix Enriquez Alcala (how can you make this
film without profanity?), this 1974 original is the most entertaining version of this
In the aftermath of Mondo Cane's release in the early 1960s, every exploitation filmmaker seemed eager to jump on the bandwagon and produce "documentaries" that ostensibly were made to educate audiences about shocking and weird people and practices throughout the world. Even in the 1970s, Australia was considered an exotic locale to most of the world's population. Because of its inaccessibility, travel to Oz in those days was relegated to seemingly only the most financially secure lucky souls. Thus, life in Australia seemed to be a good bet for any number of exploitation films that gave a double meaning to the term "Down Under". One of the more prominent opportunists to capitalize on this craze for the short-lived "Ozploitation" films was producer/director John D. Lamond, who churned out a number of soft-core porn films during the '70s and '80s. Among the more notable achievements was Australia After Dark, filmed on location throughout Oz in 1975. The film apparently caused a minor sensation in its initial release and was heavily edited in some countries, including England. The InterVision DVD label, in conjunction with CAV Distributing Corporation, has just found an uncut print "recently discovered in the cellar of the Lower Wonga Drive-in" according to the press release. That's appropriate because the drive-in's name alone sounds like an erogenous zone. In any event, the film's release is a welcome event as it brings us back to a time when international cinema was still pushing the boundaries on censorship.
There's nothing shocking by today's standards in Australia After Dark, though Lamond didn't punt when it came to showing extensive views of full female and male nudity. Although the movie's key premise is sexploitation, most of the more interesting segments pertain to more mainstream topics. There is a visit to the world's longest bar as well as brief but fascinating looks at ancient cave wall paintings. There's also a brief segment about a 19th century serial killer of women who nevertheless received hundreds of "fan letters" from women admirers. Lamond shoots and edits in a haphazard, anything-goes style. Thus, one minute you're paying a visit to an S&M club and the next you're viewing a beautiful young naturist swimming nude in the Great Barrier Reef. There is a pointless but extended visit with a performance artist named Count Copernicus, who - based on his billing in the film- must have been somewhat of a sensation at the time. Copernicus dresses in drag even while he gets it on with comely young women. He also cloaks his "schtick" with pretentious political protests, making him the kind of character generally spoofed in Woody Allen movies. In another segment, we view a body painting studio where uptight businessmen spend their lunch hours renting live nude models whose bodies they adorn with "art". In the most compelling sequence, we're brought inside a modern witches coven where practitioners initiate a new female member by having her ravaged by some bloke dressed as a witch doctor (Imagine the voodoo sequences from Live and Let Die if they had been rated X.) Intermingled with all this are shots of sexily-clad young women who were filmed surreptitiously for inclusion in the movie. The girl-on-the-street footage reminds us why my friend, British fashion consultant Colin Woodhead, has referred to the '70s "the decade that fashion forgot" - but it also reminds us that the era did present us with the regrettably short-lived hot pants craze. Other segments jump from alleged UFO landing sites to a visit to a shop where the owner gained fame by custom-fitting bikinis to female customers who willingly doffed their clothes to get his professional opinion.
The DVD includes a director's commentary with John Lamond and Mark Hartley, director of Not Quite Hollywood, a documentary about Ozploitation films. Their conversation is highly enjoyable due to the lack of pretentiousness. Lamond makes no bones about his desire to make a cheap, trashy movie designed for quick playoff in Aussie drive-ins. However, he did have a loftier goal in mind. Tired of having Australians live in the shadows of the Americans and British, he wanted to do his part to show that there were plenty of local people who were equally eccentric to those seen in overseas films. The fact that by doing so, he helped reinvigorate the entire Australian film industry, pleases him to this day. He also discusses certain scenes he had to cut including footage of Trans Australian Airlines (TAA). The company agreed to fly him for free around Australia in return for promotion in the film. However, when airline executives saw the finished movie they were horrified and forced Lamond to cut all footage of TAA from the film. (Now that the airline is defunct, Lamond has restored the footage for this DVD release.) Lamond also admits staging certain sequences, though he says the participants were only recreating their normal activities. Both Lamond and Hartley come across as the kind of unpretentious guys you'd like to sit around and enjoy a cold one with and their conversation on the commentary track eclipses the merits of the film itself. At one point, Lamond stops in his tracks to comment on some nubile naked young woman by saying, "Look at that! That's all woman!" (This also has to be the only audio commentary track in memory in which both participants discuss in detail the changing viewpoints of female sexuality by making observations about the abundance of pubic and armpit hair on the female participants.) The DVD sleeve also promises a trailer gallery of Lamond's other films, but for the life of me I couldn't find it on the actual DVD.
The print of the film is only adequate and appears to have been shot through some sort of glass filter that leaves some consistent blemishes throughout. Nevertheless, it's a very enjoyable guilty pleasure and one can't fault InterVision for the film quality. After all, would you have spent time tracking this down in the cellar of the Lower Wonga Drive-In?
Australia After Dark is tacky, sleazy, and politically incorrect. I loved every minute of it.
Daniel Craig said he considered quitting the role of James Bond if MGM's complicated financial problems continued to impede getting the next 007 film off the ground. Fortunately, the matters were resolved and he is happily filming Skyfall right now. Craig had previously said that shooting Quantum Of Solace was not the most pleasant of experiences. A writer's strike caused disruption to the filming and resulted in the script being altered by non-writers including himself. For more click here
Robert Vaughn at the Players Club for a Cinema Retro tribute in 2009. The former Man From U.N.C.L.E's career has been red hot in the UK, where he just wrapped the 9th season of Hustle. He's also shooting a new feature film and will join the cast of Coronation Street. (Photo: Tom Stroud.)
In a fun and revealing Q&A with The Independent, Robert Vaughn opens up about his childhood, his personal likes and dislikes and his regrets in life. Click here to read
Producer David L. Wolper's acclaimed three-part documentary The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich has come to DVD through the Warner Archive. Originally telecast in 1968, the film is based on author William L. Shirer's best-selling 1960 book, which caused a sensation and debate among historians. Shirer had personally witnessed key events leading up to the war. Like his contemporary, Edward R. Murrow, Shirer was a European correspondent for CBS radio during the late 1930s. He was adept at circumventing even the press restrictions dictated by Hitler himself. Thus, Shirer managed to be the only non-German reporter to witness the French surrender in 1940. Shirer had also accompanied German troops during their Blitzkrieg attacks on other European countries. Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich was acclaimed by academics for the personal aspects he brought to the narrative, but he was assailed for his theory, postured in the book, that Germanic peoples were naturally predisposed to follow tyrants. German literary critics and historians fiercely contested that theory, saying that the period of Hitler was simply a terrible anomalie in the nation's legacy. The TV adaptation of Shirer's book is itself a cause of some controversy. There are those who claim there is a six hour version of the documentary that has never been widely seen. The DVD released by Warner Archive is a three hour version and it appears as though this is the entire ABC broadcast from 1968. There are, however, some curious chunks of history absent from the program. This might be due to the problems of condensing a twelve year period into a three hour program or it could indicate that the broadcast had been culled from a longer version that was never released. (For example, the Battle of the Bulge, Hitler's mad but initially successful attempt to save the Reich, is not even mentioned.)
Despite these reservations, it's easy to see why the show caused a sensation upon its initial broadcast. Keep in mind that it was shown during an era when the major networks prided themselves on educating the public and financing intellectual programing, a notion that seems sadly quaint nowadays. This was also decades before the emergence of the cable TV networks that now routinely broadcast WWII documentaries. Thus, it was powerful stuff to see the shocking footage of war, carnage and genocide in one's own living room. The program is solemnly narrated by Richard Basehart and follows Adolf Hitler from his humble beginnings in Austria through his disgust at the German surrender in WWI. Hitler had certainly distinguished himself in battle, serving as a runner between trenches- a job where one's life expectancy was measured in days. He also received the Iron Cross for bravery. However, his intemperate nature and volatile personality precluded him from what would have seemed a natural career in the military. Indeed, he never rose above the rank of corporal.
The program traces how Hitler became a political activist with the National Socialist party in the post WWI era, when Germany was in dire straits. Not only had the nation suffered terribly during the conflict but had also been cynically used by the British and French as a cash cow for war reparations. Hitler perceived that Germany would never be able to rise from the status of a serf nation and used public anger to empower him. His initial attempts to seize the government by force failed, but he became a martyr to the cause by going to jail, where he authored his manifesto Mein Kampf. Because the documentary was shot during a period when most people from the WWII era were still alive, there are fascinating interviews with those who knew Hitler well and they give interesting insights into the man's psyche. It becomes clear why Hitler was destined to become a national leader: he was unapologetic, cocksure and driven by a singular obsession to restore Germany as a leading world power. The film deftly covers the integral aspects of Hitler's rise to power, his stunning takeover of virtually all of Europe and his ultimate fatal mistakes: declaring war on America in solidarity with the Japanese and launching his misguided invasion of the Soviet Union. The movie also spends a good deal of time examining the human toll of the war on civilians and the graphic footage of concentration camps is as chilling today as it was decades ago. William Shirer appears periodically throughout to add his own historical perspectives. If the occasionally bombastic musical score sounds a bit like music from Mission: Impossible, it's because both programs were scored by Lalo Schifrin- and some of the background themes in Reich seem to be actually lifted from the classic spy series.
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is by no means a Ken Burns-type comprehensive look at a momentous historical era. However, it achieves its goals of condensing these events into a powerful, informative and timeless look at a time when the world truly seemed to have gone mad. It also serves as a cautionary tale in terms of allowing economic despair to lead to the election of false gods who wreak havoc on the societies they had vowed to save.
Actress Suzanna Leigh, who was Elvis Presley's leading lady in Paradise Hawaiian Style, is embroiled in a distasteful legal battle with the son of a deceased model who claims Leigh stole a ring from his mother. The heirloom was given to his mom by the late actress Sharon Tate, who died at the hands of Charles Manson's gang in 1969. The son, an acclaimed documentary filmmaker, claims Leigh had stolen the ring on the pretense of having it appraised. She allegedly never returned it. When his mother passed away recently, Leigh sold the ring at auction. The son is now taking legal steps to have that sale nullified. Leigh denies any wrongdoing. For more click here
Good news for fans of the literary Matt Helm: author Donald Hamilton's long out-of-print novels will be reprinted by Titan Books. The novels bear virtually no resemblance to the fun but campy Dean Martin films made in the 1960s, as Hamilton wrote straight forward, hard-hitting stories. For more click here
For Matthew Bradley's analysis of the literary and cinematic Matt Helm click here
Here's a 1972 marketing ploy that you have to say is unique: pairing the exploitation horror film Blacula with the appropriately-named Jim Brown action pic Slaughter - and promoting the pair as perfect for the Christmas/New Year's season. After all, what says "Peace on Earth" more than a blood-sucking fiend who rises from the dead and a gut-busting, sex-obsessed private dick who takes no prisoners?
Joe Dante has unearthed a rare find for his Trailers From Hell site: a 1949 half-hour adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol hosted by Vincent Price. The show's threadbare budget is all too apparent, but, hey- any project that combined the great talents of Charles Dickens and Vincent Price is worth a look. Click here to watch the entire broadcast.
Here's a rarity from a Western Auto stores catalog for the 1966 Christmas holiday season: an abundance of those great toys tied in with the spy movie rage of the era. In addition to the generic non-licensed stuff, check out the ad for the Man From U.N.C.L.E. rifle and the James Bond shooting camera. If you had these in mint, boxed condition today, you could buy your own hollowed-out volcano from which you could plot to rule the world!
Like most children of the 1970s,
television viewing was a big part of my week.Beginning at 7:30 PM and ending two and-a-half hours later, my family’s Thursday
nights consisted of That’s Hollywood,
Mork and Mindy, Angie, Barney Miller, and
Carter Country.Not having seen Barney Miller until well into its sixth season, I just assumed that
the entire show took place in the police station.Now that the show’s entire series is available
in a DVD box set, courtesy of the fine folks at Shout! Factory, my initial
impressions of the show were proven wrong.The pilot episode features Barney Miller’s family, specifically his
wife, played with charm by Barbara Barrie. Abe Vigoda, Maxwell Gail, and Ron Glass appear
from the get-go, and guest star Chu Chu Malave, who played Maria’s boyfriend
who tackles Al Pacino in Dog Day
Afternoon (1975), and (of all things) the delivery boy who seduces Bobbie
Bresee in Mausoleum (1983), plays an
out-of-control prisoner who commandeers Fish’s gun and holds the precinct
During the initial episodes, Barney Miller feels like it is trying to
find its way, and it gets much funnier as it progresses into later seasons.If it were made today it more than likely
would have been axed after a few lackluster-performing episodes.To think that it lasted eight seasons
illustrates just how different the television landscape was back in the 1970s.What is most surprising is the level of
diversity among the ethnic groups that were represented early on in the
show.Although this is so commonplace
now, it was sort of a watershed back then: Gregory Sierra as the Puerto Rican
detective Chano; Max Gail as Polish Detective Stan "Wojo"
Wojciehowicz; African-American Ron Glass as Harris (my personal favorite); Jack
Soo as the deadpan Japanese-American Yemana; and Abe Vigoda as Fish - I cannot
think of him in anything except The
Where the show always shined for me even
at a young age was in the characterizations of both the detectives and the
silly perps who made their way through the 12th Precinct in Greenwich Village.Ron Carey as Levitt and James Gregory as
Inspector Luger always made me laugh when they showed up.This was not a show of one-liners, but rather
one that dealt with a multitude of topics and situations and made them truly
laugh-out-loud funny.The term “sitcom”
really fits this show as the humanity and hilarity that ensues comes from the
characters, not punch lines.
The first three seasons of Barney Miller had been released on DVD by
Sony, but due to lackluster sales the remaining five seasons were
neglected.Shout! Factory, on the other hand,
has put together a beautiful DVD box set which belongs in the collection of all
fans of the show.The entire series of
168 episodes is provided on 25 DVD’s and comes with a beautiful booklet that
details the names of each and every episode and the original airdate.There is a half-hour
look back at the show with Hal Linden, Max Gail, and Abe Vigoda; a half-hour description
about the character’s creations; a featurette about the show’s writing; the
show’s original, unaired pilot with Charles Haid(!); and all 13 episodes of Abe
Vigoda’s short-lived spin-off series Fish
Shout! Factory has done an
extraordinary job of putting together this collection which was obviously done
with a great deal of care and foresight.Highly recommended.
I would love to see the same treatment bestowed
upon on T.J. Hooker, a favorite of
mine from my teen-age years.This was another
show that Sony released and abandoned after only the first two seasons made
their way to DVD.Fingers crossed!
Robert Easton's name may not be familiar to the public but for decades he has been the "go-to" guy for prominent actors who needed to master the art of speaking in different dialects. Easton started out as a character actor but feared that his southern accent would keep him typecast as hillbillies. He began to study regional accents and foreign languages and discovered he had an uncanny knack for not only mastering them, but for teaching them as well. In short order, he became a real life Henry Higgins, teaching such diverse talents as Charlton Heston, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert Duvall, Robert Vaughn, Anne Hathaway and Forest Whitaker. As recently as a couple of weeks ago, he completed working with John Travolta on a project. Easton died this week of undisclosed causes at age 81. All the while, Easton worked as a supporting player and appeared in dozens of prominent films and TV series beginning in the early 1950s. Ironically, while Easton had initially wanted to avoid being typecast as eccentric country characters, he adopted just such a look in real life, sporting a long mane of white hair and a Moses-type beard. Click here to read about his remarkable career.
We're pretty late in posting this, but the sheer number of press releases and event announcements submitted to Cinema Retro has ye olde editor-in-chief occasionally finding himself guilty of letting some stories slip through the cracks. This is a press release relating to the new Star Babe Invasion retro comics that we're admittedly hooked on. You gotta love any magazine that has Raquel Welch, Barbara Eden and Bette Page on the cover!
STAR BABES RETURN!
Goofa Man Productions is all tingly to announce the
release of the second issue of 3-D Pete’s Star Babe Invasion Comics!
The book takes an admiring look at those
charismatic, curvaceous creatures from the cosmos... STAR BABES!
“I don’t know why I tend to focus on Star Babes,”
admits the head honcho of Goofa Man Productions, Mike Fisher. “I mean,
they’re voluptuous women in skimpy costumes flying
around in retro spaceships, blowing things to bits with cool-ass ray
guns. Why would ANY guy be drawn to that? I just
can’t figure it out,” he wonders.
This cosmic issue features a fun commentary on Jane
Fonda’s classic Star Babe flick, Barbarella. Plus, read a 3-D Pete
tale of UFO abduction as well as an analysis of the
Star Babes in the original Star Trek television series. This issue has
illustrations of sexy Julie Newmar, Raquel Welch,
Marta Kristen, Nancy Kovack and more! Don’t forget the full-color center
spread of a gorgeous galactic girl! SKWONK-A-DONK!
The biggest scoop in this issue is an interview
with fabulous Rachelle Wood — the most famous Star Babe you’ve never
heard of! Rachelle plays one of the hottie Star
Babes in the Bud Light Close Encounters commercial which has enjoyed
a tremendous amount of airtime. Rachelle reveals all
her Star Babe secrets when she confesses, “I was a Bud Light Star
ABOUT THE CREATOR
Fisher produces cartoons for Animation Magazine and
other publications as well as online sites.
He contributed cartoons to Starlog magazine for
over 20 years.
In addition, Fisher produces award-winning
independent short animations, which have shown at film festivals across the
country. His latest short video is a 30-minute
documentary about UFOs, titled Craft of Unknown Origin. In this video, Fisher
uses his animation skills to visualize what UFO
witnesses have seen.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from the BBC:
Eve; 10:40pm; BBC FOUR)
Bristol’s Timeshift reveals the Ten Commandments of Big Cinema as it goes
behind the scenes of the biggest film genre of them all - the Hollywood Epic. See
the biggest sets ever known! Hear the sound of Ancient Rome! Count the
spiralling costs as budgets soared!
Ben-Hur to The Ten Commandments, from El Cid to Cleopatra, these were films
that set a new standard in BIG. In the days before computers they recreated
ancient worlds on a vast scale, and they did it for real. Epic cinema hired
armies, defied the seasons and changed cinema. Even the screen wasn't big
enough for the epic, so Hollywood made it bigger - and some cinemagoers
experienced vertigo watching these vast productions.
the Epic lives on in the Oscar-laden Gladiator and the spectacular sweep of
Avatar. As this documentary reveals, the stories behind the films are as
spectacular as the films themselves.
programme will include a number of classic Hollywood Epics from the 1950s and
1960s, and will include rare behind the scenes footage of Charlton Heston being
interviewed on the set of El Cid.
Four will also see a Season of Classic Epics, including The Fall of the Roman
Empire, El Cid, Land of the Pharaohs and many more.
info can be found on the BBC Four Timeshift Programme Page:
It's hard to believe but Diamonds Are Forever is 40 years old this month- the film, that is. The 1971 movie marked Sean Connery's return to the role of James Bond after a one film absence. (George Lazenby played the role in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.) The film is still considered a lukewarm entry in the series by die-hard fans, as it introduced the "over-the-top" humor that would define the series for many years to come. Still, it was a boxoffice blockbuster and did boast a great John Barry score and the trademark Ken Adam sets. The web site MI6 HQ has uncovered an interview with Connery conducted during the filming of Diamonds. Click here to read.
Here is the ultra rare Christmas teaser trailer for the film.
Steve McQueen: The Actor and His
Films by Andrew
Antonaides and Mike Siegel from Dalton Watson Fine Books is one of the finest,
most lavish movie books about a single actor that I have ever read. All of
iconic superstar Steve McQueen’s films are equally discussed from his classics
(The Blob, The Magnificent Seven, The
Great Escape, The Cincinnati Kid, The Sand Pebbles, Bullitt, The Thomas Crown
Affair, Papillon), to his lesser known earlier movies (Never Love a Stranger, The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery)An Enemy of the People, The Hunter),
to his misfires (The Honeymoon Machine,
Soldier in the Rain, Baby the Rain Must Fall), to his TV series (Wanted: Dead or Alive). Most coffee table-type movie books
that I have encountered are extravagantly- made, featuring glorious photographs,
but containing very little substance. However, Steve McQueen: The Actor and His Films
is not only handsomely produced, featuring over 1,000 rare B&W and color
photographs, but also contains an in-depth analysis of all of McQueen’s movies
listed chronologically. This does not mean McQueen’s life story is ignored. The
writers expertly weave in the actor’s journey into each chapter. Reading
about his childhood clarifies his actions and behavior as an adult, such
as his legendary insecurities and his determination not to bested by anyone
particularly a co-star. Each film is allocated one chapter
featuring a plot summary; a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie
(often with comments from cast or crew); the reaction of
critics and the audience to the final product; and an analysis of the movie
itself and McQueen’s performance. All of this is accompanied by rare photos and a plethora
of international color posters/lobby cards. Considering how much effort and
expense went into the making of this book, you might expect it to be nothing but a paean
to the actor no matter what the merits of a specific movie. Not here. I commend
the writers for taking an honest and balanced approach in commenting on
McQueen’s choices and his performances.
As a film historian myself, my
favorite part of the book is the backstory for each of the movies. The King of
Cool on screen was not so beloved by many of his co-stars or directors off-screen.
It is interesting to read about the tricks McQueen employed to upstage agitated
movie star Yul Brynner on the set of The Magnificent
Seven. Similarly, on Soldier in the Rain McQueen, somewhat immaturely, took out his frustrations on Jackie Gleason
and director Ralph Nelson when his choice to direct the movie, Blake Edwards, walked
just before filming began. The authors are correct to take him to task for his
behavior here and on other movie sets. They rightly point out he was miscast as
Soldier in the Rain’s loser G.I.,
delivering a performance that was “another oddity and one of the worst misfires
of his career.” Indeed, it's McQueen’s awkward
performance that drags co-star Jackie Gleason down. Sans McQueen on screen, Gleason is
wonderful as evidenced in his scenes with the sparkling Tuesday Weld as his
dumb blond blind date, who has some surprising insights to the world.
Each chapter of this book is
wonderful in its own way. The standout chapters for me are those pertaining to The Sand Pebbles and Papillon, one of my favorite movies of
all-time. The authors fairly give equal credit to the success of these films
both to McQueen and their directors/writers.
Thus, I was surprised that in their
analysis of The Cincinnati Kid, the authors give director Norman Jewison most
of the credit for its success and didn’t even mention screenwriter Terry
Southern who took Ring Lardner, Jr.’s original script and rewrote it even as
the movie was being shot. Some of the most iconic images from the film come
from the mind of that genius satirist.
The authors offer such knowledgeable
insight into McQueen’s less-successful films that I now have an urge to view. For instance, Nevada Smith,
the prequel to 1964’s hit The
Carpetbaggers. Critics dismissed this Henry Hathaway-directed western in
1966 and I believed the criticism of it being below-par. And since leading lady
Suzanne Pleshette is one of my least favorites from the Sixties, I really had
no desire to sit through it despite my admiration for McQueen. However, the
authors create a convincing case for giving it a try, from the beautiful vistas
that fill the wide-screen, to the expert way Hathaway juggles character
development and action, to Pleshette’s character being not the typical love
interest. Not to mention the fact that McQueen is shirtless throughout a lot of
the movie, though they concede that it is a stretch to believe the actor, who
was in his mid-thirties at the time, as a teenage half-Indian vowing
revenge on the varmints that tortured and killed his parents. However, they
conclude that McQueen triumphs over this and his performance “engages the
I highly recommend Steve
McQueen: The Actor and His Films by Andrew Antonaides and Mike Siegel
to fans of the superstar and to Sixties/Seventies film enthusiasts. The authors
do a superlative job from their perceptive prose to the magnificent visuals
selected to accompany each chapter. A bit pricey you may say at $69 (cheaper on
Amazon.com), but this spectacularly produced book is more than worth it.
Everything old becomes new again. At at a time when movie fans are dumping VHS tapes and players into dust bins and thrift stores, the New York Times reports there is a sub-culture of horror fans who are keeping the format alive. Mind you, these aren't folks who sit around watching old Universal and Hammer horror films. Rather, they favor home grown, ultra crude productions that literally star the girl next door (who generally comes to a horrific end). There are enough of these VHS fans to merit some titles being newly released in the format. Click here to read
One of our favorite retro movie web sites, Cinebeats, pays tribute to Jack Cardiff's offbeat and sexually steamy Girl on a Motorcycle (aka Naked Under Leather) starring Marianne Faithfull and Alain Delon. Click here to read
(See Cinema Retro issue #14 for cover story and in-depth coverage of the film)
The boutique DVD label Twilight Time has released a limited edition (3,000 units) of the 1955 film The Left Hand of God starring Humphrey Bogart. The 1955 Fox drama is set in China in 1947, though it curiously avoids the topic of the battle between the forces of democracy and communism that raged throughout the country in the post-WII period. Bogart plays Jim Carmody, a soldier of fortune who finds himself stranded in China and serving as a military adviser for a local ruthless warlord. Although he's bribed with plunder and women, Carmody realizes he's still a virtual prisoner and plots his escape. This he accomplishes by adopting the identity of a recently murdered Catholic priest. He makes his way to a rural Christian mission where he continues his ruse. Caromdy knows just enough about Catholicism to fool the Christian converts at the mission, which is run by Dr. Sigman and his wife Beryl (E.G. Marshall and Agnes Moorehead, both in fine form) along with a beautiful young nurse, Anne (Gene Tierney). Although much of the plot devices outlined here are not revealed until well into the film, I assure you that this is no way diminishes the suspense quite simply because there isn't any. We know from the first few minutes that Bogart isn't really a priest, especially when he secretes a loaded pistol under his pillow.
The film, directed by the usually able Edward Dmytryk, is based on a novel that had been kicked around Hollywood for years before Fox took the plunge. It's a glum, humorless affair and the informative liner notes by Julie Kirgo tell us that Bogart was already in the early stages of ill health that would soon prove to be fatal. (He would only make two more films in rapid succession before passing away from cancer in 1957.) Similarly, Tierney's career was sidetracked as she battled mental illness. This was to be her big comeback movie but she would henceforth be relegated to supporting roles before retiring from acting in 1964. The film is filled with absurdities. Tierney struts around the isolated mountain mission in a wardrobe that makes it look like she just returned from the showroom at Saks 5th Avenue. As we've written about extensively in Cinema Retro, the practice of casting Caucasian stars in parts meant for Asian actors was firmly in place during this period. Thus, we have Lee J. Cobb as the charismatic Chinese warlord! That's right- Willy Lohman himself trading barbs with Bogart and using the same voice and mannerisms as his immortal villain Johnny Friendly from On the Waterfront. This is awkwardly explained by having him remind Bogart that he is a graduate of an American university! This can actually be the solution for all of our disaffected college grads who are frustrated with the lack of jobs. Instead of joining the Occupy Wall Street movement, they can simply move to Asia and become warlords. The profession may be dead in China, but it's booming in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Although the film was shot entirely on the Fox Ranch in California, it must be said that the excellent production design and creative use of matte paintings does make for a convincing "on location" feel. The film's other strength is a fine score by the great Victor Young. However, the plot meanders and ends up going nowhere. Even the potentially suspenseful threat of a vengeful warlord is derailed over a friendly game of dice.There is virtually no chemistry between Bogart and Tierney, despite some longing gazes. This is because Fox was concerned about offending the Catholic church so the film was scrubbed of all but the most innocent references to sex.
Twilight Time's transfer is up to their usual excellent standards and features Young's score on an isolated track. As mentioned previously, the company's inclusion of liner notes booklets in every release is a welcome touch, especially when they don't sugarcoat flawed films such as this.
The Left Hand of God is not Bogart at his best, but even second rate Bogie is still worth a look.
One thing you have to say about Daniel Craig: he's bluntly honest. In an interview with Empire magazine, the screen's latest 007 promises that Skyfall will rival or surpass the quality of the acclaimed Casino Royale. Craig says he and director Sam Mendes are working hard to incorporate the aspects of the Bond films they grew up with into the new film. He also candidly discusses why many fans and critics were left cold by Quantum Of Solace, attributing the film's faults to fallout from a writer's script that found him having to help write certain sequences - "And a writer, I am not", says Craig. For more click here
and the Beast was
a very successful film for Walt Disney upon its was released on Wednesday,
November 13, 1991.The follow-up to the
studio’s highly praised The Little
Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast
proved that a new generation of audiences had a desire for animated film
fare.As a result of this success,
Disney decided to create another adventure with Belle and the Beast.The result was Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, which originally was
intended as a theatrical continuation of the story, but ended up being produced
for home video in 1997.The film may
appear to be a sequel, but it is not.The action actually takes place within the timeline that occurs in the
original film: after the fight with the wolves, but before the fight with
Since the Beast was transformed from a
Prince on Christmas, he is understandably Ebenezer Scrooge-ish when it comes to
the yearly holiday, and forbids the mere utterance in his presence of any
mention of the word.Belle must adhere
to his wishes or face violent outburst, which are frequent, from the
Beast.With the help of the castle’s anthropomorphized
clock (Cogsworth), candle (Lumiere), tea pot (Mrs. Potts) and tea cup (Chip), Belle
has to prove to the Beast that Christmas is a wonderful holiday.
The film was released on VHS cassette in
1997 and is now available on a double-disc set of a standard DVD and the high
definition Blu-ray.As you can well
imagine, the difference in picture quality between VHS and DVD is dramatic, and
comparing the VHS to Blu-ray is even more startling.If you are a fan of this film, the upgrade is
most definitely worth it.
addition to the Enchanted Christmas, Disney
is re-issuing their made-for-home video film Beauty and the Beast: Belle’s Magical World on standard definition
DVD.This film was released on VHS in
1998 and was comprised of three separate segments:The
Perfect Word, Fifi's Folly, and The Broken Wing.In 2003, the film was released on DVD and an
additional segment, Mrs. Potts's Party,
was added.It is this same DVD version that is being
made available once again, this time with different cover art.If you have the VHS and are on the fence
about upgrading, this new DVD is the way to go.If you already have the 2003 DVD version, there is no reason to
The musical numbers in both films are
quite nice, although the animation isn’t quite up to the high level of
excellence of the original theatrical film.Paige O’Hara and Robbie Benson reprise their roles as Belle and the
Beast, respectively, in both films.
The obvious audience for the films is
children, girls in particular. The filmmakers reiterate the message that love
can overcome differences between people in an entertaining way that never
threatens to become overly-preachy.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER "BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: THE ENCHANTED CHRISTMAS" BLU-RAY FROM AMAZON
CLICK HERE TO ORDER "BELLE'S MAGICAL WORLD" DVD FROM AMAZON
wait is over. The cult series It Takes a Thief (1968-1970), which
starred Robert Wagner as Alexander Mundy, a world-class thief given a pardon by
SIA director Noah Bain in return for plying his felonious trade on behalf of
Uncle Sam, has finally arrived in a Region 1 DVD package. After years of DVD
limbo marked by gray market bootlegs and an incomplete Region 2 release,
multimedia company Entertainment One recently put out a deluxe, 18-disc box set
featuring all 66 episodes from the entire three seasons.
episodes have been digitally re-mastered, and while I haven’t looked at them
all yet, the dozen or so I’ve watched are clear and sharp, with vibrant color
and little video noise. Certain shots show their age more than others (these
are typically stock shots), some nighttime scenes are a bit murky, and the
amount of film grain is variable, especially in the season 3 episodes (which
also exhibit some minor ghosting), but that’s understandable given the show’s
age and the condition of the source material. I watched episodes from all three
seasons on my 55-inch flat screen, albeit in the 4:3 ratio (which is how
television series from the 1960s and ’70s should be watched), and was
generally quite impressed with the picture quality. The audio is fine too,
especially when I crank up the volume during the glorious title sequence.
the sound and video quality is a big upgrade from the 2010 Region 2 release
from German company Polyband. (And Polyband only put out season 1 and half of
season 2.) Even if Entertainment One had limited this to a bare-bones set, it
would still be manna from TV heaven, but they’ve also stocked it with some
terrific extras. Fans will be thrilled to learn that the set includes both the
pilot episode, “A Thief is a Thief,” plus the long-unavailable, extended-length
version of the pilot, which was released theatrically under the title
addition to that magnificent bonus, there is a 30-minute video interview with
Wagner that touches on various aspects of the show’s production history, the
creative team, the brilliant roster of guest stars, and his feelings about the
character of Alexander Mundy. Wagner’s charisma remains as potent today as when
he made the series, and he obviously retains a strong emotional connection to
what was arguably his most famous role. The show’s abrupt and mystifying
cancellation after season 3, despite solid ratings, took Wagner completely by
surprise, and though he’s gracious about it, it’s clear he regrets the
network’s decision. Listening to him wax reminiscent is pure gold.
if that weren’t enough, there’s also a video interview with series writer and
producer Glen A. Larson, who shares fascinating behind-the-scenes insights on
the show’s inception, the differing styles of its producers, and the commitment
to maintaining the scripts’ unique blend of narrative invention, suspense and
sophisticated humor. Rounding out the extras are a collectible booklet with
retrospective essay (full disclosure: penned by this Cinema Retro contributor),
a limited-edition senitype (reproduced 35mm film frame) and 4-piece coaster set
(for imbibing sophisticated cocktails while watching Mundy purloin secret documents
and seduce beautiful girls).
packaging is simple, functional and striking. The discs come packed in three
sturdy foldout booklets (one for each season) that are liberally illustrated
with rare publicity stills and cool screen grabs. The booklets themselves, plus
the essay booklet, the senitype (which is set into a protective cardboard
square) and the coasters, are kept in place in a cube-like box with an interior
placeholder. It’s a bit unconventional, but works well enough.
already written extensively about the show on this site, I won’t dwell here on
its creative DNA of action, espionage, humor and hedonism. Fans of It Takes
of Thief are well aware of its ingenious premise, its jet set ambience, its
swinging music, its urbane villains, and its smart and sexy women. They don’t
need to be sold on its merits; they just want the opportunity to add it to
their DVD collections. Suffice it to say that Entertainment One’s class
treatment does justice to the legacy of this one-of-a-kind series and iconic
Looks like those folks at The Guardian in London have good taste when it comes to appreciating sexy film posters. The newspaper's web site has a photo tour of classic movie posters from Cinema Sex Sirens, the new book by Cinema Retro publishers Dave Worrall and Lee Pfeiffer. Click here to view To order the book, click on banner at top of page.
Having grown up on the Rankin Bass Christmas
specials since I was a child, the Yuletide season just isn't the same without a
yearly viewing of some of their most enchanting shows.Since the 1960s and 1970s, specials such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus
is Comin’ to Town, The Little Drummer Boy and The Year Without a Santa Claus were shown on the major television
networks.In the late 1980s it became increasingly
difficult to see most of these specials unless you had cable television or
video cassette recorders as the major networks stopped airing them.With the availability of home video, the shows were inevitably made available to the masses and made great Christmas
The fine folks at Classic Media have
released some of these beloved Christmas classics on Blu-ray.In a two-disc set entitled The Original Christmas Classics, disc
one contains Santa Claus is Comin’ to
Town. Premiering on Sunday, December 14, 1970, Santa Claus is a stop-motion animated special that stars Fred
Astaire as a postal worker who uses the device of children’s letters and
inquiries about Santa as the basis for telling the story of how Santa came to
Claus is voiced by Mickey Rooney. The story is based upon the Christmas
song of the same name and features a wide variety of musical numbers.There is the mean-spirited character Mayor
Burgermeister Meisterburger who despises toys and arrests anyone in possession
of one. There is a scene where his
soldiers burn a group of toys in front of horrified young children. The
sequence was often cut from some broadcasts because it was deemed too upsetting
to kids. Fortunately, it has been restored for the Blu-ray, along with other
scenes that were occasionally cut to accommodate more commercials
Disc two features three specials, the
first of which is the most well-known of all, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which premiered on Sunday, December
6, 1964.Also running 51 minutes, the
copyright year is erroneously listed as MCLXIV (1164), not MCMLXIV (1964).A stop-motion animated special that premiered
on the NBC network and was sponsored by GE, Rudolph
made its way to CBS for many years and is based on the Johnny Marks song of the
same name.It features a lot of themes
that are still prevalent today, including the consequences of bullying and name-calling. However, despite
all of this, Rudolph triumphs in the face of adversity with his equally-spurned
friend Hermie who wants to be a dentist!
Next up is Frosty the Snowman, a hand-drawn animated special from Sunday,
December 7, 1969 that features Jimmy Durante and a host of enjoyable songs. The idea was to create a show that resembled a
Christmas card and for the most part the concept is successful.A young girl, Karen, makes a snowman she
christens “Frosty” and tops him off with a top hat she obtains from a
magician.Karen is voiced by June Foray,
best known for Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Cindy Lou Who, Witch Hazel, and
The final show is Frosty Returns from Tuesday, December 1, 1992 and it cannot hold a
candle to its predecessors.It is a
curiosity to behold as the dominant theme mirrors that of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, (i.e. corporate enterprise schemes
to profit at the expense of the environment.) The show is also an exercise in
political correctness as the there are no overt references to “Christmas.”
It is wonderful to see these specials
in high definition, although Frosty
Returns looks like it was mastered from a lower-quality video release and
there is a fair amount of dot crawl prevalent.If you look closely at Santa Claus
and Rudolph, you can see the wires
that were used to move the characters around, something that was difficult to
see on standard television viewings.The
colors are strong and vibrant, especially in the sequence about the Island of
Misfit Toys.Despite the aforementioned
quality issues on Frosty Returns, it’s
safe to say that, by and large, these gems have never looked better and make for
a perfect holiday treat.
The programs are provided with the
requisite chapter stops and have no extras.
Cinema Retro issue #22, the first issue of Season 8, is now shipping to all subscribers in the UK and Europe. We expect the issue to arrive in the USA in early January and it will be sent out to American and Canadian subscribers, as well as those in other parts of the world as soon as it lands on our doorstep.
It's a pretty joyous way for us to welcome the holidays- that is, celebrating the eighth year of Cinema Retro. It's been quite a ride. Thanks to all who have purchased issues and especially those loyal readers who support us by subscribing. Many of you have heeded our annual plea to renew your subscriptions ASAP. This helps insure there is adequate cash flow to help us continue to limit the amount of advertisements in every issue, thereby giving you 64 pages of great content.
If you have not renewed your subscription for season 8, please do so today. Remember, every issue is a limited edition collector's item and the longer you wait, the greater the chance that you might find yourself paying sky high prices on the collector's circuit to get the ones you are missing.The closing of Borders stores also means there are less copies available for the American market, so subscribing ensures you'll never miss an issue.
As we celebrate another successful year, we also have to thank all of the enormously talented writers who contribute to every issue. Without their willingness to share their insights with our readers, Cinema Retro would be a pale shadow of what it is today. We also want to thank all of the noted professionals from the film industry who are so supportive of our efforts to pay tribute to the great films of the 60s and 70s. There are also world class authors and film scholars who enrich our every issue with their talents. (It's a bit humbling to have the likes of Sir Christopher Frayling volunteering to write an in-depth article about the making of How the West Was Won.)
We have another great season lined up for you this year, so get on the Cinema Retro bandwagon by subscribing or renewing today.
We wish you all the best for the holiday season.
Closing Channel D
Dave Worrall and Lee Pfeiffer
Click here for subscription information for season 8 (issues 22, 23 and 24)
Click here to visit our Ebay affiliate store to subscribe to Season 7 (issues #19, 20 and 21) and to get all available back issues.
We all know that every blockbuster movie inspires a tidal wave of low rent imitators, but this ad from the Cinema Retro vault illustrates one of the more laughable rip-offs. Released in 1973, The Godchildren attempted to imitate the sheer power of The Godfather - but somehow putting a contract out on a guy who wears flower-decorated muumuu shirts seems more like a public service.
This 1980 trade magazine ad extolled the new technology of Dolby technology which would go on to revolutionize the experience of watching movies. Given George Lucas' creative input into the Dolby sound systems, it shouldn't be surprising that the advertisement features a theater marquee showing the recently-released The Empire Strikes Back, shown here in Dolby sound and in 70mm. Ah, 70mm- those were the days...
(Photos copyright Jon Walmsley. All rights reserved.)
For many years I’ve been impressed by the enduring legacy of The Waltons, the hit CBS TV series from
the 1970s that lives on in reruns today. There have been reunion movies and a
remarkably enduring and enthusiastic fan base. Actress Michael Learned, the female lead of the series, was among other
cast members who recently reunited at a 40th anniversary celebration of the
show at the legendary Loew’s Theatre in Jersey City, New Jersey. Learned
describe the key to the show’s success as “love of family’.The surviving principal cast members, as well
as supporting players, really do consider themselves an actual family and keep
in close contact, often participating in each other’s personal lives and
activities.The Loew’s event was not only
a very sentimental reunion of the cast members but it also touched all those
fans in attendance, as well.
Ray Castro, who has known many of the cast members for over decades,
organized the event. He realized that the year 2011 marked the 40th
anniversary of the telecast of The
Homecoming, the classic TV movie that inspired The Waltons. Castro was determined to celebrate the date with a
special event and was delighted that cast members were in agreement. The Loew’s
proved to be the perfect venue for the event. The wonderful old movie palace
had been saved from the wrecking ball years ago and is staffed by a remarkable
and enthusiastic group of volunteers.This ‘diamond in the rough’ frequently shows old movies in original 35mm
format via carbon arc projectors on a 35 foot screen.The Waltons
event included a screening of The
Homecoming and a tribute to its star, the late Patricia Neal, a panel discussion and even a few songs; a
holiday entertainment treat for a reasonable $20.
Retro's Dave Worrall with magazine contributor Madeline Smith, who starred with Ingrid Pitt in the Hammer horror hit The Vampire Lovers.
By Matthew Field
(Photos all copyright Mark Mawston)
On Wednesday 7th December Riverside Studios - a unique arts and media
centre on the banks of the Thames in Hammersmith, London played host to
special screening of the Hammer classic The Vampire Lovers.
to celebrate the launch of Dave Worrall and Lee Pfeiffer’s new coffee
table tome Cinema Sex Sirens – actress Madeline Smith was on hand to
introduce the screening. Based on La Fanu's short story Carmilla, The
Vampire Lovers was the first Hammer horror film of the 1970s and broke new
ground with its erotic lesbian themes. Addressing the audience Smith
amusingly recalled “I got a very worried phone call from the producer
who said he was concerned about my lack of bosom. He said 'We like you a
lot, but we don't think you are voluptuous enough'. I reassured him,
and then I scuttled off to Hornby and Clarke dairy round the corner and I
bought every yoghurt I could find and stuffed myself like you might
fatten cattle, and it worked!”
Following the screening
Dave Worrall was joined by Madeline to autograph copies of the book, which has been listed as one of the best film books of the year by the Evening Standard of London.
Lavishly illustrated throughout the book is dedicated to Vampire Lovers
star Ingrid Pitt. In attendance was Ingrid Pitt’s widower Tony Rudlin.
(Please note: Cinema Retro's limited, signed and numbered editions of Cinema Sex Sirens are now sold out in the UK. Click here to order from Amazon UK and get an extensive look at the inside of the book.) A small number of copies are still available through our U.S. office for shipment with America. Click banner ad at top of page for details)
(For Madeline Smith's memories of making The Vampire Lovers, see her article in Cinema Retro issue #3,available in our back issues section)
In 1966, with Batmania sweeping the world, everyone was trying to get a piece of the action. Columbia Pictures came up with a novel idea. The studio rereleased the 1943 Batman and Robin serials collectively under the title An Evening with Batman and Robin. Naturally, this was more than twenty years before Adam West and Burt Ward slid down the Batpole for the first time. The gimmick turned a tidy profit, though some of the more naive fans may have been stunned to see the Dynamic Duo in black and white and attired in costumes that looked like they came in last place in the local school Halloween contest. This rare trade ad extolls the regional grosses the film event was scoring across America. Did you know that Lewis Wilson, who played Batman in these serials, was the father of James Bond producer Michael G. Wilson?
“I was born a nervous wreck, and I think movies were one way of transferring my own private horrors to everyone else’s lives". So said Steven Spielberg in 2007. If anyone shouldn't be nervous, it's Spielberg, who had already become a legendary director before he reached the age of 30. While most people equate Spielberg with directing, he also oversees a vast number of projects that he produces. The NY Times analyzes why Spielberg's passion for specific projects results in a workaholic lifestyle that will see him release two major films this year and a slate of other ambitious projects in 2012. Click here to read.
An ultra rare pristine copy of Action Comics #1, the comic book that introduced Superman to the world in 1938, has blown away world records when sold recently by ComicConnect.com's auction service. The comic was given an Overstreet Guide estimated value of $1,050,000 but ended up selling for more than twice that amount: $2,161,000. While the value of many comics have flatlined over the years, the "Golden Age" issues that introduced such icons as Superman and Batman continue to escalate. Adding intrigue to this auction was the fact that this issue had been stolen and was presumed lost forever- until surfacing in a Los Angeles garage recently. For more click here
An ambitious, off-beat Western produced by and starring Rod Taylor, Chuka is ultimately undermined by a complete lack of humor and threadbare production values. It appears all the production money went into salaries for the talented and high profile cast that includes Luciana Paluzzi, Ernest Borgnine, John Mills, Louis Hayward, James Whitmore and Cinema Retro's own Joe Sirola. The plot finds Taylor as Chuka, a legendary gunslinger who ends up at a remote U.S. Army fort that is destined to be attacked by an overwhelming number of Indians, who are facing starvation and desperate to get the food stored in the outpost. Chuka tries to reason with the martinet commanding officer, Colonel Valois (John Mills), a transplanted ex-British army officer who is trying to overcome alcoholism and depression over the fact that he has been relegated to overseeing a company of misfit soldiers, each with a sordid past. Valois stubbornly refuses to listen to Chuka's admonition that the only way the inhabitants of the fort can survive is if they abandon the place and leave the food for the Indians. Determined to finally prove he can be a competent army officer, Valois wants to engage the tribe in battle- despite the fact that the odds are against him. Complicating the situation is the presence of two young women, Veronica (Luciana Paluzzi) and Helena (Angela Dorian), who are isolated at the fort due to the threat from the Indians. Chuka feels a sense of personal responsibility for Veronica, as they had almost engaged in a love affair some years earlier.
Most of the tension in Chuka derives from the conflicts between the inhabitants of the fort. It seems that every solider has a skeleton in his closet and resentments against the colonel and each other mount until a mutiny is attempted. The problem with the screenplay is that there is far too much baggage for each character to carry and the storyline begins to take on soap opera-like patterns. The sin of it all is that the movie dares to be ballsy enough to forgo a certain number of cliches and dare to present the protagonists in an unsympathetic light. Chuka may be the hero, but he's hardly a symbol of virtue. The colonel deals with accusations of cowardice while hiding a shocking secret that refutes that notion. Even his steadfast sergeant (Ernest Borgnine) has a secret reason for being slavishly devoted to the colonel.
The performances are fine throughout. The primary problem with the film is the shockingly skimpy production values. Sequences in the fort are confined to a tiny area that gives the sets less grandeur than Fort Courage in the average episode of F Troop. The poor lighting only highlights the obvious studio setting. The always capable director Gordon Douglas does manage to provide some genuine suspense including a dinner sequence in which the drunken colonel verbally eviscerates his officers for their lack of loyalty. There's also a well-staged drag-down fight between Taylor and Borgnine and a far too tame sex sequence between Taylor and Paluzzi. Old pros Whitmore, Hayward and Sirola add capable support but have little to do.
Chuka is a passable time-passer but never fulfills its ambitions of being a truly memorable Western, though the ending does have its share of surprises and shocking moments.
The film was released by Paramount on DVD in 2005 but has been out of print for several years. A new, sealed version sells for over $50 on Amazon. The movie has its flaws but deserves to be accessible to retro film lovers, so let's get it back on the market!
On the What Culture! web site, writer Jame Simpson has an extended and ambitious article comparing whether John Wayne or Clint Eastwood were effective in various film genres: Westerns, war movies and detective thrillers. Click here to read and see if you agree with his conclusions.
By the way some reviews describe this moody 1967 film, one might think they are dealing with a story about the supernatural. Dame Edith Evans, giving a bravura Oscar-nominated performance, plays an elderly woman who believes she can hear conspiratorial voices plotting against her. She reprimands them but they keep returning. They are the titular "Whisperers"- however, this plot angle is only fleetingly explored in Bryan Forbes downbeat but impressive film. In fact the movie is a character study that illustrated the plight of the elderly in Britain at that time. The Brits may have been on the winning side in WWII, but the social consequences of living in a nation that was financially crippled because of the consequences of that conflict were severe. The popular image of England in the mid to late 1960s was that of London being the epicenter of the pop culture revolution. British bands dominated international pop charts, British fashions were all the rage and The Beatles and James Bond appeared to be far more than the usual flash-in-the-pan rages (a theory that has been proven true over the ensuing decades). However, outside of London, the British working class were often relegated to spartan lifestyles with pensioners particularly vulnerable to various societal degradations.
The Whisperers personifies this dilemma through the character of Mrs. Ross (Evans), who eeks out a daily battle to survive while trying to retain some vestiges of her dignity. She lives in a dreary public housing flat in Manchester and the city is presented by Forbes as the armpit of England, with smokestacks belching polluted fumes into the skies while impoverished children play aimlessly in the streets amid vacant, partially collapsed buildings. Mrs. Ross can only exist because of social services but, as Roger Ebert pointed out in his review of the film, even the best-intentioned societies can humiliate those they seek to help. Thus, her request for a simple pair of shoes necessitates a personal visit from a well-meaning social worker (well played by Kenneth Griffiths) to examine her current pair to ensure they do indeed merit being replaced. Financially, the loss of a single pound can wreak havoc on her life and she can only get it replaced by the local government if she files a formal report with the police. A free cup of soup at a nearby church comes at a price: the reverend makes the recipients feign religious devotion and sing hymns before they can eat. This is a "kitchen sink" drama in which the kitchen sink literally plays a role, with the slow steady dripping of this standard household fixture taking on an ominous air.
Publicity photo for Brosnan's first Bond movie, GoldenEye (1995)
Maybe it's because he's had some substantial hits in movies like Mamma Mia! and The Ghost Writer since retiring from the role of 007, but Pierce Brosnan says "I never go near them" when referring to the four James Bond films he starred in. Brosnan says he's proud of his work in the series but is all too happy to pass it on to Daniel Craig and company, saying not even his sons can induce him to sit down and watch one of his Bond films with them. For more click here
MGM's burn-to-order division has released the 1955 film The Quatermass Xperiment on DVD. The film was essential in establishing the "Hammer Horror" brand that would serve the British studio well in the years to come. The movie was based on a BBC mini-series that had won acclaim for its intelligent treatment of a science fiction/horror story. By necessity, however, many of the nuances of the TV series were omitted when transferring the storyline to an 82 minute feature film.
The movie begins with a War of the Worlds-like scenario: a rocket ship crashes on a remote farm, thus causing a media frenzy. It turns out the ship is not from an alien world. Rather, it is the brainchild of a respected scientist, Prof. Quatermass (Brian Donlevy) who has secretly engaged three astronauts to make an unauthorized flight into space. The crash landing back on earth convinces Quatermass that bucking official authorities has paid off: this is the first manned rocket to enter space and return to earth. However, there are some unexpected complications: two of the three astronauts and inexplicably missing and the third, Carroon (Richard Wordsworth), is reduced to a trance-like state, staring catatonically into thin air and not speaking to even his wife and closest associates. As Quatermass and his colleagues attempt to solve the riddle of the missing astronauts, Carroon becomes a virtual killing machine. It turns out he has been infected by an alien presence that could wipe out humanity if a way isn't found to stop him.
The above photo of Steve McQueen in Bullitt presents the legendary actor after he was well-established as a screen superstar. However in 1963 he was yet to hit major stardom and was primarily known for his TV series Wanted: Dead or Alive. His success in the 1960 film The Magnificent Seven had yet to be fully capitalized on. That would change with the release of The Great Escape later in 1963. In the interim, Life magazine sent photographer John Dominis to spend some casual time with McQueen and his wife Neile at their home in California. The photos that Dominis captured offer some truly remarkable insights into the brash young actor, who would become increasingly private as his fame soared. There are photos of McQueen racing cars, working out, cuddling with his wife and hunting in the mountains. Click here to view
It's deja vu all over again when it comes to movie poster designs.
We often rail about the sad state of movie poster marketing campaigns today. In the past, cheapo movies had ad campaigns that made them look like epics. Today, we have genuine epics with posters so poor it makes them look like low-budget monstrosities. Plagiarism is rampant, also. Check out the following article from the Gizmodo site to see how one successful poster campaign inspires endless legions of imitators for decades to come. Click here to read
John Wayne's beloved yacht, The Wild Goose, has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Duke purchased the converted minesweeper in 1962 and loved relaxing with friends and family on board. Among the dignitaries he entertained on the vessel were future presidents Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Wayne also leased the boat out for TV and movie productions including the films Skidoo and The President's Analyst, as well as the classic television series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. For more click here
Vivid's X-rated spoof of Batman was the top-grossing porn film of 2010.
By Lee Pfeiffer
When you think of porn films, you probably envision the old days when guys wearing trenchcoats would slink into grungy theaters. Today it's as mainstream as you can get with couples all over the world indulging in naughty fare in the privacy of their own homes. However, the industry has been hit hard by the seemingly limitless number of web sites that provide X rated materials for free. Consequently, the glory days of making a fortune in porn video have come and gone. That is, with the exception of Vivid, the first porn production company to become a giant in its field. By industry standards, they are to the X-rated world what MGM once was to Hollywood: providing (relatively) gigantic budgets of hundreds of thousands of dollars to their films. They also put effort into actually getting witty scripts to accompany the huffing and puffing on-screen and devote up to six months to bringing a film to a, ...er, climax. They also have a "wanted list" of any celebrity sex tapes that make it to the open market. Many of these have supposedly been lost or stolen, but more cynical minds believe they are actually leaked to the industry by the participants themselves in order to ensure further publicity. For more click here
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Steven Spielberg defends (kinda defends, anyway) Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Although the film earned a fortune at the boxoffice, it's generally hated by fans who believe everyone involved just did the project to earn a sizable paycheck. In the candid interview, Spielberg acknowledges some of the story points went against his own instincts but he wanted to be loyal to George Lucas, who wrote the script. For more click here
With the new 007 flick in production, the MI6-HQ web site takes a look back at the opening of the second James Bond film From Russia With Love and how it fared with critics and the public. Click here to read
Alan Sues, a regular on the ground-breaking Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In series, has died at age 85. Although Sues never officially said he was gay at the time, he was one of the first mainstream performers to proudly portray effeminate characters on mainstream TV shows. By 1968, when Laugh-In premiered, societal values were radically changing, allowing Sues and other cast members to be themselves. Sues specialized in playing flamboyant characters including Uncle Al, the Kiddies' Pal, a drunken and rude host of a children's TV show. Sues' personality fit well into the "anything goes" mix of the Laugh-In jokes and crazy characters. He stayed with the show through 1972. He also appeared in classic TV series such as The Wild, Wild West and The Twilight Zone. He played Prof. Moriarty in the acclaimed 1975 Broadway production of Sherlock Holmes. Click here for more.
Writers Peter Enfantino and John Scoleri's addictive blog To the Batpoles offers in-depth insights into specific episodes of the Batman TV series- and provides some interesting clips. Click here to read