the dramatic, Ingmar Bergman-esque directorial turn he took with Interiors (1978), on the heels of his Oscar
winner Annie Hall (1977), Woody Allen
turned back to contemporary New York for a daring film that was shot in black-and-white and scored with the music of
(1979) was the result.Proclaimed as the
only truly great American film of the 1970s by film critic Andrew Sarris, Manhattan
is a joy to behold from start to finish and is quite simply one of the most romantic
films of all-time.Gordon Willis’
beautiful photography married with the sumptuous Gershwin music makes me wish
that filmmakers would make black and white films today.There are some who do, but they appear to
only do it within avant-garde and independent circles.
Manhattan, released on
Wednesday, April 25, 1979, stars Woody Allen as Isaac Davis, a twice-divorced
television writer who is unfulfilled with his life as a comedy writer.His second ex-wife Jill (Meryl Streep) has
left him for another woman and is writing a book about their marriage.Isaac is 42 and is dating Tracy (Mariel
Hemingway) who is 25 years younger than he is and is still in high school.He feels very guilty about this, but
genuinely cares for her (this plot point was reportedly inspired by Mr. Allen’s
affair with actress Stacy Nelkin on the set of Annie Hall in 1976, though her part was eventually cut from that
Yale (Michael Murphy) is writing a book about Eugene O’Neill and is married to
Emily (Anne Byrne) but has started an affair with Mary Wilkie (Diane Keaton)
whom Isaac initially can’t stand but increasingly grows fond of.Throughout the film we are confronted by
these characters that cannot seem to put their finger on what they want and
stick with it.They are not inherently
bad people: they just keep making questionable decisions.By the end of the film, the only person who
seems to have their head on straight is Tracy
and the film ends, like Mr. Allen’s Hannah
and Her Sisters (1986), on a very positive and upbeat note.
real star of the film is Manhattan
itself, with its pulsating and bustling people and automobiles.Rarely has the city looked so luminous and
beautiful onscreen.Gordon Willis, the
revered cinematographer of The Godfather
films and Mr. Allen’s Annie Hall and Interiors, captures Gotham
in all its beauty even during an era when the city was beset by social decay.For the first time in his career, Mr. Allen
forgoes the relative constraints of the 1.85:1 flat ratio to the far more
accommodating 2.35:1 anamorphic Panavision vista and the results makes one ache
for further use of this format.
For Raymond Benson's exclusive interviews with Malcolm McDowell and Jan Harlan about the making of A Clockwork Orange, see Cinema Retro issue #21.
Producer Mike Kaplan has been in the film business for decades. In 1971, he was working as the head of promotions on Stanley Kubrick's 1971 classic A Clockwork Orange. In a recent article, Kaplan shares his memories of the extraordinary process of seeing that film come to life- and Kubrick's meticulous micro-managing of the publicity campaign, which mandated that actual frames from the film be used in place of traditional still photos. He also recalls the first industry screening of the film for Warner Brothers executives at Britain's Pinewood Studios. Click here to read
I'll have to disagree with a major point about your review of 'Tora Tora
Tora'; namely the Zanucks refused to use major stars. The Zanucks and the
unknown but influential Elmo Williams were stung by the critics going after 'The
Longest Day' because of all the big stars. Zanuck Sr had to fill 'The Longest
Day' full of major stars to guarantee big box office for the shareholders for
the increasing budget of TLD. I read he nearly was going to drop the
project until United Artists made a large scale offer for the rights to the
film. Mr Z realised that if UA was going to pay a huge amount the film
would gain at least twice that at the box office and went back to it.
Instead Tora used experienced character actors, many very well known (Joseph
Cotton, James Whitmore etc). I had recently researched the film prior to
screening it at our WEA film society.
Your point about the defeat is well taken; it's interesting that the
Bruckheimer 'Pearl Harbor' film featured a triumphant revenge Doolittle
Raid and started out with action of the Battle of Britain.
James Peter Young,
Retro Responds: James, we've also done a great deal of research on Tora! as part of our book The Great Fox War Movies . There is no doubt that Fox's official story is that the actors were chosen because of their talents and physical characteristics. However, the new Blu-ray edition makes the point that a major factor was the amount of money that the film was going to cost at a time when the studio's finances were shaky. Even Richard Zanuck admits he was less-than-enthused to take on this "dream project" for his father Darryl and producer Elmo Williams. I find it a bit hard to believe that Zanuck would have been apologetic about the use of major stars in The Longest Day. Unlike George Stevens' star-packed The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Longest Day was an enormous success with both critics and the public. Reviewers generally praised Zanuck's use of major stars as opposed to Stevens, who used them as stunt casting. Additionally, The Longest Day was a major boxoffice hit and was nominated for a number of key Oscars. So it seems hard to believe that Zanuck would have been sensitive about any aspect of that film. I think that, faced with skyrocketing pre-production costs, Zanuck and Williams realized that the addition of major stars would have sent the budget into the stratosphere at a time when the studio was skeptical about the project itself. The film was supposed to have gone into production in 1966 but costly delays added three years to the schedule. I guess we'll never know the definitive answer, but these are our theories. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and opinions about a very under-rated film.
Although often erroneously attributed to legendary producer William Castle, the 1965 chiller Two on a Guillotine certainly has all the hallmarks of one of his productions: a modestly-budgeted scarefest backed by an intense, sensational marketing campaign. In fact, the film was, perhaps improbably, produced and directed by William Conrad- that's right, the same character actor who originated the role of Matt Dillon on the Gunsmoke radio program and who would enjoy leading man status in the 1970s as the star of the popular Cannon detective series on TV. The off-beat story begins in the 1940s and finds Cesar Romero as 'Duke' Duquesne, the world's greatest magician and illusionist. Everyone is enamored of him except his wife Melinda (Connie Stevens), who is tired of being a beautiful prop in his act. On the eve of presenting his most ambitious stunt, which involves faking Melinda's beheading on a guillotine, she mysteriously vanishes. Obsessed with grief, Duke sends their two-year old daughter Cassie to be raised by an aunt. Cut to twenty years later. Duke has passed away and Cassie attends her estranged father's funeral. A showman even in death, his will is read to her by his attorney on stage at the Hollywood Bowl (an extraordinary sequence that shows the place completely deserted.) In order to inherit his mansion, Cassie has to spend seven consecutive nights there. You don't have to be a super sleuth to realize that, from minute one, strange things occur in the cavernous home- making Cassie suspect her father might be capable of fulfilling his deathbed promise to return from the grave. Her only support comes from Duke's long-time agent and her former nanny (both well-played by Parley Baer and Virginia Gregg), but since they stand to benefit from her losing her inheritance, she instead turns to an affable young man named Val (Dean Jones), who is seemingly on the scene to protect her but, in reality, is a reporter looking for a exploitation story to sell newspapers.
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM CINEMA RETRO'S ARCHIVES
(This article originally ran in October 2008)
In the wake
of Paul Newman’s death I’ve been watching a few of his movies over again, and
in some cases, watching some of his films for the first time.
avowed admirer of 60s and 70s films, and thrillers especially, I was surprised
that I had never seen The Mackintosh Man
(1973) before. I was very familiar with it in the context of Newman’s canon,
and films in general, and I remember it opening, but for some reason it had
passed me by until today.
be told, there’s good reasons for that. It’s not a bad film per se, but you can
see why its not part of the common cultural currency of 70s movies.
involves a British Intelligence spy working deep undercover and known only to
his chief – Mr Mackintosh – hence being a Mackintosh man - and attempting to
bring to book a corrupt MP. The means by
which he does this (faking a diamond robbery in order to go to jail, so as
to attract the attention of a mysterious firm who can spring him and a high
level prisoner with links to the said MP) are contrived the point of hilarity.
pedigree is good, great even. Directed by John Huston, with a script co-written
by Walter Hill from a novel by Desmond Bagely one could reasonably expect a
memorable and exciting yarn. With a supporting cast to die for including James
Mason, Harry Andrews, Ian Bannen, Nigel Patrick, Peter Vaughan and Michael
Horden, its always interesting , but only from a social and culturally historic
perspective. If you ever wanted to see Paul Newman wander round early 70s London,
hopping on tube trains and round Leather Lane market (with actual market goers
trying very hard and failing to stop and gawk at the Hollywood royalty walking
amongst them), or even slopping out in Liverpool with John Bindon from Get Carter, then this is the film for
you. What 1973 audiences would have made of it is anyone’s guess. The
convoluted plot and intentionally slow pace would have left the most hardened
thriller fan napping. There are practically no markers that this is directed by
the same man that gave us The Maltese
Falcon, The Asphalt Jungle and Chinatown; its so pedestrian as to
resemble an episode of The Saint,
which apparently, according to IMDB, this film is almost a carbon-copy ofone such episode.
The Mackintosh Man is the dictionary definition of a film which
survives on star power alone. On paper this could quite easily have been filler
on the bottom half of a double bill, and had starred someone like Ian McShane
or Bradford Dillman without changing anything in the script. As it is, Newman
brings effortless professionalism to the proceedings, and even manages to
adapt, chameleon-like to his drab and everyday surroundings, a little like Sean
Connery in The Offence.
never seen it, the tone in the first half of the film veers between Frenzy, The Ipcress File and Porridge.
But after the jailbreak the tone shifts into almost Bondian territory, or at
the very least an episode of The Avengers
with the introduction of Jenny Runacre’s Gerda, a kind of taller version of
OHMSS’s Irma Bunt with her mute henchman (I kid ye not)Taafe played by Percy
Herbert. This scenario is almost played for laughs and culminates with perhaps
cinema's only onscreen kick in the female crotch by a male character.
Sanda glides through the film with a single blank expression her face from
start to finish, which doesn’t help in a scene where James mason spikes her
drink. It took quite few moments to spot that she was trying to act like someone
who’ s lost most of her higher motor functions.
any enjoyment one can derive from this film is in watching a mid-career Newman
in a film featuring authentic locations with a sterling, if underused cast.
It’s a sombre film in tone, with only a few flashes of action, notably a very
realistic motor chase along bleak Irish roads, and a foot chase across moors
which resembles Newman’s flight from the prison guards and dogs in Cool Hand Luke. The film reeks of
“contractural obligation”, but at the end of the day I’m glad I’ve finally seen
it, and will probably revisit again. Maybe.
moment its only available as part of a Warner Region 1 Newman Box set, but its
worth getting as it includes Harper, The Drowning Pool, Pocket Money, The Young
Philadelphians and The Left-Handed
Gun, all under-appreciated films. - Steve Saragossi
CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE PAUL NEWMAN COLLECTION BOXED DVD SET
long as there are films, there will always be lively discussions as to what
Woody Allen’s best movie is.Most film
fans tend to argue amongst his four greatest works: Annie Hall (1977), Manhattan
(1979), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
and Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989).If I personally had to choose, it would
probably be Hannah, which is perhaps
the finest film that he has ever made.At the same time, I don’t want to neglect the others, so it becomes an
exercise in futility as none of these films suffer from any condition other
than they are great films.Mr. Allen
would probably disagree, insofar as Annie
Hall is concerned.Mercifully
title-changed from Anhedonia (a
condition which characterizes a person’s inability to experience pleasure from
activities usually found to be enjoyable), Annie
Hall is a film full of life, laughs, and, ultimately, ironies.Few comedies have reached the heights that Annie Hall reaches for and easily tops,
and as such it resides on the number four spot of the American Film Institutes’
100 Funniest American Movies of All-Time.
Annie Hall, which opened on Wednesday, April 20,
1977, won the Best Picture award over George Lucas’s Star Wars (1977) in April 1978 at the 50th Annual Academy Awards.I was nine at the time and positively
bewildered that anything would have trumped my favorite science fiction film.Didn’t everyone see and love Star Wars?Who could have voted against it?When I finally did see Woody Allen’s comedy years
later I was broadsided by how different, mature, and outright hilarious it was.The film is a feast of high-brow humor with
its visual and verbal in-jokes, effectively upping the ante from the hilarious
sight-gags that populated Take the Money
and Run (1969), Bananas (1971),
and Everything You Always Wanted to Know
About Sex: But Were Afraid to Ask (1972).What makes this film so remarkable are the performances, the dialogue,
and the brilliant editing.Originally
intended as a dramatic murder mystery with a comedic and romantic subplot (which
Mr. Allen shelved until 1993’s Manhattan
Murder Mystery), Annie Hall revolves
around Alvy Singer (Allen), a neurotic Manhattan comedian, and his relationship
with his girlfriend, the titular Annie Hall (played by Diane Keaton, whose real
name is Diane Hall).Told in flashback
like J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the
Rye (which is mentioned in the film), Annie
Hall details their struggles to maintain a relationship in the Big Apple.Alvy meets the awkward Annie, and once their
relationship begins the film soars in its cinematic depiction of how they
relate to one another as well as to the audience.This is the one film of Mr. Allen’s which
begins and ends with no music over the credits, and wherein he talks directly
to the audience in character.Among the
standouts are Alvy’s description of his childhood; Alvy’s harassment by “the
cast of The Godfather” outside the
Beekman Theatre; Alvy introducing Marshall McLuhan to an annoying theatre
patron; Alvy and Annie’s attempts to cook lobster; their first meeting and
first date; making fun of people in Central Park; Alvy meeting Annie’s family; Annie’s
middle-of-the-night call to kill a spider in the bathtub; and Alvy’s
“fish-out-of-water” reaction to Los Angeles.
film is about memory and acts also as a great time capsule of what life was
like in 1976 when the film was shot.I
can’t help but notice how dressed up people are at the movie theatres, most of
which specialized in foreign films.It
is hard to believe now that New York City was once a place that was moderately
affordable to live in.
MGM's Annie Hall Blu-ray presentation is a considerable step
up for the previous DVD release which was marred by video noise as well as speckles
and blemishes on the film.The new
Blu-ray is, of course, sharper and is sourced from a film print in considerably
better condition.The disc has subtitles and the theatrical trailer.
If you are a Woody Allen fan, the purchase of this Blu-ray
is a no-brainer.
Willliamson as Little John with Audrey Hepburn and Sean Connery in Robin and Marian (1976)
Scottish actor Nicol Williamson has died from cancer at age 73. He was regarded as one of the finest actors to emerge in the 1960s and 1970s, but his disdain for his own profession led him to go into self-imposed retirement in favor of working on musical projects. Playwright John Osborne said he was the finest actor since Brando. Nominated for numerous Tony Awards and BAFTAs, Williamson was regarded by many as the greatest Hamlet of his time. However, his thorny temperament and disposition became legendary and he famously walked off stage at a 1969 performance of the play, apologizing to the audience for his performance. His work was largely confined to the theater, but he did make some major films including Excalibur, Robin and Marian and The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. He lived for the last twenty years in Amsterdam. For more click here
Last night (Jan 26th), Cinema Retro Editor and
British board member of the Ian Fleming Foundation, Dave Worrall, gave an
introductory speech at EON Productions and The National Motor Museum's 50th anniversary
exhibition 'Bond in Motion' at Beaulieu. The champagne reception for a large
corporate accountancy company was held in the actual exhibition area where
guests, surrounded by James Bond's famous vehicles and gadgetry, enjoyed Dave's
informative talk about how Eon and the museum put together the spectacular
event, which is now open to the public on a daily basis until the end of the
year. After his talk, Dave mingled with the guests and answered dozens of
questions asked him by the (predominantly!) male audience, who were keen to
learn more about the various cars on show, including OO7's various Aston
Martins, the underwater Lotus, and autogyro 'Little Nellie', to name but a few.
Bond fans will be pleased to discover that apart
from the 32-page 'Bond in Motion' souvenir brochure on sale, the museum's gift
shop has two sections devoted entirely to James Bond merchandise, including toy
cars, t-shirts, books, mugs, posters - and more!
For more information about visiting the
'Bond in Motion' exhibition click here
Actor James Farentino died Tuesday in Los Angeles at age 73 following a lengthy illness. Farentino's good looks and charisma made him a star on the rise in the 1960s and he appeared in numerous films and TV series in recurring roles or as a guest. He also co-starred in the hit series The Bold Ones. His success in feature films was more erratic but he did land occasional prominent roles in films like Me, Natalie and in the sci-fi Pearl Harbor-themed hit The Final Countdown. Farentino lead a tumultuous personal life that saw him married four times. In 1994, his career went into a greater nosedive when he pleaded no contest to stalking ex-wife Tina Sinatra, youngest daughter of Frank Sinatra. He was sentenced to probation and ordered to get psychiatric care. Farantino admitted that his behavior was often appalling and led to him being marginalized to "D" grade movie hell. For more clickhere
Dario Argento’s Inferno (1980) is one of the most beautifully-realized cinematic
experiences ever captured on film.The
follow-up to his previous film, Suspiria
(1977), Inferno is a film that upon
first viewing appears to be short on substance but considerably long on
style.While dialogue has never been the
director’s strong suit, the verbal platitudes that permeate not just this
phantasmagorical tale of alchemy and murder, but just about every other film he
has directed, provide a certain charm that has become an unofficial and
unmistakable part of his oeuvre.Although
the film takes place in New York, virtually all of it was faked in Italy
between April and August 1979, with some minor location shooting in the Big
Apple.Beautifully framed and suffused
with primary colors, Inferno, the
story lifted from the myth of the Three Mothers as written by Thomas De Quincey
in his 1945 essay “Suspiria de Profundis,” takes the viewer on a journey not
seen outside of a nightmare.Whereas Suspiria was loud, strident, and truly
graphic, Inferno is a study in
contrasts – long, meandering scenes suddenly give way to abrupt changes in
mood, the accompanying music cacophonous in its energy.The film is no less graphic in its depiction
of violence.Leigh McCloskey stars as
Mark, a music student in Rome who becomes involved in trying to track down his
sister, Rose (Irene Miracle), who has disappeared in New York.With the help of a fellow student, Sarah (Eleanora
Giorgi), Mark uncovers a layer of evil permeating the earth that he formerly
was oblivious to.This threadbare plot
provides the basis for some truly stunning set pieces ever mounted by the
I have always
loved movies that take place outdoors in the wilderness ever since seeing Ken
Annakin’s The Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
at a matinee showing in 1980 (when theaters still did that sort of thing) and
John Boorman’s Deliverance (1972),
though I will admit that the latter, although beautifully lensed by Vilmos
Zsigmond, is enough to make anyone want to stay indoors!Matthew Leutwyler’s The River Why (2010), filmed in Portland, Oregon in the summer of
2008, is the film version of David James Duncan’s 1983 novel of the same name
and the beautiful outdoors figures prominently in the film.Essentially, this is a coming-of-age story about
a young man named Gus Orviston (Zach Gilford of Larry Fessenden’s The Last Winter and television’s
"Friday Night Lights"), who is at his wits end when it comes to the constant
bickering of his parents, played effectively by William Hurt and Kathleen
Quinlan, the former of whom refers to Gus by his full name Augustine.He decides that rather than whine and
complain, he will actually do something about it.His answer is to move to a small cabin by
himself so he can concentrate on fishing, something that he loves to do.He creates an “ideal schedule” that consists
of eating, sleeping and fishing.This
schedule is more or less a result of tunnel vision as he
believes that this is all that he wants in life.As the days progress, he wants a stronger
connection to the people around him, especially with the young and initially
elusive fisherwoman named Eddy (played by the luminous Amber Heard of 2010’s The Rum Diaries) who catches his eye and
The River Why
is a slow-moving and relaxing viewing and requires patience to stick with
it.Viewers used to the slam-bang
editing that has become the norm in Hollywood productions will more than likely
be bored, but for other viewers the film will be a rewarding experience.The story is a character-driven drama rather
than plot-driven, and there are solid supporting performances from William
Devane as a newspaper journalist and Dallas Roberts as a philosopher who gets
Gus to look at The Big Picture.
Available on DVD and Blu-ray, the latter of course is the
way to see this film as the scenery, not to mention Ms. Heard, is sumptuous in
Given the fast sell-out of Cinema Retro's Where Eagles Dare issue in 2009, we anticipated a lot of interest in our other two Movie Classics special issues commemorating the Clint Eastwood/Sergio Leone "Dollars" films and Eastwood's 1970 WWII hit Kelly's Heroes. Although we had an increased print run for these titles, we never expected the response would be so overwhelming. These are the two best-selling issues in Cinema Retro's eight year history- and they keep selling briskly. (A web site dedicated to WWII history sold over 500 copies of Kelly's in the last month alone!).
If you haven't ordered these 80 page issues, do so today- each issue is loaded with a mind-boggling number of rare photos, some of which are printed here for the first time.
Copies of Where Eagles Dare are now selling for over $200 each on Ebay. Don't let these issues escape your collection! They are sure to be valued collector's items once they are out of print.
Click here for full description of the "Dollars" issue and to order direct from our Ebay affiliate store.
Click here for full description of the Kelly's Heroes issue and to order direct from our Ebay affiliate store.
was surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel’s most popular film and his biggest
financial success, even outperforming the great Oscar-winning The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (the
idea for which was given to the director by actor Owen Wilson during a time
travel escapade to Paris in the 1920s*).Starring an effervescent, young and beautiful Catherine Deneuve in a
defining role that would forever typify her as the kind of cool, intense,
independent blonde she would portray for the rest of her long career, Belle de Jour broke ground for eroticism
and feminism alike.
in 1967, the picture is one of Buñuel’s most accessible pictures.The plot is simple enough.Severine, a frigid and frustrated woman of
the Parisian upper class who is married to a successful doctor, has disturbing
fantasies of being sexually humiliated and degraded.When a friend of her husband’s (a man who has
tried many times, unsuccessfully, to seduce Severine) tells her about a high
class brothel, she becomes curious.At
first frightened and timid, Severine applies for afternoon work at the brothel,
and there she ultimately discovers the path to her own sexual fulfillment.Yes, she’s a masochist, but she is one by
choice and desire.Her new vocation
improves things at home with her husband until she becomes involved with a
client who happens to be a hit man.The
gangster also grows obsessed with Severine, a story twist with tragic
The legendary mystery: are the contents of the box erotic, disgusting or both?
with any Buñuel film, there’s a lot more going on.There is humor, to be sure, as well as the
kind of shocking imagery typical of the auteur’s work.Severine’s fantasies take on the surrealistic
touches the director has been known for since his first picture, Un Chien Andalou (made with Salvador
Dali), but the “realistic” scenes in the brothel also venture into absurdist
territory.For example, one client, a
successful gynecologist, insists on role-playing a disobedient servant to a punishing
mistress.Another client, an Asian man,
carries a jewelry box, which, when opened, emits a strange buzzing sound.We can’t see what’s in the box, but whatever
it is gets mixed reactions from the various prostitutes (usually disgust).It is only Severine who finds the mysterious object
fascinating.Of course, Buñuel means for
the audience to interpret what’s in the box for themselves.
new edition from Criterion features a magnificent high-definition digital
restoration.Audio commentary is by
Michael Wood, author of the BFI Film Classics book on Belle de Jour.A very
interesting video interview with activist Susie Bright and film scholar Linda
Williams sheds light on the sexual politics and feminist themes in the
picture.Co-writer Jean-Claude Carrière
talks about working with Buñuel in a new interview.Finally, Deneuve appears in a vintage French
television program on the making of the movie.Also included is a booklet featuring a 1970 interview with Buñuel and
Belle de Jour is a classic of the
new permissiveness of the late 1960s, and it is a must for true film
buffs.And watch for Buñuel’s cameo
appearance at an outdoor bar/restaurant!
As seen in Woody Allen’s new film, Midnight
Available! Author and Cinema Retro columnist Raymond Benson’s classic 1980s reference book all about 007, THE
JAMES BOND BEDSIDE COMPANION, has been re-published!
JAMES BOND BEDSIDE COMPANION was Benson's very first published work (it
originally appeared in 1984!). Crossroad Press has published it again this
week, first as an e-book, available for Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, and all
other e-reader formats. Coming later will be an downloadable audiobook edition,
followed by a new print edition!
of today, the book is the #1 best-seller on Amazon Kindle’s “Film and
BEDSIDE COMPANION was nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best
Biographical/Critical Work of 1984 by Mystery Writers of America and 007 fans
still consider it to be a "Bond Bible."
Here is the official description of the book:
New digital edition of the classic 007
reference book from the 1980s, complete with a new Foreword by the
JAMES BOND BEDSIDE COMPANION is an encyclopedic celebration of 007, who is
still the world’s most popular secret agent.
only book to cover all aspects of the James Bond phenomenon in a single volume,
it includes: a) An intimate portrait of Ian Fleming as remembered by his
friends and colleagues; b) a character study of James Bond—his background and
early life, his clothing and other personal habits, his preferences in food and
drink, his attitudes toward women and marriage; c) The by-products of Bondmania
and the merchandising of 007; d) Detailed analyses of every James Bond novel by
Ian Fleming, as well as those written by other authors through the 1980s; e) A
critical look at the 007 film series—the producers, screenplays, directors,
actors, soundtracks, and special effects; f) over 100 photographs; g) An
Introduction written by Ernest Cuneo, perhaps Fleming’s closest American
friend; h) And enough facts, figures, and miscellaneous Bondian trivia to
satisfy even the most ardent fan.
Raymond Benson is the highly acclaimed author of twenty-five books, six
original James Bond 007 novels, three film novelizations, three short stories,
and two anthologies on Bond. He is a sought-after lecturer on film genres and
history. Writing as David Michaels, Benson is a New York Times best-selling
author, an Edgar Alan Poe Award nominee, and a Readers' Choice Award winner.
Martin Scorsese's Hugo has topped the Oscar nominations with 11 nods. Industry veterans Woody Allen, Max Von Sydow, Meryl Streep, Nick Nolte and Christopher Plummer all picked up nominations. Click here for complete list.
Last April, Dave Worrall and I were in London for a few days on business pertaining to Cinema Retro. As is our custom, we generally hold a dinner party at the famed Groucho Club and invite an eclectic group of friends and acquaintances. This time around, the group included several people who, coincidentally, had ties to Sean Connery. Film producer Euan Lloyd (The Wild Geese) had produced Connery's first film after leaving the role of James Bond, the 1968 Western Shalako. Actor Richard Johnson had been approached prior to Connery to play 007 and had met with producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman at Eon's offices in London. (Typical of Johnson's wry, self-deprecating humor, he said that it was best for everyone that he didn't accept the role because "I was so right for it, I would have played the part wrong. Sean was so wrong for it, he played the part right") Also in the mix was actress Lana Wood, who had co-starred with Connery in his 1971 Bond comeback Diamonds Are Forever. As all Bond fans know, Lana, the sister of Natalie Wood, made a memorable impression as the aptly-named Plenty O'Toole. We actually didn't know Lana well, having only spoken to her briefly over the years, but she was in London and was enthused about joining our merry band of fifteen or so. I can't say I know her much better today than I did a year ago, but what I can say is that I found her candor to be quite astonishing.
Although Lana never found stardom in films and has suffered enormous personal losses in her life, ranging from numerous love affairs gone wrong to the mysterious death of Natalie, she has an amazing number of anecdotes to relate. Not only can she tell you fascinating facts about the sister she still loves so dearly, but she also speaks openly and unashamedly about her tumultuous love life, which has seen her involved with some of the most famous men on the planet. They include Sean Connery, who she told me she had an affair with on the set of Diamonds. Although neither were married at the time, they kept their relationship hush-hush so as to not feed grist to the mill of the tabloids. (The Fleet Street rags were already awash with "exclusive" stories about Connery allegedly bedding his female lead Jill St. John.) Not knowing how many of these stories Lana had previously made public, I decided to keep the revelations confidential, which may seem to be a quaint notion when one runs a high popular web site. Nevertheless, in a recent interview in The Daily Mail, Lana opens up about many of the anecdotes she related to me that evening- and it makes for riveting reading.
I have fond memories of that particular party, as Lana made for a most gracious and glamorous dinner companion whose down-to-earth charm enchanted everyone there. My only major regret is that the star-packed Groucho Club famously excludes anyone from taking photos on the premises, probably due to the fact that certain celebrities would not want to be seen with certain other celebrities they were, eh, escorting for the evening. Thus, there are no recorded images of this memorable dinner party except in the minds of those who were there. Nevertheless, it was an evening to remember- thanks in no small part to the charm of Lana Wood.
Hughes makes the case that the restored version of Sergio Leone's classic The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is inferior to the original theatrical release.
Cinema Retro columnist and film book author Howard Hughes vents on his blog about misconstrued extended cuts of films that failed to improve on the originals. Among those in his sites: Star Wars and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Click here to read
A long-lost TV pilot titled Final Curtain, directed by legendary B movie auteur Ed Wood, has been discovered in the archive of a private collector. The episode is said to rival The Twilight Zone and represent some of Wood's best work. For almost 50 years, Wood's colleagues and film historians have searched for a print of the pilot episode for a proposed anthology series titled Portraits of Terror. Wood had intended Bela Lugosi to star but the legendary actor passed away while reading the script. The damaged print was located by Jason Insalaco, the nephew of Wood's friend and stock company member Paul Marco, who died before he could fulfill his quest to find the missing film. Insalaco painstakingly restored the film and it will be shown at the Slamdance Film Festival in Utah. For more click here
Joshua Logan's 1955 screen adaptation of William Inge's Broadway sensation Picnic has been released on Blu-ray by the excellent Twilight Time label as a 3,000 unit limited edition. The play helped boost Paul Newman to stardom but amazingly he was excluded from the film version, along with most of his fellow cast members. Inge's play presented an unusually frank examination of repressed sexual frustration in a small Kansas town. That tension boils over with the arrival of Hal Carter (William Holden), a charismatic drifter whose arrival in town sets off a combustible tinderbox of emotions among the residents. Hal is a magnet for women of all ages, but he sets his sites on Madge (Kim Novak), a vulnerable teenager from a broken home who is looking for a white knight to deliver her from the boredom of her small town life. Hal fills the void but brings to mind the old adage "Be careful what you wish for- you just might get it." Hal's presence unleashes long suppressed rivalries and jealousies and he goes from hero to cad in the eyes of many.
It's long been said that Holden was too old for the leading role, but nothing could be further from the truth. He's at the top of his game and exudes raw sexuality. He benefits from an outstanding supporting cast, each of whom is seen at their best: Novak; Susan Strasberg as her catty, envious sister, Betty Field as the frustrated mom who advises her girls that sex may be an unpleasant chore for a woman, but if it allows you to nab a handsome husband, it's worth it; young Cliff Robertson as an insecure local hunk who comes to regret Hal's presence, and wonderful turns by Arthur O'Connell, Nick Adams and others. Among the many memorable scenes are Holden and Novak's slow dance to Moonglow, which drips eroticism and plays like a mating ritual. All of this is set to James Wong Howe's glorious cinematography which improbably manages to "open up" a rather claustrophobic storyline written for the stage.
The Twilight Time Blu-ray looks great and includes the original trailer, an informative booklet written by Julie Kirgo and an isolated track for George Duning's terrific score.
Actress Naomi Harris, who will be starring with Daniel Craig in the new James Bond film Skyfall, says that rumors she is playing Miss Moneypenny are inaccurate. Her character, Eve, was rumored to be an alias for Moneypenny but Harris has thrown cold water on that theory. For more click here
Don Sharp photographed during interview session by John Exshaw. (Copyright John Exshaw. All rights reserved.)
Cinema Retro's John Exshaw remembers a highly talented and often under-rated director.
“Don was first-class . . .
a really good film director. [He was] extremely capable, and he was very, very
interested in everything that he did. . . . He used to come well-prepared with
what he was going to shoot. . . . I don’t ever remember having problems with
making a [Don Sharp] film move and making a sequence move that one might have had . . . and
that’s why I’ve always had a lot of respect for Don, because the scenes that he
produced, they played so well.” – Eric Boyd-Perkins, editor (Hennessy, et al.)
“I will remember Don for
his determination to bring together the often disparate elements of a cast and
crew to produce a movie that was true to the intentions of its producer and
author: he was a true servant of the medium. Perhaps most of all I will
remember his patience and unfailing good humour. I had some of the best times
of my working life on the films he directed and I will remember him with great
affection.” – Richard Johnson, actor (Hennessy, et al.)
“Very, very calm. Very
calm and knew exactly what he wanted.” –
Sir Christopher Lee, actor (The Face of
Fu Manchu, et al.)
“He was one of the great
technicians in the business. He really was a very competent director in terms
of budget and schedules . . .” – Peter Snell,
producer (Hennessy, et al.)
“I kept using Don because
his films came in on budget and were without exception very successful. On top
of that he was a most agreeable person of very good character – no tantrums –
clear headed – resourceful; a gentleman too.” –
Harry Alan Towers, producer (The Face of
Fu Manchu, et al.)
was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Don Sharp, who passed
away, aged 90, in Cornwall on 14 December last year. I first met Don (and his
delightful wife, Mary) at their home in London in 2007, having arranged to
interview him about his career, and in particular the two films which I regard
as his finest, The Face of Fu Manchu
(1965) and Hennessy (1975). He seemed
quietly pleased that someone else shared his own good opinion of those films,
having, in the past, been mainly interviewed about the three films he made for
Hammer (The Kiss of the Vampire,
1963, The Devil-Ship Pirates, 1964,
and Rasputin, the Mad Monk, 1965).
a different sense, of course, I’d met Don many years before, through his films,
which always left an impression, no matter how unpromising the basic material;
I can well remember scanning the TV guides and making a point to watch anything
‘Directed by Don Sharp’. In those days, the TV schedules were full of the type
of British second-feature films that Don made, but his always had something
different – a sense of style and movement, in a word action – that made them stand out from the dross.
is worth emphasising how rare that quality was in British films of that period.
While Terence Fisher is justly celebrated for directing the most famous Hammer
films, his forte was atmosphere, combined with a certain classical rigour in
both composition and cutting derived, one imagines, from his years as an
editor. Seth Holt and Michael Reeves both made stylish and memorable
contributions to what, for the sake of immediate convenience, we’ll call the
horror genre, but the majority of British films in the horror-thriller field
were usually both dull in concept and laboured in execution, to put it kindly.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
the NEW episode of Dave’s Gone By(#373 – Kir Package) – LIVE, this
Saturday, 1/21, 10am-1pm(MT) on UNC Radio (www.uncradio.com).
Featuring: Dave chats with Oscar winner GEORGE
CHAKIRIS (“West Side Story”). Plus: Inside Broadway, Bob Dylan – Sooner &
Later and the Saturday Segue (Dave’s birthday songs).
Says Dave about this
week’s show, “In his film and TV career, George Chakiris has worked with
Natalie Wood, Yul Brynner, Gene Kelly, Lana Turner and Marilyn Monroe. I once
interviewed Dick Van Patten and had dinner with Larry `Bud’ Melman, so
basically, George and I are in the same league.”
Gone By episodes are archived,
free, on the web! They’re at www.davesgoneby.com. See an
alphabetized list of all our previous guests – complete with hyperlinks to
their episodes – at davesgoneby.com.
GONE BY offers talk, humor and
music, from political commentary to sketch comedy, from theater reviews to
interviews, from musical detours to straight-talking monologues. Guests have
included Neil Sedaka, Christine Lavin, Carol Channing, Peter Schickele, Jane
Siberry, Dr. Demento, Juliana Hatfield, Tom Paxton, Wreckless Eric, Joe
Franklin and Shecky Greene. Visit us at www.davesgoneby.com.
Since debuting Oct. 6,
2002, DAVE'S GONE BY has treated
listeners to one of the most off-beat and engaging shows in radio. An
award-winning playwright, Dave Lefkowitz is the programming director for UNC
Radio. He’s also founder and editor of TotalTheater.com, co-publisher of
Performing Arts Insider (PerformingArtsInsider.com),
producer of “Shalom, Dammit!”, and monthly columnist for the Long Island
GONE BY is produced by
TotalTheater Productions (P.O. Box
31, Greeley, CO
The once-defunct Hammer Films is not only making movies again but they are aggressively moving to upgrade their horror classics for Blu-ray. The releases will include new interviews with cast members. The studio is also appealing to the collector's circuit to help provide prints that may have scenes deleted from theatrical versions. For more click here
Copies of legendary James Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli's 1998 autobiography "When the Snow Melts" command big dollars on the collector's circuit. Now the book is available on Amazon.UK as a kindle edition. Here is the description:
Originally published in hardback in 1998 with the title 'WHEN THE SNOW
MELTS', this updated edition from EON Productions features introductions
by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli as well as a selection of
rarely seen images. EON Productions will donate all of the income from
the sales of this eBook to Cancer Research UK, the world’s leading
charity dedicated to beating cancer through research. Cubby
Broccoli’s autobiography is a roller-coaster ride through the life of
one of Hollywood’s best-loved producers. He recounts extraordinary and
humorous stories of how he created a life in the movies, his unique
relationship with Howard Hughes and other friendships with Hollywood
greats such as Cary Grant, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck and Frank
Sinatra are also portrayed.
thought you might like the attached picture of a classic drive-in movie
marquee from the early 60s. The beautiful lady is actress Jan
Shepard, posing with her classic 50s sports car. As best as I've ever
been able to tell, Third of a Man appears to be a lost film. Neither
Jan Shepard nor James Drury have any idea what happened to the film, and
apparently the now-deceased director had no idea either.
Retro responds: Thanks so much, Martin.....great photo. It was obviously taken at the drive-in located in Van Nuys, California in 1962. Our research shows that Third of a Man is indeed a little-known film, created for the bottom of double-bills. However, it was released by a major studio, United Artists and afforded a rare starring role for the great character actor Simon Oakland, which makes us want to see it even more.
George Lucas tells the New York Times he intends to get out of the film business, though he does leave the door open for a possible Indiana Jones flick and art house movies with limited commercial appeal. Lucas is apparently disgruntled by the fact that his latest production, Red Tails, was difficult to find financing for because it centers on a virtually all-black cast in this story of the famed Tuskegee Airmen who fought valiantly in WWII. Insiders close to Lucas also speculate that he's pretty much achieved all of his personal goals, so there's nowhere to go but either into retirement or back to his roots by making experimental films. For more click here
Photos copyright Mark Mawston. All rights reserved.
Britt Ekland with the Aston Martin Vanquish from Die Another Day outside the entrance.
50th anniversary of the James Bond film series got off the grid yesterday (Sun
15th) with the official launch of 'Bond in Motion: 50 Vehicles, 50 Years', an exhibition
of OO7-related vehicles at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu in Hampshire. To commemorate this historic
turning point in the Bond franchise, Eon Productions (the Bond film-makers) and
the motor museum (celebrating its 40th anniversary this year), have put
together the largest official collection of famous James Bond vehicles the
world has ever seen.
also saw Eon kick-start the 50th anniversary with many special features in
British newspapers and magazine supplements including The Mail on Sunday and The
opening to the public on January 17th, the world's press and selected guests
were invited to attend the unveiling of fifty different forms of transport to
celebrate fifty years of the OO7 movies.
Opening ceremony (L to R) Ralph Montagu, Eunice Gayson (Dr No/From Russia With Love), Britt Ekland (The Man With the Golden Gun), Jenny Hanley (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), Madeline Smith (Live and Let Die).
in attendance included Chris Courbold (SFX Casino
Royale-Skyfall), Vic Armstrong (Stunt co-ordinator and 2nd unit director on
many films), actors Colin Salmon (Die
Another Day), Shane Rimmer (You Only
Live Twice and The Spy Who Loved Me)
and Ken Wallis, the inventor of the autogyro who doubled Sean Connery in the
sequences with 'Little Nellie' in You
Only Live Twice.
businessman Michael Dezer, who purchased the entire 'Cars of the Stars' and
'Bond Museums' last year, flew over especially for the occasion. The boat from From Russia With Love was loaned to the
museum by Mr Dezer for the exhibition.
Mr Dezer's car museum, which is anticipated to be the largest in the world, is
due to open this year in Florida.
The Scorpion DVD label has released the notorious 1976 British horror flick I Don't Want to Be Born under its American title, The Devil Within Her (It was also known as Sharon's Baby). It's easy to see why this cult movie has gained its reputation, as its a real hoot. Joan Collins stars as Lucy, a one-time London stripper who gives up her wild lifestyle in favor of a more sedate life. She marries a successful Italian businessman, Gino (Ralph Bates) and finds herself pregnant immediately after their wedding night. Trouble is, she suspects the real father is actually her sleazy ex-boyfriend Tommy (John Steiner), who she slept with the night before her wedding in order to have one final fling. Things are moving along swimmingly with the happy couple living the good life in a tony section of London. However, when Lucy goes into labor, the process of giving birth proves to be particularly agonizing, causing speculation that it was almost as if the baby did not want to be born. Nevertheless, she takes home a healthy, if robust 12 pound baby boy. Immediately strange and disturbing things start to happen. Visitor are injured and Lucy herself is scratched severely by the baby. Strange noises come from his nursery and furniture in the room is inexplicably tossed about.Before long, the mayhem results in people disappearing while others are killed under strange circumstances. Lucy is terrified to be alone with her own baby, as she is convinced he is possessed by the devil. The fear is not unwarranted, as she recalls having her pregnancy cursed by a sex-crazed dwarf whose attentions she once spurned. (I'm not making any of this up, folks.) The film borrows so heavily from two horror classics it should have been titled Rosemary's Exorcist. Yes,
there is an exorcism performed by Lucy's sister-in-law, an Italian nun
Veteran Hammer films director Peter Sasdy
throws in every cliche the genre has to offer, although he does do a good job of maximizing actual locations in London, which at least lends some atmosphere to the production. His biggest challenge is insurmountable in that, while you can coach even an angelic child actor to appear menacing (a la The Omen), you can't give direction to an infant. Thus, Sasdy has to resort to some unintentionally funny gimmicks such as showing a glimpse of the super-tyke's arm as he assails innocent people who are only trying to "koochy koo" him. Meanwhile, when the camera comes back to focus on the baby, he looks as menacing as a coffee table. What makes the film so much fun is the determination of the cast to play it straight, as though they were performing in an erstwhile production at the Old Vic. Collins is gorgeous, of course, but has to contend with a deadlier enemy than her demonic baby: the styles of the 1970s. Thus, she goes through the proceedings often sporting a hair style that appears to emulate that of George Washington. Sasdy does, however, provide the prerequisite Collins scene in which she is shown in "stockings and suspenders", as the Brits would say and we do get a gloriously torrid and superfluous love scene between her and Bates. Sasdy also breaks up the laughs by centering other scenes at a strip club as an excuse to show plenty of T&A. Joining Collins onscreen is an impressive cast that occasionally manages to make the viewer begin to take the proceedings somewhat seriously. Donald Pleasence, cast as Lucy's sympathetic but bewildered doctor, is as compelling as ever, managing to steal every scene even while underplaying. Eileen Atkins also delivers a fairly admirable performance as the much-troubled nun trying to save her sister-in-law and ultra sexy Caroline Munro makes a few welcome appearances as Lucy's best friend. Cult favorite John Steiner is amusingly over-the-top as the villainous boyfriend who may have sired the son of Satan.The film's appeal as a camp classic remains intact and despite its flaws, remains a thoroughly enjoyable romp- if even for the wrong reasons.
Scorpion's DVD edition includes an original TV spot and a very entertaining recent interview with Steiner, who tells funny stories about the legions of B movies he has starred in. (He even gets a plug in for his new career as a real estate agent). Unfortunately, Steiner doesn't remember much about the making of this film, but he does render some fascinating anecdotes about others he has appeared in. The DVD also has an optional introduction by Katarina Leigh Waters, who I understand is a professional wrestler. I'm not sure how this qualifies her to introduce a horror film, but she does a fine job, providing some interesting facts about the production as well as some eye candy. In the tradition of Elvira, Waters also hosts other horror films for the label. The DVD also features a trailer gallery of other Scorpion releases.
Look, I'm not one of these high-brow guys who knock all of the programming on cable TV. About the only shows I ever have time to watch are guilty pleasures like Hoarders and Storage Wars plus various National Geographic programs that center on helpless humans being devoured by wild animals. Most of the time I'm working on my computer, so the only programs that run consistently are political shows that don't require me to sit in front of a screen. In fact, with all the heated debates on these programs, they provide plenty of wild animal-like behavior in and of themselves. What I do find really offensive is when a cable network decides to use a legendary movie as the basis of a low-grade TV concept. For example, A&E has just announced that it is developing a series titled Bates Motel that will explore the early years of Psycho's legendary cinematic killer Norman Bates, as well as his Oedipus-like relationship with his mother. Is this really what classic movie lovers have been clamoring for? Obviously not. How many people even remember that there was a TV movie sequel to Psycho back in 1987? So this new project is a rip-off of a rip-off. However, A&E is gambling that there are plenty of undiscriminating viewers out there who probably never even saw the original film and will think this concept is a hoot. Murder and implied incest? Irresistable! And now Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece can be improved upon with the inclusion of numerous dumb-ass commercials, color cinematography and answers to the mysteries surrounding Bates' background that were so annoyingly mysterious that they might have inspired you to use your own imagination. Click here for the lurid details.
(Cheap plug: For Cinema Retro's in-depth tribute to the original Psycho, see issue #18)
Not for the weak-stomached or faint of heart, Living in
Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders, available now on DVD from First Run Features, offers excellent insights into
the highly-touted humanitarian organization and the individual doctors who keep
it afloat. The documentary follows volunteer doctors in war-torn Liberia and
Congo, not only detailing their “typical” work day activities (in often bloody
detail), but also delving into their motivations for joining the organization,
their means of coping with high-pressure situations, and their opinions of the
humanitarian assistance field.
While just watching the documentary, which includes
footage of crude amputations and a hernia the size of a beach ball, can make
your blood pressure rise, Living in Emergency is also strangely refreshing.
While most documentaries focusing on humanitarian assistance often turn into
love letters to specific organizations or individuals, Living in Emergency
avoids all-out hero worship in favor of a nuanced view that encompasses both
the successes and the shortcomings of the organization and its volunteers. While
the positive impact of Doctors Without Borders is certainly the focus of the
movie, concerns about its support of new staff members and premature decisions
to pull out of certain areas are also expressed. Similarly, while anyone
watching the film cannot help but admire the courage and commitment of the
organization’s volunteers, the movie also illustrates their humanity by showing them
at their best (in surgery) and their worst (drunk and argumentative).
The only real shortcoming of the film is its failure to
give a sufficient voice to the over 20,000 local staff that make Doctors Without
Borders run. As Americans, it may seem more captivating to watch our Western
counterparts delve into both a physical and metaphorical heart of darkness.
However, it is extremely important to recognize the role played by local
volunteers, who sacrifice their time, safety, and energy to help their own
communities without the promise of leaving after six months. While the
documentary does feature one local doctor, more interviews with healthcare
providers, patients, and community members would have greatly enriched the
documentary and provided a more balanced perspective on the organization.
Despite this weakness, Living in Emergency is an
excellent and thought-provoking film that anyone interested in the field of
humanitarian assistance should take the time to watch.
Cinema Retro enters its eighth great year with issue #22, now shipping worldwide. All subscribers will be receiving their copies shortly.
If you have not renewed your subscription, please do so today! We cannot hold copies in reserve for you, so don't miss out on a single great issue during 2012. Click here to subscribe instantly through our Ebay affiliate store or click here for other methods of subscribing.
Highlights of issue #22 include special features that celebrate the 60th anniversary of Cinerama:
Sir Christopher Frayling provides a major 10 page article on the making of MGM's Cinerama blockbuster How the West Was Won, featuring deleted scenes and a wealth of rarely seen photographs.
Howard Hughes pays tribute to Jack Cardiff's 1968 gut-busting adventure Dark of the Sun(aka The Mercenaries) starring Rod Taylor
Dave Worrall blows the lid off the 1969 Cinerama epic Krakatoa, East of Javaand takes us behind the scenes for the Cinerama family classic The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm.
Thomas Hauerslev takes us back to those wonderful Cinerama travelogues This is Cinerama, Seven Wonders of the Worldand traces the history of the format.
Lee Pfeiffer reviews a plethora of spy movies on DVD including The Man From U.N.C.L.E. feature films
Adrian Smith interviews actress Anneke Wills, star of the mod London cult classic The Pleasure Girls and pays tribute to Jane Asher in Jerzy Skolimowsky's Deep End
Raymond Benson looks at the best films of 1981
Gareth Owen revisits the filming of The Great Gatsby at Pinewood Studios
Plus the latest DVD, soundtrack and film book reviews
It's a sad ending to a once glamorous career. Anita Ekberg, one of the most celebrated sex kittens of 60s cinema, is now 80 and suffering from ill health and financial ruin. Her accountant says she has lost her home to a fire and is virtually penniless. Appeals are being made to help ease her suffering. Ekberg made screen history with her appearance in Fellini's 1960 masterpiece La Dolce Vita, cavorting with Marcello Mastroianni in Rom'es Trevi fountain, clad in a gown with a plunging neckline. Her career burned brightly but was short-lived before she entered the realm of B movies. For more click here
Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, Paul Sorvino and Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.
By Lee Pfeiffer
There was a time when AMC, originally known as American Movie Classics, lived up to its name. The network rivaled Turner Classic Movies in terms of reverent showings of great movies, all complete and uncut. Then the zombies and Wall Streeters took over management of the network and decided to trash tradition. Suddenly, lousy movies were interspersed with the classics, films were edited for content and to allow an abundance of commercials to be crammed in and the network didn't even respect the movies enough to allow for the end credits to run. Instead, they were shown in a microscopic window at warp speed while inane "coming up next" promos filled the screen. The outcry was tremendous among classic movie lovers, but there's a big brainless public in America that will watch movies under these conditions. The AMC brass knew their target audience and the station's popularity and profits soared. They did do something right, however, in terms of developing original content, which resulted in the acclaimed series Mad Men and Breaking Bad). AMC may have another promising concept: creating a series from Nicholas Pileggi's non-fiction mob book Wise Guy which was the basis for Martin Scorsese's 1990 film Goodfellas, a genuine American masterpiece. Pileggi is involved with the project, as is the film's producer Irwin Winkler. They might make a great series out of this, which is ironic, because you would never be able to see Goodfellas presented respectfully on the same network. For more click here
Reader Bill Parisho alerted us to this unusual DVD that will appeal to all John Wayne fans:
"In this behind-the-scenes documentary, Ethan, Patrick and Marisa Wayne
share their memories of growing up with a Hollywood legend, and reveal
why the time is right for the auction of the personal property of their
movie-star father. Includes an exclusive look at the one-of-a-kind items
from Wayne's extraordinary life featured in the Heritage Auctions
event. A must-have collector's DVD for all Wayne fans. DVD sales benefit
the John Wayne Cancer Foundation."
Kim Novak has a bone to pick with Michael Hazanavicius, the director of the acclaimed film The Artist, which is a tribute to the silent film era. Hazanavicius employed a key love theme by Bernard Herrmann from Alfred Hitchcock's classic Vertigo in a sequence in his film. This lead to Vertigo star Kim Novak to come out of self-imposed hibernation and take out a full page ad in Variety saying that she felt her work had been "raped" by the appropriation of Herrmann's score that is so associated with the Hitchcock movie. Predictably, Hazanavicius does not agree and has said that he used the musical piece as an 'homage' to one of his favorite composers. This is not the first time that 'homages' have been accused of being rip-offs. Some years ago legendary artist and designer Saul Bass sued filmmaker Spike Lee for using images from his ad campaign for Anatomy of a Murder in Lee's 1995 film Clockers. Lee's defense was that the graphic of the outline of body was an 'homage' to Bass. Similarly, director Brian De Palma was criticized for using all-too-apparent Hitchcock techniques in some of his early films. De Palma also maintained these were intentional homages. Click here to read Variety music historian Jon Burlingame's article about the controversy.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from Eon Productions and Fox Home Entertainment:
VEGAS, NV (Jan.
10, 2012) – In celebration of James Bond’s monumental golden
anniversary, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Twentieth Century Fox Home
Entertainment today unveiled BOND 50, a collectible box-set featuring
all 22 James Bond films on Blu-ray Disc for the first time in one
complete offering. The longest running film franchise of all time, the Bond
50 collection marks the debut of nine James Bond films previously
unavailable in high definition Blu-ray. Fans around the world can pre-order now
with participating online retailers.
Acclaimed Bond directors John Glen (five Bond films including For Your Eyes
Only, Octopussy, A View to a Kill, The Living Daylights &
Licence To Kill), Martin Campbell (GoldenEye, Casino Royale)
and Michael Apted (The World Is Not Enough) with special guests Olga
Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) and Caterina Murino (Casino Royale)
made the Blu-ray announcement today during a Directors’ Panel discussion in the
Panasonic Booth at the annual Consumer Electronics Show.
BOND 50 showcases fifty years of Bond neatly packaged into one cool,
sleek collectable box-set featuring all six iconic James Bond actors. Produced
using the highest possible picture quality and audio presentation, the
collection includes all 22 James Bond feature films from Dr. No to Quantum
of Solace and more than 130 hours of bonus features including some
new and exclusive content.
“With all 22 feature films available on Blu-ray in one collection for the first
time this is a great way for fans to catch up on 007’s epic journey before Skyfall
hits theaters next Fall,” said Michael Brown, Senior Vice President, MGM
Home Entertainment. “Now viewers can enjoy the intense action of the innovative
franchise in the most immersive home experience possible.”
“We have a whole program of exciting activities planned for our 50th
anniversary year, beginning with today’s announcement, by Fox, of the release
of all 22 films on Blu-ray for the very first time,’’ added Michael G. Wilson
and Barbara Broccoli, with Eon Productions. “We are also delighted that Fox has
unveiled a specially designed anniversary poster which we hope the fans will
love as much as we do. Our website, 007.com will be regularly updated with all
the latest anniversary news and events.”
CLICK HERE TO PRE-ORDER THE COLLECTION DISCOUNTED FROM AMAZON AND SAVE $100!
Film Chest's Phil Hopkins (L) and Ralph Stevens (R) with Cinema Retro Editor-in-Chief Lee Pfeiffer at The Players club in New York- under the watchful eye of Jason Robards.
Film Chest, a film archive based in
Bridgeport, CT that manages and restores several major motion picture libraries, is
introducing a boutique home video division, American Pop Classics. The have
recently remastered several of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes
classics of the 1940s that were originally released theatrically by
Universal. The titles will be available on burn-to-order basis through the
Allied-Vaughn company, the industry leader in the technology. Film Chest
executives joined Cinema Retro editor-in-chief Lee Pfeiffer for a Holmes
screening at New York's legendary Players club at Gramercy Park where DVDs of
the new line were given away as raffle prizes. The crisply remastered prints
represent the first time that these Sherlock Holmes films are available as
burn-to-order editions. They are available through major on-line retailers.
Film Chest offers many classic movies, rare television shows, and cult film
classics now available on demand. Stay tuned for further info.
Wende Wagner was 23 years old when she got the role of an Indian maiden in the 1964 western Rio Conchos. Wagner dabbled in acting for several years, married and divorced Robert Mitchum's son James and made her last big screen appearance in Guns of the Magnificent Seven in 1969. Oh, her measurements came in at 36-22-35 - not that we took any notice.
Football superstar Jim Brown made his screen debut co-starring with Wende Wagner, Stuart Whitman, Richard Boone and Tony Franciosa in Rio Conchos. Did you know the film was a semi-remake of the 1961 John Wayne western The Comancheros, which also starred Whitman? For our tribute to Jim Brown ("The First Black Action Hero") see Cinema Retro issue #4. For full coverage of Rio Conchos, see Nicholas Anez' extensive article in Cinema Retro issue #20.
British kids had some cool collectibles that fans never got in the States: hardcover adventure books based on their favorite TV series and movies. These hardback "annuals" were all the rage in the 1950s and 1960s. The books featured original stories and artwork and some, such as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. , reproduced the Gold Key comic books that were sold in America. More elaborate annuals such as those based on the James Bond films offered full color photos as well. Illustrated here: two vintage adventure books based on Rawhide starring Eric Fleming and a young up-and-comer named Clint Eastwood.
Joe Dante's addictive web site Trailers From Hell presents the original theatrical trailer for the Hammer Films classic The Mummy starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Contributing commentary is by Brian Trenchard-Smith. Click here to watch
I admit to having a weakness for the "dirty cop" movies that were all the rage beginning with Bullitt in 1968 and extending through the mid to late 70s. Seemingly every major star wanted to be part of the genre, just as the spy film rage of the mid-1960s had everyone and their grandmother portraying a secret agent. The Super Cops, a 1974 MGM production, came at the end of the era in which stars such as Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Steve McQueen and John Wayne had portrayed anti-establishment law enforcement officers. The Super Cops has the key ingredients common to all these films: wisecracking hero(es), tone-deaf police brass who are either resistant to using innovative methods or are flat-out corrupt and gritty urban backdrops. The Super Cops had the pedigree of being based on fact and a bestselling book by the titular heroes, New York City detectives David Greenberg and Robert Hantz whose daring and unconventional exploits earned them the nicknames of Batman and Robin. (The Batman connection extends into the marketing campaign of the feature film with a one sheet poster that emulated the Pow! Zap! graphics of the 1960s TV series.) The pair became among the most decorated detectives in New York City Police Department history, but if you believe the script, these accolades were given reluctantly from police brass that despised their headline-grabbing antics.
The film benefits from the having been directed by Gordon Parks (Shaft). Parks, a former Life magazine photographer, was the first African American to direct films for major studios. He was no auteur but Parks did have a true knack for conveying life in troubled urban communities. The film opens with Greenberg (Ron Liebman) meeting Hantz (David Selby) at police cadet school where their wiseguy ways of upstaging superiors alienates them from the powers-that-be and even fellow cops. Nevertheless, their unconventional methods result in high profile arrests- even if the niceties of due process are often ignored. The film rambles from one unrelated incident to another and this lack of a central antagonist or plot device results in a meandering feeling to the storyline. Liebman and Selby are no Butch and Sundance but acquit themselves adequately. (Liebman has all the scene-stealing opportunities and Selby is presented primarily as straight-man). Much of the film has the feel of a TV movie, though it could just be that cheesy aspects of the production are simply a product of the time: ugly fashions, ugly haircuts, ugly, boxy cars, etc, all set to an equally cheesy score by the usually impressive Jerry Fielding. In the movie's most creative action sequence, Greenberg and Hantz pursue suspects through a condemned tenement high rise that is being destroyed at that very moment by a wrecking ball. As the film progresses, it takes on a slightly more serious tone that makes for a some more moderately compelling scenes, such as when Greenberg's attempt to infiltrate a drug mob goes awry. The main problem is that there is absolutely no background given to the two heroes. We learn nothing about their motivations or personal lives outside of the police force, which leaves them as opaque and superficial characters. The film does benefit from an inspired supporting cast that includes the always-watchable Pat Hingle, Dan Frazer as an opportunistic police lieutenant who supports Greenberg and Hantz for his own career purposes and Cinema Retro's own Joe Sirola in a fine performance as an arrogant police sergeant. Sheila E. Frazier supplied the only sex appeal as a hooker with a weakness for Greenberg.
The Super Cops is no work of art but if you also have a weakness for dirty cop movies of the 70s, it's worth a look. The DVD contains the original trailer.
The first Bond girl is arguably the best: Ursula Andress in Dr. No.
Entertainment Weekly's Joshua Rich provides us with yet another completely superfluous, yet admittedly fun, movie list, this time evaluating the merits of major James Bond actresses and characters. Some of his observations are spot-on (i.e Ursula Andress and Diana Rigg rank among the best; Denise Richards and Britt Ekland among the worst. ) Some of the other conclusions seem delusional: would you really consider Lotte Lenya's Rosa Klebb to be a "Bond Girl?" or Maud Adams' Octopussy among the worst characters? Click here and judge for yourself
One of our favorite tough cop movies is John Sturges' 1974 thriller, McQ with John Wayne in the title role as a maverick Seattle P.D. detective who is being framed for drug smuggling. The film is several notches above most of the Dirty Harry clones of the era, thanks to an excellent script and a solid supporting cast for Wayne to spar with. We were intrigued with this publicity still showing McQ rousting the pimp "Rosie", played by Roger. E. Mosley because it doesn't appear in the final cut. The fact that the scene ended up in the press kit photos indicates it must have been cut at the last minute. In the film, Wayne harasses Rosie on a couple of occasions to get confidential information about the corrupt cops who are framing him. In the cut sequence, unless Duke and Mosley are engaging in some unlikely male bonding, McQ appears to have infiltrated Rosie's apartment to lay some heat on him. As with all of our Unseen Scenes, one hopes that this footage still exists in a studio vault and that it may someday see the light of day on DVD.
Roger Moore with Cubby Broccoli and future Bond producer Michael G. Wilson on the set of For Your Eyes Only in Greece. Wilson is attired as a priest for his customary cameo appearance.
In an interview with Britain's Telegraph, Sir Roger Moore recalls bittersweet memories of filming the 1981 James Bond film For Your Eyes Only. Sir Roger remembers the joys of working with Cubby Broccoli and Desmond Llewelyn, but also recalls the death of actor Bernard Lee, who died during filming. For more click here