Although Dorothy Gibson's name has largely been lost to time, she was one of the shining stars of the American film industry during the silent era. Gibson made a fateful voyage on the Titanic and barely managed to survive. She capitalized on her adventure in a successful movie titled Saved From the Titanic. However, another tragedy loomed in her future, when fate brought her to Germany at the advent of Hitler's rise to power. Click here for more
InterVision is releasing the vintage Australian Ozploitation films of director John D. Lamond, whose modestly-budgeted works turned enormous profits with the angle of showing what was going on down under Down Under. Following their release of Lamond's first movie, Australia After Dark (click here for review), the company now presents his second effort, The ABC's of Love and Sex- Australia Style, in an uncut version. (The film had been censored in various countries to conform with censors.) Curiously, although the DVD sleeve refers to the titles as The ABC's..., the film itself is titled The ABC of Love and Sex. Like the previous movie, this 1978 feature uses the guise of being an educational film to explore sexual habits among Aussies, though one would assume there is nothing so unique about Australian sex practices that can't be found in any other country. Perhaps to minimize interference from censors, Lamond mingles humor with surprisingly graphic (if somewhat clinical) presentations of willing couples doin' the dirty deeds. The film starts rather bizarrely with clay animation figures informing us of what we're about to see. Lamond uses the old ploy of interviewing doctors and researchers to give the feature a semblance of intellectual credibility when, in fact, it is clearly designed to titillate. Lamond takes every letter of the alphabet and presents a vignette to illustrate a sexual practice, fetish or deviancy relating to each letter. The prejudices of the era are in full view, with homosexual men being dismissed as catty queens bitching behind each other's backs at a party. However, lesbians are depicted as beautiful, naked and sexually voracious. There are also plenty of tips about masturbation techniques, in case you need some advice in that area. (Remember, it's sex with someone you love...) The film presents food as a sexual aid in a sequence that is obviously inspired by the dining sequence in Tom Jones. Lamond doesn't shy away from some touchier topics such as rape, and was ahead of his time in presenting it as an undeniable act of violence that leaves a woman brutalized. (Though he can't resist pointing out that some women have rape fantasies.) Lamond does provide equal time in terms of showing both sexes in full frontal nudity mode and some of the scenes are surprisingly graphic, given the era in which the film was made. The film is more amusing than erotic and contains some catchy songs played against images of attractive models dancing. This benign approach seems like a clever way to disarm critics and ensure the movie wasn't regarded as outright pornography. The film is crude but fun and provides an interesting time capsule of how we viewed sex in the 70s.
The DVD contains an audio commentary track by Lamond and filmmaker Nick Hartley that is quite entertaining. However, the packaging promises a gallery of his film trailer that isn't on the DVD.
The Naked Gun films were hits: the TV series they were based on, Police Squad, was a flop, lasting only six episodes.
CBS This Morning devotes a segment to analyzing beloved TV series that have been made into feature films. Among those discussed: The Three Stooges (the link acknowledges these were actually theatrical shorts but soared in popularity due to TV airings), Sex and the City, The Naked Gun and The Brady Bunch. The critics also mention Batman, thus showing their ignorance of the fact that the Batman feature films of recent years have not been based on the 1960s TV series, but on a much longer legacy that extends back to serials in the 1940s. Curiously, there isn't even a mention of the hugely successful Mission: Impossible movies. Click here to view
Would you want to wreck this man's new Mercedes???
Long time Clint Eastwood-watchers thought it was rather strange that the normally private actor and filmmaker consented to a reality TV show that will highlight his wife Dana's attempts to popularize a boy band she discovered. The intrusive look into the Eastwood's personal life has many show biz types scratching their heads about why Eastwood would agree to make some fleeting appearances on the program. The show was being filmed when Clint loaned his new Mercedes to the boy band- and they directly drove it into the front of a grocery store. Eastwood was said to be incensed, but we'll have to see how much of this makes the final cut. According to the Daily Star, Eastwood doesn't appear to be having the time of his life on the project and the crew is becoming intimidated by him. As for the band members, they should tread cautiously. Clint doesn't take kindly to messing with his vehicles, as anyone who saw Gran Torino can attest. For more click here
No matter what age you are, if you grew up in America in the last 71 years, Archie Comics have been a part of your life to one degree or another. The bloom may be off the rose in terms of the overall popularity of the perpetually-young, freckled face red head, but there are signs his mojo is coming back. The introduction of a gay character into Archie's circle of friends has seen sales soaring, as has a fantasy storyline that explores what his life would have been like had he married Betty and Veronica (separately, of course.). Nevertheless, the behind the scenes story of Archie Comics is the antithesis of the family-friendly plots in the comic books. The heirs of the founders are battling for control of the company- and the situation is so ugly that the New York Times is giving it major coverage. Click here to read. (Thanks to reader Nick Sheffo for the heads up).
Sony must be bullish on Bond...James Bond. Although Skyfall won't hit theaters until October, the studio has confirmed plans to get a new Bond film in theaters every two years. Although Daniel Craig's three picture contract expires with Skyfall, it's well known that his relationship with EON Productions has been among the best any 007 actor has enjoyed. Thus, it's expected Craig can be lured back into Bondage fairly easily. For more click here
Depp and Armie Hammer in the latest screen incarnation of The Lone Ranger.
Well, after a number of aborted attempts, Johnny Depp finally is fulfilling his quest to play Tonto in a new big screen version of The Lone Ranger. Here's a first look at his unique makeup, which renders him unrecognizable. Click here to read about how this look came about as well as Depp's determination to update the traditional image of one of the most famous side-kicks in history.
Vincent Price (see here in the 1964 adaptation of The Tomb of Ligeia) collaborated with producer Roger Corman on several successful cinematic translations of Poe's work.
John Cusack's new movie -a fictionalized look at the life of Edgar Allan Poe that presents the famed writer chasing a serial killer- has brought about renewed interest in seeing how the master of the macabre's stories have translated on to cinema screens over the decades (for better or worse). Click here to read New York Times analysis.
Here's a blast from the past: America's dueling film critics, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert debating the merits of the "new" 1983 James Bond movie Octopussy. It begins about 4:40 into the segment, after they both trash a B sci-fi movie. Click here to view
When Annie Hall was released this month in 1977, most people expected a typical Woody Allen movie with funny pratfalls and slapstick and few sly observations about life. What they got instead was a timeless cinematic masterpiece that went on to win Oscar for Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Director (not that Woody showed up to claim it). In celebration of the film's legacy, click here for a wonderful trip down memory lane through the film's most memorable lines (not those said by Diane Keaton or Woody Allen).
The Molly Maguires was director Martin Ritt's gritty look at Irish coal miners working in Pennsylvania in the 19th century. The film was a costly financial flop despite starring Sean Connery and Richard Harris, but that doesn't diminish its merits as an excellent film. One of the best aspects of the movie is Henry Mancini's wonderful score. Click here to listen
For Sergio Leone fans and scholars, it's almost too good to be true. A restored version of his 1984 film Once Upon a Time in America will premiere at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Forty minutes will be added to the most complete edition of the film available today, bringing the running time to the 269 version Leone had envisioned. The film, like most of Leone's masterworks, was butchered in its initial release when the studio recut and edited the movie against his wishes. The resulting film was was trashed at the time by most critics, including influential reviewers Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. Yet when the movie was partially restored to a 229 minute running time, both critics reversed their opinions and declared it a major achievement, with Siskel naming it the best film of 1984. For more click here
Click here for original Siskel and Ebert review 9 (approx. 4:36 into the segment)
VCI Entertainment have released the 1952 B Western Hellgate as a burn-to-order DVD. Viewing it is a worthy experience, as this film is representative of so many fine features that have largely been lost to time. Sterling Hayden plays Gil Hanley, a quiet veterinarian living in post-Civil War Kansas. The place had been terrorized during the war by marauding parties of renegades fighting on both sides. These raiders often killed and tortured indiscriminately (see The Outlaw Josey Wales). With the war over for two years, the U.S. Army is trying to track down these criminals and bring them to justice. Hanley's life changes for the worse when he treats an escaped criminal for injuries without knowing his identity. Circumstantial evidence leads the army to arrest him and, in a kangaroo court held by a military tribunal, he is sentenced to hard labor at Hellgate Prison. The place is appropriately named, as it's set in the middle of the desert and prisoners are housed underground in dank, dark cells carved out of the stone. Life consists of senselessly breaking rocks in the blazing heat, all the while on a limited diet with and sparse water provisions. Making matters worse, Hanley is singled out for abuse by the warden (Ward Bond), who harbors a grudge because his own family had been killed by marauders and he believes Hanley is also a terrorist. Hanley's cell mates are plotting an ambitious escape. He's reluctant to join them, but after being virtually baked alive in a torture device, he throws in with the lot. This sets in motion a well-scripted series of events that are genuinely interesting and occasionally suspenseful. The film even delivers a meaningful message about the dangers of rushing to judgment, abusing prisoners and the appropriateness of having civilians tried by military courts (a timely matter even today). The movie begins with a notice that indicates the film was based on fact, though I couldn't find any historical record of the case.
The film was written and produced by Charles Marquis Warren, who went to create several popular Western TV series, most notably Rawhide. Hayden makes for a solid leading man, though it's amusing to see that in early films like this his performance was somewhat bland when compared to his classic roles in later movies such as Dr. Strangelove and The Godfather. Ward Bond is particularly effective, cast against type as the prison's Captain Bligh-like warden and James Arness makes an early screen appearance as Hanley's fellow prisoner. Other future notables associated with the movie are editor Elmo Williams, who went on to become a major producer and Andrew V. McLaglen, who has an early Assistant Director credit.
Hellgate is by no means a classic or high art, but it is an intelligent, well-made Western that holds the viewer's interest throughout.
(UPDATE: reader Peter Hogan advises the film is an unofficial remake of The Prisoner of Shark Island.)
Click here to access a great site dedicated to celebrating those great old paperback covers of the 1960s. The subject matters are all over the map but there is extensive coverage of the kinds of sexploitation paperbacks boys of that era used to read under blankets with flashlights. It's amazing how many great artists came to prominence painting these great covers for trashy novels: Robert McGinnis and Frank Frazetta among them. Most amusing is the overly-erotic way in which sex was presented. If you were from another planet and the only knowledge you had of women was from these books, you would think every female on the planet was a sex-starved, 48DD lesbian dominatrix!
NBC is going back to the future and reviving The Munsters as a new TV series, though it will be titled Mockingbird Lane. We have bad vibes about this project, but at least the initial concept drawings are impressive. Click here to view
Character actor William Finley passed away earlier this week at age 71. Finley, who lived in Manhattan, made relatively few appearances in films and on TV, but nevertheless had built a loyal following because some of his movies became cult classics. He is closely associated with director Brian De Palma, for whom he built sets on his early short film, Woton's Wake in 1962. De Palma and Finley's friendship endured and they collaborated on many of the director's films as De Palma rose to fame in Hollywood. Finley's biggest break was being cast in the title role of Phantom of the Paradise, De Palma's 1974 take on Phantom of the Opera with a rock 'n roll spin. Finley also appeared in such films as Sisters, Silent Rage, The Black Daliah, The Fury, The Funhouse and Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive. To read New York Times obituary, click here
Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio will team for the fifth time for The Wolf of Wall Street, based on the memoir of a hot shot executive whose hard partying ways during the Wall Street boom years almost brought about his demise. We're enthused about this, but the production company, Red Granite, should have read their press release a bit more carefully: the first reference to Leo is "DiCraprio"!
Canadian actor Jonathan Frid has died at age 87. He passed away last week, but news was just made public. Frid became an enduring symbol of 60s pop culture due to his portrayal of charismatic vampire Barnabas Collins in the cult soap opera Dark Shadows. Frid's character was said to have saved a failing show when it was introduced in 1967. The series ran until 1971, but is arguably more popular than ever today with fan conventions, DVD editions and a big screen, comedic version starring Johnny Depp due to hit theaters next month. (Frid has a cameo in the film.) Frid never seemed bothered by the fact that his entire screen career was centered on the Collins character and he expressed contentment that his work resonated over multiple generations. For more click here
With the Three Stooges hit movie putting the original boys back in the limelight, the New York Times takes a look at the underrated character actors who often bore the brunt of Moe, Larry, Curly and Shemp's destructive antics. Click here to read
WARNING SHOT and other themes composed by
Jerry Goldsmith - SI ZENTNER
Vocalion is a company whose soundtracks feature regularly in our printed
version of Cinema Retro. Just missing the deadline on this occasion are two
superb debut releases, one of which includes Jerry Goldsmith’s excellent score
(performed by Si Zentner) for Warning Shot (1967). Originally released on LP
(LST 7498), Vocalion’s new CD (CDLK 4470) has smartly doubled up the release to
include Si Zentner’s 1964 album From Russia With Love (originally released LP
LST 7353). Warning Shot is a relatively short score, but as with the original
album, it includes some great interpretations of Goldsmith favourites such as
the Von Ryan march, The Prize, A Patch of Blue and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Warning Shot is a film that generally tends to slip under the radar. However,
it’s a neat little thriller starring the ever reliable David Janssen and a host
of other great character performers. Made in the 1967, it came to Janssen
during the same year that his enormously successful TV series The Fugitive
entered its final season. Goldsmith’s music plays perfectly as an accompaniment
to this minor action thriller. The composer’s score in its original form has
never been released on any format, but Zentner’s arrangement does a highly
capable job of capturing the essence of Goldsmith’s composition. As always,
Vocalion have dressed this release to replicate the original album, adapting
the LP artwork to also incorporate Zentner’s From Russia with Love sleeve. From
Russia with Love (as with Warning Shot) contains a straight remastered version
of the album content. Its twelve tracks include a superb array of crime jazz themes
from the day including Burkes Law, Mr Lucky, Dragnet, The Third Man, Peter
Gunn, Charade and the aforementioned The Fugitive. Vocalion’s latest CD
provides a cracking stereo mix and again proves that modern day collectors are
only too eager in welcoming these charismatic crime jazz classics from the
past. Keep ‘em coming!
WAR MOVIE THEMES – GEOFF LOVE and his Orchestra
year Vocalion made the smart move to begin re-releasing the extremely popular
series of MFP albums from the 1970s by Geoff Love and his Orchestra. Recent
releases included Big Terror Movie Themes, Big Suspense Themes and Bond Movies.
Now, Vocalion have released one of the most popular titles in the series, BIG
WAR MOVIE THEMES (CDLK 4468). The original 1971 LP (MFP 5171) has arguably
become an iconic image. Culturally, and perhaps because of its original budget
price, the album found its way into thousands of vinyl collections across the
UK. Making its debut on CD, BIG WAR THEMES has lost none of its power to
thrill. Unlike similar cover compilations (which had a tendency to sound either
weak or tipped in comparison), these beautifully recorded themes retain an epic
and sumptuous edge. Love and his Orchestra are clearly on top of their game and
one can only imagine the brisling atmosphere that immersed Studio 1 at the
Abbey road studios. The album offers a generous collection of the most
memorable war themes including Ron Goodwin’s Where Eagles Dare, Battle of
Britain and 633 Squadron, Dimitri Tiomkin’s The Guns of Navarone and Maurice
Jarre’s enigmatic Lawrence of Arabia. A wonderful remastering job provided by
Michael J Dutton helps propel this vintage recording to a worthy high end,
professional standard. As a bonus, Vocalion have also doubled up on this CD and
included Geoff Love’s 1972 album BIG CONCERTO MOVIE THEMES. Originally released
on LP (MFP 5261), the album concentrates on the cinematic use of classical
themes. As one would expect, there is a more serious edge to this collection of
music. However, it remains a glorious reminder of how the influences of
classical composers and their works have lived on through cinema history.
Vocalion’s continued commitment to these long lost classic albums is certainly
worthy of the highest respect. - Darren Allison, Cinema Retro Soundtrack
The Wrap reports that screenwriter Joe Eszterhas and Mel Gibson are in the midst of a public feud regarding Gibson's aborted plans to make a film about the ancient Jewish hero Maccabbee, who led his people in a revolt that is still celebrated at Hannukah. The convoluted tale began when Gibson and Warner Brothers decided to bring the story to the screen with Gibson as Macabbee. That very notion caused controversy, given Gibson's scandalous anti-Semitic remarks in the past. Eszterhas says he was enthused about the project but had concerns when he witnessed irrational behavior on the part of Gibson that allegedly included anti-Jewish remarks and death threats against his estranged lover and mother of one of his children. When Warner Brothers received the first draft of the screenplay from Eszterhas, the studio rejected it out of hand- a severe blow to a man who had once been the hottest screenwriter in Hollywood. After the rejection, Eszterhas went public with accusations against Gibson, saying the Oscar winner never had any intention of bringing the story to the screen and had only hoped to prove he was not anti-Semitic by pretending to develop the project. Eszterhas also called Gibson an unstable person who might be capable of carrying out his threats to hurt is enemies. Gibson responded by saying that, although he used heated rhetoric, most of Eszterhas' accusations are baseless and says he is only trying to divert attention from having his script rejected by Warner Brothers. The screenwriter then granted an interview to the Wrap in which he says he has Gibson's comments on tape. Got all that? Click here for first report on the Wrap. Click here for Eszterhas interview.
The man described as the ageless teenager is no more. Dick Clark has passed away at age 82 after suffering a massive heart attack. Clark had been in poor health for years, suffering from the aftermath of a stroke as well as diabetes. Clark helped turn rock 'n roll from a fad into a global phenomenon, primarily by showcasing recording stars on his hit series American Bandstand. Over the decades, he became an icon of the international entertainment industry, though most of his achievements were done in the boardroom, not in front of TV cameras. He created and produced hit game shows and even pioneered the concept of turning New Years Eve entertainment into an event that appealed to young people worldwide. Prior to Clark, the New Years Eve programming consisted of Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadian orchestra performing at the Waldorf Astoria. Despite turning the hosting of the annual event over to Ryan Seacrest years ago, Clark made brief appearances to usher in the new year. His last such appearance was this past New Year's Eve. Clark also dabbled in feature films, starring in Because They're Young and The Young Doctors in the early 60s. He also produced some exploitation films including biker movies. For more click here
Cinema Retro London columnist Adrian Smith recently took part in a Vincent Price tribute and contributed to a major discussion of Price's horror classic from 1971, The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Click here to listen - if you dare! (The tribute runs longer than the film!)
(For Caroline Munro's memories of working with Price on the Phibes movies, see Cinema Retro issue #2)
Film producer Martin Poll has died at age 89. Poll started in the film industry producing Flash Gordon shorts in Europe before moving to New York and renovating the old Biograph Studio and renaming them Gold Medal Studios. For a time, the facility was very successful and became known as the largest film production facility outside of Hollywood. However, it was as a producer that Poll found his greatest success, including his classic film adaptation of The Lion in Winter. The acclaimed 1968 film, directed by Anthony Harvey, won an Oscar for Katharine Hepburn. Other film credits include The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing, The Possession of Joel Delaney, Night Watch, Nighthawks, Love and Death and The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea. Poll also served as commissioner of motion picture arts for New York City. For more click here
Although EON is being stingy releasing information about Skyfall, some new official photos from the forthcoming James Bond film have been released, including this impressive photo of Daniel Craig atop a London rooftop. Click here to view
O'Neal with Ali MacGraw in the 1970 blockbuster Love Story
Oscar-nominated actor Ryan O'Neal has confirmed that he has been diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer. The star of Love Story and Barry Lyndon has expressed optimism that he will have a complete recovery. Ironically, O'Neal's long-time lover, Farrah Fawcett, died of cancer- and his memoir about their years together is about to be published. Click here for more.
The headline may sound like a joke but it's anything but. Famed Hollywood publicist Michael Sands has died after tasting some beef in a local supermarket. His death, which occurred on March 26, but details have only just been revealed. The Wrap's coverage shows that Sands' life was as bizarre and colorful as his death: high profile clients, an obsession with self-promotion, and his strange claims to have served as a secret agent for the U.S. government. Click here to read
Titanic is proving to be the Gone With the Wind of the Gen X'rs. The 3-D reissue is a major hit and has pushed the total boxoffice gross of the 1997 Oscar winner to $2 billion. Only one other film surpasses that, and it's also a James Cameron spectacle: Avatar. Click here for more
Last year, when I interviewed actor Stuart Margolin for Cinema Retro's Kelly's Heroes issue, we spoke about shooting the film on location in Yugoslavia. Stuart mentioned that he had shot another movie immediately prior to Kelly's there, an obscurity called The Gamblers. It sounded intriguing but it appeared as though the movie was relegated to those curiosities that had become lost over the decades. I don't even remember it having an American release, though IMDB does say it opened in the States in January 1970. The film has been rescued and put out on DVD by VCI Entertainment as part of their burn-to-order line. The movie was written and directed by Ron Winston, who had done some high profile TV series episodes and a few feature films before he died in 1973 at the young age of 40. The movie was shot entirely on location in Dubrovnik, which is now part of Croatia in the post-Yugoslavian era. At the time, dictator Marshall Tito had been luring filmmakers to his country, using subsidies and tax incentives. The Gamblers is a modestly-budgeted enterprise but it makes full use of the gorgeous coastal locations and eschews any use of studio settings to capitalize on them.
The film follows two con-men, Rooney (Don Gordon) and his friend Goldy (Stuart Margolin) as they embark on an Adriatic cruise in search of victims to bilk out of gambling money. Rooney, who masquerades as a sophisticated psychiatrist, is actually a card shark who uses a seemingly foolproof system to ensure he wins big money from gullible people during poker games. The pair meet another pair of con men working aboard the ship: an Englishman named Broadfoot (Kenneth Griffith) and his partner, the Frenchman Cozzier (Pierre Olaf). In a high stakes poker game, the Europeans are impressed with Rooney's system. They know they have been conned but are not offended. Instead, they propose joining forces. They reveal they are en route to tempt a local aristocrat with a weakness for gambling to join them in a major poker game. If Rooney and Goldy will enlist with them and use their secret methods to ensure a win, they will split the ill-gained winnings with them. Along for the ride is Candace (Suzy Kendall), a free-spirited English girl who is intoxicated by these con men and their exotic methods of duping their "marks".
At first glance, The Gamblers is a bit crude. The beginning sequences are more confusing than engrossing and it takes a while to for the characters to develop. However, the viewer should stick with it because there are many unpredictable twists, turns and cons to entertain. What is most enjoyable about the movie is the fact that it offers rare leading roles to actors who are ordinarily known for being reliable second bananas. Gordon is familiar to many retro movie goers, having appeared in several movies with his old friend Steve McQueen. Similarly, Margolin and Griffith did yeoman work over the decades, largely in comedic roles. Here, they all get a chance to shine, along with Olaf, who is equally impressive. The biggest star of the lot at the time, Suzy Kendall, is, ironically, included for window dressing and her primary contribution is to be seen in mini dresses and bikinis. (We're not complaining). The film features an infectious score by John Morris and some nice camerawork- and the ending is a true "sting-in-the-tail" surprise.
VCI's master print for the transfer is dark and grainy, but viewers should understand that, in order to make rare movies like this available, companies have to sometimes settle for whatever prints they can find, often from private collections. In any event, a less-than-pristine print is a small price to pay in return for the delightful experience of watching The Gamblers.
Man Bait is an engrossing, low-budget British film noir that represents an early Hammer Films production in the years before the studio turned to producing their legendary line of horror movies. Several soon-to-be-big Hammer icons worked on the production: it was directed by Terence Fisher, Michael Carreras was the casting director and Jimmy Sangster was assistant director. The claustrophobic drama takes place mostly inside offices and homes with only a few sequences shot outdoors. Perhaps because the producers thought the movie needed some Hollywood gloss, the leading roles went to George Brent and Marguerite Chapman, though both Yanks are overshadowed by a far more intriguing cast of British thespians. Brent plays John Harman, the prim and proper manager of an upscale London antiquarian book shop. He's happily married to an invalid wife with whom he is anxiously looking forward to traveling with on an exotic cruise. His staid, predictable existence is about to be shaken to its foundations by in an unlikely way. Harman employs a number of people at the book shop, including Ruby Bruce (Diana Dors), a somewhat wayward but vivacious teenage girl. When she falls under the influence of a local cad and thief, Jeffrey Hart (Peter Reynolds), she attempts to seduce Harman as part of a scheme orchestrated by her new lover. The awkward attempt never gets beyond a rather chaste kiss, but Harman soon learns that it has opened the door to a blackmail plot that will have dire and unpredictable consequences, including the unintended deaths of two people. Soon, Harman finds himself under police investigation as a suspected murderer.
The film was deceivingly marketed in the United States as Diana Dors' first movie, when, in fact, she had been making films for years. The ad campaign also played up the word "Stacked!" next to a photo of Dors clad in a bikini top. Sadly, the famous femme fatale of British cinema is dressed rather demurely throughout the film, save for a slightly sexy off-the-shoulder number she uses in the seduction sequence. However, the attempt to market this film as a cheap sexploitation movie undermines its merits. It's a thoroughly engrossing story, well-directed and smartly paced throughout its 78 minute running time. Dors would go on to be known as a British Jayne Mansfield, rarely getting a role that stretched any dramatic talents she may have had. (She died in 1984 at age 52). Yet, her performance in Man Bait is impressive and indicated there was real talent that could have been exploited, had producers ever looked above her bust line. The primary weakness is the presence of George Brent in the lead. He's stiff and boring and his performance is at odds with the far more natural acting styles of the excellent supporting cast (Peter Reynolds is exceptionally good as Dors' manipulative older lover).
VCI has released the film as a burn-to-order DVD with a first-rate transfer that accentuates the atmospheric camerawork of Walter Harvey.
The Huffington Post has a death-match style elimination contest in which movie fans can vote for their favorite film franchises. The premise pits such legendary series as James Bond vs. the Twilight films and The Godfather movies vs. Batman flicks. Only one problem: the people who put it together obviously have a broad definition of what constitutes a franchise. They have included such "one-shot" movies as The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Titanic while not even mentioning the long-running Dirty Harry movies. For more click here
You might think that the family of the original Three Stooges might be upset with the new film recreating the antics of the legendary comedy act. However, as author and Cinema Retro contributor Nick Thomas finds out, they are actually very enthused about the madcap trio's legacy extending into a new generation. Click here to read their memories of Moe, Larry and Curly as family men.
Author William Boyd has accepted an invitation from the Ian Fleming estate to write the next (as yet untitled) James Bond novel. Three of Boyd's books have been adapted into films that have starred 007 actors Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig. Boyd was not giving any details on the project except to say it will be retro-based with the story taking place in 1969. The Ian Fleming estate has been following a policy of having prominent authors each write one Bond novel. Sebastian Faulks and Jeffrey Deaver have already written best-selling Bond thrillers. Boyd has been a Bond fan since childhood. His book will be released in 2013. For more click here
Netflix has shelled out $4 billion in contractual payments to continue to secure the rights to rent and stream hit movies. The pressure on the company is severe, as the upfront costs of these licenses will result in a loss for Netflix this year. The act of streaming a movie or renting a DVD may seem benign to consumers, but it's actually the end result of highly complex and somewhat intrusive marketing methods Netflix uses to try to stay out in front of its rivals such as Amazon and Wal-Mart. The company depends heavily on learning viewer's movie preferences so it can recommend other rentals or downloads. This is the backbone of Netflix' business plan. However, DVD rentals require customers to fill out a rating evaluation in order to learn about their viewing habits. Not so with downloads- a computer tells Netflix what you are watching and when. (Many people rent DVDs and return them without getting around to watching them.) The company views downloads as the wave of the future and sees the time when the bulky, labor-intense method of mailing DVDs becomes a thing of the past. Click here for more
While most film historians consider She Wore a Yellow Ribbon to be the best of John Ford's fabled "Cavalry Trilogy", for my money Fort Apache was far and away the strongest of the films. Ribbon and Rio Grande are certainly excellent films but they are primarily compromised by Ford's penchant for overt sentimentality. Fort Apache, however, is a far more sinister look at the West, one that was decades ahead of its time in terms of presenting the case of the Native Americans in a sympathetic fashion. It's ironic that people like Marlon Brando, who extolled the cause of Native American rights, would cite Ford's films as having been detrimental to the Indian cause. In fact, Ford was so highly regarded by the Navajo that he was made an honorary member of the tribe, primarily because of his consistent efforts to improve their lives. Ford became enamored of the Navajo when he was first lured to Monument Valley in 1938 to shoot Stagecoach. He fell in love with the area and the Navajo who inhabited it. Over the years, Ford insisted on shooting many of his films there and, by doing so, pumped large sums of money into the region. He insisted that Indians who worked on his films be paid equally to everyone else, a novel concept during that era. With Fort Apache, Ford dared to do the unthinkable: present the Native Americans as victims in a nuanced manner that evokes sympathy from the viewer.
The story clearly takes its origins from the legend of General Custer, with Henry Fonda portraying Lt. Colonel Owen Thursday, a strutting martinet who is assigned as commanding officer of Fort Apache, a remote U.S. cavalry outpost deep inside territory that has been characterized by raids led by the legendary Apache chief Cochise. It isn't long before Thursday locks horns with his second in command, Capt. Kirby York (John Wayne). York tries to convince Thursday that his heavy-handed philosophies might be appropriate for West Point, but are hopelessly out of touch with commanding an outpost in this region. Thursday will have none of it. He runs a tight ship, tolerates no dissent from his edicts and alienates any hope of striking a truce with the Apaches by intentionally breaking his word and personally insulting Cochise. Yet, screenwriter Frank S. Nugent never makes the character of Thursday a stereotype. He's a fascinating, multi-faceted person with attributes as well as faults. He can be charming and charismatic. His stubborn traits may be self-defeating but he believes his actions are in the best interest of the Army and his country. The film boils over with tension when York confronts Thursday over his methods. Because he is the senior office, Thursday always prevails- even when he ignores York's advice and betrays the Apaches, a move that leads to the film's stunningly filmed climactic battle.
As much as I love B&W movies, I generally always wished that Ford's Monument Valley stories had all been shot in color. The stunning vistas literally jump off the screen in color films such as She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and The Searchers. However, Fort Apache is an exception. The B&W cinematography is unlike anything seen in any other Ford movie. (Cameraman Archie Stout used a complicated process of utilizing infra-red film to secure images that linger in the mind like paintings.) The performances are all first-rate, but despite having top billing, this isn't Wayne's film as much as it is Fonda's. He dominates his every scene with a mesmerizing performance, making Thursday one of the most memorable, and tragic, of all the characters that have come to life in a Ford production. Like Wayne in Yellow Ribbon, he is made up to look far older than his actual years and he carries off the gimmick with great skill. The love interest is provided by Shirley Temple as Thursday's daughter and John Agar as her beau. There are also all those wonderful Ford "stock company" actors including Ward Bond, Guy Kibbee, Victor McLaglen, Jack Pennick, Anna Lee, Pedro Armendariz, as well as George O'Brien.
Warner Home Video's Blu-ray edition presents the film magnificently. Extras include a commentary track by film critic F.X. Feeney and an original trailer. There is also a short documentary about the legacy of Ford at Monument Valley and his friendship with the Goulding family over the decades. (The Gouldings still run the legendary hotel within the Valley). It's informative and leaves one wanting to see even more.
Eastwood has a furniture company in his sites for invoking his name to market a line of chairs.
Here's a bizarre story: Clint Eastwood is suing a furniture company for using his image and film titles to market their line of chairs. The Oscar winning screen legend says the company has worked the names of his movies into descriptions of the chairs, which are called the "Clint" line. The Hollywood Reporter says the company seems to have been intimidated enough to have pulled on-lines ads for the chairs, but hell hath no fury like an Eastwood scorned and the lawsuit remains in place. Looks like Clint has them in the line of fire and they'll be unforgiven. (If you think these puns are awful, click here to read the ones incorporated into the promotions for the furniture.)
The Scorpion label has brought the 1972 film version of Alistair MacLean's best-selling spy novel Puppet on a Chain to DVD. The oft-requested title had only been available in certain parts of Europe. Cinema Retro Editor-in-Chief Lee Pfeiffer is joined by columnist Todd Garbarini and contributor Paul Scrabo on the commentary track, which not only discusses this film, but the spy movie genre in general. The film was not successful financially or critically at the time, but its merits have been re-evaluated over the years. In particular, the spectacular boat chase in the canals of Amsterdam was very obviously the inspiration for a similar sequence set in the bayous of Louisiana in the James Bond flick Live and Let Die. Scorpion has also included some other bonus extras on this DVD release. Since it would a conflict of interest to review the merits of the DVD, we'll link to critic Paul Mavis's review on DVD Talk.
(For Dean Brierly's coverage of the making of Puppet on a Chain, see Cinema Retro issue #14)
Media giant Viacom is suing YouTube for $1 billion in damages, claiming the company willfully allowed users to post 79,000 clips culled from such hit TV series as The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. YouTube claims it is not liable as it served only as the middleman. Viacom has countered that the company knowingly allowed users to continue to post video clips despite the fact that the web site should have been aware they were utilizing copyrighted material. For more click here
I guess when you're the King of the World, you can pretty much indulge in any past time you want. In the case of director James Cameron, he must have a thing for fighting robots because he's teaming with producer Mark Burnett to bringing a series titled Robogeddon to the Discovery Channel. Little is known about the project, which Discovery hasn't officially confirmed, but news reports say that the premise will involve robots that battle to the death. Well, I guess it beats sitting around the back yard shooting squirrels with a B-B gun. - Lee Pfeiffer
2012, UK (This review pertains to the Region 2 DVD format)
Ken Russell passed away last November, he died with the knowledge that his most
infamous film was finally going to be unleashed to the public after laying
almost dormant for over forty years. Russell often described The Devils
as his only political film, and it features magnificent sets and costumes,
theatrical performances, dizzying camerawork and masterful use of music. And of
course, dozens of hysterical nuns.
The Devils is based on the true account
researched by Aldous Huxley of the trial and execution of Father Grandier
(Oliver Reed) in the French town of Loudun in 1634, following accusations of
possession and witchcraft involving a Mother Superior (Vanessa Redgrave) and
the nuns of her convent. It is a powerful depiction of what can happen when
Church and State become powerful and corrupt. Reed was never better than in
this film. He is masterful and perfectly in control as the lunacy around him
descends from farce to true horror. Vanessa Redgrave is incredible as the
twitchy, hunchbacked Sister Jeanne whose lustful repressed desires for Father
Grandier provide the catalyst for Cardinal Richelieu to move in with his
inquisitors and seize control of the town. In the process the nuns are
encouraged to act as if possessed by demons, leading to shocking scenes of
debauchery which are provided for the amusement of tourists, and even the King
insisted that everything in the film was based on historic fact, indeed Huxley
noted some things the nuns did that even he felt would be going too far.
Despite its claim tohistorical accuracy, and the quality of the performances,
the sets, the score and the direction, Warner Bros. were appalled by the
finished film. Russell expected some difficulties with the BBFC and other
censorship bodies around the world, but the studio demanded more cuts than the
censors did. The version that was released in the UK still retained a lot of
shocking material, but the US release
was so butchered that it barely made any sense. Russell was outraged by the way
his film was treated, but fortunately it did not prevent him from continuing to
make great films throughout the decade.
The bizarre and graphic sequences in Russell's original cut resulted in the film being heavily censored.
2004 with the assistance of film critic Mark Kermode some of the missing
material from The Devils was located and restored by the British Film
Institute. The most notable section has become known as “The Rape of Christ”,
and depicts several naked nuns writhing on a massive crucifix in Loudun
Cathedral, in their eyes committing the ultimate blasphemy. It is powerful and
memorably disturbing. Warner Bros. have finally allowed the BFI to finally
release The Devils on DVD, but also withholding this previously missing
footage. The new DVD features the 1971 UK X-rated cut, which is the longest and
most complete version of the film released anywhere in the world. It is hoped
that at some point in the future Warner Bros. will finally allow the full
version to be released. This 1971 version is still an incredibly piece of
filmmaking, and the DVD restoration team have performed an amazing job. The
picture quality is phenomenal, and Derek Jarman's sets have never looked so
stark and foreboding.
are some excellent extras provided in this two disc set, including a new
commentary with Ken Russell and Mark Kermode, the 2002 documentary “Hell on
Earth”, a contemporary making of documentary, some on-set home-movie footage,
and a restoration of one of Russell's first films, Amelia and the Angel
(1958), which has similar themes of religion and redemption.
The Devils is a film with
notoriety, and this BFI release allows us at long last to see it and make up
our own minds. It is an astonishing piece of work on every level, and this
release will rightfully cement Ken Russell's reputation as a true visionary and
one of the finest directors the United Kingdom ever produced.
Cinema Retro issue #21 for John Exshaw's detailed exploration of The Devils)
Will the Blu-ray go the way of the dodo bird and The Bay City Rollers?
Moviefone has pronounced the DVD and Blu-ray formats dead. The only problem is the victims don't know they are deceased. According to the article, digital downloads will soon make the ability to own a disc of your favorite movie impossible. Although the studios make far less in profits from downloads than they do from DVDs and Blu-ray sales, there are upsides that include a tremendous reduction in overhead costs. The studios don't have to press, package and ship goods or deal with returns. Wal-Mart is already prepping for the changeover, partnering with studios to allow consumers to buy digital download versions of movies that can be enjoyed on almost any hi tech mobile device. Costs will be as low as $2. If Moviefone is right, we can say goodbye to all those great aspects to DVD collecting that classic film lovers enjoy, including those shelf-bending special boxed sets loaded with books, souvenirs, toys and other collectibles. However, there are some serious concerns regarding the digital format, including the fact that you don't actually possess your movies and you have to entrust them to a third party site to store them on-line. For more click here
I always get heat when I say this, but I have to say it again: America has a greater ratio of stupid people than any other industrialized nation in the world. I'm as patriotic as anyone and love John Wayne movies, Uncle Sam and apple pie. However, by the time you hit middle age, you've already met so many dumb people that it truly becomes depressing. Yes, every nation has its share of stupid people, but in my humble experience, America takes the cake. Mind you, I'm not saying America is a nation of stupid people- just that we have a greater percentage of stupid people. Just watch Jay Leno's "Jay Walking" segments in which he interviews people on the street and asks them questions that a gorilla should be able to answer. I recall one woman not knowing what country the Great Wall of China was in. Similarly, Americans believe all sorts of crazy conspiracy theories on both the political left and right. There are educated people I know who still swear that President George W. Bush and Vice-President Cheney were the brains behind the destruction of the World Trade Center. Meanwhile, a huge number of Americans believe that President Obama is an illegal alien/Kenyan Muslim. A very prominent political figure (who I won't name because I don't feel like igniting a debate) had to be briefed about what nations America fought in World War II. If you really want to know how stupid many people are, just ask someone to name the current Vice-President. I've been using this test since I was a teenager and recently debated someone who took issue with my thesis that stupidity is sweeping America. "I'm not stupid!", he protested. I asked him who the current Vice-President is. A look of horror came to his eyes. After a few thoughtful pauses, he said "Dick Cheney?" When I gave him the name of Joe Biden, he slapped his forehead and said, "Oh, yeah", but I firmly believe he had never heard Biden's name prior to this conversation. What does all this have to do with show business? Plenty. One of the reasons contemporary movies are so bad is because stupid people demand stupid entertainment. Sure, there is a King's Speech that slips through the cracks every now and then, but for the most part, unfathomable amounts of money get poured into G.I. Joe movies. Even James Cameron's intelligent blockbuster Titanic isn't immune from the web of stupid people, as evidenced by these comments from fans who never realized the film depicted a historical incident. Click here to read. -Lee Pfeiffer
Britt Ekland in The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)
The Daily Mail takes a look at Bond girls now and then. The gallery shows that time has been kind to these ladies, from Ursula Andress to Teri Hatcher, and it seems the best way to age gracefully is to simply bed down with 007! Click here to view
There is no greater evidence of how clueless major studio executives were in the late 1960s when it came to recognizing the potential of young talent. In the same year that Jack Nicholson emerged from B movies and scored universal praise (and an Oscar nomination) in Easy Rider, Paramount could think of nothing else to do with him but to cast him in a supporting role in the big budget musical disaster On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, starring Barbra Streisand and Yves Montand. Making matters worse, the studio was so unimpressed with Nicholson, that they cut all but one of his scenes - including his musical number. (Hmmm...the thought of Nicholson warbling in anything other than a comic mode, makes us think that somebody at Paramount exercised some good judgment!)
The tragic final days of Judy Garland and her attempt for one last career comeback are traced in End of the Rainbow, a British stage production now on Broadway. According to critic Mark Kennedy, the show is a stunner, thanks mostly to star Tracie Bennett's acclaimed portrayal of the doomed Hollywood legend who died of a drug overdose in 1969. For more click here
The James Bond producers have been a bit more generous with the BBC than they have been with other media outlets in terms of allowing access to the set of Skyfall. Click here for a visit to the set and scenes of Daniel Craig as 007, along with an interview with the actor about his future as Bond.
Good news for Woody Allen fans: the Woodman returns to the screen and appears in his latest movie, To Rome With Love. There was a time when Allen was too insecure to film outside of his native Manhattan, but in recent years, he has gained critical acclaim- and an Oscar- by shooting on the "continent". To Rome With Love looks like a worthy successor to his brilliant Midnight in Paris, with sly jokes, witty situations and a stellar cast. Click here to view
Yikes! The sons of George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are contemplating forming a band called The Beatles-The Next Generation. Fortunately, Starr's son Zak is said to be hedging on the idea, which might mercifully strangle the concept before it reaches reality. Although Julian Lennon did have a short-lived successful music career in the 1980s, when was the last time you went out to buy a record by Zak Starkey, Dhani Harrison or James McCartney? For all we knew, they were finding work as plumbers in recent years. Nevertheless, it's hard to turn down requests from offspring and Sir Paul McCartney says he will let "the will of God" dictate whether the plan comes to fruition...That's a pretty anemic recommendation from your own father. Hey, maybe they can keep tradition going and hire Pete Best's kid as a drummer, then fire him and hire Zak! Click here for more