Click here to learn about the 3-D Film Archive, which has spent 20 years collecting and restoring obscure examples of the original 3-D film formats. The Archive has shorts and feature films dating from 1922-1955 and will be making them available shortly for exhibition.
The red carpet label
Criterion Collection has continued its mining of classic foreign language films
by releasing for the first time in the U.S. two pictures that first brought
famed Swedish director Ingmar Bergman some attention.Summer
Interlude (1951) and Summer with
Monika (1953) are both fairly commercial love stories but with a slightly
dark flair which only Bergman can produce.Both films are highly erotic (especially Monika) for the time, and these titles contributed to the notion in
America that Sweden made sexy movies.
In fact, Summer with Monika was first released in the U.S. as a
sexploitation film in 1956 by the self-proclaimed “world’s greatest showman,”
Kroger Babb, an exhibitor/producer who specialized in low budget sleaze thinly
disguised as “educational material for adults.” Babb re-cut Summer with Monika, added
a dubbed English language soundtrack that had little to do with Bergman’s
original, laid on a jazzy, sultry Les Baxter musical score, and released the
film as Monika: The Story of a Bad Girl. Because the picture contained brief nudity,
it was marketed solely for titillation purposes. (Woody Allen once remarked that the only
reason he and his friends went to see it was because they’d heard there was a
“naked woman” in it.)
The character of Monika, in
Bergman’s version, is not necessarily a “bad girl,” she’s just from a poor
working class family and does what she can to have fun and bring excitement
into her life. She embarks on a
summer-long sexual affair with the rather young and innocent Harry and ends up
getting pregnant. Poor Harry does the
right thing and marries her; but wild Monika will have none of the domestic
life. She soon leaves her husband holding
the infant. A cautionary tale? Perhaps.
Summer Interlude may not be as dour, but it still ends with characters questioning the
meaning of life and death, and speculating how love fits into the
equation. Marie (played by the gorgeous Maj-Britt Nilsson, who has the
best legs of any Bergman actress) is a successful ballet dancer who, when she
was a teenager, had a summer fling with Henrik (Berman stalwart Birger
Malmsten) that was idyllic. Unfortunately,
the fellow dies in a freak accident, leaving Marie disillusioned and bitter,
even as she becomes famous.
Despite the heavy-sounding
storylines, these are two of Bergman’s most accessible and enjoyable
films. Bergman often touched on the subject
of young love in these early pictures, and he nailed the nervousness,
exhilaration, and angst that accompany what we have all experienced. The photography by Gunnar Fischer is
outstanding, especially with the new digital restorations on both disks.
Summer Interlude disappointingly has no extras. Summer with Monika, however, sports a
treasure trove, including a revealing new interview with legendary Bergman
actress Harriet Andersson—it’s hard to believe she was once the scandalous
nymphet of the film. Images from the Playground is a
collection of home movies Bergman shot while on the sets of these and other
films, including archival interviews with Andersson and Bibi Andersson. Especially interesting is the short on the
distribution of Monika: The Story of a
Bad Girl in the USA, with a profile of Kroger Babb. If only Criterion had obtained the rights and
a print of that sexploitation version of Monika
and included it—that would have
been a gem. Both disks come with thick
booklets containing essays and photographs.
If you’re a Bergman fan—and a
Criterion fan—these lost jewels are highly recommended.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER "SUMMER WITH MONIKA" ON BLU-RAY DISCOUNTED FROM AMAZON
CLICK HERE TO ORDER "SUMMER INTERLUDE" ON BLU-RAY DISCOUNTED FROM AMAZON
He was the King of the Night. Between 1962 and 1992, Johnny Carson ruled supreme as host of The Tonight Show. His humor and appeal cut across all boundaries of age, ethnicity and politics because Carson was an equal opportunity satirist. His comedy was gentle by today's standards, but always on the mark. His unique ability to turn even a bad joke into a big laugh was inimitable. The American Masters TV series recently aired the most in-depth portrait of this man ever undertaken. He was genial on TV, but standoffish behind the scenes. Few really got to know him, including his string of wives. He was opaque and hated to discuss himself. In a rare interview from the 1980s on 60 Minutes, Carson opened up a bit, admitting he could not handle alcohol and was a bad drunk. He was a distant father to his sons and had many friendly acquaintances but few close friends. Even his legendary sidekicks Ed McMahon and Doc Severinsen couldn't get beneath his surface. Yet, Carson endured and thrived, outlasting high profile talents who had planned to make him irrelevant. He negotiated from NBC the most lucrative contracts in the history of television. When he did leave the network, it was by his own choosing and at the top of his game. The messy race to replacement permanently ruined the friendships between Jay Leno and David Letterman, and still had its tentacles into the fate of Conan O'Brien in more recent years. This much is true: I still miss Carson. There was something soothing about knowing that, no matter had bad your day was, this man was going to make you laugh. He also thrived in a time of legends, so you tuned in to see drop bys from some unexpected guests as Dean Martin, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and John Wayne. In the early days of his reign on The Tonight Show, TV hadn't devolved into a cultural cesspool. Carson educated even as he entertained. One minute he would be matching insults with Don Rickles and the next he would be interviewing a scientist or professor. He elevated the medium at every opportunity. Click here for a tribute to the late TV icon on the 20th anniversary of his retirement, along with vintage highlights from his programs.
Designing 007: 50 Years of Bond Style will open at the Barbican in London on July 6 and run through September 5. The major exhibition is a multi-sensory experience that covers all aspects of style relating to the legendary film franchise, ranging from clothing designers to original concepts for production design. For details click here
MGM has released the 1082 action flick Safari 3000 as a burn-to-order DVD. The title refers to a marathon road race that extends 3,000 miles across the African desert. Stockard Channing plays J.J. Dalton, a Lois Lane-like adventurous American reporter who has an inexplicable fixation on covering the race by entering her own car in the competition. Arriving in Africa (no specific country is actually cited) J.J. buys a clunker of an automobile, then meets cute with Eddie Miles (David Carradine), a rugged loner who has reputation as one of the top race car drivers. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to conclude that this odd couple will link up and Eddie will be J.J's official driver. You also don't win kudos for predicting that their friction-filled relationship will ultimately lead to some rolls in the sack as they develop an unlikely romance. The couple is constantly being challenged by the evil Count Borgia (Christopher Lee, who is clad in a bizarre black crash helmet that makes him resemble a cross between Darth Vader and a overturned spittoon). Borgia travels with his long-suffering Sancho Panza, Feodor (Hamilton Camp), who meekly bares verbal abuse from his boss. The film, directed by Harry Hurwitz, is one of those productions that seems to exist simply to afford the participants the opportunity for an exotic vacation in Africa, while collecting a pay check at the same time. (Imagine John Ford's lazy Hawaiian opus Donovan's Reef -with elephants.)
There is barely any effort to provide a story line. Most of the action consists of endless car chases with nary an explanation as to how the participants are refueling their vehicles over the 3,000 run in the most desolate of locations. The only supporting characters are bizarrely inserted into the mix without the slightest attempt to develop their personalities. These blink-and-you-miss them participants in the race are merely catalysts for some spectacular car crashes. Despite all of this, I have to admit that I rather enjoyed the unpretentious goofiness of Safari 3000. Channing is typically spunky and likable while Carradine and Lee get rare opportunities to show off their comedic talents. Lee is particularly amusing, spouting pretentious dialogue and quotes from the classics even while ludicrously clad in his bizarre costume. What makes the film durable is the spectacular scenery and impressive cinematography by Adam Greenberg (in one memorable scene a giraffe is captured in a long distance race against a car). Perhaps most improbably, the score is by the legendary composer Ernest Gold, who provided classic themes for Exodus and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Suffice it to say, his work on Safari 3000 will not be placed atop his list of grand achievements.
The movie is one of those guilty pleasures that doesn't have the slightest pretense of being anything beyond lightweight entertainment. It's a fun romp and will especially appeal to those who find The Cannonball Run too complicated and Bergmanesque to warm to.
Beatty at the Hollywood premiere of How the West Was Won in 1963.
Cinema Retro has received the following notification from the British Film Institute:
Warren Beatty and Shirley MacLaine appear side by side in what is perhaps a first-ever BFI pairing of siblings in competing screens. Beatty has long been regarded as one of the most influential players in modern American cinema, whose considerable achievements as a director and producer are equal to those as an actor. Alongside him, MacLaine has had similar success with a dazzling, hugely celebrated career spanning over sixty years. Both of them are Oscar winners in their own right, and with highlights including Bonnie & Clyde, McCabe & Mrs Miller and The Apartment, these seasons have something for everyone.
Our old pal George Lazenby is still stirring things up when it comes to the world of James Bond. He's the latest person to jump on the bondwagon to criticize the sponsorship deal with Heineken for the next James Bond film Skyfall. Lazenby accuses the producers of selling out in order to get promotional tie-in money. While there has world wide outrage that the beer company's sponsorship for the movie will result in a scene in which Bond is seen sipping the brew, the producers have never once said that this will preclude 007 from also engaging in his trademark vodka martini. Beer sponsorships for Bond movies extends all the way to the first film, Dr. No in 1962 wherein Red Stripe Jamaican beer was seen prominently in the movie. John Smith's, the British beer company, had sponsorships in The World is Not Enough. So what's the big deal? Does anyone really believe that the producers will water down the debonair image of 007 by having him be seen chug-a-lugging Heineken at the expense of fine wines and liquors? The sequence in question will probably last a millisecond. For his part, current 007 Daniel Craig says that modern movies cost so much money that promotional fees are necessary for financing. Heineken supposedly contributed $45 million to the production cost, but that will obviously include worldwide print, TV and web campaigns. For more click here
It's hard to believe but it's been 35 years since Star Wars premiered in American cinemas. For some, the movie is simply a terrific, enduring entertainment. For more extreme types, it has been the basis of a lifestyle. For others, it may be overrated but even they will have to admit it has become a "Force" unto itself, generating a virtual industry of jobs and products. Click here to read more about the anniversary. Click here to read about the Star Wars legacy in Tunisia, where much of the film was shot.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
CATCHING BULLETS –
MEMOIRS OF A BOND FAN
by MARK O’CONNELL
Published by SPLENDID BOOKS on 3rd
September 2012 (UK / US)
From the offbeat
vantage point of a movie-obsessed teenager whose grandfather was chauffeur to
legendary 007 producer Albert R. Broccoli,CATCHING BULLETS – MEMOIRS OF A BOND FAN
is a love-letter to James Bond, Duran Duran title songs and bolting down your
tea quick enough to watch Roger Moore falling out of a plane without a
When Jimmy O'Connell took a job as chauffeur for 007
producers Eon Productions, it would not just be Cubby Broccoli, Roger Moore and
Sean Connery he would drive to James Bond. His grandson Mark swiftly hitches a
ride on a humorous journey of filmic discovery where Bond movies fire like
bespoke bullets at a Reagan-era Catholic childhood marked with divorce, a
closet-gay adolescence sound-tracked by John Barry and an adult life as a
comedy writer still inspired by that Broccoli movie magic.
“Mark O’Connell is a great new writing talent and
we are delighted to be publishing his first book,” says Splendid Books’
Editorial Director Shoba Vazirani. “CATCHING BULLETS is very funny and he
brings a genuinely new insight into the Bond film phenomena.
“The book is a fascinating journey, in which Mark
reconsiders all the Bond films as they fire into his and everyone’s
James Doohan, the actor who played "Scotty" on the original Star Trek series passed away in 2005. Yesterday, he fulfilled his wish of having his ashes sent into space. The rocket that made the deliver also released the ashes of other prominent individuals including legendary astronaut Gordon Cooper. For more click here
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
The leading ‘Best British TV’ streaming service Acorn TVis now streaming full seasons of several popular British mystery and drama series, along with two critically acclaimed Canadian series. This week Acorn TV also has a special Memorial Day Weekend Midsomer Marathon with the first 22 episodes of its best-selling series,MIDSOMER MURDERS, and the U.S. debut of John Nettles final episodes.
Acorn TV is currently streaming a full season ofHelen Mirren in PRIME SUSPECT; the final seasons of the universally acclaimed Canadian dramedy SLINGS & ARROWSandDerek Jacobi’s mystery series CADFAEL; the U.S. debut of the newest season of MURDOCH MYSTERIES; Lynda La Plante’s TRIAL & RETRIBUTION; John Mortimer’s UNDER THE HAMMER; the final episodes of WWII drama WISH ME LUCK; Richard Griffiths (Harry Potter) in PIE IN THE SKY; and John Nettles final episodes with MIDSOMER MURDERS, SET 20.
For only $25 a year,Acorn TV streams full seasons of critically acclaimed, new and classic British series. Each of the 10 seasons stay up for five weeks, with two new series added each week and two removed. For press access to the 70+ hours of weekly programming, please email me.
Acorn TV is accessible on Roku, the top streaming player, as well as computers, iPhones, iPads, Apple TV and Google TV. Launched in July 2011, Acorn TV is the first streaming service that curates the best of British television for American audiences. Read the recent Roku press release here.
Series streaming now include:
Midsomer Murders, Set 20
The U.S. debut of fan favorite John Nettles’ final episodes in Midsomer Murders, Set 20.For more than a decade, DCI Tom Barnaby(John Nettles,Bergerac) has policed the murderous county ofMidsomer, winning legions of fans—including the queenof England herself. In these four new, contemporary stand-alone mysteries, Barnaby investigateshis final cases before leaving the denizens of Midsomer in the capable hands of his cousin, DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon, Life of Riley). New episodes ofMidsomer Murders are still in production starring Neil Dudgeon. (Set 20 on Blu-ray/DVD July 3, 2012)
Murdoch Mysteries, Season 4
The hit Canadian drama combines the period appeal of Sherlock Holmeswith the forensic fascination of CSI. Based on the characters from award-winning author Maureen Jennings’ Detective Murdoch novels, the acclaimed Canadian series has garnered 25 Gemini® nominations to its credit, including Best Writing and Best Dramatic Series. Set in Victorian-era Toronto, this smart, compelling series follows Yannick Bisson(Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye) as Detective William Murdoch as he pushes the boundaries of criminal science to solve the city’s most baffling murders.
Prime Suspect, Series 3 and 4
Oscar® winner Helen Mirren is Detective Jane Tennison, "one of the great character creations of our time" (Washington Post), in a series that won more than 20 major international awards and raised the bar for police dramas. Tenacious, driven, and deeply flawed, Tennison rises through the ranks of Britain’s Metropolitan Police, solving horrific crimes while battling office sexism and her own demons.
Slings & Arrows, Season 3
This universally acclaimed Canadian series follows the outrageous fortunes of a dysfunctional Shakespearean theatre troupe as it struggles with artistic egos and conspiratorial board members. The series stars Paul Gross, Don McKellar, Martha Burns, Sarah Polley and Mark McKinney. Struggling with the unfamiliar burdens of success, the New Burbage Theatre Festival mounts two ambitious productions: King Lear, Shakespeare’s epic tragedy, and East Hastings, a debut musical about a heroin-addicted hooker with a heart of gold. Emotionally fragile artistic director Geoffrey Tennant (Paul Gross, Due South) coaxes legendary actor Charles Kingman out of semi-retirement to play Lear. But with plenty of personal baggage, Kingman doesn’t so much play the part as live it. Meanwhile, the festival’s resident bean-counter (Mark McKinney,Saturday Night Live, Kids in the Hall) joins forces with the musical’s flamboyant director (Don McKellar) to create the unlikeliest hit in theatre history.
Pie in the Sky, Series 2
DI Henry Crabbe divides his time between catching criminals and cooking. He retired from the force to open his dream restaurant, but his boss is determined to keep him on the payroll. Richard Griffiths (Harry Potter) stars in a lighthearted British mystery series seen on public television in the 1990s.
Under the Hammer
Written by beloved author John Mortimer (Rumpole of the Bailey) and starring Richard Wilson (One Foot in the Grave), Jan Francis (Just Good Friends), andMichael Siberry (The Grand), this tightly-plotted series intrigues with secrets and seduction, seen through the lens of a London auction house. Broadcast on ITV in 1994. Top-notch guest stars include John Gielgud(Arthur), Emily Mortimer (Shutter Island, Match Point, 30 Rock), Rosemary Harris (Spider-Man), HermioneNorris (Cold Feet), and Ian Carmichael (The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries).
Cadfael, Series 4
Sir Derek Jacobi is Brother Cadfael, a 12th-century Benedictine monk (and former Crusader) who uses his worldly knowledge and keen intuition to solve crimes. Based on the bestselling novels by Ellis Peters, and seen on PBS Mystery!, Acorn TV is streaming the final three episodes.
Wish Me Luck, Series 3
The final episodes of the WWII drama series featuring brave women risking their lives as secret agents in occupied France. Based on real-life stories, filmed on location, this suspenseful series features strong female characters, tension-filled plots, and historical authenticity.
Trial & Retribution, Set 2
Like Law & Order, this long-running British detective series follows cases from crime to courts. Brusque detective Michael Walker (David Hayman, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) collars London’s killers and viewers are left to decide if justice was served. With Kate Buffery and created by Lynda La Plante (Prime Suspect).
Coming soon are seasons of Upstairs, Downstairs, Agatha Christie’s Poirot, The Forsyte Saga, and The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes.
May 29:Murdoch Mysteries, Season 4 (DVD and Blu-ray) and Monroe, Series 1 starring James Nesbitt
June 5:Doc Martin, Series 5; New Tricks, Season 7; and Washington: Behind Closed Doors (Home Video Debut) starring Jason Robards
June 19: Marcus du Sautoy’s The Code, This is Civilization, andLynda La Plante’s Trial & Retribution, Set 5
June 26:Judi Dench in Love in a Cold Climate, The Best of Foyle’s War, and Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Series 5
About Acorn: Headquartered in suburban Washington, D.C., Acorn Media U.S. releases the best of British television on DVD/Blu-ray. 2011 releases featured Upstairs, Downstairs: 40th Anniversary, Case Histories, and Brideshead Revisited: 30th Anniversary. 2012 releases include a bonus packed 35th anniversary edition of I, Claudius; the Blu-ray debuts for the original Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and the first six series of Agatha Christie’s Poirot; the U.S. debuts of Lynda La Plante’s Above Suspicion and Monroe starring James Nesbitt;Judi Dench in Love in a Cold Climate; The Best of Foyle’s War; The Story of Costume Drama; Damian Lewis in The Forsyte Saga; and more episodes from Midsomer Murders, Murdoch Mysteries, Doc Martin, George Gently, Garrow’s Law, New Tricks, andNBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?. Select series are available for streaming at Acorn TV, http://acornonline.com/TV
Oscar winning director William Friedkin is suing both Paramount and Universal in order to clarify who owns the rights to his 1977 film Sorcerer, a remake of the French classic The Wages of Fear. The film was an enormous flop at the time and derailed the momentum Friedkin had from directing The French Connection and The Exorcist. Although Friedkin made some interesting films in the ensuing years, the blockbusters have evaded him. Sorcerer had been released on DVD but somehow in recent years the theatrical distribution rights have become murky. Friedkin told me several years ago that he was eager to bring the film to Blu-ray, but those plans have now apparently been thwarted due to the legal questions. Friedkin also wants to be able to screen the film theatrically, but the studios are preventing him from doing so. His lawsuit is meant to force the studios to clarify the rights issue and questions how they can deny owning those rights, yet insist that they can prevent him from showing the film. The movie has largely been re-evaluated by critics and audiences in recent years. For my money, it's one of the best films of the 1970s and boasts remarkable performances, great direction and a moody, haunting score by Tangerine Dream. Click here for more and to view the kick-ass original trailer. Click here for updated Variety report.
Polanski in the 60s with his wife Sharon Tate (photographed by David Bailey), the most famous victim of the Manson gang murders.
Lack of ego has never been a problem for Roman Polanski. The Oscar winning director has been in exile in Europe after fleeing America in 1977 on charges he molested a young girl. The case has been debated for the ensuing decades with many filmmakers and intellectuals arguing that enough time has passed and he should be allowed to visit the United States again. Polanski has always maintained that he was deceived by a dishonest judge who went back on a legal agreement after Polanski served time in a facility designed to treat his desires to be with underage girls. However, there is no denying that Polanski did indeed engage in very inappropriate behavior. Now the famed director will draw parallels to the famous Dreyfus case that took place in France in 1894. The landmark legal battle involved an innocent French military officer who was convicted of treason despite the fact that the government knew who the real culprit was. Anti semitism played a major role in the case. Famed novelist Emile Zola's defense of Dreyfus resulted in the verdict being overturned. Polanski is up front about saying he believes the case bears similarities to his own situation, though this seems a stretch: there was no guilty third party and Polanski was never framed. For more click here
A major feature film will depict the intriguing life of James Bond author and creator Ian Fleming. The legendary Fleming's colorful career included a good deal of exotic travel and wartime intrigue in British naval intelligence. Many of these aspects of his life were incorporated into the 007 novels. The film is based on author Andrew Lycett's acclaimed biography of Fleming and has the full approval of the Fleming estate. Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie) will direct. A previous Fleming biopic was made for American television in the late 1980s with Jason Connery, son of Sean Connery, starring as the author. There was also a British Fleming biography starring Charles Dance titled Goldeneye, released prior to the Bond flick of the same name. For more click here
The teaser trailer for the forthcoming James Bond flick Skyfall has been released. It gives a few tantalizing clues to the well-concealed plot points and features some stunningly photographed images. On the downside, no James Bond Theme...let's hope it appears in the final cut (along with the gun barrel opening!) Click here to view
Director Ridley Scott has released some new details about the plans for a sequel to his 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner. He intends to have the story center on a female protagonist and he is in talks with the original film's screenwriter, Hampton Francher, to create the script for the movie. The much-anticipated film will not feature Harrison Ford, who has made it known that his collaboration with Scott the first time around proved to be one of the least enjoyable experiences of his professional career. Despite the film's initial weak performance at the boxoffice, it has been re-evaluated by both critics and the public and is now considered to be a great movie. Scott has overseen seemingly countless "director's cuts" of the original version of the movie, which was muddled by studio edits done before Scott had enough clout to prevent them. For more click here
I almost hate it when Dick Klemensen publishes a new issue of his long-running Hammer Films tribute magazine Little Shoppe of Horrors. It takes a lot of my time just to work on my own magazine, Cinema Retro, and the distractions that Little Shoppe inevitably offers makes me put off reading the latest issue until that rare day when I have a few free hours. LSOH has been running for many years and publisher Klemensen never seems to run out of material, even though every article is dedicated to the Hammer phenomenon. Not surprisingly, this issue makes the most of the legendary film studio's resurgence with the brilliant new version of The Woman in Black. The magazine dedicates about half of its entire page count to the making of the movie, and affords exclusive behind the scenes access with most of the major cast and crew including Daniel Radcliffe. But there is so much more, including a vintage interview with the now deceased British character actor Nigel Stock and a fascinating, seemingly quixotic search for a mythical missing Japanese version of Horror of Dracula (with a terrific and unexpected payoff). Klemensen, like Cinema Retro, benefits from the talents of a loyal and highly talented group of international writers and columnists and every article proves to be a page-turner. Toss into the mix some wonderful original artwork, countless rare photos and some very moving personal tributes to Hammer screenwriter and director Jimmy Sangster, and you have another top-of-the-line issue.
The Warner Archive has released the 1975 remake of The Spiral Staircase as a burn-to-order title. The original version from 1946 has always been well-regarded and holds up well even today. Not so with this version, which was made for American television and released theatrically in Europe. The movie boasts an impressive cast and was directed by Peter Collinson, who died only a few years later at the young age of 44. Collinson's main claim to fame is the original version of The Italian Job which, over the decades, has developed a very enthusiastic cult following in England. The wit and liveliness he brought to that production is nowhere to be found in this pedantic affair. Jacqueline Bisset plays Helen Mallory, a beautiful young woman who has been rendered mute by the trauma of having witnessed her husband and young daughter killed in a house fire. She's trying to get her act together and has a relationship with a doctor (poorly played by John Ronane) who is trying to coax her into speaking again. Conveniently (for the scriptwriters), Helen just happens to visit a small town where handicapped young women are being slain by a serial killer. Helen is there ostensibly to visit her uncle, Dr. Joe Sherman (Christopher Plummer) but, of course, we know she'll end up in his old house being terrorized by the killer. The mansion house has all the stock characters from an Agatha Christie tale: a feisty, invalid old woman (Mildred Dunnock), Sherman's rude, sexually-driven brother Steve (John Philip Law), a comely southern belle (Gayle Hunnicutt) who vies for the attention of both brothers, a drunken female chef (Shelia Brennan), her handyman husband (Ronald Radd) and a tough-as-nails nurse (Elaine Stritch). Every conceivable cliche is tossed into the mix: a torrential thunder and lightning storm, mysterious knocks on doors, power failures, etc. You have expect Vincent Price to pop out of a closet and inform everyone they are his guests at a lethal dinner party. Before long, it becomes clear that the murderer is inside the house and one-by-one the supporting characters succumb until Helen is left to fend for herself against her would-be murderer.
Collinson's clunky direction milks the film of any suspense. He relies on the sound of crashing thunder and the zoom lens to evoke thrills and the cast members limp lamely through the proceedings as though they recognize this project is far below their talents. Naturally, our heroine does every conceivable thing imaginable to ensure she puts herself at maximum risk. The screenplay never really develops the characters beyond cliches and, therefore, there is little emotional wallop when they meet their respective fates. Collinson also fails to capitalize on the titular spiral staircase or interweave it in any meaningful way into the proceedings. The movie was clearly shot entirely on location in England, but for some bizarre reason, great pains were taken to pretend the proceedings are going on in America, a ploy that fails on every level.
On the positive side, this Spiral Staircase is never dull and does move at a brisk pace. There is also the pleasure of seeing some great talents on screen together, even if they are there in search of a quick pay check.
The retro movie web site The Cinementals takes us back 50 years in time to May 19, 1962 when Marilyn Monroe made her memorable last public appearance. The occasion was a birthday celebration for President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden and featured her cooing her seductive version of "Happy Birthday". Click here for film clips and photos.
there something about classic movie fans that makes us more obsessive than your
average cinemagoer? Does the fact that we often have to search for years for
that obscure Western or noir on DVD mean we're more appreciative when we
finally see it? Would most of us rather watch a 1960s Bond movie at the
multiplex than a modern CGI-fest?
are some of the questions I asked myself as I left my home (and DVD collection)
in the UK to fly 5,000 miles to the third annual TCM Classic Film Festival in
Hollywood over the weekend of 12-15 April 2012. A
gathering of thousands of movie aficionados from around the globe, this
spin-off from the US cable TV channel promises attendees that they'll see some
of the best films ever made, often in the company of the people who made them,
in the way they were meant to be seen. Planning
for TCM is akin to a military operation, albeit one that involves popcorn and
soft drinks. This is a festival that offers up around 80 films from all genres
and multiple decades across its four days, usually with a choice of around five
films at any one time. The choice can be between 1962's How the West Was Won
(in Cinerama), 1955's To Catch a Thief (at Grauman's Chinese Theatre), 1949's
Criss Cross, 1968's Rosemary's Baby and a few more, all scheduled against each
Festival started with a stop at the red carpet as the celebrities filed into
Grauman's for a screening of 1972's Cabaret, in the presence of Ms Liza
Minnelli. Tippi Hedren, Michael York, Debbie Reynolds, Richard Anderson, Larry
Hagman and John Landis were just some of those in attendance, most of them
rushing past this Cinema Retro reporter and into the palatial surroundings of
the theatre. One
of the finest actors on that carpet, at least for this fan of The Pink Panther,
was Robert Wagner, who stopped for a few moments to share his memories of
working with Peter Sellers in the 1964 comedy. “I
loved Peter, we were great friends and had a marvellous time together,” said
Wagner. “It was very exciting seeing him bring that character together with
Blake Edwards. You had the feeling it was going to be a hit, you just knew.”
Robert Evans and Robert Towne with Robert Osborne.
next few days went past in something of blur as I queued, changed my mind about
what films to see, heard stories about screenings and introductions I'd missed,
made new friends and attempted to get some sleep. I
shivered as Lon Chaney Jr morphed from Larry Talbot into The Wolf Man in the
1941 Universal classic; was in awe at the aerial footage shot by William Wellman
in 1927's Wings; smiled as Kirk Douglas, at the age of 95, sang a verse from
1954's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea before a screening of the film; and laughed
as Dick Powell breezed his way through 1951's film noir, Cry Danger, as co-star
Rhonda Fleming discussed suffering from appendicitis on set to an audience at
The Egyptian Theatre.
that was just days one and two.
night back at Grauman's saw Roman Polanski's 1974 film, Chinatown, shown in the
presence of screenwriter Robert Towne and producer Robert Evans, the pair
introduced by TCM host, Robert Osborne. Nominated
for 11 Academy Awards, Chinatown was the first film that Robert Evans produced.
Towne explained that Evans had originally requested he adapt F Scott
Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby for the screen, but that he didn't want to do it. “We
were having dinner at Dominick's on Beverly Boulevard and Evans was trying to
figure out why I didn't want to do Gatsby,” noted Towne. “I told him [about
Chinatown]. Bob said “I don't understand a goddamned thing but I do like the
title”. He got all of us in there who knew each other and cared about each
other so that we could fight and have a good time.”
Betty White makes a memorable entrance at the Friars roast in her honor. (Photo: Marion Curtis, Starpix/Associated Press)
By Eddy Friedfeld
Television legend Betty White was the target of this
year’s Friars Club Roast, held in New York’s Sheraton Hotel.
From an eclectic dais that ranged from Matt Lauer, Liza
Minelli, and Dick Cavett, to Dominic “Uncle Junior” Chianese, to The Office’s
Oscar Nunez, to former New York star John Starks, to boxing great Ray “Boom
Boom” Mancini, to Best Picture The Artist’s Uggie the Dog, the event was up to
its usual biting and merciless humor, poking fun at the guest of honor’s age
and sexual proclivity.
Barbara Walters served as Roastmaster, marking the
first time in Friars history that women were both host and subject. “Yesterday, I was talking to the President of
the United States,” Walters said, referring to Barack Obama’s appearance on The
View, “and today I am with second rate comedians and a dog.”
Walters kicked off the festivities by skewering her
longtime friend: “What has been said
about Betty White that hasn’t been said about her contemporaries: Moses, John the Baptist, and General Custer…
Betty was the first woman banned by the TSA for requesting too many pat downs,
the first person to try and send a text from a land line, and the first woman
to do Shakespeare at The Globe Theater. Literally- she did him in the balcony.”
“Regis Philbin, Abe Vigoda, Larry King, what is this, a
roast or are we Sitting Shiva,” Walter’s co-host, Joy Behar, said about her
elderly dais companions. “Larry King’s
latest wife is not only compatible romantically; she is also a compatible
donor… When Katie Couric had her last colonoscopy televised, they found Sarah
Palin’s high school diploma… Betty White is so old her first sitcom was “Hot
for Grover Cleveland.”
White’s Hot in Cleveland costars Valerie Bertinelli and
Jane Leeves took the podium together: “Betty has slept with every Cy Young award winner- including Cy Young;
and when Joe Jonas lost his promise ring, Betty didn’t rest until he didn’t
need it anymore,” Bertinelli said. “Betty asked a young waiter: “How
many times does 20 go into 90?”” Leeves added.
Roastmaster General Jeffrey Ross, creator and host of
the upcoming Comedy Central’s The Burn, congratulated Walters on her interview
with the President on The View, “or as Fox News reported it: “Muslim Terrorist Invades Lesbian Orgy!”
“Larry King is to comedy what Martin Luther King is to
comedy,” he said to “the great hunchback of CNN.”
Turning to the “Ghost of Honor,” the hysterical Ross
said: “Betty is truly the only person
who truly saw The Titanic in 3-D… she is so old that the color white is named
after her… Poor Betty has had more men die on top of her than Mount Everest,”
and that he was “really looking forward to her next movie: “Weekend at Betty’s.”
“Betty, just for the record- I don’t think videotaping
your orthoscopic surgery counts as a hidden camera show. And this big comeback- “Betty-Mania,” all
started with a Snickers commercial. Did you guys see it? And I thought The Kardashians were the only
ones who got famous by stuffing chocolate in their mouths.”
Although his office was three blocks away, David
Letterman appeared on a video clip, offering a Top Ten List of little known
facts about Betty White, including that “she was only 33, but lived a hard
life; has seen seven Presidents naked, many at the same time; shaved the backs
of co-stars Ed Asner and Bea Arthur; is the sister of Barry White; and once, on
The Match Game, handled Gene Rayburn’s “blank.””
White’s age there is a fine line between a roast and a cremation,” Larry King
told the audience. He shared the advice
Betty allegedly gave other people: “She
told Arnold Schwarzenegger- “Don’t pay the maid, just give her a big tip under
the table;” to Abraham Lincoln- “the tickets are a gift, enjoy!” to John
Edwards- “enjoy the girl, she probably won’t say anything;” to the Captain of
The Hindenburg- “ignore the no smoking sign;” to John Travolta- “I know a great
male masseur;” and to Mel Gibson- “they don’t control the media, say whatever
“Larry King is a
triple threat,” said closer Lisa Lampanelli,” at any given moment he can have a
heart attack, stroke, or shit his pants… Jeff Ross is so ugly that when he
whacked off his hand froze… Matt Lauer is thinner than a Hot in Cleveland plot
line… Regis is so old that his Social Security number is in Roman Numerals…
Betty White was born in Oak Park, Illinois and lived with her parents, or as we
knew them as- Settlers… she is so old that on the first game show she was on
the grand prize was fire.”
White thanked The Friars for all the charity work that
they do and for the event: “I had a
great time when I didn’t expect to.”
(For Eddy Friedfeld's coverage of the Friars Roast for Jerry Lewis, see Cinema Retro issue #6)
Struggling MGM is betting on the past in order to reverse its fortunes. The studio has a remake of the 1976 film Carrie going into production. Brian De Palma directed the original adaptation of Stephen King's best-seller about a bullied high school girl who uses psychic powers to get revenge on her tormentors. Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie earned Oscar nominations for their performances as Carrie and her crazed mother and young John Travolta had an early big screen role in the film. The new version has a female director, Kimberly Peirce. The story line was an early plea against bullying, something that will probably resonate even more today. For more click here
Will the 35mm projector go the way of uniformed movie theater ushers and 25 cent popcorn?
In a major article for LA Weekly, writer Gendy Alimurung takes a sobering look at the future of cinema and it isn't pretty, at least if you're a purist who values 35mm film. The mad rush to go to all digital projection is being driven by the major studios because it saves them a fortune in terms of producing prints and shipping them to theaters. With digital, those costs are reduced to a trickle as the "print" is basically a lightweight unit that plugs into a projection system. Picture perfect quality is also an upside- unless you're a film director like Christopher Nolan, who shot his forthcoming Batman epic The Dark Knight Rises on traditional 35mm film. Nolan is among those filmmakers who think that the alleged purity of digital pales in comparison to 35mm. These die hard adherents to traditional film also point out some of the other downsides of digital: the data costs more to store and is very vulnerable to destruction. (An accidental touch of a "delete" button almost erased the master copy of Toy Story 2 for all eternity.) Additionally, theaters are less-than-happy about digital, especially smaller, independent establishments. It can cost up to $150,000 for a theater to convert to digital. Studios are helping to subsidize the cost, but only for a while. After that, procrastinators will have to front the entire expense themselves. The digital revolution will mean the end of many boutique, art house cinemas. They simply won't have product to play. Studios will no longer be investing in restoration of movies in 35mm format. Once the existing prints are deemed too worn out, a movie will no longer be available in 35mm. Additionally, it's clear that studios will not be investing in transferring mid-range and "B" movies to the digital format, meaning a lot of quirky films might not be available in any format once studios get out of renting 35mm prints. (Paramount has only one 35mm print of Breakfast at Tiffanys available for rental, as the studio is pushing its new digital, restored version.) To read the article click here
many people, having to do your college work is a chore. Assignments are dull
and all you really want is to be out partying with your friends. Not John
Carpenter and Dan O'Bannon. Their assignment was to make a movie, using
equipment provided by the University of Southern California film school, and
dragging their friends and fellow classmates in for good measure. The result
was a science fiction classic that would launch both of them into fully-fledged
Hollywood careers. The original movie ran a little short to qualify as a
feature, so a wily distributor encouraged them to shoot a further ten minutes.
Both versions of the film, the original and extended editions, are available
Dark Star borrows heavily from such space-set
classics as 2001 and Solaris in its presentation of space as a
working environment. This is not the space of heroes like Buck Rodgers or Flash
Gordon. It is a place of work, where astronauts are just ordinary guys just
doing their jobs and counting the days, or years, until they can go home. Their
mission,which appears to have lasted some three years, involves identifying and
then destroying unstable planets with massive thermo-nuclear talking bombs. No
particular reason is given as to why they are unstable, or indeed why they need
to be destroyed, but it is something to do with the possible colonization of
space. When problems develop with one particularly stubborn bomb, the crew are
forced to take desperate measures if they want to survive.
and O'Bannon wrote the screenplay together, and O'Bannon ended up taking a
starring role as Sgt. Pinback, a member of the crew whose sole function appears
to be to annoy everyone else on board. The rest of the cast are made up of friends
from the film school, and they all sport impressive amounts of facial hair.
Given its incredibly low-budget origins, Dark Star stands up remarkably
well, thanks mostly to the wit of the script and the imaginative camera work.
Yes the miniatures look like miniatures, and the sets look like cardboard, but
the story and the performances are so enjoyably goofy and genuine that this
simply does not matter.
Blu-ray restoration gives the film a fresh look and the colours are remarkably
vivid. The film has looked rather murky in previous DVD releases, and this is a
significant improvement. The main extra available here is a new feature length
documentary Let There Be Light: The
Odyssey ofDark Star. It provides some fascinating background on the
movie, and features interviews with some of the cast including an interview
with Dan O'Bannon shot shortly before he died. Sadly the involvement of John
Carpenter is minimal. He appears to have been interviewed over the phone, on a
line so muffled that subtitles have to be displayed (including some spelling
mistakes which are unforgivable!). However, this small gripe aside, it is a
documentary with plenty to offer fans of the movie, and is probably the main
reason for picking up this new release.
After several false starts and weak efforts, the much-promised revival of Hammer horror films has finally come to fruition with the release of The Woman in Black, an old-fashioned ghost story that ranks with the finest achievements of the legendary British production company. The story is set in the early 1900s. Daniel Radcliffe gives an excellent performance as Arthur Kipps, a young London-based lawyer who is already a widower, his beloved wife having died while giving birth to their son. Kipps tries his best to juggle being a single parent with the demands of his profession, but his unrelenting grief prevents him from fulfilling his duties at the office. His boss gives him one last chance to redeem himself by sending him to a remote village to investigate a complicated insurance situation relating to a recently deceased person. Arriving in the village, Kipps discovers that the relatively mundane task is fraught with intrigue. He suspects that the person he has to deal with is concealing vital paperwork concerning insurance claims. He decides to secretly act as detective and investigate the matter in a thorough manner. The trail leads to an abandoned mansion in a rural area where he locates a stash of relevant paperwork. While examining this mountain of evidence, Kipps glances out the window and catches a glimpse of a veiled woman clad in black standing in the overgrown garden. Soon, he finds himself terrorized by mysterious noises and apparitions and learns that the ghostly figure he has observed is somehow tied to a series of gruesome deaths among the children of the village. To say any more would divulge too much. Suffice it to say that, in the long Hammer tradition, the local villagers are paranoid about strangers and seem to be hiding a very dark secret. Kipps' only ally is Daily (Ciaran Hinds) who shares his determination to get to the bottom of the mystery, even while he cares for his wife (Janet McAteer) who is coping with a mental illness brought about by the tragic death of their own child.
The film was directed by James Watkins, an impressive new talent who wisely eschews special effects in favor of the theory that what you don't see can be more terrifying than what you do see. Watkins remains reverent to the early Hammer productions and manages to evoke quite a number of moments that will have you jump out of your seat. He benefits from an outstanding cast of supporting actors who have been chosen on the basis of their talents, not because they look like models. Both Ciaran Hinds and Janet McAteer are particularly excellent. Praise must also go to production designer Kave Quinn for her outstanding work on the old mansion set, aided immeasurably by the appropriately gloomy cinematography of Tim Maurice-Jones and the atmospheric score by Marco Beltrami. Screenwriter Jane Goldman, working from the source novel by Susan Hill, keeps the dialogue literate and intelligent and the character of Kipps sympathetic and completely believable. He is no super hero. Yes, he doesn't shirk from investigating things that go bump in the night, but he looks pretty petrified while doing so. The film comes to a climax that is quite chilling and most unexpected. Suffice it to say, The Woman in Black recalls the best of the haunted house genre that comprises of such films as the original version of The Haunting, The Innocents and The Others.
Sony has released the film as a Blu-ray edition with commentary by James Watkins and Jane Goldman. The disc contains two bonus features: Inside the Perfect Thriller, which examines the overall making of the movie through cast and crew interviews and No Fear: Daniel Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps, wherein the actor shares insights about the inspirations for his performance. (Curiously, the film's trailer is not included, though trailers for other releases are). One of the great delights is seeing a dynamic new Hammer logo at the beginning of the film that utilizes classic movie poster art from the golden age of the company. The Woman in Black bodes well for Hammer's comeback. If they can keep up the quality of the productions, they can play a major factor in revitalizing the sorrowful state of the horror film genre, which has largely deteriorated into mindless slasher films. One tip: if you watch the film alone, make sure you keep the lights on.
Here's a look at entertainment icon Dick Clark's first dramatic movie role as a high school teacher in the 1960 hit Because They're Young, co-starring fellow up-and-comers Tuesday Weld, James Darren, Michael Callan and Doug McClure. The trailer is a hoot, with typical over-the-top narration and sex starved teens trying to get it on without damaging their reputations. The film is largely forgotten today, but it did produce a smash hit instrumental theme song by Duane Eddy, who made an appearance in the movie. Click here to view
Happier times for O"Neal: with long time love Farrah Fawcett.
Ryan O'Neal has a new book about his experiences during his lover Farrah Fawcett's final days. After spending decades trying to patch up contentious relationships with his three children, he sent them advance copies of the manuscript so they did not get blindsided by the stories he related. One son has not read it (he's in rehab) and the response from the other two offspring, including Tatum O'Neal, was decidedly unenthusiastic. O'Neal, who is battling stage 4 prostate cancer, says he is doing all he can to repair the long history of family feuds but is concerned he may have been too candid in the book regarding personal matters. For more click here
If your mother used to chastise you for wasting your time watching Lost in Space instead of Learn to Draw with John Gnagy, you can take satisfaction in the fact that it turns out there was some educational value to the shows you were enthralled with. The web site Cable TV Providers takes a brief look at how some classic series ended up predicting real-life scientific achievements. Click here to view
The 1939 classic Gone With the Wind remains the most popular movie of all time in terms of the number of admission tickets sold.
The Hunger Games is the latest Hollywood blockbuster, pulling in hundreds of millions of dollars in a relatively short period. Impressive under any circumstances. However, critic Richard Roeper points out the film still has a ways to go to top the 1960s Disney hit Swiss Family Robinson. What? How can that be? The Hunger Games has grossed far more than the Disney flick, you say. However, the real test of how popular a film is relates to the number of admission tickets sold. Because today's ticket prices are astronomically higher than they were decades ago, the fact remains that the number of people who paid to see those classics of yesteryear far exceeds many of the so-called blockbusters of today. Using that theory, Roeper says, Gone With the Wind still ranks as the most popular movie of all time. For more click here
A sequel to The Wicker Man was first proposed in the mid-1980s by Anthony
Schaffer, writer of the original. Titled “The Loathsome Lambton Worm”, it began
as soon as the first film ended, as Sergeant Howie is rescued from his fiery
fate by police from the mainland. He seeks justice and revenge and goes back to
Summerisle, ostensibly to arrest those responsible for his near martyrdom, but
instead becomes embroiled in a series of challenges, pitting the old gods
against his own Christian faith. The film was to end with Howie fighting a fire-breathing
dragon and then plunging willingly to his death from a cliff whilst tied to two
large eagles. It would have been terrible.
However that film, with its witches on
broomsticks and reliance on magical special effects, would have probably been far
better than this extremely belated follow-up. Thirty-nine years is a long time
to wait for a sequel, in which time Anthony Schaffer has died and Christopher
Lee has aged beyond the point of being able to take a major starring role in a
movie. Robin Hardy, director of The
Wicker Man, proposed his own sequel several years ago, originally titled
“The Riding of the Laddie”. Unable to find funding he wrote it into a novel,
retitled “Cowboys for Christ”. In 2008 a press release announced the imminent
filming of this official The Wicker Man
sequel, starring Christopher Lee and Joan Collins as leaders of a sinister
cult. Funding collapsed a mere two weeks before shooting began. Two years and
one major casting change later (due to Sir Christopher’s ill health and advanced
years), The Wicker Tree finally went
into production. It has taken a further two years for the film to find
distribution, which is always a worrying sign. Although Sir Christopher is
somewhat frail, he does play an unidentified old man who pops in for one flashback
scene to intone something about old religions. His reason for being there makes
no narrative sense, and is clearly just meant as a nod to fans of the first
The plot follows the “Cowboys for Christ”
novel fairly closely. A former US country pop star has seen the light and
become converted to evangelical Christianity. Along with her reformed gambler
boyfriend, she decides that the most effective way to spread the good news is
to spend two years knocking on the doors
of disinterested Scots. I would have thought it more likely that she would have
recorded gospel albums and performed to sell out gigs. In some convoluted way
that is never fully explained, the two of them end up as the guests of Sir
Lachlan Morrison (a possible relation to Rowan Morrison, the missing girl from
the original film?), in the distant Scottish village of Tressock. He runs his
own nuclear power station, and apparently an accident ten years previously has
rendered all the men in the village infertile. For this reason Morrison has
encouraged the villagers to get into paganism in a big way, with the main focus
being May Day, where they have a Laddie and a May Queen. He uses his vast
wealth to search the world for suitably virginal candidates, and it doesn’t
take a genius to guess the intended fate for his Texan guests. Why he doesn’t
just spend some money on fertility treatment I don’t know. It would be much
the eagerly anticipated premiere of Skyfall,
the twenty-third James Bond film, counts down to its October 2012 release, Boston area fans of Britain’s favorite secret agent are
being afforded the rare opportunity to revel in all that has come before.The staff of the Somerville Theater (located on Davis Square in the
Boston suburb of Somerville, Massachusetts), are in the midst of celebrating
the fiftieth anniversary of Ian Fleming’s super-spy on the big screen in a big way; with an ambitious year long series-encompassing
twenty-two film retrospective.The
architect of screenings is Ian Judge, the theater’s Director of
Programming.Judge has not only been managing
the nearly one-hundred year old theater for the past ten years, but he has long
shared a history with the venue having grown up only a few blocks away from its
gilded entrance.Built in 1914 as a posh
nine-hundred seat forum for vaudeville-era acts and stage plays, the theater
began screening films right from the advent of the silent era.Though the intimate, wonderfully decorative
auditorium retains its opulent splendor, the theater combines old world
elegance with new world technology.Three
years ago the venue’s grand balcony was completely refurbished and, perhaps
more importantly, the theater was fit with a Dolby digital sound system and twin
Norelco DP-70 projectors, the latter addition allowing the venue to be one of
the few cinemas in New England to have the capability of presenting films in
the 70mm format.
it’s not too surprising to learn, especially given his enthusiasm and the
breadth of the 007 retrospective he’s programmed, has been a long-time fan of
the James Bond series. Though his
favorite Bond film is From Russia with
Love (1963), as a self-described “child of the ‘80s,” Judge admits to a
soft spot for Roger Moore’s swan song A
View to a Kill (1985), principally due to Christopher Walken’s smooth
portrayal of the genetically engineered psychotic industrialist Max Zorin.
nothing short of nirvana for some, the concept of screening, chronologically,
every James Bond film from Dr. No
(1962) through Quantum of Solace
(2008) is, without doubt, something of a gamble. But although neighborhood repertory theaters
are closing and/or having to devise methods to cope with a sluggish economy and
studio pressure to move toward all-digital projection screenings, Judge was
adamant that the James Bond films should be screened as they had been over the
course of the last fifty years, in glorious 35mm. That’s one of the principle roles of the
repertory theater, Judge contends, as “that’s what we’re here for – to show
people the magic of the movies, and to make a profit doing so. Despite their availability on TV and DVD, the
Bond films still draw a crowd.” There
was never any consideration of cheating moviegoers by splashing the 007 back
catalog onto the big screen via digital-projection. It was important that the Bond series be presented
to fans in the most authentic manner possible outside use of a time-machine… by
sourcing the best 35mm prints available. “There’s no question of not
doing it on 35mm,” Judge explained, “It is the superior format for these films,
and the format they were intended to be shown in. We’re intensely defensive of the 35mm and
70mm film formats. So long as there are
prints for classic films, that is the way we intend to show them.”
retrospective was launched on the weekend of March 2-4 with screenings of the
first five Sean Connery films and George Lazenby’s one-shot On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
(1969). The weekend of May 4-5 (which I
attended with my daughter Sara, one of innumerable father and child units
filling the seats) marked their second exclusive weekend of Bond films. The program featured such entries from the
‘70s as Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die (1973), The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), and The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). The old-timers (present company included) instantly
noted that the strikingly pristine prints featured the original and nostalgic
“United Artists – A Trans-America Company” animation prior to the series’
iconic “gun barrel” opening.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from MGM and Park Circus film distributors:
Glasgow, 1st May 2012.Park Circus and Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios are pleased to announce a special celebration at the 65th Cannes International Film Festival to mark the 50th Anniversary on the big screen of Ian Fleming’s James Bond.
Five James Bond films will screen in new digital versions as part of the Cinema de la Plage screenings.
The celebration will kick off with a 50th anniversary screening of DR NO directed by Terence Young and starring Sean Connery and Ursula Andress.
First released on 5th October 1962 Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli’s production of DR NO marked the first big screen appearance for Ian Fleming’s James Bond character.
DR NO will be followed by screenings of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE and CASINO ROYALE.
This is the first time a James Bond film has screened during the festival.
The screenings in Cannes mark a year long celebration including a return to theatres worldwide of some of the classic Bond films. The celebration continues on the small screen with BOND 50, a collectible box-set featuring all 22 James Bond films on Blu-ray disc for the first time including 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
I'm not sure that a course such as this will ease the pain of parents struggling to pay for sky-high college tuition, but Cornell University is embarking on a study about what makes certain movie lines resonate with the public-in some cases long after the movie's impact has receded. Click here to read
Although I've been a long time admirer of both Jim Brown and Lee Van Cleef, their 1970 Western El Condor had eluded me until the Warner Archive recently released it as a burn-to-order title. I was rather surprised at what a terrifically entertaining film this is and I was particularly impressed by the opulent production values. Filmed in Almeria, Spain (like so many Westerns of the period), El Condor presents Brown and Van Cleef as petty criminals who form a partnership in order to search for a massive fortune in gold that is supposedly secreted behind the walls of a heavily guarded desert fortress run by Chavez, a renegade Mexican general (Patrick O'Neal). Chavez has a full army at his disposal and they are seemingly indestructible. They terrorize the local population, rape women at will and have enough heavy artillery to repel any attack from either side in the on-going Mexican revolution. Nevertheless, Brown and Van Cleef formulate a plan that will allow them to seize the El Condor fortress with the help of Apache warriors. Their scheme goes disastrously wrong in several ways, leading them to rely on their wits to survive.
One of the reasons why El Condor is so good is because it was directed by John Guillerman, an old pro at helming action/adventure movies. Guillerman is known for bringing spectacle to his productions and this one is no exception. The cast is incredibly large for a Western and the climactic battle inside the fortress is astonishing to behold in both its scope and execution. The fortress itself is an amazing piece of work, an massive creation that dominates the desert landscape. Aside from the impressive action sequences, there are other joys in this film. The Butch and Sundance-like byplay between Brown and Van Cleef gives both men a rare opportunity to show their talents at playing light comedy and Van Cleef is particularly amusing as a likable, but untrustworthy cad. Marianna Hill provides the sex appeal as Chavez' reluctant mistress and she gets to dominate a single, extended sequence in which she distracts a large number of soldiers by stripping by candlelight in her bedroom. Hill goes the full monty in a sequence that is genuinely erotic, though tastefully done. Another pleasure of the film is Maurice Jarre's stirring score which adds immeasurably to the atmosphere.
El Condor is often brutal, but the bloodletting is somewhat mitigated by the humorous barbs between Van Cleef and Brown...and did I also mention that Marianna Hill has an extended nude scene?
(For a report on El Condor locations then and now, see Cinema Retro issue #5 in our back issues section)
When I received an unsolicited screener of a new film called The Scarlet Worm from Unearthed Films, I let it languish for weeks. Finally, primarily because it is a Western, I got around to viewing it. It's a gritty, grim affair that ranks among the best independent movies I've seen lately. However, I was curious about the cast members because, as talented as they are, I had not heard of any of them. The reason why became clear when I looked at the "making of..." extras on the Blu-ray. Incredibly, this ambitious movie was put together by a team of virtual strangers who met each other on-line. They conceived of the plot and shot the movie on such a low budget that they had to live in an abandoned house that had been foreclosed by a bank. When viewed from this context, The Scarlet Worm is an even more impressive achievement. The film centers on a immoral hired gun named Print (played by film critic Aaron Stielstra, who also provides the film's atmospheric score). Print fancies himself the protector of everything moral in the small, remote desert community in which he lives. He arbitrarily decides lives and dies, and much of his killing is done for pay under the instructions of local cattle baron, Mr. Paul (Montgomery Ford), who wants Print to assassinate a bordello owner named Kley (Dan van Husen), ostensibly because he forces his whores into undergoing barbaric abortions. However, there is a more personal reason for Paul wanting the "hit" to take place. This sets of a virtual war between Paul and Kley that involves an eclectic number of eccentric gunslingers on both sides. The Scarlet Worm may sound like an old Roger Corman horror flick, but the title actually has an intriguing meaning that becomes clear in the course of the film. The movie, very well-directed by Michael Fredianelli, draws upon imagery from any number of old Western classics ranging from the works of Peckinpah and Leone to Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven. The film doesn't stint on brutality and some of the sequences, particularly involving the crude abortion practices, are hard to stomach. Yet, Fredianelli successfully paints a convincing picture of the hard scrabble life on the American frontier, where lives could be snuffed out on a whim. The production team does wonders in compensating for the low budget and manages to provide some very professional and convincing set designs and costumes. The crew also doubles as actors. The most notable performances are those of professional veteran thespians like Ford and van Husen, who have film credits dating back decades. Both are in top form, finally having been awarded leading roles. Stielstra makes for a mesmerizing and highly complicated villain. Lanky in build with a Wyatt Earp look, Stielstra's Print is an unnerving figure- charming one moment, murderous the next. There are also some fine performances by the women who play the abused hookers, with Rita Rey a particular standout. It should be noted that the actresses don't shy away from appearing fully nude in the movie, but it never comes across as gratuitous. Instead, it presents frontier prostitution as a grimy world where women's lives depended on the whims of the men who routinely used and abused them. The Blu-ray looks first rate and contains a "making of" featurette, as well as various trailer for the film. There are also some trailers for productions members of the cast and crew are involved with. The team also has a slasher film out there, but it looks like a waste of their talents to produce yet another gruesome Texas Chainsaw Massacre-style movie. Instead, their production company, Wild Dogs Films, should set their sites on more lofty goals such as The Scarlet Worm. It's an amazing achievement in indy film making and I look forward to their next endeavor.
Cinema Retro's Dave Worrall was recently interviewed by the Carjam radio program at the Bond in Motion exhibition at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, England. The event is the largest exhibit of 007 vehicles ever displayed. Dave, the author of The Most Famous Car in the World, discusses the history of James Bond's legendary Aston Martin DB5. The interview will debut on May 7 at 2:00 PM (UK time) and there is a link to listen to the show if you miss the initial broadcast. Click here for more.
Broadway has seen the future: and it lies in Hollywood's past. The Great White Way is shaping up a number of productions based on motion pictures, ranging from modestly budgeted films like Diner and Bullets Over Broadway to major league adaptations of Back to the Future, Flashdance and the Rat Pack opus Robin and the 7 Hoods. For more click here
Actor George Lindsey has been found dead at age 83. Although he had a long and varied career that included stand-up comedy, he is best remembered by generations of fans as Goober Pyle, the lovable but simple-minded garage mechanic from the legendary Andy Griffith Show. The series' long run in the 1960s ensured its status as an evergreen comedy and it maintains an active fan base that gathers for annual conventions. The close-knit cast continued their ties over the decades and, in learning of Lindsey's passing, Andy Griffith said he had only spoken to him a few days ago. Lindsey took on a key role in the series playing the cousin of Gomer Pyle, played by Jim Nabors. When Nabors quit the series in order to star in the equally successful Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., Lindsay managed to pick up the slack and become accepted as popular cast member, which was no easy task. When Don Knotts left the series, the actor who replaced him, Jack Burns, lasted only one season. Lindsay's tenure in with the show extended into the 1970s when he starred in the off-shoot series Mayberry R.F.D. which went into production after Andy Griffith left the series. On a personal level, I met Lindsey back in the 1990s as part of the research I did on a book I authored about The Andy Griffith Show. We met in a small Ohio town where Lindsay was appearing at a fan event. He told me he was often frustrated at being typecast as Goober, as it basically diluted his opportunities to show off his dramatic talents. However, he acknowledged that he was humbled and honored that the character brought so much joy to audiences for so many years. He also said it helped him maintain a successful career, as he made countless appearances every year as Goober. I recall we went with a group of people to a restaurant, but because we lacked reservations, we had been turned away. Lindsey said he would handle the situation. He disappeared to speak with the hostess and returned to tell us we now had a table. He attributed this to his ability to "Gooberize" people, that is, turn on the corn pone country charm. Lindsey was a charming man in real life and a talent whose diversity in acting styles was often overlooked. Nevertheless, he remains an iconic figure in the great era of 60s TV. For more click here
Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis as the Ghostbusters.
Bill Murray's former cast mates and director Ivan Reitman are eagerly hoping that a new Ghostbusters flick will become reality. The sticking point is notoriously finicky Bill Murray, who is deemed crucial to the project. Murray is being maddeningly obtuse about whether he'll do the movie or not, alternately disparaging the concept, then saying it's a possibility he will star in it. His friend and co-star Dan Aykroyd says that Murray is living a serene life, only working when he wants to and enjoying raising his kids. Whether the the former Saturday Night Live teammates will be reunited on screen remains to be seen. Given Murray's ever-changing mood, the film may not stand a ghost of a chance. Click here for more
Cinema Retro's Steve Saragossi, writing for the web site The Screen Lounge, delves into the past for a tribute to the great 1970s action flick The Taking of Pelham One Two Three starring Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw. Click here to remind yourself why some movies should never be remade.
At age 92, Ray Harryhausen is still going strong, basking in accolades from generations of movie fans and filmmakers. The special effects genius is celebrated on the MovieMaker web site with columnist Kyle Rupprecht taking a look back at the most notable films of his career. Click here to read
The Huffington Post has compiled a gallery of suggestive posters for cinematic sex comedies. Some of them are pretty anemic, while a few are truly over-the-top. (The poster for American Pie demands you to "Fill that sticky hole!" ) Many are from grade B comedies no one even remembers, if they heard of them at all. Still, it's a fun browse through pseudo porn. Click here to view
Here's something irresistible for retro movie lovers. Video magic maker Jeff Desom has created a time lapse tribute to Alfred Hitchcock's Read Window that covers all the highlights of the film, strictly from the point of view of James Stewart, who obsessively observes the action going on in the apartments that face his own. It's a fairly amazing creation.
It's hardly a revelation that Madonna used the image of her idol Marilyn Monroe to help publicize her career, especially in the 1980s and 1990s. We can all remember specific publicity photos, magazine covers and music video in which the legendary actress was channeled by the up-and-coming entertainment industry icon. However, the full extent of Madonna's Marilyn "tributes" borders on an obsession- and she has been accused of blatantly ripping off every aspect of Monroe's career, from specific poses to scenes from her films. The web site www.antimadonna.darkhost.com lays out the full extent of the evidence in mind-boggling detail.