Director James Cameron is planning multiple follow-ups to his box-office blockbuster Avatar, perhaps the most overrated movie of recent decades. Cameron says he is not accepting scripts or proposals for any other film projects, as he intends to film at least two Avatar sequels- and possibly a third. Sigourney Weaver, whose character was killed off in the first film, will somehow figure into the sequels, with Cameron explaining that the stories may jump back and forth in time in a non-linear format. Personally speaking, I've always felt that much of the enthusiasm relating to the film revolved around the stunning and impressive special effects. Strip that away and you are left with a rather heavy handed social message movie in which the good guys are virtually flawless and the villains are from the Snidley Whiplash school of mustache twirlers. I also found Cameron's political statements in the film to be hypocritical: he uses the story to denounce big business, yet goes to major corporations to finance the most expensive movie ever made. It will be interesting to see if Cameron can craft enthusiasm for a series of these films that extends beyond the special effects, which may be considered old hat by the time he cranks out the first sequel at his usual glacial pace. On the other hand, Cameron may well have a plan for introducing the next generation of special effects, as he did the first time around. He is not to be underestimated. - Lee Pfeiffer
Here's an amusing clip showing Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver- as if it were filmed in today's Times Square. People who weren't in New York when the movie was filmed in 1976 probably find it hard to believe that Gotham was once so sleazy and dangerous- but indeed it was. That's why films like this one and Death Wish resonated with audiences at the time but now appear to be from a different universe. There are those who pine away for the old Times Square but they glamorize the past. In fact, New York still has plenty of sleaze- you just have walk through cleaner, safer streets to enjoy it. Click here to view
Cinema Retro columnist Dean Brierly has a great article on his blog: classic quotes from legendary actors and supporting actors. Here's a good example from Bela Lugosi:
(On Dracula)“In playing the picture I found that there was a great deal that I had to unlearn. In the theater I was playing not only to those spectators in the front row but also to those in the last row of the gallery, and there was some exaggeration in everything I did, not only in the tonal pitch of my voice but in the changes of facial expression which accompanied various lines or situations, as was necessary. But for the screen, in which the actor’s distance from every member of the audience is equal only to his distance from the lens of the camera, I have found that a great deal of repression was absolutely necessary.”(1930 Hollywood Filmograph interview)
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
Sir Roger Moore, the legendary film star who played the iconic role of James Bond, is to play a series of exclusive dates at theatres around the UK,opening at the Malvern Theatre on Sunday 7 October.
On the release of his new book Bond On Bond, Roger will be discussing his astonishing life and career, with inside stories and unheardanecdotes ranging from his internationally-renowned TV series The Saint and The Persuaders, through to Hollywood blockbusters and, of course, the 007 films, in which he starred as James Bond between 1973 and 1985.
Gareth Owen will interview Roger. Gareth is an author of nine books and has worked with Roger Moore on his autobiography My Word Is My Bond and his newbook Bond On Bond. Gareth has interviewed Roger previously at the BFI Southbank, the Barbican Centre and at various UNICEF fundraisersthroughout Europe. An Evening with Sir Roger Moore will be followed by an audience Q&A.
An Evening With Sir Roger Moore is presented by Jeremy Meadow & Suzanna Rosenthal.
For further info, please see www.aneveningwithsirrogermoore.com
Nora Ephron, the best-selling author and director of many hit films, died yesterday at age 71. Ephron, one of America's most insightful contemporary humorists, was the author of many popular books including Heartburn, which chronicled her ill-fated marriage to journalist Carl Bernstein (the book was made into a movie starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep.) Ephron became one of the few female directors with clout at major studios, with her hit films Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally, Silkwood and- most recently- Julie and Julia - resonating with critics worldwide.
To view Lawrence O'Donnell's tribute to Ephron from last night's telecast of The Last Word, click here
Warner Brothers has released director John Boorman's 1972 classic Deliverance as a Blu-ray special edition to celebrate the film's 40th anniversary. Unless you've been living on a remote mountain top in the back woods of Georgia, you probably know the premise of the film. Four city slickers decide to take a weekend bachelor holiday and canoe down a Georgia river. A dam is being constructed that will not only kill off the magnificent river, but also bury historical old towns at the same time. The men are Ed (Jon Voight), Lewis (Burt Reynolds), Drew (Ronny Cox) and Bobby (Ned Beatty). As with any mingling of men, there's plenty of coarse humor and insults tossed around, with Lewis, who prides himself on his survivalist abilities, dispensing much of it at the group's newcomer, Bobby-a rather timid and overweight man who is intimidated at the prospect of white water rafting in such a remote area. The trip starts off as a fun-filled jaunt, with the men amused by the local population of hillbillies, some of whom clearly resent their presence. Nevertheless, the initial hours of rafting are exciting and invigorating. Things go horribly awry when Ed and Bobby become lost and encounter two creepy mountain men (Bill McKinney and "Cowboy" Coward), who terrorize them and subject Bobby to a humiliating rape. Before they can do the same to Ed, Lewis arrives and kills one of the mountain men with an arrow, but the other culprit escapes into the deep woods. The men now face a moral and legal dilemma as they debate what to do next. Deciding that the clannish local authorities would never buy their claim of self-defense, they dispose of the body and hope to cover up the life-altering incident. Complications arise, however, when they discover that the escaped mountain man is stalking them with murder on his mind.
Deliverance was based on the best-selling novel by legendary Southern poet James Dickey (who makes his acting debut in the film, giving a fine performance as a local sheriff). Britain's John Boorman may have seemed an odd choice to direct a film set in the American wilderness, but it's now inconceivable that anyone could have handled this difficult material more skillfully. Boorman had already shown his skill at directing macho-themed movies such as Point Blank and Hell in the Pacific. Deliverance would be the great triumph of his long career. There's plenty of praise to go around for everyone else involved. The only legitimate "star" at the time was Jon Voight, who was riding high from his recent success in Midnight Cowboy. Burt Reynolds had been around for many years, toiling in TV series and B movies. This film would elevate him to superstar status. Perhaps most impress are the performances of Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty, both of whom made their screen debuts in this film. Watching the movie today, it seems inconceivable that Beatty did not receive an Oscar nomination, considering his remarkable performance as a man coping with the ordeal of having been raped. All four actors give superb performances and there is also special praise due for the largely unknown actors and people from the local population who add immeasurably to the atmosphere of the film. Particularly impressive are the actors who played sinister mountain men. "Cowboy" Coward, the toothless hillbilly, was actually an unknown stuntman who worked with Burt Reynolds fifteen years earlier in a children's theme park based on a town in the Old West. Bill McKinney, who would go on to a long career playing cads, is even more remarkable- and during his death sequence, he set a cinematic record for keeping his eyes open for over six minutes without blinking! Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond does yeoman work, capturing both the beauty and the sinister aspects of rural Georgia.
The film's impact has not diminished one iota over the years. Deliverance, like many artistic triumphs, is an often painful but thought-provoking experience that ranks among the great adventure films of all time.
Warner Brother's Blu-ray edition resurrects the special features from the 2007 collector's edition DVD:
a multi-part series of "behind the scenes" featurettes with all of the principals including Boorman and Zsigmond
commentary track by John Boorman
a vintage "making of" production short that centers on James Dickey's involvement with the film
a theatrical trailer that is suitably ominous but gives away too many key scenes
a wonderful brand new featurette that reunites the four actors at the Burt Reynolds Museum in Jupiter, Florida where Reynolds has an entire room dedicated to props from the film. The four men, who have remained friends over the decades, seem to truly relish reliving the trials and tribulations of making the film and its great to watch them reminisce.
The Blu-ray is attractively packaged in a hardback, 42 page book featuring interviews and rare behind the scenes production stills.
This release is a suitably impressive tribute to a very impressive cinematic achievement.
George Leech, a mild-mannered and understated man in real life, menaces Carole Bouquet in the 1981 007 film For Your Eyes Only.
George Leech, the legendary British stuntman, passed away on June 17 at age 90. Leech was a veteran of many classic films and his ability to perform dangerous, awe-inspiring stunts allowed him to work as an elder statesman in his industry. Up until recently, he was helping to train aspiring stuntmen. Leech's films include such memorable action films as Kelly's Heroes, The Guns of Navarone, A Bridge Too Far and Superman. However, he is best known for his long relationship with Eon Production and his work on the James Bond films from Dr. No (1962) through A View to a Kill (1985). For more about his remarkable career click here
Cinema Retro contributor Sheldon Hall recently found this original ad for the 1960 London opening of The Magnificent Seven. Curiously, with all the star power and up-and-coming stars, the ad doesn't depict any of the actors! James Coburn and Brad Dexter don't even rate being mentioned in the credits!
With Woody Allen's To Rome With Love topping even Battleship at the Italian boxoffice, it's time to contemplate the Wood Man's recent obsession with shooting his films in Europe. For decades, Allen confined himself to his beloved New York City, but lately, he's found a receptive audience in Europe, not to mention significant tax incentives for filming there. Click here for an on-line virtual tour of key Allen European film locations.
Writer Gary Susman of Movieone takes an objective and insightful look at the remarkable career of the most famous American film critic ever: Roger Ebert. At age 70, Ebert is as energetic as ever, despite battling health problems that have robbed him of his ability to speak. The article points out that while Ebert and the late Gene Siskel did much to elevate appreciation of the art of film, their act was quickly copied by numerous imitators with the result being a dumbing-down of film criticism, especially in the age of the internet. Nevertheless, Ebert remains one of the few iconic names in film criticism and the article provides a look back on his reviews of blockbuster movies. Click here to read
Here's the first view of Ben Stiller in the forthcoming remake of the Danny Kaye comedy The Secret Life of Walter Mitty about a man who is obsessed with fantasizing about himself in various professions. Stiller is seen here with Kristin Wiig of Saturday Night Live. The film is based on James Thurber's classic 1947 short story. For more click here
Here's sexy Beverly Adams in the little-remembered 1966 comedy Birds Do It starring Soupy Sales. Adams' career was short-lived. She married Vidal Sassoon in 1967 and went on to use the Sassoon name to launch a line of pet care products and books. Adams, a Canadian native, appeared in a number of 60s movies, playing the role of sexy Lovely Kravezit in the first three Matt Helm films starring Dean Martin. She also appeared in Winter-A-Go-Go and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini before going into self-imposed retirement to raise her family.
If you pre-order a limited edition deluxe set of James Bond 50th Anniversary Blu-rays, Amazon is offering an exclusive bonus: a hardback book of James Bond movie poster art. The set contains many hours of special bonus extras, some included here for the first time. Additionally, there are many other great aspects to this ultimate 007 collectible.
Here is the write up from Amazon:
Amazon Exclusive - "Limited Edition James Bond 50 Years Of Movie Posters Book." Available For A Limited Time, While Supplies Last. This Hardcover Book includeds 50 Years of Movie Posters that provide a kaleidoscope of Bond imagery that captures, distills and defines the lasting appeal of cinema’s most compelling superspy.
Collectible box set featuring all 22 James Bond films on Blu-ray disc in one complete offering for the first time.
Collection includes all 22 James Bond feature films from Dr. No to Quantum of Solace and more than 130 hours of bonus features including never-before-seen content from the Bond archives, and more.
One disc of brand new bonus content approximately one hour in length.
9 titles available on Blu-ray for the first time ever: Goldeneye, Octopussy, The Spy Who Loved Me, You Only Live Twice, The Living Daylights, Tomorrow Never Dies, Diamonds are Forever, A View to a Kill and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Box set includes an open slot for forthcoming James Bond film.
The World of Bond – the 007 films have a look, style and attitude that is signature Bond. From the cars, to the women, to the villains and even the music, Bond films stand apart. The World of Bond takes the viewer through the best of five decades worth of classic James Bond in one thrilling montage. The World of Bond showcases the fascinating and entertaining interplay among unforgettable moments of danger, seduction, adventure and a dash of that distinguished humor that fans have cherished from the beginning up until now. To add to the experience, The World of Bond featurette will also offer a Pop-Up Trivia option to challenge even the sharpest of fans with little known facts and interesting trivia from the Bond Universe.
Being Bond – there’s only one James Bond – but he’s proven too much for only one actor to play the role. In the franchise’s 50-year run, six distinguished actors have taken on the part and secured a spot in cinematic history. Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig each reflect on the impact and importance of taking on such a famous role. With this piece, gain insight into what each actor brought to the character and discover how they shaped the world’s most timeless secret agent.
SKYFALL Videoblogs – Behind-the-scenes look at the making of SKYFALL from the cast and crew.
Click here for details and to pre-order at a discount.
Sandler's Jack and Jill was a major bomb in relation to his other films.
He is a contemporary Jerry Lewis. Adam Sandler's low-brow comedies rarely win critical plaudits but have generally proven to extremely popular with a young, loyal fan base. However, the relatively poor performance of his latest films leads Huffington Post writer Christopher Rosen to speculate about whether Sandler has truly lost his boxoffice mojo. His conclusion: no. Rosen backs up his opinion by providing the impressive grosses of Sandler's films to date and theorizes that his films generally bomb only when he goes beyond a PG-13 rating into R territory, which prohibits many teens from gaining entry to his films. For more click here
The head of Hammer Films says that Daniel Radcliffe might appear in the sequel to the recent boxoffice hit The Woman in Black. The critically-acclaimed film marked the first major hit for the recently revived British film studio which had been dormant for decades. For more click here- but beware, it does contain spoilers if you have not yet seen the film.
The folks at Cracked.com have finally cracked the code of what a snozzberry is. In the classic children's film Willy Wonka and Chocolate Factory, the titular character encourages children to lick wallpaper that tastes like snozzberries. It wasn't until years later that author Roald Dahl, who wrote the source book the film is based on, came up with an unrelated story about killing rich men in order to steal their used condoms. (Don't ask...) In this novel, Dahl reveals exactly how he defines snozzberries....and it's probably giving some of the kids in the film a complex even forty years later. Click here for more
Click here to watch an offbeat trailer for Steve McQueen's Bullitt. We don't recall seeing this version before, with a narrator who sounds like he just stepped out of Goodfellas. This version gives almost as much screen to time Robert Vaughn as it does to McQueen and very much accentuates the classic car chase.
In August 1981, at the age of twelve, I
viewed my very first horror film, Dan Curtis' 1976 theatrical outing Burnt Offerings, based upon the 1973 novel
of the same name by Robert Marasco.I
was immediately impressed with the film's spooky quality and the performances
by Oliver Reed, Karen Black, Bette Davis, and Burgess Meredith. One area that
stood out most was the chillingly icy score by Robert Cobert. I was eager to
discover other works directed by Mr. Curtis and it would be nearly 30 years
before I would finally see episodes of what is arguably his most popular
production, the soap opera/thriller Dark
Shadows. Running for nearly five years on ABC-TV from 1966 to 1971 and consisting
of 1,225 episodes in total (some of which were in black and white), Dark Shadows is an enjoyably spooky
production that was shot on videotape. It stars Jonathan Frid as Barnabas
Collins, Joan Bennett as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, and Lara Parker as
Angelique.Genre fans will recognize the
late Ms. Bennett from as Celia Lamphere in Fritz Lang’s Secret Beyond the Door… (1948) and as Madame Blanc in Dario
Argento’s Suspiria (1977).Like many of Mr. Curtis’ other creepy
productions, it was scored by Robert Cobert as well.
For those of you who were watching this
series when it premiered 46 years ago, your opportunity to view uncut and
uninterrupted episodes is now possible thanks to home video. There are two newly released single DVDs (Dark Shadows: Fan Favorites and Dark Shadows: Best of Barnabas), each of
which contain nine of the most loved episodes by the millions of fans who tuned
in to it daily. These DVDs were released
to coincide with Tim Burton’s film version of the show starring Johnny Depp and
give new viewers a taste of what the series was like. While it is a far cry from such current
vampire fare such as HBO’s enormously popular True Blood, it still possesses (no pun intended) an air of Gothic creepiness
and in my humble opinion the entire series should have been shot in black and
white. Eagle-eyed viewers will catch a
glimpse of a boom mike here and there, and it’s a hoot to see that the show’s
costumes were provided by Ohrbach’s, a department store I recall from my youth
in the 1980s. Actresses Kathryn Leigh
Scott and Lara Parker provide introductions
to the individual episodes which are a nice added value for the money
If you’re a rabid fan and need to have
every episode, the complete series is due out on DVD in July 2012. If you’re looking for a sampling of the show
prior to seeing its complete run, these two DVDs are the perfect appetizer prior
to the entrée due out next month.
The success of the show led to two theatrical
offerings: House of Dark Shadows (1970)
and Night of Dark Shadows (1971),
also directed by Mr. Curtis and scored by Mr. Cobert.
Director J.J. Abrams has abandoned plans to shoot his Star Trek sequel in 2D, then blow the film up for IMAX format. Instead, Abrams has confirmed that he used IMAX cameras to shoot specific key sequences, a technique used for recent Batman and Mission: Impossible movies. For more click here
In recent years, Woody Allen has come out of his shell to actually participate in interviews to promote his latest films. The Woodman may still be at his comedic peak, as evidenced by last year's Midnight in Paris, but he relishes waxing over the more depressing aspects of life. In a revealing interview with Rachel Dodes of the Wall Street Journal to promote his latest, To Rome With Love, Allen discusses his philosophies behind life and his chosen profession. As he's stated before, he is pleased if one of his films is well-accepted, but never wants to watch it again. As for his long-standing battle against modern technology, Allen says, "Idon't have a computer. It's more than just incompetence, which I also have. I have an aversion to anything mechanical. I never liked cameras, tape recorders, cars. I have a car. I don't drive it. I don't have a camera. At home, if I want to watch a DVD, which is almost never, I have to have my wife put it on. I would never in a million years know what she was doing to put it on. There's something I generally don't like about it. It isn't just that I can't do it, which I can't. If I liked it I couldn't do it. But I also don't like it. It may be because I can't do it that I don't like it, but it bothers me.
Vintage ad for drive-in showing of Lawrence of Arabia.
You might think that America's dwindling number of drive-in movie theaters are destined to go the way of the dodo bird in the age of digital projection. However, a report from CNBC indicates some enterprising drive-in owners who are adapting to digital projection and using the technology to make their theaters thrive. Click here for more
For the past 35 years Paul Welsh MBE,
film historian and Chairman of 'Elstree
Screen Heritage',has written about the local film and
TV studios in a weekly newspaper column
for the Borehamwood & Elstree
Times. Paul, who recently wrote about the MGM Borehamwood Studios in our Where Eagles Dare special tribute
edition, has now written “Elstree Confidential” a unique book bringing readers
highlights of 50 years of Paul’s memories of the studios, lavishly illustrated
by private photos and correspondence never before published. For anyone
remotely interested in the history of film, this is a must-have, as Paul's
research, and indeed his history with
these world re-known studios, is unsurpassed. MGM's famous quote used to be
"We have more stars than there are in heaven." Well, judging by the
snapshots in this book, Paul met them all too! I felt as though I was there
with the author while going through these pages. Many of the photos are to die
for - especially those depicting sets on the old back lots, etc. An excellent
and personal account of an era long lost, and which should (could?) have been
Published by Elstree &
Borehamwood Museum, this hardbound book costs only £15.95 (plus £4.15 postage and packing in the UK) Your copy will be posted to you on the same day
you place your order! To order a copy simply go on-line to the web site at www.elstreescreenheritage.org
1984, George Orwell's classic cautionary tale about a totalitarian future society that quashes any hint of individuality, will be brought to the big screen for the third time by Imagine,with a script by Noah Oppenheim. No director or cast has been announced. The oft-filmed tale has been made for TV and was adapted for two feature film versions. The first was released in 1956 and starred Edmond O'Brien and Michael Redgrave. The most acclaimed version was actually released in 1984 and starred John Hurt and Richard Burton, who gave a brilliant and chilling performance in his last big screen appearance. For more click here
Here's a board game you can't refuse: Hasbro and Paramount have teamed up to produce an official Monopoly version of The Godfather. The locations reflect those found in the film trilogy.There's even a cool promotional video that shows you the contentS of the game. (We believe the limited edition version comes with an actual decapitated horse head!) Click here for more
Family members of the late Gilligan's Island producer Sherwood Schwartz are preparing a musical based on the icon 1960s sitcom in the hopes that it will open on Broadway. A Tony-nominated director is attached to the project, which will showcase the familiar group of castaways- along with a new character, an alien. We presume they mean from out of space, not a person from out of the United States. We're just concerned that the alien angle might diminish the realism of the traditional plot lines- you know, as in the case when the Harlem Globetrotters ended up on the island. You can count us among those who have long pondered why a group of tourists who had signed up for a three hour cruise seem to have an unlimited amount of wardrobe changes, survival gear and food. For more click here
By 1969, Raquel Welch was at the peak of her cinematic career. Still a bit rough-around-the-edges as an actress, she nevertheless possessed a charming on-screen personality. Not surprisingly, that wasn't the aspect that movie studios chose to showcase when marketing her films. A prime example is Flareup, a 1969 thriller that heavily stressed images and clips of Welch gyrating in a sexy outfit as a go-go dancer. The fact that she is dressed in depressingly demure outfits except for this brief sequence represents something less than truth-in-advertising. Welch is Michele, a vivacious, independent minded Las Vegas strip club dancer whose best friend is murdered by her psychotic ex-husband Alan (Luke Askew). He gets away with the murder and kills another of his wife's friends, who he believes conspired to cause convince his ex to divorce him. Last on the list is Michele, who he relentless hunts. Although charismatic, Michele shows a distinct lack of common sense when it comes to self-protection. For reasons never explained, she turns down police protection and is immediately stalked by Alan. He trails her to Los Angeles, where her poor judgment flares up again (pardon the pun) when he pursues her in a high speed car chase. In the kind of logic made for "women-in-jeopardy" movies, Michele sails through the crowded streets of L.A. where she could seek help from hundreds of passersby, only to wind up in a remote and deserted section of Griffith Park where her would-be killer pursues her through a zoo. She later continues to show similar good sense by escaping from a guarded hospital room only to walk straight into the killer's next trap.
Flareup epitomizes the guilty pleasure movie, from the faux Bond-like opening credits to some laughably bad acting. The film is directed in a clunky, erratic style by James Neilson, who doesn't miss an opportunity to use a zoom lens or a cliched situation. He does succeed, however, in making the most of impressive on-location shooting in both Vegas and L.A, which at least gives the movie a feeling of authenticity. Neilson also shoots topless go go girls at L.A's famed Losers Lounge,where King Lear himself, Russ Meyer is said to have scouted for well-endowed "talent" for his own movies. James Stacy is the parking lot attendant who starts a love affair with Michele and, refreshingly, this is one movie that doesn't have the male play hero to rescue his girlfriend. Michele maybe lacking in good judgment, but is brave and resourceful enough to take on the killer herself. The movie does have some genuine suspense and one particularly chilling sequence in which an elderly motorist realizes that the hitchhiker he has picked up is actually a cold blooded murderer. Here, director Neilson finally distinguishes himself in an extensive sequence that is quite haunting.
The movie is good, passable fun and brings back some fond memories of the swinging Sixties. The DVD from the Warner Archive contains an original trailer that emphasizes that Welch is now playing "herself", not a Mexican bandito or a cavegirl, a sly knock on her earlier films. The trailer also presents Stacy with prominent billing- and spells his name wrong!
Click here to order from Warner Archive and to watch a clip.
The Cabin in the Woods takes its
inspiration from the endless number of horror movies that begin with the killings
of unsuspecting teenagers at summer camps, lakeside log cabins and other remote
locations. Joss Whedon is a writer, director and producer who will be familiar
to any fans of genre television from the last twenty years, having been
responsible for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, Firefly and most
recently the box office smash Avengers Assemble. Whedon and his
co-writer Drew Goddard (who also directed the film) identified the main tropes
of the genre; teenagers go to cabin to take drugs and get laid, get killed off
by psychos, demons or zombies until one lone survivor (usually female) fights
back and destroys the evil forces. Whedon and Goddard questioned just why
audiences keep going back to this over and over again. What possible pleasure
do we get from seeing teenagers being butchered in ever more inventive and
outlandish ways? Are the films reactionary, punishing the kids for their
immoral behaviour? Thankfully Whedon and Goddard don't necessarily set out to
answer these questions. The Cabin in the Woods is not a treatise on the
evils of horror films, like that delivered by Michael Haneke in Funny Games
(1997). What they have done is to create a film which follows these conventions
whilst simultaneously presenting their own version of the truth behind why it
is all happening. To say any more at this point would be to give too much away.
This is a film best enjoyed when you know as little about it as possible.
Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion' is a book that you should
only look at once you have seen the film, as no twist or turn is left
unspoiled. The book contains the complete original screenplay illustrated with
dozens of stills from the movie and also includes scenes that were not shot for
budgetary reasons. What the book does best, however, is cover the writing and
filming process in detail through an extensive interview with Whedon and
Goddard, accompanied by plenty of behind the scenes photos and design sketches.
They discuss the problems of trying to shoot a summer movie in Canada during
the winter (snow!) and how they divided up the writing between them, providing
fascinating insight for any budding screenwriters. A large section of the book
is given over to the design of the film, with interviews from key players and
hundreds of photos, models, sketches and on-set photographs. The filmmakers
insisted on using physical effects over CGI wherever possible, meaning that
almost one hundred craftsmen and technicians were involved in putting the film
together on a relatively low budget and tight schedule.
The Cabin in the Woods was completed in
2010 but sat gathering dust on a shelf owing to the financial problems of MGM,
and was finally distributed by Lionsgate earlier this year. It really is a must
see not only for horror film fans, but for anyone interested in genuinely
intelligent and original filmmaking. 'The Cabin in the Woods: The Official
Visual Companion' is an excellent opportunity to pour over the intricate design
process and enjoy every last detail that may have been missed in the breathless
rush towards the film's conclusion. Just don't look at the book first.
Released in an obvious attempt to capitalize on Norman Jewison's racially-charged 1967 Oscar winner In the Heat of the Night, MGM's 1969 suspense drama tick...tick...tick... attempts to emulate the smoldering tensions in a small southern town that permeated the earlier film. The MGM release is not on the caliber of the Jewison production but it is a consistently engrossing, well-acted drama that calls to mind just how relatively recently the civil rights battle had to be fought in the American South. By 1969, segregation may have been the law of the land, but in fact, there were many places where attempting to implement the law would have been a death sentence. The story takes place in small Southern town where the only thing hotter than the broiling summer temperatures is the barely-concealed rage of the local population. Seems that while the apathy of white voters resulted in them staying home on election day, a black candidate for Sheriff, Jimmy Price (Jim Brown) managed to rally the minority population and pull off an unexpected win. The townspeople blame the previous Sheriff, John Little (George Kennedy) for not campaigning aggressively enough. The tough-as-nails Little is humiliated by his defeat by a black man, but takes solace from his compassionate wife (Lynn Carlin). Meanwhile, Price has plenty of problems of his own. He fully expects to be ridiculed and ignored by the locals and realizes he must quickly assert his ability to carry out the law and win the respect of those who loathe him. He's also trying to be a good father to his young son and a dedicated husband to his nervous, pregnant wife (Janet MacLaclan), who understands the dangers he faces on a daily basis. When Price arrests a well-connected white man, the entire town becomes a tinderbox. Price is threatened by the man's influential brother, who is going to literally invade the town with an army of vigilantes. He's also hated by his one-time friends in the black community because he tries to prevent them from engaging in a race war. Desperately in need of help, Price loses his one deputy to a horrific attack by unknown assailants. He forms an odd relationship with former Sheriff John Little, who reluctantly agrees to serve as his deputy. This sets off a major scandal with both men alienated in their respective communities.
tick...tick...tick remains thoroughly engrossing, thanks to the fine direction of old hand Ralph Nelson and James Lee Barrett's intelligent screenplay. The film also affords Jim Brown a rare opportunity to play a man of substance instead of the cliched action hero he was so often cast as. He delivers a good, understated performance and is more than matched by Kennedy as the sympathetic loser who is desperately trying to regain the respect he once commanded. The film boasts some excellent actors in supporting roles, topped by a frail Fredric March in his next-to-last screen role. As the town's mayor, he may be the product of a bigoted way of life, but he also sees the writing on the wall when it comes to racial equality and adopts some surprisingly progressive stances. This ability to have characters play opposite of their stereotypes helps set the film apart from similarly-themed films of the era. Other notable character actors on board include Don Stroud, Dub Taylor and Clifton James. Bernie Casey is a local trouble maker who locks horns with Brown and the movie affords us the opportunity to see two former football greats going mano-a-mano in a brutal fight. The film builds to a tense conclusion with an upbeat (if not overly optimistic) final scene that manages to be inspiring.
tick...tick...tick is certainly not a classic, but it is well worth viewing and it's release on DVD through the Warner Archive is most welcome.
The DVD contains an original TV spot as a bonus.
Click here to order from the Warner Archive and to watch a clip
Character actor Frank Cady has died at age 96. Cady was best known for playing folksy, friendly everyday people. His portrayal of Mr. Drucker, the general store owner in the fictional town of Hooterville, saw him play the same character in the popular CBS TV series Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction. He played the role between 1965 and 1971. The shows were still at the top of the ratings when CBS president Fred Silverman decided to cancel the rural-themed comedies, a move that is now considered to be one of the most ill-advised in the history of the television industry. Cady also had supporting and bit roles in feature films such as Rear Window, The Gnome Mobile, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao and Hearts of the West. For more click here
THE KELLY'S HEROES MOVIE CLASSICS SPECIAL EDITION HAS PROVEN TO BE ONE OF OUR MOST POPULAR ISSUES EVER! IF YOU HAVEN'T ORDERED YET, DO SO TODAY AND ADD THIS SURE-TO-BE VALUED COLLECTOR'S ITEM TO YOUR CINEMA RETRO LIBRARY!
The acclaim from fans and those who worked on the film is pouring in. Here is an E mail we received from director John Landis, who began his career working as an assistant to director Brian G. Hutton on the movie:
Dear Dave and Lee –
The Kelly's Heroes extravaganza arrived today
and it's quite overwhelming! I can't wait to read it cover to cover! It
looks fantastic and extremely thorough. Congratulations! I really
have never seen anything like it. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Best always - John
As you may know, John Landis knows a thing or two about
making movies, so his praise is certainly appreciated. A special thanks to John
for providing ultra rare photos from his personal archive as well as original
call sheets from the movie.
Following on from our 'Movie Classics Special Edition' that paid tribute to director Brian G. Hutton's Where Eagles Dare), we bring you his other big picture collaboration with star Clint Eastwood - Kelly's Heroes.
As before, this is an 80-page blockbuster filled with amazing stories and ultra -rare photographs, many which have never been seen before, and all for the same cover price as our regular 64-page magazine!
We have had the full cooperation of the director Brian G. Hutton, who has shared with us the trials and tribulations of making this WWII action-comedy on location in Yugoslavia. Some of the stories have to be read to be believed! Additionally, we have exclusive interviews with John Landis, actor Stuart Margolin (Little Joe), and Eastwood's regular key grip, Dennis Fraser. This issue is packed with sidebar information on the filming, the locations, the music, the actors, the world-wide poster campaigns and the collectibles. We have also unearthed rare vintage interviews with Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Don Rickles and Donald Sutherland recorded on location back in 1969 which have never been published before. All of this, plus many photographs taken on the set by cast and crew that we can guarantee you have never seen before.
“Oddball” would be pleased that there will be "no negative waves" from Cinema Retro's latest Movie Classics Special Edition
(This review pertains to the British Blu-ray release)
With a career spanning over fifty years,
from early British silent film to glossy Hollywood studio fare,Alfred Hitchcock
rarely faltered in presenting audiences with glamour, wit, excitement, scares
and thrills. To celebrate his achievements, the British Film Institute is
holding a four month long celebration in 2012 entitled The Genius of Hitchcock,
with screenings, events and major restorations of his early work. Eureka’s
release of the restored print of Lifeboat
is well timed.
One of Hitchcock’s more unusual film
experiments, Lifeboat was an attempt
to shoot an entire feature in one location, in this case a ragbag of survivors
adrift in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Their ocean liner, bound for
England, is torpedoed. Luckily, before it went down, they fired back and sank the
enemy vessel alongside their own. Newspaper reporter Connie Porter (Tallulah
Bankhead) is in the only remaining lifeboat, and is soon joined by several
other survivors, including crew members, a woman still clutching her drowned
baby, and in a shocking twist, a German, the only survivor from the Nazi U-Boat.
Tensions soon rise as they squabble over what to do with him, and how they are
going to survive as their food and water slowly runs out and they don’t know
which way to navigate to dry land.
The film is a technical triumph and deals
with Hitchcock’s familiar themes of mistrust, vengeance, betrayal and murder,
whilst still providing entertainment and moments of wry humour (including his
ingenious cameo appearance on the front of a newspaper). Bankhead is delightful as the socialite
reporter who desperately attempts to remain glamorous despite the hostile
conditions she is subjected to. At many points she is the voice of reason,
particularly as she is the only passenger able to speak to their captured Nazi
in his native tongue.
Imaginatively shot in Academy ratio 1:37:1,
Hitchcock explores every inch of the lifeboat from every conceivable angle, and
despite the close physical proximity of the passengers, he still demonstrates
the gulfs that lie between them, whether through class, politics, race or, in
the case of the Nazi, mistrust. The film features moments of humour to help
relieve the tension, something that Hitchcock was gifted at doing in all of his
films. Lifeboat is a tremendously
entertaining and exciting piece of filmmaking as it communicates the ultimate
futility of the conflict and the devastating effect it has on those who are
left behind. This new Blu-ray release includes two short films that Hitchcock
also directed, which may viewer may be unfamiliar with.. Bon Voyage and Aventure
Malgache were both shot in Elstree Studios in the UK in 1944 and deal
primarily with the French resistance. They can be seen as interesting
propaganda pieces and whilst not as timeless as Hitchcock’s more familiar work,
they are fascinating nonetheless and make terrific extras. The Blu-ray also
comes with a booklet featuring analytical essays for each of the three films.
The Bond Stars web site is offering an exclusive opportunity to pre-order Sir Roger Moore's forthcoming hardback book about the James Bond films, Bond on Bond.Here is the announcement from their web site.
You can have no better guide to the wonderful world of Bond than the longest-standing 007, Roger Moore. This fabulous anthology celebrates all things Bond and is packed with rare photographs from the movie sets and Roger’s personal collection as well as iconic images of the girls, the gadgets, the baddies and the Bonds.
With Roger’s trademark charm and humour, he spills the beans on his experiences playing Bond as well as casting an affectionate eye over all the films in this iconic series.
Bond on Villains
Bond on Girls
Bond on Gadgets
Bond on Cars
Bond on Style
Bond on Location
Bond on Bonds
Bond Behind the Scenes
Bond on Screen
Bond On Bond is published in October but you can now pre-order a copy complete with limited edition numbered bookplate hand signed by Sir Roger himself.
Sir Roger will happily dedicate your book but as we have limited time we ask if you would keep your dedications short and simple e.g. "To Chris, Best Wishes" etc. Bondstars LLP & Sir Roger Moore have the right to edit dedications if we feel necessary. Sir Roger Moore will not write character names such as "James Bond" or "007".
Acclaimed Danish character actor Mads Mikkelsen has been signed to play the notorious cannibal Hannibal Lecter on a new NBC crime series. The character was the centerpiece of author Thomas Harris' bestseller The Silence of the Lambs, which was adapted into an Oscar-winning movie. Anthony Hopkins immortalized the character of Lecter in the original film and sequels, though Brian Cox played the part first in the 1986 film Manhunter. Curiously, the Lifetime TV network is simultaneously developing the show Clarice, based on the young female FBI agent portrayed by Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs. For more click here
Twilight Time has released Fritz Lang's classic 1953 film noir The Big Heat as a limited edition (3,000 units) Blu-ray. The movie ranks among the top films in the noir genre and time has only increased its appeal. Glenn Ford is Dave Bannion, a dedicated police detective who begins to suspect that the apparent suicide of a fellow cop might be linked to department-wide corruption. His hunch proves correct as it becomes evident that virtually the entire police department, right up to the commissioner, is controlled by local crime kingpin Mike Lagana (Alexander Scourby). When Bannion receives warnings to lay off the investigation, he ignores them and continues to pursue leads. Before long, not only he but his beloved wife (Jocelyn Brando) and daughter are targeted for death. Lang's penchant for creating a dark, foreboding atmosphere is on display here. Most of the scenes are interiors or dank, dangerous locations. The film's central plot is mesmerizing from the shocking opening frames. As a leading man, Ford could usually be described as handsome, affable and reliable but "dynamic" would hardly be associated with his screen persona. In The Big Heat, however, Ford gives what is arguably the best performance of his career. As the gangsters take their toll on him, he becomes a man obsessed, menacing men and women alike. His only ally is Debby Marsh (wonderfully played by Gloria Grahame), a ditzy but lovable gun moll who suffers terribly from her attempts to aid Bannion. Director Lang brings real pathos to the proceedings. Bannion is the ultimate family man-- and he has a sexually playful relationship with his wife, something refreshing for a film from this period. When his wife and kid are menaced, Bannion's rage brings him to the brink of committing murder himself. Supporting characters are tortured, scalded, and even children are threatened.
There are many memorable scenes in the film and most feature an impressive array of terrific supporting actors including Lee Marvin outstanding as a charismatic, but vicious thug who squares off with Bannion in the action-packed finale. Lang loved his adopted country, America, ever since he had fled Nazi Germany rather than serve as one of their propagandists. However, he was always dismayed by instances of injustice and often reflected these concerns in his films. The Big Heat might well have been the most daring expose of police corruption seen in any film until that time. The film remains a mini-masterpiece of its kind and all retro movie buffs should have it in their movie libraries.
The Twilight Time Blu-ray presents a terrific transfer that does full justice to the outstanding camerawork of Charles Lang. The package includes the usual informative collector's booklet written by Julie Kirgo, but don't read it before watching the film as it is filled with spoilers. A re-release trailer is also included.
Film Society of Lincoln Center Screening a Whole Summer’s Worth of Midnight
Midnight movies have been, in effect, the homeless
orphans of filmdom for the past 20 years.
Since the demise of their theatrical homes -- second or third-run movie houses
and drive-ins -- back in the 1980s, they've been regarded as too niche for corporate cable channels like IFC or TCM.
With no local-channel late shows in
existence to air them, their only home has been the home video market and the
art-house repertory circuit in cities like the New Beverly Cinema and
Cinefamily in Los Angeles, NYC's Anthology Film Archives, and a handful of
other venues around the country. In these politically sensitive times, there
are only so many places that will host a screening of Torso (1973).
This is strange, because midnight movies are not, in fact, unloved orphans.
They are obsessively loved, collected, talked about, fetishized, blogged,
tweeted and traded by a huge swath of filmgoers, basically anyone old enough to
remember attending one in their heyday of the early 60s--late 80s. But their
theatrical outlet remains severely limited due to a number of factors, mostly
due to the shortage of amenable venues, screenable prints (their fan base is
slow to warm to digital projections) and difficulty in marketing to younger
generations. But their influence
continues to be felt in everything from fashion and advertising to more
mainstream feature films, particularly those of Eli Roth and Quentin Tarantino
-- both of whom owe their careers to the recreation of the midnight movie
phenomenon and aesthetic. (It was through Tarantino's enormous generosity that
the New Beverly Cinema was rescued from closure when he quietly bought it from
the owners in 2010 but allowed them to continue running it as they saw fit.)
This is one reason why museums and cultural institutions around the country are
taking notice and
programming midnight movies into their film calendars, in effect, giving these
genre films a second home in the 21st century, and in so doing elevating their
stature through the critical lens of the museum imprimatur.
Another reason is that these same museums and cultural
institutions contain millennial-generation
staff, for who anything from the 1980s is sacred. That is a less a scientific
an anecdotal one, but I'm standing by it.
I saw a screening of
Zardoz (1974) at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art last March in a Mystery Science 3000-inspired format,
including a hilarious trailer reel as an intro, before an audience of mostly
twenty-somethings. And NYC’s Museum of Art and Design in 2010 devoted an entire
week to Italian zombie films, which they called Zombo Italiano. The trend is picking up heat elsewhere.
Which leads me to my main point: The Film Society of Lincoln Center is
presenting a new series of Midnight Movies every Friday night, all summer long!
Now through August 31st.
In total contradiction to my above thesis, Film Comment Editor-in-Chief
series co-programmer Gavin Smith says: "Sometimes I sit in my office and
wonder why Béla Tarr couldn’t have filmed a live-action version of the game
Sodoku. Because if he had, we would program it in a second. But since he hasn’t
(at least so far, anything’s possible), we might as well throw The Texas
Chain Saw Massacre and Fritz the Cat on the screen and see what
Among the rarely screened gems in the series are: Logan's Run (June 15);
Lost Highway (July 6); The Evil Deada nd The Evil Dead II
(July 13 and 20, respectively); and The House by the Cemetery (August
Fox has released the 2011 film adaptation of the classic children's tale Mr. Popper's Penguins as a Blu-ray special edition that also contains a standard DVD version. The original 1938 book by Richard and Florence Atwater has been updated to contemporary times and is set in New York City. Jim Carrey, who has regained his comedy mojo, is in top form as the titular character. As a boy, young Tom Popper idolized his father, who was an intrepid explorer. Although the two rarely saw each other, Poppa Popper used to stay in touch every night on ham radio from exotic ports of call and transfix his young son with tales of his adventures. Cut to decades later. Young Popper is now a middle-aged real estate hot shot living in a posh Manhattan penthouse. His obsession with his career has led to his wife Amanda (Carla Gugino) leaving him and taking custody of their teenage daughter Janie (Madeline Carroll) and young son Billy (Maxwell Perry Cotton). Although Tom is lovable and possesses a goofy sense of humor, his relationship with his children is strained because he is irresponsible and unreliable when it comes to promises he's made to them. Shortly after the death of his beloved father, Tom receives an unusual inheritance: six live penguins, a token of his father's esteem. At first, Popper is understandably frazzled, as coping with penguins in a Manhattan apartment, no matter how spacious, is a recipe for disaster. Through a misunderstanding, his children believe the penguins are pets for them. Having finally earned the gratitude of his children, Popper can't bring himself to donate the animals to a zoo so he concocts elaborate schemes to house them and care for them secretly, 'lest the board of the apartment building evicts all the inhabitants of Popper's penthouse.
Much of the fun from this smartly written and well-directed film is the sheer joyfulness of watching the penguins "perform". Although CGI was indeed used in key sequences, amazingly, most of the sequences relied upon trained penguins to perform some astonishing stunts. Director Mark Waters deftly weaves the human elements of the story in with the mayhem caused by the animals. Tom Popper's career nosedives when he becomes obsessed with caring for his frisky pets. Consequently, he seems unable to land a deal to convince a wealthy woman (Angela Lansbury) to allow him to broker a deal to buy the legendary Tavern on the Green in Central Park. (Tragically, the happy ending in the film was not mirrored in real life: the restaurant closed.) Popper keeps up a maddening pace, trying to keep his hard-nosed, demanding bosses happy as well as attempting to win back the affection of his wife and kids. The film is delightful throughout and Carrey has never been funnier. There are many memorable sequences, one of which involves the penguins disrupting a posh black tie gathering at the Guggenheim in much the same way the Three Stooges used to upstage champagne-drinking snobs. The supporting cast is also very winning, with both Carroll and Cotton giving admirable performances as Popper's kids, Gugino both sexy and sympathetic as his long-suffering wife and Lansbury, impressive in her most memorable role in years. There are also gems of cameos by Philip Baker Hall as Popper's grumpy boss and the always impressive Lee Moore in a fine bit as Popper's attorney.
The Blu-ray/DVD package is loaded with extras including some very interesting "making of" featurettes, a gag reel and deleted scenes (some of which should have remained in the film).
Mr. Popper's Penguins wasn't a blockbuster at the box-office, but it will undoubtedly become a family favorite that will perennially delighted generations to come.
Woody Allen is returning to San Francisco to film his next as yet untitled comedy. The last time the Woodman filmed in Frisco was way back in 1969 when he made his big screen directorial debut with Take the Money and Run. Allen's film will top line Alec Baldwin, Cate Blanchett and comedian Louis C.K. His latest film, To Rome With Love, hits U.S. theaters later this month. For more click here
CINEMA RETRO ISSUE #23 IS NOW SHIPPING WORLDWIDE! ALL SUBSCRIBER COPIES ARE IN THE MAIL.
DUE TO UNEXPECTEDLY HIGH DEMAND, THIS ISSUE IS ALREADY IN SHORT SUPPLY. AS OUR FIRST PRIORITY IS TO BE ABLE TO FILL ORDERS FOR SUBSCRIPTIONS, WE MUST RESERVE THE LIMITED NUMBER OF ISSUES LEFT IN STOCK TO FILL NEW SUBSCRIPTIONS AND RENEWALS THROUGHOUT THE REST OF THE CURRENT SEASON. WE REGRET THAT WE CANNOT OFFER SINGLE ISSUE SALES OF #23 AT THIS TIME.
DON'T MISS A SINGLE ISSUE OF THIS SEASON. IF YOU HAVEN'T SUBSCRIBED OR RENEWED, DO SO TODAY!
HIGHLIGHTS OF ISSUE #23 INCLUDE:
Coverage of the Bond in Motion exhibition in England- the largest single collection of original 007 vehicles ever displayed. We take you inside the gala press event that opened the exhibit.
Dean Brierly analyzes the criminally underrated crime thriller The Night of the Following Daystarring Marlon Brando and Richard Boone
Roland Schaefli pays tribute to the John Wayne-Howard Hawks adventure Hatari!and takes us on a visit to the African locations as they are today
Tim Graves celebrates the excellent, but little-remembered psychic thriller Games starring James Caan and Katharine Ross.
Adrian Smith examines the British sex films of the 60s and 70s- and how film companies battled the censors to sneak in as many "tits and bums" as possible
Elvis on the Back Lot: Dean Sills looks back on The King's Hollywood hits- and how infrequently the exotic locations were actually filmed on location
Raymond Benson looks at the best films of 1982
Lee Pfeiffer takes a second look at the Italian Western A Minute To Pray, A Second to Diestarring Alex Cord and Robert Ryan
Gareth Owen revisits the filming of The Slipper and the Rose at Pinewood Studios
Dave Worrall looks at the films that depicted the legendary raid on Entebbe and takes us back in time to the filming of Disney's Candleshoe through unseen on-set photos
Plus the latest DVD, soundtrack and film book reviews
PLEASE NOTE: This issue arrived three weeks late in the USA due to a transport snafu in the UK that we had no control over. We apologize for the delay.
CLICK HERE FOR SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION. CLICK HERETO SUBSCRIBE INSTANTLY THROUGH OUR EBAY STORE- AND SHOP FOR BACK ISSUES, TOO!
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM CINEMA RETRO'S ARCHIVES
By Lee Pfeiffer
A&E has released every episode of the classic spy series Secret Agent starring Patrick McGoohan in a comprehensive boxed set. The show was widely seen as having been inspired by the success of the James Bond series, but by the time it ran in the USA under the title of Secret Agent, it had already been a hit show in the UK known as Danger Man - and it clearly preceded the 007 craze.The show ran as half-hour episodes in England but was expanded to one hour when a deal was made to air the program in America. It proved to be one of the last successful series to have been shot in black-and-white. McGoohan, who turned down the role of James Bond prior to Sean Connery being signed for the part, disdained sex and violence in popular entertainment. Thus, his protagonist, agent John Drake, relies on his wits and fists as opposed to weapons in order to thwart his enemies. Drake romanced women, but generally as a necessary aspect of the mission and not in a quest to achieve sexual fulfillment, as Bond often did. The boxed set contains the same transfers and extras that had been available previously from A&E, but this time they are conveniently packed in slim-line cases and have been made available in one boxed set.
The show holds up remarkably well, with excellent, believable scripts and superior acting being the series' hallmarks. McGoohan, known to be a quirky, short-tempered man in real life, is never less than compelling as Drake. The series also boasts an impressive array of talented actors and actresses who would go on to find stardom in their own rite during the 1960s. American fans of Secret Agent will find the half-hour Danger Man episodes of particular interest since these did not air in the USA. The set features some modest extras including a biography and filmography of McGoohan, a photo gallery and the original American opening credits sequence that showcased Johnny Rivers' smash hit title theme song (which was never broadcast in the UK). It should be noted that the set also includes the color two-part episode that was turned into the feature film Koroshi, which was released theatrically in certain countries. If you don't already have this classic series in your library, this affordable collection of all 86 episodes should prove to be irresistable now that its available in one boxed set that consists of 18 DVDs running over 57 hours.
Volcano, a play by Noel Coward, was never performed in his lifetime because it was considered too steamy. Now the play is scheduled to be performed at various theaters in the UK. The play was inspired by Coward's life of leisure in Jamaica during the post WWII years, when both his house, Firefly and the house of his good friend Ian Fleming (Goldeneye) were the centers of party life on the island. The play was inspired by such celebrated guests as Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh and John Gielgud, all of whom indulged in nude bathing and explicit sexual behavior. This included Coward's good friend Fleming, whose potent sex life provides some saucy interludes in the play. For more click here
For all its fame, Camelot has always been treated like a second-rung achievement in the history of enduring Broadway musicals. The original 1960 stage production starred the dream cast of the era: Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet and ran two years on the Great White Way. The play also became hip to see because none other than President John F. Kennedy proclaimed it his favorite musical (hence the on-going references to the Kennedy clan and "Camelot"). Nevertheless, the show never achieved the enduring legacy of My Fair Lady, the all-time great Lerner and Lowe smash that was turned into an equally successful big screen musical in 1964 for Warner Brothers. Studio titan Jack L. Warner was determined to make Camelot another smash and enlisted top name talents. Alan Jay Lerner wrote the screenplay, legendary Joshua Logan would direct. The project became Warner's last great personal obsession and, in bringing it to the screen, he uncharacteristically spared no expense. The film was shot in part in Spain as well as the Warner Brothers Studio in Hollywood, where enormous Medieval sets were constructed, primarily King Arthur's castle. In adapting T.H. White's The Once and Future King for the stage, Lerner and Lowe had capitalized on the most legendary love triangle in all literature: between King Arthur, his bride Guenevere and the loyal knight Lancelot. As Lancelot strives to help Arthur bring a new era of justice and honor to England, their plans are threatened by his love affair between with the Queen. This gives Camelot a much darker storyline than most traditional musicals, save for perhaps West Side Story. For the most part the stage production is faithfully brought to the screen, though Lerner opens the film with a flashback sequence that alerts the audience they are in for a relatively downbeat storyline.
Logan and Warner cast three up-and-coming talents in the main roles. Richard Harris was a reluctant choice as King Arthur because he was primarily known for starring in British "kitchen sink" dramas and had never sung before on screen. In retrospect, it's hard to imagine even Burton giving a more nuanced and enjoyable performance. (Ironically, the film allowed Harris to embark on a successful career as a recording artist). Vanessa Redgrave is every bit his equal as Guenevere and the two perform their musical numbers like pros. Franco Nero, cast as Lancelot, is physically perfect and has the charisma that would see him gain stardom in Europe. (Among the leads, only he was dubbed for the singing sequences.) The film is flawed, to be sure, in that the plot moves at a glacial pace, particularly in the second act following intermission. Logan took heat from critics for sacrificing spectacle for extreme close-ups of the principals. However, this was his intention, as he said at the time he wanted to created an intimate story that would not be compromised by sweeping visual locations. Indeed, some of the sets are so obviously shot in the studio that it appears as though Logan simply filmed a stage production. Where the spectacle does appear is in the production design of John Truscott, who blew through the film's budget with his penchant for detail. (There are 3500 different costumes in the film. Redgrave's wedding gown took six months to create at a cost of $12,000 dollar - and that was in 1967.) Even Warner became alarmed at the budget overruns and, pressured by the studio's new owners, Seven-Arts, he pulled the plug before Logan could finish the film to his satisfaction. It's hard to imagine what else he intended to shoot, as some of the sequences are already over-long. However, the musical score is pure magic and the performances spirited. The supporting cast includes David Hemmings (fresh from starring with Redgrave in the sensational Blow Up) as the evil Mordred, the always-watchable Lionel Jeffries and Laurence Naismith as Merlyn, Arthur's magical mentor.
Warner's Blu-ray release is magnificent in every way. Packaged in a hardcover mini-book format with many wonderful photos, the set also includes a sampler CD of song highlights (that continues the deceit of crediting Franco Nero for songs he never sang!) Picture quality and sound are truly impressive, as are the array of bonus extras. These include a commentary track by film critic Stephen Farber and a refreshingly candid documentary that looks at the making of the film and its legacy. (Typically, no one is given the dignity for having created the documentary.) The retrospective doesn't sugarcoat the fact that the film was a major financial flop and points out, with insight, that while Warner was nurturing this mega musical production, he all but ignored the anti-Establishment films that would become surprise hits for the studio, namely Bonnie and Clyde and Cool Hand Luke. There is also a vintage featurette about the legend of King Arthur and a most-welcome half hour TV special that covered the New York premiere of the film. (Much of the fun is watching contemporary celebs such as Ed Sullivan, Truman Capote, the Kennedy "girls" and Faye Dunaway arriving in style at the Warner Theatre on Broadway). There are also a number of different trailers and TV spots.
I was fortunate enough to see Burton in his late career revival of the play in the 1980s at Lincoln Center, as well as a stage production some years later starring Richard Harris, thus, I have great affection for this work, overlong as it may be. This is the ultimate edition of an enduring musical that may never quite equal the stature of other more celebrated works, but nevertheless remains as inspiring and moving as it is entertaining. Curiously, despite the enormous financial loss suffered by Warners on this film, Paramount enlisted Lerner, Logan and Truscott for their 1969 mega-budget musical Paint Your Wagon, which proved to be such a boxoffice disaster that it effectively ended each man's career in the cinema. Like Camelot, however, it remains a top-notch musical. Here's hoping Paramount finally goes the route of Warners and presents us with a special edition Blu-ray of the film.
The Last Run starring George C. Scott: one of many fine films available only through the MOD format.
As DVD inventories shrink at "brick and mortar" neighborhood stores, they are booming on line through the process of "manufactured on demand". Studios, led by the Warner Archive, are minting gold from previously ignored mid-range titles that would not merit a regular DVD release. However, as Wall Street Journal writer David Mermelstein points out, this does not negate the value of these films in any way. Some are titles that are actually regarded as classics, others are mid-range films, while still others are guilty pleasures. Nevertheless, the "MOD" process has found a middle ground between the expensive process of shipping slow-selling product to retail stores or just offering it as downloads. "MOD" titles can't be purchased in stores- they are only available on line and only a few titles boast impressive extras. However, for the most part, quality is up to par with "regular" DVDs and this format provides what may be the only viable way for collectors to obtain these titles for their libraries. Click here for more
E.T.: The Extraterrestrial will be released on Blu-ray this year in its original version. What?, you say. Was there ever a different version. Yes, there was. When the film was reissued in 2002 for its 20th anniversary, Steven Spielberg, apparently having been influenced by George Lucas' constant tampering with Star Wars, decided to "improve" the movie by tweaking some CGI effects, adding previously deleted scenes and digitally removing rifles from the hands of the men who were hunting the lovable alien. (Spielberg replaced the weapons with walkie-talkies!) Now the director has issued a mea culpa and promises that the Blu-ray version will revert back to the original theatrical cut. For more click here