Joe Dante's Trailers From Hell site presents the original theatrical trailer for A Hard Day's Night with commentary by Allan Arkush. You can also view the trailer without commentary track. Click here to view
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Malaysian writer Daniel Chan was obviously weaned on the spy craze of the 1960s. In his piece for The Malay Mail, he looks back on the connections between James Bond and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. - and manages to also include the character of Felix Leiter. It's nice to see such appreciation in the international press for these old time spy favorites. Click here to read
Jessica Beal plays Vera Miles in the new film Hitchcock.
Many retro movie fans think that Vera Miles has never received the praise she deserved for so many remarkable performances. Perhaps Miles plays some part in this because she refuses to give interviews regarding the high profile movies she has appeared in. On the movie blog Hill Place, Shaun Chang has a fitting tribute to Ms. Miles and postures that her career never fully recovered from having been replaced by Kim Novak in Hitchcock's Vertigo. Nevertheless, she is back on theater screens today (sort of), being portrayed in the new film about the legendary director and the making of Psycho. Click here to read
The Museum Folkwang in Essen, Germany is presenting an exciting exhibition of original international James Bond movie posters as well as rare still photographs. The exhibit has been drawing large crowds and will be presented through January 13. Many of the items in the exhibition have been provided by well-known German Bond memorabilia collectors Thomas Nixdorf and Robert Ganz. For information and illustrations click here
Skyfall is closing in on a worldwide gross of $800 million- with plenty of juice still left in the 007 thriller.
Studios are savoring the long weekend grosses over the Thanksgiving holiday, which is now the biggest in history. Twilight: Breaking Dawn- Pt. 2 led the pack followed by Skyfall, which became the first James Bond movie to cross the $200 million line in the North American market. It's international grosses are now approaching a staggering $800 million. Steven Spielberg's Lincoln continued to perform strongly and Life of Pi is doing better than predicted. For more click here
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial:
From Concept to Classic is a 30th anniversary paperback reprint of the
book that was originally published in hardcover for the film’s 20th
anniversary in 2002 that accompanied the special edition DVD Ultimate Gift Set of
Steven Spielberg’s classic story of a young boy, the product of a divorced
home, who befriends an extra-terrestrial who is mistakenly left behind by his spaceship
following a hasty exit from earth.If
you own the 2002 edition, the new book is identical except for the fact that it
is paperback and its dimensions measure 9” x 0.4” x 10.8”, a little larger than
its predecessor.The introduction to the
new printing by Steven Spielberg is also updated and does not retain his
introduction to the 2002 edition.
book is essentially separated into three sections.Section one covers the origins and the
overall development of the film from concept (as a story called Night Skies which was originally very
malevolent in tone) to the first draft which was penned by Melissa Mathison,
whose work on Carroll Ballard’s 1979 film The
Black Stallion impressed Mr. Spielberg so much that he hand-picked her to
write the script.Mr. Spielberg’s idea
for E.T., which originated while on
location in the summer of 1980 during the shooting of Raiders of the Lost Ark, came from his thoughts about the alien at
the end of his own Close Encounters of
the Third Kind (1977) and what it would be like for him if he were to be
inadvertently stranded on earth.There
are also comments from producer Kathleen Kennedy (now the president of
Lucasfilm), E.T. designer and creator Carlo Rambaldi, actor Henry Thomas, actress
Drew Barrymore, actor Robert MacNaughton, actor Peter Coyote, actress Dee
Wallace-Stone, composer John Williams, cinematographer Allen Daviau, editor
Carol Littleton, sound designer Ben Burtt, visual effects supervisor Dennis
Muren, and production designer James D. Bissell.
two contains the film’s complete screenplay, which was the first draft that
Mrs. Mathison wrote and was so good that the director decided to shoot it as-is
with very little, if any, changes.The
screenplay is complemented by illustrations by Ed Verraux and production notes the
give further insight into the original ideas that the crew had in mind but had
to be abandoned or altered due to time constraints or logistics.It also includes the sequence with the school
principal (played by Harrison Ford) that was cut from the film, in addition to
other shots/scenes that were cut.
three concerns itself with the film’s post-production (the models of the
children on their bikes, E.T.’s spaceship) and its impact on the movie-going
public (the E.T. phenomenon and merchandising), and the 2002 restoration.
is interesting to note that E.T.,
which was originally entitled A Boy’s
Life, was conceived of as a small, personal film.Although the director was by this time a
household name due to the success of Jaws
and the aforementioned Close Encounters
and Raiders, no one could have
expected the film to do the sort of business that it ended up doing, easily
propelling it to the top spot as the year’s most financially successful
film.This book does an excellent job of
giving the reader great insight into not only the making of the film but into
the thoughts of those involved in its creation.What is most evident is that everyone on the set (cast and crew alike) treated
the creature of E.T. with dignity and respect as if he was a real, live
creature.Itself the brainchild of designer
and creator Carlo Rambaldi, who also created the aliens in Close Encounters,
the mechanical head effects of the alien in Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), and the entacled creature in Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession (1981) to name a few, E.T.
rarely looks like an animatronic puppet even in the behind-the-scenes shots.You would really swear that he was a real
creature.Mr. Rambaldi passed away in
August of this year at the age of 86, and E.T. stands as one of his greatest
(and certainly most emotional) achievements.
fans of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, this
book is a must-have.
Most retro movie lovers have probably heard of the 1982 cult comedy Eating Raoul, even though they probably haven't seen it. Released on the art house circuit by a major studio (Fox), the independently made production was considered quite shocking in its day due to its unapologetic emphasis on distasteful humor. The film was the brainchild of actor/director Paul Bartel, who by 1982 had been laboring in B movie hell for many years, often working with Roger Corman. Bartel was frustrated by Corman's refusal to finance any of his proposed projects so he went off and developed the script for Eating Raoul with his friend, screenwriter Richard Blackburn (who also appears in the film). The endeavor proved to be the epitome of gutsy, independent movie-making. Faced with a seemingly insurmountable budget of $500,000, Bartel scraped together funding from any sources he could find and took a loan out from his parents. To save money, he often shot scenes on remnants of celluloid, leaving him precious little film stock to do retakes. He cast any number of friends for parts both large and small including such diverse talents as Buck Henry, Ed Begley Jr., Billy Curtis and Hamilton Camp. Even John Landis has a cameo. Bartel plays the lead role himself, possibly more out of financial necessity than vanity. He portrays Paul Bland, a pudgy, somewhat fey resident of Hollywood who is happily married to a sexy nurse, Mary (played by Bland's real-life friend and frequent collaborator and co-star Mary Waronov.) Their marriage seems to be a sexless relationship of convenience, with both treating the other more like a sibling than a spouse. Both Paul and Mary share many similarities, however. They are both quite eccentric and very judgmental of middle class values even though they are facing financial ruin and seem unlikely to fulfill their mutual dream of opening a quaint country restaurant. Paul is an elitist, albeit a poor one. He loses his job in a local liquor store because he can't bring himself to recommend a cheap but profitable wine to customers. The Blands also fancy themselves as morally superior to those around them. When they discover that a neighboring apartment is being used by a group of swingers, they can barely hide their disgust (even though Paul is somewhat entranced by a dominatrix at the party.) Through a bizarre accident, the Blands end up accidentally killing a sexually aggressive swinger who wants to get it on with Mary. They casually dispose of the body and keep his cash to help raise the down payment needed for their restaurant. Suddenly, an outrageous scheme begins to take form: the Blands will lure other swingers into their apartment, murder them and keep their money. The plan works well, with Mary using her considerable charms to entice a seemingly endless number of gullible men to their doom. (This being long before the internet, the Blands are forced to advertise their perversions the old fashioned way: through ads in porn newspapers.) Before long, Paul and Mary are raising substantial sums of money and are closing in on their financial goal. Then they meet Raoul, a hunky Chicano petty criminal, who joins them as a partner with the promise of increased profits. It isn't long before he is attracted to Mary and this leads to some funny and complicated situations. To say more would be to reveal too much.
Over the years, Eating Raoul (yes, the film does take on a Soylent Green-like spin, albeit in a comedic mode) has developed a sizable and loyal cult following. The movie doesn't quite live up to the hype. It's never embarrassing but often doesn't rise to its potential. Bartel makes an amusing screen presence, but his delivery at times comes across somewhat amateurish. The scene-stealer is the magnetic Waronov, who commands the screen with her magnetism. Robert Beltran is also excellent as the titular Raoul, an overly-confident, smug lady's man whose obsession with Mary proves to have some very negative consequences. The funniest aspect of the film is the pure hypocrisy of the Blands. While looking down their nose at virtually everyone in their social circle, they lack any type of self-awareness. Thus, to them, people who swing are completely lacking in morality, but they fail to see that their own moral failings are far greater, as they have become serial killers without a hint of conscience. The film has many delightful comic interludes, such as Paul's shocking revenge against a hot tub full of swingers who dare to mock him. However, Bartel often encourages his actors to go over-the-top in their performances when a more subdued and realistic approach might have been more effective. Nevertheless, Bartel (who died in 2000 at the age of 61), deserves great praise for bringing off the most tasteless comedy audiences had seen since The Producers. It's fun throughout, even with a few sequences that don't live up to their potential.
Criterion's Blu-ray release of Eating Raoul is first rate throughout. The set contains a great looking transfer of the original film, a new documentary in which Beltran and Waronov discuss the production and their affection for Paul Bartel; audio commentary by Richard Blackburn, production designer Robert Schulenberg and editor Alan Toomayan; an awkwardly filmed 1982 archival interview with Bartel and Waronov; The Secret Cinema, a bizarre 1966 black and white film with a Twilight Zone-like spin (Bartel remade it as an episode of Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories in 1986); Naughty Nurse, a strikingly photographed 1969 short film that once again touches on Bartel's fascination with off beat sexual obsessions; a gag reel of takes that went awry and the original trailer (which unfairly doesn't credit Bartel by name for anything). There is also an insightful essay about the film by David Ehrenstein which is presented in a booklet designed to resemble a menu.
Eating Raoul is not a classic, but holds enough delights to merit adding this to your Blu-ray library.
The Rains of Ranchipur is yet another major film I probably would not have sampled had it not been released by Twilight Time. This Blu-ray edition is limited to 3,000 units. The film is primarily a soap opera based on the book The Rains Came by Louis Bromfield. The story had been brought to the screen previously in 1939 under the book's title and starring Myrna Loy and Tyrone Power. It features a glamorous cast of acting heavyweights who compensate for some of the weaker elements of the production. Turner, still gorgeous as ever, is Lady Edwina Esketh, a rich American socialite who married her cuckolded British husband Albert (Michael Rennie) simply to get the title she always craved. Theirs is a sexless union based on their mutual selfishness. Although Albert is genuinely in love with Edwina, he admits that her personal fortune was a prime motivation for marrying her. For her part, Edwina barely tolerates her dashing husband and banishes him to separate bedrooms on their travels while she shamelessly cavorts with boy toys around the globe. The couple arrive in Ranchipur, the Indian state, where they are greeted warmly as local celebrities, the story taking place when British colonialism had only recently been dispensed with. Edwina becomes infatuated with a young Indian doctor, Rama Safti (Richard Burton) and she quickly seduces him. The uncomfortable situation finds Rama romancing Edwina even though Albert knows full well what is going on. The racially mixed romance causes a scandal and Rama's influential mother, the Maharani (Eugenie Levontovich) forbids her son from seeing his lover. The romantic problems are eclipsed by a devastating earthquake and flood that causes all of the major characters to redefine their relationships. This includes Edwina's childhood friend, American businessman Tom Ransome (Fred MacMurray), a one-time idealist who now resides in India where he indulges in non-stop drinking. Tom has his own romantic problem: he is being wooed by a recent college graduate, Fern (Joan Caulfield), who is determined to settle down with her much older would-be lover.
The sumptuous Fox production, competently directed by Jean Negulesco, benefits from having been shot on location in India- and there is also that sumptuous Hugo Friedhofer score. The story is somewhat predictable but never bores the viewer because of the considerable star power on display.Turner gives a fine performance, as does the young turban-clad Burton. However, as we have written about many times, films such as this were compromised by having Caucasian actors portray characters of color. It isn't Burton's fault that, despite an abundance of tan makeup, you never quite forget you are observing a Welshman playing an Indian. MacMurray gives another of his always-compelling performances. The special effects during the exciting climax were nominated for an Oscar and some hold up well today. However, a few shots creak with age such an awful scene of a chasm opening in the earth as well as a sequence in which the film is sped up, making the running refugees look like they are in a Keystone Cops short. The movie is the epitome of 1950s Hollywood glamor, with beautiful people sipping cocktails in dinner jackets and gowns, all designed to show off the considerable attractiveness of the major stars. The Rains of Ranchipur is all glitz and little substance, but the opportunity to see all these screens together makes it an irresistible attraction.
The Twilight Time release is gorgeous, making the most of the Cinemascope process. There are two original trailers and an amusing, cheesy original TV spot promoting the film.
Actor Larry Hagman, immortalized for his performance as the legendary villain J.R. Ewing in the TV show Dallas, has died from throat cancer. He was 81 years old and had been actively acting until recently, when he appeared in the reboot of the famous TV series. The last few years had been difficult ones for Hagman. Not only did he have to battle cancer but also had to contend with his wife Maj's affliction from Alzheimer's Disease. Hagman was a working character actor when he was cast as the male lead in the 1965 sitcom I Dream of Jeannie opposite Barbara Eden. The show's success helped launch him to star status and he appeared in dozens of TV series and feature films. However, it was his portrayal of lovable cad J.R. Ewing in the 1981 CBS hit Dallas that elevated him to the status of a TV icon. The show ran for an incredible 13 years and was revived earlier this year with Hagman and some of his former co-stars appearing together once more. Hagman's feature film appearances include Fail Safe, in which he gave a fine performance opposite Henry Fonda as a Russian interpreter for the President who finds himself in the midst of a tense situation that could lead to nuclear war. He also appeared in In Harm's Way, Mother, Jugs and Speed, The Eagle Has Landed, Harry and Tonto, Superman and S.O.B. Hagman, perhaps improbably, also took a stab at directing schlock horror with his 1972 feature film Beware! The Blob, a lighthearted sequel to the 50s cult classic. For more click here.
The old adage goes that you can't judge a book by its cover. In the parlance of my old Jersey City neighborhood, "Well, here goes your proof." The Bond on Set books by photographer Greg Williams are becoming a most welcome tradition. This impressive hardback is the best in the line, offering superb insights into the filming of the 007 blockbuster Skyfall. Williams captures not only the incredible hard work and diverse team of talented people concentrating on bringing this big budget film to the screen, but he also lets us see those behind the scenes moments of levity that show there is much joy in movie-making- in particular on an Eon production where so many cast and crew members consider each other part of an extended family. There are wonderful shots of producer Michael Wilson hugging Dame Judi Dench, the team members meeting for a pre-production conference in a very unglamorous bare room at Pinewood Studios, Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem living everyone's dream of sliding down the escalator barrier in the London underground and director Sam Mendes valiantly bringing all the disparate elements of a Bond production together as a coherent whole.
The book covers the entire process of making of the film in stunning color photographs. The only downside is the drab cover which doesn't do justice in the slightest to the dynamic content of this book. The main photo is a dismal B&W shot of Bond holding a shotgun, making one think a more appropriate title might be "Hunting Tips from Daniel Craig". Considering this is the most stylish and fashion conscious of Craig's three 007 movies, you have to wonder what the thought process was behind burying these aspects in marketing the book. Aside from, that this is a "must-have" for anyone who has ever admired the long-ignored contributions of still photographers on film sets. Williams does a magnificent job of showing us the magic behind Skyfall. The book does contain many spoilers, such as the secret behind Albert Finney's character, but chances are that if you are tempted to buy this book, you've probably seen the film numerous times.
It's that time of year, loyal readers. Please subscribe or renew your subscriptions to Cinema Retro, if you have not yet done so. It's going to be another great year for the world's most unique film magazine! The new season begins with issue #25, showcasing the usual eclectic array of classic and cult films. Among the highlights:
James Bond at 50: Cinema Retro interviews Daniel Craig, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson and Skyfall director Sam Mendes about the screen legacy of Agent 007.
Major coverage of Hammer Films events: convention report, Hammer horror film locations then and now and coverage of the latest Blu-ray releases.
A look at the new restoration of David Lean's masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia and exclusive interview with Sony's Grover Crisp, the man who spearheaded the restoration process.
Best-selling author Robert Sellers provides a fascinating look at the life and career of the ultimate "bad boy" of British cinema, Oliver Reed.
Dean Brierly looks at the best Italian crime movies of the 60s and 70s.
Tribute to the creator of master of British film posters, artist Tom Chantrell.
Matthew R. Bradley concludes his examination of 007 villain Blofeld in literature in film in his article "The Importance of Being Ernst"
Plus major coverage of those great (and overlooked) cult films Sands of the Kalahari starring Stuart Whitman and Susannah York , Burt Lancaster's controversial The Swimmer and the "B" British war film Attack on the Iron Coast starring Lloyd Bridges. Only Cinema Retro provides coverage of such long-neglected gems!
Please help keep the dream alive by subscribing or renewing your subscription today. A subscription to Cinema Retro also makes the perfect holiday gift for the classic movie lover in your life...(it's far better than that glow-in-the dark necktie you were considering!)
(Note: issue #25 is expected to ship in the UK/Europe before Christmas and will be mailed to subscribers in America, Canada and all other parts of the world in January.)
"John Carter" has its fans and defenders among the sci-fi/fantasy set but there weren't enough of them to prevent Disney from incurring a $165 million loss on this film.
On Thanksgiving, everyone has turkey on their mind. However, in Hollywood, there is an obsession with different kinds of turkeys- the celluloid ones that eat up studio revenues through costly flops. The Huffington Post takes a look back at the biggest cinematic flops of the year. It doesn't mean some of these movies weren't artistically worthy of a better reception, but for whatever reason, audiences avoided them in droves. Click here to read.
One of the strangest G-rated “family
films” that I have ever seen is Al Adamson’s 1982 effort Carnival Magic, released by HD Cinema Classics by way of Film Chest
Media Group.As a fan of the best genre efforts
that were afforded by what is arguably the last truly great summer for movies
in the United States, 1982 gave us Conan
the Barbarian, Star Trek II: The
Wrath of Khan, Poltergeist, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Blade Runner, The Thing, The Beastmaster and The Road Warrior.I must
admit that I was stunned to learn of this film as I had not heard of it prior
to its 2010 release on home video.
Filmed over three weeks in Gaffney,
South Carolina and Shelby, North Carolina, Carnival
Magic is, in the words of producer Elvin Feltner, “the story of a magician
and a traveling carnival and his pet monkey, who just happens to be a talking
monkey.”It is also a film that cannot
make up its mind if it wants to be a slapstick comedy or a family film with
dramatic adult themes. Starring a cluster of soap opera actors and actresses,
producer Feltner does what any good producer does when faced with the rising
costs of a film budget.He thinks
outside the box and delivers a film that can easily be categorized as a cult
carnival’s magician, Markov (played nicely by Don Stewart), can read people’s
thoughts and levitate objects.Armed
with his talking chimp Alex, they are the top crowd pleaser, easily making the
wild animal trainer second banana and very jealous in the process.Hoping to regain his former glory, the
trainer attempts to kidnap the chimp and give him to a medical laboratory for
experimentation in the hopes of displacing his competition and making a good
deal of money.Among this plot are a
bevy of carnival beauties who dance, and a young adult romance that blossoms
I couldn’t help but think of Tobe Hooper’s
The Funhouse (1981) while watching
this film, as the carnival atmosphere always intrigued me since I saw the
“Levitation” episode of Tales from the
Darkside in May 1985.
The video transfer of the film is done
from a recently unearthed 35mm theatrical print discovered lying in a warehouse
(the original negative apparently was not among the finds unfortunately), but HD
Cinema, a terrific company in their own right, has done a wonderful job of cleaning
up the print with their restoration transfer.I honestly cannot wait to see what this company has up its sleeve in the
months to come.If they can get their
hands on low-budget, independently made films and do high definition transfers
of them for new audiences, their future is surely bright.
There are a host of extras in this
collection. A running audio commentary with cult film historian Joel Rubin and
producer Feltner reveals a great deal of information regarding the making of
the film. Although Carnival Magic was
copyrighted in 1982, most people did not see the film until roughly a year
later in select screenings, as it was difficult to find theaters willing to
book the film. Mr. Feltner makes mention that the film was shot in 1981 in the
video interview introduction, however historian Reuben points out that according
to lab documents it was filmed in the previous year. When Mr. Feltner mentions that it was shot in
1982 on the audio commentary and become fairly adamant, it leads the audience to
wondering why the discussion is up for debate when such information is easily
verifiable.The subject is eventually
put to bed when the outtakes that appear in the supplementary section clearly
reveal the date of July 1980 on the film slate.
The remaining extras consist of twenty
minutes of outtakes sans audio and a
short “ before” and “after” restoration demo. What is most interesting is the
inclusion of both the original television trailer and the theatrical trailer,
wherein the former presents the film as a non-stop riot and the latter gives
one the impression that they should expect something along the lines of Smokey and the Bandit. Rounding out the extras
is an interesting slideshow which consists of newspaper clippings illustrating
when the movie came to the respective filming locations, looking for extras to
appear in the carnival scenes.
Regardless of one's opinion of the
film's narrative, the movie stands as a time capsule of a more innocent era in
American life, of small-town folks enjoying the summer with family and friends.The carnival sequences almost serve as a
documentary of what life was like in 1980 for these people.
HD Cinema Classics gets it right by
releasing this as a DVD and Blu-ray combo package, something that too few
companies are doing even now.They are
to be commended for offering the film in both formats, though Blu-ray is really
the way to go due to the increased sharpness and definition.The colors really pop out in this
(Isabelle De Funès) is a
marxist fashion photographer in Milan. She is intelligent, talented and sexy,
so it's no wonder that the leftist intellectuals all want to sleep with her. On
her way home from a totally swinging party, the kind where alcohol and topless
chicks are readily available, Valentina is almost run down by a car. Whilst sitting
dazed at the side of the road, the driver emerges to check if she is okay. This
is none other than the bizarrely-named Baba Yaga (former Hollywood sex symbol
Carroll Baker). She tells Valentina that fate has brought them together. Baba
Yaga gives her a lift home and explains that they will become firm friends. To
ensure this she steals a clip from the top of one of Valentina's stockings and
touches it to her lips suggestively. Baba Yaga is a witch, and clearly has
sapphic feelings towards her. Valentina, who as far as we know is not a
lesbian, does not seem to mind this unwarranted attention. Later that night she
dreams about stripping naked in front of Nazi guards. When she visits Baba
Yaga's house, Valentina gets horny and touches herself in the spare room. Is
she already under the lesbian witch's spell?
Yaga owns an unnervingly realistic doll which is dressed as some sort of
bondage queen. Valentina accepts this doll as a gift, with murderous
consequences. Luckily Valentina has a boyfriend (played by genre favourite
George Eastman, star of the notorious Anthropophagus, 1981). He may not
believe that Baba Yaga really is a witch, but he's so desperate to get
Valentina in the sack that he'll go along with it.
is a very weird movie. Everything described here occurs quite early in the
film, and it makes less and less sense as it goes on. Based on the black and
white Italian erotic fumetti (comics) of Guido Crepax, this Italian/ French
co-production is a mixture of pop art, eroticism, dazzling colour,
psycho-analysis, dreams and the supernatural. Other fumetti had been
successfully adapted into movies previous to this one, including Danger:
Diabolik and Barbarella, (both 1968), but in Baba Yaga
director Corrada Farina specifically tries to mimic the comic style, using
panels and black and white still photography to replicate Crepax's stark line
drawings. It is very effective and adds to the “arthouse meets Eurotrash” feel
of the movie. This is certainly no Danger: Diabolik though. The pace is
slow and ponderous to the point of irritation at times, but you soon forgive
it. Valentina likes to do semi-naked photo shoots in her flat, which she
somehow hopes will influence the forthcoming left-wing revolution. She also
discovers that her unsettling bondage doll comes to life, in the shapely,
almost naked form of Ely Galleani, who was an Italian actress and Playboy
centrefold. Galleani has no dialogue in this movie but leaves a lasting
impression, particularly when wielding a whip in a lesbian S & M torture
Baker was an unusual choice for the movie, and in his interview on the blu ray
Farina explains that she was a last minute replacement for his original Baba
Yaga, the British actress Anne Heywood. Three days before shooting was to begin
Heywood left to star in the Rod Taylor adventure film Trader Horn
(1973), a move which lead to her being sued by the studio. Baker was in Italy
working on the giallo thriller The Flower With Petals of Steel (1973),
and had a name which would look good on the posters. Farina was disappointed
that she had a face “like she had been raised on a farm on a diet of popcorn,”
rather than the pinched, angular face of Baba Yaga in Crepax's drawings.
Carroll was willing to do the film, and with such a tight schedule he was left
with no other choice. In the end Farina was very pleased with her performance.
Legendarily she appeared completely naked (a moment that was cut by censors and
is missing from the restored print on this Blu-ray, but is available in the
extras). This was a bold move for a mainstream Hollywood actress in 1973 and
Farina insists that it was not in the script but was all her own idea.
Incidentally the only other moment of full frontal nudity was courtesy ofIsabelle De Funès, a scene that
was also cut by the censors but is also available in the extra scenes here.
some ways Baba Yaga feels like Quentin Tarantino has had a pass at the
script. Early in the film various characters discuss the problems of getting
political messages into movies, and Valentina remarks that influential French
director Jean Luc Godard's last good film was Pierrot le Fou (1965). Another
character is an underground comic book artist, and is often talking about the
art form and his concerns about becoming commercially successful. Baba Yaga
is almost post-modern before the term was invented.
your main experience of Italian 1970s movies is the “giallo”, you will enjoy
most of what this film has to offer. It does have longueurs, some of which can
lead you to look impatiently at your watch, wondering when anything is going to
happen again. Stick with it and Baba Yaga is a rewarding viewing
experience. The far out and groovy soundtrack is supplied by composer Piero
Umilani, who is perhaps best known for creating 'Mah Na Mah Na', the song
covered by The Muppets! There is no original soundtrack of Baba Yaga
available, but the attention-grabbing theme song is available on his 1971
lounge album 'To-Day's Sound'.
Blu-ray from Blue Underground features the same extras as their DVD release
from 2003. The print, howeve,r is a massive improvement from the earlier
release. The most interesting bonus feature is the in-depth interview with the
director, where he discusses the problems he had with the producers, who made
changes in the edit against his wishes. It is also worth sitting through the
deleted scenes, if only to catch a glimpse of Carroll Baker as you have never
seen her before. There is also a short documentary in Italian about the artist
Guido Crepax. Sadly many of his graphic novels have not yet been translated
into English, but after watching this film you will want to try and track them
Lana Wood as Plenty O'Toole with Sean Connery in Diamonds Are Forever.
A bevy of James Bond actresses will be appearing at the Hollywood Show in Burbank, California on January 11-13. The collector's show features a wide array of movie memorabilia and celebrity autograph opportunities. Among those appearing from the Bond films: Lana Wood, Luciana Paluzzi, Britt Ekland, Eunice Gayson, Tania Mallet, Gloria Hendry, Maud Adams and Maryam d'Abo. Also appearing is fan favorite Richard Kiel and James West himself, Robert Conrad. For more click here
Sir Anthony Hopkins is not one for courting the press or giving extensive interviews, but he is making an exception for Hitchcock, the acclaimed new film in which he portrays the legendary director's trials during the filming of Psycho. The blunt-speaking Hopkins weighs in on his doubts about playing the role, Hitchcock's later career and the "disgusting" spectacle of actors trying to curry favor with Academy members in order to secure an Oscar nomination. Click here to read.
If you haven't checked out Cinema Retro contributor Howard Hughes' blog The Filmgoer's Guide, here's a good reason to do so. Howard routinely puts the spotlight on worthy cult films that are largely unknown to retro movie lovers. In this case, he examines the provocatively-titled Super Bitch, a 1973 Italian crime movie shot extensively in and around London. Click here for Howard's review.
Spurned by the enormous international grosses of the James Bond film Skyfall as well as several other hit movies released earlier this year, Sony executives are crowing about having reached a significant achievement: the best year for movies in the studio's history. Sony has taken in a massive $4 billion. The Bond film is now the biggest entry in the long-running franchise.The 23rd Eon-backed 007 film has taken in $669 million to date internationally and has plenty of life left in it. For more click here
By 1969 the Spaghetti-Western craze had replaced the spy movie craze of a few years before. Just as seemingly every other movie had been a 007 clone, the Sergio Leone-inspired Westerns swamped theater screens worldwide. One major difference is that the Bond boom resulted in some very worthy imitators such as the Our Man Flint, Matt Helm and Harry Palmer movies (not to mention numerous classic TV series). The Euro Western trend, however, bore little fruit in terms of films of enduring quality beyond the Leone originals. One notable exception is The Five-Man Army, directed by an American (Don Taylor) and co-scripted by future cult film director Dario Argento (who was rumored to have directed certain scenes in this film.) The movie borrows liberally from the time-worn premise of a small group of intrepid (if disreputable) rogues who find themselves on a seemingly suicidal caper mission, taking on overwhelming odds to achieve their goal. In this case, a mysterious man known by all as The Dutchman (Peter Graves) assembles four disparate confederates to assist him in pulling off the robbery of train transporting a fortune in gold. The action takes place in Mexico in 1914, an era that has long attracted filmmakers because of the on-going revolution and the involvement of American mercenaries. The Dutchman's team consists of Dominguez (Nino Castelnuovo), a murderous but fearless bandit wanted by the law, Augustus (James Daly), an American demolitions expert, Mesito (Bud Spencer), a bear of a man who is eager to find a way to escape the humiliation of his impoverished lifestyle and the Samurai (Tetsuro Tamba), a mostly silent ex-circus performer who is an expert swordsman and knife-thrower. The Dutchman tells this motley crew that their mission is to rob the train, which is guarded by heavily armed government troops, in order to turn the money over to revolutionaries. Each man will get a reward of $1,000 each. Needless to say, there will be deceit, double-crosses and mutual hatreds established in the course of the mission.
What sets The Five-Man Army apart from other Leone wanna-bes is the fact that it is so stylishly directed and photographed. The top-notch screenplay successfully mixes thrills and witticisms and the characters are well-drawn and intriguing. The film plows familiar turf from such legendary Hollywood films as The Dirty Dozen, The Wild Bunch, The Magnificent Seven, The Guns of Navarone and The Professionals, but if the production values aren't as grand, the film doesn't suffer from the low-budget stigma of other Euro Westerns. Director Taylor does a lot with his limited budget and the train robbery sequence is brilliantly realized, especially in those scenes in which aspects of the plan go wrong with potentially devastating results. The cast members are all in top form with Bud Spencer and Tetsuro Tamba particularly impressive (the latter has to rely largely on his physical presence, as he is playing a mostly wordless role.) There is also the benefit of a lively score by Ennio Morricone and an impressive titles sequence that was clearly inspired by The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. If there is one weak point it is the casting of Peter Graves as The Dutchman. Graves' performance is fine, but he doesn't fit in with his gritty on-screen co-conspirators. With his clean cut appearance and designer haircut, he looks like he just stepped out of a luncheon at the Brown Derby. Nevertheless, this is a minor gripe. The Five-Man Army is a top-notch Western that fully deserves its status as a cult film favorite.
The MGM production has been released as a burn-to-order title available through the Warner Archive. (Amusingly, the original U.S. advertising poster reproduced on the sleeve changes the title to read "The 5-Man Army!"). Presumably, a marketing study seemed that numerals and exclamation points add to the boxoffice grosses. An original theatrical trailer is included.
Sony has released director Tony Richardson's 1969 film version of Hamlet as a burn-to-order DVD title. The film was quite controversial in its day because Richardson made a theatrical feature by shooting his stage production at London's Roundhouse Theatre. Consequently, sets are kept to a bare minimum and Richardson relies on intense close-ups of the actors to mask the fact that this is actually a stage production. Richardson, who adapted Shakespeare's great work as a screenplay, also came under fire for truncating certain elements of the story to fit a running time of two hours. (Laurence Olivier's Oscar-winning 1948 film version ran 155 minutes). Richardson also moved the sequences of a couple of scenes, an act that outraged purists. I'm ashamed to say that I'm not conversant enough with the original play to have noticed such manipulations and I consequently judged the experience purely on the basis of its entertainment level. For those who are not professional actors (or aspiring to be), the language of Shakespeare's time can pose obstacles for modern viewers in terms of following key plot points. Nevertheless, the basics of the story remain clear from the outset. Hamlet (Nicol Williamson), the young Danish prince, is visited by the ghost of his father, the recently-deceased king. The apparition (represented for budgetary reasons as simply a bright light that reduces the impact of the scene to that of standing in front of an open refrigerator) informs Hamlet that he was, in fact, murdered by his own brother Claudius (Anthony Hopkins), who then assumed the crown and appropriated his widow Gertrude (Judy Parifft) as his new bride. Outraged, Hamlet sets out to expose the deceit and fulfill his obsession for revenge. It is most illuminating, in watching Hamlet, how many countless phrases and witticisms from this play have remained part of popular culture throughout the centuries- perhaps the ultimate evidence of the Bard's works. People speak his words every day without even knowing they derive from this timeless work.
The joy of watching any Shakespearean production is the ability to relish top-flight actors at their best. In Hamlet, Nicol Williamson, who never reached leading man status in British cinema, offers a fine portrayal of one of literature's most enduring figures. He is filled with passion and compassion and his slow-building hatred for the King adds suspense right up until the final cat-and-mouse end game built around a fencing match held in the royal court. The final scene is filled with tragic ironies, all in the Shakespearean tradition. Williamson benefits from fine supporting performances by Anthony Hopkins (in one of his first film roles), Judy Parifitt as the Queen (although she is far too young for the role) and Gordon Jackson as Hamlet's ever-loyal friend Horatio. Marianne Faithfull is also excellent as Hamlet's would-be lover Ophelia. Richardson directs the claustrophobic production with admirable skill making this first color film version of the work a compelling experience. Most amusing, however, is the reproduction of the film poster that adorns the DVD sleeve. The movie was obviously inspired by the recent success of director Franco Zeffirelli's film version of Romeo and Juliet. Consequently, the shameless advertisement deceitfully presents a photo of Willliamson gazing lustfully at Faithfull's ample bosom. A tag line absurdly reads "From the author of Romeo and Juliet" as though it was the latest Sidney Sheldon bodice-ripper.
The DVD presentation looks great but this edition is sadly lacking any extras. It would have been interesting to have Shakespearean scholars discuss how the film was viewed in its day as well as in contemporary times.
The Hollywood Reporter has a major article that takes readers inside the world of agents who represent porn stars. It's not all glitz and glamor for anyone involved. The article points out that sex is treated coldly as a business and there is little evidence anyone involved considers it a lark. As with "normal" actresses, porn stars have their tiers of top-earners and those who are more in demand than others. Agents negotiate on their behalf, discussing everything from whether there will be a professional makeup artist available on set to whether their clients will be paid extra for performing anal sex or double penetration scenes on camera. Such is the bizarre world of porn star management. Click here to read the entire article.
Lohan displays two good reasons for tuning into "Liz and Dick", but the prime motivation might be to hear the unintentionally funny dialogue.
The first review is in and things aren't looking good for Lindsay Lohan's "comeback" Lifetime TV movie, Liz and Dick which traces the love lives of you-know-who. In the Hollywood Reporter review, it is described as "half train wreck, half SNL skit" and one of those perfectly awful movies that merit watching because of the unintentional laughs. Hey, maybe we will watch it after all, especially since there is this immortal line of dialogue spoken by Burton to Taylor: "I will love you even if you get as fat as a hippo."
Warner Home Video continues to earn the gratitude of movie fans by releasing special editions of films that had limited commercial appeal. The latest example is director Hal Ashby's Lookin' to Get Out, a 1982 comedy that was a notorious box-office disaster - and one that virtually ruined Ashby's career. Like fellow gadfly director Sam Peckinpah, Ashby could be a temperamental personality who prided himself on clashing with studios over issues of artistic integrity. His acclaimed hits include Coming Home, Being There and Shampoo, but -like Peckinpah- he wore out his welcome with his employers and was relegated to filming "by the numbers" movies in return for a paycheck.There has been a renaissance of interest in Ashby's career of late, so hopefully this director's cut of Lookin' to Get Out will find an appreciative audience.
The film stars Jon Voight (who co-wrote the script) as Alex Kovac, a perpetually upbeat but obnoxious compulsive gambler whose insurmountable debts to a local loan shark motivate him to flee to Las Vegas. He is accompanied by his personal Sancho Panza, the dim-witted but loyal Jerry Feldman (Burt Young). In Vegas, Alex reconnects with an old flame, Patti Warner (Ann-Margaret), who finds herself once again smitten by the charismatic loser - even though she is the girlfriend of the multi-millionaire owner of the MGM Grand Casino. Alex concocts an audacious plan to enlist the services of Smitty (Bert Remsen), a once-legendary high stakes gambler now reduced to working as a waiter in the MGM Grand.Alex gets Jerry to impersonate another high roller in order to get an advance on his credit. Using the borrowed $10,000, he plans to have Smitty take the casino to the cleaners through a nerve-wracking game of blackjack. However, the loan shark and his enforcer turn up in hot pursuit - and the plan turns to chaos as Alex and Jerry try to stay alive long enough to win their fortune.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. It moves at a brisk pace and makes excellent use of the Vegas locales. It was the first movie allowed to be shot inside the MGM Grand, which boggles the mind since the screenplay calls for the casino to be the setting for con men, cheating, wild chases and gun play. The permission was granted as a personal favor to Burt Young, who called in some chips, so to speak, in order to get the rights to film on location.
The independent label Scorpion has released the 1972 low-budget thriller Girls on the Road as a special edition DVD. The film isn't as sexually charged as many might fear, or as many others might hope. The movie is primarily known as an early starring vehicle for Michael Ontkean, who went on to better things in the years to come. The plot centers on two nubile young high school grads (Dianne Hull and Kathleen Cody) who decide to sow their wild oats with a road trip to California's beach areas. En route, they promise each other that they'll pick up guys and engage in a lot of sexual experimentation. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out what happens: the two pick up the wrong type of man (Ontkean). He's a Vietnam vet who is carrying a lot of emotional baggage and is being treated for violent mood swings. One minute he's charming and seductive, and the next he's brandishing a pistol at anyone who stares cross-eyed at him. Yet, he brings out the maternal natures of the two teens, who are determined to help him overcome his psychological problems. They all end up in one of those dreadful EST-like self-help communes (this was the 70s, after all) run by none other than middle-aged hippie Ralph Waite. Before long, the girls are subjected to being stalked by a murderer- and all signs point to Ontkean.The film promises a lot of sex, but punts when it comes to delivering it. With the exception of a blink-and-you-miss-it shot of Hull flashing her breasts to elderly driver, most of the other exploitation scenes involve the two girls wearing skimpy clothing in an attempt to seduce Ontkean.
The movie was directed by Tom Schmidt, who died a few years later at age 35. Schmidt worked as assistant director on such A list films as Ice Station Zebra, The Day of the Dolphin and Hour of the Gun before trying to establish a name for himself as a director. If Schmidt had any discernible talents in this area, they are not evident here, though the film does classify as an entertaining "guilty pleasure". Ontkean is fine, as is Waite, arguably the only two cast members with any gravitas. The two female leads often overplay the drama and fear elements, resulting in plenty of unintentional laughs. The film was also released as Hot Summer Week and the Scorpion DVD includes the original opening shot with this title. As usual, the company affords "special edition" treatment to even a modest title like this, which makes viewing it highly enjoyable. In addition to a trailer, there is also an interview with screenwriter David M. Kaufman, who candidly dismisses the effort as terrible movie, though he does speak respectfully of Schmidt.He also elaborates on his own disinterest in the script and speaks about the modest film's troubled production.
The Wrap reports that the film industry is breathing a sigh of relief because a downturn in ticket sales has been halted by a rebound in boxoffice dollars due to the late year releases of several blockbuster films that have drawn large audiences. There are some big films waiting in the wings, as well, including potential blockbusters such as the latest Twilight flick and The Hobbit. Click here to read
probably the quintessential motion picture epic.If you’re looking for an intimate story told
on a grand scale, an adventure set in an exotic location and against the
backdrop of significant historical events, and an engrossing portrait of an
important First World War figure… seek no further.Lawrence
of Arabia has it all.This 1962
roadshow attraction from arguably Britain’s greatest director, David Lean, Lawrence is simply a magnificent
achievement—both technically and artistically.With star power such as Peter O’Toole (in his first major role), Omar
Sharif, Anthony Quinn, Alec Guinness, Claude Rains, Jack Hawkins, and Jose
Ferrer, and a master cinematographer such as Freddie Young, Lawrence of Arabia is not only gorgeous
to look at, it is dramatically compelling.
states that on the first day of shooting, Lean told him, “We’re off on a great
adventure, Pete!”Indeed.With a director like Lean, an actor had to
trust the helmsman and follow him, whether it was to the universe of Charles
Dickens, war torn Southeast Asia, Russia at the time of the Revolution,
Colonial India, or the deserts of the Middle East.Lean tackled big subjects with equally largeproductions.In this case the
director took on the life of T. E. Lawrence, the famed British army officer who
acted as a liaison to the Arabs during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign and the
revolt against the Turks during World War I.In O’Toole, Lean found his Lawrence, the role the actor was born to
play, and the picture exhibits the man’s greatness as well as his
vulnerabilities and enigmas.This is
a David Lean picture was always an event.You knew you were going to step back into another time and place, and
learn a little something about the historical events surrounding the
story.You knew you would examine in
great detail the lives of ordinary and extraordinary people.For three to four hours, you would live in a
world only the magic of the movies could reproduce.Columbia/Sony’s new limited collectors
Blu-ray gift set replicates the epic grandeur of the film with a lavish,
handsomely-packaged treasure trove of material that will enhance your immersion
film itself, on disc 1, is an all-new 4K restoration, along with an optional
picture-in-graphics track, exclusive to the Blu-ray.Two additional Blu-ray discs are loaded with
extra features, providing hours of in-depth coverage of the making of the film
and retrospective interviews and analyses.The most complete reconstruction of the deleted “balcony scene” between
O’Toole and Jack Hawkins, never-before-released, appears on the third disc.A fourth disc, a CD, contains the soundtrack
by Maurice Jarre with two unreleased tracks.If that wasn’t enough, a terrific hardbound coffee-table style book, informatively
written by Jeremy Arnold and with a Preface by Leonard Maltin, is full of
photographs surrounding the production and insight into the challenges the
filmmakers faced.Finally, an
individually-numbered, mounted 70mm frame of the film completes the
in time for Christmas, this collector’s gift set is a movie buff’s dream.
Note: the following is a press release sent by Sony UK pertaining to this major restoration:
“Lawrence of Arabiais universally
considered to be one of the greatest epic films of all time and is certainly
the crown jewel in the Columbia Pictures library,” noted David Bishop,
President of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. “Finally, the long anticipated
and much in-demand release of David Lean’s masterpiece will be available on
Blu-ray, which will provide consumers the chance to experience the sheer
spectacle and beauty of this movie with the finest image and sound available.
Additionally, in honor of Lawrence of
50th Anniversary, we have created a special gift set composed of a coffee table
book and soundtrack, which will add further dimension to the enjoyment of this
bonus content included in both the four-disc Gift Set and the two-disc release
include the “Secrets of Arabia: Picture-in-Graphics Track,” which allows the
viewer to become immersed in the world of Lawrence of Arabia and
learn about the customs and rituals of desert existence.The set also comes with the “Peter
O’Toole Revisits Lawrence of Arabia”
featurette, as well as the previously released, hour-long behind-the-scenes
documentary “The Making of Lawrence of
Arabia,” and the featurettes “The Camels are Cast (Maan Jordan),” “In
Search of Lawrence,” “Romance of Arabia,” and the 1970 version of “Wind, Sand
and Star: The Making of a Classic.” Both sets include newsreel footage of the
New York premiere and advertising campaigns. Exclusive to the Gift
Set are featurettes including “In Love with the Desert,” “King Hussein Visits Lawrence of Arabia Scene,” the original
1963 35mm version of “Wind, Sand and Star,” and conversations with Steven Spielberg and Martin
Scorsese. Also included is a never-before-released deleted scene complete with
an introduction by Lawrence of Arabia’s
Oscar® winning film editor Anne V. Coates, A.C.E.
Film, including overture, intermission, entr’acte and exit music
re-mastered 5.1 English audio
of Arabia: A Picture-in-Graphics Track
O’Toole Revisits Lawrence of Arabia” -
Making of Lawrence of Arabia” documentary
Conversation with Steven Spielberg”
Camels Are Cast”
Search of Lawrence”
Sand and Star: The Making of a Classic” (1970 version)
Footage of the New York Premiere
DISC 3 (Gift Set Exclusive Disc):
Deleted Scene with Introduction by Anne Coates
Lure of the Desert: Martin Scorsese on Lawrence of Arabia” All-New Interview
with Martin Scorsese
Love with the Desert”
at 50: A Classic Restored”
King Hussein Visits Lawrence of Arabia
Sand and Star” (original version, 1963)
Interviews with William Friedkin, Sydney Pollack, Martin Scorsese and Steven
Restoration Trailer (1989 Release)
TV Spot #2
DISC 4 (Gift Set Exclusive Disc):
Exclusive Lawrence of Arabia Soundtrack CD
including original score and two previously unreleased tracks
Lawrence of Arabia has a running time
of 227 minutesand is rated 12.
George Clooney will star in and direct The Monuments Men, a dramatic story about the attempts to save European art treasures that were pilfered by the Nazis in the closing days of WWII. Clooney has assembled an impressive cast that includes red-hot Daniel Craig, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman and Bob Balaban. The subject matter has been touched on before, most notably in John Frankenheimer's classic 1965 film The Train starring Burt Lancaster. For more click here
Michael Arndt, who won the Best Screenplay Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine and who was nominated for Toy Story 3, has been formally announced as the screenwriter for the forthcoming Star Wars: Episode VII, according to Lucasfilm. The film will mark the first entry in the franchise since George Lucas sold the rights to Disney. Steven Spielberg dismissed rumors that he would consider directing, stating that the films are the domain of his friend George Lucas and that he doesn't feel qualified to direct a Star Wars movie. For more click here
Here we go again with a look at some of the most bizarre movie descriptions, provided by Cablevision, one of the largest American cable TV companies.
Reflections in a Golden Eye: "An army major with a lusty wife feels homosexual in the 1940s South."
Well, that pretty much sums it all up...can't imagine how much more you would want to say about this complex John Huston film that starred Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, Brian Keith and Julie Harris. The description doesn't include instructions as to how one can feel homosexual but it apparently is much the same as feeling a cold or a headache coming on. Based on the synopsis, feeling homosexual must also have something to do with residing in the South in the 1940s. Thus, if you resided in Fargo, North Dakota during that time period, you apparently had to "feel" straight, whether you liked it or not.
Warner Brothers continues to mine its seemingly exhaustive catalog of Humphrey Bogart titles with the release of The Wagons Roll at Night through the Warner Archive. The 1941 melodrama is compelling throughout and has an unusual setting for the story: a traveling circus. Bogart is cast as Nick Coster, the owner of the circus. He's a tough man of dubious morals who will do just about anything to increase audiences, as the show's box-office receipts dwindle. Through a bizarre happenstance, an escaped lion from the circus enters a small town store where grocery clerk Matt Varney (Eddie Albert) manages to keep it at bay. He becomes a local hero and the ever-opportunistic Nick hires him to take over as lion tamer from the show's drunken and unreliable current star. Matt proves to be a quick learner and soon becomes the star attraction of the circus. However, troubles arises when Matt falls for Nick's younger sister Mary (Joan Leslie), a girl Nick has been almost obsessive in keeping in a perpetual state of virginity. He opposes the relationship and this sets the climax of the story that finds him knowingly sending Matt into a cage with a particularly dangerous lion in the hope he will be killed. Adding to the complications is the presence of the circus fortune teller Flo (Sylvia Sidney), who has an unrequited crush on both Nick and Matt.
The Wrap web site reports that expectations are very high for the latest James Bond blockbuster Skyfall in its opening weekend. The film is already doing phenomenal business in its international engagements. Industry insiders are also carefully watching the public response to Lincoln, Steven Spielberg's prestigious production that is no one's idea of a blockbuster in terms of grosses but is considered a shoo-in for major Oscar nominations. The Bond franchise has such clout these days that rival studios cleared their releases to give Agent 007 a free reign this weekend. Sony estimates the film could take in $67 million but industry expectations are even higher. For more click here
With Harrison Ford now throwing hints that he might be interested in appearing as Han Solo in a Disneyfied new series of Star Wars films, it's worth noting he didn't always feel that way. In an interesting article for The Huffington Post, writer Mike Ryan chronicles how Ford was initially enthused about his character and the promotions for the first two films in the series but seemed to sour on the franchise with his last appearance in Return of the Jedi.The article contains fascinating vintage filmed interviews with Ford that show his changing attitudes about Star Wars and Han Solo over the decades. Ryan's conclusion: that Ford may only be changing his tune now in order to secure a major pay check. Click here for more
Many people remember the portly actor William Conrad for playing the role of detective Cannon in the popular 1970s CBS TV series. However, his long career extended back to playing Marshall Matt Dillon on the radio version of Gunsmoke. There is another often neglected side to his career: his long association with horror films. TCM's Movie Morlock web site examines these films. Click here to read
James Bond has always been dressed to kill and, by-and-large, his on-screen cinematic sense of style has never been outdated (well, except for "the decade that style forgot"- the 1970s when Roger Moore was sentenced to wear some embarrassing suits that would make Austin Powers blush.) Click here for an article that looks at the fashions of James Bond- and why the sense of style continues with Daniel Craig.
The Daily Mail recently used scientific methods to ascertain what film deserves the title of "The Funniest Movie Ever Made". The test involved measuring how many times a minute people laughed during screenings of comedy classics. Since the test was confined to only ten movies, the "science" is rather laughable in itself. Nevertheless, Airplane! is a worthy contender for the honor. In second place was The Hangover with another Zucker brothers classic, The Naked Gun coming in third. Back in the 1950s, it would have seemed unimaginable that two of the funniest films of all time would star Leslie Nielsen. For more click here.
Woody Allen had befriended his idol Groucho Marx in 1961. However, word reached Groucho years later that the Woodman was carrying a grudge because Groucho had not answered his letter. Groucho finally responded in a rambling and witty 1967 letter that sought to patch things up. The plan worked and the two comedy geniuses resumed their friendship. Click here to read the letter.
Click here to visit Joe Dante's presentation of the original trailer for Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy. You can watch it with or without the commentary track by Josh Olsen. For an in-depth report on the making of the film, see Gary Giblin's extensive article (complete with deleted scene photos) in Cinema Retro issue #24.
Recently revealed WWII documents show that Canadian film producer Harry Saltzman, who famously co-produced the James Bond films with Albert R. Broccoli, had a secret past in intelligence operations. A routine request for her father's files from the U.S. government led Saltzman's children Hilary and Steven to investigate some intriguing clues to their father's secret past. The conclusion seems to be that he may well have been a spy for U.S. intelligence during the war. For more, see Vanity Fair article. click here
The Night Digger, a well-regarded cult film that died at the box-office upon its initial release in 1971, has been brought to DVD by Warner Archive. The moody and atmospheric film stars Patricia Neal as Maura Prince, a middle-aged woman who resents having allowed life to pass her by while she caters to her nagging, ungrateful mother (Pamela Brown). The two women live a boring life in a run-down, rural mansion on the outskirts of London. When Billy (Nicholas Clay), a transient young man on a motorcycle appears and requests employment as a handyman, Maura balks but her mother consents. The charismatic lad proves to be well worth his room and board, fixing everything in sight and making no demands on either woman. Before long, the sexually-deprived Maura becomes romantically obsessed with him. Neither Maura or her mother realize that Billy is actually a serial killer of young women who is being sought far and wide by the police. He takes moonlight sojourns on his cycle and breaks into women's houses. After molesting them, he kills them and buries their bodies.
Although the film has a good deal of suspense, it's primarily a character study and a look at the self-imposed prisons many people lock themselves into. Neal, working from a screenplay by (then) husband Roald Dahl, is simply superb. Her willingness to portray everyday women, minus any glitz or glamor, made her one of the most watchable actresses of her day. She receives equally good support from Pamela Brown as the Mother Bates figure, an obnoxious self-centered woman who feels no guilt about destroying her daughter's life so that she can have a constant servant and companion. Nicholas Clay is excellent as Billy, underplaying the demonic side of his character and making him somewhat sympathetic. Had the film been the hit it deserved to be, he would have emerged as a much bigger star. The movie also boasts an impressive score by the legendary Bernard Hermann and intelligent direction by Alastair Reid. The film builds to a suspenseful, if unsatisfying and rather confusing climax that might make more sense on repeated viewings. However, The Night Digger an acting tour-de-force for Neal and emerges as an underrated gem. (The movie was also known as The Road Builder)
We've been sent a wealth of amusing and politically incorrect advertisements from previous decades that are sure to be offensive to some segment of today's (thankfully) more enlightened society. Yes, retro lovers, these ads were not only taken seriously at the time, but never generated any significant complaints! More to come...
The Warner Archive has released the little-seen, little-remembered 1975 crime thriller Mr. Ricco as a burn to order title. The film is notable primarily for being Dean Martin's last starring role. (He would only be on the big screen twice more in extended cameos for the Cannonball Run films). The MGM production is set in 1975 and finds Martin as a high-powered defense lawyer who helps his client- a black militant (Thalmus Rasulala) - beat a murder rap. Shortly thereafter, Ricco inexplicably finds that an assassin is stalking him and there are several attempts made on his life. Circumstantial evidence points to his militant ex-client, but Ricco can't imagine why this man has marked him for murder. The plot takes a few clever twists in what is otherwise a relatively undistinguished, low-key crime drama. However, there is great pleasure in seeing Martin playing a role of depth and complexity. Ricco is unlike most other parts Martin had been gliding through on automatic pilot for many years. He occasionally seemed to awaken from his predictable patterns and give an impressive performance. This is one such occasion. This time around there are no home bars with endless drinks, no circular water beds and no comely women who think he's a chick magnet. In fact, Ricco has only woman in his life and she's appropriately middle-aged. (Matt Helm would never approve). Furthermore, although Ricco can duke it out with the bad guys, the film's one fight sequence finds him on the short end of the conflict, a welcome and believable development. The film is ably directed by Paul Bogart and moves at a brisk clip, utilizing the San Francisco locations in an effective way. A climactic shootout in a posh art museum is especially well-staged, as is the relatively downbeat ending. There are some popular TV actors in supporting roles: Denise Nicholas (Room 222), pre-Laverne and Shirley Cindy Williams and Philip Michael Thomas (billed here as Philip Thomas, still years away from stardom on Miami Vice.)
Frank Sinatra once said of his adopted "brother", "Dean Martin does not like to work." Martin, like Sinatra,tired of the drudgery of making films and retired from the business to concentrate on crooning. One can only wonder how many good performances he still had in him. Many of his films were disposable and forgettable, but they were always entertaining. I liked Mr. Ricco more than I anticipated. Martin fans will want to sample this entertaining footnote in his remarkable career.
The Warner Archive has released the 1967 drama Chubasco as a burn-to-order or digital download title. The film represents exactly the type of title that is appropriate for the Archive treatment: although it boasts well-known stars, it's doubtful the film has enough commercial clout to ever merit a traditional DVD release. The story itself is a minor affair, a B movie masquerading as an A title. However, the film does have some minor significance as it represents Jones' feature film debut. The studio obviously had great hopes for the young thespian, as it afforded him a starring role despite the fact that this marked the first time audiences had seen him on the big screen. Jones plays the titular character, Chubasco, which may sound like an ingredient for a Bloody Mary, but, in fact, is a Spanish word for a particularly fierce storm at see. Chubasco is an arrogant young man who is always in trouble with the law for minor crimes. A judge offers him a choice: either follow in the tradition of his late father and live a disciplined life by serving on a tuna fishing vessel, or go to jail. Chubasco reluctantly chooses the former, but he immediately clashes with the ship captain and crew members. All of this is happening while he is embroiled in a romance with Susan Strasberg that has Romeo and Juliet overtones. (Her dominating father refuses to allow the couple to be together).
Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass production team are best known to millions of
television audiences as Rankin & Bass for their unforgettable holiday-themed,
stop-motion animation outings such as Rudolph
the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), Santa
Claus is Coming to Town (1970), Here
Comes Peter Cottontail (1971), and The
Year Without a Santa Claus (1974).Christmas
and Easter would not be the same without a viewing of these specials on either
television or home video.Though the
bulk of their work is comprised of television movies and specials, they also collaborated
on theatrically-released films like The
Daydreamer (1966), Mad Monster Party?
(1967), Wacky World of Mother Goose (1967),
and The Last Unicorn (1982).This prolific producing and directing team
assembled a crew of talented sculptors, writers, editors, photographers and
musicians to create some of the most memorable family entertainment.
Archive is continuing their extraordinary work in bringing more of the Rankin
& Bass catalog to their burn-on-demand library.Thus far they have released a double feature
of Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey
(1977)& The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1985) and the long-desired,
beloved made-for-TV movie The Bermuda
Depths (1978).Just prior to the
latter, Rankin & Bass made The Last
Dinosaur (1977), a low-budget film that was originally intended for
theatrical release, but was shortened by eleven minutes to a 95-minute running
time and aired on ABC television instead on February 11, 1977, which is good
because the film has a TV-movie feel to it.Warner Archive has recently released the full, uncut 106-minute theatrical
cut on DVD-R.Written by William
Overgard, scored by Maury Laws, and directed by Tsugunobu Kotani (listed in the
credits as Tom Kotani) who all repeated their roles for The Bermuda Depths (also released theatrically in Europe), The Last Dinosaur is a fun movie for the
twelve year-old set and under, though I am sure that Rankin and Bass
completists will find much to enjoy here.Mason Thrust, Jr. (Richard Boone) is a cantankerous and misogynistic safarist
who meets the sole survivor of an expedition who witnessed the existence of a
Tyrannosaurus Rex.Intrigued, Thrust puts
together a team that includes the sole survivor, some experts, and, against his
wishes, photographer Francesca Banks (Joan Van Ark), just because she’s a woman.They travel to the jungle locale and have a
few close encounters with beasts that should have been dead millions of years
ago, one of which is the T-Rex who roars a little like Godzilla.Along the way, they run into some Neanderthal
dwellers, one of whom resembles Nova from Planet
of the Apes (1968) who runs off with Francesca’s purse.It’s a fairly straightforward tale involving
the usual Rankin & Bass special effects which, at times, look just like
that.The cheesiness is part of the
film’s charm, though it is slow-moving by today’s standards.The
nighttime scenes are all shot day-for-night, and the film begins and ends with
the Nancy Wilson tune “The Last Dinosaur.”
Warner Archive titles featured non-descript DVD covers that were comprised of a
publicity shot from a particular film superimposed over a blue background.The company’s subsequent success has allowed
Warner Archive to invest in providing a film’s original artwork on the DVD-R
cover, and The Last Dinosaur boasts
the exciting painting that was originally intended for the film’s theatrical one-sheet;
this image also appeared on the French poster when the film was distributed
theatrically as Le Derniere Dinosaure.
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM THE CINEMA RETRO ARCHIVES
By Lee Pfeiffer
If you're stumped about what to get dad for the holidays and were thinking of picking up some Charles Bronson DVDs, stop reading right now! However, if you're in market to reward someone who appreciates movies that epitomize the cliche "they don't make 'em like that anymore" then you'll be happy to know that Warner Brothers and Turner Classic Movies have teamed for a boxed set titled TCM Spotlight: Esther Williams. The set contains five films starring the legendary actress/swimming champ. I confess to not having seen any Esther Williams films until receiving this set - with the exception of the 1961 circus movie The Big Show - ironically one of the few in which our legendary leading lady didn't get any closer to water than passing the pool of trained seals. In watching these films today you are reminded that the grand old musical is a genre that has been virtually abandoned by Hollywood even though it was once one of the most popular staples of the motion picture business. Nothing illustrates this bygone era better than this collection. For the uninitiated, these films would appear to be artifacts from some ancient civilization - but that is precisely what gives them a sense of charm and innocence.
Because of the major worldwide success of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Fox has given the green light to a new film, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. A script has already been completed and directors are now being considered. The first film in the franchise was released in 1968. For more click here
One of the great films of the 60s spawned one of the great scores of all time by Elmer Bernstein. Click here to revel in a United Artists theatrical trailer created in the late 1960s for reissues of the film.
Click here to order special 2 DVD collector's edition from Amazon