The Skyfall juggernaut continues with worldwide grosses topping $1 billion, making this by far the highest grossing 007 flick of all time. Additionally, as the following press release from Sony points out, Skyfall has become the highest grossing movie of all time in the UK, passing the $100 million mark.
31st December, 2012 – Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and
Sony Pictures Entertainment are delighted to announce that Skyfall, the UK’s
most successful film of all time, continues to smash box office records and
has now taken a staggering £100,460,679, the first film in
box office history to cross the £100m mark.
SKYFALL, the 23rd
James Bond adventure, continuing the longest running and most successful
franchise in film history opened in 587 cinemas across the UK and Ireland on
Friday 26th October 2012, and is still on general release. Additionally,
the film has generated more than $1 billion in ticket sales
Daniel Craig is back as Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007
in SKYFALL™, the 23rd adventure in the longest-running film franchise of all
time. In SKYFALL, Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back
to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy
the threat, no matter how personal the cost. The film is from Albert R.
Broccoli’s EON Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, and Sony Pictures
Entertainment. Directed by Sam Mendes. Produced by Michael G.
Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. Written by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade
and John Logan.
About Albert R. Broccoli’s Eon
Productions EON Productions Limited and Danjaq LLC are wholly owned and
controlled by the Broccoli/Wilson family. Danjaq is the US based company that
co-owns, with MGM, the copyright in the existing James Bond films and controls
the right to produce future James Bond films as well as all worldwide
merchandising. EON Productions, an affiliate of Danjaq, is the UK
based production company which makes the James Bond films. The 007
franchise is the longest running in film history with twenty-three films
produced since 1962. Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli succeeded
Albert R ‘Cubby’ Broccoli and have produced some of the most successful Bond
films ever including CASINO ROYALE, QUANTUM OF SOLACE and
For more coverage of the Skyfall grosses click here
On December 21, 1961 the Merced Theatre in Merced, California hosted a Christmas party for 2,000 local children who got to see John Wayne's latest flick, The Comancheros, along with Misty starring David Ladd. (Photo: Merced County Sun-Star)
Harry Carey Jr., the son of legendary Western movie actor Harry Carey, has died from natural causes at age 91. Although the younger Carey never became a star, he worked steadily over the decades as a reliable character actor. He was the last surviving member of the so-called John Ford "Stock Company", a reference to the mercurial director's penchant for working with the same actors on many films. He also appeared in numerous films starring his good friend John Wayne, who idolized Carey's father, who he also made several films with. It was Ford and Wayne who gave Carey Jr. his most memorable screen roles in films such as Rio Grande, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Wagon Master and The Searchers. After Ford's death, he appeared with Wayne in the popular Westerns The Undefeated, Big Jake and Cahill: U.S. Marshall. A younger generation of directors were respectful of Carey's stature in film history and he made a memorable appearance in Joe Dante's Gremlins (1984). For more on his life and career, click here
When asked why most of Sid Caesar’s writers were young and Jewish,
the late’ great Larry Gelbart replied, “Because most of our parents were old
The answer to why there were so many Jews in Broadway musicals may
not be as glibly succinct, but in Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy,
which debuts on PBS on January 1 at 9:30 p.m., the answers are insightful and
Written, produced and directed by Emmy-Award Winner Michael Kantor
(Broadway- The American Musical and Make ‘Em Laugh- The Funny Business of
America), the 90 minute documentary tries to answer the question of why
the Broadway musical proven to be such fertile territory for Jewish artists of
all kind, featuring icons from Broadway’s golden age, including Irving Berlin,
Jerome Kern, the Gershwins, Arthur Laurents, Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein
and Stephen Sondheim to “Broadway babies” such as Stephen Schwartz, Marc
Shaiman and Andrew Lippa represent a sampling of the Jewish talents who
continue to leave their mark on musical theater.
The show begins with David Hyde Pearce in a hysterical and
joyful scene-chewing rendition of his Spamalot song, You Won’t Succeed on
Broadway: “You may have the finest sets, Fill the stage with penthouse
pets, you may have the loveliest costumes and best shoes, you may dance and you
may sing, but I'm sorry Arthur King you'll hear no cheers, just lots and lots
of boos “boo,” you may have butch men by the score, whom the audience adore…
But I tell you, you are dead if you don't have any Jews.” “It
wouldn’t be so funny if it weren’t true,” Spamalot creator, the great Eric
Kantor focuses on this central question left largely
unaddressed in his Emmy-winning Broadway: The American Musical, combining
interviews with performance footage, including many of the rousing anthems and
timeless ballads America has loved for a century.
“The primary force behind the musicals are the guys who write the
songs” Kantor said. “Broadway, The American Musical was principally a
historical and cultural treatment, dealing with The Great Depression and the
advent of Rock and Roll. The new documentary complements the earlier
one. “It’s really an American story and our narrative tells how Jewish
stories were part of an acculturation/assimilation process. My daughter was bat
mitzvahed this year and I can hear the melodies of the prayers differently.”
In the 1920s, nearly one in four New York residents was
Jewish. The film charts how Jewish immigrants and children of immigrants
in the melting pot of old New York helped shape the vision of America through
musical theater. While shows like Porgy and Bess, Show Boat and Oklahoma
are fictions, they represent the artist’s vision of how do we take what we know
from Jewish culture and tradition and make it into America?
The film succeeds in its attention to detail and how it
captures the warmth and emotion of the great artists: Leonard Bernstein
and Adolph Green met as kids at summer camp, worked together on the camp
musicals and became lifelong friends. In 1893, a five year old
Irving Berlin, arrived at Ellis Island. His earliest memory as a child
growing up in Russia was of a pogrom, a vigilante attack on his Jewish
village. And he remembers hiding in a ditch with his brothers and sisters
and parents, watching Russian Cossacks burn down their village. Then he
comes to America, gets off the boat, looks around him, sees all these Americans
and he says, we stood there in our Jew clothes. He realized how different
he was from everybody else. That feeling of being different,
combined with a deep gratitude of being an American, resulted in the
composition of classic tunes, including the definitive American Christmas song.
There was also apprehension about the appeal of Fiddler on the
Roof beyond Jewish audiences. To the producers’ surprise and
pleasure, the show was a worldwide hit that transcended culture and race.
“The opening number “Tradition” was common to every culture so the show was as
common to Japanese family life as it was to Jewish family life,” Hal Prince
recalled. “And it went all over the world and every single place it went
it became their family story despite the idiosyncrasies of what was Jewish
about it. Playwright Joseph Stein said: "There are universal themes:
It’s a story about parents and children, a story about struggling in a strange
world, conflict of cultures, immigrants."
The film also points out that the music of Porgy and Bess was
rooted in Hebrew prayers and then charts the journey of the music into the
brilliants hands of Miles Davis as he re-crafts the liturgical themes roots
into his own classic jazz riffs.
“I’ve always worshiped talent and the magic talented
people can make in people’s lives and make a difference,” said Cabaret star
Joel Grey, who narrated the documentary, and who is one of only eight actors to
have won both a Tony and an Oscar for having portrayed the same role on stage
“I remember the day I went to [composer] John Kander’s house and
he told me about the role. When I first heard the song Vilkomen, I
remember thinking to myself- “Oh my God- this is going to be my song. The
MC in Cabaret is one of the most villainous characters of all time in that he
seemed like he was going to be fun. You laughed with him and liked him
and he ended up sticking the knife in.”
“James Cagney (who spoke fluent Yiddish) was both an actor and
song and dance man,” Grey said when asked about his own favorite performers and
composers. “Marvin Hamlisch was my friend and one of the funniest human
beings in history. He was the modern day Irving Berlin, with a brilliant
sense of timing but also with a sense of the outrageous.”
Beginning his theater career at age nine, Grey is part of an
entertainment dynasty. Grey’s father was Spike Jones band member Mickey Katz, whose solo
hits included “Duvid Crockett” and “She’ll be Coming Around the Catskills,” and
is father of Dirty Dancing star Jennifer Grey.
“It’s thrilling the way we as Jews made ourselves useful and found
a place for ourselves after running for so long. Part of my Yiddishkeit
[Jewish identity] comes directly from my Dad who turned popular music into
Jewish experiences, as a way of adapting and owning the Jewish experience of
BearManor Media is a niche market publishing company that backs unusual subject matters, largely related to the celebration of cult movies. The company has just released a reprint of writer John Burke's novelization of the 1965 horror film Dr. Terror's House of Horrors. The movie was produced by Amicus Films, which sought (with success) to emerge as a rival to Hammer Films. Amicus head honchos Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky even "stole" Hammer's two signature stars on occasion: Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, both of whom starred in Dr. Terror's House of Horrors and provided an impressive supporting cast that included Donald Sutherland, Roy Castle, Neil McCallum, Michael Gough, Bernard Lee and Jeremy Kemp. The less-than-subtle title doesn't do justice to an entertaining and film about a group of strangers who encounter an ominous and mysterious man (Cushing) on a long rail journey. In the course of their travels, the man terrifies his travel companions by predicting a very morbid future for each of them. The idea of an anthology built around a horror movie presence was not new at the time, having been successfully employed twenty years earlier with the British film Dead of Night. However, Amicus successfully dusted off the premise and the response to this film was so positive that the studio would utilize the same format time and again with films like Tales From the Crypt and The House That Dripped Blood.
BearManor's reprint of the tie-in paperback novelization features a stunning poster reproduction on the cover as well as B&W film stills peppered throughout. The novel was originally only available in England through Pan Books, so this marks the book's first appearance in the American market. As the movie is not officially available on DVD in the States, this book will whet the appetites of those might be inspired to order the British Region 2 edition. Writer and film historian Richard A. Ekstedt provides an informative and entertaining foreword that gives a history of the film and novelization (although he curiously spells the title Doctor Terror's House of Horrors throughout his article instead of the movie's actual title, which is spelled Dr. Terror's House of Horrors.) The book is part of "Philip J. Riley's Nightmare Series". Despite its modest production values, this volume is most welcome for all of us who have fond memories of seeing the movie many years ago. Now if an American release DVD will only follow....
In John Frankenheimer's superb 1965 film The Train, one of the last major studio movies shot in black and white, Burt Lancaster plays a railroad worker coerced into joining the French Resistance to stop a train that contains the nation's great art treasures. A German general (Paul Scofield) is attempting to loot these masterpieces and bring them to Berlin in the closing days of WWII. Watch the original trailer here.
The messy, long-running mutual lawsuits between Paramount Pictures and the estate of author Mario Puzo have now been settled by mutual agreement, though the terms have not been made public. Paramount had sued the estate trying to prevent publication of The Family Corleone, the latest literary sequel to Puzo's legendary best-seller The Godfather. The studio contracted with Puzo in 1969 to bring his book to the big screen. The 1972 blockbuster movie was the biggest money maker in screen history until being displaced by Jaws three years later. The Paramount suit claimed the studio had rights to any literary sequels based on the original book. The estate claims that Paramount has forfeited those rights. Both parties have agreed to pay their own legal expenses as part of the settlement. For more click here
He was the basis of Sidney Lumet's acclaimed 1973 film and says that Al Pacino played him better than he could play himself. Frank Serpico, who along with his friend, the recently deceased David Durk of the famed Knapp Commission, exposed massive corruption in the New York City Police Department, is living quietly in upstate New York, enjoying life with a younger woman, the occasional cigar and working on his memoirs. The former detective with the mindset of a counter culture protestor started on the NYPD as an idealistic young cop determined to bring in Gotham's crooks. What he was appalled to realize was that many of the crooks were working as cops themselves. Serpico violated the "Blue Wall of Silence" and exposed his fellow officers, leading to the formation of the famed Knapp Commission that helped clean up the NYPD but also gave the force a black eye for many years. Serpico was alienated and despised by his fellow officers, a bunch of boneheads who adhered to an "all-for-one and one-for-all" policy that saw them side with the worst elements of the force. Serpico was shot in the face while making an arrest and he still gets a bit riled by the fact that his fellow cops were less than helpful in getting him prompt medical assistant. Today, he takes satisfaction in knowing that, although his name is still cursed by some current bone-heads on the NYPD, he is revered by law enforcement agencies around the world. He also takes amused pride in the fact that the cinematic Serpico ranks #42 on the list of all-time screen heroes (right behind Lassie). For a recent New York Daily News interview, click here.
One of the film industry's last great composers has passed away at age 76. Sir Richard Rodney Bennett died this week in New York. The prolific composer was part of a now bygone age when spectacular and memorable film scores were a routine part of the motion picture industry. Bennett was nominated for three Oscars for his work on Far From the Madding Crowd, Nicholas and Alexandra and Murder On The Orient Express. He was also nominated for numerous BAFTA awards for his work in film and on television. Bennett was also acclaimed for his non-film work that included writing symphonies and operas. His other feature film scores include Billy Liar, Equus, Billion Dollar Brain, Four Weddings and a Funeral and The Devil's Disciple. For more click here
The Music of James Bond by Jon Burlingame (Published by
Oxford University Press, $35, 296 pages, illustrated (B&W), ISBN:
Jon Burlingame provides the intriguing and often fascinating
story behind the one heretofore neglected aspect of the James Bond phenomenon:
the soundtracks and the incredibly talented people behind them. This book
manages to be exhaustively researched, yet highly entertaining. Those of us who
pride ourselves on being 007 scholars will be humbled by the wealth of new
insights the author reveals. The book provides a film-by-film look at the
scoring of each movie and refreshingly gives equal time to the 1967 version of Casino Royale, which boasted a fabulous
score, and Never Say Never Again which
decidedly did not.There are also ample
photographs of the composers and singers in the studio as well as rare trade
ads extolling Oscar voters to nominate scores, a generally quixotic task, given
the tone deaf membership of the Academy that ignored the Bond films except for
a rare occasion.With this indispensable
book, Burlingame reaffirms his status as one of the world’s foremost experts on
motion picture soundtracks.
Official press description of the book:
The story of the music that accompanies the cinematic adventures of Ian
Fleming's intrepid Agent 007 is one of surprising real-life drama. In The Music of James Bond,
author Jon Burlingame throws open studio and courtroom doors alike to
reveal the full and extraordinary history of the sounds of James Bond,
spicing the story with a wealth of fascinating and previously
Burlingame devotes a chapter to each Bond
film, providing the backstory for the music (including a reader-friendly
analysis of each score) from the last-minute creation of the now-famous
"James Bond Theme" in Dr. No to John Barry's trend-setting early scores for such films as Goldfinger and Thunderball.
We learn how synthesizers, disco and modern electronica techniques
played a role in subsequent scores, and how composer David Arnold
reinvented the Bond sound for the 1990s and beyond.
brims with behind-the-scenes anecdotes. Burlingame examines the
decades-long controversy over authorship of the Bond theme; how Frank
Sinatra almost sang the title song for Moonraker; and how top
artists like Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Paul McCartney, Carly Simon,
Duran Duran, Gladys Knight, Tina Turner, and Madonna turned Bond songs
into chart-topping hits. The author shares the untold stories of how
Eric Clapton played guitar for Licence to Kill but saw his work shelved, and how Amy Winehouse very nearly co-wrote and sang the theme for Quantum of Solace.
Legendary animation master Gerry Anderson has died at age 83. The creator of such classic TV series as Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlett and Stingray, died in his native England, having battled Alzheimers Disease in recent years. His landmark style of animation, involving puppets as super heroes, never went out of style and crossed over several generations in terms of popularity. He also produced the hit live action TV series Space 1999 and served as executive producer on the cult series UFO in the 1970s. Uncharacteristically, he also produced the 1970s TV spy series The Protectors starring Robert Vaughn. For more on his remarkable life and career click here
TV icon Jack Klugman died Monday at age 90. He had been in poor health in recent months but his death was not related to the cancer that had once robbed him of his speaking voice. In the 1980s, Klugman literally had to learn to speak again, a painstaking process that allowed him to resume his acting career. Klugman had been acting since the Golden Age of TV before he struck pay dirt as America's favorite slob, Oscar Madison opposite Tony Randall's neat freak Felix Unger in the hit TV version of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple. The show ran between 1970-1975 and remains extremely popular today. He was awarded two Emmys for his work in the series. Klugman followed this with another hit series, the crime show Quincy, M.E that ran from 1977-1983. Klugman became such an icon of television that many fans forget he had a successful career as a supporting actor in feature films such as Goodbye Columbus, Twelve Angry Men, The Detective, and The Days of Wine and Roses. For more click here
Acclaimed character actor Charles Durning has died from natural causes at age 89. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor Oscars for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and the remake of To Be Or Not To Be. Other major film credits include Dog Day Afternoon, The Sting, The Final Countdown and Sisters. For more click here
Okay, the following clip from The Jingle Bells Affair, which aired in December 1966, had plenty of cringe-inducing moments since it aired during The Man From U.N.C.L.E's notoriously campy third season. (The series would regain its mojo the next year, but by then it was too late: the show was cancelled in mid-season). Still, this episode has a goofy, charming quality about it. Akim Tamiroff plays the Communist party chairman who visits New York on a contentious diplomatic mission. Thanks to the intrusion of THRUSH, he ends up relying on Solo and Illya to protect him. Throw in a virginal Salvation Army girl, a cornball sub-plot about a sick kid, a naked commercial pitch for Macy's and the least believable final sequence in the show's history (with the Chairman expressing a wish to be the store's new Santa Claus!) and you have all the elements that outraged the show's fans at the time. Yet, in the spirit of Christmas, it's hard to be a Scrooge after so many years have passed...and there is something reassuring about having Robert Vaughn and David McCallum wishing us all a Merry Christmas.
Regular readers know that every Christmas, Cinema Retro pays homage to Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, the Citizen Kane of all movies relating to Santa Claus battling creatures from other planets. The 1964 $20,000 wonder has been a cinematic legend among bad movie lovers. We're happy to present the entire film for your (guilty) viewing pleasure.
At the risk of being drawn and quartered, I have to say that, with all due respect to the magnificent Alastair Sim, my favorite version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol is the wonderful 1984 TV production starring George C. Scott in a magnificent, Emmy-nominated performance as Scrooge. The film features many other excellent actors and performances including Frank Finlay, Edward Woodward, Susannah York, David Warner, Angela Pleasence, Nigel Davenport and Michael Gough- all under the inspired direction of Clive Donner. Scott's performance is every bit as impressive as that of Sim, who has basically owned the role since appearing in the 1951 big screen version, which is alternately titled Scrooge. For a great double feature, watch these two films back-to-back. In the meantime, however, sit back and enjoy this full length presentation of George C. Scott in A Christmas Carol.
If you haven't picked up Warner Home Video's release of Clint Eastwood's 1992 Oscar-winner Unforgiven on Blu-ray, don't delay another day. The film made its debut in Blu-ray earlier this year to commemorate the movie's 20th anniversary. For those of us who were long-time champions of Eastwood's abilities as an actor and director, the accolades the movie received made us seem a bit self-satisfied. In the early 1980s I co-authored a book about Eastwood's films and was told by my editor that while his movies were enjoyable, I was guilty of mistaking him for a world-class talent. No one was saying such things after Unforgiven, a classic Western that ranks among the best of the genre. Originally shot under the title The William Munny Killings, the film is a dramatic look at both the best and worst elements of human nature. (The film's final title did seem rather uninspired at the time, given the fact that John Huston had made a high profile western titled The Unforgiven in 1960) No one is completely good or bad in this film, including the Sheriff Little Bill (an Oscar winning performance by Gene Hackman), who runs his small town with an iron fist. He considers himself to be a good man and he certainly is courageous and incorruptible. However, when he doles out mild punishment for a man who used a knife to commit an atrocity on a local prostitute, her fellow hookers pool their hard-earned savings and offer a bounty to the man or men who kill or bring to justice the culprit and his companions. Answering the call is William Munny, an aging widower with two small children who is desperate to renounce his past as a hard-bitten saddle bum with a penchant for spilling blood. The bounty money will afford him the chance to start a new life. He is aided by his old friend Ned (Morgan Freeman) and a green horn who goes by the name of the Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett, who should have gone on to stardom). The Kid claims to be a hardened killer but his older mentors realize immediately he is all bluster. This disparate trio begins to track down the man who abused the prostitute and end up on a hellish journey that has unforeseen, tragic consequences.
Eastwood, who kept the screenplay by David Webb Peoples on a shelf until the time was right to dust it off, provides assured, top-notch direction as well as giving one of the best performances of his career. (He also wrote the film's haunting theme song for good measure). The supporting performances are all outstanding with Richard Harris making an odd, but unforgettable mid-film appearance as an egotistical British gunslinger who gets his just desserts at the hands of Little Bill. Every nuance of the movie rings true right down to the final gun battle in saloon that is brilliantly directed by Eastwood.
The deluxe version of the Blu-ray release comes in the format of a small, hardback photo book with an introduction by Eastwood. The photo content is worth the price of the set alone, with script pages, rare pre-production ads and behind the scenes photos displayed. Best of all is the bonus content which has been available on the previous DVD release:
Commentary track by Eastwood and biographer Richard Schickel
All on Accounta Pullin' a Trigger, which features recent interviews with cast and crew about the making of the film
Eastwood... A Star, a retrospective look at the screen legend's career
Eastwood and Company: Making 'Unforgiven': Schickel's outstanding one hour documentary that originally aired on broadcast TV
Eastwood on Eastwood, in which the actor/director reflects on his long career
A vintage episode of Maverick in which Eastwood plays a hardcase cowboy who goes up against star James Garner
In summary, it would be unforgivable not to add this deluxe Blu-ray of Unforgiven to your library. (The film is available as a bare-bones Blu-ray, but spring for the deluxe edition.)
If the year 2012 was one of the most volatile in terms of American politics, some of that tension has seeped into the race for the Best Picture Oscar. The nominees have not been announced yet but front runners include Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty and Argo, each of which is drenched in historical political overtones that critics and pundits say have relevance to contentious issues going on today. The New York Times analyzes how those political undercurrents may effect what films get nominated and which one may win. Click here to read
Despite a title that implies an epic mini-series, World War III (originally broadcast in 1982) is far less grand than other major network specials of the day. This was the golden age of TV mini-series, when seemingly every week produced a classic such as Rich Man, Poor Man, Roots, Shogun and The Thorn Birds. All of those projects had opulent budgets as well as big name casts. World War III does boast three big names of the day, Rock Hudson, Brian Keith and David Soul but the similarities stop there. It seems all of the money went into these actor's salaries, leaving the rest of the production to cope with a budget that seems to be akin to that of a high school play. The show was aired during tense times of the Cold War period and the paranoia about Soviet expansionism helped ensure Ronald Reagan's triumphant rise to the Presidency. The problems begin with the screenplay, the premise of which is fairly absurd. Seems U.S. President McKenna (Hudson) is heating up the Cold War by imposing a grain embargo on the Soviets that threatens the very fabric of their society. McKenna's aim is the reign in their military adventures but the Soviets respond by sending a commando team into a remote part of Alaska with the intention of overtaking a small military outpost that defends a pivotal oil pipeline. The Reds plan to threaten this crucial source of oil if McKenna doesn't back down on the grain embargo. The Soviet patrol is discovered by the small contingent of Americans guarding the facility and a fierce firefight erupts. The stakes quickly rise to nuclear threat levels and a summit meeting is quickly convened between McKenna and Soviet Secretary General Gorny (Brian Keith). Both men want peace, but Gorny's attempts to defuse the situation are sabotaged by Kremlin war mongers. The film intercuts the political intrigue with the ordeal of both Russian and American fighting men facing death in a snowy wasteland.The notion that America could be brought to its knees but a few soldiers capturing an oil facility may seem crazy but at the time you couldn't go broke trying to scare people into thinking the United States could actually be invaded by a conventional army. (Think Red Dawn, the other kooky invasion thriller of the era that only the paranoid could love.)
The American leading role is played by (then) red-hot David Soul as a colonel who finds himself commanding an outgunned and out-manned group of soldiers who fight valiantly against seemingly insurmountable odds to stave off Soviet occupation of the oil pipeline. This being TV in the early 1980s, there is some sexual byplay squeezed in between Soul and Cathy Lee Crosby, who plays a sexy intelligence officer equally at home in a snowsuit or evening gown. Naturally, she ends up toting a gun and helping Soul repel the Soviet onslaught. The notion of generals seeing more action in the bedroom than in the battlefield might have seemed like a stretch at the time, but in the age of General Petraeus, the screenwriter now seems like an oracle. The acting is all perfectly fine, with Hudson giving a commanding performance as a dovish president forced to be a hawk. Watching him square off with the great Brian Keith is one of the show's few true pleasures, along with an opening sequence that is well acted and directed and features a startling act of treason. However, World War III plays like a bargain basement version of Fail Safe, right down to the film's final sequence which is literally stolen verbatim from that classic movie. Most of the film is shot in claustrophobic interiors that never convince you that the action is taking place anywhere but on a studio sound stage. The worst aspects of the program, however, are the scenes set in the Alaskan frontier. There seems to have been no more than twenty square feet of studio space allocated to these sequences and to get around it, the actors are often filmed in close-up. The production design is also rather laughable with plastic and foam snowbanks that you would expect to see decorating your local ice cream parlor. If you think the arctic scenes in Ice Station Zebra looked bad, wait until you see these amateurish creations.
In fairness, comments readers on IMDB indicate people have very fond memories ofthis production, which was directed by the usually competent David Greene after the original director, Boris Sagal, died during production in an accident involving a helicopter. I hate to be a wet blanket about nuclear war, folks, but World War III is a pretentious, cheapo production that uses a few big names to justify its existence. The diplomatic sequences are corny and predictable and feature the kind of preachy, Kumbaya moments that would send the likes of Rush Limbaugh into a frenzy. Skip this one, unless you have three hours of your life you don't value, and stick to an intentionally funny Cold War film, Dr. Strangelove.
Click here to watch clip and order from the Warner Archive
Jimmy Fallon had some high-powered assistance in his recreation of the classic Abbott and Costello comedy routine "Who's on First": Jerry Seinfeld and Billy Crystal joined in the fun. The black and white sketch pays homage to the timeless routine, but despite the talent involved, it only proves no one can do it better than A&C themselves. Click here to view
The following news items were found in The Hollywood Reporter on January 24, 1968:
Director Peter Yates, assistant director Tim Zinneman, cameraman Bill Fraker and several key crew operators to San Francisco for final pre-production on Warner-Seven Arts' Bullitt
Lee Marvin will star in Monte Walsh, based on the Jack Schafer novel. Marvin will reportedly receive $1 million against 10% of the gross.
Sammy Davis Jr. set to portray a key figure in the Rhythm of Life musical number in Universal's roadshow production of Sweet Charity. Assignment marks the first screen song and dance role Davis has played since he appeared in Porgy and Bess. (Note: this was not true. Davis performed song and dance numbers in the Rat Pack films Oceans Eleven and Robin and the Seven Hoods-Ed.)
David Karp yesterday turned in the first draft screenplay of Viva Che!, 20th -Fox's forthcoming drama based on the life of revolutionist Ernesto (Che) Guevara. (The film was released under the title Che!- Ed.)
MGM has set an April starting date for the King Brothers production of Heaven With a Gun, a big scale western starring Glenn Ford to be shot at the Culver City studio and on location.
MGM's The Dirty Dozen rolls into its seventh consecutive month of performances in Los Angeles this week when it moves to the Tiffany Theatre on Sunset Boulevard.
Director James Goldstone has set May 1 for start of filming on his next Universal feature, Winning starrig Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Picture was originally slated to begin production in March, but start date has been pushed back to accomodate Newman, currently editing A Jest of God which he directed for Warner Seven-Arts. (A Jest of God was released under the title Rachel, Rachel- Ed.)
James Caan getting his choice of roles after appearing in Games
John Wayne used to smoke five packs of cigarettes a day before his operation; now he chews tobacco.
Richard Burton and Audrey Hepburn rumored to appear in Song of Norway in 1969. (They didn't- Ed.)
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from the producers of the outstanding indie Western The Scarlet Worm (click here for review):
December 17, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
ORIGINAL 'DJANGO' ACTOR FRANCO NERO
ATTACHED TO NEW WESTERN
Contact: Mike Malloy,
Eric Zaldivar and Mike Malloy, two
producers of the offbeat 2012 Western The Scarlet Worm, have received a
Letter of Interest from original Django star Franco Nero to topline a
gritty new Western project, tentatively titled Django Lives!Should the
sequel rights be secured, the feature would be the third “official” entry in
the saga that made Mr. Nero an international star.
Since the release of the original Django in 1966, over thirty films have
included the character’s iconic name in their titles, most recently Quentin
Tarantino’s Django Unchained, in
which Mr. Nero makes a cameo appearance.Until now, however, only the 1987 Western Django Strikes Again is considered to be an official sequel.
The story would have former gunslinger Django, in his twilight
years, ending up as a silent-movie consultant in 1915 Hollywood and meeting an
aspiring filmmaker with whom he reluctantly goes into business. When the
filmmaker gets killed by racketeers, the young man's gambling debts are
considered transferred to Django, who must now flee for safety to a small rural
community. But that town's sharply divided inhabitants have their own problems,
and Django becomes embroiled in a bloody conflict immediately upon arrival.
Looper star Noah Segan, an aficionado of
Spaghetti Westerns and friend of the production, has expressed interest in
co-starring as a younger character with mysterious intentions who befriends the
Zaldivar and Malloy most recently
worked with Nero on the award-winning cinema documentary Eurocrime! The
Italian Cop and Gangster Films that Ruled the '70s, which kicked off its
festival run of eight countries at the Atlanta Film Festival in March of this
“Everyone we met on the festival
circuit wanted to know first and foremost about what it was like to interview
Franco Nero,” said Malloy. “He still holds a mythical tough-guy intrigue for a
large audience. Nero is to European action cinema what Eastwood is to the
United States. And he's taken excellent care of himself.”
Zaldivar adds: “I gave Franco a Blu-ray
of The Scarlet Worm and showed him what we were able to achieve on a
microbudget. And he loved the new story we’ve developed for his return to the
screen as the legendary Django. Plus, he knows that Malloy and I are two of the
biggest students of Italian action cinema working today.”
The project aims for arthouse, VOD and
Blu-Ray releases, and the producers are hoping to lens the picture in Utah. Scarlet Worm cinematographer Michael A.
Martinez will return to that post for this film.
Mr. Nero, who rose to stardom in the
1960s with such films as Warner's Camelot, has remained a popular figure
in cinema and television, with recent roles in Letters to Juliet, Cars 2
and Law & Order SVU.
The Scarlet Worm was released in North America through Unearthed Films/MVD
and has pending releases in the U.K. via Trash House Cinema and in Germany via
Click here to watch the action-packed original trailer for the John Wayne cop film Brannigan from 1975. We still prefer the more serious McQ, but this one has some delightful moments and great chemistry between the Duke and Richard Attenborough. We also love the poster art...check out the artist's inside joke of including James Coburn in an Our Man Flint pose among the pub brawlers!
Sony has released the 1963 remake of the 1932 James Whale horror film The Old Dark House as a burn-to-order DVD. The difference between the versions is supposedly night and day (I haven't seen the original). The remake is a broad, comedic take on the horror genre that keeps only the basic premise of the story, which was based on a novel by J.B. Priestly. Tom Poston, in a rare leading role, plays Tom Pendrel, an American living in London where he works as a car dealer. His flatmate Caspar Femm (Peter Bull) is a strange man who he hardly ever sees. Nevertheless, Caspar induces Tom to deliver his new car to the family's estate in the British countryside. When Tom arrives, he finds Caspar dead, supposedly from an accidental fall. He's already laid out in his coffin in a parlor. Tom then finds himself among a strange group of other Femms, all of whom reside in the crumbling, once grand mansion. Roderick (Robert Morley), the elder statesman of the family, is a pompous eccentric who explains that the family members must reside in the mansion and be indoors by midnight every night if they want to continue living from the family patriarch's estate. The other strange characters introduced to Tom are Caspar's cousin Cecily (Janette Scott), a sexy relatively "normal" family member whose flirtations with Tom induce him to stay overnight; Potiphar (Mervyn Johns), a silly and perpetually amused man; Agatha Femm (Joyce Grenfell), the matriarch of the family who knits endlessly even though she doesn't have a clue as to what she is creating; Morgana (Fenella Fielding), a sex-starved vamp; her seemingly mute, violent father Morgan (Danny Green) and Caspar's identical twin brother Jasper (also played by Peter Bull). It doesn't take Tom long to realize he's made a mistake by spending the night with this group of eccentrics, but in true horror film fashion, he finds himself unable to leave due to mechanical problems with his car and a raging rainstorm. Before long, there are attempts on his life and other members of the household turn up dead under bizarre circumstances.
I was prepared to dismiss this film as a hokey kid's movie, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Poston plays it relatively low-key as the "normal" person among a group of weirdos. The supporting cast is wonderful, one and all, with the imitable Morley and Peter Bull delivering truly amusing performances and Fenella Fielding is particularly alluring as an outwardly attractive young woman who (almost) manages to cover up some very unsettling eccentricities of her own. The film has a curious history. It was produced and director by legendary shlockmeister William Castle in collaboration with Hammer Films. It was shot in color but released in the United States in black-and-white, which is inexplicable given the fact it is a rich-looking movie with excellent production design by John Draper. Adding to its bizarre fate, the movie did not premiere in the UK until 1966. The movie clearly inspired the classic Addams Family TV series, as evidenced by the fact that the main titles were designed and drawn by Charles Addams himself. There's also an appropriately entertaining musical score by Benjamin Frankel. The Old Dark House is consistently amusing throughout and a bit daring for its day in terms of sexual suggestiveness. It remains an oddity in the Hammer canon, which did not often emphasize overt comedy in the studio's films. Give this one a try: if you like retro horror (even played for laughs), you'll find it to be a rewarding experience.
The DVD features a gorgeous transfer and includes the original trailer.
Years before Michael Cimino released his Socialist-themed Western Heaven's Gate, director Stanely Kramer took a less heavy-handed approach with his 1973 film Oklahoma Crude. Unlike Cimino's dark and message-laden epic, however, Kramer made the political aspects of his film secondary to the lighthearted tone of the story. Faye Dunaway, seen here in the least glamorous role of her career, plays Lena Doyle, a bitter, man-hating independent woman who is determined to make a success of her wildcat oil drilling venture on the plains of Oklahoma during the early 1900s. Beset by the frustration of consistently having her rig dig up dirt instead of oil, she also has to contend with a bigger threat: a major oil company is determined to seize her land by hook or by crook. When she turns down the offer of a buyout from their cut throat representative (Jack Palance), the oil company moves a virtual army on to Lena's land with the intention of taking her rig by force. Although a crack shot, Lena concedes she can use help and reluctantly hires a down-and-out drifter, 'Mase' Mason (George C. Scott) to help her keep her the assailants at bay. The two have an abrasive relationship, with Lena never smiling or showing an interest in anything other than drawing oil from her rig. They are also assisted by Lena's father Cleon Doyle (John Mills), a charismatic Englishman who is trying to win Lena's love and respect after having deserted her many years ago. Lena can barely stand the sight of him, but faced with the thugs are her doorstep, she has to accept his help.The story mostly takes place on the hillside where Lena's cabin is situated. 'Mase' proves to be a courageous and innovative ally, acquiring U.S. Army hand grenades and using them with devastating effect against the heavily armed gangs from the oil company who try repeatedly to take Lena's hilltop rig and cabin by force.
Oklahoma Crude was a late career project for Kramer (he would only make two more films). Dismissed at the time as a routine Western comedy, the film comes across as a sheer delight when viewing it today. The thin storyline isn't the main attraction. Rather, it's the combined talents of four Oscar winners- Scott, Dunaway, Mills and Palance- that add so much zest to what could have otherwise have been a routine experience. They are all delightful to watch, with Scott at his best and Mills in a scene-stealing, wonderful performance as a flawed but charming tenderfoot who summons incredible courage when it is needed most. Kramer hired the best of the best for his crew including cinematographer Robert Surtees, who makes every other frame look like an Andrew Wyeth painting. There is also a fine musical score by Henry Mancini which perfectly fits the "never a dull moment" mood of the movie.
Sony has released the film as a burn-to-order DVD. Transfer quality is excellent. The film is a sheer delight from beginning to its finale, which features a refreshing plot twist.
The piano played by Dooley Wilson in Casablanca while he crooned the iconic love song As Time Goes By has sold for more than $600,000 to a Japanese collector on the film's 70th anniversary. The price was actually lower than the anticipated price over $1 million, but represented a tidy profit for the owner, who purchased it years ago for $154,000. For more click here
(The following review pertains to the Region 2/British DVD release)
the end of the 1970s Pete Walker was one of the UK's most successful horror
film directors, with titles like House of Whipcord (1974), Frightmare
(1974) and The Flesh and Blood Show (1972) securing his reputation for
originality and controversy. It was perhaps surprising to many when, in 1983,
what turned out to be his last film was a throw-back to the old dark
house-style gothic horrors of the 1930s. His producers, Menahem Golen and Yorum
Globus, wanted a horror film with Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, not the
“aborted foetus on the rampage” film he was trying to raise funding for.
Undeterred, and working with long-time script-writing collaborator Michael
Armstrong, he devised a film that could cast the old guard and be both an
homage to the genre as well as a spoof of its creaky conventions. Thankfully
Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and John Carradine signed up
providing the kind of dream team not seen since the heyday of Amicus or AIP in
the 1960s. Sheila Keith, in her fifth film for Pete Walker, was a replacement
forElsa Lanchester, the original bride
of Frankenstein, who at that point was too ill to make the journey to the UK.
Despite her late casting, Keith's association with Walker's horror films
ensured she fitted in perfectly with the rest of the cast.
story revolves around rich young American author Ken (Desi Arnaz Jr., son of
Desi and Lucille Ball) on a book-signing tour of the UK. A bet is made with his
publisher (played with relish by Richard Todd, himself no stranger to the
horror film) that Ken cannot write a gothic romance novel in twenty-four hours.
Taking the bet, he is given the key to a deserted manor house in Wales to
provide inspiration, only it soon transpires that the house is anything but.
Before he can settle down with his typewriter he has to deal with mysterious
caretakers, long-lost relatives, a sexy secretary, cobweb-strewn corridors, a
locked room and several grisly murders. The old cast play their parts with
obvious glee, these pantheons of terror clearly relishing the chance to play on
their horror images. Even Christopher Lee seems to be having a good time! Desi
Arnaz Jr. has come in for some criticism in the past for his performance in
this film, and whilst he is a little bland, he does provide a useful anchor for
the increasing insanity around him.
released theatrically House of the Long Shadows disappointed at the box
office, in part due to the fact that Cannon Films could not decide whether to
market the movie as a comedy or a horror, and it has become something of a lost
film since. There was a brief VHS release in the mid-1980s and a poor quality
burn on demand DVD from the MGM archive, but this release from Final Cut
Entertainment represents the first official DVD release, and it is long
overdue. Featuring a good quality widescreen print, we finally have an
opportunity to appreciate the superb lighting and cinematography by Norman G.
Langley, who was working under the difficulties of shooting in a real manor
house, not a studio set. The DVD cover is unfortunately cheap and bland,
essentially reproducing the original VHS artwork, but do not be fooled. A lot
of work has been put into this release, mainly by author, theatre director and
super-fan Derek Pykett. He accompanies director Pete Walker on a full
commentary track discussing all aspects of the production in great detail. What
is more unexpected is the feature length documentary House of the Long
Shadows... Revisited, produced and presented by Pykett. It is clearly an
amateur production, and somebody needs to teach him how to conduct interviews
without constantly giggling in the background, but we should be grateful for
his enthusiasm. It is doubtful anyone else would have gone to so much trouble.
He reunites Walker and Langley with Julie Peasgood, one of the film's younger
stars, at the original location, actually Rotherfield park in Hampshire. He has
also secured interviews with several other of the movie's participants from
both in front of and behind the camera, the most surprising of all being a
fascinating chat with Desi Arnaz. Jr himself. He has fond memories of the film,
particularly working with such a terrific cast.
this release will allow people the chance to reassess this gleefully playful
movie, which is deeply undeserving of the negative reputation it has. Far from
the disappointment it was perceived to be at the time, House of the Long
Shadows is both a tribute and a swansong to the gothic horror movie,
riffing on the clichés and sending up the over the top performances. It is a
joy to spend an hour and a half in the company of Vincent Price, Peter Cushing,
Christopher Lee, John Carradine and Sheila Keith doing what they did best, in a
lineup the likes of which we will most likely never see again.
Kimberly Lindbergs, a columnist for TCM's popular Movie Morlocks site, certainly has good taste when it comes to classic movies. She gives a rave review to Cinema Retro's best-selling new Dr. No Movie Classics issue. Click here to read and click here to order the issue directly from our eBay affiliated store.
We recently reviewed Ernest Borgnine's final film, The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez. Here is a statement about the making of the film and director Elia Petridis' reflections on working with Borgnine in his last appearance on the silver screen.
The Man Who Shook The Hand Of Vicente Fernandez.I’ll never forget the moment the title
blossomed in my brain.Just after two in
the afternoon and I was driving through Toluca Lake, a neighborhood I wouldlater poke fun of in the screenplay.Pierre Gonneau had just told me a funny story.The actor in my graduate thesis film had
emerged from his valley home earlier leaning on a cane.I had asked him the cause.The funny anecdote he answered me with was,
all at once in its telling, a faint sketch of what the film would eventually
become; an unlikely hero, hailed as a star, because he had once long ago shaken
the hand of the legendary Vicente Fernandez.
The moment I had the title, I (almost) knew what it was, and where it
belonged in film history, who its compatriots were and what kind of an
experience it was going to be for the audience.I wanted to tip my hat, and stick my tongue out, to all those great
westerns that had peoples’ names in their titles.
I love films that know they are films.And they don’t make them like that anymore.I’m a modernist, self-reflexive filmmaker atheart.Heavily reliant on the grammar of
its celluloid predecessors, the film stands on the shoulders of giants, but it
is those giants, giants like Mr. Ernest Borgnine, that make the work
complete.The mandate had always been to
cast an old movie star of the west to heighten the irony of Rex’s failure and
create a space where the audience knew better than Rex himself, for they
remembered Borgnine’s iconic turns in the genre Rex loves so much, creating a
metaphysical relationship of melancholy between viewer and protagonist.
And what a dream come true, as a first timer, to work with a true
legend, one that even surpassed the man in the film’s title.Ernest never left the set.He wouldn’t be caught dead in his
trailer.At ninety-four he recounted to
us all that Jimmy Stewart had an ethic to always be on hand, near the camera, ready
to shoot.And if it was good enough for
Jimmy, it was good enough for Ernie.He
was always tireless, spirited, and devoted to every moment of the work.And we had the same style and approach to the
process.We just wanted to work.We didn’t want to covet or worship the act,
we just wanted to perform it, like balancing a checkbook or digging a
ditch.So it was ties worn on set every
day, just as if we were going to the office.And especially so because we were working with Hollywood royalty.That’s the way I like it, all else leads to
analysis paralysis.That’s a little secret
I love about the movie; it truly is, if nothing else, a living document of an
extremely charismatic ninety-four year old man caught on film.With Ernie in almost every scene, anyone whohas ever survived the rigors of a film shoot knows that just showing up at that
age is a feat unto itself, let alone turning in an incredible performance that
any thespian would envy.Ernie’s example
set the watermark of professionalism and a devotional tone for the entire shoot.
A film needs a brain, but it also needs a heart and a soul too.The greatest storytellers of all time refuse
to ascend beyond pulp.Kubrick,Spielberg, Chabon, King, and Radiohead all concern themselves with mass
entertainment.So I read Louis
Lamour.I wanted the whole thing to feel
like a dime store paperback.The story
turns were familiar enough, but the manner in which I wanted the film to sneak
up on you was fresh.I wondered if a
western, a genre known for anything but, could make you cry.I
wanted this genre that had very rarely
ascended up the ranks of high art, like a comic book or Harlequin novel,
togive the audience the turns they had paid to see but also grow the
occupy a space in the their hearts intrinsically unique to our film.And if you didn’t get to the core of it, it
didn’t matter because the outer layers were enough on their own.
I wanted to re-mythologize the western.Where the genre had hereto concerned itself
with the white man taming America’s infant wilderness by way of taming the savages
and natives of the west, this film was about the modern wilderness taming the
white man.It represents the wild west
of the present, where the person formerly in control has a lot to learn from
the new, dominant cultures that surround him.
When I’m asked to describe the film I liken it to a mixed tape, a
“greatest hits” of the western genre.Yet, I don’t see the film as a postmodern collage, I see the work as
something “Neo-Classical”, for the self-reflexive references are conveyed with
sincerity and idealism, not irony, cynicism, or nostalgia.The film never fuses western iconography with
anything else, and its endeavor remains true and pure to its own marrow andspirit, just like the cowboy at its heart.
The film is an examination and ultimate celebration of the
imagination; of Clem’s imagination, and Rex’s lack thereof.Their imaginations inform the way our
characters interact with their everyday world.The film indulges Rex’s western fantasy for him, he becomes transported
into a western of his imagination’s own making, but it makes no apologies for
using this device on its own, without permission from its central
character.And so the film itself has
its own brand of imagination.
The title is a tall order, for the film assumes greatness, sight
unseen!It proclaims to introduce the
world to a legend, and having an acting legend portray its central figure
didn’t hurt.Ultimately, it’s the cult
of Fernandez and his relation to it that gives Rex access to the courage that
lies within.But, like the entire
pursuit, its title encompasses the irony of a nondescript, mundane occurrence,
places us firmly in the realm of pulp from where it takes its cue, while also
speaking to the most universal, transcending truth of all.For one day, one way or another, we all will
shake the hand of Vicente Fernández.
In Memory of
On July 6th,
2012 the great
Ernest Borgnine embraced the film’s metaphor on a profound level. Those
he left behind had waited on pins and needles throughout the weekend,
with the sudden turn his health had taken, not quite believing that the
would leave. In the casting process it had become evident that Ernie
always working, and in my brief time spent with him I realized that it
constant motion that kept him happy and virile to the very
end. Although, as artists, we were both aware of the element that
Ernie’s career and
public persona added to the metaphysical intent of the film, I was
even considering his age, that ours would take at least fifth or sixth
behind the finish line of his work. The film’s final act and ending, as
it played out with Ernie's own bow, was an element of metaphysics I
thought would occur in terms of this being his last.
It just goes to show that there can
be something bigger at work, something more divine at play, than lights,
camera, and action; that there can exist magic and meaning in this world beyond
our imagination, comprehension, or articulation. Rex’s march to the afterlife
was the last scene we shot. I remember Ernie approaching me, strung out
and pacing because we were shooting slow motion and only had so much film, a
fact I don’t think, thankfully, that registered with him. He whispered in
my ear, “I’m going to remove the hat before I kiss her, you know, because Rex
is a gentleman.” This was a last minute addition to a scene we had
blocked many times with film feet in mind. But it’s the best moment of
that whole scene; it’s climax. That decision retains so much residue of
am so proud that Ernie’s final
performance was captured on glorious 35mm, celluloid, befitting of one
medium's great giants. Oh, were I to have rued the day were his last
distilled to ones and zeros. Ernie is a legend and the film bills
himthat way, sending him off to become so much greater than the sum of
an hour before
his father passed, Chris Borgnine called to tell me that Ernie was
and had insisted on reaching out to me to say how proud he was of his
final film and that it had been made with my crew and I. As a sensitive
individual constantly in tune with the grand narrative of my existence
choices, this moment changed my life forever. Knowing Ernie, having had
access to his heart and love, changed my life forever. This is
strong stuff; art, soul, creativity, passion, expression, ambition.
ingredients, have the power to reverberate throughout time and the
microcosmically and transcendentally. As much as one might think
they toil in obscurity, or that they’re giving too much of their marrow,
nothing compared to what may happen at the other end of the divide.
I have seen a place where life and
art have no distinction, and I have met the cowboy who purveys over this magic
prairie. He taught me about significance, gratitude, humility and grace;
the myth, the legend, the man who shook the hand of Vicente Fernandez.
Godfather Effect: Changing Hollywood, America and Me by Tom Santopietro
(In this exclusive article for Cinema Retro, author Tom Santopietro takes an introspective look at his motivations for writing his acclaimed book, The Godfather Effect: Changing Hollywood, America and Me and provides an extended excerpt from the book).
Arthur Laurents, the
author of Gypsy, West Side Story, The Way We
Were, Rope, and The Turning Point, once stated that
whatever book you think you’re sitting down to write, it will inevitably turn
out quite differently. That, in a nutshell, is exactly what happened to me in
writing my recent book The Godfather
Effect: Changing Hollywood, America, and Me. I thought I was sitting down
to examine the film trilogy I, along with millions of others around the world, love and obsess over. Write about the films I
did, but I also unexpectedly ended up delving into the history of Italian
immigration to the United States, learning about those, like my grandparents,
who left the horrendous living conditions in southern Italy and journeyed to
the United States for a new start in life. More to the point, and most
surprising of all, I also ended up writing about my own life, growing up
half-Italian in an overwhelmingly WASPy world of private schools and country
clubs. In the process I ended up confronting the irony at the heart of my
obsession with The Godfather: It took
The Godfather, or more specifically, The Godfather Part II, epic sagas concerning gangsters with whom I
thought I had nothing in common, to make me fully connect with a sense of being
Italian, fostering a pride in my heritage that had never previously existed in
my genetically half-Italian, but culturally three-quarters anglo upbringing.
dubbed The Godfather “The
Italian-American Gone With the Wind”,
but for me it was more a case of the personal rather than the epic. One look at
the very young Don Corleone sailing past the Statue of Liberty in Part II, staring in awe at the new world
which awaited him, and I was overcome with a personalized emotion I had never
before experienced in a movie theater. There on the screen, in the person of
young Vito, was my grandfather, Orazio Santopietro, thirteen years old, twenty
lira in his pocket, arriving in America for the very first time. The power of
the image of this solitary boy made me realize for the first time in my
comfortable, cocooned, upper-middle-class life just what had transpired in my
grandfather’s lap to L’America. Thanks to Coppola and co-screenwriter Mario
Puzo, I finally got it. Well, it would take decades and the loss of both of my
parents before I fully understood, but that one image of young Vito and the
Statue of Liberty first opened the door to a sense of “Italian-ness” that had
heretofore utterly escaped me.
When The Godfather Effect was published early in 2012, I was actually
unprepared for the very personal letters and e-mails that I received from
readers. My previous three books dealt with the careers of music and acting
legends Barbra Streisand, Doris Day, and Frank Sinatra, and I had always
enjoyed hearing from fans of the stars. But—those responses had never been so
personal, so nakedly emotional, as the letters I received regarding The Godfather Effect. People all over
the globe love the Corleones- for all sorts of complicated reasons- and my view
of the immigrant experience through the lens of The Godfather seemed to remind readers of their own families and
immigrant ancestors. Italian, Irish, eastern European, Hispanic- we all have
ancestors whose journeys made our own twenty-first century lives possible. By
the time I received my fifth letter which began “I’m not Italian but your story made me think
about my grandparents and their own journey to the United States”, I realized
that the Corleones don’t just register as Italian-American: they are American. The
sort of personal response engendered by the book has little to do with my writing, but
everything to do with the intense reaction that the Corleones evoke in movie
audiences of all ages and ethnicities.Thanks to the work of extraordinary artists like Coppola, Brando and
Pacino, The Godfather, like all great
pop culture, provides us glimpses of our
own journeys and very American lives.
So- with that as
background I here offer an excerpt from the beginning of The Godfather Effect- part film history, part immigrant journey,
and a salute to two of the best films ever made. Not just the best gangster
movies, but the best movies. Ever.
Click on image above to order from La-La Land Records.
Writer Thomas Vinciguerra pays homage to the legendary themes from the original Star Trek in conjunction with a major boxed set of soundtrack CDs from the series released by La-La Land Records.. Click here to read the Wall Street Journal article.
On the heels of his outstanding success with the 1953 3-D horror film House of Wax, Vincent Price would be heretofore known primarily as a giant of this film genre. That may have been unfair to Price, who was an outstanding actor able to play diverse roles in diverse films, but it did cement his stature as a Hollywood legend. The studios immediately wanted to capitalize on this new horror star and Columbia quickly signed Price to star in The Mad Magician, which was also presented in the short-lived 3-D process. The film has none of the production values of House of Wax: it was shot in B&W and, aside from an establishing opening scene, every sequence in the movie was (very obviously) shot in a studio. The plot finds Price in what would become a familiar scenario for his characters: a likable, honorable man driven to madness and murder by the unscrupulous people in his life who have betrayed him. The story is set in the early 1900's (people have telephones, but still travel via horse and buggy). Price is Don Gallico, as aspiring magician who is frustrated by the fact that he creates all of the amazing tricks and hardware that other magicians then utilize to gain fame and fortune. He decides to perform on stage with his own inventions under the name of Gallico the Great (okay, so he doesn't get an "A" for creativity when it comes to marketing). As he about to utilize his most ambitious achievement- the"beheading" of his lovely assistant Karen (Mary Murphy) via a buzz saw device, the show is abruptly closed down. Gallico's employer has received an injunction based on an obscure point in a contract that states that any and all inventions belong to the company, not Gallico. The situation deteriorates further when Gallico learns that his great achievement is to be given to a rival magician (John Emery), who he despises. Gallico ends up murdering his employer and enacting an outlandish scheme in which he adopts his identity, using skillful makeup. (In actuality, the film's makeup team's achievements are indeed impressive.) Soon, things begin to go wrong even as Gallico, now free to perform on stage, is finding enthusiasm for his shows. Matters become even more complicated when his floozy, ex-wife (Eva Gabor), who had married his employer, reappears on the scene and threatens to reveal his scheme.
The Mad Magician is a modest but fun film that would resonate even greater today if Columbia had afforded the production something other than threadbare production values. The performances are all enjoyable (including young Patrick O'Neal as the romantic lead) and the sheer predictability of the events that unfold add to its many pleasures. Primarily, of course, there is Price, who would continue to dominate the screen in every role, making so many minor films such as this highly entertaining experiences.
Sony has released The Mad Magician as burn-to-order DVD title. Quality is excellent. There are no extras.
I walked out of the New York cinema in 1983 after viewing Koyaanisqatsi for the first time, I overheard someone say, “That
was the trippiest movie since 2001.”I had to agree.I’d never seen anything like it, but it was a
feast for the eyes and ears.I’d been
mesmerized for 86 minutes, lost in a swirling and exhilarating journey through
North American landscapes of deserts, canyons, skies, and big cities.Using slow motion and time lapse photography
by Ron Fricke, director Godfrey Reggio presented a feature-length music video
that defied categorization.Accompanied
by the vibrant score by Philip Glass, the film seemed to be saying that man was
screwing up nature and that we’d better watch out.Life was “out of balance,” as the Hopi Indian
one-word-title of the movie meant.Koyaanisqatsi was one of the most moving
cinematic experiences I’d encountered.
(Image courtesy of Criterion.)
sequels followed—Powaqqatsi (1988)
and Naqoyqatsi (2002)—produced in the
same non-verbal style but with successively more challenging thematic
content.Powaqqatsi concentrated on the Southern Hemisphere and third world
countries, emphasizing how the more “modern” parts of the world fed upon the
poorer and harder-working civilizations.Naqoyqatsi went deep into the
computer, re-imagining the globe’s landscapes, people, and especially armies
into digitally-altered and enhanced imagery that suggested we’ve become an artificial
mechanization of our former selves.While
powerful in their own right and certainly worthwhile, it is Koyaanisqatsi that will always be the
ground-breaking piece of the trilogy, as well as the most effective.
(Image courtesy of Criterion.)
the deluxe Blu-ray treatment by the Criterion Collection, all three films are
presented in new restored digital transfers, approved by director Reggio, with
5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks.The results are amazing.Each of
the three disks also comes with an abundance of extras—vintage and current
interviews with key creative personnel; an early demo of Koyaanisqatsi shot in the 70s with music by Allen Ginsberg; Reggio’s
rare 30-minute short Anima Mundi, with
music by Glass; a thick booklet of essays, and more.
Wow.Turn out the lights, get comfortable, and
trip out.The Qatsi Trilogy will change your life, man.
The word "restrained" doesn't often fit into analysis of Jerry Lewis' film career, but in Hook, Line and Sinker, a 1969 black comedy, the legendary funnyman is indeed restrained, as least in comparison to most of the characters he played. The film is an unusual entry from this period of Lewis' film work in that he did not direct the movie. Instead, George Marshall, an old hand at helming diverse films, took on that responsibility. There isn't much discernible difference in the end result and one could easily be forgiven if they were to assume that Lewis directed. He plays Peter Ingersoll, a typical middle class suburbanite who is living the American dream. He has a boring but steady 9 to 5 job as an insurance salesman, a pretty wife (Anne Francis), two polite children, a comfortable home and a devoted best friend, Scott Carter (Peter Lawford), who also happens to be his personal physician. The only consternation in the household is wife Nancy's concern about Peter's costly and self-indulgent hobby of deep sea fishing. Peter's mundane but comfortable existence comes to an abrupt end when Dr. Carter gives him the stunning news that a recent medical check-up has confirmed that he is terminally ill. Distraught and and depressed, Peter is stunned when Nancy suggests that he forsake his responsibilities as husband and father and enact an audacious plan whereby he will spend his last few months on a solo journey to exotic locations where he can spend his final days fishing. Nancy concocts a plot whereby the entire venture can be financed on credit cards that will never have to be paid. Additionally, his life insurance policy of $150,000 will ensure that his family can live in comfort (this was back in 1969, don't forget.) Peter is initially reluctant to engage in the scheme but he ultimately concedes. He ends up traveling to exotic locations as he wracks up enormous bills with carefree abandon. In Lisbon, he is shocked when Scott Carter appears unexpectedly with the news that an equipment malfunction on a medical device resulted in the wrong diagnosis. Peter isn't going to die, but has to pretend he has in order to escape prosecution for the monies owed to the credit card companies. Scott assures him that the statute of limitations last only seven years, after which he can reappear and resume his family life. By this point, the audience has long since figured out what Peter has to learn belatedly: that the entire plan has been an exercise in deceit on the part of Nancy and Scott. He discovers that the two are having an affair and that Nancy and his kids are in Lisbon, too, where they refer to his best friend as "Daddy Scott" even as their mother shares his bed. Emotionally devastated, Peter concocts a complex scheme of his own to exact revenge on his wife and friend.
Hook, Line and Sinker fares better than many of Lewis' late career big screen ventures in that the humor, characters and situations are more realistic and believable than those found in most Lewis films. The character of Peter is somewhat of a nerd and klutz but is far cry from the typical imbecile he usually portrays. Consequently, although he is dressed in a silly disguise when he discovers the deceit played upon him by those he trusts most, there is a certain genuine sadness that permeates the scene. The humor is also a bit more daring than usual, with the habitual abuse of corpses playing a central role in the plot. There are some over the top elements of the film, but for the most part it's a highly enjoyable, consistently amusing scenario well-played by an energized Lewis, who has a perfect foil in Lawford. It's really Lewis' show, however, with few memorable moments for supporting players other than Lewis perennial Kathleen Freeman, who makes a welcome appearance early in the film as the world's worst baby sitter. The actual on-location filming in Lisbon helps elevate the production values, even if the majority of the movie has clearly been shot in the studio. I'm a sucker for Jerry Lewis films, including this one, which remains one of his more successful efforts of the 1960s.
The Sony DVD is from the burn-to-order program. The transfer is top-notch but there are no extras. Sony should be a bit more generous in this area and provide at least a trailer.
Tom Chantrell is regarded as one of the foremost
British cinema poster artists of the 20th century.As such, there is likely to be great interest
in an early prototype poster he produced for the classic 1966 Hammer film “One
Million Years BC” which has just been listed on the Chantrell archive website
Studios often used Chantrell artwork in their pitches for finance, this is a
rare example of a poster featuring prototype artwork, being printed, not for
advertising to the public but to be used as a prop in a financing presentation.
miss Issue #25 (Jan 2013) of Cinema Retro for a feature on poster artist
Scarface first came to theater screens in 1932 with Paul Muni as the notorious gangster. In 1983, Al Pacino starred in Brian De Palma's campy cult favorite (loose) remake. Now, make way for yet another variation on the story: this one involving the drug cartels in Mexico. For more click here
The sales for Cinema Retro's Dr. No Movie Classics special issue have surpassed our wildest dreams. In fact, the supply offered through our eBay affiliate store was quickly exhausted after our friends at mi6 confidential magazine's web site ran a nice blurb about the issue. We started to receive a lot E mails from panicked fans who asked if they had missed the boat on this issue. The good news is that all is well. The Dr. No issue has been re-listed on eBay and is available for immediate purchase. Click here to order - and thanks to everyone for their great outpouring of enthusiasm for this issue, which represents the most ambitious project Cinema Retro has ever done.
Now that Severin Films has bounced back into circulation with their outstanding Blu-ray release of The Wild Geese, the company has also released a more obscure, star-studded title: the 1979 adventure film Ashanti. Never heard of it? Most people haven't and only a relatively few people have ever seen it in the American/British market, despite the impressive cast of high profile names. The film takes on what is probably the world's second-oldest profession: slave trading. Although human trafficking is high on the list of international crimes today, when the film was made, great pains had to be taken to educate viewers that slave trading did not get extinguished in the age of the horse and buggy and remains a very modern criminal activity. The film, directed by old hand Richard Fleischer, opens in Africa when an interracial married couple - doctors David and Anansa Linderby (Michael Caine and Beverly Johnson)- are seen providing medical services to remote tribes who reside in isolated regions. When Anansa decides to take an ill-fated skinny dip in a local river, the beautiful young woman is mistaken for a member of the tribe and brutally kidnapped by slavers headed by the notorious Suleiman (Peter Ustinov), an Arab trader of human misery. When David discovers his wife's fate, he launches an ambitious rescue effort but is hampered by corrupt or incompetent local officials. He decides to take matters into his own hands, with the help of a local humanitarian (Rex Harrison) and a sympathetic mercenary (William Holden). Despite their assistance, David finds the only man who can really help him is Malik (Kabir Bedi, who makes a striking screen presence), a Rambo-like figure who lives in the desert and is consumed by his own wife's abduction and murder at the hands of Suleiman. He agrees to assist David and the two make an arduous trek across the blazing Sahara in an attempt to rescue Anansa and her fellow victims before they can be sold at a private auction to rich men who want to abuse the slaves sexually.
Ashanti doesn't stint on the plight of those victimized by slavery. The slaves are treated brutally on the walk across the Sahara and given a minimum amount of food and water. The plan is to bring them to a "fattening house", a deplorable cellar, where they will be brought back to health in order to maximize their price at auction. Along the way, both young women and little boys are molested at will. David and Malik make for a disparate but determined team. David, who is unskilled in fighting or the use of weapons, must rely on his hot-tempered ally, who is capable of taking on numerous adversaries at the same time and prevailing. Meanwhile, Anansa tries to use logic with Suleiman to gain her freedom, pointing out that she is employed by the United Nations and her kidnapping will bring authorities down on him. He is unimpressed and claims that her natural beauty will result in his making enough money to retire and leave the slave trade before he can be found.
Ashanti is a consistently compelling adventure film, well-directed by the veteran Fleischer. Caine is a refreshing screen hero because he isn't a superman. He does acquit himself well in a climactic fight scene but his unfamiliarity with firearms realistically results in tragic consequences for one of his key allies. Ustinov channels his role from Spartacus as a charismatic scoundrel. Even when he engages in deplorable acts, he is personally charming. The real find is model Beverly Johnson, who gives a very fine performance in what is really the starring the role in the film. Harrison and Holden have extended cameos and their presence adds greatly to the enjoyment of the movie, as does a late-in-the-story appearance by Omar Sharif. If there's a weak aspect to the production it's the musical score by Michael Melvoin, which would be more appropriate in a disco-themed romance than an action film.
Severin's Blu-ray edition features an extensive, recent interview with Beverly Johnson, who discusses the fact that she was the "breakthrough" African American female model of the 1970s. (She is also an activist for social causes and was recently honored by Oprah Winfrey). Johnson is very verbose and amusing in recounting the film, which she is proud of. She found herself the only girl among a team of hard-drinking guys on the production company, but recalls some sound advice given to her by Rex Harrison ("Never perform your own stunts!) that she ignored with almost tragic results. She still swoons at the memory of aging William Holden's handsome features and speaks bluntly about having to cope with former husband Danny Sims' on-set antics, which she says included bedding seemingly every female in sight. She also blames Sims, who was a high profile record producer, for the film's awful song, heard over the end credits which he convinced her to sing in order to promote a record album that no one bought. Johnson says the film's producer alienated the "suits" at the studio and they decided to get even by burying the movie, despite its expensive production values. Regardless of its theatrical fate, Ashanti remains a fast-moving, well-acted adventure movie that entertains even as it outrages viewers with an honest look at how cheap human life is in certain parts of this planet.
The special edition also includes the original trailer.
In 1978, I was still in college and was happily fulfilling my duties as film critic for the campus newspaper. It was a good gig: I got to go to press events, advance screenings and meet filmmakers all for free, which fit comfortably within my discretionary spending budget that amounted to zero dollars. I had seen advance teaser ads for the upcoming mercenary adventure movie The Wild Geese, which boasted the kind of all-star cast that impressed even in an era when all-star casts were anything but unique. I attended the press screening in New York and was instantly blown away. Here were great stars like Richard Burton, Roger Moore, Richard Harris, Hardy Kruger and Stewart Granger adding considerable glamor to a gritty British war movie that was in the best stiff-upper-lip tradition of great British war movies. Having been weened on the likes of Zulu, The Wild Geese immediately became one of my favorite movies, one that I knew I would revisit many times more in the years to come. Adding to the pleasure of the experience was the opportunity to attend a press conference with the film's producer, Euan Lloyd and Col. "Mad" Mike Hoare, the legendary real-life mercenary who served as technical adviser on the movie. I found Lloyd to be an extraordinary man: kind and appreciative of my comments. In an extraordinary gesture, he invited me to breakfast at the Plaza the following morning, a pleasure most struggling blue collar college kids would not enjoy. Lloyd read some of my reviews and said he was suitably impressed (or was kind enough to pretend he was.) We spent a couple of hours talking about film history and movie making before parting company. I would not see him again for about 25 years, but that one meeting was pivotal in convincing me to write about film as a living.
I have indeed seen The Wild Geese numerous times over the years. The film's release was somewhat botched in America but it was a mega-hit for Lloyd worldwide. The story, in the tradition of Dark of the Sun, is based on a novel by Daniel Carney. It involves four middle-aged, seemingly over-the-hill mercenaries who are hired by a London millionaire to rescue a deposed African President from his captors and restore him to office. Something about copper rights is at the heart of the scheme, but the mercenaries (Richard Burton, Roger Moore, Richard Harris and Hardy Kruger) are largely apolitical and only get involved for their own self-interests. Only the Harris character is somewhat reluctantly drawn to the mission on the basis of human rights issues: the man he hopes to rescue will presumably replace the murderous dictator who had him deposed. The old friends are reunited and go about recruiting an eclectic group of hard-bitten fellow mercenaries who are parachuted into Africa to accomplish this deadly mission. All goes well until an unexpected plot development leads them stranded in a barren wasteland as an army of vicious Simbas advance upon them. Now the Wild Geese ust devise desperate plans to escape certain death.
This is the best movie ever directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, an old hand and pro at directing action movies. He is surprisingly at ease in this most British of story lines and deftly handles his talented cast, bringing out each actor's best qualities. The movie is so exciting that it seems unfair to provide many more details, as it might spoil at some of the film's many pleasures. Lloyd, a former protege of legendary producer Cubby Broccoli, hired many crew members from the James Bond series including editor John Glen, title designer Maurice Binder, stunt coordinator Bob Simmons and production designer Syd Cain. These were the best in their chosen professions and the film benefits greatly from their contributions. There is also a rousing score by Roy Budd and a fine title song written and performed by Joan Armatrading. One of the great joys of the movie is watching the three middle-aged leads accentuate their ages. Those who were amazed Burton could still carry off an action film with Where Eagles Dare were even more impressed he could do so again a decade later with this movie. The supporting cast is wonderful, with stalwart tough guy Jack Watson particularly good as the hard-as-nails R.S.M who whips his aging recruits into shape. Granger gives a fine, late career performance as the erudite baddie and the final confrontation between him and Burton is wonderfully written (the impressive screenplay is by Reginald Rose, who wrote Twelve Angry Men) and performed by the two seasoned pros. The film's scene-stealer is veteran British character actor Kenneth Griffiths, who plays an effete gay medic who nonetheless is a vicious warrior on the battlefield. Lloyd's films are filled with such progressive messages that denounce stereotypes based on sex, race or sexuality. The film's pleas for racial understanding come across as a bit too pat by today's standards, but this was edgy stuff in 1978 in the era of apartheid. (Lloyd broke racial barriers by hiring black actors and crew members and insisting they be housed, paid and treated equally- a rather controversial notion in Africa at the time.)
The most vivid image from the film is famous sequence in which the Geese free fall over Africa before landing by parachute. It's beautifully filmed and inspired Cubby Broccoli to use free-falling stunts as the opening sequence of his next James Bond film, Moonraker. The movie's breakneck-paced conclusion finds the Geese incurring major losses against a seemingly insurmountable army as Roger Moore's Sean Flynn attempts to use an aging airplane as a rescue vehicle. It's as exciting of a battle sequence as you can imagine and ranks with the best sequences in any film of this genre.
Severin Films, one of our favorite niche market DVD labels, has been largely dormant this year but has come back with a vengeance via this superb Blu-ray/DVD dual pak release. The film transfer is highly impressive and the bonus extras will be appreciated by fans. The release imports all of the special features from the previous UK release: a vintage, extended featurette about the making of the movie (all of the stars agree it was one of the best experiences of their professional careers), producer Jonathan Sothcott's excellent documentary about Euan Lloyd's life and career (most appropriately titled Last of the Gentleman Producers, a commentary track by Roger Moore, the original trailer and news coverage of the film's London premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square Theatre and the after-party at the Dorchester. Two new major features are unique to this release: recent filmed interviews with Andrew V. McLaglen and 94-year old mercenary Michael Hoare.
In all, a superb celebration of one of the great British films of its era.
Author Brian Albright brings a new angle to the well-worn path of movie books dedicated to horror films. In Regional Horror Films 1958-1990, Albright devotes an entire volume to low-budget horror (and sci-fi) movies made by independent producers and directors generally on shoestring budgets. The first section of the book contains interviews with such cult figures as Ed Adlum, Donald Barton, J.R. Bookwalter, Martin Folse, Milton Moses Ginsberg, William Grefe, Lewis Jackson, Russ Marker, Robert W. Morgan, Tom Rahner, Albert J. Salzer, Larry Stouffer and Robert Burrill. The filmmakers tell revealing and often amusing tales of how they used mind over money to create movies that, in some cases, became surprise cult hits, bringing in considerable profits. Titles covered include Last House on the Left, I Spit on Your Grave, The Evil Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Night of the Living Dead and more obscure films that many readers will not have heard of. The book's second half is a very entertaining and useful breakdown by state of the horror films shot in every region during this time period. (I never dreamed so many were filmed in my native New Jersey!) Each film is accorded a synopsis and some interesting trivia facts. There is also an extensive bibliography, index and web site referral page in addition to ample photos from many of the movies.
As with all McFarland Publishing ventures, this one is pricey ($45 for a softcover edition), but that's because the print runs are small and the books are designed to appeal to niche audiences. Author Albright has done his homework- and it shows. This book should be considered to be indispensable reading for anyone with a love of low-budget horror flicks.
Kirk Douglas is truly one of the last of the Hollywood icons, representing the industry's Golden Age. Incredibly, he's never won a competitive Oscar but was given an honorary one for an impressive career that has lasted from the 1940s until today. Although Douglas is retired from acting, he's still an omnipresent force at classic movie screenings and industry events. Today he marks his 96th birthday and writer Bob Greene provides a wonderful tribute along with a personal experience he shared with Douglas relating to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Click here to read
Click here to watch the teaser trailer for director J.J. Abrams' forthcoming Star Trek: Into Darkness. Not surprisingly, the teaser concentrates on action and spectacle as opposed to characterizations or plot points. Additionally, the Armageddon-like look of the teaser poster suggests a sequel to I Am Legend as opposed to any space age thrills. However, if Abrams comes close to what he achieved with the last Trek film, the revitalized franchise will live long and prosper. We'll have to wait until May to find out.
Synapse Films continues to release interesting, quirky niche market films to the DVD market including the latest Schoolgirl Report edition, this one labeled #9 : "Mature Before Graduation". It is a 1975 German softcore sex film that actually has some resonance in the international cinema of that era, as this series proved to be sensationally popular with mainstream audiences. For the most part, couples could safely enjoy the naughty fun without the stigma of being seen entering a theater that specialized in showing hardcore films. This entry follows the tried and true adage of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" in that it presents the standard scenario for the series: a number of vignettes centering on nubile high school girls who, we are specifically and painstakingly told, are 18 years of age or older (probably to prevent any legal challenges.) The movie begins with a reckless game of "chicken" involving drunken teenagers in two cars. The inevitable accident leaves several of them at death's door, with some of the girls reflecting on their relationships with the boys involved in the crash, though this plot device seems to be dropped and reappear at random. One story follows a young girl who is determined to marry her boyfriend against the objections of her parents, who claim she is too young. Predictably, they are proven right. On the wedding night, she is less than impressed by her new husband's sudden drop in libido- and the fact that he now wears dorky pajamas. The story meanders to a conclusion, having existed in the first place only to show the sex scenes. (In one amusing sequence, an elderly widow who rents a hotel room to the honeymooners finds various schemes to walk in on them during the most delicate moments.) In a bizarre story, a young girl finds she can't enjoy sex because she is haunted by having been "flashed" by an exhibitionist who was sporting a giant, rubber phallus (a common occurrence that virtually all of us can relate to). Another segment centers on a scenario that many of us actually can relate to: a teenage girl whose parents are away on a trip invites her friends over for a party that soon gets out of hand- only to have her mom and dad return home early. The skit is played (or over-played) broadly for laughs. In another vignette that is fairly funny, two middle-aged parents go to extremes to show their daughter and her boyfriend that they are hip. However, they are at least ten years behind the times and sport the type of mod outfits that would embarrass Austin Powers. It's a cute segment with a few genuine laughs. The most poignant story centers on a teenage girl who is caught experimenting with lesbianism with her best friend. She is blackmailed by her unscrupulous stepfather into entering a sexual relationship with him with devastating consequences to all involved.
The Schoolgirl Report films are fairly low-end in terms of production values, with herky jerky camerawork in some scenes and humor that is relatively broad and unsophisticated. Yet, there is something nostalgic about this type of erotica. While the films clearly exploit the female participants, they were made in an era in which the actresses could at least appear in a natural state. This is unlike today's erotic films in which the women have to incur treatments of Botox, implants, collagen and more wax treatments than a floor at Wal-mart would be subjected to. There is a certain innocence about the series and they never degenerate into being truly vulgar. They may not be everyone's cup of tea but retro movie lovers may have a few naughty memories rekindled by watching them.
The Synapse Films release offers the uncut version of the movie in German language with English sub-titles. There are no extras on this edition.
Godard was the bad boy of the French New Wave.Whereas his contemporaries such as Francois Truffaut were “safe” and
“accessible,” Godard liked to shock people.A lot of his work, especially in the sixties, was also political in
nature—this was a man unafraid to scathingly portray French bourgeois society
at its worst and trumpet his views on class discrepancy with the ferocity of a
bull dog.In other words, he enjoyed
pissing off audiences.
in 1967 with the opening titles caveat that “children under 18 should not see
this film,” we are told at the beginning that Weekend (or Week End or Week-end, depending on what country
you’re in) is a film “found on the trash heap.”It is one of the darkest and most vicious black comedies ever made, and
naturally, it is one of Godard’s best pictures.It is simultaneously fascinating, repulsive, and hilarious, and not for
the faint of heart.But discerning fans
of art house cinema should eat it up.
story, as it were, involves a bickering married couple (Mireille Darc and Jean
Yanne, both of whom were major French TV stars at the time the film was made)
who have plans to kill each other and run off with their respective
lovers.But before that can happen, they
have to murder Darc’s father so she will inherit his wealth.They set off across country to her parents’
home and find themselves on a nightmare journey through a landscape of traffic
jams, automobile accidents (and fatalities) at nearly every juncture, and
violence.The humor comes with the
couple acting as if it’s all part of everyday life.
celebrated sequence is a lengthy tracking shot along a road backed up with
vehicles.As our anti-heroes attempt to
pass the idling cars and trucks to move to the head of the line, we’re treated
with all kinds of sight gags (such as one car that’s facing the opposite
direction and wedged between two vehicles going the right way).We laugh and laugh.Then, when we finally reach the front of the
traffic jam, we see that the cause was a bad accident, and entire families are
lying bloody in the road.The couple
drives through the scene as if the holdup was a minor nuisance.Later, when the couple’s car is also in a
collision and catches fire, Darc is more upset about her Hermes handbag getting
burned than the fact that she and her husband are covered in blood and the car
is destroyed.That’s the kind of movie Weekend is.
new digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack is superb.The cinematography by Raoul Coutard always
had a color documentary feel to it, but the Blu-ray brings out a sharpness
hitherto unseen in prints.Extras
include archival interviews with the stars and assistant director, an archival
piece on Godard featuring on-set footage, and more.The thick booklet contains an essay by
critic/novelist Gary Indiana, selections from a 1969 interview with Godard, and
excerpts from a Godard biography.
Weekend was a comment on
French society in 1967, and the irony today is that the film might be even more
relevant in our own present world.
Ernest Borgnine's final film, The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vincente Fernandez, opens theatrically with a one-week run at the Laemmle Encino Town Center Theater beginning today. The independent production is a modestly-budgeted family comedy/drama that presents the legendary Oscar-winner with the kind of showcase role that actors in their nineties almost never have. Borgnine makes the most of it, too, giving a terrific and moving performance that earned him the Best Actor award at this year's Newport Film Festival. Written and produced by Elia Petridis, Fernandez centers on Rex Page (Borgnine), a cantankerous old coot given to griping about every aspect of life. He seems oblivious to the fact that he has an adoring wife (June Squibb), a devoted middle-aged daughter (Dale Dickey) and and a worshipful granddaughter (Audrey P. Scott). Rex is frustrated by his failure to fulfill his dream of becoming a big time actor on the silver screen. He once came close to landing the leading role in a spaghetti Western, but lost out to a competing actor. He's spent a lifetime in self-imposed hell, obsessed with watching this B movie and learning every line of dialogue, which he repeats to anyone in his presence. When a health crisis sees the fiercely independent Rex move into a nursing home, a series of incidents motivate him to reevaluate his life. The nursing home is a money mill for corrupt bureaucrats who use the patients as cash cows. It doesn't take Rex long to figure this out and he quickly wears out his welcome by insulting and chastising fellow elderly patients who are part of a click belonging to the corrupt family that owns the facility. He also is abrasive towards the largely Hispanic staff of nurses and orderlies, often referring to them in unflattering racial insults.
The relationship between Rex and his caregivers gradually softens, however, when the young staff members learn that Rex, a former popular DJ, once briefly met and shook the hand of the film's titular character, Vincente Fernandez, a "Mexican Frank Sinatra" who enjoys mythic stature in the Hispanic community. Rex transfixes the staff by telling and retelling his account of this brief meeting in the 1970s. This common bond allows Rex and the staffers to form a mutually respectful relationship that grows stronger by the day. Rex particularly takes a shine to his nurse Solena (stunningly beautiful Carla Ortiz)- and he comes to her defense, saving her from the clutches of would-be molester Dr. Dominguez (Tony Plana), the chief administrator. In a scenario that is a clearly geriatric version of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Rex inspires his young friends to stand up for their rights and take on the oppressive bureaucrats who exploit them. He must also deal with challenges in his own life when his family feels he's been alienating them in favor of his adopted family at the nursing home.
The film contains more than its share of sugary scenes and corny cliches. (The villains are so lacking in any redeeming qualities that they practically twirl their mustaches.) Nevertheless, director Petridis offers Borgnine the finest role he's had in more years than I can remember. He dominates every scene and, ironically for his final film, looks like the picture of good health. Petridis, who must clearly be obsessive about spaghetti westerns himself, cleverly manages to intertwine many aspects of Western movie lore into this contemporary story so that even a card game between Borgnine and a nursing home nemesis is drenched in Leone-like imagery and music. This homage extends to the brilliant title credits which are cleverly derived from the Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood "Dollars" trilogy. This is a feel good family film that is marred by one easily correctable misjudgment: the insertion of a completely unnecessary expletive said from a mother to her young child. It's wildly out of place in an otherwise uplifting tale for all ages. If director Petridis is wise, he'll exclude this from the video and pay-per-view versions of the film.
I only had the pleasure of meeting Ernest Borgnine once several years ago for an interview for Cinema Retro magazine. He struck me as a warm, honest and kind individual. Thus, perhaps I had a bit more of a personal outlook when viewing Borgnine's final sequence in this film, which Elia Petridis handles brilliantly. It's so touchingly filmed and directed that I was moved to watch it again on the DVD screener. Not since John Wayne's final scene in The Shootist has a legendary actor had a more appropriate on-screen send off.
The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez is not high art, nor does it pretend to be. However, it is an enjoyable film that refreshingly extolls family values. The supporting cast members are all very talented and a pleasure to watch, but is Ernie Borgnine who justifiably dominates the movie and your memories of it.
Was Quantum REALLY the worst Bond movie ever? Peter Travers thinks so.
Long time Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers has rated each individual James Bond movie (well, excluding the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale.) His opinions range from perceptive (listing On Her Majesty's Secret Service near the top of the pack) to downright bizarre (arguing that the dreadful Die Another Day is the best of the Pierce Brosnan films and naming Quantum of Solace as the worst 007 movie ever.) Click here to read and be prepared to rejoice in Travers' opinions or become infuriated by them.