It's been a long time since Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was in theatrical release-- 22 years, to be precise. However, star Kevin Costner is suing the production company Morgan Creek over alleged hanky panky when it comes to royalties still due to him from the film. Costner says the production company was tardy in providing accounting records, and in some years didn't provide them at all. A judge ruled that Costner has enough validity to his argument to proceed with his suit, but cautioned him he needs to provide more compelling evidence if he hopes to win a financial award. For more click here
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM THE CINEMA RETRO ARCHIVES
By Lee Pfeiffer
Paramount has released two major John Wayne titles as DVD special editions. The releases were tied in with the studio's Centennial line of classics. In fact, El Dorado probably doesn't qualify as a classic, as it represents Howard Hawks' virtual remake of his 1959 film Rio Bravo (which is a genuine classic.) Regarded as a good, run-of-the-mill Western when released in 1967, the film has grown in stature as film scholars grapple with the notion that there simply aren't artists around today as interesting as Wayne, Hawks and Robert Mitchum, the other lead. The film showcases a fine supporting cast including James Caan in one of his first major roles, Charlene Holt, Michele Carey, Ed Asner and old reliable character actors Paul Fix and Arthur Hunnicutt playing a role that seems tailor-made for Walter Brennan. The plot is virtually identical to that of the previous film: a disparate group of heroes finds themselves holding an important prisoner and fending off a virtual army of gunslingers intent on freeing him. If Hawks was unapologetic about shamelessly plagiarizing another film, at least he was stealing from himself. (He would do yet another loose remake of the same story with Rio Lobo in 1970). Still, warmed-over Hawks is better than almost anything being made today, and El Dorado is a joy to watch. The banter between Wayne and Mitchum is terrific, the script has some genuinely funny moments and the action sequences are excellently staged.
Paramount's 2 DVD edition contains a wealth of great extras including:
audio commentary tracks by Peter Bogdanovich, Richard Schickel, Ed Asner and Todd McCarthy
seven short featurettes each pertaining to a different aspect of the film's production
an interview with Paramount head honcho A.C. Lyles, who ran the studio when the movie was made
a vintage production short that showcases Western art sculptor Olaf Wieghorst, who plays a small, amusing role in the film
the original trailer and lobby card and production stills gallery
(Read an exclusive interview with James Caan about the making of the film in Cinema Retro issue #14)
Produced by Alexandre Poncet, Co-produced by Tony Dalton
Featuring Ray Harryhausen, James Cameron, Terry
Gilliam, John Landis, Nick Park, Steven Spielberg, Peter
Jackson, Tim Burton, Joe Dante, Guillermo Del Toro
Release date: On DVD and Blu-ray from 11th March 2013
Running time: 97 mins (film),
“I think all of us who
are practitioners in the arts of science fiction and fantasy movies now, all feel
that we’re standing on the shoulders of a giant. If not for Ray’s contribution
to the collective dreamscape we wouldn’t be who we are.” James Cameron
remarkable career of the movie industry’s most admired and influential
special-effects auteur, the legendary Ray Harryhausen, is the subject of Ray
Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan. Described as “A continual delight”
(The Observer), “the stop-motion maestro gets the respect he deserves” (Daily
Express) in this definitive and critically acclaimed documentary coming to DVD
and Blu-ray on 4th March 2013,
featuring an extensive range of special features.
no doubt as to Harryhausen’s seminal influence on modern-day special effects,
the documentary features enlightening and entertaining interviews with the man
himself,Randy Cook, Peter Jackson,
Nick Park, Phil Tippet, Terry Gilliam,
Dennis Muren, John Landis, Guillermo Del
Toro, James Cameron, Steven Spielberg and many more. These
filmmakers pay tribute to the father of Stop Motion animation and films such as
‘The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms’, ‘It
Came From Beneath The Sea’, ‘The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad’, ‘Mysterious
Island’, ‘Jason And The Argonauts’ and ‘The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad’ – the
films that enthralled them as children and
inspired them to become filmmakers
in their own right.
The interviews are combined with archival
footage and contemporary clips plus the added delight of behind-the-scenes
footage, stills and original drawings with recently discovered unseen takes of
tests and experiments. The filmmakers were granted
unprecedented access to film all aspects of The Ray Harryhausen Collection
including models, artwork and miniatures as well as Ray's private study, where
he designed most of his creations, and his workshop where he built them.
This story of how a hobby became a profession,
from Ray’s first childhood experiments with dinosaurs, to the ground-breaking
techniques he developed to intricately interweave Stop Motion animation with
live action and the birth of Dynamation is essential
viewing for any fan of science-fiction, fantasy and adventure filmmaking.
Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan
(Arrow Films) is available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray from 4th March 2013.
SPECIAL FEATURES INCLUDE: Audio Commentary with Gilles Penso, Alexandre
Poncet, Tony Dalton and Tim Nicholson; Featurette "A Treasure Trove";
Q&A at the Cinémathèque française; ‘A Chat With...Edgar Wright, Peter Lord,
Rick Baker, Simon Pegg; Interview Outtakes from Colin Arthur, Dennis Muren,
Greg Broadmore, Joe Dante, John Lasseter, Ken Ralston, Martine Beswick &
Caroline Munro, Nick Park, Phil Tippett, Randy Cook, Steve Johnson, Vanessa
Harryhausen; 8 Deleted Scenes; Special Effects Titan Trailer; On the Set of The
7th Voyage of Sinbad; A Message to Ray; Trailer collection : Mighty Joe Young,
The Beast From 20 000 Fathoms, It Came from beneath the sea, 20 Million Miles
to Earth, Earth Vs The Flying Saucers, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, The 3 Worlds
of Gulliver, Mysterious Island & Jason and the Argonauts.
In an interview with Yahoo Movies, producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, joined by writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade and actress Naomi Harris, discuss the revitalization of the series with Skyfall and their hopes and plans for future 007 films. They also express hope that some of the Skyfall crew will join them on the next Bond film. For more click here
Don Fearney, the man
behind “Legend Of Hammer Vampires” documentary and Amicus style anthology movie
“Grave Tales”, is preparing a feature length documentary on Amicus films.
Amicus titles include The House That Dripped Blood, Tales from the Crypt
(1971), Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, Asylum, The Skull, Dr. Who and the
Daleks, Daleks: Invasion Earth, The Land That Time Forgot, The People That Time
Forgot, The Mind of Mr. Soames, At the Earth’s Core, Madhouse, The Vault of
Horror and more. Check out IMDB
under Amicus Productions for a complete list of titles.
Don is currently at the pre-production stage and is on the look out for high
resolution scans from Amicus’ history. Any image from poster artwork to front
of house and behind the scenes photos would be greatly appreciated.
Those who are aware of Don's previous productions or of his numerous events
such as Bray Days, will know how much effort he puts in to ensuring the best
possible product for genre fans.
If you can assist in this project Don can be contacted in writing at Don
Fearney, 25 High Hill Ferry, Bakers Hill, London E5 9HL. Credit will, of
course, be given.
For e-mail enquiries contact email@example.com
Oscar winners Daniel Day Lewis, Jennifer Lawrence, Anne Hathaway and Christoph Waltz.
By Lee Pfeiffer
Although it's fashionable (required?) for critics to dump on the annual Oscar telecast, I've been impressed by some of the ceremonies in the last few years. Despite the length of the broadcast (only David Lean could be counted on to provide a longer running time), last night's presentation moved at a much faster pace than usual. It was hosted by Seth MacFarlane, someone whose presence on the show initially left me less-than-thrilled. I'd heard of him, of course, but had never seen him. That may mean that I'm out of touch with contemporary pop culture, especially television, but I'd wager that anyone would agree that MacFarlane is the least-known person to ever host the show. Having said that, he did a fine job, given his thankless job as ringmaster. The show got off to a mildly amusing start with William Shatner as Captain Kirk "beamed" in from the future to warn MacFarlane that his reviews would prove to be terrible if he didn't improve his jokes. The gimmick worked well at the start but went on for an interminable 15 minutes until I wish someone had beamed me out. Fortunately, MacFarlane's monologue was clever, as was an intentionally distasteful "tribute" to actresses, a song titled "We Saw Your Boobs", which was turned into an admittedly funny production number.
The producers succeeded in their quest to get big names to attend. Clint Eastwood may have opted to watch the show at home, but Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Christopher Plummer and other legends added star power to the event.
One of the best gimmicks was the slowly-encroaching theme from Jaws which was played when winners went on too long in their acceptance speeches. The one winner who chose to ignore the warning lost the battle and came across as a windbag.
Fashion-wise, there were no show-stoppers, but neither were there any overt embarrassments. Everyone looked elegant.
The obituary segment was improved by the fact that it wasn't accompanied by live music, which generally caused the camera to focus on the musician instead of the screen where the dearly departed are being honored.
It's a pity that the once-vaunted Jean Hersholt Award is now relegated to a brief sound bite from an earlier presentation ceremony (Jeffrey Katzenberg was the honoree this year.)
It was great to see Barbra Streisand pay tribute to the late Marvin Hamlisch by singing The Way We Were, but for some reason the arrangement left me unmoved and this great song didn't resonate the way it should have.
The "banter" between co-presenters was pretty lame and got exponentially worse with the number of presenters on stage at any one time. (The cast of The Avengers appearing together must have seemed like a great idea but the result was awful in terms of witty byplay.)
The much-anticipated James Bond 50th anniversary tribute would have been enthusiastically received by fans of the series, but the producers blundered early on by hinting that they were arranging for an on-stage appearance by all six 007 actors. When that fell apart, they then hinted something phenomenal was in the works, but aside from Shirley Bassey's brilliant rendition of Goldfinger, the long-overdue tribute to the series consisted of a pretty routine film clip compilation. Later in the show, Adele sang her theme from Skyfall and won a well-deserved Oscar. Skyfall also won in a sound category, thus breaking the Bond "Oscar Curse." (The last 007 film to win an Oscar was Thunderball back in 1965).
There were a number of surprises among the winners: Christoph Waltz, Ang Lee, Quentin Tarantino were all considered to be dark horses this year.
Production numbers were generally very good, especially the gathering of the Les Miserables cast who were in fine form.
The inclusion of First Lady Michelle Obama in a live feed from the White House to "help" present the Best Picture award was as bizarre as it was superfluous. It may have gone over well with the crowd in the auditorium but probably left most viewers scratching their heads. Let's hope this overt blending of politics and Hollywood doesn't start a trend or we'll be seeing senators and congressmen in future production numbers.
MacFarlane's closing production number "tribute" to the losers was as witty as anything Billy Crystal ever came up with and ended the show on a high note.
Overall, a good presentation that moved briskly and rarely proved to be boring. MacFarland will suffer the slings-and-arrows of the professional Oscar-bashers, but he acquitted himself well in the eyes of this reviewer, who incidentally, had a very mediocre result from his Oscar predictions. I only managed to nab some of the foregone conclusions and completely misjudged many of the other categories. The sheer unpredictability of this year's winners helped to inject some genuine suspense into the proceedings.
(Note: This review pertains to the UK Region 2 PAL format release available on www.amazon.co.uk)
By Adrian Smith
Cecil B. DeMille will always be remembered for his
lavish historical epics like The Ten Commandments (1923 and again in
1956), Sign of the Cross (1932) and Samson and Delilah (1949).
However, with over one hundred and sixty credits as either director or
producer, he also worked in plenty of other genres. Following two flops, This
Day and Age (1933) and Four Frightened People (1934), Paramount head
Adolph Zukor insisted he try to replicate the success of Sign of the Cross
with another visual spectacle. DeMille agreed and cast Claudette Colbert in the
lead role of Cleopatra (she had already starred in both Sign of the
Cross and Four Frightened People and was about to win the Oscar for It
Happened one Night (1934)).
The plot focuses on Cleopatra's relationship with
Julius Caesar (Warren William), who initially wishes to conquer Egypt, but
having been seduced by the Queen of the Nile, he instead pledges Rome's support
and protection. This ultimately leads to his downfall and assassination in the
Senate, and his right-hand man Marc Anthony (Henry Wilcoxon) takes joint power
with Caesar's heir Octavian (Ian Keith). Determined to once again subjugate
Egypt, Marc Anthony heads to the Nile and meets with Cleopatra aboard her
incredibly extravagant barge. He is in turn seduced and takes Caesar's place as
protectorate of Egypt, something which severely displeases Octavian and the
Senate back home. This is a piece of history which, thanks to the movies, is
very well known. The pleasure here comes not from wondering how it will turn
out, but the visual spectacle we are treated to on the journey.
Former United States Postmaster General Will Hays
had been tasked with cleaning up the motion picture industry following the
great tide of scandal and public outcry over Hollywood decadence during the
1920s. This had in part been prompted by the death of actress Virginia Rappe
following her attendance at an orgy with Fatty Arbuckle in 1921. In 1930 Hays
published a set of industry rules which became known as the Hays Code or
Production Code, and whilst official censorship was not in force, any movie
which did not comply would find it extremely difficult to get distribution. The
rules particularly clamped down on any form of sexual activity, with the first
rule "No picture shall
be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it,"
ensuring audiences were to get as little thrills as possible in the movie
theatre. Incredibly the studios remained in voluntary subscription to the Hays
code until the late 1960s. Fortunately in the early 1930s the code was only
just developing its power over Hollywood and some productions did manage to
escape, Cleopatra being one of them. DeMille had flirted with erotic
imagery before, most notoriously with Claudette Colbert's nude bathing scene in
Sign of the Cross. Cleopatra is filled with the kind of steamy,
sexually-charged atmosphere that Hollywood would struggle to depict again for
many years. Colbert's costumes in particular are eye-popping in every sense.
The sets of the
movie also live up to DeMille's reputation, and must have filled every sound
stage on the Paramount lot. He had an eye for spectacle and Cleopatra is
brimming with it, whether it's the opulent palaces or the climactic sea battle,
surprisingly graphic for 1934. The pacing is good, with plenty of story covered
in its one hundred minutes. The makers of the Elizabeth Taylor-starring remake
in 1963 could have learned a lot from this one. Claudette Colbert's performance
is perfect as the sexually alluring queen willing to do whatever it takes to
protect Egypt, even if her suitors, Caesar and Marc Anthony, are rather boorish
and ham-fisted. This is a film where the cast appear to hail from New York
rather than the ancient world, but this does not matter when the gorgeous
imagery arrests your senses all the way through.
This new dual
format (Blu-ray and DVD) release from Eureka features a tremendous HD transfer
authorised by Universal, and some nice documentaries covering DeMille,
Claudette Colbert and the background to the Production Code. A commentary by
film historian F.X. Feeney and forty page booklet crammed with essays and
imagery is also included. This is a highly recommended release.
Actors and directors have a long tradition of trying to pass off exotic vacations as legitimate film making. Sometimes the cynical gambit pays unexpected dividends such as the Rat Pack's decision to shoot Oceans Eleven in between their nightly gigs on stage in the Sands hotel and casino in Las Vegas. They somehow turned out a good movie in between all the drinking, screwing and gambling. John Ford rounded up his stock company and headed to Hawaii for Donovan's Reef, but even with John Wayne on board, Paramount balked at the reed-thin script and old Pappy ended up having to front some of the production costs himself. In 1990, director Michael Winner teamed two of the wittiest and most likable stars- Michael Caine and Roger Moore- for what would appear to be a "no lose" proposition: casting them in an espionage comedy. Winner was well past his sell date as a director by then and ended up reinventing himself as a grouchy political pundit and much-feared restaurant critic. Still, how could he lose by teaming Harry Palmer and James Bond? It's a rhetorical question because the resulting film, Bullseye, was considered almost unreleasable. It's one of the least-seen movies of Caine and Moore's careers and with good reason. The ridiculous plot finds the two charismatic actors cast as two low-grade London con men who become embroiled in a plot to impersonate two renegade nuclear scientists who plan to sell top secrets to dangerous foreign powers. The silliest aspect of the film is that the scientists just happen to be physically identical to the con men. Moore and Caine are subjected to a series of increasingly weird scenarios that see them running about like the Keystone Cops as any shred of sensibility in the script is tossed out the window. They are joined by B movie mainstay of the era Sally Kirkland and Moore's daughter Deborah (billed here as "Deborah Barrymore") but not even the resurrection of Marilyn Monroe's sex appeal could salvage this cinematic train wreck. Winner seems to be directing as an afterthought as he indulges in some gorgeous locations in Scotland where the on-screen antics become so confusing that you literally have no idea whether you are observing the con men or the scientists. Winner films the final scene in an exotic island location which is quite obviously an indication of his ability to actually fly everyone there simply to shoot a few seconds of inconsequential footage. Winner wrote the non-screenplay with another otherwise talented person, the great lyricist and songwriter Leslie Bricusse. The only consolation they must have had is that they had a hell of a time on location and no one saw the movie anyway.
MGM has released Bullseye as a burn-to-order title but only Moore and Caine purists will want to add it to their collections as it fails so miserably that it doesn't even attain "guilty pleasure" status. Winner should have been drawn and quartered for squandering this one time on-screen teaming of two great stars. Moore once told me he and Caine laughingly refer to Bullseye as "Our Ishtar." Well, let's not go that far...at least Bullseye didn't cost a fortune, though with Winner's taste for on-set catering of exotic food and drink, maybe the financial losses did exceed that legendary debacle.
Here we go again. In the past, I've had a fairly good record of predicting Oscar winners...Let's see if the trend holds. Last week, I helped to host an annual Oscar prediction event at New York's legendary private club The Coffee House. I went against the popular consensus on some predictions, so let's see if my well-thought out analysis (to which I devoted about 30 seconds) will pay off this year, as well.
BEST PICTURE: Argo. Everyone is saying Argo. They may be right. Academy voters were humiliated that Ben Affleck failed to secure a nomination for Best Director, so they may try to atone by giving the film Best Picture. (It was the directors who snubbed Affleck but all Academy members can vote for Best Picture). However, it would be only the third time in Oscar history that a Best Picture award went to a film for which its director was not nominated. (The others were Wings, Grand Hotel and Driving Miss Daisy.) As of this morning I was still thinkin' Lincoln, but I now think Argo will pull it off...and voters can console Spielberg by giving him the Best Director nod.
BEST DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg. It's probably between Steven Spielberg for Lincoln and David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook, a fine but over-rated flick that built in momentum during the crucial voting period. I'll go with Spielberg, however, because his track record has been pretty checkered in recent years and the Academy would like to re-inspire him to strive for meaningful projects such as Lincoln, a film that proved he still has the old mojo.
BEST ACTRESS: Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook. It's a remarkable performance by a 22-year-old actress who was still in high school when the movie was first put into development.
BEST ACTOR: Daniel Day Lewis for Lincoln is the odds-on favorite and I'm sticking with him, though Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings could be a dark horse winner.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook. One of the toughest categories to call. Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained is probably out of the picture, having recently won for another Tarantino flick. Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master might stand a chance as an upset win, but few people saw the movie. Tommy Lee Jones was great in Lincoln, but he's grouchy and turns off Academy voters. Alan Arkin was great in Argo but he won the award a few years ago. That leaves Robert De Niro, who I believe will win. My friend, actor Simon Jones who hosted the Oscar event at the Coffee House with me, said disparagingly "De Niro was acting, alright- with a capital "A"!" To some De Niro was trying too hard to make up for a string of low-end movies he did for a fast paycheck. But I enjoyed his performance and I think the Academy will want to inspire him (as with Spielberg) to use his talents for worthy projects.
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Michael Haneke for Amour. The screenplay categories always feature the quirkiest winners. Tarantino might be a favorite but many voters would have been turned off by the sheer violence of Django Unchained. Mark Boal's screenplay for Zero Dark Thirty has been compromised by political controversies and criticisms about artistic license. John Gatins for Flight might be deserving but is still a long-shot and perpetually overrated Wes Anderson (with Roman Coppola) probably don't stand a chance for Moonrise Kingdom.
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook. Almost impossible to call this highly competitive category. Tony Kushner's screenplay for Lincoln is a strong contender, but it has also been embroiled in controversy about accuracy, though most of that surfaced after the votes were in. I think they'll give it to Russell because Silver Linings is a feel-good, uplifting movie and they will want to afford him a consolation prize for not giving him Best Dirctor.
VISUAL EFFECTS: The Life of Pi
SOUND MIXING: Les Miserables
SOUND EDITING: The Life of Pi
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Lincoln
SCORE: John Williams for Lincoln
MAKEUP: The Hobbit
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: Amour
FILM EDITING: Argo
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: Searching for Sugar Man
COSTUME DESIGN: Les Miserables
ANIMATED FEATURE: Frankenweenie
BEST SONG: Skyfall
I have to say I have feeling I'm going to bomb out this year...too many categories are crap shoots but that should make for a suspenseful and fun Oscar night. Will check in the day after to see how I fared.
The Hollywood Reporter presents an amusing article in which an anonymous director allows a reporter to review his Oscar ballot with him while he decides what to vote for. His candor is refreshing and insightful, as he lambasts some Oscar favorites and speaks up for other films he feels are being neglected. He says Django Unchained was fun but really just "Tarantino masturbating". He thinks Alan Arkin shouldn't be nominated. He likes Life of Pi but disdains the film's religious message and he threatens to fillet his neighbor's dog if Skyfall doesn't win Best Song (he's been angry at the Academy ever since they passed over Live and Let Die for Best Song back in 1973). Click here to read
The tradition started benignly enough in 1994 with a short segment on the Oscar broadcast paying tribute to notable people in the film community who passed away the previous year. The segment is now a mainstay of the Oscar telecast. Although the Academy keeps it a closely guarded secret regarding who is on the committee that decides who will be included in the tribute and who will not make the cut, friends, family and colleagues of the dearly departed routinely launch PR campaigns to ensure certain individuals are honored with the fleeting, multi-second photo or film clip. No matter how inclusive Oscar tries to be, someone is always insulted that a loved one has been excluded. In some cases, major names like Harry Morgan and Peter Graves were eliminated, but AMPAS argues that's because some stars became primarily known for their work in TV as opposed to feature films. The New York Times provides insight into the lobbying efforts some people initiate in order to influence the Academy. Click here to read
The use of a mink glove used at various times by Sean Connery and Molly Peters concerned British censors who saw it as a sexual metaphor.
Newly revealed files show that the sexual content of the 1965 James Bond blockbuster Thunderball so concerned the British censors that they almost slapped the film with an "X" rating. (American films didn't get movie ratings until 1968 and, unlike the British system, the ratings are imposed by the industry, not the government.) In fairness, an "X" rating in those days simply meant adult content, not necessarily sleaze. However, there is no doubt that Eon Productions would have considered it the kiss of death on boxoffice receipts. Nevertheless, the producers stood their ground and cut only one of the the thirty scenes that the censor demanded be removed or amended. The film went on to gross the equivalent of $1 billion in today's currency. The entire censorship scenario seems amusing and quaint by today's standards. Click here to read
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd generally sticks to provocative political matters in her columns but she's fed up with filmmakers who change major historical facts in their movies then hide behind the "artistic license" excuse as a defense. Critically acclaimed films such as Argo, Zero Dark Thirty and Lincoln have all come under fire for changing key facts. In the case of Argo, director Ben Affleck admitted to one and all that he inserted an action-packed climax that never occurred in real life. At least that makes sense, but in the case of Lincoln, screenwriter Tony Kushner is livid over criticisms deriving from the fact that he presents the state of Connecticut as having voted against the Emancipation Proclamation when, in fact, it voted for it. Kushner tells Dowd it's a minor trifle equivalent to arguing over the color socks Lincoln wore. Dowd doesn't buy his argument, and frankly, neither do we. Its a completely avoidable mistake that doesn't have any justification, but Kushner is digging in and defending the decision not to alter the DVD edition of the film- even though director Steven Spielberg is sending this flawed historical record into Connecticut schools through a program whereby the DVD is being donated to educational institutions. Still, nothing beats Oliver Stone's JFK, which made up entire key characters and "facts" that didn't exist in order to support Stone's conspiracy theories. As for Lincoln, we're quite upset at another historical omission: the President's well-known career as a vampire hunter, which isn't even mentioned. - Lee PfeifferFor more click here
John Wayne's McLintock! was a major hit at boxoffices- though it's lighthearted tone was contrasted against the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which occurred days after the movie's release.
Author and Cinema Retro columnist Raymond Benson takes a sentimental journey back to the year 1963. A half-century later, we can remember that year as one of tumultuous events, capped off by the assassination of an American president. But Benson also points out the pleasures of that period as well, from classic TV shows to enduring motion pictures- and he combines them with his own personal memories. Click here to read
A Fox News Hollywood reporter is standing by his claim that Harrison Ford will return as Han Solo in the new Star Wars feature film currently in the works for Disney. The reporter could not say whether Ford will have a starring role in the film or just a cameo, but other reports indicate that both Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, who starred with Ford in the original film, will also be appearing the new production. If true, it will spur fan interest into another galaxy. For more click here
Director Lars von Trier is preparing two version of his highly-anticipated new film Nymphomaniac. The first version will be soft-core but it's the second, hardcore version, that has audiences eager to see just how far everyone goes. Charlotte Gainsbourg's character is introduced as a 50 year-old self-professed nymphomaniac who reviews her erotic escapes in flashbacks. The cast of notables includes Uma Thurman, Shia LaBeouf, Willem DaFoe, Stellan Starsgard and Jamie Bell. The real suspense is in seeing who ends up doing what to whom on screen. Major actors in a hardcore film isn't unprecedented. In 1979, Bob Guccione produced Caligula featuring Malcolm McDowell, Peter O'Toole, John Gielgud and rising young actress Helen Mirren. When the film was released, it contained hardcore sex sequences. The principals argued that they were unaware that this footage would be added after the fact. Not so with Nymphomaniac - all the participants have gone into the project aware of von Trier's vision. Click here for more
Arriving earlier this year without any fanfare on many American cable systems, Cozi TV is a new network that presents a wealth of diverse retro TV series that have not been given much exposure in recent years. These include Lassie, Marcus Welby, M.D., Magnum P.I., The Bionic Woman, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Virginian, the creaky old Sherlock Holmes series starring Ronald Howard, The Lone Ranger, Wells Fargo, McMillan and Wife, Bancek, I Spy, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Roy Rogers Show, Alias Smith and Jones, Hopalong Cassidy and The Bold Ones. Best of all, the number of commercials are limited and the episodes we've seen appear to be presented uncut in their original running time. The network also presents a diverse range of feature films including such retro gems as the Airport movies, Arabesque, Sweet Charity, Coogan's Bluff and Two Mules for Sister Sara. Check your cable listings, as you may have the network but not even realize it. Cozi TV appears on cable systems owned by NBC. Click here for their web site, which is inadequate because the section dedicated to the series they carry lists only a fraction of them. To see a more complete list, scroll through the TV schedule bar.
British/Irish explorer Ernest Shackleton had been frustrated by the fact that his great endeavors to make history always were upstaged by his contemporaries. Shackleton was respected for his dignity and courage but it seemed as though his dream of accomplishing one towering, historic achievement in the field of exploration would elude him. In 1914, with the great years of exploration rapidly coming to an end in a world whose boundaries were becoming more finite by the day, Shackleton set out for his last, ambitious grasp of for the gold ring with an expedition that would attempt to be the first to cross the continent of Antarctica by sea. Shackleton had amassed a first-rate crew of seasoned men who were up for the challenge of making such an arduous and long journey. He promised only low wages, immense pain and ceaseless work- with the only reward being possible glory if the mission succeeded. Shackleton's sturdy wooden vessel was appropriately named the Endurance, though the significance of that name would not be known until later. Just one day short of making his desired landfall, the ship became hopelessly mired in ice. Shackleton, who was known for his ability to command and for putting the welfare of his men before the mission, announced the ship would be stuck until the spring thaw, which was months away. The ship had ample supply of food and clothing, but inevitably the encroaching ice ultimately destroyed the vessel by crushing and sinking it. Shackleton and his men secured most of the necessary provisions, but had to make a camp on the ice. In fact, they were not even on solid land. They were castaways on a humongous island made of ice and snow that was drifting slowly but surely away from the mainland. After months of enduring this harsh life, Shackleton ordered the men to take lifeboats on an arduous journey to actual land-the remote Elephant Island. They ended up on one of the most remote places on the planet, battered night and day by ceaseless, freezing winds. Finally, Shackleton and a handful of men made the daring choice to take a lifeboat to the nearest place where they knew there would be help- South Georgia, which required a grueling, seemingly impossible crossing across a savage sea. To get there, Shackleton and his men had to endure endless rain and ice storms. There was never a moment when they were not completely saturated and in danger of dying from frostbite. Incredibly, Shackleton and his men completed the 800 mile journey only to discover they were on the opposite end of the island, as far from the encampment of potential rescuers as one could get. Nevertheless, Shackleton and a few men set out across snow covered mountain ranges that were deemed so impassable that no man had ever attempted to cross them before. To the amazement of everyone, Shackleton and his men made it- but he immediately had to plan how to rescue the men he had left behind. For months, inclement weather resulted in the rescue attempts being thwarted until finally, four months after he left for help, Shackleton and a rescue ship finally saved the long-suffering crew. Not one man had died. Shackleton did not achieve his initial goal, but his seamanship ranked with that of Captain Bligh, who similarly made a seemingly impossible journey in a rowboat under harsh conditions following the mutiny aboard the Bounty. Shackleton returned home to find England a much different place and his achievement somewhat under-valued due to the public's preoccupation with Britain's entry into the first World War.
Sony has released the remarkable documentary The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition, based Caroline Alexander's acclaimed book that explored the expedition in fascinating detail. The film features excellent narration by Liam Neeson. This is a big budget production produced and directed by George Butler, who takes his crew to the exact locations Shackleton visited. He finds them as harsh and unwelcoming as his predecessor. In fact, in the course of the documentary (which features remarkable cinematography), Butler realizes that even with the benefit of modern technology, they can't replicate certain feats that the crew of the Endurance did. What makes the documentary even more compelling is that it features extensive film footage of most of the trials and tribulations endured by the Endurance crew. Despite their dilemma, they had the presence of mind to use the relatively new format of movie making to take incredible footage of life on the ice, including the ultimate destruction of the Endurance. Additionally, the crew also took many photos that they somehow managed to develop under brutal conditions. These photographic elements, combined with the vintage and new footage, make for one of the most compelling documentaries you will ever see.
Curiously, although this is a special edition burn-to-order DVD, Sony's packaging makes no mention of the wealth of bonus extras including a commentary track by George Butler, who speaks in such a low-comforting voice, you might drift off and have to play the track again. Nevertheless, it's very informative and enlightening. There are also extras that show the sons, daughters and other descendents of the crew members who discuss the legacy of the Endurance heroes at length. They also attend a 1999 museum exhibition of artifacts from the ordeal that opened in New York City.
Screen legend Jerry Lewis just turned 87 years old but he still has plenty of energy- as evidenced by the fact that he's currently in production on a new film titled Max Rose, which is a drama. Lewis was recently interviewed by Entertainment Weekly and he discusses the film and his career. Click here for more
Cinema Retro welcomes its latest contributor, David P. King, who will be reviewing avant garde DVDS.
By David P. King
When American audiences first saw “Plot of Fear” (“E
Tanta Paura”), they were likely surprised and a bit confused: surprised because
the film is a suspenseful thriller of a higher quality than may be expected,
and confused because the film was first released in English under the title
“Bloody Peanuts” and contains a decent amount of blood, but a conspicuous
absence of peanuts.
Italian Director Paolo Cavara’s 1976 thriller unfolds with
a mystery killer targeting guests of a wild party where a prostitute had
accidentally died years earlier.
Through a series of clues and cinematic flashbacks,
Inspector Lomenzo (Michele Placido) begins to unravel who the killer is and why
the targets have been chosen.
Along the way, he falls for the stunning model Jeanne
(Corinne Clery), one of the guests of the fateful party.
Cinephiles will revel in seeing a pair of American
character actors, Tom Skerritt and Eli Wallach in supporting roles.
Cavara spawned an entire genre of documentaries that
titillated and shocked viewers with tales of exotic subcultures more than they
informed with his 1962 film “A Dog’s World” (“Mondo Cane”). These “mondo”
documentaries were often staged, exaggerated and fictional.
Cavara’s mondo influences can certainly be seen here:
The inspector and his girlfriend talk openly of swinging, lesbian models make
out during a photo shoot and guests of a secret society of animal lovers watch
a surreal pornographic short cartoon (by Italian erotic cartoonist Gibba) with
their pet chimp during a weekend orgy.
But at its heart, “Plot of Fear” is a thriller complete
with more twists and surprises than pure shock value. Its cinematography is
skilled, and it looks more like a major motion picture release than low-budget
The remastered print for the Raro Video DVD is
flawless. Bonus features include insightful commentary by Cavara’s son and
interviews with the screenwriter Enrico Oldoini and Placido on the film’s
While the ultimate reveal may be less than satisfactory
and the film is prone to the quirks of the time period (women’s tops come off
frequently with little in the way of exposition or reason), “Plot of Fear”
manages to toe the line between shock, shlock and suspense masterfully, and is
a pleasant addition to any collection of Italian films.
(Note: this review pertains to the UK Region 2 release.)
York underground filmmaker and avante-garde theatre director Andy Milligan is
perhaps best known for his sleazy exploitation movies that ran in 42nd
St theatres for years throughout the 1970s. Memorable titles include The
Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! (1972) and The Ghastly Ones
(1968), the latter banned in the UK during the 1980s as a “video nasty.” A
meeting in 1968 in New York with Leslie Elliot, a British distributor, lead to
several of his films being distributed in the UK. Even better for Milligan was
the opportunity to shoot five new films under Elliot's production arm Cinemedia
Films. Finding himself a flat in Soho and becoming acquainted with the British
by hanging out with male prostitutes on Piccadilly Circus, Milligan developed a
study of poverty, sexual frankness and sadomasochism that would have caused
quite a stir at the British Board of Film Censors, had the film ever been
released. After shooting Nightbirds and it's companion piece, the
vampire horror The Body Beneath, Milligan had an irreparable falling out
with Leslie Elliot's father and business partner Curtis Elliot, and was forced
to sever ties with the family before the films could be distributed. He was
allowed to keep the films, and somehow managed to raise the money to shoot a
further three films here before returning to New York, where he had varying
success in getting the films seen. Nightbirds received a limited
screening before disappearing into obscurity.
the horror films he is better known for, Nightbirds is a small
character-driven piece following Dink (Berwick Kaler), a young man recently
made homeless in swinging London. He meets Dee (Julie Shaw), an enigmatic,
sexually playful blonde who invites him to move into her tawdry attic bedsit.
They become obsessed with each other to the point where they begin to fear
facing the outside world, preferring the insular, psychologically troubling
world they have built for themselves. Dee seems reluctant to share anything
about her own past, preferring instead to make Dink do the talking. She flirts
with the landlord and slowly cuts Dink off from the only friends he has left.
The relationship is difficult at best, and emotionally abusive at worst. Milligan
has often been accused of being a misogynist, and his depiction of the female
character being as rotten as her flat could feed in to that. The film is more
nuanced than that however, and as her motivations as slowly revealed, the
audience is left to make up their own minds.
Kaler went on to star in a further four Milligan films before carving an
eclectic career for himself in British film and television, and is now the
creative force behind the annual York pantomime. Julie Shaw first appeared in
Pete Walker's The Big Switch aka Strip Poker (1968), and after
her starring role here virtually disappeared. Nobody knows what happened to her
following Nightbirds, which is a pity as she found an interesting,
emotionally detached performance in what must have been a rushed, occasionally
Milligan has an undeserved reputation as one of the worst film directors since
Ed Wood. One hopes that the release of Nightbirds will help to restore
him to a more favourable level of respectability. It is an interesting and well
made film, pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable in the late 1960s,
particularly in regards to depictions of and discussions about sex. It compares
well with similar films from that period, some of which are also available on
the Flipside label, such as Private Road (1971) or Duffer (1971).
It also compares favourably to Andy Warhol's Trash (1970) or Flesh
(1968), films which also put people on the fringes of society in the full glare
of the camera.
a bonus feature here, alongside trailers, an excellent booklet and a commentary
track from Berwick Kaler (the first Flipside release to feature a commentary
incidentally), Milligan's other completed Cinemedia film has been restored and
included; The Body Beneath. This film was more familiar territory for
the director. Vampires, ghouls, a hunchbacked assistant (played by Berwick
Kaler) and occasional graphic gore are thrown together in a fairly nonsensical,
almost slapdash effort, in an attempt to create something which is halfway
between a late Hammer horror and a dreary daytime soap opera. Unlike Nightbirds,
The Body Beneath merely reinforces Milligan's Ed Wood comparisons,
although it does have moments of interest, particularly a grand meeting between
vampires which turns into a tirade of anti-American abuse.
again the BFI are to be congratulated for putting a package like this together.
With the assistance of award-winning director Nicolas Winding-Refn (Drive,
2011), who had the only surviving film materials, the BFI have proven that film
matters, no matter how obscure. Cinema Retro eagerly await the Flipside
releases for 2013.
MR. LUCKY: THE COMPLETE SERIES is now available for the first time
ever as a 4-DVD box set from Timeless Media Group… all 34 episodes, with a
running time of about 840 minutes. MR. LUCKY– created by writer/director Blake
Edwards (PETER GUNN) – ran for only one season (from 1959 to 1960), even though
it was a hit with viewers.
This adventure/crime drama is a sort of PETER GUNN Lite, featuring
a lush, organ-powered theme song by Henry Mancini (a bonus CD of MR. LUCKY’s soundtrack
is included in the set), an assortment of shady characters aboard a floating
casino, and competent acting by series regulars John Vivyan (as suave
professional gambler Mr. Lucky), Ross Martin (as his sidekick and business
partner Andamo), Pippa Scott (as Mr. Lucky’s girlfriend Maggie Shank-Rutherford)
and Tom Brown (as Lieutenant Rovacs, Mr. Lucky’s cop buddy).
Edwards directed and co-wrote the first episode of MR. LUCKY, and
the credits of the first 18 episodes include “Entire production supervised by
Blake Edwards.” Jack Arnold (director of THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON,
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN and IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE) produced the show
and directed 15 episodes. The end credits include “Series based on an original
story: Bundles for Freedom by Milton
Holmes,” which was published in Cosmopolitan
in June 1942. This story was also the basis of the 1943 motion picture MR.
LUCKY, starring Cary Grant as a gambling-ship owner out to fleece a beautiful
society woman (Laraine Day), but who falls in love with her instead. The film
and television series have little in common, except for the title and the suave
nature of the leading man.
According to a March 1942 news item in The Hollywood Reporter, RKO bought Holmes’ story at the request of
Cary Grant, who wanted to star in it. In a 1969 Hollywood Reporter news item, Holmes claimed that his story was
inspired by Edward G. Nealis, the owner of the Clover Club on the Sunset Strip,
a venue for drinking and illegal gambling in the early 1930s. In 1936, Nealis
rigged a one-night gambling benefit at the Beverly Hills Hotel to raise $40,000
for a church.
In the series opener, Mr. Lucky and Andamo are managing a
successful casino in Andamo’s island homeland of Chobolbo. After a brush with
the country’s corrupt El Presidente (Nehemiah Persoff), they lose everything
when Andamo is discovered running guns to the rebels in Mr. Lucky’s yacht Fortuna and they must escape the island in
a small boat with only the shirts on their backs. The adventurers’ fortunes
take a turn for the better when Mr. Lucky (who is gifted with extraordinary luck) wins enough money gambling to
buy another yacht, which he christens Fortuna
II and turns into a high-class gambling casino, anchored in international
waters off the California coast, where U.S anti-gambling laws don’t apply. The
casino attracts a colorful parade of characters, including very seductive
women, criminals on the run, desperate characters hiding from criminals or the
law, kidnappers, hijackers, smugglers, jewel thieves, money-launderers, and victims
of blackmail who turn to Mr. Lucky for help. Mr. Lucky and Andamo are often
caught in dangerous situations, betting on whether or not they’ll survive. (Oddly
enough, Mr. Lucky has no first name and Andamo has no last name.)
Sounds like fun, except the plots are shopworn and the scripts not
terribly well written. Cary Grant clone Vivyan is dashing but lacks charm. Eventually,
Andamo’s quips, witticisms and bon mots
(delivered in a thick Spanish accent) become more annoying than amusing. As for
MR. LUCKY’S unlucky fate, the show’s sponsors (Lever Brothers and Life
Cigarettes) didn’t want their brands associated with gambling, and insisted
that the Fortuna II become a tony private
club, which killed whatever “edge” the show might have had. Even so, the
sponsors bailed and no new sponsors would bankroll Season Two, so (incredibly) this
hit series was cancelled. Such a scenario is unimaginable today. Martin and
Scott went on to flourishing careers, but handsome John Vivyan found little
work after his “big break.” One of Vivyan’s last jobs before his death in 1983 was
a walk-on in an episode of WKRP IN CINCINNATI.
The other directors on the show are Boris Sagal, Lamont Johnson, Jerry
Hopper and Alan Crosland Jr. Among the many guest stars are Stanley Adams, Norman
Alden, R.G. Armstrong, Barbara Bain, Billy Barty, Henry Beckman, Mari Blanchard,
Walter Burke, Richard Chamberlain, Jackie Coogan, Yvonne Craig, Ted de Corsia, Cyril
Delevanti, Brad Dexter, Jack Elam, Don Gordon, Frank Gorshin, Robert H. Harris,
Alan Hewitt, Ted Knight, Berry Kroeger, Joi Lansing, Len Lesser (Uncle Leo on Seinfeld), John Marley, Gavin MacLeod, Yvette
Mimieux, Jack Nicholson (!), Edward C. Platt, Herbert Rudley, Doris Singleton, Jeremy
Slate, William Smith, Warren Stevens, Barbara Stuart, Nita Talbot, Lee Van
Cleef, Virginia Vincent, David White, Peter Whitney, Grant Williams and Will
Image quality on the 4-pack DVD varies from fair to very good.
Audio quality is excellent throughout.
to order MR. LUCKY: THE COMPLETE SERIES.
Pierce Brosnan will star in Last Man Out, a new action film that casts the former James Bond star as a reformed IRA hit man who is released from jail after serving a twenty-year sentence. Plagued by guilt over the people he has killed, the character decides to make amends by avenging them through violent means. For more click here
The superb web site www.in70mm.com provides a wealth of vintage movie ads including this great vintage advert for the 70mm British presentation of Becket (1964) starring Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole.
I remember the first time I saw Peter Pan (1953) on the big screen. It was the re-release in the summer of 1976 on a very hot day at the Cort Theatre on East
Main St. in Somerville, New Jersey.Unlike The Outsiders’s Pony
Boy Curtis, when I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of
the movie theatre, I had only one thing on my mind: food. My hunger for
beautiful animation was satiated for the moment, but I was very hungry after spending
nearly three hours in the theatre.My
childhood was sprinkled with double features of Disney cartoons and live-action
films.Until I saw the thrilling Superman: The Movie in 1978, Peter Pan really gave the seven-year-old
I was the idea that I could actually fly – at least vicariously. The Sir James
Matthew Barrie story of a boy who soars through the air and who doesn’t age has
captivated the world for well over a century, easily crossing cultures with its
love of childhood and its adventures in Neverland.There are several sequences that may raise a
few eyebrows in today's politically correct environment, such as those of
involving the depictions of Native Americans in a visibly racist fashion,
however this film is a product of its time and Disney has wisely chosen not to
alter it in any way. On that note, it is interesting that to this day we still
cannot get a legitimate video version of 1946’s Song of the South, a film that I enjoyed immensely as a child but
appears to be a sore spot with the company in how African-Americans are
depicted in that film.
The action in Peter Pan begins in Bloomsbury in London wherein two brothers, John
and Michael Darling, are playing pirates, based on stories that their older
sister Wendy told them. Their father feels that Wendy should have her own room
now and must stop telling silly stories to the young ones who keep the
household in chaos.That night, Peter
Pan and his little sidekick Tinkerbell show up and take the kids to Neverland,
a place where Peter lives and has made the decision to never grow up, remaining
instead a child.There are other people
in Neverland, including the Lost Boys, a group of six youngsters who are all
dressed in pajamas.There are also a
group of pirates just off the coast headed by Captain Hook and Mr. Smee (Smee
plays Otis to Hook’s Lex Luthor).It
turns out that Tinkerbell is jealous of Wendy and aims to get her out of the
picture!More adventures ensue, but this
is a Disney film, and no great harm ever comes to the characters.
This is the first time that the film
has been released on Blu-ray, and as is customary with the previous Disney
releases, the film has undergone a major restoration. The results are
spectacular. The nuances detailed in the images are sharp and sumptuous. If you
haven't seen the film on Blu-ray, you really haven't seen it. I know it's a
cliché but it's very true especially when it comes to films of this ilk.
The Blu-ray comes with a standard
definition DVD as well as the requisite digital copy. In addition to the film, there is a wealth of
extras:I’ve made no bones about the
fact that I love audio commentaries, and thankfully one is included with this
film. It is provided by Roy Disney, and also included are comments from the
animators and some voice actors as well.
Disney – this extra is
shot in standard definition and previously appeared on the original Platinum
DVD released in 2007.There are five
featurettes in this batch:
You Can Fly: The Making of Peter Pan
In Walt's Words: Why I Made Peter Pan,
The Peter Pan That Almost Was
Tinker Bell: A Fairy's Tale
The Peter Pan Story
& More – A collection
The Pirate Song
Never Land: The Lost Song
The Second Star to the Right
There is an introduction to the movie
by Walt’s daughter, Diane Miller-Disney, shot in high definition.
Up with Nine Old Men – this
is a nice documentary that runs about forty minutes and is in high definition
also.The nine old men in question
consist of animators Les Clark, Marc Davis, Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl, Ward
Kimball, Eric Larson, John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman, and Frank
Thomas.Unfortunately, all of these
gentlemen have since passed on.However,
their children discuss their fathers’ work for Disney.
There is a short section on deleted
songs and scenes which consist of storyboards and early artwork.There is also a Peter Pan sing-along which allows children to sing-along songs.
This can be enabled by turning on the subtitle option.
Actor John Kerr died Saturday. He was 81 years old. Kerr's big screen career was somewhat limited but he did have strong roles in South Pacific and Tea and Sympathy, playing a young man suspected of being a homosexual. (Kerr won a Tony for his performance in the Broadway stage production). Kerr also appeared as the hero in Roger Corman's 1961 adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum. Kerr worked extensively in television while simultaneously pursuing a law degree. He eventually went into semi-retirement from acting in order to concentrate on his law career. For more click here
For writer Tom Weaver's interview with John Kerr, in which he discusses making the Corman production, click here
The folks at Kindertrauma, a web site dedicated to everthing that scared baby boomers as children, has a good tribute to The Norliss Tapes, the 1970s TV movie starring Roy Thinnes and Angie Dickinson. It's sounds intriguing enough for us to order the DVD. To read the article click here.
To order the DVD from the Cinema Retro Amazon Movie Store, click here.
Scottish screenwriter Alan Sharp has died at age 79. Sharp's screenplays were as eclectic as they were impressive and included such acclaimed films as Rob Roy, Ulzana's Raid, Night Moves and The Hired Hand. Sharp was also a successful novelist. For more about his life and career click here
Cinema Retro's man-about-town in London, photographer Mark Mawston snapped some fantastic shots of stars arriving on the red carpet. It was a glamorous evening and Oscar could take some pointers in terms of the pacing of the show and the comedic factors. There was scarcely any of the interminable "spontaneous" byplay among couples presenting the Oscars...instead, everyone was left to their own devices and the results were far more amusing. Best of all was host Stephen Fry, who deftly laid waste to any hint of pretentiousness by using a rapier wit to take on one and all. It was also a glamorous affair, proof positive that the Brits are still tops at this sort of thing. Best of all, most of the awards actually made sense! (All images copyright Mark Mawston. All rights reserved)
George Clooney and Ben Affleck, big winners for Argo.
From The Godfather to Jaws to Raiders of the Lost Ark, some of the most memorable scenes in classic movies were ad-libbed to some degree. The web site ScreenRant provides a slide show of these great, impromptu moments in cinema history. Click here to view
James Bond double features used to be so popular that they would routinely out-gross many new films. The first double feature took place in 1965 with a team-up of Dr. No and From Russia With Love. By 1980, the double features were starting to fade but United Artists did put together this combo of two Roger Moore blockbusters: Moonraker and The Spy Who Loved Me. Cinema Retro reader Hank Reineke kindly provided this rare newspaper advertisement from a long-defunct New Jersey drive-in theater that presented the double bill in 1980.
The James Bond blockbuster Skyfall has won the Best British Film award at this year's BAFTAs, besting Les Miserables, which many pundits predicted would win. Thomas Newman also won for his musical score for the film. For a complete list of winners click here.
The Vincent Price Exhibit is an informative and very entertaining web site dedicated to the legendary actor. Run by long-time fan and admirer Richard Squires, the site features interesting memorabilia from all aspects of Price's career, including personal correspondence to Squires. Those of us who are long-time admirers of Price always get a bit ruffled when someone refers to him as a "horror film actor". While it is undeniable that the horror genre certainly boosted Price to name-above-the-title stardom, his accomplishments extend to many other areas. He appeared in countless non-horror films, was a master chef and was a major force in bringing an appreciation of fine art to the general public. He was also said to be a complete gentleman at all times as well as the definitive Renaissance Man. Click here to visit the site.
It's gonna be Double-0 Heaven for long-suffering James Bond fans who have always felt the series has been slighted by Oscar. Not any more. In addition to a major Bond 50th anniversary tribute on this year's telecast, Adele will sing the Oscar-nominated theme song from Skyfall and Dame Shirley Bassey will perform her signature hit, Goldfinger- which, like so many other classics, was never nominated for an Oscar. The big buzz is whether the Academy can bring off its plan to unite all six 007 actors on the same stage. For more click here
The Blu-ray release by Twilight Time (limited edition of 3,000) of the 1962 thriller Experiment in Terror serves as a reminder that, with the success of the Pink Panther franchise, director Blake Edwards left behind some solid credentials outside of the comedy genre. After the Pink Panther films took the world by storm, Edwards stuck with lightweight, amusing subject matters, but in doing so, often grabbed at low-hanging fruit. (Most of the Panther films have not aged nearly as well as we might think they have.) Edwards was a rising young director in '62, coming off the success of Breakfast at Tiffanys. The release of Days of Wine and Roses that year proved Edwards could direct drama as well as comedy, but with the success of the Panthers, Edwards only rarely dabbled in non-comedic genres. Curiously, in the early 1970s he did three dramas back-to-back: Wild Rovers, The Carey Treatment and The Tamarind Seed, then inexplicably never ventured outside of comedy again. Experiment in Terror is one of Edwards' least-heralded but most interesting non-comedies. The story finds Lee Remick as Kelly Sherwood, a beautiful young woman who leads a middle-class life, working as a teller in a San Francisco bank. She serves as guardian for her 16 year-old sister Toby (Stefanie Powers), who shares a house with her in the suburbs. Kelly's ordinary lifestyle comes to a shattering halt one evening when an unseen man grabs her from behind as she enters her garage. In a hushed but terrifying voice, he informs her that he is orchestrating a plan whereby she will steal $100,00 from her bank - or he will murder her. Although she is warned not to contact the police, she does precisely that- but her assailant seems to know her every move and physically terrorizes her. He also warns her that any other disregard for his instructions will result in her sister's death as well. Nevertheless, Kelly makes contact with San Francisco detective John Ripley (Glenn Ford), who advises her that she will be under constant surveillance and that she should pretend to comply with her assailant's instructions. All the while, the police search frantically for clues to the man's identity. As the story progresses, police efforts go awry, leaving Kelly and Toby at the mercy of the psychopath, who they learn is named 'Red' Lynch (Ross Martin)- a man who has killed previously. Lynch manages to outmaneuver police and kidnap Toby, thus forcing Kelly to go along with the plot to steal the money. The big payoff sequence comes when she is to deliver it to Candlestick Park baseball stadium where Lynch intends to get the stolen funds from her amidst the crowds attending the game.
What is refreshing about Experiment in Terror is the screenplay by "The Gordons" (Mildred and Gordon), the bizarrely credited team who had written the best-selling novel upon which the film is based. There are no super hero types in the story- just everyday people who find themselves thrust into a terrifying scenario. The police are dedicated, but make mistakes. Kelly and her sister try to be brave but are clearly scared out of their minds, as any normal person would be. Remick and Powers give very fine performances, as does Ford, whose low-key style has been disparaged in some quarters. However, his refusal to steal scenes makes his character even more convincing. Ford's talent was in underplaying his roles and this is the perfect example. The legitimate scene-stealer is Ross Martin as Lynch, a performance so powerful that it was actually utilized as a marketing gimmick. His name never doesn't appear in the opening credits or on the poster. However, director Edwards does reward him with the sole on screen credit in the final frames of the film. Martin's Lynch is a fascinating villain. He's clearly an ingenious criminal, staying one step ahead of police at every turn. Although he resorts to physical violence, he is pragmatic, promising Kelly a share of the loot if she cooperates in his scheme. Lynch is also a sexual predator and a man who thinks nothing of killing anyone who poses a threat to him. In the film's eeriest sequence, he stalks a female artist in her studio, which is strewn from floor to ceiling with mannequins, making for a particularly chilling atmosphere. Refreshingly, the screenplay doesn't make Lynch a one-dimensional character. When Ripley tracks down a woman who has been dating him, he finds she has an entirely different view of the man, as he has been inexplicably providing financial support for her hospitalized son.
The Twilight Time Blu-ray accentuates the gorgeous B&W cinematography by Philip Lathrop that grabs you from the opening sequence in which Kelly drives across the Bay Bridge. There is also a fine score by Edwards' frequent collaborator Henry Mancini that is presented on an isolated track. The extras include a selection of trailers and TV spots and an excellent booklet with notes by Julie Kirgo, who makes perceptive comparisons between this film and Cape Fear, which was released the same year. (Both movies center on how a stalker can destroy the lives of the innocent people he targets.) Experiment in Terror is highly recommended.
For decades the classic 1960s TV series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. has come close to being revived on the big screen. The closest that came to reality, however, were the low-budget features cobbled together from two-part episodes of the series and released theatrically. Since the late 1970s when series stars Robert Vaughn and David McCallum were being wooed to star in a big screen version for MGM to the very recent past when director Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney planned to collaborate on an U.N.C.L.E. feature, fans have been repeatedly disappointed when these projects inevitably fall apart. There was a 1983 CBS TV reunion movie, Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E. that starred Vaughn and McCallum but the merits of which are still debated in fan circles. In the case of the Soderbergh project, Clooney backed out of the film, citing back injuries, and Soderbergh griped that he couldn't get adequate funding for the retro-based spy flick. Rumors now have it that director Guy Ritchie may be attached to yet another U.N.C.L.E. film, but if history is any guide, fans should not get too enthused about this coming to reality, either. In fact, the web site HMSS Weblog makes the argument that maybe the show is best left in the past since most modern filmmakers don't seem to have a handle on those elements that made it so special. Click here to read
A new biopic of Grace Kelly makes the claim that her marriage to Prince Rainier III, presented to the public as a fairy tale come true, was, in fact, a loveless union of convenience designed to produce an heir so that Monaco would not fall under French rule. The royal family has denounced what they claim are historical inaccuracies in the film, which stars Nicole Kidman as Grace, the Hollywood superstar-turned-real life princess. According to the script, Grace was secretly miserable and had accepted Alfred Hitchcock's offer to star in Marnie, for the then staggering fee of $1 million. Grace missed Hollywood and felt she was like a bird in a gilded cage, trapped in her royal residence in Monaco. Rainier is presented as a cold womanizer in the new film and his objection to her returning to Hollywood won out because Grace was advised that she would see very little of her two young children again, as they would remain under Rainier's care. For more click here
Disney, the new owners of LucasFilm, has canceled plans to to bring 3-D versions of the films to theaters following the weak box-office performance of The Phantom Menace in that format. Disney is sensitive to fan's criticisms that George Lucas was going to the well too often in attempts to milk more profits from the series while showing little enthusiasm for getting new entries off the ground. Instead, the studio will go all out to reboot the franchise now that J.J. Abrams has agreed to direct the first of the new films in the franchise. For more click here
One of the James Bond Aston Martin DB5 cars built to promote Goldfinger and Thunderball is now up for auction. However, you may will have to have the financial resources of Auric Goldfinger to make the minimum bid of £3million! Click here to read the history of the "The Most Famous Car in the World" (which was the title of Cinema Retro publisher Dave Worrall's book).
Joe Dante's Trailers From Hell site presents the original theatrical trailer for the criminally underrated Hammer Films version of The Phantom of the Opera featuring a remarkable performance by Herbert Lom. Click here to watch trailer in original version or with commentary from director Brian Trenchard-Smith.
The Huffington Post has compiled a list of 15 movies released in recent years during the month of January, long regarded as the elephant's graveyard for premiering a new film. With the holidays over and bills pouring in, movie-going generally declines, leading studios to dump some questionable entries onto the market. Click here to view
Artist Lutz Becker was born in Berlin in 1941, the height of Adolf Hitler's military triumphs. He is still haunted by early memories of four years later, trying to survive in the midst of the carnage that was once the fabled city of Berllin. He never forgave Hitler and the Nazis for the destruction they brought to Germany. After seeing a photograph of Hitler's mistress Eva Braun holding a 16mm film camera, Lutz became obsessed with finding out what happened to her home movies. The public had seen only the side of Hitler that had been presented in carefully orchestrated propaganda films, designed to make him look like a god. But what if there were images that showed him as a real man in his private life? Becker's quest took many years and extensive travels, but his persistence paid off: he located the now famed home movies of Eva Braun that present Hitler and the Nazi brass in more relaxed and natural state. Braun's home movies came to an end in 1941 when Hitler's fortunes changed following his ill-fated invasion of the Soviet Union and the entry into the war of the United States. For his troubles, Becker was reviled by many for presenting this "humanized" version of the men he so hated. However, since then, these films have become essential to the historical record of the doomed Third Reich. Click here to read the remarkable story.
British director Michael Winner passed away recently. Although he had not been a force in the film industry in decades, the larger-than-life director remained one of the best-connected people in show business and could pretty much induce anyone to socialize with him. Click here to access some great stories about his relationships with Michael Caine, Sophia Loren, Sean Connery and Burt Lancaster.
When I was in high school back in the 1970s, rumors went around that Rock Hudson was dating Jim Nabors. I laughed them off as ludicrous...the world knew that neither man was gay! Well, while it's clear Hudson and Nabors were friends and colleagues, we don't know if they ever did date. But the idea that these two iconic American entertainers had to hide their true sexuality from the world now seems bizarre. However, at the time, the knowledge that one of Hollywood's on-screen lady killers, not to mention Mayberry's beloved mechanic, were anything but straight-as-arrow would have been the death knell to both men's careers. Hudson sadly didn't live to see the changing social values toward homosexuality, but Nabors has. He's proud to say he's just married his partner of 38 years. - Lee Pfeiffer