Over four days the
2013 Bradford Widescreen Festival located at ThePicturevilleCinema played host to a mixture of classics
in 70mm,CinemaScopeand Cinerama formats. There was a
special tribute to the 60th anniversary of CinemaScope,
the famous widescreen process developed for Twentieth Century Fox back in the
kicked off with a rare 70mm screening ofThe
Longest Daypreceded by an
informative introduction by Sir Christopher Frayling. This was followed by the
much- lovedThe Great Escapepresented for the first time in 4K
Digital and the picture and sound were simply stunning. Cinema Retro
contributor Dr. Sheldon Hall provided an illuminating introduction to this war
classic. Following the delegates’ reception in the Kodak Gallery,The Sound of Music was presented in 70mm. The print was
generally good although three quarters of the way through, a reel snapped
resulting in a 10 minute wait for reparations to take place. When the show
resumed, the audience cheered and applauded.
provided a different selection of features commencing with a wonderful short
directed by Grant Wakefield in 2k calledRemnants.Filmed using motion controlled
time-lapse photography, Remnants
captures on film the thousands of complex stone monumentsconstructed by the Neolithic peoples
of Northern Europe from 3800 to 1000 BC. Stunning 2K resolution and
extraordinary music provided by Tangerine Dream member Thorsten Quaeschning.
Strohmaier and RandyGitschwho
do so much for the preservation and restoration of the Cinerama documentary
features updated the audience on Seven
Wonders of the World, another 3 strip Cinerama classic that required
extensive work to bring this forthcoming restoration to a new generation of
audiences. Following this came the European premiere of Cinerama Holidayshown in 2k Digital on the curved
screen. Randy Gitsch provided the introduction and background to the extensive
work needed to bring this second of the three Cinerama travelogues up to date.
A highly rewarding experience for all. (Cinerama
Holiday will be released later this year along with another Cinerama
feature South Seas Adventure on the
Flicker Alley label).
afternoon concluded with the European premiere of David Strohmaier'sIn the Pictureshort, which was filmed in 3 panel
Cinerama for the first time in 50 years! This was followed byThe Last Days of Cinerama,an affectionate look at the making of
the aforementioned feature. A 70mm print ofHelloDollyrounded off the Saturday evening, again
an excellent presentation.
opened with the regular and popularCineramacanaa montage of shorts and news items that
included DTS demonstration reels and a 70mm reel of Tomorrow Never Dies which never saw a 70mm release in the UK. The
traditional onstage photograph followed. Sunday afternoon ran the 3 strip
feature ofThe Wonderful World
of The Brothers Grimm, the only known print in existence. It looked
magnificent on thePictureville'scurved
to Marry a Millionaire was screened on Sunday
afternoon, with a beautiful CinemaScope print that was well received by all
present. Tony Sloman provided a fascinating and amusing intro to this Fox
Classic. The day concluded with a screening ofThe Guns of Navarone,shown for the first time in a 4k
print. Again patrons were experiencing a much improved presentation of this war
movie classic. This was introduced by Author Brian Hannan who has just written
two books: The Making of the Guns ofNavaroneand
The Making of Lawrence of Arabia.
final day Monday showed the marathon featureGettysburgover two parts which was introduced by
Dr. Sheldon Hall.
Bradford 2013 Widescreen festival will go down as one of the best ever, with
improved organisation allowing delegates longer breaks between features and
also arguably for the first time ever, ran pretty much to schedule!
organised by Bill Lawrence and Duncan McGregor patrons seemed very happy with
both the presentation and quality of the features on offer.
to all concerned and roll on 2014.......
With Leslie Charteris' once popular books showcasing The Saint now back in print, writer Allan Massie of The Telegraph examines why the stories still entertain today. With all due respect to Roger Moore's visual representation of the hero in the 1960s, Massie argues that the character rightly belongs in his original time period, the 1920s. He also examines how Simon Templar differs from that other iconic British hero (coincidentally also portrayed by Moore), James Bond 007. Click here to read
The Beatles with Brian Epstein at the 1964 London premiere of A Hard Day's Night.
The next time you hear American politicians debating the "onerous" tax burden on the wealthiest citizens, consider England in the 1960s when the tax rate on their highest earners skyrocketed to 98%. This forced many of the UK's most creative artists into tax exile. By the time sanity had returned to the British tax code, some of these people had left their native country permanently. The Beatles were among the most notable victims of the tax system but they also suffered from an abundance of bad business deals. Their hip, young manager Brian Epstein is fondly recalled for shepherding the Fab Four throughout their early career but Epstein (who died in 1967) was not the best business manager they could have had. An article in Bloomberg News features an interview with Peter Brown, the 74 year old man who took over managing the Beatles after Epstein's death. Brown reflects on Epstein's shortcomings and the turmoil that followed his death. Turns out Epstein had negotiated ludicrously low royalty deals for the lads from Liverpool that literally saw them making a fraction of a penny on every record sold. It was only due to the sheer number of records sold during the Beatlemania era that they ended up being wealthy in spite of these bad deals. Epstein also foolishly negotiated away the rights to Beatles merchandising for peanuts. Although the Beatles became fabulous wealthy, they always remained haunted by the fact they were cheated out of proper royalties and never even controlled the rights to the records they made. For more click here
I confess to never having heard of this film prior to receiving a review DVD from Warner Archive. In fact, it's fairly obscure even in its native Britain. However, The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer, released in 1970, is one of the most amusing and perceptive political satires I have ever seen. The dark comedy opens with the titular character (Peter Cook in top, deadpan form) inexplicably arriving at a mismanaged London publicity and advertising agency. With nary an explanation about his identity or background, Rimmer simply makes himself at home, though uninvited. The inept brass assumes some big wig has implanted Rimmer among them to be an efficiency expert so they defer to him on virtually everything. In short order, he turns the failing company into a fabulously successful force in terms of marketing potential political candidates. Finding a way to manipulate the dumbest segment of the Tory voter base, Rimmer quickly becomes a major force in choosing which candidates are the most charismatic, yet intellectually vacuous. Before long, this man of mystery, who says little but achieves a lot through shrewd schemes, is on the A list of London socialites. He's courted by all and beautiful women are at his disposal. Rimmer chooses a comely lovely (Vanessa Howard) as his bride, but she soon learns even she is a tool for political expediency as Rimmer himself becomes a top candidate for public office. He's a British precursor to Robert Redford's Bill McKay in The Candidate (1972). Both end up being ironic political forces, though Rimmer is a clever manipulator while McKay is an empty shell who rises to the top by serving as the charismatic tool of his puppet masters.
The script was co-written by Cook, John Cleese and Graham Chapman- heavyweight comedy talents who specialize in theater of the absurd. However, the writers keep their comedic instincts restrained, opting wisely for subtle laughs rather than slapstick. The inspired supporting cast includes such comedy stalwarts as Cleese, Chapman, Arthur Lowe, Denholm Elliott, Norman Rossington, Dennis Price with Ronald Culver and Harold Pinter thrown in for good measure. The cynicism of the piece is that a brainless segment of the public will be satisfied by the superficial aspects of candidates even if they know nothing about those candidate's backgrounds or motives. Rimmer becomes the toast of the town without ever taking a firm position on any issue. He smiles a lot, charms everyone and remains firmly in the middle of the road on any topic. Thus, the story is as timeless today as ever. Witness the parade of ignorant, empty-headed people who have emerged as leading political figures in the last year alone and you'll understand why The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer plays more like a horror film today than the comedy it was originally intended to be.
Heath was an English killer
responsible for the murders of two young women. He was executed by hanging in
London in 1946 (aged 29). Heath was a handsome and well-spoken sociopath who
could easily lure women to their doom.
In 1967, Alfred Hitchcock was trying to rebound
from the failure of the Cold War espionage thriller Torn Curtain with an
original screenplay entitled Frenzy (and later Kaleidoscope). The
unproduced project was to have been based on the crimes of serial rapist-killer
Heath, although the story would be set in the present day in and around New
York City. The original story would be told completely from the point of view
of a murderer who is both attractive and vulnerable.
Screenwriter Benn Levy wrote in a letter to
Hitchcock in January 1967: “It's got to be (based on) Heath, not (John George) Haigh
(the acid bath murderer). Told forwards, the Heath story is a gift from heaven.
You'd start with a ‘straight’ romantic meeting, handsome young man, pretty
girl. Maybe he rescues her from the wild molestations of a drunken escort. ‘I
can't stand men who paw every girl they meet.’ Get us rooting for them both. He
perhaps unhappily married and therefore a model of screen-hero restraint. She begins
to find him irresistibly ‘just a little boy who can't cope with life’ -- least
of all with domestic problems such as he has described. She's sexually maternal
with him, she'd give him anything -- and we're delighted. Presently a few of us
get tiny stirrings of disquiet at the physical love-scenes but don't quite know
why. By the time we see the climax of his love in action and her murder, then
even the slowest of us get it! But we shouldn't know till then.”
Rare trade ad for a film that was never made.
Frenzy would also be a stylistic
departure for Hitchcock. After watching Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up,
Hitchcock felt he had fallen behind the Italians in technique. Hitchcock
biographer Patrick McGilligan writes: “Watching one Antonioni, he sat up
straight at the sight of a man all in white in a white room. ‘White on white!’
he exclaimed to (his personal assistant and script supervisor) Peggy Robertson.
‘There, you see! It can be done!’”
Hitchcock was also impressed
by the camerawork improvisation of maverick American director John Cassavetes (Shadows). He asked the novelist Howard
Fast (Spartacus, Cheyenne Autumn) to sketch a treatment about a gay, deformed serial
killer. Pleased with the results, Hitchcock composed a shot list with over 450
camera positions and shot an hour’s worth of experimental color tests, using
unknown actors in various states of undress. This footage was filmed in New
York City, and gives a tantalizing glimpse of what Hitchcock had in mind, of how
revolutionary Frenzy/Kaleidoscope would have been in his body
of work – a Psycho for the more
liberated counterculture era. Unfortunately, MCA/Universal were disgusted by
the script and test footage and immediately canceled the project, reducing
Hitchcock to tears. Hitchcock was coerced into directing Topaz, Leon Uris’ behind-the-scenes account of the breakup of a
Soviet spy ring at the highest levels of the French government during the 1962 Cuban
missile crisis. Topaz was another in
a string of artistic and commercial failures for Hitchcock as he approached age
Japanese poster for the 1972 film Frenzy which was entirely different from the previous project Hitchcock had intended to use the title for.
What would have been
Hitchcock's most daring and controversial work was thwarted: an avant-garde
film using hand-held camerawork, a first-person viewpoint and natural lighting
(à la Blair Witch Project, filmed
32 years later), detailing the exploits of a gay bodybuilder who dabbles
in murder, rape and possibly necrophilia. It was conceived in 1964 as a prequel
to Hitchcock’s 1942 film Shadow of a Doubt and was initially titled Frenzy,
not to be confused with his eventual 1972 movie of the same name, from which
certain plot elements of the original Frenzy
Hitchcock’s interest in
Neville Heath first manifested itself in 1959 in his unproduced project No Bail for the Judge, which would have
starred Audrey Hepburn, Laurence Harvey and John Williams. A respected judge is
blamed for the murder of a prostitute, and his barrister daughter searches for
the real killer in London’s criminal demi-monde. Hepburn, who desperately
wanted to work with Hitchcock, suddenly withdrew from the project because of a
scene in which her character is brutally raped in Hyde Park by a good-looking London
pimp named Edward “Neddy-Boy” Devlin, who dominates Hepburn by
slowly strangling her with a necktie.
Audrey Hepburn never did work
with Hitchcock, but Laurence Harvey got along with the Master of Suspense and
starred in Arthur (1959), a grisly episode
of the long-running TV anthology series Alfred
Hitchcock Presents in which a beautiful woman (Hazel Court) meets with a
The rape scene in No Bail for the Judge obviously was one that Hitchcock wanted to
realize, in one form or another. It is quite similar to the scene of Mark’s
rape of the frigid Marnie on
their honeymoon cruise. The unproduced script of No Bail for the
Judge also looks forward to the unproduced Frenzy/Kaleidoscope
and to Hitchcock’s serial killer masterpiece Frenzy (1972), with its sexually impotent necktie strangler Bob
Rusk (Barry Foster) loose in London, eager to pin the murders of several
attractive women on his best friend. The unproduced Frenzy contains a
sequence in New York’s Central Park where the killer, Willie Cooper, takes a
young woman into the bushes and murders her. And while Bob Rusk may have more victims
to his credit than Neville Heath and Willie Cooper, it is clear that Edward
“Neddy-Boy” Devlin was Hitchcock’s first “necktie strangler”.
So, as Hitchcock matured as an
artist, his impulse to film violent misogynistic scenes intensified – scenes
which would finally be free from censorship in the freewheeling “anything goes”
atmosphere of Hollywood in the sixties and seventies.
(Click here to order Cinema Retro issue #18 featuring extensive coverage of Hitchcock's Psycho. Click here to order Cinema Retro issue #24 featuring in-depth article on the making of the 1972 version of Frenzy)
If not for a last minute change, legendary opera star Maria Callas would have been the female lead in The Guns of Navarone.
Opera superstar Maria
Callas was set to make her movie debut in Carl Foreman’s iconic war film The
Guns Of Navarone, according to a new book, The Making Of The Guns
Of Navarone launched this weekend at the Bradford Widescreen Film
Festival (April 26-29) by Scottish film historian Brian Hannan.
The singer had scandalised
the world by her affair with Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, who
would later marry Jackie Kennedy, widow of assassinated president John F
Kennedy. Callas was first choice for the role of the older female Greek
partisan. Producer Carl Foreman promised ‘mucho love scenes’ with star Gregory
Commented Hannan, ‘At the
time, Maria Callas was the most famous woman in the world, a fiery mixture of
Princess Diana and Madonna, the role model for every diva to come. This was an
astonishing publicity coup. Names did not come any bigger. Although few opera
stars can act, she was considered more than capable. Smouldering European
actresses like Sophia Loren were much in demand in Hollywood at the time and
she fitted the bill.’
Born in America in 1923 to
Greek parents, she mad her singing debut in 1941 but her early career was
tumultuous and it was not until she married wealthy industrialist Giovanni
Meneghini that she achieved major success. Even so she battled with employers
and was known as much for her tantrums, walkouts and love life as her singing. Her
presence was a considerable departure from the best-selling book by Scottish
writer Alistair Maclean for in the original there were no female characters.
The news received worldwide
coverage – Callas was that big a star. Hollywood was agog. Offers of movie
roles had been made to Callas before and she had turned them down. There was a
history of opera stars making the jump to Hollywood. Popular 1930s due Nelson
Eddy and Jeanette Macdonald had both been opera stars. More recently Mario
Lanza had been a box office sensation - his film The Great Caruso had ranked
third in the US box office charts in 1951 ahead of Marlon Brando in A Streetcar
Named Desire and Elizabeth Taylor in A Place In The Sun. There had also been a
trend for operas to be filmed and show in cinemas.
But Callas’s career had
been riddled with bust-ups and insiders predicted the relationship with Foreman
would not last. Callas abruptly quit the production before shooting began and
was replaced by classical actress Irene Papas.
Nor was she the only
casualty of the filming. Producer Foreman lost first choice
actors Cary Grant and William Holden, director Alexander Mackendrick
(The Ladykillers), scriptwriter Eric Ambler (Mask Of Dimitrios),
and a second female star Annette Stroyberg, wife of director Roger Vadim who
had turned Brigitte Bardot into a star. British actor David Niven nearly died
during filming. The set, the biggest ever built in Britain, for the
titular guns collapsed and had to be rebuilt and the budget soared by
Despite these setbacks, the
film burned up the box office and was the number one film of the year and
nominated for seven Oscars.
Hannan has also published
two books on Hitchcock – Darkness Visible:Hitchcock’s Greatest Film and Hitchcock’s
The author will introduce a
new restored 4K version of The Guns Of Navarone film on Sunday
April 28 preceded by a book signing of his book and its companion The
Making Of Lawrence Of Arabia.
The Making Of The Guns Of
Navarone by Brian Hannan is published by Baroliant Press, priced £8.99 and
is available on Kindle and in bookshops.
(U.S. readers can click here to order the Amazon Kindle edition)
Scorpion has released a fun horror double-feature DVD consisting of The Hearse (1980) and Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969).
The Hearse is a comparatively upscale production (anything is upscale compared to the Dracula flick) that top-lines two good actors: Trish Van Devere and Joseph Cotten. Van Devere plays Jane Hardy, a recently divorced thirty-something woman who is suffering from psychological problems relating to the end of her marriage. When her mother dies, she inherits a charming country home that used to belong to her maiden aunt. Jane decides to spend the summer in the house in the hope that a rural lifestyle might ease her personal problems. From minute one, she has second thoughts, however. The townspeople are rude to her and there are rumblings about some nasty legends relating to the house. The lawyer who is overseeing the property (Joseph Cotten) is a nasty, cynical old coot who does everything in his power to dissuade Jane from staying in the home she has inherited. The reasons why become immediately apparent. No sooner has Jane moved in than strange things start occurring. Doors slam on their own, noises emanate from the attic and cellar and she believes she catches glimpses of her aunt watching her. In the glorious tradition of "women in haunted houses" films, Jane doesn't do the sensible thing and move out. Rather, she convinces herself there is a logical explanation. However, the nightmarish scenario moves outside of the house and Jane (who inevitably finds herself driving at night on back country roads) is terrified by a mysterious hearse that tries to run her off the road. She later learns that the secret may relate to her aunt's past. In reading her diaries, Jane is shocked to find that her aunt was once a shy, conservative woman who was planning on marrying a preacher. However, she fell under the spell of a sexually perverted man and ended up becoming practicing the black mass with him. The two devil worshipers were killed in an accident but the hearse carrying their bodies was also destroyed in a bizarre twist of fate and their bodies were never found. Despite the increasing threats on her life, Jane remains determined to stay in the house and seeks solace from a new man in her life, the handsome Tom Sullivan (David Gautreaux), who is so creepy he practically sprouts horns and fangs, but Jane never catches on. The film presents every cliche of the genre including a heroine who uses candles and flashlights to investigate things that go bump in the night. (There may have been a reference to an old Indian burial ground, too, but I could have missed it.) There are some genuinely creepy scenes but long-time editor George Bowers (who made his directorial debut with this film) can't figure out how to milk any suspense from the overall weather-beaten scenario. The film is best in the early scenes when Jane is haunted by relatively mundane occurrences. By the time the movie reaches its climax, Bowers resorts to an "everything but the kitchen sink" formula that throws in exorcisms and car chases. The premise of a demonic automobile should have been sent to the cinematic junk yard after the unintentionally hilarious The Car (1977). The Hearse isn't as bad as all that, thanks to fine performances by Van Devere and Cotten, but it falls short of its overall potential. It makes for passable entertainment, but in the aggregate, it's pretty much stuck in neutral. The DVD contains an introduction by scream queen Katarina Leigh Waters and there is an audio interview with screenwriter Bill Bleich. The original trailer is also included.
Blood of Dracula's Castle is an infamous gem from director Al Adamson, who was so inept he made Ed Wood look like Sir David Lean. The film was shot in 1966 but not released until 1969. Falling squarely into the "so bad it's good" category, the story centers on Glen and Liz (Gene O'Shane and Barbara Bishop) a young couple who are engaged to be married. Glen learns he has inherited a castle in the California desert (!) that belonged to an eccentric uncle. Upon arriving at the castle, they are greeted by George (John Carradine), an erudite but eerie long time butler to the residents of the mansion. They turn out to be the Townsends (Alex D'Arcy and Paula Raymond), a bizarre couple who claim they hold royal titles of Count and Countess. They are distressed to learn that Glen and Liz intend to move into the residence, which means they will have to find a new abode. This makes for a major problem because they are vampires and are quite happy with their present situation, which finds them keeping young women chained to the wall in their dungeon and using them as a source of blood supply. (They feel that biting victims in the neck is a rather quaint way of sustaining immortality when one can indulge in refreshing blood cocktails.) The Townsends extend every courtesy to the young couple who intend to evict them and introduce them to their friend Johnny (Robert Dix), who is actually an escaped convict who gets murderous urges whenever there is a full moon. Before long, Glen and Liz are victimized and facing life in the dungeon. Townsend also reveals he is the original Count Dracula, a plot device thrown in merely for marquee value as there is absolutely nothing about him that evokes any of the popular perceptions of the Count. In fact the Townsends are about as threatening as Gomez and Morticia Addams, as they trade witticisms and charm their intended victims with their perpetually jolly outlook on (eternal) life. There is one other resident of the mansion: Mango (Ray Stevens), an Igor-like mute who captures young women for the Townsends and who is periodically rewarded by being allowed to sexually abuse them. The film is a complete disaster on all levels, which makes it fun to watch. The irresistible presence of John Carradine only adds to the fun. The shoddy sets are somewhat offset by the fact that director/producer Adamson found an actual castle-like mansion that was located in the California desert. The film is padded out with chase scenes that are designed to make the clock run out in order to get to an appropriate running time. Adamson's ineptness is part of the film's charm, as is the presence of members of his own stock company who gamely appeared in his numerous low-budget productions. The DVD features Katrarina Leigh Waters interviewing production manager John "Bud" Cordos, who went on to direct his own films, most notably Kingdom of the Spiders. Cordos is an affable guy who relates marvelous stories about his friendships with Adamson and Robert Dix (son of silent screen legend Richard Dix). He states that Dix never played the Wolfman in the film, which may seem erroneous because there is footage of Dix's character turning into the Wolfman. Research shows that this footage was inserted into the film to spice up TV syndication sales and that the actor in the furry rubber mask was not Robert Dix. Thus, Cordos is correct in his statement.
The entire DVD double feature package is very well produced by Scorpion founder Walter Olsen, who goes to extraordinary lengths to give first class treatment to second-class films. Half the fun of watching a Scorpion DVD is indulging in the informative extras, as is demonstrated with this package. This double feature DVD evokes memories of the glorious old days of theatrical double features. Highly recommended for pure kitsch value.
Harrison Ford and Chad Boseman in "42", a surprise boxoffice hit.
Hollywood studios, long criticized for catering almost exclusively to young audiences, is discovering that if they release intelligent fare aimed at older audiences, they will be rewarded with boxoffice gold. In recent years, films that feature the usual big action sequences, boring special effects and low-brow comedy have been rivaled by some highly praised films aimed squarely at baby boomers and senior citizens. Case in point: last week's strong opening for 42, the Jackie Robinson biopic that top-lines 70 year old Harrison Ford, who now refers to himself as a "character actor". For more click here
If you think Terrence Mallick makes films infrequently, consider the career of Robin Hardy, who gained acclaim for his direction of the 1973 British horror classic The Wicker Man. In the ensuing decades, Hardy has been associated with precisely three other feature films, all little-seen: as writer of Forbidden Sun (1989), The Wicker Tree (2011, as writer and director) and the 1986 film The Fantasist, which he also wrote and directed. The latter film suffered from a botched release and poor reviews, with the verdict being that Hardy's much-anticipated return to filmmaking was a letdown. Scorpion Releasing has issued The Fantasist on DVD and the movie deserves to be re-evaluated with the passage of time.
The film is set in Ireland and Hardy makes excellent use of both urban and rural locations. Moira Harris (sometimes billed as Moira Sinise nowadays due to her marriage to actor Gary Sinise), an actress who is American by birth, gives an astonishingly convincing performance as a Patricia Teeling, young Irish woman who moves from her family's farm to Dublin in order to break the monotony and pursue a career as a teacher. Urban life agrees with her and she takes out a room in a boarding house. However, Dublin is being terrorized by a serial killer who phones young women and chats with them in a seductive, yet sexually explicit way. Some of these women end up being so intrigued by the mystery man that they invite him to their apartments only to be sexually abused and murdered. Patricia is oblivious to the murders. She befriends a charming American, Danny Sullivan (Timothy Bottoms) who is also a boarder in the house. He's quirky but funny and seems harmless enough- until she overhears him making obscene phone calls. The tension rises when a female boarder in the house falls victim to the serial killer. In panic, Patricia's roommate moves out, leaving her alone with the increasingly creepy Danny. She finds an ally in Dublin Detective McMyler (Christopher Cazenove), who becomes especially welcome when Patricia begins receiving the ominous phone calls herself. In one terrifying incident, she finds herself in the house with the unseen murderer but manages to make a daring escape by crawling atop the roof and climbing down to the ground. The police peg Danny as the prime suspect but they can't find anything but circumstantial evidence so he isn't indicted. A fellow teacher, Robert Foxley (John Cavanagh) also emerges as a suspect. He's also eccentric and carries a torch for Patricia. The film comes to a suspense-filled climax with Patricia finding herself captured by the killer. In a cringe-inducing, sexually explicit sequence, she decides to attempt to save herself by using erotic techniques to disarm her would-be murderer. The film is only compromised by an epilogue set on a ferry that reduces this otherwise superior, intelligent thriller to the level of a typical slasher movie with some over-the-top action straining credibility.
The Fantasist has much to recommend about it. All of the performances are first rate and the identity of the killer will keep viewers guessing right up until he is revealed. Harris is simply superb and the supporting performances are equally first rate. As director and writer, Robin Hardy impresses with this double-duty assignment, eschewing studio shots for making use of actual locations. The film has a cliched scenario but is a far more mature and sophisticated work than most other "women in jeopardy" thrillers.
Scorpion's DVD edition features a first rate transfer and is presented as part of the label's signature Katrina's Nightmare Theatre which means you get an optional, campy introductory segment hosted by former wrestler (!) and B movie sexpot Katarina Leigh Waters. She not only provides plenty of eye candy but also relates some interesting facts about the making of the movie and its undeserved neglect by audiences and critics. The package also contains the original trailer as well as an ample sampling of trailers for other Scorpion releases. The box art seems to be a new creation and doesn't even mention Harris on the credits, which seems patently unfair.
I may be one of the few critics who looks favorably on The Fantasist. It's got plenty of flaws, but its Dublin setting and fine performance by Moira Harris earn it a hearty recommendation.
The Warner Archive has released the 1965 film adaptation of Agatha Christie's oft-filmed Ten Little Indians. It's hard to imagine that the scenario of a disparate group of exotic strangers being summoned to a chateau by a mysterious host once seemed like a fresh concept. Certainly, the concept already had moss on it when this film was made. However, there is something timeless and intriguing about such a story line, primarily because it generally affords a star-studded cast to interact. There are no superstars in this European version of the story, but the movie is packed with wonderful actors. This time around, the individuals are invited to an opulent chalet atop a snow-covered mountain top, accessible only by cable car. (The location is never specified, but the exteriors were filmed in Austria and the interiors were shot in Ireland.) The victims-to-be include square-jawed American hero Hugh O'Brian, sexy Brit Shirley Eaton, fresh frommaking a sensation in Goldfinger, exotic Israeli actress Daliah Lavi, one-time teen idol Fabian, Swiss actor Mario Adorf, German actress Marianne Hoppe and a wonderful array of great British character actors: Wilfred Hyde-White, Leo Genn, Dennis Price and Stanley Holloway. Each of these people has a secret they are hiding and all are accused of being responsible for the death of an innocent person by their unseen "host" Mr. Owen (the voice of an uncredited Christopher Lee). The crisply-photographed B&W production evolves predictably under the competent, if unexciting direction of George Pollock, who had helmed the hit Miss Marple films starring Margaret Rutherford. The film is more serious in tone than those popular mysteries, but there is still a good deal of witty byplay as the diverse people try to find out what secrets their companions are shamefully hiding. The gimmick of murdering them off one by one revolves around the old Ten Little Indians children's rhyme. There are also some decorative figurines of Indian braves that adorn the dining hall and one of them vanishes each time a person is killed. In the time-worn tradition of such thrillers, as the group is reduced in size, they vow to all stay together in the same room. This logical solution to thwarting the murderer among them is dispensed with regularly, as the women saunter off into dark basements and up ominous staircases to investigate strange noises.
The film is curiously lacking in any genuine suspense, but it's glorious to revel in the sight of some legendary British actors trying to upstage and outwit each other in this deadly cat-and- mouse game. The film is consistently entertaining and the star power is more impressive today than it was back in the day. The climax of the film is surprising, if a bit of a stretch. It's all accompanied by a hip jazz score by Malcolm Lockyer that sometimes seems a too jaunty and upbeat for a tale revolving around serial murders. For sex appeal, O'Brian gets to walk around shirtless while Eaton has two (count 'em, two) opportunities to strip down to her bra and panties, reminding us why her early retirement from the film industry deprived young men of countless unrealized fantasies.
The Warner Archive burn-to-order DVD is a crisp, clean transfer with only a few minor artifacts evident. There are some nice bonus features including a "Who-dunnit" gimmick that was obviously inserted into some prints of the film before the real murderer is revealed. The angle is worthy of an old William Castle horror flick as bombastic graphics and film clips are used to remind viewers of who was murdered and how they met their demise. The clip challenges them to take this 60 second slot to discuss with other audience members who they feel the culprit is. It's a hokey, but wonderful touch. There are also trailers for this movie and the Miss Marple films, as well. In all, an irresistible treat.
Click here to view original trailer and to order from the Warner Archive.
Harrison Ford isn't generally known to be a ball of laughs in interviews. He plays the good soldier and makes the circuit to promote his latest film (in this case, the new Jackie Robinson biopic). However, he generally appears to enjoy the process as much as enduring a root canal. However, on Jimmy Kimmel Live, he engaged in a spirited and very funny routine in which he confronts some eccentric Star Wars fans- and is uncomfortably reunited with a certain alien. Click here to view
Intrada Records has announced the premiere of Jerry Goldsmith original soundtrack scores for two great Frank Sinatra films: Von Ryan's Express and The Detective. Both scores appear on the same special edition CD. For details click here to order from Screen Archives.
The web site SpyVibe informs us that some ultra groovy 60's spy soundtracks from classic TV series are being made available...some in glorious mono! Among them is a repressing of the original soundtrack from The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. Click here for more info
Disney isn't wasting any time capitalizing on their costly purchase of the Star Wars franchise. The studio has announced that, beginning in 2015, a new Star Wars film will arrive annually. Some will be new series based on various characters from the franchise. For more click here
Eddy Friedfeld, Carl Reiner and Fran Zigman. (That's Mel Brooks on the phone). (Photo: Karen Caesar.)
By Eddy Friedfeld
The late great Larry Gelbart once said
about his friend and colleague, the still great Carl Reiner: “Carl Reiner and my maid have a lot in
common- they both abhor a vacuum.” Having spent time with Mr. Reiner, I can attest that Mr. Gelbart was
newly released autobiography, I Remember Me, is a very entertaining and wonderful
and inspiring collection of anecdotes. His
third biography, following My Anecdotal Life and How Paul Robeson Saved My Life and Other Mostly
Happy Stories, is a collection of funny and poignant, and extremely well-crafted
stories range from friends and family, including his late wife of 65 years,
Estelle (whose When Harry Met Sally iconic line “I’ll have what she’s having,”
rated ahead of Humphrey Bogart’s Casablanca close “This is the beginning of a
beautiful friendship,” on the AFI list of all-time great movie lines,), to
famous friends and acquaintances, including Frank Sinatra, Jack Benny, George
Burns, Jerry Lewis, Don Rickles, Ernie Kovacs, Gregory Peck, Julie Andrews, and
regular at bi-monthly dinner parties at Sid Caesar’s home in Beverly Hills organized
by producers Fran and Lou Zigman, Reiner read from his new book, extolling
Caesar’s gifts as the best sketch comedy performer that ever lived, and talked
about being creative with Brooks. When
prompted by Estelle Harris (Seinfeld’s Mrs. Costanza), who is as warm and
friendly as her Seinfeld counterpart was tough and overbearing, he said that he
saw himself as the ultimate master of ceremonies: “As child I loved movies so much that when I
saw one I really liked I gave a friend
money to go see it.”
all due respect to the master, he undersold himself. He is an Agent Provocateur of creativity and comedy. He makes everything and everyone he interacts
with smarter, funnier, and better.
understands the fundamental
art of storytelling and how to share a stage. An actor, writer, director and producer, he is the consummate partner; a
chronic comedy enabler: From Caesar’s comedic
foil, to Brooks Two Thousand Year Old Man partner, to The Dick Van Dyke Show’s
creative force, to Steve Martin’s early film collaborator, and to anyone whom
he happens to be in a room with at the time, his kinetic energy is
enters Caesar’s home with Mel Brooks, his oldest friend, his partner in
creative crime, with whom he has a palpably enviable and inspiring bond. They are the Butch and Sundance Kid of
comedy, both comedic alchemists, creating funny lines, images and situations
literally from the air spinning their golden wit and entertaining and
energizing everyone around them.
Indefatigable, his energy level would
make Seal Team Six tired. There is a
deceptive effortlessness with which he creates. It belies years of training and even more years of passionate pursuit of
craft. He will turn a conversation into a riff or a small
sketch. And for the self-proclaimed
tone-deaf man who once needed an entire orchestra to back him up for a one line
of musical song- and missed it, he is a virtuoso at the music of comedy, and
its innate rhythms and vibrations. He
is a pleasure to watch in action. When
actress Diane Ladd came over to his table during dinner and said, “please don’t
get up,” he responded with dignity and velocity: “I am up. I am just not standing.”
At 91, he still stands over six feet
tall. Distinguished looking, and a
stylish and dapper dresser, he could easily pass for a retired lawyer or
banker. There is a decided dignity that is
coupled with a mischievous spark in his eyes. He is studying the room, stealthily casing it like a creative cat
burglar, mining it for ideas, talent and potential laughter: He is going figure out how to make you laugh,
you just don’t know it yet. And you are
not just going to laugh- you are going to be an active participant in the
party. HisRaison d'être is to bring out the
best in you.
At another dinner party, he produced a
ceramic mug he received from the Off-Broadway show Old Jews telling Jokes. Seeing an opportunity, he turned the mug into
a prop and a tradition; a faux microphone- whomever it was passed to was
required to tell an old joke. From
contemporaries Dick Van Dyke and Monty Hall, to later generations of comedians
and actors, including Renee Taylor and Joe Bologna, Richard Lewis and Roastmaster
General Jeffrey Ross, and guests who never told a joke on stage or for money, each
of whom took the cup, got up and executed a joke with equal fervor and gusto,
encouraged by his spirit.
At one of the dinners, I showed the group a segment of an episode
of NBC’s Producers’ Showcase from 1954 which had a satire of "Meet the Press"
called "Beat the Press." Caesar was in his Professor character the
purported expert on everything, with Reiner playing the earnest reporter
interviewing him about subjects ranging from mountain climbing to the pyramids,
and was being quizzed by real-life journalists Lawrence Spivak, H.V.
Kaltenborn, and Emanuel Freedman.
clip prompted a recollection from Reiner that he was on the Jack Paar Show with
Radio Foreign Correspondent H.V. Kaltenborn who talked about meeting Adolph
Hitler during World War II. “Hitler had
such a warm relationship with his dogs, he was so kind to them,” he recalled
which Reiner interjected: “Do you recall
his relationship with the Jews?” The story got resounding applause from the dinner
party. Reiner said that Paar’s audience
had a similar reaction and that the reporter couldn’t recover from the
resounding applause to make another point.
has given me both advice and friendship over the years, graciously sharing
stories and wisdom. Excited that I
introduced my NYU film class to Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, he said: “It’s the most fun I ever had making a
picture. We spent six months editing
clips from old Film Noir movies finding clips we could use. The name Rigby Reardon (Steve Martin’s
character) came from lines from other movies uttered by Charles Laughton and
Humphrey Bogart.” Showing him original
programs from Your Show of Shows prompted a story about how Bob Hope produced
his first national television special using the Show of Shows cast and crew,
“I’ve been thinking about it,” he once said to
You don’t need both.”
Retro Contributor Eddy Fried(feld) teaches comedy and film history at Yale and
Click here to order Carl Reiner's I Remember Me from Amazon
On Saturday, April 23, 1988, I attended
the Official Starlog Festival at the then-Penta Hotel in midtown Manhattan on
Seventh Avenue. It was my first time meeting makeup artist Tom Savini and several
cast members of Star Trek were also
on hand. Film producer Frank Marshall,
whom cineastes will know from The Warriors
(1979), Raiders of the Lost Ark
(1981), Poltergeist (1982), Back to the
Future (1985), and most recently The
Borne Legacy (2012), also showed up for a few hours to debut footage that director
Robert Zemeckis shot for a new upcoming film entitled Who Framed Roger Rabbit? which was based upon the 1981 novel by
Gary K. Wolf, Who Censored Roger Rabbit?The footage that we saw consisted of Bob
Hoskins interacting with Roger and other animated characters and it looked pretty
seemless.When the film opened two
months later, I was delighted to see my favorite cartoon characters appear in
The premise is fairly straight forward
and owes a huge debt to the film noirs
of the Thirties and Forties and there is more than a passing wink at Roman
Polanski’s Chinatown (1974) as Eddie
Valiant (Bob Hoskins) is hired by R.K. Maroon (the head of Maroon Cartoons) to
investigate allegations that Jessica Rabbit, the wife of cartoon star Roger
Rabbit (both of whom live in Toontown with other cartoon characters who act in
movies for real people producers and directors), is having an affair. Eddie hates toons because his brother, Teddy,
was killed by one some years earlier. Eddie
shows Roger pictures that he took of Roger’s wife, Jessica, playing patty-cake
with Marvin Acme. Roger interprets this
as his wife cheating on him, and when Acme is killed the next day by a fallen
piano, Roger moves to the head of the suspect list. Since toons are pretty much indestructible
(they have to be in order for them to be “killed” in their cartoons!), an evil
man named Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd), who presides over Toontown, knows
that the only way to kill a toon should one of them step out of line is to
submerge them into a vat of acid he calls “The Dip”. His minions are sent out to find Roger and
bring him back for the murder of Marvin Acme. This leads to a series of action-packed misadventures that are executed
in the tradition of most of the beloved Warner Brothers Merrie Melodies cartoons.
This is the film’s first foray on to
Blu-ray, and its third go-round on DVD. It
comes in a 2-disc set with one Blu-ray and one DVD. The Blu-ray contains the following extras:
running commentary (runs in tandem with the film)
Roger Rabbit Shorts: Tummy Trouble, Roller
Coaster Rabbit & Trail Mix-Up
Who Made Roger Rabbit (10:55)
Scene: The Pig Head Sequence (5:30)
and After (3:07)
Behind the Ears documentary (36:37)
On Set! behind-the-scenes (4:50)
The DVD contains these additional extras:
Toontown Confidential, a feature that
can be enabled while watching the film which has facts and trivia
What is missing, and this is something
I have never seen on any home video release of the film be it VHS, laserdisc
(does anyone remember the controversy surrounding this release?), or
previous editions DVDs, is the CBS-TV special Roger Rabbit & the Secrets of Toon Town which aired on Tuesday,
September 13, 1988. Its exclusion might
be attributed to a rights issue. Fortunately, it can be seen here
on Youtube. The quality is not stellar,
however it is better than not having access to it at all.
All in all, this Blu-ray is a worthy
upgrade to a fun film that has earned its place in movie history.
With 1980s screen icons back in style, we're actually kind of excited over the prospects for Escape Plan, which pairs Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. Formerly titled The Tomb, Entertainment Weekly describes the movie this way: "Stallone stars in the film as a brilliant prison architect who has to break out of the world’s greatest prison with Schwarzenegger, and presumably they do indeed conceive some kind of “plan” for their putative “escape.” The film also stars Jim Caviezel, 50 Cent, Sam Neill, and Vinnie Jones." In the photo above, the former Governator looks particularly cool. The flick will be released in North America in September. For more click here
A prop phaser rifle designed for one of two original pilot episodes for the original 'Star Trek' TV series has been sold at auction for an astronomical $231,000. The rifle was designed by Rueben Clamer for producer Gene Roddenberry and was wielded by William Shatner in a pilot episode for NBC. A previous pilot episode had been filmed with Jeffrey Hunter in the lead role, but the episode was rejected by NBC brass. Still, the network saw promise in Gene Roddenberry's creation and authorized a second pilot episode. The rests, as they say, is history. Click here for more about the gun, as well as film clips.
Cinema Retro was shocked and saddened to learn of the death of screenwriter Michael France at the age of 51. He died from complications from diabetes. France's big break was writing the screenplay for Sylvester Stallone's 1993 blockbuster Cliffhanger, which he did "on spec", meaning he pitched his idea to the studio and was not commissioned to write it. France also wrote story lines for the 1995 James Bond smash GoldenEye, though he was not credited with the actual screenplay, which was a source of a strained relationship with the Bond producers. Some of his ideas that were developed for GoldenEye were utilized in the 1999 Bond hit The World is Not Enough. In the 1970s, he published the short-lived 007 fan magazine Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. France was a major comic book fan and wrote the screenplays for Ang Lee's 2003 version of The Hulk as well as the super hero flick The Punisher. On a personal note, I had lost contact with him in recent years, but have fond memories of both of us having many laughs at Eon Productions' spectacular London premiere of GoldenEye. The following year, I was a consultant on an official Bond celebration in Jamaica and managed to get an invite for France and his wife as guests. We had plenty of fun in the sun and these memories are quite special to me. My heart goes out to his family on the loss of this personable and very talented screenwriter. - Lee Pfeiffer
Here for your online viewing pleasure we have included the following nifty recreations of those great one-reel Super 8 sound horror and sci-fi digests of the past in a special salute to Castle Films and Ken Films! All but "Bride of Frankenstein" and "Return of Frankenstein" were edited by one Henry Senerchia, who may be contacted at email@example.com to direct your comments. Each film isguaranteed to produce 9 minutes of "warm fuzzies" for any "monster kid" who was lucky enough to grow up in the heyday of those great boxed film digests that winked seductively from spinning racks and shelves in elite camera departments of the finest department stores of the 1960's and 70's!
Showgirls! The Musical! is a satiric stage production based on the notorious NC-17 1995 film Showgirls that has had a vibrant after-life as a guilty pleasure for lovers of campy movies. The stage show debuts April 17 in New York City and runs through May 4. According to the web site DNAinfo.org:
"The new musical promises not only the “erotic dancing” of the original but also “questionable dancing,” according to a statement.
There will also be musical numbers like “Don't Lick that Pole, Girl” and “I’d Look Great in Versace” – as well as plenty of thrusting."
“Showgirls! The Musical!” will run at the Kraine Theatre at 85 E. Fourth St. from April 17 to May 4. All shows are at 8 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased in advance for $18 from ShowgirlsTheMusical.com and can also be bought at the door for $20.
For more info, tickets and film clips visit the web site by clicking here
Winters in the classic gas station sequence from Stanley Kramer's It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
Jonathan Winters died on Thursday at age 87. Although superstardom eluded him, Winters is acknowledged as one of the most innovative comics of his era, having inspired others such as Robin Williams to emulate his talent for improvisation. Winters' off-beat, often crazy antics relied on off-the-cuff remarks rather than rehearsed comedy routines, though he did prove to be a popular television presence and released hit comedy albums. He was too unstructured to capitalize on his successful roles in classic comedy films such as It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! A WWII veteran, Winters found early success with live comedy routines in nightclubs, but the pressure caused him to suffer two nervous breakdowns and he gave up the format in favor of making feature films and TV appearances. For more click here
If you're a Cinema Retro reader, chances are you've probably seen director Don Siegel's 1971 crime classic Dirty Harry more times than you can count. However, what you may not know is that the film was not originally developed for Clint Eastwood. Other actors from John Wayne to Burt Lancaster turned it down first and Frank Sinatra had actually been signed for the role before an injury to his hand made him drop out. The web site www.todayifoundout.com provides some fun facts about the making of the movie. Click here to read
Actor Robert Vaughn discusses his long career and his new film, The Magnificent Eleven, a UK-sports based movie loosely based on the classic Western The Magnificent Seven in which Vaughn co-starred with other stars-to-be. He humorously relates his greatest career satisfactions and disappointment (he won't get to play Hitler) and talks about his most embarrassing scene as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Click here to read
“There is no one like Jack Black… No, I read
that wrong- no one likes Jack Black,”s aid Roastmaster Bob Saget as the School
of Rock star and Tenacious D musician was honored at star-studded Friars Club
event held at the New York Hilton on Friday April 5.
Saget masterfully set the tone for the roast:
“To say that Jack Black is a one-trick pony is an insult to ponies… Jerry
Lewis, you’re an icon,” he told the Friar’s Club Abbott, who announced that he
is celebrating his 84thyear in the entertainment business, “but I’m
glad you don’t take a bow- you’d yank your balls out of your socks.”
“It’s unusual for Sarah Silverman to be at table
with comedians,” Saget said introducing her, “she’s usually under a table
jerking them off.” “Anyone who’s seen Bob do comedy knows it’s nothing like
Full House,” Silverman replied. “He played a sweet Dad in Full House, and now
plays a lousy comedian for a half-full house.” Turning to the corpulent actor
Oliver Platt, she said: “you’re distantly related to Princess Diana, which
means that bulimia is not an inherited trait… Jeff Ross made a sex tape and the
next day his girlfriend was arrested for bestiality.”
The star-studded guest list ranged from Al
Roker, Oliver Platt, to KISS founder Gene Simmons, Debbie Harry, Chad Smith,
Richard Marx, The Beach Boys’ Mike Love, The Spin Doctors, Boyd Tinsley, Dee
Snider, Dreamworks’ co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg to Black’s Tenacious D
partner Kyle Gass.
“There are so many fossils here, I thought that
Ben Stiller was shooting another Night at the Museum sequel,” Silverman said.
Turning to Lewis, she said: “The last person who thought you were funny in
France just died. Jerry Lewis doesn’t think that women are funny and now no one
thinks Jerry Lewis is funny.”
“Jack Black is very shy- he prefers to be left
alone- that’s why he made Nacho Libre…School of Rock changed my life- because
you can’t get rid of anal warts… Jack is so fat, his last movie was shot by
Google Earth. He’s not starved for attention, just onion rings.”
Introducing Roastmaster General and creator and
star of Comedy Central’s “The Burn” Jeffrey Ross, Saget said: “Before the roast
he was standing next to Jerry Lewis in the lobby and somebody made a donation.
And Jerry took it. And then he humped the guy.”
“Bob is currently on a stand-up tour of
colleges, and it’s just nice to see someone not killing at a school these
days,” Ross said. “What a turnout: Dee Snider, Debbie Harry, Joan Osborne. Last
time I saw these three musicians together was in a Dollar CD bin… Is this a
roast or a charity concert for shingles? Turning to Mike Love, he said: “Don’t
you think it’s about time you change the name of the band to something more age
appropriate, like The Grateful Dead?”
Turning to the guest
of honor, he added: “Jack is widely considered a show business triple threat:
Diabetes, blood pressure, and gout… Anybody see Jack in the remake of King
Kong? Your version sucked so bad, King Kong jumped off The Empire State
Building! Jack sounds like Meat Loaf and his partner Kyle smells like meatloaf…
This is fun- I never roasted a marshmallow before!”
In its best incarnation, the roast is a
celebration of a career or life through testimonials barely veiled as insults
(and more often just insults themselves). Saget introduced Ross as one of his
closest friends (“he came to my father’s Shiva, and he was so funny he made my
mom choke on his kishka, which is what he calls his balls.”)
Ross’ interplay with Saget harkened back to the
legendary era of Friar’s roasts where most of the roasters were lifelong
friends, where Frank Sinatra, Milton Berle, Buddy Hackett, Red Button, and Jan
Murray would jab each other like expert swordsmen. Comrades in insulting arms, they were
skilled at honoring someone they loved and respected through devout,
passionate, and creative dishonor. As
much as they were coming to see the guest of honor, audiences wanted and still
want to be part of the beloved family of friends that made fun of each other
with regularity and deep affection. With
close friends Saget and Silverman, Ross continued the private party tradition
where the roasters were happy to have you become a part of, where the
friendship made even the harshest barbs affectionate.
to Gene Simmons, he said: “You look like a Rabbi fucked an Indian Chief. What
happened, Gene? You used to rock and roll all night and party every day- now
you get up six times a night to go to the bathroom.” Getting Simmons to show
his infamously large tongue, he added “you’re two pieces of pumpernickel away
from being the Number 3 at the Carnegie Deli!”
Ross’ observation about Lewis: “We make fun
of Jerry Lewis, but what about the good things Jerry Lewis does? What about the
fact that just a few years ago, a six year old boy got up out of his wheelchair
and walked for the first time- to turn off the Jerry Lewis Telethon,” brought
down the house with the greatest laughs coming from Lewis himself.
Ross poignantly closed his set by telling the
capacity crowd how much the roasts mean to him. “I love, love coming to these
Friar’s roasts every year. Some of my best friends are on this dais and in this
room. I started out at these roasts. I will finish my life at these roasts. And
the fact that Jack Black knows enough about the traditions of comedy that he
would agree to do this is an inspiration to people with Downs Syndrome
Roast-contest winner and newcomer Amadeo Fusca
did an impressive job, starting by telling Saget “Thank you, Uncle Jesse.” To
Katzenberg he said, “I’ve seen your movies. Your dreams don’t work… Jeff Ross
is a veteran of these roasts- he shows up once a year and will probably be
“Jack Black will do anything for a movie role,
except sit-ups and pushups,” said Vh1’s Carrie Keagan; “This is my first
Friar’s roast and obviously Jerry Lewis’ last,” said Amy Shumer, “it’s hard to
film School of Rock when you’re not allowed 500 feet in front of one… how are
you holding a pen,” she said to Saget, “don’t your hands hurt from hanging on
by a thread for so long?” “In your version of Gulliver’s Travels, Gulliver
travelled right the video store,” Artie Lange said. “It’s very expensive to
bring Jerry Lewis to the roast- it costs $10,000 to bring him here and $10,000
to tell him where he is.”
There were also videos from Seth Rogen, James
Franco and Danny McBride, Matthew McConnaughey (“Jack Black is a very nice man,
unless you’ve met any other men”),Will Ferrell in his Ron Bergundy persona,
accusing Black of not returning “the AMC Hornet he borrowed,” and Shirley
MacLaine, talking about how much she loved Jack in “Save the Tiger,” confusing
him with former co-star, Jack Lemmon.
Cinema Retro contributor Eddy Friedfeld
teaches film and comedy history at NYU and Yale and will be hosting the Dick
Van Dyke Lifetime Achievement Award program at New York’s 92nd
Street Y on April 26th.
The Warner Archive has released That Hagen Girl as a burn-to-order DVD title. The 1947 soap opera stars Shirley Temple as Mary Hagen, a high school girl who is socially ostracized when it is suspected she was born illegitimately. The presumed father is Tom Bates (Ronald Reagan), who twenty years earlier had been romancing the high school prom queen. She suddenly vanished without explanation only to return with her parents and kept in isolation. The rumor mill indicated that she had given birth to a daughter, who was then given to a local childless couple to raise. Tom makes attempts to see his girlfriend but is rebuffed by her strict parents. Eventually Tom moves to another town but returns many years later when he inherits a house in his hometown. Now a successful lawyer, the handsome Tom turns heads even as the rumors resume over his presumed status as Mary's real father. Tom is unaware of the "scandal" and ironically ends up befriending young Mary and acting as her mentor. He later realizes that his presence in town has reignited the unsavory rumors that have haunted Mary since her birth. Her only real friend is Julia Kane, a young teacher who tries to stop the bullying of Mary by fellow students and school officials, who single her out as too undesirable to play the lead in the school play. Ultimately, Tom takes a bold stand to defend his presumed daughter- and in the process informs her of some very surprising facts about her heritage.
That Hagen Girl is predictably corny by today's standards, with even the wildest teenagers dressed in suits and ties and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm-style dresses. A product of the era, I suppose. Nevertheless, it's hard not to find much of the goings-on unintentionally funny. Yet, the film does manage to pack a punch in terms of being among the first such movies to denounce bullying and illustrating its devastating impact on the sense of self-worth of those who are victimized by it. The seemingly bold subject matter of out-of-wedlock birth becomes somewhat watered down in the conclusion, but the movie remains an enjoyable and engrossing experience thanks to the considerable star power of Reagan and Temple, who segued rather nicely from child star to respected adult actress. Reagan is his usual stalwart self. If there wasn't an Oscar-worthy performance lodged within him, it can be said he was a far better actor than most of his future political opponents would ever concede. Lois Maxwell is particularly impressive and won a Golden Globe as most promising newcomer for her performance. (She would become beloved by movie fans worldwide as James Bond's original Miss Moneypenny.)
The DVD features a fine transfer and includes an original trailer.
Click here to order from the Warner Archive and to watch a preview clip
Nana stands in front of the camera. With her head in close-up, she poses: left,
full profile and then right. Throughout Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre Sa Vie,
the philosophising prostitute is both alluring and clinical, free-spirited and
forced, but despite her famous speech in the cafe (and being seen and perhaps
censured by capricious cinephiles) can she be held responsible for her actions
within the film
Godard’s piece (naturally enough for the New Wave) is a mixture of
different styles, as suggested by its teasing, nimble title, Vivre Sa Vie, which translates roughly
as “live life” and has been moulded variously into It’s My Life, My Life to Live and To Live Her Life across the territories. It suggests an approach mixing
direct cinema with cinema verite-style camera work to indicate a defiant,
almost decadent posturing that is nonetheless a delicate portrayal of its theme
and holds its truth in the quickest flecks of light caught on camera behind the
beguiling Nana. Indeed, Nana’s relationship with the camera changes from scene
to scene; she flirts with it almost as a client, forces herself on it when
dancing and is followed by it when fleeing terrified from the scene of a
shooting. The film’s subtitle is A Film
in Twelve Scenes. Simply speaking, it charts segments in the life of Nana,
a wife and mother who has left her family to tread the boards.
She aspires to life as an actress and it could be argued that she
subsequently spends most of the time fulfilling a series of roles, such as the
moll she becomes for most of the feature’s duration. From the opening frame, Godard goads us, makes us strain for the
meaning in her scenes, for the meaning of her mythos as a whole.
Following the frames in which we are given information about the film’s
festival-circuit run, the opening section is where Godard’s starlet seduces the
camera. Nana stands still, sometimes almost in silhouette. Her eyelashes are fluttering
and there are slight movements of her tender mouth and smooth throat as she
breathes. While an understated gesture, it is sexual, sordid even and oddly
uncomfortable for the viewer, so personal is the image that it reminds them of
their own breath and rhythmic deglutition. The music appears, then disappears
and we are denied Nana’s eyes as they are blotted out by obviously obtrusive
text in the titles. The referent paradox is clear: she is Miss X of the same
generation, one of the modern masses, yet a subject worthy of study and a
creature so captivating she must be periodically censored for her audience’s
The film is an exercise in illustrating the paradoxes of interpretation,
so much to consider, yet every element included is a potential deconstruction. Nana
is an appealing mix of style and naturalism, function and frivolity. Her short
hair makes her comparatively boyish (as she semi-acknowledges in her letter to
a potential Madam, stating that it could quickly be grown out), yet it also
shows off that sensual neck. From the opening scene where we only truly see the
back of her head and hair, bulky jacket and cigarette smoke, she may drink like
a man, play like a man and talk like a man, but she can also be moulded by a
man. She talks about her torturous life to her ex-husband, Paul, in the café.
We see their backs and note their similar shapes and the ferocity of fear for
her fate versus her desire to be seen as “special” by him. She acts in place of
his inaction. We are desperate for them to touch as shutting us out of their
conversation (as the framing does) makes us feel vulnerable too, all the while
praising Nana for her forward-thinking vehemence. Above all, however, her
hair’s sleek cut makes her look extremely functional, as underlined by her
clothes and chamber while working as a call girl. Nana has an innate glamour
that both enhances her sex appeal and sterilizes her environment.
Here is a girl who borrows her gestures from the gentlemen she galvanises.
Her head bobs with theirs on her bored, business-like but Byzantine journey;
while leading them often around the room, she also follows their lead when
allowing herself to be purloined for their pleasure. The easy, lazy angle of
her hand holding a cocked cigarette is her calling card and is the art of the
tart considering the inevitable conclusion of her next conquest.
Art or apparatus, Godard wants us to feel the grit under Nana’s shoes in
order to understand the poetry of the situation; she cannot appreciate the
responsibility she claims during the canteen scene as for her (an actress in
both senses) it must remain unsaid lest it becomes a piece of performed fiction.
As Susan Sontag states in Against
Interpretation, she’s there to be seen, not to explain, so we must fill in
the gaps for her. Against this interpretation, however, is our own
interpretation of that. As Godard changes his camera angles and plays with diegesis
we cannot help but imply an interpretation. According to Sontag, these are simply
snippets of a kaleidoscope, a section of discourse that relates to the
narrative frame but not to our assertive femme for whom (she feels) no
explanation is given. Yet despite Sontag’s clear investment in stating the
alternative, it becomes impossible not to see the implied implications of the
oddly innocent girl’s situation.
Indeed, Nana’s more masculine behaviour only serves to silhouette her
slightness and frailty. As Sontag comments, each one of the film’s twelve segments
recalls a text and, as the ‘text’ in the café sequence suggests, Nana’s story is
that of ‘The Chicken’, that which’s soul can only be found when she has given
of herself. However, this is not through negation of herself as Sontag suggests
– it is not exactly a process during which Nana has no control over the layers
that are stripped away, but it is controlled submission. We see Nana unburdened
in the scenes in which she drifts, when her smile shines brightly enough for it
to light up her eyes. This is when the body and soul of this little ‘chick’ are
peeled away and we notice Nana unconstructed, a Nana of pure feeling inside the
skin cage, a ghost inside the machine.
We listen to Nana and her lover discuss passages
of Poe and may think her mask is beginning to slip; despite the simple, clinical
setting alongside the business-like montages of our Mademoiselle and her men,
we begin to feel warmth. Nevertheless, this is hope for the future that feels
hallucinogenic, so far is it from the narrative’s precision-focused frame. Nana
has become a body, a sculpted doll not only in her looks but in her assertive,
masculine behaviour, so it is natural that this, too, must be discarded. This
occurs in our final sequence, wherein our miss is sold to another pimp. She is manhandled
across a bleak parking slot from man to man until she is shot. Her delicate
figure contrasts against the shaft of the gun, yet like it she has become
little more than a mechanism of male control, a cog in a wheel of a criminal
machine maintained by money and murder. Nana’s impregnation by the phallic
symbol represents a loss, a commercial union turned sour. Nana the machinic
mode of production has been decommissioned. To put it crudely, the bullet has
given her more holes than necessary for her occupation and has marked her. Particularly
in the cold, hard light of the modern-day chicks, she is simply an appendage
sullied, and therefore sullying by association, another man.
After her evisceration and an indelicate death
dance, therefore, she falls to the floor by the car.
It is here the viewer finally feels Nana in
a way that Sontag would probably support; we feel her precisely because we
don’t. As she lies lifeless in the street, her personality begs a playback the
fast-paced action will not permit. We watch in horror as first one car leaves
her, then the other half speeds towards her as though to crush the evidence of
her calamitous conclusion by driving straight across her and leaving a pool of
unbelievably black blood oozing and oscillating on the tarmac. Such is the
departure from the film’s abstracted gentility that the idea alone of this sort
of image – regardless of the film’s final fade before it becomes possible – remains
with the viewer. While Sontag complains bitterly that the bombastic director
destroys the thematic complexity of his piece by allowing Nana’s death to
mirror the parable of the ‘poule’, it actually seems to do the exact opposite.
It forces Nana to live in our mind’s eye. We recoil from the image despite the
fact it never worries our retinas. We instead see Nana in all humanity,
philosophy and beauty precisely because God(ard) deprives her – his muse and off-screen
wife Anna Karina – of it in those final few frames. By placing herself in that
scenario, she is given chance to bear her soul.
She is responsible.
Dr Karen Oughton is an academic and film journalist. Click here for her web site
(Viva Sa Vie is available as a special edition Blu-ray from Criterion. Click here to order from Amazon)
Annette Funicello, who was discovered by Walt Disney himself and who went on to become the most legendary of his original Mouseketeers, has died from multiple sclerosis at age 70. Ms. Funicello was one of the biggest child stars of the 1950s, receiving thousands of fan letters every week. She was also placed under contract to make feature films for Disney. As she matured, Funicello became the subject of a lot of jokes as she tried to maintain her wholesome image even while nature took effect and she blossomed into a voluptuous young woman. She had a short-lived romance with fellow teen idol Paul Anka and she also built a second career in the popular "beach movies" of the mid-to-late 1960s, often starring with Frankie Avalon. As she matured, Funicello married and delighted in her role as a stay-home mom, though she would occasionally be lured back into the spotlight. She did a beach reunion film with Avalon in 1987. Upon being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she set up a research foundation for neurological disorders in 1999. For more on her life and career click here
Some of the most inspired special edition DVD and Blu-ray releases are coming from independent, niche-market labels that afford certain film titles the kind of grandeur that would never be afforded them by major studios. Case in point: Synapse Films, which routinely releases first rate special editions of "B" movies, cult films and obscure foreign imports (often with an erotic edge). The most impressive Synapse release I've seen to date is their Blu-ray/DVD combo pack of the 1971 Hammer horror film Twins of Evil. The movie is rather notorious for representing a kinky penchant for shocking violence and a marketing campaign that implied an on-screen lesbian relationship between Playboy models (and real-life twin sisters) Madelaine and Mary Collinson. (In reality, there are no such scenes in the film.) The story is centered in a rural European village during the 17th century. The townspeople are in awe of a local nobleman named Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas), a handsome but evil young man who uses his absolute power to indulge in a penchant for practicing witchcraft and seducing local girls to visit his castle where he seduces them into a life of sexual deviancy. Karnstein also has a penchant for killing off certain virgins for pleasure and selecting specific women to fall victim to his secret powers as a vampire. Karnstein's crimes results in the formation of The Brotherhood, a local group of puritan vigilantes headed by Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing), a religious zealot who is also a self-appointed witch hunter. The local women have as much to fear from him as they do from Karnstein, as The Brotherhood routinely accuses young girls of being in league with the vampire. This results in them being burned at the stake in order to have their souls redeemed. In short, this ain't a great place to live if you're a single woman. Into this hellish situation come Gustav's nieces, Freida and Maria (Madelaine and Mary Collinson), two recently orphaned teenagers who must now reside with their uncle. Upon being warned about Karnstein's nefarious activities, Maria chooses to be vigilant but the more daring Freida is intrigued by stories of sexual perversion and orgies. She secretly visits Karnstein, who seduces her and turns her into his vampire lover. He convinces her to assume the identity of her sister so that Mary is convicted of murder and is sentenced to be burned at the stake.
Twins of Evil came at a time when Hammer Films were struggling to maintain the audiences they had built in the previous decade. By 1971, seemingly every studio had made an attempt to emulate Hammer's success. The result was that there was a sea of imitators and the Hammer brand became in danger of imitating the imitators. The studio decided to rely more and more on nudity and overt violence, often at the expense of storylines and character development. Although this film is part of that exploitation campaign, it ranks with the better Hammer efforts of the period thanks to a good script, intelligent direction by John Hough and an impressive performance by Peter Cushing, as one of the least sympathetic heroes he ever portrayed. Damien Thomas was being groomed as the next Christopher Lee, with the intention of being a reliable leading man for Hammer. Although he makes a compelling villain, stardom was not on the horizon for him. The Collinson twins (both dubbed for their roles) provide plenty of eye candy, but the nudity that is overtly exploited in the publicity photos is somewhat fleeting. Twins of Evil is one of the gorier Hammer films, but it also remains one of the most compelling. It ranks alongside the other two great witch hunting-themed films of the era, The Witchfinder General and Blood on Satan's Claw.
Synapse Films has presented Twins of Evil as a truly outstanding Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. The extras are to die for, if you'll pardon the pun. These include a superb documentary about the making of the film that is almost feature length. Directed and produced by Daniel Griffith, this is a fairly expensive extravagance for a niche market DVD company. The fascinating documentary is titled The Flesh and the Fury: X-Posing Twins of Evil and features a very informative overview of the Hammer vampire trilogy that derived from the classic 19th century vampire novel Carmilla that introduced lesbianism into the genre. (The first two films were The Vampire Lovers and Lust for a Vampire.) The documentary includes interesting insights from a wealth of Hammer and cult movie experts including director Joe Dante, director John Hough, Sir Christopher Frayling, film critic Kim Newman and publisher Tim Lucas. It's even more entertaining if you are not well-versed in Hammer lore. Other extras include a featurette that covers a private collection of Hammer film props, a stills gallery, TV spots and trailers, an isolated music and effects track and a deleted scene that absurdly presents teenage girls singing a 1970's-style love song.
In all, a great release from Synapse Films, a company that continues to impress us with their zeal for paying tribute to often overlooked and underrated films.
One hates to get sociological or philosophical about a lightweight sex farce like How to Save a Marriage (and Ruin Your Life), a 1968 trifle that nonetheless boasts an impressive cast: Dean Martin, Stella Stevens, Eli Wallach and real-life wife Anne Jackson, Jack Albertson and Betty Field. However, the premise of the movie is so distinctly distasteful that it is sure to offend any self-respecting modern woman as well as any male who isn't still walking about clad in animal skins and clutching a club. The film, which is now available as part of Sony's burn-to-order DVD line, has a value that is more anthropological than comical. Wallach plays Harry Hunter, a successful New York business executive who is unhappily married to an attractive but shrewish wife (Katharine Bard). He finds solace by keeping a mistress, Muriel Laszlo (Anne Jackson) in an opulent apartment. His frequent visits there are as much therapeutic as they are sexual, with Muriel happily gearing her entire existence toward pleasing her man. She fawns over him, makes no demands, and pampers him constantly. When Harry brags to his best friend and fellow executive Dave Sloane (Dean Martin) about the joys of having a dedicated mistress, Dave sets out to test his theory about her never straying into the arms of another man. (One of the more cynical aspects of the script is that "kept women" are supposed to be completely loyal to their married sugar daddies). However, Dave mistakes another woman for Harry's mistress: Carol Corman (Stella Stevens), an attractive young sales girl in the corporation. When he observes her social behavior with other men, he assumes he has proof that Harry's "other woman" is cheating on him. To get further evidence, he decides to prove he can seduce her. Dave romances Carol and ends up renting her a luxury apartment right next door to Harry's real mistress, Muriel. It seems the apartment building is basically a classy bordello that houses numerous girlfriends of married rich men. In the film's most amusing scenario, Dave finds Carol understandably receptive to his sexual advances (after all, he looks a lot like Dean Martin.) Dave, however, can't take his "investigation" to the point of actually bedding the woman he thinks Harry really loves. There are some funny scenes in which Dave has to find a way to explain why he isn't eager to jump into bed with Stevens, who saunters about clad in a low-cut nightgown with a pouty look of sexual frustration on her face. He concocts a scenario whereby he explains that he is a widower whose beloved, late wife made him promise to never make love to another woman. It's a sign of the times that in 1968 you could plausibly present a plot scenario in which Carol still readily agrees to live with Dave, quit her job and devote her entire life to pleasing him. Naturally, complications ensue and she discovers she has been lied to. The script presents "liberated women" as those scorned mistresses who band together in order to force their sugar daddies to give them legally binding pension plans to get them through their later years, when they will have been discarded in favor of younger women. It's enough to give Gloria Steinem heartburn.
You don't have to be a knee-jerk liberal to wince at the entire tasteless scenario of this film. Not helping matters is director Fielder Cook's insistence that the always-watchable Wallach play his role in an "over-the-top" manner that is only matched by Betty Field's equally hysterical portrayal of an older, scorned mistress looking to wage war on all males. Usually, one doesn't analyze the production design in a romantic urban comedy, but it bears mentioning that, aside from a few second unit shots in New York City, there is absolutely nothing that suggests the look or feel of the city. A sequence showing the exterior of Dave Sloane's private club looks more like London than Gotham and the film has a rather cheesy feel to it, given the abundance of interiors. On the positive side, Martin and Stevens exude some real chemistry and there are a few scattered laughs. However, for the most part, this is a laborious exercise that celebrates an era in which women's fates were tied to dependency on the man in their lives.
The DVD presents a crisp, clean transfer but there are no extras.
There's a wonderful Facebook web page called The Old Movie Guy's Page that presents all sorts of great photos and comments pertaining to vintage cinema. In one recent posting, they unearthed some rare comments made by Nigel Bruce regarding the series of Sherlock Holmes films he did with Basil Rathbone. Bruce said, “The stories we did were modernised but the characters of the famous detective and his biographer were kept more or less as originally written by Conan Doyle. Watson, however, in the films was made much more of a 'comic' character than he ever was in the books. This was with the object of introducing a little light relief. The doctor, as I played him, was a complete stooge for his brilliant friend and one whose intelligence was almost negligible. Many of the lovers of Conan Doyle must have been shocked, not by this caricature of the famous doctor but by seeing the great detective alighting from an aeroplane and the good doctor listening to his radio. To begin with, Basil and I were much opposed to the modernising of these stories but the producer, Howard Benedict, pointed out to us that the majority of youngsters who would see our pictures were accustomed to the fast-moving action of gangster pictures, and that expecting machine guns, police sirens, cars travelling at 80 miles an hour and dialogue such as 'Put em up bud', they would be bored with the magnifying glass, the hansom cabs, the cobblestones and the slow tempo of an era they never knew and a way of life with which they were completely unfamiliar.”
Mike Bloomfield of moviepostermem.com is pleased to announce the launch of a new
website www.fiskenposter.com This website is dedicated to a single owner
collection of movie posters. We're showcasing posters in the collection &
trying to explain something about the artists behind the posters & the
market in general. Hopefully people will enjoy browsing & find it a useful
resource base. Of course, if you have any posters that you think would fit
into the collection. please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
(For a special tribute article to the legendary British movie poster artist Tom Chantrell, see Cinema Retro issue #25)
Spanish film director Jess "Jesus" Franco has died at age 82 in Malaga, Spain. The prolific pioneer of Spanish horror and fantasy cult films capitalized on a relaxation of censorship laws to create a body of films that have withstood the test of time and still maintain loyal followings today. Among them: Succubus, Vampyros Lesbos, 99 Women, The Awful Dr. Orlof, Necronomicon and the 1969 Count Dracula starring Hammer film favorite Christopher Lee. He also served as second unit director on Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight. A respected talent who specialized in exploitation films, Franco also occasionally acted, wrote screenplays and composed music for his own films as well as those of other artists. In all, Franco was involved in the production of over 200 films.
With his long-planned remake of A Star is Born seemingly stalled, Clint Eastwood appears to be looking at another big screen musical: the movie adaptation of the Broadway smash hit Jersey Boys. The play tells the story of the meteoric rise of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons to the top of the American pop charts in the 1960s. The show received widespread acclaim for not simply presenting a catalog of the group's greatest hits, but for also showing many of the unsavory, behind-the-scenes aspects of Valli's career and personal life. This would be Eastwood's first foray into the musical genre since the ill-fated 1969 big budget Paint Your Wagon in which he starred with Lee Marvin and Jean Seberg, although this time, he would be behind the cameras. For more click here
Pasha Roberts is the director of the
new film Silver
Circle. He obtained his masters in financial
engineering, which he describes as “hedge fund math,” roughly ten years ago. His interest was in financial digitalization
and how to apply modern computer graphics to high finance. His thesis subject
consisted of applying a game-like graphics engine to doing equity trading in
finance so that a reasonably intelligent 13-year-old gamer could use it to learn
this type of trading. Upon doing this,
he realized that what was missing from financial communications was a way of
describing complicated concepts from a Ph.D level and bringing it down to a
Masters level, essentially reducing the complexity and making it accessible; he
did this by working with banks, corporations and think tanks.
Beginning around 2006, he began moving towards
more economic-type concepts, and felt that it was important to describe things
on more of an economic level rather than a financial level. When the housing and financial crash occurred
in 2008, he decided that Silver Circle
should really be about a crash and the intrigue around that crash.
Todd Garbarini: Your animation company,
Two Lanterns Media, produced a series entitled Save Sonny which concerns a young adult entering the workforce who
becomes perturbed to find that some of his paycheck is being deducted by a
mysterious entity known as FICA (laughs). Does Sonny personify the average young
American in your mind?
Pasha Roberts: At that point, we kind
of did that, yeah. That was kind of a South
Park-level of humor, there are some farts jokes in there as well. The goal at
the time was to take the subject and make it interesting and acceptable for
somebody who, when they get their first job, suddenly realizes that they don't
get all of their money. They want to know where it goes to, specifically FICA,
and why. That was a whole, completely
different other style and was not as serious as (our new film) Silver Circle, but kind of
tongue-in-cheek and somewhat educational.
TG: The series reminds me of Schoolhouse Rock which endeavored to educate children
on science, economics, history, etc. Do
you see yourself as an educator for social change and personal financial
responsibility through animation?
PR: Yeah, you could say it that way. We
were focusing on the story first and therefore tried to make it fun and
interesting without trying to be too pedantic about it. That's why Silver Circle isn't full of speeches, although it has one or two
that are kind of mixed in. We were interested in working with people who wanted
to make a movie with a backbone and a spine and ideas in it. The audience can
certainly enjoy it on an intellectual level in that regard, but otherwise they
can also enjoy themselves from the movie perspective as we do have some action
sequences and a car chase.
Circle posits the financial collapse of the United States economic system
roughly six years from now. It is
animated in the style of a contemporary video game. Was this your decision from the get-go?
PR: We were actually looking at A Scanner Darkly, actually we did use Maya,
we didn't really use cel shading
for this but we did look a lot at that. We really wanted to make the characters
look less realistic and keep them from looking kind of spooky, and even so I
think we could have done more with that. It's kind of a crossover thing, you don't see
a lot of animated movies that are not comedies or fantasies, so people aren’t
used to seeing this type of animation with something serious.
TG: How long did the process of making the film take, from conception to
PR: Four years. We basically started
brainstorming about it the day after Lehman Brothers went down because it was
such a big dramatic moment, and I thought this could be a real interesting theme.
The screenwriting itself took about a year as there was a completely different
concept at first and it took a little while to burn through a couple of
screenwriters until we finally settled on Stephen (Schwartz). Then we spent three years on production. The overall
budget was roughly $2M. One of the really interesting things about the movie is
that the end credits contain the names of about ten core people who really
worked on it, compared to an army of animators.
TG: In the film, the Federal Reserve
has been tasked with stabilizing the economy, but all attempts have failed and
the Rebels illegally mint silver coins hoping to stabilize the financial health
of the country. How do you feel this
mirrors the current economic situation in the U.S. today?
PR: I think that we are currently heading in the direction that is depicted
in the film, although I don't think that it will be as bad. There were a couple of things that are in the
movie and were even in the script but hadn't happened yet but actually came
true as we progressed through making the movie. For example, there is a guy by the name of Bernard von Nothaus who is currently in prison for making money out of silver,
and that’s his crime. His sentencing
judge basically called him a domestic terrorist for trying to make money out of
silver. So, that was not going on. Then,
the Federal Reserve was actually talking about taking over neighborhoods and
basically calling them “land banks,” which is of course essential part of Silver Circle’s plot. So, there are
angles going on in that direction already and I do believe that marijuana is on
its way to being legalized, and this also occurs in the movie. I hope that the
movie obviously isn't prescient in terms of being completely true. We looked at a lot of the history of
Argentina and Zimbabwe and what happens when a currency begins to die and how
people behave as a result of that.
TG: What do you hope audiences will
take away from the film?
PR: First off, I hope that they enjoy
the story. Obviously, I want them to have a great time. I want it to be a fun,
good story for the audience. After that, I hope that people are not only
entertained, and but there are also a lot of embedded things in the movie for
the so-called armchair economists and conspiracy theorists. I really do hope
that it gets people to start to think about money and know that there is this
thing out there called the Federal Reserve that is very real and they are not murderous
bastards (laughs). I want the
audience to not take the concepts of money for granted. Most other countries
understand that and the changing of European currency and so on and so forth -
things abroad do not appear to be as well-established or as stable as things
appear to be here. So, hopefully the
audience will think about that. The angle that we're taking is that we really
can make an animated movie with a spine of ideas that people will actually
appreciate instead of just offering up a whitewashed movie.
O'Shea squares off in court against Paul Newman in The Verdict.
The acclaimed Irish actor Milo O'Shea has died after a brief illness at age 86. The Dublin-born O'Shea had lived in New York City since 1976. He was described as a giant talent of stage, screen and TV. His memorable feature film performances include the 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet, Barbarella, Ulysses and as the compromised judge who argues with attorney Paul Newman in Sidney Lumet's 1982 film The Verdict. O'Shea, an "actor's actor", also appeared in many popular American and British TV shows including The Golden Girls, Cheers, The West Wing and Me Mammy. For more click here
On TCM's Movie Morlocks web site, writer Susan Doll celebrates the movie poster art of Joseph A. Maturo. Never heard of him? Neither had we, but his work on Fox movie posters from the 1930s and 1940s is remarkable. The Italian immigrant, who once designed dresses for flappers in the 1920s, created memorable posters for Shirley Temple's Heidi, The Prisoner of Shark Island, Charlie Chan's Secret and many other golden oldies. Click here to read.
Most Google searches for “Chiller,” the
five-installment horror series originally broadcast in the mid-90s on Britain’s
ITV will turn up a lot of forums where fans ask: “Does anyone else remember
being scared by this show?”
Like many old horror movies, the fright it inspired
after stumbling upon the program probably sticks in the mind more than the
episodes themselves. But while “Chiller” may not be the pinnacle of scary
story-telling, it often stands the test of time. Part of the reason: Forsaking
the trappings of cheap surprises or over-the-top gore of many horror projects
on a smaller budget, each episode builds on a single creepy or supernatural
The plots are your standard horror staples: spirits
brought back from the underworld, demonic children, haunted houses, etc. Most
are summoned through the typical tropes as well. (Pro tip: Reading ancient
inscriptions outloud with a group of carousing friends has never led to
anything good.) Although there’s not much here that hasn’t been done elsewhere,
there’s something comforting about the nostalgia of made-for-TV horror.
The special effects are limited and the sets throughout
the British countryside are both quaint and creepy. And the acting carries the
sotries. The talent assembled for the episodes includes many prolific British
actors. (John McEnery, Nigel Havers, John Simm, Sophie Ward and more all star
One can easily imagine catching one of these programs
late at night after everyone else has gone to bed and having more than a few
sleepless nights. The Synapse Films DVD print is clean, although somewhat
bare-bones: Five episodes on two discs with no special features (to be fair,
there was little demand for behind-the-scenes making-of documentaries on a
short-run TV show in the 1990s).
Whether you’re looking to see if the program stands up
to your memories or looking for a taste of horror that plays more on the mind
than the senses, “Chiller” passes the test of a creepy good time.
Room 237 is the title
of the excellent new documentary by director Rodney Ascher that takes the
points of view of five off-screen individuals who do their best to unmask the
purported hidden meanings in Stanley Kubrick’s initially disappointing yet
subsequently revered 1980 film version of Stephen King’s The Shining. In doing so,
they are keeping in line with a motif derived straight from the novel in a
sequence wherein Horace Derwent, a former owner of the Overlook Hotel, urges
his costumed party-goers to unmask at a lavish celebration, thereby revealing
their identities. The human face as a
mask is also a common theme throughout all of Mr. Kubrick’s filmography, so it
is only fitting that Room 237 takes the approach of removing layers to reveal
what might be hidden beneath the surface in order to get at The Shining’s essence.
As a fan of
Mr. Kubrick’s film for the past thirty years, I can honestly say that even
though I have seen it easily more than fifty times I never noticed the props,
visual references or subtexts that these five narrators diligently point out
(granted this was difficult to do on archaic home video systems such as CED or VHS due to their significantly reduced image quality,
to say nothing of the substandard televisions they were played back on,
although the technically superior Blu-ray is a much better medium due to its high definition
quality and lends itself ideal for this examination). Nor did I see the various continuity errors,
judged as deliberate by Mr. Kubrick from the narrators’ perspectives, such as
the carpet that changes direction in the hallway or the chair against the wall
disappearing during Jack Torrance’s (Jack Nicholson) emotional outburst after
his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) interrupts his writing. An argument can be made that Room 237 is less about the hidden
meanings in The Shining than it is an
explanation of five different people’s interpretations and experiences of
seeing The Shining. There were times wherein the person speaking
discussed in great length the strange layout of the Overlook Hotel and I must
admit I could not see what they were getting at, however this is just one point
that is made and there are numerous theories to go around on other subtexts of
the film: the purported significance of the number 42; the architectural
impossibility of the window in Mr. Ullman’s office; the ludicrous sexual
reference in Mr. Ullman’s first handshake with Jack (this is a bit of a stretch
– no pun intended, of course!); the Minotaur motif; the strange layout itself
of the Overlook Hotel; the references to the genocide of Native Americans and
even the Holocaust, the subject of which Mr. Kubrick later attempted to make a
film about but eventually abandoned as he felt he could not do justice to the
horror of this bleak period in history.
Ascher makes the interesting choice of not showing the faces of the narrators,
and this maneuver works to the film’s advantage since so much of it is about
pointing out what the narrators see. Cross-cutting between the narrators and the points they want to make
would have either reduced the film’s running time (102 minutes, roughly the
same as The French Connection (1970),
my favorite film) or would have left most of the cogent points on the cutting
room floor. I can only hope that the
forthcoming DVD will offer up some nice extras in the way of deleted scenes. I am certain that there must have been some
discussion about the significance of Jack telling Mr. Ullman that Wendy is a
“confirmed ghost story and horror film addict,” yet her artistic escapes
consist of reading The Catcher in the Rye
and watching Summer of ’42 (there’s
that number again!), two classics about the coming-of-age of a young male.
liked Room 237’s framing device of
using Lamberto Bava’s Demons (1985)
and Demons 2: The Nightmare Continues
(1986) as footage of an audience viewing The
Shining in a theater and on television, respectively, to make certain
points. Ideally, The Shining should be viewed in a movie theater, although
realistically that is unfortunately not an option for most of us. The home video revolution saved many a film
from inevitable obscurity and this is where the majority of Shining enthusiasts (myself included)
had the opportunity to see it and thrill to it to our heart’s content.
prerequisites for enjoying Room 237
include more than a passing interest in The
Shining (it certainly helps to be a rabid fan of the film, thus having
tremendous familiarity of it), patience, and certainly a sense of humor. Room
237 succeeds in imparting to the audience just how compelling and
frightening The Shining can be to a
first-time viewer. It is also a
testament to the notion that film viewing is a solitary experience as no two
people will see any one film with the same set of eyes. Perhaps, as is the case with The Shining, and many other Kubrick
films, multiple viewings of Room 237
will clear up and even reveal more of what the narrators say they see. Whether you consider the film to be
completely true or complete bollocks, one thing that can be said is that Room 237 is entertaining,
thought-provoking, fascinating and enlightening. It’s my choice for Best Documentary at the
SFX guru Dennis Muren says, during one of
the interviews in Ray Harryhausen:
Special Effects Titan, that today special effects are no longer special. Audiences expect them, and are
no longer impressed by them. This wasn't the case back in the 50s and 60s when
master animator Ray Harryhausen was breaking new ground and entertaining
audiences the world over. That said, Harryhausen's work was right for the time,
but would not stand up with audiences not familiar with his work today. They
have come to expect the impossible, and that's what CGI almost delivers.
However, the difference between Harryhausen's creations and today's computer
generated creatures is that the latter were animated objects. They were 'real'
and as dimensional as the actors who worked alongside the. Tangible objects
that had a life of their own. Today they may seem dated, but they have far more
character than a CGI effect, which is no better than watching a computer game.
This brilliant 2-disc documentary covers the
remarkable career of the movie industry's most admired and influential special
effects auteur. A man who inspired the likes of Spielberg, Dante, Landis
Cameron and Jackson, who in their own words admit it was Harryhausen who
inspired them to become movie makers. Loaded with clips, trailers, rare test
footage, props as they are today, and even home movies from Harryhausen's
immense collection, this is a documentary to die for. Miss it at your peril.
(Note: this review is based on the UK Region 2 DVD release. It has not yet been released in the North American market).