Once again I must tip my hat to Twilight Time for inspiring me to watch a movie I had heard of but never had the slightest inclination to experience. I always assumed that the 1945 Fox flick Leave Her to Heaven was just another soap opera romance. However,the new Twilight Time Blu-ray release presents this film in its all its Technicolor splendor-- and it seems safe to proclaim this complex drama as a true classic. In fact, according the informative liner notes by Julie Kirgo, the film really tested the boundaries of the dreaded motion picture "Code" that ensured most adult subject matters had to be watered down. Not so with this movie. Kirgo describes it as a true "film noir" despite the fact that its gorgeous Technicolor cinematography won an Oscar for Leon Shamroy. The point is that, if a movie is "noirish" enough in all other aspects, it does not have to have been photographed in black and white in order to be included in the genre. The story opens with a dashing but mild-mannered young novelist named Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde), who is on a train traveling to New Mexico to visit an old friend, Glen Robie (Ray Collins), who has invited him to stay at his impressive home in the desert. He finds himself seated opposite a beautiful young woman (Gene Tierney) who just happens to be reading his latest book. After meeting cute, the two engage in some suggestive banter and flirting. Richard is pleasantly surprised to find that the young woman, Ellen Berent, is also going to be a guest at Robie's home. After disembarking from the train, Robie is at the station to greet them, along with Ellen's mother (Mary Philips) and vivacious younger sister Ruth (Jeanne Crain). Turns out the family has come to the Robie house for a rather somber undertaking: they are spreading the ashes of Ellen's father in the desert, in accordance with his wishes to keep an old family tradition alive.
During the course of their stay at the ranch, Richard and Ellen continue their flirtation, even though he notices an engagement ring on her finger. The ring suddenly disappears and, before Richard can get his thoughts together, Ellen announces to one and all that she and Richard are getting married. Too smitten to resist the offer of bedding his gorgeous bride-to-be, Richard relents. However, an uncomfortable moment comes about with the unexpected visit of her fiancee Russell Quinton (Vincent Price), a prominent Boston attorney who is about to embark on a political career. Quinton is outraged at being snubbed and humiliated and leaves for Boston in a huff. Ellen is dismissive of her treatment of him and in the blink of an eye, she and Richard are married. The first few weeks are blissful, as the couple spends time in a backwoods cabin at a resort where Richard is writing his next novel. Soon, however, Ellen becomes disgruntled at the amount of time Richard's writing takes away from their time together. She tempts him to give us his writing career and live off of her sizable bank account, but Richard refuses. Tensions grow as it becomes apparent that Ellen is a total narcissist who can only find happiness when she is the center of a man's attentions. Things worsen considerably when the couple arrive in Georgia to visit Richard's teenage brother Danny (Darryl Hickman), who is in a sanitarium where he is combating physical ailments that have left him unable to walk. The younger boy idolizes his big brother, who does all he can to motivate Danny to continue with therapy in the hopes that he will one day be able to become mobile. At first, Ellen displays a loving and compassionate concern for the young boy...but she soon resents the amount of time Richard spends with him. Her jealousy of their relationship leads to one of the most chilling screen moments I have ever seen-- a plot device that is quite shocking, so I won't reveal it here. However, it only opens the door to the gradual deterioration of the Harland's marriage. Ellen tries to ensure Richard's affections by "accidentally" becoming pregnant, then, on a whim, concocts a plan to lose the baby because she is unhappy with the change in her physical appearance that the pregnancy is bringing. This is an equally shocking sequence, one that must have resulted in plenty of debate among the self-censors at the Code office. That the scene survived ensured that Leave It Heaven could take its place among the great dramatic screen stories of the era. As Ellen becomes more paranoid, she begins to unjustly suspect her own sister of bedding her husband-- a suspicion that leads to the film's very dramatic conclusion that features Vincent Price is a truly impressive performance.
The entire cast performs very ably under the assured direction of John M. Stahl, but it's clearly Gene Tierney's triumphant showcase. Nominated for an Oscar for her performance, Tierney must certainly go down in movie history as one of the screens' great villains. The scene in which she allows an unspeakable horror to take place in front of her eyes while she sits like an iceberg watching the tragedy unfold will haunt viewers long after the film has ended. The movie also benefits from a great score by Alfred Newman, that is alternately romantic and threatening. Leon Shamroy's cinematography- particularly in the desert sequences- adds to this juxtaposition between romance and menace. He photographs Ellen as though she were a goddess- but does so in a way that also hints at the menace in her character.
The Twilight Time limited edition Blu-ray (3,000 units) boasts a superb transfer that does full justice to the film's rich production design. The release features an audio commentary by Darryl Hickman and Richard Schickel as well as a trailer and short bit from Fox Movietone News. A terrific release of a terrific film.
the late sixties, William Atherton has starred in motion pictures, on Broadway
and television. He first achieved international prominence as the lead in
Steven Spielberg’s first feature The Sugarland
Express, and followed that with starring roles in
John Schlesinger’s classic The Day of the
Locust, Robert Wise’s TheHindenburg
and Richard Brooks’ Looking
for Mr. Goodbar. Atherton is known around the world for his memorable
roles as the antagonistic anchorman in the action blockbusters Die
Hard and Die Hard 2, as
the relentless government bureaucrat in the iconic Ghostbusters
the conniving professor in the cult classic Real
Genius. Among his more than 30 feature films are
co-starring roles in John Landis’ Oscar,
Bill Duke’s Hoodlum,
Richard Pearce’s No Mercy,
Alan J. Pakula’s The Pelican Brief,
Costa Gavras’ Mad City
and Ed Zwick’s The Last Samurai.
television, Atherton has starred in numerous mini-series including Centennial
Some of his many TV films include leading roles in TNT’s production of Joan
Didion’s Broken Trust and
his portrayal of Darryl F. Zanuck in HBO’s Golden Globe-winner Introducing
Dorothy Dandridge. Atherton was also a
recurring series lead opposite Damian Lewis on NBC-TV’s Life
and, as Principal Reynolds, resolved some of
the vexing questions in the final season of Lost.
honored for his work on the stage, Atherton has created roles on and off-Broadway
for many of America’s leading playwrights. These include the title role in Joe
Papp’s original production of David Rabe’s The
Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel, the role of Ronnie in
John Guare’s The House of Blue Leaves and
Bing Ringling in Guare's Rich and Famous. Atherton
also starred in the Broadway premiere of Arthur Miller’s TheAmerican
Clock and in the Tony-winning revival of Herman
Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny Court Martial.
His repertoire of more than 20 well-known productions also includes the
acclaimed New York premieres of Franz Kafka’s The
Castle and Kressman Taylor’s Address
Unknown. For his work on the stage, he has received
the Drama Desk Award, the Outer Circle Critics Award, the Theatre World Award
and nominations for an Obie and Chicago’s Joseph Jefferson Award.
Recent feature films include the thriller The
Kane Files as well as Tim
and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, which premiered in
2012. Atherton appears on an upcoming season of Childrens Hospital this summer.
This interview focuses on Atherton's
work since 2005. We began our talk with The
Girl Next Door (2007), based
on the Jack Ketchum novel of the same name... it follows the unspeakable
torture and abuses committed on a teenage girl in the care of her aunt... and
the boys who witness and fail to report the crime. Then we discussed Headspace (2005), the story of the
mysterious metamorphosis of 25-year-old Alex Borden, a handsome, charming and
intelligent young man with the world by the tail. Alex becomes alarmed when his
intellect mysteriously begins to grow, and so do the horrors that invade his body,
his nightmares and his waking hours.
said Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door
is "a film that has legs." Could you elaborate on this?
Atherton: From what I know, it has legs in that it's
still around and people still talk about it. It was a very difficult subject
and I thought they did it very well. I bookend it, which is great. As an actor,
I don't participate in anything in it like that (of a graphic nature). I don't mean that necessarily in a negative
way. My position in it was kind of like the conscience of the film. It gave the
film a spiritual edge. I mean, it's recounting a childhood but at the same
time, the weight of that childhood is enormous and so bookending it like that,
even though the scenes are very short, gave it a lot of substance and it was
mine for each moment and meant something important in terms of the whole film.
thought your role as Adult David was absolutely heartbreaking, as he is a man
who has contemplated the loss of his young love for over 50 years. I watched
those bookend scenes several times and they are profoundly moving. I especially
like the scene where you rescue a homeless man (Mark Margolis).
Girl Next Door is based on a true story (of monstrous child abuse). It happened in New Jersey in the 1950s.
Andrew van den Houten, the producer, got onto it and he was the one who really
marshalled it along. I had done Headspace
So van den Houten had you in mind for the role of
Adult David after working with you on Headspace.
I guess he's a big fan of yours.
WA: Yeah. And then we crafted those scenes together and figured out what to
use, what not to use, how much of the voiceover to use, to try and keep it as
spare and as evocative as we could to save time.
that was it. It was a very quick shoot. This friend of mine would tell me that
it was very difficult to shoot the kids since they couldn't see certain things
because they were under 18. The girl who was being abused (Blythe Auffarth) was 21 by that time. But the younger kids couldn't
see what was being done to her. It was a real ballet in terms of how to orchestrate
that. I wasn't present at the shooting of the more intense scenes.
I was doing a play... Address Unknown with the English actor Jim Dale, directed by Frank
Dunlop from the Young Vic. We were doing that at the Promenade Theatre in New
York and Address Unknown was a very
big issue in the thirties. It came to be because this woman who was in
advertising in San Francisco (Kressman Taylor) had some friends in advertising in
Germany and went there in the 1930s and came back to San Francisco. So she
wrote this book which is a very small, slight book.
The play is just these letters sent back
and forth between these two men, who were partners in an art gallery. The one who stayed in Germany became a real
Nazi. He was responsible for the death of the sister of the guy who was in San
Francisco, who was Jewish. What Kressman Taylor did was, she made up this story
along those lines and she had it in the letters back and forth and you see how
the two men change. The theatrical evening was reading these letters essentially
and performing them as dialogue. So the revenge that the guy in San Francisco
ultimately had was that he started writing letters with stuff like "a
Picasso Red 3" in the text. It sounded like a code and the Nazis in
Germany arrested the Nazi gallery owner and shot him. (laughs) That's Address Unknown.
What this has to do with the Headspace movie is that I met Andrew van
den Houten a couple of months beforehand through a friend of a friend of mine
in New York. A very young kid, very talented and he asked me to do this movie
when I was doing the play. I shot on my days off for about a month in New York
on the dark days in the theatre. That movie did very well for Andrew and it got
him started. I'm the doctor who finds the guy who finds the kid (whose intellect begins to grow). Dee
Wallace and I have a couple of scenes at the beginning of the film. Andrew
marshalled a very good cast. Sean Young, Olivia Hussey and Udo Kier are in it.
It's a very interesting movie and it did very well. Andrew was ambitious in
terms of the technical thing. He did some nice stuff (with monster makeup and special effects).
2010, you appeared in Re-Animator: The
the Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood. Critics said you and George Wendt knocked
it out of the park in your respective roles as Dr. Carl Hill and Dean Halsey.
We did a stage reading for it here in L.A. and we did a couple of nights of it
for director Stuart Gordon. And then they did a permanent production of it. I
didn't do the permanent production. I just helped them out in the stage reading
but it was a lot of fun. There weren't any special effects in the stage reading
– just the music and playing the scenes. Kind of like a description of what
might happen, but there were no special effects in what I was involved with.
Bedtime, a star-studded episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, you
play a disreputable public official who abuses his position to prey on women
who come to him for assistance.
Yeah, and all the women got the Emmys! (laughs)
thought you walked away with the show, but why is a classy guy like you so damn
good at playing these sleazy characters?
The reason is because the characters that I play are far more interestingly
written than the nice guys. Nice guys kind of take care of themselves, but
there's not much conflict usually, particularly in television. You come and
play a character and you can have all kinds of dimension which is very hard to
keep up week to week. And so they bring you in for color and the writing was
terrific and that's really how that all happens. The writing is often
interesting for the villain. You can kind of play around with it. And it makes
was a real Seventies reunion episode of Law
and Order: SVU. I suppose this was deliberate, right?
Yes, the Seventies! Shit, the Sixties. Some
of those gals – Ann-Margret... I mean, wow!
Atherton in Headspace
Getting Back to Zero, you play a
professional gambler who goes by the name of Box Car Joe. Your performance was
described by a crew member as "stellar." Can you tell us about your
role in this film set in the world of underground casinos?
It was the moving casino thing. This is a
picture I did about three years ago; it was about the underground world of
gambling and how they move from one place to another and the stakes can get
very high and it's entirely unregulated. There's an enormous industry in
underground gambling. So that was kind of the scenario of the picture and you
have people who are really addicted to gambling who get into that world and
become part of the fabric of that world. Box Car Joe is one of those people who
is addicted to gambling. He's arrogant, rich. They kind of run on the
electricity of the moment in order to keep from essentially collapsing into a
black hole. That's why they keep the gambling going, because there really is
nothing else. So the gambling becomes a whole force unto itself and brings them
along. Getting Back to Zero came onto
Netflix about two months ago.
The whole world for indies has changed in
the last four or five years. It's become a lot more difficult for different
films. Tonight I'm going to a movie I did a year and a half ago called The Citizen which was about one of the
guys – it's a fictional picture, but it's about one of the guys who got caught
in 9/11. Simply because he was Middle Eastern, he got into trouble in New York.
It's with me and Cary Elwes and we went to the Abu Dhabi Film Festival in the
fall and tonight it's a screening for the Hollywood Film Festival with a
Q&A afterwards. It's a lovely picture and it stars Khaled Nabawy, who is
the George Clooney of the Middle East. He's enormous over there in the Arab
world. The film festival in Abu Dhabi was incredible. We had a great time and
the movie was very well received.
me about your role as Winston.
He's a prosecuting attorney trying to
deport Ibrahim (Nabawy). It gets
pretty intense. I'm in a courtroom and so what I'm trying to convey is that at
the time, people were suspicious of people and you couldn't really take
anything for granted. Everybody had to toe the line in a way. That's just the
way the world changed. It was not necessarily a personal thing against this man
so much as it was saying: "This is the scenario now. You have to account
for yourself in ways that you wouldn't have had to before, but that is the way
of the world now. So it may seem to you
to be unfair and perhaps in the long run it is unfair, but that's the reality
of the moment and we all have to address it."
would you say The Citizen is one of
your better recent films?
Yeah, I think so. The
Citizen won Best
Ensemble Acting at the Boston Film Festival. They're in the middle of doing a
distribution deal for it now in the U.S. The
Citizen is a great picture. It also stars that lovely young actress Agnes
Bruckner who is playing Anna Nichole Smith for HBO. The Citizen will go into general release in the summer. I don't
always stump for everything that I'm in but I do stump for this one because I
think it's a terrific picture.
are you working on next?
I have an offer for a movie but I'm not
sure if the deal is going to work out. I've been involved in that process for
two movies in the past two months. On one of them I said, "No, we'll see
what happens with the other movie." I also just came back from Palm
Springs where I did a big musical benefit for Jewish Family Service of the
Desert. I used to do music in New York years ago. So it was a big musical
extravaganza for a couple of thousand people and was filled with artists like
James Barbour, Michelle Lee, Kate Ballard, and other great people. It was a big
musical evening for the Jewish Home Services Charity in Palm Springs, held at
The McCallum Theater, a big musical venue out in the desert. It was called Michael Childers Presents One Night Only.
I sang Isn't It Romantic?, which was
used in The Day of the Locust.
How did you feel about taking on the role of Honoré
in Gigi – the recent stage revival at
the Reprise Theater in Los Angeles?
I loved it.I had a fabulous
time. Millicent Martin and I did the enormously popular song Yes, I Remember It Well. We were a huge
success. Gigi sold out. Millicent was
great. The whole production was great. It was the most successful show they've
had (at the Reprise Theater). That was when I was asked to perform at the first big do
in Palm Springs. So Millicent and I also performed Yes, I Remember It Well at the McCallum Theatre's annual charity
event. And then they brought me back this year.
So you're edging back into musicals all these years
after singing What'll I Do? in The Great Gatsby (1974 version).
I'm still around
and I'm still doing it and I can still do it and I've had the most eclectic
career I can imagine. You have to go through the easiest door. All of a sudden
there was a door that opened to musical comedy. I can do a dance routine but
I'm not a "dance dancer" the way Christopher Walken is an acrobatic
dancer – even now. I'm a hoofer. I can do a routine, a soft shoe shuffle and
stuff like that.
Jinn sounds like a very intriguing picture.
I shot Jinn
about two or three years ago and I did some more on it last summer. It's really
a film-in-progress. The director of Jinn
is a very talented guy.
It's really a Middle-Eastern Exorcist.
A jinn is one of the spectres of Arab folk tales, a ghost essentially and part
of Middle Eastern lore and it's a very interesting kind of sci-fi slash horror
picture. So we'll see what happens. They're still in the midst of editing Jinn and putting that together so we
should see Jinn in a month or two. My
role as Father Westhoff is kind of like the Max von Sydow character in The Exorcist.
an episode of The Unknown series, you
again worked with Martha Coolidge, the director of Real Genius, in which you played the douchebag professor Jerry
directed Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (a 1999 TV-movie in which Atherton played 20th
Century Fox studio boss Darryl F. Zanuck).
I understand Yesterday
is a horror story. What can you tell me about it and about your role as Jim
It's an episode
of a series on the Web called The Unknown...
a series about a guy who has a website and he collects stories of the Beyond
and puts them on his website. So he's uploading the Yesterday episode. I play the priest who has somebody come and
confess to him. The person he sees at the end is already dead. And Martha shot
it very well. Yesterday is very
classy. And it's been quite successful as a webisode on Crackle.com.
Can you give me your honest opinion of Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie, in
which you play a gangster by the name of Earle Swinter?
opinion is that it made money and did well and that's all you'll get out of me.
(laughs). I think it made money overseas. It's very hard to say what does make
money and what doesn't make money. But it did better than people thought, which
is always important. I think Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim are very talented
and they're going to find their niche.
Did you have a blast working with Robert Loggia?
Oh yeah. I love
Bob. He's always terrific. Tim and Eric's
Billion Dollar Movie is not for us. It's a kid's picture. It's not the kind
of thing we'd be interested in. Their audience is the hip kids on the internet.
Their audience is like the one for Childrens
Hospital or Workaholics (Atherton recently guest starred in an
episode of each series). Those are very hot internet cable comedies. That
is their milieu and that's Tim and Eric's audience.
So the new generation knows who you are basically
because of your guest appearances in these productions.
Yes, I'm happy
How do you feel about present-day Hollywood? You
have an international reputation from Ghostbusters,
the first two Die Hard films, and the
incomparable excellence of your performances. How do you fit in to this new
Hollywood of Marvel Comics summer blockbusters, Internet movies...
Well, I don't
know about that. Ghostbusters was one
of the first summer blockbusters, where it was really designed for that kind of
thing. That's almost 30 years ago now. Pictures I began with like The Sugarland Express and all that –
they belong to a different era. But no, I think it's about the same now.
Everybody is trying to figure out the best way to do it. Everybody is trying to
figure out the best way to get good product out there. It's always been a
business and the summer blockbuster thing has been going for a long time. Look
at the Die Hards. They were
positioned to be summer blockbusters. And that's 20 years ago. And Real Genius the same way. So nothing has
changed very much. What's changed is that things come and go more quickly.
Perhaps that's how I see it now. The attention span is less now than it used to
be, but not because of Hollywood. It's the culture's attention span that's
What can you tell me about your participation in the
Sci-Fi Channel Creature Feature Ghouls.
WA:Ghouls was very ambitious for
Sci-Fi because they wanted to see how much they could do technically with the
CGI stuff for television. It was all shot in Romania, so Erin Gray and I went
over there for a month and that was fascinating because you were shooting in
Romania which was a hot location for a number of years until it got too
expensive. It was very cheap to be in Romania back then. They had finished
shooting a big Civil War picture there – Cold
Mountain with Nicole Kidman and Jude Law. We were in Romania a couple of
years later. There were a lot of pictures being shot in and around Bucharest.
We worked in the big studios in Bucharest. A lot of American production
companies were buying or leasing space in them. The crews were very good and
very cheap. It was just cheaper to bring a lot of people over there from the
States to shoot the picture. That changed after SAG's Rule 1 became official.
And that is, if you're an American actor and you're in SAG, if you shoot a
picture in Romania for international distribution, you have to have a SAG
contract. If you go to Romania to shoot something for Romanian television, they
don't care. But if you shoot something in Romania for international
distribution, it has to be a SAG contract. So SAG's Rule 1 slammed into the Romanians.
But the fun part of it was that you could go there and visit beautiful little
towns... Sibiu and university towns like Brașov – these little Baroque gems in the middle of the Carpathians and
you were shooting in some really lovely places. So that's what we did for a
Ghouls is what it is. It was a
horror picture for the Sci-Fi Channel. I think they were trying to shoot as
many things as they could for all the distribution that they could get. So I
was there with Erin Grey (Buck Rogers in
the 25th Century) and that's really all I can say about it. I was not part
of the overall viewing of it or the overall putting it together as much as I
was with Andrew's stuff like Headspace
and The Girl Next Door.
you were called upon to play another bastard in Jersey Shore Shark Attack, a Syfy Channel production.
WA: That was just a hoot. I did
that because Paul Sorvino was in it. Paul and I have known each other for many
years. It just seemed kind of fun and stupid and I guess it was fun and stupid
and so that's why we spent four or five days down in El Segundo and we just had
a very good time and it's one of those things you do just for the hell of it,
because it's silly and stupid and we had a good time doing it and that was
didn't feel that you had to bring a different element to your portrayal of
another villain – a ruthless developer intent on demolishing a seedy boardwalk
frequented by Italian-Americans?
WA: No, you try to reel it up as much as you can because the more you
ground it, the funnier it can be. You can't riff on a riff. (laughs) Somebody's
got to be the straight man so you try to do it that way and hopefully it'll all
What was it like to be crushed by a ferris wheel?
WA: Again, I watched that from afar. Paul and I just looked up and yelled
"Oh my God" and that was that (laughs).
What role do you play in Childrens Hospital, Adult Swim's hit comedy series?
WA: I play an official who is kind of like the Inspector-General. Shooting
that episode was a lot of fun. I worked with Henry Winkler. Henry and I have
known each other for a thousand years, all the way back to New York and The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel in
Cushing, seen here in Frankenstein Created Woman, adorned the cover of Cinema Retro issue #25. (See our back issues section)
Stephen Whitty, film critic for the Star Ledger newspaper in New Jersey, recently ran wrote a major article commemorating Peter Cushing on what would have been his 100th birthday. The actor who personified class and style in British cinema left a remarkable legacy that, happily, is now being rediscovered by film scholars. Click here to read.
Despite assertions to the contrary, Sam Mendes may not be able to resist returning to the 007 series in the wake of the enormous success of Skyfall. Mendes initially turned down the producer's offer to direct the entry in the legendary series, but Deadline now reports that Mendes may be having second thoughts. Click here for more
In the history of Eon Productions, there has only been one non-James Bond film: the 1963 Bob Hope comedy Call Me Bwana. Eon's founders, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, did produce independent productions (Broccoli made Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; Saltzman produced the Harry Palmer films and Battle of Britain) but these were not under the Eon banner. Since Broccoli's death, Eon Productions has been in control of his daughter Barbara and his stepson Michael G. Wilson. They have made an occasional foray into non-Bond territory including an acclaimed HBO film about the Lindbergh baby kidnapping and the successful stage production of Chitty. Now, however, in the wake of the company's greatest success, Skyfall, Eon have announced that they will produce a rare non-007 film, The Silent Storm which will be shot in Scotland this summer. Click here for more details.
Ok, James Bond fans...you've probably watched the 2006 version of Casino Royale until you memorized virtually every line of dialogue. (Although you're really a Bond fanatic when you can say the same about the 1967 spoof version of the Ian Fleming novel!) Here's a new spin: Buzzfeed has linked to a brilliant remake of the film's opening sequence- which is done entirely with Legos, accompanied by the original dialogue. They should have titled it "Lego Let Die" Click here to view.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
Sir Roger Moore, the legendary film star who played the iconic role of James Bond, is to play a series of exclusive dates at theatres around the UK.Following the huge success of his tour last year, Sir Roger will return with ten new dates in Autumn 2013, opening at the Leeds Grand Theatre on Sunday 27 October.
Roger will be discussing his astonishing life and career, with inside stories and exclusive anecdotes ranging from his internationally-renowned TV series The Saint and The Persuaders, through to Hollywood blockbusters and, of course, the 007 films, in which he starred as JamesBond between 1973 and 1985.
Gareth Owen will interview Roger. Gareth is an author of nine books and has worked with Roger Moore on his autobiography My Word Is My Bond and his latest book Bond On Bond. Gareth has interviewed Roger previously at the BFI Southbank, the Barbican Centre and at various UNICEF fundraisers throughout Europe. The show will be followed by an audience Q&A.
Presented by Jeremy Meadow & Suzanna Rosenthal, by arrangement with Pollinger Limited.
For further info, please see www.aneveningwithsirrogermoore.com
2013 Tour Dates:
An Afternoon with Sir Roger Moore An Evening with Sir Roger Moore
Sunday 27 October 2.00pm Wednesday 6 November 7.30pm
LEEDS GRAND THEATRE NEW ALEXANDRA THEATRE, BIRMINGHAM
There have been so many false starts in the attempt to bring The Man From U.N.C.L.E to the big screen, we've given up trying to summarize them all. Suffice it to say that fans believe there is a curse on any such attempt. The latest development won't do anything to dispel those beliefs. Tom Cruise, long rumored to be starring in the role of Napoleon Solo originated on the TV series by Robert Vaughn, has formally bowed out. Ironically, he's bypassed the U.N.C.L.E. project in order to do yet another installment of the Mission: Impossible series. So Cruise has dropped one film inspired by a classic 1960s spy franchise in favor of another. Still, Warner Brothers remains keen on making U.N.C.L.E. a new franchise and Guy Ritchie is still attached as director. Arnie Hammer is also still with the film, presumably to play the role of Illya Kuryakin that was originally played by David McCallum. However, at this rate, we can assume the curse will strike again. Maybe the only way U.N.C.L.E. will ever make it to the big screen is in the form of the two part feature films that were derived from the TV show in the 1960s. For more click here
Actor Steve Forrest has passed away at the age of 87. The brother of famed actor Dana Andrews, Forrest had a successful career in films and television. A WWII veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, Forrest was discovered by Gregory Peck and appeared in numerous films including Flaming Star, Spies Like Us, The Longest Day, Heller in Pink Tights, North Dallas Forty and Mommie Dearest. He was also a proficient vocalist and golfer. On TV, Forrest enjoyed his greatest success, starring in the short-lived, but fondly remembered British adventure series The Baron. As the titular character in the 1965 show, Forrest played an American antiques dealer living in London who would secretly undertake dangerous international missions in the service of British Intelligence. Forrest also had the lead role in the 1970s hit TV series S.W.A.T. For more click here
It's been quite a while since a film starring Robert Redford got a lot of positive buzz at film festivals. However, his offbeat starring role in a new film called All is Lost got a great reaction after its premiere showing at Cannes. Directed by JC Chandor, the movie depicts Redford as a lone sailor who finds himself in jeopardy on the high seas. The film is said to be masterfully directed and acted and its predicted Redford may score a Best Actor Oscar nomination even though he has no dialogue in the one-character adventure flick. For more click here
Ernest Borgnine's final film, The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vincente Fernandez has been released on Blu-ray on the Indican video label. The following is my review of the film's recent theatrical release:
The independent production is a modestly-budgeted family comedy/drama that presents the legendary Oscar-winner with the kind of showcase role that actors in their nineties almost never have. Borgnine makes the most of it, too, giving a terrific and moving performance that earned him the Best Actor award at last year's Newport Film Festival. Written and produced by Elia Petridis, Fernandez centers on Rex Page (Borgnine), a cantankerous old coot given to griping about every aspect of life. He seems oblivious to the fact that he has an adoring wife (June Squibb), a devoted middle-aged daughter (Dale Dickey) and and a worshipful granddaughter (Audrey P. Scott). Rex is frustrated by his failure to fulfill his dream of becoming a big time actor on the silver screen. He once came close to landing the leading role in a spaghetti Western, but lost out to a competing actor. He's spent a lifetime in self-imposed hell, obsessed with watching this B movie and learning every line of dialogue, which he repeats to anyone in his presence. When a health crisis sees the fiercely independent Rex move into a nursing home, a series of incidents motivate him to reevaluate his life. The nursing home is a money mill for corrupt bureaucrats who use the patients as cash cows. It doesn't take Rex long to figure this out and he quickly wears out his welcome by insulting and chastising fellow elderly patients who are part of a click belonging to the corrupt family that owns the facility. He also is abrasive towards the largely Hispanic staff of nurses and orderlies, often referring to them in unflattering racial insults.
The relationship between Rex and his caregivers gradually softens, however, when the young staff members learn that Rex, a former popular DJ, once briefly met and shook the hand of the film's titular character, Vincente Fernandez, a "Mexican Frank Sinatra" who enjoys mythic stature in the Hispanic community. Rex transfixes the staff by telling and retelling his account of this brief meeting in the 1970s. This common bond allows Rex and the staffers to form a mutually respectful relationship that grows stronger by the day. Rex particularly takes a shine to his nurse Solena (stunningly beautiful Carla Ortiz)- and he comes to her defense, saving her from the clutches of would-be molester Dr. Dominguez (Tony Plana), the chief administrator. In a scenario that is a clearly geriatric version of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Rex inspires his young friends to stand up for their rights and take on the oppressive bureaucrats who exploit them. He must also deal with challenges in his own life when his family feels he's been alienating them in favor of his adopted family at the nursing home.
The film contains more than its share of sugary scenes and corny cliches. (The villains are so lacking in any redeeming qualities that they practically twirl their mustaches.) Nevertheless, director Petridis offers Borgnine the finest role he's had in more years than I can remember. He dominates every scene and, ironically for his final film, looks like the picture of good health. Petridis, who must clearly be obsessive about spaghetti westerns himself, cleverly manages to intertwine many aspects of Western movie lore into this contemporary story so that even a card game between Borgnine and a nursing home nemesis is drenched in Leone-like imagery and music. This homage extends to the brilliant title credits which are cleverly derived from the Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood "Dollars" trilogy. This is a feel good family film that is marred by one easily correctable misjudgment: the insertion of a completely unnecessary expletive said from a mother to her young child. It's wildly out of place in an otherwise uplifting tale for all ages. If director Petridis is wise, he'll exclude this from the video and pay-per-view versions of the film.
I only had the pleasure of meeting Ernest Borgnine once several years ago for an interview for Cinema Retro magazine. He struck me as a warm, honest and kind individual. Thus, perhaps I had a bit more of a personal outlook when viewing Borgnine's final sequence in this film, which Elia Petridis handles brilliantly. It's so touchingly filmed and directed that I was moved to watch this scene several times. Not since John Wayne's final scene in The Shootist has a legendary actor had a more appropriate on-screen send off.
The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez is not high art, nor does it pretend to be. However, it is an enjoyable film that refreshingly extolls family values. The supporting cast members are all very talented and a pleasure to watch, but is Ernie Borgnine who justifiably dominates the movie and your memories of it.
The Blu-ray release, which boasts an excellent transfer, includes commentary track by director Elias Petridis and producer Darren Brandl, who both enthusiastically share their memories of making the movie. They both acknowledge that the film has been praised for its superb title sequence, but bizarrely don't seem to be aware of the fact that it is a brilliant homage specifically to Sergio Leone's Man With No Name movies. Instead, they simply imply it is based on traditional Westerns. Come on guys, watch The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and you'll see exactly why everyone loves the credits to Vicente Fernandez. Even the film's ad campaign is creatively based on that classic. The Blu-ray also contains the original trailer and other trailers for Indican video releases, most of which are films centered on themes of social significance. There is also a bonus supplement of raw footage shot by Brandl on his cell phone of the behind the scenes aspects of the production. While the footage doesn't shed much light on how the movie itself, it does illustrate how the production team had to cope with a very limited budget (everyone is crammed into a small work space). There is also a good deal of reverence in seeing young Petridis return from his first meeting with Ernest Borgnine and speaking incredulously about how the legendary actor promised to defer to him as director and call him "sir". It's nice to see how much respect this new generation of filmmakers had for the revered star.
considering the scores for movie Westerns, film music collectors often refer to
classics such as Max Steiner's The Searchers, Dimitri Tiomkin's Rio Bravo or Victor
Young's Shane, all of which are, of course, fabulous scores. Monstrous Movie Music
have again, (and in keeping with their refreshing style), ventured into new
territories with the release of Paul Dunlap’s Western score to Hellgate (1952)
(MMM-1972). Rather surprisingly, this CD marks the first full release to
feature Dunlap’s film music. The composer was incredibly prolific throughout
his career scoring diverse projects which spanned from many of The Three
Stooges movies to the cult classic AIP horrors including the Teenage
Frankenstein/Werewolf series of films. For a B movie western, there was something
a little different about Hellgate – it was really rather good! Hellgate was
directed by Charles Marquis Warren, a tough all-rounder who would go on to
produce the popular TV series Rawhide. The film boasted a strong, testosterone
fuelled cast featuring Sterling Hayden, James Arness and Ward Bond.Hayden plays a veterinarian who is wrongly
convicted of guerrilla activities shortly after the Civil War. The prison camp is tough and he has to survive
the sadistic commandant (Bond), a cruel guard (Robert Wilke), and deceitful
prisoners like Arness. Throw in some Pima Indians (who patrol the canyon walls)
in order to catch any escapees for a reward, prisoner punishment that involves
being baked in metal coffins or whipped within an inch of their lives and you
have a Western story that is well above the expected standard of Poverty Row
Lippert Pictures. Dunlap’s music is incredibly dramatic throughout, but it
isn’t your regular western score. His main theme begins with heavy brass and
drums, but slips into a more solemn, string based theme before it builds gently
and provides a sense of hope. It sets the tone perfectly and emphasises the
film’s opposing themes of hatred vs. forgiveness. Tracks such as “Kearne Makes
Lunge at Nye” illustrate Dunlap’s ability to create genuine excitement by
employing his full range of brass and string sections. Quality, for the best
part of this score, is highly acceptable. MMM took the decision to release
Dunlap’s original recordings in place of re-recording his score, which I
believe was the correct option. Whilst there is some minor noise (from the
surviving acetates) evident on a handful of tracks, it does not detract or
spoil the acoustic soundscape and naturally maintains the composer’s original
work. As a bonus, Monstrous movie music has generously included Dunlap’s excellent
score for The Lost Continent (1951). A simple enough story, The Lost Continent
successfully merged two fantasy elements, combining rocket ships with roaming
dinosaurs on a south pacific island. Making good use of an increased budget,
Dunlap was able to employ a 47 piece orchestra, and it was warranted – given
the enormity of aircraft, rockets, natural disasters and battling monsters that
confronted the composer. The result was a highly enjoyable score, and whilst
some of the music has been lost in time, the 28mins of music included here make
this a CD that is hard to ignore. We can only hope that there is a lot more of
Paul Dunlap’s music to come. Included is a great 20 page booklet that covers
just about every aspect of the music, composer and the film, all written (in
exquisite detail) by David Schecter.
its heavy percussion based main title, She Demons (1958) (MMM-1971) opens with
a sense of heart pounding excitement and sets the tone for what is to follow.
Nicholas Carras’s jungle-based score is threaded with dramatic cues of which
the composer makes impressive use of his 22 piece orchestra. Whist She Demons
(as a movie) was never going to attain the title of ‘classic’, Carras’s music,
as is often the case, promotes the film to a higher level. Cues such as Escape
and Nazis in Pursuit make excellent use of the orchestra’s brass and string
section. Carras provides a hopeful, triumphant end title that runs concurrent
with a few lonesome drum beats which provides continuity with the film’s
central themes. For an isolated island movie (occupied by scantily clad girls,
caged mutant women and Nazis) they probably don’t come any better than this.
MMM have previously delighted us with a couple of superb Carras scores such as
Missile to the Moon and Frankenstein’s Daughter. Their commitment to the
composer’s work has proven to be a fruitful decision as She Demons is certainly
one of his most accomplished scores.
Doubling up very nicely with She Demons is
Guenther Kauer’s score to another low budget slice of sci-fi, The Astounding
She-Creature (1957). If Carras’s score for She Demons was impressive, Kauer’s
is simply enlightening. Granted, Kauer’s score was recorded using a 45 piece
orchestra and as a result, the sound is a great deal richer. Perhaps more
remarkably, Kauer sent his 33 minute written score to a friend in Germany who
conducted and recorded the music (performed beautifully by The Stuttgart
Symphony Orchestra) without screening the actual film. Cue timings were sent,
but it often meant that final cues were not always precise. However, what emerged
was a wonderful sounding score. Ronnie Ashcroft’s rather poor film succumbed to
many edits and, as a result, the final music mix suffered. Thankfully, all of
Kauer’s score is delivered here and is an orchestral delight. It is a
beautifully crafted and intelligently written composition that really has no
right to accompany such a lacklustre movie. Like many sci-fi classics, there is
an undeniable ambiance that is certainly Herrmannesque in its delivery, and
that can’t be a bad thing. Included is a super 20 page booklet that covers just
about every aspect of the music, composer and the film, all written (in
exquisite detail) by David Schecter.
With Superman about to be revived (again) for the big screen, the Geeks of Doom site looks back at the entry that put an end to the Christopher Reeve Supey franchise. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was to be the most ambitious entry in the series. However, despite the presence of Reeve and Gene Hackman (reviving Lex Luthor), the 1987 film was a disaster on all levels. The article includes extensive comments from actor Jon Cryer, who was initially thrilled to be in the film but later learned from Reeve that the final cut would be a major disappointment, thanks to penny-pinching producers who reduced the budget by about 2/3. Click here to relive the unhappy memories.
Mel Brooks is profiled
in a superb American Masters documentary entitled Mel Brooks: Make a Noise,
which premieres nationally on PBS stations on May 20th. One of 14 EGOT
(Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) winners, he has earned more major awards than
any other living entertainer, and shows few signs of slowing down. With new interviews with Brooks, his friends
and colleagues, including Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Cloris Leachman, Joan
Rivers, Tracey Ullman, Rob Reiner, and his close friend, with whom he created The 2000 Year Old Man, Carl Reiner. A
DVD with bonus material will be available Tuesday, May 21 from Shout Factory.
"When they called me to say I had been
chosen as the next 'American Master,' I thought they said I was chosen to be
the next Dutch Master. So I figured what the hell, at least I'll get a
box of cigars. When I realized my mistake I was both elated and a little
disappointed at losing the cigars," Brooks said.
The comprehensive film takes viewers from
Brooks’ early years as Melvin Kaminsky in the Catskills (“I became a drummer
because I wanted to make a noise,” Brooks said. “I could have been a floutist, but there was not enough noise”), to his
work with Sid Caesar (“that SOB held me back because of his Promethean talent”),
to finding his own voice. He knew he had
something, he didn’t know how to peddle it, ultimately realizing that his “job
was to spot the insane and the bizarre in the commonplace.”
has a unique and a decidedly different feel. “You get a view of the participants being seen on monitors,” said
filmmaker Robert Trachtenberg.
a photographer by trade so I usually shoot my documentaries in studios to
achieve a consistent look (and be able to get more people interviewed per day).
Because Mel is a filmmaker, I thought it was appropriate to show the milieu -
the edges of the set, the monitors, etc. I didn't want the interviews to exist
in a vacuum, and I flat out refuse to have a vase of flowers or a lamp behind
“Mel was different from anyone else I've worked with because
.... he's Mel! It's a pleasure to talk with someone who is so bright and has
such command of the language - you don't want it to end. The most fun was being able to throw out
questions that he hadn't heard before - or approach topics from an angle that
was new to him. As Rob Reiner says, he's at his very best when he's put in a
asked him deep, probing questions for four months, and he got to keep the shirt
we bought for him. So I think we both made out pretty well."
for my conversation with Mr. Brooks earlier this week, I spent two weeks
calling close friends with whom I shared an eternal love and reverence for
Brooks and his works and sought their input as to what made him better and more
enduring than anyone else who does what he does. It was the joyful conversations themselves
that provided the obvious conclusion: No
one else could have gotten me to make those calls to other busy people who took
the time to think and laugh. Each call reflexively
elicited dialogue from his films (including my favorite, “What’s a dazzling
urbanite like you doing in a rustic setting like this?”), which over the years
has become the shorthand of our affection. Brooks’ comedy is the currency of our friendships.
While it is well-settled that he is a genius
at comedy, he is also a genius at collaboration and friendship. Infused in his work is his love for comedy
teams and the journey: The Marx Brothers
and the Road Pictures with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. At the core of every one of Brooks’ films
there is a partnership and a friendship between at least two characters that
are on an adventure. It is the well-defined characters that launches and
sustains the comedy and makes the stories enduring. “Unconsciously I was a pup in a cardboard box
with three other pups, my brothers, and we tumbled about with each other,” Mel
Brooks insightfully said, recalling his modest Brooklyn roots. “That’s why my films are almost always two
guys on a journey,” he said.
“When you parody
something, you move the truth sideways,” Brooks said. However in developing the on-screen
friendships, Brooks built foundations of truth and drilled down deep into the
I invoked Sid
Caesar, Brooks’ friend and former boss, who said: “Great comedy is stories with
beginnings, middles and ends. And its
best version is combining comedy with pathos. In City Lights, Chaplin’s little tramp character falls in love
with a blind girl. He takes out his last dime and gives it to the blind girl to
buy the violets she is selling. When she goes over to the water fountain to
rinse out her cup, Chaplin follows her with love in his eyes. She rinses the
cup and then throws the water in his face. There was a hush in the audience
because they didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. That to me was a great
piece of comedy because Chaplin captured that bittersweet moment, and was truly
working both sides of the street.”
While most of
the interviews analyzed the comedy penthouses of his skyscraper classics, I
challenged him to analyze the foundation of Brooks’ work: The Da Vinci “science of the art,” the sub-textual
pathos of his work- comedy as the currency
and engine of friendship, defining the essence of the characters that define
and drive the comedy, and a comparison of his fictional friendships with his
real-life counterparts. Brooks’ understanding and creation of screen
friendships mirror his real-life friendships which go back decades.
Early days: Mel and Sid Caesar (Photo courtesy Mel Brooks/PBS)
Brooks’ 1974 masterpiece is a satire of Western films and a brilliant social
commentary on race and government. The two
heroes- Black Bart (Cleavon Little), the Sherriff of Rock Ridge and The Waco
Kid (Gene Wilder), are overtly friendlier than Newman and Redford’s Butch and
Sundance, on which they are based. When
it comes to character development, the Brooks films take the attendant
characters and make them more passionate, compassionate, and affable. The
comedy is buttressed by friendship, heroism, and honor.
interchange in the film occurs after Bart has killed Harvey Korman’s villainous
Kid: “Where are you going?
Kid: “Nowhere special… I’ve always wanted to go
As the two ride
off into the sunset, and then into a town car, the scene is as poignant and
heartfelt as it is anachronistically funny, with the best friends not knowing
where they are going next, and not concerned because they are going there
friendship mirrors the relationship Brooks has with Carl Reiner, his comedic
and creative partner in crime for over 60 years. “When I first joined The Admiral Broadway
Review, the predecessor to Your Show of Shows, I was so unsure of myself I was
throwing up between parked cars. I came
from South Third Street in Williamsburg [Brooklyn]. I thought I was destined to work in the
Garment Center and work my way up from shipping clerk, to salesman, to maybe a
partner. I thought that any minute I
would be fired. Sid fought for me, but
[Show of Shows producer] Max Liebman didn’t want me.” According to legend the stern and staid
Liebman would throw lit cigars at the young and animated Brooks.
With Carl Reiner, 2001 (Photo courtesy Robert Trachtenberg/PBS)
“Carl came to
the show and thought I was really talented- he supported me at every turn. Carl was a little older and had been on
Broadway, he starred in Call me Mister. I
was leaning on him for the first two years until I felt I could be there and
had my own sense of confidence. If I
said I was the best, he said “’you are.’” He created the 2000 Year Old Man with
his tape recorder having faith that I could become any character he threw
out: From a submarine commander to an
Israeli psychiatrist or a Cockney English director.”
portion of my life Carl was my rock. Christ said on this rock I will found my church. On this Jew from the Bronx I founded my
In public from
across a room he looks at Carl not only affectionately and for artistic fuel,
but often protectively, to make sure his friend is okay. To anyone with close friendships of their
own, their rare and enviable bond is apparent and palpable. There is purity to it. 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, endeavoring to make everyone in the room not
only entertained by but engaged in the comedy. “We have a talent for that-
turning a room into a community and we enjoy doing that,” Brooks said.
“He’s not a kid anymore
and I still love him,” Brooks said of the now 91-year old Reiner. Things turned
around. 60 years later Carl leans on
me. We’re both very lucky we’ve survived
the storms of age and loss. It’s the
son’s duty to take care of the father. He
just called to ask whether I want the marinated lamb chops or the baby lamb
chops- I said get the baby lamb chops thick.”
In 1967’s The Producers,
Brooks took the name of Gene Wilder’s character Leopold Bloom from James Joyce
Ulysses, and undertook the challenge of making the audience root for two
characters that are crooks. It is because
of the affection and friendship between Bloom and Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel)
that the story works.
“You can’t help
yourself, you want them to succeed,” Brooks said. “I try to explain it all in the lovely speech
that Bloom makes in the courtroom trying to protect his friend, Max.”
After the jury
foreman (Bill Macy) announces that the jury finds the pair “incredibly guilty,”
Leo: “Ladies and Gentleman of the jury, Max
Bialystock is the most selfish man I ever met in my life.”
Max: “Don’t help me.”
Leo: “Not only is he a liar and a cheat and a scoundrel
and a crook who has taken money from little old ladies, he has talked people
including me into doing things that they would never have done in a thousand
year… this is a wonderful man who made me what I am today. And what about all the women: Max made them feel young, attractive and
“It’s the father
taking care of the son,” Brooks said. “And
then the young guy is taking care of the old guy. I also had that in The Twelve Chairs. The young streetwise guy is dealing with the
“’out of it’” privileged aristocrat, who never had to worry about life until
the revolution set him back on his heels.”
Frankenstein, which director Brooks co-wrote with Wilder has Wilder’s Victor
Frankenstein nurturing Peter Boyle’s monster. In none of the other 200-plus versions of the genre did the creator ever
risk his life to save his creation. Boris Karloff never sang and danced when he portrayed the monster, nor
did he sit on his creators lap. “In no
other version did anyone say: “This is an angel- this is a good boy,”” Brooks
Producers and Young Frankenstein are metaphors for Brook’s friendship with Gene
Wilder. In accepting his Oscar for Best
Screenplay from Frank Sinatra for The Producers he thanked Wilder three times, with
both men fighting back tears. “Gene
Wilder came from nowhere, unknown. Just
like Carl spotted the talent in me ten years before that, I spotted the talent
in him. I knew there was no more
talented actor in comedy or drama than Gene Wilder.”
“He was so grateful
to me for supporting him emotionally and bringing the best out of him. I have a great wine collection because of
him. I was drinking Manischewitz until I
met Gene. He really understood
wine. Anne [Bancroft] and I went over to
his apartment in the [Greenwich] Village one night. A real dump. But he had a rotisserie, a barbequed chicken. I didn’t know how he did
it. He servedChâteauneuf-du-Pape, a Rhone wine, and
I said “What the hell is this liquid?”
So I began buying that wine and then he served NuitsSaintGeorges, a burgundy. I
had not yet hit gold, a claret or Bordeaux. At the next meal he ordered LynchBages, a French Bordeaux, which I began to collect Bordeauxs,
including Sassicaia. I now send Gene something I don’t think he
can afford and he’s always happy to get it.”
Cinematic legends meet: Mel, Alfred Hitchcock (who he used to call "Al"!) and Anne Bancroft during the production of High Anxiety. (Photo courtesy of Mel Brooks/PBS)
Favorite Year was Brooks’ love letter to Sid Caesar and early television, and
was based on his own experience as the youngest writer on Your Show of Shows. Benjy Stone (Mark Linn-Baker) is assigned to
chaperone the less than reliable movie-star Alan Swann (Peter O’Toole) who is
scheduled to appear on King Kyser’s (Joseph Bologna) Cavalcade of Comedy. The film made me fall in love with Sid as
well. I told Brooks that it was 20 years
to the week after I saw My Favorite Year that I was writing with Sid. The affection between the two is still
strong. “If Sid Caesar was in a coma and
you walked into the room, Sid would get up, say “’hello Mel,’” and drop back
into the coma,” I said.
acknowledges the connection he still has with the 90 year old Caesar, whom he
visits regularly. “I’m one of the few
people who can get his synapses to fire in that special way. And I’m proud that I can do that. Because if there was no Sid Caesar there
would be no Mel Brooks.”
Brooks of an evening at New York’s Pierre Hotel in 2000, where Caesar was
honored and Brooks presented him with an award. He moved the capacity crowd of the great ballroom to near tears. “And it’s not the chicken,” the choked up
Brooks said at the time, praising his friend. “Life takes you on different paths. I got on the right road when I went with Sid- and it never went wrong.”
He recalled the
now fabled “Writers’ Room,” still one of the most romantic metaphors in history
for creativity and comedy and arguably the greatest collection of comedic
talent ever assembled.
“It was very
stressful to be that creative. We had an Olympic level of comedy height and had
to get over that crossbar. We knew when we
were settling for cheap standup material and when we were exalted in terms of
the human condition and being genuinely funny. We always aimed for that. Max
Liebman was a master- he put on live Broadway review every week for 39 weeks a
year. Sid wanted me- I could come up
with bizarre things- all kinds of crazy things that distinguished Sid from
other comedians. I came up with material
for the German Professor character and foreign movies.”
“There were only
a few of us in the beginning. Max
supervised the writing with Sid and Carl sitting in. There was Mel Tolkin, Lucille Kallen and then
myself. Tony Webster was brought
in. The later incarnation of the
Writers’ Room included Doc and Danny Simon, Mike Stewart, Aaron Ruben, Woody
Allen, and Larry Gelbart. We’d work
separately and all meet and complete each other’s tasks. Unless there was a big movie parody where we
all sat in a room together. It is still
the only show where the writers became as famous as the stars.”
He recalled meeting
another young writer whom he is still close to, Rudy DeLuca, who along with
Steve Haberman is part of Brooks’ inner circle. “Rudy is a real pal- he was working on the Carol Burnett show with his
partner, Barry Levinson. Rudy has such
a funny personality- he was crazy board member in Silent Movie. In High Anxiety, Rudy played the hit man with
the aluminum teeth. Who came up with the
idea of putting a little Japanese umbrella in his drink when he was stalking me
in the bar.”
wrote with me on High Anxiety. He would
tell me stories about growing up with his friends in Baltimore. I took him to Il Vitelloni, Felini’s first
film- which is about a group of friends who grow up together in Italy. I said, this sounds like what you’re talking
about. Take your stories put them
together and take out the ones that don’t work. He wrote the script to Diner in three weeks.”
I explained to
Brooks that two people shaped my creative life and influenced what I wanted to
do more than anyone else: Larry Gelbart
and Mel Brooks. “Including me, he could
have been the best writer in the Writers’ Room,” Brooks said.
I told him that
1974 was my “favorite year,” Gelbart’s MASH was on TV and Blazing Saddles and
Young Frankenstein were in the movies. The intellectual driven comedy made the smart kids feel hip and
ambitious. “You have to know a little
bit about the world and the history. All
the references are critical- if you don’t get them you don’t get the essential comedy
and what we’re trying to do.”
In 1982- I
bought 10 copies of The High Anxiety Soundtrack, the flipside of which included
the songs from all of the other prior Brooks’ films, to give as holiday gifts
to friends. When I presented it to one
of my college friends, he clutched the LP to his chest and ran off eager to
play it. Flash forward to 1995, I get a
box in the mail- it was The 2000 Year Old Man Boxed Set that had just been
released on CD with a note from that friend thanking me for the LP 12 years
a similar experience: “I screened High Anxiety for Alfred Hitchcock. He didn’t say a lot, turning to me a few
times, when the newspaper ran down the drain, he said “’brilliant,’” which was
very nice. He said he had less showering
[in Psycho] than I had. At the end he
got up and left without saying a word. I was so worried. I thought this is no good. I guess he didn’t
like the picture.”
“The next day on
my desk in my office at 20th Century Fox there was a beautiful wooden
case of 1961 Château Haut-Brion. Six
magnums. Priceless. Unbelievable to this day. There was also a little note: "Dear Mel: I have no anxiety about High Anxiety,
it’s a wonderful film. Love Hitch.”
“The only two
people who ever said I was a good director were Hitchcock and Billy Wilder. I
never heard from anyone else in the business. Until the AFI called me. Last October, the AFI named Brooks the recipient of the 41st American Film
Institute's Life Achievement Award,
which will be presented in June, joining Shirley MacLaine, Tom Hanks, John Ford,
James Cagney, Jack Nicholson, Barbra Streisand, Clint Eastwood, Sidney Poitier
and both Kirk and Michael Douglas.
been saluted as a comedy force but never as a film director. I always explained the movie clearly so that
the story worked. My dream was to get
over the Williamsburg Bridge and get to Manhattan ever since I was three years
old. Me and my childhood [and lifelong]
friend Gene Cogan, formerly Eugene Cohen, would walk over the bridge to
Delancey Street and get a knish and a root beer. I knew there was something great over that
Kaminsky got his knish and root beer. And Mel Brooks crossed the East River Rubicon and journeyed to entertain
millions as a masterful storyteller and continues to entertain new generations
of grateful fans with big noises that get even bigger laughs.
Retro Contributor Eddy Friedfeld teaches comedy and film history at NYU and
Yale and is the co-author of Caesar’s Hours with Sid Caesar
Can't get enough Mel? Check out Lee Pfeiffer's extensive interview with him in the latest issue (#16) of Cinema Retro.
Artist Pete Emslie of the Cartoon Cave web site provides yet another impressive tribute to a pop culture favorite- Batgirl herself, Yvonne Craig, who celebrates her birthday today. Keep 'em coming, Pete! Click here for more of Pete's tribute to Yvonne.
When I came of age in the eighties and nineties, cinema
art houses were filled with American independent films, most of them gems. It
seemed that then movie lovers could see nearly every film released. In the
years since the number of independent films have grown exponentially, and I
often worry that I’m bypassing, or even worse completely ignorant, of some
worthwhile films that get lost in cinematic obscurity.
Exhibitionists (2012), the second feature from director Michael
Melamedoff is such a film, a compelling chamber piece about seven characters
revealing their true desires over the course of two nights. At the heart of the
film is fragile Regina (Pepper Binkley), who we meet nervously awaiting the
arrival of her husband Walter (Richard Short), an agent provocateur filmmaker
just returned from a cross-country film shoot. In tow he brings fellow
crewmember Gordo (Daniel London), whose dutiful wife Gretchen (Lauren Hodges)
has been keeping a tight watch on Regina, and Lynn (Ella Rae Peck) their lovely
and vivacious intern who has been earning extra credit with George off the
clock. Tensions between the five occupants at Walter and Regina’s apartment are
already strained when the arrival of Regina’s brother George (Mike Doyle), on
leave from a seminary, and musical diva Blithe Stargazer (Laverne Cox) set a series
of betrayals and revelations in motion.
First conceived as a stage play, screenwriter Michael
Edison Hayden has adapted his own work into a film that bears a strong
resemblance to higher profile plays-turned-films closer (2004) and carnage
(2011). All three examine the private truths behind seemingly healthy
relationships through expertly written characters. The Exhibtionists never quite reaches the probing dexterity of the
other two pieces, but what it lacks in sophistication it makes up for with a
titillating and refreshingly ambiguous sexuality. Both Hayden and Melamedoff are
aided by a group of skilled and attractive actors. Viewers expect a few thin
performances in micro-budgeted films, but this cast is uniformly committed and
capable. Particular standouts are Ella Rae Peck of NBC’s deception, whose
natural beauty and delivery make an instant impression and Laverne Cox
(Netflix’s orange is the new black), a force of indeterminate sex whose palpable magnetism affects everyone else in
the film. Their two scenes together sizzle and mark a tipping point in the
Shot in just over ten days, Melamedoff deftly places
the viewer in the middle of the action often utilizing reverse shots to canvas
multiple characters’ perspectives. It’s
a shame he didn’t have more funds to work with because although the film has
definite style, it also cannot hide it minimal budget. The score by Teddy Blanks,
who also created the opening sequence, is unapologetically electronic and
retro. It’s a little too similar to music heard in soft core cable offerings,
but manages to establish and sustain a sense of unease throughout the film.
Perhaps it is the association with the music cues, but The exhibitionists ultimately fails to fully deliver on its title
and promise of sexual provocation. I thought I might be watching a modern take
on the sexploitation films of the sixties and seventies such as Score (1973) by Radley Metzger, but this
film never evolves into erotica. Despite that The Exhibitionists is an intriguing work and engages the viewer
from the first shot to the last.
The Exhibitionists was unfortunately
relegated to a few festival appearances in lieu of a theatrical run. Now it’s
available on VOD and DVD, presented along with a few extras. Best amongst the
special features is Michael Melamedoff’s very informative commentary which
illustrates how purposefully he went about constructing the film. Also included
are some behind the scenes stills, Walter’s edited pitch for Blithe that
features some hardcore footage and a festival interview with director
Melamedoff and actor Richard Short, all short but nifty. Viewers can also
download the score if they want to stage their own party at home. Hopefully with this release The Exhibitionists will finally find the
audience it deserves.
The Trevi Fountain figured famously in Fellini's classic La Dolce Vita with Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg.
Rome has been
the backdrop to some iconic films over the years, but its real heyday was
between the 1950s and 1960s, when classics such as Roman Holiday were shot in and around the city centre. Even today,
the locations used are considered to be points of pilgrimage for any
self-respecting retro film fan, from the Trevi Fountain to the Colosseum,
especially as 2013 marks the 60th anniversary of Roman Holiday hitting our screens.
The easiest way
to track down the real life places behind the celluloid is to create your own
walking tour, so that you can spend as long as you like at each spot; just use
the Rome film map from lowcostholidays.com and dive straight into the sights to plan your own
route. Here’s your guide to each of the retro pictures that made the map.
Roman Holiday (1953)
It’s the film
that launched Audrey Hepburn; her first leading role, which saw her playing a
princess from an unnamed European country who was determined to explore Rome
whilst on a royal visit. With Gregory Peck as her guide, she went to the Mouth
of Truth, the Spanish Steps and Ponte Sant’Angelo. You can still see the key
locations today, but one of the highlights is the Roman Forum, where our main
characters meet. There’s no longer a road through the middle of it, but you can
still explore the crumbling Arch of Septimus Severus, where Audrey (as Princess
Ann) is found asleep.
Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
Aside from the
continuity gripe of only two – not three – coins being thrown into the fountain
from the title, this 50s film is perfect viewing for anyone who wants to see
vintage Rome in all its glory, through the eyes of three American ex-pats.
Right from the start, with establishing shots of St. Peter’s and the Tivoli
Gardens, we’re treated to picture-perfect views. The Colosseum is a stopping
point on a whistle-stop tour of one character’s city recommendations, along
with a branch of the National Museum.
La Dolce Vita (1960)
Fountain’s most memorable cinema appearance was when Anita Ekberg and Marcello
Mastroianni climbed in together during a night-time stroll. Sadly you can’t
recreate the moment these days, as bathing isn’t actually allowed, but you can
relive the magic by visiting after dark, to avoid the huge crowds. Further
afield, take a trip to the Baths of Caracalla and see where film star Sylvia
(played by Ekberg) danced in front of the press and her fiancé.
As well as the
locations used as a backdrop to certain scenes, you can also track down one of
director Federico Fellini’s biggest local inspirations – Harry’s Bar, on the
Via Veneto, which was a hotspot for celebrities back in the 60s. In the film
itself, the popular street was entirely recreated in the studio, but today it
would be a lot easier to shoot footage here, as the Via Veneto isn’t considered
to be part of Rome’s social scene anymore and is relatively quiet.
Aside from those
greats, there were hundreds of films made at the nearby Cinecittà Studios,
which is on the outskirts of the city and was built by Mussolini. This is the
perfect place to continue your cinematic tour, where you can find out how epics
such as Ben-Hur and Cleopatra were made on the sprawling set. Head to Cinecittà
by using the Metro system and then enjoy a set and on-site museum tour, which
will set you back €15.
Pay tribute to
Italy’s most cinematic city and discover the locations behind the iconic
scenes; you’ll soon see why directors couldn’t keep away from Rome.
La-La Land has released Jerry Goldsmith's original soundtrack score for the 1968 Western Bandolero as a limited edition CD. The release includes the original album originally released on vinyl as well as never-before-released tracks. Curiously, the cover art depicts James Stewart and Dean Martin - though Raquel Welch is not depicted. On the original album, Martin could not be depicted because his image could only be used on Reprise Records during that period. The same thing occurred with the soundtrack for Lady in Cement- which could not depict the film's star Frank Sinatra. To order the album click here
Contributing writer Nick Anez supplies us with the following facts:
Regarding the notice of the new Bandolero CD soundtrack on the Cinema Retro website, I have the original LP album. It is true, as the article states, that Dean Martin is not depicted on the album's cover. But what is even stranger is that his name is not even mentioned. On both the front and back of he album, the cast is listed as "James Stewart, Raquel Welch, George Kennedy in Bandolero." The album has a gatefold cover and opens out. Inside are six photos from the film, none of Martin There is also a complete summary of the story. As each character's name is mentioned, the name of the actor portraying him or her is mentioned afterward in parentheses - except for Martin's character. No actor is listed for his character. It's ridiculous. Dean probably couldn't have have cared less.
Retro Responds: Thanks for the interesting facts, Nick....Sinatra's name wasn't used on the Lady in Cement soundtrack, either, if we recall correctly. Talk about stringent adherence to contractual terms!
The man himself may be long gone, but Al Jolson's immortal contributions to music and cinema are still being celebrated by the thriving International Al Jolson Society. Their official web site allows fans from around the world to share in all aspects of Jolson's career and you can listen to some of his most enduring musical accomplishments. An annual membership in the Society brings even more benefits. This year's convention of Jolson fans will take place in Palm Springs May 16-19 (the location varies every year). There will also be a Jolson festival on Long Island in August (date to be announced). The web site has over 1.5 million hits to date, indicating there's still plenty of life left in Jolson mania.
WORLDWIDE APPEAL TO RETRIEVE ORIGINAL MISSING FILM MATERIALS FOR HORROR CLASSIC
THE WICKER MAN:
CELEBRATION TO RESURRECT AND RESTORE FOR UK CINEMA AUDIENCES
LONDON, UK, 30th April 2013 – STUDIOCANAL, with the
endorsement of director Robin Hardy, today launched a world-wide public appeal
to locate original film materials relating to legendary horror classic THE
WICKER MAN, originally released in 1973, in celebration of the cult film's 40th
2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the THE WICKER MAN'S original release. In
celebration of this and continuing its project to conserve, restore and release
for future generations the best of Classic British cinema, STUDIOCANAL today
announces its intention to release the most complete version of the film
possible. The now widely lauded film was released with minimal promotion in
1973 as second feature of a double bill with Don’t Look Now. The version
exhibited to audiences was significantly shorter than director Robin Hardy's
original vision. In what has now become an apocryphal episode in British film
history, the negatives disappeared from storage at Shepperton Studios, were then
allegedly used as landfill in the construction of the nearby M4 motorway, and are
considered lost forever.
STUDIOCANAL are now appealing worldwide to film
collectors, historians, programmers and all-round fans to support the campaign
and come forward with any information relating to the potential whereabouts of
Director Robin Hardy comments: "I never thought that, after forty years, they would still be
finding lost fragments of my film, We thought all of The Wicker Man had
gone up in flames, but fragments keep turning up and the hunt goes on!"
STUDIOCANAL General Manager UK Home Entertainment John
Rodden adds: "The Wicker Man is not only a great horror film, it is a true
classic that grows in stature as the years pass. We’re now appealing to the
public to help us create the most definitive version possible.”
More details about
the history of the various cuts of the film are below.
WICKER MAN: A SHORT HISTORY:
In 1973, Robin
Hardy’s debut film THE WICKER MAN fell
victim to a boardroom takeover at distribution company British Lion, and had
its release temporarily shelved. A finished version of the film that director
Hardy was happy with had been delivered with a running time of 102 minutes.
When it did finally
reach UK cinemas that year, with little fanfare or promotion, and as part of a
Double Bill with DON’T LOOK NOW, 15 minutes had been cut, leaving the film’s running
time a trim 88 minutes. Director Robin Hardy and the other filmmakers had not
been involved and did not approve of this new version.
A few years later when
Hardy tried to track down his original version, he was told that all the
negative trims from it that had been stored at Shepperton Studios had been
thrown away, and the only “original negative” was now the 88-minute version. He
finally managed to ascertain that Cult US Director Roger Corman still had a
print of the full-length version, and this was used for the US theatrical
release. Corman’s print has been missing since the 1980’s and only poor quality
1” video material is known to exist of this version.
It's pretty amazing how many ways studios have devised to market and re-market The Three Stooges. The latest attempt is Sony's made-to-order 3 DVD set titled Rare Treasures from the Columbia Vault. It's a bit misleading in that the bulk of the material pertains to individual short films starring Stooge cast members, but for this reviewer, that's also what makes the set so special. There are eleven hours of material in the set including two feature films and 28 shorts. The features are Rockin' in the Rockies, a 1945 musical comedy that features the Stooges as inept prospectors in the modern west. The film seems to have been made to promote promising musical talent of the day. The story has the boys kidnapping a Broadway talent agent and holding him hostage until he hears their friends perform their revue, which includes numbers by Spade Cooley, the "King of Western Swing". The Stooges comedy bits are strewn too infrequently throughout, so I confess to keeping my finger on the "fast forward" button during some of the dated song sequences. The second feature is Have Rocket Will Travel, a late career feature for the Stooges during their renaissance period with Curly Joe taking over from the original Curly and Shemp. It's a pretty limp affair, but there is a certain charm about the total innocence of the comedy skits. It depicts an era in which three grown men could be depicted snuggling together in one bed without the slightest hint of a sexual connotation. The script finds the Stooges accidentally ending up on a space ship to Venus. Even within the way out realm they often operated in, this premise is over-the-top. Fortunately, the film ends with a more traditional setting with the boys upstaging snooty guests at a black tie dinner party. Keep an eye out for future Time Tunnel star Robert Colbert as the romantic lead.
The set also contains some brilliant Columbia cartoons from the 1930s that feature first rate animation. The cartoons depict famous movie stars of the day including the Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, Kate Hepburn, the Marx Brothers, Charles Laughton, etc. They are truly wonderful pieces of entertainment. Most refreshing is the inclusion of numerous shorts featuring solo gigs by Stooge actors who never quite got the acclaim they deserve. Shemp Howard headlines some of the funnier efforts, but there are also terrific turns by Joe DeRita and Joe Besser. Although Besser was married in real life, he always played overtly fey (dare we say "closeted"?) characters long before Paul Lynde had come along. His starring roles in these shorts finally afforded him the spotlight he deserved. Similarly, the porcine DeRita was a terrific comedic presence who never quite got the acclaim he deserved. Both men were of considerable girth which makes their obsession with performing high risk pratfalls even more impressive. Both Besser and DeRita's films find them in almost identical plot situations. They are generally married to conniving women or outright battle axes who henpeck them mercilessly. Kitchens often provide ample opportunity for widespread destruction as the simplest of cooking tasks inevitably meet with disaster. These post-War era shorts also accentuate the military and one of the funniest finds Besser drafted into the Army, where he drives his top sergeant crazy with his goofy behavior. (It's pretty easy to see where the inspiration for the Gomer Pyle character derived from.) It should be noted that these short films feature a stock company of brilliant comedic second bananas who appear numerous times. If the films resemble Three Stooges humor, it's not by coincidence: many were directed by the Stooges' own Jules White. Curiously, a couple of the Joe Besser shorts appear twice in re-titled versions that exclude the original prologues.
In all, this 3 DVD set is manna from heaven not only for Stooges fans but for anyone who appreciates great comedy of this era.
The set contains the following :
Rockin' In The Rockies (1945) (feature film with Curly)
Have Rocket--Will Travel (1958) (feature film with Curly-Joe)
Shemp Howard solo shorts: Home On The Rage (1938) The Glove Slingers (1939) Pleased To Mitt You (1940) Money Squawks (1940) Boobs In The Woods (1940) Pick A Peck Of Plumbers (1944) Open Season For Saps (1944) A Hit With A Miss (1945) Off Again, On Again (1945) Where The Pest Begins (1945) Jiggers, My Wife (1946) Mr. Noisy (1946) Society Mugs (1946) Bride And Gloom (1947)
Joe Besser solo shorts: Waiting In The Lurch (1949) Dizzy Yardbird (1950) Fraidy Cat (1950) Caught On The Bounce (1952) Aim, Fire, Scoot (1952) Spies And Guys (1953) The Fire Chaser (1954) G.I. Dood It (1955) Hook A Crook (1955) Army Daze (1956)
Joe DeRita solo shorts: Slappily Married (1946) The Good Bad Egg (1947) Wedlock Deadlock (1947) Jitter Bughouse (1948)
Columbia Color Rhapsody cartoons The Bon Bon Parade (1935) The Merry Mutineers (1936) A Hollywood Detour (1942)
A year after their Oscar-winning triumph, The Bridge on the River Kwai, William Holden and writer/producer Carl Foreman teamed again for another drama set in WWII, The Key. The 1958 drama is primarily a love story but there is plenty of action on the high seas, all superbly photographed in B&W by the great Oswald Morris. The offbeat story is set in England in the early days of the war before America entered the conflict. Britain stands alone against the seemingly unstoppable German forces and fights to maintain shipping on the high seas in the face of ever present U-Boat threats. William Holden is Capt. David Ross, a Canadian serviceman who is reluctantly assigned to skipper a rescue tug boat that is sent to retrieve men from sinking ships that have been torpedoed. There is good reason for his less-than-enthusiastic acceptance of his assignment: the tugs are lightly armed sitting ducks for the U-Boats. The specter of death hangs over every mission. Ross is pleasantly surprised to be reunited with fellow tug captain Chris Ford (Trevor Howard). The two old friends bond again by getting drunk then returning to Chris's apartment. He has a rare commodity. While most servicemen are crammed into barracks-like hotel rooms shared by numerous other men, Chris has been fortunate enough to secure his own apartment. He explains that the place has an eerie tradition. The present occupant is to make an extra key and give it to his best friend, who will inherit it in case he dies. Ross is startled to find that the apartment comes with another fringe benefit that is passed down from doomed owner to doomed owner: Stella (Sophia Loren), a beautiful but somber Swiss refugee who acts as housekeeper and lover for the latest tenant. Still, Ross sees that there is genuine affection between Stella and Chris and the two even announce plans to marry. A premonition convinces Stella that Chris will never return from his next mission: a prophecy that sets in motion an engrossing series of events of which nothing else can be revealed here without providing "spoilers".
It's glorious to see three great stars of the cinema playing off each other. (While Holden and Loren reached superstar status, Howard was always regarded as a character actor- albeit, one of the best in the business.) Under the sensitive direction of Carol Reed, the leisurely-paced story contains elements of the supernatural with the premonitions and apparitions accompanied by Malcolm Arnold's eerie score. The supporting cast is also impressive with the great Bernard Lee in fine form as a naval officer with the unpleasant duty of sending rescue boats on virtual suicide missions. In all, a fine film all around- and one that neatly avoids the cliched final sequence you believe the script is building to.
Sony has released The Key as a burn-to-order DVD. The transfer is excellent, though no extras are included.
Bryan Forbes, who personified the golden age of British cinema in the post-WWII era, has died at age 86. Forbes started out as an actor before morphing into a screenwriter and esteemed director. He teamed with Richard Attenborough to form a film production company. Among their films was The Angry Silence, an acclaimed 1960 movie in which both men starred. It dealt squarely with England's omnipresent tensions between business leaders and union members. Forbes co-wrote the screenplay and produced the movie. His high profile films as director include such British classics as Whistle Down the Wind, Seance on a Wet Afternoon, The Wrong Box, The Whisperers, King Rat, Deadfall, The Slipper and the Rose, The L-Shaped Room, International Velvet as well as the hit 1975 Hollywood horror flick The Stepford Wives. Forbes also wrote or co-wrote the screenplays for some of these films as well as the comedy classic The League of Gentlemen and director Attenborough's Chaplin. Forbes had been nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay for The Angry Silence and had won a BAFTA for the same script. He had been nominated for numerous other BAFTA awards and was given a lifetime achievement honor by the organization in 2007. For more click here
Harryhausen with one of his immortal stop-animation creations for the classic Jason and the Argonauts.
Cinema Retro is saddened to convey the news that the legendary Ray Harryhausen has passed away at the age of 92. The man who broke new barriers in cinematic special effects died in London. Although American by birth, Harryhausen made England his adopted home and from there enjoyed a long career that saw him receive countless honors as well as the idolization of a new generation of filmmakers. He was also a good friend to Cinema Retro, contributing to several issues and allowing our writers access to his private archives. We will not see his kind again.- Lee Pfeiffer and Dave Worrall
For more on Ray Harryhausen's life and career click here
Loophole is a 1954 low-budget crime movie that is one of a number of a "B" movie titles now available from the Warner Archive. These minor gems remind us of the glory days of cinema when movies were made expressly to be shown as second features. Loophole, directed by Harold D. Schuster, was originally released theatrically by Allied Artists. The film presents Barry Sullivan as Mike Donovan, a respected bank teller who is living a comfortable middle class existence with his wife Ruthie (Dorothy Malone) in L.A. In the midst of a high profile annual bank audit, a nondescript man named Tate (Don Beddoe) manages to pass himself off as one of the auditors. His sexy girlfriend Vera (Mary Beth Hughes) poses as a customer to distract Donovan while Tate cleans out his cash drawer without his knowledge. At the end of the day, Donovan is astounded to learn he is $50,000 short. He makes the first of several mistakes by not reporting the loss immediately to his boss. It's Friday afternoon and he wants the weekend to ponder what could have happened to the money. By the time he reports the theft on Monday morning, he's the prime suspect. The insurance company assigns a bulldog of an investigator, Gus Slavin (Charles McGraw), to tail him everywhere. In those days before suspects had Miranda rights, Donovan feels the full fury of being interrogated by police and Slavin without the benefit of a lawyer present. His boss believes he is innocent but he is forced to fire Donovan anyway. Every new job he finds ends abruptly when the Javert-like Slavin inevitably shows up and spreads the word that he is a suspected thief. A chance encounter brings Donovan face to face with Tate and triggers his memory of the phony auditor who had access to the cash. Donovan makes another mistake by taking after the man himself, a tactic that results in Tate being mistaken for his accomplice. The entire affair ends with a tense confrontation between Donovan, Tate and Vera in a Malibu beach house.
Loophole is consistently engrossing throughout its scant 80 minute running time. Filmed mostly on actual locations, the movie gives retro cinema lovers a great view of L.A. as it appeared in the mid-1950s. The cast is peppered with excellent character actors and the black and white cinematography is crisp and impressive. It's a real treat that such forgotten treasures are now readily available on made-to-order DVD. There are no extras on the DVD.
Click here to view clip and to order from Warner Archive
Rarely has distributor exploitation been as blatant as in the
case of Simon Wincer’s The Day After
Halloween (1980), a ludicrously-named Australian outing originally optioned
under the name of Centerfold, then
changed to Snapshot after the
producers were unable to secure that title, and was eventually released as One More Minute. It appeared on video shelves here in the U.S.
on VHS both in 1983 from Catalina Home Video under the title of The Day After Halloween and in 1985 as The Night After Halloween on Magnum Home
Entertainment. The film came on the
heels of the John Carpenter-scripted Eyes
of Laura Mars (1978) which was set against the milieu of the fashion
industry. Filmed in 1978 and released in
Australia the following year, The Day
After Halloween has absolutely nothing to do with John Carpenter’s seminal holiday
suspense yarn, and isn’t even a slasher film. It isn’t even a thriller. At
best, it can be considered a mystery that concerns a young woman named Angela (Sigrid
Thornton) who lives with her wretched, belittling mother and is trying to fend
off the unwanted affections of her obsessed and emotionally unstable ex-boyfriend
Daryl (Vincent Gil) who drives an ice cream truck (think Phantasm!). She’s late for
work which earns her the condemnation of her hairstylist boss but garners the
affections of Madeline (Chantal Contouri), a sophisticate who dresses like Joan
Collins who encourages Angela to parlay her natural good looks into a modeling
career which lands her topless in Cleo, the Australian equivalent of
Cosmopolitan Magazine, in an ad for Bermuda Cool cologne. The ad proves lucrative but also draws the unsolicited
attention of lots of tongue-wagging men twice her age in an effort to score
with her. A photographer sets up a
meeting with her and uses an innocent photo session as a ruse to get her drunk
and undressed, but she bails, which leads to a frightening confrontation later
Given the cookie-cutter nature of films
from this era, it isn’t difficult to realize who really idolizes Angela and
wants her the most. The Bermuda Cool
photographing sequence goes on much longer than it should (remember that long,
wordless sequence in Play Misty for Me
set to a Roberta Flack song? That was
shorter!). Lacking a cinematic style,
the film for the most part is shot in masters and throws lots of red herrings
at the audience, but it makes for an entertaining film. The acting is impressive for this sort of story. The score is by the late Australian composer Brian
May whose music to George Miller’s The
Road Warrior (1981) is one of the best action film scores ever. Prior to this, Mr. May scored Patrick (1978) which was produced by Anthony
Ginnane who also acts as producer on this film as well (if you have seen the
Italian cut of Patrick, Mr. May’s
score was replaced by Goblin’s). Director
Wincer has gone on to director more notable and successful films: Phar Lap (1983), D.A.R.Y.L. (1985), Quigley
Down Under (1990), Free Willy
(1993), and The Phantom (1996).
The film has been released on Scorpion
Releasing’s Katarina's Nightmare Theater line, hosted by Katarina Leigh Waters.
Ms. Waters proves to be a charming and
knowledgeable emcee and provides an amusing introduction to the film. She
points out that this is the first time the film is being presented on home
video in its original 2.35:1 anamorphic Panavision aspect ratio. The film is transferred from a theatrical
print, but it is free of dirt and scratches. The sound is in mono and is passable.
The DVD contains the entire, uncut
version of the film with Snapshot on
the title card, however there is an extra that contains a portion of the
opening credits with The Day After
Halloween as the title (the fuzziness of the image and overall lack of quality
appears to be sourced from VHS). There
is also an extremely informative running commentary with producer Anthony Ginnane
moderated by Ms. Waters. A veteran of
over fifty films, Mr. Ginnane is a fountain of knowledge and remembers quite a
bit about the making of this film which had a very tight production schedule on
the order of three weeks shooting time. The
DVD cover replicates the original American one-sheet which is a nicely-designed
image but is completely misleading – it is simply the wrong cover for this
On his web blog Sixties Cinema, Cinema Retro columnist Tom Lisanti pays tribute to schlock producer Bert Gordon's 1965 teenbopper exploitation flick Village of the Giants, featuring such cult stars as Tisha Sterling, Joy Harmon, Vicki London and Tony Basil. Click here for the story behind the film as well as original TV ads.
Impulse Pictures has released Sexcula, a 1974 Canadian hardcore horror spoof, on DVD. The film is more notable for the story behind its production than the finished product, which is generally fairly anemic. It was made in Vancouver with the aid of a loophole in the Canadian government's tax shelter funding even though hardcore porn was illegal in the country until 1978. Consequently, the movie was never shown beyond an alleged initial screening for cast and crew. Many doubted the very existence of the film, which is presumed to be the first ever Canadian feature length porn flick, since it hasn't been seen at all over the decades. . The bizarre scenario finds a young couple who discover a diary from 1896. In it, an incredible tale is told about a female mad doctor named Fallatingstein (get it?) who used her skills to create an artificial life form: a hunky would-be sex slave named Frank (get it?) The only problem is that while Frank is desirable to the doctor, the "monster" is uninterested in the doctor. In frustration, she reaches out to her relative, Countess Sexcula (Debbie Collins, Canada's answer to Marilyn Chambers). The two women attempt to "raise the dead" in terms of Frank's flaccid sexual state. Although the title hints at overt horror themes and most of the action takes place in a dungeon, Sexcula herself just seems to be an exotic, perpetually horny young woman with no particular ties to the supernatural. (The tag line for the movie promises "She'll suck more than your blood!") The rest of the film consists of humorous vignettes in which the two females try every imaginable scenario to get Frank aroused. Even the inevitable lesbian scene fails to do the trick. The joke is carried on throughout the cheaply made production, which intersperses soft core sex with a few hardcore sequences. The comedy is overt, obviously having been inspired by the goofy appeal Deep Throat held for mass audiences. However, the movie is completely lacking in wit and Ms. Collins' performance makes Marilyn Chambers look like Kate Hepburn. The actresses seem stiff and uncomfortable. There is also footage from what appears to be an unrelated production showing a young couple in a wedding chapel who turn their exchange of vows into an orgy. (Being polite Canadians, they ensure that the preacher joins in as well.) Perhaps the most offbeat sequence features a comely female robot sexually assaulted by a gorilla! The film lurches towards a Blazing Saddles-like conclusion with cast members clearly walking around the sets, indicating the whole production has been a joke.
Sexcula strives to be a cut above average porn but the talent simply isn't there to carry off the gimmick. Even the hardcore sequences are dimly lit and not very erotic. However, the Impulse release deserves praise because it represents the first public distribution of this film, which was rumored to exist but had been lost in Canadian archives. Liner notes by Dimitrios Otis, who is referred to as a "Porn Archaeologist" (how does one get a degree in that field?) present the interesting tale of how the movie reels were located and salvaged. An original trailer is included as well as a pop art comic synopsis of the movie by Rick Tremble. In all, an impressive package for a relatively unimpressive film. However, there is that terrific poster art concept used on the sleeve.
Brian Hannan, author of the new book The Making of Lawrence of Arabia, has unveiled a startling fact: an early production of David Lean's masterpiece was announced in January 1953- a decade before Lean's version was released. It was to be filmed in Cinerama and star John Wayne! Now, there are no bigger fans of the Duke than us, but what were they thinking? Fortunately, plans fell apart for this particular film. Hannan relates how Marlon Brando was Lean's first choice for the role, so even in saner hands the emphasis was in casting an American actor as the iconic Brit. By the way, Duke Wayne may have dodged a bullet with Lawrence, but a few years later he went one worse by playing Genghis Khan in The Conqueror! For more click here