A new book titled Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations contains amazing candid interviews with the legendary sex siren, who passed away in 1990. The book is based on interviews with Peter Evans, a friend and confidant Gardner trusted during the last years of her life while living in London. In an excerpt from the book, Gardner doesn't hold back when it comes to her ill-fated marriage to Mickey Rooney, then the top boxoffice attraction in the world. It was Rooney who plucked Gardner from a secretarial position on the studio lot, wooed her, married her and made it possible for her to become a star. Their marriage was a tempestuous one, with Rooney's penchant for skirt-chasing finally causing them to divorce. But Gardner still allowed him back because the sex was so good. In an era that preceded women's liberation, Gardner never gave a damn what anyone thought of her insatiable sexual appetites, which made it even more impressive that that the puritan attitudes of the time didn't derail her career. Click here to read extended excerpt.
Any movie fan who has enjoyed watching The Remains of the Day should also view the 1973 film TheHireling, a far more obscure production that nonetheless had been praised by critics at the time of its release (it also shared the Palm d'Or grand prize with Scarecrow at Cannes that year). Like Remains, The Hireling explores the rigid class structure in Great Britain. The film is set in the 1920s, a period when social mobility in England was limited by virtual caste-like economic barriers. Lady Helen Franklin (Sarah Miles) is a young woman who return to her elegant country estate (and her snobbish and unfeeling mother) after a stay in a sanitarium where she was recovering from a nervous breakdown following the death of her husband. The fragile Helen finds it difficult to return to a normal life and shuns attempts to reintroduce her to the upper crust crowd she once associated with. She forms a friendly bond with Steven Ledbetter (Robert Shaw), a working man who is proud of the fact that he owns his own car hire company. The enterprise consists of a couple of cars and precisely one chauffeur- Ledbetter himself, as well as a helper who serves as a mechanic. Ledbetter is hired to drive Lady Franklin on pleasant outings in the countryside as well as the occasional picnic. The two form a friendship and before long Lady Franklin breaks social barriers by sitting upfront with Ledbetter- a development that starts tongues wagging in gossip circles.
Over the course of the story, Ledbetter dares to imagine that the obsessive romantic interest he has developed for Lady Franklin is secretly shared by her. This sets in motion a series of events with Ledbetter trying to summon the nerve to express his feelings for her. Before he can do so, however, she is actively wooed by a handsome young artistocrat, Captain Hugh Cantrip (Peter Egan), an opportunist who is trying to use his distinguished military record as a stepping stone for a political career. Ledbetter has to silently endure chauffeuring the couple to various high society functions, while he is constantly reminded of his status as an employee. He becomes especially disturbed when his outings with Lady Franklin all but disappear as she spends more time with Cantrip. When Ledbetter discovers that Cantrip is a womanizer who is merely using Lady Franklin's social status to enhance his political ambitions, he comes to a dramatic decision that leads to the film's powerful conclusion.
The Hireling is about unrequited love told in a heartfelt and moving way. We recognize early on that Ledbetter's dream of establishing a romantic relationship with the woman he adores is more than likely doomed. Neither he or Lady Franklin are villains, but both of them are flawed human beings. Ledbetter's tendency to turn to drink in times of personal turmoil leads to making disastrous decisions; Lady Franklin's naive belief in Cantrip leads to their engagement- and she remains in denial of his unfaithfulness despite being presented with convincing evidence. The film is sensitively directed by Alan Bridges, who had been heretofore primarily known for his work in the British television industry. (Surprisingly, the critical success of this movie did not lead to a fruitful career in feature films.) The production values are excellent, adding immeasurably to establishing a convincing sense of period; Michael Reed's cinematography is superb and the script by Wolf Mankowitz (based on a novel) is brimming with terrific dialogue. The real pleasure of the movie, however, is watching two of England's best actors- Shaw and Miles- in their prime and delivering magnificent performances.
The Hireling is, in the end, a soap opera....but a grand one, indeed.
Sony has released the film as a burn-to-order DVD title. The quality is excellent, though there are no extras.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from Paramount Home Video:
Paramount Home Media Distribution (PHMD) announced today that four beloved films starring the incomparable Danny Kaye are available on iTunes for the first time ever in celebration of The Danny Kaye Centennial. Fans can now download the Oscar-nominated biopic The Five Pennies (1959), the musical comedy On the Double (1961), the period comedy The Court Jester (1955) and the hilarious caper Knock on Wood (1954), all quintessential family-friendly films that everyone can enjoy for Father’s Day. This year marks the 60th anniversary for Kaye as a UNICEF ambassador as well as the 60th anniversary of both the Knock on Wood and White Christmas releases.
In The Five Pennies Kaye cuts loose with his trademark dramatic and comedic talents in this success-tempered-with-tears biopic of jazz great Red Nichols, which features legendary performances by Louis Armstrong, along with big band icons Bob Crosby, Ray Anthony and Shelly Manne. In On the Double Kaye stars as Ernie Williams, a G.I. with weak eyes, a weak stomach and weak nerves but an uncanny resemblance to British Colonel MacKenzie. Williams is asked to impersonate the Colonel, allowing him to make a secret trip East – but what Williams is not told is that the Colonel has recently been a target of Nazi assassins. The Court Jester showcases Kaye’s variety of talents as he plays kind-hearted entertainer Hawkins who disguises himself as the legendary king of jesters, Giacomo. Hawkins infiltrates the court of the evil villain Basil Rathbone, but when a sorceress hypnotizes him, royal chaos ensues. In Knock on Wood Kaye is a ventriloquist who becomes the target of a spy ring when secret plans are hidden in his dummies’ heads.
The Danny Kaye Centennial, which began in late 2012 and continues into early 2014, isa celebration of events and activities honoring a legendary entertainer and trail blazing humanitarian’s amazing contributions to the arts. The event highlights this uniquely talented man who brought laughter and joy to generations and served as UNICEF’S first Goodwill Ambassador. Kaye received countless accolades during his lifetime including Oscars®, Emmys®, Golden Globes®, The French Legion of Honor, The Kennedy Center Honors and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Beginning in October of 2012 events around the country invited the public to experience the talents that made Danny Kaye one of a kind. These included programs with UNICEF, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Library of Congress, the Paley Center for Media, Sirius XM Radio, Museum of the Moving Image and The New York Pops. The Danny Kaye Centennial will culminate with UNICEF presenting the Danny Kaye Humanitarian Award in January 2014.
Dunning the actor, producer, film authority, and Director of Acquisitions at
Cinema Epoch, has just acquired the rights to the following titles for future
release on DVD:
The Witch Who Came from the Sea
(1976) with Millie Perkins and directed by Matt Cimber
Butterfly (1982) with Pia Zadora, Stacy
Keach and Orson Wells and directed by Matt Cimber
previously reported, Mr. Dunning is the host of Prodigy Media Network’s “How Do You
View”, an Internet radio show produced by Cinema Epoch president Gregory
Hatanaka.The show is available for
listening daily at 1:00
am, 5:30 am, 11:00 am & 5:00 pm Pacific Standard Time (4:00 am, 8:30 am,
2:00 pm, and 8:00 pm New York
time).Click here to listen to “How Do You
View” at the respective times.
Dunning is keeping busy.He is also
currently co-starring in the film Barry
Price, which is loosely based upon John Cassavetes’ The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1977).The film is being directed by Chris Boggs
and it stars film legend John Wayne’s grandson, Brandon Wayne, in his first
starring role.Mr. Dunning is also
appearing in Master of the Grind,
which is being directed by Jason Rutherford.
recently being promoted to Head of Production at Cinema Epoch, Mr. Dunning will
be producing the following new films, all to be directed by the aforementioned
Hunter, a thriller due to begin filming on
July 1, 2013
The Alpha Experiment, a sci-fi
thriller due to start shooting in August 2013
Darling Nikki, a reimagining of
tuned to Cinema Retro.com for future updates!
Our Man in Scandanavia, Thomas Hauerslev, who runs the brilliant website www.in70mm.com, advises that the CinemaxX in Copenhagen will be having a rare big screen showing of the acclaimed 007 documentary feature film Everything or Nothing along with a screening of From Russia With Love on July 7. Click here for details
Author and regular ‘Cinema Retro’ contributor Howard Hughes has just
published a new book via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing venture. ‘Mario
Bava: Destination Terror’ looks at the filmmaking career of the Italian director
dubbed ‘The Father of Italian Horror’. Some of the great director’s finest films
– ‘Black Sabbath’, ‘The Mask of Satan’/‘Black Sunday’, ‘Lisa and the Devil’ and
‘Baron Blood’ – have recently been given the special edition Blu-ray treatment by
Arrow Films, and all his other films are currently available on DVD. ‘Mario
Bava: Destination Terror’ is the first in a new series of e-books from Howard
which focusses on cult film directors and genres.
The book can be downloaded from most Amazon stores, including Amazon US and Amazon UK, and can be read on any Kindle-enabled device.
Here’s the blurb:
ReKindle your Love of Great Cinema…Mario Bava:
Mario Bava is one of the great Italian directors and the father of
Italian horror. His beautifully-photographed, artfully-crafted films are the
worthy legacy of this talented director, whose work is seen at its very best in
this digital age on DVD and Blu-ray, as a triumph of visual design.
'Destination Terror' tells his story.
The son of a special effects pioneer, Mario Bava began his film career as a
cinematographer, before moving into directing, almost by chance. Those who
worked with him maintained that he regarded himself as first and foremost a
cinematographer and only secondly as a director. His horror films include the
groundbreaking 'The Mask of Satan' (also known as 'Black Sunday'), the
three-part demonthology 'Black Sabbath', the murderous 'Blood and Black Lace'
and the archetypal bodycount thriller 'A Bay of Blood' (or 'Twitch of the Death
Nerve'). He also made 'Kill, Baby...Kill!', 'The Whip and the Body', 'Baron
Blood ' and 'Lisa and the Devil', which ensure him a place in the pantheon of
great horror film directors. But Bava worked successfully in a variety of
genres, making the comic book crime caper 'Danger: Diabolik', the fantastical
sword-and-sandal epic 'Hercules in the Centre of the Earth' (also called
'Hercules in the Haunted World'), Viking adventures like 'Erik the Conqueror',
the sci-fi horror 'Planet of the Vampires' and sex comedies, creature features,
slapstick farces and spaghetti westerns. All these films and more are featured
in this entertaining guide to the King of Italian Gothic Horror. Also discussed
is Bava’s output as a cinematographer and special effects artist, his
uncompleted projects and made-for-TV films, and his work’s availability on DVD
and videotape, including the many different versions of his films.
A Mercury Theater player turned comic actor,
Elliott Reid may be best known as the thorn in Fred MacMurray's side in THE
ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR (1961) and SON OF FLUBBER (1963). Reid starred in
director William Cameron Menzies' Cold War sci-fi thriller THE WHIP HAND
(1951), GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (1953), INHERIT THE WIND (1960), THE THRILL OF IT ALL (1963), THE WHEELER
DEALERS (1963), MOVE OVER, DARLING (1963), WHO'S BEEN SLEEPING IN MY BED?
(1963), BLACKBEARD'S GHOST (1968) and SOME KIND OF A NUT (1969). Reid also
made countless TV appearances, notably DESIGN FOR LOVING, a classic 1958 episode
of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS based on a story by Ray Bradbury. Reid last
appeared onscreen in a 1992 episode of SEINFELD and in a 1995 episode of MAYBE
THIS TIME with Bette White.- Harvey Chartrand
Richard Matheson, whose classic sci-fi stories were adapted into TV episodes and feature films, has died at age 87. Perhaps his best known novel was I Am Legend, an apocalyptic tale about a man battling hoards of vampires intent on killing him. The film was made into feature films on three occasions, as The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price, The Omega Man with Charlton Heston and more recently, I Am Legend with Will Smith. Matheson also wrote dozen teleplays for The Twilight Zone and was working on a remake of his acclaimed 1950s film The Incredible Shrinking Man. For more click here For Bradley's update click here
expect nothing less than greatness from that Cadillac of DVD/Blu-Ray labels,
The Criterion Collection, and this month’s releases do not disappoint. I’m
betting that even hardcore Cinema Retro readers
may not have seen these two brilliant classics—one a silent film from 1923, the
other a British work of wonder from 1936—both containing jaw-dropping visuals
that will amaze even the most cynical of cinema aficionados.
up—Safety Last!, the film for which
actor Harold Lloyd will be most remembered. Lloyd was often called “the third
genius” (after Chaplin and Keaton), and his works were not readily available to
Baby Boomers because he had refused to sell them to television at the low price
he was offered. Lloyd always felt his films were worth more, and rightly so.
This was a guy who made many more pictures
than either Chaplin or Keaton and transitioned smoothly into the sound era with
no hiccups. He had his own on-screen persona, too—that of an everyman (albeit
with glasses) with whom audiences could more easily identify than with his
if you may not have seen a Harold Lloyd movie, you surely know the iconic still
of the actor hanging from the hands of a gigantic clock on the side of a
skyscraper. This is, of course, from Safety
Last! Lloyd was the purveyor of what was called “thrill comedy,” in which
the actor was forced into physically dangerous situations with comic results.
It was the same kind of excitement we got from watching circus trapeze artists
and the like—we feared for them but also laughed at the routines. Safety Last! is pure brilliance. The
story is simple—the everyman from the small town goes to the big city to make his
fortune so that his fiancée can eventually join him. In order to get the
uber-payoff, Lloyd orchestrates a publicity stunt at the department store where
he works as a lowly salesman—to get a friend of his to climb to the top of the
building’s exterior. Naturally, the friend is preoccupied by a zealous
policeman, so Lloyd has to perform the feat himself. Through a series of
extremely clever photographic effects, the filmmakers make audiences believe
that Lloyd—who did most of his own stunts—really did climb a skyscraper.
Criterion edition sports a new, restored 2K transfer that, on blu-ray, presents
a picture that appears as if the film was made yesterday. A 1989 score by Carl
Davis is synchronized and restored in uncompressed stereo (and there’s an
alternate score by Gaylord Taylor from the late 60s). Audio commentary by
Leonard Maltin and Lloyd archivist Richard Correll is included. Excellent
extras include an introduction by Lloyd’s granddaughter, Suzanne Lloyd; a
superb two-hour documentary, Harold
Lloyd: The Third Genius; documentary features on the photographic effects
and music; and three restored Lloyd shorts from 1919 and 1920. Fantastic stuff.
for something completely different—H. G. Wells’ Things to Come, an Alexander Korda production, which was the most
expensive British film to date in 1936. There wasn’t much science fiction on
film in those early days. Aside from Lang’s Metropolis,
most sci-fi on celluloid didn’t come about until the 1950s. Things to Come was totally Wells’
baby—he wrote the screenplay (based on his novel), and unofficially served as
executive producer and consultant.
story focuses on an English village, “Everytown,” and follows it from 1936 to
2036, illustrating the various social and technical changes that take place.
It’s interesting to note what the filmmakers accurately predicted. For example,
Wells foretold the outbreak of world war at Christmas, 1940—he overshot the actual
date by only sixteen months. Most of the film centers on the future years in
the 1960s and 1970s, when Everytown is ruled by a tyrannical dictator (Ralph
Richardson, outrageously chewing the scenery). The star of the picture is
Raymond Massey, who plays a sensible pilot in the early years, and then also
portrays the original character’s great-grandson in the year 2036. Nigel
Hawthorne appears in the later years as an outspoken rebel against the current
government—he too, entertainingly overacts with abandon. It’s all good stuff,
real star of Things to Come is the
art direction/production design. Credited to Vincent Korda, the work, as noted
in the fascinating extra narrated by Christopher Frayling, was actually done by
several designers. The film was directed by William Cameron Menzies, who was
known mostly as a production designer. The “futuristic” scenes of 2036 are
quaintly hilarious with their post-modern, sleek and sterile sets, and costumes
that one contemporary reviewer described as “bathing costumes”—but for science
fiction enthusiasts, this was a groundbreaking, daring film for its time. It’s
a bit on the preachy side—a cautionary tale for those living in 1936—but it’s
also an important, courageous piece of art from Korda’s company, London Films.
also include clips of unused special effects by artist Lásló Moholy-Nagy, a visual
essay on the musical score, and an audio recording of Wells reading about the
“wandering sickness,” a plague-like disease featured in the film.
To commemorate Criterion's Blu-ray release of acclaimed director/cinematographer Haskell Wexler's 1969 counter-culture classic Medium Cool, Criterion asked Wexler to provide a list of his ten favorite films of all time. With the exception of Hitchcock's The 39 Steps, all of his choice are in languages other than English. We're still bitterly disappointed that Smokey and the Bandit II didn't make the list. Click here to read
The sudden death of acclaimed, Emmy-winning actor James Gandolfini from a heart attack has left the entertainment community stunned. The actor passed away while on vacation in Italy. He was only 51 years old. The Huffington Post pays tribute to his life and career. Click here to read.
Spy movie fan Luca Pietramala posted this on his Facebook page recently. It's a toy industry trade magazine advertisement for a 1966 line of spy-related rubber hand puppets. The David McCallum/Illya puppet was produced along with the Sean Connery figure in a suit and the Harold Sakata/Oddjob figure. However, the Adolfo Celi as Largo and Connery scuba puppets never got beyond the prototype stage. The nagging question for the last half-century has been: when are they going to release a Robert Vaughn/Napoleon Solo puppet? We're starting to lose hope!
Brompton Cemetary, one of the unique locations for screenings of cult and classic movies.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
London: Lights, camera, action! A new popup cinema
website, designed to provide easy access to the best of London’s popup cinema
events, has launched.
The site, www.WeGotPopup.com,
will finally offer a one-stop shop for all London’s Popup cinema needs.
It will list a wide range of London’s freshest film experiences, from a seat on
a 1930s riverboat down the Thames bound for an Elizabethan manor house
screening, to getting lost in Camden’s Coram Secret Garden on the back of
Falkor the Luckdragon.
Producing these unique
experiences for film lovers are… the popup film baronsCult Screens,Pop Up Screens,The NomadandRooftop
Film ClubalongsideThe Lucky Dog Picture House,Matrix
Grimsby,The East Dulwich
Tavern,Bloomsbury Lanes,Roadside Picnic,Hebden Bridge Arts Festival,
andBoughton Housewhose events will all be listed on the
The screenings can be
cross-referenced by date, title and most importantly, distance from where you
are currently sitting. (prepare to add at least 2 points to your 'cool
WeGotPopUp.com will be (ahem)
“popping up” for a limited four-month window, arriving just in time to provide
film fans with all the information and easy access to often elusive events. So
log-on, explore, and click your way to a popup packed summer.
The portal was the brainchild of
ticketing experts WeGotTickets, who have ticketed weird and wonderful one-off
events since 2000, offering tickets for the UK’s original popup supper clubs
and cinema. WeGotTickets has ticketed over a thousand of these – fromFilms on Fridges,
where a white goods wonderland took over a recycling-plant-turned-Olympic-Park,
to a popup feast night at a hidden Cornwall beach hut. Not to mention
screenings at abandoned petrol stations, under bridges, at lidos, and of
Pelen, Design and Communications Manager,The
has been really healthy growth in popup cinema events over the past few years,
with audiences increasingly on the look-out for a unique and memorable way to
enjoy their favourite film, or discover something totally new in a different
“That's why WeGotPopup is such a
great idea, allowing customers to search all the best pop-up providers for
their favourite film or venue all in one place. We're sure this new venture
will be a great success as the WeGotTickets team are a very determined and
hard-working bunch of people with a great attitude and a reputation to match.''
WeGotTickets keep tickets
paperless, fees low and completely transparent – regularly working with and
donatinga percentage of their booking
fees back to a variety ofcharities.
is the UK’s leading paperless ticketing agency. Launched in 2002, WeGotTickets
works with thousands of event organisers placing it in the top five ticket
agencies in the UK.
has made it possible for organisers of events of all shapes and sizes to
benefit from advance ticket sales, and now sells close to a million tickets a
year; from popup cinema, art events and underground restaurants to traditional
live music and comedy shows and festivals.
its launch, WeGotTickets has consistently pushed for innovation, transparency
and best practice across the ticketing industry, with many of the company’s
ideas becoming standard industry practice.
company’s 10% maximum ticket commission rate has helped to lower fees across
the business, whilst its pioneering paperless ticketing system has been a major
factor in reducing the live music industry’s carbon footprint.
years WeGotTickets has been proud to work on a number of special campaigns with
charities such as Oxfam, Macmillan, ActionAid and Warchild, and regularly
donates a percentage of their booking fees back to these groups. In 2009 the
company launched a unique feature allowing ticket buyers to quickly and easily
make a donation to a featured charity whilst purchasing tickets, which has
raised tens of thousands of pounds for those charities.
is now proud to be a full member of STAR (Society of Ticket Agents and
Retailers) and is fully behind the organisation’s new fraud prevention kite
actor, musician, Maxton Gig “Max” Beesley, Jr’s destiny as an actor was firmly
set when his mom was inspired by American, Academy Award® winning
actor Gig Young, in choosing her son’s middle name. Beesley, born and raised in his beloved
Manchester, England, was raised in a family steeped in the arts. His father, Max Beesley, Sr. is a venerable
jazz drummer and impressionist, and his mother Chris Marlowe was a jazz singer. His step-brother Jason Milligan is also an
actor and Jason’s wife Angela Griffin is an actress.
first, American audiences may not easily recognize Max Beesley’s name, but in
fact, many are far more familiar with his esteemed CV of work, which includes
numerous acclaimed acting roles in many stellar films, TV series, and also a
supreme music career, than they realize.
has garnered considerable praise and is most well known here in the States and
in the UK for his role as the unflappable Woody on all 3 seasons, (and now
filming Season 4) of the British black comedy, thriller TV series, “Mad Dogs”
which just premiered its third season June 4, 2013. The series is broadcast Tuesday nights at 9pm
on Britain’s SKY TV. U.S. and global
audiences can watch Episode 1 and new weekly episodes on SKY TV’s website at http://sky1.sky.com/sky1hd-shows/mad-dogs
also just co-starred in the nifty and thoroughly riveting indie crime thriller
film, “Pawn”, which was co-produced by the film’s star, actor Michael
Chiklis. “Pawn” was also helmed
by Chiklis’s own film production company,
Extravaganza Films, and was released direct to Blu-Ray and DVD on April 23,
2013. The film focuses on a seemingly
easy to pull off robbery by some small town hoods, (Beesley’s character Billy,
being one of the baddies) at an all night diner. But in actuality the details behind the heist
involve a delectable smorgasbord of intelligent, multi-layered, plot
complexities and jaw dropping twists. The job goes south quickly, escalating
into a tense hostage situation with dirty cops and crooks alike manipulating
and double crossing one another and the outcome. The unfolding events are told
from various different perspectives by the many characters, who recall different
key elements that reveal the many surprising and well thought out plot twists
and turns. Think “Roshomon” meets
Beesley is a prominent fixture across the pond in England via his many starring
turns on some of British TV’s biggest hit series, here in the States, many
people know of him and often first discover Beesley and his many stellar film
roles, as well as his sterling TV work and luminous musical talents, from his starring
role in the 2001 motion picture “Glitter” opposite Mariah Carey in her film
actor Beesley authentically and convincingly portrayed street smart New York
music producer and club DJ, Julian “Dice” Black, co-starring as Carey’s romantic
interest, who discovers and mentors the musical talents of Carey’s character,
Billie Frank. While the film was panned
by critics and fans alike at the time, Beesley’s gritty and charismatic
performance, however, was a stellar knockout and all but saved the film.
“Glitter”, has, and continues to attain, a growing, appreciative audience and
in retrospect holds up well as a very entertaining, dark, and realistic take on
the downsides of stardom and the music industry.
first garnered critical acclaim in the lead role on the 1997 BBC British TV mini-series
“The History Of Tom Jones: A Foundling”, which was broadcast here in the states
many diverse film roles reflect the multifaceted depth and range of his acting talents. He starred as Wullie Smith in director Mick
Davis’s inspiring and charming tale of a Scottish town’s two pub soccer teams
who play one another to settle an old grudge in 1999’s “The Match”. He’s worked with such prestigious indie, art
house directors as Mike Figgis, portraying Antonio in the offbeat and disturbing
2001 film “Hotel”, and with director Tamar Simon Hoffs, in the 2003 screen
adaptation of the award winning stage production “Red Roses and Petrol” which
won first prize at the Avignon Film Festival.
“Red Roses and Petrol”, Max starred opposite Malcolm McDowell to great acclaim as
the angry, damaged, rakish Johnny Doyle, attempting to come to terms with his
dysfunctional relationship with his family and his deceased father in this poignant
and raw character study.
worked with “Blade” and “The League Of Extraordinary Gentleman’s” cult director
Stephen Norrington, starring in the vividly dark, bleak, and shocking gothic
thriller, 2001’s “The Last Minute”. Beesley
also starred with Selma Blair in the 2001, emotionally charged drama and crime
thriller “Kill Me Later” as Charlie Anders. Max transformed into the tattooed baddie Luther, a member of the
Hellions biker gang and henchman to the Hellion’s leader Henry James played by
“The Fast & The Furious’s” own Matt Schulze in the 2004 action film “Torque”,
starring Martin Henderson and Ice Cube, and produced by Neal H. Moritz who has
produced all six of “The Fast and the Furious” films and which was also
produced by Brad Luff (who also co-produced “Pawn”).
become a lauded mainstay of the British TV airwaves starring on such hit shows
as “Bodies” from 2004 to 2006 as Dr. Rob Lake and on the post apocalyptic
science fiction series “Survivors” from 2008 to 2010 as the amoral and
remorseless Tom Price. U.S. fans will be
happy to know that Beesley also crossed the Atlantic pond, here to the States
to guest on an episode of “CSI” in 2011. But it was from 2006 to 2009, that Beesley starred in the role that
would make him a beloved icon on British television, as the roguish romancer
with a checkered past, yet utterly likable rapscallion, hotel general manager,
Charlie Edwards in “Hotel Babylon”.
before Beesley embarked on an esteemed acting career, he had already made his
name as a successful and talented musician. A gifted pianist, percussionist, and solo jazz artist, Max is also a songwriter,
producer, arranger, and film composer, (scoring two of the films he’s acted and
starred in, 2003’s “The Emperor’s Wife” and 2005’s “Her Name Is Carla”). He’s recorded, written for, produced, arranged, played, and toured
with Robbie Williams, Stevie Wonder, George Benson, Paul Weller, George
Michael, James Brown, The Brand New Heavies, Omar, Earth, Wind & Fire,
Jamiroquai, and many more. Max was a member of the jazz band Incognito, as
well as releasing several records with his own sparkling acid jazz project, Max
Beesley’s High Vibes.
Beesley’s creative path changed, when he was first bitten, or rather smitten,
by the acting bug in 1995 after renting director Martin Scorsese’s 1980 landmark
film “Raging Bull”. The young Beesley was blown away by Robert De Niro’s Oscar®
winning performance. Max’s immediate
dedication and commitment to his craft included his then taking time to study acting
in New York, honing his skills, then returning to England where his acting
career took off with his casting in 1997 in “The
History Of Tom Jones: A Foundling”,
and the rest as they say is history.
as Max and I were doing this interview, he had been cast in, and is now filming,
his first major role on American television, as new recurring character Stephen
Huntley in Season 3 of the USA Cable Television Network’s legal drama,
“Suits. Beesley’s character will be part
of the “British Invasion” of Attorneys involved in last Season 2’s merger of
law firm Pearson/Darby. Season 3 of
“Suits” premieres July 16, 2013 and airs Tuesday nights on the USA TV Network.
this interview, Max Beesley discusses how he was cast and prepared for his character
in “Pawn”. Max also expounds about his
own independent film project currently in development, “Mr. Goodnight”, which
he wrote, produced, and will star in, helmed under the auspices of his Los
Angeles based, film production company, Patricia Jean Films, Inc. Max also enthusiastically discusses what we
can expect in Season 3 of “Mad Dogs”, film composing, and the craft of acting.
Tall Texan (1953) (MMM-1974) was another low-budget B Western movie and starred
Lloyd Bridges, Lee J. Cobb and Marie Windsor. It was directed by Elmo Williams,
(the Oscar-winning editor of High Noon). The basis of The Tall Texan was a familiar
one, a collection of five travellers set out in a wagon through Comanche
territory. The group includes a tinhorn and his woman, a sheriff escorting an
accused murderer, and a sea captain. After a renegade Indian tells them about a
virgin gold field as thanks for saving his life, the group becomes fixated on
the gold and greed becomes their main objective. Bert Shefter, this time
working without his collaborator Paul Sawtell, took a thematic approach to this
rather rich sounding score. Shefter provides themes to several of the central
characters, including a menacing (if rather traditional) woodwind and native
drum rhythms for the Indians. Shefter also and makes good use of a couple of
traditional standards, Yankee Doodle Dandy can be heard, and is gently woven
into the fabric of Luther Adler’s character Joshua Tinnen. The composer also
introduces the old sea shanty Blow the Man Down which works surprisingly well as
a dramatic motif. So, is there anything that makes this stand out from any
other B movie western score of the time? Well, yes, actually there is. The Celesta
is an instrument that conjures up numerous magical memories. Today, it is
probably more associated with the Harry Potter themes or perhaps traditional
arrangements of Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. However, Shefter
took its distinctive sound and applied it to the film’s silent character, the gold.
The Celesta was certainly an inspired choice of instrumentation by Mr Shefter.
If rousing western scores from the 50s are your thing, you are sure to enjoy
this nugget. Another excellent 20 page booklet (written by David Schecter) is
included with the CD.
fascinating collection from David Schecter’s Monstrous movie music continues to
reiterate their place in the soundtrack market. Their tireless efforts,
attention to detail and commitment to explore new genres, continue to feed our
high expectations. Check them out for yourself at: http://www.mmmrecordings.com/
Douglas Dunning, actor, producer,
film authority, radio show host of “How Do You View” and director of
acquisitions at Cinema Epoch, has acquired the rights to the following titles
for release on DVD:
“Hundra”, the 1984 Laurene Landon
“How Do You View” is the name of a
new Internet radio show hosted by Dunning. The show can be heard daily at 1:00 am, 5:30 am,
11:00 am & 5:00 pm Pacific Standard Time (that’s 4:00 am, 8:30 am, 2:00 pm,
and 8:00 pm to us on the Eastern Seaboard). It can be heard on the Prodigy Media Network. This week, Mr. Dunning interviews director
Richard Rush (pictured), best known for 1980’s The Stunt Man.
to listen to “How Do You View” at the respective times.
Sacrifice (1959) (MMM-1973) starred David DaLie as Samson, an American hunter
on a safari in Guatemala. While tracking game, Samson encounters a strange
ceremony in which a young woman named Morena (Angelica Morales) is to be
sacrificed at the bidding of her father to appease the gods following a vicious
animal attack. Morena is able to escape, and Samson gives chase, hoping to
rescue her before the tribesmen can capture her and complete the ritual. Sound
like drivel? Well… you’d be right. So let’s waste little time and talk about
the finer side of Virgin Sacrifice, the team of Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter. Sawtell
and Shefter are no strangers to Monstrous Movie Music soundtracks, with
previous releases including Kronos, It! The Terror From Beyond Space and The
Last Man on Earth. For collectors of Sawtell and Shefter, this rarely seen
exploitation film contains a rather unique and satisfying score from the pair.
Diverse and subjective in its approach, the score leads us through the beauty
and dangers of its Guatemalan jungle setting. The music is peppered with
expressive and melancholy cues. The film’s main title is both tranquil and
dramatic, before both male and female chanting is applied, perhaps in order to
remind us that this is a jungle movie. Tracks such as Medal of Death make
clever use of keyboard tricks (provided by Jack Cookerly’s ‘magic box’ organ)
and work to startling effect. Flittering clarinets and brooding flutes maintain
that the majority of score is designed to hold us in suspense whilst providing
a sense of mystery throughout. However, it is the use of Hammond organ that
really provides the pay-off, used sparingly in tracks such as Through the Cave,
it makes a wonderfully spooky touch. At 54 minutes, Virgin Sacrifice is a
generous score that benefits from some fine orchestration. Collectors of
Sawtell in particular, might well be reminded of his music from the Tarzan
films he wrote for RKO. Again, an excellent 20 page booklet provides a unique
and well researched written history of the production.
A long-standing award to STARZ Entertainment pertaining to rights to the Man From U.N.C.L.E. TV series has been reduced on appeal. The case by STARZ against Lindsay Dunlap, who claimed to have obtained rights to the series from its creator Norman Felton, resulted in STARZ incurring costs for a planned video release of the show. That fell apart when Warner Brothers presented evidence that they owned video rights to the series. STARZ then sued Dunlap for damages and was awarded almost $3 million in compensatory and punitive damages. A judge has reduced that figure by half, eliminating the punitive damages but letting stand the compensatory damages of $1.5 million and asserting that Dunlap's claim of ownership of the series did not take into consideration Warner Brothers' rights. Warners ultimately released the entire series on DVD, as well as the spinoff The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. and eight feature length films derived from the show. For more click here
Adam Ferrara with Edie Falco in Nurse Jackie. (Photo: Ken Regan/SHOWTIME)
By Eddy Friedfeld
Adam Ferrara used to fight fires with Denis Leary on Rescue Me. He now drives way too fast on Top Gear. This season he is trading witty banter and love
scenes with Edie Falco. As New York City
Police Sergeant Frank Verelli, his scenes with Falco are as funny and even hotter
than those with the crew of the fictional “62 Truck.”
the superb Showtime comedy drama about hospitals, addiction, friendship, and
family, with the former Carmella Soprano, the brilliant Edie Falco, leading a
magnificent cast and guest stars including Merritt
Wever, Paul Schulze, Dominic Fumusa, Anna Deavere Smith and Peter Facinelli, Bobby
Cannavale, Morris Chestnut, Stephen Wallem, Betty Gilpin, and Ferrara.
As the fifth
season wraps up this Sunday night, the show is still smart, tight, and
interesting and has just been renewed for a sixth season.
“When I got the
Nurse Jackie gig I called my Mom,” Ferrara said. “‘Ask Carmella if she got to keep the
jewelry,’ she told me.”
He commented on
the different energy on his new gig, responding to my observation that Rescue Me
was working with a baseball bat, versus Jackie where the comedy and drama
require a scalpel-like precision: “Rescue Me-was all percussion- every one banging away on their own
instruments. Jackie is an orchestra-
it’s all woodwind. The first day I got to
the Jackie set- there was a juicer. Rescue Me was a guy show. We
would smoke cigars. There was so much
smoke billowing out of Dennis Leary’s trailer one day it was like we were
electing a new pope!”
The Long Island
born actor always loved comedy. “I loved
The In-Laws, Animal House, Smokey and the Bandit, The Sunshine Boys, and
anything else by Neil Simon. When I was
growing up, I kept [Mel Brooks and Carl Reiners’] 2000 Year Old Man and George
Carlin and Richard Pryor albums under the mattress with the Playboy Magazines.”
He is a literate
and thoughtful comedian and performer- the more you studied in school, the
funnier you will think he is. And there
is a lot of thought that goes into the comedy and the drama.
“The comedy and
drama feed off each other. I studied
with Stephen Book. His approach to
breaking down a script is a technique called ‘purpose of scene,’ which helps
you become a better writer as a standup comedian. It lets you look at what the joke is
about. I’m a confessional comic, and a
lot of my material is scenes. I interact
with characters I create on stage in a standup capacity. I don’t have to get the laugh, one of the
other characters in the scene can get the laugh and it colors the presentation
of the standup in a particular way. It’s
about crafting the comedy.”
acting and hit a line, you can’t hit it the same way you hit it in
standup. In standup you’re winking at
the audience, in drama you’re connecting with the other person. I look at the audience as one person. In standup, you’re in control of the entire
process. In acting, you’re one person
who is part of a larger scene. You’re
serving your part of the whole. You can
play the scene the way you want, but you have to hit the story beats, you have
to react to the other characters and story points, and character
revelations. It’s like playing nine
ball, you gotta hit the balls in sequence.”
keenly aware of the challenge of mixing comedy and drama into a careful blend
that generates both laughter and pathos, and the risks of not getting it right: “In my Rescue Me training, just because the
words are done- doesn’t mean the scene is over. “Denis used to say- there’s no pop in this scene. He would yell: ‘Make me laugh, Ferrara!’”
When asked about
the challenge of being funny and poignant, he said: “You get the chance to be an actor, not just
carrying pipe. You’re not the wacky
neighbor walking in and saying ‘this was my toast!’”
‘trouble’ of doing the Jackie show- is watching Edie work. She is so amazing, she’s distracting. She can break your heart and piss your off
with just a look. I was just doing my
job. But people are talking about our chemistry.”
The challenge is
great for Frank, who despite their palpable chemistry, is still not fully aware
of the depths of Jackie’s complexity and addiction, which will hopefully be
developed next season.
“The Jackie set
is a happy house. It’s nice to create
with that kind of group. It’s a joyful
birthing process. Sometimes there’s
kicking and screaming, but we’re having a good time making it. Rescue Me was like that too. We laughed our asses off. When I came back after hiatus it was like we
never left. Denis created, wrote,
starred in it, and then sold it. After I
got the Jackie gig, I sent Denis an email thanking him for giving me a place to
learn. He sent me an email back that
said ‘Go f-yourself.’”
I pointed out
that most of Ferrara’s characters are working class and that the articulate and
educated Ferrara chooses a regional accent for most of his characters, the way Michael
Caine kept the Cockney accent because he wanted to preserve it. The earnestness, authenticity, and heroism of
his working class characters, including Frank Verelli, goes back to his Long
Island roots: “I know who this guy
is. I come from working class people. People who shower after work. When Frank has to take care of Jackie, I saw
my father in this character. He was full
of insight and advice. He said: “If you ever get jammed up, pay off your
car. They can never tow your house.’”
He recalled his
role in Definitely Maybe, where he co-starred with Ryan Reynolds (“I don’t care
where your mail is delivered, that is one handsome man,” comes the almost
involuntary joke). “I played a
professional character, but I lumbered when I walked and I put a pencil behind
my ear out of respect for my roots.”
He also talked
about his role on Top Gear, where he gets to drive the world’s most amazing
cars, his favorite being a Lamborghini Gallardo. “I did 180 and change- it tops out at 202
miles per hour.”
When asked how
much training he was given, he said: “They didn’t even ask to see my driver’s license! I did go to stunt school on my own. I trained with Danny Aiello III, God rest his
seasons of his two shows wrap, he will continue to develop a new one-man show-
a comedy drama about dealing with his father’s death from cancer.
lucky. I got the support. My Dad wanted to do a lot of things with his life
that he didn’t get to do. When I told my
Dad that I was thinking about being a comic, he said- do it now and give it
your best shot, before life gets complicated. I realized that he had unfulfilled dreams and he was encouraging me to
chase mine. When I got an Olive Garden
commercial I was unsure whether to take it. He said: ‘you can be an artist, you don’t have to be a starving
artist. Otherwise, go rent a loft and be
misunderstood. You have to eat.’ When he saw the restaurant, he said ‘no self-respecting
Italian is going to eat at a place with a window that big so someone can come
by and aim.’”
Retro Contributor Eddy Friedfeld teaches comedy and film history at NYU and
There were some terrific made for TV movies broadcast in the 1970s that have yet to see the light of day. Among them were the wonderful ABC-TV "Movie of the Week" broadcasts that often boasted first rate actors under the direction of up and coming talents like Steven Spielberg. For whatever reason, precious few of these shows have made their way to DVD. However, some TV movies of the era are slowly being released as burn-to-order releases. Among them is A Matter of Wife...and Death, a 1976 TV movie that can be ordered as one of Sony's new titles. Never heard of it? Don't feel bad...neither had I. Still, the film has Rod Taylor in a starring role, so that's good enough to merit any retro movie fan's attention. On the surface, the film seems to hold a good deal of promise, with Taylor playing the role of Shamus McCoy, an L.A. private eye. The role was originated by Burt Reynolds in the hit 1973 feature film Shamus. Although Taylor has the prerequisite good looks, charisma (and hairy chest), the McCoy of the TV movie bears little resemblance to the character played by Reynolds. In the theatrical feature, McCoy was a wise-cracking cynic who made jokes in the face of certain death (a la 007). Although Taylor certainly had the same ability, he is hobbled with a rather confusing script that doesn't allow him much playfulness. He lives in the standard sub-par apartment all private dicks have to reside in (the other option being to live aboard a small boat, as with Frank Sinatra' Tony Rome and John Wayne's Lon McQ). There is also a superfluous love interest (in this case, the running gag - which is straight out of Tony Rome- finds McCoy being called away on an emergency before he can satisfy his would-be lover, played by future Wonder Woman Lynda Carter). However, the very ordinary script doesn't allow enough byplay between Taylor and his co-stars, with the exception of Joe Santos, who is amusing as a local L.A. police lieutenant who engages in some on-going ball-busting humor with McCoy. Beyond that, the plot finds McCoy trying to track down the killer of a down-on-his luck character who used to act as an informant for him. McCoy is outraged when the man is blown up in an apparent gangland assassination and promises the deceased's widow (Anita Gillette) to bring the culprits to justice. The film makes good use of L.A. locations but the overall plot is fairly pedantic, as McCoy checks out one red herring after another, getting beaten, bruised and threatened in the process.
Shamus McCoy wasn't the only big screen man of action to get sold short when brought to TV...(remember Ray Danton as Our Man Flint and Tony Franciosa as Matt Helm????) The film does have a pretty neat twist at the end that I didn't see coming and that, plus Taylor's considerable screen presence, makes the flick worth watching...though it's strictly mid-range entertainment. The DVD contains no extras, but as with all Sony burn to order titles, it is region free so it can be played on any DVD system worldwide, a nice plus for collectors.
Although Britain's legendary Hammer Films is almost exclusively associated with having redefined the horror movie genre, there were other genres explored by the studio ranging from film noir to crime and even Robin Hood sand pirate adventures. One of the more unusual entries is The Camp on Blood Island, a riveting WWII drama released in 1958. The black and white production was shot entirely in the UK, but, as was the norm for a Hammer production, creative locations and production design allow the viewer to believe they are watching events unfold in a Japanese POW camp in Malaya. The plot centers on the long-suffering British prisoners who are at the mercy of a brutal Japanese camp commandant and his equally brutal guards. The POWs learn through surreptitious means that the war has ended with Japan's surrender. Aware that the commandant had threatened to massacre all of the prisoners in the wake of such an occurrence, the senior officer among the prisoners, Col. Lambert (Andre Morell) concocts an audacious scheme to keep the news from the Japanese until he can organize plans for an insurrection and escape. Under the direction of the criminally underrated Val Guest, the film's scant 82 minute running time packs in a good deal of suspense, fine performances and intelligent dialogue. Barbara Shelly is thrown in as window dressing for some sex appeal as a fellow prisoner, but this is basically a male-oriented production that was aimed squarely at male audiences. The film's treatment of Japanese characters is predictably racist (many are portrayed by British actors including Michael Ripper!) but one must look at the movie in the context of the era, only a little over a decade after the end of WWII. There were millions of people who were still harboring nightmarish memories of the atrocities committed by the Japanese army. In typical Hammer tradition, the movie boasted a marketing campaign that emphasized gore and blood even though the film is relatively restrained in these areas. It's basically an intellectual cat-and-mouse game between prisoners and their captors that leads to quite an exciting and well-staged conclusion. The movie illustrates how Hammer Films could overcome meager production budgets to produce highly watchable, very entertaining movies.
Sony has released The Camp on Blood Island as a burn-to-order DVD. The film transfer is crisp and clean and the sleeve features the original, exploitation-oriented movie poster.
Any retro movie lover would be forgiven for thinking there would be a multitude of pleasures in The Great Scout and Cathouse Thursday, a 1976 Western comedy top-lining such considerable talents as Lee Marvin, Oliver Reed, Robert Culp, Kay Lenz, Elizabeth Ashley, Sylvia Miles and the always watchable Strother Martin. Sadly, the film is a complete misfire with nary a true guffaw to be found throughout. The movie is directed by Don Taylor, who helmed some fairly good films including Escape From the Planet of the Apes, Damien: Omen II and The Final Countdown. However, comedy is not Taylor's strong suit, as evidenced by the over-the-top elements of the movie. The quasi plot finds Marvin as Sam Longwood, an eccentric plainsman who is partnered with Indian Joe Knox (Oliver Reed) and Billy (Strother Martin) in an attempt to track down their former partner Jack Colby (Robert Culp) who fled with the haul the gold hoarde the four men had discovered years before. Colby has used the stolen loot to establish himself as a respectable politician. Sam, Joe and Billy concoct a scheme whereby they will blackmail Colby into returning their share of the money by kidnapping his wife Nancy Sue (Elizabeth Ashley), a loud-mouthed and obnoxious woman who has had romantic ties to Sam in the past. For reasons far too labored to go into, the trio of men are also accompanied by a seventeen year-old prosititute named Thursday who is seeking to escape the clutches of her former madam (Sylvia Miles).
The film has boundless energy but the non-screenplay leads the characters to dead-ends. Taylor inserts numerous slapstick comedy bits that bring out the worst in Marvin, as he goes into his over-acting mode routinely. Most embarrassing is the bizarre casting of Reed as a Native American. Cursed by having to wear a mop-haired wig and grunting "Me Tarzan, You Jane"-style dialogue, Reed does the most harm to the image of the Indian since the massacre at Wounded Knee. The film lurches from extended fistfights to boring chase sequences, all designed to mask over the fact that the script is a bland, pasted together conconction. There is also a jaunty musical score by John Cameron that is played so incessently, you'll be tempted to keep the remote on "mute" mode. The only people to emerge relatively unscathed are Lenz, Culp and Martin, who provided whatever wit and charm the film boasts. On paper, the project probably looked promising, but in terms of any genuine laughs...well, they went that-a-way.
Primarily remembered as a footnote in James Bond trivia (more about that later), the 1963 comedy Call Me Bwana has been released by MGM's burn-to-order program. The film stars Bob Hope as Matthew Merriwether, a con man who has built a reputation as a courageous African explorer despite the fact that he has never visited the continent. When an American space capsule accidentally lands in the African jungle, the government is frantic to recover it before a team of Soviet spies does. U.S. agents coerce Merriwether into making a heroic trek into the area where the capsule has landed to see if he can locate it and return it safely to the government. In an amusing scene, Merriwether delays leading his safari into the heart of darkness long enough to pick up some tourist-themed maps of the country, as he has no idea where he is going. Complicating matters is the fact that he is accompanied by a sexy U.S. secret agent, Frederica (Edie Adams) and a faux father daughter team, Ezra and Luba (Lionel Jeffries and Anita Ekberg), who are, in fact, Soviet agents.Predictable but amusing sexual situations occur every couple of minutes with Merriwether's near seduction of both women interrupted by extraordinary events.
Along the way, Merriwether encounters every comical cliche the jungle can provide, from close encounters with dangerous animals to barbaric tribesmen who speak perfect English. The film's primary pleasures are simplistic but plentiful, topped by Hope's inimitable machine gun-like delivery of quips. There is also an infectious score by Monty Norman and some delightfully cheesy studio shots blended in with the limited second unit footage of Africa. (It appears that the closest the cast and crew ever got to the Dark Continent is the suburbs of London, as most of the film was shot at Pinewood Studios.) Somehow it took four credited screenwriters to bring this trifle to the screen, but it is a pleasant time-killer with an inspired cast.
As for the James Bond connection, Call Me Bwana is memorably featured on the side of a billboard advertisement that features in From Russia With Love. A SPECTRE assassin is shot and killed as he climbs through a window located in Anita Ekberg's "mouth". The film also represents the only non-Bond movie jointly produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. The 007 producers enlisted a stock company of talent from the Bond series including special effects man John Stears, editor Peter Hunt, screenwriter Johanna Harwood, cinematographer Ted Moore, associate producer Stanley Sopel and production designer Syd Cain, among others. Fortunately, the entire team was capable of far greater achievements or we wouldn't be discussing them today in relation to this sitcom-like production. Call Me Bwana generates some frequent laughs, but remains primarily a curious footnote in the history of Eon Productions.
Warner Brothers and Paramount will combine forces to co-producer Interstellar, a new sci-fi flick that will be directed by Christopher Nolan. The project was originally being developed for Steven Spielberg, but when he dropped out, Nolan eagerly took over the production. According to Deadline, the story "will depict a heroic voyage to the farthest borders of scientific understanding." It is known that when Spielberg was involved with the film, he was exploring scientific theories about time travel. A November 2014 date has been set to open the movie, which will star Matthew MConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine. For more click here
Justly acclaimed as one of the greatest film noir movies ever made, director Don Siegel's 1958 thriller The Lineup has been reissued by Sony as part of their burn-to-order DVD collection. The DVD carries over the bonus extras from the film's initial release in a Sony noir boxed set from 2009. Siegel makes the most of his modest budget, eschewing studio sets for actual San Francisco locations that add immeasurably the authenticity of the story and the action sequences, which are among the most ambitious of the era. The film derived from a popular TV series of the same name and features the star of the show, Warner Anderson, as a San Francisco detective, Lt. Ben Guthrie. His sidekick, Inspector Al Quine was originally played in the show by Tom Tully but the part in the film is played by Emile Meyer, a non-professional actor whose mug perfectly suits the style of the movie. The "Mcguffin" of this caper movie is an ornate doll loaded with heroin that has been carried into the United States by an innocent tourist (Raymond Bailey). The doll ends up in the hands of an equally innocent little girl and her mother who were on the same cruise ship. However, this is just a necessary plot device to present a fascinating character study of a team of criminals who are assigned to fly from Miami to San Francisco to claim the doll and deliver the drugs to a mysterious crime lord. Things go awry from the first few frames of the movie when an attempt to steal the tourist's luggage goes wrong, resulting in the death of a crime syndicate courier who bungles the first attempt to get the doll. The resulting action follows the desperate attempts by the Miami crooks to secure the missing drugs, as their lives depend on it, as the mob will suspect they have double-crossed them and kept the heroin for themselves. The criminal team is among the most psychotic ever seen on film. Dancer (Eli Wallach) is the younger man being groomed by his older mentor, Julian (Robert Keith) to be his heir apparent. The two men are outwardly charismatic and friendly, but as the story progresses, we realize they are merciless sadists who will stop at nothing to get what they want. When they kidnap the young girl and her mother, we get a glimpse at exactly how devoid of human emotions they are.
The caper story, expertly penned by the great Sterling Silliphant, follows the efforts of the detectives to get to the drugs first-- but the cops are mere window dressing, as Siegel is clearly saving the best scenes for his hit men. Wallach and Keith rival that great pairing of Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager as the creepy criminal team in Siegel's memorable 1964 remake of The Killers. On one level, Keith is acting as a father to a younger man who might be seen as an adopted son. However, it doesn't take much to see that Siegel has introduced a very clear homoerotic element to the story which becomes even more apparent when the pair end up in a "social club" and hotel that very obviously caters to homosexual men. In case there is still too much subtlety for the viewer, the place is named the Seaman's Club! (In one of the film's best remembered sequences, Wallach "offs" a would-be lover in a steam room.) The film is packed with inventive sequences that are still somewhat shocking today. It's rather amazing that some of these scenes were not diluted by squeamish studio executives. A helpless woman and her young child are kidnapped and menaced, a man in a wheelchair is thrown to his death and any number of innocent people are put in harm's way by the relentless criminal's quest to secure the missing dope. Most impressive is the climax of the film wherein Siegel films an exciting car chase that culminates on an unfinished stretch of freeway. It will have you on the edge of your seat (look for an amazing bit of stunt work in which a car is driven at high speed within feet of dropping off the end of the construction site.) All the earmarks are evident for what would become trademarks of Siegel's films: the story moves quickly, there isn't a wasted frame and the performances are terrific.
Sony's DVD boasts an excellent transfer and some very interesting extras, though the studio once again undermines the latter features by not even bothering to mention them on the packaging. There is an interview with Christopher Nolan, who discusses the influence of noir films on his own work. There is also a feature length commentary track hosted by Eddie Muller of The Film Noir Foundation and bestselling crime novelist James Ellroy, whose work includes L.A. Confidential. Muller is extremely informative, conveying fascinating information about the film and the San Francisco locations. However, Ellroy, who describes himself as "The White Knight of the Far Right" wears out his welcome pretty quickly. His efforts to come across as politically incorrect become blatantly pretentious, as he peppers his comments with expletives and makes homophobic jokes with regularity. Even Muller seems a bit taken off balance by him. Nevertheless, Sony deserves kudos for allowing Ellroy's controversial commentaries to remain intact. If you can put up with Ellroy, you'll get some great insights into the film and Siegel's methods of working.
The Lineup is American film noir at its best.
(This DVD is "all region", meaning it will play on any international system).
Warner Archive has released four more pre-code gems as their latest entry in
their FORBIDDEN HOLLYWOOD series (Volume
7). These films are deliciously delightful to view. When this series was
started by M-G-M/UA video in the 1990s, I collected them on laser disc. When
they went out-of-print I paid some premium prices to get used copies. I was
thrilled when Warner Home Video started releasing them and now that Warner
Archive has continued to do so, I’m
happy to know that these otherwise neglected films will continue to be
available through the burn-to-order market. This being Volume 7, one can see
that there is a market for this genre, and I look forward to further entries in
this valuable series. The bulk of the films released thus far under the
FORBIDDEN HOLLYWOOD series have been from the WARNER BROS. & FIRST NATIONAL
STUDIOS and nobody did pre-code films any better. Cagney, Robinson, Blondell,
et. al. sizzled in these gritty, ripped-from-the-headlines films. There are the
occasional entries from M-G-M that came close, but pre-code was WARNER
BROS./FIRST NATIONAL’S stock in trade. The films in this volume are wonderful
HATCHET MAN (1932) Stars Edward G. Robinson and Loretta Young in Max Factor
Asian makeup. Robinson plays Wong Low Get, a hatchet wielding hit man for a
warring San Francisco Tong (clan). When the film opens, I sniffed at the bad
makeup job they gave Robinson in typical 30s Hollywood fashion. I felt that the
racially stereotyped taping back of the corner of Caucasian eyes must be one of
the reasons these films are pre-code. But, Robinson is such a great (and underrated)
actor. He brings depth to a role that would have been one-dimensional in any
other actor’s hands. And what hands they
are! One of my cinema gurus – Tom Dillon, The Sage of 20th Street – once
pointed out to me that Robinson is always using his hands. Not just flailing
them, but utilizing these appendages as true masterstrokes of physical emoting. Robinson
is always fascinating to watch. His physical movements do not distract – they draw
you in. As the hatchet man for his tong crime family, he is sent to execute his
oldest and most trusted friend. When he arrives to carry out the hit, his
uneasiness with his assignment is made all the more difficult by the fact that
his friend understands and forgives him for what he has to do. The intended victimtells him that he is
leaving him his money and his young infant daughter to raise and eventually
marry. Fast-forward twenty years and this little girl has grown into Loretta
Young. As Sun Toya San, Young does not pull off the Asian makeup as well as
Robinson. Young is married to Robinson
only out of a sense of duty for she loves another, Harry En Hai played by evil
Leslie Fenton. When Robinson discovers this, his initial fury turns to
resignation and he allows Young to leave with her lover. Later, Robinson finds
out that Fenton has sold Young into white slavery and before you know it, he’s
back wielding his infamous hatchet. A run-of-the-mill San Francisco Chinatown potboiler
is raised a few notches by by Robinson’s moving performance. We can all name
the great pictures and roles he has been in (LITTLE CAESAR, DOUBLE INDEMNITY,
ALL MY SONS), but it is little throwaways like this that demonstrate what a
powerful performer he was. William Wellman directs. (First National &
SOULS (1932) This is the M-G-M entry in this volume. As I said above, M-G-M’s
forays into the pre-code genres were classy in comparison with Warners/First
National’s gritty, gutter-based
storylines. This was the studio’s pre-code version of their recent all-star
film GRAND HOTEL from the same year. Warren William stars as David Dwight,
president of the Seacoast Bank, which is the main tenant in this newly opened
skyscraper building. William will stop at nothing to eventually gain sole
ownership of the building. The actor
made for a charming, debonair leading man from the 30s who was known as the
poor man’s John Barrymore, complete with pencil-thin moustache. He was adept at
playing lovable, charismatic society men as well as ruthless scoundrels. In
this film he blends all of these traits and crafts a character you find
yourself rooting for, but don’t know why. He is a womanizing robber baron who
tramples over anyone who gets in his way. e William could do this and get you
to like him because his charm overcomes the natural ruthlessness of the
character and almost inspires you to want to emulate him. Tapping into our
hidden desire for power was part of the naughty appeal in these Depression era
films. This film abounds with swindles, scandals, adultery, murders and
suicides. Actress-turned-gossip-columnist Hedda Hopper plays William’s wife who
doesn’t really seem to mind that her husband is sleeping with anything that
moves, so long as he pays for her high maintenance life style. Maureen
O’Sullivan plays the young, naïve secretary who is the latest object of
William’s desires, all to the distress of William’s long suffering personal
secretary, played by Verree Teasdale. And what good is a film set in a
skyscraper without a jumper? Who is it? Get the set to find out. The art deco
sets are as much characters in this film as are the actors. You will notice
that the film opens with the first of many matte shots of the Dwight building
standing out against the New York skyline towering over the neighboring Empire
State Building in all its art deco glory. The interiors (by M-G-M art director
Cedric Gibbons) look like Radio City on crack! You know…as I think of it…I
guess watching Margaret Dumont snorting coke is more shocking then seeing Joan Blondell waking up with Jimmy
Cagney…Maybe M-G-M pre-codes are
dirtier… Directed by Edgar Selwyn (M-G-M)
ENTRANCE (1933) This is one of my all-time favorites and I had secured a copy
back in the VHS era. Thus, the film’s release on DVD delighted me. I believe it
best represents the freedoms of the the pre-code genre. Warren William andLoretta
Young are again teamed in the leading roles. William plays Kurt Anderson, the
General Manager of Monroe’s Department Store in Manhattan. His motto is:
“Smash, or be smashed!” He is basically the same character he played in
SKYSCAPER SOULS, but in a cheaper suit, on a lower floor and in a lower-paying job.
He’s also even more ruthless. He tells both employees and the store’s pompous
board of directors to go to hell whenever his heavy-handed business methods are
questioned. In one of the most memorable scenes he summarily fires a thirty-year
employee on the spot because the employee questions one of his new innovations.
The employee later jumps to his death from a 9th story window out of
shame. When told of the ex-employee’s suicide William answers: “When a man
outlives his usefulness he ought to jump out a window!” This kind of writing
reminded me of Rod Serling’s PATTERNS from 1955 written for KRAFT TELEVISION
THEATER. I am sure Serling must have seen this film and was inspired by it.
William is training an employee who he feels has the fire in his belly to make
it in this “smash, or be smashed” world. The young protégé is shocked at his
view, but William shows him that softness has no place in the cutthroat world
of business. This film puts forth complex questions that must be rationalized and
manages to do it in a concise 75 minutes without a wasted frame. That is the
beauty and wonder of the WARNER/FIRST NATIONAL films. They are tight, taught
and intense. Directed by Roy Del Ruth (First National & Vitaphone)
(1933) This film stars a young Bette Davis as a free living fashion illustrator
who is “living” with an up-and-coming business executive, Gene Raymond. He
wants to marry her, but she feels that marriage is unnecessary and that matrimony
kills romance. Eventually she gives in and all her premonitions turn out to be
true. Even at this early point in her career, Davis is portraying a character who
wants to stand on equal footing with men. In this film she is a successful businesswoman
who basically does not need a man in the traditional sense, something that
broke with the social mores of the era. This story was a remake of a film from
two years prior; ILLICIT that starred Barbara Stanwyck (another pre-code sex
symbol). WARNERS/FIRST NATIONAL was not
above remaking films within a short
period of time. WARNERS filmed THE
MALTEST FALCON in 1931 with Ricardo Cortez and Bebe Daniels. Five years later
they remade it as SATAN MET A LADY with Warren William and Bette Davis. Then,
five years after that, they filmed the classic version directed by John Huston
with Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor. In this film, Davis shows the strength of
character that would come to be the earmark of her career. The film is filled
with great pre-code dialog: (Raymond): "I'm
just about fed up with sneaking in...Let’s get married so I'll have the right
to be with you." (Davis): "What do you mean 'right'? I don't like the
word 'right'." (Raymond): "Let's not quibble about words." (Davis):
"No, I'm not quibbling, 'right' means something. No one has any 'rights'
about me, except me." As in most of the WARNER/FIRST NATIONAL films, a lot of
juicy stuff happens in a taught 67 minutes. Once married, Raymond tires (as
Davis predicted) and begins to philander. In order to even the score, Davis
starts her own affair with Raymond’s business rival, played by lovable WARNER
stock player, Frank McHugh. By the end of the story, Davis and Raymond
reconcile…for the moment. Directed by Robert Florey (First National &
4 films are presented on a disc a piece. THE HATCHET MAN, EMPLOYEES’ ENTRANCE
& EX-LADY include their original theatrical trailers, which are a lot of
fun. It is a study in itself to see how the spicy little numbers were sold to
the public. Image quality is quite good – about the same as you would see on
TCM. Even without digital re-mastering, these films jump out at you and drag
you into an era before purity ran amuck.
In perfect timing for Father's Day, Warner Brothers has the perfect gift for your dad...(or "Godfather")...two superb Blu-ray collections of classic gangster movies.
The "Classics" collection features Blu-ray editions of Little Caesar, The Public Enemy, The Petrified Forest and White Heat. A superb way to enjoy legends such as Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney.
The "Contemporary" collection unsurprisingly showcases Martin Scorsese with The Departed, Mean Streets and Goodfellas...plus there is also Heat and The Untouchables.
The sets are jam-packed with exciting documentaries and an abundance of bonus extras. Each set is also packaged in lavishly illustrated hardcover book format.
So forget that cashmere bowling ball bag you were gonna get dad, and concentrate on these gems...It's an offer he won't be able to refuse.
Click here to order the "Classics" collection from Amazon and save $10
Click here to order the "Contemporary" collection from Amazon and save $10
British Cinema's Curiosities, Obscurities and Forgotten Gems
by Julian Upton
so often a book comes my way that I wish I had written. 'Offbeat' is one such
title, the byline of which succinctly describes a large proportion of my film
viewing since childhood. The book is a collection of film reviews, with titles
ranging from 1954 (the animated adaptation of George Orwell's Animal Farm) to 1985 (sci-fi dud Lifeforce). With a cover illustration
taken from Kenneth Rowles' infamous hitchhiking shocker Take an Easy Ride (1977), the book is clearly aiming for cult
credentials, which may explain why the hundreds of forgotten gems before 1954
have been totally ignored. To be fair to the editor, a book which attempted to
cover the entirety of Britain's lost and maligned movies would be the length of
several encyclopaedias. Indeed, this book does not claim to be definitive. In
many ways it perhaps tells us more about the predilections of the various contributors
than it does about the decades it covers.
does raise one fairly depressing point, which is that although there are
literally thousands of films at our fingertips these days, there are still
titles which are tantalisingly out of reach. Whole swathes of homegrown movies
have been shoved to the back of dusty shelves in forgotten archives never to be
seen again except in grainy, third generation VHS copies dating from the one
terrestrial broadcast thirty years ago. It's a pity that so many of the films
in here suffer from a lack of availability, as I guarantee that you will be
reading this book in one hand whilst browsing online for DVDs with the other.
the book contains dozens of fascinating, occasionally outlandish titles, if you
have any experience in the obscurities of British cinema you will still be able
to argue about the final selection. Donovan Winter is notable by his absence,
and having given the world incestuous lesbian twins in Some Like It Sexy (1969), he surely deserves a nod. There is
perhaps the inevitable focus on Hammer, who get several mentions and one begins
to wonder whether anyone else was actually making films in the 1960s. There are
however plenty of titles in here which even I, a seasoned British cinema fan,
was not familiar with. The director whose name seems to arise the most often is
Val Guest, one of the unsung heroes of British cinema. Perhaps the time is now
right for a full reevaluation of his work. In a career covering sci-fi, horror,
social realism and sex comedies, his filmography IS the British film industry
from the mid-1950s through to the 1970s in microcosm.
the reviews are scattered several essays covering various aspects of British
cinema, including the swashbuckler, the pop musical, underage sex and the
demise of the industry in the 1970s; as scattershot an approach to film history
as one could hope for, with the emphasis firmly placed on the psychotronic.
Amongst the film titles jostling for attention are classics such as Horrors From the Black Museum (1959), The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), The Birthday Party (1968), a rare
excursion into British filmmaking from The
Exorcist's William Friedkin, and Eskimo
Nell (1975), the finest sex comedy this country has ever produced. The
BFI's current Flipside range of DVDs and blu rays gets good coverage also, with
Herostratus, Privilege (both 1967), Permissive,
Bronco Bullfrog, Deep End, (all 1970) and The
Black Panther (1977) all coming highly recommended. At least some of the
films discussed in 'Offbeat' are not as obscure as they once were.
with all recent Headpress books the imagery is reproduced in black and white,
which is a pity as so many of these films feature wildly colourful, bordering
on psychedelic, imagery. The poster art for long-forgotten musical mega-flop Toomorrow (1970) is far more exciting
than the film itself! This complaint is quickly forgiven once you discover that
'Offbeat' has a thorough index, something often ignored in similar books. This
means you can use this as a great reference book, and each film title includes
production details and credits alongside a thorough analysis and review. One
may not agree with every opinion shared (Sarah Morgan's dismissal of Hammer's Captain Clegg as "a decent
potboiler" is woefully off the mark), but the book does serve its purpose
which is to encourage the reader to discover the hidden gems of British cinema.
If you can find them that is.
has been a gradual yet inevitable demise of analogue formats over the last
decade or so, with wax cylinders, eight track and the chrome cassette tape all
now relegated to the scrap heap. Yet vinyl is making a comeback. Despite the
supposed superiority of the CD and the mp3, there is nothing as satisfying as
sliding your 12” LP out of it's card sleeve, carefully placing it on the
turntable, and the slight crackle when the needle first makes contact. And many
argue that the sound quality remains superior to digital reproduction,
particularly when listening to older recordings that were made using analogue
equipment in the first place.
company to truly embrace the vinyl collector culture is Death Waltz Records,
founded by Spencer Hickman of Rough Trade in London. They produce exclusive
vinyl reproductions of a massive array of cult film soundtracks and accompany
them with sleeve notes, newly commissioned artwork and coloured vinyl, and most
come with screen prints and posters too. They have recently put out the bizarre
electronic scores of Halloween II and Halloween III: Season of the
Witch, both limited to 300 copies. This release coincides nicely with the
recent rerelease of both films on Blu-ray and DVD from Shout Factory.
Halloween III in particular has
been much maligned over the years, thanks in no small part to screenwriter
Nigel Kneale's much publicised dislike of the film. However you feel about it,
the soundtrack is superb. Both of these Halloween releases have
splendidly eerie scores which should on no account be listened to in the dark.
Both were composed by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth and build on the tones
and style that Carpenter developed on the first Halloween movie. Halloween
II also delivers a surprise when The Chordettes burst through the
synthesised shivers with “Mr Sandman”, an incongruity which fits well with the
ending of the movie. Halloween III contains the horrifyingly catchy
“Silver Shamrock” jingle, reminding children to make sure they are wearing
their new Halloween masks when the 'Horrorthon' starts later that night. Of
course, if you have seen the film you will know those are no ordinary Halloween
masks, and it is a night that will not end well.
you are a collector who wants everything in mint condition, the dilemma as to
whether you can actually play your vinyl once it arrives is a difficult one.
Even if you decide not to play it, each Death Waltz release makes a unique
piece of memorabilia.
recent development at Death Waltz Records will be of particular interest to
fans of British horror. They have gone into partnership with Hammer Films and
are intending to release several soundtracks on vinyl, some of which have never
been released before. Amongst the first will be Twins of Evil (1971) and
The Devil Rides Out (1968), Hammer's most successful Dennis Wheatley adaptation. The latter will
feature extensive sleeve-notes by James Bernard and all new exclusive
artwork. The package will come as a limited edition coloured vinyl with an A2
poster and 12 x 12 lithograph print . It will also contain a download link for
an interview with Christopher Lee and two unreleased cues. If you are a vinyl
collector, or a fan of Hammer horror, you had better start saving up now!
Media reports indicate that Sam Mendes will indeed return to the James Bond franchise to direct not only the next installment but another Bond film after that. The announcement has yet to be formally made by Eon Productions but it is known that producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli have been lobbying Mendes to stay with the series, given the enormous world-wide success of Skyfall. Mendes initially said he was unable to do the next Bond film due to other committments but he has apparently been made an offer he can't refuse. Click here for more.
“How Do You View” is the name of a
new Internet radio show hosted by Cinema Epoch’s Director of Acquisitions,
Douglas Dunning. The show can be heard
daily at 1:00 am, 5:30 am, 11:00 am & 5:00 pm
Pacific Standard Time (that’s 4:00 am, 8:30 am, 2:00 pm, and 8:00 pm to us on
the Eastern Seaboard). It can be heard
on the Prodigy Media Network. This week,
Mr. Dunning interviews director Richard Rush (pictured), best known for 1980’s The Stunt Man.
to listen to “How Do You View” at the respective times.