Actress Eileen Brennan, who was nominated for Oscars for her performances in The Last Picture Show and Private Benjamin, has died of cancer at age 80. Brennan's promising career was cut short in 1982 due to medical complications resulting from an automobile accident. He attempts to return to acting were initially thwarted by her substance abuse problems and she attended the Betty Ford Clinic to help in her rehabilitation. In later years, she did resume appearing in feature films and popular television shows as a respected character actress. For more click here
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
In celebration of the 40th Anniversary
THE WICKER MAN: The Final Cut
First-ever full 2k Restoration
Back in cinemas 27th September First time on Blu-ray 14th October
Following a public search for the original film materials relating to horror classic THE WICKER MAN, STUDIOCANAL UK made an announcement on Monday about what they have found, via a video message from the film's director Robin Hardy on Facebook page that was set up for the search.
"Studiocanal contacted me last year in their search for the original materials that have been missing... I'm very pleased to announce that Studiocanal have been able to find an actual print of The Wicker Man, which is based on my original cut, working with Abraxas, the American distributors all those years ago. And they plan - and this is the exciting bit - to actual release it. This version has never been restored before, has never been shown in UK theatres before, and has never been converted to bluray before. This version of The Wicker Man will (optimistically!) been known as The Final Cut.
Thank you all Wicker Man fans, and please share and spread the word."
Studiocanal have been conducting an extensive worldwide search for film materials for THE WICKER MAN for the past year, including a public appeal to fans for clues as to the whereabouts of the missing original cut. Eventually a 35mm release print was found at Harvard Film Archives and measured to be around 92 minutes long. This print was scanned in 4k and sent to London, where it was recently inspected by Robin Hardy. Robin confirmed that it was the cut he had put together with Abraxas in 1979 for the US release. This has previously been known as the "Middle Version" and was in turn assembled from a 35mm print of the original edit he had made in the UK in 1973, but which was never released.
Robin accepts that film materials for this "Long Version" will probably now never be found. "Sadly, it seems as though this has been lost forever. However, I am delighted that a 1979 Abraxas print has been found as I also put together this cut myself, and it crucially restores the story order to that which I had originally intended."
Hardy has long maintained that the "Short Version" of the film, which is the only one that has ever been shown in UK cinemas, does not make narrative sense. Of paramount importance to Hardy is that the events on the island take place over a 72-hour period and that Lord Summerisle is established as a character far earlier. Another important inclusion is the performance of the songGently Johnny, which is key in signaling both the strange and unusual community into which Sergeant Howie is intruding, and its complicity in events on the island.
"We are very excited to be able present at last a version of the film that is true to Robin Hardy's original vision,"says John Rodden, General Manager of Home Entertainment of Studiocanal UK."The Final Cut release will reinstate all the important extra scenes that Robin Hardy intended to include and will restore the original timeline and story structure. After extensive film restoration work we will create a new digital cinema master of the film to screen in cinemas across the country for the 40th Anniversary. The Blu-ray will include the UK theatrical cut, The Director's Cut and of course The Final Cut, plus lots more!"
The Final Cut won't include all of the pre-credit mainland sequences, but Hardy himself originally agreed to their removal because the most important scene set in the Church is still there: of Sergeant Howie taking communion.
The 2013 Festival del film Locarno will screen The Wicker Man: 40th Anniversary restoration on Thursday 8th August as part of their homage to Sir Christopher Lee, who will be receiving the Excellence Award Moët & Chandon at the festival.
When asked whether this cut measures up to the fabled original, long version, Robin Hardy puts it most succinctly: "The film as I saw it in the editing suite the other day fulfills my vision of what it was intended to convey to the audience."
THE WICKER MAN: FINAL CUT Out in cinemas 27th September 2013 On DVD/BD 14th October 2013
Ltd 4 disc DVD edition & Ltd 3 disc BD edition to include:
The Final Cut UK Theatrical Cut The Director's Cut (seamless branching on BD only) Audio Commentary Making of Audio Commentary Interview with Robin Hardy (new) Featurette on the Cult of the Soundtrack (new), The Wicker Man: 40 years on Featurette (new), Restoration comparison (new), Burnt Offering: The Cult of The Wicker Man Interview with Christopher Lee & Robin Hardy (1979)\ Original Soundtrack Ex-S documentary Trailer
would be easy to be cynical about yet another entry into one of the many
superhero franchises that seem to dominate the landscape of modern cinema these
days, but at least with “The Wolverine” there seems have been a conscious
effort to mark the film out as more than just another comic book summer
from the limited series by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, “The Wolverine”
sets out to do what all good films should do, and that’s to allow the
characters to drive the story forward and thread the narrative with an
overarching theme. In short, “The Wolverine” attempts to be more of a
structured drama than a comic book adaptation, and in this it mostly it
sometime after the events of “X Men: The Last Stand”, Hugh Jackman’s Logan has
forsaken his identity as The Wolverine and is living rough in a cave in the Yukon
mountains. On a depressive, downward cycle, he mourns the death of Jean Gray,
(Famke Janssen) whom he visits in the netherworld between life and death. Jean tempts
Logan to join her in the afterlife, and yet, as much as he wishes it, his
immortality means he must remain tied to this world.
overarching theme of mortality is hammered home when Logan is brought to Japan
by the precognitive mutant Yukio and to the deathbed of her employer, Yashida -
a Japanese soldier who Logan saved at the bombing of Nagasaki. In the
intervening years, Yashida has gone on to become the head of the powerful
Yashida Corp. Like many powerful and ailing men, Yashida yearns for
immortality. He offers Logan a chance to pass his immortality on to him,
allowing Logan to live - and, crucially, die - as a normal, mortal man.
Logan isn’t ready to pass on his “gift”, seeing it more as a curse. He turns
Yashida down and resolves to return to his man cave. However, before Logan can get
back to his usual hobby of beating up hicks in bars, he encounters Yashida’s beautiful
granddaughter, Mariko. Mariko, it seems, is her grandfather’s favourite, which
puts her at great risk from her father, Shingen, and Logan’s protective
instinct clicks over into hyperdrive.
Yashida passes away and Logan’s “gift” is forcibly taken from him by the mutant
Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), Logan is forced to not
only protect Mariko from the Yakuza, but also to come to terms with his own
This allows for a number of set pieces where
the reluctant and vulnerable Logan must unleash his wild side and let the
Wolverine’s claws come out. As he protects Maiko, he slowly begins to fall for
her. Perhaps now he has something to live for again?
However, it’s not long before the tables are
turned and we find ourselves marching squarely into a proper comic book third
act territory, full of fights, falls, and explosions. Sadly, although this is
where all the stops are let out, this is where the film is let down. Despite
all the eye candy on screen, this is also the point where all the characters
must find their resolution, which is never easy in an exploding villain’s lair
where everyone is fighting each other.
Viper, it is revealed, has an issue with Logan
- and men in general - but her character and her motivations are never really
explored or developed further than this, and she ends up being the most
directly caricatured of these comic book characters.
Yukio and Mariko, who have spent the film as
loyal sidekick and damsel in distress respectively, seem suddenly to have
little depth as soon as they are not fighting or running away from Yakuza.
Logan - now squarely Wolverine once again - does
actually get something of a resolution as he comes to terms with his mortality
and finally, rather than running from his nature, embraces it.
“The Wolverine” is, without a doubt, a more
character driven comic book film than many we’ve seen in recent times, and it’s
theme of mortality is deeper than one than we’d be used to encountering in this
kind of film. However, “The Wolverine” is a little too self-aware of its
attempted cleverness and often it feels as though it’s too heavy-handed in its
Despite this, “The Wolverine” still manages to
be a great deal of fun. Whilst it doesn’t pack the visual punch of “The
Avengers” or “Iron Man 3”, it does have more coherence and heart.
Jackman, although stepping into the Wolverine’s
boots for the sixth time, still brings the same energy and vigor to the role he
did when he first took it on thirteen years ago and any signs of weariness only
serve to highlight the character’s mental fatigue. He is clearly very comfortable
in this character’s skin (and muscle), which is fortunate, because, if the de rigueur post-credits teaser
is anything to go by, we’ll be seeing him in the role again soon.
(Ben Williams is a London-based contributor to Cinema Retro magazine and MI6 Confidential)
British war veterans and historians have longed griped that Hollywood films of the post WWII-era often credited Americans for heroics and strategies that should have been attributed to the Brits. One of the most glaring examples of this revisionist history was the 1963 classic The Great Escape, which shoe-horned Americans into primary roles when, in fact, they were not present during the escape itself. MGM has released the 1969 WWII flick The 1,000 Plane Raid as a burn to order DVD and it fits perfectly into this niche of British-based WWII movies in which Americans get the lion's share of credit. This was largely because it was felt that having an American actor in the lead role would make a film more commercial in U.S. markets. The film was produced by Oakmont Productions, which specialized in making modestly-budgeted WWII films shot in the UK and generally top-lining American leading actors (one exception was Mosquito Squadron, which starred David McCallum.) Christopher George, fresh from starring in the WWII TV series The Rat Patrol, is the star of The 1,000 Plane Raid, which distorts historical fact by giving credit to Americans for launching this first, massive bombing of Germany. In fact, it was a British operation over Cologne that took place in 1941. George plays Col Greg Brandon, a U.S. Army Air Force officer who is uniformly grim, humorless and hard-driving. He has concocted an audacious plan to deliver a death blow to a major German industrial complex that is considered a crucial target. Brandon suggests launching a thousand bombers from British airbases for a day time raid over the German complex. The top brass accepts his idea but most of the pilots consider the plan to be a suicide mission- and even Brandon concedes that a daylight raid will result in massive casualties.
Much of the story is devoted to the human element, with Brandon not winning much love from the men in his command due to his relentless methods of training them for the big day. He even alienates the few men who admire him as well as Gaby (Laraine Stephens) , a sexy female British officer who shares a romantic relationship with him. Brandon also comes into conflict with British liaison officer Taffy Howard (Gary Marshal), a sarcastic, independent officer whose daredevil tactics result in many a downed enemy plane but which also infuriate his superior officers. He and the buttoned-down, by-the-book Brandon lock horns instantly. Brandon also threatens to court martial Lt. Archer (Ben Murphy), a pilot he suspects of cowardice but whom Howard has taken under his wing for private training. The film is quite effective in building tension as the day of the big raid arrives- with even Brandon starting to have doubts about the prospects for success. As with most Oakmont productions, the movie benefits from a fine, intelligent script (this one by Donald S. Sanford) and strong direction by Boris Sagal (the two had previously collaborated on Mosquito Squadron). To get around the budget limitations, the producers utilize extensive real life combat footage with varying degrees of success (some of these scenes are very grainy and blurry). Nevertheless, like any Oakmont film, The 1,000 Plane Raid is first-rate entertainment on a second-rate budget. Christopher George gives a very commanding performance and one realizes that he should have been a much bigger star. To offset George's grim character, the humor in the film is deftly provided by Gary Marshal, who gives a spot-on performance as the quirky British liaison officer. (Look for Gavin MacLeod in a fairly sizable supporting role.)
(Cinema Retro's Howard Hughes is covering the Oakmont WWII movies with in-depth coverage. Issue #26 features Mosquito Squadron.)
John Williams has confirmed that he will return to the Star Wars series to score director J.J. Abram's "Episode VII", which is expected to reunite the stars of the original film, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. Williams says he has not seen the script yet but gave an interview in which he discusses his ideas about how to score the film. Click here for more
The much-hyped Wolverine movie top-lining Hugh Jackman has opened a bit soft at the American boxoffice, grossing an okay $55 million in its opening weekend, about $10 million less than predicted. The number is still adequate for an action film but the overseas markets for the film show Wolverine to be a very hot item with young audiences. In the U.S. specialty market, Woody Allen's latest flick Blue Jasmine has scored the highest per-theater gross of the year. The acclaimed film is said to be a shoo-in for Cate Blanchett to nab an Oscar nomination. For more click here
It may be hard believe, with cinemas awash in the latest big, dumb action movie extravaganzas, but reality-based feature films designed to appeal to thinking people are actually making a comeback. The success of recent movies like Lincoln and The King's Speech has convinced studios to at least temporarily recognize that the movie-going audience is comprised of more than pimple-faced kids who are willing to sit through two hours of endless explosions and cheesy special effects. Thus, throughout the course of the year, there will be a number of high profile films based on real life people and dramatic incidents including Captain Phillips, in which Tom Hanks stars as the captain of a vessel who was captured by Somali pirates and who was ultimately rescued by Navy Seals. Click here for more
The latest attempt to revive The Lone Ranger as a big screen tent pole franchise may be a financial bomb for Disney, but at least the studio is not alone in its misery. Flashback to 1980 when Universal attempted the same feat by launching The Legend of the Lone Ranger, a big budget (for the time) Western that almost eclipsed Heaven's Gate as the much-hyped box-office dud of the period. Even way back then, the idea that the Lone Ranger could be revived as anything other than a comedic film franchise seemed doubtful to many. The Western had evolved since the legendary hero had become a TV sensation beginning in 1949 with Clayton Moore playing the title role and Jay Silverheels portraying his loyal sidekick Tonto. Since then, audiences became weened on Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, the Sergio Leone "Man With No Name" trilogy and even old Duke Wayne churning out far grittier Westerns in his later years than many would have ever imagined possible. The notion of a man in a white hat hiding behind a skimpy mask seemed too hokey for words. Nevertheless, some major talent was involved in the Universal project, but it went awry from the start, beginning with the casting of Klinton Spilsbury, an unknown actor, in the title role. Studios had plucked actors from obscurity with successful results before. Christopher Reeve became a major star as Superman and George Lazenby's brief, one picture tenure as James Bond was not due to audience rejection, but his own decision to quit the series. Thus, there was some reason to believe lightning could strike again. It did- but it landed directly in the Universal board room. Spilsbury fit the bill physically with dynamic good looks...but his inexperience made for major problems behind the scenes for director William A. Fraker. Additionally, the producers undermined his performance by having actor James Keach dub most of his dialogue. Then there was a near-fatal accident involving a legendary stuntman, the bizarre decision to take legal action to prevent aging Clayton Moore from wearing his original Lone Ranger mask at autograph shows (which resulted in a public backlash) and even the assassination attempt on newly-elected President Ronald Reagan would contribute to the film's disastrous reception at the boxoffice. The downside of all this is that each time a Western performs poorly, studios shirk from making any more for long periods of time, thus hexing the only uniquely American cinematic art form. For a full report on the story behind The Legend of the Lone Ranger, click here to read a terrific article by writer Jeff Labrecque of Entertainment Weekly.
What do you do when you want to make a James Bond movie but lack the legal rights to do so as well as the budget and the current leading man? Simple. Just turn the life of 007's literary creator, Ian Fleming, into a pseudo Bond story, dispense with most of the facts, add some opulent locations and then cast the son of Sean Connery in the lead role. Shake (but don't stir!) and - presto!- you have Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming, a 1990 TV movie made by Turner. The Warner Archive has recently released this 1990 title as a burn to order DVD (it had previously only been available on VHS). The screenplay should have included a disclaimer explaining that most of the occurrences in the story are the stuff of pure fiction. As it stands, the millions of people who have seen this comic book version of Fleming's life probably believe he was an action hero in the mold of 007. There is do doubt that Fleming led a colorful and exotic life that included world travel, interaction with larger-than-life people and bedding numerous women of high pedigree. There is also no doubt that the creation of James Bond and the supporting characters in his novels was based on elements of various individuals Fleming knew over a period of decades. However, all of this is boiled down to the most simplistic formulas in this film which is otherwise competently directed by Ferdinand Fairfax. The story glosses over Fleming's early years and correctly points out that he was a troubled student who was expelled from Eton. He is also shown to have an abrasive relationship with his cold-as-ice aristocratic mother (Fiona Fullerton). Young Ian has a lot to live up to. The Fleming's are well regarded in social circles and his father, a WWI hero who perished in the conflict, had his eulogy written by Winston Churchill. Ian, however, is more than content to sow his wild oats with a series of comely bed mates. He races cars, indulges in his penchant for drinking and fine dining and seems headed toward the lifestyle of a slacker (albeit with a family fortune to back him up). All of this has a degree of truth to it, as does the sequence in which Fleming finds his self-worth when his boss at Reuters news agency sends him to Russia to cover a sensational show trial of British citizens who are being framed as spies. Fleming's astute reporting of the trial put him on the map and earned him praise as a journalist. With the outbreak of WWII, Fleming joins British naval intelligence and is assigned as right hand man to crusty Admiral Godfrey (David Warner), who probably did indeed serve as a role model for 007's boss "M". Fleming proves astute at planning audacious commando missions behind German lines. So far, so good. But the script deviates from the facts in order to provide some juicy action sequences. Not only does Fleming have a romantic relationship with sexy fellow intelligence officer Leda St. Gabriel (Kristin Scott Thomas), but he also leads a daring raid on a German fortress to steal important documents. These aspects of Fleming's life are pure bull. Similarly, the script simplifies the inspirations for future Bond characters Miss Moneypenny and the gadgets master "Q" (who was not referred to as such in Fleming's novels.) The latter character is represented by Quincy, a fictitious schoolmate of Fleming's who is brought into naval intelligence because of his penchant for creating innovative inventions (he even designs and builds two man mini-subs used on Fleming's mission behind enemy lines.) There are high stakes games of chance against German agents in opulent casinos and an attempt on Fleming's life by bombing his London flat. Again, these are purely the creation of screenwriters.
Given the fact that Fleming's life is reduced to cartoon-like absurdities, Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming is a reasonably entertaining jaunt. The film boasts rich production values, the script is intelligently written and the acting is perfectly fine (no one goes over the top in the attempt to make Fleming a super-hero). In the title role, Jason Connery may have been a flagrant example of stunt casting, but he impresses in the role. He has a model's good looks and a few of his father's mannerisms, but otherwise puts his own imprint on the role. His father's interpretation of the Bond character was more insolent and sarcastic. Jason emphasizes wit and a playful sense of humor but, appropriately, plays Fleming with a more low key, less exotic approach. In an early starring role Kristin Scott Thomas is suitably cast as Fleming's fictitious paramour in the intelligence service. Supporting roles are adequately played but no one has much of a chance to develop their character beyond a superficial level. One would have hoped that the Fleming/Godfrey relationship would have been explored further but in the film, Godfrey is seen simply dispatching Fleming on various missions in the way Perry White would assign Clark Kent to cover news stories.
The DVD transfer is about as good as a TV movie can look. Although well photographed, there is often a bit of grain to television productions and this is no exception. The film was originally broadcast without the "Spymaker" angle in the title. This was added for video release and for some international theatrical releases. (This version includes some brief nudity that was not seen in the original U.S. broadcast.)
Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming is a rather bizarre treatment of the esteemed author's life but it is quite entertaining throughout- as long as you don't delude yourself into believing most of what takes place on screen.
This is a region free DVD, playable on all international systems.
Click here to order from Warner Archive and to view a preview clip.
Henry Fonda gave an iconic performance as Tom Joad in John Ford's original screen version of Steinbecks Depression-era classic.
Steven Spielberg is reportedly finalizing negotiations with the estate of John Steinbeck to produce a big screen remake of The Grapes of Wrath. The original film, released in 1940, is regarded as a cinematic classic and won an Oscar for director John Ford. Spielberg is adamant that he won't direct the film, only produce it. He seems to have edged out Robert Redford, who was also eager to remake the movie. There are certain distribution rights that have to be sorted out with Fox, which released the original film, according to Deadline.com For more click here
I love the sheer eclectic quality of the Twilight Time catalog. The company's DVD and Blu-ray releases run include every conceivable film genre and the range of titles runs from undisputed classics to underrated gems to massive misfires that now merit status as "guilty pleasures". Falling firmly into the latter category is Lost Horizon, producer Ross Hunter's notorious 1973 big budget musical remake of Frank Capra's 1937 classic. Both versions adhere to the basic framework of James Hilton's classic source novel but the Hunter version obviously deviates far more in order to accommodate glossy Hollywood elements. (Hilton's obviously did not allude to elaborate song and dance numbers.) When a film that features so many talented people misfires badly, it's tempting to say, "What were they thinking???" However, in the case of Lost Horizon, special dispensation is merited for the participants because, at the time, it must have looked like an irresistible project. The director was Charles Jarrott, who was then a hot property, coming off the acclaimed films Anne of the Thousand Days and Mary, Queen of Scots. The producer was Ross Hunter, a Hollywood perennial with a sterling reputation for producing audience-pleasing box-office hits, most recently the blockbuster Airport. The score would be composed by the red-hot team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David and the cast would feature many talented actors then at the height of their careers: Peter Finch, Liv Ullmann, Michael York, George Kennedy, Sally Kellerman and Olivia Hussey- with acting royalty represented by the likes of John Gielgud and Charles Boyer. The production numbers would be choreographed by the legendary Hermes Pan, the script was penned by Larry Kramer, who recently won acclaim for his adaptation of Women in Love and the cinematographer was Robert Surtees, himself a film industry legend. What could go wrong? Against all odds, the answer would be: "Everything."
The film opens well enough with Finch as Richard Conway, a British diplomat who has tried and failed to broker a peace treaty in an unnamed Asian nation torn by civil war. We first see him trying frantically to coordinate rescue flights for stranded Americans and Europeans as rebels close in on the airport amid rioting crowds clamoring to get on the last planes out. (The scene would be replicated shortly thereafter in real life with the fall of Saigon.) Conway manages to get aboard the final flight, which takes off even as rebels pursue the plane down the runway. On board is an eclectic group consisting of Conway's brother George (Michael York), Sally Hughes (Sally Kellerman), a burned out and depressed war photographer, Sam Cornelius (George Kennedy), a once-promising architect who is now in hiding due to a financial scandal and Harry Lovett (Bobby Van), a small time night club comedian with delusions of grandeur. They find their plane has been hijacked and they are en route to an unknown destination. Ultimately, they crash land on a mountain range in the Himalayas where they are rescued in a peculiarly timely manner by a number of natives led by Chang (John Gielgud), their elderly but capable spiritual leader. The refugees make a difficult journey through a blinding snow storm before walking through a cave and emerging into a sunny, tropical oasis that is called Shangri-La. Chang explains that the community's unique geographical situation- protected by mountains on all sides- allows the weather to never vary. The warm climate allows for a year-long abundance of crops. It doesn't take the refugees long to discover that this is a fairy tale-like paradise, virtually untouched by the outside world. There are luxurious homes and temples and the people never allow personal disputes to escalate to the level of violence. It is explained that the luxuries and materials for the magnificent buildings were all brought in painstakingly by the few porters who are allowed in from the outside world. (There must have been quite an abundance, as Chang's home alone contains more furniture than the average Ikea store.) Before long, the group becomes comfortable in their new-found paradise with most reluctant to even attempt to leave, a feat that Chang says is all but impossible anyway, given the obstacles provided by nature. Richard Conway falls for Catherine (Liv Ullmann), a pretty school teacher, Harry finds value in Shangri- La that allows him to reaffirm his self-worth and even Sally and Sam form an unlikely romantic bond. George Conway, meanwhile, becomes obsessed with Maria (Olivia Hussey), a beautiful young woman who is bored with living in paradise and longs for him to take her to London. Sam begins to woo a reluctant Sally and reawakens her romantic passions. Even Harry finds his confidence improving when he becomes an unlikely mentor to local children. Nevertheless, trouble brews when George pressures Richard to accompany him and Maria on a dangerous trek out of the Himalayas. Chang warns him that she is not who she appears to be: in fact, she is a very old woman and will revert to her actual age if she leaves Shangri-La. Needless, to say, his advice is ignored.
Perhaps this Lost Horizon could have been salvaged if the music and choreography were up to expectations, but everyone was asleep at the wheel. The Bacharach/David score contains plenty of musical numbers, but the best of them are simply bland and the worst are laughable. Hermes Pan's direction of the dance sequences is also surprisingly inept, especially a ludicrous fertility dance that resembles one of those big luau parties held every other night at Hawaiian hotels for the tourist crowds. (The sequence was understandably cut from the original release but has been restored for the video edition.) In one weird number, Liv Ullmann leads a parade of school kids who saunter about with their arms swinging back and forth as though they were auditioning for a Planet of the Apes sequel. Most of the vocals by the leading actors were dubbed (very well, in fact) and a few of the songs are bland, but pleasing given the context of the scenes they appear in. The main problem is that, for all the money spent on this lavish production, the movie simply has no heart. Unlike the original, the film never engages you on an emotional level. The Finch and York characters emerge as the most believable and their performances are the most impressive. The opening sequence, as the protagonists attempt to make a desperate escape from the besieged airport, is the best sequence in the film. It's only when they start tossing in those musical numbers that things go downhill fast. We do get to see Sally Kellerman perform her own musical numbers, but one of them-set in a library- is so embarrassingly staged that it makes for unintentional laughter. We also learn that Olivia Hussey is quite the dancer, performing an exotic number quite impressively but it somehow seems to be one of those titillating numbers that preceded a strip show I once saw in a Hong Kong sleaze joint. Most disappointing is what should have been the emotional climax of the film- the death of her character as she ages dramatically in a matter of moments after leaving Shangri La. In the original film, it's a harrowing and riveting sequence that precedes the story's moving last sequence as Richard Conway's colleagues in a London club toast his mysterious fate as we watch him attempt (presumably successfully) to return across the mountains to his lost paradise. In the remake, these scenes fall flat and never engage the viewers as meaningfully as they should. Most of the blame must be placed on the shoulders of director Charles Jarrott, who never seems to capture the human side of the story because he has to deal with the circus-like logistics of the musical aspects of the production. Charles Boyer and John Gielgud acquit themselves well enough, but there is something inherently distasteful about watching yet another major film in which Asian characters are portrayed by Caucasian actors.
Having said all that, one must compliment Twilight Time on their first-rate presentation of this cinematic oddity. (Some of the features were previously released on Sony's initial restored DVD version of the film) The Blu-ray transfer is beautiful and does justice to Robert Surtees' impressive cinematography and there are some interesting extras, including an informative (and candid) assessment of the film by Julie Kirgo. There are also audio tracks of Burt Bacharach (no singer, he) warbling his work-in-process versions of the songs. Without the bloated visuals that accompany them on film, they actually come across a lot better. He would have been better to farm the tracks out to Dionne Warwick and walk away from the film production. (These songs are creatively played against a variety of interesting behind the scenes photos from the production.) There are also are variety of TV spots and a rather well-worn, faded vintage featurette that is interesting in the way that these mini-propaganda films generally prove to be. There is also a theatrical trailer and an alternate version of a love scene between Finch and Ullmann.
I recently discussed the film with Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne. He recalled being at the premiere and how everyone in the celebrity-packed audience seemed to know they were witnessing a disaster- except the producer, Ross Hunter (whose prestigious film career would come to an end with this film). Osborne said Hunter was strategically located at the back of the theater so he could accept congratulations from the attendees after the premiere. Osborne chuckled at the recollection of witnessing Merle Oberon climbing over seats to exit through a different door rather than have to face Hunter. If you view the film on Blu-ray, you won't have to indulge in such gymnastics. The film remains a major artistic debacle, but it should be seen, if for no other reason than to form your own conclusions. Time has a way of making bad movies sometimes look better. It's possible to appreciate the small pleasures Lost Horizon affords even if this won't ever be re-evaluated as an underrated classic.
Hollywood studio's obsession with finding the next big "tent pole" action movie franchise has been wreaking havoc on corporate profits. The recent flop of The Lone Ranger may be the most high profile debacle but there are plenty of other overstuffed turkeys like White House Down and R.I.P.D. that boast plenty of talented actors, all of whom are reaching for the low-hanging fruit of a quick, sizable paycheck without the slightest concern about the quality of the projects they are appearing in. Britain's Telegraph newspaper reports that these flops are starting to cost real money...but the "suits" in the executive suites can't pull themselves away from sinking even more money into risky ventures to find the next big blockbuster. Click here for more
The Price of Fear by Joel Eisner (Black Bed
Sheet/Diverse Media, $20), 244 pages, illustrated (B&W), softcover, ISBN # 0988659026
There have been many fine books written about the
legendary Vincent Price but author Eisner brings a new twist in his tribute to
the iconic actor. Eisner had actually started to collaborate with Price on a
new biography and in-depth look at his films. Price’s death in 1993 derailed
the project but now Eisner has culled highlights from the interviews he
conducted with Price to explore how he felt about his own movies. The book is
less a biography than an examination of individual movies, which is a good
thing, as the basics of Price’s personal life have been covered countless times
before. It’s interesting to read how he felt about some of his best loved films,
as well as those he freely admits fell far short of artistic expectations.
Price was truly a man for all seasons: a fine actor, raconteur, lover of fine
art and master chef. There was so much more to his talents than simply being a
horror movie icon, and Eisner does a fine job in illustrating this. Speaking of
illustrating, however, the publisher owes the author something far better than
the poor photographic reproductions in this otherwise fine volume. An upgrade
in production values is merited for a book with so many attributes. The book
contains a heartfelt introduction by another legend, Peter Cushing, written
when Price was still alive.
Shout! Factory's mutual love affair with Mel Brooks continues unabated with the company's Blu-ray release of the special edition DVD of The Producers. (The combo pak also includes a DVD version of the film.) On the assumption that readers have not been living on the moon for the last few decades, we won't belabor the in-depth specifics of the plot. Suffice it to say that Zero Mostel created a truly immortal screen character with his interpretation of Max Bialystock, a once formidable Broadway show producer who has fallen on hard times and has been relegated to bedding rich old woman in order to eek out survival in the urban jungle of Manhattan. Through an inadvertent idea posed to him by meek accountant Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder), Max devises an ingenious scheme to make a fortune by doing what he now does best: producing a show that is destined for financial failure. He'll over-sell majority shares of profits in a show to a wide number of gullible investors, none of whom will have to be paid providing that the show is a guaranteed failure. The show Max and his reluctant partner decide upon is titled Springtime for Hitler, a musical tribute to you-know-who written by a psychotic ex-Nazi (Kenneth Mars) who fancies himself a playwright. Although Max and Leo carry out their scheme perfectly by ensuring the show is spectacularly miscast with a brain-dead hippie (Dick Shawn) portraying Hitler, things go awry when pretentious audience members presume they are watching a brilliant satire against National Socialism.
If you're a retro movie lover, you don't have to be told about the many virtues of the film. Suffice to say that the performances are among the best loved in screen history and the humor has a timeless quality that will probably still seem relevant and contemporary decades from now. The sheer tastelessness of the premise, however, would virtually never find financial backing in today's motion picture industry, which is largely concentrated on producing mega-budget action productions. It should be mentioned how brilliantly John Morris' musical score and numbers hold up. Probably any real retro film fan can sing Springtime for Hitler verbatim.
The special edition is loaded with terrific extras including Laurent Bouzereau's excellent 2002 "making of" documentary that includes interviews with the surviving principals and key crew members, some of whom have sadly passed on in the intervening years. There is also a new featurette culled from another Shout! Brooks tribute set in which the writer/director discusses the uphill battle he had to bring to the film to the screen. He obtained financial backing from the legendary producer Joseph E. Levine, who was reluctant to let Brooks direct, as he had no experience doing so previously. Having won that battle, Levine forced Brooks to change the title of the film from Springtime for Hitler to The Producers because he feared audiences would think it was a story about the romance between Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun! Brooks also relates how Levine shelved the film for over a year following a poorly attended sneak preview in a New Jersey theater. A couple of fascinating anecdotes involve the fact that Brooks had cast Dustin Hoffman as Leo Bloom but Hoffman begged out of the production at the last minute so he could make The Graduate, which ironically starred Brooks' wife Anne Bancroft. Director Paul Mazursky relates how the film was rescued from oblivion after Peter Sellers ended up seeing it. Sellers took out a full page ad in Variety extolling the values of the movie and pleading for it to receive a theatrical release. The Blu-ray also contains a deleted scene that shows how Brooks originally filmed the destruction of the theater in the film's climax. While it's interesting to view it from a historical perspective, it goes on far too long and is much less effective than the version used in the final cut. There is also the original theatrical trailer and two promotional spots for other Shout! Brooks releases ass well as an extensive selection of original production design sketches.
The film's transfer to Blu-ray is a feast for the eyes.
Johnny Depp's boxoffice clout may be on the wane but you'd never know if from the size of the paychecks he's pulling in. Despite the fact that his pet project, The Lone Ranger, may end up costing Disney losses of over $150 million, Depp is estimated to earn as much as $100 million to reprise his shopworn Captain Jack Sparrow character for yet another Pirates of the Caribbean sequel. Depp is being roundly criticized for grabbing at low hanging fruit in terms of cinematic projects and for continuing to play quirky, eccentric and over-the-top characters who may be wearing thin with his fan base. In fairness, he has periodically paused to play "real" people, but those film ventures have also bombed. For more click here
From the first frame of Amir Shervan's
1989 film Samurai Cop, you know that
you're in for a treat. Cheesy 1980s artificial
pop music that sounds like it was generated by a Casio keyboard, courtesy of
Alen Dermarderossian, with white credits set against a black background (a surefire
indicator that you're watching a low-budget film) give way to Okamura (Gerald
Okamura) complaining that they are not an established gang, and as such, they
should be very cautious to make friends with the Chinese and Japanese gangs. He
grunts and groans and makes exclamations that aren't always decipherable. Former porn star Krista Lane, who is part of
the gang, says things like, “Here comes the boss!” or “The boss is
coming.” Robert Z’Dar, best known for
the Maniac Cop films, is an imposing
figure who does the boss’s dirty work. Needless
to say, they get into a fight with a gang they want to do business with after
being rebuffed and several people are killed.
Enter black and white cop team Frank Washington (Mark Frazer) and Joe
Marshall (Matt Hanon), the poor man’s answer to Roger Murtaugh and Martin Riggs
from Lethal Weapon (1987). Washington looks like Michael Winslow from
the Police Academy series and Marshall
is a samurai expert(?!) who looks like former model Fabio. They spout some of the most quotable, ludicrously
awful dialogue I’ve heard in a long time.
When they go out on assignment in a beaten up Chevrolet Caprice Classic,
one of them says, “His boss was killed by the Katana Gang. There’s the blue van over there.” The other asks, “So, the van belongs to the
Katana Gang?” He must've been at the
head of his graduating class. They
enlist the help of another cop, Peggy (Melissa Moore of 1990’s Sorority House Massacre II), in
following the culprits and later on Marshall beds her in one of the genre’s
most boring sex scenes.
The cops have run-ins with the Katana Gang in a laugh-out-loud sequence in
a restaurant where they threaten the boss and Marshall swoons over Jennifer,
the young attractive owner of the joint. There’s a completely unnecessary scene involving a ridiculously
effeminate waiter who looks like he fell out of an early Dario Argento
The film is a time capsule of music, wardrobe, and hairstyles from nearly a
quarter-century ago. There is full
frontal female nudity, three attempts at sex scenes, and one of the funniest,
phoniest car chases I have ever seen (it makes you pine away for William
Friedkin’s touch.) The late Dale
Cummings plays their vociferous police captain, constantly yelling at the cops
to bring him results. One of the
funniest scenes takes place in his office (I won’t spoil it) as he threatens to
send Marshall back to where he came from.
The film has absolutely no cinematic style despite the best efforts of
cinematographer Peter Palian, who shoots much of the action in masters. There
is very little intercutting and therefore no excitement is generated. Unbelievably, all of these drawbacks add
considerably to the film's overall charm. I wish that the bulk of movies made today were one-tenth as entertaining
Samurai Cop turns out to be.
The film has been transferred from the original 35mm film negative and the
image is crystal clear. Some of the color timing appears to be off a little
bit, however this is a minor quibble. This is unquestionably the best the film
was ever going to look.
The extras that the disc comes with include:
An interview with actor Robert Z’Dar conducted over Skype which runs 25
minutes. The image quality is poor,
however Douglas Dunning, the interviewer, and the actor are both
understandable. Mr. Z’Dar talks about
how he got into the business and came to meet the late director Amir Shervan
with whom he made three films (Hollywood
Cop (1987) and Killing American Style
(1990) in addition to this one). Director Amir Shervan intended Samurai Cop to be a straightforward
action film. It took three weeks to
shoot on a budget of approximately $800,000.00.
An interview with actor and fight co-ordinator Gerald Okamura that runs 20
minutes. He discusses his time working
with David Carradine on Kung-Fu and
with John Carpenter on Big Trouble in
Little China (1986) and Escape From
L.A. (1996), in addition to Samurai
An interview with cinematographer Peter Palian who talks extensively about
his career in the business runs 27 minutes.
There are also stills galleries and an amusing fan trailer for the
Sony has reissued the 1961 Hammer Films title Scream of Fear as a burn-to-order DVD. Although the title would seem to imply this is a typical Hammer horror movie production, it is actually a real world suspense thriller. Susan Strasberg plays Penny Appleby, an attractive young woman from a wealthy European family who has led a life of personal turmoil. Her beloved parents had divorced and her mother later died. She depended heavily on the companionship of her personal assistant, who became her best friend. That young woman died tragically and Penny herself almost drowned in an accident that has left her confined to a wheelchair. Although afforded the best medical care in a private sanitarium, she longs to reunite with her father, who she has not seen in ten years. We first Penny when she arrives at the family mansion on the French Riviera. Her attractive stepmother Jane (Ann Todd) greets her warmly but tells her the surprising and disappointing news that her father has been called away for an indeterminate amount of time due to business reasons. Penny makes it clear she is heartbroken by the development. Jane treats her stepdaughter with all due courtesy but it is clear there is resentment on Penny's part toward the woman she suspects is hiding a secret about her father. When she expresses skepticism about his whereabouts and well-being, she conveniently receives a phone call supposedly from her father, who gives her reassurance that he is doing fine. The call's purpose backfires, however, as Penny makes it clear to Jane she has strong suspicions that the man on the other end of the line was someone impersonating her father. Things go from bad to worse when Penny encounters a terrifying sight: the body of her dead father sitting in a chair inside a storage cottage. By the time Jane arrives to investigate, the body is inexplicably gone. More eerie occurrences haunt Penny, from mysterious piano playing to a second sighting of her dead father. Jane enlists the help of the family physician, Dr. Gerrard (Christopher Lee), who assures the young woman that these incidents are just hallucinations brought on by stress. Soon, Penny begins to suspect that Jane and Dr. Gerrard are illicit lovers who are trying to have her declared insane. Her one ally is Robert (Ronald Lewis), the hunky family chauffeur who theorizes that since Penny is the primary heir to her father's fortune, if she js declared mentally ill, her stepmother will inherit everything. He also posits a more frightening scenario: if Jane and Dr. Gerrard had murdered her father, they might think nothing of murdering her, as well, and staging both deaths to look like accidents.
Scream of Fear was written and produced by legendary Hammer screenwriter Jimmy Sangster. The B&W production was shot on a low budget (this was Hammer, after all) and is very claustrophobic, with most of the action taking place inside the mansion house where Penny is subjected to an increasing number of frightening scenarios. In the true tradition of screen heroines, however, she dutifully investigates every one of them, wheeling herself into dimly lit rooms to see what has gone "bump" in the night. As with most Hammer movies, however, the film rises above its financial limitations due to the excellence of the cast and performances (Strasberg, who died in 1999 at age 60, should have been a much bigger star). Although Christopher Lee's appearances are limited, he is as effective as ever, and its refreshing to see him in a Hammer film that doesn't exploit him as a monster or mad doctor. Ronald Lewis and Ann Todd provide able support.
Sangster's script, directed very ably by Seth Holt (who also died young, at age 47 in 1971). The story tends to go a bit over-the-top on occasion and doesn't hold up to much scrutiny. For example, the reoccurring appearances and disappearances of Penny's dead father strain credibility when the explanations are finally offered. Similarly, the fate of Todd's character in the movie's awkward final few seconds seems tacked on and is rather unconvincing. Having said that, however, in the aggregate, Sangster provides so many unexpected plot twists and turns that viewers will almost certainly find it difficult to predict where he is leading them. The film is intelligently written, directed and acted and can be highly recommended as one of the more offbeat and effective Hammer films of the period.
The DVD is an excellent transfer. There are no bonus extras, however.
Undaunted by the savage reviews given to Lindsay Lohan's recent TV biopic of Elizabeth Taylor, BBC Four is bravely pushing ahead with the debut of what sounds like a far more promising look into Taylor's tumultuous relationship with Richard Burton. "Burton and Taylor" is another TV project set to debut this fall (it will also be shown on BBC America). It stars Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West in the title roles. The film traces their experiences during their reunion for stage performances of Noel Coward's Private Lives in 1983. Click here for more and to see a preview
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from Warner Home Video:
Burbank, Calif. June 4, 2013 – Marking the 75thanniversary ofThe Wizard of Oz, Warner Bros. has produced a 3D remastered version of the film which will launch a comprehensive, cross-divisional campaign encompassing theatrical, home entertainment, consumer products and a number of promotional partnerships.
Kicking off the celebration, The Wizard of Oz 3D will be presented in the immersive IMAX® 3D format and return to the big screen for an exclusive one-week engagement in IMAX® theatres across North America beginning September 20, 2013.
“We couldn’t be happier to partner with IMAX® as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of this iconic film,” said Dan Fellman, President, Domestic Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures. “The Wizard of Oz IMAX® 3D Experience is an integral part of our studio-wide anniversary initiative and we are excited to give fans the rare opportunity to see this stunning version on the big screen.”
“The Wizard of Oz is one of the most beloved films of all time and we are thrilled that our longtime partners at Warner Bros. have made IMAX® a part of this exciting milestone event,” said Greg Foster, Chairman and President of IMAX® Entertainment. “This film revolutionized the use of color and special effects in cinema, and we’re excited to add another ‘first’ – bringing this timeless classic to moviegoers through the power of The IMAX 3D Experience® for the very first time.”
The IMAX® release The Wizard of Oz will be digitally re-mastered into the image and sound quality of The IMAX 3D Experience® with proprietary IMAX DMR® (Digital Re-mastering) technology. The crystal-clear images, coupled with IMAX®'s customized theatre geometry and powerful digital audio, create a unique environment that will make audiences feel as if they are in the movie.
Following the IMAX® theatrical release, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) will release a limited and numbered The Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary Collector’s Edition on October 1, 2013, featuring the 3D version of the film and more.
“Seventy-five years later, The Wizard of Oz continues its reign as a multi-generational favorite, with nearly 100 percent awareness among adults and more than 80 percent awareness among children,” said Jeff Baker, WBHE Executive Vice President and General Manager, Theatrical Catalog. “In this new 3D version, the film is bound to make history all over again—with both past and future fans.”
The Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary Collector’s Edition will debut as a five-disc set that will include Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD and UltraViolet versions of the film; a new documentary, The Making of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz;bonus features and premium collectibles ($105.43 SRP). Three more editions will be available separately: a two-disc 3D/Blu-ray ($35.99 SRP), a one-disc Blu-ray ($19.98 SRP) and a two-disc DVD ($16.95 SRP). All four will contain the new documentary and extra content.
SPECIAL FEATURES will include all previously released special features along with:
ALL-NEW Documentary! The Making of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz—This candid overview of how a troubled production overcame the odds to become an integral part of American culture features contributions from historians John Fricke and Sam Wasson, composers Stephen Schwartz and Marc Shaiman, critics Leonard Maltin and Michael Sragow, Bert Lahr’s son John as well as revealing interview clips with Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Buddy Ebsen, Margaret Hamilton and Mervyn LeRoy, among others.
NEW! Exclusive Collectible Memorabilia —Acollectible 75th Anniversary journal; Sparkle RUBY SLIPPERS™ Globe; Noble Collection 3-piece enamel pin set, a Map of Oz and a 48-page hardcover book. Collection is limited and numbered.
The 3D conversion was a long and complex project which Warner Bros. initiated with a very high resolution (8k) scanning of the original Technicolor camera negative. The restored 2D image was then transformed by creating a depth-map of each frame to construct 3D imagery and determine distances from the viewer’s vantage point. This was followed by the long process (with the use of a rotoscope) to further refine viewer distances and fully layer shapes and objects.
“People have asked for years about The Wizard of Oz3D conversion. My answer was always, ‘We’re not doing it until it’s perfect.’ And now it is,” said Ned Price, Warner Technical Operations’ Vice President of Mastering. “As a kid, I was so enthralled by this film. Watching it, you just want to enter the frame, enter the Land of Oz. This new version will allow you to do just that.”
In support of the 75th anniversary of the film, Warner Bros. Consumer Products’ extensive licensing program of more than 80 top-tier licensees will expand with new partnerships. Leading the way is master toy partner Jazwares, along with Mattel, Rubies, Lionel, Steiff, USAopoly, Thomas Kinkade, and many more that will be taking part in the celebration. Special commemorative anniversary product will be available across a wide array of categories including apparel, jewelry, collectibles, publishing, stationery and paper goods, toys and games, slot machines and personal care.
In addition, the Warner Bros. releases will be massively supported by a far-reaching promotional campaign encompassing numerous participants. National corporate partners include (to date) promotional activities with a Major National Quick Serve Restaurant (QSR), the debut of a giant hot-air balloon and balloonhead characters in the 87th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®, as well as joint programs with Amtrak, Gourmet Trading Company, Langers Juice, QVC and Simon Malls®. In collaboration with the Ad Council and the National Highway TrafficSafety Administration, new child passenger safety Public Service Announcements (PSAs) featuring iconic elements from The Wizard of Oz film will be distributed and run in donated media nationally.
The Wizard of Oz themed competition will also be featured on an upcoming episode of Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” to be aired later this year.
Cinema Retro has just received the following press release from Sony:
Director’s Follow-Up to SKYFALL™, the Highest-Grossing Film in the Longest Running Film Franchise, to Arrive in Theaters on October 23, 2015 in the UK and November 6, 2015 in the US
CULVER CITY, Calif., July 11, 2013 – Producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, EON Productions; Gary Barber, Chairman & CEO, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; Michael Lynton, CEO, Sony Entertainment, Inc, and Amy Pascal, Co-Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment today announced that Daniel Craig will once again return as the legendary British secret agent in the 24th James Bond film and Sam Mendes will also return to direct the screenplay written by John Logan. The film is set for release in UK theaters on October 23, 2015 and in US theaters on November 6, 2015.
SKYFALL™, the 23rd James Bond film, took in $1.1 billion worldwide and set a new mark as the highest-grossing film of all time in the UK; it was the best-selling Bond film on DVD/Blu-ray and was the most critically acclaimed film in the history of the longest-running film franchise.
Commenting on the announcement, Wilson and Broccoli said, "Following the extraordinary success of SKYFALL, we're really excited to be working once again with Daniel Craig, Sam Mendes and John Logan.”
"I am very pleased that by giving me the time I need to honour all my theatre commitments, the producers have made it possible for me to direct Bond 24. I very much look forward to taking up the reins again, and to working with Daniel Craig, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli for a second time,” said Mendes.
Barber added, “We are thrilled to reunite the extraordinary talents of director Sam Mendes with our star Daniel Craig for the next great Bond adventure.” He added, “As evidenced by the phenomenal success of our last collaboration with EON Productions and Sony, the incredible legacy of this 51-year-old franchise continues to amaze.”
Lynton and Pascal said, “It’s a privilege to work on the Bond films. EON, John Logan and Sam Mendes have come up with an extraordinary follow up to SKYFALL and we, along with our partners at MGM, can’t wait to share this new chapter with audiences all over the world.”
A pistol that was used as a last minute prop in a publicity photo shoot for the first James Bond movie, Dr. No in 1962, is being auctioned on July 29. Originally, Sean Connery was to pose with a Walther pistol for the publicity photos. However, on the day of the photo shoot, it was discovered that no one had brought the Walther to the studio. The photographer, David Hurn, improvised by substituting a long barreled air pistol, a personal possession that he used as a hobby. It was originally envisioned that the long barrel would be airbrushed out but it never was. The resulting photos became so iconic that variations of them were utilized to publicize later Connery Bond movies. The last time the pistol was sold at auction, it commanded over $400,000. For more click here
The Warner Archive has acquired the home video rights to certain vintage Paramount films including the 1954 adventure The Naked Jungle. Although Charlton Heston had already been a popular young leading man for a few years, the studio still felt that Eleanor Parker had more boxoffice clout (!), thus she received top billing. Nevertheless, the movie is fondly remembered by Heston fans as a pivotal entry in his career simply because it is so offbeat. A plot description might lead one to believe it is a science fiction or horror story: a South American plantation is menaced by Marabunta, an unstoppable army of billions of ants that devour any living thing in their path. However, the story is based on scientific fact as these occurrences do take place in deep jungle, though fortunately, the real life ants are not known to eat people or animals. Heston plays Christopher Leiningen, a self-made, wealthy owner of a vast plantation in the South American jungle (no actually country is cited as the location.) He has arranged for a mail order bride to be married to him by proxy and he would seem to have struck pay dirt. She turns out to be Joanna (Eleanor Parker), a vivacious beauty from New Orleans who has been drawn to the marriage partly by the sheer riskiness of the scenario and a deep desire to live in South America. The greeting she receives from her new husband is less than gracious. He may be tall, handsome and built like a rock, but he's also rude, arrogant and chauvinistic. He takes a deep dislike to Joanna because of her independent nature and inability to be completely subservient to him. He explains that his only motivation for importing a wife and treating her like a commodity is simply to produce an heir to his empire. Within days, it becomes apparent that the marriage is a disaster. The two never consummate their relationship and sleep in separate bedrooms. Christopher refers to his wife as "Madam". He explains that part of his resentment of her is based upon learning that she is a widow. He won't accept the "leavings" of another man and insists that he will only accept a virgin bride. When pressed on this issue, he hints that, because he has been isolated in the jungle since his teenage years, he is a virgin himself...and doesn't want a woman with more sexual experience than him. This leads to some witty dialogue in which Joanna uses a piano as a sexual metaphor. They agree she should return immediately to New Orleans, but en route to the vessel that will take her, Christopher and the local commissioner (William Conrad), must divert the party to investigate rumors by panicky natives that a horrendous occurrence is taking place in the jungle. They observe miles-wide columns of killer ants heading in the direction of the plantation and devouring everything in its path, from bark on trees to plants and animals. Against the advice of the commissioner, Christopher announces he will take a stand in the unlikely scenario that he can preserve his prized plantation in the face of what seems to be certain death. Impressed by his courage, Joanna decides to stay with him...and act of courage that finally bonds the couple as husband and wife.
The first hour of the film is the stuff of pure soap opera...but it is never less than engrossing partly because of the excellent dialogue which was co-written by blacklisted Ben Maddow (who was "fronted" by Philip Yordan) and partly due to the fact that it's rather shocking to see Heston playing a character this arrogant and unsympathetic. There is real chemistry between him and Parker, who is perfectly cast as a woman with modern sensibilities trapped in a world of repression. Things really get cooking when the preparations take place for the inevitable arrival of the ants. Director Byron Haskin milks some genuine suspense out of the scenario, using scientific close-up footage of actual ant swarms to heighten suspense. This is aided immeasurably by the addition of some menacing sound effects that accompany the invading army. By the time the invaders have arrived at his doorstep, Christopher is locked into a battle of wits with a seemingly unstoppable army that is capable of forming strategies to avert the obstacles he has placed in their path. The finale brims with suspense as Christopher must venture out among the ants in order to attempt one last, desperate attempt to save everyone from a horrendous death.
The Naked Jungle was filmed in Florida and on a Hollywood sound stage, but despite the obvious studio settings, the few outdoor shots pass convincingly for a South American locale. The special effects by the legendary George Pal are quite impressive and, in addition to a fine performances by Heston and Parker, William Conrad adds to the enjoyment of the film with his wry interpretation of the only man who is not intimidated by Christopher and is willing to stand up to him for his own good. (Conrad played the lead role in a previous radio play of this story titled Leiningen Vs. the Ants. Heston would star in a later radio adaptation.)
Paramount had released this title on DVD previously but it has been out of print for a number of hears. The Warners DVD boasts an excellent transfer with colors that jump off the screen, though, sadly, there are no bonus extras. For Heston fans, this is a "must".
Once again, Cinema Retro is proud to bring you behind the scenes on a world-class retro movie event.
By Matthew Field
It seemed only appropriate that Octopussy, the only James Bond film with a tenuous link to
Wimbledon, should be the theme of BondStars’ summer barbeque on the very day
Andy Murray became champion. (Octopussy
actor and former tennis player Vijay Amritraj was semi-finalist in the men’s
doubles in 1976!)
On a sweltering summer’s day, OCTOPUSSY AT 30, re-united cast and crew from the 13th
James Bond movie at Pinewood Studios where the movie was made back in 1982/83.
The day kicked off with a screening of the Blu-ray
master (kindly lent by Eon Productions) in Theatre 7. Director John Glen, assistant
director Anthony Waye and stars Maud Adams and Kristina Wayborn, were on hand
to introduce the film to fans at the sold out event. Glen told the audience that
Octopussy was his favourite pre-title
sequence along with The Spy Who Loved Me.
He also remarked with a smile how gorgeous his actresses were still look today
– and they certainly were!
A lineup of Bond royalty: Peter Lamont, Kristina Wayborn, John Glen, Maud Adams and Alan Tomkins. (Photo: copyright Matthew Field, All Rights Reserved.)
Later in the day guests were also joined by twins David
& Tony Meyer, Carole Ashby, Jeremy Bulloch, production designer Peter
Lamont and stunt arranger Paul Weston. Cinema Retro’s Dave Worrall, our very
own veteran tour guide, led guests around the studio, pointing out of
particular note, the entrance to the manor house which doubled for the British embassy
where 009 turns up dead with the Faberge egg in Berlin.
Well, Louis Jourdan couldn't make the event, but we've got the next best thing: Cinema Retro's Matthew Field, the thorn between two roses: Kristina Wayborn and Maud Adams.
Cinema Retro's Dave Worrall is still pondering why his relationship with this lovely lass never quite worked out! (Photo: copyright Matthew Field, All Rights Reserved.)
On stage the Meyer twins recalled the filmmakers first
approached them after John Glen had seen twins in France performing a knife-throwing
act. But the French duo had turned the film down on the grounds that jumping
off of trains wasn’t really their sort of thing! Maud Adams said how proud she
is to be associated with the Bond franchise while Kristina Wayborn recalled her
first day at the studios in 1982 where she met not James Bond in the Pinewood restaurant
– but Superman actor Christopher Reeve. Ipads and smart phones were running the
Murray match throughout the day and there was a huge cheer as the young Scot
secured the trophy while Kristina and Maud were being interviewed on stage.
Stuntman extraordinaire Paul Weston (center) can't resist monitoring the action at Wimbledon. Paul performed some of the most harrowing stunts in the film. (Photo: copyright Matthew Field, All Rights Reserved.)
A lineup of 007 greats: Alan Tomkins, John Glen and Peter Lamont. (Photo: copyright Matthew Field, All Rights Reserved.)
theme ran throughout the day. Circus acts entertaining guests in the Pinewood
gardens during lunch while specially designed cupcakes were served with
afternoon tea. An Octopussy special
was put together by Mi6 Confidential Magazine to accompany the event featuring
many interviews and behind the scenes photographs from the personal archives of
those who worked on the film. Sir Roger Moore wrote a wonderful introduction to
the day also.
Yet another great day for 007 fans and a new “All Time
High” for BondStars!
Sony has released the 1971 counter-culture comedy/drama Drive, He Said as a burn-to-order DVD title. The film is primarily remembered as the directorial debut of Jack Nicholson, who also co-produced and co-authored the screenplay with Jeremy Larner, based upon the latter's prize-winning novel. Watching the movie today (especially for the first time) serves as a reminder that not every movie from this golden period of cinema has aged well, although it was greeted with largely positive critical reviews at the time. The film is best regarded as a product of its time, when- for the first time in history- American young people collectively thumbed their noses at "The Establishment". The story follows Hector (William Tepper), a college basketball star who is idolized as a jock on campus and seen as a potential pro ball player by his hard driving coach (Bruce Dern, refreshingly playing a "normal" character). But, as with virtually all cinematic protagonists in the post-Graduate era, Hector is confused and tormented about his future. He loves playing basketball but is not very enthused about taking the easy road and playing the sport for a living, despite the money and perks this career would afford him. He seems to spend virtually no time in class, but does find a way to carry on a surreptitious affair with Olive (Karen Black), the comely, free-spirited wife of Hector's friend and professor (acclaimed screenwriter Robert Towne, very good in a rare on screen performance.) There is also considerable screen time devoted to the antics of Hector's roommate Gabriel (Michael Margotta), a political radical who is facing the disturbing prospect of being drafted into the army. To counter this possibility, he feigns insanity (a la Corporal Klinger of M*A*S*H), only to go legitimately mad in the process.
Nicholson proves to be an adept director but he is confounded by Nicholson, the screenwriter. The characters are all somewhat interesting due to their individual eccentricities, but their personalities are never fully developed beyond a superficial level. Thus, the viewer never builds an emotional bond with any of them. The performances are all first-rate with Margotta giving an especially bold performance that requires plenty of full frontal nudity, including a sequence in which the naked Gabriel unleashes a number of dangerous snakes and insects from a college laboratory. (He should have received an Oscar for Most Courageous Ability to Put Sensitive Body Parts at Risk). The fact that the story never gels in any meaningful way leaves only some individually impressive sequences to entice the audience...but they are all roads leading to nowhere, including an abrupt, largely bewildering ending that seems more pretentious than meaningful. It should be noted that cinematographer Bill Butler provides some inventive camera work and David Shire's score is also impressive. The movie also does evoke (for those of us old enough to remember) what it was like to be young at a time when the world was changing at lightning speed, amid some of the most cataclysmic political events ever seen. Nevertheless, Drive, He Said remains a noble but ultimately failed attempt to capture the era in any meaningful way. The parts are better than the whole.
The Sony DVD is crisp and clean, though many films of this era have a certain gritty and grimy look to them, this one included. There are no extras included.
Writer Michael Coate of The Digital Bits web site commemorates the 50th anniversary of Fox's epic Cleopatra with a look at the film's roadshow engagements. (Roadshow presentations were prestigious, extended-runs in top theaters in major cities. Blockbuster films would play in these theatres for months before the movies would go into general release.) Coate also explains that the original, 4 hour version of the film only ran for an abbreviated time before being cut by one hour at the insistence of studio bosses. There is no question that Cleopatra brought Fox to the brink of bankruptcy. However, the notion that it did not attract large audiences is false. The movie drew huge crowds for extended periods of time around the globe (one roadshow engagement lasted 64 weeks!) The reason the film failed financially was because of its troubled production history that saw the movie go into a hiatus period, the leading men were recast and production was switched from England to Italy. The result was a budget that skyrocketed beyond control and all but ensured the movie's financial failure. Looking at it today, it remains an impressive movie and one of which it can truly be said, "They don't make 'em like that any more!" Click here to read
Victor Lundin, best known to film fans for his portrayal of Friday in Byron
Haskin’s Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964),
passed away on June 29, 2013 at age 83 after an undisclosed
illness. News of his passing first came
to Cinema Retro via Cinema Epoch’s Director of Acquisitions Douglas Dunning,
who was a personal friend of Mr. Lundin’s.
It was also confirmed by John Sempre, Jr.’s Facebook page (Mr. Sempre interviewed
Mr. Lundin and this audio interview can be heard in part one and part two on Vimeo) as well as
Zachary Lundin’s Facebook page (Victor’s son).
addition to this film, Mr. Lundin appeared in the 1966 film version of Beau Geste, and appeared on television in
episodes on some of our favorite shows from the 1960’s, including The Time Tunnel, Get Smart, Star Trek, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Mannix, and Batman.
to Mr. Sempre, Jr., one of Mr. Lundin’s last screen appearances will be in the
former’s upcoming web miniseries, Creeporia,
wherein he provided a brief cameo voice for an animated character (an evil
wizard) in the first episode. Creeporia will be released via streaming
video in October 2013. For more
information, click on Creeporia’s
and Creeporia’s Facebook page.
In a worthy attempt to focus attention on the work of writer/producer/director/actor Delmer Daves, Criterion as released a Blu-ray edition of his 1956 Western Jubal. It's a rather odd choice for the label, which specializes in gold-standard editions of established classics and revered cult films. On the surface, Jubal may sound like a standard horse opera, especially with the title role played by reliable-but-unexciting Glenn Ford. However, the reason why Criterion sought to have the movie re-evaluated is immediately apparent. This is an unusually mature Western with a very intense story line that builds in intensity under Daves' assured direction. Ford plays Jubal Troop, a troubled loner and drifter, who is saved from certain death in the mountains by Shep Horgan (Ernest Borgnine), a boisterous but kind prominent rancher who nurses Jubal back to health and rewards him with a job on his ranch. It isn't long before Jubal proves his worth and impresses Shep enough to make him the new foreman- an act that offends and alienates another, long-time ranch hand, "Pinky" Pinkus (Rod Steiger), who had sought the position himself. Jubal's seemingly idyllic situation is further hampered by the fact that Shep's sultry Canadian wife Mae (Valerie French) is disgusted by her husband's boorish behavior and his tendency to treat her as a prized steer. Clearly suffering from sexual frustration, the isolated woman exists in a world of misogynistic men. It isn't long before she's making eyes at Jubal, who must summon all of his willpower to resist her advances out of respect for his friendship with Shep. Adding to the rising tensions is the fact that Mae had once had a fling with "Pinky" and he can't accept the fact that she now favors Jubal. The intricate plot takes numerous turns leading to Mae's manipulation of Shep and Jubal by implying to her husband that she has slept with his ranch foreman. This sets in motion a series of tragic circumstances.
Although Daves is best known for his seminal Western 3:10 to Yuma, there is much in Jubal that rivals that classic. Daves makes full use of the magnificent Wyoming locations, using the widescreen process as effectively as George Stevens did with Shane. While the personal relationships of the principal characters are perpetually in crisis mode, Daves seems to use the sweeping cinematography to intentionally dwarf the key players, as though to imply that, in the end, we're all just rather inconsequential figures in nature's landscape. The performances are all first rate, and this may well be the most effective performance of Glenn Ford's career. His low-key approach to acting has often been dismissed as boring, but Ford always brought a quiet intensity and "guy next door" quality to each of his performances. As Jubal, he's just a shy man who wants to get through the demons of his past by starting a new life that is unblemished by personal stress. Instead, he finds himself in the unlikely situation of being embroiled in a cauldron of sexual tension, betrayal and violent death. Ernest Borgnine is terrific as the hapless Shep, a likable "man's man" who remains oblivious to the fact that the wife he so adores has nothing but contempt for him. Rod Steiger seems a bit out of place here, as he as always seemed far more comfortable in gritty, urban dramas. Valerie French practically steams up the screen as the femme fatale at the heart of the deception that endangers the men in her life. She clearly the villain, but you can't help but empathize with her plight, which must have mirrored that of countless women of the plains: she is trapped in a man's world of endless work with little appreciation for her femininity beyond her "duty" to provide sex.
The Criterion transfer is flawless and the colors leap off the screen. Frustratingly, the film is devoid of any bonus extras. It would have been a nice touch to hear a film scholar discuss the film and Daves' work in general. However, there is a booklet that contains a lengthy and informative essay by Kent Jones. If you like Western, this one is a "must".
Fox has released the 1961 B WWII movie Battle at Bloody Beach as as burn-to-order Cinema Archive title. The film stars Audie Murphy, who was trying to expand his horizons beyond the Western movie genre. This was only Murphy's second WWII movie, following his autobiographical 1955 hit To Hell and Back which chronicled how he became the most decorated soldier in American history. The story finds Murphy cast as Craig Benson, an American civilian who volunteers to serve with the U.S. Navy on highly dangerous missions to rescue American refugees stranded on Japanese-occupied islands in the Pacific. Working with local partisans, Benson succeeds in saving any number of U.S citizens who have been hiding in mountainous areas. Although hailed as a hero and placed on Japan's "most-wanted" list, Benson is not motivated by patriotic duty. Rather, he is obsessed with finding his wife Ruth (Dolores Michaels) from whom he was separated when the Japanese invaded the Philippines. Not knowing whether she is alive or dead, Benson tempts fate with his relentless searches on over 34 islands that are under the control of the enemy. On one particular island, he works with his contact, a U.S. serviceman named Marty Sackler (Gary Crosby), who runs a one-man coast-watching operation in addition to helping local resistance forces. The two men rescue some stranded Americans and Benson is overjoyed to find that Ruth is among them. His celebratory mood is short-lived, however, as she explains she has changed dramatically over the two years they have been separated. She has become a gun-toting, high skilled jungle fighter and says she refuses to go back to America with Benson because she is devoted to the cause. Benson suspects another reason for her reluctance to accompany him. He later learns that she has been romantically involved with Julio Fontana (Alejandro Rey), a local guerrilla leader who, unfortunately for Benson, also happens to look like a matinee idol. Sexual tension in bristles in this love triangle, even as the group leads a motley bunch of refugees to a beach to await pickup by a submarine. When the sub is delayed, the group takes refuge in an old beached vessel but are discovered by Japanese forces who launch an attack. The rebels are heavily armed and put up stiff resistance but their cause seems hopeless.
Despite its hackneyed, exploitation film title, Battle at Bloody Beach is an intelligent and reasonably entertaining film. It was clearly designed for the drive-in market and was shot on a low budget on Santa Catalina Island in California, which makes a surprisingly convincing stand in for the Philippine locations. Murphy is stolid and likable, as is Crosby, who gets a few laughs by his evident enjoyment of his coast watching job since it affords him a menage a trois with two lovely young native girls. Dolores Michaels is gorgeous and quite competent as an actress, so one must assume that her film career ended shortly after this movie by her own choice. This film marked the first starring role for charismatic Alejandro Rey, who would go on to a fairly successful career in TV and films before passing away at age 57 in 1987. Ivan Dixon appears as an American boxer caught up in events who decides to fight with the guerrillas. The movie is competently directed by Herbert Coleman, who is best known for serving as associate producer on several Alfred Hitchcock classics. Producer and screenwriter Richard Maibaum was already an old hand at writing action potboilers but the next year his career would skyrocket when he became a long-standing script writer for the James Bond movies. In summary, Bloody Beach is a entertaining and fairly exciting film that demonstrates that the B movie genre could often produce some unheralded gems.
The Fox DVD emphasizes the crisp, sharp B&W cinematography but the the movie is inexplicably presented in pan and scan format even though it was shot in Cinemascope. Whoever is making these decisions at Fox must be living in a time warp. Viewers have long ago accepted the letterbox format for widescreen movies, so why tick off retro movie lovers by altering the original format?
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
LONDON (at a top secret location) 28 June, 2013 – “Pay attention, 007, RM
Auctions is about to sell one of my most ingenious creations and we wouldn’t
want it to fall into enemy hands”. Well, ‘Q’ might be a little concerned that
his incredible Lotus Esprit Series 1‘Submarine’ Car is due to be sold at
auction, but for millions of movie fans out there, the appearance of this
iconic Bond car on the open market represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
No Bond car has ever done
anything as outrageous as transform itself into a submarine. Used to incredible
effect in the film The Spy Who Loved Me,
starring Roger Moore, the white Lotus commonly tops the polls when generations
of movie fans are asked to vote on their favourite film cars of all time. Like
all the best Bond cars, the Lotus was a veritable war chest of weaponry and
gadgetry, all designed to fox and foil the enemy, whilst also helping Bond to
another hard-won victory for Queen and country.
(Photo: RM Auctions)
The vehicle to be offered
by RM Auctions at its forthcoming London sale, 8-9 September, in Battersea
Park, is the one and only fully functioning car especially designed and built
for the famous underwater sequence seen on screen in the 1977 film. Abundantly
authenticated, and known as ‘Wet Nellie’ on the set, it was developed from one
of six Esprit body shells used in the making of the film. As the only car to be built into
a fully operational, self-propelled ‘submarine’, by Perry Oceanographic,
based in Riviera Beach, Florida, it is the vehicle which claimed the most
screen time in the film. The driver of the car was Don Griffin, a retired U.S.
Navy SEAL and test pilot for Perry, who operated the vehicle utilizing its motorized
propellers while manoeuvring with levered steering mechanisms. At the time, the
car was said to have cost over $100,000 to create (equivalent to nearly a half
million dollars today).
Subsequent to filming the underwater scenes in the Bahamas, the vehicle
was shipped to Long Island, NY, where it was kept in an unassuming storage unit
on a ten year rental, paid in advance. Fate later intervened when, in 1989, the
then rent delinquent unit was put up ‘blind’ for public auction. A modest
winning bid from an area couple brought surprise and wonder when the blankets
were removed to reveal the iconic 007 ‘Submarine’ Car. After positive
authentication, the Lotus was shown occasionally – including a stint at the
Petersen Automotive Museum – but mostly kept closely under wraps, until now.
(Photo: RM Auctions)
Max Girardo, Managing
Director, RM Auctions, Europe, says: “We
have a great track record in selling incredible and iconic movie cars, and this
particular Lotus is certainly up there amongst the most famous cars of all
time. Over the years, millions of moviegoers have stared in awe as the Lotus
transformed itself into a submarine, and now, perhaps one of them will have an
opportunity to own it. Her Majesty’s Secret Service aside, it surely is the
ultimate beach accessory”!
RM Auctions sold “the most
famous car in the world”, the Aston Martin DB5 used by Sean Connery in the enormously
popular Goldfinger and Thunderball movies, for an incredible
£2.9 million during its 2010 London sale.
For further information on RM Auctions’
forthcoming London sale, or to view a frequently updated list of entries, visit
rmauctions.com or contact RM’s London office at +44 (0) 20 7851 7070.
Actor Pierce Brosnan is mourning the death of his 42 year old adopted daughter Charlotte, who has succumbed to breast cancer at age 42. Ironically, her biological mother, Cassandra, died at age 43 from the same disease in 1991. Cassandra had been married to Brosnan when the young Irish actor had originally been signed to play James Bond in 1986. A contractual clause invoked by NBC prevented him from playing the role until 1995. When Cassandra's first husband, Charlotte's father, passed away, Brosnan adopted her in 1986. In 2001, Brosnan married journalist Keeley Shaye Smith, who he has praised for encouraging him to continue to mourn Cassandra, who he says he thinks of every day. Brosnan is now mourning the second family member to suffer from the ravages of cancer. Charlotte had a somewhat troubled past, having dealt with depression, substance abuse and divorce. For more click here
Jim Kelly, the charismatic martial arts star who co-starred with Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon, has died from cancer at age 67. Kelly had a loyal following of fans that extended to recent years and he was a popular fixture at autograph shows. His other action flicks include Three the Hard Way, Black Belt Jones and Black Samurai, all of which capitalized on the "Blaxploitation" films of the 1970s. For more click here
Those were the days! This entertainment section from the Dallas Morning News of May 3, 1964, shows a wealth of great movies in theaters that week- along with a stage appearance by cast members of The Beverly Hilllibillies! Among the movies you could check out this week were Tom Jones, Lilies of the Field, Move Over, Darling, Seven Days in May. The Silence and The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao. (Courtesy of Jim Kroeper collection)