Cartoonist and film book author Sophie Cossette pays tribute to the late, great British director Ken Russell, calling him "The Mad Hatter of British Sinema" and examining the stories behind Russell's controversial films. There's also her unique cartoons that enhance the very enlightening analysis. Click here to view
Marc Hall (Israel Broussard) is a shy,
introverted teenager who is transferred to Indian Hills High School in Calabasas,
CA because he played hooky too many times at his previous school and needs to
be set on the straight and narrow. After
shuffling awkwardly from class to class, he becomes friends with Rebecca Ahn
(Katie Chang), a peer who dresses well, pays him attention, and is obsessed
with celebrities and who loves to party. When they aren't in school, Marc accompanies
Rebecca as she looks through unlocked vehicles for cash and anything valuable that
she can resell. Mark later happens to mention in passing that a friend of his
is currently out of town; naturally, he and Rebecca gain entrance to the friend’s
house and search through the belongings. Mark is visibly nervous and wants to leave.
Rebecca pilfers the keys to a Porsche and they go joyriding.Her attitude towards this behavior is
troubling in the carefree and apathetic way that she conducts herself.She seems to have absolutely no problem
taking other people’s property, even in broad daylight, and using it for how
own amusement and gain.Rebecca begins
to get restless and more daring, and while she and her friends are out
socializing at a famous club also attended by Paris Hilton and Kirsten Dunst, she
gets the idea to rob Ms. Hilton's home. Using all social media and mapping
websites to her advantage, she locates the real home addresses of her favorite
celebrities and, with Marc and several friends in tow (one of whom is Nicki,
played by Emma Watson), goes on a massive five-finger discount that includes
purses, expensive shoes, jewelry, Rolex watches, and thousands of dollars in
cash.What is all the more amazing is
that despite Marc’s hesitance and obvious reluctance, no one even thinks for a
minute that they are being watched by closed-circuit security cameras.
If this story sounds familiar, it
should. Based upon Nancy Jo Sales’s article The
Suspects Wore Louboutins
that was published in the March 2010 issue of Vanity Fair magazine, The
Bling Ring (2013) is director Sophia Coppola’s fifth feature film (a made-for-Lifetime movie of the same name and about the same subject aired in 2011). Loosely based upon the true story of a pack
of young celebrity gawkers who go to extreme lengths to emulate the style and
fashion sense of Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Miranda Kerr and anybody else
they deem worthy of adulation and emulation was highly publicized some years
back. As depicted in the film, these
young adults don't appear to be inherently bad
people. They are simply caught up in the
excitement of the 24-hour a day, seven-day-a-week celebrity reporting that is
constantly aflutter on the Internet; they give in to their temptation to break
the law. Why they do what they do is not so apparent. They seem to want to be famous, just like the
people they look up to. Several of them foolishly take photos of themselves at
the scenes of the crimes and post them on their walls on their Facebook pages. It never occurs to them that what they are
doing is wrong. They all seem to have the idea that the people’s houses they are
burglarizing are so rich that they won’t even notice that most of these lavish
items are missing. By the end film,
however, the house of cards comes crashing down when the police get involved and
they are all arrested and given prison sentences.
ways, The Bling Ring is the flip side
of Mrs. Coppola’s previous film, 2010’s Somewhere,
which was an introspective look at the life of a very famous actor miserable in
his existence of fame and fortune. Somewhere, and 2003’s Lost in Translation, both were eloquent studies
in loneliness (the former in one’s own surroundings and the latter in a foreign
environment) and a case can be made for Marc in The Bling Ring. He’s a
teenager who feels like an outcast; he’s a nobody
desperately trying to be a somebody.
Coppola imbues the film with humor, too. The character of Nicki and her home life is not a fabrication. She is based upon Alexis Neiers, a young
model and actress wannabe who was the subject of the “reality” series Pretty Wild, which lasted nine episodes
and depicted her home life and relationship with her sisters and mother. Alexis’s
mom, one-time Playboy model Andrea Arlington, does her best under the
circumstances trying to raise these young women, however she seems to rely on
Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret a little
too much in scenes that induce interior smiles. Her mom During the course
of filming the show, Alexis was arrested for her participation in the
Coppola continues to bifurcate audiences into the love it or hate it
camps. Unlike Somewhere (my vote for her best film so far), which illustrates the
director’s love of Michelangelo Antonioni’s work, The Bling Ring is a far more audience-friendly film.
The extras, all in high definition, on
the disc contain:
The Bling Ring: On Set with Sofia, the Cast and Crew featurette (22:51) is exactly what the
title entails. The filmmakers talk about
how the project came about (Mrs. Coppola read the Vanity Fair article on a plane and assumed that it was already
optioned for a film), how the film was cast (the ringleader was the most
difficult to cast), and some of the actors weigh in with their views of the
the Real Bling Ring (23:46)
is a very interesting featurette that discusses the actual case and the real
names of those involved in the 2008/2009 events.
of the Crime with Paris Hilton
(10:37) Ms. Hilton gives us a tour of her house where the film was shot and
bemoans the fact that most of her stolen jewelry consisted of irreplaceable pieces
handed down throughout the years in her family. A humorous bit includes a mini tour of her mini doghouse for her seven
The theatrical trailer is also included
and runs just shy of two minutes.
My only complaint is the lack of an
audio commentary, something that Mrs. Coppola perhaps does not have an interest
in doing, a trend that I hope she reverses.
was the first and only time two famous filmmaking Swedes worked together—the
enigmatic, existential, and brilliant director Ingmar Bergman, and the glamorous,
international star of Hollywood, Ingrid Bergman (no relation). According to Ingmar in a filmed introduction
he made in 2003, he and Ingrid had met and agreed that one day she would act in
one of his films. Then, apparently he
and Ingrid met again at a film festival in the mid-70s. She reminded him of their promise; he told
her about the script he was working on, in which Liv Ullmann would play the
daughter, but he hadn’t cast the mother yet. Done deal. But, in a
recently-filmed interview, Ullmann relates how the two Bergmans did not get
along very well for the longest period. Ingrid wanted to do it one way, Ingmar another—and he had never dealt
with such a headstrong Hollywood personality before. In the end, though, Ingrid capitulated to the
director, eventually admitting that he was right. He must have been, for she was nominated for
a Best Actress Oscar and picked up a slew of other awards in 1978, and sadly,
it was to be her final feature film.
Autumn Sonata is a chamber piece
and feels as if it could be a stage play; indeed, it has been adapted to the
stage after the fact. The story is simple—a
world-famous concert pianist in her sixties stops touring for a moment to visit
her estranged forty-something daughter and husband in Norway. Both of them seem to know that they’re going
to come to blows at some point during the stay, and they do. The last act is a painful, cathartic
angst-fest, as both women—mother and daughter—have it out with what went wrong
with their relationship. Oh, and to
complicate things, the mother’s other daughter
is at the house, too—and she suffers from a severe disability (possibly
Multiple Sclerosis). By the end, the
actresses will be exhausted and spent—and the audience will be as well. This is serious, heavy-hitting Bergman (the
director), and it displays just how effortlessly—it appears—he could dig deeply
into the emotional psyches of two very gifted actresses, more so than we have
ever seen before. It’s not a
particularly “fun” time at the movies, but it is a powerful exercise in acting and directing. Serious fans of the theatre, and with the
Bergmans—both of them—will surely find this to be a stunning little drama.
Sven Nykvist’s color cinematography is gorgeous
in its new 2K digital restoration. The
Blu-ray exhibits some natural graininess, but the improvement over Criterion’s
earlier DVD release of the film is substantial. Extras include the previously mentioned Introduction by Bergman himself;
audio commentary by Bergman scholar Peter Cowie; the Liv Ullmann interview; a
vintage interview between Ingmar Bergman and critic John Russell Taylor at the
National Film Theater in London in 1981; and, astonishingly, a three-and-a-half-hour “making of” on-set
documentary. That’s more than twice as
long as the movie itself. The film
chronicles the entire production—initial readings, rehearsals, dress
rehearsals, filming—it certainly gives you a feel for how Bergman worked. The usual classy booklet (with an essay by
critic Farran Smith Nehme) and packaging, hallmarks of The Criterion Collection, make Autumn Sonata a terrific addition to the home collection.
Italian screenwriter Luciano Vincenzoni has passed away at age 87. Vincezoni was best known for his work on the Sergio Leone Western classics "For a Few Dollars More" and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly", both starring Clint Eastwood. Vincenzoni was rather dismissive of his work on these films, saying that he knocked off his writing contribution in a matter of days. In the case of "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" he improvised and created a plot outline on the spot in order to win financing from United Artists. Vincezoni said he was most proud of other films that he worked on that were honored on the film festival circuit. Indeed, although regarded as classics today, the Leone Westerns were largely despised or ignored by the critical establishment in the 1960s. Vincenzoni once told Leone biographer Sir Christopher Frayling that one of his great regrets was allowing a feud over money to break his relationship with the legendary director. When Leone died, Vincenzoni, with more than a hint of amusing ego, took the blame saying, "As the more cultured man, I should have known better." For NY Times obituary click here
When F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote "There are no second acts in American lives", he would have missed the boat when it comes to actor Robert Davi. He's been a familiar face on the big screen and TV for decades and is known as one of the most memorable James Bond villains. Davi was generally regarded as a reliable and talented character actor. When I made his acquaintance some years ago, we instantly bonded. He is a regular guy with a New York attitude, no ego and a mutual love of exchanging ball-busting jokes with any other guy in his orbit. We share a love of good cigars and stories of old Hollywood but the difference, of course, is that Davi's stories are based on personal experience. His first major role came about when Frank Sinatra personally chose him as a co-star, despite his lack of experience. That was the basis of a long-time friendship and Davi always spoke reverently of Sinatra, s grateful for the break he gave him. A few years back, we were conversing over some stogies and arguing politics (we're on opposite sides but love debating the issues),when Davi told me he was determined to embark on a second career as a crooner of Sinatra's songs. In my typically gentle way of offering advice I told him he was crazy. I told him no one would go to a concert to see a guy who never sang a note on screen. Then shortly thereafter, Robert starred in a directed a little-seen independent movie called The Dukes, about an over-the-hill group of doo-woppers who were attempting to make a comeback. He did all of his own singing and was quite brilliant. The next thing I knew, he was being acclaimed as one of the best Sinatra tributes act ever. Davi is now the toast of the town, taking his show on the road around the country to packed houses. He's now fulfilling another dream by combining his singing talents on stage with Don Rickles, one of Sinatra's best cronies. In a review on The Huffington Post, writer Ellen Sterling calls him "A legend in the making". Sometimes nice guys do finish first. For more click here
Not too long after The Little Mermaid was released on Friday, November 14, 1989,
I saw it at the Guild Theater (aka the Guild 50th) next door to
Radio City Music Hall in New York.It
was a decent-sized theater that showed films from 1938 until 1999 when it was
gutted and replaced with a Nautica store (The
Little Mermaid’s Ariel would have felt at home here), and it is now an Anthropologie
branch for women.Thinking about the
Guild Theater made me miss the single screen showcases of New York such as the
Biograph, the Festival, the Carnegie Hall Cinema, the 8th Street
Playhouse, The Beekman, the Cinema I and Cinema II, and the 68th
Street Playhouse to name a few (the Paris on 57th Street is one of
the few remaining such theaters).They
were decent-size auditoriums and you had a very good chance of seeing something
special there in limited release.
The Little Mermaid is
one such film. It had been years since I
had seen a Disney film exhibited theatrically and, like most of us, had very little
inkling that the studio would be releasing a whole new slate of inspired and financially
successful animated features in the years to come (especially The Lion King, which I originally saw in
the form of an unfinished workprint at the Walter Reade Theater in New York in
early 1994). Originally published as Den lille havfrue (The Little Sea Lady) by Hans Christian Anderson on April 7, 1837 in
Fairy Tales Told for Children, The Little Mermaid tells the story of
Ariel, a sixteen year-old mermaid who, like human females of that age, becomes
restless living under the watchful eye of her father, King Triton, who only has
her best interests at heart. Ariel is cautioned
about humans and sternly told not to mingle with them. Of course, this only compels her to seek them
out. Along with her friends Flounder and Scuttle the Seagull, she surfaces and
sees a handsome man named Prince Eric on a ship that enters a dangerous storm. She is instantly smitten, and saves Eric’s
life, singing to him and disappearing just before he awakens. Having heard her voice, Eric wants to find
Ariel who, in turn, wants to be a part of the human world.
King Triton is suspicious of Ariel and
he drills Sebastian (the most memorable character in the film, though it is up
for debate if he is a crab or a lobster) for information about his daughter’s
sudden change in behavior. When it comes
out that she is in love with a human, her father reacts in rage and loses his
mind. At the urging of two eels (Flotsam
and Jetsam), Ariel goes to see a sea witch named Ursula to find out how she can
be with Eric. Ursula is not out to help
Ariel out of kindness, mind you. She
wants Ariel’s voice, and convinces Ariel to allow her to make her human for
three days in exchange for her voice. The
plan is to get Eric to kiss Ariel before the designated time runs out, or else
she will become a mermaid again and have to answer to Ursula (notions of
Cinderella spring to mind!).
All of this action is set to some truly
enjoyable songs, the most recognizable and popular of which are arguably “Part
of Your World”, “Under the Sea”, and “Kiss the Girl”. It’s hardly a surprise that “Under the Sea”
won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Original Song, while the film also won
both awards for Best Original Score. These
are the kinds of songs that are very memorable, even to people who have just
heard them and have not seen the film. Twenty-five
years later, The Little Mermaid is
one of the most well-known of the Walt Disney cartoons, gaining in popularity
among young children thanks in no small part to its availability on home video. New generations of fans who were born years
after the release of the film have sprung up and still dress up as the
characters for Halloween, with Ariel and Sebastian being top favorites.
The new Blu-ray is comprised of an
all-new, digitally restored picture. The
image is a marked improvement over previous versions and just pops off the
screen at you; this is clearly the best the film has looked on home video (I
remember seeing it on VHS and most of the image’s detail was completely lost). While The
Little Mermaid has been available on DVD in 1999 in a movie-only edition
and in 2006 in a 2-disc Platinum Edition with a wealth of extras, those extras
have been ported over to the Blu-ray in a special section called Classic DVD Bonus Features. In addition, the Blu-ray contains brand-new,
exclusive extras shot in high definition and they are comprised of:
Part of Your World
music video featuring Carly Rae Jepsen (3:39)
(10:45), a nice look at some of the many faces who have been working for years
at Disney, such as John Musker and Ron Clements, in addition to more recently
employed animators who were inspired by The
Little Mermaid to follow animation as their career path. This is one featurette I would have liked to
have seen last at least half an hour or more as I love hearing about what
motivates these artists.
Deleted Character - Harold Merman (2:05) is a quick look at a character that was cut from the
film. This segment is presented in sketch
Under the Scene - The Art of Live Action Reference (13:13) is a look at how the animators use real-life
stand-ins who go through the motions of the main characters in the film, and
then draw the movements of the performers to get the nuances of the animated characters. Animators John Musker and Ron Clements spoke
to actress Kathryn Beaumont about her experiences acting out Alice in Alice in Wonderland and Wendy in Peter Pan to get an idea of how to draw
the characters in The Little Mermaid. Ruben Aquino, the directing animator, talks
about the challenges of making moving images into living and breathing
characters that exude emotion. They also
interview the real-life performers who acted out the lead animated roles for
Eric and Ariel in footage shot in 1988.
Howard’s Lecture (16:27)
is a look at the late Howard Ashman and his contribution to the film.
Part of Her World: Jodi Benson’s Voyage to New Fantasyland (4:45) smacks a little of self-promotion, but it offers up
an exuberant Jodi Benson taking us through Disney’s New Fantasyland which
showcases many of the later Disney characters.
Crab-e-oke Sing-Along is
a cleverly-titled section that allows you to sing along with a handful of the
film’s best-known songs.
The aforementioned Classic DVD Bonus Features (in standard definition) is here, too
and it includes: deleted scenes; backstage Disney; music and more; an audio
commentary with John Musker, Ron Clements, and composer Alan Menken; Disneypedia: Life Under the Sea; Behind the Ride That Almost Wasn’t; and Under the Sea Adventure: A Virtual Ride
Inspired by Disney Imagineers.
This 2-disc diamond edition contains a
standard DVD of the film and a digital copy. The bonus features included are: Part
of Her World: Jodi Benson’s Voyage to New Fantasyland, classic deleted
scenes, an alternate version of “Fathoms Below,” and a Fight with Ursula/alternate
All in all, this is a great package of
a now classic film, making the upgrade to Blu-ray well worth it. A great idea for Christmas!
This ‘jewel in
the nation’s crown’ is being re-released to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of its first broadcast which took
place on 31st October 1973
The World at War
is regarded by many to be one of the greatest documentary series of all time.
This BAFTA and Emmy Award winning documentary series, which was first broadcast
40 years ago, was the first factual series of its kind to document the full
history of World War II. The series was memorably narrated by legendary screen
actor and stage icon
The World at War
has been inspiring film makers and historians for the past 40 years including
such programmes as the BBC’s ‘Nazis a Warning from History’, produced by
Laurence Reece, and more recently Oliver Stone’s ‘Untold History of the United
States’ , both series creators’ laying claim to being inspired by The World at
The World at War was conceived and produced by Sir
Jeremy Isaacs and was first broadcast on the ITV Network on the 31st October 1973. Making use of of rare black and
white and colour film archive footage supplied by the Imperial War Museum, this
26 part documentary series investigates the events surrounding World War II and
features interviews with major members of the Allied and Axis campaigns,
including civilian eyewitnesses, enlisted men, officers, government advisors
and politicians, to create what is widely agreed to be the definitive history
of World War II and a landmark in British television history.
In 2010 the series went through a major
digital restoration upgrade to HD - the archive film used in the series is the
only World War II footage of its kind to be restored and remastered to HD 16.9
and 5.1 Sound.
Lord Olivier provided brilliant narration for the series.
DVD & Blu-ray
RRP: DVD Price: £79.99
RRP: Blu-ray Price:
Discs: DVD 11
Discs: Blu-ray 9
Running time: DVD 739mins
Running time: Blu-ray769mins
Catalogue No: DVD
Barcode: DVD 5030697017918
Region: 0 for both DVD &
The World at
War 40th Anniversary release is distributed by
FremantleMedia Home Entertainment and is available from all good DVD
stockists online and in store
from 31st October 2013.
Cinema Retro mourns the passing of director Richard C. Sarafian, who has passed away at age 83. Sarafian may not be a household name but in the film industry he was held in great regard, especially by maverick younger directors like Quentin Tarantino who emulated his work and style. Crusty, outspoken and often littering his sentences with curses that would make a longshoreman blush, Sarafian was an uncompromising man when it came to his personal visions of how his movies should be constructed. He started off directing episodes of classic TV series including I Spy and Batman and his best known work from the 1960s is the eerie "Living Doll" episode of The Twilight Zone in which Telly Savalas as a cruel stepfather gets his comeuppance at the hands of possessed toy doll. Sarafian graduated into feature films and directed the movie which gained him fame, if not fortune: Vanishing Point, the 1971 action film that included ground breaking car chases that influenced action films for decades to come. (Like most superior works, it spawned an inferior remake.) In interview with Cinema Retro for issue #12, Sarafian said the experience of making the movie was not a happy one. Studio brass insisted on re-editing the movie and taking most of the nuance out of the story. He was also dissatisfied with having to cast Barry Newman in the lead, as he had been hoping the studio would sign either George C. Scott or Gene Hackman. The film laid an egg at the boxoffice but with the advent of home video it became a cult classic. Sarafian had more troubles on the set of the 1973 Western The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing starring Burt Reynolds. During production, a mysterious murder took place on the set that gained the production notorious headlines around the world. Sarafian was more satisfied with Man in the Wilderness starring Richard Harris and John Huston. He also directed the 1976 Sean Connery thriller The Next Man. By 1988, however, his career was in decline due to his refusal to toe the line with studio executives and the fact that some of his films were not successful. He hoped a high profile disaster movie titled Solar Crisis would reignite his career but he went over budget and once again clashed with the studio. Sarafian called the finished film a mess and had his name removed from the credits. In more recent years, he dabbled in acting, playing small character roles in high profile movies.
On a personal note, Sarafian was a great fan of Cinema Retro and would occasionally call this writer to discuss specific issues.Even when he praised an article, it was with plenty of expletives attached. A refreshing aspect of Sarafian's personality is that, while he detested studio "suits", he also didn't shy away from taking personal responsibility for some films he deemed to be artistic failures. Needless to say, he was a one-of-a-kind talent and movie lovers everywhere will mourn his passing.
Author and screenwriter William Boyd is the latest noted author to take a crack at writing a one-shot James Bond novel. Solo is set in 1969 and involves the adventures of a 45 year old 007. Boyd says his story ideas caused some controversy among members of Ian Fleming's family, which still retain rights to his work. Boyd admires Fleming's writing style but feels says that the original novels are now a bit cringe-inducing to read in terms of their treatment of women and minorities. He says that Solo reflects a more modern attitude and avoids sexism and racism. The novel is due to be released this week. Click here to read more.
HBO has made a deal with executive producers J.J. Arbrams and Jerry Weintraub to buy a pilot for a TV series based on Michael Crichton's thriller Westworld. The story was already made into a hit 1973 MGM film starring Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin and James Brolin. If the story line remains consistent, it will involve the establishment of a high end amusement park where people can live out their most extreme fantasies. The park features exact period recreations of various eras of history with the gimmick that highly sophisticated robots are intermingled with the guests and are indistinguishable from the humans, who can use or abuse them as their fantasies dictate. Things go wrong when a design flaw in the control program allows the robots to think for themselves and rebel against their human masters. For more click here
Director James Whale's impact on early sound cinema cannot be overstated. His classics Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein are as revered as ever by critics and retro movie lovers. On the TCM Movie Morlocks blog, writer Kimberly Lindbergs delves into Whale's psychological state and examines how his experiences in WWI might have influenced his films...and possibly led to his suicide in 1957. Click here to read
Sony has released the original soundtrack to Robert Altman's 1970 anti-war comedy M*A*S*H as a burn-to-order title. The original vinyl version of the soundtrack, issued in conjunction with the film, was considered quite unique at the time because the bulk of the tracks consisted of dialogue from the film as opposed to composer Johnny Mandel's score. A criticism was that the original release only provided a truncated vocal version of the main theme, which is actually titled Suicide is Painless. In 1995, a remastered CD of the soundtrack was released with the full version of the song along with some bonus tracks and it is this version that has just been reissued by Sony. With the exception of the brilliant title theme, most of Mandel's amusing score is only heard in snippets, with the dialogue from the film still providing the basis for the content. It's rather odd to remember that in the pre-home video era, listening to dialogue from a film such as this was a rare treat. The success of the subsequent TV series has led many people to forget that there initially was an Oscar-nominated film that inspired the show. Thus, you can relive the zany wisecracks of the original Hawkeye and Trapper John (Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould) interacting with Hot Lips (Sally Kellerman), Frank Burns (Robert Duvall) and Radar (Gary Burghoff, the only cast member carried over from the film to the TV series). A third lead in the film was Duke Forrest, played by Tom Skerritt, but the character was not imported to the TV show, though he is present on the album.
With the dialogue compromising the bulk of the soundtrack, you can at least revel in Suicide is Painless in its uncut glory. The song was deemed too controversial for TV so an instrumental version was used on the series. The brilliance of the lyrics resonate even today, as the gentle, seemingly benign folk song extols the joys of offing oneself. Shockingly, the lyrics were written by Robert Altman's 14 year-old son, though he did not receive a screen but is said to have made a fortune in royalties over the decades.
The M*A*S*H soundtrack is certainly an oddity, coming at a time when albums derived from hit films consisted entirely of music. However, if Altman broke the rules with his off-the-wall anti-Establishment gags, it seems only suitable that the soundtrack did the same. It's a great deal of fun to return to the days when audio snippets of your favorite films were as close as you could get to experiencing them, at least until cut-up, watered down versions would be released to television.
The Penthouse production of Caligula raised more than a few eyebrows with the last minute decision to insert hardcore sex scenes.
On the heels of the news that the leading actors had been cast for the film adaptation of the steamy S&M-laced bestseller Fifty Shades of Gray, the web site Do You Remember takes a stroll down memory lane and looks at other notorious major releases that are primarily remembered for their sexual content. Click here to indulge.
Last evening I had the pleasure of being invited to attend the New York Philharmonic's tribute to the films of Alfred Hitchcock. The unique two-night event at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center had commenced on Tuesday with an evening hosted by Alec Baldwin (who helped conceive of the tribute's format.) Last evening, the closing night's performance was hosted by Sam Waterson, who provided insights into the films chosen for inclusion and the composers who created the memorable scores. Under the banner The Art of the Score, master conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos lead orchestra in a presentation of flawlessly performed original music from specific Hitchcock films in synch with dialogue from the film clips shown. It's an impressive feat, given the fact that being off timing by a mere second could wreak havoc on the concept. The film scores honored were To Catch a Thief (Lyn Murray), Vertigo (Bernard Herrmann), Strangers on a Train (Dimitri Tiomkin), Dial M for Murder (Tiomkin), North By Northwest (Herrmann) and Hitchcock's amusing signature theme, Funeral March of a Marionette which was composed by Charles Gounod in 1872. The entire main title sequences of each film were shown as the orchestra performed the themes. The effect was truly wonderful, with both Kitsopoulos and the orchestra in top form. One became even more aware of how vital Hitchcock's composers were to the quality of his films. What struck me is how such unabashedly lush and often romantic scores have been relegated to the past in today's film industry in which composers are relegated to the status of necessary evils. The work of these masters will be performed for generations after today's largely nondescript film scores have long been forgotten. The strongest part of the performance came after the intermission with particularly effective sequences and music from Dial M for Murder and North By Northwest having a mesmerizing effect on the audience. You could have heard a pin drop. The latter film, which boasts what is arguably Herrmann's greatest score, seemed to be the performance that resonated most with the audience. The concept of having dialogue included in the film clips did not sit well with everyone. My wife, for example, felt that the magnificence of the orchestra was undermined by the inclusion of dialogue in the clips. She maintained that the orchestra was so flawless that the viewer lost sight of the fact that it was a live performance and not simply the original soundtrack being played on celluloid. The Gounod piece, for example, was presented over silent home movies of Hitchcock. The concept could have worked brilliantly but someone diluted the impact by inter-cutting snippets of the trailer from North By Northwest in which Hitchcock makes amusing witticisms about world travel. It might well be more effective if future presentations designed along similar lines presented the film clips without the dialogue and perhaps inter-cut them with still images so that the full effect of the orchestra could resonate even better with audience. Nevertheless, any evening at Avery Fisher Hall is a special occasion and this was a masterful tribute to a master director.
Veering off topic for a bit, I do have to be a bit of a grouch, though it has nothing to do with the venue or the orchestra. Rather, it concerns the behavior of audience members. True, they sat in rapt attention during the entire performance. However, at the end of the program, the maestro had barely lowered his baton before a quarter of the audience scrambled for the exit doors, like the sequence in Hitchcock's Torn Curtain in which a false alarm about a fire causes pandemonium. There was a time when audience members would be too ashamed to leave such a grand performance before the orchestra even took its first bow. Just how important is it to get the first cab or get to the parking lot before anyone else? This trend is nothing new. I've noticed it at Broadway plays. Half the audience is gone before the applause even kicks in at the finale. We all know New Yorkers are perpetually in a hurry but there was a time when a sense of manners and decorum would have trumped their impatience. The audience members who remained to applaud seemed to go out of their way to compensate for those who jumped ship early. I dunno. I guess its a sign of the times. In an era when people look to the casts of Jersey Shore and Duck Dynasty for their role models, it's no surprise we're not seeing the likes of Noel Coward sitting next to us in the audience. Their rudeness and lack of courtesy may not have been intended as a slap in the face of the brilliant artists who performed last night, but the result was the same.
If you were a boy growing up in the mid-1960s, chances are you had the Man From U.N.C.L.E Thrushbuster Corgi car. Not only did it come in cool packaging that included a display stand with photos of Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, but you also got a plastic ring with their photos on it. The ring would "flicker" and alternate the image of each actor. The well-made car was also pretty groovy- you pressed a button on top and Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin would alternately shoot out of the side windows. (The add says there were sound effects for the gun shots but we don't recall this being the case). Most of the cars were painted blue but there were a small number of them available in white paint. These can now command hundreds of dollars on the collector's circuit. Here is an original ad for the car from the Moonbase Central web site.
Here's an unlikely pairing. It happened at the 1971 Grammy Awards when John Wayne presented the award for Best Motion Picture score. After insufferable small talk with Andy Williams, the Duke reads the winners: George Harrison, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney for their score for Let It Be. Of course the Beatles were going kaput around that time, but Paul McCartney did dash up to the stage (with wife Linda) to utter a brief "Thank you" before running off again. Still, it's a fascinating pairing: Duke Wayne and Paul McCartney.
Director Franklin J. Schaffner was fresh off his Best Director Oscar triumph for Patton when he teamed with legendary producer Sam Spiegel for the historical epic Nicholas and Alexandra. The film was an adaptation of a best-selling book by Robert K. Massie that traced the tragic events leading to the assassination of Russia's last czar, along with his entire family. With a screenplay by the esteemed James Goldman (The Lion in Winter), the film had the potential to be another Spiegel classic. After all, Spiegel had teamed with director David Lean to produce two of the great cinematic masterpieces: The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia. Despite their mutual triumphs, Lean (like most people in the film industry) came to loathe the gruff Spiegel, whose mercurial temper knew no bounds. He would chastise gaffers and esteemed directors alike and Lean had had enough. When he began production on his 1965 blockbuster Doctor Zhivago, Spiegel's ego was bruised because Lean had teamed this time with producer Carlo Ponti. If Lean had made a boxoffice smash out of the Russian Revolution, Spiegel would prove he could do the same thing. Thus, Nicholas and Alexandra was borne more out of revenge than inspiration. In addition to hiring Schaffner for the project, Spiegel conspicuously brought two key members of the Zhivago team with him: production designer John Box and cinematographer Freddie Young. However, Spiegel's finances were not adequate to afford the big name stars he had hoped to cast in the lead roles. Thus, he was forced to cast relative unknowns from the British stage: Michael Jayston and Janet Suzman. To give the film some boxoffice allure, he cast a "Who's Who" of British acting royalty in supporting roles, comprised of legendary established stars and up-and-comers. They included Laurence Olivier, Michael Redgrave, Brian Cox, Ian Holm, Jack Hawkins (whose part was dubbed due to the actor's recent throat surgery), Harry Andrews, Tom Baker, John Wood, Roy Dotrice, Alexander Knox, Eric Porter and Timothy West.
The story, steeped in historical accuracy, finds Nicholas ill-prepared to serve as czar over a troubled Russia beset by devastating economic conditions. With the majority of his people facing starvation and a daily struggle to survive, Nicholas resides in palatial splendor in Petersburg with his headstrong wife, Alexandra. Nicholas is a good man in his own way. He cares about the peasants but lives in a bubble that prevents him from relating to their day-to-lives. Born of privilege, he knows no other life. The Romanovs have ruled Russia for three hundred consecutive years and he sees no reason for the tradition to stop with his dynasty. He is delighted when Alexandra presents him with a male heir to the throne, but the boy is sickly and suffers from life-threatening hemophilia. Still, it's a happy family with Nicholas doting over his daughters and young son. He seems oblivious that there is great resentment towards his wife, who manipulates his every move and keeps him cut off from personal friends. He ignores warnings from his ministers that he must tone down Alexandra's lavish spending habits, especially during the poor economic climate. A protest by peasants in 1905 builds tension further when a mishap causes the army to fire on the people, slaughtering hundreds of them. The seeds of revolution continue to grow with the agitator Lenin leading the charge in hopes of establishing a Bolshevik ruling party and deposing the czar. Nicholas' ill-fated decision to enter WWI against Germany brings about catastrophic results. Not only are his armies no match against the Kaiser's but Alexandra is of German heritage, which further builds public resentment against her. As Russian forces face devastating defeats on the battlefields, revolution spreads quickly through the country. Lenin's popularity grows, especially when he promises to make immediate peace with Germany if he is given power. Before long, the czar finds himself essentially powerless. He and his family are arrested but he still believes they will live an idyllic and peaceful life in exile. Instead, they are shunted between distant locations and housed in barely-livable conditions as the new order debates their fate. As we all know, it is a tragic one with Nicholas and his family abruptly shot to death by an assassination squad.
These dramatic developments play out slowly but in an interesting manner throughout the film's 183 minute running time. The performances are all first rate, with Jayston especially good as the sympathetic (if clueless) czar. Suzman is every bit his match as the egotistical Alexandra and each member of the supporting cast provides a gem of a performance, with Olivier and Harry Andrews especially impressive and Tom Baker stealing the entire movie with his mesmerizing performance as Rasputin, the crazed monk who had a Svengali-like influence over Alexandra, much to her husband's disgust. Yet, despite those attributes and a rich production design, the film never emotionally moves the viewer as much as one would expect. The characters remain somewhat opaque and the great historical events that affect them are only given marginal background and explanation. Schaffner clearly wanted to emphasize personal relationships over visual splendor and by and large he succeeded. However, there is some emotional component missing here. He crafted an impressive movie on many levels but one that perhaps did not fulfill its ultimate potential. The movie was greeted with the customary (some would say obligatory) Oscar nominations generally accorded historical epics. It was nominated for 6 awards (including nods for Best Picture and Actress) and won in two technical categories. Nevertheless, overall critical response was mixed and the film was considered a boxoffice disappointment. Schaffner would go on to make three more impressive films (Papillon, Islands in the Stream and The Boys From Brazil) and several flops before passing away in 1989 at age 69. Spiegel never regained the mojo he once enjoyed in the industry. He would only make two more relatively low-key films (The Last Tycoon, Betrayal) before he died in 1985 at age 84.
Twilight Time has released a magnificent Blu-ray edition of Nicholas and Alexandra, limited to 3,000 region-free units. The transfer is superb and this release maintains the original intermission break. Bonus features include an isolated track of Richard Rodney Bennett's impressive score, the original trailer and four very interesting vintage production featurettes, as well as an illustrated collector's booklet with scholarly notes by Julie Kirgo (almost worth the price of the Blu-ray alone). Nicholas and Alexandra may not be the classic Spiegel and Schaffner had envisioned, but in this age of dumbed-down action movies, it plays much better than it did upon its initial release in 1971. It's a film that educates even as it entertains and should be a part of any retro movie lover's home video collection.
Following on the successful premise of burn-to-order DVDs, Sony has expanded the process to its audio line, re-issuing retro-based albums on CD that have not been officially available for decades. One of the more notable releases is Come Spy With Me by Hugo Montenegro and His Orchestra. Montenegro composed original themes for TV series and feature films during the 1960s including Lady in Cement, the Matt Helm movies The Ambushers and The Wrecking Crew as well as the music for the 1969 John Wayne-Rock Hudson starrer The Undefeated. However, his greatest success was as the king of cover versions of popular movie and TV themes. Montenegro's album of cover music from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (nevertheless released as the "original" soundtrack) was so successful that it spawned a sequel album. Similarly, his cover version of Ennio Morricone's magnificent theme for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly became an international smash and earned him a gold record despite the fact that his rendition was positively anemic compared to Morricone's original. Nevertheless, Montenegro and his orchestra knew how to arrange music for popular tastes and his future influence on the music industry was characterized by helping to popularize the Moog synthesizer. Among his more successful albums was the aforementioned Come Spy With Me, the title of which was derived from a 1967 low-grade James Bond spoof. Nevertheless, it had a catchy title theme (originally written by Bob Flowers) and the cover of Montenegro's album had some eye-catching graphics of comely spy girls. The tracks include Montenegro's instrumental version of Come Spy With Me (the original had lyrics) as well an eclectic selection of title tracks from popular TV series and feature films:
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
Our Man Flint
The James Bond Theme
Purists may balk at Montenegro's jazzy and often funky renditions of these themes, but if his purpose was to simply emulate the originals there would be no point in producing this album.
It's terrific to have a retro treasure like this back in circulation. Break out your old smoking jacket, grab a fine cigar and pour yourself a glass of wine...for the duration of this record, you'll be transported back to the glory days of spy movie music and the cover artists who celebrated the genre.
One of our favorite late career John Wayne movies is McQ, which finds the Duke as a tough detective tearing up Seattle to avenge the murder of his partner...and uncovering corruption in the top levels of the police department. The film presents one of the most exciting car chases of the era. Click here to watch the original trailer
In an interview with The Guardian, screen legend Claudia Cardinale looks back on her remarkable career and recalls the great actors and directors she worked with. Cardinale is still making movies and claims that acting is her life's passion. Click here to read. Click here to visit Cardinale's official web site
film fans tend to have very memorable impressions of when they saw a thriller
that impacted them strongly. On Friday,
May 9, 1980, I watched the John Guillermin
version of King Kong on a rerun on
NBC-TV and eagerly discussed it the following day with my Boy Scout troupe on
our way into New York to visit the United Nations building. Walking through the New York streets was
quite an education in many ways, not the least of which was our journey through
the theater district along 42nd Street. On
the way, we saw movie marquee displays for pornographic movies (yikes!!) and
comedies such as Don Adams’ The Nude Bomb.
the 13th had just opened up the previous day, and a theater displayed lobby
cards depicting images from the film. One of them contained an image of a woman
screaming at a man who had been impaled on a wall with arrows. This was the first time I had seen such a graphic
image and it really made me wonder what the rest of the movie consisted of. I remember being really disturbed by it. It would be another seven years before I
would see Friday the 13th
on a local television station airing and I must admit that I found the film to
be mediocre at best. John Carpenter's Halloween (1978), which I had seen five
years earlier, was more my cup of tea. I
found that film to be truly gripping
and tense. Years later I caught up with
the DVD release of Friday the 13th, however,
my reaction was still the same. I
suppose if I had seen the film when I was considerably younger it quite
possibly would have terrified me. One person it did terrify was author David Grove, one of the world’s foremost
authorities on this watershed horror film. He was just nine years-old when he caught a local television airing of
the film. He hasn't been the same since!
On Location in
Blairstown: The Making of Friday the 13th is the excellent new
book by Mr. Grove which should delight fans of the first in this now (in)famous
horror film franchise. Illustrated with nearly
300 black and white photos and written with the cooperation of people both in
front of and behind the camera, the book is an in-depth look at the making of a
film that made horror fans out of young kids. What is remarkable is that they (like Yours Truly) are still horror film fans to this day. It appears to be a life-long love that
doesn’t waver. If you have read the
excellent behind-the-scenes look at Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975) in JAWS: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard, this book is the
product of the same labor of love.
well researched, the book takes the reader through the film's humble beginnings
in 1979, from getting the cast and crew together, the script revisions to the
final draft, to the start of filming the day after Labor Day in September. The author draws parallels between the film
and the aforementioned predecessor, Halloween,
and also points out the differences between the two.
bulk of the book takes the reader to the actual physical locations where the
film was shot. As a traveler who loves
to go to the locations where my favorite horror movies were made, I only
discovered roughly five years ago that this film had been shot in my home state
of New Jersey! Yes, the Internet is a
wonderful tool. Armed with screenshots from
the film and directions from Google Maps, a friend of mine and I sought out as
many of the locations that are covered in this book, with the exception of Camp
NoBeBoSco, better known in the film as Camp Crystal Lake. Camp NoBeBoSco, where the bulk of the story
takes place, is actually a Boy Scout camp, and I only got as far as the
entrance. I have read about and heard
from friends that the inhabitants of this camp do not appreciate outsiders
trying to sneak in and have a look around, despite the film’s popularity. You
would think that they would set it up so that people could pay to stay there; I
would think that they would make a killing (pun most definitely intended). Then again, the camp would require an
enormous amount of upkeep as a result of the inevitable visitors who would try
to dismantle and take pieces of the remaining cabins as souvenirs!
makeup effects artist Tom Savini created what remains of Jason Voorhees, the
poor soul who drowned at the hands of distracted camp sitters. He speaks at length of his experiences on the
film. The book also nicely discusses where the cast ended up following the
film’s wrap and subsequent release.
may not be a fan of Friday the 13th,
but I have to acknowledge its place in the history of the horror genre and give
kudos to Mr. Grove for having written such an interesting, in-depth look at the
making of this film. As a result of his
tremendous efforts, I am going to revisit the film with a different point of
view. My appreciation for Friday the 13th and director
Sean Cunningham’s inexorable quest to get it made has grown as a result of this
must-have for Friday the 13th
completists and horror film fans alike.
Despite his aversion to making public appearances or attending awards shows (he has even shunned the Oscars when nominated), Woody Allen will receive the prestigious Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award at next year's Golden Globe ceremonies, to be telecast on January 14. For more click here
Ray Dolby, who is credited for revolutionizing the way sound was utilized in the motion picture industry, has died at age 80. Dolby's contributions to the film industry are largely taken for granted in today's era of special effects-driven, big budget movies. However, for those who first experienced the impact of the Dolby sound, the memories will resonate through their lives. The first Dolby sound system effect (which reduced background noise and ensured a crystal clean sound) was implemented in 1971 for Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange. The younger generation of filmmakers, including Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, would find the Dolby effect to be an essential part of their films and created sound-driven action sequences to highlight Dolby's achievements. For NY Times obituary, click here
George A. Romero's Day of the Dead
premiered on Friday, July 19, 1985, it was released in the same fashion that
his Dawn of the Dead was distributed seven
years earlier, which is to say without an MPAA rating.The poster sported the caveat (or allure,
depending on your point of view): “Due to scenes of violence, which may be
considered shocking, no one under 17 admitted.”Widely considered as an independent maverick in the film industry, Mr.
Romero once again decided not to submit his film to the ratings board knowing
full well that they would demand extensive cuts, leaving most of Tom Savini and
Greg Nicotero’s best work on the cutting room floor.One of the major problems with releasing a
film unrated is that the perception is that it is, in fact, a self-imposed
X-rating. An “X” generally means death
at the box office, unless you’re Marlon Brando doing the tango in Paris. Also, most major newspapers refuse to carry
ads for such fare.In addition, the film
opened two weeks after Robert Zemeckis’s wildly successful Back to the Future, which was still doing incredibly well at the
box office.As a horror fan four months
shy of my 17th birthday, I was unable to see it theatrically. Like most of my contemporaries, I caught up
with it on home video some years later. Having already seen Night of the Living Dead (1968) and it’s
(in)famous sequel which takes place in a shopping mall, the aforementioned Dawn, I didn’t know what to expect from Day.
some ways, it’s difficult to accept the fact that Dawn is sandwiched between Night
and Day. Night, which was shot in black and white and tells the story from
the lead character’s point of view by giving the characters information slowly
just as the audience is taking in all of the dreadful occurrences that are
happening to them, can also be viewed as a much more macabre version of an
episode of The Twilight Zone. However, there is a grimness to Night that makes it one of the scariest
movies ever made. Dawn, on the other hand, takes this same scenario of the zombies
out for human flesh and adds a very humorous stance to it. There is even a sequence where a motorcycle
gang throws pies in the faces of the slowly stumbling zombies. Day,
on the other hand, is much more serious in tone and is clearly the most depressing
of the three films. I must admit that at
the time that I saw this film, I never would have guessed that over 20 years
later The Walking Dead, a television
series based upon a graphic novel wherein a select group of strangers band
together against an unnamed contagion outbreak and are forced to fend for
themselves, would go on to become one of television’s most gripping, entertaining,
violent and popular shows. Audiences’s
appetite for this type of horrific material only seems to be on the
loved Day when I first saw it, and it
is my second favorite after the classic Night. Most people choose Dawn as their favorite, however, probably because they saw it when
they weren’t supposed to! Day introduces us to a completely
different set of characters and actors. It begins with a brilliant sequence that jolts the audience out of
complacency and puts them on edge for the rest of the film. Sarah (Lori Cardille), John (Terry
Alexander), McDermott (Jarlath Conroy), and Miguel (Anthony Dileo Jr.) are part
of an underground army compound in the Florida Everglades trying desperately to
understand how to cure the contagion outbreak. They have limited resources and are being watched by Captain Henry
Rhodes (Joe Pilato, in a performace that Siskel and Ebert labeled as shameless
overacting, but he’s actually really terrific and has some of the most quotable
dialogue in the film) and his lackeys Steele (Gary Howard Klar) and Rickels (Ralph
Marrero). Meanwhile, Dr. Logan (the late
Richard Liberty) is experimenting with live and dead zombies in an effort to understand
them and control them so that they can become obedient. Dr. Fisher (John Amplas) is a scientist who also
attempts to mediate between Dr. Logan and Capt. Rhodes, however communication
between these parties begins to break down and supplies start to slowly run out. Mistakes are made, and Miguel is bitten by a
zombie, leaving Sarah to amputate his arm and burn the wound to inhibit the
spread of infection.
Logan continues his experiments, this time on a restrained zombie named “Bub” whose
child-like behavior suggests that his memory works, at least partially. Sarah is disgusted to find that he is using
body parts as food to reward Bub for correctly performing tasks; she plans to
escape with her loyal confederates but is stopped by Capt. Rhodes who freaks
out and kills Dr. Logan. All hell breaks
loose and chaos ensues, resulting in some truly amazing makeup work by Tom
Savini and Greg Nicotero.
Day of the Dead has been released in
many different formats. The latest is a Blu-ray release this month from the fine
folks at Scream Factory who never cease to amaze me with their tireless efforts
on countless new Blu-rays of old horror favorites. Their transfer of the film in high definition
is the best that Day has ever looked
on home video. If you own the 2003
Divimax two-disc set from Anchor Bay, hold on to it because two of the extras
from that fine set have not been carried over to the Blu-ray: the audio interview
with Richard Liberty and the 39-minute original documentary The Many Days of Day of the Dead.
exclusive and new cover art by artist Nathan Thomas Wilner and a flip-over
cover which has the original one-sheet poster art.
World’s End: The
Legacy of Day of the Dead (85:26), a brand-new high definition documentary that
discusses the making of the film in Pennsylvania. Many of the people involved in the film’s
production are interviewed here.
commentary with George Romero, Tom Savini, Cletus Anderson (production
designer) and Lori Cardille
is ported over from the Anchor Bay disc)
commentary with film director Roger Avary, an admitted fan of the film (this is
ported over from the Anchor Bay disc)
Day of the Dead:
Behind the Scenes
(30:42) – This is Tom Savini’s production footage that details his extensive
makeup effects used during filming in late 1984 (this is ported over from the
Anchor Bay disc, however the beginning is a little different). Shot in standard definition on either VHS,
VHS-C or 8mm video.
(08:12) is ported over from the Anchor Bay disc and was called Gateway Commerce
Center Promo on that edition. It takes
viewers on a tour of the underground location where Day was filmed. Presented in
Underground: The Day
of the Dead Mines
(07:37) – Hosted by Ed Demko of Cult Magazine, this new, high definition look
into the mines where Day was filmed
makes one wonder how the cast and crew fared while shooting. Skip Docchio, a facility tech who worked in
the mines for 32 years, was on hand during shooting and recounts his
memories. Mr. Demko humorously recites
some of the film’s dialogue.
trailers (05:55) – There are four trailers provided here, and several of them
seem like promotional items at film festivals.
Spots (01:35) – There are three spots here, all making a point to emphasize
that the film has not been rated.
Gallery – this consists of behind the scenes shots, locations where the film
was shot, posters/lobby cards (remember when they made those?), and a
miscellaneous section that includes images of past video releases.
disc is highly recommended. It would be
wonderful if Scream Factory could get their hands on Mr. Romero’s Creepshow. I have the Region 2 two-disc special edition DVD
and the documentary is almost as long as the film itself. Creepshow
needs a Blu-ray release and Scream Factory is the company to do it!
Did anyone even know a sequel to Easy Rider was in the works? Suddenly, it is upon us. Easy Rider: The Ride Back follows the life and adventures of the son of Wyatt Willliams (aka "Captain America", played by Peter Fonda in the 1969 classic). We don't know how the new team of filmmakers scored the rights to a film that was so contentious between Fonda and his co-star and director Dennis Hopper that they could never agree on a concept for a follow-up. A trailer has been released for the film, which opens later this month. We hate to judge a book by its cover but the trailer looks pretty awful...like a low-brow attempt to rip off the original, with some unconvincing Vietnam footage and plenty of tits and ass tossed in for the male audience. On the up side, two great character actors have prominent roles: Michael Nouri and Rance Howard, so let's all just hope for the best.- Lee Pfeiffer Click here for more and to view trailer.
The film-related web site NixPix offers a fascinating and insightful interview with Nick Redman, a noted film historian and co-founder of the boutique DVD label Twilight Time. Redman discusses his involvement in the early days of the home video industry when he worked as an archivist for Fox, pushing for the release of classic soundtracks sometimes in conjunction with deluxe laser disc editions. Redman also talks about the discovery of reels of rare silent footage from Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch that was ultimately transformed into the Oscar-nominated documentary The Wild Bunch: An Album in Montage. Redman discusses the DVD boom of the late 1990s and its recent downturn as a result of the financial meltdown along with the public's insistence for "on-demand" product. He also talks about the origins of Twilight Time and the label's plans for future releases. Click here to read
Robert Vaughn will return to the stage in a high profile London production of Twelve Angry Men, commencing in November. The show will have a try out run in Birmingham before replacing the long-running Rock of Ages show in the West End of London. The classic drama by Reginald Rose has been a staple of international stage dramas since it debuted in the 1950s. The 1957 feature film version was the first movie directed by Sidney Lumet. For Robert Vaughn, the show represents a return to England where he only recently completed filming his long-running hit TV series Hustle. The former Man From U.N.C.L.E. star lived in England during the 1970s but now makes his home in Connecticut. For more click here
Warner Brothers has released a plot synopsis and more casting choices for the long-planned Man From U.N.C.L.E. feature film set to go into production in England shortly. Apparently, the script will have the characters of Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin presented, not as friends, but as adversaries who are reluctantly teamed to help prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Guy Ritchie will direct. For more click here
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from Sony:
CITY, CALIF. (September 9, 2013) –
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment cooks up a
full batch on Nov. 26 when BREAKING BAD: THE COMPLETE SERIES comes to Blu-ray™ in its entirety. One of the
most explosive series ever to air on television, the 16-disc set is this year’s
must-have gift for the holiday season, complete with all 62 episodes and more
than 55 hours of special features. Starring three-time Emmy® winner Bryan Cranston (Outstanding
Lead Actor in a Drama Series) alongside two-time Emmy® winner Aaron
Paul (Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series), the critically acclaimed
drama from Sony Pictures Television boasts one of television’s most radical storylines,
giving viewers a glimpse into the life of how far a man might go in order to
take care of the ones he loves. “Bryan
Cranston is still turning in a transformative, unimpeachable performance as
Walt, who remains one of the greatest dramatic creations ever to grace our TV
screens,” hails USA Today’s Robert Bianco.
who are addicted to the series and itching for another hit can now indulge in more than
two-hours of never-before-seen footage in a ground-breaking series documentary
exclusively in the box set, which comes packaged in a collectible replica
barrel representing part of Walter White’s dark legacy. The all-new documentary chronicles the making
of the final season, from filming the first table read to the very last day on
set and everything in between, including Bryan Cranston inviting the camera in
to his Albuquerque living room for the first reading of the final script with
Aaron Paul. The box set also contains all
bonus features from previously released seasons (including retail exclusives
formerly only available in select stores), a Los Pollos Hermanos apron and a collectible
booklet with a letter from Gilligan, as well as a commemorative Breaking Bad
challenge coin designed and created by Gilligan exclusively for this set as a
token of appreciation to fans for making the Breaking Bad journey.
The dark series includes an exceptional ensemble cast with Anna Gunn
(TV’s “Deadwood”), Dean Norris (TV’s “Under the Dome”), Betsy Brandt (TV’s “Michael J. Fox Show”), RJ Mitte
and Bob Odenkirk (The Spectacular Now).
BREAKING BAD was created by writer/director/producer Vince
Gilligan (TV’s “The X-Files”), who also served as executive producer with
Academy Award® winner Mark Johnson (Rain Man, 1988’s Best Picture)
Michelle MacLaren (TV’s “The X-Files”). Co-executive producers of the series
include Melissa Bernstein (TV’s Rectify),
Sam Catlin (TV’s “Canterbury’s Law”), George Mastras (TV’s “The Dresden
Files”), Peter Gould (TV’s “Too Big To Fail”), Thomas Schnauz (TV’s “The
X-Files”) and Moira Walley-Beckett (TV’s “Pan Am”). Stewart A. Lyons served as
Line Producer/UPM. Cranston and Diane Mercer (TV’s “Arrested Development”) are
producers of the series. The series is produced by High Bridge and Gran Via
Productions in association with Sony Pictures Television for AMC.
BAD follows protagonist
Walter White (Cranston), a chemistry teacher who lives in New Mexico with his
wife (Gunn) and teenage son (Mitte) who has cerebral palsy. White is diagnosed
with Stage III cancer and given a slim chance to survive. With a new sense of
fearlessness based on his medical prognosis, and a desire to secure his
family's financial security, White chooses to enter a dangerous world of drugs
and crime and ascends to power in this world. The series explores how this
fatal diagnosis transforms Walt from mild family man to a kingpin of the drug
BREAKING BAD: THE COMPLETE SERIES Barrel Set Special Features
Measures: Creating the Final Season of Breaking Bad - An
all-new, exclusive two hour documentary that chronicles the filming of the
final eight episodes.
bonus features include all previously released featurettes and retail
Memories – Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul talk about the show ending and some
of their favorite moments.
Cranston: Director – Go on set with Bryan Cranston as he directs the first episode of
the season entitled "Blood Money."
Envy – The Cast tell us which scene they wish they could have been
Moments - The stars reveal the moments that shocked them most.
Walt to Heisenberg – From high school teacher to deadly meth dealer, watch as Walter
White quickly transforms into Heisenberg.
Will It End? – At the beginning of the season, the cast was asked to give their
thoughts on how they thought the show would end.
Agent: Dean Norris as Hank Schrader -- A look at the character Hank
Schrader and the man who played him, Dean Norris.
Stealer: Betsy Brandt as Marie Schrader – A look at the character
Marie Schrader and the woman who plays her, Betsy Brandt.
Criminal Attorney: Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman –A
look at the character Saul Goodman and the man who played him, Bob
Journey: Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman – A look at the
character Jesse Pinkman and the man who played him, Aaron Paul.
Breaks Bad: Anna Gunn on Season Four – Actress Anna Gunn and
series creator Vince Gilligan explore Skyler’s character evolution through the
Up in the White House: RJ Mitte on Walter, Jr. – RJ
Mitte, Anna Gunn, Bryan Cranston and series creator Vince Gilligan discuss the
extraordinary dynamics of the White family, and Walter, Jr.’s unique role.
Ultimate Chess Match – Members of the cast and crew discuss Walter
White and Gus Fring’s extraordinary and complicated battle of wits and their
struggle for Jesse’s allegiance.
Back: A Season Four Retrospective - Season Four’s most
surprising and memorable moments.
Wipeout – In Episode 411, “Crawl Space,” Ted Beneke suffers a head injury
while trying to escape from Saul’s goons. In this featurette, Christopher Cousins (Ted) explains how this shocking
stunt was accomplished.
Truck Attack Storyboard Comparison – A side-by-side comparison of
the Los Pollos Hermanos truck attack and the brilliant shot-by-shot storyboards
that were created for the episode “Bullet Points.”
and the Challenger Storyboard Comparison – A side-by-side
comparison of the sequence where Walt indulges in some crazy stunt driving in
Walt Jr.’s Dodge Challenger and the storyboards that were created.
In addition to releasing the complete set on Blu-ray, SPHE will release BREAKING BAD: THE FINAL
SEASON on both Blu-ray and DVD with UltraViolet™ on Nov. 26. The final
season includes the series’ final eight episodes and is loaded with special
features, including all-new featurettes, cast and crew commentaries, deleted
scenes and more. Episodes include: Blood Money, Buried, Confessions,
Rabid Dog, To’hajiilee, Ozymandias, Granite State and Felina.
BAD: THE FINAL SEASONBlu-ray Includes:
·“Blood Money” Table
A rare look at the only final season Breaking Bad table read.
BAD: THE FINAL SEASONBlu-ray & DVD Include:
and Crew Commentaries on Every Episode
a Show Runner
of the Alternate Ending
Ending – A 3-minute alternate version of how Breaking Bad could have
& Extended Scenes
Layers of a Sound Mix
·Over 15 Episodes of Inside Breaking Bad
and Extended Episodes
BREAKING BAD: THE COMPLETE SERIES has a run time of approximately 2,949 minutes and is not rated.
BREAKING BAD: THE FINAL SEASON has a
run time of approximately 390 minutes and is not rated.
CLICK HERE TO PRE-ORDER FROM AMAZON AND SAVE $75 OFF RETAIL PRICE!
Horror:Investigating the Dark Side of the Small Screen
Lorna Jowett and Stacey Abbott
can easily be dismissed as being an unsuitable medium for the horror genre,
having to please the moral majority and unable to be as red in tooth and claw
as those horrific offerings on the silver screen. Jowett and Abbott's new book
does its best to prove this argument wrong, demonstrating that in many ways
television has been able to explore the darker recesses of horror in far more
depth than can be done in a single two hour movie. Shows such as The
Twilight Zone and Buffy the Vampire Slayer have embraced the
limitations of the small screen to present some truly chilling, unsettling moments.
Long-running shows like The X-Files were able to have story arcs that
lasted several seasons, building complex characters and even more complicated
and Abbott draw on examples from both American and British television, looking
at the grotesque excesses of comedy shows like The League of Gentlemen
and Psychoville, both of which draw heavily on a tradition of film
horror. We seem to be in something of a golden age of television horror right
now, from the gothic influences evident in Doctor Who to the extreme
violence and gore of Dexter or Hemlock Grove. The authors are
able to identify a recent shift in production practise which has to some extent
fragmented audiences, such as the advent of cable television production in the
States, or internet streaming services like Netflix who now produce original
programming. This means that more shows can be available, but are perhaps seen
by smaller numbers of people.
the tone is a little dry, the book is a fascinating and indepth look at TV horror,
a genre often considered inferior to it's cinematic older sibling in most
writing, and it has been fairly neglected in academic evaluation until now.
Some of the examples here will bring joy to fans of television as well as
chilling reminders of some of the more difficult and nostalgic shows, with Dark
Shadows, Twin Peaks, Stephen King's It, Kingdom Hospital,
The Outer Limits, Boris Karloff's Thriller, Night Gallery,
The Quatermass Experiment and Blood Ties all getting a thorough
books such as this offer the reader two things: an insight into the minds of
the authors, and an attempt to tell us something about the audiences who
consume all this material. Unless it is an encyclopedia, a single investigation
into TV horror is not going to cover everything. As such TV Horror:
Investigating the Dark Side of the Small Screen could potentially leave
some readers disappointed that their favourite show does not get a mention, but
Jowett and Abbott have covered considerable ground here, proving that the genre
is ready for reassessment. The small screen has offered up some seriously scary
programmes over the last sixty years, putting the forbidden and the frightening
right in your living room as an assault on all that we hold dear. This book
will help to explain why we need it there.
Upon the 50th anniversary of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, you
can own an authentic piece of the movie. You can even wear an authentic
piece of the movie. Academy Award nomination and Golden Globe award
winning artist Dave Woodman is mainly known for his 20 years of Hollywood
animation, especially the Disney animation & over 35 years of illustration
work. The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin are among his
animation credits. Paula Abdul dancing with a cartoon cat in her
Opposites Attract video, miniature animated children for Honey I shrunk the
Kids titles as well as an animated Santa that looks suspiciously like Al
Hirschfeld in Christmas Vacation are all part of the flow of graphite Dave
spewed during that magical time of his life. Familiar illustration
projects include The Laugh Factory logo and Phyllis Diller's caricature
logo. All of this aside, Dave recently created a line of shift knobs,
jewelery, belt buckles, paperweights, charms, models and assorted art pieces
with authentic pieces of Jimmy "The Smiler" Durante's crashed car
from the legendary opening sequence of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
In the year 2000, the
traditional animation system was coming to an end. Without an inkling
that this might be in his future, Dave used downtime to travel to Palm Springs
in search of filming locations from this, his favorite movie. When movies
could only be watched in the theater or on network television, availability of
location photos was extremely rare. The aid of video tape and DVDs made
finding locations possible. Near and around "The Smiler"'s
bucket kicking location, Dave noticed piles of glass, turned aqua by the sun
and assorted car parts. This was an added and unanticipated bonus.
Dave says, with a smile, "The parts can be traced to find that they are
indeed from a 1957 Ford Fairlane 500." A '57 Fairlane was the
automobile used in this most beloved car crash. Since a ramp was built
for the Ford to dive from and the car deliberately raced downhill for the most
spectacular sail and impact possible, no other Ford Fairlane could have landed
that far down the mountainside. So, aged glass turned aqua by the sun and
other Ford Fairlane pieces found in the exact spots that are now traceable by
DVD research, all add up to a treasure find other than the Smiler's buried
$350,000. Dave even found a piece 16m of 16mm movie film negative down
there, deemed authentic by archivist-producer
Robert Harris! "At first I thought it was a piece of paper,
and then I noticed the sprocket holes. You might say I found some of the
missing footage,...if you don't care what you say". The very short
scene shot from inside the wayward car explains a possibility related to the
film find. A hubcap, side chrome, red taillight fragments, headlight
fragments, and even a tire were left for Dave to discover. Research has
taught Dave that, "The Nygen General Dual 90 was common on this type of
car. It was left in the right spot and mangled instead of blown
out. In addition to the larger finds obscure pieces such as the top off
of a shock absorber and a Fairlane Custom door lock cylinder lever only gave me
more confidence in what I had found."
"How could I just leave it all down there?" Mr. Woodman
asked. "Over the years I left most of it, thinking that there should
be some for anyone else who might track down this location. Then after
moving to Palm Springs I noticed a line of cones was placed down that side of
the road, leading me to believe the road might be widened. This could
have covered all of it and that's when I started seriously gathering whatever
Fairlane parts I found. When I noticed the 50th anniversary approaching,
I began to make items of interest out of the very beautiful, aqua glass, as
well as merely placing pieces in protective cubes. I believe this
materiel should belong to the people who will love it. The more fun I can
make from it, the better." Dave's "Smiler" products are
currently listed at: http://www.etsy.com/shop/DaveWoodmanArt?ref=ss_profile
What makes even a larger
treasure is the use of 3 cars to create this spectacular wreck sequence.
Dave noticed, "The first car shown, tilts to its left, the second in the
sequence hits head on and flips over and the third is shown settling right side
up. I discovered that the final car shown was used as the prop car behind
Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Jimmy Durante, Buddy Hackett, Mickey Rooney and
Jonathan Winters. Since it had crash landed right side up, most of the
glass remained inside. Turning it on its side for use behind the men
caused more glass to spill out. I finally found all 4 areas when my
friend Ron Kwal helped me find where the car that tilted to its left had hit
the ground. It's mysterious to me is that the glass from this car did not
turn aqua. Hopefully someone can tell me why."
When asked if there's anything else he might add, Dave said, "Criterion
has hired me to create a map of locations for their box set release of this
movie and last night Karen Kramer gave me permission to reveal that the 50th
anniversary Cinerama Dome screening of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World will
take place on October 27th. The Dome itself was built to showcase this
The name Wakefield Poole may not mean much to mainstream audiences but in the 1970s he was quite a controversial filmmaker. Poole initially trained for the ballet then drifted into movie making. In 1971, Poole released Boys in the Sand, the first "up market" hardcore gay movie. It caused quite a sensation and was immediately embraced by long-suffering gay males who heretofore had to be content with low-end, quickly shot pornographic "loops" that played in Times Square grindhouses. Poole's film was taken seriously by the critical establishment and actually earned praise in reputable publications like Variety. The film actually cracked Variety's list of the top 50 grossing films in America, an amazing achievement for a movie with limited appeal and distribution. It also made a gay movie icon of actor Casey Donovan. Poole and Donovan followed this project up with another hardcore porn flick, Bijou, which was released in 1972. Inspired by the fact that his filmmaking techniques were being praised, Poole became more ambitious and managed to cobble together a then sizable budget for his next film, Wakefield Poole's Bible! (yes, the exclamation point was part of the title.) Poole attempted to take three tales from the Bible and bring them to the screen using his own spin on the narratives. We see Adam and Eve, David and Bathsheba and Samson and Delilah in period settings but through Poole's unique perspective. Poole opted to give his actors no dialogue. The film is played silently to the accompaniment of classical music. The result is one of the most bizarre experimental films of its era. Although Poole claims he had a budget of $150,000 other sources state it was actually less than half that. Regardless, it was a significant sum compared to the budgets of his previous ventures. Poole managed to do a lot with very little. Using creative locations and camerawork, he sometimes succeeds in conveying an interesting look for his trilogy of Biblical tales. Most impressive are the film's opening scenes in which we first see Adam. Shot amid some rather stunning rock formations on a beach, Poole soon introduces us to Adam's first encounter with Eve. Understandably, it doesn't take the only man and woman on earth to get down to doing what men and women like to do. The sequence is more romantic than erotic and this sets the tone for the rest of the film. The David and Bathsheba segment stars Georgina Spelvin, then riding the wave of worldwide publicity for her success in the notorious Devil in Miss Jones, considered by many to be the most accomplished porn movie ever made. Although Poole has Spelvin cavorting around fully naked, he presents the Biblical tale as a slapstick comedy with a sexually frustrated wife unable to interest her husband, a macho army general, in anything relating to love making. The third tale is the most effective with actress Gloria Grant (who went on to a legitimate career, winning an Emmy in the process) as a visually striking Delilah who seduces Samson as part of a plot to punish him for the murder of an innocent person.
The Vinegar Syndrome video label has released Wakefield Poole's Bible! as a special DVD edition, restored and presented in its uncut format. While Poole can be commended for trying to achieve something outside the porn film industry, the movie was too bizarre to appeal to mainstream audiences. Paradoxically, it also alienated Poole's core following of gay men by presenting tales of heterosexual sex, albeit in a softcore format. Not helping matters was the fact that the movie was slapped with an X rating, which even at the time seemed unnecessarily harsh. Poole theorized that it would have been given an "R" rating had the movie been made by anyone else, but his name and that of Spelvin virtually ensured retribution from the ratings board. By his own admission, the film was a flop and was only seen by a relative handful of people in its initial release. The movie has some striking visual elements, some of them effective and creative and others bordering on the pretentious. It's hard to imagine that Poole ever envisioned this pet project being embraced by movie goers on a wide basis.
The DVD is first class and provides bonus features that are far more interesting than the film itself. These include both vintage and recent interviews with Poole, who candidly assesses his own career highs and lows. Poole also provides a brief introduction to the movie as well as an interesting audio commentary track. There is also recent filmed interview with Georgina Spelvin, who claims making the movie was delightful from her perspective. She also tells an amusing story of how she got into the porn industry. As a struggling actress, she was delighted to get a role in a minor film. It wasn't until she began filming a love scene that the director told her in a matter-of-fact manner to start performing oral sex on her male co-star. Spelvin considered it a sign of her dedication to her profession that she suppressed her shock and just went ahead with the task, taking solace from the fact that the guy was "cute". She is a very amusing lady and one wishes her interview segment went on even longer. Similarly, a new interview with Gloria Grant, who also professes pride in her striking performance in the film. She says she still has no regrets about appearing naked on screen because she came into this world naked. The other bonus features include costume tests, a still gallery, a trailer and- most provocatively- silent screen tests of the male and female actors who enact various poses while completely naked. It's somehow far more erotic than the film itself.
Wakefield Poole's Bible! may have been a commercial and artistic failure, but the DVD is entertaining on so many levels that we can highly recommend it because it offers some fascinating insights into one of the strangest film projects of its era.
are certain movies that you see on substandard formats such as VHS and you
enjoy the film and think nothing of the technical prowess that went into making
it.When you see that same film given
the proper respect of being telecined, color-corrected from the original camera
negative, properly framed in the original aspect ratio and displayed on a 1080P
monitor/television, the difference is mind-boggling and literally makes you
wonder how you managed to suffer through such mediocre viewings in years past.James Munro’s Street Trash (1987) is a colorful, vile, over-the-top contraption
featuring dirty and reprehensible characters in Brooklyn, NY who dwell in an automobile
graveyard and have fashioned stacks of tires, empty vehicles, and just about
anything else that they can get their hands on into shelter and a way of life.They commit petty crimes, steal from one
another, and in short do anything to ensure their own survival. To what end, it
remains a mystery, however judging from their behavior their miserable
existences are probably more preferable to them than the unknown of what lies
in the great beyond.As the film opens,
a bespectacled local liquor store owner, who looks a lot like the bespectacled
bad guy chasing Louis DeFunes through much of Gerard Oury’s The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob
(1973), finds a case of “Tenafly Viper” (presumably whiskey or bourbon) in his
basement long after the concoction’s expiration date has passed and elects to sell
it in his store for a dollar a bottle.The
results are disastrous for those who consume the poisonous drink as they begin
to slowly turn into defragmented, messy, colorful blobs that would make Rob
Bottin, the effects master on John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), cringe.Fred
(Mick Lackey, who also did special make-up effects on the film) owes money here
and there and will steal from anyone to get it.Bronson (Vic Noto) is an imposing individual who appears to hold sway
over everyone who lives in the junkyard and demands money (probably rent) from
them.Shot in the Greenpoint section of
Brooklyn, NY in 1986 long before gentrification of the neighborhood, the
opening of the film sports a schizophrenic sequence of fast-moving Steadicam
shots of Fred out-witting other bums for money.Names like Vandervoort Avenue, Meserole Avenue, Moultrie Street, Norman
Avenue, and Humbolt Street populate the screen.Fred takes to the steps of the abandoned and graffiti-covered Greenpoint
Hospital Outpatient Department on Maspeth Avenue (now the fully functioning
Greenpoint Renaissance Center), and another bum, Paulie, bemoans the fact that
his son is wasting his life on computers!If only he had a crystal ball…
David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977), Street Trash virtually defies
description. That is part of the film’s charm,
if a film like this can possess charm! There
are some wildly hilarious moments, particularly in the opening scenes involving
Fred and flatulence. Another scene
involves a group of squeegee men (people who wash car windshields at red lights
and demand payment under the threat of vandalism). Bronson takes this bit of
intimidation to the extreme by extricating a stereotypically-dressed nerd, with
glasses and bowtie, from his car and throwing him headfirst into the windshield
as his girlfriend screams in horror. Bronson
is unhinged from the get-go and it comes to light that he once fought in
Vietnam. This point is driven home in a sequence
wherein he has a flashback and is attacked by the Vietcong. Bronson no doubt inspired the character of Wynyard,
the drug-addicted frog in Peter Jackson’s hilarious 1989 Muppets send-up Meet the Feebles (years ago, Anchor Bay
promised a deluxe DVD of the Feebles,
however it soon disappeared from their “future” list. It has been no doubt delayed due to Mr.
Jackson’s involvement in getting his Tolkien fantasies shot, but this would be a perfect film for Synapse
to release). Another funny sequence
takes place in a supermarket wherein a panhandler stuffs nearly a quarter of
the store’s inventory down his pants and is offended when the store manager
calls him out on it. The film's
craziest sequence, however, involves the removal of a bum’s private part as
others use it to play a game of catch, tossing it amongst themselves. It looks like it’s paying homage to the
tossed bone in the air in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001:
A Space Odyssey (1968). It’s
humorous but it goes on a little too long. One fellow reviewer referred to this film as “the greatest movie Troma never made,” and he’s absolutely right. In fact, Troma has been making so many crazy, off-the-wall parodies of other
movies for nearly four decades that I initially thought that films like Street Trash and Peter Jackson’s wildly
entertaining Bad Taste (1986) were
made by them. The pacing of the film is
a bit off, and it might have worked better as an 80-minute film rather than its
full 101 feature-length running time. The timing of the
film’s release following Larry Cohen’s The
Stuff (1985), about a company that packages industrial waste into the form
of a snack, is either deliberate or entirely coincidental, as that film
concerns people who, after ingesting The Stuff, have awful things happen to
you are a fan of Street Trash, this
new Blu-ray from Don May, Jr.’s excellent Synapse Films is a no-brainer. The
transfer is absolutely gorgeous.
film has been released many times before on VHS and laserdisc (both here and in
Japan). Synapse Films released it in the
US in 2005 as a single DVD disc, then in 2006 as a special edition two-disc set
the following year. It is that set that
is replicated on the single Blu-ray with the following extras:
The Meltdown Memoirs (2:04:00) I love when
DVDs and Blu-rays offer documentaries that are occasionally longer than the feature film that they
are discussing. Laurent Bouzereau’s documentary
on Steve Spielberg’s Jaws (1975) is a
case in point. The documentary on Peter
Jackson’s The Frighteners (1995) runs
roughly four hours long, as does the one on the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, Never Sleep Again. The same
is true of the documentary on Rob Zombie's Halloween
(2007) on Blu-ray. While some people may
find this excessive, true diehard fans, including yours truly, love these added
values. The Meltdown Memoirs is no exception. It runs just over two hours
in length and is everything that a film documentary should be: entertaining, informative,
and comprehensive. Just about everybody
who appears in the film can be seen here as well. There is plenty of
behind-the-scenes footage, discussions about the cast and financing the film,
discussions about special effects, illustrations of conceptual art, the
gloriously colorful cinematography and production design, etc. In short, this is just about everything that
you need to know about this movie. The original cut of Street Trash ran nearly three hours (gulp!).
number one with writer/producer Roy Frumkes. It is a real pleasure to listen to Roy as he
discusses many facets about the making of the film. Usually, special editions
offer commentaries as well as interviews which tend to contain the exact same
information just packaged differently. The idea behind this, I assume, is to
give fans who like watching short interviews but do not like to listen to
full-length commentaries the same information, however in truncated form. There is very little repetition in the way of
what is mentioned in the audio commentary on this disc, as opposed to the
documentary. This is really designed with the hardcore fan in mind, the person
who’s going to watch and listen to every extra that the disc boasts.
Audio commentary number two with director James Munro. Director Munro
speaks about this film from a technical standpoint which is helpful to people
who work behind the camera. If you have already watched the two-hour documentary
and listen to Mr. Frumkes, you can probably skip this track and not miss out
too much. However, if you’re a completist, there are interesting anecdotes to
The original Street Trash
16mm short that inspired the feature-length film. This short runs
approximately fifteen minutes in length and is interesting to see in contrast
to the feature-length film.
The original Street Trash
Deleted scenes and outtakes. Seven minutes of short
scenes are featured here in a sequence that is exclusive to the Blu-ray.
Jane Arakawa interview. A nine-minute interview with one of the
actresses from the film that is also exclusive to this Blu-ray.
Post-WWII Britain saw an abundance of artistically impressive B&W white movies shot on low budgets by underrated filmmakers. Unfortunately, The Accursed! is not among them. The 1957 drama is mostly confined to a country manor house owned by Colonel Charles Price (Donald Wolfit), a former leader of a spy ring that operated on behalf of the Allies inside occupied France. Every year Price and his former team members (most of whom were Germans fighting against the Reich) meet at his house to toast the memory of one of their prominent colleagues who was killed by a double agent. An emissary from Germany is to arrive to inform Price of the identity of the traitor but when he arrives at the mansion, he is already mortally wounded and cannot divulge the person's name. The scenario then follows the standard format for every rip-off of Agatha Christie stories: every member of the group of former spies begins to suspect each other, as they all have something shady about their actions or backgrounds. Into the mix comes two American army intelligence officers- Major Shane (Robert Bray) and Lt. Grant (John Van Eyssen)- who ostensibly are there because they have been stranded due to car problems. Neither Price nor his colleagues are buying that excuse and Major Shane admits he is trying to track down the emissary who was to arrive at the mansion. (For various reasons, Price has kept the man's murder a secret and has hidden the body on the premises.) The pedantically-paced mystery muddles along as the group retires for the night- and in the glorious tradition of this cliched scenario, another murder is committed. One of most annoying aspects of this film is the obnoxious behavior of the film's nominal hero, Major Shane. He's loud, boorish and cynical- and played with a considerable amount of ham by Robert Bray. While some of the other cast members are also encouraged to overact by director Michael McCarthy, a few remain with their dignity intact: Wolfit, Jane Griffiths and a young Christopher Lee, playing against type as a milquetoast. The 78 minute running time doesn't prevent the film becoming a bore and the big revelation of the actual murderer is neither shocking or particularly interesting, thanks to a drab screenplay.
The Warner Archive has released the film on DVD but its primary value would be for ardent collectors of Christopher Lee's work.
Cinema Retro's own Sheldon Hall gives us a sneak peek at his forthcoming book, Armchair Cinema: Feature Films on British Television, with a look back at the earliest instances of theatrical films being shown on UK TV. Not surprisingly, the British film studios were not at all happy about the advent of TV and initially withheld feature films from broadcast. How the barrier was finally broken by Ealing Studios represents a fascinating part of BBC history. Click here for more
The Warner Archive has released the 1960 supernatural "B" movie thriller Tormented as a burn-to-order DVD title. The film is yet another entry from the schlock king, producer Bert I. Gordon. The prolific master of micro-budget films made his fare primarily for the undiscriminating drive-in market during the era when such movies often were produced to play as second features. Tormented stars Richard Carlson as Tom Stewart, a middle aged man who resides on an island (the geographical location is never determined.) When we first see him, he is atop a lighthouse where he is being confronted by a pesky ex-love, Vi (Julie Reding). The sultry woman can't accept the fact that Stewart has dumped her to marry the virginal local "good girl" Meg (Lugene Sanders). When all of her sexual come-ons don't tempt him to take her back, she makes it clear that she has some incriminating letters from him that she will release to ensure his forthcoming marriage is sabotaged. You don't have to be the Amazing Kreskin to see what is coming. Vi leans on a railing and finds herself dangling above the rocky ocean front beneath her. She begs Stewart to save her but he opts to do nothing and she falls to her death. Although haunted by guilt, the next morning he recovers her body in an attempt to cover-up the incident. (Conveniently, she let him know that no one other than a boat captain knew she had come to the island.) Soon, however, strange things start happening. Her body turns into a pile of seaweed- and that's just the beginning. Meg's 8 year old sister Sandy (Susan Gordon) shows up on the beach, having found a locket that Stewart had inscribed to Vi. Before long, he becomes obsessed with worry that her death will be made known. Adding to his troubles is the fact that he can hear Vi's voice vowing revenge and ultimately he sees visions of her, as well. (Whether Vi is making appearances from Heaven or Hell, you have to say they have some pretty impressive clothing lines there: she is routinely clad in clingly, low-cut nightgowns.) As the day of the wedding nears, Stewart is a nervous wreck and his trouble increase when the boat captain who dropped Vi off on the island suspects she has been murdered. He's an obnoxious hipster (played by the great character actor Joe Turkel) who sets out to blackmail Stewart. This sets in motion a series of dramatic events as the groom-to-be gets into deeper trouble by trying to eliminate his blackmailer. All the while Vi continues to taunt Stewart, though he is the only one who can see or hear her, as though she is an evil version of James Stewart's Harvey.
Tormented is typical of Bert I. Gordon fare. The triple threat auteur also wrote and directed the film and it boasts the shoddy production values that made him beloved by B movie lovers. There is one scene that takes place atop the lighthouse in broad daylight. The matte painting of the ocean features water that never moves, which makes the backdrop akin to one you might see in a school play. The script also doesn't even touch upon the unusual aspects of Stewart's engagement to Meg, in that he is old enough to be her father. (Richard Carlson was 48 years old- and seems much older, while Lugene Sanders was 26 but plays the role of a younger woman.) There are, of course, May/December romances in real life, but the screenplay doesn't acknowledge this and treats the couple as though they are two young kids just starting out in life. Still, while it's easy to pick on such obvious flaws, Tormented is a surprisingly effective and engrossing thriller in its own way. The Crime and Punishment scenario is obvious. Stewart isn't a bad man. In fact, he's a legitimate victim of a former lover who wants to blackmail him. However, by refusing to save her life, he opens a Pandora's Box of deception that escalates in his attempts to keep his lack of gallantry quiet. As they say of the Watergate scandal, "The cover-up was worse than the crime." There are no performances of any particular merit, but Susan Gordon is most impressive as Meg's precocious young sister who holds the key to Stewart's fate. There is something approaching genuine suspense in the final scene in which Stewart attempts to silence her forever.
Tormented has plenty of unintentional laughs, shoddy effects and a predictable story. However, I've always admired the art of "B" movie making by those artists who knew they were toiling on projects that never stood a chance of receiving serious critical acclaim. This is a prime example of a well-made film, at least within those parameters.
Click here to order from Warner Archive and to view film clip
For those of us fortunate to have met and known Wing Commander Ken Wallis, his death- even at the advanced age of 97- is a bitter pill to swallow. He represented the epitome of the old world "English Gentleman", both in mannerisms and in appearance (he was always immaculately attired.) Born in 1916, Wallis was always obsessed with flight even from the days of his youth. After initially being rejected by the RAF due to an eye disorder, Wallis kept taking the test until he convinced authorities he was suitable to serve. He flew combat missions over Europe in WWII and stayed in the service until 1964. However, it was Wallis' innovations in the realm of the autogyro that brought him international fame. His work on these mini-copters, which could hold only one person, brought him to the attention of 007 producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman for their 1967 film You Only Live Twice. Wallis' amazing invention- dubbed "Little Nellie- found Sean Connery as Bond equipped with an incredible arsenal in the sky as his autogyro makes short work of a fleet of SPECTRE helicopters. Wallis did the flying in the elaborate battle sequence with studio closeups of Connery inserted. It may have been the special effects team that "souped up" the concept of Little Nellie, but it was Wallis' deft ability to navigate the craft that made the sequence so memorable. Indeed, Wallis became an idol of Bond fans and up until last year, he was routinely appearing at 007-themed conventions and special effects, usually in the presence of the original Little Nellie. 007 fans have lost an iconic contributor to the film series and the world has lost an irreplaceable member of "The Greatest Generation". - Lee Pfeiffer For more click here
Canadian cartoonist Sophie Cossette uses her considerable talents to pay tribute to cult movies and their stars and directors. Click here to view her tribute to "King Leer" himself, producer/director Russ Meyer, who certainly never went flat busted -both financially and in terms of the films he made, which showcased the best endowed actresses he could find. This was all done in an era when silicone implants would have been considered "cheating". Meyer searched out those ladies who were naturally "gifted" and made quite a few sex comedies that are so tame today they could be shown on the Disney Channel. However, in the 1960s and 1970s, they served to titillate an entire generation of men.
Los Angeles continues to suffer from the "runaway production" syndrome that has found virtually none of this summer's major blockbuster releases filmed in the legendary movie capital. For many years, production has been on a downward spiral in Hollywood as studios are lured by major tax incentives in other states, England and Canada. New York City has prospered by aggressively pursuing studios with such incentives. L.A. has incentives, too, but they pale in comparison to what other locales are offering. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti is fighting back, lobbying state politicians to enact even greater tax incentives and hiring a new "Film Czar" to actively work to bring production back to Hollywood. However, it may be a quixotic undertaking. In a state that has been devastated by severe financial cuts across the board, some who live outside of L.A. feel that further tax incentives may benefit L.A. on a local level but be a losing proposition for the rest of California. In the earliest days of the film industry, New York and New Jersey were the centers of business before the lure of Hollywood devastated local production. Now, ironically, Hollywood finds itself in the same bind. For more click here
Welles starred in the lost film Too Much Johnson, along with his friend and frequent collaborator Joseph Cotten.
Contrary to popular opinion, Orson Welles' first cinematic experience was not on his 1941 masterpiece Citizen Kane. As film critic Dave Kehr reports in the New York Times, as early as 1934, when still a schoolboy, Welles made an 8 minute, sophisticated short film that was satirical in nature. However, his other pre-Kane film venture is more legendary simply because it was widely believed to have been lost to the ages. In 1938, Welles was engaged (at age 23) to direct and star in short film segments that would accompany a stage revival of actor William Gillette's 1894 romantic farce, Too Much Johnson, which centers on a philanderer whose schemes get him in trouble with the women in his life. The plan was to have various acts of the revived production preceded by filmed segments. Welles put a lot of time and effort into the project and was pleased with the results. However, when the revival of the play was shelved early on, Welles naturally abandoned the accompanying filmed segments. In 1978, he told a reporter that he had recently rediscovered the footage in his villa in Spain and that it was pristine in terms of condition. The notoriously critical Welles also heaped praise on the starring performance in the film of his old friend and collaborator, Joseph Cotten, whose work he called "magnificent". Welles said he intended to send a copy of the film to Cotten as a present but, ironically, before he could do so, a fire destroyed Welles' villa. Everyone presumed the footage was lost in the inferno and Welles, who died in 1985, never mentioned the film again. Now it has come to light that the footage has been found in an Italian storage locker. How it got there remains a mystery, but after being lost to time, the film is now being prepared for its first public screening at a film festival. For more on this fascinating story, click here