UK, November 27th 2013) MI6 Confidential, has taken possession of a
limited number of signed copies of the autobiography of Production Designer Syd
‘Not Forgetting James Bond’ is the autobiography of
Syd Cain, one of cinema's most highly acclaimed Production Designers and Art
Directors. This is a mesmerising volume filled with humour, drama and exotic
travel, and never before told accolades about the legendary people Syd worked
with during his 57 years in the film industry.
He recalls extraordinary revelations about making such
films as Frenzy, The Wild Geese, Lolita, Shout at the Dead, Gold, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the
Forum, Fahrenheit 451, and of course
the James Bond classics: Dr. No, From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Live and Let Die and GoldenEye.
This book has been unavailable for several years, but
MI6 has secured a batch of original first edition hardbacks signed by the late
Syd Cain in 2002. He passed away in 2011 at the age of 93.
The autobiography was published in 2002 by Daleon
Enterprises (Cinema Retro magazine publishers Lee Pfeiffer and Dave Worrall) with
a limited edition of 1,000 signed hardbacks. The book contains a wealth of
extremely rare and previously unpublished behind the scenes production photos
from Syd Cain's personal family archives.
The rare autobiography is a hard-to-come-by classic,
and is signed by the late legendary production designer, shipping today for £60
+ P&P from www.sydcain.com.
Swiss label Explosive
Media (www.explosive-media.com) has just
released two classic Italian spaghetti westerns on Blu-ray from brand new HD
transfers: Giulio Petroni's Death Rides a Horse (1967), starring Lee Van
Cleef, John Phillip Law, and Mario Brega and Gianfranco Parolini's Sabata
(1969), starring Lee Van Cleef, William Berger and Ignazio Spalla. Both films
have their world-wide premiere on the Blu-ray format.
These new releases have
newly-produced special features, bonus DVDs and illustrated booklets. Both are
available for purchase in Switzerland and Germany via Amazon and have English
tracks. Explosive Media released the brilliant Blu-ray version of Lee Van
Cleef's The Big Gundown last year,
so fans already know the calibre of content and quality presented by this
Death Rides a Horse
Fifteen years after four
bandits massacred his family, a young man (John Phillip Law) seeks revenge.
Several of the men responsible now hold positions of power in the new West, but
one of the bandits (Lee van Cleef) is due to be released from prison. Having
been framed by the others all those years ago, he is ready to exact bloody
reprisals, and so forms an unholy alliance with the vengeance-seeking man whose
family he helped destroy. Original Italian title: Da uomo a uomo.
Gunslinger Sabata (Lee
van Cleef) is not a popular figure in the town of Daugherty. When he discovers
that the town's kingpins are behind a bank heist, he becomes a marked man,
unable to trust even his own friends. Sabata is soon headed for a final
shoot-out from which there can be but one survivor. Original Italian title: Ehi
amico... c'è Sabata, hai chiuso!
available for the first time on Blu-ray
bonus documentaries on the making of the films
George Lazenby, Laurene Landon and Douglas Dunning in "Hunter".
Douglas Dunning, Cinema Epoch’s Director
of Acquisitions, has just announced that the company has obtained the rights to
release four films from XPosse Productions for worldwide distribution on DVD and
on all digital platforms. Scary Tales
is among the titles scheduled for release. Here
is a brief trailer for the film.
Mr. Dunning is currently also appearing
opposite actor George Lazenby, who is best known for playing James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969),
in the recently completed film Hunter, which was directed by Gregory
Hatanaka, who is also the president of Cinema Epoch. Mr. Lazenby plays General Bullmont in the
film. Also starring is actress Laurene
Landon who has starred in the Peter Falk film All the Marbles (1981), I,
the Jury (1982), Hundra (1983)
and Yellow Hair and the Fortress of Gold
Mr. Dunning can also be seen in Jason
Rutherford’s upcoming film Shhhh. You can view the trailer here
and click on the homepage here.
‘Operation Naomi’ was
the first signing event organized by the Swiss James Bond Club for its members.
52 guests met The Spy Who Loved Me star Caroline Munro, who arrived in
member Gernot Wolf’s white Lotus Esprit - of course! Caroline spent the day
signing autographs and posed for photographs, before everyone enjoyed a
sumptuous 3 course steak dinner at the amazing Runway Restaurant where the
event took place - including a Jet Ranger helicopter similar to the one in the film
flying in especially for the day. At the end of the day club president Markus
Hartmann asked Caroline to be the club’s honorary Patron, to which she readily
Lewis Collins, the popular British actor who played men of action, has died at from cancer at age 67. Although his fame was largely relegated to his native England, he maintained a loyal fan following primarily attributed to his role in the long-running UK TV series The Professionals which is still being presented in re-runs on ITV4. Collins also had roles in other popular British TV series including Z Cars, The New Avengers and The Cuckoo Waltz. He also starred in producer Euan Lloyd's 1982 feature film Who Dares Wins about a daring SAS operation. The film, released in the United States as The Final Option, was a personal favorite of President Ronald Reagan, who requested a private screening at the White House. Collins was touted by many as a suitable candidate for playing James Bond. In fact, Collins screen tested for the role of 007 but failed to convince legendary producer Cubby Broccoli that he was the man for the job. For more click here
Tony Musante, the popular character actor who was a fixture in Italian films and TV series, has died in a New York hospital at age 77. Musante, who brought intensity to all of his roles, was driven more by artistic satisfaction than a desire to make the big money. He made a splash with U.S. audiences in 1967 playing a thug who terrorizes passengers on a New York City subway train in the film The Incident. He won acclaim for his role as a gay man who is wrongly convicted and executed for murder in the 1968 Frank Sinatra film The Detective. He also had a co-starring role with George C. Scott in the 1971 crime film The Last Run and starred in director Dario Argento's 1970 cult classic The Bird With the Crystal Plumage. In 1973 he reluctantly starred in the TV series Toma about a maverick cop. Despite the show's ratings success, Musante left the series after one seasons. It was then re-developed as Baretta, which became a major hit for Robert Blake, who took over the lead role. In recent years Musante continued to act periodically and had a recurring role in the TV series Oz in 1997. For more click here
Both season 1 and season 2 episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. are now available for streaming through the Warner Archives instant viewing program. Best, you can take advantage of a free trial. Click here for more.
Sony has reissued its 2002 special edition of producer William Castle's horror exploitation film Homicidal a burn-to-order DVD, although there is no mention of the extra bonus feature on the packaging or publicity for the film. (Sony seems determined not to capitalize on special features that are especially marketable to collectors.) Castle, of course, was the proud master of exploitation films and relished his reputation as the King of Schlock. He excelled in making low-budget, "quickie" films that often capitalized on major hit movies of the day. Castle seemed to fancy himself as a low-rent version of Alfred Hitchcock, who was also not shy about promoting his own image in connection with marketing his films and TV series. Castle's films were not meant to be taken seriously by critics but he did have high standards for the genre in which he worked and it's rare to find any of his movies that don't at least merit classification as guilty pleasures. Others, such as Homicidal, actually turned out to be effective chillers in their own right. The movie was Castle's answer to the phenomenal success of Hitchcock's 1960 classic Psycho. Indeed, there are camera angles, musical cues and plot scenarios that practically border on plagiarism of the original film. The story opens on a fascinating note as we watch a statuesque young blonde (Jean Arless) check into a hotel in Ventura, California. She's a strange one from frame one- barely engaging in conversation with anyone else. She suddenly makes the hunky bellboy a bizarre proposition: she will pay him $2,000 cash if he agrees to marry her and then almost immediately have the union annulled. She does not give a reason for this weird offer, but in an age where a hotel room rented for $5 a night, the $2,000 offer is more than he can refuse. En route to the justice of the peace, the young woman, whose name is Emily, says little and doesn't even engage in niceties. She seems intent on having a specific justice of the peace (crotchety old James Westerfield in a marvelous role) perform the ceremony. As with all Castle productions, to describe much more would spoil some key scenes. Suffice it to say that the short-lived marriage results in murder that is so shocking and gory that it is amazing it was not watered down by skittish studio executives.
What can be said is that Emily is a Swedish immigrant who was brought to America by an equally strange young man named Warren, who resides in an opulent home. Helga's main duty is to care for an elderly woman named Helga (Eugenie Leontovich), another Swede who had been Warren's nursemaid as a child. Helga has suffered a stroke and is confined to a wheelchair, unable to talk or communicate in any meaningful way. Around Warren, Emily plays the doting caregiver, but privately, she delights in tormenting the long-suffering woman, even to the point of making death threats. One of the few outsiders to be allowed into this environment is Miriam Webster (Patricia Breslin), Warren's half-sister. The two have a very close relationship but things are fairly frosty between Miriam and Emily, who seems jealous of the close bond between brother and sister. Emily is also jealous of Miriam's relationship with a local pharmacist, Karl Anderson (Glenn Corbett) and begins to find ways to thwart their social outings. After a time, Miriam and Karl begin to suspect that Emily might well be a notorious murderer the police are searching for. This sets in motion many of the standard actions screen heroines must always engage in. These include not staying in a safe environment and being lured to precisely the location where she knows she will be placed in life-threatening danger. When Emily is about to enter the house of horrors, Castle employs one of his trademark gimmicks by freezing the action and putting a clock on screen that gives squeemish audience members 45 seconds to flee to the lobby where they can redeem a coupon to get their money back. To prevent having to actually provide many refunds, Castle has a caveat to the agreement: all such patrons must stand in full view in a "Coward's Corner" he had provided for theater lobbies! Once Miriam does enter the house, the film is genuinely creepy and leads to an ending so shocking I never saw it coming and I doubt most viewers will, either.
You approach Homicidal with the justifiable expectation that it will be filled with laughs, a la Castle's great camp success House on Haunted Hill. However, it proves to be a highly effective thriller with an a rather astonishing performance by Jean Arless as the insane Emily. One minute she's all charm, the next she's running around bug-eyed trying to murder people with knives and poison. There are times she brings to mind Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford, but in the aggregate it's a mesmerizing screen debut. Bizarrely, "Jean Arless" was a fake name used by actress Joan Marshall because she feared being typecast in horror films. Sadly, she never went far in her career under either name and died relatively young in 1992 at 61 years of age. She gets solid support from Glenn Corbett (who also died young in 1993 at age 59) and Patricia Breslin, who manages to avoid making the requisite role of damsel in distress unintentionally funny.
The Sony DVD has a top quality transfer and the bonus items are quite interesting. There is a short featurette that presents various horror film authorities extolling the virtues of Castle's work. There is also some wonderfully campy newsreel footage of the world premiere in Youngstown, Ohio that features the omnipresent Castle badgering patrons to tell everyone how great the film is. (One woman says with a straight face that it's better than Psycho.) The cigar-chomping Castle, who comes across as a delightful man, also features in the introductory segment to Homicidal, in an obvious attempt to emulate Hitchcock's penchant for self-promotion. The special edition also features a short TV spot in which the narrator clearly imitates the voice of old Hitch.
Homicidal is a highly entertaining film that demonstrates you don't need big stars or a big budget to make an effective thriller. Highly recommended.
The magnificent Oscar-winning best picture of the year for 1968, Oliver!, has been released as a Blu-ray special limited edition (3,000 units) by Twilight Time. This adaptation of the smash stage hit was a dream project for director Lewis Gilbert but, much to his dismay, the director's seat was given to Sir Carol Reed. How Gilbert's version of the film would have differed will never be known but suffice it to say, it's hard to imagine he could have improved on Reed's vision. There had been numerous previous screen versions of Dickens' classic novel Oliver Twist, with the most notable being David Lean's 1948 movie with a star-making turn by Alec Guinness as Fagin. The 1963 stage musical by Lionel Bart was a sensation and it stood to reason that the screen rights were quickly scooped up. The film went against the tide when considering other major musicals of the period. By the late 1960s, the youth revolution had taken international cinema by storm. Suddenly, big budget, old-fashioned musicals were deemed out-dated. Paint Your Wagon, Sweet Charity, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Hello, Dolly! and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever all either under-performed or outright bombed. Yet, Oliver! was a major hit with both critics and audience. Perhaps the anti-Establishment tone of Dickins' timeless tale had a wider appeal than those other films. Clearly, the story is a scathing indictment of the British class system that had consigned the poorest citizens to lives of toil and struggle. The novel's impact on social mores can be equated with that of Uncle Tom's Cabin in America. Yet, for all the darkness inherent in the story line, Oliver! is primarily a joyous screen extravaganza in which good inevitably triumphs over evil. The most famous orphan in all of literature is perfectly brought to life by Mark Lester, who has a natural grace in front of the camera and a shy demeanor that suits his interpretation of Oliver very well. (although his songs were dubbed by professional singers.) Surprisingly, the film was a major hit despite the lack of "name" actors. Only Oliver Reed (nephew of Carol Reed) had star power and his performance as the menacing Bill Sikes is truly frightening to behold. However, it is Ron Moody's Fagin that steals the show. It's a wonderful performance with Moody masterfully manipulating all those around him as London's most charismatic con man. Other stand-outs are Shani Wallis as Sikes' ill-fated lover Nancy, Jack Wild as the Artful Dodger and Harry Seacomb as Mr. Bumble. There are elaborate sets masterfully designed by John Box and show-stopping musical numbers like "Food, Glorious Food", "Consider Yourself", "As Long As He Needs Me" and ""Who Will Buy?".
Twilight Time's special edition Blu-ray is a wonderful experience. The transfer is excellent and the special features have broad appeal. There are recent interviews with cast members including Ron Moody and Mark Lester as well as a vintage featurette (that shows its age) depicting how the filming was done. There is also an isolated track score, sing-alongs and dance-alongs and a theatrical teaser trailer for the roadshow release that curiously doesn't have any moving images, just still photos. The film remains as entertaining today as it did during its initial release. This special edition makes perfect holiday viewing for the entire family.
Barbara Feldon and Cinema Retro's Lee Pfeiffer at the Episcopal Actors Guild in New York City.
On November 21, Cinema Retro hosted an Evening With Barbara Feldon at the historic Episcopal Actors Guild in New York City. The event benefited indigent people in the arts. Ms. Feldon was interviewed by Cinema Retro Editor-in-Chief Lee Pfeiffer, who asked her about her career prior to her Emmy-nominated performance in "Get Smart". She revealed that she had come to New York as a young woman from her native Pittsburgh with the desire to enter show business. Good looking and statuesque, Feldon was soon hired for a three month stint as a chorus girl at the famed Copacabana. She said it was the most thrilling time of her life, to be young and in New York with unlimited possibilities before her. Shortly thereafter, she became one of the top fashion models of the era, which- in turn- led her to be the face of Revlon in print and on TV ads. Those ads helped elevate her status and brought her to the attention of Hollywood producers. She played some bit roles in TV series before the producers of "Get Smart" (created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry) approached her for the role of Agent "99" opposite Don Adams. She initially turned down the offer, as she already had a lucrative career in modeling. She had also been offered a plum role in Sidney Lumet's film "The Group". She credits her agent at the time for convincing her to accept the part of "99" on the basis that Candice Bergen had the prime role in the Lumet film because she played a lesbian, which was a sensational notion at the time. He cautioned Feldon that she would just be lumped in with the other talented actresses who were to appear in the film and that Bergen would get all the attention. She accepted his advice and reluctantly flew to Hollywood, leaving behind her beloved New York. She immediately knew she made the right decision. The friendly bond between cast and crew on "Get Smart" was addictive and she said the show was a pleasure from day one. She credited Buck Henry for setting the tone of the early episodes, as Mel Brooks had already departed to work on his first feature film, "The Producers". After viewing a screening of the "Satan Place" episode with Cinema Retro's own Joe Sirola as the villain, Feldon remarked at how well the writing held up. Amusingly, she said she still feels self-conscious about how she towered over the much-shorter Don Adams and was reminded of how she attempted to minimize the height difference by slumping a bit in their scenes together or finding an excuse to sit down. Feldon said that when the show's ratings fell in the fourth season and the show moved from NBC to CBS for the fifth and final season, the idea of marrying "99" and Maxwell Smart was done simply as a gimmick, as was the introduction of their twin children who she laughingly said "disappeared rather quickly". Feldon also discussed the fact that the character of "99" was one of the first independent female characters on television. Pfeiffer mentioned that there were precious few such role models aside from Emma Peel and Cathy Gale of "The Avengers" and April Dancer of "The Girl From U.N.C.L.E". Feldon agreed, saying that she was happy that "99" was given more to do than simply being "the skirt" but said that, even then, it was clear that her character was often there to comfort or console the male hero, Maxwell Smart. She said, however, that given this was before the Women's Lib movement, it was rather progressive for the medium of television.
Feldon signs a commemorative shoe phone for contributing Cinema Retro photographer Tom Stroud.
Feldon said that, despite working with Adams for years, she knew very little about his personal life. It was only when they reunited for the TV movie "Get Smart Again!" in 1989 that they truly bonded and became close friends until Adams' death in 2005. Asked about why she didn't appear in the rather anemic "Get Smart" 1980 feature film, "The Nude Bomb", she said bluntly that she simply hadn't been asked. She said she was philosophical about the snub, saying that they were obviously looking for younger women to play against Adams. Pfeiffer asked Feldon to reflect on the contributions of Edward Platt, whose spot-on performance as "The Chief" is often overlooked in evaluations of the show. She said he played an integral part in the show's success and was a truly lovely man who was also a trained professional opera singer. She also discussed her post-"Smart" career when she wrote and performed a one woman show because she thought her acting skills might be getting stale and wanted a challenge that would "terrify" her. She also spoke about her lucrative career as one of New York's top voice-over talents. Speaking of feature films, she said that, at the time, being a TV star had made it difficult to transfer into theatrical films, although she loved working with Dick Van Dyke on the 1968 Disney film "Fitzwilly" and was especially pleased to star with Bruce Dern in the acclaimed 1975 comedy "Smile". She also spoke about how, after a failed marriage and relationships, she came to the conclusion that people don't need committed relationships in order to find happiness. She said her book, "Living Alone & Loving It: A Guide to Relishing the Solo Life", extols the virtues of living an independent life. She said living alone doesn't mean you are living a lonely life. She said her life is filled with wonderful people and great times, but she has chosen not to engage in a monogamous relationship.
"...and loving it!" Barbara expresses her appreciation to "Get Smart" scholar Nate Sears for flying in from Utah for the event.
Cinema Retro reader Tony Latino with Barbara Feldon.
Prior to the event, Barbara Feldon was interviewed for ABC News Radio by film critic Bill Diehl.
Following the interview, Ms. Feldon graciously answered questions, signed autographs and posed for seemingly endless photos with fans. She said she was genuinely touched by the fact that so many people still take an interest in her work. In all, a fun and informative evening with the ultimate New York "independent woman"- who still cites her three month stint as a chorus girl as the most fulfilling time of her career.
(Click here to find out how to join the Episcopal Actors Guild, which is non-sectarian. Dues are only $35 annually and you will get invitations to many exclusive entertainment-related performances and events. Proceeds go to aid charitable causes relating to the arts.)
(Click here to order Barbara Feldon's book "Living Alone & Loving It" from Amazon)
The "Trailers From Hell" web site presents the original trailer for the 1972 Western Chato's Land starring Charles Bronson. John Landis provides an amusing commentary for the trailer, reflecting on his experiences working on the film and enduring the "Mad Dog and Englishman" himself, director Michael Winner. Click here to watch
Sony has issued its 2001 special edition of director Fred Zinnemann's From Here to Eternity as a Blu-ray release. The passage of time has done nothing to diminish the movie's status as one of the great Hollywood productions. The story, based on James Jones' sensational 1951 bestseller that took the world by storm, centers on on a disparate group of people associated with the U.S. Army base in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1941. Private Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) is a quiet loner who was once regimental boxing champ but has gone into self-imposed retirement after accidentally blinding an opponent in the ring. He transfers into a new unit to escape harassment from his fellow soldiers, who are pressuring him to get back in the ring. He finds his new commanding officer, Captain Holmes (Philip Ober) is even worse and he is soon subjected to an orchestrated campaign of punishment and social isolation as part of the "treatment" to get him to relent and agree to box in this year's championship fight. The only friend he has is Maggio (Frank Sinatra), the company wise-guy who is always in trouble for his impulsive nature and habit of insulting his superiors. Also in the company is Sgt. Warden (Burt Lancaster), a by-the-book career soldier who does all the heavy lifting for Holmes, a man he personally detests. The story follows the complex love lives of Prewitt and Warden, who come to form an unlikely bond. Warden knows that Prewitt's independent nature will result in sheer misery for him, but he admires his pluck. Prewitt correctly assesses that Warden is the only decent superior he has met on the army staff; someone who will give him a fair break whenever he can. Both Prewitt and Warden find solace in love affairs with two very different women. Prewitt begins dating Lorene (Donna Reed), a local "dance hall" girl, which was the parlance of the era to describe a prostitute. Warden is involved in a far more dangerous affair: he is bedding Karen Holmes (Deborah Kerr), the sexually frustrated wife of Captain Holmes and who is reputed by soldiers to be a nymphomaniac. The brilliant screenplay by Daniel Taradash seamlessly interweaves the events that affect each of these mesmerizing characters. (Ernest Borgnine is sensational in a star-making role as a sadistic sergeant of the stockade.) The viewer, of course, realizes what these individuals cannot: that their lives are about to be dramatically changed by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a sequence that Zinnemann pulls off brilliantly by incorporating real battle footage. Ultimately, the film is not a "feel good" experience as some very bad things happen to some very admirable people. Yet, it is completely compelling on every level and the cast performs superbly. (The film won 8 Oscars).
The Blu-ray is an excellent transfer, making the stunning B&W cinematography look more impressive than ever. The extras are a mixed bag, however. "The Making of From Here to Eternity" is an absurdly short featurette that ends just when it begins to engage the viewer. It does, however, feature some fascinating color home movies that Zinnemann took on the set. More informative is a feature that allows you to watch the movie while a picture-in-picture presents various film historians who discuss every aspect of the movie in detail. This is complimented by an audio commentary by Zinnemann's son Tom and veteran screenwriter Alvin Sargent, who worked on Eternity. The set also features excerpts from a late-in-life interview with Zinnemann in which he provides some interesting insights about his battles with legendary Columbia mogul Harry Cohn, the tyrannical head of the studio. What emerges from all this analysis is that, while Eternity was a huge bestseller, it was considered "unfilmable". The book was laced with sex and profanity and also ripped the lid off the squeaky clean image that Hollywood generally used to present the U.S. Army. Yet, Zinnemann pulled off the feat admirably, suggesting all sorts of vice despite the film industry's archaic production code that watered down certain elements of the story. The Army conceded to allow filming on their facilities but demanded that the script reflect the fact that the corrupt Captain Holmes is brought to justice by Army authorities. The sex, particularly the now famous surf "make out" session between Lancaster and Kerr, is possibly more erotic because of the power of suggestion.
The Blu-ray set retains the kooky DVD artwork on the sleeve, which seems to imply Lancaster and Kerr are so intent on getting it on that they are ignoring being strafed by Japanese Zeros! (For the record, the love scene takes place before the Pearl Harbor attack). Surprisingly, there is no theatrical trailer included although Sony has provided some really nice mini-lobby card reproductions, though this is not mentioned on the packaging. In all, this is a most welcome release on Blu-ray-- but there is still room for an even more in-depth special edition of this classic motion picture.
Perhaps more relevant today than ever, the Visual Entertainment Inc. DVD label has released "Arthur C. Clarke: The Complete Collection", a 52 episode boxed set containing 22 hours of programming. Why is this set more relevant today than ever? Because in his prime, Clarke and his fellow prominent scientists and intellectuals were held in great esteem by the general public. Today, however, vast segments of the world's populations are intent on downgrading the importance of science in place of fanatical religious dogma. Fortunately, for the majority of people of faith, science does not exist in a mutually exclusive universe. Nevertheless, there is an undeniable trend in some quarters to pretend that established fact does not exist, especially if it offers some inconvenient contrasts to what these people want to believe. This anti-science slant is not restricted to fringe religious groups. Our popular culture reflects widespread belief in things that once would have been considered highly speculative by most mainstream audiences. Thus, we have shows in which a dumb housewife is paid a fortune to pretend she is a medium from Long Island and others that have self-proclaimed "ghost hunters" trying to convince the average person that their home is haunted. Arthur C. Clarke, the esteemed scientist and author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, tried to elevate discussion of the mysteries of life by keeping an open mind while also providing a skeptic's viewpoint. Now as a skeptic myself, I must admit I am often viewed as the skunk at the garden party when it comes to attempting to bring logic into conversations with people whose minds are made up that aliens are routinely abducting innocent earthlings or that religious miracles are occurring every day. Many people are as committed to their comfortable beliefs as they are to political ideologies and they don't want to allow any viewpoint into their lives that might cause them to rethink such positions. Clarke wanted people to constantly challenge their own belief systems. From 1980 through 1995, he hosted period series of TV programs designed to explore the great mysteries of science and nature. The new DVD set is as enlightening today as it was when these shows were originally telecast on British television.
The set is broken down into three different programs. Here is the description from the official press release:
"Hosted by acclaimed sci-fi
author Sir Arthur C. Clarke (2001: A Space Odyssey), Arthur C. Clarke: The Complete Collection
investigates the inexplicable, abnormal and mind-boggling wonders of the world. Included in the set are three
popular, documentary series originally aired on Britain’s ITV network. Mysterious
World (1980), narrated by author, actor and newscaster
Gordon Honeycomb (Then She Was Gone, The Medusa Touch), looks at unexplained
phenomena from Stonehenge to the Loch Ness Monster. Narrated by English journalist Anna Ford, World
of Strange Powers (1985) investigates goose bump-raising paranormal
activity from haunted houses to magical spirits. Mysterious Universe (1995),
narrated by British TV personality Carol Vorderman, examines mystical secrets
from the ancient world. In each episode, Clarke tackles
the daunting task of finding a reasonable explanation for some of the most
bizarre phenomena ever known to mankind from such “mysteries of the first kind”
as solar eclipses to the more inexplicable, including messages from beyond the
grave, the stigmata, lost planets, UFOs and zombies … Making Arthur
C. Clarke: The Complete Collection a must-have for every science-fiction
Clarke bookends every episode with an introduction and an epilogue, though he occasionally appears in the program itself to offers opinions and insights, treating people on both sides of an issue with dignity and respect. Each segment is fascinating and educational, ranging from topics that include the great achievements of the ancient world to seemingly inexplicable phenomenon. Clarke presents compelling arguments on all sides regarding the matters at hand but clearly relishes exposing some theories such as faith healing as the fraudulent practices they are. (One must admit, however, that the footage of these "miracle workers" performing is quite convincing on a certain level - until they are ultimately unveiled as charlatans preying on the most vulnerable members of society.) Clarke's presentation of other phenomenon such as the Abominable Snowman features thought-provoking insights from serious explorers who were convinced that there could be some actual unknown beast in the Himilayas. Clark acknowledges that, based on his study of the evidence, it might be possible the creature exists, but he dismisses as virtually impossible that a real-life Yeti could be tramping through even the most remote regions of the United States. Similarly, like any good scientist, he doesn't reject outright the possibility that supernatural phenomenon does occur- but doesn't shy away from the one answer that never satisfies any "true believer" in that he simply acknowledges he does not know the answer. Human beings need answers and if science and nature doesn't provide them, they simply convince themselves that something is true. If we don't know the answer of how the universe was created...well, then, Presto! A superior being made it! If something goes "bump" in the night in your home then...Yikes! You're house must be haunted! Scientists take a more measured approach by suppressing as much as possible their own beliefs so as to prevent coming to any forgone conclusions. Clarke represented that mindset. Just because someone else can't provide a viable answer doesn't mean your beliefs have to be true.
The set is addictive in terms of viewing. The subject matters are so vast and wide-ranging that if one topic doesn't appeal to you, another will. Each 30 minute episode is tightly edited and features fascinating film footage from around the world. Some segments may reinforce your beliefs (or lack thereof) while others may leave you questioning long-held opinions on these subjects, but there is enough here, for example, in the examination of religion to please both believers and skeptics because of the fascinating angles Clarke uses to explore the topic. The series represents a time when such topics could be treated in an objective manner with the end result being that the viewers would reach their own conclusions. Sadly, such respect for the audience's intelligence has all been eradicated in the era of shows like The Long Island Medium. Highly recommended.
Paul Mantee, a popular fixture on TV shows and feature films, passed away on November 7. Mantee had appeared on many TV series over the years and had recurring roles on the 1980s hits Hunter and Cagney and Lacy. He first began appearing in the medium in the late 1959s and eventually guest starred on major programs such as The F.B.I, Mannix, Dragnet, Ben Casey, Dr. Kildare, Batman, The Time Tunnel, Bonanza, Kojak and Seinfeld. Mantee also appeared in small roles in many feature films. In 1964 he had a rare starring role in Robinson Crusoe on Mars, a fairly low-budget sci-fi film that became a major cult hit thanks to its intelligent script, direction and performances. He also had the lead role in the 1968 James Bond spoof A Man Called Dagger. For more click here
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
the first time on DVD a feature length documentary, Return to Scatterbrook: Memories of Worzel, celebrating the cult
70’s/80’s television series, Worzel
Featuring key interviews with members of the
cast and crew; rare archive footage of Jon Pertwee; visits to the locations,
and with many previously unseen continuity shots; behind the scenes
photographs, and production designs – this film opens up the storybook behind
British TV’s most lovable scarecrow.
Gummidge is highly regarded today as a piece of classic television, making
this documentary a special journey down memory lane for anyone who remembers
this delightful, magical series.
Pertwee, Geoffrey Bayldon, Lorraine Chase, Jeremy Austin & Mike Berry
Directed By Derek
DVD Extras: An Evening With Jon Pertwee (1996) & Worzel Gallery
Running Time: 104
raised from the sale of this DVD goes to:
Society (in loving memory of Cecelia & Michael Ripper) & All Dogs
the wondrous Blu-ray products released this month by The Criterion Collection,
that Cadillac of labels, are a masterpiece from 1931 and an absolute gem from
2013—Charles Chaplin’s City Lights,
and Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha. Both
packages come with Blu-ray and DVD discs, which apparently will be the norm for
Criterion releases from now on.
up—City Lights, arguably Chaplin’s
best and most enduring feature film. Made at a time when sound had already
taken over Hollywood, Chaplin insisted on shooting another silent picture.
Everyone thought he was mad. The moguls believed that even after only four
years of sound movies, audiences would not care to step backwards into the
silent era ever again. Chaplin proved them wrong. City Lights, even without spoken dialogue (but with a gorgeous
Chaplin score and sound effects) is sophisticated and intelligent,
hilarious and touching, and remarkably clever. Often regarded as one of the
best films ever made, Chaplin’s masterwork is the story of a tramp (duh) and
his love for a blind flower-girl, who mistakenly thinks Charlie is a rich man.
As our hero attempts to perpetuate this misconception, the results are
side-splitting funny—until Chaplin’s trademark pathos takes over and “there
isn’t a dry eye in the house.” It is said that Albert Einstein had tears
rolling down his cheeks at the premiere.
oh, boy, does the film look good on Blu-ray. The new digital restoration from a
4K film transfer is crisp, sharp, and blemish-free. Like Criterion’s earlier
release this year, Safety Last!, City Lights looks as if it were made
last week. There’s a new audio commentary by Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance,
as well as a host of extras. Many of these are repeated from the MK2 Warner
Brothers release from around ten years ago, such as the documentary Chaplin Today: City Lights, archival
footage from the production of the film, rehearsals, and clips of the director
with boxing stars at Chaplin Studios in 1918. A new feature, Chaplin Studios: Creative Freedom by Design,
explores how Chaplin built his famous studio with a mind toward expressing his unique
ways of working. The usual outstanding booklet contains an essay by critic Gary
Giddins and a 1966 interview with Chaplin himself.
short, if you’ve never seen City Lights
or have any doubt that Charles Chaplin was the greatest film artist in the
industry’s first fifty years, then by all means pick up this set.
Noah Baumbach’s delightful Frances Ha originally
premiered at film festivals in 2012, but was released theatrically in 2013,
making it a contender for this year’s Academy Awards. I sincerely hope it’s not
overlooked. Baumbach is known for making quirky films (see The Squid and the Whale, for example), and Frances Ha is no different. However, unlike Baumbach’s earlier
mixtures of dark humor and tragedy, the new picture is definitely a comedy. At
its heart is Greta Gerwig’s performance as Frances, who also co-wrote the
screenplay with Baumbach. Frances is a well-meaning, life-is-mostly-wonderful
type of young woman who strives to be a choreographer but can’t seem to get the
opportunity to strut her stuff. Throughout the picture, she is a woman without
a home, crashing at various friends’ apartments in New York City, always
promising herself that she’ll “get her own place soon,” hopefully with her best
friend Sophie (played by Sting’s daughter Mickey Sumner), with whom Frances
shared a place at the story’s beginning. While the film is full of laughs and
smiles, there is an under-current of
loneliness that doesn’t really hit you until after the movie is over—despite
the genuine happy ending.
digitally in color and then converted into glorious black and white, New York
hasn’t looked so good since Woody Allen’s Manhattan.
Baumbach’s storytelling expertise is all in the characters and how the film is
edited, and in many ways, the picture resembles something Francois Truffaut
might have done in the early 60s. In fact, Baumbach utilizes famous French New
Wave movie music (by Georges Delerue and others) for much of the score. If ever
there was an homage to that important and creative movement in cinema history, Frances Ha is it.
include an interesting dialogue between Baumbach and director Peter
Bogdanovich; one gets the impression that the elder statesman might be
something of a mentor to the younger filmmaker. Also of note is the dialogue
between Greta Gerwig and filmmaker/actress Sarah Polley. A further conversation
about the look of the picture between Baumbach, DOP Sam Levy, and Pascal
Dangin, who did the film’s color mastering, is enlightening. The booklet
contains a perceptive essay by playwright Annie Baker.
you missed Frances Ha in the theaters
last spring, now’s your chance to catch up. It truly is a jewel.
Robert Sellers' book The Battle for Bond presents an in-depth examination of the complicated rights issues relating to the 007 films.
MGM and Danjaq have finally ended decades of litigation relating to rights held by producer Kevin McClory to the James Bond franchise. McClory had certain film rights relating to the novel Thunderball which Ian Fleming had based on an ill-fated collaboration between himself, McClory and writer Jack Whittingham in the 1950s when the trio tried unsuccessfully to bring 007 to the big screen. In order to thwart a rival film production of novel from being made, Bond producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman hired McClory as producer of the 1965 blockbuster screen version of Thunderball. However, McClory always claimed that his rights allowed him to make other Bond films and even TV series. In 1983, a big screen remake of Thunderball titled Never Say Never Again proved to the only one of these projects to succeed. MGM and Danjaq consistently brought law suits designed to slow down or stop McClory from exploiting the rights he claimed he held. In a lawsuit that took place in the year 2000, the court rejected most of McClory's claims and, in essence, gave the full rights to the Bond character to MGM and Danjaq. Still, issues remained with McClory's estate after the producer passed away in 2006. The latest agreements bring an amicable close to any remaining litigation. Click here for more.
"Sex only dirty if you're doing it right", Woody Allen once said. The cast members of Our, Girls certainly do it right so this stroll down Mammary Lane from the Impulse Pictures DVD label can certainly be classified as a "dirty movie", to put in the parlance of days gone by. Ordinarily, old grind house porn doesn't merit critical attention but Impulse is a serious label that takes pains to preserve some the more notable titles of this genre from the 1970s and 1980s. I suppose there is some sociological merit to them, but the bottom line is: are they still erotic? In the case of Oui, Girls the answer is "yes" and "no". Much certainly depends upon individual viewer's tastes in erotica. More so than any "legit" movie, if you don't find the leading actors attractive, chances are you'll find the entire enterprise more taxing than stimulating. The film was directed (so to speak) by F.J. Lincoln, whose main claim to fame in this era is that he had one of the starring roles in Wes Craven's original Last House on the Left. The liner notes on the DVD box indicate this film was highly regarded in adult film circles back in the day. "Highest rating...an erotic masterpiece", exclaimed High Society magazine. 'lest you think this is on the level of Last Tango in Paris, think again. What apparently separated Lincoln's films from the rest of the grind house pack is that they at least had some modest production values. In an era where most porn films were confined to "one reelers" shot in somebody's bedroom (or kitchen, or garage), Lincoln attempted to shoehorn something akin to a plot into the action- and he also shot on location so that his productions had some scenery and atmosphere. Even back in 1982, however, it's hard to imagine that this modest enterprise would have elicited great praise from within the adult film community, especially when a decade before, Gerard Domiano's The Devil in Miss Jones set the high water mark for acting, story and production values. Lincoln's great achievement here was gathering numerous "superstars" of the porn genre in this one film....sort of like The Towering Inferno, only these superstars don't wear pants.
The film opens with a young couple, Barbara (Anna Ventura) and Nick (Paul Thomas, who bears a striking resemblance to Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers) discussing a mystery. Nick, an insurance investigator, suspects that a man named Buck Thomas (Michael Morrison) may have murdered his wife. Nick gets Barbara to agree to accompany him to the Circle S singles ranch, which, in fact, is a place for swingers. Seems that ol' Buck holds court there with his latest flame, the sexually insatiable Cora (Lisa De Leeuw). The story then veers to another couple, Laura (Tiffany Clark) and Frank (Michael Bruce) who are curious about spicing up their love lives by experimenting with swinging. They arrange a meeting with an exotic, strange woman named Francine (Sharon Kane) who invites them to the Circle S to indulge in their fantasies. Once the couples arrive at the ranch, director Lincoln throws the entire murder mystery plot out the window (it's abruptly resolved in a single sentence, then not revisited again). Instead, things get hot and heavy with guys eyeing girls, girls eyeing guys and, of course, girls eyeing girls. The sex scenes are legitimately erotic and Lincoln doesn't go too much beyond the pure vanilla stage in that nothing overly perverted goes on, as long as you're comfortable with a dozen people rolling around together on the living room floor.
There are some interesting observations to make about the film. For one, while the women range from ordinary looking to downright exotic and the men look like they just stepped got off work at the local factory. In this pre-Botox and silicone era, most of the performers looked like people you might actually meet in real life. Thus, the guys are hairy and the girls are even hairier. The real fun comes when various cast members attempt to act. Here, the guys have the advantage with most of the male actors delivering dialogue in a manner that doesn't elicit unintentional laughter. Their physical appearance is something else, however, as they are cursed by having to wear the fashions of the era (short-shorts and polyester were all the rage). The women fare better in the fashion department because plunging necklines and garter belts do the trick in any era. The most amusement comes from the performance of Anna Ventura as Barbara when she gets to scold boyfriend Nick. She plays the part like she's Liz Taylor's Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and induces some gut busting unintentional laughter in the process. There is also a funny sequence in which Nick is seduced by Cora. Barbara walks in and catches them in the act but Paul has an excuse: as an insurance investigator he had to use her bottom to get to the bottom of the case. (Male insurance investigators may want to make note of this excuse in case they find themselves in a similar dilemma.) The film's grand finale features an all-out orgy, though Lincoln is rather subdued in not taking this scene as far as we might have expected.
The opening credits on the DVD transfer look like they were run over by a garbage truck but, in a way, it adds to the ambiance of the grind house flick. Fortunately, the print quality improves dramatically after that. There are no bonus features on the disc. Oui, Girls is a nostalgic throwback to an era when even porn seemed a little less calculated and manufactured by rote. I'm still trying to figure out the relevance of the title since there isn't even an allusion to the French anywhere on screen. If you pine away for those days watching porn in dingy theaters, you'll enjoy this DVD. To enhance the experience, make sure you're wearing your trench coat while viewing it.
At a recent symposium in St. Louis, Jesuits joined with members of the public for a symposium dedicated to discussing the actual incident that inspired William Peter Blatty's best-selling book The Exorcist, which in turn, was adapted into the classic 1973 horror film by director William Friedkin. The incident involved a 13 year old boy who was allegedly possessed by demonic spirits. The Catholic church, which had pretty much down played exorcisms in the modern age, gave rare permission for Father William Bowdren to perform the ritual. The identity of the boy remains secret even today and Father Bowdren, who died in 1983, never discussed specifics of the case other than to say "it was the real thing." Nevertheless, there is disagreement even among contemporary priests about the validity of the claim. Some say it's very probable that whatever physical manifestations Father Bowdren witnessed afflicting the boy could have been attributed to other causes. If faith is a belief in something that cannot be proven through traditional means, how one views the incident depends on one's religious convictions. If someone believes in God and an afterlife, it stands to reason that it isn't much of a stretch to believe in the existence of evil spirits. Conversely, skeptics and those who look to science as opposed to faith would look to natural causes for such occurrences. Whatever your views are, the incident certainly inspired one hell of a creepy horror story.- Lee Pfeiffer For more click here
(Issue #19 of Cinema Retro features an exclusive interview with William Peter Blatty. Click below to order)
ALTERNATIVE MOVIE POSTERS (Schiffer Publishing, Hardcover, 208 pages) by Matthew Chojnacki
Review by Lee Pfeiffer
In his introduction, author Chojnacki states the
obvious: the once classic art of movie poster design went into a deep decline
in the 1990s. (He claims we are now in a Renaissance period but you wouldn’t
know it from most of the movie posters we see.) Chojnacki took it upon himself
to seek out and curate avante garde movie posters created by a widespread range
of contemporary artists. Some were created for film festivals and other
projects whilst others were specifically designed for this impressive, handsome
coffee table book with top production values.
Each piece of art identifies its creator and
is given a dedicated page of its own. The posters feature quirky and often
ingenious designs that reflect the most memorable aspects of classic and cult
cinema often in the most subtle of ways. Titles range from classic Bond movies
to contemporary horror- and in virtually every case, the posters put to shame
the mostly God-awful designs seen on posters today, which tend to be bland, scanned in photos of actor's heads or indistinguishable posters relating to super heroes. This outstanding book
makes a perfect gift for the movie lover in your life and reassures us that there are still talented people creating movie posters today (they are just not being employed by studios).
Terry Gilliam with Cinema Retro columnist Adrian Smith at a 2009 BFI tribute to Gilliam in London.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
Filmmaker Terry Gilliam is fronting a Kickstarter campaign to restore Walerian Borowczyk's classic 1968 film Goto, l'île d'amour (Goto, Island of Love).
Speaking about the Polish artist and filmmaker’s work Gilliam says: “They activate a part of my brain that very few other things do…I haven't seen any of these films in probably thirty or forty years, but they all have stuck with me. He needs to be restored and the world needs to be reminded.”
Until now the majority of Borowczyk's early films have been unavailable. However, earlier this year writer, documentary filmmaker and producer of the box set, Daniel Bird secured the permission of his widow Ligia Borowczyk to restore nine short films and two feature films including Le théâtre de Monsieur & Madame Kabal (The Theatre of Mr and Mrs Kabal, 1967) and Blanche (1971) which will be released by Arrow films in Spring 2014.
Producer Daniel Bird says: ”For fifteen years I have been trying to find a way to restore Borowczyk's early films. Obviously, I am thrilled to be working with Arrow Films on this box-set."
The restorations were completed at Deluxe laboratories, London, under the supervision of leading film restorer, James White. This will be the first time that many of these films will be available in any home video format in any territory.
Born in Poland in 1923, where he studied painting and sculpture before establishing himself as a poster artist during the late 1950s, Borowczyk emigrated to France in 1959 where he lived and worked for the rest of his life. With films such as Renaissance (1963) and Rosalie (1966), Borowczyk played a major part in getting animated film recognised as a serious art form.
According to Amos Vogel, author of Film as a Subversive Art, Borowczyk's harrowing 1964 animation Les jeux des anges (Angels' Games) is simply “a masterpiece of modern art.”
In The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, David Thomson describes Borowczyk as “one of the major artists of modern cinema, arguably the finest talent that East Europe has provided.”
In addition, Arrow Films has collaborated with Argos Films, Paris, to release two other Borowczyk films, Contes immoraux (Immoral Tales, 1974) and La Bête (The Beast, 1975) in newly restored high definition transfers, as well as five more short films. These acquisitions will form the basis of Arrow’s Walerian Borowczyk Blu-ray and DVD box set, which is to be released as part of the Arrow Academy series in Spring 2014.
The co-producer of the box set isMichael Brooke in conjunction with Ligia Borowczyk and the filmmaker's regular assistant and producer, Dominique Segretin.
Note: This review pertains to the Region 2 (PAL) format UK release.
Cinema Retro writer would love to be able to explain to you in detail what just
what The Final Programme is
about, but I have absolutely no idea. The plot revolves around Jerry
Cornelius (Jon Finch), a swaggering millionaire scientist who seems to think he
is the second coming in this futuristic, possibly post-WWIII Britain. His
father, also a scientist, died when he was on the brink of some kind of amazing
discovery, and it is up to Cornelius to find out what it was. Along the way he
meets a variety of bizarre characters who drift in and out of the plot with
nothing particular to contribute. Amongst these are many familiar faces from
film and TV, such as George Coulouris, Sterling Hayden, Patrick Magee and
Graham Crowden, the latter seemingly channelling Quentin Crisp. The film has
flashes of visual inspiration spread throughout its running time, including
colourful filters and multiple layers, but these alone do not make up for a
story that makes no sense whatsoever. At one point Cornelius finds himself in a
nightclub which is built like a giant pinball machine, complete with
scantily-clad go-go dancers in giant hamster balls. It's colourful and exciting,
and you can almost imagine this film taking place in the same Britain as A
Clockwork Orange (1971).
Fuest is probably best known for directing the Vincent Price camp comedy-horror
classics The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) and Dr. Phibes Rises Again
(1972), films with plenty of visual style to compensate for the slightly flimsy
plots, themselves a derivation from the much-imitated Agatha Christie story And
Then There Were None (also known as Ten Little Indians). The film is
based on a much-respected science fiction novel by prolific author Michael
Moorcock. He has not been particularly complimentary about the film in the
past, and neither have ardent fans of the book, who have complained that too
much was removed from the story. This may help explain why the film makes no
sense, with Jerry moving from unusual experience to unusual experience for no
reason. It is a movie that is less than the sum of its parts, which is a pity
as individual parts are intriguing and entertaining, and suggest that there could
have been something very special here. Instead it is like trying to watch a
film through the fog of a room full of stoners. Originally an X certificate in
the UK, the film is now rated 15 for the occasional swearing, drug-taking and
nudity, all very much of its time.
is a film which has been greatly anticipated on UK DVD, and it is a pity that
Network did not take the opportunity to create materials that may help the
audience to put the film in some sort of context. Sadly both Robert Fuest and
Jon Finch died last year, too late to have their final reflections on the film
recorded. Michael Moorcock is still around but would not necessarily want to
contribute, but some kind of short documentary or commentary track from a
historian would definitely help if you are new to the film. As it is you get a
couple of trailers and the choice to watch the opening titles in Italian. Not
exactly mind-blowing extras, which are precisely what this DVD release needs.
Martine Beswick (One Million Years B.C., Slave Girls and Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde), Caroline Munro (Captain Kronos and Dracula A.D.72), Kate O'Mara (Horror of Frankenstein and The Vampire Lovers) and Maddie Smith (Vampire Lovers and Frankenstein and the and Monster from Hell). (Photo: copyright Mark Mawston, all rights reserved.)
9th November 2013
by Adrian Smith
Saturday in the shadow of Westminster Abbey, amidst the power-hungry elite of
Whitehall and Downing Street, gathered an even more sinister and corrupting
influence. Darth Vader rubbed shoulders with evil twins, corrupted children,
vampires, zombies and even Jack the Ripper. Overseeing this evil conclave were
directors whose films were so depraved that sometimes sick bags were supplied
to the audience.
film buffs were of course overjoyed at the fantastic selection of stars at this
Hammer and Horror Film event. Representing the Bond girls were Caroline Munro,
Caron Gardner, Martine Beswick and Madeline Smith. They were alongside horror
queens Barbara Shelley, Kate O'Mara, Judy Matheson, Janina Faye and Emily
Booth. Barbara Shelley sat with some of the alien children from her classic
British sci-fi Village of the Damned, Teri and Lesley Scoble and Martin
Stephens (also star of The Innocents). David Warner (Tron), Dave Prowse (Star Wars) and John Carson (Plague
of the Zombies) were all very friendly and accommodating of the multitude
of demanding fans, and writer-directors Michael Armstong (Mark of the Devil),
Norman J. Warren (Satan's Slave) and Brian Clemens (The Avengers)
were also there discussing their work and meeting old friends.
Kate O'Mara, Dave Prowse (Horror of Frankenstein) and Madeline Smith. (Photo: copyright Mark Mawston. All rights reserved.)
focus of the day was the recent restoration of Hammer's Twins of Evil. To
celebrate the director John Hough met up with Damien Thomas, who played Count
Karnstein, Judy Matheson, burnt at the stake by Peter Cushing, and good twin
Mary Collinson, who had travelled to the event from Milan. Sir Christopher
Frayling, one of the UK’s leading authorities on vampire fiction, lead the
onstage discussion. He provided a fascinating history of the Karnstein story
from its origins in the work of Sheridan Le Fanu to Hammer’s lesbian vampire
trilogy. They all clearly enjoyed the reunion, and Hough did his best to
convince the audience that the Collinson girls' voices were not dubbed, despite
what all the film history books say. Mary explained that they both received
elocution lessons, as neither of them were trained actors. Twins of Evil was
to be their last film, released when they were only nineteen, and they returned
guests were also interviewed throughout the day. Brian Clemens, Caroline Munro
and John Carson got together to discuss the magnificent Captain Kronos:
Vampire Hunter, agreed by one and all to be the last good film Hammer made
in the 1970s. Norman J. Warren described the difficulties of making Satan's
Slave with money raised by your producer re-mortgaging his house. They had
such small funds that star Michael Gough had to supply his own wardrobe and
sleep on a friend's sofa for three weeks, all for the grand sum of £300.
Warner was especially mischievous during his interview, reacting with horror
every time a clip was shown from his extensive back-catalogue (including Tom
Jones, The Omen, Time
After Time and Star Trek). He had the room in gales of
laughter and explained that as an actor without any ambition he is very happy
to have never been a star, something that many in the room disagreed with.
Cinema Retro columnist Adrian Smith with Mary Collinson (Twins of Evil).
(Photo: copyright Mark Mawston. All rights reserved).
makes one of these conventions so enjoyable is that alongside the guests are
dozens of stalls weighed down with rare DVDs, obscure film posters, original
James Bond toys, vinyl, novelisations; virtually every kind of film memorabilia
and ephemera that you can think of (and many you can't) from all over the
world. From Thai Evil Dead posters to original Hammer Quads it was a
collectors dream, even though you may also need to re-mortgage your home
yourself in order to pay for everything you want. Cinema Retro came home laden with
press books, lobby cards, old magazines, books and rare Spanish 1960s superhero
movies, and could easily have gone around the hall several more times.
Was James Bond not the only orphan drafted into MI6 by "M"?
Bloomeberg writer Stephen L. Carter left his first screening of the James Bond blockbuster Skyfall last year haunted by the suspicion that there are cryptic clues in the screenplay that most viewers would not ponder. He did his homework and discovered that the villain Silva, who wages an obsessive campaign of humiliation and vengeance against "M" for allowing him to rot in a Hong Kong prison, has a hidden anagram in the message he leaves on her hacked computer: THINK ON YOUR SINS. Carter reveals the anagram is YOUR SON ISN'T IN HK. Sound far-fetched? Click here to read Carter's rather persuasive argument that Silva is actually "M"'s adopted son who, in his eyes, was betrayed when she put the needs of MI6 above his own safety. This plot point would explain a lot of the emotional resonance in the relationship between "M" and Silva, which seems to hint at much more than is revealed on screen.
Lesleh Donaldson with Cinema Retro columnist Todd Garbarini.
By Todd Garbarini
Richard Ciupka’s unfairly maligned 1983
horror film Curtains was screened
recently as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Scary Movies 7 exhibition that also included screenings of Lucky
McKee’s new film All Cheerleaders Die,
Michele Soavi’s highly regarded Cemetery
Man (1994), Eli Roth’s new film The
Green Inferno, John D. Hancock’s ultra creepy Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971), the New York premiere of Clive
Barker’s 1990 film Nightbreed - the Cabal
Cut, and Peter Carter’s brilliant Rituals
(1977), better known as The Creeper,
which stars Hal Holbrook and Lawrence Dane in a film that is clearly influenced
by John Boorman’s Deliverance (1971) but
easily stands on its own as a strong piece of independent filmmaking.
Appearing in person at the Curtains screening was actress Lesleh
Donaldson who played Christie Burns, the ice skater in the film. Ms. Donaldson, who made her film debut as
Michael Douglas’ teenage daughter in Steven H. Stern’s 1979 film Running, introduced the film and spoke
at length following the screening with a question-and-answer session. Also at the screening were longtime Curtains aficionados Bryan Norton (he
teaches filmmaking at the New York Film Academy and is the director of Penny Dreadful with Betsy Palmer and Jack Attack with Helen Rogers), actor
Joe Zaso, film directors Bart Mastronardi, Alan Rowe Kelly, Howard Simon, and
yours truly representing Cinema Retro.
Exhibited from a rare 35mm print, Curtains is one of the most under-appreciated
thrillers of the early 1980s. The Canadian production went before the cameras
in November of 1980 and was beset by a multitude of problems which stretched
over several years and included but were not limited to: creative differences
between director Ciupka and the film’s producer, the late Peter R. Simpson, who
directed much of the film; a last-minute change in casting of one of the
supporting characters; and issues of money for the budget. This
tale of director Jonathan Stryker (played by the late John Vernon) and his
desire to bring the story of a woman, Audra, to the screen also features
veteran actress Samantha Eggar as actress Samantha Sherwood having herself
committed to a sanitarium to study mentally disturbed individuals only to find
that Stryker, for reasons never explained, has secretly decided to leave her
there and recast the film by auditioning other actresses at his house. Once she gets out, all hell breaks loose…
“Richard and Peter did not get along
and they both had their own views of what this movie was going to be about,” Ms.
Donaldson said after the screening. “Richard
(Ciupka) was a cinematographer who had a very artistic view of what the film
should look like. On the other hand, Peter Simpson, having done Prom Night prior to this, knew what
worked. He just wanted your typical slasher movie. So, they were constantly
battling and eventually Richard just left the project. They cast Celine Lomez in the Linda Thorson
role (of Brooke Parsons) originally. I
am not sure what happened, if she got another role or whatever, but she left.” When asked if she still has her fake head
that appears in a toilet during a gruesome discovery, she admits that it was an
artificial makeshift toilet and they used her real head for the scene. “The dinner scene and the bedroom scenes were
all done by Richard,” Ms. Donaldson continued. “The ice skating rink scene and the chase through the prop house, that
was all Peter. The other actresses and
myself, we all got along fine. There were no fights of any sort. I liked all of the women, they were all really
great. I didn't get to know Samantha Eggar very much but to be honest I think
she kept herself away from everybody because that’s what the character called
for. I became really good friends with
Lynne Griffin (who played Patti O’Connor and also starred in Bob Clark’s Black Christmas) and she was very
excited that they were screening the movie tonight. She couldn’t be here, unfortunately, but she
really wanted to. Anne Ditchburn was
also a very good friend as well. I did
actually practice a skating routine and she helped me. I didn’t actually get to
do my routine because I had practiced
skating in an arena. When it came time to shoot my ice-skating scene in the
movie, I literally took one glide out on to the icy pond and hit a bump. I fell face-first on to the ice. Looking at it on the big screen I can see the
cut on my chin. Of course, I did it
right behind Peter and Gerry Arbeid (production manager)! Gerry turned to Peter and said, ‘Didn’t we
pay for her training?’ So, they had to
use a double for my ice skating.”
Ms. Donaldson was nominated for a Genie
Award for her performance in the 1980 horror film Funeral Home but lost out to Margot Kidder in Donald Shebib’s Heartaches (1981). Her other horror film outings include Happy Birthday to Me (1981) and Deadly Eyes (1982).
Released on VHS in 1983 and on DVD in
2007, Curtains is currently
undergoing a long overdue digital film restoration from an interpositive under
the auspices of Don May, Jr.’s company Synapse Films with a Blu-ray scheduled
for release in 2014.
Italy may have suffered immeasurably during WWII but in the post-war era the Italian cinema entered a renaissance period with world-acclaimed directors making the country the epicenter of the European new wave films. The Italian cinema was still in vigorous condition in the 1960s and the nation's most glamorous actors and actresses became international stars. In the wake of Fellini's La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2, even mainstream American audiences that were generally immune to the charms of foreign films became smitten by the Italian touch. One of the most unheralded Italian imports from this era ironically boasted one of the most impressive casts. Made in Italy was released in America in 1967 with an all-star cast that included Virna Lisi, Sylva Koscina, Anna Magnani, Alberto Sordi and Nino Manfredi. The movie, which has been released as one of Sony's burn-to-order DVD titles, is a madcap look at a disparate number of Italians who are all experiencing something chaotic during the course of a single day. The movie, directed and co-written by Nanni Loy (The Four Days of Naples), runs at a fairly manic clip and certainly contains some moments of inspired comedy. However, the screenplay is woefully under-written with some of the vignettes (which are all unrelated) ending abruptly on an unsatisfactory note. Not helping matters is the penchant for dubbing films during this era, an absurd practice that was designed to increase boxoffice dollars but resulted in plenty of voices that didn't seem to match the actors on screen. This film is no exception, with only a few instances in which the dubbing can be deemed satisfactory. In most cases, it's poor and woefully distracting. The dozens of vignettes have varying running times and are primarily designed to look at how every day life in Italy impacts its citizens from all walks of life. Loy gets a bit Felliniesque by making some social commentary along the way. In one sequence, a group of bored, super wealthy socialites decide to "slum it" by eating in a crowded restaurant that is popular with the working class. The snobs arrogantly laugh at how they are immersed with those of lower social status in much the same way as visitors to a zoo might be amused by the antics of some exotic animals. In the most poignant sequence, a middle-aged out of work man desperately seeks employment and goes off on a job interview for a position of laborer. The hopes and enthusiasm of his wife at the prospect of his finding a job is genuinely touching even though the episode ends on a downbeat note. The only consistent characters seen throughout are a group of bawdy Italians who are aboard a flight to Sweden where they apparently have been engaged to do some unspecified work. The scenes of these obnoxious men clowning on the plane are routinely unfunny and the payoff is even weaker when they arrive in Sweden only to find it a gray, humorless place. The funniest segment involves Alberto Sordi as a philanderer who is caught in the act with his mistress by his wife- only to slickly present a defense of his actions that is designed to make him appear to be the victim of his wife's uncaring behavior. Another funny segment involves Anna Magnani trying to simply walk her family to a local ice cream parlor only to have to endanger everyone's lives by trying to cross the lanes of non-stop traffic that resembles a racetrack. The premise is very funny but, again, the script ends on a bizarre note, as though the writers couldn't envision a satisfying conclusion. The film's main attributes are the superbly photographed scenes of various exotic Italian cities and other locations, all set to a jaunty and delightful musical score.
Made in Italy is a mixed bag. There is inspired humor in small does along with some poignant social commentary, but all too often the segments are as leaden as a mountainous plate of lasagna.
The DVD transfer is excellent but there are no bonus extras.
Although Natalie Wood was regarded as a "serious" actress, having made the rare successful transition from child star, the custom of the day was for studio actors and actresses to pose for an endless amount of "cheesecake" photos. Wood was no exception as this rare photo for the promotion of "Gypsy" (1962) reveals.
Joe Dante's addictive Trailers From Hell site presents the re-release trailer for the MGM Laurel and Hardy classic Way Out West. Director John Landis provides commentary for the 1937 film and there is an option to watch the trailer with its original narration. Click here to view
Warner Home Video has released a deluxe Blu-ray edition of director Oliver Stone's 1991 film JFK to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The movie was a lightning rod for controversy upon its initial release and film critics and historians still debate the film today. Stone, who has made clear he is a firm believer that in the theory that JFK's murder was part of a greater conspiracy plot, altered many key historical events in order to make these theories more convincing to audiences. Stone defended this decision as being within the realm of "artistic license" and claimed that, as a filmmaker, his primary goal was to make a compelling movie. His critics cited their belief that, to impressionable audience members, his powerful movie would be confused with established fact. No matter where you stand on the debate, virtually everyone agreed that the movie was a gripping, expertly-made thriller. It earned 8 Oscar nominations, winning two.
The Blu-ray boxed set is outstanding in terms of content and quality. The set presents Stone's "director's cut" of the film (the original theatrical cut is not included, having apparently been disowned by Stone), a feature length documentary titled Beyond JFK: A Question of Conspiracy, deleted/extended scenes and feature length commentary. There is also an episode of the TV series Olvier Stone's Untold History of the United States titled JFK: To the Brink that delves into the various foreign crisis the new President had to deal with. A theatrical trailer is also included.
The set contains a separate DVD that has other excellent bonus programming including the 1963 feature film P.T. 109 that recreates how Kennedy won his stripes as a WWII hero (Cliff Robertson plays JFK, having been personally chosen by the President for the role). The film is enjoyable enough in its own right but, aside from the Kennedy connection, it's basically a standard WWII adventure. Robert Culp and Ty Hardin co-star. There is also a new feature length documentary titled JFK Remembered: 50 Years Later as well as the acclaimed vintage feature film documentary John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums which has been remastered for this release. There is a wealth of bonus collectibles including book of JFK quotations, reproduction of his inaugural address, reproduction of Kennedy campaign poser, 20 photos and correspondence fro te the JFK Presidential Library and a 44 page photo book. Nobody seems to excel at these "everything-but-the-kitchen sink" boxed sets like Warner Home Video does. Somebody over there deserves praise for their creative bonus collectibles that are included in so many of their boxed sets.
In all this is a magnificent release on every level.
There are various other options for purchasing the Blu-ray aside from the boxed set, as outlined below on the official official press release.
BURBANK, Calif., August 21, 2013 – November 22, 2013 will mark 50 years
since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and Warner Bros. Home
Entertainment (WBHE) will commemorate this tragic chapter in U.S. history by
honoring one of our most influential presidents with the release of a new collection
featuring the award-winning motion picture, JFK. Director Oliver Stone’s controversial
highly-charged story surrounding the tragedy debuts November 12as
JFK50Year Commemorative Ultimate Collector’s Edition (JFK UCE) on Blu-ray™.
Stone’s film is considered one of the most provocative of
our time. In addition to box-office success and critical acclaim, it captured eight
(including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor), winning two
(Best Cinematography and Film Editing). It also won Stone a Best Director
(Motion Picture, 1992) Golden Globe® and ultimately played a major
role in the national debate that lead to passage of the 1992 Assassination
Materials Disclosure Act.
Stone directed from a screenplay he wrote with Zachary
Sklar. The all-star cast includes Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Bacon,
Gary Oldman, Sissy Spacek, Jack Lemmon, Joe Pesci, Donald Sutherland, Laurie
Metcalf, John Candy, Walter Matthau, Sally Kirkland, and Edward Asner.
The JFK UCE includes the Director’s
Cut with 17 additional minutes not seen in theaters and will feature three
captivating documentaries – Oliver Stone’s JFK: To the Brink, the insightful
look at the JFK presidency that was included in his 2012 Showtime Series, “The Untold
History of the United States;” the brand-new JFK Remembered: 50 Years Laterfrom filmmaker Robert Kline; and John F. Kennedy: Years of
Lightning, Day of Drums, a
documentary produced by George Stevens, Jr., and written and directed by
Bruce Herschensohn, who also composed the music. The film was named one of the
Ten Best Films of 1965 by the National Board of Review.
In addition, the JFK UCE includes the feature film
drama, PT 109, about Kennedy’s World War
II experiences as a skipper in the South Pacific. The JFK UCE also contains
commemorative items from the Kennedy Presidential Library: collectible
reproductions of family and presidential photos, a campaign poster from the
1960 presidential campaign, and a copy of Kennedy’s historic inaugural address.
Lastly, there is a 32-page book of famous quotations, and a 44-page JFK movie
The JFK 50 Year Commemorative Ultimate
Collector’s Edition will sell for $59.99 SRP. The documentaries JFK
Remembered: 50 Years Later and John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of
Drums will also be available on DVD separately, for $5.94 and $11.97
SRP respectively. Untold History of the United States, containing JFK: To
the Brink, will make its U.S. Blu-ray debut October 15.
JFK: To The
Brink – Chapter
from Oliver Stone’s “Untold History of the United States”
New Documentary -- JFK Remembered: 50 Years Later
Remastered Documentary – John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums
Feature film -- PT
Behind the Story
Commentary by Director Oliver Stone
Beyond JFK: The Question of Conspiracy
Assassination Update – The New Documents
Meet Mr. X: The Personality and Thoughts of
Deleted/extended scenes with commentary by
director Oliver Stone (production audio only)
AboutThe UCE’s Special Features
the Brink: This documentary is Chapter
6 from the powerful historical series “Untold
History of the United States,” a ten-part Showtime
Original Series, debuting on Blu-ray October 15 through WBHE. The in-depth,
surprising, and totally riveting series, co-written by Stone with Peter Kuznick
and Matt Graham, was directed and narrated by Stone. This one-hour segment
sheds valuable additional insight into JFK’s presidency during the Bay
of Pigs; on the brink of total war during the Cuban Missile Crisis; through
early Vietnam; JFK's attempts at peace with Khrushchev; and finally the
JFK Remembered: 50 Years Later: 50 years after his assassination on November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy
remains as vital and compelling as when he was first elected. This documentary
reacquaints us with the first Irish-Catholic president and the youngest in U.S.
history, presenting images and personalities frozen in time. From Kennedy's
nomination to his election, from his inspiring inaugural address to the Bay of
Pigs, from civil rights and racial struggles to space exploration, from the
Berlin Wall appearance to his leadership during the Cuban Missile Crisis,
Kennedy ranks among the great presidents in the history of the United States.
John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums (1965): This
documentary tribute to President Kennedy was named one of the
Ten Best Films of the Year by the National Board of Review. Produced by George
Stevens Jr. for the United States Information Agency (USIA), it was narrated by
Gregory Peck, and written and directed by Bruce Herschensohn, who also composed
the music. The film chronicles the thousand days of JFK’s presidency, featuring
numerous clips from speeches and an intimate look at Kennedy family life. It
was not originally intended for the general public; however, the quality was
considered so outstanding that a special act of Congress allowed it to
eventually be shown theatrically.
PT 109 (1963): Before Kennedy was president, he was a hero
in World War II. Based on the book by Robert
J. Donovan, this film stars Academy Award®-winning actor Cliff
Robertson (Best Actor in a Leading Role --Charly
1969) as Lieutenant Kennedy. While a young captain of a PT boat in the South
Pacific, Kennedy lead his men in a daring rescue of American Marines stranded
on a small island inside the area of Japanese control. On another mission, a
Japanese destroyer sliced the small boat in half, and miles from the nearest
island Kennedy proves himself a hero with his efforts to save his crew.
Also Available Individually
Remembered: 50 Years Later (Documentary)
Pricing: $5.94 SRP
Run Time: 120 Mins.
Cat/UPC: 1000411226/ 883929346851
John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums
Pricing: $11.97 SRP
Run Time: 85 Mins.
The Untold History of the United States (contains JFK: To the
October 15, 2013
Order Due Date: September 10, 2013
Pricing: $49.99 SRP
Run Time: 801 mins
Catalog #: 1000420438
[i] 1991 (64th)
Actor in a Supporting Role –
Tommy Lee Jones
"CRAB MONSTERS, TEENAGE CAVEMEN, AND CANDY STRIPE NURSES: ROGER CORMAN, KING OF THE 'B' MOVIE" BY CHRIS NASHAWATAY; FOREWORD BY JOHN LANDIS
Review by Lee Pfeiffer
You can fill an ocean liner with all the tribute books that have been written about "B" movie mogul Roger Corman. The most elaborate so far is this superb coffee table volume by Chris Nashawatay, a long-time film critic for Entertainment Weekly. The book presents a plethora of outstanding movie posters, lobby cards and behind the scenes stills, some of which are from Corman's personal archives. They are all wonderfully presented, as this book is particularly well-designed to capitalize on the nature of the films it celebrates. So many big stars and directors had their initial success with Corman productions. In these pages you can relish Jack Nicholson as Cry Baby Killer, Ron Howard starring in (and directing for the first time) Eat My Dust, and Robert Vaughn as the Teenage Caveman. Best of all is the excellent, in-depth coverage and graphics of Corman's greatest successes: the string of Edgar Allan Poe film adaptations he collaborated on with Vincent Price. (This past Halloween, I watched several of them in succession on TCM and I am amazed at how well they hold up, despite low production values.). There biker films, sexploitation pics and low-brow comedies, all given the Corman touch of being slick and well-produced. Corman has lived to see his reputation placed on an exalted level (he received an honorary Oscar, something that would have seemed inconceivable back in the 1960s). The book has significant contributions from such esteemed figures as Peter Bogdanovich, James Cameron, Bruce Dern, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, Jack Nicholson and William Shatner- not to mention a heartfelt introduction by John Landis, who also credits Corman for distributing the works of Fellini, Bergmann and Kurosawa in the USA. In all, this book is an ambitious and highly entertaining work that retro movie lovers will find irresistible.
DISH Network, which bought the bankrupt Blockbuster Video in 2011, has thrown in the towel and announced it will close the remaining 300 Blockbuster stores in early 2014. Ten years ago it seemed that Blockbuster would remain king of the movie rental market. Where a Blockbuster store opened, independent videos stores closed. However, rapidly changing consumer habits rendered the stores obsolete. Most Americans probably would have to search far and wide to find a conventional video rental outlet in the average town. The era of instant downloads and streaming put the kiss of death on the video chain and DISH will be laying off as many as 2,800 employees. Click here for more
Our good friend actor Robert Davi has a sensational second career as a crooner. His Sinatra tribute show is getting rave reviews and the Huffington Post called him "a legend in the making". Now Davi has just released a wonderful new single on CD. New York City Christmas calls to mind the kind of unapologetically old-fashioned, sentimental holiday songs you just don't hear anymore. If you haven't heard him sing, you're in for a real treat.(We love that cover art by Steve Penley). Here is the official press release:
Angeles, CA--Singer/actor ROBERT
DAVI will be releasing his forthcoming “New York City Christmas” single for the upcoming holiday
season. The song was recorded at the iconic Capitol Records’ Studio A,
where Frank Sinatra, Nat “King” Cole and The Beatles once laid down some of
their most memorable work. Davi recorded “New York City Christmas” with
arranger/conductor ChrisWalden (Michael Buble), and is
accompanied by a live 30-piece orchestra, creating a lush background for the
holiday seasoned-song. “New
York City Christmas” was produced by legendary mixing engineer Al Schmitt, John Potoker and Nick Vallelonga, who also wrote the
song. Vallelonga has extensive directing, writing and producing credits
including: Yellow Rock, Stiletto and the
forthcoming romantic comedy, That’s Amore! (2014).
DAVI, who recently released DAVI
SINGS SINATRA – On The Road to Romance, produced by the
legendary Phil Ramone and
mixing engineer Al Schmitt (which
hit #6 on Billboard’s Top 10 Jazz chart), will be in New York for
promotion of the song in November and December.
Quincy Jones says of Davi’s performances: “As FS would say, 'Koo, Koo.' Wow! I have
never heard anyone come this close to Sinatra's sound – and still be himself.
Many try, but Robert Davi has the voice, tone, the flavor and the swagger. He
absolutely touched me down to my soul and brought back the essence and soul of
'Ol Blue Eyes himself.”
noted actor in motion pictures, DAVI is scheduled to film The
Expendables 3 on location in Bulgaria in October with Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Swartzenegger,
Jason Statham, Mel Gibson, Jet Li and DolphLundgren – is best known for his
roles as FBI Special Agent Johnson in Die Hard; Franz Sanchez in Licence
to Kill; Jake Fratelli in The Goonies and Ray Ferritto in Kill
the Irishman. He has appeared in
more than 100 moviesand television
Director Nicholas Ray's 1955 classic Rebel Without a Cause has been restored by Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation. Cinema Retro L.A. correspondent Mark Cerulli attended the recent premiere. Here is his report:
November 1st, Warner Bros. unveiled a loving restoration of the
James Dean classic, Rebel Without A Cause at a special screening at the Los
Angeles Museum of Art.The project was funded
by the Italian fashion house Gucci, which also threw a cocktail party at
LACMA’s Japanese Pavilion before the show.Their party was attended by some of LA’s glitterati including actress
Camilla Belle and original Rebel cast member Jack Grinnage (“Moose”).
Premiere cocktail party.
(Photo copyright Mark Cerulli. All rights reserved.)
this restoration was supported by Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation, the
director was supposed to introduce the film personally. Work commitments kept him elsewhere, but he
came up with a crowd pleasing last minute substitute – his frequent
collaborator, Leonardo DiCaprio. The
actor seemed relaxed and genuinely excited to be there as he read Scorsese’s
statement about how the film was instrumental in fostering his interest in and
love of movies – especially its palette of rich and vivid colors. (And unlike most celebrity presenters who
duck out of events as soon as the lights go down, DiCaprio took an aisle seat
and stayed for the entire film!)
DiCaprio introduces the restored movie classic.
(Photo copyright Mark Cerulli. All rights reserved.)
goes without saying that the film looked and sounded spectacular. The colors popped and Dean’s iconic screen
presence, Natalie Wood’s fragile beauty and Sal Mineo’s haunting performance all
came across as poignantly as they did on the day of release in 1955. According to Scorsese in the premiere
program, “the original color negative was scanned at 8K resolution” and the
sound had to be digitally sourced and cleaned from the original release print.
the film came out of director Nicholas Ray’s wish to portray “young people
growing up”, it remains a timeless snapshot of 1950s America and a showcase for
the raw power of James Dean.
Does the world really need another documentary
about George A. Romero’s watershed 1968 zombie film Night of the Living Dead? After
having watched a new documentary directed by Rob Kuhns called Birth of the Living Dead, the answer is
a resounding “Yes!” Horror films have
arguably never been more popular than they are now. The Internet and compact
digital devices such as iPads and cell phones have permitted people who
normally would not be able to afford the type of equipment necessary to make a
film the ability to do so. Consequently,
“found footage” films and zombie epics like 28
Days Later (2002) prosper. Digital
video and the explosion of computers and digital editing capability have become
a filmmaker's best friend. This is a far cry from the conditions under which
Mr. Romero and company made Night.
What Birth of the Living Dead does so well is pinpoint that exact moment
in history, in this case October 1968, when Mr. Romero’s seminal film was
unleashed upon an unsuspecting world. Prior to this, Mr. Romero, who was born
in the Bronx prior to moving to Pittsburgh, cut his teeth five years earlier by
creating a company called the Latent Image and produced hundreds, if not
thousands, of commercials. Sir Ridley
Scott similarly produced some 3000 commercials prior to his film debut, 1977’s The
Duelists. Mr. Romero comically
mentions having shot footage for Mister
Rogers’ Neighborhood and maintains even that wound up being frightening!
There are many ways in which film can
be ruined and when shooting on celluloid, invariably footage can end up over or
under exposed. In the case of some of
the commercials that Mr. Romero worked on, a lot of blood, sweat and tears went
into shooting footage that would end up plagued by mistakes made in the lab.
This is simply a fact of life and similar problems of shooting digitally are
rife with issues that plague filmmakers even today. USB devices get lost, hard
drives crash, digital videotape is accidentally erased, etc. Mr. Romero has seen it all.
The average filmgoer probably believes
that Night was Mr. Romero’s very
first film. While this is true in terms of having a film released, he actually
attempted to make an Ingmar Bergman-like drama prior to it. With money obtained
and saved through making commercials, he purchased a 35mm Arriflex film camera
and began work on a film entitled Whine
of the Fawn, sort of a variation on Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring (which, ironically enough, influenced Wes Craven’s
notorious Last House on the Left in
1972). The film proved to be difficult to make and seemed pretentious and was
mercifully abandoned. While reading the novel I Am Legend by famed author Richard Matheson, Mr. Romero wrote his
own story and screenplay about a zombie outbreak. It went before the cameras
under the title of Night of the Flesh
Eaters. This was 1967, the era of
Vietnam, racism, civil rights movements, anger, and rioting. The country was
exploding as a result of class differences and racial injustice. Mr. Romero’s film was seminal
in that there was a new revolution at hand: the dead were coming back to life en masse. Rechristening the Latent Image as Image Ten, Night of the Flesh Eaters became Night of the Living Dead - without a
copyright trademark which was left off due to an oversight, resulting in
unknown amounts of money lost as the film became public domain. Mr. Romero shot and edited the film himself. The budget was so small that the cast and crew of Night pulled double duty behind and in front of the camera. This
film is really the very definition of a team effort and at this time
independent cinema was fairly new. In New York Martin Scorsese was just starting out; in Toronto,
David Cronenberg was shooting his short films Transfer and From the Drain;
John Carpenter was in film school at the University of Southern California; Wes
Craven was teaching and trying to get his film career off the ground; Dario
Argento was writing film criticism for a newspaper in Rome and preparing to shoot
his first movie. It was an exciting era.
It is hard for contemporary audiences
to imagine what it must have been like to see a film like Night in 1968. Birth gives us a graphic insight to
those troubled times. Mr. Romero admits
in Birth that most people on the crew
didn’t even believe that the film would get finished. Birth offers the opinions of a whole host of people in the industry
about their experiences having seen Night.
One of them is Gale Anne Hurd, the
producer of The Terminator, Aliens, and The Abyss, and who is now an executive producer on AMC’s extremely
popular and successful series The Walking
Dead. It is amazing to see that 45
years after the release of Night, it
is obvious that Mr. Romero is responsible for the zombie genre.
Birth also very carefully examines the
casting of the late African American actor Duane Jones as Ben, the hero of the
film. Most people thought that Mr.
Romero was making a statement about white and black relations by casting Mr.
Jones. The truth is, he was the best person to audition for the role. Just
as simple as that. There is no mention in Night
nor is there any sort of reference to Ben’s color. It's basically a non-issue.
It is also interesting to point out
that film criticism at the time wholeheartedly embraced Night. Many well-regarded
publications such as Positif analyzed
the film under a microscope and interpreted it from the standpoint of serious
film theory. This gave the movie an air of prestige never imagined.
Overall, this is an excellent and
insightful look at the effect that this low-budget American film had on the motion picture industry. Even if you are not a fan
of horror or of Night, I would
recommend that you see it to appreciate and be familiar with Night’s cultural significance. An excellent companion piece to this film is
Ben Harvey’s BFI Film Classics book on Night
which can be purchased here from Amazon.com.
of the Living Dead
begins its theatrical engagement at New York’s Independent Film Center (IFC) at
323 Sixth Avenue at West Third Street on November 6, 2013. Fitting, as the IFC is the former Waverly
Theater where Night premiered in 1968.
There's great news for Dean Martin fans and lovers of classic comedy. Star Vista Entertainment/Time Life have released the entire broadcast collection of Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts. These shows were "must-sees" in their original telecasts in the 1970s, as an astonishing array of Hollywood and political legends came together on stage to roast the man or woman being "honored". Taking on the format of a Friar's Roast (without the obscenities), the shows became extraordinarily popular as off-shoots of Dean Martin's long-running variety hour on NBC. Each roast was held before a large live audience in Las Vegas and no "honoree" emerged unscathed. The packaging warns that in today's politically correct society, much of the racially-charged humor might seem shocking but keep in mind, this was the norm in the day with comedians, both black and white, taking good-natured pot-shots at each other. Additionally, people who were arch political rivals would engage in very funny by-play. Try imaging that in today's crazy, polarized political environment. Each roast is seen complete and uncut, a refreshing change from those vidoe releases which frustratingly only offer "highlights" or "Best of..." selections. The beautifully mastered DVDs come in two versions: a selection of 18 roasts plus new bonus featurettes and two vintage Dean Martin Variety Hour programs featuring the likes of Bob Hope, John Wayne and Rodney Dangerfield. You also get a great 44 page commemorative souvenir program. The deluxe version comes in a handsome gift box and features all 54 roasts, the aforementioned bonus materials, four vintage Dean Martin TV specials and an exclusive commemorative figurine of Dino. Looking over the collection, it seems hard to believe that there once was a time where you could see people like Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Henry Fonda, Orson Welles, Ronald Reagan, Don Rickles, Jackie Gleason and so many others sharing the same podium. This massive collection might take you a very long time to get through, but there's simply no better way to brighten your day than to take this delightful trip down Memory Lane.
THE DEAN MARTIN CELEBRITY ROASTS: COMPLETE COLLECTION($249.95)follows StarVista Entertainment/Time Life's best-selling releases of "The Dean Martin Variety Show" and marks the first time that most of these classics from the Golden Age of TV will be released on DVD in a single collection. Featuring all 54 roasts from both "The Dean Martin Show" and "The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts," the program's notable roastees included many of the 20th century's most accomplished performers and athletes, politicians and personalities including: Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Carson, Sammy Davis Jr., Jack Benny, Lucille Ball, Jackie Gleason, George Burns, Don Rickles, Kirk Douglas, Danny Thomas, Gabe Kaplan, Hank Aaron, Wilt Chamberlin, Joe Namath, Muhammad Ali, Ronald Reagan and Dean Martin himself.
Featuring over 40 hours of top-shelf comedy from hundreds of celebrities including Phyllis Diller, Jonathan Winters, Dick Martin, Joey Bishop, Henry Fonda, Gene Kelly, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Redd Foxx, Ruth Buzzi, Flip Wilson, John Wayne, Angie Dickinson, Billy Crystal and many more, the collectible set also contains over fifteen hours of bonus programming including comedy sketches from "The Dean Martin Show," rare Dean Martin TV specials that have not been seen since the original broadcast and exclusive interviews with roasters and roastees. The set also contains 11 specially-produced featurettes, rare home movies with Dean, family and friends, a 44-page collector's book loaded with behind-the-scenes photos, classic quotes and production materials and a limited-edition 7.5" hand-painted Dean Martin "at the dais". Adding hours of classic comedy to this superlative collection, also included are two bonus DVDs featuring seven episodes from "The Dean Martin Variety Show".
The 1963 version of Cleopatra is deemed a terrible movie, mostly by people who have never seen or who only have vague memories of it.
You do a fantastic job with your reviews in general, but occasionally you do one that resonates with me, and I like to send you a quick note on those occasions. Your review of The Adventurers is one of those times.
You ask: "How, after all, could a film by a major director and featuring a big all-star cast go so completely wrong? The answer is: it didn't. The Adventurers is not high art, but it doesn't deserve its place in the Razzie book of ten worst films of all time."
With that passage, you hit the nail on the head, in my opinion. I watched this movie a couple of years ago and concur with your review. No way this is one of the worst films of all time. It probably will not make any favorites lists, but it is worth the effort to view it once.
As always, keep up the good work.
Retro Responds: Thanks for the kind words, Martin...I find that, all too often, epic box-office failures are often judged by their financial fate, not their artistic merits. I'm not making the argument that The Adventurers is some great work. However, calling it one of the worst movies of all time seems way over the top. I can well understand why our own contributing writer and editor Sheldon Hall wrote to me to say he felt the film was "a stinker". Fair enough, but even he isn't making the argument that the film ranks among the ten worst of all time, as apparently the Razzies are claiming. Of course, such judgments are purely subjective and there is no right or wrong answer. However, I find that many people knock big boxoffice disasters based on vague recollections or general critical consensus. Among the other prominent "victims" of this scenario: the Liz and Dick version of Cleopatra, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Alamo (which actually was a financial success but has been deemed a bomb), the Brando remake of Mutiny on the Bounty and of course the infamous Heaven's Gate, which people are finally and justifiably re-evaluating. Some unenlightened critics still cite On Her Majesty's Secret Service as a film that died at the boxoffice, thus resulting in George Lazenby being fired as 007. For the record, although the film grossed far less than the preceding Bonds, its grosses would still have been the envy of most producers- and Lazenby quit the role and was not fired. Again, saner heads have prevailed in more recent years and the film has finally been receiving the praise it has always deserved. Hopefully, some of the aforementioned movies I've cited will, too.
(Readers can send their opinions on any topic to: email@example.com Because of the large volume of mail we receive, we can't guarantee the letter will be published, but we do try to answer every E mail.)
When it opened in 1970, director Lewis Gilbert's film version of Harold Robbins' best-seller The Adventurers was reviewed by New York Times, which referred to the production as "a spectacular blast-furnace lulu of human waste". Indeed, Gilbert himself said of the film a few years ago that it was "terrible" and that he regretted having been involved with it. With such a reputation, it's no wonder that even retro movie lovers such as myself have never made the effort to watch the movie. However, the Warner Archive has just re-issued Paramounts original DVD release of the film and, upon receiving the screener, I had enough morbid curiosity to give it a try. How, after all, could a film by a major director and featuring a big all-star cast go so completely wrong? The answer is: it didn't. The Adventurers is not high art, but it doesn't deserve its place in the Razzie book of ten worst films of all time. The worst that can be said of it is that it is a relentlessly downbeat affair that goes on for three hours with nary an iota of humor or anything, in fact, to relieve the consistent depiction of human suffering. At times, it makes Sophie's Choice look like It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Gilbert, who had recently come off the double-barreled successes of Alfie and You Only Live Twice, had envisioned directing the screen adaptation of Oliver! When that project went to Carol Reed, he ended up with The Adventurers.
The movie opens with an unsettling sequence set in a fictional South American country (it was filmed in Colombia). A young boy named Dax Xenos watches in horror while a group of soldiers invades his family compound and systematically rape and kill all of the women, including his mother and sister. Dax barely escapes and rescues his friend, a girl Amparo. Together they survive an arduous trek across the desert and are reunited witih Dax's father (Fernando Rey) who is a prominent rebel leader trying to depose the nation's dictator. Ultimately the rebels win and install a new leader, General Rojo (Alan Badel), who promises to initiate democracy but who proves to be as ruthless and greedy as his predecessor. (The parallels to Castro are probably no coincidental). Dax's father is named a prominent diplomat and over the years, the two become closer than ever. With Dax now a handsome young man and playboy, he is thrust into the political limelight when his father is assassinated, ostensibly by rebels now trying to oust Rojos, but in reality the command was given by Rojos himself. The story traces Dax's rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-riches life as he tries to preoccupy himself by opening up a fashion studio with some old friends. However, he is repeatedly drawn to efforts to oust Rojos back in his home country. He ultimately uses his social contacts among the rich and famous to raise capital to finance arms to the guerrillas and ultimately ends up helping to lead a massive assault on the presidential compound. Intermingled with these action sequences, we follow Dax's busy love life as he romances rich cougars (Olivia De Havilland among them) and enters an ill-suited marriage with the world's richest young woman (Candice Bergen.) Dax, who is nominally the hero of this film, comes across as a cad. When his wife suffers a miscarriage in an accident and finds she can no longer bare children, he basically says, "Adios" and goes on his lustful way to find other women. He eventually is reunited with Amparo (Leigh-Taylor Young), who is the daughter of Rojos. The two have an on-again, off-again affair. (Only Harold Robbins or Sidney Sheldon could envision such complicated love lives).
The three hour movie is consistently engrossing and the locations, which include Rome and New York, are exotic, to say the least. This was one hell of an expensive production and it must have originally been envisioned for a road show release (it has an intermission.) The battle scenes are massive in scale and superbly staged and the entire film is stunningly photographed by the great Claude Renoir. The music by Antonio Carlos Jobim is also an impressive asset. Bekim Fehmiu, who was then a largely unknown Yugoslavian actor who was plucked from obscurity, meets the physical requirements of the role in that he has a calendar model's good looks and appears very Bondian in a tuxedo. Critics called his performance wooden and dull but he is supposed to be playing a man so scarred by boyhood traumas that he finds it almost impossible to show overt emotion. A film of this magnitude certainly called out for a major star in the lead role, so Fehmiu's lack of clout with audiences clearly hurt the boxoffice potential. However, there are any number of other good actors in supporting roles including Ernest Borgnine (very good as Dax's only true friend), the aforementioned Ms. De Havilland and Bergen, Charles Aznavour, Rosanno Brazzi, Leigh-Taylor Young, John Ireland and the always great Fernando Rey. (Even 007's Miss Moneypenny, Lois Maxwell, shows up in a blink-and-you'll-miss-her cameo.) Gilbert's direction is assured and and he keeps the lengthy story running at a fast enough pace that there is nary a dull moment.
The Adventurers doesn't represent anything like the best films of its era. However, it is also not the shameful mess even its director has labeled it as. Huge in scope and featuring rich production values, the movie has some shots that feature enough extras to rival Cleopatra. It's a pretty grim affair throughout but retro movie fans should ignore conventional wisdom and form their own opinions about its overall merits. Recommended.
The Warner Archive DVD features an excellent transfer but no bonus extras.
Last evening I attended a rather remarkable event: the world premiere screening of the new highly-touted National Geographic Channel TV movie Killing Kennedy. (The program will be telecast on November 10.)What made the evening remarkable was the fact that, instead of premiering the film in a New York or L.A. prestigious venue, National Geographic in association with Cablevision, chose Greenbriar, a senior citizens community in the central New Jersey town of Marlboro. It seems the channel is taking a populist approach to publicizing their most prestigious productions and it was decided to premiere the Kennedy film before an audience of people who were alive during the events recounted on screen. Several politicos were on hand (there is an election in New Jersey next week, after all) including Jonathan Hornki, the mayor of Marlboro -who used some clout to get the event held at Greenbriar- and state senator Joe Kryllos (R). Also in attendance was Charlie Parsons, one of the executive producers. Discussing historical facts among senior citizens who lived through the actual events is generally a risky business. I taught classes about films pertaining to the Cold War to adult ed students at NYU and found that I learned as much from the class as they did, thanks to their personal insights. Thus, National Geographic felt very confident that they had a good product with this high budget, slickly made recreation of the events that unfolded 50 years ago on that somber day in Dallas.
Rob Lowe and Ginnifer Goodwin as JFK and Jackie Kennedy.
There are plenty of landmark moments in American history that have taken place over the last century, but few that can be called genuinely seminal. I would list the attack on Pearl Harbor, D-Day, the moon landing, the 9/11 terrorism acts and certainly the assassination of John F. Kennedy. With the 50th anniversary upon us, there is no shortage of beings and entities that are trying to exploit this dreadful day in U.S. history. Some are motivated purely by profit others by profit and a desire to enlighten people. The National Geographic Channel falls squarely into the latter category. Producer Parsons explained that the channel prides itself on presenting fact, not fiction or speculation. He also said the decision was made to go with the traditional theories about the assassination (i.e, Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.) This is, in itself, refreshing. The two most prominent major feature films made about the death of Kennedy- Executive Action (1973) and Oliver Stone's JFK (1991)- both propagated conspiracy theories. Parsons didn't endorse or dismiss such theories but simply said that, had the project delved into those waters, the film would have been too large in scope to cover the key events effectively in an 88 minute time slot. There are plenty of intelligent people who believe in the conspiracies and others who are genuine nutcases...the kind of folks who believe President Bush orchestrated the destruction of the World Trade Center and that President Obama is a Marxist illegal alien from Kenya. The channel will take a lot of heat from this crowd for presenting a straight-forward view that Oswald alone killed Kennedy; in essence presenting the Warren Report version of events. However, it is now unusual to see this traditional interpretation of the assassination being put forward since conspiracy-oriented films and TV show have been sucking up all the oxygen on the subject for the last couple of decades.
National Geographic Channel had a major success with their February airing of Killing Lincoln, a truly outstanding production that rightly earned the highest ratings in the channel's history. That film was based on a best-selling book by Bill O'Reilly (yes, that Bill O'Reilly) and his co-author Martin Dugard. The success of the book led to the two collaborating on Killing Kennedy and-most recently- Killing Jesus. Whether you love or loathe O'Reilly for his controversial political punditry on Fox News (and there is no middle ground), you have to credit him for bringing historical events back into the public mainstream through his books. In an increasingly dumbed-down world, anyone who helps elevate interest in history is to be commended. The new Killing Kennedy production represents new ground for National Geographic: it's the channel's first scripted docudrama. (In the parlance of the 1970s, it would be called a "TV movie".) That is, is has no narration and the scripted project stars professional actors. This is a bit risky for a venture that prides itself on historical accuracy as scripted dramas always run the risk of reflecting the biases of the screenwriters. While I don't profess to be a JFK assassination scholar, it seemed to me that overall production was accurate based up on what we know, not supposition. (There is some clunky ambiguity about JFK's removal of missiles from Turkey in order to give Kruschev a fig leaf to end the Cuban Missile Crisis, but that's a minor criticism.)
Will Rothhaar as Lee Harvey Oswald
The film traces parallel story lines involving the rendezvous with destiny that both John F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald were approaching from disparate paths. The movie presents interesting insights into Oswald's defection to the Soviet Union and his ultimate disappointment about living in the decrepit "Worker's Paradise". He ultimately returns to America with his Russian wife with the dream that he will somehow be the center of a major news story. When that fails to happen, his life rapidly disintegrates. His marriage begins to unwind, his wife and children move out and he is relegated to a menial job in the Dallas school book depository from which the deadly shots were fired. Meanwhile, JFK is nursing his wounds over his bungling of the Bay of Pigs invasion and trying to prevent all out nuclear war when the Soviets move missiles into Cuba. The President is very well-played by Rob Lowe, who opts to capture the essence of the character as opposed to attempting a flat-out imitation of the man. It's a wise move. Lowe conveys Kennedy's charm, intelligence and swagger but also reveals his self-centered side through his dalliances with other women (as aspect of White House life that is conveyed strongly, but briefly.) JFK becomes a more mature and thoughtful person following the tragic death of his infant son. Jackie Kennedy (played by Ginnifer Goodwin as a sympathetic and tolerant figure) finally sees her husband becoming the man she knew he could be- but, of course, tragedy will cut short this transformation. Oswald's marriage is also delved into in a detailed way with Michelle Trachtenberg outstanding as his long-suffering Russian immigrant wife. (Impressively, Trachtenberg learned how to speak Russian phonetically from her mother, who was born in the Soviet Union.) As Oswald comes to the realization that his dreams of grandeur are destined for failure, he makes a rather spontaneous decision to make history by assassinating the president. As Oswald, newcomer Will Rothhaar gives a very impressive performance, avoiding the types of pretentious quirks or overt signs of villainy that one might have anticipated. Instead, he plays Oswald as a somewhat sympathetic loser; a man who is capable of having genuine empathy for the civil rights movement, yet is equally capable of manhandling his wife in a rage. Other key historical figures such as LBJ, Jack Ruby and Bobby Kennedy remain peripheral characters out of necessity due to time constraints but every supporting performance is played to perfection. The film actually gets better as it nears its inevitable and tragic conclusion. It's hard to ring suspense out of a drama when we all know how it ends. Fred Zinnemann achieved this with his brilliant 1973 film The Day of the Jackal about a fictitious plot to assassinate Charles de Gaulle and director Nelson McCormick manages to do the same with Killing Kennedy. Production values are top-notch as is the editing and cinematography. None of this is surprising given the impressive talent behind the scenes (both Ridley Scott and David Zucker are among the executive producers.) Oliver Stone may get his knickers twisted when he sees this non-conspiratorial view of the JFK assassination but the truth is that no one can say they really know the truth. Despite compelling questions, mysteries and inconsistencies regarding key aspects of the Warren Report, no one has ever produced definitive evidence of a plot that went beyond the mad act of a desperate man who wanted to known for making some kind of mark on society, even if it were to be a tragic one.
Killing Kennedy is sure to get a huge audience when it is broadcast on November 10 (a DVD release will follow shortly thereafter). Hopefully, an enthusiastic response to a production this good will only encourage the National Geographic Channel to continue to elevate the standards of historical dramas with similarly-themed programming. Everyone involved should take a well-deserved bow.
Unseen blooper reel footage has surfaced from the 1976 filming of the original Star Wars movie. Before anyone gets carried away, the snippets are disjointed and only moderately amusing. Nevertheless, any footage that we haven't seen is more than welcome. The blooper reel is being included in a new interactive book, The Making of Star Wars. To view the reel (some of which has no audio) click here
To order the book discounted from Amazon click here
A couple of years ago we met director Tom Donohue and his colleagues, who were in the beginning stages of their documentary Casting By, which explores the generally neglected contributions of casting directors to major motion pictures. In the ensuing months, Tom and his team have interviewed a remarkable number of prominent directors, actors and producers for their film including Woody Allen, Robert Duvall, Robert Redford, Al Pacino, Robert De NiroMartin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood. The film, which is being touted as a strong Oscar contender, has just opened theatrically in New York. Additionally, Woody Allen, who generally keeps a low profile, was inspired by the film to write an open letter to the movie industry extolling the virtues of casting directors. (To read the letter click here)
Here is a synopsis and play dates for the film:
"Casting is 95% of directing a picture," Martin Scorsese says at the start of Casting By, a "scintillating (THR)", fascinating (NYT)" and "wildly entertaining"(Indiewire) look at an important and vastly under-appreciated craft that will never let you look at movies quite the same way again. Director Tom Donahue focuses his lens on the pioneering contributions of Casting Director Marion Dougherty whose keen eye and gut instincts almost singlehandedly created a profession from the ashes of a dying studio system and helped give birth to the golden era of the New Hollywood. The film combines "the greatest assemblage of talking-head star power in any documentary ever made" (Back Stage) with a rich treasure trove of archival to craft a fun and revealing journey through the last half century of Hollywood. "More than a must-see. It’s a brisk, breezy, enjoyable and often endearing experience." -Film School Rejects
CASTING BY starts today in NYC:
The Elinor Bunim Munroe Film Center at Lincoln Center
11:00am.1:10pm. 3:15pm. 5:20pm. 7:25pm. 9:45pm
Q&A with Casting Director Ellen Lewis after the 7:25pm show tonight and tomorrow Click here for tickets
1pm. 3pm. 5pm. 7pm. 9pm
Q&As with casting directors after each screening Fri-Sun
The three Harry Palmer feature films (The Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin and Billion Dollar Brain) have had a rather cluttered history in terms of their video releases. Surprisingly, producer Harry Saltzman didn't stick with one studio in terms of their theatrical releases, as he did with the James Bond films which he co-produced with Cubby Broccoli. Instead, each of the Palmer films was financed by and released by a different studio. Thus, in the ensuing decades, the video rights to these films have been convoluted. The titles have remained consistently available to consumers in some countries, while in others (including the USA), they have appeared and disappeared from the marketplace for years at a time. Now the Warner Archive has reissued Paramount's original DVD version of Funeral in Berlin as a burn-to-order title. The original film, The Iprcress File, was internationally acclaimed as the "thinking man's 007" movie. Caine's Harry Palmer, replete with Cockney accent, was the working man's secret agent. He does not have a big expense account, he lives in a modest apartment and he is basically disdainful of authority figures. (Bond is, too, but generally only in a playful sense.) Two qualities that Bond and Palmer do share is that they are both incorruptible and are prone to bedding a parade of beautiful women they encounter both socially and on the job. Funeral in Berlin seems intent on emphasizing the independent nature of Harry Palmer. He reluctantly follows orders given to him by his grim, unsmiling boss Ross (Guy Doleman), but he clearly disdains the man and the bureaucracy he represents. Palmer is on some kind of probation with MI6 and Ross dangles his termination as a constant threat. Palmer is so financially impoverished that he can't even afford a car (Ross won't extend a loan to him) and he must commute about London via public buses.
Ross summons Palmer to his home and informs him he must leave abruptly for West Berlin. It seems an influential Soviet general named Stock (Oscar Homolka) has made it clear that he wants to defect to the West. Palmer is immediately skeptical but Ross can't pass up the opportunity to bring Stock "in from the cold", so to speak. Palmer arrives in West Berlin and is greeted by his local contact with German intelligence, Johnny Vulcan (Paul Hubschmid). Like Palmer, he's young, charismatic and good looking and in the course of business, they enjoy the local bar scene as well as some willing beauties. Among them is Samantha Steel (Eva Renzi), a vivacious young woman who boldly seduces Palmer. Harry's suspicions that she is a spy are borne out when he learns she is with Israeli intelligence. The complicated plot, based on the Len Deighton novel, next finds Palmer in East Berlin where he meets with General Stock. As played by Oscar Homolka, the character comes across like a Soviet version of Henny Youngman, constantly cracking jokes and tossing insults. Nevertheless, the chemistry between Caine and Homolka is one of the main assets of the film and the character of General Stock was brought back in Billion Dollar Brain. Palmer suspects that Stock is lying about his desire to defect and this sets in motion plot devices that are so convoluted that the movie gets extremely confusing. After a while, it's hard to follow who is trying to accomplish what and the motivations and allegiances of the characters are also blurred. At some point, I just gave up and sat back to enjoy the performances and the assured direction of Guy Hamilton, who impressively capitalizes on the West Berlin locations. (Hamilton, who had previously directed Goldfinger, is not the only 007 luminary brought into the production. Producer Saltzman also has legendary production designer Ken Adam on board.) The film is drenched in the sullen mood of the Cold War era but there are some funny witticisms uttered by the bespectacled Palmer. In one of the film's most amsuing on-going sight gags, every time Palmer enters or leaves Samantha's apartment, he walks past some ancient stone decorations that look exactly like erect phallus symbols, a master touch by Ken Adam.
Caine is in virtually every frame of the film and dominates the production with his low-key performance. Paul Hubschmid is very good as an ally whose allegiance is called into question. Eva Renzi acquits herself well as the femme fatale, equally adept with a machine gun in hand or walking seductively through opulent settings in head-turning wardrobe. One of the delights of any Palmer film is the strained byplay between Palmer and Ross, who is expertly played by another Bond film veteran, Guy Doleman (he played the villain Count Lippe in Thunderball). In fact, Ross is such a stick-in-the-mud that he makes Bernard Lee's "M" look like a towel-snapping prankster. Their scenes in this film bristle with wit and tension. It should also be mentioned that John Barry's moody, acclaimed score for The Ipcress File has been left out of this film with new themes by composer Konrad Elfers, who emphasizes traditional bombastic German music that might seem more fitting in a military epic but somehow is interwoven sensibly into the action.
Many retro movie lovers consider Funeral in Berlin to be the best of the Palmer feature film trilogy (Caine revised the character many years later in a couple of ill-conceived TV productions.). I still vote for Iprcess as the best of the lot, but this film has so many merits that it can be enthusiastically recommended. The transfer from the previous Paramount DVD edition is identical and of high quality. (Even the packaging is identical, save for the notation that the new release is through the Warner Archive). The only extra is a trailer that seems to have been struck from an unfinished work print, as it lacks any titles or graphics and doesn't even mention Michael Caine's name. Kudos to the Warner Archive for making this Harry Palmer title accessible once again. Let's hope The Ipcress File and Billion Dollar Brain reappear soon in the American market, too.