There are precious few things in life that reach the status of absolute perfection. Off-hand I can think of three:
1. A top notch Cuban cigar.
2. A wee-small hours meal in a New Jersey White Castle.
3. Any performance by the New York Philharmonic.
Last night, I had the opportunity to cover the latter for Cinema Retro, as the Philharmonic, under the direction of the esteemed conductor David Newman, presented a magnificent tribute to the music of the Pixar animated film classics. The event took place at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City and was the latest production in the legendary orchestra's tie-ins to major motion pictures. Last year, I reported on the Philharmonic's similar celebration of the films of Alfred Hitchcock. (Click here for coverage) However, the Pixar event was even more impressive. My one gripe with the Hitchcock event was that the film clips included dialogue which distracted from the fact that a live orchestra was providing the background music. Obviously those concerns were shared by others because the clips used in the Pixar tribute were silent, thus allowing the full impact of the magical music scores to be appreciated.
David Newman addressed the packed auditorium prior to the concert and gave some fascinating insights into his family's long ties with film compositions. His father, Alfred Newman, was one of the most acclaimed movie composers of all time, having been accorded an astonishing 45 Oscar nominations and 9 wins. David is a noted film composer in his own right, his brother Thomas has been nominated for 12 Oscars and cousin Randy Newman has been nominated for 16 Oscars and won twice. It's doubtful there will ever be such a family legacy again in the course of motion picture history. David Newman's enthusiasm for the event was evident. He put his heart and soul into the performance. Drenched with sweat but clearly brimming with family pride, he provided an encore of Randy Newman's classic "You've Got a Friend in Me" from the original "Toy Story". It brought down the house. Kudos also to the editing team that so painstakingly put together the film clip montages that perfectly accompanied the scores. In all, there were selections from "Toy Story", "Finding Nemo", "Ratatouille", "A Bug's Life", "WALL-E", "Toy Story 2", "Cars", "Up", "The Incredibles", "Monsters, Inc.", "Cars 2", "Toy Story 3", "Brave" and "Monsters University". All but five of these scores were written by Randy or Thomas Newman. Four of the remaining scores were written by Michael Giacchino, with the score for the Scottish-themed "Brave" composed by Patrick Doyle. (There was a bagpiper brought out on stage to perform with the Philharmonic for themes from this film.)
We've written frequently about the fact that most contemporary movies lack memorable film scores. Composers are treated today like necessary evils rather than valued contributors to the finished movie. Often, they are brought on board after the movie has been completed and given an abbreviated time table to knock out a score. Compare that to the old days when composers were viewed as integral members of the production team who were often scoring sequences while the movie was still in production. The Pixar films still provide high profile presentations of major composer's work. Hearing these superb scores played by one of the world's greatest orchestras was a truly thrilling experience. Even more pleasing was the fact that there were many children in attendance. What better way could there be to illustrate to a young person the the contributions of musical scores to films?
The concerts opened last night and run tonight and tomorrow, May 3. Do not hesitate to attend if you possibly can. (Click here for ticket info)
Now I have to get those two other "perfect" things in life, so I'll have to track down a Cuban cigar while I head off to a White Castle here in Jersey.
When a young
woman is killed in the woods near the Florence Nightingale Institute,
detectives immediately begin their investigation at the weird old nursing
establishment. Why wouldn’t they? The place seemed full to bursting with
suspicious characters. There was shifty-eyed Dr. Cabala, for instance, who
looked too much like Christopher Lee to be totally innocent.Or maybe it was Dr. Carter, who seems a bit
too enthusiastic about splashing around in the guts of dissected frogs. (His
fingers seem permanently stained from frog juice). Then there was Hettie Green,
the head of the nurses who liked to welcome new trainees with a very sensual
bedtime massage. Accusations could also be aimed at Moss, the drooling
hunchback who wandered the landing in his role as handyman, often peeking in on
the young nurses as they slept or showered. Then again, maybe it was the
cloaked figure in the top hat who seemed to always be lurking in the shadows.
There’s even a young nurse who is acting in a local stage production of Dr. Jekyll
and Mister Hyde, a small girl whose delicate hands belie a facility with a
sword. That’s only part of the cast of characters in TheJekylland Hyde Portfolio, an occasionally
bloody and often pornographic mess from 1971, brought back to gory life by the
kind fellows at Vinegar Syndrome, a group that thrives on reviving long buried
epic was directed by Eric Jeffrey Haims, who spent a brief time making porno
movies in Hollywood under the auspices of his bare bones production company,
Xerxes Productions Ltd. Haims gained a small amount of publicity when his 101 Acts of Love was shown at
Hollywood’s Las Palmas Theater in ’71 before an invited group of medical
professionals. The film was part of a benefit, with proceeds going to the LA
Free Clinic. Haims’ piece was one of those bogus medical documentaries that
were made as an excuse to show couples humping, yet J. Michael Kenyon of the
Hollywood Reporter praised the thing: “…the beauty and intrinsic calm of
physical delight are well highlighted by artful rendition…” I wonder if Kenyon
saw The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio?
those who keep track of such things, The
Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio was given an extremely limited VHS release many
years ago by Intervision Video, resulting in some outlandish bidding wars on
Internet auction sites. There have been instances of it selling for over
$1,500. (Who bid that much? It must have been J. Michael Kenyon.) Not to dampen
the spirits of the lucky winners, but I can’t imagine what made this movie such
a collectible title. True, there are some scenes of lesbianism, and a lot of
nudity, and some of the ladies are very pretty. As for the Sappho stuff, the
girls give it the old college try, which probably helped the movie get its X
rating. I can even understand how some might point to this movie as a
forerunner of the slasher flicks that would explode by the end of the decade.
(In fact, The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio
boasts a scene where a couple’s barnyard coitus is interrupted when the male is
beheaded by someone wielding a nasty looking scythe, a distinctly Friday the 13th type of murder.) I'm
also sure that many bidders were titillated by the idea of a horror movie cast
with performers from the porn industry. Still, for $1,500 you can get real women
to come to your house and do stuff to you. On the other hand, who knows what
owning the actual VHS in its original box can do for a fellow’s social
On the plus
side, the movie is not bad looking. Cinematographer Arch Archambault was fresh
off of shooting Count Yorga, Vampire,
and he creates a nice, saucy atmosphere for the lesbian nurses and twitchy
doctors to roam around in. There’s a scene in the hospital where the very
beautiful Mady Maguire (as Dr. Leticia Boges) wanders in the dark with a
candle; the scene is downright atmospheric, as if we’re suddenly watching a
real movie made by competent filmmakers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last long.
Maguire, incidentally, may be familiar to some for her occasional appearances
on ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’, and for her starring role in Norma, a cheapo stinker where she played a nymphomaniac. The final
role of her illustrious career came in 1980 with an appearance on the
short-lived ‘Tenspeed and Brown Shoe.’
Other than the
occasional inspired moment from Archambault, there’s not much to recommend. The
acting is of community theater quality, and the script is like something a
junior high school kid would write after watching a couple of old Hammer films.
Aside from the sex scenes (which contain plenty of groping and heavy
breathing), the actors move woodenly and unconvincingly through the creaky
plot, decked out in what barely passes for 1870s period costuming, but making
no attempt to hide what were obviously 1971 hairstyles, and distinctly modern,
urban accents. (One of the nurses sounds like Fran Drescher, and the two
detectives on the case, while dressed as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, sound
like extras from 'Kojak.')
vintage '70s porn might be interested to know that Rene Bond, who by some
estimations appeared in anywhere from 80 to 300 porn productions, appears here
in a key role. Bond earned some notoriety for being one of the first women in
porn to undergo breast augmentation (allegedly paid for by porn producer Harry
Novak). Bond's real life boyfriend and longtime porn partner Ric Lutze is also
in the film. Bond and Lutze look like kids here, and even though there isn't an
ounce of talent between them, I wonder if they thought The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio, which was promoted as a horror film,
might lead to more roles in non-porn features. It didn't. By 1978, Bond would
drift away from porn and embark on a somewhat successful career as a Las Vegas
stripper. She died young, at 45, from cirrhosis of the liver. It's rather bittersweet
to see her here, young and vibrant.
face to lovers of old porn will be Nora Wieternik. She plays Amber Van Buren, a
sexed-up nurse whose wardrobe consists of a single corset. She’s appropriately
bawdy for a goofy film like this one, and the only member of the cast who seems
to know what she’s doing. Wieternik would work often during the early 1970s,
usually as a hooker or a hippie in such classics as Dr. Dildo’sSecret.Some might recognize her as Queen Amora in the campy spoof FleshGordon (1974).I also
enjoyed the work of the brilliantly named Hump Hardy, the sinister looking chap
who played Moss the hunchback. Hump had an almost superhuman ability to drool
on cue, which is why I'm so surprised he never acted again. Surely there was a
place for him somewhere in Hollywood.
there’s more! Vinegar Syndrome added a second Eric Haims feature to make this
DVD a double event (it is part of their ongoing “Drive-In Collection”). The B
side of the program is AClockworkBlue (1972), a throwback to the nudie cuties of 12 years before.
This time Haims takes some of the same cast members from The Jekyll and Hyde
Portfolio and dresses them as various historical figures, including Marie
Antoinette, Louis XVI, and Betsy Ross. Viewers are taken through a sort of
kinky trip through history, as if any of us really wanted to know about Betsy
Ross’ sex life. The movie is as dumb as it sounds, but A Clockwork Blue was actually a bigger hit than TheJekylland Hyde Portfolio, having a longer
shelf life on the porn theater circuit, sometimes as part of a bill with Deep Throat. Not surprisingly, Warner
Bros. took Haims and company to court over the title sounding too much like A Clockwork Orange. Haims backed down,
and changed the title of his film to A Tic
keeping score, both titles are scanned in 2K & 4K from 35 MM internegative
(Jekyll) and 35 MM camera negative (Clockwork).
No extras here,
just a lot of bad acting from people who could screw on cue but couldn’t recite