The year 2014 has proven to be one of the cruelest in terms of depriving us of notable people in the arts. The year's morbid streak has continued to the bitter end with the announcement of the death of noted character actor Edward Herrmann. The 71 year-old actor has passed away after a months-long battle with brain cancer. Herrmann, who was both an Emmy and Tony award winner, had worked steadily in films, TV and on stage since he first made his mark in the early 1970s. His feature film credits include "The Paper Chase", "Brass Target", "The Lost Boys", "The Great Gatsby", "The Purple Rose of Cairo", "Nixon" and "The Aviator". His TV credits include "Eleanor and Franklin", "The Practice" (for which he won an Emmy in a recurring role), "The Gilmore Girls", "The Good Wife", "How I Met Your Mother" and "M*A*S*H". For more on his life and career, click here.
rookie cop or soldier arrives at his first assignment and quickly finds they’re
in the middle of some serious trouble. This basic plot has been used more times
than any movie buff can count and crosses genres like westerns, war movies and cop
thrillers. “Pony Soldier” is an odd western in that the action takes place in
Canada and involves the Northwest Mounted Police.
1876 and Canadian Cree Indians cross the border into Montana to hunt buffalo,
but are mistaken for Sioux by the U.S. Cavalry and a battle ensues. Known as
long knives by the Cree because of their sabers, the Cavalry forces the Cree to
retreat. The leader of the Cree kidnaps two white settlers in order to trade
them for buffalo and safe passage to Canada.
Duncan MacDonald, played by the ever-youthful Tyrone Power, is briefed on the
problem and takes up the challenge to negotiate the freedom of the white
captives. He is joined by his half-native scout and side-kick Natayo Smith,
played by Thomas Gomez, in an effort to preserve the peace between the Cree,
the settlers, the Mounties and the U.S. Cavalry.
plays the diplomat cop very well and gains a reluctant friendship with the Cree
chief Standing Bear, played by Stuart Randall, while clashing with the Cree
soldier Konah (Cameron Mitchell), who seeks a confrontation with the U.S.
Cavalry across the border in Montana.
a mirage appears across the valley showing the ocean and a large ship,
MacDonald convinces the Cree of the futility of their efforts and they reluctantly
decide to consider his offer to free the white captives. It turns out one of
the captives is an outlaw, Jess Calhoun (Robert Horton), who is wanted
for murder by the Mounties. The woman captive is pretty Emerald Neeley (Penny Edwards), who has been chosen by Konah to be his bride.
Northwest Mounted Police seek to maintain the peace by returning their wards,
the Cree, back to their home in Canada. Power’s MacDonald is the perfect mix of
level-headed constable and diplomat. He even manages to befriend a Cree orphan
who wants to be his adopted son. While ever the diplomat, MacDonald is no pushover
and asserts himself with the Cree and in a final confrontation with the outlaw
Soldier” looks like a typical western of the era with a Cavalry battle, horse riding
stunts, shootouts and lush vistas while also presenting the native characters as
more than caricatures. Many, if not all, of the native supporting cast appear to
be Native Americans with Anthony Numkena, a Hopi Indian, a standout as
MacDonald’s adopted son, Comes Running.
movie is based on a Saturday Evening Post story by Garnett Weston and was
directed by Joseph M. Newman. Newman helmed the sci-fi classic “This Island
Earth,” the noir cult film “Dangerous Crossing,” Tarzan, the Ape Man” and
several episodes of “The Twilight Zone” and “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.”
this movie isn’t shot in the gritty adult western style made popular by John
Ford, Anthony Mann, George Stevens, John Sturges and Fred Zinnemann in the
1950s; it still manages to be entertaining as a sort of transition between the
standard western formula of old Hollywood and the modern westerns being made by
to IMDb, this movie is the film debut of Earl Holliman and features an
uncredited performance by Richard Boone. It also features narration at the end
of the movie by an uncredited Michael Rennie. The movie ends with MacDonald
completing his assignment followed by a contemporary tribute of the Royale
Canadian Mounted Police with Rennie extolling the virtues of their continuing
mission as peacekeepers.
The movie looks terrific and was filmed in Technicolor on location in the Coconino
National Forrest near Sedona, Arizona, and in California’s Red Rock Canyon. The
20th Century Fox production was released in December 1952 on the eve of
CinemaScope and it’s a shame this movie was not able to make use of the wide
Twilight Time Blu-ray release, which looks and sounds wonderful, is limited to 3,000
copies and can by ordered via Screen Archives. The score by Alex North is
offered as an isolated track on the disc and is the only extra. The release
also includes the usual booklet of images spread throughout an informative and
entertaining essay by Julie Kirgo. Fans of Tyrone Power and “north” westerns
will want to give this movie a view and possibly add a copy to their
Rainer with William Powell in The Great Ziegfeld, for which she won her first Oscar.
Luis Rainer, who won Oscars for "The Great Ziegfeld" and "The Good Earth", has died in London. She was 104 years old. Rainer was a German immigrant who came of age during the Weimar Republic in the post-WWI period. She witnessed the rise of Hitler and the increase in Nazi barbarism before she immigrated to America in 1935 where, improbably, she became a major star virtually overnight. For details of her incredible life and career, click here to read NY Times obituary.
fans can now officially rejoice! The Criterion Collection has produced a
fabulous Blu-ray edition of Sydney Pollack’s outstanding laugh riot, Tootsie, although one could safely say
the picture not only belongs to Pollack, but to Dustin Hoffman, the movie’s
star. It was his baby all the way, from its conception to its final,
brilliantly written, acted, and directed finish. The American Film Institute
voted Tootsie to be the Number 2 best
comedy of all time (after Some Like it
Hot, coincidentally another film in which men dress up as women!); whether
or not you agree with that ranking, you have to admit it is a virtual lesson in how to make a good, funny
story is already well-known: struggling middle-aged actor Michael Dorsey
(Hoffman) decides to dress up as a woman to audition for a soap opera, and he
gets the part; thus he has to continue the charade in order to keep his job.
Complications ensue when he falls in love with Julie (Jessica Lange), another
actor on the soap. The story only gets more “nutty” (as uncredited but
hilarious co-star Bill Murray calls it) from there.
what the movie is really about—repeated by several of the picture’s creators in
the several excellent extras on the disc—is how a man learns to become a better
man by being a woman. This is not a “feminist” film. It’s indeed a movie about
the sexes, but its message is for men on
how theyneed to get their act
together before they can successfully relate to women in a positive way.
the many displays of genius that Hoffman has brought us over the years, Tootsie is easily in the top handful. His
performance, nominated for an Oscar, is the crux of the film’s success—if he
hadn’t been believable, if the cross-dressing hadn’t been convincing, if he
hadn’t gone for the absolute truth of
the role, the picture would have fallen flat. Luckily, Hoffman IS Tootsie.
that’s not to downplay the strength of all the other actors—Lange (who did win an Oscar for Supporting
Actress), Teri Garr, Bill Murray, Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning, and even
director Pollack, who is fabulous as
Hoffman’s agent—are all great; I can’t imagine the movie with anyone else in
their respective roles.
Tootsie had a long and
difficult gestation period. As we learn from the documentary extras, Hoffman
and playwright Murray Schisgal had been working on a story about a
cross-dressing man who was a tennis pro, but they couldn’t get it to work. Then
they came across Don McGuire’s play about an actor who cross-dresses to get a part, so the rights were
purchased, they changed the protagonist’s profession, and voila—they had the workings of Tootsie.
Hal Ashby was originally set to direct and had begun shooting tests of Hoffman
in makeup, but the studio ultimately didn’t want him. Enter Sydney Pollack, who
brought in Larry Gelbart to bring more humanity and drama to the script. Then
Hoffman brought in Elaine May to work on the female roles (why May isn’t
credited for the screenplay along with the other three writers is a mystery).
The script took forever to get right,
but once it was to everyone’s satisfaction, the production went ahead. The
conflicts between Hoffman and Pollack are legendary, but in the end it was
Hoffman who wanted Pollack to play Michael Dorsey’s agent because the
characters’ relationship in the story reflected the real-life rapport between
actor and director.
new 4K digital restoration looks gorgeous,
but that’s what we expect from the Rolls-Royce of Blu-ray labels. The audio
commentary is by the late Pollack. Included are new interviews with Hoffman (in
an especially touching and revealing piece) and comedy writer Phil Rosenthal
(who tells us exactly why Tootsie is
a great comedy); a vintage interview between “Dorothy Michaels” and critic Gene
Shalit that was deleted from the film; a vintage “making of” documentary and a
longer, more detailed “making of” doc from 2007; deleted scenes; and screen and
wardrobe test shoots shot by Hal Ashby. The booklet contains an impressive essay
by critic Michael Sragow.
Tootsie is one of those
pictures that stands the test of time and gets funnier with subsequent
viewings. Get it now on Blu-ray—it’s a must for anyone who likes to smile.
Here's a golden oldie: a vintage public service announcement from the 1970s with Robert Vaughn warning us about the dangers of improperly inflated tires. When the Man From U.N.C.L.E. tells you to inflate those tires, you'd better inflate those tires!
In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and in anticipation of the forthcoming big screen version of the classic television series, Cinema Retro will be offering periodic reviews of individual episodes of the show, which aired between September 1964 and January 1968. The episodes will be chosen at random and not presented in any specific order, thus offering analysis of telecasts from the four seasons. Reviews will be written by U.N.C.L.E. scholars and long-time devotees of the series.
By Lee Pfeiffer
"The Virtue Affair"
Air date: December 3, 1965
Director: Jud Taylor
Writer: Henry Slaser
Although most U.N.C.L.E fans tend to favor the series' premiere season (when it was telecast in B&W), I've always been partial to the second season, which began in September 1965. That's when I first experienced the show, through a ringing endorsement of my older brother, who said, "It's like a TV version of James Bond." For a nine year old boy who was enjoying the 007-inspired spy craze of the mid-1960s, that was all I had to hear. I quickly became hooked on the show and my enthusiasm for it has never diminished, although I hereby admit that my expertise relating to the series is not nearly on par with some of the writers who will be contributing reviews to future columns.
"The Virtue Affair" is a strong episode from the second season; one that fully illustrates the show's penchant for mixing thrills and humor. This time around, Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) are dispatched to France by U.N.C.L.E. chief Alexander Waverly (Leo G. Carroll) to thwart some goings-on involving the development of a secret missile system. The episode begins with Solo and Illya spotting a missile launch device being smuggled through the countryside by some mystery men. They follow the van in hopes of locating the ultimate destination for the device but they are, in essence, carjacked by a desperate old man who forces them at gunpoint to rescue him from some pursuers on motorbikes. The man turns out to be Raoul Dubois (Marcel Hillaire), one of the world's most acknowledged experts in missile guidance technology. He has Solo and Illya take him to the home of his daughter Albert (named after Einstein), who- in true U.N.C.L.E. style- turns out to be a stunning beauty played by Marla Powers. Turns out that Albert is also a recognized expert in her father's field of engineering. Raoul tells the agents that he had been duped into joining a missile technology program thinking it was being run by the French government. He found out too late that it was a private venture with nefarious purposes and that he and other engineers were being held captive and forced to develop the system that will allow a deadly missile to be launched. Before he can identify the mastermind behind the plan, two motorcycles crash through the living room door and their riders succeed in assassinating Raoul in front of the hapless Solo and Illya. (A refreshing aspect of the series is the occasionally inability of its protagonists to avoid making costly mistakes.) Waverly informs the men that the likely evil genius they are seeking is a man named Jacques Robespierre (Ronald Long), a rich eccentric who claims lineage to the legendary madman of the French Revolution. Waverly explains that Robespierre is a walking paradox: a committed pacifist who is eager to bring back an era of social graces even if he has to engage in genocide to do so. He once ran for the presidency of France on a platform of outlawing the sale of wine. Not surprisingly, Waverly says, he only garnered 84 votes in a nation that is fanatical in its love of the grape. Waverly suspects that Robespierre intends to achieve through violence what he could not achieve at the ballot box: a takeover of the French government and the establishment of an arch conservative regime that will use violence to enforce Robespierre's peculiar code of morality.
Solo and Albert arrange to get invitations to Robespierre's mansion but he sees through them immediately and they are imprisoned. Albert is given a choice: reveal the code that will enable the launch of a missile that will destroy the vineyard regions of France or witness Solo's execution. She relents and Robespierre keeps his word to spare their lives, although Solo ends up in a jail cell. Meanwhile, Illya gains access to the Robespierre estate grounds by posing as a hunter with a proficient use of a bow and arrow. (Actually an electronically enhanced bow and arrow system that ensures he gets a bullseye every time.) He has a chance encounter with a real expert bow and arrow hunter, Karl Vogler (Frank Marth, who played many secondary roles on the "classic 39" episodes of "The Honeymooners"). A highlight of the episode is the sporting competition between Vogler and Illya in which both men try to top each other in terms of marksmanship, though Illya is clearly cheating with his U.N.C.L.E.-enhanced arrow device. Vogler also recognizes Illya as an enemy agent (the villains in this episode are unusually efficient) and before long he becomes the stalked prey in a version of "The Most Dangerous Game", as Vogler and his fellow hunters track him through the woods. Illya, who is handcuffed behind his back, has only his wits and natural instincts to avoid what appears to be certain death. Once freed from his pursuers, Illya ends up at Robespierre's castle and gets possession of the guidance system just moments before it is to be utilized to launch the missile. In the most amusing sequence in the episode, he is mistaken for a famed engineer and is forced to give a lecture to real engineers about the workings of the system. It's genuinely amusing to see David McCallum get a rare chance to show off his comedic abilities, as he uses double talk to get the engineers to answer their own questions. Nevertheless, he is inevitably exposed as a fraud and is sentenced to Robespierre's idea of traditional justice: death by guillotine.
"The Virtue Affair" boasts some of the wittiest repartee between Solo and Illya, with both men making jokes at the other's expense, all thanks to the fine script by Henry Slesar. Ronald Long makes for one of the more memorable villains, an amusing Burl Ives-type who defends chivalry with a passion but thinks nothing of overseeing the senseless slaughter of thousands of innocent people. The episode is very ably directed by Jud Taylor, who sadly would not contribute to any more of the shows over the length of its run, and Robert Drasnin's score is particular effective. Unlike "I Spy", which filmed around the world, all of U.N.C.L.E.'s exotic locations consisted of stock footage- but that only adds to a retro TV lover's affection for the series.
EPISODE RATING: ***1/2 (out of four).
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We're not the only ones who act like Scrooge when it comes to evaluating the present state of movie poster designs. There was a time when even "B" movies boasted epic posters. Today, we have bloated $250 million productions that are marketed with cheapo poster designs that look like they were knocked out by some folks in a marketing agency in the course of 15 minutes. The Huffington Post seems to agree, as evidenced by their comparison of how Christmas-themed movies have been marketed in recent years. There seems to be only a couple of basic designs that are copied and recopied by unimaginative poster designers.
If you want to see truly imaginative poster designs, just scan fan pages on the web. The mock up "unofficial" posters you'll find there generally blow away the junk being released by major studios. Maybe it's appropriate, as most of these films are unwatchable. There may be a few gems here and there but many of them feel they have to include scatological jokes and gags and fill the screen with screaming, dysfunctional families.
As for the present state of holiday movie designs, we can sum up our feelings in one word: "Humbug!"
Billie Whitelaw, the acclaimed British actress who won praise for her roles on stage as well as on screen, has died in a nursing home at age 82. Whitelaw began appearing in British films in the 1960s and gradually became one of the nation's most reliable and respected actresses. Her film titles include "Carve Her Name With Pride", "Charlie Bubbles", "The Krays", "Gumshoe", Hitchcock's "Frenzy", "Start the Revolution Without Me", "The Dark Crystal" and her final big screen venture, the 2007 hit cult comedy "Hot Fuzz". She is best known to American audiences as Mrs. Baylock, the creepy housemaid from the 1976 version of "The Omen" who has a knock-down brawl to the death with Gregory Peck. Whitelaw, who was also a popular presence through frequent appearances in television series, attributed her rise to stardom to her close association with avant garde playwright Samuel Beckett, with whom she collaborated on numerous acclaimed stage productions. For more click here
After facing blistering criticism from arts groups, ,actors, writers, producers, directors and even the president of the United States, Sony has announced that it will release "The Interview" to select independent theaters on Christmas Day. Sony has maintained it has been trying to find venues for the film all along, but as Cinema Retro pointed out previously, they apparently weren't looking very hard. While it is true that major theater chains are still refusing to show the film due threats of violence from the hackers, who are believed to be working for the North Korean government, independent theater owners would eagerly play the film- if for no other reason that to make a statement against self-imposed censorship. Now an unspecified number of such theaters will be showing "The Interview" on Christmas Day, the original date the movie was intended to premiere across North America. Sony appears to have been chastised by criticism but more recently, bolstered by support, not only from the arts community but also the Obama administration. Look for a deal to make the film available via streaming to be announced in the near future, as that seems like the inevitable next step. Click here for more.
The Warner Archive has released the 1962 political thriller "Guns of Darkness" starring David Niven and Leslie Caron. It's a modestly-budgeted affair, filmed in black and white. The film is set in a fictional South American "banana republic" where local dignitaries are being hosted at a cocktail party at the presidential palace. Among the guests are Tom and Claire Jordan (Niven and Caron), a married couple. Tom is employed as the manager of a major sugar plantation owned and run by Hugo Bryant (James Robertson Justice). The drunken Tom enjoys taunting Bryant and publicly embarrassing him with snide criticisms about his sniveling attempts to appease whoever is in power politically so that his plantation can continue to operate without any impediments. Returning home after the party, it becomes clear that the Jordan's marriage is on the rocks. Claire protests Tom's reckless ways and says his drinking and insolent behavior towards others has resulted in his inability to keep a job very long. Another source of stress on the couple is Claire's inability to conceive the child they both so desperately want. When a military coup deposes the democratic, reform-minded President Rivera (David Opatashu), the Jordan's barely register any interest. As long as Bryant keeps paying off local officials, the plantation doesn't seem to be in jeopardy. However, Rivera, who has been severely wounded in making his escape, is the subject of a nation wide manhunt- and he ends up seeking refuge in Tom Jordan's car. Although apolitical by nature, Jordan feels compelled by humanitarian reasons to assist Rivera. He initially hides him at the Jordan's hacienda but when the manhunt gets too close, Jordan makes the bold decision to attempt to smuggle Rivera over the border. This requires he and Claire to drive over arduous and very dangerous jungle roads. Along the way they confront death at every turn, from natural obstacles to roving bands of police and bounty hunters all intent on murdering Rivera. The new regime has a complex plot to denounce the former President...and the last thing they need is for him to make it to freedom and give the real story to the international press.
"Guns of Darkness" is ably directed by Anthony Asquith and the script, based on the novel "An Act of Mercy", is literate and intelligent. The film is consistently engrossing largely because Niven excels at playing an every day man who is unexpectedly thrust into death-defying situations. He's scared and often inept but finds his inner courage. In doing so, he gradually earns the respect of Claire. In the film's most chilling sequence, their car becomes trapped in a quicksand bog. Asquith's direction here is terrific, as the extended sequence milks every ounce of suspense imaginable from this scenario. The chemistry between Niven and Caron is excellent but it's Niven's show. He's in top form throughout. David Opatashu is also fine as the victimized president who Tom begins to think may not be the noble crusader that he has risked his life to save.The film represents the kind of movie they don't make any more. It wasn't designed to be a blockbuster, just good, compelling entertainment. In that regard, it succeeds on all levels.
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After Warner Home Entertainment released all 120 episodes of the classic "Batman" TV series, fans began complaining that a couple of episodes were incomplete. Warner Home Entertainment acknowledges that less than five minutes of footage is missing from a set that presents over 50 hours of episodes and bonus materials. The company has promised to replace the affected discs in January, as well as provide additional bonus materials. For the full story and a link to the form for obtaining replacement discs, click here.
It remains one of the most iconic of all Hollywood photos: Jayne Mansfield upstaging Sophia Loren at a dinner party held in Loren's honor 57 years ago. For decades Loren has refused to comment on the photo, but in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, she finally speaks briefly about the incident, saying that she was afraid that Mansfield's breasts could become unleashed at any moment. Click here to read.
She was the most famous pin-up model of the 20th century. She had an air of sweetness and innocence about her, even as she posed for kinky photos, often with more than a hint of S&M about them. The Huffington Post reports that the late, great Bettie Page is alive and well-- in spirit, anyway- as evidenced by a revival of interest in the pin-up culture she helped kick into high gear in the 1950s and 1960s.
She is the subject of films and stage productions, as the "Bad Girl" image of the 1940s comes roaring back into the 2000s- and much of it is inspired by charitable efforts to aid veterans. Seems only fair. After all, it was WWII G.Is and swabbies who immortalized their favorite female stars through tacking up sexy photos of them on their walls and lockers. Click here to read.
Virna Lisi, one of the most prominent European actresses to find success in Hollywood during the 1960s, has died at age 78. The exact cause of her death has not been revealed but the NY Times states that she was recently told she had an incurable disease. Lisi's stunning looks helped her find success in her native Italy before she followed the path taken by Ursula Andress, Sophia Loren, Anita Ekberg and other European beauties and moved to Hollywood. Here she made a sensational big screen impression opposite Jack Lemmon in the hit 1965 comedy "How to Murder Your Wife". Lisi never made any cinematic classics but during her years in the film industry she starred opposite such prominent leading men as Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis, Richard Burton, George C. Scott, Marcello Mastroianni, Robert Vaughn and David Niven. She was recently widowed and said that she had gone into self-imposed retirement because her husband had always objected to her career as a cinematic sex siren. For more click here.
Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton, in an interview with CNN journalist Fareed Zakaria, said that "the president, the press and the public are mistaken" in their belief that Sony had bowed to the demands of cyber hackers by pulling "The Interview" from distribution before the film even premiered. Lynton said "We have not given in. And we have not backed down" in its efforts to find a way to get the film released. However, Lynton placed the blame squarely on theater exhibitors, saying the company could not find a major chain that would agree to show the film. He said that thus far, efforts to find partners who would stream the film or offer it as an on demand title have also not yielded any success. He vowed the company is actively looking for ways to get the movie shown. Some pundits and critics were skeptical of Lynton's statements and suggested that the company should find a way to offer it for free to the public, especially since the company has conceded it has accepted it will take a complete loss on the film, estimated to be in the range of $80 million- $100 million. On MSNBC, guest host Ari Melber suggested an intriguing idea on the "All In" news program. Melber said that, as this obviously will not be the last time cyber hackers will try to use threats of violence to censor films, the U.S. government should consider opening a bureau specifically designed to ensure that any such project is made available to the public. Meanwhile, Michael Lynton's comments will doubtlessly be put to the test as, inevitably, a distribution source will be found for the film. For example, it is highly likely that at least some independent movie theaters would be willing to show the film simply on the basis of freedom of expression. So far, Paramount's decision to refuse to rent prints of the 2004 comedy "Team America" have generated little publicity. The studio withdrew the film from theatrical distribution when some theaters announced they would show it as a protest to North Korea, since the plot centers on a take down of the previous dictator of that country. So far, no word on whether theaters are moving to a Plan C, as some have suggested on line: that is, to screen the 2002 James Bond flick "Die Another Day", which also presents the North Koreans as villains. To view Lynton's interview, click here.
In a wide-ranging year-end press conference, an upbeat President Obama discussed a range of issues from the recent changes to the foreign policy with Cuba to the Keystone Pipeline. However, the entertainment industry will be most interested in his opinion that Sony "made a mistake" by canceling plans to show the Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy "The Interview". Unless you've been living in a cave for the last few weeks, you are aware that Sony suffered a humiliating hack of its private E mails and corporate data. In a rare instance of a sitting President immersing himself in a discussion of a specific motion picture, President Obama confirmed what everyone suspected: that the hack was orchestrated by the North Korean government in retaliation for the satirical plot line of the film that involves the assassination of dictator Kim Jong Un. The President said that the decision to pull the film prior to its release amounted to giving in to the hackers and sets a slippery slope for future demands that might be made. The President presented a scenario in which studios might be threatened about the content of future films and news broadcasts. He said he feared a scenario in which people in the creative community would self-censor future projects rather than incur potential threats. The President expressed sympathy with Sony executives, who he acknowledged suffered severe damage due to the hacking. He also said he understood the studio's concerns regarding threats of violence should the film be released. However, the President also said he "wished they had spoken to me" prior to making the decision to meet the hacker's demands, but acknowledged that, as a private corporation, Sony acted in what they thought was their best interest.
The President's candid remarks surprised some in the media who expected him to give a more nuanced response in regard to the Sony situation. However, Obama was feisty, humorous and- in the words of a CNN analyst- in a "bouyant" mood, trading wise-cracks with members of the press. Obama stated his opinion that it shows the vulnerability of the North Korean government that they can be intimidated by a Seth Rogen movie, causing loud laughter from the press corps. Obama sheepishly added that he "loved" Rogen and co-star James Franco but said that no government should feel threatened by a satirical comedy.
On a more serious note, the President vowed that the USA would respond "proportionally" to the North Korean hack but would not specify what actions that might entail.
The President's position on the Sony issue seems to mirror that of widespread reaction in the filmmaking community.Actor/director George Clooney tried to get major studios to sign a letter stating that they would not bow to future demands to censor their product. No one studio executive would sign the letter.
Meanwhile, CNN is reporting that Sony received a letter purportedly from the hackers who praised the decision by Sony to pull the film, saying it was a "wise" decision. However, the letter also made additional demands from the studio, primarily that Sony also withdraw any trailers relating to "The Interview" or risk the release of even more damaging data.
The British Film Institute recently sponsored a major science fiction festival entitled
Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder. Alongside the many film screenings and DVD
releases they have also published several new volumes in their Film Classics
series. These are smaller volumes, around 100 pages in length, with each
focused on one specific film. Included are books on The War of the Worlds
(the 1953 version), Solaris (concentrating mainly on the 1972 Russian
classic, but also touching on Steven Soderbergh's 2002 adaptation), Silent
Running, Alien, Dr. Strangelove, Quatermass and the Pit
Quatermass and the Pit (1967) is seen as the high watermark of Hammer's science fiction
output. A belated follow-up to their two 1950s Quatermass films, themselves
based on a hugely successful BBC TV series penned by Nigel Kneale, the film
works better as a standalone story than as a direct sequel. Unlike those stark
monochrome films, which were shot mostly on location, Quatermass and the Pit
is colourful, studio-bound and uses a completely different cast. Brian Donlevy
had previously played the eponymous Professor Quatermass as a gruff,
no-nonsense American who had stepped straight from the pages of a Raymond
Chandler novel, the total opposite of Andrew Keir's bearded Scotsman. In this
film what appears to be an unexploded WWII bomb is uncovered during tube-tunnel
digging under London. Quatermass soon realises that this "bomb" is
actually a Martian spacecraft, crashed to Earth millions of years ago. These
aliens had come here to interfere with human evolution, meaning, as Barbara
Shelley's character puts it, "We are the Martians now."
Kim Newman is one of Britain's finest genre commentators, and his
writing here is illuminating as he discusses all incarnations of Quatermass,
from the first BBC series in 1953 through to the John Mills-starring The
Quatermass Conclusion in 1979. Even the ill-conceived 2005 remake gets a
mention. He goes into great depth on Pit itself, discussing the production and
the themes of the movie. The book is crammed with footnotes, each of which is
worth reading as they often contain more tidbits of information or humorous
asides. Newman may be a genre fan but he is not above sarcasm where it is
This book demonstrates that although Hammer films must have more
books written about them than any other British studio's output, there is still
room for indepth analysis and commentary on individual significant titles. This
BFI Classics entry is a shrewd and penetrating introduction to Quatermass for
the uninitiated, and a must-have for those who think they already know
everything there is to know about Quatermass and his infernal pit.
You can order from the BFI Classics sci-fi range here:
was completely gob-smacked by this one, folks. From the title and description of this 1980 release, I
was expecting a smarmy slasher film that used the holiday season for a cheap
backdrop and even cheaper jokes. What I got instead was a very well-made
character study reminiscent of Polanski's Repulsion. Although not as good
as that classic, it stands proudly beside it as a fascinating picture of a slow
descent into madness and murder. If anything, Harry Standling is a more
sympathetic main character as we are shown in a brief prologue the genesis of
both his fixation on Christmas and the reason for his awkwardness with people.
At an impressionable age the young Harry crept downstairs on Christmas Eve to
see Santa sexually gratifying his mother. That this Santa was actually his father
didn't register and the traumatized boy never really got over the sight of
Jolly Old Saint Nick pleasuring Mom. But let me tell you the story.....
Standling (Brandon Maggart) is an introverted middle-aged man whose hobby is
all things Christmas. Perfectly in sync with his obsessive regard for the
season, he has worked in a toy factory for most of his adult life. Harry's
years of experience have finally landed him a management job in the company and
he seems to have thought that his new position would allow him to make better
toys for kids. With the Christmas season approaching, he finds the hostile
anti-holiday attitudes of his co-workers and the disappointment of no longer
working directly with the toys getting to him. But what starts off looking like
a bout of holiday depression begins to turn nasty.
sad and disappointed by the adults around him, he begins to focus on the joys
Christmas brings to kids. For years Harry has kept detailed written accounts of
the actions of the children that live in his neighborhood and bound books
listing "bad" and "good" kids line his shelves. As he
starts spending more time going through them, adding black & white marks,
he becomes more unstable.
his home workshop he fashions a Santa costume, paints an elaborate mural of
Santa's sleigh on the sides of his van and begins to make plans. Learning from
a snide PR man of his company's halfhearted stab at charity by donating toys to
the local children's hospital, Harry is livid. Dressing as Santa he sneaks into
the factory at night, stealing a van load of toys, and on Christmas Eve
delivers them to the surprised and happy hospital staff. Elated by this near
perfect moment of holiday cheer he tracks the company PR man to a church where
he's attending a Christmas service. After waiting outside, a silent Santa,
Harry is taunted by some of the churchgoers and stabs two of them to death with
a toy solider! Driving away he next goes to the house of a co-worker who has
insulted and belittled him repeatedly. After a failed attempt to go down the
chimney he finds an open basement window, creeps in and kills the man right in
front of his wife. Disturbingly, the dead man's awakened kids wave happily to
the departing Santa just as their mother's screams ring out.
Christmas Day the cops are running around hunting a killer Santa, even going so
far as to put a bunch of them in a line up for witnesses from the church. But
an APB on St. Nick on December the 25th isn't exactly the best move and does
not net them their guy. Harry has spent the night in his van outside the toy
factory and awakens to the realization of his plight. Afraid to go home he
breaks into the place and, as if in a fantasy about really being Santa Claus,
turns on all the toy making equipment. As news reports stoke the fears of the
public Harry's younger brother Philip (Jeffery DeMunn) begins to think his
brother is involved. He becomes convinced that his unbalanced sibling is the
killer after a rambling phone call from him that afternoon. When night falls on
Christmas, Harry ventures out again but ends up being chased through the
streets by an actual torch-bearing mob until he escapes to his brother's home.
An enraged Philip demands answers, resulting in a family fight that brings the
tragic tale to a close.
a film with many things to praise the first should be the performance of
Brandon Maggart. He does a truly brilliant job of getting inside Harry's head,
showing us the broken way his mind functions. The moment I knew he was simply
not going to make a wrong step was in a sequence midway through his Christmas
Eve rounds. He has stopped outside a community house and is watching a
neighborhood party through a window. Spotted in his Santa outfit, he's pulled
inside and asked to join in the celebration with children and adults alike.
It's a beautiful scene that shows what his life could have been like as he
happily dances with everyone and enjoys a few drinks. Maggart is note perfect
here — he even elicits a chill as he says goodbye to the kids with a stern warning
about being good.
thing to single out is the exceptionally fine cinematography of the film. For a
movie made on such a small budget Christmas Evil looks incredible.
From one of the three (!) commentary tracks included in this release I learned
that director Lewis Jackson spent a lot his budget to get Ricardo Aronovich as
his Director of Photography; his skill certainly makes the film a joy to look
at. There are more than a dozen shots here that rival the best Christmas images
I've seen captured in the movies, with some of them being heartbreakingly well
composed. Jackson points out in brief liner notes that his prime visual
inspiration was the Christmas paintings of Thomas Nast and it really shows.
That a film of this type can be so beautiful puts to shame the sad Christmas
movies pumped out every year by Hollywood.
much as I liked the movie I have to admit it's not perfect. The last third of
the film isn't as sure footed as the beginning It's as if the focus has been
lost as Harry parades around the toy factory and it comes dangerously close to
derailing as he’s being pursued by the mob of angry parents. But by the time
the brothers have fought and credits roll over the haunting final image I found
it easy to forgive these small hiccups. Of course, a movie about a murderous
Santa Claus isn't going to be an easy sell for 90% of the public but I think
plenty of folks would love this were it given a chance.
or rather, infamously, the BBC took a rather cavalier approach to the
preservation of its television output in the 1950s and 1960s. Due to the cost
of videotape, once pre-recorded programmes had been broadcast,the tape was
wiped and used again. For programmes to be kept for repeat use or to be sold to
other territories around the world, the episode would be transferred to film,
and it this process we have to thank that any television from this period has
survived at all.
Out of the Unknown was an attempt to
present serious, adult science fiction on television, adapting well-known and
important authors like John Wyndham, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, J.G. Ballard and
E.M. Forster. The single play was a tradition by this point, with popular
series such as Armchair Theatre (1956-74) demonstrating the legacy of
television's theatrical origins in live drama. Although largely neglected as a
format today in favour of long-running series, both the BBC and independent
television in the 1950s through to the 1970s ran hundreds of single dramas. Out
of the Unknown presented a different adaptation every week. Commissioned by
Sidney Newman, the man responsible for both Armchair Theatre and Doctor
Who (1963-89; 2005-), the series took the BBCs remit to educate and inform
very seriously. Producer Irene Shubik, quoted in the booklet accompanying this
science fiction is a way of saying something you can't say in straightforward
terms... I tried to get [stories] that had some sort of message."
any anthology, some of the episodes here work brilliantly, others less so, but
they are always interesting and prove the potential that science fiction has to
provide a commentary on the human condition; our fears, concerns and hopes.
From speculations on the potential of robotics to disastrous space missions and
mind-altering technology, Out of the Unknown provided ample food for
thought for its audience on a regular basis and is still fascinating.
series began in 1965 in black and white on the BBC, and ran for four series,
finally ending in colour in 1971. Twenty-eight episodes are completely missing
from the archive. This new box set contains the remaining twenty-four complete
episodes and five incomplete or reconstructed episodes, using a mix of clips,
still images and sound. Fans and amateur archivists have played a major role in
assisting the BFI to gather every remaining element so that this set represents
the entire sum of what has survived. Along with this Herculean effort a wealth
of extra features have been created including audio commentaries with
historians, experts and cast members, filmed interviews and a forty-minute
documentary. The accompanying booklet features in-depth essays and a complete
episode guide with cast and crew listings.
Out of the Unknown is a compelling
glimpse into the television production of the past, when commissioning editors
like Sidney Newman were prepared to take risks and assume a higher level of
intelligence in the audience than one feels is assumed by TV executives today.
of the Unknown is released on 24 November 2014 and can be pre-ordered by clicking here.
Irvin’s 1980 movie version of Frederick Forsyth’s “The Dogs of War” approaches
its subject with much the same blunt detachment and minute attention to detail
that characterized Forsyth’s bestselling 1974 novel.It’s generally low-key tone and characters
seem a far cry from today’s over-the-top action films in which mercenaries and
paramilitary agents are usually depicted as aging musclemen (“The
Expendables”), manic cokeheads (“Sabotage”), and comic-book caricatures (“G.I.
soldier Jamie Shannon (Christopher Walken) returns home after a failed mission
in Central America. He doesn’t have much
of a life off the job. Divorced, he
lives in a dumpy apartment in Washington Heights, keeping one gun in the
refrigerator and another in a desk drawer. His only friend is a kid whom he pays to carry his groceries home; he
doesn’t even know the kid’s name. When a
mysterious businessman pays Shannon to scout out the military defenses of the
insane dictator General Kimba in the impoverished African nation of Zangaro,
Shannon takes the assignment and flies to Zangaro, posing as a nature
photographer. His cover blown, he is
arrested, imprisoned, beaten, and eventually thrown out of the country. Back in New York, Shannon’s reconnaissance
having identified holes in Kimba’s defenses, the businessman resurfaces and
offers Shannon the job of leading a mercenary coup against Kimba. Shannon recruits three friends from his old
team, Drew (Tom Berenger), Derek (Paul Freeman), and Michel (Jean Francois
Stevenin), puts together a deal for arms and equipment, and heads back to
Zangaro to meet up with and lead a rebel army assembled by Kimba’s corrupt
rival, Col. Bobi.
of Forsyth’s novel described, step by step, the ways and means of financing,
organizing, and executing a military coup. It’s gripping stuff on the printed page, but not very cinematic. The film covers the same ground in about a
half hour of running time. Filling out
the story for the screen, the script gives Shannon (in the novel, he’s an
Irish-born Englishman named “Cat” Shannon) more of a backstory and adds a
couple of new female characters. In the
novel, Shannon’s recon in Zangaro is uneventful. By putting him through the wringer, the movie
punches up the action and gives Shannon a personal reason for agreeing to
depose Kimba. Arguably, it also provides
a stronger rationale for Shannon’s decision, in both the novel and the movie,
to derail his employer’s plan to install the crooked Col. Bobi and instead put
Bobi’s honest rival, Dr. Okoye (Winston Ntshona), in the Presidential
Twilight Time Blu-ray features a handsome transfer of the U.S. theatrical
feature as well as the international version, which runs 15 minutes longer but
doesn’t add anything of vital substance. There is a handsome souvenir booklet by Julie Kirgo, and the art on the
keep case reproduces the U.S. poster art featuring Walken and his unbilled
co-star, the impressive XM-18E1R grenade launcher used by Shannon in the
climactic attack on Kimba’s compound. The Twilight Time Blu-ray, which is limited to 3,000 copies, is
Although the term
“Eurocrime” can be applied to films from any European country, it’s most
closely associated with 1970s Italian crime films, aka poliziotteschi, poliziottesco
or poliziesco. The last term is (in
Italian) the grammatically correct moniker for a politically incorrect genre
that was hugely popular in its day, thanks to a sensory overload of stylish
ultra-violence, insane car chases, buckets of sleaze, almost-human bad guys and
renegade cops with big guns, bad attitudes and badder mustaches.
Controversial during its
heyday and critically marginalized in ensuing decades, the Eurocrime flame has
been kept alive by a sizeable and devoted fan base, periodic DVD releases, various
websites and online forums. Another shot in the arm was provided by Roberto
Curti’s invaluable book, Italian Crime
Filmography 1968-1980 (McFarland & Co Inc), an in-depth listing and
analysis of more than 200 films.
Now, poliziesco junkies have even more reason to celebrate with the
recent DVD release of Eurocrime! The
Italian Cop and Gangster Films that Ruled the ’70s, writer/director Mike
Malloy’s documentary homage to the genre that illustrates why these
testosterone-fueled thrillers deserve their place in the cinematic pantheon.
To that end, he rounded up
the appropriate subjects to tell the Eurocrime story—the surviving actors,
writers and directors who created these gonzo films from the ground up. It’s a
cast list that would do any current action film proud: Franco Nero, John Saxon,
Henry Silva, Antonio Sabata, Richard Harrison, Fred Williamson, Luc Merenda,
Tomas Milian, Leonard Mann, Michael Forest, John Steiner, Joe Dallesandro and
Chris Mitchum. Not to mention directors Enzo G. Castellari, Claudio Fragasso
and Mario Caiano.
All of these iconic
figures obviously retain deep-seated affection respect for the Eurocrime genre.
There’s zero condescension and little posturing, and all seem grateful for the
exposure these films brought them. In separate interviews, each relates his
particular history with Eurocrime films; Malloy edits their individual stories
into a collective portrait of the genre that’s as enlightening as it is
Malloy gets them to talk
about Eurocrime’s antecedent genres (peplums, giallos, spaghetti westerns); the
influence of Hollywood’s Dirty Harry
and The French Connection (both from
1971), which introduced a grittier ethos and more conflicted protagonists to
crime cinema; and the social and political turmoil in Italy during the 1970s,
which helped the poliziesco chart its
thematic identity through a critical focus on the country’s political
corruption, pervasive crime (organized and otherwise) and terrorist activity. While Eurocrime films were initially
derivative of the American version, Italian filmmakers quickly stamped them
with a unique identity, one that in turn influenced crime and action films the
In addition to such broad-outline
topics, the Eurocrime veterans expound on what it was like to work in a new
genre that was literally being invented on the fly. Low budgets and short
shooting schedules necessitated a guerilla approach to filmmaking. Directors
often shot without permission on the streets, especially when staging chase
scenes, which sometimes led to policemen pursuing stuntmen on motorcycles in
the belief they were actual criminals. The emphasis on speed and economy led to
an insane number of daily setups. Richard Harrison still laughs at the memory
of doing 120 setups in a day.
Like virtually all Italian
films of that era, the films were shot without direct sound. This allowed for
smaller crews, less equipment and less need for retakes, but initially proved
disconcerting for American actors used to quieter, more-ordered sets. Henry
Silva and John Saxon recall their bemused reactions to the on-set noise and
tumult during takes, countered by the Italian film crews’ bewilderment at their
pleas for quiet.
Live ammunition was sometimes
used during filming (Saxon still seems a little freaked out recalling it
decades later), and most of the leading actors did their own stunts. Leonard
Mann recalls: “We’d do them so fast, you know. We’d be out there just running
around and doing our own stunts. I did almost all of them…The things we did, I’m
surprised we didn’t get killed.”
Speaking of stuntmen, one
of that noble breed is represented in this documentary. Ottaviano Dell’Acqua,
who worked on Enzo G. Castellari’s The
Big Racket (1976) and Heroin Busters
(1977), wryly contrasts the approach of Italian and Hollywood stuntmen: “We
were a little more adventurous. We made things a little more ‘homemade.’” That
DIY ethos contributed to the rough-edged spontaneity that gave the films a
sense of gritty realism, no matter how outlandish the scenarios, action or
The Daily Mail has a series of photos showing Daniel Craig on the Thames en route to the real MI6 HQ to film sequences for the new 007 film "Spectre". Craig appears to be having a ball riding a high speed vessel in the company of his co-star Rory Kinnear, who plays the role of fellow agent Bill Tanner.
The article also reveals that, in the wake of the devastating Sony hack scandal, the script is being re-written even as filming is underway, which is not a situation most filmmakers want to contend with. However, Sony and Eon Productions confirmed that an earlier draft of the script that gave away key plot spoilers has been leaked to the web. To ensure that moviegoers don't have the experience of seeing the new film ruined in advance of its premiere next November, the producers have brought in other writers, including "Edge of Tomorrow" scribe Jez Butterworth, to re-write key portions of the story including the finale. The script is also being rewritten by long-time Bond co-writers Neal Purvis and Rob Wade. Daniel Craig has previously said that the script that was in place prior to the hack was better than the one for his 2012 blockbuster "Skyfall", which grossed over $1 billion internationally.
"The Man From U.N.C.L.E. 8 Movie Collection" is available on Amazon USA for only $29.49. The set consists of the the two-part episodes that originally aired on TV and which were later released as theatrical feature films. Of the eight films, only three were released in the United States. In some cases, additional footage with new characters were inserted into the episodes for theatrical distribution.
The set contains the following films:
To Trap a Spy
The Spy With My Face
One Spy Too Many
One of Our Spies is Missing
The Spy in the Green Hat
The Karate Killers
The Helicopter Spies
How to Steal the World
One Spy Too Many
The DVDs are released through the Warner Archive, which means they are region-free and can play on any international DVD system.
All of the feature films star Robert Vaughn, David McCallum and Leo G. Carroll.
(The following review is of
the UK DVD release of the film, on Region 2 format)
‘Just for You’ is a time
capsule of the British pop music scene in the early 1960s. It was made and released
in the UK in 1964 and the official press release from Network describes the DVD
as follows: ‘This ultra-rare musical film of 1966 tells the story of a rock ‘n’
roll hopeful searching for his big break […] Following the young singer as he
goes from studio to studio with his girlfriend and attempts to convince radio
and TV executives to play his song, ‘Just for You’ becomes a showcase for a
host of sixties musical talent’. This is
actually the plot of the 1966 American edition of the film, under the title
‘Discotheque Holiday’ (sometimes listed as ‘Disk-O-Tek Holiday’). What Network
has released is the original UK release of the film, ‘Just for You’, named
after the Freddie and the Dreamers’ song. The UK version was directed by
Douglas Hickox and doesn’t include the added US scenes directed by Vince Scarza
(with the budding singer played by Casey Paxton).
In the original UK version,
we get layabout impresario Sam Costa (played by comedian, disk jockey and
singer Sam Costa) lying in bed, his every whim tended by his fully-automated
computerised home help, while he entertains himself (and us) by running clips
of various pop acts on a projector in his private screening room. Yes, it’s
The links of Costa smoking
a cigar, wisecracking and at one point attempting to eat an animated haggis,
are diverting, but are really just that: links. The main point of the film is wonderfully
vivid Eastman Colour footage of a mixed bag of guitar bands, individual singers,
vocal groups and novelty pop acts performing their songs on a selection of interior
and exterior standing sets at Shepperton Studios.
The full set list is:
Faye Craig: ‘Bongo Baby’
The Applejacks: ‘Tell Me
Al Saxon: ‘Mine All Mine’
A Band of Angels: ‘Hide ‘n’
The Orchids: ‘Mr Scrooge’
The Bachelors: ‘The Fox’
Doug Sheldon: ‘Night Time’
Caroline Lee, Roy Sone and
Judy Jason: ‘Teenage Valentino’
Peter and Gordon: ‘Leave Me
Freddie and the Dreamers:
‘You Were Made for Me’
Millie Small: ‘Sugar Dandy’
Jackie and the Raindrops:
Mark Wynter: ‘I Wish you
Johnny B. Great: ‘If I had
Peter and Gordon: ‘Soft as
Faye Craig: ‘Voodoo’
The Warriors: ‘Don’t Make
Louise Cordet: ‘It’s So
Hard to be Good’
The Merseybeats: ‘Milk’
The Bachelors: ‘Low the
Freddie and the Dreamers:
‘Just for You’
What’s most apparent in
this film and these performances is that the influence of The Beatles and the
jangly Merseybeat sound is everywhere, even in the female singers – from
lyrical content and acoustics, to clothing choices and hairstyles. Several of
the acts here sport matching black or grey suits. Beatles moptop haircuts are everywhere.
Peter and Gordon’s ‘Soft as the Dawn’ closely resembles The Fab Four’s ‘And I
Love Her’. The Applejacks and the Merseybeats songs are patterned on Beatles
melodies and harmonies. ‘The Orchids’ are a Fab Three, a trio of girls whose
snowy rendition of ‘Mr Scrooge’ looks like an outtake from ‘Help!’, with the
girls’ black attire and red and white striped scarves, and has a Phil
Spector-ish sound. ‘A Band of Angels’ rasping ‘Hide ‘n’ Seek’ has the lads decked
out in silver suits and straw boaters, but their sound is defined by sandpaper
vocals and jagged rhythms – it’s one of the best songs in the film. ‘Dollybirds’
stare vacantly off into the distance throughout their performance; dressed in
leather gear from ‘Continental Fashions’, they look to have wandered in from
Antonioni’s ‘Blowup’. During two numbers – one involving a snooker table (the
rollicking skiffle shuffle of ‘The Fox’) and another wearing matching grey
suits (the ballad ‘Low the Valley’) – the Bachelors demonstrate why they
remained single. Doug Sheldon’s low-key ‘Night Time’ has the singer strolling
beside a shadowy studio mock-up of the River Thames, while Mark Wynter’s
purposeful ballad ‘I Wish you Everything’ is a bit Roy Orbison.
Much livelier are the girls.
Caroline Lee and Judy Jason don red Scottish tartan capes and caps to enact ‘Teenage
Valentino’, their tale of disinterest in a self-obsessed bloke. Roy Sone is the
handsome, narcissistic object of his own desires. The insightful lyrics – ‘Big
man, lover boy, teenage Valentino’ – are attributed to Nolly Clapton and Mercy
Hump. Quirky Louise Cordet (wearing a Shimmyshake Dress by Alice Edwards) is
the party-loving girl trying to behave, but finding ‘It’s so Hard to be Good’
and shrill-voiced Millie’s ‘Sugar Dandy’ is brassy, poppy and ear-splitting. Faye
Craig dances exotically to ‘Bongo Baby’ and ‘Voodoo’ (by Johnny Arthey, one of
the best pieces of music in the movie, with bongos and guitar). The lovely
Jackie and her cardiganed Raindrops perform Goffin-King’s ‘Loco-motion’ among
the commuters on a studio-bound train platform.
Lively is also the operative
word with Freddie and the Dreamers, probably the biggest act on show. Frontman
Freddie Garrity prances around the set and his band join in the synchronised
dancing for their most famous hit, the catchy ‘You Were Made for Me’. There’s
an Elizabethan theme for ‘Just for You’, with Freddie appropriately dressed as
the court jester. Other male artists include Al Saxon, who plays his revolving
piano in a party café decked with streamers for the gutsy sax-stacked groove
‘Mine All Mine’. Fellow piano-thumper Johnny B. Great’s snappy cover of Pete
Seeger’s ‘If I Had a Hammer’ gets his audience dancing.
The Network DVD has excellent
picture quality and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 (that’s
black bars at the sides of the picture for 16:9 screens). The original trailer
and an image gallery are included as extras, plus a pdf of promotional
material. If you can track down the American edit, ‘Discotheque Holiday’, you’ll
find it features additional performances for US fans, including The Chiffons,
Rockin’ Ramrods and The Vagrants. ‘Just for You’ is a pop nostalgia-fest
showcasing the great, the good, the overlooked and the somewhat forgotten of 1964.
The rare clips will be lapped up by anyone with an interest in the music and
style of the era. It’s fab and gear.
INTERVIEW CONDUCTED BY DARREN ALLISON, SOUNDTRACK EDITOR FOR CINEMA RETRO
was instantly transported back some 40 years while handling the re-issue of Hammer’s Dracula with Christopher Lee
LP. There was something about holding this mint piece of vinyl that reached
beyond mere nostalgia; I was holding such a prominent memory of the past – new
- in my hands – today...
course, that feeling of déjà vu was pulled sharply into focus given that this
LP is almost a perfect clone of what had once gone before. Naturally, the only
implemented change was the replacement of the original EMI Studio2Stereo logo
from the top left hand corner of the front sleeve. However, the licencing of
this recording has since changed, and instead Dust Bug’s unobtrusive logo now
sits in its place, rather proudly it must be said - and causing very little
recently spoke with Nick Bug, the man behind Dust Bug Records and asked him about
the album, the production, and the decision behind re-releasing such an iconic
Nick, tell me - what made you decide to form Dust Bug Records?
Firstly, we wanted to release records that we love (both old and new). But it
was more than that; we also wanted the added bonus of really going back to
traditional analogue where possible.
Your debut release Dracula with
Christopher Lee is regarded today as something of a classic. What made you
decide to pursue this particular title to launch your label? Did you own the
original album back in 1974?
Certainly I‘ve always been a horror movie fan since I was a child and that
carries you through life. The Dracula record I first heard in 1974 when my
parents visited a Hi Fi fair in Harrogate where B&O (Bang & Olufsen) were
using it as a reference disc for their latest systems. I was only 10 at the
time so it really stuck in my memory. It hasn’t been released on vinyl since
then so I thought what better place to start than with such a cult album that
has followed me through life!
You decided to go back and produce this album in pure analogue – can you tell
me why – and perhaps give us some details about the process, and using the
We thought that if a job is worth doing its worth doing well and going the
extra mile to cut from the ¼ inch tapes was a no brainer for us. We wanted to
deliver pure 100% analogue to vinyl fans. We used a vintage cutting room in
London with a complete analogue chain and beautiful vintage equipment; it was
more like a living museum. The complete signal path is given inside the sleeve,
we thought it was important to let people (and especially the vinyl fans) know
that it wasn’t just cut from a CD!
I was quite taken by the attention to detail regarding the packaging, I guess
the option was there to take an ‘easier’ approach, perhaps to release the LP in
a standard sleeve? Why did you decide on the full gatefold reproduction, I
assume this added to the production costs - did you incur any problems in
taking this option?
It had to be as close to the original as possible and that obviously means
having the gatefold sleeve and trying our best to mimic the laminated front
sleeve by using a high UV gloss and then going for a matte inside as per the
original. It did add to the production costs as did the analogue cutting but we
believe it’s worth it and we are very pleased with the final product.
And of course, you used a nice retro technique in pressing the album in a ‘mist
enshrouded blood infused virgin vinyl’?
Yes indeed, we wanted to deliver the album in a limited edition format to give
the fans something special. You can never tell what the end result will be and
of course every single one is different, unique - as it was dependent upon at
what stage the colours were added. I think the finished result works particularly
Were you happy with the overall finished result?
I have to say, it’s always a bit nerve wracking when you open that first box
and look at what the factory has produced. But yes we are very pleased; it
exceeded our expectations on every level.
Do you believe there is still a market for vinyl? I know this is a strictly
limited release of 500 copies, are initial sales looking promising?
In my opinion, vinyl is the king of formats; it’s as simple as that. I don’t
believe any other format comes close if you are serious about your music and of
course being a record collector myself it’s the only option! Sales have started
well and we hope it will continue... it’s a limited edition run, so if you don’t
have one, don’t hang about!
Regarding Dracula, do you have the rights to press more vinyl or are you happy
with just the 500 copies?
With regards to a vinyl repress, the answer is no - not in the format it is
now. There are 500 only of the numbered first pressing in the limited coloured
vinyl so there will be no more. The idea of the label is to produce small
What about a CD release, have you considered the option, and if so, would the
packaging again reflect the retro style of the LP?
Yes, we do have the CD rights so it is possible we will do a small limited run,
and if we do go ahead with the CD it would also be in a gatefold replica
So Nick, what about the future, what is the aim of Dust Bug Records? Can you
reveal any future titles in the works or anything in particular you are
We are indeed chasing down some other titles to release, but I can’t say too
much at this stage. It’s not just soundtracks either; Dust Bug will release
many different genres going forward. But nothing will be rushed, we believe in
getting it right and sometimes that takes time.
Eon Productions and Sony have confirmed that the recent hack attack against the movie studio has resulted in the cyber theft of the script for the new James Bond film "Spectre" that just began filming. The big budget production has been kept top secret and pains had been taken to keep key plot points from the public. It is known from the title that Bond's arch nemesis organization SPECTRE will fit into the story line and it is has been reported through hacked information that the character Blofeld is to figure into the plot in some way. However, the theft of the actual script could have devastating consequences for the marketing of the film. The producers clearly had anticipated keeping key information close to the vest until the film is released next November 6. Aside from reminding the thieves that the script is protected under British copyright law, there isn't much they can do to prevent it from being published on the web. Both Eon and Sony deny rumors that the filming has been put into hiatus. This is only the latest problem for Sony, which has been the focus of an unprecedented hack that has resulted in embarrassing and confidential information going viral. It is suspected that the North Korean government is behind the action, in retaliation for a new Sony comedy that centers on a plot to kill the nation's dictator Kim Jong Un. For more click here.
The new James Bond film, "Spectre", boasts some exotic locations ranging from Morocco to Mexico to Austria. However, Variety reports that a sizable chunk of the film's rumored $300 million budget will be spent in Rome, where tax incentives have brought in many major studio productions lately. The Bond flick will drop over $62 million to film some high profile chase sequences in Rome, including a spectacular car crash and a scene in which Bond parachutes from a helicopter onto the ancient Ponte Sisto bridge. (No word on whether the Queen will be joining him on this parachute drop, as she did at the Olympics in 2012!) For more click here.
Edwards’ 1965 comedy epic, The Great Race,
has been out in various formats for years, but the Warner Archive has finally
given it the royal Blu-ray treatment that’s as immaculate as the dazzling white
car Tony Curtis drives in the film.
The Great Race was loosely based
on the 1908 New York to Paris race and Edwards and screenwriter Arthur Ross
threw everything but the kitchen sink at it. Originally developed at United Artists, the project was picked up by
Warner Bros when UA balked at the rising cost – which eventually hit a
then-unheard of $12 million, making it the most expensive comedy made at that
time. Clocking in at two hours and
forty minutes, it was also one of the longest running. (Unless compared with Stanley Kramer’s
classic It’sA Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, which ran over three hours in its
original roadshow presentation.)
story follows two bitter rivals, “The Great Leslie”, suavely played by Tony
Curtis and his evil nemesis, “Professor Fate” (a first-rate, over the top performance
by Jack Lemmon) as they race across three continents from New York to Paris. The Leslie character and his sidekick “Hesekiah”
(Keenan Wynn) take the high road while Fate and his bumbling henchman “Max”
(Peter Falk) use an array of dirty tricks to cheat their way to the finish
line. Achingly beautiful Natalie Wood
plays a reporter gamely trying to cover the race. Comedy set pieces abound, most notably a
saloon brawl that must have used every working stuntman in Hollywood and the
ultimate pie-fight, which cost over $200,000 to film. Beautifully shot by Cinematographer Russell
Harlan (Hatari) in locations like
Austria, Paris, Death Valley and no less than eight WB soundstages, no
expense was spared… and yet the film never received the love it deserved. Critics considered it “overdone”, missing
that the film was Edwards’ homage to outrageous slapstick. Although it earned a respectable $25 million,
it wasn’t a breakout hit. (In contrast,
our beloved Thunderball, which was
released the same year,cost $5.6
million to produce and raked in over $140 million. Talk about a great ROI!)
Natalie Wood in some blissfully skimpy attire.
office math aside, as pure cinematic fun, The
Great Race delivers in spades. Lemmon’s work as the evil villain and a
drunk lookalike prince was brilliant, full of manic energy and a real showcase
for his skill and range as an actor. Tony Curtis gave another strong
performance as the stoic hero who can do no wrong, unfazed by any mishap,
including finding a huge polar bear in his back seat! It’s rumored that co-star Natalie Wood didn’t
want to make the film and had to be persuaded by WB brass, but she seemed to be
having fun and could throw a pie with the best of them. She lit up the screen as an intrepid writer/photographer
trying to break free of early 20th century stereotypes of what a
woman could and could not do. Seeing her
in the various Edith Head-designed costumes reminds one of what a stunning
young woman she was.
to be expected, the image quality is nothing short of pristine in 1080p, with scenes
looking almost three-dimensional in their clarity. The audio was bumped up to DTS-HD 5.1 so all
of Lemmon’s agonized cries of “Maaaaaaax!” sound great, as does Henry Mancini’s
gentle score. The only nitpick is the
lack of any new extras – the disc contains “Behind the Scenes With Blake
Edwards’ The Great Race” - the
vintage studio featurette and a theatrical trailer; both of which were on the 2002
DVD release. They are most welcome, but it would have been even more beneficial if, some years ago, someone had interviewed Edwards, Curtis and Lemmon about the making of this epic comedy. I would have produced those gratis, just to hear more about this
wonderful, if overlooked film. Sigh.
In time for the holidays, Warner Brothers Home Entertainment has released a 75th anniversary commemorative Blu-ray boxed set for "Gone With the Wind". This collector's edition includes the extensive previously released bonus extras as well as some exciting new features. See official press release below:
WBHE honors one of the most celebrated motion
pictures of all time with the Gone with the Wind75th
Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray™ and Digital HD
with UltraViolet. This “must have” for classic film collectors will be
fittingly presented in limited and
numbered sets, with new collectible packaging, new enhanced content and new
collectible memorabilia. The memorabilia includes a replica of Rhett Butler’s
handkerchief and a music box paperweight playing Tara’s theme with an image on
top of the Rhett-Scarlett kiss. Also included is a 36-page companion booklet
featuring a look at the immortal style of Gone
with the Wind, written by New York fashion designer and Project Runway fan
favorite, Austin Scarlett. The new special features include footage of Clark
Gable and Vivien Leigh attending the original movie premiere in Atlanta and Old South/New South, a journey through
today's South, revisiting the real-life locations depicted to see how the world
of the Old South continues to inform life in the New South’s cosmopolitan
Superstar Angelina Jolie is described as "a minimally talented spoiled brat" in a confidential E mail that has now gone viral.
The hacking scandal that has afflicted Sony Pictures has turned into a major disaster with implications that could ruin lucrative business relationships as well as lead to lawsuits. Sony was hacked by a mysterious entity that seemed more interest in embarrassing the company than extorting it. Thousands of social security numbers of employees have been leaked along with their salaries, unreleased films have been compromised at a potential cost of many millions of dollars and, perhaps most devastating to the suits in the corner offices, private E mails have been made public that reveal shocking comments by executives towards some of the most prominent people in the industry. The smart money is on North Korea as the culprit behind the sophisticated hack, that goes far beyond what most security experts have seen. Sony is about to release a comedy about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un- and the Dear Leader clearly doesn't think its funny. The North Koreans have denounced the film and called for Sony to suppress it. The studio's refusal to do so may have unleashed North Korea's intelligence services on it's computer systems. The Washington Post reports that the scandal has reached levels that is causing major agita among the top brass at Sony. In an industry that prides itself on keeping secrets, the cats are running out of the bag. Click here to read.
For extensive coverage of leaked E mails, click here for Gawker article.
Cinema Retro's own Gareth Owen is interviewed on Bloomberg TV regarding the reasons that Pinewood Studios has remained James Bond's 'home" for more than 50 years. The Broccoli family have always felt most comfortable at Pinewood and they maintain permanent offices there. However, there is an economic incentive to film there, as well. After decades of losing major film productions due to punitive tax measures, the UK is now attracting blockbuster franchises such as Star Wars, Batman and The Avengers due to lucrative incentives that allow producers to reclaim as much as 25% of their British expenditures. The new Bond film SPECTRE is filming at Pinewood and other locations around the world.
(Read Gareth Owen's "Pinewood Past" column in every issue of Cinema Retro!)
These days, cinema buffs searching high and
low for a lost, early work of a modern filmmaker is almost unheard of , as most
everything is readily available on DVD or Blu-ray. However, back in the day,
this was far from the case. Way back when, many early efforts from then current
directorial masters were extremely hard to find. For example, throughout the 1980s,
I can remember looking everywhere for a copy of George A. Romero’s third film Season of the Witch aka Hungry Wives (1972)as well as Martin Scorsese’s debut feature Who’s That Knocking at My Door? (1967)just to name a few. Another movie I always longed to see was a
strange, little action film called Fast
Company. The reason I use the word strange is because the movie was
directed by the enormously talented, Canadian born David Cronenberg. Although
he is now known for masterpieces such as A
History of Violence (2005) and Eastern
Promises (2007) , Cronenberg once carried the moniker “The King of Canadian
Horror” (due to his unique series of “Body Horror” films such as Shivers aka They Came from Within (1975), Rabid
(1977) and 1979’s The Brood), so,
in the mid-80s, it was quite a surprise for me to learn that not only was there
a lost Cronenberg film out there which was made in between all these
underground genre classics, but also that the movie was a mainstream action
Fast Company tells the story of aging
drag racer Lonnie “Lucky Man” Johnson (Rich
Man, Poor Man’sWilliam Smith)
and his struggles with cutthroat manager Phil Adamson (John Saxon from Enter the Dragon) whose underhanded
actions affect Lonnie’s long distance girlfriend, Sammy (Deathsport’sClaudia
Jennings), Lonnie’s protégé, Billy “The Kid” Brocker (Nicholas Campbell from Da Vinci’s Inquest), Billy’s girl, Candy
(One Night Only’s Judy Foster) and
their chief mechanic, Elder (Don Francks from 1981’s My Bloody Valentine).
Sort of a slick combination of drag racing
docudrama and exploitation action film, Fast
Company, which was co-written by Cronenberg, is an extremely interesting
and entertaining (not to mention accurate) look at life in the fast paced,
blue-collar world of professional drag racing. By mounting his camera on and
inside the race cars, Cronenberg tells a great visual story while, at the same
time, placing the viewer right into the center of the action. There’s also
solid performances from the top notch cast (it’s great to see Saxon in another
villainous role after watching him play countless cops over the years, while
the usually intimidating William Smith shines as good guy Lonnie), and the film
itself, with its fitting, hard rock soundtrack by musician Fred Mollin (Friday’s Curse aka Friday the 13th: The Series), has a light, fun and
enjoyable feel to it.
If you’re like me and you’ve been waiting
years to see this lost film, you’ll be happy to know that the wait was well
worth it as Blue Underground has pulled out all the stops to bring us an
absolutely beautiful transfer presented in its original 1:85:1 aspect ratio.
The Blu-ray is also jam packed with special features (all of which are ported
over from the 2004 Blue Underground DVD with the exceptions of a poster and still
gallery, and bios of both Cronenberg and Claudia Jennings). Along with the
original theatrical trailer, we have a fantastic twelve minute documentary
titled Inside the Character Actor’s
Studio which features interviews with acting heavyweights William Smith and
John Saxon (appearing here together) who not only recall their roles in the
film, but also talk about what it means to be a character actor as opposed to
being a leading man. It’s a real treat to see these two B-movie icons
reminiscing and joking about their amazing careers and my only complaint is
that the documentary isn’t longer, as I could listen to these guys talk for
hours. Next, we have a second documentary about famed cinematographer Mark
Irwin (There’s Something About Mary).
Here, Irwin fills us in on, amongst other fascinating things, how some of the
more complicated night shots were achieved, and he also talks about the five
“Body Horror” classics he went on to shoot for Cronenberg.
For most viewers familiar with the director’s
work, Fast Company may seem out of
place in his filmography, but to David Cronenberg, it’s simply another one of
his many cinematic children. On the audio commentary track of this Blu-ray, the
director tells us how he himself is a huge sports car enthusiast as well as a
former road racer and, therefore, this film fits right in with the rest of his
works as it has to do with just another one of his many interests. He also
affectionately goes into detail about a plethora of subjects such as how Fast Company is really a modern western
(another thing that attracted him to the project), how this is the first time
he ever shot a scene on a film set as opposed to shooting entirely on location,
and the importance of this film due to the fact that he met many members of his
future filmmaking crew (and cast) here. Cronenberg also explains the state of
the Canadian film industry in 1979, recounts a great story about how John Saxon
praised his direction, and talks briefly about the lovely and talented drive-in
movie queen; the late, great Claudia Jennings who, sadly, died in an auto
accident shortly after completing this film. It’s a very interesting and
informative commentary that, just like the film itself, will appeal to Cronenberg
fans, race car aficionados, budding filmmakers and B-movie buffs alike.
As if all this wasn't enough, the disc
also features Cronenberg’s first two, seldom seen features, Stereo (1969) and Crimes of the Future (1970), making this Blu-ray an absolute must
for Cronenberg completists; highly recommended.
Throughout motion picture history, there have always been "disaster" movies. From Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy facing the great earthquake in "San Francisco" to John Wayne trying to rescue an airliner in distress in "The High and the Mighty". However, the disaster movie didn't emerge as a genre until the 1970s. Most people credit "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972) with being the first major entry among these kinds of films during that era, but arguably the genre began two years earlier with "Airport". That blockbuster flick set the standard for all of the disaster movies to follow:
An all-star cast ranging from top boxoffice attractions to respected veteran stars and popular character actors
Big production values
State-of-the-art special effects
Majestic musical score (and, if possible, a Top 40 hit shoe-horned into the proceedings)
A well-regarded director at the helm to preside over the mayhem
For the most part the formula worked fairly well. "Poseidon" was a major boxoffice smash and that film begat the short-lived genre's best year, 1974, which saw the virtual back-to-back release of "Gold", "Earthquake" and "The Towering Inferno", the latter being the "Citizen Kane" of disaster movies. However, the genre was to burn brightly but briefly. In the wake of "Inferno", there was nowhere else to go. The 1977 film "Black Sunday" was excellent, but despite a blimp crashing into the Superbowl stadium, it is not a "disaster movie" in the traditional sense. Most of those films that were, flopped badly. Producer Irwin Allen, who struck pay dirt as the producer of "Poseidon" and "Inferno" found the formula had grown stale by the late 1970s. His 1978 release "The Swarm" is generally referred to as the worst "Bee" movie ever made. His 1980 anemic attempt to blend cast members with elements of "Poseidon" and "Inferno" was released as "When Time Ran Out", an appropriate enough title for the flop that ended his big screen career. Another costly casualty of the disaster genre ebb was "Meteor", a 1979 production that top-lined an impressive cast: Sean Connery, Natalie Wood, Brian Keith, Karl Malden, Martin Landau, Trevor Howard and Henry Fonda. It was produced by Gabe Gatzka and Sandy Howard (among others), two veterans with very respected backgrounds in the film industry. The film was directed by another highly respected individual, Ronald Neame, the man who had helmed "The Poseidon Adventure". On paper, the project must have looked like a "can't lose" proposition. Yet, "Meteor" turned out to be a major flop at the boxoffice as well as a critical disaster. What went wrong? To start with, it was probably ill-advised to entrust the production to American-International Pictures which specialized in making low-budget horror and teeny bopper exploitation films. The AIP association branded "Meteor" with a "cheesy" stigma even before cameras rolled.
Connery stars as a cynical, world-respected scientist whose warnings about the possibility of earth being hit by a destructive meteor have largely gone ignored. When the film opens, he is summoned to Washington by government officials who tell him the top secret bombshell disclosure that his worst nightmare is about to come true. A gigantic meteor is racing towards earth and there is only one way to stop it: by having the USA and Soviet Union join forces to synchronize their nuclear missiles in the hopes of blasting the meteor out of the sky. Brian Keith plays the Soviet foreign minister who meets up with Connery and his colleagues at a secret underground New York City command center located adjacent to the subway system(!) Natalie Wood is his comely interpreter, which allows for some mildly suggestive byplay between Connery and her. There's little time for romance, however, as advance particles from the meteor are already hitting earth and causing widespread damage. With time running out, the US and Soviet technicians scramble to employ their nuclear arsenals in a last ditch attempt to save earth. This scenario might seem stale today, but it was a relatively fresh concept back in '79. However, the film was undermined by the apparent shortage of production funds for use in the special effects. The sets are elaborate and impressive but the key sequences showing the missiles in action are laughably poor. Equally bad are the shots of the presumably menacing meteor hurtling towards earth. No matter how much the filmmakers try, it never looks much more terrifying than a large rock you might encounter in your garden. (Sean Connery once referred to the meteor special effects as making the titular objects resemble "little balls of shit".) The screenplay is a scatter shot affair. Apparently concerned that concentrating on the key characters who are locked into an underground command center might prove to be too claustrophobic, the decision was made to "open up" the scenario by showing various international locations being destroyed by meteor fragments. In doing so, the screenwriters cram in completely extraneous characters who are given approximately ten seconds each to develop personalities in the hope we can sympathize with them when they are pulverized. Thus, we see a young father in Hong Kong scrambling to get his child before a tidal wave engulfs the city. People in a ski resort in Switzerland are given equal opportunity for brief character development before they are buried under an avalanche. The sin of it all is that the production company really did film on location in these places but, aside from a few impressive snippets of crowds running frantically through the streets of Hong Kong, there is limited to value to the expenses incurred in shooting in such disparate areas of the globe.
Yet, for all its cheesiness, "Meteor" somehow plays better today than it did at the time of its initial release. This is primarily due to the fact that we can appreciate seeing the great cast members interacting on the big screen. Connery, middle-aged and handsome, makes for a fine leading man.Natalie Wood is given little of substance to do here but, given this was one of her last films, it gives us a precious opportunity to at least see her natural beauty. Brian Keith, long underrated as a leading man in feature films, steals the show, playing against type as a witty and funny Soviet diplomat. Only poor Martin Balsam comes across awful in an unintentionally funny performance as a fussy U.S. general who refuses to trust his Soviet counterparts (Fritz Weaver played essentially the same role very well in "Fail Safe" fifteen years earlier.) The finale of the film is truly impressive as a sea of mud descends upon the underground command center. The sequence was indeed a challenge to film and, if it looks like it was dangerous for the actors, it indeed was: several cast members were injured during this elaborate sequence.
The Kino Lorber Blu-ray is superb in terms of overall quality. As with so many special effects-laden films of the past, today's technology tends to expose the shortcomings in this pre-CGI era, but that only adds to the charm of watching a flick like this. The only bonus extra is the original theatrical trailer.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM AMAZON AND TO WATCH ORIGINAL TRAILER
Bill Cosby has been in the news a lot lately, though undoubtedly not in a way he would prefer. Lost in the on-going debate about his career as a legendary comedian and sitcom star and how this affects allegations of sexual assaults, is the fact that Cos at one time showed considerable skill in rare dramatic roles. One such case was a now relatively obscure 1972 detective flick he starred in for United Artists. Largely forgotten by the general public due to very limited exposure since its release, Hickey & Boggs has been released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber. (It was initially released a few years ago on DVD by MGM's burn-to-order division.) The film's primary merit is that it reunited I Spy co-stars Bill Cosby and Robert Culp (though by this time, Cosby's fame had eclipsed Culp's, thus resulting in his receiving top billing). In their classic TV show, Culp and Cosby played a tennis pro and his trainer who were actually secret agents. The glitz of the tennis world allowed them to live Bondian lifestyles while they thwarted bad guys. Intriguingly, Hickey & Boggs goes in a very different direction. Resisting the temptation to revive their wise-cracking I Spy personalities, Culp and Cos are seen as down-and-out private investigators in Los Angeles. Both are divorced but pine away for their ex's; they can't pay the office phone bill and they ride around in cars that look like they barely survived a demolition derby. As the TV spots for the film said at the time, "They have to reach up to touch bottom." On the brink of financial disaster, the men finally get a case: they are hired by a mysterious man to find an equally mysterious woman he wants to locate. The money is good, but the seemingly mundane case soon turns deadly with Hickey and Boggs dodging mob hit men, black radicals and unfriendly police brass.
Twilight Time has released the delightful 1962 hit comedy "Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation" as a limited edition (3,000 units) Blu-ray release. The film is the very definition of old Hollywood star power, with James Stewart and Maureen O'Hara top-lining a cast that includes some first-rate character actors. Stewart plays Roger Hobbs, a burned out banking executive who is introduced to as he makes the daily grind of a commute amid traffic-choked, smog-filled roads. He narrates the story as a flashback, relating how he had planned a romantic getaway for he and his wife Peggy (Maureen O'Hara). She put the kabosh on his plans to tour London and Paris in favor of bringing their kids on a family vacation at a California beach house an acquaintance has offered them for free. Roger is less than enthusiastic about the idea. It will mean bringing along their insecure teenage daughter Katey (Lauri Peters) and her younger brother Danny (Michael Burns), a kid who rarely leaves the confines of his bedroom where he is obsessed with watching TV Westerns. (This was 1962, after all, when seemingly every other TV program was a Western!) Also invited are the Hobbs' grown daughters Susan (Natalie Trundy) and Janie (Lili Gentle), both of whom have more issues than Time magazine. Susan's and her husband Stan (Josh Peine) are parents to small children and are clearly embittered in their relationship due to the fact that Stan has been secretly unemployed for an extended period of time. Janie and her husband Byron (John Saxon, playing against type in a very amusing performance) have a young son and Roger can't stand being around them for any extended period of time. Byron is a pompous intellectual with a superiority complex and the couple's son, for whatever reason, hates grandpa Roger. All of these problems are just the undercurrent for what is shaping up to be a disastrous vacation from minute one. The lovely beach house Peggy has envisioned turns out to look like the set from "House on Haunted Hill", a once-stately home that has fallen into complete disrepair. Roger's first challenge is to get a complex water pumping system working, which leads to an amusing running gag about man vs. machine.
Roger, who is clearly not the typical dad found in sitcoms of the era, tries mightily to control his anger as his self-centered family members burden each other with their problems and emotional conflicts. It's a joy watching Stewart engage in his "slow burn" routine, barely able to restrain himself from exploding. Adding to the pressure is the arrival of an eccentric couple (the marvelous character actors John McGiver and Marie Wilson), who may be prospective employers for Stan- if they enjoy their stay at the beach home. This is the most amusing part of the movie as Roger finds himself valiantly trying to entertain this boring, prudish couple who on the surface seem to have no vices but who are secretly hiding a lifestyle of heavy drinking and sexual frustration. The sequence in which Stewart and McGiver go bird-watching is full of genuine belly laughs.
As film historian Julie Kirgo writes in the very perceptive liner notes in the accompanying booklet, "Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation" is much deeper than the standard family comedy you might assume it to be. It reflects the changing attitudes of 1960s society and hints at the blossoming rebellion of young people in regard to parental authority. It also takes a much franker look at discussions and representations of sex. Roger and Peggy are aghast when Janie shamelessly announces she intends to start in on the process of having another baby immediately. Roger must contend with a busty, air-headed seductress (Valerie Varda) who cozies up to him every day on the beach in an overt attempt to lure him into bed. Finally, there is the only solace Roger can find at the end of a long, frustrating day: cozying under the sheets with Peggy. During this time sitcom married couples may still have been sleeping in separate beds, but big screen couples had matured to a more natural setting. The film makes quite clear that the Hobbs still enjoy an active love life (how could Roger ever resist a wife who looks like Maureen O'Hara?) Kirgo also points out that this was one of the first films to depict the gradual disintegration of the American family unit. Everyone seems to want to be in their own space doing their own thing- and this was decades before cell phone and video games. In an extended and highly prescient sequence, Roger attempts to gather the entire clan in the living room for a simple toast. However, he is interrupted by numerous mini-crisis that ultimately leave him entirely alone with a full glass in his hand.
Under the expert direction of Henry Koster, who also directed Stewart in his signature starring role in "Harvey", the pace is brisk and the script by noted scribe Nunnally Johnson provides plenty of funny quips that flow naturally and believably from the characters. The movie mixes laughter with some emotionally touching sequences. Roger takes his estranged son Danny on a simple boating trip only to experience the terror of being caught in a heavy fog and drifting far from shore. Stewart is excellent in this sequence. Roger is clearly frightened to death but manages to retain his calm in order to convince his son that he has the situation under control. The experience finally bonds both father and son. Roger also tries to help 14 year-old Katey cope with the insecurity of feeling unattractive because she wears braces. He brings her to a local dance for teens only to find her sitting as a wallflower. He bribes a young man (then teen idol Fabian) to show some interest in her, and the boy movingly returns the money to Hobbs because he genuinely likes her. (In the film's worst scene, Fabian croons a sugary love song to his new flame, which was due to an obvious contractual clause designed to sell some records.) Gradually, the frustrations of Roger's vacation week begin to resolve themselves and there is the expected happy ending. However, the film has a certain bite that was lacking in most family comedy features until that time. Roger Hobbs clearly loves and cares about his family but he's also not ashamed to be a bit self-indulgent in his desire to put his needs first occasionally.
The Twilight Time release boasts an excellent transfer, an isolated music track for Henry Mancini's score, the original theatrical trailer, an illustrated collector's booklet and a brief Fox Movietone News segment that goes behind the scenes on the set.
of the hallmarks of Don Siegel’s “Dirty Harry” (1971) was the way the director shot
the film on location in San Francisco. From the rooftops of Nob Hill to the
streets and alleys of the Tenderloin, Siegel made the location as much a part
of the story as Harry and the maniacal killer he pursues. But this skillful use
of location was nothing new for Siegel. He had long since mastered that
technique back in the late fifties in films like “The Lineup,” filmed in San
Francisco in 1958, and “Edge of Eternity,” shot in Arizona near the Grand
Canyon a year later.
“The Lineup” Siegel and screenwriter Stirling Silliphant concocted a brilliant
tale with off-beat characters and off-the-wall dialog, and gave movie goers a
breathtaking tour of San Francisco, most of which, sadly, is no longer there.
In “Edge of Eternity,” he had a less compelling script to work with, but the
Technicolor and Cinemascope photography of the Grand Canyon and Lake Mead by
Burnett Guffey more than compensates.
opening shots of “Edge of Eternity” show a car stopping near the edge of the
canyon. A man in a suit gets out of the car. Another man dressed in work
clothes appears and tries to throw him over the edge. A fight ensues, the car
falls into the canyon and in the movie’s first surprise, it’s the second man,
the would-be murderer, who goes over after it.
to Deputy Sheriff Les Martin (Cornell Wilde). Driving around the canyon on
patrol, he comes across the caretaker of an abandoned gold mine who tells him about
the man we saw escape death at the canyon, who’s all beat up and asking for
help from the police. At that moment, Janice
Kendon (Victoria Shaw), daughter of a wealthy mine owner, races past them
recklessly in her gorgeous canary yellow 1958 Thunderbird. Martin ignores the
old timer (it seems he’s kind of a coot, who cries wolf a lot) and pursues
out while he’s busy writing a ticket and flirting with her, the man who got
beat up at the canyon is being murdered back at the old timer’s place. So who
killed him and does it have anything to do with the $20 million we’re told lies
in the mine the government shut down during the war?
are the main plot questions, but who cares? The contrived story isn’t what really
matters in Edge of Eternity. It’s the real-time, real-place feeling that Siegel
manages to put on film that makes this little-known movie worth watching. Seeing
Wilde and Victoria Shaw playing their parts with the Grand Canyon in the
background, you hardly pay attention to the dialog anyway. All you know is
there’s a murder to be solved, some back story guilt to be healed by Wilde, and
a love story to be brought to a happy conclusion. Naturally, Siegel pulls it
off with his usual workman-like skill.
really fascinating thing about this movie, though, is the setting used for the
movie’s climax. When the film was made there was a company known as the U.S. Guano
Corp. The company had found a cave on the far side of the Canyon that was
believed to contain 100,000 tons of bat guano that was rich in nitrogen and
could be sold as fertilizer. The company built an expensive cable car system that
ran a span of 7,500 feet to the cave.
course Deputy Martin and the bad guy (you’ll never guess who it is, wink,
wink) have a big fist fight on the “dancing bucket” as it was affectionately
known, 2,500 feet above the canyon bottom, with Janice holding on for dear
life. Some of the close ups are obviously done with rear projection, but there
are a couple of long shots that make you hold your breath at least for the
stunt men. Overall, it’s an entertaining film with good performances, but I
kept wondering what Stirling Silliphant would have done with a set up like that.
the copy of the film I watched was on DVD and not BluRay, Columbia Classic’s
video release is extremely good. The vistas are pretty sharp and the color
bright. The music by Daniele Amfitheatrof is suitably majestic and well
recorded. Edge of Eternity is definitely worth watching.
for the bat guano operation, in real life the thing turned out to be a bust
when they found there was only 1,000 tons of bat doo-doo, not 100,000 tons and
the site was closed down. Nonetheless it was in operation at the time of
filming, and the producers, Siegel being one of them, ran a credit thanking U.S.
Guano for its assistance in making the movie. That may be the first and only
time Hollywood acknowledged the debt it owes to those who also wield shovels. Credit
where credit is due.
(John M. Whalen is the author of "Hunting Monsters is My Business: The Mordecai Slate Stories" . Click here to order the book from Amazon
at Sea” (1937) is old-school Hollywood at its best -- beautifully directed by
Henry Hathaway, great performances by Gary Cooper, George Raft, and Frances
Dee, wonderful support from a first-rate cast of character actors, and fine
Paramount production values.The script
casts a wide net over at least sixgenres, including maritime adventure, disaster saga, love story, spy
thriller, costume drama, and courtroom mystery.Imagine “Amistad” (1997), “Titanic” (1997), and “Master and Commander:
The Far Side of the World” (2003) combined, with a little music and comedy
added in.It sounds like it should be a
mess, but a strong script by old pros Grover Jones and Dale Van Every pulls it
all together seamlessly.
“Nuggin” Taylor (Cooper), an American seaman and sometimes ship’s officer,
faces charges of murder in a Boston courtroom in 1842 in the deaths of 18
fellow passengers during the sinking of the transatlantic brig William
Brown. Taylor is accused of
commandeering a lifeboat, ejecting other passengers and leaving them to drown,
and killing a fellow traveler, British naval Lt. Tarryton, with whom he had
been on strained terms (Henry Wilcoxon). Taylor refuses to speak in his own defense, and his blemished reputation
as a career slaver seems to substantiate the prosecution’s depiction of a
coward and opportunist. The few survivors
assembled in the courtroom plead on Taylor’s behalf, describing a different
sort of man, but there is one dissenting hold-out among them. Tarryton’s embittered sister Margaret (Dee)
supports the prosecution, even though she was one of the people Taylor
rescued. The jury returns a guilty
verdict, and then, as Taylor is led away, a British government official (George
Zucco) rushes into the courtroom and reveals the true story.
sadly underrated Henry Hathaway is best remembered now as a director of Westerns
who, like his contemporary John Ford, was known for bullying good performances
out of his casts. “Souls at Sea,” like
his earlier Paramount classic with Cooper, “Lives of a Bengal Lancer” (1935),
works perfectly fine as an action drama, but Hathaway also invests it with
great sensitivity in romantic scenes between Cooper and Dee, and between George
Raft as Taylor’s friend Powdah and Olympe Bradna as a winsome lady’s maid who
seeks a new start in America. Cooper and
Raft also click as mismatched but loyal buddies, Cooper crossing the frame with
a long-legged outdoorsman’s walk, Raft matching him with a subdued dancer’s
swagger. The climactic scenes
dramatizing the explosion and sinking of the doomed ship use state-of-the-art
1930s FX, chiefly miniatures and special sets simulating the burning, tilted
ship’s deck. Younger fans accustomed to
CGI may not be impressed, but these old-time FX have their own charm for us
The Universal Studios
Home Entertainment/TCM Vault Collection DVD is a manufactured-on-demand
DVD-R. There’s no chapter menu and no
extras, but the 1.33:1 full frame transfer is acceptable.
Here is the brilliant new teaser campaign for the James Bond film "SPECTRE". What makes it brilliant? Any Bond fan would know...the bullet hole references the final, haunting frame of the 1969 Bond classic "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" starring George Lazenby. In those final moments, Bond's beloved new bride Tracy (Diana Rigg) was murdered by SPECTRE arch villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his henchwoman Irma Bunt. The fact that the franchise is reaching back into its early days in terms of this reference bodes well for the new film. Of course, it could be coincidental that the logo mirrors the final image from "OHMSS", but- given the title- it seems intentional. We shall see... Regardless, we love the fact that the SPECTRE octopus symbol is woven into the logo...
WATCH REPLAY OF THE BOND PRESS ANNOUNCEMENT AT PINEWOOD STUDIOS
UK, December 4, 2014 – 007 Soundstage, Pinewood Studios, London. James Bond
Producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli today released the title of
the 24th James Bond adventure, SPECTRE. The film, from Albert R. Broccoli’s EON
Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, and Sony Pictures Entertainment, is
directed by Sam Mendes and stars Daniel Craig, who returns for his fourth film
as Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007. SPECTRE begins principal photography on
Monday, December 8, and is set for global release on November 6, 2015.
with Daniel Craig, Mendes presented the returning cast, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie
Harris, Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear as well as introducing Christoph Waltz,
Léa Seydoux, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci and Andrew Scott. Mendes also
revealed Bond’s sleek new Aston Martin, the DB10, created exclusively for
cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister
organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service
alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind
007 production will be based at Pinewood Studios, and on location in London,
Mexico City, Rome and Tangier and Erfoud, in Morocco. Bond will return to the
snow once again, this time in Sölden, along with other Austrian locations,
Obertilliach, and Lake Altaussee.
on the announcement, Wilson and Broccoli said, “We’re excited to announce
Daniel’s fourth installment in the series and thrilled that Sam has taken on
the challenge of following on the success of SKYFALL with SPECTRE.”.
by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade, Director of Photography is
Hoyte van Hoytema and Editor is Lee Smith. Production Designer, Dennis Gassner
returns along with Costume Designer, Jany Temime and Composer, Thomas Newman.
Action Specialist, Alexander Witt is the 2nd Unit Director. Stunt Coordinator
is Gary Powell, SFX Supervisor is Chris Corbould, and Visual Effects Supervisor
is Steve Begg.
the 23rd James Bond film, was a worldwide box office phenomenon, opening #1 in
70 territories around the world, taking over $1.1 billion worldwide and setting
a new all-time box office record in the UK by becoming the first film to take over
Minutes ago, director Sam Mendes announced that the new James Bond film title will be "SPECTRE". The announcement was made at the legendary "home" of the 007 franchise, Pinewood Studios on the Albert R. Broccoli 007 Stage. Christoph Waltz was confirmed as the new villain. His character's name was not given, but the title "SPECTRE" gives credence to rumors that he will be playing the arch villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who has not officially appeared in an Eon Bond film since Charles Gray played him opposite Sean Connery in the 1971 film "Diamonds Are Forever".
Returning cast members include Ralph Finnes, Naomi Harris, Ben Wishaw and Rory Kinnear. The writing team from "Skyfall"- John Logan, Neal Purvis and Rob Wade- is also returning.
Bond's new car was also unveiled: the new Aston Martin DB10.
The film is scheduled for release in October 2015.
Altman’s 1974 crime drama, Thieves Like
Us,when viewed today, seems to
be a cross between Bonnie and Clyde (which
preceded Thieves)and O Brother, Where Art
Thou? (which appeared twenty-six years later). It’s the Depression-era
story, based on the novel by Edward Anderson, of a trio of escaped convicts who
go on a bank-robbing spree. But it’s also a love story between one of the
thieves, Bowie (played by a young Keith Carradine), and a country girl, Keechie
(portrayed by a young Shelley Duvall), and this is the aspect of Altman’s film
that truly shines. The novel was also the source inspiration for Nicholas Ray’s
1949 film noir, They Live By Night,
starring Farley Granger and Cathy O’Donnell. As much as I like 1940s and 50s
film noir, for my money, Altman’s is the better version.
who had a decidedly hit-and-miss career over six decades, was on a roll in the
early seventies. Thieves Like Us is
indeed one of his hits—from a critical standpoint—although it didn’t
necessarily do bang-up box office. Filmed on location in Mississippi, Altman
and his production team managed to find authentic 1930s settings, lending a
you-are-there feel to the period piece. More importantly, Altman chose not to
use a traditional musical score but instead relied on vintage radio programs to
fill out the ambiance. That part was a stroke of genius.
director also often utilized a stock company of actors, many of whom appeared
in multiple pictures. In this case, besides Carradine and Duvall—who are
terrific in their roles—there is John Schuck and Bert Remsen as the other two
thieves, and Tom Skerritt as a shady service station owner. Louise Fletcher, in
a pre-Cuckoo’s Nest performance, is
effective as Remsen’s sister-in-law, who aides and abets the criminals until
she has a change of heart.
the picture belongs to Carradine and Duvall, whose love scenes are intimate,
honest, and endearing. Their characters are extremely likable and exude an
innocence that is a counterpoint to the violence depicted in the rest of the
picture. The fact that these two relatively unknown actors (at the time) were
cast as leads attests to the New Hollywood attitude of allowing auteurs do their thing. It’s too bad
that the studios clamped down on risk-taking after the 70s.
Lorber’s Blu-ray has A high-definition transfer of the film—which looks fine—and the theatrical trailer and a commentary by
Altman himself as extras. The location scenery—especially the muddy roads, the
rain, and the back-country hills and shacks, are strikingly beautiful, thanks
to Jean Boffety’s soft cinematography.
of the better “lovers on the run” pictures, Thieves
Like Us is worth grabbing.
long awaited rain couldn’t keep Sony Pictures Home Entertainment from
celebrating the DVD release of Woody Allen’s Magic In The Moonlight with a vintage-themed party at The Crocker
Club in downtown LA on December 2nd.
whimsical 2014 romantic comedy stars Colin Firth as a magician on a mission to
debunk a professional clairvoyant played by Emma Stone. The film was well received during its
theatrical run with reviewers noting the strong performances of Firth and Stone
as well as cinematographer Darius Khondji’s excellent work capturing the French
Riviera of the 1920s. (The two are
already collaborating on Allen’s next film.)
the party, guests could circulate among screen-used costumes from the film as a
tarot card reader and astrologer worked their, um, magic. There was also a hip, young stylist on hand
for guests who wanted a quick touch up. (Unfortunately
she didn’t have the many hours this CR scribe would have needed!)
Allen’s Magic In The Moonlight is
available on digital HD on December 2, with the Blu-ray and DVD release on December
(PHOTOS COURTESY OF SONY PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)
Kino Lorber has released the relatively forgotten 1954 murder thriller "Witness to Murder" on Blu-ray. The flick is film noir in the best tradition: modest budget, creative lighting and cinematography, an inspired cast and a compelling story. Barbara Stanwyck stars as Cheryl Draper, an independent, career-minded woman who has the misfortune to look out the window of her apartment late one windy evening only to observe a murder being committed across the street in another apartment. She is horrified to see an attractive young woman being strangled to death by a well-dressed, middle-aged man. She phones the police and is visited by two detectives: Lawrence Matthews (Gary Merrill) and Eddie Vincent (cigar-chomping Jesse White), who dutifully take the details and head over the apartment where the crime was committed. The murderer is Albert Richter (George Sanders), a snobby author of some repute who has had time to hide the body of the young woman in an adjoining empty apartment. When the detectives arrive to question him, he puts on a masterful performance, pretending he has been awakened from a sound sleep. He convinces the cops that Cheryl must have been dreaming or the lights may have played tricks with her vision. Convinced of his innocence, the cops inform Cheryl they are convinced no crime has been committed, despite her fervent protests that she was not mistaken. Now Cheryl realizes that her own life is in danger. In true film noir fashion, she plays Lois Lane and begins nosing around the building where Richter lives. She even gains access to his apartment when he is out , on the pretense of wanting to rent a similar unit. Before long, she and Richter and locked in a psychological cat-and-mouse game with Richter holding most of the cards. He enacts an elaborate scheme to discredit Cheryl, making it seem as though she suffers from psychological delusions. He even gets her temporarily committed to an asylum. Meanwhile, Cheryl has begun dating Det. Matthews, but still cant convince him that Richter is a murderer- even when it is revealed his is a "reformed" former Nazi.
"Witness to Murder" bares some startling similarities to the work of Alfred Hitchcock, notably "Rear Window", with some doses of "Vertigo" and "North By Northwest" thrown in. However, before you dismiss this film as another pale imitation of The Master's work, keep in mind that it was released before any of those cinematic classics. Director Roy Rowland keeps the suspense rising throughout until the final, nail-biting (if somewhat melodramatic) climax in which Cheryl finds herself menaced by Richter atop a high rise construction site.
The performances are uniformly excellent with Stanwyck playing that rarity in Hollywood movies of the era: a gutsy, intelligent and independent woman. Sanders is in full sneer mode and demonstrates why no one could play a cad like him. He's charming even when he informs you he's about to kill you. The only weak spot is a brief scene that tries to tie Richter's motive for murder into an improbable plan to revive the Third Reich! Beyond that, however, "Witness to Murder" is top notch film noir and is highly recommended.
The Kino Lorber Blu-ray contains a great deal of grain, but that could have been from the original film negative. In any event, it unintentionally adds a bit of extra atmosphere to the black-and-white intrigue. The Blu-ray also contains an original trailer.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from Sony Pictures (UK):
(Pinewood Studios, UK) - On Thursday 4th December at 11:00am GMT (3:00am PST; 6:00am EST) Albert R. Broccoli's EON Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Sony Pictures Entertainment will present a live announcement and photo call from the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios. The title and cast of the 24th Bond film will be revealed, marking the start of principal photography on Monday 8th December. A global audience will be able to watch the announcement live via a web stream atwww.007.com
The legendary Albert R. Broccoli 007 Stage is located on Broccoli Road at Pinewood Studios.
(Photo copyright Cinema Retro. All rights reserved.)
·The announcement of the title and cast for the 24th Bond film will be streamed live on www.007.com and distributed live via satellite
·The announcement will also be live-tweeted via the official James Bond handle @007
Burt Reynolds' rise to fame and fortune was one of the great Hollywood success stories. Reynolds broke into acting in the 1950s but found the road to stardom blocked by a factor he could not control: his physical resemblance to Marlon Brando. But Reynolds persevered, landing a recurring supporting role on the legendary TV show "Gunsmoke". He also starred in two detective shows in the late 1960s and early 1970s: "Hawk" and "Dan August" as well as a number of "B" feature films like "Skullduggery", "Navajo Joe" and "Sam Whiskey". By the early 1970s, a new side of Reynolds began to emerge as he became a popular guest on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" as well as various game shows that allowed him to show off his knack for off-the-cuff witticisms and self-deprecating humor. Yet, stardom on the big screen still eluded him despite top-lining in the 1972 cop satire "Fuzz" with Raquel Welch and Yul Brynner. He wisely promoted his nude centerfold spread in "Playgirl" magazine into a bonanza of free publicity that made him an international celebrity. Later in 1972, major success finally landed at his door step when Reynolds' was given star billing along with Jon Voight in director John Boorman's classic screen adaptation of James Dickey's "Deliverance". The film was a major hit with both the public and critics. Finally, Reynolds was more than just another pretty face on the silver screen. After "Deliverance", Reynolds' rise to stardom was meteoric. He could seemingly do no wrong. He became one of the most popular male sex symbols in the world. Along with his contemporary, Clint Eastwood, he ruled the international box-office. (The two actors posed for the cover of Time magazine, which anointed them the new kings of Hollywood.) Reynolds epitomized the very definition of being a "star" in that audiences flocked to his films even when they weren't very good. He deftly deviated between first class, sophisticated films "Starting Over" and popular fodder for the drive-in audience, such as his "Smokey and the Bandit" flicks.
By the mid-1980s, however, Reynolds' armor was beginning to tarnish. He made a few too many lousy movies and even his core audience began to tire of this predictable fare. (He would later lament turning down Jack Nicholson's Oscar-winning role in "Terms of Endearment" to film a little remembered cornpone bomb, "Stroker Ace.") While Clint Eastwood studiously built his reputation as both actor and director, often turning out box-office bombs that were nevertheless critical successes, Reynolds suffered from over-exposure. He was literally everywhere, epitomizing the old joke that he so loved the spotlight that he struck a pose every time he opened the refrigerator door. Unlike Eastwood, who realized that a major movie star should limit his exposure on television, Reynolds cheapened his image by appearing on seemingly every show imaginable. By 1984, he was deemed box-office poison. Eastwood tried to help his old friend by teaming with him in the retro-based crime comedy "City Heat". A few years earlier, the film would have been a blockbuster based on the pairing of these two stars, but the movie turned out to be a debacle with director Blake Edwards quitting and being replaced by Richard Benjamin. The movie received poor reviews and even loyal Eastwood fans stayed away. Worse for Reynolds, a mistimed stunt resulted in his being seriously injured. He was out of action for many months recuperating from an operation during which time tabloids cruelly spread the rumor that he was dying of AIDS. Reynolds recovered and slogged through a string of mediocre feature films and TV movies before unexpectedly receiving the best reviews of his career as the pornographer in the 1997 film "Boogie Nights". He won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and received an Oscar nomination as well. Although considered the sentimental favorite, he didn't win and surprisingly tarnished his hot streak by returning to the genre of forgettable TV movies. In the ensuing years, Reynolds suffered severe medical problems that saw him undergo heart surgery. Additionally, apparent plastic surgery on his face resulted in plenty of nasty tabloid stories that bluntly stated that his looks were now ruined. Reynolds' messy love life also made headlines over the years and resulted in an expensive divorce settlement with actress Lonnie Anderson. The couple's split was one of the nastiest in Hollywood history with sordid charges flying back and forth including Anderson's allegations of physical abuse. Simultaneously, Reynolds' business investments began to go south, as well. A dinner theater and investment in a restaurant chain cost him millions in losses.
Better times: Reynolds and old friend Eastwood on the cover of Time magazine, January 1978.
Now Burt Reynolds is facing another indignity: the loss of his palatial Florida mansion, which he had once tried to sell for up to $10 million. He has since dropped the price to just under $3 million, but there are still no takers. Banks hold the mortgage on the property and Bank of America claims he hasn't made a payment in four years. To raise money, Reynolds is selling of many of his prized personal possessions, from the canoe from "Deliverance" to his Golden Globe and autographed photographs given to him by legendary personalities. These items, along with hundreds of others, were once on display at the Burt Reynolds Museum in his home town of Jupiter, Florida. The auction will take place in December 11-12 in Las Vegas, handled by Julien's. Whether the one-time superstar will realize enough profits from the sale to help alleviate his dire financial crisis remains to be seen.
moviegoers who want to immerse themselves in two hours of bittersweet romantic
misery are likely to go see “The Fault in Our Stars,” “If I Stay,” or “The Best
of Me.”In 1955, the comparable ticket
was “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing,” based on Han Suyin’s bestselling 1952
book.Thanks to Twilight Time’s
limited-edition Blu-ray of the 20th
Century Fox film, today’s devotees of Nicholas Sparks and John Green have an
opportunity to see what made their grandmothers cry as twenty-somethings in the
Eisenhower era, while veteran fans of, uh, more mature age can enjoy Han’s
tragic love story again in beautiful hi-def CinemaScope and Color by DeLuxe.
fictionalized memoir related the story of her love affair with a war
correspondent, whom she called Mark Elliott, in 1949 Hong Kong. The circumstances of the affair were
provocative for the time. The widowed
Han, a medical resident at the crown colony’s Victoria Hospital, had mixed-race
parentage (Chinese father, Belgian mother). Elliott was a married American, although the marriage was strained and
he and his wife lived apart. How times
have changed, in real life as in the movies. In 2014, neither the one partner’s race nor the other’s marital status
would pose much of a challenge in most social circles. If you’re a 20-year-old viewer today, you may
have to check your instinct to judge the story by those more tolerant
standards, in which race isn’t a game-changer at all. Nowadays, in the rare event that a cultural
difference between lovers is needed as a dramatic complication in a movie or TV
show, it’s likely to be expressed in terms of supernatural fantasy, not
race. By that measure, you may care that
one partner is human and the other is a vampire. But that one sweetheart is part Asian and the
other Caucasian? Not so much.
convention of the time isn’t merely irrelevant in today’s ethnically diverse
cinema -- it’s embarrassing. In the
movie, Suyin is played by a fully Caucasian actress, Jennifer Jones, who
doesn’t look particularly Asian, even with make-up. Suyin has a younger sister in China, Suchin,
played by Donna Martell, who appears even less Asian than Jones. A friend in Hong Kong also of mixed
parentage, Suzanne, portrayed by Jorja Curtright, looks less Asian yet. There are plenty of Asian actors in the film,
including such familiar and welcome faces as Richard Loo, Philip Ahn, Beulah
Quo, and James Hong, but they’re relegated to supporting roles. It’s true that the movie could hardly have
been green-lighted as a major production in 1955 without a star like Jones in
top-billing, and that Asian actresses with that sort of clout were non-existent
then. But still. Jones also tends to play her scenes in
somewhat stilted, old-school style, yet another thing that today’s younger
viewers may have to adjust to. William
Holden, at the top of his game as Mark, brings a more relaxed method of acting,
but even his dialogue becomes a little pompous at times: “That reminds me of a line in that poem by
Century Fox dressed up the movie with all the amenities that A-picture budgets
could provide in 1955. These values remain
impressive almost 60 years later: a stirring score by Alfred Newman, which also
yielded the hit title song as a chart-topper by the Four Aces (another sign of
changing times -- can you imagine the Four Aces on the 2014 charts alongside
Robin Thicke and Jay Z?), exotic on-location exterior shots in Hong Kong, and
ravishing color design. The Twilight
Time Blu-ray, limited to 3,000 units, includes a sharp 1080p transfer, an
isolated music track, a souvenir booklet by Julie Kirgo, and a fine commentary
track by Jon Burlingame, Michael Lonzo, and Sylvia Stoddard. Fox Movietone News clips from 1955 show
Holden and producer Buddy Adler accepting honors at a couple of industry award
ceremonies, reminding us that Hollywood loved to celebrate itself long before
“Entertainment Tonight” and “Access Hollywood” came along.
Twilight Time Blu-ray limited edition of “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing” can
be ordered HERE.
never had a chance to see these two legendary westerns that were made
back-to-back in the mid-1960s, presented by Roger Corman, directed and
co-produced by Monte Hellman, and starring a young Jack Nicholson (among
others), for they were elusive. I’d heard they were quirky, moody, and very
different takes on the western genre, so I was excited to hear that The
Criterion Collection was releasing both pictures as a double-bill on one
Blu-ray disc. Now you, too, can view these strange little movies in all of
their high definition glory.
was one of the few directors that producer Corman would let helm pictures for
his studio, which at that time was famous for low-budget horror films,
youth-in-rebellion pictures, and, later, rock ‘n’ roll counterculture flicks.
Jack Nicholson was also involved with Corman since the late fifties, doing much
of his pre-Easy Rider work for the
producer as an actor and sometimes writer. In this case, Nicholson served as
co-producer (with Hellman) on both pictures and wrote the script for Ride in the Whirlwind. At first, Hellman
presented Corman with the script for The
Shooting, written by Carole Eastman (using the pseudonym “Adrien Joyce” and
who would later write the screenplay for Five
Easy Pieces). Corman suggested that Hellman shoot two westerns at the same
time to get more bang for the buck, so to speak. Therefore, Nicholson came up
with Whirlwind and both movies were
shot together in the Utah desert with the same crew and most of the same cast.
The two motion pictures were seen at several film festivals in 1966 and the
distribution rights were bought by the Walter Reade Organization, which
promptly sold them to television. They were broadcast sometime in 1968 and were
then lost in limbo.
The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind could be called “existential westerns” because
they are indeed philosophical, atmospheric, and, well, arty. Very arty. Corman
had insisted that Hellman and Nicholson add more action to both scripts—which
they did—but you still can’t say these are in any way typical westerns. At a
time when Sergio Leone was tearing up the genre Italian-style, it’s no wonder
that the two pictures slipped into obscurity.
the one hand, both films are interesting simply because it’s fun to see the
young actors that appear in them—Nicholson, Warren Oates, Millie Perkins (the
original Anne Frank from the 1959 The
Diary of Anne Frank, now a grown up and a babe), Harry Dean Stanton (billed
as “Dean Stanton”), and a not-so-young Cameron Mitchell. No one in the films,
except maybe Mitchell, looks particularly comfortable on a horse; it’s rather
obvious that these actors are “playing at” being in a western. Other positive
aspects include the cinematography—by Gregory Sandor, for both pictures—and the
strange musical scores—by Richard Markowitz (The Shooting) and Robert Jackson Drasnin (Ride in the Whirlwind).
the other hand, as narrative westerns, they don’t measure up. The acting is,
for the most part, pretty bad. Nicholson is the heavy in The Shooting, and he spends most of the time sneering. The
higher-pitched voice of the young Nicholson doesn’t really work for the
character; he is much better in Whirlwind
as one of the good guys. Oates is suitably ornery but not much else. Perkins
seems like a fish out of water in both films. Will Hutchins, who plays Oates’
simple-minded sidekick, straddles a fine line between being quite effective and
incredibly annoying. Mitchell is forgettable. Stanton is—well, Harry Dean