The following press release was published in May, 1964
"Frank Sinatra will star in Von Ryan's Express at 20th Century Fox. Based on David Westheimer's bestseller about mass escapes from Italian prison camps during WWII, the drama will be produced by Saul David with Mark Robson directing. It is scheduled to start in mid-summer with possible location in Italy."
(Note: the press release was inaccurate in the sense that the film did not deal with massive "escapes" from multiple prison camps. Rather, it dealt with only one escape from one camp. However we suppose it's a bit too late to demand that the press writer be fired.)
Warner Archive has released the 1968 thriller Kona Coast, based on the novel Bimini Gal by popular mystery writer John D. MacDonald. The modestly-budgeted production reminds one of John Ford's Donovan's Reef in the sense that one suspects both movies were primarily used as justifications for cast and crew to take a nice vacation in Hawaii. Boone plays Sam Moran, a charter boat captain living the good life in Honolulu, where he routinely indulges in drinking binges and womanizing. When his teenaged daughter falls in with a local high living drug peddler named Kryer (Steve Inhat), she is accidentally given a heroin overdose at a drug-fueled party. Rather than deal with the consequences, Kryer orders her to be murdered. When her body washes ashore, the police think it's a drowning but Sam suspects foul play from the beginning. As he begins his own investigation, he is severely beaten, his boat is destroyed and his first mate murdered. Nevertheless, he vows to soldier on and bring the killers to justice. Sam must have the same bizarre methods of investigation that O.J. Simpson had used to track down "the real killers": his path never seems to wander very far outside of seedy bars and strip clubs. For a man obsessed with avenging his daughter's death, he seems pretty open to distractions. In between downing bottles of booze, his roving eye is attracted to a sexy young bikini-clad girl (Gina Villines) and resurrecting a relationship with an old flame (Vera Miles, looking gorgeous), who - in psychological terms- is carrying more baggage than a cruise ship. There's also a testy relationship with a local businesswoman (Joan Blondell, refreshingly not cast as a bordello madam, for once). Sam interrupts the drinkin' and screwin' long enough to administer the occasional Hawaiian punch to some stock company villains, but finding his daughter's killer doesn't seem like a great priority.
The screenplay by Gilbert Ralston (who wrote the original Willard) is a tepid and under-written and the usually reliable Lamont Johnson is asleep at the wheel in terms of direction. The film lumbers from scene to scene until the painfully anemic climax in which Sam and Kryer square off in a sequence that seemed to take five full minutes to conceptualize and film. (Yes, it's even weaker than that other anemic mano-a-mano duel between hero and villain in The Man With the Golden Gun). The film is not without its modest pleasures, however. Boone is, as always, a forceful and charismatic screen presence. Although he was a TV icon, one wishes he was more selective about his big screen roles. For every good movie (The War Lord, Hombre), he would counter by appearing in several duds. His scenes with Vera Miles are well-acted but the weak dialogue can't be overlooked. There were no professional film studios in Hawaii at the time the movie was made, and indeed it would take another couple of years before the success of Hawaii 5-0 would convince Hollywood to invest in some production facilities on the islands. Consequently, most of Kona Coast utilizes actual locations and this is the film's single greatest asset. The film feels like a TV movie masquerading as theatrical feature, but one could do worse than spending 90 minutes with Richard Boone under any circumstance.
Twilight Time has released the 1960 comedy High Time starring Bing Crosby as a limited edition (3,000 units) Blu-ray. Crosby's career as an actor has largely been neglected over the decades despite the fact that he was one of the most enduring boxoffice giants of his time. Perhaps the reason is that, unlike Frank Sinatra, who took on dramatic and challenging roles, Crosby was largely content to stick with playing amiable crooners in glossy, feel-good musicals. One such film is High Time, which was originally developed as a comedy titled Big Daddy for Gary Cooper. However, when Cooper became terminally ill, Crosby's production company picked up the option as a starring vehicle for Crosby himself. Der Bingle plays Harvey Howard, a 51-year-old self-made businessman who owns a national chain of popular smokehouse restaurants. Harvey decides to fulfill his dream of becoming the first family member to obtain a college degree. He is met with derision by his spoiled son and daughter, both of whom feel his decision will result in them being mocked in their snobby social circles. Nevertheless, Harvey enrolls in Pinehurst College (actually U.C.L.A) and predictably is met with incredulity by both administrators and his fellow freshmen. In short order, however, Harvey earns their respect by participating in activities with the younger set including salvaging their quest to build the biggest bonfire in school history. He also fits in well with his three roommates and proves to be an inspiration when it comes to taking studying seriously. Along the way, he flirts with a sexy French teacher, Helen Gauthier (Nicole Maurey), and the resulting "scandal" of a potential love affair between teach and "student" causes students to march on the dean's office in protest. That's about the dramatic highlight of the film, which concentrates purely on a viewpoint of college life that, even in 1960, must have seemed ludicrously sanitized. Let's face it: even the era of powdered wigs, students used dorm rooms for all sorts of illicit activities ranging from sex to drugs and drinking. In High Time, Harvey and his roommates toast the beginning of every year with grape juice, soda and milk. Even when Howard is alone with his would-be paramour in the privacy of her own home, it's about as exotic as dining with your sister.
For all of its faux atmosphere of youthful activities, however, High Time is an enjoyable romp. Crosby seems to be genuinely enjoying himself and shares some good on-screen chemistry with three Fox up-and-coming contract players: Richard Beymer, Tuesday Weld and Fabian. Since the film is not a musical, both Crosby and Fabian have scant opportunities to croon but there are some nice songs by Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen, including the now-classic "The Second Time Around" which was nominated for an Oscar. There's also a jaunty, enjoyable score by Henry Mancini. The film was directed by Blake Edwards, who was just coming off his great success with Operation Petticoat. In those days, Edwards was far more subdued in his use of slapstick and the comedic situations in High Time are relatively low-key and benign compared to Edwards' later work. The film's primary value is that is serves as a view into social mores from a by-gone era. There is one minority character featured in the film, a student from India, but at least he is portrayed in a dignified manner and not made the butt of jokes. In the closing graduation sequence, the camera pans around the auditorium to reveal precisely one other minority student- a black kid sitting next to the Indian kid. (Hey, if you're the only two on campus, you'd better stick together.) The inclusion of these minorities was probably considered progressive in an era in which African Americans were literally relegated to the back of the bus in some states. Then there is the view of young women, as evidenced by Weld's character who says she is only going to college in order to hunt for a husband. Gavin McLeod plays an obviously gay professor, complete with stereotypical fussy mannerisms that are played for laughs. The film's final sequence is rather touching, as Crosby addresses his fellow graduates and tells them that age isn't defined by years but by every person's outlook on life and their determination to pursue their dreams. The notion that a man in his fifties would be considered "over the hill" may sound ludicrous today, but that was not necessarily the case when the average man's life expectancy was in his sixties. The film concludes with Crosby performing a surprising, attention- grabbing stunt that is designed to please the audience even if would seem to be impossible from a technical standpoint.
High Time, which served as the unofficial inspiration for Rodney Dangerfield's Back to School, is a pleasant time-killer and a fine late career vehicle for Crosby. The Twilight Time release looks sensational (as expected) and features the original trailer and the usual informative liner notes by Julie Kirgo, whose work on these projects adds immensely to the enjoyment of every Twilight Time release.
Burt Lancaster and Susan Clark in Valdez is Coming - a film shot and released in 1971 after postponements for Lancaster to star in Airport.
The following news items were in The Hollywood Reporter on November 4, 1968:
Cloris Leachman and Henry Jones have been cast in 20th Century Fox's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Neal Hefti has been signed by Howard W. Koch to to arrange and conduct Paramount's On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
You can call Elizabeth Taylor "Myra" for sure unless an unexpected snag develops in the current agreeable negotiations we're not supposed to know anything about...Elizabeth is now Dick Zanuck's number one choice to prove she can play both sexes as his Myra Breckenridge and she is in verbal agreement- no doubt for her usual million bucks plus a piece of the action. (Cinema Retro notes that Raquel Welch ended up playing Myra in the distastrous screen version of the bestseller. Film critic Rex Reed played Myra in her male persona)
In order to allow Burt Lancaster to star in Ross Hunter's Airport at Universal, producer Ira Steiner postoned start of United Artists' Valdez is Coming. Lancaster checks in with writer-director George Seaton on Airport as soon as he winds MGM's The Gypsy Moths.
Now that Dean Martin and Burt Lancaster have been signed for Airport, scribbled on Ross Hunter's memo pad are Natalie Wood, Patricia Neal and Helen Hayes. (Cinema Retro notes that only Hayes was in the film.)
Sammy Davis and Peter Lawford won't be going back to London for their Salt and Pepper sequel. Las Vegas will be the place. (Cinema Retro notes that the sequel, One More Time, directed by Jerry Lewis, was indeed filmed in England.)
Carlo Ponti's Zabriskie Point issued a call for 3000 extras in Las Vegas last week and you should have seen the line that formed! Hear they'll be shooting in Death Valley.
I hadn't seen Hotel since it opened in theaters in 1967 and I was a tender lad of 9 years-old. I thought it was talky and somewhat boring at the time, but upon viewing the DVD release from Warner Archives, I have to say that I relished every minute of it. This is do in no small part to the fact that the film is packed with great actors that audiences used to take for granted, but whose presence is now sorely missed. Hotel follows the pattern of those all-star dramas that were so popular in the 60s and 70s. It traces the relationships between a disparate group of glamorous types who intermingle over the course of a few days at the elegant St. Gregory Hotel in New Orleans. (Envision The V.I.P.S - with room service.) Melvyn Douglas (who must have excelled at playing doddering old men when he was still in grade school) is the proud owner of the once great hotel that will be forced into foreclosure unless he can find either an investor or a buyer. Enter Kevin McCarthy as a deceitful real estate magnate who wants to con the old man into making a deal to sell him the property so he can turn its elegant aspects into a crass commercial joint. Mediating all of this Douglas' right hand man, hotel manager Rod Taylor, who has to solve the financial crisis, handle McCarthy's seductive mistress (Catherine Spaak) who he is having an affair with, cope with a civil rights scandal when a black couple are denied a room, and try to locate a brazen cat burglar (Karl Malden) who is robbing rooms- while their occupants are asleep. And you thought your life was busy.
Issue #29 of Cinema Retro commemorated the locations seen in The Great Escape.
Cinema Retro contributor Don Whistance has an amazing blog for anyone who is a fan of the classic 1963 WWII film "The Great Escape". His site painstakingly details the German shooting locations of the film and provides then and now photos as well as a wealth of information and interviews about the film. Click here to check it out.
Having grown up in the 1960s I can recall the "sword and sandal" rage that swept the cinematic world during that era. Modestly budgeted Italian epics thrilled young audiences with tales of Hercules and other mythical heroes. The king of this short-lived genre was American body builder Steve Reeves, who became synonymous with these films based on his highly successful starring role as "Hercules". Producer Joseph E. Levine had the foresight to release the film in American and British cinemas and reaped phenomenal profits. Like the spaghetti western fad that would come a few year later, the sword and sandal flicks varied widely in terms of quality. I'll admit I had little interest in revisiting these films of my childhood until I edited writer Denis Meikle's article "Blood, Sweat and Togas" in issue #30 of Cinema Retro. Meilke gave the most honest and objective appraisal of the films imaginable and pointed out that many of these movies were drastically underrated in their day. I thought I'd form my own opinion by checking out one of Reeves' films that I had very vague memories of seeing way back in '62. "The Slave" was also known as "Son of Spartacus" largely because the Italians were masters at capitalizing on whatever big movies had been recently released in the English language cinema. With Kirk Douglas' acclaimed epic still playing in theaters, director Sergio Corbucci quickly started his production with Reeves in the title role.
The story centers on Randus (Reeves), a loyal army commander to Julius Caesar (Ivo Garrani). Caesar is at the height of his power but he fears an attempted coup might be in the works due to the opportunistic Crassus (Claudio Gora), who administers the Roman Empire's control over Egypt. Randus is sent on what is supposed to be a good will mission to serve under Crassus. However, Crassus immediately suspects the truth: that Randus is there to spy on him and inform Caesar of his activities and any suspicious behavior. The tension and false politeness between the two men is broken when Randus decides to return to Rome to report to Caesar. En route, however, his galley encounters a disastrous storm and Randus and an Egyptian slave girl, Saide (Ombretta Colli) are washed overboard and presumed dead. They manage to get to shore only to captured by a passing group of sadistic slave traders. They mock Randus for his claim that he is Caesar's right hand man and subject him to humiliation and punishment. The miserable cargo of slaves is forced to march under the desert sun, all the while being beaten and abused by their captors. Randus is shocked when one of the older slaves recognizes an amulet around his neck. Randus says it was inherited by him from the father he never knew. The older man informs him that the amulet was worn by Spartacus, the great hero who led a doomed but noble slave rebellion against Rome. Randus now realizes that he is the son of Spartacus. He uses his incredible strength to escape from his chains and lead the other slaves in killing their captors. However, he is now faced with a moral choice: does he return to Rome and serve the empire that continues to oppress his own people and who crucified his father? He opts to serve the slave population against Rome, adopting a plan whereby he returns to Crassus but uses inside information to launch successful attacks against Roman forces. Wearing a mask and keeping his identity secret, he becomes a legend among the slaves for his daring military strategies. He arranges for Saide to become handmaiden to Crassus's demanding wife, thus sparing her from possible execution. In the course of carrying out attacks against Roman forces, Randus inspires a new uprising, just as his father did. However, he is ultimately captured and faces certain death- unless the slave population can save him first.
I was genuinely surprised at how well made and accomplished this production is. The sets are impressive and the script is compelling and exciting, even if Reeves becomes an Egypt-based predecessor of the Scarlet Pimpernel. The action sequences are extremely well-staged and there is genuine tension in several key scenes. It's impossible to gauge Reeves' skills as an actor because his voice is dubbed despite speaking English as his native language. (The same awkward fate befell Todd Armstrong, star of "Jason and the Argonauts".) Nevertheless, Reeves more than fits the physical requirements of the role and when Saide ends up inevitably swooning over him you can understand why. The direction by Sergio Corbucci is especially impressive and he would fittingly go on to make major contributions to some of the more memorable spaghetti westerns.
"The Slave" is surprisingly effective throughout. Highly recommended.
hallmark of any James Bond film has been the opening gun barrel sequence. It
sets the tone for what's to come, and always sends a shiver up the spine in
anticipation of what is about to unfold. However, since Die Another Day this tradition has been revoked and (much to the
annoyance of millions of fans around the world) relegated to the end of the
films. Not with SPECTRE. It is now
back in its rightful place. Yes, folks, James Bond is back - and how. The
customary pre-title sequence is a stunner, and quite violent. There's no messing around. A lot of people die in this film.
again, Sam Mendes has brought us a film full of excitement, tension and
sexuality that retains a freshness and
vitality in a similar vein to what he did with Skyfall. Although there are many spectacular chases and set pieces
(the stunts and SFX by regulars Gary Powell and Chris Corbould, are well up to
standard), Mendes maintains a sense of reality and plausibility, even though
there are visual 'nods' to the films of the past. It's clever, but not pastiche.
There is just the right level of humour, too, which Craig handles really well.
Refreshingly, I didn't once notice any over-the-top references to products
casting is impeccable, and Craig, as usual, is superb. This really is his film. Christoph Waltz makes for a
perfect villain - a complex character who is equal (or even superior) to Bond,
which is as it should always be. As for the "Bond Ladies", Mendes has
triumphed once more. Monica Bellucci, who is mature in her years, is (for me)
the sexiest woman to ever grace Bond's on-screen adventures. Then again, I've
always been a sucker for a woman in a basque and stockings and suspenders. Sadly,
her part is woefully short. Lea Seydoux
is equally engaging and attractive, but not in a drop-dead-gorgeous superficial
way that we have come to expect from earlier Bond films, and thankfully her
character is integral to the plot, and not just eye candy. David Bautista, who
I assume the producers wanted on board as an Oddjob-type villain, does an
admirable job, and has a sinister and mean on-screen presence, although his
role was totally unnecessary. Likewise, all the ballyhoo surrounding Bond's
Aston Martin DB10 was wasted on me. The chase through the streets of Rome is not one of the
series best by any measure. Mi6 'regulars' Ralph Fiennes, Ben Wishaw and
Naomie Harris really come to the fore in this film, but I cannot comment
further without revealing plot details!
technical front, the cinematography by Hoyte van Hoyetema (shot on 35mm film,
not digital) is as good as Roger
Deakins' efforts on Skyfall, and the
vistas of Rome, Mexico, Austria and Morocco looking stunning. London also plays a major 'role' in
the exciting finale where Bond races against the clock whilst dealing with
ghosts from the past. Brilliant! Editor
Lee Smith (director Chris Nolan's regular cutter) has creatively paced the film
, and easily justifies the film's 148 minutes running time, which seemed to fly
the music. Sam Mendes' composer of choice, Thomas Newman, returns. Whilst his
score for Skyfall was excellent, he
didn't 'arrange' enough subtle cues of the James Bond theme throughout. This
time around he rectifies that, with a superb score that also revisits Skyfall as well as using an instrumental
rendition of Sam Smith's title song 'The Writing's on the Wall' .
you have it. Mendes' second Bond film, the 24th in the series, is top-notch
entertainment that will thrill audiences around the world - and also please the
'die hard' OO7 buffs who are so critical of their favourite secret agent's
on-screen antics. Oh, and there is a
'money shot' at the end of the film which totally threw me. I'm still reeling.
The Scarlet Box Limited Edition Trilogy 1987-1992 Directed by Clive Barker,
Tony Randel, Anthony Hickox, Starring Doug Bradley, Andy Robinson, Ashley
Laurence, Claire Higgins, Kenneth Cranham, Terry Farrell, Kevin Bernhardt.
Arrow Blu-ray 4 Disc, Released on 26th October 2015.
King was once quoted as saying: “I have seen the future of horror… his name is
Clive Barker.” The future became a reality when, in 1987, Barker unleashed his
directorial debut Hellraiser, launching a hit franchise and creating an instant
horror icon in the formidable figure of Pinhead.
beautifully produced Hellraiser: The Scarlet Box, has arguably for the first
time, been afforded the prestige it fully deserves. The collection works very nicely
in deed, mainly because its focus revolves around creator Clive Barker’s
involvement in the franchise. Whilst Barker had a small interest in the fourth
instalment Hellraiser IV: Bloodline, it would be the last in which he would
have any official involvement.
of the franchise will be all too familiar with the first three movies, which
are by far the best of the series. Barker’s original Hellraiser, based on his
novella The Hellbound Heart, follows Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) as she
comes head-to-head with the Cenobites, the demonic beings from another realm
who are intent on reclaiming the soul of her deviant Uncle Frank.
up immediately after the events of the original Hellraiser, Hellbound:
Hellraiser II finds Kirsty detained at a psychiatric institute and under the
care of Phillip Channard, a doctor who abuses his position to realise his own
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, a reporter investigating a mysterious death in a
nightclub finds herself in the way of Pinhead and the Cenobites, who plan to
bring their horrifying world into our own.
has to be said, Arrow have really gone above and beyond with this superb set.
The films have never looked better, all three movies now benefit from a brand
new 2K restoration with Hellraiser and Hellraiser II being approved by director
of photography Robin Vidgeon. The visual presentations are as close to pristine
as you are ever likely to see. Barker’s original Hellraiser does display a
varying amount of grain (especially in some of the interior house scenes), but
the high level of fine detail and vivid colour (especially in those fleshy,
blood soaked scenes) is exceptional. The Hellraiser series of films has never
leaped out as the sharpest of films. Hellraiser in particular, has often
appeared a little diluted or desaturated, even in its theatrical presentation,
it looked rather dull upon the eye. However,
there is now a genuine freshness to the films, a new edge to them which makes
the whole viewing experience something quite different. The
audio elements are also bound to please with uncompressed PCM Stereo 2.0 and
Lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 sound for Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II, while
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth sounds pure and clean with a Lossless DTS-HD MA
2.0 soundscape, all of which works very adequately. Each film also boasts multiple audio commentaries which
hardened fans will recognise from the Anchor Bay 4 DVD box set released in
2004. However, Arrow’s box of goodies does secure a brand new additional audio
commentary (on Hellraiser III) and provided by writer Peter Atkins.
three movies are presented in their uncut versions, alongside a bonus
presentation of the unrated cut of Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth. Running some
four minutes longer than the theatrical cut, this includes bonus unrated footage
(in standard definition) which has been inserted into the 2K high definition
version of the film. It may not be ideal, but Arrow have again been up front
and honest, and assured us that the bonus footage has been ‘sourced from the
best available material.’ The material in question is actually from the video
master that was used for the U.S. panned and scanned laserdisc, therefore expect
a slight drop in quality and a change in the aspect ratio for these particular
scenes. Arrow should of course remain free of criticism for their decision to
include this, remembering that these scenes were never included or intended for
the theatrical version. Accepting it purely on the basis of a bonus feature
should leave everyone feeling satisfied, and yes, grateful for Arrow’s
the subject of bonus material, Arrow’s Scarlet Box is packed and practically bursting
at the seams. One of the main bonus elements includes the comprehensive
fan-made docs, Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II.
These were previously released as an individual 3 DVD set with a mammoth
running time, (Disc 1: The Story of Hellraiser approx. 4 hours 37 minutes), (Disc
2: The Story of Hellbound approx. 3 hours 19 minutes) and (Disc 3: Bonus
Features approx. 3 hours). Arrow has (perhaps wisely) taken the opportunity to
present this fascinating documentaries as ‘brand new versions’, split into two
parts and making the whole story of these two films much more presentable and
tighter in the process. It’s a decision that arguably works to their advantage.
The original (very long) documentaries have received negative criticism in the
past, particularly for their pacing and structure. However, Arrow’s re-edits could
hardly be considered as thin and without substance with running times of 90 minutes
and 120 minutes respectively, there is still ample material here to be enjoyed
Scorpion, the DVD label that specializes in first-class releases of often second-rate films, does it again with Point of Terror, an obscure thriller from 1971. The film was the brainchild of star/writer/producer Peter Carpenter (Blood Mania). Never heard of him? Neither had I until this screener copy arrived. A bit of research reveals that Carpenter was a wanna-be star with grand ambition and modest talents - much like the character he plays in the film, which was directed by Alex Nicol. Sadly, Carpenter's reed-thin list of movie credits is due to the fact that he died young- in fact, shortly after this film was released. Carpenter, who personifies "beefcake", plays a lounge singer with a loyal following. However, he's frustrated that his fame is limited to a local restaurant. Although he has his pick of the female groupies, he's convinced he's destined for fame and fortune. He meets Andrea (Dyanne Thorne of Ilse, She Wolf of the S.S. fame), an uppercrust cougar who helps her impotent wheelchair-bound hubby operate his record empire. Before you can say "Wayne Newton", the pair is tossing and turning all night under the covers. Both characters are manipulative and unsympathetic, which makes it hard to empathize with either one. Andrea is using Tony as her boy toy, while he is using her clout to advance his record career. Soon, both are enmeshed in dastardly deeds including infidelity and murder.
The film has overtones of Play Misty for Me (i.e, sexual obsession taken to a lethal stage) but Clint Eastwood probably didn't lose any sleep worrying that the impact of his film would be diminished by this one. Carptenter himself is a strangely perplexing personality. At times, he resonates legitimate charisma, but at other times, his acting is grade school level. Additionally, the film's opening credits are set to a scene of Tony performing his lounge act- clad in bright red buckskins! It's doubtful this looked hunky even in 1973 and the sequence is unintentionally hilarious, reminding one of those scenes in which women faint in passion at the sight of Austin Powers prancing about in his underwear. Thorne gives a slightly more accomplished performance and gets to doff her top in a swimming pool to display her ample assets. (This was the 70s, remember, and such sequences were all but obligatory for B level actresses.) The movie plods at times and the action is rather clunkily directed, but the film is generally engrossing. Scorpion has provided the usual bevy of extras including an interview with actress Leslie Simms, who has a role in the film. She also served as Carpenter's acting coach and reminisces with affection about her friendship with him. Thorne is also heard via a phone interview done for this release. As with Simms, she speaks highly of Carpenter. The DVD release also includes a trailer and the original poster art on the packaging, which deceitfully implies this is a horror film. Another nice job by Scorpion for a film that would otherwise be lost to the ages.
(This DVD is Region coded "0", which means it can play on any international DVD unit)
This gentleman was photographed at this year's Victory Show, a WWII re-enactment festival that was held in September in Cosby, England. If you have to ask who he resembles, it's time to purchase our special issue dedicated to "Kelly's Heroes".
Within five minutes it was old news that the extended trailer for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" was setting this universe on fire. So many fans attempted to order tickets for the film, which does not open until December, that the Fandango web site crashed temporarily. The trailer gives tantalizing bits and pieces of classic and new characters including those played by Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. Conspicuously missing is Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. The absence of his presence in the trailer is setting off Warren Report-like investigations in the fan community to theorize what it could mean. For more click here.
The Italians have always loved sex comedies and after the restraints of censorship began to lift in the 1960s and 1970s, the nation's film industry exploited this genre to the max. Case in point: "The Real Decameron", released in 1973 in an attempt to capitalize on the controversy that stemmed from Pasolini's 1971 cinematic adaptation of the legendary collection of erotica that was written centuries before by Boccaccio. (As you can see, very famous Italians don't require first names.) "The Real Decameron" (also known as "The Sexbury Tales") opens in Medieval times with a group of bored wash women who pass the time of day by telling stories of erotic gossip and fantasies. The film is broken into various short comedy segments that are unrelated other than the fact that they center on the sexual frustrations of the protagonists. In one tale, a young virginal male is persuaded by a woman to marry her daughter even though the girl's face is kept hidden under a veil. Upon tying the knot, he's stunned to find that she gives a new definition to "ugly". When he is unable to summon the interest to consummate the marriage with his sex-starved bride, mom comes to the rescue and begins to give him under-the-covers lessons in lovemaking. In another story, a would-be Romeo is banned from seeing his Juliet by her overly-possessive father who locks her in a room inside the family castle. The labored segment focuses entirely on the bumbling young man's ill-fated attempts to secretly gain access to her room. In another sketch, a homely middle-aged farmer is unable to persuade his beautiful young wife to have sex. She's terrified of the act until he persuades her to give it a go. The big payoff here is based on the old adage "Be careful what you wish for- you just might get it", as he learns she is now addicted to sex and wants to make love morning, noon and night. Now the tables are turned and he becomes the intimidated partner. Another "gem" centers on an ugly husband and his nagging but attractive wife who can't stand the idea of consummating their marriage. She concocts a wild tale about seeing a ghost in their house (actually her real lover in costume) to induce her cowardly spouse to run from the premises so she can enjoy an erotic evening. Then there is a tale of a highway man who masquerades as a priest to evade the authorities who are pursing him. Due to his disguise, he is welcomed into the home of a man who is desperately trying to find a cure for an ailment that has kept his wife bedridden. Needless to say, he takes one look at the beauty and bans the hubby from the boudoir so he can administer some "religious rites". In the film's most bizarre story line, a teenage girl claims that her virginity was stolen when a prawn entered her body while she was swimming. A kooky doctor prescribes sex as the only way to mitigate the prawn's nasty effects- which of course leads to her being the most popular girl in town as many young men volunteer to minister to her needs.
If you are wondering how scenarios as lame as these could be funny, the answer that they aren't. The film, directed by Renato Savino (using the nom de plume Mauro Stefani) features frantic and sometimes manic over-acting and some of the weakest payoffs in the history of cinematic comedy. All of this would be excusable if there was an abundance of nudity and sexual content but, alas, the movie is about as erotic as "Monkeys, Go Home!". There is some fleeting T&A to keep male viewers marginally awake but even back in the day, this must have been a pretty limp cinematic biscuit. The film does have some decent production values, costumes and sets for a low-budget flick and the DVD transfer is fairly decent- and we love the stylish original poster art used on the sleeve. Ironically, the bizarre English sub-titles end up providing most of the laughs, though it is purely unintentional.
new release from The Criterion Collection in time for Halloween is the classic
Japanese ghost story anthology, Kwaidan,
which, upon its appearance in the mid-sixties, generated a good deal of
critical acclaim. After it premiered in Japan in late December 1964, the
picture was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 1965 (in a much shorter
version) and won the Special Jury Prize. The film was also nominated for the
Best Foreign Language Film Oscar (1965). It was also, at the time, Japan’s most
a long movie. Criterion has released a new 2K digital restoration of the original
183 minute director’s cut (complete with an intermission intercard) that was
shown at the picture’s premiere. Kobayashi was forced to edit it to just over
two hours for Cannes, and, for its general and worldwide release, to 164
minutes. “Kwaidan” means “ghost
stories,” and the movie consists of four non-related spooky tales from the
country’s folklore. The Japanese have always been great tellers of ghost
stories, especially ones that take place in feudal Japan—which these do. The
individual stories are based on Lafcadio Hearn’s collections of folk tales
written in the late 1800s (Hearn is Caucasian but was an expert in all things
Kobayashi’s film is strikingly gorgeous. The high definition improves the
quality of Criterion’s original release of several years ago—the colors are
vivid and bold, the picture is clear and sharp, and the costumes and set
designs are absolutely breathtaking. Kobayashi certainly draws from traditional
Kabuki, for the mise-en-scene is more
theatrical than cinematic. The settings look like they belong more on the stage
than on film. And yet, the director and his designer manage to recreate an epic
sea battle with samurai soldiers and wooden ships—in a studio. Impressive
the visual excellence on display, the four stories are of varying quality. The
first, “The Black Hair,” concerns a husband who leaves his wife to search for a
better life. He marries the daughter of a nobleman, but is unhappy. When he
finally goes back to the original wife, he doesn’t count on reckoning with her
long, black hair, which, ahem, has a mind of its own. In “The Woman of the
Snow,” a young man’s life is spared by a Yuki-onna
(a wicked female spirit) as long as he never reveals that he encountered
her. Well, ahem, guess what he does? The longest and slowest, and yet most
complex and opulent tale, is “Hoichi the Earless,” in which a blind biwa player (it’s a sort of Japanese
lute) is compelled to perform for an entire clan of samurai ghosts; they had long
ago perished in that legendary sea battle mentioned above. “Hoichi” features
actors Tetsuro Tamba (known to Western audiences for playing Tiger Tanaka in
the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live
Twice) and Takashi Shimura, one of Japan’s greatest actors, seen in many of
Akira Kurosawa’s pictures (he was the leader of the Seven Samurai). The final story is a short one, “In a Cup of Tea,”
in which a warlord’s bodyguard sees the face of a ghost in the tea he is
drinking—and that spirit pays him an unwelcome visit.
probably safe to say that many of the popular J-Horror flicks of the late 1990s
(e.g., Ringu, Ju-on) owe a debt to Kwaidan.
The earlier film isn’t gory, although for 1964 it was probably a little
shocking with a brief shot of nudity and a few instances of bright red bloodletting.
The film isn’t particularly scary, either, but it does have some creepy
moments. The sound design is especially notable for its subtlety and occasional
surprises that will make you jump. Modern audiences, however, will most likely
find Kwaidan too meticulously
measured to be a real fright fest. Perhaps it might be best enjoyed by viewing the
film in two parts.
include a new audio commentary by film historian Stephen Prince; a new subtitle
translation; an interview with Kobayashi from 1993, conducted by filmmaker
Masahiro Shinoda; a new interview with assistant director Kiyoshi Ogasawara,
which is interesting for the many revelations about Kobayashi’s working methods
and the reasons there were several cuts of the film; a new piece about author
Lafcadio Hearn; and vintage trailers. The booklet contains an essay by critic
film enthusiasts and devotees of Japanese folklore will certainly enjoy Kwaidan. I would especially recommend it
for viewers interested in production and costume design. For those two elements
alone, Kwaidan is a sumptuous
We hate to brag but sometimes we just have to. Our own intrepid columnist, Raymond Benson, is enjoying some very exciting news. His acclaimed series of books based on The Black Stiletto character has been optioned by actress Mila Kunis's production company which is developing the property as a TV series for ABC. Kunis will executive produce the series, which centers on a female hero who, in the tried-and-true tradition, keeps her real identity a secret. Raymond has been a contributor to Cinema Retro since issue #1, way back in '05. His column of "Top Ten Films" of specific years has already covered the entire 1960s and 1970s and is now focused on films of the 1950s. (If he doesn't slow down, we'll soon be covering the greatest hits of Wallace Beery as fodder for his column.) Raymond also writes reviews of the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases, many of which can be found in his own column on this page and in the Criterion Corner section. His contributions to the success of Cinema Retro have been immeasurable so we take great pleasure in congratulating him on this major achievement.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
IN CINEMAS ON OCTOBER 23rd2015,
ON DIGITAL HD ON 9TH NOVEMBER,
AND AVAILABLE ON DVD & BLU-RAY FROM
From British director Stevan Riley (Fire in
Babylon, Everything or Nothing) and award-winning producer John Battsek (Searching
for Sugarman, Restrepo) comes LISTEN TO ME MARLON – an insightful,
captivating portrait of one of the most iconic and complex individuals of this
century. LISTEN TO ME MARLON is a creative odyssey into the mind and
motivations of Marlon Brando. Brando’s own voice leads the storytelling - there
are no interviewees, no talking heads, just Marlon guiding us into the
padlocked recesses of his own memory, and through the story of his life.
In homage to the corkscrew personality of its subject,
previously unheard audio tapes reveal witty and unexpected turns of Marlon’s
thinking; dipping between light and dark, humour and self-psychoanalysis. The
non-linear approach leaps and drifts back and forth in chronology to help
illustrate memory’s haunting effect on the present. Visually the film conveys
hypnotic states and quixotic departures as we lose ourselves in Brando’s spoken
daydreams, playful asides and confiding whispers.
As Marlon looks back on his legendary career, film clips are
woven alongside personal archive; the young Brando’s electrifying looks, raw
performances and brooding charm put us entirely under his spell. In mid-life
his meteoric comeback continues to resonate, while the reclusive exile of later
years offers up rare flashes of acting brilliance from a waning supernova. The
film draws narrative parallels between Marlon’s screen performances and
personal life, and as these become increasingly blurred his entire life becomes
the stage. Throughout, Marlon provides a surprising range of insights – from
his revolutionary methodology, to his relationship with his father to his
politics. What emerges is Brando’s intellectual introspection, humour and
sensitivity; a man in perpetual search for moral clarity.
(Click here for Cinema Retro review of American release of the film).
1960 a young Michael Winner began a collaboration with the British producer and
distributor E.J. Fancey which would enable him to break into the world of
feature films. Fancey had been in the industry for over twenty years, and
specialised in "quota quickies": cheap, forgettable films which could
play as supporting features and qualify for government tax breaks. The average
Fancey production usually combined low-rent comedians, stock footage, long
tedious amounts of travelling and a confused crossover between documentary and
narrative film. As a distributor of European exploitation cinema he was
prolific, being responsible for bringing thousands of equally cheap and forgettable
films into British cinemas in the hope of making a fast buck. Into this
cut-throat world stepped Michael Winner, who prior to directing had been
working in some of the smaller film studios around London as well as at the
BBC. The film in question is Climb Up the Wall, a piece of entertainment
so peculiar and grating it has even been missed off Winner's filmography on
Climb Up the Wall begins with
typically cheap hand-drawn title cards and some jazzy music before introducing
us to our host Jack Johnson, a popular cardigan-wearing comedian of the day.
Speaking to camera he explains his latest invention, which is basically a large
computer with a television screen. In 1960 this was still somewhat fantastical,
but which now looks laughable. Along with his amiable son Malcolm we are
bombarded with sketches and music, held together with the vague storyline of
Jack Johnson showing us what his computer can do. We are treated to footage of
Elvis as a GI, comedians, popular singer Mike Preston, clips from the Goon
Show film Down Among the Z Men (1952, also produced by E.J. Fancey)
and even footage from old westerns. Before long Jack and Malcolm get bored of
this, like the audience, and head into London for a night out. This is an
excuse to show us some naked models and exotic nightclub dancing, as well as
more singing and an odd sequence in a kitchen where they all decide to do some
cooking. The film feels like it was being made up as they went along, which
perhaps it was.
Winner was told to make something out of a load of old stock footage, including
some of the Fancey back-catalogue, with the specific mention of making it
appeal to the rock and roll crowd. Fancey had recently made one of Britain's
first rock and roll films (Rock You Sinners, 1958) so clearly felt like
he had his finger on the pulse. For a sixty-three minute film Climb Up the
Wall packs in a lot of music by long-forgotten singers and groups, and even
manages to reference Cliff Richard. They seem to be targeting a younger audience,
yet the focus on an older generation of comedians suggests they did not really
know what teenagers would be into in 1960. Climb Up the Wall is
something of a curiosity, and is well worth seeking out, not because it is a
good film, which it isn't, but because of its authentic shots of London life.
It was also an important milestone in the development of one of the most
prolific and influential directors to come out of Britain in the 1960s.
the film on this DVD are two other E.J. Fancey productions. The first, London
Entertains (1951) tries to pass itself off as a documentary, although it is
effectively a feature film. Popular television presenter Eamonn Andrews tells
us the story of a group of girls from a Swiss Finishing School who come to
London to start their own escort agency. The girls, who all look around
twenty-five, believe that visiting tourists and dignitaries will want to be
escorted around the Festival of Britain, as well as the nightclubs of London.
This allows Fancey, who directed it himself, to cram in loads of stock footage,
including skiing, synchronised swimming and film star Gloria Swanson inspecting
the Festival of Britain building site. We are also treated to the attractions
of London, including the Windmill Theatre and an open-air performance at
Battersea of Canadian former child-star Bobby Breen. Meanwhile Eamonn has
fallen in love with one of the girls, whilst they have to fight off the
attentions of a brash American, played by character actor Joe Baker. One of the
highlights of the film is the visit to the BBC Radio Theatre for a recording of
The Goon Show. This is rare early footage when Michael Bentine was still
performing alongside Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe, and we
even get to meet producer Dennis Main-Wilson and original presenter Andrew
Timothy. Moments like this make London Entertains worth seeing for
anyone with an interest in the history of comedy.
final film on the DVD is Calling All Cars (1954), another combination of
stock footage and low-rent comedy. Cardew Robinson, better known in those days
as Cardew the Cad, plays a hopeless romantic in love with the unattainable
blonde across the road. When he finds out she is planning to drive to the
continent he conspires with a friend to buy a car and follow them as they head
off to the newly-built Dover car terminal. This means we are treated to stock
footage of how the terminal was built, accompanied by a relatively unfunny
commentary. Cardew's comedy has sadly dated, along with his car. The film
mainly consists of shots of driving, and for some bizarre reason Fancey decided
to give Cardew's car an internal monologue, voiced by Spike Milligan. The
highlight of Calling All Cars is when
Cardew pulls into a service station for petrol. The attendant claps his hands
and before he knows it they are surrounded by beautiful women in short skirts
and stockings who give the car a quick once-over.
DVD is a reminder that everyone back then smoked, and if you have recently quit
it may be a struggle to get through all three movies in one sitting. Renown
Pictures have found good quality prints and the sound is clear, given that
these films would have looked and sounded cheap back then and were never
intended to be seen sixty years later. Whilst worth picking up for Climb Up
the Wall alone, the fact that there are three films here makes this disc a
must-have for anyone interested in the forgotten corners of British film
have also recently launched a free TV channel in the UK called Talking
Pictures, where more obscure British films from the 1930s through to the 1970s
can be found and enjoyed. You can find more information at
Entertains/ Climb Up the Wall/ Calling All Cars is released by Renown Pictures
on R0 DVD. CLICK HERE TO ORDER
No James Bond fan will want to pass up adding "Bond By Design" to their collection of coffee table books about Agent 007. Written by Meg Simmonds, the archivist for Eon Productions, this volume presents a wealth of ultra rare original art concepts, story boards, costume designs and much more ranging from "Dr. No" through the new film "SPECTRE".
Here is the official description:
"Bond By Design: The Art of the James Bond
Films gives an exclusive tour of EON Productions’ James Bond archives and is
available to buy from October 1. The book includes set, storyboard, vehicle,
gadget and costume designs by legendary designers including Sir Ken Adam, Syd
Cain, Peter Murton, Peter Lamont, Allan Cameron and Dennis Gassner.
Written by Meg Simmonds, EON Productions’ Archive
Director, Bond By Design reveals each movie’s design approach as well as the
stories behind individual items. From DR. NO (1962) through to Spectre (2015),
discover the craft behind some of the most iconic Bond sets, including
Stromberg’s Atlantis base in THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977) and Blofeld’s Volcano
Lair in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967)."
“Cover Up” (1949) is a very strange little movie. An
insurance investigator Sam Donovan (Dennis O’Keefe) arrives in a small
Midwestern town by train to investigate the death of one of his company’s
policy holders, a man named Phillips. He meets pretty girl Anita Weatherby
(Barbara Britton) on the train and helps her carry the Christmas packages she’s
brought home for her family. He meets her father, Stu Weatherby (Art Baker) who
came to pick her up and invites Donovan to come out to the house for a visit
when he has the time. Friendly town. Donovan next visits the local sheriff
Larry Best (William Bendix) to get the death report. And that’s where
complications start. The sheriff tells him although the death was a suicide by
gunshot, there’s no gun, no bullet and no coroner’s report and the body is
already buried in the cemetery.
Sounds like a decent set up for a good hard-boiled
who-dunnit, doesn’t it? Except it’s anything but. Despite Kino Lorber’s
packaging, with Bendix and O’Keefe wielding a couple of Lugers on the Blu-Ray
cover, “Cover-Up” falters mid-way through, deciding it wants to be a nice, friendly
holiday movie. Despite a set-up that sounds like the beginning of “Bad Day at
Black Rock,” unlike the characters in that film, everybody in this town must
have migrated from Mayberry. There all so nice and kind and wouldn’t want to
ruin anyone’s Christmas with a nasty thing like murder, which Phillips’ death
turns out to be.
This may be the only mystery story in which the
murdered man and his murderer never appear on screen. In fact, although the
mystery gets solved, there’s no punishment that can be meted out to the
perpetrator because he conveniently dies of a heart attack before Donovan get
put the cuffs on him. And besides Phillips was a no good rat that nobody in
town liked and doesn’t miss. So why make a big fuss about it?
It’s all pretty weird and at the same time kind of tame
and dull. The emphasis is more on the romance between Anita and Sam than the
crime. Oh, there are red herrings sprinkled throughout the script co-written by
O’Keefe and Jerome Odlum that keep the mystery plot going but director Alfred
E. Green provides little tension or suspense.
One wonders why Kino Lorber chose to put this title out
in a nice Blu-ray format when there are so many other more worthy noirs out
there waiting for that kind of presentation. The picture and sound quality are
first rate but the disc has no extras at all.
Bottom line, if you’re looking for an unusual, off-beat
Christmas movie, pick it up. You could run a double bill along with Jean
Shepherd’s “A Christmas Story” to liven things up. Tough guy noir lovers should avoid.
“What’s got four eyes and can’t see?...
Mississippi!”, quips Gene Hackman as FBI Agent Anderson in Alan Parker’s Mississippi
Burning, a cynical joke about racist attitudes of the backward-looking American
south. This heavyweight dramatic crime thriller, based on one of the most
notorious race-related murder investigations in U.S. history, gets its first
ever UK Blu-ray release courtesy of Second Sight.
Set in 1964, endemic racism and
race-related violence throughout the southern states is scrutinised to an
uncomfortably realistic degree, as Roger Ebert wrote: “More than any other
film… this one gets inside the passion of race relations in America”; the film
understands and explains events, whilst Parker’s direction criticises and
highlights prejudice without undue sensationalism. The plot
revolves around the historical events related to the murders of three civil
rights activists (two white and one black) who go missing deep in the heart of
Ku Klux Klan territory. The FBI are called in to investigate, headed by
Agent Ward (Willem Dafoe), very much representing Kennedy’s America; a
progressive, forward looking country of freedom and equality, with zero
tolerance for racist violence and beliefs but believing in his by-the-book
methodology and Bureau protocol. Agent Anderson is partnered with him,
much more cynical with age and willing to take unconventional steps, by any
means necessary, to bring injustice to light. Facing uncooperative
local police and a community too afraid of the consequences to talk to the FBI,
the murder investigation sparks repercussions of national significance in an
era when segregation was still commonplace.
It is obvious to see how Mississippi
Burning won a number of accolades including an Oscar, a number of BAFTAs and a
best actor award for Hackman (at Berlin International Film Festival). And
it is indeed Hackman’s portrayal of Anderson that is the heart and soul of this
film - his warmth and depth of character, his past as a small southern town
Sheriff to his current, cosmopolitan, FBI post illustrates a shift in American
values and the possibilities of a more inclusive future. He understands
the (shockingly prejudiced) beliefs and attitudes of many white southern locals
towards the black population, but does not for one second, as his partner
perhaps mistakes him for early in the film, sympathise with the locals’
attitude in the slightest. In fact, his past allows him to speak to the locals
in a language they understand - violence - to let them know racist actions are
intolerable. He clearly expresses his outrage in a very open and human
manner with which the audience can identify; violent beatings of innocent and
peaceful members of the community from old men to women and children simply for
the colour of their skin or cooperating with the law is extremely upsetting to
witness, as shocking today if not moreso than when the film was released.
Ward is played subtly by Dafoe, leaving
centre stage to Hackman, but his performance is vital to the success of the
film. The audience’s absolute belief in his resolute determination to
solve the case, refusing to give in to the stonewalling by the local community,
and using all means at his disposal is what drives the film along.
For example, a colleague informs Ward that the local motel owner
wants the FBI out as they are ‘bad for business’, to which Ward coolly but
firmly tells him to “Buy it”. Anderson advises Ward that FBI methods won’t
work, knowing that conflict and violence will arise from outside intervention
and will bring a warlike atmosphere to this small town America which, indeed,
escalates to the KKK carrying out violent beatings and relentless petrol-bomb
attacks on houses and churches. Ward, however, sees the value in setting
a precedent here, to make a stand to show there is no place for racial
intolerance in the America of the future, he recognises an era that needs to be
brought to an end: “...it was a war long before we got here.”
Other than these central performances, what
really strengthens the film is the impressive supporting cast; not one single
character is made two-dimensional here, however small a role. Brad Dourif
plays vicious Deputy Sheriff Pell as cruel but with a twinkle in his eye,
Frances McDormand is his resigned but proud wife. R. Lee Ermey plays
Mayor Tilman, parochial and angry, with earnest concern. Even Stephen
Toblowsky, perhaps most recognisable for small but perfectly-pitched apathetic
comedy roles (such as Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day) is, in a few short minutes,
able to deliver an impassioned and genuinely chilling speech here as a KKK
leader. Every character feels like a real person; however distasteful
their opinions or actions are within the film, they are still presented as
believably nuanced and rounded human beings rather than caricatures in broad
brush strokes, which could be all too easy to fall back on with such
politically charged subject matter; much credit is due to both performers and
The Blu-ray itself is excellent quality, transferred well without losing the
textured grain of the original film, pleasantly noticeable in places.
Bonus features are few but fascinating; separate interviews with Dafoe,
writer Chris Gerolmo and a 20-minute interview with Alan Parker. There is
also a feature audio commentary with Alan Parker. It would have been
fascinating to have some of the lesser-featured supporting cast mentioned above
involved, perhaps, but the simple and straightforward style of the menus and
the extras presented suit to tone of the film well.
(Barbara Magnolfi) and Dagmar (Stefania D'Amario) are sisters looking for their
mother, a once successful actress who left them in a boarding school when they
were children and disappeared. Their father has recently died, leaving them a
substantial sum that they feel duty-bound to share with the absent mother.
Their search leads them to a hotel on the outstanding Amalfi Coast near Naples
where they meet a motley collection of people who have secrets to hide: Filippo
(Marc Porel) is a heroin addict, Roberto (Vanni Materassi), the hotel manager,
is having an affair with the resident singer, the amusingly-monikered Stella
Shining (Yvonne Harlow, who claimed to be the great grand-daughter of Jean
Harlow), who is herself smuggling drugs in lipstick tubes, and Roberto's wife
Vanessa (Anna Zinnemann), a lesbian who is having a passionate affair with one
of the hotel guests.
things weren't already complicated enough Ursula has psychic abilities that
allow her to see the future. As explained by a conveniently-placed psychiatrist
in the hotel, these powers could have been induced by some unexplained
childhood trauma. Ursula is plagued by bad dreams of gruesome murders, and
visions of her recently-deceased father in bed with other women. Dagmar may be
falling in love with Filippo, who Ursula claims will be responsible for her own
death, but Filippo is obsessed with Stella Shining. Into this already
convoluted setup stalks a black-gloved murderer, a familiar figure from Italian
giallo movies, who watches people have sex and then kills them with a
giant phallus. This provides director Enzo Miloni with endless opportunities to
show as much nudity as he could get away with, which was quite a lot.
Apparently when The Sister of Ursula was released, it was shown in some
cinemas with hardcore inserts. Even with those removed it is still quite strong
a title that makes one expect a film about nuns, this was Enzo Miloni's
directorial debut. Primarily known as a writer, he made this film at the
request of the producer in order to get his own pet project, which was to start
Dirk Bogarde, off the ground. Despite all the sleaze and murder, the film is
mainly a melodrama and feels like something you would find when flicking
through the channels one morning on your hotel TV whilst on holiday. It is shot
with very little verve or creativity. The camera was mainly set on a tripod and
then just left at that height for the rest of the movie. Occasionally we see
close-ups of a sinister pair of eyes in the shadows, but otherwise there is
very little distinctiveness visually. The plots and sub-plots become confusing,
with enough to provide narrative ideas for at least three movies. This is
perhaps a symptom of Miloni's first love of writing for the theatre.
familiar with the Italian giallo will have seen most of what is here in other,
better movies. What perhaps sets this one apart is the stronger focus on sex,
with Shameless selling it as a "proto porno giallo". The image
quality is what one would expect from a film shot on location using cheap film
stock, that is to say flat and not particularly sharp. The blood still looks
bright red however. The DVD features a half-hour interview with the director
from 2008, and watching it may make you feel warmer towards the film than you
did before. He clearly enjoyed the experience and remained friends with the
cast, and expresses his intentions and frustrations with the project well. He
reveals that Marc Porel was a drug addict in real life, and explains how they
dealt with this this during the shoot. The star of one of Italy's greatest
crime thrillers, Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (1976, Ruggero
Deodato), Porel sadly died at the age of just 34 from a drug overdose whilst
shooting commercials in Morocco.
have released this DVD in a limited edition of just 2000 numbered copies.
Featuring new artwork from genre specialist Graham Humphries (with a reversible
sleeve featuring the original Italian artwork), the aforementioned interview,
the theatrical trailer (revealing that some scenes were shot for an alternate
version where clothes remained on) and lots of trailers for other Shameless DVD
releases. Shameless are specialists when it comes to releasing trashy European
cinema that other companies would steer well clear of, and for that they are to
only available on a R1 DVD from Serverin Films, you can now buy The Sister of
Ursula on Amazon UK by clicking here.
Films in Global Cinema: The World Beyond Disney
by Noel Brown and Bruce Babington (Published by I.B. Taurus, £62), 272 Pages, Hardcover,
BY TIM GREAVES
a well-researched and eminently readable series of essays from around a dozen
contributing writers, “Family Films in Global Cinema” delivers just what its
title promises. Rather than focussing on a particular era or subgenre, editors
Noel Brown and Bruce Babington have cast their net far wider; titles spanning
many decades and from all corners of the globe are afforded textual equality
with some of the more readily acknowledged classics. Fancy reading refreshing
opinions on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate
Factory or A Nightmare Before
Christmas (the latter rejected by Disney, who must still be kicking
themselves today)? They’re here, nestled alongside plenty of titles of which
this reviewer was largely unaware. Of particular interest was a chapter devoted
to the anime features of Japan’s Studio Ghibli, of which I have long been aware
but actually knew very little about.
Had it ever occurred to you that Kubrick’s 2001:
A Space Odyssey is a “family film”? Prepare to be educated by a piece that
pitches an intriguing case for it being so. And any book savvy enough to devote
several pages (and an illustration) to Lionel Jeffries’ oft-overlooked
masterpiece Baxter! certainly gets
a scholarly approach to its subject, “Family Films in Global Cinema” is fully
annotated and brimming with facts, figures and opinions that are never less
than informative, with some of the minutiae not only proving interesting but in
some cases giving one pause to marvel at how attitudes to movies have changed dramatically
over the years. For example, it’s remarked upon how 1932’s The Island of Lost Souls was refused a certificate in the UK until
1958 – and even then cuts were imposed – and yet it now resides intact on the
DVD platform bearing a family-friendly PG classification.
things off there is a select bibliography and filmography; it’s guaranteed
there’ll be at least a handful of titles included you’ll feel compelled to seek
emanating from an independent publishing house rouses expectation of a need to
dig deep. The £62 price tag here – for a book that on face value looks like it
should be closer to half that, or less – could regrettably do it damage from a
sales perspective; I’d suggest quite a number of potentially interested
purchasers will be dissuaded. The fact that it’s only sparsely illustrated
won’t help its case either, nor that what is
here is poorly reproduced and in black & white only; for such a
colourful subject, some colour wouldn’t have gone amiss (even though that would
inevitably have pushed the price up even further). Yet all said, this is a hugely
recommended read and if you can afford to stretch to it then it’s unlikely
you’ll come away disappointed.
"Get Mean" (1975), the most obscure and final entry in the series of "Stranger" Westerns starring Tony Anthony is getting a long-awaited release in North America thanks to the new deluxe edition Blu-ray that is jam-packed with extras including an insightful collector's booklet written by Cinema Retro columnist Howard Hughes.
Here are the details from the official press release:
The Stranger’s Thrilling Final Adventure!
When an American cowboy stumbles upon a gypsy
family in a wind-swept ghost town, they offer him a fortune to escort a
princess back to her home in Spain. But this silent Stranger finds himself in
over his head (and strung up by his feet) when he gets caught in the middle of
an epic battle involving Vikings, the Moors, brutal barbarians, evil spirits, a
raging bull, and a diabolical Shakespeare-quoting hunchback. Tired of their
never-ending attempts to kill him, the cowboy arms himself to the teeth with
guns, dynamite and a special surprise. Now it’s the Stranger’s turn to GET
Tony Anthony (COMIN’ AT YA!), Lloyd Battista
(BLINDMAN), Raf Baldassarre (THE GREAT SILENCE), Diana Lorys (THE AWFUL DR.
ORLOF), and Mirta Miller (EYEBALL) star in this explosive ‘Spaghetti Western’
directed by Ferdinando Baldi (TEXAS, ADIOS). Now Blue Underground is proud to
present GET MEAN in this 2-Disc Limited Edition, featuring a brand-new High
Definition transfer along with exclusive Extras for the first time ever in
with Producer/Star Tony Anthony,
Co-Writer/Star Lloyd Battista, and
Executive Producer Ronald J. Schneider
The Story Of The Stranger - Interview with Producer/Star Tony
Looking For Richard - Interview with Co-Writer/Star Lloyd
Beating A Dead Horse - Interview with Executive Producer Ronald J. Schneider
Tony & I - Interview
with Director Ferdinando Baldi
Poster & Still Gallery
BONUS Collectable Booklet featuring new
writing by Spaghetti Western expert Howard Hughes
Check out this Q&A session with Tony Anthony from a recent screening of "Get Mean" at the Cinefamily theatre:
have favorably compared GET MEAN to Sam Raimi’s ARMY OF DARKNESS: “Just like
Ash, The Stranger unloads a huge can of whoop-ass on an army of foes. If you’ve
enjoyed ARMY OF DARKNESS, you should definitely enjoy this one!” - IMDB
Stranger Is One Of The Coolest Spaghetti Western Characters!” – Spaghetti
In Its Own Little World Of Surreal Weirdness… A Must For Those Who Enjoy Tony
Anthony’s Stuff!” – Video Junkie
Fun Than Any Other Baldi/Anthony Collaboration!” – The Spinning Image
There are some films that you just know can only ever have been greenlit and bankrolled because the
directors were riding on the success of recent projects – which was precisely
the case with esoteric chunk of dystopian fiction, Zardoz. John Boorman may have been revelling in the plaudits
afforded him following the release of 1972’s Deliverance when he began touting around his script for Zardoz, but even so it wasn’t an easy
sell. The problem was that no-one could really get a handle on what it was about; years later cameraman Peter
MacDonald jokingly suggested that Boorman was the only person who actually understood it. That may not in fact have
been so far from the truth, but in any event it was finally picked up by 20th
Century Fox. All the same, Zardoz is certainly
one of the strangest films ever to snare a position in mainstream cinema. Upon
its original release it was critically mauled and left audiences around the
globe scratching their heads. More than 40 years on it may have reached an
unpredictable plateau of respect, but its power to baffle hasn't diminished one
The year is 2293 and what we bear witness to is “a possible future”.
In the wake of an apocalyptic event, the world’s population has divided. There
are the Elite, blessed with immortality and psychic powers, who inhabit the tranquil
paradise of The Vortex. Then there are the Exterminators, a band of savage warriors
who patrol Earth’s wastelands; worshipping a huge flying stone head – an effigy
of the deity from which the film’s title is derived – their raison d'être
is to restrain the starving populous (known as Brutals), safe in the belief
that when their time is over they will cross over into The Vortex. When the
Exterminators aren’t busy ravaging and slaying Brutals, they enslave them for
the cultivation of food. Zed (Sean Connery) is a rarity: an intelligent
Exterminator. He cunningly manages to gain entry to The Vortex, determined to
learn of Zardoz’s secrets, but his arrival is greeted with mixed reaction.
Immortal May (Sara Kestelman) is keen to study him and, much to the annoyance
of Consuella (Charlotte Rampling) who sees the savage as a dangerous influence
on their society, the senior Friend (John Alderton) permits Zed to remain among
them, if for no other reason than to relieve the boredom born of immortality.
There also appears to be hope in the community that Zed may hold the secret to
the blessed release of death.
Or something like that.
First up let’s address the elephant in the room: Leading man
Connery’s frankly bizarre attire. Throughout the first half of the 1970s the
actor took on a number of roles that would distance him from his James Bond
persona, including an unhinged police detective with possible latent paedophile
tendencies (The Offence) and an
elderly Robin Hood (Robin and Marian).
But with his portrayal of Zed in Zardoz he
hit the motherlode. Ponytailed and clad for much of the film’s runtime in
little more than a scarlet diaper – the publicity stills providing car crash
visuals that are still mocked today – I’d posit that he actually pulls off ‘the
look’. (Just.) If nothing else, I’m sure the skimpy outfit appealed to the
actor’s female fanbase. Appearance aside though, in the role originally
earmarked for Burt Reynolds, Connery delivers a terrific performance and his rugged
screen presence keeps one engaged even when the narrative veers off into the
profoundly confusing – which it does on more than one occasion.
There’s strong support meanwhile from Charlotte Rampling, Sara
Kestelman, TV favourite John Alderton and Niall Buggy as rapscallion Arthur
Produced as well as written and directed by Boorman, Zardoz is a triumph in both style and substance (if you can at least
partially get your head around it). The plot may be something of a conundrum,
but there’s a great deal to admire here. It’s certainly beautifully
mounted; gorgeous location work (lensed in Ireland’s County Wicklow) set
to the music of Beethoven combines with Christel Kruse Boorman’s
economical but impressive costume designs to deliver a captivating
aesthetic that ably compensates for some of the cheaper looking ‘plastic bag’ –
quite literally – visuals. There’s also a very satisfying reveal as to the source
of the titular God’s name, a twist capitalised on in Star Trek: The Motion Picture a few years later.
I've seen Zardoz several
times over the years and still find it a challenge to endure. Yet the fact I
find myself drawn to return to it says a great deal. It’s indisputably a peculiar
one, but never less than intriguingly so.
Okay then, enough beating about the bush. Is Zardoz a load of old nonsense (as so many profess), or a sublime
masterpiece (as equal numbers make claim)?
The opportunity for doubters to reappraise Boorman’s film (or
indeed, for those who’ve always had their tent pitched in the pro camp, to
simply re-indulge) has arrived in the form of Arrow’s scintillating new Blu-ray
presentation. The transfer of the film itself is outstanding – I’ve certainly
not seen it looking quite so beautiful before – and it’s accompanied by an
appreciation piece from director Ben Wheatley, an original 1970s trailer (even
more bemusing than the film it was attempting to cultivate an audience for),
radio spots, plus short but valuable on-camera reminiscences from Boorman,
Kestelman, production designer Anthony Pratt, special effects technician Gerry
Johnston, camera operator Peter MacDonald, assistant director Simon Relph,
hairstylist Colin Jamison, production manager Seamus Byrne and assistant editor
Alan Jones. The icing on the cake is an informative commentary from the
eminently likeable Boorman. Of course, the cherry on the icing would have been
input from Connery, Alderton and Rampling, but they’re all conspicuous by their
absence (rather inevitably where Connery was concerned, one supposes).
A nicely illustrated 40-page booklet comprising interview material
and articles makes for a very handsome finishing touch.
Cronenberg’s horror films always seem to tackle subjects that involve an
unpredictable human body and the terror of your consciousness residing inside
of it. He explored parasites in his first mainstream picture, Shivers (aka They Came From Within, 1975), and viral “stingers” than grow in a
woman’s armpit in his second, Rabid,
1977. The rest of his movies, leading up to the ultimate statement of being
trapped in a horrible body, The Fly
(1986), all dealt with some aspect of physical or mental transformation. The Brood, released in 1979, fits right
in with Cronenberg’s thematic fascination with flesh and blood. And it’s a
Reed plays Dr. Raglan, an unorthodox psychotherapist who uses controversial
techniques that cause his patients to manifest their inner turmoil and anger
into visible, bizarre growths on their bodies. One guy sprouts spots. Another
man grows a weird gland on the outside of his neck. The most extreme result of
Dr. Raglan’s methods occurs with a disturbed woman named Nola (Samantha Eggar),
who was abused as a child and is in the throes of a divorce and custody battle
with her husband Frank (Art Hindle). Nola is growing “wombs” on her body that eventually
give birth to horrific dwarf “copies” of her and Frank’s five-year-old daughter
Candice (Cindy Hinds)—except these siblings are murderous creatures unwittingly
and psychically controlled by their mother. They have the faces of trolls, no
navels, and are anatomically asexual, but otherwise they are somewhat identical
to Candice. (Where they get the clothes that Candice wears is unexplained.)
a horror film, The Brood brilliantly
succeeds. The shocks are genuine, the gross-out factor is palpable, and the
story—which is absurd on the surface—is intelligently well-written (by
Cronenberg himself). Apparently the impetus for the film was the director’s
harrowing experience in going through a divorce and rescuing his child from a
delivers one of his best campy performances, and Eggar is suitably deranged in
her part. Of particular note is young Hinds, who manages to be simultaneously
innocent and creepy—this was her first acting role. Perhaps the weakest link in
the picture is Hindle, who somehow never reaches the emotional heights that his
a fairly low-budget affair, made for a little less than two million dollars,
but the visual effects and production values are top-notch. As noted in the new
supplemental documentary on the film’s making, all the strange bodily terrors
were accomplished with clever makeup applications—in particular, the use of
various-sized condoms filled with movie blood and... other stuff. Eggar relates
how hilarious this actually was on the set; she could hardly keep from laughing
as the crew glued the ends of prophylactics onto her torso.
has released a new, restored 2K digital transfer, supervised by Cronenberg,
with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack. As is usually the case with Criterion
Blu-rays, the video is gorgeous and vividly colorful—and this is one of those
movies in which the color is practically a character in the film! Supplements
include: the new documentary featuring interviews with Eggar, executive
producer Pierre David, cinematographer Mark Irwin, assistant director John
Board, and special makeup effects artists Rick Baker and Joe Blasco (neither of
whom worked on The Brood, but served
on other Cronenberg pictures); a 2011 interview with Cronenberg covers his
early career in the 70s; a 2013 interview with Hindle and a grown-up Hinds is
conducted by the editor of Fangoria magazine;
and—most fun of all—a segment from The
Merv Griffin Show from 1980, featuring Reed verbally sparring with Orson
Welles. There’s also a radio spot and an essay by critic Carrie Rickey in the
notable supplement is Cronenberg’s rare second feature film, Crimes of the Future (1970), made in
color on a shoestring budget. This is a truly bizarre picture about a world in
which all the women capable of reproducing are gone (killed by toxic cosmetics)
and men are attempting to compensate without a feminine influence in their
lives. A little too stilted for its own good, Crimes serves as a curiosity in the Cronenberg pantheon that is
worth seeing... once.
the main attraction is an excellent fright fest. The Brood has arrived in glorious high definition just in time for
Halloween. Grab the popcorn, turn out the lights, and prepare yourself for some
truly nightmarish material. The Brood is
In a controversial interview with Time Out London, Daniel Craig talks in earthy terms at length about the challenges and rewards of playing James Bond and discusses the forthcoming 007 epic "SPECTRE". What's raised eyebrows is his comments about not wanting to play James Bond again. Craig says he'd rather slash his wrists than take on the role of 007, even as he expresses concern that whoever plays the role in the future ensures that the quality of the franchise is preserved. In that respect, Craig's comments are a bit ambiguous. He does leave the door open to considering another Bond film but says he would only do it for the money. Craig's stance is a bit surprising. While the Bond franchise has seen its share of troubles between the lead actors and the producers over the decades, Craig is said to have a warm and mutually respectful relationship with current producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, both of whom plucked him from relative oblivion (he certainly wasn't a household name) and, against all conventional wisdom, hired him to replace the enormously successful Pierce Brosnan. If Craig's comments distancing himself from the role of Bond sound callous and ungrateful at first blush, he does make clear that he is very proud of the work he's done with his colleagues on the series and cares deeply that the franchise will only continue to improve over time. Bond fans are already in a panic over the notion that Craig may quit the role. They might want to pause before drowning their sorrows in a sea of Vodka Martinis and recall that Sean Connery quit the part twice and it appeared as though even amiable Roger Moore threatened to leave the role on a couple of occasions. (Other actors were even screen-tested for the part). (To read the interview click here.)
Now, here's the kicker that makes us wonder when exactly the Time Out interview was conducted. In the Mail on Sunday's 27 September edition, there was a special supplemental section (obviously done with Eon Productions' blessing) that interviews Craig. In the article, he confirms that he has indeed committed to at least one more film after "SPECTRE"- and reiterates that he considers it an honor to play the role. In fact he states: "I'll keep going as long as I'm physically able. I'm contracted for one more - but I'm not going to make predictions." The article also indicates that Craig is being paid a Goldfinger-sized fortune for his performances, having earned £17 million for "Skyfall" and is expected to earn at least that much for the next two films, should he choose to star in them. So the incentives to do at least one more Bond film are very strong for Craig. How two interviews can feature such opposite viewpoints from him remains a mystery unless he has a double out there somewhere...perhaps a real life case of "The Spy With My Face".
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
One Way Static Records is excited to bring you their
latest release, one where we had the chance to (again) work with legendary
composer Philip Glass. This has been a much requested release we simply could
not withhold from you!
Following up on our last year’s release for Candyman (1992)
One Way Static Records is now proud to announce the release of Mr. Glass'
iconic motion picture soundtrack for Clive Barker's 1995 CANDYMAN II
(Farewell to the Flesh) on vinyl and cassette.
Clive Barker who wrote the story for Candyman is a multi talented artist,
painter, director & producer. The extent of his work is endless. Spawning
the likes of Nightbreed, Hellraiser, Lord Of Illusions and the Books Of Blood
just to name a few.
Philip Glass also needs no introduction. Considered one of the most influential
composers of the last century his works are featured in a multitude of movies
like Koyaanisqatsi, Hamburger Hill, The Truman Show, etc. Mr. Glass was
nominated for and won several Golden Globes, Bafta & Academy Awards.
For the first time on vinyl & cassette, packaged in deluxe old
school tip-on gatefold jackets.
Available in the following versions:
DELUXE EDITION : LIMITED COLOR VINYL
: packaged in a deluxe gatefold old school tip-on jacket. Comes
on BEE HAZE VINYL and SILVER/YELLOW SPLIT VINYL. These variants
are inserted randomly and are limited to #500 copies each worldwide. They come
sequentially foil numbered (2 series of /500).
BLACK VINYL : limited to 500 copies worldwide. Packaged in a
deluxe Tip-On Gatefold jacket. Comes with obi strip.
CASSETTE EDITION : limited to 250 copies worldwide with alternate
artworks. Static Club members with a cassette option will automatically
receive the limited edition (Lim. #125 copies). Left-overs will go to non
Static Club members who order first.
Full disclosure: I’m a Mac evangelist and have been since the
1980s. (The boxy Macintosh Plus was the
first model I used.) I idolized Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak and this brilliant
movie from director Danny Boyle doesn’t change that. What it does do is explain Jobs as much as a
force of nature like Steve Jobs can be explained. The film, written by Aaron Sorkin, tells
Jobs’ story through three pivotal product launches –1984’s Macintosh, the
ill-fated Next in 1988 and his triumphant 1998 return with the revolutionary
iMac. Most of the action takes place in
the tension-filled backstage crucible before each event, where Jobs terrorizes
staffers and programmers and deals with the inconvenient truth of a very
dependent ex-girlfriend (played by Sam Waterston’s daughter, Katherine) who is
also the mother of his child. A child he
refuses to acknowledge, conclusive paternity test or no.
Michael Fassbender is
nothing short of amazing as Jobs, a man so convinced of his own rightness that
he can’t acknowledge a shred of humanity or empathy. Although Fassbender doesn’t look like the
mercurial tech rockstar, he’s able to channel him. Kate Winslett turns in another stellar
performance as Jobs’ harried marketing chief, the one woman he does confide in
– as much as Jobs was capable of confiding. Seth Rogan puts his usual stoner persona aside
as the real brains behind Apple, co-founder Steve Wozniak. “Woz” is seemingly Jobs only friend but his
relentless perfectionism pushes their relationship to the limit.
major points in Jobs’ career –the birth of Apple in a silicon valley garage, wooing
Pepsi head John Scully (Jeff Daniels) to be Apple’s CEO, and the crushing
boardroom battle where the indispensible Jobs suddenly found out that he was
totally dispensable. Along the way Jobs
hints at the reasons behind his iron will and propensity to lash out at anyone
who doesn’t live up to his impossible standards – rejection by his first set of
adoptive parents who literally gave him back. Instead of coming to grips with it through therapy or discussion, he
walled it off, along with most human emotions.
Cinematographer Alwin H. Küchler’s
tight camerawork is centered on the actors moving through various backstage
settings as the product launch tensions ramp up and ever so slightly, Jobs
acknowledges the fatherhood he’s denied. Sorkin’s Oscar-bait dialogue crackles throughout. For example…
to a stressed-out engineer: “You had three weeks, the universe was
created in a third of that.”
stressed-out engineer: “Well, someday you’ll have to tell us how
you did it.”
Because Apple products are
so ubiquitous and four years after his death, Jobs has passed into legend; we
think we know him. We think he’s
ours. But behind the iconic products,
there was an intense, ruthless and occasionally cruel man. This film helps explain why and does what
Jobs himself never could – it helps humanize him.
Steve Jobs opens October 9th
from Universal Pictures.
The Wall Street Journal has reviewed Cinema Retro columnist
Brian Hannan’s new book The Making of The Magnificent Seven: Behind the
Scenes of the Pivotal Western (McFarland Publishing). In a
1,000-word review David A. Price, author of The Pixar Touch, called the
book “impressive” and “authoritative” and concluded that it was “a story
well-told.” You can hear Brian Hannan talking live about his book on the
U.S. radio show Talk of the Town with Larry Rifkin on Friday
this week (October 9) and at the Bradford Widescreen Festival on Sunday October
18 when he will introduce a special showing of The Magnificent Seven and
sign copies of his book.
By the 1920s there was already a fear that the age of great adventure and adventurers was rapidly coming to a close. Flight had been conquered and lands that seemed mythical were rapidly being explored by white men. The great white whale that had remained unconquered was the summit of the world's tallest mountain, Everest. Today, the mountain is scaled almost routinely but it still is underestimated by climbers who lose their lives it their quest to ascend it. As late as the 1920s, many considered it be an impossible quest to reach the summit. However, courageous (or foolhardy) souls are often drawn to such seemingly quixotic goals, and so it was that in 1924 a major British expedition was formed with the intent of achieving what many felt was the last great challenge: to reach the summit of the fabled mountain. The expedition was headed by George Mallory and Andrew Irvine. Typical of the Brits, the venture was undertaken on a grand scale with a small army of participants, including Tibetan sherpas. Captain John Noel asked if he could accommodate the expedition so that he could document it on film. Mallory and Irvine were reluctant to do so, reminding Noel that they were motivated by scientific exploration, not becoming Hollywood stars. Nevertheless, Noel was given permission to join them- on the proviso that he minimize filming of the people involved and concentrate on the landscapes. Thus, Noel- armed with an amazing array of state-of-the-art film cameras of varying sizes- did indeed spend most of his energies shooting the spectacular scenery. Although there are only fleeting glimpses of the British members of the expedition, Noel did have the foresight to realize how exotic images of the local Tibetan culture would be for Westerners. Fortunately, he had the presence of mind to film tribal members and their customs, thus providing the most complete depiction of Tibetan life seen by the outside world.
One of the most impressive aspects of the documentary is Noel's seemingly superhuman ability to keep cameras steady in dangerous situations. The vast regions of ice and sky look just as beautiful and intimidating today as they must have when he filmed them. The movie has an almost mystical quality to it that sets it uniquely apart from any other documentary I have seen. Noel captures the mundane and boring aspects of the expedition as well as its most majestic moments- all leading up to a failed quest and a tragic loss of life. The final images of doomed men setting of to reach to the summit was captured on film by Noel, who kept shooting them even as they faded into figures in a landscape, never to be seen again and whose precise fate remains unknown to this day. Noel successfully marketed his film to appreciative worldwide audiences, but upon his death the elements were allowed to deteriorate. The British Film Institute was given the raw materials by Noel's daughter Sandra and a major restoration project was undertaken that saw the movie returned to its original glory, including some very impressive color tinting. The newly-commissioned score has been brilliantly realized by Simon Fisher; it is both beautiful and occasionally eerie and foreboding. Kino Lorber has imported the BFI restored print for the American Blu-ray release. Extras include interviews with Sandra Noel and other scholars and featurettes about the restoration of the film and the scoring process.
"The Epic of Everest" is a landmark film that has retained all of its emotional power thanks to a brilliant restoration.
by Universal in 1967, “Tobruk” opens with the feel of a 1960s spy thriller. Rock
Hudson is Major Donald Craig, a Canadian prisoner of war on board a German
transport ship anchored somewhere off the North Africa coast in late 1942. A
group of frogmen surface near the ship and sneak on board with silencers fixed
to their guns in order to capture Craig. The frogmen are led by Captain Bergman
(George Peppard) who reveal themselves to be part of a team of German commandos.
commandos take Craig to a German airfield and fly him to a desert landing
strip. They’re unexpectedly greeted by a group of British soldiers led by Colonel
Harker (Nigel Green). It’s revealed that Bergman is the leader of a
German-Jewish commando unit attached to a group of British commandos operating
in North Africa. They secured the rescue of Craig due to his expertise as a map
maker needing his expertise in navigating a mine field and access to the German
occupied port at Tobruk, Libya, so they can destroy it in time for a British
movie is based on an actual, although unsuccessful, attack on Tobruk in
September of 1942 which did include German-Jewish soldiers and fake British
POWs. Just like the actual events, the British commandos in the movie pretend
to be POWs in order to get to their ultimate destination undetected... or at
least in an inconspicuous way that will arouse little attention. During the
journey through the Sahara, the group encounters the German and Italian Army as
well as local horseman seeking money for captured British hostages and aerial
staffing from British aircraft.
by Arthur Hiller, the movie appears at first glance to be an unusual choice for
the director who would be synonymous with message movies and romantic comedies.
However, interspersed between the usual action and military battle scenes, the
British and German-Jewish commando team deal with serious issues of bigotry and
anti-Semitism with Hudson caught between the two camps as the outsider caught in
the middle as they make their way across the desert.
is very good in “Tobruk” and broke away from being stereotyped as a leading man
of about a half dozen very popular romantic comedies to star in more serious
films including heroic military parts in “Tobruk,” “Ice Station Zebra,” “The
Undefeated” and “Hornet’s Nest.” In the 1970s he settled into a hybrid role
which combined elements of his romantic comedies and the heroic leading man as San
Francisco police commissioner in the popular TV series “McMillan & Wife” which
ran from 1971 to 1977.
no stranger to tough guy roles, plays a German soldier for the second time in
“Tobruk” following his performance as aviator Bruno Stachel in the WWI classic
“The Blue Max.” Prior to this he appeared in the WWII adventure “Operation
Crossbow” which was preceded by a string of high profile big budget movies.
Like Hudson, Peppard found success in television with the TV series “Banacek”
which ran from 1972-1974. His acting career was hit or miss in the late 1960s until
he landed the lead in “Banacek” and faltered again in the 1970s until he found
success in the popular TV series, “The A-Team,” which ran from 1983-1987.
Green is a standout as Col. Harker, the leader of the commando unit. One of the
great character actors of British cinema, Green is memorable in just about
everything he appeared in a career cut short by an accidental overdose of
sleeping pills. He played a similar character in another North Africa set WWII
movie, “Play Dirty,” as Col. Masters.
features a cast filled with many of the great British character actors including
Jack Watson, Percy Herbert, Norman Rossington and Leo Gordon as well as
American Guy Stockwell and Irishman Liam Redmond included in the mix. Gordon
did double duty in “Tobruk” as screenwriter as well as a rare good guy role.
early in 1967, “Tobruk” is overshadowed by the blockbuster success and
popularity of “The Dirty Dozen” which premiered that summer. “Tobruk,” like
“The Dirty Dozen,” falls into the genre of “Men on an Impossible Mission,” but
doesn’t pack quite the same punch as movies like “The Dirty Dozen” and “Where
Eagles Dare.” The movie comes close with a satisfying plot, terrific
performances and plenty of action. It is violent, to be sure, including an abundance of graphic deaths via
flame thrower which become more a convenient distraction to move the story
is made-to-order via Universal’s Vault Series and has a run time of 110
minutes. The DVD offers no extras, but the movie sounds and looks very nice
preserving the Techniscope widescreen image. The movie is a welcome addition for
fans of 60s war movies.
Perhaps it is only fitting that area meteorologists would
forewarn ominously that the Mahoning Drive-in Theater’s “Christopher Lee
Tribute” might take place on a cold and dark and stormy night. After all, it was the villainous film legacy
of the actor – who passed away at age 93 on June 7th of this year – to have frightened
generations of moviegoers in such a bleakly nightmarish rain-soaked setting. As it happened, while the shivery autumnal
chill on Saturday night was undeniable, there was – happily - nary a sprinkle
of precipitation to obscure one’s windshield view of the drive-in’s massive
The Mahoning Drive-in, located amidst the Pocono Mountains
surrounding Lehighton, Pennsylvania, is – quite frankly – an anomaly amongst the
anomalies of surviving drive-in theaters. Whilst most remaining drive-ins have been forced to move cautiously and expensively
to digital projection systems or else suffer their screens going dark, the
Mahoning has survived this past year through a series of weekend-only 35mm
retro-film screenings. The Mahoning has
undoubtedly provided some great repertory movie-going fun this past summer; only
time will tell if the theater’s unorthodox business model is sustainable.
I was pleased to learn that the Mahoning had set aside
a night’s programming to commemorate the legacy of the great Christopher Lee,
the saturnine and elegant British actor who appeared in innumerable films over
a career lasting near seven-decades. I
admit to some bafflement when first seeing the handbill advertising the evening’s
selection of films: “Hercules in the
Haunted World,””Horror Express,” and “Psycho Circus.” It was an odd sort of tribute program as it
would not feature a single popularly acclaimed classic from the honoree’s deep back
catalog. Instead, the program was
seemingly drawn from a triad of second (and perhaps third) tier-efforts celebrated
only among the cognoscenti. I made my peace
with the program when I recognized two of the three films scheduled would likely
rarely – if ever – be presented from original 35mm elements anywhere in the world
in the year 2015.
In any event, the more celebrated legacy of Christopher
Lee was amply exemplified throughout the evening with a series of vintage
trailers. The crew at the Mahoning
promised a cavalcade of Lee-related trailers between features and they
delivered handsomely. There were the
requisite Hammer trailers, of course: “Horror of Dracula,” “Dracula Has Risen from the Grave,” “Scream of
Fear,” “Rasputin, the Mad Monk,” “The Devil-Ship Pirates,” and “She,” as well
as such combo-bill late-night drive-in madness as “Dracula: Prince of Darkness/”Plague of the
Zombies” and “Scars of Dracula/Horror of Frankenstein.” Lee’s non-Hammer horror film work was
represented with a pair of trailers featuring Tigon’s “The Creeping Flesh” and
A.I.P’’s “The Oblong Box.” Perhaps more
enjoyable, if only as a kitschy reminder that there were some mind-numbing
clunkers as well, were the trailers for “The Return of Captain Invincible”
(1983) and “Arabian Adventure” (1979).
The night’s features kicked off with a gorgeous 35mm Technicolor
print of Mario Bava’s handsomely mounted “Hercules in the Haunted World.” Originally released in Italy in 1961 as
“Ercole al Centro Della Terra,” the film was belatedly marketed to
English-speaking countries as “Hercules against the Vampires” or under other similar
but variant titles. This opportunistic marketing
strategy – no matter how false – was designed, no doubt, to ride the gold
sovereign lined coattail pockets of Lee’s mid-60s popularity as the reigning
Count Dracula of the Hammer film series. In a tacked-on preamble to the U.S. version of the film (released in 1963),
Lee’s character, King Lycos, is even described on the film’s soundtrack as a
“diabolical vampire” which he, most certainly is not… or, at least, not in the
more accepted use of the term.
The storyline itself is essentially a paint-by-numbers swords-and-sandals
epic with the usual mythological trappings and supernatural overtones, but is
rescued from the ordinary by Bava’s eerie visualization of the subterranean
underworld. Hercules (played by the
British bodybuilder Reg Park) must travel to Hades, the God Pluto’s grim
“Kingdom of the Dead,” to rescue his true love, the Princess Deianira. Bava’s ghastly underworld is soberly realized
with blue-green tinted labyrinth passageways of swirling mists, of knotty limbs
and thorny vines that hang spookily from dead trees, and of subterranean lakes
of fiery lava. Lee strikes a suitably menacing
figure as the scheming and sadistic King Lycos, though his performance is partly
handicapped by the fact that the actor’s voice is dubbed throughout. One cannot help but mourn the absence of the villainous
gravitas of Lee’s inflected speaking voice. (Click here to order this film from Amazon)
The night’s second feature, “Horror Express (1972)” was
the anchor to the evening’s triptych program. Likely the film most familiar to U.S.
enthusiasts due to it being in near constant rotation on “Chiller Theater” type-programming
in the 1970s and 1980s, this soon-to-be-neglected Spanish-British co-production
eventually fell into public domain status and became a staple of every
low-budget VHS and DVD collector’s set.
Following several minutes of exposition in the
snow-capped mountains of Manchuria’s Hangchow Province, the remainder of the
film is set in the claustrophobic confines of the Trans-Siberian Express. Lee plays Professor Alexander Saxton, a stern
and humorless – but nonetheless prominent – anthropologist who believes he’s
discovered the “remarkable fossil” of the proverbial Missing Link. Things take a turn for the worse when a
curious fellow scientist (Peter Cushing), intrigued by his rival colleague’s secretiveness,
bribes an ill-fated coachman to take a peek inside the heavily chained and padlocked
crate. This proves to be unfortunate as
the fossil, which proves to be not as extinct as one might wish, is released. The creature proceeds to lumber freely around
the train carriage, terrifying and absorbing the brains of his fellow
passengers. (Click here to order this film from Amazon).
The evening’s final film was “Psycho Circus” (alternate
British title “Circus of Fear”) one of a number of Anglo-German co-productions ministered
by Harry Alan Towers which featured Lee as the marquee star in the years
1965-1970. Tower and Lee enjoyed a
measure of box-office success bringing Sax Rohmer’s notorious (and extremely
politically incorrect) super-villain “Fu Manchu” to the big screen. Though Towers’s series of “Fu Manchu” films
with Lee, admittedly, varied widely in quality, they remain enjoyable popcorn
programmers to this very day. For this
film they looked to the novelist Edgar Wallace for inspiration. There were two versions of Wallace’s “Circus
of Fear” (the original 1966 British title): a longer color German version
directed by Werner Jacobs and an English version helmed by John Moxey of “City
of the Dead” and “The Night Stalker” fame.
One of the great strategic blunders of the Cold War was the Western powers' decision to not militarily challenge the building of the Berlin Wall. Under the post-WWII treaty, Berlin was divided into four sectors with each one governed by a different nation : the Soviet Union, America, England and France. The terms of the treaty called for the former Allies to have free and unfettered access to each other's section of the city. Although Berlin was located inside Communist East Germany, it remained a symbol of freedom and liberty. This was a poke in the eye to the Soviets, who were determined to resolve the situation by simply building an imposing wall that blocked off East Berlin from the other sectors controlled by Western democracies. The world was outraged but in the end, no action was taken beyond exchanging some heated telegrams and phone calls. Thus, in a matter of days, Khrushchev's gamble had paid off. He would later confess in his memoirs that even he was skeptical he would get away with it. Suddenly, the entire population of East Germany was sealed off from other parts of the city. In many cases, families were now divided and would not see relatives for decades until the Wall finally fell in 1989. The building of the Wall was a particular blow to the new American president, John F. Kennedy, who was widely seen as having mishandled the situation. With the additional bungling of the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba that failed to topple Castro, JFK was increasingly being seen by the Soviets as a push-over, which is probably why Kennedy was willing to risk nuclear war to prevent a third Soviet triumph by not allowing their missiles to be based in Cuba. The Berlin Wall did backfire in one sense, however. It came to symbolize the repressive nature of the Soviet regime that was being imposed even on their puppet states. No amount of propaganda could negate what people could see with their own eyes: valiant and desperate East Berliners risking their lives to find ways to get past the heavily fortified wall into the safety of West Berlin. Countless people lost their lives in the process but many others managed to escape. Occasionally, an East Berlin border guard would defect in plain sight. The Wall also provided a backdrop for countless Cold War novels and movies, most notably John Le Carre's classic "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold". Most famously, the Wall allowed another American President to win some propaganda points for the West when Ronald Reagan stood atop it and demanded, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!".
The first film to deal with the Berlin Wall crisis was "Escape From East Berlin" (aka "Tunnel 28"), an MGM production that was rushed into production to take advantage of a story that had made international headlines: the escape of 28 people who dug a tunnel directly underneath the Wall. The effort was led by a daring young man whose effort resulted in freedom for his family and friends. Although this clearly is an exploitation movie in one sense, we should not diminish its considerable merits. The film is tightly scripted and, considering its limited budget, highly engaging and suspenseful, thanks in no small part to the admirable direction of Robert Siodmak, who had brought to the screen two suspense classics: the original versions of "The Killers" and "The Spiral Staircase". Shot in B&W in West Berlin, the only "big budget" aspect to the production was the construction of a section of the Wall that plays such a pivotal role in the story.
Erika and Kurt pose as lovers to deceive border guards who are hunting for her.
The movie opens with a harrowing scene of a young man who tries to drive a truck through a barrier at the Wall in a desperate attempt to get to West Berlin. His effort almost succeeds but he dies in a hail of bullets. The next day, his concerned sister Erika (Christina Kaufmann) searches for him near the Wall. She assumes his quest has been successful and begins an attempt to cross over. She is stopped by Kurt (Don Murray), a young man who lives with his mother, younger brother and uncle in the shadow of the Wall itself. Kurt, who worked with Erika's brother, tries to inform her that he has been killed but he cannot bring himself to do so. She is deluded by the notion that he has escaped and is determined to join him. Meanwhile, border guards are relentlessly searching for Erika because of her attempt to get into West Berlin. She is now confined to hiding in Kurt's home indefinitely, with the family living in fear that the next house check might result in them all being arrested. Kurt's family is also routinely visited by a young mother with a baby who relentlessly tries to convince the family to attempt to escape. Her motive is understandable: when the Wall went up, she was isolated from her husband, who is in West Berlin. Reluctantly, Kurt agrees to begin an escape attempt by tunneling underneath the wall, which is only a few dozen yards from the family basement. In doing so, the family must cope with the logistical problem of finding supplies as well as storing the immense amount of dirt from the digging operation. Additionally, there is the constant presence of border guards outside their window, snooping neighbors who might inform and the unexpected arrival of another man, Brunner (Werner Klemperer) who claims to be a participant in the dig but who may have other motives. The film does manage to present how an authoritarian regime can affect even the most mundane of daily activities, as people must consider the consequences of everything they do and say.
"Escape From East Berlin" is a consistently suspenseful tale that is extremely well-acted, with Murray particularly good in the kind of role that somehow eluded Horst Bucholz, who seemed to have a lock on every part that required a handsome young German back in the day. Murray even provides a convincing accent. Christine Kaufmann is largely wasted, however, in a part that is pure window dressing. Fortunately, the screenplay doesn't saddle her character with having the anticipated romance with Kurt, although they do pose as lovers to escape the scrutiny of border guards. Even the smallest roles are expertly filled with Werner Klemperer as impressive as always as the mystery man. The film builds to a nail-biting conclusion as the plot is revealed by an informer and there is a race against time to get across the border as authorities break into Kurt's family home.
The Warner Archive release boasts a fine transfer and an original trailer that is played for pure sensationalism. Highly recommended.
It's rare that a feature included as a bonus in a Blu-ray release of a classic movie would rate having us provide a separate review. However, director Richard Shepard's acclaimed documentary "I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazle" merits exceptional treatment. The 2009 movie gained considerable praise when first released but suffered the fate of most documentaries in that it was not widely seen outside of the art house circuit and a DVD release the following year. Fortunately, Warner Home Video had the good instincts to include it in their 40th anniversary Blu-ray release of "Dog Day Afternoon" (click here for review) , a film in which Cazale stole the show despite sharing the screen with some of the most talented actors on the planet. The documentary packs a great deal into it's all-too-brief 40 minute running time and sheds much light on the career of Cazale, perhaps the least-heralded main cast member of "The Godfather" and "The Godfather Part II". The "Godfather" saga saw the resurrection of Marlon Brando's career and made top stars of Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall and Diane Keaton. Not so with Cazale, who in many ways played the most interesting character in the story lines. As Fredo, the much-beloved underachiever of the Corleone crime family, Cazale gave performances for the ages. This is especially true in "The Godfather Part II", my personal choice for the best American movie of the sound era. It was here that the brilliant screenplay gave the character - and Cazale- the opportunity to dominate key scenes. The results need not be described here if you are a classic movie lover. Yet, Cazale never achieved fame except among film historians and trivia experts. His chameleon-like qualities enabled him to bring remarkable characters and performances to the screen but also resulted in his remaining anonymous to the public. In many cases, movie- goers failed to realize that the edgy and dumb bank robber of "Dog Day Afternoon" was the same actor who had played Fredo. To prove the point, director Richard Shepard stops people on the street and shows them a photo of cast members from "The Godfather": Brando, Pacino, Caan and Cazale. No one can identify Cazale's real name, although most realize he was the actor who portrayed Fredo. (One person assertively insists that "Fredo" was not only the name of the character but the actor who portrayed him, which for a method actor like Cazale might be considered a compliment.)
Shepard became fascinated by Cazale after seeing him in a reissue of "The Godfather". Despite all the enormously talented actors on screen, it was Cazale's non-glam, hangdog look that resonated with him. After becoming a successful director in his own right, Shepard was disturbed that, while the characters he portrayed were still very much a part of pop culture, Cazale's name had virtually vanished from the landscape. Determined to put him back in the spotlight, he and his producing partner Stacey Reiss decided to film a feature length documentary about Cazale- a man who only made five movies, each of which either won or was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar: "The Conversation", the first two "Godfather" films, "Dog Day Afternoon" and "The Deer Hunter". Cazale died in March, 1978 at age 42, having barely been able to complete the latter film due to his battle with lung cancer. Like most great actors who died young, Cazale's image is frozen in time. Unlike most of those who shared his fate, however, his name never became legendary. In his audio commentary for "I Knew It Was You" (a pivotal line of dialogue from "The Godfather Part II" spoken by Michael Corleone to Fredo in regards to his ultimate betrayal of Corleone family loyalty), Shepard relates the almost insurmountable challenge of finding financing for the documentary. Everyone thought it was a great idea but, in true Hollywood fashion, no one was willing to put up any money. Ultimately, producer/director Brett Ratner backed the project and succeeded in getting funding from HBO. The only downside was that HBO insisted on limiting the running time to 40 minutes, thus dashing Shepard's original plan to make a feature length film. Nonetheless, he was grateful to the network for financing the project at all and he set to work lining up possible interviews with those who knew or admired Cazale. He succeeded admirably. The documentary boasts an impressive line-up of talent who pay tribute to Cazale and acknowledge his influence. Chief among them is Al Pacino, who knew Cazale during their days as struggling actors in New York City. They both would run into each other occasionally and went on to work in several plays together before being reunited for "The Godfather" and "Dog Day Afternoon". Pacino's affection for Cazale is such that he admits he idolized him. He and others express the belief that Cazale was one of the most intelligent- if eccentric- people they ever knew. Cazale's appeal was that he was no matinee idol. He looked like the guy next door (assuming you lived in a blue collar area of the Bronx or New Jersey.) Others who extol his value as an actor and human being are Richard Dreyfuss, producer Fred Roos, Olympia Dukakis, Sam Rockwell, Francis Ford Coppola (who directed Cazale in three of his five films), Carol Kane, Steve Buscemi, John Savage and playwright Israel Horowitz, who worked with Cazale on ten plays in the 1960s. Shepard even managed to get interviews with such press-shy titans as Gene Hackman, Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep, who discusses her intense love affair with Cazale on camera for the first time. There are also moving comments from Cazale's brother Steve, who relates a sobering story about how he found out that his brother was suffering from lung cancer. There also interviews with two other show business legends who themselves have now left us: Sidney Lumet and Philip Seymour Hoffman. The entire film is filled with sincere, sentimental tales about Cazale that are both touching and humorous.
The "Dog Day Afternoon" edition of "I Knew It Was You" features some excellent extras pertaining to the documentary. Richard Shepard's audio commentary is truly fascinating, as he relates the trials and tribulations of bringing the project to the screen and how he had to shame the rights holders to Cazale's movies into allowing him to use extensive film clips for virtually no fees. There are also extensive outtakes of the interviews with Al Pacino and Israel Horowitz that contain some of the most interesting revelations and stories. A pity they couldn't have been included in the final cut of the movie itself. In one sequence, Pacino is overcome with emotion discussing his friendship with Cazale and comes close to breaking down. He also expresses frustration that Cazale was never even nominated for an Oscar. Horowitz ends his segment in a most unforgettable fashion by reading verbatim the beautiful eulogy he wrote in praise of Cazale for The Village Voice. The extras also contain two short early career films that Cazale was involved with. "The American Way" is a zany, Monty Python-like comedy made in 1962 in which Cazale is seen as an inept anarchist. Cazale doesn't appear at all in the 1969 film "The Box", but served as the credited cinematographer. The comedy involves a guy who finds that his new television set seems to be possessed and determined to drive him insane through playing practical jokes on him.
The fact that "Dog Day Afternoon" is itself a classic of American cinema is reason enough to add this anniversary Blu-ray edition to your library. However, the addition of "I Knew It Was You" would merit the purchase alone.
one night after the world had enjoyed the astronomical spectacle of a real
Blood Moon, Cinema Retro were invited to attend the cast and crew screening of
a new British-made western about the mythical Skinwalkers, native Americans
with the power to shape-shift during this rare lunar activity. A stagecoach
full of passengers, a mysterious gunslinger and two outlaw brothers find
themselves trapped in a ghost town and under attack from an eight feet tall
werewolf. The screening, held at the glorious Genesis Cinema in Whitechapel,
was packed out and everyone was having a great time. It was, of course, the
first time this writer has seen an entire audience stay in their seats until
the end of the credits.
Blood Moon is set in Colorado, but was
actually shot in the "real" western town of Laredo, built by western
enthusiasts in a field in Kent, England, and has the muddy, lived-in look of
spaghetti-westerns like Django (1966). This is the director Jeremy
Wooding's third feature film, and he has years of experience in television
comedy and drama. The screenplay was written by Alan Wightman, who we've been told is a regular Cinema Retro reader, which explains his affection for classic film genres. His affection for Hammer horror and
westerns is very clear, with the lead character Calhoun, played brilliantly by
Shaun Dooley, coming across as a hybrid of Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name
and Horst Janson's Captain Kronos.
film has now been released on DVD and digital download by Studio Canal, and is
available in the United States and the UK with loads of extra features. Blood
Moon is a loud and joyous celebration of the western genre, and one can
only hope that we get to see the further adventures of Calhoun as he heads west
in search of demons, vampires and other beasts to vanquish.
Director John Guillermin has passed away at age 89. The British director was best known for his high profile action films including the 1974 blockbuster "The Towering Inferno" and the 1976 remake of "King Kong", a production that was plagued by troubles but ended up being quite profitable. Guillermin was despised by some in the industry for his mercurial temperament and harsh methods of directing actors. However, no one could deny his talents. He was equally adept at directing scenes of intimate drama as well as explosive, large-scale action scenes. Among his best films was the 1969 production of "The Bridge at Remagen" which was interrupted by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Guillermin and producer David L. Wolper managed to salvage the film by moving the production elsewhere, a monumental task that they completed successfully. Other Guillermin films include "Death on the Nile", "The Blue Max", "El Condor", "Shaft in Africa", "Skyjacked", "Never Let Go" and "Tarzan's Greatest Adventure". For more click here.
For those of us who lived through the era when AIDS first reared its head with devastating impact on the world, it's hard to believe that 30 years has transpired since Rock Hudson became the first celebrity casualty of the disease. In those days, ignorance about AIDS brought about panic and prejudices. Hudson, however, was a beloved and iconic screen legend and his death went a long way to humanizing victims of AIDS. If this beloved idol of millions could fall victim to this scourge, then perhaps it wasn't just people thought to engage in deviant lifestyles and behaviors. Rock Hudson never wanted to be the face of the Gay Rights Movement. He became a star during an era in which even the hint of being homosexual would have been the death knell on his career. However, one would like to think that his untimely death at age 59 resulted in progress toward a more compassionate view regarding AIDS and HIV victims. For more on Hudson's death click here.
Jerry Lewis and Martin Scorsese collaborated on the classic film "The King of Comedy". Now Scorsese will moderate an evening with Lewis at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens on Tuesday, October 6. Here is the official description:
With Martin Scorsese and Jerry
Lewis in person Co-presented with the Comedy Hall of Fame
A true Renaissance man, well recognized as one of the greatest comedians
in the history of the field, Jerry Lewis helped define so much of comedy’s
vast language as a stand-up performer, actor, producer and writer. Perhaps
his greatest innovation was as a filmmaker. Taken together, movies such asThe Bellboy, The Ladies Man, The
Errand Boy, The Nutty Professor, The Patsy,and The Family Jewels form a breathtaking virtual dictionary of every aspect of what is
important and essential to the language of comedic film. His films would
help forge the cradle of modern comedies as a separate movement in film, and
his seminal book,The
Total Film-maker(culled from almost 500 hours
of lectures) offers an essential primer for the fledging comedic filmmaker.
This unforgettable evening will be moderated by Martin Scorsese and will
include clips from Jerry Lewis's films.
The name may not resonate with
the same sort of pop culture familiarity as Shaft (1971) or Super Fly
(1972), but Slaughter (1972)looms large as a striking film
in the annals of Blaxploitation cinema. As his theme song proclaims (yes, he
too has a theme song, courtesy of Billy Preston), Slaughter is "big, bad,
black and bold," every bit as much as the protagonists of these more iconic
titles, perhaps even more so. If Slaughter embodies the no-nonsense toughness
seen in characters like Shaft, Priest from SuperFly, Goldie from
TheMack (1973), and Tommy Gibbs from BlackCaesar
(1973), as well as their canny suavity and bravado, his next closest filmic kin
might be Rudy Ray Moore's Dolemite
(1975). With this outlandish character, Slaughter shares a penchant for
exaggerated movements and posturing, and as such, he is as unsubtle as
Dolemite, though he and the film in general are far more serious. Or, at least
it takes itself more serious.
Available now on a bare-bones
Blu-ray from Olive Films, Slaughter was released in 1972 by American
International Pictures and was produced by the legendarily eclectic Samuel Z.
Arkoff, who in the months immediately to follow would continue in the
Blaxploitation vein, with Blacula (1972), Coffy (1973), Hell
Up in Harlem (1973), and the Slaughter sequel, Slaughter's Big
Rip-Off (1973). Penning the script was Mark Hanna, the scribe behind 1957's
The Amazing Colossal Man and 1958's Attack
of the 50 Foot Woman, along with Don Williams, whose sole credits include
this film, its sequel, and Blood, Black and White (1973), all three of
which he had a hand in producing. Slaughter was also the fifth feature
film directed by Jack Starrett, who would compile quite the roster of titles as
director and actor, in both film and television. But the star of the show, of
course, is Jim Brown, the great NFL fullback (Cleveland Browns, 1957-1965), in this,
his twelfth film role, just a year after his induction into the Pro Football
Hall of Fame.
As the film gets started,
former Green Beret Captain Slaughter seeks to uncover the mystery of who
ordered a recent hit on his father. Given that the senior Slaughter had
questionable underworld connections, the investigation inevitably leads to some
unsavory associations and the suggestion that his fate was, in a sense,
unavoidable. When Slaughter seeks information from family friend and apparently
shady acquaintance Jenny (Marion Brash), before she is likewise violently
dispatched, she barely consuls him with, "It comes with the
business." Slaughter then takes matters into his own hands, hunting down
the probable mastermind, crashing a stolen car into the villain's taxiing
plane, and coming out of the wreckage guns blazing. The attack is only partly
successful, though, and the hitman, Dominic Hoffo (Rip Torn), manages to
escape. What is more, Treasury Department officials who were also after the
same man call Slaughter for interference. Since he interrupted their operation,
Slaughter is recruited to assist the feds in order to avoid prison time. He
agrees, and it's off to South America.
There he wastes no time landing
smack in the middle of a preexisting power struggle between the bizarrely
captivating Mario Felice (Norman Alfe—his lone acting credit), who reigns
supreme in the regional drug enterprise, and up-and-coming underling Dominic,
who has resentfully had enough of playing second fiddle. First, the two men
enlist arm-candy Ann (Stella Stevens) to sway the meddlesome stranger, but
Slaughter promptly beds the beauty, compounding the animosity and stealing the
girl for good. More drastic measures thus become necessary.