Dr. Strangelove or:
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is such an iconic
motion picture that most readers of Cinema
Retro, I would bet, already own a copy of this brilliant keepsake of the
1960s on DVD or Blu-ray. The film has been released several times before, but
now it gets the Criterion treatment. Believe me—fans of the movie and of
director Stanley Kubrick will still want to get this edition. It is definitely
an upgrade in quality and the disk also comes with a plethora of fascinating supplements and some terrific goodies in
you’ve haven’t been paying attention to the lists of Great Movies You Should
See Before You Die, you know that Dr.
Strangelove is the story of how an air force general (Sterling Hayden) goes
“a little funny in the head... you know, just a little... funny...” and orders
one of his bombers to attack Russia in order to preserve our “purity of
essence.” To save the day it’s up to an RAF exchange officer (Peter Sellers),
the President of the United States (also Sellers), a Hawk-ish general in the
Pentagon (George C. Scott), the good-ol’-boy pilot of the bomber itself (Slim
Pickens), and a bizarre German nuclear physicist in a wheelchair (Sellers again). Maybe they rescue our planet,
maybe they don’t.
Strangelove was Kubrick’s first
time out as sole producer, along with serving as director and co-writer. Prior
to making the film, he had been partners with James B. Harris, who produced The Killing (1956), Paths of Glory (1957), and Lolita
(1962). Kubrick had also done a work-for-hire job for executive producer Kirk
Douglas on Spartacus (1960), which he
vowed never to do again, but that project afforded him the clout to carve out a
subsequent career of total creative freedom. Now as the producer of his own
pictures, Kubrick got what he sought. He secured his home base in England, set
up a unique and highly personal routine of making films, and proceeded to give
us some examples of extraordinary cinema. Strangelove
was the first masterpiece out of the gate, and, fortunately, was a critical
and box office hit.
was controversial, too, as are all of Kubrick’s films made since he began
producing them himself. At the time, some attacked Strangelove as being a “sick joke.” Nevertheless, it captured the
mood of early 1964 and, as Martin Scorsese has said about it, “the word on the
street was that it’s terrific.” It was the hip movie to see. It pushed the
envelope. It got people talking. It established Kubrick as the hot filmmaker of his day.
the early 1960s, the director had become obsessed with the arms race, experiencing
himself some of the Cold War paranoia that was prevalent in those years,
especially after the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The British novel Red Alert by Peter George came to
Kubrick’s attention and he thought it would make a fine basis for a political
thriller. He brought in George to co-write, and at first the pair worked with James
Harris on the script. At some point during the process, they all started to
find funny things about the story. From then on, the screenplay morphed into a
comedy—a very black one. In fact, Dr.
Strangelove is arguably the definitive black comedy.
eventually left the partnership and went off on his own, leaving Kubrick to
produce by himself. That’s about the time Kubrick brought in satirist Terry
Southern to polish the work and add some needed dialogue tweaking. The result is
one of the most ingenious and original adaptations of a novel in movie history.
acting and the direction are as perfect as one can get. Production Designer Ken
Adam’s ultra-modern sets, especially that of the spectacular War Room, firmly situates the movie in its time
and place. Gilbert Taylor’s stark black and white cinematography in the
interior settings gives the picture its nightmarequalities, while the hand-held camerawork in the exteriors is
effective in creating a documentary/newsreel effect. The editing (by future
director Anthony Harvey, but certainly with Kubrick overseeing the work) is
razor tight. The director apparently deleted a lot of footage to achieve the
comic tension, including a now infamous pie fight in the War Room at the film’s
climax because it apparently didn’t fit with the tone of the rest of the movie.
all comes across with class and panache in Criterion’s new Blu-ray edition. The
restored 4K digital transfer is the best I’ve seen. There’s an uncompressed
monaural soundtrack, but also an alternate 5.1 Surround Soundtrack presented in
DTS-HD Master Audio. The movie has never sounded better.
then there are the supplements. Criterion provides several new pieces, and some
of the best features from previous releases have been ported over as well.
new supplements include: new interviews with Kubrick scholars Mick Broderick
and Rodney Hill, archivist Richard Daniels, camera innovator Joe Dunton and
camera operator Kelvin Pike, and Peter George’s son, David George. These all
come with film footage and wonderful unseen stills. Previous extras include an
excerpt from the tried and true 1966 audio interview with Kubrick by Jeremy
Bernstein; four different documentaries about Kubrick, the making of the film,
the sociopolitical climate of the period, and actor Sellers (two of which are
co-produced by Cinema Retro Editor-in-Chief
Lee Pfeiffer). There are also 1963 interviews with Sellers and Scott, and an
excerpt from a 1980 Gene Shalit interview with Sellers.
trailers are included as supplements—the quirky theatrical trailer, which we’ve
all seen, and the “exhibitor’s trailer,” which we haven’t. The latter is a
little over fifteen minutes long; demonstration reels of this kind were
commonplace in those days in order to persuade theaters to book the picture.
It’s pretty much a short capsulation of the movie’s story using unedited
footage, but what makes it totally cool is that Kubrick himself narrates it. He
even makes excuses for a couple of monologue sequences that do not yet include
cut-aways to other characters. Fascinating stuff.
terrific bonus is the collection of “props” you get inside the packaging—everything
comes in a “Plan R” folder like the one used in the film. Inside is a “Top
Secret” Memorandum containing an essay by scholar David Bromwich, and a Playboy-style booklet called Strangelove. Tracy Reed, step-daughter
of director Sir Carol Reed and the only female in the cast, is on the cover of
the booklet and graces a centerfold. The latter is also seen in the movie in a
fictional issue of Playboy itself. The
booklet’s text is Terry Southern’s 1994 article on the film. Last but not
least, you even get a “miniature combination Bible and Russian Phrase Book.”
fella could have a good time in Vegas” with this superb release from the
how many of us took advantage of those wonderful psychedelic cinematic
discoveries of the late sixties and early seventies, the kind that beckoned
many a youth to view them in an altered state of mind? You know the ones—Yellow Submarine, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Fantasia
(1969 re-release), Woodstock, El Topo, Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic,
Allegro non troppo... and of course Fantastic Planet,a surprise European import that hit U.S. theaters in early 1974.
It’s one of the stellar stoner movies that frequented the Midnight Movie houses
around college campuses.
by French animator René Laloux, with a production design by
eccentric French illustrator Roland Topor, Fantastic
Planet takes the audience to a very other-worldly place where humans are
tiny vermin compared to the gigantic blue Draags (called Traags in previous
translations), who are the superior race on the planet. In fact, Draag children
often keep humans—known as “Oms”—as pets, teaching them tricks and keeping them
imprisoned the way we might house a gerbil. Adult Draags, we learn, like to
“meditate,” which is apparently a euphemism for participating in a cerebral,
celestial orgy. While their bodies remain sedate, their consciousnesses are
released inside floating colored bubbles that travel to a nearby “wild planet.”
There, the bubbles attach to giant headless human-shaped statues, which then
come to “life” and dance together. In other words, it’s how the Draags get off.
story involves one human, Terr, who is captured in infancy by a young Draag and
kept as a plaything. Terr grows up, escapes his master, and joins a band of feral
humans to organize, rebel, and attempt to bring down the Draags.
all very creepy and strange, but it’s also a brilliantly fascinating and entertaining
film. The French-Czech co-production managed to win the Jury Prize at Cannes
that year, the first time an animated feature had taken such an award.
Certainly no other movie before or since looks
like Fantastic Planet, for its
eye candy exhibits a surrealism that echoes the work of Dalí, Ernst, or Magritte, but with a hallucinogenic science fiction
sensibility. Add a mesmerizing electronic jazz score by Alain Gorageur, and
you’ve got yourself one extremely trippy motion picture.
first released in the U.S., the dialogue was dubbed in English. The new
Criterion Collection disk features this optional soundtrack, but one must
really watch and listen to the movie in the original French (with newly
translated English subtitles) for the full alien effect.
new 2K digital restoration is absolutely gorgeous. The colors are bright and
vivid, bringing out the details of the drawn, “paper doll” animation. The audio
is an uncompressed monaural soundtrack. Supplements include two short animated films made by Leloux and Topor—Les temps morts (1965) and Les escargots (1966)—and if you think
the feature film is bizarre, wait until you see these! The disk also contains a
2009 documentary on Laloux, an episode of a French television program from 1974
about Topor and his work, a short interview with Topor from 1973, and the
experiencing Fantastic Planet, you
may feel as if you’ve jumped back to the 70s and want to say things like, “Far
out, man,” or “roll another one.” Just be sure to Blu-ray responsibly. (“Whoa,
he used Blu-ray as a verb!”)
Bud Spencer, the burly former Italian athlete who became an iconic film star in his native country, has died at age 86. Spencer, whose real name was Carlo Pedersoli, chose his stage name as a tribute to Budweiser beer, which he loved, and Spencer Tracy, his favorite film star. Although Spencer's film found some exposure in the American market, his greatest success was found in European comedy westerns that often co-starred his friend Terence Hill. Among the films that are best known to English-speaking audiences are "Ace High", "The Five Man Army", "They Call Me Trinity", "Trinity is STILL My Name!", "Four Flies on Grey Velvet" and "A Reason to Live, A Reason to Die". Among the contemporary actors Spencer counted among his admirers was Russell Crowe. For more click here.
The Warner Archive has released a slew of worthwhile 60s spy movies and TV series lately. Among the under-rated gems is The Double Man, a 1967 Cold War thriller starring Yul Brynner, who gives a powerful performance as American intelligence agent Dan Slater. His teenaged son is killed while skiing in Switzerland and Slater suspects it was actually murder. He finds he's been lured to Alps as part of a complex plot to kill him and replace him with an enemy agent with his identical facial features and characteristics. The plot was covered with moss even at the time since it formed the basis of a two-part Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode, The Double Affair, that was released theatrically the previous year as The Spy With My Face. Still, this is a highly intelligent, gritty film with Brynner as the most hard-ass hero imaginable. Devoid of any humor, Slater suspects both friend and foe as he leaves no stone unturned in trying to thwart the plot. The film benefits from a good supporting cast including future Bond girl Britt Ekland who finds herself unable to distinguish between the two Slaters. Clive Revill and Anton Diffring are excellent in supporting roles. There are some spectacular aerial sequences photographed by the late great cameraman Johnny Jordan, whose work on On Her Majesty's Secret Service bears a strong resemblance to this film, though both movies suffer from the shoddy rear screen projection technology of the time. The score by Ernie Freeman is sometimes overly-bombastic, but in the aggregate, this is one of the better spy films of the era thanks in no small part to the direction of Franklin J. Schaffner, who would win the Oscar several years later for Patton.
The transfer is crisp and clean and the DVD features the original theatrical trailer.
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Cinema Retro's Editor-in-Chief Lee Pfeiffer provides the foreword for the new paperback edition of author Michael Munn's acclaimed biography of James Stewart. Here is press release:
Getting to know the real Jimmy Stewart was an
exhilarating experience for film historian and author, Michael Munn. In Jimmy Stewart: The Truth Behind the Legend
(Skyhorse Publishing, A Herman Graf Book),
Munn describes how he met Jimmy Stewart and his wife, Gloria, and how over the
years, Gloria confided in Munn secrets about Stewart that the public never
knew. Some of these will surprise even serious fans: his explosive temper, his
complex love affairs, his service as a secret agent for the FBI, his innate
shyness, and his passionate patriotism.
Through his friendship with Stewart and his wife, Munn
was able to conduct many interviews with the Stewarts as well as their
colleagues and friends, and this personal touch shines through his writing.
This definitive biography reveals the childhood ups and downs that formed this
cinema hero, explores the legendary Henry Fonda–Jimmy Stewart relationship, and
recounts Stewart’s experiences making The Philadelphia Story, Rear
Window, Anatomy of a Murder, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Mr.
Smith Goes to Washington.
a film historian and the author of twenty-five books, including Stars at War, The Hollywood Connection, and the bestseller John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth. As a journalist he has written
extensively on cinema, crime, ancient history, and the World War Two. He lives
in Suffolk, England.
Turner Classic Movies has released three Alan Ladd titles in a set titled "Alan Ladd: The 1940s Collection". Here is the official press release:
Handsome leading man Alan Ladd found success in the 1940s
and ‘50s, first as the tough guy in several films noir co-starring Veronica
Lake and then as the stoic hero in Westerns such as Shane (1953). Turner
Classic Movies and Universal are proud to present this three-film collection
that showcases Ladd’s talents in a range of genres from thriller to adventure,
as well as the work of such directors as Irving Pichel and Frank Tuttle, and
writers the likes of Richard Maibaum and Seton I. Miller. LUCKY JORDAN (1942)
Directed by Frank Tuttle (who also directed Ladd’s breakthrough film This Gun
for Hire the same year), LUCKY JORDAN stars Ladd as a racketeer who gets
drafted into the US Army and will do anything to get out of it—even go AWOL. As
he tries to escape, he soon finds himself dealing with a backstabbing
second-in-command, a patriotic WAC who wants him to change his ways and enemy
spies in this comedic crime thriller co-starring Helen Walker. TWO YEARS BEFORE
THE MAST (1946) Ladd takes to the high seas in this adventure film based on the
1834 travel book by Richard Henry Dana Jr. that exposed the conditions of
sailors aboard merchant ships. Ladd stars as Charles Stewart, the spoiled son
of a ship magnate who gets shanghaied onto one of his father’s ships. He spends
the next year under the tyrannical rule of the ship’s captain and eventually
finds the courage to lead the crew to mutiny. The film was directed by John
Farrow and costars Brian Donlevy, William Bendix and Howard Da Silva. O.S.S
(1946) Writer Richard Maibaum is most famous for his work on the James Bond
series (he wrote 13 of the franchise’s first 15 films), and his ability to
write taut spy thrillers is on display in this film starring Ladd and Geraldine
Fitzgerald. Set during World War II, Ladd and Fitzgerald play members of an
American spy ring who are sent into France with the objective of destroying the
French railway system. But as their mission gets more complicated, Ladd must
decide between obeying his commands and being a hero.
My Name is Nobody is many things: a 1973 spoof of the “young and old gunslingers” sub-genre that began with For a Few Dollars More; Henry Fonda’s
last Western (and Sergio Leone’s to an extent); and even a eulogy on the dying
of the Spaghetti Western itself. Spearheaded by Sergio Leone himself, Nobody was directed by Tonino Valerii (Day of Anger) and teams Once Upon a Time in the West’s Henry
Fonda with They Call Me Trinity’s
Terence Hill. As a combo of Leone’s straight westerns and Hill’s “Beans
Westerns” (a slang term for comedic Spaghettis) it amounts to quite the
crossover film and could’ve easily been called “Once Upon A Time in the West
They Called Me Trinity.” While it is never as funny as Hill’s two Trinity films or as epic as Leone’s
“horse operas” it is none the less a whimsical delight and a classic of the
Nobody has been released
from Image Entertainment (who previously released the DVD) on Blu-ray at a
suggested retail of $24.98. This pricey “40th Anniversary Edition”
unfortunately boasts no extras of any kind, not even a trailer. The big
question for collectors then becomes: without any special features is it worth
the upgrade? The beautiful transfer and crisp audio make it a resounding “Yes!”,
as both easily outclass the DVD. Thanks to the clear print I was able to notice
several details that escaped me during previous DVD viewings. For clarity, the
print does have its fair share of scratches, but for some of us (myself
included) the scratches aren’t always unwelcome and add a little nostalgia. On
the surface it may appear that there is no difference between this and the old
DVD release due to virtually identical packaging, but Image did use an original
Italian print for this release as the title credits on the Blu-ray are all in
Italian rather than English, as was the case with the DVD. Like the DVD it also
runs the full 116 minutes rather than the cut 112 minute version which also
exists. Though pricey and devoid of extras the excellent transfer makes it a
worthy Blu-ray for Spaghetti Western fans.
It’s night and a ship moves in the water through a dark
curtain of fog. We see George Raft as Captain Johnny Angel on the bridge
peering out into the pea soup as another vessel looms ahead suddenly in the
darkness, abandoned and drifting in the water. Raft sounds the foghorn but there’s no
response. He boards the derelict with several of his crew to search for clues
as to what happened. They go below to the captain’s quarters and finds it
wrecked. A picture lies on a desk in a shattered frame. Raft picks it up and we
see it is a picture of him as a younger man standing next to an older one. A
crew member enters the cabin and says there is blood below, and water in the
hold, but no signs of life.
“Maybe your father’s okay,” the crewman says. “Maybe—“
“He’s dead,” Raft replies tersely.
These first six-minutes of RKO’s “Johnny Angel” (1945), consisting
mostly of image and sound, set up the mood, tone, and basic plot and characters
with barely any exposition at all. Everything we need to know is shown, not
told—classic noir moviemaking. The lean, mean script for “Johnny Angel” was
written by pulp fiction veteran Steve Fisher, who also wrote other film noir classics such as “I Wake Up
Screaming” (1941) (he also wrote the novel), “The City that Never Sleeps”
(1953), “I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes” (1948), and “Lady in the Lake” (1947). He
wrote taut, tense, dramatic stories where not a word was wasted. Director Edwin
L. Marin was known primarily for westerns and movies like “A Christmas Carol.”
But earlier in his career he had turned out Philo Vance mysteries. Like Fisher,
he knew his way around a crime story.
After the opening scenes, Captain Angel learns that not
only is his father dead, but a shipment of gold bullion smuggled aboard the
ship has been hijacked. The bulk of the story takes place in New Orleans’
French Quarter, where Angel tails a mysterious French woman named Paulette (Signe
Hasso) who stowed away on his father’s ship and may be the only person who
knows what happened. He’s assisted in his search by an offbeat character played
by songwriter Hoagy Carmichael in the role of a cab driver named Celestial.
It’s a role somewhat similar to the one he played in Howard Hawks’ “To Have and
Have Not” (1944). Of course, Hoagy managed to get a scene into the film where
he sings one of his songs, “Memphis in June.”
There is a wide assortment of other strange characters.
George “Gusty” Gustafson (Marvin Miller) is the owner of the ship line Angel works
for. Gusty is an emotional cripple dominated by the female nurse (Margaret
Wycherly) who raised him and the glamorous wife (Claire Trevor) who’s cheating
on him with night club owner Sam Jewell (Lowell Gilmore). Miller and Trevor
turn in first rate performances. Miller seems creepier than usual while being
manipulated first by the domineering mother figure and then the wily blonde
femme fatale. Trevor seems even more hard-hearted than usual in this role. In
contrast to these weird characters, Raft appears as the one upright, honest guy
in town. His father has been killed, a gold bullion shipment has been stolen
from his ship and Angel wants justice.
Raft, over the years, got his share of criticism as an
actor of limited talent, who usually turned in a stiff, wooden performance. But
what he really did in all his films was play George Raft. He perfected the role
of the coin-tossing tough guy— stoic, cynical, a man of few words. He did what
Alan Ladd and John Waybe did. He created an image, found a niche, and stuck
with it. “Johnny Angel” is one of his better roles.
The plot follows Angel’s search for the French girl, the
development of a romance between Angel and Paulette, and a final showdown with
the person behind the murder and hijacking. The film moves along somewhat
leisurely and might have been improved if Marin had stepped up the pace a bit.
But there’s something to be said for a film that takes its time, savors the
atmosphere, and seems to enjoy itself, in contrast to the mind-bending, ultra-violent
crime films made today.
Harry Wild’s wonderful black and white cinematography
really stands out in this production. Wild is credited with other noir classics
such as “Murder My Sweet” (1944), “Cornered” (1945), “The Big Steal” (1949),
and many others. His work here in the night scenes on the waterfront and in the
Latin Quarter are excellent. The few contrasting daylight scenes in the
countryside beyond the city add texture and mood to the film.
“Johnny Angel” also has a beautiful, evocative score
composed by Lee Harline. The right music was essential to this film, which has
so many scenes without dialog.
The picture and sound quality of this Warner Archive burn-on-demand
DVD are good. Unfortunately, there are no extras, not even a trailer. Even so, “Johnny Angel” is highly recommended.
My new book Pamela Tiffin: Hollywood to Rome, 1961-1974 (McFarland) was recently released
and I keep getting asked the same question. Why a book on Pamela Tiffin? I
expected this from non-Sixties cinema fans but have been getting asked by more
fans and experts on the time period as well. So to answer why a book on Pamela
Tiffin? She is one of that decade’s most beautiful and talented actresses who
left an indelible impression on movie fans. For me, she is prettier than Raquel
Welch; funnier than Jane Fonda; and more appealing than Ann-Margret. Yet, they
all became superstars and Pamela did not. My book tries to explain why I think Pamela
Tiffin, gifted with expert comedic ability, did not achieve mega stardom though
she remains a cult Sixties pop icon to this day.
I first saw Pamela Tiffin in the
colorful travelogue The Pleasure Seekers,
which was broadcast on the ABC-TV 4:30
Movie sometime in the mid-Seventies. By then I was a huge Carol Lynley fan
due to The Poseidon Adventure and
would seek out her other movie appearances. I had heard of co-star Ann-Margret
but was not familiar with the handsome brunette Pamela Tiffin, the third member
of this romance-seeking trio. I recall not being impressed with Ann-Margret in
the least, though I thought she did swell performing the title song. I do love
Carol Lynley in this movie, but I found myself beguiled by Pamela. She took
what was the typical sweet naïve ingénue role and made it funny, touching, and
sexy. I was only thirteen years old or so at the time and even at that young
age I knew Pamela had a certain something the other two actresses did not. Soon
after, I began seeking Pamela’s movies out and the 4:30 Movie came through with For
Those Who Think Young and The Lively
Set. I was hooked and could not understand why she was not as a big of star
as Ann-Margret or even Carol Lynley.
I began researching Pamela Tiffin’s
career in my local Long Island library to discover that she practically
disappeared from the silver screen after 1966 with a few Italian movies popping
up thereafter. My determination to uncover all about Pamela Tiffin culminated
when I interviewed her at her New York City home for a series of short magazine
articles and a chapter in my first book in 1998. She was elegant and charming
with that same whispery voice. We stayed in contact for a brief period, but
then I stopped hearing from her, though my devotion to her never ceased.
Pamela Tiffin once described her
entrée into Hollywood “as a kind of Cinderella story.”And it truly was. A model and cover girl, she
was discovered while on vacation having lunch at the Paramount Studios
commissary. She won critical raves for her performances in her first two films Summer and Smoke (1961) and the Billy
Wilder comedy One, Two, Three (1961)
giving a wonderfully amusing performance as an addled-brain Southern belle who
sneaks into East Berlin and marries a Communist to the chagrin of her guardian
in Germany. Everyone from James Cagney to Billy Wilder to Jose Ferrer praised
her acting ability, especially her forte with comedy.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
favorite summertime tradition whenShark
Week: Jawsome Encountersarrives
on DVD (plus Digital) on June 14 from Lionsgate. For the past 28 years,
Discovery Channel has captured the world’s attention with Shark Week,anannual televised event that
explores the ocean’s most magnificent creatures. Featuring 13 fintastic
episodes from the 2014 season (never before released on DVD) just in time for
the newest season of Shark Week broadcast on Discovery.Discovery’s
annual event is bigger than ever! Dive deep into the mystery of “zombie sharks”
in New Zealand, get up close and personal with Tiger Sharks lurking below the
surface in idyllic Hawaii, and explore Great Whites off the coast of Australia.
to the Criterion Collection for releasing Whit Stillman’s charming trio of young
adult angst: Metropolitan (1990), Barcelona (1994), and The Last Days of Disco (1998). The bookend films have both been previously released
by Criterion on DVD and Blu-ray, but now the company bows Barcelona to complete the trilogy. Available as both a stand-alone disc as well as part of a set of the
three films, Barcelona features the
luminous Mira Sorvino in an early role.
trilogy of films that Mr. Stillman made as the beginning of his career and for
which he is most well-known are interesting in that they depict groups of
people who fall out of the scope of most of the general population and probably
appeal to even less. That is actually a
welcome relief. Metropolitan was shot in January and February in 1989 and released
in August 1990 (a curious choice for a film set at Christmas time) and the upscale
characters live in a Manhattan that is far less hectic than today’s, light years
before their lives were infiltrated and forever altered by personal computers,
cell phones, electronic tablets and violent video games. The absence of these devices is noticeable in
every frame of this film wherein the characters talk to each other rather than text. Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols are two of
the actors who appear in all three of these films, playing different characters
by name but are instantly recognizable by their attitudes and method of speak. In Metropolitan,
they play Upper Eastsiders. In Barcelona, they are cousins who bicker
about sex and politics in a Europe far less violent than today’s. In The
Last Days of Disco, they are an employee of a disco and a disco dancer,
Barcelona, referred to as “…the
funniest film ever made about the violent hatred of Americans…” by Michael
Weiss, begins with a terrorist explosion at
the American Library, an unlikely start for a film purporting to be a
comedy. This imagery has become all-too
familiar and far more brutal in present-day 2016 with the insurgence of groups
like the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, but when this film was shot,
presumably sometime after the first World Trade Center bombing in February
1993, the world appeared to be a less frightening place. In Barcelona,
the time period that the film is set in is difficult to pin down just from
watching the film. There is talk in the
film that Spain is getting ready to join NATO, and that historical event took
place in 1982. The film does not look
like it is attempting to take place during that time, however.
are introduced to Ted Boyton (Nichols), a salesman originally from Chicago who
has just come out of a relationship and bemoans his inclination to fall for
overly attractive women in relationships that are ephemeral. He resigns himself to pursuing (in his words)
or even rather homely girls.” We can
assume that the failure of his latest LTR is a result of falling for the former
and so he tries to be philosophical about his future pursuits. He confides this to his cousin Fred (Eigeman),
a naval officer who shows up out of the blue and wants to stay with Ted for a
while, although his sudden appearance irks Ted. Fred’s attitude mirrors that of Nick Smith, the character that Mr.
Eigeman portrayed in Metropolitan, which
is to say that he is a tad angry about things. Fred occasionally dons his naval accoutrements
while out and about with Ted and the female counterparts they have met
accidentally (Tushka Bergen and Mira Sorvino as Montserrat and Marta,
respectively) which causes a rise in inflammatory anti-American sentiment
towards the group. While it is directed
at Fred it is never anything truly awful…until near the end of the film when
Fred is shot point blank by an assailant just outside the car he is riding
in. Ted is shocked and holds vigil by
Fred’s bedside, reading to him and wondering if he is even being heard. The women they have met also chip in and take
turns and Ted wonders if his cousin will ever be the same. Fortunately, Fred comes out of it, although
his attitude about life seems to be no different despite losing an eye.
Mr. Stillman’s dialogue most obviously
mirrors that of Woody Allen who gave himself and his co-stars wildly funny and
philosophical ruminations on male/female relationships, sex, politics, and the
world at large. There are some truly
funny moments, such as Ted’s dance to “Pennsylvania
6-5000” while he’s alone in the apartment, only to be interrupted by Fred and
Marta who return unexpectedly. The film
is a perfect slice of light entertainment in an atmosphere of films and
television shows that is almost exclusively comprised of super heroes, scheming
politicians, dysfunctional writers, and espionage.
The Blu-ray is a nice upgrade from the
2002 DVD. This edition features:
A new and restored 2K digital transfer, supervised by
director Whit Stillman and cinematographer John Thomas, with 2.0 surround
DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
The 2002 audio commentary featuring Stillman and actors
Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols
New video essay by film critic Farran Smith Nehme about
the trilogy made up of Metropolitan, Barcelona, and The Last Days of Disco
The Making of “Barcelona,” a short documentary from 1994
featuring behind-the-scenes footage and on-set interviews with Stillman and
Deleted scenes and alternate ending, with commentary by
Stillman, Eigeman, and Nichols
A segment from a 1994 episode of the Today show featuring
An episode of The Dick Cavett Show from 1991 with
An essay by film scholar Haden Guest
to order Barcelona on Blu-ray from
to order A Whit Stillman Trilogy on
Blu-ray from Amazon.com
Bruce Willis will top-line a remake of the urban crime thriller "Death Wish", to be directed by Eli Roth. The original film was a sensation in 1974 and helped elevate Charles Bronson to major stardom in his native America, after having found success in European productions. In that film, Bronson played Paul Kersey, a liberal New York businessman whose wife and daughter are brutally raped. His wife dies in the incident and his daughter ends up brain-dead. Enraged by the inability of the police to catch the culprits, Kersey gradually takes the law into his own hands,making himself an easy target and then killing those who intend to do him harm. Within weeks, his anonymous vigilante becomes a populist hero in a city in which the citizenry is fed up with the break down in law and order. The film, directed by Michael Winner, spawned some sequels, all of which were repellent and cartoonish at the same time, but the original movie still retains its power. Director William Friedkin once told this writer that the audience reaction to Bronson's on-screen killings was visceral and frightening as people cheered with every pull of the trigger.
The new version of "Death Wish" may find an audience, but we're willing to bet it doesn't. Chances are it will fall into the realm of other remakes designed simply to make a fast buck. For one thing, history is against the concept. America's urban areas are in far better condition than they were in 1974. Although high profile mass killings are on the rise, everyday crime is generally far lower than it was back in the Seventies. New York City has routinely posted crime rates that are as low as they were in the early 1960s. It's doubtful that the film will resonate with audiences in the same way that Winner's original version did. It was made during a period when emerging from certain New York subway lines with your wallet intact was considered reason to celebrate. That no longer is the case. Winner was trying as much to make a social statement as he was making a profit. He succeeded with both goals. However, the new "Death Wish" has the odds stacked against it. Charles Bronson was a leading man on the rise at the time of the first version, whereas Bruce Willis works is arguably over-exposed. He will apparently appear in your home movies if the pay check was large enough. He also hasn't had a major hit as the leading man in quite some time and it seems doubtful that this would be the vehicle to reverse that trend. He and Eli Roth deserve the benefit of a doubt, but I'm betting the studio will mostly be counting on profits from the video and Netflix rights.
The only commonality among the films of director Nicolas Roeg is that there is no commonality. Roeg graduated from being one of the industry's most respected and innovative cinematographers to becoming an esteemed filmmaker in his own right. Among his disparate productions: the London crime film "Performance", the bizarre David Bowie starrer "The Man Who Fell to Earth", the cult favorite "Bad Timing" and his most accomplished film, the adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier's supernatural novel "Don't Look Now", which ranks as one of the most atmospheric and terrifying movies ever made. By the early 1990s, however, Roeg's penchant for making avant garde films with limited boxoffice appeal- combined with his insistence on not compromising his artistic visions in the name of commerce- put him at odds with studio executives. His movies were largely appreciated by the art house cinema crowd but that didn't endear him to the studio bosses in the corner offices. One of Roeg's most bizarre, ambitious and expensive films was the little-seen and even less-remembered "Eureka", a 1983 production that was bedeviled by bad luck. First the basics: Roeg initially approached screenwriter Paul Mayersberg to adapt a book titled "Who Killed Sir Harry Oakes?" by Marshall Houts. Sir Harry Oakes may have faded into historical obscurity but in 1943 he was certainly one of the most famous men in the world- and had been for two decades. It all began when Oakes, an American by birth, went north into the wilds of Canada in his quest to prospect for gold. He doggedly pursued this ambition for fifteen years before stumbling upon what became the greatest discovery and claim for gold in North American history. Overnight Oakes became one of the richest men on earth. He later moved to the Bahamas where he lived comfortably on a large estate with his wife and daughter. Enamored by the British gentry he interacted with, Oakes changed his citizenship and became a subject of England. Big money buys impressive friends and Oakes was quite chummy with the Duke of Windsor, who had made a wee bit of a splash himself a few years earlier when he was known as King Edward VIII- yes, that King Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne in order to marry the love of his life. Edward was by then relegated to being the Governor-General of the Bahamas, some theorized to get him off the front pages. Between his scandalous marriage and the fact that he was deemed an appeaser to Hitler in the lead up to the war with Germany, which was now raging, the Duke was not "Flavor of the Month" in his native England. Still, he and Harry Oakes hit it off rather well and before long Harry was knighted, ostensibly because of his sizable contributions to charity, but some theorized the Duke had pulled some strings on his behalf. Sir Harry's bliss was short-lived. In 1943, he was brutally murdered in his own bed. How brutal was the crime? Well, he was bludgeoned, tarred and feathered, burned alive and beheaded. Clearly, at least one person in his orbit was not very enamored of him and it was decided that the person who liked him least was his son-in-law, who Harry had virtually disowned. A sensational trial took place that resulted in breathless international coverage but the suspect was found to be not guilty on the basis of flimsy evidence. The sensational case remains technically unsolved to this day, though amateur sleuths still debate who the real culprit was and what his motive might have been.
Nicolas Roeg was understandably intrigued by this story and was delighted when screenwriter Paul Mayersberg had also read the book that Roeg wanted him adapt for the screen. He, too, had longed to make a film of it. With the two men in synch, they set out to make a linear retelling of the remarkable characters and events pertaining to Sir Harry's life. However, they realized that since several of the major players in his life were still alive, the production could be plagued by lawsuits. Thus, they decided to give fictitious names to the characters. This also liberated them in terms of using artistic license when desirable, as they were no longer attempting to present a purely factual study of Sir Harry's life and death. It also liberated Roeg by allowing him to bring more esoteric elements into the production. The central character was now named Jack McCann (Gene Hackman) and our first view of him is indeed striking: he in embroiled in a violent struggle with another man in the midst of a raging blizzard in the Canadian wilderness. An unidentified woman, presumably the other man's wife, pleads for the men to stop fighting and we learn that Jack, who has been enraged by something that is never explained, is splitting up his prospecting partnership with the other man. He eventually storms off into the intimidating landscape to continue to pursue his goal of finding a major strike. Ultimately he does just that by literally falling into a fortune when he slips through a crevice and finds himself in an underground cave that is literally raining gold dust. He rejoices in his triumph but his happiness is short-lived. He returns to the bordello where the love of his life, a local hooker and oracle (Helena Kallianiotes) is literally on her death bed and she dies in his arms. It's the first in a string of unfortunate incidents that will plague Jack's life. The scene then abruptly switches to twenty years later when we find Jack comfortably residing in his Bahamian estate named, appropriately enough, Eureka. He's a hot-tempered man prone to violent outbursts. The only calming influence in his life is his twenty year-old beautiful daughter Tracy (Theresa Russell), who he clearly adores but who also brings him consternation because of her strong, independent ways. Tracy has married Claude Malliot Van Horn (Rutger Hauer), a handsome, charismatic European gigolo. Jack can immediately see through Claude's motives and calls him out for being an opportunist who is using Tracy to get access to the McCann fortune. The rift results in Tracy becoming estranged from Jack and her mother, Helen (Jane Lapotaire), a weak-willed woman who Jack treats as he would the hired help. A parallel subplot finds Jack being pressured by his friend and business associate Charles Perkins (Ed Lauter) to sell his beloved estate to a group of American gangsters headed by a man named Mayaofsky (Joe Pesci) and his second-in-command Aurello D'Amato (Mickey Rourke). Seems they want to expand their operations to the island Jack resides on and consider his land crucial to their plans. Typically, Jack not only rejects their offer but insults them in the process, leading to the gangsters deciding to take strong-arm tactics against him. In the film's most disturbing scene (and there are several), Jack is murdered in his bed by being bludgeoned, tortured with a blowtorch and (we learn later) beheaded. It's an incredibly gruesome sight to behold, as Roeg holds nothing back from the viewer except the decapitation. (We should be thankful for small favors). The balance of the film concerns the resulting murder trial, which mirrors the real life case in that Jack's son-in-law was arrested and charged with the crime. He had motive and opportunity- but so did many of his enemies including the gangsters.
"Eureka" may have been an ambitious undertaking but it's also a highly unsatisfying one. The script provides us with a dearth of sympathetic characters. With the exception of Tracy (who is superbly played by Roeg's then-wife Theresa Russell, who made numerous other films with him), there isn't a single other character with any admirable traits. Hackman delivers a powerful performance as McCann but the character is sketchy. We all know money doesn't always buy happiness but we never get to the root cause of his dissatisfaction with life and everyone around him. The supporting cast is equally excellent with Rutger Hauer giving one of the best performances of his career as the vain, almost effeminate pretty boy whose charm makes Tracy blind to his vulgarities. These are demonstrated in a very haunting sequence in which Claude and two female companions secretly attend a voodoo ritual that becomes a pagan-like orgy which leaves everyone involved disgraced and emotionally scarred. Joe Pesci and Mickey Rourke are impressive as the gangsters, with Pesci uncharacteristically underplaying his role, while Ed Lauter does the same as Jack's wimpy friend Charlie. The main problem with "Eureka" is that Roeg values style over substance. The entire first section of the film involving Jack's quest for gold is compromised by Roeg dropping in metaphysical and supernatural aspects, implying that his seer girlfriend is somehow sending him psychic signals to find the gold even though this will inexplicably cost her her own life. Even when the story gets on more traditional footing in Jack's later years, Roeg still toys with the viewer by inserting artistic touches that are visually striking but which distract the audience and make things quite confusing to follow. At times it's hard to figure out who is who and what everyone's relationships and motivations are.Roeg also can't resist making numerous analogies between the characters of Jack McCann and Charles Foster Kane, though the comparisons seem a bit obvious and heavy handed. Having said that, the movie looks beautiful and Alex Thomson's cinematography is top-notch, as is the lush musical score by Stanley Myers.
If Jack McCann's fate seemed cursed, so did "Eureka" as a major film production. The movie was financed and was to be distributed by United Artists. However, during production the management team of the long-troubled studio changed and "Eureka" was treated as an orphan project that had been green lit by the previous regime. Not helping matters was the fact that a test screening proved to be very discouraging, with the audience overwhelmingly giving the quirky film a "thumbs down" verdict. UA sat on the movie for two years before giving it a very minor and abbreviated release, after which it fell into obscurity. Twilight Time has released the film as a special edition Blu-ray, limited to only 3,000 units- and kudos for them for doing so. Although the film is a misguided and unsatisfying enterprise, it still has enough impressive aspects to merit a look by any serious movie scholar. Bonus features include extensive on-camera interviews with screenwriter Paul Meyersburg, producer Jeremy Thomas and editor Tony Lawson. In listening to their reflections on the film (Mayersburg in particular), one gains far more insights into what Roeg was hoping to achieve and how we should view the characters. It's a tremendous help in terms of providing fresh perspectives but a casual viewer who sees a film in a theater should not have to seek out interviews with the movie makers in order to gain such information. The special edition also has a rare audio commentary track consisting of Roeg answering questions at the movie's world premiere. A theatrical trailer is also included, as is an informative booklet by film historian Julie Kirgo.
"Eureka" is an artistic failure in this writer's opinion but at least it's a fascinating one and certainly worth a look in order to draw your own conclusions.
The Warner Archive has released the previously-issued Paramount special DVD edition of The Family Jewels as a burn-to-order title, carrying over the extras from the previous release. The 1965 film is a tour de force for Jerry Lewis, who not only starred, but co-scripted, co-produced and directed the film. There lies the rub. Lewis was certainly a pioneer in his field, one of the first actors to create a second successful career as director. Prior to his achievements, most other actors who tried to helm major films gave up after one or two efforts. (Charles Laughton, Kirk Douglas, Walter Matthau, Burt Lancaster, John Wayne, Marlon Brando, etc.) However, the more overstretched the workaholic Lewis became, the more his work suffered. He is onscreen for almost every scene in this film, playing a variety of crazy characters. Eleven year old actress Donna Butterworth (charmingly billed as "Miss Donna Butterworth") is Donn Peyton, an orphaned rich kid whose guardians have instructed her that she must choose a new father from among her eccentric uncles, who she barely knows. Her best friend is Willard Woodward, her ever loyal chauffeur and caretaker. He's a bit of a klutz but his childlike manner ensures he's the perfect companion for the sophisticated young girl. It's Willard's job to escort Donna to various parts of the country to meet her uncles and see which one she will choose as her new dad. (Apparently, the uncles have no say in accepting this rather sobering responsibility). One is an ancient sea captain (Lewis in absurd makeup that makes him look like a cross between a mop and Captain Kangaroo), another is an unspeakably vile and self-centered circus clown, another is an inept airline pilot, while another is a bumbling boob with a British accent, while the remaining two are a gangster and a successful photographer of glamour models (Lewis reprises his Nutty Professor character of Julius for this role.) The plot, such as it is, exists only to afford Lewis any number of showcase moments as he wreaks mayhem on the screen as each of the idiotic uncles. Eventually, little Donna is kidnapped and held for ransom by the gangster uncle, thus allowing Willard the chauffeur to spring into action to save her. The climactic sequence in which Donna chooses the man she wants to be her new dad is as absurd as it is predictable. The film contains a couple of cringe-inducing examples of nepotism run wild. The first occurs in a sequence that exists for no other reason than to show Willard enjoying a new rock 'n roll album "coincidentally" released by Gary Lewis and the Playboys. The second occurrence finds the group awkwardly making a cameo in the film. Now I like dear old Gary and his Playboys (I just saw him recently in an oldies concert and he was damned good) but this kind of blatant promotion proves to be more a distraction than a delight.
I've always been an admirer of Jerry Lewis and even second rate Lewis (which this is) still has some charming elements to recommend. Lewis, whose best efforts were under the restraint of director Frank Tashlin, has no one to keep him in check here. His characterizations of the uncles range from genuinely amusing (the photographer, the pilot) to over-the-top even by Lewis standards (the sea captain, the gangster, the Brit). He makes one of the most startling impressions as the nasty clown in the only role not designed to be humorous. "Miss Butterworth" is a very capable and likable actress and is able to hold her own on screen with Lewis (no easy task). There are some nice bits by well loved character actors like Neil Hamilton, Sebastian Cabot, Gene Baylos and Robert Strauss. As with even the least of Lewis' movies, it never commits the cardinal sin of being dull.
The special edition features include a commentary track by Lewis and singer Steve Lawrence (!), who had nothing to do with the making of the film. However, Lewis realizes what this writer learned a long time ago: when you are recording commentary tracks for comedies, it always flows better when there is byplay between two people. Solo commentaries are best left for the likes of Citizen Kane and Schindler's List. There are such long gaps between some of Lewis' comments that I had to check to see if I had somehow switched out of the commentary mode. Lawrence is there to serve as Lewis's Ed McMahon, serving up softball questions and laughing in all the appropriate spots. Still, Lewis does provide some nice insights into the film. He says he was reunited some years ago with Donna Butterworth and was delighted to see her again (she had seven children). Lewis also tells us during a sequence in which he makes a seemingly impossible shot on a pool table that he was coached for two days by Minnesota Fats himself, which is a rather fascinating tidbit. The DVD also includes some casual screen tests of Lewis chatting with Butterworth and an original trailer. In all, an impressive package for a mid-range movie that nonetheless is worth viewing if for no other reason than to experience a bygone era in which family comedies could be made without bathroom humor and sex jokes.
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get it out of the way - 11:55 is derivative. It's a showdown
film. Showdown films have a simple plot device and story line: the protagonist
is threatened and driven by angst, "Should I stay or should I go?"
The antagonist is driven by rage and revenge and has clear intentions. The
characters' reasons vary from film to film but the premise is the same. You've
seen films like that hundreds of times. Welcome to 11:55.
no shame in dragging out an old chestnut. William Shakespeare never came up
with an original story
line either. Co-director Ben Snyder admitted to the fact that the film's title
was inspired by High Noon. But this film, which had its world
premiere recently at the Los Angeles Film Festival, is the first directorial
effort of Ari Issler and Snyder.
Sanchez (co-screenwriter Victor Almanzar) is a returning Afghan War veteran. We
first meet him as we silently ride the bus home to Newburgh, New York. His earlier- than -expected arrival threatens to throw big sister Angie's party
plans awry. Chased out of the house, he surprises his long time girlfriend
Livvy for some quality time before acting dutifully surprised at the party.
There we meet many of Nelson's friends, some of whom are guys he ran drugs with
before entering the service. Nelson is a troubled man with a troubled past. He
escaped the mean streets where he grew up by joining the military - after he
accidentally killed a dealer from rival gang. His former protégé on the
streets, Teyo, breaks the news to him at the party: Nicky Quinn is coming.
Quinn is the older brother of the gangbanger killed by Nelson and he is out for
revenge. He arrives in town on the, you know it, 11:55 bus.
happy homecoming day suddenly turns sour. His plans did not include dealing
with actions from his distant past. Whatever he experienced in the war has
changed him. His sister and girlfriend convince him to run, make a new life in
Boston. But when Nelson and Livvy run into a couple of Quinn's goons at the bus
station, Nelson takes a stand - he's not going to run away this time; he's
going to stay and face what's in store.
The city of Newburgh,
for Nelson Sanchez, turns out to be a lot like Gary Cooper's Hadleyville.
Although he has an abundance of friends, like Cooper’s beleaguered sheriff of High Noon, none will commit to stand
with him in his hour of need. His efforts exhausted, he does what any
knowledgeable sacrificial lamb would do: he gets a haircut. This
is a gritty, moving film filled with a terrific supporting cast. Newburgh
should get credit as well. It once ranked in the 20 most dangerous communities
in the US and has been plagued by gang violence and drugs for years. It
provides a solid backdrop for the film's authenticity.
Almanzar shines as Nelson Sanchez. There's not a doubt in the viewer's mind as
to what Sanchez is thinking at any given time and Almanzar makes the viewer empathize with his plight. He is soulful and deep and you care about what he's been
through and where he's going. Hopefully, Almanzar has a promising future in
film. Elizabeth Rodriguez is scary and soft, sexy and tough as Angie, especially when she
threatens the "Greek chorus" of Nelson's cowardly friends in the barbershop
with a razor. Livvy,
as portrayed by Shirley Rumierk, is the dutiful girlfriend. She's torn between
supporting her man's choice and saving his life.
veteran actors lend some great turns in character roles. David Zayas is
Maurice, Nelson's former "Godfather" from his drug dealing days who'd
rather feed his pigeons than lend a hand. John Leguizamo, as Nelson's
wheelchair-bound, former marine buddy, is the only one willing to stand with
him. Yes, pun intended. He and Julia Stiles, as Nicky Quinn's pregnant wife
bring some terrific comic relief into the film. Her brief rant at Quinn as he
ignores her wishes and resumes his gang persona in order to avenge his brother
is hysterical. It also teaches us the differences caused by the effects of
serotonin and dopamine on the human brain. Mike
Carlsen in his brief screen time as Nicky Quinn is a threatening presence, a
subtle villain whose motivation may not be what it seems. And I can't leave out
Smarlin Hernandez. As Daiza, Nelson's niece and Angie's daughter, she portrays,
with honesty, the warring emotions teenagers feel about the person they both
love and hate the most in their life.
"11:55" is a modern-day, East-coast
Western. I expect to see more great things from those involved in this
production. Film history tells us that America won the West a long time ago but
it is in our smaller cities, those impoverished, under-employed, landscapes and
vistas where today's stories lie. There, real battles continue to be fought on
a daily basis by residents who wish little more than to live safely, securely
and in peace. This film tells just one of those stories.
Nicholas Ray’s Knock on Any Door has been released as part of Sony Pictures’ Choice Collection. The 1949 film starred
Humphrey Bogart and a very young John Derek as a defense attorney and his
street punk of a client.It's not high
on the list of Bogart classics, and it's not even one of Ray's best (It was his
second film, made after the far superior They
Live By Night). Ray never particularly praised it, saying only that he
wished it could've been grimmer. Ray once pointed to Luis Bunuel’s LosOlvidados,
a film about Mexican slum kids that came out in 1950, as an example of the sort
of film KnockOn Any Door could've been.If Bunuel's film had come out first, Ray said, the inspiration would've
been there to make a more penetrating, realistic work. "I would have made
a hell of a lot better movie," Ray said.
On Any Door is usually labeled as
film noir, but nothing in the story has the subversive taint found in the best
noir films, and there’s none of the sleek, European ex-pat styling, unless one
counts the expressionistic lighting that cuts across the prison floor in a
scene where a convicted killer makes his long walk to the death house. KnockOn Any Door is more in line with the crime dramas turned out by
Warner Bros during the 1930s, which makes sense when one considers Bogart got
his start in those Warner Bros crime flicks, and it was Bogart’s film company,
Santana Productions, that produced Knock
On Any Door for Columbia Pictures.
While it wasn’t a
blockbuster, it performed well enough at the box office to establish Bogart’s
group as a serious production unit. It also gave us the quote, “Live fast, die
young, and have a good looking corpse,” a quote so nice it’s given to us twice
by the angry Nick Romano, played by Derek with all the seething anger he could
muster beneath his impossibly long eyelashes. According to Bogart biographer
Stefan Kanfer, Bogie tried to boost Derek's performance by pointing out that
most of the day's top actors, from James Cagney, to Edward G. Robinson, to
Bogart himself, had started out in crime movies, and that a good performance as
a heel is always eye catching. Not surprisingly, Derek goes for broke in the
film, to the point where he appears to be auditioning for a role in ReeferMadness. Lookat me! he seems to say in every scene, Look at my perfect profile, my quivering
lips; look at how twitchy I am when I play angry! I'm a real actor, damn it!
Derek was just a young,
inexperienced actor fresh out of the paratroopers when he was cast as
"Pretty Boy" Nick Romano, "the Skid Row Romeo.”Romano, like so many Hollywood hoodlums, is a
good boy shoved down the wrong path in life after losing his father at a young
age, and then growing up in poverty. Attorney Andrew Morgan (Bogart) has known
Romano for years and has watched him struggle. When Romano is accused of
killing a cop, Morgan hesitates to help. For one thing, the partners at his law
firm don't want the negative attention such a trial could bring. Morgan also
isn't sure if he believes Romano is innocent.
On Any Door is actually two films woven together. We
see Romano's tale in flashback, as he goes from being a mama’s boy, to a
typical slum rat and petty thief, to a beleaguered family man who drinks too
much and can't hold down a job. We also see Morgan's crisis of conscious as he
works up the enthusiasm to help him. Morgan, a former slum kid himself,
believes people should help themselves. Gradually, though, he sees Romano as a
kid worth saving. By the film's end, Morgan vows to spend the rest of his life
helping kids like Nick Romano.
The Nick Romano character
was a bit ahead of the times. He looks and carries himself like a character
from a mid-50s juvenile delinquent movie, perhaps The Wild One, or Blackboard
Jungle, or even Ray's own RebelWithout A Cause. There were even rumors,
possibly apocryphal, that Marlon Brando was interested in the Romano role. Hot
off his stage success in A Streetcar
Named Desire, Brando would've been an interesting Romano, and with his
realistic acting, might have booted this movie into something close to a
classic. According to different sources, Bogart was originally planning to make
the film under the direction of Mark Hellinger, with Brando as Romano. When
Hellinger died in Dec. 1947, the project was temporarily put aside until Bogart
started Santana Productions. Brando, who had wanted to work with Hellinger,
allegedly turned down Bogie’s offers, paving the way for Derek. (I find it a
little hard to believe that Bogart was, as some biographers claim, pursuing
Brando to any great degree, considering Bogart was notoriously disdainful of
the self-indulgent method actor types emerging out of New York. The thought of
Brando and Bogart together is fascinating, but just the fact that Bogart
eventually chose Derek, who was light years away from the brooding Brando,
makes me think the whole Brando rumor was nothing but a PR flack's pipe dream.)
Derek, with his greasy mop
of thick black hair, looks the part of a dashing street hood, but his acting is
too melodramatic and hasn't aged well. At the time, though, Derek made quite a
splash, inspiring Hollywood gossip columnist Luella Parsons to write, "I
predict John Derek will be one of the big screen stars of 1949."Stardom didn't quite find Derek, although he
acted regularly for many years, appearing in everything from westerns to bible
epics.He's probably best known to baby
boomers as the husband/mentor and sometime director of Bo Derek.Even when Derek died in 1998, most of the obits
focused on the couple's May/December romance, which was fodder for gossip rags
during Bo's brief run at movie stardom.
Bogart is Bogart, and not
much more needs to be said. There's an excellent scene where, suspecting Romano
has stolen 100-dollars from him, Bogart as Morgan lures Romano into an alley
and wrestles him to the ground, pinning him in the dirt with some sort of
commando hold and then rifling through Romano's pocket to get back his money.
"You're a two-bit punk, and that's all you'll ever be,” Bogart snarls,
spraying saliva everywhere.Always a
sprayer and a drooler, Bogart’s lips and chin practically shine with spittle in
this movie, especially during the courtroom scenes where he has long speeches
and no one around to wipe his mouth. Bogart’s forehead also perspires like crazy in
the court scenes, until he looks like he's performing on the bow of a ship
during a storm. He's great, though, and his closing speech to the jury is among
the better scenes of his late '40s period.Heavy-handed? Sure, but Bogart could always make these scenes
compelling, whereas if another actor tried it, the bit would come off as
"Knock OnAny Door is a
picture I'm kind of proud of, and I'll tell you why," Bogart the producer
said in a press release trumpeting the film. "It's a very challenging
story; different; off the beaten path. The novel (by Willard Motley) was
brutally honest. We've tried to be just as direct, just as forceful, in the
picture. I think you'll like it better that way. "
proclaimed Knock On Any Door "a
hard-hitting, tight melodrama," the film's Feb. 1949 release was greeted
by mixed reviews. The notion that criminals were not always responsible for
their actions was a relatively new and unpopular concept. The film was
occasionally praised for its direct look at life in the slums, but Bosley Crowther
of ‘The New York Times’ wasn't impressed. "Not only,” wrote Crowther, “are
the justifications for the boy's delinquencies inept and superficial...but the
nature and aspect of the hoodlum are outrageously heroized." Crowther, who
may have invented the word ‘heroized,’ added that the film was riddled with
"inconsistencies and flip-flops," and that "The whole thing
appears to be fashioned for sheer romantic effect, which its gets from its
'pretty-boy' killer, victim of society and blazing guns."
Actually, the film
could've used some more blazing guns. The opening sequence is a stunner, with a
cop being gunned down on a dark street, and a sudden swarming of the
neighborhood by cops rousting every local man with a criminal record. The scene
is a mere tease, though, for the film settles down into a talky courtroom drama
and doesn't quite live up to its opening blast. But give Bogie and his Santana
crew credit for choosing this project as their debut voyage. They jumped on the
juvenile delinquent bandwagon before it had really taken off, predating the
screwed-up teenager craze by five or six years. In a way, Derek’s Nick Romano was
a forerunner of James Dean, Elvis, Sal Mineo, and every other greasy hoodlum
with puppy dog eyes that would populate the movie screens of the 1950s.
The Choice Collection DVD offers no extra
features, but the transfer is crisp and clear, all the better to see Bogart
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was happy to finally catch up with Clouds
of Sils Maria since I missed its theatrical run; the picture received many
accolades, especially for Kristen Stewart, who apparently was the first
American to win the César award for Supporting Actress, as well as
several critics’ awards for the same category.
film is a commentary on the state of Hollywood filmmaking, an examination of
the psychological dynamics between women, and a philosophical—sometimes
playful—dramatization of parallel lives/characters. It’s as if an Ingmar
Bergman movie was crossed with one by Krzysztof Kieślowski.
Binoche stars as Maria, a popular, internationally-known actress who appears in
European and Hollywood films, and on the stage. Stewart indeed gives a
remarkable performance—the best I’ve ever seen her do—as Valentine, Maria’s
personal assistant. Twenty-something years earlier, Maria had starred in a
stage play and subsequent film adaptation about a lesbian relationship between
an older business woman and a younger subordinate. Maria had played the latter
role and this launched her career. Now, a respected Dutch director wants to
remount the play with Maria playing the older role and casting the younger one
with a hot, tabloid-fodder Hollywood actress named Jo-Ann, magnificently
portrayed by Chloë Grace Moretz. Maria has her doubts about
playing the older role but accepts the part anyway.
of the picture involves the interplay between Maria and Valentine, who run
lines from the play together, with Valentine doing Jo-Ann’s part. At times,
though, we begin to wonder if the dialogue is really from the play or if it’s
the real-life dramatic action between Maria the actress and Valentine the
assistant. This is where director Assayas starts to have fun with the
actors—and the audience. The characters fight, they make up, they joke around,
and they dissect Hollywood and its stars. Real actors are mentioned, and
current trends (aka superhero movies) are lampooned. Things get heated when
Valentine is more receptive to current Hollywood fare than Maria. Assayas’ ageism
message here is not subtle.
is understated and enigmatic is when a key character of the story inexplicably
vanishes—and the film goes on as if that person never existed. Did she? Is that an observation about the
movie business, or is it an interpretation of the friendship/conflict relationships
that women sometimes have?
title refers to a natural phenomenon that really exists near the village of
Sils Maria in Switzerland, in which a “snake” of clouds rolls through the
Maloja Pass valley when the weather conditions are just right. Most of the film
is shot there, and Yorick Le Saux’s gorgeous cinematography captures the event
at the moment when the aforementioned
Criterion Collection’s 2K digital transfer, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master
Audio soundtrack, is superb. Supplements include a new interview with director
Assayas; new interviews with both Binoche and Stewart; a short 1924 silent
documentary, Cloud Phenomena of Maloja,
parts of which also feature in the movie; and the trailer. The enclosed booklet
contains an essay by critic Molly Haskell.
Clouds of Sils Maria might require a
couple of viewings to fully appreciate, but its rewards are full, fluffy, and
upon a time before cell phones, social media and the internet, there was
citizens band radio. CB radio is closely associated with truckers and was used like
a cell phone to keep in contact and inform one another on things like speed
traps, accidents and road construction in the days before cell phone mobile apps.
Trucker lingo like, “10-4 Good Buddy” and “Breaker-Breaker” briefly became a
part of the common vernacular due to the popularity of “Trucker” songs that
played on Country & Western radio stations throughout the 1970s. Hollywood picked
up on the trucker craze incorporating the “Good Old Boy” element and Southern
charm with TV series like “Movin’ On” (1974-76) and “B.J. and the Bear” (1978-81)
and movies such as “Smoky and the Bandit” (1977) and its sequels.
of the big radio hits of that era was “Convoy”, released in 1975 by Bill Fries
(better known to fans as C.W. McCall). The song reached number one on both the
country and pop charts in the U.S. and on the pop charts in the U.K. Hollywood
purchased the rights to the song and hired one of the biggest directors of the era
to make a movie inspired by the hit novelty song. Co-financed by United Artists
and EMI, director Sam Peckinph was given total control over its production,
which in hindsight, was a mistake as the movie went millions of dollars over
budget and two months behind schedule. The film was released in 1978 just as
the trucker craze was fading in popularity, but the movie became the biggest
money maker of Peckinpah’s career. Getting the finished production to the
screen was no easy feat, as Peckinpah was dealing with his personal addictions
and apathy toward the movie, but he filled out the cast and crew with many
friends who worked with him on his previous film projects. This prevented
studio heads from firing him, as major cast members like Kristofferson
threatened to walk from the movie with him.
Kristofferson, Ali MacGraw, Ernest Borgnine and Burt Young all worked with
Peckinpah in some of his most memorable movies. “The Wild Bunch” alone is one
of the greatest westerns ever made and while one can debate the merits of
Peckinpah’s other films, they’re all stamped with the indelible Peckinpah brand.
Peckinpah was a flawed man living in the shadow of his greatest achievement,
“The Wild Bunch.” “Convoy” is no “Wild Bunch,” but few movies will surpass that
classic. “Convoy” was a troubled production from the moment Peckinpah was
hired. It started life as a lighthearted action comedy inspired by a hit
novelty song that doesn’t have much of a plot. Peckinpah saw the movie as a
modern day western with truckers as cowboys standing up to corrupt police,
unfair interstate trucking laws and incorporating political satire.
“Rubber Duck” Penwald (Kristofferson) is a non-affiliated trucker opposed to
unionization who has a long standing feud with New Mexico sheriff Lyle
“Cottonmouth” Wallace (Borgnine). The sheriff sets up speed traps in order to
extort cash from truckers as they pass through “his” county. Photo journalist
Melissa (MacGraw) is passing through and meets up with Rubber Duck at a local
truck stop. What Melissa and Rubber Duck see in each other, not to mention why she’s
in New Mexico, isn’t really clear. Melissa sells her car along with most of her
belongings, and ends up catching a ride with Rubber Duck after he and about a
dozen fellow truckers flee the scene of an old fashioned western bar fight with
the sheriff and his deputies.
follows is over 90 minutes of large trucks driving at high speeds being chased
by police through New Mexico desert highways and at times off road through the
desert in an apparent protest against unions and big government. The governor
and local media get in on the chase and the result is trucks crashing and
driving through lots of dust clouds. This eventually builds to the climax
involving a National Guard tank blasting Rubber Duck’s truck off a bridge. The
desert scenes are interesting with trucks driving through miles of desert in a
Peckinpah slow motion ballet. What else is there? Not a whole lot. The movie
has a paper thin plot that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
is a serviceable leading man and, as depicted in the poster art, has his shirt
off a lot of the time. Burt Young is Bobby “Pig Pen” and Cassie Yates is truck
stop waitress Violet. Peckinpah cast a diverse group of actors including
Franklyn Ajaye as Spider Mike and Madge Sinclaire as Widow Woman. There’s a
racial element introduced as Mike is jailed and beat up by the sheriff’s
deputies. Widow Woman ends up sitting in the middle seat between Billy and
Whitey Hughes throughout most of the movie after her truck tips over during a
sharp turn. This on location accident was incorporated into the story and the
result is Widow Woman hitching a ride with the other truck. I think that’s one
of the big problems with a movie about truckers – too many shots of characters
sitting in a truck. There are a couple of scenes where everyone gets to stretch
their legs at a truck stop, but that’s where the trucker movie stops being a
is not for everyone, but it does have its moments. It’s a Sam Peckinpah movie and
that has to be worth something. It’s well known that Peckinpah was dealing with
alternating bouts of alcohol and cocaine addiction throughout his career which
certainly had a definite impact on his movies. The real reason for buying this new
Blu-ray release by Kino Lorber are for the generous supplements including an
audio commentary by film historians and Peckinpah experts Paul Seydor, Garner
Simmons and Nick Redman. The commentary is filled with anecdotes and personal
reminisces on Peckinpah, on the cast and crew as well as details on the
production. Their outstanding commentary opens up the movie and brings to life the
world of Sam Peckinpah. Kino Lorber didn’t stop there and also include a 73
minute documentary on the making of “Convoy,” deleted scenes, a montage of in-jokes
and cameos, radio spots, trailers, a promotional featurette, a stills gallery
and an interesting feature by a fan expert from Norway. The movie apparently
has a substantial cult following outside of America.
re-recorded “Convoy”, incorporating the plot and characters from the movie and
it briefly made its way to the top of the pop charts again. This new version
can be heard during the end credits. The Kino Blu-ray looks and sounds very
good and is a breezy, easy going experience which trucks in at 110 minutes.
Peckinpah fans will enjoy this release for the outstanding and generous
supplements. Fans of the “good old boy” trucker genre will also be entertained.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
BURBANK, CA (April 11, 2016) – Just in time for Father's Day and
the theatrical release, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release the long
awaited animated series that aired when Saturday Morning Cartoons reigned
supreme. Available on DVD on June 14, 2016, Tarzan, Lord Of The
Jungle: Complete Season One was created by the Filmation Studio
for CBS and follows the animated adventures of Edgar Rice Burroughs' ape man
from the 1970's. The two-disc collectors setincludes all 16
episodes from the series’ first season, and is priced to own at $19.98 SRP. The
DVD has an order due date of May 3, 2016.
As the opening narration explains: "The jungle: Here I was
born; and here my parents died when I was but an infant. I would have soon
perished, too, had I not been found by a kindly she-ape named Kala, who adopted
me as her own and taught me the ways of the wild. I learned quickly, and grew
stronger each day, and now I share the friendship and trust of all jungle
animals. The jungle is filled with beauty, and danger; and lost cities filled
with good, and evil. This is my domain, and I protect those who come here; for
I am Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle!"
“Tarzan, Lord Of The Jungle was animated the
old fashion way, with many hours of hand drawn stills," said Mary Ellen
Thomas, Vice President Family & Animation Marketing and Partner Brands.
"They don't make animation like this anymore, and we are really proud to
be releasing this timeless classic just in time for the July release of Tarzan in
The Colonial Theater in Phoenixeville, PA, best known as The
‘Blob Theater’ is hosting a dynamite Triple Bond bill on Fathers Day, June 19. The films to be shown are From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty’s
Secret Service and Casino Royale.Arguably some of the best entries in the series, this a rare chance to
see them again in a restored single screen movie theater.Tickets to the triple bill are $21.Times are as follows:
must have done something right. Here
Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) has proven to be a timeless and universal movie
that keeps on giving, and the welcome new release from the Criterion Collection
attests to it.
premise of the film has been around for a while. Most of our generation know
the remake better—Heaven Can Wait (1978,
starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie)—which is a superb Oscar-nominated romantic
comedy in its own right. Another remake in 2001, Down to Earth, starred Chris Rock.
that’s not all. It wasn’t until I’d viewed the supplements
on the new disk that I appreciated the fact that Mr. Jordan was indeed the first of several Hollywood pictures dealing
with “heavenly” concepts—angels, the afterlife, and second chances. In a video
discussion, critic Michael Sragow and filmmaker/distributor Michael Schlesinger
reveal how the picture’s popularity actually began a trend of similar movies
throughout the 1940s—A Guy Named Joe,
Angel on My Shoulder, A Matter of Life and Death, It’s a Wonderful Life, and even Mr. Jordan’s direct sequel, Down to Earth (1947, not to be confused
with the Chris Rock remake), which features both James Gleason and Edward
Everett Horton again playing their roles from the first movie.
Here Comes Mr. Jordan
a major release and surprise hit from Columbia Pictures, a studio that always
struggled to be one of the majors despite having director Frank Capra on their
team in the ‘30s. Critically and popularly acclaimed, the picture successfully
blends fantasy, romance, comedy, and intrigue, creating a delightful, and sometimes
thought-provoking, piece of entertainment. It was nominated for Best Picture of
1941, Best Director (Alexander Hall), Best Actor (Robert Montgomery), Best
Supporting Actor (James Gleason, and he steals the movie!), and Best B&W
Cinematography. The film deservedly won the Oscar for Best Writing, Original
Story, for Sidney Buchman and Seton I. Miller.
story concerns Joe Pendleton (enthusiastically played by Montgomery in a
stretch from his usual sophisticated tuxedo-clad characters) as a prizefighter with
a heavy New Jersey accent who crashes in his private plane. His soul is saved
by the Messenger (Horton), an angel whose job is to escort to Heaven the departing
souls from his “territory.” In the mist-filled outskirts of Heaven, Mr. Jordan
(benevolently portrayed by Claude Rains), a sort of St. Peter in a three-piece
suit, checks in the new souls as they board another plane to take them to their
afterlife homes. But Joe’s soul was accidentally taken before his body actually
died—and therefore Mr. Jordan grants Joe a second chance. However, his
consciousness must be placed into a recently deceased person—so Joe winds up
inside a rich, corrupt banker’s body. Joe, in his new persona, sets about turning
the banker’s life around for good, and he also attempts to continue his
prizefighting. For the latter, he calls in his former manager, Corkle (Gleason)
to train him. First, though, he’s got to convince Corkle that he’s really Joe
inside the new man’s form. To complicate things, Joe falls in love with the
daughter (Evelyn Keyes) of a man the banker destroyed financially and sent to
prison. Joe also doesn’t know it yet, but he will have to jump bodies one more
time before the story plays out.
comedy and romance work like a charm, and the fantasy elements of Mr. Jordan are surprisingly effective.
The movie is intelligently written and treats its subject matter with respect;
and yet it has fun with the mechanics of death and the philosophical discourse
of what we think the afterlife really is. The audience is tricked, in a way,
into pleasantly enjoying a movie about death. What happens to Joe Pendleton at
the end isn’t the norm for a romantic comedy. Technically it’s not a happy
ending—and yet, it is. It’s a feel-good movie with a bittersweet center. This
is a testament to the quality of writing in Here
Comes Mr. Jordan.
new 2K digital restoration looks fabulous. It has an uncompressed, monaural
soundtrack. Along with the aforementioned video conversation about the film,
the supplements include a long audio interview with Elizabeth Montgomery
(daughter of Robert Montgomery, and, yes, the star of Bewitched) about her father and the movie; the Lux Radio Theatre radio adaptation starring Cary Grant (who was
originally approached to star in the film—one can only imagine what it would
have been like with Grant), Rains, Keyes, and Gleason; and a trailer. An essay
by critic Farran Smith Nehme adorns the booklet.
little gem from Hollywood released just prior to America’s entrance into World
War II, Here Comes Mr. Jordan is a
genuine classic, arguably superior to its many remakes and imitations. You will
of Fritz Lang’s film noir of 1945, Scarlet Street, may do well to take a
look at this little French gem from 1931. Lang’s film was a Hollywood remake of
La Chienne, which was based on a
novel by Georges de La Fouchardière (it was also
adapted into a stage play by André Mouëzy-Éon).
More significantly, La Chienne was
the second—and first feature length—sound film by the great Jean Renoir.
had done well in the silent era, but the invention of talkies presented the
filmmaker with a larger palette of tools with which to craft some of his
greatest works. Beginning with La
Chienne, Renoir became France’s premiere director, a position he held for a
La Chienne translates as “The
Bitch,” and viewers may question which woman in the picture the title is referring
to—the lead, Lulu, a beautiful blonde “street woman” (a con artist and often a
prostitute), who serves as the femme
fatale of the story (and wonderfully played by Janie Marèze)... or the wife of our protagonist, such a shrew of a
woman that there’s no wonder why we sympathize with the poor schmuck, Maurice
(portrayed by the brilliant Michel Simon), a banker and part-time painter who
does everything he can to get away from his marriage and set up Lulu as his
mistress. Of course, Lulu is really being played by her lover and pimp, the nasty Andre (played by real-life Parisian
gangster Georges Flamant, who was also an amateur actor). Maurice is merely the
mark, the sucker who is seduced by lust and led to his ruin.
Unlike Scarlet Street, La Chienne is
more melodrama than film noir. Renoir
handles the material well without making it overwrought, and he succeeds in
developing fine character studies of the three leads. Those familiar with the
director’s later masterpieces such as Grand
Illusion (1937) and The Rules of the
Game (1939) will find this early work fascinating. Renoir’s signature mise-en-scène is easily identifiable,
even in its baby steps. Also impressive are the street scenes shot on
location—this was the real Paris of 1931, displayed in glorious black and
Michel Simon, like Renoir, was one of
France’s biggest film artists. Originally Swiss, Simon made French silent films
and later had a long run as an actor in talkies. He has a distinctive Bassett
Hound face, perfect for betraying first the joy and then the pain Lulu puts him
through. According to Renoir scholar Christopher Faulkner, who talks about the
movie in one of the disk’s supplements, apparently Simon fell in love with the
actress playing Lulu off-screen. But, like in the film, Janie Marèze was seeing Flamant, and this relationship was encouraged
by Renoir. Not long after production was completed, Marèze was killed in an automobile accident with Flamant at the
wheel. At the funeral, Simon allegedly threatened Renoir with a gun, but he
must have calmed down, for Simon starred in a subsequent Renoir feature, the
excellent Boudu Saved from Drowning
(1932; incidentally, this was remade in Hollywood in 1986 as Down and Out in Beverly Hills).
The Criterion Collection’s release
features a new, restored 4K digital transfer that looks so pristine and sharp
you might think the film was made last week. There’s an uncompressed monaural
soundtrack and a new English subtitles translation. Supplements include an
introduction to the film by Renoir himself, shot in 1961; the aforementioned
interview with Faulkner on the movie; a sparkling new restoration of Renoir’s
first sound film, the short On purge bébé
(also 1931), a comic bauble based on a one-act play by Georges Feydeau and also
starring Michel Simon; and a ninety-five minute 1967 French TV program
featuring a conversation between Renoir and Simon. An essay by film scholar
Ginette Vincendeau adorns the booklet.
A fine, notable release, and a must for
lovers of European cinema.
The 1961 MGM Western A Thunder of Drums has been released by the Warner Archives. The film was regarded as a standard oater in its day but has since built a loyal following who have been eager to have the movie available on the home video market. What sets A Thunder of Drums apart from many of the indistinguishable Westerns of the period is its downbeat storyline and intelligent script, which was clearly geared for adults as opposed to moppets. There's also the impressive cast: Richard Boone, George Hamilton, Charles Bronson, Arthur O'Connell, Richard Chamberlain and Slim Pickens among them.The film opens with a sequence that was very unsettling and shocking for its day: an Indian attack on a tranquil homestead. A little girl is forced to witness the gang rape and murders of her mother and teenage sister. The plot then shifts to the local fort where commandant Boone is overseeing an understaffed cavalry contingent that has to find and defeat the marauding tribe, which has already slaughtered numerous settlers and soldiers. The Indians are window dressing in the story: nameless, faceless adversaries who are not given any particular motivation for their savagery. (These was, remember, far less enlightened times and such conflicts were generally presented without nuance.)
George Hamilton is the by-the-book West Point graduate assigned to the fort as Boone's second-in-command. He gets a frosty reception from minute one. Boone tells him he doesn't meet the requirements of a seasoned officer who can survive in the hostile environment. The two men spend a good deal of their time in a psychological war of wills. Adding to Hamilton's discomfort is the discovery that his former lover, Luana Patten, is not only living at the remote outpost, but is engaged to one of his fellow officers. The two rekindle their own romance and this leads to scandalous and tragic results.
The film is based on a novel by popular Western writer James Warner Bellah and probably represents the career high water mark of director Joseph Newman, who was destined to toil for decades helming B movies. He gets vibrant performances from his cast. The ever-watchable Boone is in his predictably crusty mode, cynically second-guessing his officers and men, tossing out insults and sucking on an omnipresent stogie. Boone was so dominant in every role he played, one wonders why he never reached a higher status as a reliable box-office figure. Hamilton is in his standard pretty boy mode, but holds his own against macho men Boone and Charles Bronson, who is cast against type as a somewhat dim-witted character of low scruples. Singer Duane Eddy, who was a teenage pop star at the time, made his film debut here with a degree of fanfare, but it was obviously last minute stunt casting as Eddy is given virtually nothing to do except strum a few chords on his guitar. The film boasts some magnificent scenery and some rousing action sequences that are more realistic than those found in most Westerns of the time. A Thunder of Drums isn't art or even a great or important Western - but it is fine entertainment and the Warner Archive edition looks terrific. An original theatrical trailer is included.
We've long extolled the virtues of Sidney Lumet's 1964 screen adaptation of the Cold War Doomsday novel "Fail-Safe", which centers on an accidental order to launch a nuclear strike on the Soviet Union. The film was cursed on any number of levels, however. Lumet had a very small budget to work with and the film was delayed from release by Stanley Kubrick, who feared that it would tarnish his own Doomsday classic "Dr. Strangelove" if it were released first. Ultimately, Kubrick pressured Columbia, the studio behind "Strangelove", to buy the distribution rights to "Fail-Safe" and keep it on a shelf until "Strangelove" was out of theaters. The result was disappointing box-office returns for Lumet's masterful achievement, but the film has grown in popularity over the years. Director Joe Dante is also a fan of the film and provides some interesting facts about its production as a commentary over the movie's original trailer. It all appears on Dante's "Trailers From Hell" web site, along with hundreds of other trailers with commentaries. Click here to view.
always knew that porridge oats ranked among the world’s sexiest foodstuffs,
didn't you? You didn't? Neither did
advertising executive Teddy Brown, tasked with devising a promotional campaign
to 'sex up' under-performing breakfast product ‘McLaughlin's Frozen Porridge’
in risqué romp Every Home Should Have One
(1970, U.S.: Think Dirty). This
neglected gem has just been given a new breath of life in the UK via a
sparkling Blu-ray and DVD release, a constituent of Network Distributing's
ongoing British Film Collection.
by Marty Feldman (who also stars), Barry Took and Denis Norden, Every Home Should Have One delights in
taking a swipe at not only the absurd and superficial nature of the advertising
profession but also the hypocrisy of our self-imposed moral guardians (both
still valid targets 45 years on, I'd proffer), and the pitfalls of adopting a
permissive lifestyle. But most rewarding of all it gives bug-eyed, chaotic-haired
comic Feldman a free canvas to do his thing – and he delivers the funnies in
kernel of the tale concerns the life of ad man Teddy Brown (Marty Feldman).
Professionally he's struggling to come up with a sales idea that will please
both his boss (Shelley Berman) – whose own dismal ideas include giving away
free plastic sporrans – and their client (Jack Watson), a no-nonsense Scot.
Privately he's having to deal with his wife Liz (Judy Cornwell) joining a
‘Clean Up TV’ crusade presided over by the local Vicar (Dinsdale Landen). The
Vicar happens to have lascivious designs
on Liz, and their kleptomaniac son (Garry Miller) who, spurred by a TV play
entitled ‘The Fetish’, has developed hobbies that include purloining the
panties of the family’s string of au pairs (among them Julie Ege), which he squirrels
away between the pages of his stamp album.
Panty raided: Julie Ege.
Every Home Should
was produced by Ned Sherrin (also producer on such big screen rib-ticklers as The Virgin Soldiers and Frankie Howerd's
ribald Up trilogy) and directed by
Jim Clark (who two years on helmed Rentadick
– also produced by Sherrin and featuring Ege – but was better known for his
skills in the editing room; he scooped the Oscar for his work on The Killing Fields and brought his
expertise to The Mission, Charade, Agatha, Marathon Man and
Brosnan Bond thriller The World is Not
Enough, to name but a few).
garish couture might have dated the film a shade, but there’s still a lot of
fun to be found here, the plenteous smiles – it seldom evokes belly laughs –
proportionate, I’d suggest, to how much you like Feldman. He certainly had a Marmite
effect on audiences. For this writer's money, regardless of the fine assembly
of players backing him up (beyond those already namechecked there are terrific
turns from Francis de la Tour, Penelope Keith, Patrick Cargill, and an
uncredited Alan Bennett), Feldman is the crazy-glue who holds the movie
together. He effortlessly steals the show, at his most amusing in a clutch of Billy Liar-esque fantasy sequences which
pitch him into a horror film (as a voracious vampire), a black-and-white silent
movie, a sepia-tinted peepshow loop, a Swedish arthouse film and a zany
animation (graphics courtesy of Richard Williams, later-to-be titles animator
on several Pink Panther movies and
animation director on Who Framed Roger
Blu-Ray release comes highly recommended, delivering a colourful 1.66:1
presentation of the film with nary a trace of grain, its picture so clean that your eye is frequently
distracted by faddish 70s set dressing (such as the toy Captain Scarlet vehicle on the sideboard in the Brown household)
and minutiae like the nicotine stains on Feldman's fingers. The bonus materials
comprise an image gallery (which collects together a selection of lobby cards
and poster art), a trailer, a sans-subtitles replay of the Feldman/Ege arthouse
movie sketch and some original release promotional material in PDF format. Also
available on standard definition DVD.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from Paramount Home Media:
NEW YORK – Called “the best looking fantasy
series on TV” (IGN) and “damn fine television” (Collider), MTV’s hit show“The
Shannara Chronicles” Season One
arrives on DVD June 7, 2016. Executive produced and written for television
by Alfred Gough & Miles Millar (“Smallville”) and executive produced by Jon
Favreau (Iron Man), the lavish
fantasy series is based on the 26-volume book series by Terry Brooks. “The Shannara Chronicles” premiere on MTV was viewed 14.6 million times across linear
and digital platforms and delivered the best single-week performance on iTunes
ever for an MTV series.
Set thousands of years in the future, “The Shannara Chronicles” follows three
heroes, Elf-Human hybrid Wil (Austin Butler, “Arrow”), Elvin Princess Amberle
(Poppy Drayton, “Downton Abbey”), and Human Rover Eretria (Ivana Baquero, Pan’s Labryinth), as they embark on a
quest to stop an evil Demon army from destroying the world. The show also features Manu Bennett (The Hobbit), John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of the Rings), and James Remar
Arriving just in time for Father’s Day and
graduation gift-giving, the four-disc DVD set includes all 10 episodes from the
inaugural season along with more than 30 minutes of behind-the-scenes
footage. “The Shannara Chronicles”Season One DVD set has a suggested
retail price of $29.99 U.S./$32.99 Canada.
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES:
of the Dagda Mor
DVD Release Date: 6/7/16
U.S. Rating: NR
Running Time: 411 min
Chronicles” is written for television by and executive produced by Al Gough and
Miles Millar. Jon Favreau, Jonathan Liebesman, Terry Brooks and Dan Farah
also serve as executive producers. The first two episodes were directed by
Jonathan Liebesman (“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”).
Henry Mancini – a composer who will be forever linked
with sumptuous film and television music- returns to Vocalion in another CD
containing two classic RCA albums. Both from the early 1970s, Mancini Concert
and Mancini Plays the Theme from Love Story (CDLK 4582) highlight different
facets of his music making. Recorded to tie-in with Mancini’s 1971 American
concert tour, Mancini Concert (originally released 1971) is just that – a
studio recording of the sort of varied programme his audiences had come to
expect. The highlight is undoubtedly Portrait of Simon and Garfunkel, a
heartfelt orchestral rendering of several of the legendary duo’s best-known
melodies. In addition to inventive orchestrations of other contemporary
material including selections from The Who’s rock opera Tommy and the Andrew
Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice opus Jesus Christ Superstar, Mancini looks back to his
swing era roots in Big Band Montage. A Mancini album wouldn’t be complete
without some of his own music, and Mancini Concert addresses that through the inclusion
of March with Mancini, a medley of themes from Peter Gunn and The Great Race.
Mancini Plays the Theme from Love Story album (originally released 1970) capitalised
on his smash-hit arrangement of Francis Lai’s film theme. Indeed, film music is
the album’s cornerstone, and it includes several rare Mancini themes such as
The Night Visitor, The Hawaiians and Theme for Three, the last of these from
the Audrey Hepburn classic Wait until Dark. Remastered by Michael J. Dutton and
using the original analogue tapes, the audio quality, as with all of Vocalion’s
releases, is superb. Vocalion have reverted to just a 2 Panel (4 page) booklet
to accompany their latest Mancini release, but the inclusion of two full albums
manages to tilt the balance rather nicely.
albums Classical Concussion / Predictions (CDLK 4582), both originally released
in 1979, represent Vocalion’s latest voyage into the archives of the KPM 1000
Series, one of the world’s leading recorded music libraries and the home of some
superb film and TV music. Featuring the work
of brilliantly gifted composer and keyboardist Francis Monkman (a founder
member of progressive bands Curved Air and Sky), Classical Concussion (originally
KPM 1224) and Predictions (originally KPM 1233) are from the same era as his hugely
popular score for gangland thriller The Long Good Friday (1980). In fact,
Classical Concussion, recorded at Lansdowne Studios in November 1978, seems to
anticipate in places The Long Good Friday’s score. Nowhere is this more
apparent than in the opening track, ‘Release of Energy’, a thrilling title
theme that embedded itself in the consciousness of UK cinemagoers thanks to its
use (in abridged form) as the Rank Cinema chain’s ‘Preview Time’ jingle. The
dramatic ‘Power Games’ also became familiar to British cinemagoers through its
use as the Rank Cinema intermission theme. With its emphasis on electronic
music, Predictions is in the same mould as that of Sky’s debut album from the
same year. The imposing Passajig (a) is an unusual concoction of rhythm
section, synthesizer, church organ and, remarkably, the State Trumpeters of the
Band of The Household Cavalry. The magnificent sound of the State Trumpeters
introduces Prelude (a), a pulsating underscore with synthesizer ostinato that
conjures up visions of a futuristic metropolis. But the album’s best-known
track is Hypercharge, thanks to its inclusion in Arthur Gibson’s award-winning
1981 documentary about the Red Arrows, the aerobatics display team of the Royal
Air Force.Featuring super audio
quality, Vocalion continue to show their commitment regarding the KPM Library series.
Packaging consists of an excellent 6 page booklet with detailed liner notes
provided by Library expert Oliver Lomax. It doesn’t get much better.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
On May 3, fans of director Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” will have the
opportunity to revisit the acclaimed drama and learn even more fascinating
details about the real American war hero Chris Kyle and the Navy SEALS he
fought with. “American Sniper: The Chris
Kyle Commemorative Edition” arrives as a two-disc Blu-ray from Warner Bros.
Home Entertainment featuring a special commemorative disc with 60 minutes of
brand-new bonus content, including revealing in-depth documentaries narrated by
Bradley Cooper*. “American Sniper” stars
Cooper as Chris Kyle, whose skills as a lethal sniper and qualities as a human
being made him a hero both on and off the battlefield.
A two-time Oscar® nominee for his work in
“Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle,” Cooper stars alongside Sienna
Miller, Luke Grimes, Jake McDorman, Cory Hardrict, Kevin Lacz, Navid Negahban
and Keir O’Donnell.
Oscar®-winning filmmaker Clint Eastwood
(“Million Dollar Baby,” “Unforgiven”) directed “American Sniper” from a screenplay written by Jason Hall, based on
the book by Chris Kyle, with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. The autobiography
was a runaway bestseller, spending 18 weeks on the New York Times bestseller
list, 13 of those at number one.
The film is produced by Eastwood, Robert
Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper and Peter Morgan. Tim Moore, Jason Hall,
Sheroum Kim, Steven Mnuchin and Bruce Berman served as executive producers.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will donate
$1.00 of the purchases to Chris Kyle Frog Foundation up to $150,000 from April
19, 2016 through December 31, 2016, void in Alabama, Hawaii, Illinois,
Massachusetts, Mississippi and South Carolina.
The aim of the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation is
to provide meaningful, interactive experiences to service members, first
responders and their families, aimed at enriching their family relationships.
Prior to his untimely passing in February 2013, Chris had begun casting his
vision for the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation to provide experiences for service
and first responder families to work through many of the difficulties he and
Taya had experienced post-deployment. As Executive Director of the foundation,
Taya and a dedicated team are ensuring Chris’ vision, desire and legacy to the
country he served carries on now and into the future. For more information on
the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, please visit www.chriskylefrogfoundation.org.
“American Sniper: The Chris Kyle Commemorative Edition” will be
offered on two Blu-ray discs in double elite case packaging for $24.98 SRP.
From director Clint Eastwood comes “American Sniper,” starring Bradley
Cooper as Chris Kyle, whose skills as a sniper made him a hero on the
battlefield. But there was much more to him than his skill as a sharpshooter.
Navy SEAL Chris Kyle is sent to Iraq with
only one mission: to protect his brothers-in-arms. His pinpoint accuracy saves
countless lives on the battlefield, and as stories of his courageous exploits
spread, he earns the nickname “Legend.” However, his reputation is also growing
behind enemy lines, putting a price on his head and making him a prime target
of insurgents. He is also facing a different kind of battle on the home front:
striving to be a good husband and father from halfway around the world.
Despite the danger,
as well as the toll on his family at home, Chris serves through four harrowing
tours of duty in Iraq, personifying the spirit of the SEAL creed to “leave no
one behind.” But upon returning to his wife Taya (Sienna Miller) and kids,
Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind.
Sniper: The Chris Kyle Commemorative Edition” Blu-ray contains the following
special features: ·*Chris Kyle: The Man Behind the Legend -- NEW! In
never-before-seen home movies, family, friends and fellow soldiers reveal
another side of ChrisKyle. ·*Navy SEALS: In War and Peace – NEW! Join Taya Kyle
and legendary SEAL Marcus Luttrell as they illuminate the secret world of
America’s elite fightingforce. ·Bringing the War Home: The Cost of Heroism – Previously only
limited availability! Discover the challenges faced by many U.S. veterans whose
return home can often be as daunting as their time atwar. ·One Soldier’s Story: The Journey of American Sniper Join director Clint
Eastwood, cast and crew as they overcome enormous creative and logistic
obstacles to bring the truth of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle’s story to thescreen. ·The Making of AmericanSniper
Earnshaw, one of our contributing writers, has trawled his extensive archive of
interviews with prolific directors – accrued over some 20 years of attending
press junkets – and cherry picked a selection of the most worthy material for
his new book "Fantastique: Interviews with Horror, Sci-Fi and Fantasy
Filmmakers" (a title which, on the copyright page, is tantalisingly
suffixed with a parenthesised Volume I).
bulk of the content comprises 30 interviews with genre directors (a few of them
in the company of their stars or writers), each speaking primarily about one of
their films. Adopting an A-Z format by director, each interview is preceded by
cast, credits and a brief synopsis for the film under discussion. There’s a
diverse collective of talent represented too, from the big boys (Quentin
Tarantino discusses 2007's Death Proof,
Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale talk about 2005's Batman Begins, George Lucas promotes 1999’s Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace) to the possibly less
familiar, but no less significant (Frank Khalfoun on his imaginative 2013 restaging
of Maniac, André Øvredaldiscussing
2011's Troll Hunter).
around a third of these interviews were conducted in the more intimate environs
of one-on-one sessions, the remainder derive from press junkets mounted at the
time of each film's release. Whether the responses gleaned to questions posed
under such circumstances can be considered entirely honest or not is debatable,
the very purpose of those (usually contractual) gatherings being for directors
and all manner of other associated creative parties to sell their movie as the
best thing to ever hit the screen; it can often take a bit of distance and the
benefit of hindsight to extrude more candid comments. However, given that most
of the films under discussion here were bona fide critical and financial
successes adds considerably to the veracity of the directors’ words.
anecdotes harbour a ring of familiarity (again, being the product of press events,
they were repeated often), but this reader found enough fresh meat and potatoes
to compensate. Everyone will have their favourite chapters (as likely to be dictated
by one’s liking for a particular film as they are a partiality to the director
at hand); among the highlights for this reader were Tim Burton (on 2000's Sleepy Hollow) revealing Christopher
Walken's apparent fear of horses (he must have had a tough time on the likes of
1978’s Shoot the Sun Down and 1985
Bond caper A View to a Kill too then!),
William Friedkin (on 1973's The Exorcist)
dismissing the stories of the much-publicised curse surrounding the production
and his disinclination to ever integrate the legendarily shelved "spider
walk" sequence into the film (which, in a new cut some years later, was), James Mangold talking about his
multi-layered mystery masterpiece Identity
(2003), and literally everything a tirelessly enthusiastic Frank Henenlotter
had to say in a 2012 retrospective discussing his movie-saturated youth and in
particular his barmy 1982 comic horror film Basket
with a foreword from noted genre writer Bruce G Hallenbeck and rounded off with
a listing of director filmographies, “Fantastique” is an irresistibly worthy
addition to the library of anyone with even a passing interest in fantastic
cinema. Roll on Volume II.
Howdy, pardners. It’s western movie roundup time at
Cinema Retro today. Here are a handful of oldie westerns recently released on
DVD by the Warner Archive- and which are now available in the Cinema Retro
Movie Store. And a rootin’, tootin’, downright interesting bunch of movies they
First up, “Station West” with Dick Powell and Jane Greer.
Ever wonder what would happen if private dick Philip Marlowe traveled back in
time to the old west and tried to solve a murder case? That’s essentially what
you have with Station West, an offbeat western filmed in black and white that
plays like film noir, except all the men wear wide-brimmed Stetsons instead of
Fedoras, and shoot Colt Peacemakers and Winchesters instead of snubbed nosed
.38s. To further mix up the western and detective genres Jane Greer, the most fatale of all femme fatales, is on hand, playing Charlie, a hard-boiled gal who
runs a gambling house and just possibly a few things more.
Powell plays Army Intelligence investigator John Haven
who arrives in town to find out who killed a couple of cavalrymen who were
transporting gold. Powell is his usual,
laconic self, cracking wise and engaging in some sharp dialog written by Frank
Fenton and Winston Miller. To wit:
Haven sits down at Charlie’s table uninvited.
You like to take chances, don't you?
I feel lucky.
Charlie: I advise you to try the dice table.
Haven: I'd rather get lucky here.
Every man has the right to his own funeral.
Released by RKO in 1952 the movie is loaded with a
supporting cast made up of veterans of that studio’s numerous noir crime
thrillers. Raymond Burr, Regis Toomey, Steve Brodie, Guinn Big Boy Williams,
Agnes Moorehead and Burl Ives are all on hand and just right as the shadowy characters
that populate this crooked little town. Based on a Luke Short novel, “Station
West” provides a diverting 87 minutes of curious, off-beat, entertainment.
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Next up is “Rough Shod” (1949), another RKO black and
white western, this one starring Robert Sterling, Gloria Graham, and John
Ireland. It starts out with Lednov (Ireland) and his two fellow escaped
convicts creeping up on a camp of drovers from a nearby ranch. They kill them
in cold blood and steal their horses and clothes. Not far away Clay Phillips (Sterling)
and his kid brother, Steve (Claude Jarman of The Yearling) are driving eight
head of horses to Sonora to set up a stage line. In town, the sheriff asks if
Clay will join the posse to round up the convicts. Clay says no thanks, adding
he’s pretty sure Lednov will come looking for him. They’ve got a history.
Also on the road is dancehall gal Mary Wells (Graham) and
her three “co-workers” who got kicked out of town by the decent folk. Clay and
Steve run into them on the trail when their buggy breaks down and Clay
reluctantly agrees to help them by taking them in his wagon to the nearest
ranch. The nearest ranch belongs to Ed Wyatt and good old Ed and his wife,
never knew it to fail, well, they get paid a visit by Lednov and his friends.
Meanwhile Clay and Mary are on the trail and she’s starting to get under his
skin. But Clay’s ready to kiss her off soon as they get to the Wyatt place,
because all he cares about is dropping her and the other ladies off at the
Wyatt place, getting the horses to Sonora and setting up his stage line.
I know you’re thinking, oh boy, Clay, Steve and the dance
hall girls are going to ride into a real mess at the Wyatt place. Probably get
captured. Clay and Steve probably get
beat up, with the leering convicts having their way with the dance hall gals.
Well, that’s what would have happened if Anthony Mann had directed “Roughshod.”
But this movie was directed by Mark Robson, who made movies like “Bright
Victory”, “The Bridges of Toko-Ri,” and “Champion.” He wasn’t into that kinky
stuff. Instead, once the convicts get enough to eat, they say
goodbye to the Wyatts and ride off! After that build up to nothing, the movie
become more or less a soap opera. Mary sees an opportunity to lead a decent
normal life with a guy like Clay and sets out to hog tie him matrimonially
speaking. There are a couple of subplots involving one of the girls who just
happens to be the Wyatt’s daughter, and conflict between Clay and Steve over
the roughshod (get it, Roughshod?) way
Clay treats Mary. It’s all tied up at the end when finally, after all that
romantic folderol, Lednov and his men show up and there’s a pretty well-staged
shootout in the woods.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM THE CINEMA RETRO MOVIE STORE
Winner's ribald 1983 reimagining of 1945’s venerated The Wicked Lady gets a long overdue UK DVD release from Second
Sight in July. Bristling with star names delivering some of the most cringe-worthy
performances of their careers, needless to say it's an essential acquisition.
beautiful Caroline (Glynis Barber) invites her dearest friend Barbara (Faye
Dunaway) to meet her husband-to-be, Sir Ralph Skelton (Denholm Elliott). The
manipulative Barbara seduces Skelton and the demure Caroline graciously steps
aside allowing them to wed. Quickly tiring of her affluent and influential
position as Lady Skelton, Barbara is soon looking for something to spice up her
life. One night, desperate to retrieve jewellery that she has carelessly forfeited
in a game of cards, she dons attire akin to that of infamous local highwayman
Captain Jackson. The adrenaline rush she gets from the experience gives her a
taste to continue her nocturnal thievery, but inevitably it isn’t long before
she crosses paths with the real Jackson (Alan Bates), an encounter that gives
rise to an unexpected turn of events.
German release poster
on the novel "The Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton" by
Magdalen King-Hall, Winner’s The Wicked
Lady was produced by Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, whose
production company The Cannon Group spat out literally dozens of films in its
heyday, many of them big star vehicles and most of them pretty bad – though, it
has to be said, few of them less than entertainingly so. Winner would work with
the gregarious producers several times throughout the 80s, taking the helm for Death Wish II and 3, Bullseye (with Golan
alone) and Hercule Poirot mystery Appointment
The director took co-writing credit on The Wicked Ladywith the original version's scripter Leslie Arliss. The resulting film has taken a lot of flack throughout the years for its vapidity – and, rest assured, high art it most certainly ain't. But as guilty pleasures go they don't come much more rewarding. I mean, what's not to like about a movie in which Faye Dunaway andStar Trek: The Next Generation's Marina Sirtis get into a gratuitously protracted, BBFC-baiting catfight which evolves into a skirmish with whips during which Dunaway lashes her opponents clothing to shreds? It's something of a star-studded affair too; along with Dunaway, Elliott, Bates and Barber there's substantial input from the likes of John Gielgud, Oliver Tobias, Prunella Scales and Joan Hickson. Performances are uniformly ripe and one or two are camper than a field full of tents…which, perversely, only serves to enhance the film’s entertainment value. Dunaway was actually nominated for a 1984 Razzie as worst actress forThe Wicked Lady– and witnessing her overwrought performance in the final scene one could argue a strong case for her having romped it – though she was ultimately trounced by Pia Zadora forThe Lonely Lady.
It was always going to be something rather good that
would eventually topple Jaws (1975) from the box office number one slot. Sydney
Pollack’s compelling political thriller, Three Days of the Condor, achieved
that feat. It is a film steeped in speculative government dealings and the
shady side of its associations with large business corporations.Three Days of the Condor is arguably one of
the greatest thrillers to emerge from the 70s. it arrived directly in the
slipstream of the Watergate scandal that had witnessed the toppling of a
president and a severe shifting of the United States political arena. The
ripple effect from such political scandals bought about a change in American
cinema with film directors examining the fringes and paranoia fallout that
subsequently evolved. The darker side of American politics had suddenly become
the new in-vogue sub-genre. Probing thrillers such as Alan J. Pakula’s All the
President's Men (1976) became fascinating exposés as well as enlightening forms
In Three Days of the Condor, Robert Redford stars as
Joe Turner; he’s an everyman employed on a clerical level by the CIA in New
York City. He’ss smart; an expert of sorts who provides advice and analysis
based upon foreign publications and what might be hiding in between the lines. One
afternoon he dashes out to the local deli to collect the lunch orders for the
office staff. He returns to his office to find that his entire group of colleagues
has been massacred. Panic stricken and confused, Turner calls his superiors to
request that he be bought in safely. However, the situation is turned on its
head when he finds himself being hunted down by the same group that murdered
his colleagues- and on the directive of his CIA superiors.
In desperation, and acting on pure adrenalin, Turner
abducts Kathy (Faye Dunaway) a photographer. Turner needs to get off the
streets and take some time to piece together the mystery. He ultimately wins
over Kathy and convinces her to assist him, despite the danger to her own life.
Because the twosome is played by Redford
and Dunaway, it will surprise no one that they become lovers in the process. Together, Joe and Kathy begin to unravel
clues while a sinister, lone assassin (Max Von Sydow) calmly manoeuvres ever
closer in their footsteps.
Some 40 years on, Three Days of the Condor still
works superbly. Based on James Grady's
novel, it is interesting to observe how the passing years have witnessed the
author’s fictional elements materialise into accountable elements of fact, a
realisation that makes the story that much more chilling. The passing of time
deems it almost entirely plausible, which perhaps diminishes the shock value to
some degree. Right or wrong, there is almost an acceptance regarding the shady
conspiracies that unfold when viewed today, even more so than at the time of
the film’s original release.
Redford and Dunaway are both magnetic on screen, two
iconic stars that were dominant on the silver screen around the mid-Seventies. Pollack’s
direction is tight and tense and keeps the narrative flowing at an even,
constant pace. Also noteworthy is Dave
Grusin's smooth and funky Jazz score. In recent times it has become something
of a legendary soundtrack and one that has rightly been proclaimed as a 70s
Eureka’s 1080p transfer is very nice indeed, Condor
(through the various incarnations I have previously owned) has never appeared
or stood out as the sharpest of 70s movies. Some scenes tend to have a ‘director’s
intent’ soft focus to them. However, its hidden beauty is made apparent with tighter,
close up shots, which look superbly detailed and reveal a vivid natural
clarity. The film also appears to be rather brighter – especially in night
shots. Blacks especially appear to retain just the right balance without
falling off into the dreaded, milky grey spectrum. The picture is clean
throughout and does not reveal any signs of blemishes, dirt particles or
scratches. The film’s audio is provided by
way of an English LPCM 2.0 channel and an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
channel mix. The purist in me opted for the 2.0 channel mix, which is both
clear and perfectly detailed.
In the bonus features you will find The Directors:
Sydney Pollack – an original (and excellent) 60 minute documentary that
examines the film-making career of the esteemed filmmaker. It’s a great watch
which includes archival interviews and features contributions from Cliff
Robertson, Paul Newman, Harrison Ford, Meryl Streep, Julia Ormond and Sally
Field. There is also a new video presentation featuring film historian Dr. Sheldon
Hall who discusses (in detail) the production history of the movie, the
identities of the main protagonists, the evolution of their relationships and Pollack's
directing style. As with any piece
featuring Sheldon Hall, you know you are in good, intelligent company with a
man who knows his subject well. At 22 minutes, it sadly passes all too soon. Also
included is the original theatrical trailer, which is generous at around 3
minutes. Included within is a superbly produced 32-page illustrated booklet
featuring a new essay by film critic Michael Brooke and an extensive interview with Sydney Pollack. It
is apparent that Brooke has obviously researched his subject to the highest
standard. Intelligent and hugely informative, Brooke’s writing is supported by
an equally impressive array of archival images. The booklet is a lovingly produced
piece that almost warrants its admission fee alone.
It’s a shame that Eureka’s Region B package doesn’t
include the Sydney Pollack commentary track as this is an addition I would have
dearly loved to hear. I can only assume this was unavailable due to copyright
restrictions, but as an admirer of Pollack’s work and legacy, I’m sure it would
provide a fascinating listen. Nevertheless, Eureka’s presentation pushes all
the right buttons and serves as a perfect example of what made 70s cinema so
unique and so damn good. Grab it without hesitation. https://www.eurekavideo.co.uk/moc/three-days-condor