“It Takes a Thief,” the
iconic adventure/espionage series that many consider Robert Wagner’s defining role,
has had an interesting if somewhat checkered DVD release history. As reported
in Cinema Retro back in 2010, the first digital presentation of Alexander
Mundy’s nefarious exploits appeared in July of that year courtesy of the German
company Polyband, which released all 16 season one episodes in a pair of
three-disc sets, followed up with a four-disc set featuring 12 of the 26 season
two episodes, but then inexplicably ended its release program. These Region 2
sets, which have English as well as German audio options, are still available
at Amazon Germany.
In October 2010, Australia’s
Madman Entertainment jumped into the fray, putting out the complete first
season in a five-disc set, and subsequently issuing seasons two and three as
seven-disc sets. These Region 4 sets are now out of print.
Meanwhile, American fans clamoring
for a long-overdue Region 1 release finally had their wishes granted courtesy
of the Canadian media distribution company Entertainment One, which packaged
all 66 episodes, the full-length pilot film, plus video interviews with Wagner
and writer-producer Glen A. Larson into an 18-disc box set that went on sale in
November 2011. That set, unfortunately, is also no longer available.
Somehow, a world in which Al
Mundy—still the epitome of glamor, sophistication and excitement—is no longer readily
accessible to his countless fans just doesn’t seem right. However, “It Takes a
Thief” fans who failed to nab one of the aforementioned DVD options have now
been granted a reprieve, albeit from an unexpected quarter.Yep, the Germans have once again come to the rescue of this irreplaceable
cultural touchstone. To which we can only say a heartfelt danke schön!
Fernsehjuwelen, a DVD label
that specializes in “jewels of film & TV history,” has just released the
complete series in a deluxe 21-disc Region 2 set that can be purchased through
Amazon Germany. Comparable in most respects to the out-of-print Entertainment
One box, this new set does raise the bar significantly in terms of image
quality, at least for the season three episodes. The eOne set did right by the
season one and two episodes, which were generally sharp and clear; but season
three was problematic, with some episodes exhibiting a marked drop-off in
sharpness and, worse, considerable color bleeding and ghosting. Important
visual detail was sometimes lost, especially during nighttime or low-light
scenes. This was frustrating, as many of the third season “It Takes a Thief”
episodes were filmed in Italy, and the variable resolution detracted from the
beautiful location photography.
No such issues arise with
the Fernsehjuwelen discs. Each season three episode boasts excellent color
balance and image clarity. This is the main improvement offered by “Ihr
Auftritt, Al Mundy!”—the German title for the series that translates to: “Your
Performance, Al Mundy!” This set includes the same video interviews of Wagner
and Larson from the eOne set; an interview with Rainer Brandt, the German actor
who dubbed Wagner in many of the episodes; and an extensive German-language
booklet written by Oliver Bayan that features interviews he conducted with
Wagner and co-star Malachi Throne in 2010. Unless you sprechen Deutsch, you’ll have to avail yourself of Google
translation to read these brief but fascinating Q&As.
The Fernsehjuwelen box set,
which houses all 21 discs in a sturdy multi-DVD case, is available through www.amazon.de for EUR 58.99, which works out to
approximately US $63.43. Need I say that it’s a veritable steal?
(Note: to view this set, you will need a Region 2 or all-region DVD player.)
From the August 1968 issue of British Photoplay, Ingrid Pitt gets her first major break in films when she is cast by director Brian G. Hutton and producer Elliott Kastner in the MGM WWII adventure Where Eagles Dare starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
The Man. The Legend. “The King of
Cool.” For decades, Steve McQueen has captured our hearts and
imaginations. His canon of films is filled with classic titles such as The
Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Sand Pebbles, The
Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Getaway and Papillon.
But his career was almost derailed by a doomsday pet
project that took nearly a decade to come to fruition: the ill-fated 1971 film Le
As it stands, Le Mans is the most discussed,
debated, examined and beloved auto racing film of all-time, which is
mind-boggling if the initial reviews of the movie are read. But ask
any motoring aficionado what is their favorite racing movie of all-time, and
nine times out of ten it will be Le Mans with an exclamation point.
Now Don Nunley, the property master for Le Mans and
Marshall Terrill, the star’s preeminent biographer, reveal the true story of
the actor and the movie in the new book Steve McQueen: Le Mans in the
Rearview Mirror (Dalton Watson Fine Books – April 10, 2017).
Featuring hundreds of never-before-seen color photos of
the superstar in his prime and a lively narrative, Steve McQueen: Le Mans
in the Rearview Mirror is an indispensable book on auto racing’s most
respected film, Le Mans and one of cinema’s most beloved stars.
“It was a bumpy ride for all of us. It was the strangest
picture that I ever worked on in three decades of filmmaking. And I can confirm
that it was not a fun experience,” Nunley said. “What was supposed to be a
simple, straightforward movie to make ended up being a five-month nightmare of
epic proportions. I like to think of myself as an easy-going guy who generally
looks for the silver lining in every cloud, but I’m still looking for one in
There were high hopes about the 106-minute motion picture
at the time principal photography commenced in June 1970. Five months later
when filming ended, there was no wrap party, no toasts, no grand farewells;
every-one just quietly went away, thankful their ordeal was finally over.
Steve McQueen was an honest-to-goodness real life racing
fanatic, and Le Mans was supposed to be his cinematic dream come
true. But the movie left him with bitter feelings and lasting emotional dents
in his armor. There were conflicts with the original director, John Sturges,
personal excesses, budget woes, a war with the studio, a shutdown, months of
delays, and an unfortunate accident that left one driver without a leg.
At the time, McQueen was at the height of his
stratospheric popularity after an amazing string of box-office hits. Le
Mans coincided with his mid-life crisis, racking up several casualties
along the way. In one fell swoop, McQueen ended a 15-year marriage, severed
ties with his longtime agent and producing partners, saw his production company
collapse and lost a personal fortune, not to mention control of the film he had
planned to make for over a decade.
He was also in constant fear for his life after learning
on the set that he was on Charles Manson’s “death list.” And at the end of the
snake-bitten picture, McQueen was presented with a seven-figure bill by the
Internal Revenue Service for back taxes.
Decades after crash-landing at the box-office and its
savaging by critics, Le Mans has left an indelible legacy in the auto
racing world and movie industry.
For more on the book and to order from the publisher click here.
# # #
About the Authors:
Since 1959, Don Nunley has worked in the motion picture
industry as a property master, set decorator and production designer. Nunley
also started the first product placement agency in Hollywood, working to get
products into movies and TV shows, including E.T. drinking Coors beer and Tom
Cruise sporting Ray Bans for Top Gun and Risky Business.
Marshall Terrill is the world’s foremost expert on Steve
McQueen and the author of more than 20 books, including best-selling
biographies of McQueen, Elvis Presley and Pete Maravich.
Antonioni’s Blowup (it’s spelled this
way in the film credits, but on theatrical posters and advertising it was
called Blow-Up) was a landmark,
envelope-pushing film that caused quite a stir. For one thing, it was one of
the nails in the coffin of the U.S. Production Code, paving the way for the
elimination of cinematic censorship and the eventual creation of the movie
ratings. Its depiction of nudity, sexual attitudes, and recreational drugs
crossed the line for late 1966. Nevertheless, newspaper ads got away with
simply proclaiming that the picture was “Recommended for Mature Audiences,”
since this was prior to the ratings themselves.
Blowup also stands as a
cultural landmark in that it captures that moment of time called “Swinging
London.” Everything was “mod”—music, fashion, art... even groups of youths were
called “mods.” Antonioni’s film could serve as a time capsule for that period
of artistic rebellion. It’s also a curiosity in that it was an Italian-British
co-production, financed by Hollywood—but it definitely comes off as “English.” The
filmmaker received his only Best Director Oscar nomination for the picture, and
he shared a nomination for Original Screenplay with Tonino Guerra.
story concerns Thomas, a professional photographer (charismatically portrayed
by David Hemmings), who we follow as he goes about his daily routine of
shooting gorgeous fashion models and whatever else strikes his fancy as he
roams London. He’s estranged from his wife (Sarah Miles), and it’s apparent
they have an open relationship (how very mod of them!). One day, while
strolling through Maryon Park (which still looks practically the same today),
Thomas spies a lovely young woman (Vanessa Redgrave) with an older man. He
snaps pictures without the couple knowing it, but then the woman chases Thomas
down and demands to have the film. He won’t give it up—the pictures are going
into an art book he’s planning to publish. When he develops the roll, Thomas
discovers that a murder may have occurred. Later on that night, he returns to
the park and finds that, indeed, the older man’s body is lying in the grass. The
mystery of the crime becomes Thomas’ obsession.
isn’t much plot beyond that. Instead, Antonioni presents an existential
treatise on the nature of seeing and not-seeing, or perhaps imagination vs.
reality. Thomas seems to have everything a good-looking, talented man could
want—his pick of “birds” (yes, that was the slang for “girls” then), money, a
fancy car, and the freedom to chase the muse. And yet, there is something
missing in his life and it soon becomes obvious that he’s not very happy. The
uncovering of the mystery further shakes him out of party mode and forces him
to face the real world. It’s a theme Antonioni explores in several of his
film is a visual feast. The sets are filled with the modern art of the period
and “Twiggy”-style clothing. The London locations are used to a great
advantage, and many of these are revisited in the new documentary on the making
of the film that is included as a supplement on the disk. The soundtrack is
also “hip”—Herbie Hancock provides the jazz score, and the Yardbirds (which at
the time included Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page) appear as themselves and perform at
an underground club. The ménage à trois scene that caused
all the fuss with the Production Code and features Hemmings, Jane Birkin (who
at the time was married to composer John Barry), and Gillian Hills, is wild and
raucous and was probably pretty shocking at the time—but today it would barely
classify for an “R” rating in the U.S.
Criterion Collection’s new Blu-ray release of Blowup exploits all of these assets in a gorgeous restored 4K
digital transfer and an uncompressed monaural soundtrack. The supplements are
plentiful—the aforementioned 2016 documentary; new pieces on Antonioni’s
artistic approach with photography curators Walter Moser and Philippe Garner
and art historian David Alan Mellor; a 2016 conversation with Vanessa Redgrave;
two archival interviews with David Hemmings; an archival interview with Jane
Birkin; footage from the 1967 Cannes Film Festival at which Blowup won the Grand Prix (also with an interview with the director); and two
trailers. The set comes with a fairly thick, lavishly illustrated booklet
featuring an essay by film scholar David Forgacs, an updated 1966 account of
the film’s shooting by Stig Björkman, the
questionnaires distributed to photographers and painters while developing the
film, and the 1959 Julio Cortázar short story on
which the film is loosely based.
short, Criterion has released an exemplary set for a milestone film. So take a
trip back to the swinging sixties for some free love, pop music, and far-out
modern art. It will turn you on.
Olive Films has released the 1990 TV movie "The Last Best Year" as a no-frills DVD. The movie is a sobering account of a young woman's battle against life-threatening cancer. Jane Murray is a 38 year-old career woman who has distinguisher herself in the corporate travel industry. A workaholic, Jane has placed her career trajectory above everything else. Consequently, she's respected by her boss and her peers but her personal life is largely devoid of personal relationships. She lives a solitary existence with only a pet cat as a companion. Her love life is relegated to occasional flings with an older married man. She seems content with her lot in life until she becomes mysteriously ill. She ignores the symptoms of weakness and dizziness until a visit to her physician, Dr. Castle (Brian Beford) becomes unavoidable. He delivers the bad news: she has terminal cancer and has only a number of months to live. The diagnosis hits Jane with understandably devastating results. She suddenly takes stock of her life and realizes how many unfilled dreams there are. Dr. Castle suggests that she get counseling from his friend, psychiatrist Wendy Haller (Mary Tyler Moore). However, Wendy is reluctant to take on Jane as a client because she is hesitant to form relationship with someone who is destined to die in a few months. It turns out that Wendy is haunted by the death of her own father at a young age when she was a little girl and has had her own mental barriers when it comes to dealing with people facing untimely deaths. Nevertheless, she is moved by Dr. Castle's pleas and agrees to see Jane. The two women form a close bond that goes beyond a doctor/client relationship. Wendy is happily married to a good man and they have a healthy son who is a college student. She realizes through Jane's plight how fortunate her own life is. She devotes herself to ensuring that Jane's remaining days are as as pleasant and fulfilling as possible. Jane has no living relatives except for her aunt Lizzie (Carmen Matthews), who still lives in a small town in Kansas where Jane was born. At Wendy's urging, Jane decides to make a surprise visit to Lizzie, who is delighted to see her. Through Lizzie, she learns much about her own childhood and the qualities of her parents, both of whom died at young ages.
As Jane's health declines, she increasingly relies on emotional support from a new found friendship with her secretary Amy (Erika Alexander), Lizzie and Wendy. Jane makes a shocking confession to Wendy: at age 18 she became pregnant. Alone and desperate, she received care in a convent and signed a legal agreement to give her baby son up for adoption. Over the years she has been haunted by the boy's fate. Before she passes away she wants to find out what his disposition in life is in the hope that he has been happy and successful. However, the agreement with the convent precludes her from finding out who her son's adoptive parents are and making any inquiries of them. Jane makes a trip to visit Sister Mary Rose (Kate Reid) at the convent in the desperate hope that an exception might be made so that she can have some peace of mind about her son's fate. The latter portion of the story concentrates on this aspect of Jane's dilemma as she finds her physical health diminishing rapidly and being confined to a bed.
Reunited: Mary Tyler Moore and Bernadette Peters at tribute dinner for Moore at the Players club in New York City, 2009. (Photo copyright Cinema Retro. All rights reserved),
"The Last Best Year" is what would have been quaintly referred to in time's past as a "two-handkerchief" production, given the amount of emotional baggage the character of Jane is forced to carry. Although the movie was clearly designed to appeal to female viewers, it's central theme of how a health crisis can affect far more people than the person who is afflicted will resonate with everyone. The performances are universally excellent (the film features the final acting role of Dorothy McGuire in a supporting role) with Moore proving once again that she had plenty of skill in playing dramatic roles. The revelation at the time was that Bernadette Peters could, too. Up to this point, Peters was primarily known for her singing skills and for playing light comedy. She gives a superb performance as Jane, a strong-willed, courageous woman who never loses her dignity even as her personal situation leaves her in a rather undignified status, forced to rely on the kindness of her circle of newly-found friends. The production is very sensitively directed by John Erman, who eschews over-the-top sentiment and provides a realistic scenario that millions of people can identify with: the challenge of bringing comfort to a dying loved one. "The Last Best Year" is a predictably sad experience but ultimately one that manages to be uplifting, as well, as it deals with a brave individual and the caring people around her who try to make her tragic situation as bearable as possible. In that respect it concentrates on the best aspects of human nature, something only rarely seen in many of today's television productions.
We are pleased to announce that Cinema Retro magazine has once again been nominated for Best Magazine by the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards. (Rondo Hatton was the famed character actor who often played villains in "B" movies that are now cult favorites.) Although Cinema Retro differs from most of our worthy competitors because we are not strictly a horror-themed magazine, apparently we do cover the genre enough to impress the nominating group. It's a lot of fun participating in the awards which cover many other categories such as best film, best DVD commentary, best DVD extras, best restoration, etc. We'll put a blatant plug in for our own writer Mark Mawston, who is nominated for his wonderful interview with the late, great Ray Harryhausen in an issue of Scary Monsters magazine. (see category 14 on the ballot). Click here to access the awards site.
Some enterprising fans of Patrick McGoohan's landmark television series "The Prisoner" intend to celebrate the show's 50th anniversary with a multi-day convention that will be held in Seattle on September 29-October 1, 2017. You may not get to meet Number One but you will have plenty of activities including screenings, lectures, appearances by actors who were in the show, musical performances, cocktail parties and theatrical re-enactments. For more details and ticket info click here. "Be seeing you!"
In this 1995 segment from Turner Classic Movies, Martin Scorsese pays tribute to the American Western and examines such classics as "The Searchers", "The Naked Spur", "The Left-handed Gun" and "Unforgiven".
This portion of the movie section from a 1966 edition of The New York Times indicates just a portion of how many fine movies were in release during a single week. Among them: "The Ipcress File", "Thunderball", "Darling", "The Hill", "The Slender Thread", "A Patch of Blue", "Bunny Lake is Missing", "Viva Maria!", "The Pawnbroker" and a Beatles double feature: "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!". Those really were the days!
Here's a vintage Sean Connery interview from Belgian television. The description says its from 1969 but it must have been filmed in 1968, as Connery refers to the still undetermined American presidential election between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. He also discusses his observations about American life, how success has affected him, his retirement from the James Bond role (he gives a nod to the "new" 007, George Lazenby) and discusses making his recent western "Shalako" with Brigitte Bardot.
Welles, Bogdanovich and Huston on the set of The Other Side of the Wind.
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Netflix has ridden to the rescue to team with a crowdfunding effort that raised $400,000 to help complete Orson Welles' final film, "The Other Side of the Wind", which is perhaps the most legendary unseen movie of all time. Welles promised that the movie would mark his return to greatness but his independent financing sources were diverse and unreliable. The production of the movie dragged on for many years and Welles was trying to complete it when he died in 1985. The film's original production manager, producer Frank Marshall, will oversee completion of the project, working in conjunction with filmmaker Filip Jan Rymsza, who headed the fundraising effort. Director Peter Bogdanovich, a protege and friend of Welles who appeared in the film, has worked diligently for many years to complete the movie but always ran into obstacles. Bogdanovich will serve as a consultant on the Netflix project. The few people who have seen footage from the movie, which Welles had mostly completed at the time of his death, provided mixed emotions, with some saying it's a strange and off-putting movie while others proclaim it a work of genius. It is a scathing take down of hypocrisy in Hollywood. The film stars John Huston playing a once-great director who has fallen on hard times, thus leading some to speculate Welles viewed the character as his alter ego. While no one doubted Welles' genius, his prickly nature, offbeat projects and unreliable habits caused major studios to shun working with him. Welles had turned to finding independent funding from often shady sources that would sometimes dry up unexpectedly. Additionally when Welles did get a substantial sum infused into the film, he would often blow through it by spending it on expensive hotel suites, fine wines and upscale cigars. The highly unusual deal by Netflix is sure to win praise from classic movie lovers who have hungered to see "The Other Side of the Wind". For more click here.
A wonderfully understated comedy-drama, The
Electric Horseman follows the story of Sonny Steele (Robert Redford), a five-time
champion rodeo cowboy now turned brand spokesman for AMPco, a giant corporate
firm selling 'Ranch' breakfast cereal. Steele's
life has become essentially a series of advertising appearances, at which he is
required to brandish a box of cereal with his face adorning it whilst wearing a
garish cowboy outfit festooned with electric fairy lights. The forced smiles, autographs and constant
touring are starting to crack Steele; when we meet him, he is a disillusioned,
unreliable drunk, stumbling from one engagement to the next.
The film centres around a big Las Vegas
convention where Steele is booked for a ride-on appearance with AMPco's prize mascot,
a 12-million-dollar racehorse. Horse and
rider are strapped up in purple paisley silk and electric lights, the
ridiculous spectacle of which, in the capital of sensational fakery and
money-worship, proves to be the final straw for Steele. Appalled that the horse (a past champion like
himself) has been drugged in order to fulfil the appearance, Steele decides
then and there to ride him off into the desert and away from the bright lights
of Vegas and the public eye. It is here
the film really begins, as investigative journalist Hallie Martin (Jane Fonda)
picks up Sonny Steele's story and pursues his mission to restore the horse to
In tracking down and following Sonny, Hallie
becomes impressed with his knowledge of animals, nature and the land; he is indeed
no fake but a 'real' cowboy in the most nostalgic sense; looking back to an
innocent, forgotten America. As Sonny
and Hallie drop their guards, against astounding mountainous scenery they sing 'American the Beautiful', unashamed and
without irony: "O beautiful for spacious skies/For amber waves of grain/For
purple mountain majesties...". Nonetheless,
there is little schmaltz to be found here; no overbearing passionate Hollywood
drama; Fonda's character is reminded by Sonny that there is no need for
pretension with him, "It's not gonna be on television".
Sonny's attempts to liberate the horse is
also a way of trying to free himself; from the world of fame and commerce, from
which he shuns further attention. The
kinship Sonny feels for the horse spreads beyond the screen; his nursing of the
animal in the film is detailed and attentive and in real life, Redford not only
did all his own riding stunts but, apparently, loved the horse so much he
brought it home and kept it for the rest of its life.
At its core, the story is really one of
authenticity; the world of money and business, bright lights and fakery versus
nature, friendship and the great outdoors. Sonny's faithful friend and manager Wendell is played by Willie Nelson
(in his feature debut, reputedly ad-libbing most of his dialogue), bringing
further authenticity to the cowboys; Wendell and Sonny, after yet another
dispiriting tour date, drunkenly sing a song Nelson himself had a recent chart
hit with: "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys/'Cause They'll
Never Stay Home and They're Always Alone".
There are no shootouts, saloons or spurs in
the language here, but aspiration to a gentle caring spirit and understanding
of nature and the outdoors. The only
'bad guys' are the heads of corporations who care only for profit, represented in
the film by an unusually cold, steely faced John Saxon. For its grand themes, director Pollack delivers
them in an oblique and unassuming way; the sound design during scenes in Las
Vegas has slot machines and tannoy announcements, disconcertingly, almost as
loud as the dialogue itself, which only emphasises the clarity, stillness and
simplicity of scenes in the great outdoors.
There are lots of great comic moments and
funny, sharply delivered lines; no less than you might expect from repartee
between Redford and Fonda, who had previously co-starred in The Chase and Barefoot
in the Park. Valerie Perrine (memorable
as Ms. Teschemacher in 1978's Superman) also plays a notable supporting role as
Sonny's soon-to-be ex-wife and Wilfrid Brimley (Cocoon) plays a marvellously
modest but key supporting role. For fans
of 1970s kitsch, there is a bit of everything here that you might expect from
the era; from cowboy rodeos and disco dancing Vegas showgirls to a full on horse-race
multi-car chase à la The Dukes of Hazzard (with one especially impressive
stunt, culminating in one police car tearing along whilst carrying another,
upside down, on top of it!).
The screener copy available for review of
this re-release had no menu or extras, but the picture quality is excellent and
does justice to the stunning cinematography of both the Vegas spectacle and its
vast surrounding desert scenery.
“A LONG DAY’S JOURNEY
INTO A LITTLE NIGHT SILENCE”
By Raymond Benson
Allen’s first dramatic feature film, Interiors,
released in 1978 on the heels of his hugely successful and Oscar-winning
masterpiece, Annie Hall, was met with
praise by some and head-scratching by others. Most critics, however,
acknowledged that the picture was a step the artist needed to take in his evolution
as a filmmaker.
to Annie Hall, Allen’s films were
zany comedies—the “early funny ones,” as facetiously described in a later work,
Stardust Memories. Beginning with Annie, Allen made a quantum leap forward
in originality, confidence, and stylistic maturity. He reinvented the romantic
comedy. In many ways, Annie Hall is a
movie with a European sensibility. It could be argued that Allen’s body of work
post-Annie resembles the kind of material
made by a director like, say, Francois Truffaut—small, well-written, intimate
gems about people, relationships, and life
that can be comedies, dramas, or “dramedies.”
Interiors is one of the dramas
and it’s deadly serious. The influence of Ingmar Bergman is heavily prominent,
but there’s also a palpable strain of playwright Eugene O’Neill running through
it. The movie is about an upper class
dysfunctional family that could be right out of an alternate version of
O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night.
(Geraldine Page) and Arthur (E. G. Marshall) are a separated couple with three
grown daughters—Renata (Diane Keaton), Joey (Mary Beth Hurt), and Flyn (Kristin
Griffith). Renata is a successful poet, Joey is a lost soul searching for
meaning to her life, and Flyn is an actress. Renata and Joey are in flawed
relationships with Frederick and Mike (Richard Jordan and Sam Waterston,
respectively). Eve has a history of depression and suicide attempts. Arthur
just wants to get a divorce and move on with his life, especially with
new-found fling Pearl (Maureen Stapleton). Angst, recriminations, self-destruction,
and guilt abound.
not a happy story, but it is a
fascinating ensemble piece that demonstrates an uncommon mastery of cinematic
language. Allen’s direction is superb, and Gordon Willis’ color photography is
striking. The acting, though, is what places the picture above the bar. Page
was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar (and won
the BAFTA, although she was in the supporting category), and Maureen
Stapleton was nominated for a Supporting Actress Oscar. Allen himself received
nominations for Directing and for his Original Screenplay. A fifth Academy
Award nomination went to production designers Mel Bourne and Daniel Robert for
what are stark, creepily sterile interiors—hence,
is especially striking in Allen’s direction is the total lack of music—there is
a little source music here and there, but no underscore. There is
sound—dialogue, clocks ticking a la Bergman,
the roar of the tide—but basically this is a movie that overwhelms a viewer
with its silence.
Time’s limited edition Blu-ray (only 3000 units!) is a 1080p High Definition
transfer with a 1.0 DTS-Master Audio. It looks quite good, on a par with the
recent Allen releases by the label. Unfortunately, as with most Allen home
video products, there is little in the way of supplements—here, it’s only the
theatrical trailer that is included.
Interiors has its detractors,
to be sure, but, as evidenced by the five Oscar nominations, the picture also
has many supporters. Still—it’s probably not for everyone. Woody Allen fans
will certainly want to give it a shot. For my money, in examining Allen’s
handful of dramas he’s made over forty-seven years, it’s one of the better
trailer tells you everything you need to know about “The Belko Experiment”,
writer James Gunn’s bloody trip to the dark side of the corporate
workspace.You know there’s going to be
a serious body count… you know there’s going to be some wicked humor… and you
know that somewhere you’re going to see Michael Rooker.But HOW things unfold is what makes Belko
such an entertaining ride.Think “Office
Space” meets “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”…
directed by Greg McLean (“Wolf Creek”), “The Belko Experiment” chronicles a
(final) day in the life of the staff of a rather bland American company set up on
the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia. It’s
a typical workday until an anonymous intercom voice tells them they have two
hours to kill thirty of their co-workers or sixty of them will be “sacrificed”. The execs laugh it off as a prank - until the
back of a staffer’s head explodes, thanks to an “anti-kidnapping” locator they’ve
all had implanted. Soon Belko
descends into “Lord of the Flies”, for
real. Factions form, alliances are
made and friendships are erased by the basic urge to survive. The movie is
helped along by a terrific cast which blends relative newcomers with seasoned
pros: John Gallagher, Jr. plays a
workplace everyman trying to stop the carnage and protect his colleague/girlfriend
(lovely Adria Arjona). Tony Goldwyn is
outstanding as Belko’s COO who morphs from cool boss to killing machine so he
can make it home to his wife and kids. He doesn’t want to kill his direct reports…
he just has to. John C. McGinly
is deliciously evil as a leering workplace creep who methodically tries to
raise his “body count” using a meat cleaver. And yes, Michael Rooker is short but sweet as Belko’s stoic maintenance man
trying to find a way out of the hermetically sealed building.
a testament to writer/producer James Gunn’s growing power in Hollywood that
this film is getting a wide theatrical release in today’s megabuck franchise landscape. “The Belko Experiment “feels like a 1990s
action/horror film, which is a good thing: in the 1980s and 90s, small,
entertaining genre films routinely got theatrical releases – great movies like “Surviving
The Game”, “Trespass” and “Southern Comfort” all delivered the thrills
audiences wanted without costing tens of millions to produce. Most of them actually made a profit, unlike
today when almost every big budget release is a huge gamble - James Bond, Star Wars and Guardians
franchises excepted! Today those small 1980s/90s movies would be relegated to
streaming or other platforms if they found a distributor at all.
the special “Employee Appreciation Day” screening Cinema Retro attended in
Santa Monica, key cast and crewmembers talked about making the film. Fanboy favorite James Gunn said he wrote the
script in a “two week fugue state” of 18-hour days. John C. McGinley commented that what drew him
to the script was the fact that “the choices each character made determined their
survival.” He drew a parallel to 9-11 as
his brother worked in the Twin Towers and when an anonymous PA voice told his
floor to stay put after the first plane hit, he and other colleagues knew
enough to immediately take the stairs to safety. On a lighter note, Tony Goldwyn admitted that,
as an actor, he wanted in after reading a script that featured exploding heads!
person, Gunn is amiable and funny and managed to carve out a little time for
fans, many of who showed up with bits of “Guardians of the Galaxy” memorabilia
to be signed. Other cast members posed
with attendees and all the actors seemed genuinely happy to see each other for
the first time since their Bogota shoot. It made for a surprisingly happy ending after 90 minutes of onscreen carnage.
The Belko Experiment opens nationwide on
March 17th. Be prepared to never look at a tape dispenser the same
The most memorable aspect of "Who is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?" is its title, which still resonates with people of a certain age even though most probably never saw the film itself. "Harry" was a speed bump in Dustin Hoffman's meteoric rise to success that began with "The Graduate" in 1967 and continued with such diverse hits as "Midnight Cowboy", "Little Big Man" and "Straw Dogs" (which would be released a few months after "Harry"). Directed by Ulu Grosbard, who would direct Hoffman in the drama "Straight Time" seven years later, "Harry" is a bizarre comedy with an anti-Establishment social message. Hoffman, almost unrecognizable behind a mustache and curly hair, plays Georgie Soloway, a "Boy Wonder" in the music business for his ability to almost instantly write hit rock and folk songs, along with memorable advertising jingos. He has fame and fortune and resides in luxurious penthouse apartment in Manhattan that is a virtual museum to his own accomplishments. However, the affable Georgie is desperately lacking something in his life: genuine friendships and a loving, significant other. The film doesn't follow a linear path and bounces around between various stages of Georgie's life. We see him growing up in Brooklyn, the only child of two stereotypical, overbearing Jewish parents. As a teenager, Georgie goes through the customary stages of trying to deal with raging hormones. He and a friendly but air-headed girl become lovers but he cruelly ditches her when she becomes pregnant, which was an even greater dilemma for women in the era before abortions were legal. Later we see he had married when he impregnated another woman who bore him two children. Georgie ended up deserting them as well because he couldn't deal with the adult responsibilities that fatherhood demands. We see present-day Georgie having no problems finding bedmates but he realizes he only attracts women because of his fame and fortune. Every time he seems to enter a promising relationship it is compromised when the woman is contacted by a mysterious man who calls himself Harry Kellerman and who seems to know all the intimate aspects of Georgie's life. Kellerman routinely unveils to these women the sordid ways Georgie has treated previous lovers and inevitably, his new relationships fail. When we first see Georgie, he is a psychological basket case. He fantasizes about suicide as though it will be a charming and pleasant experience. He also desperately tries to forge genuine friendships with those in his life. For years he has been paying a psychiatrist (Jack Warden) to hear his problems and act as a surrogate father figure to him but it becomes clear the man only sees Georgie as another client. Similarly, Georgie's outreach to his business manager (Gabriel Dell) and his harried accountant (Dom DeLuise) fails to result in establishing anything but business relationships. Georgie is the ultimate poor little rich boy. Much of the story line finds Georgie increasingly infuriated by Kellerman's interference in his love life and becoming obsessed with finding out who he is and how he knows so much about him.
The film was written by Herb Gardner, best known for his play "A Thousand Clowns", which was also about a dysfunctional New York man, who- like Georgie- was superficially charming but not very admirable. Gardner's screenplay drifts back and forth through time at a dizzying pace and sometimes it's hard to know whether we are viewing Georgie in the past or present. He also includes sequences that are genuinely bizarre but are later revealed to be dreams or fantasies. The end result is a rather unsatisfying mix of comedy and pathos despite fine performances by everyone involved. Director Grosbard makes scant use of the New York locations, other than some earlier scenes representing Coney Island in the 1950s and one fantasy scene that finds Georgie inside either the Holland or Lincoln Tunnel, which is totally deserted (trying filming that today). There are also some wonderful aerial shots of the city as we watch the bored Georgie pilot his personal jet for joy rides. But Grosbard never captures the flavor of New York and film could just have easily been set in any major city. The movie is primarily shot in dark interiors with grim lighting, making for a suitably depressing experience. The message of the movie seems to be that money can't buy happiness and that personal virtues are more important than a large bank account. This may be true but it wasn't exactly a unique theory even in 1971. The film comes alive mostly in its final phase when Georgie meets an untalented aspiring singer (Barbara Harris, superb in an Oscar-nominated performance) who is ditzy but lovable. She brings out the kind of genuine human emotion that Georgie had been suppressing for most of his life- but is it too late to save him from his own demons? The final scene of the movie sees Georgie finally seeming to find happiness as he soars above the boroughs of New York City in a wonderfully-filmed sequence that comes to an unexpected conclusion, even as it provides an answer to the question "Who is Harry Kellerman?"
Kino Lorber has released the film on Blu-ray sans any special features other than a trailer for Ulu Grosbard's 1981 drama "True Confessions". The transfer is very good indeed but can't overcome the deficiencies in the film itself. "Harry Kellerman" isn't a bad film and it does provide the joy of seeing another fine performance by young Dustin Hoffman. But it is a movie that falls far short of its aspirations and at times comes across as merely pretentious.
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM THE CINEMA RETRO ARCHIVE
(Cinema Retro joins other retro movie lovers in mourning the recent passing of Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne. This is Lee Pfeiffer's interview with Osborne that originally ran in 2008)
Cinema Retro Editor-in-Chief Lee Pfeiffer chatted with Robert Osborne, the popular host of TCM's movie broadcasts. Osborne, who is also the official Oscar historian, is well known for his informative introductions and epilogues for the films that TCM broadcasts. Director Sidney Lumet once said that even if he doesn't desire to see certain films, he always tries to tune in for Osborne's introductions. Osborne is as affable offscreen as he is on the air. Witty, knowledgable and conversant in all things Hollywood-related, he has many of the attributes he ascribes to the stars he grew up idolizing. In addition to being a columnist for the Hollywood Reporter, Osborne is by all accounts America's premiere film historian.
CR: You seem to have every movie lover's dream job: to get paid to watch and analyze classic movies. How did this come about and what led to your association with the Academy?
RO: When I was first starting out as an actor, I was under contract to Lucille Ball at Desilu Studios, which was owned by Lucy and Desi Arnaz. Lucy knew I had this passion for movie history which at that time was not a normal thing. Most people weren't interested in movie history. She said, "You know, you would have a happier life as a writer than as an actor. You should be writing about movies, because nobody is." She told me that she thought being an actor would never make me happy, but writing would. She knew I was a journalism major at the University of Washington. She told me that if I took up writing as a profession, the first thing I had to do was write a book because people would look at you differently if I did. She told me it didn't even have to be a good book, but that everyone is impressed with anyone who writes a book because most people lack the discipline to do it. I knew she was telling me this for my own good, not some other agenda, so I quit being an actor and became a writer.
The thing I decided to write about was the Academy Awards because you could always find a list of who won Oscars, but you could never find a list of who was nominated. It was even hard to get one from the Academy because that was a very small organization at the time. So I wrote this book and it hit a chord with people because you couldn't get a book about the Oscars anywhere else. The cult success of that book has followed me around ever since. Years later, when they decided they wanted a history done of the Academy, they asked me to write it. (The latest edition of the book is titled 75 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards-Ed.)
The New York Times has a rare interview with Japanese actress Mie Hama, one of the few female sex symbols of 1960s cinema to break through to international audiences thanks to her appearance opposite Sean Connery in the 1967 007 classic "You Only Live Twice". Like many actresses who found cult status through the Bond films, Hama wore the mantle of fame somewhat uneasily and retired from acting at an early age to lead a more conventional life. She is still well-known in Japan thanks to the many dozens of films she had appeared in but today she is also known as a popular advocate for self-help theories. Click here to read.
a film festival in the mid-seventies, Sam Peckinpah was once questioned about
how the studios regularly bastardised his vision, his intension and more
specifically, if he would ever be able to make a ''pure Peckinpah'' picture. He
replied, '’I did 'Alfredo Garcia' and I did it exactly the way I wanted to.
Good or bad, like it or not, that was my film.''
narrative for Alfredo Garcia is neither complicated nor convoluted. Warren
Oates plays Bennie, a simple pianist residing in a squalid barroom in Mexico.
He is approached by two no-nonsense Americans (Robert Webber and Gig Young) who
are attempting to track down Alfredo Garcia. The womanising Garcia is the man
responsible for the pregnancy of Theresa (Janine Maldonado) the teenage
daughter of a powerful Mexican boss El Jefe (Emilio Fernández). In a display of
power, El Jefe offers $1,000,000 for the delivery of Garcia’s head. Bennie is
unaware of the true bounty, but fully aware that his girlfriend, local prostitute
Elita (Isela Vega) was once involved with Garcia. More importantly, Bennie also
knows that Garcia is in fact, already dead. Bennie recognises this as a way
out, a one off payday opportunity and convinces Elita to take him to Garcia’s
burial place. His plan is to dig up the body, cut off the head and collect on
his fee, an agreed $10,000. Elita shows some hesitancy, and before long the
heavy drinking, paranoiac aspects of Bennie begin to suspect that Elita still
carries feelings for the dead Garcia. After an arduous and testing car journey
they both finally reach their destination, a place where their plans will take
a devastating and unsuspecting twist.
has delivered a new 4K restoration from the original camera negative. The
overall image is beautifully presented and a great deal cleaner than previously
seen. Dirt, debris and all other manner of light wear have now been removed. As
Arrow points out, there are some minor instances of density fluctuation and
photochemical damage, but these really are not distracting. I noticed slight
fluctuations during the torture of Theresa, but this is arguably due to the
condition of the original film elements and to be expected. More importantly it
does not distract from the overall presentation of the film. One could even
suggest that such minor defects are perfectly suited and in line with the
gritty, sweat soaked ambience that Peckinpah arguably sought to present. The 4K
scan has been fully justified and as a result the level of detail has been
greatly improved without ever compromising or hampering the genuine celluloid
look – an element so essential to a movie such as Alfredo Garcia. Colours retain
a realistic and natural quality, almost dry and dusty as opposed to a sun
drenched and over cooked. Thankfully, Arrow has also resisted the temptation to
beef up the audio, so don’t go looking for a falsely created 5.1 mix. Alfredo Garcia was recorded in mono, so purists
will be delighted with the original 1.0 mono mix transferred from the original
35mm single stripe magnetic track. The audio elements are also clean, dynamic and
hold a consistent level of clarity throughout.
Peckinpah on the set in Mexico.
the extras on disc one are two excellent audio commentaries. The first is a new
and exclusively recorded commentary by Stephen Prince, author of Savage Cinema:
Sam Peckinpah and the Rise of Ultraviolent Movies. Prince’s narration looks
closely at Peckinpah’s philosophy and theory. It’s a commentary that also
examines the characters to some depth. It also encourages you to think and ask
questions. There are also more generalised observations from Prince involving
the story, in particular the scene with the two bikers (played by Kris Kristofferson
and Donnie Fritts). It’s a scene which has always bothered me, and serves no real
importance to the story. So it was pleasing to hear that Prince agrees, and
that it provides very little - other than slowing down the pace and the
narrative. I don’t mind either film philosophy or debate, but I occasionally
believe it sometimes has a tendency to overstretch or lose itself in some strange
form of self-consumption. Nevertheless, Prince’s commentary does keep your
attention throughout and provides plenty of food for thought.
second audio commentary is moderated by film historian Nick Redman and features
Sam Peckinpah scholars Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle. This
commentary first appeared on the Twilight Time Encore Edition Blu-ray and works
extremely well. The advantage of course, is that it provides various different
perspectives and viewpoints. For instance, on this occasion, the same Kristofferson
and Fritts biker scene results in a clear difference of opinion. We, the viewer
are offered a perfectly logical and justified reasoning for this scene, in that
Bennie is provided with the opportunity ‘walk the walk’ rather than just ‘talk
the talk’. The implication of the scene, along with a contrasting perspective
of its inclusion, suddenly offers something new to digest and signifies perhaps
a different level to Bennie’s character. Seydor, Simmons and Weddle are not
afraid of arguing their opinions, but also retain a clear respect for each
other’s knowledge and understanding. It’s a perfect ensemble of experts, each
of whom is clearly on top of their subject.
Peckinpah: Man of Iron is Paul Joyce’s feature-length (93minutes) 1993
documentary featuring interviews with James Coburn, Kris Kristofferson, Monte
Hellman, Ali MacGraw, Jason Robards and many others. Its inclusion on Arrow’s
special edition marks the first time it is available on home video in the UK.
The documentary was released prior on Criterion’s Straw Dogs (1971) DVD release
but omitted some film clips due to copyright and reduced the running time by
some 10 minutes. Man of Iron is a very personal and enjoyable reflection of the
man and told by the people that knew him best. It is a brutally honest account
which shows Peckinpah, not only for his craftsmanship, but also for his flaws,
for which there were many. As gifted as Peckinpah was, there are also accounts
of his cruelty, manipulation and his complexity. His demise into alcohol and
later his cocaine use is arguably pitiful and reflected to some degree in his
later films. Regardless of this, he remained loved by his friends, many of
which returned to work with him over and over again. Whilst Man of Iron
celebrates the man and his work, it never attempts to paper over the cracks or
his personal frailties. It provides a well-balanced account and as a result,
makes for fascinating viewing.
up is The John Player Lecture: Sam Peckinpah, an audio only recording of the
director’s on-stage appearance at the National Film Theatre in London (47 minutes).
Whilst there is no indication, this recording possibly dates from around 1971.
Peckinpah does make a reference to his next film to be released, The Ballad of
Cable Hogue (1970) and because he is in the UK at this time may be an
indication that he was in pre-production stages for his next film Straw Dogs
(1971) which was shot in Cornwall. Peckinpah does sound a little uncomfortable in
front of an audience and not entirely at ease. There is almost a sense of
comfort knowing that his friend Warren Oates is sitting among the audience and
on several occasions Peckinpah tries to draw him actively into the
conversation. When questioned about certain aspects of his work, Peckinpah does
at times seem a little reluctant to answer and the sighs picked up by his
microphone appear to back this up. However, Peckinpah does reveal a great deal
of insightful information, as well as taking the opportunity in criticising the
film establishment, such as the censors and producers and in the way they have
handled his work. Historically, it is an important piece to include; my only minor
gripe is when it comes to the audience questions, which are at times close to
inaudible. As the audio interview is carried out over a still image of
Peckinpah, it might have been an idea to overlay some text in reference to the
actual audience questions. In doing so it would have made it a great deal
easier to decipher exactly what Peckinpah was referring to in his answers.
NoHo 7 Theatre (“North Hollywood” for those not “in the know”) in Los Angeles
will be presenting a 30th anniversary screening of the uncut
director’s version of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 film Robocop. The 103-minute
film, which stars Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O’Herlihy, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood
Smith, and Miguel Ferrer, will be screened on Thursday, March 23, 2017 at 7:30
PLEASE NOTE: At press time, Actress Nancy
Allen is scheduled to appear in person for a discussion about the film
following the screening.
the press release:
RoboCop (Director's Uncut Version)
Part of our Throwback Thursday series
in partnership with Eat|See|Hear.
As Richard Burton's star power began to decline in the early 1970s, he was chastised for appearing in too many inconsequential films and accused of simply taking any job that came along to help pay for his high-end life style. As with Marlon Brando, many of Burton's films that were initially despised by critics and ignored by the public have gained new appreciation in recent years. One such effort was Villain, a brutal British crime drama produced by Elliott Kastner, directed by the unheralded Michael Tucher and boasting script contributions than none other than character actor Al Lettieri, who made a career of playing gangsters. Clearly inspired by the reign of terror presided over by London's notorious Kray clan, the story finds Burton as Vic Dakin, an outwardly charismatic and charming man who also happens to be one of the city's most notorious crime lords. Vic is no white collar criminal. He still lives among the people he terrorizes and is a mainstay at the local pub. Vic dotes on his aging mother (Cathleen Nesbitt) and keeps his army of confederates in line through the threat of strict punishment for any violation of trust. Vic's ambitions get the better of him when he strays from neighborhood crime and plans an ambitious heist with a reluctant fellow crime lord. The plan goes horribly awry, leading Vic to fear that he will be sold out by his co-conspirator, who is severely wounded and in police custody. He becomes obsessed with gaining access to the man and silencing him before he can talk. Doggedly following his every move is a police inspector (well-played by Nigel Davenport), who engages in a game of psychological cat-and-mouse with Vic in his quest to bring the vicious criminal to justice.
Villain was denounced by British critics and movie fans at the time because of what was perceived as Burton's ill-fated attempt to master a Cockney accent. However, other aspects of his performance are admirable. Burton pretty much controls his penchant for scenery-chewing and offers a fairly restrained portrayal of a sadistic man who is nonetheless slow to reach his boiling point. Vic can be sensitive, funny and ingratiating..but when driven to anger, capable of administering much brutality himself. He also hides the fact that he is gay and his preferred sex partner is Wolfie (excellently played by Ian McShane), a good looking ladies man who one suspects is only bedding Vic out of fear of rejecting his overtures. (A sex scene between Burton and McShane was filmed but ended up on the cutting room floor.) The homosexual angle is only hinted at in the final cut of the film, but Burton had gone a bridge too far in this regard, at least as far as critics were concerned. Two years before, he had played a prissy gay man opposite Rex Harrison (as his lover) in Stanley Donen's Staircase, another fine film that was under-appreciated in its day. Burton's bold career moves would be praised today but met with scorn at the time. His face weather-beaten from years of personal excess, Burton was actually entering an interesting period of his career that saw him able to expand beyond playing hunky heart throbs. Villain affords him an interesting starring vehicle that is now being favorably compared to other classic British crime films such as Get Carter, a movie that was released the same year and also met with a mediocre response until a new generation discovered its merits. Perhaps the same will hold true for this film, which boasts an excellent supporting cast, fine direction and a literate, believable script.
The Warner Archive has released Villain as a burn-to-order DVD. Quality is fine, but sadly there are no extras.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM THE CINEMA RETRO MOVIE STORE
Here's a rare gem for "Man From U.N.C.L.E." fans- silent footage from British Pathe newsreel of David McCallum arriving at London Airport in 1966 and getting a Beatles-like reception from screaming teenagers, some clad in home-made Illya Kuryakin tribute outfits.
Joe Dante's Trailers from Hell site presents screenwriter/producer Larry Karaszewski's insightful appreciation of the little-seen and long-forgotten film "The Marriage of a Young Stockbroker" from 1971. Based on the novel by Charles Webb, who also wrote "The Graduate" (and who also directed this film), "Stockbroker" stars Richard Benjamin as a young man who is successful in business but no so successful in his personal life. He's got a beautiful wife (Joanna Shimkus) but he suffers from a psychological obsession with voyeurism. The film looks at his dilemma from a comedic standpoint but the underrated movie also provides plenty of insights into the human psyche and the way we deal with relationships. Benjamin is terrific as the every day guy whose obsession causes him quite a few problems. There are fine turns by Elizabeth Ashley and Adam West, whose amusing performance reminds us of how foolish Hollywood was to alienate him after "Batman". Sadly, the movie was only released on video in the early days of VHS and has not resurfaced since except for an occasional showing on Turner Classic Movies. Hopefully, this will be rectified and we'll get a Blu-ray release at some point.
“Broken Lance” (1954) is another great Blu-Ray release
from Twilight Time, which seems to be specializing in 20th Century
Fox Cinemascope productions from the 1950s. These wide-screen, star-studded
productions were all the rage back in the day. Utilizing the wider screen and
full directional stereophonic sound to tell big stories, they’re the kind of
movies they really just don’t make anymore. Director Edward Dmytryk shot this
film on location in Arizona and cinematographer Joe MacDonald fills every
outdoor seen with both a sense of grandeur and, somehow, a feeling of
loneliness, which befits a story about a man who outlived his time, and has
become a dinosaur.
Spencer Tracy is the man—Matt Devereaux, a tough,
hard-nosed rancher who owns the biggest ranch in the territory. He got
everything he has by fighting for it, and his hard-bitten attitude hasn’t
diminished with age. The tough way he treats everyone extends down to his four
sons, three, Ben, Mike, and Denny (Richard Widmark, Hugh O’Brien and Earl
Holliman) from a deceased first wife, and a fourth, Joe, (Robert Wagner) with a
Native American woman (Katy Jurado). The three from the first wife resent the
way they’re treated. They work hard and see little compensation for it. They’re
also a little jealous of the half-breed son, who seems favored by the old man.
The story starts with Joe being released from prison after
serving three years, taking a rap for the sake of the family. His father is
dead now and he’s taken to the governor (E.G. Marshall) and offered a deal by
his greedy brothers: $20,000 and a ranch in Oregon if he leaves the territory,
and trouble if he turns the offer down. Joe tosses the money into a spittoon
and rides out to the old ranch house. It’s deserted and ramshackle now, the
three brothers having moved into town. Joe stands before a portrait of the old
man on horseback asking for a sign to tell him what to do. The film then shifts
into a flashback which tells the story of the rivalry between the brothers, the
old man’s dispute with a copper mining operation next to the ranch that is
poisoning the water on the ranch, and a love story between Joe and the
governor’s daughter (Jean Peters). It’s a big, sprawling story of the end of a
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because the story is
loosely based on two different sources. The first obviously is Shakespeare’s
tragedy of King Lear, which was a story of a king who bequeathed his kingdom to
two of his three daughters and lived to regret it. In the case of “Broken
Lance” the protagonist has four sons, not daughters, and Matt Devereaux doesn’t
intend to bequeath anything to anybody, at least not until he’s long buried in
the ground. The other more direct source of Richard Murphy’s screenplay is
Philip Yordan’s script for an older Fox noir pot boiler, “House of
Strangers.” In that one, Edward G. Robinson is the
patriarchal figure, the head of a bank, who gets ripped off by three of his
sons, while the good son, Max (Richard Conte) takes the rap when his father is
charged with embezzlement.
The urban drama, based on a book by Jerome Weidman,
translated fairly well to a western setting, and Dmytryk does a good job
keeping the action moving, while keeping the focus on the family’s internal
struggles and the titanic, doomed efforts of Matt Devereaux to hold his empire
together. Tracy gives a good performance, as usual, as a man who knows no other
way to live his life, although the character as written by screenwriter Richard
Murphy, seems a bit one-dimensional. It’s hard to feel sympathy for someone so
bull-headed. Wagner was adequate as the half-breed son, and Widmark turned in
his usual bad guy performance. Hey, he’s Richard Widmark and you expect him to
be a rat. Katy Jurado, of course, always added grace and dignity to any film
she appeared in and this is no exception. Jean Peters, as Wagner’s love
interest, provided at least one reason for the half-breed Joe to stay in the
The Blu-Ray transfer of this Cinemascope presentation is
first rate, as we’ve come to expect from these Twilight Time limited editions
(only 3,000 made). Picture and sound are very good. The extras include an audio
commentary with Nick Redman and Earl Holliman, who talks about what it was like
working with Dmytryk and Tracy. There’s an isolated soundtrack, featuring
composer Leigh Harline’s big orchestral sound, a booklet essay by Julie Kirgo,
some previews, and a newsreel showing Philip Yordan getting an Oscar for “House
of Strangers”. A pretty full package.
Bottom line: Although “Broken Lance,” strives to reach
the heights of a Shakespearean tragedy on horseback, Richard Murphy’s script suffers
from thin characterizations that lean toward stereotypes, and a plot that
eventually fizzles out in a standard horse opera shootout. It’s not a bad film,
but given the cast and the sources material it could have been great. Still, it’s
worth seeing. Recommended for fans of big westerns and the widescreen
extravaganzas of the fifties.
The packaging for the 1978 grindhouse film "Sex Roulette" states it is "a West German/Belgian erotic oddity". That's seems like an accurate description because this is, indeed, one weird production. While most X-rated fare from the era were relatively unimaginative, micro-budget affairs, "Sex Roulette" looks relatively lush and was filmed in some exotic European locations. It also presents some of the strangest characters ever assembled in a film of this type. We can start with Robert Le Ray, an actor who began his career in legitimate films only to transcend into the world of X-rated fare. Le Ray is the male lead in the film and he's debonair and handsome in a Leslie Nielsen kind of way. He was also 77 years old when he was cast. He plays Lord Robert de Chamoiz, an affable aristocrat with a sizable bank account and seemingly no responsibilities or worries. He has an unusually close relationship with his vivacious young niece, Veronique (Vanessa Melville). The two travel the world in style to indulge in their greatest passions. For Veronique this means the gaming tables at top-tier casinos where she gambles without abandon. For Lord de Chamoiz (who she refers to simply as "Uncle"), this means trying to tame his insatiable appetite for sex by bedding seemingly every young woman who comes into his orbit. He has a special passion for chamber maids and bribes them with large sums of money to not only go to bed with him but to also participate in sex acts they would otherwise not ever contemplate. These include arranged group sex encounters during which Uncle acts as a sort of perverted narrator for the action that is unfolding. He possesses an almost hypnotic ability to comfort the women involved and speaks to them in a soothing, paternal manner even while they are engaging in wild acts. Uncle is also a voyeur and he takes every opportunity to engage in this secondary passion. When he has a chance meeting with an auto mechanic who is repairing his car, he bribes the man to allow him to surreptitiously watch him make love to his girlfriend. Meanwhile, the gorgeous Veronique finds herself virtually frigid due to the fact that all of her time and thought process goes into gambling. Uncle has a solution for that: she should assertively have sexual encounters with the strangers in order to reawaken her libido. Turns out it's good advice. After she is seduced by lesbian sisters (!), Veronique finds her love life is back to whatever passes for "normal". The third major character is the Lord's faithful butler, a black man who also happens to be a little person. He's just as sex-crazed as his boss and functions as both a solicitor for his women but also manages to use his physical condition to attract women for himself on the basis that they've never made love to a little person. A running gag in the film is the butler's preference for engaging in sex on desktops, which mandates that he stand on a stack of telephone books. Every time he walks through the room with some telephone books, the Lord jokes that his loyal servant has gotten lucky again. After traveling to Monte Carlo and living it up on the Lord's seemingly inexhaustible funds, the film takes an even more bizarre turn when Veronique seduces her uncle. The whole story climaxes, if you will, with a big orgy atop gaming tables in a casino.
Veronique is addicted to the Bondian world of high stakes casinos.
There are so many distasteful elements to "Sex Roulette" that one can hardly chronicle them all here. However, the movie is genuinely funny, sometimes intentionally sometimes not. The dubbing is wildly inconsistent with some characters' lip movements rarely matching the associated dialogue. The exception is the voice over artist who dubbed Uncle with a gentle, soothing voice that somehow fits the character we view on screen. The film also boasts some impressive elements that seem out of left field. An extended scene of a car ride down a major highway at high speed benefits from having the camera mounted inside the car, which gives a real big budget feel to the sequence as well as some impressive footage. There are also scenes of Monte Carlo shot from a helicopter that seem appropriate for a mainstream travelogue. The most amusing elements of the film revolve around the characters of Uncle, Veronique and the butler. They seem straight out of "The Munsters" or "The Addams Family" in that they appear to be complete oblivious about the fact that their activities don't fit in with those of "normal" people. Just as Gomez Addams blew up toy trains with TNT and his children chopped off doll heads on a mini guillotine, the principals in "Sex Roulette" act as those their strange sexual doings are quite normal. Uncle is being serviced by a hotel maid? Okay, I'll just wait until they are finished to enter the room and discuss important matters. Veronique's encounter with lesbian sisters got her mind off gambling for a few hours? Marvelous! The butler finds love with a BBW-type who he met at an orgy? How wonderful that he's found his soul mate! There are some Bondian elements to the atmosphere with the trio visiting high stakes casinos where men wear tuxedos and women are adorned in expensive dresses and gowns. (One suspects the other elegant people who appear in these scenes probably had no idea they would turn up in a sex film.) Here, Uncle demonstrates a bizarre but unique talent. At the roulette table, he insists on tasting several of the steel balls used in the wheel. He churns them around in his mouth until he finally finds one that is acceptable-then with lightning speed he spits it out and has it land precisely on the number he wants to play on the roulette wheel. It's oddball scenes like this that make one think that these characters could have had a life in a "legitimate" comedy that wasn't dependent on hard-core sex scenes.
"Uncle" is about to indulge in his strange ritual of tasting roulette balls before spitting one on to the wheel.
Impulse Films has released "Sex Roulette" on DVD. According to the liner notes, the film was routinely butchered in various international markets because of the tastelessness of some scenes. (i.e: in one sequence, Uncle arranges for some young people to carry out an orgy inexplicably held in a literal pig pen.). The DVD restores all of the most controversial scenes and has been remastered from original 35mm elements. The end result remains an acquired taste for viewers with very liberal outlooks on what forms entertainment. However, for this writer, it is superior to most grind house fare from the era simply because it is so cheerfully off-the-charts crazy.
If you've seen "The Savage Is Loose", you're among the few who can make such a boast. In 1974, at the height of his career, George C. Scott decided to bring this unusual tale to the big screen. He also wanted to prove that an independent film could be successful without being distributed by a major studio. Scott, ever-temperamental, was critical of how studios used Draconian methods to control and often compromise films in the name of making them more commercial. "The Savage Is Loose" was an off-beat tale set in the late 19th century that centers on a husband and wife, John and Maida (Scott and real-life wife Van Devere) who, along with their very young son, David (Lee Montgomery), find themselves shipwrecked on a desert island. The first challenge is to adapt to the conditions and learn to survive but the more crucial challenge comes years later when the son (John David Carlson) comes of age and has a sexual awakening. With his mother the only woman he has ever known, tensions rise as he competes with his own father for her attention. This is hardly the kind of scenario that would have motivated Disney to bid on distribution rights. However, its bold premise was the reason that Scott independently financed and distributed the film himself, thus ensuring that he had total artistic control.
"The Savage Is Loose" is a generally off-beat and engrossing film despite the premise of impending incest that haunts the three main characters. The movie is done on a modest budget and boasts only one impressive set piece: the wreck of the ship that has left the family stranded on this remote island. As the months and years pass, father and son return to the wreck to explore for any lost items that might be of practical value. John makes a pivotal decision relating to how to raise David, informing Maida that they must accept the fact that rescue seems highly unlikely and that in order to ensure that David survives when they are dead, he must be schooled in the art of hunting and self-reliance. For years, John tutors David to act as a "savage" and to not take pity on the animal life found on the island, as he must regard it as his only source of food and nutrition. The strategy works and we next see David as a teenager, already proving his expertise in tracking and killing dangerous wildlife. It's clear, however, that with the passing of the years, there is an unspoken tension within the family. David becomes sullen and rarely communicates with his mother and father. The cause is apparent: with his hormones raging, he has set his sites on his own mother, who he wants to take as his lover. Devoid of having been schooled in the niceties and customs of civilized society, David cannot understand why he can't take engage in this relationship. He only knows that his father is determined to keep him from fulfilling this goal. Consequently, the movie turns into a thriller in the latter section, with father and son forced to engage in a potentially deadly duel of wits and strength, as Maida observes in horror what can only be a tragic conclusion, no matter who prevails.
Scott came up with a distribution plan for the movie that was unique. Under this scenario, Scott would literally sell theaters prints of the movie and split the costs of advertising with them. The plan set off quite a bit of buzz in the industry with studio chiefs predictably calling it unworkable. They were proven right. Without the backing of a major studio with big advertising budgets, Scott was forced to peddle the film piecemeal to theaters, one at a time. Not helping matters was the off-putting subject matter. Although a fair number of theaters did end up showing the movie, it was quickly apparently that the buzz about the film didn't translate into public interest. The scathing reviews helped provide the coup de grace. ((The New York Times gave it an outright pan (click here to read)). The theaters played to mostly empty houses and quickly pulled the film from distribution, thus ending Scott's bold experiment. Scott blamed the fact that the film received an "R" rating for its weak performance but that was an absurd excuse. By 1974, an "R" rating was certainly not a factor that alienated audiences. The pity of it all is that there is much to admire in "The Savage is Loose".
Scott demonstrates admirable talent both in front of and behind the camera. His direction is understated, as is his performance, at least until the final reel when he must do battle with his own beloved son. Van Devere is also excellent, as is Montgomery in the early scenes in which David is an innocent little boy. Things go a bit awry when John David Carson takes over the role. His performance is effective but his look is all wrong. He sports a modern hair style and his language and mannerisms reflect the culture of the year in which the movie was made: 1974. Still, "The Savage is Loose" should not be dismissed because of a perceived "Yuck Factor" due to the impending threat of a mother taken unwilling as her son's lover. There are no villains here and Scott presents the dilemma as tastefully as possible. The very premise is enough to provide ample suspense for the average viewer. Scott makes the most of the picturesque Mexican coastal locations where the movie was shot.
"The Savage is Loose" is not available at this time on home video in America or the UK except for a bootleg version available through Amazon that could easily be misconstrued as an official release. (There had been an official Betamax and VHS release back in the Stone Age of home video). The quality of the transfer is adequate but only makes one desire to see a first-rate studio release. One suspects that convoluted rights problems might be preventing this but someone out there owns the distribution to this film. One hopes that a "real" Blu-ray/DVD release will one day become a reality.