Walt Disney’s Bambi, which opened on Friday, August 21, 1942 at Radio City Music
accompanied by a live stage show, is an indisputable animated masterpiece based
upon Felix Salten’s 1923 novel of the same name. The story of a young fawn
growing up in the woods with his mother and cute animals in his midst, ty Bambi is not the sort of film that one
would normally associate with the Walt Disney name. As children, we are
introduced to the requisite characters who are synonymous with Disney and
labeled as “family entertainment” such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, either
through television viewings, theatrical rereleases or VHS/laserdisc/DVD/Blu-ray
viewings. The overall general attitude of a Disney film is one of fun and joy,
although there are exceptions as some movies, such as Pinocchio (1940) and The
Rescuers (1977), have moments that are emotionally dark. Bambi is no traditional Disney movie,
and dare I say it’s a film that parents of very young and impressionable
children should honestly think twice about before permitting them to view it,
as introducing the notion of death to a youngster through a cartoon may prove
to be a life-changing event (to say nothing of the constant images of violence
that children are subjected to on television and on the Internet each day).
Bambi experiences the many things in
life that children experience: meeting and taking a liking to new friends
(Thumper the rabbit proves a good companion and teacher and a fellow fawn named
Faline proves to be a fun female friend) and making honest mistakes (labeling a
skunk “Flower” of all things). He is very close to his mother, but does not
realize that the Great Prince of the Forest, who protects the animals from Man,
specifically hunters, and is both revered and feared by the animals, is his real
father. His fortitude is tested when his mother is killed by the hunters and
his father reveals his identity to him. Bambi realizes that to survive one must
As the years go by, Bambi matures,
grows up and adapts to the environment. He now views the equally older Faline
as a potential romantic mate, and wards off a fellow buck, Ronno, who competes
for her affections. His childhood friends also find their own romantic mates,
and Bambi and Faline are blessed with twins as Bambi becomes the new Great
Prince of the Forest. As they said in 1994’s The Lion King, the circle of life.
British silent film period of director Alfred Hitchcock is simultaneously
interesting and frustrating. It’s the former because it allows one to view a
genius at the very beginning of his career—the kernels of motifs and themes, as
well as stylistic choices, can be spotted and analyzed. It’s the latter because
only one or two of the nine silent pictures he made are truly memorable and
most are available today solely as poor quality public domain transfers.
Criterion Collection has just released a bang-up, marvelous new edition of
Hitchcock’s most celebrated silent work, The
Lodger—A Story of the London Fog. The disk also contains one of the rarer
silent titles, Downhill (also 1927),
which might be reason enough for Hitchcock enthusiasts to purchase the package.
bit of history: Hitchcock was working for Gainsborough Pictures under the
auspices of Michael Balcon (one of the major studio heads of early British
cinema). The young filmmaker was sent to Germany in 1925 to make his first two
pictures so that he could “learn” the craft from the then-masters of
expressionistic storytelling. He made The
Pleasure Garden and The Mountain
Eagle, both of which were deemed not good enough to release in the UK
(interestingly, they were both released in the US in 1926, making America the
first English-speaking country to see a Hitchcock film!). Hitch’s third
completed title, The Lodger, almost
suffered the same fate. Balcon and others at the studio didn’t like it, and it
was only after a film critic named Ivor Montagu came in and made suggestions
for changing some title cards and reshooting some scenes, that The Lodger was finally released.
was an immediate success, both critically and financially (prompting
Gainsborough to release The Pleasure
Garden and The Mountain Eagle in
the UK, almost two years after they were made). The Lodger is also considered to be the first true “Hitchcock film”
in that it’s a crime picture that presents many visual and thematic elements to
which he would return (including but not limited to—the notion of the “wrong
man,” blondes, handcuffs, sexual fetishism, and expressionistic lighting and
camerawork). For a silent film, The
Lodger is totally engrossing and fascinating, guaranteed to entertain even the
most jaded viewers who can’t abide movies without talking.
story is loosely based on the Jack the Ripper case (adapted from a novel by
Marie Belloq Lowndes). A serial killer of blonde women known as “the Avenger”
is loose in London. A mysterious stranger (Ivor Novello) rents the upstairs
flat in the home of Daisy, a blonde fashion
model and her parents. Daisy’s boyfriend is a cop, but she’s not really that
interested in him—she’s more attracted to the stranger—the lodger who asks that
all portraits of blonde women be removed from his room. Of course, it isn’t
long before the lodger is suspected of being the Avenger.
who was a matinee idol at the time, is striking in the picture. Granted, in
1927, movies of this ilk were melodramatic, the acting exaggerated, and the
pacing meticulous. Nevertheless, Novello’s good looks and pained expressions
contribute to the building of suspense. The boarding house itself also becomes
a character in the story, as outlined by art historian Steven Jacobs in an
interesting supplement on the disk that discusses Hitchcock’s use of
architecture in his pictures.
and Chong’s Next Movie, which opened on Friday, July 18,
1980, had stiff competition at the box office: Airplane!, The Empire Strikes Back, The Shining, Friday the 13th,
The Blue Lagoon, The Big Red One, Dressed to Kill, Fame, and The Blues Brothers were all in major
release at the time. While Next Movie
and did respectable business, it went on to gross even more moola when
Universal released is on a double bill with John Landis’s beloved Blues Brothers later. The film picks up
sometime after Cheech and Chong’s maiden cinematic outing, Up in Smoke, left off two years earlier. Written by the slapdash
and seemingly always high dynamic duo and directed by the latter of the two, Next Movie plays out like their comedy
album routines (“Dave” from their self-titled 1971 debut album is one of their
best-known and funniest bits) which is exactly how Abbott and Costello’s early
film appearances were scripted (in their case they were based on their radio
routines). Next Movie was shot in
1979 as evinced by the appearance of North
Dallas Forty and Being There on
Los Angeles movie marquees in the distance and concerns two struggling potheads
who go through a series of (mis)adventures while attempting to start a rock
band. They siphon gas out of a truck into a refuse-filled garbage can with
explosive results. They have an ongoing feud with their neighbor who is fed up
with their antics. Their house has been condemned and they find themselves at a
welfare office. Cheech’s girlfriend Donna (Evelyn Guerrero), one of the welfare
workers, has an off-screen tryst with him while Chong sits next to a very young
Michael Winslow who makes some truly funny sound effects that would make him so
popular later in seven Police Academy
movies. The scene goes on a bit too long, but it’s a great showcase for Mr.
Winslow’s considerable talents. Donna’s boss reprimands her for her momentary
lapse of reason under Cheech’s spell and they make a run for it. Later,
Cheech’s cousin Red (also played by Mr. Marin) blows into town and, while also
financially impecunious, fights with a hotel receptionist (Paul Reubens) who is
carted off by the cops while shouting Al Pacino’s famous “Attica! Attica!” mantra
and ends up jailed after assaulting the men.
The boys are then invited
to a party by a roller-skater (when was the last time you saw one of those
onscreen?) which takes place in a whorehouse in a sequence that elicits
laughter as Cheech watches and reacts to some action outside of one of the
rooms. They scare off the clients by playing back audio on a boombox that they
recorded earlier of the hotel altercation. This is a cute tactic that has
worked to comedic effect in everything from the aforementioned Abbott and
Costello to Johnny Depp in A Nightmare on
Elm Street (1984). The clients spill out onto Sunset Boulevard in a frenzy
and end up at the house of one of the girl’s parents, who are in a constant
state of hilarity, and the action moves to a comedy club wherein a fight breaks
out. Paul Reubens reappears here in a very early appearance as Pee-Wee Herman.
The film eventually ends with a strange bit of “far-out” silliness involving
pot, flying saucers and animation. The message of the film, if there is one, is
that “life’s a party”. If you’re a fan of the titular doofuses who are funny
and amiable, you’ll enjoy the film. Some of the episodes go on a little too
long and it makes one wonder if the filmmakers simply expected the audience to
be stoned while watching the film!
Like Shout! Factory’s
recent release of Universal’s Car Wash
(1976), Next Movie is a film that was
drastically altered for its television airing which included different scenes
and music. While it would have been nice to have had this alternate version on
the new Blu-ray, Cheech and Chong fans will appreciate the new and colorful
transfer which is much clearer than previous home video transfers. Shout!
Factory has done another bang-up job with the image looking very bright and the
colors vivid. Los Angeles, like New York at the time, had a look and feel and
character all its own which is now gone thanks to corporate America. The
brothel that they leave is on a street that has lost its integrity much like
the most memorable and colorful establishments that appear in Martin Scorsese’s
New York in Taxi Driver (1976).
The Blu-ray contains
these extras: a theatrical trailer, radio sports, and a roughly 20-minute
onscreen interview with Cheech Marin,who discusses the making of the film..
Moore as Brett Sinclair with his Aston Martin DBS in "The Persuaders" TV series.
Car and Driver magazine takes a fun look back at some of the super-cool vehicles driven by Roger Moore on television and in feature films from "The Saint" to "The Persuaders" and, of course, James Bond. (They even included "The Cannonball Run"!) Click here to view.
Legendary filmmaker Sam Peckinpah was one of
the true believers—one of the last of the diehards. He believed that a man was
only as good as his word, and if he couldn’t keep his word, he was no good at
all. Just about all of the 14 films he made during his short career centered
around that idea. In most of them there is the man who stays loyal to his
friends and true to his code, contrasted with his opposite, the man who sells
out. “The Wild Bunch” told the story of an outlaw and his gang being pursued by
a posse led by a former friend turned Judas goat. “Pat Garrett and Billy the
Kid” recounts Garrett’s betrayal of his former saddle mate, William H. Bonney,
to the Santa Fe Ring. Even the spy thriller, “The Killer Elite,” is about a security
agent whose friend sells him out for a price.
For Peckinpah, it was more than just a good
theme for a movie. It was a way of life. Oddly enough, the tough-talking,
hard-drinking brawler, who earned the nickname “Bloody Sam,” because of the bloodshed
and violence in his films, was often labeled a cynic. But as somebody once
observed, a cynic is just an idealist who’s had his teeth kicked in too many
time. Peckinpah’s filmmaking career was one long kick in the teeth. He battled
with the suits, the studio execs, who didn’t like him or the way he made
movies. They didn’t like the way he defied them by going over budget and
schedule, or shooting scenes that they thought weren’t necessary (but which Sam
believed were the heart of the story); and they didn’t like the way he wouldn’t
buckle under. He was a man with a vision, and he would not compromise that
vision, no matter what they did to him. His films were often cut and butchered
after he finished them. Nevertheless, he persevered on, bloodied, battered, and,
in the end, clutching self-destructively at alcohol and drugs to keep going. He
came to an early end in Mexico at age 59 after suffering a heart attack.
Peckinpah started in television. He cut his
teeth on TV westerns, writing 11 half-hour episodes of “Gunsmoke,” creating “The
Rifleman,” and “The Westerner” series and contributing scripts for “Trackdown,”
“Tombstone Territory,” and other shows of that era. Even in those early efforts
you could see the embryonic formation of his thematic ideas. In one “Gunsmoke”
episode, Matt Dillon grieves after accidentally killing a friend in a gunfight.
His friend had told him that he didn’t think much of a man who notched his gun
after a shooting. At his gravesite, Matt notches his own gun for the first and
only time, as a reminder.
“Ride the High Country,” freshly released on
Blu-Ray by the Warner Archive Collection, was Peckinpah’s second feature film.
“The Deadly Companions” had preceded it, but suffered from a low budget and the
heavy-handed influence of an amateur producer. “Ride the High Country” was the
first movie where he had control over the material and could shape it the way
he wanted. It also had the added plus of having two western film legends in the
cast—Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott. McCrea is Steve Judd, former lawman of
some note in his earlier years, now an old man who hires on to guard a gold
shipment from the Coarsegold Mine. He may be on in years, but he’s still the
same ramrod straight man he’d always been. He teams up with his old friend Gil
Westrum (Scott), who, in contrast, has let time bend his principles a bit. When
we first see him he is running a phony Wild West shooting gallery, posing as a
Buffalo Bill-type character. When Steve tells him about the shipment of gold
and asks if he knows anybody who’d like to sign on with him for the job, dollar
signs light up in Westrum’s eyes. He joins Judd, bringing along Heck Longtree
(Ron Starr), his young sidekick, telling him he’s pretty sure he can convince
Judd to go along with his plan to steal the gold rather than deliver it to the
bank. It’s the classic Peckinpah set-up. During the ride to the mine, Westrum
keeps working on Judd, dropping hints about how little money they had made as
lawmen. Judd admits he doesn’t have much to show for all those years. He even
has a hole in the sole of his boot to prove it. But when Westrum keeps at him,
asking him what keeps him going, Judd utters the line that everybody quotes
when they talk about this movie: “All I
want is to enter my house justified.”
In Nick Redman’s excellent featurette, “A
Justified Life: Sam Peckinpah and the High Country,” included as a bonus
feature on the disc, Peckinpah’s sister, Fern Lee Peter, provides some insight
into Peckinpah’s upbringing and the hidden, more sensitive side of his
personality. Sam’s father, a lawyer and later a judge, was a huge influence on
him, and there is a lot of his father in the Judd character—a man of uncompromising
moral rectitude. Sam grew up with his brother, Denver, who was eight years
older, and used to tag along with him and his older friends, trying to put on a
tough front. But he was smaller than the other boys and more sensitive, more like
his mother, to whom he was closer. According to Peter, like her, he “was able
to tell when someone hurt.”
There’s a subplot in “Ride the High Country,”
that reveals that hidden, sensitive side. A young girl, Elsa Knudson (Marriette
Hartley), rides with the bank guards up to the mountain camp to meet her
fiancé, Billy Hammond (James Drury), one of the miners. Billy has three
brothers (Warren Oates, John Davis Chandler, and L. Q. Jones), and a father
(John Anderson). A scruffier, more depraved bunch of characters, you’ve never
met. (All the members of the Hammond clan, by the way, were played by actors
who had appeared in various TV episodes Peckinpah had written—an informal Peckinpah
stock company.) A nightmare wedding
scene presided over by drunken Judge Tolliver (Edgar Buchanan) is shot entirely
from Elsa’s point of view, and anyone who says Peckinpah was misogynistic and insensitive
to women, should watch to see how sympathetically he portrays Elsa’s
The trajectory of the plot follows Judd’s
ultimate clash with Westrum and a final confrontation between them and the
Hammonds. The climax is both redemptive and apotheotic. The final shot of “Ride
the High Country” is, perhaps, one of the simplest and yet most moving images
ever put on film.
The Warner Archive Blu-Ray presents the film
in 1080p High Definition with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Sound is DTS-HD Master
Audio Mono. George Bassman’s somber score sounds good. Picture quality is first
rate and Lucien Ballard’s cinematography of locations in and around Inyo
National Forest never looked better. The disc also includes audio commentary by
the Peckinpah Peckerwoods (Paul Seydor, David Weddle, and Garner Simmons), all
of whom possess extensive Peckinpah knowledge, but tend to go overboard ooh-ing
and ahh-ing over every little thing the director did. It’s a tad annoying but
“Ride the High Country,” is a classic that
every fan of westerns must see and see again. The Warner Archive Blu-Ray is a
“must have” for the true believers out there.
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John M. Whalen is the author of "This Ray Gun for Hire...and Other Tales." Click here to order from Amazon.
Kino Lorber has released a new
DVD edition of John Wayne's late-career detective flick "Brannigan".
The 1975 film takes Wayne out of the saddle and deposits him squarely in
central London ("The Duke's in London. God Save the Queen!" read the
tag line on the film poster.). The "fish-out--of-water" crime
thriller concept began with Don Siegel's outstanding "Coogan's Bluff"
(1968), which inspired Dennis Weaver's hit rip-off TV series
"McCloud". Still, the premise works well with Wayne's tough Chicago
Irish cop Jim Brannigan sent to London to extradite a top crime figure, much as
Clint Eastwood's Coogan was shipped to New York to bring a criminal back to
Arizona. Wayne had gone the detective route the year before in "McQ".
He had originally been offered the role of Dirty Harry but correctly assumed
his fans would not stand for him playing such an anti-Establishment character.
Still, the phenomenal success of that movie made him realize that the Western
genre was in decline and that he'd better switch gears occasionally to keep his
loyal fans on board. Wayne was said to loathe "McQ". It was a
downbeat, cynical look at corruption in the police force. Ironically, for many
of his fans, it is regarded as one of the best films from the latter part of
his career. Teaming Wayne with an ace director, John Sturges, the film provided
the Duke with an intelligent script, surprising plot turns and a
less-than-larger-than-life character to portray. The movie did fairly well
despite Wayne's reservations so perhaps that is why he immediately returned to
the crime film genre with "Brannigan". In reality, Wayne had planned
to do a detective film with this title for at least a decade. A 1964 trade
industry story announced he would begin filming it in "the near East".
The project never happened. When it was dusted off a decade later, it was
temporarily titled "Joe Battle" before mercifully assuming its
"Brannigan" is a crime thriller but the two films are far apart in
terms of style. "Brannigan" is directed by the underrated Douglas
Hickox ("Theatre of Blood", "Zulu Dawn") with emphasis on
humor, as we see Wayne immediately learn that the crime kingpin he is to escort
home (John Vernon) has been allowed to escape. His counterpart is Scotland Yard
Inspector Swan, played by Richard Attenborough. This "Odd
Couple"-like teaming of two radically different acting styles is one of
the true delights of the film. Both Wayne and Attenborough are clearly enjoying
each other's company and their good natured "one-upmanship" provides
plenty of genuine laughs. As the two detectives relentlessly track down their
man, there are plenty of memorable action highlights including a well-staged
car chase that includes a jump over the rising Tower Bridge. There's also a
major, well-staged pub brawl that's right out of the John Ford playbook.
Director Hickox makes the most of London's fabulous sites, which adds
immeasurably to the film's pleasures. (This is only one of two movies to be
shot in London's ultra-exclusive private Garrick Club and Hickox makes the most
of it, showing off the elegant facility for a sequence in which Brannigan and
Swan debate police tactics over lunch.) There is also a spirited, lively
performance by Judy Geeson as a young Scotland Yard detective who enjoys a
playful but platonic relationship with Brannigan. The supporting cast is a
strong one with John Vernon and Mel Ferrer providing the villainy. Ralph
Meeker gets relatively prominent billing but his on-screen appearance lasts little
more than a minute, indicating some of his footage may have been left on the
cutting room floor. The film climaxes with an assassin trying to gun down
Brannigan from a speeding car at the old Beckton Gasworks, a ghastly-looking
industrial facility that was memorably used for the pre-credits sequence of the
1981 James Bond film "For Your Eyes Only". All of this is set to a
zippy jazz score by Dominic Frontiere that is off-beat for a film in this
genre. "Brannigan" is not a late-career Wayne classic in the way
that "The Cowboys" and "The Shootist" can be regarded. But
it is a hell of a lot of fun and provides Wayne with a role that fit him like a
glove. Nearing seventy years old, he could still at this point carry off the
action sequences credibly.
The film has been
available for many years through MGM and Twilight Time released a Blu-ray
limited edition that is now sold out. The Kino Lorber transfer is excellent
with a crisp, clean image that does justice to the London scenery. Sadly, no
commentary track but Kino Lorber does provide the original trailer along with a
gallery of trailers for other action
flicks available from the company. The sleeve also eschews the standard U.S.
artwork of Wayne in a pub brawl in favor of more offbeat artwork from the European
campaign showing the Duke firing a pistol. Recommended.
The Bond in Motion exhibition at the London Film Museum has opened a special section dedicated to the 50th anniversary of "You Only Live Twice"that includes original props, rare photos and original storyboards. The Bond in Motion displays also include a virtual history of 007-related props and vehicles. Click here for tickets.
2014 interview with Robert Markowitz, Walter Hill stated ‘I think in casual
conversation I would have told anybody I wanted to direct. At the same time I
knew Hollywood was a closed off place...’ Working as a script writer, Hill
began climbing his way up after working on the script for Hickey & Boggs
(1972). He was then asked by Peter Bogdanovich
to co-write The Getaway (1972), a movie he was lined up to direct with Steve
McQueen. Whilst the script was in its early stages, McQueen fired Bogdanovich
from the project and immediately enlisted Sam Peckinpah to replace him. However,
Walter Hill was given the chance to stay on and instructed to begin rewriting
the script fresh from page one. Six weeks later the script was complete and the
film went on to become a major success. A slice of good fortune perhaps for
Hill, but he still maintains that it was the success of The Getaway that
ultimately determined how he came to be a director. Hollywood may had been
closed off, but it provided Hill with a rare opportunity. In 1973, Hill began
writing the script for Paul Newman’s The Mackintosh Man. It was also the same
year he met producer Lawrence Gordon. Following differences during the writing
of The Drowning Pool (1975), Newman’s revival of private eye Lew Harper, Gordon
invited Hill to Columbia in order to write his next film, Hard Times (1975). Gordon
also agreed that should Hill decide to write the script he would also allow him
to direct the movie.
Hill would later come to be known as a great action auteur, he made a rather
wonderful debut with this pulp triumph. Not only would it conjure an evocative
period atmosphere, but also boast memorable performances from both Charles
Bronson and James Coburn.
plays a drifter suddenly caught up in the fight game during the Great
Depression. Chaney, a down-on-his-luck loner, hops a freight train to New
Orleans where, on the seedier side of town, he tries to make some quick money
the only way he knows how - with his fists. Chaney approaches a hustler named
Speed (James Coburn) and convinces him that he can win big money for them both.
Times still holds up extremely well andBronson keeps his performance low key whilst
maintaining the strong, silent tough guy persona. Bronson was in his fifties
when he took on this role, which did concern Walter Hill to a certain degree.
Nevertheless, Bronson’s Chaney still presents an imposing figure - lean,
chiselled and certainly still got the moves. However, it’s Coburn’s Speed that
almost steals the show. It’s a wonderful, if somewhat sleazy portrayal. For
Speed it’s just about the money, Cold and ruthless, he’s a character who likes
to spend many as fast as he can get it. In many respects it is Bronson who
helps elevate Coburn’s performance – simply because he allows him so much.
Bronson was never going to outwit or outtalk Coburn in the dialogue department;
instead Bronson uses his fists or general physicality in order to convey his
talking. It’s a nicely balanced pay off that works perfectly well and shines on
screen. Strother Martin is also worthy of mentioning as Poe, the ‘cut man’ who
completes the team between hustler and bruiser. Always a classy character
actor, Martin seems to provide a magnetic quality every time he appears on
screen. Jill Ireland again plays
Bronson’s love interest, at Bronson’s request as I believe. Her character of Lucy
is rather one dimensional and adds very little to the overall narrative. It
could have arguably been eliminated completely without ever really upsetting
the nicely paced flow of the film. Hill would later comment that he removed a
great deal of her scenes in the final edit, much to Bronson’s disapproval.
There’s nothing I like better than getting
hold of a movie that I’ve been searching over three decades for and adding it
to my collection. At my age, there aren’t many vintage films left that I don’t
own in one format or another, so when I heard that the 1976 cult classic Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw was getting a
Blu-ray release, I was quite enthused. This movie has somehow always managed to
elude me. It never seemed to play on any of my cable stations in the early 80s,
we never had a copy of it at the video store I worked at in the mid-80s and I
was still never able to find a copy of it anywhere throughout the 90s. To be
honest, by the time the 21st century hit, I completely forgotten
about this movie, so I was pretty surprised and even more excited to find out
that it was not only being released on Blu-ray, but also with quite a few
special features. Why? To begin with, I’m a tremendous fan of the director; not
to mention the entire cast and, last, but not least, I just love fun,
action/crime/drama exploitation films from the 1970s.
Produced and directed by Mark Lester (Truck Stop Women, Roller Boogie, Class of
1984), written by Vernon Zimmerman (Unholy
Rollers, Fade to Black) and released by American International Pictures,
modern western Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw
tells the tale of quick-draw expert and Billy the Kid enthusiast Lyle Wheeler
(Marjoe Gortner, Earthquake, Food of the
Gods, Viva Knievel!, Starcrash) who, together with waitress and aspiring
country singer Bobbi Jo Baker (TV’s one and only Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter) experiences a dangerous cross country
adventure filled with love, robbery and murder.
So, was the movie worth the wait? I certainly
think so. It may not be in the same league as Bonnie and Clyde (1967), but it’s still an extremely enjoyable,
well-directed, written and acted low-budget feature that definitely deserves to
be seen. To begin with, Mark Lester’s direction is not only solid, but he is
just at home directing the quiet, more character-driven and dramatic/romantic
scenes as he is directing a sequence involving heavy action and stunts. Next
up, Vernon Zimmerman’s wonderful writing not only creates an engaging story,
but interesting and likeable three-dimensional characters as well. Lyle Wheeler
aka the Outlaw, seems to live by his own code and has definite ideas of good
and evil; right and wrong. Marjoe Gortner effortlessly and believably gets all
this across and makes his character quite likeable. (This may be my favorite
Gortner performance.) The stunning Lynda Carter gets to show a bit more range
then she did as Wonder Woman and is extremely convincing as the hopeful and
somewhat naïve Bobbi Jo. The rest of the outrageously talented cast not only
add immensely to the film, but clearly came to play. Jesse Vint (Chinatown, Forbidden World) perfectly
plays Slick Callahan; a wild, not too bright cocaine fiend and boyfriend of
Bobbi Jo’s sister, Pearl. Gorgeous Merrie Lynn Ross (Class of 1984, TVs General
Hospital), who also co-produced the film, brings a hardened heart quality
to slightly ditzy stripper Pearl, and the always welcome Belinda Balaski (Piranha, The Howling) shines as hippie
waitress Essie Beaumont. Rounding out the top-notch cast is Gene Drew (Truck Stop Women) as a no-nonsense
sheriff, B-movie legend Gerrit Graham (Beware!
The Blob, Phantom of the Paradise, The Annihilators, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the
C.H.U.D.) as a helpful hippie, Virgil Frye (Graduation Day), who replaced Dennis Hopper, as a macho gas station
attendant with something to prove, Peggy Stewart (Alias Billy the Kid, Beyond Evil) as Bobbi Jo’s alcoholic mom, and
James Gammon (Major League) as a fast
Billy Wilder’s One, Two, Three is perhaps the legendary
director’s most underrated film. There are several reasons for this, many having
to do with the impressively high standards set by Wilder’s own prior work. On
the heels of Some Like It Hot (1959)
and The Apartment (1960), this 1961
film seems infinitely more perceptive, but it doesn’t have that “classic
Hollywood” sheen. It is every bit as acerbic as Wilder’s other overlooked
masterpiece, Ace in the Hole (1951),
but the pointed politics of One, Two,
Three make it somewhat less popularly appreciable than the earlier film’s
media reproach (though both are supremely relevant today). More than anything,
the fact of the matter is that by 1961, Wilder’s finest hours did lay behind
him, in part evinced by more than a dozen Oscar nominations and six wins. With
everything considered, maybe One, Two,
Three doesn’t live up to Wilder’s more acclaimed predecessors, but what
films do? Forgoing that delimitation, though, this riotous Cold War comedy
deserves due credit. And now that Kino Lorber has released the picture on an
excellent new Blu-ray, this is as good a time as any.
Set in 1961
Berlin, straddling the border between East and West Germany and sitting at a
precarious cultural and political crossroads, One, Two, Three is the portrait of a divided city, where the communist
side goes about its daily business of parading, while its democratic half grows
under the influence of Western, specifically American, culture—pop (in two
senses of the word) or otherwise. And what could be more American than an
emblematic bottle of Coca-Cola? Hoping to strike a deal that cracks the Iron Curtain
and allows for the East German distribution of this iconic beverage is C.R.
MacNamara, played with great gusto by James Cagney. Balancing family with
business and patriotism with commerce, MacNamara is the quintessential “no
culture, just cash” ugly American. Angling to become a high-ranking executive
in the Coca-Cola company, he is put in the arduous position of babysitter when
his stateside boss gives him the irksome task of keeping tabs on his daughter,
the blustery ditz Scarlett Hazeltine (Pamela Tiffin).
Pining for a
promotion, MacNamara accepts the responsibility while also contending with his
home life—two children and his jaded wife, Phyllis (Arlene Francis)—and his
office life—some overly-disciplined desk jockeys and a sexy secretary named
Fräulein Ingeborg, played by the Swiss Liselotte (Lilo) Pulver. Things go from
better to bad to worse when Scarlett’s nighttime excursions plant her firmly in
the arms, and the bed, of comrade Otto Piffl (Horst Buchholz), an ardent East
German communist who steals Scarlett’s heart and indoctrinates her bubblehead
with anti-capitalist sentiment, something very much in opposition to
MacNamara’s corporate responsibilities and her father’s livelihood. With the
Hazeltine family en route, and a baby on the way (the pregnant Scarlett is just
17, mind you), One, Two, Three
becomes a hilariously rapid race-against-the-clock skirmish over ideals,
politics, family, and, of course, soda.
barreling train on its tracks is Cagney’s MacNamara, a blustering whirlwind of fierce
mannerisms, bold proclamations, and often dubious motivations. In the biting words
of Wilder and his frequent co-writer I. A. L. Diamond, the innuendo between
MacNamara and the voluptuous Ingeborg is unexpectedly risqué (he’s fascinated
by the nature of her “umlaut”), while
the incessant banter gives His Girl
Friday a run for its rapid-fire money. MacNamara declares that the East
Germans are “shifty” people, and he should know; he’s as shifty as they come.
He’s a high-anxiety blowhard and an unscrupulous schemer, and with his terse
delivery, Cagney plays the part in a brisk nod to his wise-guy persona. At the
same time, the relentless verbal pace is amplified by star’s physical dynamism,
revealing Cagney’s dance-driven proficiency as well as his oral aptitude.
the pantheon of recorded and performance comedy, right there on the first
floor, you will find a monument to the Firesign Theater. How they began to
occupy that hallowed estate is the subject of a new DVD called Everything You Know is Wrong --The Declassified
Firesign Theater 1968-1975, released on the Bright Red Rocket label.. Like most enthusiasts, I became acquainted with
their mind-blowing material as a high school and college student who was just
learning to appreciate the wit and wisdom of these modern thespians.
those of you who were not alive in those glorious years, or were distracted by
the British Invasion called Monty Python, the Firesign Theater was our own,
100% American comedy troupe comprised of Phil Austin, Peter Bergman, David
Ossman, and Philip Proctor. Best known for their comedy albums on Columbia
records (including such unique titles as “Waiting for the Electrician or
Someone Like Him,” “How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You’re Not
Anywhere At All,” and my personal favorite, “Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me
the Pliers.”) The title of this DVD is taken from their 1974 Columbia record,
“Everything You Know Is Wrong.” Defined by many as “surrealistic comedy,” I
don’t think the adjective is necessary. This is comedy that puts a smile on
your face, and a laugh in your heart, and isn’t that what comedy is supposed to
do—regardless of how it gets you there.
from radio performances at KPPC-FM and KPFK in Los Angeles, they excelled in
creating images in your imagination of people, sounds, and situations—absurd,
irreverent, and downright funny. The DVD set fills in the blanks for the fans
who followed them over the years, and creates a need for all those record
albums in those who will discover them through this compilation.
one starts with an audio only program taken from “The Les Crane Show” in April
1968. This Firesign Theater performance was a live re-creation of their “Oz
Film Festival” routine (listed in the LA Times TV listing as an “Art Movie
Put-on”) –based on an improvisation from the first time they worked together on
“Radio Free Oz” in November 1966. There is no known recording of that first
performance which makes this recording hysterically important. While Crane’s
show was televised, only the audio has survived, because it was taped by a
member of the Firesign while standing in front of his television set.
Crane’s interview is especially fascinating because it sounds, at first blush,
like a serious interview with serious film artists. The nervous laughter of the
studio audience demonstrates that they were not sure either if it was an act or
not. I found their unique film techniques quite believable not only for the
time, but even today. I only wish I could have seen the production still which
Jeanclaude Jeanclaude brought with him from his film “2002” which showed golf-balls and a coffeepot in space.
also wish I knew what the viewers thought, when they watched the commercials
the troupe did for the Jack Poet Volkswagen dealership in Highland Park,
California. Wonder no longer, as you can see them for yourself in the second
section of disc one. You can view them all with commentary by the group, but
why would you want to do that? I listened to commentary because I had to. You
can just focus on their message—which was designed to sell something. I’m not
sure it was cars. I guess it only goes to prove that everything I know is
the liner notes for “The Jack Poet Volkswagen TV Ads,” the Firesign Theater
claim partial responsibility for Jack eventually losing his Volkswagen
franchise. I find that hard to believe. Those were some hot cars in those ads. They
must have sold a lot of Love Bugs to those who followed Tony Gomez’s directions
up the Pan American Freeway from South America to Highland Park.
who was the man polishing the Bugs in the background? The unknown member of the
Firesign? Will we ever find out? Well, stand-by readers! Philip Proctor reports
to me that, as this piece goes to press, “That man is Jack Poet,” himself!
Immortalized in this two disc set.
Director John G. Avildsen has passed away from pancreatic cancer. He had an eclectic body of work that began in earnest with his work as a cinematographer on several high profile films of the 1960s including "Hurry Sundown" and "Mickey One". Avildsen graduated to the director's chair with the surprise indie hit "Joe" in 1970 a serio-comic look at an ultra conservative working man (Peter Boyle) whose rage boils over from what he believes are anti-American protest movements against the Vietnam War. Three years later Avildsen directed the acclaimed drama "Save the Tiger" which won Jack Lemmon the Best Actor Oscar. In 1976 he directed the most unlikely of blockbusters, "Rocky", which won the Best Picture Oscar. Avildsen took home the Best Director award. He also scored with the "Karate Kid" franchise and also directed the zany comedy "Neighbors" with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as well as "The Formula" with Marlon Brando and George C. Scott and the 1990 sequel "Rocky V". He was working on new film projects when he succumbed to cancer. Click here for more.
Olive Films has released the now obscure 1941 British film noir "Pimpernel Smith" starring Leslie Howard, who also directed. The movie (known as "Mister V" in the United States) was released in 1941 at a time when England was hanging on by a thin thread as Hitler dominated most of Europe. As with all of the countries involved in WWII, the British film industry relied heavily on top stars appearing in inspiring movies that would boost public morale. This was especially true in England which saw its major ally, France, capitulate to Hitler in a matter of weeks, leaving the island nation standing alone against the Nazi menace. . At the time "Pimpernel Smith" was released in July 1941 (American would not enter the war until the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December of that year), the Brits were enjoying a spate of good news. After the disastrous experience of the British expedition force in Dunkirk, the nation had been subjected to the Blitz, the daily bombing by the Luftwaffe. London was especially hard hit in what Hitler had hoped to be a strategy that would have destroyed the RAF and led to his massive invasion of England. Instead, after a year of bitter fighting, the RAF had defeated the Luftwaffe and Hitler put his invasion plans on hold as he dealt with the consequences of his misguided incursion into the Soviet Union. With the Battle of Britain now over, the Brits could catch their breath and resume normal activities such as attending the cinema without worrying about being bombed into oblivion. Apparently "Pimpernel Smith" was an especially popular boxoffice hit in 1941, though the film's reputation as faded into oblivion in the decades since.
Howard's film production is a modern, loosely-based version of the classic "The Scarlet Pimpernel"- one of the first famous tales in which the dynamic hero hides behind a meek and mild alter ego to keep his identity secret. The story is set in the months before England went to war with the Axis powers following Germany's invasion of Poland. Howard plays Prof. Horatio Smith, a tweedy, eccentric academic who teaches at Cambridge. He arranges to take a group of his male students on a field trip to Germany ostensibly to undertake an archaeological expedition to prove that an ancient Aryan culture had once existed there- a notion that appeals to the xenophobic Nazi establishment. In reality, Smith is the unlikely anonymous hero whose exploits are filling the newspapers with tales of adventure, much to the delight of the British and the consternation of the Germans. Through daring schemes that border on the outrageous, Smith has been able to rescue important political prisoners from jails and concentration camps. His latest foray into Germany is designed to rescue Sidmir Koslowski (Peter Gawthorne), a Polish intellectual who is of value to the Allies. He has been arrested by the Germans on suspicion of being a spy. As the field trip gets under way, Smith plays up his role as an absent-minded professor, much to the amusement of his students. However, when he receives a flesh wound during one of his nocturnal secret missions, the boys catch on and insist that they be enlisted into helping Smith free Koslowski. Smith reluctantly concedes to accept their help. On the surface, Smith is treated as an honored guest by the Germans but the local military commander, General von Graum (Francis L. Sullivan) strongly suspects he is actually the "Pimpernel" and is determined to prove it and arrest him before any more prisoners can be freed. Von Graum forcibly enlists the services of Koslowski's beautiful daughter Ludmilla (Mary Morris) and makes her serve as a spy, holding her father's well-being over her head as collateral. Her mission is to seduce Smith if necessary in order to get proof of his extracurricular activities. Predictably, the two fall in love and Smith now not only has to rescue Koslowski, but his daughter as well.
Despite the fact that Leslie Howard was at the height of his career coming off of his role as Ashley Wilkes in "Gone with the Wind", "Pimpernel Smith" is a low-budget film that resembles a Poverty Row production. Perhaps resources and funding for films in wartime Britain were scarce even for a movie with strong propaganda value such as this. Virtually the entire film was shot on soundstages- and rather claustrophobic ones at that. City views glimpsed through windows are represented by low-grade matte paintings and there are only a few fleeting shots of actual exteriors. It's to Howard's credit as star and director as well as the screenwriters that the movie overcomes these distractions with a highly engrossing story line that builds in interest and suspense during the two-hour running time. Howard is in top form and he is more than matched by Francis L. Sullivan who makes for a larger-than-life villain in both the figurative and literal sense of the term. Sullivan uses his considerable girth and wry delivery to channel the best characteristics of Charles Laughton and Sydney Greenstreet. The witty script allows some wonderful byplay as Smith and von Graum maintain a superficial politeness even though they both regard each other as mortal enemies engaged in a cat-and-mouse game of strategy. Mary Morris makes for a lovely leading lady though the male actors who play Smith's students are so wholesome as to come across as absurd. It doesn't help matters that the styles of the era make them appear to look older than Smith.
It's a pity that there were no further adventures of Pimpernel Smith. However, real-life tragedy intervened when Leslie Howard was flying back to England from neutral Portugal in 1943 aboard a civilian aircraft. The plane was shot down by German fighters and all aboard were killed. Germany claimed the tragedy was an error but theories persist that his may have been targeted because of rumors that Churchill was aboard. Another theory was that the Germans wanted Howard dead in retribution for an Allied propaganda campaign he had been carrying out in Spain and Portugal. (For full analysis of the conspiracy theories behind Howard's death, read this entry on Wikipedia.) Thus, one of the film industry's most popular leading men had his life cut short due to the war even though he wasn't serving in combat."Pimpernel Smith" is a modest film but one that resonates very well today and gives us a full appreciation of Howard's talents as both actor and director. The Olive Blu-ray is sans any extras, which is a pity because of the aforementioned dramatic elements of Howard's life that would make for a good commentary track. However, the picture transfer is very impressive and does justice to the fine cinematography of Mutz Greenbaum.
Tim Sarnoff Technicolor's President of Production, addresses attendees.
energy was building, the drones were flying and the mood was celebratory as
Technicolor officially opened its brand-new Culver City TEC Center dedicated to
the brave new worlds of VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality) and other immersive
official name is “Technicolor Experience Center”, and it’s been having a “soft”
opening for almost a year, but now the doors are really open... The facility
is a collaborative lab and incubator to develop future content and delivery
platforms in the Immersive media space. “The TEC is really a work in progress,”
explains Marcie Jastrow, Technicolor’s SVP Immersive Media and the executive in
charge of the Center. “It’s a safe place for people to come and learn. It’s part education, part production and part
post-production.” Although Technicolor is the parent company of hot VFX shops
The Mill, MPC and Mr. X, which combined work on fully 80% of Hollywood
blockbusters and 50% of Super Bowl spots, the TEC is agnostic – meaning they
welcome all producers and projects.
“Technicolor” and most people think old time movie color, but as Tim Sarnoff,
Technicolor’s President of Production points out, “We processed our last foot
of film in 2015, we’ve been growing in the digital space for years.” Technicolor owns over 40,000 patents and is
ubiquitous today. “Everyone touches something that involves Technicolor,” says
Sarnoff, “… from your smartphone, TV, set-top boxes, blockbuster movies to
Super Bowl commercials.”
cool item on display was “The Blackbird” a VR vehicle designed by The Mill that
has been transforming auto advertising because it can mimic almost any type of
car and its unique 3D camera rig can capture a virtual version of any
environment. Along with making auto ad
shoots easier, The Blackbird (named because it was built in the very same
hangar where the legendary spy plane, SR-71, was constructed) can also help automotive
designers envision a new vehicle much earlier in the design process.
400 people crowded Technicolor’s new space – designers, directors, executives
from gaming, TV, film studios and technologists, all curious about the night’s other
big announcement: Technicolor and HP’s new collaboration: MARS Home Planet, an
ambitious project to use VR to design a life-sustaining environment for 1
million humans on the Martian surface. Hopefully we don’t have to flee Mother
Earth just yet (!) but this will be a vast experiment where students and
members of the public worldwide are invited to participate.
Blackbird VR vehicle.
wanted to tap into the collective human imagination and inspiration to reinvent
life on another planet…” enthuses Sean Young, HP’s Worldwide Segment Manager,
Product Development. He also pointed out
that while HP is known for its printers, they’ve been working in the film and
media space for 75 years, starting with building a color grader for Walt
Home Planet uses NASA’s research and footage of the Martian surface to create a
realistic backdrop for engineers, creatives, scientists and others to reimagine
what human life on another planet could be. Wanna be an astronaut? Go to hp.com/go/mars. The first 10,000 explorers get a download
code for the Fusion Mars 2030 VR Experience.
All things come to those who wait. Having somehow inexcusably missed actor/writerJim Brochu's award-winning play "Zero Hour" that depicts the controversial life and career of Zero Mostel, I was able to see the show's most recent revival at the Theatre at St. Clement's which is just off Broadway. The show is presented by the Peccadillo Theatre Company, which specializes in staging worthy productions in the prestigious venue that is just off Broadway. For Brochu, the one-man show is a triumph.. He wrote the script himself and the production is directed with flair by three-time Oscar nominee Piper Laurie. Mostel was a larger-than-life talent and he is played with uncanny skill by Brochu, who somehow makes himself into the spitting image of the iconic actor (he doesn't bare the slightest resemblance to Mostel off-stage). The imaginative scenario finds the entire play set in Mostel's New York painting studio in 1977, shortly before his untimely death at age 62. (It was news to me that painting was his real passion and that he considered acting a sideline that paid the rent.) When the story opens, Mostel welcomes a New York Times reporter who is there to conduct an interview. "Welcomes" is perhaps not the proper word: Mostel addresses the unseen writer with a barrage of insults and quips that appear to be only partly said in jest. As Mostel unveils the story of his life, he is simultaneously busy painting a portrait of his guest. He relates his humble beginnings in Brooklyn and his respect for his hard-working, honest father. His parents were Orthodox Jews and his mother never forgave him for marrying outside the religion. The strained relationship apparently lasted until his mother was literally on her death bed and she refused to greet Zero's young son Josh because he was the product of a mixed marriage. Much of the show covers Mostel's diversified acting career, which came about quite accidentally. He was on a trajectory toward fame and fortune when he had the misfortune of falling under suspicion during the McCarthy era. Called before a committee with a demand to save his career by naming colleagues who were alleged to be communists, Mostel refused. Consequently, he was blacklisted for years with devastating effect on his psyche, not to mention his finances. Mostel airs his grievances against those artists who "named names", such as Elia Kazan and up-and-coming legendary Broadway director Jerome Robbins. Years later, however, he would work with Robbins despite his personal revulsion of the man because he recognized he was an artistic genius.
During the 90 minute production (played without intermission), Brochu's intense performance makes you think you are actually watching Mostel himself. He rails, rants, raves and charms. Mostel was capable of making crowds laugh uproariously but at the same time was known to be a challenge to work with. Mostel addresses these character flaws in the story, admitting some faults but denying others. One must keep in mind that the show is not an objective overview of his career simply because it presents Mostel relating his own version of his personal history. He tells fascinating stories about his most famous roles in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and as the original Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof"- and denounces the film version of the latter because he wasn't asked to star in it (allegedly because he was too difficult to work with) He also dismisses his cinematic triumph in Mel Brooks' "The Producers", saying that he hated the film because "I looked like a beached whale". If all Brochu offered was the Mostel who possessed a volcanic temper, the show would be unbearable. Who would want to spend 90 minutes with such a boor? However, he also shows us Mostel's softer, sentimental side especially when it came to him remaining loyal to the people who stood by him during the blacklisting years. (Burgess Meredith is singled out for praise as is his friend, Philip Loeb, who committed suicide because he was blacklisted). Mostel also proudly embraces his liberal political views, repeatedly pointing out that he agreed to have Jerome Robbins hired for his plays because to not do so would have been the equivalent of blacklisting - something Mostel felt the political left should never be responsible for. Strangely, the play doesn't make mention of Mostel's final film appearance in the 1976 movie "The Front", a scathing indictment of McCarthyism that was created by people who had been blacklisted (director Martin Ritt, screenwriter Walter Bernstein and Mostel, among them.)
"Zero Hour" is a remarkable achievement about the life of a great talent whose name is in danger of fading into oblivion. If younger people know who he is it's largely because of "The Producers"- if they even know about the film. However, for now, Mostel's and legend are alive and well on the stage of the Theatre at St. Clementine's. The production runs through July 9. Don't miss it- this is New York theater at its very best.
was a time when movies about the Vietnam War were sparse if non existent,
especially during the years when the war was raging (one of the rare exceptions
being John Wayne’s “The Green Berets” in 1968). Once popular movie genres like the
war movie and western were prolific on television and in cinemas, but were beginning
to fall out of favor in the 1970s. They were being reinvented and metamorphosed
into post modern psychological examinations of the nature of violence and war. Hollywood
commonly referenced the Vietnam War by creating characters in movies depicted
as dysfunctional or they commented on the war by setting the movie during a
different war “The Sand Pebbles” and “M*A*S*H” are outstanding examples of
Vietnam War movies in disguise).
Tell the Spartans” was part of the small tide of movies about that war released
in the late seventies and eighties. The 1978 release features a terrific
performance by Burt Lancaster as well as an interesting supporting cast of up and
coming actors. The film's opening prologue states: "In 1954, the French
lost their war to keep their Indo-China colonies and those colonies became
North and South Vietnam. Then the North aided a rebellion in the South and the
United States sent in 'Military Advisors' to help South Vietnam fight the
Communists. In 1964, the war in Vietnam was still a little one -- confused and
is war weary Army Major Asa Barker, commander of a South Vietnam outpost in
1964. A veteran of WWII and Korea, Barker commands a small group of American
advisors at the outpost on the eve of the American build-up in Vietnam. His
command also includes a few South Vietnamese soldiers and villagers as he
negotiates with the corrupt regional governor to ensure his troops receive
proper artillery cover as they engage North Vietnamese forces.
second in command is Captain Alfred Olivetti (Marc Singer), a capable junior
officer almost as jaded as Barker. They are assisted by the capable Signalman
Toffee (Hilly Hicks) who is always ready with communications to headquarters
before being asked. Replacements arrive at the outpost and they include the
usual assortment of misfits, fence sitters, thoughtful soldiers and a gung-ho
newly commissioned lieutenant. Corporal Stephen Courcey (Craig Wasson) is the college
drop-out eager to serve his country by helping the South Vietnamese. Sergeant
Oleonowski (Jonathan Goldsmith) is an experienced veteran near to reaching his
breaking point. Lieutenant Raymond Hamilton (Joe Unger) is the recently
commissioned officer a little too eager to engage the enemy and Corporal
Abraham Lincoln (Dennis Howard) is the opium addicted stoner. Cowboy (Evan Kim)
is Barker’s Vietnamese scout who is a bit zealous in his methods of enemy
interrogation. Character actor James Hong is also present as one of the
villagers assisting the Americans.
and his men are ordered on an expedition to an abandoned French military
outpost to report on enemy activity. They encounter the fort cemetery with 300
French graves from the First Indochina War where a sign written in French quotes
the Greek historian Herodotus referencing the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C.
Greece; "Stranger, go tell the Spartans that here we are buried, obedient
to their orders." The men soon find themselves engaging an overwhelming
force of Viet Cong. The soldiers realize the similarities between their
expedition and the doomed French soldiers who died there 10 years earlier as
they make a stand against the Viet Cong. Several of the characters succumb to
their fate as happens in all war movies, but the film does this in a sincere
depiction of the futility of war in a way that honors those who serve and
on Daniel Ford’s 1967 novel, “Incident at Muc Wa,” the title was changed to “Go
Tell the Spartans” by screenwriter Wendell Mayes. Ford based the novel on his
experiences covering the war for “The Nation.” The novel covers what is historically
known as “Operation Blaze.” Mayes beefed up the character of Barker in the
hopes a major Hollywood actor could be coaxed into taking the part. After
several years in development Hell, Lancaster accepted the part under the
direction of Ted Post for Avco Embassy. The movie literally had a spartan
budget and was shot on location in California which doubled for the jungles of
Southeast Asia. “The Green Berets” suffered from a similar lack of location
filming and it’s a glaring liability in both films. If the viewer can overlook
this and accept pine trees for jungle palms, the movie works quite well as a compelling
war drama with expertly staged battle scenes.
Scorpion Blu-ray release looks and sounds terrific with a running time of 115
minutes. The new high definition transfer in widescreen is a vast improvement over
the previous 2006 DVD release. Extras on the disc include interviews with cast
members Marc Singer, Joe Unger, David Clennon, Jonathan Goldsmith and director
Ted Post. The interviews include interesting anecdotes on working with Burt
Lancaster and the process of bringing the movie to the big screen. If you own
the 2006 DVD, this Blu-ray is a worthy upgrade and recommended for fans of the
benefit of those unfamiliar with the events that preceded The Amityville Horror’s arrival on screen, I'll start with a little
backstory. In November 1974 one Ronald DeFeo murdered six members of his family
in their home at 112 Ocean Avenue on Long Island, New York. 13 months later
George and Kathleen Lutz, along with her three children from a previous
marriage, moved in; unperturbed by the gruesome events of a year earlier, they
had purchased the property at a bargain price. The family fled the premises
just shy of a month later, claiming to have experienced a succession of
terrifying paranormal events. Their experiences soon became the subject of a
book by Jay Anson, published in 1977. Following extensive studies by a number
of parapsychology experts, many of the Lutzes stories would later be debunked,
but at the time the couple became something of a media sensation. Director
Stuart Rosenberg's film – which, as movies will, played a little economical
with the facts (at least as they were laid out in Anson's book) – was released
in 1979 and not only proved to be a major hit for American International
Pictures but was one of the highest grossing ever independents to that time.
So, did any of those paranormal incidents really take place, or was it all just
canny media manipulation? George and Kathleen are dead, both having passed away
prematurely in 2006 and 2004, respectively, so the true story will probably
never be known. But that house on Ocean Avenue has changed hands five times
since the Lutzes left – with the owners having modified the building's facade
and getting the address legally changed in a bid to dissuade tourists from
pestering them – and there has never been another report of an untoward
occurrence. One can make of that what one will. In any event, back in the 70s
George and Kathleen Lutz appeared to enjoy the attention their alleged
misfortune brought them and considerable monies were generated. And at the end
of the day the possibility that, actually, it wasn't all a hoax affords the whole business an enduring appeal.
Rosenberg's film spawned a dozen spin-offs and sequels and was itself remade in
2005. On a final historical note, in a 1980 episode of the British TV series Hammer House of Horror entitled The House That Bled to Death a family are
driven out of their new home in the wake of a number of paranormal events. They
sell their story for a substantial sum and the tale ends with them living a
life of luxury and the revelation that they fabricated everything for the
money, although there's one final devilish twist in which...well, I won't ruin
it here; those interested in the Amityville phenomenon, on which The House That Bled to Death was clearly
riffing, will find it well worth seeking out.
to the 1979 film itself. I first saw The
Amityville Horror theatrically (twice) upon its initial UK release early in
1980 – six months after its US opening the previous summer. Although its
effervescence has diminished somewhat in the intervening years, back then the
belief that I was witnessing what were supposedly true events added a distinct
frisson to the proceedings.
married George and Kathy Lutz (James Brolin and Margot Kidder) move into a
large property on Long Island, the site of a familial massacre just a year
earlier. A succession of relatively minor incidents – inexplicable odours,
toilet bowls ejaculating viscous black gunge – begin to tarnish the happy
household, and George's health plummets. After priest and friend of the family
Father Delaney (Rod Steiger) is driven out by an unseen presence whilst he's in
the process of blessing the house, the abnormal occurrences intensify and it
becomes apparent that the residue of something evil is at work. When George's mood
darkens and his sanity begins to unravel, Kathy starts to fear for the lives of
her entire family.
The Amityville Horror
was co-produced by Elliot Geisinger and Ronald Saland, known primarily for a
number of behind-the-scenes shorts they directed and produced throughout the
60s and 70s. But the name that stands out here is that of executive producer
Samuel Z Arkoff, instantly recognisable to movie buffs from Vincent Price
horrors (Cry of the Banshee, The Abominable Dr Phibes and its sequel,
Dr Phibes Rises Again), through
blaxploitation classics (Coffy, Blacula, Slaughter) to clunky monster flicks (The People That Time Forgot, The
Food of the Gods, Empire of the Ants);
if Arkoff's name was on it you always knew you were in for a fun ride. And The Amityville Horror is nothing if not
Stuart Rosenberg, working from a Sandor Stern screenplay, conjures up an
efficient little creepy embroidered with all the standard haunted house tropes;
bumps in the night, thunderstorms, blood-spattered dream sequences, bricked-up
cubbyholes, tormented babysitters, and at one point the hoariest of them all,
the sudden appearance of a howling cat. But there are also enough genuinely efficacious
jumps and starts throughout to keep viewers on their toes. The whole shebang
gets strong backing from a terrific Lalo Schifrin score, its haunting (no pun
intended) nursery rhyme theme – the sound of chanting children set against low
strings combining to invoke a crawling sense of ill-ease – surely ranking among
the composer's finest works. It was Oscar-nominated for Best Original Score of
1979 but lost out to George Delerue's A
There’s enough cross-plot evidence to suggest that some ideas
woven into World Without End (Allied
Artists, 1956) were based in part on H.G. Wells’ classic 1895 novel The Time Machine.Wells’ immortal tale would, of course, soon follow
the less-celebrated World Without End
as a lavish, big-screen Hollywood feature of 1960.Though director-writer Edward Bernds readily admitted
to familiarity with Wells’ The Time
Machine, he insisted his screenplaywas
a wholly original creation.Though the
similarities between the two works cannot be discounted, Bernds refutation has
merit. Certainly modern science-fiction’s fascinations with time and space
travel were hardly of the abstract, and most certainly predated Wells’ own
literary musings on the subject.
That said, Bernds World
Without End is of its own time and primarily a stereotypical 1950s Cold
War-era vehicle. It’s a call for a
return to reason and détente in the decade following the game-changing horrors
of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The real
monsters in this film are neither the over-sized arachnids nor the ambling Cyclops-Neanderthals. Instead it’s the hawkish politicians, generals,
diplomats and scientists who recklessly helped dress the stage for earth’s inevitable
apocalypse. There’s little denying this
is a “message” film. Even before the
credits roll, the film opens dramatically with a grim, red-tinted vision of an
atomic mushroom cloud spiraling heavenward.
It is March of 1957, and the U.S. has sent a spacecraft on
mankind’s first ever flight to red planet Mars. Surprisingly, the four man crew is not scheduled to touch down on the
Martian surface; this flight is purely a reconnaissance mission in which they
are tasked to twice orbit Mars for photo-mapping. In Washington D.C., Pentagon officials,
members of the press, and distraught family members have become increasingly anxious
as contact with the spaceship has been lost. The astronauts onboard are less concerned. They realize this breakdown in communication is
merely temporary, likely the result of their spacecraft entering Mars’ magnetic
Unfortunately and unbeknownst to the crew, on the return
voyage home, the spaceship accidentally wanders into a time displacement vortex. The craft crashes into a snowy region that the
rattled astronauts – all of whom have miraculously survived – not unreasonably
assume is one of Mars’ famed polar icecaps. It’s not, as they soon recognize when exiting the craft without the
assistance of oxygen helmets or pressure suits. Journeying from the snow-capped mountain, they dimly recognize the
outline of the Rockies, believing they might have somehow landed on the border
of Idaho and Wyoming, or perhaps that of Colorado and New Mexico.
They quickly begin to have their doubts when they wander
into a cave and are attacked by giant spiders “as big as dogs!” Surviving that
sticky encounter with the assistance of their pistols, an overnight campout under
the stars is summarily ruined when they’re viciously attacked by – and barely
stave off - a gang of marauding Cyclops-Neanderthals who brandish primitive
hand weapons. Taking supposed safe harbor
in still another cave, the crew is trapped inside when a steel panel
mysteriously descends from above. Their
abductors are, to the great relief of all, friends.
They learn from a panel of paternal, subterranean elders
referred as “The Council,” that they are indeed back on earth. But it’s now the year 2508, some 551 years
since they had first been launched into orbit. They also learn that the earth was almost entirely destroyed in the
“Great Blow” of 2188. This was the year
of Armageddon when “man destroyed himself” through foolish use of atomic weaponry
and the absence of wisdom.
For a film director with
such an iconic resume, there’s a surprising scarcity of scholarly books devoted
to Robert Wise, the man who directed such classics as "West Side Story" (1961), "The Haunting" (1963), “The Sound of Music” (1965), “The Curse of the Cat People”
(1944), “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951), “The Sand Pebbles” (1966) and
many other critical and commercial successes. To say nothing of his stature as
the man who edited “Citizen Kane” (1941) and “The Magnificent Ambersons” (1942)
before taking up decades-long residence in the director’s chair.
Wise brought a self-effacing
approach to directing, one that never drew attention to itself. He may have had
the most “invisible” style of all the major directors from Hollywood’s Golden
Era, which no doubt helps explain why he never had the auteur imprimatur conferred
upon him by French critics who swooned over Welles’ baroque visuals, Douglas
Sirk’s melodramatic excess, and Howard Hawks’ male-bonding thematic.
characteristics of a Wise film were subtler, if no less crucial: the ability to
advance the narrative through visuals, seamless editing, an unfailing command
of pace, the ability to draw consistent performances from his casts. His
adaptability and mastery of all aspects of filmmaking helped him excel across every
genre. Noir, sci-fi, horror, westerns, musicals, romances—Wise made outstanding
films in each of these categories.
In what is surely good news
for fans of Robert Wise and classic films in general, Joe Jordan, film historian
and author of “Showmanship: The Cinema of William Castle,” has filled an
important gap in film scholarship with his new book, “Robert Wise: The Motion
Pictures.” As the title implies, this is not a biography, but an in-depth study
of Wise’s films. The book’s length, 500 pages, testifies to the prodigious
research Jordan conducted on his subject.
Jordan’s approach is rather
unique. He provides an extended synopsis and assessment of each film, bookended
by contextual information relating to pre- and post-production issues and interspersed
with relevant dialog exchanges and copious film stills. These analytical
synopses, for want of a better term, are so lengthy and detailed that readers
are likely to find themselves running the films through their heads as Jordan
provides his own running commentary on how Wise achieved certain effects
through camera setups, staging of action, direction of actors, attention to
sound, and so on. Even if one has an intimate familiarity with Wise’s films,
Jordan continually surprises with his insight and observations, and makes one
want to watch them all over again.
Another highlight of the
book are the personal recollections from many of the actors and actresses who
performed in Wise’s films. These oral histories, some of which run to several
pages, are also deftly woven into the overall narrative. The contributors are
an interesting bunch. None of them are superstars per se (not all are actors,
either), and while some names are more familiar than others, all are extremely
talented professionals who made significant contributions to Wise’s films. It’s
refreshing to read fresh perspectives from personalities not often heard from. There’s
an unassuming tone to each of their recollections, which is fitting, given the
modest, self-effacing nature of the man they’re discussing. Their memories are informative
and entertaining, all of them linked by the greatest respect for their subject.
Stunt man Jack Young recalls
doubling for James Cagney on “Tribute to a Bad Man” (1956), and being impressed
by the relaxed yet professional atmosphere on Wise’s set—a recurring claim made
by everyone who worked on his films. Young offers a superbly concise description
of Wise as “a good director who cracked a soft whip.” He also reveals some
interesting facts about the nature of his profession in the 1940s and ’50s,
when stunt men also served as stand-ins and lighting doubles for actors, a
practice no longer allowed.
(1969; U.S. release, 1970), “Adios Sabata”
(1970; U.S. release, 1971), and “Return of Sabata” (1971; U.S. release, 1972)
are often referred to as “The Sabata Trilogy,” thanks to clever marketing by
MGM, which originally released the three Italian Westerns theatrically and on
home video here in the States. Technically, “trilogy” is a misnomer. As I noted in an article review on this site in 2014, “Adios, Sabata” was released in Italy
in 1970 as “Indio Black, sai che ti dico: Sei un gran figlio di...,” with
Yul Brynner as the title character Indio Black. It was rebranded for distribution in the U.S. and some European markets
when “Sabata,” starring Lee Van Cleef, turned a profit for MGM and producer
Alberto Grimaldi. Commercially, it was a
smart move, keeping the Sabata name on marquees until the true Van Cleef
tornato Sabata... hai chiuso un'altra volta!,” followed in American theaters as
“Return of Sabata” in the Watergate summer of 1972. For a longer analysis of the first Van Cleef
movie, not included in the review that follows, see the 2014 review.
Mr. Magoo would mistake Yul Brynner and Lee Van Cleef for each other, but
reviewers had an “Oh, well,” attitude about the casting, simply assuming that
Brynner had stepped in for Van Cleef between the first and third movies. Audiences didn’t seem to notice or care. Anyway, many of the same credits appeared on
all three films, ensuring some continuity of style: producer Grimaldi, director
“Frank Kramer,” actually the Americanized alias of Gianfranco Parolini,
scriptwriters Parolini and Renato Izzo, and supporting actors Pedro Sanchez,
Nick Jordan, and Gianni Rizzo. The
strategy probably benefitted the three films over the long haul, as well. With genre pictures, series tend to have more
staying power than stand-alone titles. On DVD, MGM Home Video released the three movies in 2006 both as
individual discs and as a boxed set under the “Sabata Trilogy” label. Kino Lorber Studio Classics produced a
Blu-ray edition of “Sabata” for the U.S. market in 2014, and now has completed
its set with “Adios, Sabata” and “Return of Sabata,” released simultaneously as
“Adios, Sabata,” Brynner’s title character signs up for a caper to steal the
Emperor Maximilian’s imperial gold from murderous Col. Skimmel (Gerard Herter)
and turn it over to Juarez’s good-guy Mexican revolutionaries. The “inside man” for Sabata at Skimmel’s
military post, and alternately his rival for the gold, is Ballantine (Dean
Reed), a portraitist and con artist. Lots of explosions ensue, along with chases, battles, gunfights, and
trick weaponry (like Sabata’s rifle magazine that also serves as his cigar
holder). As a “gringos south of the
border” action-fest, it’s better than any of the sequels to and reboots of “The
Magnificent Seven,” including last year’s dour remake.
“Return of Sabata,” Van Cleef’s character comes to Hobsonville, Texas, as the
star of a Wild West sideshow in a traveling circus. Sabata tells his old Army subordinate from
the Civil War, Clyde (Reiner Schöne), now the proprietor of a local
gambling house, that he plans to stick around long enough “to collect the
$5,000 you owe me.” Actually, Sabata has
a bigger score in mind, related to his reason for traveling with the circus,
and to the money being raised by town boss McIntock through exorbitant sales
taxes to fund “civic improvements” in Hobsonville. Where Van Cleef’s original Sabata was a
steely man of mystery, his character in “Return of Sabata” is more relaxed, to
the point of mugging for the camera in a couple of scenes, having a gorgeous
hooker girlfriend, Maggie (Annabella Incontrera), and indulging in
what today’s viewers might regard as a couple of sexist comments. Some reviews unfairly conclude that the plot
makes no sense. If you pay close enough
attention, it does, but “Kramer” makes the narrative hard to follow, inserting
details and events in rapid succession and seemingly at random. Only later do they pay off with verbal or
visual punchlines. It’s hard to tell if
he was being intentionally disruptive to keep viewers guessing about Sabata’s
motives along with Clyde and McIntock, or if he couldn’t resist adding every
gag that he and Izzo thought of.
Like “My Name is Nobody” (1974), the next-to-last Spaghetti
produced by Sergio Leone, “Return of
Sabata” indulges in too much noisy, surrealistic circus business for anybody
but the most avid Cirque de Soleil groupie. Where “Sabata” had one acrobat in the protagonist’s entourage (Nick
Jordan), the sequel has two (Nick Jordan and Vassili Karis). An opening “shootout” in a weirdly lit room
between Sabata and a passel of gunmen turns out to be part of the sideshow
act. It concludes as the stage lights
come on, the gunmen get up, wipe off their fake blood, and joke with each other,
and a noisy troupe of clowns runs in. Viewers allergic to clowns may be tempted to punch “stop” or “fast
forward” at that point. The first of the
gunmen “shot down” by Sabata appears to be played by actor and stuntman Romano
Puppo, Van Cleef’s stunt double in several Spaghettis, even though Puppo
doesn’t appear in the cast credits for the picture in IMDB and the Spaghetti
Western Data Base.
Licensed from 20th Century Fox and MGM, the KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray editions of “Adios, Sabata” and “Return of Sabata” have sharp hi-def
clarity and a strong color palette, nice upgrades from the previous DVD
discs. Extras are scanty, limited to
reversible case sleeves with the American poster artwork for the films on one
side and the Italian on the other, and trailers for the Sabata films and “Barquero,”
an inferior 1970 American Western starring Van Cleef. Unfortunately for aging fans, the audience
most likely to remember Van Cleef and Brynner, no SDH subtitles are
provided. The German Blu-ray editions from Explosive Media that
preceded the KL releases are superior in this respect, including both audio and
captioning options not only in English but also in Italian and other
languages. Too, it’s unfortunate that KL
didn’t spring for the rights and the costs to port over and translate the
attractive, informative insert booklets that Explosive Media’s Ulrich Bruckner
included with the German discs. Regardless, fans will appreciate Kino Lorber for making “Adios, Sabata”
and “Return of Sabata” readily accessible in the U.S. market in good hi-def
Only Live Twice opened in UK cinemas 50 years ago today
(on the 13th in America), and to celebrate the release of the biggest Bond of
all Cinema Retro's September issue pays tribute to this cinematic extravaganza
with a 32-page 'Film in Focus' special. Apart from Matthew Field and Ajay
Chowdhury's interview with Nancy Sinatra (a rare in-print interview about her
involvement with the film), we feature many rare and never-seen-before
stills and behind-the-scenes photos, features on props and collectibles, and
exclusive interviews with Karin Dor, Leslie Bricusse, Julie
Rogers (the singer who was originally contracted to record the title song) and Mark Cerulli catches up with Tsai Chin for her memories of the film. And
that's not all - Bond composer David Arnold discusses how the music to You Only Live Twice changed his life
forever, and we have an exclusive interview with the late Ken Wallis, the creator of the Little Nellie gyrocopter, who
discusses the helicopter accident (with photos) that caused cameraman John
Jordan to lose his foot; plus Raymond Benson meets 'Bond Girls' Akiko
Wakabayashi and Mie Hama, and Peter Lamont explains the logistics of building
the massive volcano set. A not-to-be-missed issue!
Cinema Retro #39 is published this coming
September (October in the US), and is the last issue of the 2017 season #13 subscription.
Make sure you subscribe or renew for this season! Issues #’s 37 and 38 ship
immediately, followed by the #39 in the fall.
disliked Car Wash upon seeing it for
the first time On Demand several years ago and didn’t even make it all the way
through. Having grown up listening to Richard Pryor and George Carlin in the early
1980’s I had always wanted to see this film that showcased both of their
talents but could never seem to find it on television or on VHS in any of the
independent video stores that I frequented. The former West Coast Videos and
Blockbuster Videos were of no help either. Given the opportunity to see it On
Demand, I must have been in a different mindset as something about the film
must have rubbed me the wrong way, but a new viewing of it has changed my mind
Car Wash, which opened in theatres in New York City
on Friday, October 15, 1976 (remember the 8th Street Playhouse?), is
a delightfully funny slice of Los Angeles 1970’s craziness that looks at the
lives of a sizeable group of men who wash cars by hand for a meek owner, Mr.
B., played by the late great character actor Sully Boyer, the bank manager from
Dog Day Afternoon (1975). Mr. B. can’t
afford to install the automatic, machine-run equipment necessary to wash cars
more efficiently at the Dee-Luxe Car Wash (even a young boy sees through his
claim to have his workers do the washing by hand to give it that “personal
touch”) while, unbelievably, carrying on an extra-marital affair with Marsha,
the cute girl at the cash register (Melanie Mayron, who looks like she could be
the sister of adult film performer Sunny Lane). The main characters are the
washers themselves and we are introduced to them as they change in the locker
room and talk about the lives that they really want to be leading. One wants to
be a superhero, another two are a fairly good singing duo, and the angriest of
the lot calls himself Abdullah (Bill Duke) and wants to be anywhere but there
as he’s tired of the shenanigans. Lindy (Antonio Fargas of Starsky and Hutch) is a drag queen with a good heart and has some
of the best lines in this Joel Schumacher-scripted film.
the action progresses, we meet several clients who want only tip-top service.
Lorraine Gary from Jaws portrays an
inspired bit of Beverly Hills middle-age housewife hysteria who is in a hurry as
she speeds through the LA streets talking on a mobile car phone(!) with a young
son who can’t stop vomiting for reasons never explained. Kenny (Tim Thomerson)
catches Marsha’s eye and suavely hands her his business card. Another involves
a man recovering from a prostate operation and a bottle of urine that parodies
the ape throwing the bone into the sky in 2001:
A Space Odyssey. One of the stand-outs is Richard Pryor as Daddy Rich, a goofy
preacher who travels in luxury with an entourage that includes The Pointer
Sisters and spouts enough verbal puns to illustrate that not much has changed
between the days of snake oil salesmen and those “doing God’s work” while being
called out by Abdullah. His reaction after getting out of the limo (look fast
for the sophomoric TITHE on the license plate) for the first time when he gets
a look at Lindy is hilarious and priceless. The car wash even has Daddy Rich’s
photo mounted on a wall next to JFK and MLK. George Carlin also appears as a
loquacious taxi driver who boasts to a hooker/passenger (Lauren Jones) how much
he trusts people just as she quietly bolts from his cab without paying her
fare. He spends the rest of the film looking for her while she hangs around
right under his nose, completely unrecognizable in a different outfit. The
film’s episodic nature recalls Robert Altman’s style of filmmaking.
not all fun and games as the script takes an unexpected turn into serious
territory where it deals with Caucasian and African-American relations. One of
the washers is himself an ex-convict doing his best to stay on the straight and
narrow and provide for his children who greet him at work in a sweet and tender
scene. Later, he is nearly killed when a fired employee tries to rob the cash
register after hours. The incident is completely unexpected and deeply poignant
as the former promises to help the latter out of his situation as the would-be
robber emotionally breaks down.
of the scenes would probably not be scripted like this had the film been made
today, and as of early 2016 there was a rumor that the film was being
considered for a remake. In 2001 a film called The Wash (not to be confused with the 1988 film of the same name) was
released and was directed by DJ Pooh and starred Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg that
took place at a car wash.
Cineploit Records launches two new releases“Omaggio al Maestro Ennio Morricone” (Cine 20)
and “Omaggio a Joe D´Amato e Marcello Giombini” (Exploit 01) 7″ EP to mark
their 5 year anniversary.
Retro picked up on Cineploit’s talents very early in the day. I've been
reviewing their releases now since those very first humble beginnings. When it
comes to labels that are dedicated in keeping retro genre film music alive -
Cineploit are arguably the very best. Never afraid to explore new avenues or
indeed breathing new life into classic Giallo or Poliziotteschi film scores,
the label has decided to celebrate their anniversary with the release of a
tribute album ‘Omaggio al Maestro Ennio Morricone.’
“Omaggio al Maestro Ennio Morricone”- LP sleeve.
highly impressive compilation of the Maestro's work is performed by various
groups and artists from the Cineploit stable, and very lavish it is too. The
vinyl version comes in a beautiful gatefold sleeve with UV Spot, printed inner
sleeve and is available in a limited coloured vinyl edition exclusive at
Cineploit. The CD also comes with a Bonus track. The regular LP version is on
180g black Vinyl with or without the CD. The CD version also comes in an LP
style wallet with an 8 page booklet and features different front sleeve artwork.
As always, Cineploit offer a wide range of buying options at their website.
Zoltan – Pazuzu (from Exorcist 2)
Videogram – The Thing (from Soundtrack)
Orgasmo Sonore vs. Sospetto – Adonai (from Il Giardino delle Delizie)
Rashomon – Stress Infinito (from Spasmo)
Oscillotron – La Lucertola (from Una lucertola con la pelle di Donna)
LAWA (Leonard/Wank) – Sentenza di Morte (from Roma come Chicago)
Luigi Porto feat Fromwood – Strana Bambina (La Piovra)
Thelema – Die Ballade von Präfekt Mori (from Il Prefetto di Ferro)
Sospetto – Inseguimento No. 2 & 3 (from Una breve stagione)
LAWA (Leonard/Wank) – Revolver (from Revolver) * CD Bonus
have also taken this opportunity to repress and rerelease the long sold out
“Omaggio a Joe D´Amato e Marcello Giombini”- front of vinyl release.
“Omaggio a Joe D´Amato e Marcello Giombini”- back of vinyl release.
“Omaggio a Joe D´Amato e Marcello Giombini” by Deak Ferance &
Roger Conrad (Exploit 01) and features music from “Man-Eater aka Antropophagous” and “Erotic
Nights of the living Dead”. The vinyl features stunning retro artwork to both
front and back and is released in a limited edition of just 350 copies on
Orange/Black Splatter Vinyl.
never fail to impress me, through either their quality recordings or their
equally beautiful standard of packaging. With imminent new album releases
coming from both Sospetto and Thelema, the future is certainly looking bright!
Happy anniversary Cineploit!
Adam West, one of the most enduring pop culture figures of the 1960s, has passed away at age 88 after a battle with leukemia. West was a hunky young actor laboring in bit parts in films such as "The Young Philadelphians", "Robinson Crusoe on Mars" and co-starring with the Three Stooges in their last feature film "The Outlaws is Coming!" when he got the opportunity to audition for the role of Batman in ABC's new TV series. The essence of the show was that it would be played as a broad comedy. West impressed the producers with his ability to pretend his character wasn't in on the joke. West played Batman and his alter ego Bruce Wayne as stalwart, incorrupt heroes. He approved young Burt Ward to play the role of Robin despite not having any previous acting experience. The show, which premiered in January 1966, took off like a rocket especially with young people who appreciated the funky humor and the eye-popping production designs. ABC decided to emulate the old Batman serials but presenting the show as two half-hour episodes on consecutive nights, the first one always ending with a cliffhanger. Many actors of repute competed to play villains in the show including Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, Vincent Price and many others. In 1966, Fox rushed a feature film based on the series into production with West and Ward starring.
The show also inspired the short-lived TV series "The Green Hornet", which gave Bruce Lee his first dose of fame. By early 1968, however, the show's novelty had worn off and it was canceled. West struggled to find acting gigs. In 1971 he won good reviews for a dramatic performance in "The Marriage of a Young Stockbroker", playing a supporting role. West was proud of the film but it wasn't a hit and his career went back into the doldrums. West never went out of style, however, and make lucrative appearances throughout the decades at fan conventions around the world.
He also got a late career boost by providing the voiceover work for the hit animated TV comedy series "The Family Guy" as well as for the "Batman" animated series. West also enjoyed a surge in popularity whenever a new "Batman" feature film would go into production and he was a participant in the long-awaited home video release of the "Batman" TV series in 2014. In 2013, Netflix ran a documentary "Starring Adam West" in which the actor reflected on his career. For more click here.
Winston Churchill may be the famous figure of the 20th century to be most-portrayed on film. Indeed, it's hard to sell a historically-themed British film or TV series that touches upon the WWII years without making Churchill a central character. For actors the role must seem irresistible. After all, Churchill's real-life mannerisms and eccentricities remain the stuff of legend. In an age when most people are seemingly uninterested and uninformed about history, Churchill Mania is very much in vogue in some quarters. In the new film independent film "Churchill", Brian Cox becomes the latest thespian to portray the larger-than-life statesman. He does a brilliant job of it, too, having gained over twenty pounds in the process. It may seem that Churchill is one of the easiest legends to be imitated. As with John Wayne, it seems any drunk with a lampshade on his head can knock out a reasonably effective impersonation. However, Cox delivers one of the more effective interpretations of the man, playing up his physical and emotional frailties. The film concerns itself only with the period of timing leading up to the D-Day invasion- and there lies the rub. It is known that Churchill had strong reservations about the audacity of the Allies launching an "all-or-nothing-at-all" gamble to liberate Occupied France. However, the extent of those reservations has long been debated by historians. Churchill apologists have argued that his concerns were relatively minor and that he ended up being an enthusiastic proponent of the plan. His critics say that he whitewashed history in his memoirs and believe that he was reluctantly dragged into supporting the invasion only when it became clear that his objections were being overruled. The screenplay for the film is firmly in the second camp, making Churchill a man who was vehemently opposed to D-Day to the point of making himself a nuisance to Generals Eisenhower and Montgomery, who were hell-bent on taking the gamble. I don't proclaim to be an expert in Churchillian history so I can't address concerns cited by some other critics that the film exaggerates his objections to the invasion and the impact it had on the military and his wife Clementine (Miranda Richardson). She is portrayed as a long-suffering spouse who must endure her husband's constant temper tantrums and self-centeredness. This isn't a minor point. The entire plot is basically centered on Churchill's position on the D-Day invasion. The film does acknowledge a known fact: Churchill did favor a massive invasion of Europe but wanted the Allies to land in Italy, where they already had a foothold. His ideas were dismissed by Eisenhower in favor of using Normandy as the landing point. Although the film doesn't specify why Eisenhower rejected Churchill's plan, historians say it was because the fighting going on in Italy was proving to be far worse than anyone had predicted and the feat of getting an entire invasion force over so many geographical obstacles would have greatly slowed or diminished the effort. Although some critics have said that "Churchill" is a bastardization of history, there are scholars who back up the representation that Churchill was vigorously opposed to Eisenhower's plans for the Normandy invasion. As indicated in the film, he was haunted by the battle at Gallipoli in WWI, which he had planned. It resulted in massive Allied losses and Churchill was obsessed with not having another major invasion result in such casualties. What the film undeniably presents in an accurate setting is Eisenhower's momentous decision to trust his weatherman and approve the launch of the D-Day invasion, taking advantage of a sliver of barely acceptable conditions at sea. Half of his advisers told him not to do it while the other half told him he must. It's a scene filled with drama and tension- and one in which Churchill finds himself relegated to the status of bystander.
who grew up in the 1970s fondly remembers “Chiller Theater” playing on WPIX in
the NY area. Chiller introduced me to
all the Universal classics – Dracula,
Frankenstein, The Wolfman and, of course, Karloff’s 1932 addition, The Mummy. Universal’s new re-imagining of their beloved
classic isn’t that Mummy, not by a long shot– but we’re in a different time and
a different world, so why not?
new Mummy stars Tom Cruise as Nick
Morton, an Army commando/antiquities raider who finds and sells priceless
relics on the black market. He’s stolen
a map from a lovely, combative British archaeologist (Annabelle Wallis) that
leads him to modern day, ultra dangerous Iraq. After he and his Army bro (Jake Johnson) call in an airstrike to save
them from insurgents, a missile blast reveals the hidden tomb of Ahmanet, an
Egyptian Princess who murdered her immediate family in a quest for power. Her punishment was being buried alive – in a
vat of mercury, which the ancient Egyptians believed prevented her evil spirit
from escaping. Tom Cruise inadvertently
raises her and all Hell breaks loose – literally.
Algerian actress Sofia Boutella (the legless assassin from Kingsman: The Secret Service) plays our new Mummy – it was a bold
choice, but the ONLY one director Alex Kurtzman could make as no one could
out-Karloff Karloff. Boutella is
menacing, seductive and a screen presence who can more than hold her own with
film has already received a drubbing from some critics and die-hard monster
fans. They took issue with Tom Cruise’s
casting and the filmmakers’ use of CGI. While I was surprised to hear that
Cruise had signed on, The Mummy is
something different from his usual action hero chores and he embraced it with
his trademark enthusiasm. He
convincingly plays a macho military guy fighting against Ahmanet’s spell,
trying to win back the archeologist and save the world from the
princess’ zombie hordes. (Did I mention
she can raise the dead?) While the
filmmakers did use CGI, the work by
Technicolor’s MPC is, as expected, top notch – from sandstorms blowing through
London’s Financial District, to attacking camel spiders and dead Crusaders stalking
the London Underground.
we have a new, female Mummy, we have global icon Tom Cruise, we have zombies,
chases and car crashes. What’s the only thing missing? A frame to hang it and future monster movies
on. Well, the filmmakers thought of that
too: enter “Prodigium”, a super secret organization dedicated to wiping out
evil and it’s hot on The Mummy’s trail. Prodigium is run by… um… Dr. Henry
Jekyll. Cue the needle skip sound!
played by Oscar-winner Russell Crowe, is a clue that The Mummy, impressive as it is, is part of something bigger – the
Dark Universe, Universal’s reinvigorated monster franchise.Take a deep breath and step back… unless
you’ve been buried alive for the last decade, Hollywood is, for better or
worse, in the mega franchise business:Iron Man, Thor, Deadpool, Kong, Star Trek,
Pirates, Harry Potter, MI, Fast & Furious, Hunger Games, James Bond, Jack Reacher, etc. Why?Because with rare exceptions, they make
boatloads of money.If you view it in
that context, Dr. J’s appearance makes a bit more sense. Crowe is fine as the good doctor and his evil
counterpart who gives Cruise a righteous thrashing while trying to enlist him
to the dark side, but I kinda wish they hadn’t crossed horror streams, so to
speak…that said, The Mummy is everything you could want from a $120 million film –
it’s fast, exciting, and impeccably made.And it isn’t all airless CGI: early on, the military plane transporting
Princess Ahmanet’s sarcophagus is hit by a swarm of crows.The resulting crash was filmed on 16
parabolic flights to show Cruise and Wallis banging around the cabin in Zero
G.There’s a high-speed ambulance crash
on the moors of England that practically puts you in the driver’s seat.Cinematographer Ben Seresin uses the vast Namibian
desert to great effect; and love him or hate him, Tom Cruise is a damn good
actor. His almost-nude scene reveals he is also as ageless as the Sphinx.So kick back and enjoy this Mummy.You’ll always
have Karloff’s classic on your DVD shelf.
Levinson’s 1982 comedy Diner
celebrates its 35th anniversary (yikes!) with a special 35mm
screening at the Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre in Los Angeles. A highly revered
coming-of-age story directed by the man who helmed Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), Good
Morning Vietnam (1987), and Rain Man
(1989), Diner features and all-star
cast that includes Steve Guttenberg, Daniel Stern, Mickey Rourke, Kevin Bacon,
Tim Daly, Ellen Barkin, and Paul Reiser. The 110-minute film will be screened on
Saturday, June 10, 2017 at 7:30 pm.
PLEASE NOTE: Producer Mark Johnson and
actor Paul Reiser are scheduled to appear in person for a Q & A following
the press release:
35th Anniversary Screening
Saturday, June 10, at 7:30 PM at the Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre
Followed by Q & A with Producer Mark Johnson
Laemmle Theatres and the Anniversary Classics Series present a 35th anniversary
screening of one of the best loved films of the 1980s, Barry Levinson’s
'Diner.' Levinson made his directorial debut with this feature set in his
native Baltimore in 1959, and he earned an Oscar nomination for best original
screenplay. The frequently uproarious comedy-drama, set to a rousing soundtrack
of hits from the period, follows a group of friends who hang out at their
favorite diner as they try to navigate the perilous path from adolescence to
adulthood. Long before 'Mad Men,' this film skewered the blatant sexism that
was rampant in the era.
The extraordinary cast, many of them new to movies, includes Steve Guttenberg,
Daniel Stern, Paul Reiser, Mickey Rourke, Kevin Bacon, Tim Daly, and Ellen
Barkin. Levinson encouraged his cast to improvise, and their rapport helped to
electrify the film. Many of them went on to make an impressive mark in both
film and television over the next decades.Time’s Richard Corliss wrote that
'Diner' was “wonderfully cast and played.”People Magazinedeclared, “All the performances are
remarkable…but the ultimate triumph is Levinson’s. He captures both the surface
and the soul of an era with candor and precision.”
Mark Johnson won the Academy Award for producing the Best Picture of 1988, 'Rain
Man,' also directed by Levinson. His many other credits include 'The Natural,'
'Good Morning, Vietnam,' 'Avalon,' 'Bugsy,' 'Donnie Brasco,' 'A Perfect World,'
'The Chronicles of Narnia,' 'The Notebook,' and the award-winning TV series
'Breaking Bad,' 'Better Call Saul,' and 'Rectify.' He has chaired the foreign
language committee of the Motion Picture Academy for many years.
The Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre is located
at 8556 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211. The phone number is (310) 478 – 3836.
With passing of Chris Cornell, writer Jeremy Fuster of The Wrap web site had the inspired idea to contact famed motion picture composer David Arnold to discuss his collaboration with Cornell on the song "You Know My Name" which was used over the opening titles in the 2006 James Bond film "Casino Royale". No less than the future of the Bond franchise was riding on the film's success, which was anything but assured. A lot of bad press was aimed at Daniel Craig in his first film as 007 and word-of-mouth was less-than-enthusiastic. However, those doubts were shattered on the night of the royal premiere in London with Queen Elizabeth in attendance. Critics showered the movie with praise and Craig made his unique mark on the character of Bond. Arnold recollects how he and Cornell agreed that they needed to create a gritty title song that symbolized the new era of Bond and the new emphasis on realism. Click here to read.
Due to disappointing boxoffice returns, "Those Fantastic Flying Fools" was re-titled and remarketed as "Blast-Off". This was not an uncommon practice during the era. "Operation Crossbow" was retitled "The Great Spy Mission" and "Star!" was reissued under the title "Those Were the Happy Times".
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Olive Films has released a Blu-ray edition of "Those Fantastic Flying Fools" although the packaging bears the film's alternate title, "Blast-Off". The 1967 production is largely forgotten by all but the most avid retro movie lovers. Clearly inspired by the success of director Ken Annakin's 1965 blockbuster "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines", "Blast-Off" is far more modest in its ambitions and the pleasures it delivers but it still offers a rare opportunity to see many great "second bananas" in leading roles. The movie apparently had a checkered history with Bing Crosby, Senta Berger and Wilfred Hyde-White having been associated with it in the early stages only to drop out for various reasons. As it is, the movie presents an impressive number of talented comic actors in a tale loosely inspired by the writings of Jules Verne. (The movie was released in the UK under yet another titles, "Jules Verne's Rocket to the Moon"). The film presents Burl Ives, well cast as P.T. Barnum, making a trek to England where he encounters a the nutty Prof. von Bulow (Gert Frobe, ported over from "Magnificent Men" in an almost identical role), who is trying to convince skeptical colleagues that he can develop technology to send a manned rocket to the moon. Barnum, ever the opportunist, doesn't care whether the plan is feasible or not, but he smells a great way to attract paying crowds to see the rocket before its attempted launch. He partners with the Duke of Barset (Dennis Price), a true believer in von Bulow's ambitious plan, and before long even Queen Victoria is on board helping with the financing and providing logistical military support as von Bulow goes through an often disastrous series of experiments using high levels of gunpowder to find the perfect formula to act as propulsion for the rocket.
The story dovetails with individual side plots that present Daliah Lavi as Madelaine, a lovely but ditzy French girl, who is equally in love with two would-be husbands, Henri (Edward de Souza), a wealthy playboy and Gaylord, an American inventor who is also developing technology to bring a man to the moon. Through a convoluted set of circumstances, Gaylord and Madelaine end up arriving in England at the precise spot where Barnum and von Bulow are performing propulsion tests. Madelaine ends up getting lost and falls into the hands of the lecherous Harry Washington Smythe (Terry-Thomas), a notorious con man who has convinced Barnum and the Duke to hire him as an adviser and accountant. The rambling screenplay finds Gaylord and Henri both competing to find Madelaine, who is attempting to prevent the rocket launch from being thwarted by a Russian spy(!). The movie contains some fine cinematography (it was filmed entirely in Ireland) and director Don Sharp keeps the action moving at a frantic pace without making the plot seem too confusing. Ives is as commanding as ever, Donohue has a rare opportunity to show his skills in slapstick scenarios and Lavi shines in a rare leading role that reminds us that she coulda/shoulda been a much bigger star. The real fun comes from the British actors, including Lionel Jeffries as a competing scientist who joins ranks with Smythe to undermine the rocket launch that is to take Gaylord on what may be a one-way trip to the moon. Terry-Thomas predictably chews the scenery, playing yet again another charming rogue and Dennis Price does well as the foil for the zany characters surrounding him which includes ever-reliable Graham Stark. Even Hermione Gingold pops up briefly as the matron of a school for wayward girls who has turned the charity into a classy bordello. John Scott provides the lively score and the film boasts some impressive costumes and production design elements. The Olive Blu-ray has a superb transfer and includes a work print trailer that doesn't have titles. Recommended.
Issue #39 devotes a full 32 pages to celebrating the 50th anniversary of
the James Bond film "You Only Live Twice", which starred Sean Connery
as 007 and introduced Donald Pleasence as the immortal villain Ernst
Stavro Blofeld. Why did we dedicate half of the pages in this issue to
the film? Largely because of the outpouring of contributions from
talented writers from around the world, not to mention esteemed names
like composer David Arnold, actress Karin Dor, who played the villainous
femme fatale Helga Brandt, Tsai Chin who played Bond's bedmate in the
pre-credits scene, legendary lyricist Leslie Bricusse, assistant
director William Cartlidge, future Oscar-winning production designer
Peter Lamont and Nancy Sinatra, who recalls the nerve-wracking
experience of singing the title song. Plus in-depth looks at composer
John Barry, the cars of "You Only Live Twice", the inside story behind
the Little Nellie autogyro, "now and then" photos of key locations and a
Bondwagon full of rare photos and promotional art, some of which are
published here for the first time- plus a look at all the accompanying
international 007 collectibles.
Issue #39 also concludes our celebration of the life and career of
actress Susan George and examines the kinky little-seen crime thriller
"Night Hair Child" (aka "What the Peeper Saw") plus the
obscure-but-worthy cult flick "Deadly Strangers" starring Hayley Mills-
plus tributes to the late, great Sir Roger Moore.
In reality, you only live once- so don't miss this limited edition issue.
Roy Hill’s 1964 comedy, The World of
Henry Orient, is based on a novel by Nora Johnson that fictionalizes her
own experiences as a schoolgirl in New York City when she and a friend
allegedly had crushes on pianist Oscar Levant. She and her father, Nunnally
Johnson, adapted the book to screenplay.
the story of two mid-teens, competently played by newcomers Merrie Spaeth
(“Gil”) and Tippy Walker (“Val”), who attend a private girls school in the
city. Gil’s parents are divorced and she lives with her mother and another
divorcee in a nice Upper East Side apartment. Val’s parents are still married,
but unhappily, and they’re constantly traveling the world for her father’s (Tom
Bosley) business. This leaves Gil and Val to indulge in precocious imaginary
“adventures” around the city.
develops an infatuation on eccentric womanizing concert pianist Henry Orient
(Peter Sellers) and the pair stalk him around town as he has first an affair
with a married woman (the delightful Paula Prentiss) and later Val’s own snobbish
mother (Angela Lansbury). Orient spots the two girls several times, leading him
to have paranoid fantasies that they are spies working for the cuckolded
husbands. In short, the youngsters’ shenanigans end up running the naughty man
out of town.
movie is really an odd little coming-of-age tale concerning children from
dysfunctional or broken homes. It works well enough (it was positively received
upon release), but it’s hardly a “Peter Sellers movie,” as the publicity
campaign promises. Sellers, who receives top billing, is barely a supporting
player in the story, although he is indeed very funny. His antics with Paula
Prentiss—a highly underrated comic actress who shines in her brief moments—are
enjoyable, and the crazy Carnegie Hall concert in which he performs his latest
avant-garde composition is hilarious—worth the price of admission.
the film focuses on the two girls, who, for their debut performances, aren’t
bad at all, but don’t quite have the screen charisma to elevate the film to
intended heights (Spaeth never acted again; Walker went on to do some
television and a couple of other films before retiring from show business in
film might be a delight for anyone who knows New York City. As the picture was
made on location, it’s a virtual tour guide for the sights, mainly Central Park
and the Upper East Side. Elmer Bernstein’s lively score is memorable—especially
the catchy main title theme and Orient’s wacky P.D.Q. Bach-like “symphony”
(that includes a fog horn).
Lorber’s DVD release comes with no supplements other than trailers for other
releases by the company. The video image is fine.
little-seen today, The World of Henry
Orient is an interesting time capsule from its era, most significant for
being one of three 1964 pictures in
which Peter Sellers starred. He was, arguably, at his peak.
I'm always in the mood to watch a James Garner movie and the Warner Archive has cooperated nicely by releasing his 1963 comedy "The Wheeler Dealers" which pairs Garner with the lovely, talented (and somewhat underrated) Lee Remick. The movie presents Garner in his signature role as a lovable rogue. This time he plays Henry Tyroon, a Texas millionaire investor in any and all business deals that might turn a fast profit for him and his partners. When we first meet Henry he has been a downward spiral. His latest speculation on an oil rig delivers about a gallon of "Texas tea" before it starts gurgling up dust. Henry's accountant warns him that he'd better start raising a couple of million dollars for new investments or he'll be flat broke. Heeding the warning, the ever-confident Henry arrives in New York and pretentiously dresses like an innocent Texas good ol' boy, complete with string tie and cowboy hat. It's all part of the charm offensive to make him look as honest and unassuming as possible. In short order he meets with Molly Thatcher (Lee Remick), an assertive young securities analyst who is part of a small group of brave females who are trying to break the glass ceiling on Wall Street. They are finding it's actually made of concrete but Molly has landed a job at a financially-challenged securities firm headed by Bullard Bear (Jim Backus), who takes a paternal liking to her. However, in order to cut costs he's been advised to fire Molly, largely because the notion of a female handling the stress of a finance job is regarded as an amusing but improbable idea. Bear can't bring himself to actually fire her so he gives her a "Mission: Impossible"-type assignment: find a buyer for some virtually worthless stock in a widget company that Bear has lost a considerable amount on. Henry charms Molly and takes on her cause, offering to help offload the stock with some loyal investors of his. These turn out to be three Texas millionaires who follow him around in their private jet (complete with built-in saunas!) in the hopes of being able to invest in his next big idea.
The movie quickly becomes "Doris Day and Rock Hudson Lite", with Henry trying to seduce savvy big city girl Molly who assures him that while she is not "pure as the driven snow", she's also not one to go for a one-night stand. In the realm of 1963 Hollywood comedies, sex was often hinted at, as it is here, but it's rarely consummated between unmarried couples. As Henry and Molly take road trips trying to unload the widget stock, they end up spending the night in the same hotel (gasp!) but when the quarters prove to be too close, Molly makes Henry sleep in his convertible (which at least is equipped in 007-style with a phone and built-in bar.) So much for the sexual sophistication of New York city female circa 1963, at least in the minds of Hollywood screenwriters. The script follows all the predictable aspects of a Day/Hudson comedy: double entendres, mistaken motives and at least one good temper tantrum on the part of the leading lady (caused here when she discovers that lovable ol' Texan Henry is actually a Bostonian with a Harvard degree). The film represents the second feature film directed by the soon-to-estimable Arthur Hiller but despite his attempts to keep the action light and breezy he's saddled with a confusing script that is far too labored with Wall Street jargon that seems confusing today let alone in 1963. It's also unclear whether Henry is an outright con man or just a guy who doesn't mind gnawing at the ethical edges of financial dealings. Indeed, New York Times critic Bosley Crowther wrote of the film, which opened at Radio City Music Hall, "If
you're one of those people who doesn't know the difference between a 27 per
cent depletion allowance and a 50 per cent override—then you'd better not look
to this fun thing to cause you to split your sides." At times the financial aspects of the banter would seem to appeal only to people who wear green eyeshades in their professions. Fortunately, Garner (who earned a Golden Globe nomination for his performance) is in top form, as is Remick, who was certainly one of the most beautiful leading ladies of the era. The film also boasts an impressive cast of familiar second-bananas in amusing supporting roles: Chill Wills, Phil Harris, Vaughn Taylor, the aforementioned Jim Backus, Louis Nye (as a modern artist who makes money by selling junk paintings to pretentious millionaires), John Astin, John Marley and Howard McNear. Even Alan Sues, Bernie Kopell and James Doohan turn up in blink-and-you'll miss them roles. Patricia Crowley is funny as Molly's more sexually liberated roommate who is willing to trade a night under the sheets for a big night on the town.
The most interesting aspect of "The Wheeler Dealers" is a sociological one. The treatment of women who try to exercise their brain power through business careers comes across as a 1963 horror show. At best they are viewed in a patronizing manner by male bosses who treat them in a childlike manner. At worst they are driven from their jobs by misogynistic knuckle-draggers who advise them to stay home and cook, clean and look after the kids. Sadly this was the overwhelming sentiment of the era. Perhaps younger women should watch films like "The Wheeler Dealers" so they get a greater appreciation of what their mothers and grandmothers had to endure simply to hold down a professional job. It's also rather interesting to see the social protocols of the time- young women dress to the nines for a date (complete with those elegant gloves that stretch up their arms) and guys feel free to light up giant stogies in fancy restaurants without even earning so much as a disapproving glance from other patrons.
The movie is not exactly a gem and it's lacking in real belly laughs, but it is consistently amusing enough to recommend it largely because you can do worse than to spend 107 minutes with the engaging members of the cast. The Warner Archive Blu-ray boasts a fine transfer that does justice to the impressive opening credits and zippy title song. An original trailer is included but don't watch it until after you've viewed the entire film as it gives away a key scene in the climax.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM THE CINEMA RETRO MOVIE STORE
SS: A Portrait of Evil” is a 1986 made-for TV movie telling the fictional story
of Helmut (Bill Nighy) and Karl Hoffmann (John Shea), brothers who become a
part of Hitler’s rise to power in Germany. The movie opens in 1931 as we meet
the brothers, their family, friends and associates. Hoping they can sway and
minimalize the radical elements through their intellect and character, Helmut
and Karl willingly join the Nazi Party.
Hoffmann brothers are eager participants in the Nazi party early on as their
mother Gerda (Carroll Baker) provides worried commentary. Factory worker Karl
joins the SA while his university student brother Helmut is coaxed into joining
the SS by fencing instructor Reinhard Heydrich (David Warner), much to the
objection of his mentor and Jewish professor Ludwig Rosenberg (Jose Ferrer).
Tony Randall is interesting appearing as a comic performer for the Nazis known
as Putzi. Mitzi Templer (Lucy Gutteridge) is a beautiful nightclub singer and
friend of the brothers.
story of the brothers unfolds in episodic fashion through to the end of WWII covering
14 years and the inevitable fall of the Third Reich. Nighy and Shea give thoughtful
and sincere performances as brothers who support each other and Germany and attempt
to reel in the extreme elements of the Third Reich. The movie is well made, the
drama compelling and it kept my interest throughout with a cast filled by many veterans
of British television. Although their initial reason for joining is an honest
attempt for change, the old “just following orders” argument comes to mind, and
it’s hard to feel any real empathy for the brothers even when the movie comes
to the tragic conclusion.
by British television veteran Jim Goddard, best known in America for the TV
movies “A Tale of Two Cities” in 1980 and the outstanding “Reilly: Ace of
Spies” in 1983. He had a brief foray into feature films with “Bones” in 1985 and
“Shanghai Surprise” in 1986, but returned to television after their failure at
the box office. He does a good job with “Hitler’s SS” telling a story that
unfolds over 14 years in just under two and a half hours.
movie is available on several public domain labels. The copy I viewed was “The
Digital Gold” DVD, possibly released in 2002, but no details are listed on the
DVD packaging itself. The disc lists Leisure Entertainment as the manufacturer.
The movie sounds good and the picture is presented full frame as it was when
originally broadcast by NBC in 1985. The picture is framed by a thin black
stripe on the left and right side of the image area with gray filling out the
remaining area. The transfer appears to be taken from an inferior VHS master as
the colors are washed out with a few artifacts appearing throughout the
presentation. The DVD back cover list a runtime of 150 minutes, but the actual
runtime is just under 139 minutes.
are no extras on this DVD. I recommend the movie, but not the transfer which is
about as bad as it gets. The movie is watchable considering there is no other
available option and can be purchased for a few bucks on-line or in the dollar
bin at your local pawn shop.
“Beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena,
stronger than Hercules and swifter than Mercury!”
By Joe Elliott
Woman is one of the true wonders of comic book fandom. She first made her
appearance during the Second World War and more than 75 years later she’s still
going strong. Throughout the decades she has been transformed numerous times,
yet through it all she has for the most part maintained her basic form and
personality, one driven by a thirst for justice and in defense of the
defenseless. Born of Amazonian royalty, she is Princess Diana of Themyscira, a sub-continent
located somewhere in the blue mists of time, also known as Paradise Island. Her
mother, Queen Hippolyta, is the ruler of this all-female happy domain, a
position that Diana herself will presumably fill one day. That is, until a man
shows up. Steve Trevor, a U.S. Army pilot, literally drops out of the sky, and,
badly injured, into the care of the Amazons. Trevor is the first male Diana
ever sees and she immediately falls head-over-heels in love. She is eventually
chosen to fly the convalescing pilot back to Washington in her invisible plane
where she enlists in the fight for “America, the last citadel of democracy, and
of equal rights for women.” She at first disguises herself as Steve’s
caretaker, the demure nurse Diana Prince. However, it isn’t long until she bursts
upon the public scene as the tiara crowned, red bustiered, magic lassoed,
“Amazonium” braceleted, kick-booty female warrior we all know and many of us
love. She will spend the rest of the war fighting the Axis powers, along with
an assortment of other bad actors. Following the end of the conflict her job
description broadens out to include a greater variety of crusader of justice
duties, along with a few weird detours here and there.
Created by psychologist William “Charles Moulton” Marston (yes, a man!),
Wonder Woman was given a special mission from the start. Marston believed there
weren’t any real female superheroes that young girls could look up to and
emulate. "Not even girls want to be girls so long as our
feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power,” he is quoted as
saying. Wanting to change this, he came up with the idea of a female comic book
character who had all the physical strength and moral courage of a Superman or
Batman, but also was smart, intuitive, and, yes, sexy. In Marston words, a
super hero with “the allure of a good and beautiful woman." In addition to
all her other qualities, Wonder Woman was also compassionate and caring, traits
perhaps more easily expressed openly by a woman than a man. She was, in short,
the best of both worlds. Above all, she was a strong woman who, though she
considered others’ advice, in the end always made up her own mind about how
best to act in a situation. She might love dear ol’ Steve, but there were
moments when she realized he was wrong and so acted accordingly. And while she
has definitely seen her ups and downs through the years, the decade of the Sixties
being, I think, an especially problematic one in her long illustrious career,
as she, along with millions of others, searched for a new personal identity
(and a stable of writers), she nonetheless endured it all and remains today a
contender; one truly worthy of the appellation “Super Hero.” Her broader
cultural influence is also noteworthy, inspiring many as she has, including a
little Ohio girl and WW fan-atic
named Gloria Steinem.
Wonder Woman has continued to evolve and change in terms
of her appearance and, to some degree, personality; gifted or saddled, according
to how you look at it, with a bewildering array of modern storylines by a
myriad of agenda-centric artists. She is about to be reincarnated yet again,
this time on the big screen, in Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot in the title
role. Whatever else they do with the character, I fervently hope the filmmakers
will endow this newest WW with the qualities that first made her great and
defines the essence of that greatness. According to actress Lynda Carter, who
singlehandedly pirouetted into motion a new generation of WW fans, “she’s the symbol of the extraordinary
possibilities that inhabit us, hidden though they may be.
that, I think, is the important gift Wonder Woman offers women. Perhaps our
real challenge in the 21st century is to strive to reach our potential while
embracing her values. Wonder Woman is fearless. She sees the good in everyone,
convinced they are capable of change, compassion and generosity. She’s
kindhearted and hopeful, and she has a great sense of humor. Who knows? Maybe
she really can save the world.”
Elliott, a writer and educator, lives in Asheville, North Carolina
Elvis's bizarre and ill-conceived meeting with President Nixon was among the factors that detracted from his legacy as a musical legend. His garish wardrobe is what many younger people associate with his persona.
BY LEE PFEIFFER
In a report for the web site of The Guardian, writer Thomas Hobbs examines an inconvenient truth- as the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death approaches, the King's legacy is being diminished. Young people are not conversant in his achievements and relatively few listen to his music as opposed to other acts from decades past such as The Beatles. Part of the blame must be placed on Elvis himself, who in his later years, had squandered his 1968 comeback by becoming a benign lounge act in Las Vegas. He remained a popular draw but younger people regarded him as someone their parents and grandparents wanted to see. The world was changing rapidly but Elvis, under the Svengali-like control of Col. Tom Parker, was still attired in skin-tight, garish pants suits and appealing to the sexual fantasies of aging female fans. The unsavory circumstances of his death also worked against his legacy. Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin all died from drug overdoses but remain hip even to today's young people. Elvis had the misfortune of dying from drug-related problems while sitting on a toilet, something that has detracted from the tragedy of his death. Even the value of Elvis vintage record albums is declining precipitously. There's plenty of blame to go around when it comes to the Presley estate which greedily licensed virtually any product imaginable, allowing him image to be portrayed on many cheesy "collectibles". No one's making the argument that Elvis's legacy is heading towards oblivion- but it has been poorly served by the people who represent it. Hopefully, younger music lovers who can groove to retro rock will one day discover that Elvis was more than an amiable lounge act, but in fact, was a once-in-a-lifetime musical legend.