Criterion has released a true oddity: a French horror film from 1960 by director Georges Franju titled Eyes Without a Face. The B&W film was notable in its day for being a rare excursion into a genre that most New Wave French filmmakers had studiously avoided. The intriguing plot centers on Dr. Genessier (Pierre Brasseur), a notable plastic surgeon who is pioneering breakthrough methods of reconstructing the faces of people who have suffered grievous injuries and disfigurements. On the surface, Genessier follows the norms of traditional medical research: publishing papers and giving lectures relating to his findings. However, the painstaking process of getting formal acceptance and approval of new medical theories is not for him. He has an urgent need to pursue his theories outside of accepted medical practices. His daughter Christiana (Edit Scob) was severely injured in a car crash that he was responsible for. Wracked by guilt, Genessier has been practicing his controversial methods on his young female assistant Louise (Alida Valli), who had also required plastic surgery. The results have been successful and he has transformed her back into the beautiful woman she once was. The only fly in the ointment is that Genessier's methods require the kidnapping of other young, healthy women who he tortures brutally by literally removing their faces while they writhe in agony, awaiting certain death. Meanwhile, Christiana has been declared dead and no one- not even her fiancee who works as Genessier's protege- suspects otherwise. Genessier and Louise cater to Christina, who is kept in total isolation inside Genessier's country home that adjoins his clinic. Here, clad in a disturbing face mask that is devoid of any emotional features, she wanders the rooms and halls in loneliness and frustration, even as her doting father assures her that he will restore her natural beauty. To do so, he prepares for the operation by systematically planning more kidnappings so that he has a fresh supply of human flesh. When things go awry with one of his kidnapped victims, Genessier faces disaster at the very moment of his long-sought triumph.
While Eyes Without a Face wouldn't meet the definition of a contemporary horror film (it is leisurely paced and caters to sophisticated viewers), the film is dripping with atmosphere and director Franju engages the audience from the very first disturbing frames of Genessier and Louise en route to dispose of the body of yet another innocent female victim. As with many memorable movie villains, Genessier is a cultured man who is more misguided than evil. His crimes are committed only because of his overwhelming sense of guilt and they are a symptom of his obsession with righting a terrible wrong. Nevertheless, he gets carried away by his emotions and loses sight of the fact that, as a doctor committed to helping injured people, he is ensuring their demise.
Eyes Without a Face is a genuinely eerie cinematic experience and the fact that it was made in France gives the film an even more unique atmosphere. Still, this artfully crafted film was dumped on U.S. audiences in a dubbed version that was absurdly re-titled The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus, which also suffered severe edits. Criterion had released an impressive DVD version of the original French cut about ten years ago. The Blu-ray, which is up to the company's usual top-notch standards, carries over the original bonus extras and includes some new additions. They are:
Archival interviews with Georges Franju.
A new interview with actress Edith Scob.
A 1985 French documentary about the making of the film
Franju's controversial 1949 documentary Blood of the Beasts which was one of the first cinematic attempts to argue against animal cruelty. The still-powerful film depicts the horrendous conditions inside slaughterhouses and still packs an emotional wallop today.
A gallery of trailers including the American release
An informative illustrated booklet featuring essays by novelist Patrick McGrath and film historian David Kalat.
The movie is a mesmerizing experience with superb performances and direction and the Criterion Blu-ray finally does justice to this long-overlooked masterwork of the European horror genre.
The Warner Archive has released the 1960 comedy hit "Where the Boys Are" as a special edition Blu-ray. The film looks positively quaint today but I enjoyed it in the manner that an anthropologist would if he were examining etchings on cave walls from a distant era. The film reflects the social values of the time and, not surprisingly, there is nary a minority teenager to be seen. The story concerns a group of coeds (to use a truly quaint term)- Dolores Hart, Paula Prentiss, Connie Francis and Yvette Mimieux- who make a first time pilgrimage from their snowbound college to Fort Lauderdale for spring break. Even in 1960, Fort Lauderdale was the "go to" destination for students. However, the film's impact was so significant that it increased the masses of student tourists to Fort Lauderdale exponentially over the years. One must look at the movie in the context of the time period. This was the first generation of females who were able to exert enough independence to make such a trip sans chaperones. The girls are predictably man hungry and in one cringe-inducing sequence, Paula Prentiss' character says her higher education is just a waste of time because she was put on earth to find a guy and have babies!
Still, Where the Boys Are was probably the first beach movie to at least attempt to address sexual desire among the young in a somewhat frank way. While her girlfriends flirt endlessly with hunks like George Hamilton and Jim Hutton, Yvette Mimieux's character lets down her guard and "goes all the way". The resulting sense of guilt and suicidal depression may seem overwrought today but it's genuinely frightening to imagine these were the sensibilities of the time. One doesn't know whether the film is reaffirming the validity of equating virginity with self-worth or whether it is being critical of the philosophy. In any event, the scene adds a poignancy that is lacking from most other movies of this genre. In the beginning of the movie, Dolores Hart's Merritt faces possible expulsion from school for voicing her opinion that premarital sex should not be frowned upon. The next time someone pines away about the good old days, have them watch this cinematic time capsule.
Much was made about the fact that the film was shot on location in Fort Lauderdale. In fact, the on location footage is rather fleeting and judiciously edited among the phony studios shots in order to give the impression that the cast spent much more time in Florida than they actually did. Still, the local color does give the film a leg up over the majority of cheapie beach movies that were to follow in its wake. The main attribute of the movie is the charismatic cast. The female leads are delightful to watch with Paula Prentiss and Connie Francis particularly good. (Francis' crooning of the title song sent it to the top of the charts). Among the males, Hamilton is his usual unruffled, handsome good guy who sports more grease in his hair than Jerry Lewis. Hutton plays a beatnik-type character but the jokes become predictable and weary. Frank Gorshin, in an early screen appearance, is somewhat more amusing as a jazz musician who is blind without his Coke bottle-like eyeglasses.
The Blu-ray extras have been ported over from the previous DVD release from 2002. There is a 2003 featurette with Prentiss and Francis reminiscing about the joys of making the film. The always engaging Prentiss also provides a fun commentary track and there is an original theatrical trailer and brief newsreel footage of the stars arriving in Fort Lauderdale for the world premiere.
Where the Boys Are is by no means cinematic art, but it is a consistently entertaining look at a bygone era.
Writing in The Daily Beast, Ron Capshaw addresses a long-running rumor that Errol Flynn may have been a Nazi spy. The largely debunked theory, which still intrigues Hollywood historians, revolves around Flynn's friendship with a man who was a Nazi espionage agent in the pre-war years. The two traveled together and considered themselves good friends. Letters written by Flynn were revealed to have contained anti-semitic statements and Flynn once insulted studio mogul Jack Warner in front on a film set by telling him that "We don't allow any Jews on the set". In one letter, Flynn even says that he wishes the United States had its own version of Hitler so that Jews could be taught a thing or two. By 1940, however, Flynn was routinely denouncing Naziism and when America entere the war the following year, Flynn even volunteered to work undercover as a U.S. espionage agent, though nothing came of the proposal. He also never saw his Nazi spy pal again after 1940 and began dismissing him as a "screwball". However, the U.S. government was still so concerned by the possibility that Flynn, too, was spying for Nazi Germany that they had him followed and investigated. For more click here.
is 1962. Aggrieved when Algeria is granted independence by President Charles de
Gaulle, the militant underground alliance known as the Organisation Armée Secrète botches an
attempt to assassinate him. Within months many of the conspirators, including
their top man, have been captured and executed. The remaining OAS leaders,
bereft of funds, take refuge in Austria and warily decide to contract an
outside professional to do the job for them. They settle on a British assassin
(Edward Fox), who chooses to be identified as Jackal. The OAS orchestrate
several bank robberies to cover his exorbitant fee of half a million dollars
whilst the mechanics of the plotting are left entirely to Jackal's discretion.
After capturing and interrogating another alliance member, the French authorities
learn of Jackal's existence and, suspecting another attempt on de Gaulle's life
may be imminent, they set their best man – Deputy Commissioner Claude Lebel
(Michel Lonsdale) – on his tail. But Jackal is cunning and, as his carefully
formulated scheme to assassinate de Gaulle approaches fruition, he moves around
Europe seamlessly changing his guise and identity in a bid to stay one step
ahead of Lebel.
from Frederick Forsyth's 1971 bestseller of the same name, director Fred
Zinnemann's suspenseful 1973 film The Day
of the Jackal is, in my opinion, one of the finest political thrillers to
be carried over from page to screen. At its core it's an increasingly taut game
of cat and mouse which subtly persuades its audience to champion both sides; as
much as we want to see Jackal thwarted by Lebel, we can't help but admire the
cucumber cool killer as his meticulous and seemingly fool-proof plan comes
together. This ineluctable sharing of loyalties is in no small part down to the
performances of the two lead actors. Edward Fox in his first major big screen
role – arguably his best – phlegmatically dominates the proceedings. Jackal's mien
is that of an urbane, unflappable English gentleman with a winning smile, but
it can all disappear in the blink of an eye as witnessed in a moment early on
when he deals with someone stupid enough to try to cross him; two swift, savage
barehanded blows later the man is dead. Fox's performance is matched ounce for
ounce by Michel Lonsdale as the savvy, resourceful policeman tasked with
tracking him down. Aside from some unfortunate and slightly distracting
continuity oversights relating to the artificial grey in his hair (which frequently
changes in volume), Lonsdale's Lebel is a compelling screen presence and I for
one would have liked to have seen him carry the role on through a series of
the film also benefits immeasurably from a peppering of British stalwarts –
among them Derek Jacobi, Timothy West, Donald Sinden, Barrie Ingham, Eric
Porter, Tony Britten, Ronald Pickup, Anton Rodgers, Maurice Denham and Edward
Hardwicke – and familiar faces from Euro cinema (Vernon Dobtcheff, Howard
Vernon). In a largely male populated narrative the sparse but nonetheless essential
female contingent appears in the shape of Olga Georges-Picot (The Man Who Haunted Himself) and
Delphine Seyrig (Daughters of Darkness).
off with some expository narration and then thrusting the audience headlong
into the bungled attempt on President de Gaulle's life, director Zinnemann
sustains high tension from the outset. Once the collaborative government forces
ascertain that Jackal intends to target de Gaulle in Paris, a palpable sense of
apprehension builds as we dot back and forth between frustrated government
officials – furrowed brows becoming increasingly sweat-sheened as they puff
nervously on their cigarettes – and Jackal going about his preparations
completely unflustered. The climax is located on the Champs-Élysées in the midst of the Liberation Day parade
and, as Lebel pushes through the hundreds of milling spectators futilely trying
to spot his man – whilst, in a nearby building, Jackal is positioning himself
to dispense the death shot – doubt begins to creep in that this will end
happily. Incidentally, these scenes were filmed during a real parade and more
than a few members of the public can be noted looking directly into camera as
Lonsdale moves among them.
Cinema Retro proudly presents this year's Movie Classics 80-page special issue: "World War II Movies of the Sixties", showcasing films that only Cinema Retro would cover in-depth. Some are true classics, others are simply vastly entertaining- and all are celebrated through rare production photos, international marketing campaigns, then-and-now location photos and little-known facts.
Films covered in this issue:
The Guns of Navarone - Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, David Niven
Battle of the Bulge- Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw, Robert Ryan
Anzio- Robert Mitchum, Peter Falk
The Victors- George Peppard, Eli Wallach, George Hamilton
The Train- Burt Lancaster, Jeanne Moreau
Tobruk-Rock Hudson, George Peppard, Nigel Davenport
Hannibal Brooks- Oliver Reed, Michael J. Pollard
The Devil's Brigade- William Holden, Cliff Robertson, Vince Edwards
Von Ryan's Express- Frank Sinatra, Trevor Howard
Operation Crossbow- George Peppard, Sophia Loren, Richard Johnson
Is Paris Burning?- Orson Welles, Gert Frobe, Alain Delon
Play Dirty- Michael Caine, Nigel Davenport
The Heroes of Telemark- Kirk Douglas, Richard Harris
We realize that there are still plenty of worthy titles deserving of coverage and we plan to get to them in a follow-up WWII issue.
As with all Cinema Retro issues, this one is a limited edition - so order now!
Note: This issue is not part of the subscription plan and must be ordered separately.
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM THE CINEMA RETRO ARCHIVES
By Lee Pfeiffer
Vinegar Syndrome (we love the name) is a DVD label that specializes in preserving and restoring vintage cinematic erotica and other cult films. Their most recent coup is the release of a double feature on Blu-ray consisting of Russ Meyer's 1964 adaptation of Fanny Hill along with Albert Zugsmith's bizarre 1967 Western comedy The Phantom Gunslinger. The dual package generously provides both films on DVD as well as their Blu-ray editions. Russ Meyer was already well-known as both a cheesecake photographer for "men's magazines" as well as a director of soft-cover sex films that generally showcased young women who were super-amply endowed. Ever the opportunist, he teamed with producer Zugsmith in 1964 for Fanny Hill, which was based on a notorious 18th century novel that chronicled the sexual escapades of a promiscuous young woman. Such was the book's controversial impact that when it was reprinted in the early 1960s it was banned in some quarters for obscenity. The publisher and civil libertarians contested the ruling and the subsequent court battle put ol' Fanny right in the midst of the contemporary news cycle. Zugsmith, who was a producer of some repute (The Incredible Shrinking Man, Touch of Evil) had by this point concentrated on low-brow exploitation fare. He reasoned that if the country was up in arms over a two hundred year old book, audiences would go wild over a film adaptation of the story. The plot centers on Fanny (Leticia Roman) as a buxom blonde farm girl who arrives in London, naive and clueless about the ways of the world. She is quickly "adopted" by Mrs. Brown (Miriam Hopkins), a seemingly benevolent older woman who is, in fact, a madame who wants to exploit Fanny's innocence by turning her into a prostitute. What she doesn't count on is just how naive Fanny is. Even when residing with numerous other ladies of the night, she fails to catch on to the fact that the place is a bordello. Mrs. Brown tries on several occasions to financially benefit from renting the young virgin to any number of eager patrons, but fate always intervenes before the act can be consummated. When Fanny falls in love with Charles (Ulli Lommel), a dashing and chivalrous young sailor, Mrs. Brown arranges for him to be kidnapped and taken out of the country. Thinking her lover has abandoned her, Fanny becomes despondent and out of grief agrees to marry a loathsome nobleman. As the ceremony begins, Fanny's betrothed manages to escape and make his way to the wedding where the film climaxes in a crazy, slap-stick filled brawl. Viewers may be puzzled by the almost complete absence of eroticism in the film, along with relatively few lingering shots of semi-dressed young women. The whole enterprise is so chaste it could be shown today on the Disney Channel. This was due to the fact that Zugsmith and Meyer clashed over the content of the film, with Zugsmith insisting that comedy should be emphasized over sexual content. Meyer finished the film but justifiably regarded it as a low-grade entry on his list of cinematic achievements. What emerged is a Jerry Lewis-like farce with zany sequences in which people swing from chandeliers, cross dress and engage in various forms of mayhem. In retrospect, it seems inconceivable that the film was deemed controversial even in 1964. Zugsmith filmed the movie in West Germany using local actors for supporting roles. Although the three leads-Roman, Hopkins and Lommel- perform admirable given the circumstances, the supporting cast is encouraged to play even the most minor moments in absurd, over-the-top manner. The result is that the film's primary legacy is as an interesting relic of a bygone era when "naughty" films could still raise eyebrow without delivering much in the way of genuine eroticism.
The second entry on the DVD "double feature" is even more bizarre and makes Fanny Hill look like Last Tango in Paris in comparison. The Phantom Gunslinger was shot in Mexico as a vehicle for Albert Zugsmith to prove he was a triple threat talent, with the erstwhile fellow producing, co-writing and directing the resulting disaster. It's clear that without someone like Russ Meyer to at least try to restrain Zugsmith's instincts for broad slapstick, the project was doomed from the start. The plot, such as it is, finds a small Western town taken over by a gang of notorious outlaws. They cause some mild mayhem but mostly seem content to gorge themselves on sumptuous feasts in between flirting with the local saloon girls. The local sheriff is terrified and runs away, turning his badge over to Bill (Troy Donahue), a hunky dimwit who sets about trying to wrest control of the town from the raucous outlaws. That's about as deep as the story line goes. Zugsmith pads the film with so much slapstick it makes the average Three Stooges skit look like the work of Noel Coward. The film is certainly one of the most bizarre of its era and its hard to know whether it was ever even released theatrically in America. There is a painful element to watching Troy Donahue at this stage in his career. Only a few years earlier, he was deemed a bankable star by major studios. Whatever desperate measures persuaded him to be involved in this enterprise will probably never be known but perhaps he was inspired by the success of Clint Eastwood's spaghetti westerns. Eastwood went to Spain and collaborated with a genius named Sergio Leone. Donahue went to Mexico and was saddled with Albert Zugsmith. Such are the cruel ironies of fate. The Phantom Gunslinger is so repetitive in its gags that one is reminded that this is the kind of film they invented the fast forward remote control feature for.
Writer Michael Coate of The Digital Bits web site queried a diverse group of James Bond scholars to analyze the impact "The Living Daylights" had on the 007 film series and Bond legacy when it was released thirty years ago. Among those contributing is Cinema Retro's own Editor-in-Chief Lee Pfeiffer. The format is presented in a "round-table" scenario with the various scholars weighing in on their thoughts about the movie, which introduced Timothy Dalton in the role of James Bond. Click here to read.
A new poll finds that the majority of Millennials are shockingly unfamiliar with older, classic movies. The posting on the Cinema Retro Facebook page has set off a spirited discussion among our readers. People who live in major metropolitan areas may take issue with the poll's findings since young people routinely attend screenings of classic movies at revival cinemas. The Alamo Drafthouse chain of cinemas has been especially effective at exposing younger audiences to retro movie classics and cult films. Yes, Netflix and other streaming services make plenty of retro movie classics available to viewers of all ages everywhere. But in major cities, younger people tend to view going to see a classic film from the past as a social activity, often going in groups to theaters with funky themes. It may be, however, that people who live in more rural areas don't have the same opportunities to see older films on the big screen, therefore they are not as familiar with them. Click here to read article.
With the death of Jerry Lewis at age 91, Hollywood lost one of the few remaining people who deserved to be called iconic. Lewis rose from a humble upbringing in urban New Jersey to become one of the greatest successes in the history of comedy. His ten year partnership with Dean Martin made them both international idols as well as very rich men. When Martin and Lewis broke up amidst great acrimony, many predicted Lewis would fade and be considered as a flash-in-the-pan. After all, it was Martin who had the looks, the elegance and the velvet singing voice. But Lewis proved he could be a red hot solo act. He honed his craft, took control of his films and learned to become a respected and innovative filmmaker. Lewis raised billions for charity and could be personally charming. But he was also a divisive figure about whom few had ambivalent feelings. He was either loved or loathed, He was known to have mood swings and could be friendly one minute and insulting the next. Until his last days he would make controversial and insulting statements about individuals and institutions. When his big screen went into decline, he concentrated on stage productions and stand-up comedy and never lost his core audience. Despite the controversies he seemed to relish inciting, few would disagree that his impact on the world of cinematic comedy will be tough to top. Click here for more.
is considered by many to be Alfred Hitchcock's crowning achievement. Although
I'd suggest there are several other titles that could justifiably vie for that accolade,
there's no disputing that it ranks as a premium couple of hours of suspenseful
drama that still packs a punch 57 years on from its release. I can only begin
to imagine the impact the burgeoning ill-ease and kinky twist reveal had on
unsuspecting audiences back in 1960.
it's practically a given that a box office hit will result in a hastily mounted
sequel, but back then it was almost unheard of, besides which Psycho delivered a self-contained story
with a satisfying conclusion, so there really wasn't any need for augmentation.
(To be fair though, one could say that about fistfuls of superfluous sequels
today.) In any event, as follow-ups go 1983's Psycho II rubs shoulders with the best of them; yes, it's
superfluous, but director Richard Franklin's film wipes out any suspicions of a
cash-raking exercise by delivering a beautifully tailored narrative that
dovetails impeccably with its ancestor. In fact it’s such a well-considered
continuation that one could almost believe it had been planned right from the
start. It isn't just good, it's really
with a slightly pared down replay of that
shower murder from Hitchcock's film, as the camera pans to the window and comes
to rest on the edifice that is the Bates house, the image subtly transitions
from the black & white of the original to colour. And so begins a tale
bristling with devilish twists, one that's almost as thrilling as the first and
that unexpectedly weighs in with a hefty emotional payload.
ago Fairvale motelier Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) was arrested following
several brutal knife murders – including that of larcenous Marion Crane – and
the discovery that as a child he'd poisoned his overbearing Mother. Due to his
state of mind he was declared not guilty of murder and incarcerated in an
institution for the criminally insane. Now, much to the ire of Marion's sister,
Lila (Vera Miles), Norman has been pronounced fit for release. He arrives back
at the family owned motel to find that an oily state-appointed manager, Toomey
(Dennis Franz), has allowed it to devolve into a dive patronised by unsavoury
clientele. Norman sacks Toomey and sets about doing the place up, intending to
relaunch it as a respectable establishment. To make ends meet in the interim he
gets a part-time job at a nearby diner where he meets and takes a shine to down-on-her-luck
waitress Mary (Meg Tilly) and he subsequently offers her lodgings. Although
she's aware of Norman's past – there's not a soul in Fairvale who isn't – she's
desperate and so, with some trepidation, accepts. As Norman's affection for
Mary warms, so the first of a series of notes from his dead Mother appears. Next
come the phone calls. And then people around Norman begin to die, each falling
victim to a shadowy, knife-wielding figure. Has the rehabilitation process not
been the success it first appeared? Are the messages from Mother all in
Norman's head? Or is someone messing with him, trying to retrigger his
insanity? Whatever the case, Norman quickly begins to unravel...
previously directed a couple of efficient chillers in his native Australia –
1978's Patrick and 1981's Roadgames – Richard Franklin's decision
to take on a sequel to one of cinema history's most venerated films for his
American debut was a bold and ambitious one. Fortunately, Psycho II proved a decent critical and box office success. It
boasts a sharp, intelligent script by Tom Holland, who would go on to helm some
fine chillers of his own (among them Fright
Night and Child's Play), and who
appears fleetingly here as a police deputy.
Perkins – slipping back into Norman Bates' loafers with such ease that it's
almost as if he never vacated them – gets the cream of the dialogue, including
some splashes of black humour, for example when Norman, former knife murderer,
nervously falters in his enunciation of the word “cutlery”. The script also rather
daringly turns Norman into a figure of sympathy as he tries to fit back
into civilised society, struggling valiantly to quell the re-emergence of
his former homicidal impulses whilst external forces seem to conspire against
him. There's a wonderful scene which finds Mary comforting Norman and he tells
her that she smells like toasted cheese sandwiches, kindling one of the few
happy memories of his mostly bereft childhood; if it sounds a bit corny on
paper, it's actually remarkably poignant.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
World Premiere of STAR
WARS FILM CONCERT SERIES
To Feature Iconic
Scores Performed Live to Film
Complete Scores Conducted by David Newman September 15–October 7, 2017
NEW YORK COMIC CON To
Feature RETURN OF THE JEDI and
THE FORCE AWAKENS as
Part of NYCC PRESENTS
“STAR WARS: MUSIC FOR
With Conductor and
Film Score Composer David Newman Moderated by Mark Travis
Part of FREE INSIGHTS
AT THE ATRIUM
September 12, 2017
Presents “Star Wars Film Concert Series Fan Zone” At Each Concert:
Meet-and-Greet with Star Wars Characters, Specialty Drinks,
Booth, Commemorative Merchandise, and More
The New York
Philharmonic will present the World Premiere of Star Wars Film Concert Series, September 15–October 7, 2017,
featuring screenings of four complete films from the saga — A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return
of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens —
with Oscar®-winning composer John Williams’s musical scores performed live to
film. The concerts will be led by acclaimed conductor David Newman.
New York Philharmonic has partnered with New
York Comic Con to feature the Star
Wars Film Concert Series presentation of Return of the Jedi (October 4–5) and The Force Awakens (October 6–7) as part of NYCC Presents — a
series of concerts, live podcasts, comedy acts, and more that brings New York
Comic Con to various venues throughout New York City.
Newman, who is also a film score composer, will discuss John Williams’s
compositional techniques, leitmotifs, and musical philosophy at “Star
Wars: Music for a Galaxy,” a free Insights
at the Atrium event, Tuesday, September 12. Mark Travis — the
New York Philharmonic’s Associate Director, Media Production, and resident Star Wars aficionado — will moderate.
The event takes place at the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center
(Columbus Avenue at 62nd Street).
concert attendees are invited to take part in the Philharmonic’s “Star
Wars Film Concert Series Fan Zone” at David Geffen Hall, before and
after each performance as well as during intermission. Ticket holders will have
the opportunity to meet R2D2, Stormtroopers, and other Star Wars characters from costumed fan groups; in addition, they
can take photos in an event-themed photo booth. A commemorative program and
other merchandise will be available for purchase and a specialty cocktail
called the Cantina Margarita (and its non-alcoholic version) will also be
available. Those planning to attend are encouraged to come in costume and share
their Fan Zone experience on social media using
With a screenplay penned by an
otherwise obscure advertising copywriter named Ceri Jones (adapted from an
original story by director Gary Sherman), the premise of Death Line is rather simple.Late night travelers on London’s famed underground tubes have been
disappearing with alarming regularity from the Russell Square Tube
Station.Two young, unmarried collegians,
Alex Campbell (David Ladd) and Patricia Wilson (Sharon Gurney), unwittingly get
themselves entangled into the mystery when they find an unconscious, well-dressed
fop lying comatose on the lower steps of the station.They alert a wary and hesitant policeman to
investigate, but the slumped body – whose wallet had earlier identified the
body as Sir James Manfred, O.B.E. - is suddenly nowhere to be found.
We soon learn that Manfred (James
Cossins) is merely the latest delicacy in the supper plans of a gruesome character
billed only as “The Man.” Even putting
his cannibalistic appetite aside, “The Man” (Hugh Armstrong) still cuts a
pretty morbid figure. Filthy, ragged,
and with skin tone that’s both beyond the pale and ravaged with festering sores
(think of the iconic and disheveled – but still healthier appearing - figure that
graces the cover of Jethro Tull’s seminal Aqualung
LP), this mostly mute subterranean has – somewhat reluctantly - become the last
surviving offspring of a band of tunnel dwellers.
There’s a back story here,
of course. It seems that during the
construction of the South London tube in 1892, there was an unfortunate cave-in
that entombed a team of construction workers. The company contracted to build that particular section of this nineteenth
century subway went immediately into bankruptcy, coldheartedly making no
attempt to rescue those (apparently) mixed-sex workers trapped in the dank and
rat infested arc-shaped tunnels.
This was unfortunate as some
of those abandoned not only managed to survive, but to reproduce and flourish
(more or less) by eating the flesh of their less fortunate comrades. It’s never adequately explained why in the
eighty years between the tunnel collapse of 1892 and the film’s current date of
1972, the youngest and last surviving of the mining offspring has lost all of
their language skills aside from a grunting, guttural mimic of the rail line’s oft-repeated
conductor’s phrase “Mind the Doors.” Likewise, it’s never explained why – while searching out potential
future meals on the underground platforms - the “trapped” tunnelers simply didn’t
walk up the stairwells and out into the sunshine. Of course, if they had, there
would be no drama. Certainly romancing University
students Campbell and Wilson wouldn’t have been begrudgingly dragged into the
on-going police investigation – much in the manner of Fred and Daphne from the
old Scooby Doo cartoon series. To some degree it hardly matters. They’re
window dressing. British actor Donald
Pleasence is the true star of this vehicle, bringing more than a dollop of
churlish intensity to his blue collar character, Inspector Calhoun. Pleasence is a decidedly old-school policeman,
a cantankerous, prudish sort who continually badgers his secretary for cups of
tea. He also relishes belittling and
sneering at young Campbell and his generation’s immoral lifestyles, live-in
girlfriends, and hippie mindset. He’s
particularly disdainful of privileged middle-class kids dabbling in the
political protest movements of the day.
To be fair, Calhoun shows
little regard for the more well-heeled citizens of Britain either, tossing more
than a few cynical barbs at the newly deceased snob James Manfred, O.B.E. He also possesses an almost pathological
antipathy toward M.I.5. He views the
organization not as an ally but more as a smug, self-important competitor in his
street level fight against crime.
Though horror film icon
Christopher Lee gets a feature billing in Death
Line, his role is relatively small and the single scene he does appear in does
little to move the narrative forward. Producer Paul Maslansky had previously worked with Lee on a number of
films (including the very atmospheric and spooky black and white chiller Castle of the Living Dead). It was through Maslansky that Lee was cast as
Pleasence’s smirking antagonist, the condescending and derby-topped
Stratton-Villiers of M.I.5.
Though the two actors would
only share a single scene together – oddly, the pair would only share the
briefest of moments seen together on the big screen – Maslansky recalled Lee gladly
accepting the small role if only to work with Pleasence, an actor he much
admired. The young American actor, David
Ladd, was also duly impressed by Pleasence, describing him as the consummate
“actor’s actor.” He found working
alongside him somewhat “intimidating.” Ladd is the younger brother of Oscar-winning producer Alan Ladd, Jr.,
and was certainly no leading man in Britain. He had previously worked mostly in the U.S. as a child actor. Though Ladd’s role of Alex Campbell was
originally purposed for a British actor, the producers thought having an
American in the part might make the film an easier sell in the States.
about troubled cops or ex-cops still have a foothold in movies and TV shows --
almost to the point where you wonder why so these emotionally vulnerable men
and women chose a stressful career in law enforcement in the first place. Private eyes, on the other hand, are almost
an extinct species on the screen, after great media popularity in the 1950s and
intermittent periods of audience demand since then. Maybe, as fantasy figures who embody power,
personal integrity, and social conscience, trenchcoated PIs have been displaced
and replaced by superheroes. The hero of
Hal Ashby’s “8 Million Ways to Die”
(1986), Matt Scudder (Jeff Bridges),
begins as a policeman but becomes an unlicensed, free-lance gumshoe in the
course of the story. A detective with
the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, Scudder serves a warrant on a
suspected drug trafficker in the opening scenes of the film. When the suspect attacks another deputy with
a baseball bat, Scudder fatally shoots him in front of his wife and
children. Either out of remorse for
killing the suspect or out of anger for being raked over the coals by Internal
Affairs for using his gun (the movie is a little hazy on this point), Scudder
quits the force and becomes an alcoholic. Deciding to clean up his act after his wife and daughter move out, Scudder
joins Alcoholics Anonymous, where another attendee at a meeting, an attractive
woman, slips him a note with a name and phone number. These developments all take place within the
first few minutes of the picture.
the staging, the audience initially thinks that the woman is flirting with
Scudder and giving him her personal information. (Nowadays, she’d Tweet -- were the 1980s
really that long ago?) But it turns out
that the name and phone number belong to the woman’s friend, Sunny (Alexandra Paul), a prostitute. Sunny offers a job to Scudder as a go-between
with her pimp, Chance (Randy Brooks). Sunny wants out of the life but she’s afraid to approach Chance herself.
Scudder agrees to represent her. Chance tells
him that Sunny is free to go: he doesn’t control her and she can do what she
wants. But then Sunny is abducted off
the street and brutally murdered while Scudder watches helplessly. Scudder goes on a bender, but revenge gives
him a motive for going on the wagon again. He’s convinced that Chance was the murderer, and he wants to bring him
to justice, but as he confronts Chance and gathers other clues, his suspicions
turn to Angel (Andy Garcia), a high-living Colombian cocaine kingpin. Scudder enlists another hooker, Sarah
(Rosanna Arquette) to help him get close to Angel. The previous tragedy of a woman horribly
murdered while under Scudder’s care threatens to repeat itself. Sarah, a shotgun held under her chin, becomes
leverage for Angel as Scudder tries to entrap him by instigating a raid on his
multi-million dollar cache of coke.
story behind “8 Million Ways to Die,” (1986) Ashby’s final, troubled film,
arguably is more interesting than the movie itself. The initial script by Oliver Stone, adapted
from a 1982 novel by Lawrence Block, went through at least two rewrites, one by
an uncredited Robert Towne. As director,
Ashby encouraged the actors to improvise many scenes. Some accounts say that Ashby did so in a
spirit of creative collaboration, others contend that he’d simply lost interest
in the job after ongoing interference by the producers. Many of the scenes stumble around with the
actors improvising dialogue that sounds like what might emerge from
drama-school tryouts where hopefuls are encouraged to “talk about your character’s
feelings.” In a showdown between Scudder
and Angel, Bridges and Garcia set a record for the number of F-bombs shouted in
a given time period. Ashby’s supporters
claim that “8 Million Ways to Die” would have been a good film, rather than an
exasperating but sometimes interesting failure, if he’d been allowed to oversee
post-production, choose the best of multiple takes from certain scenes, and
rearrange the story to better frame it as a journey of redemption as seen
through Scudder’s eyes.
Lorber’s Blu-ray edition of “8 Million Ways to Die” is rich in special
features, including an informative audio commentary by film historians Howard
S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson, and new interviews with Garcia, Paul,
Arquette, and Block. All three actors
are collegial and engaged, but Garcia, especially, reminisces about the movie
eloquently and warmly; it’s unfortunate that most younger viewers, now,
probably know the handsome actor best for his commercials with George Clooney,
hawking Nespresso. Block talks about
meeting with Stone early on, and wryly notes that the producers had concerns
about the logic of retaining the title of the novel. The book had been set in New York City, and
the title had been a play on the tagline for the classic, NYC-based Naked City TV series (“There are eight
million stories . . .”). But the script
relocated the action to Los Angeles, where the population falls short of eight
million people. The producers decided to
keep the title when they calculated that, if you counted the number of
residents in the entire LA metro area, you’d come up with about eight million.
and Thompson note that the film was a commercial flop in initial release (I
remember seeing it in a nearly empty theater, the first week it played), but
gradually picked up an audience from VHS and pay-cable through the late
‘80s. Is it sexist to wonder whether
many of those home-video watchers were guy teens who sneaked the cassette to
fast-forward and freeze-frame to Alexandra Paul’s brief, full-fontal nude
The Kino Lorber
Blu-ray includes a reversible cover sleeve with alternate poster art on both
sides. The main side reproduces the
poster showing Bridges and Arquette against a pastel-neon sunset and a waving
palm tree. The color scheme, I’m
certain, was designed to entice fans of TV’s “Miami Vice,” the hottest ticket
in pop culture at the time.
To the surprise of no one, Daniel Craig has confirmed he will be returning as James Bond. It had previously been announced by Eon Productions that the next Bond film is in pre-production with veteran scribes Neil Purvis and Robert Wade working on the script. The film will not be released until November 2019, giving them plenty of time to fine-tune the story line. Craig, in a jovial mood, appeared last night on Stephen Colbert's show to confirm the news. He did make some more news by confirming that this would indeed be his last performance as Bond and that he looked forward to leaving the series on a high note. He also renounced disparaging comments he made about playing Bond after the release of his most recent 007 film "Spectre", saying that his comments that he would rather "slit my wrists" than play 007 again were "really stupid". Speculation will now go into overdrive in the fan community about whether Christoph Waltz will return as Bond's arch nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld to follow up on the character's appearance in "Spectre". The character of Blofeld had been in limbo for decades due to legal reasons. For more click here.
Kneale, who passed away in 2006 at the age of eighty-four, was responsible for
some of early British television’s seminal moments, and is best remembered by
popular audiences for scaring the population half to death in 1953 with The Quatermass Experiment, followed over
the next few years by Quatermass II (1955)
and Quatermass and the Pit (1958). In
1954 he was responsible for adapting George Orwell’s 1984 into a television play starring Peter Cushing and Donald
Pleasence, a production that was considered so shocking that questions were
asked in Parliament. The repeat performance the following week was only allowed
to go ahead once word came through that the Queen had liked it.
Kneale’s success at the BBC he had a difficult relationship with the
corporation and eventually became an independent writer, spending most of the
next few decades writing television dramas and film scripts, as well adapting
novels for films. Some of this work was relatively pedestrian, but when he
wrote scripts like The Stone Tape (1972),
depicting the scientific exploration of a haunted house, or the dystopian
nightmare The Year of the Sex Olympics
(1968), a world in which television serves up a constant diet of violence and
pornography, his legacy as one of the most important writers of horror and
science fiction was assured.
he hated being associated with science fiction and horror, constantly rejecting
requests to write for shows like Doctor
Who, (1963 – 1989, 2005 –), which he thought was too frightening for
children, and in the 1990s he rudely turned down an invitation to contribute to
The X-Files (1993 – 2002, 2016 –), stating
“This is the worst kind of science fiction,” before going on to denigrate the
main cast. This no doubt disappointed the show’s creator Chris Carter who was a
big fan. His influence on a new generation of filmmakers and TV producers from
the late 1970s onwards meant that Kneale was constantly being offered work,
including from Hollywood, where he worked with John Landis on an unrealised
remake of The Creature From the Black
Lagoon (1954) before scripting Halloween
III: Season of the Witch (1982) for John Carpenter. Upon seeing the
finished film and how, in his opinion, it had veered drastically from his
script, Nigel Kneale was so furious he had his name removed from the credits.
published in 2006, this vastly updated and expanded edition of Andy Murray’s
excellent biography of Kneale is a fascinating insight into one of television’s
most influential, important and occasionally belligerent writers. From his
childhood on the Isle of Man to his final moments, no aspect of his life has
been neglected. The book is built around a series of interviews with the Kneale
and his wife, successful children’s author Judith Kerr, as well as with dozens
of people who have either worked with Kneale or are fans, including John
Carpenter, Russell T. Davies and Mark Gatiss. Andy Murray has also identified
many of the references and homages to Kneale’s work in film and television,
including, ironically, Doctor Who,
the show which Kneale despised so vehemently. Most notably the 1970s stories
featuring Jon Pertwee battling alien invasions of Earth alongside UNIT were
effectively Quatermass stories under a different name.
Into the Unknown: The
Fantastic Life of Nigel Kneale is a thorough and well-researched read
for anyone interested in television history, science fiction, or who might have
spent Saturday nights as a child hiding behind the sofa during Quatermass and the Pit, and is highly
Actor and playwright Joseph Bologna has died from cancer at age 82. Bologna and his wife of 52 years, actress/writer Renee Taylor, were nominated for an Oscar for the screenplay they co-wrote (with David Zelag Goodman) for the 1971 comedy "Lovers and Other Strangers". The two collaborated frequently on and off screen. Bologna was noted primarily for his affiliation with comedies. He and Taylor co-wrote 22 plays and also appeared frequently on television but both had successful solo careers as well. His most memorable big screen role was as King Kaiser, the acerbic TV variety show host who was based on Sid Caesar in the hit 1982 comedy "My Favorite Year". Last month, Bologna attended a 35th anniversary screening of the film. His other feature films include "Made for Each Other" (co-written with Taylor), "The Big Bus", "Blame It On Rio", "The Woman in Red" and "Big Daddy". For more click here.
The good folks at the esteemed boutique video label First Run Features are generally known for making available films that relate to important and usually sobering social issues. Every now and then, however, they delve into areas that are considerably more light-hearted in nature. First Run has recently overseen the theatrical release of the acclaimed new documentary "Vince Giordano: There's a Future in the Past" by directors Dave Davidson and Amber Edwards. The film has now been released on DVD. Giordano may not be a household name but he's a living legend among jazz purists who are devoted to the music of the 1920s and 1930s- the kind of upbeat, immortal tunes popularized by Paul Whiteman, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. Giordano plays to packed houses at Manhattan venues where he performs with his band, the Nighhawks, which he formed decades ago. Like many creative types, he is eccentric, to be sure. The film's glimpses into his personal life reveals that he lives modestly in two adjoining houses in a middle class neighborhood of Brooklyn. Giordano bought the house next door many years ago to accommodate his ever-increasing collection of sheet music and memorabilia that has obsessed him since childhood. The collection is meticulously cataloged in so many filing cabinets that his house resembles the Library of Congress. Floor-to-ceiling paperwork pertaining to his musical heroes permeates the place. You won't find any evidence in Giordano's abode that indicates the existence of rock 'n roll or even the glory days of crooners like Sinatra and Crosby. He is completely devoted to the golden era of jazz and works tirelessly to keep up with finding gigs that will help him keep his sizable band employed.
The film opens with the band delighting in audiences at their long-time Manhattan home, the nightclub Sofia's which was located in the historic Edison Hotel off of Times Square (the same venue where Luca Brasi made the ominous walk to his doom in "The Godfather".) For many years the Nighthawks performed here in the cozy venue, filling the room with the joy of the big band sound. I had seen them there several years ago and, despite not being a jazz enthusiast myself, I couldn't help but marvel at the sheer exuberance of the band. The film follows Giordano's travails as the leader of the Nighthawks- including informing the band members on camera that Sofia's is being forced out of business by landlords who have raised the rent to $2 million a year. Ever-resourceful, he finds them a new home at a club called Iguana- but there are countless other frustrations involved in moving so many people to so many gigs far and wide. Many band members have been with Giordano for many years, some for decades. They relate how the sheer challenges of keeping on top of all of his responsibilities has sometimes caused him to break up the band, only to reunite them shortly thereafter. Giordano seems to have no other interests in his life than jazz and the Nighthawks. He is like an Evangelist in terms of spreading the word about the music and artists that he so reveres. His efforts are clearly paying off. We see him attract young people at the Newport Jazz Festival and at New York's famed private club for the arts, The Players, where he is one of the headline acts at the New York Hot Summer Jazz Festival. Giordano is part mother hen and part drill instructor to his band members. He refers to himself as "The King of Schlep" in regard to the fact that at age 65 he still loads and unloads the vast amount of equipment necessary for every show, carrying it all around in a rather weather-beaten van. He's like a modern version of Willie Lohman, feeling his age perhaps, but ever-devoted to his profession. He relies on his right arm, Carol Jean Hughes, to help him keep track of the enormous amount of paperwork and logistical support that goes into running the band. Giordano shows a grumpy side when things go wrong: a misplaced mouthpiece or a miscommunication that sees him setting up the entire band at the Players only to be told to dismantle everything because another band is scheduled to go on before him. But he's clearly in his element and delighting when playing in front of appreciative audiences. The band's prominence hit new heights with their Grammy-winning work on the HBO series "Boardwalk Empire" and the film includes clips from one of the segments in which the Nighthawks appear on camera. There is also extensive footage of David Johansen rehearsing with the band for the series. Giordano also coordinates a triumphant celebration of the 90th anniversary of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" and performs it at the same venue in which it premiered on the exact date of the anniversary in front of a cheering audience. The film also mentions that Giordano has worked with Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen, appearing on camera in musical scenes in their films.
"Vince Giordano: There's a Future in the Past" is a sweet-natured movie that was funded by grants and private donations. Directors Davidson and Edwards wisely allow ample screen time to show the Nighthawks performing- and the interviews with band members are especially interesting, giving a perspective of people who have not gotten rich but clearly enjoy what they do. Vince Giordano comes across as a New York original- the kind of guy you would like to sit down with at a bar for a few hours. However, that seems unlikely since the workaholic musician strikes me as the kind of obsessive who couldn't bring himself to stop studying and playing music long enough to drain down a couple of cold ones. The documentary is terrific on all levels- just like any performance by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks.
The DVD boasts an excellent transfer and a trailer gallery of other First Run features available on DVD, though strangely it does not include the trailer for the Giordano film.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from Eon Productions and MGM:
BOND RETURNS TO
A NEW JAMES
BOND CINEMATIC INSTALLATION, COMING SOON
26 July 2017 - A
unique James Bond cinematic installation will open this winter at the top of
the Gaislachkogl Mountain next to the ICE Q Restaurant, Sölden, Austria. The
iconic location was used in Spectre
as the Hoffler Klinik and formed part of the snow chase sequence in the film.
Cable Car Companies
Sölden is creating a bespoke new building to house the 007 installation,
embedded into the top of the mountain, designed and built by award-winning
architect Johann Obermoser. The innovative, dynamic space is inspired by the
work of visionary James Bond Production Designer Sir Ken Adam.
The concept for the
installation has been designed and developed by Creative Director and James
Bond Art Director Neal Callow (Casino
Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and Spectre)
together with Optimist Inc. Head of Design Tino Schaedler and his team.
Commenting on the
announcement, Jakob Falkner, Shareholder and Managing Director, Cable Car
Companies Sölden said: "We’re delighted to be partnering with EON
Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to bring Bond back to Sölden by creating a
truly unique experience in the heart of the Tyrol region. Together with the
many exciting and varied activities available in the area, this James Bond
installation will strengthen Sölden’s position as a year-round destination for
sports and entertainment.”
The name of the
cinematic installation and further details about the visitor experience will be
released later this year.
a film is as uninspired and as amateurishly made as Lance Lindsay’s Star Crystal (1986) is and ends with the
words “Filmed entirely in SPACE” following the end credits, you know that you’re
going to wish that you had those 93 minutes of your life back. Unfortunately, science
has not gotten us to the point where that is possible just yet. Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) was the
first low-budget Star Wars rip-off
that I saw theatrically and I was astonished at how unexciting it was. However,
it did give us James Cameron, Bill
Paxton, and James Horner so it wasn’t all
bad. Crystal, also a product of Roger
Corman’s low-budget production company, goes much further than Battle did in terms of “borrowing” from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Dark Star (1974), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Alien
(1979), E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982),
The Thing (1982), Xtro (1983), and Lifeforce (1985). Released on VHS in April 1986, Crystal outright steals from these classic films. Crystal lives up to none of the exceptional movie artwork that was
used to promote it, which is a shame as the poster is probably the best thing
about it (though it hawks the action as taking place in 2035, not 2032 – is
there really a difference?), although it does have a fairly decent score by
the future, remember this is 2032 and not
2035!, two men on Mars extricate a rock from the planet’s surface and,
brilliantly, bring it on board the spacecraft. To think that these guys never
saw Ridley Scott’s Alien is a little
too much to believe. They have it analyzed by a scientist who determines that
it’s…a…rock. Yes, it’s a rock that leaks a mysterious white goo (no, I’m not going there…) which a crew member
sticks nearly their entire hand into out of curiosity. Apparently, they didn’t
see Larry Cohen’s The Stuff (1985)
either. It then begins to turn into a pitiful-looking alien. The rock turns
into some sort of crystal, and looks not unlike the titular Dark Crystal from
that superior film. These events cause the crew to die suddenly. Too bad it
didn’t have the same effect on the viewer. All the computers and onboard
spaceship equipment look like they were made by Radio Shack. The action (that’s
being kind) then flashes forward two months later when Colonel William Hamilton
is assigned to find out why the crew died. Maybe they watched the dailies and
committed suicide? An attractive blonde flirts with him in typical 80’s
fashion. Everyone on the ship has big 80’s hair, a true anachronism in 2032. Onboard
the ship (in reality a poorly-disguised shopping mall) is Roger Campbell (C.
Juston Campbell) and his right hand man who cracks unfunny jokes like “I’d
rather eat my shoe” when referring to the ship’s food. The ship begins shaking when
the cinematographer starts shaking it back and forth and crew members run
around frivolously. The shopping mall’s escalators are a hilarious prop.
could go on and on about this film, but I don’t want to ruin the special
awfulness of it for the viewer. I will say that the ending is particularly
silly and comes out of left field that features an anthropomorphized blob that
breathes deeply. The plot is picked out of many sci-fi films and the director
does what he can with the ludicrous material. It makes you wonder, however, if
the movie was originally written to be tongue-in-cheek or meant to be serious. Coca-Cola
appears in a product-placement moment, and the women on the ship are dressed in
outfits that make one half expect them all to break into calisthenics. It’s always
nice to have a blonde running around screaming, “We’re all gonna die!!” at the
first sight of outer space trouble. The gratuitous sex that was a mainstay of
such 80’s fare is completely missing from Star
Crystal and it makes one wonder who was the intended audience. Exactly ten
minutes into the film, a shot from within the mothership reveals a replica of
the Millennium Falcon flanking each side of the entrance. Really? Lucasfilm
signed off on this? May the Farce Be With You.
there is anything this film needs, it’s the Mystery Science Theater 3000
treatment. There is even the dreaded End Credits Song. Why do people think that we want a song at the end of movies like
you’re a fan of this film (no judgment; to each his own), you’ll be happy to
know that Kino Lorber has provided a top-notch transfer of the film on Blu-ray.
This is the one to get!
In the 1960s European cinema went mad for a style of filmmaking called portmanteau, which is a movie that consists of several short stories united by a common theme. One such film was the 1964 release "Les plus belles escroqueries du monde", released in English language nations as "The World's Most Beautiful Swindlers". The charm of such movies was that they generally gathered diverse, well-known filmmakers who contributed individual segments in their own unique style. The Olive Films Blu-ray edition of "Swindlers" showcases the work of four directors in generally whimsical tales that involve men and women who circumvent the law for their own personal gain. First up is a tale set in Tokyo, directed by Hiromichi Horikawa. Future James Bond girl Mie Hama plays a young woman who is frustrated by her "career" of working as a hostess in a bar where her duties are to keep male customers engaged in conversation. When she meets a middle-aged, wealthy eccentric (Ken Mitsuda), who walks around with a fortune in cash in a black bag, she sees an opportunity to exploit him using her sexual charms. She convinces him to allow her into his apartment where the lonely man is immediately entranced by her. However, he is embarrassed when she discovers he wears false teeth- and he makes the mistake of informing her they are extremely valuable because they are made of precious metals. When he conveniently succumbs to a fatal heart attack, the girl realizes that absconding with his cash would make her the obvious perpetrator of a crime, so she steals his dentures before calling the police to report the death. The "sting in the tail" ending, however, may be about dentures but it lacks sufficient bite when the young woman gets her just desserts in an unexpected way. Hama is a charming screen presence and its nice to see her in an early role. Director Horikawa squanders the opportunity to showcase the visual splendors of Tokyo by largely confining the action to interiors. However, the segment is reasonably entertaining.
Japanese poster that played up the charms of Mie Hama.
The second episode is directed by Ugo Gregoretti and is probably the most satisfying of the lot. Set in Naples, it involves a prostitute (Gabriella Giorgetti) who has been dumped by her lover and who is now homeless and desperate for money. She is befriended by one of her clients, a shy, kindly law student who devises a scheme in which she can legally marry a poor, elderly man who lives in a city-run shelter. This will provide her with the legal protections she needs to ply her trade and no longer be harassed by police. (The segment dwells on the archaic codes of morality that affected every man and woman who lived in Naples at the time). Things seem to go well until she jilts her ancient "groom" and her slavish law student in order to reunite with her cruel ex-boyfriend, who uses the marriage scheme to set up his own business. Before long, it is thriving as he acts as a manager to set up prostitutes in sham marriages to poor old men. The ironic ending in which poetic justice is meted out to both the hooker and her lover is rather clever and amusing. The third segment, directed by Claude Chabrol involves a team of young, good-looking swindlers ( Jean-Pierre Cassel and Catherine Deneuve among them) who have a chance encounter with a rich, obnoxious German (Francis Blanche), who has an obsession with the Eiffel Tower and who maintains a collection of memorabilia relating to the legendary edifice. They convince him to come to Paris, where they have set up an elaborate phony corporate operation under the pretense that they have been solicited by Parisian officials to find someone suitable to sell the Eiffel Tower to. The gullible German is giddy with glee at the prospect of owning the landmark building. There are some funny moments in which he is guided around Paris by his "business partners" and wined and dined by them, even though he ends up paying the tab for everyone. The segment shows a lot of promise but fizzles out with an abrupt and completely unsatisfactory ending that makes one wonder if Chabrol had run out of film or a brisk wind swept away the last few pages of the script. In any event, the bland finale compromises the amusing scenes that precede it. The final segment, set in Marrakesh, Morocco, is directed by the estimable Jean-Luc Godard and features Jean Seberg as an American journalist who comes into possession of counterfeit money. The police inform her that a counterfeiting ring is wreaking havoc on the local economy. Intrigued, she manages to track down the culprit, who agrees to an being interviewed by her (not a very smart move if you're a wanted man). The counterfeiter (Charles Denner) is a local peasant with a somnambulistic personality who justifies his actions by explaining that he uses his ill-gotten gains to help poor people. The segment starts off intriguingly with some exotic shots of Marrakesh but quickly devolves into pretentious, nearly incomprehensible blather. Godard keeps the entire latter half of the story confined to a back alley and presents the counterfeiter in a series of boring closeups. One can only assume that Godard simply wanted a free holiday in Morocco, as the segment is a complete snooze and ends the film on a bland note.
Blending movie making and political intrigue, Glenn
Frankel’s “High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American
Classic,” is a compelling account of the drama within the drama during the
making of the critically acclaimed Gary Cooper film.
With clarity and impressive detail, Frankel’s narrative
unravels the attitudes and desperation which pervaded Hollywood during the
height of McCarthyism in the early 50s. Speaking to both the film enthusiast as
well as the history buff, the book chronicles the film's production against the
backdrop of the House Un-American Activities Committee’s oppressive hunt for
Communist infiltrators in the film industry. Livelihoods were lost, families
wrecked, and friendships destroyed as result of the blacklist. Many in
Hollywood were forced to make the agonizing choice between ratting out friends
and associates or going to jail.
While Cooper is the star of the film, screenwriter Carl
Foreman emerges as a central character in Frankel’s book, as he himself faces
the wrath of the HUAC for his former communist ties. Foreman, who wrote the screenplay
as an allegory about the blacklist movement was eventually blacklisted himself
and moved to England shortly after the film was released in 1952.
Just as many in Hollywood felt abandoned and betrayed by
those who named names, the film’s protagonist, Sheriff Will Kane (Cooper) is
also abandoned by those he thought he could count on. Rather than flee to
safety, Kane faces down his enemies alone in a life or death shootout.
Foreman’s script parallels the pervading fear and uncertainty of the time period,
a brutal era in American history. Kane thought he could count on his friends in
a time of need. But like many in Hollywood who were ensnared in McCarthyism’s
vice-grip, fear won out, and his friends let him down. Foreman himself later
said he felt betrayed by his partner and the film’s producer, Stanley Kramer,
after Kramer denied Foreman producing credit due to his entanglement in the
But while the “Red Scare” takes center stage in the book,
Frankel also examines Cooper’s early life, as well as his physical and
emotional struggles during the filming of “High Noon.”
“High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an
American Classic” is about a pivotal film and those who bought it to screen. It
is also about the often predatory nature of politics and how the paranoid fear
of communism virtually turned Hollywood against itself.
Peter S. Haigh, who was a continuous supporter
(and occasional contributor) of Cinema Retro magazine since its inception in
2004, passed away recently aged 91. Anyone worth their salt in the film
industry of the Fifties and Sixties will be familiar with Peter's journalistic
Leaving school towards the end of World War
Two, he joined the advertising department of Bradford's evening newspaper,
where there was the bonus of free cinema tickets through collecting the
advertisement copy for the city's forty-odd cinemas (yes, that many in one city
in those days!). Films also featured in Peter's army service, for he had the
good fortune to be posted to Radio SEAC, the forces broadcasting service (in
what was then Ceylon), where his duties included writing programmes on film and
theatre music among other scripts.
On demob he moved to London and secured a job
in the news division of BBC Radio. During that time he also compiled the
crossword for the monthly magazine ABC
Film Review, which led to him being offered a full-time position on the
staff. He remained there for a period of thirty years, the latter half as its
editor. Having first started as a promotional magazine for the ABC cinema
circuit, Film Review became a popular
film monthly, packed with news and information, literate reviews and an
emphasis on the pictorial as well as the written word. For sixty years it never
lost its initial and essential aim of appealing to film fanatics. Although
Peter retired from the publication in the Eighties, he continued to compile the
magazine's film crossword. Film Review
ceased publication in 2007.
Many of Cinema Retro's readers, especially
those in the UK, will remember ABC Film
Review, and indeed have countless copies in their collections. For me, it
was a must-have purchase every time I went to the cinema, and it was always the
name of Peter that was to the fore. When he offered to be part of Cinema Retro
back in 2004 it was an honour to have him on board. Peter was a guiding light
during the past 14 years, always offering suggestions and advice on every
issue. For me, and many cinema-goers of my era, he was a legend. Bless you,
Peter. We will miss you dearly.
(In 1997, Peter's novel 'Picture Palace:
Fifty Years of Comedy and Drama Both On and Off Screen' was published by
Minerva Press (ISBN 1-86106-798-4). It is a family saga spanning from 1927 to
1977 which revolves around a provincial cinema and its staff, in particular the
owner-manager and the head usherette who is an incorrigible film fan. The lives
of these ordinary people are inextricably linked with the films and their
stars. Their fictitious stories are told against a background of cinematic
history providing a stimulating and poignant window into fifty years of films.)
most cities, when people are talking about Casablanca, they are most likely
discussing the 1942 classic movie, not the North African city. Why this one
film has become the quintessential example of Golden Age Hollywood filmmaking
is the focus of the new book We’ll Always Have Casablanca: The Life, Legend,
and Afterlife of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Movie by Noah Isenberg. This
excellent work not only tells the story of the genesis of the classic motion
picture from unproduced play to the backlot of Warner Brothers, but it’s impact
on generations of moviegoers as well. Isenberg does a great job in tracing how
Casablanca developed into a staple on the repertory film market, as well as the
many short stories, novels, movies and plays that have inspired it. As the
Ingrid Bergman quote that starts the book states, Casablanca does have a life
of it’s own. Through deep research and a love for classic cinema that is
evident from page one, Isenberg weaves a great book that describes that
book tells the story of how Burnett and Alison wrote the play Everybody Comes
to Rick’s, which was then sold to Warner Brothers. It then follows how producer
Hal B. Wallis dealt with assigning screenwriters to the script that would
become, as many people have recognized, the greatest screenplay ever written.
Subsequent chapters deal with the casting process of the film; how Harry and
Jack Warner were ahead of other studio bosses in calling out fascism in Europe;
the many refugees who played bit parts in the film who were also real-life
refugees; how the Rick/Ilsa affair gave the studio trouble with both the
Production Code and the Office of War Information. One of the most interesting
and important chapters deals with how Casablanca became a fixture at the
Brattle Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts after Humphrey Bogart’s death in
1957. Subsequently, the film became the most popular classic movie to be shown
on American television. This was the beginning of Casablanca becoming the
quotable movie we know and love today. Indeed, Isenberg discusses nearby
Harvard students stopping by the Brattle to relieve final exam stress in
reciting whole passages from the movie.
book is an excellent examination of how one movie can seep into the
consciousness of an entire country, and arguably, the world. It is the perfect
companion to the seventy-fifth anniversary of Casablanca, which premiered in
New York City in late 1942.In addition
to researchers and libraries, the book is a great read and will be of interest
to anyone who loves classic cinema and is interested in how a single film can
change the world.
Glen Campbell, one of the most popular voices in the history of country western music, has passed away at age 81. Since 2011 he had waged a valiant battle against Alzheimer's disease. He continued to perform even as the ailment took a toll on him physically and mentally. His experience was chronicled in the acclaimed 2014 documentary "Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me". Campbell hit his stride in the 1960s and became a popular country "crossover" artist who appealed to audiences that generally didn't patronize country western music. He sold 45 million records over the course of his career. The telegenic, squeaky-clean, nice guy image served Campbell well. He appealed to both young fans and older audiences and had a popular TV variety series, "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour" that ran between 1969-1972. Campbell's acting debut was a promising one. He co-starred opposite John Wayne in the Duke's 1969 Oscar-winning classic "True Grit" and acquitted himself well enough to earn a Golden Globe nomination, in addition to singing the Oscar-nominated title song. However, the big screen did not appeal to him. His one other feature film, the 1970 movie "Norwood", flopped and he would only be seen in films henceforth playing himself in musical sequences. For more click here.
It is only in the
stories others tell about us, the legends they create, that we can achieve any
sort of immortality. And even though the stories may not be completely true, it
is better to keep them alive than to let them die. For when they die, we die
with them. Such seems to be the theme of “Barbarosa” (1982), a sly, subtle film
from director Fred Schepisi and screenwriter William D. Witliff, about two men
on the run in the desert in Old Mexico. One is Karl Westover (Gary Busey), a
young farm boy running from an old man who is determined to shoot him on sight
in revenge for killing one of his sons. Karl insists it was an accident. The
other is a legendary outlaw who has been at war for years with a Mexican family
that gave him the name Barbarosa (Willie Nelson), which means Red Beard in
No sooner do the two
men meet than a Mexican with a gun charges Barbarosa. The grizzled, bearded
outlaw stands calmly as a bullet marks his cheek and puts a hole in the brim of
his sombrero. He coolly shoots and kills his assailant, a member of the Zuvalla
family. Barbarosa explains he’s managed to survive by killing at least half a dozen
male members of the Zuvalla family over the last 15 years. The two men—the farm
boy and the outlaw—are in the same predicament, both hunted men. Barbarosa
reluctantly decides to take the young, inexperienced fugitive under his wing
and teach him the tricks of the outlaw trade.
The pairing of Busey
with Willie is unusual casting to say the least, and watching them play off
each other is quite a treat. The mercurial Busey, even then notorious for
cutting up on the set, manages to keep himself in check long enough to make his
farm boy turned outlaw believable, and Willy is just laid-back Willie,
perfectly suited to play the laconic bandido.
One of the first things Barbarosa teaches him
is how to kill a man with a gun. First, he says, point it like you’re pointing your
finger. Second squeeze the trigger gently “like you’re holding your sore
pecker.” Third: “Always stand still until you’re done shooting,” he explains.
“Nothin’ scares a man more than for you to be standin’ still when you should be
runnin’ like a spotted-assed ape.” Barbarosa is a font of such outlaw wisdom. When Carl tells him
about his trouble back home, he says, “Well, the Mexicans got a saying – ‘What
cannot be remedied must be endured.’”
Meanwhile back at the Zuvalla Rancho, Don Braulio Zuvalla (the great
Gilbert Roland in his last film), after learning of the death of the man
Barbarosa killed, selects another young member of the family to seek out and kill
Barbarosa “Bring me his cojones,” he
says. “Bring them to me on a stick.” Young Eduardo (Danny De La Paz) accepts
the task, vowing not to return until he’s done as the don has asked.
Screenwriter Witliff, whose other work for the screen includes the
“Lonesome Dove” TV series, “The Black Stallion,” and “Legends of the Fall,” slowly
pays out Barbarosa’s backstory in small pieces as the action moves forward. It
isn’t until midway through the film we hear the Don’s version of what happened
between the two men. Barbarosa had been a Texas Ranger who saved the Don’s life
and became a family friend but then married the don’s daughter without his consent.
Barbarosa’s wife, Josephina, is played by Mexican actress Isela Vega, best
known for playing Elita in Sam Peckinpah’s masterpiece “Bring Me the Head of
Alfredo Garcia” (1974). Karl and his outlaw partner sneak into the rancho to
give Josephina some money. Karl overhears the Don telling the assembled
children the story, and learns that Barbarosa had cold-bloodedly shot off the
Don’s leg at the knee, and slashed the throats of two of his sons. The Don says
the once honey-colored beard was now red with blood. “Barbarosa!” one of the
children cries. The Don tells them Barbarosa is the devil himself and as long
as they live they must hunt for Barbarosa and one day finally kill him.
When Don Braulio later discovers Barbarosa within his hacienda,
the two men face each other. “Damn you for all the misery, you’ve caused,”
Barbarosa mutters. “All I ever wanted to do is be a part of this family.” Don
Braulio tells him: “And are you not part of this family?” The bitter feud, the
endless killing, has bonded the Don and the outlaw together forever.
The second half of the film deals with Karl’s problems with the
old man who is gunning for him. Karl returns home to find his father and sister
alone and in bad health. There is a confrontation with his pursuer and later
Barbarosa shows up and the two team up once again. But young Eduardo is still
in pursuit and there is a final showdown with Barbarosa. I won’t reveal the
ending, except to say that before the film is over we learn Barbarosa’s version
of what happened with the Zuvalla family and we come to understand the violence
that happened so many years ago. By the end of the film, Karl has grown from
naïve farm boy to experienced outlaw in his own right. The events that transpire
at the story’s conclusion give him no choice but to become part of the legend
of Barbarosa himself.
Scorpion Releasing has done an excellent job presenting the film
in its first-ever wide screen release in the U.S. The 1080 p transfer to
Blu-Ray displays the movie in its original 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The
picture is sharp and clear and does justice to director Schepisi’s fondness for
long-distance shots of the Mexican landscape in which the characters sometimes
appear as mere dots on the screen. The disc contains several bonus features,
including interviews with Schepisi, and cast members Alma Martinez and Danny De
La Paz. There is also a trailer and a separate audio track for listening to Bruce
Smeaton’s music score. “Barbarosa” is highly recommended.
school friends Enid Coleslaw (Thora Birch) and Rebecca Doppelmeyer (Scarlett
Johansson) absolutely cannot wait to be free of the prison of school, defiantly
flipping the bird and squashing their mortarboards following their graduation.
Enid isn’t off the hook just yet: her “diploma” is instead a note informing her
that she must “take some stupid art class” (her words) if she hopes to graduate.
Their fellow classmates are caricatures of everyone we all knew during our
adolescence. Melora (Debra Azar) is inhumanly happy all the time and oblivious
to Enid and Rebecca’s sense of ennui and contempt. Todd (T.J. Thyne) is
ultra-nervous to talk with the insouciant Rebecca at the punchbowl. Another bespectacled
student sits off by himself. Enid and Rebecca are at both an intellectual and
emotional crossroads. They want to share an apartment; however, they seem unaware
of the amount of money they will have to come up with for such a
venture. Instead of finding jobs, their post-graduation afternoons are spent
meandering through life while frowning upon society, following strange people
home, bothering their mutual friend Josh (Brad Renfro) and admiring the Weird
Al wannabe waiter at the new 50’s-themed diner which plays contemporary music.
Seemingly without a care in the world, the women have no plans to attend
college, preferring instead to prank an unsuspecting nebbish named Seymour (Steve
Buscemi) who has placed a personal ad in an attempt to communicate with a
striking blonde he noticed, with Enid feigning said blonde on Seymour’s
answering machine. Rebecca is a dour and solemn counterpoint to Enid’s aloof
yet occasionally jovial demeanor. If
Holden Caulfield had a girlfriend, she might be someone just like Enid,
sneering at the losers and phonies in her midst. Searching out Seymour, they
approach him and his roommate at a garage sale where he is unloading old
records for next to nothing. His affection for collecting 78 rpms begins to
endear him to Enid, who confides in Rebecca that she likes him despite their
25-year age difference. They have some truly funny moments together such as
attending a “party” for guys who talk techno mumbo-jumbo, riding in the car
together as Seymour screams at people walking through an intersection, and a
humorous romp through an adult video and novelty store.
Rebecca grows tired of hearing about Seymour,
and presses Enid to get a job but she only succeeds in getting fired repeatedly,
even from her position at the concession stand at a Pacific Theatre cinema when
she ribs the customers over their choice of movie and their willingness to eat
popcorn with “chemical sludge” poured on it. The tone of the film shifts from
one of comedic commentary on the world to one of disillusionment as Enid begins
to feel her world slowly begin to crumble around her. Her friendship with
Rebecca, an anchor in her life for years, is ending and like so many of us at
that age, she has no idea where her life is going or what she needs to be doing
when she isn’t changing her hair color or her now-famous blue Raptor t-shirt or
donning punk rock garb as a sartorial statement. Her summer art teacher
(Illeana Douglas) shows her students her personal thesis film Mirror, Father, Mirror which itself is a
parody of the pretentious student films submitted to professors. She pushes
Enid to create interesting and powerful art when Enid is only interested in
drawing the people she knows and Don Knotts. In short, nothing seems to be
going well for her. The only person she can rely on is Norman, the well-dressed
man who sits on a bench at a bus stop that stopped service a long time ago and
holds the key to the film’s long-debated denouement. Enid is almost like an
older version of Jane Burnham, the character portrayed by Ms. Birch in American Beauty (1999). In that film,
she barely reacted to her father (Kevin Spacey) and here her contempt for her
father (Bob Balaban) and his girlfriend Maxine (Teri Garr) is even more
Director Terry Zwigoff takes the source
material created by artist and writer Daniel Clowes and fashions one of the
most brilliantly entertaining and poignant ruminations on adolescence the
silver screen has ever seen. Ghost World
also boasts excellent use of music, much of it pre-existing, although the main
theme by David Kitay is an elegiac
piano theme that recalls David Shire’s theme to The Conversation (1974). The film starts with a bang to the
seemingly non-diegetic tune of the Mohammed Rafi hit “Jaan Pehechaan Ho” from
the 1965 Hindi film Gumnaam, the
scenes of which are intercut with images of the apartment complex’s
inhabitants. As the camera tracks from the exterior windows of these
grotesqueries, it settles upon Enid’s bedroom where the night before graduation
she dances to the aforementioned tune which we now see is being played back on a
bootleg VHS tape. The beat is frenetic and infectious. Enid, for the first of
only a handful of times in the entire film, appears to be in a state of joy as
she mimics the moves of the dancers. If only she could always feel this way! With this singular sequence, Mr. Zwigoff
achieves something reserved for only the greatest and rarest of filmmakers – re-identifying
a popular musical piece with his movie. I can’t hear “The Blue Danube” without
thinking of spaceships spinning throughout the galaxy.
Ghost World opened on Friday, July 20, 2001 in
limited release in New York and Los Angeles and garnered immediate critical
acclaim. Filmed in 2000, the film is a product of a simpler and more innocent
time. Before the brutal wake-up call of the September 11th attacks, there is a
complete lack of cell phone usage in the film. It makes a great companion to
2001’s other minor masterpiece of adolescent angst, the cult favorite Donnie Darko.
The year 1967 marked the high point of Sidney Poitier's screen career. He starred in three highly acclaimed box office hits: "To Sir, With Love", "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" and "In the Heat of the Night". The fact that Poitier did not score a Best Actor Oscar nomination that year had less to do with societal prejudices (he had already won an Oscar) than the fact that he was competing with himself and split the voter's choices for his best performance. "In the Heat of the Night" did win the Best Picture Oscar and immortalized Poitier's performance as Virgil Tibbs, a Philadelphia detective who finds himself assigned to assist a redneck sheriff (Rod Steiger, who did win the Oscar that year for his performance in this film) in a town in the deep south that has experienced a grisly unsolved murder. When Steiger's character, resentful for having to work with a black man, refers to Tibbs as "boy" and asks what they call him back in Philadelphia, he replies "They call me Mister Tibbs!", thereby uttering what would become one of the cinema's most iconic lines of dialogue. In the film, Poitier plays Tibbs as a man of mystery. Little is unveiled about his personal life, which adds immeasurably to his mystique. He proves to be highly intelligent, logical and courageous, though refreshingly, not immune from making mistakes and misjudgments. The reaction to the movie was so good that, Hollywood being Hollywood, United Artists became convinced that Tibbs could be brought back to star in a "tentpole" series of crime thrillers. Kino Lorber has released both sequels to "In the Heat of the Night" as Blu-ray editions.
First up is the 1970 release, "The Call me MISTER Tibbs!" Aside from Poitier's commanding presence as the same character, there is virtually no connection between this Virgil Tibbs and the one seen in the previous film. The screenplay by Alan Trustman, who wrote the winners "The Thomas Crown Affair" and "Bullitt", softens the Tibbs character to the point that he resembles one of those unthreatening TV gumshoes. When we first see him, he is now in the San Francisco Police Department, though Trustman doesn't provide even a single line of dialogue to explain how he got there. He's apparently been there for some time, too, because Tibbs has suddenly acquired a wife (Barbara McNair) and a young son and daughter. The movie opens with the brutal murder of a call girl who lived in a pricey apartment. Evidence points to Tibbs' old friend Logan Sharpe (Martin Landau), a firebrand street preacher and activist who enjoys a wide following and who is galvanizing the community to vote in a politically controversial referendum. Sharpe professes his innocence and Tibbs sets out to acquit him and find the real killer. The trail quickly leads to a confusing mix of motley characters and red herrings, among them Anthony Zerbe and Ed Asner. Poitier is never less than impressive even when playing a watered-down version of a once gritty character. However, his impact is diminished by the sappy screenplay which allocates an abundance of time showing Tibbs dealing with day-to-day family living. He flirts with his wife and offers life lessons to his son that border on the extremes of political incorrectness. When he catches the lad smoking, Tibbs decides to teach the pre-teen a lesson by inviting him to join him in smoking Churchill cigars and drinking some scotch. (Most of our dads would probably have employed methods that were slightly more "conventional".) This domestic gibberish reduces the character of Tibbs to a big screen version of Brian Keith's Uncle Bill from the "Family Affair" TV series. Director Gordon Douglas, normally very underrated, handles the pedantic script in a pedantic manner, tossing in a few impressive action scenes including one in which Poitier chases Zerbe on foot seemingly through half of San Francisco in the movie's best sequence. The scenes between Poitier and Landau bristle with fine acting but they only share a limited amount of screen time. Quincy Jones provides a lively, funky jazz score but the film never rises above the level of mediocrity.
Poitier returned to the screen for the last time as Virgil Tibbs in 1971 in "The Organization". Compared to the previous outing, this one is superior on most levels. The script by James R. Webb is just as confusing but there is a grittiness to the production and the character of Tibbs is toughened up a bit. Thankfully, the scenes of his home life with wife and kids are kept to a minimum. The film, well directed by Don Medford (his final production), begins with an inspired caper in which a group of masked men stage an audacious and elaborate infiltration of an office building owned by some shady mob characters. They abscond with millions in cocaine. Tibbs is assigned to the case and is shocked when the culprits secretly approach him and admit they stole the drugs. Turns out they are community activists who wanted to prevent the cocaine from hitting the streets. However, they want Tibbs to know that they did not commit a murder that occurred on the premises of the office. They claim someone else did the dirty deed and is trying to pin it on them. Tibbs believes their story and goes against department protocols by keeping the information secret from his superiors while he works with the activists to crack the case. At some point the plot became so tangled that I gave up trying to figure out who was who and just sat back to enjoy the mayhem. Tibbs' withholding of information from the police department backfires on him and he ends up being suspended from the force. Predictably, he goes rogue in order to take on organized crime figures who are trying to get the drugs back. "The Organization" is fairly good Seventies cop fare capped off by a lengthy action sequence imaginatively set in a subway tunnel that is under construction. The supporting cast is impressive and includes reliable Sheree North, scruffy Allen Garfield and up-and-comers Raul Julia, Ron O'Neal and a very brief appearances by Max Gail and Damon Wilson. Barbara McNair returns as Mrs. Tibbs but her sole function is to provide attractive window dressing. Gil Melle provides a hip jazz score.
The Kino Lorber Blu-rays look very good indeed. Bonus extras on both releases consist of the original trailers for the three Tibbs films.
(This article has been updated to correct the music credit for "The Organization". The composer was Gil Melle. We appreciate the correction from eagle-eyed reader Naresh Putra).
S'more Entertainment has released two rare 1965 interviews with Jerry Lewis that appeared on David Susskind's "Open End" chat show. The B&W videotaped broadcasts are shown in their entirety sans original commercials. According to the informative liner notes by Susskind biographer Stephen Battaglio, Susskind, a successful TV film producer of "highbrow" content, and Lewis had a previous relationship: Susskind had been the agent for Martin and Lewis in the 1950s. Their relationship soured in later years partly because Susskind was critical of actors in general, especially those who dared to produce and direct their own movies. None of that tension comes across in the interview but it still makes for a rather riveting experience. "Open End" was one of many talk shows during the 1960s that appealed to viewers' intellect. The primary objective wasn't to make news, get laughs or have a guest promote his or her latest venture. This is obvious in the Lewis shows- he isn't asked about what he is currently working on nor does he attempt to insert a plug for anything into the interview. Rather, Lewis- who was never lacking in self-esteem when it came to his career accomplishments as a filmmaker- seems to relish the opportunity to show his serious, personal side. Susskind proves to be the perfect interviewer- he asks intelligent questions then shuts up and gives his guest ample time to answer them, uninterrupted. Notably, the camera is rarely on the host and most often on the guest. Such techniques may seem quaint today but one wishes more of them were being employed.
In the first interview Susskind never questions Lewis about his films and only discusses the Hollywood aspect of Lewis's life in big picture terms. Lewis opines that he isn't part of the Hollywood party scene because he was obsessed with it as a young man. Instead, he says he prefers to simply go home and be with his family after leaving the studio. Lewis does defend Hollywood against its bad reputation, pointing out that the industry is filled with kind and generous people who devote their lives to bringing entertainment to millions of people. It's clear that family was always of paramount importance to Lewis. At the time he had six sons ranging from an infant to 19 year-old Gary, who had recently launched a successful career with Gary Lewis and the Playboys rock band, Jerry stresses in the interview how he and his (then) wife Patty attempt to provide a normal life for them. Susskind challenges him in that regard, pointing out Lewis's penchant for excessive spending and the fact that the family is living in Louis B. Mayer's former home, a 33-room estate that Lewis paid for with a check for $500,000. Lewis grapples with the paradox but admits that it's hard to try to explain why 33 rooms are necessary even for a big family. He says that much of his penchant for big spending is probably a psychological need to rebel against his humble past. Raised in a very modest home in New Jersey, Lewis's mom and dad (both alive at the time of this interview) were hard-working show business people who had a vaudeville act. Lewis remembers the pain of what that lifestyle meant: long hours, constant travel and little money because his father was a poor businessman. Most poignantly, Lewis recalls having attended fifteen schools in his childhood and the on-going pain he still feels from his humiliation at being left back one year in grammar school. (He describes a system that seems intentionally designed to psychologically wound such children.) He confesses to owning hundreds of suits and pairs of shoes but tries to mitigate his compulsion by pointing out he ultimately gives many of his possessions away to charity. At times Lewis comes across as a human paradox. He's humble, he's a bragger, he admits to being an egomaniac but at other times comes across as a sincere, down-to-earth husband and father who ascribes to an old-fashioned ethic of working hard to provide for those who are dependent upon him. Susskind asks him about the challenges of living in an interdenominational marriage (he's Jewish, his wife Catholic). Lewis responds with candor and explains that both he and his wife were patient and understanding with the other's beliefs and try to objectively expose their kids to both religions. (He also makes some comments about his parents' lack of tolerance for the situation which they probably didn't appreciate being broadcast on national television). Given the social mores of the era, it's probably not surprising that Lewis held to a traditional view that the man is the head of the household. He confesses to being insecure about letting his wife be alone for any length of time with another man and prohibiting her from even dancing with anyone but him. "Leave her alone- she belongs to me!" is how he would address any man who dared to inquire about a dance with his wife. Such misogynistic statements would seem outrageous today but in Lewis's defense, they were much more the norm in 1965.
Here's another batch of rare TV promotional ads, this time from 1966. Highlights include Adam West as Batman pitching savings bonds to kids on behalf of President Johnson so they can help support the Vietnam War (!); The Monkees in an ad for Rice Krispies, Elizabeth Montgomery in "Bewitched", Robert Loggia as "T.H.E Cat" and many more. Enjoy!
Bronson portrays a veteran secret service agent tasked with protecting the
First Lady in “Assassination,” now on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. Jill Ireland is
Lara Royce Craig, the First Lady under the protection of Jay “Killy” Killian
(Bronson). His assignment to protect her is a bit of a demotion and
a disappointment for Killian, but he makes the best of it along with his
partner, agent Charlotte Chang (Jan Gan Boyd), who also happens to have a serious
crush on Killian.
believes someone is trying to murder the First Lady, but nobody believes him, including Lara. She takes an instant dislike to “Killy” in spite of his saving
her life on several occasions, one of which results in her suffering a black
eye after a would-be assassin disguised as a motorcycle cop tries to shoot her.
Making matters worse for Killian is Lara’s habit of trying to slip away from
his protection. Veteran TV and movie actor Michael Ansara is on hand as Senator
Bunsen, who may be able to help Killian find the killers.
and Charlotte find time to rendezvous, but their love affair is brief as they continue
their search for those trying to murder the First Lady. Eventually Lara comes
around and starts to trust Killian after it becomes obvious her life is in
jeopardy and the clues may lead all the way to her husband. She departs with
Killian to hide out in the country in order to buy a little time and ferret out
the killers who also happen to be part of a terrorist conspiracy. The mayhem
that ensues includes a motorcycle chase, a helicopter and surface- to- air
missiles. In the end, the head of the conspiracy is revealed and the movie
comes to a satisfying, if predictable conclusion.
may not be one of the classics in Bronson’s long list of movie credits, but it
is typical of the movies that would define the later part of his career in the 1980s.
Bronson is unique among movie actors in that he represented his own genre. It
must be said, however, that prior to being an action movie icon, he distinguished
himself as a supporting actor in prestigious productions such as “The Magnificent Seven,” ,“The Great Escape,” “Battle
of the Bulge,” “The Dirty Dozen” and “Once Upon a Time in the West”.
Bronson was busy throughout the 70s, 80s and into the 90s making dozens of
action and crime thrillers starting with “Rider on the Rain” (1970) and
continuing through the final movie in the "Death Wish" series, “Death Wish V: The
Face of Death,” in 1994. Many of these movies- “Chato’s Land,” “The Mechanic,” “Mr.
Majestic,” “Death Wish,” “Hard Times” and “Breakout Pass” (to name just a few
highlights)- defined action thrillers and westerns during this period and
continue to do so to this day, while cementing Bronson’s reputation as one of
the actors of the period whose movies garner repeat viewing and discussion.
also worked with several great and often overlooked directors during this
period including Michael Winner, J. Lee Thompson, Peter Hunt, Richard
Fleischer, Walter Hill, Richard Donner and Don Siegel. Bronson and the filmmakers he worked with proved to be the right combination for his fan base during this
prolific period, even if critics rarely saw much merit to these populist productions.
is the final feature film by Peter Hunt, director of “On Her Majesty’s Secret
Service” and “Shout at the Devil,” who also worked with Bronson and Lee Marvin
on “Death Hunt.” This is also the last of 14 movies Jill Ireland co-starred in
with her real life husband, Bronson. Sadly, she died three years later in 1990.
The Kino Blu-ray
looks and sounds very good with an 88 minute running time. The disc features
trailers for this and three other Bronson titles. “Assassination” is comfort
food for Charles Bronson fans and is recommended for fans of 80s action movies.
McDormand and Brian Cox reveal a “Hidden Agenda” in the political thriller
about British brutality in Northern Ireland. The movie opens during a
pro-British parade in Belfast as two men describe the details of their torture
at the hands of local police. Human rights activists Paul Sullivan (Brad
Dourif) and Ingrid Jessner (McDormand) have just completed their investigation and
about to return to America after releasing their report. In the early morning
prior to their departure, Paul returns a call and meets secretly with a
possible IRA terrorist who has evidence of police brutality and a British
cover-up. Paul is murdered by members of a British security team who then cover
up his death and steal the evidence in his possession, a tape containing
details of a conspiracy.
the shooting death of Paul makes the news along with the possibility that
illegal police tactics were used, the British government sends an internal investigative
team from England to investigate the local Belfast police. Kerrigan (Brian Cox)
leads the investigation and is confronted by local police who are everything
but cooperative. He works with Ingrid to unravel the conspiracy which leads
back to the British government and the missing tape recording with confessions
by those involved.
Agenda” was released in 1990 and the viewer is informed that the time and place
is “Belfast: A few years ago.” The movie makes brief references to the “Birmingham
Six” and “Guildford Four,” innocent people who were recipients of brutal police
interrogation techniques in order to obtain what were later revealed as false
confessions in the aftermath of a 1974 London terrorist bombing which killed 21
and injured 182. The “Guildford Four” case was dramatized in the 1993 movie “In
the Name of the Father” featuring Daniel Day-Lewis as Gerry Conlon. They were
all released just prior to and shortly after the release of “Hidden Agenda”
which may be why “a few years ago” was included in light of recent actual events
in 1990 which unfolded while the movie was in production and prior to its release.
movie has an almost documentary feel by using what appear to be non-actors in
various on-location scenes throughout the film. As the story unfolds, the
action sometimes feels like its part of a live news broadcast. The movie was
directed by Ken Loach, who is known for using a naturalistic style and
encouraging improvisation between his actors to give his films a realistic feel
that I think works to great effect.. Much of his work throughout the 1980s
prior to “Hidden Agenda” was directing documentaries and those techniques are
only when Cox and McDormand appear on-screen that the movie feels less
improvised and more like a standard mainstream film. Maybe that’s partly because
both actors, while relatively unknown back in 1990, are very recognizable to
movie audiences today. “Hidden Agenda” arrived a few years before McDormand’s
breakthrough role as Marge in the 1986 thriller “Fargo.” Brian Cox was well
known to TV audiences in the UK and as the first actor to play Dr. Hannibal Lector
in director Michael Mann’s under-rated 1986 thriller, “Manhunter.” After a
memorable supporting part in 1975s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Dourif
remains one of the great underrated character actors.
24-hour cable news cycle was also relatively new back in 1990 and maybe that
has an effect on the way we view a movie like “Hidden Agenda” today, given that
we have become accustomed to watching events unfold in our living room on a
daily basis. Whether one appreciates Loach’s technique is ultimately for the
viewer to decide.
108 minute thriller looks and sounds very good and features an understated
score by Stewart Copeland. This Blu-ray release by Kino Lorber also includes
Jeanne Moreau, the iconic French actress, has passed away at age 89. Noted film critic Todd McCarthy pays a personal tribute to her life and career through the lens of someone who got to know her well. Click here to read.
may have directed The Paradine Case,
the 1947 adaptation of Robert Smythe Hichens’ 1933 novel, but the film is most clearly
a David O. Selznick production. It was his coveted property, he wrote the
screenplay (with contributions from Alma Reville, James Bridie, and an
uncredited Ben Hecht), and the movie itself discloses far more of its
producer’s temperament than it does its director’s. The Paradine Case was, in fact, the last film made by the
British-born master as part of his seven-year contract with Selznick, and by
most accounts, Hitchcock’s heart just wasn’t in it. Unfortunately, it shows.
But this is no
slipshod motion picture. Selznick spared no expense—the completed film cost
almost as much as Gone with the Wind—and
the entire project is built on quality and class. Set in London, in “the recent
past,” The Paradine Case stars an
always-dashing Gregory Peck as Anthony Keane, a renowned English barrister enlisted
to defend the enigmatic Maddalena Anna Paradine (Alida Valli, in her Hollywood unveiling).
Accused of poisoning her wealthy husband, Maddalena accepts the indictment with
what Charles Laughton’s sleazy Judge Lord Thomas Horfield calls a “mystic
charm.” Mystic or otherwise, her charm certainly works its magic on Keane. Much
to the uneasy chagrin of his kindly and patient wife Gay (Ann Todd, in a
radiant and undervalued performance), Keane grows obsessed with the case and
inordinately besotted with Maddalena; she is “too fine a woman” to be capable
of murder. He vainly tries to pin the homicide on the family’s servant, André
Latour (Louis Jourdan, also his American debut), but that tactic doesn’t stick.
Eventually, Maddalena comes to the defense of the shadowy André (he is
literally concealed in shadows during his introduction) and the complex
backstory of all involved comes to light.
Starting in a
realm of elegance, wealth, and refined manners (before settling mostly in a flavorless
courtroom), Valli plays Maddalena with an unnervingly unaffected reserve,
suspiciously never losing her composure until the very end. Her inscrutable
face reveals little more than trouble, especially for Keane. She is one of the
finer ambiguous characters to come from a Hitchcock film; referred to as “no
ordinary woman,” Maddalena may not be a classically cool blonde, but she is as icy
as they come. By contrast, Peck descends from jovial and spontaneous to fixated
The Paradine Case is a very talky film, and
subsequently, much of its success depends on the aptitude of its cast. While
Ethel Barrymore received the film’s only Academy Award nomination, for her
disturbing/disturbed supporting turn as Lady Sophie Horfield, the actorly
spotlight ultimately falls on Valli and Peck, neither of whom were first
choices. Hitchcock wanted Greta Garbo for Maddalena (the actress was also
apparently Hichens’ inspiration), but she declined the offer. As did Laurence
Olivier, first pick for Keane. Other names for each part were bandied about;
Selznick settled on Valli, based on her burgeoning international stardom, and
Hitchcock suggested Peck, based on their achievement two years prior with Spellbound.
Hitchcock felt the
film suffered from miscasting across the board, yet in the end, among The Paradine Case’s strongest points of
praise is the interplay between Valli and Peck. It’s a tragically malicious
one-sided infatuation, but to watch his blind emotional descent and her shrewd
manipulation is astonishing, particularly when one realizes as much as he may
be shaping her testimony, directing her alibi as it were, it is she who holds
the guiding hand. However, because The
Paradine Case is at its best when focusing on this one-on-one interaction,
that there is a murder mystery developing becomes something of an afterthought.
Character behavior, as curious as it sometimes is, often usurps the overriding
crime at the core of the picture.
Given the ample
budget, Hitchcock and cinematographer Lee Garmes (Oscar-winning DP of the
stunning Shanghai Express, 1932)
fashion a handsomely lit and impeccably framed series of events; close-ups are
luxurious, wider shots are perfectly balanced. But while there are moments of
devious Hitchcockian touches—cunning glances and jarring movements—the film
evokes less filmic tension than his more engaged work. Though he used four
cameras during the court sequences, enabling him to experiment with long single
takes from a variety of angles, his technical inventiveness is largely
restricted, by the scenario and the settings. He wouldn’t let enclosed spaces
hinder him in the future (see Rope
and Rear Window), but here, even when
Keane just goes to visit rural Cumberland, it’s like a breath of fresh air.
The Paradine Case was not a box office hit, and it’s
fairly easy to see why. Any Hitchcock film is worth watching, but there are
only select titles that demand to be seen. Hampered by glaring issues (an overbearing
score by Franz Waxman) and minor annoyances (one character’s needless cross
examination play-by-play), this is not one of them.
Featuring a solid
audio-visual transfer, The Paradine Case
is now available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. The disc also includes a
commentary with film historians Stephen Rebello and Bill Krohn, excerpts from
the famous Hitchcock/Truffaut conversations, an interview between Hitchcock and
Peter Bogdanovich, a short piece with Peck’s two children, and “The Paradine
Case: Radio Play.”