Trumbull’s 1972 film Silent Running celebrates its 45th anniversary
with a special screening at Laemmle's Ahrya Fine
Arts Theatre in Los Angeles. Starring Bruce Dern, Cliff Potts, and Ron
Rifkin, the G-rated film runs 89 minutes and is being showcased on the big
screen in a rare opportunity.
PLEASE NOTE: Director Douglas Trumbull
and Producer Michael Gruskoff are scheduled to appear in person for a Q & A
following the screening.
the press release:
SILENT RUNNING (1972)
45th Anniversary Screening
Wednesday, December 13, at 7:30pm at the Ahrya Fine Arts
Q&A with Special Guests Director Douglas Trumbull and Producer
Laemmle Theatres and the Anniversary Classics Series present
a 45th anniversary screening of the groundbreaking sci-fi movie Silent
Running which marked the directorial debut of special effects wizard
Douglas Trumbull. Set 100 years in the future, the prophetic script by Deric
Washburn, Michael Cimino, and Steven Bochco stars two-time Oscar nominee Bruce
Dern as an astronaut sent into space to preserve the last samples of plant life
that are endangered on a dying Earth. His only companions are three drones named
Huey, Dewey, and Louie.
The film’s ecological message was a daring one for the time, and its relevance
has only grown over the decades. Trumbull had made special effects films for
NASA while he was still in his early twenties, and he was hired by Stanley
Kubrick to execute many of the most challenging and innovative visual effects
in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Reviewing Silent Running, Time’s Jay
Cocks compared it to Kubrick’s masterpiece: “Silent Running displays the
same kind of technical virtuosity, the same sense of the still, vast symmetry
of the galaxies.” He added that the movie was “a quite captivating essay on
futuristic ecology.” Life’s Richard Schickel declared that the film
“provides a great, near-solo role for Bruce Dern.”
In addition to his work on 2001, Trumbull played a major role in creating
the special effects for The Andromeda Strain, Close Encounters of the
Third Kind, Star Trek: the Motion Picture, Blade Runner, and Terrence
Malick’s The Tree of Life. He directed Natalie Wood’s last film, Brainstorm.
He is also known as an inventor and technical innovator in many other fields.
He has received numerous awards over the years, including three Oscar
nominations for his visual effects and the Gordon E. Sawyer Award for
scientific and technical achievement from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts
and Sciences in 2012.
After working as a highly successful agent during the
1960s, Michael Gruskoff produced his first film, Dennis Hopper’s The Last Movie, in 1971. His other
films include Mel Brooks’ comedy smash Young Frankenstein, Quest
for Fire, and My Favorite
Year, which we featured in a highly successful Anniversary screening
earlier this year.
Fine Arts Theatre is located at 8556 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211. The phone number is
(310) (310) 478 – 3836.
American filmmakers have been fascinated by horror and the fantastical since the birth of cinema itself, with one early example cited here being an 1898 New York screening by the Thomas Edison Company of a short film featuring a witch and an appearance from Mephistopheles. Partially inspired by the work of French magician Georges Méliès, it was not long before ghosts, demons, witches and devils would become commonplace in the silent films being produced in New York, and eventually Hollywood itself.
Jonathan Rigby’s American Gothic (Signum publishing) is a fascinating and idiosyncratic exploration of the American horror film, a genre which has inspired filmmakers to create some of the most memorable moments in cinema history. More than a simple encyclopaedia, the book charts the historical development of the genre through not only the classics such as Phantom of the Opera, Dracula and The Cat and the Canary, but also through the hundreds of cheaper independent films and supporting features which are often forgotten but are no less enjoyable. Each chapter, written in his inimitable prose style, covers a specific period and discusses in detail not only the films but the filmmakers, actors and studios involved. Rigby is not afraid to criticise films which many hold sacred, as well as finding positive aspects amongst the failures. Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi loom large of course, their enduring appeal spanning at least half of the period covered here. Having slipped almost inevitably from their 1930s heights into B-movie lows, Karloff still managed to maintain some level of dignity despite the cheapness of the material, whereas the same could not be said for Lugosi, who suffered the ultimate indignity of finishing his career in the Z-grade films of Edward D. Wood Jr.
Out of print for more than ten years, American Gothic has now been revised and expanded by Jonathan Rigby, completing his horror trilogy alongside English Gothic and Euro Gothic. What this book confirms is that American cinema has been the world’s leading producer of the horrific and terrifying, in sheer number if not always in quality. Whereas those other two books cover the entire history of film in their respective countries and continents, Rigby has had to curtail American Gothic’s coverage at 1959, arguably when things were about to get really interesting. This was perhaps as much for his own sanity as well as for the length of the book. With dozens of rare and exceptional film stills and publicity materials, American Gothic is an essential read for any serious enthusiast of horror or cinema history. Here’s hoping that Rigby will eventually pluck up the courage to tackle the next sixty years.
Allen’s second feature film as director/writer/actor is ranked #69 on AFI’s 100
greatest comedies list… and it is indeed a very funny, zany picture (arguably
one of Allen’s funniest) that today says more about the early 1970s than
perhaps was intended at the time. But would millennials find Bananas funny in this day and age? Would
they get the jokes? Can an audience that hasn’t “grown up” with Woody Allen
movies get past what has been said about his personal life since the 1990s? I
can’t answer those questions. But I can place
Bananas within the context of when it
was released and attest that it still makes me laugh.
this point in his career, Allen was mostly interested in making low budget movies
with little substance, but with lots of gags. He was still developing his
nebbish bumbling on-screen persona (his character’s name in Bananas is “Fielding Mellish,” and that
in and of itself is funny). And, as he would do so throughout the decades, he
co-stars with either the current or former lady in his life—in this case,
Louise Lasser, to whom Allen was married from 1966-1970 (they remained friends
after the divorce; Bananas was made
immediately afterwards, so go figure). The jokes are plentiful, bang-bang-bang,
all the way through—today some of them fall flat and some are shockingly
inappropriate given the “standards” of 2017, but others are still as classic and
hilarious as they were in 1971.
story concerns a revolution in the fictional Latin American country of San
Marcos. New Yorker Mellish, in trying to impress liberal activist Nancy
(Lasser), goes to San Marcos to get involved. Eventually he becomes a
revolutionary himself, ending up replacing the dictator as the country’s
president (albeit in disguise). On a diplomatic visit back to the U.S., he is
exposed and put on trial for fraud. Nevertheless, Mellish ends up getting
together with Nancy anyway for a happy ending.
asked why the film was entitled Bananas,
Woody Allen replied, “Because there are no bananas in it.”
1971, the film was rated M—for mature audiences. This rating was eventually
replaced by PG. In those early days of the 70s, society was still experiencing
a sexual revolution that had begun in the 60s. Hollywood movies pushed the
envelope in this regard, and sexual humor was commonplace in comedies. Bananas is full of it. While it’s not
quite R-rated material, it is assuredly not for younger kids. If there had been
an equivalent rating back then, it would have been PG-13. (One memorable bit is
the scene in which Mellish peruses the adult magazines in the crowded
convenience store in New York and attempts to buy one mixed in with Time, Newsweek, and others; the
proprietor ringing him up calls loudly out to his colleague, which everyone in
the place hears, “Hey, how much is a copy of Orgasm?” Mellish, is, of course, suitably mortified.)
courtroom scene is perhaps the highlight of the picture. A black woman who is
allegedly “J. Edgar Hoover in disguise” testifies against Mellish; the court
reporter reads back testimony that is the antithesis of what was actually said;
and even Miss America shows up to testify. There are other notable moments—for
example, famed TV sportscaster Howard Cosell has two memorable sequences in the
movie, and a young and unknown Sylvester Stallone pops up (uncredited) as a New
York subway mugger.
with Allen’s first feature, Take the
Money and Run (reviewed <here>), the filmmaking is clumsy and
unsophisticated. The director was still learning the ropes, but that’s not
what’s important here—Bananas is all
about the laughs.
Time’s limited edition (only 3,000 units) Blu-ray looks fine in 1080p High
Definition, taking into account the low budget video quality of the original
film. The 1.0 DTS-HD sound is terrific. The only supplements are an isolated
music track and the theatrical trailer. Julie Kirgo provides the essay in the
Bananas is a little time
capsule that captures where we were at in 1971 (there is even a sight gag
involving then U.S. president and VP, Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew). Ribald
jokes, political satire, and freedom of expression—if this is your bag, then
check out Bananas… but leave your
political correctness at the door.