Cinema Retro columnist and author Gareth Owen was employed for 16 years as Sir Roger Moore's personal assistant, primarily working out of Sir Roger's office at Pinewood Studios, London. However, they also enjoyed a close personal friendship that saw Gareth co-authoring several books with Sir Roger as well as traveling the world with him, often in relation to Sir Roger's very popular stage appearances. Those shows played to packed houses throughout the UK, with Gareth engaging Sir Roger in lighthearted and very funny interviews in which the iconic star delighted audiences with some surprising anecdotes. Click here to read the Daily Post's interview with Gareth and view some clips relating to Sir Roger's career.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
A film by
Kevin Brownlow &
Edition release, 23 July 2018
Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo’s immensely
powerful It Happened Here
depicts an alternative history in which England has been invaded and occupied
by Nazi Germany. Coming to Blu-ray for the first time, on 23 July 2018,
the film is presented in a new 2K remaster (from the original camera negative) by
the BFI National Archive, supervised by Kevin Brownlow, to mark his 80th
birthday. A raft of exceptional extras include previously unseen
behind-the-scenes footage, new interviews, news items, trailers and more.
‘The German invasion of England took place in July
1940 after the British retreat from Dunkirk. Strongly resisted at first, the
German army took months to restore order, but the resistance movement, lacking
outside support, was finally crushed. Then, in 1944, it reappeared.’
That is what happened when history was rewritten:
Nazi Germany has won the Second World War and England is under occupation. Kevin
Brownlow was only 18 when he and Andrew Mollo – just 16 – embarked on this
ambitious neorealist-tinged drama, which took eight years to complete, helped
along by financial support from Tony Richardson (Woodfall Films). Shot on both
16mm and 35mm, with a mainly amateur cast and with incredible attention to
detail, the impressively polished result is a chilling and timely reminder of
what might have been had Nazism not been defeated.
The newly remastered film will be premiered
on the big screen at a special Blu-ray/DVD launch event at BFI Southbank on its
release date, Monday 23 Julyat 6.00pm, followed by a discussion with Kevin
Brownlow and Andrew Mollo. More
details and tickets from www.bfi.org.uk/southbank
High Definition and Standard Definition
·Mirror on the World (1962, 10
mins): full version of fake German newsreel
·It Happened Here: Behind the Scenes (1956-66,22 mins):
previously unseen footage with a new commentary by Kevin Brownlow
·Original UK and
US trailers (1966)
·It Happened Here Again (1976, 7 mins): excerpt from a documentary on Winstanley
excerpt with the directors(2009, 2
·The Conquest of London (1964/2005, 4 mins): Italian TV item
·On Set With Brownlow and Mollo (2018, 12 mins):interview
with Production Assistant Johanna Roeber
·Kevin Brownlow Remembers It Happened Here (2018, 65 mins)
·Introduction to How It Happened Here: text of David Robinson’s foreword to the book (Downloadable PDF –
booklet with writing by Kevin Brownlow and new essays by Dr Josephine Botting,
DoP Peter Suschitzky and military historian EWW Fowler
RRP: £19.99/ Cat. no. BFIB1298 / Cert PG
/ 1964 / black and white / 100 mins / English language, with optional
hard-of-hearing subtitles / original aspect ratio 1.33:1 / BD50: 1080p, 24fps,
PCM 1.0 mono audio (48kHz/24-bit) / DVD9: PAL, 25fps, Dolby Digital 1.0 mono
Shameless has released the UK video debut of the 1978 cult film The Mountain of the Cannibal God as a Blu-ray special edition. (The film is also known as The Slave of the Cannibal God.) The plot is as follows: Susan Stevenson (Ursula Andress) and
her brother Manolo (Claudio Cassinelli), unable to get help from the New Guinea
authorities, hire former explorer Edward Foster (Stacy Keach) to help them find
her husband. He went missing months ago in the jungle whist on a quest to reach
the sacred mountain of Ra Ra Me. Susan clearly loves her husband and would do
anything to get him back. Foster agrees to take them, despite the obvious
difficulties ahead, not only from the dangerous animals, but also from the
legendary cannibal tribe said to be lurking within the darkness of the jungle canopy.
Along the way they find a cult-like village of local tribespeople watched over
by Father Moses (Franco Fantasia) and Arthur Weisser (Antonio Marsina), who is
also a jungle explorer. An affection seems to develop between Susan and Arthur,
despite her supposed devotion to her lost husband, and after some trouble in
the village when two locals are murdered by mysterious masked figures, they all
set off together to find the mountain. Along the way they experience Herzogian
levels of physical punishment as the game cast scramble down mountains, face an
eight-metre-long snake, and, in one astonishing sequence, attempt to climb up a
clearly deadly waterfall. It is a miracle that none of the cast were
Of course, the title of the film giving
it away somewhat, the exhausted group eventually run into cannibals and all
hell breaks loose. Susan discovers the fate of her husband and is stripped,
tied up and oiled by the cannibals who then indulge in a frenzied orgy that
would have made Caligula blush; even the livestock are not left out of the sexually-charged
proceedings. This energetic display is just the primer however for a darker
appetite which will soon be satisfied…
With Ursula Andress being surrounded by
sex, nudity, graphic violence, real snakes and a devious dwarf, it is no wonder
The Mountain of the Cannibal God has
developed something of a reputation over the last forty years. The 1970s Italian
cannibal films are notorious for their use of real onscreen animal killings,
something which became popular as a result of Mondo Cane (1962) and its many sequels and rip-offs over the
preceding decade. The directors have always claimed that these scenes were
added at the insistence of financially-minded producers, and debates continue
to rage amongst fans and scholars as to whether new releases of the films
should still include the footage, or whether it should now be removed. In the
UK this decision tends to be in the hands of the BBFC, where all films released
have to conform to The Cinematograph Act of 1937. The Mountain of the Cannibal God originally included a scene of a
monkey fighting a losing battle with a snake, as well as another snake fighting
a bird of prey, and other assorted real-life animal slaughter, all of which no
doubt contributed to its inclusion on the Video Nasties list in 1984. Two
minutes of these scenes have now been removed for this new Blu-ray restoration,
although not all animals get through the film unscathed; we still see a
tarantula get impaled on a knife, a large lizard is gutted, skinned and eaten
alive, and in one frenzied scene, dozens of green water snakes are grabbed and
eaten by hungry cannibal tribesmen.
Joe Dante's addictive Trailers from Hell presents producer Roger Corman narrating the trailer for his 1966 smash hit The Wild Angels starring Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra. Corman reveals some amusing anecdotes about the making of the film, including a death threat he received from the actual Hell's Angels. Watch the trailer and learn how the ever-resourceful Corman persuaded them that it wouldn't be financially profitable for the Angels to murder him.
CLICK HERE TO VISIT THE "TRAILERS FROM HELL" WEB SITE AND ENJOY HUNDREDS OF OTHER CLASSIC TRAILERS.
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. and Legendary Pictures Productions, LLC.
BY MARK CERULLI
Like the old-time movie
serials, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
picks up shortly after the previous film ends to keep the overall story
going.The famous resort is now in
shambles, slowly being reclaimed by the jungle and the surviving dinosaurs have
been left to die out on Isla Nublar.The
screenplay by Derek Connolly & Colin Trevorrow(who directed the previous film) cleverly incorporates
the current spirit of environmentalism with a raging debate to save the
remaining dinosaurs, or let them die out again.When the island’s volcano erupts (shades of the current situation in
Hawaii) a private foundation headed by the partner of the park’s original
founder, John Hammond, comes to the rescue...
Armed with deep pockets and
the best of intentions, the partner (James Cromwell) enlists former Jurassic
World staffers Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen (Chris Pratt) to round up
as many dinosaurs as possible for transfer to a sanctuary.Joined by a computer whiz (Justice Smith) to
help locate the valuable creatures, they meet up with a gritty capture team
headed by Jamie Gumb himself (Ted Levine). They have a, um, different
agenda:selling dinosaurs to the highest
bidder!Sure enough, a double-cross
ensues and the dinosaurs, including many of the most dangerous species, are on
their way to an auction deep below the partner’s remote mansion.Here the film combines the best of a Jurassic
Park adventure with elements of a haunted house – including that trailer clip
scene of a carnivore’s giant claw tapping on the floor.
Howard and Pratt, although
strong, are overshadowed by the real “heroes” of this film - the incredibly
lifelike CGI dinosaurs.In fact, they
carry most of the story as the human actors dodge lava explosions and giant
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. and Legendary Pictures Productions, LLC.
Director J.A. Bayona (A Monster Calls) keeps the action swift
and unrelenting – although he slows it enough to include a haunting scene of a
doomed brontosaurus left behind on the Island’s dock as the last transport ship
pulls out. Jeff Goldblum reprises his
role as the eccentric mathematician, Dr. Ian Malcolm – although his scenes are
confined to a senate hearing room.
While nothing can equal the
game-changing impact of the 1993 original, Jurassic
World: Fallen Kingdom is another high-octane installment of what will undoubtedly
be a long and successful franchise.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opens nationwide on
Friday, June 22 From Universal Pictures.
What a year it was! In 1966, you could see the following movies playing locally in Winnipeg, Canada: Dean Martin as Matt Helm in The Silencers, James Coburn as Our Man Flint, The Trouble With Angels, Carry on Cleo, The Sound of Music and a quadruple feature of monsters flicks: Die Monster, Die, Eegah, Tomb of Ligeia and Planet of the Vampires.
For years, John Travolta pursued his dream of portraying the late New York crime boss John Gotti in a high profile biopic. The long, torturous road to the big screen took seven years before the film was finally released. Travolta had been brought on early due to his star power and passion for the project but despite the actor's extraordinary and often creative ways of publicizing the film, it has fallen flat at the boxoffice. The Hollywood Reporter attributes this to almost universally poor critic's reviews, although audience surveys indicate that those who have seen it viewed the film favorably. The production had to cope with inexperienced producers and patchy financing agreements before filming was completed in 2016. Lionsgate, the studio behind the theatrical distribution, got cold feet about releasing the movie, thus leading to further complications as alternate partnerships and financing had to be found to secure the theatrical engagements. For the story, click here.
Kino Lorber has released a Blu-ray edition of the little-remembered 1970 romantic comedy "How Do I Love Thee?" The film's primary distinction is the interesting teaming of Jackie Gleason and Maureen O'Hara. By this point in his career, Gleason was a force of nature in the American entertainment business. When his variety show went off the air, CBS couldn't induce him to do another series so the network actually paid him not to work for any other network. When you get paid a fortune not to work, you know you're doing something right. Gleason had settled in Miami Beach in the early 1960s as one of the demands he made of CBS in return for doing his variety show. The location offered what Gleason liked most: sun, golf, plenty of drinking establishments and no shortage of beautiful young women. Gleason's impact on elevating Miami Beach's popularity was notable. It was widely believed that the city's rebirth as a hip destination as opposed to a retirement destination was due in part to Gleason referring to Miami Beach as "The sun and fun capital of the world!". Gleason, like his contemporary Dean Martin, had long ago tired of working very hard. If you wanted him, the mountain had to come to Mohammed, so to speak. Thus, it's no coincidence that "How Do I Love Thee?" was filmed in Miami Beach, thereby ensuring Gleason prime opportunities for maximizing his play time and minimizing his work before the cameras. (Gleason had a photographic memory and famously refused to rehearse very much, often to the consternation of his co-stars).
The film focuses on the character of Tom Waltz (Rick Lenz), a twenty-something professor who is rising up the ladder at his university. He's a got a nice house and a beautiful wife, Marion (Rosemary Forsyth) but when we first meet him, he's filled with anxiety. Seems that while visiting the "miracle" site of Lourdes in France, his father Walt (Jackie Gleason) has suffered a major health crisis. Tom's mother Elsie (Maureen O'Hara) implores Tom to race over to France and visit his father, who seems to be dying. Tom wants to go but Marion reminds him of the lifetime of contentious situations he has endured with his father and tells him that this is just another method of Walt trying to gain attention. Indeed, as we see through a series of flashbacks, Walt is a real handful. He owns his own moving company but still has to break his back loading and lifting furniture all day long. He has a pretty fractious relationship with Elsie, largely due to her strong religious convictions that conflict with his atheism. As young boy, Tom witnesses a lot of fighting in the household. When he accompanies his dad on jobs, he discovers that his father is not the devoted family man he thought he was- especially when he witnesses Walt trying to seduce a ditzy social activist and amateur photographer (Shelly Winters in typical over-the-top Shelly Winters mode) who is one of his clients. Walt is similar in nature to Willy Lohman of "Death of a Salesman" in that both men are past their prime but working harder than ever to provide for their family. Walt is a good man, but he's subject to self-imposed crises generally related to his short temper, drinking habits and flirtatious nature. Ultimately, Tom opts to take the trip to Lourdes, even though Marion threatening to divorce him over his decision. The majority of the tale is told in flashbacks that present some moderately amusing situations and some poignant dramatic scenes as well. There's also a good dose of sexual humor, typical for comedies of the era that were capitalizing on new-found screen freedoms.The direction by old pro Michael Gordon ("Pillow Talk") is fine but the screenplay, based on a novel by Peter De Vries, punts in the final scenes, tossing in an improbable extended joke about cars going amiss on their way to a funeral and a feel-good ending that wraps everything up quickly in a style more befitting a sitcom episode of the era. Still, the performances are fun with Lenz and Forsyth quite good as the young couple and Gleason and O'Hara registering some genuine chemistry on screen.
The Blu-ray transfer is generally fine but around the 80-minute mark some speckling and artifacts appear during the final reel, although it isn't distracting enough to bother the average viewer. The bonus extras don't include the trailer for the feature film but do present trailers for other KL comedy releases including "Avanti!", "The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!" and " The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother".
It wasn't an unusual practice for movie studio's to exploit an actor's popularity by reissuing an old film under a new title. Case in point: director Michael Winner's 1972 crime thriller "The Mechanic" starring Charles Bronson. It's a top notch action flick and did reasonably well on its first release. However, in the wake of Winner and Bronson's massive 1974 hit "Death Wish", United Artists reissued the film under the title "Killer of Killers", an obvious attempt to make it appear as though Bronson was again appearing as a vigilante. In fact, the marketing campaign was deceptive because in "The Mechanic" he plays a criminal...a professional assassin, to be precise. Yes, he's taking out some bad guys but not on the basis of morality but simply because he wants a fat paycheck from other bad guys. The campaign resulted in this interesting, if dishonest, trailer.
Note: I reviewed the Criterion
Collection’s 2008 DVD release of this film here at Cinema Retro. The product has now been upgraded to
Blu-ray by the company. Much of the following is excerpted and/or revised from
the original review, while also addressing the new Blu-ray.
Schrader has always opined that Mishima—A
Life in Four Chapters is his best film as a director, and I must agree.
Originally released in 1985 (and executive produced by Francis Ford Coppola and
George Lucas), the film is a fascinating bio-pic about controversial Japanese
author/actor Yukio Mishima. Schrader, a successful screenwriter who has also
had an interesting hit-and-miss career as a director, co-wrote the film with
his brother Leonard and filmed it in Japan with a Japanese cast and crew.
Ironically, the film was banned in Japan upon its release due to the
controversial nature of Mishima’s infamously public display of seppuku (suicide) in 1970.
despite Mishima’s questionable act, there is no doubt that he was a formidable
novelist, poet, and artist—certainly one of his country’s greatest. Schrader’s
film attempts to visualize Mishima’s life and work, as well as make sense of his
final days in three different stylistic approaches that are beautiful to behold
and brilliant in conception.
“present” (that is, 1970) is in color, filmed realistically, almost
documentary-like, as we follow Mishima (expertly played by Ken Ogata) and his
cadets travel to and subsequently take control of a Japanese military base in
Tokyo so that he can deliver his public manifesto and commit seppuku. The past—the events of
Mishima’s childhood and rise to fame—is in black and white, almost as if we are
watching film noir. The motion
picture also presents dramatizations of scenes from some of the author’s
novels. These are presented in a highly stylized theatricality, in color, with
stage sets and “actors.” The narrative ingeniously jumps between these three
arcs, revealing the psyche of a complicated, but brilliant, artist. Why would
he kill himself as an artistic statement? Mishima—A
Life in Four Chapters attempts to explain this enigma.
Glass provides one of his most admirable motion picture scores to date, John
Bailey’s cinematography is exquisitely gorgeous, and Eiko Ishioka’s production
designs are perfectly suited to Schrader’s sensibilities. Whether or not you
know anything about Yukio Mishima, you will find the picture to be an
extraordinary cinematic experience.
Criterion Collection has done another outstanding job of producing a new,
restored 4K digital transfer of the director’s cut, which was supervised and
approved by Schrader and Bailey. There are optional English and Japanese
voiceover narrations (by Roy Scheider and Ken Ogata, respectively—the U.S.
theatrical release only had the Scheider narration). Personally, I agree with
Schrader’s view that the English-language narration by Scheider is preferable;
otherwise there are too many subtitles on the screen when simultaneously
translating the narration as well as the Japanese speakers. (There is an
additional “early” Scheider narration that I’m not sure adds much to the
viewing experience.) The film comes with an audio commentary by Schrader and
producer Alan Poul, recorded in 2006.
supplements are ported over from the original DVD release. This wealth of material
includes the excellent 1985 BBC documentary The
Strange Case of Yukio Mishima. There are vintage video interviews with
Mishima himself; more recent segments with Mishima’s biographers and
translators, Philip Glass, John Bailey, and other members of the film crew; and
the trailer. The booklet features an essay by critic Kevin Jackson, a piece on
the film’s censorship in Japan, and photographs of Ishioka’s sets.
Mishima—A Life in
Four Chapters is
a beautiful, emotionally-powerful film that is an immersive, visual and aural
treat. Highly recommended.
In 1973, director William Friedkin adapted William Peter Blatty's bestselling novel "The Exorcist" for the screen. The film shocked the industry by becoming an international phenomenon and the movie's impact continues to resonate with audiences of all ages even today. In 2016 Friedkin decided to return to the subject of demonic possession by personally filming the rite of exorcism performed by a priest, Father Amorth, the Chief Exorcist of the Diocese of Rome. The result is his new documentary "The Devil and Father Amorth", which has enjoyed some limited art house screenings while simultaneously being released on DVD. Before we go any further, it is appropriate when covering a film of this type for the reviewer to state his/her personal beliefs or lack thereof in terms of the subject matter. After all, Friedkin does the same in his film, stating that he is predisposed to believe in the possibility of demonic possession. I'm not. Friedkin is clearly a man of religious faith. I'm not, having happily lived most of my life as an agnostic who keeps an open mind but who has never seen an inkling of evidence that a higher being presides over the universe. So there we are....with one additional caveat. Although I have never met William Friedkin, I have conducted two separate, extensive interviews with him for Cinema Retro regarding his films "Cruising" and "Sorcerer", both of which I believe were very underrated. Based on those interviews, I can say that I like Friedkin and greatly respect him as a filmmaker.
With those explanatory remarks out of the way, let's delve into "The Devil and Father Amorth". Friedkiin acts as an on camera host of the movie, which opens with some brief archival interviews with William Peter Blatty, who relates that he was a student at Georgetown University in 1949 when he read a remarkable account in the Washington Post about a 14 year-old boy who had undergone the rite of exorcism. Other respected news outlets picked up on the story and it became a sensation. Blatty was fascinated by the alleged possession and hoped to write a non-fiction account of the incident. However, the priest who performed the exorcism refused to release the identity of the boy or his family and imposed upon him to respect their privacy. Blatty went the fictional route and turned the victim into a 12 year-old girl. The rest, as they say, is history- except that over the decades, the incident has been studied by skeptics who point out that there is scant evidence that the exorcism involved anything other than a boy who had a vivid imagination and that he may well have simply staged the incidents for those predisposed to believe in possession. (The boy's late aunt was a "spiritualist" who had influenced the boy's interest in the supernatural.) Whatever one thinks of the historical facts and theories, Blatty's book was a chilling page-turner and Friedkin's film version would motivate even the most headstrong skeptic to sleep with a nightlight on. Friedkin's documentary has some early scenes of him returning to actual locations from "The Exorcist". The action then shifts to Rome, where he introduces us to Father Amorth, then 91 years-old and proud of his position as Chief Exorcist, claiming to have performed the ritual thousands of times. Friedkin also interviews a woman who underwent the rite and who claims to have been saved by Father Amorth. Her brother, who went on to become Father Amorth's assistant, relates disturbing and fantastic accounts of his sister's alleged possession. Father Amorth gave Friedkin rare permission to film an actual exorcism on the provision that there would be no artificial lighting employed or any crew members present. Friedkin agreed to shoot the rite himself using just a small, hand-held camera.
The subject of the exorcism is Christina, a 46 year-old architect who has been bedeviled by what she claims are frequent instances in which she becomes possessed by a demon. She claims not to remember the occurrences but those who surround her relate that, when possessed, she speaks in strange languages, exhibits Herculean strength and shouts threats in a voice that is not her own. We learn that the exorcism Father Amorth is to perform will be the ninth time he has conducted the rite in relation to Christina. When we finally do get to observe what Friedkin is filming it certainly is disturbing. Christina is restrained by two men as she wriggles and resists their grip, all the while shouting insults at the priest in an unfamiliar voice. Unlike the famous scenes of the ritual depicted in "The Exorcist", the real-life exorcism is performed in front of a room full of people, presumably friends and relatives of the victim. We watch as Father Amorth doggedly remains fixated on reciting the religious phrases that are supposed to expel the demons. (At one point, the "possessed" Christina identifies herself as Satan.) The Friedkin footage seems relatively brief and he doesn't provide any context as to how much footage may have been edited out of the final cut. While the episode we witness is certainly "harrowing" (as Friedkin describes it) and the affected Christina is clearly suffering from severe disorder, there is nothing in the footage that is likely to convince skeptics that they have just seen proof of a supernatural event. There are no signs of superhuman strength and the admittedly frightening voice Christina speak in could clearly be her own, since every person on earth is able to significantly alter their manner of speaking. Furthermore, there is no context provided regarding whether Christina ever sought professional psychiatric help. Friedkin asks her if she did, but her answer is vague. She simply says that doctors can't cure her, leaving it ambiguous as to whether she ever underwent a psychiatric diagnosis. This is a pivotal point that is not pursued. If she did seek medical help, it would be imperative to interview her doctors. If she did not, then her affliction is one that is self-diagnosed. Friedkin interviews prestigious doctors in America to get their views of the case, having shown them the footage. They all give the answer that people of science would be expected to give: we can't explain it without having examined the patient. They profess to keep an open mind but none will go on record as endorsing the premise that demonic possession could really be behind the victim's affliction. At the end of the film, Friedkin himself stops short of stating for certain that he believes he has witnessed a supernatural event, but the implication is that he clearly thinks he has.
The unexpected success of Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum in "The Greatest Showman" has obviously provided Mill Creek Entertainment to release the largely forgotten 1986 production "Barnum" on DVD. The made-for-television production has one distinction: it stars Burt Lancaster as the legendary marketing genius. I found I liked the Jackman film more than I suspected I would, though I doubt I'll ever have the yearning to view it again. It made many concessions to modern audiences that robbed the film of its authenticity. (I loathe the gimmick found in many period dramas in which the characters speak in present-day vernacular.) "Barnum" is much more low-key and seems to make a sincere effort at presenting the titular figure's fascinating life with some degree of accuracy. Not being a Barnum scholar, I'll take for granted there's plenty of "artistic license" on display here as well. The movie opens with Barnum as a young boy, influenced by his uncle's encouragement to see and embrace the more fantastical aspects of life. The action quickly cuts to him as a young man (played by John Roney, who bears absolutely no resemblance to Lancaster at any stage of his life) working in a dead end job in a small town general store. He finds a way to turn a quick profit by engineering a sweepstakes in which the winner will get a substantial credit at the store. The result is a significant profit for the delighted owner, who shares the proceeds with him. The story meanders a bit through Barnum's early years as he falls in love with Charity (Laura Press), who he married at age 19. The couple would remain together for 50 years until her death. The film is interspersed with occasional scenes of elderly Barnum breaking the "Fourth Wall" and addressing viewers directly. The production gets a boost when Lancaster is finally on screen for the remainder of the tale. The screenplay clearly wants to present the showman in a favorable light and he's seen as a kindly, honest figure who delights in using hyperbole to sell his presentations of nature's oddities (including animals and people.) The script takes pains to point out that Barnum always resented being labeled as the man who said "There's a sucker born every minute" and we see him rage against this "quote" that was made up by a newspaper columnist. In the film, Barnum admits to using creative marketing techniques but stresses he treasures and respects his audiences. The movie addresses some of his personal shortcomings, as well. Apparently, the great showman was also a lousy businessman, and we see him make and lose fortunes due to dubious financial dealings with dubious partners. The film chronicles his career highlights from making the little person he dubbed Tom Thumb (Sandor Raski) into an international phenomenon who was invited to meet Queen Victoria. There was also the building of his museums, both of which burned down (once by arson). In his later years, he rebounds and it's interesting to note that Barnum never owned a circus until he was over 60 years old. His importation from England of the giant, trained elephant Jumbo elevated his reputation once again. The film also compellingly shows how he audaciously signed singer Jenny Lind (well played by Hanna Scygulla)to tour America without ever having heard her sing a note. When he discovers no one in America ever heard of her, he embarks on an aggressive marketing campaign that made audiences salivate for the eventual arrival of the woman dubbed "The Swedish Nightingale". (The film avoids any of the speculation that he engaged in a romance with her, a historical debate that is given prominence in the Hugh Jackman movie.)
"Barnum" was directed by Lee Philips, a respected television director whose work here is efficient but unremarkable. The production values are impressive but the pace is often pedantic and unexciting. The strategy of having Barnum address the viewer to relate the highs and lows of his life chronologically looks like an attempt to check off the boxes by rote in order to cram facts into a production that had to make room for commercial breaks. Still there are areas of interest. Following his first wife's death, for example, Barnum found wedded bliss again by marrying at age 64 to a woman who was 40 years younger. The story ends with the formation of his partnership with James Baily to create the famed circus that bore their names (though it doesn't delve into their many business disputes.) The TV movie rests almost entirely on Burt Lancaster's broad shoulders and even at age 72, he still had the trademark toothy smile and distinctive laugh and charisma. Lancaster never gave a bad performance he brings gentle dignity to the role of Barnum.
The Mill Creek transfer is disappointing and at times looks like it was mastered from a VHS tape. Doubtless, the company used the best transfer available but there should be a disclaimer saying as much at the beginning, a policy the Warner Archive often employs. As with most Mill Creek releases there are no bonus features. However, the company is generous in providing digital copies of their releases and this is the case with "Barnum" as well- and it's most welcome.
summer of 1992 I visited a neighborhood thrift store that rented obscure videos
of movies made all over the world. Foreign films on laserdisc imported from
Japan were transferred to VHS and rented long before “online downloading” became
a household term. One of the films was relatively new yet unfamiliar to me
although the cover art featured actress Jennifer Connelly on it. I already knew
of her from her roles in Dario Argento’s Phenomena
(1985), Seven Minutes in Heaven
(1985), Labyrinth (1986), Some Girls (1988), and The Hot (yowzah) Spot (1990), but this title looked quite different. Etoile, the French word for “star”, is
the title of director Peter Del Monte’s relatively unknown and overlong 1989
dramatic thriller that easily calls to mind Darren Aronofsky’s superior Black Swan (2010) due to its theme of a
troubled ballerina. I would almost consider Etoile
to be a “lost” Jennifer Connelly film in that most people are unaware of it. Even
this video tribute to her
on Youtube skips it completely. Although Italian and filmed in spoken
English, the film was not released in either Italy or the United States. Ms. Connelly, who premiered at the age of twelve in Sergio
Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America
(1984) as a dancer, plays Claire, a New York-based ballerina visiting Budapest
to audition for Swan Lake. Like in
the opening of Phenomena, her
character is arriving in a foreign land by way of aviation and finally by taxi.
She bumps into a fellow New Yorker named Jason (Gary McCleery) after dropping
her slipper in the hotel she is staying at. He’s instantly smitten with her,
and who wouldn’t be? At just seventeen, Ms. Connelly is utterly breathtaking. The
ballet school is run by Marius Balakin (Laurent Terzieff, who bears a striking
resemblance to Pierre Clementi for those Bertolucci fans of you out there). Claire
ventures out into an old, decrepit theater and dances alone until she locks
eyes with Balakin who is sitting in a seat, looking around at the theater. She
bolts. In the meantime, Jason is learning the antiques business from his Uncle
Joshua (an unlikely Charles Durning), but cannot stop thinking about Claire and
sneaks off, accompanying her on a sojourn to an abandoned old house that used
to belong to a ballerina who danced in Swan
Lake. Compelled to succeed, Claire decides to audition.
this point the film takes a turn into seemingly supernatural territory when
Claire finds flowers delivered to her room and addressed to “Natalie”. Despite
her best efforts, she cannot locate anyone else in the hotel with that name. In
the middle of the night, she receives a visit from her teacher’s choreographer
and another dancer; understandably freaked out, she then decides to return to
New York. While at the airport, a P.A. page for a one “Natalie Horvath” sends
her into a trance and she almost willingly assumes the “role” of this person
and transforms into a ballerina, with no memory of Claire, her former self. Jason
locates her sitting by a lake and is hurt and bewildered by her demeanor and
failure to recognize him. Determined to get to the bottom of this, he goes to
great lengths to uncover this very obvious transformation that he is powerless
to explain let alone comprehend.
Peter Del Monte’s best-known film to Americans is indubitably Julia and Julia, the 1987 Sting-Kathleen
Turner outing that was touted as the first film to be shot in high definition
(it was later transferred to 35mm for theatrical exhibition). The premise of
that film also called into mind the sanity of the protagonist, however here
Claire merely appears to be a confused and unwilling participant in a world
that simply pulls her into it. Although Claire and Jason’s love story isn’t
very compelling, I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for him and ended up rooting
for him. The ending is trite, even by the director’s own admission, which he
found unsatisfying. Jurgen Knieper, the film’s composer who has done some
wonderful work for Wim Wenders, provides a very effective and haunting score
that remained with me days after seeing the film, in particular the main theme.
The cinematography is also quite stellar as Acácio de Almeida’s camera reveals much
more than the laserdisc ever showed, mostly because this new transfer to DVD is
made from a new 2K scan of the original film elements with extensive color
correction performed. The image is framed at 1.85:1.
DVD from Scorpion has several extras. First up is an eighteen-minute interview with the
film’s director who discusses the challenges that he was forced to deal with
while making the film. He took the job as the producer gave him an advance,
which is something that he never had before. However, there were many
disagreements regarding the film’s tone, etc.
second extra is an on-screen interview with the film’s executive producer, Claudio
Mancini, who has far less positive things to say about the cast and the whole
experience. This runs just shy of ten minutes.
final section contains trailers for the following films: Etoile (1989), Barbarosa
(1981), City on Fire (1979), Steaming (1985), and Ten Little Indians (1974).
would recommend Etoile wholeheartedly
to Jennifer Connelly completists.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
MPI Home Video and The George Carlin Estate are proud to
announce a special gift to his fans today – the GEORGE CARLIN COMMEMORATIVE
COLLECTION, a 10-disc must-have DVD, CD and Blu-Ray boxed set which features
more than five hours of previously unreleased bonus material including rare performance
footage from Carlin’s personal archive. The GEORGE CARLIN COMMEMORATIVE
COLLECTION will be released on Tuesday, June 12th and the announcement was made
upon the occasion of what would have been Carlin’s 81st Birthday.Carlin was born May 12, 1937 and passed away
at the age of 71 in June of 2008.
George Carlin’s daughter, Kelly, who helped compile
material for the Box Set commented, “While digging around in dad’s stuff, we
found a few gems that we just couldn’t keep for ourselves. It’s amazing to
think that ten years after his death, we keep finding stuff I’d never seen
George Carlin was not only one of America’s greatest
comedians whose albums topped the charts, he was a pioneer of cable TV’s concert
format that has become a benchmark of success for all humorists ever since.
And now, all of Carlin’s pointed, often controversial but
always hilarious specials originally shown on HBO have been gathered for the
first time in the GEORGE CARLIN COMMEMORATIVE COLLECTION. Encompassing over
five decades of George Carlin’s groundbreaking career, all 14 of the legendary funnyman’s
Emmy nominated HBO specials are now available in one package – a remarkable set
that also contains a previously unreleased HBO special entitled 40 Years of
Comedy hosted by Jon Stewart plus Carlin’s posthumous audio release, I Kinda
Like It When a Lotta People Die.
One of the key bonus pieces of material is Carlin’s first
stand-up special from 1973, The Real George Carlin which has not been seen
since it first aired. Additional bonus material includes APT 2C (a never-aired HBO
pilot from the ’80s) plus two one-hour stand-up comedy club performances that
features material performed by Carlin for the first time.There is also never-before-released material
from the 1960s – when Carlin was a clean-cut, suit-wearing guest on the variety
shows such as Talent Scouts, The Jackie Gleason Show and Hollywood Palace.
The box set features also includes both DVD and Blu-ray discs
of the HBO specials Life Is Worth Losing and It’s Bad for Ya plus liner notes
written by comedian Patton Oswalt.
George Carlin, a fearless commentator on society and a champion
of free speech, now finally gets the boxed set he and fans of great, enduring
comedy deserve and the GEORGE CARLIN COMMEMORATIVE COLLECTION represents the
most complete collection of Carlin performances to date.
About George Carlin
George Carlin was a Grammy-winning American stand-up
comedian, actor and best-selling author whose career spanned more than five
decades and literally changed the face of stand-up comedian. His most famous
routine "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television" sparked a free
speech controversy that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 2008, Carlin was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for
American Humor, and in 2017, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him the “Second Best
Stand-up Comic of All Time.” To date, Carlin is also the only comedian to have
a dedicated SiriusXM radio channel solely to his work.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
Loving ode to a VHS galaxy not that far, far away.
fantastic personal account of one of the greatest chapters in movie history. An
Gatiss (Doctor Who, Sherlock)
Ready Player One and Stranger Things proves the retro might of
VHS era cinema, Watching Skies: Star Wars, Spielberg and Us is a universal and
affectionate tale about the pop cultural remembrances stuck in all our R2
many a British kid in an '80s world of VCRs, Reagan and Atari, Mark O'Connell
wanted to be one of the mop-haired kids on the Star Wars toy commercials. Jaws,
Close Encounters of the Third Kind,E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman and of course Star Wars weren't just changing cinema -
they were making lasting highways into our childhoods, toy boxes and video
stores like never before,
this energetic and insightful memoir-through-cinema, Mark O'Connell flies a
gilded X-Wing through a universe of bedroom remakes of Return of the Jedi, close encounters with Christopher Reeve,
sticker album swaps, a honeymoon on Amity Island and the trauma of losing an
entire Star Wars figure collection.
unique study on how a rich galaxy of movie continue shaping big and vital
cinema to this day, Watching Skies is for all Star
Wars kids - whatever their era.
is about how George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, a shark, two motherships, some
gremlins, ghostbusters, and a man made of steel jumped a whole generation to
figures not included).
by The History Press. Paperback. 368 pages. Illustrated.
O'Connell is an award-winning writer and author. As a comedy writer he has
written for a wide range of actors, performers, titles, and media. As a
warm-witted pop culture pundit, he has written and guested for Variety, Sky Movies, The Times, The Guardian, OUT magazine,
Channel Four, Five, Yahoo Movies and across BBC radio and television. He was
one of the official storytellers of London 2012, owns one tenth of a BAFTA,
once got praised by the Coen Brothers, and now travel writes. He is the author
of Catching Bullets: Memoirs of a Bond
The folks at the web site Flashbak alerted the world at large about the existence of this rare video with young Kurt Russell in the mid-1960s when he starred in TV ads for Mattel's line of generic spy toys under the banner Agent Zero-M. With the spy rage booming at the time, some companies decided to save the licensing fees they would have to spend to market official James Bond and Man from U.N.C.L.E. toys and simply made up similar items that they owned the copyright to. It should be noted that young Kurt also guest-starred in a first season episode of U.N.C.L.E.: "The Finny Foot Affair" broadcast in 1964 during the show's first season. Click here to visit the Flashbak web site for more Agent Zero-M info.
Actress Eunice Gayson, who made screen history by playing the first love interest of James Bond on the big screen, has passed away at age 90. Gayson played the sexy, single woman Sean Connery's 007 encounters at a high end gambling club in the first Bond thriller "Dr. No" in 1962. Gayson's character set the standard for future "Bond Girls" by portraying an independent, self-assured woman who had no pangs of guilt in regard to engaging in a sexual relationship for the pure pleasure of it. In fact, it is she who seduces Bond, turning up in his apartment and putting a golf ball while clad only in one of his shirts. The character, Sylvia Trench, also appeared in a brief love scene with Bond in the second film in the series, "From Russia with Love". Gayson got the role because she had worked with director Terence Young previously in the 1958 production "Zarak". The original idea was to have Trench appear in each of the films as a recurring character but that idea was dropped when Young, the director of the first two films, temporarily left the series and Guy Hamilton took over. Gayson also appeared in the Hammer Films production "The Revenge of Frankenstein" as well as many other feature films and TV series including "The Saint", "The Avengers" and "Danger Man". On a personal level, we at Cinema Retro mourn her passing. Eunice was a lovely, talented lady with a wonderful wit and sense of humor. We treasure the many hours we spent with her over the years and we are grateful that we saw her again recently at the memorial service for her old friend, Sir Roger Moore, which was held at Pinewood Studios last October. Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have issued the following statement:
"We are so sad
to learn that Eunice Gayson, our very first 'Bond girl' who played Sylvia
Trench in DR. NO and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE has passed away. Our sincere
thoughts are with her family."
For more about Eunice Gayson's career, click here.
The date was Wednesday, March 27, 1974.
The film premiering that night at Radio City Music Hall was Mame. This first public screening of the
lavishly produced and choreographed story, which took Broadway by storm in the
1960s, was a laborious experience for everyone involved. With its much
anticipated release, cast and crew alike showed up to offer their support and
to delight in the audience’s appreciation. Even the star, Lucille Ball,
attended this highly publicized event. For the first time, fans got a different
glimpse of their favorite television personality. That evening, she arrived not
as the ravishing redhead people were used to seeing, but as a black-haired
beauty in a white dress, which was quite short and just happened to be featured
in the film. Moviegoers were getting a preview of what was to come.
And what an entertaining extravaganza
it was! The alluring ambiance in every scene, as well as the divine dancing and
sensational singing, kept viewers enthralled for the entire two hours and
twelve minutes of the picture. Everybody except the critics, of course.
For the most part, the reviewers did
not have nice things to say about Mame
or its featured players. Some noticed the sentimentality that came through
during certain moments, such as the scene in which the main character and
Patrick, her young nephew, sing “My Best Girl”. However, the majority of them
failed to properly acknowledge a movie that took two years to complete and cost
around $12,000,000 to produce. This was especially true with Lucille Ball’s
performance. Considering the faith Warner Brothers had in their chosen leading
lady, the negative notices were a major letdown to the studio and to the
Playing Mame meant so much to Lucille.
She saw the role as her last chance to prove to the world that she possessed
what it took to be a glamorous movie star. Never one to pass up an opportunity,
Lucille made it her ultimate goal to win the producers over. Indeed, they saw
something special in her that no other actress could radiate.
Once she nabbed the covered part,
Lucille put a lot of effort into creating her own interpretation of the
character. Unfortunately, all of this hard work came to a halt when she broke
her leg while skiing in Colorado. Lucille felt bad about holding up production.
When producers learned about her fear of being replaced, they quickly assured
her they would wait for her return.
With projects featuring such big names
as Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford, Warner Brothers cranked out movies that
were popular among the younger crowds. When the company purchased the rights to
the musical version of Mame, they
envisioned it as a picture everyone could enjoy. Therefore, finding a seasoned
entertainer who had plenty of clout became necessary. At the time, Lucille was one
of the most influential women in Hollywood, due to her achievements behind the
scenes as much as on camera. This factor made it practically impossible for her
fellow contenders to be chosen over her.
All of the power in the world could not
prevent the barrage of crass comments made by the critics. They took aim at
everything from her gravelly voice to her extreme thinness. Despite the harsh
remarks, Lucille refused to let her anguish interfere with the promotional tour
she embarked on soon after filming wrapped. She willingly posed for
photographs, endured the mundane task of answering repetitive questions asked
by inquisitive reporters, and appeared on talk shows like The Tonight Show Starring Johnny
Carson and Phil Donahue.
Suddenly, the most recognizable female in the field of physical comedy was
popping up everywhere.
The cheerful facade occasionally
slipped, allowing her candor to reveal itself. Blaming photographers, Lucille
once admitted to a journalist that she felt old. Tired of seeing unflattering
images of herself every time she picked up a newspaper or magazine and the
press stomping on her already crushed ego, she vented her vexation at anyone
who would listen.
Having devoted such a huge chunk of
time to understanding the inner workings of an outspoken woman began affecting
what she said when discussing other topics as well. Always thought of as brash,
the ordeal that came with making and advertising Mame only hardened Lucille, solidifying her opinion of the changing
industry. Interviewers expecting her jocular side were shocked when she
unabashedly addressed her abhorrence for movies containing excessive nudity and
Those familiar with the bygone era of
the studio system comprehended Lucille’s belief that family friendly films had
the capability to restore traditional values that they felt had been tossed
aside for far too long. This wholesomeness started when she worked at MGM.
Louis B. Mayer prided himself on preserving the pristine illusion so
meticulously maintained by all who flourished under his supervision.
took on a deeper meaning for those who could remember that simpler, carefree
time in history. Just as they had done during the Great Depression, people
forgot about their worries and eagerly embraced the energy exuded on camera.
They listened with a gleam in their eyes and hope in their hearts as Lucille
sang the lyrics to “Open A New Window”.
Women related to her optimism. They
felt the movie catered to their tastes. In actuality, it was produced with them
in mind. When speaking about Mame,
Lucille expressed a strong urge to please the ladies who waited in line to see
the film. She wanted them to know it was their picture. Finally given the
respect they deserved, their gratitude poured out. If only Lucille Ball and Mame had received the same reverence.
(Considered highly knowledgeable in the vintage film
era, Barbara Irvin has written for Classic Images. Most recently, she wrote a
very detailed profile about Angela Lansbury and her husband, Peter Shaw. This
is her first article for Cinema Retro.)
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from the Warner Archive:
Burbank, Calif., (May 17, 2018) Get ready for one of the liveliest, leaping-est, sassiest
and happiest musicals ever, as Warner Archive Collection proudly unveils its
Two-Disc Special Edition Blu-ray™ release of the Oscar-winning 1954 MGM classic
Brides for Seven Brothers.
by Stanley Donen (Singin' in the Rain),
and starring Jane Powell (Royal Wedding,
Hit the Deck) and Howard Keel (Annie Get Your Gun, Kiss Me Kate),Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was
nominated for four Academy Awards® and won for Best Scoring of a
Musical Picture. This Western musical is distinguished by a wonderful score of
original songs by composer Gene de Paul and lyricist by Johnny Mercer (Li’l Abner) along with brilliant,
acrobatic dancing scenes choreographed by Michael Kidd (The Band Wagon,Guys and
for the first time on Blu-ray, featuring a new 1080p HD master from a 2018 2K
scan in its original 2.55 CinemaScope aspect ratio, with DTS-HD Master Audio
5.1 audio t (based on the original 4 track magnetic mix, but re-built from
recording session masters and original stems), the Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Two-Disc Special Edition Blu-ray has extras to please every mountain
man or woman, including the rarely-seen alternate widescreen (1.77 aspect
ratio) alternate version presented for the first time in 1080p HD, a commentary
from the film’s director Stanley Donen, a comprehensive cast & crew
documentary, vintage featurettes including the famous “MGM Jubilee Overture”
short (presented in its original CinemaScope 2.55 aspect ratio for the first
time in 1080p HD with 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio sound), premiere newsreel footage
note is that two versions of the film exist, one in CinemaScope and the other
in traditional widescreen. In 1953 when
Cinemascope was brand new, MGM was concerned that if it was a fad they would
have an unusable film in the long-run, so for protection they shot the film
twice. Two different takes of each shot with different staging was filmed which
reflect the different frame size of traditional widescreen (which is less wide
and more rectangular) and CinemaScope. By the time the film was released,
CinemaScope had proven a huge success and the alternate version was rarely seen
until its release on DVD in 2004.
About the Film
Brides for Seven Brothers, Adam (Howard Keel), the eldest of seven
brothers, goes to town to get a wife. He convinces Milly (Jane Powell) to marry
him that same day. After they return to his backwoods home she discovers he has
six brothers -- all living in his cabin. Milly sets out to reform the uncouth
siblings, who are anxious to get wives of their own. Then, after reading about
the Roman capture of the Sabine women, Adam develops an inspired solution to
his brothers' loneliness... kidnap the women they want from the surrounding villages.
by studio executives during production as a ‘second-tier musical’, the film
suffered budget cuts during production that precluded location shooting.
Overcoming these circumstances, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was
an obvious hit in the making when previewed, and opened to great reviews at
huge box office success at New York’s famed Radio City Music Hall. This film
was so successful that it was theatrically re-issued for many years thereafter,
and holds the achievement as one of the highest-grossing musicals ever produced
by M-G-M’s “dream factory”. The unique story behind the making of the film is
well chronicled by director Donen’s commentary, as well as the comprehensive
documentary on the disc, hosted by star Howard Keel, and including interviews
with co-stars Jane Powell, Tommy Rall, Russ Tamblyn, and Jacques d’Amboise, as
well as director Donen, choreographer Kidd, and Musical Supervisor Saul Chaplin (who earned an
Oscar for his contribution), among others.
Disc One: (BD50)
·Audio Commentary by Stanley Donen
·Short Subject shot in CinemaScope and Color,
featuring the M-G-M Symphony Orchestra, led by Johnny Green, playing a medley
of eleven well-known songs used in some of the studio's best-known musicals. (Remastered
in 1080p HD, 16x9 2.55 anamorphic aspect ratio with 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio)
·Documentary "Sobbin' Women: The
Making of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," hosted by Howard Keel
(Produced 1996, updated and revised 2004)-SD
·Radio City Music Hall Premiere - July
22, 1954 (SD)
Following his break-out performance as Superman in the 1978 blockbuster, Christopher Reeve deftly avoided being typecast in the role despite appearing in several sequels. However, his non-Superman flicks were a decidedly mixed bag. Virtually none of them were successful at the boxoffice at the time of their initial release, although Somewhere in Time found a loyal cult audience over the years and Deathtrap seems more entertaining now than it did in 1982. Reeve proved to be a good, if unremarkable actor, who had an affable screen presence and the kind of handsome features and physique that recalled the more traditional Hollywood leading men of days gone by. (Think Rock Hudson). However, Reeve's scattershot record of choosing film projects prevented him from fully capitalizing on his potential. There were too many boxoffice bombs along the way and Reeve sometimes returned to his first love, live theater, to continue to grow as an artist. One of Reeve's least-known films, The Aviator, has been released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber. The movie was based on the novel by Ernest K. Gann, who specialized in aerial adventure stories. (He wrote the novel and screenplay for John Wayne's smash hit The High and the Mighty.) The film opens intriguingly at a military air base in WWI. Reeve is Edgar Anscombe, a cocky pilot who is training a novice on his first flight when things go wrong. The trainee panics and the plane crashes, leaving the student pilot dead and Anscombe suffering from severe burns. The plot then jumps ahead by a decade. Anscombe is now a bitter and introverted man still haunted by his wartime experiences, especially the deadly training accident that he feels responsible for. He's now working for Moravia (Jack Warden), the owner of a small air fleet that delivers mail from Nevade across the western states. In order to supplement the company's meager profits, Moravia sometimes accepts a passenger to accompany the pilots on their route. Along comes Tillie Hansen (Rosanna Arquette), a perky but troubled 17 year-old whose father (Sam Wanamaker) finds her to be incorrigible. Against Tillie's wishes, he decides to send her to a strict, disciplinarian aunt in order to teach her social and personal values. Anscombe immediately resents having to take Tillie along on his next flight. He snubs her overtures at friendliness and makes it clear that he wants no part of socially interacting with her. However, while in flight over a remote mountain region, their plane develops a problem with the fuel line, forcing them to crash land. Both Anscombe and Tillie emerge unscathed but their trials and tribulations are just beginning. Anscombe admits he went off course to take a short-cut, making it unlikely that rescue parties will find them. Additionally, they lack shelter and food and are menaced by a pack of hungry wolves. All they have for a weapon is a pistol with a few rounds of ammunition.
Once the survivalist aspect of "The Aviator" kicks in, the film should soar beyond the bland opening scenes that predictably thrust the viewer into yet another one of those scenarios in which the leading man and leading lady bicker and kvetch at each other. However, director George Miller (not the same director George Miller of the Mad Max movies, unfortunately) establishes a leaden pace that makes The Aviator resemble a TV movie. You're practically waiting for the commercials with that omnipresent, creepy guy hawking My Pillow to pop up any minute. The film lumbers through some moments of crisis that don't pack much suspense. Dopey Tillie wants to smoke a cigarette and ends up burning down the wreckage of the plane the stranded couple had been using for shelter. Anscombe manages to kill some game for much-needed sustenance only to have it ripped from him by wolves. The couple decides they must try to make the arduous climb down the mountain to find help. In the film's only unexpected twist, Anscombe comes across a remote cabin only to find its eccentric inhabitant won't help him and threatens him with a gun. Reeve makes for a bland, boring hero in the under-written role of Anscombe and Arquette grates on the viewer like nails on a blackboard with her ditzy Valley Girl-like interpretation of a liberated young woman from the 1920s. The last, inexcusable cliche the screenplay thrusts up us finds the once-bickering Anscombe and Tillie now falling in love.
The Aviator does have some aspects to commend. Jack Warden, Sam Wanakmaker and Scott Wilson manage to outshine the leading actors and put some much-needed realism and empathy into their roles, although Tyne Daly is largely wasted in a minor role. There is a suitably old-fashioned score by the estimable Dominic Frontiere and the film boasts some impressive camerawork by David Connell. The film was shot entirely in Yugoslavia but it must be said that the locations convincingly resemble the American northwest. The Kino Lorber Blu-ray features the usually excellent transfer we've come to expect from the company and an original trailer is included. The Aviator isn't a terrible movie, just an unnecessary one that unfortunately helped contribute to the likeable Christopher Reeve's less-than-inspired career choices.
It was June 6, 1944 when the greatest military operation in history took place. American, British and Canadian forces landed at Normandy to liberate Europe. The amazing courage of the Allied forces not only saved democracy on the continent but also made it possible for Germany to re-emerge as one of the great nations of the world. No film has ever better captured the overall epic nature of the battle, as seen from both sides, than Darryl F. Zanuck's The Longest Day. Why not watch it ASAP with your kids and grandkids to remind them of how unimaginable courage made it possible for us to have the freedoms we enjoy today? It's also a hell of a good movie!
The web site Geek Tyrant presents evidence to bolster their opinion that, in the world of Batman actors, Adam West is still the guy who kicks ass most. Writer Mick Joest displays five key things that West's Batman could do that no other actor ever attempted in their interpretation of the Caped Crusader...Click here to read and view clips..
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FEATURES FROM THE CINEMA RETRO ARCHIVE
This feature puts the spotlight on those glorious old movie marquees. This one depicts the
Loew's Capitol theater on the evening of the New York premiere of The Dirty Dozen in June 1967 at the Loews Capitol. Continue reading to see vintage marquees for Steve McQueen's The War Lover and Requiem for a Heavyweight starring Anthony Quinn and Jackie Gleason.
small film, which actor/co-producer/co-writer Jon Cryer says could be made 200
times for the budget allotted to Titanic,
is an absolute gem.
by Cryer and director/co-producer Richard Schenkman, Went to Coney Island… is part coming-of-age story, part mystery,
and part social problem film. The latter category encompasses the tackling of
mental illness, homelessness, and what one’s obligation might be to a loved
one—or simply a friend—who has ceased to function in society.
(Cryer), Stan (Rick Stear), and Richie (Rafael Báez) have been friends
since they were five, growing up on New York streets but basically living a
normal existence as precocious, middle-class American boys. As teens, Stan
underwent a botched medical procedure to correct a problem with his leg and was
left with a permanent limp, brace, and cane. Richie has a reputation as a
ladies’ man, but he holds a secret that he can’t reveal. Daniel is the
straight-arrow and probably the most intelligent of the trio.
the present day the threesome is in their thirties. Daniel works a regular job in
a pawn shop/jeweler, and Stan is an alcoholic and has a gambling problem. The
woman in his life, Gabby (Ione Skye), has about had it with him. Richie is
simply… missing in action. He disappeared years earlier after a tragedy
occurred in his family. One day, Stan hears that Richie is homeless and living
under the boardwalk in Coney Island. Using a childhood code for ditching school
and doing something more “important,” Stan tells Daniel that they have a “mission
from God”—they must go to Coney Island and look for Richie.
winter, so Coney Island is mostly closed-down except for a handful of sleazy
shops and midway attractions. The once famous amusement park is practically a
ghost town, on its way to oblivion. Daniel and Stan make their way around the
area, encountering various misfits and wackos, until they do indeed find their
long, lost friend. Richie isn’t in good shape. What follows is an intervention
of sorts, as well as a redemption for the two main protagonists.
in numerous flashbacks and contemporary (1998) scenes, Went to Coney Island masterfully draws the viewer into the intimate
lives of the characters. It explores their inner demons, but it also exhibits
what it means to be true friends. While this might sound like a dire
experience, much of the picture is hilarious. The various weirdos and how
Daniel/Stan react to them provides the kinds of laughs one might find in a John
Hughes picture—only these have a little more bite. This is “dramedy” at its
Cryer and Stear are excellent in their roles. Schenkman’s direction is
pitch-perfect, easily pushing the movie to the top of his eclectic body of
work. The way the flashbacks to the 1980s are handled reveal sensitive insight
on the mood and sensibility of the era. Schenkman’s handling of the Coney
Island sequences evokes a wide palate of moods and imagery.
is art-house cinema of the highest order.
new High Definition Blu-ray release incorporates a frame-by-frame digital
restoration from original 35mm film elements, and it looks spectacular. The
main feature comes with 5.1 Surround Audio (uncompressed PCM) and 2.0 stereo,
plus an audio commentary by both Schenkman and Cryer. The pair also appear in a
new, short introduction to the film. Supplements include a behind-the-scenes
featurette that contains new and vintage footage; The Producer,a comedy
short from the period directed by Schenkman; a photo gallery; and the original
theatrical trailer. A mini-poster comes in the package.
Went to Coney Island
on a Mission from God…Be Back by Five could stand alongside such low-budget
classics as My Bodyguard, Breaking Away, and sex, lies and videotape. Check it out.
EVE GOLDBERG presents an in-depth examination of the only film Marlon Brando ever directed: "One-Eyed Jacks" (1961)
"ONE-EYED JACKS: AMERICA AT THE CROSSROADS"
A new movie schedule arrived
every few months.A two-sided paper
treasure chest brimming over with promises of time travel, existential wisdom,
and singing in the rain. Wild
Strawberries, City Lights, Battle of Algiers, Belle de Jour.
We grabbed up the schedule
and studied it with care, taped it to the refrigerator door, marked our
calendars.The African Queen, Yojimbo,
Rules of the Game.
We made cinema voyages all
over town — to the Vista in Hollywood, the Nuart in West LA, the art deco Fox
Venice.Before VCRs, DVDs or streaming,
revival movie theaters were about the only place a film junkie could get a
fix.We might find an occasional nugget
on late night TV, John Ford’s Stagecoach,
perhaps, or Invasion of the Body
Snatchers, but for the most part, it was the revival house or nowhere.Citizen
Kane, La Dolce Vita, Alphaville.
There was rumor of a weird
Western called One-Eyed Jacks,
starring and directed by Marlon Brando.Nobody we knew had seen it.The
movie took on the aura of myth. Was there really a scene where Brando gets
whipped?What had the famously
iconoclastic actor done with the time-worn clichés of the horse opera?
Finally, I think it was
1974, One-Eyed Jacks arrived.We trooped down to the Fox Venice, waited in
a long line, found seats in the filled-to-capacity theatre, and settled in for
the ride.We were not disappointed.From the opening shot — Brando casually
eating a banana during a bank robbery — the film was like no Western we had
ever seen.Moody, psychological,
ambiguous, it was awash in sadomasochism, with a brooding Brando in nearly
every scene.And yes, the actor gets his
whipping in a scene of perverse cruelty which sears into memory.
Back in 1974, we knew we had
seen an odd, strangely subversive, one-of-a-kind film.We didn’t know, however, that this quirky
little revenge gem would someday be considered an important (if flawed)
masterpiece of cinema, and a fascinating link between two eras in Hollywood…and
The Western is a
quintessentially American film genre.From its earliest days, the cowboy drama was about good guys (white
lawmen) confronting bad (Indians, outlaws).Each movie was a tale of expansionist dreams and masculine
aggression.Each was a saga of
civilization triumphing over savagery.The Western was, to quote film critic J. Hoberman, “the way America used
to explain itself to itself.”
Edwin Porter’s 1903 film, The Great Train Robbery, was one of the
first Westerns.This 12-minute story in
which bandits rob a train, only to be pursued by a posse of lawmen,
revolutionized the art of cinema.Porter
used ground-breaking techniques such as cross-cutting and close-ups to create a
suspenseful, compelling narrative.The
basic elements of the genre were set.
The Western remains
instantly recognizable across more than a century of evolving media and
myth-making.Gunfights, holdups, and
massacres.Horses, trains, rustlers, and
stampedes, and six-shooters.
The Golden Age of the
Western is often considered to be the years 1946-1973.Following World War II, with the Cold War
blazing hot on the beaches of Korea, the U.S. declared itself the new global
sheriff in town.At home, the Eisenhower
Era earned a reputation as being a time of complacency and consumerism.But these were also the McCarthy years, when
right-wing witch hunts against political progressives were ruining lives and
careers.And, at the same time, the seeds
of change were taking root.A young
civil rights movement began asking America: What the hell are the good guys who
fought Hitler doing about racial discrimination and bigotry at home?
The classic 1969 crime caper film "The Italian Job" starring Michael Caine and Noel Coward will be screened at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London on 10 June with Quincey Jones's score played by a live orchestra conducted by Robert Ziegler. Click here for info.
Olive Films has released aa Blu-ray edition of the 1971 comedy Cold Turkey. Written
and directed by Norman Lear, the fanciful plot is set in Eagle Rock,
Iowa, a struggling small town of 4600 residents in Iowa that has fallen
on hard times. The town is on the verge of financial catastrophe with
most of the once-thriving businesses having moved away when a local air
force base was closed. Potential salvation comes in the form of a
contest sponsored by a major tobacco company to award $25 million to any
town that can give up smoking for a period of 30 days. In fact, the
offer is a mere ploy by a cynical tobacco executive, Merwyn Wren (Bob
Newhart), who assures his bosses that the contest will improve the
industry's reputation without ever incurring the prospect of having to
pay off. That's because every person in the town would have to sign a
pledge to not smoke for 30 days. A single offense would result in
disqualification for the prize. What Wren doesn't count on is the
determination of Eagle Rock minister Clayton Brooks (Dick Van Dyke), a
disillusioned and depressed reverend who finds renewed vigor in his
determination to see his town win the contest and revitalized itself
with the prize money. Brooks goes on a one-man crusade to persuade the
town's population to sign the petition- not an easy task because
seemingly everyone has turned to smoking in order to cope with the
stress of their financial hardships.
The film bares a resemblance to Norman Jewison's The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! in
that it centers on an a diverse number of small town eccentrics, all
wonderfully played by a sterling cast of great character actors: Vincent
Gardenia, Tom Poston, Jean Stapleton, Graham Jarvis and Judith Lowry
among them. (The latter is as hilarious as ever, playing her typical
ancient, foul-mouthed great granny character). There are also
appearances by Edward Everett Horton as the senile tobacco company owner
and the great team of Bob and Ray as thinly-veiled impersonations of
legendary network anchors Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David
Brinkley who come to Eagle Rock when the town becomes the center of
national news stories. Pippa Scott is very amusing as Van Dyke's
long-suffering wife, who barely gets a word in due to the benevolent
dictatorship he has established in their marriage. When the Reverend
turns to sex as a substitute for smoking, Scott accommodates him with a
bored demeanor and a pained look on her face. While most films that
depict a rural population tend to go overboard in portraying them as
cute and kind, Lear's film takes a more sarcastic tone. Initially,
everyone gets along fine, but as pressure builds to meet the challenge,
the townspeople turn on each other. The local doctor (Barnard Hughes) is
especially targeted for attention due to his weak will and hopeless
addiction to smoking. Graham Jarvis delivers a very funny performance as
the nerdy local leader of a Tea Party-like political group that
typically disdains "big government" until they decide "big government"
can be profitable for them. Even the once-modest reverend gets swept up
in his new-found fame as Eagle Rock swarms with tourists, many of whom
are wearing masks of his likeness. As the town nears the final hours
until the deadline, Merwin and the tobacco company brass invoke every
dirty trick imaginable to ensure the prize money doesn't have to be
paid. The madcap finale finds the town awash with a variety of
individuals seeking to capitalize on the town's quest. Even President
Nixon gets into the spotlight!
Cold Turkey is a gentle comedy with an occasional sharp edge. It evokes memories of The Andy Griffith Show, but
manages to make a statement about human traits that can be found
everywhere: greed, deceit and selfishness. Van Dyke is excellent in the
lead role and he benefits from a terrific supporting cast and a
typically "hummable" title song by Randy Newman. I found the film itself
to be quite addictive.
The Blu-ray release offers a very fine transfer, but sadly, no bonus extras.