Jones is a legend. He’s been in some of the greatest American films ever made,
and his extensive filmography (consisting of well over 100 films) features a
virtual Who’s Who of American American cinema. He made his film debut in the
1955 Raoul Walsh war picture Battle Cry, credited with his birth name Justus E.
McQueen. The character he played was a young private named...LQ Jones. Soon, at
the behest of the studio, the young actor changed his name to that of the
character, and the rest is history.
Jones isn’t a household name, and that’s a shame, because it deserves to be.
Among knowledgeable cineastes he’s seen as a god among men, a gifted and
accomplished performer. He’s one of those character actors people instantly
recognize, as he’s been in films with the likes of Elvis Presley, Steve McQueen,
and Clint Eastwood and appears in such notable films as The Wild Bunch, Hang
‘Em High, and Casino. He’s even directed a couple of films, the most notable
being his 1975 adaptation of the Harlan Ellison novella A Boy and His Dog,
which he also wrote and produced. In addition to his 100-plus film credits,
he’s also worked extensively in television, having appeared in hundreds of
episodes of television series, including Gunsmoke, Rawhide, and Perry Mason.
been writing about film for more than twenty years, and have interviewed at
least 300 notable people, but LQ Jones was a bucket list interview for me. I
did some research and tracked him down, contacting him in January 2019. I found
him to be pleasant and enjoyable to talk to, and we wound up doing this
interview by telephone. This interview was simultaneously one of the easiest
and most difficult I’ve ever done. It was easy because Jones is a natural born
storyteller with lots of credits to discuss, but difficult because there was
absolutely no way to cover all the important films and notable people he’s been
involved with. If I had another thousand hours to talk to him, I might have
come close to achieving this. As it was, I had to be selective about what I
asked and was very careful to just sit back and let Jones talk. He was
forthright, introspective, and funny, making for what I consider a terrific
How would you describe the L.Q. Jones acting
technique? Would you consider yourself a method actor?
never really thought about it. Actors are born; hell, they're not made. We can
teach you technique, but we can't teach you to act. I've been this way ever
since I was born. I wish I had some training, but I haven't. I just do it. I do
what seems right to me. I watch other actors. I've been very lucky to have
worked with a lot of really good people. It would be a lie if I said I didn't
steal from them. You do. You learn, or you get out of the business. It was just
a God given gift. I've got a modicum of talent, and I've been able to use it.
When you first came
into the business, did any actors take you aside and give you any advice?
came to the business really strangely. No one talked to me about that, but
everyone was telling me what to do. I had 150 directors on the first picture!
The cameraman would say, “Is that where you're gonna stand, kid? If you wanna
be Stepin Fetchit, that's the place to stand. If you wanna be seen, you need to
get your ass over here! This is your key light. This is the light for this...
Pay attention to it.” The sound man said, “You're mumbling, for Christ's sake!
Speak up!” Every person on that picture was a director. You listen to them, or
you get out of the business. It's fairly easy.
Your birth name is
Justus McQueen, but you wound up taking the name LQ Jones from your character
in that film, Battle Cry. How did that happen?
never seen a motion picture camera before I showed up, and Raoul Walsh was the
director. Had it not been for Raoul, I would never have been in the business.
It was one of those things where the studio said, “If you don't mind, we'll
change your name.” And I said, “Hell, if you write it on checks, I don't care.
Whatever pleases you thrills me plumb to death.” I spoke to Leon Uris, who was
the man who wrote Battle Cry. He was having a little bit of trouble after the
novel came out. I told him what they said, and he said, “Hell yes, go ahead and
do it.” So I said fine. I said, “Let's do the old gimmick. I'll use it, and
then you sue me and we'll go to court and we'll both get a lot of publicity.”
So I changed my name, and he went off to write another novel, and I've never seen
him since. Everybody said, “Do it, do it, do it!” I'm sorry I did it. Would you
change your name from Justus McQueen to L.Q. Jones?
I suppose if it was
going to make me money, I'd change it to whatever they wanted.
right! [Laughs.] It wasn't a bright move, but it was the way our business was
being done at that time. And you take advantage of every little bit you can.
Like I said, the old man smiled on me, and things worked. Everybody helps. When you finish a
picture—and I've done somewhere between 500 and 600 shows—you get the feeling
you'll never work again. You feel like everything is passing you by. But people
pitched in and they helped and it all worked out. The name change helped. Raoul
called other directors and said, “This kid can act.” And again, our business
was changing at that point and time. Everybody was getting out of motion
pictures, because they couldn't make any money. They were going to television.
I went just the opposite. Hell, for the first year or so I never even saw a television
show. I just did movies. What do you say? You wish there were a reason. You
wish that things would make sense. They don't. I had no right in the world
being in the picture. But everything worked at that particular moment.
Everybody got involved. I worked, and I guess it was seven or eight months
before I had a day off.
You credit Raoul
Walsh for your break into Hollywood. What did Walsh do?
Parker and I were roommates in college for about four years. He kept saying,
“You've got to come out here and get into this.” In the meantime, I'd moved
down and bought a ranch in Nicaragua. I was back for a party for Christmas, and
there was Fess again saying, “You've got to go.” So I drove out there. He then
drew me a map on the back of a shirt stuffing to show me how to get to Warner
Brothers to talk to them about doing the picture. Now it starts happening. You
say, how do these things happen? How did you do it? I found Warner Brothers,
that was no trouble. So I walked up, and when you get there, the first thing
you come to is the guard gate. I don't care who you are, if you haven't got a
meeting then that's the end of your trip.
I walked up, a little blonde with the tightest sweater you've ever seen in your
life was walking out the other side. So guess where his attention was? He
pushed the button and I walked in. So already things have started. I walked
into Hoyt Ballard's office, and Kathy, his secretary was down the hall getting
coffee, or that would have been the end of it. But I went in and sat on the
couch in his office. He came back in and we started talking, and he was trying
to figure out what the hell I was doing. He listened to my story and said, “Oh
yeah, kid. Sure, sure. I'll tell you what, give me a call this afternoon.”
Okay. So I go back to the apartment and Fess says, “What happened?” I told him
that was fun, but that was the end of that. He said, “No, you've got to call
him.” I said, “If you see someone at ten o'clock and he tells you to call him
in the afternoon, that's just a courteous goodbye.” And he said, “If he didn't
want you to call, he wouldn't have told you to.”
I called him back. Hoyt said, “I appreciate it, kid, but we've already tested
250 actors for the part. They're all pros and we know what they can do because
they've done it before. It's just not gonna work.” That was fun, but that was
the end of it. He hung up, and it was all over. So I called him back. He said,
“Aw shit. Come back and see me so I can get rid of you.” So I went back and he
takes me across the hall to Solly Baiano, who's the head of casting. He spends
the next fifteen minutes telling me why I can't see the director. The phone
rings, and it's Raoul Walsh. He asks what he's doing, and Solly says he can't
get rid of me. Raoul says, “Send him up and I'll throw his ass out!” So here we
go up and Solly goes into the office. They call me in, and I walk in. Here sits
a guy behind the desk and he's got one eye that's normal and the other is an
open hole and it's plugged up with a handkerchief. Then he's got the other end
of it in his mouth. Now, what the hell do you say to a person like that? I
stood there, and he just sat there. Neither of us said anything for four or
five minutes. He says, “How tall are you?” That was an odd question, but I said,
“I'm a little over six feet.” He says, “You're a liar. You're six feet. Can you
learn a lot of words?” I said yeah, and he says to Solly, “Give him a test.”
Now what am I gonna do? Solly shows me the test, so I show it to Fess. Fess is
a friend of Burt Kennedy. Does that name ring a bell?
Three of the cinema's most legendary stars - Vincent Price, Basil Rathbone and Peter Lorre- teamed for the 1962 comedy-horror anthology Tales of Terror. This is a rare original ad that ran in trade magazines at the time of release.
In “Goldstone” (2016), a Lightyear Blu-ray release, Aaron
Pedersen returns as Aborigine detective Jay Swann, first seen in the 2013 crime
drama Mystery Road. Only this time out, Jay is in lousy shape. He’s suffering
emotional trauma over the loss of his daughter, and first appears on screen
driving drunk on a long, long stretch of road out on the vast, vast Australian Outback.
After driving past a sign announcing that he’s entering the town of Goldstone,
which consists of half a dozen trailers and shacks, he’s pulled over by young
local cop Josh Waters (Alex Russell). Josh tosses him into a cell in the back
of the double-wide that serves as police headquarters, where he’s allowed to
sleep it off.
Josh is about the only law enforcement officer in
Goldstone, which until now that has suited the purposes of the powers that be in
Goldstone just fine. The powers that be, in this case are Furnace Creek, the
giant mining company that is exploiting the area’s resources and aboriginal
people; the corrupt lady mayor Maureen (Jacki Weaver), who keeps the lid on
everything in town; Johnny (David Wenham), the head of security out at the mine; and Josh. Josh is young, easy to get along with and
hasn’t really bothered to pay much attention to the corruption going on all
But when Jay swerves into town and finally sobers up and starts
asking questions about a missing person’s case he’s been sent to investigate,
everybody gets a little tense. It isn’t long before some Aussie bikers wake him
up with their version of “Good Morning, Goldstone!” by riddling his trailer
with bullet holes, while he’s sleeping in it. The missing person investigation
leads to Swann uncovering a human trafficking operation run by an Asian woman
who flies girls in and out to work at another double-wide called The Ranch,
where horny miners spend their leisure time and money. The missing girl had
been one of the girls working at The Ranch.
“Goldstone,” is a slow burn. Indigenous Australian director/writer
Ivan Sen plays his cards very close to the vest, imparting little bits and
pieces of character and plot in small doses, letting the audience only
gradually grasp the bigger picture of what’s happening in the story and the
town, which of course is a metaphor for Australia as a country, and the world
as a whole. He keeps the tension low-key but constant, and throws a bit of
twist in the mix when we learn Swann came from this region originally. He meets
Jimmy (David Gulpilil), an aboriginal old-timer who has seen a little too much
of what’s going on in Goldstone. Jimmy knew his father and takes him upriver by
canoe to a canyon where aboriginal markings on the walls of a narrow passage
tell Swann something about his own spiritual heritage.
“Goldstone” is not only about Swann’s possible rehabilitation
by getting closer to his roots, it’s also about Josh, finally realizing what he
has let happen to his town. By looking away, and letting himself be
smooth-talked by the lady mayor, who bribes him with homemade apple pies, and
Johnny the mining operation security chief who offers him a stack of dough,
he’s let the place become a mini-Sodom and Gomorrah.
“Mystery Road” won a number of film awards in Australia
and “Goldstone” has received mostly praise from the critics. Sen not only
wrote, directed and photographed it, he also did the music score. His script
for “Goldstone” is a good blend of noir and social consciousness, highlighting
the theme of racial discrimination and a search for identity, wrapped up in a
murder mystery. My only quibble with the film is that it doesn’t go far enough
into the characters so that we really care what happens to any of them. Swann
is the only character with any real depth, the others are mostly clichés. But even
Swann’s inner turmoil is given only surface treatment. Still, it’s an
entertaining film that deals with serious themes, which is more than can be
said for most movies today.
Lightyear did a tremendous job transferring “Goldstone’s”
2.35: 1 image to Blu-ray. Sen’s cinematography of the long, level stretches of
arid land in the Queensland area of Australia is awe-inspiring. John Ford might
have shot it better, but not by much. The disc comes with five featurettes,
including “The Corruption of Goldstone,” “Detective Jay Swann,” “The Indigenous
People of Australia,”
Alex Russell as Josh Waters,” “Ivan Sen,” and “Jacki Weaver as the Mayor.” The
sound is 5.1 Dolby Digital.
Leading up to this year's Oscars broadcast, it appeared that the Academy had conspired with ABC-TV to ensure that the show would be a debacle. The build up to the event was an almost comical textbook example of how to form a circular firing squad. First, AMPAS announced that there would a brand new category to honor the most popular movie of the year, a naked attempt to build sagging ratings that risked handing an award to even the dopiest film of the year as long as it had sold enough admissions tickets. Then the producers of the broadcast decided to chop away at the awards themselves, suggesting that certain categories be eliminated from being awarded live. If that wasn't enough, ABC was going to play Solomon and arbitrarily cut down the live performances of the five nominated songs to only two, and you can bet the surviving duo would be based entirely on ratings potential. The backlash from the industry and the public was severe and ultimately AMPAS and ABC backed down. The one dilemma the producers had was that the show lacked a host. Kevin Hart had been announced but when some controversial comments from his past surfaced, he removed himself from consideration. At this point, the producers opted to go with the best host of all: no one. Given how mediocre-to-awful hosts have been in recent years, this proved to be a wise decision. It can also be said that no matter how reluctantly AMPAS and ABC came to backing off some of their controversial initial plans, they ultimately salvaged the broadcast. The show was leaner than usual, clocking in a three hours and seventeen minutes. Most importantly, the lack of a hammy late night comic to host the ceremonies meant that we didn't have to agonize through awful, time-consuming comedy routines and elaborate sketches that took away emphasis on honoring the artists the show is supposed to be about.
Here are some random observations:
The show opened with the trio of Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler greeting the audience and beating to death quips about the show not having an official host. Their appearance was unfunny but thankfully brief enough to not inflict much harm.
The old theory that the Best Picture almost always is in synch with the Best Director seems to be a relic of the past. With increasing frequency, the Best Director does not see their film named as Best Picture, which is a bit bizarre but at least it adds a modicum of suspense to the broadcast. Last evening, Alfonso Curaon picked up the Oscar for direction but the Best Picture went to Green Book despite the fact that the film's director, Peter Farrelly wasn't even nominated. Go figure.
There were no big surprises aside from the fact that no one film dominated the awards. There was a "something for everyone" result from this but it would be hard to argue that any recipient wasn't deserving of the honor even if they weren't your first choice.
The broadcast opened with a couple of rocking numbers by the original members of Queen and lead singer Adam Lambert, who paid tribute to Freddie Mercury. The performances were sensational but seemed out of place on the Oscars because it felt like we were being patched into a standard rock concert. Admittedly, it was better than the usual misguided opening production numbers.
The abundance of people of color on the broadcast made it appear that the Academy was trying to compensate for decades of under-representing minorities by trying to atone for the slights in one event. In that regard, AMPAS probably did successfully deflect any criticism from a sociological point-of-view.
The inclusion of presenters not affiliated with the film industry smacked of gimmickry but I was moved by Congressman John Lewis, one of the last original icons of the Civil Rights Movement, who gave a poignant and tearful introduction to "Green Book".
It was an inspired idea to team "Wayne's World" stars Mike Myers and Dana Carvey to present an award, thus bringing back some fun memories.
The fashions ranged from glamorous to awful. It seemed that many of the actresses neglected to realize they might have to actually walk in some of these complex contraptions and my wife quipped that one pink number looked like a custom-designed Pepto Bismol bottle. But there weren't any over-the-top bizarre numbers on display probably because Cher didn't appear.
As usual, major star power was lacking. Older viewers, who comprise the prime audience, were probably left scratching their heads wondering who many of the presenters were. In days of old, legendary stars and directors routinely attended the ceremony but today most of the big names don't unless they are personally nominated. Fortunately, Barbra Streisand, Julia Roberts and Daniel Craig did add some genuine star power to the broadcast.
The annual "In Memoriam" segment was tastefully done, as usual, and featured Gustavo Dudamel conducting the L.A. Philharmonic. I've grown weary of trying to think of performers who are overlooked in this segment but at least this time the Academy president wisely acknowledged that the list was far from comprehensive.
The sets and production design for the show were truly impressive beginning with displays of giant Oscars comprised of thousands of roses. Additionally, the ability to change backdrops to suit specific themes and performers was handled very well and added some additional luster to the broadcast.
The show's musical highlight was the duet between Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper on "Shallow" from "A Star is Born", which justifiably took home the gold.
The most gracious acceptance speeches came from Best Actor Rami Malek for "Bohemian Rhapsody" and Best Actress Olivia Colman for "The Favourite", the latter almost apologizing to Glenn Close for winning what she believed should have been Close's Oscar. On the other side of the spectrum was Hannah Beachler's win for Production Design for "Black Panther". It's certainly reaffirming to see one of the few African American women in this field honored, but Beachler ate up the time (reading her speech from a mobile phone!) and thereby excluded her co-winner Jay Hart from being able to make his own remarks. It's all the more a pity because Hart, who has been nominated twice before, has waited decades for this moment.
Sentimental favorite Spike Lee was denied the Best Director Oscar many thought he would win but was jubilant to share the Adapted Screenplay Oscar. Predictably, Lee spouted some obscenities the minute he got to the microphone but if it was a ploy to set off a controversy, it fell flat as the censors were well-prepared to use the seven second delay mechanism to bleep him out. It was hard not be moved by Lee's genuine enthusiasm and attempt to invoke historical context to his win, but he, too, spoke so long that his co-winners were denied the opportunity to make their own remarks. Future nominees should take notice: if you are part of a team, make sure you speak first.
All told, AMPAS turned a lemon into lemonade by listening to critics and being rewarded with a smooth running broadcast that managed to emphasize the Academy's core mission: honoring the artists.
There will be an official 35th anniversary "Ghostbusters" fan convention held in Culver City, California on June 7-8. Many of the stars and crew, including director/producer Ivan Reitman, will be attendance. There will be meet and greets and a concert by Ray Parker Jr, who sand the famous title song. Click here for details and tickets.
Here's an ambitious article that seems specifically designed to set off plenty of on-line debating between movie fans: Vulture has analyzed and rated in order (subjectively, of course) every single Best Picture Oscar winner and has also provided a generous number of clips from the films. Some of their choices will undoubtedly make you irate while others might inspire you to reconsider the worth of some of the winners, for better or worse.
Stanley Donen, the legendary director of musicals and romantic comedies, has died at age 94. He started as a choreographer and dance director before being elevated to director status at MGM, where he brought to the screen some of cinema's greatest musicals. Among his achievements: "On the Town", "Royal Wedding", "Singin' in the Rain", "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers", "Kismet", "Funny Face" and "Damn Yankees". As the traditional musical genre started to decline, Donen concentrated on comedies such as "Once More with Feeling", "The Grass is Greener", "Two for the Road" and "Bedazzled". One of his biggest hits was the 1963 comedy thriller "Charade" starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, which can be described as the best Hitchcock movie not directed by Hitchcock. A similarly-themed spy thriller, "Arabesque" starring Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren, was not as well received. Donen had other artistic misfires in the course of his career including the big budget 1975 comedy "Lucky Lady" and he also directed, produced and wrote the 1969 poignant comedy "Staircase" starring Richard Burton and Rex Harrison as an aging gay couple. The film was ahead of its time in its sympathetic portrayal of a homosexual relationship. Surprisingly, Donen was never nominated for a directing Oscar but the Academy awarded him a lifetime achievement honor in 1998. For more click here.
Robert Vaughn and Paul Newman in the 1974 blockbuster "The Towering Inferno", nominated for Best Picture.
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Movie fans have complained for many years that the Academy is increasingly focusing on nominating art house movies at the expense of blockbusters in the Best Picture Oscar category. The Washington Post investigates whether this is myth or reality and comes down on the side of the latter, providing charts and inflation-adjusted calculations to show that more than ever the Best Picture winners are generally not among the most popular with the public. But should they be? The Oscars are not supposed to be a popularity contest, though someone should tell the Academy that, given their botched lead up for plans for this year's telecast. Should a film get the Best Picture Oscar simply because it is a huge boxoffice success? The Academy was aware of its members honoring smaller art house films and in 2009 made the controversial decision to expand the nominations for Best Picture from five to up to ten. Purists said this was just a disingenuous way to include populist fare without really having to actually vote for it. But Oscar may be getting a raw deal. In the past, the Academy gave Best Picture Oscars to such popular successes as "The Greatest Show on Earth" and "Around the World in 80 Days" and nominated such blockbusters as "Jaws", "E.T.", "Star Wars" and "The Towering Inferno" even when the Best Picture category was relegated to only five films. Click here to read the article and form your own opinion.
Adventures of Hajji Baba,” a 1954 Walter Wanger production for Allied Artists
Pictures and 20th Century Fox, has been issued by Twilight Time in a Blu-ray
limited edition of 3,000 units.At the
time of its theatrical release, the film was a commercially successful entry in
the popular 1950s formula of swashbuckling romances about the legendary Middle
East of Sinbad, Ali Baba, and the Arabian Nights.In today’s post-9/11 world, when the American
public is more aware of the region’s grim reality, the Arabian Nights genre
survives, just barely, in rare efforts like “Disney’s Aladdin” and the “Prince
of Persia” video-game franchise.
the 1954 movie, Hajji Baba (John Derek), a young Persian barber, sets out to
make his fortune in the wider world.Meanwhile, across town in the Caliph’s palace, spoiled Princess Fawzia
(Elaine Stewart) wants to marry an ambitious neighboring prince, Nur-el-Din
(Paul Picerni).Her father objects,
having heard about Nur-el-Din’s cruel temper.“Think of all the wives he’s had, and how he’s treated them,” he warns.“No one can hold him.” Undeterred, the
headstrong Fawzia disguises herself as a boy and sneaks out to meet the
prince’s emissary at a nearby oasis.There, she encounters Hajji, whom she mistakes for the courier.She offers him a valuable emerald ring for
help in evading her father’s pursuit.
the two proceed together across the desert, they’re captured by a gang of lady
bandits led by the red-haired Banah (Amanda Blake), and eventually they realize
that they’ve fallen in love with each other.Escaping from Banah, the pair fall into the hands of Nur-el-Din, who
exercises his prior claim on Fawzia’s affections.Surrounded and outnumbered by the prince’s
armed retinue, and believing that it’s Fawzia’s preference anyway, Hajji
relinquishes the princess to Nur-el-Din in exchange for the ring that had been
promised to him earlier.Irked, Fawzia
rides off with the prince, who secretly orders two of his soldiers to ride
back, kill Hajji, and retrieve the ring . . .
of the time were inclined to dismiss Arabian Nights escapism of this sort, as
modern reviewers do every time a new Dwayne Johnson or Mark Wahlberg action
picture debuts.In his New York times
review, Bosley Crowther suggested that the movie needed “someone in it like Bob
Hope to kid and lampoon the ostentation of its lush Oriental gewgawry.”But most middle-class audiences were less
exacting, and looked only for “The Adventures of Hajji Baba” to provide a
couple of hours’ relaxation from the grind of work and school.The kids could enjoy the widescreen swordplay
and horseback chases, Mom might think tingly thoughts about John Derek, and Pop
could ogle Amanda Blake, Elaine Stewart, and the numerous other starlets in the
cast in their skimpy harem girl costumes.That was about as racy as Hollywood products got in those days.Compared with the boxy, black-and-white image
that moviegoers were used to watching at home on TV, the film’s sumptuous
CinemaScope, Color by De Luxe photography was sensational stuff.
2.55:1 widescreen aspect and rich color are beautifully transferred on the
Twilight Time Blu-ray, a welcome upgrade from the pan-and-scan print of the
film that airs now and then on cable’s Fox Movie Channel.Modern viewers may be put off that the Arab
and Farsi characters are played by actors whose accents are more Parsippany,
New Jersey than Persia, but that was standard practice for the day, and even
today’s Millennials will have to admit, if they’re honest, that the
old-fashioned romance between Hajji and the willful Fawzia isn’t much more
contrived than the plot of the average confection today on the Hallmark Movie
Channel, or for that matter the tortuous complications on “reality” TV’s “The
Bachelor.”Fans of ‘50s lounge music are
likely to be amused by the title tune that wends its way through the soundtrack
-- music by Dimitri Tiomkin, lyrics by Ned Washington, arrangement by Nelson
Riddle, and vocal by Nat “King” Cole.The music and effects are isolated on an alternate audio track on the
Twilight Time disc.Other extras are the
original theatrical trailer, SDH subtitles, and an informative insert-booklet
by the reliable Julie Kirgo.The Blu-ray
is available HERE.
first question you are probably asking is “Do we need another book about Hammer
films?” Speaking as someone whose Hammer shelf is already groaning with the
weight of so many volumes on the company, the answer, as far as Hammer Complete
is concerned, is “Absolutely.” This book, coming in at nearly 1000 pages, is a
lifetime achievement for journalist Howard Maxford, and one that deserves
immense praise. Unlike other books which might focus specifically on the horror
films, or the posters, or the ups and downs of the company itself, here Maxford
has attempted to provide a complete encyclopedia of everything and everyone
connected to Hammer. From Temple Abady (who appeared in Never Look Back in
1952) and The Abominable Snowman (1957) to Murial Zillah (Danger List, 1957)
and Marc Zuber (The Satanic Rites of Dracula, 1974), no Hammer stone has been
left unturned or contributor ignored.
many books of this type which are little more than a collection of facts
cribbed from Wikipedia and the Internet Movie Database, Maxford has conducted
many interviews over the years with Hammer stars including Christopher Lee
himself, which means there is plenty of new and insightful material here
alongside his primary research and original reviews of the films themselves.
The entry on Lee is spread over six pages, where his career is discussed at
length including his well-known frustration with the decline in quality of the
Dracula films; of Scars of Dracula (1970) he complained, “I was a pantomime
villain. Everything was over the top, especially the giant bat whose
electrically motored wings flapped with slow deliberation as if it were doing
morning exercises.” Likewise, his frequent co-star Peter Cushing gets a
similarly lengthy entry, as do many of the other key players such as regular
character actor Michael Ripper, director Terence Fisher, producer James
Carreras, writer-director Jimmy Sangster and script supervisor Renee Glynne,
who first worked for the company in 1947 and was still present when they went to
Hong Kong to make The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires and Shatter (both 1974).
is fair in his assessment of the films themselves, discussing at length those
which have become legendary - the triumvirate of The Curse of
Frankenstein (1957) Dracula (1958) and The Mummy (1959) in particular - as well
as being fair to those films often derided or ignored, including my personal
favourite; Slave Girls (also known as Prehistoric Women, 1968), made primarily
to reuse all those fur bikinis left over from One Million Years B.C. (1966).
may have a high price tag, but Hammer Complete is a huge, well-researched
reference book that no Hammer aficionado should be without.
probably fair to say that a great deal of music that surfaced from the Spaghetti
Western genre eventually merged to become something of a cliché. Clearly
inspired by the Morricone sound and style, many of the scores came to bear the
same signature traits and failed to obtain any real, individual identity. In
short, it became an elaborate mixing bowl in which the finished results were
served up as individual, but very familiar servings.
some respects, one could argue the same for Gianni Ferrio’s Un Dollaro Bucato
(One Silver Dollar) (1965). Also released as Blood for a Silver Dollar, producer
Bruno Turchetto was quick to jump on the whole ‘Dollar’ bandwagon. Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars had only been in the can for a year, so the genre was both
fresh and ripe for harvesting.
film’s soundtrack began life rather quietly; it was first released as a single
on the Fonit label in 1965 and featured the song ‘‘A Man... A Story’’ performed
by genre regular Fred Bongusto and was coupled with an instrumental version
performed by the Ferrio orchestra. The single was re-released in Japan by King
Records, where the film was received well. Philips also released it in Japan as
part of an EP containing A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More and Django,
so the music was certainly keeping good company – and deservedly so.
the obvious influences, there’s certainly no denying, Un Dollaro Bucato remains
a terrific score. Ferrio’s music is fluid and doesn’t just root itself firmly within
the western genre. In fact, certain cues wouldn’t sound out of place in a spy
thriller - another genre that was finding its feet with the emerging Bond
franchise. Aside from the more regular, stylistic western cues, there’s plenty
of mystery and tension, and Ferrio makes great use of brass horns to build the
drama. So yes, Morricone inspired for sure, but there’s also a great deal more.
Screen Records have chosen well. Ferrio’s Un Dollaro Bucato remains a hugely
popular title. In more recent times, cues have found their way into Quentin
Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009), and been featured in the Red Dead
Revolver video game series. Silva Screen has created a stunning vinyl package
containing 21 beautifully produced tracks. It’s a stand out example, and obvious
that a great deal of thought has gone into this project. Not only does the
sleeve contain some creative, new artwork, but at the same time it maintains
the retro style reflective of the much loved 60s genre. Best of all perhaps is
the 12” platter, an eye catching piece pressed in a stylish silver & red
coloured vinyl, an element which ties in rather perfectly with the ‘silver’ and
‘blood ‘of the film’s alternative title. It’s a shimmering example of how vinyl
can (and should) be produced for the ongoing revival. Long may it continue to
The art of still photography has played an important role in the promotion of motion pictures since the inception of the medium. However, most photographers who capture the images on set labor in anonymity. It has only been in the last few decades that studios even identified the photographers of publicity photos by name on the press materials that are so widely distributed. As readers of Cinema Retro know, we have long promoted appreciation of the stills photographers and have showcased their work in our magazine. This is why we are quite excited by a new book, "Through Her Lens" (published by ACC Art Books) by Eva Sereny, who broke through a glass ceiling when she started capturing on set images in the 1960s in what was a male-dominated profession. Sereny had an exotic background: she was born of Hungarian parents in London, moved to Italy and took up photography before returning to London where, on a whim, she submitted some sample photos and ended up being hired by legendary publicist Gordon Arnell as a "Special Photographer" on the set of Mike Nichols' "Catch-22". In this capacity, Sereny differed from the unit stills photographer who was employed by the studio throughout the shoot. Instead, Sereny had independence and freedom to capture only those moments that intrigued her most. Her work revealed an astonishing intimacy whether it was photographing posed subjects or candid moments between takes. As Sereny's reputation grew, she gained greater access to interesting movie productions, though she still often had to contend with tempestuous stars. She initially annoyed Raquel Welch but years later the iconic star befriended her. On the set of "Last Tango in Paris", Marlon Brando forbade her from photographing him but ultimately relented and gave her complete artistic freedom to shoot him even when he was unawares.
Marlon Brando lights up director Bernardo Bertolucci on the set of "Last Tango in Paris".
Kate Capshaw, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Harrison Ford on the set of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade".
On "The Assassination of Trotsky", she had to tread carefully to photograph Elizabeth Taylor, who was visiting Richard Burton on the set. More pleasant was her experiences on the set of three Indiana Jones movies, including taking an iconic publicity photo of Harrison Ford and Sean Connery in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade". There are craggy veterans such as John Huston and Richard Harris, hunky guys like Warren Beatty, Robert Redford and Michael Caine and elegant glamour symbols such as Audrey Hepburn, Barbara Bach and Jacqueline Bisset. (Bisset, along with Charlotte Rampling, provides a foreword for the book.) The volume is divided into chapters each dedicated to a film or a personality with Sereny providing anecdotes about her experience on the production. Other stars such as Clint Eastwood and Paul Newman are photographed in their private lives but no less remarkably than Sereny would have done on a film set. The book's large size, hardback format and superb reproductions of so many remarkable photos make this a "must" for retro movie lovers.
Last September, Time Life released the ultimate Robin Williams video set. Here is the official press release:
"You know that cartoon, that Tasmanian devil that comes
out and just spins --
he was that, but eloquent and hilarious."
-- Billy Crystal
"He was like something waiting to happen...a very
-- Steve Martin
"Everybody else prepared, Robin was just a natural...
and he worked on every level."
-- Jay Leno
THIS SEPTEMBER, JOIN TIME LIFE FOR THE
DEFINITIVE DVD COLLECTION CELEBRATING
THE COMEDY CAREER OF A BELOVED ICON
ROBIN WILLIAMS: COMIC
Across 22 DVDs and 50+ Hours, the Electrifying Comic Lights
Up the Room in This Ultimate, One-of-a-Kind Compendium Spanning 40 Years
on TV, Including All Five HBO Stand-Up Specials Together for the Very
First Time, Never-Before-Released Performances and Backstage Footage, Talk Show
and Late Night Appearances, Rare Archival Clips, Brand New Interviews Featuring
Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, Jay Leno, Martin Short, Pam Dawber, Lewis
Black, and Zak Williams, a Collectible Memory Book Featuring Archival
Photos, Robin's Tour Notes, and More!
FAIRFAX, VA (September 25, 2018) - Robin Williams was a
generational talent, graced with comedic brilliance, rapid-fire improvisation,
and a deep well of warmth and compassion that translated to every role he
inhabited. From his breakout role in ABC's Mork & Mindy to his Academy
Award®-winning performance in Good Will Hunting, the iconic actor displayed an
inimitable artistry that made him beloved by millions. This September, join
Time Life, in conjunction with the Trustees of the Robin Williams Trust, in
celebrating the incomparable career of the singularly innovative actor with ROBIN
WILLIAMS: COMIC GENIUS.
Available exclusively at RobinWilliams.com
beginning September 25th, this definitive collection of Williams' comedy
highlights arrives as interest in his life and career increases in the wake of
HBO's critically acclaimed documentary, Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind
from Emmy® Award-winning director Marina Zenovich and Oscar-winning producer
Alex Gibney, and Dave Itzkoff's biography Robin, a New York Times best-seller.
Celebrating the actor's memorable 40-year career, from his uproarious turn as
loveable alien Mork and his legendary HBO stand-up specials to his numerous
appearances on late night, this handsome, 22-disc collection, housed in deluxe
All five HBO stand-up specials together for the very first
time, including Off the Wall (1978), An Evening with Robin Williams (1983), An
Evening at the MET (1986), Live on Broadway (2002) and Weapons of Self
Never-before-released concert specials, including Robin's
full MGM Grand Garden stand-up from 2007 and the Montreal stop on his last
tour, a conversation on stage between Williams and comedian David Steinberg
Memorable talk show and late night TV appearances on The
Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Oprah
Winfrey Show, The Graham Norton Show, Saturday Night Live and more
Rare, never-before-seen clips including early stand-up, raw
footage from HBO's promo shoots, a hilarious toast to Richard Pryor by Robin as
Mrs. Doubtfire, and more
Brand new interviews with close friends and family including
Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, Jay Leno, Eric Idle, David Steinberg, Lewis Black
and Zak Williams
11 hilarious episodes of Mork & Mindy, including the
James Lipton's Emmy® Award-nominated 90-minute interview with
Robin on Inside the Actors Studio, plus deleted scenes
A comprehensive collection of Robin's USO shows around the
Original and newly created bonus features including
behind-the-scenes footage, local highlights from tour stops, promos and more.
Featurettes include: The Early Years, San Francisco: Where It All Started, Comic
Genius, and TV's Best Guest
Critically acclaimed 2018 HBO documentary, Robin Williams:
Come Inside My Mind from Emmy® Award-winning director Marina Zenovich and
Oscar-winning producer Alex Gibney.
"Robin Williams: Uncensored", a collectible
24-page, full-color memory book featuring rare, archival photos from
award-winning photographer Arthur Grace, reminiscences from friends and
colleagues, Robin's personal tour notes and more.
Uncensored, electric, intense and unfailingly hilarious,
Williams made it his life's work to make people laugh--whether he was holding
forth on culture, politics, the human body or drugs--with razor-sharp wit and
insight. As his long-time friend Billy Crystal said, "In the 40 odd years
he was in front of us, especially on television, he never let you down. He was
always funny, he always did something new." And, in unforgettable ways,
ROBIN WILLIAMS: COMIC GENIUS reveals and celebrates the wide range of his incredible
talents like never before.
The stars arrive in Honolulu to commence filming on the screen adaptation of James Jones' best-selling novel "From Here to Eternity". The resulting film would win Best Picture of 1953 at the Oscars and gain Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress wins for Frank Sinatra (whose career was saved by his role in the movie) and Donna Reed. (Left to right: Frank Sinatra, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Burt Lancaster, James Jones and director Fred Zinnemann.)
Adventures of Robin Hood,” which aired on CBS from 1955 to 1959, was an early
example of a television series produced in the U.K. and imported by an American
network into U.S. living rooms with great success -- a forerunner of numerous
hit shows to follow from across the Atlantic, including “The Avengers,” “Secret
Agent/ Danger Man”, too many “PBS Masterpiece Theater” favorites to list, and
more recently “Downton Abbey.”It was
also an early example, replicated as well by “Downton Abbey,” of a popular TV
series leveraged into a big-screen theatrical movie.The year after “The Adventures of Robin Hood”
ended its U.S. network run, its producer Sidney Cole and star Richard Greene
created a feature-film version, “Sword of Sherwood Forest,” in partnership with
Hammer Studios, for release here through Columbia Pictures.Although supporting roles were recast, Greene
returned as Robin, and some principals from the series’ production crew were
reunited as well.Director of
Photography Ken Hodges returned, the screenplay was provided by Alan Hackney,
who had scripted many of the episodes of the series, and the director was
Terence Fisher, already a Hammer veteran, who had directed several series
episodes.Media historians tend to
characterize the TV and theatrical movie industries in the 1950s and early ‘60s
as bitter rivals for viewership, but the two industries in fact often enjoyed a
friendlier synergy of mutual convenience.In the case of “Sword of Sherwood Forest,” the popularity of the earlier
series provided theaters with a built-in audience for the movie.In turn, the film reminded fans to watch for
the syndicated reruns of the TV show, which continued to be broadcast on local
stations well into the 1970s.
the movie, which has been released on Blu-ray from Twilight Time in a limited
edition of 3,000 units, a well-dressed, badly wounded man flees into Sherwood
Forest, escaping from a posse led by the Sheriff of Nottingham (Peter
Cushing).Through Maid Marian (Sarah
Branch), the sheriff approaches Robin Hood with the offer of a pardon if he’ll
turn over the wounded fugitive, but Robin refuses.He knows, even if Marian has yet to learn,
although she quickly does, that the offer of clemency from his old enemy the
sheriff “isn’t worth the breath he uses to make the promise.”The fugitive eventually dies from his wound,
but not before passing along a brooch stamped with a mysterious emblem, and
mentioning the name of a town, Bawtry.Leaving Little John (Nigel Green) to lead the Merry Men in his absence,
Robin investigates with the help of Marian and Friar Tuck (Niall McGinnis). Gradually,
they uncover a plot involving the charming but secretive Earl of Newark
(Richard Pasco), his henchman the sheriff, an attempted land grab, a visit by
the Archbishop of Canterbury, and plans to carry out a high-level assassination
if the land grab fails.
Kino Lober is releasing a number of value-priced Blu-ray double features with similarly-themed films. Among them is the combo of "Betsy's Wedding" and "Holy Matrimony". The first movie is a 1990 release starring and directed by Alan Alda, who had directed three previous feature films. Anyone who has been involved in planning a wedding knows that the old adage "The more the merrier!" rings hollow. In fact, the logistics of planning a wedding can become increasingly complicated and frustrating in direct correlation with the number of well-meaning people who decide to involve themselves. There's always the risk that the betrothed couple will be overwhelmed by logistics and that the wedding plans are catered to please everyone but them. Such is the case in "Betsy's Wedding". Alda is cast as Eddie Hopper, a successful real estate speculator who invests money in building homes that he hopes to sell for a quick profit. Lately, however, his instincts have been troublesome and his latest venture is proving to be a white elephant that is draining his savings. At the same time, his youngest daughter Betsy (Molly Ringwald) and her boyfriend Jake (Dylan Walsh) announce they intend to get married. Both are left-wing progressives who are also social activists who disdain blatant displays of wealth. They want a low-key civil ceremony with only a handful of guests. However, Eddie and his wife Lola (Madeline Kahn) argue that a much grander, traditional wedding is called for so as not to offend family members. Their resistance worn down, Betsy and Jake reluctant concede, which opens a Pandora's Box of bad luck for all involved. Eddie can't afford to put on the wedding he has lobbied for so he turns to his brother-in-law Oscar (Joe Pesci), a slimy business "tycoon" who, in reality, is also short of cash. Since he can't find the money to lend Eddie for the wedding, he introduces him to a local mob boss, Georgie (Burt Young), who puts up the funds but then integrates himself into Eddie's life and plans for the wedding. A parallel story line centers on Eddie and Lola's other daughter Connie (Ally Sheedy), a New York City police officer who is stuck in a perpetual mode of depression, shying away from people and bruised by the fact that her younger sister will marry before she does. She is elevated from the blues by Georgie's bodyguard Stevie Dee (Anthony Lapaglia), a slick mobster who sounds like Rocky Balboa on steroids but who curiously speaks to everyone with excessive politeness. Has is obsessed with Connie and slowly but surely succeeds in wooing her into coming out of her shell. As the wedding date nears, the pressure mounts on everyone. Eddie's business dealings with George almost get him assassinated in an attempted mob hit, Betsy and Jake are barely on speaking terms and on the wedding day and a torrential rain storm threatens to collapse the large tent structure the reception is being held in. Eddie receives solace from imaginary conversations with his dear, departed father (Joey Bishop).
"Besty's Wedding" was not well-received by critics or audiences back in the day and proved to be the final feature film to date directed by Alan Alda. Yet, I found it to be consistently funny and Alda excels as both actor and director, milking maximum laughs from an inspired cast. The scene-stealer is Lapaglia, one of the few cast members to receive kudos from reviewers. His sensitive tough guy routine is both amusing and endearing. The film isn't hilarious at any point but it's never less than entertaining, as you might imagine any movie that teams Joe Pesci and Burt Young would be.
"Holy Matrimony" was unceremoniously dumped by Disney into a handful of theaters in 1994 before being relegated to home video. It's total theatrical gross in North America was about $700,000. As with "Betsy's Wedding", it was directed by a popular actor, in this case Leonard Nimoy. Ironically, just as "Betsy's Wedding" represented Alda's last direction (to date) of a feature film, so too did "Holy Matrimony" mark Nimoy's last directorial effort on the big screen. The premise is hardly original, centering on a protagonist who seeks shelter in a religious community to evade pursuers. This plot device dates back to the 1940s with John Wayne in "Angel and the Badman" and its unacknowledged 1984 remake "Witness". Here we find Patricia Arquette as Havana, a sultry young woman from the other side of the tracks who is fed up with being exploited by performing provocative routines at a carnival tent located in a fairgrounds. She is paid a miserly wage by the owner who she comes to resent. She and her equally impoverished boyfriend Peter (Tate Donovan) rob the owner and flee in their car, but not before being identified. With the police searching for them, they cross into Canada and take refuge in an Amish-like religious colony where Peter was raised before leaving for the outside world. They pretend to want to immerse themselves in the rustic lifestyle but Havana's coarse nature and foul mouth make the elders suspicious of their motives. Peter hides the cache of stolen loot but before he can divulge its location to Havana, he is killed in an automobile accident. The colony elders view this as a way to get rid of Havana by informing her that customs dictate that she must marry Peter's brother, in this case twelve year-old Ezekiel (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). However, Havana- who needs to stay until she can locate the stash of hidden money- agrees to the arrangement, much to the shock of all involved- especially young Ezekiel who is appalled at having to be married at such a young age. The film deftly handles the possible distasteful elements of this reverse "Lolita" situation by making it clear that both husband and wife sleep in separate rooms. The one funny sex gag involves Ezekiel trying to impress his friends that he is satisfying his new wife only to have the scenario backfire much to his embarrassment when it is revealed he is actually in the bedroom alone.
Much of what follows is predictable. As with all movie plots in which the male and female protagonists start off hating each other, there is no doubt that Havana and Ezekiel will grow to respect and like each other, with Havana acting more like a big sister than a wife. Once the money is located, Havana is told to accompany Ezekiel back to the States to return the loot to its rightful owner. What follows is a road trip in which the two share plenty of personal thoughts and have to avoid a corrupt FBI agent (John Schuck), who is hot on their trail, determined to steal the money for himself. The story climaxes back at the state fair where Havana originally worked. She's now determined to return the stolen money, all the while trying to evade the police and the FBI guy who are hot on her trail. Director Nimoy capably blends both sentiment and comedy during the course of the film, though the movie's main attributes are the performances by Arquette and especially young Gordon-Levitt who shows star power even at this early stage of his career. There is also a very fine performance by Armin-Mueller Stahl as the elder of the religious community. Refreshingly, the film doesn't mock or humiliate the members of the religious colony. Rather, it is "fish-out-of-water" Havana who bears the brunt of most of the humor. While "Holy Matrimony" is nothing very special, it does seem to have suffered an undeserved fate by being released to only a small number of theaters. It is certainly on par with most mid-range comedies but apparently Disney felt it had very little boxoffice appeal.
The Kino Lorber Blu-ray combo features very fine transfers of both films and includes their original trailers. Recommended.
The YouTube page "A Word on Entertainment" features host Rob Word's interview with actress Rosemary Forsyth, who recalls filming the under-rated 1965 film "The War Lord" starring Charlton Heston and Richard Boone.
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST ARTICLES FROM CINEMA RETRO'S ARCHIVES
By Lee Pfeiffer
Sony has released the 1955 crime drama 5 Against the House as a burn-to-order DVD. The little-remembered film is interesting on a number of levels and boasts an impressive, eclectic cast. The low-budget flick depicts four young ex-G.I.s who fought in Korea who return to the States and enroll in college. Al (Guy Madison) is a straight-as-an-arrow type who is engaged to sultry nightclub singer Kay (Kim Novak). Ronnie (Kerwin Matthews) is a brainy upstart with delusions of grandeur and a superiority complex. Roy (Alvy Moore) is an affable joker who is very much a follower, not a leader. Brick (Brian Keith) is the most troubled of the group. He bares psychological problems from his combat experience and has a hair-trigger temper. The guys' only vices are taking an occasional trip to Reno, Nevada and engaging in some minor gambling and womanizing. However, Ronnie concocts an audacious plan to prove he can outwit the authorities and rob a casino. He suggest that the plan be put into operation with the intention of returning the money to the casino after the fact. Ronnie wants to build his ego, not his bank account. Roy and Brick sign on to the plan, but when Al balks, Brick's anger comes through. He threatens his friends with a gun and forces them to pull off the incredible scheme. The film, deftly directed by Phil Karlson, makes effective use of on location shooting in Reno at a place called Harold's Casino. The movie works best as a character study and the performances are all first-rate, with the exception of Madison, who is a bit of a stiff in the lead role. Novak is her usual sexy self and Keith, long-underrated for his dramatic capabilities, gives a powerful performance. The film is one of the earliest to take a sympathetic look at the emotional toll war takes on returning veterans. 5 Against the House is engaging throughout and although it is unremarkable in the long run, it represents the kind of overlooked gems that the burn-to-order DVD format is rescuing from complete obscurity.
An original trailer is included.
Click here to order from the Cinema Retro Movie Store.
If you’ve ever read one of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan
novels, you know that there has always been a big difference between Tarzan as
he is in the movies versus Tarzan in the books. For some reason Hollywood has
never really been able to get the character exactly right. As much fun as the
Johnny Weissmuller and Lex Barker Tarzan movies are, for example, they really
didn’t get close to Burroughs’ concept of the ape man. The real Tarzan didn’t
speak Pidgin English for one thing. He actually spoke fluent English and French.
He was as at home in an English Tea Room as the son of a British Lord, as he
was in the prehistoric land of Pal-ul-don. While the movies showed Tarzan as
protector of the animals, and friends with cute chimpanzees, in the books
Burroughs present a world where death usually came on four feet, although man
was often the most treacherous enemy. It was a jungle out there, and it was
survival of the fittest, baby.
In 2016, Warner Bros. attempted to restart the Tarzan
series with the $180 million “The Legend of Tarzan.” The film made double its
budget at the box office worldwide, but it didn’t excite audiences or studio
heads enough to continue with a sequel. So it looks like Tarzan will be on
sabbatical for a while. Part of the reason for the film’s failure was the
script’s presentation of Tarzan. They got the outer dimensions of the character
right, but included too many politically correct ideas that weakened the
Burroughs concept. For one thing, Tarzan lost too many fights, with both humans
and apes. You don’t get to be King of the Jungle by losing fights. But I think
it was the total reliance on CGI to create Tarzan’s Africa that was the main
reason for the film’s failure. Except for the occasional aerial footage shot
over the jungles of Gabon, the entire film was shot on sound stages in England.
The movie lacked the reality that a fantasy like Tarzan needs to be believable.
Which brings me to the subject of this review. In the
opinion of most true Tarzan fans there has only ever been one Tarzan film that
really captures what Tarzan is all about. It’s not perfect, but it’s probably
the closest they’ll ever get. In 1959, producer Sy Weintraub took over the
Tarzan franchise from Sol Lesser after it was moved to Paramount Pictures.
Weintraub injected the series with new energy and new ideas. He wanted to make
an “adult” Tarzan flick and he wanted to shoot on location in Kikuyu, Kenya.
He hired a top flight cast of British actors to play the
villains in the piece. Anthony Quayle, whose acting experience ranged from
potboilers to Shakespeare, was cast as the main villain, Slade, an escaped con
and old enemy of Tarzan. Next up, none other than 007 himself, Sean Connery, in
an early role as O’Bannion, a tough Irish gunman, who, being too young for the
Irish Rebellion, decides there are no causes worth fighting for because “They
don’t pay well.” Next is Nial MacGiniss as Kruger, a German diamond expert who
doesn’t want to be reminded of the old days of the Third Reich. Al Muloch plays
Dino, captain of the boat the gang is riding up river, who has a strange
attachment to a locket he wears around his neck. And finally, Italian actress
Scilla Gabel as Toni, Slade’s girl. There’s plenty of internal conflict and
tension among these five on board a small jungle boat as it makes its way up
river to a diamond mine.
The film starts with the theft of explosives from a
compound run by a doctor friend of Tarzan’s. The gang needs the gelignite to
excavate a diamond mine located upriver, just north of Tarzan’s tree house. It’s
interesting to note that the script by Berne Giler is based on a story written
by Les Crutchfield, a veteran writer who wrote 81 Gunsmoke radio scripts, and
was himself an explosives expert and a mining engineer before he started
writing. Explosives figure prominently in the plot.
I have to admit that I hadn't a clue as to what Intruder in the Dust was about until I viewed the DVD released through the Warner Archive. The film is a powerful indictment of the horrors of racism, filmed by MGM during a period when the American Civil Rights Movement was just beginning to heat up. We have a tendency to accuse Hollywood studios of relegating African-American actors to being mere window dressing in films of this era, or worse, casting them as comic relief in often degrading ways. However, this 1949 achievement should be much higher on the radar of retro movie lovers. While most studio productions steered clear of the problem of racism in the American South during the period when segregation was still law, this excellent film addresses the issue head-on. There were some talented people who brought the story to the screen in 1949. Esteemed director Clarence Brown was behind the camera and the screenplay was written by the great Ben Maddow, based on a novel by William Faulkner.
The film was shot on location in Oxford, Mississippi and centers on
the murder of a local white businessman who was shot in the back. The
prime suspect is Lucas (Juano Hernandez), a middle-aged black farmer who
has incurred the wrath of local bigots because he is proud and
independent and fails to take on the subserviant persona of the "good
Negro". Causing more resentment is the fact that Lucas owns his own
farm, a prime piece of land that invokes jealousy from less successful
local whites. Lucas maintains his calm demeanor even when he is jailed
and is awaiting the inevitable murder at the hands of a mob. His one
white friend comes to his aid: a teenager named Chick Mallison (Claude
Jarman Jr.). Chick convinces his uncle, lawyer John Stevens (David
Brian) to defend him. Stevens agrees because he doesn't want a murder
committed, but even he believes Lucas is guilty. He tells the seemingly
doomed man that he can't get a fair trial, that he doesn't believe he is
innocent and that he should have shown proper deference to the bigots
at all times. This attitude is what passed for enlightened thinking
during this period. Ultimately, Stevens becomes convinced that his
client is being framed and the plot turns to to who-dunnit as an oddball
group of progressives fights against time to find the real murderer
before Lucas is lynched or burned alive. The only whites in town who
will assist Stevens and Chick are an elderly woman (Elizabeth Patterson)
and the local sheriff (Will Geer), who has a condescending attitude
towards blacks but is courageous enough to stand up to the worst
elements of the population.
The first issue of Cinema Retro's 15th season (#43) has now been mailed to subscribers around the globe. Thanks to our loyal readers, the world's most unique film magazine is entering another exciting year with every issue packed with the kind of coverage of classic cinema that you've come to expect. (Issue #44 will ship in April/May and issue #45 ships in September/October.) Our kickoff issue for the new season features the following:
Tribute to the 50th anniversary of the James Bond classic "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" starring George Lazenby: a five-page photo feature packed with rare images, some never published before.
"Mackenna's Gold"- a look back fifty years on at the much-hyped big budget fiasco that has a fascinating back story.. This major article by Dave Worrall and Lee Pfeiffer is the most comprehensive ever written about the troubled production that starred Gregory Peck, Omar Sharif,Telly Savalas and an all star cast.
Cai Ross provides an exclusive interview with director Peter Medak, who recalls the little-seen Peter Sellers pirate comedy "Ghost in the Noonday Sun" and relates the maddening experience of working with the volatile comedy genius.
Dawn Dabell covers the 1966 British coming-of-age comedy "The Family Way", which allowed Hayley Mills her first adult role in a scathing comedy about coming of age during the sexual revolution.
Brian Davdison looks back on the controversial "Assault", which is regarded as Britain's only true giallo.
Nick Anez analyzes director Robert Aldrich's bizarre-but-gripping Depression era crime drama "The Grissom Gang".
Gareth Owen examines the clues in the making of "Sleuth" starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine at Pinewood Studios
Brian Davidson pays tribute to actress Virginia Maskell, whose career and life were tragically short, but very impressive.
John V. Watson takes a nightmarish journey back to 1971 to examine the release of numerous high profile films that were extremely violent. Among them: "A Clockwork Orange", "Get Carter", "Villain", "Dirty Harry", "Straw Dogs" and "The Devils".
Plus Raymond Benson's "Cinema 101" column, Darren Allison's news about the latest soundtrack releases and our extensive reviews of new Blu-ray and DVD releases.
Help keep the dream of celebrating the greatest period in film history alive andin print format by subscribing or renewing today!
Finney with Audrey Hepburn in Stanley Donen's "Two for the Road".
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Albert Finney, who rose to fame and acclaim as one of Britain's generation of actors known as "Angry Young Men", has died at age 82. A chest infection was cited as cause of death. Finney was among an exciting new generation of British actors who burst upon the scene in the 1950s and 1960s, reaping critical praise for their realistic portrayals often of troubled men who were being constrained by socio-economic conditions that afflicted the lower income class in post-War Britain. His star-making role came in director Karl Reisz's "kitchen sink" classic, the 1960 film "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning" which reflected the frustrations of the working class. Finney called upon his real life experiences growing up in Northwest England under somewhat spartan living conditions.
As a newly-minted star, he screen tested for director David Lean for the title role of "Lawrence of Arabia" but Finney didn't want to sign a five picture deal with the film's producer Sam Speigel. Peter O'Toole took the role and became a major name in international cinema. Finney was somewhat opaque compared to other young actors that emerged in the UK in the 1960s. He wasn't the publicity seeker that Richard Burton was, nor was he the hard-drinking, towel snapping joker Richard Harris was. He was thought by some critics to have not achieved his full promise on stage or screen, despite having been nominated for five Oscars and thirteen BAFTAs. (He won two of the latter.) Finney was a remote figure in a publicity-hungry industry. He rarely gave interviews and was often cynical about the shallowness of fame. He refused to attend any of the ceremonies at which he was nominated. Perhaps his best-loved role was in "Tom Jones", the 1963 screen adaptation of Henry Fielding's bawdy comedic novel. Yet, Finney's work on the big screen was spotty. He didn't work very frequently and sometimes chose projects that were not especially successful at the boxoffice. His more prominent films include "Murder on the Orient Express", "Erin Brockovich", "Two for the Road", "The Victors", "Scrooge", "Wolfen", "Shoot the Moon", "Annie", "Traffic", "The Bourne Ultimatum" and "The Bourne Legacy". He was off screen for a number of years while he waged a successful battle against cancer. His final role was a memorable one: as Kincade, the grumpy old farmer and boyhood friend of James Bond in the 2012 blockbuster "Skyfall". For more click here.
In the Hollywood Reporter, David Weiner interviews director Philip Kaufman about his brilliant, 1978 re-imagined interpretation of Don Siegel's classic 1956 sci-fi film "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". Kaufman's version was every bit the equal to the original, although the films are substantially different. Kaufman reflects back on the making of the movie and its sad significance in today's society. Click here to read.
Ian Fleming’s rise from newspaper journalist to worldwide
best-selling author was not all jet-setting glamor. In the early 1960s,
with the Bond literary series well underway, Fleming was involved in a grueling
legal battle regarding his novel, Thunderball – which later became the
record-breaking 1965 EON film. The strain of the trial may well have
contributed to Fleming’s death the following year at the relatively young age
Now the daughter of the original screenwriter, Jack Whittingham, has compiled a
unique chronology of the entire episode titled, appropriately enough, "The Thunderball Story". Sylvan Mason, an accomplished
writer and photographer in her own right, has produced a spiral-bound, limited
edition booklet of the behind-the-scenes battle that played out in British
courts in 1963 and gave producer Kevin McClory the right to remake the story,
eventually resulting in 1983’s Never Say Never Again.
Ms. Mason’s book reproduces a number of key documents and photographs,
including letters, a UK premiere ticket and headlines from newspapers of the
day. There is also a highly detailed timeline from 1959 to 2003,
encompassing all facets of the Thunderball story. All in all, it is a fascinating
look at one of the more obscure, but important aspects of the James Bond
Phenomenon – and given its limited edition status, once they’re gone, they’re
If you are a Bond collector, you can order a copy here:
In my review of Kino Lorber's Blu-ray release of the 1979 disaster film "Meteor", I observed that the disaster movie genre had peaked with the release of Irwin Allen's "The Towering Inferno" in 1974. Yet, that didn't stop studios from beating a dead horse in an attempt to squeeze some more juice out of the tried-and-true formula of gathering an all-star cast, then figuring out ways to drown, bury or incinerate the characters portrayed on screen. One of the more obscure attempts to keep the disaster film cycle relevant was "Avalanche", a movie produced by Roger Corman and directed and scripted by one of his proteges, Corey Allen, who would go on to establish a respectable career as a director of major television shows. When you approach a Corman production, you tend to give some special dispensation for certain cinematic sins that you wouldn't accord more mainstream productions. Corman, who happily embraces his legendary status as a man who made major profits from films with minor budgets, knew how to stretch the soup in the cinematic sense. Rarely armed with ample production funds, Corman cut corners whenever possible but still managed to retain a certain elegance to his productions. In 1978, he jumped on the fading disaster movie bandwagon with "Avalanche". He hired Rock Hudson as the leading man because Hudson, at this point in his career, realized that he was no longer a hot commodity as a boxoffice draw in feature films (although he did successfully transition to a popular presence on television.) Corman also cast Mia Farrow and respected supporting actor Robert Forster for additional name recognition. He secured permission to film at a major ski resort in Durango, Colorado and out-sourced the special effects work to a company called Excelsior!
The film follows the general formula of the disaster film genre in that the victims-to-be are gathered for a major social occasion, unaware that nature is working overtime to thwart their fun. Rock Hudson plays David Shelby, an arrogant developer who has invested his life savings to build a vacation paradise in the Rocky Mountains. He has disdain for local environmentalists who have warned him that his destruction of an an abundance of trees on his massive property has removed a natural barrier to the inevitable avalanches that will occur. Shelby is preoccupied with his grand opening festivities and is simultaneously trying to woo back his ex-wife Caroline (Mia Farrow), who is attending as his guest. He's also busy trying to entertain his sassy, wise-cracking mother, Florence (Jeanette Nolan), who is being shepherded around the resort by David's major domo Henry McDade (Steve Franken in a rare dramatic role.) Meanwhile, local environmental activist and nature photographer Nick Thorne (Robert Forster) becomes increasingly concerned about the massive buildup of snow on the mountain peaks that are directly in line with the resort. He attempts to alleviate some of the danger by strategically using a snow cannon to set off controlled mini avalanches. Intermingled with all of this are the expected subplots involving minor characters who are set up to be inevitable victims. Barry Primus is a TV sports announcer who is broadcasting from the grand opening and who must contend with the fact that his estranged wife Tina (Cathey Paine) is on premises and rubbing his nose in it by blatantly carrying on an affair with egotistical super star skier Bruce Scott (Rick Moses). Scott, in turn, is rubbing Tina's nose in it by blatantly sleeping with another woman, thus causing Tina to go ballistic and consider suicide. Meanwhile, David Shelby finds time to unwind by spending some quality time in a hot tub with with his naked secretary (thus allowing Roger Corman to slip in a bit of T&A). Although the story seems set up to have the disastrous avalanche occur during the opening night festivities, screenwriter Allen throws the audience a curve ball by avoiding that cliche and saving the action for the following afternoon when, amid a particularly vicious snow mobile race, a small plane piloted by one of Shelby's employees encounters bad weather and slams into a nearby mountain, thus triggering the avalanche. This is where the movie progresses beyond cliches and becomes unexpectedly enjoyable. All of the standard disaster movie shtick is present, as both lovable and loathsome characters meet predictable fates, but the film's limited production resources somehow work in its favor. We're well aware that we're watching a Corman production but somehow the inventiveness that is required to carry it all off is quite admirable. Certain plot points are introduced and inexplicably abandoned including an insinuation that Shelby has bribed local political officials to overlook his clear violation of environmental protection rules in order to build his resort. This was one of Rock Hudson's final films as an "above the title" leading man. He's grayer and a bit paunchier than we'd seen him during his heyday, but he still had star power to spare and made for a dashing leading man, whether its skinny dipping in the hot tub or personally leading rescue parties in acts of derring doo to extricate victims of the tragedy. The film's showpiece sequence is a climactic scene in which Shelby must rescue Caroline, who is dangling from wrecked bridge above a ravine. It's well-directed and genuinely suspenseful.
It' easy to pick apart a film like "Avalanche", as it squarely fits into the "guilty pleasure" category. However, the film does a lot with very little as opposed to other misfires in this genre that did very little with a lot (aka "The Swarm"). The Kino Lorber Blu-ray edition features the original trailer and a "making of" featurette in which Roger Corman extols the virtues of the film. He admits the effects were rather shoddy and recalls his outrage when he discovered the SFX company had added "red snow". Corman hit the roof and it was changed to a bluish substance that he admits still looks pretty phony. Robert Forster recalls that the "snow" was actually little pieces of plastic that were strewn by the hundreds of thousands over the scenic landscape. He remembers his dismay at the realization that none of these bits were biodegradable and many must still be contaminating the landscape of the Durango ski resort where the movie was filmed. Corman makes the claim that the film was actually a major financial success. He says his budget was only $1.7 million and that a TV sale for $2 million netted him an immediate $300,000 profit. The tale sounds a bit fanciful because it seems hard to believe that even in 1978 you could make a movie like this with three relatively big names for only $1.7 million. (Other sources give unsubstantiated estimates of the budget at around $6 million, which seems more plausible.) "Avalanche" is not near the top of the heap of disaster movies but it certainly doesn't rank at the bottom of the pack, either. The Kino Lorber release has an impressive transfer and the inclusion of those bonus extras make this title highly recommended for fans of this genre.
This ad appeared in Boxoffice magazine in April 1968 extolling the longevity of Fox's three big roadshow presentations. For the unenlightened, "roadshow" films were big budget productions that played in grand movie palaces in select cities. It could often be many months before these films came to neighborhood theaters nationwide. What is remarkable about this ad is that it illustrates that even after such films went "wide" to hundreds of other theaters, people still paid top dollar to enjoy seeing them in the roadshow presentations. Consider that "The Sound of Music" opened in 1965 and "The Sand Pebbles" and "The Bible" both opened in 1966. Yet, years later, the roadshow venues were still showing these films. Today, even blockbuster movies aren't in theaters very long because so much of the profit comes from a quick turnaround onto video and streaming services. However, in those days when movie theaters provided the only forum in which to see favorite blockbusters, fans would patronize theaters to see them repeatedly. This afforded them the opportunity to see the movies in their original versions, as studios often cut considerable footage when releasing them to local theaters.
Click here to order Cinema Retro's Movie Classics edition devoted to Roadshow movies of the 1960s.
Samuel Fuller's 1959 crime thriller "The Crimson Kimono" has been released as a Twilight Time limited edition (3,000 units) Blu-ray. The film finds Fuller in full "triple threat" mode as director, producer and screenwriter. It's also fits comfortably into Fuller's oeuvre in that it's an off-beat story with quirky, well-defined characters and relationships. Set in Los Angeles, the movie opens with the shocking cold-blooded murder of a popular stripper by an unseen assassin. As with the works of Hitchcock, Fuller dismisses the notion that there is safety in numbers, as the victim is killed while fleeing her pursuer through crowded streets. The killer gets away and the story introduces us to the detectives assigned to the case. They are Det. Sgt. Charlie Bancroft (Glenn Corbett) and his partner Det. Joe Kojaku (James Shigeta), two Korean War veterans who served together in combat and who are now chummy enough to share a fashionable bachelor pad. They discover that a local artist, Chris Downs (Victoria Shaw), had some interaction with the stripper and is aware of a suspicious man she associated with. When Chris's sketch of the suspect ends up on the front pages, she finds herself the target of a failed assassination attempt. Charlie and Joe suggest that she can be safely hidden away in their apartment. Naturally, sparks begin to fly considering the three principal characters are extremely attractive. Charlie finds himself falling hard for Chris, but she is unaware of his feelings. Meanwhile, she expresses her desires for Joe, who clearly wants to reciprocate but is hesitant to humiliate the love-struck Charlie. If all this sounds like a high school romance it must be said that under Fuller' assured direction, it is anything but. The scene in which Chris and Joe slowly and almost reluctantly admit to their mutual attraction is superbly written and enacted by Shaw and Shigeta and brims with sexual tension.
The murder mystery is clearly the MacGuffin here. It's mostly a catalyst to bring this love triangle to life. Fuller places most of the action in L.A.'s Little Tokyo community and the film concentrates on the character's interactions with the Japanese-American population. The most interesting character is Joe, who is Japanese-American. When we first see him he is confident, witty and charismatic, all traits that are shared by Charlie. The Butch and Sundance-like relationship goes into a nosedive after Joe confesses his love for Chris. Although clearly heartbroken, Charlie keeps his reaction restrained, only to have the guilt-ridden Joe accuse him of latent racism. He's wrong but can't be convinced otherwise. A lifetime of battling to be socially accepted in a predominantly white society has brought out his own paranoia and reverse racism. It all leads to a tension-packed conclusion that mingles the strained relationship between the three characters and a chase for the killer through an exotic parade celebrating Japanese culture that plays out in similar style to the Junkanoo sequence in "Thunderball".
There is much to commend about this film, which- like most Fuller productions- was shot on a modest budget in B&W with actual locations favored over studio sets. Perhaps Fuller didn't have the funds to rely heavily on sets and thus filmed on location. In any event, this tactic adds immeasurable grit and realism to his movies. Glenn Corbett is likable and fine in an understated performance, Victoria Shaw is excellent as the woman who innocently becomes the instrument that divides two good friends and James Shigeta, who along with Corbett made his screen debut with this film, shows the skills that would quickly elevate him to international stardom. Anna Lee is outstanding as "Mac", an aging artist with a gruff personality who swizzles hard liquor and smokes stogies while churning out comments like "A man is just a man, but a good cigar is a smoke!"
W. Murnau was one of the leading filmmakers of the German Expressionist
movement of the 1920s, most well-known for the first adaptation of Bram
Stoker’s Dracula—Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror (1922). He also spent a little time
in Hollywood in the late silent era, responsible for one of Tinsel Town’s great
silent pictures, Sunrise: A Song of Two
Humans (1927), which won the only Academy Award ever given for “Unique and
Expressionism is mostly defined by a stylized visual conceit that distorts
reality for an emotional effect. Highly-contrasted light and shadow play large
roles in the mode, as well as sharp, angular lines of design. The works of,
say, Tim Burton, could be said to be influenced by the school of German Expressionism.
Most of the films noir made in
Hollywood in the 1940s and 50s also harked back to the movement.
Video has released a double feature Blu-ray containing two lesser-known
pictures made by Murnau in Germany—The
Haunted Castle from 1921, which is more of a whodunnit melodrama than
anything resembling the paranormal or supernatural, and The Finances of the Grand Duke from 1924, a light comedy with some
espionage mixed in. The first concerns a revenge tale with some secret
identities and guilt-ridden angst. The second contains a plot that might be too
complicated for its own good, dealing with a likable dictator who wants to save
a tiny country from its creditors.
film is anything to write home about—they are both rather staid, slow, and,
is astonishing, though, is Kino Video’s miraculous restoration in 1920x1080p,
which presents the movies in such a pristine and gorgeous transfer that it’s
difficult to believe these pictures were made nearly a hundred years ago. Unfortunately,
there are no supplements or audio commentaries on the disk.
silent film and Murnau enthusiasts may very well find something here to savor. Studying
old movies embodies a little bit of time travel. There are good lessons
contained within that inform us of the manners, social sensibilities, and artistic
trends of the day. So little of this period’s work survives, and Kino should be
applauded for making it available.
When Olive Films released its highly impressive new special Blu-ray edition of the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", the initial run sold out before we even got around to promoting it. Due to overwhelming demand, however, Olive has made the title available again. Here are the details from Olive Films:
“They’re already here! You’re next!” With these chilling words, Invasion of
the BodySnatchers sounded a clarion call to the dangers of
conformity, paranoia, and mass hysteria at the heart of 1950s American life.
Considered one of the greatest science fiction films ever made, Invasion of
the Body Snatchers stars Kevin McCarthy (Academy Award® nominee, Best
Supporting Actor, Death of A Salesman – 1952) as Miles Bennell, a doctor
in a small California town whose patients are becoming increasingly
overwrought, accusing their loved ones of being emotionless imposters. They’re
right! Plant-like aliens have invaded Earth, taking possession of humans as
they sleep and replicating them in giant seed pods. Convinced that a
catastrophic epidemic is imminent, Bennell, in a terrifying race for his life,
must warn the world of this deadly invasion of the pod people before it’s too
Invasion of the Body Snatchers, directed by the accomplished Don Siegel
(Dirty Harry, The Shootist) and co-starring Dana Wynter (Airport),
Carolyn Jones (A Holein the Head), Larry Gates (The Sand
Pebbles) and King Donovan (The Enforcer), was photographed by
Academy Award nominee Ellsworth Fredericks (Best Cinematography, Sayonara
– 1958) with production design by Academy Award winner Ted Haworth (Best Art
Direction, Sayonara – 1958).
High-Definition digital restoration
Commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith
Commentary by actors Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, and filmmaker Joe
Stranger in Your Lover's Eyes" – A two-part visual essay with actor
and son of director Don Siegel, Kristoffer Tabori, reading from his
father's book A Siegel Film
Fear is Real" – Filmmakers Larry Cohen and Joe Dante on the film's
No Longer Belong: The Rise and Fall of Walter Wanger" – Film scholar
and author Matthew Bernstein discusses the life and career of the film's
No More: Invasion of the Body Snatchers Revisited" –
Never-before-seen appreciation of the film featuring actors Kevin
McCarthy and Dana Wynter, along with comments from film directors and
fans, John Landis, Mick Garris, and Stuart Gordon
Fear and the Fiction: The Body Snatchers Phenomenon" –
Never-before-seen interviews with Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, along
with film directors John Landis, Mick Garris and Stuart Gordon, discussing
the making of the film, its place in history, and its meaning
archival interview with Kevin McCarthy hosted by Tom Hatten
to Santa Mira" – An exploration of the film's locations
In a Name?" – On the film's title
of rare documents detailing aspects of the film's production including the
never-produced opening narration to have been read by Orson Welles
by author and film programmer Kier-La Janisse
Years before Michael Cimino released his Socialist-themed Western Heaven's Gate, director Stanely Kramer took a less heavy-handed approach with his 1973 film Oklahoma Crude, which has been released on Blu-ray by Twilight Time. Unlike
Cimino's dark and message-laden epic, however, Kramer made the
political aspects of his film secondary to the lighthearted tone of the
story. Faye Dunaway, seen here in the least glamorous role of her
career, plays Lena Doyle, a bitter, man-hating independent woman who is
determined to make a success of her wildcat oil drilling venture on the
plains of Oklahoma during the early 1900s. Beset by the frustration of
consistently having her rig dig up dirt instead of oil, she also has to
contend with a bigger threat: a major oil company is determined to seize
her land by hook or by crook. When she turns down the offer of a buyout
from their cut throat representative (Jack Palance), the oil company
moves a virtual army on to Lena's land with the intention of taking her
rig by force. Although a crack shot, Lena concedes she can use help and
reluctantly hires a down-and-out drifter, 'Mase' Mason (George C. Scott)
to help her keep her the assailants at bay. The two have an abrasive
relationship, with Lena never smiling or showing an interest in anything
other than drawing oil from her rig. They are also assisted by Lena's
father Cleon Doyle (John Mills), a charismatic Englishman who is trying
to win Lena's love and respect after having deserted her many years ago.
Lena can barely stand the sight of him, but faced with the thugs are
her doorstep, she has to accept his help.The story mostly takes place on
the hillside where Lena's cabin is situated. 'Mase' proves to be a
courageous and innovative ally, acquiring U.S. Army hand grenades and
using them with devastating effect against the heavily armed gangs from
the oil company who try repeatedly to take Lena's hilltop rig and cabin
Oklahoma Crude was a late career project for Kramer (he would
only make two more films). Dismissed at the time as a routine Western
comedy, the film comes across as a sheer delight when viewing it today.
The thin story line isn't the main attraction. Rather, it's the combined
talents of four Oscar winners- Scott, Dunaway, Mills and Palance- that
add so much zest to what could have otherwise have been a routine
experience. They are all delightful to watch, with Scott at his best and
Mills in a scene-stealing, wonderful performance as a flawed but
charming tenderfoot who summons incredible courage when it is needed
most. Kramer hired the best of the best for his crew including
cinematographer Robert Surtees, who makes every other frame look like an
Andrew Wyeth painting. There is also a fine musical score by Henry
Mancini which perfectly fits the "never a dull moment" mood of the
The film is a sheer delight from beginning to its finale, which features a refreshing plot twist.
The Twilight Time Blu-ray release boasts the expected excellent transfer, an informative collector's booklet with liner notes by Julie Kirgo, an isolated score track and a commentary track by this writer and fellow film historian Paul Scrabo. This release is limited to 3,000 units.
magnificent Robert Altman whodunnit (or, as Altman and team called it, “who
cares whodunnit?”), Gosford Park, has
received a top-class Blu-ray restoration and re-issue from Arrow Academy, and
it is a gem.
released in 2001, Gosford Park took
its cue from the immensely popular BBC television series, Upstairs, Downstairs—about the dramas that exist in a stately
British manor between the “upstairs” folk—the wealthy upper-class family that
owns the property, and the “downstairs” people—the servants and staff who run the household. Throw in a dash of
Agatha Christie, and a heaping helping of Robert Altman’s ensemble improvisatory
magic, and you have the director’s only full-fledged British production.
Interestingly, the screenwriter, Julian Fellowes (who won the Oscar for Original
Screenplay) went on to create and write the next immensely popular BBC television
series, Downton Abbey, which
resembles Gosford Park in many ways.
historians will certainly recognize the homage Altman makes in his direction of
the piece to Jean Renoir’s 1939 masterpiece, The Rules of the Game, a similar masters/servants ensemble work
that Altman was known to admire. The tone and broad canvas with many characters
and their subtle ribald and clandestine liaisons was surely a blueprint on how
to do Gosford.
work began when actor/writer/producer Bob Balaban suggested a collaboration on
a film, and the idea to do an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery became the
desired goal (Balaban co-produced the picture and has a prominent role as one
of two Americans in the nearly all-British cast). And while the murder mystery
is at the core of the film, it’s really not that important. After all, this is
an Altman film. It’s more about the characters, the relationships, and the
exploration of what the British class system was like in the early 1930s when
the U.K. was holding on to centuries-old mores and values that would soon slip
story concerns wealthy businessman Sir William (Michael Gambon), who is married
to younger Sylvia (Kristin Scott Thomas), whose sisters are married to men
struggling to stay in or begin business with Sir William. One weekend, all the
relations and a few guests are invited to have a “hunting party” (much like in The Rules of the Game), so the house if
full of people and the servants are very busy.But nobody likes Sir William. After all, he has a history of
impregnating servant girls and forcing them to either give up their babies to
orphanages or leave their employment. (The picture has an added layer of
meaning in today’s #MeToo climate!) So, when he’s found dead—apparently stabbed
with a kitchen knife—no one is very surprised. In the last act of the story, we
learn the secrets and lies of several characters, and how these all played into
cast is impressive. Maggie Smith (as a wickedly opinionated older relation who
depends on an allowance from Sir William) was nominated for Supporting Actress,
as was Helen Mirren (who plays the head housekeeper). Also on hand are Alan
Bates, Emily Watson, Charles Dance, Clive Owen, Tom Hollander, Ryan Phillippe,
Eileen Atkins, Derek Jacobi, Richard E. Grant, and many other familiar faces of
British TV and film. Jeremy Northam portrays the real silent-film actor Ivor
Novello, and Stephen Fry appears as a bumbling police inspector.
brilliant cast and wonderful script aside, Gosford
Park is assuredly Altman’s film. His style of overlapping dialogue, moving
cameras throughout the house and picking up bits of business and dialogue here
and there, and presenting a tapestry of words and images in which the viewer
must piece together, is in full force. It works beautifully. In fact, Gosford was Altman’s second-highest
grossing picture (after M*A*S*H), and
it was nominated for the Oscar Best Picture and Director.
brand new 2K restoration from a 4K scan, approved by director of photography
Andrew Dunn, looks marvelous. There are three audio commentaries—one with
Altman, production designer Stephen Altman, and producer David Levy, and a
second one with writer Fellowes. A third one is new to the release, featuring
critics Geoff Andrew and David Thompson. Supplements include a new introduction
to the film by Geoff Andrew, brand new cast and crew interviews, and port-overs
from the previous DVD release: featurettes on the making of the film, deleted
scenes with Altman commentary, and more. The package comes with a reversible
sleeve containing the original poster art backed with new artwork by Matthew
Griffin. In the first pressing of the product only, a collector’s booklet
featuring new writing on the film by critic Sheila O’Malley and an archival
interview with Altman is included.
Gosford Park was perhaps Altman’s
last great picture, one that stands proudly alongside his other classics like M*A*S*H, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Nashville,
The Player, and Short Cuts. Pick it up!