The 1951 film The
Tales of Hoffmann, the acclaimed British adaptation of the opera by Jaques
Offenbach, was an early influence on major directors like Cecil B. DeMille,
George Romero (who said it was “the movie that made me want to make movies”)
and Martin Scorsese. They were drawn to co-directors,
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger’s inventive camera work, vibrant color
palette (each of the three acts has its own primary color) and smooth blending
of film, dance and music. According to
an interview found on Powell-Pressburger.org, Powell wanted to do a “composed
film” – shot entirely to a pre-recorded music track, in this case, Offenbach’s
opera. Not having to worry about sound meant
he could remove the cumbersome padding that encased every Technicolor camera
and really move it around production designer Hein Heckroth’s soaring sets.
(Heckroth’s work on the film earned him two 1952 Oscar nominations.)
The film’s extensive
restoration was sponsored by Scorsese’s Film Foundation and the BFI Film
Archive, in association with Studiocanal. The entire project was overseen by Powell’s widow, longtime Scorsese editor
Thelma Schoonmaker. In fact it was
Scorsese who had introduced Powell to Schoonmaker, resulting in their 1984
Ms. Schoonmaker – on
location in Taiwan to work on Scorsese’s next film, Silence - said the director was obsessed (in a good way!) with her
late husband’s and his partner’s work. She stated that Scorsese says their films are “in his DNA.” He was particularly interested in The Tales of Hoffmann because it taught him about
moving the camera, capturing the body language of actors and “celebrating the
emotion of music.”
Aside from the film’s
pristine new look (which took over six months of “very intense” work), this
version features 6 minutes missing from the Third Act, apparently cut by
producer Alexander Korda who had wanted the filmmakers to drop Act Three
entirely! Another gem found in BFI’s
vaults was an epilogue the directors shot to introduce the opera singers who
voiced the dancers appearing in the film. As Schoonmaker recalls, “Sinceno
sound track was found for it, I created a sound track of applause and music
from the film. No one had ever seen this
epilogue, because it was never on the original release prints.” It’s
a delightful piece of filmmaking whimsy that has gone unseen for over six
The film had been
previously restored in the 1980s using the Technicolor three strip Interpositive,
but during the intervening years, the three-color strips had shrunk, creating
fuzzy images even after restoration. But as Schoonmaker relates, this version remedies
that, and then some… “The new restoration was able to digitally
realign the three strips perfectly. The
rich color of the film was rebuilt layer by layer, an arduous process, until
the restorers were satisfied the film looked as it had when it was first made.
Overseeing the entire
process along with Schoonmaker was a true student of the film – Martin Scorsese!
“Scorsese knew the film intimately
having screened it many times on a 16mm print and through watching the Criterion
DVD over and over again.” Schoonmaker
recalled, noting, “I had watched the film with my late husband, Michael Powell and
so Scorsese and I were able to guide the color restoration.”
The film boasts a joint writer,
producer, director credit, which was quite rare in the 1950s. Schoonmaker explained that, “only Michael
directed on the set, but he admired Emeric’s contribution to their films so
much that he agreed to sharing the remarkable title (for the time) ‘Written,
produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’ long before
that kind of title was used as much as it is today.” The prolific duo made 19 films together.
The Tales of Hoffmann’s
influence on Scorsese can be seen in his gritty 1976 masterpiece, Taxi Driver. As his three time Oscar-winning editor points
out, “He (Scorsese) says the dancers in the film taught him so much about body
language. And the eye movements of (actor)
Robert Helpmann were a direct influence on De Niro’s eyes in the mirror of the
Having worked with the
director on revered films like Raging
Bull, Casino, Goodfellas, The Aviator
and Wolf of Wall Street – in fact on every
Scorsese film since 1980 – Thelma Schoonmaker should know!
The Rialto Pictures
release of the restored and expanded The Tales
of Hoffmann opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday March 13th,
with other cities to follow.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release. We don't generally delve into the world of grunge horror flicks but it is interesting that there is a market that is nostalgic for new releases in the VHS format:
The moment gore hounds
have been waiting for is here. You can now visit CultMovieMania.com and snag pre-sale copies of our latest
VHS tapes - CANNIBAL FEROX and CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST - two super sickies we've
teamed up to release with legendary Grindhouse Releasing.
There is one version of
Cannibal Ferox. And, there are 3 different artwork versions for Cannibal
Holocaust. Each tape comes with an 11" x 17" poster of the artwork. And
frankly, they are going to look awesome on your walls.
All of these tapes are
limited edition and expected to go fast.
Want all of them? Pay less when you purchase all 4 tapes
at once here.
The CANNIBAL FEROX tape
will include the ultra-nasty, completely uncut feature film along with
bonus video of the Cannibal Ferox Hollywood Premiere, an interview with
director Umberto Lenzi, and trailers. It will also feature exclusive new
artwork painted and designed by horror director Marcus Koch (100
Tears, ROT) and a poster only available with this edition of the movie.
The CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST
tapes will include the uncut feature film in its nauseating entirety, plus
the Cannibal Holocaust music video and trailers. The striking new special
edition artwork, featuring design by Chamuco ATX and illustration by Vader
Paz, will come in three different collectible color variants. Each tape also
comes with a matching poster exclusive to this release.
(*Please make sure you
select your preferred CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST color variant in the store.)
Both tapes feature
official pan-and-scan transfers from Grindhouse Releasing, to add extra slime
to the VHS violence.
These tapes are available
in our store for Pre-Sale now. They are expected to
start shipping April 20th.
Today is "Red Nose Day" in England, wherein celebrities, sports stars and the public raise money for charity. The BBC have a show called "Comic Relief" on TV tonight, which comes live from The London Palladium from 7 PM through 2 AM. Filled with comedy sketches, music acts, etc, one of the highlights will be a special James Bond segment filmed at Pinewood starring Daniel Craig - and Sir Roger Moore!
(The following pertains to the UK Region B release)
more than a smidge of poetic licence, Countess
Dracula is the 1971 Peter Sasdy/Hammer offering that recounts the true-life
visceral misdemeanours of Hungarian murderess Countess Erzsébat Bathory. The
late Ingrid Pitt, who portrayed the titular harridan, was quite outspoken in
her disdain for the results, one of her key grievances being director Sasdy’s overly-restrained
approach to blood-letting. Given the subject matter’s potential for sanguinary
splatter, one has to concur that it’s a fairly coy production, more romantic
costume drama with an insidious undercurrent than your traditional Hammer
horror fare. Yet, that said, a cleaving aura of doom coupled with some efficient
injections of nastiness prevent the film from being a wholly anaemic affair.
in a fit of ire, the ageing Countess Elizabeth (Ingrid Pitt) lashes out at her
inept maid, she inadvertently discovers that the virginal girl’s blood harbours
properties able to restore her youthful beauty. Slaying the girl and bathing in
her blood, Elizabeth deigns to assume the identity of her own daughter, Ilona
(Lesley-Anne Down), who has not been seen at the castle since being shipped off
to boarding school as a child. But no sooner has Elisabeth met and fallen in
love with handsome soldier Imre Toth (Sandor Eles), than she realises that the
regenerative effects of the maid’s blood are far from permanent and she is only
able to sustain her façade by seeking fresh donors to fend off her true, haggard
appearance. Finding a willing accomplice in her faithful companion, Captain
Dobi (Nigel Green), the slaying begins.
shortcomings of Jeremy Paul’s slightly lethargic and excessively talky Countess Dracula script can be all but
forgiven due to a magnetic performance by Ingrid Pitt, who overcomes
questionable post-synch dubbing to be both sensuously provocative in her
younger incarnation and frighteningly sadistic (under the increasingly
unpleasant layers of Tom Smith’s crone make-up) in her foul, older guise. If there’s
less engaging input from Sandor Eles and Lesley Anne-Down, that too is
compensated for by excellent character work from Nigel Green (in his
penultimate big screen role) and Maurice Denham as a scholarly elder whose
discovery of Elisabeth’s secret pegs him for an early exit.
spite of a few failings – not least its outrageously misleading title, which
would certainly have had audiences anticipating some fanged action – Countess Dracula is a lush fairy-tale
accompanied by a silken Harry Robinson score which in summation, though not
perhaps as worthy of frequent revisit as some of the Hammer classics, is estimable
enough evidence of their Gothic cinema supremacy.
Countess Dracula is now
available in the UK as a Region B Blu-Ray release as a constituent of Network
Distributing’s “The British Film” collection. The hi-definiton transfer is
pleasing if not perfect, with occasional minor damage and a fair amount of
grain in evidence during darker scenes. It is, however, still a marked improvement
on Network’s earlier DVD release. The generous supplementary features are
carried over from said DVD, specifically comprising a commentary track
featuring Ingrid Pitt, Kim Newman and Stephen Jones, a TV interview with Pitt
and a news item on a Bray studios open day back in the late 90s, an episode of
the 1970 TV show Conceptions of Murder (starring
Nigel Green), an episode of the recently deceased Brian Clemens’ excellent TV series
Thriller (showcasing yet another fine
Pitt performance) and a number of stills galleries.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
Revisit 1939, Hollywood’s
GreatestYear, with 4 New Blu-ray™Debuts
THE GOLDEN YEAR COLLECTION JUNE9
Features Newly Restored Blu-ray Debut ofThe Hunchback of Notre Dame, Starring
CharlesLaughton, and Blu-ray Debuts of – Bette Davis’ DarkVictory, Errol Flynn’s Dodge City and Greta Garbo’sNinotchka. Collection
also includes Gone With theWind.
Burbank, Calif. March 10, 2015 – On June 9,
Warner Bros. Home Entertainmentwill
celebrate one of the most prolific twelve months in Hollywood’s history with
the6-disc The Golden Year Collection. Leading the
five-film set will be the Blu-ray debutof
The Hunchback of Notre Dame, in a new
restoration which will have its worldpremiere
at TCM’s Classic Film Festival beginning March 26 in Los Angeles. CharlesLaughton and Maureen O’Hara star in
Victor Hugo’s tragic tale which William Dieterledirected.
The other films featured in
the WBHE collection ($69.96 SRP) are new-to-Blu-rayreleases of Dark Victory,
starring Bette Davis, George Brent and Humphrey Bogart; DodgeCity, starring Errol Flynn,
Olivia de Havilland and Ann Sheridan; and Ninotchka starringGreta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas and Ina
Claire, and directed by Ernst Lubitsch. 1939’sOscar®1 winner Gone with the Wind will
also be included. (Further details on the filmsbelow)
The Collection also contains a sixth disc with the rerelease of thefascinating documentary, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Year, narrated by Kenneth Branagh and containing film clips andinsights about this unprecedented and
unequalled year infilms.
1939 was noteworthy in America and Europe
for many reasons. World War II hadbegun
with Hitler’s invasion of Poland. The Great Depression dwindled as PresidentRoosevelt and the United States prepared
to fight. NBC demonstrated the new mediumof
television at the World’s Fair. Batman, a new superhero, was born. Frank
Sinatramade his recording debut.
And nylon stockings went on sale for the firsttime.
significant for American culture that year was the sheer number of remarkablefilm releases. 365 films were released in
1939, many of which are considered themost
enduring classics in film history and three of the 10 Best Picture Oscar®
nominees2for the year, Gone with the Wind, Dark Victory and Ninotchka
are included inthis collection.
The Films in The Golden YearCollection
Hunchback of NotreDame
France, a gypsy girl is framed for murder by the infatuated ChiefJustice, and only the deformed bell ringer
of Notre Dame Cathedral can saveher.
With huge sets,
rousing action scenes and a versatile throng portraying a medievalParis of cutthroats, clergy, beggars and
Hunchback of Notre Dame remainsone of Hollywood’s all-time grandestspectacles.
Charles Laughton endured a daily
five-and-a-half hour makeup session tobecome
Quasimodo, Victor Hugo’s mocked and vilified anti-hero. The result was one of
hisbest performances -- outsized
yet nuanced, heartrending yet inspiring. Maureen O’Hara isthe gypsy Esmeralda, whose simple act of
pity frees the emotions within Quasimodo.When
she is wrongly condemned, he rescues her from hanging, sweeping all of Paris
intoa fight forjustice.
The Lone Stranger and Porky – Vintage 1939 WBCartoon
A young socialite is diagnosed with an
inoperable brain tumor and must decidewhether
she’ll meet her final days withdignity.
Davis’ bravura, moving but never morbid performance as Judith Traherne, adying heiress determined to find
happiness in her few remaining months, turns the film intoa three-hankie classic. But that success
would never have happened if Davishadn’t
pestered studio brass to buy Dark Victory’s story
rights. Jack Warner finally didso skeptically.
“Who wants to see a dame go blind?” he asked. Almost everyone wasthe answer: Dark Victory
Davis’ biggest box-office hit yet and garnered threeAcademy Award® nominations for 1939’s Best Picture, Best
Actress (Davis) and BestMusic, Original
by film historian James Ursini and CNN film critic PaulClinton
·“Warner Night at theMovies”
oNEW! Old Hickory - Vintage 1939 WBShort
oRobin Hood Makes
Vintage 1939 WBCartoon
Competition for Dark Victory -Featurette
Lux Radio Theater Broadcast (AudioOnly)
Wade Hatton (Errol Flynn), a Texas cattle
agent, witnesses firsthand thebrutal
lawlessness of Dodge City and takes the job of sheriff to clean the townup.
In his first of eight Westerns, Flynn is as
able with a six-shooter as he was witha
swashbuckler’s sword. He confronts lynch mobs, slams outlaws into jail andescapes (along with co-star Olivia de
Havilland) from a fiery, locked railroad car. Cheeredfor Flynn’s sagebrush debut, its vivid Technicolor look and
spectacular saloon brawlthat may
have employed every available Hollywood stunt person, Dodge City latergained another distinction when it
inspired Mel Brooks’ cowboy parody BlazingSaddles.
Special Features (PreviouslyReleased):
·“Warner Night at the
oSons of Liberty – Vintage WB
1939 Academy Award®-Winning4Short
oDangerous Dan McFoo
oDodge City: Go
West, Errol Flynn -Featurette
oThe Oklahoma KidTrailer
A stern Russian woman (Greta Garbo) sent to
Paris on official business findsherself
attracted to a man (Melvyn Douglas) who represents everything she is supposedto detest.
‘Garbo Talks!’ proclaimed ads when silent
star Greta Garbo debuted in talkies.Nine
years and 12 classic screen dramas later, the gifted movie legend was ready foranother change. Garbo Laughs! cheered the
publicity for her first comedy, a frothy tale of adour Russian envoy sublimating her womanhood for Soviet
brotherhood until she falls fora suave
Parisian man-about-town (MelvynDouglas).
Working from a cleverly barbed script
written in part by Billy Wilder, directorErnst
Lubitsch knew better than anyone how to marry refinement with sublime wit. “Atleast twice a day the most dignified
human being is ridiculous,” he explained abouthis acclaimed Lubitsch Touch, That’s how we see Garbo’s love struck
Ninotchka:serenely dignified yet
endearingly ridiculous. Garbo laughs. So willyou.
Ninotchka received four 1939 Academy Award®
nominations – Best Picture,Best Actress
in a Leading Role (Garbo), Best Writing- Original Story (Melchior Lengyel),and Best Writing-Screenplay (Charles
Brackett Walter Reisch, BillyWilder).
·NEW! Prophet Without Honor
– Vintage 1939 Academy
Award® nominated5MGM Short
The Blue Danube – Vintage
Gone with theWind
as one of the American cinema’s grandest, most ambitious andspectacular pieces of filmmaking, Gone with
the Wind, was helmed by Victor Fleming in 1939,the same year as the director’s The Wizard
Producer David O. Selznick’smammoth
achievement and still history’s all-time domestic box-office champion ($1.6billion6) captured ten 1939 Academy Awards® including:
Best Picture, Best Actress, andBest
Supporting Actress for Hattie McDaniel, the first Oscar® awarded to anAfrican- American actor. Margaret
Mitchell’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel, on which the filmis based, has been translated into 16
languages, has sold hundreds of millions ofcopies worldwide, and even now continues to sell 50,000 copies ayear.
Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Olivia de
Havilland, Leslie Howard and Hattie McDanielstar in this classic epic of the
American South. On the eve of the Civil War, rich, beautifuland self-centered Scarlett O'Hara (Leigh)
has everything she could want -- exceptAshley
Wilkes (Leslie Howard). As the war devastates the South, Scarlett discovers thestrength within herself to protect her
family and rebuild her life. Through everything, she longsfor Ashley, unaware that she is already
married to the man she really loves (Gable) --and who truly loves her -- until she finally drives him away. Only then
does Scarlettrealize what she has
lost ... and tries to win himback.
Bros. Home Entertainment Presents1939: Hollywood’s GreatestYear Narrated by Kenneth Branagh this informative
documentary contains film clipsand
insights about this unprecedented and unequalled year infilms.
included on this disc (PreviouslyReleased):
·Breakdowns of 1939 – Vintage 1939 WBShort
·Sons of Liberty – Also on the Dodge Citydisc
·Drunk Driving – Also on the The Hunchback of Notre Damedisc
·Prophet Without Honor – Also on the Ninotchkadisc
film noir pictures take place in
urban centers—New York City, Los Angeles—where the big city is as much a
character as the unhappy humans in these often bleak and brutal, sometimes
brilliant, Hollywood crime films that spanned the early forties to the late
fifties. Film noir peaked in the latter half of the forties, with an
abundance of the classic titles released between 1946-1948.
of the more unique things about Ride the
Pink Horse is that the urban setting is gone. Instead, the action is set in
a border town in New Mexico, where there is indeed danger, to be sure, but
there’s also a little less pessimism among the inhabitants—unlike in the urban noirs in which everyone’s a cynic.
Interestingly, one might say that the “border town noir” could be a sub-set of
the broader category, for Ride the Pink
Horse isn’t the only crime movie of the period set away from the big city.
Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil is
another good example.
Ride the Pink Horse, based on a novel
by Dorothy B. Hughes, became actor Robert Montgomery’s second noir in which he both starred and
directed. His first directorial effort was Lady in the Lake (also 1947),
in which the actor played detective Phillip Marlowe. Here, Montgomery plays
Gagin, an ex-GI, with a take-no-guff attitude but also with a subtle sense of
cluelessness—he is definitely a fish out of water in “San Pablo.” His mission
there is to locate a crook named Hugo (Fred Clark) to avenge the murder of
Gagin’s best friend. What he thought might be a simple task turns out to be a
lot more complicated, for the FBI is in town in the form of amiable Retz (Art
Smith), and the Feds want Hugo, too. On his first night in town, Gagin falls
in with Pancho (Thomas Gomez), a Mexican who runs a cheap merry-go-round for
the kids, and Pila (Wanda Hendrix), a young woman who speaks little, but seems
to know a heck of a lot about the goings-on in town. As it turns out, Gagin
isn’t really the tough guy he pretended to be at the beginning. He really is in over his head, and he needs the
help of his newfound Mexican friends to simply survive.
merry-go-round could be some kind of metaphor for the film’s message—possibly
that we can go round and round and still wind up where we started. On the other
hand, the ride might suggest that it is a source of innocence, something to
which our hero can’t return. Even if you ride the pink horse; you get the same
truth on a horse of any other color.
setting’s flavor is pleasingly captured in the stark black and white
cinematography by Russell Metty, especially during the “Fiesta” sequences. One
striking sequence takes place with the camera on the merry-go-round—as it goes
around we see two thugs giving Pancho a beating at the side of the ride; with
every revolution our glimpse of the violence is increasingly upsetting. The
production design by Bernard Herzbrun and Robert Boyle, is very impressive,
seeing that, ironically, the picture was filmed on the Universal lot in
Hollywood and not in New Mexico.
story, adapted by Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer, is engaging enough, although Ride the Pink Horse doesn’t seem to
reach the climax that is promised by the opening half-hour. Nevertheless, the
performances are very good, especially that of Gomez, who, with this picture,
became the first Hispanic actor to be nominated for an Oscar—Best Supporting
new 2K digital restoration looks sharp and clean. An audio commentary by film noir historians Alain Silver and
James Ursini accompanies the film. The only two extras are a new interview about
the film with Imogen Sara Smith, author of In
Lonely Places: Film Noir Beyond the City; and a radio adaptation starring
Montgomery, Hendrix, and Gomez. The booklet contains an essay by filmmaker and
writer Michael Almereyda.
Ride the Pink Horse
for film noir enthusiasts looking to
get out of the city and travel somewhere a little different.
In the wake of unexpected critical acclaim for director Richard Lester's A Hard Day's Night in 1964, studios scrambled to emulate the success of that first feature film starring The Beatles. Over a period of a few years, many bands found themselves top-lining major feature films. Most were mindless exploitation films, a few others more ambitious in their goals. Fitting snugly into the latter category was Having a Wild Weekend (released in the UK under the title Catch Us If You Can.) The film represents the only movie starring the Dave Clark Five, one of the more popular bands to emerge during that marvelous era in the 1960s when Great Britain shed its post WWII doldrums and came to dominate international pop culture. The band was one of many who rode the coattails of The Beatles to the top of the charts, but they had their own unique style of songs and music that resulted in some memorable hit songs that still hold up well today. At one point, the DC5 was so popular that they appeared on The Ed Sulllivan Show more than any other British band. Their feature film debut is impressive only in the sense that it afforded a young documentary maker named John Boorman the opportunity to make his feature film directorial debut. There is scant evidence that Boorman possessed the kind of unique vision that would result in Point Blank only two years later and Deliverance five years after that, but Weekend is different from most teen idol movies of the era both in terms of its visual content as well as its message. The script is also unique in that the DC5 don't appear as themselves, thus its the only film of its kind that doesn't showcase the band members playing music on screen. In fact, they don't even play musicians, but rather, stuntmen who are employed to appear in an expensive nationwide British ad campaign designed to encourage meat eating. This rather uncommercial message is prettied up by having the campaign center on a perky, sexy young blonde named Dinah (Barbara Ferris), who is an omnipresent force in London, appearing on billboards and TV ads to promote the meat industry in a fun way. The DC5 appear with her as window dressing, always in the background of the ads. During the shooting of a particularly frustrating TV commercial taping, Dinah and her boyfriend Steve (Dave Clark) engage in an abrupt act of rebellion by stealing a sports car they drive in the ad and absconding to an island that Dinah hopes to retire to. This sets in motion a massive search by the advertising agency executives that becomes a nationwide obsession. Rumors circulate that Steve has kidnapped Dinah, something that turns out to be an unexpected boon for the ad agency since it results in a great deal of free publicity for "The Meat Girl". Steve and Dinah's directionless meanderings around the island prove to be less joyful than expected. They encounter a colony of hippies but find they are as shallow as the Establishment types they are rebelling against. They also blunder into the middle of military war games in the film's zaniest and least credible sequence. Ultimately the other members of the DC5 join them but even they are being pursued by agents for the advertising agency as well as local police. Steve brings them to a farm run by a boyhood idol who he used to visit as a child only to find he has "sold out" too and is looking to use Dinah as a tourist attraction. Disillusioned, Steve and Dinah ultimately come face to face with their employers and Steve gets a downbeat life lesson on how shallow even Dinah's principals can be.
Having a Wild Weekend is a strangely humorless film with the DC5 songs rather awkwardly interwoven. Even a sequence (filmed in Bath) that depicts a massive, wild costume party doesn't deliver the amusement you might expect. However, it does offer the unique opportunity to see people dressed as Stan Laurel, the Marx Brothers and Frankenstein cavorting in the ancient Roman baths. Dave Clark has movie star looks and admirable screen presence. He should have pursued a career as an actor. However, the other band members have scant opportunity to present themselves as individuals. This includes lead singer Mike Smith, who sang most of the group's hit songs even though Clark would lip synch to them in live appearances to appear as though he sang them on the recordings. Plot angles appear promisingly but get dropped abruptly including a potentially promising sequence in which Steve and Dinah are invited home by a middle aged couple (excellently played by Robin Bailey and Yootha Joyce) who turn out to be setting them up for some sexual swinging. Director Boorman eschews studio sets for actual locations and this gives the movie a sense of vibrancy it might otherwise have lacked. Manny Wynn's black and white cinematography does justice to the British countryside and he presents the action through some interesting camera angles.
The downbeat storyline won praise from critics at the time because it so deftly avoids emulating the ridiculously cheery productions that were generally aimed at teens. It holds up well as a curiosity and affords some nostalgic insights into a time when the counterculture movement was on the verge of exploding. The DVD presentation by the Warner Archive presents a crisp, clean transfer sans any extras. One hopes that someday, Dave Clark might be asked to participate in a special edition of the movie.
Director Steven Spielberg has reunited with Tom Hanks for the recently-completed Cold War espionage thriller "Bridge of Spies", which tells the true story of a famous prisoner exchange that took place on a bridge in Potsdam. The intrigue involved American efforts to get back military pilot Francis Gary Powers, whose U2 spy plane had been shot down over the Soviet Union, thus giving the communists a major propaganda victory. The film will be scored by John Williams, who marks his 27th collaboration with Spielberg. For more click here.
SECOND TAKE: ALTERNATE OPINIONS ON FILMS PREVIOUSLY REVIEWED BY CINEMA RETRO
BY TIM GREAVES
Castle’s Strait-Jacket was a pretty
big deal for Joan Crawford. Her biggest successes lay behind her, but she was
shrewd enough to understand that even a low-budget horror film was money in the
bank and, with the alternative for many actresses of her age (and younger)
being protracted unemployment, she put her heart and soul into it. She participated
in a pre-production featurette entitled “How to Plan a Murder”, alongside
director/producer (and unsurpassed gimmick maestro) William Castle and writer
Robert Bloch, jovially discussing the best ways to dispose of someone on
screen. And, upon its release in 1964, she toured with the film, making a
number of personal appearances that drew crowds in their droves. As to her performance
within, if nothing else she should be applauded for having the temerity at the
age of almost 60 to play not only a character some 15 years her junior, but (in
flashbacks) a character some 35 years her junior; the latter, it has to be said,
she monumentally fails to pull off!
front of her terrified little girl, Lucy Harbin (Crawford) takes an axe to her
philandering husband and his lover, after which, despite protestations of her innocence,
she is hauled off – in a strait-jacket, no less – to an institution for the
criminally insane. Twenty years later she is deigned fit for release and goes
to stay on a ranch with her brother (Leif Erickson) and his wife (Rochelle
Hudson), and her own daughter (Diane Baker) who has been in their care and is
now an adult on the verge of matrimony. But as Lucy struggles to exorcise the
demons of her past and attempts to forge a relationship with the daughter whose
growing-up she has missed, she begins to have visions of decapitated heads and
bloodied axes. Is she losing her mind, or is something far more sinister going
on? Suffice to say it isn’t long before the murders begin…
touch creaky by today’s standards and riddled with some pretty clunky dialogue,
it’s nevertheless easy to conceive that Strait-Jacket
was fairly shocking stuff back in the day. However, it’s fair to say that
it’s still a very watchable little chiller, with a tangible snifter of Psycho running through its veins. Beyond
the fact it emerged from the pen of Psycho-scribe
Robert Bloch and was shot in crisp black and white (which served to lessen the
impact of a number of its sanguinary sins), the premise of an elderly woman with
a penchant for hacking up those who cross her prowling about a remote property certainly
has a ring of familiarity about it. And, as with Psycho, it’s just possible that not everything is as it first
seems. Anyone familiar with the twists in 1964’s Bette Davis starrer Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte (which, it
should be noted, Strait-Jacket preceded
into theatres by some 11 months) will probably cotton on to what’s going on.
cast is strong, particularly Diane Baker as Crawford’s daughter and George
Kennedy as a bad-toothed ranch-hand-turned-blackmailer (who, despite carrying
an axe everywhere, may as well have “red herring” tattooed on his forehead).
Watch out, too, in the opening scenes for the uncredited screen debut of Lee
Majors in the role of Crawford’s so-to-be-headless hubby. But, make no mistake,
this is 100% Crawford’s show, effortlessly traversing personality swings that
vacillate between pitiably timid and contrite and vampishly gregarious and
carefree. Proof, were it needed, that regardless of the quality of the material
at hand, she always gave it her all. (For further compelling evidence on this
score, check out 1970’s Trog.)
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?,
released two years earlier, remains this writer’s favourite Joan Crawford film,
for undemanding chills and spills – or simply to see the actress firing on all dramatic
thrusters – they don’t come much better than Strait-Jacket. And be sure to keep your eyes peeled to the screen
for the closing Columbia Pictures logo, slyly tinkered with by Castle in a
wickedly comic wink that none of this stuff should be taken too seriously.
film is available on disc as part of Sony Pictures’ Choice Collection and comes
with a respectable array of supplementary goodies. Along with “Battle Axe” (an
entertaining retrospective that runs just shy of 15-minutes and includes an
interview with Diane Baker), there’s the vintage promo featurette mentioned at
the start of this review, some 1963 Crawford wardrobe test footage, brief axe
test footage (conspicuously more gruesome than anything that made it into the
finished film) and a TV spot. Regrettably the transfer of the film itself is a
little disappointing, the image often resembling that of an old VHS recording
desperately in need of a tweak on the tracking; not a deal-breaker, but
certainly worth keeping in mind.
By the late 1960s, Jacqueline Bisset was clearly one of the "It" girls among a bevy of starlets who crossed over from flash-in-the-pan status to becoming a genuine star in her own right. Her breakthrough role opposite Steve McQueen in the 1968 blockbuster "Bullitt" helped catapult the British beauty to the top ranks of actresses who were deemed to have international boxoffice appeal. Among her major Hollywood successes: "The Detective", "Airport" and "The Deep". In between, however, Bisset was open to appearing in off-beat films that were most suited for the art house circuit. One of the more unusual productions was "Secret World", a 1969 French film that was the antithesis of the commercial successes she was enjoying. The film was directed by Robert Freeman, a famed photographer who is credited with shooting many of the classic album covers for The Beatles. (Some sources credit Paul Feyder as co-director but the film does not give him this status in the main titles or on the poster.)The film is a moody, slow-moving tale about troubled people in troubled relationships. It's nevertheless oddly compelling and retains the viewer's interest because of the unveiling of key information about the characters and their motives on a drip...drip...drip basis.
The film opens with scenes of Francois (Jean-Francois Vlerick, billed here as Jean-Francois Maurin), an 11 year-old boy who is rather morose and somber. He is living in a French country manor house that, like the family that inhabits it, has seen better days. Francois is under the care of his Aunt Florence (Giselle Pascal) and Uncle Phillippe (Pierre Zimmer, a forty-something couple whose marriage is strained. They go through the motions of keeping their relationship civil, but it's clear the passion is long gone. We see Francois finding some degree of enjoyment in solitude when he retreats to his tree house where he peruses a small box of "treasures", which are various household oddities that he has secreted in his domain. Florence and Phillippe receive an unexpected visit from their son Olivier (Marc Porel), a handsome but irresponsible young man who lives off his parent's money. Like the relationship between his parents, Olivier's dealings with them are similarly strained. Francois observes all of this somberly, rarely speaking unless spoken to. Phillippe announces that they are to have a visitor arriving soon from London: Wendy (Jacqueline Bisset, quite becoming as a blonde), the daughter of an old war buddy who once saved his life. When she shows up, her presence has an immediate impact on everyone in the house. Wendy is polite, out-going, generous and stunningly beautiful. Immediately, Olivier decides to postpone his departure in the hopes of wooing and seducing her. Phillippe seems similarly smitten and Florence is clearly threatened by the arrival of the attractive young woman. As the days pass, she also builds a relationship with Francois, who becomes obsessed with her. He steals a bottle of her perfume so he can have a constant reminder of her presence. She, in turn, plays a combination role of big sister and mother, taking Francois under her wing and spending quality time with him. She later learns that he was been adopted by his aunt and uncle after his parents died in a terrible car crash. Worse, Francois suffered the trauma of being trapped under his mother's body for hours. With Wendy able to reach him in a way that no one else can, Francois's mood begins to lighten. Before long, he is bragging to his small circle of friends that she is his girlfriend, although it is never clear whether his fascination with her is based on his budding sexual instincts or simply because she has fulfilled a nurturing role that has been absent from his life since the death of his mother. As the story progresses, we also learn that Phillippe and Wendy are actually long-time lovers and that her visit from London has been arranged simply so they can spend time together. Before long, Phillippe finds himself in competition with Olivier for her attention. Florence clearly suspects that her husband's interest in Wendy is more than platonic. In a rather cringe-inducing scene, she is mocked by the male members of her household when she decides to have her hair dyed blonde in an obvious attempt to compete with the younger woman. The relationships between the principals continue to deteriorate even as Wendy and Francois become closer. An off-hand remark made by her in jest is taken seriously by the young boy who believes that they are to run away together and live in England, which leads to the inevitable heartbreaking conclusion.
There are no dramatic fireworks or show-stopping moments built into the script but the film is extremely well acted and at some points, you feel as though you are eavesdropping on a real family. Bisset ignites the screen in this early starring role as a woman who is the unintended catalyst for a lot of anxiety for the males in her life. Director Freeman handles the proceedings with sensitivity and he gets significant assistance from the fine cinematography of Peter Biziou. The U.S. marketing campaign for the film was somewhat misleading with its implication that it centered on an illicit sexual relationship between a young woman and an under-age boy. In fact, the sexual element is completely one-sided from standpoint of Francois and there aren't any erotic sequences in the film at all- just an abundance of good actors working with a believable and engrossing script.
The film has been released as part of Fox's Cinema Archives burn-to-order DVD series. The transfer is impressive. Click here to read original New York Times review. Click here to watch a clip.
Although he was regarded as a comedy genius, the sad truth is that Peter Sellers was more often than not misused in big screen comedies. After making it big on British TV and in feature films in the late 1950s, Sellers became an international sensation with his acclaimed work in big studio feature films such as "Lolita", "Dr. Strangelove", "The World of Henry Orient" and the first entries in the "Pink Panther" series. Through the mid-Sixties, he did impressive work in films like "After the Fox", "The Wrong Box" and "What's New Pussycat?" If the films weren't classics, at least they presented some of Sellers' off-the-wall ability to deliver innovative characters and comedic situations. By the late Sixties, however, his own personal demons began to get the better of him. Sellers was the epitome of the classic clown: laughing on the outside but crying on the inside. His insecurities began to affect his work habits and he became known as moody, temperamental and unreliable. Producer Charles K. Feldman was so fed up with Sellers' behavior on the set of "Casino Royale" that he fired him, even though Sellers had not yet completed pivotal scenes for the movie's climax. After this, Sellers seemed adrift. He found steady work, to be sure, but the quality was sagging. Even when he attempted to do something daring like improvise his role throughout an entire feature film in Blake Edwards' "The Party", the result was a misfire. By the mid-1970s, Sellers was struggling to regain his cinematic mojo and reluctantly agreed to re-team with Blake Edwards to revive "The Pink Panther" franchise. The two men despised each other personally but they knew that there would still be an audience for Sellers' immortal depiction of Inspector Clouseau. They were right. The revived "Panther" films did well at the boxoffice but both Sellers and Edwards got lazier with each successive film until it was clear they were simply going through the motions in search of an easy pay check. Sellers would die young at age 55 in 1980. Fortunately, his career saw at least one last triumph with his Oscar-nominated performance in Hal Ashby's 1979 classic "Being There". The film revived interest in his career and suddenly Sellers was a hot commodity again. Death cheated us from knowing if he would have successfully capitalized on the momentum. Certainly,his last credited starring role in "The Fiendish Plot of Fu Manchu" should give us pause when considering whether his new found respectability was merely a fluke.
One of Sellers' final films was "The Prisoner of Zenda", a comedy version of the classic 1894 adventure novel by Anthony Hope. The Sellers version came and went rather quickly and was eclipsed by the acclaim accorded him for "Being There". Universal has released "Zenda" as a burn-to-order title and in viewing the film for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it is. The movie affords Sellers the opportunity to do what he did best: play multiple roles, as he did so brilliantly in "Dr. Strangelove". The film, set in the Victorian era, opens with the accidental demise of Rudolf IV, king of a fictitious European nation. Sellers plays the bumbling monarch, who perishes in a balloon accident. We next see Sellers as the heir to the throne, Rudolf V. He is a prissy, self-absorbed playboy who is more suited for frequenting London gambling clubs than governing a nation. He gets word that he must return home immediately to be coronated. He reluctantly agrees but evil forces are out to thwart him from taking the throne. Rudolf's younger brother Michael (Jeremy Kemp) is not about to let his bumbling ingrate of a sibling rule the country and devises a method to murder him. The plot goes awry thanks to the intervention of Sydney Frewin, a humble London Hansom cab driver, who saves Rudolf's life. Sydney is, remarkably, almost an exact double for Rudolf. Knowing that Michael will try another assassination attempt, Rudolf's loyal bodyguard, General Sapt (Lionel Jeffries), comes up with an audacious plan. He enlists a reluctant Sydney to pose as Rudolf while the real heir to the throne is smuggled without fanfare back to his kingdom-in-waiting. It is only after Sydney is almost assassinated himself that General Sapt comes clean about the plan and his motives. Sydney is persuaded to continue masquerading as the hapless Rudolf but before the coronation can take place, Rudolf is kidnapped by Michael and his confederates and held in a dank cell at remote Zenda prison. When the coronation day arrives, however, Michael is thwarted when Sydney appears in the guise of Rudolf and is crowned king. Realizing that a charade is taking place because the real Rudolf is a prisoner, Michael and his conspirators engage in elaborate and increasingly ambitious plans to kill both Sydney and the real king.
The film, which was shot in Austria, features some lush landscapes and impressive costumes and production designs. Director Richard Quine gets a far more inspired performance from Sellers than his frequent collaborator Blake Edwards had been able to get, at least since Sellers' in "The Party" a full decade before. Sellers' Sydney is a refreshingly normal man, not prone to being courageous and also not prone to make bumbling errors. In fact, he's downright quick-thinking when trouble arises. Sellers plays him with a Cockney accent and invests in the character some admirable traits. As Rudolf, Sellers reverts to one of his more traditional impersonations. The would-be monarch is very much a boob, as well as a self-centered elitist. As is the norm with a Sellers creation, Rudolf has a notable eccentricity: he suffers from a speech impediment that makes him sound like Elmer Fudd. Yet, Sellers ultimately manages to convey some admirable qualities in him especially in the zany, chase-filled finale in which both characters get to engage in some derring-do. The movie has an impressive supporting cast topped by Sellers' "Shot in the Dark" co-star Elke Sommer. There are deft comedic turns by Lionel Jeffries, Jeremy Kemp, Norman Rossington, Simon Williams and Stuart Wilson. Gregory Sierra is especially funny as an insulted Count who thinks the new king is carrying on with his wife. His numerous attempts to kill the monarch are the stuff of slapstick but are nonetheless consistently amusing. Sellers' real-life wife Lynne Frederick and Catherine Schell provide additional sex appeal and Sellers' "Pink Panther" co-star Graham Stark also turns up in a bit role. Henry Mancini provides a sweeping and highly enjoyable musical score.
The film is very funny throughout and Sellers is in top form. Unlike most of the gross-out comedies released today, "The Prisoner of Zenda" has a quaint sweetness about it and it's perfect for family viewing. It's a truly underrated gem from the latter part of Sellers' career.
The film is available through the Universal Vault's burn-to-order DVD line.
have been a lot of movies about adultery and the ultimate havoc it can cause. More
recent titles would include the likes of Fatal
Attraction or Unfaithful. Some of
them have a happy ending, others not; however, there is always a moral to these
tales: Don’t do it unless you want to wreck your life.
riding the crest of the French New Wave, François Truffaut followed his huge
1962 success, the delightful Jules and
Jim, with his fourth feature, the unexpectedly somber drama, The Soft Skin. In fact, it shares
elements with the thrillers of Alfred Hitchcock. Truffaut presents us with the cautionary
story of a successful and respected publisher and writer (Jean Desailly) who
meets and begins an affair with a flight attendant (Françoise Dorléac). The man
is also married with a young daughter. The development of the tale emphasizes
the danger involved in embarking on such an act. How do you keep it a secret
when you’re well known? How do you manage to live the double life and deceive your
wife? Truffaut directs the piece as if it were indeed a crime drama. The
suspense comes in watching Desailly dig a hole so deep that he can’t get out of
it. And then the violent ending—well, let’s just say it’s a shocker.
the period between Jules and Jim and
the making of The Soft Skin, Truffaut
had collaborated with Hitchcock on the landmark interview book Hitchcock/Truffaut, so it’s not
surprising that the French director was influenced by the master of suspense. A
video essay extra on the disc by filmmaker and critic Kent Jones examines these
traits and the many ways filmmakers can be influenced in general ways by other
artists. The Soft Skin could very
well work with a Bernard Herrmann score, but instead Georges Delerue delivers an
appropriately melancholic and tragic soundtrack that fits beautifully with the
events unfolding before us.
is very good as a man blinded by lust but bound by social convention. Dorléac,
who was the elder sister of Catherine Deneuve, is, of course, gorgeous, and
Truffaut’s cinematographer Raoul Coutard allows the camera to lovingly dwell on
her. Ironically, Truffaut left his own wife after the completion of The Soft Skin and began dating Dorléac. Dorléac
was an actress on the same professional trajectory as her sister when her life
was cut short in a disastrous automobile accident in France in 1967. One can
only imagine how Dorléac’s career might have blossomed and how she would have
aged along with Deneuve. Like her sister, Dorléac would have been a timeless
The Soft Skin may not be one of
Truffaut’s masterworks, but it is one of his more solid efforts that was perhaps
not sufficiently appreciated at the time of its release. It is, in fact, a
sincere, atmospheric, and wistfully sad drama about the many ways that love can
cause terrible pain. The picture’s warning to would-be adulterers is quite
clear—don’t do it.
new high-definition digital restoration beautifully shows off Coutard’s sharp
black and white imagery. Interestingly, a few New Wave traits—freeze frames and
jump cuts—still linger in Truffaut’s work in ’64.
extras include the excellent 1999 documentary Monsieur Truffaut Meets Mr. Hitchcock, about the historic
interviews conducted for Truffaut’s book; an interview with Truffaut from 1965
about the film; and an audio commentary by screenwriter Jean-Louis Richard and
Truffaut scholar Serge Toubiana.
The Soft Skin reveals a
different side of Truffaut than you may be accustomed to. Check it out.
first saw Fellini Satyricon four or
five years after its initial release in the USA (1970; originally released in
Italy in 1969) on my college campus. It wasn’t a very good print and all I
remember was that the film was weird, confusing, and not as good as some other
Fellini pictures I had seen. Over forty years later, I sat down to view the new
Criterion Blu-ray release, and... wow.
I couldn’t believe it was the same movie I’d seen as a freshman in college. For
one thing, I’m older and more appreciative of what Fellini did with his films, Satyricon notwithstanding. Secondly,
Criterion’s new 4K digital restoration, supervised by director of photography
Giuseppe Rotunno, is absolutely gorgeous. The colors are vivid and the focus is
sharp. The new subtitles are readable and clear. It is an entirely different
film from what I remembered.
Fellini Satyricon is loosely adapted
from an ancient satirical “novel” by Petronius, and we learn from the extra
documentary interviews with classicists Luca Canalli (a consultant on the film)
and Joanna Paul, that only fragments of Petronius’ work survived. Roughly three
“chapters” of the original novel is all Fellini had to work with, and therefore
he fashioned the film as if we are looking only at scraps of a story. This is
why the film seems to cut inexplicably from one situation to the middle of
another. The final tableau of ancient ruins, upon which the main characters are
frescoed, sums up the this theme very well—the picture consists of glimpses into Petronius’ tale of three
students/vagabonds/thieves who travel through a bizarre and barbaric universe
that is ancient Rome. Once this concept is understood, then the film makes a
lot more sense.
Fellini chose to envision this special world within the sensibilities of 1969;
therefore, the picture is incredibly psychedelic. This is ancient Rome on an acid
trip. The grotesquery on display is meant to shock, of course, but it’s also
strangely beautiful. The colors of the settings, costumes, flesh, and blood
assault the senses, rendering the audience into a state of hallucinatory
hypnosis. This is Fellini’s most imaginative and mesmerizing film. Oddly, the
only Oscar nomination it received in 1970 was for Best Director; it most
definitely should have been honored in the technical and design categories.
episodic story is told in vignettes as Encolpius (Martin Potter), Ascyltus
(Hiram Keller), and Giton (Max Born)—three Adonis-like bi-sexual
lovers/friends—move from one fantastic set piece to another, the most
fascinating being the feast/party of a rich man where decadence and debauchery
abounds. For 1969, this was powerful, out-of-the-box stuff.
extras on the disc include a fascinating hour-long vintage documentary, Ciao, Federico!, shot on the set during
the making of the film. Audio commentary of the film itself features an
adaptation of Eileen Lanouette Hughes’ memoir On the Set of ‘Fellini Satyricon’—a Behind the Scenes Diary.
There’s a new interview with Giuseppe Rotunno, archival interviews with
Fellini, and a new interview with still photographer Mary Ellen Mark. Felliniana is a presentation of numerous
Satyricon ephemera. The booklet
contains an essay by Michael Wood.
any Fellini film deserved “the Criterion treatment,” it is Fellini Satyricon. Do yourself a favor and pick up this magnificent
edition and behold its wonders. You’ll never think of ancient Rome in the same
Ford's WWII-era private plane in the aftermath of today's crash.
Iconic actor Harrison Ford has been injured in a private plane crash this afternoon. Ford, an experienced pilot, was flying his WWII-era plane when it crashed on a Los Angeles golf course this afternoon. Ford had been at the wheel of the plane and there were no other passengers. Witnesses said Ford suffered injuries and was bloodied. He was transported to a local hospital where he has been reportedly listed in critical condition. The story is developing...Details often change as more facts are known, but this is what is being reported by TMZ and NBC News. For more click here.
is the dominant force in Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t
Look Now, a magnificently rendered drama about psychic premonition, death,
and grief. Some would say it’s a horror film, and indeed it is truly creepy and
atmospheric in the way most good ghost stories are presented.
familiar with Roeg’s work will recognize his signature arty editing and
striking eye for composition. He began his career in cinema as a
cinematographer (he worked on Lawrence of
Arabia, The Masque of the Red Death,
Fahrenheit 451, Casino Royale (’67), Far from
the Madding Crowd, among many others) before venturing into directing.
After co-directing Performance (1970)
and helming Walkabout (1971) solo, he
delivered what could very well be his masterpiece in Don’t Look Now.
Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland as a married couple that loses a child in
a drowning accident at the beginning of the story, Roeg’s picture examines how
their grief is at first somewhat overcome by their own strong love for each
other, but is then exploited by seemingly predestined tragedy. The setting of Venice
is picturesque and beautiful, but at the same time dark and foreboding in its
labyrinth of canals, narrow streets and alleys, and decaying architecture. When
the couple begins to see a “child” wearing the same red slicker that their
daughter was wearing when she drowned, things become very strange—especially
after they meet a blind psychic woman who tells Christie that her daughter is
still with them.
editing screams of 1970s art house fare, but it still works. Of note is that sex scene, often called the most
erotic sex scene in cinema history and one that has been plagued by rumors that
Sutherland and Christie really “did it” in front of the camera (the rumors are
NOT true). The editing cuts back and forth from the nude couple in bed to them getting dressed to go out, which is
striking in its uniqueness and originality. Actually, it’s not a sex scene, but
rather a real love scene—for I can’t
think of another picture in which the love between a married man and woman is
displayed so honestly. Kudos to both actors for the trust they obviously had in
Donaggio’s score adds a haunting poignancy to the proceedings, and
cinematographer Anthony Richmond paints the imagery with a deft eye for
color...and there’s that ever-sinister RED that keeps popping up with a
multitude of meanings. Roeg’s direction is much more than an exercise in style,
and the truthful performances by Christie and Sutherland elevate the film to
new 4K digital restoration (approved by Roeg himself, now in his eighties) is
first class. Extras include a new documentary featuring interviews with
Christie, Sutherland, Richmond, and co-screenwriter Allan Scott; interviews
with Steven Soderbergh and Danny Boyle on Roeg’s work; a Q&A with Roeg from
2003; a new conversation between editor Graeme Clifford and film historian
Bobbie O’Steen; a 2002 documentary on the making of the film; and a 2006
interview with composer Donaggio.
Don’t Look Now is arguably not
only one of the finest British films of the 70s—it’s one of the greatest
British films ever. Don’t Miss It.
“A DAY IN THE
COUNTRY” (1936—but released 1946; Directed by Jean Renoir)
The Criterion Collection has released A Day in the Country, Jean Renoir’s short film (40 minutes) that was shot in 1936, abandoned as unfinished, and then edited and released by its producer ten years later without Renoir’s involvement. Based on a short story by Guy de Maupassant, the picture is a light tale about a Parisian family that decides to spend an afternoon in the country—only to have the wife and daughter wooed by two randy countrymen.
Renoir fans will certainly want to check this out, but in my opinion, when compared to Renoir’s great works such as Grand Illusion or The Rules of the Game, this is fluff. More interesting are the extras, which include a90-minute compilation of outtakes from the film and footage that shows Renoir at work. This is exceptional stuff and worth the price of admission.
Iconic Hammer actresses Martine Beswick, Veronica Carlson and Caroline Munro. (All photos copyright Adrian Smith. All rights reserved.)
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM CINEMA RETRO'S ARCHIVES
(The following article was originally run in November, 2014)
BY ADRIAN SMITH
around sixty special guests in attendance, the Westminster Central Hall on
Saturday the 7th of November was packed to its domed roof with excited Hammer
faces including Caroline Munro, Valerie Leon, Madeline Smith and Martine
Beswick were providing some glamour, but the organisers managed to make the
event extra-memorable by securing the presence of Edina Ronay, George Cole,
Freddie Jones and others who had not signed autographs at a fan event before.
At times queues to meet them ran out of the building and down the street! Other
rare UK appearances were made from Veronica Carlson and Linda Hayden, flown in
from the US to meet their fans. It was an incredible opportunity to meet an
amazing selection of Hammer stars, directors and producers.
huge selection of original Hammer film memorabilia was also available courtesy
of the brilliantly eclectic stalls around the hall. Prices ranged from the
eye-watering (£250 for an original poster!) to the affordable, with
hard-to-find DVDs, magazines, novels, t-shirts and more on offer. Between
browsing fascinating lobby-card sets and collecting autographed photos, I'm
sure several fans had to make more than one trip to the nearest cash machine.
if this alone did not make this a must-see event, there was also a busy
schedule of events throughout the day overseen by genre scholars Jonathon Rigby
and Sir Christopher Frayling. Peter Cushing's personal secretary Joyce
Broughton tearfully shared her feelings of this much-loved actor (who was
praised throughout the day by many who knew him). Joyce said that she would
never reveal the location of Cushing's ashes, as he requested that his last
resting place not become a shrine.
Ward and Robert Tayman, the latter also attending a fan event for the first
time, discussed their experiences making Vampire Circus (1972). For
Lalla it was her first film role following acting school. Robert's sense of humour
was the driest and most sardonic of the day and he was clearly enjoying the
opportunity to talk about his role as Count Mitterhaus.
Shelley made a lot of films for Hammer, from their WWII prison-camp dramas to Quatermass
and the Pit (1967). She revealed that she had swallowed one of her vampire
teeth during a scene on Dracula - Prince of Darkness (1965)! She also
expressed her gratitude to Hammer film fans for making her feel so good, and
revealed that co-star Julian Glover referred to the film as "Quater-piss
on the Mat" because of the smell of rank clay on the set!
Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell (1974) reunion saw Dave Prowse
meeting up with Shane Briant, Madeline Smith and Philip Voss. Although in poor
health, and beginning with an admission that his memory is causing him
problems, Prowse was in good form and enjoyed talking about his playing
Frankenstein's monster for the second time in a Hammer film.
Shne Briant, Sir Christopher Frayling, Philip Voss, Madeline Smith and David Prowse.
director Peter Sasdy made three films for Hammer including Taste the Blood
of Dracula (1970) and was very detailed in his discussion of the directing
process. Beginning his career in television, he had brought a new look to the
Hammer gothics with his take on Dracula, and continued that with Countess
Dracula and Hands of the Ripper (both 1971), all rather unique
entries in Hammer's late horror films.
event organiser Thomas Bowington was joined onstage by Caroline Munro, Veronica
Carlson and Martine Beswick, all three of whom were entertaining and honest in
discussing their time with Hammer. Martine shared the problems she had
experienced on Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971) when demands came
through for her to appear completely nude, Veronica praised Freddie Francis,
her director on Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1868), and Caroline
never has a bad word to say about anyone, even when she was left buried in a
hole in the ground during a rain storm whilst everyone else took a tea break
during the shooting of Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972).
Robert Tayman, Lalla Ward and Jonathon Rigby.
As the distance between classic Hammer and the 21st century continues to increase, eventsof this scale are unlikely to happen again. The good news however is
that The London Film Convention holds six events a year in Westminster!
In an informative article for The Daily Beast web site, writer Kevin Fallon looks back at the legacy of the legendary movie musical "The Sound of Music", which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Although the film is widely regarded as a classic today, Fallon points out that initial major press reviews indicated the film was not one of the critic's favorite things. The movie was panned as being syrupy and even absurd, with one critic stating that Captain Von Trapp's revulsion at discovering his children are wearing clothing made from curtains was treated with the same level of crisis as the Nazi annexation of Austria. About the only element of the production to win grudging respect from critics was the lively performance of Julie Andrews. Yet, the film became a boxoffice blockbuster, running for months- and in some cases, years- in the same theaters. It was probably the first major movie to prove to be invulnerable to otherwise overwhelmingly negative reviews. Today, critical consensus is quite different. Everyone would concede the film is saccharine sweet and simplifies, not only the real life story of the Von Trapps, but history itself. Nevertheless, it seems hard to believe that critics of the day were seemingly immune to the greatness of the Rodgers and Hammerstein score, if nothing else. Click here to read.
Director John Sturges' classic 1960 Western "The Magnificent Seven" will be remade as a big screen MGM Western by director Antoine Fuqua. Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke and Haley Bennett are the first cast members to be announced. The original film was based on another classic, director Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai". For decades, MGM has been trying to launch a remake of the film but the closest the studio came was with a moderately successful TV series. At various times, names like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Cruise had been linked to remakes that never bore fruit. The first movie spawned three big screen sequels between 1966 and 1972. At the time it premiered, the only big name stars in the cast were Yul Brynner and Eli Wallach. However, the success of the movie helped launch supporting actors Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn and James Coburn to full-fledged leading man status. German actor Horst Bucholz also went on to a very successful career. The remaining major cast member, Brad Dexter, became a film producer. For more click here.
The Sony Choice Collection has rescued another long forgotten TV movie from obscurity and released it as a burn-to-order title. "Kiss Me...Kill Me" is a crime thriller that was originally telecast in 1976. Compared to similar fare from that era, the film is fairly routine, though it might well be more appreciated today than it was at the time of its original airing. This is due to the fact that it boasts a strong cast of seasoned veteran actors- something that was relatively common in the 1970s, when the concept of TV movies became very popular. Most of these productions had star power and audiences enjoyed seeing some of their favorite movie stars on the small screen. "Kiss Me...Kill Me" stars Stella Stevens as Stella Stafford, an L.A-based investigator for the District Attorney's office. She is assigned to an especially disturbing murder case involving Maureen Coyle (Tisha Sterling), a respected young woman who teaches at a school for handicapped children. Maureen suffers from a disability herself: she has a leg disorder that causes her to walk with a limp. When she is discovered murdered in her apartment, the D.A.'s office is put under pressure to find the culprit behind the especially gruesome killing. Stella is assigned to work the case with veteran detective Harry Grant (Claude Akins). The two are old friends- and perhaps more. They interact with intimate familiarity and socialize at Stella's apartment. Harry's career has been in decline and views this case as a way of re-establishing his reputation. Before long, he has his first suspect: Edward Fuller (Robert Vaughn), an elitist owner of a major advertising agency who was seen lurking around Maureen's apartment building prior to the murder. Under questioning, he is less than co-operative and can't provide a logical reason for his being there in the dead of night. In looking into Maureen's personal life, a shocking secret emerges. Turns out she enjoyed kinky, rough sex and was known to frequent a seedy bar trolling for one night stands. Ultimately, Harry finds another suspect: a young black man named Hicks (Charles Weldon) who admits to having bedded Maureen. Harry's strong-armed tactics results in the down-and-out Hicks eventually confessing to the killing but Stella suspects he is not the real killer. This puts her at odds with Harry, who accuses her of sabotaging his case by continuing the investigation beyond Hicks, who she feels was coerced into confessing. Ultimately, the trail leads to Douglas Lane (Bruce Boxleitner), an arrogant young hunk who was using Fuller as a sugar daddy. Fuller is clearly infatuated with Lane and tries to buy his love and respect but all he gets is public humiliation. Stella becomes convinced that Lane is the real killer but trying to prove it could cost her her own life.
"Kiss Me...Kill Me" is rather provocative for a TV movie from this period, though overt discussion of S&M sex and gay relationships have to be hinted at rather than explicitly discussed. The film contains some rather routine chase scenes and action sequences but the script is more successful in regard to presenting some interesting characters and developing their relationships. The tensions between Stella and Harry boil over to the breaking point and there is good on-screen chemistry between Stella Stevens and Claude Akins, one of cinema's best "second bananas" who gets a rare leading man role here. It's also interesting to note that Stevens is the real star of this movie in an era when actresses were breaking the glass ceiling and emerging as popular action stars. (Think "Police Woman", "Wonder Woman" and "Charlie's Angels", all of which came about within a couple of years of each other.) The best performance is by Robert Vaughn, who boldly discards his image at a suave ladies man to play a weak, vulnerable aging gay man. In one scene he is publicly humiliated by the bisexual object of his affection and instead of going Napoleon Solo on the guy, Vaughn's character meekly endures the shame. It's a cringe-inducing scene that makes you feel sympathy for a character who is not very sympathetic. The are some other veteran actors in the flick, which helps elevate its status. They include Michael Anderson Jr, Dabney Coleman, Steve Franken and even Pat O'Brien as an elderly, wise-cracking morgue worker. In all, a rather enjoyable visit back in time to the glorious era of '70s TV movies. Let's hope Sony keeps making these long-unseen productions available.
The transfer is excellent but the release, unsurprisingly, has no extras.
Thanks to Cinema Retro contributor Hank Reineke, who provided this scan of the 1972 James Bond TRIPLE feature that consisted of "Dr. No", "From Russia With Love" and "Goldfinger". Those were the days....This ad is from the now-deceased State Theatre in Journal Square, Jersey City, NJ. Below is the U.S. one sheet poster made for the triple feature.
a sucker for military movies. I’ve enjoyed the genre since I was a kid and that
pleasure continues to this day. As a former military guy, it matters very
little to me the time period or whether the movie is attempting to present a
message as long as the story is good and holds my interest. Director Tom Jeffrey's “The Odd Angry
Shot” is a military movie about the Vietnam War which certainly held my
interest and with great enthusiasm.
see the Vietnam War as America going it alone and for the most part that’s true
in terms of troops sent and the high cost. Almost forgotten now and little
discussed at the time is that there was an alliance between South Vietnam and
America which included South Korea, Thailand, Laos, Taiwan, Philippines, Iran,
West German, Spain, UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
is among the members of this alliance to send troops to Vietnam and “The Odd
Angry Shot” is about a fictional deployment of Australians in the late 1960s.
The movie is based on the novella of the same name by William R. Nagel who
served as a cook in the Australian Army and deployed to Vietnam. He was a keen
observer during his time in Vietnam and created an award winning story of
movie is notable as one of the earliest movies to deal directly with combat
during the Vietnam War and specifically the soldiers of the Australian Army.
Sets for the movie were built on the Sydney Showgrounds in Sydney, New South
Wales, and later transported to the Australian Army’s Jungle Warfare Training
Center in Canungra, Queensland. This is where those serving in the Australian
Army trained before deploying to Vietnam.
movie is in a different category from Vietnam movies like “Apocalypse Now,” “The
Deer Hunter” and “Platoon” which take their subject very seriously and have
much to say about the war. The movie isn’t quite a comedy or even dark comedy,
but the tone is unusual compared to most movies about this war. “The Odd Angry
Shot” is a more light-hearted and even snarkier than those movies and resembles
“M*A*S*H” with a bit of “Catch-22.” Its focus is a group of men as we follow
them from pre-deployment at home in Australia to engaging the enemy in Vietnam.
When not out on patrols, where some receive the literal odd angry shot, they
deal with the inevitable boredom of deployments with beer drinking, writing
home to family, receiving “Dear John” letters, joking around, friendly brawls
and passing the time with a scorpion/spider fight.
movie features a mostly Australian cast, some of them recognizable as character
actors in Australian movies made over the past 35-years. John Jarratt plays the
central character, Bill, and has appeared in a wide variety of mostly
Australian productions from “Picnic at Hanging Rock” to the recent “Django
Unchained.” Probably the biggest name outside of Australia is Bryan Brown as
Rogers in one of many fine performances. Fans of “Mad Max” will recognize Tim
Burns in a “blink or you’ll miss him” part as a birthday party guest at the
beginning of “The Odd Angry Shot.” He was memorable as Johnny the Boy in “Mad Max,”
the guy faced with sawing off his own foot at the end of that movie.
Blu-ray includes a nice pile of extras including the trailer, an interview with
stunt man Buddy Joe Hooker and one of the better audio commentary tracks I’ve
listened to in a while with director Tom Jeffrey, producer Sue Milliken and
actor Graeme Blundell. It’s entertaining and the contributors are enjoying
their time discussing and reminiscing about their work on the movie.
movie looks terrific and sounds great. Regardless of your personal feelings of
the Vietnam War, this movie is an outstanding addition to any war movie
collection or fan of Australian cinema and certainly worthy of repeat viewings.
There are those who consider the Peter Sellers/Blake Edwards 1968 collaboration "The Party" to be an underrated comedy classic, while others feel it is a complete misfire. Count me among the latter. I can appreciate the audacity of making a minimalist comedy that was largely designed to be improvised- but there lies the rub. Sellers and Edwards succeeded in their quest to make this experimental film based on a threadbare script (60 pages) but the movie has a patchwork, almost desperate feel about how to fill up 99 minutes of screen time with what amounts to approximately 15 minutes of inspired material. Sellers is in top form, performance-wise, playing Hrudni V. Bakshi, an almost surrealistically polite Indian actor who we first see playing the title role in a big budget remake of "Gunga Din". With millions of dollars on the line, it's up to Bakshi to carry off his pivotal death scene so that a massive explosion can be detonated that will destroy an expensive set. In the film's funniest scenes, Bakshi drives the director crazy by screwing up even the simplest of tasks and prolonging his death scene for an absurd period of time. Then, carrying through on the age-old "Ready when you are, C.B" joke, he inadvertently ends up detonating the explosives and destroying the set before the cameras are rolling. Bakshi is immediately fired and his name is added to a studio blacklist so that he will never be hired again. Through a slight error, however, the studio boss, Fred Clutterbuck (J. Edward McKinley) mistakenly assigns his name to the invitation list of a party he is holding at his posh L.A. home. Thinking he has been forgiven for his costly mishaps, Bakshi is all too happy to attend the party, where the Hollywood "A" list crowd will be assembled.
Things start off promisingly as Sellers' ability for clever improvisation pays off. His initial Maxwell Smart-like bumblings are low-key enough to be believable. He mingles with the ever-growing crowd of snobbish party-goers and makes the acquaintance of a beautiful actress, Michele Monet (Claudine Longet), who is constantly being sexually harassed by her date, a hyper-mode, chauvinistic studio executive, C.S. Divot (Gavin MacLeod) who becomes increasingly desperate to bed her right there in the house where the party is taking place. For reasons never explained-and which defy credibility- she finds herself smitten by the innocent Bakshi and the two flirt, much to the consternation of Divot, who is the executive who fired Bakshi only the day before. In another strained plot device, he fails to recognize the same bumbling man he chastised and fired. The film traces Bakshi's increasingly disastrous mishaps at the party, which become more surrealistic with every passing minute. Comic actor Steve Franken appears as a tuxedo-clad waiter who walks about serving champagne on a tray but who has a nasty habit of taking liberal gulps of the bubbly himself. Edwards features the character in interminable amounts of footage, as the waiter becomes increasingly drunk. Although the scenes are skillfully played by Franken, the one-note joke becomes another repetitious absurdity. By the end of the film Edwards pulls the plug on any semblance of sanity and resorts to pure chaos. The midst of over-flowing toilets, sexual escapades, overbearing kids and their drill instructor-like nanny (a woefully underutilized Jean Carson), Edwards centers the action on a large swimming pool where, inexplicably, the household teenagers arrive with their hippie friends and a baby elephant (!) in tow, though it is never explained how suburban kids get their hands on a baby elephant. Then the pool is submerged in a never-ending sea of soap bubbles as everyone parties with the semi-submerged elephant. Keeping in mind that the film was released at the dawn of the hippie era, every major studio tried desperately to tap into the youth market, Blake Edwards included. Devoid of any meaningful concept of how to end the movie, he obviously decided that if he put in blaring music and a bunch of drunken or drug-induced party goers, the psychedelic imagery would mask the lack of genuine comedic content. The epilogue of the movie finds Bakshi mercifully back in real life, but driving a vintage 1930s three wheel classic British sports car by the Morgan Motor Company. (The car's appearance in the film became somewhat iconic.) He pays a visit to Michele's apartment and it becomes clear the two will form an unlikely romance.
Despite my reservations about "The Party", I can heartily recommend the new Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber. The first reason is because there are many people who seem to think this film is terrific and the opinion of this reviewer is definitely in the minority. The second reason is the quality of the Blu-ray itself, which does justice to one of the film's greatest assets, its creative production design by Fernardo Carrera. The transfer looks great and the colors practically leap out of the screen. Over a decade ago, MGM, which initially released the film on DVD, commissioned extras to be shot for inclusion in a special edition of "The Party". For reasons unknown, those extras were never released in the United States but were included on a UK DVD release. Why MGM didn't feel the extras were worth including in the North American market is a mystery because they feature extensive insights from Blake Edwards and other cast and crew members. Fortunately, Kino Lorber managed to rescue some of these bonus extras for inclusion on this release. One featurette details the over-all making of the film, while another is particularly fascinating, as it points out how this movie marked the first time that a video assist technique was employed on a major studio film. The innovation involved attaching a video camera to the main 35mm camera, thus allowing Edwards to view what he had just shot instead of having to wait for the dailies. It was a refinement of a technique that Jerry Lewis had been experimenting with for years. Edwards realized this would change how films were shot and at one point ended up buying the rights to the technology before relinquishing them back to the inventor, who by this point, had found a way to build a video camera inside the 35mm camera. Edwards states that he simply didn't have time to run the company while in the middle of making films, though he acknowledges that his decision probably cost him a small fortune in future profits. The Blu-ray also includes the original trailer and career over-views of Edwards and producers Walter Mirisch and Ken Wales.
So there you have it: a rare case where I can't recommend the main feature but enthusiastically recommend the Blu-ray special edition.
Actor Leonard Nimoy has died from pulmonary disease at age 83. The iconic "Star Trek" legend had attributed his health issues to the habit of smoking, even though he gave up cigarettes many years ago, according to the New York Times. For full coverage, click here.
Altman was a very quirky director, sometimes missing the mark, but oftentimes
brilliant. His 1973 take on Raymond Chandler’s 1953 novel The Long Goodbye is a case in point. It might take a second viewing
to appreciate what’s really going on in the film. Updating what is essentially
a 1940s film noir character to the
swinging 70s was a risky and challenging prospect—and Altman and his star,
Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe (!), pull it off.
one of those pictures that critics hated when it was first released; and yet,
by the end of the year, it was being named on several Top Ten lists. I admit
that when I first saw it in 1973, I didn’t much care for it. I still wasn’t
totally in tune with the kinds of movies Altman made—even after M*A*S*H, Brewster McCloud (an underrated gem), and McCabe & Mrs. Miller. But I saw it again a few years later on a
college campus and totally dug it. Altman made oddball films, and either you
went with the flow or you would be put off by the improvisational, sometimes
sloppy mise-en-scene that the
director used. And the sound—well, Altman is infamous for his overlapping
dialogue (one critic called it “Altman Soup”). If you didn’t “get” what the
director was doing with sound, then you would certainly have a hard time with
Elliott Gould plays Philip Marlowe. A very different interpretation than
Humphrey Bogart, obviously. And yet, it works. Gould displays the right amount
of bemused cynicism, as if he had been asleep for twenty years and suddenly
woken up in the 1970s. And that’s exactly how Altman, screenwriter Leigh
Brackett (who co-wrote the 1946 The Big
Sleep), and Gould approached the material. Altman, in a documentary extra
on the making of the film, called the character “Rip Van Marlowe.” He is an anachronism
in a different time. For example, Marlowe can’t help but be bewildered by the
quartet of exhibitionist lesbians that live in his apartment complex. And he
still drives a car from his original era. And therein lies the point of the
picture—this is a comment on the 70s, not the 50s.
plot concerns the possible murder of the wife of Marlowe’s good friend—the
friend is a suspect—as well as a suitcase of missing money belonging to a
vicious gangster (extrovertly played by film director Mark Rydell), an Ernest
Hemingway-like writer who has gone missing (eccentrically played by Sterling
Hayden), and the author’s hot blonde wife who may know more than she’s telling
(honestly portrayed by newcomer Nina van Pallandt). The story twists, turns,
hits some bumps in the road, and finally circles back to the initial beginning
may not be one of Altman’s best films, but it’s one of the better ones. It’s
certainly one of the more interesting experiments he tried in his most prolific
period of the 70s.
Lorber’s Blu-ray release, however, doesn’t really improve on the original DVD
release of some years ago. It appears to be a straight to Blu-ray transfer with
no digital restoration of any kind. Hence, the image looks not much better than
the DVD version. Since the soft photography and low lighting was intentional,
any attempt at high definition is lost. The extras—the aforementioned “making
of” documentary, a short piece on cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, an animated
reproduction of a vintage American
Cinematographer article, the trailer, and a few radio spots—are the same.
if you’re an Altman fan and don’t already own the out of print DVD, you may
want to pick up the new Blu-ray. It probably won’t be long before this, too,
like Philip Marlowe himself, is a rare collector’s item.
(This review pertains to the UK Region 2 video releases).
BY ADRIAN SMITH
Armstrong, the writer and star of Eskimo Nell,once said, "It's hard
to wank and laugh at the same time". In the 1970s filmmakers gave it a
very good try however, and the British sex comedy was virtually the only kind
of film being funded. The problem is
that the majority of them were neither funny or sexy. They were generally
grubby and embarrassing for the actors and the audience. One of the pioneers of
the British sex film was director and producer Stanley Long, responsible for The
Wife Swappers (1969) and Adventures of a Taxi Driver (1975) and many
others. An occasional cinematographer on prestigious films like Roman
Polanski's Repulsion (1965), Long often recognised and nurtured new
talent, particularly if he could see a financial reward.
Armstrong had written The Sex Thief for Martin Campbell (1975), a film that
Stanley Long admired, so he approached the two of them with an idea for making
a film based on the pornographic poem Eskimo Nell. Realising that the concept
was so pornographic it was unfilmable, Armstrong decided to pen a tale of
young, idealistic filmmakers trying to make a film in 1970s Britain. Armstrong
wrote himself in as the director, fresh out of film school. After being
rejected by the major studios, he finds himself hired by Benny U. Murdoch (Roy
Kinnear), a sleazy producer who is obsessed with making a sex film based on the
poem Eskimo Nell. In an attempt to raise the finance, they end up agreeing to
make various different versions: a pornographic film, a kung-fu musical, a gay
cowboy epic and a wholesome family film, each with a different star. Inevitably
chaos ensues, along the way spoofing virtually the entire British film
industry, Mary Whitehouse and the Legion of Decency, and the very establishment
Eskimo Nell is a fantastic
snapshot of Britain in the 1970s, and also manages to be utterly hilarious. The
cast includes porn pin-up Mary Millington and TV stars Christopher Biggins, Doctor
Who's Katy Manning and Christopher Timothy, best known as the vet from All
Creatures Great and Small. Some of the comedy is dated, it often manages to
be tasteless, and is probably offensive in its use of camp gay stereotypes, but
the film gets away with it all thanks to the filmmakers' irreverent attitude. Eskimo
Nell is not only Britain's best sex comedy, but also one of the finest
satires of the film industry ever made. Michael Armstrong was an experienced
film director himself, having made horror films including Mark of the Devil
(1970) under very difficult circumstances. Martin Campbell went on to achieve
fame as director of two Bond Films, GoldenEye (1995) and Casino
Royale (2006), putting his sex film history far behind him.
Films have released the film in both DVD and Blu-ray versions, utilising a new
transfer of a 35mm print from the BFI archive. A booklet about the film is
included, written by genre historian Simon Sheridan, who also discusses the
film with Michael Armstrong on an entertaining commentary track. Eskimo Nell
is a terrific film and this new release is a reminder that it was indeed
possible to laugh at a sex film.
his career, director Marco Bellocchio has been no stranger to controversy.A former supporter of militant left wing
politics, many of his films have strong socialistic and violent themes woven
throughout them.Although he has
somewhat mellowed with age, his younger years were still quite radical.Few of his films demonstrate this better than
1986’s Devil in the Flesh (Il Diavolo in Corpo), a sexually charged film
set during the terrorism and turmoil of Italy’s “Years of Lead”.Loosely based on Raymond Radiguet’s novel, this
Italian-French production stars Maruschka Detmers and Federico Pitzalis as two
lovers entrapped by the passion they have for one another. As they soon
discover, though, passion alone cannot sustain a healthy relationship,
especially when one person is engaged to a jailed terrorist. Although the plot
a bit clichéd, Devil stands out for being one of the first X rated films
to not only feature a mainstream actress, but also be released in the U.S. by a
(Pitzalis) is an eighteen year old student who, like many people in their final
years of high school, is quite bored with all the monotonous lectures in the
classroom. One day class is interrupted
by a commotion from a nearby rooftop. Looking around, the class discovers that a young woman is threatening to
jump, drawing a crowd of onlookers. One
of these onlookers is Giulia (Detmers), an older woman that Andrea sees and
immediately becomes infatuated with. Pursuing her, Andrea and Giulia eventually develop a friendship which
quickly becomes sexual and transforms into a torrid affair. Yet, complicating this affair is the fact that
Giulia is engaged to a man who is in prison for charges of terrorism. Also, Giulia’s soon to be mother-in-law becomes
quite suspicious and endeavors to find out who is sleeping with her son’s
fiancé. As if all this is not enough, Andrea discovers that Giulia is a rather
unstable woman who shows hints at the capacity of violence. All in all, these
factors make all the problems Romeo and Juliet faced seem quite tame in
be given to Pitzalis, who depicts the detached, devil-may-care attitude of a
disaffected teenager with great conviction. As the film progresses, it is clear that Andrea really has no ambitions,
no dreams, and no real concerns in the world. The only thing he actually cares about is Giulia, and the lust he feels
towards her. While his performance is
admirable, it is still undoubtedly Maruschka Detmers who steals the show with
her own dazzling skill. She doesn’t
simply portray a woman who is controlled by passion, but rather a woman who is
trapped by passion. It is readily apparent that for Giulia, passion is both her
savior and tormentor. The longer her
relationship with Andrea continues, the closer she is to being pushed over the
edge into outright madness. Happiness and misery come together hand and hand. Between Giulia’s hysterical laughs, longings
for Andrea, and sudden bursts of energy followed by crashing lows, the film
begs audiences to answer a specific question. Does Giulia truly love Andrea, or does she simply need/use him? Either way, it seems unlikely that “ happily
ever after” is in the cards for these two.
Devil is sexually explicit, and as such
it may make some viewers uncomfortable to watch. In today’s day and age, relations between
high school students and older adults are gravely serious matters. While numerous similar films have been made,
there still may be some viewers who may find the vivid subject matter in poor
taste, especially in a scene roughly halfway through the film. In one of the
more infamous moments in Bellocchio’s
film career, Devil in the Flesh features a scene of un-simulated sex between
Pitzalis and Detmers. Although brief and
done (for lack of a better word) tastefully, it is still unusual to see outside
adult films (although to be fair, many contemporary TV shows such as Game of
Thrones have come pretty close to approaching, and breaking down, that same
taboo). Understandably, Italian
producers wanted the scene to be cut, yet Bellocchio refused. Eventually, Italian Courts ruled in his
favor, and he was able to complete the film with his cinematic vision fully
made a bold career choice by agreeing to the scene, because she became one of
the first mainstream actresses to participate in an act of un-simulated sex.
Initially, she did defend her choice, saying that the scene had not been done
or portrayed in a vulgar manner. While she may be right, it became something
that would stand out in her resume and overshadow many of her other
day, critics are still divided about this infamous scene, although the majority
of opinions seem to be unfavorable. While some will argue that it captures the raw passion that exists
between Andrea and Giulia, many others argue that it trivializes the passion by
trading in for shock value. Even with the relaxation in standards today for
media (again, here’s looking at you Game of Thrones; Blue is the Warmest
Color) there is a fine that can’t be crossed without penalty. When Devil premiered in the United
States, it received an X rating and was confined to art house theaters. Still,
the fact that any major distributor (Orion Pictures) even chose to showcase the
film was pretty remarkable: it shows how times were changing, albeit slowly.
the Flesh was made
in the 1980s, during a period where the Italian film industry was in crisis.
While in previous decades the industry had been one of the most world renown,
the 80s saw a widening gap between mainstream and art house cinema. To this day many people, including Quentin
Tarantino, lament over the current state of Italian cinema. They feel that the industry has lost that
magic touch that helped produce some of the most iconic movies in years past. Agree or disagree, this particular movie is
clearly different from something that would have normally been shown in
NoShame Films and MYA Communications released fully restored versions of Devil
in the Flesh. Although both labels
are defunct, the DVDs are still readily available on sites such as Amazon for
decent prices. The NoShame edition does
have more special features, but both editions are uncut and feature gorgeously
re-mastered colors and crisp audio. Overall, lovers of Bellocchio and art house films might just want to
check this one out; highly recommended.
Well, it's that time of year again when pundits everywhere weigh in on the merits (or lack thereof) of the previous evening's Oscar telecast.
Here are my random observations:
Host Neil Patrick Harris was affable and likable and worked like hell to put on a good show. But there lies the rub. Traditionally, Oscar hosts never had to be chosen for their ability to carry Busby Berkeley-like song and dance extravaganzas. Dear old Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope and Johnny Carson were simply there to keep the traffic flowing to the podium in between rattling off some memorable one-liners. Billy Crystal quashed that tradition with his ever-outrageous opening production numbers that razzed the Academy and some of the nominees. The idea should have been retired with him when he announced he would no longer host the event. Last evening's opening act was certainly opulent and contained some funny zingers if you could discern them through the lightning-fast production. Throughout the rest of the show, Harris had some hits but plenty of misses. There were some witty lines (i.e "Tonight we honor Hollywood's best and whitest") but plenty of bizarre antics that either flopped or just went nowhere. Early on, he introduced a running gag in which he said he made predictions about the show that were kept in a locked box on the stage. No one knew the point of the joke, which he referred to numerous times. When the payoff finally came, it turns out there were printed pages that accurately predicted what certain winners and presenters would say and how they would act. It was impressive but only in the way that a guy at a cocktail party can impress others with the old "Pick a card...any card!" magic routine. It was completely pointless for an Oscar telecast that weighed in at 3 1/2 hours. Additionally, some of Harris's other jokes were so lame that, in one instance, he had to explain the meaning of a joke about Oprah Winfrey's wealth to Oprah herself. When you have to discuss why people should find a joke funny in retrospect, you're in trouble. I was reminded of a critic who once said that watching producer Samuel Bronston's "Circus World" was like sitting with an elephant on your lap. Perhaps last night's event wasn't the equivalent of an elephant but it came pretty close to holding a walrus on your lap. Harris gamely tried to keep the pace going fast but it was beyond his control. Overlong acceptance speeches are the bane of any Oscar host and they were out in full force last night. Overall, Harris tried hard and succeeded often enough not to have embarrassed himself. However, since the guy already hosts the Tony Awards, the Emmys, the TV Land Awards and probably the "Man of the Year" at your local Loyal Order of Moose Lodge, the Academy should pull out all the stops to bring back some proven hosts such as Steve Martin, Whoopi Goldberg or Ellen Degeneres, all of whom have a natural ability to improvise brilliantly.
Most of the talent on stage looked elegant. For the most part the males continued the welcome trend of shunning trendy tuxedos in favor of the standard black tie look. The ladies also avoided any over-the-top fashion disasters and most looked very stylish, with J-Lo knocking viewer's eyes out with a plunging neckline number that managed to be sexy without crossing over into tacky.
Harris's ill-constructed comedy sketch in which he strutted from backstage out to the main event clad only in white briefs was probably lost on 95% of the viewers who didn't realize that it was a spoof of a sequence in "Birdman". As such, countless millions of people around the globe were probably scratching their heads as they pondered the relevance of the largely superfluous routine. I have a sneaky feeling that the primary motive for Harris to strut out of the stage and show his fab abs. That doesn't make it appropriate for an event that once at least aspired to providing a classy atmosphere. This bit would have been better left to the Letterman show.
Harris struts his stuff in "Birdman" sketch that was more suited for "Letterman" than the Oscars.
Left-wing political speeches were back with a vengeance but they had a mixed impact. Long-time activist Patricia Arquette, a deserving Supporting Actress winner for her remarkable performance in "Boyhood", gave an impassioned speech about equal pay for women. It was somewhat appropriate, given the fact that her character in the film is a single mother who struggles her entire life with low pay in often menial jobs. However, anyone delivering a passionate speech about any topic should take note: it would have a bit more meaning and sincerity if it wasn't read word-for-word off a sheet of paper. These people are professional actors, for Pete's sake--- why can't they just speak extemporaneously about subjects that are supposed to be so important to them? The writers of the Oscar-winning song "Glory" from "Selma" were more effective, delivering a relevant criticism of exceptionally high incarceration rates for black males in America, along with successful attempts in recent years to weaken the Voting Rights Act. Alejandro G. Innaritu, the Mexican director who won the Oscar for "Birdman", worked in some respectful pleas regarding the plight of illegal immigrants when he initially won an award for co-writing the screenplay for the film. When Sean Penn strolled to the podium to announce the Best Director award for Innaritu, he pondered about "Who gave this sonofabitch a Green Card?" So Innaritu will always have that as part of his legacy. Penn may be one of our greatest actors, but the combination of his perpetual frown and his penchant for tasteless remarks should make him off-limits for future Oscar chores. The most effective "lecture" was the one delivered by Graham Moore, who won Best Adapted Screenplay for "The Imitation Game". The young, gay writer made a plea for tolerance in society and disclosed that age 16, he had tried to commit suicide. He inspired young viewers to be proud of who they are and to continue being "weird". It was a poignant and touching moment.
Least classy Oscar nominee: Michael Keaton, who chewed gum throughout the entire evening. The ghosts of Cary Grant and Laurence Olivier must have been doing cartwheels in their graves.
I was happy to see J.K. Simmons win Best Supporting Actor for his amazing - and terrifying performance- as a potentially psychotic music teacher in "Whiplash". Simmons encouraged everyone to call (not text, or E mail!) their parents, if they are fortunate enough to still have them, and express their love for them. Good advice...but it was kind of a weird Dr. Phil moment. More bizarrely, Simmons never uttered a word of thanks to his director or co-star.
I hope I never see another Oscar show in which the host enters the audience to toss jibes at attendees. Harris tried this and the results were deadly. As the clock kept ticking, he engaged in meaningless patter that he seemed to be improvising on the spot. This included humiliating various celebrities for no apparent reason and even making small talk with a "seat filler" (a person who takes a celeb's seat if they have to run to the bathroom.) It got so bad that I thought I had gone into a time warp and was watching an old episode of Monty Hall in "Let's Make a Deal".
There was so much time wasted on superfluous bits that went nowhere that I really resented the fact that honorary Oscar winners Maureen O'Hara and Harry Belafonte were relegated to a few seconds of film clips from an event held separately from the main show. Exactly how does a show that extols Hollywood tradition and glamour not find a few fleeting minutes for these legends to appear on the telecast? It was galling, especially when you saw another legend, Sidney Poitier, standing next to Belafonte. Can you imagine the emotional payoff if this had been played out on stage? But it didn't because we needed that valuable time to be used for Harris to stroll through the audience trying to find how to kill time.
One nice surprise was the tribute to the 50th anniversary of "The Sound of Music" in which a selection of classic songs from the film were performed by a surprisingly understated Lady Gaga- topped off by an on-stage appearance by the ageless Julie Andrews. With so few Hollywood legends still with us, this was especially nice to see.
The award for "Longest Winded Speech of the Night" went to Pawel Pawlikowski, the director of "Ida", the Polish movie that won for Best Foreign Film. We understand his pride in taking home his country's first Oscar but he simply wouldn't shut up-- even when the orchestra started playing over his words. It's as though he thought he was filming the pilot for the "Pawel Pawlikowski Show". Maybe next year, Oscar should consider reviving one of those big canes they used to use in Vaudeville to forcibly remove performers from the stage.
As usual, most of the nominees for Best Song were boring at best and at least one- from "The Lego Movie"- was awful. It may have been fun in the context of the film itself, but even an elaborately staged production number couldn't mask the fact that not one sane person would ever willingly play this at home or in their car. Similarly, seeing the audience explode in thunderous applause at John Legend's rendition of "Glory" from "Selma", one couldn't help but wonder just how often most of these folks ever listen to gospel music in their spare time.
There were numerous jibes about the recent controversy regarding the fact that all of the major nominees were white. This lead to conspiracy theories all around that there were devious forces afoot that belied a racist tone to the Academy. Really? For the record, after every year's nominees are announced, there is an inevitable backlash that so-and-so got cheated out of a nomination. This is nothing new. As for racism in the Academy, it's pretty fair to guess that the vast majority of the Academy members would be considered very liberal. For years, conservatives have lambasted this aspect of the awards, accusing the Academy of caving in to political correctness. Additionally, one only has to consider the fact that last year's Best Picture winner was "12 Years a Slave" and two of it's key artists- screenwriter John Ridley and actress Lupita Nyong'o, both of whom are black- received Oscars.The film was nominated for nine Oscars including a nomination for the film's director Steve McQueen, who is also black. It simply defies belief that the same members of the Academy became racist in the course of twelve months. Even if you do believe that, didn't anyone notice that a Mexican director won the top award?
Then there is the annual controversy about the memorial segment of artists who passed away in the last year. As usual, everyone can cite somebody who should have been included. Although Elaine Stritch was noted more for stage appearances and Joan Rivers was primarily a comedy star, both should have been included because they did have feature films on their resumes. (Rivers was actually one of the first female directors and she used to host the Oscar red carpet event for many years.) No mention was made of either of them, but there were plenty of people cited who worked behind the scenes as executives or agents that most people never heard of. My own personal gripe is that our old friend and Cinema Retro contributor, actor Richard Kiel, was also not commemorated despite the fact that he was a hugely popular figure in films, especially for his role as the immortal James Bond villain Jaws. Another affront we took personally was the omission of Brian G. Hutton, who directed "Where Eagles Dare", "Kelly's Heroes" and Frank Sinatra's last starring role in a feature film, "The First Deadly Sin". Apparently his contributions to the film industry were not deemed worthy of recognition. Can't they extend this sequence just another 60 seconds? Given all the padding in the show, time constraints should not be cited as a reason to diss major names such as these.
Lastly, the Academy deserves credit for nominating films that, by and large, were worthy of all the nominations they received. The year 2014 was a terrible one for Hollywood in terms of declining boxoffice. The industry depends more and more on fewer and fewer potential blockbuster movies. It's a recipe for disaster. Meanwhile, the Academy has correctly brought to the world's attention the existence of smaller, personal films that negate the common criticism that most good movies were made decades ago. In fact, some of those nominated will be regarded as classics and the attention the Oscars afford these smaller films will help them find the audiences they so richly deserve.
A long time ago in our own galaxy, major American television networks once aspired to raise the quality of the medium through the presentation of prestigious TV movies and mini-series. The trend began in earnest in the 1970s and continued through the next decade before a new generation of executives decided to dumb down the quality in favor of sensationalism. Ironically we are living in what many consider to be a new "Golden Age" of television- but the caveat is that most of the good stuff requires viewers to pay to view it through HBO, Showtime, Amazon Prime and Netflix. American network "free" TV is pretty much worth what we're paying for it with an endless array of smutty sitcoms, various "reality" shows that star real-life miscreants and a largely indistinguishable batch of urban cop shows that have so exhausted the premise that I expect CBS to announce "NCIS: Mayberry" as a new series. Add to this the interminable number of commercials and you have a medium that is self-destructing before our eyes. Even if you can become engrossed in a mystery show, the mood is rather negated by seeing countless ads for male sexual stimulants coupled with warnings that a dangerous side effect might be a four hour erection. (I have yet to meet a middle aged male who wouldn't welcome this particular "ailment".) Yet we still have visual records of the glory days of American television and that includes the availability on DVD of many high quality TV productions that were known as the "Movie of the Week". All three major networks sank a lot of money into these ventures and attracted top names to star in them. The format also afforded many aspiring young talents behind the cameras to emerge in prominence, the most notably Steven Spielberg', whose 1971 TV thriller "Duel" remains a timeless classic.
The Warner Archive has released the 1973 TV movie "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" as a burn-to-order title. The film was originally telecast in 1973, an era when some fine work was being done in the realm of the horror genre. (Both "Don't Look Now" and "The Exorcist" were released theatrically that year.) Kim Darby gives a fine performance as Sally Farnham, a young wife who has inherited a large, old world house that had once belonged to her grandparents. She moves in with her husband Alex (Jim Hutton), an up-and-coming executive whose workaholic ways causes some occasional tension in the marriage (this being an era in which the standard role for women was to keep the house tidy until her hubby came home.) The couple begins a vigorous and ambitious redecorating project and hire an interior designer (Pedro Armendariz Jr.) to redo most of the rooms. Things go well enough initially but when Sally pokes around a long-neglected study she ponders why the fireplace has been bricked up to make it as secure as a bank vault. Mr. Harris (William Demarest), a long-time handyman who worked for Sally's grandparents, informs her that he bricked up the fireplace at the insistence of her grandfather. Without telling her precisely why, he advises her to leave well enough alone and not pursue plans to make the fireplace operational. In true horror movie tradition, she instantly ignores his advice and breaks through part of the brickwork, opening a vent to a seemingly bottomless drop below. Before you can say "Vincent Price!", strange things start happening. Sally feels as though she is being watched and she hears eerie voices whispering throughout the house. In another tried-and-true horror movie tradition, her husband instantly dismisses her concerns- even when she realizes her imagination isn't playing tricks on her.
From almost the very beginning of the film, director John Newland lets the viewer in on the fact that the house is indeed haunted, though her forestalls showing us the intruders. Instead, we hear them whisper and giggle among themselves as they celebrate being free to roam the house. They know Sally by name and make it clear that they intend to steal her soul and make her one of them. The action picks up when Sally and Alex host a prestigious dinner party for his business contacts. The party goes disastrously off course when Sally catches her first glimpse of who is menacing her. It is a gnome-like little creature that stands about one foot tall and he is perched directly beneath her at the dinner table. She screams in panic and of course the creature slips away before anyone else can see him, leading Alex to chastise her later for ruining a perfectly good dinner party. She is later menaced by the creatures while she is in the shower (another horror movie tradition). This is followed by what appears to be the accidental death of visitor to the house, but Sally knows it was murder caused by the gnome creatures. With Alex leaving on a business trip, Sally does defy one horror film tradition by vowing to get the hell out of the house instead of staying around to see what happens next. Before she can leave, however, the little devils manage to incapacitate her with a sleeping pill. Only the presence of her friend Joan (Barbara Anderson) prevents them from taking her into their lair beneath the house. Joan begins to believe that everything Sally has feared is actually true and in a tense climax, the house is plunged into darkness and Joan races against time to save her friend from an unthinkable fate.
"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" has built a loyal following over the decades after it's sensational initial telecast in 1973. The film is extremely well-made and intelligently scripted by Nigel McKeand. Darby and Hutton offer some real star power and William Demarest, who was primarily known for playing cranky old guys in comedies, is well-cast in a highly dramatic role that he carries off very effectively. Director Newland, an old hand at supernatural tales (he hosted the TV series "One Step Beyond") might have milked more suspense from the script by never actually showing the creatures that menace Sally. However, given the fact that he chose to do so, it must be said they are genuinely creepy. The special effects are all the more impressive given the fact that the film was made in the pre-CGI era. The cackling little demons sound like Munchkins but there's nothing cute about them. Thanks to some very good makeup effects, they provide some memorably chilling images.
The Warner Archive edition contains a bonus audio commentary track with horror movie screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick ("Final Destination", "Day of the Dead") and film historians Steve "Uncle Creepy" Barton and Sean Abley. The three are definitely in full "Mystery Science Theatre" mode, joking and mocking various aspects of the production. They pounce on the casting, saying that Darby looks like Jim Hutton's daughter instead of his wife and take some very funny potshots at the awful '70s styles Darby is seen sauntering around in. (They refer to her wardrobe as a form of birth control.) Just when their sarcasm about the film seems to be going into the realm of disrespect, they make it clear that they very much admire the film as a whole and appropriately commend key aspects of the production. Their commentary is consistently insightful when discussing its place within the horror genre but at least two of them seem a bit ignorant of movie history in general, as evidenced by the fact they have no idea that Jim Hutton was a major star in the 1960s and 1970s. One of the commentators does at least know that "he's Timothy Hutton's father". In all, the commentary track is a very nice bonus feature one would not readily expect to find on a title such as this.
"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" is a bit dated in concept and execution but it stands light years ahead of most of the gore-drenched "dead teenager" movies that define the horror genre today, as evidenced by the lackluster response accorded to the 2010 big screen remake.
In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and in anticipation of the forthcoming big screen version of the classic television series, Cinema Retro will be offering periodic reviews of individual episodes of the show, which aired between September 1964 and January 1968. The episodes will be chosen at random and not presented in any specific order, thus offering analysis of telecasts from the four seasons. Reviews will be written by U.N.C.L.E. scholars and long-time devotees of the series.
BY C.W. WALKER
Date: February 1, 1965; repeated June 21, 1965
December 16-18; 21-23, 1964
fans new to The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
ask me which episodes they should start with, The Mad Mad Tea Party Affair is always at the top of my list. It was filmed
just before Christmas and aired in February, midway through the first season
when the series was really hitting its stride.Although it lacks the film noir
feel of some other first season episodes like “The Dove Affair” and “The Never
Never Affair” or the colorful ‘60s vibe of later seasons, it contains all the
elements that defined the series and made it so enormously popular. In many
ways, this is a quintessential episode.
plot effectively employs a three-cornered structure so integral to the series
which always includes an initially confused but ultimately helpful Innocent; a smart,
powerful and deadly Villain, and of course, the agents supported by the
U.N.C.L.E. organization. In this case, the Innocent is a hapless store clerk
named Kay Lorrison played by Zohra Lampert, who many will remember from the
Goya Bean commercials of the 1980s. Lorrison is with her fiancée, Walter, buying
lunch from a pushcart on a New York side street, when a mysterious man
accidentally-on-purpose smears mustard on her dress, necessitating a trip into
Del Floria’s dry cleaning shop to take care of the damage.
of the attractions of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
series was its central “wainscot fantasy” --- that is, the idea that an
incredible but largely invisible and exotic world of spies fighting evil existed
side by side with our everyday, mundane existence. As with Harry Potter’s
Hogwarts, young folks in the audience wanted to believe that U.N.C.L.E. was real
(the official sounding disclaimer at the end of each episode told us so!) and adults
could have fun playing along. Everyone coveted an U.N.C.L.E. identification
card (preferably gold) or fervently hoped that one day, Napoleon Solo and Illya
Kuryakin would come knocking on our door, dragging us along with them to save
the world. Even the United Nations got into the act when visitors asked guides
to allow them a peek at U.N.C.L.E.
bad guys (often, but not always) were in league with Thrush, and could be found
lurking just behind the facades of the most innocuous places like book stores
and car washes, beauty salons and vacuum cleaner repair shops. To enter
U.N.C.L.E.’s sleek futuristic headquarters (what Kay later describes as this
“chrome and gunmetal madhouse”), all you had to do was pull the coat hook in
the middle booth of Del Floria’s. Poor Kay: she doesn’t even pull that iconic
hook. While she’s still patiently waiting, dressed in just her underwear, the
back wall suddenly swings open, revealing U.N.C.L.E.’s pulsing high tech reception area and, like
Alice, Kay is suddenly propelled through a modern looking glass.
episode acknowledges its debt to Lewis Carroll with act titles like “The Rabbit
Hole Revisited” and “The Mad Hatter’s Inquisition.” Dick Nelson only wrote two
other episodes besides this one, but with his contributions of the retired
agent, Albert Sully in “The Odd Man Affair,” and the infamous Thrush operative,
Angelique, in “The Deadly Games Affair,” his contribution to the series’ canon
unplanned sojourn at HQ means she may miss her own wedding, but there’s a much
larger crisis shaping up in the form of increasingly serious threats being made
against U.N.C.L.E. which is hosting a top secret international summit within
the HQ building later that day. The aforementioned mysterious man (a bemused
Richard Haydn), who begins the story by attacking HQ with a model airplane,
turns out to be a red herring: he’s actually U.N.C.L.E. chief Alexander Waverly’s
brother-in-law, a logic professor named Hemingway. The real villain is Riley (a
misleadingly pleasant Peter Haskell) a mole in U.N.C.L.E.’s demolition lab, who
is working under the direction of the notorious Thrush scientist, Dr. Egret.
is notable, not only because she is a formidable professional woman, but also
because she could effectively transform her physical appearance. Thus
disguised, she was supposed to be a recurrent antagonist but played by
different actresses. As it turned out, she will show up only once more, in “The
Girls from Nazarone Affair,” definitely a lost opportunity.
with the Innocent, the Villain and the agents all scrambling around the sleek,
shiny corridors of U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, , “The Mad Mad Tea Party” also features some interesting gadgetry, including
an innocent looking pen that, when pressed against a skull, can instantly homogenize
a brain. This wicked weapon is deliberately contrasted with Hemingway’s more mundane attempts to keep the
agents on their toes. For the most part, veteran television director Seymour
Robbie plays it straight and simple, although he does include a particularly
notable low angle shot of shell casings sliding across the corridor floor after
all ends well of course, but not before some very close calls, enough for Kay
to realize that although the life of an enforcement agent can be terribly
exciting, she’s better off pursuing a nice quiet life with good old boring
Walter. I’m not quite sure we in the audience felt the same way. Illya looks
awfully dashing in that black turtleneck at the end, and his playful wink is
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one of Woody Allen’s best films, The
Purple Rose of Cairo, released in 1985, is a treat. It’s got laughs and
pathos and is an excellent treatise on the conflict between fantasy and
reality. Purple Rose represents a
period when Allen was at the peak of his powers, when he was considered one of
America’s greatest auteurs, and
before there was the stigma of scandal hovering over his work. In 1985, Allen
could do no wrong, and The Purple Rose of
Cairo does everything right.
doesn’t appear in the film. The picture belongs to Mia Farrow, and she delivers
one of her best and most poignant performances as Cecilia, a meek and unhappy
housewife/waitress in New Jersey during the Depression area. She is married to
Monk (Danny Aiello), who is abusive and pays little attention to her needs.
Thus, Cecilia escapes to the movies and sometimes sits through the same picture
repeatedly. One such picture is the film-within-the-film, The Purple Rose of Cairo, a fictional RKO movie about Manhattan
socialites who have just returned from Africa. They’ve brought along an
archaeologist, Tom Baxter (winningly played by Jeff Daniels), who notices
Cecilia in the audience, falls in love with her, and then breaks the fourth
wall by stepping out of the screen and into the real world. Cecilia and Tom
have a whirlwind romance, even going back into the movie together for a “madcap
hilarity comes, of course, with Baxter’s reactions to the universe of color and
places beyond the scenes in the movie he was in. But his vacating the picture
has caused problems—the other characters in the movie don’t know what to do
with themselves and their story halts. The picture’s producer and Gil Shepherd—the
“real” actor who played Baxter onscreen—comes to remedy the situation. Cue the
love triangle complications.
draws from a number of influences, most particularly Buster Keaton’s 1924 film,
Sherlock Jr., in which Keaton is a
theater projectionist who slips into the movie that’s playing. Allen takes the
premise further, in several different directions, and the result is a bittersweet
comedy that even Allen himself (who is normally self-deprecating about his
work) thinks turned out well. The picture also features an early appearance by Glenne
Headly and Allen regular Dianne Wiest.
Time has released a limited edition Blu-ray—only 3,000 units—which
automatically gives the title collectors’ item status. In terms of picture quality, it appears that the movie
was simply transferred to Blu-ray without any restoration. There is a lot of grain
in outdoor scenes, and artifacts and blemishes can be seen throughout. That
said, Purple Rose is still a
good-looking picture on Blu-ray (the cinematography was by the late, great
Gordon Willis, whose contrasts in lighting work well with the theme of the
story). The only extras are the theatrical trailer and trailers for other titles
released by the company.
forking out $29.95 for The Purple Rose of
Cairo might be of interest only to die-hard Woody Allen fans. I’m not sure
the Blu-ray improves significantly over the original DVD release from a decade
ago. But if you don’t already own it, and you’re either an Allen fan or a
cinephile who appreciates some of the best the 80s had to offer, then The Purple Rose of Cairo is for you.
Vinegar Syndrome has released a limited edition (1,500 units) dual format edition of the 1978 adult movie hit "Pretty Peaches" by director Alex deRenzy, who was perhaps the most prolific director the medium had ever seen. deRenzy didn't crank out cheapo grind house movies. Instead, he tried to incorporate relatively high production values, often shooting in outdoor locations. He also had an eye for attracting some of the most exotic actresses of the era. "Pretty Peaches" is one of deRenzy's most notable achievements. The movie introduced Desiree Costeau, who would go on to be a legendary name in erotic cinema. deRenzy made hardcore movies with some substance and style and this title is no exception. The plot finds the title character, Peaches (Costeau), an amiable but air-headed young beauty, racing along in her jeep in a hurry to get to Virginia City, Nevada, in the hopes of attending her father's civil wedding ceremony to his second wife, a young black woman with an insatiable sexual appetite. Peaches arrives just in the nick of time for the ceremony but after making some small talk with her father, she speeds off again in her jeep en route to San Francisco. Along the way, her jeep goes off the road and she is knocked unconscious. Two young men race to her assistance but, upon examining the scantily-clad Peaches, become sexually aroused. One of them goes so far as to violate her while she is still unconscious. When she finally awakes, she has complete amnesia. The men use this to their advantage by convincing her that they own the jeep and offer her a ride to San Francisco, where they coincidentally share an apartment. Peaches goes along but is troubled by the fact that she can't recall her name or anything about her background. While in the big city she tries to find professional help but ends up receiving treatment from a mad, sex-crazed doctor whose "therapy" consists of inducing enemas! She doesn't fare much better when she applies for a job as an exotic dancer and ends up being violated by a gang of lesbians. Peaches is also uncomfortable living with her two male companions, who have a steady stream of loose women over to the apartment who they bed down without any regard for privacy concerns. Ultimately, she meets a handsome, kindly psychiatrist who offers to help her if she drops by his house that evening. Naturally, this offer isn't what it seems, either, and Peaches ends up in a major orgy where her memory is jolted back in an unpleasant way when she sees her own father (!) participating in the goings-on.
"Pretty Peaches" is very much from the school of 1970s erotica that blended slapstick comedy with hardcore sex. As the title character, Desiree Costeau is quite a find- at least in terms of her physical qualifications. She also gives an amusing performance, though it's doubtful Katharine Hepburn lost much sleep about her entry into the acting profession. The film is populated with other mainstays of the adult film industry of that time period including John Leslie, Joey Silvera and Paul Thomas. Juliet Anderson (aka "Aunt Peg") also makes her screen debut in this flick playing an assertive maid who ends up in a threesome with Peaches' dad and his new bride. Director deRenzy has good instincts when it comes to turning down the comedy elements when the action gets hot and he does provide some genuinely erotic sequences- but in the aggregate, the film will probably appeal most to those who like to mix laughs with their salacious cinematic thrills.
The Vinegar Syndrome transfer is just about perfect, having been remastered from a 35mm source print. Chances are the film looks better today than it did on the big screen. The release contains some special features including three trailers for other deRenzy films and an interview with film historian Ted Mcilvenna, who knew deRenzy since the 1960s. Mcilvenna was a social activist in San Francisco who was fighting for sexual freedom and crusaded against the archaic laws in Britain that criminalized homosexuality until 1967. he relates how deRenzy was so prolific in his work that he once discovered 19 completed feature films in his archive that the director had not gotten around to editing. There is also a rare interview with deRenzy himself, shot on VHS tape shortly before his death in 2001. Vinegar Syndrome believes this is the only known filmed interview with deRenzy.
Director/screenwriter Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" has been released by Sony as a dual format Blu-ray/DVD package that also includes a digital edition of the film. The film lives up to the almost unanimous acclaim it has received since it opened last year. It is also a front-runner for this year's Best Picture Oscar. What Linklater did was nothing short of historic: filming the same story in real time with the same actors over a twelve year period. The audaciousness of the project makes the mind reel, in terms of the physical logistics alone. Linklater had to shoot around his actor's other filming schedules, ensure that the production funds wouldn't dry up and work with an ever-revolving crew in varying locations throughout Texas. To be fair, director Michael Apted's historic "Up!" series has been filming updates every seven years for his series that has traced the lives of schoolchildren he first met in 1964. However, Apted's amazing achievements are in relation to a documentary, while Linklater has crafted a fictional, big studio release.
The film traces the life of a young boy named Mason (Ellar Coltrane), who we first meet as a toddler. The script, which is based on challenges Linklater experienced in his own childhood, allows us to witness Mason growing up on camera through his 18th birthday. There are plenty of speed bumps encountered along the way. When we first meet him and his sister Samantha (played by Linklater's own daughter Lorelei), the kids are already the product of a single mother household, his parents having split up shortly after he was born. Their mom (Patricia Arquette) and father, Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke) have a fractured relationship. Seems dad has been less-than-attentive to his family's needs and disappeared for a year to Alaska for vague reasons. He's now back in their lives and hoping to establish a civil relationship with his ex. She's having none of it. With their father back in their lives, he tries hard to make up for his past negligence, taking them for weekend excursions and giving them the few luxuries he can afford: arcade games, bowling and fast food. However, the kids witness the emotionally shattering experience of seeing their mother and father fight whenever they are in each other's presence. (Note to divorced parents: even if you hate your ex, don't let your kids know it. They already have enough psychological trauma to deal with.) Meanwhile, mom is trying hard to improve her kid's lives but the results are not encouraging. She has to rely on her mom to watch the children while she tries to juggle going to work and attending night classes in order to get a college degree. (The film succeeds in providing a moving look at the plight of single parents.) An attractive woman, she has virtually no time for herself and nothing akin to a social life. Thus, she is vulnerable to any man who seems sincere. She goes through more failed relationships and marriages, all of which leave her growing children in a constant state of uncertainty. The family moves frequently, disrupting whatever stability the school system had provided to the kids. They constantly have to make new friends but when they do, relationships always prove to be temporary. With the passage of the years, dad remarries and fathers a baby with his new wife. The relationship between him and their mother becomes more accepting and cordial as the kids go through the normal cornerstone moments of their lives: grade school, high school and on to college. The fact that we are watching the actors age in real time adds profoundly to the emotional impact of the story.
"Boyhood" is so brilliantly realized as a cinematic concept that you forget you are watching a work of fiction. Most of the credit must go to Linklater, whose direction is superb and whose script is written the way people act and talk in real life. The characters are sincere, flawed people who find it hard to cope with the pressures of everyday life. The kid's father is an overage juvenile; their mom is a long-suffering woman who has gotten old before her time. Every time she thinks she has found a tiny sliver of happiness, it turns out to be an illusion. She gets her degree and begins teaching at a community college where she meets an established professor, Bill (Marco Perella), who is an affable, divorced dad with two kids the age of her own son and daughter. Things start off swimmingly but over time deteriorate as he falls victim to alcoholism and becomes physically abusive. The sequence in which their mother tries to extract from the house against the wishes of her threatening husband is a disturbing reminder of what so many women must deal with in real life. The film ends with Mason heading out on his own for college dorm life. By this point, we think we know him personally, having watched him mature through the years. As played by Ellar Coltrane, Mason is an admirable and polite, if not occasionally sullen, young man who is already somewhat cynical about life and who seeks to walk to his own drumbeat. The film ends on an optimistic note, which is appropriate after suffering along with him through so many years. Coltrane gives an assured, self-confident performance and he is more than matched by Lorelei Linkater as his sister. In fact, the performances of every actor in the film, right down to the minor supporting roles, are nothing less than superb. Linklater provides them with some sterling dialogue but the film does feature a couple of sequences that feel forced and out of place. They depict the kids assisting their dad in campaigning for Obama in the 2008 election. Nothing wrong with that, but he shoehorns a superfluous character into a brief scene to depict him as a right wing fanatic who implies he would shoot the kids if they ever stopped on his property again to campaign for "Barack Hussein Obama". The country certainly has no shortage of such lunatics but the scene is the only one that feels artificial because it implies an ugly generalization about anyone who didn't support Obama. (Linklater doesn't see the irony in the fact that, in another sequence, it is the dad who encourages his kids to illegally remove a campaign sign from the law of a John McCain supporter.) It's a minor quibble but the scenes risk alienating part of the audience for a film that, otherwise, is apolitical and speaks truth to people of all beliefs and backgrounds.
The video release is curiously short on bonus extras. There is only a featurette about the making of the film in which we are treated to behind the scenes footage of the cast throughout the years. There are also extensive interviews with Richard Linklater and the major cast members that have far more poignancy than those found in the usual "making of" production shorts. The featurette has a particularly moving moment when Linklater finally shoots the last scene for the film: a sequence in which Mason is driving to college on a remote desert highway, surrounded by stunning vistas. It's moving to watch Ellar Coltrane put the finishing touches on a project that had been part of virtually his entire life. The inclusion of this segment only makes us wish all the more than Linklater and his cast had provided a commentary track. Undoubtedly, this will be made available on a future "Super Duper Deluxe" release of the film. For now, however, this edition of "Boyhood" merits "must-see" status.
Jourdan as the Bond villain Kamal Kahn in "Octopussy".
Louis Jourdan, the talented and iconic star of French cinema, has passed away at age 93. Among his major English-language films that made him an international star were Hitchcock's "The Paradine Case", the classic musical "Gigi", "Three Coins in the Fountain", "The Swan", "The V.I.P.S" and "Year of the Comet". In 1983, Jourdan also entered pop culture history by playing the lead villain opposite Roger Moore in the James Bond film "Octopussy". For more click here. For more about Jourdan and "Octopussy", visit the MI6 Community web site here.
Kino Lorber was right to bring out Foxes (1980) in Blu-ray under their KL Studio Classics series. The elegant re-issue seems aimed at convincing film snobs that this little gem from the last days of disco finally deserves their attention after a distance of 35 years, during which time it was either dismissed as another insignificant teen comedy of the ‘80s, or as a guilty pleasure. But longtime champions of the film, myself included, need no convincing. We owned the clamshell VHS, we owned the first-generation DVD, and now, if anything, I’d venture to say we feel vindicated that it now carries the stamp as a bonafide classic by a home video label as respected as Kino Lorber. Indeed, a major fist-pump moment comes during director Adrian Lyne’s remark in the audio commentary that Roger Ebert selected it as his favorite film of 1980 and took it with him to the Dallas Film Festival that year.
French lobby card.
Speaking of the commentary, British director Lyne’s (“Fatal Attraction,” “Flashdance,” “9 ½ Weeks”) fascinating and intimate recollections are worth the price of the disc alone. He made his directorial debut with the movie and is at times almost apologetic over what he sees as the wobbly choices of a first-time director. Viewers will note scenes that contain what came to be known as his signature style in movies like “Jacob’s Ladder” and “Fatal Attraction”: single-source lighting, using smoke on set to create light rays, and other stylistic techniques from his background as a commercial director. He is refreshingly candid and modest throughout, revealing misgivings over a scene he feels should have been cut or one that goes on too long, as well as revealing funny anecdotes about the actors. Randy Quaid, for example, donned a carnival mask in an umpteenth take of a scene that Lyne felt he just wasn’t getting right; Kandace Stroh had to be screamed at in her face so she could cry, and other funny reminiscences.
Sally Kellerman’s on-camera interview is another bonus, but she seems hard-pressed to remember much about filming “Foxes,” since at the time of production she was also shooting another feature in Israel. As a result she had to repeatedly jump on transatlantic flights between LA and Tel Aviv to shoot both pictures simultaneously. Kellerman is nonetheless a hoot just to listen to, as her trademark breathy, blousy way of talking just seduces you all over again, a la “Hot Lips O’Houlihan.” At one point she interrupts a story to ask her interviewer, “What is Blu-ray anyway?”
“Foxes” is a portrait of a group of teen girlfriends in LA’s San Fernando Valley at the cusp of the ‘80s, mothered by bossy and precocious Jeanie, played by Jodie Foster. They are real Valley Girls at varying degrees of promiscuity and jadedness. The baby-face of the group, bespectacled Madge (Marilyn Kagan) wears her virginity as a badge of shame, while druggie Annie (Cherie Currie of The Runaways) is trying to hide out from her abusive cop father, who wants to commit her to a mental hospital. They’re all trying to act older than they are, hosting awkward dress-up dinners in homes not their own, sleeping around and cutting class. Scott Baio plays a skateboarding drifter who’s dropped out of school and now fills fire extinguishers to make money. He seems to be everyone’s kid brother, when he’s not trying to sleep with one or another of the girls. Jeanie (Foster) seems to be hopelessly devoted to saving doomed Annie, to the point of suggesting lesbian longing, especially given Jeanie’s indifference to her part-time boyfriend Scott (Robert Romanus) but it never goes that far. That’s pretty much the whole plot: a loosely woven series of moments in their lives, punctuated by concerts, fights with parents, and cruising Hollywood Boulevard -- until an inevitable tragedy strikes one of them and closes the story, offering an open-ended but decidedly down take on teen life.
In one of the film’s key scenes, Jeanie and her mother, Mary (Sally Kellerman) have it out at home after Mary has picked up her daughter from another police station. Mary, herself a divorced mother who sleeps around, tells her daughter: “I don’t like your friends….You’re all a bunch of short forty year-olds and you’re tough.” But Mary’s honesty gets the better of her when minutes later she breaks down and admits that when she sees them lying around “half out of your clothes….you’re beautiful. I admit it, you’re all beautiful -- and you make me hate my hips. I hate my hips.” Lyne calls out the scene as his favorite and pays tribute to screenwriter Gerald Ayres for its emotional truth.
Visually, “Foxes” is beautiful to watch in this Blu-ray edition, whereas previous home video issues made the cinematography look murky. “Midnight Express” and “Fame” cinematographer Michael Seresin’s artful camerawork gives the picture a soft-focus and pastel coloring, even managing to make the smoggy sunlight of Los Angeles look like an oil painting. Lyne says he shot some of the Hollywood Boulevard scenes himself, and they give the film an authentic sense of time and place, with glimpses of street life that remind the viewer of a pre-gentrified Hollywood, much like New York’s 42nd Street at the same time.
As Lyne explains, the picture was put together by producer David Puttnam and Casablanca Records founder Neil Bogart, who was obviously keen to use the movie as a vehicle for his hottest artists of the time, most prominent being Donna Summer. Her beautiful disco classic “On the Radio” plays over the opening titles, while Cher -- another Casablanca artist -- literally plays on a radio in the opening scene, post-credits. Is it a duel between the two, top disco divas of ‘79-80? Fragments of “On the Radio” repeat throughout the film, taking on a more melancholy tone as the story comes to a close. Euro-disco composer Giorgio Moroder provided the score -- containing echoes of his music for “Midnight Express” (1978) -- and other artists to listen for on the soundtrack include Janice Ian, Foreigner and Brooklyn Dreams. When the girls go to see Angel in concert at the Shrine Auditorium, Lyne confirms in the commentary a suspicion I have had for years: They couldn’t get KISS, who was on tour during filming.
Released between two movies that became classics of the L.A. High School genre, Rock ‘n Roll High School (1979) and Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), Foxes dared to silence its teen audience with issues of heavy drug use and overdoses, teen pregnancy, domestic abuse and premature death. In fact, Lyne reveals that writer Gerald Ayres (“The Last Detail,” “Rich and Famous”) based Jodie Foster’s character on his own teen daughter, whom he accompanied to high school and on friend outings to gain more authentic insights into her world. Tonally, “Foxes” is more of a true companion piece to “Little Darlings” (1980), starring Tatum O’Neal and Kristy McNichol, or “The Last American Virgin” (1982), both of which satisfy their audiences’ demands in the sexual-initiation and awkward-high-school-moments departments, but manage to slip in moments of true pathos.
Someday, perhaps, Jodie Foster will participate in reminiscing about the making of “Foxes” as an indulgence to the movie’s fans, as she has done on numerous other commentary tracks of her other, “serious” films. Likewise Scott Baio. In the meantime, Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray is the definitive collector’s edition to date and one to enjoy for years to come.
Warner Home Video has made good on its promise to rectify some glitches on its otherwise magnificent recent release of the entire "Batman" TV series. Two episodes were accidentally included that were incomplete. The "Marsha's Scheme of Diamonds" episode was missing its epilogue and the "Hi Diddle Riddle" episode lacked its opening narration. Additionally, some fans complained that Warner's did not include the very brief tags at the end of episodes that promoted who the villain would be in the next telecast. Anyone who purchased the set on either Blu-ray or DVD was invited to register for replacement discs, which have now been sent out. In addition to providing complete versions of the aforementioned episodes, the two new discs also have an extended bonus section featuring the previously missing "villains" promos. Additionally, Warner's has included a couple of brief but cool bonus segments that weren't included on the original release. These are a promotion advising viewers to tune in the for the next evenings broadcast to see the unveiling of some new additions to Batman and Robin's arsenal. These included the Batboat and the Batcycle. Another brief segment is a promo for a rebroadcast of the very first episode of the series.
For more on the "missing footage" advisory, click here for Warner's original press release.
"Sex is only dirty if you're doing it right."- Woody Allen
Well, "Fifty Shades of Grey" has finally opened and- predictably- it looks to be an international blockbuster. All over the world, BDSM ("Bondage, Discipline, Submission and Masochism", for the uninitiated) will be the flavor of the week as couples dabble in getting naughty. But the very notion that the real world of this peculiar sexual fetish could be accurately presented in a none-threatening, Harlequin romance-like manner is negated by the fact that the film is rated R and has been released by a major studio. True, there was a brief period of time when major movie studios did push the envelope in terms of depicting raw sexual freedoms. Bertolucci's "Last Tango in Paris" was made over forty years ago but would be considered un-releasable by the Hollywood suits who run the industry today. Even United Artists, which had the courage to distribute the X-rated sensation back in the day, tried to have it both ways by re-issuing the film a few years later in a "safe", R-rated version, which was about as pointless as re-cutting "The Sound of Music" and eliminating the songs. As with the source novel, the film version of "Fifty Shades" will become a sensation with people who think they're being daring by tying up their giggling partner to a bed post while playfully spanking them. Meanwhile, look for this Disneyfication of a sexual fetish to reach into other mediums- especially network television, which hasn't produced a truly original idea in decades. You can almost see the executives sitting around the long tables trying desperately to figure out how to work a bondage and discipline theme into mainstream fare:
"Hey, let's do a kinky TV remake of "My Fair Lady". We can have the leading actress sing "The Pain in Spain Falls Mainly in the Plain"!
"Forget that, we have to find out how to merge this stupid Duck Dynasty craze in with kinky sex. How about reviving "The Beverly Hillbillies" and calling the lead characters the Clamp-etts?"
It all leads to the question of whether any sexual practice can still be edgy if you can picture your parents and grandparents indulging in it. Small wonder that those who participate in the "real" world of BDSM have scoff at the pure vanilla depiction of their fetishes in "Fifty Shades".
Anyone who considers for a minute whether to explore the world of sado-masochism would be well-advised to see director Christina Voros's 2013 documentary "Kink", which has just been released on DVD, appropriately, by Dark Sky Films. The movie, produced by actor James Franco, caused a buzz and won acclaim on the film festival circuit (including Sundance) for its unstinting look at how BDSM is marketed to those who find it stimulating. Director Voros deserves praise for going all the way and not sanitizing the shocking depictions of these dark and generally sinister practices. The film makes no judgments either for or against those who indulge, but concentrates entirely on the business aspect of marketing BDSM-themed videos. The movie centers on the company Kink.com which is located in a gigantic building in San Francisco that was once used as an armory. The company's founder, Peter Acworth, an affable, forty-something Brit, relates how he got very wealthy by catering to people's darkest sexual desires. He takes us on a tour of the cavernous facility, pointing out that the foreboding nature of the huge, empty rooms suits his purposes just fine, as they provide ready-made film sets. The film observes some productions- in- the making, both straight and gay-themed. Voros interviews both cast members and directors, all of whom take their work very seriously and take pride in turning out slick, professional productions. It becomes abundantly clear that this is no longer your father's version of S&M films, which were generally relegated to old B&W 16mm loops in which naked guys in black socks and garters lamely "whipped" bored actresses, who had one eye on their wristwatch to see when quitting time was. Within the bowels of the Kink building, any number of productions are going on simultaneously. A surprising number of the directors are females, including at least one butch lesbian. They come across as generally intelligent and likable. All of the participants maintain that the secret to Kink.com's success is that they only hire real life adherents of BDSM both in front of and behind the cameras. They have female casting directors who go through a massive array of available "talent" to weed out actors who might only be motivated by money. The theory is that such individuals can't fake finding pleasure in pain and generally have to be fired. Other actors are eliminated because of objections from the leading actresses. (One male co-star is eliminated on the basis that "He's a vagina hog- he never wants to get out!") Acworth states with pride that his productions are also very well monitored in attempts to ensure that all participants are healthy and enthused. He acknowledges that there is a certain danger of someone going too far and hurting a submissive, especially when said submissive routinely cries "Stop!" but really means "Keep going!" Thus, every submissive must employ a "safe" word that, if uttered, means that all action must cease immediately. The film humanizes the participants in this peculiar practice as much as possible. In between takes on a film in which a woman is being ravaged by a group of men, the cast chats amiably about such mundane topics as organic diets and the lure of a good chicken pot pie. A few minutes later, we watch people willingly subject themselves to almost unspeakable tortures. A gay "bottom" is submerged in a bathtub while an innocent-looking young woman is violated by a sex toy mounted on what can only be described as an automated piece of industrial machinery. This is not for the squeamish. Voros doesn't go so far as to show actual penetration, but doesn't hold back on showing full frontal nudity and sexually aroused males.
American Andrew Jessel (Tony Randall arrives in Marrakesh on a business trip,
he checks into the hotel and discovers a corpse in his wardrobe. This is the
beginning of a "wrong man" style adventure involving international
espionage and criminal gangs, but thankfully on his side is sexy super-spy Kyra
Stanovy (Senta Berger). The two set off to clear his name and solve the
mystery, and spend large parts of the film having to rescue each other from
assorted dangers, mainly involving local kingpin Casimir (Herbert Lom) and his
psychotic henchman Jonquil (Klaus Kinski). Also thrown into the mix are British
character actors Wilfrid Hyde-White, John Le Mesurier and Terry-Thomas,
providing a combination of plot exposition and comic relief, and the entire
plot builds to an inevitably happy conclusion where wrongs are made right, the
guilty are punished and the innocent get to ride off into the sunset.
Our Man in Marrakesh (known in the
States as Bang! Bang! You're Dead!) is a typical mid-Sixties Harry Alan
Towers production. An independent British producer who had made a name for
himself in radio and television before moving into feature films, he
specialised in European co-productions, pulling in A-list names and finance
from several different countries. His budgets were low, and his scripts were
often second-rate, but he seemed to have a no trouble persuading bankable stars
to take off around the world with him. He always preferred to shoot on
location, and Our Man in Marrakesh is no exception. Aside from some
rear-projection driving shots in a studio, most of the film is shot in
Marrakesh itself, giving it a seedy authenticity which gives puts it on a par
with the Bond films of the time. This film was one of hundreds of Bond-style
films produced during the 1960s. They became known as Eurospy films, although
other countries and continents got in on the act, too. Our Man in Marrakesh
mixes elements of Bond with Hitchcock's thrillers fairly successfully, and Tony
Randall makes a likeable comedic leading man. More fun, however, are the
various characters that rotate around him, most notably Klaus Kinski, who once
again looks unhinged and slightly dangerous. His piercing eyes and ease with
violent outbursts would of course be put to use in better films later on,
particularity in his collaborations with Werner Herzog.
Tasmanian director Don Sharp is best known for his Hammer films Rasputin the
Mad Monk (1966), The Kiss of the Vampire (1963) and The
Devil-Ship Pirates (1964), but his cult credentials include films like Curse
of the Fly (1965), two Fu-Manchu films with Christopher Lee (both produced
by Harry Alan Towers) and bizarre zombie-biker thriller Psychomania
(1973), a film that caused such despondency in star George Sanders that he
committed suicide shortly after its release. His direction is uncomplicated and
efficient. Although he rarely displays what could be called creative flair, he
gets the job done, and he was clearly reliable enough to be regularly employed
by producers for whom schedules and budgets were tight.
Our Man in Marrakesh, complete with
James Bond-style marketing materials, is a fun and exciting film with bullets,
car chases, corpses, bikini-clad babes, spies and gangsters, all wrapped up in
an exotic locale. It won't change your life, but it is fun and features more
entertainment value than many other Eurospy movies of the period. This has been
released by Network on R2 DVD as part of their 'The British Film' collection.
This is an exciting five-year plan, launched in 2013 with Studiocanal, to
release over 450 vintage British films. Sadly most of these DVDs have so far
featured very little in the way of extras, with just a theatrical trailer and
an image gallery to accompany the movie. However when films like these have not
been seen in any sort of decent print for decades the DVDs are well worth your time.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW CLIPS AND TRAILER AND TO PURCHASE THIS TITLE.
There was a time when the drive-in theater was a mainstay of American movie-going. However, the drive-ins got squeezed out of most urban area when the value of real estate skyrocketed. Suddenly it became far more attractive to lease land to a zillion dollar shopping center than to a guy who was showing double features. There are still drive-ins in the United States and they are, as is the case with all vanishing ways of life, highly cherished by retro movie lovers and nostalgia buffs. However, the demise of the drive-in theater craze wasn't entirely due to real estate values. As films became more sophisticated, so did audiences. Who wants to see the newest Star Wars or Bond flick at a venue where the screen was a football field away and the sound came through a tinny speaker inside your car? Adding to the challenge of running a successful drive-in were the new liberties available to filmmakers beginning in the mid-to-late 1960s. As major motion pictures increasingly depicted nudity, drive-in theaters became the focal point of local protests when parents complained that little Jack or little Jill could see those big bad bare bosoms- and worse- on the big screen in color when the family went for an outing. The result was a plethora of lawsuits and legal obstacles. Yet, some drive-ins continued to persevere- even those that switched to showing outright porn exclusively. In an article in the Daily Beast, writer Steve Miller looks back on the rise and fall of drive-ins and the legal challenges they faced. (There still is one drive-in operating in Texas that shows strictly porn, which gives a whole new interpretation to the old saying, "Everything is bigger in Texas!")Click here to read
"I'm a whore. All actors are whores. We sell our bodies to the highest bidder."- William Holden
Cinema Retro columnist Dean Brierly has launched a blog dedicated to memorable quotes from hard-bitten movie actors of days past. The site provides rare insights and observations culled from interviews with the likes of William Holden, Robert Ryan, Barbara Stanwyck, Jan Sterling, Fred MacMurray, Lee Van Cleef and many others. Click here to check it out.
Eon Productions has released the first tantalizing glimpses from the production of "SPECTRE", showing Daniel Craig in action in the snow-capped mountains of Austria. A brief behind the scenes film report accompanies this first officially released photo of Craig as 007. In the clip, cast and crew members discuss the filming and Craig is shown briefly at the very end as Bond shoots an adversary dead. It's hard to draw any definitive conclusion from these glimpses except that Craig looks exceptionally cool (in both senses of the word) and that, at least for us long-time veterans of all things Bondian, the atmosphere inevitably brings back welcome memories of the 1969 classic "On Her Majesty's Secret Service".
USA Today culled this frame of Daniel Craig from the behind-the-scenes footage.
Daniel Craig (James Bond), Léa Seydoux (Madeleine Swann) and Dave Bautista (Hinx) were in the Austrian ski resort of Sölden for SPECTRE. Other Austrian locations for SPECTRE include Obertilliach and Lake Altaussee.
People magazine's web site features a selection of forthcoming photos from director Guy Ritchie's forthcoming big screen version of "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." starring Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo, Arnie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin and Hugh Grant as Alexander Waverly. The film probably won't resemble the classic TV series but kudos to Ritchie for keeping it set in the Cold War era. Click here for more.
JUST ADDED! CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE TEASER TRAILER!
In the lead up to the August 2015 release of the feature film version of "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.", the web site The Digital Spy put together an informative and fun article centering on key facts and film clips relating to the classic TV series starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. Click here to view.
Years of Marvel Comics. From the Golden Age to the Silver Screen
Roy Thomas, Josh Baker
Hardcover with fold-out, ribbon bookmark, and four-foot accordion-fold timeline
11.4 x 15.6 in.
Years of DC Comics. The Art of Modern Mythmaking
with fold-out, ribbon bookmark
11.4 x 15.6 in.
If you take a look at the top 100 all-time highest worldwide
grossing movies, fifteen of them are either Marvel or DC comic adaptations.
According to Box Office Mojo the third highest grossing film of all time is The
Avengers (2012) at over a billion and a half dollars. Comics, it would
seem, are major players in the world of entertainment.
Seventy-five years ago it was all very different. Comics were
for children and were disregarded as both an entertainment medium and as an art
form. Comics were disposable. Because of their ephemeral nature surviving early
copies now trade hands for vast sums. Buying the first appearance of Superman
or Batman will set you back a cool $1-2 million. Thankfully, if you want to
hold the history of these comics in your hands without having to cash in your
life insurance, Taschen have released huge and lavish tributes that, once
opened, will send you whirling back through time to your own childhood and
Four years ago Taschen published 75
Years of DC Comics. The Art of Modern Mythmaking, and
it was one of the biggest books this writer had ever seen. So heavy it comes in
a cardboard carrying case with handle, it is crammed with fantastic full-size
reproductions and blown up panels from classic comics and long-forgotten
strips. The dating used here suggests that DC began in 1935, with a comic
called New Fun. DC's most famous sons, Superman and Batman, did not make their
first appearances until 1938 and 1939 respectively. The book is divided into
sections; The Stone Age, The Golden Age, The Silver Age, The Bronze Age, The
Dark Age and The Modern Age, and each begins with shiny toughened pages. By
discussing some of the things that were going on in the comic industry outside
of DC, one can look at their development in context. There are also fold-out detailed
timelines in each section with a year-by-year breakdown including major world
The book is also a reminder that DC weren't always about
superheroes. Alongside our spandex-wearing favourites were western comics,
science fiction, military comics, funny animals, exotic adventurers, gangsters
and detectives. There are other big names which have been somewhat forgotten by
now, such as Captain Marvel, Will Eisner's The Spirit (despite an ill-advised
attempt to being him back in a 2008 movie), Plastic Man, Starman and The
Spectre. Even supporting characters occasionally got their own comics, such as Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen
("See Jimmy turn into The Giant Turtle Man!") and Superman's Girl Friend Lois
Lane, the latter demonstrating that comics could appeal to both boys and
Also honoured are the many writers and artists who have built up
the world of DC comics over the years, from Jerry Seigel and Joe Schuster, the
creators of Superman, through to more modern writers like Alan Moore, who with Watchmen
in 1986 changed the perception of what the comic book could achieve.
Of course DC has made a major impact beyond the comics, something
which is included here. It is fun to see some of the toys and games kids would
be desperate to collect, as well as imagery from the many movies and TV shows
they inspired, including serials The Adventures of Superman (1948) and Batman
and Robin (1949) as well as perhaps the greatest example of 1960s pop
culture, the televised Batman series starring Adam West and Burt Ward (recently
released on DVD and Blu-ray by Warner Brothers); a comic strip brought to life
in full technicolour.
75 Years of DC Comics. The Art of Modern Mythmaking is a book that will most-likely take you the rest of your life to
read and enjoy. For those who prefer something a little smaller to read,
Taschen has also released separate volumes titled The Golden Age of DC
Comics and The Silver Age of DC Comics.
It was only a matter of time before Taschen would give Marvel the
same treatment, and 2014 marks their seventy-fifth anniversary. In 1939 Marvel
really hit the ground running, publishing a comic featuring a collection of
tales featuring amongst others The Human Torch (in this version an android) and
Sub-mariner, both of whom are still popular today. Coinciding with the
beginnings of war in Europe, a conflict which would eventually spread around
the globe, Marvel's comics reflected the fears and ambitions of military
conflict. Sub-mariner became the first superhero to fight Nazis in 1940, and in
1941 Captain America leapt into the fight, literally. On the front cover of his
first issue he is proudly punching Hitler in the face, star-spangled shield to
the fore. This was so controversial at the time that protestors marched on the
Marvel headquarters in New York!
That same year Stanley Leiber was hired at Marvel as a general
assistant and gofer whilst still a teenager. Within two weeks he was
commissioned to write a Captain America story. Signing the story "Stan
Lee", within eight months he was an editor and he went on to become one of
the most important figures in the comic book world. Stan Lee is responsible for
the creation of dozens of classic comic characters including The Fantastic
Four, Spider-Man, Iron Man, The X-Men and many more. It is mostly his creations
that now dominate Hollywood, particularly since the creation of the Marvel film
studios in 1996 and their subsequent purchase by Disney in 2009 for a mere $4
Stan Lee was not the only genius working at Marvel, and the book covers
work by many of the fantastic writers and artists employed over the last
seventy-five years including Jack Kirby, John Romita and Steve Ditko. The
author of this Marvel history himself, Roy Thomas, served as a Marvel editor
from 1965-80 and had runs on The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk, Conan
the Barbarian and many more.
75 Years of Marvel Comics. From the Golden Age to the Silver
Screen gives us a thorough history of the company and their comics.
There is a detachable four-foot long double-sided timeline giving a
year-by-year history not only of Marvel but comic book development in general.
Obviously a lot of space in the book is devoted to their most beloved
characters, including Thor, Hulk, Silver Surfer, Daredevil and The Avengers
alongside those already mentioned. Like the DC book before it, it is also fun
to discover many other characters and stories that one may have missed, with
names like Werewolf By Night, Captain
Britain, Sgt. Fury and His Howling
Commandoes, Dr. Strange (recently announced as another Marvel movie) and
Luke Cage, the first black superhero. Marvel also published "girls
comics" such as My Love and Our Love Story and created female
superheroes like The Cat, Black Widow and Elektra.
late 1960s some of their comics went psychedelic, and in the 1970s Marvel began
to experiment with some fairly edgy material, such as the sleazy Howard the
Duck, the horror-enthused Tomb of Dracula
or the violent adventures of Conan the Barbarian. The artwork was always
excellent and is beautifully reproduced here.
an early Captain America movie serial
in 1944, Marvel's comics were not used as material for a theatrical movie again
until 1986, with the disastrous George Lucas-produced Howard the Duck. It was not until the movie version of Blade (1998) and X-Men (2000) that the real movie boom began. Perhaps
special-effects technology had finally caught up with the imaginations of
Marvel's writers and artists. However some of their characters had found
success on American television, most memorably with the Bill Bixby/ Lou
Ferrigno-starring The Incredible Hulk
(1978). This was produced by CBS who were also responsible for the TV movies of
Captain America (1979) and The Amazing Spider-Man (1977), imagery
from which can also be found in this book.
first appeared in a Marvel comic in 1962. Whether posing on the White House
lawn with First Lady Rosalynn Carter in 1980 or appearing alongside Barack
Obama in a 2009 issue of The Amazing
Spider-Man, the web-slinger has become closely associated with the real
world, and in particular the city of New York. His youth and quips have made
him one of Marvel's most popular heroes, and in a moving December 2001 issue he
was forced to confront the horrors of 9/11. Unlike DC characters who mainly live
in fictional cities or worlds, the Marvel universe exists amidst our own.
books are a fitting tribute to the worlds of DC and Marvel and the people who
brought these incredible worlds to life week after week. One can only hope that
both companies will continue producing comics and stories for at least another
seventy-five years each.
Fans of The Andy Griffith Show can now escape those chopped-up re-runs on cable TV by purchasing the complete series on DVD. Now you can relish 6400 minutes of one of the great sitcoms in TV history - all uncut on 40 DVDs! As Don Knotts' Barney Fife would say- "This is big!" Click here to order discounted from Amazon at save $160!
If you're as addicted as we are to director Joe Dante's "Trailers From Hell" web site, maybe you can help the site continue to grow. "Trailers From Hell" presents an amazing number of original theatrical trailers for everything from classic cinema to "B" movies and schlock films. Best of all, each trailer is accompanied by a commentary track by a well-known filmmaker, writer, or movie historian. You can view the trailers both with or without the commentaries. Joe tries his best to present and preserve these precious artifacts of movie marketing but there are some titles that have eluded him. Click here to find out the trailers on his "must have" list and see if you can help!
"Boyhood" won the coveted Best Film award at this year's BAFTAs. Richard Linklater won the director's award for the same film. Eddie Redmayne won for Leading Actor for "The Theory of Everything" and Julianne Moore won Leading Actress for "Still Alice". Click here for full list of winners.
In the wake of their success with "Gone Girl", Ben Affleck and director David Fincher will re-team for a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1951 thriller "Strangers on a Train". The original film is regarded as one of Hitchcock's best. The movie starred Farley Granger as a dapper young tennis pro who has a chance encounter with a man of similar age, played by Robert Walker, with whom he shares a compartment on a train. To pass the time, the men engage in a macabre "what-if" scenario to see if they can construct the perfect crime. They come up with what appears to be a foolproof plan. Both men name a bothersome real life person as the presumed "victim". They then agree that if each man carried out a murder on behalf of the other man, they would never be caught because they have no ties to each other and don't even know the person they will murder. The two men part company but Granger is horrified when he discovers Walker took the conversation literally and has murdered the person Granger had named as the victim. Worse, he now insists that Granger carry out his part of the plan or be murdered himself. The ingenious story line has a timeless appeal but Affleck and Fincher are walking on thin ice in terms of incurring the wrath of Hitchcock enthusiasts who regard his work as sacred. On the other hand, they obviously hope to appeal to young audiences, among whom many probably never even heard of Hitchcock, let alone the original film. The original has also been analyzed extensively for what many consider to be a homo-erotic attraction between the characters played by Granger and Walker, who had a field day creating one of the era's most memorable movie villains. Given Affleck will star, chances are this element of the original film will not be present in the remake. Click here for more.