Sony has issued its 2001 special edition of director Fred Zinnemann's From Here to Eternity as a Blu-ray release. The passage of time has done nothing to diminish the movie's status as one of the great Hollywood productions. The story, based on James Jones' sensational 1951 bestseller that took the world by storm, centers on on a disparate group of people associated with the U.S. Army base in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1941. Private Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) is a quiet loner who was once regimental boxing champ but has gone into self-imposed retirement after accidentally blinding an opponent in the ring. He transfers into a new unit to escape harassment from his fellow soldiers, who are pressuring him to get back in the ring. He finds his new commanding officer, Captain Holmes (Philip Ober) is even worse and he is soon subjected to an orchestrated campaign of punishment and social isolation as part of the "treatment" to get him to relent and agree to box in this year's championship fight. The only friend he has is Maggio (Frank Sinatra), the company wise-guy who is always in trouble for his impulsive nature and habit of insulting his superiors. Also in the company is Sgt. Warden (Burt Lancaster), a by-the-book career soldier who does all the heavy lifting for Holmes, a man he personally detests. The story follows the complex love lives of Prewitt and Warden, who come to form an unlikely bond. Warden knows that Prewitt's independent nature will result in sheer misery for him, but he admires his pluck. Prewitt correctly assesses that Warden is the only decent superior he has met on the army staff; someone who will give him a fair break whenever he can. Both Prewitt and Warden find solace in love affairs with two very different women. Prewitt begins dating Lorene (Donna Reed), a local "dance hall" girl, which was the parlance of the era to describe a prostitute. Warden is involved in a far more dangerous affair: he is bedding Karen Holmes (Deborah Kerr), the sexually frustrated wife of Captain Holmes and who is reputed by soldiers to be a nymphomaniac. The brilliant screenplay by Daniel Taradash seamlessly interweaves the events that affect each of these mesmerizing characters. (Ernest Borgnine is sensational in a star-making role as a sadistic sergeant of the stockade.) The viewer, of course, realizes what these individuals cannot: that their lives are about to be dramatically changed by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a sequence that Zinnemann pulls off brilliantly by incorporating real battle footage. Ultimately, the film is not a "feel good" experience as some very bad things happen to some very admirable people. Yet, it is completely compelling on every level and the cast performs superbly. (The film won 8 Oscars).
The Blu-ray is an excellent transfer, making the stunning B&W cinematography look more impressive than ever. The extras are a mixed bag, however. "The Making of From Here to Eternity" is an absurdly short featurette that ends just when it begins to engage the viewer. It does, however, feature some fascinating color home movies that Zinnemann took on the set. More informative is a feature that allows you to watch the movie while a picture-in-picture presents various film historians who discuss every aspect of the movie in detail. This is complimented by an audio commentary by Zinnemann's son Tom and veteran screenwriter Alvin Sargent, who worked on Eternity. The set also features excerpts from a late-in-life interview with Zinnemann in which he provides some interesting insights about his battles with legendary Columbia mogul Harry Cohn, the tyrannical head of the studio. What emerges from all this analysis is that, while Eternity was a huge bestseller, it was considered "unfilmable". The book was laced with sex and profanity and also ripped the lid off the squeaky clean image that Hollywood generally used to present the U.S. Army. Yet, Zinnemann pulled off the feat admirably, suggesting all sorts of vice despite the film industry's archaic production code that watered down certain elements of the story. The Army conceded to allow filming on their facilities but demanded that the script reflect the fact that the corrupt Captain Holmes is brought to justice by Army authorities. The sex, particularly the now famous surf "make out" session between Lancaster and Kerr, is possibly more erotic because of the power of suggestion.
The Blu-ray set retains the kooky DVD artwork on the sleeve, which seems to imply Lancaster and Kerr are so intent on getting it on that they are ignoring being strafed by Japanese Zeros! (For the record, the love scene takes place before the Pearl Harbor attack). Surprisingly, there is no theatrical trailer included although Sony has provided some really nice mini-lobby card reproductions, though this is not mentioned on the packaging. In all, this is a most welcome release on Blu-ray-- but there is still room for an even more in-depth special edition of this classic motion picture.
Perhaps more relevant today than ever, the Visual Entertainment Inc. DVD label has released "Arthur C. Clarke: The Complete Collection", a 52 episode boxed set containing 22 hours of programming. Why is this set more relevant today than ever? Because in his prime, Clarke and his fellow prominent scientists and intellectuals were held in great esteem by the general public. Today, however, vast segments of the world's populations are intent on downgrading the importance of science in place of fanatical religious dogma. Fortunately, for the majority of people of faith, science does not exist in a mutually exclusive universe. Nevertheless, there is an undeniable trend in some quarters to pretend that established fact does not exist, especially if it offers some inconvenient contrasts to what these people want to believe. This anti-science slant is not restricted to fringe religious groups. Our popular culture reflects widespread belief in things that once would have been considered highly speculative by most mainstream audiences. Thus, we have shows in which a dumb housewife is paid a fortune to pretend she is a medium from Long Island and others that have self-proclaimed "ghost hunters" trying to convince the average person that their home is haunted. Arthur C. Clarke, the esteemed scientist and author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, tried to elevate discussion of the mysteries of life by keeping an open mind while also providing a skeptic's viewpoint. Now as a skeptic myself, I must admit I am often viewed as the skunk at the garden party when it comes to attempting to bring logic into conversations with people whose minds are made up that aliens are routinely abducting innocent earthlings or that religious miracles are occurring every day. Many people are as committed to their comfortable beliefs as they are to political ideologies and they don't want to allow any viewpoint into their lives that might cause them to rethink such positions. Clarke wanted people to constantly challenge their own belief systems. From 1980 through 1995, he hosted period series of TV programs designed to explore the great mysteries of science and nature. The new DVD set is as enlightening today as it was when these shows were originally telecast on British television.
The set is broken down into three different programs. Here is the description from the official press release:
"Hosted by acclaimed sci-fi
author Sir Arthur C. Clarke (2001: A Space Odyssey), Arthur C. Clarke: The Complete Collection
investigates the inexplicable, abnormal and mind-boggling wonders of the world. Included in the set are three
popular, documentary series originally aired on Britain’s ITV network. Mysterious
World (1980), narrated by author, actor and newscaster
Gordon Honeycomb (Then She Was Gone, The Medusa Touch), looks at unexplained
phenomena from Stonehenge to the Loch Ness Monster. Narrated by English journalist Anna Ford, World
of Strange Powers (1985) investigates goose bump-raising paranormal
activity from haunted houses to magical spirits. Mysterious Universe (1995),
narrated by British TV personality Carol Vorderman, examines mystical secrets
from the ancient world. In each episode, Clarke tackles
the daunting task of finding a reasonable explanation for some of the most
bizarre phenomena ever known to mankind from such “mysteries of the first kind”
as solar eclipses to the more inexplicable, including messages from beyond the
grave, the stigmata, lost planets, UFOs and zombies … Making Arthur
C. Clarke: The Complete Collection a must-have for every science-fiction
Clarke bookends every episode with an introduction and an epilogue, though he occasionally appears in the program itself to offers opinions and insights, treating people on both sides of an issue with dignity and respect. Each segment is fascinating and educational, ranging from topics that include the great achievements of the ancient world to seemingly inexplicable phenomenon. Clarke presents compelling arguments on all sides regarding the matters at hand but clearly relishes exposing some theories such as faith healing as the fraudulent practices they are. (One must admit, however, that the footage of these "miracle workers" performing is quite convincing on a certain level - until they are ultimately unveiled as charlatans preying on the most vulnerable members of society.) Clarke's presentation of other phenomenon such as the Abominable Snowman features thought-provoking insights from serious explorers who were convinced that there could be some actual unknown beast in the Himilayas. Clark acknowledges that, based on his study of the evidence, it might be possible the creature exists, but he dismisses as virtually impossible that a real-life Yeti could be tramping through even the most remote regions of the United States. Similarly, like any good scientist, he doesn't reject outright the possibility that supernatural phenomenon does occur- but doesn't shy away from the one answer that never satisfies any "true believer" in that he simply acknowledges he does not know the answer. Human beings need answers and if science and nature doesn't provide them, they simply convince themselves that something is true. If we don't know the answer of how the universe was created...well, then, Presto! A superior being made it! If something goes "bump" in the night in your home then...Yikes! You're house must be haunted! Scientists take a more measured approach by suppressing as much as possible their own beliefs so as to prevent coming to any forgone conclusions. Clarke represented that mindset. Just because someone else can't provide a viable answer doesn't mean your beliefs have to be true.
The set is addictive in terms of viewing. The subject matters are so vast and wide-ranging that if one topic doesn't appeal to you, another will. Each 30 minute episode is tightly edited and features fascinating film footage from around the world. Some segments may reinforce your beliefs (or lack thereof) while others may leave you questioning long-held opinions on these subjects, but there is enough here, for example, in the examination of religion to please both believers and skeptics because of the fascinating angles Clarke uses to explore the topic. The series represents a time when such topics could be treated in an objective manner with the end result being that the viewers would reach their own conclusions. Sadly, such respect for the audience's intelligence has all been eradicated in the era of shows like The Long Island Medium. Highly recommended.
Paul Mantee, a popular fixture on TV shows and feature films, passed away on November 7. Mantee had appeared on many TV series over the years and had recurring roles on the 1980s hits Hunter and Cagney and Lacy. He first began appearing in the medium in the late 1959s and eventually guest starred on major programs such as The F.B.I, Mannix, Dragnet, Ben Casey, Dr. Kildare, Batman, The Time Tunnel, Bonanza, Kojak and Seinfeld. Mantee also appeared in small roles in many feature films. In 1964 he had a rare starring role in Robinson Crusoe on Mars, a fairly low-budget sci-fi film that became a major cult hit thanks to its intelligent script, direction and performances. He also had the lead role in the 1968 James Bond spoof A Man Called Dagger. For more click here
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
the first time on DVD a feature length documentary, Return to Scatterbrook: Memories of Worzel, celebrating the cult
70’s/80’s television series, Worzel
Featuring key interviews with members of the
cast and crew; rare archive footage of Jon Pertwee; visits to the locations,
and with many previously unseen continuity shots; behind the scenes
photographs, and production designs – this film opens up the storybook behind
British TV’s most lovable scarecrow.
Gummidge is highly regarded today as a piece of classic television, making
this documentary a special journey down memory lane for anyone who remembers
this delightful, magical series.
Pertwee, Geoffrey Bayldon, Lorraine Chase, Jeremy Austin & Mike Berry
Directed By Derek
DVD Extras: An Evening With Jon Pertwee (1996) & Worzel Gallery
Running Time: 104
raised from the sale of this DVD goes to:
Society (in loving memory of Cecelia & Michael Ripper) & All Dogs
the wondrous Blu-ray products released this month by The Criterion Collection,
that Cadillac of labels, are a masterpiece from 1931 and an absolute gem from
2013—Charles Chaplin’s City Lights,
and Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha. Both
packages come with Blu-ray and DVD discs, which apparently will be the norm for
Criterion releases from now on.
up—City Lights, arguably Chaplin’s
best and most enduring feature film. Made at a time when sound had already
taken over Hollywood, Chaplin insisted on shooting another silent picture.
Everyone thought he was mad. The moguls believed that even after only four
years of sound movies, audiences would not care to step backwards into the
silent era ever again. Chaplin proved them wrong. City Lights, even without spoken dialogue (but with a gorgeous
Chaplin score and sound effects) is sophisticated and intelligent,
hilarious and touching, and remarkably clever. Often regarded as one of the
best films ever made, Chaplin’s masterwork is the story of a tramp (duh) and
his love for a blind flower-girl, who mistakenly thinks Charlie is a rich man.
As our hero attempts to perpetuate this misconception, the results are
side-splitting funny—until Chaplin’s trademark pathos takes over and “there
isn’t a dry eye in the house.” It is said that Albert Einstein had tears
rolling down his cheeks at the premiere.
oh, boy, does the film look good on Blu-ray. The new digital restoration from a
4K film transfer is crisp, sharp, and blemish-free. Like Criterion’s earlier
release this year, Safety Last!, City Lights looks as if it were made
last week. There’s a new audio commentary by Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance,
as well as a host of extras. Many of these are repeated from the MK2 Warner
Brothers release from around ten years ago, such as the documentary Chaplin Today: City Lights, archival
footage from the production of the film, rehearsals, and clips of the director
with boxing stars at Chaplin Studios in 1918. A new feature, Chaplin Studios: Creative Freedom by Design,
explores how Chaplin built his famous studio with a mind toward expressing his unique
ways of working. The usual outstanding booklet contains an essay by critic Gary
Giddins and a 1966 interview with Chaplin himself.
short, if you’ve never seen City Lights
or have any doubt that Charles Chaplin was the greatest film artist in the
industry’s first fifty years, then by all means pick up this set.
Noah Baumbach’s delightful Frances Ha originally
premiered at film festivals in 2012, but was released theatrically in 2013,
making it a contender for this year’s Academy Awards. I sincerely hope it’s not
overlooked. Baumbach is known for making quirky films (see The Squid and the Whale, for example), and Frances Ha is no different. However, unlike Baumbach’s earlier
mixtures of dark humor and tragedy, the new picture is definitely a comedy. At
its heart is Greta Gerwig’s performance as Frances, who also co-wrote the
screenplay with Baumbach. Frances is a well-meaning, life-is-mostly-wonderful
type of young woman who strives to be a choreographer but can’t seem to get the
opportunity to strut her stuff. Throughout the picture, she is a woman without
a home, crashing at various friends’ apartments in New York City, always
promising herself that she’ll “get her own place soon,” hopefully with her best
friend Sophie (played by Sting’s daughter Mickey Sumner), with whom Frances
shared a place at the story’s beginning. While the film is full of laughs and
smiles, there is an under-current of
loneliness that doesn’t really hit you until after the movie is over—despite
the genuine happy ending.
digitally in color and then converted into glorious black and white, New York
hasn’t looked so good since Woody Allen’s Manhattan.
Baumbach’s storytelling expertise is all in the characters and how the film is
edited, and in many ways, the picture resembles something Francois Truffaut
might have done in the early 60s. In fact, Baumbach utilizes famous French New
Wave movie music (by Georges Delerue and others) for much of the score. If ever
there was an homage to that important and creative movement in cinema history, Frances Ha is it.
include an interesting dialogue between Baumbach and director Peter
Bogdanovich; one gets the impression that the elder statesman might be
something of a mentor to the younger filmmaker. Also of note is the dialogue
between Greta Gerwig and filmmaker/actress Sarah Polley. A further conversation
about the look of the picture between Baumbach, DOP Sam Levy, and Pascal
Dangin, who did the film’s color mastering, is enlightening. The booklet
contains a perceptive essay by playwright Annie Baker.
you missed Frances Ha in the theaters
last spring, now’s your chance to catch up. It truly is a jewel.
Robert Sellers' book The Battle for Bond presents an in-depth examination of the complicated rights issues relating to the 007 films.
MGM and Danjaq have finally ended decades of litigation relating to rights held by producer Kevin McClory to the James Bond franchise. McClory had certain film rights relating to the novel Thunderball which Ian Fleming had based on an ill-fated collaboration between himself, McClory and writer Jack Whittingham in the 1950s when the trio tried unsuccessfully to bring 007 to the big screen. In order to thwart a rival film production of novel from being made, Bond producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman hired McClory as producer of the 1965 blockbuster screen version of Thunderball. However, McClory always claimed that his rights allowed him to make other Bond films and even TV series. In 1983, a big screen remake of Thunderball titled Never Say Never Again proved to the only one of these projects to succeed. MGM and Danjaq consistently brought law suits designed to slow down or stop McClory from exploiting the rights he claimed he held. In a lawsuit that took place in the year 2000, the court rejected most of McClory's claims and, in essence, gave the full rights to the Bond character to MGM and Danjaq. Still, issues remained with McClory's estate after the producer passed away in 2006. The latest agreements bring an amicable close to any remaining litigation. Click here for more.
"Sex only dirty if you're doing it right", Woody Allen once said. The cast members of Our, Girls certainly do it right so this stroll down Mammary Lane from the Impulse Pictures DVD label can certainly be classified as a "dirty movie", to put in the parlance of days gone by. Ordinarily, old grind house porn doesn't merit critical attention but Impulse is a serious label that takes pains to preserve some the more notable titles of this genre from the 1970s and 1980s. I suppose there is some sociological merit to them, but the bottom line is: are they still erotic? In the case of Oui, Girls the answer is "yes" and "no". Much certainly depends upon individual viewer's tastes in erotica. More so than any "legit" movie, if you don't find the leading actors attractive, chances are you'll find the entire enterprise more taxing than stimulating. The film was directed (so to speak) by F.J. Lincoln, whose main claim to fame in this era is that he had one of the starring roles in Wes Craven's original Last House on the Left. The liner notes on the DVD box indicate this film was highly regarded in adult film circles back in the day. "Highest rating...an erotic masterpiece", exclaimed High Society magazine. 'lest you think this is on the level of Last Tango in Paris, think again. What apparently separated Lincoln's films from the rest of the grind house pack is that they at least had some modest production values. In an era where most porn films were confined to "one reelers" shot in somebody's bedroom (or kitchen, or garage), Lincoln attempted to shoehorn something akin to a plot into the action- and he also shot on location so that his productions had some scenery and atmosphere. Even back in 1982, however, it's hard to imagine that this modest enterprise would have elicited great praise from within the adult film community, especially when a decade before, Gerard Domiano's The Devil in Miss Jones set the high water mark for acting, story and production values. Lincoln's great achievement here was gathering numerous "superstars" of the porn genre in this one film....sort of like The Towering Inferno, only these superstars don't wear pants.
The film opens with a young couple, Barbara (Anna Ventura) and Nick (Paul Thomas, who bears a striking resemblance to Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers) discussing a mystery. Nick, an insurance investigator, suspects that a man named Buck Thomas (Michael Morrison) may have murdered his wife. Nick gets Barbara to agree to accompany him to the Circle S singles ranch, which, in fact, is a place for swingers. Seems that ol' Buck holds court there with his latest flame, the sexually insatiable Cora (Lisa De Leeuw). The story then veers to another couple, Laura (Tiffany Clark) and Frank (Michael Bruce) who are curious about spicing up their love lives by experimenting with swinging. They arrange a meeting with an exotic, strange woman named Francine (Sharon Kane) who invites them to the Circle S to indulge in their fantasies. Once the couples arrive at the ranch, director Lincoln throws the entire murder mystery plot out the window (it's abruptly resolved in a single sentence, then not revisited again). Instead, things get hot and heavy with guys eyeing girls, girls eyeing guys and, of course, girls eyeing girls. The sex scenes are legitimately erotic and Lincoln doesn't go too much beyond the pure vanilla stage in that nothing overly perverted goes on, as long as you're comfortable with a dozen people rolling around together on the living room floor.
There are some interesting observations to make about the film. For one, while the women range from ordinary looking to downright exotic and the men look like they just stepped got off work at the local factory. In this pre-Botox and silicone era, most of the performers looked like people you might actually meet in real life. Thus, the guys are hairy and the girls are even hairier. The real fun comes when various cast members attempt to act. Here, the guys have the advantage with most of the male actors delivering dialogue in a manner that doesn't elicit unintentional laughter. Their physical appearance is something else, however, as they are cursed by having to wear the fashions of the era (short-shorts and polyester were all the rage). The women fare better in the fashion department because plunging necklines and garter belts do the trick in any era. The most amusement comes from the performance of Anna Ventura as Barbara when she gets to scold boyfriend Nick. She plays the part like she's Liz Taylor's Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and induces some gut busting unintentional laughter in the process. There is also a funny sequence in which Nick is seduced by Cora. Barbara walks in and catches them in the act but Paul has an excuse: as an insurance investigator he had to use her bottom to get to the bottom of the case. (Male insurance investigators may want to make note of this excuse in case they find themselves in a similar dilemma.) The film's grand finale features an all-out orgy, though Lincoln is rather subdued in not taking this scene as far as we might have expected.
The opening credits on the DVD transfer look like they were run over by a garbage truck but, in a way, it adds to the ambiance of the grind house flick. Fortunately, the print quality improves dramatically after that. There are no bonus features on the disc. Oui, Girls is a nostalgic throwback to an era when even porn seemed a little less calculated and manufactured by rote. I'm still trying to figure out the relevance of the title since there isn't even an allusion to the French anywhere on screen. If you pine away for those days watching porn in dingy theaters, you'll enjoy this DVD. To enhance the experience, make sure you're wearing your trench coat while viewing it.
At a recent symposium in St. Louis, Jesuits joined with members of the public for a symposium dedicated to discussing the actual incident that inspired William Peter Blatty's best-selling book The Exorcist, which in turn, was adapted into the classic 1973 horror film by director William Friedkin. The incident involved a 13 year old boy who was allegedly possessed by demonic spirits. The Catholic church, which had pretty much down played exorcisms in the modern age, gave rare permission for Father William Bowdren to perform the ritual. The identity of the boy remains secret even today and Father Bowdren, who died in 1983, never discussed specifics of the case other than to say "it was the real thing." Nevertheless, there is disagreement even among contemporary priests about the validity of the claim. Some say it's very probable that whatever physical manifestations Father Bowdren witnessed afflicting the boy could have been attributed to other causes. If faith is a belief in something that cannot be proven through traditional means, how one views the incident depends on one's religious convictions. If someone believes in God and an afterlife, it stands to reason that it isn't much of a stretch to believe in the existence of evil spirits. Conversely, skeptics and those who look to science as opposed to faith would look to natural causes for such occurrences. Whatever your views are, the incident certainly inspired one hell of a creepy horror story.- Lee Pfeiffer For more click here
(Issue #19 of Cinema Retro features an exclusive interview with William Peter Blatty. Click below to order)
ALTERNATIVE MOVIE POSTERS (Schiffer Publishing, Hardcover, 208 pages) by Matthew Chojnacki
Review by Lee Pfeiffer
In his introduction, author Chojnacki states the
obvious: the once classic art of movie poster design went into a deep decline
in the 1990s. (He claims we are now in a Renaissance period but you wouldn’t
know it from most of the movie posters we see.) Chojnacki took it upon himself
to seek out and curate avante garde movie posters created by a widespread range
of contemporary artists. Some were created for film festivals and other
projects whilst others were specifically designed for this impressive, handsome
coffee table book with top production values.
Each piece of art identifies its creator and
is given a dedicated page of its own. The posters feature quirky and often
ingenious designs that reflect the most memorable aspects of classic and cult
cinema often in the most subtle of ways. Titles range from classic Bond movies
to contemporary horror- and in virtually every case, the posters put to shame
the mostly God-awful designs seen on posters today, which tend to be bland, scanned in photos of actor's heads or indistinguishable posters relating to super heroes. This outstanding book
makes a perfect gift for the movie lover in your life and reassures us that there are still talented people creating movie posters today (they are just not being employed by studios).
Terry Gilliam with Cinema Retro columnist Adrian Smith at a 2009 BFI tribute to Gilliam in London.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
Filmmaker Terry Gilliam is fronting a Kickstarter campaign to restore Walerian Borowczyk's classic 1968 film Goto, l'île d'amour (Goto, Island of Love).
Speaking about the Polish artist and filmmaker’s work Gilliam says: “They activate a part of my brain that very few other things do…I haven't seen any of these films in probably thirty or forty years, but they all have stuck with me. He needs to be restored and the world needs to be reminded.”
Until now the majority of Borowczyk's early films have been unavailable. However, earlier this year writer, documentary filmmaker and producer of the box set, Daniel Bird secured the permission of his widow Ligia Borowczyk to restore nine short films and two feature films including Le théâtre de Monsieur & Madame Kabal (The Theatre of Mr and Mrs Kabal, 1967) and Blanche (1971) which will be released by Arrow films in Spring 2014.
Producer Daniel Bird says: ”For fifteen years I have been trying to find a way to restore Borowczyk's early films. Obviously, I am thrilled to be working with Arrow Films on this box-set."
The restorations were completed at Deluxe laboratories, London, under the supervision of leading film restorer, James White. This will be the first time that many of these films will be available in any home video format in any territory.
Born in Poland in 1923, where he studied painting and sculpture before establishing himself as a poster artist during the late 1950s, Borowczyk emigrated to France in 1959 where he lived and worked for the rest of his life. With films such as Renaissance (1963) and Rosalie (1966), Borowczyk played a major part in getting animated film recognised as a serious art form.
According to Amos Vogel, author of Film as a Subversive Art, Borowczyk's harrowing 1964 animation Les jeux des anges (Angels' Games) is simply “a masterpiece of modern art.”
In The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, David Thomson describes Borowczyk as “one of the major artists of modern cinema, arguably the finest talent that East Europe has provided.”
In addition, Arrow Films has collaborated with Argos Films, Paris, to release two other Borowczyk films, Contes immoraux (Immoral Tales, 1974) and La Bête (The Beast, 1975) in newly restored high definition transfers, as well as five more short films. These acquisitions will form the basis of Arrow’s Walerian Borowczyk Blu-ray and DVD box set, which is to be released as part of the Arrow Academy series in Spring 2014.
The co-producer of the box set isMichael Brooke in conjunction with Ligia Borowczyk and the filmmaker's regular assistant and producer, Dominique Segretin.
Note: This review pertains to the Region 2 (PAL) format UK release.
Cinema Retro writer would love to be able to explain to you in detail what just
what The Final Programme is
about, but I have absolutely no idea. The plot revolves around Jerry
Cornelius (Jon Finch), a swaggering millionaire scientist who seems to think he
is the second coming in this futuristic, possibly post-WWIII Britain. His
father, also a scientist, died when he was on the brink of some kind of amazing
discovery, and it is up to Cornelius to find out what it was. Along the way he
meets a variety of bizarre characters who drift in and out of the plot with
nothing particular to contribute. Amongst these are many familiar faces from
film and TV, such as George Coulouris, Sterling Hayden, Patrick Magee and
Graham Crowden, the latter seemingly channelling Quentin Crisp. The film has
flashes of visual inspiration spread throughout its running time, including
colourful filters and multiple layers, but these alone do not make up for a
story that makes no sense whatsoever. At one point Cornelius finds himself in a
nightclub which is built like a giant pinball machine, complete with
scantily-clad go-go dancers in giant hamster balls. It's colourful and exciting,
and you can almost imagine this film taking place in the same Britain as A
Clockwork Orange (1971).
Fuest is probably best known for directing the Vincent Price camp comedy-horror
classics The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) and Dr. Phibes Rises Again
(1972), films with plenty of visual style to compensate for the slightly flimsy
plots, themselves a derivation from the much-imitated Agatha Christie story And
Then There Were None (also known as Ten Little Indians). The film is
based on a much-respected science fiction novel by prolific author Michael
Moorcock. He has not been particularly complimentary about the film in the
past, and neither have ardent fans of the book, who have complained that too
much was removed from the story. This may help explain why the film makes no
sense, with Jerry moving from unusual experience to unusual experience for no
reason. It is a movie that is less than the sum of its parts, which is a pity
as individual parts are intriguing and entertaining, and suggest that there could
have been something very special here. Instead it is like trying to watch a
film through the fog of a room full of stoners. Originally an X certificate in
the UK, the film is now rated 15 for the occasional swearing, drug-taking and
nudity, all very much of its time.
is a film which has been greatly anticipated on UK DVD, and it is a pity that
Network did not take the opportunity to create materials that may help the
audience to put the film in some sort of context. Sadly both Robert Fuest and
Jon Finch died last year, too late to have their final reflections on the film
recorded. Michael Moorcock is still around but would not necessarily want to
contribute, but some kind of short documentary or commentary track from a
historian would definitely help if you are new to the film. As it is you get a
couple of trailers and the choice to watch the opening titles in Italian. Not
exactly mind-blowing extras, which are precisely what this DVD release needs.
Martine Beswick (One Million Years B.C., Slave Girls and Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde), Caroline Munro (Captain Kronos and Dracula A.D.72), Kate O'Mara (Horror of Frankenstein and The Vampire Lovers) and Maddie Smith (Vampire Lovers and Frankenstein and the and Monster from Hell). (Photo: copyright Mark Mawston, all rights reserved.)
9th November 2013
by Adrian Smith
Saturday in the shadow of Westminster Abbey, amidst the power-hungry elite of
Whitehall and Downing Street, gathered an even more sinister and corrupting
influence. Darth Vader rubbed shoulders with evil twins, corrupted children,
vampires, zombies and even Jack the Ripper. Overseeing this evil conclave were
directors whose films were so depraved that sometimes sick bags were supplied
to the audience.
film buffs were of course overjoyed at the fantastic selection of stars at this
Hammer and Horror Film event. Representing the Bond girls were Caroline Munro,
Caron Gardner, Martine Beswick and Madeline Smith. They were alongside horror
queens Barbara Shelley, Kate O'Mara, Judy Matheson, Janina Faye and Emily
Booth. Barbara Shelley sat with some of the alien children from her classic
British sci-fi Village of the Damned, Teri and Lesley Scoble and Martin
Stephens (also star of The Innocents). David Warner (Tron), Dave Prowse (Star Wars) and John Carson (Plague
of the Zombies) were all very friendly and accommodating of the multitude
of demanding fans, and writer-directors Michael Armstong (Mark of the Devil),
Norman J. Warren (Satan's Slave) and Brian Clemens (The Avengers)
were also there discussing their work and meeting old friends.
Kate O'Mara, Dave Prowse (Horror of Frankenstein) and Madeline Smith. (Photo: copyright Mark Mawston. All rights reserved.)
focus of the day was the recent restoration of Hammer's Twins of Evil. To
celebrate the director John Hough met up with Damien Thomas, who played Count
Karnstein, Judy Matheson, burnt at the stake by Peter Cushing, and good twin
Mary Collinson, who had travelled to the event from Milan. Sir Christopher
Frayling, one of the UK’s leading authorities on vampire fiction, lead the
onstage discussion. He provided a fascinating history of the Karnstein story
from its origins in the work of Sheridan Le Fanu to Hammer’s lesbian vampire
trilogy. They all clearly enjoyed the reunion, and Hough did his best to
convince the audience that the Collinson girls' voices were not dubbed, despite
what all the film history books say. Mary explained that they both received
elocution lessons, as neither of them were trained actors. Twins of Evil was
to be their last film, released when they were only nineteen, and they returned
guests were also interviewed throughout the day. Brian Clemens, Caroline Munro
and John Carson got together to discuss the magnificent Captain Kronos:
Vampire Hunter, agreed by one and all to be the last good film Hammer made
in the 1970s. Norman J. Warren described the difficulties of making Satan's
Slave with money raised by your producer re-mortgaging his house. They had
such small funds that star Michael Gough had to supply his own wardrobe and
sleep on a friend's sofa for three weeks, all for the grand sum of £300.
Warner was especially mischievous during his interview, reacting with horror
every time a clip was shown from his extensive back-catalogue (including Tom
Jones, The Omen, Time
After Time and Star Trek). He had the room in gales of
laughter and explained that as an actor without any ambition he is very happy
to have never been a star, something that many in the room disagreed with.
Cinema Retro columnist Adrian Smith with Mary Collinson (Twins of Evil).
(Photo: copyright Mark Mawston. All rights reserved).
makes one of these conventions so enjoyable is that alongside the guests are
dozens of stalls weighed down with rare DVDs, obscure film posters, original
James Bond toys, vinyl, novelisations; virtually every kind of film memorabilia
and ephemera that you can think of (and many you can't) from all over the
world. From Thai Evil Dead posters to original Hammer Quads it was a
collectors dream, even though you may also need to re-mortgage your home
yourself in order to pay for everything you want. Cinema Retro came home laden with
press books, lobby cards, old magazines, books and rare Spanish 1960s superhero
movies, and could easily have gone around the hall several more times.
Was James Bond not the only orphan drafted into MI6 by "M"?
Bloomeberg writer Stephen L. Carter left his first screening of the James Bond blockbuster Skyfall last year haunted by the suspicion that there are cryptic clues in the screenplay that most viewers would not ponder. He did his homework and discovered that the villain Silva, who wages an obsessive campaign of humiliation and vengeance against "M" for allowing him to rot in a Hong Kong prison, has a hidden anagram in the message he leaves on her hacked computer: THINK ON YOUR SINS. Carter reveals the anagram is YOUR SON ISN'T IN HK. Sound far-fetched? Click here to read Carter's rather persuasive argument that Silva is actually "M"'s adopted son who, in his eyes, was betrayed when she put the needs of MI6 above his own safety. This plot point would explain a lot of the emotional resonance in the relationship between "M" and Silva, which seems to hint at much more than is revealed on screen.
Lesleh Donaldson with Cinema Retro columnist Todd Garbarini.
By Todd Garbarini
Richard Ciupka’s unfairly maligned 1983
horror film Curtains was screened
recently as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Scary Movies 7 exhibition that also included screenings of Lucky
McKee’s new film All Cheerleaders Die,
Michele Soavi’s highly regarded Cemetery
Man (1994), Eli Roth’s new film The
Green Inferno, John D. Hancock’s ultra creepy Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971), the New York premiere of Clive
Barker’s 1990 film Nightbreed - the Cabal
Cut, and Peter Carter’s brilliant Rituals
(1977), better known as The Creeper,
which stars Hal Holbrook and Lawrence Dane in a film that is clearly influenced
by John Boorman’s Deliverance (1971) but
easily stands on its own as a strong piece of independent filmmaking.
Appearing in person at the Curtains screening was actress Lesleh
Donaldson who played Christie Burns, the ice skater in the film. Ms. Donaldson, who made her film debut as
Michael Douglas’ teenage daughter in Steven H. Stern’s 1979 film Running, introduced the film and spoke
at length following the screening with a question-and-answer session. Also at the screening were longtime Curtains aficionados Bryan Norton (he
teaches filmmaking at the New York Film Academy and is the director of Penny Dreadful with Betsy Palmer and Jack Attack with Helen Rogers), actor
Joe Zaso, film directors Bart Mastronardi, Alan Rowe Kelly, Howard Simon, and
yours truly representing Cinema Retro.
Exhibited from a rare 35mm print, Curtains is one of the most under-appreciated
thrillers of the early 1980s. The Canadian production went before the cameras
in November of 1980 and was beset by a multitude of problems which stretched
over several years and included but were not limited to: creative differences
between director Ciupka and the film’s producer, the late Peter R. Simpson, who
directed much of the film; a last-minute change in casting of one of the
supporting characters; and issues of money for the budget. This
tale of director Jonathan Stryker (played by the late John Vernon) and his
desire to bring the story of a woman, Audra, to the screen also features
veteran actress Samantha Eggar as actress Samantha Sherwood having herself
committed to a sanitarium to study mentally disturbed individuals only to find
that Stryker, for reasons never explained, has secretly decided to leave her
there and recast the film by auditioning other actresses at his house. Once she gets out, all hell breaks loose…
“Richard and Peter did not get along
and they both had their own views of what this movie was going to be about,” Ms.
Donaldson said after the screening. “Richard
(Ciupka) was a cinematographer who had a very artistic view of what the film
should look like. On the other hand, Peter Simpson, having done Prom Night prior to this, knew what
worked. He just wanted your typical slasher movie. So, they were constantly
battling and eventually Richard just left the project. They cast Celine Lomez in the Linda Thorson
role (of Brooke Parsons) originally. I
am not sure what happened, if she got another role or whatever, but she left.” When asked if she still has her fake head
that appears in a toilet during a gruesome discovery, she admits that it was an
artificial makeshift toilet and they used her real head for the scene. “The dinner scene and the bedroom scenes were
all done by Richard,” Ms. Donaldson continued. “The ice skating rink scene and the chase through the prop house, that
was all Peter. The other actresses and
myself, we all got along fine. There were no fights of any sort. I liked all of the women, they were all really
great. I didn't get to know Samantha Eggar very much but to be honest I think
she kept herself away from everybody because that’s what the character called
for. I became really good friends with
Lynne Griffin (who played Patti O’Connor and also starred in Bob Clark’s Black Christmas) and she was very
excited that they were screening the movie tonight. She couldn’t be here, unfortunately, but she
really wanted to. Anne Ditchburn was
also a very good friend as well. I did
actually practice a skating routine and she helped me. I didn’t actually get to
do my routine because I had practiced
skating in an arena. When it came time to shoot my ice-skating scene in the
movie, I literally took one glide out on to the icy pond and hit a bump. I fell face-first on to the ice. Looking at it on the big screen I can see the
cut on my chin. Of course, I did it
right behind Peter and Gerry Arbeid (production manager)! Gerry turned to Peter and said, ‘Didn’t we
pay for her training?’ So, they had to
use a double for my ice skating.”
Ms. Donaldson was nominated for a Genie
Award for her performance in the 1980 horror film Funeral Home but lost out to Margot Kidder in Donald Shebib’s Heartaches (1981). Her other horror film outings include Happy Birthday to Me (1981) and Deadly Eyes (1982).
Released on VHS in 1983 and on DVD in
2007, Curtains is currently
undergoing a long overdue digital film restoration from an interpositive under
the auspices of Don May, Jr.’s company Synapse Films with a Blu-ray scheduled
for release in 2014.
Italy may have suffered immeasurably during WWII but in the post-war era the Italian cinema entered a renaissance period with world-acclaimed directors making the country the epicenter of the European new wave films. The Italian cinema was still in vigorous condition in the 1960s and the nation's most glamorous actors and actresses became international stars. In the wake of Fellini's La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2, even mainstream American audiences that were generally immune to the charms of foreign films became smitten by the Italian touch. One of the most unheralded Italian imports from this era ironically boasted one of the most impressive casts. Made in Italy was released in America in 1967 with an all-star cast that included Virna Lisi, Sylva Koscina, Anna Magnani, Alberto Sordi and Nino Manfredi. The movie, which has been released as one of Sony's burn-to-order DVD titles, is a madcap look at a disparate number of Italians who are all experiencing something chaotic during the course of a single day. The movie, directed and co-written by Nanni Loy (The Four Days of Naples), runs at a fairly manic clip and certainly contains some moments of inspired comedy. However, the screenplay is woefully under-written with some of the vignettes (which are all unrelated) ending abruptly on an unsatisfactory note. Not helping matters is the penchant for dubbing films during this era, an absurd practice that was designed to increase boxoffice dollars but resulted in plenty of voices that didn't seem to match the actors on screen. This film is no exception, with only a few instances in which the dubbing can be deemed satisfactory. In most cases, it's poor and woefully distracting. The dozens of vignettes have varying running times and are primarily designed to look at how every day life in Italy impacts its citizens from all walks of life. Loy gets a bit Felliniesque by making some social commentary along the way. In one sequence, a group of bored, super wealthy socialites decide to "slum it" by eating in a crowded restaurant that is popular with the working class. The snobs arrogantly laugh at how they are immersed with those of lower social status in much the same way as visitors to a zoo might be amused by the antics of some exotic animals. In the most poignant sequence, a middle-aged out of work man desperately seeks employment and goes off on a job interview for a position of laborer. The hopes and enthusiasm of his wife at the prospect of his finding a job is genuinely touching even though the episode ends on a downbeat note. The only consistent characters seen throughout are a group of bawdy Italians who are aboard a flight to Sweden where they apparently have been engaged to do some unspecified work. The scenes of these obnoxious men clowning on the plane are routinely unfunny and the payoff is even weaker when they arrive in Sweden only to find it a gray, humorless place. The funniest segment involves Alberto Sordi as a philanderer who is caught in the act with his mistress by his wife- only to slickly present a defense of his actions that is designed to make him appear to be the victim of his wife's uncaring behavior. Another funny segment involves Anna Magnani trying to simply walk her family to a local ice cream parlor only to have to endanger everyone's lives by trying to cross the lanes of non-stop traffic that resembles a racetrack. The premise is very funny but, again, the script ends on a bizarre note, as though the writers couldn't envision a satisfying conclusion. The film's main attributes are the superbly photographed scenes of various exotic Italian cities and other locations, all set to a jaunty and delightful musical score.
Made in Italy is a mixed bag. There is inspired humor in small does along with some poignant social commentary, but all too often the segments are as leaden as a mountainous plate of lasagna.
The DVD transfer is excellent but there are no bonus extras.
Although Natalie Wood was regarded as a "serious" actress, having made the rare successful transition from child star, the custom of the day was for studio actors and actresses to pose for an endless amount of "cheesecake" photos. Wood was no exception as this rare photo for the promotion of "Gypsy" (1962) reveals.
Joe Dante's addictive Trailers From Hell site presents the re-release trailer for the MGM Laurel and Hardy classic Way Out West. Director John Landis provides commentary for the 1937 film and there is an option to watch the trailer with its original narration. Click here to view
Warner Home Video has released a deluxe Blu-ray edition of director Oliver Stone's 1991 film JFK to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The movie was a lightning rod for controversy upon its initial release and film critics and historians still debate the film today. Stone, who has made clear he is a firm believer that in the theory that JFK's murder was part of a greater conspiracy plot, altered many key historical events in order to make these theories more convincing to audiences. Stone defended this decision as being within the realm of "artistic license" and claimed that, as a filmmaker, his primary goal was to make a compelling movie. His critics cited their belief that, to impressionable audience members, his powerful movie would be confused with established fact. No matter where you stand on the debate, virtually everyone agreed that the movie was a gripping, expertly-made thriller. It earned 8 Oscar nominations, winning two.
The Blu-ray boxed set is outstanding in terms of content and quality. The set presents Stone's "director's cut" of the film (the original theatrical cut is not included, having apparently been disowned by Stone), a feature length documentary titled Beyond JFK: A Question of Conspiracy, deleted/extended scenes and feature length commentary. There is also an episode of the TV series Olvier Stone's Untold History of the United States titled JFK: To the Brink that delves into the various foreign crisis the new President had to deal with. A theatrical trailer is also included.
The set contains a separate DVD that has other excellent bonus programming including the 1963 feature film P.T. 109 that recreates how Kennedy won his stripes as a WWII hero (Cliff Robertson plays JFK, having been personally chosen by the President for the role). The film is enjoyable enough in its own right but, aside from the Kennedy connection, it's basically a standard WWII adventure. Robert Culp and Ty Hardin co-star. There is also a new feature length documentary titled JFK Remembered: 50 Years Later as well as the acclaimed vintage feature film documentary John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums which has been remastered for this release. There is a wealth of bonus collectibles including book of JFK quotations, reproduction of his inaugural address, reproduction of Kennedy campaign poser, 20 photos and correspondence fro te the JFK Presidential Library and a 44 page photo book. Nobody seems to excel at these "everything-but-the-kitchen sink" boxed sets like Warner Home Video does. Somebody over there deserves praise for their creative bonus collectibles that are included in so many of their boxed sets.
In all this is a magnificent release on every level.
There are various other options for purchasing the Blu-ray aside from the boxed set, as outlined below on the official official press release.
BURBANK, Calif., August 21, 2013 – November 22, 2013 will mark 50 years
since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and Warner Bros. Home
Entertainment (WBHE) will commemorate this tragic chapter in U.S. history by
honoring one of our most influential presidents with the release of a new collection
featuring the award-winning motion picture, JFK. Director Oliver Stone’s controversial
highly-charged story surrounding the tragedy debuts November 12as
JFK50Year Commemorative Ultimate Collector’s Edition (JFK UCE) on Blu-ray™.
Stone’s film is considered one of the most provocative of
our time. In addition to box-office success and critical acclaim, it captured eight
(including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor), winning two
(Best Cinematography and Film Editing). It also won Stone a Best Director
(Motion Picture, 1992) Golden Globe® and ultimately played a major
role in the national debate that lead to passage of the 1992 Assassination
Materials Disclosure Act.
Stone directed from a screenplay he wrote with Zachary
Sklar. The all-star cast includes Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Bacon,
Gary Oldman, Sissy Spacek, Jack Lemmon, Joe Pesci, Donald Sutherland, Laurie
Metcalf, John Candy, Walter Matthau, Sally Kirkland, and Edward Asner.
The JFK UCE includes the Director’s
Cut with 17 additional minutes not seen in theaters and will feature three
captivating documentaries – Oliver Stone’s JFK: To the Brink, the insightful
look at the JFK presidency that was included in his 2012 Showtime Series, “The Untold
History of the United States;” the brand-new JFK Remembered: 50 Years Laterfrom filmmaker Robert Kline; and John F. Kennedy: Years of
Lightning, Day of Drums, a
documentary produced by George Stevens, Jr., and written and directed by
Bruce Herschensohn, who also composed the music. The film was named one of the
Ten Best Films of 1965 by the National Board of Review.
In addition, the JFK UCE includes the feature film
drama, PT 109, about Kennedy’s World War
II experiences as a skipper in the South Pacific. The JFK UCE also contains
commemorative items from the Kennedy Presidential Library: collectible
reproductions of family and presidential photos, a campaign poster from the
1960 presidential campaign, and a copy of Kennedy’s historic inaugural address.
Lastly, there is a 32-page book of famous quotations, and a 44-page JFK movie
The JFK 50 Year Commemorative Ultimate
Collector’s Edition will sell for $59.99 SRP. The documentaries JFK
Remembered: 50 Years Later and John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of
Drums will also be available on DVD separately, for $5.94 and $11.97
SRP respectively. Untold History of the United States, containing JFK: To
the Brink, will make its U.S. Blu-ray debut October 15.
JFK: To The
Brink – Chapter
from Oliver Stone’s “Untold History of the United States”
New Documentary -- JFK Remembered: 50 Years Later
Remastered Documentary – John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums
Feature film -- PT
Behind the Story
Commentary by Director Oliver Stone
Beyond JFK: The Question of Conspiracy
Assassination Update – The New Documents
Meet Mr. X: The Personality and Thoughts of
Deleted/extended scenes with commentary by
director Oliver Stone (production audio only)
AboutThe UCE’s Special Features
the Brink: This documentary is Chapter
6 from the powerful historical series “Untold
History of the United States,” a ten-part Showtime
Original Series, debuting on Blu-ray October 15 through WBHE. The in-depth,
surprising, and totally riveting series, co-written by Stone with Peter Kuznick
and Matt Graham, was directed and narrated by Stone. This one-hour segment
sheds valuable additional insight into JFK’s presidency during the Bay
of Pigs; on the brink of total war during the Cuban Missile Crisis; through
early Vietnam; JFK's attempts at peace with Khrushchev; and finally the
JFK Remembered: 50 Years Later: 50 years after his assassination on November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy
remains as vital and compelling as when he was first elected. This documentary
reacquaints us with the first Irish-Catholic president and the youngest in U.S.
history, presenting images and personalities frozen in time. From Kennedy's
nomination to his election, from his inspiring inaugural address to the Bay of
Pigs, from civil rights and racial struggles to space exploration, from the
Berlin Wall appearance to his leadership during the Cuban Missile Crisis,
Kennedy ranks among the great presidents in the history of the United States.
John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums (1965): This
documentary tribute to President Kennedy was named one of the
Ten Best Films of the Year by the National Board of Review. Produced by George
Stevens Jr. for the United States Information Agency (USIA), it was narrated by
Gregory Peck, and written and directed by Bruce Herschensohn, who also composed
the music. The film chronicles the thousand days of JFK’s presidency, featuring
numerous clips from speeches and an intimate look at Kennedy family life. It
was not originally intended for the general public; however, the quality was
considered so outstanding that a special act of Congress allowed it to
eventually be shown theatrically.
PT 109 (1963): Before Kennedy was president, he was a hero
in World War II. Based on the book by Robert
J. Donovan, this film stars Academy Award®-winning actor Cliff
Robertson (Best Actor in a Leading Role --Charly
1969) as Lieutenant Kennedy. While a young captain of a PT boat in the South
Pacific, Kennedy lead his men in a daring rescue of American Marines stranded
on a small island inside the area of Japanese control. On another mission, a
Japanese destroyer sliced the small boat in half, and miles from the nearest
island Kennedy proves himself a hero with his efforts to save his crew.
Also Available Individually
Remembered: 50 Years Later (Documentary)
Pricing: $5.94 SRP
Run Time: 120 Mins.
Cat/UPC: 1000411226/ 883929346851
John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums
Pricing: $11.97 SRP
Run Time: 85 Mins.
The Untold History of the United States (contains JFK: To the
October 15, 2013
Order Due Date: September 10, 2013
Pricing: $49.99 SRP
Run Time: 801 mins
Catalog #: 1000420438
[i] 1991 (64th)
Actor in a Supporting Role –
Tommy Lee Jones
"CRAB MONSTERS, TEENAGE CAVEMEN, AND CANDY STRIPE NURSES: ROGER CORMAN, KING OF THE 'B' MOVIE" BY CHRIS NASHAWATAY; FOREWORD BY JOHN LANDIS
Review by Lee Pfeiffer
You can fill an ocean liner with all the tribute books that have been written about "B" movie mogul Roger Corman. The most elaborate so far is this superb coffee table volume by Chris Nashawatay, a long-time film critic for Entertainment Weekly. The book presents a plethora of outstanding movie posters, lobby cards and behind the scenes stills, some of which are from Corman's personal archives. They are all wonderfully presented, as this book is particularly well-designed to capitalize on the nature of the films it celebrates. So many big stars and directors had their initial success with Corman productions. In these pages you can relish Jack Nicholson as Cry Baby Killer, Ron Howard starring in (and directing for the first time) Eat My Dust, and Robert Vaughn as the Teenage Caveman. Best of all is the excellent, in-depth coverage and graphics of Corman's greatest successes: the string of Edgar Allan Poe film adaptations he collaborated on with Vincent Price. (This past Halloween, I watched several of them in succession on TCM and I am amazed at how well they hold up, despite low production values.). There biker films, sexploitation pics and low-brow comedies, all given the Corman touch of being slick and well-produced. Corman has lived to see his reputation placed on an exalted level (he received an honorary Oscar, something that would have seemed inconceivable back in the 1960s). The book has significant contributions from such esteemed figures as Peter Bogdanovich, James Cameron, Bruce Dern, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, Jack Nicholson and William Shatner- not to mention a heartfelt introduction by John Landis, who also credits Corman for distributing the works of Fellini, Bergmann and Kurosawa in the USA. In all, this book is an ambitious and highly entertaining work that retro movie lovers will find irresistible.
DISH Network, which bought the bankrupt Blockbuster Video in 2011, has thrown in the towel and announced it will close the remaining 300 Blockbuster stores in early 2014. Ten years ago it seemed that Blockbuster would remain king of the movie rental market. Where a Blockbuster store opened, independent videos stores closed. However, rapidly changing consumer habits rendered the stores obsolete. Most Americans probably would have to search far and wide to find a conventional video rental outlet in the average town. The era of instant downloads and streaming put the kiss of death on the video chain and DISH will be laying off as many as 2,800 employees. Click here for more
Our good friend actor Robert Davi has a sensational second career as a crooner. His Sinatra tribute show is getting rave reviews and the Huffington Post called him "a legend in the making". Now Davi has just released a wonderful new single on CD. New York City Christmas calls to mind the kind of unapologetically old-fashioned, sentimental holiday songs you just don't hear anymore. If you haven't heard him sing, you're in for a real treat.(We love that cover art by Steve Penley). Here is the official press release:
Angeles, CA--Singer/actor ROBERT
DAVI will be releasing his forthcoming “New York City Christmas” single for the upcoming holiday
season. The song was recorded at the iconic Capitol Records’ Studio A,
where Frank Sinatra, Nat “King” Cole and The Beatles once laid down some of
their most memorable work. Davi recorded “New York City Christmas” with
arranger/conductor ChrisWalden (Michael Buble), and is
accompanied by a live 30-piece orchestra, creating a lush background for the
holiday seasoned-song. “New
York City Christmas” was produced by legendary mixing engineer Al Schmitt, John Potoker and Nick Vallelonga, who also wrote the
song. Vallelonga has extensive directing, writing and producing credits
including: Yellow Rock, Stiletto and the
forthcoming romantic comedy, That’s Amore! (2014).
DAVI, who recently released DAVI
SINGS SINATRA – On The Road to Romance, produced by the
legendary Phil Ramone and
mixing engineer Al Schmitt (which
hit #6 on Billboard’s Top 10 Jazz chart), will be in New York for
promotion of the song in November and December.
Quincy Jones says of Davi’s performances: “As FS would say, 'Koo, Koo.' Wow! I have
never heard anyone come this close to Sinatra's sound – and still be himself.
Many try, but Robert Davi has the voice, tone, the flavor and the swagger. He
absolutely touched me down to my soul and brought back the essence and soul of
'Ol Blue Eyes himself.”
noted actor in motion pictures, DAVI is scheduled to film The
Expendables 3 on location in Bulgaria in October with Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Swartzenegger,
Jason Statham, Mel Gibson, Jet Li and DolphLundgren – is best known for his
roles as FBI Special Agent Johnson in Die Hard; Franz Sanchez in Licence
to Kill; Jake Fratelli in The Goonies and Ray Ferritto in Kill
the Irishman. He has appeared in
more than 100 moviesand television
Director Nicholas Ray's 1955 classic Rebel Without a Cause has been restored by Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation. Cinema Retro L.A. correspondent Mark Cerulli attended the recent premiere. Here is his report:
November 1st, Warner Bros. unveiled a loving restoration of the
James Dean classic, Rebel Without A Cause at a special screening at the Los
Angeles Museum of Art.The project was funded
by the Italian fashion house Gucci, which also threw a cocktail party at
LACMA’s Japanese Pavilion before the show.Their party was attended by some of LA’s glitterati including actress
Camilla Belle and original Rebel cast member Jack Grinnage (“Moose”).
Premiere cocktail party.
(Photo copyright Mark Cerulli. All rights reserved.)
this restoration was supported by Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation, the
director was supposed to introduce the film personally. Work commitments kept him elsewhere, but he
came up with a crowd pleasing last minute substitute – his frequent
collaborator, Leonardo DiCaprio. The
actor seemed relaxed and genuinely excited to be there as he read Scorsese’s
statement about how the film was instrumental in fostering his interest in and
love of movies – especially its palette of rich and vivid colors. (And unlike most celebrity presenters who
duck out of events as soon as the lights go down, DiCaprio took an aisle seat
and stayed for the entire film!)
DiCaprio introduces the restored movie classic.
(Photo copyright Mark Cerulli. All rights reserved.)
goes without saying that the film looked and sounded spectacular. The colors popped and Dean’s iconic screen
presence, Natalie Wood’s fragile beauty and Sal Mineo’s haunting performance all
came across as poignantly as they did on the day of release in 1955. According to Scorsese in the premiere
program, “the original color negative was scanned at 8K resolution” and the
sound had to be digitally sourced and cleaned from the original release print.
the film came out of director Nicholas Ray’s wish to portray “young people
growing up”, it remains a timeless snapshot of 1950s America and a showcase for
the raw power of James Dean.
Does the world really need another documentary
about George A. Romero’s watershed 1968 zombie film Night of the Living Dead? After
having watched a new documentary directed by Rob Kuhns called Birth of the Living Dead, the answer is
a resounding “Yes!” Horror films have
arguably never been more popular than they are now. The Internet and compact
digital devices such as iPads and cell phones have permitted people who
normally would not be able to afford the type of equipment necessary to make a
film the ability to do so. Consequently,
“found footage” films and zombie epics like 28
Days Later (2002) prosper. Digital
video and the explosion of computers and digital editing capability have become
a filmmaker's best friend. This is a far cry from the conditions under which
Mr. Romero and company made Night.
What Birth of the Living Dead does so well is pinpoint that exact moment
in history, in this case October 1968, when Mr. Romero’s seminal film was
unleashed upon an unsuspecting world. Prior to this, Mr. Romero, who was born
in the Bronx prior to moving to Pittsburgh, cut his teeth five years earlier by
creating a company called the Latent Image and produced hundreds, if not
thousands, of commercials. Sir Ridley
Scott similarly produced some 3000 commercials prior to his film debut, 1977’s The
Duelists. Mr. Romero comically
mentions having shot footage for Mister
Rogers’ Neighborhood and maintains even that wound up being frightening!
There are many ways in which film can
be ruined and when shooting on celluloid, invariably footage can end up over or
under exposed. In the case of some of
the commercials that Mr. Romero worked on, a lot of blood, sweat and tears went
into shooting footage that would end up plagued by mistakes made in the lab.
This is simply a fact of life and similar problems of shooting digitally are
rife with issues that plague filmmakers even today. USB devices get lost, hard
drives crash, digital videotape is accidentally erased, etc. Mr. Romero has seen it all.
The average filmgoer probably believes
that Night was Mr. Romero’s very
first film. While this is true in terms of having a film released, he actually
attempted to make an Ingmar Bergman-like drama prior to it. With money obtained
and saved through making commercials, he purchased a 35mm Arriflex film camera
and began work on a film entitled Whine
of the Fawn, sort of a variation on Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring (which, ironically enough, influenced Wes Craven’s
notorious Last House on the Left in
1972). The film proved to be difficult to make and seemed pretentious and was
mercifully abandoned. While reading the novel I Am Legend by famed author Richard Matheson, Mr. Romero wrote his
own story and screenplay about a zombie outbreak. It went before the cameras
under the title of Night of the Flesh
Eaters. This was 1967, the era of
Vietnam, racism, civil rights movements, anger, and rioting. The country was
exploding as a result of class differences and racial injustice. Mr. Romero’s film was seminal
in that there was a new revolution at hand: the dead were coming back to life en masse. Rechristening the Latent Image as Image Ten, Night of the Flesh Eaters became Night of the Living Dead - without a
copyright trademark which was left off due to an oversight, resulting in
unknown amounts of money lost as the film became public domain. Mr. Romero shot and edited the film himself. The budget was so small that the cast and crew of Night pulled double duty behind and in front of the camera. This
film is really the very definition of a team effort and at this time
independent cinema was fairly new. In New York Martin Scorsese was just starting out; in Toronto,
David Cronenberg was shooting his short films Transfer and From the Drain;
John Carpenter was in film school at the University of Southern California; Wes
Craven was teaching and trying to get his film career off the ground; Dario
Argento was writing film criticism for a newspaper in Rome and preparing to shoot
his first movie. It was an exciting era.
It is hard for contemporary audiences
to imagine what it must have been like to see a film like Night in 1968. Birth gives us a graphic insight to
those troubled times. Mr. Romero admits
in Birth that most people on the crew
didn’t even believe that the film would get finished. Birth offers the opinions of a whole host of people in the industry
about their experiences having seen Night.
One of them is Gale Anne Hurd, the
producer of The Terminator, Aliens, and The Abyss, and who is now an executive producer on AMC’s extremely
popular and successful series The Walking
Dead. It is amazing to see that 45
years after the release of Night, it
is obvious that Mr. Romero is responsible for the zombie genre.
Birth also very carefully examines the
casting of the late African American actor Duane Jones as Ben, the hero of the
film. Most people thought that Mr.
Romero was making a statement about white and black relations by casting Mr.
Jones. The truth is, he was the best person to audition for the role. Just
as simple as that. There is no mention in Night
nor is there any sort of reference to Ben’s color. It's basically a non-issue.
It is also interesting to point out
that film criticism at the time wholeheartedly embraced Night. Many well-regarded
publications such as Positif analyzed
the film under a microscope and interpreted it from the standpoint of serious
film theory. This gave the movie an air of prestige never imagined.
Overall, this is an excellent and
insightful look at the effect that this low-budget American film had on the motion picture industry. Even if you are not a fan
of horror or of Night, I would
recommend that you see it to appreciate and be familiar with Night’s cultural significance. An excellent companion piece to this film is
Ben Harvey’s BFI Film Classics book on Night
which can be purchased here from Amazon.com.
of the Living Dead
begins its theatrical engagement at New York’s Independent Film Center (IFC) at
323 Sixth Avenue at West Third Street on November 6, 2013. Fitting, as the IFC is the former Waverly
Theater where Night premiered in 1968.
There's great news for Dean Martin fans and lovers of classic comedy. Star Vista Entertainment/Time Life have released the entire broadcast collection of Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts. These shows were "must-sees" in their original telecasts in the 1970s, as an astonishing array of Hollywood and political legends came together on stage to roast the man or woman being "honored". Taking on the format of a Friar's Roast (without the obscenities), the shows became extraordinarily popular as off-shoots of Dean Martin's long-running variety hour on NBC. Each roast was held before a large live audience in Las Vegas and no "honoree" emerged unscathed. The packaging warns that in today's politically correct society, much of the racially-charged humor might seem shocking but keep in mind, this was the norm in the day with comedians, both black and white, taking good-natured pot-shots at each other. Additionally, people who were arch political rivals would engage in very funny by-play. Try imaging that in today's crazy, polarized political environment. Each roast is seen complete and uncut, a refreshing change from those vidoe releases which frustratingly only offer "highlights" or "Best of..." selections. The beautifully mastered DVDs come in two versions: a selection of 18 roasts plus new bonus featurettes and two vintage Dean Martin Variety Hour programs featuring the likes of Bob Hope, John Wayne and Rodney Dangerfield. You also get a great 44 page commemorative souvenir program. The deluxe version comes in a handsome gift box and features all 54 roasts, the aforementioned bonus materials, four vintage Dean Martin TV specials and an exclusive commemorative figurine of Dino. Looking over the collection, it seems hard to believe that there once was a time where you could see people like Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Henry Fonda, Orson Welles, Ronald Reagan, Don Rickles, Jackie Gleason and so many others sharing the same podium. This massive collection might take you a very long time to get through, but there's simply no better way to brighten your day than to take this delightful trip down Memory Lane.
THE DEAN MARTIN CELEBRITY ROASTS: COMPLETE COLLECTION($249.95)follows StarVista Entertainment/Time Life's best-selling releases of "The Dean Martin Variety Show" and marks the first time that most of these classics from the Golden Age of TV will be released on DVD in a single collection. Featuring all 54 roasts from both "The Dean Martin Show" and "The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts," the program's notable roastees included many of the 20th century's most accomplished performers and athletes, politicians and personalities including: Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Carson, Sammy Davis Jr., Jack Benny, Lucille Ball, Jackie Gleason, George Burns, Don Rickles, Kirk Douglas, Danny Thomas, Gabe Kaplan, Hank Aaron, Wilt Chamberlin, Joe Namath, Muhammad Ali, Ronald Reagan and Dean Martin himself.
Featuring over 40 hours of top-shelf comedy from hundreds of celebrities including Phyllis Diller, Jonathan Winters, Dick Martin, Joey Bishop, Henry Fonda, Gene Kelly, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Redd Foxx, Ruth Buzzi, Flip Wilson, John Wayne, Angie Dickinson, Billy Crystal and many more, the collectible set also contains over fifteen hours of bonus programming including comedy sketches from "The Dean Martin Show," rare Dean Martin TV specials that have not been seen since the original broadcast and exclusive interviews with roasters and roastees. The set also contains 11 specially-produced featurettes, rare home movies with Dean, family and friends, a 44-page collector's book loaded with behind-the-scenes photos, classic quotes and production materials and a limited-edition 7.5" hand-painted Dean Martin "at the dais". Adding hours of classic comedy to this superlative collection, also included are two bonus DVDs featuring seven episodes from "The Dean Martin Variety Show".
The 1963 version of Cleopatra is deemed a terrible movie, mostly by people who have never seen or who only have vague memories of it.
You do a fantastic job with your reviews in general, but occasionally you do one that resonates with me, and I like to send you a quick note on those occasions. Your review of The Adventurers is one of those times.
You ask: "How, after all, could a film by a major director and featuring a big all-star cast go so completely wrong? The answer is: it didn't. The Adventurers is not high art, but it doesn't deserve its place in the Razzie book of ten worst films of all time."
With that passage, you hit the nail on the head, in my opinion. I watched this movie a couple of years ago and concur with your review. No way this is one of the worst films of all time. It probably will not make any favorites lists, but it is worth the effort to view it once.
As always, keep up the good work.
Retro Responds: Thanks for the kind words, Martin...I find that, all too often, epic box-office failures are often judged by their financial fate, not their artistic merits. I'm not making the argument that The Adventurers is some great work. However, calling it one of the worst movies of all time seems way over the top. I can well understand why our own contributing writer and editor Sheldon Hall wrote to me to say he felt the film was "a stinker". Fair enough, but even he isn't making the argument that the film ranks among the ten worst of all time, as apparently the Razzies are claiming. Of course, such judgments are purely subjective and there is no right or wrong answer. However, I find that many people knock big boxoffice disasters based on vague recollections or general critical consensus. Among the other prominent "victims" of this scenario: the Liz and Dick version of Cleopatra, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Alamo (which actually was a financial success but has been deemed a bomb), the Brando remake of Mutiny on the Bounty and of course the infamous Heaven's Gate, which people are finally and justifiably re-evaluating. Some unenlightened critics still cite On Her Majesty's Secret Service as a film that died at the boxoffice, thus resulting in George Lazenby being fired as 007. For the record, although the film grossed far less than the preceding Bonds, its grosses would still have been the envy of most producers- and Lazenby quit the role and was not fired. Again, saner heads have prevailed in more recent years and the film has finally been receiving the praise it has always deserved. Hopefully, some of the aforementioned movies I've cited will, too.
(Readers can send their opinions on any topic to: email@example.com Because of the large volume of mail we receive, we can't guarantee the letter will be published, but we do try to answer every E mail.)
When it opened in 1970, director Lewis Gilbert's film version of Harold Robbins' best-seller The Adventurers was reviewed by New York Times, which referred to the production as "a spectacular blast-furnace lulu of human waste". Indeed, Gilbert himself said of the film a few years ago that it was "terrible" and that he regretted having been involved with it. With such a reputation, it's no wonder that even retro movie lovers such as myself have never made the effort to watch the movie. However, the Warner Archive has just re-issued Paramounts original DVD release of the film and, upon receiving the screener, I had enough morbid curiosity to give it a try. How, after all, could a film by a major director and featuring a big all-star cast go so completely wrong? The answer is: it didn't. The Adventurers is not high art, but it doesn't deserve its place in the Razzie book of ten worst films of all time. The worst that can be said of it is that it is a relentlessly downbeat affair that goes on for three hours with nary an iota of humor or anything, in fact, to relieve the consistent depiction of human suffering. At times, it makes Sophie's Choice look like It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Gilbert, who had recently come off the double-barreled successes of Alfie and You Only Live Twice, had envisioned directing the screen adaptation of Oliver! When that project went to Carol Reed, he ended up with The Adventurers.
The movie opens with an unsettling sequence set in a fictional South American country (it was filmed in Colombia). A young boy named Dax Xenos watches in horror while a group of soldiers invades his family compound and systematically rape and kill all of the women, including his mother and sister. Dax barely escapes and rescues his friend, a girl Amparo. Together they survive an arduous trek across the desert and are reunited witih Dax's father (Fernando Rey) who is a prominent rebel leader trying to depose the nation's dictator. Ultimately the rebels win and install a new leader, General Rojo (Alan Badel), who promises to initiate democracy but who proves to be as ruthless and greedy as his predecessor. (The parallels to Castro are probably no coincidental). Dax's father is named a prominent diplomat and over the years, the two become closer than ever. With Dax now a handsome young man and playboy, he is thrust into the political limelight when his father is assassinated, ostensibly by rebels now trying to oust Rojos, but in reality the command was given by Rojos himself. The story traces Dax's rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-riches life as he tries to preoccupy himself by opening up a fashion studio with some old friends. However, he is repeatedly drawn to efforts to oust Rojos back in his home country. He ultimately uses his social contacts among the rich and famous to raise capital to finance arms to the guerrillas and ultimately ends up helping to lead a massive assault on the presidential compound. Intermingled with these action sequences, we follow Dax's busy love life as he romances rich cougars (Olivia De Havilland among them) and enters an ill-suited marriage with the world's richest young woman (Candice Bergen.) Dax, who is nominally the hero of this film, comes across as a cad. When his wife suffers a miscarriage in an accident and finds she can no longer bare children, he basically says, "Adios" and goes on his lustful way to find other women. He eventually is reunited with Amparo (Leigh-Taylor Young), who is the daughter of Rojos. The two have an on-again, off-again affair. (Only Harold Robbins or Sidney Sheldon could envision such complicated love lives).
The three hour movie is consistently engrossing and the locations, which include Rome and New York, are exotic, to say the least. This was one hell of an expensive production and it must have originally been envisioned for a road show release (it has an intermission.) The battle scenes are massive in scale and superbly staged and the entire film is stunningly photographed by the great Claude Renoir. The music by Antonio Carlos Jobim is also an impressive asset. Bekim Fehmiu, who was then a largely unknown Yugoslavian actor who was plucked from obscurity, meets the physical requirements of the role in that he has a calendar model's good looks and appears very Bondian in a tuxedo. Critics called his performance wooden and dull but he is supposed to be playing a man so scarred by boyhood traumas that he finds it almost impossible to show overt emotion. A film of this magnitude certainly called out for a major star in the lead role, so Fehmiu's lack of clout with audiences clearly hurt the boxoffice potential. However, there are any number of other good actors in supporting roles including Ernest Borgnine (very good as Dax's only true friend), the aforementioned Ms. De Havilland and Bergen, Charles Aznavour, Rosanno Brazzi, Leigh-Taylor Young, John Ireland and the always great Fernando Rey. (Even 007's Miss Moneypenny, Lois Maxwell, shows up in a blink-and-you'll-miss-her cameo.) Gilbert's direction is assured and and he keeps the lengthy story running at a fast enough pace that there is nary a dull moment.
The Adventurers doesn't represent anything like the best films of its era. However, it is also not the shameful mess even its director has labeled it as. Huge in scope and featuring rich production values, the movie has some shots that feature enough extras to rival Cleopatra. It's a pretty grim affair throughout but retro movie fans should ignore conventional wisdom and form their own opinions about its overall merits. Recommended.
The Warner Archive DVD features an excellent transfer but no bonus extras.
Last evening I attended a rather remarkable event: the world premiere screening of the new highly-touted National Geographic Channel TV movie Killing Kennedy. (The program will be telecast on November 10.)What made the evening remarkable was the fact that, instead of premiering the film in a New York or L.A. prestigious venue, National Geographic in association with Cablevision, chose Greenbriar, a senior citizens community in the central New Jersey town of Marlboro. It seems the channel is taking a populist approach to publicizing their most prestigious productions and it was decided to premiere the Kennedy film before an audience of people who were alive during the events recounted on screen. Several politicos were on hand (there is an election in New Jersey next week, after all) including Jonathan Hornki, the mayor of Marlboro -who used some clout to get the event held at Greenbriar- and state senator Joe Kryllos (R). Also in attendance was Charlie Parsons, one of the executive producers. Discussing historical facts among senior citizens who lived through the actual events is generally a risky business. I taught classes about films pertaining to the Cold War to adult ed students at NYU and found that I learned as much from the class as they did, thanks to their personal insights. Thus, National Geographic felt very confident that they had a good product with this high budget, slickly made recreation of the events that unfolded 50 years ago on that somber day in Dallas.
Rob Lowe and Ginnifer Goodwin as JFK and Jackie Kennedy.
There are plenty of landmark moments in American history that have taken place over the last century, but few that can be called genuinely seminal. I would list the attack on Pearl Harbor, D-Day, the moon landing, the 9/11 terrorism acts and certainly the assassination of John F. Kennedy. With the 50th anniversary upon us, there is no shortage of beings and entities that are trying to exploit this dreadful day in U.S. history. Some are motivated purely by profit others by profit and a desire to enlighten people. The National Geographic Channel falls squarely into the latter category. Producer Parsons explained that the channel prides itself on presenting fact, not fiction or speculation. He also said the decision was made to go with the traditional theories about the assassination (i.e, Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.) This is, in itself, refreshing. The two most prominent major feature films made about the death of Kennedy- Executive Action (1973) and Oliver Stone's JFK (1991)- both propagated conspiracy theories. Parsons didn't endorse or dismiss such theories but simply said that, had the project delved into those waters, the film would have been too large in scope to cover the key events effectively in an 88 minute time slot. There are plenty of intelligent people who believe in the conspiracies and others who are genuine nutcases...the kind of folks who believe President Bush orchestrated the destruction of the World Trade Center and that President Obama is a Marxist illegal alien from Kenya. The channel will take a lot of heat from this crowd for presenting a straight-forward view that Oswald alone killed Kennedy; in essence presenting the Warren Report version of events. However, it is now unusual to see this traditional interpretation of the assassination being put forward since conspiracy-oriented films and TV show have been sucking up all the oxygen on the subject for the last couple of decades.
National Geographic Channel had a major success with their February airing of Killing Lincoln, a truly outstanding production that rightly earned the highest ratings in the channel's history. That film was based on a best-selling book by Bill O'Reilly (yes, that Bill O'Reilly) and his co-author Martin Dugard. The success of the book led to the two collaborating on Killing Kennedy and-most recently- Killing Jesus. Whether you love or loathe O'Reilly for his controversial political punditry on Fox News (and there is no middle ground), you have to credit him for bringing historical events back into the public mainstream through his books. In an increasingly dumbed-down world, anyone who helps elevate interest in history is to be commended. The new Killing Kennedy production represents new ground for National Geographic: it's the channel's first scripted docudrama. (In the parlance of the 1970s, it would be called a "TV movie".) That is, is has no narration and the scripted project stars professional actors. This is a bit risky for a venture that prides itself on historical accuracy as scripted dramas always run the risk of reflecting the biases of the screenwriters. While I don't profess to be a JFK assassination scholar, it seemed to me that overall production was accurate based up on what we know, not supposition. (There is some clunky ambiguity about JFK's removal of missiles from Turkey in order to give Kruschev a fig leaf to end the Cuban Missile Crisis, but that's a minor criticism.)
Will Rothhaar as Lee Harvey Oswald
The film traces parallel story lines involving the rendezvous with destiny that both John F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald were approaching from disparate paths. The movie presents interesting insights into Oswald's defection to the Soviet Union and his ultimate disappointment about living in the decrepit "Worker's Paradise". He ultimately returns to America with his Russian wife with the dream that he will somehow be the center of a major news story. When that fails to happen, his life rapidly disintegrates. His marriage begins to unwind, his wife and children move out and he is relegated to a menial job in the Dallas school book depository from which the deadly shots were fired. Meanwhile, JFK is nursing his wounds over his bungling of the Bay of Pigs invasion and trying to prevent all out nuclear war when the Soviets move missiles into Cuba. The President is very well-played by Rob Lowe, who opts to capture the essence of the character as opposed to attempting a flat-out imitation of the man. It's a wise move. Lowe conveys Kennedy's charm, intelligence and swagger but also reveals his self-centered side through his dalliances with other women (as aspect of White House life that is conveyed strongly, but briefly.) JFK becomes a more mature and thoughtful person following the tragic death of his infant son. Jackie Kennedy (played by Ginnifer Goodwin as a sympathetic and tolerant figure) finally sees her husband becoming the man she knew he could be- but, of course, tragedy will cut short this transformation. Oswald's marriage is also delved into in a detailed way with Michelle Trachtenberg outstanding as his long-suffering Russian immigrant wife. (Impressively, Trachtenberg learned how to speak Russian phonetically from her mother, who was born in the Soviet Union.) As Oswald comes to the realization that his dreams of grandeur are destined for failure, he makes a rather spontaneous decision to make history by assassinating the president. As Oswald, newcomer Will Rothhaar gives a very impressive performance, avoiding the types of pretentious quirks or overt signs of villainy that one might have anticipated. Instead, he plays Oswald as a somewhat sympathetic loser; a man who is capable of having genuine empathy for the civil rights movement, yet is equally capable of manhandling his wife in a rage. Other key historical figures such as LBJ, Jack Ruby and Bobby Kennedy remain peripheral characters out of necessity due to time constraints but every supporting performance is played to perfection. The film actually gets better as it nears its inevitable and tragic conclusion. It's hard to ring suspense out of a drama when we all know how it ends. Fred Zinnemann achieved this with his brilliant 1973 film The Day of the Jackal about a fictitious plot to assassinate Charles de Gaulle and director Nelson McCormick manages to do the same with Killing Kennedy. Production values are top-notch as is the editing and cinematography. None of this is surprising given the impressive talent behind the scenes (both Ridley Scott and David Zucker are among the executive producers.) Oliver Stone may get his knickers twisted when he sees this non-conspiratorial view of the JFK assassination but the truth is that no one can say they really know the truth. Despite compelling questions, mysteries and inconsistencies regarding key aspects of the Warren Report, no one has ever produced definitive evidence of a plot that went beyond the mad act of a desperate man who wanted to known for making some kind of mark on society, even if it were to be a tragic one.
Killing Kennedy is sure to get a huge audience when it is broadcast on November 10 (a DVD release will follow shortly thereafter). Hopefully, an enthusiastic response to a production this good will only encourage the National Geographic Channel to continue to elevate the standards of historical dramas with similarly-themed programming. Everyone involved should take a well-deserved bow.
Unseen blooper reel footage has surfaced from the 1976 filming of the original Star Wars movie. Before anyone gets carried away, the snippets are disjointed and only moderately amusing. Nevertheless, any footage that we haven't seen is more than welcome. The blooper reel is being included in a new interactive book, The Making of Star Wars. To view the reel (some of which has no audio) click here
To order the book discounted from Amazon click here
A couple of years ago we met director Tom Donohue and his colleagues, who were in the beginning stages of their documentary Casting By, which explores the generally neglected contributions of casting directors to major motion pictures. In the ensuing months, Tom and his team have interviewed a remarkable number of prominent directors, actors and producers for their film including Woody Allen, Robert Duvall, Robert Redford, Al Pacino, Robert De NiroMartin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood. The film, which is being touted as a strong Oscar contender, has just opened theatrically in New York. Additionally, Woody Allen, who generally keeps a low profile, was inspired by the film to write an open letter to the movie industry extolling the virtues of casting directors. (To read the letter click here)
Here is a synopsis and play dates for the film:
"Casting is 95% of directing a picture," Martin Scorsese says at the start of Casting By, a "scintillating (THR)", fascinating (NYT)" and "wildly entertaining"(Indiewire) look at an important and vastly under-appreciated craft that will never let you look at movies quite the same way again. Director Tom Donahue focuses his lens on the pioneering contributions of Casting Director Marion Dougherty whose keen eye and gut instincts almost singlehandedly created a profession from the ashes of a dying studio system and helped give birth to the golden era of the New Hollywood. The film combines "the greatest assemblage of talking-head star power in any documentary ever made" (Back Stage) with a rich treasure trove of archival to craft a fun and revealing journey through the last half century of Hollywood. "More than a must-see. It’s a brisk, breezy, enjoyable and often endearing experience." -Film School Rejects
CASTING BY starts today in NYC:
The Elinor Bunim Munroe Film Center at Lincoln Center
11:00am.1:10pm. 3:15pm. 5:20pm. 7:25pm. 9:45pm
Q&A with Casting Director Ellen Lewis after the 7:25pm show tonight and tomorrow Click here for tickets
1pm. 3pm. 5pm. 7pm. 9pm
Q&As with casting directors after each screening Fri-Sun
The three Harry Palmer feature films (The Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin and Billion Dollar Brain) have had a rather cluttered history in terms of their video releases. Surprisingly, producer Harry Saltzman didn't stick with one studio in terms of their theatrical releases, as he did with the James Bond films which he co-produced with Cubby Broccoli. Instead, each of the Palmer films was financed by and released by a different studio. Thus, in the ensuing decades, the video rights to these films have been convoluted. The titles have remained consistently available to consumers in some countries, while in others (including the USA), they have appeared and disappeared from the marketplace for years at a time. Now the Warner Archive has reissued Paramount's original DVD version of Funeral in Berlin as a burn-to-order title. The original film, The Iprcress File, was internationally acclaimed as the "thinking man's 007" movie. Caine's Harry Palmer, replete with Cockney accent, was the working man's secret agent. He does not have a big expense account, he lives in a modest apartment and he is basically disdainful of authority figures. (Bond is, too, but generally only in a playful sense.) Two qualities that Bond and Palmer do share is that they are both incorruptible and are prone to bedding a parade of beautiful women they encounter both socially and on the job. Funeral in Berlin seems intent on emphasizing the independent nature of Harry Palmer. He reluctantly follows orders given to him by his grim, unsmiling boss Ross (Guy Doleman), but he clearly disdains the man and the bureaucracy he represents. Palmer is on some kind of probation with MI6 and Ross dangles his termination as a constant threat. Palmer is so financially impoverished that he can't even afford a car (Ross won't extend a loan to him) and he must commute about London via public buses.
Ross summons Palmer to his home and informs him he must leave abruptly for West Berlin. It seems an influential Soviet general named Stock (Oscar Homolka) has made it clear that he wants to defect to the West. Palmer is immediately skeptical but Ross can't pass up the opportunity to bring Stock "in from the cold", so to speak. Palmer arrives in West Berlin and is greeted by his local contact with German intelligence, Johnny Vulcan (Paul Hubschmid). Like Palmer, he's young, charismatic and good looking and in the course of business, they enjoy the local bar scene as well as some willing beauties. Among them is Samantha Steel (Eva Renzi), a vivacious young woman who boldly seduces Palmer. Harry's suspicions that she is a spy are borne out when he learns she is with Israeli intelligence. The complicated plot, based on the Len Deighton novel, next finds Palmer in East Berlin where he meets with General Stock. As played by Oscar Homolka, the character comes across like a Soviet version of Henny Youngman, constantly cracking jokes and tossing insults. Nevertheless, the chemistry between Caine and Homolka is one of the main assets of the film and the character of General Stock was brought back in Billion Dollar Brain. Palmer suspects that Stock is lying about his desire to defect and this sets in motion plot devices that are so convoluted that the movie gets extremely confusing. After a while, it's hard to follow who is trying to accomplish what and the motivations and allegiances of the characters are also blurred. At some point, I just gave up and sat back to enjoy the performances and the assured direction of Guy Hamilton, who impressively capitalizes on the West Berlin locations. (Hamilton, who had previously directed Goldfinger, is not the only 007 luminary brought into the production. Producer Saltzman also has legendary production designer Ken Adam on board.) The film is drenched in the sullen mood of the Cold War era but there are some funny witticisms uttered by the bespectacled Palmer. In one of the film's most amsuing on-going sight gags, every time Palmer enters or leaves Samantha's apartment, he walks past some ancient stone decorations that look exactly like erect phallus symbols, a master touch by Ken Adam.
Caine is in virtually every frame of the film and dominates the production with his low-key performance. Paul Hubschmid is very good as an ally whose allegiance is called into question. Eva Renzi acquits herself well as the femme fatale, equally adept with a machine gun in hand or walking seductively through opulent settings in head-turning wardrobe. One of the delights of any Palmer film is the strained byplay between Palmer and Ross, who is expertly played by another Bond film veteran, Guy Doleman (he played the villain Count Lippe in Thunderball). In fact, Ross is such a stick-in-the-mud that he makes Bernard Lee's "M" look like a towel-snapping prankster. Their scenes in this film bristle with wit and tension. It should also be mentioned that John Barry's moody, acclaimed score for The Ipcress File has been left out of this film with new themes by composer Konrad Elfers, who emphasizes traditional bombastic German music that might seem more fitting in a military epic but somehow is interwoven sensibly into the action.
Many retro movie lovers consider Funeral in Berlin to be the best of the Palmer feature film trilogy (Caine revised the character many years later in a couple of ill-conceived TV productions.). I still vote for Iprcess as the best of the lot, but this film has so many merits that it can be enthusiastically recommended. The transfer from the previous Paramount DVD edition is identical and of high quality. (Even the packaging is identical, save for the notation that the new release is through the Warner Archive). The only extra is a trailer that seems to have been struck from an unfinished work print, as it lacks any titles or graphics and doesn't even mention Michael Caine's name. Kudos to the Warner Archive for making this Harry Palmer title accessible once again. Let's hope The Ipcress File and Billion Dollar Brain reappear soon in the American market, too.
Here's a great way to kick off Halloween...watch Ted Cassidy's 1965 appearance on Shindig in which he leads a groovy rendition of "The Lurch", the song he immortalized on The Addams Family. Cassidy even cut a hit 45 RPM of the song!
not a title that readily pops into one’s head when recalling the great horror
films throughout the decades. A British
production released when Universal Pictures’ line of horror franchises had
declined and Val Lewton’s minimalist RKO productions had reached their height, The Uninvited has remained fairly
obscure, in the U.S. anyway, but has also consistently maintained a solid
reputation as one of the great, classic haunted house pictures. In fact, The
Uninvited could be the first film to treat ghosts seriously rather than as
an instrument for humor.
by Lewis Allen and starring Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey and gorgeous Gail Russell
in her first film role, the motion picture was released by Paramount in early
1944. Milland was a minor star at the
time who would shoot to super-status the following year by winning a Best Actor
Oscar for The Lost Weekend. Russell, as described by filmmaker Michael
Almereyda in a visual essay extra, was a tragic case of Hollywood Chew-‘Em-Up
and Spit-‘Em-Out Syndrome. Remarkably
beautiful, Russell had nonetheless suffered from severe stage fright and yet Paramount kept
casting her in films over the next dozen years or so in an attempt to make her
a star—until alcoholism took over and she died young at the age of
thirty-six. However, Russell’s
performance in The Uninvited is an
impressive debut, and one can easily see why the studio had faith in the
actress. Her nervous, yet vulnerable
delivery—which apparently was her career downfall in later years—works well
with her character in the picture, i.e., a young woman tormented by the ghost
of her mother, who died violently by falling off a cliff to the sea—or was she
pushed? And is it really her
and Hussey play siblings who buy a creepy old abandoned mansion that sits on
the precipice of an English coastline. The previous owner, and Russell’s grandfather in the story, is the inimitable
Donald Crisp. Shortly after the couple moves
in, the ghost makes its presence known with spooky sobbing, moving things about,
and eventually materializing as surprisingly well-done animated ethereal
figures. But wait! There is evidence to suggest that there are rival ghosts haunting the couple and the
alleged daughter of one of the spirits. Who is the other ghost?
no doubt about it—this is great stuff. It’s English, it’s gothic, it’s romantic, and it handles the subject
matter with respect; Lewis really does want to creep out the audience, and he
succeeds. Beautifully shot by Charles
Lang (Oscar nominee for Black & White Cinematography), The Uninvited is old-fashioned intelligent movie making at its
best. Also of note is that the jazz
standard “Stella by Starlight” was written by Victor Young for the movie and
would be covered by a multitude of artists after lyrics were added to the tune
a couple of years after the picture’s release.
Criterion Collection’s new Blu-ray edition of The
Uninvited upholds the label’s long tradition of quality work and
presentation. The film looks gorgeous in
its new 2K digital restoration. Extras
include the aforementioned informative and interesting visual essay, two radio
adaptations from 1944 and 1949, both starring Ray Milland, a trailer, and the
substantial booklet with an essay by critic Farran Smith Nehme and a 1997
interview with director Allen.
Uninvited is a perfect Halloween
movie. Tell the trick-or-treaters to go
away for an hour-and-forty-minutes, get comfortable, turn out the lights, and
watch it. You will be spooked
The last known photograph of Doris Day, taken in 2008. The screen legend is now largely relegated to staying indoors.
In an interview with a former assistant to Doris Day, the Daily Mail reveals that there are concerns that the 91 year-old screen legend may be in a precarious state. Ms. Day has always been the most reluctant of superstars. Despite being a chart-topping singer and one of the most popular actresses of her era, Ms. Day has worn the mantle of fame and fortune very modestly. Her life has been beset by tumultuous marriages, deaths and estrangements. Like Cary Grant, she walked away from the motion picture business in the 1960s (her last film was released in 1968). She had a successful TV sitcom in the early 1970s and would periodically appear in the medium from time to time. She spent most of her life in a rather secluded manner, having sworn off relationships with men. Most of her efforts in her post-acting years were devoted to helping injured and stray animals. Rumors have abounded that Ms. Day was a total eccentric but friends and neighbors said that wasn't true. She would often be seen around her home town of Carmel, California, shopping or running errands. She also prided herself on answering fan mail personally. Now, however, it is feared that her health is deteriorating and that the quality of her life has been compromised by caregivers who are allegedly little more than adequate. For more click here
I will confess to being almost totally ignorant of the late, lamented Spanish director Jess Franco's work. Franco (also billed as Jesus Franco), who died in 2012, was known to be a prolific director of cult movies, many of which accentuated bizarre sexual practices. Franco was an enthusiast for the works of the Marquis de Sade and literature that was inspired by or devolved from his erotic stories. In addition to directing, Franco also wrote many films and provided the musical scores as well. If nothing else, you have to admire the sheer quantity of his work, if not the quality. During 1973 alone, he directed at least a dozen movies and perhaps a couple more that never saw completion (like most independent filmmakers, he was always scrambling to find funding from unreliable sources.) Franco would often complete production on one movie then immediately move the same cast and crew onto location for a completely different film. His "stock company" alternated between leading roles and supporting performances but for the most part they remained loyal to him and many worked on his films for many years.
The Mondo Macabre label has released a special edition DVD of Franco's 1974 film Plaisir a trois under its rather absurd English title How to Seduce a Virgin, which makes the movie sound like its one of those low-rent British sex comedies of the era. It's anything but. The film is a disturbing but mesmerizing thriller that centers on an attractive young French married couple. Martine (Alice Arno) is a blonde bombshell who we first meet as she is about to be released from an extended stay in a mental asylum where she has been committed for unspecified reasons. Upon returning to her opulent country manor house in the South of France, she is greeted by her loving husband Charles (Robert Woods), a handsome man who immediately makes up for lost time by bedding his seemingly insatiable wife. (I believe most men do the same whenever their wives are released from extended stays in mental asylums.) He informs Marlene that she has avoided a jail sentence only because he paid off local officials. A hint of what crimes needed to be covered up comes when Marlene lures a local hooker to the mansion. She brings her to the basement where the hapless woman finds herself in a real life chamber of horrors. It seems Marlene and Charles "collect" beautiful men and women by subjecting them to extreme sexual torture then murdering them. Their bodies are preserved as they look at the precise moment of death. With another victim now added to their "collection", the murderous couple make plans for their most ambitious undertaking. Charles has befriended a local diplomat and his wife and convinced them to allow their 21 year old daughter Cecile (Tania Busselier) to stay with them while they are abroad. Upon seeing her for the first time, the bisexual Marlene is driven to virtual insanity by desire to seduce the young woman, who is a virgin. The couple secretly spy on Cecile, who conveniently has a knack for parading in front of her bedroom window scantily clad before she indulges in long sessions of masturbation. Upon arriving at the couple's house, Cecile is a willing student in Charles and Marlene's sexual capers and is soon participating in orgies with the couple's live-in mistress Adele (Lina Romay), a comely teenager who is inexplicably mute and is obviously mentally challenged but who is all too willing to please her hosts. Despite the fact that Charles and Marlene are equally smitten by Cecile, they nonetheless make plans for to add her as their ultimate trophy to their ghastly collection of former lovers.
How to Seduce a Virgin is one of Franco's most controversial films. It is richly photographed and well-acted and directed. The film is as mesmerizing as it is distasteful and features a sting-in-the-tail ending worthy of Agatha Christie. Franco's cast performs gamely, doffing their clothes and engaging in extended sex sequences that come as close as you can get to hardcore. Despite the emphasis on sexual violence, Franco is surprisingly restrained in the sex scenes, emphasizing an erotic mood over anything shocking. He is particularly sensitive in filming the numerous scenes of lesbian lovemaking. Nonetheless, a Franco film would apparently not be a Franco film without bizarre elements being stressed. There is no background information given on Charles and Marlene or any of the other characters. This intention to be opaque only makes them all the more interesting. It's as though they exist in their own world. There are few outsiders scene in the story: a psychiatrist, Cecile's parents and the ill-fated hooker are the only people not to live in the house of horrors. A crazy old gardener (Alfred Baillou) and a loyal chauffeur (Howard Vernon) serve the murderous couple without making any moral judgments against them...although the gardener does attempt to warn Cecile what is in store for her.
The DVD boasts a gorgeous transfer and features interesting and informative biographies of each cast member. (Lina Romney appeared in many of Franco's films and eventually became his wife.) There are also recent interviews with the film's screenwriter Alain Petit and Franco scholar Stephen Thrower. In all, a very impressive release of a bizarre film that will haunt you long after the first viewing.
Stuntman-turned-director Hal Needham has died from unspecified causes at age 82. Needham had a long history as one of the best stuntmen in feature films and television before he moved into directing movies. Needham's films were hardly the stuff of art house theaters. He specialized in testosterone-packed action sequences designed to appeal squarely at male audiences. Along the way, he was also credited with developing methods that reduced the risk for the many stuntmen who populated his films. Needham made his directorial debut in 1977 with Smokey and the Bandit starring his old friend Burt Reynolds. Critics scoffed at the cornball humor and endless car stunts and the film laid an egg in urban play dates. However, it resonated with its intended audiences in rural areas and eventually the grosses brought to blockbuster status. The movie not only cemented Reynolds as a genuine superstar but gave new life to the careers of his co-stars Sally Field and Jackie Gleason. Needham and Reynolds collaborated a few years later on another film, Hooper, that was accentuated by stunt work. He teamed with Reynolds again for the all-star comedy hit The Cannonball Run in 1981. The film spawned an ill-conceived sequel a few years later. He also directed Arnold Schwarzenegger in one of his first starring roles in the Western comedy Villain. Needham had no reservations about alternating between directing films and serving as a stunt coordinator. However, his association with Reynolds seem to mirror his own fate in the film business. As audiences tired of Reynolds' stunt-packed action films, grosses fell and Needham found himself less in demand. However, in 2012, he did have the satisfaction of receiving an honorary Oscar for his contributions to stunt work in the film industry. The characteristically modest man was well-liked and greatly respected for the impressive number of major films on which he performed stunts. These include Little Big Man, French Connection II, The Longest Yard, Camelot and A Star is Born. He was also a favorite of John Wayne, who learned a thing or two from Needham about how to throw convincing punches. Wayne used him as a stunt man or stunt coordinator on his films Rio Lobo, Chisum, The Undefeated and McQ. For more click here
Despite its hokey title, the 1958 sci fi cult favorite I Married a Monster From Outer Space is a few notches up the totem pole in comparison to other "B" movies of the period. Produced and directed by Gene Fowler, Jr. and theatrically released by Paramount, the film has been out of print on DVD for a number of years. The Warner Archive has just released it as a burn-to- order title. The film stars Gloria Talbott as Marge Bradley, a small town girl who is engaged to local hunk Bill Farrell (Tom Tryon). However, just prior to their wedding day, Bill encounters an alien from outer space on a back country road and the being takes over his physical body. While the "new" Bill looks the same, his actions and mannerisms change radically. The once fun-loving young man becomes sullen and quiet, leading Marge to speculate what has caused these mood changes. Nevertheless, the couple gets married on the designated day, though Marge finds her wedding night to be anything but romantic, with Bill seemingly disinterested in his new bride. As the days go by, Marge becomes increasingly alarmed by Bill's behavior. Making matters more frustrating is her inability to conceive a child. (Maybe the fact that the dreaded production code at the time mandated that even husbands and wives sleep in separate beds might have had something to do with this particular problem.) Ultimately, Marge discovers a shocking secret: not only has Bill's body been taken over by an alien but the same dilemma has befallen many of the other men in town. In fact, Marge finds it impossible to escape or even to call outside the town for help. She finally manages to round up a posse of "real" men who set out to take on the invaders- only to find they are impervious to bullets. Seems the rather benign beings from another world have the same problem most cinematic space aliens have: their world has been threatened by a natural catastrophe. In this case, all of the women on their planet have died. Not only does this panic the male population, but it probably also caused sales to plummet in local nail and waxing salons. Realizing they must mate or face extinction of their race, the aliens sample numerous planets before deciding on taking over the male population of earth. Once achieved, they intend to figure out how human females will be able to produce their offspring...though their intent is to revert to their normal ghastly physical appearances. As space invaders go, these guys are fairly lame. They seem reluctant to utilize their abilities to use death rays to reduce their opponents into a pile of ashes. In fact, they seem to dig their faux human alter-egos especially since they discover that sex can actually be fun, especially with attractive earth girls. (On their home planet, sex was only for procreation purposes, an understandable policy especially if the women looked like the men.) It is revealed that the "real" men are being kept alive in a space ship while their dopplegangers have been wreaking havoc. Thus, it becomes a race against time to thwart the aliens before the few remaining human males fall victim to an identical fate.
The film is a blatant rip-off of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, although director Fowler doesn't show similar restraint in making the terrors largely unseen. Instead, the film makes liberal use of special effects and monster costumes, but they aren't half-bad when compared to most B sci-fi flicks of the era. The acting is also above par with Talbott achieving the rare distinction of being a '50s sci-fi heroine who doesn't turn in a laughable performance, though she does comply with the now mandatory act of tripping and falling in the woods while being pursued by the villains. Similarly, Tom Tryon plays it straight and emerges with dignity intact, thus not deterring him from becoming a successful leading man a few years later in major studio productions. (He would also become a bestselling author whose work includes the eerie classic "The Other"). In all, despite its hokey title, I Married a Monster From Outer Space remains one of the more enjoyable B movies of its era.
The Warner Archive DVD is identical to Paramount's out-of-print previous release. The transfer is crystal clear but, as with most Paramount titles of the period, there are no extras whatsoever.
Network Distributing is pleased to announce the next batch of titles within “The British Film” range which will be available in the UK later this year. Each feature once again benefits from a new transfer, an instant play facility and will be presented in special slim-line space-saving packaging. Some of the highlights from October are a documentary about the body narrated by Vanessa Redgrave with music from Roger Waters, more gems from the vaults from Ealing Studios, classic horror, British musicals and a courtroom drama starring Richard Attenborough.
THE BODY £9.99
Vanessa Redgrave and Frank Finlay narrate an intimate and innovative documentary from the seventies about the human body cut to music from Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters. Commentary by poet and playwright Adrian Mitchell.
THE FINAL PROGRAMME £9.99
Cult director Robert Fuest’s dystopian sci-fi thriller. Robert Finch stars as Jerry Cornelius, a Nobel Prize winning physicist and playboy who must battle his drug-addicted brother for the code that will move humanity to a higher level of creation with an immortal being.
THE EALING STUDIOS RARITIES COLLECTION VOLUME 7 £9.99
Four more films from the vaults of Ealing Studios - mining drama Eureka Stockade (1949) directed by Harry Watt, musical extravaganza Take a Chance (1937); serial-killer drama The Gaunt Stranger (1938) and screwball comedy Play up the Band (1935).
EDGAR WALLACE PRESENTS THE GAUNT STRANGER £9.99
Sonnie Hale and Wilfrid Lawson star in a crime thriller adapted by Sidney Gilliat about a mysterious serial killer known as ‘The Ringer’ that Scotland Yard must bring to justice.
THE NIGHT WE GOT THE BIRD £9.99
A comic crime caper starring Sir Brian Rix and stand-up Ronald Shiner about forging antiques and then flogging them. What could go wrong?
THE HEADLESS GHOST £9.99
From the creator of I Was a Teenage Werewolf, this horror is about three thrill-seekers who visit a haunted castle. Clive Fevill stars in an early screen role alongside Josephine Blake.
THE 14 £9.99
Oliver! star Jack Wild leads a throught-provoking drama about 14 siblings who struggle to stay together following the death of their single mother.
THE EALING STUDIOS RARITIES COLLECTION VOLUME 8 £9.99
Films in this set are The Feminine Touch (1936) - about the challenges of being a nurse in the NHS starring George Baker and Diana Wynard. One of the last films to be made by Ealing Studios; Young Man’s Fancy (1939) a music hall drama starring Griffith Jones and Anna Lee Seymour; There Ain’t No Justice (1939) stars Jimmy Hanley as a young boxer whose family face financial difficulty and The Silent Passenger (1935) sees Lord Peter Wimsey, Dorothy L Sayer’s amateur sleuth in his first silver screen escapade. Stars John Loder.
THE BRAIN MACHINE £9.99
Patrick Barr and Russell Napier star in a fifties sci-fi thriller about a machine that can reveal abnormalities in the brain…
EIGHT O’CLOCK WALK £9.99
Richard Attenborough stars in a courtroom drama about a taxi-driver wrongly accused of murder. Co-stars Cathy O’Donnell and Maurice Denham.
EDGAR WALLACE PRESENTS: COASTS OF SKELETONS £9.99
Heading an international cast – including German ‘krimi’ veteran Heinz Drache – Dam Busters star Richard Todd reprises his role as insurance investigator Harry Sanders in this rare crime adventure based on Edgar Wallace’s 1911 novel Sanders of the River.
BRITISH MUSICALS OF THE 1930S VOLUME 1 £9.99
A new, multi-volume collection of musicals from the 1930s. Contains Harmony Heaven (1930) starring Polly Ward; The Song You Gave Me (1933) starring Bebe Daniels; Music Hath Charms (1935) starring Henry Hall and his Dance Band andOver She Goes (1937) starring Stanley Lupino.
THE GOOD COMPANIONS £9.99
A musical comedy based on a JB Priestley novel starring John Fraser, Rachel Roberts, Thora Hird and Hugh Griffiths.
LIFE IS A CIRCUS £9.99
The Crazy Gang star in a comedy about a struggling circus also starring Goldfinger icon Shirley Eaton.
The niche market DVD label Mondo Macabro has released a little-known 1976 film titled In Hell, known variously as La tortura and Gloria Mundi. The movie is the creation of the late Greek director Nikos Papatakis, who obviously felt he had a significant left-wing political statement to make in this bizarre and unpleasant blending of radicalism and sexual humiliation. The film's one saving grace is an astonishingly brave performance by lead actress Olga Karlatos, who we are introduced to in a provocative, if cringe-inducing sequence in which we observe her sitting in a bathtub and attaching electrical wires to her nipples and genitals then torturing herself by turning on the current. Why is she doing this? It seems that her character, Galai, is an attractive young Algerian immigrant living in Paris. She has fallen under the spell of a mysterious and unseen political anarchist named Hamdias, who wants to wreak havoc against French colonialism in Algeria. This is to be achieved through terrorist acts that he is grooming Galai to carry out via instructions on the phone and cassette tapes. He also fancies himself an important filmmaker and is trying to raise funds for a political thriller starring Galai in the leading role. The film runs into the usual dilemma that real life independent producers must endure: the funding keeps running out but Galai becomes obsessed with ensuring that the movie is completed. Hamidias envisions incorporating perverse sexual abuse into the story line and he finds a willing leading lady in Galai, who enthusiastically submits herself to self-imposed "training sessions" in which she performs torture on her own body, all the better to please her producer/director/lover by giving the most genuine performance possible. The graphic opening sequence of this abuse is difficult to watch but the film quickly delves into a virtually incomprehensible look at the psychological tortures Galai is facing. Seems that Hamdias enjoys playing head games with her psyche and issuing increasingly dangerous demands including carrying out dry runs for terrorist bombings. She constantly vents to herself about her disdain for him, but it becomes clear that not only is she completely submissive to his whims, he is also holding their child as a virtual hostage to ensure she carries out his demands. That's about all I could ascertain from the confusing story line which at times is completely incomprehensible. There are films within films, sarcastic scenes that denounce the French elite and occasional sequences in which Galai is subjected to sexual abuse at the hands of military captor. There is abundant full female nudity but none of it is presented in an erotic manner and in one particularly awful scene one of Galai's would-be lovers vomits on her bare chest.
Papatakis might have thought he was making a poignant political statement but he comes across as a bargain basement imitation of Costas-Gavras. In fact, one suspects that all he really wanted to do was make a dirty movie but provided himself with a pseudo intellectual cover. (In one prolonged film-within-a-film sequence, a despicable French military officer engages a prostitute to engage in bizarre practices that include using a rather difficult and innovative method of opening champagne bottles.)
The scene in which a prostitute finds an innovate method of opening champagne bottles. (Ladies, please do not try this at home.)
The DVD features one of the worst transfers I've seen in recent years. It is grimy, dirty and filled with splice marks and awkward jumps. It looks as though an old VHS transfer has been used. In any event, the print utilized is certainly not ready for prime time. Mondo Macabro is releasing some first rate editions of cult movies but this is not one of them. The DVD also boasts deceitful packaging, implying that it is a lesbian-themed S&M film when, in fact, there is no such sequence in the movie. The only extra is a short but interesting gallery of Italian posters relating to the film.
the 1980s and 1990s I became disillusioned with television shows in general. Most of the series airing at the time seemed
derivative and predictable with little regard for the audience and more for the
commercial breaks. All of that changed
in 2001 when I began watching HBO’s The
Sopranos on a free HBO weekend, the first show that I can confess to binge-viewing
(the act of watching numerous episodes back to back with no break) and easily
the best television series that I have seen thus far. What was remarkable about it was the ability
of the writers to take their time and develop not only characters but
significant plot points, all without the annoying constraints of network
television and the need to get to the next conflict. This is not to infer that network television
is completely without merit as that
would be a gross and unfair oversimplification. Fox Network's 24, a show that
I initially was at first reluctant to watch, sucked me in when its first season
debuted on DVD. I have never been so
addicted to a storyline before and could not wait for the next episode and then
the next season. I have watched all eight
seasons at least three times.
Fox network has a sister network, Fox Extended or FX for short, and like most
other cable networks it has its fair share of exclusive programming (and
commercials, sigh), a maneuver that
appears to be the norm for networks if they are to survive. Even Netflix has learned this with their highly
acclaimed series House of Cards. FX’s most successful show, Sons of Anarchy, is now airing its
penultimate and sixth season. The series
has been heavily criticized for its use of brutality and profane language, though
I’m not sure that a motorcycle gang would speak any other way (as of this
writing you cannot drop “F” bombs, at least not yet, on this network). Despite
these complaints, however, SOA, as it
is known to its most zealous adherents, remains a rich dissection of the human
condition and how people deal with problems and try to solve them. They aren’t necessarily people you would want
to live next door to, but nefarious characters are infinitely more interesting than
real life. For one thing, they make us
think about how we would act if we found ourselves in their circumstances. In Breaking
Bad, Vince Gilligan's brilliant AMC series about high school science
teacher Walter White (played stupendously by Bryan Cranston) who becomes a manufacturer
of methamphetamine after he is diagnosed with lung cancer, people who normally
otherwise would not resort to violence or murder end up making those choices
when pushed to the brink and see no other options. In SOA,
murder seems to be a way of life and there is the Shakespearean element at work,
though it is covert; critics have cited Hamlet
as an obvious influence. Each season of
the show consists of 13 episodes, and season five is now newly available on DVD
the fictional town of Charming, CA, the Teller-Morrow family heads up the
original and founding chapter of the Sons of Anarchy Motorycle Club, Redwood
Original (aka SAMCRO for short). At the
end of season four, Jackson Teller (Charlie Hunnam) has become the president of
the club, with his future wife Tara (Maggie Siff) at his side. Season five opens with the introduction of
the father of a young woman accidentally killed by the recklessness of Tig (Kim
Coates), one of the Sons’s members. Unfortunately for Tig, his victim’s father is a drug lord and the most
dangerous gangster in Oakland, CA, who catches up with Tig and enacts the old “an
eye for an eye” principle against one of Tig’s two daughters in one of the most
harrowing and upsetting sequences in the show’s history. This action propels forward a plotline that
ends up with Clay (former president of SAMCRO, played by Ron Perlman) in jail
for a murder he didn’t commit in the final episode. Along the way, a major character dies in a
brutal way, and the show follows the axiom that no one is safe when it comes to
violent storylines. Jackson constantly
has to make difficult choices for the sake of his family and the club he
presides over while trying to placate his vice president Bobby (Mark Boone
Junior). In some ways, he is like 24’s Jack Bauer as he is sucked into
danger and has to use his wits to extricate himself and his club members. More often than not he is trying to convince his
mother and Tara that things are going to be different and that everything will
be all right; though noble, it doesn’t appear to be realistic.
and executive producer Kurt Sutter, who pulls double duty playing “Big Otto”
Delaney, has amassed a phenomenal cast. The performances are universally
excellent. My personal favorite is Mr.
Sutter’s real-life wife, Katey Sagal, who won a well-deserved Golden Globe Award
in 2011 for her brilliant portrayal of Gemma, Jackson’s mom. I always liked Mrs. Sagal as Peg on Married…with Children, and her banter
with Ed O'Neill, her slovenly husband Al. I never would have thought of her as a choice to play a character like
Gemma, however she has blown me away with the depth of her characterization of
this woman who will stop at nothing to keep her family intact.
Blu-ray looks absolutely gorgeous in high definition and the sound is crystal
clear. If you pump it through a stereo,
be prepared to mistake some of the sound effects for real-life sounds: several
times I thought my phone was ringing–
and my phone vibrates, I don’t even use a ringtone!
are also some nice extras to go around. Some of the episodes have some extended
scenes. There are also deleted scenes
and a few commentaries on select episodes. The best feature, in my humble opinion, is the ability to run the
episodes continuously without having to go to the main menu and select the next
one if you decide to watch more than one in a row. It actually encourages binge viewing!
winning release for fans of this terrific show.
It was the last remaining Mecca for movie memorabilia collectors in New York City. Jerry Ohlinger's Movie Memorabilia Store at 253 W. 35th Street in Manhattan will close it's doors and sell goods only on line. There was a time when New York, like most major city, had numerous major outlets selling movie stills, photos, magazines and other goodies. Rising rents and lack of interest in collecting among the new generation combined to force these wonderful places to close. In New York, Mark Ricci's old Memory Shop contained the stuff dreams were made of. But with Ricci's death many years ago, there was no heir apparent to carry on and much of his stock was purchased by friendly rival Jerry Ohlinger. There was also the long-standing Movie Star News, which had morphed into a rather antiseptic place characterized by neatly arranged, bland filing cabinets that somehow violated the unwritten rule that memorabilia shops should be cluttered, friendly places. Movie Star News finally closed its doors last years. Back in the 1970s and 1980s the Cinemabilia book shop and collector's store was the place to keep up with movie books and collectibles prior to the advent of the internet. They were the first major New York venue to close. Along 8th Avenue, minor memorabilia stores would open and close throughout the years, but Jerry Ohlinger's persistently survived even in the face of a changing marketplace. Finally, rent of $9,000 a month put the kabosh on his ability to maintain a store five days a week. The good news is that Ohlinger will continue his mail order and eBay sales- and it will also be possible for customers to make appointments to review memorabilia in person, but this will have to be done by appointment, according to Dollie Banner, a long time employee of Ohllinger and a contributing writer to Cinema Retro.
On a personal level, this announcement really hurts. I've know Jerry Ohlinger since 1971 and have acquired countless items from his store. His inventory has always been helpful in the publishing of Cinema Retro. Whenever I walk through mid-town Manhattan, I inevitably stop by to pick up some hard-to-find stills and chat with Dollie. Jerry still holds court there, his trademark soggy, unlit cigar dangling from his mouth. He has had several different locations over the years in Manhattan. The one I have the fondest memories of was located in Greenwich Village way back when. Those were the days when the store acted as something like a neighborhood barber shop for local movie fans who would gravitate there to to discuss and debate cinema. I'm glad Jerry is still hanging in there, even on a virtual basis, but I'll sure miss the human element as New York's last great memorabilia shop closes its doors. Thanks for the memories, Jerry.
Julian Richards’s Shiver opens at a Cadillac Jack’s diner in Sunland, CA (in reality,
location is part
of a movie set that includes an adjacent Pink Motel situated at 9457
San Fernando Road in Sun Valley, CA) amid electrical towers and pylons. A nerdish middle-aged man named Franklin Rood,
played expertly by Aussie John Jarratt whom genre fans will remember from 2005’s
stomach-turning Wolf Creek and its
forthcoming sequel, stumbles nervously to the counter and cannot help but
notice the waitress, Kathy (Nikita Sesco), who is clearly half his age. He fantasizes about having his way with her
and shortly storms out after she quickly declines his offer to take her to a
movie. His adolescent-minded feelings
are shattered, and he doles out a head bashing in the parking lot after she
locks up the diner for the night, leaving her dead.
Twelve years later in Portland, Oregon,
the city is on edge due to a serial killer being on the loose. Wendy Alden (scream
queen Danielle Harris) is pestered by her mother (Valerie Harper) to ask her
boss for a raise since she can no longer help support her daughter. He friend Jeffrey (Shane Applegate) has more
than a platonic interest in her and she doesn’t exactly push him away, either. It would be foolish of her to, considering someone
is out there murdering young women. When
Jeffrey takes the initially reluctant Wendy out to dinner and offers that she
stay with him that night, she attempts to assure him that she will be fine. Any
seasoned horror film fan will know right away that she is about to receive a visit
from lunatic Franklin. When Franklin
arrives in her home and surprises her, he reconsiders killing Wendy as she
begins to behave in a way that he is not used to. She evinces a disposition
that is different from all of the young women he has killed up to this point.
Like most serial killers, Franklin suffered bullying and humiliation during his
childhood and blames others for his failures. But Wendy seems different to him, and through
his own delusional method of thinking, he believes that he can persuade her to
love him. The rest of the film consists
of the police and their failure to adequately protect Wendy (it features two of
the dumbest police officers in recent movie memory, who are both mercifully offed
by Franklin within a minute of each other; Casper Van Diem (from Starship Troopers) is the lead detective
and Rae Dawn Chong appears as his partner, though she is given very little to
do). In the midst of Wendy’s attempts to
escape Franklin’s clutches he hatches a hair-brained scheme to get her to play
house with him.
While I would not consider the film to
be anywhere near as suspenseful as the ads would lead you to believe, it is always
interesting, though were it not for the central performance by Mr. Jarratt as
Franklin, it would have been no different than the recent horror outings such
as Choose (2010) and ATM (2012). Shiver is a step above these films and keeps you focused until the
final frame. There are moments that make
you want to scream and reach through the screen to choke the characters in
frustration over their actions, but for the most part the film succeeds in its
quest to entertain. It does require a
suspension of disbelief to succeed. Mr.
Jarratt has a unique ability to play unrepentant psychopaths. His turn as Mick Taylor in Greg McClean’s
aforementioned Wolf Creek brought to
life one of the most frightening and vicious psychos that the cinema has seen
in quite some time. Here he is also
mean, but for different reasons. In Wolf Creek, he seemed bent on inflicting
pain on others for his own pleasure. Here, his Franklin is a rejected and unhappy soul trying to connect with
someone and goes about it in a terrible and bizarre fashion. Valerie Harper gives a feisty performance as Wendy’s
mother, although she only appears in two scenes. I almost see her as a divorced Karen Hollis
from Blame It on Rio (1984) some 30
years later, nagging her daughter. Danielle
Harris is also quite good and proves a great nemesis for Franklin. The score is by Richard Band, brother of
Charles Band and veteran of over 80 films. At times, the music is oddly reminiscent of Philip Glass’s score to Errol
Morris’s The Thin Blue Line (1989),
but it is effective for the most part. The
location filming in Portland, Oregon is a nice change of pace and showcases Southeast
Milwaukee Avenue, home to Franklin’s day job as a jeweler and the common denominator
between all of his victims that the detectives notice and set them on his trail. The Moreland Theatre several doors down reads
simply Harry Potter, as though they
didn’t receive permission from Warner Brothers to put a full title on it.
The DVD itself is bare-bones and
contains trailers for Aberration and The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh.
I would have liked some interviews and a commentary with Ms. Harris who
is always so fun and bubbly when talking about her career and the onscreen
action. All in all, definitely worth
seeing for Mr. Jarratt and Ms. Harris completists.
Gregory Peck in the screen version of To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee, the reclusive 87 year old author of the American literary classic To Kill a Mockingbird, is taking legal action against the Monroe Heritage Museum, located in Lee's hometown in Alabama. Lee acknowledges that her novel, which was adapted into the classic 1962 film starring Gregory Peck in an Oscar-winning performance, has had a significant cultural impact. However, she maintains that the Museum is crossing the line and profiting by using her work and image for purely commercial purposes including running a gift shop that capitalizes on her work. The Museum denies all allegations and attributes the suit to the greed of Lee's "handlers". Like Margaret Mitchell, author of another American classic, Gone With the Wind, Harper Lee never wrote another novel after her first great success, which directly addressed the shameful racial practices taking place in the segregated American South. For more click here
Noel Harrison as agent Mark Slate in The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.
Noel Harrison, who rode the wave of "British Invasion" music to U.S. shores in the 1960s, has died at age 79. The son of legendary actor Rex Harrison, Noel took a different path than his famed father. At the height of his career, he dropped out of show business to do construction work because he disdained living the life of a celebrity. He was also a championship skier at one time. At his peak, Harrison's well-received folk songs won him loyal followers and some of the songs charted as hits. His biggest splash came when he recorded "The Windmills of Your Mind", the classic title song for the 1968 film "The Thomas Crown Affair" starring Steve McQueen. The song won an Oscar and is still "covered" by artists today. In terms of acting, Harrison only dabbled in the field. He had minor roles in 1960s films like "Agent 8 3/4", "The Best of Enemies" and "Where the Spies Are". He became a heart throb for teenagers during his co-starring role opposite Stefanie Powers in "The Girl From U.N.C.L.E." He also guest starred on numerous prominent TV series. Harrison resumed his career as a folk singer and found his audience was still enthused about his work. He cut an acclaimed album in 2002. Upon hearing of his death, Stefanie Powers issued this statement:"My darling friend Noel Harrison passed last night. Let us all light a candle to speed him on his way - he deserves to fly with the angels." For more click hereClick here to visit the Noel Harrison web site.
Eastwood and Siegel on the set of Dirty Harry in 1971.
They made five films together and all of them have stood the test of time. Clint Eastwood and his mentor, Don Siegel, gave us Dirty Harry, Coogan's Bluff, Two Mules for Sister Sarah, The Beguiled and Escape From Alcatraz. Each of these movies were not only highly entertaining, some have become classics of their respective genres. It was Siegel who encouraged Eastwood to make his directorial debut in 1971 with Play Misty For Me, and Eastwood would follow Siegel's penchant for shooting fast, efficiently and under-budget.Eastwood was a bit nervous about the prospect and persuaded Siegel to play a supporting role in the film simply so he would be on hand in case any problems arose behind the camera. The rest, as they say, is history. Eastwood would go on to dedicate his Oscar winning 1992 film Unforgiven to both Siegel and his original mentor, Sergio Leone. Den of Geek web site writer Aliyea Whiteley takes a look back on the collaborative films made by Eastwood and Siegel. Click here to read.
(For Cinema Retro's tribute to the original Dirty Harry films, see issue #9) Limited copies left: $30 includes postage)
Writing on the Diabolique magazine web site, Cinema Retro contributor Harvey Chartrand takes a look at the UK Blu-ray release of the long-lost horror film and "social satire" Sleepwalker by British director Saxon Logan. Click here to read the fascinating story behind this film that has just been resurrected by the British Film Institute.
Click here for the fascinating story of how one determined man managed to restore the original Volvo P1800 driven by Roger Moore in The Saint TV series. The car had been abandoned and had been relegated to the status of a complete wreck. Kevin Price found the car neglected in a field in North Wales but it still took six years for him to persuade the owner to sell it to him. Price then spent a decade tracking down replacement parts and six more years to restore the vehicle, which is the original one driven by Moore in the series. The car is now a star in its own right at UK auto shows.
Ed Lauter, the popular character actor who specialized in playing tough guys, has died at age 74. Lauter was one of those familiar faces who was recognized by audiences even though many viewers did not know his name. For movie buffs, however, Lauter was well known and highly respected. He had dabbled with being a standup comic in the 1960s before trying his hand at acting. Lauter quickly gained a reputation as a reliable character actor and he became in-demand during the 1970s. Among his most memorable roles were a ruthless prison guard in director Robert Aldrich's 1974 hit The Longest Yard and as Ann-Margret's ill-fated husband in Richard Attenborough's 1978 thriller Magic. Other prominent roles included Hitchcock's final film Family Plot, The Magnificent Seven Ride!, Breakheart Pass, French Connection II, Hickey& Boggs, Death Wish 3 and, most recently Trouble With the Curve and the 2011 Best Picture Oscar winner The Artist.He also appeared extensively on television and co-starred in the acclaimed TV movie The Jericho Mile. For more click here
It's one of our favorite comedies of all time. We were delighted to find this Youtube footage from Hollywoodbackstage.com showing the star-studded 1963 premiere of Stanley Kramer's epic comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World at the Cinerama Dome Theatre in L.A. The guest list included stars of the film such as Milton Berle, Edie Adams and Terry-Thomas along with George Burns, Barbara Rush, Maureen O'Hara, James Garner and Rhonda Fleming.
Writer Kara Kovalchick takes a look at those vanishing elements that used to make movie-going so enjoyable but which now seem relegated to the distant past. From red velvet curtains to free dishes to uniformed ushers, these are reminders of how an evening at the movies used to be a special night out. It recalls an era when people didn't have the ability to disrupt their fellow viewers by texting and chatting on mobile phones! Click here to read