Pasha Roberts is the director of the
new film Silver
Circle. He obtained his masters in financial
engineering, which he describes as “hedge fund math,” roughly ten years ago. His interest was in financial digitalization
and how to apply modern computer graphics to high finance. His thesis subject
consisted of applying a game-like graphics engine to doing equity trading in
finance so that a reasonably intelligent 13-year-old gamer could use it to learn
this type of trading. Upon doing this,
he realized that what was missing from financial communications was a way of
describing complicated concepts from a Ph.D level and bringing it down to a
Masters level, essentially reducing the complexity and making it accessible; he
did this by working with banks, corporations and think tanks.
Beginning around 2006, he began moving towards
more economic-type concepts, and felt that it was important to describe things
on more of an economic level rather than a financial level. When the housing and financial crash occurred
in 2008, he decided that Silver Circle
should really be about a crash and the intrigue around that crash.
Todd Garbarini: Your animation company,
Two Lanterns Media, produced a series entitled Save Sonny which concerns a young adult entering the workforce who
becomes perturbed to find that some of his paycheck is being deducted by a
mysterious entity known as FICA (laughs). Does Sonny personify the average young
American in your mind?
Pasha Roberts: At that point, we kind
of did that, yeah. That was kind of a South
Park-level of humor, there are some farts jokes in there as well. The goal at
the time was to take the subject and make it interesting and acceptable for
somebody who, when they get their first job, suddenly realizes that they don't
get all of their money. They want to know where it goes to, specifically FICA,
and why. That was a whole, completely
different other style and was not as serious as (our new film) Silver Circle, but kind of
tongue-in-cheek and somewhat educational.
TG: The series reminds me of Schoolhouse Rock which endeavored to educate children
on science, economics, history, etc. Do
you see yourself as an educator for social change and personal financial
responsibility through animation?
PR: Yeah, you could say it that way. We
were focusing on the story first and therefore tried to make it fun and
interesting without trying to be too pedantic about it. That's why Silver Circle isn't full of speeches, although it has one or two
that are kind of mixed in. We were interested in working with people who wanted
to make a movie with a backbone and a spine and ideas in it. The audience can
certainly enjoy it on an intellectual level in that regard, but otherwise they
can also enjoy themselves from the movie perspective as we do have some action
sequences and a car chase.
Circle posits the financial collapse of the United States economic system
roughly six years from now. It is
animated in the style of a contemporary video game. Was this your decision from the get-go?
PR: We were actually looking at A Scanner Darkly, actually we did use Maya,
we didn't really use cel shading
for this but we did look a lot at that. We really wanted to make the characters
look less realistic and keep them from looking kind of spooky, and even so I
think we could have done more with that. It's kind of a crossover thing, you don't see
a lot of animated movies that are not comedies or fantasies, so people aren’t
used to seeing this type of animation with something serious.
TG: How long did the process of making the film take, from conception to
PR: Four years. We basically started
brainstorming about it the day after Lehman Brothers went down because it was
such a big dramatic moment, and I thought this could be a real interesting theme.
The screenwriting itself took about a year as there was a completely different
concept at first and it took a little while to burn through a couple of
screenwriters until we finally settled on Stephen (Schwartz). Then we spent three years on production. The overall
budget was roughly $2M. One of the really interesting things about the movie is
that the end credits contain the names of about ten core people who really
worked on it, compared to an army of animators.
TG: In the film, the Federal Reserve
has been tasked with stabilizing the economy, but all attempts have failed and
the Rebels illegally mint silver coins hoping to stabilize the financial health
of the country. How do you feel this
mirrors the current economic situation in the U.S. today?
PR: I think that we are currently heading in the direction that is depicted
in the film, although I don't think that it will be as bad. There were a couple of things that are in the
movie and were even in the script but hadn't happened yet but actually came
true as we progressed through making the movie. For example, there is a guy by the name of Bernard von Nothaus who is currently in prison for making money out of silver,
and that’s his crime. His sentencing
judge basically called him a domestic terrorist for trying to make money out of
silver. So, that was not going on. Then,
the Federal Reserve was actually talking about taking over neighborhoods and
basically calling them “land banks,” which is of course essential part of Silver Circle’s plot. So, there are
angles going on in that direction already and I do believe that marijuana is on
its way to being legalized, and this also occurs in the movie. I hope that the
movie obviously isn't prescient in terms of being completely true. We looked at a lot of the history of
Argentina and Zimbabwe and what happens when a currency begins to die and how
people behave as a result of that.
TG: What do you hope audiences will
take away from the film?
PR: First off, I hope that they enjoy
the story. Obviously, I want them to have a great time. I want it to be a fun,
good story for the audience. After that, I hope that people are not only
entertained, and but there are also a lot of embedded things in the movie for
the so-called armchair economists and conspiracy theorists. I really do hope
that it gets people to start to think about money and know that there is this
thing out there called the Federal Reserve that is very real and they are not murderous
bastards (laughs). I want the
audience to not take the concepts of money for granted. Most other countries
understand that and the changing of European currency and so on and so forth -
things abroad do not appear to be as well-established or as stable as things
appear to be here. So, hopefully the
audience will think about that. The angle that we're taking is that we really
can make an animated movie with a spine of ideas that people will actually
appreciate instead of just offering up a whitewashed movie.
O'Shea squares off in court against Paul Newman in The Verdict.
The acclaimed Irish actor Milo O'Shea has died after a brief illness at age 86. The Dublin-born O'Shea had lived in New York City since 1976. He was described as a giant talent of stage, screen and TV. His memorable feature film performances include the 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet, Barbarella, Ulysses and as the compromised judge who argues with attorney Paul Newman in Sidney Lumet's 1982 film The Verdict. O'Shea, an "actor's actor", also appeared in many popular American and British TV shows including The Golden Girls, Cheers, The West Wing and Me Mammy. For more click here
On TCM's Movie Morlocks web site, writer Susan Doll celebrates the movie poster art of Joseph A. Maturo. Never heard of him? Neither had we, but his work on Fox movie posters from the 1930s and 1940s is remarkable. The Italian immigrant, who once designed dresses for flappers in the 1920s, created memorable posters for Shirley Temple's Heidi, The Prisoner of Shark Island, Charlie Chan's Secret and many other golden oldies. Click here to read.
Most Google searches for “Chiller,” the
five-installment horror series originally broadcast in the mid-90s on Britain’s
ITV will turn up a lot of forums where fans ask: “Does anyone else remember
being scared by this show?”
Like many old horror movies, the fright it inspired
after stumbling upon the program probably sticks in the mind more than the
episodes themselves. But while “Chiller” may not be the pinnacle of scary
story-telling, it often stands the test of time. Part of the reason: Forsaking
the trappings of cheap surprises or over-the-top gore of many horror projects
on a smaller budget, each episode builds on a single creepy or supernatural
The plots are your standard horror staples: spirits
brought back from the underworld, demonic children, haunted houses, etc. Most
are summoned through the typical tropes as well. (Pro tip: Reading ancient
inscriptions outloud with a group of carousing friends has never led to
anything good.) Although there’s not much here that hasn’t been done elsewhere,
there’s something comforting about the nostalgia of made-for-TV horror.
The special effects are limited and the sets throughout
the British countryside are both quaint and creepy. And the acting carries the
sotries. The talent assembled for the episodes includes many prolific British
actors. (John McEnery, Nigel Havers, John Simm, Sophie Ward and more all star
One can easily imagine catching one of these programs
late at night after everyone else has gone to bed and having more than a few
sleepless nights. The Synapse Films DVD print is clean, although somewhat
bare-bones: Five episodes on two discs with no special features (to be fair,
there was little demand for behind-the-scenes making-of documentaries on a
short-run TV show in the 1990s).
Whether you’re looking to see if the program stands up
to your memories or looking for a taste of horror that plays more on the mind
than the senses, “Chiller” passes the test of a creepy good time.
Room 237 is the title
of the excellent new documentary by director Rodney Ascher that takes the
points of view of five off-screen individuals who do their best to unmask the
purported hidden meanings in Stanley Kubrick’s initially disappointing yet
subsequently revered 1980 film version of Stephen King’s The Shining. In doing so,
they are keeping in line with a motif derived straight from the novel in a
sequence wherein Horace Derwent, a former owner of the Overlook Hotel, urges
his costumed party-goers to unmask at a lavish celebration, thereby revealing
their identities. The human face as a
mask is also a common theme throughout all of Mr. Kubrick’s filmography, so it
is only fitting that Room 237 takes the approach of removing layers to reveal
what might be hidden beneath the surface in order to get at The Shining’s essence.
As a fan of
Mr. Kubrick’s film for the past thirty years, I can honestly say that even
though I have seen it easily more than fifty times I never noticed the props,
visual references or subtexts that these five narrators diligently point out
(granted this was difficult to do on archaic home video systems such as CED or VHS due to their significantly reduced image quality,
to say nothing of the substandard televisions they were played back on,
although the technically superior Blu-ray is a much better medium due to its high definition
quality and lends itself ideal for this examination). Nor did I see the various continuity errors,
judged as deliberate by Mr. Kubrick from the narrators’ perspectives, such as
the carpet that changes direction in the hallway or the chair against the wall
disappearing during Jack Torrance’s (Jack Nicholson) emotional outburst after
his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) interrupts his writing. An argument can be made that Room 237 is less about the hidden
meanings in The Shining than it is an
explanation of five different people’s interpretations and experiences of
seeing The Shining. There were times wherein the person speaking
discussed in great length the strange layout of the Overlook Hotel and I must
admit I could not see what they were getting at, however this is just one point
that is made and there are numerous theories to go around on other subtexts of
the film: the purported significance of the number 42; the architectural
impossibility of the window in Mr. Ullman’s office; the ludicrous sexual
reference in Mr. Ullman’s first handshake with Jack (this is a bit of a stretch
– no pun intended, of course!); the Minotaur motif; the strange layout itself
of the Overlook Hotel; the references to the genocide of Native Americans and
even the Holocaust, the subject of which Mr. Kubrick later attempted to make a
film about but eventually abandoned as he felt he could not do justice to the
horror of this bleak period in history.
Ascher makes the interesting choice of not showing the faces of the narrators,
and this maneuver works to the film’s advantage since so much of it is about
pointing out what the narrators see. Cross-cutting between the narrators and the points they want to make
would have either reduced the film’s running time (102 minutes, roughly the
same as The French Connection (1970),
my favorite film) or would have left most of the cogent points on the cutting
room floor. I can only hope that the
forthcoming DVD will offer up some nice extras in the way of deleted scenes. I am certain that there must have been some
discussion about the significance of Jack telling Mr. Ullman that Wendy is a
“confirmed ghost story and horror film addict,” yet her artistic escapes
consist of reading The Catcher in the Rye
and watching Summer of ’42 (there’s
that number again!), two classics about the coming-of-age of a young male.
liked Room 237’s framing device of
using Lamberto Bava’s Demons (1985)
and Demons 2: The Nightmare Continues
(1986) as footage of an audience viewing The
Shining in a theater and on television, respectively, to make certain
points. Ideally, The Shining should be viewed in a movie theater, although
realistically that is unfortunately not an option for most of us. The home video revolution saved many a film
from inevitable obscurity and this is where the majority of Shining enthusiasts (myself included)
had the opportunity to see it and thrill to it to our heart’s content.
prerequisites for enjoying Room 237
include more than a passing interest in The
Shining (it certainly helps to be a rabid fan of the film, thus having
tremendous familiarity of it), patience, and certainly a sense of humor. Room
237 succeeds in imparting to the audience just how compelling and
frightening The Shining can be to a
first-time viewer. It is also a
testament to the notion that film viewing is a solitary experience as no two
people will see any one film with the same set of eyes. Perhaps, as is the case with The Shining, and many other Kubrick
films, multiple viewings of Room 237
will clear up and even reveal more of what the narrators say they see. Whether you consider the film to be
completely true or complete bollocks, one thing that can be said is that Room 237 is entertaining,
thought-provoking, fascinating and enlightening. It’s my choice for Best Documentary at the
SFX guru Dennis Muren says, during one of
the interviews in Ray Harryhausen:
Special Effects Titan, that today special effects are no longer special. Audiences expect them, and are
no longer impressed by them. This wasn't the case back in the 50s and 60s when
master animator Ray Harryhausen was breaking new ground and entertaining
audiences the world over. That said, Harryhausen's work was right for the time,
but would not stand up with audiences not familiar with his work today. They
have come to expect the impossible, and that's what CGI almost delivers.
However, the difference between Harryhausen's creations and today's computer
generated creatures is that the latter were animated objects. They were 'real'
and as dimensional as the actors who worked alongside the. Tangible objects
that had a life of their own. Today they may seem dated, but they have far more
character than a CGI effect, which is no better than watching a computer game.
This brilliant 2-disc documentary covers the
remarkable career of the movie industry's most admired and influential special
effects auteur. A man who inspired the likes of Spielberg, Dante, Landis
Cameron and Jackson, who in their own words admit it was Harryhausen who
inspired them to become movie makers. Loaded with clips, trailers, rare test
footage, props as they are today, and even home movies from Harryhausen's
immense collection, this is a documentary to die for. Miss it at your peril.
(Note: this review is based on the UK Region 2 DVD release. It has not yet been released in the North American market).
Plans are going forward to relaunch the National Lampoon 'Vacation' film series that was all the rage in the 1980s. Christina Applegate and Ed Helms will star. Producers are in negotiations with the films' original stars, Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo to reprise their roles as Clark and Ellen Griswold, though their appearance is being planned as a cameo throwback to the original series. For more click here
Richard Griffiths, who graduated from playing minor roles in British TV series and feature films to become one of Britain's most acclaimed actors, has died from complications resulting from heart surgery. He was 65 years old. In an industry obsessed with superficiality, Griffiths used his obesity as an asset. Beginning in the 1970s, he became a familiar face to British TV viewers and later gained prominence as an in-demand supporting actor in films. He is most recognized for his role as "Uncle Vernon" in the Harry Potter films. Griffiths was considered royalty on the stage, however, and he won a Tony for his leading role in the Broadway production of The History Boys. He also appeared opposite his Potter co-star Daniel Radcliffe in a 2007 London production of Equus. For more click here
Sean Connery and Lana Wood in Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Throughout the month of April, the Alex Theatre in Glendale, California will be presenting big screen showings of classic James Bond movies including On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Live and Let Die, Octopussy, Licence to Kill and Diamonds Are Forever. Each screening will feature appearances and discussions with a star or stars of a specific film including George Lazenby, Benicio del Toro, David Hedison, Trina Parks, Lana Wood, Kristina Wayborne, Maud Adams and Gloria Hendry. Click here for info and to view original theatrical trailers.
Our old pal and Cinema Retro contributor Richard Kiel is crossing "the pond" again for a couple of high profile personal appearances in the UK including one at London's Misty Moon Gallery and another at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, where he will be joined by his Moonraker co-star Blanche Ravalec. Click on each ad below for links to web sites.
Written and produced over the past 10 years with Ray
Harryhausen's cooperation and support, the complete 3-volume definitive
295,000-word career/biography features interviews with Ray and his colleagues
and is profusely illustrated with several hundred rare photographs, artwork,
and illustrations (many of which have never been previously published).
We published Volume 2 ("The American Films")
first, then Volume 3 ("The British Films"), and are now wrapping up
the set with Volume 1 (“Beginnings and Endings”).
Chapters in Volume 1 extensively cover:
Ray's Early 16mm Experiments, The Influence of Willis
O'Brien and King Kong, George Pal's Puppetoons®,
Ray's Film Work During World War II, The Fairy Tale Short Subjects, Ray's
Retirement Years (including tributes, awards, convention appearances,
colorizing his films, unfinished projects, the King Kong 50th
Anniversary celebration at Grauman's Chinese Theater in 1983, Ray's cameo
appearances in other films, Ray's Lifetime Achievement Oscar® from The Academy
of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Ray's "Star" on the Hollywood
Walk of Fame, and much more).
As a special adjunct to the Willis O'Brien chapter,
we're including the complete first draft of the King Kong
screenplay by British mystery writer Edgar Wallace.
A special supplement that we're calling "How To
Make a Monster" will take you step-by-step through the process of
constructing a stop motion model using photos from numerous stop motion films (Caveman,
When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, Willis O'Brien films, and more) —
from blueprint to armature to clay sculpture to plaster mold to final foam
rubber animation model. (Now you'll know the answer when someone asks,
"How did they DO that...?")
Contributors to Volume 1 include Famous Monsters editor Forrest J Ackerman, Darlyne (Mrs. Willis)
O'Brien, Lost World star Bessie Love, King Kong producer Merian
C. Cooper and star Fay Wray, screenwriters Beverley Cross and Kenneth
Kolb, animator and visual effects artists Jim Danforth and Randall William Cook,
director John Landis, producer Arnold Kunert, and many others, some of
whom have since passed away.
Stills and other visual material come from numerous
private collections, including considerable material that has never been seen
in print before (including Ray Harryhausen's own books).
• “Ray Harryhausen's Los Angeles” – A multi-page map
of key locations connected to Ray and his films in the 1940s and 50s;
• Advertising art and posters from different
• Reviews and story synopses;
• Filmographies of key cast and crew.
• 370 pages, 125,000 word text (chapters, appendices,
• Over 1,500 images —photos, artwork, posters,
technical diagrams and
other illustrations— in Spectacular Color, Nostalgic
Sepia-Tone, and Glorious Black-and-White.
• Hardcover: dark brown imitation leather with title
stamped in gold foil;
• Full color dust jacket;
• Heavy 70 pound semi-gloss paper stock;
• Overall dimensions 9" x 11-1/2";
• Weight: 5 pounds.
Majicks Vol. 2 and Vol. 3 are long sold out and now command
prices ranging from $350 to $500 to over $700 per copy on eBay and Amazon. So
don't delay— sales have been brisk and our limited edition print run of Vol. 1
(the final volume in the set) is on its way to selling out soon.
From his Preface to Volume 3 —
"There is no way to overstate the importance of
these books. [This book] is simply the most perfect book about
Harryhausen ever made. This is the book that you dreamt of having as a child
and makes you want to go out and re-watch every single one of the chronicled. It
makes you fall in love with cinema all over again."
— Guillermo del Toro, Director of Hellboy
and Pan's Labyrinth
From his combination review of Volumes 2 and 3 of Majicks:
“…Hankin’s in-progress overview of Harryhausen’s
career is unlikely to be surpassed; other books may offer different pictures,
different vantages and depths of specific information, but the totality of
Harryhausen’s achievement is best represented here.”
Here's a plethora of great movies showing during the same week in February 1965, as illustrated in this page from the Winnipeg Free Press: Mary Poppins, Goldfinger, Sex and the Single Girl, Jungle Fighters (aka The Long and the Short and the Tall), My Fair Lady and A Shot in the Dark. Wish we had a time machine....
The darkest period of modern French history was the nation's humiliating defeat by Germany in 1940. France boasted of having the greatest army in Europe but was led by inept leaders who mistakenly used tactics of WWI. The French squandered the opportunity to strangle Hitler's rising armies in their cribs, preferring to simply protest the building up of his armed forces in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. France and England declared war on Germany after Hitler's invasion of Poland in September 1939. However, a period of inaction followed, leading many to call the conflict "The Phony War". Although France had ample time to come up with strategies, its armed forces decided to fight a defensive war on French soil. The plan proved to be woefully inept in the era of the blitzkreig. The fall of France in 1940 led to a period of political discontent that is still being debated today. In the aftermath of the war, General Charles DeGaulle, leader of the free French forces fighting from England, successfully marketed the notion that his nation was filled with patriots who consistently did all they could to resist their German occupiers. In fact, countless French patriots did indeed sacrifice their lives in order to do so - both on the battlefield and through the Resistance. Paris was liberated prior to to arrival of Allied forced by brave men and women who rose up to violently resist the most feared army on earth. Nevertheless, collaboration was the order of the day in occupied France. Hitler installed the WWI hero Marshall Petain as the head of state in Vichy, a region that was supposed to be free of German occupation. However, the world recognized it was a puppet state with Petain acting as a toady for his German masters. Petain and his co-collaborator Pierre Laval, maintained that appeasement of Germany was the only practical way for France to maintain some measure of independence. Indeed, France did avoid many of the atrocities committed in other occupied countries. However, the price of peace was full compliance with the Reich's obsessive oppression against Jews and any other group that was deemed a threat. Consequently, Petain and Laval capitulated by willingly complying with orders that meant certain death for countless French citizens.
April 13 marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of “Casino Royale,” and the University of Illinois will recognize the event with a collaborative celebration hosted by the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Spurlock Museum, and the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music. Much of the material featured in “The Birth of Bond” comes from the collection of Michael L. VanBlaricum, the president of the Ian Fleming Foundation and a U. of I. alumnus. | Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
April marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel, Casino Royale. To celebrate the anniversary, the University of Illinois will be hosting numerous events pertaining to Fleming, the novel and the 007 phenomenon. Titled The Birth of Bond: Ian Fleming's Casino Royale at 60, the exhibition will include a film festival, costumes, props, lectures and rare recordings. The exhibition is being coordinated by Michael VanBlaricum, a well-known Bond scholar and President of the Ian Fleming Foundation. Click here for more info
I have always been a great admirer of Paul Henning, the crooner-turned-TV producer/writer of some of the best-loved shows of the 1960s. It was Henning who gave a voice to rural audiences by creating such classic TV series as The Beverly Hillbilllies, Petticoat Junction and Green Acres. If you revisit any of them today, they remain far superior to most contemporary sitcoms. Henning not only created shows that have timeless appeal, but he also brainstormed the concept of interweaving characters and plot devices between the series- a stroke of genius that brought cross-promotion marketing to new levels. Henning also prided himself on making his country characters eccentric, but never idiotic. They were simple people living simple lives and if they seemed to exist in a time warp, they were all honest, admirable folks. It was always the sophisticated city slickers who would get their comeuppance at the hands of these "bumpkins". Andy Griffith once told me that it irked him when audiences would say that the actors were just "playing themselves". He pointed out that, in most cases, these actors had long, distinguished careers prior to appearing in rural sitcoms. He wanted to stress that these were outstanding talents and should never have been pigeon-holed as actual country hicks. Paul Henning strictly oversaw quality control on his shows and demanded that every episode by family-friendly. Thus, I was in for quite a shock when I sat down to review MPI's screener copy of the 1981 TV movie Return of the Beverly Hillbillies. I don't recall this particular show, but from the get-go the title is deceiving. The only original Hillbillies are Buddy Ebsen's Jed Clampett and Donna Douglas's Elly May. Irene Ryan, who played Granny, had passed away years before. Max Baer Jr., who played Jethro, had the good sense to stay away from the project. Nancy Kulp reprises her role as Jane Hathaway, but her on-screen boss, the inimitable Raymond Bailey had also died and, like Ryan, his presence is sorely missed. (Henning cast actor Ray Young as Jethro, and although he does his best, we are all too aware that he was not part of the original cast.)
Henning's script is too over-the-top even for a Hillbillies plot device. In this case, President Reagan is desperate to solve the energy crisis. He dispatches Jane Hathaway (now a Washington bureaucrat) to track down the secret formula of Granny Clampett's white lightning, which is deemed to be so powerful it might be useful as a source of fuel. Jane arrives on horseback at Jed Clampett's mountain cabin. In the aftermath of Granny's death, Jethro went on to run his own movie studio and Elly May has opened a zoo. Rather than live alone in his Beverly Hills mansion, Jed has returned to his roots, his only concession to wealth being a bigger cabin that he has constructed. The feeble plot follows Jane and Jed's search around the premises for any remaining jugs of Granny's booze that can be brought to Washington to analyze. She is accompanied by C.D. Medford, a humorless member of the President's team who will use any ruthless method to obtain the formula for the white lightning. (One of the lamest aspects of Henning's script is a repetitive gag in which samples of the booze are repeatedly discovered only to be lost accidentally.) The role of Medford is played by the great Werner Klemperer, who is criminally misused here in a role that diminishes his talents and makes him a truly loathsome character. To compensate for Irene Ryan's absence, Henning created the role of Granny's mother! She is played by another TV legend, Imogene Coca but the character has to be one of the most grating and irritating in the history of the medium. She screeches like a banshee, runs about hitting people with a stick and otherwise making herself unwelcome. Perhaps the most shocking aspect of the ill-fated venture is Henning's decision to deliberately move away from family fare to smut. That's right, this new, updated version of the series features such wholesome fare as strippers, Asian massage girls, scantily clad teenage "old maids" (young Heather Locklear among them!) and a very embarrassing striptease performed by Klemperer. Why Henning decided he had to degrade his characters in order to appear hip is not known, but he certainly should have known better. There are tasteless jokes about Jed Clampett's sex life (or lack thereof) and one punch line about Auschwitz! I kid you not...I actually had to backtrack to make sure I heard it right. Can you imagine an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies where the "funny" payoff line refers to a Nazi death camp? The movie is peppered with some welcome character actors including perpetual grouch Charles Lane, Lloyd "Shad" Heller, Lurene Tuttle and Earl Scruggs, who performs a musical number. Henning runs out the clock in the last fifteen minutes with an absurd, endless car chase featuring King Donovan in an obnoxious performance that makes Imogene Coca's character look like a model of restraint. The film is also disappointing in that Elly May and Jed only share the screen together in the last few minutes of the movie. The ill-fated venture was directed by Robert M. Leeds, who also should have known better because he worked on the last season of the original series.
Despite the dreadful aspects of the main feature, I am heartily recommending that you buy the DVD itself, if only because of the superb bonus extras. There is a one hour documentary about Paul Henning that features the man himself in vintage interviews, along with new insights from his daughter Linda (an actress who appears in Return of the Beverly Hillbillies), Max Baer Jr., Charles Lane and some of the producers and writers who worked on the original show. (Strangely, Donna Douglas is not among them.) They offer some wonderful anecdotes about Henning's triumph in creating three hit series in the 60s only to have CBS head honcho James Aubrey cancel these favorites in favor of appealing to urban audiences (which turned out to be a major misjudgment). Henning's talents extended to writing the theme song to The Beverly Hillbillies, which ingeniously tells the entire premise of the scenario in popular ditty that is still being sung today. Other bonus extras include an introduction by Linda Nelson, a genial lady who clearly adored her father; a wealth of original Kelloggs Corn Flakes ads featuring the cast, original TV promos for the Hillbillies and Green Acres and a promotional short for a never-produced wildlife series featuring Donna Douglas as Elly May.
If you love the show, skip the main event and head straight to those bonus extras....
Update: Astute reader Scott Shea points out that the people interviewed in the aforementioned documentary blame James Aubrey for canceling CBS' slate of hit rural shows. In fact, Aubrey was the man who championed them and was fired himself from the network in 1965. It was Fred Silverman who actually canceled these series.
Horror films are a hot commodity. Some of the most well-known slasher films of
the 1980’s have been re-issued on DVD and Blu-ray by companies looking to
cash-in on audiences’ seemingly insatiable appetite for murder and mayhem while
also introducing them to a whole new generation of fans with disposable income. Two titles that fans want on DVD and Blu-ray
in the way of special editions are Paul Lynch’s Prom Night (1980) and Richard Ciupka’s Curtains (1983), both Canadian productions through Simcom, the
former having fared far better on home video than the latter.
Night was originally
released theatrically by Avco Embassy Pictures in July 1980. It was distributed on VHS by MCA Home Video in
1981 and again by Virgin Vision, Inc. in 1988. MCA also released a laserdisc pan-and-scan version on their laser
rot-prone DiscoVision line in 1981 (curiously, the film bypassed the RCA
Select-A-Vision Capacitance Electronic Disc (CED) stylus-based format of the
early 1980’s, the direct competitor to laserdisc). The film fared better when a widescreen
laserdisc sourced from a 35mm interpositive followed in 1997 courtesy of Elite
Entertainment. In February 1998, Anchor
Bay Entertainment released a widescreen DVD that included the original
theatrical trailer (1.85:1 presentation is a must for this title as a boom mike
is clearly visible in several shots in the full frame format). After the rights lapsed the film was picked
up by Echo Bridge Entertainment and reissued in October 2007, this time
dispensing with said trailer. Overall, Prom Night has been released on home
video in three different formats no less than six times in the United States
alone, not counting the international, non-Region 1 releases around the globe. All of these U.S. versions contain only the
film without any additional extras that are practically a requirement to home
video now: running commentaries, on-set interviews, behind-the-scenes footage,
isolated musical scores, comments from contemporaries, stills galleries,
Curtains, on the other hand, is a thriller that
has suffered indignities far too numerous to list. Plagued from the outset by a problematic
production, the financing ran out and put the cast and crew on hiatus for over
one year. Much of the crew was replaced,
and despite having been released theatrically in April 1983 to many respectable
movie theaters by the long-defunct Jensen Farley Pictures, Curtains has only appeared on home video twice in the United States:
in December 1983 Vestron Video released it on VHS, and in October 2010 Echo
Bridge Entertainment released it as part of The
Midnight Horror Collection: Bloody Slashers set which also includes Hoboken Hollow (2006), Secrets of the Clown (2007), and Room 33 (2009). In a maneuver regarded as perfunctory by
those not in the know, Curtains
appears to be lumped in with these three contemporary tales for no better
reason than to “round out” the other titles – the original ad slick for Curtains was jettisoned and replaced
with an image of a hand parting a curtain.
Curtains was also released in April 2007 on
Region 2 DVD in the UK by Black Horse Entertainment. As with the Echo Bridge Entertainment release,
the original poster artwork was not used. Again, an uninspired makeshift cover image that fails to represent the
film in any way adorns the case. Curtains can be found at horror film
conventions on DVD-R sporting its beautiful and atmospheric original one-sheet
artwork, but the DVD transfer is sourced from the Vestron VHS cassette and is
therefore in dire need of color correction; a 2K/4K high definition upgrade is
Night has a creepy
score by Paul Zaza and Carl Zittrer (he scored a handful of films for Bob
Clark, including the classic 1974 film Black
Christmas and was also a musical consultant on “Act II” of Curtains). Mr. Zaza also scored Curtains, which might have been a rejected score for Prom Night as several cues that appear
in Prom Night also made their way
into Curtains. Director Ciupka’s name was also removed from
the credits to Curtains; whether or
not this has any bearing on the lack of a DVD release is a mystery.
Fans can ponder why these titles are
not available in full-blown special editions, and there are probably many
legitimate reasons why the current DVDs turn up in Walmart discount bins. The original 35mm film negatives to each
respective film may not be available as the whereabouts may be in question, or
they may no longer even exist; management might feel that an insufficient
number of fans willing to pay for the films exists and there is a fear of
losing money on these titles; both films were made as Canadian tax shelter projects and this may also pose a problem. With the glut of far lesser quality horror
thrillers available in beautifully designed special editions, the mind reels as
to why these two films in particular have been marginalized and seem to be
anathema to the royal treatment.
Echo Bridge Entertainment, a DVD
company that uses the slogan “The Entertainment Alternative for What the World Wants to
See” (not sure where that came from or what it is based upon), is now being approached
by fans on an online petition website respectfully asking them
to release the rights for these two films to Scream Factory, the Shout! Factory
subsidiary that is making a name for itself with beautiful deluxe versions of
genre favorites Terror Train (1980), The Funhouse (1981), Halloween II (1981), Halloween
III: Season of the Witch (1982), and the upcoming Deadly Blessing (1981) to name a few. This company would be an ideal organization
to release these films as their work thus far has proven that they will spend
the time and provide just the proper amount of TLC that these films
of this writing, the petition has 300 signatures and is looking for a total of
1200, which is not an impossible number to reach. Click here to sign the petition
on Petition Buzz requesting licensing of Prom
Night and Curtains.
We straight guys have spent inordinate amount of hours drooling over scantily-clad cavegirls in B movies. Seems only fair that gay guys can exercise the same right when it comes to cavemen. Inspired by a new scientific theory that there may have been gay cavemen, writer Chris Eggersten cobbled together a slide show of "Ten Hot Cavemen Who Can Club Us Anytime!" From Victor Mature to Brendan Fraser to Robert Vaughn, click here to view the slide show
Here are two forthcoming books by author Brian Hannan that are sure to interest Cinema Retro readers:
THE MAKING OF THE GUNS OF NAVARONE by Brian Hannan
(published by Baroliant Press May 2013
History tells us The Guns Of Navarone was a huge critical
and box office success. But for most of the filming and the run-up to release it
didn’t look that way. US producer Carl Foreman, a victim of the McCarty
anti-communist witch-hunt of the early 1950s, lost his scriptwriter
(Eric Ambler), preferred cast (William Holden and Cary Grant), director
(Alexander Mackendrick), two leading ladies and very nearly one the stars, David
Niven who almost died during shooting. Actor Gregory Peck turned into a
potential liability after the disastrous box office of Beloved Infidel. Calling
on new research material, Brian Hannan takes a fresh look at an old favourite,
creating a snapshot, movie-wise, of the period.
THE MAKING OF LAWRENCE OF ARABIA by Brian Hannan
(published by Baroliant Press May 2013 £8.99)
Nearly forty years in the making, with around twenty
different attempts to get the film
off the ground, Lawrence Of Arabia finally emerged in the triumphant David Lean
version. If the movie shoot was a nightmare, with spiralling costs and the
production eventually postponed, what followed was even worse with disastrous
advance bookings, a newspaper strike that paralysed advertising and the worst
snowstorms in a century that stopped people getting out. Using a wealth of new
research, Brian Hannan traces the genesis of the movie from the day TE Lawrence
himself purportedly walked into a movie producer’s office in the 1920s through
to the glorious reissues, providing, along the way, a history of the movie world
of the time.
Harry Reems, who soared to fame in the 1970s as the male star of Deep Throat, has died at age 65. Reems, whose real name was Herbert Streicher, had been battling a variety of health problems in recent years. Ironically, Reems was not supposed to appear in the infamous 1972 porn film that starred Linda Lovelace as a young woman whose particular talents resulted in her getting an orgasm from performing oral sex. Reems was on set as part of the crew. When the male lead didn't show up, director Gerard Damiano recruited Reems for the role. Reems went on to star in numerous porn movies but it wasn't all fun and games. At the height of the Nixon administration's crackdown on pornography, Reems became the only the actor prosecuted for appearing in an X rated film. His case became a cause celebre and anti-censorship forces rallied around him. Eventually, the charges were dropped. Reems may have led an exotic lifestyle compared to the average man but it was fraught with turbulence. He spent much of his "career" in an alcoholic haze. By 1989, however, he had kicked the habit and eventually turned his life around. He married and became a successful real estate broker in Utah. For more click here
Malick fans will rejoice for the newly restored (and director approved, I might add—so apparently he’s not as reclusive
as he’s been made out to be), marvelous release of the auteur’s first, and very
low-budget, feature film.It was
originally screened at festivals in 1973, and released to the public in early
’74.No punches pulled here—Badlands is a masterpiece, and its
arrival immediately garnered a fan following for the enigmatic director who has
made only five films in so many decades.But as producer Edward Pressman says in the exclusive video interview
that The Criterion Collection included as one of several good extras, Badlands was not a success on its first
release.Reviews were mixed—as would be
the case for any Malick film—and the public didn’t go see it.Pressman also had to fight for Malick to have
his own artistic vision, despite complaints and pressure from the backers.The film was properly “discovered” when it
started playing on cable television some years later.By then, Malick was making Days of Heaven, and these would be the
only two pictures he would make before a twenty-year gap in output.Already his mystique had been established.
Badlands is indeed a
remarkable film, not only because of the unique point of view Malick brings to
the table, but for the performances of young Martin Sheen and young Sissy
Spacek.They are both knock-outs, and
they were undeservedly ignored when awards season came around.Sheen, especially, gives a chilling
performance of psychopath-as-James Dean, more or less, because the character
fashions himself after the famous actor.You can’t help but like the guy.He is utterly charming to the girl he’s chosen to run away with him on a
killing spree, and the couple’s love for each other is so real and so oddball
that we can’t help but be fascinated by them.
is Malick’s most “accessible” film, perhaps, for it tells a linear,
sweeps-you-along story with characters you can follow through a story arc.If you know Malick only from his recent works
(The Tree of Life, The Thin Red Line), you’ll know he
didn’t always stick to that format.However,
Malick displays many of his signature traits even here.A common stylistic and thematic element of
the director’s films is the marriage of nature to whatever story is being told,
thus there are striking cinematographic images of plains, bugs, birds, flowers,
wheat, and sky, all set to some unusual piece of music from an eclectic palate
of recorded works.(The unique soundtrack
to Badlands has never been compiled
and released, and someone should do
inspired by the real-life Charles Starkweather case of the late 1950s, Badlands is a road movie that is poetry
in motion, haunting and unforgettable.The 4K digital transfer is gorgeous.Other extras include an engrossing forty-minute piece on the making of
the film, featuring Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek today, reminiscing about the
extraordinary experience they had with “Terry.”Associate editor Billy Weber also provides an interview, and a highlight
is the 1993 episode of TV’s American
Justice about Starkweather.
you’ve never seen Badlands, take a
look at this exquisite Criterion release and experience something beautiful and
1944, directed by Fritz Lang, and starring Ray Milland, Marjorie Reynolds, and
Dan Duryea, looks fantastic on Blu-ray.It’s one of the best restorations and transfers I’ve seen of a
black-and-white film noir of the
period.Lang’s German Expressionistic
background is classroom-clear in the look of this intriguing spy tale, based on
a novel by Graham Greene (The Third Man).The high-contrast light-and-shadow and angled
lines are all over the place.Nazi spies
in England are the bad guys, and our innocent man on the run (Milland) thinks
he knows where a few of them are hiding.The problem is, he’s a former mental asylum patient who served time for
mercy-killing his already dying wife.This is a terrific World War II-era paranoia thriller, despite the fact
that so many American actors in the picture are supposed to be British, and they
make no attempt to sound that way.Still,
the story is compelling and the direction is superb.Includes an interview with Lang scholar Joe
James Cameron's The Terminator is a masterpiece of
cinematic storytelling, conceived by Mr. Cameron while in Rome with a fever
years earlier (the late director Robert Altman had a similar situation that led
to the writing of my favorite film of his, Three
Women, released in 1977).Shot in
early 1984 for roughly $6M (the amount spent solely on the sound mix of the
superb $90M sequel seven years later), this futuristic action powerhouse grabs
the audience by the throat and takes us on a wild ride.Despite the inexorable pace – much like the
titular villain’s nature – the film manages to come up for air and miraculously
never feels over-the-top, long-winded or plodding.
Terminator opened on Friday, October 26, 1984 and yours truly
missed out on seeing it, electing to see the horror film greatest hits
compilation Terror in the Aisles instead.I had to wait until the end of the school
year eight months later to see the film in a classroom on VHS, the small-screen
presentation diminishing none of the film’s raw emotional power to my teenage eyes,
both of which were glued to the television. The film made Arnold Schwarzenegger a super
star and was the surprise sleeper hit of the season, his depiction of a
terrifying cyborg with a relentless mission it will stop at nothing to complete
solidifying his place as an action icon.Two weeks later Wes Craven's A
Nightmare on Elm Street was unleashed on unsuspecting moviegoers and cinema
hasn't been the same since, introducing a child killer who invades teen-agers’
dreams in his attempts to murder them.The
Terminator added “Come with me
if you want to live.” and the oft-quoted “I’ll be back.” to the American
lexicon and became as familiar as “May the Force be with you.” and “Go
ahead.Make my day.”Nightmare,
of course, contributed the creepy “One, two, Freddy’s coming for you…”
Linda Hamilton shines as Sarah Connor,
a 28 year-old diner waitress who unwittingly is targeted for termination by the
Terminator after it travels from the future, determined to kill her so that her
unborn son cannot rise against the machines.Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn in a terrific and underrated performance) is
the human counterpart sent to intercept and destroy the Terminator so that
Sarah may live.What makes the film so
brilliant is not only the ideas it presents but how it conveys them to the
audience.For the first thirty-five
minutes, we are just as in the dark as Sarah (not knowing she’s about to be on
the run for her life) and Kyle (since the Terminator looks human on the
outside, he has to wait until it moves in on Sarah before he can strike) and
are only given little bits of information until Kyle and the Terminator meet
face to face at the TechNoir dance club (the shootout in this ultra-Eighties club, followed by the escape, are
beautifully edited set pieces that set the tone for the rest of the film).
The film may be low-budget, but it honestly
does not feel like it.The story is
enthralling and completely believable. Mr. Biehn gives a performance just as compelling as Donald Pleasence did in
Halloween (1978).Without his history, conviction and attempts
to make those around him believe that what he is saying is true, Kyle Reese,
the soldier from the future who comes across time to father John Connor with
Sarah, would fall under the weight of the film.There is a level of plausibility to the story that is lacking from other
films about the future, heightened by Stan Winston’s special effects work.The flashback battle scenes of the war in
2019 recall Mad Max (1979) and Mad Max 2 (1981) (retitled The Road Warrior for its 1982 US
Terminator is the boiler plate for future films about, well. The future!
Fiedel has created a magnificently menacing score, robotic and simplistic like
the Terminator.Dick Miller provides a
great cameo as a gun store clerk (I just noticed the store’s address as 14329
and its similarity to 14239, the address of the first Sarah Connor the
Terminator kills from the phonebook listing – and I have seen the film many
times over!Oh, the clarity of high
The Blu-ray, which was released at least
twice before (once in a special version containing a hardcover book), comes
with the same extras ported over from the previous editions:
the scenes – runes about 13 minutes
·Terminator: A Retrospective – runs just over 20 minutes and contains interviews from
1986 and 1992
collection of deleted scenes
I wish that this
time around the disc included a running commentary with the director at the
very least.This is a watershed film
that rewrote the book on science fiction action films and it is deserving of
more extras than the studios have lavished on it thus far.If you have not yet picked up the film on
Blu-ray, this edition will do quite nicely.
The film has been
remastered and looks as good as it is going to in 1080P.
Since 1979, there have been rumors of a Man From U.N.C.L.E. big screen feature film. The near-miss opportunities date back so long that the TV classic's stars Robert Vaughn and David McCallum were originally going to reprise their roles of super spies Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin. For various reasons, each planned film project fell apart including a recent one in which George Clooney was to star. Now Guy Ritchie is the director of choice and Deadline reports that Tom Cruise is the latest major actor in talks to bring the film to reality. Fans are skeptical that the project will ever see the light of day and it is virtually certain it will be a hi-tech, modern day, SFX-packed spectacle that will have little in common with the TV series aside from its title. Click here for more
Although he has collaborated with Quentin Tarantino on several films, legendary composer Ennio Morricone says he will never team with the mercurial director again. Morricone accuses Tarantino of lumping music into his films "without coherence". He is especially miffed that, after he declined to compose a score for Django Unchained, Tarantino simply used a previous Morricone composition in the film. Morricone, who is not known for personal restraint when it comes to expressing his opinion, says that he didn't care for the Oscar-winning Western, saying there was "too much blood." Click here for more
(Photo copyright Graham Hill. All rights reserved.)
Famed producer Robert E. Relyea passed away recently. He was 82 years old. Relyea served as producer, assistant director and unit manager during a long career that included such films as Jailhouse Rock, The Day of the Dolphin, West Side Story, The Magnificent Seven, The Hallelujah Trail, The Great Escape, Never So Few and The Alamo. In 2008, he released his autobiography "Not So Quiet on the Set". Cinema Retro contributing writer Graham Hill visited Relyea at his home in connection with the book's release. Click here to read his report.
Most big screen action films feel like
video games made for the theatres. The over-the-top, psychotically-edited films
of most of Michael Bay’s output of late, specifically the Transformer series, can attest to this fact.While the availability of inexpensive
technology that was non-existent twenty years ago has brought tools to those who
wish to push the envelope and find new and different ways to tell stories, there
is virtually no limit to how filmmakers can realize their vision.We have reached a point in our intake of
entertainment wherein movies influence video games and music videos and the
lines between these disparate forms of enjoyment are becoming ever less
Video games have experienced a surge in
popularity in recent years thanks in part to high definition graphics, powerful
home computers and gaming systems, and the ability to play against complete
strangers several miles away or across the globe.One of
the most profitable series is the Grand
Theft Auto game from Rock Star Games, a company that has received flack for
their violent and sexual content.The
game literally puts the player (or perpetrator, depending upon your point of
view) in the driver seat to navigate a dangerous city plagued by vagrants and
social undesirables.Your mission is to
commit as many crimes as possible as a means to an end.The graphics are high quality and the people
are very realistic.It is this style of
video game animation that has taken center stage in the terrific new film by Pasha
Roberts called Silver Circle.
Set in the vicinity of Washington, D.C. in 2019,
the same year as Ridley Scott’s Blade
Runner (1982), Silver Circle
concerns a world where inflation has run rampant following the financial
collapse of the United States.A beer
costs $90.00 and a gallon of gas averages $152.00, so $7.00 for a buzz and
$3.59 for the precious juice no longer sounds like such a bad deal.But, it’s all relative.Pot has been legal since 2016 (apparently the
war on drugs, a roughly $500 billion a year enterprise, is no longer a top
priority), the same year that silver and gold was outlawed, and the Federal
Reserve, referred to only as The Fed (much like Big Brother) is the country’s
third attempt at a centralized banking system and it simply isn’t working.Desperate attempts by the aforementioned entity
to stabilize the economy via printing worthless paper money with nothing to
back it up except waning public trust is proving disastrous while managing home
prices has similar effects.
Jay, an arson investigator, is brought in
to determine the party responsible for the destruction of several homes in the Glenwood
Homes subdivision which is the property of the Strategic Housing Reserve.He meets the lead realtor at the Cornwall
Real Estate office and is intrigued by her assistant, Zoe, who agrees to meet
with him later and give him some information off the record.Their meeting proves to be fortuitous as Jay
is saved by Zoe when he is ambushed by henchmen looking to throw him off the
case.Zoe gives chase in her
mini-automobile that would make William Friedkin smile, effectively losing the
bad guys.She clearly has some sort of expert
training that the average realtor assistant would be oblivious to.It turns out that Zoe is a part of a group
that call themselves The Rebels who illegally mint tangible, silver coins (hence
the film’s title) in the hopes of stabilizing the financial health of the
While it might be easy to dismiss Silver Circle as just a story told
through the unorthodox platform of video game animation, the film’s message is
very real and serious and most certainly topical.Unlike contemporary action films that hit the
audience over the head with cuts so fast that there is little time to process, Silver Circle moves at a much more visually
manageable pace.It’s a film that has a
message, and it manages to both entertain and inform the audience.The film’s greatest strength lies in getting
the audience to think instead of just veg-out.
The film will begin touring the country starting
in New York on Friday, March 22nd.Click here on the film’s
official website to see where it is playing and read more about the film, the
characters, and the talented animators who brought Silver Circle to life.
'Star Trek' has been with
us now for almost fifty years. It has spawned five different incarnations on
television, ten official movies and soon the sequel to J.J. Abram's successful
reboot of the franchise will be in cinemas, titled Star Trek Into Darkness.
Gene Roddenberry's vision of an international, interstellar crew aboard a
gigantic spacecraft whose mission was simply to explore the universe has
touched millions of people and generated some almost alarming levels of
devotion and influence. One only has to look at the campaign to build a real
Starship Enterprise to see that this show is taken very seriously by many
But not everybody is well
versed in 'Star Trek' lore. Over the decades of boldly going through the galaxies
a massive amount of alien races, mythologies and technology has been devised to
keep the shows and movies interesting. Some of these are well known even
amongst non-Trekkies, with most people knowing the difference, say, between a
Klingon and a Vulcan. What what about the Jem'Hadar? Or the Yridians? Could you
name the home planet of the Xindi? Or explain how the Suliban Cabal became
genetically enhanced? Thankfully these questions and more can now be answered
without needing to trawl back through all those old 'Star Trek' tapes. If you
want to be more familiar with the 'Star Trek' universe in time for the new
movie, or just want to take a warp speed trip down memory lane, this new book
from D.K. guides you through each incarnation of the television series, from
the original 'Star Trek' through to 'The Next Generation', 'Voyager', 'Deep
Space Nine' and 'Enterprise'. Also included is information from the first ten
Aside from the
introduction by John De Lancie, who played the mysterious extra-dimensional Q
in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation', there is no acknowledgement in here that
this is all fictional. The book acts as a glossary providing imagery and
information as though it was all real. This is fun for fans who may want to
check how to distinguish a Type-1 Phaser from a Type-2 Phaser, but a little
frustrating if you are more interested in the history and development of the
production from its inception. However, there are plenty of other books out
there which cover that side of the story. Where Star Trek: The Visual
Dictionary stands out is in its wealth of imagery, plenty of which is quite
rare, having only just been released from the CBS archives. The book is well
laid out and is something you can quite easily dip in and out of. You can
marvel at the intricacies of the designs and the imaginations of the show's
creators even if you can't find out who any of them were.
paraphrase Jonathan Rigby in his book English Gothic, horror is the one
genre that Britain can truly claim as its own. And whilst British horror cinema
is inextricably connected to gothic-tinged memories of Christopher Lee,
cobweb-strewn castles and buxom scream queens, M.J. Simpson points out in this
excellently researched tome that the face of British horror today offers far
appears to have taken on the Herculean task of watching every film that could
fit the broad definition of being British (not always easy to tell, with
funding and production often involving multiple countries), and being horror,
again something of a broad church. A lot of the films he describes, giving not
only plot synopses but reviews, production information and interview extracts,
sound utterly terrible. He seems to have sat through a staggering amount of punishingly
bad films so that we, the readers, don't have to. But along the way he has
stumbled across a significant number of excellent films, too, many of which
have escaped either critical or commercial attention.
the term British Horror Revival, Simpson offers a complete breakdown of the
twelve years covered, digging up each film and presenting them in the order
they received any kind of release. It is fascinating to see just how difficult
some filmmakers have getting distribution, often producing a film in the UK but
finding it only coming out on DVD in Japan or Australia. Many films manage a
few festival screenings before disappearing into obscurity, so Simpson is to be
praised for finding them again. Of course, some of them sound so terrible that
it does not seem that much of a pity, but others sound like genuine lost gems.
If horror is your thing, this book will have you scouring the internet looking
for DVD or download copies.
the filmmakers discussed are genuine talents like Jake West (Evil Aliens,
2006), Shane Meadows (Dead Man's Shoes, 2006), Neil Marshall (The
Descent, 2005) and Danny Boyle, whose brilliant and devastating 28 Days
Later (2002) did much to raise the profile of the British Horror Revival
around the world. Amongst the more obscure entries you can find Beyond the
Rave (2008), a cheap teen-themed vampire horror co-produced by the newly
revived Hammer Films, which Cinema Retro covered extensively (and even appeared
in briefly!) here: http://www.cinemaretro.com/index.php/archives/387-EXCLUSIVE-REPORT-FROM-THE-SET-OF-NEW-HAMMER-HORROR-FILM%21.html
is an extremely well-researched book, and M.J. Simpson's occasionally sarcastic
and exasperated tone is entertaining, even if it does give the impression that
he had regrets about this project once he had embarked on it. He has uncovered
some gems and revealed that there is a very active, mostly micro-budget British
film industry which gets frequently overshadowed by the Bonds, Harry Potters
and Richard Curtis rom-coms. It is a pity that aside from a few pages of colour
stills the majority of the imagery in the book is black and white. This is a
genre that is frequently soaked in the red stuff. The main gripe however has to
be the lack of an index or references. It is impossible to search for a
specific title unless you know the year it was released, and even then you have
to wade through the chapter concerned. The book could have served as a useful
reference guide, but instead it appears to have been designed to be read from cover
to cover. However, this is only a minor reservation. If you are interested in
the horror genre, or want to find out just how active dozens of British
filmmakers have are, this is a great read.
(Click here for on-line index of people mentioned in the book)
(Click here for on-line index of titles mentioned in the book)
Screen Archives has released Jerry Fielding's Oscar-nominated score for Sam Peckinpah's 1969 classic The Wild Bunch as a 3-CD special edition with the complete score, remastered soundtrack album and collector's booklet.
and arcane religious rituals wouldn’t seem to make for good filmed
entertainment. And yet, the Vatican’s papal election process – occurring again this
week to name a successor to Pope Benedict XVI – has been detailed in cinema almost
as many times as the more Hollywood-sounding subject of papal assassination
while the workings of the pontifical election conclave might not be surprising
in a religious film, they were even deemed dramatic enough for inclusion in The Godfather Part III. Yep, Francis
Ford Coppola’s 1990 crime epic takes a break between whackings to portray the
1978 conclave that elected the first Pope John Paul.
more impressive than the fact that cinema has depicted this process is the fact
that, on occasion, the movies seem to have gotten it right. When a papal
vacancy isn’t being used as a premise for a goofy comedy (witness 1991’s The Pope Must Diet!), the election process
is treated with seeming care and accuracy.
course, screenwriters can only base such scenes on the generally accepted
consensus of how the election conclave of cardinals works; no press members have
ever documented the proceedings first hand. No cameras have been allowed.
I’ve never heard of a [conclave member] writing a report of it,” says Bill
Ryan, spokesman for the United Conference of Catholic Bishops. Ryan says he
assumes screen treatments of the conclave are “working backward from the
document,” referring to On the Vacancy of the Apostolic See and the Election of
the Roman Pontiff.
1968’s The Shoes of the Fisherman, which
chronicles the rise of fictional Pope Kiril I (Anthony Quinn), also benefited
from the technical consulting of Monsignor Adone Terzariol, an unofficial papal
advisor. The film is likely the tastemaking cinematic vision of the conclave,
the blueprint for other films’ depiction of the same.
Anthony Quinn in The Shoes of the Fisherman.
Shoes of the Fisherman – a twice-over
Oscar nominee – presents the pontifical election in fine detail. We see the cardinals
locked in the annex of the Sistine Chapel by the Marshal of the Conclave. Ballots
are cast, placed onto a plate, then dumped into a chalice. Wet straw is burned with
the ballots to produce black smoke, indicating a failure to elect a pontiff on
the first few days of voting. Canopies collapse overhead each cardinal not
elected pope after the new pontiff has accepted.
Shoes of the
uses a TV news journalist (played by David Janssen) as its exposition.
Janssen’s character is stationed outside St. Peter’s, giving very specific
play-by-play analysis. If the dry crime-lab films of the 1950s can be termed
“Police Procedurals,” the mid portion of Fisherman
is truly a Pontifical Procedural.
only does Shoes of the Fisherman
capture the rituals of the election in great detail, its election of a
fictional Russian pope foretells the coronation of Polish pope John Paul II,
the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.
films The Pope Must Diet! and The Godfather Part III (neither of which
credit a religious technical advisor) seem to have borrowed Fisherman’s vision of the election
The Pope Must Diet!, about a schlubby
priest (Robbie Coltrane) who is accidentally coronated as Pope, does serve as a
reminder that the elected Pontiff need not be a cardinal attending the conclave.
could be any baptized male,” says Ryan. Other reports suggest it can be any
adult Roman Catholic.
The Pope Must Diet! covers many of the
rituals surrounding a papal succession – at least those rituals that serve as easy
fodder for cheap jokes. In Diet, the
deceased pope isn’t just tapped on the forehead with the silver papal hammer to
determine death, he’s given a good whack. Papal nominations are struck down on
the grounds of “He’s too fat!” And the cardinals are wanded with metal
detectors before entering the conclave (though this last joke isn’t too far off
the truth; the conclave is reportedly screened for bugging devices).
the 1984 telefilm Pope John Paul II
shows a side of the electoral conclave not covered in Shoes of the Fisherman. The Polish pope-to-be, portrayed by Albert
Finney, is seen in his sparsely furnished conclave quarters between election
days. Apparently, this is an accurate depiction, as each cardinal has a cell furnished
only with a bed, a crucifix, a table and chairs.
even movies that don’t detail the conclave can raise provocative points about
1972 film Pope Joan – about a rumored
female Pope that snuck in around 855 – is one of several films to feature a papal
election but that skips the rituals of the election process (2003’s Luther and 1981’s From a Far Country are others). But when Pope Joan’s infirm pontiff (Trevor Howard) suggests a successor on
his deathbed, it raises the question of whether an outgoing pope has ever tried
to name his replacement.
totally in the realm of speculation or fiction,” says Ryan.
it all might be, considering that only cardinals, sworn to secrecy, have
witnessed a papal election conclave. The closest depiction we may ever see is on
Films Depicting the Papal Enclave
Shoes of the Fisherman” (1968), with Anthony Quinn as fictional Pope Kiril I
John Paul II” (1983), with Albert Finney as Pope John Paul II
Godfather Part III” (1990), with Raf Vallone as Pope John Paul
Pope Must Diet!” (1991), with Robbie Coltrane as a fictional pope
Films Featuring the Election of a New Pope
Joan” (1972), with Liv Ullman as rumored female successor to Pope Leo IV
a Far Country” (1981), with Cezary Morawski as Pope John Paul II
(2003), with Uwe Ochsenknecht as Pope Leo X
Fifteen years after co-producing and directing the British Victorian-era war classic Zulu, Cy Endfield brought an epic prequel to the story to the screen with Zulu Dawn. Unlike the original film, however, this 1979 release suffered from a bungled and scatter shot North American release that ensured that very few Yanks or Canadians ever had the opportunity to see the film in theaters. Botched release notwithstanding, the movie is in many ways as good as its predecessor, even if the screenplay falls short on presenting the main characters in a fully developed way. The story pertains to the greatest British military defeat of its era as the Victorian penchant for colonialism extended into South Africa. Initially the indigenous Zulu tribes had a cordial relationship with the British, but a foolish change in political strategy saw increasing incursions onto Zulu territory. The Zulu king went to great lengths to avoid confrontation until it became obvious that the local British officials were intent on taking their land by military force. The British expeditionary force led by Lord Chelmsford (Peter O'Toole) is well-armed with the latest weaponry and feels completely confident about a quick victory over the tribesmen, who are largely relegated to using primitive weapons. Like his American contemporary, General Custer, Chelmsford is an egotist with an overblown sense of self-confidence. He makes Custer's mistake of dividing his army into smaller units, spaced far apart. When the Zulu warriors mount a massive, surprise attack in what became known as the Battle of Isandlwana, the British are quickly overwhelmed. Like the original film, Zulu Dawn treats the native tribesmen with full respect and the script is clearly sympathetic to their cause. The British soldiers are depicted as courageous and gallant, but their superiors are generally seen as pompous snobs. A notable exception is the true life character of Col. Dumford (Burt Lancaster), a maverick Irishman who leads a contingent of African troops fighting with the British. Dumford tries to convince Chelmsford that his military strategies are flawed but his pleas fall on deaf ears. By the time Chelmsford and his reinforcements arrive at the battlefield, they find a seemingly endless plain of thousands of dead bodies, as only a handful of British troops managed to escape.
Zulu Dawn is a genuine epic with first rate production values with a sterling cast that includes such prominent actors as Simon Ward, Anna Calder-Marshall, John Mills, Denholm Elliott, Nigel Davenport and Bob Hoskins. The latter half of the film is devoted entirely to the battle sequences and they are stunningly staged and photographed, with Elmer Bernstein providing the stirring score. The movie is very well directed by Douglas Hickox, who is primarily remembered for Theatre of Blood and John Wayne's Brannigan. However, one must acknowledge that on a film of this scale, much of the credit must go to the second unit team as well.
Original British quad poster
Severin Films, which recently released a terrific special edition of another great '70s British war flick The Wild Geese (click here for review), has presented Zulu Dawn as a special edition Blu-ray/DVD dual package. The quality is outstanding on the Blu-ray but I'm always even more impressed by Severin's bonus extras. In this case, they include a fascinating history of the Zulu conflicts with scholar and author Ian Knight, who talks seemingly endlessly about every facet of the battle. The word "endlessly" here is meant as a compliment. Although I consider myself a military history buff, Knight's segment is like attending a master class and I realized how little I actually knew of the events depicted in the film. Knight explains that, although the Zulus won the battle, they suffered tremendous losses in the process and their victory was short-lived, as Lord Chelmsford ultimately sent their king into exile. The Severin crew also flew Knight to the actual battle locations in South Africa and it's truly amazing to see how untouched they remain to this day. (Crudely constructed above--ground grave sites for the soldiers still dot the battlefield.) There are also raw footage outtakes and some deleted scenes including several variations of Bob Hoskin's character's death. Another interesting segment features an extensive interview with historical and military consultant to the film, Midge Carter. Carter was an unemployed Brit with an in-depth knowledge of the film who just phoned the production company and ended up getting hired to ensure accuracy. Carter makes for an engaging interview, telling interesting tales about how he prevented historical inaccuracies from being included in the film. He also trashes director Hickox as a snobby elitist with a less-than-impressive work ethic. He also shares his scrapbook of on-set photos which had been autographed by every member of the cast. Severin interviews are always excellent to watch, thanks to producer David Gregory and Carl Daft's determination to let them go on as long as necessary and not worry about the length of the pieces. I only wish this was the case with some of the documentaries I produced for major studios, where there was always a bizarre determination to trim everything to the bone. Severin also doesn't indulge in gimmicky special effects or camera work. They simply turn on the camera and let the subject talk. Not fancy in terms of technique, but a wonderful throwback to how interviews used to be presented. Finally, there is an original theatrical trailer included in the set.
Chances are you haven't seen Zulu Dawn. You're in for a real treat with this superb presentation of an excellent film.
Apprehensive Films have released another DVD comprised of vintage public service shorts, this time compiled as a triple feature relating to the "horrors" of marijuana smoking. Titled 420 Triple Feature: Contact High, the shorts are uniformly amusing, as most vintage PSA-related films of the era now prove to be. The Terrible Truth is a color 1951 production in which a seemingly ancient judge (all adults in these films tend to look like Ma or Pa Kettle) seeks out a teenager who is representative of someone whose life was dramatically harmed by smoking weed. He is invited to the house of a prissy, goody two-shoes teenage girl who is in the process of recovering from a horrendous experience. Seems she was lured into getting involved with an older man, who seduced her through providing her with her first joint. A common theme throughout these films is that marijuana is instantly addictive and leads to a heroin-like dependency that drives users to sell their bodies and souls in order to get a "fix". Here, our unfortunate teen ends up married to the pot "pusher". When he is busted by police, she turns pusher herself in order to feed her habit. She survives a near-death experience in jail and now is determined to get her life back on track. The Devil's Harvest (1942) is the most unintentionally hilarious of the three features. It follows the tried and true formula of an innocent high school girl who is corrupted by a pot pusher. In this case, organized crime is involved and gangsters force the elderly owner of a hot dog stand to use it as a front to sell marijuana to high school kids. At a raucous teen party, that looks like it takes place in a leftover set from an Our Gang comedy, drug-crazed kids get into a brawl that results in someone's death. (The fight scenes in this film are especially funny since the punches don't come remotely close to connecting with the intended targets.) A teenage girl agrees to work undercover as a nightclub dancer (!) to help police crack the drug ring. It's amusing to see how, even in these public service films, producers try to sandwich in some entertainment value, thus we are treated to a completely superfluous dance number prior to the police crack down. The acting has to be seen to be disbelieved. Suffice it to say, you are guaranteed to witness the worst performances in screen history; no small feat. In the third and last film, The Devil's Weed (1949),(not be confused with the aforementioned Devil's Harvest), a virginal twenty-something young woman slaves away as a show girl in order to pay for her brother's college tuition. She soon gets lured to a pot party run by a local pusher and woman abuser. As with the previous films, the movie implies that pot is a highly addictive substance. Within seconds of taking her first puff, our heroine (pardon the pun) is climbing in the sac with the pusher. (The films all have a salient angle to them, implying that there is a direct correlation between smoking pot and losing your virginity. There is also an occasional political component with one of the shorts blatantly stating that marijuana is a tool of "the Reds" to gain world domination!). This film is longer...almost a full hour and boasts much better production values as well as "name" actors (Lyle Talbot as a police inspector and young Jack Elam as a gangland punk). The acting may still be laughable, but compared to the other two movies in this collection, the performances might seem as impressive as those in The Lion in Winter. There's plenty of sexually-oriented banter and plenty of retro glamor shots of the showgirls in their dressing rooms. This production is far more competently directed and Lila Leeds as the scandalized young woman tries hard and gives a passably competent performance.
The shorts would make the perfect compliment to a film festival topped off by Reefer Madness. The only problem is that, if you aren't currently smoking pot, these anti-drug short films might well encourage you to pick up the habit.
To order from Amazon click here ( to be released March 26)
Although not intended to be seen by the public, costume test photos of Nicolas Cage were leaked to the web, resulting in mockery by fans of the notion Cage could be a credible Superman. This, along with other factors, may have led to Warner Brothers pulling the plug on the Tim Burton production.
It was announced with great fanfare. Back in 1998, a theatrical blockbuster titled Superman Lives was to go into release through Warner Brothers with red-hot Tim Burton in the director's chair and Nicolas Cage starring as the legendary D.C. Comics hero. Kevin Smith would be among those contributing to the screenplay. Then, after sinking $30 million into the heavily-hyped production, Warners pulled the plug on the film. The exact reasons remain murky and now an independent filmmaker, Joe Schnepp, is raising funds on-line for a documentary about the Supey would-be blockbuster that never was. Many people attribute the cancellation of the film to the failure of the mega-budgeted Batman and Robin, which also sunk that franchise for a number of years before it was revitalized by director Christopher Nolan. Burton himself theorized that his version of Superman may have been deemed "too dark", a notion he now finds ironic, given the overwhelmingly depressing mood of the Nolan Batman movies. Superman spawned two major hit films in 1978 and 1980 for Warner Brothers. Both starred Christopher Reeve. The third Reeve film, Superman III, released in 1983, was successful but turned off fans with its silly storyline featuring Richard Pryor. A relatively low-budget 1987 flick sub-titled The Quest for Peace was an outright bomb. The next time Superman would appear on film was in the 2006 production Superman Returns. The movie was only modestly successful, but the Man of Steel will get another chance to lure fans to theaters later this year with the appropriately titled Man of Steel. For more on the checkered screen history of Superman click here
We love the vintage Batman comic books from D.C. Comics. They're provided us with immortal villains like The Joker, Catwoman, The Riddler and The Penguin. However, over the decades, there have been a few lame guys who were probably created during severe cases of writer's block. They include The King of Cats, The Calculator (he has a calculator attached to his head!) and the Penny-Pincher. The Cracked web site has some insightful looks into the creation of these villains whose flirtations with fame came and went faster than the Bay City Rollers. Click here to read
Kubrick's research materials on Napoleon formed the basis of a high end coffee table book released several years ago.
Steven Spielberg has announced that he is working with the family of Stanley Kubrick to develop the late director's long-planned screen biography of Napoleon. Kubrick envisioned the project, for which he wrote a script in 1961 and devoted countless hours to researching, as a big screen epic. However, studios became wary of the production costs and the film was aborted before it went into production. Spielberg will utilize Kubrick's own research as the basis for the project, which is being developed as a major TV miniseries. For more click here
They were the most prolific of many prolific singing duos that came to prominence in the 1960s. However, it was a movie that led to the breakup of Simon and Garfunkel shortly after the release of their masterpiece "Bridge Over Troubled Water". Both men had aspired to acting careers. Director Mike Nichols had cast them in key roles in his 1970 film version of Joseph Heller's anti-war novel "Catch-22". However, shortly thereafter, Nichols made the decision to cut Simon's part. Feeling hurt, Simon spent his time in New York City while Garfunkel filmed in Europe. The resentment led to Simon writing the song "The Only Living Boy in New York City", an allusion to the loneliness he felt writing the songs without the presence of his partner. Making matters worse, Garfunkel went immediately on to star in another Nichols film, Carnal Knowledge. This resulted in the duo splitting up, though they have had numerous (sometimes tension-filled) reunions in the years since. For more click here for Vanity Fair's report.
The estate of James Bond creator Ian Fleming has announced the latest author to try his hand at writing a "one-off" 007 novel. British writer William Boyd will pen the as-yet-untitled novel, due to be published in September. The only clues about the plot is that it will be retro-based and feature a 45 year-old Bond in the year 1969. (Ironically, this was the year that a very young actor, George Lazenby, debuted as Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.) For more click here
Walt Disney Studios graciously provided
me with the opportunity recently to discuss Peter
Pan with two of the film’s stars: Kathryn Beaumont, who provided the voice
of Wendy, and Paul Collins, who provided the voice of John Darling.
Todd Garbarini:Thank you for speaking with me about Peter Pan.
Kathryn Beaumont:Thank you, it’s my pleasure!
TG: I am a big fan of the Disney cartoons as I
spent the better part of my childhood seeing them.
KB:I'm so glad! They really are special, aren't they? The Disney cartoons
really stand the test of time.
TG: These are some of the earliest
movies I ever saw in both movie theaters and drive-ins. I really miss the
drive-ins. There are so few of them left.
KB: I know! I miss the drive-ins, too!
TG: I understand that you were born and
lived in London.How did you come to
enter show business?
KG: I was in On An Island with You (1948) and Challenge to Lassie (1949) and at that point MGM was scouting
characters for their new ideas for British classic-like stories, and so they
put me under contract and I started working for them.I was with MGM for a while, and as you know a
lot of those ideas just never come into being and ended up being put on the
shelf.They kept me under contract though
and at that time that was when Walt Disney was looking for his Alice in
Wonderland. The rest, as they say, is sort of history!Just about the time that my contract was due
to be changed over for the next six months, that is a six-month option, at that
point there was some sort of negotiation and I went over to Disney and started
working on Alice in Wonderland.
TG:Were you familiar with Alice's Adventures
in Wonderland when you were asked to perform the voice of the titular
KB:(laughs) It reminds me of when
I first met Walt. He greeted me at the door and walked me into the office where
everybody was settled because we were going to be signing the contracts. The
publicity department was there and all of that. He walked me over to the little
table and chairs. He told me that it would be kind of nice for us to go over
the original book.He asked if I was
familiar with the story. I said, “Oh yes, yes of course, of course!”(laughs)I had had it read to me when I was very
young. Everybody in England was familiar with it.Those were the absolute classics. I was familiar with the stories whether I had
read them not and by that time I could read them myself.So yes, I was extremely familiar. So, we sat
down and he was sort of trying to explain to me what his vision was for the
film and how he was trying to bring a little bit of both Through the Looking Glass and Alice's
Adventures in Wonderland into this new animated feature. So, it was very
informative and we had a lot of fun looking through the books and sharing all
the things that we knew about the stories.
TG:Like so many of the classic Disney films, Alice in Wonderland was animated by the Nine Old Men, the famous
animators who worked on so many of these classics.I met two of them, Frank Thomas and Ollie
Johnston, in November 1987 at a local mall when they were promoting their book The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation.
They were very nice to speak with. How did you get along with the animators on
the set of the film?
KB:Oh, I was just so grateful to them while I was working there. They just
made me feel so much at home. They had me involved in the entire process as
they would invite me into their offices at the studio where they were working.They showed me the rough drawings that they
had been working on. Later on, they
allowed me to go into “Ink and Paint” and told me to walk around and see what
was going on and how that process worked.It was from one department to another and so on and so forth. As a result, I really felt that I was a big
part of this overall process and I really enjoyed it very, very much.
TG: When it came time to doing Peter Pan, did you act as a live action
reference for the animators as the character of Wendy?
KB:Oh yes, I did, as I had had a wonderful experience doing this also on Alice in Wonderland. When I was nearly
finished with Alice, the studio was
really quite ready to move straight into production on Peter Pan.That was their
next animated feature. And so I began right away with the scenes that Wendy was
involved with, with the live-action recordings. Right after that was the live
action.That process usually consisted
of a day or two of rehearsal to sort of map things out to see what they were
looking for and determine the motion of the characters. As result, we were very
prepared for when the camera was there and so we went through the action. This
was done of course to help out the artists who were trying to draw the human
figures which were the most natural and also the most challenging part of the
Pan has a few short musical numbers, among them “Follow the Leader.” Did you provide any additional voices for any
of these subordinate characters for the songs or did you stick strictly to
KB: No, I wasn't involved with those.
They used a lot of boys for those voices, and I was not involved with any of
them. The character of Wendy, unlike Alice, was more of a supporting role and
that was the only voice that I provided for the film.
TG: What did you like most about your
experiences on Peter Pan?
KB: Well, I would say it was similar to
my experiences on Alice in Wonderland
and that it was just a wonderful time working with very talented people, people
whom I admired so much, and people whom I came to know very well, such as Hans
Conreid (who provided the voices of Mr. Darling and Captain Hook).Like myself, he was also asked to provide the
live-action as well as the voiceover parts. That kind of experience is what, I
think, stands out in my memory. It was such a lovely time for me as a youngster
playing these important roles and being able to get to know these creative
people involved in this wonderful process.
TG:What was your reaction when you heard your voice in these films?
KB:Oh, I suppose that I viewed the movies I thought, “Oh, that's me!” (laughs)
TG: You became a teacher just after
your stint in Hollywood. What grade or grades did you teach?
KB: Well, as it goes as a new teacher
you're not high up on the totem pole. You end up changing grade levels every
year. So, I have a lot of experience in the upper grades as well as the lower
grades. I really did enjoy second grade. I took every opportunity to make my
desires known that I really liked second grade. So from that point on until the end of my
career, I taught second grade.
TG: What do you think is behind the
longevity of such classic films as the movies that you worked on?
KB: I believe that it's the
timelessness of the stories, and the stories really have something to say to
young children. It came down to Disney's expertise in storytelling and his
wonderful team that he worked with.They
made the characters so realistic in terms that even adults could identify with
them and not just the children in the audience.
Variety, the legendary "bible" of show business, has been struggling to survive in the internet age. It's gone through different owners, management staff and several bold business plans- but none of them has staunched the bleeding. It has been announced that Variety will cease publication of its daily edition, once a must-read in the industry, but will continue to publish its weekly issue as well as special editions throughout the year. Variety also becomes the latest publication to concede defeat in its efforts to build a base of paid subscribers for its web site. The site has now reverted to a free service. For more click here
Despite the worldwide financial and critical success of Skyfall, Sam Mendes confirmed that he won't be accepting Eon Productions' offer to direct the James Bond movie. Many suspected he would decline the offer because it would be hard to top the international acclaim of Skyfall. However, Mendes cites his regrets at not being able to direct the film and attributes his absence to a full slate of other projects to which he is already committed. For more click here
He's been in movies so long, it's hard to remember when he wasn't on the scene. From his first big splash in the 1962 film adaptation of Billy Budd up to the present day, Terence Stamp proves he is a diverse talent with a knack for stealing every scene he is in. Filmmaker Magazine writer Lauren Wissot caught up with Stamp at the Palm Springs Film Festival and got him to open up about some fascinating aspects of his long career- including an amusing anecdote about Joshua Logan literally begging for him to star in the 1967 screen version of Camelot. Click here to read.
What would happen if Travis Bickle’s cringe-inducing
date from “Taxi Driver” was stretched out over an entire weekend in the North
of Italy? Thanks to “The Visitor” (“La Visita”, 1963), we have our answer.
Pina (Sandra Milo) is an independent businesswoman
living in rural Italy. But she’s unwed and approaching 40-years-old, and
longing for a change in her life. She places a personal ad in the newspaper
(readers under 40: think Match.com, but with ink, paper and more desperation)
stating her desire to find a man and marry. Of the potential suitors who reply,
Adolfo di Palma (François Périer), an older bookseller in
Rome, seems the most promising. The story begins as he arrives in northern
Italy to meet Pina in person.
Many have witnessed those godawful first dates in which
every subtle hint goes unread and signs are horribly misinterpreted. Adolfo, it
is safe to say, is the undisputed champion of these first-date nightmares. After
the train he arrives on pulls safely out of the station, the real train wreck
unfolds slowly. Adolfo drinks too much grappa, allows his eyes to wander to a
16-year-old neighbor, loudly proclaims how much he detests Pina’s surroundings
and is a cheap date in every sense of the word.
As Pina grasps at straws to salvage the budding
relationship, Adolfo clumsily grasps at just about everything else. Credit
director Antonio Petrangeli with turning what could be nothing short of a
cringefest into a compelling film that is at once funny and pathetic,
mysterious and revealing. The possible couple are not stock characters who are
aging and lonely, searching for love against all odds. We see their regrets and
secrets in flashbacks and a surprise confrontation toward the end. And it’s in
the final act that the film hits its stride, as Adolfo and Pina finally say
what they’ve been politely skirting around throughout the visit.
tale of regret and redemption is filled with surprising amounts of both heart
and laughs, making it a compelling watch from the early exposition to the
The film has been released on DVD from the Raro Video label and is presented as a special edition with a wealth of extras including an interview with director Ettore Scola, who discusses Pietrangeli's work; an interview with Piertrangeli's son Paolo (who is a director, too) and an interview with the film's composer Armando Trovajoli. There is also a 16 page illustrated booklet that provides analysis of the film as well as vintage interview comments from the director. In all, an impressive package for a worthy film.
This Canadian Odeon Theatres newspaper display ad dates from 1967 and it shows a wealth of gems playing at the same time: Frank Sinatra as Tony Rome, The Sound of Music, Dick Van Dyke and Barbara Feldon in Fitzwilly and Far From the Madding Crowd. Ah, if we only had a time machine!
The much-publicized James Bond Skyfall train will run through mid-March from London's King's Cross station to Edinburgh on a daily basis. Aside from having the film poster art adorn the train, the locomotive has been renumbered as "91007". For more click here
Many James Bond fans felt that the much-anticipated James Bond 50th anniversary tribute at the Oscars fell a little short of its potential, despite very impressive appearances by Shirley Bassey and Adele. A fan named Kees van Dijkhuizen Jr. decided to edit together his own version of the how the tribute could have been assembled. Click here to view and to see if you think it beats the "official" version.
The Mail On Line provides a fascinating sociological glimpse into American pop culture in the 1960s by unveiling vintage solicitations for young women to join Playboy as Bunnies in the newly-launched Playboy clubs. For anyone who thinks that we haven't come a long way in terms of equality of the sexes, just consider that women were so pigeon-holed into a small number of careers that the application actually lists these specific professions (along with measurement statistics!) For some, this will be a sentimental journey back to a time when belonging to the Playboy Club made men the envy of their peers. For others, it's a reflection of just why the Women's Lib movement felt it had to become so radical in order to combat long-standing sexism. In either case, you'll find this glimpse into a bygone era fascinating. Click here to read.
Despite bold attempts by influential directors and cinematographers to keep the 35mm format alive, it is going the way of the dodo bird- and taking with it projectionists and any theaters that can't or won't convert to digital.
Cinema Retro has extensively covered the rapid conversion from 35mm film to digital technology. There is no doubt that, despite the determination of acclaimed directors like Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino to keep shooting movies in the traditional method, digital is winning big time. The format results in crystal clear imagery (too clear for some) and the guarantee of a great picture. It also does away with the disruptive process of cinematographers having to pause filming every ten minutes to change film stock. However, purists still like the traditional look and feel of film and find the digital format a cold and rather uninteresting way of shooting movies. Regardless, writer Jonathan Owen of The Independent boldly pronounces 35mm film as officially dead. He says this year's Oscars may well be the last to feature any films shot in the 35mm format. Click here to read more
It's been a long time since Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was in theatrical release-- 22 years, to be precise. However, star Kevin Costner is suing the production company Morgan Creek over alleged hanky panky when it comes to royalties still due to him from the film. Costner says the production company was tardy in providing accounting records, and in some years didn't provide them at all. A judge ruled that Costner has enough validity to his argument to proceed with his suit, but cautioned him he needs to provide more compelling evidence if he hopes to win a financial award. For more click here
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM THE CINEMA RETRO ARCHIVES
By Lee Pfeiffer
Paramount has released two major John Wayne titles as DVD special editions. The releases were tied in with the studio's Centennial line of classics. In fact, El Dorado probably doesn't qualify as a classic, as it represents Howard Hawks' virtual remake of his 1959 film Rio Bravo (which is a genuine classic.) Regarded as a good, run-of-the-mill Western when released in 1967, the film has grown in stature as film scholars grapple with the notion that there simply aren't artists around today as interesting as Wayne, Hawks and Robert Mitchum, the other lead. The film showcases a fine supporting cast including James Caan in one of his first major roles, Charlene Holt, Michele Carey, Ed Asner and old reliable character actors Paul Fix and Arthur Hunnicutt playing a role that seems tailor-made for Walter Brennan. The plot is virtually identical to that of the previous film: a disparate group of heroes finds themselves holding an important prisoner and fending off a virtual army of gunslingers intent on freeing him. If Hawks was unapologetic about shamelessly plagiarizing another film, at least he was stealing from himself. (He would do yet another loose remake of the same story with Rio Lobo in 1970). Still, warmed-over Hawks is better than almost anything being made today, and El Dorado is a joy to watch. The banter between Wayne and Mitchum is terrific, the script has some genuinely funny moments and the action sequences are excellently staged.
Paramount's 2 DVD edition contains a wealth of great extras including:
audio commentary tracks by Peter Bogdanovich, Richard Schickel, Ed Asner and Todd McCarthy
seven short featurettes each pertaining to a different aspect of the film's production
an interview with Paramount head honcho A.C. Lyles, who ran the studio when the movie was made
a vintage production short that showcases Western art sculptor Olaf Wieghorst, who plays a small, amusing role in the film
the original trailer and lobby card and production stills gallery
(Read an exclusive interview with James Caan about the making of the film in Cinema Retro issue #14)