In a wide-ranging year-end press conference, an upbeat President Obama discussed a range of issues from the recent changes to the foreign policy with Cuba to the Keystone Pipeline. However, the entertainment industry will be most interested in his opinion that Sony "made a mistake" by canceling plans to show the Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy "The Interview". Unless you've been living in a cave for the last few weeks, you are aware that Sony suffered a humiliating hack of its private E mails and corporate data. In a rare instance of a sitting President immersing himself in a discussion of a specific motion picture, President Obama confirmed what everyone suspected: that the hack was orchestrated by the North Korean government in retaliation for the satirical plot line of the film that involves the assassination of dictator Kim Jong Un. The President said that the decision to pull the film prior to its release amounted to giving in to the hackers and sets a slippery slope for future demands that might be made. The President presented a scenario in which studios might be threatened about the content of future films and news broadcasts. He said he feared a scenario in which people in the creative community would self-censor future projects rather than incur potential threats. The President expressed sympathy with Sony executives, who he acknowledged suffered severe damage due to the hacking. He also said he understood the studio's concerns regarding threats of violence should the film be released. However, the President also said he "wished they had spoken to me" prior to making the decision to meet the hacker's demands, but acknowledged that, as a private corporation, Sony acted in what they thought was their best interest.
The President's candid remarks surprised some in the media who expected him to give a more nuanced response in regard to the Sony situation. However, Obama was feisty, humorous and- in the words of a CNN analyst- in a "bouyant" mood, trading wise-cracks with members of the press. Obama stated his opinion that it shows the vulnerability of the North Korean government that they can be intimidated by a Seth Rogen movie, causing loud laughter from the press corps. Obama sheepishly added that he "loved" Rogen and co-star James Franco but said that no government should feel threatened by a satirical comedy.
On a more serious note, the President vowed that the USA would respond "proportionally" to the North Korean hack but would not specify what actions that might entail.
The President's position on the Sony issue seems to mirror that of widespread reaction in the filmmaking community.Actor/director George Clooney tried to get major studios to sign a letter stating that they would not bow to future demands to censor their product. No one studio executive would sign the letter.
Meanwhile, CNN is reporting that Sony received a letter purportedly from the hackers who praised the decision by Sony to pull the film, saying it was a "wise" decision. However, the letter also made additional demands from the studio, primarily that Sony also withdraw any trailers relating to "The Interview" or risk the release of even more damaging data.
The British Film Institute recently sponsored a major science fiction festival entitled
Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder. Alongside the many film screenings and DVD
releases they have also published several new volumes in their Film Classics
series. These are smaller volumes, around 100 pages in length, with each
focused on one specific film. Included are books on The War of the Worlds
(the 1953 version), Solaris (concentrating mainly on the 1972 Russian
classic, but also touching on Steven Soderbergh's 2002 adaptation), Silent
Running, Alien, Dr. Strangelove, Quatermass and the Pit
Quatermass and the Pit (1967) is seen as the high watermark of Hammer's science fiction
output. A belated follow-up to their two 1950s Quatermass films, themselves
based on a hugely successful BBC TV series penned by Nigel Kneale, the film
works better as a standalone story than as a direct sequel. Unlike those stark
monochrome films, which were shot mostly on location, Quatermass and the Pit
is colourful, studio-bound and uses a completely different cast. Brian Donlevy
had previously played the eponymous Professor Quatermass as a gruff,
no-nonsense American who had stepped straight from the pages of a Raymond
Chandler novel, the total opposite of Andrew Keir's bearded Scotsman. In this
film what appears to be an unexploded WWII bomb is uncovered during tube-tunnel
digging under London. Quatermass soon realises that this "bomb" is
actually a Martian spacecraft, crashed to Earth millions of years ago. These
aliens had come here to interfere with human evolution, meaning, as Barbara
Shelley's character puts it, "We are the Martians now."
Kim Newman is one of Britain's finest genre commentators, and his
writing here is illuminating as he discusses all incarnations of Quatermass,
from the first BBC series in 1953 through to the John Mills-starring The
Quatermass Conclusion in 1979. Even the ill-conceived 2005 remake gets a
mention. He goes into great depth on Pit itself, discussing the production and
the themes of the movie. The book is crammed with footnotes, each of which is
worth reading as they often contain more tidbits of information or humorous
asides. Newman may be a genre fan but he is not above sarcasm where it is
This book demonstrates that although Hammer films must have more
books written about them than any other British studio's output, there is still
room for indepth analysis and commentary on individual significant titles. This
BFI Classics entry is a shrewd and penetrating introduction to Quatermass for
the uninitiated, and a must-have for those who think they already know
everything there is to know about Quatermass and his infernal pit.
You can order from the BFI Classics sci-fi range here:
was completely gob-smacked by this one, folks. From the title and description of this 1980 release, I
was expecting a smarmy slasher film that used the holiday season for a cheap
backdrop and even cheaper jokes. What I got instead was a very well-made
character study reminiscent of Polanski's Repulsion. Although not as good
as that classic, it stands proudly beside it as a fascinating picture of a slow
descent into madness and murder. If anything, Harry Standling is a more
sympathetic main character as we are shown in a brief prologue the genesis of
both his fixation on Christmas and the reason for his awkwardness with people.
At an impressionable age the young Harry crept downstairs on Christmas Eve to
see Santa sexually gratifying his mother. That this Santa was actually his father
didn't register and the traumatized boy never really got over the sight of
Jolly Old Saint Nick pleasuring Mom. But let me tell you the story.....
Standling (Brandon Maggart) is an introverted middle-aged man whose hobby is
all things Christmas. Perfectly in sync with his obsessive regard for the
season, he has worked in a toy factory for most of his adult life. Harry's
years of experience have finally landed him a management job in the company and
he seems to have thought that his new position would allow him to make better
toys for kids. With the Christmas season approaching, he finds the hostile
anti-holiday attitudes of his co-workers and the disappointment of no longer
working directly with the toys getting to him. But what starts off looking like
a bout of holiday depression begins to turn nasty.
sad and disappointed by the adults around him, he begins to focus on the joys
Christmas brings to kids. For years Harry has kept detailed written accounts of
the actions of the children that live in his neighborhood and bound books
listing "bad" and "good" kids line his shelves. As he
starts spending more time going through them, adding black & white marks,
he becomes more unstable.
his home workshop he fashions a Santa costume, paints an elaborate mural of
Santa's sleigh on the sides of his van and begins to make plans. Learning from
a snide PR man of his company's halfhearted stab at charity by donating toys to
the local children's hospital, Harry is livid. Dressing as Santa he sneaks into
the factory at night, stealing a van load of toys, and on Christmas Eve
delivers them to the surprised and happy hospital staff. Elated by this near
perfect moment of holiday cheer he tracks the company PR man to a church where
he's attending a Christmas service. After waiting outside, a silent Santa,
Harry is taunted by some of the churchgoers and stabs two of them to death with
a toy solider! Driving away he next goes to the house of a co-worker who has
insulted and belittled him repeatedly. After a failed attempt to go down the
chimney he finds an open basement window, creeps in and kills the man right in
front of his wife. Disturbingly, the dead man's awakened kids wave happily to
the departing Santa just as their mother's screams ring out.
Christmas Day the cops are running around hunting a killer Santa, even going so
far as to put a bunch of them in a line up for witnesses from the church. But
an APB on St. Nick on December the 25th isn't exactly the best move and does
not net them their guy. Harry has spent the night in his van outside the toy
factory and awakens to the realization of his plight. Afraid to go home he
breaks into the place and, as if in a fantasy about really being Santa Claus,
turns on all the toy making equipment. As news reports stoke the fears of the
public Harry's younger brother Philip (Jeffery DeMunn) begins to think his
brother is involved. He becomes convinced that his unbalanced sibling is the
killer after a rambling phone call from him that afternoon. When night falls on
Christmas, Harry ventures out again but ends up being chased through the
streets by an actual torch-bearing mob until he escapes to his brother's home.
An enraged Philip demands answers, resulting in a family fight that brings the
tragic tale to a close.
a film with many things to praise the first should be the performance of
Brandon Maggart. He does a truly brilliant job of getting inside Harry's head,
showing us the broken way his mind functions. The moment I knew he was simply
not going to make a wrong step was in a sequence midway through his Christmas
Eve rounds. He has stopped outside a community house and is watching a
neighborhood party through a window. Spotted in his Santa outfit, he's pulled
inside and asked to join in the celebration with children and adults alike.
It's a beautiful scene that shows what his life could have been like as he
happily dances with everyone and enjoys a few drinks. Maggart is note perfect
here — he even elicits a chill as he says goodbye to the kids with a stern warning
about being good.
thing to single out is the exceptionally fine cinematography of the film. For a
movie made on such a small budget Christmas Evil looks incredible.
From one of the three (!) commentary tracks included in this release I learned
that director Lewis Jackson spent a lot his budget to get Ricardo Aronovich as
his Director of Photography; his skill certainly makes the film a joy to look
at. There are more than a dozen shots here that rival the best Christmas images
I've seen captured in the movies, with some of them being heartbreakingly well
composed. Jackson points out in brief liner notes that his prime visual
inspiration was the Christmas paintings of Thomas Nast and it really shows.
That a film of this type can be so beautiful puts to shame the sad Christmas
movies pumped out every year by Hollywood.
much as I liked the movie I have to admit it's not perfect. The last third of
the film isn't as sure footed as the beginning It's as if the focus has been
lost as Harry parades around the toy factory and it comes dangerously close to
derailing as he’s being pursued by the mob of angry parents. But by the time
the brothers have fought and credits roll over the haunting final image I found
it easy to forgive these small hiccups. Of course, a movie about a murderous
Santa Claus isn't going to be an easy sell for 90% of the public but I think
plenty of folks would love this were it given a chance.
or rather, infamously, the BBC took a rather cavalier approach to the
preservation of its television output in the 1950s and 1960s. Due to the cost
of videotape, once pre-recorded programmes had been broadcast,the tape was
wiped and used again. For programmes to be kept for repeat use or to be sold to
other territories around the world, the episode would be transferred to film,
and it this process we have to thank that any television from this period has
survived at all.
Out of the Unknown was an attempt to
present serious, adult science fiction on television, adapting well-known and
important authors like John Wyndham, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, J.G. Ballard and
E.M. Forster. The single play was a tradition by this point, with popular
series such as Armchair Theatre (1956-74) demonstrating the legacy of
television's theatrical origins in live drama. Although largely neglected as a
format today in favour of long-running series, both the BBC and independent
television in the 1950s through to the 1970s ran hundreds of single dramas. Out
of the Unknown presented a different adaptation every week. Commissioned by
Sidney Newman, the man responsible for both Armchair Theatre and Doctor
Who (1963-89; 2005-), the series took the BBCs remit to educate and inform
very seriously. Producer Irene Shubik, quoted in the booklet accompanying this
science fiction is a way of saying something you can't say in straightforward
terms... I tried to get [stories] that had some sort of message."
any anthology, some of the episodes here work brilliantly, others less so, but
they are always interesting and prove the potential that science fiction has to
provide a commentary on the human condition; our fears, concerns and hopes.
From speculations on the potential of robotics to disastrous space missions and
mind-altering technology, Out of the Unknown provided ample food for
thought for its audience on a regular basis and is still fascinating.
series began in 1965 in black and white on the BBC, and ran for four series,
finally ending in colour in 1971. Twenty-eight episodes are completely missing
from the archive. This new box set contains the remaining twenty-four complete
episodes and five incomplete or reconstructed episodes, using a mix of clips,
still images and sound. Fans and amateur archivists have played a major role in
assisting the BFI to gather every remaining element so that this set represents
the entire sum of what has survived. Along with this Herculean effort a wealth
of extra features have been created including audio commentaries with
historians, experts and cast members, filmed interviews and a forty-minute
documentary. The accompanying booklet features in-depth essays and a complete
episode guide with cast and crew listings.
Out of the Unknown is a compelling
glimpse into the television production of the past, when commissioning editors
like Sidney Newman were prepared to take risks and assume a higher level of
intelligence in the audience than one feels is assumed by TV executives today.
of the Unknown is released on 24 November 2014 and can be pre-ordered by clicking here.
Irvin’s 1980 movie version of Frederick Forsyth’s “The Dogs of War” approaches
its subject with much the same blunt detachment and minute attention to detail
that characterized Forsyth’s bestselling 1974 novel.It’s generally low-key tone and characters
seem a far cry from today’s over-the-top action films in which mercenaries and
paramilitary agents are usually depicted as aging musclemen (“The
Expendables”), manic cokeheads (“Sabotage”), and comic-book caricatures (“G.I.
soldier Jamie Shannon (Christopher Walken) returns home after a failed mission
in Central America. He doesn’t have much
of a life off the job. Divorced, he
lives in a dumpy apartment in Washington Heights, keeping one gun in the
refrigerator and another in a desk drawer. His only friend is a kid whom he pays to carry his groceries home; he
doesn’t even know the kid’s name. When a
mysterious businessman pays Shannon to scout out the military defenses of the
insane dictator General Kimba in the impoverished African nation of Zangaro,
Shannon takes the assignment and flies to Zangaro, posing as a nature
photographer. His cover blown, he is
arrested, imprisoned, beaten, and eventually thrown out of the country. Back in New York, Shannon’s reconnaissance
having identified holes in Kimba’s defenses, the businessman resurfaces and
offers Shannon the job of leading a mercenary coup against Kimba. Shannon recruits three friends from his old
team, Drew (Tom Berenger), Derek (Paul Freeman), and Michel (Jean Francois
Stevenin), puts together a deal for arms and equipment, and heads back to
Zangaro to meet up with and lead a rebel army assembled by Kimba’s corrupt
rival, Col. Bobi.
of Forsyth’s novel described, step by step, the ways and means of financing,
organizing, and executing a military coup. It’s gripping stuff on the printed page, but not very cinematic. The film covers the same ground in about a
half hour of running time. Filling out
the story for the screen, the script gives Shannon (in the novel, he’s an
Irish-born Englishman named “Cat” Shannon) more of a backstory and adds a
couple of new female characters. In the
novel, Shannon’s recon in Zangaro is uneventful. By putting him through the wringer, the movie
punches up the action and gives Shannon a personal reason for agreeing to
depose Kimba. Arguably, it also provides
a stronger rationale for Shannon’s decision, in both the novel and the movie,
to derail his employer’s plan to install the crooked Col. Bobi and instead put
Bobi’s honest rival, Dr. Okoye (Winston Ntshona), in the Presidential
Twilight Time Blu-ray features a handsome transfer of the U.S. theatrical
feature as well as the international version, which runs 15 minutes longer but
doesn’t add anything of vital substance. There is a handsome souvenir booklet by Julie Kirgo, and the art on the
keep case reproduces the U.S. poster art featuring Walken and his unbilled
co-star, the impressive XM-18E1R grenade launcher used by Shannon in the
climactic attack on Kimba’s compound. The Twilight Time Blu-ray, which is limited to 3,000 copies, is
Although the term
“Eurocrime” can be applied to films from any European country, it’s most
closely associated with 1970s Italian crime films, aka poliziotteschi, poliziottesco
or poliziesco. The last term is (in
Italian) the grammatically correct moniker for a politically incorrect genre
that was hugely popular in its day, thanks to a sensory overload of stylish
ultra-violence, insane car chases, buckets of sleaze, almost-human bad guys and
renegade cops with big guns, bad attitudes and badder mustaches.
Controversial during its
heyday and critically marginalized in ensuing decades, the Eurocrime flame has
been kept alive by a sizeable and devoted fan base, periodic DVD releases, various
websites and online forums. Another shot in the arm was provided by Roberto
Curti’s invaluable book, Italian Crime
Filmography 1968-1980 (McFarland & Co Inc), an in-depth listing and
analysis of more than 200 films.
Now, poliziesco junkies have even more reason to celebrate with the
recent DVD release of Eurocrime! The
Italian Cop and Gangster Films that Ruled the ’70s, writer/director Mike
Malloy’s documentary homage to the genre that illustrates why these
testosterone-fueled thrillers deserve their place in the cinematic pantheon.
To that end, he rounded up
the appropriate subjects to tell the Eurocrime story—the surviving actors,
writers and directors who created these gonzo films from the ground up. It’s a
cast list that would do any current action film proud: Franco Nero, John Saxon,
Henry Silva, Antonio Sabata, Richard Harrison, Fred Williamson, Luc Merenda,
Tomas Milian, Leonard Mann, Michael Forest, John Steiner, Joe Dallesandro and
Chris Mitchum. Not to mention directors Enzo G. Castellari, Claudio Fragasso
and Mario Caiano.
All of these iconic
figures obviously retain deep-seated affection respect for the Eurocrime genre.
There’s zero condescension and little posturing, and all seem grateful for the
exposure these films brought them. In separate interviews, each relates his
particular history with Eurocrime films; Malloy edits their individual stories
into a collective portrait of the genre that’s as enlightening as it is
Malloy gets them to talk
about Eurocrime’s antecedent genres (peplums, giallos, spaghetti westerns); the
influence of Hollywood’s Dirty Harry
and The French Connection (both from
1971), which introduced a grittier ethos and more conflicted protagonists to
crime cinema; and the social and political turmoil in Italy during the 1970s,
which helped the poliziesco chart its
thematic identity through a critical focus on the country’s political
corruption, pervasive crime (organized and otherwise) and terrorist activity. While Eurocrime films were initially
derivative of the American version, Italian filmmakers quickly stamped them
with a unique identity, one that in turn influenced crime and action films the
In addition to such broad-outline
topics, the Eurocrime veterans expound on what it was like to work in a new
genre that was literally being invented on the fly. Low budgets and short
shooting schedules necessitated a guerilla approach to filmmaking. Directors
often shot without permission on the streets, especially when staging chase
scenes, which sometimes led to policemen pursuing stuntmen on motorcycles in
the belief they were actual criminals. The emphasis on speed and economy led to
an insane number of daily setups. Richard Harrison still laughs at the memory
of doing 120 setups in a day.
Like virtually all Italian
films of that era, the films were shot without direct sound. This allowed for
smaller crews, less equipment and less need for retakes, but initially proved
disconcerting for American actors used to quieter, more-ordered sets. Henry
Silva and John Saxon recall their bemused reactions to the on-set noise and
tumult during takes, countered by the Italian film crews’ bewilderment at their
pleas for quiet.
Live ammunition was sometimes
used during filming (Saxon still seems a little freaked out recalling it
decades later), and most of the leading actors did their own stunts. Leonard
Mann recalls: “We’d do them so fast, you know. We’d be out there just running
around and doing our own stunts. I did almost all of them…The things we did, I’m
surprised we didn’t get killed.”
Speaking of stuntmen, one
of that noble breed is represented in this documentary. Ottaviano Dell’Acqua,
who worked on Enzo G. Castellari’s The
Big Racket (1976) and Heroin Busters
(1977), wryly contrasts the approach of Italian and Hollywood stuntmen: “We
were a little more adventurous. We made things a little more ‘homemade.’” That
DIY ethos contributed to the rough-edged spontaneity that gave the films a
sense of gritty realism, no matter how outlandish the scenarios, action or
The Daily Mail has a series of photos showing Daniel Craig on the Thames en route to the real MI6 HQ to film sequences for the new 007 film "Spectre". Craig appears to be having a ball riding a high speed vessel in the company of his co-star Rory Kinnear, who plays the role of fellow agent Bill Tanner.
The article also reveals that, in the wake of the devastating Sony hack scandal, the script is being re-written even as filming is underway, which is not a situation most filmmakers want to contend with. However, Sony and Eon Productions confirmed that an earlier draft of the script that gave away key plot spoilers has been leaked to the web. To ensure that moviegoers don't have the experience of seeing the new film ruined in advance of its premiere next November, the producers have brought in other writers, including "Edge of Tomorrow" scribe Jez Butterworth, to re-write key portions of the story including the finale. The script is also being rewritten by long-time Bond co-writers Neal Purvis and Rob Wade. Daniel Craig has previously said that the script that was in place prior to the hack was better than the one for his 2012 blockbuster "Skyfall", which grossed over $1 billion internationally.
"The Man From U.N.C.L.E. 8 Movie Collection" is available on Amazon USA for only $29.49. The set consists of the the two-part episodes that originally aired on TV and which were later released as theatrical feature films. Of the eight films, only three were released in the United States. In some cases, additional footage with new characters were inserted into the episodes for theatrical distribution.
The set contains the following films:
To Trap a Spy
The Spy With My Face
One Spy Too Many
One of Our Spies is Missing
The Spy in the Green Hat
The Karate Killers
The Helicopter Spies
How to Steal the World
One Spy Too Many
The DVDs are released through the Warner Archive, which means they are region-free and can play on any international DVD system.
All of the feature films star Robert Vaughn, David McCallum and Leo G. Carroll.
(The following review is of
the UK DVD release of the film, on Region 2 format)
‘Just for You’ is a time
capsule of the British pop music scene in the early 1960s. It was made and released
in the UK in 1964 and the official press release from Network describes the DVD
as follows: ‘This ultra-rare musical film of 1966 tells the story of a rock ‘n’
roll hopeful searching for his big break […] Following the young singer as he
goes from studio to studio with his girlfriend and attempts to convince radio
and TV executives to play his song, ‘Just for You’ becomes a showcase for a
host of sixties musical talent’. This is
actually the plot of the 1966 American edition of the film, under the title
‘Discotheque Holiday’ (sometimes listed as ‘Disk-O-Tek Holiday’). What Network
has released is the original UK release of the film, ‘Just for You’, named
after the Freddie and the Dreamers’ song. The UK version was directed by
Douglas Hickox and doesn’t include the added US scenes directed by Vince Scarza
(with the budding singer played by Casey Paxton).
In the original UK version,
we get layabout impresario Sam Costa (played by comedian, disk jockey and
singer Sam Costa) lying in bed, his every whim tended by his fully-automated
computerised home help, while he entertains himself (and us) by running clips
of various pop acts on a projector in his private screening room. Yes, it’s
The links of Costa smoking
a cigar, wisecracking and at one point attempting to eat an animated haggis,
are diverting, but are really just that: links. The main point of the film is wonderfully
vivid Eastman Colour footage of a mixed bag of guitar bands, individual singers,
vocal groups and novelty pop acts performing their songs on a selection of interior
and exterior standing sets at Shepperton Studios.
The full set list is:
Faye Craig: ‘Bongo Baby’
The Applejacks: ‘Tell Me
Al Saxon: ‘Mine All Mine’
A Band of Angels: ‘Hide ‘n’
The Orchids: ‘Mr Scrooge’
The Bachelors: ‘The Fox’
Doug Sheldon: ‘Night Time’
Caroline Lee, Roy Sone and
Judy Jason: ‘Teenage Valentino’
Peter and Gordon: ‘Leave Me
Freddie and the Dreamers:
‘You Were Made for Me’
Millie Small: ‘Sugar Dandy’
Jackie and the Raindrops:
Mark Wynter: ‘I Wish you
Johnny B. Great: ‘If I had
Peter and Gordon: ‘Soft as
Faye Craig: ‘Voodoo’
The Warriors: ‘Don’t Make
Louise Cordet: ‘It’s So
Hard to be Good’
The Merseybeats: ‘Milk’
The Bachelors: ‘Low the
Freddie and the Dreamers:
‘Just for You’
What’s most apparent in
this film and these performances is that the influence of The Beatles and the
jangly Merseybeat sound is everywhere, even in the female singers – from
lyrical content and acoustics, to clothing choices and hairstyles. Several of
the acts here sport matching black or grey suits. Beatles moptop haircuts are everywhere.
Peter and Gordon’s ‘Soft as the Dawn’ closely resembles The Fab Four’s ‘And I
Love Her’. The Applejacks and the Merseybeats songs are patterned on Beatles
melodies and harmonies. ‘The Orchids’ are a Fab Three, a trio of girls whose
snowy rendition of ‘Mr Scrooge’ looks like an outtake from ‘Help!’, with the
girls’ black attire and red and white striped scarves, and has a Phil
Spector-ish sound. ‘A Band of Angels’ rasping ‘Hide ‘n’ Seek’ has the lads decked
out in silver suits and straw boaters, but their sound is defined by sandpaper
vocals and jagged rhythms – it’s one of the best songs in the film. ‘Dollybirds’
stare vacantly off into the distance throughout their performance; dressed in
leather gear from ‘Continental Fashions’, they look to have wandered in from
Antonioni’s ‘Blowup’. During two numbers – one involving a snooker table (the
rollicking skiffle shuffle of ‘The Fox’) and another wearing matching grey
suits (the ballad ‘Low the Valley’) – the Bachelors demonstrate why they
remained single. Doug Sheldon’s low-key ‘Night Time’ has the singer strolling
beside a shadowy studio mock-up of the River Thames, while Mark Wynter’s
purposeful ballad ‘I Wish you Everything’ is a bit Roy Orbison.
Much livelier are the girls.
Caroline Lee and Judy Jason don red Scottish tartan capes and caps to enact ‘Teenage
Valentino’, their tale of disinterest in a self-obsessed bloke. Roy Sone is the
handsome, narcissistic object of his own desires. The insightful lyrics – ‘Big
man, lover boy, teenage Valentino’ – are attributed to Nolly Clapton and Mercy
Hump. Quirky Louise Cordet (wearing a Shimmyshake Dress by Alice Edwards) is
the party-loving girl trying to behave, but finding ‘It’s so Hard to be Good’
and shrill-voiced Millie’s ‘Sugar Dandy’ is brassy, poppy and ear-splitting. Faye
Craig dances exotically to ‘Bongo Baby’ and ‘Voodoo’ (by Johnny Arthey, one of
the best pieces of music in the movie, with bongos and guitar). The lovely
Jackie and her cardiganed Raindrops perform Goffin-King’s ‘Loco-motion’ among
the commuters on a studio-bound train platform.
Lively is also the operative
word with Freddie and the Dreamers, probably the biggest act on show. Frontman
Freddie Garrity prances around the set and his band join in the synchronised
dancing for their most famous hit, the catchy ‘You Were Made for Me’. There’s
an Elizabethan theme for ‘Just for You’, with Freddie appropriately dressed as
the court jester. Other male artists include Al Saxon, who plays his revolving
piano in a party café decked with streamers for the gutsy sax-stacked groove
‘Mine All Mine’. Fellow piano-thumper Johnny B. Great’s snappy cover of Pete
Seeger’s ‘If I Had a Hammer’ gets his audience dancing.
The Network DVD has excellent
picture quality and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 (that’s
black bars at the sides of the picture for 16:9 screens). The original trailer
and an image gallery are included as extras, plus a pdf of promotional
material. If you can track down the American edit, ‘Discotheque Holiday’, you’ll
find it features additional performances for US fans, including The Chiffons,
Rockin’ Ramrods and The Vagrants. ‘Just for You’ is a pop nostalgia-fest
showcasing the great, the good, the overlooked and the somewhat forgotten of 1964.
The rare clips will be lapped up by anyone with an interest in the music and
style of the era. It’s fab and gear.
INTERVIEW CONDUCTED BY DARREN ALLISON, SOUNDTRACK EDITOR FOR CINEMA RETRO
was instantly transported back some 40 years while handling the re-issue of Hammer’s Dracula with Christopher Lee
LP. There was something about holding this mint piece of vinyl that reached
beyond mere nostalgia; I was holding such a prominent memory of the past – new
- in my hands – today...
course, that feeling of déjà vu was pulled sharply into focus given that this
LP is almost a perfect clone of what had once gone before. Naturally, the only
implemented change was the replacement of the original EMI Studio2Stereo logo
from the top left hand corner of the front sleeve. However, the licencing of
this recording has since changed, and instead Dust Bug’s unobtrusive logo now
sits in its place, rather proudly it must be said - and causing very little
recently spoke with Nick Bug, the man behind Dust Bug Records and asked him about
the album, the production, and the decision behind re-releasing such an iconic
Nick, tell me - what made you decide to form Dust Bug Records?
Firstly, we wanted to release records that we love (both old and new). But it
was more than that; we also wanted the added bonus of really going back to
traditional analogue where possible.
Your debut release Dracula with
Christopher Lee is regarded today as something of a classic. What made you
decide to pursue this particular title to launch your label? Did you own the
original album back in 1974?
Certainly I‘ve always been a horror movie fan since I was a child and that
carries you through life. The Dracula record I first heard in 1974 when my
parents visited a Hi Fi fair in Harrogate where B&O (Bang & Olufsen) were
using it as a reference disc for their latest systems. I was only 10 at the
time so it really stuck in my memory. It hasn’t been released on vinyl since
then so I thought what better place to start than with such a cult album that
has followed me through life!
You decided to go back and produce this album in pure analogue – can you tell
me why – and perhaps give us some details about the process, and using the
We thought that if a job is worth doing its worth doing well and going the
extra mile to cut from the ¼ inch tapes was a no brainer for us. We wanted to
deliver pure 100% analogue to vinyl fans. We used a vintage cutting room in
London with a complete analogue chain and beautiful vintage equipment; it was
more like a living museum. The complete signal path is given inside the sleeve,
we thought it was important to let people (and especially the vinyl fans) know
that it wasn’t just cut from a CD!
I was quite taken by the attention to detail regarding the packaging, I guess
the option was there to take an ‘easier’ approach, perhaps to release the LP in
a standard sleeve? Why did you decide on the full gatefold reproduction, I
assume this added to the production costs - did you incur any problems in
taking this option?
It had to be as close to the original as possible and that obviously means
having the gatefold sleeve and trying our best to mimic the laminated front
sleeve by using a high UV gloss and then going for a matte inside as per the
original. It did add to the production costs as did the analogue cutting but we
believe it’s worth it and we are very pleased with the final product.
And of course, you used a nice retro technique in pressing the album in a ‘mist
enshrouded blood infused virgin vinyl’?
Yes indeed, we wanted to deliver the album in a limited edition format to give
the fans something special. You can never tell what the end result will be and
of course every single one is different, unique - as it was dependent upon at
what stage the colours were added. I think the finished result works particularly
Were you happy with the overall finished result?
I have to say, it’s always a bit nerve wracking when you open that first box
and look at what the factory has produced. But yes we are very pleased; it
exceeded our expectations on every level.
Do you believe there is still a market for vinyl? I know this is a strictly
limited release of 500 copies, are initial sales looking promising?
In my opinion, vinyl is the king of formats; it’s as simple as that. I don’t
believe any other format comes close if you are serious about your music and of
course being a record collector myself it’s the only option! Sales have started
well and we hope it will continue... it’s a limited edition run, so if you don’t
have one, don’t hang about!
Regarding Dracula, do you have the rights to press more vinyl or are you happy
with just the 500 copies?
With regards to a vinyl repress, the answer is no - not in the format it is
now. There are 500 only of the numbered first pressing in the limited coloured
vinyl so there will be no more. The idea of the label is to produce small
What about a CD release, have you considered the option, and if so, would the
packaging again reflect the retro style of the LP?
Yes, we do have the CD rights so it is possible we will do a small limited run,
and if we do go ahead with the CD it would also be in a gatefold replica
So Nick, what about the future, what is the aim of Dust Bug Records? Can you
reveal any future titles in the works or anything in particular you are
We are indeed chasing down some other titles to release, but I can’t say too
much at this stage. It’s not just soundtracks either; Dust Bug will release
many different genres going forward. But nothing will be rushed, we believe in
getting it right and sometimes that takes time.
Athena Video has released "The Rise of the Nazi Party", a three disc DVD set comprised of all ten episodes from the acclaimed British documentary series that was telecast in the USA under the title "Nazis: Evolution of Evil". The fascination with Adolf Hitler and his criminal regime seems to only increase with time. While the documentaries cover well-worn turf, what makes this presentation notable is that the narrative concentrates on the inner workings of the Nazi party and the interaction between its key figures. The series uses dramatic recreations of major events interwoven with an abundance of actual newsreel footage and photographs. Clearly, a sizable sum had been spent on production values. The series interweaves contemporary footage of German locations with the historical films. While the notion is somewhat innovative, the shifting between old and new scenes can be somewhat distracting. That's about the only gripe, however. "The Rise of the Nazi Party" is a fascinating look at how a group of misfits, scoundrels and sadists rose to dominate one of the world's great nations. The series begins with the aftermath of WWI and correctly points out that the greed of the victorious Allied nations ironically helped nurture the rise of right wing extremism practiced by Hitler. The Allies insisted that German pay reparations for the war and the notorious Treaty of Versailles placed such onerous financial burdens on the German people that it risked turning the entire nation into a Third World country. The staggering debt was seen as a cash cow, particularly by Britain and France, the Allied countries that had suffered the most from the conflict. (Incredibly, Germany only recently made the final payments on its war debt.) Because WWI was such a senseless conflict caused by so many vague factors, the German people resented having the entire blame placed on them. As the financial situation in Germany worsened, hyperinflation devalued the German mark to the point where a loaf of bread could cost millions. Simultaneously, as the documentary points out, the Germans suffered another indignity when France sent armed legions to Germany's industrial region to occupy the territory and appropriate the revenues from factories. It was amid such a period of crisis that Adolf Hitler first became known. A decorated hero in the war, Hitler resented the military brass that had signed the Treaty of Versailles and in some warped fashion believed that a cabal of influential Jews were behind the strategy. His inexplicable but rabid anti-Semitism would characterize the entire Nazi movement. Even in its dying days, Hitler had the Nazi regime allocate enormous resources to continue his attempts to exterminate an entire people.
The documentary traces Hitler's first association with fringe groups who were calling for an overthrow of the weak Weimar Republic, a democratic government that had been imposed by the Allies but which had lost the confidence of the German people. Within a short time, the charismatic Hitler becomes the leader of the dissidents and moves to unite the fractions among them into the National Socialist Party. His first attempt to take the nation in a violent coup fails and he is imprisoned. However, behind bars he turns himself into a martyr to his cause by writing his influential memoir, Mein Kampf. When he emerges from jail, Hitler realizes the way to power is to bide his time and go through legal means. The Nazis grow in numbers and in strength but the everyday German doesn't believe they can ever win national offices. They were wrong. During the pivotal election cycle, the average German is lethargic and stays home from the polls while Hitler's fanatical followers turn out in droves. The Nazis become a major factor in the German political landscape. Ultimately, Hitler is appointed Chancellor under the aging but beloved President, von Hindenburg. Knowing that taking action against this national icon would backfire, he bides his time until von Hinderburg's death. He then appoints himself supreme leader of the nation, citing the need for a strong man with extraordinary powers to take on the many crisis facing Germany. The German reichstag all but votes themselves out of any meaningful power beyond being a body of "rubber-stampers" for Hitler's legislation. Within a short period of time, Hitler makes good on his promises. He authorizes massive public work projects that not only wipe out unemployment but also result in the nation having the most modern road system in the world. Worker's wages are raised and the average person's living standards rise appreciably. Hitler becomes a beloved icon. However, the dark side of this success is Hitler's calculated ability to split the population into "us" and "them", the latter being "undesirable" minorities, especially the Jews. He passes the Nuremberg Laws that effectively deprive German Jews of all civil rights- and it only gets worse from there. By rewarding Aryans with a good lifestyle, he correctly gambles that the average German won't do much to protest the persecution of the Jews. By the time he is committing wholesale genocide, many Germans are repulsed but are powerless to stop him. Hitler's obsession for expanding Germany's borders into Czechoslovakia and Austria are achieved without firing a shot, despite having blatantly violated the Treaty of Versailles. However, he miscalculates the Allies with his invasion of Poland, as evidenced by France and England declaring war. Hitler's fate is ultimately sealed when he makes the ill-advised decision to declare war on America in the aftermath of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He is now fighting an industrial giant with seemingly unlimited resources. This factor, coupled with his betrayal of the Soviet Union, it is only a matter of time before Germany is defeated.
The documentary also explores Hitler's love life (or lack thereof) and his obsession with his half-niece, who ultimately committed suicide, possibly because of his dictatorial control over her life. The show also delves into the rise of Hitler's top right hand men: Himmler, Goering, Goebbels and others. Among them is Ernst Rohm, an early supporter of Hitler who built his private body guard, the Brownshirts, into a major military force that virtually equaled the German army. In a sign of the backbiting that would characterize the Nazi brass, Hitler is manipulated by others into believing that Rohm is planning a coup. Thus, Hitler personally leads a raiding party on Rohm and his top men at a vacation resort where they are holding a conference. (It was actually a ruse for Rohm and his homosexual lovers to engage in sexual activities that Hitler felt were appalling for a true Aryan to participate in.) He orders his old friend to be executed. It would serve as a boiler plate for the inner rivalries and paranoia among his confidants that would dominate is reign as Fuhrer. (In the dying days of the Reich, both Himmler and Goering would betray Hitler by each presenting himself as the new Fuhrer and hoping to sue for peace.)
The purpose of the series is not to present the history of WWII. Certain major elements are covered in detail: the Holocaust, the disastrous invasion of the Soviet Union, the attempted assassinations against Hitler, the manipulation of Chamberlain at Munich, etc. However, other key events such as the invasion of Poland, the Hitler/Stalin pact and the fall of France are barely mentioned. The episodes are mostly concerned with the psyche of the Nazi brass. All of it is set to the pitch perfect narration of Joseph Kloska, who provides the necessary tone of gravitas. (Inexcusably, none of the actors who are seen throughout the entire series merit even a mention in the end credits.) There are the usual "talking heads" who provide analysis of the subject matter and these scholars are particularly interesting throughout. The final episode, "Aftermath", is one of the most compelling as it explores the breakout of the Cold War in the immediate aftermath of Germany's defeat. The Nuremberg Trials are covered in considerable detail and the episode bluntly addresses the decision by the United States to recruit notorious Nazi war criminals and whitewash their pasts in order to benefit from the technological knowledge these people had in the areas of science and espionage. (Wernher von Braun, who developed the first rocket technology, had the blood of thousands of slave laborers on his hands yet his indisputably built America's space program.)
The entire series is compelling throughout and will provide new perspectives for even the most devout WWII scholars. The set includes a booklet that features biographies of key Nazis along with a useful timeline of their rise and fall from power.
If there is a lesson to be learned from all of this, it's that when people in democracies are too lethargic to vote or become involved in the political process, the worst elements of society may one day seize power.
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Eon Productions and Sony have confirmed that the recent hack attack against the movie studio has resulted in the cyber theft of the script for the new James Bond film "Spectre" that just began filming. The big budget production has been kept top secret and pains had been taken to keep key plot points from the public. It is known from the title that Bond's arch nemesis organization SPECTRE will fit into the story line and it is has been reported through hacked information that the character Blofeld is to figure into the plot in some way. However, the theft of the actual script could have devastating consequences for the marketing of the film. The producers clearly had anticipated keeping key information close to the vest until the film is released next November 6. Aside from reminding the thieves that the script is protected under British copyright law, there isn't much they can do to prevent it from being published on the web. Both Eon and Sony deny rumors that the filming has been put into hiatus. This is only the latest problem for Sony, which has been the focus of an unprecedented hack that has resulted in embarrassing and confidential information going viral. It is suspected that the North Korean government is behind the action, in retaliation for a new Sony comedy that centers on a plot to kill the nation's dictator Kim Jong Un. For more click here.
The new James Bond film, "Spectre", boasts some exotic locations ranging from Morocco to Mexico to Austria. However, Variety reports that a sizable chunk of the film's rumored $300 million budget will be spent in Rome, where tax incentives have brought in many major studio productions lately. The Bond flick will drop over $62 million to film some high profile chase sequences in Rome, including a spectacular car crash and a scene in which Bond parachutes from a helicopter onto the ancient Ponte Sisto bridge. (No word on whether the Queen will be joining him on this parachute drop, as she did at the Olympics in 2012!) For more click here.
Edwards’ 1965 comedy epic, The Great Race,
has been out in various formats for years, but the Warner Archive has finally
given it the royal Blu-ray treatment that’s as immaculate as the dazzling white
car Tony Curtis drives in the film.
The Great Race was loosely based
on the 1908 New York to Paris race and Edwards and screenwriter Arthur Ross
threw everything but the kitchen sink at it. Originally developed at United Artists, the project was picked up by
Warner Bros when UA balked at the rising cost – which eventually hit a
then-unheard of $12 million, making it the most expensive comedy made at that
time. Clocking in at two hours and
forty minutes, it was also one of the longest running. (Unless compared with Stanley Kramer’s
classic It’sA Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, which ran over three hours in its
original roadshow presentation.)
story follows two bitter rivals, “The Great Leslie”, suavely played by Tony
Curtis and his evil nemesis, “Professor Fate” (a first-rate, over the top performance
by Jack Lemmon) as they race across three continents from New York to Paris. The Leslie character and his sidekick “Hesekiah”
(Keenan Wynn) take the high road while Fate and his bumbling henchman “Max”
(Peter Falk) use an array of dirty tricks to cheat their way to the finish
line. Achingly beautiful Natalie Wood
plays a reporter gamely trying to cover the race. Comedy set pieces abound, most notably a
saloon brawl that must have used every working stuntman in Hollywood and the
ultimate pie-fight, which cost over $200,000 to film. Beautifully shot by Cinematographer Russell
Harlan (Hatari) in locations like
Austria, Paris, Death Valley and no less than eight WB soundstages, no
expense was spared… and yet the film never received the love it deserved. Critics considered it “overdone”, missing
that the film was Edwards’ homage to outrageous slapstick. Although it earned a respectable $25 million,
it wasn’t a breakout hit. (In contrast,
our beloved Thunderball, which was
released the same year,cost $5.6
million to produce and raked in over $140 million. Talk about a great ROI!)
Natalie Wood in some blissfully skimpy attire.
office math aside, as pure cinematic fun, The
Great Race delivers in spades. Lemmon’s work as the evil villain and a
drunk lookalike prince was brilliant, full of manic energy and a real showcase
for his skill and range as an actor. Tony Curtis gave another strong
performance as the stoic hero who can do no wrong, unfazed by any mishap,
including finding a huge polar bear in his back seat! It’s rumored that co-star Natalie Wood didn’t
want to make the film and had to be persuaded by WB brass, but she seemed to be
having fun and could throw a pie with the best of them. She lit up the screen as an intrepid writer/photographer
trying to break free of early 20th century stereotypes of what a
woman could and could not do. Seeing her
in the various Edith Head-designed costumes reminds one of what a stunning
young woman she was.
to be expected, the image quality is nothing short of pristine in 1080p, with scenes
looking almost three-dimensional in their clarity. The audio was bumped up to DTS-HD 5.1 so all
of Lemmon’s agonized cries of “Maaaaaaax!” sound great, as does Henry Mancini’s
gentle score. The only nitpick is the
lack of any new extras – the disc contains “Behind the Scenes With Blake
Edwards’ The Great Race” - the
vintage studio featurette and a theatrical trailer; both of which were on the 2002
DVD release. They are most welcome, but it would have been even more beneficial if, some years ago, someone had interviewed Edwards, Curtis and Lemmon about the making of this epic comedy. I would have produced those gratis, just to hear more about this
wonderful, if overlooked film. Sigh.
In time for the holidays, Warner Brothers Home Entertainment has released a 75th anniversary commemorative Blu-ray boxed set for "Gone With the Wind". This collector's edition includes the extensive previously released bonus extras as well as some exciting new features. See official press release below:
WBHE honors one of the most celebrated motion
pictures of all time with the Gone with the Wind75th
Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray™ and Digital HD
with UltraViolet. This “must have” for classic film collectors will be
fittingly presented in limited and
numbered sets, with new collectible packaging, new enhanced content and new
collectible memorabilia. The memorabilia includes a replica of Rhett Butler’s
handkerchief and a music box paperweight playing Tara’s theme with an image on
top of the Rhett-Scarlett kiss. Also included is a 36-page companion booklet
featuring a look at the immortal style of Gone
with the Wind, written by New York fashion designer and Project Runway fan
favorite, Austin Scarlett. The new special features include footage of Clark
Gable and Vivien Leigh attending the original movie premiere in Atlanta and Old South/New South, a journey through
today's South, revisiting the real-life locations depicted to see how the world
of the Old South continues to inform life in the New South’s cosmopolitan
Superstar Angelina Jolie is described as "a minimally talented spoiled brat" in a confidential E mail that has now gone viral.
The hacking scandal that has afflicted Sony Pictures has turned into a major disaster with implications that could ruin lucrative business relationships as well as lead to lawsuits. Sony was hacked by a mysterious entity that seemed more interest in embarrassing the company than extorting it. Thousands of social security numbers of employees have been leaked along with their salaries, unreleased films have been compromised at a potential cost of many millions of dollars and, perhaps most devastating to the suits in the corner offices, private E mails have been made public that reveal shocking comments by executives towards some of the most prominent people in the industry. The smart money is on North Korea as the culprit behind the sophisticated hack, that goes far beyond what most security experts have seen. Sony is about to release a comedy about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un- and the Dear Leader clearly doesn't think its funny. The North Koreans have denounced the film and called for Sony to suppress it. The studio's refusal to do so may have unleashed North Korea's intelligence services on it's computer systems. The Washington Post reports that the scandal has reached levels that is causing major agita among the top brass at Sony. In an industry that prides itself on keeping secrets, the cats are running out of the bag. Click here to read.
For extensive coverage of leaked E mails, click here for Gawker article.
Cinema Retro's own Gareth Owen is interviewed on Bloomberg TV regarding the reasons that Pinewood Studios has remained James Bond's 'home" for more than 50 years. The Broccoli family have always felt most comfortable at Pinewood and they maintain permanent offices there. However, there is an economic incentive to film there, as well. After decades of losing major film productions due to punitive tax measures, the UK is now attracting blockbuster franchises such as Star Wars, Batman and The Avengers due to lucrative incentives that allow producers to reclaim as much as 25% of their British expenditures. The new Bond film SPECTRE is filming at Pinewood and other locations around the world.
(Read Gareth Owen's "Pinewood Past" column in every issue of Cinema Retro!)
These days, cinema buffs searching high and
low for a lost, early work of a modern filmmaker is almost unheard of , as most
everything is readily available on DVD or Blu-ray. However, back in the day,
this was far from the case. Way back when, many early efforts from then current
directorial masters were extremely hard to find. For example, throughout the 1980s,
I can remember looking everywhere for a copy of George A. Romero’s third film Season of the Witch aka Hungry Wives (1972)as well as Martin Scorsese’s debut feature Who’s That Knocking at My Door? (1967)just to name a few. Another movie I always longed to see was a
strange, little action film called Fast
Company. The reason I use the word strange is because the movie was
directed by the enormously talented, Canadian born David Cronenberg. Although
he is now known for masterpieces such as A
History of Violence (2005) and Eastern
Promises (2007) , Cronenberg once carried the moniker “The King of Canadian
Horror” (due to his unique series of “Body Horror” films such as Shivers aka They Came from Within (1975), Rabid
(1977) and 1979’s The Brood), so,
in the mid-80s, it was quite a surprise for me to learn that not only was there
a lost Cronenberg film out there which was made in between all these
underground genre classics, but also that the movie was a mainstream action
Fast Company tells the story of aging
drag racer Lonnie “Lucky Man” Johnson (Rich
Man, Poor Man’sWilliam Smith)
and his struggles with cutthroat manager Phil Adamson (John Saxon from Enter the Dragon) whose underhanded
actions affect Lonnie’s long distance girlfriend, Sammy (Deathsport’sClaudia
Jennings), Lonnie’s protégé, Billy “The Kid” Brocker (Nicholas Campbell from Da Vinci’s Inquest), Billy’s girl, Candy
(One Night Only’s Judy Foster) and
their chief mechanic, Elder (Don Francks from 1981’s My Bloody Valentine).
Sort of a slick combination of drag racing
docudrama and exploitation action film, Fast
Company, which was co-written by Cronenberg, is an extremely interesting
and entertaining (not to mention accurate) look at life in the fast paced,
blue-collar world of professional drag racing. By mounting his camera on and
inside the race cars, Cronenberg tells a great visual story while, at the same
time, placing the viewer right into the center of the action. There’s also
solid performances from the top notch cast (it’s great to see Saxon in another
villainous role after watching him play countless cops over the years, while
the usually intimidating William Smith shines as good guy Lonnie), and the film
itself, with its fitting, hard rock soundtrack by musician Fred Mollin (Friday’s Curse aka Friday the 13th: The Series), has a light, fun and
enjoyable feel to it.
If you’re like me and you’ve been waiting
years to see this lost film, you’ll be happy to know that the wait was well
worth it as Blue Underground has pulled out all the stops to bring us an
absolutely beautiful transfer presented in its original 1:85:1 aspect ratio.
The Blu-ray is also jam packed with special features (all of which are ported
over from the 2004 Blue Underground DVD with the exceptions of a poster and still
gallery, and bios of both Cronenberg and Claudia Jennings). Along with the
original theatrical trailer, we have a fantastic twelve minute documentary
titled Inside the Character Actor’s
Studio which features interviews with acting heavyweights William Smith and
John Saxon (appearing here together) who not only recall their roles in the
film, but also talk about what it means to be a character actor as opposed to
being a leading man. It’s a real treat to see these two B-movie icons
reminiscing and joking about their amazing careers and my only complaint is
that the documentary isn’t longer, as I could listen to these guys talk for
hours. Next, we have a second documentary about famed cinematographer Mark
Irwin (There’s Something About Mary).
Here, Irwin fills us in on, amongst other fascinating things, how some of the
more complicated night shots were achieved, and he also talks about the five
“Body Horror” classics he went on to shoot for Cronenberg.
For most viewers familiar with the director’s
work, Fast Company may seem out of
place in his filmography, but to David Cronenberg, it’s simply another one of
his many cinematic children. On the audio commentary track of this Blu-ray, the
director tells us how he himself is a huge sports car enthusiast as well as a
former road racer and, therefore, this film fits right in with the rest of his
works as it has to do with just another one of his many interests. He also
affectionately goes into detail about a plethora of subjects such as how Fast Company is really a modern western
(another thing that attracted him to the project), how this is the first time
he ever shot a scene on a film set as opposed to shooting entirely on location,
and the importance of this film due to the fact that he met many members of his
future filmmaking crew (and cast) here. Cronenberg also explains the state of
the Canadian film industry in 1979, recounts a great story about how John Saxon
praised his direction, and talks briefly about the lovely and talented drive-in
movie queen; the late, great Claudia Jennings who, sadly, died in an auto
accident shortly after completing this film. It’s a very interesting and
informative commentary that, just like the film itself, will appeal to Cronenberg
fans, race car aficionados, budding filmmakers and B-movie buffs alike.
As if all this wasn't enough, the disc
also features Cronenberg’s first two, seldom seen features, Stereo (1969) and Crimes of the Future (1970), making this Blu-ray an absolute must
for Cronenberg completists; highly recommended.
Throughout motion picture history, there have always been "disaster" movies. From Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy facing the great earthquake in "San Francisco" to John Wayne trying to rescue an airliner in distress in "The High and the Mighty". However, the disaster movie didn't emerge as a genre until the 1970s. Most people credit "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972) with being the first major entry among these kinds of films during that era, but arguably the genre began two years earlier with "Airport". That blockbuster flick set the standard for all of the disaster movies to follow:
An all-star cast ranging from top boxoffice attractions to respected veteran stars and popular character actors
Big production values
State-of-the-art special effects
Majestic musical score (and, if possible, a Top 40 hit shoe-horned into the proceedings)
A well-regarded director at the helm to preside over the mayhem
For the most part the formula worked fairly well. "Poseidon" was a major boxoffice smash and that film begat the short-lived genre's best year, 1974, which saw the virtual back-to-back release of "Gold", "Earthquake" and "The Towering Inferno", the latter being the "Citizen Kane" of disaster movies. However, the genre was to burn brightly but briefly. In the wake of "Inferno", there was nowhere else to go. The 1977 film "Black Sunday" was excellent, but despite a blimp crashing into the Superbowl stadium, it is not a "disaster movie" in the traditional sense. Most of those films that were, flopped badly. Producer Irwin Allen, who struck pay dirt as the producer of "Poseidon" and "Inferno" found the formula had grown stale by the late 1970s. His 1978 release "The Swarm" is generally referred to as the worst "Bee" movie ever made. His 1980 anemic attempt to blend cast members with elements of "Poseidon" and "Inferno" was released as "When Time Ran Out", an appropriate enough title for the flop that ended his big screen career. Another costly casualty of the disaster genre ebb was "Meteor", a 1979 production that top-lined an impressive cast: Sean Connery, Natalie Wood, Brian Keith, Karl Malden, Martin Landau, Trevor Howard and Henry Fonda. It was produced by Gabe Gatzka and Sandy Howard (among others), two veterans with very respected backgrounds in the film industry. The film was directed by another highly respected individual, Ronald Neame, the man who had helmed "The Poseidon Adventure". On paper, the project must have looked like a "can't lose" proposition. Yet, "Meteor" turned out to be a major flop at the boxoffice as well as a critical disaster. What went wrong? To start with, it was probably ill-advised to entrust the production to American-International Pictures which specialized in making low-budget horror and teeny bopper exploitation films. The AIP association branded "Meteor" with a "cheesy" stigma even before cameras rolled.
Connery stars as a cynical, world-respected scientist whose warnings about the possibility of earth being hit by a destructive meteor have largely gone ignored. When the film opens, he is summoned to Washington by government officials who tell him the top secret bombshell disclosure that his worst nightmare is about to come true. A gigantic meteor is racing towards earth and there is only one way to stop it: by having the USA and Soviet Union join forces to synchronize their nuclear missiles in the hopes of blasting the meteor out of the sky. Brian Keith plays the Soviet foreign minister who meets up with Connery and his colleagues at a secret underground New York City command center located adjacent to the subway system(!) Natalie Wood is his comely interpreter, which allows for some mildly suggestive byplay between Connery and her. There's little time for romance, however, as advance particles from the meteor are already hitting earth and causing widespread damage. With time running out, the US and Soviet technicians scramble to employ their nuclear arsenals in a last ditch attempt to save earth. This scenario might seem stale today, but it was a relatively fresh concept back in '79. However, the film was undermined by the apparent shortage of production funds for use in the special effects. The sets are elaborate and impressive but the key sequences showing the missiles in action are laughably poor. Equally bad are the shots of the presumably menacing meteor hurtling towards earth. No matter how much the filmmakers try, it never looks much more terrifying than a large rock you might encounter in your garden. (Sean Connery once referred to the meteor special effects as making the titular objects resemble "little balls of shit".) The screenplay is a scatter shot affair. Apparently concerned that concentrating on the key characters who are locked into an underground command center might prove to be too claustrophobic, the decision was made to "open up" the scenario by showing various international locations being destroyed by meteor fragments. In doing so, the screenwriters cram in completely extraneous characters who are given approximately ten seconds each to develop personalities in the hope we can sympathize with them when they are pulverized. Thus, we see a young father in Hong Kong scrambling to get his child before a tidal wave engulfs the city. People in a ski resort in Switzerland are given equal opportunity for brief character development before they are buried under an avalanche. The sin of it all is that the production company really did film on location in these places but, aside from a few impressive snippets of crowds running frantically through the streets of Hong Kong, there is limited to value to the expenses incurred in shooting in such disparate areas of the globe.
Yet, for all its cheesiness, "Meteor" somehow plays better today than it did at the time of its initial release. This is primarily due to the fact that we can appreciate seeing the great cast members interacting on the big screen. Connery, middle-aged and handsome, makes for a fine leading man.Natalie Wood is given little of substance to do here but, given this was one of her last films, it gives us a precious opportunity to at least see her natural beauty. Brian Keith, long underrated as a leading man in feature films, steals the show, playing against type as a witty and funny Soviet diplomat. Only poor Martin Balsam comes across awful in an unintentionally funny performance as a fussy U.S. general who refuses to trust his Soviet counterparts (Fritz Weaver played essentially the same role very well in "Fail Safe" fifteen years earlier.) The finale of the film is truly impressive as a sea of mud descends upon the underground command center. The sequence was indeed a challenge to film and, if it looks like it was dangerous for the actors, it indeed was: several cast members were injured during this elaborate sequence.
The Kino Lorber Blu-ray is superb in terms of overall quality. As with so many special effects-laden films of the past, today's technology tends to expose the shortcomings in this pre-CGI era, but that only adds to the charm of watching a flick like this. The only bonus extra is the original theatrical trailer.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM AMAZON AND TO WATCH ORIGINAL TRAILER
Bill Cosby has been in the news a lot lately, though undoubtedly not in a way he would prefer. Lost in the on-going debate about his career as a legendary comedian and sitcom star and how this affects allegations of sexual assaults, is the fact that Cos at one time showed considerable skill in rare dramatic roles. One such case was a now relatively obscure 1972 detective flick he starred in for United Artists. Largely forgotten by the general public due to very limited exposure since its release, Hickey & Boggs has been released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber. (It was initially released a few years ago on DVD by MGM's burn-to-order division.) The film's primary merit is that it reunited I Spy co-stars Bill Cosby and Robert Culp (though by this time, Cosby's fame had eclipsed Culp's, thus resulting in his receiving top billing). In their classic TV show, Culp and Cosby played a tennis pro and his trainer who were actually secret agents. The glitz of the tennis world allowed them to live Bondian lifestyles while they thwarted bad guys. Intriguingly, Hickey & Boggs goes in a very different direction. Resisting the temptation to revive their wise-cracking I Spy personalities, Culp and Cos are seen as down-and-out private investigators in Los Angeles. Both are divorced but pine away for their ex's; they can't pay the office phone bill and they ride around in cars that look like they barely survived a demolition derby. As the TV spots for the film said at the time, "They have to reach up to touch bottom." On the brink of financial disaster, the men finally get a case: they are hired by a mysterious man to find an equally mysterious woman he wants to locate. The money is good, but the seemingly mundane case soon turns deadly with Hickey and Boggs dodging mob hit men, black radicals and unfriendly police brass.
Twilight Time has released the delightful 1962 hit comedy "Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation" as a limited edition (3,000 units) Blu-ray release. The film is the very definition of old Hollywood star power, with James Stewart and Maureen O'Hara top-lining a cast that includes some first-rate character actors. Stewart plays Roger Hobbs, a burned out banking executive who is introduced to as he makes the daily grind of a commute amid traffic-choked, smog-filled roads. He narrates the story as a flashback, relating how he had planned a romantic getaway for he and his wife Peggy (Maureen O'Hara). She put the kabosh on his plans to tour London and Paris in favor of bringing their kids on a family vacation at a California beach house an acquaintance has offered them for free. Roger is less than enthusiastic about the idea. It will mean bringing along their insecure teenage daughter Katey (Lauri Peters) and her younger brother Danny (Michael Burns), a kid who rarely leaves the confines of his bedroom where he is obsessed with watching TV Westerns. (This was 1962, after all, when seemingly every other TV program was a Western!) Also invited are the Hobbs' grown daughters Susan (Natalie Trundy) and Janie (Lili Gentle), both of whom have more issues than Time magazine. Susan's and her husband Stan (Josh Peine) are parents to small children and are clearly embittered in their relationship due to the fact that Stan has been secretly unemployed for an extended period of time. Janie and her husband Byron (John Saxon, playing against type in a very amusing performance) have a young son and Roger can't stand being around them for any extended period of time. Byron is a pompous intellectual with a superiority complex and the couple's son, for whatever reason, hates grandpa Roger. All of these problems are just the undercurrent for what is shaping up to be a disastrous vacation from minute one. The lovely beach house Peggy has envisioned turns out to look like the set from "House on Haunted Hill", a once-stately home that has fallen into complete disrepair. Roger's first challenge is to get a complex water pumping system working, which leads to an amusing running gag about man vs. machine.
Roger, who is clearly not the typical dad found in sitcoms of the era, tries mightily to control his anger as his self-centered family members burden each other with their problems and emotional conflicts. It's a joy watching Stewart engage in his "slow burn" routine, barely able to restrain himself from exploding. Adding to the pressure is the arrival of an eccentric couple (the marvelous character actors John McGiver and Marie Wilson), who may be prospective employers for Stan- if they enjoy their stay at the beach home. This is the most amusing part of the movie as Roger finds himself valiantly trying to entertain this boring, prudish couple who on the surface seem to have no vices but who are secretly hiding a lifestyle of heavy drinking and sexual frustration. The sequence in which Stewart and McGiver go bird-watching is full of genuine belly laughs.
As film historian Julie Kirgo writes in the very perceptive liner notes in the accompanying booklet, "Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation" is much deeper than the standard family comedy you might assume it to be. It reflects the changing attitudes of 1960s society and hints at the blossoming rebellion of young people in regard to parental authority. It also takes a much franker look at discussions and representations of sex. Roger and Peggy are aghast when Janie shamelessly announces she intends to start in on the process of having another baby immediately. Roger must contend with a busty, air-headed seductress (Valerie Varda) who cozies up to him every day on the beach in an overt attempt to lure him into bed. Finally, there is the only solace Roger can find at the end of a long, frustrating day: cozying under the sheets with Peggy. During this time sitcom married couples may still have been sleeping in separate beds, but big screen couples had matured to a more natural setting. The film makes quite clear that the Hobbs still enjoy an active love life (how could Roger ever resist a wife who looks like Maureen O'Hara?) Kirgo also points out that this was one of the first films to depict the gradual disintegration of the American family unit. Everyone seems to want to be in their own space doing their own thing- and this was decades before cell phone and video games. In an extended and highly prescient sequence, Roger attempts to gather the entire clan in the living room for a simple toast. However, he is interrupted by numerous mini-crisis that ultimately leave him entirely alone with a full glass in his hand.
Under the expert direction of Henry Koster, who also directed Stewart in his signature starring role in "Harvey", the pace is brisk and the script by noted scribe Nunnally Johnson provides plenty of funny quips that flow naturally and believably from the characters. The movie mixes laughter with some emotionally touching sequences. Roger takes his estranged son Danny on a simple boating trip only to experience the terror of being caught in a heavy fog and drifting far from shore. Stewart is excellent in this sequence. Roger is clearly frightened to death but manages to retain his calm in order to convince his son that he has the situation under control. The experience finally bonds both father and son. Roger also tries to help 14 year-old Katey cope with the insecurity of feeling unattractive because she wears braces. He brings her to a local dance for teens only to find her sitting as a wallflower. He bribes a young man (then teen idol Fabian) to show some interest in her, and the boy movingly returns the money to Hobbs because he genuinely likes her. (In the film's worst scene, Fabian croons a sugary love song to his new flame, which was due to an obvious contractual clause designed to sell some records.) Gradually, the frustrations of Roger's vacation week begin to resolve themselves and there is the expected happy ending. However, the film has a certain bite that was lacking in most family comedy features until that time. Roger Hobbs clearly loves and cares about his family but he's also not ashamed to be a bit self-indulgent in his desire to put his needs first occasionally.
The Twilight Time release boasts an excellent transfer, an isolated music track for Henry Mancini's score, the original theatrical trailer, an illustrated collector's booklet and a brief Fox Movietone News segment that goes behind the scenes on the set.
of the hallmarks of Don Siegel’s “Dirty Harry” (1971) was the way the director shot
the film on location in San Francisco. From the rooftops of Nob Hill to the
streets and alleys of the Tenderloin, Siegel made the location as much a part
of the story as Harry and the maniacal killer he pursues. But this skillful use
of location was nothing new for Siegel. He had long since mastered that
technique back in the late fifties in films like “The Lineup,” filmed in San
Francisco in 1958, and “Edge of Eternity,” shot in Arizona near the Grand
Canyon a year later.
“The Lineup” Siegel and screenwriter Stirling Silliphant concocted a brilliant
tale with off-beat characters and off-the-wall dialog, and gave movie goers a
breathtaking tour of San Francisco, most of which, sadly, is no longer there.
In “Edge of Eternity,” he had a less compelling script to work with, but the
Technicolor and Cinemascope photography of the Grand Canyon and Lake Mead by
Burnett Guffey more than compensates.
opening shots of “Edge of Eternity” show a car stopping near the edge of the
canyon. A man in a suit gets out of the car. Another man dressed in work
clothes appears and tries to throw him over the edge. A fight ensues, the car
falls into the canyon and in the movie’s first surprise, it’s the second man,
the would-be murderer, who goes over after it.
to Deputy Sheriff Les Martin (Cornell Wilde). Driving around the canyon on
patrol, he comes across the caretaker of an abandoned gold mine who tells him about
the man we saw escape death at the canyon, who’s all beat up and asking for
help from the police. At that moment, Janice
Kendon (Victoria Shaw), daughter of a wealthy mine owner, races past them
recklessly in her gorgeous canary yellow 1958 Thunderbird. Martin ignores the
old timer (it seems he’s kind of a coot, who cries wolf a lot) and pursues
out while he’s busy writing a ticket and flirting with her, the man who got
beat up at the canyon is being murdered back at the old timer’s place. So who
killed him and does it have anything to do with the $20 million we’re told lies
in the mine the government shut down during the war?
are the main plot questions, but who cares? The contrived story isn’t what really
matters in Edge of Eternity. It’s the real-time, real-place feeling that Siegel
manages to put on film that makes this little-known movie worth watching. Seeing
Wilde and Victoria Shaw playing their parts with the Grand Canyon in the
background, you hardly pay attention to the dialog anyway. All you know is
there’s a murder to be solved, some back story guilt to be healed by Wilde, and
a love story to be brought to a happy conclusion. Naturally, Siegel pulls it
off with his usual workman-like skill.
really fascinating thing about this movie, though, is the setting used for the
movie’s climax. When the film was made there was a company known as the U.S. Guano
Corp. The company had found a cave on the far side of the Canyon that was
believed to contain 100,000 tons of bat guano that was rich in nitrogen and
could be sold as fertilizer. The company built an expensive cable car system that
ran a span of 7,500 feet to the cave.
course Deputy Martin and the bad guy (you’ll never guess who it is, wink,
wink) have a big fist fight on the “dancing bucket” as it was affectionately
known, 2,500 feet above the canyon bottom, with Janice holding on for dear
life. Some of the close ups are obviously done with rear projection, but there
are a couple of long shots that make you hold your breath at least for the
stunt men. Overall, it’s an entertaining film with good performances, but I
kept wondering what Stirling Silliphant would have done with a set up like that.
the copy of the film I watched was on DVD and not BluRay, Columbia Classic’s
video release is extremely good. The vistas are pretty sharp and the color
bright. The music by Daniele Amfitheatrof is suitably majestic and well
recorded. Edge of Eternity is definitely worth watching.
for the bat guano operation, in real life the thing turned out to be a bust
when they found there was only 1,000 tons of bat doo-doo, not 100,000 tons and
the site was closed down. Nonetheless it was in operation at the time of
filming, and the producers, Siegel being one of them, ran a credit thanking U.S.
Guano for its assistance in making the movie. That may be the first and only
time Hollywood acknowledged the debt it owes to those who also wield shovels. Credit
where credit is due.
(John M. Whalen is the author of "Hunting Monsters is My Business: The Mordecai Slate Stories" . Click here to order the book from Amazon
at Sea” (1937) is old-school Hollywood at its best -- beautifully directed by
Henry Hathaway, great performances by Gary Cooper, George Raft, and Frances
Dee, wonderful support from a first-rate cast of character actors, and fine
Paramount production values.The script
casts a wide net over at least sixgenres, including maritime adventure, disaster saga, love story, spy
thriller, costume drama, and courtroom mystery.Imagine “Amistad” (1997), “Titanic” (1997), and “Master and Commander:
The Far Side of the World” (2003) combined, with a little music and comedy
added in.It sounds like it should be a
mess, but a strong script by old pros Grover Jones and Dale Van Every pulls it
all together seamlessly.
“Nuggin” Taylor (Cooper), an American seaman and sometimes ship’s officer,
faces charges of murder in a Boston courtroom in 1842 in the deaths of 18
fellow passengers during the sinking of the transatlantic brig William
Brown. Taylor is accused of
commandeering a lifeboat, ejecting other passengers and leaving them to drown,
and killing a fellow traveler, British naval Lt. Tarryton, with whom he had
been on strained terms (Henry Wilcoxon). Taylor refuses to speak in his own defense, and his blemished reputation
as a career slaver seems to substantiate the prosecution’s depiction of a
coward and opportunist. The few survivors
assembled in the courtroom plead on Taylor’s behalf, describing a different
sort of man, but there is one dissenting hold-out among them. Tarryton’s embittered sister Margaret (Dee)
supports the prosecution, even though she was one of the people Taylor
rescued. The jury returns a guilty
verdict, and then, as Taylor is led away, a British government official (George
Zucco) rushes into the courtroom and reveals the true story.
sadly underrated Henry Hathaway is best remembered now as a director of Westerns
who, like his contemporary John Ford, was known for bullying good performances
out of his casts. “Souls at Sea,” like
his earlier Paramount classic with Cooper, “Lives of a Bengal Lancer” (1935),
works perfectly fine as an action drama, but Hathaway also invests it with
great sensitivity in romantic scenes between Cooper and Dee, and between George
Raft as Taylor’s friend Powdah and Olympe Bradna as a winsome lady’s maid who
seeks a new start in America. Cooper and
Raft also click as mismatched but loyal buddies, Cooper crossing the frame with
a long-legged outdoorsman’s walk, Raft matching him with a subdued dancer’s
swagger. The climactic scenes
dramatizing the explosion and sinking of the doomed ship use state-of-the-art
1930s FX, chiefly miniatures and special sets simulating the burning, tilted
ship’s deck. Younger fans accustomed to
CGI may not be impressed, but these old-time FX have their own charm for us
The Universal Studios
Home Entertainment/TCM Vault Collection DVD is a manufactured-on-demand
DVD-R. There’s no chapter menu and no
extras, but the 1.33:1 full frame transfer is acceptable.
Here is the brilliant new teaser campaign for the James Bond film "SPECTRE". What makes it brilliant? Any Bond fan would know...the bullet hole references the final, haunting frame of the 1969 Bond classic "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" starring George Lazenby. In those final moments, Bond's beloved new bride Tracy (Diana Rigg) was murdered by SPECTRE arch villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his henchwoman Irma Bunt. The fact that the franchise is reaching back into its early days in terms of this reference bodes well for the new film. Of course, it could be coincidental that the logo mirrors the final image from "OHMSS", but- given the title- it seems intentional. We shall see... Regardless, we love the fact that the SPECTRE octopus symbol is woven into the logo...
WATCH REPLAY OF THE BOND PRESS ANNOUNCEMENT AT PINEWOOD STUDIOS
UK, December 4, 2014 – 007 Soundstage, Pinewood Studios, London. James Bond
Producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli today released the title of
the 24th James Bond adventure, SPECTRE. The film, from Albert R. Broccoli’s EON
Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, and Sony Pictures Entertainment, is
directed by Sam Mendes and stars Daniel Craig, who returns for his fourth film
as Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007. SPECTRE begins principal photography on
Monday, December 8, and is set for global release on November 6, 2015.
with Daniel Craig, Mendes presented the returning cast, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie
Harris, Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear as well as introducing Christoph Waltz,
Léa Seydoux, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci and Andrew Scott. Mendes also
revealed Bond’s sleek new Aston Martin, the DB10, created exclusively for
cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister
organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service
alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind
007 production will be based at Pinewood Studios, and on location in London,
Mexico City, Rome and Tangier and Erfoud, in Morocco. Bond will return to the
snow once again, this time in Sölden, along with other Austrian locations,
Obertilliach, and Lake Altaussee.
on the announcement, Wilson and Broccoli said, “We’re excited to announce
Daniel’s fourth installment in the series and thrilled that Sam has taken on
the challenge of following on the success of SKYFALL with SPECTRE.”.
by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade, Director of Photography is
Hoyte van Hoytema and Editor is Lee Smith. Production Designer, Dennis Gassner
returns along with Costume Designer, Jany Temime and Composer, Thomas Newman.
Action Specialist, Alexander Witt is the 2nd Unit Director. Stunt Coordinator
is Gary Powell, SFX Supervisor is Chris Corbould, and Visual Effects Supervisor
is Steve Begg.
the 23rd James Bond film, was a worldwide box office phenomenon, opening #1 in
70 territories around the world, taking over $1.1 billion worldwide and setting
a new all-time box office record in the UK by becoming the first film to take over
Minutes ago, director Sam Mendes announced that the new James Bond film title will be "SPECTRE". The announcement was made at the legendary "home" of the 007 franchise, Pinewood Studios on the Albert R. Broccoli 007 Stage. Christoph Waltz was confirmed as the new villain. His character's name was not given, but the title "SPECTRE" gives credence to rumors that he will be playing the arch villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who has not officially appeared in an Eon Bond film since Charles Gray played him opposite Sean Connery in the 1971 film "Diamonds Are Forever".
Returning cast members include Ralph Finnes, Naomi Harris, Ben Wishaw and Rory Kinnear. The writing team from "Skyfall"- John Logan, Neal Purvis and Rob Wade- is also returning.
Bond's new car was also unveiled: the new Aston Martin DB10.
The film is scheduled for release in October 2015.
Altman’s 1974 crime drama, Thieves Like
Us,when viewed today, seems to
be a cross between Bonnie and Clyde (which
preceded Thieves)and O Brother, Where Art
Thou? (which appeared twenty-six years later). It’s the Depression-era
story, based on the novel by Edward Anderson, of a trio of escaped convicts who
go on a bank-robbing spree. But it’s also a love story between one of the
thieves, Bowie (played by a young Keith Carradine), and a country girl, Keechie
(portrayed by a young Shelley Duvall), and this is the aspect of Altman’s film
that truly shines. The novel was also the source inspiration for Nicholas Ray’s
1949 film noir, They Live By Night,
starring Farley Granger and Cathy O’Donnell. As much as I like 1940s and 50s
film noir, for my money, Altman’s is the better version.
who had a decidedly hit-and-miss career over six decades, was on a roll in the
early seventies. Thieves Like Us is
indeed one of his hits—from a critical standpoint—although it didn’t
necessarily do bang-up box office. Filmed on location in Mississippi, Altman
and his production team managed to find authentic 1930s settings, lending a
you-are-there feel to the period piece. More importantly, Altman chose not to
use a traditional musical score but instead relied on vintage radio programs to
fill out the ambiance. That part was a stroke of genius.
director also often utilized a stock company of actors, many of whom appeared
in multiple pictures. In this case, besides Carradine and Duvall—who are
terrific in their roles—there is John Schuck and Bert Remsen as the other two
thieves, and Tom Skerritt as a shady service station owner. Louise Fletcher, in
a pre-Cuckoo’s Nest performance, is
effective as Remsen’s sister-in-law, who aides and abets the criminals until
she has a change of heart.
the picture belongs to Carradine and Duvall, whose love scenes are intimate,
honest, and endearing. Their characters are extremely likable and exude an
innocence that is a counterpoint to the violence depicted in the rest of the
picture. The fact that these two relatively unknown actors (at the time) were
cast as leads attests to the New Hollywood attitude of allowing auteurs do their thing. It’s too bad
that the studios clamped down on risk-taking after the 70s.
Lorber’s Blu-ray has A high-definition transfer of the film—which looks fine—and the theatrical trailer and a commentary by
Altman himself as extras. The location scenery—especially the muddy roads, the
rain, and the back-country hills and shacks, are strikingly beautiful, thanks
to Jean Boffety’s soft cinematography.
of the better “lovers on the run” pictures, Thieves
Like Us is worth grabbing.
long awaited rain couldn’t keep Sony Pictures Home Entertainment from
celebrating the DVD release of Woody Allen’s Magic In The Moonlight with a vintage-themed party at The Crocker
Club in downtown LA on December 2nd.
whimsical 2014 romantic comedy stars Colin Firth as a magician on a mission to
debunk a professional clairvoyant played by Emma Stone. The film was well received during its
theatrical run with reviewers noting the strong performances of Firth and Stone
as well as cinematographer Darius Khondji’s excellent work capturing the French
Riviera of the 1920s. (The two are
already collaborating on Allen’s next film.)
the party, guests could circulate among screen-used costumes from the film as a
tarot card reader and astrologer worked their, um, magic. There was also a hip, young stylist on hand
for guests who wanted a quick touch up. (Unfortunately
she didn’t have the many hours this CR scribe would have needed!)
Allen’s Magic In The Moonlight is
available on digital HD on December 2, with the Blu-ray and DVD release on December
(PHOTOS COURTESY OF SONY PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)
Kino Lorber has released the relatively forgotten 1954 murder thriller "Witness to Murder" on Blu-ray. The flick is film noir in the best tradition: modest budget, creative lighting and cinematography, an inspired cast and a compelling story. Barbara Stanwyck stars as Cheryl Draper, an independent, career-minded woman who has the misfortune to look out the window of her apartment late one windy evening only to observe a murder being committed across the street in another apartment. She is horrified to see an attractive young woman being strangled to death by a well-dressed, middle-aged man. She phones the police and is visited by two detectives: Lawrence Matthews (Gary Merrill) and Eddie Vincent (cigar-chomping Jesse White), who dutifully take the details and head over the apartment where the crime was committed. The murderer is Albert Richter (George Sanders), a snobby author of some repute who has had time to hide the body of the young woman in an adjoining empty apartment. When the detectives arrive to question him, he puts on a masterful performance, pretending he has been awakened from a sound sleep. He convinces the cops that Cheryl must have been dreaming or the lights may have played tricks with her vision. Convinced of his innocence, the cops inform Cheryl they are convinced no crime has been committed, despite her fervent protests that she was not mistaken. Now Cheryl realizes that her own life is in danger. In true film noir fashion, she plays Lois Lane and begins nosing around the building where Richter lives. She even gains access to his apartment when he is out , on the pretense of wanting to rent a similar unit. Before long, she and Richter and locked in a psychological cat-and-mouse game with Richter holding most of the cards. He enacts an elaborate scheme to discredit Cheryl, making it seem as though she suffers from psychological delusions. He even gets her temporarily committed to an asylum. Meanwhile, Cheryl has begun dating Det. Matthews, but still cant convince him that Richter is a murderer- even when it is revealed his is a "reformed" former Nazi.
"Witness to Murder" bares some startling similarities to the work of Alfred Hitchcock, notably "Rear Window", with some doses of "Vertigo" and "North By Northwest" thrown in. However, before you dismiss this film as another pale imitation of The Master's work, keep in mind that it was released before any of those cinematic classics. Director Roy Rowland keeps the suspense rising throughout until the final, nail-biting (if somewhat melodramatic) climax in which Cheryl finds herself menaced by Richter atop a high rise construction site.
The performances are uniformly excellent with Stanwyck playing that rarity in Hollywood movies of the era: a gutsy, intelligent and independent woman. Sanders is in full sneer mode and demonstrates why no one could play a cad like him. He's charming even when he informs you he's about to kill you. The only weak spot is a brief scene that tries to tie Richter's motive for murder into an improbable plan to revive the Third Reich! Beyond that, however, "Witness to Murder" is top notch film noir and is highly recommended.
The Kino Lorber Blu-ray contains a great deal of grain, but that could have been from the original film negative. In any event, it unintentionally adds a bit of extra atmosphere to the black-and-white intrigue. The Blu-ray also contains an original trailer.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from Sony Pictures (UK):
(Pinewood Studios, UK) - On Thursday 4th December at 11:00am GMT (3:00am PST; 6:00am EST) Albert R. Broccoli's EON Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Sony Pictures Entertainment will present a live announcement and photo call from the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios. The title and cast of the 24th Bond film will be revealed, marking the start of principal photography on Monday 8th December. A global audience will be able to watch the announcement live via a web stream atwww.007.com
The legendary Albert R. Broccoli 007 Stage is located on Broccoli Road at Pinewood Studios.
(Photo copyright Cinema Retro. All rights reserved.)
·The announcement of the title and cast for the 24th Bond film will be streamed live on www.007.com and distributed live via satellite
·The announcement will also be live-tweeted via the official James Bond handle @007
Burt Reynolds' rise to fame and fortune was one of the great Hollywood success stories. Reynolds broke into acting in the 1950s but found the road to stardom blocked by a factor he could not control: his physical resemblance to Marlon Brando. But Reynolds persevered, landing a recurring supporting role on the legendary TV show "Gunsmoke". He also starred in two detective shows in the late 1960s and early 1970s: "Hawk" and "Dan August" as well as a number of "B" feature films like "Skullduggery", "Navajo Joe" and "Sam Whiskey". By the early 1970s, a new side of Reynolds began to emerge as he became a popular guest on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" as well as various game shows that allowed him to show off his knack for off-the-cuff witticisms and self-deprecating humor. Yet, stardom on the big screen still eluded him despite top-lining in the 1972 cop satire "Fuzz" with Raquel Welch and Yul Brynner. He wisely promoted his nude centerfold spread in "Playgirl" magazine into a bonanza of free publicity that made him an international celebrity. Later in 1972, major success finally landed at his door step when Reynolds' was given star billing along with Jon Voight in director John Boorman's classic screen adaptation of James Dickey's "Deliverance". The film was a major hit with both the public and critics. Finally, Reynolds was more than just another pretty face on the silver screen. After "Deliverance", Reynolds' rise to stardom was meteoric. He could seemingly do no wrong. He became one of the most popular male sex symbols in the world. Along with his contemporary, Clint Eastwood, he ruled the international box-office. (The two actors posed for the cover of Time magazine, which anointed them the new kings of Hollywood.) Reynolds epitomized the very definition of being a "star" in that audiences flocked to his films even when they weren't very good. He deftly deviated between first class, sophisticated films "Starting Over" and popular fodder for the drive-in audience, such as his "Smokey and the Bandit" flicks.
By the mid-1980s, however, Reynolds' armor was beginning to tarnish. He made a few too many lousy movies and even his core audience began to tire of this predictable fare. (He would later lament turning down Jack Nicholson's Oscar-winning role in "Terms of Endearment" to film a little remembered cornpone bomb, "Stroker Ace.") While Clint Eastwood studiously built his reputation as both actor and director, often turning out box-office bombs that were nevertheless critical successes, Reynolds suffered from over-exposure. He was literally everywhere, epitomizing the old joke that he so loved the spotlight that he struck a pose every time he opened the refrigerator door. Unlike Eastwood, who realized that a major movie star should limit his exposure on television, Reynolds cheapened his image by appearing on seemingly every show imaginable. By 1984, he was deemed box-office poison. Eastwood tried to help his old friend by teaming with him in the retro-based crime comedy "City Heat". A few years earlier, the film would have been a blockbuster based on the pairing of these two stars, but the movie turned out to be a debacle with director Blake Edwards quitting and being replaced by Richard Benjamin. The movie received poor reviews and even loyal Eastwood fans stayed away. Worse for Reynolds, a mistimed stunt resulted in his being seriously injured. He was out of action for many months recuperating from an operation during which time tabloids cruelly spread the rumor that he was dying of AIDS. Reynolds recovered and slogged through a string of mediocre feature films and TV movies before unexpectedly receiving the best reviews of his career as the pornographer in the 1997 film "Boogie Nights". He won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and received an Oscar nomination as well. Although considered the sentimental favorite, he didn't win and surprisingly tarnished his hot streak by returning to the genre of forgettable TV movies. In the ensuing years, Reynolds suffered severe medical problems that saw him undergo heart surgery. Additionally, apparent plastic surgery on his face resulted in plenty of nasty tabloid stories that bluntly stated that his looks were now ruined. Reynolds' messy love life also made headlines over the years and resulted in an expensive divorce settlement with actress Lonnie Anderson. The couple's split was one of the nastiest in Hollywood history with sordid charges flying back and forth including Anderson's allegations of physical abuse. Simultaneously, Reynolds' business investments began to go south, as well. A dinner theater and investment in a restaurant chain cost him millions in losses.
Better times: Reynolds and old friend Eastwood on the cover of Time magazine, January 1978.
Now Burt Reynolds is facing another indignity: the loss of his palatial Florida mansion, which he had once tried to sell for up to $10 million. He has since dropped the price to just under $3 million, but there are still no takers. Banks hold the mortgage on the property and Bank of America claims he hasn't made a payment in four years. To raise money, Reynolds is selling of many of his prized personal possessions, from the canoe from "Deliverance" to his Golden Globe and autographed photographs given to him by legendary personalities. These items, along with hundreds of others, were once on display at the Burt Reynolds Museum in his home town of Jupiter, Florida. The auction will take place in December 11-12 in Las Vegas, handled by Julien's. Whether the one-time superstar will realize enough profits from the sale to help alleviate his dire financial crisis remains to be seen.
moviegoers who want to immerse themselves in two hours of bittersweet romantic
misery are likely to go see “The Fault in Our Stars,” “If I Stay,” or “The Best
of Me.”In 1955, the comparable ticket
was “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing,” based on Han Suyin’s bestselling 1952
book.Thanks to Twilight Time’s
limited-edition Blu-ray of the 20th
Century Fox film, today’s devotees of Nicholas Sparks and John Green have an
opportunity to see what made their grandmothers cry as twenty-somethings in the
Eisenhower era, while veteran fans of, uh, more mature age can enjoy Han’s
tragic love story again in beautiful hi-def CinemaScope and Color by DeLuxe.
fictionalized memoir related the story of her love affair with a war
correspondent, whom she called Mark Elliott, in 1949 Hong Kong. The circumstances of the affair were
provocative for the time. The widowed
Han, a medical resident at the crown colony’s Victoria Hospital, had mixed-race
parentage (Chinese father, Belgian mother). Elliott was a married American, although the marriage was strained and
he and his wife lived apart. How times
have changed, in real life as in the movies. In 2014, neither the one partner’s race nor the other’s marital status
would pose much of a challenge in most social circles. If you’re a 20-year-old viewer today, you may
have to check your instinct to judge the story by those more tolerant
standards, in which race isn’t a game-changer at all. Nowadays, in the rare event that a cultural
difference between lovers is needed as a dramatic complication in a movie or TV
show, it’s likely to be expressed in terms of supernatural fantasy, not
race. By that measure, you may care that
one partner is human and the other is a vampire. But that one sweetheart is part Asian and the
other Caucasian? Not so much.
convention of the time isn’t merely irrelevant in today’s ethnically diverse
cinema -- it’s embarrassing. In the
movie, Suyin is played by a fully Caucasian actress, Jennifer Jones, who
doesn’t look particularly Asian, even with make-up. Suyin has a younger sister in China, Suchin,
played by Donna Martell, who appears even less Asian than Jones. A friend in Hong Kong also of mixed
parentage, Suzanne, portrayed by Jorja Curtright, looks less Asian yet. There are plenty of Asian actors in the film,
including such familiar and welcome faces as Richard Loo, Philip Ahn, Beulah
Quo, and James Hong, but they’re relegated to supporting roles. It’s true that the movie could hardly have
been green-lighted as a major production in 1955 without a star like Jones in
top-billing, and that Asian actresses with that sort of clout were non-existent
then. But still. Jones also tends to play her scenes in
somewhat stilted, old-school style, yet another thing that today’s younger
viewers may have to adjust to. William
Holden, at the top of his game as Mark, brings a more relaxed method of acting,
but even his dialogue becomes a little pompous at times: “That reminds me of a line in that poem by
Century Fox dressed up the movie with all the amenities that A-picture budgets
could provide in 1955. These values remain
impressive almost 60 years later: a stirring score by Alfred Newman, which also
yielded the hit title song as a chart-topper by the Four Aces (another sign of
changing times -- can you imagine the Four Aces on the 2014 charts alongside
Robin Thicke and Jay Z?), exotic on-location exterior shots in Hong Kong, and
ravishing color design. The Twilight
Time Blu-ray, limited to 3,000 units, includes a sharp 1080p transfer, an
isolated music track, a souvenir booklet by Julie Kirgo, and a fine commentary
track by Jon Burlingame, Michael Lonzo, and Sylvia Stoddard. Fox Movietone News clips from 1955 show
Holden and producer Buddy Adler accepting honors at a couple of industry award
ceremonies, reminding us that Hollywood loved to celebrate itself long before
“Entertainment Tonight” and “Access Hollywood” came along.
Twilight Time Blu-ray limited edition of “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing” can
be ordered HERE.
never had a chance to see these two legendary westerns that were made
back-to-back in the mid-1960s, presented by Roger Corman, directed and
co-produced by Monte Hellman, and starring a young Jack Nicholson (among
others), for they were elusive. I’d heard they were quirky, moody, and very
different takes on the western genre, so I was excited to hear that The
Criterion Collection was releasing both pictures as a double-bill on one
Blu-ray disc. Now you, too, can view these strange little movies in all of
their high definition glory.
was one of the few directors that producer Corman would let helm pictures for
his studio, which at that time was famous for low-budget horror films,
youth-in-rebellion pictures, and, later, rock ‘n’ roll counterculture flicks.
Jack Nicholson was also involved with Corman since the late fifties, doing much
of his pre-Easy Rider work for the
producer as an actor and sometimes writer. In this case, Nicholson served as
co-producer (with Hellman) on both pictures and wrote the script for Ride in the Whirlwind. At first, Hellman
presented Corman with the script for The
Shooting, written by Carole Eastman (using the pseudonym “Adrien Joyce” and
who would later write the screenplay for Five
Easy Pieces). Corman suggested that Hellman shoot two westerns at the same
time to get more bang for the buck, so to speak. Therefore, Nicholson came up
with Whirlwind and both movies were
shot together in the Utah desert with the same crew and most of the same cast.
The two motion pictures were seen at several film festivals in 1966 and the
distribution rights were bought by the Walter Reade Organization, which
promptly sold them to television. They were broadcast sometime in 1968 and were
then lost in limbo.
The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind could be called “existential westerns” because
they are indeed philosophical, atmospheric, and, well, arty. Very arty. Corman
had insisted that Hellman and Nicholson add more action to both scripts—which
they did—but you still can’t say these are in any way typical westerns. At a
time when Sergio Leone was tearing up the genre Italian-style, it’s no wonder
that the two pictures slipped into obscurity.
the one hand, both films are interesting simply because it’s fun to see the
young actors that appear in them—Nicholson, Warren Oates, Millie Perkins (the
original Anne Frank from the 1959 The
Diary of Anne Frank, now a grown up and a babe), Harry Dean Stanton (billed
as “Dean Stanton”), and a not-so-young Cameron Mitchell. No one in the films,
except maybe Mitchell, looks particularly comfortable on a horse; it’s rather
obvious that these actors are “playing at” being in a western. Other positive
aspects include the cinematography—by Gregory Sandor, for both pictures—and the
strange musical scores—by Richard Markowitz (The Shooting) and Robert Jackson Drasnin (Ride in the Whirlwind).
the other hand, as narrative westerns, they don’t measure up. The acting is,
for the most part, pretty bad. Nicholson is the heavy in The Shooting, and he spends most of the time sneering. The
higher-pitched voice of the young Nicholson doesn’t really work for the
character; he is much better in Whirlwind
as one of the good guys. Oates is suitably ornery but not much else. Perkins
seems like a fish out of water in both films. Will Hutchins, who plays Oates’
simple-minded sidekick, straddles a fine line between being quite effective and
incredibly annoying. Mitchell is forgettable. Stanton is—well, Harry Dean
If there’s one overriding reason to view “The Lords of
Flatbush”, it is to watch a young Sylvester Stallone steal every scene he’s
in.This was two years before his star
making turn in “Rocky”, but there’s a sense that Stallone knew his career was
at a crossroads and he needed to turn in a command performance.The joy in watching him, though, is because
he doesn’t take focus by chewing the scenery.No, Stallone is downright subtle in this movie.To watch him here is to see a smart young
actor at work, not a bloated movie star.
Stallone, along with Henry Winkler, Perry King, and
Paul Mace, star as “The Lords,” (comically misspelled as “Lord’s” on the backs
of their leather jackets), a gang of shiftless teens in late 1950s
Brooklyn. High school is almost over,
though, and the boys are beginning to understand that the future looks awfully
big and empty.
King is “Chico”, the inarticulate lover boy. Stallone is “Stanley,” the group’s muscle.
Winkler and Mace are “Butchey,” and “Wimp,” the wise guys of the group. The gang’s life consists of hanging out at
the pool hall, or the all night malt shop. At one point they steal a car, but they aren’t bright enough to be
competent criminals. They like to talk about “busting heads,” but in the
movie’s single fight scene they don’t seem to be particular handy with their
fists. These photogenic losers find their uneventful existence interrupted by
two things: Chico falls hard for a new girl in school (Susan Blakely), and
Stanley learns that his mouthy girlfriend is pregnant. Though Chico and the new girl provide the
traditional “nice girl/bad boy” love angle, it’s the plot about Stanley that
provides the film with its heart.
Stallone is a whirling dervish of activity in this
movie. He’s constantly cracking his knuckles, slapping his hands together, or
craning his neck, as if he’s simply too dynamic to be contained in a movie frame. Watch him in scenes where the group is
walking together. He’s continually in
motion, hitching his shoulders, munching a toothpick, reaching up to knock a
leaf from an overhead branch, doing
anything to take attention from his co-stars. And it works. He’s the guy we
watch. The scene where Frannie (Maria
Smith, looking like a pint sized Fran Drescher) enters the pool hall and
demands Stanley marry her is mesmerizing. Not believing she’s pregnant, he kneels by a table and grabs a cue ball.
He plays gently with it, listening to her describe their future together. There
is anxiety on Stanley’s face, but also resignation. He cracks a few jokes, but we can see him
sweating. Childhood’s end is near. He is
about to walk stoop shouldered into adulthood, complete with screaming babies
and talky wives.
Nostalgia pieces about the ‘50s were big business in
the ‘70s (think “American Graffiti”, “Grease”, “The Wanderers”, etc). Audiences
paid good money to see flashy old cars, greased pompadours, and hear some
period music. As one critic noted in his
review of “Lords”, “by conjuring up the
magic appearance of that era, a kind of off-beat joy fills the theater,” and
that the gang’s striving for coolness was “perversely thrilling.” “The Lords of Flatbush” rode the nostalgia
wave and was a surprise hit, but it had plenty working against it, not the
least of which was that the four male leads and Blakely were too old to be
playing high school kids. Also, the
ersatz rock and roll score by Joe Brooks and Paul Jabara pales next to the
soundtrack of “American Graffiti”. (In fairness, many people are fond of the
“Lords” soundtrack, and Brooks and Jabara did go on to become successful
an animal energy in the movie, particularly in scenes involving Stallone. I loved how a friendly punching game with
King escalates into sudden, explosive violence. The two also have a scene on a
rooftop where Stallone offers a bizarre monolog about pigeons. Stallone allegedly wrote some of his own dialog
for the movie, and his rooftop prattle sounds a bit like something Rocky Balboa
might say a few years later.
Though many reviewers appreciated the film as a sort of
pop artifact, not everyone was impressed. Jay Cocks of Time magazine pronounced
it “pretty flimsy stuff.” Others, like
John Simon of the National Review, described it as “a film awful enough to
strangle talent in the cradle.” William
Sarmento , the curmudgeonly critic of the Lowell Sun, was so annoyed by the
film’s grainy look that he derided “Lords” as “an amateurish home movie,” and
“exasperatingly inept.” Meanwhile, Roger
Ebert wrote that the film “did a good job of seeing past its black leather
jackets and into the hearts of the essentially immature and unsure people who
wore them.” Oakland critic Robert
Taylor may have given the film its most accurate notice by writing that it was
like “a quick flip through a fat ‘50s wallet crammed with snapshots.”
Co-director and producer Stephen Verona spent three
years putting "The Lords of Flatbush" together. Inspired by the foreign films he’d seen
during the 1960s, Verona set about making his own statement about the life he’d
known. He had the idea to revisit the
1950s long before it was fashionable, but it took so long to fund his production
that the 1950s craze began without him. Raising money by putting the squeeze on “friends, family, and crazy
people,” Verona gathered $50,000, and shot the film in five weeks in 1972. Verona and co-director Martin Davidson shot
some more scenes and fiddled with the ending before selling their feature to
Columbia. When it became one of the sleeper hits of the season, Verona claimed that the simpler codes of
the 1950s were a key to the movie’s success.
"You knew the good guys from the bad guys by the
way they cut their hair, and the clothes they wore,” Verona said in a 1974
interview. “But what we tried to get across in this picture was that we all had
the same problems. We all wanted the girl, and the car."
Verona certainly had an eye for new talent. Along with
Stallone and Winkler, Verona also chose a very young Richard Gere to be part of
the original cast as Chico. According to ‘The Making of The Lords of Flatbush’,
Verona’s 2008 memoir, there was “a glitch in the chemistry” between Stallone
and Gere. Much of the script was written
through improvisations involving Gere and Stallone, but Verona knew that Gere
had to go. “Here they were supposed to be best friends” Verona wrote, “and in
real life they didn’t like each other.” Pointing to Stallone’s “immense imagination and focus,” it wasn’t a hard
decision to keep Sly and give Gere the boot. With a bit of amateur psychology, it’s easy to see why the two young
actors didn’t get along. Like Stallone, the young Gere was another twitchy
scene stealer. One can imagine Stallone
seeing Gere and thinking, Here’s a guy I might not be able to upstage. Hence,
friction. That’s my hunch, anyway. Perry King, destined for a long TV career
but not movie stardom, had a less showy acting style, so Stallone was probably
less threatened by him.
Click here to view the long-awaited teaser trailer for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens". Fans hope that more than the Force will be reawakened with this film, which they hope will restore the franchise to its former glory.
Fans of legendary director Brian De Palma
lovingly recall how the auteur’s early thrillers contained at least one sequence
which employed the split-screen technique (a device by which two moving images
are projected simultaneously onto separate parts of the screen). This
technique, when used properly, is capable of generating extreme suspense and
involvement in an already enthralled audience. De Palma masterfully used the
split-screen in his still-underrated, 1973 debut thriller, Sisters (as well as in many of his later cinematic masterpieces
such as Carrie and Dressed to Kill), milking certain scenes
for every bit of tension and suspense possible. Now, if the split-screen was
that effective in just a few sequences, wouldn’t using it throughout an entire
film cause maximum suspense and entertainment? That’s the question the
filmmakers of Wicked, Wicked not only
asked, but bravely attempted to answer.
Writer-director Richard L. Bare came up
with the idea of filming an entire movie in split-screen (here dubbed
Duo-Vision) while simply driving home one day. Bare, who is best known for
directing most episodes of the 1960s sitcom Green
Acres, saw the line that divided the road and realized that he was viewing
one side of the freeway and the other simultaneously. He immediately decided to
shoot an entire movie this way. The idea proved to be quite a Herculean
undertaking as Bare had to first write a script which constantly contained two
separate scenes side by side where, normally, there would be only one. More
than up for the challenge, Bare came up with a story involving a disturbed,
young man (Randolph Roberts from Happy Days)
with a mommy fixation who murders any blonde-haired women that happen to be
staying at the old hotel where he’s currently employed. (The young madman also
lives inside the walls of the hotel where he can easily spy on all the guests,
making the plot a fun combination of The
Phantom of the Opera and Psycho.)
The hotel detective (Another World’sDavid Bailey) races against time while
desperately trying to find and stop the masked lunatic before he can reach his
next target: the beautiful hotel lounge singer (played by the always welcome
Tiffany Bolling from Kingdom of the
Spiders who belts out all of this film’s many tunes herself). The unique
movie also features several highly recognizable faces from 1960s/70s cinema and
television such as Scott Brady (The Night
Strangler), Edd Byrnes (Grease),
Madeleine Sherwood (The Flying Nun),
Diane McBain (Spinout), Roger Bowen (M.A.S.H.,1970) and Arthur O’Connell (Fantastic
Voyage). Due to the split-screen
process, the actual filming took double the time it normally would have and the
film’s budget doubled as well. It also took a whopping 32 weeks to edit Wicked, Wicked which is about five times
the amount it would have taken to edit a standard film.
So, was Duo-Vision worth it? Overall, I
have to say no. I think the film would have worked just fine without it (as
well as saved a lot of time and money) because the split-screen really doesn’t
accomplish all it should in terms of suspense here. Also, seeing two actions
simultaneously may be interesting at first, but, after about ten minutes, you
get used to it and it feels just like any other movie. This process really only
works when it heightens the suspense, a la De Palma, and, unfortunately,
Richard Bare, although more than competent, is not in the same league as the
master filmmaker. That being said, I enjoyed the film itself. Sure, the story
is derivative and a bit (intentionally) silly in spots, but it’s still an
entertaining enough psychofilm with a solid, likeable cast and a fun hotel
setting. I also recommend checking it out in order to see the results of the
time and effort the filmmakers put into this extremely ambitious project.
Wicked, Wicked has been released
as a DVD-R from Warner Archive. The film is presented in its original 2:35:1
aspect ratio and, although the colors seem a bit washed out, the movie is more
than watchable. It’s also the only way you may be able to see this film at the
moment due to the fact that Warner most likely has no plans to release it in a
re-mastered version. (Most titles released in the DVD-R format aren’t really in
high enough demand, so money won’t be spent to re-master them properly.) The
audio is terrific and the disc also contains the original theatrical trailer
(which isn’t in Duo-Vision, but, color-wise, is actually much more vibrant than
the film itself) as well as the eye-catching, original poster artwork which is
featured on the DVD’s sleeve, menu and disc itself.
We all think we know what goes into staging a major
theatrical production. There is a writer and a script. There are actors, a
director, scenery and props. We realize that there are people behind the scenery
and props and probably a few other people whose responsibilities we can’t be
certain of. "Theatreland", from the people at the educational DVD
company, Athena,fills us in on all the things between the lines, between the
words and between productions at the same theatre, thus affording us an inside
look at the staging a major theatrical event..
Filmed over the course of six months at the Theatre Royal Haymarket Theatre in
London's West End "Theatreland" follows Sean Mathias as he begins his
term as Artistic Director of the esteemed venue. He has two high profile
productions he is preparing: Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" and
a new play based on Truman Capote's "Breakfast at Tiffany's". There isn't anywhere the camera doesn't take us. From rehearsal space to stage,
from designing a set to dismantling it, from the dressing rooms to the lobby
bar, we get a look at everything and everyone that makes a theatre production
run. We follow the actors through rehearsals. We follow the carpenters and
painters who build the sets. We follow the theatre manager and staff, from
backstage to front of house and learn just how much goes into putting a
production together. We are treated to all this in one of London's theatre
jewels, first built in 1720, moved to the south side of the street 100 years
later and said to be haunted by the
ghost of one of its former managers. Renovated over 100 years ago, the Theatre Royal Haymarket is in constant
need of maintenance. We watch repairmen work. We watch ushers work. We watch,
well, you get the idea. The delight of it all is we also get to observe such
talented actors as Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart in "Waiting for
Godot" and Anna Friel and Joseph Cross in "Breakfast in
Tiffany's" as they prepare and perform.
We learn how a set goes from an artist's model
through its off-site construction and rebuilding at the theatre. It's a
wondrous process to see. Especially when the Theatre Royal Haymarket stage
switches out from the sparse, barren set of "Godot" to the
three-story, colorful and rotating set of "Tiffany's." If this
documentary had been written by Dr. David Reuben in the 1960s it may have been
titled "Everything You've Always Wanted to Know About Theatre: But Were
Afraid to Ask." Don't be afraid of this DVD, though; it is both highly
educational and entertaining. Hopefully you won't need the subtitles; some of
the Cockney accents can be difficult!
about domineering fathers and neglected offspring are at least as old as the
Bible and Shakespeare. Gilles Legrand’s
“You Will Be My Son” (2012) is a worthy addition to the genre.
de Marseul (Niels Arestrup) is distressed to learn that his friend Francois
Amelot (Patrick Chesnais) has been diagnosed with pancreatic
cancer. Paul is the wealthy owner of a
French vineyard, and Francois has served for more than 30 years as his estate
manager: “a fancy name for winemaker,” Francois comments. When Francois announces that he’s too weak
from his illness to begin the new production season, Paul’s son Martin (Lorant Deutsch) steps up,
eager to take on the responsibility. He
handles sales for the company, and he knows Francois’ routine through years of
observation. But Paul has no faith in
Martin’s abilities as a vintner, and the two men moreover have a strained
personal relationship. Paul instead
gravitates to Francois’ son Philippe (Nicolas Bridet), who has returned from
America after hearing of his father’s illness. To Paul, Philippe is everything that his own son isn’t -- charming,
self-confident, and by instinct and experience, a promising winemaker. As Paul begins to displace Martin with
Philippe, symbolically at first and then with the idea of making Philippe his
son through legal action, resentments seethe and eventually explode.
In an American version 50 or 60 years ago, Paul would have been
played by a powerhouse like Rod Steiger, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, or Spencer
Tracy. Niels Arestrup (who may be
familiar to U.S. audiences from roles in “War Horse” and “The Diving Bell and
the Butterfly”) invests the role with comparable ferocity. Deutsch and Bridet (who would have been
Anthony Perkins and Ben Gazzara opposite Steiger or Cobb back in the day) offer
solid support. The scenes between
Arestrup and Deutsch are so raw and real that the confrontations are almost as
painful for the viewer as for the emotionally starved Martin. Equally fine performances are provided by
Chesnais as the ailing Francois and Valérie Mairesse as his outspoken spouse
Madeleine, who watch the situation with growing dismay, and Anne Marivin as
Martin’s supportive wife Alice.
As Paul confronts Martin, Martin confronts Philippe, and Alice
confronts Paul, you’re initially inclined to regard Paul and Philippe as the
villains and Martin as the victim with whom you should sympathize. However, as the story progresses, Legrand
begins to paint the characters in more ambiguous shades. A development late in the movie seems like a
macabre twist out of a Guy de Maupassant tale, setting up what would appear to
be a happy ending for some of the characters. But is it a happy ending?
Cohen Media Group’s classy Blu-ray includes a sharp transfer in
French with English subtitles, deleted scenes, interviews with Deutsch and
Legrand, the theatrical trailer, and a handsome inset booklet with credits and
stills from the movie.
Dr. Mark Davidson (John Neville) comes back to the Space research lab with a
new wife, his government superiors want to know more about her. And why are
scientists all over the world who are also working on the same equation as his
collegues - the ability to use mental projection to travel to the other side of
the galaxy - dying in the exact same way? Could the fact that his wife appears
impervious to pain and unable to blink be a clue as to her potential
extra-terrestrial origins? These are the questions Unearthly Stranger
raises and then sets out to answer in a fairly breathless fashion. Although a
considerable amount of time is spent on men in suits talking to each other in
offices, the film represents the power of a good idea. As Dr. Davidson
gradually comes to learn the truth about his wife it is truly heartbreaking.
Great performances and excellent black and white cinematography give the film a
power it may have lacked in the hands of a more pedestrian filmmaker.
John Krish was best known for his work on 1960s British television including The
Saint and The Avengers, and he packs a lot of plot into the film's
brief running time. Unearthly Stranger most closely resembles an episode
of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, if it was scripted by
John Wyndham (author of 'The Midwich Cuckoos' and 'Day of the Triffids'). In
actual fact the film was written by Rex Carlton, whose best known credit is the
infamous The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962). Where that film fails on
virtually every level, Unearthly Stranger was produced by Albert Fennel
who was also responsible for The Innocents (1961), Night of the Eagle
(1962), and later on Legend of Hell House (1973), all now considered
classics of British horror cinema. His experience, also honed in television,
helped Unearthly Stranger share a similar level of quality.
many other black and white British science fiction films of the period, this
film depicts a 'cosy apocalypse'. The world could potentially come to an end,
but we can be damned civilized about it. As such it would make a good companion
film to The Earth Dies Screaming (1964) or Invasion (1965), the
latter also shortly receiving a DVD release from Network.
British Film' collection was launched by Network Distributing last year and
they plan to release over 450 vintage films on blu ray or DVD over a five-year
period. From classics such as Victim (1961) and Countess Dracula
(1971) to long-unavailable shockers like Baby Love (1968) and The
Nightcomers (1971), and with plenty of other rarities in-between, it is a
project for retro movie fans to keep a close eye on.
Unearthly Stranger can be ordered from Network Distributing here.
first time a comedy swept the Academy Awards was in 1934, when Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night took home the
prizes for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Clark Gable), Best Actress
(Claudette Colbert), and Best Screenplay. (The next time all five major awards
were snagged by one picture was in 1975 for One
Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.)
was the beginning of the screwball comedy movement. It Happened One Night may not have been the first screwball comedy,
and it may not even really be a
screwball comedy (according to critics Molly Haskell and Phillip Lopate, in a
video conversation supplement in which they discuss screwball comedies, Happened is lacking in the chaotic
elements that one would find in, say, Twentieth
Century, which came out the same year, or even Bringing Up Baby, perhaps the quintessential screwball comedy). But
while Capra’s beloved film is often lumped into the category of screwballs, one
thing is certain—it’s the archetype for the modern American romantic comedy. And Hollywood keeps
remaking it, so to speak, over and over.
picture came out in early 1934 when the movie business was still in the
“pre-Code” era (the Hays Code didn’t kick in full-force until July 1 of that
year), so Capra and company were able to get away with some rather risqué
elements, such as two unmarried people bunking up in a motel together with only
the “wall of Jericho” between them. Or Clark Gable demonstrating the fine art
of how men remove their clothes. Or Claudette Colbert revealing her shapely
gams in order to catch a ride on the road. Yes, that’s one thing we learn from It Happened One Night—how to hitchhike.
Capra was hired by the poverty-row studio, Columbia, as the talkies began, and
in a few short years the director elevated the company to the majors. He then
began a hugely successful run, winning three Best Director Oscars in five
years. His pictures later became known as “Capra-corn,” for their idealistic
and sometimes sentimental look at Americana. But, as pointed out in the
excellent supplemental documentary included on the disc, Capra’s films
definitely had a dark side to them. Perhaps not so much in Happened, but the evil that men do is certainly present in, say, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington or It’s a Wonderful Life.
It Happened One
an excellent lesson in screenwriting, structure, dialogue, and pacing. It’s a
near-perfect picture, and it’s still funny today. Gable is at his most winning.
Colbert is terrific, although it’s stated several times throughout the
supplements how much of a snooty b*tch she was during filming—she didn’t want
to make the picture, complained the entire time, insisted on twice her normal
salary to do it, and told friends after its completion that she’d just made the
worst movie in her career. She changed her tune after winning the Oscar, and
then she had nothing but praise for Capra and the film. Those fickle movie
does their usual bang-up job. The new 4K digital restoration is gorgeous.
Extras include the previously mentioned Haskell/Lopate video; the
feature-length documentary on Capra, Frank
Capra’s American Dream; an interview with Frank Capra Jr. from 1999; a new
digital transfer of Capra’s very first film, the silent 1921 Fultah Fisher’s Boarding House, with a
new score by Donald Sosin; and—the most interesting—the hour-long televised AFI
tribute to Capra from 1982 (it’s great fun playing spot the celebs!). An essay
by critic Farran Smith Nehme fills the glossy booklet.
of Menace: The Business of Horror Cinema
by Richard Nowell
229 x 152 mm
REVIEW BY ADRIAN SMITH
Many books have been written about
the horror genre, from almost every conceivable perspective. Here however, is a
somewhat different approach: the horror industry as an economy. Films, after
all, require finance, and whilst artistic decisions are usually at the
forefront of analysis, without the money men in the background cinema as we
know it would not exist today.
Menace, with a
tribute to William Castle on its cover, attempts to give the reader a history
of the horror genre from the 1930s Universal cycle through to the American
remakes of today. A collection of essays on the horror genre, one will also
find an in-depth look at the re-launch of Hammer as a brand and business
entity, the zombies of Poverty Row and many more. It is a fascinating approach
to the subject and causes the reader to ponder issues in a way they were
probably not thought of before, such as the economic power of atmosphere; what
exactly is atmosphere and how is it defined and turned into a commodity by
filmmakers? Using the unsettling British horror City of the Dead (1960,
U.S. title Horror Hotel) as an example, Robert Spadoni discusses how the
film foregrounds atmosphere over narrative and how the two are often in
conflict with each other.
This collection helps redress the
balance between an understanding of the horror film as an entertainment medium
and as a business. This will be of great interest to fans of the genre, but
also points out wider issues that go beyond horror into the film industry as a
whole. It is often said that you will always make money in the film business
from horror and sex. Perhaps this suggests an obvious direction for Nowell's
It's always fun to look back on how retro films were regarded by critics at the time of their initial release. Here is the evaluation of Frank Sinatra's 1967 hit "Tony Rome" as written by a new, upcoming film critic named Roger Ebert!
Intrada has released a new, definitive CD of Henry Mancini's classic score for Howard Hawks' "Hatari!". See below for description from Screen Archives:
World premiere release
of actual Henry Mancini soundtrack to terrific Howard Hawks adventure film set
in Africa, starring John Wayne, Elsa Martinelli, Red Buttons. Wayne and company
capture rare animals for various world zoos. Some species are easier to catch
than others. Elephants inspire Mancini to create legendary tune "Baby
Elephant Walk", available for first time ever in its original soundtrack
guise. Famous swaggering tune for high register Eb clarinet also figures during
climactic "Search For Dallas". Leopard, buffalo, monkey, giraffe,
ostrich all get their say but incredibly dangerous rhino sequences are what
bring out Mancini's equally legendary main theme, often heard on choir of
French horns in unison. In 1962, Mancini re-recorded just 30 minutes of
highlights for admittedly sensational RCA album. Now enjoy Mancini's complete
original recordings, presented mostly in stereo from Paramount Pictures scoring
session elements. A few sections required use of mono stems to allow restoration
of complete soundtrack. This new hour long release carries landmark
significance: every Mancini album during this most famous period of his career
(Breakfast At Tiffany's, Hatari, Charade, Experiment In Terror, The Pink
Panther) was heavily truncated and completely re-arranged with emphasis on
dance mood. Along with new release of Charade, this marks exciting debut of an
actual Mancini soundtrack from the era! Danger, romance, thrills, comedy, all
getting rich Mancini melody! Unforgettable original campaign artwork is icing
on the cake. Henry Mancini conducts. Available while quantities and interest
remain. - Douglass Fake Intrada Producer
01. The Sounds Of Hatari 4:17
02. Main Title 2:35
03. Safari Bar Piano Blues 1:24
04. Giraffe Country 1:34
05. Just For Tonight (Instrumental) 2:10
06. Paraphrase I 1:40
07. Night Side 2:35
08. Dallas Has A Plan 1:31
09. Trip To Masai Wells 1:06
10. Indian Comes Home 0:58
11. Just For Tonight (Solo Piano) 2:24
12. Swift Animal Chase 0:49
13. Dead Elephant 0:37
14. Night Side (Record Player) 2:19
15. Leopard And Buffalo 1:51
16. The Crocodile 1:08
17. Your Father’s Feathers 1:50
18. Baby Elephant Walk (Short) 1:57
19. Crocodile, Go Home! 1:10
20. Big Band Bwana 1:46
21. Paraphrase II 1:26
22. Wildebeest Hunt 2:36
23. Brandy Sniffer 2:09
24. Ice Bucket Blues 1:42
25. Monkey Suits 2:04
26. Baby Elephant Walk (Long) 3:14
27. Elephant Scare 0:49
28. More Rhino 0:53
29. Burnt Fingers 2:59
30. Search For Dallas 4:23
31. Just For Tonight (Chorus) 2:10
32. Finale 0:19
Timeless Media has reissued it's massive set "M Squad: The Complete TV Series Special Edition" containing all 117 episodes of the gritty show that ran for three seasons on American TV commencing in 1957. The series was known for its hard-hitting and realistic look at crime in and around Chicago. Lee Marvin starred as Lt. Frank Ballinger, a no-nonsense cop assigned to crack down on organized crime in the vicinity. Like "The Naked City", "East Side, West Side" and "The Untouchables", the show was credited for having intelligent, believable scripts and fine performances from the cast and guest stars. The program's success helped to pave the way for Lee Marvin to be a major presence on the big screen.
The initial Timeless Media release of this set was released in 2008 and contained a special bonus soundtrack CD (Count Basie and young John Williams were among the legends who performed on the score and title theme.) That disc has been dropped in favor of a bonus DVD that presents Lee Marvin in early TV appearances on "Wagon Train", "Checkmate", The Virginian" and "Lee Marvin Presents Lawbreaker", an obscure 1963 telecast. They are manna from Heaven for Lee Marvin fans (and who isn't?)
One minor gripe: the photo on the box cover is not Marvin in "M Squad": it's actually a well known publicity still from John Boorman's 1967 big screen crime classic "Point Blank". Also, the quality of the "M Squad" episodes varies quite a bit, as they were taken from the best elements available. Purists may be critical of the transfers but the bottom line is that this is a highly impressive boxed set that presents an American acting legend at his very best. Now all you'll need is 117 hours of free time to enjoy the entire experience.
Here is the official press release:
of the most memorable of the early television police dramas,M Squaddebuted in 1957 and ran for
three seasons on NBC. Lee Marvin, a decorated WWII Marine veteran of the South
Pacific, where he received the Purple Heart in the Battle of Saipan, stars as
Lt. Frank Ballinger, a no-nonsense Chicago plainclothes cop in the elite M
Squad Division. On November 4th, 2014, Timeless Media Group, a
division of Shout! Factory LCC, will releaseM
Squad: The Complete TV Series-Special Editionon DVD. All 117 episodes of the
television series as originally aired, as well as a brand new bonus disc
featuring Lee Marvin guest star appearances inWagon Train, Checkmate, The
Virginianand as the host ofLawbreaker)
Squad's (M-for Murder) task is to root out organized crime and corruption in
America's Second City. Marvin's portrayal of a tough undercover officer, whose
perseverance and potential for violence, but with utter cool, permeates each
gritty episode, gave Marvin name recognition with the public, and did much to
make him a star.
Director Mike Nichols, one of the most influential artists of his generation, has passed away at age 83. Nichols is one of the few people who could claim to be the winner of the Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony awards. Nichols rose to fame with his comedy act in which he teamed with Elaine May. He made a successful transition into feature film with his 1966 screen adaptation of Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", a triumphant film debut that starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The following year he won the Oscar for his 1967 classic "The Graduate". Other films over the decades included "The Birdcage", "Working Girl", "Charlie Wilson's War" and "Silkwood". His plays include "Barefoot in the Park", "Death of a Salesman" and "The Odd Couple".
Burton and Taylor on the set of Nichols' 1966 triumph "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
If you're pondering what to get your significant other for a holiday gift, look no further than "Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Granada Television Series", which has been released in a boxed set by MPI Home Entertainment. For many, series star Jeremy Brett was- and remains- the definitive interpretation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary detective. There have been countless actors who have provided wide-ranging performances as Holmes and most of them are commendable in their own way. However, Brett's debut as Holmes in this classic British TV series met with instant international acclaim even among the notoriously fussy Holmes scholars who never seem to be pleased with screen presentation of their literary hero.
The MPI set contains:
Every episode of the series (41 episodes on 12 DVDs)
Includes the five feature film-length adventures
Profusely illustrated collector's guide booklet with extensive essays by film historian Richard Valley
Interview with director John Madden and screenwriter Jeremy Paul
Interview with series co-star Edward Hardwicke
"Daytime Live" show with guest stars Brett and Hardwicke
Sherlock Holmes Museum short
Vintage Sherlock Holmes series promo
In all, a superb and irresistible release that will allow you many hours of matching wits with the world's greatest sleuth. What do you get for that special person for the holidays? The answer should be elementary.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER DVD SET FROM AMAZON AND TO VIEW PROMOTIONAL CLIPS FOR MANY EPISODES.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE SET FROM AMAZON ON BLU-RAY
have been entire books dedicated to the cinema of Dutch director Paul Verhoeven
and with good reason. Known for pushing the envelope of what is acceptable
onscreen in both sexuality and violence, his movies have been celebrated and
condemned - often by the same critic at different times! To one degree or another
I have enjoyed every Verhoeven film I've seen all the way back to the brilliant
Soldier of Orange (1977) but it was RoboCop (1987) that stomped across the
world and made it possible for the madman to make nearly anything he wanted. I
wonder what would have happened if this film - his first English language
effort- had not been a huge financial success. Would we have had a series of
progressively worse sequels with Rutger Hauer ravishing maidens and slaying
nobles for gold? Maybe in a better world.....
+ Blood (1985) takes place in Western Europe in 1501 and begins during an
attack on a small Italian city by a group of mercenaries employed by the city's
rightful ruler Arnolfini (Fernardo Hilbeck). These soldiers have been promised a
full day of consequence free looting if they succeed in retaking the city
but once the job is done Arnolfini soon reneges on this offer when he sees them
destroying the place. The commander of the troops, Hawkwood (Jack
Thompson), is heartsick over a nun that he mistakenly harmed during the attack
and Arnolfini promises to get medical attention for her if the commander will
use the cavalry to eject the mercenaries from the city without their loot. This
betrayal is not taken well, especially by Hawkwood's former lieutenant Martin
(Rutger Hauer). Soon after the group is run off, Martin is burying his
stillborn child when he unearths a wooden statue of Saint Martin of Tours. This
saint with a sword is seen by the mercenaries' cleric as a sign from God
to follow Martin as their new leader.
in the retaken city Arnolfini's son Steven (Tom Burlinson) has been betrothed
to Lady Agnes (Jennifer Jason Leigh). They meet for the first time when Steven greets
her caravan on the way to their wedding and love seems to blossom between the
two. But then the entourage is attacked and robbed by Martin's group. Arnolfini
is seriously injured during the raid while Agnes is carried away concealed
among her valuable dowry. That night Martin discovers Agnes and, although the other
men desire to gang rape her, Martin claims her for himself. He first rapes her
but then Agnes starts flirting with him, hoping to gain his protection. She
becomes his concubine after a fashion and is dragged along on the mercenaries'
travels. She easily convinces Martin that he is in love with her and works carefully
on the other members of the band to get them to accept her. She appears to have
completely given up on her former life and forgotten her betrothal.
enough the mercenaries come upon a castle where, unknown to them, the
inhabitants are infected with the Black Death. The group captures the
castle with the help of Agnes, who proves herself very resourceful in many ways.
But Steven is determined to reclaim his bride to be and turns to Hawkwood for
help. Hawkwood only wants to live a quiet life caring for the former nun he had
injured but Steven uses force and threats against the nun to coerce the old
soldier to help in his pursuit of Martin. Once they locate the mercenaries they
realize that they don't have sufficient force to take the castle and lay siege to
it. Inside the castle Martin asks Agnes where her true loyalties lie but she is
ambiguous hinting that she will be happy with whoever wins. Outside the castle,
the dreaded Plague spreads among Steven's forces and even infects Hawkwood. After
an impressive battle with an incredible siege engine built by the well-educated
Steven, the mercenaries capture Steven and shackle him in the castle's courtyard.
Here Agnes feigns hatred of her ex-groom and even has sex with Martin in front
lancing his boils, Hawkwood is able to cure himself of the plague but he cannot
continue the siege alone. Instead, he catapults pieces of an infected dog over
the castle walls and when one chunk lands near the chained Steven, he flings it
into the place's water well. Agnes sees this happen and Steven tells her that
she can decide whether or not to tell the mercenaries.
fears of the Black Death creeping into the castle, the band of mercenaries want
to leave the place but Martin persuades them to stay. Agnes does not warn them
about the well and watches as they drink infected water. However, when Martin begins to drink, she slaps the cup
from his hand. As several of the group start to show signs of the sickness,
they hurl Martin into the tainted well and, as she did after Steven's capture,
Agnes joins in the abuse of Martin. At this point Hawkwood and Arnolfini return
to the castle with an army and attack. Inside the castle, Steven and Martin cooperate
to save each other, but with a fresh siege underway there is no way to know who
will live and who will die.
looking for a sweet natured adventure film with noble knights and derring-do would
do well to back slowly away from this movie. Vicious, nasty, violent and cruel
are just a few of the words I would use to describe both the story and the
characters in this brutal medieval epic. All of the people in this story act in
selfish, ruthless ways at almost every turn and only seem driven by the most primitive
of emotions. Even the very few acts of kindness can be seen as self-serving in
a world where everyone is fighting just to survive. That's not to say the film
is not entertaining. Indeed, I would say Flesh + Blood is supreme fun for fans
of the harsher kinds of cinema. The film is one part exploitation, two parts
graphic violence, one part costume drama and one part historical romance - as
long as you don't need the romance to be the chaste kind!
enthusiasts (Godzilla fans in particular) can join Cinema Retro’s Rod Barnett
along with Troy Guinn as they start a new series of podcasts entitled “Controversial
Kaiju”. The first episode focuses on “All Monsters Attack” (1969) (aka “Godzilla’s Revenge”). The broadcast can
be downloaded through this link.
George A. Romero didn’t invent the concept of zombies.
They’ve had a spot in Haitian folklore for years (as explored in older films
like White Zombie and more
contemporary films like Wes Craven’s The Serpent and the
Rainbow ). There was also the French World War I reactionary J’Accuse(1919) by Abel Gance,
which featured actual footage from the battleground. Some horror enthusiasts
might even argue that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and H.P Lovecraft’s
story Herbert West: Re-Animator were also
significant early entries in the zombie canon.
What Romero can be credited with, however, as the recent
documentary Birth of the Living Dead examines, is the
mainstream popularity of zombies. It all began when he made the film Night of the Living
Dead (1968). It features a group of wayward strangers who’ve found
themselves stuck in an old farmhouse in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. The
film is remembered for its poignant critique of the 60s, when the Vietnam war
was raging, home televisions were still new, and race relations were tenuous at
best (the film was notable for featuring African-American actor Duane Jones as
the male lead). The movie was filmed on a shoestring budget but didn’t stop it from
becoming a cult success that’s still beloved by countless legions of dedicated
A decade later, he came back and made Dawn of the Dead in 1978. It had a
similarly modest budget as his first movie. This film takes place during a
zombie outbreak and centers on a group of survivors who’ve taken up shelter in
the town’s shopping mall. Like the first, it’s full of a ton of symbolism and
was a timely commentary on the day’s rampant consumerism. Despite its highly
graphic content, it became a humongous success both financially and critically,
as it’s almost universally praised by all major movie critics, and it saw its
own re-make in 2004.
Day of the Dead came seven years
later in 1985 and featured a battle between the United States military and a
horde of zombies. Viewers weren’t sure exactly which side to take, as this
installment was pretty ambiguous and caused some watchers to root for the
zombies rather than their very military. Unfortunately, this wasn’t as big of a
commercial success as Dawn was, but it’s a much beloved cult film that
has become a staple of “Grindhouse
Fridays” on El Rey Network, is streamable through some websites, and not only was it remade a few
decades later on, but there is yet another remake in the works.
The trilogy garnered a humongous fan base and inspired many
subsequent movies, but George Romero himself kept quiet on the zombie front for
the rest of the 80s and all throughout the 90s. It was a bit of shock when he
released another zombie flick in the 2000s.
Land of the Dead was released in 2005
in the midst of the Bush administration and featured an opportunistic
politician who tries to use the zombie crisis outlined in the movie as a means
to achieve his own agenda. It was a modern day commentary on war and
xenophobia. Land of the Dead became a great success and grossed over
$46,000,000. It wasn’t considered as good as the movies Night or Dawn, but
critics thought it was an overall decent addition to the Romero library.
Diary of the Dead was the next step
for Romero in 2007. It’s a fictional documentary similar to other cult-hits
like Cannibal Holocaust or The Blair Witch
Project. The film was made to look like amateur footage and makes liberal
use of the shaky-cam technique. This movie strayed rather far from the original
trilogy through its heavy use of CGI but still enjoyed some positive reviews,
although it wasn’t quite as well received as Land.
The final Romero zombie-film was Survival of the
Dead, released in 2010. It took place on a zombie-infested island just
off the coast of North America. This film was both a box-office bust and a
critical failure. It was panned by critics and hardcore Romero fans alike as
being stale and an overall disappointment. This movie alone has likely caused Romero
to lose any future financial investments for a new zombie film down the road,
but luckily it wasn’t bad enough to tarnish the reputation that Romero gained
for his work in the original trilogy.
Apart from his own directorial work, Romero has had a positive and
lasting impact on today’s culture and has inspired a new generation of
directors and filmmakers who grow up enchanted by his work. Zombies have
infected every level of pop-culture from books, to television shows, to movies,
to art, and even to real world events like zombie walks and horror conventions.
He’s inspired many directors to create their own vision of the zombie
apocalypse in new and interesting ways. Danny Boyle, the creator of 28 Days Later, is one of the most
critically acclaimed new director of zombie flicks, and there have been a ton
of other successful zombie stories made that have spanned multiple genres and
George Romero is very much like a modern day Bram Stoker, who took
the old myth of vampires and turned it into a modern day cultural success, and,
like Stoker, his legacy will live on as his movies continues to inspire legions
of fans and newer work based on his original films.