Maverick actor and filmmaker Tom Laughlin has died at the age of 82 after a long illness. Laughlin was just another hunky actor in small roles in films like South Pacific and Tea and Sympathy. However, in 1967 he successfully rode the wave of popularity attached to biker flicks by writing, directing and starring in The Born Losers. (He used the named T.C Frank for his non-acting credits). The film starred Laughlin as a half-Native American named Billy Jack who takes on seemingly insurmountable odds to help oppressed people. The film was a hit and Laughlin revived the character in 1971 in the film Billy Jack. However, he was angry with Warner Brothers' lukewarm marketing of the film. He engaged in a high profile battle to win back distribution rights and finally prevailed in court. In 1974 Laughlin took the bold step of investing millions of dollars in re-marketing a movie that had not been a major success. This time, however, he used an innovative distribution method called "four walling" which centered on renting a wide number of theaters across the country and keeping all of the boxoffice revenues. Laughlin's plan worked so well that it permanently changed distribution patterns of major films which had once been centered on the premise of rolling out releases in slow, methodical manner. Suddenly "wide" releases became the norm and the strategy helped make Jaws the top boxoffice attraction of all time. Laughlin repeated his success with The Trial of Billy Jack in 1974. Critics scoffed at the script's ham-handed embracing of left wing political causes but the public responded especially in the immediate aftermath of the Watergate crisis that saw President Richard Nixon resigning from office shortly before the film was released. Laughlin found that the third time was not the charm, however, and his third film in the series, Billy Jack Goes to Washington (a remake of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) barely saw release in 1977. A high profile Western, The Master Gunfighter, released in 1975, was also deemed a boxoffice disappointment.
Laughlin's obsession with political activism alienated him from many in the Hollywood community. Unlike John Wayne and Jane Fonda, who successfully weathered criticisms of their high profile political pronouncements, Laughlin seemed to irk the people in power. Laughlin never ceased in expressing his distrust for whoever was irunning the show in Washington. At various times he was seen as a radicial leftist but at other times he seemed to extol beliefs of the right wing fringe movement. In short, he annoyed both sides. By having taken on the studio system, he was deemed toxic by the big money people in the industry. Working with his wife and co-star Delores, he tried repeatedly to get other film projects off the ground without success. He made three quixotic attempts to run for President as a Republican but was ignored by the party establishment. Nevertheless, in death, Laughlin is finally getting the credit he was often denied in life for reinvigorating the motion picture distribution business. For more click here . For comments from Laughlin's daughter click here
Joan Fontaine, who won the Best Actress Oscar for Alfred Hitchcock's 1941 classic Suspicion, has died in her California home at age 96. Fontaine began her film career playing attractive but nondescript characters until Hitchcock cast her as the female lead in his 1940 film version of the bestseller Rebecca opposite Laurence Olivier. The film earned her an Oscar nomination and elevated her to one of Hollywood's most in-demand actresses. In 1943 she received a third and final Oscar nomination for The Constant Nymph. Fontaine also won rave notices in the film version of the Gothic novel Jane Eyre, starring opposite Orson Welles. In both films she played an innocent woman whose husband is harboring a shocking secret that is unveiled within the walls of a stately but foreboding country manor. Fontaine's other major films include Ivanhoe, The Emperor Waltz, Kiss the Blood Off My Hands, This Above All, The Women, Gunga Din, Casanova's Big Night, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Tender is the Night. She retired from feature films in the 1960s after being offended by being asked to play Elvis Presley's mother. However, Fontaine did continue to appear in TV shows for another twenty years. These included Ryan's Hope, Hotel and The Love Boat. Fontaine was the sister of fellow Oscar winner Olivia De Havilland but the two sisters engaged in an on-going feud that extended back to their childhood years. For more click here
Acclaimed actor Peter O'Toole, star of stage and classic cinema, has passed away in a London hospital after a long illness. He was 81 years old. O'Toole shot to international prominence when director David Lean cast the largely unknown actor in the title role of his 1962 masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia. O'Toole proved he was not to be a "one hit wonder", earning 8 Oscar nominations throughout his career, though he was frustrated at not winning the award in a competitive category. In 2003 he accepted the Academy's consolation honor: a lifetime achievement Oscar. O'Toole, Irish at birth, benefited from the explosive emergence of young method actors in the British film industry of the 1960s. His drinking exploits with friends like Richard Burton and Richard Harris were the stuff of legend and were chronicled in Robert Sellers' best selling book Hellraisers. O'Toole's career was not comprised of all hits. He went through dry spells as early as 1965 with the failure of his big budget adventure film Lord Jim and the flop 1969 musical version of Goodbye, Mr. Chips followed by another ill-advised venture into the musical format with the 1972 film of Man of La Mancha. . Yet, he would always surprise critics and audiences with an unexpectedly inspired performance in films that were often somewhat mundane. Among his most memorable cinematic achivements: Becket, My Favorite Year, The Lion in Winter, The Stunt Man, How to Steal a Million and What's New Pussycat? Fiercely private and disdainful of publicity and interviews, O'Toole generally proved to be quite charming when he would let his guard down. Although he said he had retired from the film industry, he was coaxed out of retirement for a historical film that is awaiting release.- Lee Pfeiffer For more click here
If you love director Richard Brooks' slam-bang 1966 Western The Professionals as much as we do, you should click here to gaze at some great international posters from the film that starred Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan, Claudia Cardinale (at her hottest!), Jack Palance, Woody Strode and Ralph Bellamy. It's part of Steve Thompson's blog celebrating his favorite year: 1966, and what baby boomer could argue with him?
Personal letters written to his friend and colleague Dennis Hamilton of the Sunday Times reveal a great deal about the nature of their relationship. In some letters, Fleming expresses his gratitude to Hamilton and at other times chastises him for using insulting verbiage and even wasting his time tending to his garden, an activity Fleming apparently disdained. The James Bond author's letters also reveal that he was once struggling to get through a business meeting without realizing that he was undergoing a major heart attack. The letters are being put up for auction. For more click here
Over the years, Friday the 13thhas been called many things. Upon its
release in May of 1980, critics who reviewed the low budget, independent wonder
called it everything from a blatant Halloween
clone (which director Sean Cunningham never denied it was) to an overly
violent dead teenager movie made with no apparent talent or intelligence.
Gene Siskel was so outraged by the film
that he called Cunningham “one of the most despicable creatures ever to infest
the movie business.” Siskel even went so far as to publish the home address of
actress Betsy Palmer (who gives a magnificent performance in the film) and he
encouraged fans to write to her and express their disappointment in her taking
a role in such a ghastly film.
Why did this creepy little horror film
strike such a negative chord in critics all over the country? To answer that
question, we must go back to 1978. The Alfred Hitchcock/Italian giallo-inspired
Halloween was released that year and
was not only loved by the movie-going public, but the near perfect film was
universally praised by critics including Roger Ebert, who rightfully called it “A
film so terrifying that I would compare it to Psycho.”
Critics and audiences alike were in awe of
the way director John Carpenter masterfully built suspense and the amazing film
became an instant classic as well as a box office phenomenon.
Fast forward to 1980; Director Sean
Cunningham decides to make a horror film and very wisely comes up with the idea
to combine two of the most current and successful scary movies: Halloween and George A. Romero’s classic
1979 zombie epic, Dawn of the Dead.
Cunningham would use Halloween’s structure (he would also borrow from Mario Bava’s
groundbreaking 1971 giallo film, A Bay of
Blood aka Twitch of the Death Nerve)
while adding Dawn’s amazingly graphic
and realistic gore effects. He would even engage the talents of the man
responsible for Dawn’s innovative gore,
special FX maestro Tom Savini.
This is primarily what outraged critics of
the time. In their eyes, Cunningham could not match Carpenter in masterfully
building terror and suspense (and there is much truth to that), so, instead,
the filmmaker would rely solely on realistic and bloody effects in order to
scare his target audience. The film was also accused of equating
sex/drugs/alcohol with death as well as being both misogynistic and illogical.
Now, I’ll be the first to say that when it
comes to the art of filmmaking, Friday
the 13thcannot hold a candle to Halloween, but I refuse to agree with anyone who calls Friday worthless, misogynistic and
illogical junk whose only talent can be found in its gore content.
Yes, the blood flows and Savini’s effects
are still as astonishing now as they were 33 years ago, but the entertaining
film works for many other reasons which I’ll list right now.
First of all, just like Halloween, the film has a
documentary-like feel to it. Cunningham simply shows us a likeable group of teenage
counselors (one of whom is a young Kevin Bacon) who are hard at work fixing up
Camp Crystal Lake a few weeks before the noisy children are due to arrive. The
characters have no Hollywood-esque dramatic motivations or conflicts. They are
just a very normal, happy and realistic group going about their daily business.
As viewers, we almost feel as if we’re eavesdropping on their lives.
This technique is greatly aided by the more
than competent writing of Victor Miller who wisely avoids stereotypes such as “the
jock” or “the bitch” and creates a pleasant group of normal and realistic kids.
The wonderfully natural acting of the kids themselves also helps. We like this
group and when the killer’s POV shots interrupt these normal, quiet scenes, it
really has an impact.
Next up is Sean Cunningham’s directorial
style. (For those who have said this film is little more than a gore-fest,
listen up.) Cunningham uses tried and true techniques such as showing us early
on the horror that the killer is capable of, then showing us exactly where the
killer is and, finally, having his likeable characters enter the killer’s space
one at a time. Naturally, this technique produces a fair amount of tension,
suspense and scares.
I won’t reveal the killer’s identity, but I
will say that it’s not our hockey masked pal, Jason. (Jason’s reign of terror
begins in part 2 and he doesn’t don his iconic mask until part 3.) However, once
you know who the killer is and learn the motivation behind the murders, you
will be petrified by the killer’s terrifying personality. Not only that, but upon
repeat viewings of the quieter, early scenes, knowledge of the killer’s
personality creates even more eerie, goose bump-like scares.
Cunningham also creates a nice moody
atmosphere by having half of the film take place during a nighttime thunderstorm.
Combine that with the quiet, isolated camp location and a moving POV camera
which suggests a creepy, violent and vengeful presence always lurking nearby
and you have not only a very scary little film, but a real feeling of almost
I can’t go on about the film’s scare factor
without mentioning the frightening musical score by the great Harry Manfredini.
His instantly recognizable “ki ki ki, ma ma ma” has become a part of horror
music history and now stands tall alongside other immortal horror themes such
as Bernard Hermann’s magnificent score for Psycho,
John Williams’ often imitated, but never duplicated score for Jaws and John Carpenter’s iconic and
terrifying Halloween theme.
Last, but certainly not least, is the final
scare of the film. Without giving away too much, I have to say that it is one
of the most shocking and unexpected scares in horror movie history and second
only to the brilliant ending of Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976). It’s a magnificently crafted scene that can be
credited to Sean Cunningham’s solid direction, Victor Miller’s imaginative
writing, Adrienne King’s subtle and naturalistic acting, Tom Savini’s
magnificent makeup work and Harry Manfredini’s frightening music all working as
one to give audiences the fright of their lives.
Australian release poster.
And that’s just the final scene. All those
elements work together throughout the entire film and help to create a fun,
scary rollercoaster ride. The gore effects work more as a punctuation mark at
the end of a sentence. It usually caps off a tense and frightening scene. It is
not the only technique at work here. As a matter of fact, take the very minimal
amount of gore out of the film and you still have an extremely eerie,
claustrophobic and terrifying film.
As far as being misogynistic, equating
sex/alcohol/drugs with death and being illogical goes, critics couldn’t have
been more off base.
Let’s start with misogyny. First of all,
there is an equal amount of male and female deaths, and Kevin Bacon’s death is
probably the best and most graphic death scene in the film. Second of all, and
don’t read this if you haven’t seen the film, the killer is female. So, if the
filmmakers hated women, the killer would’ve been a man. Saying that this film hates
women is ridiculous.
Next up is the idea that the kids were
punished by death for engaging in sex, drinking and smoking pot. Well, if that
were the case, then why does the final girl survive? Midway through the film she
indulges in both beer and marijuana. It is also revealed that she was in a
relationship with the head of the camp and, although it isn’t shown that they
had sex, the dialogue strongly suggests it. Much like Halloween (the female survivor of that film also smokes pot and
clearly wants to be in a relationship with a boy), this idea of
sex/drugs/alcohol being punishable by violent death is not a part of Friday the 13th, but would be
misinterpreted by future slasher filmmakers thereby beginning that slasher
Lastly is the ridiculous idea that all of
the characters in this film do completely illogical things before getting
killed. This never happens. First of all, the characters are silently killed
off one by one in a Ten Little Indians manner.
The remaining characters have no idea that there is a killer among them, so it
makes sense that they would go about their business as if everything is normal.
Also, once the last two characters sense that something is wrong, they both do
completely logical things. Unfortunately, they are thwarted by the intelligent
killer who is always one step ahead of them.
For example, when they can’t find anyone,
they try to call for help, but, unbeknownst to them, the line has been cut.
(They believe that it’s just out of order due to the storm.) Next, they find a
bloody axe in one of the cabins and immediately decide to leave, but their car
has been sabotaged. Their last idea is to just hike the ten miles to
civilization and get help, but it’s pitch black outside and a thunderstorm is
With the exception of the heroine knocking
out the killer a few times and then either not continuing to pummel her or
throwing the weapon aside, the characters all act logically/intelligently in
every situation, but still get killed which is one of the reasons why the film
is so scary.
So, is it a masterful piece of cinema like Halloween or Psycho? Certainly not. However, it’s far from worthless junk and it
totally works without the effects which, by the way, take up less than sixty seconds
of the film’s 95 minute running time. At the time, those amazing gore effects
were the only things that were new in this type of film, so that’s what critics
mainly became fixated on. Unfortunately, they missed much of the wonderful
craftsmanship that went into the rest of the film.
Friday the 13th may be a dead
teenager movie, but it’s one of the best of its type. While not in the same
league as its predecessors, it’s a much better film than it’s been given credit
for. It’s also an important film in that, along with Halloween, it created a very successful subgenre/formula of the
horror film and, due to being released by Paramount Pictures and becoming a
huge financial success, it gave up and coming filmmakers a chance to break into
the Hollywood system by producing their own low budget slasher films which
utilized the same structure and similar techniques.
To date, the film has spawned ten sequels,
one remake, countless imitations and the character of Jason has become an icon
of fright. Entire books have been written about the series and at least one
book was wholly devoted to the groundbreaking first film. There have also been Friday the 13thcomic books,
novelizations, video games, action figures and conventions. Not bad for a little
movie that has been wrongfully dismissed as an illogical, misogynistic, incompetent
spectacle of gore.
issue #27 of Cinema Retro, writer John Exshaw presents a remarkable, previously
unpublished interview with iconic British actor Peter Cushing. The following
companion piece was not included for reasons of space but we are very proud to
run this as a web site exclusive.)
to interviewing Peter Cushing, in May, 1993, I arranged to speak to Christopher
Lee at the Carlton Towers Hotel in Knightsbridge, where he kindly shared the
following thoughts on Cushing as actor, colleague, and friend.
didn’t meet him until we did the first Hammer movie. I’d seen him. Of course
the thing which I’d seen which impressed me most, understandably, was 1984, which was remarkable. He was
wonderful in that. . . . Live TV! [shudders]
dedication; and this is the answer to why Peter Cushing is an actor. Total
dedication. Total! The most professional actor I have ever worked with. And I’m
not going to say underrated, because he isn’t underrated. He’s highly regarded
all over the world as a brilliant actor, and deservedly so. The record shows
that. . . . Also, one thing that we do share, I think, more than anything,
which is more important than anything else – I think we share the same
dedication, I think we share professionalism, I think we share the same
feelings about doing the best we can – one thing we certainly share is the same
sense of humour, which, of course, the general public is totally unaware of. If
they knew what we got up to on the set in every film we’ve made . . . the
imitations that I used to do, the dances that he used to do. . . . Oh, we used
to dance together in the rushes, yes; me made up as the Frankenstein creature,
a sort of, a sort of, what do you call it – buck-and-wing dance, you know. And
in years and years and years he and I have shared this idolatrous love of the
Warner Brothers’ cartoons, you see, and Sylvester, and Tweety Pie, and Yosemite
Sam. And I’ve always imitated them, you see, and he does the same. And we used
to do that on a set; people used to think we’d gone out of our minds, and we’d
make each other laugh. Sometimes it’s so important – in a way, it’s absolutely
essential – but we’re both of us ice-cold when it comes to doing it, even if
we’ve been laughing a few moments before. Again, that’s a thing we also share,
what can I say about Peter Cushing that I haven’t said before? I mean,
consummate actor, brilliant technician, and a marvellous human being. I’ve
always said, you know – I’m sure you’re aware of this – that he should have
been a priest. . . . Because there is a great love for his fellow man. There’s
an almost superhuman loving kindness in Peter, and it’s always been there. I’ve
never heard him say anything harsh about anyone. He’s also a deeply religious
man. Those are the two things we don’t have in common. I’m afraid I do say what
I think. I’m not tactless but I am a more direct person than he is. I don’t
have his tolerance. I don’t have his gentleness. I don’t have his faith; I wish
I did. . . .
is not an easy person to get to know, believe you me. There’s a lot about Peter
that I don’t know. . . . But of course, as you know, Helen died in the 1970s
and that is his only desire left in life. And it’s genuine. He has stayed alive
because he’s a man who would never take his own life because that would be a
great sin, and he has stayed alive through some pretty terrible experiences,
you know. He’s had cancer, and problems with his legs, his hips, breathing, and
all sorts of medical problems – but the spirit is unquenchable and the speed of
thinking and the mind haven’t changed at all. I mean, it’s another cliché – the
spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. The same thing with Vincent [Price];
mind like a rapier, both of them. Only the physical disabilities of getting
old. . . .
he’s certainly one of a kind, and of course this business of staying alive,
simply existing, which is how he looks at his life – existence. He’s only
waiting for that moment; only waiting for it. And he’s been waiting now for
twenty-three years. It must be terrible to be so admired and so loved and so
respected but to impose, I feel, on yourself, deliberately, a sort of monastic
seclusion which he seems to prefer. He seems to; I mean, you wouldn’t think it
if you saw him with a group of people but I think he prefers to be alone. I
don’t think the house is full of people. I don’t think there’s many very, very
close, intimate friends – but nor have I, and nor have many people.
Acquaintances, yes; admirers, yes – scores of thousands all over the world,
people who feel they know him, people who feel that he’s a friend – all that.
That’s on a professional basis; I think on a personal basis, I get the
impression that he’s a person who keeps his life and his relationship with his
wife very much to himself. It’s locked up in a cupboard of which he has the
key. He doesn’t open that cupboard and release anything unless he chooses to.
But I don’t either.
To order issue #27 of Cinema Retro with John Exshaw's exclusive interview with Peter Cushing click button below
The Warner Archive has reissued Paramount's DVD release of Goodbye, Columbus as a burn-to-order DVD title. The film caused a bit of a sensation in 1969 with its rather graphic- if comical- examination of a young couple's attempts to have a fulfilling sex life and the obstacles they encounter along the way. Based on Philip Roth's best-selling novella, the movie was released at an opportune time when such coming-of-age stories were able to speak to a new, rebellious generation. It was a sizable hit with critics and the public. Yet, the film never comes close to matching the impact of The Graduate, the movie it almost desperately tries to emulate. Richard Benjamin plays Neil Klugman, a young Jewish man living with his over-bearing aunt and uncle in a lower middle-class section of the Bronx. Invited to a swanky country club as a guest of a wealthy cousin, he lays eyes on Brenda Patimkin (Ali MacGraw), a stunningly beautiful college student who is home from Vassar on summer vacation. The two meet cute and before long Neil finds himself awkwardly introduced to Brenda's upper-crust family who reside in a lavish Westchester home, complete with live-in maid. Although Brenda is also Jewish, her parents disapprove of Neil from the outset. He is an ex-army veteran who seems to have no ambitions and is content with his job as a desk clerk in the local library. Brenda's father Ben (Jack Klugman in a fine performance) is a self-made man who can't understand Neil's lack of desire to make his own fortune. Even worse, Brenda's mother (Nan Martin) is a sneering snob who makes it obvious that Neil's social status will never allow her to accept him. Despite these challenges, Brenda and Neil use surreptitious means to make love wherever and whenever they can, including a daring gambit in which he sneaks into her bedroom while staying at the family house as a guest. Ultimately, as the date draws nearer for Brenda to return to school in Boston, the couple begins to worry if their love can survive being separated. The situation becomes rather grim when Neil discovers that Brenda has not been using any birth control methods, which puts a dent in his libido until he convinces her to get a diaphragm. This type of scenario in a film can be found in family comedies today, but back in '69 it was fairly ground-breaking stuff. The rather downbeat and realistic ending was also in contrast to most love stories of the period (even The Graduate ended on a high note.)
The film represented the big screen debuts of Richard Benjamin and Ali MacGraw (though Benjamin had been a familiar face on television for years and had starred in his own short-lived sit-com, He and She with real life wife Paula Prentiss.) Both give fine performances with Benjamin's every day guy appeal in full swing along with his ability for deadpan comedy. The problem is that both actors were far too old for the roles the character they portray. Benjamin was 30 years old at the time and MacGraw was 29-- and they look it. Thus, the film takes on a sense of absurdity to see the couple trying to sneak into the woods so they can make out. Benjamin in particular always looked older than his age and at times it appears as though he is starring in a May/December romance instead of a story about two-love struck kids of college age. Director Larry Peerce handles the proceedings adequately, if not exceptionally. He doesn't strive for big belly laughs but does overdo the Jewish ethnic types, especially in the film's climactic wedding sequence. Most of these characters are out of Central Casting, though there are some genuinely funny moments. Michael Meyers is memorably amusing as Ron, Brenda's affable older brother. He's a college jock with a brain the size of a pea- and despite being a lady's man, seems to have a penchant for touching Neil whenever possible. (Despite getting great reviews, Meyers apparently never acted again.) Arnold Schulman's Oscar-nominated screenplay takes the anti-Establishment aspects of the story to an extreme. Virtually every character other than Brenda and Neil are depicted in a grotesque or absurd manner in a rather pretensious bid to appeal to the youth market. The exception is Klugman's character who is given a beautifully written sequence in which he tells Brenda just how much his family means to him.
Another aspect of the movie that makes it look like a lite version of The Graduate is the use of a contemporary group to provide a hip musical score. However, while Simon and Garfunkel's masterful songs for The Graduate spoke to a generation, the soundtrack songs for Goodbye, Columbus are provided by The Association, the epitome of a white bread band from the 60s who specialized in memorable, but emotionally vacant tunes. This is borne out by the fact that none of the tracks the group sings in the film, including the title song, are the slightest bit memorable.
The Warner Archive DVD is the same transfer as the previous Paramount release, including the rather sloppy photo montage on the sleeve which seems to emulate the feel of My Big Far Greek Wedding. The film's original poster was far more haunting.The picture quality is fine but I had problems discerning some of MacGraw's dialogue and found myself having to constantly raise and lower the volume. There are no bonus extras.
Goodbye, Columbus doesn't resonate today as it once did to audiences in 1969..but it can be recommended as an interesting comment on a generation struggling to come to terms with the lightning-fast pace of the societal changes during that era.
From the rumored suicide of a Munchkin to debates about how many dresses Dorothy wears, there are still controversies attached to the beloved 1939 MGM screen version of The Wizard of Oz. Click here to find the facts behind the legends.
this month from the Criterion Collection is Elio Petri’s 1970 international
hit, Investigation of a Citizen Above
Suspicion, which won the Oscar that year for Best Foreign Language Film. It
stars Gian Maria Volonté, whom most Americans will recognize as the
heavy in two spaghetti westerns, A
Fistful of Dollars and For a Few
Dollars More, but this time clean-shaven and wearing a tailored suit. He is
sharp, handsome, and volatile—the perfect personality to portray a high-ranking
detective in Italy’s (then) corrupt police force.
politicized, Investigation uses sly
dark humor to make its point—that corruption has become so bad that an official
can commit murder but can still be above the law. Here, Volonté, who enjoys rather kinky sex with his mistress, decides to
kill her to prove he can get away with it under the very noses of his fellow
officers. In short, he is a mad, over-the-top narcissist whose fantasy is to be
coerced into confessing his “innocence.” It is a sly crime thriller with a nudge-nudge,
wink-wink jab in the ribs.
The world in the year 1970 was very
different than it is now. Revolution was everywhere, and it was hip to question
authority and rebel against conformity and complacency. Investigation is one of the many pictures from that era to attack
the “establishment”—and manage to be entertaining at the same time. The jury is
out on whether today’s audiences will find relevancy in the picture, but as I
tell my students in Film History, “always judge a film within the context of
when it was released.”
of the movie are definitely Volonté’s
performance, as well as the iconic Ennio Morricone score. In a recent interview
included as an extra on the disk, Morricone explains that his approach to the
music was to use unusual, “grotesque” instrumentation. The recurring, playfully
sardonic main theme perfectly captures the film’s mischievous stance.
The new 4k digital film restoration is
sharp and crystal clear, and the colors punch out in that singular 70s fashion.
An abundance of extras include an archival interview with director Petri, a
90-minute documentary on Petri’s career, an excellent 60-minute documentary
about actor Volonté, the interview with Morricone, and a booklet featuring an
essay by film scholar Evan Calder Williams and excerpts from a book by
co-screenwriter Ugo Pirro.
Recommended for aficionados of Italian
art house cinema, Investigation of a
Citizen Above Suspicion is a cult relic of the early 70s that begs for
Altman enjoyed a successful and critically-acclaimed run as a director in the
1970s, and for my money, Nashville is
the pinnacle, the quintessential Altman Film. Along with M*A*S*H, and later works like A
Wedding and Short Cuts, Nashville is a large ensemble picture
with numerous characters coincidentally crisscrossing throughout the story, creating
a style and structure that Altman made his own (it’s a safe bet that he was
assuredly influenced by Jean Renoir’s 1939 classic, The Rules of the Game, which also displays a canvas of quirky
characters interacting at a gathering). The “plot,” as it were, concerns the
preparation and execution of a political campaign benefit concert—and the
camera follows twenty-four eccentric souls around as it happens.
citizens of Nashville, Tennessee, where the picture was shot on location, were
very upset by Altman’s film. They felt it made fun of them and the country
music industry. On the contrary, Nashville
is not really about the country music business—that only serves as the
conduit for Altman’s real message. This is a movie about America, from not only a pop culture point-of-view, but definitely
a political one. Nashville, the city, becomes a metaphor for the country, and
the music is the paint with which the world is colored.
released in 1975, Nashville is satire
at its best. Altman-esque black humor oozes through every scene, and each one
feels spontaneous and improvised (most of them were!). The picture is a
smorgasbord of sights and sounds—all fascinating and compelling. Thematically,
there are examinations of relationships, greed, exploitation, fame, ambition,
and disappointment... as well as a sudden and surprising final statement on
violence. With its depiction of the assassination of a pop singer, in hindsight
Nashville eerily forecasts the murder
of John Lennon, which occurred five years later.
usual, Altman employs many from his so-called “stock company” of actors—Lily
Tomlin, Keith Carradine, Henry Gibson, Michael Murphy, Shelley Duvall,
Geraldine Chaplin—as well as folks like Ronee Blakely, Jeff Goldblum, Karen
Black, Keenan Wynn, and Ned Beatty. Carradine, Tomlin, and Blakely are
standouts, but for me it’s Gibson who steals the picture. His characterization
of a rhinestone country singer is spot-on and often hilarious. Nashville deservedly earned Best
Picture, Best Director, and two Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominations, and
yet it won only Best Song—Keith Carradine’s “I’m Easy” (many of the actors
wrote their own songs they performed in the movie).
new 2k digital film restoration looks wonderful on Blu-ray, of course, and the 5.1
surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack elevates to sublimity Altman’s utilization
of overlapping dialogue. You really can decipher
everything that’s said! The new documentary on the making of the film, which
features interviews with Carradine, Blakley, Tomlin, Murphy, Allan Nicholls,
writer Joan Tewkesbury, and A.D. Alan Rudolph, is informative but perhaps a
little rambling after fifty minutes. It was interesting to hear how Carradine
was unhappy with his performance during the shoot and “felt uncomfortable”—it
was after he saw the completed film that he realized it was his unhappy character that had upset him; Tom was a
guy who didn’t like himself, and the actor felt it internally without understanding
it at the time. There are three archival interviews with Altman, who is always
articulate and entertaining. Also included is some behind-the-scenes footage
and a demo of Carradine performing his songs from the film. Critic Molly
Haskell provides the essay in the thick booklet.
Nashville is a feast for the
eyes and ears. More of an experience than a narrative film, it is one for the
Actress Eleanor Parker has died at age 91. She was best known for playing the Baroness who was engaged to Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) in the classic 1965 film version of The Sound of Music. Upon hearing of her death, Plummer released this statement: "Eleanor Parker was and is one of the most beautiful ladies I have ever known, both as a person and as a beauty. I hardly believe the sad news for I was sure she was enchanted and would live forever." Parker had been nominated for three Academy Awards but it was her role as the Baroness for which she is best-remembered, as the rich woman who loses the love of Captain Von Trapp to Maria (Julie Andrews). Parker's other key films include Of Human Bondage, The Man With the Golden Arm, The Naked Jungle, Caged and Detective Story. For more on her life and career, click here.
Cinema Retro has received the following announcement:
filmmakers are using Kickstarter to raise the small budget needed to make a
brand new episode of classic TV detective show Columbo, in tribute to
the late Peter Falk.
on the amount of money they raise, the film may or may not get the rights to
use the name Columbo from Universal, but at the very least they want to
make a show in that 1970s American TV-style that fans of the genre will enjoy.
have various levels of funding options available with some great rewards, and
are appealing to the public to get behind the project. What could be a better
Christmas gift for the Columbo fan in your life than a piece of branded
memorabilia, a signed script or even a name in the credits?
For more information and the opportunity to become a
backer of the project go to their Kickstarter by clicking here
(Please note: this notice is posted for informational purposes only. The Kickstarter campaign does not involve Cinema Retro in any way, although our columnist Adrian Smith is one of the production team that is trying to get the project off the ground.)
Cinema Retro has released the following press release. (Please note: this American release of The Big Gundown is entirely different from the European special edition released by Explosive Media that we reported on recently).
LOS ANGELES - Grindhouse
Releasing is proud to present the first-ever U.S. home video release of the
greatest Spaghetti Western you’ve never seen: Sergio Sollima’s widescreen epic
THE BIG GUNDOWN!
the legendary Lee Van Cleef as a relentless bounty hunter on the trail of
Cuchillo (Eurofilm superstar Tomas Milian), a savage Mexican outlaw accused of the rape and murder of a
twelve-year-old girl, this release contains fifteen additional minutes of gunslinging
action never before seen in America.
BIG GUNDOWN is one of the most highly acclaimed and long sought-after films in
the spaghetti western genre, hailed by critics for its stunning cinematography,
the amazing performances of Lee Van Cleef (following his iconic role in THE
GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY) and Tomas Milian, the classic Ennio Morricone music
(recently used by Quentin Tarantino in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS), and the riveting
direction of Sergio Sollima.
4-disc deluxe Blu-ray/DVD edition of THE BIG GUNDOWN, including a bonus Blu-ray
of the uncensored director’s cut and a bonus CD of Ennio Morricone’s classic
soundtrack, arrives in stores December 10, 2013.
Click here to order
THE BIG GUNDOWN now on Amazon.com
the trailer on the Grindhouse Releasing YouTube channel:
It's no secret that the Loew's Jersey City Theatre is a favorite of Cinema Retro readers in the New York/New Jersey area. The magazine periodically provides film scholars to introduce classic movie screenings there. Located only minutes from mid-town Manhattan, the landmark theater that opened in 1929 has seen its share of hard times and almost faced the wrecking ball before activists saved it in the 1980s. Since then, a private ad-hoc group called Friends of the Loew's has been managing the theater and overseeing a painstaking restoration of the palace back to its former glory by using mostly volunteer help. The theater now screens classic movies monthly and also offers concerts and stage productions. Now the new Mayor of Jersey City, Steven Fulop, weighs in on his views about the potential for the place to become the hub for the revival of Journal Square, the famed center of the city that has been in decline since the 1970s. The area is on the verge of seeing a boom and the Mayor feels the Loew's can be a major, world class venue. Those who have nurtured the Loew's, however, are nervous that the politicos will move in and undo progress that has been brought about by the current management team. The Mayor assures the Friends of the Loew's that "we are not throwing them out" and says that sizable investments from private industry will be pouring into the theater to finalize its full restoration. Click here for more
David McCallum with event host Bruce Crawford. (Photo: Steve Gray)
By Jon Heitland
On any list of the best films based on World War II, The Great Escape, directed by John Sturges
and based on the novel by Paul Brickhill, will always rank near the top.The compelling story of a group of British
and American prisoners of war and how they outwitted their Nazi captors
observes its 50th anniversary this year, and actor David McCallum,
who plays Ashley-Pitt in the film, travelled to Omaha, Nebraska on November 9,
2013, to help celebrate the classic film. Proceeds went to the Nebraska Kidney
Foundation, which was why McCallum took time from his busy television schedule
to make an appearance.The evening event
centered around a showing of the film at the large, concert-style theater at
the prestigious Joslyn Museum, to an enthusiastic, full house crowd of 1000.
Great Escape 50 year retrospective was another in a long running series of
film tributes organized by Omaha film historian and documentary producer Bruce
Crawford, who, since 1992, has produced similar events for other classic films,
with major sponsorship from Jerry and Patti Gress. Crawford is a lifelong lover of cinema, and
his retrospectives include appearances by the film’s stars or director to share
their recollections with an appreciative audience. Crawford has also produced
two radio documentaries on classic film composers, including Bernard Herrmann (Citizen Kane, Psycho, Taxi Driver, The Day
The Earth Stood Still, Vertigo, North By Northwest, etc.) and Miklos Rozsa
(El Cid, Quo-Vadis, Julius Caesar, King
of Kings, and Ben-Hur).
His past film retrospectives have included a tribute to special
effects legend, Ray Harryhausen, with screenings of Mysterious Island, and Jason
and the Argonauts in 1992; a 35th anniversary screening of Ben-Hur with director William Wyler's
family as special guests in 1993; and The
Longest Day, with director Ken
Annakin and the family of producer Darryl F. Zanuck in 1994. In subsequent years he honored Alfred Hitchcock
with a showing of Psycho, with Janet Leigh and her daughter Kelly as honored
guests; Gone With The Wind with Ann
Rutherford; and Mr. Smith Goes To
Washington, with Frank Capra, Jr.
For The Great Escape
event, local World War II re-enactors appeared in uniform along with a local
modeling club’s display of vintage model planes from the era, along with a
model of a prisoner of war camp. Attendees particularly enjoyed a motorcycle identical to that ridden by
Steve McQueen in the film when he tries to jump a barbed wire fence to elude
German soldiers. A United States Postal Service commemorative envelope for the
50th anniversary of The Great
Escape was also unveiled, featuring scenes from the film involving both
McCallum and Steve McQueen.
Commemorative envelop by the artist Nicolosi.
In introducing the film, McCallum recalled how he got the acting
“bug” at a young age: “My life as an
actor started when I was about 10 years old. I did a scene from King John, from Shakespeare, as a very small prince
in the tower, and there this jailer with a red hot poker is about to put out
his eye, and he pleaded for his life. I did this in a very small theater in a
church, and at the end I got a standing ovation. The scene got a standing
ovation, but I assumed it was for me. At
that moment I realized I had come home, I had found the place where I was going
to be for the rest of my life.”
Memorabilia display (Photo: Jon Heitland)
McCallum, a native Scot, was the son of professional classical
musicians, his father David, Sr., first violinist for the London Philharmonic,
his mother Dorothy a cellist. Young David took up the oboe at age eight, and
attended the Royal Academy of Music for a time, but he left school at age 15 to
attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art for two years to become an actor. He
then went into repertory theater, but that was interrupted when he was
conscripted into the National Service. McCallum recalled “I became second in
command of C company, Third Battalion of the Gold Coast Regiment of the Royal
West African Frontier Force.” McCallum noted with pride this unit distinguished
itself earlier in World War II because of the enemy lines of communication it
captured, adding “I mention this because the wonderful thing about being in the
British army is you learn how to put the uniform on, how to march, how to
salute, and that all came in very useful
later on, on several occasions, The Great
Escape being one of them.”
(Photo: Steve Gray)
After leaving the army, McCallum did a lot of television in
Great Britain, with an occasional movie role in such films as The Long, The Short And The Tall, with
Laurence Harvey; Billy Budd, directed
by Peter Ustinov; and Freud with
Montgomery Clift, directed by John Huston. It was while filming Freud that
McCallum met director John Sturges, who would remember him later when casting The Great Escape. Sturges had directed Bad Day At Black Rock, in 1955, one of McCallum’s favorite films.
Sturges had also directed the iconic western The Magnificent Seven, in
1960, which starred Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson and James Coburn, three of
the stars he would feature in The Great
Escape, along with Robert Vaughn, McCallum’s future co-star on The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Upon being cast as Ashley-Pitt in The Great Escape, McCallum remembered “When I arrived on set, John
Sturges, the director, gave me a letter, and in the letter it said ‘Let us know what you want, do you need a
babysitter, where would you like to live, would you like a car, would you like
a driver?’ Which was welcoming in a way
which I never thought possible.” McCallum noted he had not done a major
Hollywood type movie before, and he appreciated the respect and care with which
the cast was treated.
On the set of The Great
Escape, McCallum stated the cast all got along well, although they formed
small social groups for their off time: “We had a wonderful time together. The Germans went off with the
Germans, and the British went off with the British, and I went off with Donald
Pleasance., who was a good friend of mine.” McCallum soon also became friends with James Garner, as most of Donald
Pleasence’s scenes were with Garner. The three men remained friends from then
on. McCallum did not see much of Steve McQueen, who played one of his most remembered
roles in the form of Hilts, the cocky American flier whose motorcycle escape
has become a classic sequence, because for many of the ensemble scenes,
McQueen’s character was in the “cooler”.
McCallum also enjoyed the fact his wife, actress Jill Ireland,
and son Paul were with him during the filming, and they would sight see on his
days off in Starnberg, Germany. His
mother also visited the set, and McCallum drove her around Austria. Another member of the Great Escape cast, Charles
Bronson, also became lifelong friends with David McCallum, their friendship
even surviving McCallum’s divorce from Ireland and her later marriage to
Bronson. McCallum has been happily married to his wife Kathy Carpenter since
Although most attendees were interested in re-experiencing the
inspiring film, many were there to meet McCallum, popular today for his role of
Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard on televisions’s N.C.I.S.,
as well as a substantial contingent who fondly remembered him as Illya
Kuryakin, the enigmatic Russian spy on The
Man From U.N.C.L.E. from 1964 to 1968. McCallum as Illya created a sensation at the time, resulting in mob
scenes and rock star-like status for McCallum.
The experience of being a “sex symbol”, especially for teen age
girls, caught McCallum by surprise at the time. His character was originally intended to be a a sidekick to Robert
Vaughn’s Napoleon Solo, but quickly became a co-star that helped make the
series a hit in the 1960s and a lasting icon in popular culture. Many of those
teen age girls, now in their 50s and 60s, stood in line after the film to meet
McCallum and get an autograph, which the 80 year old actor graciously supplied
to about 300 attendees anxious to meet him, finishing just before midnight. He also enjoyed seeing a large display of Man From U.N.C.L.E. memorabilia
featuring his image at the event supplied by this writer, a fan from Iowa and
author of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Book:
The Behind The Scenes Story of a Television Classic.
McCallum and Cinema Retro's Jon Heitland in front of a display of Man From U.N.C.L.E. memorabilia. (Photo: Mike Beacom)
Today McCallum, besides appearing on N.C.I.S., also does voice over work on video games, which he
describes as a wonderful opportunity to over act. He commutes regularly from Los Angeles back
to New York City to see his family. He
looks forward to raising a glass of wine to another 50th anniversary
next year, the golden anniversary of the premiere of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
In concluding his remarks on The
Great Escape to the appreciative audience, McCallum emotionally recalled
that the cast first saw the film when it premiered in London at the Odeon
Leicester Square Cinema (the scene of many later James Bond premieres): “The
balcony seats had been reserved for the cast. I sat down in my seat, not
knowing what to expect. And for the very
first time, as the curtain parted, and the music of Elmer Bernstein came up, I
watched that film. And I will never,
ever, forget that moment.”
Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976) is one of the greatest American films ever made.
It is also one of the most disturbing,
and it is astonishing to look back and see that a major studio (Columbia
Pictures) released it as is. Although nominated
for Best Picture, Best Actor (Robert DeNiro), Best Supporting Actress (Jodie
Foster), and Best Original Score (Bernard Herrmann, who also was nominated in
the same year for his impressive score to Brian DePalma’s Obsession, albeit posthumously) by the Academy of Motion Picture
Arts and Sciences, it won none. The top
honor instead went to John Avildsen’s Rocky,
the story of a streetwise debt collector in Philadelphia who gets the chance to
become a boxing world superstar. Mr.
Alvidsen also walked away with the statue for Best Director, and the fact that
Mr. Scorsese was not even nominated in this category has long been considered
to be one of the most, if not the
most, egregious Oscar snub(s) in the Academy’s history, something the organization
appears to have attempted to smooth over with what is generally considered to
be his consolation prize - his Oscar for The
Departed (2006), a good film but not in the same league as his greatest work
(he lost out on directing Oscars for Raging Bull (1980), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Goodfellas (1990), and The
Aviator (2004). )
Robert De Niro gives one of his
greatest screen performances as Travis Bickle, a lonely cabdriver who deliberately
works long hours because he cannot sleep. He befriends Iris (Jodie Foster), a
12-year-old prostitute whose pimp Sport (Harvey Keitel) raffles off a menu of
shocking sex acts (even by today’s barely-there standards) not heard outside of
a porno film or a sound bite by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford that she and Travis can engage
in for a price. Instead of taking up the
offer, Travis uses his time with Iris to try and convince her to leave the
profession that she is a part of. When
she refuses, he arms himself to the teeth and kills her pimp, her John, and the
lowlife who stands in the hall and collects the money in what was at that point
in American cinema one of the most shocking and bloody sequences ever
filmed. Today, you could probably show
it on network television with few cuts, if any.
What makes Taxi Driver so memorable is the way that it captures New York City
in the summer of 1975 when it was filmed. The city was a terribly depressing and dangerous place to be at that
time, and cinematographer Michael Chapman manages to capture the Big Apple in a
way that few cameramen have - Owen Roizman’s work on The French Connection (1971) and The Taking of Pelham 123 (1974) being two obvious exceptions. In the midst of all of this, photographer Steve
Schapiro took innumerable publicity shots on the set of the film and captured
the cast in their moments during camera set-ups, prior to and after shooting,
and while taking a break. The images are
a fascinating look at the ideas that both Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Paul
Schrader had about the city and the central character, the aforementioned
Bickle, and how they wanted to get those ideas across to the audience. The city itself is also a character in Taxi Driver and this fact comes out quite
strikingly in Mr. Schapiro’s on-set photographs which are now available for aficionados
of this great film in the form of a new book by Taschen, the glorious publisher of such mammoth
tomes on cinema greats like Kubrick, Fellini, Truffaut, Bergman, and
Simply titled Taxi Driver, this stunning, oversized book is a collection of
beautiful photographs taken by Mr. Shapiro that depict much of the action of
the film and candid, behind-the-scenes shots. It begins with a foreward by director Scorsese, written in 2010 while he
was shooting Hugo (2011) in London,
and it follows with an introduction which is a reprinting of Richard Thompson’s
interview with Mr. Schrader from the March/April 1976 issue of cinema
cognoscenti magazine fave Film Comment;
Paul Garner’s “It’s Dilemma, It’s Delimit, It’s De Niro” essay from New York magazine from May 16, 1977;
Norma McLain Stoop’s essay “In the Middle of the Street in the Middle of the
Night” from After Dark, May 1976; Judy
Klemesrud’s essay “Jodie Foster’s Rise From Disney to Depravity” from the New
York Times on March 7, 1976; Lawrence Grobel’s Playboy Interview with Robert De
Niro from Playboy in January 1989; Richard
Goldstein and Mark Jacobson’s interview “Martin Scorsese Tells All: Blood and
Guts Turn Me On!” from The Village Voice,
April 5, 1976; and Mr. Schrader’s interview with Mr. Scorsese from January 29,
1982, published in Cahiers du Cinema,
during the editing of the eerily prescient The
King of Comedy, its relation to Taxi
Driver as a companion piece included for obvious reasons. The rest of the text is German and French
translations of the aforementioned essays.
The most unsettling images are not of
the film’s bloodshed at the end, though they are quite graphic and colorful and
which friend Father Francis Principe told the director was a little too much “Good
Friday” and not enough “Easter Sunday” when he viewed it at a private screening
in 1976, but of the slow dancing sequence between Sport and Iris, depicted in
the this book. Here is a twelve year-old
girl being told by a man who uses her nascent sexuality for his own method of
making money, that she’s his woman. It’s
really quite revolting, and probably goes on today with all the multiple cases
of sex trafficking in the world. Taxi Driver doubles as a cautionary
tale, its religious themes also present.
When Taxi Driver was released to theaters in 1976, the ending was so
bloody that in order to avoid receiving an X rating from the MPAA, the director
was faced with cutting down the scenes, something he did not want to do. He opted instead to de-saturate, or lessen
the amount of color, in the sequence so it would not look as graphic. This action was incorporated into the film artistically
to represent what the murder scene might have looked like in the tabloids. On the
film’s 35th anniversary in 2011, the film was released on
Blu-ray. Since times have changed, there
was an effort afoot to re-saturate the film and make it look the way that it
was intended to look prior to the color reduction process. Unfortunately, that color negative could not
be located, and there is talk that it might not have survived. Mr. Shapiro’s photographs of this brutally
violent sequence, replicated in this book, might be all that visually remains of
this controversial sequence.
Driver is a stunning
achievement from Tashen, and I personally want to thank Mr. Schapiro for having
taken such amazing photographs of this incredible film. A must for any serious fan of American
CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE BOOK DISCOUNTED FROM AMAZON.COM.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE FILM, TAXI DRIVER, MASTERED
IN 4K BLU-RAY DISCOUNTED FROM AMAZON.COM.
It's conventional wisdom that 1939 is regarded as the greatest year ever for classic movies. (I respectfully argue that 1969 was even more impressive, but I digress). So many great films were released in this one calendar year: Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Gunga Din and too many others to list. Lost amid this wealth of cinematic treasures is the often-overlooked John Ford classic Drums Along the Mohawk, a movie that certainly ranks among the legendary director's best work, yet it curiously remains among his least-discussed major achievements. The movie has just been released as a Blu-ray special edition by Twilight Time. The film stars Claudette Colbert and Henry Fonda as Lana and Gil Martin, colonial era newlyweds who leave the safety of a big city (Albany, New York) to settle in the upper Hudson Valley, then a no-man's land of hardship and danger for the farmers and settlers who tried to claw out a life there. Their marriage and move to a farm Gil has purchased happens to coincide with the outbreak of the American Revolution. Suddenly, this non-political couple who only want to prosper on their own land find themselves enmeshed in the crisis of the times. Like most farmers, their desire to opt out of the conflict between colonists and British forces turns out to be wishful thinking. The Brits have allied themselves with local Indian tribes who terrorize the settlers through constant raids, forcing them to take refuge in a local fort while they suffer the indignity of watching their farms burn. The fort only provides temporary protection. Short of ammo and provisions, the defenders realize they have precious little time to form a strategy for survival. In the film's most compelling sequence, Gil volunteers to make a seemingly suicidal run through the forest to reach reinforcements at another fort. He is doggedly pursued by three Indian braves who are hot on his heels. Ford milks considerable suspense from the sequence which foreshadows Cornel Wilde's brilliant 1966 movie The Naked Prey. As with any Ford production, however, this one spends considerable time on character development, homespun comedy and American traditions. The battle sequences are impressive but its the actors who make the most of the spotlight with both Colbert and Fonda (in his first of several collaborations with Ford) perfectly cast. There are also Ford stock company regulars like Ward Bond and John Carradine but it is Edna May Oliver who steals the show in an Oscar-nominated performance as a feisty pioneer widow whose forceful nature terrorizes the Indian warriors more than they can intimidate her.
Drums Along the Mohawk was Ford's first color film. It was shot in Technicolor but apparently Fox tossed out the original film elements in the 1970s. This restored version is obviously not as gorgeous as the original theatrical presentations but the film nevertheless looks terrific. Twilight Time has released the movie as a limited edition (3,000 unit) Blu-ray that features some interesting bonus extras. Top of the list is Nick Redman's 2007 feature length documentary Becoming John Ford that traces the mercurial director's long history at Fox and his collaborative productions with studio boss Darryl F. Zanuck. The two would create some great films but ultimately a feud over My Darling Clementine would lead to Ford leaving the studio in 1946. Redman, co-founder of Twilight Time, does a superb job of providing notable talking heads (including Peter Fonda) who provide insightful details on Ford's life and career. Redman also appears on an equally informative commentary track with film historian Julie Kirgo who provides the informative write-ups for the Twilight Time collector's booklets that accompany each release. It's nice to finally hear her speaking directly to viewers and the commentary track is highly entertaining. There is also an original trailer. The only complaint is that the artwork on the sleeve is a bit bland given the star power in the movie.
Cinema Retro enters its tenth year of publishing with issue #28 which is now at the printers. It will be mailed to all UK/European subscribers before Christmas. Subscribers throughout the rest of the world will get their issues in January.
We launch our landmark anniversary with one of our best issues ever. Here are the highlights:
Sheldon Hall presents major coverage of the 50th anniversary of the British war movie classic Zulu starring Stanley Baker, Michael Caine and Jack Hawkins...complete with rarely seen images.
Dave Worrall takes you behind the scenes for the filming of the James Bond blockbuster Goldfinger at Pinewood Studios and presents some rare behind-the-scenes production shots as well as a "now-and-then" guide to specific studio locations from the film.
Ray Morton provides an exclusive interview with famed cinematographer Richard H. Kline, whose credits include Soylent Green, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Camelot, Body Heat, The Mechanic and the 1976 remake of King Kong.
Brian Hannan looks at the dramatic behind-the-scenes story of BUtterfield 8, the film Elizabeth Taylor fought against doing...only to win her first Oscar.
Howard Hughes continues his history of Oakmont Productions with a look at the low-budget WWII flick The Thousand Plane Raid starring Christopher George.
Raymond Benson provides his choices for the best movies of 1987.
Tim Greaves looks at the strange life and career of Hammer Films starlet Victoria Vetri (When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth)
Dean Brierly concludes his "Crime Wave" series with a look at the greatest- and most underrated- American gangster films.
Lee Pfeiffer revisits the cult apocalyptic thriller Panic in the Year Zero directed by and starring Ray Milland.
A look at the history of comic book movie tie-in issues
Harvey Chartrand provides the fascinating story behind Mary Rose, the film Alfred Hitchcock never got to make.
Darren Allison reviews the latest soundtrack releases
Plus all the news about new DVD, Blu-ray and film book releases.
By subscribing to Cinema Retro, you will receive this issue plus issues #29 and 30, delivered to your door.
Heard was nineteen when she played the title character in Jonathan Levine's
slasher film All the Boys Love Mandy Lane;
she can at least get away with playing a seventeen year-old. Mandy
Lane, which debuts this month on Blu-ray, is better known for its
reputation of having been shelved for seven years following its debut at the
2006 Toronto Film Festival for reasons best served by another article. Up to this point, Ms. Heard was already a
veteran of four films and several television appearances; this is her first
real starring role, as the film rests on her shoulders. She gives quite a remarkably natural
performance and having seen her work since this 2005-lensed outing, I would
attribute her onscreen “nervousness” as the object of affection by
testosterone-driven wolves in her midst to her skill as a serious dramatic
actress than to an inability to relax and just “be”.
Lane represents the epitome of the adolescent female sexual ideal, The Perfect High
School Girl - the girl all the boys vie for; the girl all the girls want to be
or want to destroy. The tone is set in
the film’s opening shot as the camera focuses on Mandy Lane’s breasts,
revealing the dumbfounded stares of the average-looking boys and girls in the
hallway, and conveys their longing cinematically without being
exploitative. She is friends with Emmett
(Michael Welch), a nerdish boy whose desire for Mandy is as strong as all the
other guys, but he tries to hide it. He
just knows that she is out of his league. In some ways, the film seems like it plays like a modern day “horny
teenager” flick, but that would be a cursory dismissal. While the 1980s will probably be remembered
as the birth of the horny teenager horror film, which started in 1978 when
Michael Myers bludgeoned his sister to death after “the sex act” in John
Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), the
films of the 2000s will no doubt be looked upon as the remake era, or most
certainly the “influenced by” era. Sean
Cunningham made Friday the 13th
a superstitious day to be reckoned with, and premarital sex was forever labeled
as a crime punishable by death by deranged killers. Still, young men with
sex on their minds did all they could to get the girls of their dreams into
bed. He Knows You’re Alone
(1980), My Bloody Valentine (1981), The Burning (1981), The Boogens (1981), Halloween
II (1981), and countless other stalk-and-slash films repeated this formula
with much less panache and cinematic style than Mr. Carpenter did in his
watershed film, even prompting a send-up of horror films in the form of Student Bodies (1981), a comedy that
ridiculed death as the inevitable outcome to teenage sex.
Wes Craven's Scream (1996) reignited
interest in horror in 1996 and proved that it was once again viable box office,
so has there been resurgence in the teenage sex and death flick. Unlike
the gawky and under-confident teenagers of a quarter century ago who had to
borrow their parents’ oversized cars to get some action, today's teens are
muscular and sexy model types who seem to have stepped off of the pages of GQ
and Playboy magazines. Most of them appear to have money and their own
set of wheels. In Mandy Lane,
director Jonathan Levine manages to take a very overdone and tired horror
subgenre and make it different and interesting. The obnoxious jock Dylan
(Adam Powell) and his posse of over-stimulated friends, all expertly portrayed
by Whitney Able (Chloe), Luke Grimes (Jake), Melissa Price (Marlin), Edwin
Hodge (Bird), and Aaron Himelstein (Red), invite Mandy Lane to a party at his
house. Mandy agrees, and elects to bring her awkward friend Emmet along,
much to Dylan's chagrin. Once there, Dylan puts the moves on Mandy who nervously
brushes off his advances. This disgusts Emmet who tricks Dylan into a
maneuver designed to impress Mandy but that effectively takes Dylan out of the
game completely. Nine months after Dylan's untimely demise, Red
rounds up Chloe, Jake, Marlin, and Bird for a weekend at his father's mansion
in Bastrop, TX. The locales should look
familiar to Tobe Hooper fans.
caretaker in the form of a much older Garth (Anson Mount) who lives in a shed
in the back is there to oversee the teens and protect them, complete with a
firearm at his side. Mandy, whose parents died when she was young and is
now being raised by her aunt, is invited and decides to go along. Once
there, the guys all descend upon The Perfect Blonde, making no bones about how
much they want to jump hers. Jake is especially aggressive and looks a
bit like Robert Pattinson from the Twilight
films. Mandy is made the most uncomfortable by him, which makes one ponder
why she would agree to spend the weekend with a group of people who all want
the one thing from her that she is not willing to surrender. That
question is answered near the end in an interesting twist.
begin to go wrong rather quickly and it does not take the high schoolers long
to learn that there is a murderer in their midst. Director Levine reveals
the killer’s identity early on and yet despite that, the film remains
interesting enough for the audience to want to see it through to the end.
He directs the film with a restrained hand, which is refreshing when most films
like this tend to hit the audience over the head with quick cuts, loud music
and sound effects in a desperate effort to be suspenseful. The middle of
the film drags a bit but not by too much, and perhaps Mandy Lane would benefit by some tighter editing.
females in the film are snotty and bitchy but not in an overly hateful
fashion. Unlike the shallow vamps in the Black Christmas remake in 2006 and many others of its ilk, Chloe
and Marlin, just like the guys who are all pining after Mandy, are all real
people. Credit must go to the performers in this film. They all
talk and sound like real teenagers who are looking to find their place in the world,
and are concerned with how others perceive them and are the types to surrender
to peer pressure. The script by Jacob Forman is, no pun intended, a cut
above standard fare, providing archetypes that are familiar yet different.
film also possesses a good use of existing music - try to watch the racetrack
scene set to the Go-Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed” without smirking at the subtle
irony. The score by Mark Schultz is also
The Anchor Bay Blu-ray, which provides a terrific visual and aural transfer, has a
feature-length commentary with director Levine and judging from his comments it
was recorded this year. Mr. Levine
provides an interesting, engaging and very funny commentary seen from the
standpoint of a director who made his first film some eight years ago (he has
since directed three films since Mandy
Lane). At times he complains that he
wishes he had done a certain shot differently, but that is inevitable through
the benefit of time and hindsight. The
standard DVD also contains this commentary.
in all, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
is an above-average slasher film.
NOTE: If you have a region-free DVD or Blu-ray
player, the French DVD and Blu-ray releases of the film both have a 28-minute
interview with Ms. Heard, shot circa 2006, wherein she talks about the
film. A 14-minute interview with the
director can also be found on this edition. However, there is no running commentary on these versions, which also
possess English-language soundtracks.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE ANCHOR BAY BLU-RAY FROM AMAZON
William Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973), based upon the novel of the same name by
William Peter Blatty, is one of the greatest and most powerful American motion
pictures ever made. With an impressive
cast that includes Ellen Burstyn, Max Von Sydow, Jason Miller, Lee J. Cobb,
Jack MacGowran and newcomer Linda Blair, The
Exorcist had its origins in a 1949 case involving the purported demonic
possession of a young Evangelical Lutheran boy in Cottage City, MD who is still
alive to this day, is retired from NASA, and claims to have no memory of the
events that he experienced. Mr. Blatty, who
read about the events at the time, thought about the story for years until he
wrote the book circa 1969, some 20 years later, in the house of his ex-wife in
Coming on the heels of my all-time
favorite film, 1971’s Oscar-winning The French
Connection, Mr. Friedkin never thought of The Exorcist as a horror film but rather as the serious exploration
of the nature of faith and desperately wanted to direct the film. While watching The Exorcist, what is most striking about it is its unique ability
to present the material as something that seemingly could absolutely
happen. The idea of demonic possession
has arguably never been so deftly handled and depicted as it is in this film. Other attempts by filmmakers to create
convincing film explorations of the subject, mostly in the wake of this
enormously successful venture, have largely been ineffective. With the release of the film on Blu-ray in
2010, the film was given a much-needed high definition upgrade and you can read
Lee Pfeiffer’s review of that Blu-ray here. The new 40th anniversary release is identical to the 2010
release in that all the material from discs one and two of the 2010 Blu-ray
appears to be ported over on to one disc for the new release. A second Blu-ray includes a new documentary called
Beyond Comprehension: William Peter
Blatty’s The Exorcist (27:49) wherein Mr. Blatty revisits the Encino, CA house
that he wrote the book in for the first time in over 40 years (now it a guest house
that belongs to actress Angela Lansbury - do you think she knows that?). Mr. Blatty discusses his two aborted attempts
to write the novel and that he was originally a comedy writer(!). Father Karras (the Jason Miller character in
the film) is Mr. Blatty’s alter-ego, and like Karras, Blatty’s mother lived in
a nursing home and passed away there. Perhaps
the saddest revelation is the fact that he lost a son six years ago at the age
of 19 due to heart inflammation.
The second documentary on the second
Blu-ray is an interview with Father Eugene Gallagher (19:47) who was part of
the Philodemic Debating Team and had a professional relationship with Mr.
Blatty and discusses his experiences while Mr. Blatty was writing the novel.
Also included with this 40th
anniversary package is a small hardcover excerpt of the excellent autobiography
by William Friedkin called The Friedkin
Connection and it contains his passages about the making of The Exorcist which is truly a
If you already have the original
Blu-ray from 2010, there is probably little reason to upgrade; get yourself The Friedkin Connection if you have not
The feud between John Sturges and McQueen was tragic...he had made McQueen a star in Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape. However, McQueen's long-delayed plans to bring a racing movie to the screen culminated in the ill-conceived Le Mans. The two old friends feuded over the film's concept. After Sturges quit the project, "B" movie director Lee H. Katzen took over. The film was one of the few outright bombs of McQueen's career, consisting mostly of footage of speeding cars and virtually no plot. (Thanks to Cinema Retro contributing writer Steve Saragossi for sharing this rare photo).
(This book was recently reviewed by Lee Pfeiffer. Here is columnist Adrian Smith's take on this volume.)
Monsters, Teenage Cavemen and Candy Stripe Nurses - Roger Corman: King of the B
Chris Nashawaty Introduction by John Landis
part of the Gothic season at the British Film Institute recently, Roger Corman
sat and signed autographs for well over an hour as the line of fans and
admirers snaked its way around the building. At least 50% of those fans were
clutching copies of this new coffee-table book, a visual delight from Chris
Nashawaty, writer for Entertainment Weekly.
books have been published on the Corman phenomenon, most notably his own
autobiography How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a
Dime. Since that was published in 1990 he has made at least a hundred more.
Until he gets around to updating that volume, which given his continuing
workload in film production seems unlikely, we are lucky that so many other
writers and filmmakers are constantly willing dive into his career.
not as revealing or personal as Bevery Gray's excellent Roger Corman: An
Unauthorised Life, Nashawaty's book is a real joy. He has selected over 150
images, many of which are previously unpublished. Artwork, photos and movie
stills are presented in full colour alongside an oral history of the life and
career of Roger Corman, from his childhood right up to the present day.
Corman's contribution to the movie business is immense, and, as covered in the
book, his honorary Academy Award in 2009 was well deserved. Those lined up to
congratulate him on that night included Jonathan Demme, Ron Howard, Jack
Nicholson and Peter Bogdanovich. The list of those filmmakers who have
graduated from the "Corman School" is almost endless, and the fact
that he is still making films today means that yet another generation are
learning from the master.
evidenced by a photograph of him on the Hawaiian set of Piranhaconda
(2012), Corman is very much a hands-on producer. He has an almost preternatural
sense of what is going to become the next big thing in the business; providing
teenage movies for the drive-ins in the 1950s, using VHS before the major
studios in the late 1970s or bringing monster mash-up movies to the Syfy
channel (as well as Piranhaconda, Corman has been responsible for Sharktopus
(2010), Dinocroc vs. Supergator (2010) and Dinoshark (2010), the
latter as both producer and star).
well as dozens of new interviews, the book also critically examines some of the
key titles from Corman's back-catalogue, either as director or producer. Attack
of the Crab Monsters (1957), The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), The
Intruder (1962), The Big Doll House (1971), Boxcar Bertha
(1972, an early film from Martin Scorsese) and even The Slumber Party
Massacre (1982) are all touched on, amongst many more. One can use Nashawaty's
selections as a list for beginners keen to gain an understanding of Corman as a
Christmas just around the corner, this book is well worth considering sending
to the movie lover in your life. It makes the perfect introduction to Roger
Corman and his work, and contains new stories and anecdotes as well as a few
that will be familiar to aficionados. And as he is showing no sign of slowing
down, the Corman story is not over yet.
At a recent auction of classic movie memorabilia conducted by Bonhams and Turner Classic Movies in New York City, an original Maltese Falcon sold for $4,085,000. There were two falcons built for John Huston's classic 1941 movie but this one can be verified as actually having been in the film. It was purchased by an anonymous collector. The piece is thought to be the third highest valued movie collectible in history having sold for slightly less than the original Batmobile and James Bond's original Aston Martin DB5. Click here for more
UK, November 27th 2013) MI6 Confidential, has taken possession of a
limited number of signed copies of the autobiography of Production Designer Syd
‘Not Forgetting James Bond’ is the autobiography of
Syd Cain, one of cinema's most highly acclaimed Production Designers and Art
Directors. This is a mesmerising volume filled with humour, drama and exotic
travel, and never before told accolades about the legendary people Syd worked
with during his 57 years in the film industry.
He recalls extraordinary revelations about making such
films as Frenzy, The Wild Geese, Lolita, Shout at the Dead, Gold, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the
Forum, Fahrenheit 451, and of course
the James Bond classics: Dr. No, From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Live and Let Die and GoldenEye.
This book has been unavailable for several years, but
MI6 has secured a batch of original first edition hardbacks signed by the late
Syd Cain in 2002. He passed away in 2011 at the age of 93.
The autobiography was published in 2002 by Daleon
Enterprises (Cinema Retro magazine publishers Lee Pfeiffer and Dave Worrall) with
a limited edition of 1,000 signed hardbacks. The book contains a wealth of
extremely rare and previously unpublished behind the scenes production photos
from Syd Cain's personal family archives.
The rare autobiography is a hard-to-come-by classic,
and is signed by the late legendary production designer, shipping today for £60
+ P&P from www.sydcain.com.
Swiss label Explosive
Media (www.explosive-media.com) has just
released two classic Italian spaghetti westerns on Blu-ray from brand new HD
transfers: Giulio Petroni's Death Rides a Horse (1967), starring Lee Van
Cleef, John Phillip Law, and Mario Brega and Gianfranco Parolini's Sabata
(1969), starring Lee Van Cleef, William Berger and Ignazio Spalla. Both films
have their world-wide premiere on the Blu-ray format.
These new releases have
newly-produced special features, bonus DVDs and illustrated booklets. Both are
available for purchase in Switzerland and Germany via Amazon and have English
tracks. Explosive Media released the brilliant Blu-ray version of Lee Van
Cleef's The Big Gundown last year,
so fans already know the calibre of content and quality presented by this
Death Rides a Horse
Fifteen years after four
bandits massacred his family, a young man (John Phillip Law) seeks revenge.
Several of the men responsible now hold positions of power in the new West, but
one of the bandits (Lee van Cleef) is due to be released from prison. Having
been framed by the others all those years ago, he is ready to exact bloody
reprisals, and so forms an unholy alliance with the vengeance-seeking man whose
family he helped destroy. Original Italian title: Da uomo a uomo.
Gunslinger Sabata (Lee
van Cleef) is not a popular figure in the town of Daugherty. When he discovers
that the town's kingpins are behind a bank heist, he becomes a marked man,
unable to trust even his own friends. Sabata is soon headed for a final
shoot-out from which there can be but one survivor. Original Italian title: Ehi
amico... c'è Sabata, hai chiuso!
available for the first time on Blu-ray
bonus documentaries on the making of the films
George Lazenby, Laurene Landon and Douglas Dunning in "Hunter".
Douglas Dunning, Cinema Epoch’s Director
of Acquisitions, has just announced that the company has obtained the rights to
release four films from XPosse Productions for worldwide distribution on DVD and
on all digital platforms. Scary Tales
is among the titles scheduled for release. Here
is a brief trailer for the film.
Mr. Dunning is currently also appearing
opposite actor George Lazenby, who is best known for playing James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969),
in the recently completed film Hunter, which was directed by Gregory
Hatanaka, who is also the president of Cinema Epoch. Mr. Lazenby plays General Bullmont in the
film. Also starring is actress Laurene
Landon who has starred in the Peter Falk film All the Marbles (1981), I,
the Jury (1982), Hundra (1983)
and Yellow Hair and the Fortress of Gold
Mr. Dunning can also be seen in Jason
Rutherford’s upcoming film Shhhh. You can view the trailer here
and click on the homepage here.
‘Operation Naomi’ was
the first signing event organized by the Swiss James Bond Club for its members.
52 guests met The Spy Who Loved Me star Caroline Munro, who arrived in
member Gernot Wolf’s white Lotus Esprit - of course! Caroline spent the day
signing autographs and posed for photographs, before everyone enjoyed a
sumptuous 3 course steak dinner at the amazing Runway Restaurant where the
event took place - including a Jet Ranger helicopter similar to the one in the film
flying in especially for the day. At the end of the day club president Markus
Hartmann asked Caroline to be the club’s honorary Patron, to which she readily
Lewis Collins, the popular British actor who played men of action, has died at from cancer at age 67. Although his fame was largely relegated to his native England, he maintained a loyal fan following primarily attributed to his role in the long-running UK TV series The Professionals which is still being presented in re-runs on ITV4. Collins also had roles in other popular British TV series including Z Cars, The New Avengers and The Cuckoo Waltz. He also starred in producer Euan Lloyd's 1982 feature film Who Dares Wins about a daring SAS operation. The film, released in the United States as The Final Option, was a personal favorite of President Ronald Reagan, who requested a private screening at the White House. Collins was touted by many as a suitable candidate for playing James Bond. In fact, Collins screen tested for the role of 007 but failed to convince legendary producer Cubby Broccoli that he was the man for the job. For more click here
Tony Musante, the popular character actor who was a fixture in Italian films and TV series, has died in a New York hospital at age 77. Musante, who brought intensity to all of his roles, was driven more by artistic satisfaction than a desire to make the big money. He made a splash with U.S. audiences in 1967 playing a thug who terrorizes passengers on a New York City subway train in the film The Incident. He won acclaim for his role as a gay man who is wrongly convicted and executed for murder in the 1968 Frank Sinatra film The Detective. He also had a co-starring role with George C. Scott in the 1971 crime film The Last Run and starred in director Dario Argento's 1970 cult classic The Bird With the Crystal Plumage. In 1973 he reluctantly starred in the TV series Toma about a maverick cop. Despite the show's ratings success, Musante left the series after one seasons. It was then re-developed as Baretta, which became a major hit for Robert Blake, who took over the lead role. In recent years Musante continued to act periodically and had a recurring role in the TV series Oz in 1997. For more click here
Both season 1 and season 2 episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. are now available for streaming through the Warner Archives instant viewing program. Best, you can take advantage of a free trial. Click here for more.
Sony has reissued its 2002 special edition of producer William Castle's horror exploitation film Homicidal a burn-to-order DVD, although there is no mention of the extra bonus feature on the packaging or publicity for the film. (Sony seems determined not to capitalize on special features that are especially marketable to collectors.) Castle, of course, was the proud master of exploitation films and relished his reputation as the King of Schlock. He excelled in making low-budget, "quickie" films that often capitalized on major hit movies of the day. Castle seemed to fancy himself as a low-rent version of Alfred Hitchcock, who was also not shy about promoting his own image in connection with marketing his films and TV series. Castle's films were not meant to be taken seriously by critics but he did have high standards for the genre in which he worked and it's rare to find any of his movies that don't at least merit classification as guilty pleasures. Others, such as Homicidal, actually turned out to be effective chillers in their own right. The movie was Castle's answer to the phenomenal success of Hitchcock's 1960 classic Psycho. Indeed, there are camera angles, musical cues and plot scenarios that practically border on plagiarism of the original film. The story opens on a fascinating note as we watch a statuesque young blonde (Jean Arless) check into a hotel in Ventura, California. She's a strange one from frame one- barely engaging in conversation with anyone else. She suddenly makes the hunky bellboy a bizarre proposition: she will pay him $2,000 cash if he agrees to marry her and then almost immediately have the union annulled. She does not give a reason for this weird offer, but in an age where a hotel room rented for $5 a night, the $2,000 offer is more than he can refuse. En route to the justice of the peace, the young woman, whose name is Emily, says little and doesn't even engage in niceties. She seems intent on having a specific justice of the peace (crotchety old James Westerfield in a marvelous role) perform the ceremony. As with all Castle productions, to describe much more would spoil some key scenes. Suffice it to say that the short-lived marriage results in murder that is so shocking and gory that it is amazing it was not watered down by skittish studio executives.
What can be said is that Emily is a Swedish immigrant who was brought to America by an equally strange young man named Warren, who resides in an opulent home. Helga's main duty is to care for an elderly woman named Helga (Eugenie Leontovich), another Swede who had been Warren's nursemaid as a child. Helga has suffered a stroke and is confined to a wheelchair, unable to talk or communicate in any meaningful way. Around Warren, Emily plays the doting caregiver, but privately, she delights in tormenting the long-suffering woman, even to the point of making death threats. One of the few outsiders to be allowed into this environment is Miriam Webster (Patricia Breslin), Warren's half-sister. The two have a very close relationship but things are fairly frosty between Miriam and Emily, who seems jealous of the close bond between brother and sister. Emily is also jealous of Miriam's relationship with a local pharmacist, Karl Anderson (Glenn Corbett) and begins to find ways to thwart their social outings. After a time, Miriam and Karl begin to suspect that Emily might well be a notorious murderer the police are searching for. This sets in motion many of the standard actions screen heroines must always engage in. These include not staying in a safe environment and being lured to precisely the location where she knows she will be placed in life-threatening danger. When Emily is about to enter the house of horrors, Castle employs one of his trademark gimmicks by freezing the action and putting a clock on screen that gives squeemish audience members 45 seconds to flee to the lobby where they can redeem a coupon to get their money back. To prevent having to actually provide many refunds, Castle has a caveat to the agreement: all such patrons must stand in full view in a "Coward's Corner" he had provided for theater lobbies! Once Miriam does enter the house, the film is genuinely creepy and leads to an ending so shocking I never saw it coming and I doubt most viewers will, either.
You approach Homicidal with the justifiable expectation that it will be filled with laughs, a la Castle's great camp success House on Haunted Hill. However, it proves to be a highly effective thriller with an a rather astonishing performance by Jean Arless as the insane Emily. One minute she's all charm, the next she's running around bug-eyed trying to murder people with knives and poison. There are times she brings to mind Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford, but in the aggregate it's a mesmerizing screen debut. Bizarrely, "Jean Arless" was a fake name used by actress Joan Marshall because she feared being typecast in horror films. Sadly, she never went far in her career under either name and died relatively young in 1992 at 61 years of age. She gets solid support from Glenn Corbett (who also died young in 1993 at age 59) and Patricia Breslin, who manages to avoid making the requisite role of damsel in distress unintentionally funny.
The Sony DVD has a top quality transfer and the bonus items are quite interesting. There is a short featurette that presents various horror film authorities extolling the virtues of Castle's work. There is also some wonderfully campy newsreel footage of the world premiere in Youngstown, Ohio that features the omnipresent Castle badgering patrons to tell everyone how great the film is. (One woman says with a straight face that it's better than Psycho.) The cigar-chomping Castle, who comes across as a delightful man, also features in the introductory segment to Homicidal, in an obvious attempt to emulate Hitchcock's penchant for self-promotion. The special edition also features a short TV spot in which the narrator clearly imitates the voice of old Hitch.
Homicidal is a highly entertaining film that demonstrates you don't need big stars or a big budget to make an effective thriller. Highly recommended.
The magnificent Oscar-winning best picture of the year for 1968, Oliver!, has been released as a Blu-ray special limited edition (3,000 units) by Twilight Time. This adaptation of the smash stage hit was a dream project for director Lewis Gilbert but, much to his dismay, the director's seat was given to Sir Carol Reed. How Gilbert's version of the film would have differed will never be known but suffice it to say, it's hard to imagine he could have improved on Reed's vision. There had been numerous previous screen versions of Dickens' classic novel Oliver Twist, with the most notable being David Lean's 1948 movie with a star-making turn by Alec Guinness as Fagin. The 1963 stage musical by Lionel Bart was a sensation and it stood to reason that the screen rights were quickly scooped up. The film went against the tide when considering other major musicals of the period. By the late 1960s, the youth revolution had taken international cinema by storm. Suddenly, big budget, old-fashioned musicals were deemed out-dated. Paint Your Wagon, Sweet Charity, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Hello, Dolly! and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever all either under-performed or outright bombed. Yet, Oliver! was a major hit with both critics and audience. Perhaps the anti-Establishment tone of Dickins' timeless tale had a wider appeal than those other films. Clearly, the story is a scathing indictment of the British class system that had consigned the poorest citizens to lives of toil and struggle. The novel's impact on social mores can be equated with that of Uncle Tom's Cabin in America. Yet, for all the darkness inherent in the story line, Oliver! is primarily a joyous screen extravaganza in which good inevitably triumphs over evil. The most famous orphan in all of literature is perfectly brought to life by Mark Lester, who has a natural grace in front of the camera and a shy demeanor that suits his interpretation of Oliver very well. (although his songs were dubbed by professional singers.) Surprisingly, the film was a major hit despite the lack of "name" actors. Only Oliver Reed (nephew of Carol Reed) had star power and his performance as the menacing Bill Sikes is truly frightening to behold. However, it is Ron Moody's Fagin that steals the show. It's a wonderful performance with Moody masterfully manipulating all those around him as London's most charismatic con man. Other stand-outs are Shani Wallis as Sikes' ill-fated lover Nancy, Jack Wild as the Artful Dodger and Harry Seacomb as Mr. Bumble. There are elaborate sets masterfully designed by John Box and show-stopping musical numbers like "Food, Glorious Food", "Consider Yourself", "As Long As He Needs Me" and ""Who Will Buy?".
Twilight Time's special edition Blu-ray is a wonderful experience. The transfer is excellent and the special features have broad appeal. There are recent interviews with cast members including Ron Moody and Mark Lester as well as a vintage featurette (that shows its age) depicting how the filming was done. There is also an isolated track score, sing-alongs and dance-alongs and a theatrical teaser trailer for the roadshow release that curiously doesn't have any moving images, just still photos. The film remains as entertaining today as it did during its initial release. This special edition makes perfect holiday viewing for the entire family.
Barbara Feldon and Cinema Retro's Lee Pfeiffer at the Episcopal Actors Guild in New York City.
On November 21, Cinema Retro hosted an Evening With Barbara Feldon at the historic Episcopal Actors Guild in New York City. The event benefited indigent people in the arts. Ms. Feldon was interviewed by Cinema Retro Editor-in-Chief Lee Pfeiffer, who asked her about her career prior to her Emmy-nominated performance in "Get Smart". She revealed that she had come to New York as a young woman from her native Pittsburgh with the desire to enter show business. Good looking and statuesque, Feldon was soon hired for a three month stint as a chorus girl at the famed Copacabana. She said it was the most thrilling time of her life, to be young and in New York with unlimited possibilities before her. Shortly thereafter, she became one of the top fashion models of the era, which- in turn- led her to be the face of Revlon in print and on TV ads. Those ads helped elevate her status and brought her to the attention of Hollywood producers. She played some bit roles in TV series before the producers of "Get Smart" (created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry) approached her for the role of Agent "99" opposite Don Adams. She initially turned down the offer, as she already had a lucrative career in modeling. She had also been offered a plum role in Sidney Lumet's film "The Group". She credits her agent at the time for convincing her to accept the part of "99" on the basis that Candice Bergen had the prime role in the Lumet film because she played a lesbian, which was a sensational notion at the time. He cautioned Feldon that she would just be lumped in with the other talented actresses who were to appear in the film and that Bergen would get all the attention. She accepted his advice and reluctantly flew to Hollywood, leaving behind her beloved New York. She immediately knew she made the right decision. The friendly bond between cast and crew on "Get Smart" was addictive and she said the show was a pleasure from day one. She credited Buck Henry for setting the tone of the early episodes, as Mel Brooks had already departed to work on his first feature film, "The Producers". After viewing a screening of the "Satan Place" episode with Cinema Retro's own Joe Sirola as the villain, Feldon remarked at how well the writing held up. Amusingly, she said she still feels self-conscious about how she towered over the much-shorter Don Adams and was reminded of how she attempted to minimize the height difference by slumping a bit in their scenes together or finding an excuse to sit down. Feldon said that when the show's ratings fell in the fourth season and the show moved from NBC to CBS for the fifth and final season, the idea of marrying "99" and Maxwell Smart was done simply as a gimmick, as was the introduction of their twin children who she laughingly said "disappeared rather quickly". Feldon also discussed the fact that the character of "99" was one of the first independent female characters on television. Pfeiffer mentioned that there were precious few such role models aside from Emma Peel and Cathy Gale of "The Avengers" and April Dancer of "The Girl From U.N.C.L.E". Feldon agreed, saying that she was happy that "99" was given more to do than simply being "the skirt" but said that, even then, it was clear that her character was often there to comfort or console the male hero, Maxwell Smart. She said, however, that given this was before the Women's Lib movement, it was rather progressive for the medium of television.
Feldon signs a commemorative shoe phone for contributing Cinema Retro photographer Tom Stroud.
Feldon said that, despite working with Adams for years, she knew very little about his personal life. It was only when they reunited for the TV movie "Get Smart Again!" in 1989 that they truly bonded and became close friends until Adams' death in 2005. Asked about why she didn't appear in the rather anemic "Get Smart" 1980 feature film, "The Nude Bomb", she said bluntly that she simply hadn't been asked. She said she was philosophical about the snub, saying that they were obviously looking for younger women to play against Adams. Pfeiffer asked Feldon to reflect on the contributions of Edward Platt, whose spot-on performance as "The Chief" is often overlooked in evaluations of the show. She said he played an integral part in the show's success and was a truly lovely man who was also a trained professional opera singer. She also discussed her post-"Smart" career when she wrote and performed a one woman show because she thought her acting skills might be getting stale and wanted a challenge that would "terrify" her. She also spoke about her lucrative career as one of New York's top voice-over talents. Speaking of feature films, she said that, at the time, being a TV star had made it difficult to transfer into theatrical films, although she loved working with Dick Van Dyke on the 1968 Disney film "Fitzwilly" and was especially pleased to star with Bruce Dern in the acclaimed 1975 comedy "Smile". She also spoke about how, after a failed marriage and relationships, she came to the conclusion that people don't need committed relationships in order to find happiness. She said her book, "Living Alone & Loving It: A Guide to Relishing the Solo Life", extols the virtues of living an independent life. She said living alone doesn't mean you are living a lonely life. She said her life is filled with wonderful people and great times, but she has chosen not to engage in a monogamous relationship.
"...and loving it!" Barbara expresses her appreciation to "Get Smart" scholar Nate Sears for flying in from Utah for the event.
Cinema Retro reader Tony Latino with Barbara Feldon.
Prior to the event, Barbara Feldon was interviewed for ABC News Radio by film critic Bill Diehl.
Following the interview, Ms. Feldon graciously answered questions, signed autographs and posed for seemingly endless photos with fans. She said she was genuinely touched by the fact that so many people still take an interest in her work. In all, a fun and informative evening with the ultimate New York "independent woman"- who still cites her three month stint as a chorus girl as the most fulfilling time of her career.
(Click here to find out how to join the Episcopal Actors Guild, which is non-sectarian. Dues are only $35 annually and you will get invitations to many exclusive entertainment-related performances and events. Proceeds go to aid charitable causes relating to the arts.)
(Click here to order Barbara Feldon's book "Living Alone & Loving It" from Amazon)
The "Trailers From Hell" web site presents the original trailer for the 1972 Western Chato's Land starring Charles Bronson. John Landis provides an amusing commentary for the trailer, reflecting on his experiences working on the film and enduring the "Mad Dog and Englishman" himself, director Michael Winner. Click here to watch
Sony has issued its 2001 special edition of director Fred Zinnemann's From Here to Eternity as a Blu-ray release. The passage of time has done nothing to diminish the movie's status as one of the great Hollywood productions. The story, based on James Jones' sensational 1951 bestseller that took the world by storm, centers on on a disparate group of people associated with the U.S. Army base in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1941. Private Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) is a quiet loner who was once regimental boxing champ but has gone into self-imposed retirement after accidentally blinding an opponent in the ring. He transfers into a new unit to escape harassment from his fellow soldiers, who are pressuring him to get back in the ring. He finds his new commanding officer, Captain Holmes (Philip Ober) is even worse and he is soon subjected to an orchestrated campaign of punishment and social isolation as part of the "treatment" to get him to relent and agree to box in this year's championship fight. The only friend he has is Maggio (Frank Sinatra), the company wise-guy who is always in trouble for his impulsive nature and habit of insulting his superiors. Also in the company is Sgt. Warden (Burt Lancaster), a by-the-book career soldier who does all the heavy lifting for Holmes, a man he personally detests. The story follows the complex love lives of Prewitt and Warden, who come to form an unlikely bond. Warden knows that Prewitt's independent nature will result in sheer misery for him, but he admires his pluck. Prewitt correctly assesses that Warden is the only decent superior he has met on the army staff; someone who will give him a fair break whenever he can. Both Prewitt and Warden find solace in love affairs with two very different women. Prewitt begins dating Lorene (Donna Reed), a local "dance hall" girl, which was the parlance of the era to describe a prostitute. Warden is involved in a far more dangerous affair: he is bedding Karen Holmes (Deborah Kerr), the sexually frustrated wife of Captain Holmes and who is reputed by soldiers to be a nymphomaniac. The brilliant screenplay by Daniel Taradash seamlessly interweaves the events that affect each of these mesmerizing characters. (Ernest Borgnine is sensational in a star-making role as a sadistic sergeant of the stockade.) The viewer, of course, realizes what these individuals cannot: that their lives are about to be dramatically changed by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a sequence that Zinnemann pulls off brilliantly by incorporating real battle footage. Ultimately, the film is not a "feel good" experience as some very bad things happen to some very admirable people. Yet, it is completely compelling on every level and the cast performs superbly. (The film won 8 Oscars).
The Blu-ray is an excellent transfer, making the stunning B&W cinematography look more impressive than ever. The extras are a mixed bag, however. "The Making of From Here to Eternity" is an absurdly short featurette that ends just when it begins to engage the viewer. It does, however, feature some fascinating color home movies that Zinnemann took on the set. More informative is a feature that allows you to watch the movie while a picture-in-picture presents various film historians who discuss every aspect of the movie in detail. This is complimented by an audio commentary by Zinnemann's son Tom and veteran screenwriter Alvin Sargent, who worked on Eternity. The set also features excerpts from a late-in-life interview with Zinnemann in which he provides some interesting insights about his battles with legendary Columbia mogul Harry Cohn, the tyrannical head of the studio. What emerges from all this analysis is that, while Eternity was a huge bestseller, it was considered "unfilmable". The book was laced with sex and profanity and also ripped the lid off the squeaky clean image that Hollywood generally used to present the U.S. Army. Yet, Zinnemann pulled off the feat admirably, suggesting all sorts of vice despite the film industry's archaic production code that watered down certain elements of the story. The Army conceded to allow filming on their facilities but demanded that the script reflect the fact that the corrupt Captain Holmes is brought to justice by Army authorities. The sex, particularly the now famous surf "make out" session between Lancaster and Kerr, is possibly more erotic because of the power of suggestion.
The Blu-ray set retains the kooky DVD artwork on the sleeve, which seems to imply Lancaster and Kerr are so intent on getting it on that they are ignoring being strafed by Japanese Zeros! (For the record, the love scene takes place before the Pearl Harbor attack). Surprisingly, there is no theatrical trailer included although Sony has provided some really nice mini-lobby card reproductions, though this is not mentioned on the packaging. In all, this is a most welcome release on Blu-ray-- but there is still room for an even more in-depth special edition of this classic motion picture.
Perhaps more relevant today than ever, the Visual Entertainment Inc. DVD label has released "Arthur C. Clarke: The Complete Collection", a 52 episode boxed set containing 22 hours of programming. Why is this set more relevant today than ever? Because in his prime, Clarke and his fellow prominent scientists and intellectuals were held in great esteem by the general public. Today, however, vast segments of the world's populations are intent on downgrading the importance of science in place of fanatical religious dogma. Fortunately, for the majority of people of faith, science does not exist in a mutually exclusive universe. Nevertheless, there is an undeniable trend in some quarters to pretend that established fact does not exist, especially if it offers some inconvenient contrasts to what these people want to believe. This anti-science slant is not restricted to fringe religious groups. Our popular culture reflects widespread belief in things that once would have been considered highly speculative by most mainstream audiences. Thus, we have shows in which a dumb housewife is paid a fortune to pretend she is a medium from Long Island and others that have self-proclaimed "ghost hunters" trying to convince the average person that their home is haunted. Arthur C. Clarke, the esteemed scientist and author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, tried to elevate discussion of the mysteries of life by keeping an open mind while also providing a skeptic's viewpoint. Now as a skeptic myself, I must admit I am often viewed as the skunk at the garden party when it comes to attempting to bring logic into conversations with people whose minds are made up that aliens are routinely abducting innocent earthlings or that religious miracles are occurring every day. Many people are as committed to their comfortable beliefs as they are to political ideologies and they don't want to allow any viewpoint into their lives that might cause them to rethink such positions. Clarke wanted people to constantly challenge their own belief systems. From 1980 through 1995, he hosted period series of TV programs designed to explore the great mysteries of science and nature. The new DVD set is as enlightening today as it was when these shows were originally telecast on British television.
The set is broken down into three different programs. Here is the description from the official press release:
"Hosted by acclaimed sci-fi
author Sir Arthur C. Clarke (2001: A Space Odyssey), Arthur C. Clarke: The Complete Collection
investigates the inexplicable, abnormal and mind-boggling wonders of the world. Included in the set are three
popular, documentary series originally aired on Britain’s ITV network. Mysterious
World (1980), narrated by author, actor and newscaster
Gordon Honeycomb (Then She Was Gone, The Medusa Touch), looks at unexplained
phenomena from Stonehenge to the Loch Ness Monster. Narrated by English journalist Anna Ford, World
of Strange Powers (1985) investigates goose bump-raising paranormal
activity from haunted houses to magical spirits. Mysterious Universe (1995),
narrated by British TV personality Carol Vorderman, examines mystical secrets
from the ancient world. In each episode, Clarke tackles
the daunting task of finding a reasonable explanation for some of the most
bizarre phenomena ever known to mankind from such “mysteries of the first kind”
as solar eclipses to the more inexplicable, including messages from beyond the
grave, the stigmata, lost planets, UFOs and zombies … Making Arthur
C. Clarke: The Complete Collection a must-have for every science-fiction
Clarke bookends every episode with an introduction and an epilogue, though he occasionally appears in the program itself to offers opinions and insights, treating people on both sides of an issue with dignity and respect. Each segment is fascinating and educational, ranging from topics that include the great achievements of the ancient world to seemingly inexplicable phenomenon. Clarke presents compelling arguments on all sides regarding the matters at hand but clearly relishes exposing some theories such as faith healing as the fraudulent practices they are. (One must admit, however, that the footage of these "miracle workers" performing is quite convincing on a certain level - until they are ultimately unveiled as charlatans preying on the most vulnerable members of society.) Clarke's presentation of other phenomenon such as the Abominable Snowman features thought-provoking insights from serious explorers who were convinced that there could be some actual unknown beast in the Himilayas. Clark acknowledges that, based on his study of the evidence, it might be possible the creature exists, but he dismisses as virtually impossible that a real-life Yeti could be tramping through even the most remote regions of the United States. Similarly, like any good scientist, he doesn't reject outright the possibility that supernatural phenomenon does occur- but doesn't shy away from the one answer that never satisfies any "true believer" in that he simply acknowledges he does not know the answer. Human beings need answers and if science and nature doesn't provide them, they simply convince themselves that something is true. If we don't know the answer of how the universe was created...well, then, Presto! A superior being made it! If something goes "bump" in the night in your home then...Yikes! You're house must be haunted! Scientists take a more measured approach by suppressing as much as possible their own beliefs so as to prevent coming to any forgone conclusions. Clarke represented that mindset. Just because someone else can't provide a viable answer doesn't mean your beliefs have to be true.
The set is addictive in terms of viewing. The subject matters are so vast and wide-ranging that if one topic doesn't appeal to you, another will. Each 30 minute episode is tightly edited and features fascinating film footage from around the world. Some segments may reinforce your beliefs (or lack thereof) while others may leave you questioning long-held opinions on these subjects, but there is enough here, for example, in the examination of religion to please both believers and skeptics because of the fascinating angles Clarke uses to explore the topic. The series represents a time when such topics could be treated in an objective manner with the end result being that the viewers would reach their own conclusions. Sadly, such respect for the audience's intelligence has all been eradicated in the era of shows like The Long Island Medium. Highly recommended.
Paul Mantee, a popular fixture on TV shows and feature films, passed away on November 7. Mantee had appeared on many TV series over the years and had recurring roles on the 1980s hits Hunter and Cagney and Lacy. He first began appearing in the medium in the late 1959s and eventually guest starred on major programs such as The F.B.I, Mannix, Dragnet, Ben Casey, Dr. Kildare, Batman, The Time Tunnel, Bonanza, Kojak and Seinfeld. Mantee also appeared in small roles in many feature films. In 1964 he had a rare starring role in Robinson Crusoe on Mars, a fairly low-budget sci-fi film that became a major cult hit thanks to its intelligent script, direction and performances. He also had the lead role in the 1968 James Bond spoof A Man Called Dagger. For more click here
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
the first time on DVD a feature length documentary, Return to Scatterbrook: Memories of Worzel, celebrating the cult
70’s/80’s television series, Worzel
Featuring key interviews with members of the
cast and crew; rare archive footage of Jon Pertwee; visits to the locations,
and with many previously unseen continuity shots; behind the scenes
photographs, and production designs – this film opens up the storybook behind
British TV’s most lovable scarecrow.
Gummidge is highly regarded today as a piece of classic television, making
this documentary a special journey down memory lane for anyone who remembers
this delightful, magical series.
Pertwee, Geoffrey Bayldon, Lorraine Chase, Jeremy Austin & Mike Berry
Directed By Derek
DVD Extras: An Evening With Jon Pertwee (1996) & Worzel Gallery
Running Time: 104
raised from the sale of this DVD goes to:
Society (in loving memory of Cecelia & Michael Ripper) & All Dogs
the wondrous Blu-ray products released this month by The Criterion Collection,
that Cadillac of labels, are a masterpiece from 1931 and an absolute gem from
2013—Charles Chaplin’s City Lights,
and Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha. Both
packages come with Blu-ray and DVD discs, which apparently will be the norm for
Criterion releases from now on.
up—City Lights, arguably Chaplin’s
best and most enduring feature film. Made at a time when sound had already
taken over Hollywood, Chaplin insisted on shooting another silent picture.
Everyone thought he was mad. The moguls believed that even after only four
years of sound movies, audiences would not care to step backwards into the
silent era ever again. Chaplin proved them wrong. City Lights, even without spoken dialogue (but with a gorgeous
Chaplin score and sound effects) is sophisticated and intelligent,
hilarious and touching, and remarkably clever. Often regarded as one of the
best films ever made, Chaplin’s masterwork is the story of a tramp (duh) and
his love for a blind flower-girl, who mistakenly thinks Charlie is a rich man.
As our hero attempts to perpetuate this misconception, the results are
side-splitting funny—until Chaplin’s trademark pathos takes over and “there
isn’t a dry eye in the house.” It is said that Albert Einstein had tears
rolling down his cheeks at the premiere.
oh, boy, does the film look good on Blu-ray. The new digital restoration from a
4K film transfer is crisp, sharp, and blemish-free. Like Criterion’s earlier
release this year, Safety Last!, City Lights looks as if it were made
last week. There’s a new audio commentary by Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance,
as well as a host of extras. Many of these are repeated from the MK2 Warner
Brothers release from around ten years ago, such as the documentary Chaplin Today: City Lights, archival
footage from the production of the film, rehearsals, and clips of the director
with boxing stars at Chaplin Studios in 1918. A new feature, Chaplin Studios: Creative Freedom by Design,
explores how Chaplin built his famous studio with a mind toward expressing his unique
ways of working. The usual outstanding booklet contains an essay by critic Gary
Giddins and a 1966 interview with Chaplin himself.
short, if you’ve never seen City Lights
or have any doubt that Charles Chaplin was the greatest film artist in the
industry’s first fifty years, then by all means pick up this set.
Noah Baumbach’s delightful Frances Ha originally
premiered at film festivals in 2012, but was released theatrically in 2013,
making it a contender for this year’s Academy Awards. I sincerely hope it’s not
overlooked. Baumbach is known for making quirky films (see The Squid and the Whale, for example), and Frances Ha is no different. However, unlike Baumbach’s earlier
mixtures of dark humor and tragedy, the new picture is definitely a comedy. At
its heart is Greta Gerwig’s performance as Frances, who also co-wrote the
screenplay with Baumbach. Frances is a well-meaning, life-is-mostly-wonderful
type of young woman who strives to be a choreographer but can’t seem to get the
opportunity to strut her stuff. Throughout the picture, she is a woman without
a home, crashing at various friends’ apartments in New York City, always
promising herself that she’ll “get her own place soon,” hopefully with her best
friend Sophie (played by Sting’s daughter Mickey Sumner), with whom Frances
shared a place at the story’s beginning. While the film is full of laughs and
smiles, there is an under-current of
loneliness that doesn’t really hit you until after the movie is over—despite
the genuine happy ending.
digitally in color and then converted into glorious black and white, New York
hasn’t looked so good since Woody Allen’s Manhattan.
Baumbach’s storytelling expertise is all in the characters and how the film is
edited, and in many ways, the picture resembles something Francois Truffaut
might have done in the early 60s. In fact, Baumbach utilizes famous French New
Wave movie music (by Georges Delerue and others) for much of the score. If ever
there was an homage to that important and creative movement in cinema history, Frances Ha is it.
include an interesting dialogue between Baumbach and director Peter
Bogdanovich; one gets the impression that the elder statesman might be
something of a mentor to the younger filmmaker. Also of note is the dialogue
between Greta Gerwig and filmmaker/actress Sarah Polley. A further conversation
about the look of the picture between Baumbach, DOP Sam Levy, and Pascal
Dangin, who did the film’s color mastering, is enlightening. The booklet
contains a perceptive essay by playwright Annie Baker.
you missed Frances Ha in the theaters
last spring, now’s your chance to catch up. It truly is a jewel.
Robert Sellers' book The Battle for Bond presents an in-depth examination of the complicated rights issues relating to the 007 films.
MGM and Danjaq have finally ended decades of litigation relating to rights held by producer Kevin McClory to the James Bond franchise. McClory had certain film rights relating to the novel Thunderball which Ian Fleming had based on an ill-fated collaboration between himself, McClory and writer Jack Whittingham in the 1950s when the trio tried unsuccessfully to bring 007 to the big screen. In order to thwart a rival film production of novel from being made, Bond producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman hired McClory as producer of the 1965 blockbuster screen version of Thunderball. However, McClory always claimed that his rights allowed him to make other Bond films and even TV series. In 1983, a big screen remake of Thunderball titled Never Say Never Again proved to the only one of these projects to succeed. MGM and Danjaq consistently brought law suits designed to slow down or stop McClory from exploiting the rights he claimed he held. In a lawsuit that took place in the year 2000, the court rejected most of McClory's claims and, in essence, gave the full rights to the Bond character to MGM and Danjaq. Still, issues remained with McClory's estate after the producer passed away in 2006. The latest agreements bring an amicable close to any remaining litigation. Click here for more.
"Sex only dirty if you're doing it right", Woody Allen once said. The cast members of Our, Girls certainly do it right so this stroll down Mammary Lane from the Impulse Pictures DVD label can certainly be classified as a "dirty movie", to put in the parlance of days gone by. Ordinarily, old grind house porn doesn't merit critical attention but Impulse is a serious label that takes pains to preserve some the more notable titles of this genre from the 1970s and 1980s. I suppose there is some sociological merit to them, but the bottom line is: are they still erotic? In the case of Oui, Girls the answer is "yes" and "no". Much certainly depends upon individual viewer's tastes in erotica. More so than any "legit" movie, if you don't find the leading actors attractive, chances are you'll find the entire enterprise more taxing than stimulating. The film was directed (so to speak) by F.J. Lincoln, whose main claim to fame in this era is that he had one of the starring roles in Wes Craven's original Last House on the Left. The liner notes on the DVD box indicate this film was highly regarded in adult film circles back in the day. "Highest rating...an erotic masterpiece", exclaimed High Society magazine. 'lest you think this is on the level of Last Tango in Paris, think again. What apparently separated Lincoln's films from the rest of the grind house pack is that they at least had some modest production values. In an era where most porn films were confined to "one reelers" shot in somebody's bedroom (or kitchen, or garage), Lincoln attempted to shoehorn something akin to a plot into the action- and he also shot on location so that his productions had some scenery and atmosphere. Even back in 1982, however, it's hard to imagine that this modest enterprise would have elicited great praise from within the adult film community, especially when a decade before, Gerard Domiano's The Devil in Miss Jones set the high water mark for acting, story and production values. Lincoln's great achievement here was gathering numerous "superstars" of the porn genre in this one film....sort of like The Towering Inferno, only these superstars don't wear pants.
The film opens with a young couple, Barbara (Anna Ventura) and Nick (Paul Thomas, who bears a striking resemblance to Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers) discussing a mystery. Nick, an insurance investigator, suspects that a man named Buck Thomas (Michael Morrison) may have murdered his wife. Nick gets Barbara to agree to accompany him to the Circle S singles ranch, which, in fact, is a place for swingers. Seems that ol' Buck holds court there with his latest flame, the sexually insatiable Cora (Lisa De Leeuw). The story then veers to another couple, Laura (Tiffany Clark) and Frank (Michael Bruce) who are curious about spicing up their love lives by experimenting with swinging. They arrange a meeting with an exotic, strange woman named Francine (Sharon Kane) who invites them to the Circle S to indulge in their fantasies. Once the couples arrive at the ranch, director Lincoln throws the entire murder mystery plot out the window (it's abruptly resolved in a single sentence, then not revisited again). Instead, things get hot and heavy with guys eyeing girls, girls eyeing guys and, of course, girls eyeing girls. The sex scenes are legitimately erotic and Lincoln doesn't go too much beyond the pure vanilla stage in that nothing overly perverted goes on, as long as you're comfortable with a dozen people rolling around together on the living room floor.
There are some interesting observations to make about the film. For one, while the women range from ordinary looking to downright exotic and the men look like they just stepped got off work at the local factory. In this pre-Botox and silicone era, most of the performers looked like people you might actually meet in real life. Thus, the guys are hairy and the girls are even hairier. The real fun comes when various cast members attempt to act. Here, the guys have the advantage with most of the male actors delivering dialogue in a manner that doesn't elicit unintentional laughter. Their physical appearance is something else, however, as they are cursed by having to wear the fashions of the era (short-shorts and polyester were all the rage). The women fare better in the fashion department because plunging necklines and garter belts do the trick in any era. The most amusement comes from the performance of Anna Ventura as Barbara when she gets to scold boyfriend Nick. She plays the part like she's Liz Taylor's Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and induces some gut busting unintentional laughter in the process. There is also a funny sequence in which Nick is seduced by Cora. Barbara walks in and catches them in the act but Paul has an excuse: as an insurance investigator he had to use her bottom to get to the bottom of the case. (Male insurance investigators may want to make note of this excuse in case they find themselves in a similar dilemma.) The film's grand finale features an all-out orgy, though Lincoln is rather subdued in not taking this scene as far as we might have expected.
The opening credits on the DVD transfer look like they were run over by a garbage truck but, in a way, it adds to the ambiance of the grind house flick. Fortunately, the print quality improves dramatically after that. There are no bonus features on the disc. Oui, Girls is a nostalgic throwback to an era when even porn seemed a little less calculated and manufactured by rote. I'm still trying to figure out the relevance of the title since there isn't even an allusion to the French anywhere on screen. If you pine away for those days watching porn in dingy theaters, you'll enjoy this DVD. To enhance the experience, make sure you're wearing your trench coat while viewing it.
At a recent symposium in St. Louis, Jesuits joined with members of the public for a symposium dedicated to discussing the actual incident that inspired William Peter Blatty's best-selling book The Exorcist, which in turn, was adapted into the classic 1973 horror film by director William Friedkin. The incident involved a 13 year old boy who was allegedly possessed by demonic spirits. The Catholic church, which had pretty much down played exorcisms in the modern age, gave rare permission for Father William Bowdren to perform the ritual. The identity of the boy remains secret even today and Father Bowdren, who died in 1983, never discussed specifics of the case other than to say "it was the real thing." Nevertheless, there is disagreement even among contemporary priests about the validity of the claim. Some say it's very probable that whatever physical manifestations Father Bowdren witnessed afflicting the boy could have been attributed to other causes. If faith is a belief in something that cannot be proven through traditional means, how one views the incident depends on one's religious convictions. If someone believes in God and an afterlife, it stands to reason that it isn't much of a stretch to believe in the existence of evil spirits. Conversely, skeptics and those who look to science as opposed to faith would look to natural causes for such occurrences. Whatever your views are, the incident certainly inspired one hell of a creepy horror story.- Lee Pfeiffer For more click here
(Issue #19 of Cinema Retro features an exclusive interview with William Peter Blatty. Click below to order)
ALTERNATIVE MOVIE POSTERS (Schiffer Publishing, Hardcover, 208 pages) by Matthew Chojnacki
Review by Lee Pfeiffer
In his introduction, author Chojnacki states the
obvious: the once classic art of movie poster design went into a deep decline
in the 1990s. (He claims we are now in a Renaissance period but you wouldn’t
know it from most of the movie posters we see.) Chojnacki took it upon himself
to seek out and curate avante garde movie posters created by a widespread range
of contemporary artists. Some were created for film festivals and other
projects whilst others were specifically designed for this impressive, handsome
coffee table book with top production values.
Each piece of art identifies its creator and
is given a dedicated page of its own. The posters feature quirky and often
ingenious designs that reflect the most memorable aspects of classic and cult
cinema often in the most subtle of ways. Titles range from classic Bond movies
to contemporary horror- and in virtually every case, the posters put to shame
the mostly God-awful designs seen on posters today, which tend to be bland, scanned in photos of actor's heads or indistinguishable posters relating to super heroes. This outstanding book
makes a perfect gift for the movie lover in your life and reassures us that there are still talented people creating movie posters today (they are just not being employed by studios).
Terry Gilliam with Cinema Retro columnist Adrian Smith at a 2009 BFI tribute to Gilliam in London.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
Filmmaker Terry Gilliam is fronting a Kickstarter campaign to restore Walerian Borowczyk's classic 1968 film Goto, l'île d'amour (Goto, Island of Love).
Speaking about the Polish artist and filmmaker’s work Gilliam says: “They activate a part of my brain that very few other things do…I haven't seen any of these films in probably thirty or forty years, but they all have stuck with me. He needs to be restored and the world needs to be reminded.”
Until now the majority of Borowczyk's early films have been unavailable. However, earlier this year writer, documentary filmmaker and producer of the box set, Daniel Bird secured the permission of his widow Ligia Borowczyk to restore nine short films and two feature films including Le théâtre de Monsieur & Madame Kabal (The Theatre of Mr and Mrs Kabal, 1967) and Blanche (1971) which will be released by Arrow films in Spring 2014.
Producer Daniel Bird says: ”For fifteen years I have been trying to find a way to restore Borowczyk's early films. Obviously, I am thrilled to be working with Arrow Films on this box-set."
The restorations were completed at Deluxe laboratories, London, under the supervision of leading film restorer, James White. This will be the first time that many of these films will be available in any home video format in any territory.
Born in Poland in 1923, where he studied painting and sculpture before establishing himself as a poster artist during the late 1950s, Borowczyk emigrated to France in 1959 where he lived and worked for the rest of his life. With films such as Renaissance (1963) and Rosalie (1966), Borowczyk played a major part in getting animated film recognised as a serious art form.
According to Amos Vogel, author of Film as a Subversive Art, Borowczyk's harrowing 1964 animation Les jeux des anges (Angels' Games) is simply “a masterpiece of modern art.”
In The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, David Thomson describes Borowczyk as “one of the major artists of modern cinema, arguably the finest talent that East Europe has provided.”
In addition, Arrow Films has collaborated with Argos Films, Paris, to release two other Borowczyk films, Contes immoraux (Immoral Tales, 1974) and La Bête (The Beast, 1975) in newly restored high definition transfers, as well as five more short films. These acquisitions will form the basis of Arrow’s Walerian Borowczyk Blu-ray and DVD box set, which is to be released as part of the Arrow Academy series in Spring 2014.
The co-producer of the box set isMichael Brooke in conjunction with Ligia Borowczyk and the filmmaker's regular assistant and producer, Dominique Segretin.
Note: This review pertains to the Region 2 (PAL) format UK release.
Cinema Retro writer would love to be able to explain to you in detail what just
what The Final Programme is
about, but I have absolutely no idea. The plot revolves around Jerry
Cornelius (Jon Finch), a swaggering millionaire scientist who seems to think he
is the second coming in this futuristic, possibly post-WWIII Britain. His
father, also a scientist, died when he was on the brink of some kind of amazing
discovery, and it is up to Cornelius to find out what it was. Along the way he
meets a variety of bizarre characters who drift in and out of the plot with
nothing particular to contribute. Amongst these are many familiar faces from
film and TV, such as George Coulouris, Sterling Hayden, Patrick Magee and
Graham Crowden, the latter seemingly channelling Quentin Crisp. The film has
flashes of visual inspiration spread throughout its running time, including
colourful filters and multiple layers, but these alone do not make up for a
story that makes no sense whatsoever. At one point Cornelius finds himself in a
nightclub which is built like a giant pinball machine, complete with
scantily-clad go-go dancers in giant hamster balls. It's colourful and exciting,
and you can almost imagine this film taking place in the same Britain as A
Clockwork Orange (1971).
Fuest is probably best known for directing the Vincent Price camp comedy-horror
classics The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) and Dr. Phibes Rises Again
(1972), films with plenty of visual style to compensate for the slightly flimsy
plots, themselves a derivation from the much-imitated Agatha Christie story And
Then There Were None (also known as Ten Little Indians). The film is
based on a much-respected science fiction novel by prolific author Michael
Moorcock. He has not been particularly complimentary about the film in the
past, and neither have ardent fans of the book, who have complained that too
much was removed from the story. This may help explain why the film makes no
sense, with Jerry moving from unusual experience to unusual experience for no
reason. It is a movie that is less than the sum of its parts, which is a pity
as individual parts are intriguing and entertaining, and suggest that there could
have been something very special here. Instead it is like trying to watch a
film through the fog of a room full of stoners. Originally an X certificate in
the UK, the film is now rated 15 for the occasional swearing, drug-taking and
nudity, all very much of its time.
is a film which has been greatly anticipated on UK DVD, and it is a pity that
Network did not take the opportunity to create materials that may help the
audience to put the film in some sort of context. Sadly both Robert Fuest and
Jon Finch died last year, too late to have their final reflections on the film
recorded. Michael Moorcock is still around but would not necessarily want to
contribute, but some kind of short documentary or commentary track from a
historian would definitely help if you are new to the film. As it is you get a
couple of trailers and the choice to watch the opening titles in Italian. Not
exactly mind-blowing extras, which are precisely what this DVD release needs.
Martine Beswick (One Million Years B.C., Slave Girls and Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde), Caroline Munro (Captain Kronos and Dracula A.D.72), Kate O'Mara (Horror of Frankenstein and The Vampire Lovers) and Maddie Smith (Vampire Lovers and Frankenstein and the and Monster from Hell). (Photo: copyright Mark Mawston, all rights reserved.)
9th November 2013
by Adrian Smith
Saturday in the shadow of Westminster Abbey, amidst the power-hungry elite of
Whitehall and Downing Street, gathered an even more sinister and corrupting
influence. Darth Vader rubbed shoulders with evil twins, corrupted children,
vampires, zombies and even Jack the Ripper. Overseeing this evil conclave were
directors whose films were so depraved that sometimes sick bags were supplied
to the audience.
film buffs were of course overjoyed at the fantastic selection of stars at this
Hammer and Horror Film event. Representing the Bond girls were Caroline Munro,
Caron Gardner, Martine Beswick and Madeline Smith. They were alongside horror
queens Barbara Shelley, Kate O'Mara, Judy Matheson, Janina Faye and Emily
Booth. Barbara Shelley sat with some of the alien children from her classic
British sci-fi Village of the Damned, Teri and Lesley Scoble and Martin
Stephens (also star of The Innocents). David Warner (Tron), Dave Prowse (Star Wars) and John Carson (Plague
of the Zombies) were all very friendly and accommodating of the multitude
of demanding fans, and writer-directors Michael Armstong (Mark of the Devil),
Norman J. Warren (Satan's Slave) and Brian Clemens (The Avengers)
were also there discussing their work and meeting old friends.
Kate O'Mara, Dave Prowse (Horror of Frankenstein) and Madeline Smith. (Photo: copyright Mark Mawston. All rights reserved.)
focus of the day was the recent restoration of Hammer's Twins of Evil. To
celebrate the director John Hough met up with Damien Thomas, who played Count
Karnstein, Judy Matheson, burnt at the stake by Peter Cushing, and good twin
Mary Collinson, who had travelled to the event from Milan. Sir Christopher
Frayling, one of the UK’s leading authorities on vampire fiction, lead the
onstage discussion. He provided a fascinating history of the Karnstein story
from its origins in the work of Sheridan Le Fanu to Hammer’s lesbian vampire
trilogy. They all clearly enjoyed the reunion, and Hough did his best to
convince the audience that the Collinson girls' voices were not dubbed, despite
what all the film history books say. Mary explained that they both received
elocution lessons, as neither of them were trained actors. Twins of Evil was
to be their last film, released when they were only nineteen, and they returned
guests were also interviewed throughout the day. Brian Clemens, Caroline Munro
and John Carson got together to discuss the magnificent Captain Kronos:
Vampire Hunter, agreed by one and all to be the last good film Hammer made
in the 1970s. Norman J. Warren described the difficulties of making Satan's
Slave with money raised by your producer re-mortgaging his house. They had
such small funds that star Michael Gough had to supply his own wardrobe and
sleep on a friend's sofa for three weeks, all for the grand sum of £300.
Warner was especially mischievous during his interview, reacting with horror
every time a clip was shown from his extensive back-catalogue (including Tom
Jones, The Omen, Time
After Time and Star Trek). He had the room in gales of
laughter and explained that as an actor without any ambition he is very happy
to have never been a star, something that many in the room disagreed with.
Cinema Retro columnist Adrian Smith with Mary Collinson (Twins of Evil).
(Photo: copyright Mark Mawston. All rights reserved).
makes one of these conventions so enjoyable is that alongside the guests are
dozens of stalls weighed down with rare DVDs, obscure film posters, original
James Bond toys, vinyl, novelisations; virtually every kind of film memorabilia
and ephemera that you can think of (and many you can't) from all over the
world. From Thai Evil Dead posters to original Hammer Quads it was a
collectors dream, even though you may also need to re-mortgage your home
yourself in order to pay for everything you want. Cinema Retro came home laden with
press books, lobby cards, old magazines, books and rare Spanish 1960s superhero
movies, and could easily have gone around the hall several more times.
Was James Bond not the only orphan drafted into MI6 by "M"?
Bloomeberg writer Stephen L. Carter left his first screening of the James Bond blockbuster Skyfall last year haunted by the suspicion that there are cryptic clues in the screenplay that most viewers would not ponder. He did his homework and discovered that the villain Silva, who wages an obsessive campaign of humiliation and vengeance against "M" for allowing him to rot in a Hong Kong prison, has a hidden anagram in the message he leaves on her hacked computer: THINK ON YOUR SINS. Carter reveals the anagram is YOUR SON ISN'T IN HK. Sound far-fetched? Click here to read Carter's rather persuasive argument that Silva is actually "M"'s adopted son who, in his eyes, was betrayed when she put the needs of MI6 above his own safety. This plot point would explain a lot of the emotional resonance in the relationship between "M" and Silva, which seems to hint at much more than is revealed on screen.