Tom Chantrell is regarded as one of the foremost
British cinema poster artists of the 20th century.As such, there is likely to be great interest
in an early prototype poster he produced for the classic 1966 Hammer film “One
Million Years BC” which has just been listed on the Chantrell archive website
Studios often used Chantrell artwork in their pitches for finance, this is a
rare example of a poster featuring prototype artwork, being printed, not for
advertising to the public but to be used as a prop in a financing presentation.
miss Issue #25 (Jan 2013) of Cinema Retro for a feature on poster artist
Scarface first came to theater screens in 1932 with Paul Muni as the notorious gangster. In 1983, Al Pacino starred in Brian De Palma's campy cult favorite (loose) remake. Now, make way for yet another variation on the story: this one involving the drug cartels in Mexico. For more click here
The sales for Cinema Retro's Dr. No Movie Classics special issue have surpassed our wildest dreams. In fact, the supply offered through our eBay affiliate store was quickly exhausted after our friends at mi6 confidential magazine's web site ran a nice blurb about the issue. We started to receive a lot E mails from panicked fans who asked if they had missed the boat on this issue. The good news is that all is well. The Dr. No issue has been re-listed on eBay and is available for immediate purchase. Click here to order - and thanks to everyone for their great outpouring of enthusiasm for this issue, which represents the most ambitious project Cinema Retro has ever done.
Now that Severin Films has bounced back into circulation with their outstanding Blu-ray release of The Wild Geese, the company has also released a more obscure, star-studded title: the 1979 adventure film Ashanti. Never heard of it? Most people haven't and only a relatively few people have ever seen it in the American/British market, despite the impressive cast of high profile names. The film takes on what is probably the world's second-oldest profession: slave trading. Although human trafficking is high on the list of international crimes today, when the film was made, great pains had to be taken to educate viewers that slave trading did not get extinguished in the age of the horse and buggy and remains a very modern criminal activity. The film, directed by old hand Richard Fleischer, opens in Africa when an interracial married couple - doctors David and Anansa Linderby (Michael Caine and Beverly Johnson)- are seen providing medical services to remote tribes who reside in isolated regions. When Anansa decides to take an ill-fated skinny dip in a local river, the beautiful young woman is mistaken for a member of the tribe and brutally kidnapped by slavers headed by the notorious Suleiman (Peter Ustinov), an Arab trader of human misery. When David discovers his wife's fate, he launches an ambitious rescue effort but is hampered by corrupt or incompetent local officials. He decides to take matters into his own hands, with the help of a local humanitarian (Rex Harrison) and a sympathetic mercenary (William Holden). Despite their assistance, David finds the only man who can really help him is Malik (Kabir Bedi, who makes a striking screen presence), a Rambo-like figure who lives in the desert and is consumed by his own wife's abduction and murder at the hands of Suleiman. He agrees to assist David and the two make an arduous trek across the blazing Sahara in an attempt to rescue Anansa and her fellow victims before they can be sold at a private auction to rich men who want to abuse the slaves sexually.
Ashanti doesn't stint on the plight of those victimized by slavery. The slaves are treated brutally on the walk across the Sahara and given a minimum amount of food and water. The plan is to bring them to a "fattening house", a deplorable cellar, where they will be brought back to health in order to maximize their price at auction. Along the way, both young women and little boys are molested at will. David and Malik make for a disparate but determined team. David, who is unskilled in fighting or the use of weapons, must rely on his hot-tempered ally, who is capable of taking on numerous adversaries at the same time and prevailing. Meanwhile, Anansa tries to use logic with Suleiman to gain her freedom, pointing out that she is employed by the United Nations and her kidnapping will bring authorities down on him. He is unimpressed and claims that her natural beauty will result in his making enough money to retire and leave the slave trade before he can be found.
Ashanti is a consistently compelling adventure film, well-directed by the veteran Fleischer. Caine is a refreshing screen hero because he isn't a superman. He does acquit himself well in a climactic fight scene but his unfamiliarity with firearms realistically results in tragic consequences for one of his key allies. Ustinov channels his role from Spartacus as a charismatic scoundrel. Even when he engages in deplorable acts, he is personally charming. The real find is model Beverly Johnson, who gives a very fine performance in what is really the starring the role in the film. Harrison and Holden have extended cameos and their presence adds greatly to the enjoyment of the movie, as does a late-in-the-story appearance by Omar Sharif. If there's a weak aspect to the production it's the musical score by Michael Melvoin, which would be more appropriate in a disco-themed romance than an action film.
Severin's Blu-ray edition features an extensive, recent interview with Beverly Johnson, who discusses the fact that she was the "breakthrough" African American female model of the 1970s. (She is also an activist for social causes and was recently honored by Oprah Winfrey). Johnson is very verbose and amusing in recounting the film, which she is proud of. She found herself the only girl among a team of hard-drinking guys on the production company, but recalls some sound advice given to her by Rex Harrison ("Never perform your own stunts!) that she ignored with almost tragic results. She still swoons at the memory of aging William Holden's handsome features and speaks bluntly about having to cope with former husband Danny Sims' on-set antics, which she says included bedding seemingly every female in sight. She also blames Sims, who was a high profile record producer, for the film's awful song, heard over the end credits which he convinced her to sing in order to promote a record album that no one bought. Johnson says the film's producer alienated the "suits" at the studio and they decided to get even by burying the movie, despite its expensive production values. Regardless of its theatrical fate, Ashanti remains a fast-moving, well-acted adventure movie that entertains even as it outrages viewers with an honest look at how cheap human life is in certain parts of this planet.
The special edition also includes the original trailer.
In 1978, I was still in college and was happily fulfilling my duties as film critic for the campus newspaper. It was a good gig: I got to go to press events, advance screenings and meet filmmakers all for free, which fit comfortably within my discretionary spending budget that amounted to zero dollars. I had seen advance teaser ads for the upcoming mercenary adventure movie The Wild Geese, which boasted the kind of all-star cast that impressed even in an era when all-star casts were anything but unique. I attended the press screening in New York and was instantly blown away. Here were great stars like Richard Burton, Roger Moore, Richard Harris, Hardy Kruger and Stewart Granger adding considerable glamor to a gritty British war movie that was in the best stiff-upper-lip tradition of great British war movies. Having been weened on the likes of Zulu, The Wild Geese immediately became one of my favorite movies, one that I knew I would revisit many times more in the years to come. Adding to the pleasure of the experience was the opportunity to attend a press conference with the film's producer, Euan Lloyd and Col. "Mad" Mike Hoare, the legendary real-life mercenary who served as technical adviser on the movie. I found Lloyd to be an extraordinary man: kind and appreciative of my comments. In an extraordinary gesture, he invited me to breakfast at the Plaza the following morning, a pleasure most struggling blue collar college kids would not enjoy. Lloyd read some of my reviews and said he was suitably impressed (or was kind enough to pretend he was.) We spent a couple of hours talking about film history and movie making before parting company. I would not see him again for about 25 years, but that one meeting was pivotal in convincing me to write about film as a living.
I have indeed seen The Wild Geese numerous times over the years. The film's release was somewhat botched in America but it was a mega-hit for Lloyd worldwide. The story, in the tradition of Dark of the Sun, is based on a novel by Daniel Carney. It involves four middle-aged, seemingly over-the-hill mercenaries who are hired by a London millionaire to rescue a deposed African President from his captors and restore him to office. Something about copper rights is at the heart of the scheme, but the mercenaries (Richard Burton, Roger Moore, Richard Harris and Hardy Kruger) are largely apolitical and only get involved for their own self-interests. Only the Harris character is somewhat reluctantly drawn to the mission on the basis of human rights issues: the man he hopes to rescue will presumably replace the murderous dictator who had him deposed. The old friends are reunited and go about recruiting an eclectic group of hard-bitten fellow mercenaries who are parachuted into Africa to accomplish this deadly mission. All goes well until an unexpected plot development leads them stranded in a barren wasteland as an army of vicious Simbas advance upon them. Now the Wild Geese ust devise desperate plans to escape certain death.
This is the best movie ever directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, an old hand and pro at directing action movies. He is surprisingly at ease in this most British of story lines and deftly handles his talented cast, bringing out each actor's best qualities. The movie is so exciting that it seems unfair to provide many more details, as it might spoil at some of the film's many pleasures. Lloyd, a former protege of legendary producer Cubby Broccoli, hired many crew members from the James Bond series including editor John Glen, title designer Maurice Binder, stunt coordinator Bob Simmons and production designer Syd Cain. These were the best in their chosen professions and the film benefits greatly from their contributions. There is also a rousing score by Roy Budd and a fine title song written and performed by Joan Armatrading. One of the great joys of the movie is watching the three middle-aged leads accentuate their ages. Those who were amazed Burton could still carry off an action film with Where Eagles Dare were even more impressed he could do so again a decade later with this movie. The supporting cast is wonderful, with stalwart tough guy Jack Watson particularly good as the hard-as-nails R.S.M who whips his aging recruits into shape. Granger gives a fine, late career performance as the erudite baddie and the final confrontation between him and Burton is wonderfully written (the impressive screenplay is by Reginald Rose, who wrote Twelve Angry Men) and performed by the two seasoned pros. The film's scene-stealer is veteran British character actor Kenneth Griffiths, who plays an effete gay medic who nonetheless is a vicious warrior on the battlefield. Lloyd's films are filled with such progressive messages that denounce stereotypes based on sex, race or sexuality. The film's pleas for racial understanding come across as a bit too pat by today's standards, but this was edgy stuff in 1978 in the era of apartheid. (Lloyd broke racial barriers by hiring black actors and crew members and insisting they be housed, paid and treated equally- a rather controversial notion in Africa at the time.)
The most vivid image from the film is famous sequence in which the Geese free fall over Africa before landing by parachute. It's beautifully filmed and inspired Cubby Broccoli to use free-falling stunts as the opening sequence of his next James Bond film, Moonraker. The movie's breakneck-paced conclusion finds the Geese incurring major losses against a seemingly insurmountable army as Roger Moore's Sean Flynn attempts to use an aging airplane as a rescue vehicle. It's as exciting of a battle sequence as you can imagine and ranks with the best sequences in any film of this genre.
Severin Films, one of our favorite niche market DVD labels, has been largely dormant this year but has come back with a vengeance via this superb Blu-ray/DVD dual pak release. The film transfer is highly impressive and the bonus extras will be appreciated by fans. The release imports all of the special features from the previous UK release: a vintage, extended featurette about the making of the movie (all of the stars agree it was one of the best experiences of their professional careers), producer Jonathan Sothcott's excellent documentary about Euan Lloyd's life and career (most appropriately titled Last of the Gentleman Producers, a commentary track by Roger Moore, the original trailer and news coverage of the film's London premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square Theatre and the after-party at the Dorchester. Two new major features are unique to this release: recent filmed interviews with Andrew V. McLaglen and 94-year old mercenary Michael Hoare.
In all, a superb celebration of one of the great British films of its era.
Author Brian Albright brings a new angle to the well-worn path of movie books dedicated to horror films. In Regional Horror Films 1958-1990, Albright devotes an entire volume to low-budget horror (and sci-fi) movies made by independent producers and directors generally on shoestring budgets. The first section of the book contains interviews with such cult figures as Ed Adlum, Donald Barton, J.R. Bookwalter, Martin Folse, Milton Moses Ginsberg, William Grefe, Lewis Jackson, Russ Marker, Robert W. Morgan, Tom Rahner, Albert J. Salzer, Larry Stouffer and Robert Burrill. The filmmakers tell revealing and often amusing tales of how they used mind over money to create movies that, in some cases, became surprise cult hits, bringing in considerable profits. Titles covered include Last House on the Left, I Spit on Your Grave, The Evil Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Night of the Living Dead and more obscure films that many readers will not have heard of. The book's second half is a very entertaining and useful breakdown by state of the horror films shot in every region during this time period. (I never dreamed so many were filmed in my native New Jersey!) Each film is accorded a synopsis and some interesting trivia facts. There is also an extensive bibliography, index and web site referral page in addition to ample photos from many of the movies.
As with all McFarland Publishing ventures, this one is pricey ($45 for a softcover edition), but that's because the print runs are small and the books are designed to appeal to niche audiences. Author Albright has done his homework- and it shows. This book should be considered to be indispensable reading for anyone with a love of low-budget horror flicks.
Kirk Douglas is truly one of the last of the Hollywood icons, representing the industry's Golden Age. Incredibly, he's never won a competitive Oscar but was given an honorary one for an impressive career that has lasted from the 1940s until today. Although Douglas is retired from acting, he's still an omnipresent force at classic movie screenings and industry events. Today he marks his 96th birthday and writer Bob Greene provides a wonderful tribute along with a personal experience he shared with Douglas relating to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Click here to read
Click here to watch the teaser trailer for director J.J. Abrams' forthcoming Star Trek: Into Darkness. Not surprisingly, the teaser concentrates on action and spectacle as opposed to characterizations or plot points. Additionally, the Armageddon-like look of the teaser poster suggests a sequel to I Am Legend as opposed to any space age thrills. However, if Abrams comes close to what he achieved with the last Trek film, the revitalized franchise will live long and prosper. We'll have to wait until May to find out.
Synapse Films continues to release interesting, quirky niche market films to the DVD market including the latest Schoolgirl Report edition, this one labeled #9 : "Mature Before Graduation". It is a 1975 German softcore sex film that actually has some resonance in the international cinema of that era, as this series proved to be sensationally popular with mainstream audiences. For the most part, couples could safely enjoy the naughty fun without the stigma of being seen entering a theater that specialized in showing hardcore films. This entry follows the tried and true adage of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" in that it presents the standard scenario for the series: a number of vignettes centering on nubile high school girls who, we are specifically and painstakingly told, are 18 years of age or older (probably to prevent any legal challenges.) The movie begins with a reckless game of "chicken" involving drunken teenagers in two cars. The inevitable accident leaves several of them at death's door, with some of the girls reflecting on their relationships with the boys involved in the crash, though this plot device seems to be dropped and reappear at random. One story follows a young girl who is determined to marry her boyfriend against the objections of her parents, who claim she is too young. Predictably, they are proven right. On the wedding night, she is less than impressed by her new husband's sudden drop in libido- and the fact that he now wears dorky pajamas. The story meanders to a conclusion, having existed in the first place only to show the sex scenes. (In one amusing sequence, an elderly widow who rents a hotel room to the honeymooners finds various schemes to walk in on them during the most delicate moments.) In a bizarre story, a young girl finds she can't enjoy sex because she is haunted by having been "flashed" by an exhibitionist who was sporting a giant, rubber phallus (a common occurrence that virtually all of us can relate to). Another segment centers on a scenario that many of us actually can relate to: a teenage girl whose parents are away on a trip invites her friends over for a party that soon gets out of hand- only to have her mom and dad return home early. The skit is played (or over-played) broadly for laughs. In another vignette that is fairly funny, two middle-aged parents go to extremes to show their daughter and her boyfriend that they are hip. However, they are at least ten years behind the times and sport the type of mod outfits that would embarrass Austin Powers. It's a cute segment with a few genuine laughs. The most poignant story centers on a teenage girl who is caught experimenting with lesbianism with her best friend. She is blackmailed by her unscrupulous stepfather into entering a sexual relationship with him with devastating consequences to all involved.
The Schoolgirl Report films are fairly low-end in terms of production values, with herky jerky camerawork in some scenes and humor that is relatively broad and unsophisticated. Yet, there is something nostalgic about this type of erotica. While the films clearly exploit the female participants, they were made in an era in which the actresses could at least appear in a natural state. This is unlike today's erotic films in which the women have to incur treatments of Botox, implants, collagen and more wax treatments than a floor at Wal-mart would be subjected to. There is a certain innocence about the series and they never degenerate into being truly vulgar. They may not be everyone's cup of tea but retro movie lovers may have a few naughty memories rekindled by watching them.
The Synapse Films release offers the uncut version of the movie in German language with English sub-titles. There are no extras on this edition.
Godard was the bad boy of the French New Wave.Whereas his contemporaries such as Francois Truffaut were “safe” and
“accessible,” Godard liked to shock people.A lot of his work, especially in the sixties, was also political in
nature—this was a man unafraid to scathingly portray French bourgeois society
at its worst and trumpet his views on class discrepancy with the ferocity of a
bull dog.In other words, he enjoyed
pissing off audiences.
in 1967 with the opening titles caveat that “children under 18 should not see
this film,” we are told at the beginning that Weekend (or Week End or Week-end, depending on what country
you’re in) is a film “found on the trash heap.”It is one of the darkest and most vicious black comedies ever made, and
naturally, it is one of Godard’s best pictures.It is simultaneously fascinating, repulsive, and hilarious, and not for
the faint of heart.But discerning fans
of art house cinema should eat it up.
story, as it were, involves a bickering married couple (Mireille Darc and Jean
Yanne, both of whom were major French TV stars at the time the film was made)
who have plans to kill each other and run off with their respective
lovers.But before that can happen, they
have to murder Darc’s father so she will inherit his wealth.They set off across country to her parents’
home and find themselves on a nightmare journey through a landscape of traffic
jams, automobile accidents (and fatalities) at nearly every juncture, and
violence.The humor comes with the
couple acting as if it’s all part of everyday life.
celebrated sequence is a lengthy tracking shot along a road backed up with
vehicles.As our anti-heroes attempt to
pass the idling cars and trucks to move to the head of the line, we’re treated
with all kinds of sight gags (such as one car that’s facing the opposite
direction and wedged between two vehicles going the right way).We laugh and laugh.Then, when we finally reach the front of the
traffic jam, we see that the cause was a bad accident, and entire families are
lying bloody in the road.The couple
drives through the scene as if the holdup was a minor nuisance.Later, when the couple’s car is also in a
collision and catches fire, Darc is more upset about her Hermes handbag getting
burned than the fact that she and her husband are covered in blood and the car
is destroyed.That’s the kind of movie Weekend is.
new digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack is superb.The cinematography by Raoul Coutard always
had a color documentary feel to it, but the Blu-ray brings out a sharpness
hitherto unseen in prints.Extras
include archival interviews with the stars and assistant director, an archival
piece on Godard featuring on-set footage, and more.The thick booklet contains an essay by
critic/novelist Gary Indiana, selections from a 1969 interview with Godard, and
excerpts from a Godard biography.
Weekend was a comment on
French society in 1967, and the irony today is that the film might be even more
relevant in our own present world.
Ernest Borgnine's final film, The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vincente Fernandez, opens theatrically with a one-week run at the Laemmle Encino Town Center Theater beginning today. The independent production is a modestly-budgeted family comedy/drama that presents the legendary Oscar-winner with the kind of showcase role that actors in their nineties almost never have. Borgnine makes the most of it, too, giving a terrific and moving performance that earned him the Best Actor award at this year's Newport Film Festival. Written and produced by Elia Petridis, Fernandez centers on Rex Page (Borgnine), a cantankerous old coot given to griping about every aspect of life. He seems oblivious to the fact that he has an adoring wife (June Squibb), a devoted middle-aged daughter (Dale Dickey) and and a worshipful granddaughter (Audrey P. Scott). Rex is frustrated by his failure to fulfill his dream of becoming a big time actor on the silver screen. He once came close to landing the leading role in a spaghetti Western, but lost out to a competing actor. He's spent a lifetime in self-imposed hell, obsessed with watching this B movie and learning every line of dialogue, which he repeats to anyone in his presence. When a health crisis sees the fiercely independent Rex move into a nursing home, a series of incidents motivate him to reevaluate his life. The nursing home is a money mill for corrupt bureaucrats who use the patients as cash cows. It doesn't take Rex long to figure this out and he quickly wears out his welcome by insulting and chastising fellow elderly patients who are part of a click belonging to the corrupt family that owns the facility. He also is abrasive towards the largely Hispanic staff of nurses and orderlies, often referring to them in unflattering racial insults.
The relationship between Rex and his caregivers gradually softens, however, when the young staff members learn that Rex, a former popular DJ, once briefly met and shook the hand of the film's titular character, Vincente Fernandez, a "Mexican Frank Sinatra" who enjoys mythic stature in the Hispanic community. Rex transfixes the staff by telling and retelling his account of this brief meeting in the 1970s. This common bond allows Rex and the staffers to form a mutually respectful relationship that grows stronger by the day. Rex particularly takes a shine to his nurse Solena (stunningly beautiful Carla Ortiz)- and he comes to her defense, saving her from the clutches of would-be molester Dr. Dominguez (Tony Plana), the chief administrator. In a scenario that is a clearly geriatric version of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Rex inspires his young friends to stand up for their rights and take on the oppressive bureaucrats who exploit them. He must also deal with challenges in his own life when his family feels he's been alienating them in favor of his adopted family at the nursing home.
The film contains more than its share of sugary scenes and corny cliches. (The villains are so lacking in any redeeming qualities that they practically twirl their mustaches.) Nevertheless, director Petridis offers Borgnine the finest role he's had in more years than I can remember. He dominates every scene and, ironically for his final film, looks like the picture of good health. Petridis, who must clearly be obsessive about spaghetti westerns himself, cleverly manages to intertwine many aspects of Western movie lore into this contemporary story so that even a card game between Borgnine and a nursing home nemesis is drenched in Leone-like imagery and music. This homage extends to the brilliant title credits which are cleverly derived from the Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood "Dollars" trilogy. This is a feel good family film that is marred by one easily correctable misjudgment: the insertion of a completely unnecessary expletive said from a mother to her young child. It's wildly out of place in an otherwise uplifting tale for all ages. If director Petridis is wise, he'll exclude this from the video and pay-per-view versions of the film.
I only had the pleasure of meeting Ernest Borgnine once several years ago for an interview for Cinema Retro magazine. He struck me as a warm, honest and kind individual. Thus, perhaps I had a bit more of a personal outlook when viewing Borgnine's final sequence in this film, which Elia Petridis handles brilliantly. It's so touchingly filmed and directed that I was moved to watch it again on the DVD screener. Not since John Wayne's final scene in The Shootist has a legendary actor had a more appropriate on-screen send off.
The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez is not high art, nor does it pretend to be. However, it is an enjoyable film that refreshingly extolls family values. The supporting cast members are all very talented and a pleasure to watch, but is Ernie Borgnine who justifiably dominates the movie and your memories of it.
Was Quantum REALLY the worst Bond movie ever? Peter Travers thinks so.
Long time Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers has rated each individual James Bond movie (well, excluding the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale.) His opinions range from perceptive (listing On Her Majesty's Secret Service near the top of the pack) to downright bizarre (arguing that the dreadful Die Another Day is the best of the Pierce Brosnan films and naming Quantum of Solace as the worst 007 movie ever.) Click here to read and be prepared to rejoice in Travers' opinions or become infuriated by them.
The 1995 sci-fi epic Waterworld starring Kevin Costner and Dennis Hopper is one of the era's legendary, costly flops. Yet, it may float again, as the SyFy company is closing in on getting the rights to a remake, either for the big screen or for one of the TV network's cheesy productions. Click here to read The Guardian's cynical take on the remake possibilities.
Man from U.N.C.L.E. legend Robert Vaughn has approved the Soloholics web site run by Tammy Hayes as his official fan site. Soloholics provides the latest news on the non-stoppable Vaughn's latest appearances, films, stage productions, etc along with a host of rare and vintage photos from his career. Click here to view
December – Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Sony
Pictures Entertainment are delighted to announce that Skyfall has made
history in the UK and become the highest grossing film of all time.
has now taken a staggering £94,277,612 at the UK box office in just 40
days on release, making box office history and overtaking the record
previously held by Avatar which had a lifetime gross of £94,025, 632
million during 11 months on release in UK cinemas.
SKYFALL, the 23rd
James Bond adventure, continuing the longest running and most
successful franchise in film history, opened in 587 cinemas across the
UK and Ireland on Friday 26th October, and is still on general release.
response to this fantastic news, producers Michael G. Wilson and
Barbara Broccoli said “We’re overwhelmed with gratitude to the
cinema-going audiences in the UK who have made Skyfall the highest
grossing film of all time. We are very proud of this film and thank
everybody, especially Daniel Craig and Sam Mendes, who have contributed
to its success.”
am incredibly proud of the amazing heights to which this film continues
to soar and wish to again congratulate all involved on reaching such a
tremendous milestone," said Gary Barber, Chairman and CEO, MGM.
Taylor, Managing Director, Sony Pictures Releasing UK also commented
“We are delighted that cinemagoers have so enthusiastically embraced
Skyfall in such an incredible way. It seems particularly fitting in 2012
that the latest James Bond adventure should become the highest grossing
movie ever marking the fiftieth anniversary of one of our truly iconic
cultural characters in record breaking style.”
Daniel Craig is back as Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007 in SKYFALL™, the 23rd adventure in the longest-running film franchise of all time. In SKYFALL,
Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As
MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no
matter how personal the cost. The film is from Albert R. Broccoli’s EON
Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, and Sony Pictures
Entertainment. Directed by Sam Mendes. Produced by Michael G. Wilson
and Barbara Broccoli. Written by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and John
About Albert R. Broccoli’s Eon Productions
Productions Limited and Danjaq LLC are wholly owned and controlled by
the Broccoli/Wilson family. Danjaq is the US based company that co-owns,
with MGM, the copyright in the existing James Bond films and controls
the right to produce future James Bond films as well as all worldwide
merchandising. EON Productions, an affiliate of Danjaq, is the UK
based production company which makes the James Bond films. The 007
franchise is the longest running in film history with twenty-three films
produced since 1962. Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli succeeded
Albert R ‘Cubby’ Broccoli and have produced some of the most successful
Bond films ever including CASINO ROYALE, QUANTUM OF SOLACE and SKYFALL.
About Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.
Inc. is a leading entertainment company focused on the production and
distribution of film and television content globally. The company owns
one of the world's deepest libraries of premium film and television
content. In addition, MGM has investments in domestic and international
television channels, including MGM-branded channels. For more
Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of
America, a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation. SPE's global
operations encompass motion picture production and distribution;
television production and distribution; home entertainment acquisition
and distribution; a global channel network; digital content creation and
distribution; operation of studio facilities; development of new
entertainment products, services and technologies; and distribution of
entertainment in 159 countries. For additional information, go to http://www.sonypictures.com/
If one of the great trivia questions among retro movie lover is to name the cast members of The Magnificent Seven, the outcome is generally predictable. Six of the cast either were either established stars (Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen) while the others would go on to stardom in large part because of film's success (Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, Horst Bucholz). There's generally that one guy no one can name: the actor who played Harry, the genial, but opportunistic fortune hunter. He was played by Brad Dexter, who went on to become a successful film producer. Click here to read an interesting account of his life and career.
Images/ Kessler & Benzel GbR ISBN 978-3-00-03941-9
210 x 270 mm
Naschy has often been described as the Spanish Lon Chaney due to the variety of
different roles he has played within the horror genre. It would perhaps be more
accurate to liken him to Lon Chaney Jr. however, given his short stocky build
and propensity for playing werewolves, vampires and mummies in often second-rate
movies. His real name was Jacinto Molina, and in a career spanning almost sixty
years in Spanish cinema he progressed from acting through to writing and
eventually directing as well. He also dabbled in euro-crime thrillers and
giallo-style murder mysteries, but it was the gothic horror film in which he
seemed to feel most at home.
cinema under the Franco regime was quite strictly controlled, but horror tended
to have more freedom, which perhaps explains why it was the only genre at the
time to really flourish, with many of the films being shown worldwide. This new
book, featuring over 1200 images, all in full colour, helps to chart the
distribution history of Naschy films around the world by gathering together
posters, lobby cards, front-of-house stills and press kits from over twenty
countries. It is an entertaining and fascinating wealth of materials, many of
which have not been published before. The films are presented chronologically,
focusing primarily on those in which Naschy starred. An additional chapter has
been added for non-horror movies, or those where he was more of a supporting
player. The author has provided plenty of additional information, printed here
in both English and German, which sheds light on the production history as well
as details on the availability and collectible nature of some of these
if you have not seen a Paul Naschy film before, this is a book filled with
brilliant images that you will want to pour over for hours before going on line
to seek some of these titles out. How about pairing Shadow of the Werewolf
aka The Werewolf vs. Vampire Woman (1971) with The Werewolf and the
Yeti (1975) for hairy double-bill? Naschy also scripted and starred inExorcist-style shocker Exorcismo
(1974), worked with Hammer's John Gilling on La Cruz del Diablo (1974)
and even went to swinging London in Jack the Ripper in London, aka Seven
Murders for Scotland Yard (1971). Whether his films were cashing in on the
late 1960s cinematic fixation on witch burning, or if he was playing a
hunchback in a morgue, Paul Naschy clearly threw himself fully into his work.
The publicity images generally put his monstrous visage to the fore, but still
find plenty of room for boobs, blood and screaming women. It comes as something
of a surprise to see just how explicit some of these front-of-house stills
could be, and is an interesting reminder of how relaxed and liberal some
countries were at the time.
book is huge fun, and clearly represents an impressive personal collection from
the author. An introduction from Naschy's son Sergio Molina provides some
background information on the beginnings of his father's career, and the author
has included a memorabilia glossary which is particularly helpful for
collectors. This book is a must-have for horror and Euro-cine fans, potentially
introducing Spanish horror cinema to a whole new audience.
Jules Verne's Fabulous Journey to the Centre of the
by Juan Piquer Simón
2, released by Odeon Entertainment (This is the UK DVD release.)
to be picked up by people mistaking it for the 1959 version starring James
Mason, this release was directed in Spain and Lanzarote by a man often referred
to as the Spanish Ed Wood. Taking his cast on location, shooting in spectacular
caves and volcanic wastes, the film has a far greater sense of realism than its
Hollywood counterpart. Sadly the budgetary constraints meant that a lot of the
cave scenes are so darkly lit we are as much in the dark as the candle-bearing
Verne's novel quite closely, the story concerns Victorian Professor Otto
Lindenbrock (Kenneth More) who in the inquisitive spirit of the age decides to
prove his “crackpot” theories concerning a hollow earth. Armed with an ancient
map and accompanied by his assistant, his daughter and stoic guide Hans, they
climb down inside a volcano and discover an ocean, dinosaurs, giant mushrooms,
man-eating tortoises and even King Kong. Alright, so it doesn't follow the
novel that closely, but the film is
all the more fun because of it. There are even some intriguing time-travel and
cloning elements thrown in, possibly referencing Verne's closest rival in
sci-fi literature, H.G. Wells.
More stars as Lindenbrock in what turned out to be one of his last roles. It
was a physically demanding role, and More plays it all straight, despite the
opportunities for camping it up. He was acting alongside a mostly Spanish cast
and filmed in some very difficult locations, particularly the caves where the
temperature was a constant 99 degrees humidity. More was a well- respected
player in the British film industry, perhaps best remembered for playing World
War II fighter pilot Douglas Bader in Reach For the Sky (1956). Sadly he
developed Parkinson's Disease in his early sixties, and died just a few years
after this film was released.
is a lot going on in Jules Verne's Fabulous Journey to the Centre of the
Earth, which is reflected in the title, where it was sometimes abbreviated
to just Journey to the Centre of the Earth, or changed completely to Where
Time Began. It was the Juan Piquer Simón's first feature as director. He
seemed determined to throw in every possible idea, even those which did not
really make sense. Thankfully the pace rarely sags and the film is never
boring. Simón went to to have quite an interesting career in Spain, making the
best of the low budgets and dubious scripts he was offered.
is an enchanting, undemanding film that provides genuine entertainment through
the strength of the performances, and unintended laughs through the rubber
monsters. One puzzling aspect of this release is its inclusion in Odeon Entertainment's
Best of British range, as with the exception of More and the American actor
Jack Taylor and co-writer John Melson, the entire production is Spanish.The
print quality is fine, and the DVD includes the original theatrical trailer,
which gives away all the best moments of the film, and a short stills gallery.
A detailed booklet which lends some much needed production history and a nice
summary of the life and work of Jules Verne is also included.
Joe Dante's addictive Trailers from Hell site presents the original trailer for John Huston's kinky Southern Gothic sex drama Reflections in a Golden Eye with Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, Brian Keith, Robert Forster and Julie Harris. Director Dan Ireland provides insightful commentary on the trailer and points out that the haunting film was far ahead of its time. In fact, it's shocking even by today's standards. Click here to view
Joan Collins has been a sex symbol for so long, we think they found provocative sketches of her on cave walls. Here she is in early sex kitten mode from the 1958 Paul Newman comedy Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys.
Elvis in beefcake mode for the 1962 version of Kid Galahad (the film was made previously in 1937 starring Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart)
(This review pertains to the UK DVD release. It has not been released in the USA as of this time)
The Uninvited (1944) directed by
of the most eagerly anticipated DVD releases of recent times, The Uninvited
is considered a classic ghost story, listed by both Martin Scorsese and current
genre favourite Guillermo Del Toro as one of the scariest films of all times.
Bearing some similarities in tone to Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940), the
film takes wind-swept coastlines and adds menacing spectral activity to the
potentially doomed love affair. The Uninvited was one of the first Hollywood
productions to present the idea of ghosts being real, and the special optical
effects used remain convincing and chilling to this day.
film is based on a popular novel by Dorothy Macardle, and the screenplay was
written by Dodie Smith, who went on to pen the original novel for 101
Dalmatians several years later. In the film Ray Milland plays Roderick, a
composer persuaded by his sister Pamela (Ruth Hussey) to buy a deserted house
atop a Cornish cliff. For reasons not explained, other than they both appear to
be single, they live together in this spacious abode despite the fact that a
woman died in mysterious circumstances twenty years earlier. Her daughter
Stella (Gail Russell) is strangely drawn to the house, ignoring the demands of
her over-bearing father to stay away. As if this was not enough, the sound of
weeping echoing around the house keeps them awake at night. To complicate
matters even further, Roderick falls in love with this young ingenue, and with
the help of his sister he is determined to get to the bottom of the haunting.
is nice to see Ray Milland in his younger 'leading man' years, shortly before
he won his Oscar for The Lost Weekend (1945), and well before he was
wallowing in the exploitation world of films like Frogs
and The Thing With Two Heads (both 1972, the latter with the immortal
tagline “They share the same body... but hate each other's guts!”) The
Uninvited is beautifully shot, using light and shadow to great
effect. Presented in the original Academy ratio of 1.33:1, it is crisp and
clear image. A Blu-ray release of this film would have been ideal, but this DVD
is more than welcome, and is better looking than any previous release bar its
original cinematic run.
its importance in the development of horror cinema, The Uninvited has
been difficult to see for many years, with only a VHS and laserdisc release to
speak of, and the occasional late-night TV airing. Although produced by
Paramount, the film is now owned by Universal along with the rest of their
pre-1948 library. The film has been licensed to independent distributor
Exposure Cinema, who also have three Fritz Lang film noir titles scheduled for
release. It is a pity that there are not more in-depth extras here, a
commentary track from a film historian for example, but it is still a good
package. Both radio adaptations of The Uninvited are included, from 1944
and 1949 respectively, which run for around thirty minutes each and star
Milland. They are fun to listen to as they follow the film very closely, but do
not manage to achieve the same level of fear in the audience. The most
significant additional extra is a substantial booklet featuring essays and
biographies. It is very well put together, featuring a lot of original artwork
and publicity material. Most of these images are also available in the stills
gallery section on the DVD.
Heist movies are like spaghetti dinners in that even the worst one is still pretty good. The Split, a 1968 crime caper, is very good indeed. Jim Brown, seen here at the pinnacle of his career, plays McClain, a petty crook who masterminds a high risk plan to rob the boxoffice and concession proceeds from a Los Angeles Rams football game. (Amusingly, the top price for a ticket during those days was $7.50, which could possibly buy you a hot dog at today's prices.). McClain follows the usual cinematic crime caper route by assembling a group of talented low-lifes as his confederates, each with their own specific talent for pulling off the crime. He also involves his estranged, gorgeous wife (Diahann Carroll), who wants nothing to do with the plan. She berates McClain for having abandoned her, but still can't resist being a push-over for him, especially when he takes off his shirt (a main staple of any Jim Brown film of the era). The cleverly-plotted caper is carried off relatively flawlessly in suspenseful scenes made all the more entertaining through the use of actual football game footage, a technique John Frankenheimer would employ a decade later for Black Sunday. Predictably, things fall apart in the aftermath, when the stolen loot is compromised, leading McClain's gang to mistakenly believe he has stolen it. To reveal what actually happens to the money would be to disclose too much, suffice it to say that it pertains to a completely unexpected plot device that effectively comes out of nowhere.
The film is stylishly directed by Gordon Flemyng, who was primarily known as a TV director, though he did helm the Doctor Who feature films as well as the top notch mercenary flick The Last Grenade. Fleming keeps the action moving at a fast pace and benefits from an extraordinary cast that includes such heavyweights as Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oates, Julie Harris, Donald Sutherland, Jack Klugman, Gene Hackman and James Whitmore...that's right, all of these people are in one movie. In the 1960s, films routinely showcased such amazing talents collectively in films that were basically considered to be run-of-the-mill projects. Brown is at his tough guy best and each of these talented actors contributes significantly to the enjoyment of the movie.
The Split has plenty of unforeseen twists and turns, imaginative action sequences and a score by Quincy Jones. Largely unheralded, this is one of those films that probably plays far better today than it did at the time of its initial release. The Warner Archive has released it as a burn to order DVD that includes the original trailer. By all means, give it a try.
Some actresses' performances can be much admired while others you virtually devour. I devour any performance by Bette Davis, who often elevated even middling films to something akin to high art. Such a case is evident in her cult classic Dead Ringer, a 1964 thriller that allowed Davis to give a tour de force performance in a dual role. The film itself has a hokey concept, that of two estranged identical twin sisters who are reunited with deadly consequences. Yet, Davis' former leading man and Now, Voyager co-star Paul Henreid directs this otherwise minor screen effort with great style, affording Davis one of her best late career performances. As Edith, Davis is seen as a down-and-out owner of a skid row bar who is facing financial ruin. She is reunited with her rich sister Margaret at the funeral of Margaret's husband. The two have not been on speaking terms ever since the self-absorbed Margaret stole Edith's rich lover and seduced him into marrying her. Invited to Margaret's mansion, the sister's bitter rivalry gains new momentum. Edith ultimately concocts an audacious scheme whereby she will murder Margaret and then switch identities with her, in the process masking the slaying as a suicide. As absurd as the premise may sound, director Henreid and Davis bring enough gravitas and tension to these scenes that the plot plays out quite credibly. Predictably, Edith - now posing as Margaret- encounters a minefield of challenging situations. Although she looks and sounds exactly like her deceased sister, the two women had vastly different personalities and habits. Part of the fun is watching Edith having to constantly improvise to escape exposure by suspicious housekeepers, servants and old friends of Margaret. The boiling point comes when she is "reunited" with Tony (Peter Lawford), an ambitious social climber who had been Margaret's lover and boy toy. Tony is anxious to resume their love affair. Edith/Margaret is clearly delighted to inherit her sister's handsome lover, but soon realizes that she can only bluff so far before being found out. Adding to her woes is the investigation led by her own former boyfriend, a police detective (Karl Malden) who is the antithesis of Tony: he sincerely loved Edith and wanted to marry her. The irony, of course, is that his investigation of the suicide has him in constant contact with Edith, though he believes he is dealing with Margaret.
Dead Ringer is consistently entertaining throughout and the glorious black and white cinematography and Andre Previn's Bernard Herrmann-like score only add to the pleasure of watching this quaint thriller unfold. The performances are all excellent but no one can hope to match the site of Bette Davis slapping around Bette Davis. The Warner Home Video Blu-ray release of the film features a new featurette about the making of the movie and interview with film historian Boz Hadleigh, who also provides a commentary track along with Charles Busch. Hadleigh provides some great anecdotes about the film and gives the movie and its participants the respect they deserve. There is also a vintage production short about the mansion house where much of the movie was shot. It's quite interesting to see rare behind the scenes footage of Henreid at work with cast and crew.
The movie is a grand showcase for one of Hollywood's most legendary actresses- and the Blu-ray presents Ms. Davis at her very best.
Believe it or not, Casablanca is 70 years-old. No matter what age you are, chances are the film has a special place in your life. Time magazine writer Ben Cosgrove pays tribute to what many believe is the most perfect screen romance in history. Click here to read
Joe Dante's Trailers From Hell site presents the original theatrical trailer for A Hard Day's Night with commentary by Allan Arkush. You can also view the trailer without commentary track. Click here to view
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Malaysian writer Daniel Chan was obviously weaned on the spy craze of the 1960s. In his piece for The Malay Mail, he looks back on the connections between James Bond and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. - and manages to also include the character of Felix Leiter. It's nice to see such appreciation in the international press for these old time spy favorites. Click here to read
Jessica Beal plays Vera Miles in the new film Hitchcock.
Many retro movie fans think that Vera Miles has never received the praise she deserved for so many remarkable performances. Perhaps Miles plays some part in this because she refuses to give interviews regarding the high profile movies she has appeared in. On the movie blog Hill Place, Shaun Chang has a fitting tribute to Ms. Miles and postures that her career never fully recovered from having been replaced by Kim Novak in Hitchcock's Vertigo. Nevertheless, she is back on theater screens today (sort of), being portrayed in the new film about the legendary director and the making of Psycho. Click here to read
The Museum Folkwang in Essen, Germany is presenting an exciting exhibition of original international James Bond movie posters as well as rare still photographs. The exhibit has been drawing large crowds and will be presented through January 13. Many of the items in the exhibition have been provided by well-known German Bond memorabilia collectors Thomas Nixdorf and Robert Ganz. For information and illustrations click here
Skyfall is closing in on a worldwide gross of $800 million- with plenty of juice still left in the 007 thriller.
Studios are savoring the long weekend grosses over the Thanksgiving holiday, which is now the biggest in history. Twilight: Breaking Dawn- Pt. 2 led the pack followed by Skyfall, which became the first James Bond movie to cross the $200 million line in the North American market. It's international grosses are now approaching a staggering $800 million. Steven Spielberg's Lincoln continued to perform strongly and Life of Pi is doing better than predicted. For more click here
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial:
From Concept to Classic is a 30th anniversary paperback reprint of the
book that was originally published in hardcover for the film’s 20th
anniversary in 2002 that accompanied the special edition DVD Ultimate Gift Set of
Steven Spielberg’s classic story of a young boy, the product of a divorced
home, who befriends an extra-terrestrial who is mistakenly left behind by his spaceship
following a hasty exit from earth.If
you own the 2002 edition, the new book is identical except for the fact that it
is paperback and its dimensions measure 9” x 0.4” x 10.8”, a little larger than
its predecessor.The introduction to the
new printing by Steven Spielberg is also updated and does not retain his
introduction to the 2002 edition.
book is essentially separated into three sections.Section one covers the origins and the
overall development of the film from concept (as a story called Night Skies which was originally very
malevolent in tone) to the first draft which was penned by Melissa Mathison,
whose work on Carroll Ballard’s 1979 film The
Black Stallion impressed Mr. Spielberg so much that he hand-picked her to
write the script.Mr. Spielberg’s idea
for E.T., which originated while on
location in the summer of 1980 during the shooting of Raiders of the Lost Ark, came from his thoughts about the alien at
the end of his own Close Encounters of
the Third Kind (1977) and what it would be like for him if he were to be
inadvertently stranded on earth.There
are also comments from producer Kathleen Kennedy (now the president of
Lucasfilm), E.T. designer and creator Carlo Rambaldi, actor Henry Thomas, actress
Drew Barrymore, actor Robert MacNaughton, actor Peter Coyote, actress Dee
Wallace-Stone, composer John Williams, cinematographer Allen Daviau, editor
Carol Littleton, sound designer Ben Burtt, visual effects supervisor Dennis
Muren, and production designer James D. Bissell.
two contains the film’s complete screenplay, which was the first draft that
Mrs. Mathison wrote and was so good that the director decided to shoot it as-is
with very little, if any, changes.The
screenplay is complemented by illustrations by Ed Verraux and production notes the
give further insight into the original ideas that the crew had in mind but had
to be abandoned or altered due to time constraints or logistics.It also includes the sequence with the school
principal (played by Harrison Ford) that was cut from the film, in addition to
other shots/scenes that were cut.
three concerns itself with the film’s post-production (the models of the
children on their bikes, E.T.’s spaceship) and its impact on the movie-going
public (the E.T. phenomenon and merchandising), and the 2002 restoration.
is interesting to note that E.T.,
which was originally entitled A Boy’s
Life, was conceived of as a small, personal film.Although the director was by this time a
household name due to the success of Jaws
and the aforementioned Close Encounters
and Raiders, no one could have
expected the film to do the sort of business that it ended up doing, easily
propelling it to the top spot as the year’s most financially successful
film.This book does an excellent job of
giving the reader great insight into not only the making of the film but into
the thoughts of those involved in its creation.What is most evident is that everyone on the set (cast and crew alike) treated
the creature of E.T. with dignity and respect as if he was a real, live
creature.Itself the brainchild of designer
and creator Carlo Rambaldi, who also created the aliens in Close Encounters,
the mechanical head effects of the alien in Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), and the entacled creature in Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession (1981) to name a few, E.T.
rarely looks like an animatronic puppet even in the behind-the-scenes shots.You would really swear that he was a real
creature.Mr. Rambaldi passed away in
August of this year at the age of 86, and E.T. stands as one of his greatest
(and certainly most emotional) achievements.
fans of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, this
book is a must-have.
Most retro movie lovers have probably heard of the 1982 cult comedy Eating Raoul, even though they probably haven't seen it. Released on the art house circuit by a major studio (Fox), the independently made production was considered quite shocking in its day due to its unapologetic emphasis on distasteful humor. The film was the brainchild of actor/director Paul Bartel, who by 1982 had been laboring in B movie hell for many years, often working with Roger Corman. Bartel was frustrated by Corman's refusal to finance any of his proposed projects so he went off and developed the script for Eating Raoul with his friend, screenwriter Richard Blackburn (who also appears in the film). The endeavor proved to be the epitome of gutsy, independent movie-making. Faced with a seemingly insurmountable budget of $500,000, Bartel scraped together funding from any sources he could find and took a loan out from his parents. To save money, he often shot scenes on remnants of celluloid, leaving him precious little film stock to do retakes. He cast any number of friends for parts both large and small including such diverse talents as Buck Henry, Ed Begley Jr., Billy Curtis and Hamilton Camp. Even John Landis has a cameo. Bartel plays the lead role himself, possibly more out of financial necessity than vanity. He portrays Paul Bland, a pudgy, somewhat fey resident of Hollywood who is happily married to a sexy nurse, Mary (played by Bland's real-life friend and frequent collaborator and co-star Mary Waronov.) Their marriage seems to be a sexless relationship of convenience, with both treating the other more like a sibling than a spouse. Both Paul and Mary share many similarities, however. They are both quite eccentric and very judgmental of middle class values even though they are facing financial ruin and seem unlikely to fulfill their mutual dream of opening a quaint country restaurant. Paul is an elitist, albeit a poor one. He loses his job in a local liquor store because he can't bring himself to recommend a cheap but profitable wine to customers. The Blands also fancy themselves as morally superior to those around them. When they discover that a neighboring apartment is being used by a group of swingers, they can barely hide their disgust (even though Paul is somewhat entranced by a dominatrix at the party.) Through a bizarre accident, the Blands end up accidentally killing a sexually aggressive swinger who wants to get it on with Mary. They casually dispose of the body and keep his cash to help raise the down payment needed for their restaurant. Suddenly, an outrageous scheme begins to take form: the Blands will lure other swingers into their apartment, murder them and keep their money. The plan works well, with Mary using her considerable charms to entice a seemingly endless number of gullible men to their doom. (This being long before the internet, the Blands are forced to advertise their perversions the old fashioned way: through ads in porn newspapers.) Before long, Paul and Mary are raising substantial sums of money and are closing in on their financial goal. Then they meet Raoul, a hunky Chicano petty criminal, who joins them as a partner with the promise of increased profits. It isn't long before he is attracted to Mary and this leads to some funny and complicated situations. To say more would be to reveal too much.
Over the years, Eating Raoul (yes, the film does take on a Soylent Green-like spin, albeit in a comedic mode) has developed a sizable and loyal cult following. The movie doesn't quite live up to the hype. It's never embarrassing but often doesn't rise to its potential. Bartel makes an amusing screen presence, but his delivery at times comes across somewhat amateurish. The scene-stealer is the magnetic Waronov, who commands the screen with her magnetism. Robert Beltran is also excellent as the titular Raoul, an overly-confident, smug lady's man whose obsession with Mary proves to have some very negative consequences. The funniest aspect of the film is the pure hypocrisy of the Blands. While looking down their nose at virtually everyone in their social circle, they lack any type of self-awareness. Thus, to them, people who swing are completely lacking in morality, but they fail to see that their own moral failings are far greater, as they have become serial killers without a hint of conscience. The film has many delightful comic interludes, such as Paul's shocking revenge against a hot tub full of swingers who dare to mock him. However, Bartel often encourages his actors to go over-the-top in their performances when a more subdued and realistic approach might have been more effective. Nevertheless, Bartel (who died in 2000 at the age of 61), deserves great praise for bringing off the most tasteless comedy audiences had seen since The Producers. It's fun throughout, even with a few sequences that don't live up to their potential.
Criterion's Blu-ray release of Eating Raoul is first rate throughout. The set contains a great looking transfer of the original film, a new documentary in which Beltran and Waronov discuss the production and their affection for Paul Bartel; audio commentary by Richard Blackburn, production designer Robert Schulenberg and editor Alan Toomayan; an awkwardly filmed 1982 archival interview with Bartel and Waronov; The Secret Cinema, a bizarre 1966 black and white film with a Twilight Zone-like spin (Bartel remade it as an episode of Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories in 1986); Naughty Nurse, a strikingly photographed 1969 short film that once again touches on Bartel's fascination with off beat sexual obsessions; a gag reel of takes that went awry and the original trailer (which unfairly doesn't credit Bartel by name for anything). There is also an insightful essay about the film by David Ehrenstein which is presented in a booklet designed to resemble a menu.
Eating Raoul is not a classic, but holds enough delights to merit adding this to your Blu-ray library.
The Rains of Ranchipur is yet another major film I probably would not have sampled had it not been released by Twilight Time. This Blu-ray edition is limited to 3,000 units. The film is primarily a soap opera based on the book The Rains Came by Louis Bromfield. The story had been brought to the screen previously in 1939 under the book's title and starring Myrna Loy and Tyrone Power. It features a glamorous cast of acting heavyweights who compensate for some of the weaker elements of the production. Turner, still gorgeous as ever, is Lady Edwina Esketh, a rich American socialite who married her cuckolded British husband Albert (Michael Rennie) simply to get the title she always craved. Theirs is a sexless union based on their mutual selfishness. Although Albert is genuinely in love with Edwina, he admits that her personal fortune was a prime motivation for marrying her. For her part, Edwina barely tolerates her dashing husband and banishes him to separate bedrooms on their travels while she shamelessly cavorts with boy toys around the globe. The couple arrive in Ranchipur, the Indian state, where they are greeted warmly as local celebrities, the story taking place when British colonialism had only recently been dispensed with. Edwina becomes infatuated with a young Indian doctor, Rama Safti (Richard Burton) and she quickly seduces him. The uncomfortable situation finds Rama romancing Edwina even though Albert knows full well what is going on. The racially mixed romance causes a scandal and Rama's influential mother, the Maharani (Eugenie Levontovich) forbids her son from seeing his lover. The romantic problems are eclipsed by a devastating earthquake and flood that causes all of the major characters to redefine their relationships. This includes Edwina's childhood friend, American businessman Tom Ransome (Fred MacMurray), a one-time idealist who now resides in India where he indulges in non-stop drinking. Tom has his own romantic problem: he is being wooed by a recent college graduate, Fern (Joan Caulfield), who is determined to settle down with her much older would-be lover.
The sumptuous Fox production, competently directed by Jean Negulesco, benefits from having been shot on location in India- and there is also that sumptuous Hugo Friedhofer score. The story is somewhat predictable but never bores the viewer because of the considerable star power on display.Turner gives a fine performance, as does the young turban-clad Burton. However, as we have written about many times, films such as this were compromised by having Caucasian actors portray characters of color. It isn't Burton's fault that, despite an abundance of tan makeup, you never quite forget you are observing a Welshman playing an Indian. MacMurray gives another of his always-compelling performances. The special effects during the exciting climax were nominated for an Oscar and some hold up well today. However, a few shots creak with age such an awful scene of a chasm opening in the earth as well as a sequence in which the film is sped up, making the running refugees look like they are in a Keystone Cops short. The movie is the epitome of 1950s Hollywood glamor, with beautiful people sipping cocktails in dinner jackets and gowns, all designed to show off the considerable attractiveness of the major stars. The Rains of Ranchipur is all glitz and little substance, but the opportunity to see all these screens together makes it an irresistible attraction.
The Twilight Time release is gorgeous, making the most of the Cinemascope process. There are two original trailers and an amusing, cheesy original TV spot promoting the film.
Actor Larry Hagman, immortalized for his performance as the legendary villain J.R. Ewing in the TV show Dallas, has died from throat cancer. He was 81 years old and had been actively acting until recently, when he appeared in the reboot of the famous TV series. The last few years had been difficult ones for Hagman. Not only did he have to battle cancer but also had to contend with his wife Maj's affliction from Alzheimer's Disease. Hagman was a working character actor when he was cast as the male lead in the 1965 sitcom I Dream of Jeannie opposite Barbara Eden. The show's success helped launch him to star status and he appeared in dozens of TV series and feature films. However, it was his portrayal of lovable cad J.R. Ewing in the 1981 CBS hit Dallas that elevated him to the status of a TV icon. The show ran for an incredible 13 years and was revived earlier this year with Hagman and some of his former co-stars appearing together once more. Hagman's feature film appearances include Fail Safe, in which he gave a fine performance opposite Henry Fonda as a Russian interpreter for the President who finds himself in the midst of a tense situation that could lead to nuclear war. He also appeared in In Harm's Way, Mother, Jugs and Speed, The Eagle Has Landed, Harry and Tonto, Superman and S.O.B. Hagman, perhaps improbably, also took a stab at directing schlock horror with his 1972 feature film Beware! The Blob, a lighthearted sequel to the 50s cult classic. For more click here.
The old adage goes that you can't judge a book by its cover. In the parlance of my old Jersey City neighborhood, "Well, here goes your proof." The Bond on Set books by photographer Greg Williams are becoming a most welcome tradition. This impressive hardback is the best in the line, offering superb insights into the filming of the 007 blockbuster Skyfall. Williams captures not only the incredible hard work and diverse team of talented people concentrating on bringing this big budget film to the screen, but he also lets us see those behind the scenes moments of levity that show there is much joy in movie-making- in particular on an Eon production where so many cast and crew members consider each other part of an extended family. There are wonderful shots of producer Michael Wilson hugging Dame Judi Dench, the team members meeting for a pre-production conference in a very unglamorous bare room at Pinewood Studios, Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem living everyone's dream of sliding down the escalator barrier in the London underground and director Sam Mendes valiantly bringing all the disparate elements of a Bond production together as a coherent whole.
The book covers the entire process of making of the film in stunning color photographs. The only downside is the drab cover which doesn't do justice in the slightest to the dynamic content of this book. The main photo is a dismal B&W shot of Bond holding a shotgun, making one think a more appropriate title might be "Hunting Tips from Daniel Craig". Considering this is the most stylish and fashion conscious of Craig's three 007 movies, you have to wonder what the thought process was behind burying these aspects in marketing the book. Aside from, that this is a "must-have" for anyone who has ever admired the long-ignored contributions of still photographers on film sets. Williams does a magnificent job of showing us the magic behind Skyfall. The book does contain many spoilers, such as the secret behind Albert Finney's character, but chances are that if you are tempted to buy this book, you've probably seen the film numerous times.
It's that time of year, loyal readers. Please subscribe or renew your subscriptions to Cinema Retro, if you have not yet done so. It's going to be another great year for the world's most unique film magazine! The new season begins with issue #25, showcasing the usual eclectic array of classic and cult films. Among the highlights:
James Bond at 50: Cinema Retro interviews Daniel Craig, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson and Skyfall director Sam Mendes about the screen legacy of Agent 007.
Major coverage of Hammer Films events: convention report, Hammer horror film locations then and now and coverage of the latest Blu-ray releases.
A look at the new restoration of David Lean's masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia and exclusive interview with Sony's Grover Crisp, the man who spearheaded the restoration process.
Best-selling author Robert Sellers provides a fascinating look at the life and career of the ultimate "bad boy" of British cinema, Oliver Reed.
Dean Brierly looks at the best Italian crime movies of the 60s and 70s.
Tribute to the creator of master of British film posters, artist Tom Chantrell.
Matthew R. Bradley concludes his examination of 007 villain Blofeld in literature in film in his article "The Importance of Being Ernst"
Plus major coverage of those great (and overlooked) cult films Sands of the Kalahari starring Stuart Whitman and Susannah York , Burt Lancaster's controversial The Swimmer and the "B" British war film Attack on the Iron Coast starring Lloyd Bridges. Only Cinema Retro provides coverage of such long-neglected gems!
Please help keep the dream alive by subscribing or renewing your subscription today. A subscription to Cinema Retro also makes the perfect holiday gift for the classic movie lover in your life...(it's far better than that glow-in-the dark necktie you were considering!)
(Note: issue #25 is expected to ship in the UK/Europe before Christmas and will be mailed to subscribers in America, Canada and all other parts of the world in January.)
"John Carter" has its fans and defenders among the sci-fi/fantasy set but there weren't enough of them to prevent Disney from incurring a $165 million loss on this film.
On Thanksgiving, everyone has turkey on their mind. However, in Hollywood, there is an obsession with different kinds of turkeys- the celluloid ones that eat up studio revenues through costly flops. The Huffington Post takes a look back at the biggest cinematic flops of the year. It doesn't mean some of these movies weren't artistically worthy of a better reception, but for whatever reason, audiences avoided them in droves. Click here to read.
One of the strangest G-rated “family
films” that I have ever seen is Al Adamson’s 1982 effort Carnival Magic, released by HD Cinema Classics by way of Film Chest
Media Group.As a fan of the best genre efforts
that were afforded by what is arguably the last truly great summer for movies
in the United States, 1982 gave us Conan
the Barbarian, Star Trek II: The
Wrath of Khan, Poltergeist, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Blade Runner, The Thing, The Beastmaster and The Road Warrior.I must
admit that I was stunned to learn of this film as I had not heard of it prior
to its 2010 release on home video.
Filmed over three weeks in Gaffney,
South Carolina and Shelby, North Carolina, Carnival
Magic is, in the words of producer Elvin Feltner, “the story of a magician
and a traveling carnival and his pet monkey, who just happens to be a talking
monkey.”It is also a film that cannot
make up its mind if it wants to be a slapstick comedy or a family film with
dramatic adult themes. Starring a cluster of soap opera actors and actresses,
producer Feltner does what any good producer does when faced with the rising
costs of a film budget.He thinks
outside the box and delivers a film that can easily be categorized as a cult
carnival’s magician, Markov (played nicely by Don Stewart), can read people’s
thoughts and levitate objects.Armed
with his talking chimp Alex, they are the top crowd pleaser, easily making the
wild animal trainer second banana and very jealous in the process.Hoping to regain his former glory, the
trainer attempts to kidnap the chimp and give him to a medical laboratory for
experimentation in the hopes of displacing his competition and making a good
deal of money.Among this plot are a
bevy of carnival beauties who dance, and a young adult romance that blossoms
I couldn’t help but think of Tobe Hooper’s
The Funhouse (1981) while watching
this film, as the carnival atmosphere always intrigued me since I saw the
“Levitation” episode of Tales from the
Darkside in May 1985.
The video transfer of the film is done
from a recently unearthed 35mm theatrical print discovered lying in a warehouse
(the original negative apparently was not among the finds unfortunately), but HD
Cinema, a terrific company in their own right, has done a wonderful job of cleaning
up the print with their restoration transfer.I honestly cannot wait to see what this company has up its sleeve in the
months to come.If they can get their
hands on low-budget, independently made films and do high definition transfers
of them for new audiences, their future is surely bright.
There are a host of extras in this
collection. A running audio commentary with cult film historian Joel Rubin and
producer Feltner reveals a great deal of information regarding the making of
the film. Although Carnival Magic was
copyrighted in 1982, most people did not see the film until roughly a year
later in select screenings, as it was difficult to find theaters willing to
book the film. Mr. Feltner makes mention that the film was shot in 1981 in the
video interview introduction, however historian Reuben points out that according
to lab documents it was filmed in the previous year. When Mr. Feltner mentions that it was shot in
1982 on the audio commentary and become fairly adamant, it leads the audience to
wondering why the discussion is up for debate when such information is easily
verifiable.The subject is eventually
put to bed when the outtakes that appear in the supplementary section clearly
reveal the date of July 1980 on the film slate.
The remaining extras consist of twenty
minutes of outtakes sans audio and a
short “ before” and “after” restoration demo. What is most interesting is the
inclusion of both the original television trailer and the theatrical trailer,
wherein the former presents the film as a non-stop riot and the latter gives
one the impression that they should expect something along the lines of Smokey and the Bandit. Rounding out the extras
is an interesting slideshow which consists of newspaper clippings illustrating
when the movie came to the respective filming locations, looking for extras to
appear in the carnival scenes.
Regardless of one's opinion of the
film's narrative, the movie stands as a time capsule of a more innocent era in
American life, of small-town folks enjoying the summer with family and friends.The carnival sequences almost serve as a
documentary of what life was like in 1980 for these people.
HD Cinema Classics gets it right by
releasing this as a DVD and Blu-ray combo package, something that too few
companies are doing even now.They are
to be commended for offering the film in both formats, though Blu-ray is really
the way to go due to the increased sharpness and definition.The colors really pop out in this
(Isabelle De Funès) is a
marxist fashion photographer in Milan. She is intelligent, talented and sexy,
so it's no wonder that the leftist intellectuals all want to sleep with her. On
her way home from a totally swinging party, the kind where alcohol and topless
chicks are readily available, Valentina is almost run down by a car. Whilst sitting
dazed at the side of the road, the driver emerges to check if she is okay. This
is none other than the bizarrely-named Baba Yaga (former Hollywood sex symbol
Carroll Baker). She tells Valentina that fate has brought them together. Baba
Yaga gives her a lift home and explains that they will become firm friends. To
ensure this she steals a clip from the top of one of Valentina's stockings and
touches it to her lips suggestively. Baba Yaga is a witch, and clearly has
sapphic feelings towards her. Valentina, who as far as we know is not a
lesbian, does not seem to mind this unwarranted attention. Later that night she
dreams about stripping naked in front of Nazi guards. When she visits Baba
Yaga's house, Valentina gets horny and touches herself in the spare room. Is
she already under the lesbian witch's spell?
Yaga owns an unnervingly realistic doll which is dressed as some sort of
bondage queen. Valentina accepts this doll as a gift, with murderous
consequences. Luckily Valentina has a boyfriend (played by genre favourite
George Eastman, star of the notorious Anthropophagus, 1981). He may not
believe that Baba Yaga really is a witch, but he's so desperate to get
Valentina in the sack that he'll go along with it.
is a very weird movie. Everything described here occurs quite early in the
film, and it makes less and less sense as it goes on. Based on the black and
white Italian erotic fumetti (comics) of Guido Crepax, this Italian/ French
co-production is a mixture of pop art, eroticism, dazzling colour,
psycho-analysis, dreams and the supernatural. Other fumetti had been
successfully adapted into movies previous to this one, including Danger:
Diabolik and Barbarella, (both 1968), but in Baba Yaga
director Corrada Farina specifically tries to mimic the comic style, using
panels and black and white still photography to replicate Crepax's stark line
drawings. It is very effective and adds to the “arthouse meets Eurotrash” feel
of the movie. This is certainly no Danger: Diabolik though. The pace is
slow and ponderous to the point of irritation at times, but you soon forgive
it. Valentina likes to do semi-naked photo shoots in her flat, which she
somehow hopes will influence the forthcoming left-wing revolution. She also
discovers that her unsettling bondage doll comes to life, in the shapely,
almost naked form of Ely Galleani, who was an Italian actress and Playboy
centrefold. Galleani has no dialogue in this movie but leaves a lasting
impression, particularly when wielding a whip in a lesbian S & M torture
Baker was an unusual choice for the movie, and in his interview on the blu ray
Farina explains that she was a last minute replacement for his original Baba
Yaga, the British actress Anne Heywood. Three days before shooting was to begin
Heywood left to star in the Rod Taylor adventure film Trader Horn
(1973), a move which lead to her being sued by the studio. Baker was in Italy
working on the giallo thriller The Flower With Petals of Steel (1973),
and had a name which would look good on the posters. Farina was disappointed
that she had a face “like she had been raised on a farm on a diet of popcorn,”
rather than the pinched, angular face of Baba Yaga in Crepax's drawings.
Carroll was willing to do the film, and with such a tight schedule he was left
with no other choice. In the end Farina was very pleased with her performance.
Legendarily she appeared completely naked (a moment that was cut by censors and
is missing from the restored print on this Blu-ray, but is available in the
extras). This was a bold move for a mainstream Hollywood actress in 1973 and
Farina insists that it was not in the script but was all her own idea.
Incidentally the only other moment of full frontal nudity was courtesy ofIsabelle De Funès, a scene that
was also cut by the censors but is also available in the extra scenes here.
some ways Baba Yaga feels like Quentin Tarantino has had a pass at the
script. Early in the film various characters discuss the problems of getting
political messages into movies, and Valentina remarks that influential French
director Jean Luc Godard's last good film was Pierrot le Fou (1965). Another
character is an underground comic book artist, and is often talking about the
art form and his concerns about becoming commercially successful. Baba Yaga
is almost post-modern before the term was invented.
your main experience of Italian 1970s movies is the “giallo”, you will enjoy
most of what this film has to offer. It does have longueurs, some of which can
lead you to look impatiently at your watch, wondering when anything is going to
happen again. Stick with it and Baba Yaga is a rewarding viewing
experience. The far out and groovy soundtrack is supplied by composer Piero
Umilani, who is perhaps best known for creating 'Mah Na Mah Na', the song
covered by The Muppets! There is no original soundtrack of Baba Yaga
available, but the attention-grabbing theme song is available on his 1971
lounge album 'To-Day's Sound'.
Blu-ray from Blue Underground features the same extras as their DVD release
from 2003. The print, howeve,r is a massive improvement from the earlier
release. The most interesting bonus feature is the in-depth interview with the
director, where he discusses the problems he had with the producers, who made
changes in the edit against his wishes. It is also worth sitting through the
deleted scenes, if only to catch a glimpse of Carroll Baker as you have never
seen her before. There is also a short documentary in Italian about the artist
Guido Crepax. Sadly many of his graphic novels have not yet been translated
into English, but after watching this film you will want to try and track them
Twilight Time has released the 1960 comedy High Time starring Bing Crosby as a limited edition (3,000 units) Blu-ray. Crosby's career as an actor has largely been neglected over the decades despite the fact that he was one of the most enduring boxoffice giants of his time. Perhaps the reason is that, unlike Frank Sinatra, who took on dramatic and challenging roles, Crosby was largely content to stick with playing amiable crooners in glossy, feel-good musicals. One such film is High Time, which was originally developed as a comedy titled Big Daddy for Gary Cooper. However, when Cooper became terminally ill, Crosby's production company picked up the option as a starring vehicle for Crosby himself. Der Bingle plays Harvey Howard, a 51-year-old self-made businessman who owns a national chain of popular smokehouse restaurants. Harvey decides to fulfill his dream of becoming the first family member to obtain a college degree. He is met with derision by his spoiled son and daughter, both of whom feel his decision will result in them being mocked in their snobby social circles. Nevertheless, Harvey enrolls in Pinehurst College (actually U.C.L.A) and predictably is met with incredulity by both administrators and his fellow freshmen. In short order, however, Harvey earns their respect by participating in activities with the younger set including salvaging their quest to build the biggest bonfire in school history. He also fits in well with his three roommates and proves to be an inspiration when it comes to taking studying seriously. Along the way, he flirts with a sexy French teacher, Helen Gauthier (Nicole Maurey), and the resulting "scandal" of a potential love affair between teach and "student" causes students to march on the dean's office in protest. That's about the dramatic highlight of the film, which concentrates purely on a viewpoint of college life that, even in 1960, must have seemed ludicrously sanitized. Let's face it: even the era of powdered wigs, students used dorm rooms for all sorts of illicit activities ranging from sex to drugs and drinking. In High Time, Harvey and his roommates toast the beginning of every year with grape juice, soda and milk. Even when Howard is alone with his would-be paramour in the privacy of her own home, it's about as exotic as dining with your sister.
For all of its faux atmosphere of youthful activities, however, High Time is an enjoyable romp. Crosby seems to be genuinely enjoying himself and shares some good on-screen chemistry with three Fox up-and-coming contract players: Richard Beymer, Tuesday Weld and Fabian. Since the film is not a musical, both Crosby and Fabian have scant opportunities to croon but there are some nice songs by Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen, including the now-classic "The Second Time Around" which was nominated for an Oscar. There's also a jaunty, enjoyable score by Henry Mancini. The film was directed by Blake Edwards, who was just coming off his great success with Operation Petticoat. In those days, Edwards was far more subdued in his use of slapstick and the comedic situations in High Time are relatively low-key and benign compared to Edwards' later work. The film's primary value is that is serves as a view into social mores from a by-gone era. There is one minority character featured in the film, a student from India, but at least he is portrayed in a dignified manner and not made the butt of jokes. In the closing graduation sequence, the camera pans around the auditorium to reveal precisely one other minority student- a black kid sitting next to the Indian kid. (Hey, if you're the only two on campus, you'd better stick together.) The inclusion of these minorities was probably considered progressive in an era in which African Americans were literally relegated to the back of the bus in some states. Then there is the view of young women, as evidenced by Weld's character who says she is only going to college in order to hunt for a husband. Gavin McLeod plays an obviously gay professor, complete with stereotypical fussy mannerisms that are played for laughs. The film's final sequence is rather touching, as Crosby addresses his fellow graduates and tells them that age isn't defined by years but by every person's outlook on life and their determination to pursue their dreams. The notion that a man in his fifties would be considered "over the hill" may sound ludicrous today, but that was not necessarily the case when the average man's life expectancy was in his sixties. The film concludes with Crosby performing a surprising, attention- grabbing stunt that is designed to please the audience even if would seem to be impossible from a technical standpoint.
High Time, which served as the unofficial inspiration for Rodney Dangerfield's Back to School, is a pleasant time-killer and a fine late career vehicle for Crosby. The Twilight Time release looks sensational (as expected) and features the original trailer and the usual informative liner notes by Julie Kirgo, whose work on these projects adds immensely to the enjoyment of every Twilight Time release.
Lana Wood as Plenty O'Toole with Sean Connery in Diamonds Are Forever.
A bevy of James Bond actresses will be appearing at the Hollywood Show in Burbank, California on January 11-13. The collector's show features a wide array of movie memorabilia and celebrity autograph opportunities. Among those appearing from the Bond films: Lana Wood, Luciana Paluzzi, Britt Ekland, Eunice Gayson, Tania Mallet, Gloria Hendry, Maud Adams and Maryam d'Abo. Also appearing is fan favorite Richard Kiel and James West himself, Robert Conrad. For more click here
Sir Anthony Hopkins is not one for courting the press or giving extensive interviews, but he is making an exception for Hitchcock, the acclaimed new film in which he portrays the legendary director's trials during the filming of Psycho. The blunt-speaking Hopkins weighs in on his doubts about playing the role, Hitchcock's later career and the "disgusting" spectacle of actors trying to curry favor with Academy members in order to secure an Oscar nomination. Click here to read.
If you haven't checked out Cinema Retro contributor Howard Hughes' blog The Filmgoer's Guide, here's a good reason to do so. Howard routinely puts the spotlight on worthy cult films that are largely unknown to retro movie lovers. In this case, he examines the provocatively-titled Super Bitch, a 1973 Italian crime movie shot extensively in and around London. Click here for Howard's review.
Spurned by the enormous international grosses of the James Bond film Skyfall as well as several other hit movies released earlier this year, Sony executives are crowing about having reached a significant achievement: the best year for movies in the studio's history. Sony has taken in a massive $4 billion. The Bond film is now the biggest entry in the long-running franchise.The 23rd Eon-backed 007 film has taken in $669 million to date internationally and has plenty of life left in it. For more click here
By 1969 the Spaghetti-Western craze had replaced the spy movie craze of a few years before. Just as seemingly every other movie had been a 007 clone, the Sergio Leone-inspired Westerns swamped theater screens worldwide. One major difference is that the Bond boom resulted in some very worthy imitators such as the Our Man Flint, Matt Helm and Harry Palmer movies (not to mention numerous classic TV series). The Euro Western trend, however, bore little fruit in terms of films of enduring quality beyond the Leone originals. One notable exception is The Five-Man Army, directed by an American (Don Taylor) and co-scripted by future cult film director Dario Argento (who was rumored to have directed certain scenes in this film.) The movie borrows liberally from the time-worn premise of a small group of intrepid (if disreputable) rogues who find themselves on a seemingly suicidal caper mission, taking on overwhelming odds to achieve their goal. In this case, a mysterious man known by all as The Dutchman (Peter Graves) assembles four disparate confederates to assist him in pulling off the robbery of train transporting a fortune in gold. The action takes place in Mexico in 1914, an era that has long attracted filmmakers because of the on-going revolution and the involvement of American mercenaries. The Dutchman's team consists of Dominguez (Nino Castelnuovo), a murderous but fearless bandit wanted by the law, Augustus (James Daly), an American demolitions expert, Mesito (Bud Spencer), a bear of a man who is eager to find a way to escape the humiliation of his impoverished lifestyle and the Samurai (Tetsuro Tamba), a mostly silent ex-circus performer who is an expert swordsman and knife-thrower. The Dutchman tells this motley crew that their mission is to rob the train, which is guarded by heavily armed government troops, in order to turn the money over to revolutionaries. Each man will get a reward of $1,000 each. Needless to say, there will be deceit, double-crosses and mutual hatreds established in the course of the mission.
What sets The Five-Man Army apart from other Leone wanna-bes is the fact that it is so stylishly directed and photographed. The top-notch screenplay successfully mixes thrills and witticisms and the characters are well-drawn and intriguing. The film plows familiar turf from such legendary Hollywood films as The Dirty Dozen, The Wild Bunch, The Magnificent Seven, The Guns of Navarone and The Professionals, but if the production values aren't as grand, the film doesn't suffer from the low-budget stigma of other Euro Westerns. Director Taylor does a lot with his limited budget and the train robbery sequence is brilliantly realized, especially in those scenes in which aspects of the plan go wrong with potentially devastating results. The cast members are all in top form with Bud Spencer and Tetsuro Tamba particularly impressive (the latter has to rely largely on his physical presence, as he is playing a mostly wordless role.) There is also the benefit of a lively score by Ennio Morricone and an impressive titles sequence that was clearly inspired by The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. If there is one weak point it is the casting of Peter Graves as The Dutchman. Graves' performance is fine, but he doesn't fit in with his gritty on-screen co-conspirators. With his clean cut appearance and designer haircut, he looks like he just stepped out of a luncheon at the Brown Derby. Nevertheless, this is a minor gripe. The Five-Man Army is a top-notch Western that fully deserves its status as a cult film favorite.
The MGM production has been released as a burn-to-order title available through the Warner Archive. (Amusingly, the original U.S. advertising poster reproduced on the sleeve changes the title to read "The 5-Man Army!"). Presumably, a marketing study seemed that numerals and exclamation points add to the boxoffice grosses. An original theatrical trailer is included.
Sony has released director Tony Richardson's 1969 film version of Hamlet as a burn-to-order DVD title. The film was quite controversial in its day because Richardson made a theatrical feature by shooting his stage production at London's Roundhouse Theatre. Consequently, sets are kept to a bare minimum and Richardson relies on intense close-ups of the actors to mask the fact that this is actually a stage production. Richardson, who adapted Shakespeare's great work as a screenplay, also came under fire for truncating certain elements of the story to fit a running time of two hours. (Laurence Olivier's Oscar-winning 1948 film version ran 155 minutes). Richardson also moved the sequences of a couple of scenes, an act that outraged purists. I'm ashamed to say that I'm not conversant enough with the original play to have noticed such manipulations and I consequently judged the experience purely on the basis of its entertainment level. For those who are not professional actors (or aspiring to be), the language of Shakespeare's time can pose obstacles for modern viewers in terms of following key plot points. Nevertheless, the basics of the story remain clear from the outset. Hamlet (Nicol Williamson), the young Danish prince, is visited by the ghost of his father, the recently-deceased king. The apparition (represented for budgetary reasons as simply a bright light that reduces the impact of the scene to that of standing in front of an open refrigerator) informs Hamlet that he was, in fact, murdered by his own brother Claudius (Anthony Hopkins), who then assumed the crown and appropriated his widow Gertrude (Judy Parifft) as his new bride. Outraged, Hamlet sets out to expose the deceit and fulfill his obsession for revenge. It is most illuminating, in watching Hamlet, how many countless phrases and witticisms from this play have remained part of popular culture throughout the centuries- perhaps the ultimate evidence of the Bard's works. People speak his words every day without even knowing they derive from this timeless work.
The joy of watching any Shakespearean production is the ability to relish top-flight actors at their best. In Hamlet, Nicol Williamson, who never reached leading man status in British cinema, offers a fine portrayal of one of literature's most enduring figures. He is filled with passion and compassion and his slow-building hatred for the King adds suspense right up until the final cat-and-mouse end game built around a fencing match held in the royal court. The final scene is filled with tragic ironies, all in the Shakespearean tradition. Williamson benefits from fine supporting performances by Anthony Hopkins (in one of his first film roles), Judy Parifitt as the Queen (although she is far too young for the role) and Gordon Jackson as Hamlet's ever-loyal friend Horatio. Marianne Faithfull is also excellent as Hamlet's would-be lover Ophelia. Richardson directs the claustrophobic production with admirable skill making this first color film version of the work a compelling experience. Most amusing, however, is the reproduction of the film poster that adorns the DVD sleeve. The movie was obviously inspired by the recent success of director Franco Zeffirelli's film version of Romeo and Juliet. Consequently, the shameless advertisement deceitfully presents a photo of Willliamson gazing lustfully at Faithfull's ample bosom. A tag line absurdly reads "From the author of Romeo and Juliet" as though it was the latest Sidney Sheldon bodice-ripper.
The DVD presentation looks great but this edition is sadly lacking any extras. It would have been interesting to have Shakespearean scholars discuss how the film was viewed in its day as well as in contemporary times.
The Hollywood Reporter has a major article that takes readers inside the world of agents who represent porn stars. It's not all glitz and glamor for anyone involved. The article points out that sex is treated coldly as a business and there is little evidence anyone involved considers it a lark. As with "normal" actresses, porn stars have their tiers of top-earners and those who are more in demand than others. Agents negotiate on their behalf, discussing everything from whether there will be a professional makeup artist available on set to whether their clients will be paid extra for performing anal sex or double penetration scenes on camera. Such is the bizarre world of porn star management. Click here to read the entire article.
tag line for Roman Polanski’s 1968 horror classic is an example of brilliant
marketing.Until it was created,
Paramount’s head of the studio, Robert Evans, admits not knowing how to sell
the picture.Yes, it’s a horror film,
but not like anything we’ve seen.Yes,
it’s produced by William Castle, the schlock-meister who was famous for B-movie
scare flicks utilizing gimmicks such as the selling of insurance policies in
the theater lobby for patrons who feared they’d be scared to death.But the film is also an ingenious thriller
outside of the horror genre; a crime story, in many ways, about a cult that
drugs and rapes a woman for fiendish purposes.The subject is taken seriously, despite an undercurrent of dark
humor.It was also very adult and frank
for its time, and it had the potential to offend some audiences.Indeed, how does one sell that in the late
sixties?The tag line intrigued enough
people that it worked, for Rosemary’s
Baby was a hit and the picture still resonates today.
was Polanski’s first American film, and it remains an essential entry in his oeuvre.His early trademark style was doing a Hitchcock but taking it a few
steps farther into more bizarre, creepy-crawly, and supernatural territory.That’s on full display in Rosemary’s Baby.We’d had devil movies before, but nothing as
realistically-portrayed as this one.It
certainly held the reign of Satan movies until The Exorcist came along five years later.In my book, it’s the better of the two.AFI is well justified in naming Rosemary’s Baby in their “Top Thrills”
top ten list.
brilliantly directed and written, a good deal of credit for the success of the
film goes to the excellent cast.Mia
Farrow has never been better as Rosemary.John Cassavetes is dead-on as the frustrated actor/husband who literally
makes a deal with the devil.Ruth
Gordon, the multiple award winner for the picture, is a revelation.She brings much of the necessary comic relief
to the proceedings, for the film is an exemplary model of tension-building to a
usual, the Criterion Collection does a magnificent job.Polanski approved the new, restored digital
transfer, and it looks marvelous. Extras include a new documentary featuring
interviews with Polanski, Farrow, and Robert Evans.Original novel author Ira Levin is showcased
in a 1997 radio interview and original drawings and other prose in the enclosed
booklet.Also of interest is a
feature-length documentary about the film’s talented jazz composer, Krzysztof